CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.
THE DOMINUS VOBISCUM, COLLECT, EPISTLE
AT the end of the Gloria
the priest kisses the altar and turning to the people, says “Dominus vobiscum,”
“the Lord be with you," and the server representing the congregation, returns the salutation, saying
and with thy spirit may He be with your soul or spirit also, O priest.
Whenever the priest turns round
to salute the congregation with the Dominus vobiscum, he first kisses the altar,
or more properly the altar-stone, in which repose the relics of the martyrs. The kiss is a mark of veneration to the martyrs,
and much more a sign of love and reverence for Jesus Christ, who is soon to be offered in Sacrifice on that altar for the
living and the dead.
In the earliest times, as
the priest said Mass facing the people, he did not turn round at the Dominus vobiscum.
At the Papal Mass said over the Tomb of the Apostles the Pope faces the congregation, and therefore does not turn to the people
at Dominus vobiscum. When the position of the altar was changed the priest naturally
turned to the people in saluting them.
The salutation, "The Lord
be with thee," was used by Booz in addressing the reapers (Ruth ii. 4), "And behold he came out of Bethlehem
and said to the reapers, The Lord be with thee. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee." See also Judges (vi. 12) and
Gabriel's salutation to our Lady "The Lord is with thee."
The priest, by the salutation,
wishes every grace to the people that the presence of God brings ; and the people by their et cum spiritu tuo, implore that the soul of the priest be filled with God, thus enabling him to offer worthily
the Holy Sacrifice.
The Bishop, at a Mass in which
the Gloria is said, uses the formula pax
vobis instead of Domimis vobiscum. The words pax vobis are possibly taken from the Gloria. The pax vobis of the
Bishop (our Lord s favourite greeting to His disciples after His Resurrection) is said to be a remnant of the privilege, according
to Benedict XIV, as stated in the Introductory Chapter, which once belonged to the Bishop alone of saying the Gloria at Mass.
The pax vobis, in the mouth of the Bishop, reminds us of the privilege. Pax vobis is higher than Dominus vobiscum, since the former is our
Lord s own salutation, and proceeds from the Bishop, who possesses the fullness of the priesthood and a higher power to bless
than a priest.
After the Dominus vobiscum the priest moves to the Epistle side, and bowing to
the cross, says, Oremus, "let us pray." These words, as already stated, contain
a distinct invitation to the congregation to join with the priest in prayer. The priest raises his hands to his shoulders.
This gesture is perhaps, so some writers assure us, in memory of our Lord s outstretched arms on the Cross. Certain Religious
Orders in portions of the Mass extend their arms almost to their full length. It should be remembered, however, that the Church
adopts customs already existing, makes them her own, and consecrates them to the service of God. Her vestments are taken from
the ordinary garments in use during the earliest stage of her existence, her Basilicas are the Roman Courts of Justice, and
the method of praying with outstretched arms was and is still prevalent in the East, and to this day is seen amongst the poor
in Ireland. The frescoes in the Catacombs
represent saints of both sexes praying with arms outstretched. In the 14th Psalm we read, "The lifting up of my hands as an
evening sacrifice," while St. Paul bids Timothy (i Tim. ii. 8) to pray, lifting up holy hands.
The word Collect has been explained
in various ways. One simple explanation is that the Collect gathers, collects together
in the mouth of the priest the wants and wishes of the faithful, for whom the priest at Mass pleads.
Many of the Collects now said were composed by St. Gelasius (492) or St. Gregory (590), while many are of a later date, and
are continually added for new feasts.
Almost all the Collects
are addressed to the Father and end with the words, "through our Lord Jesus Christ," etc.; only a few, and these of recent
date, are addressed to the Son, and none to the Holy Ghost. Why are the Collects
chiefly addressed to the Father? Because the Mass represents the Sacrifice by which Christ offered Himself
to the Father, and therefore the prayers of the Liturgy are directed to the Father Himself.
A word as to the formation
of the Collect. The Collects, however
varied, are written more or less on the same lines. St. Paul
desires that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made by men. This rule is followed in the Collects.
Take a few familiar instances.
The Collect for the Holy Ghost: O God (lifting of the heart to God the Father)
who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit (statement of a grace and thanksgiving), grant
us in the same Spirit to relish what is right and ever to rejoice in His consolations (the request), through
our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit through everlasting ages.
These words, which end all Collects addressed to the Father, implore what is asked
through the merits of the Passion and Death of our Lord.
Here is a Collect addressed to Christ for the feast of the Blessed Sacrament:
O God (the elevation of
the heart to God) who under a wonderful Sacrament hast left us a memorial of Thy Passion (statement of
a favour and consequently thanksgiving), grant us, we beseech Thee (the Church s favourite form of earnest petition), so to
reverence the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may continually find the fruit of Thy redemption in our souls
(close of petition), who livest and reignest, world without end (thus ends often the Collect addressed to the Son), or the
fuller form: who livest and reignest in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God through ever lasting ages.
The first or principal Collect is always peculiar to the Sunday or festival. On greater days one Collect only is said; on all festivals
except the chief, other Collects are admissible, and these are called Commemorations a remembrance of saints and feasts. A Collect prescribed
by the Bishop in some special need is called an Oratio imperata, a prayer ordered.
That prayer is sometimes for the Pope, or Church, or for a temporal gain, e.g., fine weather, etc.
Amen gives assent to all said by the priest. In the early ages the people answered Amen at Mass. The server now answers for them.
The Jews began the public
service of their Sabbath by readings from Moses and the Prophets. (Acts xiii. 15.) The first Christians followed their example,
and during divine worship on the Sunday read passages from the New or Old Testament.
The general rule is, with few
exceptions, that each Mass has two Lessons from the Bible said or sung during the Holy Sacrifice, one is the Epistle, the other the Gospel.
The Epistle may be taken from any portion of the Old or New Testament except the Psalms and the four Gospels. It is thought that the present arrangement of Epistles and
Gospels throughout the year, was made by St.
Jerome, by the desire of Pope Damasus, about the year 376.
The Epistle is more commonly taken from the Epistles of the Apostles.
From the ninth century the Epistle at High Mass has been sung by the subdeacon, the Gospel by the deacon. The Epistle is read before the Gospel to mark
the subordination of the former to the latter. The Epistle gives the teaching of
Prophets and Apostles, the Gospel is the direct teaching of Christ.
The Gospel determines the choice of the Epistle; these two lessons from
the Bible are in perfect harmony, they often express the same idea, seen sometimes from different points of view. (See Epistle and Gospel for the Sundays in Advent,
the Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, the First Sunday in Lent, Passion Sunday, the Second Sunday after Easter, Corpus Christi, the
Immaculate Conception, the Seven Dolours, the Assumption, Pentecost, St. Augustine, Apostle of England; St. Mary Magdalene,
the Sacred Heart, and Masses for the Dead. The close relationship between the Epistle
and Gospel is very evident in Votive Masses for the Angels, for the Holy Ghost,
for the Passion of our Lord, for the grace of a Happy Death, for the Sick, for Bride and Bridegroom.)
At the end of the Epistle the server answers Deo gratias, to give thanks to God for the
gift of His holy doctrine.