Redde mihi, Domine, stolam immortalitatis, quam perdidi in prævaricatione primi parentis: et, quamvis indignus accedo ad tuum sacrum mysterium, merear tamen gaudium sempiternum.
Restore to me, O Lord, the robe of immortality, which was lost in the transgression of our first parents, and, inasmuch as I approach your Sacred Mysteries in an unworthy manner, nevertheless, may I be made deserving of eternal blessedness.
We read about this stole in Luke 15,22:
Ταχὺ ἐξενέγκατε στολὴν τὴν πρώτην καὶ ἐνδύσατε αὐτόν.
Cito proferte stolam primam, et induite illum.
Quickly, bring out the first robe and clothe him.
This verse was first of all my the topic for my paper for the final exam for Augustinian Father Prosper Grech, who was teaching a course back in the day on the historical critical method when I was enrolled for the licentiate at the Pontifical Bibilical Insitute. He gave me full marks for that, and I turned that into the thesis for the licentiate under Father Stock, the Rector of the time and then the Secretary for the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
In short: When our Lord spoke these words, the phrase “first robe” was understood by all hearers, with some three hundred years of rabbinic tradition behind this already, as the first robe of Adam before the fall. Adam, you see, was not “naked” in the spiritual sense, but was clothed with the grace of God.
The extremist HCM commentators proclaimed their embarrassment with the Fathers of the Church for saying as much. But they were closer to the time, were they not, historically? They knew the tradition behind the phrase. We “moderns” have to grow up a bit by paying attention to the history of the past, the tradition from which we can learn to be in awe of our Lord and His goodness and kindness.
The syntax of this vesting prayer is such that it is to be understood that it is the Lord alone who makes one worthy of eternal blessedness by restoring to us the first innocence, that robe of immortality, with which Adam had been clothed until his original sin provoked by the woman and Satan.
Note that despite this clothing with innocence in sanctifying grace, the priest nevertheless approaches precisely the Sacred Mysteries in an unworthy manner. Why? After original sin, we perceive with an intellect which has been weakened, to that we are knowing good with evil, knowing in an insufficient manner. The tree is NOT the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, BUT RATHER the tree of knowing good with evil. In other words, one of the consequences of original sin is such a weakened intellect. That consequence brings death, as our intellect no longer has the power to be an agent keeping matter to spirit, that bit about immortality in this prayer. We are like the animals, dropping to the ground from the moment of this sin for Adam, and from the moment of our conception for us. How can we approach the Sacred Mysteries in an adequate manner? We cannot. However, the grace provided by our Lord will have us see God face to Face in heaven, where all weakness will be removed.
This prayer proclaimes that we have absolutely no idea what we are doing, that we would be crushed to death by the weight of the glory of the Lord’s crucified and risen love for us should we be able to see it while yet in this world.
This prayer proclaimes the patience of the Lord with us! How much He loves us to put up with the likes of us. He is so happy to do it. Enthusiastically. He is just so good and so kind. What a great way to prepare for Holy Mass! A prayer about the Sacred Mysteries!
By the way: The picture above is not the German Bishops’ “erotica”, nor is it “porn.” JPII has a great teaching on this in his Wednesday audiences. Such images raise the mind to the glory of the Lord’s love in having created us for His Son. Erotica and porn, instead, simply turns a person in on him or herself.