Ecclesiastical Year for Catholic Schools - Andreas Petz

Sacred Mysteries—Sacrifice of the Mass

Sacred Ceremonies

1. By sacred ceremonies we understand those external acts, instituted by the Church, which indicate an interior effect of divine grace; or the truths of the Church symbolically represented for our contemplation. They are, therefore, specially qualified to enliven and nourish our faith, and many of them are means of imparting graces.

2. Such ceremonies are even essential, because it is natural for man, who is composed of body and soul, to express his interior devotion by exterior acts. Man is impressed by a teaching which is conveyed symbolically, and which appeals to the eye as well as to the ear; and as body and soul both come from God, we are bound to use both in His service. Man even represents God and His Angels, under figures of the human form. If religion had no exterior signs it would be inapprehensible to man, who involuntarily gives outward expression to the inner activity of his soul. The bearing and actions of a man give indication of what is going on in his soul. In fact, history bears witness that no nation ever existed possessing a religion that did not have exterior ceremonies.

3. In the Old Testament there were many such ceremonies commanded by God; but as the Old Law was only preparatory for the New, so the ceremonies of the Old Testament fulfilled" their mission with the coming of Christ. In the New Law, Christ Himself made use of exterior signs with His sacraments, and often otherwise in imparting graces. This has also been the uninterrupted practice of the Church since the time of the Apostles.

4. Some of the outward signs used by the Church were instituted by Christ, and these when validly administered, infallibly impart the graces connected with them; these are the Sacraments. There are other signs prescribed by the Church which are called Sacramentals. The Sacramentals impart graces similar to the Sacraments, not of themselves, however, nor infallibly like the Sacraments, but by the prayers of the Church. and the faith of those who make use of them. There are other outward signs again purely ceremonial; these are not used independently, but serve only to enhance the solemnity of Divine Service, and to make the hearts of the faithful more accessible to grace.

5. In order to participate in the graces derived from these ceremonies, the faithful should endeavor to become familiar with them, at least with the most important. They should often reflect upon their significance, and they will soon perceive what a rich incentive to piety lies concealed in these ceremonies.

The most important ceremonies of the Church are the ceremonies of the Mass and the Sacraments.

6. An epitome of these ceremonies which together form one whole is termed, Ritual. The combined rules of a religion is its cultus; viz., the cultus of the Jewish or the Catholic religion.

Sacred Vestments

1. By sacred vestments we understand the distinctive dress worn by the priest in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or in administering the Sacraments. Even in the Old Law the priestly vestments were minutely described.

In the New Law the Divine Service had become a much holier sacrifice, and it would seem more inappropriate to perform this Divine Service in secular dress. Even in the time of the Apostles, special garments blessed for the purpose were worn. At first the form of these was similar to the secular dress; this, however, changed with the course of time, but the sacred vestments retained much of their primitive form.

2. At Divine Service the priest appears not simply as man, but as the representative of Christ; therefore, it is proper for him to appear in a distinctive dress, which will announce him as the messenger of God, and the mediator between heaven and earth. This dress indicates, on the one hand, the dignity and office of the priest, on the other, the disposition which he should have in performing his sacerdotal functions.

3. The sacred vestments worn by the priest in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice are six in number, viz.:  the amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, and chasuble. Of these the alb, the cincture, the stole and the chasuble date from the time of the Apostles; the others are of later origin.

4. The amice, a white linen cloth, served in early times as a covering for the head and neck; it continued to be so used until about the tenth century, when its place was supplied by the ecclesiastical cap, or berretta, then introduced. The Capuchins and Dominicans still wear the amice over the head until the beginning of Mass, when it is thrown back on the shoulders and adjusted around the neck. As the amice is the first to be donned in vesting, it might be called the basis of the other vestments, and is therefore symbolic of faith, the basis of our holy religion. This cloth is placed on the shoulders and around the neck, and fastened over the breast, to remind us that our faith must be strong and active; it should sanctify our speech and penetrate our inmost soul.

5. The alb  is a symbol of the purity of soul and body requisite for Divine Service. The amice and alb must be of linen. As linen obtains its whiteness only after much arduous labor, so it should remind us that purity of heart is obtained and retained only by patient toil and mortification.

