Drama of the Divine Liturgy (Prayer of Humble Access)

The Prayer of Humble Access

The priest, either during the close of the Agnus Dei or in a period of silence following the Agnus Dei, says  another private prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto thine Apostles Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; Regard not our sins, but the faith of thy Church; and grant to it that peace and unity which is according to thy will, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Through this prayer the priest is further acknowledging that it is through the mercy of God that we are able to approach this sacrament and that we desire God to look beyond our sins to our faith, for we are unworthy to be in the presence. Furthermore, the priest is acknowledging that it is peace and unity that we desire, both peace and unity with God and peace and unity with one another. It is at this point that he transitions to the Prayer of Humble Access. 

We are about to partake of a heavenly banquet, feeding on that which now resides on the altar: the real presence of Christ. Not only does the priest privately need to acknowledge that we are unworthy of our own merit to receive these manifold and great mercies, but the congregation as a whole needs to recall this reality as well. As a result, the priest, then, on behalf of the congregation, prays the Prayer of Humble Access:

WE DO not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.  

This prayer reiterates the humble position we have before God. The priest either genuflects and then rises to say this prayer or remains kneeling throughout the prayer, both being postures of humility that coincide with the meaning of the prayer. We have done nothing to earn even the crumbs of grace that may fall from the table of this divine banquet, but God has welcomed us to come to actually sit at this table and dine, not on the crumbs, but on the fullness of Christ through the Real Presence of Jesus.

 

(as published in St. Luke's Sunday Bulletin, 09/02/18)