One of my favorite ceremonies in the Traditional Latin Mass (although it technically occurs before the Mass starts) is the Asperges, which is sung in all seasons except for Easter and Palm Sunday. During this rite, the priest walks down the aisle and blesses the faithful with Holy Water. The Holy Water reminds of our baptism and its cleansing effects. However, the Aspergers prayers itself derive from Psalm 50.
“Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow. Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.”
Hyssop. an herb-like mint, was used in the old Testament for its cleansing, medicinal and flavor properties. There are several mentions of hyssop in the old testament. For example, God told the Jews to ceremonially cleanse someone recently healed of leprosy.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:This is the rite of a leper, when he is to be cleansed: he shall be brought to the priest:
Who going out of the camp when he shall And that the leprosy is cleansed, shall command him that is to be purified, to offer for himself two living sparrows, which it is lawful to eat, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.And he shall command one of the sparrows to be immolated in an earthen vessel over living waters:But the other that is alive he shall dip, with the cedar wood, and the scarlet and the hyssop, in the blood of the sparrow that is immolated:..” Exodus 14: 1-4. Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition.
Also, in Exodus 12:22, God tells the Jews to paint their doors with lamb’s blood using hyssop, to protect them from the Angel of Death’s passing.
“And dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood that is at the door, and sprinkle the transom of the door therewith, and both the door cheeks: let none of you go out of the door of his house till morning.” Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition.
Finally, during our Lord’s passion, the soldiers offered him a sponge soaked in vinegar perched on a hyssop stalk.
Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.
Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.” John 19:22-30. Douay-Rheim 1899 American Edition.
Symbolically, hyssop is used to cleanse and in the Latin Mass, the Asperges rite is meant to symbolically cleanse us before we assist the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but we still need to be in the state of grace to receive communion.
The Asperges Rite in the Traditional Latin Mass
At the foot of the altar the priest says:
Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam. S.Et salutáre tuum da nobis. P.Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam. S.Et clamor meus ad te véniat. P.Dóminus vobíscum. S.Et cum spíritu tuo. P.Orémus.
Exáudi nos, Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus, et míttere dignéris sanctum Angelum tuum de cælis, qui custódiat, fóveat, prótegat, vísitet, atque deféndat omnes habitántes in hoc habitáculo. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. S.Amen.
Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy. S.And grant us Thy salvation. P.O Lord, hear my prayer. S.And let my cry come unto Thee. P.The Lord be with you. S.And with thy spirit.
P. Let us pray. Hear us, O holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven, to guard, cherish, protect, visit and defend all that are assembled in this place: Through Christ our Lord. S.Amen.
Text taken from liturgies.net.
For more on the Latin Mass, see The Latin Mass Explained.