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On the day before He suffered, He took bread into His sacred
and venerable hands. We must observe that the priest who now consecrates according to the Roman Liturgy, begins by reciting what our Lord did and said, He took bread into His sacred hands-lifting His eyes to heaven, and giving thanks—He blessed.
Nor are we bound to suppose that our Blessed Saviour completed all these ceremonies in the few moments which the priest now occupies in narrating what He did. St. Peter in his version records what is omitted in all the other narratives, that Jesus stood, lifting up His eyes to heaven to Thee, the Father Almighty. Are we obliged to believe that this was only a momentary act?
A. As we are assuming, on good grounds, that our Lord is giving His Apostles the pattern and model according to which they are afterwards to do, we may contemplate Him holding the bread for some time in His sacred hands, and praying with His eyes uplifted, as the priest, directed by the sacred rubrics, does now at the Offertory of the Mass.
Again, the priest, who is the delegate of Christ Jesus, now prays as he offers the bread and wine to God before Consecration: "In the spirit of humility and with a contrite soul may we be received by Thee, O God; and so may our sacrifice be accomplished this day in Thy sight, that it may please Thee, Lord our God”. These words are taken from the Old Testament, and are an extract from that prayer which Azarias made to God when standing with his two companions in the fiery furnace of Babylon: For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any other nation; and are brought low this day for our sins. Nor is there at this time prince, or leader, or prophet
, or holocaust, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place of first-fruits before Thee that we may find mercy. Nevertheless, in a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted ; so let our sacrifice be made in Thy sight this day that it may please Thee (Daniel iii.).
B. Words, then, such as these we may contemplate ou Lord devoutly pronouncing while He stands holding the bread in His holy hands, and with His eyes uplifted to His Eternal Father : In a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted : so let our sacrifice be made in Thy sight this day that it may please Thee.
Then, too, we may bear in mind how in that one comprehensive prayer which our Saviour composed for us, the Pater noster, though the faithful throughout Christendom use the common reading of the words, and say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” yet in the translation made by St. Jerome-the Church's chief interpreter of Holy Writ—which is adopted in the Vulgate, he, who was so profound and thorough a scholar in Biblical languages, renders the prayer in these words: Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.
Many commentators, indeed, bring reasons to show that this rendering coincides with the ordinary one, but others gather from the words supersubstantial bread, that our Lord wished our thoughts and desires to be turned not only to the bread that sustains the body, but also to the Bread of Life, the Bread of Angels. I am the Bread from Heaven.
C. This being so, may we not in contemplation picture to ourselves our Blessed Lord—with the bread in His sacred hands, and His eyes uplifted, and the heart of His Blessed Mother united to His own-saying aloud in the name of His fallen race this sacred family prayer, and the petition which on this hallowed night brings home so new and so sublime a meaning : Our Father, Give us this day our supersubstantial Bread; give us the life-giving Body of Thy own Divine Son Jesus ?
D. So, too, we may assume that, in order to give His disciples a model for their future practice, while standing with His eyes upraised, and holding in His sacred hands the bread and the sacred chalice, He prays most fervently for all those for whom He is about to die, the living and the dead ; first for His little flock present, but, as He said a little later, not for them only, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me.
And then, as His disciples, no doubt, believe that it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, we may contemplate Him not forgetting the holy dead ; and
1 Father Barradius proves that Christ offered sacrifice, by thus reasoning His mandate to His Apostles was this : “Hoc facite quod ego. At Apostoli obtulerunt, et illorum successores offerunt. Ergo et Christus obtulit : et ab illo didicerunt" (Comment. in Evang. lib. iii. c. xiv.). He takes for granted that from what the Church does now we may infer what Christ did then.
Father à Lapide in like manner assumes that our Lord used the sign of the Cross in blessing the bread and the chalice, in order to furnish a model for His Church.
thus teaching His Apostles that the clean oblation is to be for ever offered as the Sacrifice of the New Law, both for the living and the dead.
