Vere Sanctus es, Domine, fons omnis sanctitatis. Haec ergo dona quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiant Domini nostri Iesu Christi.1
Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.2
Truly, O Lord, you are the Holy One, the source of all holiness. Therefore, we beseech you, sanctify these gifts by the dew of your Spirit so that they become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.3
Vere Sanctus es, Domine, fons omnis sanctitatis: Origen calls the Trinity the source of all holiness.4 The Psalms call God the fountain of life.5 St. Gregory Thaumaturgus calls the Holy Spirit "sanctity itself, the Leader of sanctification" some manuscripts include "fountain of holiness."6 The text of the Gloria in excelsis speaks of Jesus Christ as "tu solus sanctus" without, however, meaning to attribute this property to the Son alone for it is added: "cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patri."7 Likewise, the title Holy One is used here for the Father not in an exclusionary sense of properly belonging to Him alone, but rather as that which is common to all three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. The Angelic Doctor explains that "'Whatever by nature belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son,' such as life, truth, light and the like. These are said, however, to be proper to the Father not in relation to the Son, and proper to the Son not in relation to the Father, but in both in relation to creatures, to which in contrast with God the aforementioned do not properly belong. Or they may be said to be proper to each Person, not as pertaining to him exclusively, but as pertaining to Him of Himself."8 And this is true also of the Holy Spirit because what is proper to the nature of the Godhead is proper to each Divine Person in Himself.
The whole clause is a conjunctive clause which connects the Prefatio, Sanctus, and the account of the Last Supper. The "Vere Sanctus" especially prominent in the old Gallican Rite and continues in the Mozarabic Rite though in a different form.9 The Mozarabic form is addressed to the Father put is a predication of the attributes of "He who comes in the name of the Lord".10 The Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom also has a connection clause which introduces the actions and words of the Last Supper and the words of consecration: "With these blessed powers, O Master who lovest every human being, we too cry out and say: Holy art Thou and all holy, and magnificent is Thy glory. Thou hast so loved this world as to give Thy Only-Begotten Son that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have life everlasting".11 The Vere Sanctus is a modern addition to the Anaphora of St. Hippolytus, which does not have the Sanctus and so obviously does not need the Post Sanctus to connect the preface with the following prayers.12 The introduction is brief such as that found in the Roman Canon with the "Te igitur, clementissime Pater" which immediately proceeds to beg that the Father might bless the gifts there present on the altar.
Haec ergo dona quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiant Domini nostri Iesu Christi: The Church after recalling that the Father is the Holy One and fountain (source) of all holiness proceeds to humbly beg that He send His Spirit to make the gifts of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The imagery used is one that has gotten a lot of press lately with the debates over the translation of the Ordinary of the Mass. Literally the latin of the text asks the Father to send the dew of the Spirit to sanctify the gifts. Fr. Zuhlsdorf of the blog "What Do The Prayers Really Say", with help of some of his very astute readers have answered any such objections. The literal translation of this phrase is grounded in Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church.
In the John 6 discourse on the Holy Eucharist, our Lord foretells the gift that He will give us and draws an explicit correlation between the Holy Eucharist and the manna which God gave the Hebrews while the sojourned in the desert on their way to the promised land. "And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat."13; "When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it."14
Many other reference to dew may be found in the scriptures such as Isaac's blessing to Jacob: "God give thee the dew of heaven"15 and his words to Esau "Far from the fertile earth shall be your dwelling; far from the dew of the heavens above!"16 David writes "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethern to dwell together in unity: Like the precious oil upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, that ran down to the edge of his robe; As the dew of Hermon, that descends upon Mount Sion: For there the Lord bestows the blessing, life for evermore."17 From these verses we see how the Lord's blessing is evoked by the image of dew. In the Psalm here quoted, it is juxtaposed with the priestly ordination which is like the "dew of Hermon that descends upon Mount Sion" it is through the priests that the Lord bestows his blessing: everlasting life. And is this not the blessing that our Lord spoke of in his discourse: "If any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."18
St. Bellarmine, in his exposition of the Psalms, says that the oil of annointing symbolizes the "supernatural graces that flow from Christ, as the head, and from Him on the prelates of the Church, who are indicated by the beard, and through them on the faithful in general, indicated by the fringe of the garment. He (the psalmist) then compares such union of brethern to the dew that falls on the mountain . . . which is from Christ, who is so elevated, and so abounds in such heavenly dew; and therefore, St. John said, 'And of His fulness we have all received.'"19 Pope Paul VI, wrote similarly, "Further, the cathedral temple is an expression of the image of the Church of Christ, praying, singing, adoring all over the world: surely it is to be viewed as an image of His Mystical Body, whose members are bound together through a structure of love, nourished by the dewing of celestial gifts."20
St. Ambrose in a sermon speaks of the washing of the disciples by our Lord, evoking the context of the Last Supper, wherein he tells us that the water with which He washed their feet was "heavenly dew". In a prayer St. Ambrose composes after reflection he says, "As a servant, Thou dost wash the feet of Thy disciples; as God, Thou sendest dew from heaven." St. Ambrose continues, "Damasus cleansed not, Peter cleansed not, Ambrose cleansed not, Gregory cleansed not; for ours is the ministry, but the sacraments are Thine. For it is not in man's power to confer what is divine, but it is, O Lord, Thy gift and that of the Father, as Thou hast spoken by the prophets, saying: 'I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and daughter shall prophesy.' This is that typical dew from heaven, this is that gracious rain, as we read: 'A gracious rain, dividing for His inheritance.' For the Holy Spirit is not subject to any foreign power or law, but is the Arbiter of this own freedom, dividing all things according to the decision of His own will, to each, as we read, severally as He wills."21
Finally, we read the words of the Prophet Hosea: "I will be the dew for Israel: he shall blosom like the lily; He shall stike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blosom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim, What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. 'I am like a verdant cypress tree'-Because of me you bear fruit!"22 What wonderful imagery in such a brief clause, how lovely does the liturgy proclaim the great mysteries of the Catholic faith!
