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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TO-DAY the Church of Lyons presents to the admiration of the whole world her own great doctor, the valiant Irenæus, who shines as the light of the West.[1] But whilst contemplating him confirming with his blood the doctrine he had preached, let us hearken to his words bearing testimony to holy Church, words of world-wide celebrity, confounding hell and closing the mouth of heresy. May we not say that it was in order to afford us instruction so appropriate for to-morrow's festival that eternal Wisdom made choice of this particular day for his martyr’s triumph? Let us hearken to this zealous pupil of Polycarp and of the first disciples of the apostles; let us hearken to him who for this very reason is considered to be the most authentic witness to the faith in all the Churches of the second century, all which Churches (these are his own words when bishop of Lyons) bow down before Rome, as to their mistress and mother. ‘For,’ he continues, ' it behoves all the rest because of her superior principality to agree with her; in her do all the faithful of whatsoever place preserve ever pure the faith once preached to them. Great and venerable above all others because of her antiquity, known to all, founded by Peter and Paul, the two most glorious of the apostles, her bishops are, by their succession, the channel whereby apostolic tradition is transmitted to us in all its integrity: in such sort, that whosoever differs from her in his belief, by this fact alone stands confounded.'[2]

The rock on which the Church is built stood all unmoved at that early age, as now, against the efforts of false science. Yet not without peril was the attack then made by the Gnostics, with their multiplex heresy and all its guileful plots put into strange concurrence by powers of evil otherwise the most opposed one to the other. It would almost seem as though Christ had wished to prove the strength of the foundations he had laid, by thus permitting hell to direct against the Church a simultaneous assault of all the errors to which the world then was, or ever would become, a prey. Simon the magician, already ensnared by Satan in the nets of the occult sciences, was chosen by the prince of darkness as his lieutenant in the enterprise. Unmasked at Samaria by the Vicar of the Man-God, he had begun against Simon Peter a jealous struggle that would by no means end with the tragic death of the father of heresies, but which in the following century was to be continued more desperately than ever, through disciples formed by him. Saturinus, Basilides, Valentine, all applied the premises of the master, diversifying them, according to the instincts bred at the time, by existing forms of corruption of mind and heart. This proceeding was the more avowed since Magus' aim had been to form an alliance between philosophies, religions and aspirations in themselves incompatible. There was no aberration, from Persian dualism or Hindu idealism to Jewish cabals or Greek polytheism, that did not mutually proffer the hand of friendship in this reserved sanctuary of the Gnosis; there already were the heterodox conceptions of Arius and Eutyches being formulated; there, taking movement and life in advance, were to be recognized in a strange pantheistic romance the wildest oddities of the hollow dreams of German metaphysics. God, an abyss, rolling from fall to fall, till at last reaching matter, there to become conscious of himself in human nature, and to return then by annihilation into eternal silence: this is the sum total of Gnostic dogma, engendering, for its morality, a mixture of transcendent mysticism and impure practices; for its political form, laying the basis of communism and modern nihilism.

Such a spectacle as this of the Gnostic Babel, piling up its incoherent materials on the waters of pride and impure passions, was well calculated to bring out in bold relief the unity of the City of God, so rapidly advancing, though but in her commencement. St Irenæus, chosen by God to oppose to the Gnosis arguments of his own powerful logic, and to re-establish, in opposition thereunto, the true sense of Holy Scripture, excelled most of all when, in face of a thousand sects bearing on their brow the visible mark of the father of discord and lies, he pointed to the Church maintaining as sacred throughout the universe the whole of tradition, just as received from the apostles. Faith in the truth that the world is wholly governed by the Holy Trinity, whose work it is, faith in the mystery of justice and mercy, which, leaving the angels in their fall, raised up our flesh in Jesus, the well-beloved, the Son of Mary, our God, our Saviour and our King: such was the deposit confided to earth by Peter and Paul, by the apostles and their disciples.[3] 'The Church therefore,’ argues St Irenæus, with enthusiastic piety and learning, ‘having received faith, guards it with all diligence, making the whole world wherein she lives dispersed to become but one single house: collected in unity, she believes with one soul, with one heart, with one voice she preaches, teaches, transmits doctrine, as having but one mouth. For, although there be in the world divers languages, that by no means prevents tradition remaining one in its sap. The Churches founded in Germany, or amidst the Iberians or the Celts, believe not otherwise, teach not otherwise, than do the Churches of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, or those established in the centre of the world. But as the sun, God’s creature, is ever the same and remains one in the whole world, so does the teaching of truth shine resplendent, enlightening every man who is willing to come to the knowledge of the truth. Even though the chief men in the Churches be unequal in the art of speaking well, tradition is not thereby impaired: he who explains eloquently cannot possibly give it increase; he who speaks with less abundance cannot thereby diminish it.’[4]

O sacred unity, O precious faith deposited like a source of eternal youthfulness in our hearts, they indeed know thee not, who turn themselves away from holy Church! Afar from her, they lose also Jesus and all his gifts. 'For where the Church is, there likewise is the Spirit of God; and, where the Spirit of God is, there likewise is the Church, there all grace. Woe to them who alienate themselves from her! They suck not in life from the nourishing breasts to which their mother invites them, they slake not their thirst at the clear fountain of the Lord’s Body; but, afar from the rock of unity, they drink the muddy waters of cisterns dug in fetid slime where there is not a drop of the water of truth.’[5] What will their vain science avail to sophists, with all their empty foolish formulas? ‘Oh!’ cries out the bishop of Lyons elsewhere, in accents which seem to have been borrowed later on by the author of the Imitation,[6] ‘how far better is it to be ignorant, or a man of little learning, and to draw nigh unto God by love! What use is there in knowing much, in seeming to understand much, if one be an enemy to his Lord? Wherefore Paul doth thus exclaim: “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity builds up.”[7] Not that he reproved the true science of God; for if so he had condemned himself in the first place; but he saw that there were some who, exalting themselves under pretext of knowledge, no longer knew how to love. It were better to know nothing at all, to be ignorant of the meaning of everything, and yet to believe in God and to be possessed of charity. Let us avoid vain puffing up which would make us fall away from love, the life of the soul; let Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified for us, be our only science.’[8]

Rather than here bring forward the genius of the eminent controversialist of the second century, it is a pleasure to cite from his treatises such passages as give an insight into his great soul, and reveal traits of a sanctity so loving and so sweet. ‘When, at last, the Spouse cometh,' says he, speaking of those unfortunate men whom he longed to reclaim, 'their science will not keep their lamp lighted, and they will find themselves excluded from the nuptial chamber.'[9]

In numberless places in the midst of closely strung arguments, he who may be styled the grandson of the beloved disciple betrays his own heart. Whilst following, for instance, the track of Abraham, he shows the path that leads to the Spouse: his mouth can then no longer cease to utter the name that fills his thoughts. We recognize in these touching words of his the apostle who had quitted country and home to advance the kingdom of God in the land of the Gauls: 'Abraham did well to abandon his earthly relatives to follow the Word of God, to exile himself together with the Word, so as to live with him. The apostles did well, too, in order to follow the Word of God, to quit their boats and their father. We, likewise, who have the same faith as Abraham, we do well, carrying our cross as Isaac did the wood, to follow in his footsteps. In Abraham man learnt that it is possible to follow the Word of God, and thus were his steps made firm in this blessed way.[10] The Word, on his part, nevertheless, disposed man for the divine mysteries by figures throwing light on the future.[11] Moses espoused an Ethiopian, who thus became a daughter of Israel: and by these nuptials of Moses, those of the Word were pointed out; for by this Ethiopian was signified the Church that hath come forth from the Gentiles;[12] whilst awaiting the day wherein the Word himself will come to wash away, with his own hands, the defilements of the daughter of Sion, at the banquet of the Last Supper.[13] For it is fitting that the temple be pure in which the Bridegroom and bride are to taste of the Spirit of God; and just as it is not becoming in a bride to seek to take a spouse for herself, but she must wait until she be sought out, so our flesh cannot of itself rise to the majesty of the divine throne; but when the Spouse cometh, then he will raise her up, and she will not so much possess him as be possessed by him.[14] The Word made Flesh will assimilate her wholly to himself in all fullness, and will render her precious in the eyes of the Father, by reason of her conformity to his visible Word.[15] Then will the union with God in love be consummated. Divine union is life and light; it imparts the enjoyment of all the good things of God; it is eternal of its very nature, just as these good things themselves likewise are. Woe to those who withdraw of their own accord; their chastisement comes less from God than from themselves, and from the free choice whereby, turning from God, they have lost all the good things of God.'[16]

The loss of faith being the most radical and the deepest of all causes of estrangement from God, it is not surprising to observe the horror which heresy inspired in those days, when union with God was the one treasure longed for by all conditions and ages of life. The name Irenæus signifies peace; and justifying this beautiful name, his condescending charity once led the Roman Pontiff himself to withhold the thunders he was on the point of hurling; the question at issue was one of no small importance—it was the celebration of Easter. Nevertheless, Irenæus himself relates with regard to his master Polycarp, how, when being asked by the heretic Marcion if he knew him, he replied: 'I know thee to be the firstborn of Satan.'[17] He also tells us that St John, hearing that Cerinthus was in the same public edifice into which he had just entered, fled precipitately, for fear, as he said, that because of this enemy of truth the walls of the building would crumble down upon them all: 'so great,' remarks the bishop of Lyons, ‘was the fear the apostles and their disciples had of communicating, even by word, with any one of those who altered truth.’[18] He who was styled by the companions of SS Pothinus and Blandina, in their prison, ‘the zelator of the Testament of Christ,'[19] was on this point, as on all others, the worthy heir of John and Polycarp. Far from becoming hardened thereby, his heart, like that of his venerable masters, drew from this purity of mind that limitless tenderness of which he gave proof in regard to those erring ones whom he hoped to win back. What could be more touching than the letter written by Irenæus to one of these unhappy men whom the mirage of novel doctrines had inveigled into the gulf of error: 'O Florinus, this teaching is not that transmitted to us by the ancients, the disciples of the apostles. I used to behold thee at the side of Polycarp; though shining at court thou didst none the less seek to be pleasing unto him. I was then but a child, yet the things that happened at that time are more vivid in my recollection than those of yesterday; for indeed childhood's memories form, as it were, a part of the very soul; they grow with her. I could point out the very spot where sat blessed Polycarp while he conversed with us; I could describe exactly his bearing, his address, his manner of life, his every feature, and the discourses he made to the crowd. Thou rememberest how he used to tell us of his intercourse with John and the rest of those that had seen the Lord, and with what a faithful memory he repeated their words; what he had learnt from them respecting our Lord, his miracles, his doctrine, all these things Polycarp transmitted to us, as having himself received them from the very men that had beheld with their eyes the Word of life; all of what he told us was conformable to the Scriptures. What a grace from God were these conversations of his! I used to listen so eagerly, noting everything down, not on parchment, but on my heart; and now, by the grace of God, I still live on it all. Hence, I can attest before God, if the blessed apostolic old man had heard discourses such as thine he would have stopped his ears, saying, as was his wont: “O God most good, to what sort of times hast thou reserved us!” Then would he have got up quickly, and would have fled from that place of blasphemy.'[20]

It is time to give the liturgical narrative of the history of this great bishop and martyr.

Irenæus, non longe ab urbe Smyrna in Asia proconsulari natus, jam inde a puero sese Polycarpo, Joannis evangeistæ discipulo, eidemque episcopo Smyrnæorum, tradiderat in disciplinam. Hoc tam excellenti magistro, progressus in doctrina præceptisque Christianæ religionis insignes fecit. Polycarpo in cœlum martyrii gloria sublato, etsi erat Irenæus in sacris litteris egregie versatus, quod tamen incredibili studio flagraret discendi quæ dogmata, depositi loco custodienda, cæteri accepissent quos apostoli instituerant; horum quam potuit plures convenit, quæque ab iisdem audivit, memori mente tenuit, ea deinceps opportune adversus hæreses allaturus. Quas cum videret ingenti populi christiani damno latius in dies manare, diligenter copioseque refellere cogitarat. In Gallias inde profectus, a Pothino episcopo presbyter est constitutus ecclesiæ Lugdunensis. Quod munus sic laborando in verbo et doctrina gessit, ut testibus sanctis martyribus, qui Marco Aurelio imperatore, strenue pro vera pietate certarant, aemulatorem sese præstiterit testamenti Christi.

Cum martyres ipsi clerusque Lugdunensis, de pace ecclesiarum Asiæquam Montanistarum factio turbarat, solliciti cum primis essent; Irenaeum, cujus esse potissimum habendam rationem prædicabant, unum omnium maxime delegerunt, quem Romam ad Eleutherium pontificem mitterentrogatum, ut novis sectariis auctoritate Sedis apostolicæ reprobatis, discordiarum causa tolleretur. Jam Pothinus episcopus martyr decesserat. Huic Irenæus cum successisset, tam feliciter munus obiit episcopatus, ut sapientia, oratione, exemploque suo, non modo brevi cives Lugdunenses omnes, sed multos etiam aliarum Galliæ urbium incolas, superstitionem atque errorem abjecisse, dedisseque christianæ militiæ nomina viderit. Interea cum de die celebrandi Paschatis orta esset contentio, ac Victor Romanus pontifex Asianos episcopos ab collegis reliquis fere omnibus dissidentes, aut prohibuisset communione sanctorum, aut prohibere minatus esset, eum Irenæus sequester pacis decenter monuit, exemplisque usus pontifìcum superiorum, induxit ut ne tot ecclesias, ob ritum quem a majoribus accepisse se dicerent, avelli ab unitate catholica pateretur.

Multa scripsit, quæ Eusebius Cæsariensis et sanctus Hieronymus memorant, quorumque pars magna intercidit injuria temporum. Exstant ejus adversus hæreses libri quinque, anno circiter centesimo octogesimo perscripti, dum adhuc Eleutherius rem christianam publicam gereret. In tertio libro vir Dei, ab iis edoctus quos auditores constat fuisse apostolorum, grave in primis atque præclarum de Romana ecclesia, deque iilius episcoporum successione, divinæ traditionis fideli, perpetua, certissima custode, testimonium dixit. Atque ad hanc, dixit, ecclesiam, propter potiorem principalitatem, necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam, hoc est, eos qui sunt undique fideles. Postremo, una cum aliis prope innumerabilibus, quos ipse ad veram fidem frugemque perduxerat, martyrio coronatus, migravit in cœlum, anno salutis ducentesimo secundo: quo tempore Septimius Severus Augustus eos omnes qui constanter in colenda Christiana religione perstare voluissent, in summnm cruciatum dari atque interfici imperaverat. Sancti Irenæi festum Benedictus XV Pontifex maximus ad universam Ecclesiam extendit.
Irenæus was born in proconsular Asia, not far from the city of Smyrna. From his childhood he had entered the school of Polycarp, the disciple of St John the evangelist, and bishop of Smyrna. Under so excellent a master, he made wonderful progress in the science of religion and in the practice of Christian virtue. He was inflamed with an unspeakable, desire to learn the doctrines which had been received as a deposit by all the disciples of the apostles; wherefore, although already a master in sacred letters when Polycarp was taken to heaven by a glorious martyrdom, he undertook to visit as many as ever he could of these ancients, retentively holding in his memory whatsoever they spoke unto him. Thus was he afterwards able to oppose these their words with great advantage against the heresies. For, indeed, daily more and more did heresy spread, to the great detriment of the Christian people, and therefore he thought to make a careful and ample refutation thereof. Coming into Gaul, he was attached as priest to the Church of Lyons, by St Pothinus the bishop. Labouring in the discharge of which office, both by word and doctrine he showed himself to be truly zealous for the Testament of Christ, as the holy martyrs expressed it, who in the time of Marcus Aurelius, emperor, were strenuously combating for the true religion.

