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The following is taken from the book, "THE CATHOLIC'S READY ANSWER" by BY Rev. M. P. HILL, S.J. IMPRIMATUR 1914 The intention of this book was to give Catholics ready answers when they were confronted about certain subjects concerning the Faith.
The Plea of the Indifferentist.—Religious creeds are a matter of personal preference, and a search for the right creed, if there is any such thing, can not be expected of the average man. On the other hand we all have a grasp of certain principles of morality which are the mainstay of society. With these society may well rest contented.
Our Answer.—We have dealt in another article with the watchword of the indifferentist, "Deeds, not creeds," and have endeavored to show its absurdity. In the present article we aim at being more helpful to the indifferentist by enabling him, if possible, to realize the gravity of the situation in which he finds himself, and by furnishing him with a positive clue to the discovery of the truth.
The indifferentist believes, or tries to make himself believe, that the motto ''Deeds, not creeds" is the embodiment of common sense. Let us sift it a little. Ask a man of this way of thinking what deeds he means. Ask him to draw up a list of those deeds which he thus sets over against the creeds, that is to say, of the acts and habits which he deems morally right. Ask a second and a third, and so on indefinitely, to do the same. You will find that no two such lists will in all points tally, and some will be much longer than others. One man's list of honest deeds will include no more than honesty, sobriety, obedience to the laws (when they can not be evaded), and a care of one's family, with perhaps a bit of philanthropy and public spirit thrown in by way of giving a sort of halo to the rest. These are only the deeds and duties without which even pagan society could not get on at all, and without which the individual would come to grief.
Another vaunter of deeds as against creeds would add a few more virtues to his list. His moral sense is of a finer sort, and hence he adds to the catalogue meekness and patience, charity in words (mere thoughts would be under no moral restraint), and chastity, as a matter of outward behavior.
Another would add sincerity (an approach to humility) and a restraint upon thoughts and desires. One would like to know, in dealing with such persons, where the line is to be drawn between good and bad deeds. Why should one man's list of virtues be longer than another's? Have they any criterion by which to discover whether any one of them is complete and exhaustive? And then, what is their criterion for deciding whether any deed deserves to be called virtuous? Most men who are indifferent
to positive creeds are quite at sea on these points. As to prayer and worship, well—they may have some vague notion of the fitness and reasonableness of the thing, but they would seldom think of entering it on a list of moral duties.
And then the very notion of duty and obligation which underlies all their ideas about virtue and vice—upon what is it based ? The basis is either a rational or an irrational one. If it is a rational one it will resolve itself into a judgment that certain things are right and ought to be done, whilst other things are wrong and ought to be avoided; in other words, into a dictate of conscience. But conscience must be based upon a belief (implied at least) that there is some higher power than our own wills, one to which our wills are subject; for there can be no duty or obligation unless it be imposed by a will which has a sovereign right over ours the will of a personal Deity. Any other basis for the notion of duty is irrational. You may see the expediency or the utility of doing certain things which you consider right, but that it is a duty for you to do them —that you must do them—you would regard as absurd unless you admitted a higher will to which yours was subject.
The existence of this sovereign power is frequently a matter of doubt, or even of denial, to the one who is a vaunter of deeds and a contemner of creeds. Formally or virtually he is an atheist or an agnostic. What, or how much, do you believe, we would ask the indifferentist, concerning the existence of a God who has brought you into being and has a claim on your obedience ? And what bearing do you suppose obedience to God has upon one 's eternal destiny? You have drawn up a brief list of essential duties: what if obedience to God requires you to extend the list? Whatever be the present state of your mind regarding that subject, the question is one of tremendous importance to you, personally. Your eternal destiny must far outweigh any possible amount of difficulty involved in a search for light on the subject. If the duty of knowing and serving God were but a fancy engendered in weak and ignorant minds it might be set aside as undeserving of attention. But if the brightest and noblest minds in history have accepted it and acted upon it, it surely possesses a special claim to your attention. Even though it had no such high recommendation, the fact that eternity is at stake should be enough to induce you to make an honest inquiry after the truth. Such an inquiry need not be a hopeless one. It is not a matter of traveling into some unknown region of speculation in which there are no landmarks for the guidance of the traveler. These nineteen hundred years a power has been at work in this world which has wrought for the ennobling, elevating, and purifying of the human soul, and which bears upon it the seal of its divine origin. Impeded in its action, at times, by the human instruments which it must employ, nevertheless, by reason of the divine element in it, it has won its way to human hearts and has gradually embraced the greater part of the world within the sphere of its influence. Christianity is the first subject to be studied by any one who is setting about a search for the truth—the more so as Christianity has sprung from and is the perfecting of the oldest, the most consistent, and the noblest tradition of religious teaching in the history of the world—that of the chosen people of God. Tolle et lege-- take up the book of the Gospels—as the angel said to St. Augustine, whose giant intellect was for a time held captive by one of the false philosophies of his day, read with the unbiased mind of an Augustine, and pray with but one tenth of his fervor, and sooner or later light will succeed darkness.
