28 May 2024

The Holy Rosary

Tuesday, the Sorrowful Mysteries, in Latin with Cardinal Burke.

Should Iran Restore Monarchy ~ Survey Results


Iran became a Republic during the Islamic revolution that saw millions leave their homes. 

We present here the survey conducted by The Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN) from the Netherlands (2022), and the TMC survey conducted among the Iranian Diaspora in 2023.

Science, Wonder, and the Existence of God

With Fr Gregory Pine, OP,  BA, STL, Assistant Director for Campus Outreach at the Thomistic Institute and Alexander Pruss, PhD(Maths), PhD(Philosophy), Prof., Baylor University.

The Jesuits Are On The Verge Of Total Collapse

Heretics Are Upset That Young Priests Want To Be Catholic

Why St. Augustine of Canterbury Is Celebrated as the “Apostle of the English”

St Augustine of Canterbury, also known as St Austin to differentiate him from the Father of the Church has three Feast Days! Today is one of them.


From Aleteia

By Philip Kosloski

St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent by St. Gregory the Great to evangelize the English people.

One of the most popular “St. Augustines” in the English speaking world is St. Augustine of Canterbury, often called the “Apostle of the English.”

Born in the 6th century, St. Augustine was handpicked by St. Gregory the Great to be one of his missionaries in distant lands.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “A rumor had reached Rome that the pagan inhabitants of Britain were ready to embrace the Faith in great numbers, if only preachers could be found to instruct them.”

This led St. Gregory the Great to select St. Augustine for the missionary journey.

He and his companions arrived in Britain and were greeted by King Aethelberht, who was captivated by them.

The evident sincerity of the missionaries, their single-mindedness, their courage under trial, and, above all, the disinterested character of Augustine himself and the unworldly note of his doctrine made a profound impression on the mind of the king. He asked to be instructed and his baptism was appointed to take place at Pentecost.

St. Augustine’s efforts bore much fruit and Christianity took hold in Britain.

Christianity’s foundation in Britain is directly connected to St. Augustine, which is why he is rightly called Apostle of the English.

Dekulakization: When the Soviets Tried to Wipe Out an Entire Class (Communism at Work)


Explore the brutal history of Dekulakization in the Soviet Union, where Stalin's ruthless policies led to the suffering and deaths of millions of Kulaks. Witness this harrowing tale of classicide.

Closed Up Inside a Dogmatic Box?

'If a minister is standing before two men or two women who are holding hands and pronounces a blessing over them, he is not simply blessing them as individuals, he is blessing them as a couple, a couple who commit homosexual acts. To think otherwise would be a charade. To bless them as an active homosexual couple is blasphemous, for one cannot attempt to bless a sin as if it was morally virtuous.'


From The Catholic Thing

By Fr Thomas G. Weinandy, OFMCap.

Note: As Fr. Weinandy rightly points out today, Pope Francis misunderstands the Church in the United States, particularly what conservative Catholics here are and do. Unlike the dead clinging to dogmas that the pope believes exists on these shores among many bishops, priests, and laity, our adherence to the full tradition of the Faith is quite dynamic, probably more dynamic — for all the challenges — than any place on earth outside Africa. Conveying a better understanding of how the Church can be both faithful and fruitful is one of our central missions at ‘The Catholic Thing’, not least to our many readers in Rome. Please, help us in that work and in addressing the many other things our time demands. Click the button. Keep TCT coming to you, and the world, every morning for a long time to come. — Robert Royal

CBS’s 60 Minutes is the premier television interview program in the United States. Over the years, it has held conversations with politicians, heads of state, royalty, celebrities, actors, athletes, and other people of note. On Sunday, May 19, it aired an interview with Pope Francis, the first time that 60 Minutes has interviewed a Roman Pontiff.

Pope Francis appears to enjoy giving interviews, and he is very good at giving them. He has a common touch in his manner of expressing himself, employing words and phrases that catch the imagination of his listeners. He comes across as one who understands and can speak to ordinary men and women. In so doing, he elicits an affectionate response. This was evident in the 60 Minutes interview. He smiles. He makes people laugh. He can even tell a good joke. He endears people to himself. People cannot help but love Pope Francis, and this is a good thing.

That said, there is also another trait that has become apparent when the topic of the Catholic Church in the United States arises. On this subject, one can be assured that Pope Francis will offer some criticisms. He perceives the American Catholic Church as conservative – particularly many of the American Bishops. This concern again became evident in the 60 Minutes interview.

When asked by Norah O’Donnell about the criticisms he has encountered from American Catholics, Pope Francis first stated that a conservative is someone who “clings to something and does not want to see beyond that.” Conservatism has no future. It only has a past to which it tightly cleaves. In this light, Pope Francis made two further inter-related points. He emphatically stated that to be closed to change is “suicidal.” This suicidal mindset appears to rest on the presumption that, if one is not open to the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit, one dies as the Church continues to develop.

Moreover, to be suicidal means that a conservative shuts himself up into a “dogmatic box.” Francis admits that the Church’s doctrinal and moral tradition must be “considered,” but it cannot hinder further development. The dogmatic box may be filled with the Church’s traditional doctrinal and moral teaching, but if the box remains locked, the doctrines and moral teaching that are contained within it serve no useful purpose. They become dead doctrines, and so become incapable of addressing the needs of today.

