The Church Precedes The New Testament

So far, we have been dealing with rather dry material. We have seen how the Old Testament books came to be collected into one volume; now it remains to see how the Catholic Church also composed and selected and formed into another volume the separate books of the New Testament.

1. Now you will remember what I said before, that the New Testament was not, any more than the Old, all written at one time, or all by one man, but that at least 40 years passed away between the writing of the first and the writing of the last of its books. It is made up of four Gospels, 14 Epistles of St. Paul, two of St. Peter, one of St. James, one of St. Jude, three of St. John, together with the Apocalypse of St. John, and the Acts of Apostles by St. Luke, who also wrote the third Gospel; so that we have, in this collection, works by at least eight different writers; and from the year that the earliest book was composed (probably the Gospel of St. Matthew) to the year that St. John composed his Gospel, about half a century had elapsed. Our Blessed Lord Himself never, so far as we know, wrote a line of Scripture – certainly none that has been preserved. He never told His Apostles to write anything. He did not command them to commit to writing what He had delivered to them: but He said, “Go ye and teach all nations,” “preach the Gospel to every creature,” “He that heareth you heareth Me.” What He commanded and meant them to do was precisely what He had done Himself, namely, deliver the Word of God to the people by the living voice – convince, persuade, instruct, convert them by addressing themselves face to face to living men and women; not entrust their message to a dead book which might perish and be destroyed, and be misunderstood and misinterpreted and corrupted, but adopt the more safe and natural way of presenting the truth to them by word of mouth, and of training others to do the same after they themselves were gone, and so, by a living tradition, preserving and handing down the Word of God as they had recieved it, to all generations.

2. And this was, as a matter of fact, the method the Apostles adopted. Only five out of the twelve wrote down anything at all that has been preserved to us; and of that, not a line was penned till at least 10 years after the death of Christ, for Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 A.D., and the first of the New Testament books was not written till about 45 A.D. You see what follows? The Church and the Faith existed before the Bible; that seems an elementary and simple fact which no one can deny or ever has denied. Thousands of people became Christians through the work of the Apostles and missionaries of Christ in various lands, and believed the whole truth of God as we believe it now, and became Saints, before ever they saw or read, or could possibly see or read, a single sentence of inspired Scripture of the New Testament, for the simple reason that such Scripture did not then exist. How, then, did they become Christians? In the same way, of course, that pagans become Catholics nowadays, by hearing the truth of God from the lips of Christ’s missionaries. When the twelve Apostles met together in Jerusalem and portioned out the known world among themselves for purposes of evangelization, allotting one country to one Apostle (such as India to St. Thomas), and another to another, how did they propose to evangelize these people? By presenting each one with a New Testament? Such a thing did not exist, and, we may safely say, was not even thought of. Why did Our Lord promise them the gift of the Holy Ghost and command them to be “witnesses” of Him? And why, in fact, did the Holy Ghost come down upon the Twelve and endow them with the power of speaking in various languages? Why but that they might be able to “preach the Gospel to every creature” in the tongue of every creature.

3. I have said that the Apostles at first never thought of writing the New Testament; and neither they did. The books of the New Testament were produced and called forth by special circumstances that arose, were written to meet particular demands and emergencies. Nothing was further from the minds of the Apostles and Evangelists than the idea of composing works which should be collected and formed into one volume and so constitute the Holy Book of the Christians. And we can imagine St. Paul staring in amazement if he had been told that his Epistles, and St. Peter’s, and St. John’s and the others would be tied up together and elevated into the position of a complete and exhaustive statement of the doctrines of Christianity, to be placed on each man’s hand as an easy and infallible guide in faith and morals, independent of any living and teaching authority to interpret them. No one would have been more shocked at the idea of his letters usurping the place of the authoritative teacher, the Church, than the great Apostle who himself said, “How shall they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach unless they be sent? Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” The fact is that no religion yet known has been effectually propagated among men except by word of mouth, and certainly everything in the natural and spiritual position of the Apostles on the one hand, and of the Jews on the other, was utterly unfavorable to the spread of Christianity by means of a written record.

