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Written by Fr. Joseph Ellul


In the life of Saint Dominic this partaking in the sufferings of Christ used to find its nucleus in the celebration of the Eucharist.  Blessed Jordan writes that  “he said Mass practically every day” (1) in those days, a very rare matter.  This writer goes on to say that, during the celebration of Mass, he used to cry.  For us, such news would probably bring a smile or some sarcastic comment, but if we have it in the light of faith, we would be able to realise the sound meaning of the detail.


Saint Dominic used to realise that during the celebration of Mass he was in the presence of God.  He had a profound sense of his sacerdotal life.  In front of Christ present in the Eucharist, how could he not repeat that same statement of faith that St Thomas Apostle did in front of the Risen Christ: “My lord and my God” (2).


It is precisely this sense of respect so great for this divine mystery of love that moved the Order’s enthusiasm for the celebration of the Liturgy, especially Mass.  This observation of Gerard Frachet regarding the enthusiasm of the first brethren is interesting:


After matins, some of them used to go to study, a few went to rest, and very few were those who did not go to confession before saying mass.  At dawn, the bell rang for mass; then every priest used to have many who wanted to serve, and there would be a sort of saintly betting to set who would manage to help the priest in such a sacred ministry (3).


This is explained very well in theology, but perhaps more than that, in the eucharistic hymns composed by St Thomas Aquinas wherein he joined his profound thoght as a theologian with the strong and simple faith which is demanded of every Christian, as proved by the first stanza of the hymn Adoro te devote:

I adore you in worship, O God who is found,

hidden here in front of me, under these species.

To you with all my heart, kneeling here I give you;

when I think of you, my thoughts I lose in you (4).


We all know that it was Thomas who designed the liturgical office of the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi) established by Pope Urban IV in 1246.  One should here remember that, in those days, the Eucharist was not kept in tabernacles.  Thus, the veneration to this sacrament was considered as a whole with the sacrifice of  the mass, and also with the preparation prayer before, and that of thanks after, mass.


All this is repeated in the Letter of Promulgation of the Missal and the Lectionary O.P. issued by  Master General br. Vincent De Cuesnongle on the 15th August 1983:   


Saint Dominic, in his way of saying mass, and St Thomas Aquinas, in his endeavour to write the Office of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, gave us examples and encourages us to search for means and symbolic gestures through which we show our faith and respect in front of the greatness of such an eminent mystery.  The missionary work that many of our men and women did, and still do, teaches us, that the spreading and evangelisation of the Reign of God and the effort for progress of man, force us to live a better life of praise and thanks giving for the creation and salvation.  Their examples teach us that the living bread given to us by Christ himself expects that this same bread to be given to all men.


Finally, our habit of solo gathering in prayer, as wished by our Constitutions and traditions, finds its best life in thanksgiving that results from the celebration of Mass and more than that from Communion (5).


Yet, one is also to mention the Liturgy of the Hours.  In the evidence of Brother Ventura of Verona, during the  canonisation process of Saint Dominic at Bologna, we find that the Saint, every time he was away from the convent, hearing the bell rigns for matins of a monastery, he would rise up and together with his colleagues recite all the Divine Office.  Also while travelling, after Compline and up to the Third prayer of the Hours, he and his colleagues used to observe silence in the same way as if they were at the convent (6).


Due to this, as the Promulgation Letter of the Liturgy of the Hours states: “The Church and the Order praise God and spread his word, and therefore there is a great bond between the prayer of the Church and the mission of the Preachers (7).


1. Blessed Jordan of Saxony, op. cit., n. 105.

2. Jn 20:28.

3. Gerard Frachet O.P. Vitae Fratrum, Sec IV, Ch 1 no. 172-III.

4. It’s enough lo have a look at other eucharistic hymns like Lauda Sion Salvatorem, Pange Lingua, and Tantum Ergo.  Regarding theology, one can see is-Summa Theologica III, q. 83.

5. Vincent of Couesnongle, Promulgation Letter (1983) of the Proper of the Order of Preachers: Dominican Missal, Maltese Dominican Province of St Pius V, Malta 1995, n.19,pp.xi-xii.

6. Witness of Bro Bonaventure of Verona, Canonisation Process at Bologna, n.3.24.

7. Vincent of Couesnongle, Promulgation Letter (1980) of the Proper of the Order of Preachers: Liturgy of the Hours-Proper of the Saints, Maltese Dominican Province, Malta 1988, n.3, pp. V-vi.

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