Vol 14 Issue 9 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
February 27, 2021 ~ Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, opn!
1. What is the Holy Eucharist
2. Second Sunday in Lent
3. Martyrs in the Plague of Alexandria
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
As we continue the Lenten season, let us again review the spirit of Lent. Lent introduces us to the Act of Redemption accomplished by the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. It was redemption from the consequences of sin, starting with Original Sin.
How may one understand Original Sin? We know that we are part physical and part spiritual, consisting of a body and a soul. God so created man that man would participate in a physical natural world and then be transferred into the supernatural spiritual world, being transfigured or glorified. Placing man in a natural paradise, God indicated to man that providing man with all that human nature needed and more, He would fulfill His design to let man share in His Divine glory, to live forever in heaven. In the person of Adam, man experienced to the full the sensations of the human senses: Seeing the beauty of natural creation, tasting the delicious alimentations, hearing the pleasing sounds of nature and speech, touching a variety of stimulating surfaces, smelling the most fragrant of odors. Would man have these physical sensations always? Or only for a time? Would man want these sensations in preference to something God said would surpass them? This was the question asked when God forbade the one earthly experience Adam and Eve were not to have: Eating of the forbidden fruit—where sight, touch, smell, taste would all be stimulated: And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat. (Gen. 3:6) The choice of heaven and earth is expressed in both the command of God: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat; for in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. (2:17) and Eve, repeating the warning, the Serpent promising: No, you shall not die the death. (3:4) Adam and Eve rejected God’s promise of a supernatural existence for a natural existence—one they were now experiencing—which the Serpent promised they could possess forever. Of course, once they ate of the forbidden fruit, they encountered the consequences and repented. In response to this repentance, God promised to send a Redeemer, but they and all their children would have to do penance for the sin—with the promise that if they accepted it and believed in the promised Saviour, they would gain back the gift of eternal life.
As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor
WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST
By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
The Holy Eucharist is a True Sacrifice
The Sacrifice of the Mass
THE HOLY EUCHARIST AS A SACRIFICE
An Explanation of Holy Mass
Ceremonies of Holy Mass
Besides the cassock, the vestments used by the clerics in major orders for the liturgical celebrations are chiefly from ancient Greek and Roman civil clothes worn by persons of rank having property. The Romans had a social division consisting of those of rank (honestiores) and everyone else (humiliores-lower). While the world has changed its styles of clothing through the centuries, the clergy have always retained essentially the same garments.
Another aspect of the liturgical garments is that it hides the person, depersonalizing him and removing him from the center so the more easily to see the alter Christus—another Christ—and recognizing himself to be acting in persona Christi—in the person of Christ. The priest is not performing the function of himself, but as a minister of the Church and an instrument of Christ.
1. The Cassock or soutane, which is a black garment completely covering the priest and which is always worn in the Church. He received this when he was tonsured to show he was dead to the world and alive to Christ (cf. Rom. 6:11)
2. The Amice is a plain white scarf or hood (cowl) that is hung over the back and brought over the shoulders and around the neck then tied at the waist.
It is called (from Eph. 6, 17) a “helmet of salvation” which protects against the attacks of the devil. In allegorical and moral symbolism it signifies the virtue of Christian hope or, according to the Roman Pontifical (De ordin. subdiac.), the restraint of the tongue; in typical and representative symbolism, it recalls the cloth which covered the head of Jesus when He was mocked and struck in the court of the high priest. (Stapper, 240)
The priest still places it on his head for a moment while he prays: Lord, set the helmet of salvation on my head to fend off all the assaults of the devil.
3. The Alb (alba, white) is made of white linen and is the white undergarment Romans and others wore. The allegorical and moral signification of the alb is purity of heart; typically and representatively, it recalls the white garment of mockery with which Herod caused the Saviour to be clothed (Ibid.; cf. Luke 23:11). It is made of pure linen signifying the self-denial and chastity a priest must possess to the end of his life as it cover his whole body reaching to his feet: And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. (Apoc. 1:13)
The priest, while putting it on, prays: Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart; that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may deserve an eternal reward. Here one is brought again to the words in the Apocalypse: These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Apoc. 7:14)
The alb was always worn for all liturgical functions but began to be replaced by the twelfth century with the surplice.
