Vouchsafe: Say that word out loud, real fast, three times.
In point of fact, you’ll need to say it at least twice to get it right…because there are two accepted pronunciations for the obscure term. Three, if you count the way our deacon said it at the Lenten prayer service my wife and I attended last night.
That’s a good way to tell it’s Lent, I suppose: It’s the one time all year when we trot out linguistic doozies like ‘vouchsafe’ in our communal prayer. And there was more where that came from…for thusly didst conclude the invocation:
‘…and vouchsafe to conduct us whither Thou didst conduct the good thief who was crucified with Thee, Who livest and reignest eternally in Heaven.’
Now, I admit to being a little prickly about the impenetrable language used in such prayers – cribbed from liturgical aides composed a century (or two or three) ago. There’s something to be said for tradition, I guess, but it seems to me we’d all benefit if the terminology were dusted off a bit. (And sure, I’m available for the gig…if anyone’s interested next time around.)
Here’s the odd thing: The offending word (and prayer) did eventually manage to penetrate my all-too-often-hard heart and yield some Lenten fruit.
I might have missed it, had I not spent so much time stewing over ‘vouchsafe’…because it was only hours later, in the light of this day, that I recognized the truly important thing I witnessed last night: Jesus, keeping his promise to us sinners.
‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,’ he said to the good thief (Luke 23:43). Vouchsafing, as it were: Jesus, granting the thief his request in an utterly gracious manner.
The thing is, it wasn’t just a long-ago, one-time benefit that Jesus provided. He’s still with us today. In fact, last night – just a few feet away from where we heard those words proclaimed – there was Jesus, on the altar. His Real Presence, in the monstrance, inviting all of us sinners to come close. Draw near. Prepare to feed on this heavenly food.
Look with eyes of faith, Jesus says, and today you will be with Me – and I with you.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.