One God

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: As you know, the doxology at the end of the collects in the Missal was originally to have been rendered, “Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.” In fact, a number of resources were published in anticipation of the Missal, highlighting the Christological (rather than Trinitarian) focus of this ending. Or, better, emphasizing the three-fold nature of God over the notion of God as a monad.  

We were all surprised, then when the 3rd edition of the Missal seemingly translated/rendered the Latin word unitate twice, giving us “Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” – making it about the unity of the Trinity rather than about Christ (and therefore the distinctions within the Trinity). 

Now, at the behest of the CDWDS, the bishops are reversing course. A lot of extra work and confusion for nothing. Do you know why the last-minute change was made before – or why the CDWDS at the time did not correct it (apparently ICEL pointed the error out but were told to retain it…). It seems like another classic example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing (and of certain bishops getting to ignore rules – like strict adherence to the Latin – when they want to, yet enforcing them when they have a different end in mind). 

Do we know what happened to create this mess?


A: It’s complicated. I addressed this in my book In These or Similar Word in the section “One God.”

The conclusion to the collect came rather late to the table, first appearing in church history near the end of the first millennium. It is anti-Arian.
I haven’t looked it up, but I understand that no less a light than Josef Jungmann believed that Deus in the conclusion was trinitarian, and that led to the conclusion of the Opening Prayer in the English-language Sacramentary in the 1970s, and which ultimately found its way into our current missal.

However, grammatically, from the Latin, Deus is nominative and it must go with qui, which refers to Jesus.

Another conclusion in English was considered, similar to the one you may know from Spanish and Italian: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God, living and reigning in the unity of the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.” That makes the point clear: God refers to Christ. 

I understand that when the missal was being translated in the early 2000s, the CDWDS favored Jungmann’s position and the former English translation. The Vatican’s views prevailed over the objections of some scholars.

Now the CDWDS has reconsidered and believes that indeed Deus should refer to Christ, not to the Trinity.

The simplest solution was the removal of the word “one”, which at least makes the conclusion ambiguous. The Spanish and Italian translations are stronger, but perhaps too strong for tastes in English.

The conferences of bishops in Australia, India, Scotland, and in England and Wales have all authorized removing the word “one” from the end of the collects, and the USCCB has now joined them, effective Ash Wednesday of 2021.

A sharp eye noticed that when the Vatican issued the English translation of its collect in time of pandemic in 2020, the word “one” was missing from its conclusion.