Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday in Advent

Fr. Leonard Goffine

The first Sunday in Advent is the first day of the Ecclesiastical Year, and the beginning of the holy season of Advent. The Church commences, on this day, to contemplate the coming of the Redeemer, and with the prophets to long for Him; during the entire season of Advent she unites her prayers with their sighs, in order to awaken in her children also the desire for the grace of the Redeemer; above all to move them to true penance for their sins, because these are the greatest obstacles in the path of that gracious Advent; therefore she prays at the Introit of the day's Mass:
To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded. Show me, OLord, Thy ways, and teach me Thy paths. (Ps. 24)

Prayer of the Church

Raise up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come; that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins, and to be saved by Thy deliverance.

Epistle (Rom. 13:11-14)

Brethren, knowing the time, that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and strife; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Q. What does St. Paul teach us in this epistle?

A. After fully explaining the duties of a Christian life to the Romans who were converted mainly by St. Peter, he exhorts them to hesitate no longer to fulfil these duties, and he seeks to move their hearts by this time of grace, presented them by the Christian dispensation, and by the shortness of the time of grace.

Q. What is here meant by "sleep"?

A. The stupidity and blindness of the soul that, forgetting her God, is sunk in a lukewarm, effeminate, slothful and lustful life, which, when it is gone, leaves nothing more than a dream.

Q. Why does St. Paul say "salvation is nearer"?

A. He wishes to impress upon the Romans that they now have far greater hope of salvation than when they first became Christians, and that they should secure it by a pious life, because death, and the moment on which depended their salvation, or eternal reward, was drawing near. "What is our life," says St. Chrysostom, "other than a course, a dangerous course to death, through death to immortality?"

Q. What is the signification of day and night?

A. The night signifies the time before Christ, a night of darkness, of infidelity and of injustice; the day represents the present time, in which by the gospel Christ enlightens the whole world with the teachings of the true faith.

Q. What are "the works of darkness"?

A. All sins, and especially those which are committed in the dark, to shun the eye of God and man.

Q. What is the "armor of light"?

A. That faith, virtue and grace, the spiritual armor, with which we battle against our three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and in which armor we should walk honestly before all men. A Christian who in baptism has renounced the devil and all his pomps, must not live in vice, but must put on Christ Jesus, that is, must by the imitation of Christ's virtues adorn his soul, as it were, with a beautiful garment. This text (verse 13) moved St. Augustine to fly from all works of uncleanness in which he had been involved, and to lead a pure life which he had before thought difficult.


Grant, O Lord, that we may rise by penance from the sleep of our sins, may walk in the light of Thy grace by the performance of good works, may put on Thee and adorn our souls with the imitation of Thy virtues. Amen.

Gospel (St. Luke 21:25-33)

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars: and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves, men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And He spoke to them a similitude: See the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Amen I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
Q. Why does the Church cause the Gospel of the Last Judgment to be read on this day?

A. To move us to penance, and to induce us to prepare our souls for the coming of Christ, by placing the Last Judgment before our minds. Should not the thought of this terrible Judgment, when all good and all evil will be revealed, and accordingly be rewarded or punished in the presence of the whole world - should not this thought strengthen us in virtue?

Q. What signs will precede the Last Judgment?

A. The sun will be obscured, the stars will lose their light and disappear in the firmament, (Isai. 13:10) lightning and flames will surround the earth, and wither up every thing; the powers of heaven will be moved, the elements brought to confusion; the roaring of the sea with the howling of the winds and the beating of the storms will fill man with terror and dread. Such evil and distress will come upon the world, that man will wither away for fear, not knowing whither to turn. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, the Holy Cross, the terror of the sinners who have scorned it, the consolation of the just who have loved it (Matt. 24:30).

Q. Why will all this come to pass?

A. Because as the people love the creatures of God so inordinately, more than the Creator, and use them only to His dishonor, He will destroy them in this terrible manner, arming all creatures for vengeance against His enemies (Wisdom 5:8-24.) and showing by the manner of their destruction the evils which will fall upon all sinners. The darkness of the sun will indicate the darkness of hell; the blood-red moon, the anger and wrath of God; the disappearance and falling of the stars, will represent the fall of sinners into the abyss of hell and their disappearance from earth; and the madness of the elements, will exhibit the rage of the beasts of hell. Sinners will then vainly, and too late, repent that they have attached their hearts to things whichwill end so horribly, and that only increase their torments.

Q. Why does Christ nevertheless command: "Lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand"? 

A. These words are spoken to the just who, as long as they live on earth, are like prisoners and exiles, but who at the Last Judgment will be taken body and soul into their long desired fatherland, the Kingdom of Heaven: into the freedom of the children of God. These will have reason to raise their heads, now bowed in mourning, and to rejoice.

Q. How will the Last Judgment commence?

A. By the command of God, the angels will sound the trumpets, summoning all men from the four parts of the earth to come to judgment (1 Thess. 4:15). Then, the bodies of the dead will unite with their souls, and be brought to the valley of Josaphat, and there placed, the just on the right, the wicked on the left (Matt. 25:33). Then the devils as well as the angels will appear; Christ Himself will be seen coming in a cloud, in such power and majesty that the sinners will be filled with terror. They will not dare to look at Him, and will cry to the mountains to fall upon them, and to the hills to cover them (Luke 23:30).

Q. How will the judgment be held?

A. The book of conscience, upon which all men are to be judged, and which closed with this life, will be opened. All good and evil thoughts, words, deeds and motives, even the most secret, known only to God, will then be as plainly revealed to the whole world as if they were written on each one's forehead; by these each one will be judged, and be eternally rewarded, or eternally punished. O God! If we must then give an account of every idle word (Matt. 12:36), how can we stand in the face of so many sinful words and actions?

Q. Why will God hold a universal public judgment?

A. Although immediately after death, a special private judgment of each soul takes place, God has ordained a public and universal judgment for the following reasons: first, that it may be clearly shown to all how just has been His private judgment, and also that the body which has been the instrument of sin or of virtue may share in the soul's punishment or reward; secondly, that the justice which they could by no means obtain in this life may be rendered before the whole world to the oppressed poor, and to persecuted innocence, and that the wicked who have abused the righteous, and yet have been considered honest and good, may be put to shame before all; thirdly, that the graces and means of salvation bestowed upon each, may be made known; fourthly, that the blessed providence of God which often permitted the righteous to suffer evil while the wicked prospered, may be vindicated, and it be shown on that day that His acts are acts of the greatest wisdom; fifthly, that the wicked may learn the goodness of God, not for their comfort or benefit, but for their greater sorrow, that they may see how He rewards even the slightest work performed for His love and honor; finally, that Christ may be exalted before the wicked on earth as before the good in heaven, and that the truth of His words may solemnly be made manifest.


