On the Dedication of a Church, Part 2 (GA 150 – 171)

Part 1: The Preparation

(b) The Dedication-Consecration

Dedication 4

Ch. 156
On the Deus in adiutorium

After these things the bishop stands before the altar and invokes the divine aid through the verse Deus, in adiutorium meum intende so that he may be able to consecrate the house worthily to God’s name. He adds Gloria Patri without Alleluia, showing that in this house glory is sung to the Trinity. He does not add Alleluia because the house has not been consecrated yet for the voice of exultation. After the consecration, however, the Alleluia will be sung because once every influence of the devil has been cast out God will be praised in it.

In a like manner Christ, the true bishop, approached the altar of the cross and invoked his Father’s aid, desiring to sanctify the Church thereby, and sang a sort of Gloria Patri when he suffered death for the Church to the glory of the Holy Trinity. He did not add the Alleluia because the whole world was thrown into confusion by his Passion. But after his resurrection, as after a consecration, the Alleluia was sung because heaven and earth rejoiced in his resurrection.

CAP. CLVI. – De illo, Deus in adiutorium

Post haec Pontifex ante altare stans divinum auxilium per versum: Deus, in adiutorium meum intende, invocat; ut domum nomini eius digne consecrare valeat. Gloria Patri, absque Alleluia, subiungit. Quia gloriam Trinitati in illa domo cantari innotescit: Alleluia non addit, eo quod adhuc ad vocem exsultationis consecrata non sit. Post consecrationem autem Alleluia cantabitur, quia exclusa iam omni daemonum fantasia Deus in ea laudabitur. Ita Christus verus Pontifex ad aram crucis accedens, Patris auxilium invocavit, quo Ecclesiam sanctificare velit, quasi gloria Patri cecinit, dum ad gloriam Trinitatis mortem pro Ecclesia subiit. Quando Alleluia non addidit, dum totus mundus in eius passione fuit turbatus. Post resurrectionem autem quasi post consecrationem Alleluia cantabatur, quia coelum et terra de eius resurrectione laetabantur.

Ch. 157
On the Salt and Ashes

Then water is blessed and mixed with wine and ashes. Salt, which makes all foods flavorful, signifies Christ the Wisdom of God, through whom all are given wisdom and understanding. Elisha put salt in water and the waters were made clean (2 Kings 2), because God sent his Wisdom, i.e. his Son to mankind and they were healed. In the Law a red calf was burned in fire and the people expiated their sins with its ashes (Numbers 19). A red calf is burned to ash in order to expiate the people’s sins; viz., stained red in Christ’s blood and reduced to ashes by the fire of the passion, by which the faithful people are redeemed. When ashes and salt are mixed, humanity is taken up into divinity in the resurrection. Ash is also mixed with salt when we Christians, who are ash, and are called Church, are brought to share in Christ’s divinity.

CAP. CLVII. – De sale et cinere

Deinde aqua benedicitur, vinum admiscetur sal quoque et cinis commiscentur: sal, quo omnes cibi sapidi fiunt, Christus Dei Sapientia designatur, qua omnes sapere et intelligere acceperunt. Deinde Elisaeus sal in aquam misit, et aquae sanatae sunt (IV Reg. II) , quia Deus Sapientiam, id est Filium suum, in homines misit, et sanati sunt. In lege autem vitula rufa iussa est in igne cremari, et populus eius cinere expiari (Num. XIX). Vitula rufa in expiatione populi in cinerem cremata est; Christi sanguine rubricata, igne passionis in cinerem redacta, quo plebs fidelium est expiata. Hic cinis sali admiscetur, dum humanitas a Divinitate in resurrectione resumitur. Cinis quoque sali commiscetur, dum nos Christiani, qui cinis sumus, et Ecclesia nominamur, divinitati Christi associamur.

Ch. 158
On the Wine and Water

Just as the wine is understood as divinity, so the water is understood as humanity. When the two are mixed our humanity is joined to divinity through the blood of Christ. Three times the cross is made with the salt and ashes over the water, because through his cross Christ engraved the Trinitarian faith into mankind. Further, through each of these things we express the Church’s sacrifice, which is offered in this consecrated house: through salt and ashes, the body of Christ is prefigured in its divinity; through the wine and water we symbolize Christ’s blood, which is made with water.

CAP. CLVIII. – De vino et aqua.

Item per vinum Divinitas, per aquam intelligitur humanitas. Haec duo commiscentur, dum nostra humanitas per Christi sanguinem Divinitati adiungitur. Ter crux cum sale et cinere super aquam fit, quia per crucem Christus hominibus fidem Trinitatis impressit. Porro per haec singula, sacrificium Ecclesiae exprimitur, quod in hac domo dedicata offertur: per salem et cinerem, Christi corpus in divinitate praefiguratur, per vinum et aquam Christi sanguis, quod cum aqua conficitur, praenotatur.

