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Adyar Pamphlets

By Theosophical Publishing House

Issue No.54 - The Ritual Unity of Roman Catholicism and Hinduism

Two of the great religions today have as their fundamental theme the sacrifice of God for the sakeof man. Hinduism clearly bases its sacrificial ritual on the sacrifice of Prajãpati, the Lord of Creatures,who created the universe by a dismemberment of his Person. In Christianity the idea appears slightlychanged, but in the dogma of the Word made flesh, the Son of God sent to be crucified as an Atonementfor man, we have fundamentally the same mystic root.

Hindû ritual and that of the Roman Catholic Church have much in common, as both are intended tocommemorate the sacrifice of the Deity. The Mass, as performed in the Roman Church, when studied inits occult aspects, leads us into deep mystic realms where we join hands on the one side with Hindûism,and on the other with Masonry.

Many, especially non-Roman Christians, little understand ritual and symbolism. They have an idea thatritual is so much mummery invented by priesthoods to hypnotise ignorant worshippers, and has no [Page2] part in any true worship of God. When a Theosophist has trained himself to put aside religious bias, hisknowledge that there are many paths to God puts him in an attitude of sympathy with a form of worshipthat satisfies millions today.


The mystic truth underlying true rituals is that what is done on earth is only symbolic of what is eternallytaking place in the heavens. A rite as such has no efficacy unless it corresponds with some reality in theheavenly worlds. A ceremony to be of efficacy must be performed intelligently with a full understanding ofthe symbolism. When it is so performed, step by step a stately thought-form is built up in invisible matter,and this is utilised, sometimes directly by the Logos, and more often by Devas and others, to send to thecelebrant and worshippers an outpouring of blessing and strength. Those even slightly sensitive will feelsomething of this outpouring in a heightened sense of spiritual things, and the few with clairvoyance ofthe invisible will see its tremendous nature.


Though a ritual is a common act of worship by a celebrant and congregation, yet it is only the priest thatperforms the mystery, and the worshipers have only an indirect part in it. The ceremony is done for themand they must follow with their thought [Page 3] what is taking place and help in the building of the invisiblethought-form. Even if they do not intelligently follow each step, but yet believe heart and soul in the mystery at its culminating moment, that act of faith at-ones them with the outpouring from above.


The Mass, as performed in the Roman Church, has as its corner-stone the idea that God, as JesusChrist, offers Himself a Victim and a Sacrifice to God in His undivided nature. The descent of the Son ofGod to be the Atonement is the one mystery in life, and there can be nothing more stupendous tocontemplate daily. It is this sacrifice that is commemorated in the Mass, which is the sacrifice of the bodyand blood of Christ offered by Him to the Heavenly Father under the veils of bread and wine. Though thesacrifice on the cross was made in a manifest and bloody manner, the daily sacrifice on the altar is madein a mysterious and unbloody manner.

The ceremony crystallizes in a brief ritual, by means of symbolic acts, the life and ministry of Christ.Within the space of half an hour is symbolically enacted the whole life-history, and though the Mass, as aritual, has been slowly built up, it is nevertheless one of the most splendid creations of the religiousimagination. The culminating point of the life is the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, and the Mass enactsthem over again.[Page 4]


The church is dedicated to God and freed from any harmful magnetism by a long and elaborateceremony of blessing and consecration. The nave is strewn with heaps of ashes on which with the end ofthe pastoral staff the consecrating bishop draws the letters of the Greek and Roman alphabets, and thewalls are asperged with holy water.

The altar symbolically represents the table of the Last Supper. In a Roman church an altar is not suchunless there be on it a stone slab consecrated by a bishop. Five crosses are hammered on the stone byhim to represent the five wounds. Under it are placed relics of saints and other objects of goodmagnetism. The altar is covered with three cloths to represent the linen towels in which the body of theLord was shrouded. The altar is covered throughout the year, except on Holy Thursday, when after Massthe altar is left bare, to symbolize the stripping of Christ's body and His abandonment during His passion.


