Catholics journeying towards the New Jerusalem through the sacrament-season of Lent, our mysterious New Exodus, from this Sunday onward especially via the Roman Rite’s Extraordinary Form, begin to undergo severe liturgical kénosis, or emptying. Images are covered over to deprive the sense of sight, prayers are pruned from Mass. When the Triduum strikes, more and more things, including light itself, will be stripped away as we set our faces towards the mount, the Cross and the tomb.
If we can connect ourselves in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented, then by our active receptivity we become participants in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
This Sunday, we’ve connected with the first Passion Sunday in the traditional Roman calendar. In many places you will hear this beautiful collect prayer against the stark background of purple draped statues, paintings, crosses: “Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, familiam tuam propitius respice: ut, te largiente, regatur in corpore; et, te servante, custodiatur in mente.”
Note the parallelism. This prayer, as all the orations this Sunday, is from the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary. They are classic Roman orations. Dense. Terse.
Literal attempt: “We entreat You, O God Almighty, to regard Your family graciously: so that, as you are lavishing favour upon it, it may be rightly guided in body; and, as You are safeguarding it, it may be protected in mind.”
In the ancient Roman Church, on Saturday night a vigil was kept at the Station church, St Peter’s in the Vatican, in preparation for ordinations. Centuries later, priesthood echoes conceptually in this Mass, together with the impending Passion of the Lord.
Speaking of passion, your priests are the ones being simultaneously sacrificed as they offer the Sacrifice. At the altar, Father stands as the head of your Catholic family. To underscore this, the Epistle is St Paul’s teaching to the Hebrews about Christ as the High Priest who shed His own Blood as He went into the Holy of Holies for us to obtain what we need.
After you hear your priest sing this Collect, could you not during the week pray it again? Ask our lavishing, safeguarding God to guide and protect Father through Passiontide. We all need the protection only God can provide. We, you, our militant pilgrim Catholic family, are continuously challenged in our whole being, bodily and spiritually. Ready yourselves for the final push.