For these same martyrs, together with the clergy of Lyons, thought they could not put into better hands than his the affair of the pacification of the Churches of Asia that had been troubled by the heresy of Montanus; for this cause, so dear to their heart, they chose Irenæus amongst all others, as the most worthy, and sent him to Pope Eleutherius, to implore him to condemn by apostolic sentence these new sectaries, and to put an end to the dissensions. The bishop Pothinus had died a martyr. Irenæus having succeeded him, so happy was his episcopacy, owing to his wisdom, prayer, and example, that soon, not only the city of Lyons, but even a great number of the inhabitants of other cities of Gaul, renounced the error of their superstitions and gave their names to be enlisted in the army of Christ. Meanwhile, a contest arose on the subject of the exact day on which Easter should be celebrated; the bishops of Asia were in disagreement with nearly all their colleagues; and the Roman Pontiff, Victor, had already cut them off from the communion of saints, or was on the point of so doing, when Irenæus appeared before him as a seeker of peace, and most respectfully admonishing him, induced him, after the example of the Pontiffs his predecessors, not to suffer so many Churches to be torn away from Catholic unity, on account of a rite which they said they had received from their fathers.

He wrote many works which are mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea and St Jerome, a great part of which have perished through the ravages of time. There are extant, however, five books of his against heresies, written about the year one hundred and eighty, while Eleutherius was governing the Church. In the third book, the man of God, instructed by those who, as it is certain, had been disciples of the apostles, renders to the Roman Church and to the succession of her bishops a testimony surpassing all others in weight and brilliancy; and he says that the Roman Church is the faithful, perpetual, and most assured guardian of divine tradition. Moreover, he says that it is with this Church that every other Church (namely, the faithful who dwell in any other place whatsoever) must agree, because she hath a principality superior to all others. At length he was crowned with martyrdom, together with an almost countless multitude whom he had himself brought over to the knowledge and practice of the true faith; he passed away unto heaven, in the year of salvation two hundred and two: at which time Septimius Severus Augustus had commanded that all those who persisted in the practice of the Christian religion should be condemned to the most cruel torments and death. Pope Benedict XV extended the feast of St Irenæus to the whole Church.

Oh! what a crown is thine, most noble Pontiff! Man must confess himself utterly unable to count the pearls with which it is adorned. For in the arena where thou didst win it, a whole people were thy fellow-combatants; and as each martyr, one by one, ascended to his throne in heaven, he proclaimed thy glory, for he owed his crown to thee. Twenty-five years previously the blood of Blandina and her companions had been shed, and, thanks to thee, had produced a hundredfold. Thy care had brought that fruitful seed to germinate from the soil that had received it in the early days of Christianity, and now the small colony of the faithful, scattered in its midst, had become the very city itself. Formerly the amphitheatre was spacious enough for the effusion of the martyrs' blood; but now the sacred stream flows in torrents along the streets and squares. O glad day that made Lyons become Rome's rival and the holy city of the Gauls!

The sons of those that died with thee have ever remained faithful to Jesus Christ; do thou, together with Mary, whose position and dignity thou didst so admirably expound to their fathers,[21] and with the Precursor of the Man-God who so fully shares their love, protect them against every scourge whether of body or of soul. Spare France; drive far from her the invasion of a false philosophy which is attempting to revive the aberrations of Gnosticism. Cause truth once more to shine upon the eyes of so many whom heresy, under these multiform disguises, separates from the one fold. O Irenæus, maintain Christians in that peace which alone deserves the name; keep ever pure the minds and hearts of those whom error has not yet sullied. Prepare us now to celebrate befittingly the two glorious apostles Peter and Paul, and the powerful principality of the mother of all the Churches.


[1] Theodoret. Hæretic. fabul. 1 5.
[2] Cont. Hæres. III, iii 2.
[3] Cont. Hæres. I, x 1.
[4] Cont. Hæres. I, x 2.
[5] Ibid. III, xxiv 1, 2.
[6] De Imit. Christi, Lib. I, cap. 1-5.
[7] 1 Cor. viii 1.
[8] Cont. Hæres. II, xxvi 1.
[9] Cont. Hæres. II, xxvii 2.
[10] Ibid. IV, v 3, 4.
[11] Ibid. xx ii.
[12] Ibid. 12.
[13] Ibid. xxii 1.
[14] Cont. Hæres. V, ix 4.
[15] Ibid. xvi 2.
[16] Ibid. xxvii 2.
[17] Ibid. III, iii 4.
[18] Cont. Hæres. III, iii 4.
[19] Epist. Martyi. Lugdun. et Vienn. ad Eleuther, Pap.
[20] Epist. ad Florinum.
[21] Cont. Hæres. V, xix.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

JOHN the Baptist has pointed out the Lamb, Peter has firmly established his throne, Paul has prepared the bride; their joint work, admirable in its unity, at once suggests the reason for their feasts occurring almost simultaneously in the cycle. The alliance being now secured, all three fall into shade; whilst the bride herself, raised up by them to such lofty heights, appears alone before us, holding in her hands the sacred cup of the nuptial-feast.

This gives the key of to-day's solemnity, revealing how its appearance in the heavens of the holy liturgy at this particular season is replete with mystery. The Church, it is true, has already made known to the sons of the new covenant, in a much more solemn manner, the price of the Blood that redeemed them, its nutritive strength and the adoring homage which is its due. On Good Friday earth and heaven beheld all sin drowned in the saving stream, whose eternal flood-gates at last gave way beneath the combined effort of man's violence and of the love of the divine Heart. The festival of Corpus Christi witnessed our prostrate worship before the altars whereon is perpetuated the Sacrifice of Calvary, and where the outpouring of the precious Blood affords drink to the humblest little ones, as well as to the mightiest potentates of earth, lowly bowed in adoration before it. How is it, then, that holy Church is now inviting all Christians to hail, in a particular manner, the stream of life ever gushing from the sacred fount? What else can this mean, but that the preceding solemnities have by no means exhausted the mystery? The peace which this Blood has made to reign in the high places as well as in the low; the impetus of its wave bearing back the sons of Adam from the yawning gulf, purified, renewed and dazzling white in the radiance of their heavenly apparel; the sacred Table outspread before them on the waters’ brink, and the chalice brimful of inebriation—all this preparation and display would be objectless, all these splendours would be incomprehensible, if man were not brought to see therein the wooings of a love that could never endure its advances to be outdone by the pretensions of any other. Therefore, the Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes at this moment as the Blood of the Testament; the pledge of the alliance proposed to us by God;[1] the dower stipulated by eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which he is inviting all men, and its consummation in our soul which is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost.

‘Having therefore, brethren, a confidence in entering into the Holies by the Blood of Christ,' says the apostle, ‘ a new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil—that is to say, his flesh—let us draw near with a pure heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promised. Let us consider one another to provoke unto charity and to good works.[2] And may the God of peace who brought again from the dead the great Pastor of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Blood of the everlasting Testament, fit you in all goodness, that you may do his will: doing in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen!'[3]

Nor must we omit to mention here, that this feast is a monument of one of the most brilliant victories of holy Church in our own age. Pius IX had been driven from Rome in 1848 by the triumphant revolution; but the following year, just about this season, his power was re-established. Under the aegis of the apostles on June 28 and the two following days, the eldest daughter of the Church, faithful to her past glories, swept the ramparts of the eternal city; and on July 2, Mary’s festival, the victory was completed. Not long after this, a twofold decree notified to the city and to the world the Pontiff’s gratitude and the way in which he intended to perpetuate, in the sacred liturgy, the memory of these events. On August 10, from Gaeta itself, the place of his exile in the evil day, Pius IX, before returning to reassume the government of his States, addressing himself to the invisible Head of the Church, confided her in a special manner to his divine care, by the institution of this day's festival; reminding him that it was for his Church that he had vouchsafed to shed all his precious Blood. Then, when the Pontiff re-entered his capital, turning to Mary, just as Pius V and Pius VIII had done under other circumstances, the Vicar of Christ solemnly attributed the honour of the recent victory to her who is ever the help of Christians; for on the feast of her Visitation it had been gained; and he now decreed that this said feast of July 2 should be raised from the rite of double major to that of second class throughout the whole world. This was a prelude to the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which the immortal Pontiff had already projected, whereby the crushing of the serpent’s head would be completed.

 

MASS

 

The Church, formed by the apostles from all the nations under heaven, advances towards the altar of the Spouse who hath redeemed her in his Blood, and in the Introit hails his merciful love. She, henceforth, is the kingdom of God, the depository of truth.

Introit

Redemisti nos, Domine, in Sanguine tuo, ex omni tribu, et lingua, et populo, et natione, et fecisti nos Deo nostro regnum.

Ps. Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo: in generationem et generationem annuntiabo veritatem tuam in ore meo. ℣. Gloria Patri. Redemisti nos.
Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, in thy Blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom.

Ps. The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever: I will show forth thy truth with my mouth to generation and generation. ℣. Glory, etc. Thou hast.

The Blood of the Man-God, being the pledge of peace between heaven and earth, the object of profoundest worship, the centre of the whole liturgy, and our assured protection against all the evils of this present life, deposits, even now, in the souls and bodies of those whom it has ransomed, the germ of eternal happiness. The Church, therefore, in her Collect, begs of the Father, who has given us his only-begotten Son, that this divine germ may not remain sterile within us, but may come to full development in heaven.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui unigenitum Filium tuum mundi Redemptorem constituisti, ac ejus Sanguine piacari voluisti: concede quæsumus, salutis nostræ pretium solemni cultu ita venerari, atque a præsentis vitæ malis ejus virtute defendi in terris: ut fructu perpetuo lætemur in cœlis. Per eumdem Dominum.
Almighty and eternal God, who hast appointed thy onlybegotten Son to be the Redeemer of the world, and hast been pleased to be appeased by his Blood: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate with solemn worship the price of our salvation, and to be on earth so defended by its power from the evils of this present life, that we may rejoice in its perpetual fruit in heaven. Through the same Lord, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebræos.

Capix.

Fratres, Christus assistens Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabemaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis: neque per sanguinem hircorum aut vitulorum, sed per proprium Sanguinem introivit semel in Sancta, æterna redemptione inventa. Si enim sanguis hircorum et taurorum, et cinis vitulæ aspersus inquinatos sanctificat ad emundationem carnis: quanto magis Sanguis Christi, qui per Spiritum sanctum semetipsum obtulit immaculatum Deo, emundabit conscientiam nostram ab operibus mortuis, ad serviendum Deo viventi? Et ideo novi Testamenti Mediator est: ut morte intercedente, in redemptionem earum prævaricationum quæ erant sub priori Testamento, repromissionem accipiant, qui vocati sunt, ætemæ hæreditatis: in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.
Lesson from the Epistle of St Paul to the Hebrews.

Ch. ix.

Brethren, Christ, being come a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own Blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh, how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who through the Holy Ghost, offered himself without spot to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And, therefore, he is the Mediator of the New Testament; that by means of his death, for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former Testament, those that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance; in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Epistle that has just been read to us is the confirmation of what we were saying above, as regards the special character of this festival. It was by his own Blood that the Son of God entered into heaven; this divine Blood continues to be the means whereby we also may be introduced into the eternal alliance. Thus, the old Covenant, founded on the observance of the precepts of Sinai, had likewise by blood consecrated the people and the law, the tabernacle and the vessels it was to contain; but the whole was but a figure. 'Now,' says St Ambrose, 'it behoves us to tend to truth. Here below, there is the shadow; here below, there is the image; up yonder, there is the truth. In the law was but the shadow; the image is to be found in the Gospel; the truth is in heaven. Formerly a lamb was immolated; now Christ is sacrificed, but only under the signs of the mysteries, whereas in heaven it is without veil. There alone, consequently, is full perfection unto which our thoughts should cleave, because all perfection is in truth without image and without shadow.'[4] There alone is rest: thither, even in this world, do the sons of God tend; without indeed attaining fully thereunto, they reach nearer and nearer day by day; for there alone is to be found that peace which forms saints.

‘O Lord God,’ cries out in his turn another illustrious doctor, the great St Augustine, ‘give us this peace, the peace of repose, the peace of the seventh day, of that Sabbath whose sun never sets. Yea! verily the whole order of nature and grace is very beautiful unto thy servitors, and goodly are the realities they cover; but these images, these successive forms, bide only awhile, and their evolution ended they pass away. The days thou didst fill with thy creations are composed of morning and of evening, the seventh alone excepted, for it declineth not, because thou hast for ever sanctified it in thine own rest. Now what is this rest, save that which thou takest in us, when we ourselves repose in thee, in the fruitful peace which crowns the series of thy graces in us? O sacred rest, more productive than labour! the perfect alone know thee, they who suffer the divine hand to accomplish within them the work of the six days.'[5]

And the apostle goes on to say, interpreting by means of other parts of Scripture his own words, just read to us by holy Church,'And therefore to-day if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.'[6] The divine Blood has made us participators of Christ: it is our part not to squander, as though it were worthless, this immense treasure, this initial incorporation which unites us to Christ, the divine Head; but let us abandon ourselves, without reserve, to the energy of this precious leaven, whose property it is to transform our whole being into him. Let us be afraid lest we fall short of the promise referred to in to-day's Epistle, that promise of our entering into God's rest, as St Paul tells us. It regards all believers, he says, and this divine Sabbath is for the whole people of the Lord. Therefore, let us make haste to enter in; let us not be like those Jews whose incredulity excluded them for ever from the promised land.[7]

The Gradual brings us back to the great testimony of the love of the Son of God, confided to the Holy Ghost, together with the Blood and Water of the Mysteries: a testimony which is closely linked here below with that which is rendered by the Holy Trinity in heaven. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, sings the Verse. What is this but to say, once again, that we must absolutely yield to these reiterated invitations of love? None may excuse himself by pleading either ignorance or want of vocation to a higher state than that to which tepidity inclines him. Let us hearken to the apostle addressing himself to all, in this same Epistle to the Hebrews: ‘Yea, verily; great and ineffable are these things. But if you have become little able to understand them, it is your own fault; for whereas for the time you ought to be masters, you have need to be taught again what are the first elements of the words of God: and you are become such as have need of milk, though your age would require the solid meat of the perfect. Wherefore, as far as concerns us in our instructions to you, leaving the word of the elementary teaching of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God. Have you not been illuminated? have you not tasted also the heavenly gift? have you not been made partakers of the Holy Ghost? What showers of graces at every moment water the earth of your soul! It is time that it bring in a return to God who tills it. Ye have delayed long enough: be now, at last, of the number of those who by patience and faith shall inherit the promises, casting your hope like an anchor sure and firm, which entereth in even within the veil, where the forerunner Jesus has entered for us—that is, to draw us in thither after him.'[8]

Gradual

Hic est qui venit per aquam et sanguinem, Jesus Christus: non in aqua solum, sed in aqua et sanguine.
℣. Tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cœlo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus sanctus; et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra: spiritus, aqua, et sanguis; et hi tres unum sunt.
Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Si testimonium hominum accipimus, testimonium Dei majus est. Alleluia.
This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood.
℣. There are three that give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth; the spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three are one.
Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. xix.

