PART II : THE SACRAMENTS
Importance Of Instruction On The Sacraments
The exposition of every part of Christian doctrine demands knowledge and industry on the part of the pastor. But instruction on the Sacraments, which, by the ordinance of God, are a necessary means of salvation and a plenteous source of spiritual advantage, demands in a special manner his talents and industry By accurate and frequent instruction (on the Sacraments) the faithful will be enabled to approach worthily and with salutary effect these inestimable and most holy institutions; and the priests will not depart from the rule laid down in the divine prohibition: Give not that which is holy to dogs: neither cast ye your pearls before swine.
The Word "Sacrament"
Since, then, we are about to treat of the Sacraments in general, it is proper to begin in the first place by explaining the force and meaning of the word Sacrament, and showing its various significations, in order the more easily to comprehend the sense in which it is here used. The faithful, therefore, are to be informed that the word Sacrament, in so far as it concerns our present purpose, is differently understood by sacred and profane writers.
By some it has been used to express the obligation which arises from an oath, pledging to the performance of some service; and hence the oath by which soldiers promise military service to the State has been called a military sacrament. Among profane writers this seems to have been the most ordinary meaning of the word.
But by the Latin Fathers who have written on theological subjects, the word sacrament is used to signify a sacred thing which lies concealed. The Greeks, to express the same idea, made use of the word mystery. This we understand to be the meaning of the word, when, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is said: That he might make known to us the mystery (sacramentum) of his will; and to Timothy: great is the mystery (sacramentum) of godliness; and in the Book of Wisdom: They knew not the secrets (sacramenta) of God. In these and many other passages the word sacrament,- it will be perceived, signifies nothing more than a holy thing that lies concealed and hidden.
The Latin Doctors, therefore, deemed the word a very appropriate term to express certain sensible signs which at once communicate grace, declare it, and, as it were, place it before the eyes. St. Gregory, however, is of the opinion that such a sign is called a Sacrament, because the divine power secretly operates our salvation under the veil of sensible things.
Let it not, however, be supposed that the word sacrament is of recent ecclesiastical usage. Whoever peruses the works of Saints Jerome and Augustine will at once perceive that ancient ecclesiastical writers made use of the word sacrament, and some times also of the word symbol, or mystical sign or sacred sign, to designate that of which we here speak.
So much will suffice in explanation of the word sacrament. What we have said applies equally to the Sacraments of the Old Law; but since they have been superseded by the Gospel Law and grace, it is not necessary that pastors give instruction concerning them.
Definition of a Sacrament
Besides the meaning of the word, which has hitherto engaged our attention, the nature and efficacy of the thing which the word signifies must be diligently considered, and the faithful must be taught what constitutes a Sacrament. No one can doubt that the Sacraments are among the means of attaining righteousness and salvation. But of the many definitions, each of them sufficiently appropriate, which may serve to explain the nature of a Sacrament, there is none more comprehensive, none more perspicuous, than the definition given by St. Augustine and adopted by all scholastic writers. A Sacrament, he says, is a sign of a sacred thing; or, as it has been expressed in other words of the same import: A Sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible grace, instituted for our justification.
"A Sacrament is a Sign"
The more fully to develop this definition, the pastor should ex plain it in all its parts. He should first observe that sensible objects are of two sorts: some have been invented precisely to serve as signs; others have been established not for the sake of signifying something else, but for their own sakes alone. To the latter class almost every object in nature may be said to belong; to the former, spoken and written languages, military standards, images, trumpets, signals a and a multiplicity of other things of the same sort. Thus with regard to words; take away their power of expressing ideas, and you seem to take away the only reason for their invention. Such things are, therefore, properly called signs. For, according to St. Augustine, a sign, besides what it presents to the senses, is a medium through which we arrive at the knowledge of something else. From a footstep, for instance, which we see traced on the ground, we instantly infer that some one whose trace appears has passed.
Proof From Reason
A Sacrament, therefore, is clearly to be numbered among those things which have been instituted as signs. It makes known to us by a certain appearance and resemblance that which God, by His invisible power, accomplishes in our souls. Let us illustrate what we have said by an example. Baptism, for instance, which is administered by external ablution, accompanied with certain solemn words, signifies that by the power of the Holy Ghost all stain and defilement of sin is inwardly washed away, and that the soul is enriched and adorned with the admirable gift of heavenly justification; while, at the same time, the bodily washing, as we shall hereafter explain in its proper place, accomplishes in the soul that which it signifies.
Proof From Scripture
That a Sacrament is to be numbered among signs is dearly inferred also from Scripture. Speaking of circumcision, a Sacrament of the Old Law which was given to Abraham, the father of all believers," the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, says: And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the justice of the faith. In another place he says: All we who are baptised in Christ Jesus, are baptised in his death, words which justify the inference that Baptism signifies, to use the words of the same Apostle, that we are buried together with him by baptism into death.
Nor is it unimportant that the faithful should know that the Sacraments are signs. This knowledge will lead them more readily to believe that what the Sacraments signify, contain and effect is holy and august; and recognising their sanctity they will be more disposed to venerate and adore the beneficence of God displayed towards us.
"Sign of a Sacred Thing" : Kind of Sign Meant Here
We now come to explain the words, sacred thing, which constitute the second part of the definition. To render this explanation satisfactory we must enter somewhat more minutely into the accurate and acute remarks of St. Augustine on the variety of signs.
Some signs are called natural. These, besides making themselves known to us, also convey a knowledge of something else, an effect, as we have already said, common to all signs. Smoke, for instance, is a natural sign from which we immediately infer the existence of fire. It is called a natural sign, because it implies the existence of fire, not by arbitrary institution, but from experience. If we see smoke, we are at once convinced of the presence of fire, even though it is hidden.
Signs Invented By Man,
Other signs are not natural, but conventional, and are invented by men to enable them to converse one with another, to convey their thoughts to others, and in turn to learn the opinions and receive the advice of other men. The variety and multiplicity of such signs may be inferred from the fact that some belong to the eyes, many to the ears, and the rest to the other senses. Thus when we intimate any thing to another by such a sensible sign as the raising of a flag, it is obvious that such intimation is conveyed only through the medium of the eyes; and it is equally obvious that the sound of the trumpet, of the lute and of the lyre,-instruments which are not only sources of pleasure, but frequently signs of ideas -- is addressed to the ear. Through the latter sense especially are also conveyed words, which are the best medium of communicating our inmost thoughts.
Signs Instituted By God
Besides the signs instituted by the will and agreement of men, of which we have been speaking so far, there are certain other signs appointed by God. These latter, as all admit, are not all of the same kind. Some were instituted by God to indicate something or to bring back its recollection. Such were the purifications of the Law, the unleavened bread, and many other things which belonged to the ceremonies of the Mosaic worship. But God has appointed other signs with power not only to signify, but also to accomplish (what they signify).
Among these are manifestly to be numbered the Sacraments of the New Law. They are signs instituted not by man but by God, which we firmly believe have in themselves the power of producing the sacred effects of which they are the signs.
Kind of Sacred Thing Meant Here
We have seen that there are many kinds of signs. The sacred thing referred to is also of more than one kind. As regards the definition already given of a Sacrament, theologians prove that by the words sacred thing is to be understood the grace of God, which sanctifies the soul and adorns it with the habit of all the divine virtues; and of this grace they rightly consider the words sacred thing, an appropriate appellation, because by its salutary influence the soul is consecrated and united to God.
In order, therefore, to explain more fully the nature of a Sacrament, it should be taught that it is a sensible object which possesses, by divine institution, the power not only of signifying, but also of accomplishing holiness and righteousness. Hence it follows, as everyone can easily see, that the images of the Saints, crosses and the like, although signs of sacred things, cannot be called Sacraments. That such is the nature of a Sacrament is easily proved by the example of all the Sacraments, if we apply to the others what has been already said of Baptism; namely, that the solemn ablution of the body not only signifies, but has power to effect a sacred thing which is wrought interiorly by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
Other Sacred Things Signified By The Sacraments
Now it is especially appropriate that these mystical signs, instituted by God, should signify by the appointment of the Lord not only one thing, but several things at once.
All The Sacraments Signify Something Present, Something Past, Something Future:
This applies to all the Sacraments; for all of them declare not only our sanctity and justification, but also two other things most intimately connected with sanctification, namely, the Passion of Christ our Redeemer, which is the source of our sanctification, and also eternal life and heavenly bliss, which are the end of sanctification. Such, then, being the nature of all the Sacraments, holy Doctors justly hold that each of them has a threefold significance: they remind us of something past; they indicate and point out something present; they foretell something future.
Nor should it be supposed that this teaching of the Doctors is unsupported by the testimony of Holy Scripture. When the Apostle says: All we who are baptised in Christ Jesus, are baptised in his death, he gives us clearly to understand that Baptism is called a sign, because it reminds us of the death and Passion of our Lord. When he says, We are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so, we also may walk in newness of life, he also clearly shows that Baptism is a sign which indicates the infusion of divine grace into our souls, which enables us to lead a new life and to perform all the duties of true piety with ease and cheerfulness. Finally, when he adds: If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection, he teaches that Baptism clearly foreshadows eternal life also, which we are to reach through its efficacy.
A Sacrament Sometimes Signifies The Presence Of More Than One Thing
Besides the different significations already mentioned, a Sacrament also not infrequently indicates and marks the presence of more than one thing. This we readily perceive when we reflect that the Holy Eucharist at once signifies the presence of the real body and blood of Christ and the grace which it imparts to the worthy receiver of the sacred mysteries.
What has been said, therefore, cannot fail to supply the pastor with arguments to prove how much the power of God is displayed, how many hidden miracles are contained in the Sacraments of the New Law; that thus all may understand that they are to be venerated and received with utmost devotion.'
Why the Sacraments were Instituted
Of all the means employed to teach the proper use of the Sacraments, there is none more effectual than a careful exposition of the reasons of their institution. Many such reasons are commonly assigned.
The first of these reasons is the feebleness of the human mind. We are so constituted by nature that no one can aspire to mental and intellectual knowledge unless through the medium of sensible objects. In order, therefore, that we might more easily understand what is accomplished by the hidden power of God, the same sovereign Creator of the universe has most wisely, and out of His tender kindness towards us, ordained that His power should be manifested to us through the intervention of certain sensible signs. As St. Chrysostom happily expresses it: If man were not clothed with a material body, these good things would have been presented to him naked and without any covering; but as the soul is joined to the body, it was absolutely necessary to employ sensible things in order to assist in making them understood.
Another reason is because the mind yields a reluctant assent to promises. Hence, from the beginning of the world, God was accustomed to indicate, and usually in words, that which He had resolved to do; but sometimes, when designing to execute something, the magnitude of which might weaken a belief in its accomplishment, He added to words other signs, which sometimes appeared miraculous. When, for instance, God sent Moses to deliver the people of Israel, and Moses, distrusting the help even of God who had commissioned him, feared that the burden imposed was heavier than he could bear, or that the people would not heed his message, the Lord confirmed His promise by a great variety of signs. As, then, in the Old Law, God ordained that every important promise should be confirmed by certain signs, so in the New Law, Christ our Saviour, when He promised pardon of sin, divine grace, the communication of the Holy Spirit, instituted certain visible and sensible signs by which He might oblige Himself, as it were, by pledges, and make it impossible to doubt that He would be true to His promises.
A third reason is that the Sacraments, to use the words of St. Ambrose, may be at hand, as the remedies and medicines of the Samaritan in the Gospel, to preserve or recover the health of the soul. For, through the Sacraments, as through a channel, must flow into the soul the efficacy of the Passion of Christ, that is, the grace which He merited for us on the altar of the cross, and without which we cannot hope for salvation. Hence, our most merciful Lord has bequeathed to His Church, Sacraments stamped with the sanction of His word and promise, through which, provided we make pious and devout use of these remedies, we firmly believe that the fruit of His Passion is really communicated to us.
A fourth reason why the institution of the Sacraments seems necessary is that there may be certain marks and symbols to distinguish the faithful; particularly since, as St. Augustine observes, no society of men, professing a true or a false religion, can be, so to speak, consolidated into one body, unless united and held together by some bond of sensible signs. Both these objects the Sacraments of the New Law accomplish, distinguishing the Christian from the infidel, and uniting the faithful by a sort of sacred bond.
Another very just cause for the institution of the Sacraments may be shown from the words of the Apostle: With the heart we believe unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. By approaching them we make a public profession of our faith in the sight of men. Thus, when we approach Baptism, we openly profess our belief that, by virtue of its salutary waters in which we are washed, the soul is spiritually cleansed.
The Sacraments have also great influence, not only in exciting and exercising our faith, but also in inflaming that charity with which we should love one another, when we recollect that, by partaking of these mysteries in common, we are knit together in the closest bonds and are made members of one body.
A final consideration, which is of greatest importance for the life of a Christian, is that the Sacraments repress and subdue the pride of the human heart, and exercise us in the practice of humility; for they oblige us to subject ourselves to sensible elements in obedience to God, from whom we had before impiously revolted in order to serve the elements of the world.
These are the chief points that appeared to us necessary for the instruction of the faithful on the name, nature, and institution of a Sacrament. When they shall have been accurately expounded by the pastor, his next duty will be to explain the constituents of each Sacrament, its parts, and the rites and ceremonies which have been added to its administration.
Constituent Parts of the Sacraments
In the first place, then, it should be explained that the sensible thing which enters into the definition of a Sacrament as already given, although constituting but one sign, is twofold. Every Sacrament consists of two things, matter, which is called the element, and form, which is commonly called the word.
This is the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church; and the testimony of St. Augustine on the subject is familiar to all. The word, he says, is joined to the element and it becomes a Sacrament. By the words sensible thing, therefore, the Fathers understand not only the matter or element, such as water in Baptism, chrism in confirmation, and oil in Extreme Unction, all of which fall under the eye; but also the words which constitute the form, and which are addressed to the ear.
Both are clearly pointed out by the Apostle, when he says: Christ loved the Church, and delivered himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. Here both the matter and form of the Sacrament are expressly mentioned.
In order to make the meaning of the rite that is being performed easier and clearer, words had to be added to the matter. For of all signs words are evidently the most significant, and without them, what the matter for the Sacraments designates and declares would be utterly obscure. Water, for instance, has the quality of cooling as well as cleansing, and may be symbolic of either. In Baptism, therefore, unless the words were added, it would not be certain, but only conjectural, which signification was intended; but when the words are added, we immediately understand that the Sacrament possesses and signifies the power of cleansing.
In this the Sacraments of the New Law excel those of the Old that, as far as we know, there was no definite form of administering the latter, and hence they were very uncertain and obscure. In our Sacraments, on the contrary, the form is so definite that any, even a casual deviation from it renders the Sacrament null. Hence the form is expressed in the clearest terms, such as exclude the possibility of doubt.
These, then, are the parts which belong to the nature and substance of the Sacraments, and of which every Sacrament is necessarily composed.
Ceremonies Used in the Administration of the Sacraments
To (the matter and form) are added certain ceremonies. These cannot be omitted without sin, unless in case of necessity; yet, if at any time they be omitted, the Sacrament is not thereby invalidated, since the ceremonies do not pertain to its essence. It is not without good reason that the administration of the Sacraments has been at all times, from the earliest ages of the Church, accompanied with certain solemn rites.
There is, in the first place, the greatest propriety in manifesting such a religious reverence to the sacred mysteries as to make it appear that holy things are handled by holy men.
Secondly, these ceremonies serve to display more fully the effects of the Sacraments, placing them, as it were, before our eyes, and to impress more deeply on the minds of the faithful the sanctity of these sacred institutions.
Thirdly, they elevate to sublime contemplation the minds of those who behold and observe them with attention, and excite within them faith and charity.
To enable the faithful, therefore, to know and understand clearly the meaning of the ceremonies made use of in the administration of each Sacrament should be an object of special care and attention.
The Number Of The Sacraments
We now come to explain the number of the Sacraments. A knowledge of this point is very advantageous to the faithful; for the greater the number of aids to salvation and the life of bliss which they understand to have been provided by God, the more ardent will be the piety with which they will direct all the powers of their souls to praise and proclaim His singular goodness towards us.
The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are seven in number, as is proved from Scripture, from the tradition handed down to us from the Fathers, and from the authority of Councils. Why they are neither more nor less in number may be shown, at least
with some probability, from the analogy that exists between the natural and the spiritual life. In order to exist, to preserve existence, and to contribute to his own and to the public good, seven things seem necessary to man: to be born, to grow, to be nurtured, to be cured when sick, when weak to be strengthened; as far as regards the public welfare, to have magistrates invested with authority to govern, and to perpetuate himself and his species by legitimate offspring. Now, since it is quite clear that all these things are sufficiently analogous to that life by which the soul lives to God, we discover in them a reason to account for the number of the Sacraments.
First comes Baptism, which is the gate, as it were, to all the other Sacraments, and by which we are born again unto Christ. The next is Confirmation, by which we grow up and are strengthened in the grace of God; for, as St. Augustine observes, to the Apostles who had already received Baptism, the Redeemer said: "Stay you in the city till you be endued with power from on high.,, The third is the Eucharist, that true bread from heaven which nourishes and sustains our souls to eternal life, according to these words of the Saviour: My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. The fourth is Penance, through which lost health is recovered after we have been wounded by sin. Next is Extreme Unction, which obliterates the remains of sin and invigorates the powers of the soul; for speaking of this Sacrament St. James says: If he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. Then follows Holy Orders, by which power is given to exercise perpetually in the Church the public administration of the Sacraments and to perform all the sacred functions. The last is Matrimony, instituted to the end that, by means of the legitimate and holy union of man and woman, children may be procreated and religiously educated for the service of God, and for the preservation of the human race.
Comparisons among the Sacraments
Though all the Sacraments possess a divine and admirable efficacy, it is well worthy of special remark that all are not of equal necessity or of equal dignity, nor is the signification of all the same.
Among them three are said to be necessary beyond the rest, although in all three this necessity is not of the same kind. The universal and absolute necessity of Baptism our Saviour has declared in these words: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Penance, on the other hand, is necessary for those only who have stained themselves after Baptism by any mortal guilt. Without sincere repentance, their eternal ruin is inevitable. Orders, too, although not necessary to each of the faithful, are of absolute necessity to the Church as a whole.
But if we consider the dignity of the Sacraments, the Eucharist, for holiness and for the number and greatness of its mysteries, is far superior to all the rest. These, however, are matters which will be more easily understood, when we come to explain, in its proper place, what regards each of the Sacraments.
The Author of the Sacraments
It now remains to inquire from whom we have received these sacred and divine mysteries. Any gift, however excellent in itself, undoubtedly receives an increased value from the dignity and excellence of him by whom it is bestowed.
The present question, however, is not hard to answer. For since human justification comes from God, and since the Sacraments are the wonderful instruments of justification, it is evident that one and the same God in Christ, must be acknowledged to be the author of justification and of the Sacraments.
Furthermore, the Sacraments contain a power and efficacy which reach the inmost soul; and as God alone has power to enter into the hearts and minds of men, He alone, through Christ, is manifestly the author of the Sacraments.
That they are also interiorly dispensed by Him we must hold with a firm and certain faith, according to these words of St. John, in which he declares that he learned this truth concerning Christ: He who sent me to baptise with water, said to me: He, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
The Ministers of the Sacraments
But although God is the author and dispenser of the Sacraments, He nevertheless willed that they should be administered in His Church by men, not by Angels. To constitute a Sacrament, as the unbroken tradition of the Fathers testifies, matter and form are not more necessary than is the ministry of men.
Unworthiness Of The Minister And Validity
Since the ministers of the Sacraments represent in the discharge of their sacred functions, not their own, but the person of Christ, be they good or bad, they validly perform and confer the Sacraments, provided they make use of the matter and form always observed in the Catholic Church according to the institution of Christ, and provided they intend to do what the Church does in their administration. Hence, unless the recipients wish to deprive themselves of so great a good and resist the Holy Ghost, nothing can prevent them from receiving (through the Sacraments) the fruit of grace.
That this was, at all times, a fixed and well ascertained doctrine of the Church, is established beyond all doubt by St. Augustine, in his disputations against the Donatists. And should we desire Scriptural proof also, let us listen to these words of the Apostle: I have planted; Apollo watered; but God gave the increase Therefore neither he that planteth nor he that watereth is any
thing, but God who giveth the increase. From these words it is clear that as trees are not injured by the wickedness of those who planted them, so those who were planted in Christ by the ministry of bad men sustain no injury from the guilt of those others.
Judas Iscariot, as the holy Fathers infer from the Gospel of St. John, conferred Baptism on many; and yet none of those whom he baptised are recorded to have been baptised again. To use the memorable words of St. Augustine: Judas baptised, and yet after him none were rebaptised; John baptised, and after John they were rebaptised . For the Baptism administered by Judas was the Baptism of Christ, but that administered by John was the baptism of John. Not that we prefer Judas to John, but that we justly prefer the Baptism of Christ, although administered by Judas, to that of John although administered by the hands of John.
Lawfulness Of Administration
But let not pastors, or other ministers of the Sacraments, hence infer that they fully acquit themselves of their duty, if, disregarding integrity of life and purity of morals, they attend only to the administration of the Sacraments in the manner prescribed. True, the manner of administering them demands particular diligence; yet this alone does not constitute all that pertains to that duty. It should never be forgotten that the Sacraments, although they cannot lose the divine efficacy inherent in them, bring eternal death and perdition to him who dares administer them unworthily.
Holy things, it cannot be too often repeated, should be treated holily and with due reverence. To the sinner, says the Prophet, God has said: Why dost thou declare my justices, and take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing that thou hast hated discipline? If then, for him who is defiled by sin it is unlawful to speak on divine things, how enormous the guilt of that man, who, conscious of many crimes, dreads not to accomplish with polluted lips the holy mysteries, to take them into his befouled hands, to touch
them, and to present and administer them to others? All the more since St. Denis says that the wicked may not even touch the symbols, as he calls the Sacraments.
It therefore becomes the first duty of the minister of holy things to follow holiness of life, to approach with purity the administration of the Sacraments, and so to exercise himself in piety, that, from their frequent administration and use, he may every day receive, with the divine assistance, more abundant grace.
Effects of the Sacraments
When these matters have been explained, the effects of the Sacraments are the next subject of instruction. This subject should throw considerable light on the definition of a Sacrament as already given.
First Effect: Justifying Grace
The principal effects of the Sacraments are two. The first place is rightly held by that grace which we, following the usage of the holy Doctors, call sanctifying. For so the Apostle most clearly taught when he said: Christ loved the church, and delivered himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. But how so great and so admirable an effect is produced by the Sacrament that, to use the well-known saying of St. Augustine, water cleanses the body and reaches the heart, -- this, indeed, cannot be comprehended by human reason and intelligence. It may be taken for granted that no sensible thing is of its own nature able to reach the soul; but we know by the light of faith that in the Sacraments there exists the power of almighty God by which they effect that which the natural elements cannot of themselves accomplish.