Just art Thou, O God, and just are Thy judgments! Ah, penetrate my soul with holy fear of them, that I may be kept always in awe, and avoid sin. Would that I could say with the penitent St. Jerome: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I seem to hear the awful sound of the trumpet in my ears: 'Arise ye dead, and come to judgment'."

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.

Seminarians of Holy Cross Seminary, Australia
We have all known many men do many striking and noteworthy things, attain the height of their ambition, win for themselves a great and even worthy name, and yet feel, when the goal had been reached, that somehow they had failed, somehow they were disappointed, somehow they had not done that with their lives for which their lives were made. On the other hand, none of us has ever known a man save a soul and regret it; none of us has ever known a man even work to save a soul, whether he succeeded in saving it or not, and think that his time has been misspent. I have known an eminent mathematician who said he would give all he knew to be able to preach a single sermon that would really reach down into a single soul; an eminent University professor who, the more the world of intellect smiled upon him, felt all the more that to serve a human soul was a greater honour; an eminent artist, who gloried in his art, not for the reputation that it brought him, nor even for the art's own sake, but solely because it had become in his hands a means of rescuing and lifting up the lives of others.

And surely these are not rare exceptions. Is there a man in all the world, with a mind that understands, and a heart that feels, and common sense to guide his judgment, but appreciates the good thing it is to keep another man from harm? Is there a man who has not a longing to do something good for someone else before he dies; nay, more, who does not know that if he can gain this, more than if he gains any other thing that he ambitions, then his life will find its satisfaction? We look on at men about us; sometimes we feel a sort of envy for those who prosper where we fail, and who rise to great heights before the eyes of others; when time is past, and history is written, and men are arranged in the order of their real worth, we do not esteem the rich men most, nor the prosperous, nor the powerful, nor the learned, but the men who have been true in themselves, and have given their lives for the service and saving of others. The rest come next, not in the order of their wealth, or their power, or their learning, but according to the use they have made of these accidental gifts of God for the good of their fellows. And as we judge of the past, so do we judge of the future. Wealth, and power, and learning may be important matters, but the man that will stoop to lift up his fellow man is greater than them all, he will be the force that will tell through all time and in every crisis, and will find for himself the satisfaction of a life wellspent which nothing else will give him.

There are few men but know this in their hearts. There are many who would like and would be willing, if they but knew how, to make it the ruling motive of their lives. They would give themselves to the service if they could; they would labour if they could; if they could they would be willing - indeed, who could be a man, and yet would be unwilling? - to go out and lift up a soul that was stifling in the mire. At least, there are few who at some time or another in their lives have not had this attraction. But some have thought it was not for them, and have suffered it to perish; their circumstances have been against them, they have had themselves to consider, they have had the cares of this world put upon them. Others have reckoned up the cost, and have found it a dear one to pay. Others, again, have had the dream and dwelt upon it; but with them it has never come to action; it has remained a dream and no more, and like other dreams, has gradually vanished beyond recall. They have forgotten the ideal in the fancied real; they have allowed the present interest, perhaps the present need, to blot out the greater thing that might have been. And they have satisfied themselves that this was enough; this is all for which they were made. They were not made to save the souls of others; that requires a special vocation; it is enough if they can save their own.

We do not say this in blame. Many, perhaps, would yet do something if they could; many would still answer if they heard the Master's obvious call. But the fact remains; meanwhile the work grows every day greater, and the recruits for the army of Our Lord stand still. Every day the world grows larger and more open; every day there are more souls offered to be saved; yet every day, by comparison at least, there seem to be fewer and fewer men at hand to save them. Never before in the history of the human race has the man who would work for the saving of others had such an opportunity as now. At home and abroad, in civilized and in savage countries, the whole earth is gaping, parched, and dry; and it cannot be moistened but by the sweat of the labourer's brow, if not by the blood from his veins. Not only is today the labourer's day; it is also the season for ingathering. The seed has been long sown, the blood that should water it has been long shed ; others have laboured for centuries in patience and failure, and now we have but to lift our eyes and see the fields white for the harvest. At home on every side the cry is heard: "Had we more priests we could stop the leakage. Had we more priests there are countless numbers of our countrymen ready to come in." From the mission-fields it is the same. "Send us priests," they appeal, "and we have souls without number for them to save." Never does a missioner come home but he is struck with the work that might be done if only the men would go out and do it. For the men are here, and the work is waiting there; would to God they could be brought together!

This is the appeal that rings out to all the World; but especially, here and now, should it echo throughout Great Britain. Once it was the day for Spain, once for Portugal, once for France; each in its turn has had the world beneath its feet. And they produced upon demand the men that were required, their Xaviers and their Clavers, their Silveiras and their Machados, their Jogues, and their Breboeufs - men of whom today their fellow countrymen are proud, as those who gave themselves to save their country's honour in the days of its prosperity, and luxury, and danger of disgrace. Now the wheel has turned and the day has come for us. Let us not stay to lament that Britain is not Catholic; let us not despair at the smallness of our numbers. Whether our numbers are great or small, each of us still is one; and if we are so few, why then, "The fewer men the greater share of honour."

That not mere number makes the difference, the past has clearly shown. It is not number, but willingness; not learning, but self-sacrifice; not even any special skill or training, but a strong desire to spread the Kingdom, a strong hand to put to the plough.

Shall we then be wanting? Fathers and mothers, I care not who you are, rich or poor, noble or lowly, do you really grudge to God one or even more of the sons whom He has given to you? Is it such a mean thing as some would seem to think it, that a son of theirs should hold their Maker in his hands, should plead for them and for others at the altar, should be called upon to tramp down a sodden street, or across a field, or through a jungle, to carry salvation to a single soul? All honour to the widowed mother of five sons, who gave them all to God, and has lived to see them die one by one, priest-victims on the mission-fields! Sons and daughters, is there any ambition that is nobler? When you come to die, would you regret it if there were souls in Heaven waiting there to thank you for the gift of life you had given them? Other treasures you must leave behind; this is yours, if you will have it, for all eternity. And even if this world's estimate be taken, what life will you find more worthy of, more suited to, the energy and talents that are yours? Luxury, I grant you, you will not have; but you shall have even here a hundredfold instead. Mere wealth will never be yours; but love is more than gold or silver, and it you shall have to overflowing. Honour from men you may or may not receive; instead, centuries hence, when this generation is forgotten, the work you have done will still live on, and somewhere someone will bless the unknown hand that was generous; that gave and did not count the cost; that toiled and did not seek for rest; that laboured and did not look for any reward, save only to know that it worked for the glory of God and the good of the souls of men.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Archbishop Lackner is a Heretic

His Grace Archbishop Franz Lackner 
I will keep this short, gentle reader, as there is surprisingly little to say. 

