We continue with the series on Prefaces of the Roman Missal by Canon Alan Griffiths, today we look at Preface I of the Sundays in Ordinary Time.
The Paschal Mystery and the People of God
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For through his Paschal Mystery,
he accomplished the marvellous deed,
by which he has freed us from the yoke of sin and death,
summoning us to the glory of being now called
a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for your own possession,
to proclaim everywhere your mighty works,
for you have called us out of darkness
into your own wonderful light.
And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim.
The title of this text echoes two fundamental themes of Vatican II: the Easter/Pentecost event, or ‘Paschal Mystery’ and the Church, founded in that Event.
The textual origins of this Preface are found principally in two of the early medieval major sources of Roman liturgical prayer, the so-called ‘Verona Sacramentary’ and the ‘Gelasian Sacramentary.’
Its scriptural basis is drawn from both Hebrew and Christian scripture. In Ex.19:5,6 God tells his people that if they obey his Law: You will be to me a royal priesthood and a holy nation.
1 Peter 2:9 takes up the same words: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that you may proclaim the praises of the One who has called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
The same theme is found in Apoc.1:5-6 and 5:9-10.
Christ’s ‘work’ (opus) in the Paschal Mystery is described as ‘wonderful’ (mirificum). It is a ‘passover’(we have to hear that word in the term ‘Paschal), i.e., a journey, exodus or passage, from sin/death into a glory, that of becoming God’s covenanted people, through the ‘passage’ Sacraments of Christian Initiation.
St. Ambrose, speaking to people he had recently initiated, reminds them that it was in their baptismal anointing with holy Chrism that each one of you is anointed into a priesthood, anointed into a kingdom; but it is a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual priesthood (De Sacramentis 4:3).
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II (Chapter 2:10) in a beautiful passage, gives us a Lectio Divina on all these themes:
“Christ the Lord, the High Priest taken from among mortals (Hebr.5:1-5), has created a new people. He has made them a kingdom and priests to God his Father (Apoc.1:5 and 5:9-10). Those who are baptised, are consecrated by rebirth and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, so that in every way they may offer the spiritual sacrifices of the Christian, and proclaim the power of the One who has called them out of darkness into his own wonderful light (from 1 Pet.2:4-10). Therefore, the whole community of Christ’s disciples, as they persevere in prayer and praise of God (cf. Acts 2:42-47), make of themselves a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God (cf. Rom,12:1), and act as witnesses to Christ everywhere on earth, while to those who ask them, they give an account of the hope which is in them, the hope of eternal life (cf. 1 Pet.3:15).