Te Igitur

Te Igitur – English
To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you first of all for you holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our Pope, and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

Te Igitur – Latin
Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum Filium tuum, Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus, ac petimus uti accepta habeas, et benedicas, haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata, in primis, quae tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta catholica: quam pacificare, custodire, adunare, et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N., et Antistite nostro N., et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus.

Part 1

Let us begin walking through the Roman Canon itself, line by line. Hopefully by doing so, we will understand more deeply the beauty and power of this great prayer. Directly after the Sanctus is said or sung, the Te Igitur begins. Each part of the Roman Canon is ancient and the pieces have moved around a bit as the years have gone by. So, it is easier to refer to sections by the first word or two in Latin.

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you first of all for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our Pope, and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.”

There is a reason that we are walking together so slowly through the Roman Canon. It can be so easy to gloss over words that we do not quite know or to assume we know what something means. Sometimes, this is actually just the result of familiarity. We may have heard these words countless times. Yet, do these words have anything new to say to us today? With a prayer as ancient as the Roman Canon, there is sure to be wisdom and truth in it. This is all the more true when it is the heart of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, handed down through the ages.

In the simple beginning of the Roman Canon, we see the profound truth of the Mass. The Mass is not what we are doing for God. It is what God is doing for His own glory and our good. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is essentially the prayer of Jesus Christ to the Father in the Spirit in which we take part.

Who is the Roman Canon directed to? Is it a Passion Play for the entertainment or edification of the people gathered? Is it a reenactment of the Last Supper? No! The Roman Canon, the Eucharistic Prayer, is humble prayer offered through Jesus Christ to our merciful Father. How beautiful is the reality that God is our Father through Baptism!

I often take for granted that God is my Father. Perhaps you have had the same experience as me in approaching our heavenly Father, not always giving Him the praise, glory, and honor that is due to Him. Yet, if we understand the gravity of this magnificent truth, we would scarcely be able to pick ourselves up off of our knees as we continually give thanks to Him for such a radical gift of sonship or daughtership.

We are sinners in need of grace. By sin, human beings have made themselves orphans. By His Cross and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has offered us spiritual adoption and new life. Sin has marked our lives. We do not deserve God’s love. We have offended Him so many times by our actions. Still, He offers His mercy, forgiveness, and love as a tender Father. We need look no further than the Cross for a glorious outpouring of the Father’s love that He “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).”

In humility, we recognize who were are: a sinner in need of grace who has been renewed as a son or daughter of our heavenly Father. And we recognize who God is: merciful, loving, forgiving, all-knowing, all-good, all-present, infinite, eternal, all-powerful, simple, mysterious, transcendent, and close to us. In this humility, we offer prayer and we ask God for a great many things. Knowing what we need, our Father in Heaven will be sure to answer our prayer and petition, in and through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Part 2

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you first of all for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our Pope, and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

This petition is asking God to accept and bless three things: gifts, offerings, and sacrifices. It is important for us to understand why these three words are used, and we need to understand what it means for God to accept something and to bless something. But first, I want to make a quick remark on this word “petition” used in the previous phrase. The Latin word “we make… petition” is petimus. However, petimus also means seek, aim, desire, beg, request, and, in some contexts, attack. The Ancient Greek equivalent of this word petimus is petomai which means to fly, dart, rush, or make haste. Therefore, we have to keep in mind that this prayer is more than a simple request. We are rushing to God to make our request known by begging. Of course, God answers our prayers! But, it is helpful to understand that we must not presume an answer before it is given. God is God, we are not.

First, let us look at the verbs: accept and bless. For God to accept something, we are asking Him to take it towards Himself. He has established His everlasting covenant with us in the Last Supper, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ. We are asking God to, once again, accept the bread and wine in response to His command to do this action in remembrance of Him. Then, we ask Him to bless the bread and wine. We are asking God to show His help to us by pouring out His grace, His favor, upon this ordinary bread and wine.

Next, the nouns: gifts, offerings, and sacrifices.

The bread and wine, now present on the altar, are gifts because all created things come from God. Without the act of creation and the sustaining of being itself, we would not have bread and wine to offer in the first place. Even from the oldest days, humanity have offered the first fruits of their harvest or flock back to God in thanksgiving. Recognizing an abundant harvest or a healthy flock or even a child being born as a gift from the divine is not isolated to Christianity and Judaism. In the oldest pagan religions, armed only with God-given human reason, there is an understanding that there is a higher power which created and sustains all things. And, so, the bread and wine are gifts. But that is not all. Our own lives are gifts. The churches in which we worship are gifts. The vestments, sacred vessels, and artwork are gifts. Without God, there is nothing. Everything we have is a gift in a very real sense. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Everything is grace.”

