Wednesday in the Octave of Corpus Christi
Join Juventutem Saint Louis, the Equites Sancti Ludovici, and the Oratory of Ss Gregory and Augustine for the Wednesday in the Octave of Corpus Christi. We’ll hear once again the famous sequence of St. Thomas Aquinas, Lauda Sion. Confessions will be heard from 5 PM to 6 PM.
“Let us adore Christ, the King, who ruleth the nations; who giveth fatness of spirit to them that eat him.”“My days are vanished like smoke, and my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire: I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered: because I forgot to eat my bread.” Thus sadly speaks the hundred and first Psalm, whose title is: Prayer of the poor man, when he was anxious, and poured out his supplication before the Lord. And who is this poor man? It is Adam; it is the whole human race, the inheritor of Adam’s miseries. God had given him his divine law, as his food; as the bread of his soul, he had given him the Word of God. Instigated by the old serpent, and led on by the woman, Adam took the forbidden fruit; he forgot the Word. Deservedly has he been blighted as the grass of the field: deservedly has his heart been withered; for he has despised the fruit of life, he has drunk poison, he has preferred to eat ashes, rather than the nourishment that was made for him.But, lo! there appeareth the true bread of heaven, He, in whose Flesh thou mayest, if thou wilt, find the Word thou hadst forgotten. Cry out, from the depths of thy poverty, to heaven; regain thy former plenty. Eat! for thou art member of Him who hath said: I am the living Bread, which came down from heaven. Thou hadst forgotten to eat thy bread; but now that Christ is crucified, all the ends of the earth shall remember; and shall be converted unto the Lord. Poor withered grass! thy flesh shall flourish again, because of the Saviour’s Blood; it shall become, as St. Bernard tells thee, like that holy herb of the virgin field, that lies in the crib for thy sake.Bird of the desert! bird of the night, that sattest moaning on the heap of ruins, thy loneliness was scoffed at by the enemy that had scared thee. But the Lord God, thy Redeemer, hath broken the captive’s chains. Peoples and kings, gathered together in Sion, declare his name in unity. It is their proclamation of his victory, the declaration of his greatness and his strength. “Jerusalem, then,” says St. Augustine, “Jerusalem, our mother, having come back from exile, and surrounded by her many children, answereth him, her God, in unity. That God is one; the Church is unity; unity alone can give response to the God who is One.” And Jesus, who is at the head, and is the head, of this triumphant unity, which overthrows the kingdom of Babylonish discord and disunion, gives himself this response to his Father: In the midst of the Church, will I praise thee; in the sight of a great Church, I will pay my vows, I will offer the victim which is to save them; and the poor shall eat, and shall be filled; and their hearts, which before were parched up, shall become freshened unto life, and shall live for ever and ever.Praise and glory be to this Christ, the Savior, who thus, by his Flesh offered up in Sacrifice, restores to us the bread of life and understanding! O Body of Jesus! most august temple built by eternal Wisdom to himself! It is from his Side, opened by a spear, that comes the sacred stream, which brings the Word to our parched lips. He hath visited the earth, and inebriated it; he hath prepared their food for the children of men. But the cup he proffers, is a chalice of Sacrifice; the table he sets up is an Altar: for so is the preparation of the food he gives. It is a Victim who gives us his own Flesh to eat, and his own Blood to drink; so that Immolation, Sacrifice, is the direct and necessary preparation of the banquet he puts before his guests.Yea, are not they themselves Christ’s food at that sacred table? He gives himself, but he intends to have these his guests in return, and make them all his own. We are those guests; and what other preparation can we make, but that which he goes through,—Sacrifice? Such, such must be the preparation! Ita est præparatio ejus! Observe how, when Wisdom is shown us in Scripture as setting forth the table and inviting the little ones to eat His Bread and drink His Wine, he does not slay one, but many victims: He hath slain his victims! After his Incarnation, he uses the same language; he sends his messengers, he invites us to the marriage feast, saying: I have prepared the feast; my beeves and failings are slain, my Victims are ready; come! for all things are ready! What means this, but that for the very members of Christ,—who are the Victims fattened, as our Invitatory expresses it, with the fatness of the Spirit,—the true immediate preparation for the sacred banquet is immolation,—that is, Sacrifice, that is, the Mass,—celebrated or assisted at in most perfect possible union with the great, the principal, Victim. Quoniam, ita est Præparatio ejus!Christians! you have been brought around the one same Table, by the same love, the