In The Soul of the Apostolate, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. (a Cistercian like our own beloved St. Bernard), tells us the true and beautiful inner meaning of Catholic liturgy in these memorable words:
O my soul, you must go into the very heart of the Adorable Trinity and contemplate there the eternal Liturgy in which the three Persons chant, one to another, their divine Life and infinite Sanctity, in their ineffable hymn of the generation of the Word and the procession of the Holy Spirit. Sicut erat in principio...
God desires to be praised outside of Himself. He created the angels, and heaven resounded with their joyous cries of Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. He created the whole world and it magnifies His power: "The heavens announce the glory of God."
Adam comes to life and begins to sing, in the name of creation, a hymn of praise in echo of the everlasting Liturgy. Adam, Noah, Melchisedech, Abraham, Moses, the people of God, David, and all the saints of the Old Law vied in chanting it. The Jewish Pasch, their sacrifices and holocausts, the solemn worship of Jehovah in His Temple, gave this praise, especially since the fall. "Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner."
You, Jesus, You alone are the perfect hymn of praise, because You are the true glory of the Father. No one can worthily glorify Your Father, except through You. Per ipsum, et cum Ipso et in Ipso est tibi Deo Patri...omnis honor et Gloria.
You are the link between the Liturgy of earth and the Liturgy of heaven, in which You give Your elect a more direct participation. Your Incarnation came and united, in a living and substantial union, mankind and all creation, with the Liturgy of God Himself. Thus it is God Who praises God, in our Liturgy. And this is full and perfect praise, which finds its apogee in the sacrifice of Calvary.
Divine Savior, before You left the earth, You instituted the Sacrifice of the New Law, in order to renew Your immolation. You also instituted Your Sacraments, in order to communicate Your life to souls.
But You left Your Church the care of surrounding this Sacrifice and these Sacraments with symbols, ceremonies, exhortations, prayers, etc., in order that she might thus pay greater honor to the Majesty of the Redemption, and make it more understandable to her children, and help them to gain more profit from it while exciting in their souls a respect full of awe.
You also gave Your Church the mission of continuing until the end of time the prayer and praise which Your Heart never ceased to send up to Your Father during Your mortal life and which It still goes on offering to Him, in the Tabernacle and in the splendor of Your glory in heaven.
The Church, who loves You as a Spouse, and who is full of a Mother's love for us, which comes to her from Your own Heart, has carried out this twofold task. That is how those wonderful collections were formed, which include all the riches of the Liturgy.
Ever since, the Church has been uniting her praises to those which the angels and her own elect children have been giving to God in heaven. In this way, she already begins to do, here below, what is destined to occupy her for all eternity.
United to the praises of the man-God, this praise, the prayer of the Church, becomes divine and the Liturgy of the earth becomes one with that of the celestial hierarchies in the Court of Christ, echoing that everlasting praise which springs forth from the furnace of infinite love which is the Most Holy Trinity.
De cetero, fratres, confortamini in Domino, et in potentia virtutis ejus. Induite vos armaturam Dei, ut possitis stare adversus insidias diaboli. Quoniam non est nobis colluctatio adversus carnem et sanguinem, sed adversus principes et potestas, adversus mundi rectores tenebrarum harum, contra spiritualia nequitiae, in caelestibus. Propterea accipite armaturam Dei, ut possitis resistere in die malo, et in omnibus perfecti stare. State ergo succincti lumbos vestros in veritate, et induti loricam justitiae, et calceati pedes in praeparatione evangelii pacis; in omnibus sumentes scutum fidei, in quo possitis omnia tela nequissimi ignea exstinguere. Et galeam spiritus (quod est verbum Dei); per omnem orationem et obsecrationem orantes omni tempore in spiritu, et in ipso vigilantes in omni instantia et obsecratione pro omnibus sanctis....
