The Second Week after Pentecost
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Christum regem adoremus dominantem gentibus, qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pinguedinem.
Let us adore Christ the King, who ruleth the nations: who giveth fatness of spirit to them that est him.
The Desired of all nations, the Angel of the testament whom Israel longs for, has come down from heaven. Wisdom has come among us. Who, asks the prophet, shall go up into heaven to take Wisdom, and bring Him down from the clouds? Who shall pass over the sea, and bring Him from distant lands, Him, the treasure more precious than the purest gold? The fountain of Wisdom has been forsaken by Israel. He has not even been heard of in the land of Chanaan; He has not been seen in Idumea. The children of Agar, the princes of the nations, the philosophers of earthly wisdom, the ingenious inventors, the searchers after science, the hoarders of riches, and makers of strength and beauty which do but cheat the beholder—all these have not known the ways of Wisdom, they have not understood His paths. But, lo! the Son promised to David has sat upon His throne of glory; He is the source of Wisdom; the four rivers of paradise have derived all their waters from Him. His thoughts are more vast than the sea, and His counsels more deep than the great ocean. He has come to fulfil the mysterious design of the divine and sovereign will, that is, to re-establish all things that are in heaven and on earth, by uniting all in Himself. He is truly Mediator, for He is Himself both God and Man; and being also High Priest, He is the bond of that holy religion, which fastens all things on to the Creator, in the unity of one same homage. His Sacrifice is the master-piece of divine Wisdom: it is by that Sacrifice, that, embracing all created beings in the immensity of the love whose impatient ardour has been the subject of our past considerations, He makes the whole world become one sublime holocaust to His Father’s glory. Let us, then, proceed to consider Him in this immolation of His victim; let us reverently watch Him setting forth His table. The Eucharist has been instituted for the very purpose of ceaselessly applying, here on earth, the reality of Christ’s Sacrifice. To-day, therefore, we will turn our thoughts to this Sacrifice, as it is in itself; this will enable us the better to understand how it is continued in the Church.
God has a right to His creature’s homage. If earthly kings and lords may claim from their vassals this recognition of their sovereignty, the sovereign dominion of the great and first Being, the first cause and last end of all things, demands it, on an infinitely just title, from beings called forth from nothing by His almighty goodness. And just as, by the rent or service which accompanies it, the homage of vassals implies, together with the avowal of their submission, the real and effective declaration that they hold their property and rights from their liege-lord; so the act whereby the creature, as such, subjects himself to his Creator, should adequately manifest, by and of itself, that he acknowledges Him as the Lord of all things, and as the author of life. Moreover, if, by the infringement of His commands, he has deserved death, and lives only because of the infinite mercy of this his sovereign Lord—then his act of homage or fealty will not be complete, unless it also express an avowal of his guilt, and the justice of the punishment. Such is the true notion of sacrifice, so called because it sets apart from the rest of similar beings, and makes sacred, the offering whereby it is expressed: for spirits purely immaterial, the offering or oblation will be interior and exclusively spiritual; but, as regards man, this oblation must be spiritual, and at the same time material, for, being composed of a soul and a body, he owes homage to his God for both.
Sacrifice may not be offered but to the one true God, for it is the effective acknowledgment of the Creator’s sovereign dominion, and of that glory which belongs to Him, and which He will not make over to another. It is essential to religion, be the state that of innocence or of fall; for religion, the queen of moral virtues, whose object is the worship due to God, necessarily demands sacrifice, as its own adequate exercise and expression. This sacrifice offered by unfallen man would have been witnessed in Eden. It would have been one of adoration and thanksgiving; its material portion would have been that garden’s richest fruits, those symbols of the divine fruit, promised by the the tree of life; sin would not have put its own sad stamp on such sacrifice, and blood would not have been required. But man fell; and then sacrifice became the only means of propitiation, and the necessary centre of religion, in this land of exile. Until Luther’s time, all the nations of the earth held and lived up to this truth; and when the so-called reformers excluded sacrifice from religion, they took away its very basis. Nor is the duty of sacrifice limited to man’s earthly existence: the creature when in heaven, and in the state of glory, must still offer sacrifice to his Creator; for he has as great an obligation, when he is in the brightness of the vision, as when he lived amid the shadows of faith, to offer to the God who has crowned him the homage of those gifts received.
It is by sacrifice that God attains the end He had in view by creation, that is, His own glory. But in order that this universe might offer a homage in keeping with the magnificence of its Maker, there was needed some one leader or head, who should represent all creation in his one person; and then, using it as his own property, should offer it, in all its integrity, together with himself, to the Lord God. There was something better than this; and it is just what God has done: by giving His own Son, clad in our nature, to be the Head of creation, He obtains an infinite return of glory; for the homage of this inferior nature assumes the dignity of the Person offering it; and the honour thus paid becomes truly worthy of the supreme Majesty. And as a banker knows how to draw golden interest from even the least sum intrusted to his keeping, so our God has, from a world made out of nothing, produced a fruit of infinite worth.
Oh truly marvellous finish to His work of creation! The immense glory rendered to the Father by the Word Incarnate, has brought God and the creature nearer to each other; it tells upon the world, by filling up its hateful depths of misery with grace, grace abundant and rich; and thereby the distance between God and us does not exclude the union for which He first made us. The Sacrifice of the Son of Man becomes the basis and cause of the supernatural order, both in heaven and on earth. Christ was the first and chief object of the decree of creation; and therefore, it was for Him, and upon Him as type, and in harmony with the qualities of the nature which he was, at a given future time, to assume to Himself, that, at the Father’s bidding, there came forth out of nothing the various grades of being, spiritual and material, all of which were intended to form the palace and court of the future God-Man, It was the same, also, in the order of grace: this God-Man, who is to be the most beautiful among the children of men, is, in all truth, the Well-Beloved. The Spirit of love, as a precious and fragrant ointment, will flow from this one Well-Beloved, from this dear Head, upon all His members, yea, and even to the lowest skirt of His garment, generously communicating true life, supernatural being, to those whom Christ shall have graciously called to a participation of His own divine substance, in the banquet of love. For the Head will lead on His members; these will unite to His, their own homage, which, being in itself too poor to be offered to God’s infinite Majesty, will—by their incorporation with the Incarnate Word in the act of His Sacrifice—put on the dignity of Christ Himself.
It is on this account, as we have already noticed, and cannot too strongly urge, that one should inveigh against the narrow-minded individualism which is now so much the fashion, of attaching more importance to the practices of private devotion, than to the solemnity of those great acts of the liturgy, which form the very essence of religion. Thus, as we were just saying, it is by the Sacrifice of the God-Man, that the entire creation is consummated in unity, and that true social life is founded upon God. God is one in His Essence; the ineffable harmony of the three divine Persons does but bring out more clearly, by its sublime fecundity, this infinite Unity. The creature, on the contrary, is multiplicity; and the division resulting from Adam’s fall has strongly emphasized this mark of finite and borrowed being. And yet, having come forth from God’s hands, it must return thither, it must, that is, procure His glory; and this it cannot do, save on the condition of that unhappy division being removed, which separates it from both God and its fellow-creatures; its very multiplicity must reproduce, as it tends towards its Maker, an image of the fruitful harmony of the three divine Persons. That they also may be one in Us, as We also are one: there is the grand revelation of God’s intentions, when He produced creatures; and the revelation is made to us by the Angel of the great Counsel, who has come upon this earth, that He might carry out the divine plan. Now, what is it that brings all the several elements of the social body into oneness, by bringing them back to their Creator? It is religion. And what is the fundamental act of religion? Sacrifice. Sacrifice is both the means and the scope of this magnificent unification in Christ; its perfect realization will mark the consummation of the eternal kingdom of the Father, who will have become, through His Christ, all in all.
But this royalty of endless ages, which is to be procured for the Father by Christ’s reign here below, has enemies, and they must be subdued. The principalities, and powers, and virtues, of satan’s kingdom are leagued against it. They were jealous of man, the image of God’s own likeness; and that envy made them turn their attacks upon man; they led him to disobedience, and disobedience brought death into the world. By man, now become its slave, sin took occasion, by every one of God’s commandments, to insult that God. Far from studying how to offer to its Maker the homage due to Him, the human race seemed bent on intensifying the poverty of its original nothingness, by adding to it the baseness of every sort of defilement. So that, before being capable of acceptableness with the Father, the future members of Christ have need of a Sacrifice of propitiation and acquittance. Their Christ will Himself have to live the expiatory life, which comports a sinner; He will have to suffer their sufferings, and die the death. Death was the penalty threatened, from the very commencement, as sanction of God’s commandment; it was the severest penalty the transgressor could possibly pay; and yet was not adequate to the offence offered, by the transgression, to the infinite Majesty of God, unless a divine Person, taking upon Himself the terrible responsibility of this infinite debt, were Himself to undergo the punishment, and so restore man to innocence.
Oh! then, let our High Priest come forth; let the divine Head of our human race show Himself! Because He hath loved justice, and hated iniquity, therefore hath God anointed Him with the oil of gladness, above His fellows, His brethren. He was Christby the priesthood destined to be His from the very bosom of His Father, and confirmed by a solemn oath; He is Jesus, too, for the sacrifice He is about to offer will save His people from their sin: JesusChrist, then, is to be for ever the name of the eternal Priest. What power and what love are there in His Sacrifice! Priest and Victim at one and the same time, He swallows death in order to destroy it, and, by that very act, crushes sin by suffering its penalty in His own innocent Flesh; He satisfies, even to the last farthing, yea, and far beyond it, the justice of His Father; He takes the decree that was against us, nails it to the cross, and blots out the hand-writing; and then, despoiling the principalities and powers of their tyrant sway, He triumphs over them in Himself. Our old man was crucified together with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed; renovated by the Blood of his Redeemer, he can rise, together with Him, from the tomb, and begin a new life. ‘Ye are dead,’ says the apostle, ‘and your life is hidden with Christ in God; when Christ shall appear, who is your life, then ye also shall appear with Him in glory.’ For it is as our Head that Christ suffered; His Sacrifice includes the whole body, of which He is the Head, and He transforms it, by uniting it to Himself, for an eternal holocaust, the sweet fragrance of which is to fill heaven itself.
‘The Word comes forward,’ says St. Ambrose, ‘in the robes of the High Priest, which Moses described; He is clad with the world in its magnificence, that He may fill all with the fullness of God. He is the Head which rules the body, and He unites it closely to Himself.’ Speaking of Himself, He said: ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Myself.’ David had sung all this, in the Psalm, wherein he said: ‘All flesh shall come unto thee.’ How so? ‘Because,’ answers St. Augustine, ‘He took flesh; and that flesh, which He took, shall draw all flesh. He took its first-fruits, when He took flesh from the Virgin’s womb; the rest, the whole human race, will follow, and will complete the holocaust, of which this same Psalm says, that the vow shall be paid in Jerusalem.’ For, what is this vow, made by Christ our Head, but the vow which He Himself describes so fully in the next Psalm? I will go into thy house with burntofferings; I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered. And my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble: I will offer up to thee holocausts full of marrow, with the incense of rams; I will offer to thee bullocks with goats.
What is this day, whereon our High Priest was in trouble? It is that of which the apostle speaks, when he tells us that, with a strong cry and tears, He offered up prayers and supplications to His Father, who was able to save Him from death. But why does Jesus mention rams and bullocks and goats—those offerings become useless and rejected of God? Did He not Himself say, when He came into our world: 'Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not; but a Body Thou hast fitted unto Me’? Yea, truly: and it is this Body of Christ, says St Augustine, which is here shown to us, in this Psalm; He presents His Body, as the offering He vows to His Father; the rams are the leaders of the Church. ‘Hear my prayer,’ continues the psalmist, prophesying of our High Priest, ‘O hear my prayer: all flesh shall come unto Thee.’ Princes and people of all nations, children, young men and old, Jews and Gentiles, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, all are on the cross and are the victim vowed to the Father. It is with all these, and in their name, and for their sake, in the entirety and unity of His Body, that Christ said to His Father: ‘I will go into Thy house with burnt-offerings; send Thy fire, the fire of Thy Spirit, the divine flame of Me, eternal Wisdom; let it burn and wholly burn this Body which I have taken to Myself; let it be a holocaust, that is, let it be all Thine, O Father!’
Come, then, O ye children of God! bring unto the Lord the offspring of rams. The voice of the Lord has been heard in its power; He bids the flame of fire come down upon the mount; the holocaust is already burning, and from Calvary the fire will spread throughout the world. The divine fire pursues its work, each succeeding generation; it absorbs into itself each of the members of the great Victim, that is, each one of the faithful; it devours sin; it burns out the dross of vice; it purifies, even in the dust of the grave, the flesh that has once been sanctified by the touch of Christ, in the sacred Mystery. It is a true fire of heaven; it is the uncreated flame; it destroys nought but evil; it sends, indeed, suffering and death among men, but only that it may deliver them from the wreck and ruin of the fall, and, by expiation, remake the whole human race. The day will come when, this fire of the great Sacrifice having drawn into itself the last member of Christ's mystical body, the very flesh itself of the elect will reappear all spiritual and glorified; and this wonderful transformation of the victim will make it a sacrifice truly worthy of the Lord God, and an assertion, far stronger than was its destruction by death, of the sovereign power and dominion of Him who is the Author of life. Then will the complete body of the Word Incarnate ascend, like purest incense, from the holy mount whereon the Church had fixed her tent here below, and make its way even to the altar of heaven; it will be the eternal aliment of the divine flame, the immense holocaust, in which ‘the city of the redeemed, the people of the saints, will be offered to God as the universal sacrifice by the great High Priest, who offered Himself for us in His Passion, in the form of a servant and slave, that we might be the body of so great a Head.’
In this universal sacrifice of adoration and thanksgiving, wherein expiation will no longer have part, the very spirits of the angelic hosts will be included; for they, too, are the sacrifice of the Lord, making up, together with ourselves, the one only city of God of which the Psalm sings. St. Cyril of Alexandria thus speaks on the angels forming part of the universal sacrifice: 'We have all received of the fullness of Christ, as St. John tells us; for every creature, not only visible but invisible also, receives of Christ; for the Angels and Archangels, and the spirits that are above these, and, finally, the very Cherubim, are sanctified in the Holy Ghost, not otherwise than by Christ alone. So that He (Christ) is the altar, He is the incense, He is the High Priest, just as He is the blood of the cleansing away of sins.’
Having, therefore, as our great High Priest Jesus the Son of God who by one oblation hath perfected for ever the holy city, let us hold fast the teaching of this glorious faith. As the high priest of old went, on the day of atonement, himself alone into the Holy of holies, holding in his hands the blood of propitiation, so our High Priest, Jesus, having purchased eternal redemption for us, has withdrawn Himself, for a time, from our sight. Minister of the true sanctuary and tabernacle, set up by God Himself, Jesus has entered, by His triumphant Ascension, beyond that veil which still hides God’s sovereign Majesty from our view There, in the sanctuary of heaven, is He celebrating, with unbroken unity, the rite of His Sacrifice; presenting thereby to His Father, in the human nature which He has assumed, and which is now marked with the bright stigmata of His Passion, the august Victim, whose immolation here on earth called for the consummation in heaven. Meanwhile, as heretofore the people of Israel awaited the high priest’s return out of the Holy of holies, so too we Christians here below keep close to our Priest, and are ever at prayer round the altar which is in the outer court. ‘It is the day of atonement,’ says Origen, ‘and it lasts till the setting sun, that is, till the world comes to an end. We stand nigh the door, awaiting our High Priest who is within the Holy of holies, praying, not for the sins of all, but for the sins of them that are awaiting Him.... There were two portions of the holy place, as we are told by Scripture: one was visible and accessible to all the priests; but the other was invisible, and no one might enter into it, save only the high priest; and, while he was there, the rest stood outside. I believe that by this first portion is to be understood the Church wherein we now are, while in the flesh. In this portion priests are ministering at the altar of holocausts which is fed by that fire of which Jesus speaks, saying: “I came to cast fire upon earth, and I will it to be enkindled.”... It is there, in that first portion, that the High Priest offers the victim; and it is thence, also, that He goes forth, in order to enter into the inner veil, the second portion, which is heaven itself, and the throne of God. But take notice of the wonderful order of the mysteries: the fire, which He takes with Him into the Holy of holies, He takes from the altar of that first portion; and the incense He takes from that same portion, yea, and the vestments wherewith He is robed He received in that same place.’
Nor is that all: even after His departure, the fire of the Sacrifice is not extinguished in the outer court; and the Victim of atonement, whose Blood gives Him admission into the most holy sanctuary, continues to burn, and be offered on our outer altar.
This Sunday within the octave of Corpus Christi is the second after Pentecost. The Introit is taken from Psalm xvii, which sings the praises of God, who protects His people, and delivers them from their enemies. Let us lovingly extol this God, who is our support and our refuge.
Factus est Dominus protector meus, et eduxit me in latitudinem: salvum me fecit, quoniam voluit me.
Ps. Diligam te, Domine, virtus mea: Dominus firmamentum meum, et refugium meum, et liberator meus.
Gloria Patri. Factus est.
The Lord hath become my protector, and set me at large: he hath saved me, because he loved me.
Ps. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my support, my refuge, and my deliverer.
Glory, &c. The Lord, &c.
In the Collect, the Church prays that we may have both the love and the fear of God’s holy name. For the fear here spoken of, the fear which children have for their father, does not exclude love; on the contrary it strengthens love, by guarding it against the negligence and oversights into which certain souls are led by a false familiarity.
Sancti nominis tui, Domine, timorem pariter et amorem fac nos habere perpetuum: quia nunquam tua gubernatione destituis quos in soliditate tuæ dilectionis instituis. Per Dominum.
Grant us, O Lord, both a constant love and fear of thy holy name: since thou never withdrawest thy protection from those whom thou solidly groundest in thy love. Through, &c.
Commemoration of Corpus Christi
Deus, qui nobis sub Sacramento mirabili passionis tuæ memoriam reliquisti: tribue, quaesumus, ita nos Corporis et Sanguinis tui sacra mysteria venerari, ut redemptionis tuæ fructum in nobis jugiter sentiamus. Qui vivis et regnas. Amen.
O God, who, under the wonderful Sacrament, hast left us a memorial of thy Passion: grant us, we beseech thee, so to reverence the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that, in our souls, we may always feel the fruit of thy Redemption. Who livest, &c.
Lectio Epistolae beati Joannis Apostoli.
1 Cap. iii.
Carissimi, nolite mirari, si odit vos mundus. Nos scimus quoniam translati sumus de morte ad vitam, quoniam diligimus fratres. Qui non diligit, manet in morte: omnis qui odit fratrem suum, homicida est. Et scitis quoniam omnis homicida non habet vitam æternam in semetipso manentem. In hoc cognovimus caritatem Dei, quoniam ille animam suam pro nobis posuit: et nos debemus pro fratribus animas ponere. Qui habuerit substantiam hujus mundi, et viderit fratrem suum necessitatem habere, et clauserit viscera sua ab eo: quomodo caritas Dei manet in eo? Filioli mei, non diligamus verbo, neque lingua, sed opere et veritate.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint John the Apostle.
1 Ch. iii.
Dearly beloved, wonder not if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer. And you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself. In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
These impressive words of the beloved disciple could not be addressed to the faithful on a more appropriate occasion than in this joyous octave. God’s love for us is both the model and the motive of that which we owe to our fellow-men; the divine charity is the type of ours. ‘I have given you an example,’ says our Lord, ‘that, as I have done unto you, so ye may also do.’ If, then, He has gone so far as to lay down His life for us, we also should be ready, if occasion so required, to lay down ours in order to procure our neighbour’s salvation; and still more ready to help him, to the best of our power, when he is in need; we should love, not in wordy or in tongue, but in deed, and in truth.
Now, what else is the divine Memorial, which is shining on us in all its splendour, than an eloquent demonstration of infinite love? A living remembrance, and abiding representation of that death of our Lord, upon which the apostle bases his argument.
Hence it is that our divine Master deferred His promulgation of the law of fraternal love, which He came upon our earth to establish, till He instituted the holy Sacrament, which was to give the strongest support to the observance of that law. No sooner has He effected the august mystery, no sooner has He given Himself to mankind under the sacred Species, than He exclaims: ‘A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another, as I have loved you.’ Truly, the commandment was a new one, considering that the world, to which it was given, had egotism as its leading law. This new commandment was to be the distinctive mark of all Christ’s disciples, and, as one of the shrewd observers of the early pagan times says, to consign them to the hatred of the human race, which was in open violation of this law of love. It was in answer to the hostile reception given by the world to the new progeny, that is, to the Christians, that St. John thus speaks, in the Epistle of this Sunday: Wonder not, dearly beloved, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death.
The union of the members with each other, through their divine Head, is the condition on which the existence of the Christian religion is based. The Euoharist is the vigorous nourishment of this union; it is the strong bond of Christ’s mystical body, which thereby maketh increase in charity. Charity, therefore, and peace, and concord, are, together with the love of God Himself, the best proof that our reception of holy Communion is not turning to our condemnation, and the most needful of all preparations for our participation in the sacred Mysteries. It is the meaning of that injunction of our Lord: ‘If thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thine offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother; and then coming, thou shalt offer thy gift.’
The Gradual, which is taken from the Psalms, gives thanks to God for the protection He has accorded us in the past; and prays for its continuation, seeing that our enemies are as unrelenting as ever.
Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi, et exaudivit me.
℣. Domine, libera animam meam a labiis iniquis et a lingua dolosa. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Domine Deus meus, in te speravi: salvum me fac ex omnibus persequentibus me, et libera me. Alleluia.
In my troubles, I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.
℣. O Lord deliver my soul from wicked lips and a deceitful tongue. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. O Lord my God, in thee have I put my trust: save me from those that persecute me, and rescue me. Alleluia.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.
In illo tempore: dixit Jesus pharisæis parabolam hanc: Homo quidam fecit cœnam magnam, et vocavit multos. Et misit servum suum hora cœnæ dicere invitatis ut venirent, quia jam parata sunt omnia. Et coeperunt simul omnes excusare. Primus dixit ei: Villam emi, et necesse habeo exire, et videre illam: rogo te, habe me excusatum. Et alter dixit: Juga boum emi quinque, et eo probare illa: rogo te, habe me excusatum. Et alius dixit: Uxorem duxi, et ideo non possum venire. Et reversus servus nuntiavit haec domino suo. Tunc iratus paterfamilias, dixit servo suo: Exi cito in plateas, et vicos civitatis: et pauperes, ac debiles, et caecos, et claudos introduc huc. Et ait servus: Domine, factum est ut imperasti, et adhuc locus est. Et ait dominus servo: Exi in vias et sepes: et compelle intrare, ut impleatur domus mea. Dico autem vobis, quod nemo virorum illorum, qui vocati sunt, gustabit cœnam meam.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to the pharisees: A certain man made a great supper, and invited many. And he sent his servant, at the hour of supper, to say to them that were invited, that they should come, for now all things are ready. And they began all at once to make excuse. The first said to him: I have bought a farm, and I must needs go out and see it: I pray thee, hold me excused. And another said: I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them: I pray thee hold me excused. And another said: I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. And the servant returning, told these things to his lord. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant: Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city; and bring in hither the poor, and the feeble, the blind, and the lame. And the servant said: Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said to the servant: Go out into the highways, and hedges; and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. But I say unto you that none of those men that were invited, shall taste of my supper.
The Gospel just read was appointed for this Sunday long before the institution of the Corpus Christi feast, as we learn from Honorius of Autun, and Rupert. The holy Spirit, who guides the Church in her arrangement of the liturgy, was thus anticipating and completing the instructions suited for the future grand solemnity.
