On the Dedication of a Church, Part 3 (GA 150 – 171)

Part 1: The Preparation
Part 2: The Consecration-Dedication

Ch. 166
On the Saints’ Relics

Consecration Procession, Westminster Cathedral, London

Relics are sealed in the altar because the holy souls are put in the heavenly places. The antiphon Exsultabunt sancti in gloria is sung because the souls of the angelic court rejoice.


CAP. CLXVI. – De reliquiis sanctorum.

Reliquiae in altari sigillantur, quia animae in coelestibus collocantur. Cantatur antiphona, Exsultabunt sancti in gloria, quia animae ovant in angelica curia.


Ch. 167
On the Soul’s Vestments

Next the altar is dressed, because in the resurrection souls are dressed once more in their bodies. The altar was naked while the souls were waiting without bodies in heaven. The altar is dressed when the soul is clothed in the mortal and incorruptible body.

CAP. CLXVII. – De veste animarum.

Post haec altare vestitur, quia animae in resurrectione corporibus vestiuntur. Nudum erat altare, dum animae sine corporibus in coelis fuerant collocatae. Altare vestitur, dum anima in immortali et incorruptibili corpore induetur.


Ch. 168
On the Day of Judgment

Next the pontiff blesses the altar and Christ blesses his Church with these words: Venite, benedicti Patris mei (Matthew 25). The pontiff returns to the sacristy with his orders [i.e. ministers] and dresses himself in other vestments, and Christ returns to the world for the judgment with the orders of angels. He puts on other vestments because he will present the form of a slave to the impious when they look on the one they have crucified, and the just will see the King of glory in all his splendor.

Next the church is decorated and the lamps are lit because the good works adorning the just blaze forth forever like the sun.

Then the cantor begins Terribilis est locus iste. For what is more terrible than that day when the angels will tremble and the impious will go to their eternal punishment? Then the pontiff proceeds solemnly and the office is performed with great joy, because at the end of the judgment God will be seen face to face in his glory, and God will be all in all (I Corinthians 13), and just as light is to the eyes, so will joy be to souls.

CAP. CLXVIII. – De die iudicii.

Post haec pontifex altare benedicit, et Christus Ecclesiam his verbis benedicit: Venite, benedicti Patris mei (Matth. XXV). Pontifex revertitur in sacrarium cum ordinibus suis, et induit se vestimentis aliis, et Christus revertitur in mundum ad iudicium cum ordinibus angelicis; aliis induitur vestimentis, quia servilem formam praesentabit impiis, cum videbunt eum quem crucifixerunt, et iusti Regem gloriae in decore suo videbunt. Deinde ornatur ecclesia, et accenduntur luminaria, quia tunc opera iustorum splendescunt, pro quibus ornati perenniter ut sol fulgebunt. Tunc incipit cantor Terribilis est locus iste.Quid enim terribilius illa die quando angeli timebunt, et impii in aeternum supplicium ibunt. Tunc procedit pontifex solemniter, et fit officium cum omni laetitia, quia peracto iudicio videbitur Deus facie ad faciem, in gloria sua, et erit Deus omnia in omnibus (I Cor. XIII, et ut lux oculis, sic gaudium animabus.


Ch. 169
On the Place of Sacrifice

Dedication 4 (St Nicholas in Kronstadt)
Primates of the Church of Jerusalem and the Russian Orthodox Church consecrate the Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas in Kronstadt

Therefore, just as one may celebrate Mass legitimately only in a dedicated church, just so one may sacrifice legitimately only in the Catholic Church, and outside of it no sacrifice is accepted by God. Though God can and in justice must be blessed and invoked everywhere in the fields, in the desert, on the sea, and in every place of his dominion, indeed in the whole temple of this world, nevertheless it is right that the faithful have recourse to the church at certain times, where they may invoke and adore God, who has promised to give them anything that two together may ask of him, and where he promises to be present with two or three gathered in his name (Matthew 18). It is just for the Christian people to convene in an oratory, as if in a praetorium, to hear the judgments and mandates of the eternal King and to participate in the banquet of the fatted calf. Thus when the people congregate in the church they build a temple where God can dwell. The Christian people in a dedicated building are a church within a church, just as every baptized person in a consecrated house is a temple within a temple.

CAP. CLXIX. – De certo loco et sacrificio.

Igitur sicut in ecclesia dedicata rite missa celebratur, sic in Ecclesia catholica legitime sacrificatur, et extra hanc nullum sacrificium a Deo acceptatur. Et quamvis Deus ubique sive in agro, sive in eremo vel in mari, vel in omni loco dominationis eius iuste possit ac debeat benedici, et invocari, ut puta in templo totius mundi, tamen iure opportuno tempore ad ecclesiam a fidelibus curritur, ut ibi Deus invocetur, atque adoretur, in qua omnem rem, quam duo ex consensu petierint, se daturum pollicetur, et ubi ipse duobus vel tribus in nomine eius congregatis interesse perhibetur (Matth. XVIII). Iustum quippe est ut Christianus populus in oratorium quasi ad praetorium conveniat, iudicia ac mandata aeterni Regis audiat, atque de convivio vituli saginati percipiat. Cum ergo populus in ecclesiam congregatur, quasi templum Deo ad inhabitandum aedificatur. Ecclesia autem in Ecclesia, est plebs Christiana in aula dedicata. Templum quoque est in templo, baptizatus quilibet in domo consecrata.


