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

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

Deus, qui cónspicis, quia ex nulla nostra actióne confídimus: concéde propítius; ut, contra advérsa ómnia, Doctóris géntium protectióne muniámur.

Here is my translation:

O God, who seest that we put confidence in no deed of our own: mercifully grant that we may obtain the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles against all adversity.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O God, You Who see that we put no trust in anything we do, mercifully grant that by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles we may be defended against all adversity.

Saint Paul seems to dominate the liturgy of Sexagesima Sunday (which continues Septuagesima season) owing to the very long Epistle of today (2 Cor. 11:19-33; 12:1-9) in which the Apostle narrates many of his travails in preaching the Gospel. He does so in a manner that is both forceful and ironic in order to compare himself and his apostolic credentials favorably against certain false teachers (probably Judaizers) who would undermine their faith. After presenting a long litany of adversities he suffered on behalf of Our Lord and His Gospel, Saint Paul speaks of extraordinary graces he has received, and ends with a powerful lesson in humility, confidence in God’s goodness, and radical dependence upon grace:

And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. –2 Cor. 12:7-9

The icon that Saint Paul paints of himself in this lengthy and vivid portrayal is an apt depiction of what Jesus says in today’s Gospel (Luke 8:4-15), wherein the Master preaches the Parable of the Sower. Saint Paul stands out in contrast to the false apostles as the “good ground,” that is, one of those “who, in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.”

Is it any wonder that — in a rarity for Sunday Collects — the Church has us beseech the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles today? In our Pre-Lenten journey, we are being called to walk as he walked, doing good deeds (which we are obliged to do), but putting all our confidence in Jesus Christ. We ought, like the Apostle, to “glory in our infirmities,” putting confidence in no deeds of our own (however great or numerous — even if they be like Saint Paul’s!), that the power of Christ may dwell in us and be perfected unto patient fruitfulness in the good ground our self acknowledged weakness.