“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
When this response was introduced in 2011 as part of the change in the English translation of the Roman Missal, the book of prayers and responses used during mass, I was one of those who hesitated using the new line. I wondered if this was a mistake. Is it even grammatical to say “enter under my roof?” What does it mean?
You ask that people enter your house, your abode. You don’t tell them, “Come, enter under my roof.”
The saying “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof...” was made to replace the old line of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed” which is said before communion. The main difference for me was the use of the phrase “enter under my roof” in the new translation.
I went on wondering about it every time I reached that part of the mass. Until the lockdown was imposed and, in late July, I became one of the thousands who got hospitalized for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The phrase then took on a more personal, even literal, meaning.
During the hard lockdown from late March until early June, people stayed at home as a measure against the spread of Covid-19. Only a few people in essential services were allowed to go out of their homes. People worked from home and heard mass at home.
While online masses allowed people to fulfill their Sunday obligations, it wasn’t the same as hearing mass inside the church. There was no communion, there was no community to respond and hold hands with. Hearing mass at home made me realize how I was almost always under my roof and the Lord was with me. The phrase “under my roof” took on a literal meaning as I stayed and heard mass inside the house.
The line became more meaningful when I got sick with Covid-19 and I prayed hard for God to help me and be with me as I battled the disease alone in my house. He was with me during the most difficult night when my symptoms got worse and I had to go to the emergency room the next day.
While undergoing a long recovery, it was then I was reminded about my hesitation to use the phrase “under my roof” during prayer; but this time I realized how it simply meant that He was with me. That He never left me during those difficult periods of lockdown and sickness. The symbolical “roof” meant my home and me. That God was with me all the time. It was then I had a deep, spiritual understanding of the words.
I am not worthy of your presence within me but, if you say so, I will be healed. Such a beautiful message to dwell on this Christmas after a difficult past months and a battle with Covid-19.