- What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
- Trinity Sunday
- Saint Bede the Venerable
- Family and Marriage
- Articles and notices
The Mystery of the Blessed Trinity is completely a mystery that is incomprehensible to the finite human mind. It is easy, in one’s pride, to reject it on the basis that one cannot demonstrate it with earthly knowledge. It is said, when Saint Augustine contemplated this mystery he saw a child going back and forth to the sea with a bucket filling a small hole in the sand with the water he got from the sea. Amused by the efforts of the boy and asking what he was trying to accomplish, the boy said he was trying to put all the water from the sea into the hole. Impossible, replied Augustine in a very logical way. The boy responded, but you are trying to do the same in trying to solve the mystery of the blessed Trinity. To the believer, it is simply acknowledged as true because God has revealed it. Christ said: I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. . . But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. (John 14:16, 15:26) Christ sends the Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 28:19).
Belief in the Blessed Trinity is not rejected logically because even nature requires a trinitarian formula. The examples of the triangle to the shamrock to the folded blanket all show necessity and non-contradiction within unity, but they do not explain the Blessed Trinity.
The Trinity in Persons and Unity of Essence is the principal doctrine of Christian belief in God. Without it there is no Divine Intervention, no Incarnation, no Intercession. Without it there is no religion, for religion is the bond one has with God—and here, not only the true God, but God who is capable of loving the other and the other loving God in the Person of the Father, in the Person of the Son and in the Person of the Holy Ghost. For this reason all Christians (Catholics) are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Catholics begin their prayers with the Sign of the Cross in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Catholics always give Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Lord God is one in nature—but three in Persons.
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION?
by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
The Ante-Nicene Fathers Continue Pentecost
With the persecutions and the desire to preserve the administrations of the Mysteries (Sacraments) as privileged (Disciplina Arcani) so that they would not be abused—one saw this abuse already with Simon the Magician:
And when Simon saw, that by the imposition of the hands of the apostles, the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying: Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I shall lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said to him: Keep thy money to thyself, to perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8:18-20)
—The Mysteries (i.e., the Sacraments) were not delivered (taught) at all to those not baptized, and therefore they were not initiated into the mysteries (that is, instructed about the Sacraments). Once the catechumens (those receiving instruction in the Catholic faith) were recommended to be baptized, they were initiated into each sacrament (Mystery) that they received: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist (Mass of the Faithful) and then allowed to fully participate in the Church. When one reads the Apostolic Fathers one must then take into consideration this Discipline of the Secret (remembering discipline means teaching and secret refers to the mysteries or Sacraments).
Arthur Barnes, in the Catholic Encyclopedia, writes under the article Discipline of the Secret the following:
The origin of the custom must be looked for in the recorded words of Christ: “Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast your pearls before swine; lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turning upon you, they tear you” (Matthew 7:6), while the practice in Apostolic times is sufficiently vouched for by St. Paul’s assurance that he fed the Corinthians “as . . . little ones in Christ”, giving them “milk to drink, not meat”, because they were not yet able to bear it (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). With this passage we may compare also Hebrews 5:12-14, where the same illustration is used, and it is declared that “solid food is for the perfect; for them who by custom have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil.”
Saint Theophilus of Antioch (+ cir. 180), since Cyril of Jerusalem and many of the other Greek Fathers used the same terminology when speaking of Confirmation, applies the name of Christian by reason of the anointing with Chrism for the reception of the Holy Ghost:
And about your laughing at me and calling me Christian, you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first caulked [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God. (Ad Autolyc., c. 1, n. 12; Migne, P. G., VI, 1042.)
