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Ascension Thursday No 6:30 am Mass.

[This feast day, previously kept on May 1, was moved to May 11 when the feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established on May 1. The Solemnity of St. Joseph, which was replaced by St. Joseph the Work, was originally celebrated on the Third Sunday after Easter, as it was in the time of Dom Guéranger, whose article on that feast can be found here.-Ed.]

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TWO of the favoured witnesses of our beloved Jesus' Resurrection come before us on this first day of May. Philip and James are here, bearing testimony to us that their Master is truly risen from the dead, that they have seen him, that they have touched him, that they have conversed with him,[1] during these forty days. And, that we may have no doubt as to the truth of their testimony, they hold in their hands the instruments of the martyrdom they underwent for asserting that Jesus, after having suffered death, came to life again and rose from the grave. Philip is leaning upon the cross to which he was fastened, as Jesus had been; James is holding the club wherewith he was struck dead.

Philip preached the Gospel in the two Phrygias, and his martyrdom took place at Hierapolis. He was married when he was called by our Saviour; and we learn from writers of the second century that he had three daughters, remarkable for their great piety, one of whom lived at Ephesus, where she was justly revered as one of the glories of that early Church.

James is better known than Philip. He is called, in the sacred Scripture, Brother of the Lord,[2] on account of the close relationship that existed between his own mother and the blessed Mother of Jesus. He claims our veneration during Paschal Time, inasmuch as he was favoured with a special visit from our Risen Lord, as we learn from St Paul.[3] There can be no doubt but that he had done something to deserve this mark of Jesus’ predilection. St Jerome and St Epiphanius tell us that our Saviour, when ascending into heaven, recommended to St James’s care the Church of Jerusalem, and that he was accordingly appointed the first bishop of that city. The Christians of Jerusalem, in the fourth century, had possession of the chair on which St James used to sit when he assisted at the assemblies of the faithful. St Epiphanius also tells us that the holy Apostle used to wear a lamina of gold upon his forehead as the badge of his dignity. His garment was a tunic made of linen.

He was held in such high repute for virtue that the people of Jerusalem called him ' The Just and when the time of the siege came, instead of attributing the frightful punishment they then endured to the deicide they or their fathers had .committed, they would have it to be a consequence of the murder of James, who, when dying, prayed for his people. The admirable Epistle he has left us bears testimony to the gentleness and uprightness of his character. He there teaches us, with the eloquence of an inspired writer, that works must accompany our faith if we would be just with that justice which makes us like our Risen Lord.

The bodies of SS Philip and James repose in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles at Rome. These relics are counted as one of the richest treasures of the Holy City, and there is reason to believe that this first of May is the real anniversary of their translation. For a long period the Church of Rome kept special feasts in honour of four only of the Apostles: SS Peter and Paul, St John the Evangelist, and St Andrew (Peter’s brother): the rest were united in the solemnity of June 29, and a vestige of this is still to be found in the office of that day, as we shall see later on. The reception of the bodies of SS Philip and James, which were brought from the East somewhere about the sixth century, gave rise to the institution of to-day's feast; and this led gradually to the insertion into the Calendar of special feasts for the other Apostles and Evangelists.

Let us now read the brief account given of St Philip in the Liturgy.

Philippus Bethsaidæ natus, unus ex duodecim Apostolis, qui primum a Christo Domino vocati sunt: a quo cum accepisset Nathanael, venisse Messiam in Lege promissum, ad Dominum deductus est. Quam vero Christus eum familiariter adhiberet, illud facile declarat, quod Gentiles Salvatorem videre cupientes, ad Philippum accesserunt: et Dominus cum in solitudine hominum multitudinem pascere vellet, sic Philippum affatus est: Unde ememus panes ut manducent hi? Is accepto Spiritu Sancto, cum ei Scythia ad prædicandum Evangelium obtigisset, omnem fere illam gentem ad Christianam fidem convertit. Postremo cum Hierapolim Phrygiæ venisset, pro Christi nomine cruci affixus lapidibusque obrutus est Kalendis Maii. Ejus corpus ibidem a Christianis sepultum, postea Romam delatum, in Basilica duodecim Apostolorum una cum corpore beati Jacobi Apostoli conditum est.

Philip was born in Bethsaida, and was one of the twelve Apostles that were first called by Christ our Lord. It was from Philip that Nathanael learned that the Messias who was promised in the Law had come; and by him also he was led to our Lord. We have a clear proof of the familiarity wherewith Philip was treated by Christ, in the fact that the Gentiles addressed themselves to this Apostle when they wished to see the Saviour. Again when our Lord was about to feed the multitude in the desert, he spoke to Philip, and said: ‘Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?' After having received the Holy Ghost, he went into Scythia, which was the country allotted to him, wherein to preach the Gospel; and converted almost the entire people to the Christian faith. Having finally reached Hierapolis in Phrygia, he was crucified there for the name of Christ, and then stoned to death on the Kalends of May (May I). The Christians buried his body in the same place; but it was afterwards taken to Rome, and, together with the body of the Apostle St James, was placed in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.

The Breviary then gives the two following Lessons upon St James:

Jacobus frater Domini, cognomento Justus, ab ineunte ætate vinum et siceram non bibit, carne abstinuit, numquam tonsus est, nec unguento, nec balneo usus. Huic uni licebat ingredi in Sancta Sanctorum. Idem lineis vestibus utebatur, cui etiam assiduitas orandi ita callum genibus obduxerat, ut duritie cameli pellem imitaretur. Eum post Christi Ascensionem Apostoli Hierosolymorum Episcopum creaverunt: ad quem etiam Princeps Apostolorum misit qui nuntiaret se e carcere ab Angelo eductum fuisse. Cum autem in Concilio Jerosolymis controversia esset orta de lege et circumcisione, Jacobus Petri sententiam secutus, ad Fratres habuit concionem, in qua vocationem Gentium proba vit: Fratribusque absentibus scribendum esse dixit ne Gentibus jugum Mosaicæ legis imponerent. De quo et loquitur Apostolus ad Galatas: Alium autem Apostolorum vidi neminem, nisi Jacobum fratrem Domini.

Tanta autem erat Jacobi vitæ sanctitas, ut fimbriam vestimenti ejus certatim homines cuperent attingere. Nam is nonaginta sex annos natus, cum triginta annis illi Ecclesiæ sanctissime præfuisset, Christum Dei Filium constantissime prædicans, lapidibus primum appetitur; mox in altissimum Templi locum adductus, inde præcipitatus est. Qui confractis cruribus, jacens semivivus, manus tendebat ad cœlum, Deumque pro illorum salute deprecabatur his verbis: Ignosce eis. Domine, quia nesciunt quid faciunt. Qua in oratione, graviter ejus capite fullonis fuste percusso, animam Deo reddidit, septimo Neronis anno, et juxta Templum, ubi præcipitatus fuerat, sepultus est. Unam scripsit Epistolam, quæ de septem Catholicis est.

James, the brother of our Lord, was called the Just. From his childhood he never drank wine or strong drink; he abstained from flesh meat: he never cut his hair, or used oil to anoint his limbs, or took a bath. He was the only one permitted to enter the Holy of holies. His garments were of linen. So assiduous was he in prayer, that the skin of his knees was as hard as that of a camel. After Christ’s Ascension, the Apostles made him bishop of Jerusalem; and it was to him that the Prince of the Apostles sent the news of his having been delivered out of prison by an angel. A dispute having arisen in the Council of Jerusalem concerning the Mosaic Law and circumcision, James sided with Peter, and in a speech which he made to the brethren, proved the vocation of the Gentiles, and said that the absent brethren were to be told not to impose the yoke of the Mosaic Law upon the Gentiles. It is of him that the Apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Galatians, when he says: Bat other of the Apostles I saw none, saving James, the brother of the Lord.

Such was James's holy life, that people used to strive with each other to touch the hem of his garment. At the age of ninety-six years—of which he had spent thirty governing the Church of Jerusalem in the most saintly manner—as he was one day preaching, with great courage, Christ the Son of God, he was attacked by stones being thrown at him; after which he was taken to the highest part of the Temple, and cast headlong down. His legs were broken by the fall; and as he was lying half dead upon the ground, he raised up his hands towards heaven, and thus prayed for his executioners: ' Forgive them, O Lord! for they know not what they do.’ Whilst thus praying, he received a blow on the head with a fuller’s club, and gave up his soul to his God, in the seventh year of Nero's reign. He was buried near the Temple, from which he had been thrown down. He wrote a Letter, which is one of the seven Catholic Epistles.

The Greek Church celebrates the memory of these two Apostles on distinct days, which are the anniversaries of their martyrdom. The following stanzas are from the hymn in honour of St Philip:

(Die XIV Novembris)

Magnæ lucis fulgoribus illuminatus, Philippe, ut sidus magnificum resplenduisti, Patrem luminum in Filio quærens invenisti: in lumine enim lumen invenitur; nam ipse est signaculum ejusdem formæ ostendens archetypum. Ilium exora, Apostole, ut salventur qui divino sanguine signati fuerunt.

O admirabile prodigium! Philippus apostolus in medio luporum agnus impavide nunc ambulat; feras fide agnos reddidit; mundum divinitus commutavit. O fidei opera! o admirandæ virtutes! Ejus precibus, salva animas nostras, ut solus misericors.

O admirabile prodigium! puteus aquæ vivæ ex quo hauritur sapientia, omnibus in mundo apparuit apostolus Philippus; ex quo dogmatum rivuli profluunt, ex quo prodigiorum bibimus flumina. O qualia et quam admiranda operatus es miracula, divinorum factor, cujus memoriam cum fide veneramur!

Omnia quæ in terra sunt relinquens, Christum sequutus es, et Spiritus Sancti inspiratione repletus, ab eo ad perditas gentes missus fuisti, ut homines ad lucem cognitionis divinæ converteres, Philippe; et divini desiderii tui agonem per diversa supplicia perficiens, animam tuam Deo reddidisti. Ilium exora, beatissime, ut nobis concedat magnam misericordiam.

Fugator daemonum factus, et velut aster in tenebris degentium apparens Solem ex Virgine lucidum proceden tem ostendisti; et idolorum templa subvertens, Ecclesias ad gloriam Dei nostri collegisti. Ideo te veneramur, et divinam tuam memoriam magnifice celebramus, et unanimi voce tibi clamamus: Apostole Philippe, exora Christum Deum, ut peccatorum remissionem concedat ardenter nobis tuam sanctam memoriam celebrantibus.

Spiritualis nubes abundanti repleta imbre realiter hominibus in terra apparuisti, mystice irrigans velut arva animas nostras; percurrens enim sermone tuo illuminas terminos terræ, et imbres velut pretiosa aromata profundis. Ideo cordibus infidelium Spiritus Sancti odorem inspirans, in eis cœlestes sparsisti thesauros. Apostole Philippe, exora Christum Deum, ut peccatorum remissionem concedat nobis tuam sanctam memoriam ardenti anima celebrantibus.
Illumined with the rays of the great light, O Philip! thou didst shine as a magnificent star. Thou soughtest the Father of lights in his own Son, and didst find him; for the light is found in the Light, for he is the figure of his Father’s substance, reflecting in himself the Father as his archetype. Beseech him, O Apostle, that he would save them that have been signed with his divine Blood!

O wondrous prodigy! The Apostle Philip was as a lamb in the midst of wolves, but he feared them not; he turned them from wild beasts into lambs, by giving them faith; he changed the world by God's power. O admirable workings of faith! O admirable power! Do thou, O Christ, our only Saviour, hear his prayers for us, and save our souls.

O wondrous prodigy! The Apostle Philip was in the world as a well of living water, whence all might draw wisdom. We have received of the teachings *that flowed in streams from this well; we have drunk of its miraculous flowings. O thou doer of heavenly things, whose memory we now devoutly celebrate, what great and astounding miracles didst thou not work!