We have been thinking in the above passage of the type of indifferentist who makes light of all religious knowledge, who knows nothing and cares to know nothing about God, revelation, or immortality. But there is one of another type who is something of a Christian and who respects the authority of Christ and the Bible. Bred in childhood to the teaching of one or other of the Christian sects, he has allowed the cares or the pleasures of the world to draw him away from religious worship—or, it may be, he attends religious services intermittently, though he brings to them a set of Christian or half- Christian beliefs of his own making. In either case, when the claims of the one true religion are urged, he takes refuge behind a sort of half-conviction that, after all, it matters little which of the creeds he adopts provided his deeds are in harmony with the Christian code—whatever that may mean to him. An indifferentist of this class should be reminded that the first and foremost of those good deeds of which he makes so much account is to believe—and believe in its totality—what Christ has revealed, and what He has enjoined upon all to believe. That revelation is one and unchangeable, and constitutes a definite body of teachings, placed in the keeping of a Church --one only Church-- which is "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim. iii. 15) —against which "the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matt. xvi. 18)—to whose teachers the promise was given; ''Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matt, xxviii. 20).
That this definite teaching of a visible Church must be accepted by all is plain from the words of Christ: "Go ye into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark xvi. 15, 16), or, as the Protestant Authorized Version has it, ** shall be damned." If a rejection of Christ's teaching deserves eternal damnation, an indifference to all creeds must deserve the same penalty. Therefore an effort to find the one true creed is an imperative duty. But, replies the indifferentist, as things are to-day how is it possible to discover the true faith of Christ? Must I examine the claims of seven hundred sects, each asserting its own exclusive possession of the truth? The difficulty you fear is, in the first place, exaggerated. Yet, even if it were much greater than it is, the importance of the object of your quest would far outweigh the difficulty involved in searching for it. It is a matter of obtaining the "pearl of great price" and of providing for eternity. If you were given seven hundred keys of all shapes, and were told that one of them, by a certain number of turns to right and left, would unlock the door of an apartment containing untold treasures, all of which would be yours if you lighted on the right key and discovered how to use it, would you not spend whole days--nay, even months and years—searching for the key and applying it to the lock? Most men would; and not unreasonably, for the treasure would be worth the trouble.
But the search for the truth is not of so intricate a nature. It is true that but one of the seven hundred keys is the right one, but there are ways of simplifying the search. There are tests that may be applied, by means of which you may in a short time eliminate all but the right key. By the use of these tests countless inquirers have, as a matter of fact, been led to the truth. Some have applied to the various Christian sects the historical test, or that of origin: the Church that could trace its history back to the apostles must have superior claims to those churches that have existed only a few centuries, and which were repudiated and cut off from communion by the Church which has undoubtedly existed since the time of the apostles.
Others have applied the test of universality: the Church of Christ must be a world-Church—it must be confined to no single country or race, and above all must not derive all its authority from the secular government of any particular country.
But there is one test which is perhaps the most obvious and the most easily applied—the test of unity—and to this we would ask the special attention of the indifferentist. It needs but little reflection to see that unity should be one of the chief attributes of the Church to which Christ committed the preaching of the word. In the first place, the doctrine He commanded it to preach was to be one and unchanged forever. This, from the nature of the case, should be obvious. No one, not even an angel from heaven, St. Paul admonishes us, was authorized to change it. It is no less clear that perfect agreement should subsist among those who accepted the teaching of the apostles; otherwise it would have been useless for one only doctrine to have been preached to all.
