From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
This great Pontiff comes before us in the liturgical year, not to bring us tidings of peace as St. Melchiades did, but as one of the most illustrious defenders of the great mystery of the Incarnation. He defends the faith of the universal Church in the divinity of the Word, by condemning, as his predecessor Liberius had done, the acts and the authors of the celebrated Council of Rimini. With his sovereign authority, he bore witness to the teaching of the Church regarding the Humanity of Jesus Christ, and condemned the heretic Apollinaris, who taught that Jesus Christ had assumed only the flesh and not the soul of man. He commissioned St. Jerome to make a new translation of the new Testament from the Greek, for the use of the Church of Rome; here, again, giving a further proof of the faith and love which he bore to the Incarnate Word. Let us honour this great Pontiff, whom the Council of Chalcedon calls ‘the ornament and support of Rome by his piety.’ St. Jerome, too, who looked upon St. Damasus as his friend and patron, calls him ‘a man of the greatest worth; a man whose equal could not be found, well versed in the holy Scriptures, and a virgin doctor of the virgin Church.’ The legend of the breviary gives us a brief account of his life.
(Taken from the Cluny Missal of 1523)
Damasus Hispanus, vir egregius et eruditus in Scripturis, indicto primo Constantinopolitano Concilio, nefariam Eunomii et Macedonii hæresim exstinxit. Idem Ariminensem conventum a Liberio jam ante rejectum, iterum condemnavit: in quo, ut scribit Sanctus Hieronymus, Valentis potissimum et Ursacii fraudibus damnatio Nicenæ fidei conclamata fuit, et ingemiscens orbis terrarum, se Arianum esse miratus est.
Basilicas duas ædificavit; alteram Sancti Laurentii nomine ad theatrum Pompeii, quam maximis muneribus auxit, eique domos, et prædia attribuit: alteram via Ardeatina ad Catacumbas. Platoniam etiam, ubi corpora sanctorum Petri et Pauli aliquandiu jacuerunt, dedicavit, et exornavit elegantibus versibus. Idemque prosa, et versu scripsit de virginitate, multaque alia metro edidit.
Pœnam talionis constituit iis, qui alterum falsi criminis accusassent. Statuit, ut quod pluribus jam locis erat in usu, psalmi per omnes ecclesias die noctuque ab alternis canerentur; et in fine cujusque psalmi diceretur: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui sancto. Ejus jussu sanctus Hieronymus novum Testamentum Græcæ fidei reddidit. Quum Ecclesiam rexisset annos decem et septem, menses duos, dies viginti sex, et habuisset ordinationes quinque mense Decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros triginta unum, diaconos undecim, episcopos per diversa loca sexaginta duos; virtute, doctrina, ac prudentia clarus, prope octogenarius, Theodosio seniore imperante, obdormivit in Domino, et via Ardeatina una cum matre et sorore sepultus est in basilica, quam ipse ædificaverat. Illius reliquiae postea translatae sunt in ecclesiam sancti Laurentii, ab ejus nomine in Damaso vocatam.
Damasus was a Spaniard, a man of highest worth, and learned in the Scriptures. He called the first Council of Constantinople, in which he condemned the impious heresy of Eunomius and Macedonius. He also condemned the Council of Rimini, which had already been rejected by Liberius, inasmuch as it was in this assembly of Rimini, as St. Jerome tells us, that mainly by the craft of Valens and Ursacius, was published a condemnation of the faith which had been taught by the Nicene Council, and thus the whole world grieved to find itself made Arian.
He built two basilicas; one dedicated to St. Laurence, near Pompey’s theatre, and this he endowed with magnificent presents, with houses and with lands: the other, on the Ardeatine Way, at the Catacombs. The bodies of SS. Peter and Paul lay for some time in a place richly adorned with marbles; this place he dedicated, and composed for it several inscriptions in beautiful verses. He also wrote on virginity, both in prose and verse, and several other poems.
He established the law of retaliation for cases of false accusation. He decreed that, as was the custom in many places, the psalms should be sung in all churches in alternate choirs, day and night; and that at the end of each psalm, there should be added: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.’ It was by his order that St. Jerome translated the new Testament from the Greek text. He governed the Church seventeen years, two months, and twenty-six days; and five times during this period, he gave ordinations, in the month of December, to thirty-one priests, eleven deacons, and sixty two bishops, for divers places. Conspicuous for his virtue, learning, and prudence, and having lived little short of eighty years, he slept in the Lord, during the reign of Theodosius the Great. He was buried in the basilica which he had built on the Ardeatine Way, where also lay his mother and sister. His relics were afterwards translated to the church of Saint Laurence, called after him St. Laurence’s in Damaso.
Holy Pontiff Damasus! during thy life on earth, thou wast the light, which guided the children of the Church; for thou didst teach them the mystery of the Incarnation, and didst guard them against those perfidious doctrines, wherewith hell ever strives to corrupt that glorious symbol of our faith, which tells us of God’s infinite mercy towards us, and of the sublime dignity of man thus mercifully redeemed. Seated on the Chair of Peter, thou didst confirm thy brethren, and thy faith failed not; for Jesus had prayed to His Father for thee. We rejoice at the infinite recompense with which this divine Prince of pastors has rewarded the unsullied purity of thy faith, O thou ‘virgin doctor of the virgin Church!’ Oh that we could have a ray of that light which now enables thee to see Jesus in His glory! Pray for us, that we may have light to see Him, and know Him, and love Him, under the humble guise in which He is so soon to appear to us. Obtain for us the science of the sacred Scriptures, in which thou wast so great a master; and docility to the teachings of the Bishop of Rome, to whom, in the person of St. Peter, Christ has said: ‘Launch out into the deep!’
Obtain also for all Christians, O thou the successor of this prince of the apostles, that they be animated with those sentiments, which St. Jerome thus describes in one of his letters addressed to thee: ‘It is the Chair of Peter that I will consult, for from it do I derive that faith which is the food of my soul. I will search for this precious pearl, heeding not the vast expanse of sea and land which I must pass over. Where the body is, there shall the eagles be gathered together. It is now in the west that the Sun of justice rises. I ask the Victim of salvation from the priest, and from the shepherd the protection of the sheep. On that rock I know the Church is built. He that eats the Lamb in any house but this, is profane. He that is not in Noah’s ark, shall perish in the waters of the deluge. I know not Vitalis, I reject Meletius, I pass by Paulinus. He that gathers not with thee, Damasus, scatters; for he that is not of Christ, is of Antichrist.’
Let us contemplate our divine Saviour in the womb of His most holy Mother Mary. Let us, together with the holy angels, adore Him in this state of profound humiliation, to which His love for us has brought Him. See Him there offering Himself to His Father for the redemption of mankind, and commencing at once to fulfil the office of our Mediator, which He has taken upon Himself. What an excess of love is this of our Jesus, that He is not satisfied with having humbled Himself in assuming our nature,though that alone would have sufficed to redeem a million worlds! The eternal Son of God wills to remain, as other children, nine months in His Mother’s womb: after that, to be born in poverty, to live a life of labour and suffering, and to be obedient to death, even to the death of the cross. O Jesus! mayst Thou be praised and loved by all creatures for this Thy immense love of us! Thou hast come down from heaven the Victim that art to take the place of all those which were hitherto offered, but which could not efface man’s sin. At length, the earth possesses its Saviour, though as yet unseen. God will not curse the earth, which, though covered with crime, is rich in such a treasure as this. Still repose, O Jesus, in the chaste womb of Mary, that living ark which contains the true manna sent for the food of man. But the time is approaching for Thee to leave this loved sanctuary. The tender love which Thou hast received from Mary, must be changed for the malice wherewith men will treat Thee; yet it must needs be that Thou be born on the day which Thou Thyself hast decreed: it is the will of Thy eternal Father, it is the expectation of the world, it is the salvation of all who shall love Thee.
Prose in Honor of the Blessed Virgin
(Taken from the Cluny missal of 1523)
Ave, mundi gloria, Virgo Mater Maria, Ave, benignissima.
Ave, plena gratia, Angelorum domina, Ave, praeclarissima.
