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Ceremonies Necessary To Divine Worship
THE angels are pure spirits. They have no body. Consequently the worship
they render God is spiritual, interior.
The heavenly bodies are not spiritual, but entirely material substances.
They render God a sort of external worship according to the words of the
prophet Daniel, "Sun and moon bless the Lord, . . . stars of heaven
bless the Lord. Praise and exalt Him forever." Man has a soul, a
spiritual substance similar to the heavenly bodies. He should,
therefore, honor God by the twofold form of worship, interior and
"God is a spirit; and they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and
in truth" (John iv. 24).
From these words of the beloved disciple we are not to conclude that
interior worship is prescribed as the only essential, and exterior
worship condemned. True piety must manifest itself externally. Man
naturally manifests his feelings by outward signs and ceremonies.
The Catholic Church recognizes that man has a heart to be moved as well
as an intellect to be enlightened. She enlightens the intellect by her
good books, sermons, etc.; and she moves the heart by the grandeur of
If any one doubts that God considers ceremonies necessary to divine
worship, let him read the books of Leviticus and Exodus. Almost the
whole of these books treats of the rites and ceremonies used by the then
chosen people of God in their public worship.
The 26th, 27th, and 28th chapters of Exodus prescribe the form of the
tabernacle and its appurtenances, the size of the altar and the oil for
the lamps, and the holy vestments which Aaron and his sons were to wear
during the performance of the public ceremonies.
The book of Leviticus treats more particularly of the sacrifices, rites,
and ceremonies of the priests and Levites.
"And the Lord called Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of the
testimony, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say
to them: The man among you that shall offer to the Lord a sacrifice of
the cattle, that is, offering victims of oxen and sheep, if his offering
be a holocaust and of the herd, he shall offer a male, without blemish,
at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, to make the Lord
favorable to him. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the victim,
and it shall be acceptable and help to his expiation" (Lev. i. 1 et
After enumerating all the sacrifices and ceremonies, the sacred writer
closes the book of Leviticus with the words, "These are the precepts
which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount
Sinai," thus showing that He considers ceremonies necessary to divine
The religion instituted by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is more
spiritual than that of the Old Law. Nevertheless He did not discard
ceremonies. In the Garden of Gethsemani He fell upon His knees in humble
supplication. He went in procession to Jerusalem preceded by a great
multitude strewing palm-branches on the road and singing, "Hosanna to
the Son of David." Before He cured the deaf and dumb man, He put His
fingers into his ears and touched his tongue with spittle, and looking
up to heaven He groaned and said, "Ephpheta," which is, "Be thou
At the Last Supper He invoked a blessing on the bread and wine, and
after the supper He chanted a hymn with His disciples--ceremonies
similar to those used in the Mass. When He imparted the Holy Ghost to
His apostles, He breathed upon them. In a similar way they and their
successors communicated the Holy Ghost upon others by breathing upon
them, laying their hands upon them and praying over them, when
conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders.
St. James directs that if any man is sick he shall call in a priest of
the Church, who shall anoint him with oil, as is done in the sacrament
of Extreme Unction.
We must, therefore, admit that ceremonies used in the worship of God are
reasonable, since they are sanctioned by God in the Old Law and by Jesus
Christ and His apostles in the New Testament.
All these acts of Our Saviour--the prostration in the Garden, the
procession to Jerusalem, the touching of the deaf man's ears, the
chanting of the hymn, the laying on of hands, the anointing of the
sick--are but so many ceremonies serving as models of the ceremonies
used by the Catholic Church in her public worship and in the
administration of her sacraments.
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