Lest on this subject any doubt should exist in the minds of the faithful, God, in the abundance of His mercy, was pleased,
from the moment when the Sacraments began to be administered, to manifest by the evidence of miracles the effects which they operate interiorly in the soul. (This He did) in order that we may most firmly believe that the same effects, although far removed from the senses, are always inwardly produced. To say nothing of the fact that at the Baptism of the Redeemer in the Jordan the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost appeared in the form of a dove, to teach us that when we are washed in the sacred font His grace is infused into our souls -- to omit this, which has reference rather to the signification of Baptism than to the administration of the Sacrament -- do we not read that on the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles received the Holy Ghost, by whom they were thenceforward inspired with greater alacrity and resolution to preach the faith and brave dangers for the glory of Christ, there came suddenly a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting, and there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were, of fire? By this it was understood that in the Sacrament of Confirmation the same Spirit is given us, and such strength is imparted as enables us resolutely to encounter and resist our incessant enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. For some time in the beginning of the Church, whenever these Sacraments were administered by the Apostles, the same miraculous effects were witnessed, and they ceased only when the faith had acquired maturity and strength.
From what has been said of sanctifying grace, the first effect of the Sacraments, it clearly follows that there resides in the Sacraments of the New Law, a virtue more exalted and efficacious than that of the sacraments of the Old Law. Those ancient sacraments, being weak and needy elements, sanctified such as were defiled to the cleansing of the flesh, but not of the spirit. They were, therefore, instituted only as signs of those things, which were to be accomplished by our mysteries. The Sacraments of the New Law, on the contrary, flowing from the side of Christ, who, by the Holy Ghost, offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our consciences from dead works, to
serve the living God, and thus work in us, through the blood of Christ, the grace which they signify. Comparing our Sacraments, therefore, with those of the Old Law we find that they are not only more efficacious, but also more fruitful in spiritual advantages, and more august in holiness.
Second Effect: Sacramental Character
The second effect of the Sacraments -- which, however, is not common to all, but peculiar to three, Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders -- is the character which they impress on the soul. When the Apostle says: God hath anointed us, who also hath sealed us, and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts, he not obscurely describes by the word sealed a character, the property of which is to impress a seal and mark.
This character is, as it were, a distinctive impression stamped on the soul which perpetually inheres and cannot be blotted out. Of this St. Augustine says: Shall the Christian Sacraments accomplish less than the bodily mark impressed on the soldier? That mark is not stamped on his person anew as often as he resumes the military service which he had relinquished, but the old is recognised and approved.
This character has a twofold effect: it qualifies us to receive or perform something sacred, and distinguishes us by some mark one from another. In the character impressed by Baptism, both effects are exemplified. By it we are qualified to receive the other Sacraments, and the Christian is distinguished from those who do not profess the faith. The same illustration is afforded by the characters impressed by Confirmation and Holy Orders. By Confirmation we are armed and arrayed as soldiers of Christ, publicly to profess and defend His name, to fight against our internal enemy and against the spiritual powers of wickedness in the high places; and at the same time we are distinguished from those who, being recently baptised, are, as it were, new-born infants. Holy Orders confers the power of consecrating and administering the Sacraments, and also distinguishes those who are invested
with this power from the rest of the faithful. The rule of the Catholic Church is, therefore, to be observed, which teaches that these three Sacraments impress a character and are never to be repeated.
How to Make Instruction on the Sacraments Profitable
On the subject of the Sacraments in general, the above are the matters on which instruction should be given. In explaining them, pastors should keep in view principally two things, which they should zealously strive to accomplish. The first is that the faithful understand the high honour, respect and veneration due to these divine and celestial gifts. The second is that, since the Sacraments have been established by the God of infinite mercy for the common salvation of all, the people should make pious and religious use of them, and be so inflamed with the desire of Christian perfection as to deem it a very great loss to be for any time deprived of the salutary use, particularly of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.
These objects pastors will find little difficulty in accomplishing, if they call frequently to the attention of the faithful what we have already said on the divine character and fruit of the Sacraments: first, that they were instituted by our Lord and Saviour from whom can proceed nothing but what is most perfect; further that when administered, the most powerful influence of the Holy Ghost is present, pervading the inmost sanctuary of the soul; next that they possess an admirable and unfailing virtue to cure our spiritual maladies, and communicate to us the inexhaustible riches of the Passion of our Lord.
Finally, let them point out, that although the whole edifice of Christian piety rests on the most firm foundation of the cornerstone; yet, unless it be supported on every side by the preaching of the divine Word and by the use of the Sacraments, it is greatly to be feared that it may to a great extent totter and fall to the ground. For as we are ushered into spiritual life by means of the Sacraments, so by the same means are we nourished and preserved, and grow to spiritual increase.
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
Importance Of Instruction On Baptism
From what has been hitherto said on the Sacraments in general, we may judge how necessary it is, to a proper understanding of the doctrines of the Christian faith and to the practice of Christian piety, to know what the Catholic Church proposes for our belief on each Sacrament in particular.
Whoever reads the Apostle carefully will unhesitatingly conclude that a perfect knowledge of Baptism is particularly necessary to the faithful. For not only frequently, but also in language the most energetic, in language full of the Spirit of God, he renews the recollection of this mystery, declares its divine character, and in it places before us the death, burial and Resurrection of. our Lord as objects both of our contemplation and imitation.
Pastors, therefore, can never think that they have bestowed sufficient labor and attention on the exposition of this Sacrament. Besides the Vigils of Easter and Pentecost, days on which the Church used to celebrate this Sacrament with the greatest devotion and special solemnity, and on which particularly, according to ancient practice, its divine mysteries were to be explained, pastors should also take occasion at other times to make it the subject of their instructions.
For this purpose a most convenient opportunity would seem to present itself whenever a pastor, being about to administer this Sacrament, finds himself surrounded by a considerable number of the faithful. On such occasions, it is true, his exposition cannot embrace everything that regards Baptism; but it will then be much easier to develop one or two points when the faithful
can contemplate with a pious and attentive mind the meaning of those things which they hear and at the same time see it illustrated by the sacred ceremonies of Baptism. Each person, reading a lesson of admonition in the person of him who is receiving Baptism, will call to mind the promises by which he bound himself to God when he was baptised, and will reflect whether his life and conduct have been such as are promised by the profession of Christianity.
Names of this Sacrament
In order that the treatment of the subject. may be clear, we must explain the nature and substance of Baptism, premising, however, an explanation of the word itself.
The word baptism, as is well known, is of Greek derivation. Although used in Sacred Scripture to express not only that ablution which forms part of the Sacrament, but also every species of ablution, and sometimes, figuratively, to express sufferings; yet it is employed by ecclesiastical writers to designate not every sort of bodily ablution, but that which forms part of the Sacrament and is administered with the prescribed form of words. In this sense the Apostles very frequently make use of the word in accordance with the institution of Christ the Lord.
This Sacrament the holy Fathers designate also by other names. St. Augustine informs us that it was sometimes called the Sacrament of Faith, because by receiving it we profess our faith in all the doctrines of Christianity.
By others it was termed Illumination, because by the faith which we profess in Baptism the heart is illumined; for as the Apostle also says, alluding to the time of Baptism, Call to mind the former days, wherein, being illumined, you endured a great fight of afflictions Chrysostom, in his sermon to the baptised, calls it a purgation, because through it we purge away the old leaven, that we may become a new paste. He also calls it a burial, a planting, and the cross of Christ, the reasons for all which appellations may be gathered from the Epistle to the Romans.
St. Denis calls it the beginning of the most holy Commandments, for this obvious reason, that Baptism is, as it were, the gate through which we enter into the fellowship of the Christian life, and begin thenceforward to obey the Commandments. So much should be briefly explained concerning the name (of this Sacrament) .
Definition Of Baptism
With regard to the definition of Baptism although many can be given from sacred writers, nevertheless that which may be gathered from the words of our Lord recorded in John, and of the Apostle to the Ephesians, appears the most appropriate and suitable. Unless, says our Lord, a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and, speaking of the Church, the Apostle says, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. Thus it follows that Baptism may be rightly and accurately defined: The Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word. By nature we are born from Adam children of wrath, but by Baptism we are regenerated in Christ, children of mercy. For He gave power to men to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Constituent Elements Of Baptism
But define Baptism as we may, the faithful are to be informed that this Sacrament consists of ablution, accompanied necessarily, according to the institution of our Lord, by certain solemn words. This is the uniform doctrine of the holy Fathers, as is proved by the following most explicit testimony of St. Augustine: The word is joined to the element, and it becomes a Sacrament.
It is all the more necessary to impress this on the minds of the faithful lest they fall into the common error of thinking that the baptismal water, preserved in the sacred font, constitutes the Sacrament. The Sacrament of Baptism can be said to exist only when we actually apply the water to someone by way of ablution, while using the words appointed by our Lord.
Matter of Baptism
Now since we said above, when treating of the Sacraments in general, that every Sacrament consists of matter and form, it is therefore necessary that pastors point out what constitutes each of these in Baptism. The matter, then, or element of this Sacrament, is any sort of natural water, which is simply and without qualification commonly called water, be it sea water, river water, water from a pond, well or fountain.
Testimony Of Scripture Concerning The Matter Of Baptism
For the Saviour taught that unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The Apostle also says that the Church was cleansed by the laver of water; and in the Epistle of St. John we read these words: There are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood. Scripture affords other proofs which establish the same truth.
When, however, John the Baptist says that the Lord will come who will baptise in the Holy Ghost, and in fire, that is by no means to be understood of the matter of Baptism; but should be applied either to the interior operation of the Holy Ghost, or at least to the miracle performed on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles in the form of fire, as was foretold by Christ our Lord in these words: John indeed baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.
The same was also signified by the Lord both by figures and by prophecies, as we know from Holy Scripture. According to the Prince of the Apostles in his first Epistle, the deluge which cleansed the world because the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil, was a figure and image of this water. To omit the cleansing of Naaman the Syrian, and the admirable virtue of the pool of Bethsaida, and many similar types, manifestly symbolic of this mystery, the passage through the Red Sea, according to St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, was typical of this same water.
With regard to the predictions, the waters to which the Prophet Isaias so freely invites all that thirst, and those which Ezechiel in spirit saw issuing from the Temple, and also the fountain which Zachary foresaw, open to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: for the washing of the sinner, and of the unclean woman, were, no doubt, intended to indicate and express the salutary waters of Baptism.
The propriety of constituting water the matter of Baptism, of the nature and efficacy of which it is at once expressive, St. Jerome, in his Epistle to Oceanus, proves by many arguments.
Upon this subject pastors can teach in the first place that water, which is always at hand and within the reach of all, was the fittest matter of a Sacrament which is necessary to all for salvation. In the next place water is best adapted to signify the effect of Baptism. It washes away uncleanness, and is, therefore, strikingly illustrative of the virtue and efficacy of Baptism, which washes away the stains of sin. We may also add that, like water which cools the body, Baptism in a great measure extinguishes the fire of concupiscence.
Chrism Added To Water For Solemn Baptism
But it should be noted that while in case of necessity simple water unmixed with any other ingredient is sufficient for the matter of this Sacrament, yet when Baptism is administered in public with solemn ceremonies the Catholic Church, guided by Apostolic tradition, has uniformly observed the practice of adding holy chrism which, as is clear, more fully signifies the effect of Baptism. The people should also be taught that although it may sometimes be doubtful whether this or that water be genuine, such as the perfection of the Sacrament requires, it can never be a subject of doubt that the only matter from which the Sacrament of Baptism can be formed is natural water.
Form of Baptism
Having carefully explained the matter, which is one of the two parts of which Baptism consists, pastors must show equal diligence in explaining the form, which is the other essential part. In the explanation of this Sacrament a necessity of increased care and study arises, as pastors will perceive, from the circumstance that the knowledge of so holy a mystery is not only in itself a source of pleasure to the faithful, as is generally the case with regard to religious knowledge, but also very desirable for almost daily practical use. As we shall explain in its proper place, circumstances often arise where Baptism requires to be administered by the laity, and most frequently by women; and it therefore becomes necessary to make all the faithful, indiscriminately, well acquainted with whatever regards the substance of this Sacrament.
Words Of The Form
Pastors, therefore, should teach, in clear, unambiguous language, intelligible to every capacity, that the true and essential form of Baptism is: I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For so it was delivered by our Lord and Saviour when, as we read in St. Matthew He gave to His Apostles the command: Going, . . . teach ye all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
By the word baptising, the Catholic Church, instructed from above, most justly understood that the form of the Sacrament should express the action of the minister; and this takes place when he pronounces the words, I baptise thee.
Besides the minister of the Sacrament, the person to be baptised and the principal efficient cause of Baptism should be mentioned. The pronoun thee, and the distinctive names of the Divine Persons are therefore added. Thus the complete form of the Sacrament is expressed in the words already mentioned: I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Baptism is the work not of the Son alone, of whom St. John says, He it is that baptizeth, but of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity together. By saying, however, in the name, not in the names, we distinctly declare that in the Trinity there is but one Nature and Godhead. The word name is here referred not to the Persons, but to the Divine Essence, virtue and power, which are one and the same in Three Persons.
Essential And Non-Essential Words Of The Form
It is, however, to be observed that of the words contained in this form, which we have shown to be the complete and perfect one, some are absolutely necessary, so that the omission of them renders the valid administration of the Sacrament impossible; while others on the contrary, are not so essential as to affect its validity.
Of the latter kind is the word ego (I), the force of which is included in the word baptizo (I baptise). Nay more, the Greek Church, adopting a different manner of expressing the form, and being of opinion that it is unnecessary to make mention of the minister, omits the pronoun altogether. The form universally used in the Greek Church is: Let this servant of Christ be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It appears, however, from the decision and definition of the Council of Florence, that those who use this form administer the Sacraments validly, because the words sufficiently express what is essential to the validity of Baptism, that is, the ablution which then takes place.
Baptism In The Name Of Christ
If at any time the Apostles baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ only, we can be sure they did so by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in order, in the infancy of the Church, to render their preaching more illustrious by the name of Jesus Christ, and to proclaim more effectually His divine and infinite power. If, however, we examine the matter more closely, we shall find that such a form omits nothing which the Saviour Himself commands to be observed; for he who mentions Jesus Christ implies the Person of the Father, by whom, and that of the Holy Ghost, in whom, He was anointed.
And yet, the use of this form by the Apostles seems rather doubtful if we accept the opinions of Ambrose and Basil, holy Fathers eminent for sanctity and authority, who interpret baptism in the name of Jesus Christ to mean the Baptism instituted by Christ our Lord, as distinguished from that of John, and who say that the Apostles did not depart from the ordinary and usual form which comprises the distinct names of the Three Persons. Paul also, in his Epistle to the Galatians, seems to have expressed himself in a similar manner, when he says: As many of you as have been baptised in Christ, have put on Christ, meaning that they were baptised in the faith of Christ, but with no other form than that which the same Saviour our Lord had commanded to be observed.
Administration of Baptism
What has been said on the matter and form, which are required for the essence of the Sacrament, will be found sufficient for the instruction of the faithful; but as in the administration of the Sacrament the legitimate manner of ablution should also be observed, pastors should teach the doctrine of this-point also.
They should briefly explain that, according to the common custom and practice of the Church, Baptism may be administered in three ways, -- by immersion, infusion or aspersion.
Whichever of these rites be observed, we must believe that Baptism is rightly administered. For in Baptism water is used to signify the spiritual ablution which it accomplishes, and on this account Baptism is called by the Apostle a laver. Now this ablution is not more really accomplished by immersion, which was for a considerable time the practice in the early ages of the Church, than by infusion, which we now see in general use, or by aspersion, which there is reason to believe was the manner in which Peter baptised, when on one day he converted and gave Baptism to about three thousand souls.
It is a matter of indifference whether the ablution be performed once or thrice. For it is evident from the Epistle of St. Gregory the Great to Leander that Baptism was formerly and may still be validly administered in the Church in either way. The faithful, however, should follow the practice of the particular Church to which they belong.
Pastors should be particularly careful to observe that the baptismal ablution is not to be applied indifferently to any part of the body, but principally to the head, which is the seat of all the internal and external senses; and also that he who baptises is to pronounce the sacramental words which constitute the form, not before or after, but when performing the ablution.
Institution Of Baptism
When these things have been explained, it will also be expedient to teach and remind the faithful that, in common with the other Sacraments, Baptism was instituted by Christ the Lord. On this subject the pastor should frequently teach and point out that there are two different periods of time which relate to Baptism, -- one the period of its institution by the Redeemer; the other, the establishment of the law regarding its reception.
Baptism Instituted At Christ's Baptism
With regard to the former, it is clear that this Sacrament was instituted by our Lord when, having been baptised by John, He gave to water the power of sanctifying. St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Augustine ╖ testify that to water was then. imparted the power of regenerating to spiritual life. In another place St. Augustine says: From the moment that Christ is immersed in water, water washes away all sins. And again: The Lord is baptised, not because He had need to be cleansed, but in order that, by the contact of His pure flesh, He might purify the waters and impart to them the power of cleansing.
A very strong argument to prove that Baptism was then instituted by our Lord might be afforded by the fact the most Holy Trinity, in whose name Baptism is conferred, manifested Its divine presence on that occasion. The voice of the Father was heard, the Person of the Son was present, the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove; and the heavens, into which we are enabled to enter by Baptism, were thrown open.
Should anyone desire to know how our Lord has endowed water with a virtue so great, so divine, this indeed transcends the power of the human understanding. Yet this we can know, that when our Lord was baptised, water, by contact with His most holy and pure body, was consecrated to the salutary use of Baptism, in such a way, however, that, although instituted before the Passion, we must believe that this Sacrament derives all its virtue and efficacy from the Passion, which is the consummation, as it were, of all the actions of Christ.
Baptism Made Obligatory After Christ's Resurrection
The second period to be distinguished, that is, the time when the law of Baptism was made, also admits of no doubt. Holy writers are unanimous in saying that after the Resurrection of our Lord, when He gave to His Apostles the command to go and teach all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the law of Baptism became obligatory on all who were to be saved.
This is inferred from the authority of the Prince of the Apostles when he says: Who hath regenerated us into a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;' and also from what Paul says of the Church: He delivered himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. By both Apostles the obligation of Baptism seems to be referred to the time which followed the death of our Lord. Hence we can have no doubt that the words of the Saviour: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, refer also to the same time which was to follow after His Passion.
If, then, pastors explain these truths accurately, there can be no doubt that the faithful will recognise the high dignity of this Sacrament and venerate it with the most profound piety, particularly when they reflect that each of them receives in Baptism by the interior operation of the Holy Ghost the same glorious and most ample gifts which were so strikingly manifested by miracles at the Baptism of Christ the Lord.
Were our eyes, like those of the servant of Eliseus, opened to see heavenly things, who can be supposed so senseless as not to be lost in rapturous admiration of the divine mysteries of Baptism ! When, therefore, the riches of this Sacrament are unfolded to the faithful by the pastor, so as to enable them to behold them, if not with the eyes of the body, yet with those of the soul illumined by the light of faith, may we not anticipate similar results ?
The Ministers of Baptism
In the next place, it appears not only expedient, but necessary to say who are ministers of this Sacrament; both in order that those to whom this office is specially confided may study to perform its functions religiously and holily; and that no one, outstepping, as it were, his proper limits, may unseasonably take possession of, or arrogantly assume, what belongs to another; for, as the Apostle teaches, order is to be observed in all things.
Bishops And Priests The Ordinary Ministers
The faithful, therefore, are to be informed that of those (who administer Baptism) there are three gradations. Bishops and priests hold the first place. To them belongs the administration of this Sacrament, not by any extraordinary concession of power, but by right of office; for to them, in the persons of the Apostles, was addressed the command of our Lord: Go, baptise. Bishops, it is true, in order not to neglect the more weighty charge of instructing the faithful, have generally left its administration to priests. But the authority of the Fathers and the usage of the Church prove that priests exercise this function by their own right, so much so that they may baptise even in the presence of the Bishop. Ordained to consecrate the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of peace and unity, it was fitting that they be invested with power to administer all those things which are required to enable others to participate in that peace and unity. If, therefore, the Fathers have at any time said that without the leave of the Bishop the priest has not the right to baptise, they are to be understood to speak of that Baptism only which was administered on certain days of the year with solemn ceremonies.
Deacons Extraordinary Ministers Of Baptism
Next among the ministers are deacons, for whom, as numerous decrees of the holy Fathers attest it is not lawful without the permission of the Bishop or priest to administer this Sacrament.
Ministers In Case Of Necessity
Those who may administer Baptism in case of necessity, but without its solemn ceremonies, hold the last place; and in this class are included all, even the laity, men and women, to whatever sect they may belong. This office extends in case of necessity, even to Jews, infidels and heretics, provided, however, they intend to do what the Catholic Church does in that act of her ministry. These things were established by many decrees of the ancient Fathers and Councils; and the holy Council of Trent denounces anathema against those who dare to say, that Baptism, even when administered by heretics, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true Baptism.
And here indeed let us admire the supreme goodness and wisdom of our Lord. Seeing the necessity of this Sacrament for all, He not only instituted water, than which nothing can be more common, as its matter, but also placed its administration within the power of all. In its administration, however, as we have already observed, all are not allowed to use the solemn ceremonies; not that rites and ceremonies are of higher dignity, but because they are less necessary than the Sacrament.
Let not the faithful, however, imagine that this office is given promiscuously to all, so as to do away with the propriety of observing a certain precedence among those who are its ministers. When a man is present a woman should not baptise; an ecclesiastic takes precedence over a layman, and a priest over a simple ecclesiastic. Midwives, however, when accustomed to its administration, are not to be found fault with if sometimes, when a man is present who is unacquainted with the manner of its administration, they perform what may otherwise appear to belong more properly to men.
The Sponsors at Baptism
Besides the ministers who, as just explained, confer Baptism, another class of persons, according to the most ancient practice of the Church, is admitted to assist at the baptismal font. In former times these were commonly called by sacred writers receivers, sponsors or sureties, and are now called godfathers and godmothers. As this is an office pertaining almost to all the laity, pastors should explain it with care, so that the faithful may understand what is chiefly necessary for its proper performance.
