(Essay, Includes – pages 260- 268)
CHAPTER I. Purpose
Q. Why does the Church make use of so many different ceremonies?
A. First, to give external expression to the interior sentiments of respect, devotion, and religion; secondly, to enliven and increase devotion and piety by moving and striking the senses; thirdly, to lead the simple and illiterate more easily to a knowledge of the mysteries of religion.
Q. Is there nothing superstitious in these ceremonies?
A. There was nothing superstitious in the ceremonies of the Old Law, why then should there be any thing superstitious in those of the New?
Q. Is the use of ceremonies authorized by Scripture?
A. St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiv, 14, says: “Let all things be done decently and according to order;” and the ceremonies of the Church contribute much to these ends. [pg. 260]
Q. What would you say to a Protestant who condemns ceremonies?
A. You make them, I would reply, contribute to the decency, solemnity, and grandeur of the court, the camp, the bar, and the civic Festival, and yet you would banish them from the service of God in your ball-room, your dining room, and drawing-room, are all ceremony, and this to add to your dignity and grandeur in the eyes of men, and you would rob God’s service of the solemnity and grandeur to which propel ceremonies so much contribute.
Q. Have you any other reply?
A. Your whole service, I would say, is only one great ceremony;—why build Churches, when you can serve God at home;—why go to Church, when, in your own dwelling, you can study the Bible, and when your interpretation is as good and as correct as that of your minister;—why have your children baptized, since many of you maintain, that baptism is only a ceremony—that it does not remit original sin;—why receive the sacrament in the Church, if it be only a bit of bread and wine, which you may receive at home;—why do you stand uncovered when the minister prays, when sitting is more convenient and less troublesome? [pg. 261]
CHAPTER II. Light of the World
Q. Why are wax tapers blessed and burnt on the Festival of the Purification in our churches?
A. To put us in mind, that our Saviour, who is the light of the world, appeared, for the first time, on that day, in the Temple.
Q. Why are ashes distributed on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent?
A. To remind us, that we are only dust and ashes, and that we ought to enter upon that season, in which Jesus was humbled and mortified for our sake, with an humble and mortified spirit.
Q. Why are Palm branches blessed and distributed on the Sunday before Easter?
A. To remind us of the triumphant entry of our Saviour into Jerusalem.
Q. Why are bells of churches baptized?
A. They are not really baptized, but they are only blessed in the same manner as churches.
Q. Why are bread, wine, eggs, and other things blessed?
A. To induce the Almighty to shower down his benedictions upon those who use them.
Q. When things are consecrated to the service of God do they, in reality, become more sacred?[pg. 262]
A. Yes; for Christ says—Matth. xxiii, 17-19 “Ye foolish and blind, for whether is greater, the gold, or the Temple which sanctify the gold? Ye blind, for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar which sanctify the gift?” Where you see the gold sanctified by the Temple, and the gift by the altar.
Q. Does the Scripture allow the sanctifying or blessing of inanimate things?
A. Certainly; for St. Paul, 1 Tim. iv, 4, 5, says: “Every creature of God is good,….For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
Q. What does St. Gregory of Nyssa say? (Orat. de Bap. Jesu Christi.)
A. “The mystical oil and wine before benediction are common things and of no virtue, but after benediction both of them have a great virtue.”
Q. Is it not a superstitious practice to make use of inanimate things for religious purposes, to procure blessings?
A. Certainly not; for the Scripture would, in that case, teach superstition.
Q. Where does the Scripture authorize this practice?
A. St. Mark, chap. vi, 19, says: “And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” [pg. 263] St. John, chap, v, 4, we have—“And an angel the Lord descended at certain times into the pond, and the water was moved, and he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.”
Q. Have you any thing in 4 Kings, chap. v, 10, on this subject?
A. Yes; “And Eliseus sent a messenger to him, saying, Go, and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall recover health, and thou shalt be clean;” and in verse 14th, the order is complied with, and he is made clean.
CHAPTER III. Holy Water, spiritual
has holy water its virtue? A. From the prayers
of the Church used in blessing it, and from
the prayers and piety of those who use it.
Q. What are these prayers?
A. The priest, in blessing it, prays, that against those who use it, the intrigues of the devil may be defeated by the Holy Spirit of God; and the people, whilst using it, pray in these beautiful words—”Sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall he cleansed, wash me and I shall become whiter than snow.” [pg. 264]
Q. Is the use of holy water of very ancient origin in the Church of God?
A. It is mentioned in the 5th chap. of Numbers—“And he (the priest) shall take holy water in an earthen vessel.” In Num. chap. viii, 7, it is again mentioned—“Let them be sprinkled with the water of purification.” (See also Exod. chap.19th and 30th.)
