Blessing of Sacramentals in Fresno

On Saturday, October 1st, after a 7 AM Holy Mass, Father José Zepeda, Chaplain for Holy Cross Chaplaincy in Fresno California, held the bimonthly Blessing of Items. The faithful have been coming from all over the Central Valley, some farther than 2 hours, to have their items blessed. Father also enrolls the faithful in the brown scapular and the miraculous medal. Father has been promoting the use of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on this Saturday he held a class to explain the Office and how to use it to enrich our spiritual lives.







October 4, 2022

US Marine to Hike the Camino de Santiago for FSSP Missions

This October 2022,  Michigan native Philip Webb will begin the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from the Via de la Plata in western Spain. The pilgrimage dates to the ninth century and is dedicated to the veneration of St. James the Apostle’s tomb.

Philip is dedicating his trek to the rural children who are assisted by the missions of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) especially in Anolaima, Colombia, and Umuaka, Nigeria.

“My family loves attending the traditional Latin Mass in Jerez, Spain — especially my daughter, who has expressed a desire to help poor children since she was four. I value the focus on agriculture that the FSSP provides to rural families outside of Bogota. My upbringing in a rural school integrated agriculture into education. So, I understand agricultural knowledge’s value to poor communities. As a Marine deployed in Central America during the Panama invasion and subsequent counter-narcotics missions in the early 1990s, I recognized the need for moral development in children to combat narco-culture. I’ve found the Our Lady of Fatima FSSP mission in Colombia a worthy cause to support.”

With God’s help, he aims to complete the walk on November 10th, the U.S. Marine Corps’ 247th birthday. The forty-day pilgrimage will begin in Seville, Spain, at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the See and end in Galicia, Spain, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He will travel 621 miles carrying only the bare necessities in his old military backpack, and he will stay in Albergues (pilgrim hostels) along the way.

We are grateful to Philip for remembering our missions and ask God to reward his work of mercy.

To learn more about Phil’s pilgrimage, send prayers, and follow his progress, visit PhilsCaminoCharity.

Like and follow his Facebook page, Phil’s Camino, as he posts daily updates on his journey.

October 1, 2022

CardFunder and Mission Tradition Change The Future Of Fundraising

Innovative giving platform CardFunder has partnered with Mission Tradition to help provide funds to the FSSP missions for critical needs in healthcare, infrastructure, agriculture, and education.

“We are proud to partner with Mission Tradition in their efforts to achieve with the gift of hope for those in need around the world,” said founder and CEO Russ Howard.

CardFunder is a free tool that allows donors to contribute potentially billions of unwanted gift card credits from their cell phones to fundraisers. Almost half of US adults have at least one unused gift card hidden in a drawer or wallet
(averaging $175 per person).

Said Fr. Anthony Dorsa, the Director of Mission Tradition:

“In this current difficult economic climate, it is so important to be flexible and search for new and intuitive ways to support the charitable works that we engage in. CardFunder is an incredible opportunity to stay relevant and continue to fund our missionary work. As the Director of Mission Tradition, I receive so many letters and notes from our supporters regretting that they cannot do more or that they currently cannot afford to give anything more than their encouragement. CardFunder can be a game changer for these people. It is a possibility to give new support to others in need and to give in a way that will not hurt the bottom line of many who may feel they are not able to budget for charitable giving at the moment.”

You can learn more about this exciting partnership at the Mission Tradition website.

September 28, 2022

Near the Apostles: the Feasts of the First Popes

Historically it is very clear–contrary to the opinion of some implacable skeptics–that St. Peter governed the Church of Rome and was martyred there, after having appointed men to succeed him in that role.

It’s well worth thinking about those men whom Peter chose to succeed him in that very first century of Christianity, as these men set the standard for that post-Apostolic Petrine office that would endure to the present day. We don’t know very much about them, but it’s important for us to know that their authority derives from that of Peter and the other Apostles.

Fortunately, the liturgy is there to help us in that regard.

As it happens, early Papal feasts form something of a repeating pattern toward the end of the Fall months: St. Linus (Sept. 23), St. Evaristus (Oct. 26), and finally St. Clement (Nov. 23). One other first-century Pope, St. Cletus, is honored on April 26th–in Spring, but still around the same time of the month.

