ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE to the Reader:
A TREASURE IS appreciated only in as much as it is known. Hence, dear readers, there are so few who value as they ought the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Although it is the greatest of all treasures which enrich the Church of God, it is still a hidden treasure, known only to a few privileged souls. If this celestial pearl were but known, every one would give all he had to purchase it. There would not, then, be found a single person who would dare use these scandalous words : ” A Mass more or less is of no consequence.” But, like the merchant in the Gospel, he would give all his fortune to render himself master of a treasure so priceless. “He went and sold all that he possessed and bought it” (Matt.13:46.) It is, then, for those who do not realize such an adorable mystery of love that I have written this little book.
It may, however, happen that you judge it superfluous or presumptuous on my part to publish such a work ; and indeed it would seem so. Superfluous^ for there are already so many beautiful little books on the subject ; and presumptuous, as it would require a mind superior to mine to make known the excellencies of a mystery which surpass the understanding of the highest seraphim. I acknowledge that these considerations held me back for a long time from publishing this treatise, and I have felt the greatest repugnance to write a work likely to be judged as useless, or above my ability. Two motives, however, enable me to overcome this innate reluctance. The first is a counsel which I respect as a command from one whom I am bound to obey on many titles. The second motive is the well-founded hope of being of use to the people to whom I have preached on the missions. For one of the greatest fruits derived from the missions is the increase of devotion and love towards the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. Missioners excite in the hearts of the faithful a holy fervor by which they are led to frequent the Sacraments and to nourish their souls with the Bread of Angels, as well as to pay all honour and respect to the Most Holy Viaticum, when brought to the sick. During these days of grace, we also endeavour to impress on our hearers the great advantages and fruits to be gained by attendance at daily Mass; but our words are easily forgotten by them unless they have some little books, composed in a plain and simple style, and adapted to their intelligence, which may remind them of these savin^j truths. Such books clear away all difficulties in the way of devotion, whilst, at the same time, they enlighten the mind and inflame the heart in the practice of every good work. Were, then, this little book, to be of aid but to only one soul, it cannot be judged useless. In order, however, to render it more useful, and more easily understood, it will be divided into three chapters. The first will contain a short instruction on the nature, excellence, necessity and advantages of Holy Mass. In the second chapter, there will be taught a practical and devout method of hearing Mass with fruit. The third chapter will have some touching examples, to excite the zeal of persons of every state of life to assist at Holy Mass. Such are the motives which ought to enlist your sympathy for this little book, even though you may deem me presumptuous to publish it. I am, however, confident that if you read it with the right dispositions, before you have finished, you will discover a Hidden Treasure, which, if yon know how to profit by, will enrich you with every blessing in time and in eternity.
CHAPTER 1: THE EXCELLENCE, NECESSITY, AND ADVANTAGES OF THE MOST HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS. [pg1-14]
It requires great patience to bear with the language of certain worldlings whom we hear every day, say : ” A Mass more or less is of no consequence.”—” It is hard enough to be obliged to assist at Mass on days of obligation.”—” The Mass of that priest is as long as one in Holy Week: when I see him go to the altar, I hurry out of the church.” Such language is the bane of piety, and betrays a spirit of libertinism and irreligion. For he who speaks in this manner, shows unmistakably that he has little or no respect for the most holy sacrifice of the Mass. Have you considered what is the holy sacrifice of the Mass ? It is the sun of Christianity, the soul of Faith, the centre of the Catholic religion, the grand object of .all her rites, ceremonies, and Sacraments ; in a word, it is the summary of all that is good and beautiful in the Church of God. Now, let me beseech you, who read these pages, to reflect seriously on what I say in the following instructions. [ pg2.]
