Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday After the Octave of All Saints: The Dedication of Churches

Domum Dei decet sanctitudo: Sponsum ejus Christum adoremus in ea. Such is the Invitatory Antiphon, which sums up the liturgical thought of the day: “Holiness becometh the House of God: let us adore therein Christ her Spouse.”What is this mystery of a house that is at the same time a bride?—Our churches are holy because they belong to God, and on account of the celebration of the holy Sacrifice therein, and the prayer and praise offered to the divine Guest who dwells there. More truly than the figurative tabernacle or the ancient temple, they are separated, solemnly and forever by their dedication, from all the dwellings of men, and exalted far above all earthly palaces. Still, notwithstanding the magnificent rites performed within them on the day they were consecrated to God, notwithstanding the holy oil with which their walls remain forever impregnated, they themselves are devoid of feeling and life. What else, then, can be meant, but that the solemn function of the dedication, and the annual Feast that commemorates it, do not point merely to the material building, but rise to living and more sublime realities? The principal glory of the noble edifice will be to symbolize those great realities. Under the shelter of its roof, the human race will be initiated into ineffable secrets, the mystery whereof will be consummated in another world, in the noonday light of heaven. Let us listen to some doctrine on the subject.

God has but one sanctuary truly worthy of him, viz: his own divine life; the tabernacle, with which he is said to surround himself when he bends the heavens; though impenetrable darkness to the eyes of mortals, it is the inaccessible light wherein dwells in glory the ever-tranquil Trinity. And yet, O God most high, this same divine life, which cannot be contained by the heavens, much less by the earth, thou deignest to communicate to our souls, and thereby to make man a partaker in the divine nature. Henceforth there is no reason why the holy Trinity should not reside in him, just as in the highest heavens. Thus, from the beginning, thou couldst lay it down as the law of the newly-created world, and couldst declare to the abyss, to the earth, to the heavens, that it would be thy delight to dwell with the children of men.

When, therefore, the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, making him the son of Adam, in order that in man might dwell all the fullness of the Godhead corporally. From that day forward earth has had the advantage over heaven. Every Christian has participation in Christ; and having become the temple of the Holy Ghost, bears God in his body. This temple of God, says the Apostle, is holy, which you are; the temple is the individual Christian; it is also the Christian assembly.

Whereas Christ calls the whole human race to participate in its own fullness, the human race in its turn completes Christ. It is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, one body with him, and, together with him, the one victim which is to burn eternally with the fire of love upon the altar of heaven. At the same time, Christ is the corner-stone, on which other living stones, all the predestines, are built up by the apostolic architects into the holy temple of the Lord. Thus the Church is the Bride, and by and with Christ she is the House of God. She is much already in this world, where in labor and suffering the elect stones are chiseled, and are laid successively in the places assigned them by the divine plan. She is such in the happiness of heaven, where the eternal temple is being constructed of every soul that ascends from earth; until, when completed by the acquisition of our immortal bodies, it will be consecrated by the great High-Priest on the day of the incomparable dedication, the close of time. Then will the world, redeemed and sanctified, be solemnly restored to the Father who gave it his only-begotten Son, and God will be all in all. Then it will appear that the Church was truly the archetype shown beforehand on the Mount, whereof every other sanctuary, built by the hands of men, could be but the figure and the shadow. Then will be realized the vision of St. John: I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God.

It was fitting, then, that this Feast should illuminate the closing Cycle with the first rays of eternity. It is by one of the seven Angels having phials full of the seven last plagues, that the Bride in her rich apparel was shown to the Evangelist; let the hope of contemplating her in her glory be a comfort to us too in these evil days. The expectation of her approaching appearance will animate the courage of the just during the final combats.

But let us, the children of the Church, already praise our Mother. Let this day so dear to her heart be to us one of the greatest solemnities; for it commemorates both her birth from the side of the heavenly Adam, and the sacred consecration which entitles her to the good pleasure of the Father, to the love of the Son, and to the bountiful gifts of the Holy Ghost.

When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he reminded Jehovah of his former promises, concerning the place he would choose for his Name to dwell in. Our Churches are far superior to the ancient temple, for they have in them more than the Name of the Lord; moreover, every Christian is now the dwelling-place of God. How much more excellently such is Mary, the predestined tabernacle, sanctified and dedicated, from the first moment of her existence, to the God who was to take Flesh in her, and thus begin to dwell among us!