But while, following the example of the saints, we try with the help of God's grace to fill up for ourselves some of the details not given in the Holy Gospel, we take care to remember always the word our Lord spoke a little later, I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; but when He the Spirit of Truth is come, He will teach you all truth. How much, therefore, He taught His Apostles on this holy night concerning the Holy Mass, and how much He left to the Holy Spirit to complete and perfect, we can only reverently conjecture; as the Gospels tell us but little respecting the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist. It has been already said that there were good reasons why the Evangelists and the Apostles were, at the beginning, reserved in their teaching regarding the Adorable Mysteries.
E. Taking bread He gave thanks.
One thing, however, we may look upon as something more than a conjecture, that when, as we read, holding the bread in His venerable hands and with His eyes uplifted, our Saviour gives thanks to His Eternal Father, this thanksgiving is not merely a passing word. So much we may assume as a certainty. What form of thanksgiving our Lord used we are not told.
But as grave theologians take for granted that He is giving His future Church the pattern to be followed-Fac secundum exemplar - it is possible that the glorious hymn of praise which we call the Preface of the Mass, may be either in part a reproduction of what St. Peter hears this night, or a hymn of praise modelled on what our Lord utters as He stands at the altar. We may try, then, devoutly to listen to the tones of His voice, so reverential, so full of love and devotion, as He slowly and solemnly repeats words such as the Seraphim say one to another, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts.
F. This is My Body.
“Ovos omnes, attendite." Oh, give heed now, and watch with your eyes, and with your ears listen ; for the time that the blessed choirs of angels have been spending in expecting ecstasy is past-the time that has reproduced in Holy Mary's heart the transport of that hour when she was awaiting the Birth of her Divine Son-it is gone by. The moment chosen by His Eternal Father is arrived ; and Jesus holding the bread in His sacred and venerable hands, pronounces that word—more wonderful than the word which created all things in the beginning-This is My Body.
G. This is My Body.
And at once, foremost of all in Heaven and on earth, the Ever-Blessed Mother—for whose sake pre-eminently this wonderful word is spoken by the Lord—“Nothing hesitating in her heart,” but “ with her whole heart believing ”-says, as with perfect faith she adores: “I believe, my God: I believe, my Lord; my Son Jesus, I believe ”. And in a new way, and beyond what has been heretofore, her spirit exults in God her Saviour.
H. This is My Body.
And with their Queen, the blessed angels in their noiseless ecstasy call on each other: Come let us adore and fall down : for He is the Lord our God. Blessed, O Queen of Heaven, they add, Blessed is the fruit of thy womb. no mind at all have they to say proudly,
6. We will not serve the Hidden God in His littleness".
1. This is My Body.
“Creative words,” i theologians call them, which, had the Sacred Body not been in existence, would have brought It into being “ Sursum Corda ! Attendite.” With our hearts turned to the Holy Sanctuary let us consider them diligently.
In this moment, under the unchanged appearances of a little wheaten bread, the Lord Jesus is present on the altar. In His own hands He holds Himself, His Body, His Blood, His Soul, His Divinity.
J. This is My Body.
1 “Si Corpus Christi non esset in rerum natura, ad prolationem verborum formalium Corpus Christi de novo produceretur” (Vasquez, in 4, disp. 11, ad 3).
angels, we too may humbly prostrate ourselves to say as
O Hidden God !
all certainty : Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius.
No truth more true than Truth's
own word can be. K. In like manner, taking also the glorious chalice.
Foreknowing, however, that on the morrow His Sacred Blood will be drained out of His Body, and wishing the Holy Mass to show forth till the consummation of the world this separation of His Blood from His Body in Death, again He puts forth the Divine power of His arm, again He proves now that He has for our sake become Man, no word shall be impossible with God.
Therefore, in like manner—in that same hour when the old Paschal supper was brought to an end for ever-taking also the glorious chalice into His sacred and venerable hands —and once more giving thanks to Thee, O Father–He blessed—and gave to His disciples---saying, Take and drink ye all of this--For this is the chalice of My Blood
of the new and everlasting covenant—the mystery of faith—which for you and for many shall be shed unto the remission of sins.
He said, and they were made. He commanded, and they were created (Psalm cxlviii.).
L. This is My Body which shall be delivered for you (St.
Sacred Body, truly born
From the Virgin Mary's womb, Vere passum, immolatum,
Sacred Victim, bruised and torn, In cruce pro homine!
Dead and buried in the tombCujus latus perforatum
Body of the Crucified,
While still hanging on the rood,