These dates come down to us from antiquity: they first appear in the Liber Pontificalis, a chronicle of the Popes that was likely written in the 5th or 6th century but was compiled from older documents. Because not all of those older  documents are extant any longer, it is debatable to what degree the dates preserved in the Liber Pontificalis go all the way back to the 1st century and reflect historical dates of martyrdom. They are, however, certainly ancient.

While the liturgical connections between the early Popes and Peter are obvious–most notably in the Mass Si diligis me–their feast days also echo a larger pattern seen in the other Apostles, which tend to cluster likewise in the 20s of each month. The Pontiffs’ feasts are very close to St. Matthew (Sept. 21), Ss. Simon and Jude (Oct. 28), St. Andrew (Nov. 30), and St. Mark (Apr. 25).

Thus, for 1500 years, the calendar has made a subtle connection between the early Popes and the whole Apostolic College.

An old drawing of the burials at St. Peter’s Basilica, predating the archaeological excavation. St. Linus’s grave is depicted at left.

Proximity to Peter and the Apostles is a very old theme. The Liber Pontificalis states that Popes Linus, Cletus, and Evaristus were buried “near the body of the Blessed Peter”. St. Clement is a notable exception here, as he was martyred along the Black Sea.

And indeed, when the necropolis under the Vatican Basilica’s high altar was excavated in the mid-20th century, archaeologists found numerous early graves clustered around the central grave of St. Peter.  These unmarked ancillary graves appear to be of poor Christians, and are likely of the second century rather than the first. Nonetheless, these burials, and the burials of subsequent Popes down the ages all the way up to John Paul II, show how proximity to an Apostle remained an important principle.

The pious Catholic is intrigued to find corroborating evidence from history or archaeology.

Yet it’s perhaps even more comforting to know that even if we did not have documents and ancient ruins to point the way, the sacred deposit of the faith preserved in the liturgy already helps us see the continuation between the Apostles and the men they appointed.

Ss. Linus, Cletus, Clement, and Evaristus, pray for us!

September 20, 2022

Preparing for Mass According to the Four Ends of Prayer

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

Touching on the participation of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei, wrote

Now it is clear that the faithful offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar, in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, represents Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body.  Hence the whole Church can rightly be said to offer up the victim through Christ.  But the conclusion that the people offer the sacrifice with the priest himself is not based on the fact that, being members of the Church  no less than the priest himself, they perform a visible liturgical rite; for this is the privilege only of the minister who has been divinely appointed to this office: rather it is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving with the prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest himself, so that in the one and same offering of the victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father.  It is obviously necessary that the external sacrificial rite should, of its very nature, signify the internal worship of the heart.  Now the sacrifice of the New Law signifies that supreme worship by which the principal Offerer himself, who is Christ, and, in union with Him and through Him, all the members of the Mystical Body pay God the honor and reverence that are due to Him. (§ 93)

Michael Pitcairn’s Pope Pius XII

In the passage just quoted, Pius XII explains that to pray the Mass well, the faithful should have the same intentions and dispositions as Christ Himself, namely, “praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving.”  These indicate what are commonly called the four ends of prayer: adoration (“praise”), thanksgiving, contrition (“expiation”), and petition (“impetration”).  The acronym of ACTS is used as a way to remember these ends (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication [petition]).  While this is helpful, it should be noted that the four ends are not listed in this acronym according to their order of importance.

The first reason one should go to prayer is to give God the honor which is due to Him as the Supreme and Perfect Being for everything outside of God was created for this end.  The giving of this honor belongs to adoration.  Next, one should express thanksgiving for all things which God has granted.  God has created and maintains in existence, from moment to moment, each individual and all of the goods which each possesses.  This gives rise to a seemingly infinite debt which each creature owes to God – a debt which is repaid by acts of thanksgiving.  Sin is an offense against God, which the sinner appeases by acts of penance (expiation) which flow from internal sorrow (contrition).  In the last place, one can petition God for necessities and desires, both spiritual and material.  When one goes to prayer, this hierarchy of the ends of prayer should be kept in mind and the time given to each should be proportional to where that type of prayer falls in the hierarchy.  It would be improper, therefore, for one to spend the majority of one’s time asking God for things (petition) while only spending a small amount of time, if any, adoring God for His perfections.

