Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus

Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus – English

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all your Saints: admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.

Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus – Latin

Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis, de multitudine miserationum tuarum sperantibus, partem aliquam et societatem donare digneris, cum tuis sanctis Apostolis et Martyribus: cum Joanne, Stephano, Matthia, Barnaba, (Ignatio, Alexandro, Marcellino, Petro, Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Caecilia, Anastasia), et omnibus Sanctis tuis: intra quorum nos consortium, non aestimator meriti, sed veniae, quaesumus, largitor admitte. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus, Part 1

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all your Saints: admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.

Just before the Preface Dialogue in the Mass, before the Roman Canon, the priest washes his hands in a symbolic act of humility. Quoting Psalm 51, the priest says to God, “Lord, wash away my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin (cf. Ps. 51:2).” This simple but profound action has been done in the Roman Rite during Mass at least since the 4th Century (it is mentioned explicitly by St. Cyril of Jerusalem). From the beginning of the Church, this prayer has been part of the vesting prayers in the Byzantine tradition. In the Syriac and Coptic liturgies, the washing of hands takes place after the Creed. At any rate, the reasoning is simple: we all need God’s mercy.

On our own, we can do nothing. We need God’s pardon and abundant mercy. After we have prayed for the dead in the Commemoratio Pro Defunctis, we once again turn to God, ordained priest and people, asking Him for mercy. When the priest says the words “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” (“To us, also… though sinners”) he strikes his breast as a gesture of penitence. He expresses the wishes of all the faithful gathered that our hope is in the abundant mercy of God.

We are sure in the hope that, receiving His mercy, we too will share in the fellowship of the holy Apostles and Martyrs who have gone before, marked with the sign of faith. We beseech God, begging Him to admit us into the company of Heaven. Because this is our lifelong goal: to get to Heaven! We are called to be saints, to share in the joy-unending of eternal life with our Blessed Lord. If we are saved, then it is by the Blood of Jesus Christ shed on the Cross. There is nothing we can do to merit salvation. 

Of course, there are things that we must do, but these obligations and commands are not an independent action. Rather, our response and cooperation to the free grace of God is what is needed to live in Him. This is because of His great love. If God had made us as fleshy robots, doing His bidding without question, feeling, or thought, then we have not love. God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. This is why we are here. In cooperating with His grace to the end of our earthly life, we will come to share in the eternal glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Paradise. What a marvelous mystery! What a gift has been given to us!

However, we must remember where receiving this gift begins. It begins with humble submission to God’s will. As the priest strikes his breast at the outset of this phrase, we too approach God in humility and love, knowing that He is faithful to His promises. 

Let us cling to our Lord Jesus Christ, relying on the Holy Spirit, and remember His words: “‘Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (Jn. 14:21).’” On our own, we can do nothing. With Him, in humility, serving the will of Almighty God, we can do all things.

Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus, Part 2

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all your Saints: admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.

            We desire to share eternally in the company of the holy Apostles and Martyrs of God, but who are they? In the Roman Canon, we have already mentioned in the Communicantes the original eleven Apostles (Judas is excluded, of course, and Matthias will be mentioned here), St. Paul, and many of the saintly Popes of the Early Church. The Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus includes eight more men and seven women.

            The first listed here is St. John the Baptist of whom our Lord said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist (Mt. 11:11),” and, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John (Lk. 7:28).” St. John the Baptist was the one who announced the coming of the Messiah. In Jesus’ day, he was a modern-day Isaiah, a great Prophet. He is also the son of Elizabeth who was a kinswoman to our Blessed Mother. Jesus and John are cousins of some close degree. His martyrdom is recorded in the Gospels. He was beheaded by King Herod for speaking publicly against his marital infidelity.

            St. Stephen is the first Christian martyr. He was a deacon of the Early Church in Jerusalem and was put to death by St. Paul (before his conversion) for speaking against the Pharisees. His impassioned sermon and death is recorded in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 7.

            Before Pentecost, St. Matthias was chosen by St. Peter and the other Apostles as the replacement for the betrayer of Christ, Judas Iscariot. Matthias was one of the disciples of Jesus from His baptism by John until His Ascension. There is no other information given about him in the New Testament.

