Thursday, July 08, 2021

The Most Ancient Roman Prayers of Priestly Ordination

Our series on the ancient ordination prayers of the Roman Rite continues with those for the priesthood; the first article in this series gives an explanation of the oldest source in which they are attested, the so-called Leonine Sacramentary. In this manuscript, the prayers for priestly ordination are placed immediately after those of bishops and deacons. Under the header “consecratio presbyteri – the consecration of a priest”, there are three orations (numbers 952-54 in Mohlberg’s critical edition), but as with the others, there are no rubrics that accompany them to indicate the ceremonies with which they were said. These same three orations appear in the same order, and are mostly identical in wording, in the priestly ordination rite of the Pontifical of Clement VIII, that which is currently used in the Extraordinary Form, and its medieval ancestors. Like the diaconal ordination, but unlike the episcopal one, they are not accompanied by a Mass formula.
His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke ordains Fr Joel Pinto Rodriguez FSSP to the priesthood at the church of All Mexican Martyrs in Guadalajara, Mexico, on June 11 of this year, the feast of the Sacred Heart. (Photos courtesy of FSSP México.)
The first is an exhortation, which in the Pontifical of Clement VIII is said by the ordaining bishop immediately after the imposition of the hands. “Oremus, dilectissimi, Deum Patrem omnipotentem, ut super hos famulos suos, quos ad presbyterii munus elegit, caelestia dona multiplicet: quibus quod eius dignatione suscipiunt, eius exequantur auxilio. – Most beloved, let us pray God, the Father almighty, that He may multiply the gifts of heaven upon these His servants, whom He hath chosen for the office of the priesthood; and by them, may they, with His help, carry out that which they receive by His favor (or ‘grace’).”
Card. Burke says the exhortation given above, which in its current form begins “Oremus, fratres carissimi.”
The second is a prayer, which in the Pontifical of Clement VIII is said immediately after the preceding exhortation. “Exaudi nos, Deus, salutaris noster, et super hos famulos tuos benedictionem Sancti Spiritus, et gratiae sacerdotalis effunde uirtutem; ut quos tuae pietatis aspectibus offerimus consecrandos, perpetua muneris tui largitate prosequaris. – Hear us, o God, our salvation, and upon these Thy servants, pour forth the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and the power of the grace of the priesthood; so that Thou may accompany with the everlasting bounty of Thy gift those whom we offer in the sight of Thy holiness to be consecrated.”
The third prayer of the Leonine Sacramentary appears in the Pontifical of Clement VIII and its medieval predecessors as a preface; the change will be described in greater detail later on in the series. There are several other minor verbal discrepancies of no real significance. The division of the text at “Ac prouidentia” is in the original manuscript.
“Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, honorum omnium et omnium dignitatum quae tibi militant distributor; per quem proficiunt uniuersa, per quem cuncta firmantur, amplificatis semper in melius naturae rationabilis incrementis per ordinem congrua ratione dispositum. Unde sacerdotales grados (-us) et officia leuitarum sacramentis mysticis instituta creuerunt; ut cum pontifices summos regendis populis praefecisses, ad eorum societatis et operis adiumentum sequentis ordinis uiros et secundae dignitatis elegeris. Sic in heremo per septuaginta uirorum prudentium mentes Mose spiritum propagasti; quibus ille adiutoribus usus in populo, innumeras multitudines facile gubernauit. Sic in Eleazaro et Ithamar, filiis Aharon, paternae plenitudinis abundantiam transfudisti, ut ad hostias salutares et frequentiores (-is) officii sacramenta sufficeret meritum sacerdotum.
Ac prouidentia, Domine, Apostolis Filii tui doctores fidei comites addidisti, quibus illi orbem totum secundis praedicatoribus impleuerunt. Quapropter infirmitati quoque nostrae, Domine, quaesumus, haec adiuuenta largire; qui quanto magis fragiliores sumus, tanto his pluribus indigemus. Da, quaesumus, Pater, in hos famulos tuos presbyterii dignitatem. Innoua in uisceribus eorum spiritum sanctitatis. Acceptum a te, Deus, secundi meriti munus obtineant, censuramque morum exemplo suae conuersationis insinuent. Sint probi cooperatores ordinis nostri. Eluceat in eis totius forma iustitiae, ut bonam rationem dispensationis sibi creditae reddituri, aeternae beatitudinis praemia consequantur.
O Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, dispenser of all honors and of all dignities that serve Thee; through Whom all things prosper, by Whom all things are strengthened; Who dost ever increase and perfect the growth of our rational nature in an orderly and suitable manner; whence the grades of the priesthood and offices of the Levites have grown up, established by mystic sacraments, so that when Thou hadst appointed high priests (i.e. bishops) to rule over the peoples, Thou didst choose as their companions and helpers, men of the following rank and second dignity. So (also) in the desert didst Thou increase the spirit of Moses through the minds of the seventy prudent men, through whose assistance amid the people, he easily governed the countless multitudes. Thus didst Thou pour forth upon Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, the abundance of their father’s power, that the service of the priests might suffice for the saving sacrifices and mysteries of more frequent duties.
By this (same) providence, o Lord, Thou didst also give to Thy Son’s Apostles teachers of the Faith as their companions, through whom they have filled the whole world with successful preachers. Wherefore, we beseech Thee, o Lord, grant these (same) helps also to our weakness, who being all the more frail, have all the greater need of them. Bestow, we beseech Thee, Father, upon these Thy servants the dignity of the priesthood; renew within them the spirit of holiness. May receive from Thee, o God, this office next to ours in dignity, and by the example of their lives, encourage others to great virtue. May they be honest fellow-workers with our order; may there shine forth in them the form of all justice, so that, when they shall to render a good account of the stewardship entrusted to them, they may obtain the rewards of everlasting beatitude.”
Cardinal Burke and Fr Pinto exchange the kiss of peace at the Mass.

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