As the Mass is a prayer – indeed the greatest of prayers – these four ends can be applied to the Mass as well, as Pius XII indicated.  It is recommended, then, that before the start of Mass, one prepare by going over the four ends of prayer and indicating the various reasons one is praying and participating in this particular Mass.

Pope Pius XII continues and adds:

In order that the oblation by which the faithful offer the divine Victim in this sacrifice to the heavenly Father may have its full effect, it is necessary that the people add something else, namely, the offering of themselves as a victim. (§98)

One way to accomplish this is by “placing oneself” on the paten and in the chalice at the Offertory, and offer oneself up with the oblations of the Mass.  This can be anticipated at the start of Mass as one is preparing and/or at the Offertory itself.

Lastly, as was stated in a previous article, while at worship, man represents creation before God.  It would be proper to form an intention for this purpose also.

To aid the readers in putting into practice the suggestions here raised, the following are provided as a structure and guide:

Heavenly Father, I desire to offer up to you this [day/morning/afternoon/etc.], in an unbloody manner, the sacrifice of Your Son on the Cross through the hands of the Priest, in union with the entire Church, especially with Christ her head.

I desire to offer up this Sacrifice of Praise in acknowledgement of Your excellence for You are worthy of all honor, glory and worship together with the Son and the Holy Spirit…[here list other reasons why God is deserving of adoration]…

I also desire to offer it up in thanksgiving for the many benefits You have bestowed upon me: for creating me and sustaining me in being; for bringing me to Your Church and preserving me in a state of grace, so far as I can tell, even to this moment; for bringing me to this [church/chapel] today; [here list other things for which you are thankful]…, and for all other blessings, gifts, and benefits, both known and unknown.

I also desire to offer it up in reparation for my many sins, especially those against [here list sins for which you have a particular sorrow]…

Lastly, I desire to offer it up in petition for my many needs and wants, wishes and desires; for my family, friends, and benefactors; for those who have asked for my prayers and for those for whom I ought to pray; especially [names]; and for myself that I may grow in holiness…[here list other intentions including those for yourself]…

And, Heavenly Father, as this bread is offered up, so too may my body be offered up and consumed in sacrifice before You.  And as this wine is offered up, so too may my blood be offered up and consumed in sacrifice before You.  Therefore, may my entire being – my body, blood, soul, and especially my will – be offered up and consumed in sacrifice before You; may this serve for an increase of the Virtues and the Gifts, especially that of Charity, so that I may be made like unto Your Son, holy and pleasing in Your sight.

And lastly, may I represent before You, in so far as I am able in this act of worship, all of creation.

Amen.

William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

 

September 13, 2022

Variations in the Saints of the Communicantes

The Communicantes of the Bobbio Missal. The extra names have been highlighted at the bottom of the page.

While it is certainly true that the immemorial Roman Canon has remained substantially unchanged for millennia, one small portion of it has been more tolerant of variation than others: the Communicantes.

The Communicantes, as Father Lasance describes it in his Missal,

“…is the beginning of the Action or most solemn part of the Sacrifice. In the following prayer the memory of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints is venerated and their help implored.”

The list of saints in the Communicantes, as we now have it in our modern Roman Missals, proceeds hierarchically through the Apostles and a number of Popes and bishops, finally concluding with martyrs, almost all of whom are Roman and date from the mid-300s or before. The last ones named are Cosmas and Damian.

However, in a number of older rites and liturgical manuscripts, particularly those from France and Milan, additional local and later saints appeared in this list as well.

In the Bobbio Missal, for example, which is thought to represent a Celtic or Gallican Rite of the 600s, we find listed after Cosmas and Damian: Ss. Hilary, Martin, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, and Benedict.

In the Gelasian Sacramentary of the mid-700s are added Ss. Dionysius, Rusticus, Eleutherius, Hilary, Martin, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, and Benedict–most of these extra names were partially erased in some manuscripts but remain still visible; other derivative copies have variations of this list.