The Jewish people were not used to it, and the Gentiles could not have understood it. Even Protestant authors of the highest standing are compelled to admit that the living teaching of the Church was necessarily the means chosen by Jesus Christ for the spread of His Gospel, and that the committing of it to writing was a later and secondary development. Dr. Westcott, Bishop of Durham, than whom among Anglicans there is not a higher authority, and who is reckoned, indeed, by all as a standard scholar on the Canon of Scripture, says (The Bible in the Church – pp. 53 and following): “In order to appreciate the Aposolic age in its essential character, it is necessary to dismiss not only the ideas which are drawn from a collected New Testament, but those also, in a great measure, which spring from the several groups of writings of which it is composed. The first work of the Apostles, and that out of which all their other functions grew, was to deliver in living words a personal testimony to the cardinal facts of the Gospel – the Ministry, the Death and the Resurrection of Our Lord. It was only in the course of time, and under the influence of external circumstances, that they committed their testimony, or any part of it, to writing. Their peculiar duty was to preach. That they did, in fact, perform a mission for all ages in perpetuating the tidings which they delivered was due, not to any conscious design which they formed, nor to any definite command which they recieved, but to that mysterious power…The repeated experience of many ages has even yet hardly sufficed to show that a permanent record of His words and deeds, open to all, must co-exist with the living body of the Church, if that is to continue in pure and healthy vigour.” And again: “The Apostles, when they speak, claim to speak with Divine authority, but they nowhere profess to give in writing a system of Christian Doctrine. Gospels and Epistles, with the exception, perhaps, of the writings of St. John, were called out by special circumstances. There is no trace of any designed connection between the separate books, except in the case of the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts (also by St. Luke), still less of any outward unity or completeness in the entire collection. On the contrary, it is not unlikely that some Epistles of St. Paul have been lost, and though, in point of fact, the books which remain do combine to form a perfect whole, yet the completeness is due not to any conscious co-operation of their authors, but to the will of Him by whose power they wrote and wrought.”

What a contrast there is, in these clear words of the great scholar, to the common delusion that seems to have seized some minds – that the Bible, complete and bound, dropped down among the Christians from Heaven after the day of Pentecost; or, at the least, that the Twelve Apostles sat down together in an upper room, pens in hand, and wrote off at a sitting table all the Books of the New Testament! And allow me to give one more short quotation to drive home the point I am laboring at, that the written New Testament could never have been intended as the only means of preaching salvation. “It was some considerable time after Our Lord’s Ascension” (writes the Protestant author of Helps to the Study of the Bible, p.2), “before any of the books contained in the New Testament were actually written. The first and most important work of the Apostles was to deliver a personal testimony to the chief facts of the Gospel history. Their teaching was at first oral, and it was no part of their intention to create a permanent literature.” These, I consider, are valuable admissions.

4. But now, you may say, “What was the use of writing the Gospels and Epistles then at all? Did not God inspire men to write them? Are you not belittling and despising God’s Word?” No, not at all; we are simply putting it in its proper place, the place that God meant it to have; and I would add, the Catholic Church is the only body in these days which teaches infallibly that the Bible, and the whole of it, is the Word of God, and defends its inspiration, and denounces and excommunicates anyone who would dare to impugn its Divine origin and authority.

I said before, and I repeat, that the separate books of the New Testament came into being to meet special demands, in response to particular needs, and were not, nor are they now, absolutely necessary either to the preaching or the perpetuating of the Gospel of Christ.

It is easy to see how the Gospels arose. So long as the Apostles were still living, the necessity for written records of the words and actions of Our Lord was not so pressing. But when the time came for their removal from this world, it was highly expedient that some correct, authoritative, reliable account be left of Our Lord’s life by those who had known Him personally, or at least were in a position to have first-hand, uncorrupted information concerning it. And this was all the more necessary because there were being spread abroad incorrect, unfaithful, indeed altogether spurious Gospels, which were calculated to injure and ridicule the character and work of Our Divine Redeemer. St. Luke distinctly declares that this was what caused him to undertake the writing of his Gospel – “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us.” (Luke 1:1). He goes on to say that he has his information from eyewitnesses, and has come to know all particulars from the very beginning, and therefore considers it right to set them down in writing, to secure a correct and trustworthy account of Christ’s life. So St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John penned their Gospels for the use of the Church, the one supplying often what another omits, but yet none pretending to give an exhaustive or perfect account of all that Jesus Christ said and did, for if this had been attempted, St. John tells us, “the whole world would not have contained the books that would be written” about it. The Gospels, then, are incomplete and fragmentary, giving us certainly the most important things to know about Our Saviour’s earthly life, but still not telling us all we might know, or much we do know in fact now and understand better, through the teaching of the Catholic Church, which has preserved traditions handed down since the time of the Apostles, from one generation to another. These Gospels were read, as they are now among Catholics, at the gatherings of the Christians in the earliest days on the Sundays – not to set forth a scheme of doctrine that they knew already, but to animate their courage, to excited their love and devotion to Jesus Christ, and impel them to imitate the example of the Beloved Master whose sayings and doings were read aloud in their ears.

