Mass, priesthood and sacrifice must never be separated

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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. danphunter1 says:

    "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."
    Yes indeed Father, and we all know how this "talking to you" distraction can be eliminated during the Mass, and that solution IS "Ad Orientem".
    Hopefully soon to be made law in the Church

  2. Desertfalcon says:

    Oh, good point, Dan!  Vestments that don't look like they are made out of 1970's leisure suit fabric and altars that don't look like coffee tables help as well.

  3. "help him get reoriented"
    Pun intended?

  4. Agnes says:

    I have had to frequent a parish lately where the priest is "talk show host" more than "servant of the servants of God". Liturgical abuses abound – no elevation of the Host or Chalice – just a curt half-kneel, laypeople handle the luna and monstrance for Adoration (at least there is Adoration), and just an extremely lazy  & leisurely approach – shoving hands into pockets and strolling the "stage" (sanctuary), a water bottle close at hand in a chair beside the Presider that he occasionally sips from, large screen projectors for hymns, a little band in the corner for muzak
    I'm a new visitor for daily Mass – I haven't met this priest personally yet, but I think something should be said. What do you think is the best approach? I'm trying to decide if I should stick it out for the sake of Our Lord there and the convenience of being just a few blocks away, or make a longer trip for the more reverent Mass. Probably the latter, and Father may be happy to see me go! But it's in my heart to remind him – REMIND HIM – that he stands in the Person of Christ, he holds the Living God every day in his consecrated hands, that he has tremendous dignity as a priest and must offer the Holy Sacrifice in accord with that dignity.
    I may be speaking to the wind.
    Pray for priests.

  5. danphunter1 says:

    Is there a Traditional Latin Mass offfered near you where you can be away from the extreme disrespect you mention goes on at your present parish?
    You could fill your soul with dignity revernce and beauty there [the TLM] while fulfilling your Sunday obligation, and then during the week you could respectfully and gently approach Father at the more flip parish and kindly suggest to him to offer Mass the way the Church intends priests to offer Mass

  6. pelerin says:

    Danphunter mentions the TLM.  I was talking to someone today – a cradle catholic in her late sixties – and mentioned how much I had gained from attending the TLM.  She asked me what TLM stood for!
    I have suddenly received music while typing this followed by the Credo, the Pater Noster and the Ave Maria. and the Gloria.  Thank you Father Z.

  7. Agnes says:

    danphunter1, not close enough. I have no problem finding a good place on Sundays – it’s just the weekday Mass. I did allow myself to drive a little further this morning and found a very nice parish (that actually does not look anything like a spaceport!) with a very reverent priest. It is OF Mass, but done well. God is so good, He showed me right where to go. Fr. Talk Show will have to do without my presence, but not without my prayers and maybe a note.

    Ack! I’m being assaulted by Chinese opera all of a sudden! Begone!

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