QUAERITUR: “our sacrifice” and “my sacrifice and yours”

From a reader, edited:

I sometimes wonder about the part of the prayer of the priest at Mass which goes “Pray, Brethren, that our sacrifice will be acceptable to the Lord our God.” And to which the people respond (I am sorry I do not know the Latin) “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…

I am curious as to what this prayer is about and how best to pray it meaningfully in our lives.

Here is something I wrote for my column And With Your Spirit which appears in the UK’s weekly, The Catholic Herald, along with some additional observations.

The gifts of bread and wine are now on the altar.  They have been prayed over and incensed.  The priest turns to the people (the rubric says, “versus ad populum”) and invites everyone to even more intense prayer.  The form of the invitation, the “Orate, fratres” we use today first appears in 12th century Italian manuscripts. It developed from an appeal by the bishop to the clergy nearby to pray for him.  It is now a request from the priest to the congregation to join their sacrifice to his own.

LATIN (2002MR):
Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.

I’ll add emphases to make the changes easier to spot.

LAME-DUCK VERSION:
Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

NEW CORRECTED VERSION:
Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

The new translation has the option of saying “brothers and sisters”.  This is not without precedent.  The liturgical scholar Joseph Jungmann identified 28 old manuscripts with “fratres et sorores”.  Furthermore, Latin fratres can include both sexes.

The most important change is the correct translation of “meum ac vestrum… my and yours”.  That “our” in the outgoing version distorted the theology of the text.

There are various Latin conjunctions for “and”.  Ac is used to join two different but related words into a single complex concept.  This is what ancient orators called hendiadys (Greek for “one through two”).  In Latin, an ac in hendiadys generally gives the first word more importance than the second.

The Second Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium 10 defined that the priesthood given in baptism is a true participation in the priesthood of Christ, but that it differs qualitatively from the ministerial priesthood conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders.  The ordained don’t merely receive more priesthood.  They receive a priesthood different from that which they already had from baptism.

These two modes of priesthood, distinct but sharing a common source, relate to each other as a single person’s head does with the body.

In the Council’s the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests we read that, by Holy Orders, priests are configured in their being to Christ the Priest so that they are able to act in the person of Christ who is the Head of the Body, the Church (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis 2).

Priests are ordained for their own sake (to help them save their own souls by doing God’s will) and for all the faithful (who must be directed to God through teaching, governance and sanctification).
Priests offer gifts and sacrifice to God for the people (cf. Hebrews 5).

Lay people, with the priesthood of the baptized, are the vanguard of the Church’s mission in the world.

Priests, set apart by ordination, concern themselves mainly with that which is sacred.

Lay people are primarily concerned with the secular.

Priests form and inform, nourish and strengthen, heal and guide lay people for their indispensable work.

Lay people do what no priest can: through deeds and words they bring Christ to every sphere of daily life in the world.

The complementary – not competing – roles and states of life of the ordained and of the laity must be respected.  This is especially important in our liturgical worship.

At the Offertory the priest says “my sacrifice and yours”.  He acts and speaks in the person of Christ, the Head of the Body, the Church.  He calls the people, Body of the Church, into complementary unity.  He invites them to pray that his sacrifice, according to his manner of offering sacrifice as an ordained priest, and their (“your”) sacrifice, according to how the baptized offer gifts and sacrifices, will be accepted.

What the priest does is done is for service.  A priest is not less in need of a Savior than anyone else present.

St. Augustine of Hippo (d 430), speaking of his role as bishop, described his relationship with his flock in the best way when he said, “I am a bishop for you, but a Christian with you” (s. 46.2).

Were ten thousand baptized men, women and children to pronounce the words of consecration over their bread and wine, the offerings would remain bread and wine.  One priest, alone or with a congregation, by God’s power changes the people’s bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The baptized unite their way of offering sacrifice to his way.

“My sacrifice and yours” is an important and long-needed improvement.

Here is something I can recommend for your deeper active participation in this invitation by the priest.

It can help to identify ourselves with the gifts placed on the altar for consecration.

The congregation is  invited by the priest to unite their sacrifices to those he offers in his manner of offering.