In an attempt to emphasize how important laypeople are to the Church, Archbishop Franz Lackner of Salzburg, in a forum discussion broadcast in Austrian television this Monday, crossed a theological line which cannot, by any Catholic under any circumstances, be crossed. He said, in all earnestness and in the presence of three brother bishops: "We have forgotten that Jesus was a layman."

It is a de fide dogma, which must be held with divine and Catholic faith, that Jesus Christ is High Priest. This most central dogma was revealed explicitly in Sacred Scripture and infallibly defined as such by the Magisterium of the Church. The statement that "Jesus was a layman" is an abomination, a heresy of the worst kind, striking at the very heart of the Faith. For, to deny the Priesthood of Christ leads inexorably to the denial that His offering on the Cross was a true and proper sacrifice.

To be perfectly frank, I don't care that the Archbishop was trying to stress the importance of laypeople. That such a contemptible idea could even form in his mind, let alone be uttered aloud, reveals that he is fundamentally malformed, yes, perverted, in his faith. And don't think for a moment that it was some slip of the tongue, later regretted by the Archbishop. No, the statement was made intentionally, and has even been featured on the official webpage of the Archdiocese of Salzburg.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Unholy Fruits of Tolerance

Less than two months ago, I reported on a decision by the German Council of Ethics which recommended that current laws forbidding incest should be abolished. Highly educated (most members of the Council hold one or more Ph.D. degrees) and otherwise well-respected people actually sat around a table discussing and eventually approving the proposal that there is no moral concern regarding fathers who want to have sex with their own daughters. I honestly didn't think civilized people could sink any lower. Yet, the Germans appear uniquely gifted in plumbing the depths of human depravity.

The ARD (German: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland; English: Consortium of public broadcasters in Germany) is the world's second largest public broadcaster (after the BBC) with interests in broadcast radio, television and online media and an annual budget of more than €6.3 billion Euros ($7.8 billion Dollars). In Germany, the ARD is the gold standard of serious news and entertainment broadcasting. As such, it is an obvious target for propagandists: if you can get your message on the ARD, it will be heard by millions.

Last week, the ARD produced a series of programs covering a particular hot-button social issue: tolerance. As part of its coverage, it broadcast a radio program which featured an interview with a 29 year-old man who is a practitioner of bestiality.

Yes, bestiality. With dogs.

Now, you may be thinking - in all Christian charity - that this must have been set in the context of individuals suffering from psychiatric illness, with the message that society needs to help such people. Oh, that it were so, gentle reader! The truth is that this was portrayed as a case of unfair discrimination. You see, since 2013, sex with animals has been illegal and punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 Euros ($31,000 Dollars) in Germany. Not that it was legally sanctioned before; it's just that no one had thought a law was necessary, given that sex with animals is so obviously perverted and contrary to natural law.

The message of the program was clear: forbidding bestiality is an act of intolerance, the great - and only - sin of the 21st century. Practitioners of bestiality even have their own action group, ZETA (Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Enlightenment) which promotes "an open zoophile-lifestyle."

And as if that wasn't already enough to turn your stomach: the interview was broadcast on a radio program directed specifically and explicitly towards Germany's youth.

As I noted in regards to Peter Maneau's equation of the Holy Family to those in "Irregular Unions," there is apparently no limit to the depths people will sink to promote the disorder of human sexuality - even if it means digging their way to hell. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Elevation

There are several elevations in the Latin Rite of Holy Mass, the two most notable being the regular elevation prior to Communion, which is accompanied by the words "Ecce Agnus Dei" ("Behold, the Lamb of God"), and the major elevation, which takes place immediately after the Consecration, at which the priest raises the Blessed Victim above his head for all to behold and adore. While the former elevation is quite ancient - it can be traced back at least to the time of the Apostolic Constitutions of the 4th century - the latter elevation is a relatively recent addition to Holy Mass, having begun sometime in the late 12th century and integrated into the official rubrics by Pope St. Pius V in the 16th century. It is this latter elevation which, in the Latin Rite, is generally known under the name "elevation." As such, the elevation is a prime example of authentic liturgical development.

It is worth noting that the development of the elevation as a standard part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass contributed greatly to the practices of Eucharistic processions and Eucharistic adoration - both of which have become part and parcel of traditional Catholic spirituality. Elevation itself is now understood as such a theologically significant moment during the Sacrificial Mystery - it is mystically symbolic of Our Blessed Lord being raised upon the cross at Calvary - that the Mass, whether in the Extraordinary Traditional Latin or the Ordinary vernacular form, is practically unthinkable without it. It is a supremely Catholic practice, as it is a powerful expression of our faith in and devotion towards the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord in the Sacrificial Victim. And who among the faithful has not, at least once, felt the urge to call out, as did our forefathers in the Faith, "Hold, sir priest! Hold!" so that we may savor the moment?

Below you will find images recording the continuity of the practice of elevation throughout the last 800 years. In many of them, you will notice that the altar server is holding either a tall candle or a staff topped with a candle. This is the so-called "elevation candle," which was used to illumine the Sacred Victim in poorly lit churches and chapels, making it more easily visible to the faithful. In many traditional parishes today, the elevation candle, placed on the Epistle side of the altar, is lit immediately after the Sanctus and extinguished either after the sanctuary door is closed or after the final oblutions. At High Mass, this function can be taken over by torch-bearers, who kneel at the foot of the altar, similar to the depictions below.

13th Century

14th Century

15th Century

16th Century

18th Century

20th Century

21st Century

The Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice: The Allegorical Interpretation

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

Fr. François Xavier Schouppe, S.J.

The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice viewed in its entirety, i.e., the order of the Mass or the series of the ceremonies taken conjointly, may be explained under a triple heading:
  1. According to their fullest allegorical meaning.
  2. According to the allegorical meaning conjoined to the Lord's Passion as it is wont to be proposed to the piety of the faithful.
  3. According to the literal sense with which the moral sense is often identified or intimately connected.

