WDTPRS: Pro seipso sacerdote – For the priest himself (1962MR)

This time of year many new priests are being ordained and, consequently, many priests observe their own anniversaries.  Today is my anniversary.

In the traditional, Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite a priest can add orations for himself, Pro seipso sacerdote, on the anniversary of his ordination.  And so I did!

The 2002MR has three formularies Pro seipso sacerdote while the 1962MR has but one (enough).

Let’s look at the prayer in the Extraordinary Form, which I used today:

COLLECT (1962MR):

Omnípotens et miséricors Deus, humilitátis meae preces benígnus inténde: et me fámulum tuum, quem, nullis suffragántibus méritis, sed imménsa cleméntiae tuae largitáte, caeléstibus mystériis servíre tribuísti, dignum sacris altáribus fac minístrum; ut, quod mea voce deprómitur, tua sanctificatióne firmétur.

SLAVISHLY LITERAL VERSION:

Almighty and merciful God, kindly hark to the prayers of my humility: and make me, Your servant, whom, no merits of my own favoring me, but by the immense largess of your indulgence, You granted to serve the heavenly mysteries, to be a worthy minister at the sacred altars; so that, that which is called down by my voice, may be made sure by Your sanctification.

The prayer focuses on priest’s self-awareness of his lowliness.  Who he is and what he does is from God’s grace and choice, not his own.

It also emphasis the relationship of the priest to the altar, that is, the bond of the priest and Holy Mass.  Priests are ordained for sacrifice.

No priest, no sacrifice, no Mass, no Eucharist.

In the older form of Holy Mass, after the consecration during the Roman Canon at the Suppplices te rogamus… the priest bends low over the altar. He puts his hands on it.  They, his hands and the altar, were anointed with Sacred Chrism.  He kisses the altar.  Then he makes signs of the Cross over the consecrated Host on the corporal, over the Precious Blood in the chalice, and over himself.

Christ is Victim.  Christ is Priest.  The priest is victim and priest as well.

This moment during Holy Mass reveals his mysterious bond with the altar, where the priest sacrifices the victim.  Sacrificial victim and sacrificing priest are one. At the altar he is alter Christus, another Christ, offering and offered.

In regard to the Sacred Chrism and ordination, last year I heard the sermon of His Excellency, Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino of Madison at the ordination of priests.  He made the recommendation that, in hard times, the men should put a drop of Chrism on their hands, and rub it in, to remind them of who they are.  And so I did today.  I can still smell it as I type.

What also comes to mind, in considering the bond of priest and altar and victim upon it, is the Augustinian reflection of the speaker of the Word and the Word spoken, and the message and reality of the Word and the Voice which speaks it.

The voice of the priest and the priest himself are merely the means God uses in the sacred action, the sacramental mysteries at the altar, to renew in that moment what He has wrought.  Finally, this is done through mercy.  The words misericors, clementia, largitas, benignus all point to the mercy of God.

The priest speaks and God makes what he speaks reality.

He takes the priest’s insubstantial words and makes them firm and real.

He takes unworthy men, priests, and gives them His own power.

The priest must get himself out of the way when he is at the altar, where the True Actor is in action, Christ the Eternal and High Priest.

This is why ad orientem worship is so important.  It must be a component of the New Evangelization.

SECRET (1962MR):

Huius, Dómine, virtúte sacraménti, peccatórum meórum máculas abstérge: et praesta; ut ad exsequéndum injúncti offícii ministérium, me tua grátia dignum effíciat.

SLAVISHLY LITERAL VERSION:

O Lord, by the power of this sacrament, cleanse the stains of my sins: and grant; that it may make me worthy by Your grace unto the performance of the ministry of the office that has been imposed.

Priests are sinners in need of a Savior just like everyone else.

They confess their own sins and receive absolution from a priest like everyone else.

They, too, must do penance for past sins like everyone else.

They, while coming to the altar as alter Christus, come to the altar as sinners.  There is only one perfect one.

