Monday, December 1, 2014

The Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice: The Literal Interpretation

Fifth in a Series treating the Symbolism of the Traditional Form of Holy Mass

Fr. François Xavier Schouppe, S.J.

The Ordinary of the Mass, considered in its literal sense, is divided into six parts. The first is the preparation at the foot of the altar. The second is another preparation, which is made at the altar itself, and which consists of prayers and lessons, and begins at the Introit and ends with the Offertory. The third part is from the Offertory to the Sanctus and embraces the beginning of the sacrifice, consisting of the oblation of the Host and chalice with the subsequent prayers. The fourth part, from the beginning of the Canon to the Pater noster, contains the very act of sacrifice or the immolation of the victim, and consists of the consecration together with the prayers which precede and follow it. The fifth part, which extends from the Lord's Prayer to the end of the ablution, is the consummation of the sacrifice, and consists in the reception of the body and blood of Christ, accompanied by the prayers, which precede and follow. Finally, the sixth part, which is from the Communion Antiphon to the descent from the altar, consists in the act of thanksgiving and the end of Mass, including the prayers, the blessing of the people, and the reading of the Gospel.

Preparation at the Foot of the Altar

The priest who is about to celebrate the divine mysteries, awed by the majesty of God and sublimity of the act to be performed, stands at the foot of the altar and there, by humble prayer and the confession of sin, in union with the people, whom the server represents, prepares himself to ascend the altar of God.

1. The priest begins by making the Sign of the Cross, saying: “In the name of the Father, etc.” He hereby testifies that he is called, not by human, but by divine authority to take part in the tremendous functions. By this ceremony he, likewise, signifies that he trusts in the name and the help of the Almighty.

2. In reciting the Antiphon Introibo ad altare Dei, and the Psalm Iudica me, Deus, he, in the first place, expresses a wish which accompanies him to the holy altar and tabernacle of the Lord, but subsequently, taking into account his great unworthiness, he is disturbed and humbled in mind; then, again, contemplating the Lord, his God, he is filled with hope, and implores His light, assistance, and mercy. To more effectually obtain these graces, he humbly confesses his sins, and commends himself to the intercession of all the saints, i.e. the Church Triumphant, and his brethren, i.e. the Church Militant. This ended, and the people saluted, he ascends with humble confidence to the Holy of Holies.

3. The salutation of the people, by which the priest wishes to express his desire that they may receive all graces, is made in these words of Holy Scripture: Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you). That is: May the Lord, with His grace, be with you in prayer, may He be in your midst, who are assembled here in His name. To these words it is proper to answer: Dominus sit similiter tecum (May the Lord likewise be with you). The people do not, however, reply after this manner, but they say: Et cum spiritu tuo (And may the Lord be with thy spirit). That is to say: May the Lord be with your soul, in your mind, and in your heart, because this divine work is chiefly spiritual and refers to the soul. Therefore, it is petitioned that the Lord would occupy entirely the soul of the priest, and replenish it with the light and truth of grace, with faith, hope and charity.

4. Having saluted the people, the priest ascends the altar, thus far asking pardon of his sins and imploring the intercession of the saints whose relics are on the altar, which he kisses with reverence for Christ and the saints.

From the Introit to the Offertory

1. The Introit is so called because formerly, when the priest advanced toward the altar, or when the people entered the Church, it was customary to chant it. It consists of a prayer selected from the Scriptures, and very often from the Psalms and terminates with the Doxology Gloria Patri, etc., i.e. "Glory be to the Father," etc. It is, as it were, the cry with which the ancient world called for the Redeemer, and, hence, it is most appropriate to awaken in us a great estimation of this same Redeemer, whom happily we possess and whose benefits we enjoy in the present sacrifice. On this account, we praise God by saying: Gloria Patri, etc., "Glory be to the Father," etc.