The parable here spoken by Jesus at the table of one of the leading pharisees, was again used by Him, when He spoke so strongly in the temple, a few days previous to His Passion and death. And what is this supper, to which many are invited? What is this marriage-feast, but that which eternal Wisdom has been getting ready from the very beginning of the world? Nothing could exceed the magnificence of these preparations; there was a splendid banquethall, built on the top of a mountain, and supported by seven pillars of mysterious beauty; there were the choicest meats—purest bread, and wine the most delicious—served up to the King’s table. With His own hands, the Wisdom of the Father pressed the rich cluster of Cyprus grapes into the cup; He Himself ground down the wheat, that had sprung up, without having been sown, from a soil holy beyond description; He immolated the Victim. Israel, the the Father’s chosen people, was the fortunate guest invited by the loving kindness of the Master, that is, Wisdom, the Son of the Father, who had sent messengers without end to the children of Jacob. The Wisdom of God had said: ‘I will send unto them prophets and apostles.’ But this favoured people, this loved one, as the Book of Deuteronomy says, ‘grew fat and kicked,’ that is, it abused the gifts bestowed on it; it seemed to study how to provoke the anger of God its Saviour, by despising His invitations, and going its own way. This daughter of Sion, in her adulterous pride, preferred the bill of divorce to the marriage-feast; Jerusalem rejected the heavenly messengers, and killed the prophets,and crucified the Spouse Himself.
But even so, eternal Wisdom still offers the first place at the supper to the ungrateful children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He does so because of their saintly fathers. It is to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, that the apostles are first sent. ‘What delicate attention!’ may we justly exclaim with St. John Chrysostom. ‘Before His crucifixion, Christ calls the Jews; He does the same after it, He goes on inviting them. Instead of crushing them with a terrible chastisement, as it seemed most just He should do, He invites them to a marriage; He loads them with honours. But they that have slain His prophets, and murdered even Him—these same, invited so pressingly by such a Spouse, urged so lovingly to go to the wedding, and that by the very Victim of their own making—these same, I say, pay no regard to the invitation, and give, as an excuse, their yokes of oxen, and their wives, and their estates!’ Soon, these priests, these scribes, these hypocrite pharisees, will persecute and slay these apostles also; and the servant of our parable will find none in Jerusalem, whom he can induce to come to the Master’s supper, except the poor, and little, and sickly ones, of the roads and by-lanes, with whom there is no ambition, or avarice, or pleasure, to keep them from the divine banquet.
Then will be realized the vocation of the Gentiles, that great mystery of a new people being substituted for the former one, in the covenant with Jehovah. ‘The marriage of My Son is, indeed, ready,' will God the Father say to His servants; but they that were invited, were not worthy. Go ye therefore: abandon the wicked city that hath not known her time, and My visit; go ye into the high-ways, and hedges, and countries of the Gentiles; and as many as ye shall find, call ye to the marriage!’
O ye Gentiles, praise the Lord for His mercy! You have been invited, without any merits of your own, to a feast that was prepared for another people; take heed, lest you incur the reproach given to the intended guests, who were excluded from the promises made to their fathers. O thou lame one, and blind, that hast been called from the by-path of thy sin and misery, hasten to the holy table! But then, take care, out of respect to Him who calls thee, to put off the rags of thy former life; and quickly put on the wedding-garment! The invitation given thee has made a queen of thy soul; ‘give her, then, the purple robe and diadem, and set her on a throne! Think of the marriage thou art invited to attend, the marriage of God! Oh! the soul that goes to it, should be clad and decked with a garment richer than all the garments of earth!’
Like the Gradual, the Offertory is an earnest prayer for God’s help; it is His mercy that encourages the soul to make this prayer.
Domine, convertere, et eripe animam meam: salvum me fac propter misericordiam tuam.
Turn to me, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me, for thy mercy’s sake.
In the Secret, the Church prays for the twofold effect of the holy Sacrament, in the transformation of man’s soul: purification from the remnants left by sin, and progress in the works which lead to life everlasting.
Oblatio nos, Domine, tuo nomini dicanda purificet: et de die in diem ad cœle stis vitæ transferat actio nem. Per Dominum.
May this Sacrifice, offered to thy name, purify us, O Lord: and make us, every day, advance towards a heavenly life. Through, &c.
Commemoration of Corpus Christi
Ecclesiæ tuae, quaesumus Domine, unitatis et pacis propitius dona concede: quæ sub oblatis muneribus mystice designantur. Per Dominum.
Mercifully grant thy Church, O Lord, we beseech thee, the gifts of unity and peace, which are mystically represented in these offerings. Through, &c.
During the Communion, holy Church, enriched as she is with heavenly favours, pours forth her gratitude towards Him, who, though the Most High God, is also her Spouse, and loads her with exquisite gifts.
Cantabo Domino, qui bona tribuit mihi, et psallam nomini Domini altissimi.
I will sing unto the Lord, who hath bestowed good things on me, and I will sing a psalm to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
Let us pray with the Church, in the Postcommunion, that our frequent participation in these sacred Mysteries may not he fruitless in our souls, but may effect with increased assurance the whole work of our salvation.
Sumptis muneribus sacris quæsumus, Domine, ut cum frequentatione mysterii crescat nostrae salutis effectus. Per Dominum.
Having received, O Lord, this sacred oblation, grant, that by frequenting these mysteries, the work of our salvation may increase. Through, &c.
Commemoration of Corpus Christi
Fac nos, quæsumus Domine, divinitatis tuæ sempiterna fruitione repleri: quam pretiosi Corporis et Sanguinis tui temporalis perceptio præfigurat. * Qui vivis.
Grant us, O Lord, we beseech thee, the everlasting possession of thyself: as a pledge of which, we have received thy Body and Blood. Who livest, &c.
The Vespers for this Sunday within the octave of Corpus Christi, are the same as those of the feast itself (page 273), excepting what follows;
(1 St. John iii.)
Carissimi, nolite mirari, si odit vos mundus. Nos scimus quoniam translati sumus de morte ad vitam, quoniam diligimus fratres.
Dearly beloved, wonder not if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.
℣. Cibavit illos ex adipe frumenti, alleluia.
℟. Et de petra, meile saturavit eos, alleluia.
℣. He hath fed them with the fat of corn, alleluia.
℟. And hath filled them with honey from the rock, alleluia.
Antiphon of the Magnificat
Exi cito in plateas et vicos civitatis: et pauperes ac debiles, cæcos et claudos, compelle intrare, ut impleatur domus mea, alleluia.
Sancti nominis tui, Domine, timorem pariter et amorem fac nos habere perpetuum: quia nunquam tua gubernatione destituis, quos in soliditate tuæ dilectionis instituis. Per Dominum.
Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city; and compel the poor and the feeble, the blind and the lame, to come in, that my house may be filled, alleluia.
Let us Pray.
Grant us, O Lord, both a constant love and fear of thy holy name: since thou never withdrawest thy protection from those whom thou solidly groundest in thy love. Through, &c.
Commemoration of the Octave
Ant. O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis ejus: mens impletur gratia: et futuræ gloriæ nobis pignus datur,alleluia.
Ant. O sacred banquet, wherein Christ is received; the memorial of his Passion is celebrated; the mind is filled with grace; and a pledge of future glory is given unto us, alleluia.
℣. Panem de cœlo praestitisti eis, alleluia.
℟. Omne delectamentum in se habentem, alleluia.
℣. Thou hast given them bread from heaven, alleluia.
℟. Having in it all that is delicious, alleluia.
Deus, qui nobis sub Sacramento mirabili passionis tuæ memoriam reliquisti: tribue, quaesumus, ita nos Corporis et Sanguinis tui sacra mysteria venerari, ut redemptionis tuae fructum in nobis jugiter sentiamus. Qui vivis.
O God, who, under the wonderful Sacrament, hast left us a memorial of thy Passion: grant us, we beseech thee, so to reverence the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that, in our souls, we may always feel the fruit of thy Redemption. Who livest, &c.
The liturgy given in the Apostolic Constitutions, under the name of St. James, thus continues, after the Trisagion; it is the bishop who is speaking:
Sanctus enim vere es ac sanctissimus, altissimus, et superexaltatus in sæcula. Sanctus quoque unigenitus tuus Filius, Dominus noster et Deus, Jesus Christus.
Qui ad omnia tibi Deo suo et Patri, tum in varia creatione, tum in providentia convenienti ministrans, non despexit genus humanum quod peribat: sed post naturalem legem, post legalem admonitionem, post propheticas reprehensiones; cum legem naturalem una cum lege posita violarent, atque e memoria abjicerent diluvium, conflagrationem Sodomiticam, plagas Ægyptiis et caedes Palaestinis illatas, cumque illico perituri essent omnes; ex sententia tua ipse elegit, creator hominis homo fieri, legislator sub legibus, pontifex hostia, pastor ovis; et te suum Deum ac Patrem placavit atque mundo reconciliavit, factus ex virgine, factus in carne, Deus Verbum, dilectus Filius, primogenitus omnis creaturæ, et secundum prophetias ab ipso de se praedictas ortus ex semine Davidis et Abrahami ac de tribu Judæ.
Et factus est in utero Virginis, formator omnium qui gignuntur; incarnatus est, qui carnis expers; qui sine tempore genitus, in tempore natus est; sancte vixit, et legitime docuit; omnem morbum et omnem infirmitatem ab hominibus expulit; signa et prodigia in populo edidit; cibum, potum, somnum cepit is qui cunctos alimenta indigentes nutrit omneque animal implet beneplacito: manifestavit nomen tuum iis qui illud ignorabant; fugavit ignorantiam; pietatem exsuscitavit; voluntatem tuam implevit; opus quod ei dedisti consummavit: atque his omnibus feliciter gestis, per proditionem illius qui malitiæ morbo languebat, comprehensus est manibus flagitiosorum pontificum et populi iniqui; a quibus multa passus est, et omnem ignominiam sustinuit, permissu tuo.
Traditus est Pilato præsidi; judicatus est, Judex; condemnatus est, Salvator; cruci affixus est, qui pati non potest; mortuus est, natura immortalis; sepultus est, vitæ effector; ut illos propter quos advenerat a passione solveret et a morte eriperet, ut diaboli vincula rumperet illiusque ex fallacia liberaret homines.
Resurrexit e mortuis tertia die: quadraginta diebus commoratus cum discipulis, assumptus est in coelos; et ad dexteram assidet tibi, Deo ac Patri suo.
Itaque memores passionis ejus et mortis, et a mortuis resurrectionis, atque in coelum reditus; necnon secundi adventus quem idem facturus est, in quo cum gloria et potestate veniet judicare vivos et mortuos, et reddere singulis juxta opera eorum: tibi regi ac Deo panem hunc et calicem hunc offerimus, secundum constitutionem ejus, gratias tibi per eum agentes.
For truly thou art holy, and most holy, most high and exalted above all for ever. Holy, also, is thine only-begotten Son, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.
Who in all things ministered to thee his God and Father, both in thy manifold creation, and in thy suitable providence, not despising the human race, that had perished. But after the law of nature, after the admonition of the law, (of Sinai), after the chidings of the Prophets, when, violating both the natural and positive law, forgetting the deluge, the burning of Sodom, the plagues of Egypt, and the extermination of the inhabitants of Palestine, itself was on the verge of total destruction: he, thy Son, willed, by thy consent, to become Man, who was man’s Creator; be under the law, who was the giver of the law; be the victim, who was Priest; be the sheep, he who was Shepherd. He also appeased thee, his God and Father, and reconciled thee with the world, being made of a Virgin, became flesh, God the Word, the Son beloved, the first born of every creature, and was, according to the prophecies foretold by him of himself, sprung from the seed of David and Abraham, and of the tribe of Juda.
He was made in the Virgin’s womb, who was the Maker of all men that are begotten; He became Flesh, who was without flesh; he that was born when time was not, was born in time. He lived in holiness, and taught the truth; he drove every sickness and disease from men; wrought signs and wonders among the people. He took food, drink, and sleep, who feeds all the needy with nourishment, and fills every living creature with blessing. He made known thy name to them that knew it not; he put ignorance to flight; he raised up charity; he fulfilled thy will; he finished the work thougavest him to do. And when he had brought all these to a happy issue, he was betrayed by the man who was sick with the disease of wickedness, and (thus betrayed) was seized by the hands of wicked priests and iniquitous people, from whom, by thy permission, he suffered many things, and every kind of insult.
He was delivered up to the governor, Pilate; the Judge was judged: the Saviour was condemned; he that could not suffer was nailed to the cross; he, that by nature was immortal, died: he, the giver of life, was buried: that he might loose them, for whose sake he had come, from suffering and death, that he might break the bonds made by the devil, and deliver men from his deceit.
He rose again, the third day, from the dead; abode forty days with his disciples; was taken up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of thee, his God and Father.
We, therefore, calling to mind his Passion and Death, and his Resurrection from the dead, and his return to heaven; his second coming, also, which he is to make, in which he will come, with glory and power, to judge the living and the dead, and render to each one according to his works: to thee, King and God, we offer this Bread and this Chalice, according to his appointment, giving thanks unto thee through him.
 Agg. ii. 8.
 Malach. iii. 1.
 Baruch. iii. 12-38.
 Ecclus. xxiv. 34-39.
 Eph. i. 10.
 Prov. is. 2.
 Is. xlviii. 11.
 Prov. xvi. 4.
 Ps. cxxxii. 2.
 St. John xvii. 21, 22.
 1 Cor. xv. 24-28.
 Ibid. 24, 25.
 Wisd. ii. 23, 34.
 Rom. vii. 11.
 Gen. ii. 17.
 Ps. xliv. 8.
 Ps. cix. 4.
 St. Matt. i. 21.
 Col. ii. 14.15.
 Rom. vi. 4-10.
 Col. iii. 3.
 Exod. xxviii.
 De fuga sæculi, xvi.
 St. John xii. 32.
 Ps. lxiv. 3.
 Enarrat. in Ps. lxiv.
 Ps. lxv. 13-15.
 Heb. v. 7.
 Ibid. x. 5, 6.
 Enarrat. in Ps. lxv.
 St. Aug. passim in Psalmos.
 Ps. xxviii. 1.
 St. Aug. De civit. Dei, x. 6.
 Ibid. 7. and in Ps. lxxxvi.
 De adorat. in spir. ct ver., lib. ix.
 Heb. iv. 14; x. 14.
 Heb. ix. 12, 24.
 Ibid. viii. 2.
 In Levit. Hom. ix.
 St. John xiii. 15.
 St. John xiii. 34.
 Ibid. 35.
 Tacitus, Ann xv.
 Eph. iv. 16.
 St. Matt. v. 23, 24.
 Gemma anim, iv. 45, 46.
 De Div. Off. xii. 2.
 St. Luke xiv. 1.
 Is. ii. 2.
 Prov. ix. 1.
 Cant. i. 13.
 Prov. ix. 2.
 Ecelus. xxiv. 13.
 St. Luke xi. 49.
 Deut. xxxii. 15.
 Is. 1. 1.
 St. Matt. xxii. 34-37.
 Ibid. x. 6; Acts xiii. 46.
 Freely from Hom. 69, in Matt.
 St. Matt. xxii. 8-14; St. Luke xix. 44.
 Rom. xv. 9.
 From St. John Chrys. ubi supra.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Christum regem adoremus dominantem gentibus, qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pinguedinem.
Let us adore Christ, the King, who ruleth the nations, who giveth fatness of spirit to them that eat him.
The Lord hath sworn, and He will not repent Him of His oath: He hath sworn: ‘Thou art a Priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech!’ Thus did the sons of Levi sing to the expected Messias, in one of the loveliest of their psalms. This noble and privileged family, this corona fratrum, standing, in all its glory, around the altar whence daily ascended the smoke of victims, this community of brethren celebrated, on the sacred harp, the priesthood of the good things to come, and announced their own being set aside. Shadow and figure as it was, their own priesthood was to disappear before the brightness of the divine realities of Calvary. They were indebted to the infidelity of the nations, for their being called to perpetuate the worship of the true God, in His one temple; but this precarious honour would cease, when the reconciliation of the world took place. Being Son of Juda, through David, the High Priest Christ receives nought of Aaron. When the inspired psalmist sings a hymn in honour of our Jesus’ priesthood, he goes back, in thought, to the ages beyond Moses; he passes the time of the twelve patriarchs and their father Israel; and there, in the distant past, he meets with the type of a priesthood, which is to have no limits, either of place or time: it is Melchisedech. Melchisedech received, through Abraham, the homage of Abraham’s son, Levi; the priest of the uncircumcised nations gives a blessing to the venerable holder of the promise; and this mighty blessing, which is extended to the patriarch’s entire race, derives its efficacy from a mysterious sacrifice: the peaceful offering of bread and wine to the Most High.
The priesthood of the King of justice and peace, not only precedes that of Aaron as to time, but it is also to outlive it. And observe, it is at the very time when God was making a covenant with one single race, and thereby seemed to be turning away from all other nations, and was establishing the priestly order, to their exclusion—it is precisely then that the king-priest of Salem, who has neither beginning of days nor end of life, suddenly comes before us as the imposing image of our eternal Priest offering the divine Memorial, which is to perpetuate the great Sacrifice on the earth, and for ever take the place of the bloody sacrifices of the Mosaic dispensation.
The Sacrifice of the cross lasts all ages of time, and fills eternity. And yet, as to time, it was the offering of one day; and as to place, it was made but on one spot. It matters not: in every place, in every age, man must have the sacrifice ceaselessly offered up in his presence; he must have its offering renewed daily in his midst. As we have already seen, sacrifice is the centre of the whole of religion; and man cannot dispense with religion, for it unites him to God as the sovereign Lord, and constitutes the primary bond of social life. As, then, to satisfy the imperious necessity which showed itself from the very beginning of the world, divine Wisdom appointed those figurative offerings, which foretold the one great Sacrifice whence they derived what merit soever they possessed; so, in like manner, once the oblation of the great Victim has been made, it will continue to supply the demands of mankind, and provide the world with a permanent Sacrifice; it is to be a Memorial and not a figure; it destroys not the unity of the Sacrifice of the cross; and it applies the fruits of that one Sacrifice to each member of each future generation.
We will not here describe the Lord’s Supper, and the institution of that new priesthood, which is as far above its predecessor as the promises it holds are more glorious, and the covenant of which it forms the basis is more divine. We have had all the details of that marvellous history related to us on Maundy Thursday. It was on that day—that day expected from all eternity; it was at that hour (cum facta esset hora)—that hour so long put off, that divine Wisdom sat down to the supper and banquet of the new Covenant; He sat down, having with Him the twelve apostles, who represented mankind. Putting an end to figures by a final immolation of the Paschal Lamb, Jesus exclaimed: ‘With desire (that is, with immense desire) I have desired to eat this Pasch with you!’ The Man-God thus eased His sacred Heart, which had so long waited for this hour; He had so loved it, and it has now come! Then, forestalling the Jews, He immolates His victim—the divine Lamb, signified by Abel, foretold by Isaias, shown by John the Precursor; and, by a miraculous anticipation, there is already in the holy chalice the Blood which, in a few hours hence, is to be flowing on Calvary; already His divine hand presents to the disciples the bread now changed into His Body, which has become the ransom of the world: ‘Take ye and eat,’ says Jesus: ‘this is My Body, which shall be delivered for you! Take and drink this Chalice, which is the new testament in My Blood! This do ye for the commemoration of Me:’ that is, ‘As I am now anticipating, for your sake, the death I am to suffer on the morrow, so you, when I have left this world, do this same for the commemoration of Me.'
The covenant, the alliance, is now made. The new Testament is declared, and, like its predecessor, is sealed by Blood. If, as yet, it be of no force, save in prevision of the Testator’s real death, the reason is that Jesus, who is the Victim of the divine vengeance for the salvation of the whole world, has made a solemn covenant with His eternal Father, that this universal redemption is not to be effected but by the morrow’s cruel work. He has made Himself the Head of guilty mankind; He has made Himself responsible to God for the crimes of His own race; for the destruction of sin, therefore, He willingly submits to the stern laws of expiation, and, by the torments He undergoes, reveals to the world how immense are the claims of eternal justice.Notwithstanding all this, the earth, from that very Thursday night, is in possession of the Chalice which is to announce the Saviour’s death until He come, by communicating to each member of the human family Christ’s real and true Blood, shed for our sins. And surely it was most fitting that our adorable High Priest Himself, and without all that display of outward violence which, a few hours later, is to disconcert the whole apostolic college, should offer Himself, with His own hands, as a true Sacrifice to His Father. He would thus evince how spontaneous was His death, and do away with our ever having such a thought as that the treachery, or violence, or crime, of a handful of men, could be the origin and cause of the whole world’s salvation.
It is on this account that, lifting up His eyes to His Father, and giving thanks, He says, and in the present, (as the Greek text gives the words): ‘This is My Body, which is given for you; this is My Blood, which is shed for you.’ These words, which He bequeaths with all their efficacy of power to the representatives of His priesthood, really produce what they express. They not only change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ; but as a mystical sword, they truly separate under the twofold Species, and, as far as their own power is concerned, they offer separately to the Father, the Body and Blood of our Lord, which are indeed united, but they are so by the omnipotent will of the infinite Majesty of God, who was abundantly and eternally satisfied by the offering made on Calvary. As often, then, as the words of Consecration, which may be likened to those which drew the world out of nothing, are pronounced over wheaten bread and wine of the grape, by the mouth of a priest—no matter how long may be the time, or how distant the place, from the Sacrifice offered on Calvary—that same moment, the august Victim, our Jesus, is then and there really present. It was one and the same Victim both at the Last Supper, and on the cross, and It continues the same in the oblation made to the Father, now, and to the end of time, and in all places, by the one High Priest, Christ our Lord, who borrows, and makes His own, the hands and voice of the priests of His Church, who have been chosen and consecrated, in the Holy Ghost, for this dread ministry.
Oh! how great will these men be, who have been taken from among the rest of men, by the imposition of hands! New Christs, that is, new anointed priests, identified by their ministry with the Son of Mary, they are the privileged members of divine Wisdom; they are closely united by love with the power which He Himself has; they are the companions of Jesus in doing that grand work which He, Wisdom, is ever doing throughout all ages: that is, the immolation of the great Victim, and the mingling of the Chalice, wherein our humanity, blended with its Head in the unity of the one same Sacrifice, derives also love for both its God and its fellow-members, and is made to be partaker of the divine nature, as St. Peter words the mystery of union.
Praise, then, and glory be to Jesus, the sovereign High Priest, for these noble sons of the human race! They are a marvel to heaven, and the pride of our earth! Surrounded by them, as the palm-tree with its victory-speaking palms, or the cedar with its incorruptible branches, this divine Pontiff comes forward, clothed with dignity, power, and holiness, like the olive-tree budding forth its young plants. And as the cypress-tree, that rears itself on high, hides its vigorous trunk beneath the forest of its ever-green branches, so, hiding His own direct action, and, as it were, retreating behind the countless priests who derive all their power and unction from Him, our true High Priest draws them all to unity with Himself.
On that night ever blessed, that night of the divine Supper, when, as He said, the hour had come for the Father and Son to glorify one the other; ere yet He had ascended the blood-stained steps of the altar of the cross, where was to be consummated the perfection of glory; He already manifested the power of His divine priesthood. Under the likeness and name of Simon, son of Onias, who did such great things for the temple and saved his people from destruction, it is Jesus, whose praises are inspired and celebrated by the holy Spirit, in that last of the Books descriptive of eternal Wisdom—Ecclesiasticus. Into the, as yet, feeble hands of His apostles, whom He vouchsafes to call His friends, and His brethren, our Lord entrusts the oblation, which was to immortalize, and thus to complete, His Sacrifice to the King of ages. His divine hands are stretched out, offering, as a libation, the blood of the grape: He pours it forth at the very foot of the altar, which is already being put up; and the fragrance of that offering makes its way to the most high Prince. Our High Priest saw into the future; He heard the songs of triumph which would hymn the praises of the divine Memorial; He heard the sacred psalmody, which would fill the great house, the Church, with ceaseless and sweet harmony, around the tabernacle of His Presence; He saw millions prostrate in the adoration of Him, the Lord their God, and paying to the Almighty their now perfect homage. Then did He rise from the table of the Supper; He went out in His strength and His love, that He might, for a whole long day, stretch forth His hands in presence of the crowd of unbelieving and hostile children of Israel; He renewed His oblation, consummated His Sacrifice by His Blood, for by the cross He wished to show the power of God.