Leaving all earthly things, thou didst follow Christ, and wast filled with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. He sent thee to the nations that were lost, that thou, O Philip, mightest convert men to the light of the knowledge of God. Through divers tortures thou didst complete the battle thou hadst so holily desired and give back thy soul to God. Beseech him, O most blessed one! that he grant to us his great mercy.

Thou wast the disperser of demons. Thou wast the star of them that were dwelling in darkness, and didst show them the bright Sun, that came forth from the Virgin. Thou didst overturn the temples of idols and gather Churches together for the glory of our God. Therefore do we venerate thee, and solemnly celebrate thy holy memory, and cry out to thee with one voice: O Apostle Philip! beseech Christ our God, that he grant forgiveness of sins to us who fervently celebrate thy saintly memory.

Thou wast verily given to men upon earth as a spiritual cloud, laden with abundant rain, and watering the mystic land of our souls; for thy word has gone through the world, filling it with light, and pouring out upon it as it were showers of precious fragrance. Breathing, therefore, the fragrance of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of unbelievers, thou didst enrich them with the treasures of heaven. O Apostle Philip! beseech Christ our God that he grant forgiveness of sin to us, who fervently celebrate thy holy memory.

Let us now make a selection from the Menæa in honour of St James, whose memory is so affectionately cherished by the Eastern Churches:

(Die XXIII Octobris)

Venite, memoriam Fratris Domini veneremur, sancti Deo inspirati; jugum enim accipiens ardenter Christi Evangelii, bonitatis ejus et regni præco effectus est, et ineffabilis œconomia ejus illi commissa fuit. Omnipotens Deus, per ejus orationem concede nobis misericordiam.
Per universos orbis terminos intonuit verborum ejus sonitus, quibus illuminamur ad omnem virtutis divinæ contemplationem, et confidenter ad divinam Trinitatis cognitionemperducimur. Ideo te deprecamur, velut pontifex ad Jesum hominis amatorem intercede, ut salventur animæ nostræ.
Martyrii sanguine tuam sacerdotalem dignitatem decorasti, sanete martyr Apostole; stans enim super pinnacula templi, Deum Verbum præicasti velut omnium creatorem; unde a Judæis præcipitatus cœlorum palatia intrare meruisti; frater Domini Jacobe, Deum Christum exora ut animæ nostræ salventur.

Domine, quamvis Apostoli caput olim in Ugno contritum fuerit, nunc in paradiso super lignum vitæ tuæ elevatur; rebus enim terrenis liberatus, in ætemum gaudens exsultat; ejus orationibus ecclesiis tuam pacem concede.
Omne datum optimum, et omne donum perfectum a Patre luminum mortaiibus descendere sapienter doces, Jacobe; ut illorum participationem donorum accipiant qui te hymnis celebrant, deprecare Deum, Apostole.
Frater Jesu Christi secundum carnem factus, Apostole, sanctam apud ipsum gratiam accepisti; et omnibus divini luminis gratias et cognitionis communicasti, Jacobe, et idolorum errorem radicitus extirpasti; unde mendaces tenebrarum principes te injuste interficiunt prædicantem Salvatoris divinitatem.
Unigenitus Patris Filius, Deus, Verbum, qui apud nos in extremis diebus peregrinatus est, sancte Jacobe, te primum ostendit Hierosolymæ pastorem, et magistrum, et fidelem spiritualium mysteriorum dispensatorem. Ideo te omnes veneramur, Apostole.
Apostolorum chorus elegit te, ut primus in Sion sancta, velut Pontifex Christo benefactori servires; quia ejus generationis frater secundum camem, vestigia ejus fidelis viator comitatus fueras Jacobe.

Ignita divini Spiritus illuminatione resplendens, frater Dei Jacobe, divinæ bonitatis zelator visus es. Ideo stolam venerabiliorem vestimento legalis sacerdotii, ut olim Aaron, accepisti a Domino, qui per misericordiam suam te in fraternitatem adoptaverat. Illum deprecare, ut animas nostras salvare dignetur, gloriose Apostole.
Come, let us venerate the memory of the brother of the Lord, the divinely inspired James! Fervently did he take up the yoke of the Gospel of Christ, whose goodness and kingdom he announced to the world. The ineffable Mystery was entrusted to him. O Almighty God! through his intercession have mercy upon us.
Through all the ends of the earth the sound of his words was heard, whereby we are enlightened to contemplate the wonderful things of God, and are safely brought to the sacred knowledge of the Trinity. Therefore, we beseech thee, O Apostle, intercede for us, as a priest, with Jesus, the lover of mankind, that he would save our souls.
Thou didst add beauty to thy priestly dignity by the blood of martyrdom, O holy Apostle and Martyr! for when, on the pinnacle of the temple, thou didst preach that God, the Word, was the Creator of all things, the Jews cast thee down, and thou didst enter the courts of heaven. O James! brother of the Lord, pray for us to Christ our God, that he save our souls.

The head of thine Apostle, O Lord, was broken by a club; but now in heaven, he is exalted on the tree of thy life, for he is freed from all earthly things, and rejoices in eternal gladness. Through his prayers, grant thy peace to the Churches.
Thou, O James, wisely teachest us that every best gift, and every perfect gift comes down upon mankind from the Father of lights. Beg of him, we beseech thee, that they who celebrate thy memory may partake of those gifts.
Thou wast Jesus' brother according to the flesh, and wast favoured with his holy friendship. Thou didst communicate to all men the grace of the divine light and knowledge, and didst root up the error of idols. Therefore did the false princes of darkness unjustly slay thee, whilst thou wast preaching the divinity of the Saviour.
The Only Begotten Son of the Father, God, the Word, who dwelt among us during this last age, appointed thee, O holy James, as the first pastor of Jerusalem; he willed thee to be her master, and faithful dispenser of the divine mysteries. Therefore do we venerate thee, O Apostle!
The choir of the Apostles chose thee to be the first who, on holy Sion, should minister as priest to their great benefactor Christ; for thou wast his brother according to the flesh, and the faithful companion of his journeys.

Resplendent with the bright light of the Holy Spirit, thou, O James, brother of our God, wast the zealous minister of the divine goodness. Like unto Aaron of old, thou didst therefore receive from the Lord, who, in his mercy, admitted thee into the Brotherhood of his Apostles, a garment more sacred than that of the priesthood of the Law. Beseech him, O glorious Apostle, that he mercifully save our souls!

Holy Apostles! you saw our Risen Jesus in all his glory. He said to you on the evening of that great Sunday: Peace be to you!He appeared to you during the forty days following, that he might make you certain of his Resurrection. Great indeed must have been your joy at seeing once more that dear Master, who had admitted you into the number of his chosen Twelve; and his return made your love of him more than ever fervent. We address ourselves to you as our special patrons during this holy season, and most earnestly do we beseech you to teach us how to know and love the great mystery of our Lord’s Resurrection. May our hearts glow with Paschal joy, and may we never lose the new life that our Jesus has now given unto us.

Thou, O Philip! wast devoted to him, even from the first day of his calling thee. Scarcely hadst thou come to know him as the Messias, than thou didst announce the great tidings to thy friend Nathanael. Jesus treated thee with affectionate familiarity. When about to work the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, it was to thee that he addressed himself, and said to thee: Whence shall we buy breadthat these may eat?[4] A few days before the Passion of thy divine Master, some of the Gentiles wished to see this great Prophet, of whom they had heard such wonderful things, and it was to thee that they applied. How fervently didst thou not ask him, at the Last Supper, to show thee the Father! Thy soul longed for the divine light; and when the rays of the Holy Ghost had inflamed thy spirit, nothing could daunt thy courage. As a reward of thy labours, Jesus gave thee to share with him the honours of the Cross. O holy Apostle! intercede for us, that we may imitate thy devotedness to Jesus; and that, when he deigns to send us the Cross, we may reverence and love it.

We also honour thy love of Jesus, O thou that art called the brother of the Lord, on whose venerable features was stamped the likeness of our Redeemer. If, like the rest of the Apostles, thou didst abandon him in his Passion, thy repentance was speedy and earnest, for thou wast the first, after Peter, to whom he appeared after his Resurrection. We affectionately congratulate thee, O James, for the honour thus conferred upon thee; do thou, in return, obtain for us that we may taste and see how sweet is our Risen Lord.[5] Thy ambition was to give him every possible proof of thy gratitude; and the last testimony thou didst bear, in the faithless city, to the divinity of thy dear Master (when the Jews took thee to the top of the Temple) opened to thee, by martyrdom, the way that was to unite thee to him for eternity. Pray for us, O thou generous Apostle, that we also may confess his holy Name with the firmness which befits his disciples; and that we may ever be brave and loyal in proclaiming his rights as King over all creatures.

O holy Apostles! we beseech you to unite your prayers, and intercede for the Churches of the East, to which you preached the Gospel. Have compassion on Jerusalem, the dupe of schism and heresy; obtain her purification and her liberty; and rid her Holy Places of the sacrileges that have so long polluted them. Lead back the Christians of Asia Minor to union with the fold governed by the one supreme pastor. And lastly, pray for Rome, the 

city where your bodies repose, awaiting their glorious Resurrection. In return for the long hospitality she has given you, shield her with your protection; and permit not that the city of Peter, your venerable Head, should be deprived of its grandest glory—the presence of the Vicar of Christ.

[1] 1 St John i 1.
[2] Gal. i 19, and elsewhere
[3] 1 Cor. xv 7.
[4] St John vi 5.
[5] Ps. xxxiii 9.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE court of our divine King, during this grandest of seasons, is brilliant beyond measure; and, to-day, it is gladdened by the arrival of one of the most glorious champions that ever fought for his holy cause. Among the guardians of the word of truth, confided by Jesus to the earth, is there one more faithful than Athanasius? Does not his very name remind us of dauntless courage in the defence of the sacred deposit, of heroic firmness and patience in suffering, of learning, of talent, of eloquence—in a word, of everything that goes to form a Saint, a Bishop, and a Doctor of the Church? Athanasius lived for the Son of God; the cause of the Son of God was that of Athanasius: he who blessed Athanasius, blessed the eternal Word; and he who insulted Athanasius insulted the eternal Word.

Never did our holy faith go through a greater ordeal than in the sad times immediately following the peace of the Church, when the bark of Peter had to pass through the most furious storm that hell has, so far, let loose against her. Satan had vainly sought to drown the Christian race in a sea of blood; the sword of persecution had grown blunt in the hands of Diocletian and Galerius; and the Cross appeared in the heavens, proclaiming the triumph of Christianity. Scarcely had the Church become aware of her victory when she felt herself shaken to her very foundation. Hell sent upon the earth a heresy which threatened to blight the fruit of three hundred years of martyrdom. Arius began his impious doctrine, that he who had hitherto been adored as the Son of God was only a creature, though the most perfect of all creatures. Immense was the number, even of the clergy, that fell into this new error; the Emperors became its abettors; and had not God himself interposed, men would soon have set up the cry throughout the world that the only result of the victory gained by the Christian religion was to change the object of idolatry, and put a new idol, called Jesus, in place of the old ones.

But he who had promised that the gates of hell should never prevail against his Church, faithfully fulfilled his promise. The primitive faith triumphed; the Council of Nicæa proclaimed the Son to be consubstantial with the Father; but the Church stood in need of a man in whom the cause of the consubstantial Word should be, so to speak, incarnated—a man with learning enough to foil the artifices of heresy, and with courage enough to bear every persecution without flinching. This man was Athanasius: and everyone that adores and loves the Son of God, should love and honour Athanasius. Five times banished from his See of Alexandria by the Arians, who even sought to put him to death, he fled for protection to the West, which justly appreciated the glorious confessor of Jesus' divinity. In return for the hospitality accorded him by Rome, Athanasius gave her of his treasures. Being the admirer and friend of the great St Antony, he was a fervent admirer of the monastic life, which, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, had flourished so wonderfully in the deserts of his vast patriarchate. He brought the precious seed to Rome, and the first monks seen there were the ones introduced by Athanasius. The heavenly plant became naturalized in its new soil; and though its growth was slow at first, it afterwards produced fruit more abundantly than it had ever done in the East.

