At work in the Collect for this weekend’s 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time are themes of divine adoption and the splendour of truth: “Deus, qui, per adoptionem gratiae, lucis nos esse filios voluisti, praesta, quaesumus, ut errorum non involvamur tenebris, sed in splendore veritatis semper maneamus conspicui.”
Involvo means “to wrap up, envelop” or “to cover, overwhelm, surround”. Splendor is “brightness, brilliance” or “dignity, excellence”. Our prayer connects being wrapped up in error with separation from God. It joins divine adoption with coming into view in the light of Truth.
Current ICEL translation (2011): “O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”
The phrase splendor veritatis should ring a bell. In his 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor Pope St John Paul II began to correct the erroneous and dangerous tendencies of some contemporary moral theologians. Progress was made thereafter, but recently the teachings of the saintly pope have been undermined in high places through ambiguities.
Speaking of splendor, in the writings of some Fathers of the Church splendor is, like gloria and maiestas, associated with the divine presence. Think of the pillar of fire during the Exodus, the shining cloud wherein God spoke to Moses, the light of the transfigured Lord on Mount Tabor. The Doctor of Grace, St Augustine of Hippo (d 430), connected “splendour of truth” (splendor veritatis) with “fervour of charity” (fervor caritatis). Centuries later the Seraphic Doctor, St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (d 1274) expanded upon this link. For Augustine and Bonaventure, living in the light of the truth, which is the love of God, necessarily means also love of neighbour.
With what kind of love must we hold our neighbour? With fervor, “a boiling or raging heat”. This is no lukewarm love which Jesus will spew away (Rev 3:16). Splendor veritatis leads to fervor caritatis, the raging fire of Jesus’s Sacred Heart, His lacerated “burning furnace of love”. Christians cannot love God and not love neighbour. In word and deed we must reflect this twofold love or we are not true Christians. I often fail in this.
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