In illo tempore: Cum accepisset Jesus acetum, dixit: Consummatum est. Et inclinato capite, tradidit spiritum. Judæi ergo (quoniam Parasceve erat), ut non remanerent in cruce corpora Sabbato (erat enim magnus dies ille Sabbati), rogaverunt Pilatum, ut frangerentur eorum crura, et tollerentur. Venerunt ergo milites: et primi quidem fregerunt crura, et alterius qui crucifixus est cum eo. Ad Jesum autem cum venissent, ut viderunt eum jam mortuum, non fregerunt ejus crura; sed unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua. Et qui vidit, testimonium perhibuit: et verum est testimonium ejus.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. xix.

At that time, when Jesus had taken the vinegar, he said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. Then the Jews (because it was the Parasceve) that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that was a great Sabbath-day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath given testimony, and his testimony is true.

On Good Friday we heard for the first time this passage from the beloved disciple. The Church, as she stood mourning at the foot of the cross whereon her Lord had just died, was all tears and lamentation. To-day, however, she is thrilling with other sentiments, and the very same narration that then provoked her bitter tears now makes her burst out into anthems of gladness and songs of triumph. If we would know the reason of this, let us turn to those who are authorized by her to interpret to us the burthen of her thoughts this day. They will tell us that the new Eve is celebrating her birth from the side of her sleeping Spouse;[9] that from the solemn moment when the new Adam permitted the soldier's lance to open his Heart, we became, in very deed, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.[10] Dc not be surprised if holy Church sees naught but love and life in the Blood which is gushing forth.

And thou, O soul, long rebellious to the secret touches of choicest graces, be not disconsolate; do not say: ‘Love is no more for me!' How far away soever the old enemy may, by wretched wiles, have dragged thee, is it not still true, that to every winding way, perhaps even to every pitfall, the streamlets of this sacred fount have followed thee? Thinkest thou, perhaps, that thy long and tortuous wanderings from the merciful course of these ever pursuant waters may have weakened their power? Do but try; do but, first of all, bathe in their cleansing wave; do but quaff long draughts from this stream of life; then, O weary soul, arming thyself with faith, be strong, and mount once more the course of the divine torrent; for, as in order to reach thee it never once was separated from its fountain-head, so likewise be certain that by so doing thou needs must reach the very source itself. Believe me, this is the whole secret of the bride—namely, that whencesoever she may come, she has no other course to pursue than this, if she would hear the answer to that yearning request expressed in the sacred Canticle: 'Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou restest in the midday!'[11] Indeed, by reascending the sacred stream, not only is she sure of reaching the divine Heart, but moreover she is ceaselessly renewing, in its waters, that pure beauty which makes her become in the eyes of the Spouse an object of delight and glory to him.[12] For thy part, carefully gather up to-day the testimony of the disciple of love; and congratulating Jesus with the Church, his bride and thy mother, on the brilliancy of her empurpled robe,[13] take good heed likewise to conclude with St John: ‘ Let us then love God, since he hath first loved us.'[14]

The Church, whilst presenting her gifts for the sacrifice, sings how that chalice which she is offering to the benediction of her sons, the priests, becomes by virtue of the sacred words the inexhaustible source whence the Blood of her Lord flows out upon the whole world.

Offertory

Calix benedictionis, cui benedicimus, nonne communicatio Sanguinis Christi est? Et panis quem frangimus, nonne participatio Corporis Domini est?
The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?

The Secret begs for the full effect of the divine alliance, of which the Lord's Blood is both the means and the pledge, since its effusion continually renewed in the sacred Mysteries has hushed the cry of vengeance that the blood of Abel had sent up from earth to heaven.

Secret

Per hæc divina mysteria, ad novi, quæsumus, Testamenti mediatorem Jesum accedamus; et super altana tua, Domine virtutum, aspersionemSanguinis melius loquentem quam Abel innovemus. Per eumdem.
By these divine mysteries, we beseech thee that we may approach to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament: and that upon thy altars, O Lord of hosts, we may renew the sprinkling of that Blood, speaking better than that of Abel. Through the same, etc.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, qui salutem humani generis in ligno crucis constituisti: ut unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret: et qui in Ugno vincebat, in ligno quoque vinceretur: per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudani Angeli; adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli, cœlorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, etc.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God, who hast appointed that the salvation of mankind should be wrought on the wood of the cross: that whence death came, thence life might arise; and that he who overcame by the tree, might also by the tree be overcome; through Christ our Lord; by whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.

The Communion antiphon hails the merciful love of which our Lord gave proof by his coming, not suffering himself to be turned aside from his divine projects by the accumulation of crimes which he must destroy in his own Blood, in order to purify the bride. Thanks to the adorable mystery of faith operating in the secret of hearts, when he shall come again visibly, nothing will remain of this sad past but a memory of victory.

Communion

Christus semel oblatus est ad multorum exhaurienda peccata; secundo sine peccato apparebit exspectantibus se, in salutem.
Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; the second time he shall appear without sin to them that expect him, unto salvation.

Inebriated with gladness at the Saviour's fountains, his sacred Wounds, let us pray that the precious Blood now empurpling our lips may remain unto eternity the living source whence we may ever draw beatitude and life.

Postcommunion

Ad sacram, Domine, mensam admissi, hausimus aquas in gaudio de fontibus Salvatoris: Sanguis ejus fiat nobis, quæsumus, ions aquae in vitam ætemam salientis. Qui tecum vivit et regnat.
Having been admitted to the holy Table, O Lord, we have drawn waters in joy from the fountains of our Saviour: may his Blood, we beseech thee, become within us a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. Who liveth and reigneth, etc.

 

VESPERS

 

Yesterday, at the opening of the feast, the Church sang: 'Who is this that cometh from Bosra, in Edom, with his robe so richly dyed? Comely is he in his vesture! It is I,' replied he, ' I whose word is full of justice, I who am a defender, to save.' He that spoke thus was clad in a garment dyed with blood, and the name given unto him is the Word of God. ‘ Wherefore, then,' continued the Church, 'is thy robe all bespotted, and thy garments like to those who tread in the wine press? I have trodden the winepress alone, and among men none was there to lend aid.’

Thus did he appear, by the virtue of his divine Blood, to whom the psalmist exclaimed: ‘Arise in thy glory and beauty, march forward unto victory!'[15] After this first sublime dialogue concerning the Spouse, another, this morning, pointed out to us the bride drawing for herself from this precious Blood that superhuman loveliness which beseems the nuptial banquet of the Lamb. The Lauds antiphons brought upon the scene the members of holy Church, especially her martyrs in whom her radiant beauty glitters most of all: 'These who are clad in white robes, who are they, and whence come they? These are they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb. This is why they stand before the throne of God, ministering to him day and night. They have conquered the dragon by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of the Testament. Blessed are they who have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb!’

This evening the Church returns to her Lord, repeating at her Second Vespers the same antiphons as at her First.

Ant. Quis est iste, qui venit de Edom, tinctis vestibus de Bosra? Iste formosus in stola sua.
Ant. Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra, this beautiful one in his robe?

Ps. Dixit Dominus, p. 35.


Ant. Ego qui loquor justitiam, et propugnator sum ad salvandum.
Ant. I that speak justice, and am a defender to save.

Ps. Confitebor tibi Domine, p. 37.


Ant. Vestitus erat veste aspersa sanguine, et vocatur nomen ejus Verbum Dei.
Ant. He was clothed in a robe sprinkled with blood, and his name is called the Word of God.

Ps. Beatus vir, p. 38.


Ant. Quare ergo rubrum est indumentum tuum, et vestimenta tua sicut calcantium in torculari?
Ant. Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like to them that tread the wine-press?

Ps. Laudate pueri, p. 39.


Ant. Torcular calcavi solus, et de gentibus non est vir mecum.
Ant. I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me.

Psalm 147

Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum: lauda Deum tuum, Sion.
Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: benedixit filiis tuis in te.
Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: et adipe frumenti satiat te.
Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ: velociter currit senno ejus.
Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suam sicut bucellas: ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit?
Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ.
Qui annuntiat verbum suum Jacob: justitias et judicia sua Israel.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: et judicia sua non manifesta vit eis.
ANT. Torcular calcavi solus, et de gentibus non est vir mecum.
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! praise thy God, O Sion!
Because he hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates: he hath blessed thy children within thee.
Who hath placed peace in thy borders: and filleth thee with the fat of corn.
Who sendeth forth his speech to the earth; his word runneth swiftly.
Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold?
He shall send out his word, and shall melt them: his wind shall blow, and the waters shall run.
Who declareth his word to Jacob: his justices and his judgements to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgements he hath not made manifest to them.
ANT. I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me.

Capitulum
(Heb. ix.)

Fratres, Christus assistens Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis; neque per sanguinem hircorum aut vitulorum, sed per proprium Sanguinem introivit semel in Sancta, aeterna redemptione inventa.
Brethren, Christ, being come a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats nor of calves, but by his own Blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hymn

Festivis resonent compita vocibus,
Cives lætitiam frontibus explicent:
Tædis flammiferis ordine prodeant
Instructi pueri et senes.

Quem dura moriens Christus in arbore
Fudit multiplici vulnere Sanguinem,
Nos facti memores dum colimus, decet
Saltem fundere lacrymas.

Humano generi pernicies gravis
Adami veteris crimine contigit:
Adami integritas et pietas novi
Vitam reddidit omnibus.

Clamorem validum summus ab æthere
Languentis Geniti si Pater audiit,
Placare potius Sanguine debuit,
Et nobis veniam dare.

Hoc quicumque stolam Sanguine proluit,
Abstergit macuias; et roseum decus.
Quo fiat similis protinus angelis,
Et Regi placeat, capit.

A recto instabilis tramite postmodum
Se nullus retrahat; meta sed ultima
Tangatur: tribuet nobile præmium,
Qui cursum Deus adjuvat.

Nobis propitius sis, Genitor potens.
Ut quos unigenæ Sanguine Filii
Emisti, et placido Flamine recreas,
Cœli ad culmina transferas.

Amen.
Let the streets re-echo with festive song,
let the brow of every citizen beam gladsomeness;
let young and old file along,
in order due, bearing lighted torches.

Being mindful of that Blood which Christ,
upon the cruel tree, did dying shed
for many a thousand wounds, let us at least,
the while, pour forth our mingling tears.

Grave loss befell the human race,
by the old Adam's sin.
The new Adam's sinlessness
and tender love have life restored to all.

If the eternal Father heard on high
the strong cry of his expiring Son,
far more is he appeased by this dear Blood,
and is thereby enforced to grant us pardon.

Whosoever in this Blood his robe doth wash,
is wholly freed from stain, and roseate beauty gains,
whereby he is made like unto angels
and well-pleasing to the King.

Henceforth, let none inconstant from the straight path withdraw;
but let the furthest goal be fairly touched.
May God, who aideth them that run the race,
bestow the noble prize.

Be thou propitious to us, O almighty Father, that those
whom thou didst purchase by the Blood of thine only-begotten Son,
and whom thou dost re-create in the Paraclete Spirit,
thou mayst one day transfer unto the heavenly heights.

Amen.

℣. Te ergo quæsumus, fuis famulis subveni.
℟. Quos pretioso Sanguine redemisti.
℣. We beseech thee, therefore, help thy servants.
℟. Whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious Blood.

Though this feast passes away like all else here below, the object it celebrates remains, and is the treasure of the world. Let, then, this feast be for each one of us, as it indeed is for the Church herself, a monument of heaven's sublimest favours. Each year, as it recurs in the cycle, may our hearts be found bearing new fruits of love, that have budded forth, watered by the fructifying dew of the precious Blood.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Habebitis autem hunc diem in monumentum, et celebrabitis eum solemnem Domino in generationibus vestris cultu sempiterno.
Ye shall observe this day for a memorial, and ye shall keep it holy unto the Lord, in your generations, with an everlasting worship.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui unigenitum Filium tuum mundi Redemptorem constituisti, ac ejus Sanguine piacari voluisti: concede quæsumus, salutis nostræ premium solemni cultu ita venerari, atque a præsentis vitæ malis ejus virtute defendi in terris; ut fructu perpetuo lætemur in cœlis. Per eumdem Dominum.
Almighty and eternal God, who hast appointed thy onlybegotten Son to be the Redeemer of the world, and hast been pleased to be appeased by his Blood: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate with solemn worship the price of our salvation, and to be on earth so defended by its power from the evils of this present life, that we may rejoice in its perpetual fruit in heaven. Through the same Lord, etc.

We here add the Matins hymn of the feast, which is redolent of grace and tenderness.

Hymn

Ira justa Conditoris,
Imbre aquarum vindice,
Criminosum mersit orbem,
Noe in arca sospite;
Mira tandem vis amoris
Lavit orbem Sanguine.

Tam salubri terra felix
Irrigata pluvia,
Ante spinis quæ scatebat,
Germinavit flosculos:
Inque nectaris saporem
Transiere absynthia.

Triste protinus venenum
Dirus anguis posuit,
Et cruenta belluarum
Desiit ferocia:
Mitis Agni vulnerati
Hæc fuit victoria.

O scientiæ supernæ
Altitudo impervia!
O suavitas benigni
Prædicanda pectoris!
Servus erat morte dignus,
Rex luit pœnam optimus.

Quando culpis provocamus
Ultionem Judicis,
Tunc loquentis protegamur
Sanguinis præsentia:
Ingruentium malorum
Tunc recedant agmina.

Te redemptus laudet orbis
Grata servans munera,
O salutis sempiternæ
Dux et auctor inclyte,
Qui tenes beata regna
Cum Parente et Spiritu.

