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of his letters a tradition of the early Church that on this hallowed night, our Lord, when raising His Apostles to the priesthood, and consecrating, as is thought, some of them to the episcopal office, taught His Church by His own example to use the sacred chrism. If this be so, the vessels containing the oil and the balm to be consecrated are also ready there. And if the High Priest of the New Testament and the chosen candidates for Holy Orders have need of any special Paschal robes, all have been provided by the hospitable good man, under the eye of that watchful Providence that feeds so well the birds, and clothes so richly the lilies of the field.
An additional argument which helps to prove what already seems so probable and reasonable, namely, that this first Holy Mass was considered by the Apostles to be the model that the Church was afterwards to follow, may be drawn from the fact that Pope Leo IX. states in one of his Epistles that the words in the form of consecration used in the Roman Liturgy-Mysterium fidei—were inserted by St. Peter, who, through his special gift of faith, was enabled to understand more fully and retain more exactly the words of our Saviour.
I will go in to the Altar of God (Ps. xlii.). A. In the Sanctuary and immediately round the altar we find the High Priest Jesus and the Eleven whom He had trained so well, and is about to raise to the priesthood according to the order of Melchisedech. They are henceforth to go into Thy holy hill, O God, and into Thy tabernacle. They are to stand at the altar of God in place of the children of Aaron and the Levites, whose office is now to become extinct.
B. There, in a special place prepared for her, we find the Blessed Mother of God, and near her St. Magdalen and other devout women.
C. Then too, as it is recorded that in a separate chamber of the Cenacle the seventy-two disciples, who were to be the helpmates of the Apostles, had eaten the legal Paschal supper, we may also contemplate them permitted to assist at the Holy Sacrifice in the oratory.
1 See Father Barradius and Ven. M. d'Agreda on the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist,
D. Present also, though unseen, are the choirs of the angels drawn down from Heaven by the wonderful novelty and passing holiness of this work to be done on earth. Words akin to those they heard at Bethlehem are their invitation to each other now. Let us go down and see the things that are to be done on Mount Sion. Come, let us praise the Lord with joy, let us joyfully sing to God our Saviour. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving. Their old song was, For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods (Ps. xciv.). Now must they sing a new canticle, “The Lord God is little, and because He is little He will be a great King above all gods”. Their ancient anthem was, Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised. Their new song now shall be, “ Little is the Lord, and exceedingly to be loved. Let us fall down and adore before the littleness of the Lord that made us."
E. Then sternly and with authority does St. Michael, the Prince of the heavenly host, command the wicked spirits of darkness and say to them, Avaunt! so that they shall not dare to intrude at this hour into this Paradise of the new creation. The storm has raged that they stirred up; and this very night the storm shall rage again more fiercely than ever before. But for this short hour of blessed privilege there shall be a great tranquillity.
Sit jucunda, sit decora
Very sweet and most becoming
F. Happy and most blessed company! Is this earth any longer the valley of tears? “ What have we in Heaven," the blessed angels are saying, “ better than Christ, the Son of God? What else is this little Christian Sanctuary with its altar but Domus Dei et porta cæli—the very house of God, the gateway and outer court of Heaven? For our King and the Queen of Heaven are here, and the court of Heaven must needs come out to be with them.”
G. Is Peter saying once more in his secret soul, It is good for us to be here ?? He has good reason to say so.
Other disciples turned away and left Jesus, and walked no more with Him, when He told them in Capharnaum what He was going to do this night. They said : This saying is hard : and they left their God. Most unwisely did they make haste in the time of clouds, and give no heed to the good counsel : Wait on God in patience : believe God and He will recover thee (Ecclus. ii.). Alas! where are they on this hallowed night, they who ought to be with His little flock? Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Fonas, and blessed are they who stood with thee when, as answer to the question of the Lord, Will you also go away ? thou didst so wisely say : Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life!