In the older Extraordinary form of Holy Mass, the priest is constantly reminded about who he is and who he isn’t.  The newer form?  Not so much.

In this Secret, spoken quietly, the priest prays for what only God can do: remove the stains of sins from his soul.

The prayer brings also to mind the burden of the yoke of the priesthood, symbolized by the priestly vestment, the chasuble.  Whatever its shape, the chasuble is a sign of the priest’s subjugation.

As the priest puts on this most visible of his vestments, he traditionally prays, “O Lord, Who said: My yoke is easy and My burden light: grant that I may bear it well and follow after You with thanksgiving. Amen.”   The yoke is the ancient sign of subjugation. The ancient Romans caused the conquered to pass under a yoke, iugum.

This attitude of the priest at the altar, formed by the prayer and the very vestment he wears, can teach us a great deal about the nature and design of all the things that we employ for the celebration of Mass.

POSTCOMMUNION (1962MR):

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui me peccatórem sacris altáribus astáre voluísti, et sancti nóminis tui laudáre poténtiam: concéde propítius, per hujus sacraménti mystérium, meórum mihi véniam peccatórum; ut tuae majestáti digne mérear famulári.

SLAVISHLY LITERAL VERSION:

Almighty eternal God, who desired me, a sinner, to stand at the sacred altars, and to praise the might of Your Holy Name: propitiously grant, through the mystery of this sacrament, the forgiveness for me of my sins; so that I may merit to wait upon Your majesty.

On the day of ordination the priest lies down upon the floor.

He is, in that moment part, of the floor.  He is the lowest thing in the church.

Consider two sets of contrasts.

First, there is the contrast of the low state of the servant sinner and the majesty of God.

Second, there is the present moment contrasted with the future to come.

Majestas is like gloria, Hebrew kabod or Greek doxa, a divine characteristic which – some day – we may encounter in heaven in such a way that we will be transformed by it forever and forever.  When Moses encountered God in the cloud on the mountain and in the tent, he came forth with a face shining so brightly that he had to wear a veil.  This is a foreshadowing of the transformative power of God’s majestas which he will share with the saints in heaven.

The priest waits upon majestas.

He waits on it, in that he awaits it and waits upon it.  He serves it, as in a waiting waiter he serves it out as well.  He also desires it for his own future.  But in the present moment he waits upon it as a servant.  He is an attendent, in every sense.  He is one who waits and he is one who waits.

May God have mercy on all priests, sinner servants, attendant on the unmerited grace and gifts of the Victim Priest and Savior.  May God have mercy on me, a sinner.  Pray for me, a sinner.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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20 Responses to WDTPRS: Pro seipso sacerdote – For the priest himself (1962MR)

  1. Ad Multos Annos Father, God bless you!

  2. Mike says:

    Many prayers for you! and all priests and bishops!

    (At my morning Mass the celebrant was an 87 year old retired pastor-in-residence. Still faithful, still offering the Holy Sacrifice. W0w.)

  3. Robbie says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary and thank you for the work you do.

  4. visigrad says:

    Congratulations Father. Will remember you especially at Mass today.

  5. Ray says:

    Congratulations, Father. Thanks for answering the Call. The topic you covered today is most enlightening. One area you covered seems almost prescient to me. The part about a priest being a victim. I have been rereading for the third time over 15 years(deep material/dense reader) “Those Mysterious Priest” by Bishop Fulton Sheen. Chapters 2 and 3 speak extensively about being a Priest and Victim together in one person. The victim side of the equation seems to be completely lost in our 21 century priest, at the very least minimalized in our modern priesthood. A young priest who came out of the seminary told me that most of the priest in his seminary class didn’t believe this concept at all. He did believe it and by the way he said Mass in the Extraordinary Form when he could get approval from the pastor. Bishop Sheen is so remarkably visionary in this book from the 70′s about where we are as a Church. It would behoove Church leaders to adopt the material from this book into a class required by all seminarians. Thanks and once again Happy Anniversary on this special day.

