Cleansing Fire

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What is the “Asperges”?

October 13th, 2009, Promulgated by Choir

This may help those of you who are planning to attend the Tridentine Latin Mass the last Sunday of October at St. Stanislaus.

Before the principal celebration of Sunday Holy Mass, the Roman Catholic liturgy calls for a ritual sprinkling of the congregation with holy water, an act symbolic of the cleansing of their spirits to receive the Eucharist.

During this liturgical act, in all seasons but Eastertide when the Antiphon is “Vidi aquam,” the music chanted is the “Asperges me.” The Holy Mass antiphon’s texts are, in succession, “Asperges me,” an invocation for the Lord’s cleansing with the hyssop plant as used by the Israelites (Exod. 12:21-23; Lev. 14:4-6, 49-57). The priest and altar boys will leave the sanctuary and walk down the main aisle sprinkling the congregation with Holy Water. The custom in America is to genuflect and make the Sign of the Cross as the priest sprinkles you. In Europe, the custom is to not genuflect but bow and make the Sign of the Cross.

The “Asperges” is not part of the Mass. During the singing of the “Gloria Patri…”, the priest, vested in the cope, and the altar boys will turn towards the altar and make a profound bow (from the waist). The congregation should do likewise. From Easter until Pentecost, the “Vidi Aquam” is sung in place of the “Asperges”.

The Latin text is below:

Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor,
Lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnum misericordiam tuam.

The English translation of the above.
You will sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop and I shall be cleansed
You will wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
Pity me, O God, according to Your great mercy.

I have included a video from St. Nicholas du Chardonnet in Paris. The Asperges starts at about 4:00. It looks like the priest has a death-grip on the altar boy’s neck as if the altar boy is going to tear down the aisle at breakneck speed. The High Mass at St. Nicholas is packed to the rafters with many, many large French Catholic families. You can tell the music style is decidedly French.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK8jPgJeGuA]

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4 Responses to “What is the “Asperges”?”

  1. avatar Sister Emily says:

    After the Priest sprinkles the holy water, he returns to the altar,when he is chanting is it just the choir that responds or is it also the congregation?

    At St. Stan Doesn't the priest always wear a head piece at high mass? (forgot again what it is called)Why not here?

    Why at St Stan and Our Lady is wine not offerd when many other churches offer it?

    Still learning..

  2. Hello Sister E – It should be the congregation who responds in addition to the choir.

    I believe the head piece is the biretta. It is taken off during the Asperges and Mass.

    Wine is not offer at St. Stanislaus because it is forbidden in the 1962 ritual of Mass.

    I'm not sure why it isn't offered at OLV, but I'm so glad it is not offered. The potential for spilling the Precious Blood is a major concern. When you receive the host you still receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.

    I was at Mass once when the whole chalice of the Precious Blood was accidentialy spilt upon the ground and a person too. It was a disaster. At least with a host, the host can be picked up, but with a liquid it just goes all over the place.

  3. avatar Kelly says:

    Not to be confused with this:

    http://catholicponderings.blogspot.com/2009/03/diocese-of-rochester-meet-fr-richard.html

    In regard to receiving from the cup, it concerns me on many levels how so many parishes offer under both kinds at every Mass. When offered at our parish, I always partake of the cup. This is typically offered only on Holy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil. In my view, it is indeed an invitation to disaster. And not to mention that it gives the impression to some that receiving the Lord by host only is somehow incomplete.

  4. avatar Dr. K says:

    Several issues with offering Communion under both kinds (Body and Blood of Christ):
    1. Much higher risk of germs spreading. When most people drink from a cup, a little liquid is bound to make contact with your lips and flow back down into the cup. I don't know how good a job just wiping the rim is going to do to solve this splash-back problem.
    2. How much should the priest consecrate? This leads to problems such as some parishes having 8 chalices (see Church of the Assumption post). Then you also run the risk of having a lot left over, which will need to be consumed. Many more chalices will need to be cleaned too. Also, when multiple chalices are employed, many parishes get lazy and/or cheap and buy a bunch of glass or ceramic chalices. These are forbidden due to ease with which they can break.
    3. People get the desire to perform self-intiction, or the dipping of the Body of Christ into the chalice by themselves. Big no no. Intinction is performed in the Eastern Rites, but only by the priest, never the laity.
    4. People begin to think you need to receive under both forms, which you most certainly do not since the full Christ is present in either form alone. Receiving under both forms also does not mean one is getting "more Jesus" than one would under just one.
    5. Do we really need 20 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion? When you offer the chalice, you generally need more EMHC, which means you have more non-clergy handling the sacred species. You have greater risk for something going wrong, and for an excommunicated married priest, or someone along those lines, receiving from a layperson who may not know who they are.
    6. What if a person with less than steady hands wants to drink from the chalice? Big risk of the Blood of Christ pouring everywhere.

    ~Dr. K

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