H. And he, the unhappy man whose place is empty here to-night, whose bishopric another is to take, he too, though perchance he spoke no words on that day at Capharnaum, yet did he entirely in his heart agree with those who then rejected the Holy Mystery of the Blessed Eucharist. For otherwise, it would be difficult to account for that scathing word our Saviour uttered, apparently out of season, Have not I chosen you Twelve, and one of you is a devil ? Judas now, under the orders of the prince of this world, is marshalling his array of soldiers and armed servants, while the High Priest Jesus with His twelve legions of peaceful angels is at the altar.
I. Let us join with St. Peter, and say, It is good for us to be here. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, Who have dealt with us so mercifully that even the most lowly can say daily : Introibo ad altare Dei—I will go in to the altar of God and witness the wonders that are wrought there." I rejoiced at the things that were said to me : we shall go into the House of the Lord (Psalm cxxi.). The prophecy is about to be fulfilled : I will bring them into My holy Mount, and will make them joyful in My House of Prayer : their holocausts and victims shall please Me upon My altar; for My House shall be called the House of Prayer to all the nations (Isaias lvi.).
THE HOLY SACRIFICE. A. And now in contemplation, may we believe that our High Priest Jesus, mindful to teach His future Church, begins the solemn Mysteries with those sacred and familiar words: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” and signs Himself with the sign of salvation ? For it is the opinion of theologians that He did afterwards use the sign of the Cross in blessing the bread and the chalice. 1
B. If after this He bows Himself down and humbles Himself before His Eternal Father, as His delegates at the holy altar shall do hereafter, never shall penitent saint have a heart bruised and contrite His is in this hour. For He knows that He is now the Sinner, the Representative of the sinful race, that the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Everything belonging to the sinner —excepting always the guilt-is now His portion. My iniquities, He can say, are gone over My head, and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon Me. I am become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end. I walked sorrowful all the day long (Psalm xxxvii.).
C. Then we may ask too, does He on this hallowed night for the first time make known to His disciples the hymn of the angels which Holy Mary has had laid up in her heart since the first Christmas night: Glory to God on high, and on earth peace to men of good-will ?
D. After this, if by example He is teaching Holy Church to predispose the minds of the faithful for the Holy Mysteries by some fitting instruction selected from the Old Testament, and some also from His own Gospel, we may ask what words He selects to be read from the ancient prophecies? Does He wish His disciples to be reminded by Malachy that the old priesthood of Aaron and the old sacrifices are now to pass away? To
you, O priests, that
1 See Father Cornelius à Lapide, In Evang. St. Matt. c. xxvi. 26.
despise My name, and have said : Wherein have we despised Thy name? You offer polluted bread upon My altar, and you say: Wherein have we polluted Thee ! In that you say: The table of the Lord is contemptible. If you offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil ? And if you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil ? Offer it to thy prince if he will be pleased with it, or if he will regard thy face, saith the Lord of hosts. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts ; and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles : and in every place there is sacrifice : and there is offered to My name a clean oblation : for My name is great among the Gentiles (Malach. i.).
Or does He rather choose that they should hear some one of the revelations made to His Prophets concerning His Sacred Passion ? For if so, His Apostles will recall in after times what they hear to-night, and thereby understand that remembrance of His sufferings and Death will always be a most suitable preparation for receiving the Blessed Eucharist.
Possibly, too, He foresees how much their shaken faith will be repaired and strengthened, if at this hour to-morrow they shall call to mind that they had heard the terrible events of the day detailed in prophetic words such as those of Isaias. There is no beauty in Him, nor comeliness : and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness that we should be desirous of Him. Despised, and the most abject of men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with infirmity. Surely He hath borne our infirmities, and carried our sorrows; and we have thought Him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins : the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His bruises we are healed (c. liii.).
Or, again, He may perchance think it well that they should hear those prophetic words of the Archangel Gabriel to Daniel which are now to have their fulfilment :