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Letter to Parishioners

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 30)

Preparing for Mass
From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have been urged to approach the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ in a spirit of prayerful preparation. After passing on to the church in Corinth the holy tradition of the Eucharistic words of Jesus, St. Paul warned: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).
St Ambrose (339-97), the Bishop of Milan, and one of the original four doctors of the Latin-speaking Church, shared his own personal preparation prayer with his people, to encourage them to approach Christ's alter with reverence and humility. The prayer displays faith's humility, but also its boldness.
I draw near, loving Lord Jesus Christ
to the table of your most delightful banquet
in fear and trembling,
a sinner, presuming not upon my own merits,
but trusting rather in your goodness and mercy.
I have a heart and body
defiled by my many offenses,
a mind and tongue
over which I have kept no good watch.
Therefore, O loving God, O awesome Majesty,
I turn in my misery, caught in snares,
to you the fountain of mercy,
hastening to you for healing,
flying to you for protection;
and while I do not look forward
to having you as Judge,
I long to have you as Savior.
To you, O Lord, I display my wounds,
to you I uncover my shame.
I am aware of my many and great sins,
for which I fear,
but I hope in your mercies,
which are without number.
Look upon me, then, with eyes of mercy,
Lord Jesus Christ, eternal King,
God and Man, crucified for mankind.
Listen to me, as I place my hope in you,
have pity on me, full of miseries and sins,
you, who will never cease
to let the fountain of compassion flow.
Hail, O Saving Victim,
offered for me and for the whole human race
on the wood of the Cross.
Hail, O noble and precious Blood,
flowing from the wounds
of Jesus Christ my crucified Lord,
and washing away the sins of all the world.
Remember, Lord, your creature,
whom you redeemed by your Blood.
I am repentant of my sins,
I desire to put right what I have done.
Take from me, therefore, most merciful Father,
all my iniquities and sins,
so that, purified in mind and body,
I may worthily taste the Holy of Holies.
And grant that this sacred foretaste
of your Body and Blood
which I, though unworthy, intend to receive,
may be the remission of my sins,
the perfect cleansing of my faults,
the banishment of shameful thoughts,
and the rebirth of right sentiments;
and may it encourage
a wholesome and effective performing
of deeds pleasing to you
and be a firm defense of body and soul
against the snares of my enemies.

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