The name of Church given to the Christian temple signifies the assembly of the baptized. The sanctification of the elect in its successive phases, is the soul and inspiration of that most solemn of liturgical functions, the dedication of a church.

First of all, the temple with its bare walls and closed doors represents the human race created by God, and yet robbed of his presence ever since the original sin. But the heirs of the promise have not yielded to despair: they have fasted, they have prayed through the night; morning finds them sending up to God the supplication of the penitential Psalms, the inspired expression of David’s chastisement and repentance.

At early dawn there appears under the tent, where the exiles are praying (sub tentorio ante fores Ecclesiæ consecrandæ parato), the Word our Savior. He is represented by the Pontiff vesting in the sacred robes, as he clothed himself with our flesh. The God-Man joins his brethren in their prayer; then, leading them to the still closed temple, he there prostrates with them and redoubles his supplications.

Then around the noble edifice, unconscious of its destinies, begins the patient strategy, wherewith the grace of God, and the ministers of that grace, undertake the siege of abandoned souls. Thrice the Pontiff goes around the whole building, and thrice he attempts to force open those obstinately closed doors; but his storming consists of prayers to heaven, his force is but the merciful and respectful persuasion of human liberty. “Open, O ye gates, and the King of glory shall enter in.” At length he unbeliever yields; an entrance is gained into the temple: “Peace eternal to this house, in the name of the Eternal!”

All is not yet finished however; far from it; this is but the commencement; the still profane edifice must be made into a dwelling worthy of God. The Pontiff, now within, continues to pray. His thoughts are intent upon the human race, symbolized by this future church. He knows that in its fallen state ignorance is its first evil. Accordingly he rises; and, on two lines of ashes running transversely from end to end of the temple and crossing in the center of the nave, he traces with his episcopal crozier the Greek and Latin alphabets, the elements of the two principal languages in which Scripture and Tradition are preserved. They are traced with the pastoral staff, on ashes, and on the cross; because sacred science comes to us from doctrinal authority, because it is understood only by the humble, and because it is all summed up in Jesus crucified.

Like the catechumen, the human race now enlightened requires, together with the temple to be purified. The Pontiff makes use of the loftiest Christian symbolism, in order to perfect the element of this purification which he has so much at heart: he mingles water and wine, ashes and salt, figures of the humanity and the divinity, of the death and the resurrection of our Savior. As Christ preceded us in the waters of Baptism at the Jordan, the aspersions are begun at the Altar and continued through the while building. Originally, at this point in the function, not only the interior and the pavement of the temple, but also the exterior of the walls, and in some places even the roof, were inundated with the sanctifying shower which drives away demons, gives this dwelling to God, and prepares it for the reception of fresh favors.

In the order of the work of salvation, water is followed by oil, which confers on the Christian, in the second Sacrament, the perfection of his supernatural being; and which also makes kings, priests, and pontiffs. For all these reasons, the holy oil now flows copiously over the Altar, which represents Christ our Head, Pontiff and King, that it may afterwards, like the water, find its way to the walls of the entire church. Truly is this temple henceforth worthy of the name of church; for thus baptized and consecrated, with the God-Man, by water and the Holy Ghost, the stones of which it is built represent perfectly the faithful, who are bound together and to the divine Corner-Stone by the imperishable cement of love.

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, praise thy God, O Sion! The sacred chants which, since the beginning of the solemn function, have not ceased to enhance its sublime developments, now redouble in enthusiasm; and rising to the full height of the mystery, they hail the church, now so intimately associated to the Altar, as the Bride of the Lamb. From this Altar ascends clouds of incense, which, mounting to the roof and stealing down the nave, impregnate the whole temple with the perfumes of the Spouse. And now the Subdeacons come forward, presenting for the Pontiff’s blessing the gifts made to the Bride on this great day, and the vesture she has prepared for herself and for the Lord.

In the early middle ages, it was only at this point that took place the triumphant translation of the relics destined to be placed in the Altar, after having remained all this time in the tent outside, as it were in exile. This ceremony is still, in the East, the conclusion of the Dedication rites. “I go to prepare a place for you,” said our Lord, “and when I have prepared it, I will come again, and will take you to myself, that where I am you also may be.” In the Greek church, the Pontiff lays the holy relics on the sacred disc (corresponding to our paten), and carries them raised above his head, “honoring equally with the venerable mysteries these precious remains, because the Apostle said of the faithful: You are the body of Christ and his members.” In the West, up to the thirteenth century and even later, the sacred Body of our Lord himself in the holy Eucharist was sealed up in the Altar with the relics of the Saints. It was the “Church united to the Redeemer, the Bride to the Bridegroom,” says St. Peter Damian; it was the final consummation, the passage from time to eternity.