Athanasius, who has written so admirably upon that fundamental dogma of our faith—the divinity of Christ —has also left us most eloquent treatises on the mystery of the Pasch: they are to be found in the Festal Letters which he addressed each year to the churches of his patriarchate of Alexandria. The collection of these Letters, which were once thought to have been irretrievably lost, was found, a few years back, in the monastery of St Mary of Scete, in Egypt. The first, for the year 329, begins with these words, which beautifully express the sentiments we should feel at the approach of Easter: ' Come, my beloved brethren, celebrate the feast; the season of the year invites you to do so. The Sun of justice, by pouring out his divine rays upon you, tells you that the time of the solemnity is come. At such tidings, let us keep a glad feast; let not the joy slip from us with the fleeting days, without our having tasted of its sweetness.’ During almost every year of his banishment, Athanasius continued to address a Paschal Letter to his people. The one in which he announces the Easter of 338, and which he wrote at Treves, begins thus: ' Though separated from you, my brethren, I cannot break through the custom which I have always observed, and which I received from the tradition of the Fathers. I will not be silent; I will not omit announcing to you the time of the holy annual feast, and the day on which you must keep the solemnity. I am, as you have doubtless been told, a prey to many tribulations; I am weighed down by heavy trials; I am watched by the enemies of truth, who scrutinize everything I write, in order to rake up accusations against me and thereby add to my sufferings; yet notwithstanding, I feel that the Lord strengthens and consoles me in my afflictions. Therefore do I venture to address to you the annual celebration; and from the midst of my troubles, and despite the snares that beset me, I send you, from the furthermost part of the earth, the tidings of the Pasch, which is our salvation. Commending my fate into God’s hands, I will celebrate this feast with you; distance of place separates us, but I am not absent from you. The Lord who gives us these feasts, who is himself our feast, who bestows upon us the gift of his Spirit—he unites us spiritually to one another, by the bond of concord and peace.’

How grand is this Pasch, celebrated by Athanasius, an exile on the Rhine, in union with his people who keep their Easter on the banks of the Nile! It shows us the power of the Liturgy to unite men and make them, at one and the same time, and despite the distance of countries, enjoy the same holy emotions and feel the same aspirations to virtue. Greeks or Barbarians, we have all the same mother-country, the Church; but that which, after faith, unites us all into one family, is the Church’s Liturgy. Now there is nothing in the whole Liturgy so expressive of unity as the celebration of Easter. The unhappy Churches of Russia and the East, by keeping Easter on a different day from that on which it is celebrated by the rest of the Christian world, show that they are not a portion of the One Fold of which our Risen Jesus is the One Shepherd.

We will now read the sketch of the life of St Athanasius, given in the Breviary.

Athanasius Alexandrinus, catholicæ religionis propugnatur acerrimus, ab Alexandro Episcopo Alexandrino diaconus factus est, in cujus locum successit, quem etiam antea secutus fuerat ad Nicænum concilium: ubi cum Arii impietatem repressisset, tantum odium arianorum suscepit, ut ex eo tempore ei insidias moliri numquam destiterint. Nam coacto ad Tyrum concilio magna ex parte arianorum episcoporum, subornarunt mulierculam, quæ accusaret Athanasium quod hospitio acceptus sibi stuprum per vim intuiisset. Introductus igitur est Athanasius, et una cum eo Timotheus presbyter, qui simulans se esse Athanasium; Egone, inquit, mulier, apud te sum diversatus? Ego te violavi? Cui illa petulanter: Tu mihi vim attulisti; idque jurejurando affirmans, judicum fidem obtestabatur ut tantum flagitium vindicarent. Qua cognita fraude, rejecta est mulieris impudentia.

Arsenium quoque episcopum ab Athanasio interfectum ariani pervulgarunt: quem dum occulte detinent, manum mortui deferunt in judicium, ab Athanasio ad usum magicæ artis Arsenio amputatam criminantes. At Arsenius nocte aufugiens cum se in conspectu totius concila statuisset, Athanasii inimicorum impudentissimum scelus aperuit. Quod illi nihilominus magicis artibus Athanasii tribuentes, vitæ ejus insidiari non desistebant. Quamobrem in exsilium actus, in Gallia apud Treviros exsulavit. Gravibus deinceps ac diuturnis sub Constantio imperatore, arianorum fautore, tempestatibus jactatus, et incredibiles calamitates perpessus, magnam orbis terrae partem peragravit: ac saepe e sua Ecclesia ejectus, saepe etiam in eamdem et Julii Romani Pontificis auctoritate, et Constantis imperatoris, Constantii fratris, patrocinio, decretis quoque concilii Sardicensis ac Jerosolymitani, resti tutus est; arianis interea illi semper infestis quorum pertinacem iram, et summum vitæ discrimen fugiens, in sicca cisterna quinque annis se abdidit, ejus rei tantum conscio quodam Athanasii amico, qui eum clam sustentabat.

Constantio mortuo, cum Julianus Apostata, qui ei in Imperio successit, exsules Episcopos ad suas Ecclesias redire permisisset, Athanasius Alexandriam reversus, summo honore exceptus est. Sed non multo post iisdem arianis impellentibus, a Juliano exagitatus rursus discedere cogitur. Cumque ab ejus satellitibus ad necem conquireretur, qua fugiebat navicula conversa in contrariam fiuminis partem, iis qui se insequebantur, ex industria occurrit: et quærentibus quantum inde abesset Athanasius, respondit eum non longe abesse: itaque illos contrarium tenentes cursum effugit, atque Alexandriam rediens, ibidem usque ad Juliani obitum occultus permansit. Qui paulo post Aiexandriæ alia exorta tempestate, quatuor menses in paterno sepulchro delituit. Ac denique ex tot tantisque periculis divinitus ereptus, Aiexandriæ mortuus est in suo lectulo, sub Valente; cujus vita et mors magnis nobilitata est miraculis. Multa pie et ad illustrandam catholicam fidem præclare scripsit, sexque et quadraginta annos in summa temporum varietate Alexandrinam Ecclesiam sanctissime gubemavit.
Athanasius, the stern defender of the Catholic faith, was born at Alexandria. He was made deacon by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, whose successor he afterwards became. He accompanied that prelate to the Council of Nicæa, where, having refuted the impious doctrine of Arius, he became such an object of hatred to the Arians, that from that time forward they never ceased to lay snares for him. Thus, at a Council held at Tyre, at which the majority of the bishops were Arians, the party suborned a wretched woman, who was to accuse Athanasius that when lodging in her house he had offered violence to her. Athanasius was accordingly brought before the Council. One of his priests, by name Timothy, went in with him, and pretending that he was Athanasius, he said to the woman: ‘What! did I ever lodge at thy house? Did I violate thee?’ She boldly answered him: ‘Yes, it was thou.’ She affirmed it with an oath, besought the judges to avenge her, and punish so great a crime. The trick being discovered, the impudent woman was ordered to leave the place.

The Arians also spread the report that Athanasius had murdered a certain bishop Arsenius. Having put this Arsenius into confinement, they brought forward the hand of a dead man, saying that it was the hand of Arsenius, and that Athanasius had cut it off for purposes of witchcraft. But Arsenius having made his escape during the night, presented himself before the whole Council, and exposed the impudent malice of Athanasius's enemies. But even this they attributed to the magical skill of Athanasius, and went on plotting his death. They succeeded in having him banished, and accordingly, he was sent to Treves in Gaul. During the reign of the emperor Constantius, who was on the Arian side, Athanasius had to go through the most violent storms, endure incredible sufferings and wander from country to country. He was driven several times from his see, but was restored, at one time by the authority of Pope Julius, at another by the help of the emperor Cons tans, Constantius’s brother, at another by the decrees of the Councils of Sardica and Jerusalem. During all this time the Arians relented not in their fury against him; their hatred of him was unremitting; and he only avoided being murdered by hiding himself for five years in a dry well where he was fed by one of his friends, who was the only person that knew the place of his concealment.

Constantius died, and was succeeded in the Empire by Julian the Apostate, who allowed the exiled bishops to return to their respective sees. Accordingly, Athanasius returned to Alexandria, where he was received with every possible mark of honour. Not long after, however, he was again obliged to flee, owing to the persecution he suffered from Julian, who was instigated by the Arians. On one occasion, when he was being pursued by the Emperor’s satellites, who were ordered to put him to death, the Saint ordered the boat, in which he was fleeing from danger, to be turned back. As soon as he met the persecutors, they asked him if Athanasius was anywhere near. He answered, that he was not far off. Whilst they, therefore, went one way, he sailed the other, and got back to Alexandria, where he remained in concealment till Julian’s death. Another storm soon arose in the city, and he was obliged to hide himself, for four months, in his father’s sepulchre. Having thus miraculously escaped from all these great dangers, he died peacefully in his own bed at Alexandria, during the reign of the emperor Valens. His life and death were honoured by great miracles. He wrote several admirable treatises, some on subjects pertaining to practical piety, and others on the dogmas of Catholic faith. He for six and forty years, and amidst the most troubled of times, governed the Church of Alexandria with extraordinary piety

The Greek Church, which celebrates the feast of our Saint at another season of the year, is enthusiastic in her admiration of his virtues. The following stanzas are from the hymn she sings in his praise:

(Die XVIII Januarii)

Salve virtutum regula, fortissimus fidei propugnator, qui impietatem Arii vinculis venerabilium verborum tuorum fortiter dissolvisti, Athanasi; manifeste prædicans unius divinitatis potentiam, in tribus personis distributam, quæ omnia spiritualia et sensibilia ex nihilo ad creationem adduxit, propter suam tantummodo bonitatem; et nobis divinæ operationis difficilia explicans mysteria, Christum exora, ut animabus nostris concedat suam magnam misericordiam.

Salve patriarcharum fundamentum, tuba canora, mens admirabilis, lingua efficacissima, lucidissimus oculus, rectorum dogmatum illustratio; pastor verus, lucerna splendidissima; securis omnem hæreseon sylvam præcidens, et Spiritus Sancti igne comburens, columna firmissima, turris inconcussa, supersubstantialem prædicans potentiam Trinitatis; illam exora ut animabus nostris concedat magnani misericordiam.

Divinis orthodoxiæ dogmatibus, Pater, armasti Ecdesiam, doctrinis tuis præcidisti hæreses; pietatis cursum consummastis, et sicut Paulus fidem servasti; de reliquo reposita est tibi, gloriose Athanasi, justa laborum tuorum corona.

Sicut astrum quod occasum nescit, etiam post mortem tuam doctrinæ tuæ splendoribus undique fidelium multitudinem illuminas, sapiens pontifex Athanasi.

In contemplationis subiimitatibus animum tuum inducens, in spiritu Sancto, sancte Pontifex, divinorum oraculorum thesauros investigasti latentes, et mundo divitias eorum distribuisti.
Sicut sublimis et coruscans turris divinarum doctrinarum, per mare erroris jactatos undequaque dirigis verborum tuorum serenitate, ad tranquillum gratiæ portum.

Sicut imperator exercitus a Deo collecti, copias adversariorum Domini profligasti, gladio Spiritus Sancti fortiter concidens.

Universam irrigasti terram, sancte Pater, fontem vitæ in corde tuo possidens.

In carne tua, sancte Pater, adimplevisti Domini passiones, pro ejus Ecclesia multa perpessus.

Justitiam disci te, omnes inhabitantes terram, sanctis Athanasii sermonibus eruditi; per fidem enim visus est tamquam os Verbi quod est ante sæcula.

Vere paradisum effecisti Ecclesiam Christi, beate, in illa pium seminasti sermonem, et hæreseon spinas evellisti.

Gratiæ fluvius, Deifer, et spiritualis Nilus nobis apparuisti; bonos piæ doctrinæ fructus fidelibus afferens, universos irrigans, et late nutriens terram.