EXCELLENCE OF THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS:
III. It is an undeniable truth, that all nations which have existed since the beginning of the world, have ever had a sacrifice as an essential part of the worship which they offered to God. But as their religions were either vain or imperfect, so likewise were their sacrifices either vain or imperfect. Vainest of all vain things were the sacrifices of the idolaters, nor need we prove this truth of Holy Writ. The sacrifices of the Hebrews, although they professed the true religion, are justly called by St. Paul weak and poor elements (Gal. 4:9), because they could not forgive sin or confer grace. The one great Sacrifice of our holy religion, the Holy Mass, is alone holy, perfect, and in every respect complete. For, by it the Faithful render the highest honour to God, and, at the same time, acknowledge their own nothingness and the supreme dominion He has over all His creatures. The Royal Prophet called this sacrifice the Sacrifice of justice (Ps.4:5), as it contains the Just One, or rather Justice and Sanctity Itself; and because it sanctifies souls by the infusion of divine grace, and replenishes them with the richest gifts of heaven. As it is, then, a sacrifice so holy and so excellent, we shall consider briefly some of the great treasures contained in this Divine Gift. I say some of these treasures, as it would be impossible for us to enumerate, or explain them all.
1. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the same as THE Sacrifice of the Cross.
in. The principal excellence of the Sacrifice of the Mass consists in this, that it is essentially the same, yea, the very same, Sacrifice that was offered on the Cross of Calvary ; the only difference being that, the Sacrifice of the Cross was a bloody sacrifice and made once for all, and did then fully satisfy for all the sins of the world ; whereas the Sacrifice of the Altar is an unbloody Sacrifice, which can be repeated throughout all ages, and which was instituted in order to apply to each of us the universal atonement which Christ made for us on Calvary. In a word : the bloody Sacrifice was the instrument of redemption, and the unbloody Sacrifice puts us in possession of it ; the one opened to us the treasury of the merits of Christ our Lord, and the other gives us the practical use of that neverfailing treasury. Hence, we must ever bear in mind that, in the Mass, there is made not a mere representation, nor a simple commemoration of the Passion and Death of our Redeemer, but, in a certain true sense, there is offered the very same most Holy Sacrifice which was offered on Calvary. It may then be said, with all truth, our Redeemer returns to die mystically for us, although in reality He can die no more ; at one and the same time. He is alive, and as it were slain again, according to that passage of the Apocalypse, ” I saw a lamb stainding as it were slain.” (Apoc. 5:6.) On Christmas Day, the Church represents the birth of our Lord, but our Lord is not then born. At the Ascension and Whitsuntide the Church recalls to mind the ascent of our Lord to heaven, and the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and disciples ; still, it is not true that, as each of these festivals returns. Our Lord ascends to heaven, and the Holy Ghost visibly descends to earth. But the same cannot be said of the mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for here there is not made simply a representation of a past event, but the very same Sacrifice which was offered on the Cross is offered on the Altar, though in an unbloody manner. That same Body, that same Blood, that same Jesus Who then offered Himself on Calvary, now offers Himself in the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. ” The work of our redemption,” says the Church, ” is here carried on ;
” yes, indeed, the Divine Work is continually carried on ; for, in Holy Mass there is unceasingly offered the same Sacrifice as that which was offered on the Cross, O wonderful work of God !
Now, tell me sincerely, when you go to the Church to hear Mass, do you clearly realise that you are approaching Calvary, to be present at the death of your Redeemer? If this truth sank deeply into your heart, would you dare to enter the holy place with such a distracted air, or with such unbecoming apparel ? If Magdalen had gone to Calvary, to the foot of the Cross, dressed out, perfumed and adorned, as in the time of her sinful life, what would have been said of her ? But what ought to be said, if you profane the holy rites of the Church with tattle and laughter, with improper glances or sacrilegious thoughts, words, or deeds ? Iniquity is detested by God at all times and in all places; but the sins committed under the shadow of the altar draw down the signal chastisement of God, Who says in Holy Writ, ” Cursed be he who doth the work of the Lord deceitfully” (Jer.48:10.) Think seriously on this, while I continue to show you other marvels and glories of this most precious treasure. pg 6