4. The Cincture (cingulum) or belt, was used to attach one’s purse and other items. It was also used to gather one’s free-flowing garments in place. Christ told His disciples: Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands. And you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh, shall find watching (Luke 12:35-37) It also signifies the scourge ordered by Pilate. The cincture imposes continency and chastity and is a representative symbol of the cords with which Christ was scourged. The priest prays, while putting the cincture around his waist and binding it together: Gird me, O Lord, with the girdle of purity and extinguish in my loins the desire of lust: so that the virtue of continence and chastity may ever abide within me. These words Peter already addressed: Wherefore having the loins of your mind girt up, being sober, trust perfectly in the grace which is offered you in the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
5. The Maniple (manipulus, a handful or sheaf of grain) originated, according to Father Stapper
. . . from an ornamental handkerchief (mappula, sudarium) which Roman officials, especially consuls (later, also Roman clerics), were wont to hold in the left hand. From the ninth century onward in the Roman Church, the maniple developed into a richly ornamented vestment which was worn over the lower left arm. At present it is made of silk and corresponds in color with the other sacred vestments. It is the liturgical distinction of the subdeacon in assisting at a solemn Mass. Symbolically, it recalls the hardships of apostolic labor; in view of the classical signification of the word manipulus . . . it also points to the heavenly reward or the joyful harvest received in return for the penitential works of this life, which are like “seed sown in tears” (cf. Ps. 125, 6). In the middle ages it was considered as an admonition to practise the virtue of fortitude, by means of which the sufferings of this life are patiently endured in order that the joys of eternity may be won. Typical and representative symbolism refers the maniple to the fetters with which the hands of Jesus were bound when He was taken captive. (240-41)
As a handkerchief, reminding us that one’s lot is to sow in sweat and tears:
With labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. (Gen. 3:17-19)
the priest prays: May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow, in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors. It signifies the rope with which Christ was dragged through the streets of Jerusalem.
6. The Stole, stola or robe, is the prayer shawl or tallit of the Israelites adapted to the orarium, worn by orators as being given this name orarium before the name stola became popular. It was the distinctive mark of the priest and deacon—though worn differently. The name, stole, was probably adopted in reference to Ecclesiasticus 15:5: And in the midst of the church she shall open his mouth, and shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and shall clothe him with a robe of glory (et stola gloriae vestiet illum). Once worn always, it is now worn only when engaged in priestly duties. At Mass the bishop wears it simply over the shoulders, the priest crosses the stole in front during Mass and the deacon wears it as a sash joined under right arm. The color corresponds with the color of the chasuble. It has several significances. From its name, it represents the robe of innocence. It also represents justice and the reign of Christ in the heart of the priest. As it is worn over the shoulder it references Christ bearing the Cross on His shoulders, but also carrying the sweet yoke of Christ (cf. Matt. 11:30; Pont. Rom., De ordin. presbyt.). The priest prays, while kissing the cross in the center and placing it over his shoulders: Lord, restore the stole of immortality, which I lost through the collusion of our first parents, and, unworthy as I am to approach Thy sacred mysteries, may I yet gain eternal joy. Finally, the stole represents the rope which fastened Christ to the pillar.
