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Then bowing down before the altar, in the posture of humility, the celebrant prays that the “ Almighty God would command these things to be carried by the hands of his holy angel to his altar on high, in the sight of his divine majesty.”
There are two explanations given of this prayer; one by Le Brun and a number of authors whom he cites, in which it is stated that the angel here mentioned is - the angel of the New Testament," " the messenger of glad tidings,” Jesus Christ himself, and that the object of the prayer is by showing the earnestness of our desire we intreat of God in the phrase " command," to cause this angel to present not only his flesh and blood, but also our supplications before our eternal Father, that being now presented by him, they may become acceptable even upon the altar of heaven; for, as St. Augustine says, - The good and Lie wicked approach the altar which is on earth, but there is a sublime invisible altar whither the unjust man cannot come.” (Psal. 25 and 42.)
The other explanation may be found in Bellarmine, Bossuet, &c. They state that we only seek the intercession of the angels, and that our prayers may be carried by them as those of Tobias were by the angel Raphael, to be presented before the Lord. This also appears to be the opinion of Innocent III., in his explanation of the Mass, and some of the old liturgies have the word angels in the plural; so that the meaning would appear to be, that as Bossuet remarks, it was an cid and constant tradition of the church, as may be seen in Tertullian, and many of the fathers, that one or more angels presided in the meetings of the faithful ; we now having the victim produced, which must be pleasing, beg also that the presiding angel or angels of the assembly, may, at the command of the most powerful God, bear our prayers to that invisi. ble altar on high, to lay them in union with this victim before the throne of mercy, that we may find grace in seasonable aid.
This prayer is especially made for those who are to receive the holy sacrament of the eucharist, as must appear from its conclusion, " That as many as shall partake of the most sacred body and blood of thy Son at this altar, may be filled with every heavenly grace and blessing, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."
In repeating this part the celebrant kisses the altar, and not to bless, but to show the source of blessing, he makes the sign of the cross, once over the body, and once over the blood; and lastly to become a partaker of the merits of the death upon the cross, on himself.
Then closing his hands as when he prayed for the living, he now prays for the faithful departed, “Who are gone before us with the sign of faith,” baptisa, 6 and rest in the sleep of peace;" having received the. sacraments of the church, and being in the full enjoyment of her communion, which is her peace-they but rest from their labours, sleeping for a time in the arms of death, to be roused from their slumber by the archangel's trumpet, to enter, as the church hopes, into the enjoyment of glory.
They who have separated themselves from the church, by rejecting her doctrines, disclaiming her authority,ridiculing her observances, transgressing her precepts, breaking her unity, exciting strife, creating obstacles to the discharge of her ministerial duties, abstaining from her sacraments, sneering at her solici. lude for their welfare and conversion, and scandaliza ing her children by the turpitude of their conduct, frequently desire to be consoled by her in death, and to be ranked amongst those pious children whose pride has been their adherence to the spouse of Christ. But they should reflect that if they have estrangeu themselves from her through life, it would be only justice that she should treat them as strangers in death. But no! She still extends to them the arms of charity, and if they desire sacraments, and declare
their dispositions to be those of repentant though. prodigal children, she not only gives them the banquet of reconciliation, and flings over them the robe of grace, but moreover in the hope of serving them even after death, follows them with her prayers into the regions of eternity.
She knows that the unrepenting criminal is lost forever; for him she has no hope for him prayer, oblation, commemoration, are useless. His doom is irrevocable. She knows that they who die in the perfection of virtue, having been made partakers of the fulness of atonement, are happy in the Lord, they need not our prayer. But contemplating the conduct of the Lord towards repenting sinners, as manifested in various instances in the sacred volumes, she knows that a temporal punishment frequently remains due to the sinner, after the guilt of his crime has been remitted; thus Adam was sentenced to earn his bread in the sweat of his brow; Moses was exsluded from the land of promise; David lost his child, and was afflicted in his family. She knows that frequently her children are summoned from life with part of this penalty unpaid, and that they endure a purgation therefor in the other world, until being no Tonger debtors to justice, they shall be made partakers of mercy, and having paid the last farthing, they shall enter into the joy of the Lord.