Ave, decus virginum, Ave, salus hominum, Ave, potentissima.
Ave, Mater Domini, Genitrix Altissimi, Ave, prudentissima.
Ave, mater gloriæ, Mater indulgentiæ, Ave, beatissima.
Ave, vena veniæ, Fons misericordiæ, Ave, clementissima.
Ave, mater luminis, Ave, honor ætheris, Ave, porta cœlica, Ave, serenissima.
Ave, candens lilium, Ave, opobalsamum, Ave, fumi virgula, Ave, splendidissima.
Ave, mitis, Ave, dulcis, Ave, pia, Ave, læta, Ave, lucidissima.
Ave, porta, Ave, virga, Ave, rubus, Ave, vellus, Ave, felicissima.
Ave, clara cœli gemma, Ave, alma Christi cella, Ave, venustissima.
Ave, virga Jesse data, Ave, scala cœli facta, Ave, nobilissima.
Ave, stirpe generosa, Ave, prole gloriosa, Ave, fætu gaudiosa, Ave, excellentissima.
Ave, Virgo singularis, Ave, dulce salutaris, Ave, digna admirari, Ave, admirandissima.
Ave, turtur, tu quæ munda Castitate, sed fœcunda Charitate, tu columba, Ave, pudicissima.
Ave, mundi imperatrix, Ave, nostra mediatrix, Ave, mundi sublevatrix, Ave, nostrum gaudium. Amen.
Hail, thou glory of the world; hail, Virgin Mother; hail, most merciful Mary!
Hail, full of grace; hail, Queen of the angels; hail, most glorious Mary!
Hail, Virgin of virgins; hail, protectress of men; hail, most powerful Mary!
Hail, Mother of the Lord; hail, parent of the Most High; hail, most prudent Mary!
Hail, mother of glory; hail, mother of mercy; hail, most blessed Mary!
Hail, source of pardon; hail, fount of pity; hail, most clement Mary!
Hail, mother of light; hail, honour of the firmament; hail, gate of heaven; hail, most gentle Mary!
Hail, fair lily; hail, precious fragrance; hail, sweet incense; hail, most resplendent Mary!
Hail, O meek; hail, O sweet; hail, O merciful; hail, O joyous; hail, O most beautiful Mary!
Hail, gate of heaven; hail, branch prophetic; hail, flaming bush; hail, mystic fleece; hail, most happy Mary I
Hail, beautiful pearl of heaven; hail, fruitful abode of Christ; hail, most comely Mary!
Hail, branch of Jesse; hail, mystic ladder that reaches to heaven; hail, most noble Mary!
Hail, daughter of a kingly race; hail, Mother of a Son who is God; hail, full of joy at the birth of this Son; hail, unrivalled Mary!
Hail, peerless Virgin; hail, lovely source of our happiness; hail, wonderful in thy graces; hail, most admirable Mary!
Hail, spotless dove, pure in thy chastity, yet fruitful in charity; hail, immaculate Mary!
Hail, empress of the world; hail, mediatrix of men; hail, protectrix of the world; hail, joy of our hearts! Amen..
Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Monday of the first week of Advent)
Nunciatum ecce vocem jucunditatis et lætitiæ, quam do tua, Christe, Incarnatione audivimus; ut in nobis dulciori efficiamus charitate fruentiores, imploramus tuae magnitudinis exspectantes potentiam; ut ita in nobis vocis hujus effectus usquequaque praepolleat, ut non confundamur in ea, quum manifestata nobis fuerit gloria tua. Amen.
The tidings we have heard of thy Incarnation, O Jesus, have filled us with gladness and joy. We beseech thee, grant that we, who are expecting the manifestation of thy power, may enjoy the abundant sweetness of charity; that thus corresponding to the grace of the mystery announced to us, we may not be confounded when thy glory shall appear to us. Amen.
 St. Luke v. 4.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Let us contemplate the sentiments of profound respect and maternal tenderness, which fill the soul of our blessed Lady, now that she has conceived Jesus in her chaste womb: He is her God, and yet He is her Son. Let us think upon this wonderful dignity bestowed upon a creature; and let us honour the Mother of our God. It is by this mystery that the prophecy of Isaias was fulfilled: ‘Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son;’ and that of Jeremias: ‘The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.’ The Gentiles themselves had received the tradition of these prophecies. Thus in the old pagan Carnutum (Chartres), there was an altar dedicated ‘To the Virgin that was to bring forth a Son and that of Jeremias: 'The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.' 11 The Gentiles them- selves had received the tradition of these prophecies. Thus in the old pagan Oarnutum (Chartres), there was an altar dedicated ' To the Virgin that was to bring forth a Son and that of Jeremias: 'The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.' 11 The Gentiles them- selves had received the tradition of these prophecies. Thus in the old pagan Oarnutum (Chartres), there was an altar dedicated ' To the Virgin that was to bring forth a Son (Virgini Parituræ)’; and whilst modern rationalism, with its ignorant scepticism, was affecting to throw a doubt on this fact of history, the researches of science were discovering that Carnutum was far from being the only city of the west which had such an altar.
But what human language could express the dignity of our Lady, who carries within her chaste womb Him that is the world’s salvation! If Moses, after a mere colloquy with God, returned to the Israelites with the rays of the majesty of Jehovah encircling his head, what an aureola of glory is due to Mary, who has within her, as in a living heaven, that very God Himself! The divine Wisdom tempers the effulgence of her glory that it be not visible to men; and this in order that the state of humility, which the Son of God has chosen as the one in which He would manifest Himself to the world, should not be removed at the very outset by the dazzling glory which would, otherwise, have been seen gleaming from His Mother.
The sentiments which filled the heart of Mary during these months of her ineffable union with the divine Word, may be thus expressed in the words of the bride in the sacred Canticle: ‘I sat under the shadow of Him whom I desired; and His fruit was sweet to my palate. I sleep, but my heart watches. My soul melted when He spoke. I to my Beloved and my Beloved to me, who feedeth among the lilies, till the day break, and the shadows retire.’ And if there ever were a human heart, that was forced, by the overpowering vehemence of its love of God, to use these other words of the same Canticle, it was Mary’s: ‘O daughters of Jerusalem! stay me up with flowers, compass me about with fragrant fruits; for I languish with love.’ ‘These sweet words,’ says the venerable Peter of Celles, ‘are those of the bride that dwelleth in the gardens, and is now near the time of her delivery. What so lovely in creation as this Virgin, who loves the Lord with such matchless love and is so exceedingly loved by this her Lord? It is she of whom the Scripture speaks, when it calls the bride the dearest hind. What, too, so lovely as that well-beloved Son of God, born of His beloved Father from all eternity, and now, at the end of time, as the apostle speaks, formed in the womb of His dearest Mother, and become to her, in the words of the same divine proverb, the sweetest fawn? Let us, therefore, cull our flowers, and offer them to both Child and Mother. But let me briefly tell you what are the flowers you must offer to our Lady. Christ says, speaking of His Humanity, “I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys.” By Him, therefore, let us purify our souls and bodies, and so be able to approach our God in chastity. Next, preserve this flower of purity from all that would injure it; for flowers are tender things, and soon droop and fade. Let us wash our hands among the innocent, and, with a pure heart, and pure body, and cleansed lips, and chaste soul, let us gather in the paradise of our heavenly Father our fresh flowers for the new Nativity of our new King. With these flowers let us stay up this most saintly Mother, this Virgin of virgins, this Queen of queens, this Lady of ladies; that so we may deserve to receive the blessing of the Mother and of the divine Babe.’
Ave, Virgo gratiosa,
Virgo Mater gloriosa,
Mater Regis gloriæ.
Ave, fulgens margarita
Per quam venit mundi vita,
Christus sol justitiæ.
O oliva fructifera,
Tu pietatis viscera
Nulli claudis hominum.
Nos exsules laetificas,
Ut vitis, dum fructificas
Ave, Virgo Mater Dei,
Tu superni sol diei,
Et mundi noctis luna.
Clementior præ caeleris,
Succurre nobis miseris,
Mortalium spes unica.