Moreover, oneness of doctrine was to be rooted in oneness of authority—the divinely constituted teaching authority of the Church. Our Lord did not simply exhort His followers to unity of doctrine, but gave them a body of accredited teachers, who were to go forth "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you'' (Matt, xxviii. 20). ''He that believeth [your teaching] and is baptized, shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be condemned" (Mark xvi. 16). "He that heareth you, heareth Me; he that despiseth you, despiseth Me" (Luke X. 16). "If he will not hear the Church let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican" (Matt, xviii. 17). Such is the visible teaching authority established by Christ. This, and no other, can be the source of all right doctrine, and consequently of all unity of doctrine in the Church.
In any church professing to be Christian and yet not teaching with authority, unity of doctrine is left to chance, or rather is exposed to certain disruption. The Jews said of Our Lord that He spoke as one having authority, and not as the Scribes and the Pharisees; and a consciousness of divine authority showed itself in every word He uttered. The same note of authority rang through the discourse of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost. No less authoritative were the utterances of the Apostle of the Gentiles. And if there is a Church today that perpetuates the mission of Christ and His apostles, its teaching must bear the same stamp of authority. Oneness of doctrine and oneness of authority are, therefore, a characteristic note of the true Church of Christ.
Take unity as your criterion, we would say to the indifferentist, and you will find that the problem of finding the one Church of Christ is rendered comparatively easy. Your seven hundred religions will at once resolve themselves into two classes: those that possess unity and those that do not. In the first class you will find the Catholic Church, and no other. (Catholic and Roman Catholic are the same.) The unity of the Catholic Church is so conspicuous as to force itself on the notice and excite the jealousy of its enemies. Every single Catholic in a grand total of nearly three hundred million believes the same doctrine as every other member of the Church. True, in matters that have not been defined as of faith considerable latitude is permitted to personal opinion, and on these points there has been divergence of opinion ; but, on the other hand, there is a tribunal which is competent to decide, in the first place, what is of faith and what is not, and, in the second place, which of the parties to a controversy is in the right. The unity of the Church consists, then, in the universal acceptance of what is taught as of faith and the readiness to accept the decision of the Church in matters of controversy. With human minds constituted as they are this is the most perfect unity conceivable-- and, indeed, there is no parallel to it in human society.
Outside the Catholic Church we find an enormous number of sects all bearing the name of Christian. Taken as a body, and to a great extent taken singly, these Christian sects are confessedly and notoriously disunited. Their one common ground is their opposition to the only Church that possesses unity. Even the Bible, which has always been their one rule of faith, has fallen from its once high place in their estimation and is gradually sinking to the rank of an ordinary history containing a large admixture of the mythical. All the world knows that many of the leading lights of Protestantism deal with the Bible in a purely rationalistic spirit. But even when the Bible ruled supreme it was the very fountain-source of disunion, for it was on the alleged authority of the Bible that every new dissenting sect based its separation from the older ones.
This tendency to disunion has been the most striking trait of Protestantism from the beginning. Not even the potent influence of such characters as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli could reduce their followers to unity. Seeing, however, that their teachings must be backed by an assertion of authority, they ruled the conduct and consciences of their subjects with a rod of iron. But private judgmentwas not to be stifled. Who is this Luther? Who Calvin? Who Zwingli? Are we not as good interpreters of the
Bible as they? So queried their followers; and hence the numerous divisions that sprang up even during the infancy of Protestantism. **It is of great importance," wrote Calvin to Melanchthon, ''that the divisions that subsist among us should not be known to future ages; for nothing can be more ridiculous than that we, who have been compelled to make a separation from the whole world, should have agreed so ill among ourselves from the beginning of the Reformation." Melanchthon wrote in answer that "the Elbe, with all its waters, could not furnish tears enough to weep over the miseries of the distracted Reformation. '' Beza makes moan in a similar strain. "Our people," he says, "are carried
away by every wind of doctrine. If you know what their religion is today, you can not tell what it may be tomorrow.
