What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

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

Absólve, quǽsumus, Dómine, tuórum delícta populórum: ut a peccatórum néxibus, quæ pro nostra fraglitáte contráximus, tua benignitáte liberémur.

Here is my translation:

Absolve, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the crimes of Thy people: that, we may be liberated from the bonds of sins which we have brought about through our frailty.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

Forgive, we beseech You, O Lord, the sins of Your faithful people, so that by Your goodness we may be released from the net of sin in which we have been caught by our weakness.

This Sunday’s Gospel is Saint Matthew’s account of the raising of the Daughter of Jairus and the healing of the “Haemorrhissa” (the woman with the issue of blood), a two-fold miracle of Our Lord that is related in all three Synoptic Gospels. (For some commentary on this, please see, The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and the Healing of the Haemorrhissa on this site.) In these weeks winding down her liturgical year, the Church is pointing us to the future life. This particular account brings to mind the resurrection of the body, of which the raising of this young girl is a type and a foreshadowing.

The Lesson comes from the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians (3:17-21; 4:1-3), and points us to the same reality in its central portion:

But our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory, according to the operation whereby also he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

So, too, do other of today’s propers point us to the last things. (We can hear the cry of the Holy Souls in Purgatory in the Offertory prayer: “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my prayer! Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord” [Ps. 129:1-2].)

As a remote preparation for the resurrection of the body and the General Judgment, today’s collect is a simple request to be absolved of those bonds of sin that we ourselves have “contracted” (contráximus) or brought about through our own human frailty. To utter this prayer sincerely, we must have the requisite modicum of humility to acknowledge our own weakness as well as our sins. Implicit in the prayer is also the intention not to be caught again in those same snares.

The closer we come to the Twenty-Fourth and Last Sunday after Pentecost, the more eschatological does the Church’s liturgy become. The end of all things draws near.


The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, by Vasily Polenov, 1871 (see list of artworks — source)