Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Mass in Relation to the Liturgical Year and Salvation History

The Mass considered in its Relations to the Life of Jesus Christ, to the Ecclesiastical Year, and to the Universal History of Religion

By the Rev. Leop. J. Dujardin. C.SS.R.

The civil year is an abridgment of human life in which one natural discerns four seasons; the day is an abridgment of the year. So also, the ecclesiastical year, which begins with Advent, is an abridgment of the principal mysteries of religion; and one may see in the ceremonies of the Mass an abridgment of the ecclesiastical year.

I. Preparation.

The altar is erected, lit up by burning candles, adorned with verdure and flowers, and other decorations; legions of angels range themselves around it: think here of the creation of the world.

Sacred relics are deposited there; the saints descend from heaven and join the angels in order to adore our divine Savior: think of the redemption of the world.

2. The Beginning of the Mass.

The priest arrives at the altar and inclines profoundly: the first man, opening his eyes to the light, pays homage to his Creator.

The priest ascends the altar: man takes possession of the empire that God has prepared for him.

The priest goes to open the Missal, and returns to the middle of the altar, where he again inclines: man receives the law from God and promises to obey him.

The priest descends from the altar: the fall of man.

The priest humbles himself and strikes his breast, then he stands erect, and ascends again the altar while praying: man acknowledges his fault; God has compassion on him and promises him a Savior; he is consoled, hopes, and prays while working. Let us too, with the priest, remember our sins, humble ourselves, and pray with confidence.

3. Kyrie Eleison.

The patriarchs and the prophets sighed for the coming of the Messiah during four thousand years; this is perfectly expressed by the nine-fold repetition of this ardent prayer. Let us enter into the same sentiments, and let us ask Jesus Christ to be born and to grow in our hearts while we say with fervor: Kyrie eleison, etc.

4. Gloria in Excelsis.

It was the angels that intoned this magnificent hymn over the cradle of the Savior, and the poor shepherds of Bethlehem have had the happiness of hearing it. Let us rejoice with them all and repeat this beautiful prayer while meditating on each word.

5. Collect.

Hidden life of Jesus Christ: the Son of God spends thirty years on earth in a most humble condition, in poverty, mortification, labor, patience, sweetness, charity, abnegation, obedience, piety; and before entering public life, he retired to the desert to give himself up to fasting and to prayer during forty days. He gathered from this hidden life a preparation for his public life that would benefit others unto their salvation. What an example!

6. Epistle.

The Epistle is an instruction that our Lord addresses to us through the mouth of the prophets or apostles in order to dispose us to hear him himself. Before appearing in the world, he announced himself through the prophets and his precursor, St. John the Baptist; and before going to preach the Gospel in any place, he made his apostles or disciples precede him in order to prepare men's minds to receive him.

7. Gospel.

Here is our Lord going to instruct us by his own mouth. Let us rise in order to pay to him our respects, to show him that we are ready to obey him; let us make the sign of the cross on our foreheads, on our lips, and on our hearts, to consecrate to him our thoughts, our words, and our affections.

8. Credo.

The Credo is an act of faith in the principal truths that God has revealed to his Church; that which is recited at the Mass is the Symbol of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. Let us say it with faith, love, and thanksgiving for the happiness that we have of being Catholics. Having listened to and seen the revelation of God through the Epistle and Gospel, let us respond accordingly by confessing our faith publicly.

9. Offertory.

The Offertory well represents the Lord's Supper, in which our Lord celebrated for the last time the sacrifice of the Old Law before substituting for it the sacrifice of the New Law, of which the Old Law was the figure. Let us offer with the priest the bread and wine, destined to be changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

10. Lavabo.

The priest washes his hands: our divine Master washes the feet of his disciples, to give us a grand example of humility and charity, and to teach us how pure we should be in order to participate in the adorable mystery that he is about to institute.

11. Orate Fratres.

The priest invites us to pray with more fervor in order that his Sacrifice, which is also ours, may be agreeable to God. Let us answer him with our whole heart: Suscipiat Dominus, etc.

12. Preface.

The Preface is the giving of thanks. Before consecrating bread and wine our divine Savior raised his eyes towards heaven and gave thanks to his Father; this is the reason why the priest in finishing the prayer called Secreta, raises his voice and invites us to thank God through Jesus Christ.

13. Memento of the Living.

Let us here call to mind that Mass has a twofold object: the sacrament of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the cross which it represents and renews. When leaving the supper-room to go to the Garden of Olives, our Lord offered a fervent prayer for himself and for his Church; this is also done by the priest at this moment; let us unite ourselves to him.

14. Hanc Igitur Oblationem.

While saying this prayer the priest holds his two hands extended over the host and the chalice in order to unite himself with the assistants and all the faithful, as in the sacrifices of the Old Law, to the divine Victim who is about to immolate himself for the salvation of all. Let each one unite his intention to that of the celebrant, while saying with him: Hanc igitur, etc.

15. Consecration.

This is the great moment: the miracle of love is wrought; the minister of God receives and adores Jesus Christ in his hands. The elevation of the Host and the Chalice represents the crucifixion, and the separation of the holy species represents the death of our Lord. Let us reanimate our faith and love; let us prostrate ourselves and adore.

16. Memento of the Dead.

When our Lord drew his last breath on the cross, being entirely consumed for our salvation, his holy soul descended in triumph to Limbo and Purgatory in order to console and deliver the just that were expecting his coming. Let us ask him to visit again at this moment the souls of the faithful departed, and let us think of those to whom we should more particularly give our assistance.

17. Pater Noster.

Let us visit in spirit the tomb of our Savior, and while confiding in the merits of his life and death, recite with confidence the admirable prayer that he has taught and left us.

18. Pax Domini.

While pronouncing these words the priest drops a part of the Host into the Chalice; the two species thus reunited represent the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and peace is announced to the world as it was announced at his birth.

19. Agnus Dei.

Preparation for Communion.—If we have not the happiness of communicating sacramentally with the priest, let us not fail to make a spiritual Communion by uniting ourselves interiorly to Jesus Christ, by a sincere desire to receive him and by an act of fervent love: we should therefore always say the prayers before and after Communion, whether sacramental or spiritual. What hinders our union with God is sin; let us then, before all, beg the Victim, who is without stain, to free us from sin, while saying the Agnus Dei, etc., three times with the priest, and striking our breasts as if acknowledging ourselves guilty.

20. Post-Communion.

Jesus is no longer on the altar; he is in heaven, at the right-hand side of God his Father, and on earth in the hearts of those that have piously received him. After the Ascension, the chief disciples retired with the Blessed Virgin to the Cenaculum, to await there in recollection and prayer the divine Consoler whom Jesus Christ promised to his Church; let us imitate them, kneeling in silent adoration and fervent recollection.

21. Blessing.

The Coming Down of the Holy Ghost.—The Holy Ghost bursts into our world with the full might of his light and love, eager to be received by the faithful. Let us ask him to penetrate our minds and our hearts, and to fill us with his gifts, as we devoutly sign ourselves with the sign of the cross.

22. Last Gospel.

The preaching of the Gospel throughout the world; perpetual struggle of light with darkness, of truth with error, of good with evil. Full of the Holy Ghost, let us march forward. He that has fought well shall be crowned.

Praise be Jesus Christ forever!


Source: Included in St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori: vol. 13: The Holy Mass, trans by. Eugene Grimm (New York: Benzinger, 1889), 17-21.

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