Saints in the Communicantes of the Ambrosian Rite (1909, English translation)

The Milanese variation of the Roman Canon, seen in the Ambrosian Rite, has its own rather lengthy list of extra saints that formerly also included a number of Milanese confessors. St. Charles Borromeo removed these confessors as part of his reform of the Ambrosian Rite in the late 1500s, but even so that liturgy still retains a unique list, as seen at left.

Other local peculiarities have appeared in the Communicantes over the years, and these continued up to Pius V’s standardization of the Missal in the 16th century; most of them were subsequently discarded. Today, although there are five seasonal variations of the prayer preserved in special Communicantes for the Nativity, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, the list of saints has remained fixed across the seasons and generally throughout the Roman rite as well.

However, in his 1889 study of liturgical history before Charlemagne, Louis Duchesne notes that French churches in his day were long accustomed to say the names of St. Hilary and St. Martin at the end of the Communicantes, continuing a long tradition that goes back to the very earliest liturgical sources that have come down to us.

August 31, 2022

Use, Representation, and Being – The Rational Elevation of Material Creation in Man’s Worship

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

Guercino’s Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (Joh 4:4–26)

Man is called to worship the True God “in spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:23).  This, however, should not be construed to limit man’s worship to simply an internal activity taking place in one’s intellect and will, his spiritual powers.  As man is a creature composed of body and soul, it is natural and fitting that man’s internal sentiments be expressed externally during his acts of worship, which externals also then serve to stir up further the internal sentiments.  These external manifestations of one’s internal sentiments most naturally include actions and position of the body.  Furthermore, to make this external worship even more fitting, man makes use of other material creatures.  By so doing, these other material creatures are elevated from their natural condition and become participants in man’s rational worship of their common Creator.  However, there are other ways in which man brings the rest of material creation with him into worship.

Francisco de Goya’s Saint Gregory the Great

It is clearly expressed in the Holy Scriptures that God has given man dominion over the rest of material creation (e.g., Gen 1:26, 28).  A dominion which, while weakened, was not lost with the Fall (e.g., Gen 9:2; Ps. 8:5-9 [Vulgate numbering]).  Those that have dominion are, due to that very fact, empowered to represent those who are under their care.  The head of the house can represent the entire household.  The king can represent all those in his kingdom.  Man, then, can represent all of material creation before God when worship is being officially conducted.

Additionally, man is able to represent all of creation before God because in man all of the various aspects of creation are unified.  At the conclusion to the Gospel of Mark, Our Lord commands the Apostles to “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mar 16:15).  In his 29th Sermon on the Gospel, St. Gregory the Great explains this passage as follows:

When then, He had rebuked the hardness of their [the Apostles’] heart, what command did He give them?  Let us hear.  “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”  Was the Holy Gospel, then my brethren, to be preached to things insensate, or to brute beasts, that the Lord said to His disciples: “Preach the Gospel to every creature”?  Nay, but by the words “every creature” we must understand man, in whom are combined the qualities of all creatures.  Being [existence/esse] he hath in common with stones, life in common with trees, feeling in common with beasts, understanding in common with angels.  If, then, man hath something in common with every creature, man is to a certain extent every creature.  The Gospel, then, if it be preached to man only, is preached to every creature.1

If the Gospel, in being preached only to man, is preached to every creature, then when man worships, every creature worships, in a certain way, also.

St. Thomas Aquinas with Aristotle and Plato from Benozzo Gozzoli’s Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas

The final mode in which man incorporates the rest of creation in his worship is a bit intricate.  I ask your indulgence, dear reader, as we progress.  According to Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy (the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas building on that of Aristotle), the substantial form of the thing makes a thing to be the type of thing it is.  A tree, then, is a tree because it possesses the substantial form of tree, a dog is a dog because it possesses the substantial form of dog, and so on.  It is also the conviction of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy that in his process of knowing, man replicates in his mind, through an involved process, the substantial form of what he knows.  So, in knowing trees and dogs, the substantial forms of trees and dogs are obtained by the knowing human mind.  But if the possession of substantial form makes something to be this or that type of thing, and if man possesses the substantial forms of other things in his mind (importantly, in a way different from that by which the other things possess their proper substantial forms), then man, while still remaining a human being, in a way, becomes also all those other things which he knows.  It is the position of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy that man becomes, in a certain way, what it is he knows.2  This is expressed by Aristotle when he wrote in his De Anima that “in the soul is there something by which it becomes all things.”3  Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., arguably the greatest Thomist of the twentieth century, following the long and prestigious line of those following St. Thomas Aquinas, encapsulates this position as: “the knower becomes the other inasmuch as it is other.”4

As man becomes, in a certain way and while still remaining substantially human, what he knows, then when man comes to worship, he not only elevates material creation by its use and represents all of creation before God, man worships God as what he knows.  Man not only represents, for example, trees during his worship, he actually worships, if he knows them, as tree.  In short, man worships as those other aspects of creation which he knows by a change in his own being through his act of knowing.