2. The Kyrie Elesion. In this most simple and at the same time most beautiful prayer, we implore the assistance of Christ, our Redeemer and God. They are Greek words, and are used by the Latin Church to show her Catholicity and the communion of all the congregation in the faithful throughout the universe and how every tongue confesses the Lord Jesus Christ. The frequent repetition of this prayer denotes the intense desire and the urgency of the supplication. It is repeated nine times in union with the nine choirs of angels: the Kyrie is said three times in honor of the Father; the Christe three times in honor of the Son; and the Kyrie again three times in equal honor of the Holy Ghost.

3. The Gloria in Excelsis, or Angelic Hymn. This magnificent prayer is not so much a supplication as the exultation of praise. The Church learned it from the Angels celebrating the Nativity of Christ, and the canticle, which the Angels began, the Church will chant for all time.

4. The prayers which follow are called Collects, because they are offered in assemblies, or in gatherings of the faithful, or because they contain the sum and substance of all flavors asked by the priest for himself and for the people. They are usually directed to the Father, to whom the sacrifice of the Son is offered, and terminates with these words: Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, etc. (Through Christ Jesus our Lord, etc.), which declare Christ to be the only mediator through whose divine merits and intercession we can be heard and through which confidence is established.

5. The Epistle. Selections from the sacred writings follow. It is not only by prayer, but by pious readings that the faithful are prepared for the Holy Sacrifice. The lessons consist of the Epistle and the Gospel. The first is known by the name Epistle because, although it may be taken from various books of Scripture, it is more frequently selected from the writings of the Apostles. It is read before the Gospel because it is the utterance of the Apostles and prophets. The Gospel is the word of Christ Himself, and it is fitting that by the voice of His ministers we should be prepared to listen to the Master and Lord Himself.

6. The Gradual. When the Epistle is read, the server answers: Deo gratias (Thanks be to God). The Gradual is then recited, to which is added sometimes the Alleluia or Tract, and sometimes the Prose or Scripture. The Gradual is so called because formerly it was chanted from the steps of the Ambo. The Alleluia is the canticle of the heavenly Sion, which St. John heard intoned there. "After these things, I heard as it were the voice of much people in heaven, saying: Alleluia; Salvation and glory and power is to our God" (Apoc. 19:1). All these expressions are considered as the words of the faithful, the words of gratitude, docility and joy, to which they give answer on the conclusion of the Epistle.

7. The priest now proceeds to the middle of the altar, where he makes a profound bow, and asks God that he may worthily, i.e., with pure and burning lips and heart, announce the Gospel. The people, in the meantime, pray that they may listen to the word of God worthily and with fruit. Then all arise, and standing, listen to the Gospel. This action denotes that, as soldier of Christ, we should be ready to follow the Divine Leader whithersoever He would conduct us.

The priest makes the Sign of the Cross upon his forehead, mouth and breast to testify that he professes the Gospel which is the word of the cross. He makes the Sign of the Cross on the forehead to show that he believes it in his intellect; on the lips to show that he confesses it with his voice, and on the breast to show that he wishes, with his whole heart and will, to embrace and follow the Gospel teaching.

At the conclusion of the Gospel, the priest kisses the book as a sign of reverence and love. The server answers: Laus tibi, Christe (Praise be to Thee, O Christ). These words are said in testimony of gratitude towards Christ the Lord, whose words have just been heard. Here sometimes a sermon is delivered, which is an explanation of the Gospel for the people.

8. The Credo. After the Gospel, the profession of faith follows. This is the answer of the Church to the Gospel teaching. She replies that she believes all whatsoever Christ taught, when she recites the symbol, that magnificent apostolic and unchangeable symbol, in which is contained a summary of Christian doctrine.

From the Offertory to the Sanctus

1. The Offertory, or Offertory Antiphon, is a prayer recited by way of preparation for the oblation. It is called by this name because formerly, whilst the people presented the bread and wine used in the sacrifice, it was customary to chant it.

