Three Sins against the Love of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice.
First Sin Willful Neglect of Mass on Sundays and Holidays.
Having explained, though imperfectly indeed, what the Mass is, and how to hear Mass devoutly, the reader will more clearly understand the grievousness of the sin of those who insult Jesus in the sacrifice of his love. We speak not here of heretics or unbelievers. They have not the faith of Christ. Let us pray that God's light may shine upon their souls and give them faith. But we speak of the cold, bad, ungrateful Catholics. The Mass is Jesus adoring, thanking, loving, and supplicating the Eternal Father for men. Is it possible that men could forget or neglect Jesus? Yes, so it is. The Church was obliged to command her children, under pain of mortal sin, to assist at the divine mysteries at least on Sundays and holidays! Some must do through fear what they ought to do through love. To hear Mass devoutly on Sundays and holidays only, is indeed a very small token of our love for Jesus. Still we know there are some who thank God they are not numerous some cold, bad Catholics, who neglect the duty of hearing Mass on the Lord's day. Oh, ungrateful beings! you thereby offend God mortally; you insult Jesus, instead of loving him; and this in the greatest manifestation of his love for you the adorable sacrifice of the Mass. This mortal sin which you commit by neglecting, through your own fault, to assist at Mass on Sundays and holidays, deserves eternal damnation. If you went before God with that sin alone on your souls, His divine justice would condemn you to the everlasting torments of the damned in hell. Ungrateful Christians! Ask pardon of Jesus for the past; He will forgive you; and resolve in the depth of your souls never for the future to insult Jesus by neglecting to hear Mass on the Lord's day.
Second Sin To be Late for Mass on Sundays and Holidays.
It is not enough to go to the chapel. We are bound to be in time. We are bound under pain of mortal sin to be present at least at the Credo.
When we call to mind that Sunday is the Lord's day, that it belongs to God in a special manner, that the Divine Goodness has given us all that day to cease from and forget all, to rest our fatigued limbs and wearied bodies, that thus our souls may be free to think of God, to meditate on his divine perfection, to enter into ourselves, to get our accounts in order, to turn our minds from earth to heaven, and to secure for ourselves everlasting bliss beyond the grave, oh, what a blessing must we not acknowledge the Lord's day to be! Sunday is a day of peace and joy to the soul; a day of prayer and worship; but the great worship of Sunday is the holy sacrifice of the Mass, in which all join the priest, and the infinite Victim of redemption is offered for all, and in the name of all, to the Eternal Father, for the four great ends of sacrifice. This is the great work and duty of Sunday. Thank God, this is known, for long before the holy sacrifice begins our chapels are crowded by devout worshippers who recite the holy Rosary, the sweet canticle of praise to Jesus and Mary, as a meet preparation for the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God upon the altar, which is the center of all love and devotion. But the few bad, careless Christians too late for Mass! They disedify, disturb, and distract the congregation at their silent prayers, they insult Jesus; they sully their souls with the foul stain of mortal sin; the very day the infinite mercy of God gave them to save their souls they turn to their own perdition. May heaven give us all the grace never to offend our Blessed Lord by being late for Mass through our own fault, on the Sabbath day, or on a holiday of obligation.
Third Sin Willful irreverence and Distraction at the Holy Sacrifice.
The good thief on the Cross obtained pardon and immediate entry into paradise, because he asked mercy, of Jesus dying: "Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." Luke, xxiii. 42. Mary Magdalen clung to the Cross, and clasped it to her breast, absorbed in the one thought of Jesus bleeding and dying. Such are the holy thoughts that ought to occupy our attention during Mass. But how different the conduct of some cold, faithless Catholics! Unworthy Christians! Who come to the holy mysteries decked out in the sinful finery of a luxurious age; whose whole aim and intention appear to be to attract the sinful eye, whose occupation consists in looking round the church, remarking their neighbors' dress, or the fashions of the day. Whilst their lips stir in thoughtless prayer, their hearts are far away from God. Calvary, the altar, Jesus dying, finds no room in their worldly minds. If they are "accursed who do the work of God negligently," doubtless God's signal malediction will fall upon those who sin and attract to sin, in the sight of the angels, under the shadow of the altar. The reader will excuse a long passage very much to the point from St. Leonard of Port Maurice: "Will you ever again dare to hear Mass sitting, whispering, looking idly about you, nay, sometimes even sleeping; contenting yourself with reciting thoughtlessly a few vocal prayers, heedless of the tremendous duty? O stupid world, that does not estimate mysteries so sublime! How is it possible that any one can remain in the presence of the altar with a distracted mind and dissipated heart, at a moment when the angels hover there trembling and astonished, absorbed in contemplating the effects of such a stupendous work?" How few there are who have not reason to accuse themselves, more or less, of this third sin against the love of Jesus in the holy sacrifice? How few have always assisted with that profound recollection and attention which the divine mysteries demand? Let us ask pardon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the past, and resolve for the future never to wound this allloving Heart by any sort of irreverence in the house of God.