Ave, decus virginale,
Templum Dei speciale! Per te fiat veniale
Omne quod committimus.
Tu nobis es singularis;
Tu nos ducas, stella maris;
Tu nos semper tuearis:
En ad te confugimus.
Ad te, pia, suspiramus,
Si non ducis, deviamus;
Ergo doce quid agamus;
Post hunc finem ut vivamus
Cum sanctis perenniter.
Jesu Christe, Fili Dei,
Tota salus nostræ spei;
Tuæ matris interventu,
Angelorum nos conventu
Fac gaudere jugiter.
Hail, Virgin full of grace!
of the King of glory!
Hail, fair pearl!
by whom came the life of the world,
Christ the Sun of justice.
O fruitful olive!
thou excludest no mortal
from thy tender compassion.
Thou givest gladness to us exiles,
for, like a fruitful vine,
thou yieldest thy fruit, Jesus our Lord.
Hail, Virgin Mother of God!
thou art the sun of the heavenly day!
thou art the moon of the world’s night!
Tenderest of Mothers!
help us poor mortals,
for God wills us to hope in thee above all creatures.
Hail, O purest Virgin!
God’s special temple! pray for us to him,
that he would forgive us all our sins.
Thou art unto us what no other creature is.
Guide us, O star of the sea!
Defend us always and in all places.
We fly to thee in our necessities.
Tender Mother! we pray thee guide us,
or we go astray.
Tell us what would thy Jesus have us do?
that so, after this life is ended,
we may live for ever with the saints.
O Jesus! Son of God,
our only Saviour, in whom rests all our hope!
grant by the intercession of thy Mother,
that we may be united
to the angels in eternal joy.
A Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, first Sunday of Advent)
Audivimus, Christe; confitemur, et credimus, quod de sinu Patris egrediens veneris, ut camis nostræ vestibulo cingereris, liberaturus, scilicet susceptæ Incarnationis mysterio, quod perierat naturæ vitiatæ contagio. Fac nos, praenuntiata adventus tui gaudia, promptissima surrectionis devotione excipere: ut quia tu e loco patrio, secretoque progrediens, salvaturus homines, humanitus properasti ad publicum; nos e loco criminis exeuntes, munditiores concitum Divinitatis tuæ prospectemus excursum: ut extrema vitæ nostræ, nullius discriminis conculcatione involvens: sic provoces terrore justitiæ, ut solita justifices pietate. Amen.
We have heard, O Christ, we confess, and believe, that thou art come from the bosom of thy Father, to clothe thyself in the cover of our flesh by the mystery of the Incarnation, that thou mayst thus deliver mankind, that had been lost by the corruption of sinful nature. Grant us so devoutly to welcome the joyful tidings of thy coming, that as thou, issuing from the divine sanctuary of thy Father’s bosom, didst, for man’s salvation, come into the world, in the form of man; we may abandon the sins in which we have been living, and hasten, thus purified, to meet thy divine majesty; that at the close of our lives, the fear of thy threats may not crush us by despair; but make us now so tremble at the dread of thy justice, that thy wonted mercy may then justify us. Amen.
 Isa. vii. 14.
 Jer. xxxi. 22.
 Cant. ii. 3, 16, 17; v. 2, 6.
 Ibid. ii. 5.
 Sermon for Christmas Eve.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
There comes to us, to-day, the fourth of our wise virgins, the valiant martyr, Lucy. Her glorious name shines on the sacred diptych of the Canon of the Mass, together with those of Agatha, Agnes, and Cecily; and as often as we hear it pronounced during these days of Advent, it reminds us (for Lucy signifies light) that He who consoles the Church, by enlightening her children, is soon to be with us. Lucy is one of the three glories of the Church of Sicily; as Catania is immortalized by Agatha, and Palermo by Rosalie, so is Syracuse by Lucy. Therefore, let us devoutly keep her feast: she will aid us by her prayers during this holy season, and will repay our love by obtaining for us a warmer love of that Jesus, whose grace enabled her to conquer the world. Once more let us consider, why our Lord has not only given us apostles, martyrs, and bishops as guides to us on our road to Bethlehem, but has willed also that we should be accompanied thither by such virgins as Lucy. The children of the Church are forcibly reminded by this, that, in approaching the crib of their sovereign Lord and God, they must bring with them, besides their faith, that purity of mind and body without which no one can come near to God. Let us now read the glorious acts of the virgin Lucy.
Lucia, virgo Syracusana, genere et Christiana fide ab infantia nobilis, una cum matre Eutychia, quæ sanguinis fluxu laborabat, Catanam ad venerandum corpus beatæ Agathæ venit. Quæ ad ejus sepulchrum quum suppliciter orasset, Agathæ intercessione matris sanitatem impetravit. Statim vero matrem exoravit, ut quam dotem sibi datura esset, Christi pauperibus tribui pateretur. Ut igitur Syracusas rediit, omnem pecuniam, quam ex facultatibus venditis redegerat, pauperibus distribuit.
Quod ubi rescivisset is, cui eam parentes contra virginis voluntatem desponderant, apud Paschasium praefectum, Luciam, quod Christiana esset, accusavit. Quam ille cum nec precibus nec minis ad cultum idolorum posset perducere; immo tanto magis incensam videret ad celebrandas christianæ fidei laudes, quanto magis ipse eam a sententia avertere conabatur: Cessabunt, inquit, verba, quum ventum erit ad verbera. Cui virgo: Dei servis verba deesse non possunt, quibus a Christo Domino dictum est: Quum steteritis ante reges et præsides, nolite cogitare quomodo aut quid loquamini; dabitur enim vobis in illa hora quid loquamini; non enim vos estis qui loquimini, sed Spiritus sanctus qui loquitur in vobis.
Quam quum Paschasius interrogasset: Estne in te Spiritus sanctus? Respondit: Caste et pie viventes templum sunt Spiritus sancti. At ille: Jubebo te ad lupanar duci, ut te Spiritus sanctus deserat. Cui virgo: Si invitam jusseris violari, castitas mihi duplicabitur ad coronam. Quare Paschasius ira inflammatus Luciam eo trahi jussit, ubi ejus virginitas violaretur: sed divinitus factum est, ut firma virgo ita consisteret, ut nulla vi de loco dimoveri possit. Quamobrem præfectus circum ipsam pice, resina, ac ferventi oleo perfusam, ignem accendi imperavit; sed quum ne flamma quidem eam læderet, multis tormentis excruciatae guttur gladio transfigitur. Quo vulnere accepto, Lucia prædicens Ecclesiæ tranquillitatem, quæ futura erat Diocletiano et Maximiano mortuis, Idibus Decembris, spiritum Deo reddidit. Cujus corpus Syracusis sepultum, deinde Constantinopolim, postremo Venetias translatum est.
Lucy, a virgin of Syracuse, illustrious by birth and by the Christian faith, which she had professed from her infancy, went to Catania, with her mother Eutychia, who was suffering from a flux of blood, there to venerate the body of the blessed Agatha. Having prayed fervently at the tomb, she obtained her mother’s cure, by the intercession of St. Agatha. Lucy then asked her mother that she would permit her to bestow upon the poor of Christ the fortune which she intended to leave her. No sooner, therefore, had she returned to Syracuse, than she sold all that was given to her and distributed the money amongst the poor.
When he, to whom her parents had against her will promised her in marriage, came to know what Lucy had done, he went before the prefect Paschasius and accused her of being a Christian. Paschasius entreated and threatened, but could not induce her to worship the idols; nay, the more he strove to shake her faith, the more inflamed were the praises which she uttered in professing its excellence. He said, therefore, to her: We shall have no more of thy words, when thou feelest the blows of my executioners. To this the virgin replied: Words can never be wanting to God’s servants, for Christ our Lord has said to them: When you shall be brought before kings and governors, take no thought how or what to speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what to speak; for it is not you that speak, but the holy Spirit that speaketh in you.