Amen.
The just ire of the Creator
did erst the guilty world submerge
beneath the vengeful rain of waters,
Noe, in the Ark sequestered safe the while.
But yet more wondrous still the violence of love
that hath the world in Blood now laved.

The happy world,
watered by such salubrious rain,
now buds forth fair flowers,
where erst sprang naught but thorns:
yea, now hath wormwood nectar's
savoury sweetness e'en assumed.

The cruel serpent hath suddenly
laid aside his poison dire,
and vanished is
the wild ferocity of beasts:
such the victory
of the wounded Lamb all meek!

O depth inscrutable
of heavenly wisdom!
O benignant tenderness of love!
Thus every heart aloud proclaims:
The slave was worthy of death, and the King,
in goodness infinite, did undergo the punishment.

When by sin we provoke
the wrath of the judge divine,
then by the pleading of this
eloquent Blood may we be protected.
Then may the throng of threatened
evils pass from us away!

Let the ransomed world praise thee,
bringing her grateful gifts,
O thou, the leader
and loving author of eternal salvation,
who, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
dost possess the blessed kingdom.

Amen.

[1] Exod. xxiv 8; Heb. ix 20.
[2] Heb. x 19-24.
[3] Ibid. xiii 20, 21.
[4] Ambr. De Offic. I 48.
[5] Aug. Confess. xiii 35-37; de Genesi ad litt. iv 13-17; ct alibi passim.
[6] Heb. iii 7, 8, ex Ps. xciv.
[7] Heb. iii, iv.
[8] Heb. V, vi passim.
[9] Aug. Hom, diei, ex tract, cxx in Joan.
[10] Sermo II Nocturni.
[11] Cant. i 6.
[12] Eph. v 27.
[13] Prima ant. in Vesp.
[14] 1 St John iv 19.
[15] Ps. xliv.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Church unites on June 24 in one celebration, the memory both of the birth of the Precursor and of his circumcision, surrounded as it was by prodigies, related in the Gospel of the feast itself. But, properly speaking, this is the day whereon these wonders were operated, according to the words of the Gospel: ‘It came to pass that on the eighth day the child was circumcised.’ By placing on the morrow of this eighth day the celebration of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, the Church seems to insinuate that our Lady, who had been staying in Zachary's house during the last three months, prolonged her stay and her tender care of the infant and his mother up to this date. The babe that three months ago, at her first arrival, had leaped as though fain to force the prison of the maternal womb, seemed at the moment of his birth to spring towards her; she received him into her arms, and pressed him to her breast, wherein the Son of God still lay reposing. She gave herself entirely to him during these eight days; for she knew they would be the only ones in which the friend of the Bridegroom would taste here below, although without seeing him, the intimate presence of him to whom his whole heart turned. Except for the solemn moment of his Baptism, the sublime majesty of which would hold in subjection every sentiment in the soul of the Precursor but that of self-annihilation and of adoration, John is never to behold (excepting once or twice at a distance) the Well-Beloved he has come to announce. O profound mystery of the divine plan! John is never to know the Bridegroom, never to enjoy Jesus, save in Mary.

Nevertheless, even to-morrow must the farewell be; even to-morrow the desert is to open before him; a desert of the soul, more terrific a thousand times than that which affects the outward senses. His flight from the world to the desert of Judea, far from being a trial to John, will be rather a solace to this infant soul for whom earth was already too narrow. In the wilderness, at least, the air is pure, heaven seems ready to open, and God gives answer to the soul that calls upon him.[1] Let us not, then, be astonished that scarcely is John born than he seeks solitude, and passes almost at once from his mother's breast to the desert wilds.[2] There was no childhood for the man who three months previous to his birth had attained, at one bound, to the plenitude of the age of Christ;[3] no need of human master had he whom heaven had undertaken to instruct,[4] who knew both the past and the future, in God,[5] and whose own plenitude of knowledge, transmitted by him to his parents, had turned them also into prophets.[6] Better far than Elizabeth had he entered into the meaning of our Lady in her Magnificat; even on this day he had understood Zachary hailing him as prophet of the Highest in the Benedictus:[7] and from whom, save from the Word himself, could the Voice of the Word have received the science of language? Gifted with the full use of his will,[8] what progress on the other side must he have made in love during these three months! The Mother of divine grace neglected nothing in the formation of this natural disposition so singularly favoured, where no obstacle opposed the full development of the divine germs. St Ambrose, whose exquisite delicacy has so wonderfully penetrated into these mysteries, shows us John under Mary's influence exercising himself in the several virtues, anointing his limbs like a valiant athlete, and essaying, even from his mother’s womb, the combats which await him.[9] The eight days which have just lapsed for him in the arms of our Lady have completed the work. His sweet Mistress, whom he is to see no more, may even now bespeak their meeting again in heaven, he at the left of her Son's throne, she at the right, according to the tradition of which Christian art has made itself the faithful interpreter up to our own time.[10]

While awaiting for another six months the birth of the Virgin's Son, earth is meanwhile in possession of him who is the greatest amongst all that are born of women. No human ken in its highest soarings may touch the summits whereon dwells the intelligence of this child but eight days old; no sanctity may stretch to farther limits the heroism of love. Fully enlightened on all the bearings of the approaching farewell, he will not shrink at seeing the Son and the Mother depart on the morrow. Like the divine Spouse himself, he, the friend of the Bridegroom, is strong enough to have no other food than the accomplishment of the will of the Father who has sent them both.[11] His soul, filled henceforth with the memory of these days wherein his heart has been throbbing to the pulsations of that of Jesus, whilst Mary has been clasping him to her breast, will by its fidelity, despite the distant parting, ever keep up between his own and these two Hearts the sublime concert wherein, during these happy hours, the eternal Trinity has been listening for the first time to an echo in the flesh, of its own harmony. Like to the sunflower, friend of the day-star, which, without quitting earth whereon it is placed, keeps ever turning towards him its wistful corolla, John, from the desert's midst, will follow in heart and thought every step of Jesus; but yet will he keep restraint upon his soul. With that eagle-glance of his which heretofore espied him in our Lady's womb, he will behold him, in spite of all obstacles, now a Child, now grown up to manhood, passing by not far from his solitude; yet never once will the impetuosity of his love carry him away to climb the few hills then separating him from Jesus, and to throw himself at his sacred feet; never once will the zeal which devours him, the Voice, the witness of the Word, urge him to anticipate by one moment the hour that heaven has fixed for him to cry out to the ignorant crowd: 'Behold your God, the Lamb that is to save you, the expected Messias P And when at last, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, he manifests the Bridegroom at the divine command, he, the great Baptist, is not the one to come nigh to Jesus saying: ‘Master, where dwellest thou’ Nor is he the one that receives the answer: ‘Come and see!'[12] To all others falls the happy lot of following Jesus, of abiding with Jesus: but as to John, he thrills indeed at the blissful meeting; yet for his part he keeps afar off, he disappears until that day, now fast approaching, when the prison of the adulterous Herod is to become his grave. ‘O God!' cries out the gentle St Francis de Sales, ‘such an example as this overwhelms my mind with its grandeur.'[13] ‘Oh, what divine abstinence!’ exclaims the eagle of Meaux, in his turn, ‘oh abstinence more admirable far than all those other abstinences related of St John the Baptist!'[14] Let us, too, share with the Church in her admiration and joy, while during these days she makes echo to Gabriel's voice proclaiming at once the dignity both of the son of Zachary and of our Saviour himself. Let us enter into the enthusiasm wherewith so many fathers and doctors (hailing first of all Mary blessed above all) are loud in their applause of the eulogium given to John by the Word himself.[15] Let us understand them, when they declare that amongst all men Christ alone is more exalted than he;[16] that whosoever else is bom of woman is inferior to him;[17] that he is the most excellent of all saints;[18] yea, more than saint is he,[19] a demi-god,[20] marking the limit of human merit;[21] so great that a greater must necessarily be God.[22] Contemplating a perfection so sublime which surpasses the ken of human intelligence,[23] we cannot be surprised to learn that, according to the doctrine laid down in the works of Gerson, whose authority here is of such great weight, John the Baptist is exalted in heaven above all the choirs of the celestial hosts, and holds the place left vacant by Lucifer at the foot of the throne of God.[24]

Having during this octave been following with holy Church the teachings which it inspires, we shall conclude this day with the words of St Ambrose which form the last lesson of the Matins Office now in use: ‘"John is his name,” writes Zachary, and forthwith his tongue is loosed. Let us also write these mysteries spiritually, and we shall know how to speak. Let us engrave the Precursor of Christ, not on inanimate tablets, but on our living hearts. For to name John is to announce Christ. Let these two names, John and Jesus Christ, be united upon our lips; and therefrom perfect praise will arise, like to that which issued from the mouth of that priest whose hesitating faith concerning the Precursor had rendered him dumb!'[25]

Let us now hear the conclusion of St Ephraem's song in which he gives the meeting of the Bridegroom and the friend of the Bridegroom on the banks of the Jordan. John continues to expose the endless difficulties wherewith his humility inspires him, in order to decline the honour of baptizing the Word made Flesh.

Hymn

Non possum infirmus ego manibus attrectare ignitum tuum corpus. Ardent autem tuæ legiones cœlestes: uni ex angelis tuis præcipe ut baptizet te.

Non ab angelis corpus assumpsi, ut advocem angelum ad me baptizandum. Humanum corpus indui, ab homine sum baptizandus.

Aquae viderunt te et valde tremuerunt: viderunt te aquae et concussæ sunt; spumat præ agitatione amnis, et ego infirmus quomodo tibi baptismura conferre audeam?

Aquae baptismo meo sanctificantur, ignem spiritumque a me accipiunt. Quod nisi baptismum accepero, facultatem non habebunt generandi filios immortales.

Ignis igni tuo si accedat, exardescit ut stipula. Mons Sinai te non sustinuit, quomodo infirmus ego possim te baptizare?

Ego sum ignis accensus, propter homines infans factus in intemerato virginis utero, nunc vero in Jordane baptizandus.

Valde decet ut tu me baptizes qui ita sanctus es ut omnia mundare possis. Per te contaminata sanctificantur; quum igitur ita sanctus sis, ad quid baptismum suscipias?

Valde oportet ut tu absque contentione, ut jubeo, me baptizes. Baptizavi te in utero, baptiza me in Jordane.

Servus sum, prorsus inops; tu qui omnes liberas, miserere mei. Corrigias calceamentorum tuorum solvere impar sum; quis dignum me reddet sublimissimum tuum attingere caput?

Meo baptismo servi libertatem adipiscuntur, chirographa lacerantur, manumissio in aquis obsignatur. Si baptizatus non fuero, hæc omnia irrita fìent.

Scintilla ignis in ære exspectat te super Jordane; si illi assentiris et baptizari vis, tu teipsum abluas et perficias omnia.

Decet te mihi baptismum conferre, ne quis erret et dicat de me: 'Si non esset alienus a Patre, cur levita timuisset ipsum baptizare?'

Quando baptismum suscipies, quomodo orationem absolvam super Jordanem? Patre et Spiritu sancto super te apparentibus, quemnam pro more sacerdotum invocabo?

Oratio in silentio absolvetur: age, manum tuam duntaxat impone mihi, et Pater loco sacerdotis proclamabit quod oportet de Filio suo.

Electi omnes ecce adstant; ecce qui a sponso invitati sunt, testes sunt me quotidie dixisse inter eos: 'Vox sum, non Verbum.'

Vox clamantis in deserto, perfice opus ad quod venisti, ut proclamet desertum te exisse ad eum in magna planitie ubi prædicasti.

Clamor angelorum pervenit ad aures meas. Ecce audio e domo Patris cœlestes Virtutes exclamantes: 'Epiphania tua, Sponse, vivificat mundum.’

Festinat tempus, et me exspectant paranymphi ut videant quid geritur; eia, age, confer mihi baptismum ut laudetur vox Patris quæ mox resonabit.

Audio, Domine; juxta verbum tuum, eia, veni ad baptismum ad quem tuus te amor compellit.

Summa cum veneratione contemplatur homo pulvis, se eo usque pertigisse ut manum suam plasmatori suo imponat.

Stabant in silentio cœlestia agmina; descendit sanctissimus Sponsus in Jordanem; baptismo suscepto mox ascendit, et lux ejus efïulsit super mundum.

Portæ cœli apertæ sunt, et vox Patris audita est: 'Hic est Filius meus dilectus in quo mihi complacui.’ Eia, omnes populi, ipsum adorate.

Stabant spectatores stupefacti, videntes Spiritum descendisse ut de illo testimonium perhiberet. Laus, Domine, epiphaniæ tuæ quæ omnes lætificat. In manifestatione tua totus resplenduit mundus.
Feeble am I, nor am I able with my hands to handle thy Body which is all fire. But flaming are thy heavenly legions; give command unto one of thine angels to baptize thee.

Not of angels have I assumed a body, that an angel I should call to baptize me. With a human body am I clad, by a man am I to be baptized.

The waters saw thee and trembled exceedingly; the waters saw thee and were troubled; the stream bubbled by reason of its agitation, and shall I, frail man, dare to confer baptism upon thee?

By my baptism, the waters are sanctified, and receive of me spirit and fire. Now, unless I receive baptism, they will not have the power of generating sons immortal.

Fire, if it approach to thy fire, burneth like straw. Mount Sinai endured thee not; how then may I, frail man, be able to baptize thee?

I am burning fire, made for man’s sake a Babe in the Virgin’s chaste womb, but now about to be baptized in Jordan's flood.

Fitting it were that thou shouldst baptize me, thou who art so holy that thou canst make all things clean. By thee are the contaminated sanctified; since, therefore, so holy art thou, what availeth that thou receive baptism?

It behoveth much that thou, without contention, do baptize me, as I command. Lo! I did baptize thee in the womb, do thou baptize me in the Jordan.

I am a slave wholly wretched; O thou who settest all men free, have mercy upon me. To loose the latchet of thy shoes, I am utterly unqualified; who then can render me worthy to touch thine august head?

By my baptism slaves obtain liberty; the handwriting is torn in pieces; the seal is put to their manumission in the waters. If I be not baptized, all these things shall be left undone.

In the air, above Jordan, lo! a sparkle of fire expecteth thee; if thou consentest thereunto and wishest to be baptized, do thou lave thyself, and accomplish all things.

It behoveth that thou confer baptism on me, lest anyone should err and say of me: ‘ If he were not alien from the Father, wherefore did the Levite fear to baptize him?’

When thou receivest baptism, how shall I speak the prayer upon Jordan? The Father and the Holy Ghost appearing over thee, whom then, according to priestly custom, shall I invoke?

The prayer shall be accomplished in silence; do thy part; set merely thy hand upon me, and the Father, in place of priest, will proclaim what behoveth of his Son.

Lo! all the elect are present; behold those who are invited by the Bridegroom, they are my witnesses that daily have I spoken thus unto them: 'The Voice am I, not the Word.'