6. The cincture  or girdle, also of linen, is of as great antiquity as the alb, which it always accompanies; it should be of such length, that when doubled it may encircle the body of the priest. Formerly it was made like a sash, now usually a cord; it is the symbol of continence and self restraint. The two ends which hang down equally on each side, are symbolic of the command to watch and pray, the only means by which we acquire self restraint.

7. The maniple  was at first a linen cloth worn on the left arm, representing the cloth which Veronica gave our Lord to wipe His face. Since the eighth century it has been made of the same material as the chasuble and stole.

8. The stole  was at first a long white gown, a symbol of sanctifying grace, which our first parents lost through sin in paradise, and which was repurchased by the Passion of Christ. It is the eminent office of every priest to administer and increase this sanctifying grace through the Sacraments; therefore the stole is a distinctive mark of the sacerdotal office, and must be worn by the priest whenever he performs a priestly function. Formerly, priests were obliged to wear the stole, even when not in church, as a mark of their dignity. According to the present discipline, only the Pope wears the stole in common daily life, and this is in evidence of his jurisdiction over the Universal Church. The papal stole is ornamented with three crosses, the keys, and the tiara. Among the vestments the stole is the symbol of immortality and obedience.

9. The chasuble, which the priest wears outside the other vestments, denotes charity. Charity is the "wedding garment," without which no one will be admitted to the heavenly marriage feast, and without which no priest should ascend the altar. The chasuble is the royal mantle of the priest; it shows the love of sacrifice, which should encompass him, as the chasuble envelopes the body.

Formerly the chasuble was much larger than now; it reached down to the feet and covered the whole body, even the arms and the hands. Therefore the acolytes were obliged to lift the chasuble at the Elevation, to permit the priest to make the genuflection.

The various portions of the sacerdotal vestments are also commemorative of our Lords' Passion, and serve to remind the priest of the duties of his office.

a)    The amice is the veil which covered the face of our Lord.
b)    The alb, the vesture He was clothed in by Herod.
c)    The cincture, the scourge ordered by Pilate.
d)    The maniple, the rope by which He was led.
e)    The stole, the rope which fastened Him to the pillar.
f)    The chasuble, the purple garment worn before Pilate.

Behold the priest at the altar, the tonsure recalls the crown of thorns. Nothing is wanting, not even the cross; it is large upon the chasuble; the celebrant, like his Master, carries it upon his shoulders.

This cross is formed of our iniquities. Let us not forget it, when the priest comes forth to offer sacrifice; let us say to him who stands in the place of Jesus Christ: It behooves me to carry that cross which love has made you bear in my stead. I know that my weakness is too great for such a burden; but, at least, I will fill the place of Simon of Cyrene, and will help you with the aid of my feeble prayers. How very few Christians pray for the priest as he goes to the altar, yet not only charity but justice renders this a duty.

10. The cope, which is called pluviale  in the Latin liturgical language, from the Latin word pluvial—rain,—was formerly worn in processions as a protection against rain; it was provided with a hood, with which the head could be covered; the cape on the cope is a remnant of this. Strictly speaking, it is only another form of the chasuble, better adapted to processions and other religious functions, distinct from the Mass.

11. The super humeral veil, or vellum, is made of the same material as the cope, and is used by the subdeacon in solemn Masses, to hold the paten from the Offertory to the Pater Noster, in imitation of the Levites of the Old Law, who were not permitted to carry the sacred vessels until they had been wrapped up in coverings by the priests. It is also worn by the priest while giving benediction with the Blessed Sacrament, and while carrying the Blessed Sacrament in processions.

12. The surplice, derived from the Latin word superpellicium;  it has wide sleeves, the same significance as the alb, and supplies its place in many sacerdotal functions apart from the Mass.

The rochet, a vestment of linen, fitting closely, with close sleeves reaching to the hands, proper to bishops, abbots and other dignitaries. The length and close fitting sleeves distinguish it from the surplice. Priests who are allowed to wear it are to regard it as a choir garment, and are not to use it in the administration of the Sacraments. Bishops, on the other hand, wear it in giving Confirmation.

13. The dalmatic. A vestment open on each side, with wide sleeves, and marked with two stripes. It is worn by deacons at High Mass, as well as at processions and benediction, and by bishops under the chasuble when they celebrate Mass pontifically.

