WDTPRS 3rd Sunday of Lent (1962MR): “When the hand of the priest is extended over you, you are sheltered from the attacks of hell.”

In ancient Rome on this 3rd Sunday, catechumens who desired to enter Holy Church and be baptized at Easter would be lead in a great procession to the Basilica of St. Lawrence “outside-the-walls” where they had been on Septuagesima Sunday.  They would be “scrutinized”, tested.

They were tested during Lent about their faith seven times, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the climax of which came during the fourth week.

This Sunday the catechumens were exorcised of the evil enemy of the soul.  Today’s Gospel, in fact, presents the story of Jesus expelling a demon from a man who could not speak.

COLLECT (1962 Missale Romanum):
Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
vota humilium respice:
atque ad defensionem nostram,
dexteram tuae maiestatis extende.

A prayer very similar to this is used in the Novus Ordo on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday.  It is ancient, from the Veronese and Gelasian Sacramentaries, and so it represents the best of the liturgical tradition of the early Church in Rome, formed out of the cultural, intellectual, spiritual milieu of the era.

The dictionary we call Blaise/Dumas reveals that a votum can be a “prayer” but it signals also “praise”, something due.  The mighty Lewis & Short Dictionary will show you that respicio is Respicio here means “to look at with solicitude, i. e. to have a care for, regard, be mindful of, consider, respect”.  Keep in mind that maiestas can be used like a title, as in “Your Majesty”, but it is also a divine characteristic, much like gloria, in the presence of which we will be transformed for all eternity.

We beseech You, God Almighty,
regard with solicitude the prayers of the humble:
and extend the right hand of Your majesty
unto our defense.

As I hear of the mighty “right hand of God’s majesty”, I remember that soon, during Good Friday, both Christ’s hands will be pierced with nails for my sins.  He who is God became humbler than the humble creatures He fashioned in His likeness and, leaving Himself no defense, gave us His eternal freedom from the Enemy.

This majestic right hand is a way of talking about God’s power and authority.  In ancient times for example, a solider might commit an error or a crime for which he could be put to death by being flogged with the horrible scourge.  The imperator, the commander in chief, could remit the punishment of the legionary by extending his right hand over him in a sign of forgiveness.  Extending a hand over a slave was also the sign of manumission, a formal symbol of setting a slave free: extending the right hand had juridical effect.

Christ gave His own right hand of power and authority to the Catholic Church He founded and entrusted to Peter and the Apostles in union with him.  Until the end of time the Catholic Church will wield Christ’s own authority to teach, govern and sanctify.  We who are weak and humble benefit from this sheltering, liberating attribute of the Church.

In this prayer, I therefore reflect on how I, as a priest, extend my right hand of power and authority, Christ’s own right hand, over a penitent in the confessional.

When the hand of the priest is extended over you, you are sheltered from the attacks of hell.  You are freed from the unending flame that would consume you, liberated from the eternal bondage to the enemy which would for ever separate your from God’s sight.

Haec hostia, Domine, quaesumus,
emundet nostra delicta:
et ad sacrificum celebrandum,
subditorum tibi corpora, mentesque sanctificet.

Daily Liturgical Missal (Baronius Press):
May this Victim, O Lord, we beseech Thee,
cleanse away our sins:
and by sanctifying Thy servant in body and mind,
make them fit to celebrate this Sacrifice.

A cunctis nos, quaesumus, Domine,
reatibus et periculis propitius absolve:
quos tanti mysterii tribus esse participes.

Daily Liturgical Missal (Baronius Press):
In Thy mercy, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
do Thou from all guilt and peril absolve us,
whom Thou grantest to be sharers in so great a Mystery.

When was the last time you sought out the right hand of God in the context of the confessional? 

How long has it been since, after confession all your mortal sins in both number and kind, you have heard the words of absolution?

Deus Pater misericordiarum… God the Father of mercies…” or in the older form:

Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis (suspensionis) et interdicti in quantum possum et tu indiges. Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.  

May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication (of suspension) and interdict, so far as I am able and you require. Thereupon, I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Four Last Things, GO TO CONFESSION, LENT. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. BarefootPilgrim says:

    It’s been two weeks, Father – what an awesome grace!

  2. APX says:

    Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

    This is probably my most favorite Latin phrases there is.

    It’s only been one week, and I’ve stepped it up to weekly Confession for Lent.

    BTW: Are we really in the 4th week of Lent already. I’m pretty sure it’s the Third Sunday in Lent this week.

  3. pm125 says:

    Overwhelmed by how to express ‘number and kind’.

  4. APX says:

    Just do the best you can.

  5. mvhcpa says:

    The words of absolution are the sweetest words in the world to hear, especially the new form. “God, the father of mercies….” Isn’t that what Jesus’ death and resurrection were all about?

  6. benedetta says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for providing these reflections, Fr. Z., for both the extraordinary and ordinary forms. It is a way for us to stay connected and in tune with one another no matter the form of the Mass we currently are attending.

  7. AnnAsher says:

    I love the long form !

  8. Nicole says:

    Fr. Z, this post you wrote contained a wonderful exposition on the power of the “right hand.” I have often wondered while at Mass what it will be like at the general resurrection when Christ, His Divine Majesty, will separate the sheep from the goats (the former to the right and the latter to the left), what that all might mean. I am thinking now, that sending the sheep to the right may be a manifestation of Christ extending His right hand in pardon to those who will be saved…very interesting. Thank you for posting this.

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