Priesthood and touching the Body of Christ

This Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, let us reflect on the priesthood and the Blessed Sacrament, by looking at two post-Resurrection episodes in Holy Writ. First, when Christ, risen from the tomb, met Mary Magdalene, He forbade her from touching Him. “Touch Me not,” said He. Second, when Christ appeared to His disciples again, Thomas being present, He bade Thomas put his finger into His wounds. “Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing,” said the Lord. While theologians sometimes juxtapose these two instances to expound the mystery of faith, we can read these two episodes under a different light.

Явление Христа Марии Магдалине после воскресения | Алексaндр Андрeевич Ивaнов | 1835

Holy Mother Church ranks Mary Magdalene amongst the Lord’s disciples, according her an honour more sublime than the rest. The West calls her the Apostola Apostolorum, the Apostle of the Apostles. The East calls her Ἰσαπόστολος, an Equal to the Apostles. While Mary Magdalene received the privilege of being the first of all Christ’s disciples Holy Writ recorded to have met and conversed with the risen Lord, she didn’t receive the honour of touching the Lord’s risen Body. The privilege alone belonged to the apostles. The Lord did not raise Mary Magdalene to the ministerial priesthood, and He commanded her not to touch Him. On the other hand, the Lord did indeed raise Thomas to the ministerial priesthood, and so He instructed him to touch the living marks of the Passion on His risen Body. Here we can see why Holy Mother Church cannot go beyond what the Lord had done, and that is to admit women into sacred orders.

Incredulità di san Tommaso | Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio | 1601–1602

While Mary Magdalene did not receive the ministerial priesthood, she, of course, shared in our common priesthood. For all intents and purposes, she was laywoman, a holy laywoman. When this sinks in, terror must then possess us whenever, unworthy as we are, an ordained minister invites us to touch the consecrated species. Our unconsecrated and unanointed hands must never touch the Most Holy Body of the Lord. Such an honour was denied even from one who watched the salvation of mankind unfold on Calvary, who stood under the Cross as the Lord hung from its gibbet, witnessed His burial, and brought myrrh on the first day of the week after to properly anoint His Body. We must always remember His command to this holy laywoman whom the Church honours as Equal to the Apostles and as the Apostle of the Apostles: “Touch Me not!”

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Filipinos and the Corpus Christi sequence

Last Thursday was the feast of Corpus Christi.

Blessed Sacrament

Musically, from Office to Mass, the feast is decorated with theologically rich pieces penned by the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas. All four, in fact, used as hymns in various Hours of the Office, and as Sequence of the Mass, are of his authorship: Pange, lingua, gloriosi for Vespers; Sacris sollemniis for Matins; Verbum supernum prodiens for Lauds; and Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem for Mass. A fifth hymn, Adoro te devote, he composed for private devotion, and is often used today as a fitting Communion hymn.

Did we ever wonder how these were sung in the Philippines before? Yes, we did! We know that prior to the so-called Gregorian Restoration of the 19th century (which spawned universal approved editions of the official chant books, new chant methodologies, and several editions of the Liber usualis), churches in the Philippines, whenever the occasion for a misa cantada arose, used the resources available to them.

Lauda, Sion, SalvatoremThis (click on the image to access the file) is an example of how Corpus Christi sounded in the Philippines in the 19th century. What we have here is the Sequence Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem from the Introitale Baclaianum, a collection of Mass parts set to plainchant and figured chant, dated 1827, from the parish of Baclayón in the island province Bohol. It is one of the four sets of cantorals, large format chant books that were propped on a specially-engineered rotating lectern called facistolium, used in the said parish during the Spanish era.

The first thing we must notice is the length of the Sequence. It is not complete. Only selected verses are included, grouped into twos. In the manuscript itself, the last verse itself alone uses the sixth melody. We only added the penultimate verse to keep the number even. Also, in the manuscript, there is no melody for the Amen. The music sidles directly to Alleluia. We picked the Amen melody from the Sequence of Saint Augustine (found in the same manuscript) which employs a similar melodic pattern.

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Incense and Eucharistic Processions

This is not a matter of Sacred Music, but something which some Traditional communities grapple with, or conveniently ignore: how to incense the Blessed Sacrament during a Eucharistic Procession.

La fanfare de Fleurieu-sur-Saône à la procession de la Fête-Dieu
La fanfare de Fleurieu-sur-Saône à la procession de la Fête-Dieu | Nicolas Sicard | 1885

There are three easy steps:

  1. Walk forward, ahead of the Blessed Sacrament.
  2. Look backward, towards the Blessed Sacrament.
  3. Swing the censer sideways.

These are not our own fabrication. Please, our Lord deserves more than the mere designs of mere mortals. These, rather, come from a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 15 September 1742. Read them at your leisure from the link indicated towards the end of this post.

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