We must acknowledge, in the words of the holy Council of Trent in its twenty-second Session, that there is no work in which Christians can be engaged on earth so holy and so divine as this tremendous mystery, wherein is daily immolated on our altars, by the hands of the priest, that life-giving Host and Victim, by whom we are reconciled with our Heavenly Father.
Such is the excellence and sublime dignity of this divine Sacrifice, that, even in heaven itself, there is no more exalted act of worship. In this the Church on earth vies with the heavenly Jerusalem; in this the very angels of God, envying as it were the blessedness of man, come down from heaven to assist at the divine ministry of the priests of God on earth. Herein the most ecstatic devotion is satisfied to more than fulness.
For what is wanting here of all that is great and holy, most abundant in grace and mercy, and most tender in love? What longings can we feel for the venerable, the useful, the lovely, and the sublime, which are not satisfied to overflowing in this heavenly Sacrifice 1 Well may the author of the Imitation of Christ exclaim: 'Many travel from place to place to visit the holy relics of the Saints, and marvel much at hearing of their acts, and at beholding the lofty churches built to their honour, and love to kiss their sacred bones, enveloped in silk and enshrined in gold. But behold, I have Thee, my God, the Saint of saints, the Creator of men, the Lord of angels, here present with me upon the altar. To gaze at these other sights, men are moved, perhaps in some degree, by curiosity; but to contemplate Thee, we are drawn, not by any curious craving after novelty, but by firm faith, devout hope, and sincere charity.'
Whoever, then, is a lover of perfect devotion, let him give himself to hear Mass well, and worthily to assist at this divine Sacrifice. Every day, if he desires it, he will find something new, every day he will learn something fresh, he will each day be conscious of new affections arising in his heart; every day it will become more sweet, and he will discern how vastly it surpasses every other devotion; and, lastly, he will each day become more deeply persuaded that the devotion which is most truly pleasing to God, and most profitable to the soul, is that of worshipping in spirit and in truth, without which a multitude of pious practices are useless.
In order to assist at the holy Mass in spirit and in truth, it will be of great service to adopt a method which will help us to penetrate well with our understanding into this act of worship, and follow it with the mind and heart through every part, thereby partaking of it in the fullest and most intimate manner possible: such a method we propose to give in the following articles. But, in the first place, we offer a short history of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass in its origin and progress; secondly, a short exposition of the meaning of the various objects, ceremonies, and prayers made use of in its celebration; and, in the third and last place, a practical method for assisting and taking part in the divine Sacrifice.