It is the priest that offers the sacrifice for the people. He is an intermediary between man and God, andunder divine sanction holds that position through ordination. He has a dual role, first as representing thepeople to God and offering up Christ to Him in their name, and then as Christ to the people. When theMass is celebrated he wears the chasuble, [Page 5] that symbolizes the garment without seam torn fromthe Christ. On its front and back is a great cross, and as the priest celebrates Mass he is mystically theChrist bearing the cross. Except at High Mass, he has only an acolyte, representing the congregation, toserve him; but at High Mass he has assisting him the deacon, sub-deacon, and acolytes. Neither thedeacon nor the sub-deacon, though they may be ordained priests, wear at Mass the chasuble with the cross.


Before coming to the altar the priest robes himself in the sacristy. He first covers his head and shoulderswith the amice, saying, "Place upon my head, 0 Lord, the helmet of salvation, that I may be enabled torepel all the fiery darts of the wicked one", and then ties it round his waist. Then the alb, with, "Cleanseme, 0 Lord, and purify my soul, that, sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, I may be fitted for theenjoyment of perfect felicity". With similar prayers he puts on the girdle of purity, on his left arm themaniple of sorrow and affliction, the stole symbolizing the robe of immortality forfeited by the first parents,and lastly the chasuble with the cross, saying, "0 Lord, thou hast declared that thy yoke is sweet, and thyburden is light; grant that I may carry that which thou now dost impose upon my shoulders in such amanner as to merit thy grace". [Page 6]


The priest enters the church with a chalice and a paten on which is a wafer of bread, the ostia or host,the victim . With the sacrificial vessels are three cloths, (1) the corporal, so called because the Body restsupon it, (2) the pall or square covering of linen which is placed on the chalice, and (3) the purificatory tobe used to wipe chalice and paten.

After placing the vessels on the altar, the priest descends to its foot, to represent man fallen and drivenfrom Paradise, and arrived there signs-himself with the cross, saying, "In the name of the Father,*[ Wherever the asterisk is used in describing the ritual, there in the service the priest makes the sign ofthe cross] the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen". Next he repeats, "I will go in to the altar of God, to Godwho rejoiceth my youth". This is followed by the 42nd Psalm. He then prays, confessing his sins ofthought, word and deed, and after this gives the people absolution. Then follow extracts from the Psalms,and later two more prayers.


Now begins the Introit or Entrance, and the prayer is read at the right or Epistle side of the altar from theMissal or Book. Next comes the Kyrie, " Lord, have mercy", thrice, to God the Father; three times toChrist, "Christ, have mercy"; and to the Holy Ghost three times, "Lord, have mercy". The Kyrie [Page 7] is acry for mercy from fallen humanity. "Said before the Gloria", says a Catholic manual, "it expresses theprofound misery of the world, and the immense need it had of redemption". The priest then goes to themiddle of the altar, to represent the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and recites the Gloria, the hymnthe angels sang on Christmas eve. Here he kisses the altar to show he is united to Christ, the invisibleHigh Priest, and turning to the people says, "The Lord be with you", and the response is given, "And withthy spirit". Seven times during Mass this salutation is given. COLLECT AND EPISTLE

The celebrant says aloud, "Let us pray", but continues silently with the Collect, which is a prayer thatcollects the prayers of the faithful and is offered by the priest for them. Next comes the Epistle, and itconsists of a reading from the letters of the Apostles or from the writings of the Prophets. As a part of theMass it reminds the congregation of the Old Law. It is read with the face to the East, " because S. Johnthe Baptist had always his eyes fixed upon the Messias, whom the Scriptures and the Church style thetrue Orient ".

During the epistle the people remain seated, to figure the sad state of the old world, "them that sit indarkness and in the shadow of death". This is followed by a prayer called a Gradual or Tract, "the [Page 8]response of the faithful, the protestation of their good will and disposition".