For the rest, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of his power. Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore take up the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of justice, and having your feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace, and in all things take up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God. With all prayer and supplication pray at all times in the Spirit, and therein be vigilant in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.... Ephesians 6: 10-18
From "The Devastated Vineyard" (1973), by Dietrich von Hildebrand
One forgets that Christ always addressed only individual souls; as Kierkegaard emphasizes in his "Purity of Heart": God knows only the individual and not the mass.
Sacred community among Christians can only grow out of the love for Christ. This sacred community must "pass through" the intimate personal union with Christ. The words of Christ, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt. 18:20), are often wrongly interpreted. One thinks that community as such draws Christ into our midst. One forgets the decisive importance of the words, "in my name." These words, which Christ also uses in speaking of that prayer to God which will be heard, include many things and refer to a basis of Christian community which goes beyond merely aiming at community. They include full faith in Christ as He is encountered in every individual, meeting other Christians in Christ -- here the individual soul goes beyond its union with Jesus and attains to a holy union with others which is possible only in and through Him...
...The great miracle of consecration at Mass lies of course in the transformation of bread into the real living, glorified Body of Christ, and of wine into His real Blood united with His Body. This bodily presence of Christ in the consecrated Host is something utterly different from His presence in the midst of those who are gathered together in His name....In emphasizing the meal rather than the unbloody re-enactment of the sacrifice of Calvary, rather than His becoming really present in the Mass, community with the other faithful is made the main thing. The main theme of the holy Mass -- the re-enactment of the sacrifice of Calvary, by which God is unspeakably glorified -- is thrust into the background. One forgets that the glorification of God is the center of the holy Mass, and that each individual, together with all the other faithful, has the privilege of participating in this glorification which the priest as representative of Christ carries out. The earlier practice of the priest facing the altar was a deep expression of this: the faithful looked with the priest toward the altar, and they were drawn by him into the mystery of the sacrifice. This was a deep Christ-centered gesture: the priest, who represents Christ, was shown to be that mediator at Mass whom we follow -- and he was completely directed to God.
...This is the true sacred hierarchy: first, the glorification of God, where we are directed exclusively to God in adoration, then the intimate union of love with Jesus in Holy Communion, and finally the triumphant unity with all the faithful who are present, as well as with the entire Church. As soon as one aims at this unity directly and ignores this sacred hierarchy, one loses the unity and replaces it, at least subjectively, with a profane unity, such as we might find in an association of army veterans. Blindness to the sacred as well as secularization go hand in hand with an overemphasis on the "collective," with the triumph of collectivism.
Reflections on the Birth of Our Lord, drawn from the treasure house of the Church's ancient liturgy.
Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus: et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam ejus. (Introit, Vigil of the Nativity)
Revelabitur gloria Domini: et videbit omnis caro salutare Dei nostri. (Communio, Vigil of the Nativity)
Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te. (Introit, Midnight Mass)
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuae: in splendoribus sanctorum, ex utero ante luciferum genui te. (Gradual, Midnight Mass)
Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret. Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in praesepio: quia non erit eis locus in diversorio. (from the Gospel for Midnight Mass)
Lux fulgebit hodie super nos: quia natus est nobis Dominus...
"What is needed, as the foundation of any organization that calls itself Catholic, is the purpose of having its members pursue Christian perfection, together with a provision of means to secure this end." Applied Christianity, by Fr. John J. Hugo. Only by "supernaturalizing" its participants by weaning them from a love of worldly things, says Fr. Hugo, can such an organization bring forth spiritual fruit.
You have seen the reports. Some two-thirds of present day Catholics do not believe that they are actually receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the Eucharist; and many do not realize that their belief in this regard is at odds with the perennial teaching of Holy Mother Church. How can this be ?