            St. Barnabas, the kinsman of the Evangelist Mark, was from the island of Cyprus and was a companion of St. Paul on his first missionary journey. Though the method is uncertain, it is known that St. Barnabas was martyred.

            St. Ignatius of Antioch was also known as Theophoros (Greek – “God-bearing”) and Nurono (Greek – “The fire-bearer”). He was the bishop of Antioch during the First Century A.D. and was traditionally believed to be appointed by St. Peter. Along with St. Clement of Rome and St. Polycarp, he is one of the most important of the Apostolic Church Fathers. He wrote letters which covered the theology of the Church, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.  It is possible that St. Ignatius was martyred in the Colosseum in Rome by being thrown to the beasts.

            Pope St. Alexander was the Bishop of Rome from 107 A.D. until his death in 115 A.D. A Fifth Century book credits him with inserting the Institution Narrative or the Qui Pridie into the Mass. Likewise, the tradition of mixing blessed salt with blessed water to purify Christian homes is attributed to him.

            St. Marcellinus and St. Peter the Exorcist died in 304 A.D. under persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Marcellinus was a priest and Peter was an exorcist. Little else is known about their lives. However, Pope Damasus  said that he heard about these two saints from their executioner who would later convert and become Christian. The witness of a martyr is certainly powerful! Besides being mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Latin Rite, these two saints are also mentioned in the Ambrosian Rite which is an ancient liturgy used in the archdiocese of Milan.

Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus, Part 3

To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all your Saints: admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.

            The final seven names listed in the Roman Canon are women saints of the Church. Sts. Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, and Anastasia are all saints of the Roman Empire in the early Church.

            St. Felicity was the pregnant servant girl of St. Perpetua. They were both thrown to the lions in the Roman province of Carthage in Africa in the very early third century. A high-born noble woman, Perpetua cared for her young infant while in prison. She was 22 years old at the time. St. Felicity gave birth just days before her martyrdom. Despite the torrent of suffering at the end of their young lives, these women exuded the care of mother’s heart. St. Perpetua and her servant St. Felicity were martyred by beheading for refusing to denounce Christ.

            St. Agatha was a third century Sicilian woman who was accused of being Christian and imprisoned. As a young girl, she was said to have chosen Jesus as her spouse. A martyr, St. Agatha finally gave up her spirit in prayer while being horrendously tortured. There is a claim that her intercession a year later protected an Italian city from a volcano.

            St. Lucy, like St. Agatha, was a Sicilian noblewoman. She was blinded and so is depicted with a chalice with two eyeballs in it. She was also pulled by oxen, covered in pitch, resin, and hot oil, and then died by having her throat cut. She died along many other Christian martyrs under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

            St. Agnes was a twelve year old girl whose name means “Lamb” in Latin. St. Jerome writes of her: “Agnes is praised in the literature and speech of all peoples, especially in the Churches, she who overcame both her age and the tyrant, and consecrated by her martyrdom to chastity.” St. Agnes was the daughter of a wealthy Roman in the fourth century. On her feast a pair of lambs are blessed by the pope, then the wool is taken on Holy Thursday to create the pallium that a new metropolitan archbishop would wear on his shoulders, which is to symbolize his authority in Christ, his call to being pure of heart, and his bond of unity to the Bishop of Rome.

            St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, married a pagan man named Valerian. Seeing her love of the Lord, her husband and his brother converted to Christianity. The pagan prefect of the city learned this and ordered that she be killed in her own home. She survived and was stabbed in the neck; according to legend, she lived for three more days building others up in the faith and asking that her home be converted into a church. Her husband and his brother also met the death of a martyr.

            Finally, Anastasia, which in Greek means “to rise again” or “resurrection” was from Rome and was martyred in modern day Serbia in 304 A.D. along with 270 other men and women. She was known to be a miraculous healer and an exorcist. The traditional commemoration of St. Anastasia is on Christmas Day.

            These great women are from the highest and lowest strata of society, in different locations, and in different cultural contexts. This shows us beautifully the universal call to holiness. Not all will die a martyr’s death, but all are called to be witnesses to Christ with his or her life. Holy women, saints of God, pray for us!

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