Commemoratio Pro Vivis

Commemoratio Pro Vivis – English
Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them: for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.

Commemoratio Pro Vivis – Latin
Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N. et omnium circumstantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est, et nota devotio, pro quibus tibi offerimus: vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis, pro se, suisque omnibus: pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis et incolumitatis suae: tibique reddunt vota sua aeterno Deo, vivo et vero.

Commemoratio Pro Vivis, Part 1

“Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them: for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.

It has been a long-standing practice of the Church to offer the Holy Mass for the living and the dead. The one, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ was for the redemption of all human beings, to buy us back from sin and death. Perfect and infinite, this sacrifice reached far back to Adam and Eve and extends forward to the last human person who will be conceived. Because the Mass is the re-presentation of this one, perfect sacrifice, there is infinite power and grace which flows forth from it. Therefore, the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on behalf of the living and the dead, and sometimes for fairly specific intentions.

In this phrase of the Roman Canon, we are invoking God’s grace and power upon His servants who are still living. This is what is meant by Commemoratio Pro Vivis or Remembrance for the Living. The “N.” that is in line twice is an opportunity for the priest to mention the names of those for whom the Mass is being offered. However, the phrase also refers to those present in referencing “all gathered here.” Even if the Mass is not being said for us specifically, it is being offered for us generally. Praying the Mass for those who are deceased is an important practice. The souls in purgatory rely on us for aid; they no longer can do anything for their own sake. How beneficial though is it for us to be open to receive the graces being offered to us in the Mass who are still living? We have the ability to accept and cooperate with God’s grace. If we are open to it, the Mass absolutely has the power to transform us to be more like Christ.

Of course, our faith and devotion are known to God. He knows the gifts He has given us and He knows if we have accepted those gifts. He knows, also, whether we have hearts open to Him. Faith and devotion both deserve a short discussion.

Faith is many things. First and foremost, Faith is a theological virtue, which means that it is a free gift from God that we can accept or reject. Unlike the moral virtues, we cannot grow in the theological virtues by exercising them. God gives us a certain measure of Faith and we accept or reject it. Then, certainly, we can and should ask Him for more Faith. As a man said to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, “I believe; help my unbelief (Mk. 9:24).” Faith also refers to our cooperation with the gift of Faith. This act of cooperation we could call “belief.” We have faith. We believe. Faith is believing in what has been revealed by God. It is not blind and foolish. The foundation of faith is firm.

Devotion is an ancient word which shares a root word with “vow.” It is an act of dedicating oneself by a vow, making a promise, or sacrificing oneself. In our devotion, we give our time to God, focus our minds and hearts upon Him, and allow Him to be enthroned at the very center of our hearts. Our feelings and senses can sometimes heighten our own acts of devotion. We may feel happy, overcome, joyful, or even sorrowful at our sinfulness. However, these passions are not devotion, though they may move us towards devotion. Devotion begins in the mind and moves to the will. In other words, we focus upon God and draw near to Him in prayer. Then our power of free will is moved to thank Him, say that we love Him, confess our sins to Him, or any other similar action.

Devotion is a strange word because it can also mean to “consign over” to destruction or “to curse.” If our devotion is fixed upon God, then we are lifted up to Him and consecrated. If our devotion is fixed upon anything else, then we are struck down, harmed, and destroyed. God, in His love and mercy, desires for us to come to knowledge and love of Him so that we can share eternity with Him in paradise. He wants our good, because He is the highest Good!

Commemoratio Pro Vivis, Part 2

“Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them: for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.”

The sacrifice of praise being offered is the one, perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, made present once more in the Sacred Liturgy in which we take part. It is worth restating: the Mass is the offering of the Son to the Father in the Spirit, in which we enter in and take part. The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered firstly for the holy Catholic Church, as we learned in the Te Igitur. We have to be careful, however, not to think of the Church as a thing. The Church is not a faceless institution. The Church is the Body of Christ, comprised of Head and Members. Jesus Christ is the Head of His Body. Mary has often been called the neck of the Mystical Body of Christ. And we are the Members of the Body of Christ, through Baptism.