When asked about the blessing of homosexual couples, Pope Francis insisted that homosexual couples are not blessed as couples, but the individuals are blessed. The Church cannot bless the homosexual union, it can only bless the individuals who are in that union.

To most people, this appears to be a distinction without a difference. If a minister is standing before two men or two women who are holding hands and pronounces a blessing over them, he is not simply blessing them as individuals, he is blessing them as a couple, a couple who commit homosexual acts. To think otherwise would be a charade. To bless them as an active homosexual couple is blasphemous, for one cannot attempt to bless a sin as if it was morally virtuous.

Many have noted the irony that Pope Francis cozies up to the likes of New Ways Ministry and Fr. James Martin, S.J., who actively affirm and foster homosexual lifestyles. Yet he never praises the courage of those who have homosexual tendencies and live a chaste life. It’s as if such a virtuous life is unimaginable.

Such an attitude implies that Jesus did not save us from sin and that the Holy Spirit is powerless when it comes to living a holy life. Sin still reigns supreme, and Satan continues to rule the world. This attitude must be disheartening to those with a homosexual tendency who strive to live a holy life. It also insults their integrity.

Now, no doubt there are conservatives who are suicidal in their wanting to keep closed their cherished dogmatic box. To be conservative in the true sense of the term, however, is to preserve and foster what is true and good and needs preserving and fostering. Thus, American Catholics, bishops, clergy, and laity alike, who desperately want to preserve the traditional ecclesial teaching and tradition concerning the moral law are not suicidal but are the real hope for the future.

From their unlocked dogmatic box, they bring forth life-giving, saving doctrines – that God, in his love for us, has sent forth his Son into the world so that the world would no longer live in the darkness of sin. In addition, those who believe in the risen Jesus as their Savior and Lord live in the light of his saving grace.

Likewise, through Baptism, one’s sinful nature is put to death, and one rises up as a Spirit-filled new creation in Christ. One is no longer a slave to sin but is set free from the wiles and domain of the devil. Moreover, in the sacrament of Confession, the priest, in the name of Jesus, absolves all sin and the sacrament provides the specific grace needed to reject the temptations against the virtue of chastity.

Authentic Catholic conservatives are the hope of the Church’s future in America, for they open wide the doctrinal box of faith.

One may be saddened by Pope Francis’s view of the American Catholic Church as sterile in its propensity to lifeless dogmas, for what he perceives is not true. While the Church is struggling here, it is far stronger than any of its counterparts in Western Europe.

Because of this strength, one wonders whether this is not the reason why Pope Francis so frequently criticizes it – though falsely. The Church in America, along with the Church in Africa, stands against Pope Francis’s attempt to conform the Church into the likeness of his own ideology.

So, we must pray for Pope Francis, as he continually exhorts us to do. And we must pray for the Catholic Church in the United States – that it will always remain strong in the faith, and so give glory to Jesus – the Father’s Spirit-filled incarnate Son.

St Augustine of Canterbury

Today's Holy Mass from Corpus Christi Church, Tynong, VIC, Australia. You may follow the Mass at Divinum Officium.

St Augustine, Bishop, Apostle of England ~ Dom Prosper Guéranger

Tuesday After Trinity Sunday ~ Dom Prosper Guéranger

St Augustine, Bishop, Apostle of England


From Dom Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year

Four hundred years had scarcely elapsed since the glorious death of Eleutherius, when a second Apostle of Britain ascended from this world, and on this same day, to the abode of eternal bliss. We cannot but be struck by the fact that the names of our two Apostles appear on the Calendar together: it shows us that God has his own special reasons in fixing the day for the death of each one among us. We have more than once noticed these providential coincidences, which form one of the chief characteristics of the Liturgical Cycle. What a beautiful sight is brought before us today, of the first, Archbishop of Canterbury, who—after honoring on this day the saintly memory of the holy Pontiff from whom England first received the Gospel, himself ascended into heaven, and shared with Eleutherius the eternity of heaven’s joy! Who would not acknowledge in this, a pledge of the predilection wherewith heaven has favored this Country, which, after centuries of fidelity to the Truth, has now for more than three hundred years been an enemy to her own truest glory?

The work begun by Eleutherius had been almost entirely destroyed by the invasion of the Saxons and Angles; so that a new Mission, a new preaching of the Gospel, had become a necessity. It was Rome that again supplied the want. St. Gregory the Great was the originator of the great design. Had it been permitted him, he would have taken upon himself the fatigues of this Apostolate to our Country. He was deeply impressed with the idea that he was to be the spiritual Father of these poor islanders, some of whom he had seen exposed in the marketplace of Rome. that they might be sold as slaves. Not being allowed to undertake the work himself, he looked around him for men whom he might send as Apostles to our Island. He found them in the Benedictine Monastery where he himself had spent several years of his life. There started from Rome forty Monks, with Augustine at their head, and they entered England under the standard of the Cross.

Thus the new race that then peopled the Island received the Faith, as the Britains had previously done, from the hands of a Pope; and Monks were their teachers in the science of salvation. The word of Augustine and his companions fructified in this privileged soil. It was some time of course before he could provide the whole nation with instruction; but neither Rome nor the Benedictines abandoned the work thus begun. The few remnants that were still left of the ancient British Christianity joined the new converts; and England merited to be called, for long ages, the “Island of Saints.”