same thirst, which you have all for the strong living God; understand this well, then: he will give himself to you the more completely and intimately, in proportion as the same Sacrifice, which gives him to you, shall have made you become the food of his own longing love. The hour of the Sacrifice is that, wherein the Bride finds her well Beloved under the tree of the Cross, takes him as a bunch of myrrh, and puts him next her heart: it is the hour wherein the King takes her into his divine stores, and gives her to partake of the vine of Engaddi, after he has pressed out the precious drink in the wine-press of his love. And for Him, the Spouse, what is this same hour? It is one of harvest, one of vintage. It is then that the south wind, the Holy Spirit who produces the sacred Mysteries, breathes upon the Bride, who is the garden of Christ, and fills her with the fragrance of grace; the Divine Spouse then comes down into this his garden, that he may eat of the fruits of his trees and gather the myrrh and spices that grow there, and drink the wine for which he so thirsted, as that it drew him down from heaven; it is the love which we can so richly and warmly give him, and he so loves our love, as to deign to call it the best of wine, worthy for the Beloved to drink, and for his divine lips to relish and enjoy.Then, let the soul prepare herself for the banquet of her Beloved, by the means of that same which he expects from her. Let her rise, early in the morning, with this thought upon her, as he himself does. Let her go down to the garden, to see if the flowers be in order, and the lilies he loves so much be fresh; let her go forth into the field, and gather for him fruits both new and old; let her examine the vineyard which the Spouse values so highly, as to reserve the vintage to himself; let her see if the vineyard be in flower, and if the flowers be ready to bring forth fruit, and give promise of those fragrant clusters which are so much sought after by her Lord. Then, finally, let her repair with him into her mother’s house, the holy Church, and there, in the Sacrifice, receive from Jesus the precious lessons of how to love God, and, like a new Esther, give, in her turn, to her Assuerus, that generous wine, which induces the King to lend her his own power, grant her requests, and destroy her enemies. The Psalmist tells us, in his bold language of inspiration, that there is an inebriation on God’s part, and that he is then terrible to the powers of hell; but there is mention made also, in the sacred volume, of a cup of choice wine presented by the Bride, in her mother’s house, to the Spouse,—it is the wine he himself has left to his Church, that mother of ours! For this purpose, wishing to proffer to her Spouse the wine which gladdens and the bread which pleases his heart, the Bride takes him and leads him to that house of her mother, yea, into that blessed spot where she first received the life of grace and truth.There, in that sanctuary of love, Rebecca, the mother of the two people that are hostile one to the other, prepares for her Spouse Isaac the food he loves so much, and is to induce him to impart his blessing upon his favorite child. Esau is a type of the stiff necked and carnal Jew, who despises the Church, and heeds not the spirit of the promises; he dwells at a distance from home; he is in pursuit of wild beasts, and they are an image of his own fierce instincts. Jacob, on the contrary, is a peaceful man, and keeps with his mother at home, and gives a helping hand to the valiant woman, who, with faith, carries out the designs of heaven. Rebecca robes him in Esau’s garments, the precious garments of the firstborn, which are in the mother’s keeping; they are the insignia of priesthood; and when Jacob is vested in them, he takes two kids from the flock and immolates them. These, as the Fathers tell us, are an image both of the meekness of Christ and of the two peoples, Jew and Gentile, which, by being made one in his Blood, are become the food of God. But it is Rebecca who guides Jacob in all he does; she receives from him the victim he has slain, and of it makes the food so loved by her Spouse: in this, she represents the Church, who in the holy Sacrifice directs the Priest and unites the people, and so prepares for her Lord the food she knows is so dear to him.The same great teaching had been given even earlier than this, and with as much clearness. It was under the oak of Mambre, and in the days of tent life. Abraham, the father of believers, there received three guests; they represented the mystery of the holy Trinity. In the name of his countless children, he offers to the three mysterious guests a repast, which is so full of symbolism, as it is described to us in the sacred volume. Penetrating into the mystery of Three in One, Abraham thus speaks to his three guests as though they were one: Lord! if I have thus found favor in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant. He then presses them to take food; and they readily consent. Then, Abraham made haste into the tent to Sara, and said unto