Paschasius then asked her: Is the holy Spirit in thee? She answered: They who live chastely and piously, are the temple of the holy Spirit. He said: I will order thee to be taken to a brothel, that this holy Spirit may leave thee. The virgin said to him: The violence wherewith thou threatenest me would obtain for me a double crown of chastity. Whereupon Paschasius being exceedingly angry, ordered Lucy to be dragged to a place where her treasure might be violated; but, by the power of God, so firmly was she fixed to the place where she stood, that it was impossible to move her. Wherefore the prefect ordered her to be covered over with pitch, resin, and boiling oil, and a fire to be kindled round her. But seeing that the flame was not permitted to hurt her, they tormented her in many cruel ways, and at length ran a sword through her neck. Thus wounded, Lucy foretold the peace of the Church, which would come after the death of Diocletian and Maximian, and then died. It was the Ides of December (Dec. 13). Her body was buried at Syracuse, but was translated thence first to Constantinople, and afterwards to Venice.
We here give some of the antiphons which occur in the Office of the saint: they form a lyric poem of great beauty.
Orante Sancta Lucia, apparuit ei beata Agatha, et consolabatur ancillam Christi.
Lucia virgo, quid a me petis, quod ipsa poteris præstare continuo matri tuæ?
Per te, Lucia virgo, civitas Syracusana decorabitur a Domino Jesu Christo.
Benedico te, Pater Domini mei Jesu Christi, quia per Filium tuum ignis extinctus est a latere meo.
In tua patientia possedisti animam tuam, Lucia, sponsa Christi: odisti quæ in mundo sunt, et coruscas cum angelis: sanguine proprio inimicum vicisti.
As Lucy was praying, there appeared unto her the blessed Agatha, and she comforted the handmaid of Christ.
O virgin Lucy! why askest thou of me, what thyself canst straightway grant unto thy mother?
Because of thee, O virgin Lucy! the city of Syracuse shall be honoured by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of Lucy: I bless thee, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because by thy Son the fire around me was quenched.
In thy patience thou didst possess thy soul, O Lucy, bride of Christ! thou didst hate the things that are in the world, and thou shinest among the angels. Thou didst conquer the enemy by thine own blood.
We present ourselves before thee, O virgin martyr, beseeching thee to obtain for us that we may recognize in His lowliness that same Jesus whom thou now seest in His glory. Take us under thy powerful patronage. Thy name signifies light; guide us through the dark night of this life. O fair light of virginity! enlighten us; evil concupiscence has wounded our eyes: pray for us, O thou bright light of virginity! that our blindness be healed, and that rising above created things, we may be able to see that true light, which shineth in darkness, but which darkness cannot comprehend. Pray for us, that our eye may be purified, and may see, in the Child who is to be born at Bethlehem, the new Man, the second Adam, the model on which the life of our regeneration must be formed. Pray too, O holy virgin, for the Church of Rome and for all those which adopt her form of the holy Sacrifice; for they daily pronounce at the altar of God thy sweet name; and the Lamb, who is present, loves to hear it. Heap thy choicest blessings on the fair Isle, which was thy native land, and where grew the palm of thy martyrdom. May thy intercession secure to her inhabitants firmness of faith, purity of morals, and temporal prosperity, and deliver them from the disorders which threaten her with destruction.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
On this same day, we have also the fifth of the wise virgins, whose bright lamps light us, during Advent, to the crib of Jesus their Spouse. Odilia did not shed her blood for Him, as did Bibiana, Barbara, Eulalia, and Lucy; her offering was her tears and her love. Her wreath of lilies blends sweetly with the roses, which form the crowns of her four companions. Her name is held in special veneration in the east of France, and beyond the Rhine. The holy hill whereon her tomb has rested now these thousand years, is still visited by numerous and devout pilgrims. Several kings of the Capetian race, and several emperors of the house of Hapsburg, were descendants of the father of our saint, Adalric or Atticus, Duke of Alsace.
Odilia was born blind. Her father insisted on her being removed from the house, for her presence would have been a continual humiliation to him. It seems as though this affliction was permitted by Providence, in order that the action and power of divine grace might be the more clearly manifested in her regard. The little exile was taken from her mother, and placed in a monastery. God, who designed to show the virtue of the holy Sacrament of regeneration, permitted that her Baptism should be deferred until she had reached her thirteenth year. The time at length came for Odilia to be made a child of God. No sooner was she taken from the baptismal font, than she received her eyesight, which was but a feeble figure of the light which faith had lit up in her soul. This prodigy restored Odilia to her father and to the world; and from that time forward, she had to defend, against unceasing attacks, the virginity which she had vowed to God. Her personal beauty, and her father’s wealth and power, attracted to her many rich suitors. She refused them all; and her father himself built a monastery on the rocks of Hohenburg, wherein she served her divine Lord, governed a large community, and gave relief to every sort of suffering.
After a long life spent in prayer, penance, and works of mercy, the day came which was to reward her for it all. It was this very day, the thirteenth of December, the feast of the holy virgin Lucy. The sisters of Hohenburg, desirous of treasuring up her last words, assembled round their saintly abbess. She was in an ecstasy, and already dead to the things of this life. Fearing lest she should die before she had received that holy Viaticum, which leads the soul to Him who is her last end, the sisters thought it their duty to rouse her from the mystic sleep, which, so it seemed to them, rendered her forgetful of the duties which she had to perform. Being thus brought to herself, she turned to the community, and said to them: ‘Dear sisters, why have you disturbed me? Why would you again oblige me to feel the weight of this corruptible body, when I had once left it? By the favour of His divine Majesty, I was in the company of the virgin Lucy, and the delights I was enjoying were so great that no tongue could tell them, nor ear hear them, nor human eye see them.’ No time was lost in giving her the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, which having received, she immediately rejoined her heavenly companion, and the thirteenth day of December thus united into one the feasts of the abbess of Hohenburg and of the martyr of Syracuse.
The Church of Strasburg, which honours Odilia as one of its greatest glories, has the following lessons for this feast. By giving them a place here, we do not adopt the statement they contain with regard to the rule which was followed in the monastery of Hohenburg. Mabillon, who proves that St. Odilia followed the rule of St. Benedict, shows that the Canonical Rule, as it was called, did not exist at that time.
Odilia, suæ decus et præsidium patriæ, Attici Alsatiæ ducis et Beresindæ primogenita soboles fuit; sed quod cæcis oculis nata esset, a patre repudiatam, mater humanior clam nutrici alendam tradidit. Post in Balmensi parthenio haud procul Vesontione educata, divinisque erudita litteris crevit aetate et sapientia. Jam adulta, dum a beato Erhardo præsule baptizatur, visum miraculo accepit. Interjectis aliquot annis, paternam in domum et gratiam reducitur. Ibi quidquid mundus amat despiciens, inter amplissimas opes paupertatis amorem, in medio aulae tumultu solitudinem anachoretarum retinebat; nuptiasque constanter aversata, post longum et acre certamen a patre obtinuit, ut sibi liceret cum aliis virginibus Deo se in perpetuum consecrare. Quare Atticus in vertice excelsi montis sacram sedem et monasterium ære suo excitavit, latos eidem fundos et prædia concessit, Odiliamque ei regendo præposuit.
Vixdum patuerat hoc sanctitatis asylum, quum ingens eo affluxit virginum multitudo; centum triginta fuisse traditum est. Hae primum nullis religiosae vitae legibus adscriptæ erant: Odiliam imitari pro legibus habebatur. Deliberantibus postmodo cuinam se regulæ addicerent, monasticae an canonicae; sapientissima praeses suadente loci natura, hanc alteri praetulit.
Cum vero esset in omnes lenis, se solam durius arctabat; pane hordeaceo et aqua, subinde modico legumine, tolerabat vitam. In rerum divinarum contemplatione defixa, vigilabat majorem noctis partem; quod supererat, quieti datum: pellis hirsuta pro lecto, saxum pro pulvinari erat.