Why Sponsors Are Required At Baptism
In the first instance it should be explained why at Baptism, besides those who administer the Sacrament, godparents and sponsors are also required. The propriety of the practice will at once appear to all if they recollect that Baptism is a spiritual regeneration by which we are born children of God; for of it St. Peter says: As newborn infants, desire the rational milk without guile. As, therefore, every one, after his birth, requires a nurse and instructor by whose assistance and attention he is brought up and formed to learning and useful knowledge, so those, who, by the waters of Baptism, begin to live a spiritual life should be entrusted to the fidelity and prudence of some one from whom they may imbibe the precepts of the Christian religion and may be brought up in all holiness, and thus grow gradually in Christ, until, with the Lord's help, they at length arrive at perfect manhood.
This necessity must appear still more imperative, if we recollect that pastors, who are charged with the public care of parishes have not sufficient time to undertake the private instruction of children in the rudiments of faith.
Antiquity Of This Law
Concerning this very ancient practice we have this noteworthy testimony of St. Denis: It occurred to our divine leaders (so he called the Apostles), and they in their wisdom ordained that infants should be introduced (into the Church) in this holy manner that their natural parents should deliver them to the care of some one well skilled in divine things, as to a master under whom, as a spiritual father and guardian of his salvation in holiness, the child should lead the remainder of his life. The same doctrine is confirmed by the authority of Hyginus.
Affinity Contracted By Sponsors
The Church, therefore, in her wisdom has ordained that not only the person who baptises contracts a spiritual affinity with the person baptised, but also the sponsor with the godchild and its natural parents, so that between all these marriage cannot be lawfully contracted, and if contracted, it is null and void.
Duties Of Sponsors
The faithful are also to be taught the duty of sponsors; for such is the negligence with which this office is treated in the Church that only the bare name of the function remains, while none seem to have the least idea of its sanctity. Let all sponsors, then, at all times recollect that they are strictly bound by this law to exercise a constant vigilance over their spiritual children, and carefully to instruct them in the maxims of a Christian life; so that these may show themselves throughout life to be what their sponsors promised in the solemn ceremony.
On this subject let us hear the words of St. Denis. Speaking in the person of the sponsor he says: I promise, by my constant exhortations to induce this child, when he comes to a knowledge of religion, to renounce every thing opposed (to his Christian calling) and to profess and perform the sacred promises which he now makes.
St. Augustine also says: I most especially admonish you, men and women, who have acquired godchildren through Baptism, to consider that you stood as sureties before God, for those whom you received at the sacred font. Indeed it preeminently becomes every man, who undertakes any office, to be indefatigable in the discharge of its duties; and he who promised to be the teacher and guardian of another should never allow to be deserted him whom he once received under his care and protection as long as he knows the latter to stand in need of either.
Speaking of this same duty of sponsors, St. Augustine sums up in a few words the lessons of instruction which they are bound to impart to their spiritual children. They ought, he says, to admonish them to observe chastity, love justice, cling to charity; and above all they should teach them the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the rudiments of the Christian religion.
Who May Not Be Sponsors
It is easy, therefore, to decide who are inadmissible to this holy guardianship, that is, those who are unwilling to discharge its duties with fidelity, or who cannot do so with care and accuracy.
Wherefore, besides the natural parents, who, to mark the great difference that exists between this spiritual and the carnal bringing up of youth, are not permitted to undertake this charge, heretics, Jews and infidels are on no account to be admitted to this office, since their thoughts and efforts are continually employed in darkening by falsehood the true faith and in subverting all Christian piety.
Number Of Sponsors
The number of sponsors is limited by the Council of Trent to one godfather or one godmother, or at most, to a godfather and a godmother; because a number of teachers may confuse the order of discipline and instruction, and also because it was necessary to prevent the multiplication of affinities which would impede a wider diffusion of society by means of lawful marriage.
Necessity of Baptism
If the knowledge of what has been hitherto explained be, as it is, of highest importance to the faithful, it is no less important to them to learn that the law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors, therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Infant Baptism: It's Necessity
That this law extends not only to adults but also to infants and children, and that the Church has received this from Apostolic tradition, is confirmed by the unanimous teaching and authority of the Fathers.
Besides, it is not to be supposed that Christ the Lord would have withheld the Sacrament and grace of Baptism from children, of whom He said: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me; for the kingdom of heaven is for such; ░ whom also He embraced, upon whom He imposed hands, to whom He gave His blessing.
Moreover, when we read that an entire family was baptised by Paul, it is sufficiently obvious that the children of the family must also have been cleansed in the saving font.
Circumcision, too, which was a figure of Baptism, affords strong argument in proof of this practice. That children were circumcised on the eighth day is universally known. If then circumcision, made by hand, in despoiling of the body of the flesh, was profitable to children, it is clear that Baptism, which is the circumcision of Christ, not made by hand, is also profitable to them.
Finally, as the Apostle teaches, if by one man's offence death reigned through one, much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ. If, then, through the transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in life. This, however, cannot be effected otherwise than by Baptism.
Pastors, therefore, should inculcate the absolute necessity of ad- ministering Baptism to infants, and of gradually forming their tender minds to piety by education in the Christian religion. For according to these admirable words of the wise man: A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Infants Receive The Graces Of Baptism
It may not be doubted that in Baptism infants receive the mysterious gifts of faith. Not that they believe with the assent of the mind, but they are established in the faith of their parents, if the parents profess the true faith; if not--to use the words of St. Augustine,--then in that of the universal society of the saints; for they are rightly said to be presented for Baptism by all those to whom their initiation in that sacred rite is a source of joy, and by whose charity they are united to the communion of the Holy Ghost.
Baptism Of Infants Should Not Be Delayed
The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death.
Baptism Of Adults
With regard to those of adult age who enjoy the perfect use of reason, persons, namely, born of infidel parents, the practice of the primitive Church points out that a different manner of proceeding should be followed. To them the Christian faith is to be proposed; and they are earnestly to be exhorted, persuaded and invited to embrace it.
They Should Not Delay Their Baptism Unduly
If converted to the Lord God, they are then to be admonished not to defer the Sacrament of Baptism beyond the time prescribed by the Church. For since it is written, delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day, they are to be taught that in their regard perfect conversion consists in regeneration by Baptism. Besides, the longer they defer Baptism, the longer are they deprived of the use and graces of the other Sacraments, by which the Christian religion is practised, since the other Sacraments are accessible through Baptism only.
They are also deprived of the abundant fruits of Baptism, the waters of which not only wash away all the stains and defilements of past sins, but also enrich us with divine grace which enables us to avoid sin for the future and preserve righteousness and innocence, which constitute the sum of a Christian life, as all can easily understand.
Ordinarily They Are Not Baptised At Once
On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of Baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.
Nay, this delay seems to be attended with some advantages. And first, since the Church must take particular care that none approach this Sacrament through hypocrisy and dissimulation, the intentions of such as seek Baptism, are better examined and ascertained. Hence it is that we read in the decrees of ancient Councils that Jewish converts to the Catholic faith, before admission to Baptism, should spend some months in the ranks of the catechumens.
Furthermore, the candidate for Baptism is thus better instructed in the doctrine of the faith which he is to profess, and in the practices of the Christian life. Finally, when Baptism is administered to adults with solemn ceremonies on the appointed days of Easter and Pentecost only greater religious reverence is shown to the Sacrament.
In Case Of Necessity Adults May Be: Baptised At Once
Sometimes, however, when there exists a just and necessary cause, as in the case of imminent danger of death, Baptism is not to be deferred, particularly if the person to be baptised is well instructed in the mysteries of faith. This we find to have been done by Philip, and by the Prince of the Apostles, when without any delay, the one baptised the eunuch of Queen Candace; the other, Cornelius, as soon as they expressed a wish to embrace the faith.
Dispositions for Baptism
The faithful are also to be instructed in the necessary dispositions for Baptism. In the first place they must desire and intend to receive it; for as in Baptism we all die to sin and resolve to live a new life, it is fit that it be administered to those only who receive it of their own free will and accord; it is to be forced upon none. Hence we learn from holy tradition that it has been the invariable practice to administer Baptism to no individual without previously asking him if he be willing to receive it. This disposition even infants are presumed to have, since the will of the Church, which promises for them, cannot be mistaken.
Insane, delirious persons who were once of sound mind and afterwards became deranged, having in their present state no wish to be baptised, are not to be admitted to Baptism, unless in danger of death. In such cases, if previous to insanity they give intimation of a wish to be baptised, the Sacrament is to be administered; without such indication previously given it is not to be administered. The same rule is to be followed with regard to persons who are unconscious.
But if they (the insane) never enjoyed the use of reason, the authority and practice of the Church decide that they are to be baptised in the faith of the Church, just as children are baptised before they come to the use of reason.
Besides a wish to be baptised, in order to obtain the grace of the Sacrament, faith is also necessary. Our Lord and Saviour has said: He that believes and is baptised shall be saved.
Another necessary condition is repentance for past sins, and a fixed determination to avoid all sin in the future. Should anyone desire Baptism and be unwilling to correct the habit of sinning, he should be altogether rejected. For nothing is so opposed to the grace and power of Baptism as the intention and purpose of those who resolve never to abandon sin.
Seeing that Baptism should be sought with a view to put on Christ and to be united to Him, it is manifest that he who purposes to continue in sin should justly be repelled from the sacred font, particularly since none of those things which belong to Christ and His Church are to be received in vain, and since we well understand that, as far as regards sanctifying and saving grace, Baptism is received in vain by him who purposes to live according to the flesh, and not according to the spirit. As far, however, as the Sacrament is concerned, if the person who is rightly baptised intends to receive what the Church administers, he without doubt validly receives the Sacrament.
Hence, to the vast multitude who, in compunction of heart, as the Scripture says, asked him and the other Apostles what they should do, the Prince of the Apostles answered: Do penance and be baptised every one of you; and in another place he said: Be penitent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. Writing to the Romans, St. Paul also clearly shows that he who is baptised should entirely die to sin; and he therefore admonishes us not to yield our members as instruments of iniquity unto sin, but present ourselves to God, as those who are alive from the dead.
Advantages To Be Derived From These Reflections
Frequent reflection upon these truths cannot fail, in the first place, to fill the minds of the faithful with admiration for the infinite goodness of God, who, uninfluenced by any other consideration than that of His mercy, gratuitously bestowed upon us, undeserving as we are, a blessing so extraordinary and divine as that of Baptism.
If in the next place they consider how spotless should be the lives of those who have been made the objects of such munificence, they cannot fail to be convinced of the special obligation imposed on every Christian to spend each day of his life in such sanctity and fervour, as if on that very day he had received the Sacrament and grace of Baptism.
Effects of Baptism
To inflame the minds of the faithful, however, with a zeal for true piety, pastors will find no means more efficacious than an accurate exposition of the effects of Baptism.
The effects of Baptism should be frequently explained, in order that the faithful may be rendered more sensible of the high dignity to which they have been raised, and may never suffer themselves to be cast down therefrom by the snares or assaults of Satan.
First Effect Of Baptism: Remission Of Sin
They are to be taught, in the first place, that such is the admirable efficacy of this Sacrament that it remits original sin and actual guilt, however unthinkable its enormity may seem.
This was foretold long before by Ezechiel, through whom God said: I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness. The Apostle also, writing to the Corinthians, after having enumerated a long catalogue of sins, adds: such you were, but you are washed, but you are sanctified.
That such was at all times the doctrine handed down by holy Church is clear. By the generation of the flesh, says St. Augustine in his book On the Baptism of Infants, we contract original sin only; by the regeneration of the Spirit, we obtain forgiveness not only of original, but also of actual sins. St. Jerome also, writing to Oceanus, says: all sins are forgiven in Baptism.
To remove all further doubt on the subject, the Council of Trent, after other Councils had defined this, declared it anew, pronouncing anathema against those who should presume to think otherwise, or should dare to assert that although sin is forgiven in Baptism, it is not entirely removed or totally eradicated, but is cut away in such a manner as to leave its roots still fixed in the soul. To use the words of the same holy Council, God hates nothing in those who are regenerated; for there remains nothing deserving of condemnation in those who are truly buried with Christ by Baptism unto death, "who walk not according to the flesh" but putting off the old man, and putting on the new, who is created according to God, become innocent, spotless, pure, upright, and beloved of God.
Concupiscence Which Remains After Baptism Is No Sin
We must confess, however, that concupiscence, or the fuel of sin, still remains, as the Council declares in the same place. But concupiscence does not constitute sin, for, as St. Augustine observes, in children who have been baptised the guilt of concupiscence is removed, (the concupiscence itself) remains for probation; and in another place he says: the guilt of concupiscence is pardoned in Baptism, but its infirmity remains. For concupiscence which is the effect of sin is nothing more than an appetite of the soul in itself repugnant to reason. But if it is not accompanied by the consent of the will or by negligence, it is very far from being sin.
When St. Paul says, I did not know concupiscence, if the law did not say: Thou shalt not covet, he speaks not of concupiscence itself, but of the fault of the will.
The same doctrine is taught by St. Gregory when he says: If there are any who assert that in Baptism sin is but superficially effaced, what could be more untrue than their statement? By the Sacrament of faith the soul, entirely freed from sin, adheres to God alone. In proof of this doctrine he has recourse to the testimony of our Saviour who says in St. John: He that is -washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly.
Further Proof Of The First Effect Of Baptism
Should anyone desire a striking figure and image (of the efficacy of Baptism) let him consider the history of Naaman the Syrian leper, of whom the Scriptures inform us that when he had washed seven times in the waters of the Jordan he was so cleansed from his leprosy that his flesh became like the flesh of a child.
The remission of all sin, original and actual, is therefore the peculiar effect of Baptism. That this was the object of its institution by our Lord and Saviour is clearly stated by the Prince of the Apostles, to say nothing of other testimonies, when he says: Do penance and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.
The Second Effect Of Baptism: Remission Of All Punishment Due To Sin
In Baptism not only is sin forgiven, but with it all the punishment due to sin is mercifully remitted by God. To communicate the efficacy of the Passion of Christ our Lord is an effect common to all the Sacraments; but of Baptism alone does the Apostle say, that by it we die and are buried together with Christ.
Hence holy Church has always understood that to impose those works of piety, usually called by the holy Fathers works of satisfaction, on one who is to be cleansed in Baptism, would be injurious to this Sacrament in the highest degree.
Nor is there any discrepancy between the doctrine here taught and the practice of the primitive Church, which of old commanded the Jews, when preparing for Baptism, to observe a fast of forty successive days. (The fast thus imposed) was not enjoined as a work of satisfaction; but those who had received Baptism were thus admonished to devote some time to the uninterrupted exercise of fasting and prayer in honour of so great a Sacrament.
Baptism Does Not Exempt From Penalties Of The Civil Law
Although the remission by Baptism of the punishments due to sin cannot be questioned, we are not to infer that it exempts an offender from the punishments decreed by civil tribunals for some grave crime. Thus a person sentenced to death is not rescued by Baptism from the penalty ordained by the law.
We cannot, however, too highly commend the religion and piety of those rulers who remit the sentence of the law, that the glory of God may be the more strikingly displayed in His Sacraments.
Baptism Remits The Punishment Due To Original Sin After Death
Baptism also remits all the punishment due to original sin after this life, for through the merit of the death of our Lord we are able to attain this blessing. By Baptism, as we have already said, we die with Christ. For if, says the Apostle, we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Baptism Does Not Free Us From The Miseries Of Life
Should it be asked why immediately after Baptism we are not exempt in this mortal life from misfortunes and restored by the influence of this sacred ablution to that state of perfection in which Adam, the father of the human race, was placed before his fall, the answer will be that there are two chief reasons for this.
In the first place we who by Baptism are united to, and become members of Christ's body, should not be more honoured than our Head. Now Christ our Lord, although clothed from His birth with the plenitude of grace and truth, was not divested of human infirmity which He assumed, until, having suffered and died, He rose to the glory of immortality. It cannot appear extraordinary, therefore, if the faithful, even after they have received the grace of justification by Baptism, are clothed with frail and perishable bodies until, having undergone many labours for the sake of Christ, and having closed their earthly career, they are recalled to life and found worthy to enjoy with Him an eternity of bliss.
The second reason why bodily infirmity, disease, sense of pain and motions of concupiscence remain after Baptism is that in them we may have the seed and material of virtue from which we shall hereafter receive a more abundant harvest of glory and more ample rewards. When, with patient resignation, we bear all the trials of life, and, aided by the divine assistance, subject to the dominion of reason the rebellious desires of the heart, we ought to cherish an assured hope that if, with the Apostle we shall have fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith, the Lord, the just judge, will render to us on that day a crown of justice which is laid up for us.
Such seems to have been the divine plan with regard to the children of Israel. God delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, having drowned Pharaoh and his hosts in the sea; yet He did not conduct them immediately into the happy land of promise; He first tried them by a variety and multiplicity of sufferings. And when He afterwards placed them in possession of the promised land and expelled the previous inhabitants from their native territories, yet He left a few other nations whom the Israelites could not exterminate, in order that His people might always have occasion to exercise fortitude and warlike courage.
We may add that if, to the heavenly gifts with which the soul is adorned in Baptism, were joined temporal advantages, there would be good reason to doubt whether many might not approach Baptism with a view to obtain such advantages in this life, rather than the glory to be hoped for in the next; whereas the Christian should always propose to himself, not these delusive and uncertain goods which are seen, but the solid and eternal ones which are not seen.
Baptism A Source Of Happiness To The Christian Even In This Life
This life, however, although full of misery, does not lack its pleasures and joys. To us, who by Baptism are engrafted as branches on Christ's what could be more pleasing or desirable than, taking up the cross upon our shoulders, to follow Him as our leader, fatigued by no labor, retarded by no danger, in ardent pursuit of the rewards of our high vocation; some to receive the laurel of virginity, others the crown of teaching and preaching, some the palm of martyrdom, others the honours appropriate to their respective virtues? These splendid titles of exalted dignity none of us should receive, had we not contended in the race of this calamitous life and stood unconquered in the conflict.
Third Effect Of Baptism: Grace Of Regeneration
But to return to the effects of Baptism, it should be taught that by virtue of this Sacrament we are not only delivered from what are justly deemed the greatest of all evils, but are also enriched with invaluable goods and blessings. Our souls are replenished with divine grace, by which we are rendered just and children of God and are made heirs to eternal salvation. For it is written: He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved, and the Apostle testifies that the Church is cleansed by the laver of water in the word of life. Now according to the definition of the Council of Trent, which under pain of anathema we are bound to believe, grace not only remits sin, but is also a divine quality inherent in the soul, and, as it were, a brilliant light that effaces all those stains which obscure the lustre of the soul, investing it with increased brightness and beauty. This is also a clear inference from the words of Scripture when it says that grace is poured forth, and also when it usually calls grace, the pledge of the Holy Ghost.
Fourth Effect Of Baptism: Infused Virtues And Incorporation With Christ
This grace is accompanied by a most splendid train of all virtues, which are divinely infused into the soul along with grace. Hence, when writing to Titus, the Apostle says: He saved us by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. St. Augustine, in explanation of the words, poured forth abundantly, says: that is, for the remission of sins and for abundance of virtues.
By Baptism we are also united to Christ, as members to their Head. As therefore from the head proceeds the power by which the different members of the body are moved to the proper performance of their respective functions, so from the fullness of Christ the Lord are diffused divine grace and virtue through all those who are justified, qualifying them for the performance of all the duties of Christian piety.
Why The Practice Of Virtue Is Difficult Even After Baptism
Though we are thus supported by a powerful array of virtues, it should not excite our surprise if we cannot, without much labor and difficulty, undertake, or at least, perform acts of piety and of moral virtue. If this is so, it is not because the goodness of God has not bestowed on us the virtues from which these good works proceed; but because there still remains after Baptism a severe conflict of the flesh against the spirit, in which, however, it would not become a Christian to be dispirited or grow faint.
Relying on the divine goodness we should confidently hope that by a constant habit of leading a holy life the time will come when whatever things are modest, whatever just, whatever holy, will also prove easy and agreeable. Let these be the subjects of our willing consideration, the objects of our cheerful practice, that the God of peace may be with us.
Fifth Effect Of Baptism: Character Of Christian
By Baptism, moreover, we are sealed with a character that can never be effaced from the soul. On this point, however, we need not speak at length, for what we have already sufficiently said on the subject, when treating of the Sacraments in general, may be applied here.
Baptism Not To Be Repeated
Since on account of the nature and efficacy of this character it has been defined by the Church that this Sacrament is on no account to be reiterated, pastors should frequently and diligently admonish the faithful on this subject, lest at any time they may be led into error.
This doctrine is taught by the Apostle when he says: One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Again, when exhorting the Romans, that being dead in Christ by Baptism they should take care not to lose the life which they had received from Him, he says: In that Christ died unto sin, he died once. These words seem clearly to signify that as Christ cannot die again, neither can we die again by Baptism. Hence the holy Church also openly professes that she believes one Baptism. That this agrees with the nature of the thing and with reason is understood from the very idea of Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration. As then, by virtue of the laws of nature, we are generated and born but once, and, as St. Augustine observes, there is no returning to the womb; so, in like manner, there is but one spiritual generation, and Baptism is never at any time to be repeated.
In Conditional Baptism The Sacrament Is Not Repeated
Nor let anyone suppose that it is repeated by the Church when she baptises anyone whose previous Baptism was doubtful, making use of this formula: If thou art baptised, I baptise thee not again but if thou art not yet baptised, I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In such cases Baptism is not to be considered as impiously repeated, but as holily, yet conditionally, administered.
In this connection, however, there are some matters, in which, to the very great injury of the Sacrament, abuses are of almost daily occurrence, and which therefore demand the diligent attention of pastors. For there are not wanting those who think that no sin is committed if they indiscriminately administer conditional Baptism. Hence if an infant be brought to them, they think that no inquiry need be made as to whether it was previously baptised, but proceed immediately to baptise the child. Nay more, although they be well aware that the Sacrament was administered at home, they do not hesitate to repeat its administration in the Church conditionally, making use of the solemn ceremonies of the Church.
This certainly they cannot do without sacrilege and without incurring what theologians call an irregularity. According to the authority of Pope Alexander the conditional form of Baptism is to be used only when after due inquiry doubts are entertained as to the validity of the previous Baptism. In no other case is it ever lawful to administer Baptism a second time, even conditionally.
Sixth Effect Of Baptism: Opening The Gates Of Heaven
Besides the other advantages which accrue to us from Baptism, the last, to which all the others seem to be referred, is that it opens to us the portals of heaven which sin had closed against us.
Effects Of Baptism Foreshadowed In The Baptism Of Christ
These effects which are wrought in us by virtue of Baptism are distinctly marked by the circumstances which, as the Gospel relates, accompanied the Baptism of our Saviour. The heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost appeared descending upon Christ our Lord in the form of a dove. By this we are given to understand that to those who are baptised are imparted the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that to them are opened the gates of heaven. The baptised, it is true, do not enter heaven immediately after Baptism, but in due season. When they shall have been freed from all misery which is incompatible with a state of bliss, they shall exchange a mortal for an immortal life.
