Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Missale Romanum 1970 (MR '70)
For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider today’s Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in the MR ’70 (known in the older calendar as “Passion” Sunday). The following is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):
"By your help, we beseech You, Lord our God, may we walk eagerly in that same charity with which, out of love for the world, Your Son handed himself over to death. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”
The Church’s shifts her focus in Passiontide, or the final fortnight of Lent: the emphasis is less on our penance, and more on the looming Sacrifice of Christ and our entrance into it. The Liturgy leads us to see more distinctly that the Cross is the center of gravity for this entire season of preparation.
Today’s Collect makes a direct reference to the following verses in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2, RSV, emphasis mine). St. Paul and the Liturgy call us to model our whole life upon Christ’s ascent to Calvary and His life-giving Death.
As I write this today (Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent), the Gospel lesson in both Lectionaries has Peter asking Jesus how often he should forgive an offending brother: “As many as seven times?” And we hear Jesus’ reply: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Cf. Mt. 18:21-22, RSV). Peter felt seven times was a reasonable amount, seven being the mystical number of perfection and wholeness, and so, he likely thought he was being generous (we might even detect a hint of pride in Peter - “look at how generous I am in forgiving someone”). Jesus dwarfs his estimate, and suggests a metaphorical number which indicates the infinity of perfection. In other words, “seventy times seven” is meant to indicate the unlimited amount of mercy with which God forgives us. This is the measure by which we are to forgive, because that is the kind of mercy the good God willingly lavishes upon us.
Thus, if we are to walk eagerly in Christ’s charity, as our Collect prays, then our hearts must become more forgiving. Indeed, forgiveness is a spiritual almsdeed, which, when united to Christ’s Sacrifice, can become a meritorious sacrifice. This assumes, however, that we are united to Christ and receiving his grace. Human effort alone simply cannot, indeed, will not, succeed in forgiving or being charitable in this unlimited way that Christ commands. That is why our Collect begs God for his help to walk eagerly in the same path of sacrifice. The baptized need an ongoing infusion of grace to become more and more like Jesus, as we hear in the Last Supper discourses: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (cf. Jn. 15:4-5, RSV).
Such grace is available above all in a worthy Holy Communion and a good Confession, ever the center of the Church’s Lenten program as set forth in Antiquity.
We are now within a fortnight of the Triduum. However successful or not our Lenten program has been, the Church bids us now “draw near” to Christ and the charity flowing from his pierced Heart on the Cross. Passiontide gives a second wind to our Lenten struggle, because we see even more clearly before us “the throne of grace, [where] we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (cf. Heb. 4:16, RSV).(David Allen)
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.