Life & Soul

The audacity of Holy Communion

(Courtesy John Aron)

Early this week we literally observe the “Tears of St Lawrence”, the annual Perseid meteor shower which hovers over that mighty deacon’s feast. We also celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some of you will remember without reminders that Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation (this year, at least). To avoid Holy Mass deliberately is a sin. That said, every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation. Hence, let’s see the Collect for this 19th Ordinary Sunday.

This prayer was not in previous editions of Missale Romanum before the 1970 Novus Ordo. It has roots in the 9th century Bergamo Sacramentary.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, quem paterno nomine invocare praesumimus, perfice in cordibus nostris spiritum adoptionis filiorum, ut promissam hereditatem ingredi mereamur.

Paternus, -a, -um is an adjective, “fatherly”. A paternum nomen is a “father­ly name”. In English we phrase this a little differently, saying “the name of Father”. Similarly, the Latin for Sunday is dies dominica or “lordly Day”. We say “the day of the Lord”. Latin uses adjectives and adverbs for more purposes than we do.

Current ICEL Translation (2011):

“Almighty ever-living God, whom, taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call our Father, bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters, that we may merit to enter into the inheritance which you have promised.”

St Paul wrote: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. We can invoke God the Father with confidence, not fear, when we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15… and “Abba” does not mean “daddy”). God comes not to us not as Stranger God, but as Father God. God our Father invites us into intimacy, but we are in no way equals.

Speaking of inequality, even in our confidence how audacious we are as we respond to His invitations. Before praying the Our Father during Mass we openly acknowledge our daring. And if praying a simple prayer is bold, how much more audacious is the reception of Christ’s Body and Blood? Let’s leave aside the manner in which most people receive Holy Communion.

What a mystery it is that Almighty God, who lavishes upon us His creatures unfathomable graces and life itself, puts also into our brazen hands the freedom to neglect Him or even to abuse His paternal gifts.