Mosaic of the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace

An application of this final mode of representing creation before God can be found in praying the hymn Benedicite, which the three youths sang in the fiery furnace in Babylon (Dan 3:57-88, 56).  Throughout the course of this hymn, the one at prayer invites many aspects of creation to join him in blessing the Lord.  But by doing so, he himself becomes, in a certain way, that portion of creation he is addressing and worships God on their behalf.5

With the greater appreciation which the knowledge of this article brings to the Faithful of the role they have in worship with respect to the rest of creation, it would be proper, as each is preparing for Mass, to form an intention to represent all of creation before God.

William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

  1. Translation based on that from The Divinum Officium Project; Ninth Reading of the Feast of the Ascension.
  2. See S.T. I, q. 14, a. 2; S.T. I, q. 87, a. 1, ad 3; Summa Contra Gentiles, II, 74; Commentary on the De Anima III, lect. 7, n. 787-790; McInerny, D. Q. Epistemology. (Elmhurst: The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, 2007), especially pp. 72-73 (The Epistemological Marriage).
  3. Aristotle, De Anima, III, 4, 430a10-17 as quoted by St. Thomas (S.T. I, q. 79, a. 3, s.c.).
  4. Garrigou-Lagrange, Réginald. Philosophizing in Faith: Essays on the Beginning and End of Wisdom. Trans. Minerd, Matthew K. (Providence: Cluny Media Publications, 2019), 63. See also Garrigou-Lagrange’s articles The Threefold Foundation of Thomistic Realism (Le réalisme thomiste: Son triple fondement) and On the Nature of Knowledge as Union with the Other as Other (Cognoscens quodammodo fit vel est aliud a se), available in translation in this work.
  5. Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, PhD, in his New Liturgical Movement article “Preach the Gospel to Every Creature”: The Benedicite, also addresses the subject of this article.

August 22, 2022

Annual Enrollment for the Return of Lost Sheep

If we should be saved and become saints, we ought always to stand at the
gates of the Divine mercy to beg and pray for, as alms, all that we need
.”
—Saint Alphonsus Liguori

The National Shrine of Saint Alphonsus Liguori in Baltimore will celebrate its patron’s feast day again this year by offering a novena of Masses for the return of lost sheep. Saint Alphonsus was given by God a particular zeal and a special grace for the conversion of souls. As the patron saint of arthritis and the ailments afflicting the connective tissues in the body, we see also his gift as Doctor of the Church to aid the afflictions of the Mystical Body.

With confidence we can call on his powerful intercession for nothing less than the complete and total conversion of our own souls, as Saint Alphonsus was wont to beg us to accomplish, and for the conversion of others, too. You are invited to visit the Shrine’s website to enroll your intentions in the Novena that begins Tuesday, August 2nd.

You are also invited to join them live online for a preached novena leading up to their parish feast day. Beginning with Mass on Sunday, 24 July, daily broadcasts of Mass and its sermon will be available on their YouTube channel. See their website for more details and the schedule:

https://stalphonsusbalt.org/return

July 22, 2022

Peter & Paul 2022: Tu Es Petrus

by Fr. Anthony Dorsa, FSSP.

“Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that Thou permit us not to be shaken by any fears, whom Thou hast solidly established upon the rock of the apostolic confession.”
–Collect of the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul

I cannot help but be struck by the relevance of this collect to the circumstances of our time. This powerful prayer is a reminder to us both of the unfailing faith and confidence we should have in our Lord and His Grace, and the necessary reality that that faith is contained in a Church established by God upon the Rock, the Confession of Peter.