Ch. 159
On the Temple

Understand that this whole rite refers also to the individual man, who is called a temple of God. The bishop first opens the door, then offers prayers, writes the alphabet, blesses water with salt and ashes, adds wine, then anoints the altar. In a similar way, to everyone who is converted to God the door of faith is opened, prayers offered for him, Scripture engraved in his heart, excorcisms performed on him as a catechumen, and through faith he is taught the divinity and humanity of Christ. Then he is purified in the fount of baptism, and finally he is anointed with the chrism. Thus he becomes a temple of God.

CAP. CLIX. – De templo.

Notandum quod hoc totum ad hominem refertur, qui templum Dei appellatur. Primum pontifex ostium aperit: deinde preces fundit, post haec alphabetum scribit, deinde aquam cum sale et cinere benedicit, vinum admiscet, deinde ungit. Ita cuilibet ad Dominum converso ostium fidei aperitur: deinde pro eo oratur: deinde Scriptura menti eius inscribitur, dum catechumenus exorcismis imbuitur, exinde, per fidem Christi divinitatem et humanitatem docetur: deinde fonte baptismatis purificatur, ad extremum chrismate ungitur, et sic templum Dei efficitur.

Ch. 160
On the Altar and Cross

After these things the priest dips his finger into the oil and makes a sign of the cross over the four corners of the altar. Now the altar represents the primitive Church in Jerusalem. Christ the bishop made a cross over the altar when he took up the cross for the Church in Jerusalem. He signed the four corners of the altar when he saved the four parts of the world by his cross. Then the bishop sprinkles the altar seven times, because after his resurrection Christ ordered the Church to be baptized in the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The water is sprinkled with hyssop, a bitter herb that is said to be able to pierce through the hardness of stone, and signifies the flesh of Christ made bitter in the passion, through which baptism is given to us and the stony hearts of the Gentiles are softened in the faith. Next he circles the altar while sprinkling, because the Lord feeds his angel “round about them that fear him” (Psalm 33). The altar is sprinkled three times because the Church is cleansed of the three deadly sins, namely those of thought, word, and deed. Next he goes through the whole church and sprinkles the walls on both sides, because Christ ordered the apostles to baptized the people throughout all Judaea. Meanwhile the Psalm is sung: Exsurgat Deus, et dissipentur inimici eius, because when Christ rose the demons and his Jewish enemies were scattered, and because when Christ’s resurrection and baptism were preached throughout the world the enemies of God were scattered by the Church.

CAP. CLX. – De altari et cruce.

Post haec sacerdos digitum tingit, et crucem per quatuor cornua altaris facit. Altare hic primitivam Ecclesiam in Hierusalem exprimit. Quasi Christus crucem Pontifex super altare fecit, dum crucem in Hierusalem, pro Ecclesia subiit. Quatuor cornua altaris signavit, dum quatuor partes mundi cruce salvavit. Deinde septies contra altare spargit, quia Christus post resurrectionem in septem donis Spiritus sancti Ecclesiam baptizari iussit. Aqua cum hyssopo aspergitur, quae amara herba duritiam lapidum penetrare fertur, et signat Christi carnem in passione amaricatam, per quem baptismus datur, et duritia gentilium ad fidem emollitur. Deinde altare spargendo circuit, quia Dominus angelum suum in circuitu timentium se nutrit. Altare ter aspergitur, quia Ecclesia a tribus peccatis mortis, scilicet operis, locutionis, cogitationis emundatur. Deinde per totam ecclesiam vadit, parietes ex utraque spargit parte, quia Christus per totam Iudaeam populum baptizare praecepit. Interim canitur psalmus: Exsurgat Deus, et dissipentur inimici eius, quia dum Christus surrexit, daemones et Iudaei inimici eius dissipati sunt. Et cum Christi resurrectio et baptismus per mundum praedicabantur, inimici Dei ab Ecclesia dissipabantur.

Ch. 161
On the Ministers

The bishop sends the ministers to compass the church while singing, because Christ sent the apostles to preach his baptism throughout the whole world. Proceeding to the middle of the church, the bishop sings the antiphon Domus mea, and Christ has made the Church his house by visiting it through his doctors. Having begun the antiphon Introibo, he goes singing to the altar and pours what remains of the water at the base of the altar because Christ poured out the rivers of his doctrine in Jerusalem and the font of baptism sprung up there. Next the altar is cleaned with a linen cloth, which signifies the Lord’s passion. For linen comes from the earth and is made white through much labor. Just so Christ is born of a virgin and through the great suffering of his passion attained the whiteness of the resurrection. The altar is wiped dry with this linen while the Church’s tribulation is cleaned with the example of Christ’s passion. Then incense is offered, i.e. the prayers of the just, who offer themselves as a pleasing odor to God when they afflict their bodies for his sake.

