Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hoc est, Hodie

To-day, Holy Thursday, for the Evening Mass in Cena Domini, there are several proper insertions into the usual form of the Roman Canon: to my mind, the most moving of them occurs at the start of the Institution Narrative, whose opening words Qui pridie quam are at once supplemented by pro nostra omniumque salute, and whose next word, pateretur, is augmented with a further phrase, hoc est, hodie – that is, in literal translation, between "Who the day before" and "He suffered" the words "for our salvation and that of all" are inserted, and then "that is, today" added. In the new ICEL translation, this is rendered "On the day before he was to suffer for our salvation and the salvation of all, that is today".

"On the day before he was to suffer... that is, today". The Sacraments always make present hic et nunc, here and now, the power of Christ, His healing touch. This evening is special because, being the anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist, on the eve of His Crucifixion, we are reminded that this really happened, these mysteries were first set forth this very day. 

Of old, a heretic asked, What have we to do with a Christ Who died at Jerusalem? – the answer is, that same Saviour indeed died, but more, He rose again, is alive for ever and ever, has the keys of death and of hell, is present everywhere in His Divinity, ever imparting His grace to souls, and in His sacred humanity is truly with us in His Body and Blood consecrated and offered on every altar, applying the all-sufficient power of His Passion in the Sacrifice and Communion, by which we are made one with Christ and given the foretaste of eternal life. To-day Christ is with us, Emmanuel, mighty to save.

Earlier in the Canon of the Mass on this, the night of His Last Supper, the Communicantes begins with "Celebrating the most sacred day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was handed over for our sake, and" (et diem sacratissimum celebrants, quo Dominus noster Jesus Christus pro nobis est traditus: sed), while the Hanc igitur has a long insertion "which we make to you as we observe the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ handed on the mysteries of his Body and Blood for his disciples to celebrate" (quam tibi offerimus ob diem, in qua Dominus noster Jesus Christus tradidit discipulis suis Corporis et Sanguinis sui mysteria celebranda).

What a play on words! Christ hands over the Mysteries of His own Body and Blood as Sacraments to His disciples; and Judas hands Christ over into the hands of His enemies.  But in His betrayal to torment and death is the vicarious suffering that wins salvation for us and all: a supreme sacrifice whose anniversary is to-morrow, and re-presented sacramentally to us this evening, to-day, as once on the evening of His Last Supper He prefigured the events of Good Friday, giving Himself with His own hands (se dat suis manibus).

1 comment:

Joshua said...

I'm sure our priest intended to read these parts, but I think when he turned to the Roman Canon he must have missed them (in the new Missal, the full Roman Canon with these propers is given with the other Holy Thursday prayers, and he probably by force of habit instead turned to the normal text given with the other Eucharistic Prayers). So I'm glad I had prayed and thought a little about these beforehand, and had my hand missal with me...

Other than that innocent mistake, and the strange omission of the Kyrie (I think the organist simply launched into the Gloria after the Misereatur, again quite innocently), the Mass, music and all, was beautiful.

I must confess, feeling rather conflicted about the annual will-he-won't-he worry about exactly whose feet the priest will wash, I simply closed my eyes and prayed during the pedilavium; upon opening them I noticed various men of the parish returning to their places, so as usual I was overnervous. Hopefully by next year (given, ahem, certain recent liturgical innovations of Pope Francis) we will have a clear ruling as to the licitness of washing the feet of all, both men and women, so as to avoid giving or feeling scandal in the future.