Dogmatum tuorum baculo, lupos hæreticos ab Ecclesia Christi procul removisti; et ill am turribus verborum tuorum circumdans et defendens, sanam et incolumem Christo servans præsentasti. Ideo Christum Deum exora, ut nos tu am semper venerabilem memoriam in fide celebrantes a corruptione et periculis omnibus liberet.
Hail, O Athanasius! model of virtue, most brave defender of the faith! who didst courageously rout the impiety of Arius by the force of thy venerable words. Thou didst preach the power of the Godhead, one in three Persons, which made all creatures, both spiritual and material, out of nothing, solely because of his own infinite goodness. Thou didst explain to us the difficult mysteries of the divine operation. Pray for us to Christ, that he grant to our souls his great mercy.

Hail, thou rock of the Patriarchs! sweet-voiced trumpet, admirable mind, most persuasive tongue, most clear-seeing eye, interpreter of true dogmas, true shepherd, most brilliant lamp, axe that felled the whole forest of heresies, and burned them with the fire of the Holy Spirit, most firm pillar, unshaken tower, preaching the supersubstantiai power of the Three Persons! pray them that they grant plenteous mercy to our souls.

O Father! thou didst arm the Church with the divine dogmas of orthodoxy: thy teachings were a death-blow to heresy; thou didst finish thy holy course, and keep the faith like Paul; as to the rest, there was laid up for thee, O glorious Athanasius, a crown justly won by thy labours.

Like a star that never sets, even now that thou art dead thou enlightenest the faithful throughout the world with the rays of thy teaching, O wise Pontiff Athanasius!

Guided by the Holy Ghost, thou, O holy Pontiff, turning thy mind to the sublimest contemplations, didst investigate the hidden treasures of the divine oracles and distribute their riches unto men.

Like a high and shining tower of divine truths, thou guidest all that are tossed on the sea of error, leading them, by the calm beauty of thy words, to the tranquil haven of grace.
General of God's army, thou didst put to flight the ranks of the Lord’s enemies, courageously destroying them with the sword of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Father! thou hadst the fountain of life within thy heart, and thou didst water the whole earth.

In thy flesh, O holy Father, thou didst fill up the sufferings of Christ, suffering many persecutions for his Church.

Learn justice, O all ye inhabitants of earth, from the holy word of Athanasius; for, by his faith, he was as the mouth of the Eternal Word.

O blessed one! thou didst make the Church of Christ a paradise indeed, for thou didst sow in her the holy word, tearing up the thorns of heresy.

O God-bearing Saint! thou wast a river of grace, a spiritual Nile, bringing to the faithful the good fruits of holy doctrine, refreshing us all, and nourishing the whole earth.

With the staff of thy teachings, thou drovest heretical wolves far from the Church of Christ. Thou didst encompass and defend her with the fortifications of thy words and present her sound and safe to Christ. Beseech him, therefore, that he would deliver from perversion and all dangers us who faithfully celebrate thine ever venerable memory.

Thou wast throned, O Athanasius! on the Chair of Mark in Alexandria; and thy name is emblazoned near his on the sacred cycle. He left Rome, sent by Peter himself to found the second patriarchal See; and thou, three centuries later, didst visit Rome, as successor of Mark, to seek protection from Peter's successor against them that were disturbing thy venerable See by injustice and heresy. Our Western Church was thus honoured by thy presence, O intrepid defender of the faith. She looked on thee with veneration as the glorious exile, the courageous confessor; and she has chronicled thy sojourning in her midst as an event of the greatest interest.

Intercede for the country over which was extended thy patriarchal jurisdiction; but forget not this Europe of ours, which gave thee hospitality and protection. Rome defended thy cause; she passed sentence in thy favour, and restored thee thy rights; make her a return, now that thou art face to face with the God of infinite goodness and power. Protect and console her Pontiff, the successor of that Julius who so nobly befriended thee fifteen hundred years ago. A fierce tempest is now raging against the Rock on which is built the Church of Christ; and our eyes have grown wearied looking for a sign of calm. Oh! pray that these days of trial be shortened, and that the See of Peter may triumph over the calumnies and persecutions which are now besetting her, and endangering the faith of many of her children.

Thy zeal, O Athanasius! checked the ravages of Arianism; but this heresy has again appeared, in our own times, and in almost every country of Europe. Its progress is due to that proud superficial learning which has become one of the principal perils of the age. The Eternal Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, is blasphemed by our so-called philosophers, as being only Man—the best and greatest of men, they say, but still only Man. They despise all the proofs which reason and history adduce of Jesus' divinity; they profess a sort of regard for the Christian teaching which has hitherto been held, but they have discovered (so they tell us) the fallacy of the great dogma which recognizes in the Son of Mary the Eternal Word who became incarnate for man’s salvation. O Athanasius, glorious Doctor of holy Mother Church! humble these modem Arians; expose their proud ignorance and sophistry; undeceive their unhappy followers, by letting them see how this false doctrine leads either to the abyss of the abominations of pantheism, or to the chaos of scepticism, where all truth and morality are impossibilities.

Preserve within us, by the influence of thy prayers, the precious gift of faith, wherewith our Lord has mercifully blessed us. Obtain for us that we may ever confess and adore Jesus Christ as our eternal and infinite God; ' God of God; Light of Light; True God of True God; Begotten, not made; who, for us men, and for our salvation, took Flesh, of the Virgin Mary.’ May we grow each day in the knowledge of this Jesus, until we join thee in the face-to-face contemplation of his perfections. Meanwhile, by means of holy faith, we will live with him on this earth that has witnessed the glory of his Resurrection. How fervent, O Athanasius, was thy love of this Son of God, our Creator and Redeemer! This love was the very life of thy soul, and the stimulus that urged thee to heroic devotedness to his cause. It supported thee in the combats thou hadst to sustain with the world, which seemed leagued together against thy single person. It gave thee strength to endure endless tribulations. Oh! pray that we may obtain this love—a love which is fearless of danger, because faithful to him for whom we suffer—a love which is so justly due, seeing that he, though the Brightness of his Father's glory, and Infinite Wisdom, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross.[1] How else can we make him a return for his devotedness to us except by giving him all our love, as thou didst, O Athanasius! and by ever singing his praise in compensation for the humiliations which he endured in order to save us?


[1] Philipp, ii 7, 8.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IT was most just that our divine King should show himself to us with the sceptre of his power, to the end that nothing might be wanting to the majesty of his empire. This sceptre is .the Cross; and Paschal Time was to be the season for its being offered to him in glad homage. A few weeks back, and the Cross was shown to us as the instrument of our Emmanuel's humiliation and as the bed of suffering whereon he died; but has he not since then conquered Death? and what is his Cross now but a trophy of his victory? Let it then be brought forth to our gaze and let every knee bend before this sacred Wood, whereby our Jesus won the honour and praise we now give him!

On the day of his birth at Bethlehem we sang these words of the Prophet Isaias: A child is bom unto us, and a son is given unto us, and his government is upon his shoulder.[1] We have seen him carrying this Cross upon his shoulder; as Isaac carried the wood for his own immolation; but now it is no longer a heavy burthen. It is shining with a brightness that ravishes the eyes of the angels; and after having received the veneration of man as long as the world lasts, it will suddenly appear in the clouds of heaven, near the Judge of the living and the dead—a consolation to them that have loved it, but a reproach to such as have treated it with contempt or forgetfulness.

Our Saviour did not think the time between his Resurrection and Ascension a fitting one for glorifying the instrument of his victory. The Cross was not to be brought into notice until it had subjected the world to him whose glory it so eloquently proclaimed. Jesus was three days in the tomb; his Cross is to lie buried, unknown to men, for three centuries: but it is to have its resurrection, and the Church celebrates this resurrection to-day. Jesus would, in his own good time, add to the joy of Easter by miraculously revealing to us this sacred monument of his love for mankind. He entrusts it to our keeping—it is to be our consolation—as long as this world lasts: is it not just that we should love and venerate it?

Never had Satan's pride met with such a humiliation as when he saw the instrument of our perdition made the instrument of our salvation. As the Church expresses it in her Preface for Passiontide: ‘He that overcame mankind by a Tree, was overcome by a Tree.' Thus foiled, he vented his fury upon this saving Wood, which so bitterly reminded him both of the irresistible power of his conqueror and of the dignity of man who had been redeemed at so great a price. He would fain have annihilated the Cross; but knowing that this was beyond his power, he endeavoured to profane it, and hide it from view. He therefore instigated the Jews to bury it. At the foot of Calvary, not far from the sepulchre, was a deep hole. Into this was the Cross thrown, together with those of the two thieves, the Nails, the Crown of Thoms, and the Inscription or Title written by Pilate. The hole was then filled up with rubbish and earth, and the Sanhedrim exulted in the thought of its having effaced the memory of the Nazarene, who could not save himself from the ignominious death of the Cross.

Forty years after this, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, the instruments of God’s vengeance. The Holy Places were desecrated by the idolaters. A small temple to Venus was erected on Calvary, and another to Jupiter over the Holy Sepulchre. By this, the pagans intended derision; whereas, they were perpetuating the knowledge of two spots of most sacred interest. When peace was restored under Constantine, the Christians had but to remove these pagan monuments, and their eyes beheld the holy ground that had been bedewed with the Blood of Jesus, and the glorious Sepulchre. As to the Cross, it was not so easily found. The sceptre of our divine King was to be raised up from its tomb by a royal hand. The saintly Empress Helen, Constantine's mother, was chosen by heaven to pay to Jesus—and that, too, on the very spot where he had received his greatest humiliations—the honours which are due to him as the King of the world. Before laying the foundations of the Basilica of the Resurrection, this worthy follower of Magdalen and the other holy women of the sepulchre was anxious to discover the instrument of our salvation. The Jews had kept up the tradition of the site where it had been buried: the Empress had the excavations made accordingly. With what holy impatience she must have watched the works! and with what ecstasy of joy did she behold the redeeming Wood, which, though not at first distinguishable, was certainly one of the three Crosses that were found! She addressed a fervent prayer to the Saviour, who alone could reveal to her which was the trophy of his victory; the bishop, Macarius, united his prayers with hers; and their faith was rewarded by a miracle that left them no doubt as to which was the true Cross.

The glorious work was accomplished, and the Church was put in possession of the instrument of the world’s Redemption. Both East and West were filled with joy at the news of this precious discovery, which heaven had set on foot, and which gave the last finish to the triumph of Christianity. Christ completed his victory over the pagan world by raising thus his standard—not a figurative one, but his own real standard—his Cross, which, up to that time, had been a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles; but before which every Christian is henceforth to bend his knee.

Helen placed the holy Cross in the Basilica which had been built by her orders, and which covered both the glorious Sepulchre and the hill of the Crucifixion. Another Church was erected on the site where the Cross had lain concealed for three hundred years, and the faithful are enabled, by long flights of steps, to go down into the deep grotto which had been its tomb. Pilgrims came from every part of the world to visit the hallowed places where our Redemption had been wrought, and to venerate the sacred Wood of the Cross. But God’s merciful providence willed not that the precious pledge of Jesus’ love for mankind should be confined to one sanctuary only, however venerable it might be. Immediately after its discovery, Helen had a very large piece cut from the Cross; and this fragment she destined for Rome, the new Jerusalem. The precious gift was enshrined in the Basilica built by her son Constantine in the Sessorian garden, which was afterwards called the Basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem.

