Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Prayer over the Offerings for Advent IV in the 1970 edition of the Missale Romanum. Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"May the Holy Spirit, O Lord, sanctify these gifts laid upon your altar, just as He filled with His power the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

This beautiful Collect serves as a kind of "preview" of the Epiclesis, or the solemn "calling down" of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine to transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ at the words of consecration. In the Roman Canon, this action is implied in the prayer "Quam oblationem," immediately preceding the Institution Narrative (cf. Walsh, In Memory of Me, pp. 89-94). The Epiclesis is explicit in the other Eucharistic Prayers of the MR '70.

This Collect is wonderfully appropriate for our mediation today, now that we are on the very brink of Christmas, because it leads us to see the inherent link between every celebration of the Mass and the Mystery of the Incarnation. Consider the following excerpts from the teachings of St. John of Damascus and St. Ambrose respectively, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1106 and 1375:  

St. John of Damascus: "You ask how the bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the wine . . . the Blood of Christ. I shall tell you: the Holy Spirit comes upon them and accomplishes what surpasses every word and thought. . . . Let it be enough for you to understand that it is by the Holy Spirit, just as it was of the Holy Virgin and by the Holy Spirit that the Lord, through and in Himself, took flesh." (Emphasis mine)

St. Ambrose: "Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature."

Thus, Creation, the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Mass are all distinct but united dimensions of the one Mystery of our salvation in Christ, present to us eucharistically.

We believe that a miracle takes place at the heart of every Mass: the miracle of transubstantiation. While many people consider miracles to be only rare moments of divine intervention (e.g., bodily healing), Catholics expect the greatest of miracles every time they go to Mass: bread and wine becoming the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. What a treasure! How sad for those who don't know about it, don't care for it, or obstinately refuse and discount it!

When we speak with lapsed Catholics or nonCatholics, we should always strive to be clear about the Catholic faith, and also prudent and sensitive in our presentation, so as to lead them closer to Christ, not further away. We certainly cannot read their hearts, and we may or may not fully understand the complexity of their situation, or even know half of whatever their "issues" are with Christ and His Church. We can admit, however, in a general sense, that the core pastoral problem (whether or not they are conscious of it) is their relation to Jesus in the Eucharist. Even as we acknowledge this, we are quick to drop to our knees, deeply conscious of our dependence upon regular self-examination, confession of sins, and God's forgiveness to approach the altar worthily (cf. 1 Cor. 11:28).

The Incarnation in Nazareth and the Birth in Bethlehem all took place for the lapsed as well as the practicing, so that we all might have the opportunity to be reconciled with God and have a place at Christ's heavenly, Holy Table (cf. Eph. 2:4-7; Walsh, In Memory of Me, pp. 138-139). Let us pray ever more heartily at this beautiful time of year for those who absent themselves entirely or partially from this great Feast. May they be reconciled to Christ, and so, experience the miracle of Christmas at its Source. 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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