Friday, March 08, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 2.10: The Bishop's Address to the People (1595)

As previously noted, in the Pontifical of Clement VIII, the translation of the relics of the Saints into the church was interrupted by an address of the bishop to the people, by the reading of two of the disciplinary decrees of the council of Trent, and by the address of the bishop to the founder of the church, who then replied to the bishop. The reader will understand immediately that much of what these texts say (though certainly not all of it) had become quite obsolete by the 19th century. A decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued on May 17, 1890 (S.R.C. 3729 ad octavum) simply takes for granted that these texts are no longer used, but clarifies that the responsory which follows them, which refers to the giving of tithes, is not to be omitted. (The decree which permitted the omission of these texts is not included in the official collection of the S.R.C.’s decrees published by the order of Pope Leo XIII in 1901.) As was generally the policy in those days, the texts continued to be printed in their proper place with their proper rubrics, even when they were no longer used. They were expunged entirely, along with the responsory that follows, in the 1961 revision.

In this post, I will give only the bishop’s address to the people itself, since it is quite lengthy; the Tridentine decrees and the bishop’s words to the founder will be given later as a separate post. Fixed sermons of this kind, many of them dating back to the Carolingian era, are of course a common feature of Pontifical ceremonies; several of the most beautiful ones are found in the rites of Ordination.

The sermon : Dearly beloved brethren: the sacred canons, the civil laws, and the universal religious sense of the faithful, declare how great is the reverence due to churches and places dedicated to God. For nowhere else but in the sacred basilicas may sacrifice be offered to the Lord, (The rest of this sentence and the next are a broad citation of the beginning of the Third Part of Gratian’s Decretum, one of the fundamental texts of medieval canon law.) by Whose command through Moses were consecrated the tabernacle with the altar and table, the brazen vessels, and other utensils for the purposes of Divine worship, and we read further that not only did he consecrate the Tabernacle, but that he anointed it with oil. In this Tabernacle none others but the consecrated Priests and the Levites, clad in sacred garments, celebrated the mysteries, and offered sacrifices for the people. In later times, both the Jewish Kings and the Christian Roman Emperors held in highest reverence the basilicas they had built, and willed that they be free from common noise and bustle, so that the house of prayer might be devoted to no other purpose or use. They further willed that they have such privileges and immunities, that every sacrilegious violation thereof should be visited with the most severe punishments. For it did not seem to them right that the dwelling of the Most High God should be exposed to sacrilegious outrage, or that, to use the words of Truth, it should be a “den of thieves.” It is a place of salvation, a harbor for the shipwrecked, where they may ride at anchor in safety from the storm. Hither do they come that ask for favors, and their lawful prayers are granted. Hither do those condemned to die flee for refuge, and by the entreaties of the priests obtain the pardon of their deeds. May ye, therefore, dearest brethren, enter the basilicas dedicated to God with great reverence, and offer therein to the Lord the sacrifice of a heart cleansed from guilt.

This church you have founded (or N. has founded), to which the Supreme Pontiffs N. and N. have granted privileges, and which you have (or N. the founder has) humbly besought us to consecrate, is one of these basilicas. Now we, yielding to your (his) reasonable petition, do dedicate it in honor of God Almighty, of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and of all the Saints, and in memory of St. N. In the altar thereof we have determined, with God's blessing, to place the relics of Saints N. and N., and under such an altar, (or such a place), lie the bodies or the relics of Saints N. and N., and all who devoutly visit them may obtain an Indulgence of . . ., granted by ... .

I further remind you, dearest brethren, that you should pay to the full to the priests and churches the tithes which are a tribute to God. The Lord claims them for Himself, in token of His universal dominion. Listen to St. Augustine: (from a sermon erroneously attributed to St. Augustine ‘On the paying of Tithes’) “Tithes are a tribute paid for the need of our souls. If thou pay tithes, thou shalt be rewarded, not only with increase of store, but with health of soul and body. For it is not gain, but honor that God requires at our hands. For our God, Who has been pleased to bestow on us all we have, is content to receive from us a tenth in return, not for His own, certainly, but for our advantage. But if it be sinful to be slow in paying, how much greater the guilt of withholding them? Pay the tithe of what accrues to thee from military service, from thy trade or handicraft. For as by paying tithes thou ensurest to thyself both earthly and heavenly rewards, why shouldst thou suffer covetousness to rob thee of a twofold blessing? For God's dealings are most fair; if thou refuse Him the tithe, He will strip thee of all but a tithe. Thou shalt yield perforce to a brutal soldier what thou withholdest from the Priest; the public treasury will swallow up what has been refused to Christ. “Return ye unto Me,” saith the Lord, by the Prophet, (Malachias 3, 7-12) “and I will turn to you. And you have said, ‘Wherein shall we return?’ Shall a man rob God? Yet do you rob Me. But you say, ‘Wherein have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and first-fruits. Ye are cursed with dearth, for you have robbed Me, even the whole nation of you. Bring all the tithes into My storehouse, let there be food in My house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord, if I will not open unto you the flood-gates of the heavens and pour out unto you a blessing until there be not room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your land, neither shall your vine be barren in the field, saith the Lord of Armies. And all nations shall call you blessed, for you shall be a land of delight, saith the Lord of Hosts.’ ” The indignation of God is to be avoided, and tithes paid, and tributes given to God, and the rewards we look for not forgone, for a momentary profit. Mindful of them, then, dearest brethren, receive these truths, and cheerfully put them into practice, that so ye may deserve eternal good things in reward of temporal benefactions.

The Prophet Malachi, from the front predella of the Maestà of Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308; Siena, Museo dell’Opera.

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