Measure In Which Those Effects Are Obtained
These are the fruits of Baptism, which, if we consider the efficacy of the Sacrament, are, no doubt, equally common to all; but if we consider the dispositions with which it is received, it is no less certain that all do not share to the same extent in these heavenly gifts and graces.
Ceremonies of Baptism
It now remains to explain, clearly and concisely, what is to be taught concerning the prayers, rites, and ceremonies of this Sacrament. To rites and ceremonies may, in some measure, be applied what the Apostle says of the gift of tongues, that it is unprofitable to speak, unless the faithful understand. They present an image, and convey the signification of the things that are done in the Sacrament; but if the people do not understand the force and meaning of these signs, there is but little advantage derived from ceremonies. Pastors should take care, therefore, to make them understood and to impress the minds of the faithful with a conviction that, although ceremonies are not of absolute necessity, they are of very great importance and deserve great veneration.
This the authority of those by whom they were instituted, who were, no doubt, the Apostles, and also the object of their institution, sufficiently prove. It is manifest that ceremonies contribute to the more religious and holy administration of the Sacraments, serve to place, as it were, before the eyes the exalted and inestimable gifts which they contain, and impress on the minds of the faithful a deeper sense of the boundless beneficence of God.
Three Classes Of Ceremonies In Baptism
In order that the pastor's instructions may follow a certain plan and that the people may find it: easier to remember his words, all the ceremonies and prayers which the Church uses in the administration of Baptism are to be reduced to three heads. The first comprehends such as are observed before coming to the baptismal font; the second, such as are used at the font; the third, those that usually follow the administration of the Sacrament.
Ceremonies That Are Observed Before Coming To The Font: Consecration Of Baptismal Water
In the first place, then, the water to be used in Baptism should be prepared. The baptismal font is consecrated with the oil of mystic unction; not, however, at all times, but, according to ancient usage, only on certain feasts, which are justly deemed the greatest and the most holy solemnities in the year. The water of Baptism was consecrated on the vigils of those feasts; and on those days alone, except in cases of necessity, it was also the practice of the ancient Church to administer Baptism. But although the Church, on account of the dangers to which life is continually exposed, has deemed it expedient to change her discipline in this respect, she still observes with the greatest solemnity the festivals of Easter and Pentecost on which the baptismal water is to be consecrated.
The Person To Be Baptised Stands At The Church Door
After the consecration of the water the other ceremonies that precede Baptism are next to be explained. The persons to be baptised are brought or conducted a to the door of the church and are strictly forbidden to enter, as unworthy to be admitted into the house of God, until they have cast off the yoke of the most degrading servitude and devoted themselves unreservedly to Christ the Lord and His most just authority.
The priest then asks what they demand of the Church; and having received the answer, he first instructs them in the doctrines of the Christian faith, of which a profession is to be made in Baptism.
This the priest does in a brief catechetical instruction, a practice which originated, no doubt, in the precept of our Lord addressed to His Apostles: Go ye into the whole world, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. From this command we may learn that Baptism is not to be administered until, at least, the principal truths of our religion are explained.
But as the catechetical form consists of many interrogations, if the person to be instructed be an adult, he himself answers; if an infant, the sponsor answers for him according to the prescribed form and makes the solemn promise.
The exorcism comes next in order. It consists of words of sacred and religious import and of prayers, and is used to expel the devil, to weaken and crush his power.
To the exorcism are added other ceremonies, each of which, being mystical, has its own clear signification. When, for instance, salt is put into the mouth of the person to be baptised, this evidently means that, by the doctrines of faith and by the gift of grace, he shall be delivered from the corruption of sin, shall experience a relish for good works, and shall be delighted with the food of divine wisdom.
The Sign Of The Cross
Next his forehead, eyes, breast, shoulders and ears are signed with the sign of the cross, to declare, that by the mystery of Baptism, the senses of the person baptised are opened and strengthened, to enable him to receive God, and to understand and observe His Commandments.
His nostrils and ears are next touched with spittle, and he is then immediately admitted to the baptismal font. By this ceremony we understand that, as sight was given to the blind man mentioned in the Gospel, whom the Lord after He had spread clay on his eyes commanded to wash them in the waters of Siloe, so through the efficacy of holy Baptism a light is let in on the mind, which enables it to discern heavenly truth.
The Ceremonies Observed After Coming To The Font
After the performance of these ceremonies the persons to be baptised approach the baptismal font, at which are performed other rites and ceremonies which present a summary of the Christian religion.
The Renunciation Of Satan
Three distinct times the person to be baptised is asked by the priest: Dost thou renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his pomps? To each of which he, or the sponsor in his name, replies, I renounce. Whoever, then, purposes to enlist, under the standard of Christ, must first of all, enter into a sacred and solemn engagement to renounce the devil and the world, and always to hold them in utter detestation as his worst enemies.
The Profession Of Faith
Next, standing at the baptismal font, he is interrogated by the priest in these words: Dost thou believe in God, the Father Almighty? To which he answers: I believe. Being similarly questioned on the remaining Articles of the Creed, he solemnly professes his faith. These two promises contain, it is clear, the sum and substance of the law of Christ.
The Wish To Be Baptised
When the Sacrament is now about to be administered, the priest asks the candidate if he wishes to be baptised. After an answer in the affirmative has been given by him, or, if he is an infant, by the sponsor, the priest immediately performs the salutary ablution, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
As man, by yielding the assent of his will to the wicked suggestions of Satan, fell under a just sentence of condemnation; so God will have none enrolled in the number of His soldiers but those whose service is voluntary, that by a willing obedience to His commands they may obtain eternal salvation.
The Ceremonies That Follow Baptism: Chrism
After the person has been baptised, the priest anoints the crown of his head with chrism, thus giving him to understand, that from that day he is united as a member to Christ, His Head, and ingrafted on His body; and that he is, therefore, called a Christian from Christ, as Christ is so called from chrism. What the chrism signifies, the prayers then offered by the priest, as St. Ambrose observes, sufficiently explain.
The White Garment
On the person baptised the priest then puts a white garment saying: Receive this white garment, which mayest thou carry unstained before the judgment-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ; that thou mayest have eternal life. Instead of a white garment, infants, because not formally dressed, receive a white cloth, accompanied by the same words.
According to the teaching of the Fathers this symbol signifies the glory of the resurrection to which we are born by Baptism, the brightness and beauty with which the soul, when purified from the stains of sin, is invested in Baptism, and the innocence and integrity which the person who has received Baptism should preserve throughout life.
The Lighted Candle
A lighted taper is then put into the hand of the baptised to signify that faith, inflamed by charity, which is received in Baptism, is to be fed and augmented by the exercise of good works.
The Name Given In Baptism
Finally, a name is given the person baptised. It should be taken from some person whose eminent sanctity has given him a place in the catalogue of the Saints. The similarity of name will stimulate each one to imitate the virtues and holiness of the Saint, and, moreover, to hope and pray that he who is the model for his imitation will also be his advocate and watch over the safety of his body and soul.
Wherefore those are to be reproved who search for the names of heathens, especially of those who were the greatest monsters of iniquity, to bestow upon their children. By such conduct they practically prove how little they regard Christian piety when they so fondly cherish the memory of impious men, as to wish to have their profane names continually echo in the ears of the faithful.
This exposition of the Sacrament of Baptism, if given by pastors, will be found to embrace almost everything which should be known regarding this Sacrament. We have explained the meaning of the word Baptism, the nature and substance of the Sacrament, and also the parts of which it is composed. We have said by whom it was instituted; who are the ministers necessary to its administration; who should be, as it were, the tutors whose instructions should sustain the weakness of the person baptised; to whom Baptism should be administered; and how they should be disposed; what are the virtue and efficacy of the Sacrament; finally, we have developed, at sufficient length for our purpose, the rites and ceremonies that should accompany its administration.
Pastors should recollect that the chief purpose of all these instructions is to induce the faithful to direct their constant attention and solicitude to the fulfilment of the promises so sacredly made at Baptism, and to lead lives not unworthy of the sanctity that should accompany the name and profession of Christian.
THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
Importance Of Instruction On Confirmation
If ever there was a time demanding the diligence of pastors in explaining the Sacrament of Confirmation, in these days certainly it requires special attention, when there are found in the holy Church of God many by whom this Sacrament is altogether omitted; while very few seek to obtain from it the fruit of divine grace which they should derive from its participation.
Lest, therefore, this divine blessing may seem, through their fault, and to their most serious injury, to have been conferred on them in vain, the faithful are to be instructed both on Whitsunday, on which day it is principally administered, and also on such other days as pastors shall deem convenient. Their instructions should so treat the nature, power, and dignity of this Sacrament, that the faithful may understand not only that it is not to be neglected, hut that it is to be received with the greatest piety and devotion.
Name of this Sacrament
To begin with the name, it should be taught that this Sacrament is called by the Church Confirmation because, if there is no obstacle to the efficacy of the Sacrament, a baptised person, when anointed with the sacred chrism by the Bishop, with the accompanying solemn words: I sign thee with the sign of the cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, becomes stronger with the strength of a new power, and thus begins to be a perfect soldier of Christ.
Confirmation is a Sacrament
That in Confirmation is contained the true and proper nature of a Sacrament has always been acknowledged by the Catholic Church, as Pope Melchiades and many other very holy and very ancient Pontiffs expressly declare. The truth of this doctrine St. Clement could not confirm in stronger terms than when he says: All should hasten without delay to be born again unto God, and afterwards to be signed by the Bishop, that is, to receive the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost; for, as has been handed down to us from St. Peter, and as the other Apostles taught in obedience to the command and of our Lord, he who culpably and voluntarily, and not from necessity, neglects to receive this Sacrament, cannot possibly be a perfect Christian. This same faith has been confirmed, as may be seen in their decrees, by Popes Urban, Fabian and Eusebius, who, filled with the same spirit, shed their blood for the name of Christ.
The unanimous authority of the Fathers must be added. Among them Denis the Areopagite, Bishop of Athens, when teaching how to consecrate and make use of this holy ointment, says: The priests clothe the person Baptised with a garment emblematic of purity, in order to conduct him to the Bishop; and the Bishop, signing him with the sacred and truly divine ointment, makes him partaker of the most holy communion. Of such importance does Eusebius of Caesarea also deem this Sacrament as not to hesitate to say that the heretic Novatus could not deserve to receive the Holy Ghost, because, having been baptised in a state of severe illness, he was not anointed with the sign of chrism. But on this subject we have the most distinct testimonies from St. Ambrose in his book On the Initiated, and from St. Augustine in his books Against the Epistles of Petilian the Donatist.
Both of them were so persuaded that no doubt could exist as to the reality of this Sacrament that they even taught and confirmed the doctrine by passages of Scripture, the one testifying that to the Sacrament of Confirmation apply these words of the Apostle: Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed; the other, these words of the Psalmist: Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, and also these words of the same Apostle: The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.
Confirmation is Distinct from Baptism
Although said by Melchiades to have a most intimate connection with Baptism, Confirmation is still not to be regarded as the same, but as a very different Sacrament; for the variety of the grace which each of the Sacraments confers, and of the sensible sign employed to signify that grace, evidently render them distinct and different Sacraments.
Since, then, by the grace of Baptism we are begotten unto newness of life, whereas by that of Confirmation we grow to full maturity, having put away the things of a child, we can sufficiently understand that the same difference that exists in the natural life between birth and growth exists also between Baptism, which regenerates, and Confirmation, by virtue of which growth and perfect spiritual strength are imparted to the faithful.
Besides, as there should be a new and distinct kind of Sacrament when the soul has to encounter any new difficulty, it may easily be perceived that as we require the grace of Baptism to form the mind unto faith, so is it also of the utmost advantage that the souls of the faithful be strengthened by a different grace, to the end that they be deterred by no danger, or fear of pains, tortures or death, from the confession of the true faith. This, then, being accomplished by the sacred chrism of Confirmation, it is hence clearly inferred, that the nature of this Sacrament is different from Baptism.
Hence Pope Melchiades accurately evolves the difference between them, writing as follows: In Baptism man is enlisted into the service, in Confirmation he is equipped for battle; at the baptismal font the Holy Ghost imparts fullness to accomplish innocence, but in Confirmation he ministers perfection to grace; in Baptism we are regenerated unto life, after Baptism we are fortified for the combat; in Baptism we are cleansed, after Baptism we are strengthened; regeneration of itself saves those who receive Baptism in time of peace, Confirmation arms and makes ready for conflicts.
These are truths not only already recorded by other Councils, but specially defined by the holy Council of Trent; so that we are therefore no longer at liberty not only to think otherwise, but even to entertain the least doubt concerning them.
Institution of Confirmation
It was shown above how necessary it is to teach concerning all the Sacraments in common from whom they had their origin. Wherefore the same is also to be taught as regards Confirmation, in order that the faithful may be impressed with a deeper sense of the sanctity of this Sacrament. Accordingly, pastors must explain that not only was it instituted by Christ the Lord, but that by Him were also ordained, as Pope St. Fabian testifies, the rite of chrism and the words which the Catholic Church uses in its administration. This is a fact easy to prove to those who acknowledge Confirmation to be a Sacrament, because all the sacred mysteries exceed the powers of human nature and could be instituted by no other than God alone.
Component Parts of Confirmation
We now come to treat of the component parts of the Sacrament, and first of its matter. This is called chrism, a word borrowed from the Greek language, and which, although used by profane writers to designate any sort of ointment, is appropriated by common usage among ecclesiastical writers to signify that ointment only which is composed of oil and balsam with the solemn consecration of the Bishop. A mixture of two material things, therefore, furnishes the matter of Confirmation; and this mixture of different things not only declares the manifold grace of the Holy Ghost given to those who are confirmed but also sufficiently shows the excellence of the Sacrament itself.
The Remote Matter Of Confirmation Is Chrism
That such is the matter of this Sacrament the holy Church and her Councils have always taught; and the same doctrine has been handed-down to us by St. Denis and by many other Fathers of the gravest authority, particularly by Pope Fabian,' who testifies that the Apostles received the composition of chrism from our Lord and transmitted it to us.
The Appropriateness Of Chrism
Nor indeed could any other matter than that of chrism seem more appropriate to declare the effects of this Sacrament. Oil, by its nature rich, unctuous and fluid, expresses the fullness of grace, which, through the Holy Ghost, overflows and is poured into others from Christ the head, like the ointment that ran down upon the beard of Aaron, to the skirt of his garment; for God anointed him with the oil of gladness, above his fellows, and of his fullness we all have received.
Balsam, the door of which is most pleasant, can signify nought save that the faithful, when made perfect by the grace of Confirmation, diffuse around them such a sweet door of all virtues, that they may say with the Apostle: We are unto God the good odour of Christ. Balsam has also the power of preserving from corruption whatever it is used to anoint. This property seems admirably suited to express the virtue of the Sacrament, since it is quite evident that the souls of the faithful, prepared by the heavenly grace of Confirmation, are easily protected from the contagion of sins.
Chrism To Be Consecrated By The Bishop
The chrism is consecrated by the Bishop with solemn ceremonies; for that our Saviour gave this instruction at His last supper, when He committed to His Apostles the manner of making chrism, we learn from Fabian, a pontiff eminently distinguished by his sanctity and by the glory of martyrdom.
The necessity of this consecration may, however, be shown from reason also. In most of the other Sacraments Christ so instituted their matter as to impart holiness also to it. For not only did He designate water as the element of Baptism, saying: Except a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God; but He also, at His own Baptism, imparted to it the power of sanctifying thereafter. Hence these words of St. Chrysostom: The water of Baptism, had it not been sanctified by contact with the body of our Lord, could not purge away the sins of believers. As, then, our Lord did not consecrate this matter of Confirmation by actually using and handling it, it is necessary that it be consecrated by holy and religious prayers; and this consecration can appertain to none save the Bishop, who has been appointed the ordinary minister of this Sacrament.
The Form Of Confirmation
The other component part of Confirmation, that is, its form and the words used at the sacred unction, must also be explained. The faithful are to be admonished that in receiving this Sacrament they are, in particular on hearing the words pronounced, to excite their minds to piety, faith and religion, that no obstacle may be placed to heavenly grace.
The form of Confirmation, then, is comprised in these words: I sign thee with the sign of the cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. If we call upon reason regarding this truth, we may also easily prove the same thing; for the form of a Sacrament should comprise all those things that explain the nature and substance of the Sacrament itself. But in Confirmation these three things are chiefly to be noted: the divine power which, as a principal cause, operates in the Sacrament; the strength of mind and soul which is imparted by the sacred unction to the faithful unto salvation; and finally, the sign impressed on him who is to enter upon the warfare of Christ. Now of these the first is sufficiently declared by the concluding words of the form: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; the second, by the words immediately preceding them: I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation; and the third, by the words with which the form opens: I sign thee with the sign of the cross.
But were we even unable to prove by reason that this is the true and perfect form of this Sacrament, the authority of the Catholic Church, under whose guidance we have always been thus taught, suffers us not to entertain the least doubt on the subject.
Minister of Confirmation
Pastors should also teach to whom especially has been committed the administration of this Sacrament; for as, according to the Prophet, there are many who run without being sent, it is necessary to teach who are its true and legitimate ministers, in order that the faithful may be enabled to receive the Sacrament and grace of Confirmation.
Now the Holy Scriptures show that the Bishop alone is the ordinary minister of this Sacrament, because we read in the Acts of the Apostles that when Samaria had received the Word of God, Peter and John were sent to them, who prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: for he was not as yet come upon any of them, but they were only baptised. Here we may see that he who had baptised, having been only a deacon, had no power to confirm; but that its administration was reserved to a more perfect order of ministers, that is, to the Apostles. The same may be observed whenever the Sacred Scriptures make mention of this Sacrament.
Nor are there wanting in proof of this matter the clearest testimonies of the holy Fathers and of Popes Urban, Eusebius, Damasus, Innocent and Leo, as is evident from their decrees. St. Augustine, also, seriously complains of the corrupt practice of the Egyptians and Alexandrians, whose priests dared to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The thorough propriety of reserving this function to Bishops the pastor may illustrate by the following comparison. As in the construction of buildings the artisans, who are inferior agents, prepare and dispose cement, lime, timbers and the other material, while to the architect belongs the completion of the work; so in like manner this Sacrament, which is, at it were, the completion of the spiritual edifice, should be performed by no other than the chief priest.
Sponsors at Confirmation
A sponsor is also required, as we have already shown to be the case in Baptism. For if they who enter the fencing lists have need for some one whose skill and counsel may teach them the thrusts and passes by which to overcome their adversaries, while remaining safe themselves; how much more will the faithful require a leader and monitor, when, sheathed, as it were, in the stoutest armour by this Sacrament of Confirmation, they engage in the spiritual conflict, in which eternal salvation is the proposed reward. With good reason, therefore, are sponsors employed in the administration of this Sacrament also; and the same spiritual affinity is contracted in Confirmation, which, as we have already shown, is contracted by sponsors in Baptism, so as to impede the lawful marriage of the parties.
The Subject of Confirmation
It often happens that, in receiving this Sacrament, the faithful are guilty of either precipitate haste or a gross neglect and delay; concerning those who have become so impious as to have the hardihood to contemn and despise it, we have nothing to say. Pastors, therefore, should also explain who may receive Confirmation, and what should be their age and dispositions.
All Should Be Confirmed
First, it is necessary to teach that this Sacrament is not so necessary as to be utterly essential to salvation. Although not essential, however, it ought to be omitted by no one, but rather, on the contrary, in a matter so full of holiness through which the divine gifts are so liberally bestowed, the greater care should be taken to avoid all neglect. What God has proposed in common unto all for their sanctification, all should 'likewise most earnestly desire.
St. Luke, indeed, describing this admirable effusion of the Holy Spirit, says: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house, where they were sitting; and a little after: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. From these words we may understand that, as that house was a type and figure of the Church, the Sacrament of Confirmation, which tool; its beginning from that day, appertains to all the faithful.
This may also be easily inferred from the nature of the Sacrament itself. For they ought to be confirmed with the sacred chrism who have need of spiritual increase, and who are to be led to the perfection of the Christian religion. But this is, without exception, suited to all; because as nature intends that all her children should grow up and attain full maturity, although she does not always realise her wishes; so the Catholic Church, the common mother of all, earnestly desires that, in those whom she has regenerated by Baptism, the perfection of Christian manhood be completed. Now as this is accomplished through the Sacrament of mystic Unction, it is clear that Confirmation belongs alike to all the faithful.
The Proper Age For Confirmation
Here it is to be observed, that, after Baptism, the Sacrament of Confirmation may indeed be administered to all; but that, until children shall have attained the use of reason, its administration is inexpedient. If it does not seem well to defer (Confirmation) to the age of twelve, it is most proper to postpone this Sacrament at least to that of seven years.
Confirmation has not been instituted as necessary to salvation, but that by virtue thereof we may be found very well armed and prepared when called upon to fight for the faith of Christ; and for this conflict no one assuredly will consider children who as yet lack the use of reason to be qualified.
Dispositions For Receiving Confirmation
From this, therefore, it follows that persons of mature age, who are to be confirmed, must, if they desire to obtain the grace and gifts of this Sacrament, not only bring with them faith and piety, but also grieve from their hearts for the serious sins which they have committed.
The pastor should take care that they have previous recourse to confession of their sins; should exhort them to fasting and other works of piety; and admonish them of the propriety of reviving that laudable practice of the ancient Church, of receiving this Sacrament fasting. It is to be presumed that to this the faithful may be easily persuaded, if they but understand the gifts and admirable effects of this Sacrament.
The Effects of Confirmation
Pastors, therefore, should teach that, in common with the other Sacraments, Confirmation, unless some obstacle be present on the part of the receiver, imparts new grace. For we have shown that these sacred and mystical signs are of such a character as to indicate and produce grace.
The Grace Of Strength
But besides these things, which are common to this and the other (Sacraments), it is peculiar to Confirmation first to perfect the grace of Baptism. For those who have been made Christians by Baptism, still have in some sort the tenderness and softness, as it were, of new-born infants, and afterwards become, by means of the Sacrament of chrism, stronger to resist all the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil, while their minds are fully confirmed in faith to confess and glorify the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence; also, originated the very name (Confirmation), as no one will doubt. For the word Confirmation is not derived, as some not less ignorantly than impiously have pretended, from the circumstance that persons baptised in infancy, when arrived at mature years, were of old brought to the Bishop, in order to confirm their faith in Christ, which they had embraced ill Baptism, so that Confirmation would seem not to differ from catechetical instruction. Of such a practice no reliable testimony can be adduced. On the contrary, the name has been derived from the fact that by virtue of this Sacrament God confirms in us the work He commenced in Baptism, leading us to the perfection of solid Christian virtue.
