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

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

Concéde, quǽsumus, omnípotens Deus: ut, qui ex merito nostræ actiónis afflígimur, tuæ grátiæ consolatióne respirémus.

Here is my translation:

Grant, we ask, Almighty God: that we who are chastised according to the just deserts of our actions may be relieved by the consolation of Thy grace.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we who for our evil deeds are worthily punished, may, by the comfort of thy grace, mercifully be relieved.

The prayer is very simple, acknowledging the just punishments for our sins and begging the relief of God’s grace. Humble acknowledgement of sin is a bedrock of our Lenten devotion. It is found, for instance in the Miserere (Psalm 50) which is prayed daily in the Divine Office of Lent at Lauds.

A passage from Saint Paul comes to mind (Hebrews 12:5-8):

And you have forgotten the consolation, which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.

We acknowledge God’s justice in rebuking us and find comfort in the fact that this is perfectly compatible with the loving designs of our good Father. (After this passage, the Apostle reminds us that our earthly fathers punished us for our misdeeds.) We ought to be consoled that our just punishments are a sign of our divine adoption (“consolation” is found both in today’s oration and in Saint Paul’s exhortation, above, from Hebrews).

Today’s rich Epistle comes from Galatians (Gal. 4:22-31), and speaks to us of this supernatural adoption as God’s children. In particular, the Apostle considers our Mother the Church as that Jerusalem which is from above. (The Introit, employing the words of Isaias, has appropriately invited us to be filled from the breasts of our consolation.) There are numerous references to Jerusalem in this Mass, and they are based upon the text from Saint Paul, who, employing the figures of Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac, compares the earthly Jerusalem of the unbelieving Jews who are in bondage, to the heavenly Jerusalem of the baptized who are free.

The Gospel (John 6:1-15) relates to us one of Jesus’ two multiplication miracles, this one from John 6 being the immediate foreshadowing of the Blessed Sacrament, as the Eucharistic discourse at Capharnaum follows soon after in this same chapter.

Enjoying the freedom of the children of God and being nourished by the Bread of Life are graces that the catechumens joyfully await. As Dom Guéranger tells us, we cannot make sense of much of our Lenten liturgy without keeping in mind the catechumens who will be baptized on the Easter Vigil. It was with them in mind (as well as the public penitents) that so many of the prayers and readings of Lent were composed and selected.

May we, the faithful, rejoice and take much consolation in these gifts that we have already received, as we persevere both in our Lenten penances and under the just punishments that our good Father visits upon us.

Laetare, Jerusalem!

Keep having a good Lent!