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

When peace was restored to the Church the custom of saying Mass on the tombs of the martyrs gradually died away and gave place to the present discipline of depositing some portions of the martyrs’ bodies in the newly-consecrated altars. Hence the import of that prayer now said by the priest as he lays his hands on the sacred table at the beginning of Mass: “We pray thee, O Lord! through the merits of thy saints whose relics are here placed, and of all the saints, that thou wouldst vouchsafe to forgive me all my sins.”

The relics of the martyrs are placed in the altar by the bishop who consecrates it; and, in order to verify the words of the above prayer, it is required that a plurality be inserted. It is customary to enclose with the martyrs’ relics some also of the saint to whose name the church is dedicated. Hereupon it is well to remark that a portion of the saint’s or martyr’s dress is not enough; the relic must be a part of the body (S. R. C., April 13, 1867, N. 5379; De Herdt, i. No. 178). Liturgical writers tell us that it was Pope Felix (third century) who first enjoined this practice (Merafci, Thesaur. Rit., 115). The holy relics, before being deposited in the altar, are first enclosed in a little case made of silver or other metal, and have generally accompanying them the names of the saints whose relics they are, and the name of the bishop who deposited them (Martinucci, vii. 306; Catalanus, Pontif. Roman., iii. 403). They are deposited with these words: “Under the altar of God ye saints of God have received a place; intercede for us with our Lord Jesus Christ.”








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