Prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas: before the Mass

September 20, 2011

While St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is mainly known as an intellectual giant for the faith, the Angelic Doctor also wrote many poems, prayers, and other devotional works throughout his life.

Many of these prayers and verses, some of them only a sentence long, were collected by later generations of Dominican friars and bound in a small book called the libellus precum (little book of prayers).

One especially popular prayer is the Oratio ante Missam or Prayer before Mass:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, ecce accedo ad sacramentum unigeniti Filii tui, Domini nostri, Iesu Christi; accedo tamquam infirmus ad medicum vitae, immundus ad fontem misericordiae, caecus ad lumen claritatis aeternae, pauper et egenus ad Dominum caeli et terrae.  Rogo ergo immensae largitatis tuae abundantiam, quatenus meam curare digneris infirmitatem, lavare foeditatem, illuminare caecitatem, ditare paupertatem, vestire nuditatem; ut panem Angelorum, Regem regum et Dominum dominantium, tanta suscipiam reverentia et humilitate, tanta contritione et devotione, tanta puritate et fide, tali proposito et intentione, sicut expedit saluti animae meae….sic suscipere, ut corpori suo mystico merear incorporari, et inter eius membra connumerari.  O amantissime Pater, concede mihi dilectum Filium tuum, quem nunc velatum in via suscipere propono, revelata tandem facie perpetuo contemplari, Amen.

Almighty and eternal God, behold I approach the sacrament of your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ as one sick to the doctor of life, unclean to the fount of mercy, blind to the light of eternal clarity, poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.  And so I beg you in your generous mercy to heal my sickness, wash away my filth, enlighten my blindness, grace my poverty, and clothe my nakedness so that I may receive the bread of Angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, such contrition and devotion, purity and faith, and with such purpose and intention that it may advance the salvation of my soul….and that I may be worthy to be incorporated into His mystical body, and counted among His members.  O most loving Father, grant me your beloved Son, whom I now receive veiled in this sacrament, so to behold His face at last revealed, Amen.

Br. Louis Bertrand Mary O.P. has taken up the practice before Mass of meditating on the words St. Thomas Aquinas used to prepare before celebrating the divine liturgy:
“The prayer before Mass reminds us of how much we really need the grace of God and also of the unbelievable greatness of this Sacrament we receive…It helps us implore the Lord to grant us the full effects of the Holy Eucharist we receive.”

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