One must remember that it was in Antioch the name, Christian, was given to the followers of Christ: And they conversed there in the church a whole year; and they taught a great multitude, so that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians. (Acts of Apostles 11:26)
Though one does not always look to Tertullian, especially in his later writings, for Catholic doctrine, still he was a witness for the Church at the end of the second century and beginning of the third century being a lawyer and then a priest and apologist. Tertullian was a profuse writer and one can find in his writings a record of what was done in the Church. Those neo-Modernists, as the Protestants have, who do reference him for more than a witness to early Christianity fail to recognize he not only joined the Montanists after rejecting the Catholic Faith, but began his own sect of followers, thereby holding his own peculiar beliefs contrary to the Catholic Church and for which the Church rightfully rejected his writings because of their errors. (Cf. Chapman’s article, Tertullian, in CE) Giving testimony in regard to the Sacrament of Confirmation, Tertullian writes of why Confirmation is after Baptism:
Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit; but in the water, under (the witness of) the angel, we are cleansed, and prepared for the Holy Spirit. In this case also a type has preceded; for thus was John beforehand the Lord’s forerunner, preparing His ways. Luke 1:76 Thus, too, does the angel, the witness of baptism, make the paths straight for the Holy Spirit, who is about to come upon us, by the washing away of sins, which faith, sealed in (the name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, obtains. For if in the mouth of three witnesses every word shall stand: — while, through the benediction, we have the same (three) as witnesses of our faith whom we have as sureties of our salvation too— how much more does the number of the divine names suffice for the assurance of our hope likewise! Moreover, after the pledging both of the attestation of faith and the promise of salvation under three witnesses, there is added, of necessity, mention of the Church; inasmuch as, wherever there are three, (that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,) there is the Church, which is a body of three.
After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction,— (a practice derived) from the old discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood, men were wont to be anointed with oil from a horn, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. Whence Aaron is called Christ, from the chrism, which is the unction; which, when made spiritual, furnished an appropriate name to the Lord, because He was anointed with the Spirit by God the Father; as written in the Acts: For truly they were gathered together in this city against Your Holy Son whom You have anointed. Thus, too, in our case, the unction runs carnally, (i.e. on the body,) but profits spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins.
In the next place the hand is laid on us, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit through benediction (dehinc manus imponitur per benedictionem advocans et invitans Spiritum Sanctum). Shall it be granted possible for human ingenuity to summon a spirit into water, and, by the application of hands from above, to animate their union into one body with another spirit of so clear sound; and shall it not be possible for God, in the case of His own organ, to produce, by means of holy hands, a sublime spiritual modulation? But this, as well as the former, is derived from the old sacramental rite in which Jacob blessed his grandsons, born of Joseph, Ephrem and Manasses; with his hands laid on them and interchanged, and indeed so transversely slanted one over the other, that, by delineating Christ, they even portended the future benediction into Christ. Then, over our cleansed and blessed bodies willingly descends from the Father that Holiest Spirit. Over the waters of baptism, recognising as it were His primeval seat, He reposes: (He who) glided down on the Lord in the shape of a dove, in order that the nature of the Holy Spirit might be declared by means of the creature (the emblem) of simplicity and innocence, because even in her bodily structure the dove is without literal gall. And accordingly He says, Be simple as doves. Even this is not without the supporting evidence of a preceding figure. For just as, after the waters of the deluge, by which the old iniquity was purged— after the baptism, so to say, of the world— a dove was the herald which announced to the earth the assuagement of celestial wrath, when she had been sent her way out of the ark, and had returned with the olive-branch, a sign which even among the nations is the fore-token of peace; so by the self-same law of heavenly effect, to earth— that is, to our flesh — as it emerges from the font, after its old sins flies the dove of the Holy Spirit, bringing us the peace of God, sent out from the heavens where is the Church, the typified ark. But the world returned unto sin; in which point baptism would ill be compared to the deluge. And so it is destined to fire; just as the man too is, who after baptism renews his sins: so that this also ought to be accepted as a sign for our admonition. (De baptismo, c. 6-8)
Again, though not calling them Sacraments, Tertullian mentions the relation between the rites received for salvation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) and that of the condition of the body that also must be saved:
Now such remarks have I wished to advance in defence of the flesh, from a general view of the condition of our human nature. Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. (De carnis resurrection, 8.)
