Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 9: The Blessing of a New Cross (1595 & 1961)

After the blessings of objects used at the altar, such as chalices and altar linens, the Pontifical of Clement VIII places the blessing of various furnishings of a church, the first being that of a cross, or picture of the Crucifixion. The bishop wears a red stole and cope, and the simple miter; the blessing begins with “Adjutorium nostrum” and “Dominus vobiscum”, followed by two prayers. At the crosses marked in red, the bishop makes the Sign of the Cross over the cross or picture.
Let us pray. Bless +, Lord Jesus Christ, this Thy Cross, through which Thou didst deliver the world from the power of demons, and by Thy passion overcame him that tempteth unto sin, even him who rejoiced in the first man’s transgression by taking from the forbidden tree. Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest for ever and ever. R. Amen.

Let us pray. We ask Thee, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, that Thou may deign to bless + this wood of Thy Cross, that it may be a saving remedy for the human race; let it be the firmness of faith, the increase of good works, the redemption of souls; let it be consolation, protection and defense against the savage darts of our enemies. (long conclusion)
The conclusion segues into the following preface.
Truly it is fitting and just … * whose holy and terrible name among the other visible creatures, the fruit-bearing trees also do not cease to praise and bless. Who as a figure of Thy only-begotten wisdom, in the beginning didst adorn the garden of earthly delight with the tree of life, that by the sacred mystery of its fruit, Thou might admonish the first parents of our race to guard against death, and obtain everlasting life: and by the guiltless death of that same Wisdom, co-eternal with Thee, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, didst deign to call us back to Thy gentle mercy, that were given over to a just death by the touch of the forbidden tree. * Humbly we pray Thee, that Thou may deign to sanctify with a heavenly bless+ing this great standard, which hath been framed and raised up by the devotion of Thy faithful unto the likeness of that most sacred banner, on which Thou didst triumph by the precious blood of Thy Son; so that a more abundant compunction of heart and forgiveness of offenses done may be granted to all that here bend the knee, and humbly pray Thy majesty; and at the intercession of that same most victorious Passion of Thy Son, they may be able to ask for what pleaseth Thee, and all the more swiftly receive what they have asked. Grant, we beseech, most clement Father, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, that whenever we look upon the triumph of that divine humility, that cast down the pride of our enemy, whenever we call it to mind, we may obtain the confidence of strength against that same enemy, and greater grace of humble devotion to Thee. And likewise, in the terrible judgment of Thy majesty, when as the elements tremble, and the powers of the heavens are shaken, this glorious sign of our Redemption shall appear in heaven, may we ourselves merit to pass from death to life, and see the perpetual joys of the blessed resurrection.
The long conclusion is said in a low voice. There follow two more prayers.
Let us pray. O God, who hast turned the gibbet of the blessed Cross, which once served as a punishment of the wicked, into life for the redeemed; grant to thy people to be secured by its defense, as they are armed by its banner. Be the Cross to them the foundation of their faith, the suffrage of their hope, their defense in adversity, their help in prosperity ; be it to them victory over their enemies, their safeguard in the city, their protection in the fields, their support at home; that henceforth the pastor may preserve his flock secure by that, which, the Lamb + conquering thereon, has been turned to our salvation. Through the same our Lord. (long conclusion)