The history of St Augustine’s Apostolate in England is of thrilling interest. The landing of the Roman Missioners, and their marching through the country, to the chant of the Litany; the willing and almost kind welcome given them by king Ethelbert; the influence exercised by his queen Bertha (who was French and a Catholic), in the establishment of the Faith among the Saxons; the baptism of ten thousand Neophytes, on Christmas Day, and in the bed of a river; the foundation of the metropolitan See of Canterbury, one of the most illustrious Churches of Christendom on account of the holiness and noble doings of its Archbishops; all these admirable episodes of England’s conversion are eloquent proofs of God’s predilection of our dear Land. Augustine’s peaceful and gentle character together with his love of contemplation amidst his arduous Missionary labors, gives an additional charm to this magnificent page of the Church’s history. But who can help feeling sad at the thought that a Country, favored as ours has been with such graces, should have apostatized from the faith? have repaid with hatred that Rome which made her Christian? and have persecuted with unheard-of cruelties, the Benedictine Order, to which she owed so much of her glory?

We subjoin the following Lessons on the Life of our Apostle, taken from an Office approved by the Holy See:

Augustine was a Monk of the Monastery of Saint Andrew, in Rome, where also he discharged the office of Prior with much piety and prudence. He was taken from that Monastery by St. Gregory the Great; and sent by him, with about forty Monks of the same monastery, into Britain. Thus would Gregory carry out, by his disciples, the conversion of that country to Christ—a project which he at first resolved to effect himself. They had not advanced far on their journey, when they became frightened at the difficulty of such an enterprise; but Gregory encouraged them by Letters which he sent to Augustine, whom he appointed as their Abbot, and gave him letters of introduction to the kings of the Franks, and to the Bishops of Gaul. Whereupon Augustine and his Monks pursued their journey with haste. He visited the tomb of St. Martin, at Tours. Having reached the town of Pont-de-Cé, not far from Angers, he was badly treated by its inhabitants, and was compelled to spend the night in the open air. Having struck the ground with his staff, a fountain miraculously sprang up; and on that spot, a Church was afterwards built, and called after his name.

Having procured interpreters from the Franks, he proceeded to England and landed at the Isle of Thanet. He entered the Country, carrying, as a standard, a silver Cross, and a painting representing our Savior. Thus did he present himself before Ethelbert, the king of Kent, who readily provided the heralds of the Gospel with a dwelling in the city of Canterbury, and gave them leave to preach in his kingdom. There was, close at hand, an Oratory which had been built in honor of St. Martin, when the Romans had possession of Britain. It was in this Oratory that his queen Bertha (who was a Christian, as being of the nation of the Franks) was wont to pray. Augustine, therefore, entered into Canterbury with solemn religious ceremony, amidst the chanting of psalms and litanies. He took up his abode for some time near to the said Oratory; and there, together with his Monks, led an apostolic life. Such manner of living, conjointly with the heavenly doctrine that was preached, and confirmed by many miracles, so reconciled the islanders, that many of them were induced to embrace the Christian Faith. The king himself was also converted, and Augustine baptized him and a very great number of his people. On one Christmas Day he baptized upwards of ten thousand English, in a river at York; and it is related that those among them who were suffering any malady, received bodily health, as well as their spiritual regeneration.

Meanwhile, the man of God Augustine received a command from Gregory to go and receive Episcopal ordination in Gaul, at the hands of Virgilius, the Bishop of Arles. On his return he established his See at Canterbury, in the Church of our Savior, which he had built, and he kept there some of the Monks to be his fellow-laborers. He also built in the suburbs the Monastery of Saint Peter, which was afterwards called “Saint Augustine’s.” When Gregory heard of the conversion of the Angles, which was told to him by the two Monks Laurence and Peter, whom Augustine had sent to Rome, —he wrote letters of congratulation to Augustine. He gave him power to arrange all that concerned the Church in England, and to wear the Pallium. In the same letters he admonished him to be on his guard against priding himself on the miracles which God enabled him to work for the salvation of souls, lest pride should tum them to the injury of him that worked them.

Having thus put in order the affairs of the Church in England, Augustine held a Council with the Bishops and Doctors of the ancient Britons, who had long been at variance with the Roman Church in the keeping of Easter and other rites. And in order to refute, by miracles, these men, whom the Apostolic See had often authoritatively admonished, but to no purpose, Augustine, in proof of the truth of his assertions, restored sight to a blind man in their presence. But on their refusing to yield even after witnessing the miracle, Augustine, with prophetic warning, told them of the punishment that awaited them. At length, after having labored so long for Christ, and appointed Laurence as his successor, he took his departure for heaven on the seventh of the Calends of June (May 26th) and was buried in the Monastery of Saint Peter, which became the burying-place of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and of several Kings. The Churches of England honored him with great devotion. They decreed that each year his feast should be kept as a holy day, and that his name should be inserted in the Litany, immediately after that of St. Gregory, together with whom Augustine has ever been honored by the English as their Apostle, and as the propagator of the Benedictine Order in their Country.

We also give the following Hymn in honor of our Apostle, which has also been approved of by the Holy See.

HYMN

O Isle fruitful in Saints, sing a hymn to thine Apostle! Praise, in holy song, the son of Gregory!

Made fertile by his toil, thou gavest a rich harvest, and, for ages, wast famed for thy flowers of Sanctity.

