Thursday, May 23, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 10: The Blessing of a Pectoral Cross (1595 & 1961)

In the Pontifical of Pope Clement VIII, the blessing of a new cross is followed by a rubric that for the blessing of a pectoral cross, the bishop may use the same blessing that is used when a cross given “to those who go forth for the help and defense of the Christian Faith, or for the recovery of the Holy Land.” This blessing is placed at the end of the second part of the Pontifical, grouped with the blessings of weapons, swords and military banners. The latter three are all suppressed in the revision of 1961; they will be described in a later article. The rubrics contain no reference to any modification of the blessing if the person receiving the cross is another bishop, or other prelate entitled to wear a pectoral cross. (It must be born in mind that a pectoral cross is a required part of a bishop’s dress, but is not a part of his liturgical regalia in the way the miter, crook and ring are.)

The person receiving the cross kneels before the bishop, who begins the blessing as usual with “Adjutorium nostrum” and “Dominus vobiscum”, followed by this prayer. At the places marked, he makes the Sign of the Cross with his hand over the pectoral cross.
Almighty God, who didst dedicate the sign of the Cross by the precious blood of Thy Son, and who through the same Cross of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, didst will to redeem the world, and through the power of the same venerable Cross delivered the human race from the decree of the ancient enemy (Colossians 2, 14); we humbly beseech Thee, that Thou deign with Thy paternal goodness to bless + this cross and impart to it the power and grace of heaven; so that whoever shall bear it upon himself as the sign of the Passion and Cross of Thy Only-Begotten Son, for the protection of his body and soul, may also be able to receive the protection of Thy blessing. * Just as Thou didst bless the rod of Aaron to drive away the faithlessness of the rebels (Numbers 17), so also bless + Thou this sign with Thy right hand; and against all the wiles of the devil, lay upon it the power of Thy defense, that it may confer upon those who bear it prosperity of salvation in both soul and body, and multiply in them the gifts of the Spirit.
The bishop sprinkles the pectoral cross with holy water, and then says the following prayer over the one who will receive it.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who art the true and almighty God, splendor and image of the Father, and life eternal; who proclaimed to Thy disciples, that whoever would come after Thee must deny himself, and taking up his cross, follow Thee; we ask Thy boundless clemency, that Thou protect always and everywhere this Thy servant, who according to Thy word, desireth to deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Thee, and for the salvation of Thy chosen people hasten to fight against our enemies; deliver him from all dangers, and release him from the bond of sin, receive his vow and bring it to the desired effect. Do Thou, o Lord, who art the way, the truth and the life, and the strength of them that hope in Thee, guide well his way, and grant him all success; so that amid the difficulties of this present age, he may be ever directed by Thy aid. Send to him, o Lord, Thy angel Raphael, who was the companion of Tobias on his journey, and delivered his father from bodily blindness; as he cometh and goeth, may he be his defender against all the snares of the enemy, visible and invisible, and drive from him all blindness of both mind and body.
He then sits, and lays the cross upon him, saying:
Receive the sign of the Cross, in the name of the Fa+ther and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit, as a figure of the Cross, the Passion and the death of Christ, for the defense of thy body and soul, that by the grace of the divine goodness, thou may return to thine own safe and reformed when thy journey is completed.
(The word “reformed” in this prayer refers to the fact that people were often sent to fight for the defense of Christian lands as an act of penance for serious sins.) Finally, the one who has received the cross kneels before the bishop, is sprinkled by him with holy water, and then kisses the bishop’s hand and departs.

In the revision of 1961, the blessing is retitled “The Blessing of a Pectoral Cross”. No reference is made to the person who will receive the pectoral cross, or to the imposition of it upon him by the bishop. It begins with “Adjutorium nostrum” and “Dominus vobiscum”, followed by the prayer “Almighty God, who didst dedicate the sign of the Cross…” noted above. The second part of the prayer noted above after the red star, (“Just as Thou didst bless the rod of Aaron…”), is suppressed. The bishop then sprinkles the cross with holy water; the second and third prayer, and all the rites accompanying them, are suppressed.
A pectoral cross made in Italy ca. 600 A.D., now in the Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: