A few thoughts about today’s Vetus Ordo reading from Daniel and priestly identity

This is Thursday in Passion Week. Today in the Gospel a penitent woman washes Christ feet with her tears. One week from today is Holy Thursday when Christ washed the feet of his Apostles.

The first reading today is from Daniel (3:25, 34-45.). The people are penitent in the 70 year exile of Babylon.

This is the chapter about the fiery furnace and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the Babylonian names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). The Mass reading is the deuterocanonical Prayer of Azariah which is before the Canticle of the Three Children (recited for Lauds of Sundays and feasts).

One of the things that strikes you as a priest when reading this first lesson from Daniel 3 is the attitude of self-recognition as priest who is victim, sinful intercessor and the necessity of humble submission to God.   The passage in Daniel 3 describes the humble, broken heart attitude of one who longs to fulfil  the sacrifices prescribed by God, but who cannot; their Babylonian overlords are their jailers of tradition.  Azariah, who would not worship the pagan idol, now in the midst of the flames of the furnace raises his broken heart to God for the sake of the entire people who have sinned.

There are familiar words in the passage…. familiar if you celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.

In Daniel 3 today we read the phrase: “in ánimo contríto et spíritu humilitátis suscipiámur… and … “sic fiat sacrifícium nostrum in conspéctu tuo hódie, ut pláceat tibi…”.

During Mass, just before the priest invokes the Holy Spirit over the gifts on the altar, the bread and wine, he says:

“In spíritu humilitátis et in ánimo contríto suscipiámur a te, Dómine: et sic fiat sacrifícium nostrum in conspéctu tuo hódie, ut pláceat tibi, Dómine Deus.

Let us, in the spirit of humility and contrite heart, be taken up by You, O Lord, and thusly let it our sacrifice be made in Your sight today that it pleases You, O Lord God.

The early use of this prayer is attested in the Amiens Sacramentary (9th c.) which is a scion of the Gregorian Sacramentary (7th).

This prayer does remain in the Novus Ordo, and a shorter version of the Daniel 3 reading is on Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Lent, but unless the priest is saying the Novus Ordo and the readings in Latin, he isn’t going to make the connection with the offertory prayer.

Finally, the offertory prayers of the Novus Ordo are one of the most dramatic examples of how innovations were forced into the Novus Ordo.  This, in spite of the fact that in Sacrosanctum Concilium the Council Fathers commanded nothing should be changed that was not a) organically a development from previous rites and b) truly for the good of the people.

An immense blow was delivered to priestly identity through the changes to the offertory.

Hence, great strengthening of priestly identity comes from priests learning the TLM.

That’s why certain people behave so cruelly towards the people who desire the TLM.


… be a Custos Traditionis.

From Fr. Gihr’s great commentary on the Mass about the offertory prayer of “self-offering of the Priest and Faithful”:

In order perfectly to appreciate the full sense of these words, and to recite them in the proper spirit, we should remember by whom and in what place they were spoken for the first time. They are taken from a longer, humble, penitential prayer, recited by the three young men in the Babylonian furnace. Since, faithful to God’s law, they would not adore the statue of the king, they were cast into a furnace heated seven-fold. Praising God, they walked about in the flames which did them not the least harm. And because they were prevented from offering exterior legal sacrifices, they offer themselves as a propitiatory sacrifice for their sins and for those of their people, in order to obtain mercy. “In a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted (in animo contrito et spiritu humili tatis suscipiamur); so let our sacrifice be made in Thy sight this day, that it may please Thee (sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi)”  (Dan. 3, 39—40). In similar words, the celebrant here prays that the Lord would graciously receive him and the faithful people, for the sake of their humble, penitential sentiments, as a spiritual sacrifice; and if so accepted, then the Eucharistic Sacrifice, when offered by them, in the sight of God, with these dispositions will be such as God will behold and accept with pleasure from their hands.