Inter haec, materno erga pauperes et infirmos amore, aliud monasterium amplumque xenodochium in infimo clivo extraxit, quo facilius afflictae suae fortunae perfugium invenirent. Illic non solum sacras virgines collocavit, quae operam suam navarent miseris; sed etiam ipsa quotidie eos invisebat, cibis, solatiis refocillabat, neque pavebat leprosorum ulcera suis manibus fovere. Tandem meritis annisque gravis, quum se morti vicinam intelligeret, suas sodales in sacellum sancti Joannis Baptistae convocat: hortatur ut pii propositi tenaces arctiorem cœli viam nunquam deserant. Accepto deinde ibidem Corporis et Sanguinis Christi Viatico, vita cessit Idibus Decembris, anno, ut probabilius traditur, septingentesimo vigesimo. Corpus virginis in eodem sacello conditimi est, statimque sepulchrum ejus maxima veneratione coli ac miraculis clarere coepit.
Odilia, the glory and the protectress of her country, was the eldest child of Adalric, Duke of Alsace, and of Beresind his wife. Being born blind, she was repudiated by her father; but the mother, with more compassion, had her nursed privately. Later on she was sent to the monastery of Baume, not far from Besancon, where she was educated, and instructed in the holy Scriptures, and grew in age and wisdom. When an adult, she was baptized by the holy bishop Erhard, and was on that occasion miraculously cured of her blindness. After the lapse of some years, she was recalled to her father’s house, and became the object of his affection. During this time, she despised all that the world loves, preferring poverty to the greatest wealth, and leading a hermit’s life, amidst all the distractions of her father’s palace. She rejected, with great resolution, all the offers of marriage which were made to her, and, after a long and hard contest, obtained her father’s consent to devote herself for ever to God, with several other virgins. For this end, Adalric built, at his own cost, a church and monastery on the top of a high hill, and richly endowed it with land and possessions. It was at his request that Odilia was appointed to govern the monastery.
Scarce was this abode of sanctity established, when many sought for admission, and, as it is related, the community numbered no less than a hundred and thirty. At the commencement, no special rule was followed, the imitation of Odilia was their rale. When afterwards it was deliberated on which of the two rales should be adopted, the monastic or the canonical, this latter was preferred by the discreet Abbess, as being better adapted to the circumstances of the place.
To all around her she was indulgent; to herself alone she was severe. Her only food was barley-bread and water, to which she sometimes added a few herbs. Her contemplation of divine things was continual; she gave to it the greatest part of the night, and spent the rest in sleep. Her bed was a rough skin, and a stone her pillow.
To this she added a maternal solicitude for the poor and sick, for whom she built another monastery, and also a large hospital at the foot of the hill, that so they might have readier assistance in their various miseries. She not only placed there several of the nuns to take care of the poor inmates, but every day visited them herself, fed them and comforted them, and hesitated not to dress with her own hands the loathsome sores of lepers. At length, weighed down by age and merit, and knowing that her death was at hand, she assembles her sisters in the oratory of St. John the Baptist, and there exhorts them to continue firm to their holy engagements, and never to leave the narrow path which leads to heaven. Having received in the same place the Viaticum of the Body and Blood of Christ, she departed this life on the Ides of December (Dec. 13), and according to the more probable opinion, in the year seven hundred and twenty. The body of the holy virgin was buried in the same oratory, and her tomb became immediately an object of the greatest veneration to the faithful, and was celebrated for the miracles wrought there.
The ways of God in thy regard, O holy virgin, were admirable indeed, and He manifested in thee the riches and power of His grace. He deprived thee of sight, that so thy soul might the more eagerly cling to His own infinite beauty; and when afterwards He bestowed on thee thy bodily vision, thou hadst already made choice of the better part. The harshness of thy father deprived thee of the innocent pleasures of home; but it prepared thee to become the spiritual mother of so many noble virgins, who, following thy example, trampled on all the vanities of the world. Thou didst choose a life of humility, because thy heavenly Spouse Jesus had humbled Himself for our sake. Thou didst imitate Him also in His being our divine Deliverer, and taking upon Himself all our miseries, for thou hadst the tenderest compassion on the poor and the sick. Thou didst take on thyself the care of a poor leper, that had been abandoned by all else; with a mother’s courage thou didst feed him, and affectionately dress his loathsome sores. And is it not this that our Jesus is coming down from heaven to do for us; to heal our wounds by embracing our human nature, and to nourish us with that food, which He is preparing to give us at Bethlehem? Whilst the leper was receiving thy loving care, the frightful disease which excluded him from the society of his fellow-creatures suddenly disappeared; a delicious odour came from his whole person, whereas before, none but a saint like thyself could have borne to approach him. Is it not this which Jesus is coming down to do for us? The leprosy of sin was upon us; His grace heals us, and man regenerated sheds around him the good odour of Christ.
In the midst of the joys which thou art now sharing with Lucy, remember us, O thou that wast ever so compassionate to the needy! We cannot forget the tears thou didst shed, and the prayers thou didst offer up for the soul of thy father after his death, whereby thou didst deliver him from purgatory, and open the gates of heaven to him that had banished thee from his house. Thou art no longer in the land of tears; thine eyes are opened to the light of heaven, and contemplate God in His glory: pray therefore for us, for thy prayers are now more powerful than heretofore. Think of us who are poor and infirm; obtain the cure of our maladies. The Emmanuel, who is coming to us, tells us that He is the Physician of our souls, for He has said: 'They that are in health need not the Physician, but they that are ill.’ Ask Him to cure us of the leprosy of sin, and make us become even like unto Himself. Pray for France, thy country, and help her to maintain the purity of the Catholic faith. Watch over the ruins of the holy empire. Heresy has disunited the members of that great body; but it will once more flourish, if our Lord, propitiated by such prayers as thine, vouchsafe to bring Germany back again to the true faith and to submission to the Church. Yes, pray that these glorious things be brought about for the honour and glory of thy divine Spouse, and that nations, now weary of their errors and disunion, may unite together in propagating the kingdom of God upon earth.
Let us consider the ever blessed Mother of God leaving her humble dwelling at Nazareth, in order to visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth. The Church honours this mystery of the Visitation on the Friday in Ember Week of Advent, as we have mentioned above, in the Proper of the Time. We will let St. Bonaventure relate this sublime incident of Mary’s life, convinced that our readers will be pleased to hear the seraphic Doctor revealing to them, with his wonderful unction, these preludes to the birth of Jesus.
‘After, this, our Lady, pondering the words spoken unto her by the angel concerning her cousin Elizabeth, resolved to visit her, that she might congratulate with her and render her service. She, therefore, together with Joseph her spouse, set out from Nazareth for the house of Elizabeth, which might perhaps be fourteen or fifteen miles distant from Jerusalem. Neither the roughness nor the length of the journey discouraged her; but she walked with haste, forasmuch as she wished to be little seen in public. She was not like other mothers, burthened by her Child, nor was it to be thought that the Lord Jesus would be a burthen to His Mother. See, therefore, how the Queen of heaven and earth takes this journey alone, with none but her spouse Joseph; not riding, but walking; neither is she escorted by troops of soldiers and barons, nor attended by handmaids and fine ladies. Her train is poverty, humility, modesty, and the beauty of all virtues. The Lord Himself, too, is with her; and He verily hath a numerous and honourable suite, but it is not that of the world, vain and pompous.
‘Now, when she had entered the house of Elizabeth, she greeted her saying: “ Hail! my sister Elizabeth!” But she, exulting, and all full of joy, and inflamed by the holy Spirit, rises and most tenderly embraces Mary, exclaiming for joy: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And whence is this to me, that there should come unto me the Mother of my Lord?” For as soon as the Virgin had greeted Elizabeth, John, in his mother’s womb, was filled with the Holy Ghost, as was likewise the mother. Nor was it that the mother was filled and then her child, but contrariwise the child was filled first, and he communicated the Spirit unto the mother. The babe effected nought in Elizabeth’s soul, but he merited that the Holy Ghost should do a work in her soul, because the grace of the divine Spirit had descended into him with greater abundance, and he was the first to receive the grace. And as Elizabeth had perceived the coming of Mary, so did John perceive the coming of Jesus. Therefore was it that he leaped for joy, and she prophesied. See the virtue of our Lady’s words, when by their utterance the Holy Ghost is conferred; for so replenished was Mary with Him, that, by her merits, He filled others also with Himself. Upon this, Mary made answer unto Elizabeth, saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
Sequence in Honor of the Mother of God
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French missals)
Hodiernæ lux diei
Celebris in Matris Dei
Decantemus in hac die
Semper Virginis Mariæ
Landes et præconia.