Let us pray. Sancti+fy, o Lord Jesus Christ, this sign of Thy Passion, that it may be a hindrance to Thine enemies, and become a perpetual banner of victory to them that believe in Thee. Who with the Father. (long conclusion)
The bishop now blesses incense with a special prayer.
Let us pray. Lord God Almighty, before whom stands the army of Angels in trembling, whose service in known in spirit and in fire, deign to look upon, bless + and sancti+fy this creature of incense; that every illness and infirmity, and the snares of the enemy may flee at its scent of its perfume, and be separated from Thy creation, that what Thou didst redeem by the precious blood of Thy Son may never be harmed by the bite of the ancient serpent. Through the same Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.
The bishop places the incense in the thurible, sprinkles the cross with holy water, and then incenses it. He then says the following prayer.
Let this wood (lignum) be sanctified, in the name of the Fa+ther, and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit: and may the blessing of that wood, on which the holy members of the Savior hung, be upon this wood: that those who pray and bow before this cross for God’s sake may find health of body and soul. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ. R. Amen.
He then kneels before the cross in adoration, and kisses it; all present do the same if they wish to. If the cross is made of some material other then wood, however, the following prayer is said in place of the prayer “Let this wood be sanctified”.
O God of glory, most high God of hosts, most mighty Emmanuel, God the Father of truth, the Father of wisdom, the Father of beatitude, the Father of our enlightenment and watchfulness, who rulest the world, who dispose of all kingdoms, who art the bestower of good gifts, and the giver of all good things, whom all nations, peoples, tribes and tongues do serve, before whom stands every host of the Angles, who grantest to Thy servants faith, and the praise of Thy name, that they may make the offerings that are Thy due: whom first pleaseth the faith of those that offer, and then their offering is sacrificed: we beseech the goodness of Thy mercy, that willingly receives our prayers, that Thou sancti+fy and conse+crate to Thyself this image of the Cross, which the religious faith of Thy servants, with all devotion of mind, has framed to Thee, the trophy of Thy victory and of our redemption; and which triumphal glory has consecrated unto the love of Christ. Look upon this unconquerable image of the cross, by which the power of the devil is emptied away, and the freedom of mortal men restored; which though it once served as a punishment, yet is now turned to honor through grace; and which, though it once punished the criminal with death, yet now absolves the guilty from their debt. And what could please Thee by this, but the very thing by which it hath pleased Thee to redeem us? And no offering is more due to Thee than that which the nailing of Thy body then dedicated to Thee; nor is any oblation more fitting to Thee than that which has been hallowed by the outstretching of Thy hands as a servant. * Therefore, accept this cross with those hands, with which Thou didst embrace that other, and from its holiness, make + holy this. And as by that the world has been expiated from guilt; so by the merit of this cross may the most devout souls of Thy servants that offer It be set free from all sin committed by them: and, let them shine forth under the shelter of thy true cross, triumphing in continual successes. May the splendor of the divinity of Thy only begotten Son our Lord radiate here in gold; may the glory of His passion shine forth in its wood; our redemption from death on its cross; and the purification of our life in the splendor of its crystal. May it be the protection of its own, the sure confidence of their hope; may it confirm them in faith with their race and people; unite them in hope and peace; increase them in triumphs; amplify them in prosperity, and for ever after profit them unto the life of eternity. Grant that it defend them flourishing in temporal glory; and by its power and might bring unto the heavenly kingdom them that are redeemed to an everlasting crown. Grant this through the propitiation of His blood, through the very Giver of it, who gave Himself a redemption for many; who deigned to offer himself a victim for sins; who exalted on the wood of His Cross, laid low principalities and powers; who sits together with Thee on a starry throne, in the indissoluble union of the Holy Spirit, during infinite ages of ages. R. Amen.
* The prayer here contains a pun which cannot be translated into English; the word “fitting” represents the Latin word “familiaris”, while the words “as a servant” come from the same word in the ablative case “familiari”.

In the revision of 1961, the bishop uses the miter called “auryphrigiata” in Latin, the less ornate kind used in Advent and Lent,rather than the simple miter. The first prayer is retained, without the word “Thy”, and segues immediately into the preface; the second prayer of the 1595 version (“We ask Thee...that Thou may deign to bless this wood...” is suppressed.

The preface itself is shortened by the omission of all of the words marked above between the two red stars; the beginning is slightly rewritten: “Truly it is fitting and just...humbly to pray Thee, Thou may deign to sanctify etc. ...” The bishop does not make the sign of the cross at the word “blessing”; the conclusion is sung aloud as part of the preface.

The two prayers after the preface are suppressed; the special prayer for the blessing of the incense is suppressed. After the preface, the bishop sprinkles the cross with holy water immediately. (Traditionally, when an object is blessed with both incense and holy water, the incense is imposed before the water is sprinkled to give the incense time to start burning properly.) He then says:
Let this sign (signum) be sanctified, in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit: and may the blessing of that wood, on which the holy members of the Savior hung, be upon this wood: that those who pray and bow before this cross for God’s sake may find health of body and soul. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
This is a slighlty modified form of the concluding prayer from the Pontifical of Clement VIII, with the word “lignum - wood” changed to “signum - sign”, and only one sign of the cross. The bishop then imposes incense, blesses it (presumably with the words “Ab illo benedicaris” as at Mass, although the rubric does not say this explicity), incenses the cross, kneels before it, and kisses it. All present also kneel and kiss it if they wish to. The long prayer which is used in the 1595 version when the cross is not made of wood is suppressed.

The blessing of a cross; illustration from a 1595 edition of the Pontifical. (Permission to use this image has been very kindly granted by the Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology at Emory University.)

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