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Cantate Domino canticum novum: laus ejus in ecclesia
Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let his praise be in the
We hereby approve of this edition of the Complin and Benediction Book.
Given at Birmingham, this 18th day of May, 1850.
+ WILLIAM BERNARD,
BISHOP OF HETALONA,
In order to make the matter contained in the follow. ing little work intelligible to the unlearned, and, at the same time, to give them some idea of the meaning which the Church attaches to the ceremonies herein alluded to, it has been thought advisable to suggest the following observations.
COMPLIN, The name of “Complin” has been given, from great antiquity, to that portion of the office of the Church, which is recited by her clergy in the evening; and it is so called, because it completes or concludes the office of the day. Anciently all christians met at stated times during the day and night, to celebrate the divine praises—a practice which finds its sanction (if so pious a custom can want a sanction) in the sacred scriptures. (See Ps. cxviii. 62, 164.) When this practice began to be discontinued, from a want of fervour among the laity, the church confined the obligation to the clergy; and, to this day, every priest is bound, in addition to his other duties, to recite daily the seven forms of prayer, or, as they are called, the “ Canonical Hours," of which “Complin” is the seventh and last. The volume which comprises the whole of the “ Canonical Hours," is called a Breviary or Office-book.
The solemn rite of “ Benediction” derives its importance from the doctrine of our Divine Redeemer concerning the real presence of his sacred body in the holy Sacrament. For scriptural evidence of this doctrine, see St. John. vi. 52, and following verses; the account of the last supper by the other three Evangelists, and St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, x. 16. and xi. 23. Believing, as we do, the words of our blessed Saviour, rather than the objections of our limited understandings, we think that no display of gratitude or homage can be too great towards Him, who, notwithstanding the knowledge which he had of the ridicule and impiety which would follow from his self-abasement, nevertheless chose, for our sake, to accept it all. By the institution, therefore, of this rite of Benediction, the Church wishes to make some reparation for the insults offered to our divine Guest, in the adorable sacrament: and hence, every christian should be present at it with a lively faith, & profound humility, an ardent love of God and of every neighbour, and a spirit of conformity in all things to the divine will. During the ceremony, and especially whilst the sacred Host is raised, by the priest, over the heads of the people, of which notice is always given by the ringing of the bell, the most respectful silence, and prostration of mind and body, should be observed; so that even the ignorant or misinformed may feel that the Majesty of the Godhead fills the place, and be led, perhaps, to exclaim, with Jacob of old, “ Truly the Lord is here, and I knew it not!"
Incense, an emblem of prayer ascending to God from a heart inflamed with divine love, is peculiarly applicable to the service of Benediction, because it brings before our senses, in a more vivid manner, the heavenly scene, at which we are then permitted to be present. “An angel came,” says St. John, in describing the celestial vision with which he was favoured, “and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer up the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God." Rev. viii. 3. For other scriptural authorities for this practice, see Ps. cxl. or cxli. 2. Exodus, i. 7, Ex. v. 34, 37; see also St. Luke, i. 10, 11.
The candles on the altar represent the joy which every faithful heart must feel, in the presence of his Saviour. They remind us, likewise, of the days of persecution, which overhung the Church, during the three first centuries of its existence, when the sacred mysteries of Religion could not be performed with safety, except during the dead of night, and in dark caverns of the earth. Thus, in putting us in mind that we ought to be grateful to God for our happy exemption from such heavy trials, these lights encourage us, at the same time, to admire the faith and fortitude of the early christians, and imi. tate as far as circumstances render it necessary, their spirit of patient suffering,
THE BELL. The bell, which is rung during the most solemn part of Benediction, and also at intervals during mass, is less necessary in small chapels, than it was or will be found to be, in large churches. In the latter it is quite impossible for a great portion of the congregation to see what is going on within the choir or sanctuary, * the screen which separates it from the nave forming an additional and most appropriate obstruction to the sight. By the tolling, therefore, of the Bell, the faithful are made acquainted with the particular action of the Celebrant, and are enabled thereby to unite their intention and shape their devotion accordingly, But even where this necessity does not exist, the Bell is found to have its use, by rousing our attention, from time to time, from the torpor into which it is too apt to sink, and by acting as a signal to the assembly when to bow themselves simultaneously in the same reverential attitude, or offer a holy violence to heaven by uniting in the spirit of the same prayer.
* That part of a church or chapel in which the High Altar is placed, and is usually called the Sanctuary, was anciently more commonly spoken of under the name the Choir, or Chancel; the Nave being that part of tho church in which the people assemble.