Increase In Grace
But not only does it confirm, it also increases (divine grace), as says Melchiades: The Holy Ghost, whose salutary descent upon the waters of Baptism, imparts in the font fullness to the accomplishment of innocence, in Confirmation gives an increase of grace; and not only an increase, but an increase after a wonderful manner. This the Scriptures beautifully express by a metaphor taken from clothing: Stay you in the city, said our Lord and Saviour, speaking of this Sacrament, until you be clothed with power from on high.
If pastors wish to show the divine efficacy of this Sacrament -- and this, no doubt, will have great influence in affecting the minds of the faithful -- it will be sufficient if they explain what occurred to the Apostles themselves. So weak and timid were they before, and even at the very time of the Passion, that no sooner was our Lord apprehended, than they instantly fled ; and Peter, who had been designated the rock and foundation of the Church, and who had displayed unshaken constancy and exalted magnanimity, terrified at the voice of one weak woman, denied, not once nor twice only, but a third time, that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ; and after the Resurrection they all remained shut up at home for fear of the Jews. But, on the day of Pentecost, so great was the power of the Holy Ghost with which they were all filled that, while they boldly and freely disseminated the Gospel confided to them, not only through Judea, but throughout the world, they thought no greater happiness could await them than that of being accounted worthy to suffer contumely, chains, torments and crucifixion, for the name of Christ.
Character Of Soldier Of Christ
Confirmation has also the effect of impressing a character. Hence, as we before said of Baptism, and as will be more fully explained in its proper place with regard to the Sacrament of Orders also, it can on no account ever be repeated.
If, then, these things be frequently and accurately explained by pastors, it will be almost impossible that the faithful, having known the utility and dignity of this Sacrament, should not use every exertion to receive it with purity and devotion.
Ceremonies Of Confirmation
It remains now briefly to glance at the rites and ceremonies used by the Catholic Church in the administration of this Sacrament; and pastors will understand the great advantages of this explanation, if they revert to what we already said on this subject under its proper head.
The Anointing Of The Forehead
The forehead, then, of the persons to be confirmed is anointed with sacred chrism; for by this Sacrament the Holy Spirit infuses Himself into the souls of the faithful, and increases in them strength and fortitude to enable them, in the spiritual contest, to fight manfully and to resist their most wicked foes. Wherefore it is indicated that they are to be deterred by no fear or shame, the signs of which appear chiefly on the forehead, from the open confession of the name of Christ.
The Sign Of The Cross
Besides, that mark by which the Christian is distinguished from all others, as the soldier is by certain badges, should be impressed on the more conspicuous part of the body.
Time When Confirmation Should Be Conferred
It has also been a matter of solemn religious observance in the Church of God that this Sacrament should be administered principally at Pentecost, because on that day especially were the Apostles strengthened and confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost. By the recollection of this supernatural event the faithful should be admonished of the nature and magnitude of the mysteries contained in the sacred unction.
The Slap On The Cheek
The person when anointed and confirmed next receives a gentle slap on the cheek from the hand of the Bishop to make him recollect that, as a valiant combatant, he should be prepared to endure with unconquered spirit all adversities for the name of Christ.
Lastly, the peace is given him, that he may understand that he has attained the fullness of divine grace and that peace which passeth all understanding.
Let this, then, serve as a summary of those things which pastors are to expound touching the Sacrament of chrism. The exposition, however, should not be given so much in empty words and cold language, as in the burning accents of pious and glowing zeal, so as to seem to imprint them on the souls and inmost thoughts of the faithful.
THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
Importance Of Instruction On The Eucharist
As of all the sacred mysteries bequeathed to us by our Lord and Saviour as most infallible instruments of divine grace, there is none comparable to the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; so, for no crime is there a heavier punishment to be feared from God than for the unholy or irreligious use by the faithful of that which is full of holiness, or rather which contains the very author and source of holiness. This the Apostle wisely saw, and has openly admonished us of it. For when he had declared the enormity of their guilt who discerned not the body of the Lord, he immediately subjoined: Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.
In order that the faithful, therefore, aware of the divine honours due to this heavenly Sacrament, may derive therefrom abundant fruit of grace and escape the most just anger of God, pastors should explain with the greatest diligence all those things which may seem calculated more fully to display its majesty.
Institution of the Eucharist
In this matter it will be necessary that pastors, following the example of the Apostle Paul, who professes to have delivered to the Corinthians what he had received from the Lord, first of all explain to the faithful the institution of this Sacrament.
That its institution was as follows, is clearly inferred from the Evangelist. Our Lord, having loved his own, loved them to the end. As a divine and admirable pledge of this love, knowing that the hour had now come that He should pass from the world to the Father, that He-might not ever at any period be absent from His own, He accomplished with inexplicable wisdom that which surpasses all the order and condition of nature. For having kept the supper of the Paschal lamb with His disciples, that the figure might yield to the reality, the shadow to the substance, He took bread, and giving thanks unto God, He blessed, and brake, and gave to the disciples, and said: "Take ye and eat, this is my body which shall be delivered for you; this do for a commemoration of me." In like manner also, He took the chalice after he had supped, saying: "This chalice is the new testament in my blood; this do, as often as you shall drink it, in commemoration of me".
Meaning of the Word "Eucharist"
Wherefore sacred writers, seeing that it was not at all possible that they should manifest by one term the dignity and excellence of this admirable Sacrament, endeavoured to express it by many words.
For sometimes they call it Eucharist, which word we may render either by good grace, or by thanksgiving. And rightly, indeed, is it to be called good grace, as well because it first signifies eternal life, concerning which it has been written: The grace of God is eternal life; and also because it contains Christ the Lord, who is true grace and the fountain of all favours.
No less aptly do we interpret it thanksgiving; inasmuch as when we immolate this purest victim, we give daily unbounded thanks to God for all His kindnesses towards us, and above all for so excellent a gift of His grace, which He grants to us in this Sacrament. This same name, also, is fully in keeping with those things which we read were done by Christ the Lord at the institution of this mystery. For taking bread he brake it, and gave thanks. David also, when contemplating the greatness of this mystery, before he pronounced that song: He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord, he hath given food to them that fear him, thought that he should first make this act of thanksgiving: His work is praise and magnificence.
Other Names Of This Sacrament
Frequently, also, it is called Sacrifice. Concerning this mystery there will be occasion to speak more at length presently.
It is called, moreover, communion, the term being evidently borrowed from that passage of the Apostle where we read: The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For, as Damascene has explained, this Sacrament unites us to Christ, renders us partakers of His flesh and Divinity, reconciles and unites us to one another in the same Christ, and forms us, as it were, into one body.
Whence it came to pass, that i. was called also the Sacrament of peace and love. We can understand then how unworthy they are of the name of Christian who cherish enmities, and how hatred, dissensions and discord should be entirely put away, as the most destructive bane of the faithful, especially since by the daily Sacrifice of our religion, we profess to preserve nothing with more anxious care, than peace and love.
It is also frequently called the Viaticum by sacred writers, both because it is spiritual food by which we are sustained in our pilgrimage through this life, and also because it paves our way to eternal glory and happiness. Wherefore, according to an ancient usage of the Catholic Church, we see that none of the faithful are permitted to die without this Sacrament.
The most ancient Fathers, following the authority of the Apostle, have sometimes also called the Holy Eucharist by the name of Supper, because it was instituted by Christ the Lord at the salutary mystery of the Last Supper.
It is not, however, lawful to consecrate or partake of the Eucharist after eating or drinking, because, according to a custom wisely introduced by the Apostles, as ancient writers have recorded, and which has ever been retained and preserved, Communion is received only by persons who are fasting.
The Eucharist Is a Sacrament Properly So Called
The meaning of the name having been explained, it will be necessary to show that this is a true Sacrament, and one of those seven which the holy Church has ever revered and venerated religiously. For when the consecration of the chalice is effected, it is called a mystery of faith.
Besides, to omit the almost endless testimonies of sacred writers, who have invariably thought that this was to be numbered among the real Sacraments, the same thing is proved from the very principle and nature of a Sacrament. For there are in it signs that are external and subject to the senses. In the next place it signifies and produces grace. Moreover, neither the Evangelists nor the Apostle leave room for doubt regarding its institution by Christ. Since all these things concur to establish the fact of the Sacrament, there is obviously no need of any other argument.
In What Respect The Eucharist Is A Sacrament
But pastors should carefully observe that in this mystery there are many things to which sacred writers have from time to time attributed the name of Sacrament. For, sometimes, both the consecration and the Communion; nay, frequently also the body and blood itself of our Lord, which is contained in the Eucharist, used to be called a Sacrament. Thus St. Augustine says that this Sacrament consists of two things, -- the visible species of the elements, and the invisible flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And it is in the same sense that we say that this Sacrament is to be adored, meaning the body and blood of our Lord.
Now it is plain that all these are less properly called Sacraments. The species of bread and wine themselves are truly and strictly designated by this name.
How The Eucharist Differs From All The Other Sacraments
How much this Sacrament differs from all the others is easily inferred. For all the other Sacraments are completed by the use of the material, that is, while they are being administered to some one. Thus Baptism. attains the nature of a Sacrament when the individual is actually being washed in the water. For the perfecting of the Eucharist on the other hand, the consecration of the material itself suffices, since neither (species) ceases to be a Sacrament, though kept in the pyx.
Again in perfecting the other Sacraments there is no change of the matter and element into another nature. The water of Baptism, or the oil of Confirmation, when those Sacraments are being administered, do not lose their former nature of water and oil; but in the Eucharist, that which was bread and wine before consecration, after consecration is truly the substance of the body and blood of the Lord.
The Eucharist Is But One Sacrament
But although there are two elements, as bread and wine, of which the entire Sacrament of the Eucharist is constituted, yet guided by the authority of the Church, we confess that this is not many Sacraments, but only one.
Otherwise, there cannot be the exact number of seven Sacraments, as has ever been handed down, and as was decreed by the Councils of Lateran, Florence and Trent.
Moreover, by virtue of the Sacrament, one mystical body is effected; hence, that the Sacrament itself may correspond to the thing which it effects, it must be one.
It is one not because it is indivisible, but because it signifies a single thing. For as food and drink, which are two different things, are employed only for one purpose, namely, that the vigour of the body may be recruited; so also it was but natural that there should be an analogy to them in the two different species of the Sacrament, which should signify the spiritual food by which souls are supported and refreshed. Wherefore we have been assured by our Lord the Saviour: My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
The Eucharist Signifies Three Things
It must, therefore, be diligently explained what the Sacrament of the Eucharist signifies, that the faithful, beholding the sacred mysteries with their eyes, may also at the same time feed their souls with the contemplation of divine things. Three things, then, are signified by this Sacrament. The first is the Passion of Christ our Lord, a thing past; for He Himself said: Do this for a commemoration of me, and the Apostle says: As often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come.
It is also significant of divine and heavenly grace, which is imparted at the present time by this Sacrament to nurture and preserve the soul. Just as in Baptism we are begotten unto newness of life and by Confirmation are strengthened to resist Satan and openly to profess the name of Christ, so by the Sacrament of the Eucharist are we nurtured and supported.
It is, thirdly, a foreshadowing of future eternal joy and glory, which, according to God's promises, we shall receive in our heavenly country.
These three things, then, which are clearly distinguished by their reference to past, present and future times, are so well represented by the Eucharistic mysteries that the whole Sacrament, though consisting of different species, signifies the three as if it referred to one thing only.
Constituent Parts of the Eucharist
It is particularly incumbent on pastors to know the matter of this Sacrament, in order that they themselves may rightly consecrate it, and also that they may be able to instruct the faithful as to its significance, inflaming them with an earnest desire of that which it signifies.
The First Element Of The Eucharist Is Bread
The matter of this Sacrament is twofold. The first element is wheaten bread, of which we shall now speak. Of the second we shall treat hereafter. As the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke testify, Christ the Lord took bread into His hands, blessed, and brake, saying: This is my body; and, according to John, the same Saviour called Himself bread in these words: I am the living bread, that came down from heaven.
The Sacramental Bread Must Be Wheaten
There are, however, various sorts of bread, either because they consist of different materials, -- such as wheat, barley, pulse and other products of the earth; or because they possess different qualities, -- some being leavened, others altogether without leaven. It is to be observed that, with regard to the former kinds, the words of the Saviour show that the bread should be wheaten; for, according to common usage, when we simply say bread, we are sufficiently understood to mean wheaten bread. This is also declared by a figure in the Old Testament, because the Lord commanded that the loaves of proposition, which signified this Sacrament, should be made of fine flour.
The Sacramental Bread Should Be Unleavened
But as wheaten bread alone is to be considered the proper matter for this Sacrament -- a doctrine which has been handed down by Apostolic tradition and confirmed by the authority of the Catholic Church -- so it may be easily inferred from the doings of Christ the Lord that this bread should be unleavened. It was consecrated and instituted by Him on the first day of unleavened bread, on which it was not lawful for the Jews to have anything leavened in their house.
Should the authority of John the Evangelist, who says that all this was done before the feast of the Passover, be objected to, the argument is one of easy solution. For by the day before the pasch John understands the same day which the other Evangelists designate as the first day of unleavened bread. He wished particularly to mark the natural day, which commences at sunrise; whereas they wanted to point out that our Lord celebrated the Pasch on Thursday evening just when the days of the unleavened bread were beginning. Hence St. Chrysostom also understands the first day of unleavened bread to be the day on the evening of which unleavened bread was to be eaten.
The peculiar suitableness of the consecration of unleavened bread to express that integrity and purity of mind which the faithful should bring to this Sacrament we learn from these words of the Apostle: Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our Passover is sacrificed. Therefore, let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Unleavened Bread Not Essential
This quality of the bread, however, is not to be deemed so essential that, if it be wanting, the Sacrament cannot exist; for both kinds are called by the one name and have the true and proper nature of bread. No one, however, is at liberty on his own private authority, or rather presumption, to transgress the laudable rite of his Church. And such departure is the less warrantable in priests of the Latin Church, expressly obliged as they are by the supreme Pontiffs, to consecrate the sacred mysteries with unleavened bread only.
Quantity Of The Bread
With regard to the first matter of this Sacrament, let this exposition suffice. It is, however, to be observed, that the quantity of the matter to be consecrated is not defined, since we cannot define the exact number of those who can or ought to receive the sacred mysteries.'
The Second Element Of The Eucharist Is Wine
It remains for us to treat of the other matter and element of this Sacrament, which is wine pressed from the fruit of the vine, with which is mingled a little water.
That in the institution of this Sacrament our Lord and Saviour made use of wine has beep at all times the doctrine of the Catholic Church, for He Himself said: I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day. On this passage Chrysostom observes: He says, "Of the fruit of the vine," which certainly produced wine not water; as if he had it in view, even at so early a period, to uproot the heresy which asserted that in these mysteries water alone is to be used.
Water Should Be Mixed With The Wine
With the wine, however, the Church of God has always mingled water. First, because Christ the Lord did so, as is proved by the authority of Councils and the testimony of St. Cyprian; next, because by this mixture is renewed the recollection of the blood and water that issued from His side. Waters, also, as we read in the Apocalypse, signify the people; and hence, water mixed with the wine signifies the union of the faithful with Christ their Head. This rite, derived as it is from Apostolic tradition, the Catholic Church has always observed.
But although there are reasons so grave for mingling water with the wine that it cannot be omitted without incurring the guilt of mortal sin, yet its omission does not render the Sacrament null.
Again as in the sacred mysteries priests must be mindful to mingle water with wine, so, also, must they take care to mingle it in small quantity, for, in the opinion and judgment of ecclesiastical writers, that water is changed into wine. Hence these words of Pope Honorius on the subject: A pernicious abuse has prevailed in your district of using in the sacrifice a greater quantity of water than of wine; whereas, according to the rational practice of the universal Church, the wine should be used in much greater quantity than the water.
No Other Elements Pertain To This Sacrament
These, then, are the only two elements of this Sacrament; and with reason has it been enacted by many decrees that, although there have been those who were not afraid to do so, it is unlawful to offer anything but bread and wine.
Peculiar Fitness Of Bread And Wine
We have now to consider the aptitude of these two symbols of bread and wine to represent those things of which we believe and confess they are the sensible signs.
In the first place, then, they signify to us Christ, as the true life of men; for our Lord Himself says: My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. As, then, the body of Christ the Lord furnishes nourishment unto eternal life to those who receive this Sacrament with purity and holiness, rightly is the matter composed chiefly of those elements by which our present life is sustained, in order that the faithful may easily understand that the mind and soul are satiated by the Communion of the precious body and blood of Christ.
These very elements serve also somewhat to suggest to men the truth of the Real Presence of the body and blood of the Lord in the Sacrament. Observing, as we do, that bread and wine are every day changed by the power of nature into human flesh and blood, we are led the more easily by this analogy to believe that the substance of the bread and wine is changed, by the heavenly benediction, into the real flesh and real blood of Christ.
This admirable change of the elements also helps to shadow forth what takes place in the soul. Although no change of the bread and wine appears externally, yet their substance is truly changed into the flesh and blood of Christ; so, in like manner, although in us nothing appears changed, yet we are renewed inwardly unto life, when we receive in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the true life.
Moreover, the body of the Church, which is one, consists of many members, and of this union nothing is more strikingly illustrative than the elements of bread and wine; for bread is made from many grains and wine is pressed from many clusters of grapes. Thus they signify that we, though many, are most closely bound together by the bond of this divine mystery and made, as it were, one body.
Form Of The Eucharist
The form to be used in the consecration of the bread is next to be treated of, not, however, in order that the faithful should be taught these mysteries, unless necessity require it; for this knowledge is not needful for those who have not received Holy Orders. The purpose (of this section) is to guard against most shameful mistakes on the part of priests, at the time of the consecration, due to ignorance of the form.
Form To Be Used In The Consecration Of The Bread
We are then taught by the holy Evangelists, Matthew and Luke, and also by the Apostle, that the form consists of these words: This is my body; for it is written: Whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to his disciples, and said: Take and eat, This is my body.
This form of consecration having been observed by Christ the Lord has been always used by the Catholic Church. The testimonies of the Fathers, the enumeration of which would be endless, and also the decree of the Council of Florence, which is well known and accessible to all, must here be omitted, especially as the knowledge which they convey may be obtained from these words of the Saviour: Do this for a commemoration of me. For what the Lord enjoined was not only what He had done, but also what he had said; and especially is this true, since the words were uttered not only to signify, but also to accomplish.
That these words constitute the form is easily proved from reason also. The form is that which signifies what is accomplished in this Sacrament; but as the preceding words signify and declare what takes place in the Eucharist, that is, the conversion of the bread into the true body of our Lord, it therefore follows that these very words constitute the form. In this sense may be understood the words of the Evangelist: He blessed; for they seem equivalent to this: Taking bread, he blessed it, saying: "This is my body".
Not All The Words Used Are Essential
Although in the Evangelist the words, Take and eat, precede the words (This is my body), they evidently express the use only, not the consecration, of the matter. Wherefore, while they are not necessary to the consecration of the Sacrament, they are by all means to be pronounced by the priest, as is also the conjunction for in the consecration of the body and blood. But they are not necessary to the validity of the Sacrament, otherwise it would follow that, if this Sacrament were not to be administered to anyone, it should not, or indeed could not, be consecrated; whereas, no one can lawfully doubt that the priest, by pronouncing the words of our Lord according to the institution and practice of the Church, truly consecrates the proper matter of the bread, even though it should afterwards never be administered.
Form To Be Used In The Consecration Of The Wine
With regard lo the consecration of the wine, which is the other element of this Sacrament, the priest, for the reason we have already assigned, ought of necessity to be well acquainted with, and well understand its form. We are then firmly to believe that it consists in the following words: This is the chalice of my blood, of the new and eternal testament, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many, to the remission of sins. Of these words the greater part are taken from Scripture; but some have been preserved in the Church from Apostolic tradition.
Thus the words, this is the chalice, are found in St. Luke and in the Apostle; but the words that immediately follow, of my blood, or my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for you and for many to the remission of sins, are found partly in St. Luke and partly in St. Matthew. But the words, eternal, and the mystery of faith, have been taught us by holy tradition, the interpreter and keeper of Catholic truth.
Concerning this form no one can doubt, if he here also attend to what has been already said about the form used in the consecration of the bread. The form to be used (in the consecration) of this element, evidently consists of those words which signify that the substance of the wine is changed into the blood of our Lord. since, therefore, the words already cited clearly declare this, it is plain that no other words constitute the form.
They moreover express certain admirable fruits of the blood shed in the Passion of our Lord, fruits which pertain in a most special manner to this Sacrament. Of these, one is access to the eternal inheritance, which has come to us by right of the new and everlasting testament. Another is access to righteousness by the mystery of faith; for God hath set forth Jesus to be a propitiator through faith in his blood, that he himself may be just, and the justifier of him, who is of the faith of Jesus. Christ. A third effect is the remission of sins.
Explanation Of The Form Used In The Consecration Of The Wine
Since these very words of consecration are replete with mysteries and most appropriately suitable to the subject, they demand a more minute consideration.
The words: This is the chalice of my blood, are to be understood to mean: This is my blood, which is contained in this chalice. The mention of the chalice made at the consecration of the blood is right and appropriate, inasmuch as the blood is the drink of the faithful, and this would not be sufficiently signified if it were not contained in some drinking vessel.
Next follow the words: Of the new testament. These have been added that we might understand the blood of Christ the Lord to be given not under a figure, as was done in the Old Law, of which we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews that without blood a testament is not dedicated; but to be given to men in truth and in reality, as becomes the New Testament. Hence the Apostle says: Christ therefore is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of his death, they who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
The word eternal refers to the eternal inheritance, the right to which we acquire by the death of Christ the Lord, the eternal testator.
The words mystery of faith, which are subjoined, do not exclude the reality, but signify that what lies hidden and concealed and far removed from the perception of the eye, is to be believed with firm faith. In this passage, however, these words bear a meaning different from that which they have when applied also to Baptism. Here the mystery of faith consists in seeing by faith the blood of Christ veiled under the species of wine; but Baptism is justly called by us the Sacrament of faith, by the Greeks, the mystery of faith, because it embraces the entire profession of the Christian faith.
Another reason why we call the blood of the Lord the mystery of faith is that human reason is particularly beset with difficulty and embarrassment when faith proposes to our belief that Christ the Lord, the true Son of God, at once God and man, suffered death for us, and this death is designated by the Sacrament of His blood.