‘The evening Sacrifice, which was the Passion of Christ,’ says St. Augustine, ‘became, in His Resurrection, the oblation of the morning.’ This transformation was signified, under the Law, by the solemn presentation to the Lord of a sheaf of the first-fruits of the barley-harvest, on the third day following the slaying of the Paschal Lamb. But the time for offering the very bread itself, the true wheat and food of souls, had not yet come; and the Law subjoined as follows: ‘Ye shall count, therefore, from the morrow after the Sabbath, wherein ye offered the sheaf of the first-fruits, seven full weeks, even unto the morrow after the seventh week be expired, that is to say, fifty days: and then ye shall offer a new sacrifice unto the Lord: two loaves of flour, the first-fruits of the Lord.’
Fifty days were to transpire, in the new Covenant, before the divine agent came, who alone could transform these gifts, this bread and wine. Pentecost, the glorious Pentecost, arose at last; and the creating Spirit came with a mighty wind. The Flesh of the Word, and the divine Blood, which He formed at the very outset, and still holds in His keeping, could not be reproduced in the sacred Mysteries, without the incommunicable operation of Him whose glorious master-piece they are. ‘It is by the Spirit, who is eternal Fire,’ says the Abbot Rupert,'that Mary conceived; it is by Him that Jesus offered Himself, a living Victim to the living God; and it is by the same Fire that He now burns on our altars, for it is by the operation of the Holy Ghost that the bread is changed into His Body.’ So too St. Denis the Areopagite, the great disciple of the apostle St. Paul, teaches us that when Jesus, the supreme Hierarch, called His disciples to share in His sovereign priesthood, although as God He was the author of all consecration, yet He left the consummation of their priesthood to the Holy Ghost; and He bade His apostles to remain in Jerusalem, and there await the promise of the Father that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost a few days later on.
‘The priest,’ says St. John Chrysostom, ‘comes forth, carrying, not fire, as under the Law, but the Holy Ghost. It is a man who appears before us, but it is God who works.’ ‘How shall this be done?' said Mary to the angel, ‘for I know not man.’ Gabriel answers her: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.’ ‘And thou now askest me,’ says St John Damascene to an inquirer, ‘how do the bread and wine and water become the Body and Blood of Christ?' I answer thee: ‘The Holy Ghost overshadows the Church, and achieves this mystery, which is beyond all word and all imagination.’
Therefore it is that, as St. Fulgentius observes, the Church could not more seasonably pray for the coming of the Holy Ghost, than at the consecration of the Sacrifice, wherein, as under the shadow of the Spirit in the Virgin’s womb the Wisdom of the Father united Himself with the Man chosen by Him for the divine espousal, so the Church herself is united by the Holy Ghost to Christ, as a bride is to her spouse, or the body to its head. It is on account of all this that the hour of Tierce (nine o'clock), the hour wherein the divine Paraclete came into this world, is the one set apart by the Church, on each of her festivals, for the solemn celebration of the great Sacrifice, over which this blessed Spirit presides in the omnipotence of His operation.
O holy hour of Tierce! O sacred nine o'clock, as men call that third hour! It is then that the bride, tho Church of Christ, feels an alleviation of her exile; for, though still on earth, she gives to her God a homage that is worthy of Him, and receives back from Him every grace wherewith to bless her dear children. In this sense, the Mass is her fortune, her dower; it belongs to her to regulate its celebration, to prescribe the formulas and the ceremonies, and to receive its fruits. The priest is her minister: she prays; he immolates the Victim, and gives her prayer an infinite power. The indelible character of the priesthood, stamped by God Himself on the priest’s soul, makes him the exclusive depositary of the marvellous, the divine, power, and gives to the Sacrifice, offered by his hands, a validity which no human power can control; but he may not, licitly and lawfully, make the oblation, save in and with the Church.
This mutual dependence, this union which confounds not, of the priest and the Church, in the sacred Mysteries, was deeply impressed on the minds of the early Christians. In the cemetery of St. Callixtus —that central point of the Roman cemeteries, and the one set apart for the burial of the bishops of the mother-church during the entire third century—there is a whole series of paintings, going back as far as the beginning of the Catacomb itself. These were a symbolic teaching to the initiated how the dogma of the Eucharist was instituted by our Lord, as basis of the religion whereof the Popes, who were buried there in the papal crypt, had been the faithful guardians. The repast of the seven disciples, for whom, during their mysterious fishing, Jesus Himself had been preparing bread and a fish roasted on hot coals, is painted in one of the rooms, on the centre of the wall facing the entrance-door. On either side of this central subject, there are two other smaller ones: one is the sacrifice of Abraham, with its wellknown meaning; the other represents a non-historic scene, which, however, evidently forms a counterpart with the one on the other side; it speaks of the Sacrifice of the Christian Church, under symbolism so profound as to hide the secret of the Mysteries from the profane. On a table lies a loaf, whose meaning is made plain enough by the fish, the eucharistic icthus, being placed near it. On the spectator’s right hand is an aged female; she is standing, with her arms stretched out as an Orante, and is offering up her prayer to heaven; on the left is the figure of a young man; he wears a simple pallium, which was the usual garb of the Christian cleric in the second century; with an air of authority, he is holding his open hands over the table and its gifts. We know the meaning of all this; it is the Church, who is united in the consecration with the priest, her minister and her son.
With what fidelity does this queen, who is in mourning for her Spouse, carry out the testament, which left her, in the Sacrifice, the eternal and undying remembrance of His Death! And He gave her that testament at His last Supper! Whilst He gives Himself to her in the mystery of love, she is forcibly reminded, by the state of immolation in which she sees Him, that she is not to be taken up so much with the joy His sweet presence causes her, as with the duty of completing and continuing His work, by immolating herself together with Him. Under the altar where she and her Jesus meet, she, the valiant woman, has laid the relics of her martyrs; for she is aware that the Passion of her Lord demands from her children, who are His members, something which will fill up what is wanting of His sufferings. She was produced from His open side when on the cross, and she was espoused to Him in death; that first embrace, which, from her very birth, put her Spouse’s bleeding Body into her arms, has communicated to the soul of this second Eve the same inebriation of devotedness and love, which sent the heavenly Adam into His deep sleep on Calvary.
To this Church, then, to this mother of the living, the immense human family runs with all its manifold miseries, and countless wants. She makes good use of the treasure confided to her; that treasure is the Mass, and it supplies every necessity; and, by that same, she is enabled to fulfil all her duties, both as bride, and as mother. Each day identifying herself, more and more, with the universal Victim, who imparts to her Sacrifice His own infinite worth, the Church adores God’s sovereign Majesty, gives Him thanks for His favours, sues for the pardon of the past and present sins of her children, and asks for them the bestowal of blessings temporal and eternal. The precious Blood of Jesus flows from her altar upon the suffering souls in purgatory, assuages their fire of expiation, or leads them to the place of refreshment, light, and peace.
So great is the power of the Sacrifice offered in the Church, that, of itself, and ( as far as the principal effect is concerned ) independently of the merits of the priest or of the people present, it fulfils the four ends whose realization includes the sum total of religion: adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and impetration. Independently of the merits of the human priest—for it is the Victim which gives the Sacrifice its worth; and the Victim on our altars is the same that was on Calvary; a Victim equal to the Father, offering Himself, as He did on the cross, for these same ends, and in one same Oblation. The Creator of space and time is not bound to observe their laws, and He has proved His divine independence in this mystery. ‘Just as, though offered in many places it is one and the same Body and not several bodies,’ says St. John Chrysostom, ‘so is it with the unity of the Sacrifice, though offered in different ages.’ Between the altar and the cross there is but the difference of the manner of the offering. Bloody on the cross, unbloody on the altar, the offering is one, notwithstanding this diversity of mode. The immolation of the august Victim on the cross was a visible one, for it was amidst all the cruel horrors which slew Him; but the violence of the executioners concealed the Sacrifice offered to God, by the Incarnate Word, in the spontaneity of His generous love. At our altar, the immolation is not visible; but the religious worship of the Sacrifice is as patent as the noon-day brightness, and as splendid in its glorious ritual. Upon the earth, which on that terrible Friday had drunk the stream of its shedding, the precious Blood left the malediction of deioide; but the chalice of salvation held by the Church’s hand sheds benediction throughout our planet.
O glorious condition of this earth of ours, from whose surface the Lamb that is slain, who is now receiving on the throne of God the homage due to His triumph, is presenting each day, in His state of infinite lowliness as Man, total satisfaction to His Father for the sins of the world, and a glory adequate to the perfections of the divine Majesty! The angels are in admiration as they look down upon this our globe, mere speck as it is amidst the bright heavenly spheres, and yet so loved, from the very outset, by eternal Wisdom; they surround, trembling the while, this altar on earth, so closely resembling, so one with, theirs in heaven, that on the two the one same High Priest pays homage to the one same God in the one same infinite Offering. Hell, from its deepest depths, trembles at it; and raging as it does against God, and Vowing vengeance against man, it holds no object so hateful as this Sacrifice. What untiring efforts has satan been making, what artful designs has he planned, in order to make this much-detested Sacrifice cease! And alas! there has been, even in the very heart of Christendom, some partial success to those efforts and designs: there has been the protestant heresy, which has destroyed thousands of our altars, especially in our own dear fatherland; and there is still the spirit of revolution, which is spreading as our modern times grow older, and whose avowed aim is to shut up our churches, and do away with the priests who offer sacrifice!
So it is: and therefore our world, which heretofore used to be set right again after the storms that swept its surface, now complains that the impending ruin is an universal one, and one wherein there is no strength, save in the very chastisements sent by God. It vainly busies itself with its plans of safety, and, at each turn, feels that the human legislation it would trust to is but an arm of human folly stretched out to support a decrepit age of proud weakness. The Blood of the Lamb, once the world’s power, no longer flows upon it with its former plenty. And yet the world goes on; it does so, because of that same Sacrifice, which, though despised, and in many lands totally suspended, is still offered in thousands of happy spots on earth; and on the world will go, for the time yet to come, until, in a final access of mad frenzy, it shall have put the last priest to death, and taken away from every altar here below the eternal Sacrifice.
The incalculable influence of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and its unlimited power, are brought forward in the following beautiful formula, which is a continuation of what we have already taken from the Apostolic Constitutions.
Poscimus te ut super hæc dona placate respieias, tu qui nullius indiges Deus, et beneplaceas in eis ad honorem Christi tui, atque supra hoc sacrificium mittas sanctum tuum Spiritum, testem passionum Domini Jesu: ut participes illius ad pietatem confirmentur, remissionem peccatorum consequantur, diabolo ejusque errore liberentur, Spiritu sancto repleantur, digni Christo tuo fiant, vitam sempiternam impetrent, te illis reconciliato, Domine omnipotens.
Adhuc oramus te, Domine, pro sancta Ecclesia tua, quae a finibus ad fines extenditur, quam acquisisti pretioso sanguine Christi tui: ut eam inconcussam ac minime fluctuantem conserves usque in sæculi consummationem; item pro universo episcopatu recte verbum veritatis tractante ac distribuente, pro omni presbyterio, pro diaconis, ac universo clero: ut omnes sapientiam a te donatos Spiritu sancto impleas.
Adhuc rogamus te, Domine, pro rege et iis qui in sublimitate sunt et pro cuncto exercitu, ut res nostræ in pace versentur; quo totum vitae nostræ tempus in quiete et concordia trajicentes, te per Jesum Christum spem nostram gloria afficiamus.
Adhuc offerimus tibi pro omnibus sanctis qui a saeculo placuerunt tibi, patriarchis, prophetis, justis, apostolis, martyribus, confessoribus, episcopis, presbyteris, diaconis, subdiaconis, lectoribus, cantoribus, virginibus, viduis, laicis et omnibus quorum tu nosti nomina.
Adhuc offerimus tibi pro populo hoc: ut eum in laudem Christi tui exhibeas regale sacerdotium, gentem sanctam: pro iis qui in virginitate et castitate vivunt; pro viduis Ecclesiae; pro iis qui in nuptiis honestis degunt; pro infantibus plebis tuæ: uti nostrum neminem rejiciendum habeas.
Adhuc poscimus te pro urbe hac et habitantibus in ea; pro aegrotis, pro dura servitute afflictis, pro exsulibus, pro proscriptis, pro navigantibus, et iter facientibus: ut sis auxiliator, omnium adjutor ac defensor.
Adhuc rogamus te pro iis qui oderunt nos et propter nomen tuum nos persequuntur, pro iis qui foris sunt ac errant: ut adducas eos ad bonum, et furorem eorum mitiges.
Adhuc rogamus te et pro Ecclesiae catechumenis, et pro iis qui ab adversario jactantur, et pro poenitentiam agentibus fratribus nostris: ut primos quidem perficias in fide, alteros vero mundes a vexatione mali, tertiorum autem poenitentiam suscipias, condonesque cum iis tum nobis quae delinquimus.
Offerimus quoque tibi pro aeris temperatura et frugum ubertate: ut indesinenter bona a te collata percipientes, assidue laudemus te qui das escam omni carni.
Etiam rogamus te pro iis qui ob causam probabilem absentes sunt: ut omnes nos in pietate conservatos a te, in Christi tui, Dei universæ naturae sub sensum et intelligentiam cadentis, regisque nostri regno congreges, immutabiles, inculpatos, irreprehensos.
Quoniam tibi omnis gloria, veneratio, gratiarum actio, honor, adoratio, Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui sancto, nunc, et semper, et in infinita ac sempiterna saecula saeculorum.
Atque omnis populus Amen respondeat.
We beseech thee that thou mercifully look down upon these gifts, thou, O God, who standest in need of none of our things; and be thou wellpleased in them for the honour of thy Christ; send down upon this sacrifice thy Spirit, who was witness of the Lord Jesus’ sufferings; in order that they who are partakers of his (Body and Blood) may be strengthened unto piety, may obtain the remission of their sins, may be delivered from the devil and his deceit, may be filled with the Holy Ghost, may be made worthy of thy Christ, and may obtain life everlasting, by thy being reconciled to them, O almighty Lord.
We further pray thee, O Lord, for thy holy Church, which is spread from one end of the world to the other, which thou hast purchased by the precious Blood of thy Christ: preserve it unshaken and free from disturbance until the consummation of time; we also pray for the whole episcopacy which rightly treats and distributes the word of truth; for the whole presbytery, for deacons, and the entire clergy: that, having enriched them all with Wisdom, thou mayst fill them with the holy Spirit.
We further pray thee, O Lord, for the king and them that are in authority, and for the whole army, that all our affairs may be in peace; that, thereby, spending the whole time of our life in quietness and concord, we may glorify thee, through him who is our hope, Christ Jesus.
We further offer thee (this Sacrifice) for all the saints who have been pleasing to thee from the beginning: patriarchs, prophets, righteous, apostles, martyrs, confessors, bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, lectors, cantors, virgins, widows, laity, and all whose names are known to thee.
We further offer it to thee for this people, that thou wilt make them, to the praise of thy Christ, a kingly priesthood and a holy nation; for them that live in virginity an d chastity; for the Church’s widows; for them that live in honourable wedloek; for the infants of thy people: that thou mayst not cast any one of us away.
We further beseech thee for this city and its inhabitants; for the sick; for them that are in cruel servitude; for them that are in banishment; for them that are in prison; for them that are travelling by sea or land: that thou be their supporter, thou the helper and defender of all.
We further beseech thee for them that hate and persecute us for thy name’s sake; for them that are without, and are astray: that thou lead them to what is good, and appease their fury.
We further also beseech thee for the Church’s catechumens, and for the possessed by satan, and for our brethren the penitents: that thou mayst perfect the first in faith, cleanse the second from the attacks of the wicked one, and accept the penance of the third, pardoning both them and us the offences committed by us.
We offer it to thee, likewise, for favourable weather and abundant crops: that ever receiving the good things thou bestowest, we may cease not to praise thee, who givest food to all flesh.
We also beseech thee for them that are absent for a just cause: that thus, maintaining us in holiness, thou mayst unite us all, immovable, blameless, and without reproach, in the kingdom of thy Christ, who is the God of every creature both sensible and intellectual, and is also our king.
For to thee be all glory, worship, thanksgiving, honour, adoration, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now, and ever, and for endless everlasting ages.
And let all the people answer: Amen.
We have taken the following fine sequence from Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus. Unlike so many other liturgical pieces composed, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in honour of the blessed Sacrament, we find in it somewhat of the soul and spirit of the great Christian poets of earlier times.
De S. Sacramento
(Infra Septuagesimam et Quadragesimam)
De superna Hierarchia, Vera descendit Sophia In uterum Virginis: Optatus Dux in hac via Venit natus de Maria, Esse portans hominis.
Magnæ Matris magnus Natus, Modo miro mundo natus, Mundi tollit crimina: Aufert morbos, dat salutem, Ante suos fert virtutem, Hostis fugans agmina.
Zelator mirabilis, Effectus passibilis, In cruce damnatur: Legislator veteris Legis plagis asperis Pro nobis plagatur.
Agnus in Cruce levatus, Et pro nobis immolatus, Fit salutis hostia: Vitæ nostræ reparator, Et virtutum restaurator, Cœli pandit ostia.
Sacramenta dictat prius; Cœna magna, bene scius Quae jam erant obvia: Præbens panem benedicit; Hoc est corpus meum, dicit; Sit mei memoria.
Data benedictio Fit a Dei Filio Vini propinati; Et cum benedicitur, Tunc sanguis efficitur Verbi incarnati.
Deo nota sunt haec soli: Credi debent atque coli, Amoto scrutinio: Justus tantum expers doli Sumat illa:—sed tu noli Involute vitio.
Cave, Juda, ne damneris: Petre, sume, ut salveris: Cibus est fidelium: Ad cujus mensam armatur Justus, reus et nudatur, Præda factus hostium.
Tua, Christe, sunt haec mira, Serva sumentes ab ira Judicii: Orna nos veste gratiæ, Defende nos a facie Supplicii. Reparator salvifice, Dignos cibo nos effice Medicine cœlice.
True Sophia, true Wisdom, came down from the hierarchy of heaven, into the Virgin’s womb: our long-desired Guide in this life, came, born of Mary, having the nature of Man.
Noble Son of noble Mother, born into this world in a wonderful manner, he takes that world’s sins away: he expels disease, bestows health, leads on his people with power, and puts the hostile ranks to flight.
He that is wonderful in his love, having become passible, is condemned to the cross: he that is the giver of the old Law, is for our sake wounded with cruel wounds.
The Lamb being lifted up on the cross, and immolated for us, is made the Victim of salvation: the repairer of our life, the restorer of all virtues, opens heaven’s gates.
At the great Supper, he first declares his mysteries, knowing well what awaited him. Taking bread, he blesses it; ‘This’, he says, ‘is my Body: be it a remembrance of me!’
The wine in the cup which he presents, is blessed by him, who is Son of God; and when blessed, it becomes the Blood of the Word made Flesh.
By God alone are these things understood; we are to believe and worship them, without prying into their depths: let the just man alone approach to receive them, who is of simple faith: if thou art cloaked in vice, approach not!
Take heed, thou Judas! for thou wilt find thy condemnation! Thou, O Peter, take and find salvation! This is the food of believers. At this Table, the just man is clad with armour; but the guilty one is stripped, and is made a prey to the foes.
These, O Christ, are thy marvellous works: Oh! save us, who receive them, from an angry judgment. Adorn us with the garb of grace! Defend us from punishment. O thou restorer of salvation! O heavenly Physician! make us worthy of the food thou givest us!
 Ps. cix. 4.
 Gen. xiv. 18-20.
 Heb. vii. 3.
 Heb. viii. 6.
 St. Luke xxii. 14, 15.
 St. Greg., Moral. xxix. 31.
 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25.
 Heb. ix. 16-18.
 Ibid. xii. 2.
 Rom. iii. 25, 26.
 1 Cor vi. 26.
 Ibid. x. 16.
 St. Luke xxii. 20.
 St. John x. 18.
 St. Greg. Nyss. Orat I. in Chr. resurr.
 Canon Miss.
 St. Luke xxii. 19, 20.
 Prov. ix. 2.
 2 St. Pet. i. 4.
 Ecclus. 1. 13, 14.
 Ecclus. l. 11.
 St. John xvii 1.
 Ecclus. 1. 11, 12.
 Ibid. 1-5.
 St. John xv. 15.
 Ibid. xx. 17.
 St. John xiv. 31.
 Is. lxv. 2.
 Ecclus. 1. 15-23.
 In Psalm, cxl.
 Lev. xxiii. 10, 11.
 Ibid. 15-17.
 Rupert in Exod. lib. ii.c. 7.
 De Eccl. Hier. cap.v. 3. sec. v.
 Acts, i. 4,5.
 De Sacerd. lib. iii. c. 4.
 Tom. v. serm. 38.
 St. Luke 34, 35.
 De fid. orthod. lib. iv. c. 13.
 Ad Monim, lib. ii. c. 10.
 St. John xxi. 8, 9.
 De Rossi, Rom. sott. tom. ii.
 Prov. xxxi. 10.
 Col. i. 24.
 Can. Miss.
 In Ep. ad Heb. Hom. 17.
 Heb. x. 14.
 Apoc. v. 6-12.
 Dan. xi. 31.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Christum regem adoremus dominantem gentibus, qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pinguedinem.
Let us adore Christ the King, who ruleth the nations: who giveth fatness of spirit to them that eat him.
Wisdom prosecutes the fulfilment of the divine plan framed before all ages. His union, or, to use the scriptural expression, His marriage, with human nature in the womb of His Virgin Mother, has shown His love; and Jesus, the Son of Man, who never had any personality but the Word Himself, immolated on the cross in a daily-renewed Sacrifice, offers an infinite glory to the eternal Father. But the august Victim, who comes down upon earth at the word of the priest, does not return to heaven amidst some sacred flame, like that which used to consume the ancient holocausts. Immovable and passive as are the elements, whose substance has been changed into His by the marvellous power of the Sacrifice, Jesus remains at the altar under the appearance of bread and wine, for such they seem to be to the eyes and the other senses:—this is the blessed Sacrament, the outward sensible sign of a mysterious banquet.
'O Sacrament of Sacraments! O most divine and holy Sacrament! lifting up the veil of the symbolic mysteries which surround thee, show thyself to us in thy perfection, and fill our mental vision with thine incomparable and pure light!’ Thus, in his inimitable style, speaks the interpreter of the divine hierarchies, the eagle of Athens, when, having explained the holy ceremonies of the Sacrifice, he soars aloft in the contemplation of the architypes, or principles, of the sacred rites, which he has just been describing. Let us follow, as far as may be, the sublime philosophy of our Christian Plato, who has given a sort of consecration to the language and formulas of pagan wisdom, by making them the receptacles and teachers of Christian dogma; and, like St. Paul, has made every height of science obey and subserve the mysteries of Christ.