Well, now, what I said about the Gospels is equally true of the Epistles, which make up practically the whole rest of the New Testament. They were called into existence at various times to meet pressing needs and circumstances; were addressed to particular individuals and communities in various places, and not to the Catholic Church at large. The thought furthest from the mind of the writers was that they should ever be collected into one volume and made to do duty as a complete and all-sufficient statement of Christian faith and morals.

How did they arise? In this natural and simple way: St. Peter, St. Paul and the rest went forth to various lands, preaching the Gospel, and made thousands of converts, and in each place founded a church, and left priests in charge, and a bishop sometimes (as, e.g., St. Timothy in Ephesus). Now these priests and converts had occasion many a time to consult their spiritual father and founder like St. Paul, or St. Peter, or St. James, on many points of doctrine or discipline, or morals; for we must not imagine that at that date, when the Church was in its infancy, things were so clearly seen or understood or formulated as they are now. It was, of course, the same Faith then as always; but still there were many points on which the newly made Christians were glad to consult the Apostles, who had been sent out with the unction of Jesus Christ fresh upon them – points of dogma and ritual and government and conduct which they alone could settle. And so we find St. Paul writing to the Ephesians (his converts at Ephesus), or to the Corinthians (his converts at Philippi), and so on to the rest (14 Epistles in all). And for what reason? Either in answer to communications sent to him from them, or because he had heard from other sources that there were some things that required correction in these places. All manner of topics are dealt with in these letters, sometimes in the most homely style. It might be to advise the converts, or to reprove them; to encourage them or instruct them; or to defend himself from false accusations. It might be, like that to Philemon, a letter about a private person as Onesimus, the slave.

But whatever the Epistles deal with, it is clear as the noonday sun that they were written just at particular times to meet particular cases that occurred naturally in the course of his missionary labors, and that neither St. Paul nor any of the other Apostles, intended by these letters to set forth the whole theology or scheme of Christian salvation any more than Pope Pius X intended to do so in his Decree against the Modernists, or in his Letter on the Sanctification of the Clergy. The thing seems plain on the face of it. Leo XIII writes to the Scotch Bishops on the Holy Scriptures, for example; or Pius X to the Eucharist Congress in London on the Blessed Sacrament, or publishes a Decree on Frequent Communion; or, again, one of our Bishops, say, sends forth a letter condemning secret societies, or issues a pastoral dealing with new marriage laws – are we to say that these documents are intended to teach the whole way of salvation to all men? That they profess to state the whole Catholic creed? The question has only to be asked to expose it’s absurdity. Yet precisely the same question may be put about the position of St. Paul’s Epistles. True, he was an Apostle, and consequently inspired, and his letters are the written Word of God, and therefore are a final and decisive authority on the various points of which they treat, if properly understood; but that does not alter the fact that they nowhere claim to state the whole of Christian truth, or to be a complete guide of salvation to anyone; they already presuppose the knowledge of the Christian Faith among those to whom they are addressed; they are written to believers, not to unbelievers; in one word, the Church existed and did it’s work before they were written, and it would still have done so even though they had never been written at all. St. Paul’s letters (for we are taking his merely as a sample of all) date from the year 52 A.D. to 68 A.D.; Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, leaving His Church to evangelize the world, in 33 A.D.; and we may confidently assert that the very last place we should expect to find a complete summary of Christian doctrine is in the Epistles of the New Testament.

There is no need to delay further on the matter. I think I have made it clear enough how the various books of the New Testament took their origin. And in so explaining the state of the case, we are not undervaluing the written Word of God, or placing it on a level inferior to what it deserves. We are simply showing the position it was meant to occupy in the economy of the Christian Church. It was written by the Church, by members (Apostles and Evangelists) of the Church; it belongs to the Church, and it is her office, therefore, to declare what it means. It is intended for instruction, meditation, spiritual reading, encouragement, devotion, and also serves as proof and testimony of the Church’s doctrines and Divine authority; but as a complete and exclusive guide to Heaven in the hands of every man – this it never was and never could be.

The Bible in the Church; the Church before the Bible – the Church the Maker and Interpreter of the Bible – that is right. The Bible above the Church; the Bible independent of the Church; the Bible, and the Bible only, the Religion of Christians – that is wrong. The one is the Catholic position; the other the Protestant.

God Bless BJS!!

Taken from Where We Got The Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church by RT REV HENRY G. GRAHAM I am not the Author merely the distributor.

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The Making of the Old Testament

Now, looking at the Bible as it stands today, we find it is composed of 73 separate books – 46 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New. How has it come to be composed precisely of these 73* and no others, and no more and no less? Well, taking first the Old Testament, we know that it has always been divided into three main portions – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.

(1) The Law, as I remarked before, was the nucleus, the earliest substantial part, which at one time formed the sole book of Scripture that the Jews possessed. Moses wrote it and placed a copy of it in the Ark; that was about 3300 years ago.

