Monday, 9 February 2015

How Christ said the first mass, By Rev. James L. Meagher, D.D. Part 24.


In course of time, kings and nobles introduced the couch, on which they reclined when eating. It is first found in the prophet's words; "You that sleep on beds of ivory, and are wanton on your couches." 1 "Thou satest on a very fine bed, and a table was decked before thee, whereupon thou didst set my incense and my ointment." 2
The table was placed in "the parlor," 3  or in a room called the "bed-chamber." 4 In Persia it was called "the king's chamber." 5 The Romans called it the triclinium "three couches," because the couches occupied three sides of the room with the table in the middle.
This was the arrangement of table and couches in the Cenacle at the Last Supper.
At the feasts of unleavened bread, guests were placed according to rank and dignity, the place of honor being at the head or at the cross-table, where the master of the feast, or architriclinus, reclined. Thus Samuel placed Saul at the head of the table when he invited the thirty men to meet the future king of Israel. 6 The place was generally next the wall, where Saul sat on his chair of state, when he tried to kill his rival David. 7 In the days of the kings they sat, but later they learned from Greeks or Romans to recline at the table. 8 The custom of reclining was introduced in the days of the prophets. 9 where for the first time couches are mentioned in Holy Writ. Scribes and Pharisees, filled with pride, sought the first places at feasts 10 and wanted to be leaders in all public places. 11
King Assuerus with his queen Esther, and his prime minister Aman, reclined on couches at the banquet, and when Aman pleaded for his life, he fell on the queen's couch to entreat her, and the king thought he wished to commit a rape on the queen and ordered him crucified. 12
The couches or divans were placed with their heads next the table and Christ and his Apostles reclined on their left elbows on a little cushion, and took the food with their right hands. The divans were so large that more than one could recline on each. Dear friends reclined on a couch together, often laying the head on his friend's breast.


Thus reclining, confidences were exchanged. 13 John laid his head on Jesus' breast, and the Lord told him in confidence that Judas was about to betray him. 14
The tables formed a U, so the servants could enter between, one side being open. The Lord reclined at the head as Master of the "band" celebrating the Passover. Down the outer sides of the other tables reclined the Apostles—six opposite to and facing the other six. The cross-table at which Christ was, formed the altar on which he offered the Eucharistic sacrifice; called "the table of the Lord," it gave rise to the altar in the church in all Christian rites. This table was at the toe of the horseshoe, and the Apostles at his right and left in the positions, gave rise to that custom in the early Church in which the celebrant faced the people when saying Mass. That may be seen in the position of the main altar of St. Peter's, Rome, standing over the body of the apostle. The six apostles thus at the sides of the shoe facing each other gave rise to the stalls of our churches and the arrangement of the clergy in our chancel or sanctuary.
Washing the hands, because they were dipped into the dishes, became an act of religion among the Pharisees. "He who washes not his hands before eating is guilty of as great a crime as to eat pork." "He who neglects handwashing deserves to be punished here and hereafter." 15 "He is to be destroyed out of the world, for in handwashing is contained the Ten Commandments." "He is guilty of death." "Three things bring poverty, and to slight handwashing is one of them." 16 "He who eats bread without hand washing is as if he went into a harlot." 17 "It is better to go four miles to water than to incur guilt by neglecting handwashing."18 "He who does not wash his hands after eating is as bad as a murderer." 19 "The devil Schulchan sits with unwashed hands and on the bread." 20
Numerous such quotations might be given to show the Importance they placed on washing hands before meals. Christ and his disciples did not follow all these senseless rules, and the Pharisees rebuked them. "Then came to him from Jerusalem Scribes and Pharisees saying. 'Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the ancients? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.' " 21