CAP. CLXI. – De ministris.

Pontifex mittit ministros, qui ecclesiam cantando circumeant: quia Christus apostolos misit, qui baptismum per totum mundum praedicabant. Episcopus per mediam ecclesiam incedens cantat antiphonam, Domus mea, et Christus per doctores visitans fecit eam domum suam. Incipiens autem antiphonam, Introibo et post vadit canendo ad altare, et quod remansit de aqua ad basim altaris fundit, quia Christus fluenta doctrinae in Hierusalem effudit, et inde fons baptismatis erupit. Post haec altare cum linteo extergitur, per quod Dominica passio intelligitur. Linum quippe de terra oritur, et cum labore ad candorem convertitur; et Christus de Virgine nascitur, et cum magno labore passionis ad candorem resurrectionis rediit. Hoc linteo altare extergitur, dum tribulatio Ecclesiae exemplo passionis Christi delinitur. Deinde offertur incensum, hoc est orationes iustorum, qui se in odorem Deo offerunt, dum corpus suum pro eo affligunt.

Ch. 162
On the Oil and the Altar

Next the pontiff pours oil over the altar, making a cross through the center and over its four corners, because Christ poured out the Holy Spirit over the primitive Church in Jerusalem, where he took up the cross, then distributed these gifts to the faithful throughout the four parts of the world. Then the antiphon Erexit lapidem Iacob in titulum is sung. A stone was anointed, Christ anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit who is the oil of gladness. Now he is become the corner stone (Psalm 44, 117) and both peoples are joined in him. The altar is anointed three times, twice with oil and a third time with the chrism, because the Church is marked with faith, hope, and charity. Once the oil has been poured the antiphon Ecce odor filii mei sicut odor agri pleni is sung. The field (ager) means the breadth of the world, through which the Church is everywhere diffused. This field is verdant with flowers, and the Church is resplendent in the virtues. The flowers’ perfume is the fragrance of good works. The roses are the martyrs, the lilies the virgins, the violets those who have contempt for the world; the green plants are the wise, the bright and colorful ones the proficient, and those that are heavy with fruits are the souls of the perfect.

CAP. CLXII. – De oleo et altari.

Postea pontifex fundit oleum super altare, faciens crucem in medio eius, et super quatuor cornua eius, quia Christus super primitivam Ecclesiam Spiritum sanctum in Hierusalem effudit, in qua et crucem subiit, deinde per quatuor mundi partes haec dona fidelibus tribuit. Tunc cantatur antiphona: Erexit lapidem Iacob in titulum. Lapis unctus fuit, Christus Spiritu sancto a Patre scilicet oleo laetitiae unctus, hic in caput anguli est factus (Psal. XLIV; CXVII): dum uterque populus in eo est coniunctus. Ter altare ungitur, bis oleo, tertio chrismate, quia Ecclesia insignitur fide, spe, charitate. Fuso autem oleo cantatur antiphona, Ecce odor filii mei sicut odor agri pleni. Ager latitudo mundi intelligitur, per quem Ecclesia ubique diffunditur. Hic ager vernat floribus, dum Ecclesia resplendet virtutibus. Odor florum est fragrantia bonorum operum. Rosae sunt martyres; lilia virgines, violae saeculi contemptores, virides herbae sapientes, floridae proficientes, fructibus plenae animae perfectae.

Ch. 163
On the Chrism

Next he uses his thumb to make crosses with chrism on the church’s wall, moving from the right side to the left because the unction of chrism began in the primitive Church and reached to the Church of the Gentiles. Meanwhile the antiphon Sanctificavit Dominus tabernaculum is sung. Now the Church is God’s tabernacle in this earthly journey, but will become a temple through anticipation. Next the antiphon Lapides pretiosi. The “precious stones” are those that held and protected the holy Scriptures: the walls and towers of Jerusalem are the fortifications of the Scriptures. They keep out the Jews, heretics, and pagans. Its gems are the sacred sentences.

CAP. CLXIII. – De chrismate.

Demum per parietes ecclesiae crucem de chrismate facit cum pollice, incipiens a dextro latere usque in sinistrum, quia unctio chrismatis a primitiva Ecclesia incipiens pervenit in Ecclesiam gentium; interim cantatur antiphona, Sanctificavit Dominus tabernaculum. Ecclesia nunc est Dei tabernaculum in huius mundi itinere, quae postea erit templum in praeventione. Deinde antiphona, Lapides pretiosi. Lapides pretiosi sunt, qui sacras Scripturas condiderunt. Muri et turres Hierusalem sunt munitiones Scripturarum, quibus arcentur Iudaei, haeretici atque pagani. Gemmae sunt sacrae sententiae.

