St. Jean Marie Vianney tells us that "if we truly understood the Mass, we would die of joy."
I'm humbled and happy to be able to say I've had the grace and honor for forty-two years now of assisting exclusively at the true Mass -- that same Mass passed down to us by the Apostles and offered by St. John Marie Vianney -- St. Philip Neri -- St. John Bosco -- St. Francis of Assisi -- Pope St. Pius X -- and Pope St. Pius V -- among so many others (these are just a few of our favorites!). I've been able to attend the Tridentine Mass, in other words, since I was 14 years old, but I'm still learning about it -- and I always will be. I learned something this morning -- and of course you know I have to share it. But -- with a preface.
You know how we have become so good at "suspending our disbelief" when we watch movies with incredible CGI-generated maneuvers and special effects -- things that a former generation would have called "magic?" I fear we've become immune to real wonder, the fantastic is so commonplace! Feats of wonder are more commonly feats of eh, because so much in our world is accomplished with "smoke and mirrors." We know these days to doubt an awful lot of what we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears. There is one thing in this world, though, that we don't see with our own eyes and can't hear with our own ears that we know we can believe. Far removed from the skillful machinations of computer artists, greater even than the earth's God-given works of natural wonder, like the Grand Canyon on a large scale, and the miracle of butterflies on a small scale -- more amazing and unfathomable than birth and death and feelings and thought, it is the one thing still truly deserving of our wonder: the miracle of the Holy Eucharist. ❤
Today being the feast of Corpus Christi -- literally the feast of "The Body of Christ" -- I thought it behooved me to read up on the Holy Eucharist, and being away from home and my library of books, I had the idea that I'd see what I could find online that would be instructive and inspiring. I figured I'd go on a hunt after Mass -- but I didn't have to! Snuggled into the Mass today was a beautiful little Catechism in poetry form, all about the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ, the Sequence for Corpus Christi, written by St. Thomas Aquinas (long, but an easy read!):
Sion, to Thy Savior sing,
To Thy Shepherd and Thy King!
Let the air with praises ring!
All though canst, proclaim with mirth,
For far higher is His worth
Than the glory words may wing.
Lo! before our eyes and living
Is the Sacred Bread life-giving
Theme of canticle and hymn.
We profess this Bread from heaven
To the Twelve by Christ was given,
For our faith rests firm in Him.
Let us form a joyful chorus,
May our lauds ascend sonorous,
Bursting from each loving breast.
For we solemnly record
How the Table of the Lord
With the Lamb's own Gift was blest.
On this altar of the King
This new Paschal Offering
Brings an end to ancient rite.
Shadows flee that truth may stay,
Oldness to the new gives way,
And night's darkness to the light.
What at Supper Christ completed
He ordain'd to be repeated,
In His memory divine.
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We, the Host of our salvation,
Consecrate from bread and wine.
Words a nature's course derange,
That in Flesh the bread may change
And the wine in Christ's own Blood.
Does it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of light transcending
Leaps to things not understood.
Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden'
Signs, not things are all we see.
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
Yet is Christ in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.
And whoev'r of Him partakes,
Severs not, n or rends, nor breaks:
All entire, their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousand eat,
All receive the self-same meat,
Nor do less for others leave.
Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food:
But with ends how opposite!
With this most substantial Bread,
Unto life or death they're fed,
In a difference infinite.
Nor a single doubt retain,
When they beak the Host in twain,
But that in each part remain
What was in the whole before;
For the outward sign alone
May some change have undergone,
While the Signified stays one,
And the same forevermore.
Hail! Thou Bread of Angels, broken,
For us pilgrims food, and token
Of the promise by Christ spoken,
Children's meat, to dogs denied!
Shown in Isaac's dedication,
In the Manna's preparation,
In the Paschnal immolation,
In old types pre-signified.
Jesus, Shepherd mild and meek,
Shield the poor, support the weak,
Pity all who pardon seek,
And who place all trust in Thee,
Fill them with Thy Charity!
Source of all we have or know,
Feed and lead us here below.
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the feast of love
We may see Thee face to face. Amen. Alleluia.
So -- after digesting the beautiful verses of the Sequences in English, while listening to the Minor Seminary Boys' Choir singing it in Latin, I had something else I needed to research: Sequences. Exactly what are they and how many feasts include them? Here's what I found in the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
The Sequence (Sequentia)—or, more accurately as will be seen further on, the Prose (Prosa)—is the liturgical hymn of the Mass, in which it occurs on festivals between the Gradual and the Gospel, while the hymn, properly so called, belongs to the Breviary. The Sequence differs also in structure and melody from the hymn; for whilst all the strophes of a hymn are always constructed according to the same metre and rhythm and are sung to the same melody as the first strophe (refrain), it is the peculiarity of the Sequence, due to its origin, that (at least in those of the first epoch) each strophe or pair of strophes is constructed on a different plan. A sequence usually begins with an independent introductory sentence or an Alleluia (an intonation with its own melody); then follow several pairs of strophes, each pair with its own melody; in the earlier periods the conclusion is uniformly an independent sentence of shorter or longer form.
Victimae paschali laudes for EasterVeni Sancte Spiritus for PentecostLauda Sion Salvatorem for Corpus ChristiDies Irae for All Souls and in Masses for the Dead