BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 5: ON THE DIGNITY OF THE
SACRAMENT AND ON THE PRIESTLY STATE
The Voice of the Beloved.
IF thou hadst the purity of an Angel and the sanctity of St. John the
Baptist, thou wouldst neither be worthy to receive nor to handle this
For this is not due to man's merits, that a man should consecrate and
handle the Sacrament of Christ, and receive for food the Bread of
Great is the mystery, and great the dignity of priests, to whom is
given that which to the Angels is not granted. For, priests alone,
rightly ordained in the Church, have the power of celebrating and
consecrating the Body of Christ.
A priest, indeed, is the minister of God, using the word of God, by the
command and institution of God; but God is there the principal Author
and invisible Worker, to Whom all whatsoever He willeth is subject, and
all whatsoever He commandeth is obedient.
More oughtest thou, therefore, to credit God, the Omnipotent, in this
most excellent Sacrament, than thine own sense or any visible sign. And
therefore thou oughtest to approach this work with fear and reverence.
Take heed to thyself, and see what kind of ministry has been delivered
to thee by the imposition of the hands of the Bishop.
Behold, thou art made a priest, and art consecrated to celebrate; see
now that faithfully and devoutly, in due timE, thou offer up sacrifice
to God, and that thou show thyself blameless.
Thou hast not lightened thy burden, but art now bound by a stricter
bond of discipline, and art obliged to greater perfection of sanctity.
A priest ought to be adorned with all virtues, and set the example of a
good life to others.
His conversation should not be with the popular and common ways of men,
but with the Angels in Heaven, or with perfect men upon earth.
2. A priest clad in sacred vestments, is Christ's viceregent, that he
may suppliantly and humbly pray to God for himself and all the people.
He hath before and behind him the Sign of the Cross of our Lord, that
he may ever remember the Passion of Christ.
Before him he beareth the Cross on the chasuble, that he may diligently
behold the footsteps of Christ, and fervently endeavor to follow after
Behind him he is marked with the Cross, that he may mildly suffer for
God's sake whatsoever adversities befall him from others.
He weareth the Cross before, that he may bewail his own sins; and
behind, that through compassion he may lament the sins of others, and
know that he is placed in the midst, between God and the sinner.
Neither ought he to grow weary of prayer and the holy Oblation, until
he deserve to obtain grace and mercy. When a priest celebrateth, he
honoreth God, he rejoiceth the Angels, he edifieth the Church, he
helpeth the living, he obtaineth rest for the departed, and maketh
himself partaker of all good things.
Of the holy dispositions with
which the priest should celebrate Mass, and with which a Christian
should assist at it, in order to hear it with advantage.
THE priest, by his ordination, has received the power of consecration,
so that, according to St. Augustine, God, as it were, becomes again
incarnate, and takes upon Himself a new life, in the hands of the
priest by virtue of his word. It is this power which, in some sense,
makes him superior to the Angels, and exalts him in dignity above all
Such being thine exalted dignity, O priest of the Lord, how great must
be thine obligations! Thine endeavor should be to cherish within thee
throughout the day the same dispositions with which thou shouldst
approach the altar.
Keep thyself closely united to God, recollected in His presence,
faithful to His graces, and diligent in all duties; cherish continually
within thy soul, and offer to Jesus Christ, the sentiments and, as it
were, the condition of a victim entirely devoted to His glory and the
salvation of souls.
When thou celebratest this adorable sacrifice, endeavor, first, to
effect within thine own interior what Jesus accomplishes upon the
altar, to humble thyself most profoundly, and immolate thyself and thy
petitions to God. Secondly, unite the sacrifice of thy soul to that of
the Body and Blood of Christ; enter into His sentiments and
dispositions, as the minister of the sacrifice which He offers to His
eternal Father, by thy means, for the salvation of men; offer thyself a
victim of love for that God Who Himself becomes the victim of His love
for thee. Cease to be thine own, and become entirely His, as He becomes
entirely thine upon the altar, that He may live sacramentally in thy
heart, and consummate the great work of thy salvation.
The priest, who feeds upon God, and is every day nourished with His
Body and Blood, should live only for God, says St. Augustine; and if
the priests of the Old Law were required to live holily, because they
offered bread and incense to the Lord, how much more perfect should the
sanctity of the priests of the New Law be, who every day offer God to
God Himself! "How pure
exclaims St. Chrysostom, "should
that hand be which immolates the Body of the Word Incarnate! How
spotless that tongue which is purpled with the Blood of Jesus! And how
clean that heart into which the infinite purity of a Man God is
received, together with all His other attributes!
Reflect, then, O priest of the Lord, that Jesus Christ, the great High
Priest, celebrates Mass in thy person, and that as thou art invested
with His power to consecrate upon the altar, so thou shouldst also be
animated with His Spirit, and conform thy life to His Divine example.