He enters England, having with him his forty Brethren. He bears the Standard of Christ. He is the Leader, and brings the pledges of Peace.

The trophy of the Cross glitters in the air; the word of salvation is spread through the land. Yes, the king himself, though a barbarian, receives the Faith with a ready heart.

The nation casts aside its savage ways; it is baptized in the river’s stream, and is born to its New Life, on the very Day that the Sun of Justice rose upon our earth.

O kind Shepherd! from thy heavenly throne, feed thy children. Thy flock has gone astray; lead it back to its anxious Mother’s love.

O Blessed Trinity, that art ever pouring the dew of grace upon thy Vine! grant that the ancient Faith may rise again and flourish in our Land! Amen.

O Jesus, our Risen Lord! thou art the Life of Nations. as thou art the Life of our souls. Thou biddest them know and love and serve thee, for they have been given to thee for thine inheritance; and at thine own appointed time, each of them is made thy possession (Psalms 2:8) Our own dear country was one of the earliest to be called; and when on thy Cross thou didst look with mercy on this far Island of the West, In the second Age of thy Church, thou didst send to her the heralds of thy Gospel; and again in the Sixth, Augustine, thine Apostle, commissioned by Gregory, thy Vicar, came to teach the way of Truth to the new pagan race that had made itself the owner of this highly favored Land.

How glorious, dear Jesus, was thy Reign in our Fatherland! Thou gavest her Bishops, Doctors, Kings, Monks, and Virgins, whose virtues and works made the whole world speak of her as the “Isle of Saints;” and it is to Augustine, thy disciple and herald, that thou wouldst have us attribute the chief part of the honor of so grand a conquest. Long indeed was thy Reign over this people, whose Faith was lauded throughout the whole world; but, alas! an evil hour came, and England rebelled against thee; she would not have thee to reign over her. (Luke 19:14) By her influence. she led other nations astray. She hated thee in thy Vicar; she repudiated the greater part of the truths thou hast revealed to men; she put out the light of Faith, and substituted in its place the principle of Private Judgment, which made her the slave of countless false doctrines. In the mad rage of her heresy, she trampled beneath her feet and burned the Relics of the Saints, who were her grandest glory; she annihilated the Monastic Order. to which she owed her knowledge of the Christian Faith; she was drunk with the blood of the Martyrs; she encouraged apostasy, and punished adhesion to the ancient Faith as the greatest of crimes.

She, by a just judgement of God, has become a worshiper of material prosperity. Her wealth, her fleet, and her colonies—these are her idols, and she would awe the rest of the world by the power they give her. But the Lord will, in his own time, overthrow this Colossus of power and riches; and as it was in times past, when the mightiest of kingdoms was destroyed by a stone which struck it on its feet of clay, (Daniel 2:35)—so will people be amazed, when the time of retribution comes, to find how easily the greatest of modem Nations was conquered and humbled. England no longer forms a part of thy Kingdom, O Jesus! She separated herself from it by breaking the bond that had held her so long in union with thy Church. Thou hast patiently waited for her return; yet she returns not. Her prosperity is a scandal to the weak; so that her own best and most devoted children feel that her chastisement will be one of the severest that thy Justice can inflict.

Meanwhile, thy Mercy, O Jesus, is winning over thousands of her people to the Truth, and their love of it seems fervent in proportion to their having been so long deprived of its beautiful light. Thou hast created a new people in her very midst, and each year the number is increasing. Cease not thy merciful workings; that thus these Faithful ones may once more draw down upon our Country the blessing she forfeited when she rebelled against thy Church.

Thy mission, then, O holy Apostle Augustine! is not yet over. The number of the Elect is not filled up; and our Lord is gleaning some of these from amidst the tares that cover the land of thy loving labors. May thine intercession obtain for her children those graces which enlighten the mind and convert the heart. May it remove their prejudices, and give them to see that the Spouse of Jesus is but One, as he himself calls her; (Song of Solomon 6:8) that the Faith of Gregory and Augustine is still the Faith of the Catholic Church at this day; and that three hundred years’ possession could never give Heresy any claim to a country which was led astray by seduction and violence, and which has retained so many traces of ancient and deep-rooted Catholicity.

Tuesday After Trinity Sunday


From Dom Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year

The history of the blessed Eucharist is one with that of the Church herself: the liturgical usages, which have varied in the celebration of the most august of all the Sacraments, have followed the great social phases of the Christian world. This was a necessity; for the Eucharist is the vital center here below, whither everything in the Church converges; it is the inner bond which unites together that society of which Christ is the head, the society whereby he is to reign over the nations, which are to be his inheritance. (Psalms 2:8) Union with Peter, the Vicar of Christ, must always be the indispensable condition, the external mark, of the union of the members with the invisible Head; but supported, in an ineffable manner, on the Rock which bears the Church, the divine Mystery, wherein Christ gives himself to each one of his servants, must ever be the essential mystery of union; and as such, the center and the bond of the great Catholic communion. Let us, today, get a clear notion of this fundamental truth, on which was based the very formation of the Church at her commencement; and let us consider the influence it exercised on the forms of eucharistic worship during the first twelve centuries. Tomorrow, we will continue the subject by examining how subsequent loss of fervor, and heresy, and social degeneracy, induced the Church to gradually modify these forms, which, after all, are but accidental; they were admirably adapted to the favored times they had served, but would scarcely suit the changed circumstances and requirements of later generations of the Church’s children.