7. The chasuble (casual, little house, or planeta) was a secular garment worn by the Romans of the first centuries after Christ, but retained later only by the clergy and is now the distinctive vestment of the celebrant of holy Mass. Because it was flowing and large, it was folded to allow more freedom of the hands (folded chasuble), but later cut smaller to make the Gothic style vestment and even further to make the Roman vestment (sometimes called the fiddle-back). In the beginning, white was always the color, but as it became more of a priestly garment, the chasuble corresponded to the color expressing the spirit of the Mass. The chasuble is usually of silk, brocade, or linen texture, but may also be of gold or silver cloths. The Roman Pontifical has the Bishop pray while bestowing the chasuble: Receive the priestly vestment, by which is signified charity.—the understanding that it covers the whole body as charity should cover the priest’s soul corresponding to Saint Paul’s words: But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection (Coloss. 3:14). The chasuble also symbolizes Christ carrying the Cross to Calvary (Cross on back) and His scourging at the pillar (Pillar on front). It further denotes the purple mantle with which He was covered after His scourging. The priest prays, while putting the chasuble on: O Lord, who has said, “My yoke is sweet and My burden light,” grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace. Here, then, the priest remembers Christ’s words: Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Matt. 11:30)
8. The biretta (birettum from birrus, a cloak with a hood) developed out of a cap worn by the clergy in the middle ages. Since the sixteenth century it has been equipped with peaks (cornua, apices), which make it more convenient to handle. According to the Roman practice, the biretta has three peaks, according to the German practice, four, according to the Spanish practice, none at all. (Stapper, 244)
With the priest entering the sanctuary, one may wonder why he wears different colors of vestments on different days, or why the tabernacle veil or antependium—which usually corresponds with the vestments worn by the priest—are a certain color. There are five main colors the Church allows: white, red, green, violet (purple), and black. Besides these, she allows gold to replace white, red and green; she allows silver to replace white; and on Gaudete and Laetare Sunday she allows the Rose vestment to be worn. The colors give a sense of the spirit of the Mass being celebrated as the Church aspires to have the faithful unite with the Holy Sacrifice and the prayers of the Church during the ecclesiastical year. This year starts with Advent and ends with the Last Sunday after Pentecost.
In Christian antiquity, white was the color of the secular costume on festive occasions. On that account it also predominated in the beginning in the liturgy. Thus it is prescribed by the Apostolic Constitutions (VIII, 12), the Canones Hippolyti, the Canones Athanasiani, the Canones S. Basilii and other ancient Church ordinances. Nevertheless the Western Church has made use of vestments of other colors at least since the time of the Emperor Constantine. From the ninth century on, certain colors gradually came into use on certain days; red, green and black in addition to white were the first colors to be used. Innocent III (De sacro altaris mysterio, 1, 65) was the first to determine more accurately the use of these four colors and to explain their symbolism. He mentions violet as a substitute for black only on Laetare Sunday and the feast of the Holy Innocents. Durandus (III, 18, 9), however, already states that the Roman practice of using violet instead of black vestments from Septuagesima Sunday to Easter, and from the first Sunday of Advent to Christmas, is “not unbecoming” (“non inconveniens”). But he also regards the aforementioned four colors as the principal colors (colores principales). The use of the five liturgical colors which are in vogue at present was regulated by the Missal of Pius V. (Stapper, 249)
(To be continued)
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
MATTHEW xvii. 1-9
At that time Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him. And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid. And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them, Arise, and fear not. And they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.
I. ST EPHRAEM, CONFESSOR AND DOCTOR
On the Transfiguration of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ
The harvest comes joyfully from the fields, and a yield that is rich and pleasant from the vine; and from the Scriptures teaching that is lifegiving and salutary. The fields have but one season of harvest; but from the Scripture there gushes forth a stream of saving doctrine. The field when reaped lies idle, and at rest, and the branches when the vine is stripped lie withered and dead. The Scriptures are garnered each day, yet the years of its interpreters never come to an end; and the clusters of its vines, which in it are those of hope, though also gathered each day, are likewise without end. Let us therefore come to this field, and take our delight of its life-giving furrows; and let us reap there the wheat of life, that is, the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
And after six days Jesus taketh unto Him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: and He was transfigured before them. And His face did shine as the sun: and His garments became white as snow. For the men whom He had said would not taste death until they should see the form and the foreshadowing of His Coming are these three Apostles, whom having taken with Him He brought to a mountain, and showed them in what manner He was to come on the last day: in the glory of His Divinity, and in the Body of His Humanity.