She knows the frailty and the imperfection of man, and that we are all transgressors, in many things. She knows the mercy of God to be equal to his justice, and therefore she knows, as she has learned from the apostles, that when taken unawares, with many of our minor transgressions unrepented for, we will not be condemned to eternal torments, but having suffered a temporary purgation, we shall be admitted by mercy to heaven, after justice shall have been satisfied.
They who are in this state of purgation, are still members of the church, and may therefore be aided
by our prayers and sacrifices, and hence from the days of the apostles, commemoration was made for them in the Mass. The memento for the living was made before the consecration, that grace may be obtained by them to assist worthily thereat, but that for the dead was made after the production of the victim, which we offer on their behalf. The names of those to be specially prayed for, were found on the dyptics of the various churches. All the old liturgies mention the custom; especially those of St. Peter, St. James, and St. Mark, as does St. Clement, in his apostolic constitutions. “This tradition" of praying for the departed, " has come to us from our divine chiefs.” Dion. lib. Eccles. Hierar. cap. 7, St. John Chrysostom says,* “ It is not in vain that it has been regulated by the apostles, that in celebrating the venerable mysteries, mention should be made of the dead; they knew well that it would be highly ser- • viceable to them.” Tertullian says, † " we make the oblations for the dead on their anniversary day.” St. Cyprian, in his 66th epistle, mentions that a man in his diocese, named Victor having died, leaving a priest named Faustinus the executor of his will, he having a considerable property, prevented Mass being offered for his soul, or the commemoration being made for him at the memento, stating as his justification a statute of a provincial synod in Africa, which forbad any person at his death to impose upon any clergyman such a duty as would draw off his attention from the discharge of his clerical office; and this under the penalty of not having prayers or oblations offered for the repose of his soul. St. Gregory of Nyssa informs ust that he offered the body and blood of Jesus Christ for the soul of his sister. St. Ambrosell offered Mass for the soul of his brother, and for that of the Empe:or, Valentinian; he also consoles Faustinusy upon
* Homily 3 in Ep. ad Philip. † De consona. Milit. Ora. in Macria ux. Il Deobitu fra:ris Satyr. Confes. lib. 9. c. 13
the death of his sister, and exhorts him not to grieve in tears, but to have her soul commended to God, in the oblations, and in his liturgy we have the commemoration, as well as in that of St. John Crysostom. St. Augustine mentions* the request of his mother, St. Monica, at the time of her death, to be remembered at the holy altar. In fact the documents are to be every where found, in support of the antiquity, universality, and apostolicity of the custon ; whether we examine the records of councils, study the works of the fathers, look into the liturgies of the east or the west, of Egypt or of Thrace.
Formerly the names on the dyptics were read aloud; now the celebrant and the congregation only mentally recommend the individuals for whom they desire to pray, and then the request continues, " to These, O Lord, and to all that sleep in Christ,” that is, who through his merits are to awake to glory, " grant we beseech thee, a place of refreshment," after the labours of their endurance under the inflic. tion of justice, “light” instead of the darkness and uncertainty of even their temporary exclusion from heaven, and especially that light which from the throne of God, shines upon and envelopes the just, " and peace" in the speedy admittance to eternal joy " throngh the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Having now paid the tribute of charity to our de parted brethren, it is but just that we should come back to a recollection of ourselves, and to recal us to this, the celebrant raises his voice at the nobis quoque peccatoribus, “ Also, to us sinners,” and with the humility of a true penitent, feeling the necessity of an amendment of heart, and sorrow for its aberrations, and imitating the publican, and those converted at the crucifixion, he strikes his breast, and proceeds to intreat - confiding in the multitude of God's mercies, some part and fellowship with " the saints whom he:
* Ep. ad. Faustin. de obit. sur.