2. In THE Sacrifice of THE Mass Jesus Christ – is THE Principal Priest : Duty of the Celebrant AND THE Faithful.
IV. It seems to me impossible for any religious rite to have a more excellent prerogative than this we have nov/ considered ; but its dignity is still more enhanced by having for its priest none other than God Himself, Jesus Christ, the Man-God. In this great Sacrifice three things must never be forgotten : the Priest who offers, the Victim offered, and the Majesty of Him to Whom the offering is made. Now reflect on the wonderful glory of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and let each of these three considerations be deeply impressed on your soul. The Priest who offers this Sacrifice is the Man-God, Christ Jesus ; the victim of the Sacrifice is the life of God ; nor is the Sacrifice offered to any other than to God. Revive then your faith, and recognise as the true celebrant, not so much the visible priest whom you see at the Altar, as the adorable Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He is the primary offerer, not only because He has instituted this Holy Sacrifice, and has not only given to it all its efhcacy, through His infinite merits, but also in each Mass He Himself, for love of us, deigns to change the bread and wine into His Most Holy Body and Most Precious Blood. Behold, then, the grandest privilege of the Most Holy Sacrifice, to have for priest, the Man-God ; and when you see the celebrant at the Altar, remember that his greatest dignity consists in being the minister of this invisible and eternal Priest, our Divine Redeemer.
Hence, it follows that the Sacrifice itself cannot cease to be agreeable to God, no matter what may be the unworthiness of the priest who celebrates, since the principal offerer is Christ our Lord, and the priest is merely His simple minister. In the same way as a person who gives alms by the hands of a servant is rightly called the giver, and even though his servant may be sinful or wicked, when the master is good, the alms do not fail to have their reward. pg8.
Blessed then be God, Who hath bestowed on us a Holy and Most Holy Priest, “Who offers to the Eternal Father this Divine Sacrifice, not only in every place—as the Catholic religion is now propagated in most countries of the world —but every day, and even every hour, since the sun rises for others when it sets for us ; and so, at every hour of the day and night this Most Holy Priest offers to His Father, His Body, His Blood, His Soul, His entire Self for us. All this He does as often as the Holy Sacrifice is celebrated in the whole world. O happy should we be if we could assist at all these Masses! O immense treasure ! O mine of inexhaustible wealth, thus possessed by us in the Church of God ! What an ocean of graces in this life, what a fund of glory in the next, would not the devout attendance at all these Most Holy Sacrifices procure for us !
V. But why do I use the word attendance? For those who hear Mass not only fulfil the office of attendants at it, but they are likewise offerers, and have a right to the title of priests, according to the Apocalypse, “ Thou hast made tis to our God a kingdom and priests” (Apoc.5:10). The celebrant is, as it were, the public minister
of the Church in general, and at the same time a mediator for all the faithful, and particularly for those who assist at Mass with the invisible Priest who is Christ; and together with Christ he offers to the Eternal Father, both in behalf of all mankind and of himself, the great price of human redemption. But the celebrant is not alone in this august function, since all those who assist at Mass unite with him in offering the Holy Sacrifice ; and therefore he turns to the people and says, ” Pra}”, brethren, that my Sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God,” in order that we may understand that, although he acts the part of the visible minister, all those vAio are present make the great offering with him. Hence, when you assist at Mass, you perform in a certain manner the office of priest. Will you, then, ever again dare to hear Mass, sitting, whispering, looking here and there, perhaps even sleeping, or will you content yourself with reciting some distracted vocal prayers, entirely ignoring the tremendous office of a priest which you are exercising ? Alas ! I cannot refrain from crying out :
” O dull and senseless world, that will not understand such sublime mysteries !” Now, is it possible anyone can remain with a mind distracted and a heart dissipated, at a time when the holy angels fall down in lowly adoration, trembling and astounded at the contemplation of such a stupendous work of Divine Goodness? pg10
3.—The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is ths MOST Wonderful Work of God
VI. You are astonished, perhaps, to hear me call the Mass a stupendous work. But what tongue, human or angelic, can ever describe a power so immeasurable as that exercised by the priest at Mass? And who could have ever imagined that the voice of a man, which, of itself, is not able to raise a straw from the ground, should be endowed with a power so stupendous as to bring the Son of God from Heaven to earth; This power far exceeds that which would be required to move mountains, to dry up seas, or to govern the movements of the heavenly bodies ; nay more, it rivals in a certain way that first fiat by which God created all things out of nothing ; and in some manner, it would seem to surpass that other FIAT by which the Blessed Virgin drew down to her bosom the Eternal Word.