O thou Voice of him who crieth in the wilderness, accomplish the work whereunto thou art come, so that the desert may proclaim that thou art gone forth unto him in the vast plain where thou didst preach.

The cry of the angels reacheth unto mine ears. Behold I hear from out the house of the Father the heavenly Virtues exclaiming: ‘ Thine Epiphany, O Spouse, giveth life to the world.’

Time is speeding apace, and the paranymphs are awaiting to behold what shall take place; Ah! then do thy part, confer baptism upon me, so that the Father's voice, which will presently sound forth, may be praised.

Lord, I hear, I obey: according to thy word, Oh! come thou unto the baptism to which thy love urgeth thee. With extremest veneration is it that man, who is dust, perceiveth himself to presume so as that he should lay his hand on his Maker.

There stood the heavenly hosts in silence; the most holy Bridegroom descended into the Jordan; having received baptism, he presently ascended, and his light shone forth upon the world.

Heaven’s portals were opened and the voice of the Father was heard: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Oh! then, adore him, all ye people.

They that saw it were amazed, seeing that the Spirit came down to render testimony unto him. Praise, O Lord, be unto thine Epiphany which maketh all to be glad. In thy manifestation all the world is made resplendent!

[1] Origen. in Luc. Horn, xi, translatio Hieron.
[2] Hieron. Dialog. contr. Lucif. viii.
[3] Ambr. in Luc. ii 30.
[4] Chrysost. Hom xiii al. xii in Joan. 2.
[5] Paulin, poema vi de S Joan. Bapt. v 217, 218.
[6] Guerric Ign. Serm. i in Nativ. S Joan. 2.
[7] Amb. in Luc. ii 34.
[8] Petr. Chrysol. Serm. 87, 88, 91.
[9] Amb. in Luc. ii 29. Before him almost in the same terms, Origen in Luc. Hom, vii-ix.
[10] Grimouard de Saint-Laurent, Guide de l'Art Chrétien, t. v.
[11] St John iv 34.
[12] St John i 38, 39.
[13] Lettre du 14 octobre, 1604, a Ste Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal.
[14] Bossuet, Élévations sur les Myst. xv, sem. èl. 7.
[15] St Matt. xi.
[16] Aug. Sermo lxvi 2.
[17] Maxim. Taurin. Hom. in Nat. S Joan. 3.
[18] De Imit. Chr. iv 17.
[19] Guerric Ign. Sermo i in Nat. S Joan.
[20] Paulin. Poema vi, v, 252.
[21] Max. Taur. Sermo lxi in Nat. S Joan. 5.
[22] Aug. Serm. cclxxxvii in Nat. S Joan. 1.
[23] Guerric, ubi supra.
[24] Lectiones duæ super Marcum.
[25] Amb. in Luc. ii 32.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Lady's visit to her cousin Elizabeth already engaged our attention whilst we were preparing for the Christmas festival. But it is only fitting to return again to an event so important in our Lady’s life; the mere commemoration of this mystery made on EmberFriday in Advent would be insufficient to bring forward all it contains of deep teaching and holy joy. Since in the course of centuries the holy liturgy has been gaining more and more completeness, it is but natural that this precious mine should come to be further opened in honour of the Virgin Mother. The Order of St Francis, it would seem, as well as certain particular churches, such as Rheims and Paris for example—had already taken the initiative, when Urban VI, in 1389, instituted to-day's solemnity. The Pope counselled a fast on the vigil of the feast, and ordered that it should be followed by an octave; he granted for its celebration the same indulgences as Urban IV had, in the previous century, attached to the festival of Corpus Christi. The Bull of promulgation, stopped by the Pontiff's death, was again taken up and published by Boniface IX, his successor on the Chair of Peter.

We learn from the lessons of the Office formerly composed for this feast, that the object of its institution was, as Urban conceived it, to obtain the cessation of the schism then desolating the Church. The Papacy, exiled from Rome for seventy years, had barely re-entered it, when hell, infuriated at a return which crossed all its plans, had taken revenge by ranging under two leaders the flock of the one sheepfold, So deep was the obscurity wherewith miserable intrigues contrived to cover the authority of the legitimate shepherd, that numbers of churches, in all good faith, began to hesitate, and ended at last in preferring the deceptive staff of a hireling. Thicker yet was the darkness to grow, till night should be so dense, that for a moment the conflicting mandates of three Popes would simultaneously spread through the world; whilst the faithful, struck with stupor, would be at an utter loss to discern accurately which was the voice of Christ's true Vicar. Never had the bride of the Son of God been in a more piteous situation. But our Lady, to whom the true Pontiff had turned at the first rising of the storm, did not betray the Church's confidence. During all those years whilst the unfathomable justice of the Most High let the powers of hell hold sway, she stood for the defence of holy Church, trampling the head of the old serpent so thoroughly under her victorious foot, that in spite of the terrific confusion he had stirred up, he was unable to sully the faith of the people. Their attachment was steadfast to the unity of the Roman See, whosoever might be, in this uncertainty, its veritable occupant. Thus the West, divided in fact, but in principle ever one and undivided, reunited herself spontaneously as soon as God's moment came for the return of light. The hour having arrived for the Queen of saints to assume the offensive, she would not content herself with merely re-establishing at its former post the army of the elect; Satan now must expiate his audacity by being forced to yield back to holy Church those conquests which for centuries had seemed his for ever. The dragon still raged at Basle, when Florence already beheld the heads of Greek schism, the Armenians and the Ethiopians, the cavillers of Jerusalem, of Syria and of Mesopotamia, all compensating by their unhoped-for adhesion to the Roman Pontiff for the anguish just suffered in the West.

It was now to be shown that such a return of nations, in the very midst even of the tempest, was indeed the work of her who had been called upon by the pilot, half a century before, to succour the bark of Peter. Even they of the factious assembly of Basle gave proof of this, in a way which has unfortunately been too much overlooked by historians who undervalue the high importance that liturgical facts hold in the history of Christendom. When about to separate, these last abettors of the schism devoted the forty-third session of their pretended council to the promulgation of this feast of the Visitation, in the establishment of which Urban VI had, from the outset, placed all his hopes. Notwithstanding the resistance of some of the more obstinate, the schism may, from that hour, be said to have ended. The storm was subsiding; the name of Mary, invoked thus by both sides, shone resplendent as the sign of peace amidst the clouds,[1] even as the rainbow in its sweet radiance unites both extremities of the horizon. ‘Look upon it,’ says the Holy Ghost, ‘and bless him that made it: it is very beautiful in its brightness. It encompasseth the heaven about with the circle of its glory: the hands of the Most High have displayed it.’[2]

But, it may be asked, why was the feast of the Visitation specially chosen, more than any other, as the monument of restored peace? The answer seems to be suggested in the very nature of the mystery itself and in the manner of its accomplishment.

Here, more particularly, does Mary appear as the Ark of the Covenant, bearing within her the Emmanuel, the living testimony of a more true reconciliation, of an alliance more sublime between earth and heaven, than that limited compact of servitude entered into between Jehovah and the Jews, amidst the roar of thunder. By her means, far better than through Adam, all men are now brethren; for he whom she hides within her is to be the first-born of the great family of the sons of God. Scarcely is he conceived than there begins for him the mighty work of universal propitiation. Arise, then, O Lord, thou and the Ark which thou hast sanctified,[3] whence thine own sanctity will pour down upon the earth! During the whole of her rapid passage from Nazareth to the mountains of Judea, she shall be protected by wings of Cherubim jealously eager to contemplate her glory. Amidst his truest warriors, amidst Israel's choirs of singing men, David conducted the figurative Ark from the house of Aminadab to that of Obed-edom;[4] but better far is the escort deputed by the eternal Father for this sacred Ark of the new Covenant, troops of the noblest princes of the heavenly phalanx.

Favoured with benediction was that Levite’s house, while for three months it sheltered the Most High hidden on the golden propitiatory: more favoured still the home of the priest Zachary, harbouring, for the same lapse of time, eternal Wisdom enshrined in the virginal womb, wherein that union, so desired by his love, had just been accomplished. Yet beneath Zachary's roof, blessed as it was, the enemy of God and man was still holding one captive: the angelic embassy that had announced John's miraculous conception and birth could not exempt him from the shameful tribute that every son of Adam must pay to the prince of death, on entering into this life. As formerly at Azotus, so now Dagon may not remain standing erect in face of the Ark.[5] Mary appears, and Satan, at once overturned, is subjected to utter defeat in John's soul, a defeat that is not to be his last; for the Ark of the Covenant will not stay its victories till the reconciliation of the last of the elect be effected.

Let us, then, hail this day with songs of gladness: for this mystery contains the germ of every victory gained by the Church and her sons: henceforth the sacred Ark is borne at the head of every combat waged by the new Israel. Division between man and his God is at an end, between the Christian and his brethren! The ancient Ark was powerless to prevent the division of the tribes; henceforth if schism and heresy do hold out for a few years against Mary, it shall be but to evince more fully her glorious triumph at last. In all ages, because of her, even as to-day under the eyes of the enemy now put to confusion, little ones shall rejoice, all shall be filled with benediction, and Pontiffs shall be perfected.[6] Let us join the tribute of our songs to John’s exulting gladness, to Elizabeth’s sudden exclamations, to Zachary’s canticle; therewith let earth re-echo! Thus in bygone days was the Ark hailed as it entered the Hebrew camp. Hearing their shout, the Philistines learned that help had come from the Lord; and, seized with terror, they groaned aloud saying: 'Woe to us; for there was no such great joy yesterday and the day before: woe to us!’[7] Verily this day the whole human race, together with John, leaps for joy and shouts with a great shout; verily this day has the old enemy good reason to lament: the heel of the woman,[8] as she stamps him down, makes his haughty head to wince for the first time: and John, set free, is hereby the precursor of us all. More happy are we, the new Israel, than was the old, for our glory shall never be taken away; never shall be wrested from us that sacred Ark which has led us dry-shod across the river,[9] and has levelled fortresses to the dust at its approach.[10]

Justly then is this day, whereon an end is put to the series of defeats begun in Eden, the day of new canticles for a new people! Yet who may intone the hymn of triumph but she to whom the victory belongs?‘Arise,arise, O Debbora, arise; arise and utter a canticle.[11] The valiant men ceased and rested in Israel, until Mary arose, the true Debbora, until a mother arose in Israel.[12] It is I, it is I,’ saith she, 'that will sing to the Lord. I will sing to the Lord the God of Israel.[13] O magnify the Lord with me, as saith my grandsire David, and let us extol his Name together.[14] My heart hath rejoiced, like that of Anna, in God my Saviour.[15] For even as in his handmaid Judith, by me he hath fulfilled his mercy,[16] so that my praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever.[17] For mighty is he that hath done great things in me;[18] there is none holy as he.[19] Even as by Esther, he hath throughout all generations saved those who feared him;[20] in the power of his arm,[21] he hath turned against the impious one the projects of his own heart, driving proud Aman out of his seat and uplifting the humble; the bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength; the abundance of them that were rich hath passed to the hungry, and they are filled;[22] he hath remembered his people, and hath had pity on his inheritance.[23] Such, indeed, was the promise that Adam received and our fathers have handed down unto us: and he hath done to them even as he had promised.’[24]

Daughters of Sion and all ye who groan in the thraldom of Satan, the hymn of deliverance has sounded in our land! Following in her train, who beareth within her the pledge of alliance, let us form into choirs; better than Mary, Aaron’s sister, and by yet juster title, she leads the concerts of Israel.[25] So sings she on this day of triumph, and the burthen of her song gathers into one all the victorious chants which, in the ages of expectation, preluded this divine canticle of hers. But the past victories of the elect people were but figures of that which is gained by our glorious Queen on this day of her manifestation; for she, beyond Debbora, Judith or Esther, has truly brought about the deliverance of her people; in her mouth the accents of her illustrious predecessors pass from the burning aspiration of the prophetic age to the calm ecstasy which denotes that she is already in possession of the long-expected God. A new era is fitly inaugurated by sacred chants: divine praise receives from Mary that character which henceforth it is never to lose, even in eternity.

The preceding considerations have been suggested by the special motive which led the Church to institute this feast in the fourteenth century. Again, in our own day, has Mary shown that this date is indeed for her a day of victory. On the second of July, in the year 1849, Rome was restored to the exiled Pontiff Pius IX.[26] But we should far exceed the limits of our present scope, were we to strive to exhaust the teachings of this vast mystery of the Visitation. Besides, some have been already given in our Advent volume; and others more recently on the feast and octave-day of St John’s Nativity. What we mean to add further on the subject is brought to light by the Epistle and Gospel of the Mass given below.


FIRST VESPERS

The antiphons used in the Office of this day are all taken from the Gospel, and reproduce historically the mystery we are celebrating.

Ant. Exsurgens Maria, abiit in montana cum festinatione in civitatem Juda.
Ant. Mary rising up, went into the hill country, with haste, into a city of Juda.

Ps. Dixit Dominus, p. 35.


Ant. Intravit Maria in domum Zachariæ, et salutavit Elisabeth.
Ant. Mary entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.

Ps. Laudate pueri, p. 39.


Ant. Ut audivit salutationem Mariæ Elisabeth, exsultavit infans in utero ejus, et repleta est Spiritu sancto. Alleluia.
Ant. When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb: and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. Alleluia.

Psalm 121

Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: In domum Domini ibimus.
Stantes erant pedes nostri: in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem quæ aedifìcatur ut civitas: cujus participatio ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: testimonium Israel ad confìtendum nomini Domini.
Quia illic sederunt sedes in judicio: sedes super domum David.
Rogate quæ ad pacem sunt Jerusalem: et abundantia diligentibus te.
Fiat pax in virtute tua: et abundantia in turribus tuis.
Propter fratres meos et proximos meos: loquebar pacem de te.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri: quæsivi bona tibi.
ANT. Ut audivit salutationem Mariae Elisabeth, exsultavit infans in utero ejus, et repleta est Spiritu sancto. Alleluia.
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go unto Mary, the house of the Lord.
Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem! Our heart loves and confides in thee, O Mary.
Mary is like to Jerusalem that is built as a city; which is compact together.
For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.
Because seats sat there in judgement; seats upon the house of David; and Mary is of a kingly race.
Pray ye, through Mary, for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem; and may abundance be on them that love thee, O Church of our God!
The voice of Mary; Let peace be in thy strength, O thou new Sion! and abundance in thy towers.
I, a daughter of Israel, for the sake of my brethren and of my neighbours, spoke peace of thee.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.
ANT. When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb: and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. Alleluia.