Ch. 164
On the Incense

dedication 8

Then the pontiff makes a sign of the cross over the altar with incense and says the oration.

Christ also, Pontiff of pontiffs, makes a cross of incense over the altar because he intercedes for us with his Father. For him to make a cross with incense is for him to show his passion to the Father on the Church’s behalf and to intercede for us. Thus the pontiff begins the antiphon Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operatus es in nobis along with the Gloria Patri because Christ implores the Father on behalf of his Church that he may confirm in her his work of redemption and submit the whole world to her dominion. The antiphon continues, telling where this grace comes from: from your holy temple, which is in Jerusalem (Psalm 67). In Jerusalem the work of mankind’s salvation began, and thence spread out to the whole earth. For Jerusalem is the Church, Christ’s temple, in whom the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). But this divinity was poured out lavishly for the human race. He adds Gloria Patri because this salvation is the work of the Trinity. Therefore, we sing glory and honor to the Trinity for ever after.

CAP. CLXIV. – De incenso.

Tunc pontifex crucem incensi super altare facit, et se ad orationem submittit. Christus quoque Pontifex pontificum incensum crucis super altare ponit, quia apud Patrem pro nobis intervenit. Crucem namque incensi facere est passionem suam, pro Ecclesia Patri ostendere, et pro nobis interpellare. Unde pontifex incipit antiphonam: Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operatus es in nobis, cum Gloria Patri, quia Christus Patrem pro Ecclesia exorat, ut redemptionem, quam ipse operatus est, in ea confirmet, et omnem terram ei subiiciat. Unde haec processerit gratia subdit: a templo sancto tuo, quod est in Hierusalem (Psal. LXVII). In Hierusalem quippe salvatio humani generis coepit, et inde in totum mundum manavit. Hierusalem enim est Ecclesia, in qua templum est Christi, in quo habitavit plenitudo divinitatis corporaliter; quae tamen per Spiritum sanctum effusa humano generi profluxit largiter. Gloria Patri additur, quia hanc salvationem Trinitas operatur, quia Trinitati laus et gloria proinde canitur.

Ch. 165
On Liturgical Vessels and Decoration

After all these things, the subdeacons or acolytes offer the vessels, linens, and all the vestments to the pontiff to be blessed. They represent those who have been chosen to adorn the Church, consecrated by the bishop to serve her, and they are called God’s vessels. Then the pontiff goes to the place where the relics lay with vigils during the previous night, and raising them aloft he carries them to the place prepared for them. Just so Christ the True Pontiff, after preparing a place for the just who guard themselves vigilantly from evil during the night of this present life, takes them from their places and leads them into the house of his Father. Thus we sing the antiphon Ambulate, sancti Dei, ingredimini civitatem Dei; and the “city of God” (civitatem Dei) is the heavenly Jerusalem. The following phrase “a new Church is built for us,” refers to the new Jerusalem, “built as a city” (Psalm 121). We sing several antiphons, imitating the solemn dance (tripudium) and exultations of the angelic virtues, who accompany souls as they leave their bodies, conducting them unto the heavenly habitations they have merited. Coming before the altar where the relics are to be placed, the pontiff draws a veil between himself and the people, because the secret places of the soul are veiled from mortal sight.

CAP. CLXV. – De vasis et ornamentis.

Post haec subdiaconi vel acolythi vasa, linteamina, et omnia ornamenta offerunt pontifici benedicenda, sunt hi qui ornatui Ecclesiae eliguntur, et ad servitium Ecclesiae ab episcopo consecrantur, et vasa Dei dicuntur. His peractis vadit pontifex in eum locum, in quo reliquiae praeterita nocte cum vigiliis fuerunt; et elevat eas portans ad locum praeparatum: ita Christus verus Pontifex, postquam nobis praeparavit locum, iustos, qui in praesenti nocte se vigili mente a malo custodiunt, assumit de locis suis, et perducit eos in domum Patris sui. Unde cantatur antiphona, Ambulate, sancti Dei, ingredimini civitatem Dei, id est coelestem Hierusalem. Quod autem sequitur nobis aedificata est nova Ecclesia, hoc est Hierusalem nova, quae aedificatur ut civitas (Psal. CXXI). Diversae antiphonae cantantur; tripudium et exsultationes angelicarum virtutum imitantur, quae exeuntes de corpore animas comitantur, usquequo meritis sibi debitis mansionibus recipiantur. Veniens pontifex ante altare, ubi reliquiae sunt reconditae, extendit velum inter se et populum, quia loca animarum secreta sunt a visione mortalium.

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