SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
Q. Has the Church power to appoint feasts of saints? And what end has she in appointing them?
A. As the Church has power of making laws that are binding, so particularly this power regards religious duties, as in honoring saints.
Q. How are the saints honored at their feasts ?
A. Not by dedicating churches and altars to them, but to God only, in acknowledgment of the benefit he has done to us by his saints, and on that account, we give them such a name as St. Peter's church, St. Paul's, etc., and, by recounting their birth, sufferings, and virtuous practices, we are induced to imitate their several kinds of martyrdoms and sufferings for the faith of Christ, as also for their several ways of virtue and perfection, by following their example in our behavior, and begging their prayers, so that we honor God in his saints.
Q. Which are the principal feasts of saints whose memory we celebrate ?
A. The twelve Apostles, which are common to all titular saints, or the patrons of nations, by whom we were converted: the founders of religious orders, who have benefited Christianity, by establishing and practicing the evangelical councils. And again, the saints of particular provinces, dioceses, and parishes, where holy persons have lived, and their memory been recorded by their miracles and good example, and have churches erected to their memory.
Q. Are there no other feasts ? and what is the meaning of their ceremonies ?
A. Yes; Michaelmas, All Saints, All Souls, the Invention of the Cross, the Exaltation of the Cross, Shrovetide, Ash-Wednesday, etc.
Q. What means the feast of Michaelmas ?
A. It is a solemnity, or solemn mass, in honor of St. Michael, prince of the heavenly host, and likewise of all the nine orders of holy angels; as well as to commemorate the famous battle fought by him and them, in heaven, against the dragon and his apostate angels, which we read of in the Apocalypse or Revelation, xii. 7; as also to recommend the whole Church of God to their patronage and prayers. And it is called the dedication of St. Michael, by reason of a Church in Rome, dedicated, on that day, to St. Michael by Pope Boniface.
Q. What is the meaning of All Saints?
A. It is a feast instituted by the Church in honor of all the saints, and that we might obtain the prayers of them all, since the whole year is too short to afford us a particular feast for every saint.
Q. What is the meaning of All Souls day?
A. It is a day instituted by the Church in memory of all the faithful departed, that, by the prayers and suffrages of the living, they may be freed out of thdr purging pains, and come to everlasting rest.
Q. What is the meaning of the Invention and Exaltation of the Holy Cross, commonly called Holy-rood days?
A. The Invention of the Cross is a feast kept in memory of the miraculous finding of the holy cross, by St. Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, after it had been hid and buried by the Infidels 180 years. The Exaltation is kept in memory of setting up the said holy cross, by Heraclius the emperor, who having regained it a second time, from the Persians, after it had been lost fourteen years, carried it on his own shoulders to Mount Calvary, and exalted it with great solemnity. It is called Holy-rood day, or Holy-cross, from the great sanctity which it received, by touching and bearing the oblation of the most precious body of Christ; the word Rood, in the old Saxon tongue signifying cross. The chief devotion of this day, as well as that of the Exaltation of the Cross, is to celebrate the victorious death and passion of our blessed Redeemer.
Q. What is the meaning of Shrovetide?
A. It signifies a time of confessing; for our ancestors were used to say, we will go to shrift, instead of, we will go to confession; and in the more primitive times, all good Christians did then (as many do now) confess their sins to a priest, the better to prepare themselves for a holy observation of Lent, and worthy receiving the blessed sacrament at Easter.
Q. What signifies Ash-Wednesday ?
A. It is a day of public penance and humiliation in the whole Church of God, and it is so called from the ceremony of blessing ashes on that day, wherewith the priest signeth the people with a cross on their foreheads, to put them in mind of what they are made, repeating, at the same time, those words of Genesis iii. 10: Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return: so to prepare them to do penance for their sins, as the Ninivites did, in fasting, sackcloth and ashes.
Q. Which are the ceremonies of Holy Week ?
A. Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, washing feet, fifteen candles, the triangular candle, the paschal candle, etc.
Q. What is meant by the three days of Tenebrae, viz.: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, before Easter ?
A. It is a mournful office, in which the Church laments the death of Christ. It is called the Tenebrae office, from the Latin word which signifies darkness, because at the latter end of the office, all the lights are extinguished, in memory of the darkness which overspread the face of the earth whilst Christ was hanging on the cross: and, at the end of the office, a noise is made to represent the earthquake, and splitting of the rocks, which happened at the time of our Lord's death.
Q. What means Maundy Thursday?
A. It is a feast in memory of our Lord's last supper, when he instituted the blessed Eucharist or Sacrament of his precious body and blood; and began his passion by his bitter agony and bloody sweat. From the Gloria in Excelsis of the mass of this day, until the mass of Easter eve, all the bells are silent throughout the Catholic Church because we are now mourning for the passion of Christ. Our altars are also uncovered, and stripped of all their ornaments, because Christ, our true altar, hung naked upon the cross. It is called Maundy Thursday from the first word of the antiphon-Mandatum novum do vobis, etc.; St. John xiii. 34. I give you a new command (or mandate) that you love one another as I have loved you; which is sung on that day in the Churches, when the prelates begin the ceremony of washing their people's feet.
Q. What is the meaning of the prelates and superiors washing the feet of their subjects upon this day ?
A. It is a ceremony in imitation of Christ's washing the feet of his Apostles; St Jo. xiii.
Q. What is the meaning of visiting the sepulchres upon Maundy Thursday?
A. The place where the blessed sacrament is reserved in the Church, in order for the office of Good Friday (on which day there is no consecration), is by the people called the sepulchre, as representing by anticipation the burial of Christ: and where there are many Churches, the faithful make their stations to visit our Lord in these sepulchres, and meditate on the different stages of his passion.
Q. What means Good Friday?
A. It is a day we keep in memory of the great work of our redemption, which was consummated by Christ in dying on the cross. The devotion proper for this day, and for the whole time in which we celebrate Christ's passion, is to meditate upon the sufferings of our Redeemer, and to study the excellent lessons of virtue which he teaches us by his example in the whole course of his passion; especially his humility, meekness, patience, obedience, resignation, etc. And above all, to learn his hatred of sin, and his love for us; that we may also learn to hate sin, which nailed him upon a cross; and love him who has loved us even unto death.
Q. What is the meaning of creeping to, and kissing the cross on Good Friday ?
A. It is to express, by this reverence outwardly exhibited to the cross, our veneration and love for him who upon this day died for us on the cross.
Q. What is the meaning of Holy Saturday ?
A. It is Easter eve, and therefore in the mass of this day, the Church resumes her Alleluias of joy, which she had intermitted during the penitential time of Septuagesima and Lent. This day and Whitsun eve were anciently the days deputed by the Church for solemn baptism, and therefore on this day the fonts are solemnly blessed
Q. What signifies the Paschal candle, which is blessed on this day?
A. It signifies the new light of spiritual joy and comfort, which Christ brought us at his resurrection; and it is lighted from the beginning of the gospel, until after the communion, betwixt Easter and Ascension Day, to signify the apparitions which Christ made to his disciples during that space.
Q. What is the meaning of the triangular candle ?
A. It signifies that the light of the gospel, which Christ brought to us, is the work of the blessed trinity, to whom we are to render thanks.