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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

AT the end of the last secret prayer the priest raises his voice and says, “Per omnia sæcula sæculorum,” to which the server answers, “Amen.” He then says, “Dominus vobiscum,” without, however, turning to the people, and now enters upon the Preface, so called because it is, as it were, a preparation for the most solemn part of the whole Mass—viz., the Canon. The reason why the priest does not turn round to the people at this place when he says “Dominus vobiscum” is founded on that ancient custom which once prevailed in the West, and still continues in the East, of drawing aside the sanctuary curtains so as to hide the altar from the congregation the moment the Preface began. As there were no persons in sight then to salute, it was not deemed necessary to turn round, and a vestige of this ancient practice is here kept up (Kozma, p. 193).

After the “Dominus vobiscum” the priest raises his hands aloft and says, “Sursum corda”—“Your hearts upwards”; that is, “Lift your thoughts to heaven”—to which the server responds, “We have lifted them up to the Lord.” The “Sursum corda” is, no doubt, taken from the Lamentations of Jeremias (3:41), and is found in all the liturgies of the East and West. The solemn motion of the priest’s hands, as he raises them on high while pronouncing this sacred admonition, is aptly compared by several liturgical writers to the outspreading wings of a dove when going to fly, and forcibly recalls to mind that beautiful saying of King David, “Who will give me the wings of a dove, and I will fly and be at rest?” (Ps. 54) After the “Sursum corda” the priest says, “Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro”—“Let us return thanks to the Lord our God”—to which the server answers, “Dignum et justum est”—“It is meet and just.” The priest then enters on the Preface proper, and continues reciting it to the end without further interruption.

The question is sometimes asked, Where does the Preface really begin? Strictly speaking, not till the “Sursum corda,” for the “Per omnia sæcula sæculorum” belongs to the conclusion of the last secret prayer, and the “Dominus vobiscum” is a salutation to the people; but as all our missals begin the Preface at the “Per omnia sæcula sæculorum,” it is well that this should be considered its true beginning.

In the Mozarabic Liturgy the Preface is called the Inlatio, or Inference, from the fact, as Cardinal Bona conjectures, that the priest infers from the responses of the people that it is meet and just to give thanks to the Lord. In some ancient manuscripts it is called the Immolation, for the reason that it is, as it were, an introduction to that most sacred part of the Mass where Christ our Lord, the Immaculate Lamb, is newly immolated as on Calvary of old.








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