He led them up to the mountain that He might also reveal to them Who this Son is, and Whose Son is He. For when He asked them: Whom do men say that the Son of man is, they said to Him: Some Elias; some others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. And so He led them up into a high mountain, and showed them that He was not Elias, but the God of Elias; that neither was He Jeremias, but He that had sanctified Jeremias in his mother’s womb; that neither was He one of the prophets, but the Lord of the prophets, and He that had sent them.
And He showed them also that He was the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Lord of the living and the dead; for He spoke to the heavens, and they sent down Elias; He made a sign to the earth, and raised Moses to life again. And He brought them to Sinai, that He might show them He was the Son of God, and begotten of the Father before all ages, and last of all taking flesh from the Virgin Mary, and, in a manner which He knows, was born without seed in an ineffable manner, without stain whatsoever of her virginity. For where God wills it, the order of nature is superseded. For God the Word dwelt in the womb of the Virgin: and the fire of His Divinity consumed not the members of the virginal body; and in that dwelling place she kept watch over him for the space of nine months. He dwelt in the womb of the Virgin, not despising our nature; and from it God came forth clothed in human flesh, that He might redeem us.
He took them up into a high mountain apart, that He might also show them the glory of His Divinity, and that He might declare Himself the Redeemer of Israel, as He had foretold by the prophets, and so that they would not be scandalized in Him when they would see Him in the Passion He had taken upon Himself; and which for our sakes He was about to suffer in His human nature. For they knew that He was man; but they knew not that He was God. They knew Him as the Son of Mary, and as a man sharing their daily life in the world. On the mountain He revealed to them that He was the Son of God, and Himself God. For they knew that He hungered and that He ate; that He thirsted and that He drank; that He laboured and that He took rest, that He felt need of sleep and that He slept, that He feared and that He sweated. And all this belonged not to His divine nature, but only to His humanity; and therefore He led them to the mountain, so that the Father may with His own voice call Him Son, and that He may show that He is in truth His Son, and God.
He took them therefore up to the mountain, that He might show them His Kingdom, before they witnessed His suffering and death; and His glory before His ignominy: so that when He was made a prisoner, and condemned by the Jews, they might understand that He was not crucified by them because of His own powerlessness, but because it had pleased Him of His goodness to suffer, for the salvation of the world.
He brought them up to the mountain that He might also show them, before His Resurrection, the glory of His Divinity, so that when He had risen from the dead they might then know that He had not received this glory as the reward of His labour, and as one who had it not; but that He had had it from all eternity, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit; as He had already said when He came of His own will to suffer: Now glorify me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with thee (Jn. xvii. 9). It was therefore this glory of His Divinity, which was hidden and veiled to humanity, that He revealed to the Apostles on the mountain. For they beheld His Face shining as the sun, and His garments white as snow.
The Disciples upon the mountain beheld two suns, one, to which they were accustomed, shining in the sky and Another, to which they were unaccustomed; one which shone down on them, and from the firmament gave light to the whole world, and One which then shone for them alone, which was the Face of Jesus before them. And His garments appeared to them white as light: for the glory of His Divinity poured forth from His whole body, and all His members radiated light. His Face shone, not as the face of Moses, from without; from His Face the glory of His Divinity poured forth, yet remained with Him. From Himself came His own light, and was contained within Him. For it did not spread out from elsewhere, and fall on Him; it did not come slantwise to adorn Him. Neither did He receive it, to use for a while, nor did He reveal to them the unfathomable depths of His glory, but only as much as the pupils of their eyes could take in and distinguish.
And there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. And this was the manner of their speech with Him. They gave thanks to Him that their own words had been fulfilled, and together with them the words of all the prophets. They adored Him for the salvation He had wrought in the world for mankind, and because He had in truth fulfilled the mystery which they had themselves foretold. The Prophets therefore were filled with joy, and the Apostles likewise, in their ascent of the mountain. The prophets rejoiced because they had seen His Humanity, which they had not known. And the Apostles rejoiced because they had seen the glory of the Divinity, which they had not known.
