Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Last Sunday aftert Pentecost - Secreta

For our weekly meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider today’s Secreta Collect (the “Secret” or “Prayer over the Offerings”) for the Last Sunday after Pentecost (MR’62). The following is my own translation of today’s Collect:

“Be merciful, Lord, to our supplications: and with the offerings and prayers of Your people having now been received, convert our hearts to You, so that, freed from disordered earthly desires, we may pass on towards heavenly desires. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

The Mass is composed of many parts which work together to lead us to the high-point of the Canon. One such crucial part is the Offertory, which summons us to let down all of our cares- the important and the less important- and consciously and humbly offer them to Christ, so that we may adore the Father. It calls us to let go of prohibitive attachments and distractions, so as to be attuned to this encounter with the living God.

The Secreta Collect is the culmination of the Offertory, summing up and collecting (hence, the term “Collect”) all of our prayers, sacrifices, and intentions, and joining them to Christ who will make them meritorious by his action in the Mass. We might compare our material and spiritual offerings being “collected” by the celebrant’s prayer to St. Andrew receiving the loaves and fish from the boy, and giving them to Christ who “eucharistizes” them (cf. John 6:1-11).  

In our Secreta, the priest begs God that He would turn or convert our hearts towards Him. Why this petition, in particular? The prayer recognizes the adverse reality of terrenis cupiditatibus, which I have translated as “disordered earthly desires.” Cupiditas may be translated variously as greed, lust, passion, ambition, or eager desire. Theologically speaking, these all share the negative characteristic of being disordered inclinations due to Original Sin, by which we mean that every human person is inclined towards perversions of true goods (other terms for this reality include “concupiscence” or the “passions”). For the Baptized, these are now occasions of merit, because we share in divine life (sanctifying grace). However, we need to cooperate with sacramental grace and other actual graces to rectify and direct these desires towards their proper ends which are in conformity with our true good, ultimately, God Himself and the life of heaven.

Thus, in our prayer, we seek the help of God’s grace in order to love Him with an undivided heart. Conversion is a matter of the heart, by which we mean the will, and it means turning away from one thing and being inclined towards another, i.e, what the prayer calls “heavenly desires.” In the Mass, we seek to give God the interior sacrifice of our will, so that we may desire and love Him in an undivided way as our Highest Good, and to love all other creatures in proper reference to Him. Essentially, we are talking about the theological virtue of charity.

This petition echoes promises in the Old Testament which anticipated the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone brings about real conversion by an infusion of grace in the heart. For example, we hear the following in the Prophet Ezekiel:

“I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ez. 36:25-27, RSV).

Ultimately, the idolatry of the stony heart (the will) spoken of by Ezekiel is the reality of Original Sin as well as the “disordered earthly desires” that we see in today’s prayer. If we want to be truly happy, let us allow God’s grace to heal us and direct us towards Himself. Let us be taken up by Christ in the movement towards the Father, where the Object of healed desire can be found, known, and loved.

(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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