There is not a single point which is not held by some of them as an article of faith and by others rejected as an impiety." "Each individual is a free and fully authorized judge of all those who wish to instruct him, and each one is taught by God alone."
The divisions of Protestantism have not been healed by time. It is no paradox to say that disintegration is the law of its being. Temporary union is the result of the accidents of time and place. Where every one may think as he pleases there may be as many religions as there are heads to invent them.We have endeavored to furnish the indifferentist a clue that may lead him out of the labyrinth into which he has been driven by the sight of the multitudinous sects whose claims are so confused and so confusing. The clue we offer him is neither new nor untried, for it has been used by many in the same situation. Moreover, testimony of the strongest kind has been rendered in its favor by a class of thinkers who, though not embracing the truth themselves, have lost nothing of their logical acumen. It is a well-known position of many unbelievers of the skeptical and critical schools that if Christianity were true, there would be no choice for them between Roman Catholicism and any other form of Christianity. Unity and consistency are naturally looked for by logical minds in the teaching of a God-Man and His true representatives. The strength of this testimony lies in the fact of its coming from so independent a source. For any one who is convinced by the above reasoning there is but one practical course open: he should seek instruction in Catholic doctrine.
The following is taken from: The Ecclesiastical Year for Catholic Schools and Institutions, Imprimatur 1903
1. Good Friday, in the language of the Church is called 'Tarasceve," that is, the day of preparation; the Jews called this day so, because they made preparations for the Pasch, which began with the evening. On this day the true Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ, of Whom the other lambs were only a figure, was slain on Calvary.
2. This day places before our eyes the most important event of Christianity, namely, the death of Jesus Christ, whereby the whole world was redeemed; nevertheless it is not celebrated as a feast day, because a festal celebration is always accompanied with feelings of joy. The Church on this day gives herself up to mourning and sadness over the Passion and death of our Lord, and admonishes the faithful to do the same. The day reminds us specially of the price of our redemption, showing us the enormity and malice of sin. What Christ gained for us through His passion is revealed to us on Easter day, for only through His resurrection did He complete His work of redemption, and in reality conquer death. A festive celebration on this day is really not possible, because the nucleus of every festive celebration is wanting, namely, the Sacrifice of the Mass. Therefore the Church has, from the earliest times, celebrated Good Friday in silence and sadness, with solemn gravity by a strict fast and by somber mourning ceremonies. Mass is the most joyful ceremony that man can perform, but there is no joy in the world today when we celebrate the memory of the crucifixion of our Savior, therefore the Church never celebrated this day as a festival.
3. As a good child commemorates the anniversary of the death of beloved parents not in a festive manner, but in quiet mourning and grateful remembrance, so the devout Christian on Good Friday remembers with sadness and compunction of heart the death of Jesus and his own sins. He contemplates the Eternal High Priest who offers himself as a Sacrifice amidst indescribable torture, and by His obedience even unto death on the Cross, removed the curse of sin from mankind. He acknowledges the blessings of the Cross and resolves, from now on, to follow Jesus on the way to Calvary, to carry his cross willingly and to be obedient to the Divine Will even unto death.
4. Clothed in black vestments, the color of deepest mourning, the priest and his assistants come forth to the sanctuary without lights or incense; on the bare altar stands a veiled crucifix. Before this they prostrate themselves on the steps of the altar, in perfect silence. This is the Introit of Good Friday, the deepest abasement and humiliation at the sight of the ignominy and annihilation of Jesus on the Cross. The deepest mourning for the death of Jesus, the keenest remorse for the sins which were the cause of all this degradation. Meanwhile a white linen cloth is spread upon the altar, it reminds us of the winding sheet of our Lord. The priest rises, and going to the corner of the altar reads the prophecy of Osee, then the tract following the prayer, and the history of God commanding the eating of
the Paschal Lamb, again followed by a tract. Then comes the chanting of the history of the Passion of our Lord, according to the Gospel of St. John.
