What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Quadragesima (Lent): Passion Sunday

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for Passion Sunday, that is, the Fifth Sunday of Quadragesima (Lent):

Quǽsumus, omnípotens Deus, famíliam tuam propítius réspice: ut, te largiénte, regátur in córpore; et, te servánte, custodiátur in mente.

Here is my translation:

Look graciously upon Thy family we ask, O almighty God: that by Thy bounty, she may be rightly directed in body; and by Thy protection, she may be safeguarded in mind.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon this thy family, that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul.

The prayer is an appeal to God for His Church. The passive verbs that refer to Her are in the singular; so, while the prayer is for all her members, it is stated as a prayer for the single body (or “family”) of the Church. For that reason, I kept the verbs in the singular and connected them to the feminine pronoun, as they refer to the feminine noun “famíliam,” family.

In this season when we are supposed to be fasting, the Church shows great solicitude to her children by praying many times not only for their minds (or souls), but also for their bodies. In performing bodily penance, we are not hating this creature of God, but are seeking to subject flesh to spirit — to govern or direct it according to God’s Law, both of which are accurate translations of regátur in today’s oration.

With first Vespers last evening, we entered into Passiontide. All the statuary in our churches are draped in violet and will be until the joyful Gloria once again resounds on the Easter Vigil. Today is Passion Sunday (also called “First Passion Sunday,” as next week’s Palm Sunday is also within Passiontide). Today’s Mass begins the use of the Preface of the Holy Cross, which will continue thought these last two weeks of Lent. Here is the part of the Preface that is changed for this season within a season:

…Who didst establish the salvation of mankind on the tree of the Cross; that whence death came, thence also life might arise again, and that he, who overcame by the tree, by the tree also might be overcome…

Satan is he who overcame by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and who is overcome by the Tree of Life which is the Cross. This is a pitched battle! Death and life are about to enter into a duel for the souls of men, a truly wondrous conflict with eternal consequences.

The Gospel readings for this week all portray the last year of Jesus’ public life, when His enemies were grown more and more hostile and attempted to kill Him even before it was His time. Mother Church is setting the stage for the intense Drama of Holy Week.

Today’s Epistle comes from Saint Paul to the Hebrews (9:11-15) and tells us of Christ’s superior priesthood over the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Law. Unlike Aaron and his sons, Jesus Christ is sinless and need not come before God to offer sacrifice to for the people only after having first offered sacrifice for His own sins. What is more, the blood He offers is not the blood of beasts, but is His very own Precious Blood: He is Priest and Victim.

The Gospel comes from Saint John (8:46-59), who writes of a particularly bitter conflict between Jesus and His enemies. The Savior asks two questions which agree with Saint Paul’s argument in Hebrews 9, namely, that the Just One is entirely sinless, as well as eminently worthy of trust: “Which of you shall convict me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?”

To this, His enemies reply with a classic ad hominem in the form of a question: “Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” Things go downhill from there, at least as far as Our Lord’s adversaries’ performance is concerned. Their darkness can neither comprehend nor endure the bright effulgence of His words. When He says, finally, that before Abraham came to be, “I am” — echoing the words of God from the Burning Bush to Moses — they knew that he was making Himself equal to God. Lacking divine faith, they rejected this claim and held the Master guilty of the only logical alternative to His veracity: the capital crime of blasphemy. This is why they picked up stones to stone Him. This will also be the charge they bring against Him when they clamor for His death.

It is by virtue of the Sacrifice that He is soon to offer that we ask today to be rightly directed in body and safeguarded in mind. Let us do our part to make neither that Sacrifice nor this prayer fruitless for ourselves.

A blessed and grace-filled Passiontide to you all.


The Jews took up Stones to Cast at Him, illustration for ‘The Life of Christ’ c.1886-96 (gouache on paperboard) by Tissot, James Jacques Joseph (1836-1902); Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, USA. (Screenshot of source.)