Mass.—Filled with the thought of the day when she became the object of the divine predilection, the Church renews her youth, and puts on her richest ornaments; she robes herself in white as a bride. As at the moment when she was ennobled forever by the outpouring of the holy chrism, the twelve torches, symbols of apostolic light, shine from her consecrated walls above the twelve crosses which testify her right to the favors of heaven.

Our churches are to the Angels the border-land between heaven and earth; hence the Introit repeats the words uttered by Jacob on awakening from his vision of the mysteries ladder, with its heavenly messengers ascending and descending. The Verse, taken from the 83rd Psalm, celebrates at once the earthly and the heavenly temple.

“Is this the kingdom thou didst promise me, Father?” asked Clovis dazzled, as he entered for the first time the church of St. Mary at Rheims. “No,” replied Remigius, “it is the entrance of the way that will lead thee thither.”

Introit

Terribilis est locus iste: hic domus Dei est, et porta cœli, et vocabitur aula Dei.

Terrible is this place: it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven; and shall be called the court of God.

Ps. Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum: concupiscit, et deficit anima mea in atria Domini. Glora Patri. Terribilis.

Ps. How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. Glory be to the Father. Terrible is this place.

The Holy See, while extending this Feast to churches not consecrated, has not thought fit to make any alteration in the Collect. Whether we consider these churches as participating in the privilege of their respective cathedrals; or prefer to look at the dedication in its universal sense as explained above, whereby each sacred building is but the symbol of one august temple the same in all places: thanks are due to him, who enables us this year again to taste the joys of so great a solemnity. Life prolonged and health preserved, are the benefits of God which we ought to recognize; and to thank him for them in his house, is to dispose him to hear us when we come to ask him for all other blessings, corporal or spiritual, in this place where he deigns to listen to all the petitions of his people.

Collect

Deus, qui nobis per singulos annos hujus sancti templi tui consecrationis reparas diem, et sacris semper mysteriis repræsentas incolumes: exaudi preces populi tui, et præsta; ut quisquis hoc templum beneficia petiturus ingreditur, cuncta se impetrasse lætetur. Per Dominum.

O God, who dost renew to us every year the day of the consecration of this thy holy temple, and dost ever bring us again in safety to the holy mysteries, graciously hear the prayers of thy people, and grant that whoever enters this temple to implore blessings, may rejoice in having obtained all his requests. Through our Lord.

The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

Epistle
Lectio libri Apocalypsis beati Johannis Apostoli. Lesson from the Book of the Apocalypse of blessed John the Apostle.
Cap. xxi. Ch. xxi.

In diebus illis: Vidi sanctam civitatem Jerusalem novam descendentem de caelo a Deo, paratam sicut sponsam ornatam viro suo. Et audivi vocem magnam de throno dicentem: Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus, et habitabit cum eis. Et ipsi populus ejus erunt, et ipse Deus cum eis erit eorum Deus: et absterget Deus omnem lacrimam ab oculis eorum: et mors ultra non erit, neque luctus, neque clamor, neque dolor erit ultra, quia prima abierunt. Et dixit qui sedebat in throno: Ecce nova facio omnia.

In those days, I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new.

We must not forget that all the grandeurs of the Church in heaven belong, though invisibly, to the Church on earth, who is even now all beautiful and holy, truly a Bride, and as such attracting God, who through her dwells among us. The Prophets of Israel used the same expressions as does here the beloved disciple, when they announced that the unfaithful Sion was to be superseded, even on earth, by a new Jerusalem:—Behold I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be in remembrance … And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people, and the voice of weeping shall no more be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jerusalem, city of God, give glory to the Lord for thy good things, and bless the God eternal, that he may rebuild his tabernacle in thee … Thou shalt shine with a glorious light: and all the ends of the earth shall worship thee. Nations from afar shall come to thee, and shall bring gifts, and shall adore the Lord in thee … The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire and of emerald, and all the walls thereof round about of precious stones. And its streets shall be passed with white and clean stones: and Alleluia shall be sung in its streets.

