Part 2 of 2:
In the Old Testament, the worship of God by the Israelites developed under His direction through Moses. They, who had but the figure, the foreshadowing of the Redeemer, first worshipped in simple, portable tents until the building of Solomon’s temple, that great edifice constructed so as to elicit awe for the magnificence of God. It was built with massive amounts of cedar, tons of finely quarried stone, and decorated with sheets of solid gold. The king himself went heavily into debt, but he wanted it built so “that all the people of the earth may learn to fear thy name, as do thy people Israel and may prove that thy name is called upon on this house, which I have built.” ( I Kings 8:43) How terribly wicked it would have been for the Israelites to have abnegated the temple for a return to more humble, more simple worship in their tents of the past!
Yet, we hear Catholics of our day and age saying that since the early Church was poor, we should embrace the poverty and simplicity of the first Christians! Think of the absurdity of the idea. They sound like the Pharisees of Luke 19: 39 who told our Lord to rebuke the people for giving Him a King’s reception. We have our King and our God in our midst, and if we really believe it, we must show it to the world by how we welcome Him when, together, we “come to Mt. Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to the company of many thousands of Angels” (Hebrews 12:22), i.e., at every Mass.
Where is our Faith?
Like Solomon, the Church by her public liturgical solemnities must desire “that all the people of the earth may learn to fear thy name”, “and may prove that thy name is called upon on this house” as the one and only true foundation which the Lord has built upon the rock of Peter, outside of which there is no salvation.
We continue with our quotes from The Manual of the Holy Catholic Church:
Fourth, Sacred ceremonies are so far from being contrary to the humility and simplicity of the Gospel, that they are grounded on the very constitution and frame of our nature, which must be instructed in spiritual things, by means of such helps as fall under our senses, for the same reason that Almighty God, by means of sensible things in the Holy Sacraments, confers his grace, which is spiritual, and invisible, to our souls.
Finally, Can anything be conceived more splendid and magnificent than what God himself commanded to be done both in the sacred vestments used by his priests in the Old Law, and the profusion of riches in everything regarding his temple? and shall we accuse him on this account of encouraging worldly pride and vanity in his people? This example of God himself gives the most ample sanction to all the magnificence that can be used in his holy service.
Q. Do not the ceremonies convey too much of worldly ostentation, which nourished pride instead of humility; such as the ornamentation of altars and the magnificence of priestly vestments?
A. It is surprising to see how prone people are to deceive themselves. Let us suppose the greatest splendor and magnificence to be used in the cases mentioned, in whose heart can they be imagined to nourish pride or vanity? not in the people who see them.
On the contrary, experience in both cases teaches, that ceremonies produce the opposite effect, and inspire the beholders with sentiments of reverence and respect. Now as to the priests who use these sacred vestments, however rich and magnificent they may be, they serve only to bring to mind the passion of Jesus Christ, which they represent, and the sacred virtues of humility, purity, mortification, and love of Jesus Christ, with which his priests ought to be adorned.
Q. Ought we then to pay great respect to sacred ceremonies?
A. Most undoubtedly; they deserve very great respect and veneration to be paid them, both on account of the ends for which they are used and of the sacred truths which they represent and holy instructions which they impart, and of the authority by which they are instituted; and, therefore, the Church in the general council of Trent, condemns, and pronounces an anathema on all those who shall presume to say that it is lawful to despise or ridicule or, to alter or change by private authority, any of the approved ceremonies of the Church. (Sess. vii, can. 13) [Furthermore, as St. Augustine says, should the ceremonies of the Church be indiscriminately altered or abandoned, her ministers would be guilty of disturbing the common order and peace of the Church.]
The foreshadowing of the sacrifices for atonement and redemption has culminated in the perfect Sacrifice of Calvary continually re-presented on our altars at Mass. It is the duty of our hierarchy to safeguard this priceless gift from God and to not let it be dimmed by stripping it of its external glory.