The book or Missal is now carried to the left or Gospel side of the altar. "This reminds us that when theJews refused to listen to the teaching's of our Lord, the Apostles preached the true faith to the Gentiles intheir stead." Before reading it the priest prays at the middle of the altar for purity of heart and lips. Thenhe makes the sign of the cross first upon the missal, then upon his forehead and mouth and breast, andthe people cross themselves likewise. While the Gospel is being read the people listen standing, for it isno longer prophets and apostles that speak, but Christ Himself. During the reading the priest faces thenorth, for there the rebel angel has established himself, and it is only the Word of God that can bring toan end his domination.

After the Gospel ends the "Mass of the Catechumens". In the old church the converts who had not gonefurther and become the faithful were now dismissed, for their unprepared natures could not grasp themystery about to be performed. "Ite, missa est", "Go, you are dismissed”, was the phrase used, and fromit the term missa or Mass has been derived.


Now begins the repetition of the Nicene Creed, and at the words describing the Incarnation, "and was[Page 9] made man", all kneel in reverence of the mystery. This is followed by the Offertory, when the priestoffers bread and wine, still merely bread and wine, to God. The paten with the host is elevated up to hisbreast, and looking up at the Crucifix he prays. Lowering he makes with it a sign of the cross anddeposits it on the corporal on his right. Wine and water are mixed now in the chalice to symbolize how forour sakes God the Son put on our human nature, and the chalice is elevated to the level of the eyes anda prayer is said. It is lowered again with a sign of the cross and placed on the corporal and covered withthe pall.

Next the priest offers the hearts of the faithful, and after recites the 25th Psalm, while washing the tips ofhis fingers in memory of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Returning to the middle of the altar, another prayer is said and offering is made to the Holy Trinity. Turning to the people, he says, "Brethren,pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty". The people respond,"May the Lord receive the sacrifice from thy hands, to the praise and glory of His name, and to ourbenefit, and that of His entire Holy Church". This is followed by a prayer called the Secret, the priestleaning forward, the hands joined in humiliation, to remind us how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Olives.Then aloud, priest and people, " World without end — Amen — The [Page 10] Lord be with you — And withthy spirit — Lift up your hearts — We have lifted them up to the Lord — Let us give thanks to our LordGod — it is meet and just".


The Preface is the next prayer in the ritual. As the manual says, "We have entered into the way of thecross. Already the clamor of the multitude reaches us, the threatening of the tempest. Only a few hoursnow, and the Son of God will be bound, scourged, buffeted, put to death, and reckoned among theguilty". Next after the Preface comes the grand, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earthare full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosannain the highest". And now in the invisible world round the altar the hosts of the cherubim and seraphimgather to watch and adore the sacred mystery.


The heart of the mystery now begins. It is called the Canon of the Mass. Kissing the altar to show hisunion with Christ, lifting his eyes and hands towards heaven, with the sign of the cross three times overthe oblation, the celebrant prays, offering "these * gifts, these* presents, these* holy unspottedsacrifices"; then follows the commemoration of the living, praying silently for those he wishes to pray for.Here are invoked the Virgin Mary, various apostles, martyrs and saints. [Page 11] Then, spreading hishands over the bread and wine, he offers the oblation, "which oblation do Thou, 0 God, vouchsafe in allrespects to bless,* approve,* ratify, and * accept; that it may be made for us the body* and blood* of Thymost beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Who the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy andvenerable hands, and with His eyes uplifted towards heaven to Thee, the Almighty God, His Father,giving thanks to Thee, He blessed, brake, and gave it to His disciples, saying, Take and eat ye all of this.For this is My Body".

