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

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

Ecclésiam tuam, Dómine, miserátio continuáta mundet et múniat: et quia sine te non potest salva consístere; tuo semper múnere gubernétur.

Here is my translation:

May Thy continued compassion, O Lord, cleanse and fortify Thy Church: and because without Thee she cannot stand in safety, may she always be governed by Thy favor.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church, and because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness.

There is a graceful pairing of subjunctive-mood verbs that closely resemble one another (mundet et múniat: “may cleanse and fortify”) which, joined to the nearby miserátio (“compassion”) makes for a pleasant alliteration.

Someone may ask why my translation has “she” where the other translation has “it” as a pronoun for the Church. I do not refer to the Church as an “it,” but as a “she.” She is the Bride of Christ. “Ecclesia” is a feminine noun of the first declension. In the Latin of the above prayer, there are, in fact, no pronouns paired to the verbs. None are needed, as the forms of the verb call for the third person singular in each case. In translating, I chose the feminine pronoun for the theological reason stated here.

Note the image below, where the female figure seated next to Christ is the “Maria-Ecclesia.” That beautiful Queen is an icon of both Mary and the Church (of which Mary is the perfect type and embodiment: the Holy Virgin is the perfect Christian). This image, along with other images of the Church as a beautiful woman, may be found here, with good explanations.

The prayer is, as are so many of the Church’s orations, a strong reiteration of the necessity of the divine help of grace for the whole Church. If God did not continually sustain His Bride, she would fall.

With how much intensity ought we to pray this oration — even over and over again — in these days when the Church suffers so much in so many ways!