ANT. Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
ANT. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Psalm 126

 

Nisi Dominus ædificaverit domum: in vanum laboraverunt qui ædificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem: frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere: surgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum: ecce hæreditas Domini, filii, merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittæ in manu potentis: ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir qui impievit desiderium suum ex ipsis: non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.
ANT. Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.
It is vain for you to rise before light; rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat of the bread of sorrow.
When he shall give sleep to his beloved: behold the inheritance of the Lord are children; the reward, the fruit of the womb.
As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.
Blessed is the man that hath filled his desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.
ANT. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Ant. Ex quo facta est vox salutationis tuæ in auribus meis, exsultavit infans in utero meo. Alleluia.
Ant. For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Alleluia.

Psalm 147

Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum: lauda Deum tuum, Sion.
Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: benedixit filiis tuis in te.
Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: et adipe frumenti satiat te.
Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ; velociter currit sermo ejus.
Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas: ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit?
Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ.
Qui annuntiat verbum suum Jacob: justitias et judicia sua Israel.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: et judicia sua non manifcstavit eis.
ANT. Ex quo facta est vox salutationis tuæ in auribus meis, exsultavit infans in utero meo. Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, O Mary, thou true Jerusalem: O Mary, O Sion ever holy, praise thy God.
Because he hath strengthened against sin the bolts of thy gates: he hath blessed thy children within thee.
Who hath placed peace in thy borders: and filleth thee with the fat of corn, with Jesus who is the Bread of life.
Who sendeth forth by thee his word to the earth: his word runneth swiftly.
Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold?
He shall send forth his word, by Mary, and shall melt them: his spirit shall breathe, and the waters shall run.
Who declareth his word to Jacob: his justices and his judgements to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgements he hath not made manifest to them, as he hath in these our days.
ANT. For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Alleluia.

The psalms have sung of the exalted greatness of him whom the humility of Mary has attracted to her, and by whom she has been manifested for the first time to the world, as the city of God, built by him with love; this she herself proclaims to-day while praising the Lord her God. The capitulum is borrowed, as also are the psalms and hymn, from the common Office of our Lady; it tells of that august predestination wherein, before all ages, were inseparably united eternal Wisdom and this Woman blessed above all those from whom she was one day to be born.

Capitulum
(Ecclus. xxiv.)

Ab initio et ante sæccula creata sum, et usque ad futurum sæculum non desinam, et in habitatione sancta coram ipso ministravi.
From the beginning and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling-place I have ministered before him.

Hymn

Ave, maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix cœli porta.

Sumens illud Ave
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Evæ nomen.

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen cæcis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuncta posce.

Monstra te esse Matrem,
Sumat per te preces
Qui, pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis;
Nos culpis solutos,
Mites fac et castos.

Vitam præsta puram,
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Jesum,
Semper collætemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui sancto,
Tribus honor unus.

Amen.
Hail, star of the sea!
Blessed Mother of God,
yet ever a Virgin!
O happy gate of heaven!

Thou that didst receive the Ave
from Gabriel's lips,
confirm us in peace,
and so let Eva be changed into an Ave of blessing for us.

Loose the sinner's chains,
bring light to the blind,
drive from us our evils,
and ask all good things for us.

Show thyself a Mother,
and offer our prayers to him,
who would be born of thee,
when born for us.

O incomparable Virgin,
and meekest of the meek,
obtain us the forgiveness of our sins,
and make us meek and chaste.

Obtain us purity of life,
and a safe pilgrimage;
that we may be united with thee
in the blissful vision of Jesus.

Praise be to God the Father,
and to the Lord Jesus,
and to the Holy Ghost:
to the Three one self-same praise.

Amen.

℣. Benedicta tu in mulieribus.
℟. Et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
℣. Blessed art thou among women.
℟. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Every day the solemn evening Office borrows from Mary’s canticle its sweetest fragrance. Nor is Good Friday itself an exception: even on that day, at Vespers, holy Church throughout the world invites our Lady to sing it beside the Cross whereon the terrible drama has just been completed. The reason is, that this incomparable canticle has for its object the entire redemption. At the foot of the holy Rood, no less than on days such as this full of sweetness, that which predominates in Mary and overrules alike all her anguish and all her joy is the thought of God's glory being at last satisfied; of man’s salvation being at last secured. Now, on this feast, the mysteries of the entire cycle having so lately passed one by one before our eyes, the Magnificat resounds, as it were, in all its fullness of tone, whilst receiving, at the same time, from this solemnity itself all the freshness of the first day on which earth caught its notes.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Beata es, Maria, quæ credidisti: perficientur in te quæ dicta sunt tibi a Domino. Alleluia.
Blessed art thou, O Mary, who hast believed: those things shall be accomplished in thee which were told thee by the Lord. Alleluia.

The Prayer is the Collect of the Mass, p. 407.


A commemoration is then made of the octave of St John the Baptist, p. 261.


 

 

MASS

 

The Introit is that of the Votive Masses of our Lady for this part of the year. It is taken from Sedulius,[29] the Christian poet of the fifth century, from whom the holy liturgy borrowed so many graceful pieces at Christmas and Epiphany. Who can fail to recognize to-day, in the sublime Magnificat which is the glory of this festival, the good word of which our Introit verse sings, or, in other words, the work which the Virgin Mother offers to the King!

Introit

Salve, sancta parens, enixa puerpera Regem: qui cœlum terramque regit in sæcula sæculorum.

Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi. ℣. Gloria Patri. Salve.
Hail, holy Mother, who didst bring forth the King, who rules heaven and earth for ever.

Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. ℣. Glory, etc. Hail.

Peace is the precious gift which earth has been ceaselessly imploring since the original fall. Rejoice, then, now: for the Prince of peace this day reveals himself by Mary. The solemn commemoration of the mystery which we are celebrating will develop within us the work of salvation begun in that of Christmas at the opening of our cycle. Let us beg this grace, in the words of the Church in her Collect.

Collect

Famulis tuis, quæsumus Domine, cœlestis gratiæ munus impertire: ut, quibus beatæ Virginis partus exstrtit salutis exordium, Visitationis ejus votiva solemnitas pacis tribuat incrementum. Per Dominum.
We beseech thee, O Lord, to bestow on thy servants the gift of heavenly grace, that for those to whom the blessed Virgin's childbirth was the be ginning of salvation, the votive solemnity of her Visitation may procure increase of peace. Through our Lord, etc.

In private Masses, at the end of the Collect, Secret and Postcommunion of the feast, a commemoration is made of the holy martyrs Processus and Martinianus.

Deus, qui nos sanctorum martyrum tuorum Processi et Martiniani gloriosis confessionibus circumdas et protegis: da nobis, et eorum imitatione proficere, et intercessione gaudere. Per Dominum.
O God, who dost surround and protect us by the glorious confessions of thy holy martyrs, Processus and Martinianus: grant us to profit by their example, and rejoice in their intercession. Through our Lord, etc.

Epistle

Lectio libri Sapientiæ.

Cant. ii.

Ecce iste venit saliens in montibus, transiliens colles: similis est dilectus meus capreæ, hinnuloque cervorum. En ipse stat post parietem nostrum, respiciens per fenestras, prospiciens per cancellos. En dilectus meus loquitur mihi: Surge, propera, amica mea, columba mea, formosa mea, et veni. Jam enim hiems transiit, imber abiit, et recessit. Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra, tempus putationis advenit: vox turturis audita est in terra nostra: ficus protulit grossos suos: vineæ florentes dederunt odorem suum. Surge, amica mea, speciosa mea, et veni: columba mea in foraminibus petræ, in caverna maceriæ, ostende mihi faciem tuam, sonet vox tua in auribus meis: vox enim tua dulcis, et facies tua decora.
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom.

Cant. ii.

Behold he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart. Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come, the voice of the turtle is heard in our land: the fig-tree hath put forth her green figs, the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, show me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears, for thy voice is sweet and thy face comely.

The Church introduces us into the depth of the mystery. What she has just been reading to us is the explanation of that word of Elizabeth's which sums up the whole of to-day’s feast: 'When thy voice sounded in mine ear, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’ O voice of Mary, voice of the turtledove, putting winter to flight, and announcing springtide flowers and fragrance! At this sweet sound John’s soul, a captive in the darkness of sin, casts off the badge of slavery, and suddenly developing germs of highest virtues, appears as beautiful as a bride decked in nuptial array: and, therefore, how Jesus hastes unto this well-beloved soul! Between John and the Bridegroom, oh! what ineffable outpourings! what sublime dialogues pass between them, from womb to womb of Mary and Elizabeth! Admirable mothers! Sons yet more admirable! In this happy meeting, the sight, the hearing, the voice of the mothers belong less to themselves than to the blessed fruit each bears within her; thus their senses are the lattices through which the Bridegroom and the friend of the Bridegroom see one another, understand one another, speak one to the other!

The animal man, it is true, understands not this language.[30] 'Father,’ the Son of God will soon exclaim: ‘ I give thee thanks for that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones.[31] Let him, therefore, that hath ears to hear, hear;[32] but, Amen, I say unto you, unless ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,[33] nor know its mysteries.’[34] Wisdom shall nevertheless be justified by her children, as the Gospel says.[35] The simple-hearted in quest of light, with all the straightforwardness of humility, let pass unheeded those mocking shadows playing over the marshes of this world; they know that the first ray of the eternal Sun will disperse these phantoms, leaving emptiness before those who run in pursuit of them. These wise little ones already feed upon that which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,[36]having a foretaste, here below, of eternal delights.

Ineffably is John the Baptist experiencing all this. Accosted by the divine Friend who has been beforehand in seeking him, his soul at once awakens to full ecstasy. Jesus, on his side, is now making his first conquest; for it is to John that is first addressed amongst all creatures (Mary of course excepted) the sacred nuptial-song uttered to the soul of the Word made Flesh, making his divine Heart throb with emotion. To-day the prophecy of the Magnificat was first uttered, and to-day also the divine union expressed by the Holy Ghost in the Canticle of Canticles is fully realized. Never more fully than on this happy day shall the sacred transports of the Spouse be justified; never shall they find a more faithful response! Let us warm ourselves at these celestial fires; let us join our enthusiasm to that of eternal Wisdom, who makes his first step, this day, in his royal progress towards mankind. Let us unite with our Lord in imploring the Precursor at last to show himself. Were it not ordered otherwise from on high, his inebriation of love would verily have made him at once break down the wall that held him from appearing, then and there, to announce the Bridegroom. For he knows that the sight of his countenance, preceding the face of the Lord himself, will excite the whole earth to transports; he knows that his own voice will be sweet when once it has become the organ of the Word calling the bride to him.

Together with Elizabeth let us extol, in the Gradual, the Blessed Virgin to whom we owe all these joys, and within whom love still encloses him whom the whole world could not contain. The distich which is sung in the verse was especially dear to the piety of the Middle Ages; it is to be found in different liturgies, either as the opening line of the hymn,[37] or under the form of an antiphon, in the composition of Masses or of Offices.

Gradual

Benedicta et venerabilis es, Virgo Maria, quæ sine tactu pudoris, inventa es Mater Salvatoris.

℣. Virgo Dei Genitrix, quem totus non capit orbis, in tua se clausit viscera factus homo. Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Felix es, sacra Virgo Maria, et omni laude dignissima: quia ex te ortus est Sol justitiæ, Christus Deus noster. Alleluia.
Thou art blessed and venerable, O Virgin Mary: who without any violation of purity, wert found the Mother of our Saviour.

℣. O Virgin Mother of God, he whom the whole world is unable to contain, being made Man, enclosed himself in thy womb. Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Thou art happy, O holy Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise: because from thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ our God. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. i.

In illo tempore: Exsurgens Maria, abiit in montana cum festinatione in civitatem Juda. Et intravit in domum Zachariæ, et salutavit Elisabeth. Et factum est, ut audivit salutationem Mariæ Elisabeth, exsultavit infans in utero ejus; et repleta est Spiritu sancto Elisabeth: et exclamavit voce magna, et dixit: Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. Et unde hoc mihi ut veniat mater Domini mei ad me? Ecce enim utfacta est vox salutationis tuæ in auribus meis, exsultavit in gaudio infans in utero meo. Et beata quæ credidisti, quoniam perficientur ea quæ dicta sunt tibi a Domino. Et ait Maria: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. i.

At that time, Mary rising up went into a hill country with haste, into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord. And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord; and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Mary, having learned from the archangel that Elizabeth was about to become a mother, is preoccupied with the thought of the services that will soon be needed for her cousin and the infant; she, therefore, starts at once on her journey across the mountains, amidst which stands the house of Zachary. Thus does the charity of Christ act, thus does it press,[38] when it is genuine. There is no state of soul in which, under pretext of more exalted perfection, the Christian may be allowed to forget his brethren. Mary had just contracted the highest union with God; and our imagination might perhaps be inclined to picture her, as it were, in a state of powerlessness, lost in ecstasy during these days in which the Word, taking Flesh of her flesh, is inundating her in return with the floods of his Divinity. The Gospel, however, is explicit on this subject: it particularly says that it was in those days[39] that the humble Virgin, hitherto quietly hidden in the secret of the Lord's face,[40] rose up to devote herself to all the bodily as well as the spiritual needs of a neighbour in such condition. This does not mean to say that works are superior to prayer, and that contemplation is not the better part; for, indeed, never did our Lady so directly and so fully adhere to God with her whole being as at this time. But when the creature has attained the summits of the unitive life, he is all the more apt and fitted for exterior works, inasmuch as no lending of himself thereto can distract him from the immovable centre wherein he is fixed.

This is a signal privilege, resulting from that division of the spirit and the soul,[41] to which all do not attain, and which marks one of the most decisive steps in the spiritual life; for it supposes a purification of man's entire being so perfect, that in very truth he is no other than one spirit with the Lord;[42] it entails so absolute a submission of the powers that, without clashing one with the other, they yield, each in its particular sphere, obedience simultaneously to divine inspiration.

So long as the Christian has not yet crossed this last defile, defended with such obstinacy by nature to the end, so long as he has not yet won that holy liberty of the children of God,[43] he cannot possibly turn to man, without in some way quitting God. Not that he ought, on that account, to neglect his duties towards his neighbour, in whom God wishes us to see no other than himself; nevertheless, blessed is he who, like Mary, loses naught of the better part, while he attends to his obligations towards others! Yet how few are such privileged souls, and what a delusion it is to persuade ourselves to the contrary!

We shall return to these thoughts on the day of our Lady's triumphant Assumption; but the Gospel to which we have just been listening makes it a duty for us to draw the attention of the reader to this point. Our Lady has especially on this feast a claim to be invoked as the model of those who devote themselves to works of mercy; and although it is not given to all equally to keep their spirits immersed in God, yet ought they constantly to strive to approach, by the practice of recollection and divine praise, to those luminous heights whereon their Queen shows herself this day in all the plenitude of her ineffable perfections.

The Offertory sings of the glorious privileges of Mary, Mother and Virgin, bringing forth him who made her.

Offertory

Beata es, Virgo Maria, quæ omnium portasti Creatorem: genuisti qui te fecit, et in æternum permanes virgo.
Thou art blessed, O Virgin Mary, who didst bear the Creator of all things: thou didst bring forth him who made thee, and thou remainest for ever a Virgin.