The priest kneels, adores, and elevates for all to see that the Lord is present. The server rings the bell,for of old a trumpet was sounded at the moment of crucifixion; and tradition says it happened for Christ'scrucifixion, and the bell commemorates this. The priest continues, "In like manner, after He had supped,taking alto this excellent Chalice with His holy and venerable hands, giving Thee also thanks, Heblessed, and gave it to His disciples, saving, Take and drink ye all of this. For this is the chalice of Myblood of the new and eternal testament, the Mystery of Faith, which shall be shed for you and for many,to the remission of sins. As often as ye do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of Me".Kneeling, the celebrant adores the sacred Blood, and elevates for the congregation to see. Then heprays, "Wherefore, 0 Lord, we Thy servants, as also Thy holy people, calling to mind the blessed Passionof the [Page 12] same Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, His resurrection from the dead, and admirable ascension into heaven, offer unto Thy most excellent Majesty, of Thy gifts bestowed upon us, a *Victim, a holy*Victim, an unspotted *Victim, the holy *Bread of eternal life, and *Chalice of everlasting salvation. Uponwhich vouchsafe to look with a propitious and serene countenance, and to accept them, as Thou wastpleased to accept the gifts of Thy just servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and thatwhich Thy high priest Melchisedec offered to Thee — a holy Sacrifice and unspotted Victim. We mosthumbly beseech Thee, Almighty God, command these things to be carried by the hands of Thy holyangels to Thy altar on high, in the sight of Thy divine Majesty, that as many as shall partake of the mostsacred body* and blood* of Thy Son at this altar may be filled with heavenly grace and blessing, throughthe same Christ our Lord. Amen."


The mystery of the Divine Outpouring affects all worlds, visible and invisible, of the living and the dead,and that the dead too may have part in it they are commemorated in the ritual. Then striking his breast torepresent the repentance and confession of the thief on the right hand of Christ who acknowledgedopenly his guilt, the priest prays for fellowship with the apostles and martyrs for Himself and the people,"not in consideration of our merits, but of Thy [Page 13] own gratuitous pardon, through Christ our Lord. ByWhom, 0 Lord, Thou dost always create, sanctify, quicken, bless, and give us all these good things.Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is to Thee, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the HolyGhost, all honor and glory".

From the moment of consecration Christ is present with the people, not in any mystic fashion but as withthe disciples in Palestine. Hence is now said the Lord's Prayer, which He Himself gave to the people.Using the words the Master gave, and with Him present, the people pray to God. It is only, perhaps, onewho believes in the power of the Mass who can gauge the beauty and significance of this touchingincident in the ritual.

The priest is now ready to communicate and breaks the Host from the right side into two parts, tocommemorate the sacred wounds; and from one of the parts breaks a small piece which he puts into thechalice. As he puts the Host into the wine, he makes with it the sign of the cross on the chalice threetimes and says a prayer. The body and blood so joined symbolize the resurrection. Then he genuflectsand strikes his breast, saying twice, "Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercyupon us". A third time he says it, but the last phrase is changed to give us peace .Now follows a long prayer to Christ, and after it the celebrant takes the Host in his hands and says, [Page14] "I will take the bread of heaven and call upon the name of the Lord". Three times now he strikes hisbreast and repeats those words full of faith of the Roman centurion, slightly changed at the end, "Lord, Iam not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be healed".

Taking reverently both parts of the Host in his right hand, signing with it the cross on himself, he prays,"May the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul to everlasting life. Amen". Then he receives orcommunicates . Similarly he genuflects and adores and prays and communicates with the wine, andafter, again prays, "May the blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul to everlasting life. Amen.".Lest any particles that remain in the chalice might be desecrated, he washes it twice and drinks the contents, with each ablution repeating an appropriate prayer. Then he turns to the book again and readsthe Communion. Turning round, he blesses the people, and begins the last action of the ritual, a readingagain from the Gospel. It is usually the Gospel of S. John, the first fourteen verses of the first chapter,priest and people kneeling at the words of the eternal mystery, "And the Word was made flesh". Theserver responds, "Thanks be to God", and so the Mass ends.


What is the real significance of the Mass ? It is that of a wondrous outpouring. As the Host and [Page 15]Chalice are elevated and priest and people adore the Lord, the Logos sends down an outpouring andblessing. The particles of physical substance glow with His fire and there shines a radiant Star flashing toall sides. There to one at the far end of the church a Ray will shoot out, and here to another at the altarnot one. It is only to such as are at one in utter belief of His presence, then, that He can send Hisquickening — a quickening that touches the man in his inmost nature, for a moment making his causalbody to glow as a new-born star, for a moment waking that of a child-soul out of its dreaminess to thereality of the Life of the Logos around. To many a child-soul after death the only touch of the heavenworld will be from this quickening at the Mass, for it may be no other activities of his life of passion willgive him an ideal that will flower in heaven.

