Chapter IX.--Of the altar, and the ten or twelve miracles, that must attend Roman priests at every Mass.
Mass, as it is already said, cannot be such a real Sacrifice, as it is pretended to be, without a priest, and an altar.
As for altars, good care hath been taken, that they should be right and complete. It is ordered they be made of stone: [Decret. Evarist. Tom. 1. Concil.] otherwise if they were of wood, such as the apostles once had theirs, [Suarez, Disp. 81. Sect. 5. § Dicendum. Ergo secundo est.] they [Gratian, de Consecrat. Dist. i. Altaria.] could not be anointed. They must be all of one [Sylvester in Summa verb. Altar.] piece, not of two, shutting like a book, or joined one to another. They must be anointed with what they call Chrisma, and washed and sprinkled with holy water, for this sprinkling is likely [Thomas 3. p. q. 83. a. 3. Ad tertium.] to procure remission of venial sins. They must be consecrated by a bishop; unless it be in remote countries, where by a most special privilege, Jesuits may perform that office. The prayers at this consecration come to no less than to bringing down the Holy Ghost [Vasquez. Disp. 233. c. 2.] upon these stones. Upon these altars must there be wax candles [Pontifical. Rom. de Consecrat. Altaris.] burning night and day; for without these it were [Palud. Durand. &c. D. 13.] a mortal sin to say a Mass: and under them, bones of dead saints, [Becan. de Moral. Miss. q. 7. § Secunda Conclusio.] or in default thereof, as some think, [Durant. Rational. l. 1. c. 7. pag. 15.] the very Body of Christ, must be buried or deposited as a relic. I lay aside many lesser formalities, as the seven circuitings, the five crosses, &c. which, for all that, are conceived to be extremely necessary. For, says Suarez, it were a mortal sin [Suarez, Disp. 81. sect. 5. § In tertia.] to celebrate the Sacrifice upon an altar not consecrated after this manner: since by this consecration altars [Thomas. 3. p. q. 83. Art. 3. Ad tertium.] receive a spiritual virtue, which make them fit for God's service.
All these things are easy to be had. The greater difficulty might be to find out such extraordinary Indulgences, as may both draw much people to Mass, and to capacitate the altar to raise the Sacrifice of Christ offered thereon, to some considerable rate, above its ordinary value.
But the mainest difficulty of all, is to get such a priest, as may be well qualified for the great work which he undertakes. This great work is, to get within his reach the Body of Christ from heaven and, in order to this reaching, to work in five words, more miracles than either Moses or Elisha, or any other saint, unless it be St. Dominic and St. Francis, ever did in his whole life.
At his saying these few Latin words, Hoc est enim corpus meum, if he will but mind what he says, (for without this intention, there is nothing done) 1. The substance of as many wafer cakes as can be well laid on the altar, is destroyed in a moment. And what you see remaining of them, is no more than an empty figure, a white colour, and such other hollow shadows. 2. These shadows and figures, after they have lost their substance, which was their only seat and support, must against their own nature, subsist without it and by themselves. The whole world affords nothing like. For the apples found about Sodom, that St. Augustine [August. de Civ. l. 21. c. 5.] makes mention of, have some ashes or soot within, which supports their cheating colour. And those tuns, which, as some say, a kind of thunder will waste within, and spare without, have still a dry hardened substance, that maintains their outward figure. The very phantasms, such as the disciples being affrighted once thought they saw, though destitute of flesh and bones, yet have some kind of vapour, or condensed air, that gives ground to their appearance. But these Mass accidents have not so much as the ordinary air to hang upon. The whiteness and roundness and taste and dryness of these consecrated wafers remain, when the white, round, insipid, dry wafers are destroyed; just as if you can imagine all the stories and antiquities of the Vatican library fluttering still about the walls, after all the books that contained them are consumed by age, or burnt to ashes. Such a continual and prodigious miracle, never heard of before transubstantiation, must at every Mass save and keep these white, round, dry nothings.