Before sitting at the table they washed their hands, a custom which survived the centuries. For before beginning Mass, the celebrant washes his hands in the vestry. As the feast progressed, they washed again at different times; the celebrant washes after putting wine and water in the chalice and again at the post communion. As food would soil the hands after the feast, they washed their hands at the end as the celebrant does after Mass.
After washing hands, feet, and finishing other preparations, they took their places at the table, each standing at his place. Every meal began and ended with prayers. The Passover opened with the synagogue prayers we will give later. During prayer all stood, for the Jew stood in Temple and synagogue when praying, the custom of kneeling coming from the example of Christ who in his agony knelt in the grotto. 22 This is the reason Christians pray before and after meals standing at the table, and why the clergy stand at the altar while saying Mass. When they had taken their places at the table, the master or leader began thus:
The leader. "Let us say grace.
The others. "Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forever.
The leader. "With the sanction of those present.
The others. "Blessed be our God, he of whose bounty we are about to partake, and through whose goodness we live.
The others. "Blessed be his name, yea, continually to be blessed forever and forever."
The leader repeats the same prayer and then says different prayers for different feasts.
Before beginning to eat each dish, the master took the dish and offered it to the Lord, as the sacrifices were offered in the Temple. He raised it up as high as his eyes, then "waved" it to the four points of the compass, making with it a cross saying: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who bringeth forth," here he mentioned the kind of food in the dish "from the earth." It was the way Melchisedech offered bread and wine, a Temple ceremony they were careful to observe, especially at the Passover. The celebrant does the same when he offers the bread and wine at Mass.


The Egyptians always shaved, as the mummies of their dead show. When Joseph was released from prison before he could appear before Pharao he shaved. 23 Herodotus says they let the beard grow while mourning, but shaved at all other times. 24 They sometimes wore a false beard. Shaving became a religious rite among them and the Hebrews wore a beard as a protest against Egyptian and heathen superstitions, for pagan priests cut their hair and shaved in peculiar ways in honor of their gods, whence the Lord's command about "the corners of the beard" 25
By the lapse of ages the beard became highly honored among the Hebrews, and at the time of Christ all wore beards, a custom still seen in the Orient. S. Augustine says "The beard is a sign of perfection" 26 "Christ's beard was a sign of his divine power" 27 "it is a sign of manhood" 28 Jews of our day in the old countries wear long beards, like Arabian chiefs, as a sign of age and authority.
Clothed in rich white robes, sometimes of cloth of gold, beautifully embroidered 29 they carried out these feasts with pomp and ceremony, and wealthy families displayed their riches in the decorated rooms, costly clothing, 30 quantity of food and variety of dishes. 31 Candles and vases of flowers were on the table which was loaded with eatables.
From the Greeks and Romans they copied the custom of wearing crowns of flowers, which the prophet condemns. 32 They anointed the head and feet of the most honored guest with costly perfume, as Mary Magdalen did during the feast Simon the leper gave in Christ's honor that Sabbath evening in Bethany. 33


Poems were recited, music entertained, bands of dancing girls exhibited, while speeches, riddles, jests, puns, and all kinds of amusement prevailed. 34 The great prophet speaks of "ornaments of  shoes," "little moons," "chains," "necklaces," "bracelets," "bonnets," "bodkins," "ornaments of the legs," "tablets," "sweet balls," "earrings," "rings," "jewels hanging on the forehead," "changes of apparel," "short cloaks," "fine linen," "crisping pins," "looking-glasses," "headbands," "fine veils," "sweet smell," "girdle," "curled hair," "stomacher," etc., 35 used at these feasts.
Feasts lasted sometimes for a whole week, even two weeks. 36 Weddings of virgins lasted for days and gave rise to wedding celebrations of our time. The engagement was very solemn, took place in the Temple, where the priest blessed the couple, as when Joseph and Mary were espoused. 37
Honey, salt, oil and butter were always used at these feasts. We find no record of spices, these having come later into the western world from India. 38 Wine flowed in abundance. Sugar not being known, honey was used in its place. The mother presided over the cooking, 39 the chief dish being beef. 40 In that hot climate wine was much diluted with water, and it was drank towards the end of the feast. Often it was mixed with aromatics, the fragrance of which filled the banquet chamber. 41 Wines made of palm fruits called sekar, was much used, especially among the poor, but forbidden the priests during their ministry. 42
Towards the end of the banquet, a servant put live coals in a censer, spread incense on them, entered in between the tables, and going from one guest to another, he swung the incense before their faces to honor the beard of each, a sign of his manhood. All stood during this incensing in memory of the Temple incense and prayers offered there to Jehovah of their fathers, for all stood when praying in the Temple. This rite comes down to us in the ceremony of incensing clergy and people during a High Mass.