Today, then, let us congratulate the Church militant no less than the triumphant; let us renew our veneration for her, our devotedness, and our love. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all you that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all you that mourn for her. That you may suck, and be filled with the breasts of her consolation: that you may milk out, and flow with delights, from the abundance of her glory. Thus sang the prince of prophets, who had seen, in the vision of the far future, the house of the Lord prepared on the top of the mountains, and above the hills among the Gentiles. In proud Ninive, which held Israel captive, the old Tobias echoed his words, declaring himself blessed in the hope that once of his seed might live to contemplate the glory of the new Sion; and he added: Then shall be cursed that shall despise thee: and they shall be condemned that shall blaspheme thee: and blessed shall they be that shall build thee up … Blessed are all that they love thee, and that rejoice in thy peace. And let us conclude with him: Blessed be the Lord who hath exalted it, and may he reign over it for ever and ever.

The ineffable sentiments which fill the soul of holy Church, find vent, in the Gradual, in one of the most admirable of all the Gregorian melodies. The Alleluia Verse is taken from the 137th Psalm.

Gradual

Locus iste a Deo factus est, inestimabile sacramentum, irreprehensibilis est.

This place was made by God, an invaluable mystery, it is without reproof.

℣. Deus, cui adstat Angelorum chorus, exaudi preces servorum tuorum.

℣. O God, before whom stands the choir of Angels, graciously hear the prayers of thy servants.

Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum, et confitebor nomini tuo. Alleluia.

℣. I will worship towards thy holy temple; and I will give glory to thy name. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.

Cap.xix. Ch. xix.

In illo tempore: Ingressus Jesus perambulabat Jericho. Et ecce vir nomine Zachæus: et hic princeps erat publicanorum, et ipse dives: et quærebat videre Jesum, quis esset: et non poterat præ turba, quia statura pusillus erat. Et præcurrens ascendit in arborem sycomorum ut videret eum: quia inde erat transiturus. Et cum venisset ad locum, suspiciens Jesus vidit illum, et dixit ad eum: Zachæe, festinans descende: quia hodie in domo tua oportet me manere. Et festinans descendit, et excepit illum gaudens. Et cum viderent omnes, murmurabant, dicentes quod ad hominem peccatorem divertisset. Stans autem Zachaeus, dixit ad Dominum: Ecce dimidium bonorum meorum, Domine, do pauperibus: et si quid aliquem defraudavi, reddo quadruplum. Ait Jesus ad eum: Quia hodie salus domui huic facta est: eo quod et ipse filius sit Abrahae. Venit enim Filius hominis quaerere, et salvum facere quod perierat.

At that time, Jesus entering in, walked through Jericho. And behold, there was a man named Zacheus, who was the chief of the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was, and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature. And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree, that he might see him; for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus was come to the place, looking up, he saw him, and said to him: Zacheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thy house. And he made haste and came down; and received him with joy. And when all saw it, they murmured, saying, that he was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner. But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold. Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

In the Mass which follows the Dedication of their churches, the Greeks sing the passage of the Gospel, where Jesus says to Simon Bar-Jona: Thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It is a fitting conclusion to the symbolical lessons of so great a day; and one certainly not less relished by us because of the schism which originated it. Let us hail this apostolic rock, the fixing of which in our West proves that the Latin races are predestined to remain forever the quarry that will furnish the noblest materials for the eternal temple. Nevertheless it is from other texts of the sacred Volume that our fathers chose the Gospel reading for today.

The comparison drawn by our Lord between the faithful soul and the man who built his house upon a rock, determined the choice of some churches; and as we have seen, it has inspired more than one Antiphon and Verse in the Office. Rome, however, preferred the passage in St. Luke, where Jesus invites himself to the house of Zachæus. The house which our Lord deigned to make his own, and that not merely for a day, was the publican himself, so despised by the Synagogue; it was all we the Gentiles, of whom, as St. Ambrose says in the Night Office, he was the figure.

Zachæus, lowly of origin and poor in merits like the nations, as the holy Doctor explains, merited to see our Lord, whom his own people would not receive. He, then, who had neither the Prophets nor the Law to raise him above earth and enable him to see the Savior, ran before; he ran to the sycamore, that is to the Cross, by which Jesus, leaving the Jews, had to pass in order to go to the Gentiles. From the height attained by his humility, he beheld the Wisdom of God. He heard the Lord saying to this proud and ungrateful multitude: Behold your house shall be left to you desolate; while to him, despite the pharisaical murmurs of fallen Israel, rose the sweet voice that invited him to supplant the first-born in the honor of receiving his God into his house. And surely, if the house of the man, who hears the words of Jesus and does them, is proof against the winds and waves, being built upon a rock: what dwelling could be more secure, than the heart of this representative of the disinherited nations, so magnificently repairing the past, and anticipating so generously the very counsels of the Lord!