(2) To this were added, long afterward, the Prophets and the Writings, forming the complete Old Testament. At what date precisely the volume or “canon” of the Old Testament was finally closed and recognized as completed forever is not absolutely certain.

When was the Old Testament compiled? Some would decide for about the year 430 B.C., under Esdras and Nehemias, resting upon the authority of the famous Jew, Josephus, who lived immediately after Our Lord and who declares that since the death of Ataxerxes, B.C. 424, “no one had dared to add anything to the Jewish Scriptures, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them.” Other authorities, again, contend that it was not till near 100 B.C. that the Old Testament volume was finally closed by the inclusion of the “Writings.” But whichever contention is correct, one thing at least is certain, that by this last date – that is, for 100 years before the birth of Our Blessed Lord – the Old Testament existed precisely as we have it now.

Of course, I have been speaking so far of the Old Testament, in Hebrew, because it was written by Jewish authority, in the Jewish language – namely, Hebrew – for Jews, God’s chosen people. But after what is called the “Dispersion” of the Jews, when that people were scattered abroad and settled in many other lands outside Palestine, and began to lose their Hebrew tongue and gradually became familiar with “Greek, which was then a universal language, it was necessary to furnish them with a copy of their Sacred Scriptures in the Greek language. Hence arose that translation of the Old Testament into Greek known as the Septuagint. This word means in Latin 70, and is so named because it is supposed to have been the work of 70 translators, who performed their task at Alexandria, where there was a large Greek-speaking colony of Jews. Begun about 280 or 250 years before Christ, we may safely say that it was finished in the next century; it was the acknowledged Bible of all the “Jews of the Dispersion” in Asia, as well as in Egypt, and was the version used by Our Lord, His Apostles and Evangelists, and by Jews and Gentiles and Christians in the early days of Christianity. It is from this version that Jesus Christ and the New Testament writers and speakers quote when referring to the Old Testament.

But what about the Chrisitians in either lands who could not understand Greek? When the Gospel had been spread abroad, and many people embraced Christianity through the labors of Apostles and missionaries in the first two centuries of our era, naturally they had to be supplied with copies of the Scriptures of the Old Testament (which was the inspired Word of God) in their own tongue; and this gave rise to translations of the Bible into Armenian and Syriac and Coptic and Arabic and Ethiopic for the benefit of the Christians in these lands. For the Christians in Africa, where Latin was best understood, there was a translation of the Bible made into Latin about 150 A.D., and, later, another and better for the Christians in Italy; but all these were finally superseded by the grand and most important version made by St. Jerome in Latin called the “Vulgate”- that is, the common, or current or accepted version. This was in the fourth century of our era [A.D.]. By the time St. Jerome was born, there was great need of securing a correct and uniform text of Holy Scripture in Latin, for there was danger, through the variety and corrupt conditions of many translations then existing, lest the pure Scripture should be lost. So Jerome, who was a monk, and perhaps the most learned scholar of his day, at the command of Pope St. Damascus in 382 A.D. made a fresh Latin version of the New Testament (which was by this time practically settled), correcting the existing versions by the earliest Greek manuscripts (MSS.) he could find. Then in his cell at Bethlehem, between (approximately) the years 392-404, he also translated the Old Testament into Latin directly from the Hebrew (and not from the Greek Septuagint)-except the Psalter [book of Psalms], which he had previously revised from existing Latin versions. This Bible was the celebrated Vulgate, the official text in the Catholic Church, the value of which all scholars admit to be simply inestimable, and which continued to influence all other versions and to hold the chief place among Christians down to the Reformation. I say the “official” text, because the Council of Trent in 1546 issued a decree stamping it as the only recognized and authoritative version allowed to Catholics. “If anyone does not receive the entire books with all their parts as they are accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church, and in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, as sacred and canonical….let him be anathema.” The Vulgate was revised under Pope Sixtus V in 1590, and again under Pope Clement VIII in 1593, who is responsible for the present standard text. It is from the Vulgate that Our English Douay Version comes; and it is of this same Vulgate that the Commission under Cardinal Gasquet, by command of the Pope, is trying to find or restore the original text as it came from the hands of St. Jerome, uncorrupted by and stripped of subsequent admixtures with other Latin copies.*

*The number of books in the Catholic Bible is counted as 72 or 73 depending on whether “The Lamentations of Jeremias” is considered to be part of Jeremias or a separate book of the Old Testament. – Publisher, 2004.