The word dalmatic is derived from Dalmatia, where it was originally worn; it is of the same color as the chasuble of the celebrant.

14. The vestments worn by the bishop at a pontifical High Mass give evidence of his Apostolic power. The bishop wears, besides the vestments of the priest, also those of the deacon, because in the bishop are combined the virtues and functions of all the ministers of the altar. But, since the bishop's power with its requisite love of sacrifice is a more perfect one than that of the priest, he wears furthermore six other ornaments. The first three are emblematic of his greater virtue, the last three of his greater power. These ornaments are:

Hose  and Sandals.
The hose are ceremonial stockings reaching to the knee; the shoes are called sandals; they signify the pure intention with which the bishop, as embassador of heaven, fearlessly leads the faithful on the way of salvation.

Pectoral cross.
The cross worn on the breast, is emblematic of the sacrificial love with which the bishop courageously walks in the bloody footprints of our Divine Lord. The relics of the saints, enclosed in this cross, should still more increase the love of sacrifice.

The gloves are worn as a sign that the bishop's hands should always be pure and spotless, in order to administer justice and impart blessings to mankind.

The mitre is a symbol of the bishop's high dignity as a legislator and guide to the people of God. The two horns of the mitre denote the two Testaments, because his office of legislator and teacher embraces the revelations of the Old and the New Testaments.

The ring is worn by the bishop is to signify his indissoluble union with the Church of God. As spouse of the Church, he is at the same time her defender against her enemies, and administrator of the treasures of grace confided to her by Christ.

Crosier or Pastoral Staff.
The crosier denotes the pastoral power bestowed upon him, to lead, govern and support the flock entrusted to his care. The bishop's staff is bent at the top like a shepherd's crook. The Pope alone does not use a pastoral staff.

At all Divine Services a lighted candle is kept beside the book to indicate the bishop's higher knowledge, as well as the prudence and watchfulness he should exercise in the administration of his office.

15. The pallium  is part of the papal vesture; but the Pope bestows it also on patriarchs and archbishops, to signify that he places part of his supreme jurisdiction upon their shoulders. Special canonical rights are connected with the pallium. It is a band of white wool worn on the shoulders, and is attached to the chasuble. by three golden pins. Before being sent to the prelate, it is placed, over night, on the tomb of St. Peter; it is to be worn only on special occasions. Its material, taken from the fleece of little lambs, reminds the bishop that he should carry the weary sheep on his shoulders, and bring them back to the fold, even at the price of the greatest toil and weariness. The three pins which fasten it to the chasuble are a souvenir of the love of the Good Shepherd, fastened by nails to the cross for love of His sheep. The higher the dignity the greater love of sacrifice should accompany it. He who is invested with the pallium should abide in the closest intimacy with the successor of St. Peter, the Pope of Rome, therefore the pallium is sent him from the tomb of St. Peter.

16. The Pope on special, solemn occasions wears the Tiara, or triple crown. At ceremonies of a purely spiritual character, the Pope wears the bishop's mitre, not the tiara. The tiara is a sign of his ternporal power, as well as of his ecclesiastical sovereignty. He wears a triple crown to signify that he has received his power from the Triune God; and exercises his office as legislator, priest, and shepherd over the entire church in the name of the Triune God.

17. The color of the vestments changes according to the different seasons and functions of the ecclesiastical year; and is expressive of the disposition with which the Divine Service should be celebrated.

a) White denotes joy, innocence and purity;
It is worn, therefore, on the feasts of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, the Angels, and of all those Saints, who are not martyrs. On the Feast of St. John the Baptist, however, white is worn although he was martyred, because he was sanctified before his birth.

b) Red is an emblem of love and of blood;
It is used on Pentecost in memory of the tongues of fire; it is also used on the feasts of the Apostles and martyrs, and on those of our Lord's Passion, as well as on the Feast of the Holy Cross, because our Lord shed His blood upon the Cross.

c) Green is symbolic of hope;,
It is used after the octave of Epiphany until Septuagesima, and after the octave of Pentecost until Advent, on those days which have no special feast.