5. After the reading of the Passion, solemn prayers for the Church and for men of all states and conditions are sung, to which a special prayer and genuflection is added. The following prayers are said:
1st. For the Church;
2d, for the Pope;
3d, for all bishops, priests and other ecclesiastics, as well as for all the children of God; 4th, for the Roman emperor (this prayer is omitted now for there are no more Roman
5th, for the Catechumens;
6th, for the erring, the sick, the hungry, and those in prison, for travelers and those on
7th, for heretics and schismatics;
8th, for the Jews, and,
9th, for the Heathen.
Before each prayer ''Oremus flectamus genua' (let us pray and bend the knee) is sung, whereupon all kneel, and at the word Levate (arise) all arise. By these prayers the Church wishes to express her ardent and urgent supplications. At the prayer for the Jews we do not bend the knee, because they bent their knees in mockery and derision before our Lord when they were about to crucify Him. Also at the close of the prayer for the Jews the ''Amen" is omitted, because this supplication will never be entirely fulfilled until the end of the world. By these prayers the Church wishes to reveal her holy charity to all mankind and her anxious desire to enfold them in her motherly arms and make them happy. This desire of the Church is awakened specially today by the example of Jesus, Who, hanging on the Cross with outstretched arms, wishes to draw all mankind to Him and to redeem them. If you are a true child of the Church, then you must forgive your enemies from the bottom of your heart, and no one must be excluded from this charity. It is in this spirit that the Church prays today.
6. Taking off the chasuble, the priest takes the cross which from the evening before Passion Sunday has been veiled, and standing on the floor at the Epistle side of the sanctuary he uncovers the top of the cross, saying: "Behold the wood of the cross on which the salvation of the world hung." (Ecce lignum Crucis, in quo pependit salus mundi.) The choir sings: Come, let us adore (Venite adoremus), when all but the celebrant fall upon their knees. Coming up the steps of the altar, on the Epistle side, he uncovers the right arm of the cross, repeating the same words in a higher key; going to the middle of thealtar, he uncovers the whole cross with the same words in a still higher tone. The unveiling and exposition of the cross is a symbol of Christ stripped of His garments, nailed to the Cross, raised thereon, and exposed to the people. The triple unveiling and chanting each time in a higher key is a representation of the gradual manifestation of the Sacrifice of the Cross. In the Old Testament this manifestation was not fully understood; this is shown by the almost entirely veiled crucifix, and the low pitch of voice in the chant. On Golgotha the Sacrifice of the Cross was accomplished, but there were only few to acknowledge it, therefore a further unveiling of the cross and a higher pitch of voice in the chant. The cross is now raised on high in the Church that all nations may look upon it; this is indicated by the complete unveiling of the cross and the still higher pitch of voice in the chant. The Christian should consider this threefold call of the Church as an admonition to do penance. Behold the cross on which the salvation of the world hung, also for your sins; cast yourself down, repent of your sins, and mortify your evil inclinations. Then the priest brings the cross to the place prepared for it before the altar, and, out of respect, removes his shoes and genuflecting three times, at intervals, on both knees, kisses the feet of the crucifix.
The acolytes and the faithful also make the adoration of the cross. During the adoration the 'Improperia'' (Reproaches) are sung, in which God reproaches His people with their ingratitude for the numberless benefits He bestowed upon them, in preparing for Him the most excruciating and ignominious death. Even in the earliest times the true Cross on which Christ was crucified was exposed at Jerusalem for veneration. In order that the faithful in distant countries might offer their veneration and homage to the sign of their redemption, this solemn unveiling and veneration was introduced into the entire Church. The same ceremony was used in the fifth century, and has come down to us without any perceptible change. The threefold genuflection reminds us of the three falls of Jesus under the weight of the Cross, as well as the threefold mockery of the Jews, the heathen, and on Calvary. The Improperia are sung partly in Greek, partly in Latin, not only because they originated at a time when the Greek and Latin churches were still united, but also because all nations should be united under the Cross in the same faith. It is not necessary to tell a Catholic that this veneration is not paid to the wood of the cross, but to Christ Who was sacrificed on the Cross. He should endeavor not only to make this veneration exteriorly but also with a contrite heart; he should consider that these reproaches also apply to him; that even every day he receives God's graces and benefits, and in return almost daily offends God, his Benefactor.