We all have both burdens and reasons to rejoice.  Therefore, when the priest or deacon is preparing the chalice, when he puts drops of water (the symbol of the human) into the wine (the symbol of the divine) to be mingled – the lesser being transformed within the greater – try consciously to  place into that chalice all your cares, aspirations, sentiments of gratitude, petitions, and all that you are.  Let it all be joined, before they are stupendously transformed by God.

This may make the invitation and then the response ring with something new each time you hear it and respond in turn.

Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

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19 Responses to QUAERITUR: “our sacrifice” and “my sacrifice and yours”

  1. John Nolan says:

    The English and Welsh bishops asked for, and were granted ‘my sacrifice and yours’ when the new translation first came out. They also insisted that in EP4 ‘this bread and wine’ should be more literally rendered as ‘this one bread and one cup’. The Sarum use has ‘Orate fratres et sorores …’ so no-one in England should quarrel with that.

  2. FrCharles says:

    In various moments in my life as a Catholic I have been exposed to the practice of having the laity receive Holy Communion in the manner of concelebrants, usually by the forbidden method of passing around the paten or bowl. In some places and institutions in which I have been, this has even been the ordinary expectation! Of course in my priesthood I have refused to do such a thing, but as I reflected on my experience of the practice, I realized that it has as its problematic purpose the same error of false egalitarianism that this post illustrates: the breaking down of the distinction between the sacrifice of the priest and that of the laity.

  3. rfox2 says:

    Thank you, Father. This is an incredibly important distinction. I made a comment to a friend several years ago that it seemed odd for the priest to say “our sacrifice”. The reply was, essentially, that we are all, laity and priest, offering the same sacrifice, and that the laity were offering the sacrifice through the priest. However, this perverts the reality of the priest standing in persona Christi, which is not what lay people do. It’s so important to realize, and to pray prayers of thanksgiving to God, that we receive from Him all good things, and that we add nothing of substance to the sacrifice of the Mass. All we can offer is ourselves, but the priest, being ordained can and does stand in the person of the Lord, who alone bestows mercy and offers grace in the Holy Mass.

    Again, thank you!

  4. Pachomius says:

    John Nolan, thank you for raising that. I was about to say that I thought here in the UK we had used “my sacrifice and yours” all along. Similarly, we use a slightly different translation of the Creed (which uses “of one being with the Father” instead of “one in being”).

    I tend to see the “orate, fratres” as an important reminder that we aren’t a passive audience at the Mass but active partakers in the sacrifice. It’s very odd that in the EF, the prayer is (apart from the first two words) said silently and facing the altar. I believe Fortescue took this as a sign of its late entry into the Mass.

    Interestingly, the Mozarabic Rite used slightly different words:
    Adjuvate me fratres in orationibus vestris et orate pro me ad Deum.
    (Help me, bretheren, in your prayers, and pray for me to God.)
    Adjuvet te Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus.
    (May He help you, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.)

    This might be an adaptation of Romans 15:30.

  5. This is the only prayer that remains in the severely truncated–if not “gutted”, as some may say–offertory rite of the newer form, that identifies it as an offering of sacrifice. Although I don’t have a reference handy, I recall reading that Msgr. Bugnini and the Concilium sought to delete even this one, but that–to his credit–Pope Paul VI required that it be retained.

    Incidentally, in the new corrected translation, the (old) “Prayer over the Gifts”–which sounds a bit like birthday gifts, and sometimes they looked like it–to the (new) “Prayer over the Offerings”, which may suggest something more like a sacrifice than a party.

  6. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Great explanation, Father. I’m all for anything that re-emphasizes the difference between the priest and laity. With the false teaching in the last 40 years, its no wonder people are confused about the real power of the priest.

    Not only can we offer our own sacrifices and thanksgiving up, we can also pray that the priest’s offering be as acceptable as possible.

  7. pelerin says:

    Nobody has commented yet on the return of the word ‘Holy’ as in ‘and the good of all his holy Church.’ I have always found it jarring to have to miss out the word Holy all these years when it was taken away and besides it does not scan so well without the word ‘Holy’ either. After all the word ‘sanctae’ is in the Latin text and the word ‘Holy’ was in the English translation in my Missal. I have no idea why it was taken out but will be pleased to see its return.

