Preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Mass on the part of the officiating Priest


            In the priest’s life the daily Holy Mass is the culminating point of the day and of his being consecrated in Christ for the Church. The whole of the priest’s existence should be marked by two solemn moments: preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Mass. That precious suggestion that St. Peter Julian Eymard gave all Christians of dividing the day into two parts, the first to prepare oneself for the Eucharist and the second to thank the Lord for his great gift, could also become a spiritual rule for the priest. It is a matter of living in view of celebrating the Eucharist and in rendering thanks to the Father for having celebrated the mysteries of our salvation. In this way Holy Mass marks the daily rhythm of the priest’s life, of his pastoral commitments, offering a very high measure to sacred ministry: the search for the holiness of life above all else.

            First of all prepare oneself through prayer to celebrate Holy Mass. The same prayers recited during the liturgy offer remarkable and precious indications of meditation to enter into the mystery that will take place on the altar. At the presentation of the offering, which will be transformed by the power of God into the Body and Blood of the Son, before reciting the prayer over the chalice, the priest adds a few drops of water to the wine and prays to God, creator and redeemer of human substance: “Per huius acquae et vini mysterium, eius divinitatIs esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps”, Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord. The priest prays so that through the mystery of the water, symbolically added to the wine, we can participate in the divine nature of He who deigned to take on our human nature. The water represents our humanity taken on by Christ in the incarnation in the most holy bosom of the Virgin Mary, while the wine is the divine nature of the Son, consubstantial to the Father and the Holy Spirit. During Holy Mass, at the offering, the priest, and through him all of God’s people present at the actio liturgica, prays to be able to become spouse of Christ’s divine nature and thus be introduced by the Son into God’s bosom. Recalling the teaching of 2Pt 1:4: “divinae consortes naturae”, the minister beseeches the Lord to be able to partake in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, that now in his sacrifice, re-presented in the bread that becomes Body and in the wine that becomes Blood, is communicated to men, deeply renewing the entire creation and their own life. We can partake in our poor humanity of his divinity. In Holy Mass one enters into this divine union: that which is fragile and human is assumed by the Word and transformed into that which is everlasting; in one word, we participate to eternity, communicating to the mystery of the Son of God. The priest’s life becomes like that water poured into the wine: it is re-offered to Christ so that he may make it his in that moment, precisely in the act in which He offers himself to the Father for the sanctification of the world.

            To prepare to celebrate the divine sacrifice thus means to meditate attentively on what one is about to perform: my life is about to be assumed by Christ the Priest and with Him I will become an instrument to transform the world; with the Lord I participate to divine life that redeems humanity. This requires of Christ’s minister awareness and cooperation, the offering of oneself. With the oblation the priest brings especially himself, his body, his entire existence. It is because of this mystical union between Christ, the holy minister and all the other participants that the priest prepares himself to become living offering, holy and pleasing to God (cf. Rm 12:1). The priest becomes with Jesus, making it possible as a consequence also to the faithful, a living oblation, effectively a “rationabile obsequium”, which is the true spiritual cult that rises to the Father through the Son.

            This may resound in the first part of a priest’s day: I will offer myself in sacrifice with the Lord. “This is my body… this is my blood” now represents the minister’s inner disposition to be one with Christ, uniting his body, himself for the salvation of his brothers. This is the prelude to what Revelation defines as the Lamb’s mystical marriage (cf. Rev 19:9): one prepares to celebrate the union with the Lord already entering the inner room of his mystery, of his heart. Priestly mediation from the ministerial level must also pass to the existential level, so that one completes the other, showing in one’s own body the union of the Son with his Church. With these feelings the priest prepares himself to rise to God’s altar. His contemplation, lastly, in putting on the sacred vestments, reciting the corresponding prayers that explain their intimate meaning, makes the minister clothe himself entirely with Christ, makes him carry his sweet Cross and makes him head for the altar.