The priest, then, has just pronounced the words of Consecration, and the tremendous Mysteries are there on the altar: he shows them, veiled under the sacramental Species. The Host, after being concealed for a few moments, is held up before the adoring multitude; it was one, and now he divides it into several portions: he presents to all the faithful the one same Chalice; he mystically multiplies and distributes unity, and thus completes the Sacrifice. For the simple and hidden unity of the Word, by espousing to Himself the whole nature of man, came forth from the bosom of His Father into this visible, many-creatured world of the senses; and, conforming Himself to this multiplicity, without in any way changing His own oneness, uniting our lowliness with His own dignity, uniting our life with His own, uniting us as His members to Himself as our Head, He would have us all be one with Himself: so, the divine Sacrament, which in its own essence is one, and simple, and indivisible, lovingly multiplies itself under the exterior symbol of the Species; in order that, returning from the multiplicity of the receivers into the unity which is its own principle, it will bring into unity them that received it in holy dispositions. Eucharist or thanksgiving, is its most suitable name; for this Sacrament holds within it Him who is the object of all praise, and all the heavenly gifts He has bestowed upon us. It is the admirable sum-, mary of all the divine operations which God has achieved for man: it is the stay of our life; it gives back to our souls the divine image, and that upon the model of an architype which is eternal beauty; it leads us, by admirable ascensions, into a path which, naturally, we could never have entered; by it are repaired the ruins of the original fall; by it we cease to be poor; it takes our whole being, gives its whole self to us, and thereby makes us partakers of God Himself and of all His gifts.
‘It is on this account.’ continues St, Denis, ‘that what is common to all the Sacraments, is attributed, by excellence, to this one; and hence it is, by a special name, called Communion and Synaxis. For albeit every Sacrament be such as gathereth our lives, divided asunder as they are in many ways, into that one state whereby we are joined to God, and by a godlike bringing together of things which stand apart, brings these our lives into communion and union with Him who is one; yet, to the reception of those sacred symbols, there is given consummation, by the divine and perfective gifts of this one Sacrament. For there is no function performed by the sacred minister, to which the most divine Eucharist does not succeed, bringing with it the completion of conjunction with the one God, and conferring on the receiver (of that previous Sacrament) the communion with God by the gift of the consummating Mysteries (of the Eucharist). So then, if the other Sacraments, not giving what they do not possess, remain, so to say, incomplete, not able to achieve perfect union between us and the one God; if their aim is to prepare the receiver to become partaker of the more excellent Mysteries of God; it is with all reason and justice that the wisdom of the hierarchs gave to this Sacrament the name of Communion or Synaxis, which is grounded on the truth of what it contains.’
‘O Sacrament of love!’ cries out St. Augustine: ' O sign of unity! O bond of charity!’  The unitive power of the Eucharist produces, as St. Denis so sublimely teaches, the union between God and His creature; but St. Augustine dwells on it as peacefully forming Christ’s mystical body; and so preparing it for the eternal Sacrifice, and for the universal and perfect communion in heaven. This is the leading idea, which inspires the holy bishop of Hippo with those magnificent passages, which we have already put, at least in part, before our readers. Though others of the holy fathers and doctors are very fine when treating of the Eucharist, we have kept to St. Augustine more closely than to the rest; and in so doing, we were but following the example set us by the Church herself, who finds her own teachings regarding the blessed Eucharist so faithfully expressed by his words, that, up to this Tuesday, she has taken him, in the beautiful homilies of her Matins during the octave, as her exclusive preacher.
He was telling us eight days ago—and he was but giving us the echo of all tradition—that the holy Eucharist is the centre and bond of the great Catholic communion, in this land of exile. On the very feast itself of Corpus Christi, he completes his teaching, when commenting the passage for the day’s Gospel; the Church took his commentary, making it the official explanation of her Gospel. The holy doctor then told us that the words of our Saviour, when announcing His intention to institute the Mystery of love, included not only the earth, but heaven itself; they signified the whole body of Christ’s Church: ‘I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is My Flesh for the life of the world; for My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed.’ This meat, this drink, which He promises to give us, are truly and primarily His own veritable Flesh, and the very Blood which flows in His veins; it is the very Victim slain on the cross: but, as a consequence of this, it is also the Church, which is established upon His own real substance, and is immolated with Him as one same victim with Himself, in one and the same Sacrifice: ‘It is the holy Church,’ says St. Augustine, ‘the Church of all Christ’s members, the predestined, and the called, and the justified, and the glorified. . . . Seeing that men desire this, by the food and drink they take, that they may suffer neither hunger nor thirst—this result is gained by no other than this food and drink, which makes those who take it immortal and incorruptible: that is, the very fellowship of the saints, where there is peace, and full and perfect unity.’ It is a banquet of ineffable sweetness and plenty, wherein each of the elect is a partaker of the whole body, and gives it, by the very fact of his own participation, increase and completeness.
This is the eternal Passover spoken of by our Redeemer, when He put an end to the figurative one by the reality, veiled though it was, of the Sacrament. 'I say unto you, that, from this time forward, I will not eat it again, till it be fulfilled (that is, completed) in the kingdom of God; I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of My Father.’ Oh! that day, that endless day, that day of light and vision whereof David sang! On that day, throwing aside all the veils that are now shrouding Him from our eyes, and Himself the first to be inebriated with love in that divine banquet, eternal Wisdom, with an embrace uniting both Head and members together, will give man to drink of the torrent of His own divine pleasures, and of that fount of life which He Himself has in the bosom of the Father. Christ, our Head, has long since ascended beyond the clouds; the Church, flowing with delights and leaning upon her Beloved, is continually going up after Him from this desert-land; one or another of His members, our brethren, is every moment going in, to complete the number of guests at the heavenly and eternal and new Passover; and as each one goes in, Jesus says: ‘This now is bone of My bones, and flesh of My flesh;’ for all these are then united to Him as the bride to her Spouse, for they are but one body. It is the Eucharist which has produced this marvellous capability of perfect union between the members and their divine Head. This union will not be manifested till the day of glory: but it is here below, under the shadow and cloud of faith, that the Eucharist is thus transforming the elect into Christ, that is, into eternal union with Him, so as to make one body.
He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him. ‘This, then, it is,’ says St. Augustine, ‘to eat that meat, and drink that drink: to abide in Christ, and have Him abiding in oneself.’ ‘The sign that a man has eaten and drunk (of this Sacrament) is that he abides in Christ, and Christ in him; that he dwells in Christ, and Christ in him. This is the very nature of the eucharistic banquet, this banquet of mutual abiding; a banquet at which man cannot worthily eat of the Bread of life without becoming gradually more and more the bread of Christ, that one bread spoken of by the apostle, which is kneaded up by the Church in the holy Mysteries, that it may become one with the sacred Flesh of Christ, as St John Chrysostom so forcibly expresses it; and may give, as St. Augustine says, growth and strength in unity to the mystical body of Christ. ‘I am the wheat of Christ,’ said the holy martyr, Ignatius of Antioch; ‘may I be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found to be the pure bread of Christ, ... to be offered in sacrifice to God.’ This same thought of the great martyr of the early ages was taken up, and enlarged upon, in the eighth century, by the monk St. Beatus and his disciple Heterius: they are sending to Elipandus, Archbishop of Toledo, their reply to the Nestorians of Spain; and, in the first portion of it, they thus speak of the treatment the faithful receive from these heretics: ‘They are our persecutors: but, by persecuting us, they are but shaking the wheat out of the straw; when they torture us, they are but separating the dregs from the wine. We ought to go down on our knees, and pray for them that thus make us become the food of God. As wine, when it has come forth from the press, is put into the chalice, so it is with you: after those fastings, after those fatigues, and humiliations, and crushings, you have now come into the Lord’s cup, in Christ’s name. You are bread upon His table; you are wine in His goblet. We are all one and the same together; for there is but the one chalice in which we all are, because there is but the one Passion and Death of Christ, whereby we have all been redeemed. We all drink together, though we do not live together. A heretic seeks to separate; this is his effort, to tear asunder, not to piece.; to break, not to join. He separates the Word from the Flesh. He separates the Head from the body, by saying that the Head is by itself, and the body by itself. Unfortunate man! he knows not how Christ is the Head of the Church; and that the Church is conjoined to that Head; and that that is the whole Christ, Head and Body. Heretics are not food for the Lord; for it was not of them that He said: “My meat is, to do the will of Him that sent Me, that I may perfect His work”; and that work consists in making one bread out of many grains, that is, making one soul out of many souls, one in one charity, one faith, and one hope. For if the souls which He makes one by one faith were not the food of God, He would not have said of the countries white and ready for the harvest, though at that time not visible to the disciples: I have meat to eat which ye know not!’
He hungered after this food, and oh! with what hunger! He longed, He thirsted, for that banquet of His last Supper, wherein He, the omnipotent guest, gives Himself as food to man, and would make the whole of humanity His own food. ‘As the fire devours the wood that is thrown into the furnace, so our Redeemer eats and assimilates to Himself, at this sacred table, the whole body of holy Church; He makes it His own, and thus it gains strength and grows.’ So spoke William of Paris, at the beginning of the thirteenth century; and he was but repeating what St. Leo the Great and St. Augustine had taught, ages before, saying: ‘The participation of the Body and Blood of Christ has this as its chief work—to change us into Him,’ ‘and in such wise, as that being made His body, and having become His members, we may be what we receive: (ut in id quod sumimus transeamus, ut simus quod accipimus.)’
Eternal Wisdom had all the children of men in view, when He assumed human flesh. If the unity which marks all the works of God seemed to require that He should unite Himself to one only in the same hypostasis or Person, that same law of unity was, so to say, a promoter of His loving design to make this Man-God the Head of a mystical body, in which each of the elect was to be united to Christ. The economy of the Incarnation is described to us by the holy fathers of the Church in this way—that the great mystery is not quite completed, until, by the Eucharist, the Head joins to Himself His members, and is united to the body which He is to animate and govern. ‘It is on this account,’ says Paschasius Radbert, ‘that He so rejoices at the Supper, and gives thanks to God, His Father, for that His desires are at last fulfilled. He desired, before He suffered, to eat the true Passover; in order that, when the hour came for Him to deliver Himself up as the price of our ransom, we might already be in Him as one body. And thus, we had to be crucified, and buried, and to rise again, together with Him.’
The union between the Head and the members produced by the Eucharist is so close, that, taking the words of our Saviour, who compares it to the union existing between the Father and Himself, St. Hilary and St. Cyril of Alexandria adduce it as an argument, the one to defend the consubstantiality of the Word against the Arians; and the other to prove against the Nestorians the union, real and physical, and not merely one of influence or affection, which unites the Word and human nature in the Incarnation. One by nature with His Father, one, in Christ, with the flesh He assumed, eternal Wisdom makes us, through that flesh, one with Himself, in the Father.
But already by anticipation the Holy Ghost, that Bond eternal, had brought the elect into unity. He the divine indweller of the children of God, He the sanctifying, the indivisible Spirit, assembles the sons of Adam in the unity of His own spirit of grace. ‘As the power of Christ’s flesh makes one body of all nations,’ says St. Cyril, ‘so the holy Spirit makes all spirits one; and yet, hereby, neither spirits nor bodies are confounded; as the apostle said: One body and one spirit, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and in us all.’ Still, in the marvellous union of creatures brought about, to the glory of the Father, by the Spirit of Father and Son, it is to the Son, as Incarnate Word, that is, as eternal Wisdom, who is taken with love for the children of men,that belongs this immense work of union, which so gloriously terminates in, which so stupendously leads up to, the divine espousals with human nature.
So it is too, with ourselves; we are just at the close of this Mystery of love, which we have been contemplating, though too briefly, in the most dear company of divine Wisdom; we are to spend the two days, still remaining of our octave, in considerations which are less exclusively on the dogma of the blessed Eucharist; and we now find ourselves returning to the thought which was our starting-point. God is love, as we were then saying; and love demands union; and union must make the united alike. This resemblance between God and man could not be realized save by man’s being raised to what St. Peter calls a participation of the divine nature; now, this is the special work of the Holy Ghost; and He effects it by grace, which is the result of His own personal indwelling in the soul He has sanctified. Like the unction of purest oil, He penetrates the inmost recesses, and the very substance, of that happy soul. It is thus He acted in Christ: He inundated, with His divine plenitude, the human nature assumed by the Word in the womb of the Virgin-Mother, when eternal Wisdom united Himself with that nature which, though inferior and created, was, from that moment, holy and perfect in the holy Spirit. He, the Spirit, acts proportionately in the same way with the Church: she is the holy city, and He prepares her for the feast of the nuptials of the Lamb; she is the bride of Christ, and He gives her to be clothed with robes all glittering and white, which are the virtues of the saints. When He has made her one by Baptism, and strengthened her in holiness by the second of the Sacraments, He has but to lead her to her Spouse, saying with her the come of the sacred Mysteries which are to complete His work, and unite together the bride and the Spouse. Thus the children of the bride, being made one body with Christ, are made partakers of her own nuptials with eternal Wisdom. If, then, we have all been baptized in the one only Spirit, it was, as the apostle teaches us, that we might all form that one body, in which Jews and Gentiles, bondsmen and free, are not individuals set off against each other by their personal differences; they are members of Christ, and have all been made to drink, in the one same holy Spirit, the divine Word, whose sacred Flesh is given to us in the mystery of salvation.
St. Peter, in his first Epistle, speaks of our taking the holy Eucharist as though it were, not only food, but milk for babes. He says, speaking to the early Christians, and, through them, to us also: ‘As newborn babes, desire ye the rational milk;’ he means our Lord Jesus Christ, as is evident from the context. Clement of Alexandria thus quotes the passage: ‘As new-born babes, desire ye the Word!’ Yes, it is the Word, the milk of those who are converted and become little children, who are born again of the Holy Ghost; it prepares them for the solid food of the eternal feast, that is, for the Word unveiled. It is a delicious food, sweet as grace, strengthening as life, pure as is the light. It is that heavenly dew which fell from the bosom of the Father into the womb of the Virgin-Mother; and this same, the Word Incarnate, gives Himself to the Church, for she, too, is virgin and mother. Pure as a virgin, and affectionate as a mother, she invites her children to come, and she feeds them on this rational milk, this Word, this most beautiful One among the sons of men; she gives her little ones the Body of Christ, and strengthens them with the Word of the Father. Oh! let us run to this blessed mother, and drink of that Word, who turns all our evils away from us, making us forget, by correcting, them. The mother’s breast is everything to her child: life, joy, its whole world. With what eagerness it throws itself on its treasure, as St. John Chrysostom was saying in the Office of yesterday; with what ardour it kisses the fount of all its blessings! And yet, a mother’s milk is but an image of that which I am speaking of. That other ceases, when the first few months are gone; but the one I partake of is an exhaustless spring; it forms me into the perfect man, making me reach the age of the fullness of Christ.
All these sublime teachings were like household words to the early Christians; and we cannot be surprised, therefore, that one of the favourite symbols of the holy Eucharist was milk. St. Perpetua relates that, on the evening before she and her companions were to suffer martyrdom, Pastor put a delicious milk into her mouth: the details she gives of that touching scene, show us that she is speaking of the blessed Sacrament. Among the paintings in the catacombs, we not unfrequently find this emblem, beautifully eloquent in its varied accompaniments. Sometimes it is a vase of milk, held in Pastor’s hand, or lying by his side; sometimes it is that same vase resting on a hillock, and the sheep are respectfully keeping guard over it;sometimes it is the Lamb of God, the Pastor of pastors, who is holding it hanging on His shepherd’s crook; but all this means and conveys the same mystery. In one of these paintings, however, the teaching is almost palpable: the precious vase of milk is placed on the back of the Lamb, who is holding the palm-branch of His triumph over death, though it cost Him His Blood; the vase is thus incorporated, so to say, with Him, and has a nimbus round it, as holding within it the divine Word, the food of the angels adapted, by the workings of love, to suit our human weakness.
For, as St. Augustine so admirably explains this doctrine, ‘Man does not live on one food, and angel on another: truth, divine Wisdom, is the one food of every intelligence. The Angels, the Powers, the heavenly spirits feed on it; they eat of it; they grow upon it, and yet the mysterious food lessens not. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; take it, if you can; eat it; it is food. Perhaps you will say to me: “Oh! yes, it is verily food; but I—I am a babe; what I must have is milk; else I cannot reach that Word you tell me of.” Well! since it is milk you require, and yet there is no other food for you save this of heaven (the Word), He will pass through the flesh, that He may thus be brought within reach of your lips; for food does not become milk, except by its passing through flesh. It is thus a mother does. What the mother eats is what her child drinks; but the little one not being, as yet, strong enough to take the bread as it is, the mother eats it, and then gives it to her child under a form that very sweetly suits the babe. He does not receive the food such as it lay upon the table, but after it has passed through the flesh, and is thus made suitable to the child. Therefore was the Word made Flesh, and dwelt among us;and man hath eaten thus the bread of angels. Eternal Wisdom came down even to us, by the Flesh and Blood of Him that was our Saviour; He came as milk, which was full of all blessing to us.’ Oh! truly, the bride may well say to the Spouse: ‘Thy breasts are better than wine.’ He, beautiful Wisdom, has carried out His loving design. From the outset, right up to the attainment of His purpose, there have been numberless obstacles; but He has mastered them all, and with a power to which one thing alone can be compared—His matchless sweetness.
The antiphonary of the celebrated monastery of Benchor, in Ireland, published by Muratori, and drawn up not later than the seventh century, gives us the following hymn, which is at once dignified and simple:
(Quando communicarent Sacerdotes)
Christi corpus sumite,
Quo redempti sanguinem.
Corpore et sanguine,
A quo refecti
Laudes dicamus Deo.
Christus Filius Deo
Per crucem et sanguinem.
Exstitit et hostia.
Et Salvator omnium
Largitus est gratiam.
Pura mente creduli,
Rector quoque Dominus,
De fonte vivo
Alpha et Omega
Ipse Christus Dominus,
Come, ye just,
take Christ’s Body,
and drink the sacred Blood,
whereby ye were redeemed.
By Christ’s Body and Blood
we were saved;
by the same being fed,
let us sing our praises to God.
Christ, the Son,
the giver of salvation,
saved the world to God his Father,
by his Cross and Blood.
who was slain for all,
was himself both
Priest and Victim.
It was commanded in the Law,
that victims should be slain;
hereby were foreshadowed
our divine Mysteries.
He that gives the light,
and is the Saviour of all men,
has given to the just
a splendid favour.
Let all the faithful
approach with pure minds,
and receive the eternal
pledge of salvation.
who is keeper and ruler of the saints,
grants life everlasting
to them that believe.
To the hungry
he gives bread from heaven;
to the thirsty
he gives a drink from the living fount.
He, Christ our Lord,
Alpha and Omega is coming,
who is to come
to judge mankind.
Our readers, after this charmingly simple appeal, which was so long heard in Erin, will be interested, too, by the following lyric antiphon, which was formerly used in the Church of Gaul. It was sung at the moment of Communion, on days of great solemnity, as an invitation calling the faithful to a participation in the Immortal Mystery.
Venite, populi, ad sacrum et immortale mysterium, et libamen agendum.
Cum timore et fide accedamus: manibus mundis, pœnitentiæ munus communicemus, quoniam Agnus Dei propter nos Patri sacrificium propositum est.
Ipsum solum adoremus, ipsum glorificemus: cum angelis clamantes: Alleluia.
Come, O ye people! receive the sacred and immortal mystery, and the libation prepared for you.
Let us approach with fear and faith; holding out clean hands, let us take, in communion the price of our repentance; for it is for our sake that the Lamb was offered as a sacrifice to God the Father.
Him alone let us adore, him let us glorify: and, with the angels, sing: Alleluia!
 S. Dion. De Eccl. hier. c iii. 1.
 Ibid. 3,§2.
 2 Cor. x. 5.
 S. Dion. De eccl. hier. 12 § 13.
 Ibid. § 3.
 Ibid. § 7.
 S. Dion. De Eccl. hier. § 1
 In Joan. Tract, xxvi. 13.
 St. John vi. 51, 52, 56.
 In Joan. Tract. xxvi. 15, 17.
 St. Luke xxii. 16.
 St. Matt. xxvi. 29.
 Ps. xxxv. 8-10.
 Cant. viii. 5.
 Gen. ii. 23.
 St. John vi. 57.
 In Joan. Tract. xxv. 18.
 Ibid. Tract. xxvii. 1.
 1 Cor. x. 17.
 Horn. xlvi. in Joan.
 Serm. 57, 137.
 Ad Rom.
 Ad Elipand. lib. i. 72.
 1 Cor. xi. 3; Eph. v. 23.
 St. John iv. 34.
 Ibid. 32.
 De Sacram. Euch. c. 4.
 St. Leo, Serm. 14, De Pass.
 St. Aug. Serm. 57.
 Ep. ad Frudeg.
 St. Luke xxii. 15.
 Rom. vi.
 St. John xvii. 21.
 De Trinit. lib. viii.
 In Joan. lib. x.
 Eph. iii. 6.
 In Joan. ubi supra.
 Eph. iv. 4, 6.
 Prov. viii. 31.
 2 St. Pet. i. 4.
 1 Cor. iii. 16.
 Apoc. xix. 7-9.
 Ibid. xxii. 17.
 1 Cor. xii. 13.
 1 St. Pet ii. 2.
 St. Matt. xviii. 3.
 St. John iii. 5.
 Freely from Clem. Alex. Pædag. i. 6.
 Hom. 60, ad Pop. Antioch.
 Eph. iv. 13.
 Ruinart. Act. sinc. p. 87.
 Via Appia. Db Rossi, i. tav. x. 16.
 Via Nomentana, Bosio, 455.
 Via Appia. De Rossi, i. tav. 12.
 Via Ardeatina, Bosio, 249.
 Via Lavicana, Bosio, 363.
 Wisd. xvi. 20.
 In Ps. cxxxiv.
 In Ps. xxxiii.
 St. John i. 1.
 In Ps. cxix.
 In Ps. xxxiii.
 In Ps. xxx.
 St. John. 14.
 Ps. lxxvii. 25.
 In Ps. xxx. et cxxxiv. Confess. vii. 18.
 Cant. i. 1.
 Wisd. viii. 1.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Christum regem adoremus dominantem gentibus, qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pinguedinem.
Let us adore Christ, the King, who ruleth the nations, who giveth fatness of spirit to them that eat him.
My days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire: I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread. Thus sadly speaks the hundred and first Psalm, whose title is: Prayer of the poor man, when he was anxious, and poured out his supplication before the Lord. And who is this poor man? It is Adam; it is the whole human race, the inheritor of Adam’s miseries. God had given him His divine law, as his food; as the bread of his soul, He had given him the Word of God. Instigated by the old serpent, and led on by the woman, Adam took the forbidden fruit; he forgot the Word. Deservedly has he been blighted as the grass of the field: deservedly has his heart been withered; for he has despised the fruit of life, he has drunk poison, he has preferred to eat ashes, rather than the nourishment that was made for him.
But lo! there appeareth the true bread of heaven, He, in whose Flesh thou mayst, if thou wilt, find the Word thou hadst forgotten. Cry out, from the depths of thy poverty, to heaven; regain thy former plenty. Eat! for thou art member of Him who hath said: ‘I am the living Bread, which came down from heaven.’ Thou hadst forgotten to eat thy bread; but now that Christ is crucified, all the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted unto the Lord. Poor withered grass! thy flesh shall flourish again, because of the Saviour’s Blood; it shall become, as St. Bernard tells thee, like that holy herb of the virgin field, that lies in the crib for thy sake.