2. The Oblation of the Bread and Wine. The priest, lifting up with his hands the bread or victim prepared for the sacrifice and raising his eyes to heaven, offers it to the Eternal Father for the Universal Church, for the living and the dead, and places it on the altar, making the Sign of the Cross, as though the victim already reposed on the Cross. In the same manner, he offers the chalice, into which he pours wine, mixing it with a little water, the meaning of which ceremony has already been explained.

When the priest offers this sacrifice instituted by Christ through the oblation of bread and wine, he, as it were, exhibits to the eyes of the Eternal Father Jesus Christ Himself, the Divine Victim soon to descend in reality upon the altar. He shows the faithful, too, the mystical body of Christ represented by the bread and wine.

3. Having made the offering, the priest, raising his hands and eyes towards heaven, invokes the Holy Spirit to send down from heaven the sanctifying fire of charity and grace, a fire without which our sacrifice can never be acceptable to the Divine Majesty.

4. After this, the priest washes the ends of his fingers, for the hands which touch the Sacred Host should be most clean. The washing of the fingers reminds the faithful of the great purity necessary unto the reception through communion of the Most Holy Mysteries.

5. The Suscipe Sancta Trinitas. Having performed this ablution, the priest returns to the center of the altar where, with bent body, he recites the following prayer:
Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation which we offer Thee in memory of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honour of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, of blessed John the Baptist, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of these and of all the Saints, that it may avail unto their honor and our salvation, and may they vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
By this prayer, he commends again the sacrifice to God, explaining the end for which it is offered.

6. The Orate Fratres. Here the priest turns around to the congregation and exhorts them for the last time, before the divine action of consummated, to pray in these terms:
Pray, brethren, that my Sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty.
By this ceremony, first, the priest, as it were, takes leave of those present to enter into the inner sanctuary in order to unity with Christ in celebrating the most holy mystery. Formerly, before the Preface, the priest was hidden in the sanctuary from the view of the faithful by a drawn veil. By this ceremony, we are reminded, second, that the nearer we approach the mysteries of the Consecration, the more ardent should be the prayers of those present. And, finally, the words spoken by the priest and the response of the faithful express most beautifully Christian fraternity.

7. The Secretae or secret prayers commend the sacrifice to God through the various mysteries of Christ and the intercession of the Saints.

8. The Preface is a solemn canticle by which the hearts and minds of those present are lifted up to the contemplation of heavenly things and to the giving of thanks and praise to God on account of the various mysteries. To do this in a more worthy manner, the faithful are invited to join their voices with the angels, the archangels and the whole heavenly choir, who honor the majesty of God and repeat forever:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts! The heavens and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest.
9. The Sanctus is repeated three times. It is called the Trisagion or Thrice Holy. It is the canticle of the angels which Isaias heard when "he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated, and His train filled the temple. Upon it stood the seraphim; [...] and they cried one to another, and said: Holy, Holy, Holy the Lord God of Hosts; all the earth is full of His glory. And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." (Is. 6:1-4)

Sabaoth and Hosanna are Hebrew words taken from the sacred writings which the Church on earth reiterates and chants in unison with the Church in heaven. The addition, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest," is the acclamation of Palm Sunday. It announces Him who is soon to come upon the altar to be immolated in an unbloody manner, as the same who entered Jerusalem, that He might there be crucified in blood.

From the Beginning of the Canon to the Pater Noster

1. Having finished the celestial canticle, the priest, raising his hands and eyes toward heaven, makes a profound inclination, and says: Te igitur clementissime Pater. He then becomes erect and, after making three crosses over the oblation, prays in silence and with arms extended.

This is the beginning of the Canon, the most sacred part of the Mass. The Canon, i.e., the rule, is so called because it contains the words which are recited according to a fixed and unchangeable rule. This action, which is prescribed according to rule, is the action by excellence, the action of sacrifice.

The priest prays with arms extended after the manner of Moses on the top of the hill whilst Josue fought against Amelec (Exod. 18), or, rather, as Christ did on the cross. He prays, first, for the sacrifice itself, that God would accept it as already prepared and signed with the cross and, second, for the Church, for the Pope, and for the whole Christian people.