With so much confusion and uncertainty besetting the world in which we live, how important it is for us to pray to God that our faith remain unshaken by any fear, knowing that it is God Himself in whom we place our trust, and God Himself who asks us to place this trust in Him through His Church, which He established.

It is a reminder especially for us that we are the Fraternity of St. Peter. Thus, our ministry is not our own, but cum Petro et sub Petro.

God grants us so many tangible signs of His Grace to “be not afraid”, such as the Holy Father’s reaffirmation of our work and charism following our consecration to the Blessed Mother.

In this spirit, we invite you during this octave to join us in contemplating the lives and examples of St. Paul and St. Peter, the firm rock upon which Christ founded the Church.

As we ordain new priests and send them out to be fishers of men, we in the Fraternity rededicate ourselves to our charism and the work we do in our apostolates, to bring about a greater knowledge and love of this same Church, in all of the souls we encounter. And we hope that you too will commit yourselves ever anew, or for the first time, in supporting us as we seek to help Peter fulfill the command of Our Lord to feed His sheep.

June 30, 2022

“These things were done exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

The Erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred Vessels

After the Hebrews left Egypt, Moses ascended Mount Sinai while the people remained below.  On the Mount, God showed Moses the plan for the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, and the liturgical instruments which the Children of Abraham were to use in the worship of the One, True, and Living God – “According to all the likeness of the tabernacle which I will shew thee, and of all the vessels for the service thereof: and thus you shall make it” (Exo 25:9).1

The Tabernacle consisted of a court, open to the sky, whose perimeter was marked by hanging curtains. As one moved from the entrance of the court, on the eastern side, one would encounter the brass-covered wooden altar of holocaust, then the basin for washing (the laver), and finally the Tent.  The interior of the Tent was divided into two parts by a hanging veil.  The area immediately inside the entrance of the Tent, called the Holy Place, contained the oil lampstand to the left as one entered, the table for the Show Bread to the right, and the altar of incense ahead.  Beyond the veil, in the Holy of Holies, was the Ark of the Covenant with its two Cherubim.  The Ark itself was considered God’s footstool (see 1 Par [Chr] 28:2; Pss 98:5, 131:7-8 [Vulgate numbering]).  If the Ark was His footstool, then it follows that God was symbolically present in the space over the Ark.  Indeed, from the space over the Ark, between the Cherubim, God would speak to Moses (Num 7:89).2

The Jewish tabernacle and Priesthood

As one moves out again, an order is recognized.  The space over the Ark from where God speaks is a special sign of God’s presence among His people – “In the beginning God…”.3  Under this sign of God’s presence are the two Cherubim atop the Ark. “The Fourth Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council declare: ‘at the beginning of time, [God] created at once out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthy.'”4 – “…created heaven, and earth.”

Moving through the veil from the Holy of the Holies to the Holy Place, one encounters the altar of incense, possibly with still glowing coals, and the perpetually lit many-branched lampstand (see Ex 27:20-21) – “And God said: Be light made. And light was made…and there was evening and morning one day.”

As one steps out of the Holy Place, the sky is above, the ground below, and the laver filled with water ahead – “And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so.  And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day…God also said; Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done.  And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, He called Seas. And God saw that it was good…And the evening and the morning were the third day.”  During the day, the sun would shine over the court and the moon and stars would give their light at night – “And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars…And the evening and morning were the fourth day.”

Beyond the laver is the altar of holocaust.  This altar can be seen as representing the dry land separated from the seas (represented by the laver), or “the foundations of the earth, a symbolic association found throughout the biblical record, beginning with the ‘altar of earth,’ that Moses is commanded to build.”5  On this altar were offered sacrifices of birds – “God also said: let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven…And the evening and morning were the fifth day.” – and sacrifices of land animals – “And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds.  And it was so done…And the evening and morning were the sixth day.”  Plants, which were created on the third day, were not excluded from the plan of the Tabernacle.  The Show Bread was perpetually set in the Holy Place before the Presence of God.  Olive oil burned in the lampstand.  There were libations of wine, sacrificial cakes, and offerings of grain.6

Burnt Offering

Incredibly, the Ark, the Tabernacle, and its designated worship were designed by God to be a representation, a sign, of all of reality, of Himself and of His creation ordered to His service.  “A canonical reading of Hebrew scripture indicates that God’s purposes in creating the world are liturgical.  The world is made for worship.  The covenant made in creation establishes the world as the temple and kingdom of God.”7  But, as this was obscured by the introduction of sin into the material world, God would, in the worship He commanded to be offered to Him by the Hebrews, remanifest it, even if only locally.  This ordered creational worship commanded by God in the Tabernacle served as a reminder to fallen material creation of what its true purpose and end are.