The Son of God, being bom of Mary, consecrated her virginal integrity. Let us beg of him in to-day's Secret to vouchsafe, in memory of his Mother, to purify us from every stain, and so render our offering acceptable to God on high.

Secret

Unigeniti tui, Domine, nobis succurrat humanitas: ut, qui natus de Virigine, matris integritatem non minuit, sed sacravit: in Visitationis ejus solemniis, nostris nos piaculis exuens, oblationem nostram tibi faciat acceptam Jesus Christus Dominus noster. Qui tecum.
May the Humanity of thy only-begotten Son succour us, O Lord; that Jesus Christ our Lord, who when born of a Virgin, did not diminish, but consecrated the integrity of his Mother, may on this solemnity of her Visitation, deliver us from our sins, and make our oblation acceptable to thee. Who liveth, etc.

Commemoration of SS Processus and Martinianus.

Suscipe, Domine, preces et munera: quæ ut tuo sint digna conspectu, sanctorum tuorum precibus adjuvemur. Per Dominum.
Receive, O Lord, our prayers and offerings, and that they may be worthy of thy regard, may we be helped by the prayers of thy saints. Through our Lord, etc.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine sanete, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: et te in Visitatione beatæ Mariæ semper virginis collaudare, benedicere, et prædicare. Quæ et Unigenitum tuum sancti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, lumen æternum mundo effudit Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates, Cœli, cœlorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God: and that we should praise, bless, and glorify thee on the Visitation of the blessed Mary ever a Virgin, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost conceived thine onlybegotten Son, and, the glory of her virginity still remaining, brought forth the eternal light to the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the Heavens, the heavenly Virtues, and blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy.

The Church possesses now within her, in the sacred Mysteries, the same Son of the eternal Father whom Mary bore for nine months in her blessed womb. Therein did he take flesh, in order to come to us all. Let us then hail, in our Communion antiphon, both the Mother and the Son.

Communion

Beata viscera Mariae Virginis, quæ portaverunt aeterni Patris Filium.
Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the Son of the eternal Father.

The celebration of each one of the mysteries of our salvation, by the participation of the divine Sacrament which contains them all, is a means of obtaining that evil be kept far from us, both in this world and the next. This thought is expressed in the Postcommunion touching on to-day's mystery,

Postcommunion

Sumpsimus, Domine, celebritatis annuæ votiva sacramenta: præsta, quæsumus; ut et temporalis vitæ nobis remedia præbeant et æternæ.
We have received, O Lord, the votive mysteries of this annual celebration; grant, we beseech thee, that they may bestow upon us remedies both for time and eternity. Through our Lord, etc.

Commemoration of SS Processus and Martinianus.

Corporis sacri, et pretiosi Sanguinis repleti libamine, quæsumus Domine Deus noster: ut quod pia devotione gerimus, certa redemptione capiamus. Per eumdem Dominum.
Replenished with the nourishment of thy sacred Body and precious Blood, we beseech thee, O Lord our God, that what we perform with pious devotion, we may receive with assured redemption. Through the same, etc.


SECOND VESPERS


The antiphons, psalms, capitulum, hymn, and versicle are the same as in First Vespers, p. 400.


Antiphon of the Magnificat

Beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia ancillam humilem respexit Deus. Alleluia.
All generations shall call me blessed, because God hath regarded his humble handmaid. Alleluia.

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have celebrated, in graceful compositions, the mystery of this day. The following hymn, by its warm expressions of tender piety towards the Mother of God, more particularly excited the rage of the pretended reformers. What specially roused their wrath was the call to unity which it addresses to the erring. According to what we were saying above as to the motive which prompted holy Church to establish this festival of the Visitation, Mary is in like manner invoked, in other formulas of this period, proper to the same feast, as the light which dissipates clouds,[44] which puts an end to schisms.[45]

Sequence

Veni præcelsa Domina,
Maria, tu nos visita,
Ægras mentes illumina
Per sacra vitæ munia.

Veni salvatrix sæculi,
Sordes aufer piaculi,
In visitando populum
Pœnæ tollas periculum.

Veni regina gentium,
Dele flammas reatuum,
Rege quemcumque devium,
Da vitam innocentium.

Veni et ægros visites,
Maria, vires robores
Virtute sacri impetus,
Ne fluctuetur animus.

Veni stella, lux marium,
Infunde pacis radium,
Exsultet cor in gaudium
Joannis ante Dominum.

Veni virga regalium,
Reduc fluctus errantium
Ad unitatem fidei
In qua salvantur cœlici.

Veni, deposce Spiritus
Sancti dona propensius,
Ut dirigamur rectius
In hujus vitæ actibus.

Veni, laudemus Filium,
Laudemus Sanctum Spiritum
Laudemus Patrem unicum,
Qui nobis det auxilium.

Amen.
Come, sovereign Lady,
O Mary, do thou visit us,
illumine our sickly souls by the example
of thy duties performed in life.

Come, O co-redemptrix of the world,
take away the filth of sin,
by visiting thy people,
remove their peril of chastisement.

Come, O Queen of nations,
extinguish the flames of the guilty,
rectify whatsoever is wrong,
give us to live innocently.

Come, and visit the sick,
O Mary, fortify the strong
with the vigour of thy holy impetuosity,
so that brave courage droop not.

Come, O thou star, O thou light of the ocean waves,
shed thy ray of peace upon us;
let the heart of John exult
with joy before the Lord.

Come, O thou regal sceptre,
lead back the crowd of erring ones
to the unity of the faith,
in which the heavenly citizens are saved.

Come, and willingly implore for us
the gifts of the Holy Ghost,
so that we may be directed
aright in the actions of this life.

Come, let us praise the Son,
let us praise the Holy Ghost,
let us praise the Father, one God,
who giveth us succour.

Amen.

‘Who is she that cometh forth beautiful as the morning rising, terrible as an army set in array?'[46] O Mary, this is the day on which thine exquisite brightness, for the first time, gladdens the earth. Thou bearest within thee the Sun of justice; and his early beams, striking first the mountain tops whilst the vales below are yet left in darkness, at once enlighten the Precursor, who is said to be the greatest ever born of woman. This divine Sun, swift in his ascending course, will soon bathe the lowly valleys in his radiant fires. But how full of grace and beauty are these his first gleams peering through the veiling cloud! For thou, O Mary, art the light cloud, the hope of earth, the terror of hell.[47] Contemplating from afar, through its heavenly transparency, the mystery of this day, Elias, the father of prophets, and Isaias, their prince, did both of them descry the Lord. They beheld thee speeding thy way across the mountains, and they blessed God; 'for,’ saith the Holy Ghost, 'when winter hath congealed the waters into crystal, withered the valleys, and consumed as with fire the green mountains, a present remedy to all is the speedy coming of a cloud.'[48]

Haste, O Mary! Come thou to all of us; do not let the mountains alone enjoy thy benign influence; bend thee down to those lowly, ignoble regions wherein the greater part of mankind but vegetates, helpless to scale the mountain heights; let thy kindly visit reach down even to the deepest abyss of human perversity wellnigh bordering on the gulf of hell; let the beams of saving light reach even there. Oh! would that from the thraldom of sin, from the plain where the vulgar throng is swaying to and fro, we were drawn to follow in thy train! How beauteous are thy footsteps along our humble pathways,[49] how aromatic the perfumes wherewith thou dost inebriate earth this day![50] Thou wast all unknown, nay, thou wast even an enigma to thyself, O thou fairest among the daughters of Adam, until thy first going forth led thee unto our poor hovels[51] and manifested thy power. The desert, suddenly embalmed with heavenly fragrance, hails the passage, not of the figurative Ark, but of the 'litter of the true Solomon,' in these days of the sublime nuptials which he has vouchsafed to contract.[52] What wonder, then, if at rapid pace thou dost speed across the mountains, since thou art bearing the Bridegroom who, as a giant, strideth from peak to peak?[53]

Far different art thou, O Mary, from her who is portrayed in the sacred Canticle as hesitating, in spite of the heavenly call, to betake herself to active work, foolishly captivated by the sweets of mystic repose in such a way as to dream of finding it elsewhere than in the absolute good pleasure of the Beloved! Thou art not one, at the voice of the Spouse, to make difficulties about clothing thyself again with the garment of toil, of exposing thy feet, were it never so much, to be soiled with the dusty roads of earth.[54] Scarcely has he given himself to thee immeasurably as none else can know than, ever on thy guard against the mistake of remaining all absorbed in selfish enjoyment of his love, thou thyself dost invite him to begin at once the great work which brought him down from heaven to earth: 'Come, my Beloved, let us go forth into the fields, let us rise up early to see if the vineyard flourish, to hasten the budding of the fruits of salvation in souls; there it is, that I wish to be all thine.'[55] And, leaning upon him, no less than he upon thee, without thereby losing aught of heavenly delights, thou dost traverse our desert;[56] and the Holy Trinity perceiveth between Mother and Son sympathies, harmonious agreements, unknown until then even to thee; and the friends of the Bridegroom, hearing thy sweet voice,[57] on their side also comprehend his love and partake in thy joy. With him, with thee, O Mary, age after age shall behold souls innumerable who, swift-footed even as the roe and the young hart, will flee away from the valleys and gain the mountain heights where, in the warm sunshine, heaven’s aromatic spices are ever fragrant.[58]

Bless, O Mary, those whom the better part so sweetly attracts. Protect that Order whose glory is to honour in a special manner thy Visitation. Faithful to the spirit of their illustrious founders they still continue to justify their sweet title by perfuming the Church on earth with the fragrance of that humility, gentleness and hidden prayer which made this day's mystery so dear to the angels eighteen hundred years ago. Finally, O Lady, forget not the crowded ranks of those whom grace presses, more numerous than ever nowadays, to tread in thy footsteps, mercifully seeking out every object of misery; teach them the way in which alone it is possible to devote themselves to their neighbour without in any way quitting God; for the greater glory of God and the happiness of man multiply such faithful copies of thee. May all of us, having followed in the degree measured out to us by him who divides his gifts to each one as he wills,[59] meet together in our home yonder, to sing in one voice together with thee, an eternal Magnificat!


 

[1] Gen. ix 12-17.
[2] Ecclus. xliii 12, 13.
[3] Ps. cxxxi 8.
[4] 2 Kings vi.
[5] 1 Kings v.
[6] Ps. cxxxi 8, 9, 14-18.
[7] 1 Kings iv 5-8.
[8] Gen. iii 15.
[9] Josue iii, iv.
[10] Ibid. vi.
[11] Judg. v 12.
[12] Ibid, 7.
[13] Ibid. 3.
[14] Ps. xxxiii 4.
[15] 1 Kings iii.
[16] Judith xiii 18.
[17] Ibid. 25, 31; xv 11.
[18] Exod. xv 2, 3, 11
[19] 1 Kings ii 2.
[20] Esth. ix 28.
[21] Judith ix 11.
[22] 1 Kings ii 4, 5.
[23] Esth. x 12.
[24] Ibid. xiii 15; xiv 5
[25] Exod. xv 20, 21.
[26] See above, Feast of the Precious Blood, p. 370.
[27] Sainte Cecile et la Société romaine aux deux premiers siecles.
[28] In Ev. Hom. xxxii 7-9.
[29] Salve, sancta parens, enixa puerpera Regem,
Qui cœlum terramque tenet persæcula, cujus
Numen, et æterno complectens omnia gyro
Imperium sine fine manet; quæ ventre beato 
Gaudia matris habens cum virgmitatis honore,
Nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem:
Sola sine exemplo placuisti femina Christo!
Hail, holy Mother, who didst bring forth the King, who for ever ruleth heaven and earth, whose Godhead abideth without end, as doth his empire, embracing all things in eternal circuit. Hail thou, possessing in thy blessed womb, at once, both the joys of maternity and the honour of virginity, to whom was never seen the like before, nor shall there ever be! Alone, O Woman, thou without example wast pleasing unto Christ!
[Sedulius, Carmen Paschale, Lib. II, v 63-69.]
[30] 1 Cor. ii 14.
[31] St Matt. xi 25.
[32] Ibid. 15; xiii 9.
[33] Ibid. xviii 3.
[34] Ibid. xiii 11.
[35] Ibid. xi 19.
[36] 1 Cor. ii 9.
[37] Virgo Dei Genitrix, quem totus non capit orbis:
In tua se clausit viscera factus homo. Vera fides Geniti purgavit crimina mundi:
Et tibi virginitas inviolata manet.
O Virgin Mother of God, he whom the whole world is unable to contain, being made Man, enclosed himself in thy womb.
The true faith of Christ thy Son hath cleansed away the world’s guilt. And to thee virginity remains inviolate.
Te matrem pietatis, opem te clamitet orbis:
Subvenias famulis, O benedicta, tuis.
He proclaims thee Mother of tenderness and the succour of the world; come, then, to the aid of thy servants, O thou blessed one.
Gloria magna Patri, compar tibi gloria, Nate:
Spiritui Sancto gloria magna Deo. Amen.
Great glory be to the Father, and equal glory to thee, O Son; to the Holy Spirit, God, great glory also be. Amen.
[Hymnus Completorii in festis B. Mariœ. Antiphonar. Senoni. 552.]
[38] 2 Cor. v 14.
[39] St Luke i 39.
[40] Ps. xxx 21.
[41] Heb. iv 12.
[42] 1 Cor. vi 17.
[43] Rom. viii 21; 2 Cor. iii 17.
[44] Hymn. O Christi mater fulgida. Dan. iv 276.
[45] Hymn. O Christi mater cœlica. Dan. iv 236.
[46] Cant. vi 9.
[47] 3 Kings xviii 44; Isa. xix 1.
[48] Ecclus. xliii 21-24.
[49] Cant. vii 1.
[50] Ibid. i 3.
[51] Ibid. 7.
[52] Ibid. in 6-11.
[53] Ps. xviii 6, 7.
[54] Cant. v 2-6.
[55] Ibid. vii 10-13.
[56] Ibid. viii 5.
[57] Ibid. 13.
[58] Ibid. 14.
[59] Cor. xii 11.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

IT were fitting that our attention should not be diverted during this Octave from the feast which the Church is keeping. But the triumph of Peter will shine out with all the more splendour in proportion as the testimony he rendered to the Son of God is shown to have been maintained with all fidelity during the long series of succeeding ages by the Pontiffs, inheritors of his Primacy. For a considerable time the twentyeighth of June was consecrated by the memory of St Leo the Great; it was the day chosen by Sergius I for the translation of the illustrious doctor, and indeed a more magnificent usher for the solemnity could hardly be desired. From no other lips than his has Rome ever set forth, in such elevated language, the glories of these two princes of the apostles and her own fame; never since the incomparable scene enacted at Caesarea Philippi has the mystery of the Man-God been affirmed in a manner so sublime as on that day whereon the Church, striking the impious Eutyches at Chalcedon, received from Leo the immortal formula of Christian dogma. Peter once more spoke by the mouth of Leo; yet the evil was far from being ended: two centuries more were needed; and another Leo, he whom we this day honour, had the honour of ending it at the sixth Council.