Bird of the desert! bird of the night, that sattest moaning on the heap of ruins, thy loneliness was scoffed at by the enemy that had scared thee. But the Lord God, thy Redeemer, hath broken the captive’s chains. Peoples and kings, gathered together in Sion, declare His name in unity. It is their proclamation of His victory, the declaration of His greatness and His strength. ‘Jerusalem, then,’ says St. Augustine, ‘Jerusalem, our mother, having come back from exile, and surrounded by her many children, answereth Him, her God, in unity. That God is one; the Church is unity; unity alone can give response to the God who is One.’ And Jesus, who is the Head of this triumphant unity, which overthrows the kingdom of Babylonish discord and disunion, gives Himself this response to His Father: ‘In the midst of the Church, will I praise Thee; in the sight of a great Church, I will pay My vows, I will offer the victim which is to save them; and the poor shall eat, and shall be filled; and their hearts, which before were parched up, shall become freshened unto life, and shall live for ever and ever.’
Praise and glory be to this Christ, the Saviour, who thus, by His Flesh offered up in Sacrifice, restores to us the bread of life and understanding! O Body of Jesus! most august temple built by eternal Wisdom to Himself! From His side, opened by a spear, comes the sacred stream, which brings the Word to our parched lips. He hath visited the earth, and inebriated it; He hath prepared their food for the children of men. But the cup He proffers is a chalice of sacrifice; the table He sets up, is an altar: for so is the preparation of the food He gives. It is a Victim who gives us His own Flesh to eat, and His own Blood to drink; so that immolation, sacrifice, is the direct and necessary preparation of the banquet He puts before His guests.
Yea, are not they themselves Christ’s food at that sacred table? He gives Himself, but He intends to have these His guests in return, and make them all His own. We are those guests; and what other preparation can we make, but that Which He goes through—sacrifice? Such, such must be the preparation! Ita est præparatio ejus! Observe how, when Wisdom is shown us in Scripture as setting forth the table, and inviting the little ones to eat His bread and drink His wine, He does not slay one, but many victims: He hath slain His victims! After His Incarnation, He uses the same language; He sends His messengers, He invites us to the marriage-feast, saying: ‘I have prepared the feast; my beeves and fatlings are slain, my victims are ready; come! for all things axe ready!’ What means this, but that, for the very members of Christ—who are the victims fattened, as our Invitatory expresses it, with the fatness of the Spirit—the true immediate preparation for the sacred banquet is immolation, that is sacrifice, that is the Mass, celebrated, or assisted at, in most perfect possible union with the great, the principal, Victim. Quoniam ita est præparatio ejus!
Christians! you have been brought around the one same Table, by the same love, the same thirst, which you have all for the strong living God; understand this well, then: He will give Himself to you the more completely and intimately, in proportion as the same Sacrifice, which gives Him to you, shall have made you become the food of His own longing love. The hour of the Sacrifice is that, wherein the bride finds her well Beloved under the tree of the cross, takes Him as a bunch of myrrh, and puts Him next her heart: it is the hour wherein the King takes her into His divine stores, and gives her to partake of the vine of Engaddi, after He has pressed out the precious drink in the wine-press of His love And for Him, the Spouse, what is this same hour? It is one of harvest, one of vintage. It is then that the south-wind, the holy Spirit who produces the sacred Mysteries, breathes upon the bride, who is the garden of Christ, and fills her with the fragrance of grace; the divine Spouse then comes down into this His garden, that He may eat the fruit of His trees, and gather the myrrh and spices that grow there, and drink the wine for which He so thirsted that it drew Him down from heaven; it is the love which we can so richly and warmly give Him; and He so loves our love, as to deign to call it the best of wine, worthy for the Beloved to drink, and for His divine lips to relish and enjoy.
Then, let the soul prepare herself for the banquet of her Beloved, by making ready the feast which He expects from her. Let her rise early in the morning with this thought upon her, as He Himself does. Let her go down to the garden, to see if the flowers be in order, and the lilies He loves so much be fresh; let her go forth into the field, and gather for Him fruits both new and old; let her examine the vineyard, which the Spouse values so highly as to reserve the vintage to Himself; let her see if the vineyard be in flower, and if the flowers be ready to bring forth fruit, and give promise of those fragrant clusters which are so much sought after by her Lord. Then, finally, let her repair with Him into her mother’s house, the holy Church, and there in the Sacrifice receive from Jesus the precious lessons of how to love God; and, like a new Esther, let her, in her turn, give to her Assuerus that generous wine which induces the King to lend her His own power, grant her requests, and destroy her enemies. The psalmist tells us, in his bold language of inspiration, that there is an inebriation on God’s part, and that He is then terrible to the powers of hell; but there is mention made also, in the sacred volume, of a cup of choice wine presented by the bride, in her mother’s house, to the Spouse: it is the wine He Himself has left to His Church. For this purpose, wishing to proffer to her Spouse the wine which gladdens, and the bread which pleases His heart, the bride takes Him and leads Him to that house of her mother, yea, into that blessed spot where she first received the life of grace and truth.
There, in that sanctuary of love, Rebecca, the mother of the two people that are hostile one to the other, prepares for her spouse Isaac the food he loves so much, which is to induce him to impart his blessing to her favourite child. Esau is a type of the stiff-necked and carnal Jew, who despises the Church, and heeds not the spirit of the promises; he dwells at a distance from home; he is in pursuit of wild beasts, an image of his own fierce instincts. Jacob, on the contrary, is a peaceful man, and keeps with his mother at home, and gives a helping hand to the valiant woman, who, with faith, carries out the design of heaven. Rebecca robes him in Esau’s garments, the precious garments of the first-born, which are in the mother’s keeping; they are the insignia of priesthood; and when Jacob is vested in them, he takes two kids from the flock, and immolates them. These, as the fathers tell us, are an image, both of the meekness of Christ, and of the two peoples, Jew and Gentile, which, by being made one in His Blood, have become the food of God. But it is Rebecca who guides Jacob in all he does; she receives from him the victim he has slain, and of it makes the food so loved by her spouse: in this, she represents the Church, who, in the holy Sacrifice, directs the priest and unites the people, and so prepares for her Lord the food she knows to be so dear to Him.
The same great teaching had been given even earlier than this, and with as much dearness. It was under the oak of Mambre, and in the days of tent-life. Abraham, the father of believers, there received three guests; they represented the mystery of the holy Trinity. In the name of his countless children, he offers to the three mysterious guests a repast, which is full of symbolism, as it is described to us in the sacred volume. Penetrating into the mystery of Three in One, Abraham thus speaks to his three guests as though they were one: ‘Lord! if I have thus found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant.' He then presses them to take food; and they readily consent. Then Abraham made haste into the tent to Sara, and said unto her: ‘Make haste! temper together three measures of flour, and make cakes upon the hearth.’ He is full of considerateness, says St. Ambrose; he cannot think of depriving his wife of a share in the work of religion he has in hand; he would have her join him in all things; she is a type of the Church. Let man then hasten and kill the fatted calf, in figure of the Lord’s Passion; the woman’s part is to prepare man himself, and make him the food of God; for the three measures of flour, taken by Sara, signify the threefold posterity of Noe, which forms the three races of the human family. They are again mentioned, and with the same import, in the Gospel; and the woman, the Church, again appears, making the bread of heavenly wheat out of them; it is the Bread which is the Body of Christ; it is eaten by man in the Eucharistic banquet; and thus Christ and man become the food of God and the joy of the holy Trinity.
Oh! exclaims St. Ambrose, how happy the man who thus becomes sweet food to divine Wisdom! But this holy zeal, this earnestness of faith, this fervour of devotion, which, as the same saint says, should transform us spiritually into a nourishment which will give pleasure to God—where are we to get them, if not from the Church, whose special work it is to provide us with all this in the sacred mysteries? And this preparation, both for the Head and His members, being the Sacrifice, could the Christian do better than let himself be led, in all simplicity, by this mother of the living? She will lead him to God by her sacred liturgy. Surely, he may unreservedly commit his spiritual direction to this holy mother Church, seeing that our Lord Himself has left everything to her, in what regards the administration of this Sacrament of His love. She is to regulate the ceremonies, the solemnity, the preparations, everything, in a word, which is to accompany the great Sacrifice, of which Communion is to be the completion and the issue.
The whole of this feast, which we have been celebrating during these eight days, tells us very eloquently that Communion is not a work of private devotion. Private devotion is not an adequate preparation for man’s receiving this visit from his Lord—a visit whose scope is to bring us closer and closer into union with Christ our Head, and with all His members, who, in the immolation of the one universal Sacrifice, are all made one grand offering to the glory of the Father. For a soul that longs to be united to her Lord, and to gain that full Catholic point of view which is the one intended by God, by far the surest means is to have a clear understanding of what the sacred function is, and to follow attentively the holy ceremonies and formulas, as far as they come within the reach of the faithful. Let not that soul be afraid of having her recollection interfered with, or her love cooled, by taking the way of the Church for her own. She is quite right in being desirous to approach the holy table in the right dispositions; then let her do as the Church does. She will be all the more pleasing to Jesus who is coming to her, she will be all the better prepared for union with Him, as a member of His mystical body the Church, the more she is a faithful child of that Church; and if she be that, if she be a disciple of that great school, if she live under the mighty influence of the divine liturgy, she will never think of making her preparation for holy Communion by shutting her eyes and ears to what the Church does during the great Sacrifice; for she knows that unconscious egotism and narrow individualism are the ordinary results of private methods.
The apostles and their immediate disciples, the authorized founders of the liturgies of the first age of the Church, had no fear of lessening the devotion of the early Christians by the magnificent and gorgeous ceremonial, which they made inseparable from a participation in the sacred Mysteries. So was it also with our ancestors, the martyrs; when obliged by persecution to shelter in the catacombs, they had the Mass celebrated there with a solemnity such as we, now-a-days, never witness. Thus, when Pope Saint Xystus II. was martyred, he was seated on his throne in one of those glorious hiding-places; the Sacrifice of the Mass was being offered up, and the Pontiff, in apostolic majesty, was surrounded by the numerous ministers officiating in the holy function; they feared not to brave imperial edicts and persecutions, provided they could but keep up the solemnity of the Christian rites, for these gave the faithful to partake, in one same banquet, of the Bread of the strong, which united them all together, and gave each partaker courage. When the Church gained freedom by her triumph, she continued these solemn rites of her Sacrifice; nay, she even added to their solemnity, when gilded and brilliantly lighted basilicas had replaced the dark crypts and cemeteries. The fathers and holy doctors of the Church, the saints of the great times of her independence, all made this the habitual preparation for receiving the blessed Sacrament, viz: the magnificence of the liturgy, and the solemnity of the holy Sacrifice, at which all the people assisted, and all took that active participation in it which we have already described. And yet, we never hear that this obligatory crowded assistance, this exterior pomp, this sustained attention to the sacred ceremonies, ever impeded their fervour, or kept our Lord from having saints among His people. We never find anything to indicate that their appreciation of divine things was thereby dulled, or that their saintliness was impaired by it, or that society —of which they were the guides, respected and obeyed—was kept in a state of backwardness, or unfitted to bear comparison, in anything worth comparison, with our own times. But perhaps the Church of those ages would have shown more wisdom, and more spirituality, had she left these sons and daughters of hers all to themselves, to make their own meditations in silence and solitude? The thought would be a very untrue, not to say, a most impertinent one. Certainly, such an idea had not yet made way in the thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth century, when faith and genius built those glorious cathedrals which are still the pride of our Europe. They were built that the ceremonies of religious worship might have a more worthy development, and attract more abundant witnesses, and produce holiness in the children of the Church, who then preferred her ways to any others.
But may not these times of ours be happier ones for piety? May not the time have come, when, being made independent of the senses by improved systems of asceticism scarcely dreamt of in those earlier ages, the human soul, when it would go to God, has no further need of those exterior helps which were all very well for centuries when Augustine, or Leo the Great, or Hildegarde, or Bernard, lived, but are quite unnecessary for a generation so highly spiritual as our own? The fruits of a tree must decide whether it be a good or a poor one. One should examine if there have been satisfactory results from abandoning the paths marked out by the Church, and so zealously kept to by our fathers in the faith.
The sixteenth century was made to witness hell triumphing over the ruins of altars in all the northern countries of Europe, especially in England. The long interruption of liturgical solemnity brought with it, amongst many of the faithful of these later times, a lowering, or even a total ignorance, of what the Mass is as a Sacrifice. The great mystery of the Eucharist seemed, to certain pious souls, to be nothing else than our Lord’s presence, who abides among us for the purpose of receiving our private visits, and of Himself occasionally coming to be our guest in holy Communion. That was all that the Eucharist meant, as far as the practical knowledge of these people wont! As to that part of the Eucharistic mystery, which consists in our Lord’s being mystically immolated by the wonderful words of Consecration, and thereby expiating for the sins of men, and paying to His eternal Father, in our name, the great debts of adoration and thanksgiving; as to His daily receiving thereby the fervent supplications of our mother the Church, and, because of her suppliant worship in union with His own Sacrifice, His warding off from this poor world the chastisements it deserves: in a word, as to the Mass—it says much less to the hearts of these good people, than does Exposition, or Benediction, or Forty-Hours, or even a mere visit to the blessed Sacrament made very privately and very quietly. For them, Mass is but a preliminary condition for having something else which they look forward to; Mass, in their minds, is but a means for producing the real Presence. On this account, though the Church has formally discountenanced the practice of having the blessed Sacrament exposed during a low Mass, the Christians of whom we are speaking would far prefer being present at such a Mass, than at one where the Church’s wishes are respected; and their reason is, that the Exposition gives them all they want, and all they expect from the Mass. As for High Mass, unless it happen to be one with Exposition, they would rather not go to it, for it is å distraction to them! Sometimes, however, they will go to a solemn Mass; but as to the powerful influence for good, which the heavenly agency of the liturgy would exercise upon them if they would but allow it, they have evidently no notion of such a fact; for you will see them giving all their attention to some book they have brought with them, and out of which they are taking reflections, which, though quite correct in themselves, have no relation to the great Sacrifice at which they are assisting. The Elevationbell tells them nothing but this—that our Lord has descended upon the altar; they, of course adore; but they never think of uniting themselves with the divine Victim, or of offering themselves, together with the Church, for the sublime intentions which she expresses in her liturgy of each feast or season. If they intend to go to Communion on that day, they will perhaps lay aside, for some moments previous to approaching the rails, the prayer-book which they had been using, that they may sweetly occupy themselves with the sentiments excited by its reading. And thus are they occupied up to the moment when, having admitted them to the Sacrament of unity, our Lord must seek in the distant grace of their Baptism, rather than in their sentiments and thoughts of the moment, that intimate fellowship with the Church, which Communion demands of us, and which it is intended to confirm within us.
Is it, then, to be wondered at that, with very many souls, religion, whose true basis is sacrifice, rests on little but a vague sentimentality? This gradually effaces the fundamental notions of God’s dominion, and sovereign justice; of worship, reparation, service, and homage, which are our first duties towards our Maker. Whence comes there, in so many Christians who are in the habit of going to the Sacraments, that weakness of faith, that total absence of the practical notion of the Church, which made itself so painfully felt to our bishops at the time of the Council? It is because, together with the grandeur of the liturgy, to which they are total strangers, public worship has lost its social character; Communion, consequently, has lost its full meaning, and leaves its receivers in their state of contented isolation; for it is not, as far as they are concerned, the bond of unity, through Christ the Head, with the whole body whereof they were made members by Baptism. To say nothing of those nominal Catholics, with whom the word Church seems to be a term one meets with in history, but which has no present objective existence, are there many, even among those who are frequent, or daily, communicants, who understand this axiom of Saint Augustine: 'The Eucharist is our daily Bread, for the virtue it implies is unity; and unity of the members in a body, is the health of that body, and the health of each member’?
Twice already had two sons of St. Benedict taken up the defence of the adorable Sacrament against its adversaries, when, in the thirteenth century, there came forward in the same cause a monk of Cluny, by name Algerus. He composed a volume worthy of its two predecessors; and though its dogmatic character excludes everything approaching to hyperbole, yet we find this same truth expressed thus forcibly: ‘The Mystery of Christ’s true Flesh in the Sacrament of the altar, is a profit to those only who, in the same Sacrament, receive also the mystery of His members, that is, union with the entire body, which is the Church; because, just as the head has no vital influence, when separated from the body, so Christ confers life upon no man, unless there be unity of the body of the Church: for, as Christ is inseparable from His mystical body, so He is never received in His Sacrament save in His entirety, that is, as incorporated with us by the mystery of His and our union.’
The doctrine here expressed is very profound. It enables us to appreciate the magnificence of such a sight as was to be seen, in former times, of the whole assembly of the faithful concluding the solemnity of the Sacrifice by all communicating of the divine Victim. This unanimous meeting at the holy table of all those who have been made members of the Church by Baptism, is a sight which we cannot expect to behold in an age like our own, which is so full of immorality, infidelity, and cowardly human respect. And those of the Church’s children whose fervent assiduity at the divine banquet is a consolation to her amidst the general neglect, cannot always wait for the late hour of High Mass, though it would bring them closer into the spirit of the mystery of Communion, and would be more in accordance with the desires of the Church. They are generally prevented from such a practice by their delicate health, or by other obstacles, which are, no doubt, very difficult to be removed; and our loving mother the Church is quite aware of the moral impossibility of anything like a general return to the ancient practice. Still, we cannot forbear regretting the difficulty, and envying those happy times, when each of the faithful partook sacramentally of the Sacrifice which was celebrated in the presence of the whole congregation. Yet she does not press her wishes in this regard, except for the sacred ministers, who are assistants at the Sacrifice; and even for them, she does not prescribe it as an express command: ‘Let them know,’ she says, in her Council of Trent, ‘that it is extremely becoming, that, at least on Sundays and solemn feasts, they should receive holy Communion at the altar where they give their ministry.’ The fathers of the same Counoil thus admirably express the traditional teaching, which we have been putting before our readers: ‘The holy Council, with fatherly affection, admonishes, exhorts, begs and implores, by the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the name of Christians, will, at length, be united to each other in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord. Let them be mindful of the infinite majesty, and the wonderful love, of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His beloved life as the price of our salvation, and His Flesh as our food. Let them believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood with such constancy and resoluteness, with such devotion of soul, and love, and worship, as that they may frequently receive that supersubstantial Bread. May it be to them their true life, and the perpetual health of their soul! And being strengthened by its strength, may they go through the journey of this miserable life, and reach their heavenly country, where they may eat, unveiled, that same Bread of the angels, which they now receive under the sacred veils’ (of the sacramental Species).
The Church of Armenia chants, even to this day, at the time of Communion, an admirable canticle, which is of the same character as the short, but sublime invitation to the sacred Table, which we gave yesterday from the ancient Church of Gaul.
Dum Communicant Qui Digni Sunt
(Chorus modulatur hoc Canticum)
Mater fidei, sacer cœtus Sponsorum,
Et thalamus sublimis!
Domus Sponsi immortalis
Qui te exornavit in æternum!
Tu es secundum coelum mirabile
De gloria in gloriam excelsum.
Ad instar lucis nos parturis
Per filiale baptisterium.
Panem istum purificantem distribuis,
Das ad bibendum sanguinem tuum tremendum,
Trahis ad supernum ordinem
Intelligibilium non factum.
Venite, filii novæ Sion,
Accedite ad Dominum nostrum cum sanctitate.
Gustate sed et videte
Quia suavis est Dominus Deus noster virtutum.
Illa di visit Jordanem,
Tu mare peccatorum mundi;
Illa magnum ducem habuit Josue,
Tu Jesum Patri consubstantialem.
Antiqua figura tibi etiam similis,
Illa confregit portas adamantinas,
Tu inferni a fundamentis.
Panis hic est Corpus Christi,
Hic calix Sanguinis novi Testamenti.
Occultum sacramentum nobis manifestatur,
Deus in hoc a nobis videtur.
Hic est Christus Verbum Deus
Qui ad dexteram Patris sedet,
Et hic sacrificatur inter nos,
Tollit peccata mundi.
Ille qui benedictus est in æternum
Una cum Patre et Spiritu,
Nunc et magis in futurum
Et sine fine semper in saecula.
O mother of faith, sacred assembly
and sublime nuptial couch of the marriage-feast!
O house of the immortal Spouse,
adorned by him with everlasting beauty!
Thou art the wonderful second heaven,
whose majesty is from glory to glory!
Thou, as light produces light, bringest us forth,
by the font, which gives us to thee thy children.
Thou art distributing the Bread that purifies;
thou art giving us to drink what thou possessest
—the adorable Blood; thou art drawing us
to that uncreated supernal order of things.
O come ye children of the new Sion,
approach with holiness your Lord!
Yea, taste and see that our Lord,
the God of armies, is sweet.
That Sion of old divided the waters of Jordan,
thou breakest up the sea of sins;
she of old had Josue as her leader;
thou, Jesus, consubstantial with the Father.
The lofty altar, too,
was an ancient figure of thee:
it broke down the gates of adamant; thou,
those of hell, even to its foundations.
This is the Body of Christ,
this the chalice of the Blood of the new Testament.
The hidden Sacrament is shown to us,
and herein God is seen by us.
This is Christ the Word, God,
who is sitting at the right hand of the Father:
and he is sacrificed in our presence,
and takes away the sins of the world.
It is he who is blessed for ever,
together with the Father and the Spirit,
now and ever more for time to come,
and, without end, for everlasting ages.
Let us once more borrow from the liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions (Book viii). The following formula of thanksgiving after Communion will tell us what is the spirit of the Church, and what she would have us do at that precious time. We find that she is intent upon the great interests of Jesus, her Spouse. In this ecstasy of her love, in this moment of her intimate union with her God, she strives to keep her children from having narrow-minded thoughts, and intentions which look to nothing beyond self, the result of private devotion, so unseasonable for such grand acts of the Christian life as are the Sacrifice of Mass and Communion in the universal Victim, as we have heard the fathers expressing it. Scarcely, then, have the sacred Species been distributed, than the deacon cries out: Surgamus, let us rise! Thereupon, all stand up, and unite in this prayer, which is read by the bishop:
Invocatio Post Communionem
Domine Deus omnipotens, Pater Christi tui, benedicti Filii; exauditor eorum qui recte invocant te, cognitor precum etiam eorum qui tacent: gratias agimus tibi, quod nos dignos censuisti qui participaremus sancta tua mysteria, quæ præbuisti nobis ad plenam eorum quæ bene cognovimus persuasionem, ad custodiam pietatis, ad remissionem delictorum; quoniam nomen Christi tui invocatum est super nos, et tibi adjuncti sumus.
Qui segregasti nos ab impiorum communione, aduna cum iis qui tibi sunt consecrati, firma nos in veritate per sancti Spiritus adventum, quæ ignoramus revela, quæ deficiunt supple, quæ novimus corrobora.
Sacerdotes inculpatos conserva in cultu tuo. Reges tuere in pace; magistratus in justitia; aerem in temperie; fruges in ubertate; mundum in omnipotente providentia. Gentes bellicosas seda. Errantes converte. Populum tuum sanctifica; virgines conserva; conjuges custode in fide; castos robora; infantes ad maturam ætatem perduc; nuper initiatos firma; catechumenos erudi, ac dignos initiatione redde; nosque omnes congrega in regnum coelorum, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro:
Cum quo tibi gloria, honor, ac veneratio, et sancto Spiritui in saecula. Amen.
O Lord God almighty, Father of Christ, thy blessed Son! who graciously hearest them that call upon thee in uprightness, who knowest the prayers of those even who are silent; we thank thee, for that thou hast deemed us worthy to partake of thy sacred mysteries: thou hast given to us, for fully strengthening our faith in those things which we so well know, for the preservation of piety, and for the forgiveness of our sins; for the name of thy Christ has been invoked upon us, and we have been joined to thee.
O thou that hast separated us from communion with the ungodly, unite us with them that are consecrated to thee; strengthen us in the truth, by the coming of the Holy Ghost; teach us the things we know not; supply our deficiencies; confirm us in the truths we already know.