Modesty and temperance ruled according to the Lord's words: "And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose, that his name may be called upon therein." 43 The word here given as "Lord " in the original Hebrew is Shekina: "the Holy Presence."
They sent from the table food for the poor, following the Lord's directions. "There will not be wanting poor in the land of thy habitation, therefore, I command thee to open thy hand to thy needy and poor brother." 44
Filled with religious feeling, governed by strict rules, these feasts were types or figures of the great Passover feast. Talmudic writers tell us no other food placed on the table was honored as the bread. This bread was not mixed with any other food, nor thrown into a dish, nor given to a dog, for it was like the bread placed before the Lord each Sabbath in the Temple. Baked for the Passover it was received with highest religious feelings. It foretold the bread used at the Mass. Following the Passover custom a cup of wine was poured out for Elias, John the Baptist foretold by the prophets, to come and prepare the way for the Messiah.
Elias, prophetic type of Christ, was supposed to be at every feast; unseen angels surrounded the table, portions were set aside for them, and at the end the fragments were carefully gathered up. After feeding five thousand with five loaves, Christ followed this custom, when he said to his disciples: "Gather up the fragments that remain lest they be lost." 45
The banquet over, carefully they laid aside the carving knife, and dishes, and folded the napkins, laying each at his plate, and all together, following the Passover custom, they recited Psalm Ixvi., "May God have mercy on us, and bless us," etc. The master purified his glass, or chalice of precious metal, with water, fills it with wine, pouring in a little water, takes the unfermented bread in his hands, breaks off a little piece, and hands it to each. Taking the chalice of wine, he drinks from it and hands it to every guest to drink, saying:
The master. "Friends, let us bless Him of whose goodness we have eaten."


The others. "Blessed be He who hath filled us with his gifts and in whose goodness we live."
After all have partaken of it the master drinks what remains in his chalice and says a long prayer which differed for each feast. Then rising from the table, they wash their hands, giving thanks to God who feeds all animals and men, who brought their fathers from Egypt into Palestine and made the covenant with them to be his people. St. Jerome says they asked the Lord to send Elias to prepare the way for the long-looked for Messiah, to restore David's dynasty and receive them all at the heavenly banquet in the skies, etc.
After the feast, what was left was given to the children, servants, and the poor. These leavings were called "crumbs which fell from the table." Thus Adonibezec gloried that "seventy kings with fingers and toes cut off gathered up the leavings of his table." 46 Christ and the Canaanite woman talked about the crumbs which fell from the table and which were given to children and dogs. 47 Lazarus received them from Dives' table, the priests of Bel took them from the idol's table when they came by night into his temple. 48 From these examples we learn that the table at the time of Christ was raised from the floor almost as high as tables in our day.
Hebrews held certain feasts in the Temple, where they gathered in worship before the Lord. "And thou shall eat before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, that his name may be called upon therein, the tithes of thy corn and thy wine, and thy oil, and the first-born of thy herds, and thy sheep, that thou mayest fear the Lord thy God at all times." 49 "Thou shalt take the first of all thy fruits, and put them in a basket, and shall go the place, which the Lord thy God shalt chose, that his name may be invoked there" etc. 50 The Hebrew word translated here as Lord is the Shekina.
The Jews called these "feasts of devotion." They held in the Temple a holy feast in the spring after the first fruits of farming were gathered and the tithes paid the priests.
Families also held feasts in the Temple to which relatives, friends, priests, Levites and the poor were invited.