St. Hippolytus of Rome (+ 235) provides a summary of the liturgy employed by the bishops and priests in his Apostolic Traditions. Relating the rite of Confirmation, he gives an outline that followed the rite of baptism in his day:
Afterward, when they have come up out of the water, they shall be anointed by the elder with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying, “I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ.” Then, drying themselves, they shall dress and afterwards gather in the church.
The bishop will then lay his hand upon them, invoking, saying, “Lord God, you who have made these worthy of the removal of sins through the bath of regeneration, make them worthy to be filled with your Holy Spirit, grant to them your grace, that they might serve you according to your will, for to you is the glory, Father and Son with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages. Amen.
After this he pours the oil into his hand, and laying his hand on each of their heads, says, “I anoint you with holy oil in God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.”
Then, after sealing each of them on the forehead, he shall give them the kiss of peace and say, “The Lord be with you.” And the one who has been baptized shall say, “And with your spirit.” So shall he do to each one.
Pope Cornelius (251-253), in condemning Novatian, an anti-pope who had himself elected pope in opposition to Cornelius, informs Bishop Fabius of Antioch that Novatian did not follow nor wanted to follow the canons of the Church, including being Confirmed and therefore his lack of divine assistance:
Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell into a severe sickness; and as he seemed about to die, he received baptism by affusion, on the bed where he lay; if indeed we can say that such a one did receive it. And when he was healed of his sickness he did not receive the other things which it is necessary to have according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed by the bishop. And as he did not receive this, how could he receive the Holy Spirit? (Ep. ad Fabium Ant. As found in Eusebius’ Church History, VI 43, 14-15).
Cornelius was supported by Saint Cyprian of Carthage who was zealous in defending Cornelius against Novatian and is named with Cornelius in the Canon of the Mass. Despite his initiating the Donatist error by saying the Sacraments were dependent on the holiness of the minister (Though even St. Hippolytus—who repented—and Novatian used the supposed leniency of the reigning Popes to allow sinners to receive absolution after denying the faith in persecution as the reason for setting themselves up as anti-popes) he remained united and demanded unity in the Church and finally received martyrdom. As bishop of Carthage he held leadership of Northern Africa, and, as such, was considered next of importance within the Latin Church after the Bishop of Rome. Antioch, the first See of Peter, was the center of leadership for the Greek Church at this period.
St. Cyprian (+ 258), in trying to defend his position of re-baptism writes correctly that one must be baptized before being confirmed: It is also necessary that he should be anointed who is baptized; so that, having received the chrism, that is, the anointing, he may be anointed of God, and have in him the grace of Christ. (Epistle 70 (69), 2; cfEpistle 71, 1) This is further explained more fully when speaking of the Samaritans in Acts chapter 8:
But in respect of the assertion of some concerning those who had been baptized in Samaria, that when the Apostles Peter and John came, only hands were imposed on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, yet that they were not re-baptized; we see that that place does not, dearest brother, touch the present case. For they who had believed in Samaria had believed with a true faith; and within, in the Church which is one, and to which alone it is granted to bestow the grace of baptism and to remit sins, had been baptized by Philip the deacon, whom the same apostles had sent. And therefore, because they had obtained a legitimate and ecclesiastical baptism, there was no need that they should be baptized any more, but only that which was needed was performed by Peter and John; viz., that prayer being made for them, and hands being imposed, the Holy Spirit should be invoked and poured out upon them, which now too is done among us, so that they who are baptized in the Church are brought to the prelates of the Church, and by our prayers and by the imposition of hands obtain the Holy Spirit, and are perfected with the Lord’s seal. (Ep. 72 (73), 9; Cf. Ep. 73 (74), 5 and 7.)
(To be continued)
Dr. Pius Parsch
The Church’s Year of Grace (1959)
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
On the first Sunday after Pentecost there begins the tempus per annum, a time marked by no special mysteries in the Proper of the Season. Immediately, however, some Sundays are supplanted or overshadowed by feasts. Thus the first Sunday after Pentecost yields its place to the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The Sunday liturgy, commemorated in the Orations, may, of course, be resumed on the ferial days of the ensuing week.