d) Violet is the color of humility and penance;
It is worn in Advent and Lent, on Ember days, Rogation days and vigils. This color is also used on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, on account of the lamentations and weeping heard through Jerusalem when they were massacred by order of Herod. But should this feast fall upon Sunday, the color of the occasion is red, as is also the color of the octave, from the fact that the lamentations are supposed to have ceased by this time.

e) Black is symbolic of mourning;
It is used in Masses and Offices of the Dead, also on Good Friday in memory of the profound darkness that covered the land, when our Lord was crucified. There is generally some white about black vestments to indicate that the souls of the departed will soon enter upon eternal joys. At the obsequies of young children, white is worn because they die in innocence.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

NOTE: The description of the mass that follows is that of the pre-Vatican II Roman Rite.

1. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the self-same sacrifice which was consummated by Christ for the redemption of mankind. "The order of the Mass," says Pope Innocent III., "is arranged upon a plan so well conceived, that everything done by Jesus Christ or concerning Him, from His Incarnation to His Ascension, is therein largely contained either in words or in actions, and wonderfully presented.

2. The Mass is divided usually into four parts, viz.:  into a preparatory, and three principal parts.

The preparatory part was in early Christian times called the Mass of the Catechumens, because they were allowed to assist at it. This part comprises the "Judica me Deus,"  (Psalm XLII.), the Introit, the Kyrie, the Gloria, Collects, Epistles  and Gospel. The Credo  forms the transition to the real Sacrifice of the Mass of the faithful, as it was formerly called.

Part first comprises the Offertory, the Lavabo  (washing of hands), the Orate Fratres, the Secret, the Preface  and the Sanctus.

Part second comprises the Canon, and begins therefore, after the Sanctus with the prayer, Te igitur, and ends just before the "Pater Noster."  The name Canon is given to this part of the Mass, because it contains the fixed rule according to which the Sacrifice of the New Testament is to be offered.

Part third begins with the Pater Noster  and continues to the end of Mass; it comprises the Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Domine non sum dignus, the Communion, Post Communion, the Ite Missa est, the Blessing and the Last Gospel.

3. Various interpretations of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass have been given. Some consider it only a figure of the Passion and Death of our Lord, because in the Mass, the sacrifice of the Cross is renewed and continued. But the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass contains still more and greater mysteries; it comprises the whole life of our Redeemer, and the entire work of Redemption.

4. Christ effected the work of redemption as Prophet, Priest  and King. This threefold activity is also presented to us in the Sacrifice of the Mass. From the Introit to the Offertory, we see the prophetic activity of our Redeemer; from the Offertory to the Pater Noster, His sacerdotal activity, and from the Pater Noster to the end of Mass, His kingly activity. Therefore, according to its essence, the Mass may be divided into three parts.

5. In order to participate in the sacrifice of our Redeemer, we must offer ourselves with Him to His heavenly Father. Our life should also be a life of sacrifice. This human sacrifice attains its end in three parts, and the sacrifice of the Mass comprises the same in its three parts. Christ stands before the door and knocks; at the Introit he celebrates His entrance into our hearts. During the prophetic part of the Mass, Christ leads us by the hand, on the way of purification by our living faith; in the second part, the sacerdotal, He leads us on the way of sanctification by our hope and confidence in God; in the third part, finally, the kingly, He leads us by love on the way of intimate union, which attains its consummation through Holy Communion.

6. The Sacrifice of the Mass comprises the entire sacrificial life of the Christian; it is, therefore, the central point of the Sacraments. Baptism and Penance, the so-called Sacraments of the Dead, lead us on the way of purification; the five others, the Sacraments of the Living, lead us on the way of sanctification, and the Communion especially leads us on the way of intimate union with God. But this union with God through Holy Communion is obtained for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

7. Therefore we distinguish the three following divisions of the Mass:

Part first, which extends from the beginning of the Mass to the Offertory, prepares the sacrifice, and shows us the Redeemer as prophet, leading the Christian participator on the way of purification.

Part second, from the Offertory to the Pater Noster, completes the consecration of the sacrifice, showing us Christ as priest, and leading the partaker on the way of sanctification.

Part third, which begins with the Pater Noster and lasts until the end of Mass; it contains the consummation of the sacrifice through Holy Communion; showing us our Redeemer as king, and leading us on the way of intimate union with God.