[Note: Due to reasons of size, the original essay has been divided into two thematic parts, with the first, appearing below, treating the allegorical interpretation, and the second, to appear next week, treating the literal and moral interpretation of Holy Mass.]

The Faithful Catholic Experience of Holy Mass

The Full Allegorical Meaning of Holy Mass

Speaking in the full allegorical sense, the Mass may be divided into three parts. The first part, which is from the beginning to the offertory, represents the history of the world, from the creation down to the beginning of the Passion of Christ. The second part, which is from the offertory to the Communion inclusively, represents the spectacle of the Passion. The third part, which is from the Antiphon of the Communion to the last Gospel, symbolizes the history of Christ and of the world, even its future, to the end of time.

The priest, entering the sanctuary and approaching the altar, represents the creation of the first man and woman coming from the hand of God, and also the grandeur of their primeval state. When the priest comes down to the foot of the altar and makes the confession of sin, we are reminded of the fall of Adam and human race and, at the same time, the promise of pardon given through the hope of the future Redeemer. The Introit and Kyrie call to mind the language of the Patriarchs and prophets announcing the coming of the Messias and supplicating Him sighs. The Gloria or Angelical Hymn indicates the advent of Christ, the promised Messias, and the joy which He brought into the world by His birth. The Collects remind us of the private life, the labors and the prayers of Christ. The Epistle, Gospel and Credo remind us of the public life of Christ and His doctrine, which He taught us by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles as, also, by His own divine lips, and by the voice of the Church, which He instituted.

The Offertory or the Antiphon of the Offertory is the preamble of the commencement of Christ's passion, which He began by His agony and prayer in the garden of Olives. When the chalice is uncovered and the oblation of the Host and chalice is made, which action is the beginning of the sacrifice, we recall to mind how the Saviour of the world fell into the sacrilegious hands of His enemies, and the numerous and varied tortures to which they subjected Him at the very beginning of His immolation and death. The priest washes his fingers, and thereby represents Pilate who washed his hands in the presence of the people. When the orate fratres - pray brethren is said by the priest, we recall the words of Pilate, who said: Ecce homo - behold the man. The Preface and Sanctus indicate, on the one hand, the wonderful sayings of Christ, and also His silence, as well as His innocence, which were proclaimed by Pilate; on the other hand, they recall the cries of the Jews: Hosanna et crucifige - Praise ye the Lord, crucify Him.

The Canon is recited in silence. It calls to mind Christ carrying the cross and His crucifixion, an event which astonished even nature itself. The elevation reminds us of Christ raised on the cross. Silence now prevails as far as Nobis quoque peccatoribus and Pater noster, when we recall to mind Christ hanging on the Cross where He prays in silence, and afterwards pronounced His seven words.

At the breaking of the Host, a particle of the Host is dropped into the chalice to represent the death of Christ, and the descent of His blessed spirit into hell. The Agnus Dei accompanied with the striking of the breast represents the conversion of those who were present at the death of the Saviour. The Communion and ablutions denote the burial of the Lord.

The Communion Antiphon having been read, the priest turns towards the people and salutes them. This is done to remind us of Christ risen from the dead and appearing to His Apostles when He imparted to them His holy peace. At the Post-Communion and the closing of the book, we are reminded of Christ, who conversed with His Apostles during the space of forty days, and afterwards ascended into heaven. The blessing, which the priest gives to the faithful, reminds us of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. The last gospel and genuflection represent the preaching of the word of God in the world and to all men, all of whom however do not receive Christ. "But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God." In the final dissolution of the world, all shall see His glory, and "in the name of Jesus every knee shall bend in heaven, on earth, and in hell."

In this great allegory, it is worthy of note that the mystery of the consecration and the elevation is prominently placed in the middle of the Mass and to these, all that precedes and follows are referred. This beautifully represents how Christ crucified is placed in the middle of the ages  - to whom all things are referred, upon whom all things depend, and in whom all things are contained. The ancient world is referred to Christ, since it was expecting and preparing for Him; the new world is referred to Him also, since it has been crucifying or receiving Him, opposing or honoring Him throughout all time and will continue to do so even to the final separation of the just and the unjust.

The Restricted Allegorical Meaning

Speaking in the restricted allegorical sense, or inasmuch as it simply represents the Passion of the Lord, the divine drama of the Mass may be divided into various acts or scenes in which are exhibited to the piety of the faithful the various mysteries of the sufferings of Christ from the garden of Olives down to the burial, as well as the resurrection and the other glorious mysteries which follow. These scenes are the following:

The departure of the priest in company with his attendants from the sacristy represents Christ going out with His disciples from the chamber of the Last Supper to Mount Olivet.

The Confiteor reminds us of the prayer and agony of Christ in the garden. When the priest ascends the altar and kisses it, we are reminded of Christ in the presence of His enemies and betrayal with a kiss. The Introit reminds us of our Lord in the house of Annas, where He received a blow on the cheek. When the Kyrie eleison and Gloria are recited, the priest stands in the middle of the altar, and we are thereby reminded of Jesus, who stood before Caiphas and, also, the threefold denial by Peter. When the priest kisses the altar and turns towards the people, whom he salutes with the words Dominus vobiscum - the Lord be with you, we are reminded of the look which our Lord gave to Peter. When the priest recites the Epistle, we are reminded of the courtroom of Pilate. 

The transfer of the book and the recitation of the Munda cor recall Christ who was sent to Herod and who was mocked by him. The Gospel and Credo recall Christ standing before the various tribunals where He confessed Himself to be the Son of God and declared that His kingdom was not of this world. 

The unveiling of the chalice recalls Christ, when He was stripped of His garments and was scourged.

The chalice, after the oblation, is covered with the pall. This act represents Christ crowned with thorns.

The washing of the hands reminds us of Pilate, who washed his hands; the Jews thereupon exclaiming: "Let His blood be upon us."

The Orate fratres recalls Christ shown to the people by Pilate, who said Ecce Homo - Behold the man. When the Preface, Sanctus, and Hosanna are recited, we are reminded of Pilate proclaiming the innocence of Christ to the Jews who, only a few days before, hailed Him with Hosannas, but now clamor for His death.

When the priest makes a profound bow, and the sign of the cross on the oblatory offerings, we recall Christ's condemnation to death, and the taking the cross upon His shoulders.

When the priest prays in silence and recites the Memento, etc., we are reminded of our Lord carrying the cross up Calvary's mount.

When the priest extends his hands over the oblations, we are reminded of Christ stretched out on the nailed to the cross.

The elevation of the Sacred Host and chalice tell of Christ raised upon the cross, and pouring out His blood from open wounds.

When the priest prays in silence, and afterwards makes a number of signs of the cross, we are exhorted to think of Christ praying on the cross and suffering without a murmur.

At the Nobis quoque peccatoribus, we are reminded of the conversion of the penitent thief.

The Pater noster, with its seven petitions, recalls the seven last words spoken by Christ on the cross.

The separating the Host and dropping the particle in the chalice recalls the death of Christ and the descent of His blessed spirit into hell.

The Agnus Dei recalls the conversion of the multitudes, who witnessed the prodigies accompanying the death of Christ.

The unveiling of the chalice and the communion represent the taking down of the body of Christ from the cross and its burial.

The Antiphon of communion represents the resurrection of the Lord.

When the priest turns toward the people and salutes them, we recall the risen Lord appearing to and wishing the disciples His holy peace.

The post-communion prayers and closing the book tell of Christ teaching His disciples during the space of forty days and then ascending up into heaven.

At the last Gospel we are reminded of Christ crowned with glory in heaven and there ruling the Church, which is to teach all nations until the end of time.

[Note: Fellow Catholic Michael Sestak has put together a wonderful video presentation of the allegorical meaning of Holy Mass, which The Radical Catholic heartily endorses. Enjoy!]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quare nunc, Domine?

Joan of Arc
(John Everett Millais, 1829-1896)

God could have had you live in a former age, when the life of the Church was vibrant, when devotions were fervent and piety was a matter of course, when religious vocations were numerous and magnificent cathedrals were shooting out of the ground like mushrooms. But He didn't.

Instead, He wanted you here on earth right now, at this critical moment in the life of the Church, as her houses of prayer and sacrifice are being defiled, as her seminaries and convents are crumbling, as wolves are devouring entire folds and the divine order is being rejected in favor of unspeakable perversions.

The gates of hell have opened wide, vomiting forth the armies of the devil to wage war against the Bride of Christ.

In response, God has sent you.

Pray, gentle reader, that you will be capable of receiving the grace needed to do the great work God has planned for you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

An Interview with Cardinal Brandmüller

His Eminence Walter Cardinal Brandmüller
Q: Your Eminence, why are conservatives so hard and merciless? 

A: Are they? I have not met a person who was merciless because he is conservative. There are both merciful and merciless people among both liberals and conservatives. However, is the doctor who withholds a life-saving operation from a patient and instead allows him as much alcohol and nicotine as he likes being merciful? Or one who gives a diabetic chocolate cake? 

Q: But don't conservatives rather speak of sin, whereas liberals talk about forgiveness and mercy?

A: That's a new one on me. Where do you get this? From a newspaper? Liberals also talk about sin. But they do usually mean something else, that's true. For them, sin is rather like bad parking or cheating on a diet. What, then, is sin? 

Q: And your answer?

A: Sin is a morally inferior attitude or action by which people harm themselves and others. 
Whereby, we have all learned that we feel bad when we do what is bad and false; that fraud, adultery, murder, etc., have never actually made a person happier. Dostoevsky wrote entire novels about this dark secret. 

Q: But aren't conservatives rather more fearful, whereas liberals are more courageous?

A: Where is this coming from? Do we talk about elephants "courageously" stomping through a china shop? I would never confuse caution in handling precious vessels with fearfulness.

Q:  How did conservatives acquire the reputation of being obscurantists, as opposed to the liberal luminaries?

A: Am I supposed to laugh at that? The charge of "obscurantism" is a straw man drawn from the feretory of the so-called Enlightenment. It's a prejudice without any reasoned justification. Already more than 200 years ago, everyone who opposed this obsession with progress and the "spirit of the age" was slandered as being "obscurantist," while the Jacobins were styling themselves "luminaries" as they made heads roll for progress.

Q: Why, even 200 years later, are liberals still so fascinated with the notion of revolution?

A: You'll have to ask the liberals that. I shiver at the thought. Let's not forget how much blood and tears the great revolutions have shed over humanity! The Nazis also saw themselves as revolutionaries. Revolutionaries are pyromaniacs. 

Q: But do not conservatives like to look backwards, whereas liberals actually look forward and into the future?

A. [Nodding]

Q: Why?

A: I am a historian. The past is the stuff of experience and very concrete. The future is the realm of dreams and seducers, in which it is easy to make unsubstantiated claims and empty promises. Only on the sure basis of historical experience can the future be built. 

Q: Why has the conflict between conservatives and liberals broken out precisely over the issue of the family?

A: Ideologies that want to change man and society begin with the family and its destruction. That was the case with both Marx and Lenin. The family is the primordial cell of every human community. That's why it is so threatened. It should not be experimented with. I'm not talking about the latest madness of "freezing" female egg cells. But an unbelievable battle has erupted over the family - which, unfortunately, no one is defending like the Church. This was prophetically indicated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II decades ago.

Q: How do you interpret the fact that the two biggest adversaries in this debate between conservatives and liberals in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Kapser, are Germans?

A: I have to respond with Goethe: "In me there are two souls, alas!" This is, in a way, true of Germany, especially since the Reformation, in as far as Germany has divided into two camps. This division has since become evident in the Catholic Church in Germany, too.

Q: The 1535 conflict with Henry VIII over the indissolubility of marriage cost the Catholic Church the separation of the Anglicans. Was it worth the price? 

A: The question is poorly framed. No pope and no council can ignore the words of Jesus regarding marriage. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Fidelity to the Word of God was more important to Pope Clement VII than the political threats of the English king. The Church has no right of disposal over the sacraments. The Apostle Paul says that we are merely custodians, and that a custodian must be loyal. The Church is a foundation, and the will of the founder is decisive.

Q: Do we not now, with the help of modern theologians, understand the Word of God much better than before?

A: God's Word is inexhaustible in both content and substance. That's why there can be real progress in our understanding. It is, however, unthinkable for our later understanding to contradict what has already been understood. Two times two remains four. Truth doesn't change. And God's Spirit does not contradict Itself.

Q: But isn't precisely this conflict necessary for a healthy Church? 

A: A certain degree of unrest does good to every community. Conservatives, too, need a surface upon which to strike their matches. Error, too, has its own role in the progress of understanding.

Q: Shouldn't we, however, fear a Church which consists of conservatives only?

A: That depends on what you mean by "conservative." 

Q: What does "conservative" mean, Your Eminence?

A: "Conservative," in culture and in religion, means something else than in politics. To uphold certain social circumstances or forms of government, such as monarchy, at all costs is not conservative. The same is true of life. The lizard sacrifices its tail to save himself. The true conservative understands sacrificing things of secondary importance to retain essentials. To preserve worthless things  is not conservative. It is not conservative to preserve the ashes, as John XXIII said, but to guard the embers. In dentistry, it is conservative to preserve the root, and not to pull the tooth. We need conservation, especially of important things such as blood and foods. What would become of the artwork of the world without conservators? The fire department, too, is conservative - when it arrives in time!

(Original: [German])

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holy Communion

Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.

(Photo: Pontifical Missionary Union)
There is an instinct in us all, no matter how unaccustomed we may be to pray, which seems to tell us that, if ever our prayer should be real and from the depth of the soul, it should be at the moment of Holy Communion. If the Blessed Sacrament is that which, on the authority of our Lord's own words, we believe it to be, His own true Body and His own true Blood, then there must be no imitation, there must be no mere playing at devotion, there must be a strong soul's genuine expression of itself, whenever we receive it into ourselves. Hence the universal custom of regular preparation for Communion, and regular thanksgiving after it, which in practice are made of almost as much account as the receiving of the Sacrament itself; hence, too, the further common custom of spending the first moments after Communion in intent contemplation, as if one feared that the use of a book, or of any other help to prayer, might be almost a desecration of a moment so solemn.

Undoubtedly the instinct is a good one, and both the resulting practices are good. At the same time, as with all things good, the importance of both can be exaggerated; preparation and thanksgiving are very far from being the Sacrament itself, while to one who is wholly unaccustomed to contemplation a book may help to prayer when without it the soul will be wholly distracted. But not on that account should one decline to make the effort. Rightly understood, contemplation is less beyond our range than is sometimes assumed, and there are none but may attain to it in some degree.

The following method of preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Communion is built upon this first principle. It is an easy form of contemplation; it is drawn from the three most elementary facts of Holy Communion; it is intended to be going on, no matter at what moment Communion is received, so that it is at once preparation and thanksgiving. It is reduced to the fewest possible words, for by many words contemplation is often only distracted; instead, it endeavours to take the affections that are immediately suggested, crystallizes them in a single sentence, and then offers them to the communicant to be held in the mind, and meant by the heart for so long as mind and heart are able to retain them.

What, then, is Holy Communion? It contains three facts: the fact of Jesus Christ, its Substance; the fact of myself, its recipient; the fact of the union between Him and myself, from which Communion takes its name. These three facts make three points, and they contain enough, for they suggest affections which will stay.

1 . The Fact of Jesus Christ

(a) The moment I say this to myself, meaning it, I make an Act of Faith. Hence with St. John in the boat on the Lake of Tiberias I say, and repeat with even more realized meaning: "It is the Lord." Or with the poor man appealing for his cure: "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief." Or with St. Peter I can cry with my whole heart: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

(b) Knowledge is the forerunner of love. Of how many men and women is it said that to know them is to love them! And if this is true of ordinary mortals, how much more true must it be of our Lord! The Act of Faith, then, persisted in and meant, insensibly develops into an Act of Love; if we go on saying and meaning, "Lord, I believe," we shall soon find ourselves saying: "Lord, I love." So in the words of Peter let my thoughts express themselves: "Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee; Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee." Or with the Spouse in the Canticle: "I to my Beloved, and my Beloved to me." Or I can keep the words of à Kempis echoing in my heart: "Love Him, and keep Him for thy Friend who, when all leave thee, will not forsake thee, nor suffer thee to perish in the end."

(c) But when I say this, I find my Act of Love is insensibly going a step farther. As knowledge leads to love, so love expresses itself in confidence and trust; as, then, an Act of Faith leads insensibly to an Act of Love, so an Act of Love falls naturally into an Act of Hope. Hence, once again with St. Peter, we say: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life"; or with the Psalmist: " The Lord is my Shepherd; who shall I fear? The Lord is the keeper of my soul; before whom shall I tremble?" Or with the writer of the Te Deum: " In Thee, Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded for ever."

2. The Fact of Myself

(a) What a contrast! What an opposite extreme! In circumstances like these, in associations such as these, how inevitable is the Act of Humility, of self-abasement, whether saying with St. Elizabeth: "Whence is this to me that my Lord should come to me?" or with the soldier: "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof "; or with the Psalmist: "What is man that Thou shouldst be mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou shouldst visit him!"

(b) Not only of my nature am I, who am but dust and ashes, and, even at my best, but the work of His hands, compelled to humble myself before our Lord; I am lower down than that. I have lowered myself still more by misuse of that which He has made, by infidelity to Him, by sinfulness. In this way and that I have offended Him and soiled myself. Then, as I approach Him, I can but say: "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." Or with the Prodigal: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight. I am no longer worthy to be called thy son." Or in the words of the Miserere: " Have mercy on me, God, according to Thy great mercy."

(c) And yet, even while I speak, "while I am yet a great way off," like the father of the Prodigal, He comes to me and embraces me. This is the matter of fact; unworthy as I am, stained as I am and in rags, He will take me as I am if I will come. Then I cannot refuse. I can only say: "Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty." I can only cry: "Into Thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit." I can only plead, offering myself to Him in the meantime: "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick."

3. The Fact of the Union

(a) This is the climax. My Lord and I are brought together, made actually one, so far as that is possible. It is not to be wondered at that at that moment words seem to fail us. We can only adore, and adoration is best expressed by silence. Our thoughts can only repeat, with St. Thomas: "My Lord and my God "; or the words of the Te Deum: "Tu Rex gloriae, Christe" (Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory); or with the other St. Thomas: "Adoro te devote, latens Deitas" (Hidden Godhead, devoutly I adore Thee).

(b) When at length, as it were, I recover my power of speech, and my heart longs to express itself, what else can it do but break out in words of thanksgiving? It says with the priest in the Mass : "What return shall I make to the Lord for all He has given to me?" or, "Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, gratias agimus tibi" (We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee). Or, again, in the words of St. Paul: "Christ loved me, and gave Himself up for me."

