Monday, 15 December 2014

How Christ said the first mass, By Rev. James L. Meagher, D.D. Part 1.


Worldly people look with wonder at the Mass, and often say: " What is the meaning of this form of divine worship ? Where did these ceremonies come from ? Why-are candles lighted during daytime ? Why do the priests wear such peculiar robes ? Why don't they say the service in a language the people can understand ? "

The Catholic sometimes says to himself: " The Mass came from the Last Supper. But did Christ or the apostles say Mass as priest or bishop of our time ? Did Christ that night follow any form of worship ? If he did, where is it found ? From ancient days the Church used the Ordinary of the Mass, but we do not know its origin."

Many questions rise in people's minds to which they find no answer. A common opinion holds that Christ said the First Mass at the Last Supper according to a short form of blessing and prayer, then consecrated the bread and wine, gave the apostles Communion, and preached the sermon John's Gospel gives. When the apostles said Mass, they recited some Psalms, read the Scriptures, preached a sermon, consecrated the bread and wine, recited the Lord's Prayer and then gave Communion. In the apostolic age the saints added other prayers and ceremonies. Afterwards Popes and councils still more developed the rites, composed new prayers, and that during the Middle Ages the Mass grew and expanded into the elaborate Liturgy and Ceremonial of our day.

But these opinions are wrong. From the beginning the Mass was said according to a long Liturgy and with ceremonies differing little from those of our time. No substantial addition was made after the apostolic age— what the early Popes did was of minor importance—revisions and corrections. Little addition was made to the Ordinary of the Mass handed down from the days of Peter, founder of our Latin Liturgy.

No pagan ceremony ever formed a part of the Mass. Through holy men of the Old Testament, God Himself revealed the forms, rites and ceremonies of divine worship, and these were all combined and summed up in the Last Supper. But what was this Supper? The four Gospels mention the feast, but do not enter into the matter. The Bible, Hebrew writers, and histories of that time tell us that the night He was betrayed the Lord held with His apostles the feast the Hebrews called the Passover, mentioned a hundred and seventeen times in Holy Writ as the Pascha, Phase, Azyme, Unleaven Bread, etc.

Every Jew from his youth celebrated the feast each Easter; even Heathens could have learned its history and meanings, and the Gospel writers did not think it seemly to fill their writings with its details. They mention only words, acts and incidents of the Last Supper, which did not properly belong to the Passover.

Round the lamb foretelling the crucifixion, and the bread and wine prophetic of the Mass, from times immemorial, the Holy Spirit, by and through the prophets, had gathered a long series of ceremonies and numerous objects recalling the history of God's people. The consecration of the bread and wine changed these shadowy forms, emblems, types and sacramentals of the Hebrew religion into the substance they had so wonderfully foretold. The apostles therefore saw nothing new or strange when Christ changed the ancient Passover into the Mass.

We will begin with the religion of the patriarchs, describe the tabernacle, the Temple, their ceremonial, give the history of the Passover, of the Feast of Unleaven Bread, and show how the Mass was foretold in the Hebrew religion. Then we will pass to the Cenacle wherein the Lord held the Passover, describe the Synagogue services they carried out before the Supper, the vestments they used that night, and give a translation of the Form of Prayer or Liturgy of the First Mass. This Passover service of the Last Supper was the foundation of the Liturgies of the Mass.

We will show that the ceremonies seen to-day in the Mass came down from the Hebrew rites God established through Moses and the great men of the Old Testament. We will cite many Jewish and non-Catholic writers who will not be suspected of favoring the Church. We cannot quote all without filling the work Avith notes. Many translations from the Talmuds will show that the lamb, as a type of Christ, was sacrificed, during these long ages of waiting, for the sins of the offerers, for their friends, the sick, the absent, and the dead as to-day He is offered in the Mass.

No work could be found in any language treating in a complete way the Last Supper, and the writer had to rely on his own resources regarding matter and form. A subject so vast was beset with many difficulties, for it is hard to lay before the reader minute details, descriptions and scenes of a world which passed away two thousand years ago.

The writer studied the Jewish authors of ancient and modern times, was present during synagogue services in different cities of the world, consulted learned Rabbis, searched libraries, read the lives of Christ by famous authors, lived for weeks in Jerusalem, talked with Palestine Jews, was present while they held the Passover on Sion, and the result of his investigations are laid before the public. We hope that it will clear up many questions the laity ask regarding the origin of the Mass and its ceremonies.