1. The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Co., NY, 1985, p. 1064.
2. Ibid., p. 549.
3. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS Blog
4. De principiis, Origen 1.4.2 "totius sanctitatis fons"
5. Psalmus 35:10 "fons vitae"
6. CCEL S. Gregorius Thaumaturgus, Creed, translation Rufinus "sanctitas sanctificationis proestratix" and another Latin version "sanctitas et fons sanctitatis et aedificationis administrator"
7. Gloria in excelsis
8. Contra errores Graecorum, Pars I Caput VI: "Praemittit enim quod quaecumque naturaliter dicuntur inesse patri, illa omnia insunt filio, sicut vita, veritas, lux et huiusmodi. Haec autem dicuntur esse propria patri non in respectu ad filium, nec filio in respectu ad patrem, sed utrique in respectu ad creaturam, cui in comparatione ad Deum non proprie praedicta conveniunt; vel proprium, hic dicitur non quod convenit uni soli, sed quod proprie et vere alicui convenit secundum se."
9. The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, Fr. Fortescue, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam, NH 2003, pp. 103, 167, 328. Original publication 1912.
10. Gabriel S Diaz Patri, Synopsis Rituum, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Centro de Estudios Filosoficos Medievales S.E.L.M., 2nd Edition August 2004: Mozarabicus (First Sunday of Advent): "Vere sanctus et gloriosus Dominus noster Iesus Christus filius tuus"; Mendoza, Liturgia Hispanica vel Mozarabica, S.E.L.M., 2004: "Vere Sanctus; vere benedictus Dominus noster Iesus Christus filius tuus".
11. Liturgy, Kyr Jospeh Raya, Alleluia Press, Ontario, Canada 2001, p. 66.
12. Cf. Anaphora of St. Hippolytus; Canonum Reliquiae
13. Exodus 16:13-15; "quoque ros iacuit per circuitum castrorum cumque operuisset superfaciem terrae apparuit in solitudine minutum et quasi pilo tunsum in similtudinem pruinae super terram quod cum vidissent filii Israel dixerunt ad invicem man hu quod significat quid est hoc ignorabant enim quid esset quibus ait Moses iste est panis quem Dedit Dominus vobis ad vescendum" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.
14. Numbers 11:9; "cumque descenderet nocte super castra ros descendebat pariter et man" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.
15. Genesis 27:28; "det tibi Deus de rore caeli" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.
16. Genesis 27:39; "in pinquedine terrae et in rore caeli desuper" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.
17. Psalm 132; "Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum sicut unguentem in capite quod descendit in barbam barbam Aaron quod descendit in ora vestimenti eius sicut ros Hermon qui descendit in montes Sion quoniam illic mandavit Dominus benedictionem et vitam usque in saeculum" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.
18. John 6:51; "si quis manducaverit ex hoc pane vivet in aeternum et panis quem ego dabo caro mea est pro mundi vita" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.
19. A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, S. Robert Bellarmine, trans. Ven. John O'Sullivan, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam, NH, 2003. Original publication in English 1866. Psalm 132.
20. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS, Paul VI: Nourished by the dewing. From Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Mirificus Eventus.
21. Ibid, St. Ambrose on "dew"; Cf. St. Paulinus on "dew"; St. Augustine on "dew"; Dew and the Holy Ghost.
22. Hosea 14:6-9: "ero quasi ros Israel germinabit quasi lilium et erumpet radix eius ut Libani ibunt rami eius et odor eius ut Libani convertentur sedentes in umbra eius vivent tritico et germinabunt quasi vinea memoriale eius sicut vinum Libani Ephraim quid mihi ultra idola ego exaudiam et dirigam eum ego ut abietem virentem ex me fructus tuus inventus est" Biblia Sacra, iuxta vulgatam versionem.