Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lord, I am a sinful, useless and unworthy priest and servant

More from the Eastern Liturgy. After the prayers of the faithful and before what we in the Latin Church would call the Offertory, the priest says in a low voice:
No one who is bound to carnal desires of pleasures is worthy to approach You or to draw near to You, or to minister to You, O King of Glory. For to serve you is great and awesome, even to the heavenly powers... I implore You, therefore, Who along are good and ready to listen: look upon me, Your sinful and useless servant; cleanse my heart and soul of the evil that lies on my conscience. By the power of Your Holy Spirit enable me, who am clothed with the grace of the priesthood, to stand before this, Your holy table, and offer the sacrifice of Your holy and most pure Body and precious Blood. Bending my neck, I approach and I petition You: Turn not Your face from me nor reject me from among Your children, but allow these gifts to be offered to You by me, Your sinful and unworthy servant. For it is You Who offer and You Who are offered; it is You Who receive and You Who are given, O Christ our God; and we give glory to You, together with Your eternal Father and Your most holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and ever. Amen.

As the priest incenses the holy things (the bread and wine prepared for the procession to the holy table) he prays:

God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

At the altar, he humbly asks the deacon:

Remember me, brother and fellow minister.

And the deacon replies:

May the Lord God remember your priesthood in His kingdom.

The priest again to the deacon:

Pray for me, my fellow minister.

The deacon replies:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will over-shadow you.

Wow! Where have we heard those words before? Were they not uttered by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary? This adds a further Marian dimension to our priesthood which is worth meditating upon. And the deacon carries out an angelic ministry to the priest.

And the priest and deacon continue their touching dialogue:

Priest: May this same Spirit act together with us all the days of our lives.

Deacon: Remember me, holy Master.

Priest: May the Lord God remember you in His kingdom, always, now and for ever and ever.

Deacon: Amen.
The Prayer of Presentation (offertory prayer):
Lord, God almighty, Who alone are holy, You accept the sacrifice of praise from those who call upon You with all their hearts. Accept also the petitions of us sinners and bring them to Your holy altar. Enable us to offer You gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for the sins and ignorance of the people. Make us worthy to find favor with You so that our sacrifice may be acceptable to You and so that the good Spirit of Your grace may rest upon us, upon these gifts present before us, and upon all Your people.

From the Preface:
We thank You also for this liturgy which You have deigned to accept from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands of archangels, and tens of thousands of angels, the cherubim and seraphim, six-winged and many-eyed, hovering aloft on their wings.

One of the prayers following the Consecration:

We place before You our whole life and hope, O loving Master; and we ask, we pray, and we entreat You: Make us worthy to partake with a pure conscience of Your awesome and heavenly Mysteries at this sacred and spiritual table: for forgiveness of sins, for the pardon of offenses, for fellowship of the Holy Spirit, for the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, for confidence before You, and not for judgment or condemnation.

Before the Lord's prayer:

Make us worthy, O Master, with confidence and without condemnation to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father, and say:...

Before the breaking of the bread, the priest makes three profound bows before the altar saying each time:

God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

As he takes a particle of the holy Bread, the priest says:

The precious and most holy Body of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, is given to me, N., a priest, for the forgiveness of my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.

Before consuming the holy Bread the priest says the following with his head bowed:

Accept me this day, O Son of God, as a partaker of Your mystical Supper. I will not tell the mystery to Your enemies, nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief, I confess to You:

Remember me, O Lord, when You come into Your kingdom.
Remember me, O Master, when You come into Your kingdom.
Remember me, O Holy One, when You come into Your kingdom.
May the partaking of Your Holy Mysteries, O Lord, be unto me not for judgment or condemnation but for the healing of soul and body.
God, be mercful to me a sinner.
God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
I have sinned without number, forgive me, O Lord.

And the priest partakes with reverence and with every care the Particle he holds in his hands.

As he takes the chalice the priest says:

I, the servant of God, N., a priest, partake of the precious and holy Blood of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ: for the forgiveness of my sins and for life everlasting. Amen.

As he wipes his lips and the rim of the holy chalice with the purificator he says:

This has touched my lips and shall remove my wickedness and purge my sins.
and kisses the chalice.

I wonder what the people must think of their priest as he confesses to so much sin in his life during the course of the Divine Liturgy? Consciousness of our sinfulness will save us from the sin of presumption. We need a deeper awareness of our sinfulness in order to call humbly upon the mercy of God and be able to meet Him with confidence at the last day.

I made my confession yesterday and, of course, the priest absolved me using the Eastern Rite which requires him to acknowledge his unworthiness as a minister of forgiveness as he imparts the absolution.


  1. After reading this, Father, it seems entirely fitting to use a popular American adjective: it was awesome. Many thanks.

  2. yes in its most profound meaning awesome!

  3. Just beautiful! I found this incredibly moving. The language is so rich; it makes one realise the paucity of our own modern Roman Rite - bring on the new translation!

  4. Ellen: I'm sure the corrected translation will help, but I think the problem is with the revised liturgy itself, not the translation. The older form of the Mass instills far more sense of unworthiness than the new (but not nearly as effectively as the Eastern liturgy), in my opinion.


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