To hear Mass on Sundays and holidays only, when we are obliged under pain of mortal sin, speaks but little for our love for Jesus. Daily Mass shows the piety and devotion of the fervent Catholic. In Catholic countries, every church, whether in city, village or country, has its daily Mass nay, many, several Masses, and the attendance is a sure test of the piety of the people. Where fervor and piety reign, the churches are crowded, the altars surrounded by pious worshippers. Where the faith has grown cold, few surround the altar of God. Thanks to heaven, in faithful Ireland we have the happiness of having daily Mass offered up, not only in our great cities, but even in our small towns and villages.* The numbers that daily assist round the altar prove the living faith and fervent piety of the children of St. Patrick. For the glory of God, and the consolation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, may the number increase tenfold. What greater blessing could the goodness of God bestow upon us here below, than to be allowed to join the angels in adoring round the altar; to see with the eyes of faith the heavens opening and the Lamb of God descending; to take part and the faithful do take part with God's minister in offering daily to the Almighty the infinite Victim of Redemption for ourselves, for the whole world, for the living and the dead? St. Nilus, disciple of St. John Chrysostom, relates (in Epist. ad Anast.) that when the holy doctor was celebrating Mass, he himself beheld legions upon legions of angels, clothed in white robes, in profound meditation round the altar. Who would not love to join in their sweet song of praise to their and our Divine Lord? St. Chrysostom himself says (Lib. iii. de Sacred.): Where the king is, there also is the court; the angels are present at the sacrifice of the Mass, and encompass the altar in honor of him who is offered upon it;" and adds: "When you are before the altar, you ought no longer think you are among men. Do you not perceive that there are troops of angels and archangels that stand by you, and that tremble with respect before the Sovereign Master of heaven and earth?" St. Gregory also says (De Dial., lib. iv.): "When the priest is celebrating Mass the skies and heavens open, and multitudinous legions of angels come down from heaven to assist at the Divine sacrifice." St. John (Apoc. xxi. 23) tells us that "the new Jerusalem hath no need of the sun or moon to shine on it; for the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof." Daily in our chapels we have this same Lamb, who is the glory, the light, the lamp of paradise; and still some will not come to daily Mass! Our Blessed Lord tells us in the gospel his longing wish to celebrate the first Mass with his disciples: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you." Luke xxii 15. Have we the same ardent wish to hear his holy Mass? Do we make it our delight to hear as many Masses as we can, and never to omit an opportunity of hearing one more? The repetition, so far from fatiguing, ought but increase our thirst for the "courts of the Lord." There was but one sacrifice offered on Mount Calvary, and to the end of the world the heart of every fervent Christian will long to have been present, and with Mary to stand by the Cross of Jesus and sympathize with his sufferings. In like manner, were the holy sacrifice of the Mass offered but once a year in one place, would we not all desire to journey to that holy spot, to pour forth our hearts before our Blessed Lord? But the love of Jesus has shortened the road, and has brought salvation to our very doors. We have but a few minutes' walk to the church, and there all, the poor as well as the rich, the young as well as the old, can enjoy this treasure of heaven: there they possess Calvary and altar, Jesus and redemption. A great saint has said: "Were it possible to have no Calvary, one Mass would suffice to redeem the entire world!" And still everybody does not come to daily Mass: all hearts are not on fire with the love of Jesus in the holy sacrifice.
The saints of God cannot find words strong enough to exhort the faithful to hear Mass every day, and thereby to bring down the blessing of God upon themselves and their family. During Mass, they tell us, is the time to ask mercy for the past and perseverance for the future. "Assuredly," says St. Jerome, "the Lord grants all the favors for which we petition Him in the Mass, provided they be suitable to us." St. Gregory says (Book of Dialog.): "It is most indubitably certain that whosoever hears Mass shall be preserved from many and many a danger, both foreseen and unforeseen." To secure the protection of heaven, what a strong motive to hear Mass every morning! St. Ambrose says: "If you are unwell, Jesus is your physician; if you be in a burning fever, he is the fountain of water; if you are loaded with iniquities, he is righteousness; if you want help, he is strength; if you want food, he is meat; if you be in darkness, he is light; if you be in danger of death, he is life; if you desire heaven, he is the way that leads to it."
Were all Christians persuaded of the value of the infinite treasure contained in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, our churches would be crowded every morning; but it is sad to witness the number who neglect to hear daily Mass, when they could do so without the least inconvenience. They loiter in the streets, or spend the precious time in sloth and indolence. But some will say: "We have not time." You have not time! Can you not spare one halfhour out of the twentyfour? How much precious time do you spend every day in idle, useless conversation? Will you give the whole day to your bodies, that shall one day rot, and can you not spare one halfhour for your souls, that will never die? It is not time, but a good will that is wanting to you. Remember that God has given time and life for one end only to serve him here, and possess him hereafter in glory. The halfhour you spend at daily Mass you will not regret at the hour of your death and at the day of judgment. To balance the misspent time, you will then count up as precious moments all the Masses you had heard during your life.