The Canon begins with the letter T, not by chance, as Innocent III remarks (Lib. 3, de Myst. Miss., cap. 3), but by a special providence of the Divine Spirit, because this letter resembles the form of the Cross whose mystery the priest ought to keep before his eyes particularly from the beginning of the Canon. The exordium: Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum supplices regamus has reference to the Preface just said with which it is connected in this sense, viz., that it is right and proper that we should offer to God the Father, through Christ, praise and supplication after the example of the Angels, nay, in union with them, who likewise through Him praise and proclaim Him Holy God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent into the world. Since such submission is just and salutary, "therefore we humbly pray and beseech Thee most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son." The addition that thou wouldst vouchsafe "to grant peace, and also to protect, unite, and govern the Church" is a prayer that God would concede to it peace and concord, security and protection from enemies: the universal unity of the flock and the divine guidance, so that God Himself may effect these things with the cooperation of the pastors and the faithful.

2. The Memento Vivorum. The priest makes a special remembrance of those who are alive, whom he judges should be commended by a special title to God that they may more abundantly participate in the fruits of the sacrifice. Formerly, the names of all those who were remembered together with the names of certain deceased persons, as well as those of the Holy Martyrs, were inscribed on the diptychs or tablets. When the priest reads the words "Be mindful, O Lord, of all here present whose faith and devotion are known unto Thee," he hints to the bystanders that devotion is necessary in order to participate in the fruit of the sacrifice. "Or who offer up to Thee." By this expression, we understand the remembrance made of all who in any way cooperate in the sacred mystery. "And who pay their vows to Thee," that is, they offer to you their pious desires and the homage of their heart.

3. Communicantes. At this part of the Mass, the priest shows himself not only as the representative of the entire Church on earth, but even as joined in communion with the Church in heaven, with the Apostles, the Martyrs, and all the Saints, with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, even with Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Head of the Universal Church, Triumphant and Militant. He exhibits this great family of the saints offering sacrifice to the Divine Majesty. Wonderful indeed in this manifestation of the communion of Saints!

"Communicating, venerating the memory of all Saints." This expression means: To Thee, O God, we, all united, who belong to the one Church, not only the faithful on earth, but also the Saints in heaven, offer this acknowledgment of our submission. The Church perpetuates the memory of the Saints, and trusts in their merits and intercession."

4. The priest now keeps his hands spread out over the oblation. He does this, first, because in the ancient law, the priest Aaron spread out his hands over the head of the victim and, by this rite, it was set apart for the altar, burdened with the sins of the people and substituted in the place of sinners; second, to symbolize Christ as the expiatory victim to be substituted for us in our stead; and, finally, that, also, by extending his sinful hands, he testifies that it is not the Holy and Immaculate Victim who deserves death, but truly we sinners.

The priest recites the prayer: Hanc igitur, i.e.:
We therefore beseech Thee, O Lord, graciously to accept this oblation of our sacrifice, as also of thy whole family.
This prayer, put in other words, means: Supported, therefore, by the merits and intercession of the Saints, we ask You graciously to accept this sacrifice offered to You from us, Your most lowly servants, and not only from us, but from all the children of Your household.

5. Quam oblationem, i.e. "which oblation." The priest further begs of God that He would deign to accept the oblation of the body and blood of His only begotten Son. At the same time, he multiplies the sign of the cross to signify that his sacrifice is no other than the Sacrifice of the Cross, which is renewed really, although in an unbloody manner, and that the Heavenly Father may behold nothing on the altar except the Cross and Calvary. He prays that God, through the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ shortly to be present as a victim in omnibus (in all things) or entirely and perfectly be made blessed, benedictam, i.e. full of blessings; adscriptam (approved), i.e. approved by God and numbered among the celestial gifts; ratam (ratified), i.e. confirmed, so that God would not reject it; rationabilem (rational), i.e. conformable to reason and every rule of sanctity; et acceptabilem (and acceptable), i.e. pleasing to God.