And as the Logos gives His outpouring to the worshipers, it is linked by Him to His beloved Son, Jesus,the Master of Christianity. Wherever He be, though a thousand times the Mass be performed eachmorning, Jesus knows and adds His blessing, too, to that of His Father.Twenty centuries have passed and step by step the ritual of the Mass has been made by many hands.Yet behind it all was surely One guiding, so that a Form might be made for men on earth that He and theHeavenly Father could use. The Form is there today, in the Roman Church. Though in the book of [Page16] the Karma of the world are written the many dark deeds of that Church against men, yet so long as itkeeps the Sacrament of the Mass will it be a channel for God. It may well be, who knows, that thatChurch will yet change in outer and inner ways to be a real Holy Catholic Church proclaiming a life of theSpirit based on nature and a study of her laws. There may yet be on the throne of Peter not a man, but agod, even an Elder Brother of our humanity. May these things be, soon !


It is not only in Roman Catholicism that one finds the idea of the presence of the Godhead during acertain part of the ritual. Wherever men gather for a common ritual, with a priest or a Worshipful Master,that element plays a leading part. In rituals in Egypt, Greece, and India, the presence of God or of a godappears prominently. As with the Mass, so too wherever a ritual has been built up, in Christianity, inHinduism, or elsewhere, and men in their inmost hearts believe that God is present, and give Him theirworship, He knows and responds, utilizing the form the worshipers give. The Real Presence is the heartand soul of a ritual, and in all true rituals He is there. MASONRYAs we study rituals, it is instructive to note the parallel there is between the Roman ritual and that [Page 17]of Masonry. Certain signs and symbols are the same; the mark of the 33° Mason is that on the pastoralstaff of an archbishop, and the cross and crown of the Knight Templar may be seen in almost any Romanchurch. As a ritual, that of Masonry is yet in the making, but knowing the history of rituals in India andEgypt, one can construct the lines of future development. Surely the mystic idea will be brought out thatthe Master who has been killed and comes to life again at the mystic word is the Archetypal Man; and asin Egypt the candidate at initiation was the Logos on the cross of matter, as the Roman priest with hischasuble at Mass is the Christ crucified, so too will the candidate be understood in the Masonic ritual of afuture day. As at the Sanctus, cherubim and seraphim gather round, so too will it be known that in Lodgethe denizens of the invisible love to take part with those in fleshly forms. And perhaps these twoorganizations, Masonry and Catholicism, that are so hostile today, will join hands recognizing a commonwork under the True Orient, when He comes again.


In the beginning of the article it was mentioned that Hindû ritual and that of the Mass have much incommon, as both symbolically depict God's sacrifice for man. In Christianity it is the Son of God that bothoffers Himself a Victim and is offered a Victim by church and people to God. Daily, before food and [Page18] drink may pass his lips, the Roman priest must commemorate the sacrifice on Calvary.


In Hindûism the mystic idea of the Divine Sacrifice is as follows. Prajãpati, "the Lord of Creatures", is thename for God in the sacrifice. "He is himself this very universe. He is whatever is, has been and shall be.He is the lord of immortality. All creatures are one-fourth of him, three-fourths are that which is immortalin the sky " (Purusha Sûkta). But the universe became only because the Lord of Creatures offeredHimself in sacrifice. "He toiled, He practiced austerity. Even as a smith, the Lord of Prayer togetherforged this universe; in earliest ages of the gods, from what was not arose what is". "By offering up hisown self in sacrifice, Prajapãti becomes dismembered; and all those separated limbs and faculties of hiscome to form the universe — all that exists, from the gods and Asuras (the children of Prajapãti), down tothe worm, the blade of grass, the smallest particle of inert matter. It requires a new, and ever new,sacrifice to build the dismembered Lord of Creatures up again, and restore him so as to enable him tooffer himself up again and again, and renew the universe, and thus keep the uninterrupted revolution oftime and matter."[Shatapatha Brãhmana, translation in Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 43, Introduction,page xvii.[Page 19]