Q. May holy water be used under the New Law?
A. Certainly; for every creature of God may be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. 1 Tim. iv, 5.
Q. Did the early Church use it?
A. It is mentioned in the Apostolical Instit. Lib, viii, cap. 35; St. Cyprian, Lib. i, Ep. 12; St. Jerom, Ep. 12; St. Basil de Spiritu Sancto., cap. 27; St. Greg. Mag., Lib. ix, Ep. 71; St. Epiphan. Haer. 30; Euseb., Lib. v, cap. 21.
CHAPTER IV. Sign of the Cross spiritual
do Catholics make the sign of the Cross
upon themselves, and why is it so
frequently used in the Church service?
A. Because it is a brief profession of the Christian faith, and its use is derived by universal tradition from the Apostles.
Q.How is it a profession of our faith? [pg. 265]
A. As often as we make the sign of the Cross, repeating at the same time these words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son. and of the Holy Ghost”—we profess ourselves followers of, and believers in, redemption by the Cross, and we at the same time profess our faith in the three Persons of the Adorable Trinity.
Q. How do you prove that the use of this sign is as ancient as the Church itself?
A. From the testimony of the early Fathers and writers: “At the commencement of all our actions, whether we come in or go out; whether we go to dress, to the bath, to the table, or to rest; whether we take a chair or a light, let us always begin by making the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. This practice is not commanded by a formal law of the Scripture, but tradition has taught it, custom confirms it, and faith observes it.” Tertul. de Corona, cap. 4.
Q. Do any of the other Fathers mention it?
A. Origen says the same thing—Select. in Ezech. cap. 9. St. Cyril recommends the same practice to the faithful—Catech. 4. St. Basil—De Spirit. Sanc. cap. 27, No. 66, expressly tells us that it is an apostolical tradition.
Q. Why is the sign of the Cross made so then in the holy Sacrifice, the administration [pg. 266] of the Sacraments, the benedictions, and exterior worship of the Church?
A. To teach us, that every practice, every ceremony, rite, and service, has its virtue solely through the merits and death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross, and that all God’s graces are showered down upon us on account of his sufferings and his blood.
Q. Were not the Christian Copts guilty of superstition in making the sign of the Cross with a hot iron on the foreheads of their children, and was not this the origin of the Catholic practice?
A. Protestants must be very ignorant to make this assertion. The sign of the Cross, not however made by any painful means, was universally used in the Church. The Copts made the sign of the Cross visible on the foreheads of their children to prevent them from being stolen by the Mahometans. (See 1’Abbe Renaudot.)
CHAPTER V. Vestments, and symbols in Liturgy
Q. What do the vestments worn by the Priest signify?
A. Each of them signifies some accompaniment of our Saviour’s passion. The Amice signifies the piece of linen with which our Saviour was blindfolded—Matth. xxvi. The Alb represents [pg. 267] the white garment with which Christ was, in mockery, clothed by Herod—Luke xxiii. The Girdle, Maniple, and Stole represent the cords and fetters with which Christ was bound—John, chap. xviii, 12, 24. The Chasuble represents the purple garment which the soldiers put upon our Divine Saviour.
Q. What is meant by the Cross marked on the Chasuble?A. It represents the Cross which our Saviour carried through the streets of Jerusalem.
Q. What is meant By the corporal and the veil of the chalice?
A. They represent the linen clothes in which our Saviour’s body was wrapped, whilst it lay in the tomb.
Q. What does the altar signify?
A. Calvary, upon which our Saviour was crucified, and also the Table used for the Last Supper.
Q. Why is the Missal carried before the Gospel from the right to the left side of the Altar?
A. To commemorate the transference of the Gospel of Christ from the Jews who rejected it, to the Gentiles who received it.
Q. Why do we stand during the reading of the Gospel? A. To express our readiness to obey the orders of the Son of God. [pg. 268]
Q. Why does the priest put a drop of water into the wine in the Chalice?
A. To represent the union of the divine and human natures in Christ.
Q. Why does the priest elevate the consecrated elements?
A. To represent the elevation of the Cross after our Saviour was nailed to it.
Q. Why does the priest divide the Host into three parts, and let one of them drop into the chalice?
A. To signify the separation of our Saviour’s body From his blood and his soul from both; and to represent the descent of his soul to Limbo, where the spirits were in prison.
Q. Why does the priest pray sometimes in a low, and at other times in a loud voice?
A. Because Christ did so, whilst he was hanging on the Cross.
Q. Why does the priest bless the people at the end of Mass?
A. To represent the benediction which our Saviour gave to his disciples before he ascended to heaven.
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Daily Indulgence:An indulgence partial (100 days) (Leo XIII, by a receipt of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences, August 19, 1893). RACCOLTA page641.