Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

6th Resumed Sunday after Epiphany

For our weekly meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider today’s Collect for the Sixth Resumed Sunday after Epiphany (MR’62). The following translation of today’s Collect is taken from the Campion Missal and Hymnal:

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that, ever fixing our thoughts on reasonable things, we may both in word and deed do what is pleasing to Thee. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his listeners to go beyond the outward observance of the Law, and to keep its demands in the interiority of the heart (cf. Mt. 5-7). It is not enough simply to be outwardly decent; we need pure minds and hearts, as well. Our simple Collect today focuses on this very thing.

In order to purify the mind and heart, we must resist temptation, especially at its first attempt at entrance into our minds, for sin begins in the willful consent to evil thoughts which give birth to evil desires (cf. Jam. 1:14-15). At the same time, if we obsess about sin or temptation by fighting it in a prolonged, head-on way, we can actually (and ironically) risk giving it more strength and sway in our minds and hearts. Why? Because we are preoccupied with it as we attempt to defeat it. Our Collect proposes a solution for this dilemma. 

Our prayer begs of God the grace of literally “meditating on rational things” so as to please Him with a holy life. Essentially, it is calling us to cultivate an active interior posture of chewing on, being occupied with, or “fixing our thoughts on” (to use the translation above) rational things. What does the term “rational” or “reasonable” mean in this context?

The Biblical term likely underlying this Latin word in our Collect is St. Paul’s term logike in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual (logike) worship” (RSV). The Vulgate translates logike as rationabile - the adjectival form of the same word used in the Collect. The Douai-Rheims translates this as “reasonable service,” referring to man worshipping God with an intellect and will purified and rectified by grace [Ratzinger provides wonderful exegesis on this word and this verse in his classic work, The Spirit of the Liturgy].

The notions “reason” and “rational” refer essentially to that which is in accord with divine Wisdom, indeed, with the mind of Christ Himself. In the word logike, we see the root of logos (“word”), the term used by St. John for Christ who is the “Word,” that is, the rational expression and revelation of the divine Mind and Heart (cf. John 1:1). Therefore, the “rational things” to which the Collect refers are all things that are good, true, and beautiful which originate and terminate in Christ Himself, according to plain meaning of St. John’s Prologue. These reflect God’s own goodness and love, and lead us to contemplate Him more deeply.

Thus, our Collect shows us that the effective tactic against sin and temptation is our willingness to be occupied interiorly with good things that lead us to Christ, thereby crowding out the bad things. The reasonable things elevate us by focusing our mental energies outside of ourselves onto good things which are bigger than ourselves, and ultimately on Christ Himself. This effectively pulls the rug out from under the temptation and empties it of its power by diminishing its influence on our mind [An excellent book that takes this approach to the spiritual life, and life in general, is Fr. Narciso Irala’s Achieving Peace of Heart, published by Roman Catholic Books].

This is certainly the strategic teaching of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (cf. Phil. 4:8, RSV). Essentially, he is telling them to be victors in the spiritual life by “fixing their thoughts on reasonable things.” 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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