3. A third miracle must fetch down, and then pack up, a proper and well proportioned body within every one of those little rooms, which the wafers' substance thus destroyed hath left empty. A huge camel passing through the eye of a fine needle, or a giant hiding himself under a nut shell, would be twenty times less wonderful.
4. A fourth miracle must make this body lie, sit, or stand, or however be in twenty thousand several places at the same time: and teach the Angel better logic, than that he made use of, Matth. xxviii. 6, to conclude, that Christ was not in the Sepulchre, because He was gone to Galilee; for by virtue of this miracle, Christ might be both in the Sepulchre, in Galilee, and in a thousand other most distant countries.
5. Four such other like these, are requisite to the Sacrifice of Him under the other kind, that is, the form of wine. There are two more required sometimes for to create a new substance for worms, vinegar, and other things, whensoever they are engendered under the consecrated forms of bread and wine. This corruption is found sometimes, as they say, under the consecrated species, to conceal this great mystery, and to keep up the worth of their merit who believe it; for if nothing were produced when these species are corrupted, that one experiment would discover transubstantiation; and it were no faith to believe a thing that were thus seen. Therefore to this holy purpose [Scotus 4. Sent. d. 12. q. 6. § Dieo ergo. Gabr. Biel. in Can. lect. 45. F. Durand. in 4. Dist. xii. q. 2. nu. 10.] wise Catholics will allow new miracles, to make worms and vinegar, when the consecrated species are kept too long; or to make ashes when they are burnt: or to make new bread and new wine in their behalf, who either out of infidelity, [Waldens. tom. 2. q. 62.] will try whether there be any substance under these shows, or out of gluttony, will eat and drink so much of them, that their bellies [Gabr. Vasq. tom. 3. in Part 3. Aquinatis. Disp. 195. c. 4. nu. 43.] shall swell, and their brains turn. But let the priest eat and drink of these never so soberly and sparingly, yet must they turn in his stomach into something, [Vasquez ibid. nu. 40.] that falls into the draught, and that is not created without some of these miracles which attend constantly the work of transubstantiation.
Whosoever will be counted for a true Roman Priest, must have all these miracles, especially the eight former, at his command; which certainly is a power above the condition of any man in two respects. 1. The stupendousness of the work. And 2, the familiar use of it.
1. The stupendousness of the work. For we hear of Moses, that he divided the Red Sea once: of Elijah, that he brought down fire from heaven twice or thrice: of Joshua, that once he made the sun and moon stand: but of any prophet or apostle, whose miracles could go higher, even to the very throne of God the Father, where Christ doth sit, (yet not so safe, but that a Roman priest may get Him down, and dispose of Him at his pleasure when he hath Him,) this is a feat indeed, that never had a precedent, nor I think, a being, since the foundation of this world.
2. I say secondly, the frequent and familiar use of these stupendous miracles; for when Moses and the prophets wrought their miracles, it was not by any habitual inherent gift, which they might exercise when they would: but then only, when that Almighty Spirit of God, who gave them the power, moved them for that time to use it. Hence it is that Elisha, living among many lepers, never cured but one Naaman: Peter raised but few from the dead; and Paul with his gift of healing left his dearest companions, Trophimus and Timotheus, the one dangerously sick at Miletum, 2 Tim. iv. 20, the other struggling with the pains of an ill stomach at Ephesus, 1 Tim. v. 23. Whereas a Roman priest must by all means be as ready at his miracles, as at his Mass. If any of his parish be dead, or sick; if a traveller will part earlier out of the inn, than the ordinary time of service; if an ox, or a horse, yea even a hen [Guill. Alan. de Sacrif. c. 32.] do not thrive in the neighbourhood, presently Masses will be called for: and all these miracles must be at hand, for the preservation of these poor cattle. So that, ordinarily, one priest shall spend more miracles upon such trivial exigencies, for the behalf of his parish in half a year, than St. Peter and St. Paul ever wrought throughout all the world in their whole life.