We are speaking of a happy death the end for which God created us, as well as the end of life. We find in the Hidden Treasure (P. 32) this striking passage, attributed to St. Augustine. "Whoever hears Mass devoutly shall be preserved from a sudden death, which is the most awful weapon with which divine justice punishes the sinner." "Lo," says the saint, "here is the wonderful preservative against a sudden death: hear Mass every day, but hear it with all possible devotion."
Daily Mass, then, preserves us from a sudden, unprovided death. The devil cannot, during the day, surprise him who in the morning heard "the Word was made Flesh." Every motive then, of charity towards ourselves, as well as gratitude to God, induces us to hear Mass every morning.
Taste and see how sweet the Lord is. "The more we love God, the more we shall feel ourselves drawn to God's altar. Every soul that God sanctifies, he inspires with this ardent love and desire for the holy sacrifice of Mass. The greatest delight of such souls is to hear, not only daily Mass, but as many Masses as they can. They never omit an opportunity of hearing one Mass more. "May heaven inspire us all with this holy love and desire of Mass.
When you hear, then, the bell announcing the morning sacrifice, think you hear an angel's voice, the call of God inviting you to join in the most holy function that can be performed, either on earth below or heaven above. Shut not your ears, nor harden your hearts to God's sweet voice. Proceed to the church with recollection, devotion, nay, spiritual joy. With the eyes of faith, see the choirs of angels and archangels singing hymns round the Lamb. Wish and pray for Mary's heart to join them, and with eyes fixed on the altar, and with the holy thoughts of Jesus bleeding, dying, and redeeming the world, join the priest in the holy sacrifice, "which honors God, rejoices the angels, edifies the Church, helps the living, obtains rest for the dead, and make yourself a partaker in all things that are good." Imitation.
Union with the Perpetual Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Besides hearing daily Mass, there is another devotion much loved and practiced by pious souls to join in the perpetual Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, at every moment of the day and of the night, is being offered up in some part or other of the world. This devotion is called "Union with the perpetual Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ." Not an hour or moment of the day or night but Masses are being celebrated in some part of the world;* for according as the sun, in his daily course, rises at different hours over various countries, he finds in each, priests offering the Holy Mass; so that the Sacrifice of our Divine Lord is uninterrupted. Jesus the Divine Victim, is unceasingly immolated on our altars.
We see that the Divine Victim is unceasingly immolated ; the perpetual Sacrifice is offered up at every hour and every moment in some part of the world; and thus are verified the words of the prophet Malachi: "From the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is offered to my name a clean oblation."
What a holy practice, then, frequently during the day, and even when we awake from sleep at night, to offer ourselves to God in union with the Masses then being celebrated, thus presenting ourselves to the Eternal Father in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord.
It is recorded in the life of the great Alfonso Albuquerque, conqueror of the East Indies, that seeing himself and his fleet in imminent danger of shipwreck because of a violent tempest, he took in his arms a tender child, and holding him aloft between himself and. heaven, exclaimed: "O Lord! for the sake of this sinless child, save us sinners from death." God was appeased at the sight of the pure infant; the storm was stilled; all were saved. So when the priest elevates the sacred host, let us oppose this spotless Lamb to the thunders of divine vengeance about to fall on us for our sins; the innocent Jesus will calm the tempest of God's anger.
Let us conclude this chapter with a passage from Saint Leonard.
"Would that I could ascend to the summit of the loftiest mountain, and cry aloud, so that the whole world might hear me exclaiming: Foolish, foolish people! What are ye doing? Why will you not hasten to the churches to assist at every Mass celebrated therein? ... Let me on bended knees, and with hands uplifted, implore all to make a firm resolution of henceforth employing all possible diligence in assisting at Mass." Hidden Treasure.
My soul, an angel's tongue could not sufficiently express the hidden treasure thou dost possess in the holy Mass. Mass is heaven on earth, God himself. What wilt thou return to the Lord for all he has done for thee? Make the following resolutions:
For thy greater glory, O Sacred Heart of Jesus! I resolve: first, never to neglect Mass of obligation on Sundays and holidays; secondly, to hear Mass with the greatest piety, devotion, and reverence; thirdly, to assist at daily Mass when possible, never to omit an opportunity of hearing one Mass more; and lastly, often to offer myself to the Almighty, in union with the perpetual sacrifice of the Divine Lamb, immolated every moment of the day and night in some part of the world. Divine Victim of the altar, Jesus my Savior, grant me grace to keep these holy resolutions.
* This article was written in the late eighteen hundreds, well before "Vatican Council II" and its subsequent destruction of the Mass.
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