The bread and wine are offerings because they are being set aside for sacred use. Ordinary bread and wine are placed upon the altar with the full expectation of the miracle that is to come. These gifts are being offered for a specific purpose. Namely, to make Christ present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the veil of a sacrament. The bread and wine are not the only things being offered. We also offer ourselves, our whole personage. We offer God, each day, our works, joys, sufferings, in union with the action of Jesus at the altar at Holy Mass. In offering ourselves, we are transformed to be more like Christ, just as the bread and wine become Christ. We can also offer all of the many requests and intentions that we have. We offer all we are next to the bread on the paten and in the chalice with the wine.

Finally, the bread and wine are holy and unblemished sacrifices. When the bread and wine are set aside for sacred use, they can no longer be used as ordinary food. In a simple sense, this is a sacrifice. But when we understand that we are uniting ourselves to this offering at Mass, we come to realize that the content of our day to day lives is the sacrifice that we are offering. These sacrifices are acts of love: cleaning the dishes so your spouse does not have to do it, practicing virtue rather than vice, setting aside time for prayer, or striving to live the commands of Jesus Christ each moment of the day. Then, at Holy Mass, we offer these actions, as well as our failings, alongside the bread and wine. We become a sacrifice offered to God in humility. Holy because we are set apart by God in our Baptism. Unblemished because we are set right with God by our Baptism, frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance, and by being transformed by our receiving of Holy Communion in a state of grace.

There is far more to say, but it is important for us to understand that this is core of full, conscious, and actual participation in the Holy Mass. This internal participation is at the heart of giving thanks for the gifts God has given, offering ourselves in love as a living sacrifice to the praise and glory of God.

Part 3

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you first of all for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our Pope, and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus Christ offers Himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We enter into this Sacred Action by first asking God to accept and bless the bread and wine on the altar along with the sacrifices of ourselves that we offer in love to Him. We have to ask: for what are these gifts, offerings, and sacrifices being received, given, and made? Speaking in the first person plural we, the priest is offering this sacrifice at his hands, but he is offering it in the Person of Christ, Head of His Body. We, the people present, are nonetheless offering sacrifice with our full, conscious, and actual participation, but we are doing so in the Person of Christ, Member of His Body. As St. Paul says often in his letters, we are the one Body of Christ the Church, which is comprised of many parts.

As the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, we enter into the Sacred Action. But why? Well, this will be answered in various ways as we continue through the Roman Canon, but there is a first priority. The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered “first of all” for the holy catholic Church. Rather, it is offered firstly for His holy catholic Church, for the Church is not a human institution. The Church was divinely established by Jesus Christ on the rock of St. Peter. The Church is not man-made, it is God-made. And in a way that is mysterious to us, we enter into the mystical reality of the Body of Christ as the Church when we are baptized. This is spiritual birthright in our new birth of Baptism.

St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:23-29).”

In Baptism, we enter into Christ. We are incorporated into His Body, the Church. This is why we can say that, in Christ, we are adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. In Christ, our individual differences remain but we take on the character of God. A fire-poker that sits in a fire begins to glow red hot and take on the characteristics of fire while still being distinct from the fire. This is how we become like God, while remaining as individual people. However, as baptized members of the Church, we are truly incorporated into Christ.

This phrase, so early in the Roman Canon, reminds us to be focused on God and other people before ourselves. We offer the sacrifice of our lives, not primarily for our own benefit, but for the glory of God and the good of the other. In this way, we are imitating Christ crucified, who died in our place, though He is without sin. May our lives sing of the glory of God, for the good of our neighbor, that we might arrive before the heavenly throne and hear those most marvelous words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Mt. 25:21).”

Part 4

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you first of all for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our Pope, and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

This phrasing features some fairly elevated language that we are not used to using. Imagine if your friend or family member called you on their way to your house and asked if you would like anything picked up. You then respond, “Be pleased to acquire for me a hamburger and fries.” It would be a silly way to speak, but I think we can understand the context of this petition a bit better from the example. When we say to God, “Be pleased…,” we are asking him to find delight in and be willing to grant us our request.

There are four main requests for the Church in this phrase: for peace, to be guarded, to be united, and to be governed throughout the whole world.

