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Saint Paul (Italy, ca. 1575-1600), The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

The Second Sunday before Lent is also known as Sexagesima, marking as it does the sixty days that remain before the celebration of Easter. With the pre-Lent season introduced last week, this Sunday continues our preparations for the start of Lent. In the Latin Church this follows the pattern of liturgical penitence established at Septuagesima, articulated by the suppression of the Gloria in excelsis and the Alleluia, and by the use of violet vestments. In the East, this Sunday is known as Dominica Carnisprivii, or Meat Fare Sunday, introducing as it does the first level of abstinence for the faithful (in this case, meat) in preparation for Great Lent.

From the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, the Roman stational church for this Sunday was the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls. The Epistle from 2 Corinthians, appointed in the pre-conciliar Roman liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer, reflects this as it recalls Saint Paul’s trials for the propagation of the faith. Indeed the Collect for this Sunday in the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum is unique in providing a Collect for a Sunday that includes a reference to a saint, in this case, the “Doctor of the Gentiles,” that is Saint Paul. This acknowledgment of the stational liturgy, and thus of Saint Paul himself, is also found in the final phrase of the Collect, which in the Prayer Book is translated: “we may be defended against all adversity.” The Latin word muniamur, as Lauren Pristas points out in her helpful article on pre-Lent [PDF], might also be rendered thus: “we may be walled round against all hostile forces.” This reference, however subtle, stands out when we consider the context in which it would have been prayed.

Divine Worship: The Missal proceeds along the lines outlined above for the ancient Roman liturgy, also preserving the tradition of the Anglican missals and the Book of Common Prayer. However, in one respect Divine Worship does not simply reproduce the texts of the Roman liturgy. The Collect given in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer removed the explicit reference to Saint Paul, in order to conform with the intention of the Reformers to suppress the doctrine of the intercession of the saints. Thus the Collect in the Prayer Book, and also in Divine Worship, reads, “grant that by thy power,” rather than (as Monsignor Knox has it, rather loosely if poetically), “grant us this boon, that we may be strengthened against all adversity by the protection of him who taught the nations.” Interestingly, the 1961 Anglican Missal (Gavin) preserves the Prayer Book translation and does not insert the explicit reference to Saint Paul. The same is true of the English Missal of 1933 and 1958.

Our immediate reaction to this might be to question the omission of the reference to the Doctoris gentium in a missal of the Catholic Church, the result of an unhappy rejection of an important Catholic truth. Yet this modified text is not only in keeping with the Anglican liturgical tradition but, as we have noted, the reference is not entirely dismissed, even if a little digging is required to find it. It is surely part of the work of the personal ordinariates to uncover those stubborn remnants of Catholic doctrine and intention found in the Anglican tradition, and to collect these fragments together, to restore the beauty of what has been lost. If this is indeed so, this Collect is as good a place to start as any.

This post is part of series on the Sundays of Pre-Lent. You can read an overview of Pre-Lent in Divine Worship here, and an article on Septuagesima here.

Please do not reproduce this text elsewhere without permission of the author.