All these expressions are to be understood as having reference to us and are the same as to say: Do Thou, O God, complete this oblation of the Mass, not in itself, for in itself the Divine Victim must be necessarily holy and most pleasing to Thee, O God, the Father, but with regard to us and as offered by us; so that the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ may be done for us, i.e. may be made effectual for our sanctification.

6. Qui pridie quam pateretur, i.e. "who the day before He suffered." Here begins the Consecration, by which the heavens are opened and the Son of God, in company with His Angels, descends upon the altar. The priest, taking the bread into his hands, with eyes uplifted to heaven, blesses it. Then, leaning with his elbows on the edge of the altar, he pronounces the words of Consecration and immediately, making a profound genuflection, he adores Christ entering into the world as the Angels of God adored Him, as the Magi, falling down, adored the infant, as the Apostles in Galilee adored Him risen from the dead. Rising up from his bended knees, he elevates the consecrated Host for the adoration of the faithful. In the same manner, he consecrates the chalice and elevates it, as he did the host, for the adoration of the people.

The words "taking also this excellent chalice" mean the chalice most excellent by reason of its contents. "This is the chalice of My blood of the new and eternal testament" mean, as they do, this is my blood by which is ratified the new and eternal testament, as formerly the old was ratified bv the blood of goats and oxen. He says "eternal testament" because the new testament and the priesthood of Christ shall continue forever, nor shall any other succeed to these. "The mystery of faith" means that the presence of Christ in the Sacrament is hidden from the senses, and is recognized only with the eyes of faith. "Which (blood) shall be shed for you and for many" gives us to understand that for the universal multitude of men it was shed "for the remission of sin."

"As often as ye do these things," namely, by consecrating bread and wine, "ye shall do them in remembrance" of My dying "for you." For this reason the Apostle says: "As often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord until He comes" (1 Cor. 11:26).

Here, properly speaking, terminates the Sacrifice. The priest now speaks and acts, not in his own name, nor in the name of the Church, nor even in the name of Christ, but he acts as Christ Himself, as though he were transformed into Christ. Therefore, he leans on the edge of the altar, thereby signifying his union with Christ. Whatever Christ did at the Last Supper, the priest does also. Nor does he say, "This is the body of Christ," but "This is my body; this is my blood," Christ, as it were, speaking by his mouth. By these words, Transubstantiation is wrought; there is no longer bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Christ; there is no longer the matter of the sacrifice, which was offered a little before, but the True Victim of Calvary veiled under other species. The Host is separated from the chalice because the death of the Lord is represented in which His Blood is spilt, and separated from the Body. Here He lies, surrounded and adored by Angels, the Victim of Calvary, the Lamb that was slain, showing His Wounds and Blood to the Heavenly Father.

7. Unde et memores, i.e., "wherefore calling to mind." In this second part of the Canon, the Victim, who is present, is commended to God the Father, and through Him, gifts and favors are asked for.

The priest commends to the Eternal Father the Divine Victim when, at this point, he repeats five times the Sign of the Cross. These crosses are not intended as blessings to the Victim or Sacred Host, for Christ is the source of all benediction. They are intended to signify and show the Heavenly Father that this is the Victim of Calvary, who has truly suffered, and was immolated on the Cross for man.

By the words tam beatae passionis, i.e., "the blessed passion," it is said that the Passion of the Lord is blessed, not in itself, but in its effect. Offerimus de tuis donis ac datis hostiam, i.e., "we offer of Thy gifts and grants a host." These words may refer to the matter of the sacrifice, namely, the Body and the Blood of Christ, which are the most excellent gifts of the divine liberality, here actually given to us. The priest commends the Divine Victim to the Father, by recalling the memory of the sacrifices which He deigned to accept from the beginning of the world, those of Abel, the just man, of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and Melchisedech, the royal priest, which, however, were only shadows of the present sacrifice. He names in preference to others the sacrifices of Abel, Abraham, and Melchisedech because, by a more lively image, they represent the sacrifice of Christ.