And when they heard the voice of the Father, giving testimony of the Son, they learnt through this that which till now had been obscure to them: that humanity had been assumed by Him. And together with His Father’s Voice the glory of His own Body gave testimony to Him, shining resplendent because of That within Him which partakes of the Divinity, unchangeably and without confusion. And this was confirmed by three witnesses: by the Voice of the Father, and by the presences of Moses and Elias, who stood by Him as servants. And they looked, the one upon the other, the Prophets upon the Apostles, the Apostles upon the Prophets. They looked upon each other, the Princes of the Old and the Princes of the New Testament. Moses the holy man looks upon Simon the Sanctified. The servant of the Father looks upon the vicar of the Son. The one had divided the sea, so that the people might walk in the midst of the waves (Ex. xiv). The other made a tabernacle, that he might build a church.
The virgin of the old Testament looks upon the virgin of the New: Elias looks upon John. He who had ascended into heaven in a fiery chariot looks upon him who had rested his head upon a Burning Breast (IV Kings ii; Jn. xiii. 21). His mountain became a figure of the Church; and in Himself Jesus has united the Two Testaments, which the Church receives, revealing to us that He is the Giver of both. The one received His divine secrets; the other has proclaimed the visible glory of His works.
And so Simon says: Lord, it is good for us to be here. What is it you say, O Simon? If we should remain here, who would fulfil the words of the Prophets? Who confirm the tidings of the Heralds? Who accomplish the mysteries of the Just? If we should remain here, then that prophecy: They have pierced my hands and my feet (Ps, xxi. 17), in whom would it be fulfilled? Or that other: They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lots (Ps. xxi. 19), to whom would it then pertain? And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (Ps. lxviii. 22), to whom would these words apply? And the words: Free among the dead, who would make them true? (Ps. lxxxvii. 6). If we should remain here who would tear up the writ against Adam, and who would pay his debt? And who would give him back his garment of glory? If we should remain here how would the things I have told you be fulfilled? How would the Church be built upon you, Peter? And the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, how would you receive them from Me? Whom would you bind? Whom would you loose? If we should remain here all these things will remain unfulfilled which were spoken of by the Prophets.
28: MARTYRS IN THE PLAGUE OF ALEXANDRIA (A.D. 261)
PESTILENCE raged throughout the greater part of the Roman empire during the years from 249 to 263. In Rome, five thousand persons are said to have died in one day and Alexandria in particular suffered severely: St Dionysius of Alexandria tells us that his city had already been afflicted with famine, and this was followed by tumults and violence so uncontrolled that it was safer to travel from one extremity of the known world to the other than to go from one street of Alexandria to the next. To these scourges succeeded the plague, which raged until there was not one house in that great city that escaped or which had not some death to mourn. Corpses lay unburied, and the air was laden with infection, mingled with pestilential vapours from the Nile. The living appeared wild with terror, and the fear of death rendered the pagan citizens cruel to their nearest relations; as soon as anyone was known to have caught the infection, his friends fled from him: the bodies of those not yet dead were thrown into the streets and abandoned.
At this juncture, the Christians of Alexandria came forward and displayed a great example of charity. During the persecutions of Decius, Gallus and Valerian they had been obliged to remain hidden, and had held their assemblies in secret or in ships that put out to sea or in pestilential prisons. Now, however, they came forth, regardless of danger, and set to work to tend the sick and to comfort the dying. They closed the eyes of the plague-stricken and carried them when dead upon their shoulders, washing their bodies and decently burying them, although they knew they were likely to share the same fate. In the words of the bishop: “Many who had healed others fell victims themselves. The best of our brethren have been taken from us in this manner: some were priests, others deacons and some laity of great worth. This death, with the faith which accompanied it, appears to be little inferior to martyrdom itself.” The Roman Martyrology, recognizing the force of these words of St Dionysius, in fact honours those loving Christians as martyrs. Their charity in thus relieving their persecutors when attacked by sickness may well make us ask ourselves what our attitude is to the sick poor, who are not our enemies but who are, in most cases, our fellow Christians.