The Offertory is taken from a passage in the first Book of Paralipomenon, where David thanks God for having allowed him to gather the treasures necessary for the building of the temple. The Church makes his words her own, while she offers on the altar not only her gifts, but also herself and her children, to be united in one same Sacrifice with the Lord her Spouse, and to form with him the true temple of God. All things are thine, said the Prophet-King; and we have given thee what we received of thy hand … I know, my God that thou provest hearts and lovest simplicity.

Offertory

Domine Deus, in simplicitate cordis mei lætus obtuli universa: et populum tuum, qui repertus est, vidi cum ingenti gaudio: Deus Israel, custodi hanc voluntatem. Alleluia.

O Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have joyfully offered all these things; and I have seen with great joy thy people which are present: O God of Israel keep this will. Alleluia.

When the Dedication feast is not that of the church in which the Mass is being said, the words in parenthesis in the Secret are omitted.

Secret

Annue, quæsumus Domine, precibus nostris: (ut quicumque intra templi hujus, cujus anniversarium dedicationis diem celebramus, ambitum continemur, plena tibi, atque perfecta corporis et animæ devotione placeamus); ut, dum hæc devota præsentia reddimus, ad æterna præmia, te adjuvante, pervenire mereamur. Per Dominum.

Favorably incline to our prayers, O Lord, we beseech thee: (and grant that all we who are gathered within the walls of this temple, the anniversary day of whose dedication we are celebrating, may be pleasing to thee by complete and perfect devotion of body and soul); so that while we offer these our present vows, we may by thy assistance deserve to arrive at eternal rewards. Through.

Prayer said in a consecrated church has a very special efficacy, as the Communion Antiphon assures us on the strength of God’s own words, declaring his house to be a house of prayer. And therein, adds the Church on her own authority, is verified this other divine word: Every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Communion

Domus mea, domus orationis vocabitur, dicit Dominus: in ea omnis, qui petit, accipit: et qui quærit, invenit, et pulsanti aperietur.

My house shall be called the house of prayer, saith the Lord: every one that asketh therein, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

The Postcommunion gathers into one last aspiration the sentiments which fill the holy Church on this great feast, while it beautifully expresses the manifold mystery of the day.

I have loved O Lord the beauty of thy house, and the place where thy glory dwelleth. May this word remain with us as a lingering fragrance of the great solemnity. Thy house, O God, is our Church, unspeakably beautiful with the splendor of the divine mysteries. Compared with her, what was the tabernacle that sheltered the Ark of the Covenant of Sinai? And yet the thought of it filled the heart of David in the desert, and made him faint like the stag panting after the fountains of water. Let us learn from our fathers, who lived in the ages of expectation, how to love the courts of the Lord.

Christian! the exile which afflicted David, can never be your fate; for in Baptism you became the sanctuary of God. Let this Dedication day remind you of the consecration which took you from yourself to make you the temple of the Holy Ghost; to give you to Christ, together with whom your life is henceforth hidden in the sweet and fruitful secrecy of the Father’s Face. Learn to render to the Blessed Trinity in your soul a homage worthy of his presence.

Lastly, baptized and consecrated soul, remember that you are not alone at the banquet of God’s love; that divine charity, which unites you to Christ the Spouse, must link you to his members, and fit you, a living stone, to the other stones; preparing you here below for your future place in the structure of the heavenly sanctuary. Learn to adapt yourself to the living Church; to vibrate in unison with the great Bride; practicing for eternity, where your one happy occupation will be to glorify with her, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever.

The other Postcommunions, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

Postcommunion

Deus, qui de vivis et electis lapidibus æternum Majestati tuæ præparas habitaculum, auxiliare populo tuo supplicanti, ut quod Ecclesiæ tuæ corporalibus proficit spatiis, spiritualibus amplificetur augmentis. Per Dominum.

O God, who preparest of living and chosen stones an eternal habitation for thy Majesty, assist thy suppliant people, that what benefits thy Church by corporal space, may be enlarged by spiritual increase. Through our Lord.

0 Comments

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply