Friday, 13 February 2015

How Christ said the first Mass, Or The Lord's Supper. By Rev. James L. Meagher, D.D. Part 26


At one spot a fragment of the ancient wall of Sion on the north was built close against the cliff, and though only rising to the top of the rock behind it, it was yet thirty-nine feet high towards the ravine in front." 1 This was at the north side of Sion towards the present city. There the land was more level, where today the long David Street gently rises from the modern city up to Sion. 2
In the imagery of the Old Testament Sion was a prototype of the Church with its Eucharistic Sacrifice, while Jerusalem was emblematic of heaven, and these meanings will be found in hundreds of texts. 3
When the victorious Hebrews under Josue were sweeping over Palestine, Gibeonites, "Dwellers on a hill," possessed four cities a little north of Jerusalem—one of them being "The city on the hill which cannot be hid," 4 which you can still see about five miles north of Jerusalem. They deceived Josue 5 and were condemned to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water." Their descendants lived in Ophel and boarded the Jewish priests while serving in the Temple. The Hebrews could not take Jerusalem because of its strong fortifications. The Hinnom vale then divided the tribes of Juda and Benjamin, and later the division line was run through the center of the Temple.
For 824 years Jebusite sons of Canaan held Jerusalem till David "The Beloved" was firmly fixed on his throne in Hebron. The city was on the high spur of the central mountain range running through the center of the Hebrew kingdom, and was a place of extraordinary strength. After reigning seven years in Hebron all the chiefs of the twelve tribes swore fealty to David, firmly fixing his dynasty.
Leaving Hebron, twenty miles to the south, over these Judean hills David marched his troops, invested Jerusalem, and promised to make general over his armies the first who would scale the walls. In spite of the blind and crippled defenders placed on the walls in mockery of David's soldiers, Joab, "Jehovah is Father," son of Zeruiah, "Balm," David's nephew, scaled the ramparts. 6 "And David took the castle of Sion the same is the city of David" 7


"When David had cast the Jebusites out of the citadel, he rebuilt Jerusalem, named it the City of David, and abode there all the time of his reign . . . Now when he had chosen Jerusalem to be his royal city, his affairs more and more prospered by the providence of God, who took care that they should improve and be augmented. Hiram, "The noble born," the King of the Tyrians, sent ambassadors to him, and made a league of friendship and assistance with him. He also sent him presents, cedar-trees and mechanics, and men skilled in building and architecture, that they might build him a royal palace at Jerusalem. Now David made buildings round about the lower city. He also joined the lower city to it, and made it in one body. And when he had encompassed all with walls, he appointed Joab to take care of them. It was David therefore who first cast the Jebusites out of Jerusalem and called it by its one name, the City of David, for under our forefather Abraham it was called Solyma or "Salem." 8
David's palace was celebrated. It was built on the very site of Melchisedech's palace. There David prepared a place for the ark; there the great Mosaic ceremonies were carried out, till Solomon built his famous Temple on Moriah, another hill a little to the north of east. From that time Sion became a sacred place in Hebrew story, there they celebrated solemn feasts in David's day, and called Sion "The Holy Mountain."
On the walls of the palace, David's notices of administration, laws, etc., were posted. The fortress was called Mello, "Multitude," and handsome houses and palaces rose round the summit of the City of David, Sion and Melchisedech.
Down deep in the soft limestone rock, where Melchisedech was buried, David excavated passages, rooms and tombs. There he hid vast treasures for the building of the Temple which God told him his son Solomon would erect—the gold and silver amounting to $19,349,260, with bronze and brass and other treasures of far more priceless value. His tomb interests us for reasons given later.
"He was buried by his son Solomon in Jerusalem, with great magnificence, and with all other funeral pomp which kings used to be buried with. Moreover he had great and immense wealth buried with him, the vastness of which may be easily conjectured by what I shall now say.


For a thousand and three hundred years afterwards, Hyrcanus the high priest, when he was besieged by Antiochus, that was called the Pious, opened one room of David's sepulchre, and took out three thousand talents, and gave part of that sum to Antiochus, and by this means caused the siege to be raised, as we have informed the reader elsewhere. After him, and that after many years, Herod, the king, opened another room, and took away a great deal of money, and yet neither of them came at the coffins of the kings themselves, for their bodies were buried under the earth so artfully, that they did not appear even to those who entered into their monuments." 9
Solomon, "The Peaceful," stretched a stone bridge across the deep Tyropoeon vale separating Sion from Moriah, under which ran what was called in Christ's time the Cheesemongers' Street. Herod, with his mania for building, enlarged that bridge so that it was fifty-one feet wide and 350 long, its entrance being at the southwest of the Temple area. It was across that bridge that Christ and his apostles went when carrying the lamb for the Passover or Last Supper. Part of the eastern abutment is now called Robinson's Arch.
Solomon enlarged and fortified the old fort built by Melchisedech and David. There abode the ark of the covenant from the time David placed it in his palace, till Solomon had finished his famous Temple on Moriah. 10 Now on the site of Melchisedech's and of David's palace rose Solomon's great palace, which took thirteen years to build. 11 It was celebrated for its magnificence and extent. Courtrooms, prisons, halls—all were of fine Judean marble and cedar of Lebanon. It was burned and totally destroyed by the Babylonians, when they captured Jerusalem. 12
In the deep soft, yellowish-white Judean rock, beneath that palace, beside David's tomb, other vault rooms and galleries were dug, and there Solomon and all the kings of Judea were buried with the prophetess Huldah "the cat." 13