* This work was begun in the pontificate of Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) but was not completed and published until 1978. It is known as the “New Vulgate” or “Nova Vulgata” and was promulgated by Pope John Paul II as the “editio typica.” This edition of the Vulgate, however, does not give the hallmark Vulgate rendering of Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmities between Thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” (Emphasis added.) – Publisher, 2004. (This may have something to do with the reluctance to make public the 3rd secret of Fatima) TradCat4Christ

Taken from Where We Got The Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church by RT REV HENRY G. GRAHAM I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

Some Errors Removed

Now, in order to understand properly the work of the Catholic Church in creating and defending and perpetuating the Holy Scriptures, we must say a few preliminary words as to the human means used in their production, and as to the collecting of the Books of the Bible as we have it at present. There are some common erroneous ideas which we would do well to clear away from our minds at the very outset.

1. To begin with, the Bible did not drop down from Heaven ready-made, as some seem to imagine; it did not suddenly appear upon the earth, carried down from Almighty God by the hand of angel or seraph; but it was written by men like ourselves, who held in their hand pen (or reed) and ink and parchment, and laboriously traced every letter in the original languages of the East. They were divinely inspired certainly, as no others ever have been before or since; nevertheless, they were human beings, men chosen by God for the work, making use of the human instruments that lay to their hand at the time.

2. In the second place we shall do well to remember that the Bible was not written all at once, or by one man, like most other books with which we are acquainted, but that 1500 years elapsed between the writing of Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament) and the Apocalypse or Revelation of St. John (the last Book of the New Testament). It is made up of a collection of different books by different authors, forming, in short, a library instead of a single work, and hence called in Greek, “Biblia,” or “The Books”. If you had lived in the days immediately succeeding the death of Moses, all you would have had given to you to represent the Bible would have been the first five books of the Old Testament, written by that patriarch himself; that was the Bible in embryo, so to speak – the little seed that was to grow subsequently into a great tree, the first stone laid on which was gradually to be erected the beautiful temple of the written Word throughout the centuries that followed. From this we can see that the preacher extolling the Bible as the only comfort and guide of faithful souls was slightly out of his reckoning when he used these words: “Ah, my brethren! What was it that comforted and strengthened Joseph in his dark prison in Egypt? What was it that formed his daily support and meditation? What but that blessed book, the Bible!” As Joseph existed before a line of the Old Testament was penned, and about 1800 years before the first of the New Testament books saw the light, the worthy evangelist was guilty of what we call a slight anachronism.

3. Nor will it be out of place to remark here that the Bible was not written originally in English or Gaelic. Some folks speak as if they believed that the Sacred Books were first composed, and the incomparable Psalms of David set forth, in the sweet English tongue, and that they were afterwards rendered into barbarous language such as Latin or Greek or Hebrew for the sake of inquisitive scholars and critics. This is not correct; the original language, broadly speaking of the Old Testament was Hebrew; that of the New Testament was Greek. Thus our Bibles as we have them today for reading are “translations” – that is, are a rendering or equivalent in English of the original Hebrew and Greek as it came from the pen of Prophet and Apostle and Evangelist. We see this plainly enough in the title page of the Protestant New Testament – which reads “New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, translated out of the original Greek.”

4. A last point must always be kept clearly in mind, for it concerns one of the greatest delusions entertained by Protestants and makes their fierce attacks on Rome appear so silly and irrational – the point, namely, that the Bible, as we have it now, was not printed in any language at all till about 1500 years after the birth of Christ, for the simple reason that there was no such thing as printing known before that date. We have become so accustomed to the use of the printing press that we can scarcely conceive of the ages when the only books known to men were in handwriting; but it is the fact that, has we lived and flourished before Mr. John Gooseflesh discovered the art of printing in the 15th century, we should have had to read our Testaments and our Gospels from the manuscript of monk or friar, from the pages of parchment or vellum or paper covered with the handwriting, sometimes very beautiful and ornamental, of the scribe that had undertaken the slow and laborious task of copying the Sacred Word. Protestants in these days send shiploads of printed Bibles abroad, and scatter thousands of Testaments hither and thither in every direction for the purpose of evangelizing the heathen and converting sinners, and declare that the Bible, and the Bible only, can save men’s souls. What, then, came of those poor souls who lived before the Bible was printed, before it was even written in its present form? How were nations made familiar with the Christian religion and converted to Christianity before the 15th century? Our Divine Lord, I suppose, wished that the unnumbered millions of human creatures born before the year 1500 should believe what He had taught and save their souls and go to Heaven at least as much as those of the 16th and 20th centuries; but how could they do this when they had no Bibles, or were too poor to buy one, or could not understand it even if they could read it? On the Catholic plan (so to call it) of salvation through the teaching of the Church, souls may be saved and people become saints, and believe and do all that Jesus Christ meant them to believe and do – and, as a matter of fact, this has happened – in all countries and in all ages without either the written or the printed Bible, and both before and after it’s production. The Protestant theory, on the contrary, which stakes a man’s salvation on the possession of the Bible, leads to the most flagrant absurdities, imputes to Almighty God a total indifference to the salvation of the countless souls that passed hence to eternity for 1500 years, and indeed ends logically in the blasphemous conclusion that our blessed Lord failed to provide an adequate means of conveying to men in every age the knowledge of His truth. We shall see, as we proceed, the utter impossibility of the survival of Christianity, and of its benefits to humanity, on the principle of “the Bible and the Bible only.” Meanwhile we can account for the fact that intelligent non-Catholics have not awakened to its hollowness and absurdity only by supposing that they do not sufficiently realise, “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” (as the English Prayer Book says) this single item of history: The Bible was not printed till at least 1400 years after Christ.

