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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

Having recited the Agnus Dei, the priest bows a little, and, resting his hands upon the altar, recites three prayers without changing his posture. The first is a petition to Almighty God for that peace which the world cannot give; the second asks for deliverance from all iniquity in virtue of the Body and Blood of our Divine Redeemer; and the third, that the reception of the same Body and Blood may prove to be a remedy for all the infirmities of soul and body.

When the Mass is a Solemn High Mass a very ancient and interesting ceremony is witnessed here after the recital of the first of these prayers—viz., the imparting of the “Pax,” or kiss of peace, which is kept up in the Mass to commemorate that tender-hearted and loving practice which our Divine Lord always observed in his intercourse with his disciples. And here it may be well to remark that although our Blessed Saviour said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” only of what was done in regard to confecting the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, still the Church has thought fit to do not only what her Divine Founder did and commanded to be observed afterwards, but also many other things which, though not prescribed expressly, are yet recorded by the Evangelists as worthy of imitation. These she has introduced into the Mass as being the most fitting place to commemorate them; for what is the Mass itself but a mystic biography of our Lord’s life upon earth? The moment, then, that the celebrant has recited the first of these prayers he turns to the deacon, and, having placed his hands upon his shoulders, inclines his head slightly as if about to kiss him, and says, “Pax tecum”—“Peace be with you”—to which the deacon responds, “Et cum spiritu tuo”—“And with thy spirit.” The pious salutation is then taken up by all the other ministers of the altar and the clergy who are present, but it is no longer observed among the people of the congregation. It is not witnessed in Masses for the dead, on account of their lugubrious nature, and also for the reason that in former times it was not customary to communicate at such Masses, and the “Pax” was intended principally as a ceremony of reconciliation between man and man previous to the reception of the Holy Eucharist (Bona, p. 359).

In ancient times, when the male portion of the congregation was separated from the female portion, the kiss of peaoe went through the entire church; and this discipline continued, with little interruption, up to the time of Pope Innocent III.—that is, until the thirteenth century—when, on account of the increasing depravity of morals, and from other causes, it was deemed prudent to discontinue the practice in its primitive spirit, and substitute another form of holy salutation in its stead. A small instrument made of silver or gold, and having a representation of our crucified Redeemer upon it, was accordingly introduced, and denominated the osculatorium, which all kissed, even the celebrant, at this part of the Mass. Though once very common, this instrument of peace is now seldom seen, at least in American churches, the general practice being to approach each other as above described, and salute with “Pax tecum,” In the ordination of priests the “kiss of peace” is commanded to be given as of old by the ordaining bishop to the newly-ordained. Many religious orders observe it, too, in private life.

In ancient times it was customary for the priest, before he gave the “Pax” to any one else, to stoop down first and kiss the sacred Host lying on the paten before him, to signify that it is from our Divine Lord that he received that peace which he wished to communicate to others. This practice was, however, soon abrogated, as it was considered somewhat unbecoming, and there was always danger attending it on account of the liability of some particles of the sacred Host adhering to the lips.

The custom prevailed in some places, too, of first kissing the chalice, and then sending the salutation around in the ordinary way among the clergy of the sanctuary. This was long in vogue with the Dominicans, and is, to a certain extent, observed by them yet; for their ceremonial directs that the priest first kiss the rim of the chalice, and afterwards the paten, or the regular instrument of peace presented him by the deacon, and say: “Peace to thee and to the Holy Church of God.” The practice of first kissing the missal on this occasion, as containing the sacred words of our Lord, was in vogue at Cologne, and in many churches of France, in the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Pax in the Oriental Church.—In the Liturgy of St. James the “Pax” follows closely upon the recital of the Creed, at some distance from the Preface. The time of its observance is thus announced by the deacon: “Let us kiss one another with a holy kiss; let us bow our heads to the Lord.” When the Maronites are giving the “Pax,” which, like all the Orientals, they do before the Preface, the celebrant first kisses the altar and the sacred oblation placed upon it, saying: “Peace to thee, altar of God, and peace to the mysteries placed upon thee”; then gives it to the attending minister with the words: “Peace to thee, minister of the Holy Ghost.” The whole congregation then go through the ceremony, beginning with a general shaking of hands. The only Western rite which gives the kiss of peace before the Preface is the Mozarabic. The salutation in many of the ancient churches when imparting it used to be: “May the peace of Christ and his Church abound in you” (Bona, p. 358). Cardinal Bona is of opinion that it was the Franciscans who induced the Holy See to discontinue giving the “Pax” according to the primitive mode, on account of certain abuses that were gradually creeping into the ceremony. This opinion is also sustained by Pope Benedict XIV. (Enchiridion Sacr. Missæ, p. 106).








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