A while ago I sent in my weekly column for The Wanderer. This week I wrote about the Hanc igitur in the Roman Canon.
Here is an excerpt:
Return for a moment to that phrase “servitutis nostrae”. Servitus was sometimes in ancient times used as a form of address. We mustn’t stretch this too much, but tune your ear to how our ancient forebears would have heard words such as servitus. In the writings of the Fathers of the Church servus is used for the priest or bishop. St. Pope Leo I, “the Great” (+461) refers to himself in this way (ep. 108, 2). Servitus or “Servitude” was much as Sanctitas or “Holiness” is for the Pope today, or Excellentia or “Excellency” is for a bishop. I don’t hear of many bishops today welcoming the title “Your Servitude”. St. Augustine (+430) used servus servorum (ep. 217). One of the venerable titles of the Bishop of Rome is, from the time of the aforementioned St. Gregory I, “Servus Servorum Dei… Servant of the servants of God”. The altar is the supreme place of priestly service. An altar is about sacrifice. Priesthood is about sacrifice. Priesthood and sacrifice must never be separated in our minds.
We must never lose sight of Mass as propitiation, or of the priest as offering sacrifice to God. This deep current in Holy Mass must inform every word and gesture, ornament and sign.
For example, when the priest is standing at the altar in the place of Christ, Head of the Church (in persona Christi capitis), he isn’t always talking to you in the congregation– or at least he shouldn’t be. If Father’s style during Mass, his ars celebrandi as Benedict XVI calls it (cf. Sacramentum caritatis) reflects talk show host chumminess or open mic night at the Ha Ha Club rather than the priest renewing our deliverance from eternal damnation, perhaps it would be good gently and respectfully to help him get reoriented.
Tell him your aspirations for our sacred liturgical worship. Treat Father like a priest, not a pal. Support clerical dress, especially the use of the cassock – at least in church. Provide materially for liturgical decorum through the purchase of worthy vestments and vessels. Do not praise liturgical abuse. Pray, fast and give alms for the intentions of your priests. Pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood.
Liturgy is language. Signs, words have meaning. The spaces and silences among and between the them brim with mystery. Sacramental realities are no less real just because they cannot be easily sensed through the bodily senses.