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

If the reader does not know what “Septuagesima Sunday” means, or what the Septuagesima season is, I highly recommend the succinct but informative Septuagesima Overview at the excellent Fisheaters site.

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

Preces pópuli tui, quǽsumus, Dómine, cleménter exáudi: ut, qui iuste pro peccátis nostris afflígimur, pro tui nóminis glória misericórditer liberémur.

Here is my translation:

Benignantly hear, we ask, O Lord, the prayers of Thy people: that we who are justly afflicted for our sins may be mercifully delivered for the glory of Thy name.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O Lord, we beseech You, graciously hear the prayers of Your people, that we who are justly punished for our sins may be mercifully delivered for the glory of Your name.

Pondering this oration, I am reminded of the prayer of the three young men in the fiery furnace from chapter three of the Prophesy of Daniel, especially verse thirty-one: “Wherefore all that thou hast brought upon us, and every thing that thou hast done to us, thou hast done in true judgment.” This is the anguished prayer of the children of the captivity, exiles whose sins have brought upon them such tremendous punishment. Not that they were all similarly guilty: these young men were very virtuous, but they spoke for the nation.

In the new rite, Septuagesima season is obliterated. This sentiment of being justly afflicted for our sins, if it appears in the new liturgy at all, is very much diminished. That polemical point gently made, we must pass beyond it and focus on what tradition demands of us: the frank acknowledgement that we are punished for our sins and that we deserve it. (Better here than hereafter!)

Our nation, along with most Western nations of former Christendom, is horribly guilty of crime after crime after crime: ignoring God’s law enshrined in the Decalogue, abortion, the perverse eroticization of children, divorce and the consequent destruction of the family thus normalizing adultery, mocking the sacred, profiting from the sale of toxic concoctions called pharmaceutics, profiting from war and the destabilizing of other sovereign nations, exporting “our way of life” to less fortunate peoples, etc. When will the measure of our crimes be filled up so that God’s chastisements come upon us with the severity we truly deserve? This is a legitimate question to consider.

Whatever punishments we receive in this life, now or in the future, the difficult circumstances they bring upon us — whatever they be — are occasions of grace and deliverance, not only from the undesirable punitive circumstances themselves, but from the sins that brought them upon us. That is true liberty, true deliverance: freedom from sin and joy in God’s grace.

That this deliverance be accomplished for the glory of God’s name, as per today’s collect, is of no minor importance. See what Dom François de Sales Pollien says here and here of God’s glory, where the profound observations of the Carthusian spiritual writer are quoted in pieces of mine on this site. We ought not pass over references to the glory of God with little thought of what it means. Such references are not mere pious window-dressing on our petitions to the Almighty.

Since we are asking God to hear our prayers, I will conclude my noting that, during this Pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima, we should gear up for our increased Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, giving special consideration to what penances we will undertake this Lent.