 When Jerusalem was rebuilt, after the Babylonian Captivity, Sion was again fortified as the city's citadel. The Machabees enlarged the Sion fortress and there they lived as warrior high priests. They fortified the Baris rock to the northwest of the Temple area which Herod rebuilt and called the Antonia. There Pilate lived, and there Christ was tried and sentenced to death.
Herod, the Edumean, born of Judah's tribe, last of Hebrew kings foretold to reign till the Messiah came, 14 hearing of David's vast treasures hidden in his tomb, before beginning to build his famous Temple twenty years before Christ was born, sought for the treasures David had hid under his palace.
"As for Herod, he had spent vast sums about the cities, both within and without his own kingdom. And as he had heard that Hyrcanus, who had been king before him, had opened David's sepulchre, and taken out of it three thousand talents of silver, and that there was a much greater number left behind, and indeed enough to suffice for all his wants, and he had a great while an intention to make the attempt. And at this time he opened that sepulchre by night and went into it, and endeavored that it should not be known in the city, but took only his faithful friends with him. As for any money, he found none, as Hyrcanus had done, but that furniture of gold, and those precious goods that were left there, all these he took away. However he had a great desire to make a more diligent search, and to go farther in, even as far as the bodies of David and Solomon, when two of his guards were slain by a flame that burst out upon those that went in, as the report goes. So he was terribly frightened and went out and built a propitiatory monument of that fright he had been in, and this of white stone at the mouth of the sepulchre, and that also at great expense." 15


Thus over the tombs of the great kings rose the pile of buildings called the Cenacle, 16 "Banquet Hall," by the Romans, for there public banquets were held. The Greeks named it the Huperoon, "high," or Anageon, "Beautiful," and the Jews Aliyah, "chamber," because it was the highest, largest, finest and holiest room, except the Temple, of all places in the sacred city at the time of Christ. It was beautifully furnished with carpets, rugs, tapestries— its walls were decorated, its furniture most costly as became that building, over the tombs of the sleeping kings resting in the rock rooms beneath. There synagogue services were held, and it was the largest and fine-est of the 480 synagogues in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.
We mentioned the dead sleeping beneath Sion. Kings' and prophets' relics rested there the night Christ celebrated over them the first Mass, and said "Do this for a commemoration of me." 17 Every incident of that night— the room, the surroundings, the services impressed themselves on the apostles' minds.
When they went forth to establish the Church, among the nations, they said Mass over the remains of saints and martyrs. Persecuted in Rome they offered the sacrifice in the catacombs. They later placed the relics in altar stones, and thus down the ages, that custom has obtained till our day in all the Rites and Liturgies of Christendom.
The clergy of the Latin Rite use a stone on which to rest Chalice and Host, and in this stone, as in a little tomb, the relics of the saints are placed and sealed up, as were relics of prophet and kings under the Cenacle. The Oriental Christians, who use only silk for altar cloths, place the relics of saints in the double silk folds forming the altar covering, on which the Eucharistic Elements rest.
All Oriental Christians follow the same custom. We trace it back to apostolic times, beyond Roman persecutions, and earlier than the catacombs. Some writers say it came from the catacombs, but going deeper they will find it comes from the Last Supper.
When the apostles went forth to found churches in many lands they found customs of entombing the honored dead in pyramids, "flamed-shaped," in tombs, "mounds," but the Greeks called their burial-place the necropolis "city of the dead" The Christians followed the lessons of Sion and the Last Supper. In vaults beneath churches the early Christians buried their dead. The custom was followed till modern times in Europe where historic personages still sleep in churches. In this country they entomb the bishops under the cathedrals. These customs are traced to Sion and the Cenacle.
Sion is a hill higher than that of Moriah to the northeast, where rose the "Gold House" of the great Temple, flashing the sunlight over the city. Sion is 2,700 feet over the sea and 4,000 over the Dead Sea. The Temple with its priesthood and sacrifices was to pass away. The Church with its priesthood and Eucharistic Sacrifice was to be eternal. Therefore, down the Old Testament 177 times the prophets, in burning words pour forth the glories of Sion, image of the Church, while condemning Moriah with its wicked Jewish priesthood.
In the time of Christ, round the Cenacle rose the homes of richest Jews, wealthy Pharisees, learned Scribes, Judges of the Sanhedrin. Joseph Caiphas and his father-in-law Annas there had palaces worthy of princes. Sion was the aristocratic residence quarter of Jerusalem. Therefore when we select the richest and most wealthy quarters of our cities as sites for our cathedrals and churches, we follow, perhaps without thinking, the example of Christ when he celebrated the first Mass on Sion.
The Cenacle belonged to David's family. The Lord's Mother was the Princess of the royal family and David's heir. Therefore Christ, Prince of the House of David, had a right to the building. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were leaders of the synagogue congregation worshiping in the Cenacle. There gathered the apostles, disciples and Christ's followers for the synagogue services on that historic Thursday night, and on that Sabbath eve while the Lord's body lay in the tomb. There they remained during these forty hours till he rose from the dead. From that spot 500 persons followed him down the Tyropoeon vale, across the Cedron, up the slopes of Olivet, the day of the ascension. Ascending the Mount of Olives, the Arabs now call Gebel et Tur, the Lord before he ascended told James to take care of the disciples at Jerusalem.