her: Make haste! temper together three measures of flour, and make cakes upon the hearth! He is full of considerateness, says St. Ambrose; he cannot think of depriving his wife of a share in the work of religion he has in hand; he would have her join him in all things; she is a type of the Church. Let man then hasten and kill the fatted calf, in figure of the Lord’s Passion; the woman’s part is to prepare man himself, and make him the food of God; for the three measures of flour taken by Sara signify the threefold posterity of Noe, which forms the three races of the human family. They are again mentioned, and with the same import in the Gospel; and the woman, the Church, again appears, making the bread of heavenly wheat out of them; it is the Bread which is the Body of Christ; it is eaten by man in the Eucharistic banquet; and thus Christ and man become the food of God and the joy of the holy Trinity.Oh! exclaims St. Ambrose, how happy that man who thus becomes sweet food to divine Wisdom! But this holy zeal, this earnestness of faith, this fervor of devotion, which, as the same saint says, should transform us spiritually into a nourishment which will give pleasure to God,—where are we to get them, if not from the Church, whose special work it is to provide us with all this in the sacred mysteries? And this preparation, both for the Head and his members, being the Sacrifice,—could the Christian do better than let himself be led, in all simplicity, by this Mother of the living? She will lead him to God by her sacred Liturgy. Surely, he may unreservedly commit his spiritual direction to this holy Mother Church, seeing that our Lord himself has left everything to her, in what regards the administration of this sacrament of his love; she is to regulate the ceremonies, the solemnity, the preparations, everything, in a word, which is to accompany the great Sacrifice, of which Communion is to be the completion and the issue.The whole of this Feast, which we have been celebrating during these eight days, tells us very eloquently, that Communion is not a work of private devotion. Private devotion is not an adequate preparation for man’s receiving this visit from his Lord,—a visit whose scope is to bring us closer and closer into union with Christ our Head, and all his members who, in the immolation of the one universal Sacrifice, are all made one grand offering to the glory of the Father. For a soul that longs to be united to her Lord, and gain that full Catholic point of view, which is the one intended by God,—the by far surest means is to have a clear understanding of what the sacred function is, and to follow, attentively, the holy ceremonies and formulas, as far as they come within the reach of the Faithful. Let not that soul be afraid of having her recollection interfered with, or her love cooled, by taking the way of the Church for her own. She is quite right in being desirous to approach the holy table in the right dispositions; then, let her do as the Church does. She will be all the more pleasing to that Jesus who is coming to her, she will be all the better prepared for the union with him, as a member of his mystical Body the Church, the more she is a faithful child of that Church; and if she be that, if she be a disciple of that great school, if she live under the mighty influence of the divine Liturgy, she will never think of making it a preparation for holy Communion that she should shut her eyes and ears to what the Church does during the great Sacrifice; no, all that is but unconscious egotism and narrow individualism, the ordinary result of private methods.The Apostles and their immediate disciples, the authorized founders of the Liturgies of the first Age of the Church, had no fears about their lessening the devotion of the early Christian, by the magnificent and gorgeous ceremonial, which they made inseparable from a participation in the sacred Mysteries. So was it also with our ancestors, the Martyrs; when obliged, by persecution, to shelter in the catacombs, they had the Mass celebrated there with a solemnity such as we nowadays never witness. Thus was it in the case of St. Xystus the Second, the Pope of St. Laurence; when he was martyred, he was seated on his throne in one of those glorious hiding places; the Sacrifice of the Mass was being offered up, and the Pontiff, in apostolic majesty, was surrounded by the numerous ministers officiating in the holy function; they feared not to brave imperial edicts and persecutions, provided they could but keep up the solemnity of the Christian rites, for these gave the Faithful to partake, in one same banquet, of the Bread of the strong, which united them all together and gave each partaker courage. So too, when the Church gained freedom by her triumph; she continued these solemn rites of her Sacrifice, she added to their solemnity: the gold and blaze of her basilicas were faithful and joyous perpetuators of what had been so loved from the very commencement, and so bravely practised in the crypts of her cemeteries. The Fathers and holy Doctors of the Church, the Saints