(Butler’s Lives of the Saints)
PLAIN TALKS ON MARRIAGE
FULGENCE MEYER , O.F.M.
The nature of Marriage
“And taking the right hand of his daughter, he gave it into the right hand of Tobias, saying: God . . . be with you, and may He join you together, and fulfill His blessing in you” (Tob., 7, 15).
INSTRUCTING the first Christian married men and women with regard to marriage, St. Paul said: “This is a great sacrament: but I speak in Christ, and in the Church” (Eph., 5, 32). Outside of the Church, notably in our country, matrimony is not only not treated as a sacrament, but it has really been degraded to a sort of a joke or a farce. Yet the Church upholds its sacredness as much as ever in the face of the neglect and ridicule of the world.
The God-Given Helpmate
God Himself instituted matrimony as the first and most binding human contract at the very beginning of the race. After He created Adam and placed him in paradise, He said: “It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself” (Gen., 2, 18); and He created Eve to be Adam’s helpmate. She was to help him attain his highest natural happiness and perfection, mentally, bodily, spiritually, emotionally, religiously, socially and in every other way; and he on his part was to render the same service to her. God intended this service to be bilateral, correlative and reactive: each one was to achieve happiness and perfection by assisting the other party towards them. God made man and woman different from each other in body and mind, but not antagonistic; they were not to be mutually hostile and combative, but helpful and supplementary to one another: the one was to supply what the other lacked, not only as regards the body but also the soul. Where husband and wife have this correct conception of their relations and closely live up to them, they reach the greatest height of natural goodness, contentment, peace and happiness. This is what God meant when He said: “It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.” How utterly sad, that in so many instances the persons, who have been destined to be the grandest help and sweetest solace to one another, are mutually the heaviest handicap and the greatest kill-joy to each other!
Nature’s Greatest Love
When God presented Eve to Adam as his wife, the latter grew inspired and exclaimed: “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh . . . Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh” (Gen., 2, 23, 24). In these words Adam, speaking as the spokesman of God, evidently declares, that the love between husband and wife is to be the strongest, the deepest, the most sacred, tender and lasting love of nature. It was even to surpass the love of children for their parents. It was to be the God-given cement of the most holy and binding natural contract, which would give it the perpetuity and tenacity God intended it should have, namely, until death. How puny and insignificant are not all the other contracts of men aside of this sacred pact! In other contracts there is question of money, lands or cattle: in this contract there is a deal covering immortal beings in the most intimate and personal elements of life; and not only are the contracting parties concerned in the deal, but there enter into it ever so many possible other immortal beings that are likely to spring directly or indirectly from this momentous union.
The Root of the Tree
For this reason the Church insists so much on serious deliberation and the observance of all prudent cautions before this contract is ratified by the respective parties, since marriage not only affects them most closely and sensitively, but is also the root of society at large. And as the nature of a tree depends largely upon the condition of its root, the Church postulates that the root of human society be kept clean, sound and sacred. What a terrible contrast we find with this divine attitude of the Church in the nauseating antics of so many people today in our country, who pay more attention and are more careful when they make a bargain for a new automobile, or suit of clothes, or a pet dog, than when they choose their mate for life! They usually have to pay dearly for their frivolity and folly. God will not be mocked, and nature will not be trifled with.
Two in One
“They shall be two in one flesh.” In these words the unity and indissolubility of marriage are proclaimed. This unity postulates that a man may simultaneously have but one wife, and a woman but one husband. Moreover this unity calls for unreserved harmony and un-restrained union of hearts and minds. Even as the physical union of husband and wife are the closest possible, so, too, should their union of thought and sentiment be most intimate and complete. The one naturally demands and nurses the other. Since this is God’s and nature’s arrangement, it is easily understood why disloyalty in marriage, which prompts a man, for instance, to seek access to other women besides his wife, instead of procuring him more happiness, only mars the happiness he has; and why even pagan nations, led by the light of reason and common sense alone, are getting away from polygamy and are espousing monogamy as the only sound and solid marital condition of true happiness.