(c) But there is no gratitude, no proof of confidence, greater than that which makes further appeals; and even while I thank Him for all that He is, and for all that He has done, I seem to hear Him say: "Hitherto you have asked nothing in My name. Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be filled." So I turn my prayer, or my prayer turns itself, to one of petition; that I myself may do His will, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" that His will may be done in and by all His creatures, "Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven"; and that if this thing or that, this favour or that, dear to my heart, for myself or for another, is in accordance with His will, it may be granted.

Hence the form here suggested will be summed up as follows:

What is Holy Communion?

  • It is the Fact of Jesus Christ, which implies:
    • An Act of Faith:
      • "It is the Lord"
      • "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."
      • "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
    • An Act of Love:
      • "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."
      • "I to my Beloved, and my Beloved to me."
      • "Love Him, and keep Him for thy Friend, who, when all leave thee, will not forsake thee, nor suffer thee to perish in the end."
    • An Act of Hope:
      • "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
      • "The Lord is my Shepherd, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Keeper of my soul; before whom shall I tremble?"
      • "In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded for ever."
  • It is the Fact of Myself, which evokes:
    • An Act of Humility:
      • "Whence is this to me that my Lord should come to me?"
      • "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof."
      • "What is man that Thou shouldst be mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou shouldst visit him?"
    • An Act of Contrition:
      • "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."
      • "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Thy sight; I am no longer worthy to be called Thy son."
      • "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy."
    • An Act of Oblation:
      • "Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty."
      • "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."
      • "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick."
  • It is the Fact of the Union, which draws forth:
    • An Act of Adoration:
      • "My Lord and my God."
      • "Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory."
      • "Hidden Godhead, devoutly I adore Thee."
    • An Act of Thanksgiving:
      • "What return shall I make to the Lord for all He has given to me?"
      • "We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify Thee, we give Thee thanks."
      • "Christ loved me, and gave Himself up for me."
    • An Act of Petition:
      • "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?"
      • "Hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

This is, of course, no more than a suggestion and a guide. The variety of acts that each might make for himself is very great, the prayers that might be given are infinite; and as every soul is different, so will each have its own different form of self-expression. Let it choose as it will, and pray in the way it finds best.

Monday, November 17, 2014

On Some Ceremonies in Particular

Third in a series treating the Symbolism of the Traditional Form of Holy Mass

Fr. François Xavier Schouppe, S.J.

Some ceremonies are common to a great extent and are repeated according to circumstances. Among ceremonies of this kind are the frequent use of the sign of the cross, genuflections, inclinations of the head, the raising of the eyes, the raising and joining of the hands, the extension of the hands, the turns and salutations to the people, and, so to speak, the dialogues of the people, the varied changes of place, incensing, kissing the altar, the raising and lowering of the voice and silence.

His Eminence Cardinal Burke with head bowed, hands joined in prayer

The Sign of the Cross

After the manner of a blessing, the priest makes the sign of the cross with his right hand, on himself, on the missal, on the incense and the offerings. He makes the sign of the cross even over the consecrated Host and Chalice; but in this case the sign of the cross differs from the benediction properly so called.

The sign of the cross is used, first, as the sign and source of the blessing and the grace of God, because the cross is the chief instrument of the passion and the death of Christ and is therefore rightly considered to be the source and the fountain of every blessing. It is used, second, to commemorate the death of Christ in whose memory the Holy Sacrifice is daily offered. Since the cross most fittingly represents the passion and death of Christ, it becomes, by its frequent repetition, impressed on the minds of both priest and people that the sacrifice of the altar is the same as the sacrifice of the cross, for in the consecrated host there is, verily, the same body of Christ which was nailed to the cross and in the chalice the same blood which was spilt on Calvary.

It should be observed that at times the sign of the cross is made only once, then again twice, three times and finally five times. These acts have many mystical meanings. When the sign of the cross is made once, it signifies the unity of the divine essence, or the unity of person in Christ. When it is made twice, it signifies the two natures in Christ, the human and divine. When it is made three times, it signifies the trinity of persons in God - Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And when it is made five times, it is to remind us of the five wounds inflicted on the body of the Lord.


The genuflection is an external act of reverence, adoration, humility and submission paid to the divine majesty. By its use, the Church intends to manifest that honor which is due to the divine majesty, not only in words, but also in acts; not only internally, but even externally. in this action, the whole man combines to honor the Creator. It is also intended as a sign and incentive to that interior reverence and humiliation which the creature owes to the Creator.

Bowing the Head

The bowing of the head is an external act of reverence and submission. In character it is not so solemn an act as the genuflection. The bow is more or less profound, according as the words and circumstance demand. Thus, all that belongs to this supreme act of worship is carried out in the most perfect manner.

Lifting the Eyes

The lifting of the eyes to heaven is done, first, in imitation of Christ who, when praying to His heavenly Father frequently and more especially at the Last Supper, deigned to lift up His eyes; second, because it is natural to raise the eyes when we address any one; and third, that the mind and internal intention may be directed to God through the external elevation of the eyes. "To Thee have I lifted up my eyes, who dwellest in heaven." (Ps. 122:1)

Raising and Joining the Hands

The hands are held elevated when praying, first, because it is proper for the suppliant to extend his hands to those from whom he expects help; second, because the Psalmist advises this act: "Lift up your hands to the holy places and bless ye the Lord!" (Ps. 133:2); third, because Moses prayed in this manner for the people who were fighting the battles of the Lord; fourth, because Christ on the cross prayed with extended arms; and finally, that the raising of the hands may be an indication and help to the elevation of the heart.

The hands are raised and joined in the form of a circle when the priest recites the Gloria in Excelsis, the Credo, the Veni sanctificator, the Te igitur, the Memento, and the Benedicat. This is the natural posture which man assumes in the act of exultation, praise and supplication. The priest adopts this posture so that he may show that he magnifies God with all his heart, and he signifies, too, that with all his heart he believes in God and seeks divine aid and all benedictions which he desires to pour forth on the oblations, on himself, on the bystanders, and on all the other faithful, whether living or dead.

Extending the Hands

The priest extends his hands and immediately joins them when he says Dominus vobiscum, Orate fratres, or Oremus, first, so that he may salute the people, not only by his turning to and addressing them, but with a gesture also; second, that he may express the sincere and ardent affection of his heart by which he calls down benedictions on the people and excites them to prayer.