of the great times of her independence, all made this the habitual preparation for their receiving the blessed Sacrament,—the magnificence of the Liturgy, and the solemnity of the holy Sacrifice, at which all the people assisted, and all took that active participation in it which we have already described. And yet, we never hear that this obligatory crowded assistance, this exterior pomp, this sustained attention to the sacred ceremonies, ever impeded their fervor or kept our Lord from having Saints among his people. We never find anything to indicate that their appreciation of divine things was thereby dulled, or that their saintliness got impaired by it, or that society,—of which they were the guides, respected and obeyed,—was kept in a state of backwardness, or unfitted to bear comparison, in anything worth comparison, with our own times. But perhaps the Church of those ages would have shown more wisdom and more spirituality, had she left these sons and daughters of hers all to themselves, to take their own meditations in silence and solitude? The thought would be a very untrue, not to say, a most impertinent one. Certainly, such an idea had not yet made way in the 13th 14th or 15th Centuries, when faith and genius built those glorious Cathedrals, which are still the pride of our Europe; and they were built, that the ceremonies of religious worship might have a more worthy development, and attract more abundant witnesses, and produce holiness in the children of the Church, who then preferred her ways to any others.But,—may not these times of ours be happier ones for piety? May not the time have come when, being made independent of the senses by improved systems of asceticism scarcely dreamt of in those earlier ages, the human soul, when it would go to God, has no further need of those exterior helps, which were all very well for centuries when Augustine, or Leo the Great, or Hildegarde, or Bernard, lived, but are quite unnecessary for a generation so highly spiritual as our own? The fruits of a tree must decide whether it be a good or a poor one. One should examine if there have been satisfactory results from the abandoning the paths marked out by the Church, and so zealously kept to by our Fathers in the Faith.The 16th Century was made to witness hell triumphing over the ruins of Altars in all the northern countries of Europe, especially in our own England. The long interruption of liturgical solemnity brought with it, amongst many of the Faithful of these later times, a lowering, and, with some, a total ignorance, of what the Mass, as a Sacrifice, is. The great mystery of the Eucharist seemed, to certain pious souls, to be nothing else than our Lord’s presence, who abides among us for the purpose of receiving our private Visits, and of himself occasionally coming to be our Guest in Holy Communion. That was all that was meant by the Eucharist, as far as the practical knowledge of these people went! As to that part of the Eucharistic mystery, which consists in our Lord’s being mystically immolated by the wonderful words of the Consecration,—and, thereby, expiating for the sins of men, paying to his eternal Father, in our name, the great debts of adoration and thanksgiving;—as to his, thereby, daily receiving the fervent supplications of our Mother, the Church, and because of her suppliant worship in union with his own Sacrifice, his warding off from this poor world the chastisements it deserves; in other words, as to the Mass, it says much less to the heart of these good people, than does Exposition, or Benediction, or Forty Hours, or even a mere Visit to the Blessed Sacrament made very privately and very quietly. For them, Mass is but a preliminary condition for having something else which they look forward to; Mass, in their minds, is but a means for producing the Real Presence. On this account, though the Church has formally discountenanced the practice of having the Blessed Sacrament exposed during a low Mass, the Christians, of whom we are speaking, would far prefer being present at such a Mass, than at one where the Church’s wishes are respected; and their reason is that the Exposition gives them all they want, and all they expect from the Mass. As for High Mass (unless it happened to be one with Exposition), they would rather not go to it, for it is a distraction to them! Sometimes, however, they will go to a solemn Mass; but as to the powerful influence for good, which the heavenly agency of the Liturgy would exercise upon them, if they would but allow it,—they have evidently no notion of such a fact, for you will see them giving all their attention to some book they have brought with them and out of which they are taking reflections which, though quite correct in themselves, have no relation to the great Sacrifice at which they are assisting. The Elevation Bell tells them nothing but this,—that our Lord has descended upon the Altar; they, of course, adore; but they never think of uniting themselves with the divine Victim, or of offering themselves together with the Church, for the sublime intentions which she expresses in her Liturgy of each Feast or Season. If they intend to go to Communion on that day, they will perhaps lay aside, for some moments previous to approaching the rails, the prayer-book which they had been using, that they may sweetly occupy themselves with the sentiments excited by its reading. And thus are they occupied up to the moment when, having been admitted to the Sacrament of Unity, our Lord must seek in the distant grace of their Baptism, rather than in their sentiments and thoughts of the moment, that indispensable quality of Member of the Church, which Communion demands of us above every other, and which it is intended to confirm within us.Is it, then, to be wondered at that, with very many souls, Religion, whose true basis is Sacrifice, rests on little besides a vague sentimentality? This gradually effaces the fundamental notions of God’s dominion, and sovereign justice; of worship, reparation, service and homage, which are our first duties towards our Maker. Whence comes there, in so many Christians who are in the habit of going to the Sacraments, that weakness of faith, that total absence of the practical notion of the Church, which made itself so painfully felt to our Bishops at the time of the Council? It is because, together with the grandeur of the Liturgy, to which they are total strangers, public Worship has lost its social character; Communion, consequently, has lost its full meaning; and leaves such of its receivers in their state of contented isolation, for it is not, as far as they are concerned, the bond of unity, through Christ the Head, with the whole Body, whereof they were made members by Baptism. To say nothing of those nominal Catholics, with whom the word Church seems to be a term one meets with in history, but which has no present objective existence,—are there many even among those who are frequent, or daily, communicants, who understand this axiom of St. Augustine: “The Eucharist is our daily Bread, for the virtue it implies is unity; and unity of the members in a body, is the health of that body, and the health of each member?”Twice before had two sons of St. Benedict taken up the defense of the adorable Sacrament against its adversaries (Paschasius Radbert and our Lanfranc, against Scotus Erigenes, and Berengarius); and in the 13th Century, there came forward, in the same cause, a monk of Cluny, by name Algerus: he composed a volume worthy of its two predecessors; and though its dogmatic character excludes everything approaching to hyperbole, yet we find this same truth expressed thus forcibly: The Mystery of Christ’s true Flesh in the Sacrament of the Altar, is a profit to them only who, in the same Sacrament, receive also the mystery of his members, that is, union with the entire body, which is the Church; because, just as the head has no vital influence when separated from the body, so Christ confers life upon no man without there be unity of the body of the Church: for, as Christ is inseparable from his mystical body, so he is never received, in his Sacrament, save in his entirety, that is, as incorporated with us by the mystery of his and our union.”The doctrine here expressed is very profound. It enables us to appreciate the magnificence of such a sight as was to be seen, in former times, of the whole assembly of the Faithful concluding the solemnity of the Sacrifice by all communicating on the divine Victim. This unanimous meeting at the holy table of all them that had been made members of the Church by Baptism, is a sight which we cannot expect to behold in an age like our own, which is so full of immorality, infidelity, and cowardly human respect. And those of the Church’s children, whose fervent assiduity at the divine banquet is a consolation to her amidst the general neglect,—even they cannot always wait for the late hour of High Mass, though it would bring them closer into the spirit of the mystery of Communion, and would be more in accordance with the desires of the Church. They are generally prevented from such a practice by their delicate health, or by other obstacles which are, no doubt, very difficult to be removed; and our loving Mother, the Church, is quite aware of the moral impossibility of anything like a general return to the ancient practice. Still, we cannot forbear regretting the difficulty, and envying those happy times when each of the Faithful partook sacramentally of the Sacrifice, which was celebrated in the presence of the whole congregation. Yet she does not press her wishes in this regard, except for the sacred Ministers, who are assistants at the Sacrifice; and even for them, she does not prescribe it as an express command: “Let them know,” she says in her Council of Trent, “that it is extremely becoming that, at least on Sundays and solemn Feasts, they should receive holy Communion at the Altar where they give their ministry.” The Fathers of the same Council thus admirably express the traditional teaching, which we have been putting before our readers.