Bow Down Your Heads to God

Lent is a liturgical season when changes occur during the ferial, or weekday Mass. If asked, most of us would point to the fact that the priest does not say the Gloria as the most obvious difference. We might also list such things as the purple penitential vestments and the paucity of flowers on the altar. We might also highlight the fact that there is a particular Mass for each ferial day of Lent — something we don’t see in any other liturgical season.

But how many of us have paid attention to the fact that there is a very special prayer, just after the Postcommunion, at every Lenten weekday Mass? This prayer is called the Oratio super populum, or the Prayer over the people, and has a long liturgical history.

The Prayer over the people during Lent always begins, Humiliate capita vestra Deo. “Bow down your heads to God.” As Father John Zuhlsdorf wrote on his blog in 2016, “We need special graces to carry out our Lenten discipline.” This is a beautifully succinct way of explaining why the Church directs the priest to say these brief but sublime prayers just before the Blessing. To elaborate on what Father Z. writes, this prayer clearly demonstrates the solicitude of Holy Mother Church for the requisite spiritual needs of her children during what can be an arduous time, spiritually and perhaps even materially.

As the priest begins the prayer bidding us to bow our heads, we humble ourselves before Almighty God and read along as the priest invokes the divine assistance we most desperately need.

Father Zuhlsdorf, citing the famous liturgist, Fr. Joseph A. Jungmann, in The Mass of the Roman Rite, tells us: “Jungmann emphasizes that, as Mass ends, we are at a ‘frontier’ moment, the threshold of the sacred precinct of the church and the world.  When properly formed we want the influence of our intimate contact with the divine to carry over into the outside world.”

As we prepare to leave the sanctity of the church, we take what we have been given in the Mass we have just heard, and we go out into the world, to discharge the duties of our vocation. As Father Zuhlsdorf so aptly concludes: “You need the light that God offers you in the teachings of the Church to guide your footsteps.”

4 thoughts on “Bow Down Your Heads to God

  1. What a beautiful reflection: Bow Down Your Heads is just perfect as we draw Lent to a close (near enough!)

    I hope you don’t mind, maybe you will be pleased, but I’ve prepared to post this as a new thread on the Catholic Truth Scotland blog first thing tomorrow. Of course, I’m linking to this blog to attribute it to source.

    There are some beautiful articles on this blog – just beautiful. Thank you for it.

    • Thank you so very much, Patricia. Your kind words and helpful guidance have always been a source of inspiration for us. Let us continue to collaborate, as we fight the good fight for our Holy Faith, for the sake of generations of Catholics to come.

  2. Agreed, Marinaio – Soldiers of Christ collaborating across The Pond!

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