Here, therefore, rather than at the consecration of His body, is appropriately commemorated the Passion of our Lord, by the words. which shall be shed for the remission of sins. For the blood, separately consecrated, serves to place before the eyes of all, in a more forcible manner, the Passion of our Lord, His death, and the nature of His sufferings.
The additional words for you and for many, are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore ('our Lord) said: For you, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, And for many, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles.
With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation. And this is the purport of the Apostle when he says: Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; and also of the words of our Lord in John: I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me, because they are thine.
Beneath the words of this consecration lie hid many other mysteries, which by frequent meditation and study of sacred things, pastors will find it easy, with the divine assistance, to discover for themselves.
Three Mysteries Of The Eucharist
We must now return to an explanation of those truths concerning the Eucharist about which the faithful are on no account to be left in ignorance. Pastors, aware of the warning of the Apostle that those who discern not the body of the Lord are guilty of a most grave crime, should first of all impress on the minds of the faithful the necessity of detaching, as much as possible, their mind and understanding from the dominion of the senses; for if they believe that this Sacrament contains only what the senses disclose, they will of necessity fall into enormous impiety. Consulting the sight, the touch, the smell, the taste and finding nothing but the appearances of bread and wine, they will naturally judge that this Sacrament contains nothing more than bread and wine. Their minds, therefore, are as much as possible to be withdrawn from subjection to the senses and excited to the contemplation of the stupendous might and power of God.
The Catholic Church firmly believes and professes that in this Sacrament the words of consecration accomplish three wondrous and admirable effects.
The first is that the true body of Christ the Lord, the same that was born of the Virgin, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, is contained in this Sacrament.
The second, however repugnant it may appear to the senses, is that none of the substance of the elements remains in the Sacrament.
The third, which may be deduced from the two preceding. although the words of consecration themselves clearly express it, is that the accidents which present themselves to the eyes or other senses exist in a wonderful and ineffable manner without a subject. All the accidents of bread and wine we can see, but they inhere in no substance, and exist independently of any; for the substance of the bread and wine is so changed into the body and blood of our Lord that they altogether cease to be the substance of bread and wine.
The Mystery of the Real Presence
To begin with the first (of these mysteries), pastors should give their best attention to show how clear and explicit are the words of our Saviour which establish the Real Presence of His body in this Sacrament.
Proof From Scripture
When our Lord says: This is my body, this is my blood, no person of sound mind can mistake His meaning, particularly since there is reference to Christ's human nature, the reality of which the Catholic faith permits no one to doubt. The admirable words of St. Hilary, a man not less eminent for piety than learning, are apt here: When our Lord himself declares, as our faith teaches us, that His flesh is food indeed, what room can remain for doubt concerning the real presence of His body and blood?
Pastors should also adduce another passage from which it can be clearly seen that the true body and blood of our Lord are contained in the Eucharist. The Apostle, after having recorded the consecration of bread and wine by our Lord, and also the administration of Communion to the Apostles, adds: But let a man prove himself, and so eat of that bread and drink of the chalice; for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. If, as heretics continually repeat, the Sacrament presents nothing to our veneration but a memorial and sign of the Passion of Christ, why was there need to exhort the faithful, in language so energetic, to prove themselves? By the terrible word judgment, the Apostle shows how enormous is the guilt of those who receive unworthily and do not distinguish from common food the body of the Lord concealed in the Eucharist. In the same Epistle St. Paul had already developed this doctrine more fully, when he said: The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? and the bread which we break, is it not the participation of the body of the Lord ? Now these words signify the real substance of the body and blood of Christ the Lord.
Proof From The Teaching Of The Church
These passages of Scripture are therefore to be expounded by pastors; and they should especially teach that there is nothing doubtful or uncertain about them. All the more certain are they since the infallible teaching of God's Church has interpreted them, as may be ascertained in a twofold manner.
Testimony Of The Fathers
The first is by consulting the Fathers who flourished in the early ages of the Church and in each succeeding century, who are the most unexceptionable witnesses of her doctrine. All of these teach in the clearest terms and with the most entire unanimity the truth of this dogma. To adduce the individual testimony of each Father would prove an endless task. It is enough, therefore, that we cite, or rather point out a few, whose testimony will afford an easy criterion by which to judge of the rest.
Let St. Ambrose first declare his faith. In his book On Those Who are Initiated Into the Mysteries he says that the true body of Christ is received in this Sacrament, just as the true body of Christ was derived from the Virgin, and that this truth is to be believed with the firm certainty of faith. In another place he teaches that before consecration there is only bread, but after consecration there is the flesh of Christ.
St. Chrysostom, another witness of equal authority and gravity, professes and proclaims this mysterious truth in many passages, but particularly in his sixtieth homily, On Those Who Receive The Sacred Mysteries Unworthily; and also in his forty-fourth and forty-fifth homilies on St. John. Let us, he says, obey, not contradict God, although what He says may seem contrary to our reason and our sight. His words cannot deceive, our senses are easily deceived.
With this doctrine fully agrees the uniform teaching of St. Augustine, that most zealous defender of Catholic faith, particularly when in his explanation of the thirty-third Psalm he says: To carry himself in his own hands is impossible to man, and peculiar to Christ alone; He was carried in His own hands when, giving His body to be eaten, He said, This is my body.
To pass by Justin and Irenaeus, St. Cyril, in his fourth book on St. John, declares in such express terms that the true body of our Lord is contained in this Sacrament, that no sophistry, no captious interpretations can obscure his meaning.
Should pastors wish for additional testimonies of the Fathers, they will find it easy to add St. Denis,- St. Hilary, St. Jerome, St. Damascene and a host of others, whose weighty teaching on this most important subject has been collected by the labor and industry of learned and pious men.
Teaching Of The Councils
Another means of ascertaining the belief of the holy Church on matters of faith is the condemnation of the contrary doctrine and opinion. It is manifest that belief in the Real Presence of the body of Christ in the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist was so spread and taught throughout the universal Church and unanimously professed by all the faithful, that when, five centuries ago, Berengarius presumed to deny this dogma, asserting that the Eucharist was only a sign, he was unanimously condemned in the Council of Vercelli, whichLeo IX had immediately convoked, whereupon he himself anathematised his error.
Relapsing, however, into the same wicked folly, he was condemned by three different Councils, convened, one at Tours, the other two at Rome; of the two latter, one was summoned by Pope Nicholas II, the other by Pope Gregory VIII.' The General Council of Lateran, held under Innocent III, further ratified the sentence. Finally this truth was more clearly defined and established in the Councils of Florence and Trent.
Two Great Benefits Of Proving The Real Presence
If, then, pastors will carefully explain these particulars, they will be able, while ignoring those who are blinded by error and hate nothing more than the light of truth, to strengthen the weak and administer joy and consolation to the pious, all the more as the faithful cannot doubt that this dogma is numbered among the Articles of faith.
Faith Is Strengthened
Believing and confessing, as they do, that the power of God is supreme over all things, they must also believe that His omnipotence can accomplish the great work which we admire and adore in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And again since they believe the Holy Catholic Church, they must necessarily believe that the true doctrine of this Sacrament is that which we have set forth.
The Soul Is Gladdened
Nothing contributes more to the spiritual joy and advantage of pious persons than the contemplation of the exalted dignity of this most august Sacrament. In the first place they learn how great is the perfection of the Gospel Dispensation, under which we enjoy the reality of that which under the Mosaic Law was only shadowed forth by types and figures. Hence St. Denis divinely says that our Church is midway between the Synagogue and the heavenly Jerusalem, and consequently participates of the nature of both. Certainly, then, the faithful can never sufficiently admire the perfection of holy Church and her exalted glory which seems to be removed only by one degree from the bliss of heaven. In common with the inhabitants of heaven, we too possess Christ, God and man, present with us. They are raised a degree above us, inasmuch as they are present with Christ and enjoy the Beatific Vision; while we, with a firm and unwavering faith, adore the Divine Majesty present with us, not, it is true, in a manner visible to mortal eye, but hidden by a miracle of power under the veil of the sacred mysteries.
Furthermore the faithful experience in this Sacrament the most perfect love of Christ our Saviour. It became the goodness of the Saviour not to withdraw from us that nature which He assumed from us, but to desire, as far as possible, to remain among us so that at all times He might be seen to verify the words: My delight is to be with the children of men.
Meaning of the Real Presence
Christ Whole And Entire Is Present In The Eucharist
Here the pastor should explain that in this Sacrament are contained not only the true body of. Christ and all the constituents of a true body, such as bones and sinews, but also Christ whole and entire. He should point out that the word Christ designates the God-man, that is to say, one Person in whom are united the divine and human natures; that the Holy Eucharist, therefore, contains both, and whatever is included in the idea of both, the Divinity and humanity whole and entire, consisting of the soul, all the parts of the body and the blood,- all of which must be believed to be in this Sacrament. In heaven the whole humanity is united to the Divinity in one hypostasis, or Person; hence it would be impious, to suppose that the body of Christ, which is contained in the Sacrament, is separated from His Divinity.
Presence In Virtue Of The Sacrament And In Virtue Of Concomitance
Pastors, however, should not fail to observe that in this Sacrament not all these things are contained after the same manner, or by the same power. Some things, we say, are present in virtue of the consecration; for as the words of consecration effect what they signify, sacred writers usually say that whatever the form expresses, is contained in the Sacrament by virtue of the Sacrament. Hence, could we suppose any one thing to be entirely separated from the rest, the Sacrament, they teach, would be found to contain solely what the form expresses and nothing more.
On the other hand, some things are contained in the Sacrament because they are united to those which are expressed in the form. For instance, the words This is my body, which comprise the form used to consecrate the bread, signify the body of the Lord, and hence the body itself of Christ the Lord is contained in the Eucharist by virtue of the Sacrament. Since, however, to Christ's body are united His blood, His soul, and His Divinity, all of these also must be found to coexist in the Sacrament; not, however, by virtue of the consecration, but by virtue of the union that subsists between them and His body. All these are said to be in the Eucharist by virtue of concomitance. Hence it is clear that Christ, whole and entire, is contained in the Sacrament; for when two things are actually united, where one is, the other must also be.
Christ Whole And Entire Present Under Each Species
Hence it also follows that Christ is so contained, whole and entire, under either species, that, as under the species of bread are contained not only the body, but also the blood and Christ entire; so in like manner, under the species of wine are truly contained not only the blood, but also the body and Christ entire.
But although these are matters on which the faithful cannot entertain a doubt, it was nevertheless wisely ordained that two distinct consecrations should take place. First, because they represent in a more lively manner the Passion of our Lord, in -which His blood was separated from His body; and hence in the form of consecration we commemorate the shedding of His blood. Secondly, since the Sacrament is to be used by us as the food and nourishment of our souls, it was most appropriate that it should be instituted as food and drink, two things which obviously constitute the complete sustenance of the (human) body.
Christ Whole And Entire Present In Every Part Of Each Species
Nor should it be forgotten that Christ, whole and entire, is contained not only under either species, but also in each particle of either species. Each, says St. Augustine, receives Christ the Lord, and He is entire in each portion. He is not diminished by being given to many, but gives Himself whole and entire to each.
This is also an obvious inference from the narrative of the Evangelists. It is not to be supposed that our Lord consecrated the bread used at the Last Supper in separate parts, applying the form particularly to each, but that all the bread then used for the sacred mysteries was consecrated at the same time and with the same form, and in a quantity sufficient for all the Apostles. That the consecration of the chalice was performed in this manner, is clear from these words of the Saviour: Take and divide it among you.
What has hitherto been said is intended to enable pastors to show that the true body and blood of Christ are contained in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The Mystery of Transubstantiation
The next point to be explained is that the substance of the bread and wine does not continue to exist in the Sacrament after consecration. This truth, although well calculated to excite our profound admiration, is yet a necessary consequence from what has been already established.
Proof From The Dogma Of The Real Presence
If, after consecration, the true body of Christ is present under the species of bread and wine, since it was not there before, it must have become present either by change of place, or by creation, or by the change of some other thing into it. It cannot be rendered present by change of place, because it would then cease to be in heaven; for whatever is moved must necessarily cease to occupy the place from which it is moved. Still less can we suppose the body of Christ to be rendered present by creation; nay, the very idea is inconceivable. In order that the body of our Lord be present in the Sacrament, it remains, therefore, that it be rendered present by the change of the bread into it. Wherefore it is necessary that none of the substance of the bread remain.
Proof From The Councils
Hence our predecessors in the faith, the Fathers of the General Councils of Lateran and of Florence, confirmed by solemn decrees the truth of this dogma. In the Council of Trent it was still more fully defined in these words: If any one shall say that in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains, together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let hint be anathema.
Proof From Scripture
The doctrine thus defined is a natural inference from the words of Scripture. When instituting this Sacrament, our Lord Himself said: This is my body. The word this expresses the entire substance of the thing present; and therefore if the substance of the bread remained, our Lord could not have truly said: This is my body.
In St. John Christ the Lord also says: The bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. The bread which He promises to give, He here declares to be His flesh. A little after He adds: Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. And again: My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Since, therefore, in terms so clear and so explicit, He calls His flesh bread and meat indeed, and His blood drink indeed, He gives us sufficiently to understand that none of the substance of the bread and wine remains in the Sacrament.
Proof From The Fathers
Whoever turns over the pages of the holy Fathers will easily perceive that on this doctrine (of transubstantiation) they have been at all times unanimous. St. Ambrose says: You say, perhaps, "this bread is no other than what is used for common food." True, before consecration it is bread; but no sooner are the words of consecration pronounced than from bread it becomes the flesh of Christ. To prove this position more clearly, he elucidates it by a variety of comparisons and examples. In another place, when explaining these words of the Psalmist, Whatsoever the Lord pleased he hath done in heaven and on earth, St. Ambrose says: Although the species of bread and wine are visible, yet we must believe that after consecration, the body and blood of Christ are alone there. Explaining the same doctrine almost in the same words, St. Hilary says that although externally it appear bread and wine, yet in reality it is the body and blood of the Lord.
Why The Eucharist Is Called Bread After Consecration
Here pastors should observe that we should not at all be surprised, if, even after consecration, the Eucharist is sometimes called bread. It is so called, first because it retains the appearance of bread, and secondly because it keeps the natural quality of bread, which is to support and nourish the body.
Moreover, such phraseology is in perfect accordance with the usage of the Holy Scriptures, which call things by what they appear to be, as may be seen from the words of Genesis which say that Abraham saw three men, when in reality he saw three Angels. In like manner the two Angels who appeared to the Apostles after the Ascension of Christ the Lord into heaven, are called not Angels, but men.
The Meaning of Transubstantiation
To explain this mystery is extremely difficult. The pastor, however, should endeavour to instruct those who are more advanced in the knowledge of divine things on the manner of this admirable change. As for those who are yet weak in faith, they might possibly be overwhelmed by its greatness.
Transubstantiation A Total Conversion
This conversion, then, is so effected that the whole substance of the bread is changed by the power of God into the whole substance of the body of Christ, and the whole substance of the wine into the whole substance of His blood, and this, without any change in our Lord Himself. He is neither begotten, nor changed, not increased, but remains entire in His substance.
This sublime mystery St. Ambrose thus declares: You see how efficacious are the words of Christ. If the word of the Lord Jesus is so powerful as to summon into existence that which did not exist, namely the world, how much more powerful is His word to change into something else that which already has existence ?
Many other ancient and most authoritative Fathers have written to the same effect. We faithfully confess, says St. Augustine, that before consecration it is bread and wine, the product of nature; but after consecration it is the body and blood of Christ, consecrated by the blessing. The body, says Damascene, is truly united to the Divinity, that body which was derived from the virgin; not that the body thus derived descends from heaven, but that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.
This admirable change, as the Council of Trent teaches, the Holy Catholic Church most appropriately expresses by the word transubstantiation. Since natural changes are rightly called transformations, because they involve a change of form; so likewise our predecessors in the faith wisely and appropriately introduced the term transubstantiation, in order to signify that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the whole substance of one thing passes into the whole substance of another.
According to the admonition so frequently repeated by the holy Fathers, the faithful are to be admonished against curious searching into the manner in which this change is effected. It defies the powers of conception; nor can we find any example of it in natural transmutations, or even in the very work of creation. That such a change takes place must be recognised by faith; how it takes place we must not curiously inquire.
No less of caution should be observed by pastors in explaining the mysterious manner in which the body of our Lord is contained whole and entire under the least particle of the bread. Indeed, discussions of this kind should scarcely ever be entered upon. Should Christian charity, however, require a departure from this rule, the pastor should remember first of all to prepare and fortify his hearers by reminding them that no word shall be impossible with God.
A Consequence Of Transubstantiation
The pastor should next teach that our Lord is not in the Sacrament as in a place. Place regards things only inasmuch as they have magnitude. Now we do not say that Christ is in the Sacrament inasmuch as He is great or small, terms which belong to quantity, but inasmuch as He is a substance. The substance of the bread is changed into the substance of Christ, not into magnitude or quantity; and substance, it will be acknowledged by all, is contained in a small as well as in a large space. The substance of air, for instance, and its entire nature must be present under a small as well as a large quantity, and likewise the entire nature of water must be present no less in a glass than in a river. Since, then, the body of our Lord succeeds to the substance of the bread, we must confess it to be in the Sacrament after the same manner as the substance of the bread was before consecration; whether the substance of the bread was present in greater or less quantity is a matter of entire indifference.
The Mystery of the Accidents without a Subject
We now come to the third great and wondrous effect of this Sacrament, namely, the existence of the species of bread and wine without a subject.
Proof From The Preceding Dogmas
What has been said in explanation of the two preceding points must facilitate for pastors the exposition of this truth. For, since we have already proved that the body and blood of our Lord are really and truly contained in the Sacrament, to the entire exclusion of the substance of the bread and wine, and since the accidents of bread and wine cannot inhere in the body and blood of Christ, it remains that, contrary to physical laws, they must subsist of themselves, inhering in no subject.
Proof From The Teaching Of The Church
This has been at all times the uniform doctrine of the Catholic Church; and it can be easily established by the same authorities which, as we have already proved, make it plain that the substance of the bread and wine ceases to exist in the Eucharist.
Advantages Of This Mystery
Nothing more becomes the piety of the faithful than, omitting all curious questionings, to revere and adore the majesty of this august Sacrament, and to recognise the wisdom of God in commanding that these holy mysteries should be administered under the species of bread and wine. For since it is most revolting to human nature to eat human flesh or drink human blood, therefore God in His infinite wisdom has established the administration of the body and blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine, which are the ordinary and agreeable food of man.
There are two further advantages: first, it prevents the calumnious reproaches of the unbeliever, from which the eating of our Lord under His visible form could not easily be defended; secondly, the receiving Him under a form in which He is impervious to the senses avails much for increasing our faith. For faith, as the well known saying of St. Gregory declares, has no merit in those things which fall under the proof of reason.
The doctrines treated above should be explained with great caution, according to the capacity of the hearers and the necessities of the times.
The Effects of the Eucharist
But with regard to the admirable virtue and fruits of this Sacrament, there is no class of the faithful to whom a knowledge of them is not most necessary. For all that has been said at such length on this Sacrament has principally for its object, to make the faithful sensible of the advantages of the Eucharist. As, however, no language can convey an adequate idea of its utility and fruits, pastors must be content to treat of one or two points, in order to show what an abundance and profusion of all goods are contained in those sacred mysteries.
The Eucharist Contains Christ And Is The Food Of The Soul
This they will in some degree accomplish, if, having explained the efficacy and nature of all the Sacraments, they compare the Eucharist to a fountain, the other Sacraments to rivulets. For the Holy Eucharist is truly and necessarily to be called the fountain of all graces, containing, as it does, after an admirable manner, the fountain itself of celestial gifts and graces, and the author of all the Sacrament, Christ our Lord, from whom, as from its source, is derived whatever of goodness and perfection the other Sacraments possess. From this (comparison), therefore, we may easily infer what most ample gifts of divine grace are bestowed on us by this Sacrament.
It will also be useful to consider attentively the nature of bread and wine, which are the symbols of this Sacrament. For what bread and wine are to the body, the Eucharist is to the health and delight of the soul, but in a higher and better way. This Sacrament is not, like bread and wine, changed into our substance; but we are, in some wise, changed into its nature, so that we may well apply here the words of St. Augustine: I am the food of the frown. Grow and thou shalt eat Me; nor shalt thou change Me into thee, as thy bodily food, but thou shalt be changed into Me.
The Eucharist Gives Grace
If, then, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, they must surely be poured into the soul which receives with purity and holiness Him who said of Himself: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him. Those who receive this Sacrament piously and fervently must, beyond all doubt, so receive the Son of God into their souls as to be ingrafted as living members on His body. For it is written: He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me; also: The bread which I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Explaining this passage, St. Cyril says: The Word of God, uniting Himself to His own flesh, imparted to it a vivifying power: it became Him, therefore, to unite Himself to our bodies in a wonderful manner, through His sacred flesh and precious blood, which we receive in the bread and wine, consecrated by His vivifying benediction.
The Grace Of The Eucharist Sustains
When it is said that the Eucharist imparts grace, pastors must admonish that this does not mean that the state of grace is not required for a profitable reception of this Sacrament. For as natural food can be of no use to the dead, so in like manner the sacred mysteries can evidently be of no avail to a soul which lives not by the spirit. Hence this Sacrament has been instituted under the forms of bread and wine to signify that the object of its institution is not to recall the soul to life, but to preserve its life.
The reason, then, for saying that this Sacrament imparts grace, is that even the first grace, with which all should be clothed before they presume to approach the Holy Eucharist, lest they eat and drink judgment to themselves,' is given to none unless they receive in wish and desire this very Sacrament. For the Eucharist is the end of all the Sacraments, and the symbol of unity and brotherhood in the Church, outside which none can attain grace.
The Grace Of The Eucharist Invigorates And Delights
Again, just as the body is not only supported but also increased by natural food, from which the taste every day derives new relish and pleasure; so also is the soul not only sustained but invigorated by feasting on the food of the Eucharist, which gives to the spirit an increasing zest for heavenly things. Most truly and fitly therefore do we say that grace is imparted by this Sacrament, for it may be justly compared to the manna having in it the sweetness of every taste.
The Eucharist Remits Venial Sins
It cannot be doubted that by the Eucharist are remitted and pardoned lighter sins, commonly called venial. Whatever the soul has lost through the fire of passion, by falling into some slight offence, all this the Eucharist, cancelling those lesser faults, repairs, in the same way -- not to depart from the illustration already adduced -- as natural food gradually restores and repairs the daily waste caused by the force of the vital heat within us. Justly, therefore, has St. Ambrose said of this heavenly Sacrament: That daily bread is taken as a remedy for daily infirmity. But these things are to be understood of those sins for which no actual affection is retained.