Omnis homo, omni hora,
Ipsam ora et implora
Psalle, psalle, nisu toto,
Cordis, oris, voce, voto:
Ave plena gratia!
Ave, Domina cœlorum,
Inexperta viri torum,
Parens paris nescia.
Fœcundata sine viro,
Genuisti more miro
Florens hortus Austro flante,
Porta clausa post et ante,
Via viris invia.
Fusa cœli rore tellus,
Fusum Gedeonis vellus,
Salve, splendor firmamenti:
Tu caliginosae menti
Placa mare, maris stella,
Ne involvat nos procella
Et tempestas obvia.
A happy day is this!
for on it we make commemoration of Mary,
the Mother of God.
Lot us sing to-day
the praises and the dignity of the ever blessed
Whoe’er thou art,
and where’er thou art,
pray to her, beseech her to help thee.
Sing, sing, with all thy heart
and voice’s power;
Hail Mary! full of grace.
Hail, Queen of heaven,
purest of Virgins,
yet incomparable Mother!
Made fruitful by God,
thou, his creature, didst give birth,
O prodigy of prodigies! to thy Creator.
Here was the prophecy fulfilled;
that a garden should flower under the breath of the south wind;
that all its gates were closed, and no man could enter.
Mary is the earth spoken of as enriched with the dew of heaven;
she is as Gedeon’s fleece prefigured her,
filled with the dew of the Godhead.
Hail, Mary, thou brightness of heaven!
bring to our darkness
the light that is from above.
O star of the sea,
calm its storms,
and suffer not that they overwhelm us.
Introit of Advent
(Ambrosian missal, sixth Sunday, Ingressa)
Videsne Elisabeth cum Dei Genitrice Maria disputantem: Quid ad me venisti, Mater Domini mei? Si enim scirem, in tuum venirem occursum. Tu enim Regnatorem portas, et ego prophetam: tu legem dantem, et ego legem accipientem: tu Verbum, et ego vocem proclamantis adventum Salvatoris.
Seest thou not Elizabeth thus speaking to Mary the Mother of God: How is it that thou, the Mother of my Lord, art come unto me? for if I had known of thy coming, I would have come to meet thee. For thou bearest the King, and I the prophet; thou him that giveth the law, and I him that receiveth the law; thou the Word, and I the Voice that proclaimeth the coming of the Redeemer.
 2 Cor. ii. 14, 15.
 St. Matt. ix. 12.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Let us consider how our blessed Lady, having arrived at the house of her holy cousin Elizabeth, rendered her every possible service with the greatest love, favoured her with her sweet and holy conversations, assisted at the glorious birth of St. John the Baptist, and at length returned home to her humble dwelling in Nazareth. But, that we may the better enter into these divine mysteries, let us again listen to the seraphic St. Bonaventure.
‘When, therefore, her time was expired, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, whom our Lady took up, and with all diligence did what was required. The babe looked into Mary’s face like one that knew her; and as she gave him unto his mother, he turned his head towards Mary, for he fain would be in her arms again. Mary, on her part, delighted in nursing this holy babe, and fondled him, and kissed him with great joy. Consider the honour that is here given unto John. Never had child such arms as these to carry him. Many other privileges are related as being granted unto him; but for this present, I must needs pass them by.
‘Now, on the eighth day, the child was circumcised, and was called John. Then was the mouth of Zachary opened, and he prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!” Thus were made, in that house, the two most beautiful canticles, namely, the Magnificat and the Benedictus. Meanwhile our Lady, going aside lest she should be seen by those that had come together for the ceremony, listened attentively to the canticle of Zachary, which prophesied of her Son, and most prudently pondered in her heart upon all these things. At length, when the time came for her to return home, she bade Elizabeth and Zachary farewell, and, giving John her blessing, she returned unto Nazareth. Recall to thy mind, in this her second journey, all that was told thee of her poverty. She returned to her house, where she would find neither bread, nor wine, nor those things which were needed. She had no property, nor money. She had been, now these three months, living with persons who were very rich; but now she returns unto her poor cottage, and has to procure her livelihood by the labour of her hands. Do thou sympathize with her, and learn to love poverty.’
Sequence in Honour of Our Blessed Lady
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French Missals)
Ave, Virgo gloriosa,
Cœli jubar, mundi rosa,
Ave, gemma pretiosa,
Super solem speciosa,
Spes reorum, O Maria,
Redemptoris Mater pia,
Finis lethi, vitæ via;
Tibi triplex hierarchia
Digna dat præconia.
Virga Jesse florida,
Stella maris lucida,
Sidus veræ lucis.
Fructum vitæ proferens,
Et ad portum transferens
Salutis, quod ducis.
Florens hortus, ægris gratus,
Puritatis fons signatus,
Dans fluenta gratiæ.
Thronus veri Salomonis,
Quem præclaris cœli donis
Ornavit Rex gloriæ.
O regina pietatis,
Et totius sanctitatis
In te salva confidentes,
Potu nos reficiens.
Ad te flentes suspiramus,
Rege mentes, invocamus,
Evæ proles misera.
Statum nostræ paupertatis,
Vultu tuæ bonitatis,
Cella fragrans aromatum,
Tuam nobis fragrantiam
Spirans, infunde gratiam
Dulcis Jesu Mater bona,
Mundi salus, et Matrona
Pacem confer sempiternam,
Et ad lucem nos supernam
Transfer post exsilium.
Hail, O glorious Virgin!
brightness of the heavens, rose of the world,
lily of purity.
Hail, precious gem!
more beauteous than the sun,
and joy of pure souls.
Thou art the sinner’s hope, O Mary!
thou art the holy Mother of our Redeemer,
and the consolation of us whom he redeemed.
Thou didst stay the reign of death,
thou didst commence the reign of life.
To thee, O Mary, the triple hierarchy sing their praises.
Hail! flowery stem of Jesse,
bright star of the sea,
source that broughtest to us him that is our true light.
Thou bearest the fruit of life,
and he whom thou leadest
will not miss the port of salvation.
O flowery garden, so sweet to the sick!
O sealed fount of purity,
that gavest us Jesus, the author of grace.
Thou throne of the true Solomon,
enriched by the King of glory
with the best of heaven’s gifts.
O merciful Queen!
thou art the rich unfailing
stream of all sanctity.
Have pity on us who trust in thee,
and refresh our thirsty souls
with thy efficacious prayers.
Hear our sighs, O Mary!
and suffer us not,
poor children of Eve, to go astray.
Look with thy eye of love
on our many wants:
compassionate our poverty.
Vessel of every fragrance,
and Mother and treasury
of divine grace.
Breathe thy fragrance
into our souls,
and obtain for us the riches of grace.
Beautiful Mother of our sweet Jesus!
the world received its Saviour through thee,
and the heavenly citizens call thee Queen.
Obtain for us that peace which has no end,
and, after this our exile,
that light which is divine.
Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Friday of the second week of Advent, Capitula)
Dominator desiderabilis, Domine Jesu Christe, quasi ignis conflans ab scoriis peccaminum nos absterge: et quasi aurum purum argentumque purgatum, nos effice; tuoque inspiramine, ad quaerendum te jugiter, conia nostra succende: Ut ad te ardenter nostra desideria anhelent, tibique conjungi tota aviditate festinent. Amen.
O King, whom our hearts desire, Lord Jesus Christ, come, we beseech thee, cleanse us as a furnace of fire from the dross of our sins, and make us like gold that is pure, and like silver that is without alloy. Inflame our hearts, by thy inspiration, that they seek thee unceasingly: so may our desires long with all ardour after thee, and pant with all eagerness to be united with thee. Amen.
This, the eighth day from that on which we kept the feast of the Immaculate Conception, is the octave properly so called; whereas the other days were simply called days within the octave. The custom of keeping up the principal feasts for a whole week is one of those which the Christian Church adopted from the Synagogue. God had thus spoken in the Book of Leviticus: 'The first day shall be called most solemn and most holy, you shall do no servile work therein. . . . The eighth day also shall be most solemn and most holy, and you shall offer holocausts to the Lord, for it is the day of assembly and congregation: you shall do no servile work therein.' We also read in the Book of Kings, that Solomon, having called all Israel to Jerusalem for the dedication of the temple, suffered not the people to return home until the eighth day.