Preserve thy priests blameless in thy service. Keep kings in peace; magistrates in justice; the air salubrious; the fruits in abundance; the world in thine almighty providence. Pacify nations that are waging war. Convert them that are astray. Sanctify thy people; preserve thy virgins; keep in fidelity them that are in wedlock; strengthen the chaste; lead little ones to mature age; confirm the newly initiated; teach the catechumens, and make them worthy of initiation; and gather us all together into the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord:
To whom, together with thee, and the holy Spirit, be glory, and honour, and adoration for ever. Amen.
 Ps. ci. 1, 4, 5.
 Ibid. 10.
 St. John vi. 51.
 Ps. xxi. 28.
 Is. xl .6-8.
 St. Aug. in Ps. ci.
 St. Bernard. ad mil. tempi. vi.
 Ps. ci. 24.
 In Ps. ci.
 Ps. xxi. 23-27.
 Ecclus. xv. 3.
 Ezechiel xlvii. 2.
 Ps. lxiv. 10.
 Prov. ix. 2-5.
 St. Matt. xxii. 4.
 Ps. xli. 3.
 Cant. i. 12.
 Ibid. i. 3, 13; ii. 3, 4.
 Ibid. iv. 16.
 Ibid. v. 1.
 Ibid. v. 6.
 Ibid. vii. 9.
 Ibid. vii. 12.
 Ibid. vi. 10.
 Cant.ii. 16.
 Ibid. vii. 11-13.
 Ibid. viii. 11, 12.
 Ibid. vii. 12.
 Ibid. 7, 8.
 Ibid. viii. 2.
 Esth. v. 4-8; vii. 1-10.
 Ps. lxxvii. 65, 66.
 Cant. viii. 2.
 Ps. ciii. 14.
 Cant. viii. 2.
 Ibid. iii. 4.
 Gen. xxv. 23.
 Ibid. xxvii. 14.
 Gen. xxv. 27.
 St. Ambr. De Jacob et vit. beat. lib. ii., c. 2.
 Eph. ii. 14-16.
 Comm. in Gen., lib. ii. ap. Euch.
 Gen. xxvii.
 Ibid. xviii. 1-9.
 Ambr. De Abr. lib. i. c. 5.
 Ap. Euch. Comm. in Gen. lib. ii.
 St. Matt. xiii. 33.
 St John. xii. 24, Ap. Ambr. Serm. 13.
 In ps. cxviii. Serm. 18.
 St. Luke vi. 44.
 St. Aug. Serm. 57, 137.
 Paschasius Radbert and our Laufranc, against Scotus Erigena, and Berengarius.
 De Sacram. Corp. et Sang. Dom. lib. i. c. 3.
 Conc. Trid. Sessio. 22 de Sacrif. Miss. c. 6.
 Sess. 23. de Reform. c. 13.
 Sess. xiii. de Each. c. 8.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Christum regem adoremus dominantem gentibus, qui se manducantibus dat spiritus pinguedinem.
Let us adore Christ, the King, who ruleth the nations; who giveth fatness of spirit to them that eat him.
The bright octave, consecrated to the glory of the blessed Sacrament, closes to-day; and although we began the subject three days before the feast itself, we have been able to do little more than slightly touch upon the sublime subject proposed for our consideration and love by the Church. The Memorial left us by our Lord of all His wondrous mercies far exceeds the measure of our poor thoughts, and the capabilities of human language; such is the extremity of the infinite love, which God bears to His own creatures, that no possibility of ours could make it a return such as it deserves.
Eternal Wisdom was, even from His Father’s bosom, betrothed to human nature. He came down into this world, which sin had marred, and there He found man, who had become the slave of sin; He assumed the nature of man: He was thus able to make a Sacrifice, which gives infinite glory and full satisfaction to God, and He perfected His union with His creature, by means of that divine banquet, at which, as food and drink, He Himself is served; for He is the divine Victim immolated on the cross and at our altars.
O man! O child of Adam, that wast formed of earthy slime, what art thou, that thou shouldst be remembered in the court of heaven? Thou desired one of the everlasting hills—for we may apply this name even to thee—what hast thou done, that thou shouldst thus be glorified? Yet doubt it not, thou hast had all these favours. ‘Let not my few weak words stagger thee,’ cries out St. Cyril, the brave defender at Ephesus of the sacred nuptials, of which the Eucharist is what the fathers call the glorious extension, ‘heed not my unworthiness, but listen to the voice, respect the authority, of them that have gone before us, and have preached these truths. They were not men of the common sort, they were not men undeserving of notice, who went about, like hired criers, to proclaim these things on the highroads; no, they were such men as the great Solomon, who was sent as the herald of the King of kings; he sat on his high throne, and proclaimed the mysteries of the Most High; he was clad in scarlet robes, and wore a diadem on his brow, and he was the one to publish the mandate of the God who makes and unmakes kings.’
Christians! ye people of kings, who are to have crowns and thrones yonder in heaven, it is to you this Solomon speaks. Your dignity is great. Listen to this herald of God; learn whence comes your greatness, and live up to it. ‘Hearken, ye kings, and understand! Give ear, ye kings! To you are these my words. If ye love your thrones and your sceptres, love wisdom, that ye may reign for ever. I preferred this wisdom before kingdoms and thrones; I loved her above all treasures, and health, and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light. What this wisdom is, and what her origin, I will declare, and I will not hide from you the mysteries of God; but will seek wisdom out from the beginning of her birth, and bring the knowledge of her to light, and will not pass over the truth. I have learned her without guile, and I communicate her to you without envy. Receive, therefore, instruction by my words, and it shall be profitable unto you.’ Would to God, that we had been able to tell the wonderful mystery we have been celebrating! Divine Wisdom Himself has been pressing us, during all these days, to study the excellencies of that sacred Bread, which yields delights to the kings, His guests. The Church has kept close to the throne of her Jesus, that cloud in which He dwells out of love for us. She is full of love for Him; He has given her unity by the Sacrament of union; and she, like a strong compact city, summons her tribes of Israel, the holy nation, the people of the redeemed, the chosen race of the priests and kings, to come together again on this octave-day, that they may testify their faith, and sing their love, and be grateful for the peace which the holy Eucharist secures to them, and for the abundance of grace and blessing it gives to these her children. These days of universal joy and festivity around the holy Host were revealed by the Holy Ghost to the son of Sirach; and the vision made him exclaim: ‘Wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honoured in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people, and shall open her mouth in the churches of the Most High, and shall glorify herself in the sight of His power. And in the midst of her own people, she shall be exalted, and shall be admired in the holy assembly. And in the multitude of the elect, she shall have praise, and among the blessed (of the Father) she shall be blessed.’
‘Blessed the man,’ continues the inspired writer, still speaking in the future, ‘that shall dwell in wisdom! Blessed the man that considereth her ways in his heart, and hath understanding in her secrets, who goeth after her as one that traceth, and prepareth for her snares of love; who looketh in at her windows, and hearkeneth at her door! Blessed is he that lodgeth near her house, and, fastening a pin in her walls, shall set up his tent nigh unto her, where good things shall rest in his lodging for ever. He shall set his children under her shelter, and shall lodge under her branches. He shall be protected under her covering from the heat, and shall rest in her glory.’
O house of God, house of the feasting of kings, filled with the fragrance of sweetest incense! Better is one day in thy precincts, than a thousand elsewhere. It is a joy to my soul to think of days spent there! The poor bird that once was lonely, and sat moaning on a roof that could never give her rest, here, in the house of God, finds all she wants. The turtle-dove, having found at the altar of her Lord a nest for her young ones, has no further solicitude. In the secret of that little cloud, far from the conflicts and disturbances of the world, and where there is no contradiction of tongues—there, from early dawn, eternal Wisdom is pouring out upon souls the multitude of His light and sweetness; there, each of the Church’s hours, choirs will be singing psalms and canticles of praise and joy around the tabernacle, wherein resides the Lamb who, though slain, is ever living, beautiful on His throne of love, the Hod of gods in our Sion.
Truly, He abides among us; our earth has received the mystery of the marriage-feast, of the divine espousals with human nature, and she ever possesses the Lord her Hod dwelling with her in the Eucharist. O thou gladness of morning! O heavenly wine that bringest forth virgins! O happy moments, wherein the beauty of Jesus, whose full vision is the joy of the angels, gives itself under the sacramental veil to our souls, you leave behind you something more than a joyous recollection. The altar of Sacrifice, and the house of the great Banquet, both continue as the throne ever occupied by our King; they are the earthly abode of that Wisdom, who, though He is seated at the right hand of the Father in the brightness of the saints, and is loved by the Lord of all things, yet has not changed towards us poor children of men; He still delights to be with us, and keep up His loved union with us; and, as He tells us He did at the beginning, so He still loves this world of ours, and, to use His own word, He still plays with it. On the throne of His tabernacle, He, beautiful Wisdom, receives the adorations of them that rule this world, for it is from Him they have their crowns and sceptres; and when they have wisdom, it is from Him they have it, and they asked Him for it on bended knees. On that same throne He hears and grants the prayer of those little ones, little by humility and simplicity of heart, whom He so sweetly presses to go to Him; they are attracted to Him by His divine loveliness and riches; and they go to Him, that He may teach them how to love Him and fill their treasures to the brim.
Glory be to the Lamb, whose Sacrifice has given us this wonderful Presence in the blessed Sacrament I To Him be power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction, for ever and ever! By His lovely light let us, as a close to this day and the octave, respectfully contemplate what this ineffable permanence is, which thus secures to us in its fullness, to the end of time, the great mystery of faith.
How different is the divine Lamb of the true Passover, from that ancient one of the Jewish people, which we now so well understand! In prescribing the rites to be observed in the sacrifice of the figurative Paschal Lamb, which was to be eaten but once a year, Moses laid down this strict injunction: ‘Neither shall there remain anything of it until morning’; nothing was to be left, all was to be consumed! Let us listen, now, to an apostle of the new Law: it is Andrew, brother of Peter; he is speaking to a Roman proconsul, and, through him, to all the Gentiles: ‘Every day, I offer up to the almighty God, who is one and true, not the flesh of oxen, nor the blood of goats, but the spotless Lamb, upon the altar; of whose Flesh the whole multitude of the people eat; and the Lamb that is sacrificed, remains whole and living.’
‘How can that be?’ asks the proconsul. ‘Become a disciple and thou shalt learn,' replies Andrew. But that could not be: the representative of the pagan world was officially appointed to persecute the crucified Jesus in His members; and as to the sublime dogma he had just heard, and which was the very basis of the religion proscribed by the State, he had but one way of dealing with it and its preacher: laugh at it, and hang Andrew on the cross. The apostle thus sealed his testimony by his death, leaving to the Holy Ghost, who had inspired him with the words he had spoken, the future victory which that teaching was to win. His brother-apostles, who had been his fellow-guests at the last Supper, also laid down their lives for Jesus and His doctrine; and, by that sacrifice of themselves, they made themselves food to the same dear Lord. So did Andrew. He followed the counsel of the Wise Man: ‘When thou shalt sit to eat with a prince, consider diligently what is set before thy face, and lay this to thy heart, and know that it behoveth thee to give a like feasting to the prince.’ Having, therefore, been fed with Jesus’ cross in the banquet of His Body at the last Supper, as St. Augustine expresses it, Andrew made a right noble return.
And so was it with the other martyrs, who came after him: the joy they showed, in the midst of their tortures, kept up the proof of the power that exists in the precious Wine and heavenly Bread, which can thus gladden man’s heart and make it brave. The time would come, when the demonstration of the mystery of faith, so sublimely expressed by the apostle St. Andrew, would convince the world; not indeed by the force of argument, or by the clever sequel of learned deductions, but by the world itself becoming transformed from paganism to Christianity. That transformation was an impossibility, as far as the world’s own misery and power were concerned; and yet it was an undeniable fact; and it was the result of an irresistible influence: the influence of the divine leaven, which, in the language of the Gospel, was put into the whole measure of flour at the last Supper. From south to north, from east to west, everywhere throughout the globe, the children of the Church now sing these words, which are but St. Andrew’s expression that has triumphed over the world, won its faith, and is set to rhythm and music: ‘Christ’s Flesh is food, and His Blood is drink; yet is He whole under each Species. He is not cut by the receiver, nor broken, nor divided: He is taken whole. He is received by one, He is received by a thousand; the one receives as much as all; nor is He consumed, who is received And when the Sacrament is broken, waver not, but remember that there is as much under each fragment as is hidden under the whole. Of the substance there is no division; it is but the sign that is broken; and He who is the Signified, is not thereby diminished, either as to state or stature.’
The Church’s doctrine is this: that ‘under each Species, and under each part of each Species, there is contained, truly, really, and substantially, the Body and the Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ.’ Of themselves, it is true, the words of Consecration in the Sacrifice do but produce what they signify; and therefore, exclusively and isolatedly, under the twofold Species, produce the Body and the Blood; but our risen Lord, who liveth now for ever, remains indivisible. As the apostle teaches us, Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more; for, in that He died to sin (that is, because of our sin), He died once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Therefore, wheresoever, in virtue of the words of consecration, there is the most holy Body, or the Blood of our Redeemer, there also, by an essential and necessary concomitance, is the whole entire sacred Humanity, united with the Word.
And here, for the sake of greater precision, we are going to adopt the scholastic phraseology. And firstly, the change of bread into the Body, and of wine into the Blood, is one of substance into substance; but in this miraculous change, very appropriately, on that account, called trans-substantiation, the accidents or modes of the two terms of the change are in no way altered or destroyed. So that, being deprived of their natural subject, or support, the species, or appearances of bread and wine are immediately sustained by God’s omnipotence, and they produce and receive the same impressions as they would do if they were joined to their own proper substances. They are the sacramental sign; and although they do not inform the Body of Christ, that is, do not give It their own qualities or properties, yet they determine and maintain Its presence, so long as these species are not essentially modified. As regards the Body of our Lord—which, in Its own true substance, is substituted for the substance alone of bread and wine—It is withdrawn, by the sacred formula, from those mysterious laws of extension, which are so far from being thoroughly understood by human science; It is whole under the whole species, and whole under each sensible portion of the species; and, in this, It resembles spiritual substances, such as, for instance, the soul of man, which is whole in his whole body, and whole in each member of the same. Such, then, is the mystery of the sacramental state: whilst present to us under the dimensions of the Host, and not beyond them, by reason of His substance being independent of our known laws of extension, Christ our Lord abides in Himself precisely what He is in heaven. As St. Thomas of Aquin expresses it: ‘The Body of Christ, in the Sacrament, retains all Its accidents, as a necessary consequence; and Its several parts are just as they are in His sacred Body, although they are not subject to the conditions of external space.’
The very notion of Sacrifice required this passive appearance; in the same way that the idea of a banquet, in which He is received, determined what was to be the peculiar nature of the sacramental elements selected by our divine Lord. Of course, when we behold the sacred Host, we must banish every such thought as bondage, or actual suffering, or laborious virtues, on the part of the divine Guest who dwells under the sacred Species: under this external passiveness or apparent death, there abound life, and love, and the beauty of the Lamb, who has vanquished death, and who is the immortal King of ages.
He resides under the white Host, with all His power and brightness, the most beautiful of the children of men; He has all those admirable proportions, and all the perfect finish of those divine members, which were formed from the flesh of the most beautiful of the daughters of Adam, and the purest of virgins. Let us venerate, with all the respect we are capable of, those feet, which were watered by the tears of the repentant Magdalene, and dried with her hair, and embalmed with the sweetest ointment, beforehand, as Jesus emphasised her act, when He praised it; those feet of our merciful Redeemer, more beautiful than the feet of them who bring us the tidings of His having come among us; they are bright, beyond the brightness of fine brass when in a burning furnaoe. Let us send our reverential kisses, beyond the veil, to those hands, which are spotless, and consecrated for the office of High Priest; those hands, which worked at the wood in Joseph’s shop; those hands, which scattered blessings and miracles throughout the land of Israel; they are there, under that Host, just as the bride of the Canticle saw and described them, bright as gold, formed to the model of perfection, and full of something extremely precious, which she called hyacinths, and which perhaps signify those wounds of which the prophet speaks, saying, ‘horns are in His hands, and there is His strength hid.’ Would that we might look beneath the little cloud which hides from us that divine head, the admiration of the angels; that face, once disfigured, and buffeted, and covered all over with reproaches, out of love for us, but now resplendent as the sun when he shineth in his power! O mouth of our Jesus, thou instrument of the Word, whose voice is as the sound of many waters, and whose breathing is death to the wicked! O lips, which our Scriptures tell us, are as lilies dropping choice myrrh! And you, O eyes, which shed tears over Lazarus, and now are lighting up with your brightness the abode of the saints! Oh! that we might see all, see Thee Thyself, Jesus, beneath the mystery and the veil! But no! the mystery and the veil may not be removed; and surer are we, than if our eyes were the witnesses, that Thou, O Beloved of our hearts, art behind our wall, looking at us through the lattices; and this is enough to make us adore Thee. Verily the sweetest test to which Thou couldst put our love, was that we should have faith in this mystery of the adorable Sacrament!
O precious Blood, thou price of our ransom, shed profusely on this earth, but now again within the sacred veins of Jesus! thou art now, as during His years here below, diffusing thy life-giving qualities to His divine members, under the action of that sacred Heart, which we are so solemnly to honour to-morrow! Most holy Soul of Jesus, present in the Sacrament as form substantial of that most perfect Body, which, through thee, is the ever-living Body of the Man-God, thou possessest within thee all the treasures of eternal Wisdom. Thou hadst the office intrusted to thee, of putting into a varied and sensible language the ineffable beauty of that Wisdom of the Father, who was taken with love for the children of men, and desired, by a manifestation which they could understand, to secure their love to Himself! Every word, every step, of Jesus, every mystery of His public or hidden life, was a gradual revelation, to us men, of that divine brightness. Truly, as we have it in the Gospel, this Wisdom, like the grace that was within Him, advanced in His manifestation to the creatures, whose love He had come down from heaven to win. When, at length, He had achieved all His work—given us His teachings, and examples, and mysteries, those marvellous manifestations of His own infinite perfections—He gave them perpetuity, that so all ages to come might possess them and benefit by them; He fixed them, so to say, in the Sacrament of love, that abiding source of grace and light to men, that living Memorial, wherein divine love is ever ready to bestow upon us the graces of the wonderful works He has wrought by His Incarnation. ‘The Flesh, the Blood of Christ, is the Word made manifest,’ says St. Basil; ‘it is Wisdom made visible by the Incarnation and by all that mystery of His life in the flesh, whereby He unfolds to us all moral perfection, and all the beautiful, both natural and divine. It is that which is the food of our soul, and which is preparing her, even in this world, for the contemplation of the divine realities.’
The solemn Exposition, during which the blessed Sacrament has been receiving our most fervent homage of adoration and love, is concluded, as it began, with a procession. As soon as the Vespers are over (and they are the same as those of the feast, page 273), the deacon takes the monstrance from the throne, and gives it to the priest. The sacred Host is once more carried outside the church, with the same holy ceremonies, and chants, and joyous worship of the faithful. Again It has all nature doing homage to the Creator; It sanctifies every place through which It is carried; drives away the hostile power which, as the apostle tells us, seeks to infest this air; blesses our streets and our country lanes, and imparts to our fields a pledge of rich harvest. It is then brought back to the church, not to leave the hallowed precincts again, save for the sake of the dying, to strengthen them for their last long journey, or for the sick, that It may be administered to them, since they are not able to go to their Lord. The Benediction is then given to the adoring assembly, and the sacred Host is replaced in the tabernacle.
Whilst these sentiments of faith and love are so active within us, let us give them expression, by the beautiful hymn, Adoro te devote: it was composed by the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas of Aquin; and it is hard to say which of the two predominates in these verses, the theological science of the saint, or his humble and glowing love.
But when the tabernacle-door closes upon Jesus in His holy Sacrament, our hearts will still continue with Him. This octave always brings with it such an increase of light regarding the great Mystery! It has been so, this year. More than ever, for the future, will we love and reverence the Banquet which is, and produces, all that we have been considering during these days: we know so much better now, than formerly, the perfections of eternal Wisdom, who has given Himself to us in the Eucharist; we will let Him guide us into all grace and truth.
Rhythmus S. Thomæ
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et humanitas;
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.
Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.
O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini:
Præsta meæ menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine,
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie
Visu sim beatus tuæ gloriæ.
I devoutly adore thee, O hidden Deity,
who truly liest concealed under these forms:
to thee my whole heart subjects itself,
because it finds itself quite lost in contemplating thee.
Sight, feeling, taste, tell us not of thy presence;
but the hearing alone may be safely believed.
I believe whatsoever the Son of God has spoken;
nothing is more true than this word of truth.
Upon the cross the divinity alone was concealed;
but here the humanity also lies hid:
but I believe and confess them both,
and ask for what the penitent thief asked.
I see not the wounds, as Thomas did;
yet do I confess thee to be my God.
Oh! grant that I may ever believe in thee, more and more,
and put my hope in thee, and love thee.
O memorial of my Lord’s death!
O living Bread, that givest life to man!
Grant that my soul may ever live on thee,
and may ever relish thy sweetness.
O loving Pelican; Jesu Lord!
cleanse me, an unclean sinner, with thy Blood,
one drop whereof
could save the whole world from all its guilt.
O Jesus, whom I now see beneath a veil!
I beseech thee, let that be done,
for which I do so thirst: that I may see thine unveiled face,
and be happy in the vision of thy glory.
The devout Ratpert, monk of St. Gall, friend of Notker, and, like him, a writer of liturgical compositions, shall provide us with an appropriate conclusion to this our octave of Corpus Christi, in the following devout hymn, which he composed for the faithful of the ninth century.
Ad Eucharistiam Sumendam
Laudes, Omnipotens, ferimus tibi, dona colentes
Corporis immensi, Sanguinis atque tui.
Tangimus ecce tuam, Rector sanctissime, mensam:
Tu licet indignis propitiare tuis:
Here is repeated: Laudes, Omnipotens.
Propitiare pius, peccata absolve benignus:
Prosit ut invictis appropiare sacris.
Here is repeated: Corporis immensi.
Angelus æthereis sanctus descendat ab astris,
Purificans corpus, cor pariterque pius.
Hæc medicina potens cœli nos ducat in arces,
Interea terris dans medicamen opis.
Quod colimus fragiles, respice clemens,
Summeque pascentes protege Pastor oves.
Protege quas recreas, hostis ne proterat illas,
Consolidans dono nos sine fine tuo.
Nam sumus indigni quos ornes munere tali:
Tu pietate tua, Rex, rege castra tua.
Hoc, Pater omnipotens, cum Christo perfice, clemens,
Spiritus atque potens, trinus et unus apex.
We offer thee our praises, O almighty Lord,
honouring the gifts bestowed upon us of the adorable Body and Blood.
Lo! we are approaching thy table, O most holy Guide!
have mercy on us thy servants, though unworthy ones.
Here is repeated: We offer thee.
Have mercy, O loving Lord! compassionately forgive us our sins:
that our approaching these triumphant sacred Mysteries may be to our profit.
Here is repeated: Bestowed upon us.
May there descend upon us, from the high heavens,
the holy angel who will lovingly cleanse both our body and soul.
We offer thee.
May this powerful remedy lead us to the heavenly abode,
giving us meanwhile, here on earth, the restoring power.
Bestowed upon us.
O merciful Lord! look down upon us frail ones, who are honouring thy Majesty;
O best of shepherds, protect us thy sheep, now feeding on it!
We offer thee.
Protect those whom thou refreshest, lest the enemy crush us;
for ever strengthen us by the gift
Bestowed upon us.