The Spirit of God, ever watchful over the development of the sacred liturgy, by no means wished any change to be effected in the train of thought of the faithful people. Thus when towards the beginning of the fourteenth century April 11 was again assigned to St Leo I (for that was really the primitive place occupied by him in the cycle), St. Leo II, the anniversary of whose death was June 28, and who hitherto had been merely commemorated thereon, being now raised to the rank of a semi-double, came forward to remind the faithful of the glorious struggles maintained both by his predecessor and by himself, in the order of apostolic confession. Latterly his feast was transferred to this day, in order that St Irenæus may be commemorated on the Vigil of the Apostles.

How was it that St Leo’s clear and complete exposition of the dogma and the anathemas of Chalcedon did not succeed in silencing the arguments of that heresy which refused to our nature its noblest title, by denying that it had been assumed in its integrity by the divine Word? Because for truth to win the day it suffices not merely to expose the lie uttered by error. More than once, history gives instances of the most solemn anathemas ending in nothing but lulling the vigilance of the guardians of the holy city. The struggle seemed ended, the need of repose was making itself felt amidst the combatants, a thousand other matters called for the attention of the Church's rulers; and so whilst feigning utmost deference, nay, ardour even, if needful, for the new enactments, error went on noiselessly, making profit of the silence which ensued after its defeat. Then did its progress become all the more redoubtable at the very time it was pretending to have disappeared without leaving a trace behind.

Thanks, however, to the divine Head, who never ceases to watch over his work, such trials seldom reach to such a painful depth as that into which Leo II had to probe with steel and fire in order to save the Church. Once only has the terrified world beheld anathema strike the summit of the holy mount. Honorius, placed on the pinnacle of the Church, ‘had not made her shine with the splendour of apostolic doctrine, but by profane treason had suffered the faith, which should be spotless, to be exposed to subversion';[1] Leo II, therefore, sending forth his thunders in unison with the assembled Church against the new Eutychians and their accomplices, did not spare even his predecessor. And yet, as all acknowledge, Honorius had otherwise been an irreproachable Pope; and even in the question at stake he had been far from professing heresy or teaching error. Wherein, then, did his fault lie?

The Emperor Heraclius, who by victory had reached the height of power, beheld with much concern how continual division persisted between the Catholics of his empire and the late disciples of Eutyches. The bishop of the imperial city, the patriarch Sergius, fostered these misgivings in his master's mind. Vain of a certain amount of political skill which he fancied himself to possess, he now aimed at re-establishing, by his sole effort, that unity which the Council of Chalcedon and St Leo the Great had failed to obtain; thus would he make himself a name. The disputants agreed in acknowledging two natures in Jesus Christ; hence to reply to their advances one thing was needed, he thought, to impose silence on the question as to whether there are in him two wills or only one. The enthusiasm with which this evident compromise was hailed by the various sects rebellious to the fourth General Council showed that they still preserved all the venom of error; and the fact that they denied, or hesitated to acknowledge, that in the Man-God there is any other will than that proper to the divine Nature, was equivalent to declaring that he had assumed but a semblance of human nature, since this nature could by no means exist devoid of that will which is proper to it. Therefore, the Monophysites, or partisans of the one Nature in Christ, made no difficulty in henceforth being called by the name of Monothelites, or partisans of the one will. Sergius, the apostle of this novel unity, might well congratulate himself; Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, hailed with one accord the benefit of this peace. Was not the whole East here represented by her patriarchs? If Rome in her turn would but acquiesce, the triumph would be complete! Jerusalem, however, proved a jarring note in this strange concert.

Jerusalem, the witness of the anguish suffered by the Man-God in his human nature, had heard him cry out in the garden of his agony: 'Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; yet, not my will, but thine be done!'[2] The city of dolours knew better than any other what to believe concerning these two wills, which by the heroism of incomparable love were maintained in such full harmony, and the time for her to bear testimony had come. The monk Sophronius, now her bishop, was by his sanctity, courage and learning ready for the task that lay before him. But while, in the charity of his soul, he was seeking to reclaim Sergius before appealing against him to the Roman Pontiff, the bishop of Constantinople took the initiative; he succeeded thus by a hypocritical letter in circumventing Honorius, and in getting him to impose silence on the patriarch of Jerusalem. Hence, when at last St Sophronius, at the head of the bishops of his province assembled in council, thought it had become his positive duty to turn towards Rome, it was but to receive for answer a confirmation of the prohibition to disturb the peace. This was a sad mistake, which though it did not directly implicate the infallible magistracy because it was a measure exclusively political, was one that cost the Church bitter tears and much blood, and which resulted fifty years later in the condemnation of the unfortunate Honorius.

The Holy Ghost, who has guaranteed the infallible purity of the doctrine taught officially from the apostolic Chair, has not pledged himself to protect in a like degree from all failure either the virtue, or the private judgement, or even the administrative acts of the Sovereign Pontiff. In order to promote this marvellous union which the Creator made to reign both upon earth and in heaven, our Lord, when he founded the society of saints upon the authentic and immutable basis of the faith of Peter, willed that to the prayers of all should be confided the charge of completing his work by obtaining for the successors of Peter such preservative graces as do not of themselves necessarily spring from the divine constitution of the Church.

Meanwhile Mahomet was just letting loose his hordes upon the world. Heraclius was now to learn the worth of his patriarch's lying peace, and was to come down lower in shame than he had been exalted in glory by his victories over the Persians, in the days when he had acted as the hero of the cross. Palestine, Syria and Egypt fell simultaneously beneath the blows of the lieutenants of the prophet. Sophronius, placed as he was in the very midst of the scene of invasion, grew still greater under trial. Abandoned by the emperor where the defence of the empire was at stake, disavowed by Rome as to faith, he alone intrepidly treated with Omar as power opposed to power; and when about to die, still hoping against all hope in Rome, though thence had come a blow harder far to bear than that of the caliph, he confided to Stephen of Dora the supreme mission, which the latter thus relates: 'In his justice strong as a lion, contemning calumnies and intrigues, blessed Sophronius took me, unworthy as I am, and conducted me to the sacred spot of Calvary. There he bound me by an indissoluble engagement, in these words: “Thou shalt have to render account to him who being God was voluntarily crucified for us according to the flesh on this spot, when on the day of his terrible coming he will appear in glory to judge the living and the dead, if thou defer or neglect the interests of his faith now in peril. Thou knowest that I cannot in the body do this thing, being hindered by the incursion of the Saracens which our sins have deserved. Set out as soon as possible, and go from here to the farthest ends of the earth, until thou reach the apostolic See, where the foundations of orthodox dogma are set. Go again and again, not once, not twice, but endlessly, and make known to those living there the shock that our land has sustained. Importunately, ceaselessly, implore and supplicate, until apostolic prudence at length determine, by its canonical judgement, the victory over these perfidious teachings."’[3]

The bishop of Dora was faithful to this command. When, twelve years later, he gave this touching narrative at the Council of Lateran in 649, it was then the third time that, in spite of the snares and other difficulties of the times, he could say: ' We have taken the wings of a dove, as David speaks, and we have come to declare our situation to this See, elevated in the sight of all, this sovereign, this principal See, where is to be found remedy for the wound that has been inflicted upon us.'[4] St Martin I, who received this appeal, was one worthy to hear it; and soon afterwards he repaired by his own martyrdom the fault committed by Honorius in suffering himself to be tricked by an impostor. His glorious death, followed by the tortures endured for the truth by the saintly abbot Maximus and his companions, prepared the victory which the heroic faith of Sophronius had announced to the Roman Pontiff. Thus was an odious silence rectified by holy Church: now were her doctors to be seen, with tongue plucked out, still continuing by divine power to proclaim that Christian dogma which cannot be enchained;[5] still with lopped-off hands finding means, in their indomitable zeal, to affix to the mutilated arm the pen whose function, now made doubly glorious, continued thus to carry throughout the world the refutation of falsehood.

But it is time to come to the issue of this memorable contest. It is to be found in him whose feast we are celebrating. St Agatho had assembled the sixth General Council at Constantinople, at the request of another Constantine, an enemy of heresy and a victor over Islam. Faith and justice now did the work hand in hand; and St Leo II could at last sing aloud: 'O holy mother Church, put off thy garb of mourning, and deck thee in robes of gladness. Exult now with joyous confidence: thy liberty is not cramped.'[6]

The holy liturgy devotes the following lines to the history of this pontificate, short indeed, but well filled:

Leo Secundus, Pontifex Maximus, Siculus, humanis et divinis litteris græce et latine doctus, musicis etiam eruditus fuit: ipse enim sacros hymnos et psalmos in Ecclesia ad concentum meliorem reduxit. Probavit acta sextæ Synodi, quæ Constantinopoli celebrata est, præsidentibus legatis apostolicæ sedis, præsente quoque Constantino imperatore, et duobus patriarchis Constantinopolitano et Antiocheno, ac centum septuaginta episcopis: quam et in latinum transtulit.

In eo concilio Cyrus, Sergius, et Pyrrhus condemnati sunt, unam tantummodo voluntatem et operationem in Christo prædicantes. Hic fregit superbiam antistitum Ravennatum, qui Exarchorum freti potentia, sedi apostolicæ non obtemperabant. Quamobrem decrevit, ut electio cleri Ravennatis irrita esset, nisi Romani Pontificis auctoritate comprobaretur.

Vere pater pauperum fuit: non enim pecunia solum, sed opera, labore, et consiliis, egentium, viduarum, et pupillorum inopiam ac solitudinem sublevabat. Qui dum singulos non magis prædicatione quam vita ad pie sancteque vivendum adhortaretur; obdormivit in Domino mense sui pontificatus undecimo, quinto nonas Julii, anno sexcentesimo octogesimo tertio, sepultusque est in basilica sancti Petri. Ordinatione una mense Junio, creavit presbyteros novem, diaconos tres, episcopos diversis in locis viginti tres.
Pope Leo II was a Sicilian. He was learned in sacred and profane letters, as also in the Greek and Latin tongues, and was moreover an excellent musician. He rearranged and improved the music of the sacred hymns and psalms used in the Church. He approved the acts of the sixth General Council, which was held at Constantinople, under the presidency of the legates of the apostolic see, in the presence of the emperor Constantine, the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch, and one hundred and seventy bishops: Leo also translated these said acts into Latin.

It was in this Council that Cyrus, Sergius, and Pyrrhus were condemned for teaching that there is in Christ only one will and one operation. Leo broke the pride of the archbishops of Ravenna, who had puffed themselves up, under the power of the exarchs, to set at naught the power of the apostolic see. Wherefore, he decreed that the elections of the clergy of Ravenna should be worth nothing, until they had been confirmed by the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

He was a true father to the poor. Not by money only, but by his deeds, his labours, and his advice, he relieved the poverty and loneliness of widows and orphans. He was leading all to live holy and godly lives, not by mere preaching, but by his own life, when he fell asleep in the Lord, having sat as Pope eleven months, in the year 683, and was buried in the church of Saint Peter, the fifth of the Nones of July. In the month of June he held one ordination, whereat he ordained nine priests, three deacons, and twenty-three bishops, for divers places.

O glorious Pontiff, to thee was granted the privilege of completing the apostolic confession by giving the furthest development to the testimony rendered by Peter to the Son of the living God, who is at the same time Son of man. Thou wast to finish the work of Sylvester, Celestine and that other Leo, a Pontiff beloved of earth and of heaven. Convoking, inspiring, confirming the illustrious Councils of Nicæa, Ephesus and Chalcedon, they had triumphantly proved in our Emmanuel both his Divinity consubstantial with the Father, and his unity of person which causes Mary to be truly his Mother, and furthermore his twofold Nature, without which he could not have been our Brother. Satan, who had allowed himself to be more easily overcome on the first two points, disputed the third with utmost rage. As on that great battle-day when he was hurled from heaven, the form of his revolt had been a refusal to adore God under human features; so now, together with all hell, enforced by holy Church to bend the knee, his jealousy would fain pretend that at least God had taken of man but a mutilated nature. Let it be granted that the Word was made Flesh, but in this Flesh do not allow that he had other impulses, other energies, save those of the Divinity itself; such an inert nature as this, uncrowned of its proper will, would in reality be no human nature, even though it were to retain all the rest. Then would Lucifer, in his pride, have less cause to blush; for then man, the object of his infernal envy, would have nothing in common with the divine Word save a vain appearance! Thanks be to thee, O Leo, in the name of all mankind! By thee, in face of heaven, earth and hell, is promulgated authentically the incomparable title whereby, without any restriction, our nature is established at the right hand of the Father, in the highest heavens; by thee our Lady crushes the vile serpent's head once again.

But what craft was displayed by Satan in this campaign, prolonged for two centuries, noiselessly, the better to secure success! What exultation rang through the abyss when one sad day saw the representative of him who is essential Light appear to side for a moment with the powers of darkness! A cloud seemed to have come between heaven and those mountains of God, where he dwells with his Vicar; it is probable that the social aid of intercession was weaker just then than it should have been. Be ever at hand, O Leo, to ward off all similarly dangerous situations. Uphold, in every age, the Pastor who rules Christ's Church, that he may keep himself aloof from the darkening mists that earth exhales; keep ever alive in the hearts of the faithful flock that strong prayer, which should continually be made without ceasing for him by the Church:[7] and then Peter, were he even chained in the depths of the darkest dungeon, will be reached by the Sun of justice and clearly see his way in that pure ray; then will the whole body of the Church be lightsome. For Jesus hath said, 'the light of the body is the eye: if the eye be single the whole body will be lightsome.'[8]

By thy teaching we realize more fully the strength of the rock whereon the Church stands; we know that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.[9] For surely the efforts of the spirits of darkness never went to such lengths as they did in that sad crisis to which thou didst put an end; nor was their success, however great in appearance, contrary to the divine promise; for it is to the teaching of Peter, not to his silence, that the unfailing assistance of the Holy Ghost is guaranteed. O loving Pontiff, obtain for us uprightness of faith and heavenly enthusiasm wherewith it behoves us to hail Peter and Christ acting together in the unity divinely established between them. The liturgy is deeply indebted to thee; grant us to relish more and more the hidden manna it contains, and may our hearts and voices fittingly render these sacred melodies!


[1] Leon. II Epist. Confirm. Concil. Constantinop. III.
[2] St Luke xxii 42.
[3] Concil. Later. Actio seu Secret. II.
[4] Ibid.
[5] 2 Tim. ii 9.
[6] Epist. confirm. Concil. Constantinop. III.
[7] Acts xii 5.
[8] St Matt. vi 22.
[9] Ibid. xvi 18.