  6. RJHighland says:

    This is truly a blessed Memorial Day realizing today is the day you were ordained. Your blog helped guide me and my family to the TLM and a fuller understanding or our faith. Your blog has also been a wonderful sounding board when troubles and confussion has entered my life. May God continue to bless you and give you the strength to keep up the good fight. The first article I read on your blog was when you wrote on Pope Benedict XVI bringing out a kneeler for people to recieve Holy Commuion kneeling and on the tongue at the mass of Corpus Christi just after his visit to the United States. Our local priest was discouraging (that is a kind word) us from doing what my wife felt called to do. We were the only family that was kneeling to recieve communion in our parish at the time. It was prefect timing by our Holy Father. What an incredible journey it has been, and thank you for being their when we have needed reassurance.

  7. majuscule says:

    Congratulations and happy anniversary!

    Earlier this month I added a Roasary for Priests to my daily prayers and you (and all priests) are included.

  8. David Zampino says:

    Congratulations, Father!

  9. MJFarber says:

    Congratulations, Fr. Z!
    Happy Anniversary
    Ad Multos Annos

  10. Priam1184 says:

    Happy Anniversary Father!

    Ad multos annos!

  11. Luvadoxi says:

    Thank you, Father, for your service. God bless you!

  12. Bea says:

    Thank you, Father, for sharing these beautiful prayers.

  13. Jim in Seattle says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for being a priest and for your Podcasts – they helped bring me closer to the Church.

  14. Molly says:

    Father Z,

    Congratulations on your anniversary, and thank you for 23 years of service to the Church. Your work here on your website has brought me closer to the Church and Her bridegroom – yesterday I was called to receive Holy Eucharist on the tongue, kneeling (at a Novus Ordo mass), for the first time in my 33 years of taking communion.

    Many prayers for your continued good health.

    Molly
    San Antonio TX

  15. OrthodoxChick says:

    Happy Anniversary, Father – and many, many more to come!

    Your blog has been invaluable to me and to my family. I feel like I discovered my faith for the first time when I discovered your blog. So much I never knew about, and I always learn something new with each successive visit to your living room. Your priesthood is a tremendous Blessing; one for which I am eternally grateful. This article is only further evidence of that. I have two teen boys who are talking about maybe wanting to be priests someday. I’m going to have them begin their discernment by reading this wonderful reflection of yours.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do for us.

  16. Militans says:

    The end of the introduction to “The Priest is Not His Own” by +Fulton Sheen. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bn16SLiIYAE2enp.jpg

    I’m reading this at the moment – only in the second chapter, but he’s very strict on the priest who does not offer himself in the mass.

  17. Cyrillus Mariae Cheung says:

    Dear Father: Congratulations!!! pray for you!!

  18. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Father, I’m so happy for you on your anniversary of Priestly Ordination! May Christ God grant you MANY YEARS!!! Most hearty congratulations.

    Father, thank you for taking time to spell out, explicitly, who and what a priest is. I’ve been alive for 46+ years, by God’s grace, and from my childhood I always knew a priest was different in a fundamental way. A seminary classmate would say a man, when ordained, is ontologically changed.

    I believe, passionately, that people need a refresher course on their faith, especially in terms of what the Mass is, and who and what a priest is. Too much has been watered down. Everyone suffers for it. Always.

  19. TNCath says:

    Ad multos gloriousque annos! I enjoyed reading Bishop Morlino’s advice to priests whenever they are going through a difficult time. What wonderful counsel! We need more bishops like him.

  20. Per Signum Crucis says:

    In an age when technology is used so much to share our lives, whether in a meaningful way or not, with others, there is a temptation to want to know more about if not the priesthood but also the priest himself; it wasn’t too long ago, of course, that priests were (and in some places still are) regarded with a degree of fear, respect, call it what you will, that derived from their authority as priests. This post has amply answered what it is to be the conduit through which the Holy Sacrifice is celebrated without too much piercing of the veil by which The Lord protects His priests from unnecessary temporal curiosity.