7. After the adoration of the cross follows the so-called Mass of the Presanctified. It is not a
Mass in the true sense of the word, as no consecration takes place, only the Host, consecrated the day before, is consumed by the celebrant; for today the world stands appalled at the remembrance of our Lord's death. The Blessed Sacrament is now borne in procession from the chapel, or altar, where it was placed the day before. While the choir sings the hymn, ''Vexilla Regis," the celebrant places it upon the altar, pours wine into the chalice, incenses the altar, washes his hands, says some of the customary prayers, sings the Pater Noster, then elevates the Blessed Sacrament, for adoration, breaks it as usual, says the preparatory prayer and communicates; then leaves the altar without further prayer. This so called Mass has no Offertory or Elevation proper, for the elevation of the Sacred Host is nothing more than an exposition of the Blessed Particle for adoration, a custom which was general in former times; this custom, in a somewhat different form, still prevails. With this elevation there is no consecration, consequently there is no real Mass.
The Church is engaged this day with the bloody sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary; therefore she omits the unbloody Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
The following is taken from: The Ecclesiastical Year for Catholic Schools and Institutions, Imprimatur 1903
1. In the language of the Church, this day is called Coena Domini, the Lord's Supper. It reminds us of the great mystery of Christianity, which is presented to us by many characteristic ceremo- nies.
On this day Christ partook of the Jewish Paschal
lamb, a figure of that which was soon to be accomplished by His death on the Cross. He washed the feet of His disciples and to fulfill the type of the Paschal Lamb of the Old Law gave them Himself, His Body and Blood, under the appearances of bread and wine, and commanded them to do the same in commemoration of Him. By this command He established the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacrament of the Altar and the priesthood. He prayed for them, and on Mount Olivet in His agony sweat blood, was betrayed by Judas, made a prisoner, and throughout the whole night was maltreated.
2. The priest wears white vestments, white being the color of joy, but the psalm ''Judica me" is omitted the same as in Masses for the dead. At the Gloria all the bells are rung, and then remain silent until Holy Saturday, wooden clappers being used instead.
The Church wishes to express her joy on the institution of the Blessed Sacrament by the glad ringing of the bells even in the middle of Holy Week; on the other hand, the deep silence of all the bells is a sign of her deep sorrow; it also reminds us of the sorrow of the Apostles and their concealment during the Passion of Christ, for bells are emblematic of the Apostles. The wooden clappers may remind us of the tumult that reigned in Jerusalem
during these days.
3. If there are more priests at a Church on this day, only one of them says Mass; the rest receive Communion from his hand. The single Mass celebrated in each church, the Communion distributed to the clergy and the faithful, present to us the Gospel scene when Jesus Christ, the only Consecrator of the last supper, and the Apostles were seated at the Eucharistic table. Formerly all the faithful were obliged to receive Holy Communion on this day.
4. In the Mass of this day, the Bishop consecrates the Holy Oils; namely, the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens and Holy Chrism. According to the testimony of Pope St. Fabian and St. Basil, the consecration of the Oils dates from the time of the Apostles. Of all the ceremonies of the year it is one of the most beautiful and mystical. Even in the fifth century it was a decree of the Church to consecrate the Holy Oils on Holy Thursday. This day is chosen because on this day Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament which is the center, yea, even the very source of all the Sacraments, and because at the same time He established the priesthood, thereby making the Apostles and their successors the dispensers of the Sacraments and all the graces that flow therefrom. The Oils are blessed with great solemnity; the Bishop is surrounded by twelve priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons, and many others of the clergy. The Bishop and priests breathe three times upon the Oil of the Catechumens and the Chrism, meaning by this action that the power of the Holy Spirit is about to descend upon the Oils; after the consecration is complete they salute the Holy Oils three times, with the words: ''Hail, Holy Chrism! Hail, Holy Oil!''
The prayers and blessings, as well as the breathing upon the Oils, in fact the whole form of this consecration, was used by Gregory the Great in the sixth century and for the greater part may date back to apostolic times.
