Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Manners, Customs, and Significance

~Hat tip to Fr. Tucker. Since we're talking about hunting down vestments and altar-ing spaces for the Classical Rite, here's an excerpt from an 1894 book Manners, Customs, and Observances: Their Origin and Significance: Regal and Ecclesiastical. [paragraph breaks added for readability]

18. Everything in the Roman Catholic Church has a meaning. The Altar signifies the table upon which our Lord partook of the Last Supper with His apostles, and also Mount Calvary, upon which He shortly afterwards offered Himself as a living sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. In all ages of the world the word "altar" has had relation to sacrifice; and as the Roman Catholic Church alone offers up sacrifice, it does not obtain and cannot be claimed by any other religious communion.

The rubric that the altar must always be of stone is founded upon the circumstance that the Sacrifice of the Mass was originally offered up on the tombs of the martyrs in the Roman catacombs (see 224). The Corporal and Linen Cloths which cover the altar are symbolical of the linen cloths wrapped around the sacred body of our Lord when He was laid in the sepulchre. The Candles lighted on the altar signify the light of faith revealed to the Gentiles. The Crucifix is ever present in the centre of the altar to remind the worshippers of the Passion and Death of the Redeemer; the Chalice represents the holy sepulchre; and the Patten, the stone which was rolled against the entrance to that abiding-place of the sacred body of Jesus Christ.

Quite as much meaning is conveyed by the different Vestments worn by the priest at the altar. The Amice, which, after holding it for a moment over his forehead, he fastens around his neck, represents the piece of linen with which the Jews bandaged the eyes of our Lord before they struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, "Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?" The Alb, or long white robe, is symbolical of the garment which Herod put about the body of our Lord when he sent Him back to Pilate. The Maniple, pinned on the left arm, the Stole, which hangs around his neck, and the Girdle, represent the cords with which our Lord was bound when He appeared before Caiaphas, the High l'riest. The Chasuble, or outer vestment, denotes the purple garment put upon Him by the soldiers when they mockingly saluted Him as King of the Jews, and the Cross embroidered upon it, the ignominious instrument of His death, which He bore upon his sacred shoulders up the hill of Calvary.

Even the Colour of the Outer Vestment is significant. RED is used for Feasts of the Holy Ghost (see 7), and of the Martyrs; PURPLE in times of penance and mourning (see 206, 373, 379); WHITE on Feasts of the Blessed Trinity, of our Lord, except during His Passion, of the Virgin, and of the Saints, unless they are Martyrs; BLACK on Good Friday, and in Masses for the Dead; and GREEN on all other occasions, i.e., when there is no special feast.

19. The Burning of Incense in the Roman Catholic Church is an observance borrowed from the Jewish ritual, and having the same signification, viz., that the prayers of the faithful may ascend to heaven "as incense in Thy sight." In addition to numerous allusions to incense burning in the Old Testament, we read in Luke i., relative to the history of Zacharias, that, "According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense." Incense was also burned in the temples of pagan Rome (see 298).

20. In the porch of every Roman Catholic Church will be found a stoup containing Holy 'Water. This is a custom derived from the Jewish ecclesiastical law. We read in the Old Testament that God commanded Moses to make a layer of brass, which was to stand outside the Tabernacle so that the priests might wash before ministering to the Lord. Again: "And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel" (Numbers v.). During the first centuries of Christianity all persons entering the church first washed their hands in the holy-water stoup; now they merely sprinkle themselves with the water as an outward manifestation of their intention to approach the altar with purity and innocence of heart. This holy water is pure water blessed, and containing a little salt. Salt enters largely into the ceremonies of the Church, being regarded as emblematical of incorruptibility. It had also the same signification among the pagans (see ióx).

21. The object of the universal employment of the Latin Tongue in the Mass is very clearly set forth by Dr. Bagshawe, the author of "The Catechism Illustrated," and other works, as follows: "The Catholic Church is not the Church of one nation, speaking one language. Her children are literally of all nations and tribes and tongues; the languages spoken by them must be numbered by hundreds. It would never do to translate the solemn sacrifice into the language of every barbarous tribe that embraces Christianity; therefore the Church chooses one language. For instructions, for all prayers in which the people can join, each nation uses its own tongue; but in the Sacraments and the Sacrifice they all employ the one language of the Church. Again, the Church is not of one age, but 'she subsists in all ages.'

The languages of men are perpetually changing, and the lapse of a very few hundred years makes them unintelligible. For instance, when St. Augustine came to convert England there was no such language as English, and no such language as French; yet the Mass which he brought to England was almost word for word what it is now. Indeed, we find recorded as an event in the life of Pope Gregory, who sent him to England, that he introduced six words into the Canon of the Mass, which we now find there. Had the Mass been in the language of the country, how many times must it have been altered since then!" To add any words of our own to the foregoing would be an insult to the intelligence of the reader.

23. The object of placing the Altar at the East End of Churches, so that the worshippers shall have their faces towards the east, is generally stated to be as a reminder of Christ, "the Day Spring and the Resurrection." But we can trace this custom much further back than the commencement of the Christian era. The Greeks and other nations of antiquity not only buried their dead with the feet towards the east, but, like the Romans who came after them, they habitually turned their faces eastwards while praying. The true explanation of this must be sought in sun worship, which is the instinctive religion of all primitive races. The Jews turn their faces in the direction of Jerusalem, and the Mohammedans in that of Mecca, as indicated by a framed card containing the word Misrach, or East, among the former, and by a niche in one of the walls among the latter during prayers.


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