This evening I begin preaching the retreat for the Bishops of New England….a humbling task! Please pray for me! Over the course of the next several days I will offer reflections on twelve words from the Roman Canon. Tonight we start with Te, as in Te igitur clementissime Pater… After describing the Baptismal renunciation and profession of faith in Saint Ambrose’s Milan, I offered this little reflection:
…what direction we’re facing in, and where we’re going is the best indicator of who we are and what we believe.
We Catholics have a word for it: it’s metanoia: a radical turning toward God and away from all the dark shadows that tempt us to look away. And this metanoia, this radical turning to God, is precisely what the Roman Canon is calling us to in its opening words. Te igitur Clemntissime Pater: Turning away from the world and all of its distractions, I turn to Christ! Turning away from my worries and fears and pains, I turn to Christ! Turning away from selfishness and sin, I turn to Christ!Te igitur…
Saint John Paul described it as “a daily, repeated, constant, sustained turning to God…” And Pope Benedict, when reminded us that “True revolution consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. [For] what could ever save us apart from love?”
The Church’s Official hymns of rejoicing, Te deum laudamus, which an ancient legend ascribes to Saint Ambrose on the occasion of the baptism of a certain Augustine, reminds us of the spitting and the metanoia in 387 AD. There are other less interesting attributions in recent years, but none of them are as much fun as this one.
And while it ends with a series of petitionary psalms, tied together with the phrase Salvum fac populum tuum, it begins with an extended and some might say hysteric effort at repeated orientation toward God: Te Deum laudamus, Te aeternum Patrem, Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus, Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus, etc.
It is interesting that this hymn arises at roughly the same time as the Roman Canon. But even more interesting for us is what it is trying to do.
It is trying to grab us by the shoulders and turn us away from all that distracts us and make us look into the face of God: Te, igitur Clementissime Pater.