What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for Pentecost Sunday

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for Pentecost Sunday:

Deus, qui hodiérna die corda fidélium Sancti Spíritus illustratióne docuísti: da nobis in eódem Spíritu recta sápere; et de ejus semper consolatióne gaudére.

Here is my translation:

O God, who on this day hast taught the hearts of the faithful by the illumination of the Holy Ghost: grant to us in the same Spirit rightly to understand and ever to rejoice in His consolation.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O God, You Who on this day have taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us by that Holy Spirit Himself, to know what is right and ever to rejoice in His help.

The verb sápere has a very beautiful constellation of meanings, both transitive and intransitive. It can mean to taste or to relish, but also to understand, to know, or to be wise. It gives us the Latin noun for wisdom, sapientia.

The promised day has come! Jesus has sent the Holy Ghost from the Father, and, entering into the hearts of those gathered in the Upper Room on Mount Sion, He has come to take possession of and illuminate the Church in a dramatic and most manifest way. Rightly is He called the “soul of the Church.”

Some say that this day is the “birthday” of the Church. Others — including the Church’s liturgy for the Feast of the Sacred Heart — say that Good Friday should be reckoned as such, given the fact that the water of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist were poured out on that day from Our Lord’s Heart. (If memory serves me, Saint Augustine advanced both positions at different times.) The Saint Andrew’s Missal coordinates these two opinions and says that Good Friday is the Church’s “Christmas” (birth), while Pentecost is her “Epiphany” (public manifestation). In the life of the individual Christian, these would seem to correspond with Baptism and Confirmation.

Moreover, the dedication of this month of June, the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, bears a very direct connection to the Mystery of Pentecost. In the Gospel of Saint John (7:37-39), Our Lord says,

If any man is thirsty, let him come to me, and drink; yes, if a man believes in me, as the scripture says, Fountains of living water shall flow from his bosom. He was speaking here of the Spirit, which was to be received by those who learned to believe in him; the Spirit which had not yet been given to men, because Jesus had not yet been raised to glory. (Knox translation.)

This is a very rich passage, but let me take notice of one thing: commentators are not agreed on whether the “bosom” whence flow the rivers (or fountains) of living waters is the bosom of Our Lord or the bosom of the individual Christian. The way the passage is punctuated and divided into verses (not original to the Scriptures) can alter the meaning. However, the ambiguity is a happy one: Jesus, with the Father, sends the Holy Ghost from His “bosom,” i.e., the Sacred Heart, into the hearts of the faithful. And this is how theological charity comes into our souls in the first place: “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Saint Thomas uses this verse from Romans to prove that charity is indeed an infused virtue, poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is Charity in Person: the very Love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father.

Over and above this, according to Saint Thomas, the Holy Ghost’s gift of wisdom perfects charity by helping us to judge rightly concerning Eternal Law by a certain “connaturality” with the Mind of the divine Lawgiver. Thus, today’s oration is not merely a request for knowledge as “learning,” but a petition that we might love God more perfectly by being truly wise, and relishing — tasting —  God’s Law. And what does the lover do when he possesses the beloved? He rejoices! “Grant to us in the same Spirit rightly to understand [or “to be truly wise”] and ever to rejoice in His consolation.”

A blessed Pentecost Sunday and Octave to all!

Below are some links to articles on our site about Pentecost, the Holy Ghost, and His Gifts:

Veni Creator Spiritus!


“Pentecost” by Jean Restout II (1692–1768), public domain