If to the Christian the Cross of Calvary is a perpetual reminder of the great Sacrifice of the Son of Man, tobe commemorated daily in the Mass, to the Hindû ritualist the Sacrifice of Prajãpati must becommemorated daily in the sacrifice in the fire-altar. For "in this primeval — or rather timeless, because ever proceeding — sacrifice, Time itself, in the shape of its unit the Year, is made to take its part,inasmuch as the three seasons, spring, summer and autumn, of which it consists, constitute thesacrificial oil, the offering fuel, and the oblation respectively. Prajãpati .... the world man, or all-embracingPersonality, is offered up anew in every sacrifice; and inasmuch as the very dismemberment of the Lordof Creatures, which took place at that archetypal sacrifice, was in itself the creation of the universe, soevery sacrifice is also a repetition of that first creative act. Thus the periodical sacrifice is nothing elsethan the microcosmic representation of the ever-proceeding destruction and renewal of "all-cosmic lifeand matter".[ibid, page xv.]


In the West, it is the Son that offers Himself to the Father on the altar. Here in India it is the same. Agni,the son of Prajãpati it is who restores his dismembered Father the Arch-Sacrificer. The greatcommemorative ceremony takes place not at an altar [Page 20] symbolic of the table of the Last Supper,but on a fire-altar in the shape of a bird flying to the east gate of heaven. During a whole year, laying abrick for each day, the altar is built. Seven layers are laid, to symbolize severally earth, air, sky, thesacrifice, the worshiper, the heavenly world and immortality. Four priests take part in the ceremony, theAdhvaryu who does the manual work, and two chanting priests, the Udgãtr and the Hotr. The fourth priestis the Brãhmana, or superintending priest, who takes no part physically in the ceremony, but performs thewhole in his mind.


At the bottom of the fire-altar is put a lotus leaf for the waters of space, from the womb of which son Agniand the human worshiper shall be born during the ceremony. For both are one, Agni the God and themortal man. On the leaf is placed a gold plate symbolic of the Sun, which the worshiper has worn roundhis neck during the initiatory ceremony. On the Sun is laid a little gold man. This man is The Man,Purusha, in the Sun, the Logos. But He is, too, the worshiper, and it is the latter, through his image at thebottom of the altar, that shall rise at death through the three worlds of earth, air and sky to the realm ofheaven.

On the last day but one of the year are sung the Great Chant and the Great Litany, whose verses arearranged to suggest the form of a bird. When the [Page 21] ceremony is over, Agni the Son has given uphis body, the fire-altar, to build up anew his dismembered Father, to reconstruct the All. Though he hasmade the Many the One again, yet it is only in order that the Lord of Creatures might sacrifice Himselfonce again for our sakes, might once again crucify Himself on the cross of matter, that some day we maysit on His right hand "to judge the quick and the dead".

One further mystic truth comes in the ceremony in the identification of the Lord of Creatures with thehuman worshiper. As Prajãpati is Lord of Time, so He is Lord, too, of Death. When the worshiperbecomes one with Him through the sacrifice, he is one with death also. Death thenceforth ceases to havesway over him, for the Lord of Creatures, Life and Death, and man, are one. "Even as a grain of rice or the smallest granule of millet, so is the golden Purusha in the heart; even as asmokeless light it is greater than the sky, greater than the ether, greater than the earth, greater than allexisting things; that Self of the spirit is my Self. On passing away from hence I shall obtain that Self. And,verily, whosoever has this trust, for him there is no uncertainty.It is that trust in the truth, "I shall obtain that Self” that is ever given to men in Christian, Hindû, Masonicand other rituals, world without end.



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