The Mass is, in part, being offered for the servants of the Lord, all throughout the world and there present. But the Mass is also offered for “all who are dear to them.” When we were discussing the context of the Roman Canon, we explored the nature of the Liturgy. The Sacred Liturgy is a work for the people. It is a work for the common good. Therefore, we see that we can bring the intentions of those dear to us to the Mass. God cares for all human persons more deeply than we can fathom, but He desires our participation. He wants us to enter into the Mass. He wants us to take part. He wants us to offer the cares, concerns, joys, trials, sufferings, and delights not only for ourselves but for those we hold dear. United as we are, in Christ, throughout the world, each Mass thus is offered not only for those in the Church but also for all of those even outside the visible bounds of the Church.

Let us think back to the moment in the Sacred Liturgy when the priest commands us, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” In the Orate, Fratres, the priest is commanding the faithful gathered to pray and enter into the battle of prayer. The faithful respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” This exchange should come to our mind as we look at the current phrase in the Roman Canon: “we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves…” The people offer the Sacrifice of the Mass alongside the priest, but in a qualitatively different way.

The priest is offering the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at his hands in persona Christi Capitis (in the Person of Christ the Head of His Body). Yet, the people, who are baptized into Christ, can offer the Sacrifice of the Mass along with the priest in persona Christi Membri (in the Person of Christ, Member of His Body). This is fitting because the Mass is the offering of Jesus Christ to the Father in the Spirit. Jesus Christ is our one High Priest. And so, His priestly offering is His own action through the instrument of the Church in which the full Body of Christ takes part, Head and Members.

Commemoratio Pro Vivis, Part 3

Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them: for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.”

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered by our High Priest Jesus Christ at the hands of the priest with the full, conscious, and actual participation of the people. This sacrifice of praise is offered for those in attendance and all those dear to them. In this phrase, we explore the “why.” Why is this sacrifice being offered? We have already gotten at the heart of this before. The Mass is offered for the glorification of God and the sanctification (making holy) of man. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is for the redemption of souls, hoping for health and well-being, and to pay home to God. Let us now take some time to walk through these part by part.

First, the sacrifice is offered for the redemption of souls. This is precisely because the Mass is the presenting once more of the one, perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Though not all will embrace this gift of salvation, the self-offering of Jesus Christ redeemed all of mankind. This means that Jesus paid the price in full for the first sin of Adam and Eve and every personal sin of every human being to ever live. Being fully man, Jesus redeems mankind as man. Being fully divine, His self-offering is infinite and perfect. Making this saving reality present once again, the Mass applies the merits of Christ on the Cross to us.

Next, the phrase “redemption of our souls” is qualified by “in hope of health and well-being.” To understand this, we need to look to the Latin typical edition. The word for health is “salutis” and the word for well-being is “incolumitatis.” Salutis does not simply mean health, it also means salvation and deliverance. Incolumitatis also means soundness or safety. We are praying that the redemption of the souls of all the living be made tangible in his or her life. Redemption, as the action of Christ on the Cross, is finished with Jesus breathing His last and then rising from the dead three days later. By death He conquers death. This act of redemption is then applied to us as an individual in our Baptism and is renewed in the Sacrament of Penance, both of which are ordered to the Holy Eucharist. When the redemption one by Christ is applied to us, it bears the fruit of salvation and safety when we cooperate with God’s grace.

While still on Earth, our salvation is not decided simply because we are saved by grace and faith through Baptism. We are free to still reject this gift later in our life. So, this salvation and safety belongs to the virtue of hope. Hope is a sure and certain thing. It is not wishy-washy. It is a gift from God, ordering us to the hope of Heaven. It is only in Heaven, after our earthly life, that we will receive the fullness of salvation and safety. Redemption is for everyone, won by the merits of Christ on the Cross. Salvation is the full reception of the gift of redemption, chosen by individuals. Both redemption and salvation are gratuitous gifts from God, but salvation is never forced upon someone. Jesus Christ died on the Cross for every human person (redemption), but He will not force the gift of eternal life with Him (salvation).

Finally, we pay our homage to the eternal God, living and true. God exists. He is real. He is alive. He holds all things in being, including us. It is because of His freely given love that we exist and continue to exist. All good things come from Him who is Himself the greatest good. Therefore, He is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise. We are right to do Him homage. Homage is used as the translation of the Latin word “vota” which also means promise, dedication, vow, determination, and desire. This homage given to God cannot be a passing thought. We ask God to purify and fulfill our desires, as we cling to Him more and more.

So, what does this sacrifice of praise do? It is ordered to planting the gift of redemption so that it will bear the fruit of salvation in our life and the lives of all the living. This is growth in holiness. Most importantly, the sacrifice of praise is offered to God, who is always faithful, always true, and truly alive. God be praised!

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