            While preparation to Holy Mass seeks to accompany Christ’s minister to progressively enter the innermost room of the Great King, to use one of St. Teresa of Avila’s expressions, his side open on the Cross, thanksgiving, which follows the liturgical act, seeks to be the tribute of praise and of love that rise to the Father for having re-presented the memorial sacrifice of the Son. We are in the second part of the priest’s day, of the priest’s existence. We thank God for the offering performed in persona of the Son in favor of the Church and of humanity to be saved. We offered the Lord. His holy sacrifice, which makes all things new, was renewed by means of our sacramental action. A new Fiat of love and obedience rose to God through Christ, by means of the priest who in the Son says to the Father: may your will of salvation be accomplished. The priest offered Jesus, and as he had announced in the symbol of the mixture of water and wine, offered himself too, to the point of becoming in the communion with the sacrifice of Christ one thing with the Lord. The liturgy is living inasmuch as it transforms us in the Lord. Now partakers of Him, we are totally his. The marriage of the Lamb of God is complete. Only silence and prayer allow entrance to this mystery. Again through liturgical prayer the priest can now thank the Father for the gift of the Son and for the memorial act that he celebrated. After having communicated himself and having communicated the faithful, while he is intent on the purification of the sacred vessels, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite makes the priest pray with these words: “Corpus tuum Domine, quod sumpsi, et Sanguis, quem potavi, adhaereat visceribus meis et praesta; ut in me non remaneat scelerum macula, quem pura et sancta refecerunt sacramenta”. One expresses, in tones of lofty mysticism, the desire that the Body and Blood of Christ adhere to the minister’s viscera so that no stain remain in him, after having been made pure and holy by those divine mysteries. The priest after communion has become one thing with the Lord. He can truly be with Him one spirit (cf. 1Cor 6:17), having become with Him one body: the Body of Christ transforms the priest into Him, makes him live in Him.

            Now the priest’s agere in persona Christi inserts itself in vivere in Christo: it is a consequential result of the minister’s consecrated life. Once again the priestly-sacramental mediation must transmit itself in the person of the minister and in his entire existence, so as to live in persona Christi in a prolonged fashion. Live of Him because you have eaten of Him (cf. Jn 6:57). “This is my body…” should resonate with a new tone after the sacramental offering: this body of mine must be the Body of Christ. Here holy celibacy finds all its nourishment. It is not a kind of pastoral facilitation, of a freedom from a human family to dedicate oneself with more fervor and without other problems to a new spiritual family. This too, but not only this. The priest draws from the Eucharist the true measure of his celibacy: he acts in the person of his Lord and thus lives as his Lord; he re-presents the saving munus incarnating it in his life, so that those who see the priest can truly see Christ the Servant of Jehovah, who gives his life to redeem many.

            Moreover, to thank God after Holy Mass through personal prayer, finding sufficient space, filled with dialogue and love, with the glorified Lord, now living in me, is truly indispensable: it is the priest’s thanksgiving to the Lord, as the Son gives thanks to the Father in Holy Mass. Thanksgiving prolongs the mystery of the Eucharist in the priest’s life, in a certain way it incarnates it in his existence. Holy Mass is indeed truly a sacrificial memorial act in the form of thanksgiving to the Father. The priest with his personal prayer thanks the Father for what he was able to accomplish for the whole Church. This prayer becomes a sacrifice of praise, of adoration, that in love rises to God as the priest’s answer to the Son’s offering. In this way the fruits of Holy Mass, above all charity and priestly zeal, can mature in the priest and transform all his life into a thanksgiving to the Father for the Son in the Holy Spirit.

            A great Tuscan man of letters, Domenico Giuliotti, who left us a splendid spiritual comment to Holy Mass, introduced in this way this august mystery in which we become one thing with Christ: “If it were only us to offer we wouldn’t offer anything; but we offer with Him; we insert our death in His Life and become living. ‘Take, eat, this is my Body’. And we eat that bread that kills death. Infinity penetrates in this way into the finite; the finite swells, resplendent in the Infinite. The Creator, bowing down, eucharistically, gives himself to the creature, celebrating marriage together” (Il ponte sul mondo [The bridge over the world], p. 10).

            In conclusion, in preparing for Holy Mass and then in thanksgiving we must address a special thought to the Virgin Mary. She is the offering Virgin in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:22,36) and then in the highest and culminating way on Calvary, where she stayed next to the Son (cf. Jn 19:25-27), one with Him. The Virgin Mary teaches the priest to offer on the altar the divine Victim with her maternal sentiments, to offer her divine Son and himself with Jesus, just as she did. Through Mary’s immaculate hands – give us with love to her – the priest offers Christ, “immaculate host”,  in the most worthy way and offers himself in thanksgiving to God for the salvation of all men.



Fr. Serafino M. Lanzetta, FI