For we are unworthy that thou shouldst honour us with such a gift:
do thou in thy mercy, O King, rule thine own soldiers!
We offer thee.
O almighty Father, in thy clemency, grant our prayer, together with Christ
and the all-powerful Spirit, the perfect Three and One giver of the gifts.
Bestowed upon us.
 Ps. cx. 4.
 St. John xiii. 1.
 Heb. ii. 14, 15.
 Prov. ix. 2.
 Gen. ii. 7.
 Ps. viii. 5.
 Gen. xlix. 26.
 Job vii. 17.
 Hom. div. x in Myst. cœn.
 St. Matt. xxv. 34.
 Apoc. v. 9, 10.
 Wisd. vi. vii. passim.
 Gen. xlix. 20. Cf. ant. 3 Laud. in die festi.
 Ecclus. xxiv. 7.
 Ps. cxxi. 3, 4.
 1 St. Pet. ii.9.
 Ps. cxxi. 4-8.
 Ecclus. xxiv. 1-4.
 Juxta græc.
 Ecclus. xiv. 22-27.
 Ps. xli. 5.
 Ecclus. xxiv. 20, 21.
 Ps. lxxxiii. 2, 11.
 Ps. ci. 8.
 Ibid. lxxxiii. 4.
 Ibid. xxx. 20, 21.
 Ibid. xxvi. 6.
 Apoc. v. 6.
 Ps. lxxxiii. 8.
 Ps. xxix. 6.
 Zach. ix. 17.
 Ps. cix. 3.
 Wisd. viii. 3.
 Prov. viii. 31.
 Ibid. 14-16.
 Prov. ix. 4; St. Mark x. 14.
 Ecclus, xxiv. 26.
 Prov. viii. 21.
 Apoc. v. xii.
 Ibid. xxi. 23.
 Paschal Time, vol. 1.
 Exod. xii. 10.
 Pass. S. Andr. ap. Lipom.
 St. Matt. x. 20.
 Prov. xxiii. 1, 2. juxta græc.
 In Ps. c.
 Ps. ciii. 15.
 Sequen. Lauda Sion.
 Conc. Trid. Sess. xiii. can. 1, 3.
 Rom. vi. 9, 10.
 P. 3. Q,. lxxvi. a, 4; Sent. lib. 4. dist. 10, art. 2.
 Ps. xliv. 3.
 St. Luke vii. 37, 38.
 St. Mark xiv. 8.
 Is. lii. 7.
 Apoc. i. 15.
 Lev. xxi. 10.
 Cant. v. 14.
 Hab. iii. 4.
 Lam. iii. 30.
 Apoc. i. 16.
 Ibid. 15.
 Is. xi. 4.
 Cant. v. 13.
 St. John xi. 35.
 Apoc. i. 14.
 Cant. ii. 9.
 Concil. Vienn.
 Col. ii. 3.
 St. Luke ii. 52.
 Epist. viii.
 Eph. ii. 2; vi. 12.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
A new ray of light shines to-day in the heaven of holy Church, and its light brings warmth. The divine Master given to us by our Redeemer, that is, the Paraclete Spirit, who has come down into this world, continues His teachings to us in the sacred liturgy. The earliest of these His divine teachings was the mystery of the Trinity; and we have worshipped the blessed Three: we have been taught who God is, we know Him in His own nature, we have been admitted, by faith, into the sanctuary of the infinite Essence. Then this Spirit, the mighty wind of Pentecost, opened to our souls new aspects of the truth, which it is His mission to make the world remember; and His revelation left us prostrate before the sacred Host, the Memorial which God Himself has left us of all His wonderful works. To-day it is the sacred Heart of the Word made flesh that this holy Spirit puts before us, that we may know and love and adore it.
There is a mysterious connexion between these three feasts, of the blessed Trinity, Corpus Christi, and the sacred Heart. The aim of the Holy Ghost, in all three, is to initiate us more and more into that knowledge of God by faith, which is to fit us for the face-to-face vision in heaven. We have already seen how God, being made known to us, by the first, in Himself, manifests Himself to us, by the second, in His outward works; for the holy Eucharist is the memorial, here below, in which He has brought together, and with all possible perfection, all those His wondrous works. But by what law can we pass so rapidly, so almost abruptly, from one feast, which is all directly regarding God, to another, which celebrates the works done by Him to and for us? Then again: how came the divine thought, the eternal Wisdom, from the infinite repose of the eternally blessed Trinity, to the external activity of a love for us poor creatures, which has produced what we call the mysteries of our redemption? The Heart of the Man-God is the solution of these difficulties; it answers all such questions, and explains to us the whole divine plan.
We knew that the sovereign happiness which is in God, we knew that the life eternal communicated from the Father to the Son, and from these two to the Holy Ghost, in light and love, was to be given by the will of these three divine Persons to created beings; not only to those which were purely spiritual, but likewise to that creature whose nature is the union of spirit and matter, that is, to man. A pledge of this life eternal was given to him in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is by the Eucharist that man, who has already been made a partaker of the divine nature by the grace of the sanctifying Spirit, is united to the divine Word, and is made a true member of this only-begotten Son of the Father. Though it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, says St. John, still we are now the sons of God; we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like to Him; for we are called to live, as the Word Himself does, in the society of His eternal Father for ever and ever.
But the infinite love of the sacred Trinity, which thus called us frail creatures to a participation in Its own blessed life, would accomplish this merciful design by means of another love, a love more like that which we ourselves can feel; that is, the created love of a human Soul, evinced by the beatings of a Heart of flesh like our own. The Angel of the great Counsel, who is sent to make known to the world the merciful designs of the Ancient of days, took to Himself, in order to fulfil His divine mission, a created, a human form; and this would enable men to see with their eyes, yea, and even touch with their hands, the Word of life, that life eternal which was with the Father, but appeared even unto us. This human nature, which the Son of God took into personal union with Himself, from the womb of the Virgin-Mother, was the docile instrument of infinite love, but it was not absorbed into, or lost in, the Godhead; it retained its own substance, its special faculties, its distinct will, which will ruled, under the influence of the divine Word, the acts and movements of His most holy Soul and adorable Body. From the very first instant of its existence, the human Soul of Christ was inundated, more directly than was any other creature, with that true light of the Word, which enlighteneth every man who cometh into this world; it enjoyed the face-to-face vision of the divine Essence; and therefore took in, at a single glance, the absolute beauty of the sovereign Being, and the wisdom of the divine decree which called finite beings into a participation of infinite bliss. It understood its sublime mission, and conceived an immense love for man and for God. This love began simultaneously with life, and filled not only His Soul, but impressed, in its own way, the Body too, the moment it was formed from the substance of the Virgin-Mother by the operation of the Holy Ghost. The effect of His love told, consequently, upon His Heart of true human flesh; it set in motion those beatings, which made the Blood of redemption circulate in His sacred veins.
For it was not with Him as with other men, the pulsations of whose hearts are, at first, the consequence of nothing but the vital power which is in the human frame; until, when reason has awakened, emotions produce physical impressions, which quicken or dull the throbbings of the heart. With the Man-God it was not so: His Heart, from the very first moment of its life, responded to the law of His Soul’s love, whose power to act upon His human Heart was as incessant, and as intense, as is the power of organic vitality—a love as burning at the first instant of the Incarnation, as it is this very hour in heaven. For the human love of the Incarnate Word, resulting from His intellectual knowledge of God and of creatures, was as perfect as that knowledge, and therefore as incapable of all progress; though, being our Brother, and our model in all things, He, day by day, made more manifest to us the exquisite sensibility of His divine Heart.
At the period of Jesus’ coming upon this earth, man had forgotten how to love, for he had forgotten what true beauty was. His heart of flesh seemed to him as a sort of excuse for his false love of false goods: his heart was but an outlet, whereby his soul could stray from heavenly things to the husks of earth, there to waste his power and his substance. To this material world, which the soul of man was to render subservient to its Maker’s glory—to this world, which, by a sad perversion, kept man’s soul a slave to his senses and passions—the Holy Ghost sent a marvellous power, which, like a resistless lever, would replace the world in its right position: it was the sacred Heart of Jesus; a Heart of flesh, like that of other human beings, from whose created throbbings there would ascend to the eternal Father an expression of love, which would be a homage infinitely pleasing to the infinite Majesty, because of the union of the Word with that human Heart. It is a harp of sweetest melody, that is ever vibrating under the touch of the Spirit of love; it gathers up into its own music the music of all creation, whose imperfections it corrects, whose deficiencies it supplies, tuning all discordant voices into unity, and so offering to the glorious Trinity a hymn of perfect praise. The Trinity finds its delight in this Heart. It is the one only organum, as St. Gertrude calls it, the one only instrument which finds acceptance with the Most High. Through it must pass all the inflamed praises of the burning Seraphim, just as must the humble homage paid to its God by inanimate creation. By it alone are to come upon this world the favours of heaven. It is the mystic ladder between man and God, the channel of all graces, the way whereby man ascends to God, and God descends to man.
The Holy Ghost, whose master-piece it is, has made it a living image of Himself; for although in the ineffable relations of the divine Persons, He is not the source of love, He is its substantial expression, or in theological language, the term; it is He who inclines the holy Trinity to those works outside Itself, which produce creatures; and then, having given them being, and to some life, He (the holy Spirit) pours out upon them all the effusion of their Creator’s love for them. And so it is with the love which the Man-God has for God and Man: its direct and, so to say, material expression is the throbbing it produces upon His sacred Heart; and again, it is by that Heart, that, like the Water and Blood which came from His wounded Side, He pours out upon the world a stream of redemption and grace, which is to be followed by the still richer one of glory.
One of the soldiers, as the Gospel tells us, opened Jesus’ Side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. We must keep before us this text and the fact it relates, for they give us the true meaning of the feast we are celebrating. The importance of the event here related is strongly intimated, by the earnest and solemn way in which St. John follows up his narration. After the words just quoted, he adds: ‘And he that saw it hath given testimony of it, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe; for these things were done, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.’ Here the Gospel refers us to the testimony of the Prophet Zacharias, who after predicting that the Spirit of grace would be poured out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, says: ‘They shall look upon Him whom they pierced.’
And when they look upon His side thus pierced, what will they see there, but that great truth which is the summary of all Scripture and of all history: ‘God so loved the world, as to give it His only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have eternal life. This grand truth was, during the ages of expectation, veiled under types and figures; it could be deciphered but by few, and even then only obscurely; but it was made known with all possible clearness on that eventful day, when, on Jordan’s banks, the whole sacred Trinity manifested who was the Elect, the chosen One, of the Father—the Son in whom He was so well pleased. It was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary. But there was another revelation, of deepest interest to us, which had still to be made: it was—how, and in what way, would the eternal life brought by Jesus into the world, pass from Him into each one of us? This second revelation was made to us, when the soldier’s spear opened the divine source, and there flowed from it that Water and Blood, which, as the Scripture tells us, completed the testimony of the blessed Three. ‘There are three,’ says St. John, ‘who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are One. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood: and these three are one,’ that is, they are one, because they concur in giving the one same testimony. ‘And this,’ continues St. John, ‘is the testimony: that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son.’ These words contain a very profound mystery; but we have their explanation in to-day’s feast, which shows us how it is through the Heart of the Man-God that the divine work is achieved, and how, through that same Heart, the plan which was conceived, from all eternity, by the Wisdom of the Father, has been realized.
To communicate His own happiness to creatures, by making them, through the Holy Ghost, partakers of His own divine nature, and members of His beloved Son—this was the merciful design of the Father; and all the works of the Trinity, outside Itself, tend to the accomplishment of that same. When the fullness of time had come, there appeared upon our earth He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. The Spirit, who, together with the Father and the Son, has already on the banks of Jordan given His testimony, gives it here again, for St. John continues: ‘And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth; and that He spoke the truth when He said of Himself, that He is Life. The Spirit, as the Gospel teaches us, comes forth with the water from the fountains of the Saviour, and makes us worthy of the precious Blood, which flows together with the water. Then does mankind, thus born again of water and the Holy Ghost, become entitled to enter into the kingdom of God; and the Church, thus made ready for her Spouse in those same waters of Baptism, is united to the Incarnate Word in the Blood of the sacred Mysteries. We, being members of that holy Church, have the same union with Christ; we are bone of His bones, and flesh of His flesh; we have received the power to be made adopted sons of God, and sharers, for all eternity, of the divine life, which He, the Son by nature, has in the bosom of the Father.
On, then, thou Jew! though ignorant of the nuptials of the Lamb, give the signal of their being accomplished. Lead the Spouse to the nuptial bed of the cross; He will lay Himself down on that most precious Wood, which His mother, the Synagogue, has made to be His couch; she prepared it for Him, on the eve of the day of His alliance, when from His sacred Heart His bride is to come forth, together with the Water which cleanses her, and the Blood which is to be her dower. It was for the sake of this bride, that He left His Father, and the bright home of His heavenly Jerusalem; He ran, as a giant, in the way of His intense love; He thirsted, and the thirst of desire gave Him no rest. The scorching wind of suffering which dried up His bones, was less active than the fire which burned in His Heart, and made its beatings send forth, in the agony in the garden, the Blood which, on the morrow, was to be spent for the redemption of His bride. He has reached Calvary, it is the end of His journey; He dies; He sleeps, with His burning thirst upon Him. But the bride, who is formed for Him during this His mysterious sleep, will soon rouse Him from it. That Heart, from which she was born, has broken, that she might come forth; broken, it ceased to beat; and the grand hymn which, through it, had been so long ascending from earth to heaven, was interrupted; and creation was dismayed at the interruption. Now that the world has been redeemed, man should sing more than ever the canticle of his gratitude: and the strings of the harp are broken! Who will restore them? Who will re-awaken in the Heart of Jesus the music of its divine throbbings?
The new-born Church, His bride, is standing near that opened side of her Jesus; in the intensity of her first joy, she thus sings to God the Father: ‘I will praise Thee, O Lord, among the people, and I will sing unto Thee among the nations.’ Then, to her Jesus: ‘Arise, Thou, my glory! my psaltery, my harp, arise!’ And He arose in the early morning of the great Sunday; His sacred Heart resumed its melody, and, with it, sent up to heaven the music of holy Church, for the Heart of the Spouse belongs to His bride, and they are now two in one flesh.
Christ, being now in possession of her who has wounded His Heart, gives her, in return, full power over that sacred Heart of His, from which she has issued. There lies the secret of all the Church’s power. In the relations existing between husband and wife, which were created by God at the beginning of the world, and (as the apostle assures us) in view of this great mystery of Christ and the Church, man is the head, and the woman may not domineer in the government of the family. Has the woman, then, no power? She has power, and a great power: she must address herself to her husband’s heart, and gain all by love. If Adam, our first father, sinned, it was because Eve used, and for evil, her influence over his heart, by misleading him, and us in him. Jesus saves us, because the Church has won His Heart; and that human Heart could not be won, without the Divinity also being moved to mercy. And here we have the doctrine of devotion to the sacred Heart of Jesus, as far as regards the principle upon which it rests. In this its primary and essential notion, the devotion is as old as the Church herself, for it rests on this truth, which has been recognized in every age: that Christ is the Spouse, and the Church is His bride.
The fathers and holy doctors of the early ages had no other way, than this, of expounding the mystery of the Church's formation from Jesus’ side; and the words they used—though always marked by that reserve which was called for by so many of their hearers being as yet uninitiated—were taken as the text for the sublime and fearless developments of later ages. ‘The initiated,’ says St. John Chrysostom, ‘know the mystery of the Saviour’s fountains; from those, that is, from the Blood and the Water, the Church was formed; from those same, came our Mysteries; so that, when thou approachest the dread chalice, thou must come up to it, as though thou wert about to drink of that very Side of Christ.’ ‘The Evangelist,’ says St. Augustine, 'made use of a word which has a special import, when he said: the soldier opened Jesus’ Side with a spear. He did not say struck the Side, or wounded the Side, or anything else like that; hut he said he opened Jesus’ Side. He opened it; for that Side was like the door of life; and when it was opened, the Sacraments (the Mysteries) of the Church came through it... This was predicted by that door which Noe was commanded to make in the side of the Ark, through which were to go those living creatures which were not to be destroyed by the deluge; and all these things were a figure of the Church.’
‘Enter thou into the rock, and hide thee in the pit,’ says Isaias; and what means this, but, ‘enter into the Side of thy Lord?’ as the expression is interpreted, in the thirteenth century, by Guerric, a disciple of St. Bernard, and Abbot of Igny. St. Bernard himself thus comments the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the second chapter of the Canticle: 'Come my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall: O beautiful clefts of the rock, wherein the dove takes safe shelter, and fearlessly looks at the hawk that hovers about!... And what may I see through that opening? The iron hath pierced His soul, and His Heart hath come near; so that, through the cleft, the mystery of His Heart is made visible, that great mystery of love, those bowels of the mercy of our God.... What else art thou, O Lord, but treasures of love, but riches of goodness?... I will make my way to those full store-cellars. I will take the prophet’s advioe, and will leave the cities; I will dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the mouth of the hole in the highest place. Sheltered there, as Moses was in the hole of the rock, I will see my Lord, as He passes by.’ In the next century, we have the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, telling us in his own beautiful style, how the new Eve was born from the Side of Christ, when in His sleep; and how the spear of Saul was thrown at David, and struck the wall, as though it would make its way into Him, of whom David was but a type, that is, Christ, who is the rock,the mountain-cave where are salubrious springs, the shelter where doves build their nests.
Our readers will not expect us to do more than give them this general view of the great mystery, and tell them how the holy doctors of the Church spoke of it. As far as St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure are concerned, the devotion to the mystery of Christ’s side opened on the cross, is but a part of that which they would have us show to the other wounds of our Redeemer. The sacred Heart, as the expression of Jesus’ love, is not treated of, in their writings, with the explicitness wherewith the Church would afterwards put it before us. For this end, our Lord Himself selected certain privileged souls, through whose instrumentality He would bring the Christian world to a fuller appreciation of the consequences which are involved in the principles admitted by the whole Church.
It was on January 27 in the year 1281, in the Benedictine monastery of Helfta, near Eisleben, in Saxony, that our divine Lord first revealed these ineffable secrets to one of the community of that house, whose name was Gertrude. ‘She was then in the twenty-fifth year of her age. The Spirit of God came upon her, and gave her her mission. She saw, she heard, she was permitted to touch, and what is more, she drank of, that chalice of the sacred Heart, which inebriates the elect. She drank of it, even whilst in this vale of bitterness; and what she herself so richly received, she imparted to others, who showed themselves desirous to listen. St. Gertrude’s mission was to make known the share and action of the sacred Heart in the economy of God’s glory and the sanctification of souls; and, in this respect, we cannot separate her from her companion, St. Mechtilde.
On this special doctrine regarding the Heart of the Man-God, St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde hold a very prominent position among all the saints and mystical writers of the Church. In saying this, we do not except even the saints of these later ages, by whom our Lord brought about the public, official worship, which is now given to His sacred Heart. These saints have spread the devotion, now shown to it, throughout the whole Church; but they have not spoken of the mysteries it contains within it, with that set purpose, that precision, that loveliness which we find in the ‘Revelations’ of the two saints, Gertrude and Mechtilde.
It was the beloved disciple, who had rested his head upon Jesus’ breast at the Supper, and perhaps heard the beatings of the sacred Heart—the disciple who, when standing at the foot of the cross, had seen that Heart pierced with the soldier’s spear—who announced to Gertrude its future glorification. She asked him how it was that he had not spoken, in his writings in the new Testament, of what he had experienced when he reclined upon Jesus’ sacred Heart. He thus replied: “My mission was to write, for the Church which was still young, a single word of the uncreated Word of God the Father, that uncreated Word, concerning which the intellect of the whole human race might be ever receiving abundant truth, from now till the end of the world, and yet would never fully comprehend it. As to the sweet eloquence of those throbbings of His Heart, it is reserved for the time when the world has grown old, and has become cold in God’s love, that it may regain favour by the hearing such revelation.” (The Legate of Divine Love. Bk. iv. ch. 4.)
‘Gertrude was chosen as the instrument of that revelation; and what she has told us is exquisitely beautiful. At one time, the divine Heart is shown to her as a treasure, which holds all riches within it; at another, it is a harp played upon by the holy Spirit, and the music which comes from it gladdens the blessed Trinity, and all the heavenly court. It is a plenteous spring, whose stream bears refreshment to the souls in purgatory, strength and every other grace to them that are still struggling on this earth, and delights which inebriate the blessed in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a golden thurible, whence there ascend as many different sorts of fragrant incense, as there are different races of men, for all of whom our Redeemer died upon the cross. It is an altar, upon which the faithful lay their offerings, the elect their homage, the angels their worship, and the eternal High Priest offers Himself as a sacrifice. It is a lamp suspended between heaven and earth. It is a chalice out of which the saints, but not the angels, drink, though these latter receive from it delights of varied kinds. It was in this Heart that was formed and composed the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater noster; that prayer was the fruit of Jesus’ Heart. By that same sacred Heart are supplied all the negligences and deficiencies which are found in the honour we pay to God, and His blessed Mother and the saints. The Heart of Jesus makes itself as our servant, and our bond, in fulfilment of all the obligations incumbent on us; in it alone do our actions derive that perfection, that worth, which makes them acceptable in the eyes of the divine Majesty; and every grace, which flows from heaven to earth, passes through that same Heart. When our life is at its close, that Heart is the peaceful abode, the holy sanctuary, ready to receive our souls as soon as they have departed from this world; and having received them, it keeps them in itself for all eternity, and beatifies them with every delight!’
By thus revealing to Gertrude the admirable mysteries of divine love, included in the doctrine which attaches to the sacred Heart of Jesus, the holy Spirit was, so to say, forestalling the workings of hell, which, two centuries later on, were to find their prime mover in that same spot. Luther was born at Eisleben, in the year 1483. He was the apostle, after being the inventor, of theories the very opposite of what the sacred Heart reveals. Instead of the merciful God, as known and loved in the previous ages, Luther would have the world believe Him to be the direct author of sin and damnation, who creates the sinner for crime and eternal torments, and for the mere purpose of showing that He could do anything, even injustice! Calvin followed; he took up the blasphemous doctrines of the German apostate, and rivetted the protestant principles by his own gloomy and merciless logic. By these two men, the tail of the dragon dragged the third part of the stars of heaven. In the seventeenth century, the old enemy put on hypocrisy in the shape of Jansenism; changing the names of things, but leaving the things unchanged, he tried to get into the very centre of the Church, and there pass off his impious doctrines; and Jansenism—Which, under the pretext of safeguarding the rights of God’s sovereign dominion, aimed at making men forget that He was a God of mercy—was a favourable system, wherewith the enemy might propagate his so-called Reformation. God, who so loved the world, beheld mankind discouraged or terrified, and behaving as though in heaven there was little mercy, and less love. This earth was to be made to see that its Creator had loved it with affectionate love; that He had taken a Heart of flesh in order to bring that infinite love within man’s reach and sight; that He made that human Heart, which He had assumed, do its work, that is, beat and throb from love, just as ours do; for He had become one of ourselves, and, as the prophet words it, had taken the cords of Adam. That Heart felt the thrill of joy when duty-doing made us joyous; it felt a weight and pang when it saw our sorrows; it was gladsome when it found that, here and there, there would be souls to love it in return. How were men to be told all this? Who would be chosen to fulfil the prophecy made by Gertrude the Great? Who would come forth, like another Paul or John, and teach the world, now grown old, the language of the divine throbbings of Jesus’ Heart?