We do not hold that every statement is absolutely exact, but is about as correct as we can reproduce the First Mass. " Small men " may find some things to criticise, they would have written in a different way, but we hope our humble efforts will draw sincere human hearts nearer in love to their Saviour when they see how He established the great Christian Sacrifice.



The Catholic Church, its divisions of porch, nave, and sanctuary, its ornaments, vestments, and ceremonial, came from the Jewish Temple and the synagogue of the time of Christ. The Passover service was modeled on the Temple worship. Thus the Last Supper combined in one ceremonial the patriarchal worship, the tabernacle, the Temple, the synagogue, all united in one feast the Hebrews called the Passover, which Christ fulfilled and changed into the Mass. Let us therefore see first the Temple, its divisions, its rites, its ceremonies, and its sacramentals, that we may better understand the ceremonies Christ followed when he said the first Mass.

To teach truth by visible objects is an instinct of our nature. Words, spoken or printed, represent ideas. But we love to show our thoughts by actions. Even animals make-believe a fight in play ; with her doll the girl images her motherly instinct; boys amuse themselves with toys ; men speak in figure, type, parable; tone of voice, shade word meanings, show hate, anger, fear or sorrow, and smile, tear, and sob tell our feelings.

We love to see the actor in the play represent, not himself but a celebrated personage. Therefore, before the dawn of history, the theater was found in civilized lands, where on its stage tragedy, comedy, and history were imaged before delighted audiences.

God made use of these representative instincts through which to foretell the future Tragedy of Calvary, to prophesy the Last Supper and the Mass. This was the best way to teach mankind, in that age when Adam's children were ignorant, when words were few, when language was hardly formed, when ideas were crude, when books were unknown, when few could read or write.

From the gates of Eden the Redeemer was revealed, the woman's Seed who was to come and conquer the serpent-demon who had enslaved mankind. But how was the revelation to be handed down in that age of the childhood of our race ? God made use of this representative instinct of our nature, and told the life of the foretold Christ in the ceremonial of sacrifice, in the rites of the tabernacle, and in the ceremonies of the Temple. We will, therefore, first see the Temple, its ceremonies, for these we will later find in the Last Supper.

To Jew and unbeliever the Temple has ever been a riddle, and they have written countless books to explain its mysteries. The Catholic Church alone has the key which unlocks the mysteries of that maze of vast bewildering building, with its Holy of Holies, Holies, Priests' Court, Court of Israel, Women's Court, Chel, Choi, Cloisters, some roofed, others open to the sky, with various chambers, each at the time of Christ having its own proper use.

The wonderful building, with its rites and ceremonies, was a divine poem written by God to reveal present, past and future. In the past, the Jew saw God his Creator, mankind in original innocence, the Temptation and the Fall, the condemnation on our race, woman's deeper wound, the promise of the woman's Seed, sinners drowned when the world was baptized by the flood, the call of Abraham, the blessing on his race, the revelation given the Hebrews, their delivery from Egyptian slavery, the manna their food for forty years, their miraculous preservation and struggles, the whole world plunged into darkest idolatry, the glory of their judges, and the splendors of David and Solomon.

The Temple was the very heart and soul of the Jewish Church, in which alone Jehovah was then adored in days of deepest paganism. But beyond, deep into the future, the Temple story and worship carried their minds, down to the days of Christ, to his Last Supper, to his atrocious death, to the New Testament, to the Catholic Church 1 with her Pontiff, her bishops, her priests, her sacraments and her millions of redeemed souls. 2

The Temple and its vast ceremonial formed a book within and without written by God's eternal hand, not in dead lifeless letters as man writes, but in warm, living signs, symbols, types and figures. Amid the multitudes of Temple emblems, let us take those relating to our subject, and read the lessons of this Divine Poem, this heavenly poetry, this drama of Calvary, transcendent above all others—God its author here taught the future death of the only Begotten Son. 3

The Holy of Holies closed by a veil represented heaven closed to mankind because of the sin of our first parents. The Holies with its glittering golden altar and walls foretold the church building—especially our sanctuary with its altar on which now the Mass is offered. The Courts with the ministering priests, the sacrificed victims, prefigured the Jewish priests who later were to kill the Saviour.