By degrees, other places were honoured by the presence of the Wood of the Holy Cross. So far back as the fourth century, we have St Cyril of Jerusalem attesting that many of the pilgrims used to obtain small pieces of it, and thus carried the precious treasure into their respective countries; and St Paulinus of Nola, who lived in the same century, assures us that these many gifts lessened not the size of the original relic. In the sixth century, the holy Queen St Radegonde obtained from the Emperor Justin II a large piece from the fragment that was in the imperial treasury of Constantinople. It was for the reception of this piece of the True Cross into France that Venantius Fortunatus composed the Vexilla Regis—that beautiful hymn which the Church uses in her Liturgy as often as she celebrates the praise of the Holy Cross. After several times losing and regaining it, Jerusalem was at length for ever deprived of the precious relic. Constantinople was a gainer by Jerusalem’s loss. From Constantinople, especially during the Crusades, many churches of the West procured large pieces. These again supplied other places; until at length the Wood of the Cross was to be found in almost every town of any importance. There is scarcely to be found a Catholic who, some time or other in his life, has not had the happiness of seeing and venerating a portion of this sacred object. How many acts of love and gratitude have not been occasioned by this? And who could fail to recognize, in this successive profusion of our Jesus’ Cross, a plan of divine providence for exciting us to us appreciation of our Redemption, on which rest all our hopes of eternal happiness?

How dear, then, to us should this day be, which blends together the recollection of the holy Cross and the joys of the Resurrection of that Jesus who by the Cross has won the throne to which we shall soon see him ascend! Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his having restored to mankind a treasure so immensely precious as is the Cross. Until the day comes for it to appear with himself in the clouds of heaven, Jesus has entrusted it to his Spouse, as a pledge of his second coming. On that day, he will collect together all the fragments by his divine power; and the Tree of Life will then gladden the elect with its dazzling beauty, and invite them to eternal rest beneath its refreshing shade.

The Liturgy gives us the following history of the great event we are celebrating today:

Post insignem victoriam quam Constantinus imperator, divinitus accepto signo Dominicæ Crucis, Maxentio reportavit, Helena Constantini mater in somnis admonita, conquirendæ Crucis studio Jerosolymam venit, ubi marmoream Veneris statuam in Crucis loco a Gentibus colloca tam, ad tollendam Christi Domini Passionis memoriam, post centum circiter octoginta annos, evertendam curavit. Quod item fecit ad Præsepe Salvatoris, et in loco Resurrectionis: inde Adonidis, hinc fovis sublato simulacro.

Itaque loco Crucis purgato, alte defossæ tres cruces erutæ sunt, repertusque seorsum ab illis Crucis Dominicæ titulus: qui cum ex tribus cui affixus fuisset, non apparerei, eam dubitationem sustulit miraculum. Nam Macarius Hierosolymorum episcopus, factis Deo precibus, singulas cruces cuidam fœminæ gravi morbo laboranti admovit; cui cum reliquæ nihil profuissent, adhibita tertia Crux statim eam sanavit.

Helena, salutari Cruce inventa, magniti centissimam ibi exstruxit Ecclesiam, in qua partem Crucis reliquit thecis argenteis inclusam, partem Constantino filio detulit: quæ Romæ reposita fuit in Ecclesia sanctæ Crucis in Jerusalem, aedificata in aedibus Sessorianis. Clavos etiam attulit filio, quibus sanctissimum Jesu Christi corpus fixum fuerat. Quo ex tempore Constantinus legem sancivit, ne crux ad supplichimi cuiquam adhiberetur: ita res quæ antea hominibus probro ac ludibrio fuerat, venerationi et gloriæ esse coepit.
After the great victory gained over Maxentius by the Emperor Constantine, under the standard of our Lord's Cross, which had been miraculously shown to him, Helen, his mother, was told in a dream to repair to Jerusalem and search for the true Cross. Upon her arrival, she ordered to be taken down a marble statue of Venus, which had been erected by the Pagans some hundred and eighty years before, in order that all memory of our Lord’s Passion might be obliterated. She did the same service for the place where reposed the Saviour's crib, as also for the site of the Resurrection: removing from the former an idol of Adonis, and from the latter an idol of Jupiter.

The place where the Cross was supposed to be having been excavated, three crosses were discovered at a great depth below the surface; and with them, though not attached, the Title that had been fastened to our Lord’s Cross. The doubt as to which of the three crosses the title belonged was removed by a miracle. After having prayed to God, Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, applied each of the crosses to a woman who was afflicted with a dangerous malady. The first two produced no result; the third was then applied and the woman was restored to perfect health.

The holy Cross being thus found, Helen built a magnificent church in Jerusalem, in which she placed a portion of the Cross, enshrined in a silver case: the remaining part she took to her son Constantine, and it was put in the Church called Holy-CrossinJerusalem, which was built on the site of the Sessorian palace. She also took to her son the Nails wherewith the most holy Body of Christ Jesus had been fastened to the Cross. Constantine passed a law that from that time forward a cross should never be used as an instrument of punishment; and thus what hitherto had been an object of reproach and derision became one of veneration and glory.

Both the Eastern and Western Churches abound in liturgical compositions in honour of the holy Cross. We offer our readers a selection from these, beginning with the glorious verses of Venantius Fortunatus:

Vexilla Regis prodeunt;
Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua Vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.

Quæ vulnerata lanceæ
Mucrone diro, criminum
Ut nos lavaret sordibus,
Manavit unda et sanguine.

Impleta sunt quæ concinit
David fideli cannine,
Dicendo nationibus:
Regnavit a ligno Deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida,
Ornata Regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite,
Tam sancta membra tangere.

Beata cujus brachiis
Pretium pependit sæculi,
Statera facta corporis,
Tulitque praedam tartari.

O Crux, ave, spes unica,
Paschale quæ fers gaudium,
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.

Te, fons salutis, Trinitas,
Collaudet omnis spiritus;
Quibus Crucis victoriam
Largiris, adde præmium.

The standard of our King comes forth:
the mystery of the Cross shines upon us
—that Cross on which Life suffered death,
and by his Death gave life.

He was pierced with the cruel spear,
that by the Water and the Blood
which flowed from the wound
he might cleanse us from sin.

Here on the Cross was fulfilled
the prophecy foretold
in David’s truthful words:
‘God hath reigned ffom the Tree.’

O fair and shining Tree!
beautified by the scarlet of the King,
and chosen as the noble trunk
that was to touch such sacred limbs.

O blessed Tree!
on whose arms hung the ransom of the world!
It was the balance wherein was placed the Body of Jesus,
and thereby hell lost its prey.

Hail, O Cross! our only hope,
that bringest us the Paschal joy.
Increase the grace of the good
and cleanse sinners from their guilt.

May every spirit praise thee, O Holy Trinity,
thou fount of salvation!
and by the Cross, whereby thou gavest us victory,
give us too our recompense.


The Roman Church has the following Responsories and Antiphons in her Office for this feast. They are full of unction, and breathe a fragrance of antiquity:

℟. Gloriosum diem sacra veneratur Ecclesia, dum triumphale reseratur lignum,
* In quo Redemptor nos ter, mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit, alleluia.
℣. In Ugno pendens nostræ salutis semitam Verbum Patris invenit.
* In quo Redemptor noster, mortis vincula rumpens, callidum aspidem superavit, alleluia.

℟. Hæc est arbor dignissima, in paradisi medio situata,
* In qua salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit, alleluia.
℣. Crux præcellenti decore fulgida, quam Helena Constantini mater concupiscenti animo requisivit.
* In quo salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit, alleluia.

℟. Dum sacrum pignus cœlitus revelatur, Christi fides roboratur;
* Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata, alleluia.
℣. Ad Crucis contactum resurgunt mortui, et Dei magnalia reserantur.
* Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata, alleluia.

Ant. Salva nos, Christe Salvator, per virtutem Crucis; qui salvasti Petrum in mari, miserere nobis, alleluia.

Ant. Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversæ; vicit leo de tribu Juda, radix David, alleluia.

Ant. Super omnia ligna cedrorum tu sola excelsior, in qua Vita mundi pependit, in qua Christus triumphavit, et mors mortem superavit in æternum, alleluia.

Ant. O Crux splendidior cunctis astris, mundo Celebris, hominibus multum amabilis, sanctior universis; quæ sola fuisti digna portare tal en tum mundi: dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: salva præsentem catervam, in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam. Alleluia, alleluia.
℟. Holy Church celebrates the glorious day whereon was found the triumphant Wood,
* On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.
℣. Hanging on this Wood, the Word of the Father found the way of our salvation.
* On which our Redeemer broke the bonds of death, and overcame the crafty serpent, alleluia.

℟. This is the noblest of all trees, and is placed in the midst of Paradise:
* On it the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, alleluia.
℣. It is the Cross, dazzling in its exceeding beauty, which Helen, the mother of Constantine, sought with all the ardour of her soul.
* On it the Author of our salvation vanquished, by his own Death, the death of all men, Alleluia.

℟. Man's faith in Christ was strengthened, when the sacred pledge was revealed to him by heaven:
* The divine prodigies that were prefigured of old in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.
℣. The dead rose again by the contact of the Cross, and the wondrous works of God were made manifest.
* The divine prodigies that were prefigured of old in the rod of Moses, were renewed, alleluia.

Ant. Save us, O Saviour Christ, by the power of the Cross! O thou that didst save Peter on the waters, have mercy on us, alleluia.

Ant. Behold the Cross of the Lord; flee, O ye his enemies, for the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath conquered, alleluia.

Ant. O Tree loftier than all cedars! whereon hung the Life of the world, and Christ triumphed, and death conquered death for ever, alleluia.

Ant. O Cross! brighter than all stars, honoured throughout the world, beloved by men, holiest of holy things, that alone wast worthy to bear the ransom of the world! O sweet Wood! O sweet nails! that bore so sweet a weight! save the people assembled here this day to sing thy praise! Alleluia, alleluia.

Our Latin Churches of the Middle Ages are fervent in their hymns in honour of the holy Cross. The first we select is the celebrated sequence of Adam of Saint-Victor:


Laudes Crucis attollamus,
Nos qui Crucis exsultamus speciali gloria:
Nam in Cruce triumphamus,
Hostem ferum superamus

Vitali victoria.
Dulce melos
Tangat cœlos;
Dulce lignum
Dulci dignum
Credimus melodia:

Voci vita non discordet;
Cum vox vitam non remordet, dulcis est symphonia.

Servi Crucis Crucem laudent,
Per quam Crucem sibi gaudent vitæ dari munera.
Dicant omnes, et dicant singuli:
Ave salus totius sæculi, arbor salutifera!

O quam felix, quam præclara
Fuit hæc salutis ara
Rubens Agni sanguine,
Agni sine macula,
Qui mundavit sæcula
Ab antiquo crimine!

Hæc est scala peccatorum,
Per quam Christus, rex cœlorum,
Ad se trahit omnia;
Forma cujus hoc ostendit
Quæ terrarum comprehend it quatuor confinia.

Non sunt nova sacramenta,
Nec recenter est inventa crucis hæc religio:
Ista dulces aquas fecit;
Per hanc silex aquas jecit Moysis officio.

Nulla salus est in domo,
Nisi Cruce munit homo superliminaria:
Neque sensit gladium,
Nec amisit filium
Quisquis egit talia.

Ligna legens in Sarepta
Spem salutis est adepta
Pauper muliercula:
Sine lignis fidei
Nec lecythus olei
Valet, nec farinula.

In Scripturis
Sub figuris
Ista latent,
Sed jam patent
Crucis beneficia;
Reges credunt,
Hostes cedunt;
Sola Cruce,
Christo duce,
Unus fugat millia.

Roma naves universas
In profundum vidit mersas una cum Maxentio:
Fusi Thraces, caesi Persæ,
Sed et partis dux adversæ victus ab Hemclio.

Ista suos fortiores
Semper facit et victores;
Morbos sanat et languores, reprimit dæmonia;
Dat captivis libertatem,
Vitæ confert novitatem:
Ad antiquam dignitatem Crux reduxit omnia.

O Crux, lignum triumphale.
Vera mundi salus, vale!
Inter ligna nullum tale fronde, flore, germine;
Medicina Christiana,
Salva sanos, ægros sana:
Quod non valet vis humana fit in tuo nomine.