It was on the eve of his Passion that our Lord instituted the great Memorial which was to perpetuate, in all places, the one Sacrifice whereby are perfected, forever, they that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14The Cross was the “Altar of the world,” as St. Leo calls it; (Serm. viii. de Pass.) and on that Cross, says the same holy Doctor, was made a few hours after the Last Supper, “the oblation of the whole human nature;” for the whole human race was united with this last act of infinite adoration and reparation offered by its Head to the supreme Majesty of God. (Ibid.  iv. de Pass.) The Church, issuing as she did with the Blood and Water from the side of her Savior, was then but in her infancy; and the Mystery of divine union, which Jesus had come upon the earth to produce by himself uniting to the Father, in the Holy Ghost, the members of his mystical body,—this union was not to have its immediate realization for each separate member except by its successive application to each one as his time came. This was the object of the sublime institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It was a New Testament, which gave to the future Church the possession of the Mystery, whereby each generation, linked on to its predecessors by the unity of the one same Sacrifice, would find itself in union with the Word Incarnate; and in that union, would have the tie which mutually binds his members together, and the unity of his mystical body.

Immediately after instituting this new Passover, Jesus said to his Disciples: A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another, as I have loved you: and by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples (John 13:34-35) This was the first injunction given to his disciples, by Jesus, after giving himself to them in the Eucharist; this love of and union with each other was to be the mark of the Covenant which he then, through his Apostles, contracted with all them who were to believe in him through the word of their preaching.  (John 17:20) His very first prayer, after that first giving his Body and Blood under the eucharistic species, is for that same union,—the union of his Faithful, one with another; a union admirable as is the Mystery which produces and maintains it; a union so intimate that its model is the union existing between Jesus and his Eternal Father: May they all be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they may be made perfect in one,—one, as we also are one. (John 17:21-23)

Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Church understood, from the very first, the intentions of her divine Master. The three thousand who were converted on the day of Pentecost are described in the Acts as persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles, in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42) And so great is the power of union derived from their all partaking of the heavenly Bread that they were remarked by the Jews as a class of men forming a society distinct from every other, which won the esteem of all that beheld them, and drew others daily to join them. (Acts 2:47)

A few years later, and the Church, led on by the same Holy Spirit, passed beyond the narrow limits of Judea and carried her treasures to the Gentiles. It was a world of corruption, where all was discord between man and man, and where the only remedy to the outrages of individual egotism was the tyranny of a Cæsar; and it was into such a world that the Christians came, and showed it, from east to west, the marvel of a new people, which by the sole influence of its virtues, recruited its members from every class of society and from every clime, and was stronger and more united than any nation that had ever appeared on earth. The Pagans were in admiration at this strange and inexplicable novelty; without knowing what they were doing, without troubling themselves with any further inquiry, they bore testimony to the perfection wherewith these Christians fulfilled the dying wishes of their Founder; they thus spoke of them: “See how they love one another!”

It was indeed a mystery; but the Faithful, the Initiated, understood it; for it had been thus explained to them by the Apostle: We, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one Bread. (1 Corinthians 10:17)

This text is admirably commented by St. Augustine in a sermon he preached to the Neophytes a few hours after their Baptism: “I remember,” says he, “the promise I made of explaining to you who have been baptized, the mystery of the Lord’s Table, which you now see, and of which you were made partakers in the night just past… That Bread which you see on the Altar, that Bread which has been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ: that Chalice, or rather, what that Chalice contains, which has been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. By these did Christ our Lord will to give us his Body and his Blood, which he shed for us, unto the remission of our sins. If you have properly received them, you are what you have received, for the Apostle says: We, being many, are one bread, one body, Yes, it was thus that he expounded the sacrament of the Table of the Lord: We, being many, are one bread, one body. We are, by this Bread, instructed how we are to love unity. Was this Bread made out of one grain? Were there not many grains of wheat? But before they came to be bread, they were separated one from the other; they became joined by means of water and by a certain bruising: for unless the wheat be ground and be moistened with water, it could never take the form we call bread. It was the same with you, until you were, so to say, ground by the humiliation of fasting and by the sacrament of exorcism. Baptism and water came to you; you were moistened that so you might come to the state of bread. But even so, there is no bread without fire. What, then, does fire signify? It is the Chrism; for the oil which makes our fire is the sacrament of the Holy Ghost… The Holy Ghost, therefore, comes; after water comes fire; and you are made Bread, which is the Body of Christ… Christ willed that we should be his Sacrifice, —the Sacrifice of God… Great, very great, are these mysteries! … Do you so receive them as to take care that you have unity in your hearts.” (Serm. ccxxvii. In die Paschæ. Ad Infantes, de Sacramentis.) Be one, by your loving one another, by holding one faith, one hope, and undivided charity. When the heretics receive this Bread, they receive testimony against themselves; for they are seeking to make division, whereas this Bread is the sign of unity.” (Serm. ccxxix. Fer. ii. Paschæ. Ad Infantes, de Sacramentis fideliumThe Scripture, speaking of the first Christians, says, that they had but one heart and one soul; (Acts 4:32) and it is the unity which is signified by the Wine in the Holy Mysteries; “For,” continues St. Augustine, “the wine was once in so many bunches of grapes; but now it is all one, one in the sweetness of the chalice, for it has gone through the crushing of the winepress. So you, after those fastings, and labors, and humility, and contrition, have come in the name of Christ to the Chalice of the Lord; and you are there on that Table, and there in that Chalice. You are there together with us, for we have eaten together and drunk together, and that because we live together… (Serm. cxxix) Thus did Christ our Lord,” (by the Wine made one out of many grapes) signify us, and wished us to be one with him, and, by his Table, consecrated the mystery of our peace and unity.” (Ibid. cclxxii. In die Pentecost. Ad Infantes, de Sacramentis.)