The words then of God's wonderful book had two meanings :—one, what the objects showed in themselves; this now alone the Jew can see; and the other meant the God-Man, the Church, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and this the Christian with his faith can see. Patriarch, prophet, the holy ones of Israel, filled with faith of the foretold Messiah saw this sacred drama of the future, and read between the lines and behind the objects the story of the redemption of mankind; thus they walked in the faith, hope and love of Him who was to be born of their race. Thus the holy ones of old saved their souls.

Cenacle and church building were modeled after the Temple. We will therefore give a rapid glance over this great building, famed in all the earth, visited so often by the Lord, itself being copied from the tabernacle.

The tabernacle God directed Moses to make while wandering in the vast deserts of Arabia, " the Sandy," leaving no permanent resting-place, represented mankind in this world of trials—tired, weary, wishing ever for something higher, better. 4 The Temple Solomon built to replace the tabernacle, permanently resting on Moriah "Jehovah provides," within the city of Jerusalem "Possession of Peace," was the emblem of heaven where in beatific vision our souls will rest in everlasting peace.

" When it was building, it was built of stone hewed and made ready, so there was neither hammer, nor ax, nor any tool of iron heard in the house, when it was building " 5

The Temple Solomon "the Peaceful" built imaged the Universal Church 6 the Son of God, the " Prince of Peace," built, while the tabernacle represented the Hebrew religion. Whence the Hebrews alone built the tabernacle, but pagan Sidonians and Tyrenians aided Solomon to build the Temple, to foretell that pagan converts would help Christ and his apostles to build the Universal Church.

God revealed to Moses the model of the tabernacle, and the plans and specifications of the Temple came from heaven; the Eternal Himself being its architect, for the Divine Son planned and founded the Catholic Church. " And David gave to Solomon his son a description of the porch, and of the Temple, and of the treasuries, and of the upper floor, and of the inner chambers, and of the house for the mercy-seat. All these things, he said, came to me written by the hand of the Lord that I might understand the works of the pattern." 7

Sole Temple of the Lord of hosts, amid the thousand temples of pagan gods, resting on Moriah's top, within the sacred City " Vision of heavenly Jerusalem," terrace upon terrace towered the Temple at the time of Christ, dominating high over all the city, except Sion, a loftier hill, the latter emblematic of the Church and her Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Cedar-roofed and richly carved, enclosed by cloisters grandest ever built, its walls of white marble, the sacred fane dominated the city. Copied after the tabernacle of desert wanderings, the Temple was divided into four parts —the Holy of Holies, the Holies, the Hebrew Courts and the Court of Gentiles—each with its own symbolic and prophetic meanings, this was the sacred sanctuary Christ called " His Father's House," 8

The inner fane of the holy sanctuary, called by Jewish writers; " The Gold House," was seven stories high, and 150 feet square, but within and without was covered with plates of purest gold, bought with money received from the sale of millions of paschal lambs' skins. Each plate was a yard square and as thick as a twenty-five cent piece. Not only walls and sides were gold covered, but even the roof, and it bristled with gold spikes about four inches long, to prevent birds settling on and soiling. This " Golden House," was seven-storied, emblematic of the sacred number seven, the word in which the Gospels were later written, and the seven sacraments.

In the center was a room thirty feet square, the Holy of Holies its walls covered with gold plates, this was the resting-place of the Holy Ghost of tabernacle and first Temple. There, visible as a cloud by day, a fire at night, He spoke to Moses, to the prophets and revealed to them the Old Testament. They called him the Shekina " The Holy Presence."

The Holy of Holies was closed by a great veil, sixty by thirty feet, so thick and heavy it took 300 priests to hang it. 9 It was woven of seventy-two colored strands—white, representing waters of baptism; violet, emblematic of penance; red, martyr's blood ; and green, youthful innocence. The closed Holy of Holies, dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, represented heaven closed by Adam's sin to all the members of the seventy-two nations born of Noe's grandsons, except they pass through baptism, penance, martyrdom, or youthful innocence regained. 10 Josephus and Jewish writers say the colors typified water, sky, fire and earth. 11The colors are now seen in the Church vestments.

Once a year, the Day of Atonement, the high priest, typifying Jesus Christ in his death and ascension, his hands dripping with blood of victims he had sacrificed in the Priests' Court, emblematic of the Jewish Church which killed Christ, entered alone that secret place, holiest sanctuary of earth, and there sprinkled the blood to foretell Christ entering and opening heaven to mankind.