God Bless BJS!!

Taken from Where We Got The Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church by RT REV HENRY G. GRAHAM I am not the Author merely the distributor.

The Last Gospel Lesson 10

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men….

…He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not. He came into His own, and His own recieved Him not.

But to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God…AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, AND DWELT AMONG US…(St. John, 1-14.)

Immediately after the Last Blessing the priest goes to the Gospel side of the altar. There he says, “Dominus vobiscum,” and makes the Sign of the Cross on the altar, and then on his forehead, lips, and breast. This is just as he did at the first Gospel.

As we make the Sign of the Cross on our forehead, lips, and breast, we can have the same thoughts as we did before the first Gospel. We want our minds to know about Our Lord and His teachings. We want our voices and tongues to make them known. We want our hearts to love them. We know we prove our love for the teachings of Our Lord by putting them into practice in our everyday life.

On most days, the Last Gospel is the same. It is the first fourteen verses of the Holy Gospel written by St. John. Parts of the Last Gospel are given at the beginning of this lesson. Sometimes there is a special Last Gospel. You can tell when this special Last Gospel is being read. The altar boy moves the Missal from the Epistle to the Gospel side of the altar. The priest always reads a special Last Gospel from the Missal . The first fourteen verses of the Gospel of St. John are printed on the card on the Gospel side of the altar.

These fourteen verses from the Gospel of St. John speak about Our Lord. They tell that He is God. They also tell that He became man. The priest and people bend their knees to adore Our Lord, God made man. They do so at the words of the Last Gospel, “And the Word was made flesh.”

In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God, has been made flesh again.

At the end of the Last Gospel the altar boy says, “Thanks be to God.” He is saying it for the people. With the priest they have been thinking of Our Lord, Who is God. They know how He came again upon earth in Holy Mass. He has been the victim of the Holy Sacrifice just offered. He has been our gift to God. He became our food. Yes, He became food for our soul. For these reasons we say, “Thanks be to God.”

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

The Last Blessing Lesson 9

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The Dismissal: Before the Last Blessing

After the Postcommunion, the priest goes to the center of the altar. Then he faces the people and prays. “The Lord be with you.” The altar boy answers for the people, “And with your spirit.”

The dismissal is next given. The priest, still facing the people, says: “Go, the Mass is over.” Sometimes the Latin is put into other English words – “Go, you are sent forth.” or “Go, you are dismissed.” The altar boy replies: “Thanks be to God.” In the name of the people he is thanking God for the graces they have recieved during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

During Advent and Lent the priest says: “Let us bless the Lord,” instead of “Go, the Mass is over.” At Masses for the dead the people are dismissed with the prayer, “May they rest in peace.”

After making the short dismissal prayer, the priest turns and bows before the altar. Silently he prays:

May the tribute of my worship be pleasing to Thee, most Holy Trinity, and grant that the sacrifice which I, all unworthy, have offered in the presence of Thy majesty, may be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy obtain forgiveness for me and all for whom I have offered it.

This prayer speaks of some things about Holy Mass that Catholics desire always to remember.

The Mass is, first of all, an act of worship of the Most Holy Trinity.

An act of worship tries to give to God the honor that is due Him.

Holy Mass is a sacrifice.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the all-perfect sacrifice. In the Mass Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the priest, offers Himself to God under the appearances of bread and wine.

The priest is speaking for himself. He says how unworthy he is to have offered the Holy Sacrifice.

The words of the priest remind the people to have the same thought. They know how unworthy they are to unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They know how poorly they have done so.

The priest asks for forgiveness for himself, and for all those for whom he has offered the Holy Sacrifice.

Many times during Holy Mass the priest and people pray for two things. The first is forgiveness or pardon. The second, not mentioned in this prayer, is God’s grace and help. Priest and people pray for these blessings for themselves and for others.