This unity and indissolubility of marriage, when duly reflected on, will make every candidate of marriage ponder and deliberate well and maturely before deciding on the choice of a mate; and after marriage they will make the partners of it very careful not to lose the love of the mate they have chosen. Before marriage they might have afforded to forfeit the love of this or that particular man or woman, since they could possibly have found a substitute. After marriage there can be no question of a substitute during the life-time of the mate; if his or her love is lost, it can not be replaced: hence the need of unity: “they shall be two in one flesh.”
A Great Sacrament
In paradise God instituted marriage merely as a contract, but when our Lord came down upon this earth He elevated it to the dignity of a sacrament. He made it one of the seven sacred channels through which His saving Blood was to flow upon the souls of men in order to sanctify them. As a sacrament, then, matrimony is holy as is baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Holy Orders. Our holy mother, the Church, evinces her high appreciation of matrimony by endowing its reception with a certain special solemnity. Baptism is usually administered outside the communion rail; so is penance; and when you receive Holy Communion or confirmation you kneel outside the sanctuary. But at marriage, provided it is celebrated in conjunction with Holy Mass, as I am supposing, the Church throws open the gates of the sanctuary, and introduces the candidates into the Holy of Holies, to the very spot where are offered the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Love’s Tragedy and Triumph
And why is holy marriage celebrated in connection with the Holy Sacrifice which, as we know, is the re-presentation of our Lord’s death on the Cross? For this significant reason, that our Lord’s death on Calvary was at the same time the greatest tragedy and the highest triumph of love. From it the candidates are to learn, at the very moment of their marriage, that their life, too, will be one of great and at times tremendous sacrifices, which for their virtuous endurance will draw on all the resources of their love, and that by this very endurance their mutual love will best show its genuinity and celebrate its finest triumphs. For true love reaches its zenith not in the sweet exchange of vows and professions of love, nor of mutual caresses and endearments: but in the cheerful sufferance of labors and hardships, and in the glad submission to sacrifices and retrenchments for the sake of the beloved one. The sooner the candidates of matrimony know this, the more they realize and the deeper they are imbued with this, the correct view of true love, the less disappointed and disillusioned they will likely be later on, and the more happy and blessed will be their married life.
Holy matrimony is singular also for the fact, that the parties to it are at the same time the ministers of it. The officiating priest is not the minister of the sacrament, but only the official witness of the Church to its administration. The groom and bride administer it mutually to one another and to themselves at the same time by the marriage consent. This reflection is also apt to give them a very high conception of the sacred contract they are entering into.
Jesus at a Wedding
Our Lord wrought His first public miracle at a wedding. He did this not by mere chance but designedly. To save a young married couple from worry and embarrassment He changed water into wine; and the wine He provided was by far sweeter than the first wine they had had. Thereby our Savior indicated, that He desired to be invited to every wedding of His followers; in other words, He wanted them to be married according to the laws of His Church, and in the state of sanctifying grace; and that upon their invitation He would be present not as an idle or uninterested spectator, but as the sponsor and guarantor of their marital happiness; so that in case the wine of their conjugal love would ever threaten to give out, or was actually exhausted, He could be counted on, provided they called on Him, to supply them with new love, which would often prove to be sweeter, stronger and more lasting than the first. Many couples, whose union suffered reverses in the first years of their married life, have experienced this to their consolation and happiness. And if there are among my readers men or women, whose married life is devoid of love and everything that approaches love, let them call with confidence upon the Lord for redress, and arrange with their mates to let bygones be bygones, to begin their married life anew in God, and with His help to render it a perpetual and blissful honeymoon. The second wine at Cana was sweeter than the first, and it did not give out, but lasted to the very end of the feast. The Lord is good to those who love Him. And a trustful prayer to Mary will induce her to repeat her wondrous intercessory feat of Cana in your and your spouse’s favor.
Father Krier will be in Pahrump (Our Lady of the Snows) March 11 and in Eureka (Saint Joseph) March 18.
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