THE Asperges, so called from the
opening word of the antiphon, Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor: lavabis me
et super nivem dealbabov "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed : Thou shalt wash me, and
I shall be made whiter than snow," is a solemn act of purification by which the Church prepares her altar, temple, and worshippers
for the holy mysteries of which the material church is about to be the scene, and the faithful the sharers. At this Service
she makes use of holy water, which has been blessed for the use of the faithful. (Oakeley, Ceremonies of the Mass, p. 105.)
The antiphon says, "Thou shalt
sprinkle me with hyssop," because in Exodus xii. 22, by command of Moses, the transom of the door was sprinkled by the bunch
of hyssop dipped in the blood of the lamb and in Leviticus xiv. 51, the hyssop
is to be left in the blood of the sparrow that is to be immolated and the house is to be sprinkled seven times ; and thus
we see the fitness of the application of the antiphon to the service of purification.
The priest vested in a cope of
the colour proper to the day proceeds to the altar, and sprinkles the altar three times with holy water. He makes the sign
of the Cross with holy water on his own person, and then sprinkling the ministers, rises from his knees, intones the Asperges which the choir takes up, proceeding to sing the following words of the verse, and the first verse of
the Psalm Miserere in which they occur, after which the first words (at least) of the antiphon are repeated. The priest, reciting
in a low voice the Miserere, walks down the church and sprinkles the people, and returns to the altar to recite the following
verses, responses, and prayer :
V. O Lord show us Thy mercy.
R. And grant us Thy salvation.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Hear us, holy Lord, Almighty
Father, Eternal God; and vouchsafe to send from Heaven Thy holy angel to guard, cherish, protect, visit, and defend all who
dwell in this habitation; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The versicle and response will
be explained later in the Mass. The appeal to "Thy holy angel" is to the angel whose special duty is either to watch
over the Church where Jesus Christ is, to be on guard as soldiers say, or to the angel referred to in the prayer in Mass after
the Elevation before the Memento for the Dead "We most humbly beseech Thee, Almighty God, command these things to be carried
by the hands of Thy holy Angel to Thy altar on high;" meaning by "Thy holy Angel" that Blessed Spirit who assists at the tremendous
From Easter to Whitsuntide inclusively,
instead of the foregoing antiphon, the following is sung and Alleluia is added to the V. (Ostende
nobis) and also to its response (Et salutare):
aquam egredientem de templo a latere dextro, Alleluia; et omnes ad quos pervenit aqua ista salvi facti sunt, et dicent, Alleluia.
Confitemini Domino, quomam bonus; quoniam in ssecu- lum misericordia ejus. (Ps. 117.)
I saw water flowing from the right
side of the temple, Alleluia: and all to whom that water came were saved, and they shall say Alleluia.
Praise the Lord for He is good:
for His mercy endureth for ever. (Ps. 117.)