The three young men were ready to offer their lives cheerfully in sacrifice to God by a bloody martyrdom; after their example we should present ourselves to God to suffer a life of perpetual sacrifice and an unbloody martyrdom. “As gold in the furnace He hath proved them and as a victim of a holocaust He hath received them” (Wis. 3, 6). Thus should we also, filled with humility and compunction, offer ourselves to God as a holocaust in the furnace of suffering and tribulation, of persecution and temptations. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humbled heart He does not despise (Ps. 50, 19). Yes, a heart penetrated with penitential love and sorrow, a mind bowed down with compunction will always be favorably received and accepted by the Lord. It is the best disposition that we should bring with us to the altar. When the Lord breathed forth His spirit amid the darkness that enshrouded Mount Calvary, many of the beholders were seized with such fear and sorrow, that they returned to their homes striking their breast (Luke 23, 48). Should not we also be penetrated with regret and contrition, with a penitential sorrow, as often as we celebrate in the Mass the remembrance of Christ’s bloody death? “During this holy function,” writes St. Gregory the Great,1 “we must offer ourselves with compunction of heart as a sacrifice ; for when we commemorate the mystery of the passion of our Iyord, we must imitate that which we celebrate. The Mass will be a sacrifice for us to God, when we have made an offering of ourselves. But we should, moreover, after retirement from prayer, endeavor as far as we are able with God’s assistance, to keep our mind in recollection and renewed strength, so that passing thoughts may not distract it, nor vain joy find its way into the heart, and that thus our soul may not, by carelessness and fickleness, again lose the spirit of compunction it has acquired.” Our entire life should be a cheerful, uninterrupted offertory. We should present ourselves in body and soul2 as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God (Rom. 12, 1). “All the prayers and acts of divine worship, all the charitable and benevolent works, all the practices of mortification and penance, all the labor and fatigue, all the trials and sufferings of her militant children; all the pains and torments, all the patience and longing of her children suffering in the other world; all the virtues and merits, all the holiness and glory of her children already in heaven; the fruitful sweat of the Apostles, the vivifying blood of the martyrs, the devout tears of the anchorets, the chaste, loving sighs of the virgins, the great deeds and still greater fortitude of all the saints, — all these the Church places on her Divine Victim, all these she pours into the chalice of His holy sacrificial Blood” (Laurent).

The Holy Mass is the great heart of the whole body of the Church: whatever the Church, with her members, believes and hopes and loves and suffers and cares and prays for, all this she collects in Holy Mass into the common heart, and in and with the selfsame Sacrifice she carries it up to the throne of God. Whatever moves and affects the soul in joy and sorrow, in prosperity and adversity, in distress and death — we place upon the altar during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we place it directly upon the Heart of our Redeemer who is present, and we are sure of consolation and relief. Yes, all the children of the Church should unite in the offering, all the faithful should be incorporated into and offered along with the one, great and eternal Sacrifice. To all the events in the life of her children the Church would, by this Sacrifice, impart consecration, and there by increase the happiness of her children, alleviate their distress, bless and sanctify their whole life and their death, so that at all times they may live unto the Lord and die in the Lord (Rom. 14, 8).1

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Grant M says:

    Two years ago, our local churches were hastily locked up and abandoned. (They are now reopening- for people under 60; I am over.) Since then I have been able to attend Mass offline twice, and go to confession once. So during Passion Week 2020, 2021 and 2022 I was struck by the following passage in Thursday’s reading:

    We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with You. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received…

  2. Grant M says:

    Or in the DR version in my missal:

    Neither is there at this time prince or leader or prophet or holocaust or sacrifice or oblation or incense, or place of first-fruits before thee, That we may find thy mercy: nevertheless in a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted.

  3. TonyO says:

    Very powerful witness to the all-encompassing importance of the true sacrifice by which we worship God. Thanks, Fr. Z.

  4. TheoBenedict says:

    Long time reader; first time commenter. Perhaps all are already aware of this:

    The prayer of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah that is the source for the prayer under discussion is also in the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours (Tuesday, Week IV, Morning Prayer). Furthermore, the Entrance Antiphon for the Twenty-sixth week of Ordinary Time comes from the same passage.

    I mention this because (i) priests who do not enjoy ready means for celebration of the old rite can still look for this source in their round of prayer but (ii) only if they apply themselves to the study of the rites they celebrate (even if they read it in translation (which was the case for me).

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