FEAST OF THE
MOST HOLY TRINITY
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
The feasts and seasons that have occurred thus far during the ecclesiastical year were closely linked to sacred history, especially to the Gospel narratives of Christ’s life. From Christmas to Pentecost we observed in mystery the earthly activity of our holy Redeemer. The Sacrifice of Mass offered on various feasts and ferials actualized the sacred event commemorated, making present its peculiar graces. Now we meet certain feasts that are oriented quite differently, “faith-feasts” in which a mystery of our religion is made the object of liturgical worship. In these faith-feasts, the bond with the Sacrifice itself is no longer so intimate; for the Church celebrates holy Mass on the occasion simply in honor of a given dogma. The first of these, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, has as object the greatest, the most profound and incomprehensible truth of our holy faith. The feast was introduced into the Roman Church by Pope John XXII in 1334.
- The dogma of faithwhich forms the object of today’s feast is this: There is one God and in this one God there are three divine Persons; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three Gods, but one, eternal, incomprehensible God! The Father is not more God than the Son, neither is the Son more God than the Holy Spirit. The Father is the first divine Person; the Son is the second divine Person, begotten from the nature of the Father from eternity; the Holy Spirit is the third divine Person, proceeding from the Father and the Son. No mortal can fully fathom this sublime truth. But I submit humbly and say: Lord, I believe, help my weak faith. Why is this feast celebrated at this particular time? It may be interpreted as a finale to all the preceding feasts. All three Persons contributed to and shared in the work of redemption. The Father sent His Son to earth, for “God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son.” The Father called us to the faith. The Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, became man and died for us. He redeemed us and made us children of God. He ever remains the liturgist par excellence to whom we are united in all sacred functions. After Christ’s ascension the Holy Spirit, however, became our Teacher, our Leader, our Guide, our Consoler. On solemn occasions a thanksgivingTe Deum rises spontaneously from Christian hearts. The feast of the Most Holy Trinity may well be regarded as the Church’s Te Deum of gratitude over all the blessings of the Christmas and Easter seasons; for today’s mystery is a synthesis of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. This feast, which falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, should make us mindful that actually every Sunday is devoted to the honor of the Most Holy Trinity, that every Sunday is sanctified and consecrated to the triune God. Sunday after Sunday we should recall in a spirit of gratitude the gifts which the Blessed Trinity is bestowing upon us. The Father created and predestined us; on the first day of the week He began the work of creation. The Son redeemed us; Sunday is the “Day of the Lord,” the day of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit sanctified us, made us His temple; on Sunday the Holy Spirit descended upon the infant Church. Sunday, therefore, is the day of the Most Holy Trinity.
Meditation. Try to realize how your whole life begins and ends by virtue of the Holy Trinity. Recall how the sacraments or how the blessings are administered in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Take, for instance, the sacrament of baptism, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Or the sacrament of penance, “I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At your deathbed the priest will say: “Go forth from this world, O Christian soul, in the Name of God the Father almighty who created you; in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who suffered for you; in the Name of the Holy Spirit who has been poured forth upon you.” The life of a Christian begins and ends in the Name of the Blessed Trinity. Therefore, begin and close each day, each week, each prayer with the words: “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
One could also meditate upon the many prayers that are directed to the Blessed Trinity. First of all, the “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Surely no prayer is said more often. It forms the conclusion to every psalm, and every Hour of the Divine Office is begun with it. Truly the “Glory be” is like a chime in the church tower that is ever ringing. Every priest prays this acclamation of praise to the Blessed Trinity more than fifty times each day. The “Glory be” is called the lesser doxology, while the greater doxology is the Gloria in excelsis of the Mass. The soul-stirring Te Deum, a praise and thanksgiving chant to the triune God, is prayed very frequently at the end of Matins. A splendid array of prayers in honor of the Blessed Trinity has developed to form the Ordinary of the Mass. One immediately sees how the Mass of the Catechumens is Trinitarian throughout: the Kyrie—petition to the Blessed Trinity; the Gloria—praise to the triune God; the Oration—directed to the three divine Persons by its conclusion. The three messages—Epistle, Gospel, Sermon—are linked very closely to the three divine Persons, while the Credo is a joyous acknowledgment of our faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A special profession of faith in the Trinity is made today at Prime, the Athanasian Creed. The finest prayer to the Blessed Trinity is holy Mass itself, for it is the supreme expression of praise, thanksgiving, and petition to the triune God.
