Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
Missale Romanum 1970 (MR '70)
For this week’s column on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we turn to today’s Collect for Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) in the MR’70. The following is the 2010 ICEL translation:
“God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made Your own, increase, we pray, the grace You have bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”
According to our prayer, our yearly observance of Holy Week and Easter communicates a special grace of strengthening our faith in Christ. On the basis of this gift, we ask God for an increase of faith and a deeper understanding of three things: (1) Baptism itself, (2) the effect of Baptism, i.e., our adoption as God’s children, and (3) the price of our redemption, i.e., Christ’s Blood. [We do well to recall that faith is about the “assent” of our intellect to what Jesus has revealed and accomplished for our salvation. It is likewise a “personal adherence” or entrustment of ourselves to Christ as our Savior and God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 150-1)].
The whole of the Easter cycle (Septuagesima thru Pentecost) is the Church’s choice season for fostering and strengthening such faith, especially for the catechumens and neophytes, but also for those already baptized. Indeed, the Church truly centers herself upon the central mysteries of our redemption at this time of year, especially the mysteries of Baptism and Eucharist. The liturgy and St. John’s writings focus on these two Sacraments, in particular.
According to the Church’s ancient interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, as is evident in her liturgy, the water and blood flowing from the wounded side of Christ on the Cross are the Sacraments of the Church, especially Baptism and Eucharist (for a modern example of this, see the Preface for the Sacred Heart in the MR’70). In his account of the Passion, St. John emphasizes the flow from Christ’s side on the Cross, since he himself was an eyewitness (Jn. 19:34-35). As one of my professors indicated, the water and the blood are the two drinks Jesus has specially promised in St. John’s Gospel (see especially Jn. 4 and 6).
In his First Letter, St. John proclaims the effective power of this water and blood: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree” (1 Jn. 5:4-8, RSV).
As St. John shows us, the Spirit (who dwells in us by sanctifying grace), the water (Baptism), and the blood (Eucharist) are the effective means of enabling us to enter into the divine embrace. Such union with Christ overcomes the sin and deceit of the world which would separate us from God’s love. Thus, St. John shows us the depth and power of the very three realities for which our Collect prays for a deepened understanding.
Our Collect was composed decades before St. John Paul II designated this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000. The Collect’s focus on Christ’s blood and water is nevertheless wonderfully fitting. The blue and red rays issuing from the risen Christ’s side in the Divine Mercy image represent the sacramental realities we have been treating here, especially Baptism and Eucharist. Let us, therefore, receive with grateful hearts the grace Christ dispenses anew today from his Sacred Heart.
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.