GOYA Y LUCIENTES, Francisco de
The Last Communion of St Joseph of Calasanz
General Motives to raise Esteem and Devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The most sublime action that the Church militant can offer to God, is that of the Holy Mass, because the victim offered to his Divine Majesty is of an infinite dignity: Christ therein receiving a new birth from the mouth of the Priest when he pronounces the sacramental words of Consecration, and dies again a mystical death. The Holy Ghost is the sacred fire which, by the victim then offered, sanctifies the Church, and all that assist at the Sacrifice as they ought.
Nothing ought to rejoice us so much as the advantage we have to assist daily at Holy Mass, in which we may enrich ourselves with the merits of Christ; nor can we do any action during our lives comparable to that of every day offering to the eternal Father, by the hands of the Priest, the Sacrifice of the body and blood of his only Son.
All things are infinite in the Sacrifice of Holy Mass: the victim that is offered is infinite; the God to whom it is offered is infinite; Jesus Christ being the principal Priest and Sacificer; Sacrificing himself in person, to his eternal Father, by the hands of the Priest. It is he who by his minister pronounces the Sacramental words which operate this great mystery: Therefore one Mass, tho' celebrated by a wicked Priest, renders more glory to God than all the homages which Men and Angels can pay him.
God ordained the Holy Mass, in which the history of his passion and death is mysteriously acted as a real but unbloody representation of that bloody Sacrifice of his death, which was the greatest benefit God could give to man, or man receive from God, it being the highest expression his omnipotent love could make; which deserves not only all our love, but all we have or can have: and that this might make a deeper impression our hearts and minds, he appointed this Divine Representation; to which we are invited as spectators, and ought to come to it well furnished with love and compassion.
Holy Mass being the same Sacrifice that was offered upon Mount Calvary for our redemption, we ought to assist thereat with gratitude and love, with a reverential fear, and with an extreme devotion and attention, it containing the mysteries of our Saviour's death and passion which we know was the greatest and most solemn action that ever was performed, when in the midst of the world and view of the people, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, suffered death, dying on a cross by the hands and for the Redemption of his creatures; a spectacle so full of dreadful Majesty. whether we consider the person, the end, or the manner, that it astonished the Angels, and was a spectacle worthy of God.
This holy Sacrifice being the representation of our Saviour's bitter death and passion, we are, as it were, indispensably obliged to apply ourselves to it. especially after the command that Christ gave, saying Do this in memory of me: it is then his will that we should renew those dolorous mysteries, as it was for that end he instituted the sacrifice f the Holy Mass.
This being, it seems, that though we may entertain our selves with other pious thoughts during the time of of Mass,yet none but those of the Passion appear entirely conformable to the intention of Jesus Christ:And how can we, at Mass, behold Christ immolated, as truly as he was upon Mount Calvary , and his Precious Blood crying to us from the Altar, that he dies and is again sacrificed, and entertain any thought but of his infinite love which deprives him of his life?
To reap the full profit of this Divine Sacrifice, we must not only have an intention to hear Mass, but a formal application to what Christ does who is out Head, and offers us his members in sacrifice. We do not hear Mass as we ought when we omit to unite ourselves with him. We should join with him by uniting our intentions with his, and by our application to what he therein does; the Sacrifice of Holy Mass being the mystery of our reconciliation and sanctification. Many souls that are now in hell might not have been there, if they had but once heard Mass as they ought to have done: for by means thereof they might have received such efficacious graces for their entire conversion, and such strength for to have withstood and overcome temptations, that they would never have cone to that misfortune.
When we hear Mass,we should always reflect that Christ acts as Priest, and that the Priest is but his Minister.
2ndly,That he is also the victim that is offered, as well as the Priest that offers it.
3rdly, That it is for us he offers it; so that we cannot do better in time of Mass than to keep ourselves united to him who is pleased to perform all our duties for us.
We must observe another thing when we hear Mass, which is to communicate spiritual when we are not allowed to do it sacramentally. And this practice is of so great value that it supplies for Sacramental Communion, and is as acceptable in the sight of God (who sees our heart and the desire we have to receive him) when,for just reasons, we cannot sacramentally do it: and these frequent Spiritual Communions will be a good preparation for Sacramental Communion.
The greater purity of soul we bring to Holy Mass, the more capable we are of sharing in the fruits of this adorable Sacrifice; therefore we must first humble ourselves in the presence of God, and then, making an act of contrition, beg pardon for our sins. The following prayer may serve for that effect.
O my God, prostrate before your Divine Majesty, I acknowledge myself the most ungrateful and most unworthy of your creatures. I accuse myself before you and your Angels, of all the sins of my life past; of all my negligences in your service ; of my neglects in complying with you blessed will and holy inspirations; of my sloth and tepidity in your service; and in the exercise of your Divine Love: in reparation of which, I offer you all the merits of Christ, who will soon render himself present for me upon the Altar. Receive, Lord, is death and passion in satisfaction, and for the remission of my sins; his indefatigable labors to repair my negligences; his prompt obedience in complying with all your wills to satisfy for my sloth therein. Look not on my unworthiness, but upon your Son, who, by an excess if goodness, gives himself to me to satisfy for all my debts. Respice in Faciem Christi tui.
Lady Lucy Herbert of Powis (1668-1744), later Prioress of the English Austin Canonesses at Bruges