While we honor the Church triumphant with our chants, and succor the Church suffering with our prayers, let us also turn our thoughts to the Church militant, during these days when the closing cycle presents her to us as about to complete her work on earth. Now the Church is our model; but especially at the close of our pilgrimage ought we to make her attitude our own. The above-cited dialogue, which will terminate the world’s history, shows clearly the sentiments wherewith the Holy Spirit inspires her in preparation for the final hour.
As the sufferings of the dying man break the last ties that bound him to the life of the senses; so the last social convulsions, however violently they may shake the Church, will eventually disengage her from the trammels of a world, which she will no longer be able to save from ruin. Free, therefore to give herself up to her desires, which had been pent up for ages and kept under control by so many labors, she will have but one word to utter: Come! And in the universal destruction, when the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall hide her light, and the prayers of heaven shall be moved, she will rejoice, knowing that in the midst of that awful night the cry will be heard: Behold the Bridegroom cometh!
Let him that heareth, let everyone of us say also: Come! If we love our Lord, if we would be recognized as members of his dear Church, let us be worthy of that beautiful title; let us see all things with the Church’s eyes; let us appreciate all things, and especially death, according to her heart; let us look upon the last passage, both for our dear ones and for ourselves, as the entrance into the eternal nuptial feast. We know well that if anyone sincerely desires our Lord, our Lord will not be wanting to him. Eve if, after this life, we have yet some debts to pay, if some adornment be wanting to our wedding garment ere we can take our place at the heavenly banquet; the blessed passage, nevertheless, places all the just, at once and entirely, in a state of impeccability, and in the secure possession of eternal love. Such, as we shall have occasion to see, were the sentiments of our forefathers.
Many churches in France, Switzerland, and England, used formerly to sing the following Sequence in honor of the saints.
To Christ the all-glorious our white-robed choirs sing melody, giving praise to all the Saints on this their sacred festival.
First let our voice name Mary, through whom was given to us the gift of life O Queen, who art both Mother and Virgin, through thy Son cancel our sins.
May the whole assembly of Angels, and the glorious multitude of Archangels, cleanse away our sins, and prepare us for the supernal delights of heaven.
O thou, who wast prophet, and herald, and lamp, yea and more than a prophet, make us all pure and set us in the path of light.
Prince of Apostles, together with all thy colleagues, strengthen the hearts of thy people in true doctrine.
Glorious Stephen, glittering in thy crown; mighty army of holy martyrs; give us brave hearts and strong bodies, that the darts of our holy faith may duly vanquish the enemy.
Illustrious Martin, and all the band of holy Pontiffs, kindly receive this day our filial prayers.
O peerless Queen of virgins, thou art a Mother and yet spotless, a Maiden and yet fruitful; chastity is sacred to our Lord; preserve our souls and bodies pure.
May the venerable suffrages of the Monks, and may the assembly of all the Saints by their prayers, rule our times, and lead us to the true and supernatural joys of heaven.
Let the ranks of the redeemed add a fervent Amen.
A hymn for the Vespers of the Dead in the Mozarabic Office is taken from the tenth song in the Cathemerinon of Prudentius.
O God, thou fiery source of living beings, who, uniting two elements in one, the mortal and the immortal, didst fashion man, O our Father.
Both are thine, and thou art their Ruler; their union is linked to thee; and while they live and cleave together, both spirit and flesh serve thee.
But when they are rent asunder, dissolution and death come upon men; the dry earth receives his body, while the swift spirit flees to heaven.
’Tis the lot of all created things to fail and grow old at last, for compound beings to be dissolved, for the union of dissimilar elements to be unknit.
Therefore is so great care bestowed upon the sepulchers; therefore are the last honors paid to these lifeless limbs, and the funeral pomp does them homage.
Such is the provident piety exercised by Christ’s disciples, believing that all which now lies wrapt in icy slumber, shall suddenly spring to life again.
Whoever, then, in loving pity, shall cover with earth the corpses that lie unburied, does in his piety a kindly deed to Christ himself the Omnipotent.
Since the common law admonished us that all groan under the same fate, it behooves us to mourn, in a stranger’s death, the loss of one of our kin.
We follow therefore thy words, O Redeemer, when, triumphing over dismal death, thou didst bid the thief, thy fellow-crucified, to tread in thy footprints.
Lo! now the shining path, that leads to the broad land of Eden, lies open to thy faithful; and man may again enter that beautiful garden, of which the serpent had despoiled him.
There, O best of guides! we pray thee, bid the soul thy handmaid be made holy in the place of her creation, which she had quitted as an exile and a wanderer.
Wherefore be mindful, O God, of the souls, whose memory we cherish; let them, we beseech thee, be cleansed from all stain, and escape the fires of hell.
Honor to thee, O fount of mercy! Praise, glory, sovereign power, to the Father, to the son, to the Lord who rules the world, one only God. Amen.
The following Preface, which is well inspired and has a ring of the ancient formulae, is still used in some places in Masses for the Dead.
It is truly meet and just, right and salutary, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal god, through Christ our Lord. In whom thou hast bestowed on us the hope of a blessed resurrection: so that, although the inevitable sentence of death fills our human nature with sorrow, the promise of a future resurrection consoles our faith. For the life of thy faithful, O Lord, is altered, not taken away; and when this house of our earthly habitation is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is prepared for us in heaven. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the host of the heavenly army, we sing a hymn to thy glory, saying without ceasing: Holy, Holy, Holy.