The Eucharist Strengthens Against Temptation
There is, furthermore, such a power in the sacred mysteries as to preserve us pure and unsullied from sin, keep us safe from the assaults of temptation, and, as by some heavenly medicine, prepare the soul against the easy approach and infection of virulent and deadly disease. Hence, as St. Cyprian records, when the faithful were formerly hurried in multitudes by tyrants to torments and death, because they confessed the name of Christ, it was an ancient usage in the Catholic Church to give them, by the hands of the Bishop, the Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord, lest perhaps overcome by the severity of their sufferings, they should fail in the fight for salvation.
It also restrains and represses the lusts of the flesh, for while it inflames the soul more ardently with the fire of charity, it of necessity extinguishes the ardour of concupiscence.
The Eucharist Facilitates The Attainment Of Eternal Life
Finally, to comprise all the advantages and blessings of this Sacrament in one word, it must be taught that the Holy Eucharist is most efficacious towards the attainment of eternal glory. For it is written: He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day. That is to say, by the grace of this Sacrament men enjoy the greatest peace and tranquillity of conscience during the present life; and, when the hour of departing from this world shall have arrived, like Elias, who in the strength of the bread baked on the hearth, walked to Horeb, the mount of God, they, too, invigorated by the strengthening influence of this (heavenly food), will ascend to unfading glory and bliss.
How The Effects Of The Eucharist May Be Developed And Illustrated
All these matters will be most fully expounded by pastors, if they but dwell or. the sixth chapter of St. John, in which are developed the manifold effects of this Sacrament. Or again, glancing at the admirable actions of Christ our Lord, they may show that if those who received Him beneath their roof during His mortal life, or were restored to health by touching His vesture or the hem of His garment, were justly and deservedly deemed most blessed, how much more fortunate and happy we, into whose soul, resplendent as He is with unfading glory, He disdains not to enter, to heal all its wounds, to adorn it with His choicest gifts, and unite it to Himself.
Recipient of the Eucharist
Threefold Manner Of Communicating
That the faithful may learn to be zealous for the better gifts, they must be shown who can obtain these abundant fruits from the Holy Eucharist, must be reminded that there is not only one way of communicating. Wisely and rightly, then, did our predecessors in the faith, as we read in the Council of Trent, distinguish three ways of receiving this Sacrament.
Some receive it sacramentally only. Such are those sinners who do not fear to approach the holy mysteries with polluted lips and heart, who, as the Apostle says, eat and drink the Lord's body unworthily. Of this class of communicants St. Augustine says: He who dwells not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwells not, most certainly does not eat spiritually His flesh, although carnally and visibly he press with his teeth the Sacrament of His flesh and blood. Those, therefore, who receive the sacred mysteries with such a disposition, not only obtain no fruit therefrom, but, as the Apostle himself testifies, eat and drink judgment to themselves.
Others are said to receive the Eucharist in spirit only. They are those who, inflamed with a lively faith which worketh by charity,' partake in wish and desire of that celestial bread offered to them, from which they receive, if not the entire, at least very great fruits.
Lastly, there are some who receive the Holy Eucharist both sacramentally and spiritually, those who, according to the teaching of the Apostle, having first proved themselves and having approached this divine banquet adorned with the nuptial garment, derive from the Eucharist those most abundant fruits which we have already described. Hence it is clear that those who, having it in their power to receive with fitting preparation the Sacrament of the body of the Lord, are yet satisfied with a spiritual Communion only, deprive themselves of the greatest and most heavenly advantages.
Necessity Of Previous Preparation For Communion
We now come to point out the manner in which the faithful should be previously prepared for sacramental Communion. To demonstrate the great necessity of this previous preparation, the example of the Saviour should be adduced. Before He gave to His Apostles the Sacrament of His precious body and blood, although they were already clean, He washed their feet to show that we must use extreme diligence before Holy Communion in order to approach it with the greatest purity and innocence of soul.
In the next place, the faithful are to understand that as he who approaches thus prepared and disposed is adorned with the most ample gifts of heavenly grace; so, on the contrary, he who approaches without this preparation not only derives from it no advantage, but even incurs the greatest misfortune and loss. It is characteristic of the best and most salutary things that, if seasonably made use of, they are productive of the greatest benefit; but if employed out of time, they prove most pernicious and destructive. It cannot, therefore, excite out surprise that the great and exalted gifts of God; when received into a soul properly disposed, are of the greatest assistance towards the attainment of salvation; while to those who receive them unworthily, they bring with them eternal death.
Of this the Ark of the Lord affords a convincing illustration. The people of Israel possessed nothing more precious and it was to them the source of innumerable blessings from God; but when the Philistines carried it away, it brought on them a most destructive plague and the heaviest calamities, together with eternal disgrace. Thus also food when received from the mouth into a healthy stomach nourishes and supports the body; but when received into an indisposed stomach, causes grave disorders.
Preparation Of Soul
The first preparation, then, which the faithful should make, is to distinguish table from table, this sacred table from profane tables, this celestial bread from common bread. This we do when we firmly believe that there is truly present the body and blood of the Lord, of Him whom the Angels adore in heaven, at whose nod the pillars of heaven fear and tremble, of whose glory the heavens and the earth are full. This is to discern the body of the Lord in accordance with the admonition of the Apostle. We should venerate the greatness of the mystery rather than too curiously investigate its truth by idle inquiry.
Another very necessary preparation is to ask ourselves if we are at peace with and sincerely love our neigh r. If, therefore, thou offerest thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.
We should, in the next place, carefully examine whether our consciences be defiled by mortal sin, which has to be repented of, in order that it may be blotted out before Communion by the remedy of contrition and confession. The Council of Trent has defined that no one conscious of mortal sin and having an opportunity of going to confession, however contrite he may deem himself, is to approach the Holy Eucharist until he has been purified by sacramental confession.
We should also reflect in the silence of our own hearts how unworthy we are that the Lord should bestow on us this divine gift, and with the centurion of whom our Lord declared that he found not so great faith in Israel, we should exclaim from our hearts: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof.
We should also put the question to ourselves whether we can truly say with Peter: Lord, thou knowest that I love thee, and should recollect that he who sat down at the banquet of the Lord without a wedding garment was cast into a dark dungeon and condemned to eternal torments.
Preparation Of Body
Our preparation should not, however, be confined to the soul; it should also extend to the body. We are to approach the Holy Table fasting, having neither eaten nor drunk anything at least from the preceding midnight until the moment of Communion.
The dignity of so great a Sacrament also demands that married persons abstain from the marriage debt for some days previous to Communion. This observance is recommended by the example of David, who, when about to receive the show-bread from the hands of the priest, declared that he and his servants had been clean from women for three days.
The above are the principal things to be done by the faithful preparatory to receiving the sacred mysteries with profit; and to these heads may be reduced whatever other things may seem desirable by way of preparation.
The Obligation of Communion
How Often Must Communion Be Received?
Lest any be kept away from Communion by the fear that the requisite preparation is too hard and laborious, the faithful are frequently to be reminded that they are all bound to receive the Holy Eucharist. Furthermore, the Church has decreed that whoever neglects to approach Holy Communion once a year, at Easter, is liable to sentence of excommunication.
The Church Desires The Faithful To Communicate Daily
However, let not the faithful imagine that it is enough to receive the body of the Lord once a year only, in obedience to the decree of the Church. They should approach oftener; but whether monthly, weekly, or daily, cannot be decided by any fixed universal rule. St. Augustine, however, lays down a most certain norm: Live in such a manner as to be able to receive every day.
It will therefore be the duty of the pastor frequently to admonish the faithful that, as they deem it necessary to afford daily nutriment to the body, they should also feel solicitous to feed and nourish the soul every day with this heavenly food. It is clear that the soul stands not less in need of spiritual, than the body of corporal food. Here it will be found most useful to recall the inestimable and divine advantages which, as we have already shown, flow from sacramental Communion. It will be well also to refer to the manna, which was a figure (of this Sacrament), and which refreshed the bodily powers every day. The Fathers who earnestly recommended the frequent reception of this Sacrament may also be cited. The words of St. Augustine, Thou sinnest daily, receive daily, express not his opinion only, but that of all the Fathers who have written on the subject, as anyone may easily discover who will carefully read them.
That there was a time when the faithful approached Holy Communion every day we learn from the Acts of the Apostles. All who then professed the faith of Christ burned with such true and sincere charity that, devoting themselves to prayer and other works of piety, they were found prepared to communicate daily. This devout practice, which seems to have been interrupted for a time, was again partially revived by the holy Pope and martyr Anacletus, who commanded that all the ministers who assisted at the Sacrifice of the Mass should communicate-an ordinance, as the Pontiff declares, of Apostolic institution. It was also for a long time the practice of the Church that, as soon as the Sacrifice was complete, and when the priest himself had communicated, he turned to the congregation and invited the faithful to the Holy Table in these words: Come, brethren, and receive Communion; and thereupon those who were prepared, advanced to receive the holy mysteries with the most fervent devotion.
The Church Commands; The Faithful To Communicate Once A Year
But subsequently, when charity and devotion had grown so cold that the faithful very seldom approached Communion, it was decreed by Pope Fabian, that all should communicate thrice every year, at Christmas, at Easter and at Pentecost. This decree was afterwards confirmed by many Councils, particularly by the first of Agde.
Such at length was the decay of piety that not only was this holy and salutary law unobserved, but Communion was deferred for years. The Council of Lateran, therefore, decreed that all the faithful should receive the sacred body of the Lord, at least once a year, at Easter, and that neglect of this duty should be chastised by exclusion from the society of the faithful.
Who Are Obliged By The Law Of Communion
But although this law, sanctioned by the authority of God and of His Church, concerns all the faithful, it should be taught that it does not extend to those who on account of their tender age have not attained the use of reason. For these are not able to distinguish the Holy Eucharist from common and ordinary bread and cannot bring with them to this Sacrament piety and devotion. Furthermore (to extend the precept to them) would appear inconsistent with the ordinance of our Lord, for He said: Take and eat - words which cannot apply to infants, who are evidently incapable of taking and eating.
In some places, it is true, an ancient practice prevailed of giving the Holy Eucharist even to infants; but, for the reasons already assigned, and for other reasons in keeping with Christian piety, this practice has been long discontinued by authority of the Church.
With regard to the age at which children should be given the holy mysteries, this the parents and confessor can best determine. To them it belongs to inquire and to ascertain from the children themselves whether they have some knowledge of this admirable Sacrament and whether they desire to receive it.
Communion must not be given to persons who are insane and incapable of devotion. However, according to the decree of the Council of Carthage, it may be administered to them at the close of life, provided they have shown, before losing their minds, a pious and religious disposition, and no danger, arising from the state of the stomach or other inconvenience or disrespect, is likely.
The Rite of Administering Communion
As to the rite to be observed in communicating, pastors should teach that the law of the holy Church forbids Communion under both kinds to anyone but the officiating priests, without the authority of the Church itself.
Christ the Lord, it is true, as has been explained by the Council of Trent, instituted and delivered to His Apostles at His Last Supper this most sublime Sacrament under the species of bread and wine; but it does not follow that by doing so our Lord and Saviour established a law ordering its administration to all the faithful under both species. For speaking of this Sacrament, He Himself frequently mentions it under one kind only, as, for instance, when He says: If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and: The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world, and: He that eateth this bread shall live for ever.
Why The Celebrant Alone Receives Under Both Species
It is clear that the Church was influenced by numerous and most cogent reasons, not only to approve, but also to confirm by authority of its decree, the general practice of communicating under one species. In the first place, the greatest caution was necessary to avoid spilling the blood of the Lord on the ground, a thing that seemed not easily to be avoided, if the chalice were administered in a large assemblage of the people.
In the next place, whereas the Holy Eucharist ought to be in readiness for the sick, it was very much to be apprehended, were the species of wine to remain long unconsumed, that it might turn acid.
Besides, there are many who cannot at all bear the taste or even the smell of wine. Lest, therefore, what is intended for the spiritual health should prove hurtful to the health of the body, it has been most prudently provided by the Church that it should be administered to the people under the species of bread only.
We may also further observe that in many countries wine is extremely scarce; nor can it, moreover, be brought from elsewhere without incurring very heavy expenses and encountering very tedious and difficult journeys.
Finally, a most important reason was the necessity of opposing the heresy of those who denied that Christ, whole and entire, is contained under either species, and asserted that the body is contained under the species of bread without the blood, and the blood under the species of wine without the body. In order, therefore, to place more clearly before the eyes of all the truth of the Catholic faith, Communion under one kind, that is, under the species of bread, was most wisely introduced.
There are also other reasons, collected by those who have treated on this subject, and which, if it shall appear necessary, can be brought forward by pastors.
The Minister of the Eucharist
To omit nothing doctrinal on this Sacrament, we now come to speak of its minister, a point, however. on which scarcely anyone can be ignorant.
Only Priests Have Power To Consecrate And Administer The Eucharist
It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church, that the faithful should receive the Sacrament from the priests, and that the officiating priests should communicate themselves, has been explained by the holy Council of Trent, which has also shown that this practice, as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained, particularly as Christ the Lord has left us an illustrious example thereof, having consecrated His own most sacred body, and given it to the Apostles with His own hands.
The Laity Prohibited To Touch The Sacred Vessels
To safeguard in every possible way the dignity of so august a Sacrament, not only is the power of its administration entrusted exclusively to priests, but the Church has also prohibited by law any but consecrated persons, unless some case of great necessity intervene, to dare handle or touch the sacred vessels, the linen, or other instruments necessary to its completion.
Priests themselves and the rest of the faithful may hence understand how great should be the piety and holiness of those who approach to consecrate, administer or receive the Eucharist.
The Unworthiness Of The Minister Does Not Invalidate The Sacrament
What, however, has been already said of the other Sacraments, holds good also with regard to the Sacrament of the Eucharist; namely, that a Sacrament is validly administered even by the wicked, provided all the essentials have been duly observed. For we are to believe that all these depend not on the merit of the minister, but are operated by the virtue and power of Christ our Lord.
These are the things necessary to be explained regarding the Eucharist as a Sacrament.
The Eucharist as a Sacrifice
We must now proceed to explain its nature as a Sacrifice, that pastors may understand what are the principal instructions which they ought to impart to the faithful on Sundays and holy days, regarding this mystery in conformity with the decree of the holy Council (of Trent).
Importance Of Instruction On The Mass
This Sacrament is not only a treasure of heavenly riches, which if turned to good account will obtain for us the grace and love of God; but it also possesses a peculiar character, by which we are enabled to make some return to God for the immense benefits bestowed upon us.
How grateful and acceptable to God is this victim, if duly and legitimately immolated, is inferred from the following consideration. Of the sacrifices of the Old Law it is written: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not; and again: If thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted. Now if these were so pleasing in the Lord's sight that, as the Scripture testifies, from them God smelled a sweet savour, that is to say, they were grateful and acceptable to Him; what have we not to hope from that Sacrifice in which is immolated and offered He Himself of whom a voice from heaven twice proclaimed: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
This mystery, therefore, pastors should carefully explain, so that when the faithful are assembled at the celebration of divine service, they may learn to meditate with attention and devotion on the sacred things at which they are present.
Distinction of Sacrament and Sacrifice
They should teach, then, in the first place, that the Eucharist was instituted by Christ for two purposes: one, that it might be the heavenly food of our souls, enabling us to support and preserve spiritual life; and the other, that the Church might have a perpetual Sacrifice, by which our sins might be expiated, and our heavenly Father, oftentimes grievously offended by our crimes, might be turned away from wrath to mercy, from the severity of just chastisement to clemency. Of this thing we may observe a type and resemblance in the Paschal lamb, which was wont to be offered and eaten by the children of Israel as a sacrament and a sacrifice.
Nor could our Saviour, when about to offer Himself to God the Father on the altar of the cross, have given any more illustrious indication of His unbounded love towards us than by bequeathing to us a visible Sacrifice, by which that bloody Sacrifice, which was soon after to be offered once on the cross, would be renewed, and its memory daily celebrated with the greatest utility, unto the consummation of ages by the Church diffused throughout the world.
But (between the Eucharist as a Sacrament and a Sacrifice) the difference is very great; for as a Sacrament it is perfected by consecration; as a Sacrifice, all its force consists in its oblation. When, therefore, kept in a pyx, or borne to the sick, it is a Sacrament, not a Sacrifice. As a Sacrament also, it is to them that receive it a source of merit, and brings with it all those advantages which have been already mentioned; but as a Sacrifice, it is not only a source of merit, but also of satisfaction. For as, in His Passion, Christ the Lord merited and satisfied for us; so also those who offer this Sacrifice, by which they communicate with us, merit the fruit of His Passion, and satisfy.
The Mass Is a True Sacrifice
Proof From The Council Of Trent
With regard to the institution of this Sacrifice, the holy Council of Trent has left no room for doubt, by declaring that it was instituted by our Lord at His Last Supper; while it condemns under anathema all those who assert that in it is not offered to God a true and proper Sacrifice; or that to offer means nothing else than that Christ is given as our spiritual food.
Nor did (the Council) omit carefully to explain that to God alone is offered this Sacrifice. For although the Church sometimes offers Masses in honour and in memory of the Saints, yet she teaches that the Sacrifice is offered, not to them, but to God alone, who has crowned the Saints with immortal glory. Hence the priest never says: I offer Sacrifice to thee Peter, or to thee Paul; but, while he offers Sacrifice to God alone, he renders Him thanks for the signal victory won by the blessed martyrs, and thus implores their patronage, that they, whose memory we celebrate on earth, may vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven."
Proof From Scripture
This doctrine, handed down by the Catholic Church, concerning the truth of this Sacrifice, she received from the words of our Lord, when, on that last night, committing to His Apostles these same sacred mysteries, He said: Do this for a commemoration of me; for then, as was defined by the holy Council, He ordained them priests, and commanded that they and their successors in the priestly office, should immolate and offer His body.
Of this the words of the Apostle to the Corinthians also afford a sufficient proof: You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the? table of devils. As then by the table of devils must be understood the altar on which sacrifice was offered to them; so also - if the conclusion proposed to himself by the Apostle is to be legitimately drawn -- by the table of the Lord can be understood nothing else than the altar on which Sacrifice was offered to the Lord.
Should we look for figures and prophecies of this Sacrifice in the Old Testament, in the first place Malachy most clearly prophesied thereof in these words: From the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.
Moreover, this victim was foretold, as well before as after the promulgation of the Law, by various kinds of sacrifices; for this victim alone, as the perfection and completion of all, comprises all the blessings which were signified by the other sacrifices. In nothing, however, do we behold a more lively image of the Eucharistic Sacrifice than in that of Melchisedech; for the Saviour Himself offered to God the Father, at His Last Supper, His body and blood, under the appearances of bread and wine, declaring that He was constituted a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedech.
Excellence of the Mass
The Mass Is The Same Sacrifice As That Of The Cross
We therefore confess that the Sacrifice of the Mass is and ought to be considered one and the same Sacrifice as that of the cross, for the victim is one and the same, namely, Christ our Lord, who offered Himself, once only, a bloody Sacrifice on the altar of the cross. The bloody and unbloody victim are not two, but one victim only, whose Sacrifice is daily renewed in the Eucharist, in obedience to the command of our Lord: Do this for a commemoration of me.
The priest is also one and the same, Christ the Lord; for the ministers who offer Sacrifice, consecrate the holy mysteries, not in their own person, but in that of Christ, as the words of consecration itself show, for the priest does not say: This is the body of Christ, but, This is my body; and thus, acting in the Person of Christ the Lord, he changes the substance of the bread and wine into the true substance of His body and blood.
The Mass A Sacrifice Of Praise, Thanksgiving And Propitiation
This being the case, it must be taught without any hesitation that, as the holy Council (of Trent) has also) explained, the sacred and holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving only, or a mere commemoration of the Sacrifice performed on the cross, but also truly a propitiatory Sacrifice, by which God is appeased and rendered propitious to us. If, therefore, with a pure heart, a lively faith, and affected with an inward sorrow for our transgressions, we immolate and offer this most holy victim, we shall, without doubt, obtain mercy from the Lord, and grace in time of need; for SO delighted is the Lord with the door of this victim that, bestowing on us the gift of grace and repentance, He pardons our sins. Hence this usual prayer of the Church: As often as the commemoration of this victim is celebrated, so often is the work of our salvation being done; that is to say, through this unbloody Sacrifice flow to us the most plenteous fruits of that bloody victim.
The Mass Profits Both The Living And The Dead
Pastors should next teach that such is the efficacy of this Sacrifice that its benefits extend not only to the celebrant and communicant, but to all the faithful, whether living with us on earth, or already numbered with those who are dead in the Lord, but whose sins have not yet been fully expiated. For, according to the most authentic Apostolic tradition, it is not less available when offered for them, than when offered for the sins of the living, their punishments, satisfactions, calamities and difficulties of every sort.
It is hence easy to perceive, that all Masses, as being conducive to the common interest and salvation of all the faithful, are to be considered common to all.
The Rites and ceremonies of the Mass
The Sacrifice (of the Mass) is celebrated with many solemn rites and ceremonies, none of which should be deemed useless or superfluous. On the contrary, all of them tend to display the majesty of this august Sacrifice, and to excite the faithful when beholding these saving mysteries, to contemplate the divine things which lie concealed in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. On these rites and ceremonies we shall not dwell, since they require a more lengthy exposition than is compatible with the nature of the present work; moreover priests can easily consult on the subject some of the many booklets and works that have been written by pious and learned men.
What has been said so far will, with the divine assistance, be found sufficient to explain the principal things which regard the Holy Eucharist both as a Sacrament and Sacrifice.
THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
Importance Of Instruction On This Sacrament
As the frailty and weakness of human nature are universally known and felt by each one in himself, no one can be ignorant of the great necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. If, there- fore, the diligence of pastors should be proportioned to the weight and importance of the subject, we must admit that in ex pounding this Sacrament they can never be sufficiently diligent. Nay, it should be explained with more care than Baptism. Baptism is administered but once, and cannot be repeated; Penance may be administered and becomes necessary, as often as we may have sinned after Baptism. Hence the- Council of Trent declares: For those who fall into sin after Baptism the Sacrament of Penance is as necessary to salvation as is Baptism for those who have not been already baptised. The saying of St. Jerome that Penance is a second plank, is universally known and highly commended by all subsequent writers on sacred things. As he who suffers shipwreck has no hope of safety, unless, perchance, he seize on some plank from the wreck, so he that suffers the shipwreck of baptismal innocence, unless he cling to the saving plank of Penance, has doubtless lost all hope of salvation.