“The holy Council, with fatherly affection, admonishes, exhorts, begs, and implores, by the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the name of Christians, will, at length, be united to each other in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord. Let them be mindful of the infinite majesty, and the wonderful love, of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave his beloved life as the price of our salvation, and his Flesh as our food. Let them believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood with such constancy and resoluteness, with such devotion of soul, and love, and worship, as that they may frequently receive that supersubstantial Bread. May it be to them their true life, and the perpetual health of their soul! And being strengthened by its strength, may they go through the journey of this miserable life, and reach their heavenly country, where they may eat, unveiled, that same Bread of the Angels, which they now receive under the sacred veils” (of the sacramental species).The Church of Armenia chants, even to this day, at the time of Communion, an admirable canticle, which is of the same character as the short but sublime invitation to the sacred Table which we gave yesterday from the ancient Church of Gaul.“O Mother of Faith, sacred assembly and sublime nuptial couch of the marriage-feast! O House of the immortal Spouse, adorned by him with everlasting beauty!“Thou art the wonderful second heaven, whose majesty is from glory to glory! Thou, as light produces light, bringest us forth, by the font, which gives us to thee thy children.“Thou art distributing the Bread that purifies; thou art giving us to drink what thou possesest,—the adorable Blood; thou art drawing us to that uncreated supernal order of things divine.“O come, ye children of the new Sion, approach with holiness your Lord! Yea, taste and see, that our Lord, the God of armies, is sweet.“That Sion of old divided the waters of Jordan, thou breakest up the sea of sins; she of old had Josue as her leader; thou, Jesus, consubstantial with the Father.“The lofty altar, too, was an ancient figure of thee: it broke down the gates of adamant; thou those of hell, even to its foundations.“This is the Body of Christ, this the Chalice of the Blood of the New Testament. The hidden Sacrament is shown to us, and herein God is seen by us.“This is Christ the Word, God, who is sitting at the right hand of the Father: and he is sacrificed in our presence, and takes away the sins of the world.“It is he who is blessed for ever, together with the Father and the Spirit, now and ever more for time to come, and, without end, for everlasting ages.”Let us once more borrow from the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions (Book 8th). The following formula of Thanksgiving after Communion will tell us what is the spirit of the Church, and what she would have us do at that precious time. We find what she is intent upon,—she is all taken up with the great interests of Jesus, her Spouse. In this ecstasy of her love, in this moment of her intimate union with her God, she strives to keep her children from having narrow-minded thoughts, and intentions which look to nothing beyond one’s self, the result of private devotion, so unseasonable for such grand acts of the Christian life as are the Sacrifice of Mass and Communion in the universal Victim, as we have heard the Fathers expressing it. Scarcely, then, have the sacred species been distributed, than the Deacon cries out: Surgamus, Let us rise! Thereupon, all stand up, and unite in this prayer, which is read by the Bishop:“O Lord God almighty, Father of thy Christ, thy blessed Son! who graciously hearest them that call upon thee in uprightness, who knowest the prayers of them even who are silent; we thank thee, for that thou hast deemed us worthy to partake of thy sacred mysteries: thou hast given to us, for the fully strengthening us in those things which we have so well known, for the preservation of piety, and for the forgiveness of our sins; for the name of thy Christ has been invoked upon us, and we have been joined to thee.“O thou that hast separated us from communion with the ungodly, unite us with them that are consecrated to thee; strengthen us in the truth, by the coming of the Holy Ghost; teach us the things we know not; supply our deficiencies; confirm us in the truths we already know.“Preserve thy priests blameless in thy service. Keep kings in peace; magistrates in justice; the air salubrious; the fruits in abundance; the world in thine almighty providence. Pacify nations that are waging war. Convert them that are astray. Sanctify thy people; preserve thy virgins; keep in fidelity them that are in wedlock; strengthen the chaste; lead little ones to mature age; confirm the newly initiated; teach the catechumens, and make them worthy of initiation; and gather us all together into the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord: With whom, together with thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory, and honor, and adoration for ever. Amen.”
-The Liturgical Year, Dom Prosper Gueranger
Date(s) - June 17, 2020
6:30 pm - 7:45 pm