Maybe “Pray Brethren that my sacrifice and yours …” doesn’t mean what people assume.

From Fr. Hunwicke, something provocative… with my emphases and comments:


“Pray Brethren that my sacrifice and yours …”

We find the roots of this formula, which precedes the Prayer Over The Offerings, in Carolingian Gaul, in a rubric which goes: “Then indeed the Priest to [or with?] right hand and left asks of the other priests that they pray for him”.  [In case someone from Columbia Heights missed that… “the other priests” and not the congregation!]

I am suggesting that originally the Orate Fratres was a formula addressed to concelebrants; although, of course, through being used by celebrants who had no concelebrants around them, it soon came to be thought of as addressed to the assistant clergy in the sanctuary and to the congregation.

The strength of my suggestion is that it makes sense of the concept of “my sacrifice and yours”. I have long been puzzled by the assumption we have all made that a formula which entered the Mass as late as the Carolingian period should seem to want so explicitly to refer to the People as offerers of the Sacrifice. Yes, I know that in a sense they most certainly are, [By baptism they have a priestly character at Mass, but not in the same way the priest is priestly.] but that was a period in which emphasis was laid more and more strongly on the idea that the Priest sacrifices for the people (so that the phrase “for whom we offer unto thee” entered the Memento).


Surely the eventually diminishing of concelebrants and priests in choir for most Masses permitted a shift in meaning.   However, in recent years there have also been relentless efforts to pull the priest down and to diminish him.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, Priests and Priesthood and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. APX says:

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with how we interpret it today, is there?

  2. Maximilian75 says:

    My Novus Ordo may well be showing, but could it be that this is also an opportunity for the congregation to also offer their own sacrifice, while smaller and less divine than that of the priest, at this time? The Mass, while primarily the sacrifice of the priest to God, is also an opportunity for the laity to make a sacrifice as well.

  3. samwise says:

     “However, in recent years there have also been relentless efforts to pull the priest down and to diminish him”

    Such as Fr Hunwicke’s efforts to pull Pope Francis down and diminish him with accusations of heresy? “Before bringing your gift to the altar, go and reconcile with your brother…”

    [This was just plain silly.]

  4. Seamus says:

    As I noted in a comment at Fr. Hunwicke’s site, it was my understanding that concelebration had ceased to be the norm in the West by Carolingian times. I suppose this might be an indication that it was more prevalent than I had thought. (Also, how old is the Orate Fratres itself? I suppose it could have arisen at a pre-Carolingian time when concelebration *was* the norm.)

  5. Aquinas Gal says:

    I read in a history of the liturgical changes that at Vatican II, Bugnini and company wanted to take out the orate fratres altogether. But Pope Paul stopped them. It was his personal intervention that saved the orate fratres at least.

Comments are closed.