Assistentes Crucis laudi,
Consecrator Crucis, audi,
Atque servos tuæ Crucis
Post hanc vitam, veræ lucis transfer ad palatia;
Quos tormento vis servire,
Fac tormenta non sentire;
Sed quum dies erit iræ.
Confer nobis et largire sempiterna gaudia.

Let us proclaim the praises of the Cross,
we who have so special a reason to exult in it;
for it is in the Cross that we triumph,
and gain the victory of life over our fierce enemy.

Let our sweet melodies
reach the heavens,
for our faith
tells us
that this sweet Wood
is worthy of sweet songs.

Oh! let not our life be out of tune with our voice. When our voice
is not a reproach to the life we lead, then is our music sweet.

Let the servants of the Cross praise the Cross,
whereby they have been blessed with the gifts of life.
Let each and all thus sing:
Hail, thou saving Tree, thou salvation of the world!

Oh how honoured and how grand
was this altar of salvation,
that was crimsoned with the Blood
of the spotless Lamb,
who purified the world
from its old iniquity!

This is the ladder of sinners,
whereby Christ, the King of heaven,
draws all things to himself.
Its very shape shows
that it takes in the four parts of the earth.

The Cross is not a new mystery,
nor does the honour that is paid it date from modern times.
It was the Cross that made the bitter waters sweet;
it was with the Cross that Moses struck the rock, and made the waters flow.

There was no protection in the house
of him who marked not the door-posts with the Cross.
But he that so marked them
neither felt the destroying sword,
nor lost his first-born son.

The poor woman of Sarephta
found her salvation
whilst picking sticks.
Without the Wood of faith,
there is nor oil
nor meal.

These were blessings of the Cross,
hidden under
scriptural figures,
but now made manifest
to the world.
Kings have embraced the faith,
and enemies are put to flight.
With the Cross alone,
under the leader Christ,
one man routs a thousand.

Rome beheld Maxentius
and all his fleet drowned in the deep.
The Thracians were dispersed, the Persians slaughtered,
and the leader of the hostile troops vanquished.

The Cross ever gives courage
and victory to its soldiers;
cures all disease and sickness; checks the devil;
sets captives free;
gives newness of life;
restores all things to their former dignity.

Hail, O Cross, triumphant Wood,
the world's true salvation!
No tree can yield such shade or flower or fruit as thine.
O Medicine of Christian life!
keep the healthy strong, and give health to the sick.
What man cannot, of his own strength, he can do in thy name.

O thou that madest the Cross thus sacred,
hear the prayers of them that celebrate the praises of thy Cross.
We are the servants of thy Cross
—oh! take us, after this life, to the courts of true light.
Grant that we who honour the instrument of thy sufferings,
may escape the sufferings of hell:
and when the day of thy wrath comes,
give us to enjoy eternal bliss.


The following hymn is taken from the ancient Roman-French Breviaries for this feast:


Salve Crux sancta, salve mundi gloria,
Vera spes nostra, vera ferens gaudia,
Signum salutis, salus in periculis,
Vitale lignum Vitam portans omnium.

Te adorandam, te Crucem vivificam,
In te redempti, dulce decus sæculi,
Semper laudamus, tibi semper canimus,
Per lignum servi, per te lignum liberi.

Originale crimen necans in Cruce,
Nos a privatis, Christe, munda maculis,
Humilitatem miseratus fragilem,
Per Crucem sanctam lapsis dona veniam.

Protege, salva, benedic, salvifica
Populum cunctum Crucis per signaculum,
Morbos averte corporis et animæ;
Hoc contra signum nullum stet periculum.

Sit Deo Patri laus in Cruce Filii,
Sit coæqualis laus Sancto Spiri tui,
Civibus summis gaudium sit Angelis,
Honor in mundo sit Crucis Inventio.

Hail, holy Cross! Hail, thou the world’s glory!
our true hope, that bringest us true joy,
the standard of salvation, our protection in danger,
the living Tree, that bearest him who is the life of all!

O sweet glory of the world! we who were redeemed on thee,
tire not in praising and hymning thee as the adorable and life-giving Cross.
We were made slaves by a tree;
by thee, O Tree, were we made freedmen.

Thou, O Christ, didst slay original sin on thy Cross;
by thy holy Cross, cleanse us from our own guilty stains,
have pity on our human frailty,
and grant pardon to them that have fallen.

By the sign of the Cross, protect, save,
bless, sanctify thy whole people;
avert from them every malady of body and mind;
let no danger prevail against this sign.

Praise to God the Father from the Cross of his Son!
praise coequal be to the Holy Ghost!
May the Finding of the Cross be a joy to the angel citizens of heaven,
and a glory to the world!


From the liturgical compositions produced by the Greek Church in honour of the holy Cross, we select the following Canon, or hymn. It was written by St Theodore the Studite:


Dies lætitiæ est, Christi resuscitatione mors evanuit, vitæ splendor exstitit; Adam resurgens cum gaudio choreas ducit; propterea jubilemus victricia carmina concinentes.

Advenit dies adorandi pretiosam Crucem; adeste omnes: jaciens enim Resurrectionis Christi lucidos radios, nunc prostat; eam proinde spirituali gaudio pieni amplectamur et exosculemur.

Appareto, O immensa Domini Crux, ostende mihi nunc divinam faciem venus tat is tuæ. Dignare adoratorem, ut præconia tua decantet. Nam ut cum re animata tecum loquor, teque amplector.

Laudes consona voce decantent cœlum et terra, quia omnibus Crux beatissima proposita est; in qua Christus suo corpore fixus immolatus est; ipsam lætis mentibus osculemur.

Olim divinus Moyses præfigura vi t Crucem tu am, traducens populum Israeliticum per mare rubrum, virga aquis divisis; canticum exitus celebrandi gratia tibi, Christe Deus, decantans.

Quam olim Moyses manibus præfigurabat Crucem tuam nunc osculantes, Amalec spiritalem in fugam vertimus, Domine, per quam etiam salvati sumus.

Hodie gaudium existit in cœlo et terra, quia Crucis signum mundo illucescit, Crux ter beata; quæ proposita gratiam perennem stillat.

Quid tibi Christe retribuemus, quod copiam nobis feristi venerandam Crucem tuam adorandi, in qua sanctissimus tuus sanguis effusus est, cui etiam caro tua clavis est affixa? Quam osculantes gratias tibi persolvimus.

Hodie choreas cum lætitia ducunt Angelorum ordines ob Crucis tuæ adorationem; in illa enim dæmonum catervas vulnerasti, Christe, humano genere servato.

Alter paradisus eftecta est Ecclesia, quæ ut prius, vivificum lignum possidet, nimirum Crucem tuam, Domine; ex cujus contactu immortalitatis participes efficimur.

Impletur Psalmistæ oraculum. Ecce enim adoramus immaculatorum pedum tuorum scabellum, Crucem tuam venerandam, desideratissimum illud lignum.

Lignum, quod in panem tuum missum vidit Jeremias, Crucem scilicet tuam, o misericors, osculantes, celebramus vincula tua, et sepulturam, lanceam et clavos.

Hac die odorem halant unguenta ex divinis myrotheciis, Crux nimirum vitali unguento delibuta. Odoremur cœlestem, quam halat, auram; eamque cum fide adoremus in sæcula.

Adesto Helisæe, die palam, quidnam lignum illud, quod in aquam demisisti. Crux Christi, qua ex profundo interius extracti sumus: eam adoremus fideliter in sæcula.

Jacob olim præfigurans Crucem tuam, Christe, adorabat fastigium divinæ virgæ Joseph, prævidens eam esse regni sceptrum tremendum, quam nunc fideliter in sæcula adoramus.

Magnus propheta Daniel missus quondam in lacum leonum, manibus crucis in speciem expansis, incolumis ex faucibus bestiarum evasit, benedicens Christum Deum in sæcula.

In hymnis exsultent omnia ligna sylvæ intuentia hodierno die ejusdem nominis lignum Crucis osculis et amplexibus honorari, cujus Christus caput exaltavit, ut vaticinatur divinus David.

Qui in Ugno mortuus fueram, lignum vitæ te, Crux Christum ferens, reperi. Custodia mea insuperabilis valida adversus dæmones virtus, te hodie adorans, clamo: Sanctifica me gloria tua.

Lætare, exsulta, Ecclesia Dei, quæ ter beatum sanctissimæ Crucis lignum hodie adoras, cui, tamquam ministri, Angelorum ordines etiam cum timore assistunt.
This is a day of joy! At Christ’s Resurrection death disappeared, and life was seen in all its splendour. Adam, who rises again, exults with joy. Let us, therefore, rejoice and sing our hymn of triumph.

The day for the adoration of the precious Cross has arrived. Come, all ye faithful! It is exposed before us, and it sends forth the bright rays of Christ's Resurrection. Filled, therefore, with spiritual joy, let us embrace and kiss it.

O Cross of my Lord, thy glory is immense! Show me now the divine face of thy beauty. Vouchsafe that I who venerate thee may sing thy praises. I speak with thee as though thou wert a living thing, and I embrace thee.

Let heaven and earth unite in singing its praise, for the most holy Cross is shown to all, the Cross on which Christ was fastened and sacrificed. Let us joyfully approach and kiss it.

The saintly Moses of old prefigured thy Cross, O Christ, when, dividing the waters with his rod, he led the Israelite people through the Red Sea, and sang a canticle of praise to thee in celebration of the going forth from Egypt.

Thy Cross, O Lord, which we kiss to-day, was prefigured by Moses, when he stretched forth his arms; by it, we put our spiritual Amalec to flight; by it also we are saved.

To-day there is joy in heaven and on earth, because there shines upon the world the sign of the thrice blessed Cross. Its sight is a source of unceasing grace to us.

What return shall we make to thee, O Christ, for thy having permitted us to adore thy venerable Cross, on which thy most holy Blood was shed, and to which thy Flesh was fastened with nails? We kiss it and give thee thanks.

The angelic hosts exult with joy because of the adoration of thy Cross; for on it, O Christ, thou didst wound the demon troop and save mankind.

The Church has been made a second Paradise, which, like the first, possesses a Tree of Life—thy Cross, O Lord—by whose contact we are made immortal.

The prophecy of the Psalmist is fulfilled: for lo! we adore the footstool of thy divine feet, thy venerable Cross, the much loved Wood.

The Wood which Jeremias saw put in thy bread is thy Cross, O merciful Redeemer! We kiss it, and honour thy chains, and tomb, and spear, and nails.

On this day a sweet odour is exhaled from the thurible of heaven—the Cross, perfumed with a life-giving ointment. Let us inhale this fragrance of heaven; let us ever venerate it with faith.

Tell us, O Eliseus! what is the wood thou didst put in the water? It is the Cross of Christ, which drew us from the depths of spiritual death. Let us ever venerate it with faith.

Jacob prefigured thy Cross of old, O Christ, when he adored the top of Joseph’s mysterious rod. He foresaw that it was to be the venerable sceptre of thy kingdom. Let us now adore it with ever faithful hearts.

The great prophet Daniel, when cast into the lions’ den, stretched forth his hands in the form of a Cross; he was saved from the jaws of the wild beasts, and for ever blessed Christ our God.

Let all the trees of the forest sing a glad hymn, for on this day they beheld one of themselves, the Tree of the Cross, being honoured with kisses and embraces. This is the Tree whose head was lifted up by Christ, as holy David foretold.

I, whose death was caused by a tree, have found thee, O Tree of Life, O Cross that bearest Christ! Thou art my invincible defence, my power protecting me against Satan. I venerate thee this day, and exclaim: ‘Sanctify me by thy glory!'

Rejoice and be glad, O Church of God, that adorest this day the thrice blessed Wood of the most holy Cross, round which the very angels stand ministering in awe.