  8. Thanks for the exposition, Father.

    I find it interesting that in the Dominican Rite the priest clearly addresses this request to the fellow ministers, saying “Orate fratres” in moderate voice (inaudible to the congregation) and the rest of the formula completely inaudibly. The form used also suggest a request to fellow clerics: “ut meum ac vestrum *páriter* in conspéctu Domini sit accéptum sacrifícium..” There is no response to the request in our rite, even by the ministers.

    As this usage has been found in our Missals since at least the 1240s, and our rite borrows from the use of Bologna as well as Paris, I suspect this was the original Italian form of the request.

  9. Fr. Thompson: Thanks for that! Very interesting. Your formula surely reflects the idea that this was originally a request to fellow sacerdotes.

    I found quite a few formulae from centuries past when looking into this invitation. May of them conveyed a real sense of urgency as well as humility.

  10. Mundabor says:

    “Il mio e vostro sacrificio” in Italian.

    Mundabor

  11. Here’s what I have on the Orate fratres in “The Prayers of the Priest”…

    The Orate is an elaborate form of the Oremus (“Let us pray”) used for the Collect and the Post-Communion prayer. In place of the silence that would follow “Let us pray,” the priest expresses what it is we are to pray for, and the congregation responds in vocal prayer: “May the Lord accept…”

    The words of the priest take up once again the theme of offering, echoing the words of the earlier prayer that we, along with our sacrifice, might be accepted by God and found pleasing in His sight. The older translation rendered meum ac vestrum sacrificium as “our sacrifice,” but the new translation is more accurate: “my sacrifice and yours.” The use of this phrase not only unites the priest and congregation together in one common sacrifice, but also implies distinct roles and participation:

    As brethren, all Christians should, above all at the Eucharistic sacrifice and communion, have but one heart and one soul, and pray for and with one another. … The Eucharist is the sacrifice of the whole Church; it is not exclusively the priest’s sacrifice, but the property of the faithful also. In different ways and in different degrees they participate in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice, while the priest alone, in their name and for their benefit, completes the sacrificial action itself. Thus priest and people are at the altar bound together in a communion of sacrifice; and they offer not only the host and chalice, but themselves also. (Rev. Nicholar Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, pp. 590-591)

    Ven. Pope Pius XII wrote at length about how the laity can truly be said to offer the sacrifice of the Mass in his landmark encyclical on the liturgy Mediator Dei (paragraphs 80-104). Vatican II synthesized this concept of participation in these words: “by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, [Christ’s faithful] should learn also to offer themselves.” (SC 48)

    The congregation’s response expresses the union of all the spiritual sacrifices of the faithful with the offerings of bread and wine, and with the Eucharist that will be offered from the hands of the priest himself. The words of this prayer (and of the prayer at the mingling of the water and wine) “express the character of the entire Eucharistic liturgy and the fullness of its divine and ecclesial content.” (Dominicae Cenae 9)

    ——————–

    And pelerin, I sympathize with you. Why we profess the Church to be holy in the Creed but not (according to the present translation) in the Offertory, I do not know. It would be nice to know why, but it’s even nicer to know that the word is restored in the new translation.

  12. Henry Edwards – What about the In spiritu humilitatis?

    In spíritu humilitátis et in ánimo contríto suscipiámur a te, Dómine;
    et sic fiat sacrifícium nostrum in conspéctu tuo hódie,
    ut pláceat tibi, Dómine Deus.

  13. moon1234 says:

    Brethren, pray that my Sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty.

    May the Lord receive the Sacrifice from thy hands, to the praise and glory of His Name, to our benefit and that of all His holy Church.

    I think the older form (1962) as listed above better contains the ideas the commenters above are stating. It is right there in the prayer. There is no ambiguity and it clear that the people are NOT the Priest, but are uniting themselves WITH the Priest in offering sacrifice to God. There is zero possibility for the laity to misread the prayer so as to make them think that they to are somehow equal to the Priest in offering sacrifice to God.