Turning to the People

The priest frequently turns to the people saying, Dominus vobiscum or Orate fratres, or he speaks to the people, who answer through the server: first, to signify the union between the priest and the people, who, to gather as one family of Christ, offer the sacrifice; second, that with fraternal charity and mutual prayers and exhortations they may help each other; third, that we may comprehend how the people are united with Christ, the invisible priest, as they are with the priest at the altar. Seven times the people are sainted with the pious address Dominus vobiscum, "the Lord be with you," in order to signify how great a need we have of the help of God, and also to indicate the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Changes of Place

These are made, first, because various ceremonies, such as the confession at the foot of the altar, lessons, ablutions, etc., naturally require these movements; second, to signify the various journeys of the Lord, especially during the time of His passion; third, to remind us that we are travelers here below, and that, through all the vicissitudes of life's journey, we may rely upon Christ to conduct us safely to the haven of eternal rest. Under this head also may be considered the transferring of the book, which was formerly made and which, to this day to some extent is continued, for the convenience of the celebrant and the reason of the movements by which now and again another part of the altar is occupied. Besides these, there are some mystical meanings which will be explained in future essays.


Incensing is done, first, as a mark of honor and adoration; second, as symbolic of the holocaust of Christ and all Christians which ascend by the fire of charity in the odor of sweetness; third, as an indication of the good odor of Christ diffused in His Church and throughout the universe; fourth, as representing the prayers of the saints on earth and in heaven, which ascend from hearts inflamed with love to the throne of God. "An angel came and stood before the altar having a golden censer, and there was given to him much incense that he should offer of the prayers of all saints." (Apoc. 8:3)

Kissing the Altar

The kissing of the altar and other articles is done, first, as an evidence of the respect due to holy things; second, as an evidence of love and devotion towards Christ who is symbolized by the altar. In performing this action, the priest extends his hands, as it were, to embrace Christ the Lord for the purpose of obtaining His blessing and good will, not only for himself, but for others.

Raising the Voice and Silence

The priest's voice is raised to address the people and pray with them that they may glorify God or express more ardently their affection. Silence is observed to indicate and to aid recollection of mind as well as reverence. This is done to remind the worshippers that the sublimest mysteries are being enacted and that the sacred words may not be made common. The alternation, changing from silence to audible speech, represents both the sacred silence observed and the precious words of the divine victim spoken at the time of His passion.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Age si quid agis

In the case that my three loyal readers are wondering why these pages have grown quiet in the last days: worry not. After a period of prayer and penance, I have decided to invest some time in a project which shall, if all goes well, benefit a good many souls for years to come. First fruits should be ready for the plucking around Christmas. So, patience, gentle reader! You will be the first invited to the harvest.

This should, however, have no negative impact on the regular updating of the blog in regards to any current series, such as that on the Symbolism of the Traditional Form of Holy Mass by Fr. Schouppe, or that on the essays of Archbishop Alban Goodier. So, if you've been following those - and I hope you have - then you can rest assured that they will continue. 

The Blessed Sacrament

Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.

The Blessed Sacrament
(Photo: aeternus photos)
In the records left to us by the first missioners among the American Indians there is an ancient practice described which is much to our purpose here. In a certain tribe - the noblest-spirited that the Fathers had yet met - it was the custom when a great brave died to take the following means that his name and memory might not perish. The chiefs and priests would gather together round the corpse, would invoke the guidance of the spirit of him that was dead, and then would choose out from the youth of the tribe one that gave good promise for the future, one that seemed both likely and willing to emulate the valour of the hero that was gone. He was brought into the middle of the village, he was told in detail all that the dead man had been, and all that he had done - his fleetness of foot, his dexterity of hand, his prowess in hunting, his courage on the field of battle; his wisdom in council, his power of command, the awe with which he filled his enemies; last, his devotion to his tribe, and his sacrifice of himself for its sake. And when the tale had been told the youth was asked whether he was willing to inherit the dead man's spirit, and to reproduce his life, and to pay the price of that reproduction.

And when the boy had sworn over the body of the dead that he would do this so far as in him lay, and that to give life and expression to that spirit should be the ambition of his life, then the oldest brave would stoop down to the corpse and cut out a portion of the heart, and put it on the tongue of the boy, and pray that by that act the spirit of the dead might pass into him, and in him find a new home. And forthwith the boy laid aside his own name, and received the name of the dead man. He stripped himself of his own clothing, and put on the clothing of the dead; he passed out from his own family, and was adopted into the family of the brave. Boy as he was, he was given a place in the Great Council of the tribe, because of the spirit that was now assumed to dwell in him. On the battlefield he was given the place of honour, and that was the place of greatest danger; at home and abroad it was assumed of him that he would sacrifice himself at any need.

Is there not some likeness between this Indian custom and the Christian's reception of the Blessed Sacrament? Yes; but with how great a difference! For the Chieftain whom we revere is no mere brave of a tribe, but Lord of heaven and earth. He is not dead, but is risen again and alive. "If Christ be not risen, then is our faith in vain." He has not passed away, but abides and will abide: "Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, and the same also for ever." And hence our initiation is not a mere form; it is a solemn reality. We do not receive upon our tongue a portion of a dead man's heart but a heart that beats with quickened life. The spirit that passes into us is not a figure only; it is a real, living, quivering thing. The full meaning of our words we do not know, for they are His words and not ours; but we do know that He has said: "He that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me," for "My Body is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink in very deed." We know that He has said: "If any man love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode in him." We know that "to as many as receive Him He has given power to become sons of God," and we know that one who understood the heart and soul of the God-man far better than ourselves has said: "Brethren, we are now the sons of God, but we know not what we shall be."

And we believe, with a faith that is not only surmise, that all this is not mere metaphor, mere figure of speech, and no more. Such emphasis, if figure of speech only is intended, is not the manner of the Word of God. We believe that there are states of being far transcending our own, surpassing ours more than the moving creature surpasses the stone, than man surpasses the brute animal, than his immortal soul surpasses his mortal body. We believe that human language has been made to express the facts of human life; that it is therefore utterly inadequate to express the facts of a life that is above it; that often, then, its words must appear but metaphorical and figurative when they are really attempts to utter the most solemn truths. And this is what we see to have happened here. Man feebly guesses at the fact of the Blessed Sacrament and Its life within the soul of man. He babbles words which express but a shadow; but the shadow they express is cast by a still greater reality. Though we do not understand, we know it must be true. When we adopt the name of Christ, and call ourselves Christians, there is a real adoption corresponding to that name. Having received the living Body of Christ, there is a real meaning in our words when we say : "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me."