The Holy Oils are used in administering some of the Sacraments, and in consecrations of greater importance, such as altars, churches, chalices, bells, etc. Wherever oil is used it has the property of strengthening, healing wounds, or of, at least, alleviating pain; it is also used for illuminating purposes therefore is a fitting symbol of the different effects produced by the holy Sacraments and canonical consecrations. Balsam which is mixed with oil to form the chrism is also significant, on account of its sweet odor and its property of healing as well as preserving from corruption. Even in the Old Testament oil was often used as a symbolic sign; and the New Testament testifies, plainly enough, that the Apostles also anointed with oil when administering the Sacraments; and ever since, anointing with oil has been in use, and the Holy Oils carefully preserved and held in veneration.
The Holy Oils must be distributed from the Episcopal See on the same day to the different parishes of the diocese. This shows that it is from the bishop that the sacramental graces of the whole diocese emanate; he is the head, and the cathedral is the mother church of the diocese.
5. Two Hosts are consecrated on Holy Thursday, one of which is reserved for the following day.
Good Friday, because no real Mass may be said on this day. This Host with all the small, consecrated Hosts that are in the tabernacle, at the close of the ceremonies are carried in procession to the repository adorned with flowers, where they are preserved until the following day. This, as well as many other ceremonies on this day, reminds us of early Christian times. In those days the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved on the main altar, but every day after the Divine Service was carried to a place especially prepared for it, and then the altar was stripped. This custom, no doubt, is retained on Holy Thursday only to remind us that Christ, after His last supper, retired to Mount Olivet with His Disciples to begin His Passion, and was there forcibly dragged from their midst. It is customary for the faithful to visit the churches on Holy Thursday and adore our Lord hidden in the Blessed Sacrament.
6. After the Blessed Sacrament has been removed to the repository, the altars are stripped. Everything is removed excepting the candlesticks and the veiled crucifix; the tabernacle is left open, all lights are extinguished. While stripping the altar the priest prays the twenty-first psalm; the bare altar mourns because our Lord has been taken away, and reminds us of the desolation and deep sorrow of the Disciples, on having lost their Master. It is also a figure of our Lord Himself, Who after being stripped of His garments, despoiled of His beauty, yes, even of all human resemblance, suffered a most cruel death.
7. In some Cathedral churches, and Monasteries, the closing ceremony on Holy Thursday is the washing of the feet, called ''Mandatum'' from the words of the first antiphon sung during the ceremony—-''Mandatum novum,'' etc. ''A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another," whence our English name, "Maundy Thursday.''
The Apostles also followed this command, and the custom has been retained to the present day. The priest or prelate of the Church, assisted by deacon and sub-deacon washes the feet of twelve old men. Girt with white linen, kneeling, he washes the right foot of each, then dries it and kisses it. The Pope washes the feet of thirteen, all of whom are priests. This ceremony is in grateful remembrance of the washing of the Apostles' feet by our Lord, and represents that bond of union and love which should exist in the Church between the shepherd and his flock; it admonishes the faithful to imitate the example of our Lord by the practice of humility.
Many Christian princes, and superiors of convents,follow this custom, by washing the feet of twelve of their subjects.
The following is taken from: The Ecclesiastical Year for Catholic Schools and Institutions, Imprimatur 1903
1. The last week of Lent in which sympathy with our suffering Lord, and a penitential spirit
should reach its highest degree is called Holy Week, because in this week the Passion and death of our Lord is presented to us.
2. Until the seventh century, during the entire Holy Week, the faithful abstained from all servile work and lived a life of penance; later, the faithful attended Mass every day, practiced severe works of penance and celebrated the last three days as Sunday. They also endeavored to obliterate past evils, prisoners were liberated; enemies were reconciled; penitents were forgiven, and debts were paid.
3. The Christian should endeavor in this week to be recollected in spirit, to meditate on the Passion of Christ, and to do penance for his sins. He should increase his love for God and his neighbor and fervently participate in the Divine Services of Holy Week.
4. On Palm Sunday, also on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week the Passion of our Lord is read or sung, each time from a different Evangelist. This custom is found in the earliest Christian times; it is to remind us that we should have the Passion of Christ as much as possible before our eyes during Holy Week.