- Holy Mass (Benedicta sit).The Mass formulary is not difficult to understand. The Introit voices the spirit of the celebrant upon approaching the altar and of the people upon coming to church. As we enter God’s house today, the Blessed Trinity appears before us in might, in goodness, in beauty; and our hearts burst forth in song: “Blessed be the holy Trinity, because He has shown us mercy.” The Introit psalm is a nature-hymn which praises the triune God for having “shown Himself wonderful in the world, in the lips of children, and in the stars of heaven.” The Collect speaks of a twofold divine greatness, the mighty unity and the harmonious plurality in the Godhead. We acclaim the majesty of the Trinity and adore the inherent oneness of nature; with unflinching faith in this mystery we plead for protection in all the vicissitudes of life. The mystery also affords a model for action, because our lives and personalities should reflect our origin; may our thought and conduct show holy unity and a beautiful, lovable harmony.
In the Epistle Paul is filled with amazement when, with the eyes of faith, he scans the unfathomable mystery: “Oh, the depths of the riches. . . .” He scarcely finds words to express his awe in the presence of the infinite, impenetrable dogma of the triune God. “Of Him (the Father), and by Him (the Son), and in Him (the Holy Spirit) are all things.” In the Gradual-Alleluia we respond with a threefold Blessed! as in spirit we scan a tremendous field; we watch God surveying the depths as He sits enthroned over all the cherubim; to our fathers, in the fortunes of mankind, in the ways of men, the Blessed Trinity manifests Its glory.
In the Gospel we meet the principal Scripture passage which mentions the three divine Persons. Christ gives His apostles the command: “Go. . . baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Our own selves should be the gift dedicated to the Blessed Trinity at the Offertory. During the distribution of holy Communion the Church says to us: This Bread from heaven is a love-token from the triune God. Christ effected your salvation, the Father preordained your redemption by calling you, the Holy Spirit is infusing grace after grace to insure your perseverance. The Secret prays for the sanctification of the offered gifts; by holiness of life you may make yourself an abiding oblation to the holy Trinity. For a third time at the Communion we praise the holy Trinity “because He has shown His mercy to us.” Postcommunion: the holy Sacrifice should confirm our faith in the sublime mystery and provide protection against the dangers besetting body and soul. In ancient times this Sunday was aliturgical because the Mass of Ember Saturday was celebrated toward Sunday morning. Later the formulary of the first Sunday after Pentecost· was introduced, then the feast of All Saints from the Orient. Only in the fourteenth century did the feast of the Blessed Trinity supplant the Sunday liturgy; since then the latter is resumed on the ferial days preceding Corpus Christi.
St. Bede the Venerable, Confessor and Doctor of the Church
- St. Bede was born in northern England, in 673. At the age of seven he was entrusted to the care of the holy Abbot Benedict Biscop, of Wearmouth, to be educated. Later he was sent to the new monastery of Yarrow, which had a famous school and a well-stocked library. In 686 the Black Death took the lives of all its monks, except the Abbot and the twelve year-old Bede. At the age of nineteen, Bede was ordained deacon, but he did not receive priesthood until he was thirty. In his own words, he found his joy “in the daily observance of the Holy Rule, the recitation of the Divine Office, studying, teaching, and writing.” He learned how to harmonize diligent study with Benedictine life. Never idle, he worked indefatigably from early morning till late evening; but work regularly alternated with prayer. His favorite field of research was Holy Scripture, and he became familiar with the commentaries of the early Fathers. The tangible result of this study was a series of clear and inspiring explanations of various books of both the Old and New Testaments. Though these, too, were w
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