These instructions are intended not only for the benefit of pastors, but also for that of the faithful at large, to awaken attention, lest they be found culpably negligent in a matter so very important. Impressed with a just sense of the frailty of human nature, their first and most earnest desire should be to advance with the divine assistance in the ways of God, without sin or failing. But should they at any time prove so unfortunate as to fall, then, looking at the infinite goodness of God, who like the good shepherd binds up and heals the wounds of His sheep, they should not postpone recourse to the most saving remedy of Penance.
Different Meanings of the Word "Penance"
To enter at once on the subject, and to avoid all error to which the ambiguity of the word may give rise, its different meanings are first to be explained. By penance some understand satisfaction; while others, who wander far from the doctrine of the Catholic faith, supposing penance to have no reference to the past, define it to be nothing more than newness of life. It must, therefore, be shown that the word has a variety of meanings.
In the first place, it is said of those to whom that which was before pleasing is now displeasing, whether the object itself was good or bad. In this sense all those repent whose sorrow is according to the world, not according to God; and therefore, worketh not salvation, but death.
In the second place, it is used to express that sorrow which the sinner conceives, not, however, for the sake of God, but for his own sake, concerning some sin of his in which he once took pleasure.
A third kind of penance is that by which we experience interior sorrow of heart, or give exterior indication of such sorrow for the sake of God alone. To all these kinds of sorrow the word repentance properly applies.
When the Sacred Scriptures say that God repented, the expression is evidently figurative. When we repent of any thing, we are most anxious to change it; and hence when God has resolved to change any thing, the Scriptures, accommodating their language to our manner of speaking, say that He repents. Thus we read that it repented him that he had made man, and also that He was sorry that He had made Saul king.
But an important distinction is to be made between these different significations of the word. The first kind of penance must be considered faulty; the second is only the agitation of a disturbed mind; the third we call both a virtue and a Sacrament. In this last sense penance is taken here.
The Virtue of Penance
We shall first treat of penance as a virtue, not only because it is the duty of the pastor to lead the faithful to the practice of every virtue; but also, because the acts which proceed from penance as a virtue, constitute the matter, as it were, of Penance as a Sacrament, and unless the virtue be rightly understood, the force of the Sacrament cannot be appreciated.
The faithful, therefore, are first to be admonished and exhorted to labor strenuously to attain this interior penance of the heart which we call a virtue, and without which exterior penance can avail them very little.
Meaning Of Penance
Interior penance consists in turning to God sincerely and from heart, and in hating and detesting our past transgressions, with a firm resolution of amendment of life, hoping to obtain pardon through the mercy. Accompanying this penance, like inseparable companion of detestation for sin, is a sorrow and sadness, which is a certain agitation and disturbance of the soul, and is called by many a passion. Hence many of the Fathers define penance as an anguish of soul.
Penance, however, in those who repent, must be preceded by faith, for without faith no man can turn to God. Faith, therefore, cannot on any account be called a part of penance.
Penance Proved To Be A Virtue
That this inward penance is, as we have already said, a virtue, the various commands which have been given regarding it clearly show; for the law commands only those actions that are virtuous.
Furthermore, no one can deny that it is a virtue to be sorrowful at the time, in the manner, and to the extent which are required. To regulate sorrow in this manner belongs to the virtue of penance. Some conceive a sorrow which bears no proportion to their crimes. Nay, there are some, says Solomon, who are glad when they have done evil. Others, on the contrary, give themselves to such melancholy and grief, as utterly to abandon all hope of salvation. Such, perhaps, was the condition of Cain when he exclaimed: My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon. Such certainly was the condition of Judas, who, repenting, hanged himself, and thus lost soul and body. Penance, therefore, considered as a virtue, assists us in restraining within the bounds of moderation our sense of sorrow.
That penance is a virtue may also be inferred from the ends which the true penitent proposes to himself. The first is to destroy sin and efface from the soul its every spot and stain. The second is to make satisfaction to God for the sins which he has committed, which is clearly an act of justice. Between God and man, it is true, no relation of strict justice can exist, so great is the distance that separates them; yet between them there is evidently a sort of justice, such as exists between a father and his children, between a master and his servants. The third (end of the penitent) is to reinstate himself in the favour and friendship of God whom he has offended and whose hatred he has earned by the turpitude of sin. The foregoing considerations sufficiently prove that penance is a virtue.
The Steps Which Lead Up To This Virtue
We must also point out the steps by which we may ascend to this divine virtue. I The mercy of God first goes before us and converts our hearts to Him. This was the object of the Prophet's prayer: Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted.
Illumined by this light the soul next tends to God by faith. He that cometh to God, says the Apostle, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder of them that seek him.
A salutary fear of God's judgments follows, and the soul, contemplating the punishments that await sin, is recalled from the paths of vice. To this (state of soul) seem to refer these words of Isaias: As a woman with child, when she draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain and crieth out in her pangs, so are we become.
Then follows a hope of obtaining mercy from God, encouraged by which we resolve on improvement of life.
Lastly, our hearts are inflamed by charity, whence springs that filial fear which good and dutiful children experience; and thus dreading only to offend the majesty of God in anything, we entirely abandon the ways of sin.
Fruits Of This Virtue
Such are, as it were, the steps by which we ascend to this most exalted virtue, a virtue altogether heavenly and divine, to which the Sacred Scriptures promise the kingdom of heaven; for it is written in St. Matthew: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. If, says Ezechiel, the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment and justice, living he shall live. In another place: I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live, words which are evidently understood of eternal life.
Penance as a Sacrament
Regarding external penance it will be necessary to show that in it the Sacrament properly consists, and that it possesses certain outward and sensible signs which denote the effect that takes place interiorly in the soul.
Why Christ Instituted This Sacrament
In the first place, however, it will be well to explain why it is that Christ our Lord was pleased to number Penance among the Sacraments. One of His reasons certainly was to leave us no room for doubt regarding the remission of sin which was promised by God when He said: If the wicked do penance, etc. For each one has good reason to distrust the accuracy of his own judgment on his own actions, and hence we could not but be very much in doubt regarding the truth of our internal penance. It was to destroy this, our uneasiness, that our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Penance, by means of which we are assured that our sins are pardoned by the absolution of the priest; and also to tranquilize our conscience by means of the trust we rightly repose in the virtue of the Sacraments. The words of the priest sacramentally and lawfully absolving us from our sins are to be accepted in the same sense as the words of Christ our Lord when He said to the paralytic: Son, be of good heart: thy sins are forgiven thee.
In the second place, no one can obtain salvation unless through Christ and the merits of His Passion. Hence it was becoming in itself, and highly advantageous to us, that a Sacrament should be instituted through the force and efficacy of which the blood of Christ flows into our souls, washes- away-all the sins committed after Baptism, and thus leads us to recognise that it is to our Saviour alone we owe the blessing of reconciliation.
Penance Is a Sacrament
That Penance is a Sacrament pastors can easily show from what follows. As Baptism is a Sacrament because it blots out all sins, and especially original sin, so for the same reason Penance, which takes away all the sins of thought and deed committed after Baptism, must be regarded as a true Sacrament in the proper sense of the word.
Moreover -- and this is the principal reason -- since what is exteriorly done, both by priest and penitent, signifies the inward effects that take place in the soul, who will venture to deny that Penance is invested with the nature of a proper and true Sacrament ? For a Sacrament is a sign of a sacred thing. Now the sinner who repents plainly expresses by his words and actions that he has turned his heart from sin; while from the words and actions of the priest we easily recognise the mercy of God exercised in the remission of sins.
In any event, the words of our Saviour furnish a clear proof: I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. The absolution announced in the words of the priest expresses the remission of sins which it accomplishes in the soul.
This Sacrament May Be Repeated
The faithful should be instructed not only that Penance is to be numbered among the Sacraments, but that it is one of the Sacraments which may be repeated. To Peter, who had asked whether pardon could be given to sin seven times, our Lord replied: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven.
If, then, (the pastor) happens to encounter those who seem to distrust the infinite goodness and clemency of God, let him endeavour to inspire their minds with confidence, and raise them up to the hope of obtaining the grace of God. He will easily accomplish this object by explaining the above and other passages which are frequently met with in Holy Writ; as well as by using the arguments and reasons which may be found in St. Chrysostom's book On the Lapsed, and St. Ambrose's books On Penance.
The Constituent Parts of Penance
There is nothing that should be better known to the faithful than the matter of this Sacrament; hence they should be taught that Penance differs from the other Sacraments in this that while the matter of the other Sacraments is some thing, whether natural or artificial, the matter, as it were, of the Sacrament of Penance is the acts of the penitent, -- namely, contrition, confession and satisfaction, -- as has been declared by the council of Trent. Now, inasmuch as these acts are by divine institution required on the part of the penitent for the integrity of the Sacrament, and for the full and perfect remission of sin, they are called parts of Penance. It is not because they are not the real matter that they are called by the Council the matter as it were, but because they are not of that sort of matter which is applied externally, such, for instance, as water in Baptism and chrism in Confirmation.
As regards the opinion of some who hold that sins themselves are the matter of this Sacrament, it will be found, when carefully examined, that it does not really differ from the explanation already given. Thus we say that wood which is consumed by fire is the matter of fire. In the same way, sins which are destroyed by Penance may properly be called the matter of Penance.
The Form Of Penance
Pastors should not neglect to explain the form of the Sacrament of Penance. A knowledge of it will excite the faithful to receive the grace of this Sacrament with the greatest possible devotion. Now the form is: I absolve thee, as may be inferred not only from the words, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven, but also from the teaching of Christ our Lord, handed down to us by the Apostles.
Moreover, since the Sacraments signify what they effect, the words, I absolve thee, signify that remission of sin is effected by the administration of this Sacrament; and hence it is plain that such is the perfect form of the Sacrament. For sins are, so to say, the chains by which the soul is bound, and from which it is freed by the Sacrament of Penance. And none the less truly does the priest pronounce the form over the penitent who, through perfect contrition, accompanied by the desire of confession, has already obtained remission of his sins from God.
Several prayers are added, not that they are necessary to the form, but in order to remove every obstacle that can impede the force and efficacy of the Sacrament owing to the fault of him to whom it is administered.
How thankful, then, should not sinners be to God for having bestowed such ample power on the priests of His Church ! Unlike the priests of the Old Law who merely declared the leper cleansed from his leprosy, the power now given to the priests of the New Law is not limited to declaring the sinner absolved from his sins, but, as a minister of God, he truly absolves from sin. This is an effect of which God Himself, the author and source of grace and justice, is the principal cause.
The Rites Observed in the Sacrament of Penance
The faithful should take great care to observe the rites which accompany the administration o f this Sacrament. In this way they will have a higher idea of what they obtain from this Sacrament, that is, that they have been reconciled as slaves to their kind master, or rather, as children to their best of fathers; and at the same time they will also better understand what is the duty of those who desire, as everyone should, to show their gratitude and remembrance of so great a benefit.
The sinner, then, who repents, casts himself humbly and sorrowfully at the feet of the priest, in order that by there humbling himself he may the more easily be led to see that he must tear up the roots of pride whence spring and flourish all the sins he now deplores. In the priest, who is his legitimate judge, he venerates the person and the power of Christ our Lord; for in the administration of the Sacrament of Penance, as in that of the other Sacraments, the priest holds the place of Christ. Next the penitent enumerates his sins, acknowledging, at the same time, that he deserves the greatest and severest chastisements; and finally, suppliantly asks pardon for his faults.
All these rites have a sure guarantee for their antiquity in the authority of St. Denis.
Effects of the Sacrament of Penance
Nothing will prove of greater advantage to the faithful, nothing will be found to conduce more to a willing reception of the Sacrament of Penance, than for pastors to explain frequently the great advantage to be derived therefrom. They will then see that of Penance it is truly said that its roots ale bitter, but its fruit sweet indeed.
First of all, then, the great efficacy o Penance consists in this, that it restores us to the grace of God, and unites us to Him in the closest friendship.
In pious souls who approach this Sacrament with devotion, profound peace and tranquillity of conscience, together with ineffable joy of soul, accompany this reconciliation. For there is no sin, however great or horrible, which cannot be effaced by the Sacrament of Penance, and that not merely once, but over and over again. On this point God Himself thus speaks through the Prophet: If the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die, and I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done. And St. John says: If we confess our sins; he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins; and a little later, he adds: If any man sin, -- he excepts no sin whatever, -- we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just; for he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.
When we read in Scripture that certain persons did not obtain pardon from God, even though they earnestly implored it, we know that this was due to the fact that they had not a true and heartfelt sorrow for their sins. Thus when we find in Sacred Scripture and in the writings of the Fathers passages which seem to assert that certain sins are irremissible, we must understand the meaning to be that it is very difficult to obtain pardon for them. A disease is sometimes called incurable, because the patient is so disposed as to loathe the medicines that could afford him relief. Ill the same way certain sins are not remitted or pardoned because the sinner rejects the grace of God, the only medicine for salvation. It is in this sense that St. Augustine wrote: When a man who, through the grace of Jesus Christ, has once arrived at a knowledge of God, wounds fraternal charity, and, driven by the fury of envy, lifts up his head against grace, the enormity of his sin is so great that, though compelled by a guilty conscience to acknowledge and confess his fault, he finds himself unable to submit to the humiliation of imploring pardon.
The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance
Returning now to the Sacrament, it is so much the special province of Penance to remit sins that it is impossible to obtain or even to hope for remission of sins by any other means; for it is written: Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish. These words were said by our Lord in reference to grievous and mortal sins, although at the same time lighter sins, which are called venial, also require some sort of penance. St. Augustine observes that the kind of penance which is daily performed in the Church for venial sins, would be absolutely useless, if venial sin could be remitted without penance.
The Three Integral Parts of Penance
But as it is not enough to speak in general terms when treating of practical matters, the pastors should take care to explain, one by one, those things from which the faithful can understand the meaning of true and salutary Penance.
Now it is peculiar to this Sacrament that besides matter and form, which it has in common with all the other Sacraments, it has also, as we have said, those parts which constitute Penance, so to say, whole and entire; namely, contrition, confession and satisfaction. On these St. Chrysostom thus speaks: Penance enables the sinner to bear all willingly in his heart is contrition; on his lips confession; in his actions entire humility or salutary satisfaction.
These three parts belong to that class of parts which are necessary to constitute a whole. The human body is composed of many members, -- -hands, feet, eyes and the various other parts; the want of any one of which makes the body be justly considered imperfect, while if none of them is missing, the body is regarded as perfect. In the same way, Penance is composed of these three parts in such a way that though contrition and confession, which justify man, are alone required to constitute its essence, yet, unless accompanied by its third part, satisfaction, it necessarily remains short of its absolute perfection.
These three parts, then, are so intimately connected with one another, that contrition includes the intention and resolution of confessing and making satisfaction; contrition and the resolution of making satisfaction imply confession; while the other two precede satisfaction.
Necessity Of These Integral Parts
The reason why these are the integral parts may be thus explained. Sins against God are committed by thought, by word and by deed. It is, then, but reasonable, that in recurring to the power of the keys we should endeavour to appease God's wrath, and obtain pardon for our sins by means of the very same things which we employed to offend His sovereignty.
A further reason by way of confirmation can also be assigned. Penance is a sort of compensation for sin, springing from the free will of the delinquent, and is appointed by God, against whom the offence has been committed. Hence, on the one hand, there is required the willingness to make compensation, in which willingness contrition chiefly consists; while, on the other hand, the penitent must submit himself to the judgment of the priest, who holds God's place, in order to enable him to award a punishment proportioned to the gravity of the sin committed. Hence the reason for and the necessity of confession and satisfaction are easily inferred.
The First Part of Penance
As the faithful require instruction on the nature and efficacy of the parts of Penance, we must begin with contrition. This subject demands careful explanation; for as often as we call to mind our past transgressions, or offend God anew, so often should our hearts be pierced with contrition.
The Meaning Of Contrition
By the Fathers of the Council of Trent, contrition is defined: A sorrow and detestation for sin committed, with a purpose of sinning no more. and a little further on the Council, speaking of the motion of the will to contrition, adds: If joined with a confidence in the mercy of God and an earnest desire of per forming whatever is necessary to the proper reception of the Sacrament, it thus prepares us for the remission of sin.
Contrition Is A Detestation Of Sin
From this definition, therefore, the faithful will perceive that the efficacy of contrition does not simply consist in ceasing to sin, or in resolving to begin, or having actually begun a new life; it supposes first of all a hatred of one's ill-spent life and a desire of atoning for past transgressions.
This is especially confirmed by those cries of the holy Fathers,. which we so frequently meet with in Holy Scripture. I have laboured in my groaning, says David; every night I will wash my bed; and again, The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. I will recount to thee all my years, says another, in the bitterness of my soul. These and many like expressions were called forth by an intense hatred and a lively detestation of past transgressions.
Contrition Produces Sorrow
But although contrition is defined as sorrow, the faithful are not thence to conclude that this sorrow consists in sensible feeling; for contrition is an act of the will, and, as St. Augustine observes, grief is not penance but the accompaniment of penance. By sorrow the Fathers understood a hatred and detestation of sin; in the first place, because the Sacred Scriptures frequently use the word in this sense. How long, says David, shall I take counsels in my soul, sorrow in my heart all the day. And secondly, because from contrition arises sorrow in the inferior part of the soul which is called the seat of concupiscence.
With propriety, therefore, is contrition defined a sorrow, because it produces sorrow; hence penitents, in order to express it, used to change their garments. Our Lord alludes to this custom when He says: Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sack-cloth and ashes.
Names Of Sorrow For Sin
To signify the intensity of this sorrow the name contrition has rightly been given to the detestation of sin of which we speak. The word means the breaking of an object into small parts by means of a stone or some harder substance; and here it is used metaphorically, to signify that our hearts, hardened by pride, are beaten and broken by penance. Hence no-other sorrow, not even that which is felt for the death of parents, or children, or for any other calamity, is called contrition. The word is exclusively employed to express the sorrow with which we are overwhelmed by the forfeiture of the grace of God and of our own innocence.
Contrition, however, is often designated by other names. Sometimes it is called contrition of heart, because the word heart is frequently used in Scripture to express the will. As the movement of the body originates in the heart, so the will is the faculty which governs and controls the other powers of the soul.
By the holy Fathers it is also called compunction of heart, and hence they preferred to entitle their works on contrition treatises On Compunction of Heart; for as ulcers are lanced with a knife in order to allow the escape of the poisonous matter accumulated within, so the heart, as it were, is pierced with the lance of contrition, to enable it to emit the deadly poison of sin.
Hence, contrition is called by the Prophet Joel, a rending of the heart. Be converted to me, he says, with all your hearts in fasting, in weeping, in mourning, and rend your hearts.
Qualities of Sorrow for Sin
It Should Be Supreme
That sorrow for sins committed should be so profound and supreme that no greater sorrow could be thought of will easily appear from the considerations that follow.
Perfect contrition is an act of charity, emanating from what is called filial fear; hence it is clear that the measure of contrition and of charity should be the same. Since, therefore, the charity which we cherish towards God, is the most perfect love, it follows that contrition should be the keenest sorrow of the soul. God is to be loved above all things, and whatever separates us from God is therefore to be hated above all things. It is also worthy of note that to charity and contrition the language of Scripture assigns the same extent. Of charity it is said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.' Of contrition the Lord says through the Prophet: Be converted with your whole heart.
Secondly, it is true that of all objects which deserve our love, God is the supreme good, and it is not less true that of all objects which deserve our execration sin is the supreme evil. The same reason, then, which prompts us to confess that God is to be loved above all things, obliges us also of necessity to acknowledge that sin is to be hated above all things. That God is to be loved above all things, so that we should be prepared to sacrifice our lives rather than offend Him, these words of the Lord clearly declare: He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; He that will save his life shall lose it.
Further, it should be noted that since, as St. Bernard says, there is no limit or measure to charity, or to use his own words, as the measure of loving God is to love Him without measure, there should be no limit to the hatred of sin.
Sorrow For Sin Should Be Intense
Besides, our contrition should be not only the greatest, but also the most intense, and so perfect that it excludes all apathy and indifference; for it is written in Deuteronomy: When thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him: yet so if thou seek him with all thy heart, and all the affliction of thy soul, and in Jeremias.: Thou shalt seek me and shalt find me, when thou shalt seek me unto all thy heart; and I will be found by thee, saith the Lord.
If, however, our contrition be not perfect, it may nevertheless be true and efficacious. For as things which fall under the senses frequently touch the heart more sensibly than things purely spiritual, it sometimes happens that persons feel more intense sorrow for the death of their children than for the grievousness of their sins.
Our contrition may also be true and efficacious, although unaccompanied by tears. Penitential tears, however, are much to be desired and commended. On this subject St. Augustine has well said: The spirit of Christian charity lives not within you, if you lament the body from which the soul has departed, but lament not the soul from which God has departed. To the same effect are the words of the Redeemer above cited: Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long since done penance, in sack-cloth and ashes. To establish this truth it will suffice to recall the well-known examples of the Ninivites, of David, of the woman who was a sinner, and of the Prince of the Apostles, all. of whom obtained the pardon of their sins when they implored the mercy of God with abundant tears.
Sorrow For Sin Should Be Universal
The faithful should be earnestly exhorted and admonished to strive to extend their contrition to each mortal sin. For it is thus that Ezechias describes contrition: I will recount to thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul. To recount all our years is to examine our sins one by one in order to have sorrow for them from our hearts. In Ezechiel also we read: If the wicked do penance for all his sins, he shall live. In this sense St. Augustine says: Let the sinner consider the quality of his sins, as to time, place, variety and person.
In this matter, however, the faithful should not despair of the infinite goodness and mercy of God. For since God is most desirous of our salvation, He will not delay to pardon us. With a father's fondness, He embraces the sinner the moment he enters into himself, turns to the Lord, and, having detested all his sins, resolves that later on, as far as he is able, he will call them singly to mind and detest them. The Almighty Himself, by the mouth of His Prophet, commands us to hope, when He says: The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him, in what day soever he shall turn from his wickedness.
Conditions Required for Contrition
From what has been said we may gather the chief requisites of true contrition. In these the faithful are to be accurately instructed, that each may know the means of attaining, and may have a fixed standard by which to determine, how far he may be removed from the perfection of this virtue.
Detestation Of Sin
We must, then, in the first place, detest and deplore all out sins. If our sorrow and detestation extend only to some sins, our repentance is not salutary, but feigned and false. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, says St. James, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all.
Intention Of Confession And Satisfaction
In the next place, our contrition must be accompanied with a desire of confessing and satisfying for our sins. Concerning these dispositions we shall treat in their proper place.
Purpose Of Amendment
Thirdly, the penitent must form a fixed and firm purpose of amendment of life. This the