Ceremonies Necessary To Divine Worship

THE angels are pure spirits. They have no body. Consequently the worship

they render God is spiritual, interior.

The heavenly bodies are not spiritual, but entirely material substances.

They render God a sort of external worship according to the words of the

prophet Daniel, "Sun and moon bless the Lord, . . . stars of heaven

bless the Lord. Praise and exalt Him forever." Man has a soul, a

spiritual substa
ce similar to the heavenly bodies. He should,

therefore, honor God by the twofold form of worship, interior and


"God is a spirit; and they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and

in truth" (John iv. 24).

From these words of the beloved disciple we are not to conclude that

interior worship is prescribed as the only essential, and exterior

worship condemned. True piety must manifest itself externally. Man

naturally manifests his feelings by outward signs and ceremonies.

The Catholic Church recognizes that man has a heart to be moved as well

as an intellect to be enlightened. She enlightens the intellect by her

good books, sermons, etc.; and she moves the heart by the grandeur of

her ceremonies.

If any one doubts that God considers ceremonies necessary to divine

worship, let him read the books of Leviticus and Exodus. Almost the

whole of these books treats of the rites and ceremonies used by the then

chosen people of God in their public worship.

The 26th, 27th, and 28th chapters of Exodus prescribe the form of the

tabernacle and its appurtenances, the size of the altar and the oil for

the lamps, and the holy vestments which Aaron and his sons were to wear

during the performance of the public ceremonies.

The book of Leviticus treats more particularly of the sacrifices, rites,

and ceremonies of the priests and Levites.

"And the Lord called Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of the

testimony, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say

to them: The man among you that shall offer to the Lord a sacrifice of

the cattle, that is, offering victims of oxen and sheep, if his offering

be a holocaust and of the herd, he shall offer a male, without blemish,

at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, to make the Lord

favorable to him. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the victim,

and it shall be acceptable and help to his expiation" (Lev. i. 1 et


After enumerating all the sacrifices and ceremonies, the sacred writer

closes the book of Leviticus with the words, "These are the precepts

which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount

Sinai," thus showing that He considers ceremonies necessary to divine


The religion instituted by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is more

spiritual than that of the Old Law. Nevertheless He did not discard

ceremonies. In the Garden of Gethsemani He fell upon His knees in humble

supplication. He went in procession to Jerusalem preceded by a great

multitude strewing palm-branches on the road and singing, "Hosanna to

the Son of David." Before He cured the deaf and dumb man, He put His

fingers into his ears and touched his tongue with spittle, and looking

up to heaven He groaned and said, "Ephpheta," which is, "Be thou


At the Last Supper He invoked a blessing on the bread and wine, and

after the supper He chanted a hymn with His disciples--ceremonies

similar to those used in the Mass. When He imparted the Holy Ghost to

His apostles, He breathed upon them. In a similar way they and their

successors communicated the Holy Ghost upon others by breathing upon

them, laying their hands upon them and praying over them, when

conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders.

St. James directs that if any man is sick he shall call in a priest of

the Church, who shall anoint him with oil, as is done in the sacrament

of Extreme Unction.

We must, therefore, admit that ceremonies used in the worship of God are

reasonable, since they are sanctioned by God in the Old Law and by Jesus

Christ and His apostles in the New Testament.

All these acts of Our Saviour--the prostration in the Garden, the

procession to Jerusalem, the touching of the deaf man's ears, the

chanting of the hymn, the laying on of hands, the anointing of the

sick--are but so many ceremonies serving as models of the ceremonies

used by the Catholic Church in her public worship and in the

administration of her sacraments.