What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for the Fifth Sunday after Easter:

Deus, a quo bona cuncta procédunt, largíre supplícibus tuis: ut cogitémus, te inspiránte, quæ recta sunt; et, te gubernánte, éadem faciámus.

Here is my translation:

O God, from Whom all good things do proceed, generously grant to Thy suppliants that, by Thy inspiration, we may think those things that are virtuous, and, by thy governance, may accomplish the same.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O God, from Whom all good things do come, grant to us thy humble servants that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same.

The prayer is simple and straightforward. It is a reminder that God, who is not merely “good” but is Goodness Itself, is the source of all that is good. Therefore, if we have anything good about us, either in our being or in our works, it comes from Him. Acknowledging that truth, we proceed to ask that we may both think and do acts that are virtuous. The Latin word I translated virtuous, recta, means right, upright, morally good, etc. We get a host of English words from it (e.g., rectify — set right).

The Epistle (James 1:22-27) once again comes from Saint James, and has a direct correlation to our oration, for that Apostle instructs us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” If, in the language of our collect, we were to think what is good and not do it, we would be forgetful hearers, and our religion would be in vain. We would, in short, miss the point. (O Lord, you teach such wonderful things! I believe it all! Now, let me go my way and live as if I were a pagan.) Recall that this same Saint James is the one who so wonderfully complements the teachings of Saint Paul by showing us that works are necessary for salvation as is faith.

Today’s Gospel (John 16:23-30) also has a very close connection to the collect. In it, Jesus instructs the Apostles about prayer and praying in His name:

And in that day you shall not ask me any thing. Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full.

Many who read this wonder why their petitions are not answered to the letter. All those fervent prayers for a Lamborghini go unanswered! Saint Augustine explains this for us in today’s Matins lessons:

[W]hatsoever is asked, which tendeth not to salvation, is not asked in the Name of the Saviour. By the words “In My Name” we must not understand the vocalization of letters and syllables, but the meaning of what is said, the honest and true meaning. …

Praying in Christ’s name means asking for whatever helps us to win perfect joy, spiritual joy, and this we will do, if the object of our prayers is the truly happy life [of grace here and glory in Heaven]. To ask for anything else is to ask nothing, for everything is but as nothing, when compared with so great a good.”

Thank you, Saint Augustine, for helping us to understand what are those “good things” we pray for today!

Later in the Holy Mass, the postcommunion prayer, which the priest sings after he and the congregation have communicated, echos the petitions of this collect with a slightly different emphasis:

Grant us, O Lord, fed with the virtue of a heavenly table, to desire what is right, and to gain what we desire.

Whereas the collect focuses on the intellect (on thinking what is right), the postcommunion speaks of the will: desiring what is right. Both prayers ask that we may effectively gain or take hold of the good things we desire, and both acknowledge that even to think or desire what is good comes from God. It is particularly fitting that, while we are yet communicating with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we ask the Father through Him for the blessings of His goodness.

A continued blessed Paschaltide to all! And a happy Ascension Thursday later this week!