There were then living many men noted for their learning and eloquenoe; but they would not suit the purpose of God. God, who loves to choose the weak in order to oonfound the strong, had seleoted for manifesting the mystery of the sacred Heart, one whom the world knew not:—a religious woman, living in a monastery which had nothing about it to attract notice. As, in the thirteenth century, He had passed by the learned men, and even the great saints, who were then living, and selected the Blessed Juliana of Liège as instrument for bringing about the institution of the Corpus Christi feast, so in this present case: He would have His sacred Heart glorified in His Church by a solemn festival; and He imparts and intrusts His wish to the humble Visit andine of Paray-le-Monial, now known and venerated, throughout the world, under the name of Blessed Margaret-Mary. The mission thus divinely given to her, was to bring forward the treasure, which had been revealed to St. Gertrude, and which, all the long interval, had been known to only a few privileged souls. Sister Margaret-Mary was to publish the secret to the whole world, and make the privilege cease, by telling every one how to possess it. Through this apparently inadequate instrument, the sacred Heart of Jesus was a heavenly reaotion offered to the world against the chilliness which had settled on its old age: it became a touching appeal to all faithful souls that they would make reparation for all the contempt, and slight, and coldness, and sins, wherewith our age treats the love of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus.
‘I was praying before the blessed Sacrament on one of the days during the octave1 (of Corpus Christi, June 1675) says Blessed Margaret, ‘and I received from my God exceeding great graoes of His love. And feeling a desire to make some return, and give Him love for love, I heard Him say: “Thou canst not make me a greater, than by doing that which I have so often asked of thee.” He then showed me His divine Heart, and said: “Behold this Heart, which has so loved men, as that it has spared nothing, even to the exhausting and wearing itself out, in order to show them its love; and instead of acknowledgment I receive, from the greater number, nothing but ingratitude, by their irreverences and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt wherewith they treat Me, in this Sacrament of love. But what I feel most deeply is, that they are hearts consecrated to Me, which thus treat Me. It is on this account, that I make this demand of thee: that the first Friday after the octave of the blessed Sacrament be devoted to a special feast in honour of My Heart; that thou wilt go to Communion on that day; and give it a reparation of honour by an act of amendment, to repair the insults it has received during the time of its being exposed on the altar. I promise thee, also, that My Heart will dilate itself, that it may pour forth, with abundance, the influences of its divine love upon those who shall thus honour it, and shall do their best to have such honour paid to it”.’
By thus calling His servant to be the instrument of the glorification of His sacred Heart, our Lord made her a sign of contradiction, just as He Himself had been. It took more than ten years for Blessed Margaret to get the better, by patience and humility, of the suspicions wherewith she was treated by the little world around her, and of the harsh conduct of the Sisters who lived with her in the same monastery, and of trials of every sort. At last, on June 21 in the year 1686, the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, she had the consolation of seeing the whole Community of Paray-le-Monial kneeling before a picture, which represented the Heart of Jesus as pierced with a spear; it was the Heart by itself; it was encircled with flames, and a crown of thorns, with the cross above it, and the three nails. That same year, there was begun, in the monastery, the building of a chapel in honour of the sacred Heart; and Blessed Margaret had the happiness of seeing it finished and blessed. She died shortly afterwards, in the year 1690. But all this was a very humble beginning: where was the institution of a feast, properly so called? and where its solemn celebration throughout the Church?
So far back as the year 1674, our Lord had, in His own mysterious way, brought Margaret-Mary to form the acquaintance of one of the most saintly Religious of the Society of Jesus then living; it was Father De la Colombière. He recognized the workings of the holy Spirit in this His servant, and became the devoted apostle of the sacred Heart, first of all at Paray-le-Monial, and then, later on, in England, where he was imprisoned by the heretics, and merited the glorious title of Confessor of the faith. This fervent disciple of the Heart of Jesus died in the year 1682, worn out by his labours and sufferings; but the Society, in a body, inherited his zeal for the propagation of devotion to the sacred Heart. At once, numerous confraternities began to be formed, and everywhere chapels were built in honour of that same Heart. Hell was angry at this great preaching of God’s love. The Jansenists were furious at this sudden proclamation, at this apparition, as St. Paul would say, of the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour; for it aimed at restoring hope to souls, in which they had sowed despondency. The big world must interfere; and it began by talking of innovations, of scandals, of even idolatry; at all events, this new devotion was, to put it mildly, a revolting dessecting of the sacred Body of Christ! Erudite pamphlets were published, some theological, some physiological, to prove that the Church should forbid the subject! Indecent engravings were circulated, and indignant witticisms were made, in order to bring ridicule upon those for whom the world had coined the name of Cordicolæ, or Heart worshippers.
But human wisdom, or human prejudice, or even human ridicule, cannot withstand God’s purposes. He wished that human hearts should be led to love, and therefore worship, the sacred Heart of their Redeemer; and He inspired His Church to receive the devotion which would save so many souls, though the world might not take heaven’s view. The apostolic See had witnessed all this; and at last gave its formal sanction. Rome had frequently granted Indulgences in favour of the devotions privately practised towards the sacred Heart; she had published innumerable Briefs for the establishment of local confraternities, under that title; and in the year 1765, in accordance with the request made by the bishops of Poland and the arch-confraternity of the sacred Heart at Rome, Pope Clement XIII issued the first pontifical decree in favour of the feast of the Heart of Jesus, and approved of a Mass and Office which had been drawn up for that feast. The same favour was gradually accorded to other Churches, until at length, on August 23, 1856, Pope Pius IX of glorious mcmory, at the instance of all the bishops of France, issued the decree for inserting the feast of the sacred Heart on the calendar, and making obligatory its celebration by the universal Church.
The glorification of the Heart of Jesus called for that of its humble handmaid. On September 18, 1864, the beatification of Margaret-Mary was solemnly proclaimed by the same sovereign Pontiff, who had put the last finish to the work she had begun, and given it the definitive sanction of the apostolic See.
From that time forward, the knowledge and love of the sacred Heart have made greater progress, than they had done during the whole two previous centuries. In every quarter of the globe, we have heard of communities, religious Orders, and whole dioceses, consecrating themselves to this source of every grace, this sole refuge of the Church in these sad times. Thousands, from every country, have gone on pilgrimage to the favoured sanctuary of Paray-le-Monial, where it pleased the divine Heart to first manifest Itself, in its visible form, to us mortals.
We now put before our readers the Mass, which has been approved of for our feast.
In the liturgy of this feast, there is scarcely any mention made of the Heart of Flesh assumed by our Saviour. When, in the last century, there was question of approving a Mass and Office in honour of the sacred Heart, the Jansenists, who had zealous partisans even in Rome, excited so much opposition, that the apostolic See did not deem it prudent to speak openly, at that early period, on the points which some so angrily disputed. It, however, readily granted, both to Portugal and the Republic of Venice, an Office, in which the Heart of Jesus, victim of love, and pierced with a spear, was offered to the adorations of the faithful. But in the Mass and Office which Rome afterwards gave for the general use, she, out of a motive of prudence, kept to the glorification of our Redeemer’s love, of which it could not reasonably be denied that His Heart of Flesh was the true and direct symbol.
Thus, the Introit, which is taken from Jeremias, extols the infinite mercies of Him, whose Heart has not cast off the children of men.
Miserebitur secundum multitudinem miserationum suarum: non enim humiliavit ex corde suo, et abjecit filios hominum: bonus est Dominus sperantibus in eum, aniraæ quaerenti illum, alleluia, alleluia.
Ps. Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo: in generationem et generationem.
℣. Gloria Patri. Miserebitur.
He will have mercy according to the multitude of his mercies: for he hath not willingly afflicted, nor cast off the children of men: the Lord is good to them that hope in him, to the soul that seeketh him, alleluia, alleluia.
Ps. The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever: to generation and generation.
℣. Glory, etc. He will have mercy.
The Church, deeply moved with gratitude for the immense blessings brought to her by the sacred Heart, prays, in her Collect, that her children may have the grace to appreciate those divine benefits, and receive, with holy joy, the fruits they are intended to produce.
Concede, quæsumus omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in sanctissimo dilecti Filii tui Corde gloriantes, praecipua in nos caritatis ejus beneficia recolimus, eorum pariter et actu delectemur et fructu. Per eumdem.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who glory in the most sacred Heart of thy beloved Son, and celebrate the singular benefits of his love towards us, may rejoice both in their accomplishment, and in the fruit they produce. Through, &c.
Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ
Confitebor tibi, Domine, quoniam iratus es mihi: conversus est furor tuus, et consolatus es me. Ecce Deus Salvator meus, fiducialiter agam, et non timebo: quia fortitudo mea, et laus mea Dominus, et factus est mihi in salutem. Haurietis aquas in gaudio de fontibus Salvatoris, et dicetis in die illa: Confitemini Domino, et invocate nomen ejus: mementote quoniam excelsum est nomen ejus. Cantate Domino quoniam magnifice fecit:annuntiate hoc in universa terra. Exsulta, et lauda, habitatio Sion: quia magnus in medio tui Sanctus Israel.
Lesson from the Prophet Isaias.
I will give thanks to thee, O Lord, for thou wast angry with me; thy wrath is turned away, and thou hast comforted me. Behold, God is my Saviour; I will deal confidently, and will not fear: because the Lord is my strength, and my praise, and he is become my salvation. You shall draw waters, with joy, out of the Saviour’s fountains, and you shall say, in that day: Praise ye the Lord, and call upon his name: remember that his name is high. Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath done great things: show this forth, in all the earth. Rejoice, and praise, O thou habitation of Sion: for great is he that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel.
‘My people have done two evils,’ said God, in the ancient Covenant: ‘they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.’ How wonderful is this complaint! It is made by infinite love, on seeing His proffered benefits refused. And what is still more wonderful, the God thus slighted by His ungrateful children, who pretend to find their happiness in something which is not Himself, overlooks the insult, to consult for the remedying of their misery. He is touched at seeing these poor mistaken children trying to get their burning thirst quenched by created things, whereas He alone can quench it. Material goods, and outward beauty, have misled them, and made them slaves to their sensual appetites: their soul, which was created for infinite good, has thought it might find its rest in those feeble and flittering reflections of the sovereign beauty—reflections and images which were intended to lead them to the divine reality. How lead back to the living fountain the poor creature who has been made a dupe of the mirage of the desert, and is rushing on deeper and deeper into the scorching sands? O Israel! sing praise to thy Lord! And thou, Sion, bless thy God for His infinite mercy towards thee! Water has sprung forth from the Rock which thou hast met in the wilderness, where the madness of thy guilty fever kept thee a wanderer. On the very steep which was precipitating thee downwards towards the flesh, thou hast met thy Jesus; He has made Himself thy companion on the way of this earth’s life; He is God, but He has been made Flesh, that so, for thy soul’s good, He might draw thee as the prophet foretold, with the cords of Adam, that is, by the love and loveliness of that Heart of Flesh, lead thee to the object which was to satisfy thine own heart, and for which thou wast created. Thus made captive to the Infinite by the bands of this love which Jesus showed thee, thou hast found thyself within reach of the fountain of water, which springeth up into life everlasting; and thy joy at finding thy Saviour’s fountains has made thee loathe the muddy water of the broken cisterns of old. Thy thirst keeps on, but the water is ever there for thee to drink in as deeply as thou wiliest: thou hast the sacred Heart, which was opened for thee by the soldier’s spear. Thirst, and drink, and both for ever!
The immense love which fills the Heart of the Man-God, and has led Him to undergo unparalleled sufferings in order to save us; the meekness and humility of that divine Heart, which He Himself would have us take as the chief characteristic of His whole life: these are the mysteries proposed by the Gradual and Alleluia-verse, that we may know them, and let them influence our conduct.
O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte, si est dolor sicut dolor meus.
℣. Cum dilexisset suos, qui erant in mundo, in finem dilexit eos. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Discite a me, quia mitis sum et humilis corde: et invenietis requiem animabus vestris. Alleluia.
O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.
℣. Having loved his own, who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. Alleluia.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Judæi (quoniam Parasceve erat) ut non remanerent in cruce corpora Sabbato (erat enim magnus dies ille Sabbati) rogaverunt Pilatum ut frangerentur eorum crura, et tollerentur. Venerunt ergo milites: et primi quidem fregerunt crura, et alterius, qui crucifixus est cum eo. Ad Jesum autem cum venissent, ut viderunt eum jam mortuum, non fregerunt ejus crura; sed unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua. Et qui vidit testimonium perhibuit: et verum est testimonium ejus.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: the Jews, (because it was the Parasceve), that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day, (for that was a great Sabbath-day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came: and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it, hath given testimony: and his testimony is true.
We have already explained this passage of St. John’s Gospel; and, in doing so, we brought it into juxtaposition with certain texts from the first Epistle of the same apostle, which throw such light on what the Gospel relates regarding the opening of Jesus’ aide. Let us imitate our mother the Church, who hears these mysterious words with such profound attention. This Gospel tells us of the beautiful path by which she first came: she was born from the Heart of the Man-God. She could not have had any other beginning than this; for she is the work, by excellence, of His love; and it is for this His Bride, that He has accomplished all His other works. Eve was taken from Adam’s side, in figure of a future mystery; but, for the very reason of its being a type and a prediction, no trace was to be left of the fact itself. But in the mysterious fulfilment of the figure, that is, in Jesus’ side being opened that His Bride the Church might come forth, the trace was to remain for ever. As often as she looks at this wound, she is reminded of her glorious origin; and that open side is like a ceaseless reminder that she has but to go to that sacred Heart, and there she will find everything she needs for her children.
The Offertory is taken from Psalm cii, that magnificent hymn of love and gratitude, which extols the numberless favours and infinite mercies of God.
Benedic, anima mea, Domino: et noli oblivisci omnes retributiones ejus: qui replet in bonis desiderium tuum, alleluia.
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and never forget all he hath done for thee: who satisfieth thy desire with good things, alleluia.
Let us, in the Secret, unite with the Church in imploring of our Lord to enkindle within our souls the flames of His holy love, that thus our hearts may be in unison with that of our great High Priest, who offers a Sacrifice which is both His own and ours.
After the Secret, follows the Preface; it is that of the holy cross. Jesus was still attached to the sacred Wood, when His Heart was pierced and opened. The choice of such a Preface was an act of reverential love paid, by our holy mother, to the glorious instrument which gave her life by working her redemption.
Tuere nos, Domine, tua tibi holocausta offerentes: ad quae ut ferventius corda nostra præparentur, flammis adure tuæ divinae caritatis. Qui vivis.
Defend us, O Lord, who offer to thee thy holocaust: and, that our hearts may be more fervently prepared for it, enkindle within them the flames of thy divine charity. Who livest. &c.
Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper, et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: qui salutem humani generis in ligno crucis constituisti: ut unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret: et qui in ligno vincebat, in ligno quoque vinceretur: per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli, coelorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, &c.
It is truly meet and just right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: who hast appointed that the salvation of mankind should be wrought on the wood of the cross: that from whence death came, thence life might arise: and that he, who overcame by the tree, might also by the Tree be overcome: through Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it. The Heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee, that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, &c.
In order to excite in her children the sentiments of reparation to the sacred Heart, which are so much in the spirit of this feast, the Church, at the moment of Communion, reminds them how their Jesus was abandoned, when in the midst of the sufferings which He endured out of love for us.
Improperium exspectavit cor meum, et miseriam: et sustinui qui simul contristaretur, et non fuit: et qui consolaretur, et non inveni, alleluia.
My heart hath expected reproach and misery: and I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none, alleluia.
The Church, who has just been so closely united with her Spouse in these sacred Mysteries, is able to understand, all the more fully, the lessons given to her by the sacred Heart. She prays that her children may increase in true humility, may abhor the pride which is so rife in this fallen world, and prove themselves to be the disciples of Him, who was meek and humble of heart.
Pacificis pasti deliciis, et salutaribus Sacramentis, te supplices exoramus, Domine Deus noster: ut qui mitis es et humilis corde, nos a vitiorum labe purgatos, propensius facias a superbis sæculi vanitatibus abhorrere. Qui vivis.
Being fed with peaceful delights, and life-giving Sacraments, we suppliantly beseech thee, O Lord our God, that thou, who art meek and humble of Heart, wouldst make us to be clean from the stain of every vice, and more steadfastly to abhor the proud vanities of the world. Who livest, &c.
We here give the three hymns of this feast; they are full of beauty and sublime teaching.
Auctor beate sæculi,
Christe Redemptor omnium,
Lumen Patris de lumine,
Deusque verus de Deo.
Amor coegit te tuus
Mortale corpus sumere,
Ut novus Adam redderes
Quod vetus ille abstulerat:
Ille amor almus artifex
Terræ, marisque et siderum,
Errata patrum miserans,
Et nostra rumpens vincula.
Non corde discedat tuo
Vis illa amoris inclyti:
Hoc fonte gentes hauriant
Percussum ad hoc est lancea,
Passumque ad hoc est vulnera,
Ut nos lavaret sordibus
Unda fluente et sanguine.
Decus Parenti et Filio,
Sanctoque sit Spiritui:
Quibus potestas, gloria,
Regnumque in omne est sæculum.
O blessed Creator of this world,
Christ, Redeemer of all men,
Light of the Father’s Light,
and true God of God!
It was thy love compelled thee
to assume a mortal body,
that thou, the new Adam, mightest restore
what the old one had taken from us.
That gracious love, which had created
this earth, and sea and stars,
had pity on the sins of our first parents,
and broke our chains.
Let not the vehemence of thine admirable love
depart from thy Heart;
and let all nations come to this fount,
and thence draw the grace of pardon
For this it was struck by the spear,
for this it suffered the wounds,
that it might cleanse us from our defilements,
by the Water and Blood which flowed from it.
Be honour to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost!
To whom are power, glory,
and the kingdom, for all ages!
En ut superba criminum
Et sæva nostrorum cohors
Cor sauciavit innocens
Merentis hand tale Dei.
Vibrantis hastam militis
Peccata nostra dirigunt,
Ferrumque dirae cuspidis
Mortale crimen acuit.
Ex corde scisso Ecclesia
Christo jugata nascitur:
Hoc ostium arcæ in latere est
Genti ad salutem positum.
Ex hoc perennis gratia,
Ceu septiformis fluvius;
Stolas ut illic sordidas
Lavemus Agni in sanguine.
Turpe est redire ad crimina,
Quæ cor beatum lacerent;
Sed æmulemur cordibus
Flammas amoris indices.
Hoc, Christe, nobis, hoc Pater,
Hoc, sancte, dona, Spiritus,
Quibus potestas, gloria,
Regnumque in omne est saeculum.
Oh! see how the haughty and savage
host of our sins has wounded
the innocent Heart of our God,
who deserved far other treatment!
It is our sins that direct the spear
of the soldier who brandishes it;
and deadly sin it is,
that sharpens the steel of the cruel lance.
From this wounded Heart is born the Church,
the bride of Christ:
this opened Side is the door set in the side of the Ark
for the salvation of his people.
From this there flows a perennial grace,
like a sevenfold stream;
that there, in the Blood of the Lamb,
we may wash our sullied robes.
It is a crying shame if we repeat our sins,
which wound that blessed Heart;
yea, rather let us strive to kindle within our hearts the flames which burn round his,
and are symbols of its love.
Give us this grace, O Jesus! give it us, thou, O Father!
and thou, O holy Spirit!
To whom are power, glory,
and the kingdom, for all ages!
Cor arca legem continens,
Non servitutis veteris,
Sed gratiæ, sed veniæ,
Sed et misericordiae.
Cor sanctuarium novi
Templum vetusto sanctius,
Velumque scissum utilius.
Te vulneratum caritas
Ictu patenti voluit,
Ut veneremur vulnera.
Hoc sub amoris symbolo
Passus cruenta et mystica,
Christus sacerdos obtulit.
Quis non amantem redamet?
Quis non redemptus diligat,
Et corde in isto seligat
Decus Parenti et Filio,
Sanctoque sit Spiritui:
Quibus potestas, gloria,
Regnumque in omne est sæculum.
O Heart! thou ark holding within thee the Law,
not of the old bondage,
but of grace, and of pardon,
and of mercy.
O Heart! Thou spotless sanctuary of the new covenant!
thou temple, holier than the one of old!
Thou veil, that wast torn,
but by a tearing of such great boon to us.
It was thy love that would have thy Heart wounded
with this open wound,
that we might see (through it) the wounds of thine unseen love,
and venerate them.
Under this symbol of love,
Christ, our High Priest,
having suffered both cruelly and mystically,
offered the twofold Sacrifice.
Who would not love the Saviour who loves him?
Who would not love him, by whom he has been redeemed?
Who would not wish to take up his abode
for ever in this his Jesus’ Heart?
Be honour to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost!
To whom are power, glory,
and the kingdom, for all ages!
 Acts ii. 2.
 St. John xiv. 26.
 Ps. cx. 4.
 2 St. Pet. i. 4.
 1 St. John iii. 2.
 Ibid. i. 3.
 Ibid. 2.
 St. John i. 9.
 St. Luke xv. 13.
 Legatus divina pietatis; lib. ii. c. 23; lib. iii. c. 25.
 St. John xix. 34.
 Ibid. 35, 36.
 Zach. xii. 10.
 Ibid. as quoted by St. John xix. 37.
 St. John iii. 16.
 St. Luke iii. 21, 22.
 Is. xlii. 1.
 1 St. John v. 7, 8, 11.
 2 St. Pet. i. 4.
 l St. John v. 6.
 St. John v. 26.
 Ibid. vii. 37-39.
 Is. xii. 3.
 St. John iii. 5.
 Gen. ii. 23; Eph. v. 30.
 St. John i. 12.
 Ps. cvii. 1-4.
 Gen. ii. 24; Eph. v. 31.
 Cant. iv. 9.
 Eph. v. 32.
 1 Cor. xi. 3.
 In Joan. Hom. lxxxiv. 5.
 In Joan. Tract. cxx. 2.
 Is. ii. 10.
 In Dom, Palm. Semi iv.
 Cant. ii. 13, 14.
 Jerem. xlviii. 28.
 Exod. xxxiii. 22.
 S. Bern. in Cant. Serm. lxi.
 1 Kings xviii. 10, 11.
 1 Cor. x. 4.
 Lignum vitæ.
 Preface to the Revelations of St. Gertrude translated into French from the new Latin edition, published by the Benedictine Fathers of Solesmes.
 Apoc. xii. 4.
 St. John iii. 16.
 Osee. xi. 4.
 l Cor. i. 27.
 St. Luke ii. 34.
 Tit. iii. 4.
 In the year 1720, the city of Marseilles was visited by a plague. It had been brought by a vessel that had come from Syria. As many as a thousand a day fell victims to the scourge. Thc Parliament, which was mainly composed of Jansenists, had, of course, fled; and there was nothing being done to stay the contagion from spreading. The bishop, Monseigneur de Belzunce, assembled such of his priests as had been spared; and, standing in the avenue which is now called by his name, he solemnly consecrated his diocese to the sacred Heart of Jesus. At once the plague abated, and gradually disappeared. Two years later, however, it again showed itself, and threatened to repeat its fierce onslaught; but it was arrested in consequence of the city magistrates binding themselves and their successors for all future ages, by a vow, to the solemn acts of public worship, which, up to this present day, have proved a protection and a glory to the city of St. Lazarus.
These events were noised throughout the world, and were the occasion of the feast of the sacred Heart being kept, not only as hitherto, in the monasteries of the Visitation Order, but in several dioceses of France.
That noble, but tried, kingdom, is now erecting a national monument in honour of the sacred Heart of Jesus; it is the splendid church now being built on Monmartre, near Paris. May that loving Heart of our Lord bless His devoted France, the eldest daughter of the Church! Like the Church, she is under terrible trials; and as they are companions in affliction, may they, through the mercy of the Heart of Jesus, be soon united in prosperity, aud work together for the happiness of the world!
 Jerem. ii. 13.
 Osee xi. 4.
 St. John iv. 14.