Prayers and Ceremonies of the Mass



IMMEDIATELY after the priest's Communion, that of the faithful takes place. Whilst the celebrant was saying the prayer, "Domine non sum dignus," etc. "Lord, I am not worthy," etc. a few strokes of the little bell reminded them that the blessed moment of the holy Communion was at hand. What are the prayers and ceremonies which accompany the Communion of the faithful? The clerk, in the name of those who are to partake of the heavenly banquet, says the Confiteor, or formula of general confession, in order that they may renew and express publicly those sentiments of contrition and humility so proper for the reception of the Eucharistic Sacrament. At the end of the Confiteor, the priest, having taken the ciborium, which contains the most blessed Sacrament, out of the tabernacle and uncovered it, kneels and adores. Then, turning toward the faithful, he pronounces the general absolution: "May Almighty God be merciful unto you, and, forgiving you your sins, bring you to life everlasting." The clerk answers: "Amen." "May the Almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, absolution and remission of your sins." The clerk again says: "Amen." At this prayer the priest makes the sign of the Cross over those who are about to receive the holy Communion, to remind them that all pardon and absolution is through the mystery of the Cross.

Having turned to the altar he takes the ciborium in his left hand and one of the sacred Hosts in his right, and, facing the people with the Host slightly elevated says: "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi" "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him, who taketh away the sins of the world." This consoling and confidenceinspiring prayer is immediately followed by the same beautiful words which the priest said in preparation for his own Communion: "Domine, non sum dignus," etc. "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be healed." This prayer is said thrice.

All the prayers and ceremonies of this part of the Mass will, if seriously reflected upon, contribute not a little to stir up in the hearts of the Christian people those sentiments which become the moment and the act of Communion. When the priest, bending the knee, adores, are not those kneeling at the holy table forcibly invited to enter into that essential disposition adoration? When he, as the minister of the Most High, implores for those who are to be refreshed and nourished with the body and blood of the incarnate, all-holy God, pardon and full remission of their sins, are not they themselves eloquently reminded that it behooves them to unite, in all fervor, in that most important supplication? When the priest, elevating the sacred and adorable Host, bids them behold the Lamb of God beneath the sacramental veils beneath the form and appearance of bread, and bids them behold Him as the merciful Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world, do not the faithful, bowing down, make a strong and public act of faith in the mystery presented for their credence? Should they not experience within themselves an intense longing to be united to the loving, Redeemer? When the "Domine, non sum dignus," etc. "Lord, I am not worthy," etc., is said by the celebrant in the hearing of the people and for their benefit, will it not awaken, in those who are, ere long, to receive the hidden God, the same salutary sentiments fear and trembling, and holy, childlike confidence which it elicited from the priest himself when he uttered this prayer in preparation for his holy Communion?

Having concluded these prayers and ceremonies, he proceeds at once to the giving of the holy Sacrament. In administering the holy Eucharist, he says. "May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul to life everlasting. Amen." This Prayer is repeated in behalf of each person to whom the holy Sacrament is given. In the primitive Church the priest used to say: "This is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ." The one receiving answered: "Amen." The same expression of cordial assent, of faith, may, with advantage, be employed whilst the priest says: "May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul to life everlasting."

At this point, several important questions present themselves. How should the faithful receive holy Communion? What disposition should they bring to this most holy action? Why do the laity, and those in clerical orders, and even priests when not offering the adorable Sacrifice, receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under the form of bread alone, and not under the forms of bread and wine? The first and second of these questions I propose to answer here. The third will be treated in the following chapter.

I. How should the faithful receive the holy Communion? When should they come to the altar railing or holy table? Just at the signal given by the ringing of the little bell? at the "Domine non sum dignus" before the priest's Communion. What should they do on their arriva1 at the railing? Kneeling down reverently, they should hold the Communion cloth in such manner that if the sacred Host, or any particle of it, happened to fall from the priest's hand, it would fall on the cloth, and not on the floor. They should, whilst waiting their turn to receive, keep the head most reverently bowed down. When on the point of receiving, the head should be held erect and the eyes be modestly cast down. When the priest is about to give the sacred Host, the mouth ought to be kept moderately opened, and the tongue extended a little, in order that he may have no difficulty in placing the Host upon the tongue. This point is of importance, as many hold the head so bowed down at the moment of Communion, that the priest experiences difficulty in giving the sacred Host. Others, failing to open the mouth or extend the tongue a little, occasion the priest a great deal of uneasiness lest he should drop the blessed Sacrament. When
the sacred Host has been placed upon the tongue, the communicant should quiet1y draw back the tongue and close the lips. When the holy species have become a little moistened, they should be immediately swallowed with reverence. Should the Host, or any part of it adhere to the palate, let it be loosened with the tongue, but by no means touched with the fingers. Great care must be taken to avoid spitting for some time eight or ten minutes after receiving, lest any particle of the Host might still remain in the mouth. By attending to these directions, this holy and most august action will be performed becomingly, and most, if not all, of that awkwardness so out of place at the holy table will be avoided.