These admirable expressions of St. Augustine are but the substance of the doctrine regarding the holy Eucharist, held by the Church in the 4th Century. They give us the very essence of that doctrine in all its fullness and in all the clearness of its literal truth; no other could have been given to Neophytes, who, up to that time, had been kept in complete ignorance of the august Mysteries, of which they were henceforth to partake:—as to the discipline of that secrecy, we shall have to speak of it a little further on. The doctrine of the Eucharist here laid down by the great Bishop of Hippo is identical with that given by all the Fathers. In Gaul, St. Hilary of Poitiers, (Lib. viii. de Trinit.) and St. Cesarius of Arles; (Hom. vii.) in Italy, St. Gaudentius of Brescia; (Serm. ii. ad Neoph.) at Antioch and Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom; (In ep. i., ad Cor. Hom. xxiv) at Alexandria, St. Cyril; (Lib. x. in Johan)—all had the same way of putting this dogma of faith before their people. Christ is not divided: the Head and the members, the Word and his Church are inseparably one in the unity of the mystery instituted for the very purpose of producing that unity. And this unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who lived in the golden age of Christian eloquence, was reproduced by Paschasius Radbert in the 9th Century, (De corp. et sang. Domini., cap. x.by Rupert in the 12th,(De div. Off., lib. ii., c. 2.) and by William of Auvergne in the beginning of the 13th. (De Sacrament. Euchar. cap. iv.)

It would be too long to give the names, and still more to quote passages, in testimony of how all the Churches for the first twelve Centuries looked upon the holy Eucharist in this same way, —that is, as instituted for the purpose of union. If we follow this traditional teaching back to the apostolic source whence it originated, we shall find St. Cyprian, in the age of Persecution, speaking to his people upon the union between the divine Head and his members, which is the necessary result of the holy Sacrament; he shows this, not only by the nature of bread and wine, the essential elements for the consecration of the mysteries, but likewise by the mingling of water with the wine in the eucharistic cup: the water, he says, signifies the faithful people; the wine denotes the Blood of Christ; their union in the chalice—union necessary for the integrity of the Sacrifice—union the most complete and inseparable—expresses the indissoluble alliance between Christ and his Church, which consummates the Sacrament. (Ep. lxiii) The same St. Cyprian shows that the Unity of the Church by the Chair of Peter, which is the subject of one of his finest treatises, is divinely established on the sacred Mysteries; he speaks enthusiastically of the multitude of believers, the Christian unanimity being held together in the bonds of a firm and indivisible charity by the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ep. lxxvi) Christ in his Sacrament, and Christ in his Vicar, is in reality but the one same Rock that bears the building which is erected upon it; the one sole Head, visible in his representative, his Vicar, and invisible in his own substance, in the Sacrament.

This sentiment of union, as the result of the Eucharist, was rooted in the soul of the early Church; her very mission was to bring about the union of all the children of God that were dispersed throughout the world;  (John 11:52) and when the violence of her enemies obliged her to provide her children with some secret sign, whereby they might recognize each other and not be recognized by pagans or persecutors or blasphemers, she gave them the mysterious icthus, the fish, which was the sacred symbol of the Eucharist. The letters which form the Greek word for fish (icthus) are the initials of a formula in the same language, which gives this sentence: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. The Fish is shown to us in the Book of Tobias (Tobias 6) as a figure of Christ, who is the food of the wayfarer; casts out the devil by his virtues; and gives light to the world, grown old in iniquity. Again: it is not without a prophetic and mysterious purpose that the fish is mentioned in Genesis as being blessed by the Creator at the commencement of the world, just as man himself was. (Genesis 1:22, 28) It goes with the bread which is miraculously multiplied in the Gospel, when our Lord prefigures the marvels of the Eucharist. It is brought again to our notice after the Resurrection; it is found lying on hot coals, and is offered by Jesus, together with bread, as a repast to seven of his disciples, on the banks of Lake Tiberias. (John 21:9) Now, what is this Fish? this Bread? The Fathers answer: Christ is the Bread of that mysterious repast; he is the Fish taken from living water, and is roasted on the altar of the Cross by the fire of his love, and feeds the Disciples on his own substance, and offers himself to the entire world as the true icthus. (St. Paulin. Ep. xiiiSt. Aug. Confess. xiii. 23; St. Ambr. Hymn. Pasch; Prosp. African. De promission.) No wonder, then, that we find this sacred symbol on almost everything that the Christians of the first three centuries possessed; on precious stones, rings, lamps, inscriptions, paintings, there was the Fish, in some shape or other. It was the watchword, the tessera of the Christians in those days of persecution. An inscription of the 2nd Century, discovered in modern times at Autun, thus speaks of the Christians: “This divine race of the heavenly icthus, this noble-hearted race, receive from the Savior of the Saints the nourishment which is sweet as honey, and drink long draughts of the divine fount, holding icthus in their hands.” (Inscript. Augustod. Spicileg. Solesm. i.) A holy Bishop of Asia Minor, of that same early period, by name Abercius of Hierapolis, who was divinely led into various lands everywhere, recognizes the disciples of Christ by the holy Fish, which makes all however separated by distance to be one. “I have,” says he, shortly before the close of his life of travel, “I have seen Rome; I have be held the queen city in her robes and sandals of gold; I have made acquaintance with the people decked with bright rings. I have visited the country of Syria and all her cities. Passing the Euphrates, I have seen Nisibis; and all people in the East were in union with me, for we all formed but one body; everywhere, faith presented to all, and gave as nourishment to all the glorious and holy icthus, which came from the only fount, and was taken by the most pure Virgin.” (Titul. Abercii. Spicileg Solesm. iii.)

This, then, was the bond of that mighty union between Christians, which was such a puzzle to the pagan world; and the more the real cause of that unity was kept concealed from its eyes, so much the more violent was the fury wherewith it attacked the Church. Our Lord had said: Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine. (Matthew 7:6) These words contained, in principle, the discipline of secrecy which was observed in the Church till the conversion of the Western world was completed. The holiness of the Sacraments, the sublimity of the Christian doctrines, necessitated an extreme reserve on the part of the Faithful, living as they had to do, amidst people whose moral degradation and brutal corruption rendered them what our Savior had told us men would sometimes make themselves. But there was nothing which it was so imperative to hide from the stare and sacrilege of pagans as the most holy Eucharist, —that “great pearl of the sacred Body of the Lamb,” as Venantius Fortunatus calls it. (Venant. Fortun. lib. ii. carm.  25.) It was this that gave rise to the essential distinction, into two classes, of a Christian assembly when met for divine worship; there were the initiated and the uninitiated, the Faithful and the Catechumens. The distinction began with the apostolic age and was kept up till the 8th Century. A few weeks before the solemn administration of Baptism, there took place, as we have elsewhere explained, (Volume for Lent, Wednesday of the fourth week.) the giving, or, as it was termed, the Tradition of the Symbol, to the future members of the Church; but the eucharistic mystery, the arcanum by excellence, was even then kept back from the fortunate candidates for holy Baptism. This explains the varied precautional expressions, the reticence, the studied obscurity of phraseology, used by the Fathers in their discourses to their flock, and this for years after the times of Constantine and Theodosius. The Catechumens were admitted while the holy Scriptures were being read, or while the Psalms were being chanted; but as soon as the Bishop had given his discourse on the portion which had been read, either of the Gospel or other passages of the Sacred Volume, these Catechumens were dismissed by the Deacon; and this missa, or missio, gave its name to that first portion of the Liturgy; it was called “Mass of the Catechumens;” just as the second part, which was from the oblation to the final dismissal, was called the “Mass of the Faithful.”

And yet this same holy Mother Church, which kept so jealous an eye to her treasure, as not to let it be fully known, except to her true children, made such by Baptism,—with what delight did she not, at the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, reveal to her newborn children, as soon as they came from the font, the ineffable secret hitherto kept in her heart as Bride, the full mystery of the icthus! Incorporated to Christ by the saving waters, enrolled in his army and marked with the sign of his soldiers by the anointing received from the Bishop, —with what maternal fondness did she not lead them from the Baptistery first, and then from the Chrismarium to the hallowed precincts of the Mysteries instituted by the Word Incarnate! Yes, it was there that Jesus, their Head, was awaiting his new members, that he might draw all the more closely the bonds which already knit them to his mystic Body, and unite them to himself in the infinite homage of that one great Sacrifice, which himself was offering to the Eternal Father.

This wondrous unity of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which, in its ever the same one oblation, included both Head and Members; this unity of Sacrifice which kept alive and strengthened the union of each Christian community and of the whole Church, was admirably expressed by the magnificent forms of the primitive Liturgy. After the Catechumens had been dismissed and the unworthy expelled, all the Faithful, without exception, from the Emperor and his Court down to the poorest cottager, whether man or woman, advanced towards the Altar, each one offering their share of bread and wine for the sacred Mysteries. Themselves a kingly priesthood, as St Peter calls them, (1 Peter 2:9a living victim figured by the gifts they brought, they assisted, standing, at the immolation of the divine Victim, whose members they truly were; then, united in the kiss of peace, the external sign of their union of heart, they received in their hands, and still standing, the sacred Body their spiritual nourishment; the Deacons offered them the Chalice, and they drank of the precious Blood. Even babes in their mothers’ arms were eager for the divine drink and received some drops, at least, into their innocent mouths. The sick who could not leave their rooms, and prisoners, were not deprived of being united with their brethren in the sacred banquet; they received the precious Gifts at the hands of ministers who were sent to them, for the purpose, by the Bishop. The Anchorets in their deserts, Christians living in the country, and all such as could not be present at the next assembly, took the Body of our Lord with them, that thus they might not, because of distance, be deprived of uniting at the coming celebration of the Mysteries of salvation. Those were ages when Christian unity was continually being attacked by persecution, schism, and heresy, all three at once; and the Church, to counteract the danger, had no hesitation in facilitating, by every lawful means, the use and application of the venerable Sacrament, which is the sign of unity, and the innermost center, and the strongest tie of the Christian community.