In his work, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire – A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles, Dr. Scott Hahn wrote the following touching on this subject:

The creation of the world in Gen. 1-2 is recounted in liturgical terms and ritual rhythms, unfolding in a heptadic patter, with a series of repeated sevens – beginning with the first verse, which contains exactly seven words in Hebrew, and proceeding with seven clearly defined creative speech-acts of God (“and God said, ‘Let…’”), seven statements of divine approval (“It was good”), and culminating in the divine rest of the seventh day…This same heptadic pattern is found in the account of the tabernacle.  Moses’s time on the mountain can be seen as a kind of new creation.  The cloud of divine presence covers the mountain for six days; on the seventh day Moses is called into the cloud to receive the divine blueprint (tabnît) for the tabernacle (Exod. 24:15-16; 25:8-9).  The instruction that God gives him are delivered in seven speeches (introduced by “the LORD said” or “the LORD spoke”;…), the last of which commands the observance of the Sabbath as a “perpetual covenant” and a “sign…that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested” (31:16-17…).  On a closer reading, the creation-tabernacle connections are even more apparent…:

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen. 1:31)
And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it. (Exod. 39:43)

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished. (Gen .2:1)
Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. (Exod. 39:32)

On the seventh day God finished his work which he had done. (Gen. 2:2)
So Moses finished the work. (Exod. 40:33

So God Blessed the seventh day. (Gen 2:3)
And Moses blessed them. (Exod. 39:43)8

Just as Catholic worship incorporates the astronomical worship of Eden, the post-Fall agricultural festivals, and the religious observances of the Old Law, so too does it, as the Tabernacle did, employ all of creation, all of reality, in the worship of God.  No longer is God symbolically present by His footstool but is now substantially present in the Tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament.  Images of the inhabitants of heaven – angels and saints – should fittingly adorn the church building.  Candles give their light during the various liturgical ceremonies.  Water is found in the holy water stoops.  Water, wine, and bread are offered to God.  Linen from flax plants dress the ministers and altar and is the material of the pall, corporal, and purificator.  Animals are represented by the bees and silkworms – “creeping things” of the sixth day – which provide the wax and silk for the candles and vestments.  Stained glass windows let in the natural light of the sun, moon, and stars.  The altar, stone.9

There is still one portion of creation, however, the portion of creation which makes the worship of the material world rational (see Rom 12:1) and befitting the God Who is to be adored “in spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:23), which has not yet been addressed – “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”  But this treatment will be for another time.

William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.

  1. The instructions given by God and the construction are recounted in the Book of Exodus, chapters 25-40.
  2. The Ark itself can also be seen as a special presence of God. See Hanh, Scott W. The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire – A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles. (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), 119.
  3. The quotes concerning God’s creation throughout are taken from Genesis, Chapter 1.
  4. Denzinger, Henry. The Sources of Catholic Dogma [1954]. (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2010), §26.
  5. Hahn, 118.
  6. See The Levitical Offerings And Sacrifices for a summary of the various sacrifices commanded by God.
  7. Hahn, 120.
  8. Hahn,115-116.
  9. Until recently, the table/mensa and supports of a fixed altar were to be made of stone. Otherwise, a stone containing the relics of martyrs and consecrated by a Bishop was necessary (see Matters Liturgical nn. 71-75). The General Rubrics of the 1962 Missal state the following: “525. The altar on which the most holy sacrifice of the Mass is to be celebrated must be wholly of stone, and duly consecrated; or at least it must have a stone slab, or an altar stone, likewise duly consecrated, large enough to hold the host and the greater part of the chalice; or again, by apostolic indult, an antimension [a piece of linen containing relics], duly blessed” (translation taken from Divinum Officium).

June 14, 2022