Missal Moments IV: “…my sacrifice and yours…”

One change, or rather, correction in the Revised Missal that may escape the notice of some comes at the end of the rite of the Preparation of the Gifts at the altar. Having ritually cleansed his hands, the priest turns to the people and says,

Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

From September (in England and Wales) the celebrant will address the people saying,

Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

The change might seem a fussy one, and even those who know the original Latin may find it pedantic. But the change is important, not only because it is faithful to the Latin original, but because it sheds much light on the participation of the congregation at Mass.

To dispose of the more apparent point first, the change is indeed a correction. The Latin original, on which all translations must be based, clearly says ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium: (literally) “that my and your sacrifice”. This invitation and its response are found in the Roman Missal prior to the introduction of the new Roman Missal after the Council (and is referred to as the Orate fratres – “pray, brethren”). It is not an exercise in circumlocution. It is a reminder, built into the liturgical rite itself, that the sacrifice the priest will offer is not solely his own. The sacrifice is also offered on behalf of the people, and indeed all the Church. Thus the priest reminds the people that the sacrifice he offers is also on their behalf, and that rightly they should pray with him that it might be acceptable to the Father. The current translation of “our” is on one level logical: mine + yours = ours. But this piece of editorial logic weakens the reminder that the priest is giving the people, which was the stronger with the distinction of “my” and “your”.

Perhaps on a more dangerous level it might lead some to belive that the congregation itself is offering the sacrifice to the Father along with the priest. This is a faulty understanding of the Mass. It is the priest who offers the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Lord’s Body and Blood. And he does so because by ordination he is empowered to act in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. Because, as we all know, it is not any many human who offers Christ to the Father; rather it is Christ’s self-sacrifice to his Father, for us and for salvation. At Mass, as in other sacraments, the priest is the instrument by which Christ acts.

Nevertheless, the people do offer a sacrifice, and at this point in the Mass the dialogue can serve to remind the people to ensure they offer it. St Paul (in Romans 12:1) tells us what this sacrifice of the people is:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

In the early Church not only were bread and wine brought up at the Offertory, but also other gifts that might be of service to the local Church. Today those gifts are condensed into and symbolised by the money given in the collection. That money, as too those original gifts, are themselves symbols of the offering of ourselves to God, of our bodies in spiritual sacrifice.

So the correction made in the revised Missal will serve not only to remind the people that the priest is offering a sacrifice that is not solely the priest’s but on behalf of all the Church, a symbol and microcosm of which is the congregation gathered at that particular time and place. This puts the congregation’s half of this dialogue in its proper context:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

Yet the correction also serves as a timely reminder to the people to ensure that they unite the offering of themselves, their spiritual sacrifice, to that being offered by Christ at the priest’s hands on their behalf. The Church, the Body of Christ, offers itself in its individual members in union with Christ as he offers himself in the one great sacrifice of the Cross to the Father in his Body and Blood through the ministry of the priest. This all part of the individual Christian’s mission to unite himself, or herself, ever more intimately to Christ, indeed to become one with Him, which is the heart of holiness. For as Christ offers himself for us, lays down his life for us, so too are we called to offer ourselves with Him, to lay down our lives for our friends, for greater love than this there is not! (cf John 15:13)

6 thoughts on “Missal Moments IV: “…my sacrifice and yours…”

    1. It sure is possible. I have been using it for ages now, and there are many priests I am aware of using it as well. The ground swell of support for correcting the Missal is nothing recent, and bubbles up in little corrections like this one!

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  1. As a life long Catholic, I cannot accept this translation of the liturgy. The priest is making the sacrifice on behalf of the people, but it is not a separate sacrifice of each person in attendance. It is one sacrifice, not multiple sacrifices. Therefore to say “my sacrifice and yours” is not correct theology.

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    1. Welcome Carl.

      I am bemused by your beginning with the fact that you are a lifelong Catholic as if it added authority to your opinion. So too am I a cradle Catholic, but that fact per se does not make my position any more or less valid.

      As to the substance of your complaint, I can only conclude that you did not read my post carefully, or else I was not sufficiently clear. Obviously there is only one Sacrifice of the Mass, which is but that one self-sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Moreover, it is the priest who offers it, as Christ’s instrument. It is a real and substantial sacrifice, and is offered by the priest (“my sacrifice”) for and on behalf of the faithful (and thus also at the same time “yours”). It is in fact the Church’s one sacrifice, and the Church is represented at Mass by priest and people. The “my” and “yours” thus do not denote separate sacrifices but the common possession of the one sacrifice.

      But, as St Paul teaches, the faithful do have a sacrifice to make, not a real and substantial one like that of Christ at Mass, but a spiritual one of themselves. It is an expression of the Christian’s desire to be one with Christ, to do as he did, to love as he did, to die to self as he did. What more appropriate time to articulate our own self-offering than at Mass, as Christ’s sacrifice is made present and active among us. It is a way of uniting ourselves to the one sacrifice of the Mass. The priest does not offer it, and it is not essential to the Mass itself; rather it is an individual’s way of sharing in it more fully and fruitfully.

      So your startling conclusion that the Church’s approved translation is “not correct theology” does you no credit, at the very least because it based on false premises. As a general rule of thumb, if my opinion does not concur with Church teaching, then the first place to look to repair is my opinion and the bases on which it was made. We are not our own popes.

      So it is my earnest hope that you will reconsider the true state of affairs with regard to the phrase “my sacrifice and yours” and come to understand and accept what the Church is doing and intending here. Perhaps you were writing in haste and things did not come out quite right. For, alas, it is you, not the Church, that does not have “correct theology”.

      Pax.

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      1. On another blog, on an unrelated topic, I have just seen a quotation from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an officially-approved summary of the Catechism, which succinctly makes the point I laboured to make:

        443. What is the meaning of the words of our Lord, “Adore the Lord your God and worship Him alone” (Matthew 4:10)?

        These words mean to adore God as the Lord of everything that exists; to render to him the individual and community worship which is his due; to pray to him with sentiments of praise, of thanks, and of supplication; to offer him sacrifices, above all the spiritual sacrifice of one’s own life, united with the perfect sacrifice of Christ; and to keep the promises and vows made to him.

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