Today during Holy Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter, near to Peter’s tomb, the Holy Father gave the pallium to new metropolitan archbishops.
The pallium is a sign of the jurisdiction metropolitans have in their provinces and also a sign of their closer bond with the person of the Successor of Peter. This is one of the reasons why before the pallia are granted, they rest in a niche at Peter’s tomb.
Before they receive the pallium the Archbishops are to take an oath:
beato Petro apostolo,
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae,
ac tibi, Summo Pontifici,
tuisque legitimis Successoribus
semper fidelis ero et oboediens.
Ita me Deus omnipotens adiuvet.
Archbishop of the _____ diocese (these are adjectives)
will always be faithful and obedient to
St. Peter the apostle,
the Holy Roman Church,
and to you, the Supreme Pontiff
and to your legitimate Successors.
So help me God Almighty.
It is interesting that in recent decades this oath is witnessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople or by his delegate.
The Holy Father blessed the pallia today with these words (my close but not too literal translation):
O God, eternal Pastor of souls, who committed to blessed Peter the Apostle those who are called "the flock" by Jesus Christ Your Son, that they should be governed by him after the model of the Good Shepherd (boni Pastoris typo) , through our ministry pour forth the grace of Your blessing upon these Pallia, which as symbols You desired to be concrete signs (documenta) of pastoral care.
Receive the our humble prayers and grant through the intercession and merits of the Apostles, that whoever will bear them, You generously making it so, may understand himself to be the Shepherd of Your flock, and will show forth in his work that which is signified by the name.
Let him take up the evangelical yoke lain upon his neck, and let it be for him so light and sweet, that in running by example swiftly along the way of your commands, he may merit to be admitted into the everlasting pasture.
When the Pope places the pallium on the neck of the archbishop kneeling before him, he says:
For the glory of Almighty God and the praise of the blessed Virgin Mary and of saints Peter and Paul, for the decorum of the Sees committed to you, unto a sign of the authority of a metropolitan, we bestow upon you the Pallium taken from the Confession of saint Peter, so that you may use it within the confines of your ecclesiastical provinces.
May this Pallium be for your a symbol of unity and a token (tessera) of communion with the Apostolic See; may it be a bond of charity (vinculum caritatis) and a spur of fortitude, so that in the day of the Coming and the revelation of the great God and prince of shepherds Jesus Christ, you may together with the the flocks entrusted to you obtain (potiamini) the stole of immortality and glory.
There are some nice things here.
First, note that this is not about the Archbishop!
It is about the 1) glory of Sts. Peter and Paul, 2) the decorum of the archdiocese, 3) unity with the Apostolic See, and 4) the care of souls.
Also, the image of a tessera is lovely. A tessera is literally a small block or cube. It is used to describe the little cubes that make up a mosaic. It is still the Italian word for an officially issued pass or a ticket or i.d. card.
In this case it makes me think of how each of these archbishops, so different in themselves and in very different places through the world, are contributing in their individual way to the "big picture".
Also in mosaics in the apses of ancient Roman churches you often see very courtly sheep processing solemnly to the center of the mosaics where they are being gathered together under Christ, flanked by his apostles.
The are coming to drink of flowing, living water.
These are symbols of the life to come. I believe that this is what the prayer is driving at. It is meant to invoke this image.
The play on the word potiamini is a subtle triumph here. Potiamini is from potior, one of those word that takes the ablative, and means "attain, obtain" or "drink". However, it also calls instantly to mind the word potio "a drinking".