Day by day they there assembled for the synagogue services, preparing for the feast of Pentecost, waiting for the promised Paraclete. They were in the Cenacle that day, when at nine in the morning the Holy Ghost, the fiery cloud of the Shekina of the burning bush, Sinai, tabernacle. Temple and Thabor filled the room of the Last Supper and rained down tongues of fire, giving each apostle a knowledge of the language of the nation to which he was to preach.
"On Wednesday," says an ancient writer. 18 "St. James first said Mass according to his Liturgy, which he said he received from the Lord, changing not a word." The apostles used the Cenacle as a church while they remained in Jerusalem. While the Roman army under Titus was marching down from the north to invest the holy city in the year A. D. 70, Simeon, who had been elected bishop after James was thrown down from the roof of the Temple, and killed with a fuller's stone, preached on the Lord's words foretelling the terrible siege, the destruction of the city, and warned them to flee. In a ravine to the east of the Sea of Galilee, nestled then the little city of Pella, and there they found a home while the war lasted, after which they returned to find Jerusalem a heap of ruins.
Round the Antonia tower and the Temple had raged the fierce fighting, Josephus so graphically describes. 19 The Romans knew nothing about the little band of Christians worshiping in the Cenacle, and the building was little damaged. After the war St. James's Liturgy of the Mass was again followed. The Cenacle was called "The Church of the Apostles" or the "Church of Sion." Pilgrims in the early ages mentioned it.
Again the Jews rebelled and Hadrian leveled the city and walls, drew the plow over it, and forbade a Jew under pain of death to enter, except once a year to celebrate the Passover. The holy building of the Last Supper had survived the calamities of the two wars. Syrian clergymen now called the Maronites then served the people. Eusebius, the famed historian, gives a list of fifteen bishops of Hebrew birth, and twenty-four of Gentile parentage who governed the See of Jerusalem.
A century and a half passed, and Silvester sat on the high Apostolic See Peter had established at Rome, of whose bishops Eusebius mentions twenty-nine names, beginning with Peter and bringing them down to the Council of Nicea in 325. The empress Helena, mother of Constantine, after her son's conversion came to Jerusalem.

1 Recent researches in Jerusalem.

2 See Migne, Cursus Comp. S. Scripturæ, iii. 1474, etc.

3 S. Augustine, Enar. in. Ps. xcviii. n. iv. Epist. clxxxvi. n. viii.

4 Matt. v. 14.

5 Josue ix.

6 Josephus, Antiq. B. VII., c. iii, A. I.

7 II. Kings, v. 7.

8 Josephus, Antiq. B. VII, c. iii, n. 2.

9 Josephus, Antiq. B. VII, c. xv., n. 3. See Migne, Cursus Comp. S. Scripturæ, 11, 783, etc.

10 II Kings vi; III. Kings viii. 11 III. Kings vii.

12 IV. Kings xxv

Note.— The reader will find the different opinions regarding this vast sum David had accumulated in Migne, Cursus Completus, Sacræ Scripturæ, Vol. II, pp. 637 to 650.

13 Talmud Babyl., Ebel, 60.

14 Gen. xlix. 10.

15 Josephus, Antiq., B. XVI. c. vii. n. I.

16 See Migne, Cursus S. Scripturæ iii., 909

17 Luke xxii. 19.

18 Dion. Barsilibus, Hist. S. James' Liturgy.

19 Jewish Wars.