When thou dost pronounce the words of consecration, give thine all, thy
heart, and thy whole self, together with the sacred words which thou
Whilst thou art putting on thy vestments, meditate on the mysteries of
Christ's Passion which they represent, and beg pardon for thy sins,
which were the cause of all His sufferings.
When going to the altar, reflect that thou art accompanying Jesus
Christ in spirit to Calvary, and that thou art going to behold Him,
with the eyes of faith, mystically die by thy hands.
At the foot of the altar ask pardon for thy sins and for those of the
faithful, whose place thou holdest as their agent and mediator.
At the Gloria in Excelsis
beseech God to bestow upon thee, and upon all who assist at the holy
sacrifice, an efficacious will to be saved.
At the Epistle
, conceive a
holy desire that Christ may be born on the altar, and in the souls of
all; such a desire as the Prophets had for the coming of the Messias,
and the Apostles to establish Jesus Christ in the hearts of all
At the Gospel
, enliven thy
faith and animate thy zeal; thy faith, to believe and to practice the
Gospel, and thy zeal, to instill its maxims into others.
At the Credo
, beseech the
Lord that thy life may be conformable to thy faith.
At the Offertory
, offer the
sacrifice of the holy Mass to the honor of God, in thanksgiving for His
blessings, in atonement for thy sins, to obtain all those virtues
necessary for salvation, and for the relief and consolation of
the Souls in Purgatory.
At the Canon
thyself in spirit into Heaven: and endeavor there to enter into the
dispositions of the Blessed Virgin and of the Apostles, that through
thee He may be born again upon the altar, and in the hearts of all the
At the Consecration
, let all
yield to God, Who comes upon the altar at thy word, and takes upon
Himself, as it were, a new life.
Join thyself to His intentions, pray through His merits, immolate thy
whole self to Him; and, overflowing with His love, present Him to His
eternal Father for the living and for the dead.
At the Pater Noster
into the sentiments of perfect confidence in Jesus Christ.
At the dividing of the Host, which mystically represents the death of
Jesus Christ, beseech Him to assist thee in perfectly dying to thyself,
in giving thy whole heart and affections to Him, and to bring thee to a
holy life, and a good death.
At the Communion
, renew thy
faith in the God Whom thou receivest, thy confidence in thy Savior, and
thy love for thy Father, Who comes to take possession of thy heart, and
to give thee Himself as thine inheritance. Say to Him with thy whole
soul and all thy powers: "Be Thou the
God of my heart, and my portion forever!
After the Communion
thanks to Jesus Christ for having given Himself entirely to thee, and
beseech Him that nothing may any more separate thee from Him.
In a word, let both priests and people, after having celebrated or
after having heard Mass, endeavor, by a life of separation from the
vanities and pleasures of the world, by mortifying their passions, and
by wholly applying themselves to their duties, to make themselves, as
St. Augustine says, the one, priests of the Lord according to the
spirit, and His victims according to the flesh; the other, priests, not
in character and in power, but in intention, by entering into the views
of Jesus Christ upon the altar. Remember how the pagans returned from
Calvary, penetrated with a lively faith in Jesus Christ, overwhelmed
with sorrow for their sins, and truly changed and converted; and
reflect how much more you ought, after having celebrated Mass, which is
the same sacrifice as that of Calvary, or, after having heard it, to be
filled with contrition for your offenses, and resolved to live
henceforth by faith and hope, and as victims of the love of Christ
Jesus our Lord.
To obtain from God the grace of
saying and of hearing Mass well.
O LORD, Who in the adorable sacrifice of the Mass art Thyself both
priest and Victim, immolating Thyself, by the priest's ministry, to the
justice of Thy Father for the salvation of men, grant that we may
sacrifice our hearts in union with the sacrifice of Thy Body and Blood,
and endeavoring to produce in our souls the same that Thou effectest
upon the altar, employ ourselves, during the holy Mass, in the exercise
of profound humility and prayer, and offer ourselves as victims for Thy
people in and by Thee.
We offer up this adorable sacrifice, which is the same as that of
Calvary, to Thy honor and glory, in thanksgiving for all Thy benefits,
to obtain the virtues necessary for salvation, and to bring down Thy
mercy upon us in forgiveness of our manifold offenses. Grant, O Jesus,
that the sacramental life which Thou assumest on the altar, may become
for us, by real or spiritual Communion, the source of a new life. As
Thou takest place of the substances of bread and wine, by their
destruction, so do Thou take place of our self-love in our hearts, and,
destroying all that is estranged from Thee, establish Thy love in place
of our self-love, and let everything give way to Thee.
O adorable Victim of our salvation and love! As Thou makest choice of
our hearts for the consummation of Thy sacramental life, be pleased to
complete in us the sacrifice of self, which would separate us from
Thee; suffer us not, whilst we feed upon the Lamb of God, to live only
as men, but enable us to imitate Thee in the practice of those virtues
which in the Holy Communion Thou comest to imprint in our souls. Amen.