    I am still confused WHY this was changed in the New Mass. What was the theological or other defect in the older form that required a new/changed prayer?

  14. Sandy says:

    Moon 1234, “why this was changed…”? Why was ANY of it changed?! But I digress from my question I have wanted to ask. Our pastor answers WITH US the prayer the laity says – “accept this sacrifice at MY hands….” changing the one word our to my (as we say “our”). This is not acceptable is it?

  15. Charles E Flynn says:

    Regarding “We all have both burdens and reasons to rejoice. Therefore, when the priest or deacon is preparing the chalice, when he puts drops of water (the symbol of the human) into the wine (the symbol of the divine) to be mingled – the lesser being transformed within the greater – try consciously to place into that chalice all your cares, aspirations, sentiments of gratitude, petitions, and all that you are. Let it all be joined, before they are stupendously transformed by God.”

    This is the best explanation I have seen for how a profound aspect of participation in the mass can be both invisible and unheard by the congregation.

  16. benedetta says:

    This post is quite encouraging and helpful as well as the various comments.

    Some years ago I became aware of this prayer, phrased “my sacrifice and yours” and began to wonder about it, with some speculation, without any idea of the origin or context. Also I became completely convinced of the inherent humility of the figure of the one who leads the faithful in prayer, in the sense of one who is called, to sacrifice, to serve, on our behalf, joining sacrifice to ours together. With this I also realized the profound expression of humility, service and sacrifice in the simple gesture of the priest “turning towards the East”, to pray in solidarity with the faithful. I can’t really put my sense of it into words properly.

  17. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I have to disagree with the hendiadys explanation using ac. Atque and ac, like et and -que, may be used to create hendiadys, but not with pronouns: vi et armis=by force of arms; fundi fugarique=to be routed utterly; “clamore atque adsensu,” with shout of applause, Liv. 21, 3. Moreover, when atque is used, it is usually the second item that is stressed, especially when it joins a more specific item to a more general: “dis immmortalibus…atque huic ipsi Iovi Statori” to the immortal gods…and especially to this very Juppiter the Supporter (Cic. in Cat. 1.5.11).

    Gildersleeve’s description is correct (477): Atque (compouded of ad and -que) adds a more important to a less important member. But the second member often owes its importance to the necessity of having the complement (-que). Ac (a shorter form, whic does not stand before a vowel or h) is fainter than atqe, and almsot equivalent to et.

    This last observation is undoubtedly what is at play in our text at hand. Meum regularly comes before vestrum in Latin, and there is no need to be concerned about the conjunction. The reason both possessives are used is because nostrum would not necessarily include the addressee. Much of Latin prayer language is legalistic in its precision. Nostrum could be misconstrued as a royal we and under unintended interpretations could be possible. If we translate meum ac vestrum as “our,” it is unclear exactly to whom “our” refers, whereas the Latin is crystal clear. The same issue potentially comes into play in the Credo. I hear a lot of people leaving out the “men”" after the “for us”. If one leaves out “men,” to whom does “us” refer? To Catholics? To Christians? To primates? My concern with the upcoming translation is that “my sacrifice and yours” could be misconstrued as two separate sacrifices–another misunderstanding impossible in the Latin. Lex Orandi Lex Credendi.

  18. Miriam says:

    “We all have both burdens and reasons to rejoice. Therefore, when the priest or deacon is preparing the chalice, when he puts drops of water (the symbol of the human) into the wine (the symbol of the divine) to be mingled – the lesser being transformed within the greater – try consciously to place into that chalice all your cares, aspirations, sentiments of gratitude, petitions, and all that you are. Let it all be joined, before they are stupendously transformed by God.”

    I would love it if my priest was consistent about putting the drops of water into the wine. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. So I asked why? His answer: Just to change it up so it doesn’t become rote to him. I suggested that he put the water into our wine first and then in his if he had to change it up.

    His reply: It doesn’t make it illicit or invalidate the consecration though he must put water into his chalice.

    Say the black, do the red. I think he would throw me out if I ever actually said that to him.