Ch. 170
On a Dedicated Church

Image result for moses offers sacrifice + illumination

If a church is desecrated by murder or adultery it is re-dedicated, just as when a man, the temple of the Holy Spirit dedicated through baptism, is desecrated by sin, he must be restored again in the fount of tears. If the altar’s seal is removed, it must be re-consecrated, just as, when the seal of faith is removed from the altar of the heart through some heresy, it must be reconciled through penance. If the high altar (principale altare) is moved, it is decreed that the church must be re-consecrated, just as when the bishop, the prince (princeps) of the Church, changes from faith to heresy, the whole people subject to him are stained with his fault, and they should be received back into the Catholic faith along with him after a process of penance and sanctification. But a desecrated church that has not been reconsecrated is an unclean place fit for dogs; just so when a man, who is a temple of God, desecrates himself by a mortal sin and does not reform through penance, he will be a habitation for demons. The bodies of people recently killed are not carried into the church to avoid soiling the floor with their blood. For this reason some think that women who die in childbirth should not be brought into the church, but in fact it is permitted.

CAP. CLXX. – De violata ecclesia.

Si ecclesia homicidio vel adulterio violatur, iterum dedicatur: ita si homo Spiritus sancti templum in baptismate dedicatum criminali peccato violatur, necesse est ut denuo fonte lacrymarum renovetur. Si sigillum altaris amovetur, est praeceptum ut iterum consecretur: ita si sigillum fidei ab altari cordis aliqua haeresi amovctur, oportet ut denuo per poenitentiam reconcilietur. Si principale altare movetur, est decretum ut ecclesia denuo consecretur: ita si episcopus princeps Ecclesiae a fide ad haeresim mutatur, tota plebs ei subiecta commaculatur; et ideo convenit ut cum eo poenitentia et sanctificatione ad catholicam fidem recipiatur. Quae autem violata, non denuo consecrata fuerit, immunda et canibus erit pervia: ita si homo templum Dei, scilicet seipsum, mortali crimine violaverit, atque per poenitentiam denuo non remundaverit, daemonibus habitatio erit. Interfecti ideo in ecclesiam non portantur, ne sanguine pavimentum maculetur. Ob hanc enim causam putant quidam mulieres in partu defunctas, in ecclesiam non esse deferendas, quod tamen licet fieri.


Ch. 171
On the Construction of a Church

Image result for moses offers sacrifice + illumination

It is very good to build churches or furnish them with vessels, vestments, and other ornaments, but it is much better to expend the same means for the relief of the poor, and thus to send his before him through the hands of the poor to the heavenly treasury (Matthew 6), and prepare there “a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5), where he will live for ever with the angels.

Mark you, however, that holy places do not save those whose wicked works have separated them from the Church, and that not even the rudest structure is an impediment to those who live piously. Nadab and Abihu are consumed by fire in God’s tabernacle (Leviticus 10); Chore, Dathan, and Abiron are swallowed up the the earth in front of the tabernacle (Numbers 16). The priest Heli’s neck is broken in the holy place (1 Kings 4). Oza is struck down near the arc (2 Kings 6). Joab is killed next to the altar (1 Kings 2). King Ozias is covered with leprosy in the Temple (2 Chronicles 26). Finally, the Temple itself is desecrated and destroyed, and the hypocritical people of the Law are led away from it into captivity (IV Kings 25).

On the other hand, Joseph does not perish in the cistern or in prison (Genesis 37). Moses is not drowned in the river (Exodus 1). Job does not die on his dung heap nor Jeremiah in his cistern (Job 2; Jeremiah 38). No harm comes to Daniel in lions’ pit or to the three children in the furnace (Daniel 3, 6). Peter survives in prison and Paul does not perish on the sea (Acts 12; II Corinthians 11). Even the devil lived after being cast from heaven and man after he was expelled from Paradise (Genesis 2; Isaiah 14). God visits the just of the earth and raises them up from hell toward heavenly things.

CAP. CLXXI. – De constructione ecclesiae.

Itaque bonum est ecclesias aedificare, constructas vasis, vestibus, aliis ornamentis decorare, sed multo melius est eosdem sumptus in usus indigentium expendere, et censum suum per manus pauperum in coelestes thesauros (Matth. VI) praemittere, ibique domum non manufactam, sed aeternam in coelis (II Cor. V) praeparare, in qua possit cum angelis aeternaliter habitare. Sciendum autem quod loca sancta non salvant quos prava opera ab Ecclesia separant, nec item horrida loca his obsunt qui pie vivunt. Nadab namque et Abiu sacerdotes in tabernaculo Dei igne consumuntur (Levit. X); Chore, Dathan, et Abiron ante tabernaculum a terra deglutiuntur (Num. XVI). Heli pontifex in loco sancto fracta cervice periit (I Reg. IV). Oza iuxta arcam percussus interiit (II Reg. VI). Ioab iuxta altare occiditur (III Reg. II). Ozias rex in templo lepra perfunditur (II Par. XXVI). Postremo templum violatum subruitur, populus legis praevaricator ab eo captivus ducitur (IV Reg. XXV). Econtra Ioseph in cisterna et in carcere non perit (Gen. XXXVII). Moyses in fluvio necem non subit (Exod. I). Iob in sterquilinio, Hieremias non interiit in coeno (Iob. II; Ier. XXXVIII). Daniel in lacu leonum: tres pueri non laeduntur in camino ignium (Dan. III, VI). Petrus in carcere: Paulus non periit in mari (Act. XII; II Cor. XI) ; imo diabolus de coelo, homo cecidit de paradiso (Gen. III; Isa. XIV). Iusti autem in terra a Deo visitantur, de inferno ad coelestia sublevantur.

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