Peace is mentioned 269 times in the Old Testament and 92 times in the New Testament. In our fallen world, marred by sin, peace is something that we all deeply desire, whether we know it or not. St. Augustine famously wrote in his Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” We are all seeking this rest which the world cannot give. We desire so many things which are good, but limited, such as money, fame, sex, power, and respect. But the only One in whom we can ever hope to find lasting rest is God. At the Holy Mass, we draw near to the Source of peace to receive from Him: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (Jn. 14:27).”

We need God to guard us. Engaged in a war with the powers of darkness and our own sinfulness, we heed the beautiful words of St. Peter: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Pt. 5:6-11).”

The unity of the Church is dependent only on the action of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Certainly, we are called to embrace this unity and to help bring other people into this unity. There is a disturbing trend in the Church today that works for unity but rejects that the Church is already in a unity. Jesus prays at the Last Supper to the Father saying, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (Jn. 17:11b).” Are we to think that there has not been a unity in the Church established by Jesus Christ since the beginning? Surely, the Church is the action of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For the Church to not be in a unity, God would have to cease to a unity of three Persons, which is His very nature. Therefore, the Church, by her very nature, is in unity. Our goal is draw all people, including our separated brethren, pagans, and the Jewish people, into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, by the grace of God. It is this resolve and aim towards the unity which already exists in the Catholic Church which we are asking of God in the Roman Canon.

Finally, since the Church was founded upon St. Peter, the first pope, and power to bind and loose sins was given to the Apostles, there has been governance in the Church. The Apostles and their successors, the Pope, bishops, and priests, have exercised the authority of Christ to govern the Church since the very beginning. These men do not govern on their own authority. They draw their strength and resolve from Jesus Christ, our King. It is He who is sovereign over all people, even now. Even in the most godless, secular society, Jesus Christ is utterly the King. The bishops and priests today exercise this authority to govern in fidelity. And if they fail in the task with which they have been entrusted because of human weakness or infidelity, it is allowed mysteriously by God’s providence, but the authority of the Church, as a whole, is no less pronounced and powerful.

We have a Father in Heaven who governs all things. We have Christ our King who commands us, in love, towards the good, true, and beautiful. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, by Baptism, as a Helper. We have Mary, Mother of the Church, and our Mother, interceding on our behalf in the Heavenly Court. We have the Church, our mother who governs us in order to lead us to Heaven.

Part 5

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you first of all for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant N. our Pope, and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

For the Church to be the means of peace, guarding against evil, unity, and governance, God willed that mankind would cooperate with Him. Specifically, this phrase of the Roman Canon mentions the first servants of each diocese: the Pope and the bishop. In order for the Church to be what she is meant to be in the world in an outward way, the cooperation of the Pope, the bishop, and all those who hand on the faith is commanded by God.

The Pope has a primacy over all people, both pastors and the faithful, according to the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church, Lumen Gentium. This means that he exercises supreme authority in the Church as the visible symbol of unity on earth. In unity, charity, and peace, his office is the glue that holds together all of the bishops throughout the world. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, but he also enjoys universal jurisdiction in many regards in each diocese. The individual bishops who are appointed by the Pope (in the Latin Rite; the Eastern Churches are sui iuris which means they govern themselves while acknowledging the primacy of the Pope) have local jurisdiction in their geographical boundaries, called a diocese.

When the Pope and the bishops speak in unison, faithful to the teachings of the Church in the past, they exercise what is called the extraordinary and universal magisterium. Magisterium means in Latin the teaching authority. This is the authority to teach given to the first Apostles by Jesus Christ. It is His authority, guided and guarded by the Holy Spirit. As time progresses, we can come to a deeper reflection and understanding of certain mysteries of the Faith, but what is true in one time, place, and circumstance is often true in every time, place, and circumstance. Therefore, in these matters of faith and morals, we hold fast to the truth.

As St. Paul says to St. Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Tm. 1:13-14).” This good deposit is the Deposit of Faith, which is faithfully interpreted by the Magisterium and comprised of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. This Deposit of Faith is apostolic because it has been handed down from Apostle to successor until today. It is called catholic, meaning universal, because it is for all people, without discrimination.

By holding fast to these traditions, this good Deposit of Faith, we are “holding to the truth.” Yet, what we have received freely, we do not keep for ourselves. We freely give, what we have freely been given. We hand on the catholic and apostolic faith, in our own way, depending on our state in life. This handing on the Deposit of Faith, of course, belongs preeminently to the Pope and the bishops. God will do His part because He is always faithful. We must ensure that we are faithful and we must keep the successors of the Apostles accountable, for the good of their souls, and we must never cease praying for them.

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