The Blessed John Buono of Mantua* [ S. Aat. 3. p. Hist. tit. 24. c. 13 ] gave a very beautiful illustration of this to his companion, a hermit, who was unable to imagine how the words of a priest could be endowed with such a tremendous power, as to be able to change the substance of bread into the body of Jesus Christ, and the substance of wine into His Blood. This unfortunate hermit had, moreover, unhappily consented to this temptation which the devii suggested.
The holy servant of God, perceiving the poor sinful man’s error, led him to a fountain from which he drew a vessel of water and gave it to him to drink. After he had drunk he protested that he never before, during his whole life, had tasted such delicious wine.
Then Blessed John Buono said to him, ” Dear brother, does not this convince you of the marvellous truth of which you doubt ? If you believe, that through me, a miserable creature, water is changed into wine by Divine Power, how much more ought you to believe, that, by virtue of the words pronounced by the priest, which are the words of God, the bread and wine are converted into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. And who will dare limit the power of God Almighty ?” This so effectually enlightened the mind of the hermit, that, banishing every doubt from his heart, he did great penance for his sin. pg11.
Let us have faith, but let it be a lively faith, and it will convince us that the unspeakable excellences contained in this adorable Sacrifice are without number. Then we shall not be surprised to see this miracle of the Saviour’s Power, renewing His Humanity thousands and thousands of times, at every hour, and in every place. For the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ enjoys a sort of ubiquity, not granted to other bodies, but bestowed on Him through the merits of His life, sacrificed to the Will of His Father. This multiplied existence of our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament was explained to an unbelieving Jew by an ignorant poor woman; The Jew was standing in the public street, where there was a great crowd, and among them this poor woman, and at the moment a priest approached carrying the Most Holy Viaticum to a sick person. All the Faithful knelt and adored the Most Blessed Sacrament, as It passed ; but the Jew alone moved not, nor showed any sign of reverence. This being seen by the poor woman, she cried out to the Jew,
“O miserable wretch, why do you not show reverence to the true God present in the Most Holy Sacrament?” “What true God ?” answered the Jew ; “ if the true Godwere there it would follow that there are many gods, as you say there is one on each of your altars during Mass.” The woman immediately took a sieve and placing it between the Jew’s eyes and the sun, told him to look at the rays which shone through the apertures. When he had done so, she said to him, ” Tell me now, Jew, are there many suns or only one passing through the openings in this sieve ?” The Jew answering said that there was but one sun. “Then,” replied the woman, ” why dost thou wonder if the God-Man, veiled in the Sacrament, though one, indivisible and unchanged, should, through excess of love for us, leave Himself really and truly present on different altars at the same time ?”
This simple illustration convinced the unbelieving Jew, and forced him to acknowledge this great truth of our holy Faith. O holy Faith ! a single ray of thy divine light is sufficient to enable the most illiterate to refute the captious questions of the enemies of religion. Who shall ever dare to assign limits to the almighty power of God ? St. Teresa had such a conception of the omnipotence of God that she used to say, ” The more incomprehensible, deep, and abstruse the mysteries of our holy faith are to our understanding, the firmer and more devoutly ought we to believe them.” She was, indeed, justified in expressing herself thus, knowing that God Almighty can perform works infinitely greater than our limited intelligences can comprehend. Revive then your faith and acknowledge that this Divine Sacrifice is the miracle of miracles, the marvel of marvels, and that its greatest excellence consists in being incomprehensible to our limited understandings. Amazed at such wonderful goodness of God, never cease repeating, ” O inestimable treasure ! treasure of love, treasure beyond all human comprehension!” But if you are not touched as yet by its marvellous excellence, be so, at least, by its absolute necessity. pg 14
Daily Indulgence : #38 RACCOLTA pg 12, (S.C. Ind., Mar 20, 1908; S.P. Ap., Apr15,1935)
“Lord, increase our faith” (Lk17:5) “Domine, adauge nobis fidem.”