The priest commends the Host to the Father through itself, for it is at the same time Victim and Priest, the Angel of the Testament offering worthy gilts on the altar of God on high in the presence of the Divine Majesty.

Iube omnipotens Deus, i.e. "Command these things, Almighty God, to be carried by the hands of Thy holy Angel to Thy altar on High." By these words, he expresses the desire that Christ Himself, both Priest and Victim, would present these gifts on the celestial altar before the eyes of the Divine Majesty. This will be done, not in a physical, but in a moral manner by turning the loving eyes of the Father on the present Sacrifice of His Body and Blood.

8. The Memento of the Dead. Through this Sacrifice, which the priest rightly supposes to have been received favorably, he supplicates, moreover, light and eternal rest for the faithful departed, that is, for the Church suffering in Purgatory. He prays for the dead in these words: 
Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and repose in the sleep of peace.
Here he prays for those who are signed with the character of Baptism, and who, by constantly walking in the ways of Christ to the end, have already reached that goal, whither we also are hastening, and who now sleep in the sleep of a peaceful or happy death. Although they are in torments, the souls in purgatory are said to sleep, i.e. to rest from their labors, moreover to "repose in the sleep of peace," not only because they possess the peace and favor of God, but because they are sure of salvation, and free from all temptation and danger of sin, and hence it happens they endure their punishments with the greatest patience and tranquility, until fully purged, either through their own sufficient suffering, or through our satisfactions and good works, they enter a place of refreshment, light and peace.

9. The priest also prays for the Church Militant. He says: "and to us, also sinners, vouchsafe to grant fellowship with all Thy Saints." Through this prayer, he opens, as it were, and contemplates the heavenly court of the Church Triumphant, prepared for us, although we are sinners, by the Blood of this Divine Host, Christ Jesus. He continues the prayer in these words: "by whom, O Lord, Thou dost always create, sanctify, quicken, bless, and give us all these good things." The meaning of these words is that, through Christ, all the blessings necessary to the corporal life, represented by the bread and wine, now transubstantiated, Thou, O God, always creates for us, and produces them from the earth; and Thou doth sanctify them by accepting the bread and wine offered Thee as the matter of the Sacrifice; but Thou quickenest this matter by the words of Consecration in changing it into the Body and Blood of Christ who lives under the Eucharistic species; Thou blessest inasmuch as this Sacrament is the fountain of every grace and benediction, and Thou givest us through Communion by which we become participators of divine grace.

To these things said of Christ in our regard is added the following of that same Christ with regard to the Father, "through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is to Thee, O God, the Father Almighty," i.e. through Him, the restorer of all; and with Him, by whom, with Thee, O Father, He is one God; and in Him, by whom He exists consubstantiated with Thee; is to Thee, God, the Father Almighty, with unity of the Holy Ghost, who, together with Thee and the Son, is one God, all honor and glory, forever and ever. These last words, which, as is evident, belong to the preceding prayer, are recited with a loud voice, so that when the people answer Amen, they confirm and ratify all that the priest prayed for in secret.

From the Lord's Prayer to the Last Ablution

1. The Pater Noster. Here the Communion is considered to begin. For it, the Lord's Prayer is a preparation. Communion is not only the complement of the Sacrifice, but also a family banquet at which the children of God, around the paternal board, feast with their most loving Father, wherefore they begin to greet Him and excite in their souls filial affections and express them, saying: Our Father [...] give us this day our daily bread....

2. The Breaking of the Host. The priest breaks the Sacred Host and puts a particle of it into the chalice, saying at the same time: Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum, etc.: 
The peace of the Lord be always with you. May this commingling and consecration of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be to us, who receive it unto life everlasting.
The breaking of the Host is done in imitation of Christ our Lord, who did the same thing at the last supper. It is a figure of the death of the Lord, by which His humanity seemingly was broken. It is, as it were, a preparation for the Holy Table and the sacred banquet. This preparation for worthily disposing the hearts of the communicants consists in peace and in union, in charity and concord with God and between ourselves. This is holy peace, true peace, the peace of the Lord, which He Himself merited for us on the Cross and which we ought to preserve through the Cross.