To make these strange things more credible, it avails nothing to say that this country priest works no miracles, but by the power of our Saviour, who, as they say, is at every Mass the chief priest, and the Roman priest his servant. For Moses, and Peter, and Paul were but servants also, in all the miracles they did. Only here is the difference, which makes the great absurdity; that God did inspire Moses to lift up his rod, Joshua to speak to the sun, and Peter and Paul to bless or curse, whensoever He was pleased to work miracles whereas, the Mass-priest, I suppose, waits for no such inspiration to do his work: contrariwise Christ is conceived to be always ready for this officer, whensoever he will but open his mouth to say five words.
And though this substitute were a mortal desperate sinner, [Suarez in 3 part. Aquinat. Disp. 77. sect. 2. § Secundus sensus.] an excommunicated [Thomas part. 3. q. 82. a. 7. § Respondeo.] and degraded [Thomas ibid. a. 8. § Resp. dicendum.] person, or even a magician, [Thom. q. 74. a. 2. Ad secundum.] his sacrificing character is held so strong, that the consecration and miracles of his Master must still go on. Insomuch that if the priest will meddle with magical arts, and intend this business of his, besides that of his proper office, he can make himself as sure of his pretended Master's assistance in the transubstantiating of his wafers, as of his true master's enchantment in quenching the fire with them, or turning them into an armour [Sennert. Pract. l. 5. part. 4. c. 24. De Impenetrabilibus.] which no sword or bullet shall pierce. And, whereas sometimes it may happen [Durand. 4. D. 12. q. 4. Vasquez Disp. 228. c. 3. § Verum enimvero. Suarez Disp. 79. sect. 1. § Fundamentum. Becan. de Sacrif. q: 12. § Dices, fundatur.] that Mass does good to nobody, in order of impetrating, which is the main end of this service; [Bellarm. de Miss. l. 2. c. 4. § Tertia propositio.] yet do they conceive Christ to be so punctual an observer of the time when these officers will speak the words, that though He will attend neither the devout prayers of the worshiper, nor any of those ends wherefore the Mass is sung or said, yet will He rather throw away all these miracles to no purpose, or, as in the case of black magic, to ill purposes, than to disappoint the Mass-priest; who, of his side, makes no question, but that what he says will be as powerfully and really brought to pass, as if Christ Himself had said it: the priest, though sorcerer and degraded, being still united to Christ, [Suarez in Thom. 3. p. 82. a. 7.] as they say, by his character, and in this, acting [Id. Disp. 89. sect. 11. § Dico ergo primo.] as Christ Himself. In a word, all these wonders do follow the priest every day, whithersoever he can carry a consecrated stone that is as broad as to hold up a little cup and a patten. These wonders wait continually for the motion of his tongue, and the opening of his lips: and, as soon as the last word of his speech is out of his mouth, presently these wonders deliver Christ, who hath 'wrought them, into his hand. Rome may wonder at St. Augustine, and take him for all ignorant man, who knew nothing that should amaze any body about the holy sacraments. [S. August. de Trinit. l. 3. c. 10.] They may be honored, says he, as being holy, but not wondered at, as being marvellous.
Then, when the priest hath Him in his wafer, like a corpse in a winding sheet, first he blesses Him, and prays to God, that He may be as acceptable, as the sacrifice of Abel was. Then he lifts Him up over his head, that all the people may adore Him. And because all this while the priest is the superior, (otherwise he could not bestow a sacerdotal blessing on Him) and hath the advantage to dispose of this his victim; if the priest chance to be a discreet man, either he carries Him abroad, to be adored in a public procession, or to be eaten by some dying man, &c., or else he puts Him sub fideli custodia, where no rat or spider can come. But if he be rash and careless, (as in all professions every, one is not what he should be) then the victim runs the hazard of going along, wheresoever thieves and witches will drive. Now, in conscience, is this the Christ the Son of the living God, the only Saviour of the world, the God of Christians, and the Master of Angels: or a pitiful Roman idol, which rogues and devils do toss about, and abuse so? Such conceits, being shuffled among true Christian mysteries, might go near to tempt the truest and soundest Catholics, much more a number of unlearned and undiscerning men, to mistrust all, and at last to believe nothing.