Thursday, November 7, 2013

Monsignor Wadsworth on the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

On All Souls Day a Requiem Mass was offered in Washington , D.C., after which a recollection for Juventutem D.C. was provided by Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, the executive director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and one of the priests seeking to form an Oratory in D.C.

It was on a topic near and dear to my spiritual life as woven into liturgy: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The good father covered so much. An excerpt:
This wonderful psalm expresses perfectly the sentiment which should animate the priest as he approaches the altar. It expresses a very great truth – the priest is powerfully attracted to the altar. A priest belongs at the altar and there is no place where he is more conscious of the reality of his priesthood than when he stands at the altar. The altar of God, however, is an awesome and holy place, yet there the priest stands, an unworthy servant of the Most High. He might call to mind the words of St. John Chrysostom: ‘When the priest calls upon the Holy Ghost and offers the tremendous Sacrifice: tell me in what rank should we place him? What purity shall we require of him, what reverence?’” 
Indeed, as pointed out in the comments, Blessed Noel Pinot, a martyr of the French Revolution, went to the guillotine reciting, Introibo ad altare Dei. This is particularly interesting. He is going to a place of death to offer himself up to God. There are steps, just as in front of the altar in a church. Just imagine that.

Priests in  revolutionary Mexico and republican Spain were known to have been executed wearing Mass vestments. In Blessed Miguel Pro's case, he was in plainclothes but held his arms cruciform. One sees an example of this in the film For Greater Glory as Peter O'Toole's character is killed wearing black vestments, as for a Requiem.

It has become practice at my home parish for the Ordinary Form servers to recite before Mass, in the sacristy, the antiphon in English, followed by "Our help is in the name of the Lord/Who made Heaven and Earth." Hopefully, we can recite the entirety of the prayers in Latin one day.

Please read it! Many thanks to Msgr. Wadsworth for his work, and please pray for him.

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