By V.K. McCartyAcquisitions Librarian Christoph Keller, Jr. Library
Ever wondered about the prayer text which surrounds us above eye level in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd here at General Seminary? Although during our services we may tend reflect on single words of it which are visible across the Chapel, the prayer is an imperative formula based in part on John 20:22-23. Here it is in Latin; note that we see it in all capital letters without punctuation and with the replacement of “J” with “I” and also “U” with “V” from the traditional Roman Latin alphabet:
Accipe Spiritum Sanctum in officium et opus Sacerdotis in Ecclesia Dei, per impositionem manuum nostrarum jam tibi commissum. Quorum remiseris peccata, remittuntur eis: et quorum retinueris, retenta sunt. Esto etiam fidelis verbi Dei, et sanctorum ejus Sacramentorum Dispensator: In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
In Through the Gates into the City, GTS grad Tim Boggs (M.Div.’07) describes the text and its setting in our Chapel: “Over the stalls, carved in stone and inlaid with gold leaf, appears the Latin 1662 version of the English consecration prayer for the Ordination of priests, a formula adapted from the Medieval Sarum Rite of the Salisbury Cathedral, which includes ‘be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God.’” Here is the rest of the translation in English as it appears in the Ordination section of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
RECEIVE the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Of this prayer, Cardinal John Newman said in Tract No. 1: “These, I say, were words spoken to us, and received by us, when we were brought nearer to GOD than at any other time of our lives… Therefore, my dear Brethren, act up to your professions. Let it not be said that you have neglected a gift; for if you have the Spirit of the Apostles on you, surely this is a great gift. ‘Stir up the gift of GOD which is in you.’”