Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reading for Corpus Christi

Over at St Bede's Studio one can read a pleasant translation of the Preface of the Blessed Sacrament pro aliquibus locis, the consideration of which reveals a wealth of theological insight into the Sacrifice of the Mass and our share of its fruits through Holy Communion.  According to various decisions of the Ecclesia Dei Commission - detailed in earlier posts on the same blog - this and other prefaces can be used at the Usus Antiquior: and in this case it would be excellent to do so.  Anyone objecting should pause and consider that the Preface for the Dead and that for St Joseph, the Preface of Christus Rex and the Preface of the Sacred Heart were introduced in 1919, 1925 and 1929 respectively; so why not a few more, as was quite reasonably being done in an ongoing process of organic development prior to the great liturgical rupture?


Now, for the supremely lyric and beautiful, because gloriously true and powerful, decrees of Trent on the Mass:




which is the sixth under the Supreme Pontiff, Pius IV,

celebrated on the seventeenth day of  September, 1562.


Doctrine concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass.


That the ancient, complete and in every way perfect faith and teaching regarding the great mystery of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church may be retained, and with the removal of errors and heresies may be preserved in its purity, the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfuly assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same legates of the Apostolic See presiding, instructed by the light of the Holy Ghost, teaches, declares, and orders to be preached to the faithful the following concerning it, since it is the true and only sacrifice.


Chapter I:

The Institution of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Since under the former Testament, according to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, there was no perfection because of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood, there was need, God the Father of mercies so ordaining, that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchisedech,[1] our Lord Jesus Christ, who might perfect and lead to perfection as many as were to be sanctified.  He, therefore, our God and Lord, though he was by his death about to offer Himself once upon the altar of the cross to God the Father that He might there accomplish an eternal redemption, nevertheless, that His priesthood might not come to an end with his death,[2] at the last supper, on the night He was betrayed, that He might leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice once to be accomplished on the cross might be represented, the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary effects applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit, declaring Himself constituted a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech,[3] offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the form of bread and wine, and under the forms of those same things gave to the Apostles, whom He then made priests of the New Testament, that they might partake, commanding them and their successors in the priesthood by these words to do likewise: Do this in commemoration of me,[4] as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught.  For having celebrated the ancient Passover which the multitude of the children of Israel sacrificed in memory of their departure from Egypt,[5] He instituted a new Passover, namely, Himself, to be immolated under visible signs by the Church through the priests in memory of His own passage from this world to the Father, when by the shedding of His blood He redeemed and delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into his kingdom.[6]  And this is indeed that clean oblation which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness or malice on the part of those who offer it; which the Lord foretold by Malachias was to be great among the Gentiles,[7] and which the Apostle Paul has clearly indicated when he says, that they who are defiled by partaking of the table of devils cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord,[8] understanding by table in each case the altar.  It is, finally, that [sacrifice] which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices during the period of nature and of the law,[9] which, namely, comprises all the good things signified by them, as being the consummation and perfection of them all.


Chapter II:

The Sacrifice of the Mass is Propitiatory

both for the Living and the Dead.


And inasmuch as in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner the same Christ who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, the holy council teaches that this is truly propitiatory and has this effect, that if we, contrite and penitent, with sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence, draw nigh to God, we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid.[10]  For, appeased by this sacrifice, the Lord grants the grace and gift of penitence and pardons even the gravest crimes and sins.  For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different.  The fruits of that bloody sacrifice, it is well understood, are received most abundantly through this unbloody one, so far is that latter from derogating in any way from the former.  Wherefore, according to the tradition of the Apostles,[11] it is rightly offered not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those departed in Christ but not yet fully purified.


Chapter III:

Masses in Honour of the Saints.


And though the Church has been accustomed to celebrate at times certain masses in honour and memory of the saints, she does not teach that sacrifice is offered to them but to God alone who crowned them;[12] whence, the priest does not say: “To thee, Peter or Paul, I offer sacrifice,”[13] but, giving thanks to God for their victories, he implores their favour that “they may vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven whose memory we celebrate on earth”[14].


Chapter IV:

The Canon of the Mass.


And since it is becoming that holy things be administered in a holy manner, and of all things this sacrifice is the most holy, the Catholic Church, to the end that it might be worthily and reverently offered and received, instituted many centuries ago the holy canon,[15] which is so free from error that it contains nothing that does not in the highest degree savour of a certain holiness and piety and raise up to God the minds of those who offer.  For it consists partly of the very words of the Lord, partly of the traditions of the Apostles, and also of pious regulations of holy pontiffs.


Chapter V:

The Ceremonies and Rites of the Mass.


And since the nature of man is such that he cannot without external means be raised easily to meditation on divine things, holy mother Church has instituted certain rites, namely, that some things in the mass be pronounced in a low tone and others in a louder tone.  She has likewise, in accordance with apostolic discipline and tradition, made use of ceremonies,[16] such as mystical blessings, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be emphasised and the minds of the faithful excited by those visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.


[Chapters VI to IX and the Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass omitted.]

[1] Heb. 7:11.

[2] Ibid., 7:24.

[3] Ps. 109:4.

[4] Luke 22:19; I Cor. 11:24f.

[5] Ex. 13.

[6] Col. 1:13.

[7] Mal. 1:11.

[8] Cf. I Cor. 10:21.

[9] Gen. 4:4; 12:8, etc.

[10] Heb. 4:16.

[11] Cf. Sess. XXII, can. 3, and Sess. XXV, decr. on Purgatory.

[12] Cf. Sess. XXII, can. 5, and Sess. XXV, Invocation of the Saints.

[13] St Aug., De civitate Dei, VIII, c.27.

[14] Or. Suscipe sancta Trinitas.

[15] C.6, X, De celebr. miss., III, 41 (Innoc. III).

[16] Cf. Sess. XXII, can. 7.

No comments: