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The Fourth Sunday in Lent MMXII

O God,  thou knowest that we who are in the midst of such danger canst not stand because of our human weakness; grant to us health of mind and body, so that those things which we suffereth for our sins, thou mayest overcome, through…

Latin original Collect:
Deus, qui nos in tantis periculis constitutos, pro humana scis fragilitate non posse subsistere: do nobis salutem mentis et corporis; ut ea, quae pro peccatis nostris patimur, te adjuvante vincamus, per
--Gelesian Sacramentary

Introit:  Rejoice, ye with Jerusalem and be glad with her.…
Ps:  I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the LORD…
Epistle:  Galatians 4:21-31  Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law…
Gradual:  I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the LORD
Gospel:  John 6:1-15  After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee…

See it all here

another translation

Almighty God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant to us such strength and carry us through all temptations; through…
[Lutheran Service Book]

This Sunday is known also as Leatare for the opening of the Latin introit: "Rejoice":  The introit relates to today's Epistle and our mother, the heavenly Jerusalem.  For the same reason it is Mothering Sunday.  Last week, the Third Sunday in Lent, is known as Oculi for the introit that begins with that word in Latin and means "eyes" from the English opening Mine eyes...

The Anglican Prayer Book did not use the Latin collect, but reflected some of its elements.  The Lutheran Service Book faithfully translated the original prayer from the Latin. 

Deus, qui nos in tantis periculis constitutos, pro humana scis fragilitate non posse subsistere: 
-- O God,  you know that we who are amid such dangers cannot stand because of our human weakness

The prayer begins by establishing our situation.  We are forever in this world set in the midst of some form of struggle – some danger.  We struggle to be born. We struggle to survive. We fight against diseases and defects. We labor to feed ourselves by the sweat of our brow. We covet other's wealth, or others covet ours. We must fend off adversaries who would deprive us of life, liberty, and property. We fight against the many moral evils that are common to man and threaten his spiritual and physical health. We all face certain bodily death in this world, and often suffer as we die.  Given all that we face, we are frail compared with those grand ideals we hold. We fear the unknown. We fear pain and suffering. We fear loss of employment and the consequences of deprivation of wealth.  We fear death. We are human.  

George Patton, one of history greatest Christian generals said, "All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty."

The author of this prayer recognized this truth. This prayer may have originally be written in the persecution of the Empire before the fourth century, or perhaps composed later in the sixth century when Rome faced the hordes at their gates, whether early or late, it likely refers to a real danger to the church that caused the saints much trepidation.

do nobis salutem mentis et corporis; 
--Give to us health of mind and body

This is our petition to God.  Health of mind so that the fears we have of the dangers and temptations surrounding us do not drag us down into being pitiful weaklings - "men without chests".  Health of body so that we may continue in this life free of the evils of disease with strong, sound, and fit bodies that reflect the state God had first ordained for our species.  Together, mind, body, and also spirit, we pray for wellbeing, fortitude, confidence, and courage.

ut ea, quae pro peccatis nostris patimur
--So that those things we suffer for our sins.  

What is this? Are our sufferings the result of our sins?  Yes, ultimately.  The bible teaches us that original sin was the beginning of suffering for our kind. Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden for their disobedience, and God cursed man with labor and woman with pain in childbirth as signs, and all humanity with physical death.  So, we believe that in the end times sin will be completely abolished, and with it Paradise restored in a new heaven and earth.  

te adjuvante vincamus
-- you [God] may overcome

I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the parable of the young rich man who went away sad at the thought of giving his riches to the poor and becoming a disciple.  Jesus taught that those encumbered by their earthly wealth could not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. They are yoked to their wealth.  "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."  [Matthew 19:24-26]. God can overcome our passions, addictions, bondage, missteps, shortfalls, and failures by his Grace alone.

Martin Luther wrote of a parallel truth in Bondage of the Will.  He reintroduced concepts from the Scripture and the theology of Augustine. The overwhelming power of sin on a person inhibits his very ability to stand firm and to choose between right and the wrong. Luther allowed the way of escape from this bondage to sin; it is by binding ourselves to Jesus; thereby, our wills may be in bondage to his perfect will and we may be free to choose the right way.  Jesus promised his elect peace and freedom, and we may be free indeed as we abide with him.  Paul also touched on this truth in the appointed epistle today when he reminded and encouraged the Galatian Church that they were no longer under bondage but were free [Galatians 4:21-31], and in the verse following he wrote, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." [Galatians 5:1]  

See an homily by Chrysostom on the Epistle


(Portions were paraphrased and passages cited from The Collect of the Day, by Paul Zeller Strodach, 1939, The United Lutheran Press, Philadelphia)
The Ancient Collect: Its history and form
Released by Primus Pilus
Legio Christi-Ecclesia Militans
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 14:19]


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