It was from the same principle of unity that, although in each city there were generally several churches or centers for the assemblies of the Faithful, and a greater or less number of Clergy, yet all the Faithful and Clergy came together for the collect, or synaxis, into some one place fixed upon by the Bishop. “Where the Bishop shall show himself,” says St. Ignatius of Antioch, “there let the multitude be; just as where Christ Jesus is; there is the catholic Church. It is not lawful either to baptize or to celebrate the agape (the Eucharist) without the Bishop. (Ad Smyrn viii.) Do all of you assemble for prayer in the one same place; let there be unity of common prayer, unity of mind, unity of hope… Do all of you come together, as though you were one man, into the temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Christ Jesus, the great high-priest of the unborn God. (Ad Magnes. vii.Let us enjoy the one Eucharist; for one is the Flesh of our Lord Jesus, and one his Blood which was shed for us; one also is the Bread which was broken to us all, and one the Cup which was distributed to all; one altar to the whole Church, and one Bishop, surrounded by the Presbyterium and the Deacons.” (Ad Philadelph. iv.)

The Presbyterium was the college of Priests of each city; they kept near the Bishop, were his council, and celebrated the sacred functions together with him. It would seem that at the beginning, they were twelve in number, the closer to represent the Apostles; but in the great cities, that number was soon doubled. We find that, towards the close of the first century, there were in Rome five and twenty Priests who were respectively set over twenty-five Titles, that is, Churches, of the metropolis. The Pontiff took first one, and then another, of these Titles for the celebration of the Mysteries. The twenty-four Priests of the other Titles united with the Pontiff in the solemnity of one and the same Sacrifice, and concelebrated at one and the same Altar. In their respective places, the seven Deacons and all the inferior clerics, each according to his rank, cooperated in the thrice holy Mysteries. We have already seen the active part taken in the same by the faithful People.

It was the very time when the Eagle of Patmos, St. John the Evangelist, was being favored with his inspiration and vision of the gorgeous ritual of heaven. He beheld the Lamb that was slain, yet standing in the midst of the four and twenty Elders who were seated on thrones encircling the throne of God,—which is also the throne of the Eternal High Priest. Clad in white garments and wearing golden crowns, these four and twenty Elders held harps in their hands and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of Saints. Then came the seven Spirits, who were before the throne of God like so many burning lamps; and then, thousands of thousands of Angels, who were round about the Throne, singing praise to the sacrifice and triumph of the Lamb; and then every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, all cried out, giving benediction, and honor, and glory, and power,—to him that liveth forever and ever. (Apocalypse 4, 5)

This admirable vision represented the fullness and unity of the Sacrifice, which was offered once, but to last forever, and was offered by him who is the Head of all created beings. The Church on earth, the exiled Bride of that Jesus, did her best when offering that same Sacrifice, to repeat the sublime ritual of heaven. And as in heaven, the divine Lamb, the eternal High Priest, drew after him the celestial hierarchy, so likewise on earth, all the Churches came round the officiating Pontiff and united with him in the holy Sacrifice, each one according to the sacred Order he held.

It was impossible for the universal Church, subject as she is to the conditions of place and time, to meet here below at one Altar; but the unity of the Sacrifice, which was everywhere offered, was like the unity of the Church, herself expressed by the mutual transmission between the various Bishops of the sacred species that had been consecrated by them; and these, each one put into the chalice from which they received the precious Blood. St. Irenæus, (Ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. v. cap. 14.who lived in the 2nd Century, tells us that the supreme Hierarch, the Pontiff of Rome, used to send these sacred gifts not only to Churches in the West, but even into Asia, as emblems of the unity existing between the Churches there, and the Church, the Mistress and Mother of all others. So, too, when the number of the Faithful became so great as to induce the Church to allow individual Priests to celebrate alone the holy Mysteries, the Priests of the town where a Bishop resided never thought of exercising this isolated function until they had received from the Bishop a fragment of the bread he had consecrated and which they mingled with their own Sacrifice. It was the fermentum, the sacred leaven of Catholic Communion.

As an appropriate conclusion to the above subject, we append the following beautiful liturgical formula, taken from the Apostolic Constitutions, (Lib. vii. cap. 25) a writing which, as we now have it in its entirety, has been admitted by critics as a work of the 3rd Century.

THANKSGIVING FOR THE MYSTERIES

We give thanks unto thee, O Father, for the life thou hast manifested unto us by thy Son Jesus; by whom, thou hast both created all things, and providest for all; whom thou also sendedst, that, for our salvation, he might be made Man; whom thou also permittedst to suffer and to die; whom also, raising him up again, thou willedst to glorify, and madest him to sit at thy right hand; by whom also thou didst promise us the resurrection of the dead.

O almighty Lord, eternal God! as this (element), which was once disunited, being united, hath become one Bread, so do thou assemble together thy Church, from the ends of the earth, into thy kingdom.

We also give thanks to thee, our Father, for the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for our sake; and for his precious Body; of which we are now celebrating the antitypes (the Mysteries); for he himself did appoint that we should announce his death; for, by him, is glory (given) to thee forever.

Amen.