In St. John's Gospel, Jesus says: "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." (John 6:53-56) Taking our Lord at His word, the Fathers of the Council of Trent declared that, "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy council now again declares, that, by the consecration of the bread and wine, there takes place a change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly named transubstantiation." (D. 1642)
The Second Vatican Council did not (and could not) alter the solemnly defined doctrine of Transubstantiation. As Pope Paul VI observed in his encyclical Mysterium fidei (Sept. 6, 1965), "The presence [of Christ in the Eucharist] is called 'real', not to exclude the idea that [other modes of presence] are 'real' too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man. And so it would be wrong for anyone to try to explain the manner of presence by dreaming up a so-called 'pneumatic' nature of the glorious body of Christ that would be present everywhere; or for anyone to limit it to symbolism, as if this most sacred sacrament were to consist in nothing more than an efficacious sign 'of the spiritual presence of Christ and of his intimate union with the faithful, the members of his Mystical Body.' As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food; but they take on this new signification, this new finality, precisely because they contain a new 'reality' and that we can rightly call ontological. For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before, but something completely different; and not just in the estimation of Church belief, but in reality, since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except the species -- beneath which Christ, whole and entire in his physical 'reality', is even corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place." (D. 4412-4413)
While Catholic doctrine has not changed, Catholic observance and practice regarding the Eucharist has changed, and changed substantially, in ways that have undermined the traditional belief of Catholics.
Transubstantiation is tough going. Jesus' declaration that His flesh was true food and His blood true drink was met with hostility. "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" (John 6: 60) Even the disciples were "murmuring" (John 6: 61), and many "returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." (John 6: 66) The Fathers of Trent, acting as they were in the wake of serious challenges by Protestant reformers, were very conscious of this problem, and they erected an array of protections to reinforce true Catholic belief. The Council declared that the faithful must venerate the Sacrament with the worship of latria that is due to the true God (D. 1643); that there should be special feast days where the Sacrament should be hailed with particular veneration and solemnity and carried in Eucharistic procession (D. 1644); that the Holy Eucharist should be carefully reserved in a sacred place (D. 1645); that Christians must prepare to receive the Sacrament worthily (D. 1646); and that the laity should receive communion from the priest (D. 1648). These salutary teachings were integral to the worship of ordinary Catholics, reflected in Eucharistic fasts, frequent confession, receipt of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue, Benediction, Corpus Christ processions, etc. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, these observances were eliminated almost in toto: the fast was reduced to a single hour, confession has become infrequent, Communion is received standing and in the hand, Benediction and Eucharist processions have been all but suppressed.
The consequence, as we now know, is that some two-thirds of present day Catholics no longer believe that they are receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Shaped by the priest's celebration of Mass versus populum instead of ad orientem, these Catholics are prone to experience Christ's presence in the praying community instead of in the Eucharistic elements.
"Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I." As Pope Paul VI observed, this mode of presence is "real", but it is not the Real Presence par excellence whereby Our Lord Jesus Christ through the mystery of Transubstantiation gives us his very body and blood in the Holy Eucharist, so that we may abide in Him, and He in us.
The feast of our patron, St. Bernard of Clairvaux is August 20th. Please join us in his novena as we pray for the success of the LMS' mission in the Hudson Valley!
The Vesper hymn for the feast of St. Mary Magdalene is one of the most ardent and lyrical hymns of the whole Church year.
It beautifully expresses a key theme of our patron, St. Bernard, which Mary teaches us in her passionate devotion to the Lord:
Pellit timorem caritas ~ Love casts out fear.
Pater superni luminis, cum Magdalenam respicis, flammas amoris excitas, geluque solvis pectoris.
Amore currit saucia pedes beatos ungere, lavare fletu, tergere comis, et ore lambere.
Astare non timet cruci: sepulcro inhaeret anxia, truces nec horret milites: pellit timorem caritas.
Father, source and giver of heavenly light, with a glance You lit a fire of love in the Magdalene
and thawed the icy coldness of her heart.
Wounded by love she ran to anoint Your blessed feet, to wash them with her tears, to dry them
with her hair and kiss them with her lips.
She was not afraid to stand by the Cross; in anguish of soul she stayed by Your tomb
without fear of the cruel soldiers, for love casts our fear.