A particle of the Host is dropped into to the chalice to signify that our peace is sealed with the blood of the Lord, i.e., by Holy Communion. This commingling is symbolic of a three-fold union, viz. of the divinity with the humanity in the Incarnation; of the union of the Christian Soul with Christ in the Holy Communion on earth; and of the union with God consummated in the embrace of charity which takes place in the communion of celestial glory.

3. The Agnus Dei. The priest, in order that he may receive the desired and wished for peace, now implores the Divine Victim, "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world." During the recital of the Agnus Dei, the priest strikes his breast three times in sign of compunction, by which it is most truly indicated that in our breast, in our heart, in our sins, is found the sole impediment of peace, which must be removed by the blood of the Lamb.

4. Domine Iesu Christe. The priest, with bent body, in a three-fold prayer, addresses the Divine Victim to more ardently beg from It peace for the Universal Church.

5. Domine, non sum dignus. With trembling hand, contrine, humble heart, but at the same time with much confidence in invocation of the name of the Lord, the priest recevies the Sacred Host and strikes his breast, repeating the words of the centurion: Lord, I am not worthy, etc. Thereupon the priest, after the manner of the Apostles at the Last Supper, eats the same celestial bread of the immolated Body of the Lord, and drinks the chalice of His Blood unto the nourishment of eternal life.

6. Corpus tuum, Domine, quod sumpsi, i.e. "May Thy body, O Lord, which I have received," etc. The Communion now finished, the priest purifies the chalice and cleanses the sacred vessels, beseeching at the same time His Lord Jesus in whose sweetest embrace he is held fast, that He would likewise wash and purify in the same way the consecrated vessel of his heart, and the living tabernacle of his soul. With this rite, communion is concluded.

From the Antiphon of the Communion to the End of Mass

1. The Antiphon or anthem, which is called Communion, is a part of a Psalm or other prayer which was formerly chanted at the Communion of the people. It is, as it were, a canticle of adoration, praise and joy; a canticle of a jubilant soul which has been made partaker of the Holy Mysteries.

2. The Post Communion is an act of thanksgiving justly due for so great a benefit of God and it is, likewise, a petition for the fruits of the sacrifice.

3. The Ita, Missa Est and Benediction. The priest, having first made a holy slutation, announces to the people the end of the sacrifice, and, as a father, dismisses his children with a blessing. That this benediction may be bestowed, he entreats God, saying, Placcat tibi, i.e., let the performance of my homage be pleasing to Thee, etc. Then the priest kisses the altar and, with eyes and hands raised to heaven, as if drawing blessings from the very Heart of Jesus, he pours these benedictions on the people, in the Name of the Holy Trinity, and by the sign of the Cross, he blesses them. (Luke 24:50)

4. The Gospel of St. John is added, first, because through a particular reverence and devotion, from the earliest days, the faithful desired to hear this lesson, and second, because it contains a summary of all benefits which we receive through the sacrifice of Christ.

At the end of the Gospel, the server answers: Deo gratias (Thanks be to God). 

The Mass now over, the faithful leave the church with hearts filled with gratitude and thankfulness.

These brief notes suffice to make us understand that the ceremonies of the Mass, if well weighed and studied by the people, are admirably adapted to nourish faith and piety. They do not only contribute, as the Council of Trent says, "to commend the majesty of so great a sacrifice, but also to excite in the minds of the faithful to the contemplation of the profouond mysteries which are hidden therein. (Session 22, Chapter 5)


[Note: The following is a video presentation of the traditional form of Holy Mass (on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart) from the Internation Seminary of St. Cure d'Ars, France. The individual parts have been labelled to facilitate more active participation.]

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