by St. Ambrose Bishop of Mediolansus (Milan)
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Who art the true High Priest and Bishop of our souls: Who didst upon the Altar of the Cross offer Thyself to God the Father to be a pure and undefiled sacrifice for us miserable sinners, Who hast likewise given us Thy Flesh to eat and Thy Blood to drink: and hast established this Mystery in the power of the Holy Spirit, saying, Do this in remembrance of me: I beseech Thee by the same Thy precious Blood, the ransom of our salvation. I beseech Thee by that wondrous and ineffable love wherewith Thou dost vouchsafe to love us (miserable and unworthy sinners) washing us clean from all our sins in Thine own Blood. Teach me, Thy unworthy servant, whom among Thy manifold mercies Thou hast vouchsafed to share in the benefits of Thy Priesthood. (And this through no merits of my own, but only of Thine abundant mercy!) Teach me, I pray Thee, by Thy Holy Spirit to draw near to so great a Mystery, as is meet and right, with reverence and honor, and in all godliness and holy fear. Make me by Thy grace always so to believe and understand, to feel and firmly to hold, to speak, and to think, concerning this holy Mystery as shall be well-pleasing to Thee and profitable to my soul.
Let Thy good Spirit enter into my heart, that with voiceless utterance and without sound of words He may speak there, all Thy truth, which same, hidden under the veil of holiness, passeth man’s understanding. Of Thy great mercy vouchsafe to me to take part in this holy Mystery with purity of heart and integrity of mind. Deliver me with the gracious and unfailing guard of Thy blessed Angels, that by their mighty protection the enemies of good may be banished thence. By the power of this great Mystery and by the hand of that holy Angel whom Thou dost send me, drive far from me and from all Thy servants the spirit of hardness of heart, the spirit of pride and vainglory, the spirit of envy and blasphemy, the spirit of fornication and uncleanness, the spirit of doubt and unfaithfulness. Confound them that persecute us, destroy them that make haste to destroy us.
O King of virgins, Lover of chastity and purity; pour on me the heavenly dew of Thy blessing, to quench in my flesh any smoldering embers of lustful desires, that I may abide in continual chastity both of body and soul. Mortify in my members all incentives of the flesh, all inordinate affections, all motions of concupiscence. And give unto me true and abiding chastity, and all other gifts which be pleasing to Thee. Grant me thus to offer unto Thee this Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving in purity of body and cleanness of heart. For who can understand what a sorrow of heart and what a fountain of tears is needful! What reverence and fear, what chastity of body and purity of heart is required! And yet only thus should one draw near to assist at that divine and heavenly Sacrifice. For herein Thy Flesh is eaten indeed and Thy Blood is drunk indeed. For herein things beneath and things above, things earthly and things heavenly, are made one. For herein are Thy holy Angels ever present. For herein in a wonderful and ineffable order Thou hast constituted Thyself to be both Sacrifice and Priest.
Who can be worthy to offer this Sacrifice unless Thou, Almighty God, dost make him worthily so to do! I know, O Lord, and know of a surety, and to Thy goodness do I confess the same, that I am not worthy to draw near to so great a Mystery, because of my grievous sins and my manifold negligence. But I know, and truly believe with all my heart, and confess with my mouth, that Thou canst make me worthily so to do, Who alone canst justify and sanctify sinners. O my God, I pray Thee, by this Thy almighty power, that Thou wouldest vouchsafe to me a sinner worthily to take my part in this Sacrifice. And thereto endue me with fear and trembling, with purity of heart and a fountain of tears, with spiritual gladness and heavenly rejoicing. Grant that my soul may feel the sweetness of Thy blessed Presence, and the guard of Thy holy Angels round about me.
For I, O Lord, having in devout remembrance Thy holy passion, draw near unto Thy Altar. Although a sinner, I draw near in the Sacrifice which Thou didst institute , and which Thou hast commanded us to offer unto Thee in Thy memory and for our salvation. I beseech Thee, Almighty God, that Thou wouldest receive the same for the benefit of Thy holy Church, and the people which Thou hast purchased with Thine own Blood. And forasmuch as Thou dost vouch safe to place Thy Priesthood upon sinful men; and to give each Priest as a mediator between Thee and the same Thy people: I pray Thee that wherever Thou findest not the testimony of good works in them; yet Thou wouldest not make void the office and ministry which Thou hast committed unto their charge: that the Price of their Redemption, for whom Thou hast vouchsafed to offer Thyself to be a perfect Oblation and Satisfaction, be not lost through any of our unworthiness. And moreover, O Lord, I lift up before Thee (if Thou wilt vouchsafe to look favorably thereon): the tribulations of all peoples and the perils of all nations; the sighing of all prisoners and the sorrows of the fatherless; the necessities of them that travel, the wants of the sick, the depression of the weary; the failing powers of all the aged, the aspirations of all young men, the resolutions of all maidens, and the lamentations of all widows.
