What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity:

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, dírige actus nostros in beneplácito tuo: ut in nómine dilécti Fílii tui mereámur bonis opéribus abundáre.

Here is my translation:

Almighty and everlasting God, direct our acts according to Thy good pleasure: that in the name of Thy beloved Son we may merit to abound in good works.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O Almighty and eternal God, direct our actions in conformity with Your will, that in the name of Your beloved Son we may be worthy to do good works in abundance.

We so often ask to be “made worthy,” e.g., as in the Angelus, ut digni efficiámur promissiónibus Christi (“that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ”). When we ask the Eternal Father in today’s collect that we might merit or may be worthy to do good works in abundance in the name of His beloved Son, we are clearly asking for His indispensable and absolutely necessary grace. This it is which directs our actions in conformity with His will, not to override or supplant our own wills, but to aid them. The very fact that a Christian earnestly prays this oration is an indication that he wants his will to be conformed to the Divine Will.

I should hasten to add that, as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of our earnestness in praying to be conformed to the Divine Will is whether or not we actually do abound in good works, which is to say meritorious works done in the state of sanctifying grace and at the prompting of actual grace. (This touches upon the crux of the Church’s objection to Luther’s heresy on good works: the doctrine of merit.) The Christian life is, among many other things, a partnership, and we must do our part.

This is not the only oration wherein we ask God to direct our actions. A beautiful collect from the Litany of the Saints, often used as a stand-alone prayer, is a very well known petition for exactly the same thing.

As Christmas is an Octave and a season, I close by wishing a holy and merry Christmas to all my readers!