Images de page
PDF
ePub

ter

for clearly the prayer appears to be an allusion to
the first Chapter of St. Luke where, verse 11. the
Angel appears on the right hand side of the altar
of incense, and verse 19, he states that he is Ga-
briel. Others state that it alludes to the 8th Chap-
the Apocalypse verse 3, &c. And another An-
gel came and stood before the altar, having a golden
censer; and there was given to him much incense,
that he should offer of the prayers of all the saints
upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of
God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers
of the Saints, ascended up before God from the hand
of the Angel. They state this angel to be Michael,
the prince of the heavenly host, and state the
prayer to be addressed to God, by the intercession
of his Archangel and the heavenly host to cause our
prayers to be equally acceptable to the most high,
and our incense to ascend with equal favour in his
presence as that mentioned in the Apocalypse.

The celebrant washes the extremities of his fin-
gers at the Epistle side, repeating the portion of the
xxvi Psalm, which commences at the 6th verse, I
will wash, &c. The custom is very ancient; it is
done for a double object, natural and mystic. The
first, because the hands having now been used in the
offering and incensing might have contracted some
slight soil should be cleansed, particularly the ex-
tremities of those fingers which are to touch the
holy Sacrament; the second, to shew that the per-
son offering this holy Sacrifice, should be free from
even the smallest stain of sin, or spiritual filth. St.
Denis the Areopagite in his work on the Eccles.
Hiear Chapter 10. mentions this washing of the
fingers in the following words. The Pontiff ac-
companied by the venerable order of Priests, wash-
es his bands; for he that is washed (as the Scrip-
tures testify) needs no other washing than that of
his extremities, or tops of the fingers, by which in-
deed the greatest cleanliness is produced," &c. And

but is clean

[ocr errors]

again "It is right that they who approach to this most pure sacrifice, should be cleansed from even the least distractions of the soul." This is a fine allusion to that act of humility and instruction of the Saviour, on the night when he established the Eu charistic institution, as read in the 13th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. "He that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet, wholly. St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the 5th chapter of his mystic catechism, says, "You have seen that a Deacon washes the hands of the celebrant and of the other Priests about the altar. Think you it was to cleanse the body? By no means, for when "we enter the church, we are not in such a state as to need washing for cleanliness. But this washing of the hands teaches us that we should be clean from all sin, for the hands signify our acts; to wash the hands then is nothing more than to purify our works." And the Apostolic constitutions remark, Lib. 8. chapter 11. "That the water which is in this place given to the Priests to wash their hands, is a sign of the purity which becomes souls consecrated to God." Both celebrant and attendants should therefore on this occasion be penetrated with the most heartfelt sorrow for sins, and sincerely intreat pardon for their offences, and beg that the Lord may wash away their iniquities, not only from their hands but from their feet and their heads, * and should any persons addicted to gross crimes be present, they should seriously enter into themselves and reflect, that if they live according to the works of the flesh, they cannot enter the kingdom of God.† These works are manifest, fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. If then they have yielded their members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; let them now yield their members to serve justice unto

* John xiii. 9. Galat. v. Rom. vi. 19.

sanctification. Let them wash away their crimes
with the tears of contrition, and the blood of that
lamb who is about to be offered. Unless they at-
tend with such dispositions, at the holy Sacrifice,
they but make a mockery of Christ, and God is not
mocked with impunity.

This ablution was performed at the Epistle-side-
which, as before remarked, was, in a regularly
built church, the south side, and therefore next to
the sacristy, where the necessaries of the altar were
kept-the psalm was concluded by the doxology,
"Glory be to the father," &c.-except in Masses for
the dead, when the usual conclusion of the plasms on
that occasion, was substituted. "Eternal rest grant
unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine
unto them. Amen." And in times of most solemn
penance, it was omitted, as being an expression of
joyful praise.

The celebrant then comes to the middle part of the altar, and bowing down, says the next prayer, Receive, O Holy Trinity, &c. This prayer in its present form, is probably a cause of difficulty to Some persons who do not examine with sufficient care, nor reflect upon what they too hastily condemn. They object that by this prayer, the church professes to offer the sacrifice equally to the blessed trinity and to the saints. This is not the fact, nor is such the meaning of the prayer. It consists of three distinct parts. The first requesting the oblation to be received in memory of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. distinct, and the plain meaning of the request is evidently conformable to the institution,* Do this for a commemoration of me. ing the oblation to be received in honour of the The second part, requestblessed Virgin, and other saints-that it may be available to their honour and to our salvation.

*Luke xxii. v 19.

This is

This

latter clause, " our salvation," creates no difficulty. The question is now what is meant by offering the sacrifice in honour of the saints? First, then, the word honour in the first part of the prayer, is clearly not an exact, though it be a literal translation of the original prayer-for it should be rather translated on the festival of the blessed Virgin, &c. Le Brun remarks that the words found in the oldest copies are in honore, and not in honorem, and states also, that the words ad honorem found immediately after strengthens the proof of this reading being correct, for the persons who framed the prayer would otherwise have fallen into a glaring and inexplicable tautology. In honore evidently ought to be translated on the festival or at the time we honour. Thus it would appear as well from the critical examination, as from various facts which that author adduces, that this is the true meaning of this first phrase. But ad honorem, that it may be available to their honour, i. e. the saints, is distinct, we must then see its meaning.

St. Augustine writes, "So that although we raise altars to the memory of the martyrs, we do not build any to them. For which of our prelates at any time celebrating at the altar in any of the places of the saints, has said, We offer unto thee, Peter, or Paul, or Cyprian ? But that which is offered, is offered to God who has crowned the martyrs, at those places where is celebrated their memory whom he has crowned." And again, in another place, "¡Nor do we give to those martyrs temples, priests and sacrifices: because, not they, but their God is our God." Thus no sacrifice was offered to the saints, though places were consecrated to their memory, where their virtues were honoured, and altars raised at which this honour was paid. Not by sa

[ocr errors]

Explic. lit. hist. and dog. part iii. art. ix.

+ Lib. 20 contra Faust. c. 21. Lib. 8. de civ. c. 27.

crifice to them, but by sacrifice to God; to their God and ours, to him who enabled them by his grace to triumph over sin, and to obtain glory-the honour we pay to them redounds to him, who in them has crowned his own graces; and when we pray that this sacrifice may be received by the Godhead, it is to the holy Trinity it is offered, not to the saints; it is offered in commemoration of Christ, on the festival of the saints, perhaps in places consecrated to God in their memory, and we pray it may be available to their honour, we do not offer it to them that they may receive it-this would be idolatry. But it is offered to God to their honour; and so far from this being derogatory to the honour of Christ, or against his institutions, it is calculated to promote his honour, and in conformity with his institutions; for when we honour the saints, we only pay to God the homage of our praise for their perfections, we praise his work in them, and their glory redounds to Him who created them and sanctified them: and surely it was to procure them honour, and glory, and salvation, that he sacrificed himself on Calvary, and we only repeat the offering for the purpose of commemorating and fulfilling his institutions. Nay, he distinctly declares, *For them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth, and its consequence, hon

oured in glory.

Thus the sacrifice is offered to the Trinity, but not to the saints, and though they are honoured, that respect redounds to the greater glory of the Lord. The third part of the prayer is a request that those saints whose memory we celebrate on earth

may intercede for us in heaven.

Here, then, we

distinctly point out how far they can assist us" by intercession," and we show that intercession to be again subordinate to that of the Redeemer, and only available through his merits, for the prayer con

* John xvii. 19.

« PrécédentContinuer »