LITURGY COME ALIVE (By Fr. Anthony Agnes)
Reflection: “Nobis quoque peccatoribus…”
The single moment in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer) when the celebrating priest acknowledges our ‘human identity’ before the Lord.
In the Usus antiquior (Older Rite of the Mass) before the liturgical reforms of Vatican II in the 1970s, this was the only time that the voice of the priest was heard during the Eucharistic Prayer. The Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass was prayed entirely in silence (inaudible tone by the priest).
Biblically, it represented the moment when Moses went up into Mt. Sinai to meet the Lord and was not seen or heard again by the people until he came done from the mountain (cf. Ex. 19:10ff). This gesture also explains why in the Older Rite (of the Mass) the people never see the face of the priest again until after the Eucharistic Prayer which, unfortunately, was erroneously explained as “turning his back to the people”. He did not turn his back to the people but, rather, turned his face towards the Lord (facing the Lord) together with the people of God assembled at the Mass…all facing the same direction, all facing the Lord like the people of Israel camped at the foot of the mountain, facing the mountain and joining their hearts in prayer as Moses turned from them to speak with the Lord on their behalf (cf Ex. 19:10-25).
By making the priest cry aloud the words “Nobis quoque peccatoribus…” (Latin for…”And to us also sinners”) the Church at this point of the Consecration is presenting the priest with the gathered people to the Lord…not as saints but as men and women struggling with their weaknesses and human frailties and yet determined to be in the presence of God to obtain mercy and to worship Him.
The beauty is that these words are still used in the current Roman Canon (also called Eucharistic Prayer I) of the Mass. Now, we don’t only hear the life-changing words “Nobis quoque peccatoribus”, but the entire Eucharistic Prayer is prayed aloud by the priest. When we utter them as ‘priest-celebrants’ (ordained priests ie the priest himself) or hear them as ‘priest-participants’ (ministerial priests ie all the Faithful at Mass) let us remember that at that moment you are being mentioned personally and being presented personally before the Lord…just as you are.
May our participation at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass keep us safe for eternal life. Amen
THIS IS THE MASS.
Sursum Corda…Habemus ad Dominum!
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