In the center of the Holy of Holies of tabernacle and Solomon's Temple rested the ark of the covenant, sign of God's contract 12 with the Hebrews. It was a box of sweetly smelling sitim wood, the acacia of Arabia, about three feet long, two wide and high, and covered within and without with plates of purest gold. The cover was edged around with a gold rim, forming the " Mercy Seat of God,'" the Shekina. 13 That ark was an emblem of Christ in heaven and on earth, in whom burned the Holy Ghost, with his fire of love moving him to die for the race. 14

In a gold cup, like a ciborium, was preserved some of the miraculous manna which fell from heaven during the forty years of the wanderings of the Hebrews through Arabia. It reminded them of the food with which the Lord had fed their fathers, and it foretold the Eucharist preserved in the ciborium on our altars with which Christ now feeds Christian souls. Let us see the story of the manna, for one of the cakes of the bread of the Last Supper was named after it.

During the desert wanderings, 15,000 pounds of manna a week fell from heaven to feed the Hebrews. One morning they found the ground covered with little grains like hoar-frost, and when they saw it the first time they exclaimed in Hebrew, "Manna?" "What is this?" For forty years God fed them on this miraculous food, till they entered the Promised Land, to foretell the Eucharist nourishment of our souls during the wanderings of this life.

Every morning, except the Sabbath, the ground was found covered with manna, which had to be gathered before the heat of the sun corrupted it; if a, family gathered more than wanted for food during the day it became offensive; but the double portion found Friday morning for that day and Saturday did not corrupt. They made the manna into thin cakes 15 like those of the Passover and of the Mass. The third cake Christ consecrated was called the Aphikoman " The heavenly manna." A gold ciborium filled with the miraculous manna was placed in the ark to remind them of the miracle, and down the ages it lasted unchanged till Solomon's Temple was destroyed; it was a type of the Eucharist reserved on our altars.

The Orientals still gather a kind of manna, which has not the qualities of that of Scripture. It is not a food but a purgative medicine; it does not fall all the year, but only from May to August j it is found only in small quantities; it keeps for a long time without corruption; a double portion does not fall on Friday; it does not suddenly cease as the miraculous manna did when the Hebrews entered Palestine, when they began to raise their own food.

Burkhardt, who traveled extensively through Arabia in 1812, says "Manna in our day is found on the ground, leaves, etc., must be gathered mornings for the sun melts it, and it is found only during wet seasons, rarely in dry weather. Strained through a cloth, it is spread on bread like butter or honey, but it is never made into cakes like the Hebrew manna, and in leather bottles will keep for years." The Arabian physician Avicenna says, " Manna is collected from the tarfa or tamarisk shrub Tamarix gallica, it is a dew which falls on stones and bushes, becomes thick like honey and can be hardened so as to be like grain."

From - How Christ said the first mass, or, The Lord's last supper. The rites and ceremonies, the ritual and liturgy, the forms of divine worship Christ observed, when He changed the passover into the mass (1908)  Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920 

1 S. Augustine, De civit. Dei, L. xviii. c. 48.

2 S. Augustine, In Epist. Joan, ad Parthos, Tracts 11, n. 111.

3 S. Thomas, Sum. Theo. I. a, 2ӕ 102 ; S. Augustine, The Fathers, etc.

4 S. Augustine, Enar. in Psal. xiv., S. Thomas, Sum. i, 2, q ; 102. 4, ad 2, etc. 

5 III. Kings 6-7. 

6 S. Thomas, Sum. ii. 2. q: 162, 4 ad 2.

7 See I. Par. xxii. xxviii. 19.

 8 John ii. 16. 

9 Edersheim, Sketches, p. 197. 

10 See S. Augustine, De civitate Dei, L. xvi. c. 3. n. 2 ; c. 6. n. 2. 

11  Antiq. iii. 7. 7.

12 S. Augustine De civitate Dei, liber x. 1. 

13 An explanation of the Shekina will be found towards the end of this chapter. 

 14 See S. Augustine, De genes ad litteram, iv. 17, Enarratio in Psalm cxxxi; Talmud, Yomah, 107.

15 Babyl. Talmud, Yomah, p.115.