Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - VIGIL OF THE ASCENSION: PRAYER OVER THE OFFERINGS
Missale Romanum 1970 (MR '70)
This week, we are mindful of the approaching Holy Day of Our Lord’s Ascension on Thursday. To that end, we will treat the Prayer over the Offerings for the Vigil of this feast in the MR’70:
“O God, whose Only Begotten Son, our High Priest, is seated ever-living at Your right hand to intercede for us, grant that we may approach with confidence the throne of grace and there obtain Your mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This Collect makes direct reference to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, where we hear the following exhortation: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16, RSV)
This passage speaks to the critical importance of growing in faith and hope. These are two of the three theological virtues infused into our souls by God in Baptism, which enable us to enjoy friendship with Him. Faith has to do with the assent of our intellect to the truth God has revealed in Christ. It likewise involves a consequent act of entrustment of ourselves to the good God who has revealed Himself to man. Hope has to do with the fiduciary confidence in the good God to provide the graces we need for salvation in this life and for eternal life with Him in heaven. It is an act of our will which exercises a “confident expectation” in God’s gracious will to fulfill what He has promised to give us in His loving providence (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 144-165, 1812-1821, 2090).
The Vulgate translation of the Greek original affirms these points regarding faith and hope, according to the sense indicated in the Catechism. In v. 14, we see “teneamus confessionem,” that is, the confession of faith we make in Baptism (i.e., the Creed). In other words, St. Paul exhorts us to take hold of the content of our faith and hold onto it tenaciously. In v. 16, we see “adeamus ergo cum fiducia,” that is, “let us approach with confident trust,” i.e., the virtue of hope.
In what exactly do the virtues of faith and hope terminate? St. Paul tells us: “the throne of grace.” This is a reference to the Israelite Ark of the Covenant, which was God’s “throne” on earth, and the place where the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement to effect merely symbolic atonement. As we see throughout Hebrews, St. Paul shows us how Jesus is the true High Priest whose shed Blood on the Cross actually effects satisfaction for man’s sin, and reconciles the world to the Father.
Thus, the “throne of grace” indicates the real heavenly throne room, where Jesus both reigns as King with the Father, and “permanently exercises His priesthood,” interceding for us (cf. Catechism nos. 662-4). Likewise, the throne of grace may also refer both to Our Lord’s Cross and the Altar, where atonement is effected.
Consider the following excerpt from Hebrews 9-10, which constitutes part of one of the optional readings for the Vigil of the Ascension: “For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf…..Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Heb. 9:24, 10:19-22, RSV).(David Allen)
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.