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The Last or Final Blessing

When the priest has finished the prayer that he says bowed over the altar, he kisses the altar. Then he raises his eyes and hands toward heaven. Next, he turns to the people and blesses them. He makes the Sign of the Cross and says: May God almighty bless you: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The altar boy answers, Amen.

The words of blessing seem to speak to the people of two things. First, they remind them of the blessings received from the Most Holy Trinity during Holy Mass. Then they seem to tell the people that they have new grace. They have help from God for all they shall do and think and say, as they go forth from Holy Mass.

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

The Postcommunion Lesson 8

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Having recieved Thy sacred gifts, O Lord, vouchsafe the more often we frequent these mysteries, the more surely they may avail to our salvation.
(From the Postcommunion for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.)

After he reads the Communion verse, the priest goes back to the center of the altar. He kisses the altar and turns to the people. He says to them in Latin, “The Lord be with you.” The altar boy answers for the people, “And with your spirit.” This greeting of the priest is always a reminder or invitation. He desires them to join with him in the prayer or prayers that follow. At this time the priest wants the people to pray the Postcommunion prayer or prayers with him.

The Postcommunion is part of the Proper of the Mass. It changes from day to day. Often the Postcommunion speaks of the feast of the day. It is made up of one or more prayers that the priest reads from the Missal. The priest is at the Epistle side of the altar as he prays the Postcommunion.

Almost always the Postcommunion prayers speak of Holy Communion that has just been received. These prayers ask God that the graces of Holy Communion may help us to live good lives.

The ablutions, Communion, and Postcommunion are the prayers the Church uses in thanksgiving for Holy Communion.

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

The Communion Verse Lesson 7

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We bless the God of heaven, and before all living we will promise Him; because He has shown His mercy to us.
(Communion verse from the Mass of Trinity Sunday.)

The Communion Verse is part of the Proper of the Mass. It changes from day to day. The priest reads the Communion verse from the Missal. The Missal is on the Epistle side of the altar. The Communion verse is read after the Ablutions.

This verse is a short prayer. Once it was part of a Psalm. The Psalm waa sung by the choir and people, as the people went to receive Holy Communion.

The Communion verse at the beginning of this lesson is a short prayer of praise. It gives one a beautiful thought to have after Holy Communion.

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

The Ablution Prayers Lesson 6

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The First Ablution Prayer

What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what is given us in time be our healing for eternity.

The Second Abultion Prayer

May Thy Body, O Lord, which I have eaten, and Thy Blood, which I have drunk, cleave unto my very soul, and grant that no trace of sin be found in me, whom these pure and holy mysteries have renewed. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

The word ablution means cleansing or washing. During the ablution prayers the priest cleanses the chalice. He does so that nothing may remain in it of the Precious Blood of Our Lord. His fingers, too, are cleansed, for they have touched the Sacred Host. The ablutions take place immediately after the people have received Holy Communion.

The priest is standing at the center of the altar as wine is poured into the chalice. First, he rinses the chalice with the wine. As he does so he makes the first ablution prayer.

This prayer is very short, but it means a great deal. It says that we received Holy Communion as food: in the words of the prayer, it “passed our lips as food.” Then the prayer asks that our hearts may be pure. This means, may they be cleansed from sin. It also asks that the Holy Communion we have just received may help us now that we may be happy forever in heaven.

When the priest has finished the first ablution prayer, he drinks the wine that was used to rinse out the chalice.

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Then the priest goes to the Epistle side of the altar. There the altar boy pours wine and water over his fingers. As the water and wine are poured, the priest prays the second ablution prayer.

In this prayer we also ask that the blessings of our Holy Communion may remain with us always. Priest and people are making this request when they pray that the body and blood of Our Lord may “cleave unto my very soul.” The word cleave means stick to it or cling to it. In this second ablution prayer we ask that not even a stain of sin may remain in us.

After the second ablution, the priest returns to the center of the altar. He wipes his fingers with the purificator and drinks the water and wine. He dries his lips, and then cleans the chalice with the purificator. When he has done these things, he arranges the chalice as it was at the beginning of Mass. The last thing he does is to place the chalice veil over it.

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

The Prayers of the People’s Communion Lesson 5

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The Priest’s Communion

After the priest has made the three prayers studied in the last lesson, it is almost time for him to recieve Holy Communion.

But first he says: I will take the Bread of heaven and call upon the name of the Lord. Then, bowing before the altar, he prays: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed. Three times the priest makes this prayer that begins Lord, I am not worthy… Each time he says it he strikes his breast. At this time the altar boy rings the bell three times.

The priest next says: May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep my soul unto life everlasting. Amen.

Then he recieves the Sacred Host. For a short time he thinks about the most Holy Sacrament.

