Supplices Te Rogamus

Details of main high altar with a standig crucifix at the center in the St. Andreas of Babenhausen, Bavaria.
Details of main high altar with a standig crucifix at the center in the St. Andreas of Babenhausen, Bavaria.

Supplices Te Rogamus – English

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Supplices Te Rogamus – Latin

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: iube haec preferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in consepctu divinae maiestatis tuae; ut quotquot ex hac altaris participatione sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione caelesti et gratia repleamur. (Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.)

Supplices Te Rogamus, Part 1

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

            This prayer, the Supplices te Rogamus, is linked directly to the Unde et Memores and the Supra Quae. In the Supra Quae, we recognize the Sacrifice of the Mass as the re-presentation of Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. We acknowledge that He Himself is the Sacred Victim offered on our behalf. In the Unde et Memores, we recall the link to the gifts of Abel, Abraham, and Melchizedek. Now, we recognize in the Supplices te Rogamus the link between Heaven and Earth in the Holy Mass.

            What is offered here is not a request that the Body of Christ be locally transferred from the altar to Heaven. Jesus Christ is in Heaven already. Therefore, the meaning is mystical. Also, it is not a prayer invoking the power of God, like the epiclesis which calls down the power of the Holy Spirit on the gifts. Instead, it is a prayer of oblation or offering with a humble and receptive spirit.

            Interestingly, the word used in the official Latin text for “these gifts” is more literally translated as “these Things.” God sees the gifts, He has commanded the Mass be offered in this way, and they are priceless and pleasing to Him.

            The word Angel that is used comes from the Greek word “angelos” which means “messenger.” Certainly all of the angels and saints are worshiping at the throne of God and are taking part in the Sacred and Divine Liturgy of the Mass. So, who is this Angel?

            St. Ambrose taught that an angel assists at Mass when Christ is sacrificed on the altar. From the text of the Roman Canon, there is little information as to the identity of this Angel. Is it the guardian angel of the Church? Is it St. Michael the Archangel, the guardian angel of the Eucharist? Is it Jesus Christ Himself, used in a metaphorical sense? Does the word Angel stand in for each and every angel and saint who takes part in the Mystical Supper of the Lamb?

            It seems clear to me that what is asked here is not possible to any angel. In fact, what created being can accomplish what God has asked and what the Church re-presents here? Besides being a messenger, the Angel is the “One Sent” by the Father. So, it seems that the Angel is the Son of God, Jesus Christ: the One Sent by the Father. In fact, Jesus is the “Angel of Great Counsel” referenced in Isaiah 9:6. We also see the Word of God (albeit before the incarnation) active in creation in Genesis 1-2. We see the Word of the Lord coming to Noah (Genesis 5-6). There is also the mysterious passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus says that Abraham had seen Him (cf. Jn. 8:56).

            The point of this mystical prayer is to show that the Sacrifice of Heaven is the Sacrifice of Earth. The altar on high in the sight of the His divine majesty is the altar on which the Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered once more. Heaven and Earth meet by the power of the Holy Spirit and the mediation of the Angel of Great Counsel, our Lord Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Tim. 2:5).”

Supplices Te Rogamus, Part 2

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, so that all of us who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

            As Heaven and Earth meet, we approach the altar of God to receive the most holy Body and Blood of the Son of God so that we might be transformed by Him and filled with every grace and blessing. This participation at the altar begins in Baptism as we enter into the death of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection. This participation in the life of grace is then strengthened and amplified by Confirmation. This participation in the life of grace is then renewed and reconciled in the Sacrament of Penance. This participation is ultimately directed to the promise of eternal life in Heaven, which we receive as a foretaste and a pledge of future glory in reception of the Most Holy Eucharist in a state of grace.

            God calls to us and we respond. This offer is the life of grace. It is the answer to a strange passage from St. Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… (Col. 1:24).” Surely there is nothing lacking in Christ’s afflictions on the Cross. St. Paul is referring to our cooperation in the life of grace. In this instance, St. Paul is offering his own sufferings in union with the suffering of Christ. By “offering up” his suffering, he participates in the Sacrifice of Christ. The only thing that is “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions on the Cross is our participation. God wants us to enter into His Body, the Church. He wants to fill us with His sanctifying and life-giving grace and it pleases Him when we respond in gratitude and humility.

            We do not want to think, however, that God’s grace only has power in our cooperation. God’s power and majesty is infinitely superior to our humble cooperation. The point here is only to say that God beckons us to respond to His invitation to be one with Him, in thought, word, and deed. He offers us the chance to receive the Most Holy Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ into our own body and soul in the Eucharist. By our participation in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our reception of the Eucharist physically or spiritually, we participate actually, fully, and consciously in the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

            Through this mystical meeting of Heaven and Earth, we are transformed by our encounter with the divine. Through our openness and cooperation with God’s grace all throughout the week, but especially at Mass, we are made more like Him. It is necessary for us, in God’s grace, that we should be Catholic and fully, consciously, and actually participate in the Holy Mass. For it is this unique and singularly true way of participation that we come to eternal life, and, as we have seen, the saving effects of the Mass extend to the whole world in a mysterious way. As St. Padre Pio rightly said, “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.”

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