As soon 'as the priest at the reading of the Passion comes to the place where the death of Christ is mentioned he, with all the servers at the altar, kneels down, in order, thereby, to express the mourning of the Church,—at the same time, also, to offer to God, in the name of the people, the worship due him, and to express their gratitude for the redemption of mankind by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5. During the last three days of Holy Week, in some Churches where there are more priests, the Office of Matins and Lauds, or of the so-called Tenebrae is solemnly recited, the evening before, accompanied by the singing of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, bewailing the destruction of Jerusalem.
When the Lamentations are sung fifteen candles in the form of a triangle are lit,—the one at the top being white, the others yellow. At the end of each psalm a candle is extinguished, and, finally, those which are upon the altar, only the white one at the point of the triangle being left; at last it is carried behind the altar. At the close the wooden clappers are used and the burning candle is brought back again and placed on the altar. The significance of this ceremony is as follows:
(1) The gradual extinction of the candles is to remind us of the Prophets, who gave testimony of Christ, for which they were persecuted and put to death; it reminds us also of the Apostles and Disciples who hid themselves during His Passion.
(2) The fourteen unbleached wax candles tell us of His human nature; the one of white bleached wax, on the top, signifies His divine nature. All the unbleached candles are extinguished to show that His human nature died. The white candle is not quenched, to show that His divine nature did not die.
(3) The gloom caused by the extinction of the lights typifies the growing darkness, when Christ, the Light of the World, was taken ; and the clapping made at the close of the Office is said to symbolize the confusion and earthquake which took place at our Lord's death.
(4) The reappearance of the white candle represents the resurrection of Christ.
The origin of the Tenebrae dates from the first centuries; the early Christians celebrated these three days by night watches, or vigils, with prayer and the singing of psalms. Other vigils had long ceased to be kept ; this vigil alone was retained until the tenth century, and celebrated at midnight; from this time until the fourteenth century it was celebrated at eight o'clock in the evening. Since the fourteenth century it has been kept as we have it at the present day. The Tenebrae is to remind us of the deep sorrow of the Church on the Passion and Death of Christ, and also her grief for the ingratitude of sinful man, to move him, therefore, to compassion for Christ's suffering and to do penance for his sins.
1. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday,—the name is derived from the blessing of palms, and the procession which takes place on this day.
2. The procession on Palm Sunday is of very ancient origin, dating even from the fourteenth century; it reminds us in the first place of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when the people went forth with palm branches to meet Him and to lead Him as their King in triumph into the city.
So even now the faithful go in procession with palms in their hands to offer their homage with prayer and psalmody to Christ their King. This procession also reminds us of the solemn entry of Jesus into the heavenly Jerusalem, after having conquered death and hell by His crucifixion and resurrection, when upon His ascension all the just awaiting Him in Limbo, adorned with the palms of merit, led Him into heaven, where adoring Him they offered their allegiance to Him as Lord and King.
It reminds us also of that most solemn and great entry into the heavenly Jerusalem after the Last Judgment. All His faithful servants who have won the crown of victory under His banner will then offer Him their homage, and partake of His triumph and eternal glory.
3. The palms are blessed before the procession, because the Church wishes that whatever is used in the Divine Service should be blessed in order to remove the curse of sin, and to sanctify it for its sacred purpose. The Church prays especially for the bearers of these palms that they may have the grace of gaining many palms of victory over the enemy of salvation, and acquire many palms of good works, wherewith to follow the Lord in His triumphant entry, also that God may bless the houses in which these palms are preserved.
4. After blessing the palms the priest distributes them to the faithful as a sign that the Church shows the way to heaven, and must lead them in the battle against the enemy of their salvation. Then the palm bearers follow the cross in the procession, proclaiming thereby that they will fight and struggle all their life long in order to follow Jesus on the way of the Cross.
5. When the procession returns to the Church door, which is closed, it is opened only after being struck three times with the staff of the cross. This teaches us that heaven was only opened by the death of Jesus on the Cross, and that we of our own strength cannot gain heaven, except through the merits of our crucified Jesus.
6. The faithful carry the palms home and preserve them, in order to partake of the blessings that the Church invokes on those dwellings where they are preserved. Thus the faithful express that even in their homes they will remain true followers of Jesus Christ.
Holy Mother Church
has dedicated the month
of December to the
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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