Following this custom the early Christians held feasts they called the Agapæ, from the Greek "to love," which were known as "love feasts " or "feasts of friendship," in memory of the Lord's Last Supper.51 They held these feasts in the churches, after evening prayers 52 and sermon. They first celebrated Mass, received Communion, and then held the feast. In that apostolic age, before churches were built, following Christ's example, they offered the Eucharistic Sacrifice in private houses, in the evening, fasting the whole day before receiving Communion. But some came drunk, attracted by the feast, and abuses rose among the people of Corinth, to whom St. Paul wrote:
"When you come together, therefore, into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's Supper. For every one taketh before his own supper to eat, and indeed, one is hungry, and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and drink in? Or despise the Church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not.
"For I have received of the Lord, that which I also deliver to you, that the Lord Jesus the night in which he was betrayed, took bread and giving thanks broke and said:
" This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.
" In like manner also the chalice after he had supped saying,"
" This chalice is the new Testament in my blood. This do ye as often as you shall drink it for a commemoration of me.
" For as often as you shall eat this bread, or drink this chalice, you shall show forth the death of the Lord until he come. Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink this chalice unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." 53


Nothing could be clearer than this doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. These "Love Feasts" continued to be held in the churches for centuries. But they became such a source of scandal and disorders, that in A. D. 397 the council of Carthage for, bade them, and they fell into disuse. But the French with their changeless ways, and other European peoples, continue a shadow of them in the "Blessed Bread," they distribute in the church Sundays, and at some of the great feasts.

Amos vi. 4.

Ezechias xxiii. 41.

3 I. King ix. 22.

4 IV. Kings ii. 2.

5 Esther ii. 13.

6 I. Kings ix. 22.

7 I. Kings xx. 25.

8 Prov. xxiii. 1.

9 Amos vi. 4-6; Tobias, ii. 3; Ezech. xxiii. 41.

10 Josephus, Antiq. civ., n. 9.

11 Luke, ii 43

12 Esther, vii. 8.

13 Pliny, Epist. iv, 22.

14 John, xiii. 23-25.

15 Book of Sohar, Gen. F. Ix 2.

16 Mishna, Shabbath, 62,1.

17 Rabbi jose.

18 Talmud, Calla F. Iviii. 3.

19 Talmud, Tanchuma F., Ixxiii. 2.

20 Joma F., Ixxvii. 2, Glos.

21 Matt. xv. 1, 2.

22 Luke xxii. 41.

23 Gen. xli. 14.

24 Herodotus I. 36.

25 Levit. xix. 27, xxi. 5. See Migne, S. Scripturæ, ii. 1157.

26 Enar. in Ps. cxxxii., in xii.

27 Enar. in Ps. xxxiii., Ser. ii. in iv.

28 De Civit. Dei., L. xxii., cap. xxiv. in iv.

29 Eccl, ix. 8; Matt. xxii. 11,12.

30 Gen. xviii. 6; xxvii. 8-9, 43-44; Job xxxvi. 16.

31 Amos vi. 4-5; Esther i. 5-8, 7-9. II. Esdras v. 18-24.

32 Isaias xxviii. 1; Wisdom ii. 7.

33 Luke vii. 38-46; John ix. 11.

34 S. Augustine mentions the abuses of Roman banquets, De Civit. L. iii. cxxi. Wisdom ii. 6, 8; II. Kings xix. 35; Isaias v. 12. 25-6; Judges xiv. 12; II. Esdras viii. 10; Ecclesiastes x. 19; Matt. xxii. 11; Amos vi. 5, 6; Luke xv. 25.

35 Isaias iii. 18-24.

36 Gen. xxix. 27; Judges xiv. 12; Tobias xi. 21.

37 Luke i. 27.

38 Cant. vi. 5, 13.

39 Proverbs ix. 2, 5, etc.

40 Matt. xxii. 4.

41 Esther v. 6. Cant, viii. 2.

42 Levit. x. 9; Numb. vi. 3; Deut. xiv. 26, etc.

43 Deut. xiv. 23.

44 Deut. xv. 11.

45 John vi. 12.

46 Judges i, 7.

47 Matt, xv. 20.

48 Daniel xxiv.

49 Deut. xiv. 23.

50 Deut. xxvi. 2.

51 See Die Arch, et Philos. de Bible, Calmet.

52 Migne, Cursus Com. S. Scripturæ, iii. 800.

53 I. Cor. xi. 20 to 29.