II What dispositions should be brought to the reception of the holy Eucharist? A great purity of heart and soul exemption from all grievous mortal sins. This is the first disposition so essential that without it the reception of the holy Sacrament would be a frightful sacrilege. After that state has been lost by mortal sin, that essential purity can be regained only by a good confession. The recipient of the body and blood of Jesus ought also to be free as possible from attachment to venial sin.

These dispositions are, however, by no means sufficient. They consist merely in moving from our hearts whatever could displease the eye of our most distinguished, divine Visitor. The heart and soul must be adorned. What are the ornaments which the Christian should introduce into his heart and soul on this occasion? All thanks to God, they are ornaments within the reach as well of the poorest beggar as of the wealthiest prince Christian virtues. Faith is the first of these soulornaments, most pleasing in the eyes of God, since by it the Christian bows down in most reasonable assent to all revealed truths, but especially, in the holy Communion, to the great and incomprehensible mystery of the Eucharist. Faith will pour a flood of light upon the mystery of love. It will impart to the Christian eye a supernatural quickness of perception and keenness of vision by which much of the length and breadth and depth of the grandeurs contained in this mightiest work of Divine love will be seen, even through those veils which now hide from human gaze the sweet, consoling, grand realities of the Eucharistic mystery.

The Divine virtue of Hope is another ornament peculiarly becoming as a preparation for the reception of this great sacrament. Have we not every reason to confide in that goodness which, despite our unworthiness, gives us the greatest gift in the power of God to confer. Hope the bright angel of man's journey through this vale of tears will stand by, telling the recipient of the Eucharistic Sacrament that all is well, to fear not. Hope condemns presumption, banishes despair. With a joybeaming countenance this radiant angel points to the confidenceinspiring mystery of the sacred body and blood, and, with an expression calculated to cheer up the most despondent, sweetly asks: Will the God who in mercy and love gives His own wellbeloved Son to you, refuse aught of grace and blessing?

But the divine virtue of Charity is the richest ornament with which the Christian soul can be adorned for the reception and entertainment of her distinguished Visitor and Guest - the incarnate God. It renders her more beautiful and brilliant, more lovely and acceptable to God, than aught else can. The measure of His delight, with His sacramental visit to the soul, will be proportionate to the degree and perfection of this matchless virtue. If our Saviour, for whose visit we prepare, loved us first, and loved us with the utmost love of which even God was capable, have we not the most cogent reasons to love Him to return the mite of our intensest and most perfect love for His astounding, infinite love? Bring to the reception of the Sacrament of Divine love a most perfect love, and then the heart and soul will be a tabernacle richer and more acceptable than any material one, though its floor and walls and ceiling were of the purest gold. Charity a participation of that Divine fire which is kept alive in the abodes of bliss by the face-toface vision and blessed fruition of the allholy God will, in the holy Communion, in the sacramental possession of the same God, inflame the Christian heart and soul with all that intense fervor which our holy religion's less perfect union of man with God demands. Then will coldness and tepidity, which are now, alas! too often brought to the holy altar, be forever banished. Then will we be entering into the designs of our Redeemer Himself: "I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled " (Luke xii. 49).

Introduce Humility too. It will impart a new lustre to every Christian virtue. Nay, more, it is the foundation of all virtues, and without it they cannot exist. It is their very soul and vital principle. Without it they are lifeless and unreal. Gather together as many other virtues as possible. They are like so many gems which impart a brilliancy well nigh celestial to that abidingplace which love prompted the divine Institutor of the Eucharistic Sacrament to select in the hearts and souls of men.

Oh! were Faith and Hope and Charity and Humility more faithfully and fervently cultivated by the recipients of the adorable Sacrament of our holy altar, our tender Mother, the holy Church, would not have to weep, as she now does over the innumerable fruitless communions; the faithful would no longer be tortured with those well grounded apprehensions which the unprofitable reception, for years, of the sacred body and blood awakens.

Before concluding this chapter, I ought perhaps, to mention the disposition of the body which are also required. The Church, through respect for the holy Eucharist, has ordained that those receiving Communion be fasting from, the midnight before except when the Sacrament is received in danger of death, as a Viaticum. This fast is of the strictest kind, forbidding eating or drinking of any thing whatsoever. To receive the holy Communion when conscious of having broken this fast, is a mortal sin, being a violation of an important law. The whole exterior of those who approach the holy table should be modest and respectful. That modesty and respect, the necessity of which all must unhesitatingly admit, are, I regret, too frequently not sufficiently visible. There should be nothing in the dress, gait, or countenance, to which modesty, respect,

and reverence, could object; and there will not be, if the interior dispositions already referred to exist in the heart and soul.

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