Christ Crucified is the power and wisdom of God,[2] Thus spoke thine Apostle, O Jesus! and we are witnesses of the truth of his words. The Synagogue thought to dishonour thee by nailing thee to a Cross, for it was written in the Law: Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree.[3] But, lo! this gibbet, this tree of infamy, is become the trophy of thy grandest glory! Far from dimming the splendour of thy Resurrection, the Cross enhances the brilliance of thy magnificent triumph. Thou wast attached to the Wood—thou tookest on thyself the curse that was due to us; thou wast crucified between two thieves; thou wast reputed as an impostor, and thine enemies insulted thee in thine agony on this bed of suffering. Hadst thou been but man, O Son of David! all this would have disgraced thy name and memory; the Cross would have been the ruin of thy past glory: but thou art the Son of God, and it is the Cross that proves it. The whole world venerates thy Cross. It was the Cross that brought the world into submission to thee. The honours that are now paid it more than make amends for the insults that were once offered it. Men are not wont to venerate a cross; but if they do, it is the Cross on which their God died. Oh! blessed be he that hung upon the Tree! And do thou, dearest crucified Jesus! in return for the homage we pay to thy Cross, fulfil the promise thou madest us: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto myself.[4]

That thou mightest the more effectually draw us, thou this day permittedst us to find the very Wood, whereon thou didst stretch forth thy divine arms to embrace us. Thou hast deigned to give us this holy instrument of thy victory which is to shine near thee in the heavens on the day of judgement; thou hast mercifully confided it to our keeping, in order that we might thence derive a salutary fear of divine Justice, which demanded thy death on this Wood in atonement for our sins. Thou also gavest us this most precious relic, that it might excite us to a devoted love for thee, O divine Victim! who, that we might be blessed, didst take upon thyself the maledictions due to our sins. The whole world is offering thee to-day its fervent thanks for so inestimable a gift. Thy Cross, by being divided into countless fragments, is in all places, consecrating and protecting by its presence every country of the Christian world.

Oh! that we had St Helen's spirit, dear Jesus, and knew, as she did, the breadth, and lengthand height, and depth of the mystery of thy Cross.[5] Her love of the mystery made her so earnest in her search for the Cross. And how sublime is the spectacle offered to us by this holy Empress! She adorns thy glorious Sepulchre; she raises thy Cross from its |rave; who was there, that ever proclaimed with such solemnity as this, the Paschal Mystery? The Sepulchre cries out to us: ‘He is risen: he is not here!’ The Cross exclaims: ‘I held him captive but for a few passing hours: he is not here! He is resplendent in the glory of his Resurrection!’ O fross! O Sepulchre! how brief was the period of his humiliation, and how grand the kingdom he won by you! We will adore in you the place where his feet stood,[6] making you the instruments of our Redemption, and thereby endearing you to our respectful love for ever. Glory, then, be to thee, O Cross! dear object of this day’s festival! Continue to protect this world where our Jesus has left thee. Be its shield against Satan. Help us to remember that union of sacrifice and triumph which will support us in all our crosses, for it is by thee, O Cross! that Christ conquersand reigns, and commands. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.

[1] Is. ix 6.—The Introit of the Third Mass for Christmas Day.
[2] 1 Cor. i 24.
[3] Deut. xxi 23.
[4] St John xii 32.
[5] Eph. iii 18.
[6] Ps. cxxxi 7.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A HOLY Pope and martyr comes to-day to lay his bright crown at the foot of the triumphant Cross whereby he won his victory. It is Alexander, the fifth successor of St Peter. Let us honour this venerable witness of the faith, who is now receiving the devout homage of the Church Militant, and who, for long ages past, has been enjoying in heaven the company of our Risen Jesus. The Passion of his divine Master was ever present to his mind, whilst here on earth; and the Church has registered in her annals his addition to the Canon of the Mass of four words in which he expresses the fact of our Lord’s having instituted the august mystery of the Eucharist the day before he suffered.

We owe to the same holy Pontiff another institution most dear to Catholic piety. It is by him that the Church received the sacramental which is such an object of terror to Satan, and which sanctifies everything it touches—Holy Water. This is an appropriate day for us to renew our faith in this powerful element of blessing, which heretics and infidels have so frequently made the subject of their blasphemies, but whose use will ever serve as one of the distinguishing marks between them that are and them that are not children of the Church. Water, the instrument of our regeneration, and salt, the symbol of immortality, form, under the Church’s blessing, this sacramental, in which we should have the greatest confidence. The sacramentais, like the sacraments, derive their efficacy from the blood of our Redeemer, the merits of which are applied to certain material objects by the power of the priesthood of the new law. Indifference for these secondary means of salvation would be not only an indiscretion, but a sin; and yet in these days of weak faith nothing is so common as this indifference. There are Catholics for whom Holy Water is as though there were no such thing in existence; the continual use made of it by the Church is a lesson lost to them; they deprive themselves, without a single regret, of the help wherewith God has thus provided them, both to strengthen their weakness and to purify their souls. May the holy Pontiff Alexander pray for them, that their faith may become more what it ought to be; and that they may begin to value the supernatural aids which God, out of pure mercy to them, has so profusely bestowed on his Church.

The Church commemorates with St Alexander two holy priests, Eventius and Theodulus, who suffered with him, and St Juvenal, bishop of Nami and Confessor, whose death occurred on the same day. A short account of the latter has been added to the lesson in commemoration of the martyrs.

Alexander Romanus, Adriano imperatore regens Ecclesiam, magnam partem Romanæ nobilitatis ad Christum convertit. Is constituit ut tantummodo panis et vinum in mysterio offerretur: vinum autem aqua misceri jussit, propter sanguinem et aquam quæ ex Jesu Christi latere profluxerunt; et in Canone missæ addidit: Qui pridie quam pateretur. Idem decrevit, ut aqua benedicta sale admixto perpetuo in Ecclesia asservaretur, et cubiculis adhiberetur ad fugandos dæmones. Sedit annos decem, menses quinque, et dies viginti, vitæ sanctitate et salutaribus institutis illustris. Martyrio coronatus est una cum Eventio et Theodulo presbyteris, sepultusque est via Nomentana, tertio ab Urbe lapide, eodem in loco ubi securi percussus fuerat: creatus diverso tempore mense decembri presbyteris sex, diaconis duobus, et episcopis per diversa loca quinque. Eorum corpora postea in Urbem translata in Ecclesia sanctæ Sabinæcondita sunt. In eumdem diem incidit beata mors sancti Juvenalis Naxniensis episcopi: qui cum plurimos in ea urbe sanctitate et doctrina Christo peperisset clarus miraculis in pace quievit, ibique honorifice sepultus est.

Alexander, who was born at Rome, governed the Church during the reign of the emperor Adrian, and converted a great portion of the Roman nobles to Christ. He decreed that only bread and wine should be offered in the Mass, but that water should be mingled with the wine, in memory of the Blood and Water which flowed from the Side of Christ Jesus. He added to the Canon of the Mass these words: Qui pridie quam pateretur. He also decreed that Holy Water, with salt in it, should always be kept in the church, and that it should be used in the dwellings of the faithful for the purpose of driving away evil spirits. He governed the Church ten years, five months, and twenty days. He was illustrious for the holiness of his life and for the useful laws which he made. He was crowned with martyrdom together with the priests Eventius and Theodulus, and was buried on the Nomen tan Way, three miles out of Rome, on the very spot where he had been beheaded. He ordained, in the December of various years, six priests, two deacons, and five for divers places The bodies of these Saints were afterwards translated to the Church of Saint Sabina in Rome. On this same day occurred the death of blessed Juvenal, bishop of Narni, who, after having, by his learning and virtue, converted many persons of that city to Christ, and being celebrated for the miracles he wrought, slept in peace, and was honourably buried in the same city.

Receive, O holy Pontiff, on this day, sacred to the Cross of thy divine Master, the devout homage of the Christian people. It was by the way of the Cross that thou didst this day ascend to heaven; it is but just that thy praise should be mingled with those which we are giving to the sacred instrument of our Redemption. Intercede for us with him who shed his blood for us upon this Tree of Life: may he graciously accept our celebration of his triumphant Resurrection and the hymns we sing in honour of his Cross. Pray for us that our faith may increase; that thus we may appreciate the divine economy of the Redemption, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to employ for our salvation those very elements which the enemy had perverted to our destruction. Drive far from us that wretched rationalism which, whilst approving of certain usages of the Church because they happen to fit in with its fancies, presumes to treat all the rest with disdain. Pray also for the holy Church of Rome! She invokes thy name on this thy feast; prove to her that she is still dear to thee.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IN the company of our Risen Lord there are two women, two mothers, of whom we have often had to speak during the last few weeks: they are Mary, mother of James the Less and Thaddeus, and Salome, mother of 'James the Great and John the beloved disciple. They went with Magdalen to the Sepulchre on the Resurrection morning; they carried spices to anoint the Body of Jesus; Angels spoke to them; and, as they returned to Jerusalem, our Lord appeared to them, greeted them, and allowed them to kiss his sacred feet. Since that day, he has repaid their love by frequently appearing to them; and on the day of his Ascension from Mount Olivet, they will be there, together with our blessed Lady and the Apostles, to receive his farewell blessing. Let us honour these faithful companions of Magdalen, these models of the love we should show to our Lord in his Resurrection; let us also venerate them as mothers who gave four Apostles to the Church.

But lo! on this fourth morning of beautiful May, there rises, near to Mary and Salome, another woman, another mother. She, too, is fervent in her love of Jesus. She, too, gives to Holy Church a treasure—the child of her tears, a Doctor, a Bishop, and one of the grandest Saints of the New Law. This woman, this mother, is Monica, doubly mother of Augustine. This masterpiece of God's grace was produced on the desert soil of Africa. Her virtues would have been unknown till the day of judgement, had not the pen of the great bishop of Hippo, prompted by the holy affection of his filial heart, revealed to us the merits of this woman, whose life was humility and love, and who now, immortalized in men’s esteem, is venerated as the model and patroness of Christian mothers.

One of the great charms of the book of Confessions is Augustine’s fervent praise of Monica’s virtues and devotedness. With what affectionate gratitude he speaks, throughout his whole history, of the untiring constancy of this mother who, seeing the errors of her son, 1 wept over him more than other mothers weep over the dead body of their children.’[1] Our Lord, who from time to time consoles with a ray of hope the souls he tries, had shown to Monica in a vision the future meeting of the son and mother; she had even heard a holy bishop assure her that the child of so many tears could never be lost: still the sad realities of the present weighed heavily on her heart; and both her maternal love and her faith caused her to grieve over this son, who kept away from her, yea, who kept away from her because he was unfaithful to his God. The anguish of this devoted heart was an expiation which would at a future period be applied to the guilty one; fervent and persevering prayer, joined with suffering, prepared Augustine’s second birth; and, as he himself says, ‘she went through more when she gave me my spiritual than when she gave me my corporal birth.’[2]

At last, after long years of anxiety, the mother found at Milan this son of hers who had so cruelly deceived her, when he fled from her roof to go and risk his fortune in Rome. She found him still doubting the truth of the Christian religion, but tired of the errors that had misled him. Augustine was not aware of it, but he had really made an advance towards the true faith. ‘She found me,’ says he, ‘in extreme danger, for I despaired of ever finding the truth. But when I told her that I was no longer a Manichean, and yet not a Catholic Christian, the announcement did not take her by surprise. She leaped for joy at being made sure that one half of my misery was gone. As to the other, she wept over me, as dead indeed, but to rise again; she turned to thee, O my God, and wept, and in spirit brought me and laid the bier before thee, that thou mightest say to the widow's son: Young man! I say to theearise! Then would he come to life again, and begin to speak, and thou couldst give him back to his mother! . . . Seeing then that although I had not yet found the truth, I was delivered from error, she felt sure that thou wouldst give the other half of the whole thou hadst promised. She told me in a tone of gentlest calm, but with her heart full of hope, that she was confident, in Christ, that before leaving this world, she would see me a faithful Catholic.’[3]

At Milan, Monica formed acquaintance with the great St Ambrose, who was the instrument chosen by God for the conversion of her son. ‘She had a very great affection for Ambrose,' says Augustine, ' because of what he had done for my soul; and he too loved her, because of her extraordinary piety, which led her to the performance of good works, and to fervent assiduity in frequenting the Church. Hence, when he saw me, he would frequently break out in her praise, and congratulate me on having such a mother.’[4] The hour of grace came at last. The light of faith dawned upon Augustine, and he began to think of enrolling himself a member of the Christian Church; but the pleasures of the world, in which he had so long indulged, held him back from receiving the holy sacrament of baptism. Monica's prayers and tears won for him the grace to break this last tie. He yielded and became a Christian.

But God would have this work of his divine mercy a perfect one. Augustine, once converted, was not satisfied with professing the true faith; he aspired to the sublime virtue of continence. A soul favoured as his then was could find no further pleasure in anything that this world had to offer him. Monica, who was anxious to guard her son against the dangers of a relapse into sin, had been preparing an honourable marriage for him; but Augustine came to her one day, accompanied by his friend Alypius, and told her that he was resolved to aim at the most perfect life. Let us listen to the Saint's account of this interview with his mother; it was immediately after he had been admonished by the voice from heaven: ‘We (Augustine and Alypius) go at once to my mother's house. We tell her what has taken place; she is full of joy. We tell her all the particulars; she is overpowered with feelings of delight and exultation. She blessed thee, O my God, who canst do beyond what we ask or understand. She saw that thou hadst done more for me than she had asked of thee, with her many piteous and tearful sighs. . . . Thou hadst changed her mourning into joy even beyond her wishes, yea, into a joy far dearer and chaster than she could ever have had in seeing me a father of children.’[5] A few days after this, and in the Church of Milan, a sublime spectacle was witnessed by angels and men: Ambrose baptized Augustine in Monica's presence.

The saintly mother had fulfilled her mission: her son was regenerated to truth and virtue, and she had given to the Church the greatest of her Doctors. The evening of her long and laborious life was approaching and she was soon to find eternal rest in the God for whose love she had suffered so much. The son and mother were at Ostia, waiting for the vessel that was to take them back to Africa. ‘I and she were alone,’ says Augustine, ‘and were standing near a window of our lodging, which commanded a view of the garden. We were having a most charming conversation. Forgetting the past, and stretching forward to the things beyond, we were talking about the future life of the Saints, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it ascended into man's heart. . . . And whilst thus talking about it and longing for it, our hearts seemed to bound forward and reach it. We sighed, and left the first-fruits of our spirit there, and returned to the sound of our own voice. . . . Then my mother said to me: “ My son! as far as I am concerned, there is nothing now that can give me pleasure in this life. I know not what I can do, or why I should be here, now that I have nothing to hope for in this world. There was one thing for which I desired to live somewhat longer, and it was to see thee a Catholic Christian before my death. My God has granted me this and more, for I see that thou hast despised earthly pleasures and become his servant. What do I here?”’[6]

She had not long to wait for the divine invitation. She breathed forth her pure soul a few days after this incident, leaving an indelible impression upon the heart of her son, a name most dear and honoured to the Church, and a perfect example of the purest and holiest maternal affection to Christian mothers.

The life and virtues of St Monica are thus briefly portrayed in to-day’s Liturgy:

Monica, sancti Augustini dupliciter mater, quia eum et mundo et cœlo peperit, marito mortuo, quem senectute confectum Jesu Christo conciliavit castam, et operibus misericordiæ exercitam viduitatem agebat: in assiduis vero ad Deum orationibus pro filio, qui in Manichæorum sectam inciderat lacrymas eff undebat: quem etiam Mediolanum secuta est: ubi ipsum frequenter hortabatur, ut ad episcopum Ambrosium se conferret. Quod cum ille fecisset, ejus et publicis concionibus et privatis colloquiis catholicæ fidei veritatem edoctus, ab eodem baptizatus est.

Mox in Africani redeuntes cum ad Ostia Tiberina constitissent, incidit in febrem. Quo in morbo cum eam quodam die anima defecisset, ut se collegit: Ubi, inquit, eram? Et adstantes intuens: Ponite hic matrem vestram: tantum vos rogo, ut ad altare Domini memineritis mei. Nono autem die beata mulier aninjam Deo reddidit. Ejus corpus ibi in ecclesia sanctæ Aureæ sepultum est: quod postea Martino Quinto summo Pontifice Romam translatum, in ecclesia sancti Augustini honorifice conditum est.

Monica was doubly Augustine’s mother, inasmuch as she gave him both temporal and eternal life. Having lost her husband, whom she converted in his old age to Christ Jesus, she spent her widowhood in holy continency and works of mercy. Her prayers and tears were continually offered up to God for her son, who had fallen into the heresy of the Manicheans. She followed him to Milan, where she frequently exhorted him to visit the bishop Ambrose. He did so, and having learned the truth of the Catholic faith, both by the public discourses and private conversations of Ambrose, he was baptized by him.

Having reached Ostia on their return home to Africa, Monica was taken ill of a fever. During her sickness, she one day lost her consciousness: and having returned to herself, she said: ‘Where was I?’ Then looking at her children, she said: ‘Bury your mother here. All I ask of you is that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.’ The holy woman yielded up her soul to God on the ninth day. Her body was buried there, in the Church of Saint Aurea; but was afterwards translated to Rome, during the pontificate of Martin the Fifth, and was buried with much honour in the Church of Saint Augustine.

The Middle Ages have left us several liturgical pieces composed in honour of St Monica; but most of them are poor. The sequence we select is not without merit; it has even been attributed to Adam of Saint-Victor.


Augustini magni patris,
Atque suæ piæ matris laudes et præconia
Decantemus, venerantes
Et optata celebrantes hodie solemnia.

Mater casta, fide gnara,
Vita clara, Christo chara, hæc beata Monica
De profano propagatum,
Jam nunc parit suum natum in fide catholica.

Felix imber lacrymarum,
Quo effulsit tam præclarum lumen in Ecclesia!
Multo fletu seminavit,
Germen ubi reportavit metens in lætitia.

Plus accepit quam petivit:
O quam miro tunc gestivit Spiritus tripudio,
Cernens natum fide ratum,
Sed et Christo jam sacratum toto mentis studio!

Hæc egenis ministravit,
Et in eis Christum pavit, mater dicta pauperum;
Curam gerens infirmorum,
Lavit, stravit, et eorum tersit sordes vuinerum.

O matrona gratiosa,
Quam transfigunt amorosa crucifixi stigmata!
His accensa sic ploravit,
Lacrymis quod irrigavit pavimenti schemata.

Pane cœli saturata,
Stat a terris elevata cubiti distantia;
Mente rapta exsultavit:
‘Volitemus,’ exclamavit, ‘Ad cœli fastigia.’

Eia, mater et matrona,
Advocata et patrona sis pro tuis filiis,
Ut dum carne exuemur,
Nato tuo sociemur paradisi gaudiis.

Let us sing the praises of the great Father Augustine
and of his holy mother.
Let us devoutly celebrate
the beloved solemnity of this day.

The blessed Monica was a virtuous mother,
well instructed in the faith, edifying in her conduct, and dear to Christ.
Her son was born of a pagan father;
but she gave him a second birth—she brought him to the Catholic faith.

O happy shower of tears,
through which shone forth so bright a light within the Church!
Monica sowed in much weeping,
but she reaped her fruit in joy.

She received more than she asked:
Oh! how grand was the gladness that filled her soul,
when she saw her son staunch in faith,
yea, and devoted with his whole heart to Christ!

She was called the mother of the poor,
for she ministered to them in their necessities, and gave to Christ the food she gave to them.
She took care of the sick,
washed them, nursed them, and dressed their wounds.

O saintly matron, whose soul was pierced
with compassion for the dear Wounds of her crucified Lord!
She wept for love when she thought upon them,
and her tears bedewed the spot on which she prayed.

When she received the Bread of Heaven,
she was raised from the ground
and in her rapture exclaimed with joy:
‘Let us fly to heaven above!'

O mother and matron!
be to us thy children an advocate and patroness,
that so, when we quit the flesh, we may be united to Augustine,
thy son, in the joys of paradise.


O thou model of mothers! Christendom honours thee as one of the most perfect types of human nature regenerated by Christ. Previous to the Gospel, during those long ages when woman was kept in a state of abjection, a mother’s influence on her children was feeble and insignificant; her duties were generally limited to looking after their bodily well-being; and if some mothers of those times have handed their names down to posterity, it is only because they taught their sons to covet and win the passing glory of this world. But we have no instance in pagan times of a mother training her son to virtue, following him from city to city that she might help him in the struggle with error and the passions, and encourage him to rise after a fall; we do not meet with one who devoted herself to continual prayer and tears, with a view to obtain her son's return to truth and virtue. Christianity alone has revealed a mother's mission and power.

What forgetfulness of thyself, O Monica, in thine incessant endeavour to secure Augustine's salvation! After God, thou livest for him, and to live for thy son in such a way as this, is it not living for God, who deigns to use thee as the instrument of his grace? What carest thou for Augustine's glory and success in this world when thou thinkest of the eternal dangers and of the eternal separation from God and thee to which he is exposed. There is no sacrifice which thy maternal heart is not ready to make in order to satisfy the divine justice: it has its rights and thou art too generous not to satisfy them. Thou waitest patiently, day and night, for God's good time to come. The delay only makes thy prayer more earnest. Hoping against all hope, thou at length feelest within thy heart the humble but firm conviction that the object of all these tears can never be lost. Moved with mercy towards thee, as he was towards the sorrowing mother of Naim, he speaks with that voice which nothing can withstand: ‘Young man! I say to thee, arise!’ and he gives him to his mother,’[7] he gives thee the dear one whose death thou hadst so bitterly bewailed, but from whom thou couldst not tear thyself.

What a recompense of thy maternal love is this! God is not satisfied with restoring thee Augustine full of life; this son of thine rises at once from the very depths of error and sin to the highest virtue. Thou hadst prayed that he might become a Catholic and break certain ties which were both a disgrace and danger to him; when lo! one single stroke of grace has raised him to the sublime state of the Evangelical Counsels. Thy work is more than done, O happy mother! Speed thee to heaven; where till thy Augustine joins thee, thou art to gaze on the saintly life and works of this son, whose salvation is due to thee and whose glory, even while he sojourns here below, sheds a bright halo over thy venerated name.

From the eternal home where thou art now happy with this son who owes to thee his life both of earth and heaven, cast a loving look, O Monica, on the many Christian mothers who are now fulfilling on earth the hard but noble mission which was once thine. Their children are also dead with the death of sin; and they would restore them to true life by the power of their maternal love. After the Mother of Jesus, it is to thee that they turn, O Monica, whose prayers and tears were once so efficacious and so fruitful. Take their cause in hand; thy tender and‘devoted heart cannot fail to compassionate them in the anguish which was once thine own. Maintain their courage; teach them to hope. The conversion of these dear ones is to cost them many a sacrifice; procure them the generosity and fortitude to pay the price thus asked of them by God. Let them remember that the conversion of a soul is a greater miracle than raising a dead man to life; and that divine justice demands a compensation which they, the mothers of these children, must be ready to make. This spirit of sacrifice will destroy that hidden egotism which is but too frequently mingled with what seems to be affection of the purest kind. Let them ask themselves if they would rejoice as thou didst, O Monica, at finding that a vocation to the Religious life was the result of the conversion they have so much at heart. If they are thus disinterested, let them not fear; their prayers and sufferings must be efficacious; sooner or later, the wished-for grace will descend upon the prodigal, and he will return to God and to his mother.

[1] Confessionum, lib. iii, cap. xi.
[2] Ibid. lib. v, cap, ix.
[3] Confessionum, lib. vi, cap. i.
[4] Ibid. lib. vi, cap. ii.
[5] Confessionum, lib. viii, cap. xii.
[6] Confcssionum, lib. ix, cap. x.
[7] St Luke vii 14, 15.