Next, he prays:

What return shall I make to the Lord for all He hath given me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Praising, I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies. May the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep my soul unto life everlasting. Amen.

After this prayer the priest receives the Precious Blood of Our Lord. Then he gives Holy Communion to the people.

The Communion of the Faithful

Almost immediately after the bell rings, the people go to the communion rail.

At this time, the Confiteor – I confess – is recited by the altar boy in the name of the people. This prayer tells God, our Blessed Mother, and the saints that we have committed sins. We speak of them because we are sorry we committed them.

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The priest, after receiving the Precious Blood of Our Lord, genuflects and turns to the people. He says the last two parts of the Confiteor:

May almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.

May the almighty and merciful God grant you pardon, absolution, and full remission of your sins.

As the priest says the second part, he makes the Sign of the Cross over the people.

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Then the priest turns to the altar and genuflects. He takes one of the small Hosts, holds it above the ciborium, and turns to the people again. He says in a voice they can hear:

Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who taketh away the sins of the world. And three times he says: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

St. John the Baptist first said: “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him Who taketh away the sins of the world.” Our Lord, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, continues to take away the sins of the world.

It was the centurion, during the life of Our Lord on earth, who went to Him and said: “I am not worthy to have You enter under my roof.” But the same centurion also said: “Only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Our Lord was pleased with the faith of the centurion. He cured the servant by saying just a word. Knowing that Our Lord has power to cure and to forgive, we make the centurion’s prayer our prayer, as we get ready to recieve Holy Communion.

This is what the priest does as he gives Holy Communion to each person receiving. First, he blesses the person, making the Sign of the Cross with the Sacred Host. Then, as he places the Host on the tongue of the person, he says: May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep thy soul unto life everlasting. Amen.

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

The Three Prayers Before the Priest’s Communion Lesson 4.

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The First Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast said to Thy apostles: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, regard not my sins but the faith of Thy Church, and deign to give her peace and unity according to Thy will. Who livest and reignest, God world without end. Amen.

The three prayers before the priest’s Communion are made to Our Lord. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Whom priest and people will recieve in Holy Communion. These prayers are in preparation for Holy Communion. They are the prayers of the priest offering Holy Mass. In them he uses the words I, my, and me. But they can also be the prayers of the people.

In the first of the three prayers, priest and people pray for peace. This is the fourth time they pray for peacein the Communion part of the Mass. The prayer reminds Our Lord of words He spoke to the apostles at the Last Supper. He said to them: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” Then the priest asks Our Lord to give peace and unity to the Church.

When we pray for peace and unity in the Church, we are praying for oeace and unity among the members of the Church. In Holy Communion, we recieve grace to love God and our neighbor. This is the greatest help to peace and unity. Because people do not love one another, there are wars and other kinds of suffering.

The Second Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who by the will of the Father, with the cooperation of the Holy Ghost, hast by Thy death given life to the world, deliver me by this Thy most sacred Body and Blood from all my sins and from every evil. Make me always cling to Thy commands, and never permit me to be separated from Thee. Who with the same God the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest, God world without end. Amen.

As the priest says this prayer and the next one, his hands are folded. His eyes are on the Sacred Host, and he goes before the altar. He is speaking to Our Lord Whom he will recieve in Holy Communion. The prayer reminds Our Lord that, by His death, He gave life to the world. This is the life of grace that we first recieve in the Sacrament of Baptism.

This prayer asks Our Lord for four favors. First, each one praying it asks to be delivered from his or her sins. This means the punishment due to sin. At the same time, priest and people also ask to be delivered from every evil. They ask for these favors because of the body and blood of Our Lord which they are about to recieve. Next, they ask for grace always to keep the commandments. Lastly, they pray never to be separated from Our Lord. Mortal sin alone can separate us from Him. Our prayer is for grace never to commit mortal sin.

The Third Prayer

Let not the partaking of The Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, all unworthy, make bold to recieve, turn to my judgement and condemnation, but by reason of The loving kindness, may it be to me a safeguard of both soul and body, an effective remedy. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the union of the Holy Ghost, God world without end. Amen.

In this prayer, priest and people pray that Our Lord will keep them from making an unworthy Communion. The Catechism says: “To recieve Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, to have a right intention, and to obey the Church’s laws on fasting before Holy Communion.” The Catechism also says: “He who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but does not recieve His graces, and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.”

Each one making this prayer asks two other things. Priest and people pray that Holy Communion may protect them and help them, both in body and soul. The prayer says they ask for these favors because of Our Lord’s loving kindness.

Taken from The Kingdom of God series The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Ellamay Horan. I am not the Author merely the distributor. God Bless BJS!!

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