HEN ABOUT TO RECEIVE the Precious Blood in the traditional Latin Mass, the priest utters the verse from the Psalm: “What shall I render to the Lord for all that He hath rendered to me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies.”
In the Summa theologiae (IIa-IIae, q. 80, a. 1), Saint Thomas quotes the first verse―“What shall I render to the Lord for all that He hath rendered to me?”―as a perfect illustration of the virtue of religion, whereby we give what we can to the Lord but can never give enough, never give a gift equal to what He has given us.
Reading this years ago made me see that the placing of that verse right at the climactic point when the Lord’s Blood is drunk emphasizes the aspect of justice in the Mass: that man strives to make a return, but the best return he can make is actually to receive Jesus Christ into his own body and allow Jesus to thank the Father in and through him, through his own finite freedom.
That is why the prayer immediately continues: “I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord.” The infinitely just and holy God comes, in mercy, to dwell within, so that man might be able to offer himself, joined to Christ, as a worthy oblation to God. The mercy of God, entering into the soul, makes it possible for man to be justly related to God―for the Christian incorporated into Christ has “God from God, Light from Light” within him, and between the Father and Son there is the most exalted love and the most sublime exemplar of justice, as if each were eternally giving to the other his perfect due. The Father not only generates the Son, but “takes” the Son, receives Him back, in an eternal reciprocal love. Holy Communion places one into this reciprocal love. That is why the chalice is spoken of as “calicem salutis perpetuae.”
This little prayer fittingly concludes: “Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies.” What a cause of praise―to receive the Lord himself, the very one upon whom we are calling! What a cause of protection from our enemies! The Lord will save us, for He has come to dwell within us and to increase the abiding presence of His grace.
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