For Thou, O Lord, hast mercy upon all men and hatest nothing that Thou hast made. Remember how frail is our nature, for Thou art our Father, for Thou art our God. Be not angry with us as we have deserved, and withdraw not Thou Thy mercy from us. For we do not present our supplications before Thee because we are righteous, but rather because Thou art compassionate. Take away from us our iniquities, and in Thy mercy kindle in us the fire of Thy Holy Spirit. Take away the stony heart from us, and give us an heart of flesh; that we may love Thee, cherish Thee, delight in Thee, follow Thee, and enjoy Thee. We beseech Thee, O Lord, of Thy mercy, to show the light of Thy countenance upon Thy family performing this sacred office, to the honor of Thy Name. And to the intent that their supplications be not in vain, nor their petitions of none effect, do Thou put into our minds such prayers as it shall be well-pleasing unto Thee to hear and to fulfill.
We pray Thee also, O Lord, holy Father, for the souls of the faithful departed: that this most comfortable Sacrament may be to them salvation, health, rejoicing, and refreshment. O Lord my God, grant unto them this day to feast abundantly on Thee, the Living Bread; Who didst come down from heaven, and givest life unto the world. Grant them to eat Thy Flesh, holy and blessed, Who art the immaculate Lamb that takest away the sins of the world; even the Flesh which Thou didst take of the womb, holy and glorious, of the blessed Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Grant them to drink of that fountain of love which flowed from Thy sacred side, pierced by the soldier’s spear that being thereby refreshed and satisfied, restored and comforted, they may rejoice in giving praise and glory unto Thee. I pray Thee, O Lord, of Thy mercy, that Thou wouldest send upon the bread now to be offered unto Thee, the fullness of Thy blessing and the sanctifying powers of Thy Godhead. Send down also, O Lord, the unseen and incomprehensible majesty of Thy Holy Spirit, as once Thou didst send the same upon the sacrifice of the fathers: that he may make our oblations to be indeed Thy Body and Blood And because I am so unworthy, teach me to approach this holy Mystery with purity of heart and with a devout sorrow for my sins, in reverence and in awe. So shalt Thou lovingly and graciously accept this Sacrifice at my hands for the salvation of all men, both living and departed.
I beseech Thee also, O Lord, by this same sacred Mystery of Thy Body and Blood whereby, in Thy holy Church, we are daily given to eat and drink; are washed and sanctified, and made partakers in Thy one Almighty Godhead; grant to me Thy holy virtues, that being filled therewith, I may draw near unto Thine Altar with a good conscience; that so this heavenly Sacrament may be unto me life and salvation. For Thou, Who art ever holy and blessed, hast said: The Bread which I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world: I am the living Bread which came down from heaven: If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever. O Bread of Sweetness, give healing to my taste, that I may perceive the delights of Thy love. Deliver me from mine earthiness that I may find no sweetness in anything apart from Thee. O Bread of purest whiteness, that containest all delights, and all pleasant savors! O Thou Who dost ever refresh us, and never failest! Grant that my heart may feed on Thee, and that my inmost soul may be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor. The Angels do feed upon Thee with full mouth. Grant that I, a pilgrim and a sojourner, may feed on Thee in such measure as I may. And thereby grant that I fail not in my journey, with such provision to stay me.
O Bread, holy, pure, and living, Who didst come down from heaven and givest life unto the world! Come into my heart, and cleanse me from all defilement both of flesh and of spirit. Enter into my person, and heal and cleanse me both inwardly and outwardly. Be the protection and abiding health of my body as well as of my soul. Drive far from me all the enemies that lie in wait for me. Grant that they may fly far off from the presence of Thy power. Grant that being in all things defended by Thee, I may walk in a straight way into Thy Kingdom. For there we shall no more behold Thee in a mystery as in this present time. But rather we shall see Thee face to face, when Thou shalt deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, and God shall be all in all. For on that day shalt Thou satisfy me with a wondrous fullness, so that I shall no more hunger or thirst for ever, O Jesus. Who with the same God the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.”