We learn from the Books of the new Testament that this custom was observed in our Saviour’s time, and we find Him authorizing, by His own example, this solemnity of the octave. Thus, we read in Saint John, that Jesus once took part in one of the Jewish festivals, about the midst of the feast; and the same Evangelist relating how our Lord cried out to the people: 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink’: observes, that it was on the last and great day of the festivity.
In the Christian Church there are three kinds of octaves. Some feasts are celebrated with a privileged octave—that is, one of which the Office is said daily, or at least a commemoration is always made. Other feasts have a common octave, or one whose commemoration may, on greater feasts, be sometimes omitted. And, lastly, some have a simple octave, of which only the Octave Day itself is kept or commemorated. Privileged octaves, whose office is said or commemorated every day, are divided into three Orders. The octaves of the First Order are those of Easter and Pentecost. Those of the Second Order, of which days within the octave exclude all feasts except doubles of the First Class, are the octaves of the Epiphany and of Corpus Christi. The octaves of the Third Order, which must always be commemorated, although days within the octave exclude only the same feasts as do common octaves, are those of Christmas and of the Ascension of Our Lord. The octave of the Immaculate Conception, the first that occurs in the ecclesiastical year, is a common octave.
Let us once more devoutly reverence the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception: our Emmanuel loves to see His Mother honoured. After all, is it not for Him and for His sake that this bright star was prepared from all eternity, and created when the happy time fixed by the divine decree came? When we honour the Immaculate Conception of Mary, it is really to the divine mystery of the Incarnation that we are paying our just homage. Jesus and Mary cannot be separated, for Isaias tells us that she is the branch and He the Flower.
We give Thee thanks, O Jesus our Emmanuel, because Thou hast granted us to live during the time that the privilege of Thy blessed Mother was proclaimed on this earth; the glorious privilege wherewith Thou didst enrich the first instant of the life of the happy creature, from whom Thou didst take upon Thyself our human nature! This definition of Thy Church has given us a clearer knowledge of Thine infinite holiness. It has taught us to see more distinctly the harmony there is in all Thy divine mysteries. But it has also impressed upon us the great truth that we ourselves, being destined to the most intimate union with Thee here, and to the face to-face vision of Thy infinite Majesty hereafter, must labour without ceasing to purify ourselves from the smallest stains of sin. Thou hast said: 'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God'; and Thou showest us, by the dogma of Thy blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception, what is the purity which Thy sovereign sanctity demands of us. Ah! by the love, which led Thee to preserve her from every stain of sin, have mercy on us who are her devoted children. Thou art so soon to be among us! Before many days are past we shall have yielded to Thy invitations, and have presumed to approach Thy sacred crib. We are not yet ready, dear Jesus! The effects of original sin are still so plainly upon us, and, what is worse, there are so many of our own sins, which we have added to this of our first parent. Oh! prepare our hearts and our senses, for we will not approach to Bethlehem unworthily. The sinless purity of Thy Mother is not for us; we ask not for that; but we ask for forgiveness of our countless sins, for conversion, for hatred of the world and the world’s maxims, and for perseverance in Thy holy love.
O Mary! created mirror of divine justice, and purer than the Cherubim and Seraphim, in return for the homage paid thee by this our generation, on that blissful day when the glory of thy Immaculate Conception was proclaimed throughout the world, give us that abundant richness of thy protecting love, which thou didst reserve till now. The world is shaken to its very foundations: thy hand can help it to rest again. Hell has let loose upon mankind the most terrible of its spirits of wickedness, who breathe but blasphemy and destruction; but, at the same time, the Church of thy Jesus feels that her youth has been renewed within her, and that the seed of the divine word is broadcast and healthy in a thousand fresh portions of the earth. Never was the battle more fierce on both sides: so that we need all our hope to make us feel that hell will not prevail. Is this the great struggle, which is to be followed by the day of judgement?
O blessed Mother of Jesus! O Queen of the universe! can it be that the star of thy Immaculate Conception has shone in the heavens only to light up the ruin and wreck of this earth? The sign foretold by the beloved disciple St. John, of the woman that appeared in the heavens clad with the sun, bearing on her head a crown of twelve stars, and crushing the crescent beneath her feet—has it not more brightness and power than that other, which appeared in the heavens telling men that God’s anger was appeased, and that the deluge was over? The light which shines upon us is from a Mother. It is our Mother that comes to console and heal us. It is heaven that smiles upon poor guilty earth. We have deserved the chastisement we have received, and more than we have received: but the anger of God will give way, and He will spare us.
The graces which God poured out upon the world on that great day of the Church’s definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, were not to be without their effect; a new period then commenced. Mary, on whom heresy had heaped its blasphemies for three hundred years, will again reign in the love of those whom her Son redeemed; countries will abandon those errors which have made them slaves and dupes of men’s doctrines; the old serpent will again writhe under that crushing pressure which God set up from the beginning; and the divine Sun of justice will pour out on the regenerated world the floods of a light more than ever dazzling and resplendent. We may not live to see that time; but we have signs of ite near approach.
It was in the last century that thy devout servant whom the Church has placed upon her altars, Leonard of Porto-Maurizio, predicted that when this dogma of thy Immaculate Conception should be defined, the world would enjoy a long period of peace. The troubles of the present time in which we are living are, we doubt not, a prelude to that happy peace, during which the divine word will traverse the whole world unimpeded, and the Church militant will reap her harvest for the Church in heaven. Sweet Mother of our Jesus! the world was also in agitation in those times which preceded the birth of thy divine Son; but peace reigned throughout the whole earth, when thou didst give it its Saviour in Bethlehem. Until that grand time come when thou wilt show to the world the magnificence of the power which God has given to thee, assist us, each year, to prepare for the glorious solemnity of Christmas: oh! pray for us, that we may be cleansed from all our sins when that splendid night comes, during which will be born of thee Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the light eternal.
Prose in Honour of the Holy Mother of God
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French missals)
Cor devotum elevetur,
Ut devote celebretur
Mens amore inflammetur
Et amori copuletur
Laus et jubilatio.
Haec concepta miro more
Est ut rosa cum nitore,
Est ut candens lilium.
Ut fructus exit a flore,
Est producta cum pudore,
Praeventa per Filium.
Sicut ros non corrumpitur,
Quando in terra gignitur,
Sic Virgo non inficitur.
Quum in matre concipitur,
Nos ergo dulci carmine,
Laudemus in hac Virgine
Conceptum Bine nubilo.
Hanc conceptam ex semine,
Et mundam ab origine,
Laudet chorus cum jubilo.
Ut mota dulci modulo,
Nos servet in hoc saeculo
Mundos ab omni crimine.
Et in mortis articulo,
Liberet a periculo
Et inferni voragine.
Let every heart that is devout now raise itself
and devoutly celebrate the Conception
of the Virgin ever blessed.
Let the mind be inflamed with love;
and let praise and jubilee
unite with the love.
In her admirable Conception,
she is a rose in its beauty,
she is a lily in its whiteness.
As fruit that comes from the flower,
so was Mary brought forth in her purity,
for her Son had possession of her from the first.
As a dew-drop contracts not a stain
from the earth
whereon ’tis formed,
So was Mary untainted by original sin
when she was conceived
in her mother’s womb.
Let us then sing our sweetest hymn
in praise of a cloudless brightness,
the Immaculate Conception.
Put on all your joy, ye choirs of earth,
and sing of her, that was a daughter of Adam,
but not of his sin.
May she be pleased with our hymns,
and defend us from all sin
in this our present life.
And when our last hour comes,
deliver us by her prayers from the abyss of hell,
into which the devil will seek to drag us.
A Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, fourth Sunday of Advent, Oratio)
Nova et inaudita sunt, Domine, quæ propheticus sermo intonuit mundo: quod novo Virginis partu salvatio exorietur creaturarum; cujus admirabile incarnationis mysterium quia devota cordium susceptione Ecclesia suscipit lætabunda: quaesumus, ut in laudem ejus et nova illi cantica deferat et accepta: ut cujus laus ab extremis terrae concinitur, ejus voluntas in toto mundo a fidelibus impleatur. Amen.
New and unheard-of tidings are those, which the word of thy prophet, O Lord, has announced to the world: A Virgin shall bring salvation to mankind by giving birth to her Son. Now, therefore, that thy Church, filled with joy, is preparing to receive, with great devotion, this admirable mystery of the Incarnation; we beseech thee, give her to celebrate the praise of the Incarnate Word with new and welcome canticles; that thus, he, whose praise is sung in the furthermost parts of the earth, may see his will fulfilled by the faithful throughout the universe. Amen.
 Lev. xxiii. 35, 36.
 St. John vii 14.
 Ibid. 37.
 Is. xi. 1.
 St. Matt. v. 8.
 Apoc. xii. 1.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
When asked to tell the names of the saints who were foremost in defending the dogma of the Incarnation, we think at once of the intrepid Eusebius of Vercelli, as one of the glorious number. The Catholic faith, which was so violently attacked in the fourth century by the Arian heresy, was maintained at that time by the labours and zeal of four sovereign Pontiffs: Sylvester, who confirmed the decrees of the Council of Nicæa: Julius, the supporter of St. Athanasius; Liberius, whose faith failed not, and who, when restored to his liberty, confounded the Arians; and lastly, Damasus, who destroyed the last hopes of the heretics. One of these four Pontiffs appears on our Advent calendar—Damasus, whose feast we kept but a few days since. The four Popes have for their fellow-combatants, in this battle for the Divinity of the Incarnate Word, four great bishops, of whom it may be said that the defence of the dogma of the Consubstantiality of the Son of God was what they lived for, and that to say anathema to them was to say anathema to Christ Himself; all four most powerful in word and work, lights of the Churches of the world, objects of the people’s love, and the dauntless witnesses of Jesus. The first and greatest of the four is the bishop of the second See of Christendom, St. Athanasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria: the second is St. Ambrose of Milan, whose feast we kept on the seventh of this month; the third is the glory of Gaul, St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers; the fourth is the ornament of Italy, St. Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli, whom we have to honour to-day. Hilary will come to us during Christmastide, and will stand at the crib of the Word, whose Divinity he so bravely confesses; Athanasius will meet us at Easter, and help us to celebrate, in the triumphant Resurrection, Him whom he proclaimed as God in those dark times, when human wisdom hoped to destroy, by fifty years of peace, that Church which had survived the storm of three centuries of persecution. St. Eusebius’ place is Advent; and divine Providence has thus chosen him as one of the patrons of the faithful during this mystic season. His powerful prayers will help us to come devoutly to Bethlehem, and see in the Child, that is lying there, the eternal Word of God. So great were the sufferings which St. Eusebius had to undergo for the Divinity of Jesus, that the Church awards him the honours of a martyr, although he did not actually shed his blood. Let us now listen to the admirable account which the Church gives us of his life.
Eusebius, natione Sardus, Komanæ urbis lector, post Vercellensis episcopus, ad hanc regendam Ecclesiam merito est creditus divino electus judicio; nam quem nunquam ante constituti electores cognoverant, posthabitis civibus, simul ut viderunt, et probaverunt, tantumque interfuit ut probaretur, quantum ut videretur. Primus in Occidentis partibus in eadem Ecclesia eosdem monachos instituit esse quos clericos, ut esset in ipsis viris contemptus rerum, et accuratio levitarum. Arianis impietatibus ea tempestate per Occidentem longelateque traductis, adversus eas viriliter sic dimicavit, ut ejus invicta fides Liberium, summum Pontificem, ad vitas solatium erigeret. Quare hio sciens, in ipso fervere Spiritum Dei, quum ei significasset ut penes imperatorem, una cum suis legatis patrocinium fidei susciperet, mox cum illis profectus est ad Constantium, apud quem enixius agens, quidquid legatione petebatur, obtinuit, ut episcoporum nempe coetus celebraretur.
Collectum est Mediolani anno sequenti concilium, ad quod a Constantio invitatum Eusebium, concupitumque ac vocatum a Liberii legatis, tantum abest ut malignantium synagoga Arianorum contra sanctum Athanasium furentium in suas partes adduceret, ut potius diserte statina ipse declarans, e præsentibus quosdam sibi compertos haeretica labe pollutos Nicaenam imo fidem proposuerit iis subscribendam, antequam cætera tractarentur. Quod Arianis acerbe iratis negantibus, nedum in Athanasium recusavit ipse subscribere, quin sancti Dionysii martyris, qui deceptus ab ipsis subscripserat, captivatam simplicitatem ingeniosissime liberavit. Quamobrem illi graviter indignantes, post multas illatas injurias, exsilio illum mulctarunt; sed sanctus vir excusso pulvere, nec Cæsaris minas veritus, nec enses obstrictos, exsilium veluti sui ministerii officium accepit, missusque Scytopolim, famem, sitim, verbera diversaque supplicia perpessus, pro fide strenue vitam contempsit, mortem non metuit, corpus carnificibus tradidit.
Quanta in eum tunc Arianorum crudelitas fuerit, ac effrons inverecundia, ostendunt graves litteræ plenæ roboris, pietatis ac religionis, quas e Scytopoli scripsit ad Vercellensem clerum et populum, aliosque finitimos, e quibus etiam est exploratum, ipsorum neo minis inhumanaque sævitia potuisse umquam eum deterreri, nec serpentina blanda subtilitate ad eorum societatem perduci. Hinc in Cappadociam, postremoque ad superiores Ægypti Thebaidas præ constantia sua deportantibus, exsilii rigores tulit ad mortem usque Constantii, post quam ad gregem suum reverti permissus, non prius redire voluit, quam reparandis fidei jacturis ad Alexandrinam Synodum sese conferret; postque medici præstantis instar peragrans Orientis provincias, in fide infirmos ad integram valetudinem restitueret, eos instituens in Ecclesiæ doctrina. Inde salubritate pari, digresso in Illyricum, tandemque in Italiam delato, ad ejus reditum, lugubres vestes Italia mutavit, ubi postquam Psalmorum omnium expurgatos a se commentarios Origenis edidit, Eusebiique Cæsareensis quos verterat de Græco in Latinum: demum tot egregie factis illustris ad immarcescibilem gloriæ coronam tantis ærumnis promeritam sub Valentiniano, et Valente, Vercellis migravit.
Eusebius, by birth a Sardinian, was a lector in the Church at Rome, and afterwards Bishop of Vercelli. It may well be said that it was God himself who chose him to be the pastor of this Church; for the electors, who had never before seen him, no sooner set their eyes upon him, than they preferred him before all their fellowcitizens; and this instantly, and as soon as they first saw him. Eusebius was the first of the bishops in the western Church, who established monks in his Church to exercise the functions of the clergy; he did it in order that he might thus unite, in the same persons, the detachment from riches and the dignity of levites. It was during this time that the impious doctrines of the Arians were devastating the whole of the west; and so vigorously did Eusebius attack them, that Pope Liberius’ greatest consolation was the unflinching faith of this holy man. It was on this account, that the same Pope, knowing that the Spirit of God burned in Eusebius’ soul, commissioned him to go, accompanied by his legates, to the emperor, and plead the cause of the true faith. Eusebius and the legates being come before Constantius, the saint pleaded so powerfully, that the emperor granted what he asked, namely, that a council of the bishops should be convened.
That Council was held the following year, at Milan; Eusebius was invited by Constantius to be present at it, which was what the legates of Liberius had desired and begged. So far was he from being duped by the synagogue of the malicious Arians to side with them against St. Athanasius, that he openly declared from the first that several of those present were known to him to be heretics, and he therefore proposed that they should subscribe to the Nicene Creed before proceeding any further. This the Arians, infuriated with anger, refused to do; whereupon, he not only refused to subscribe to what was drawn up against Athanasius, but he also, by a most ingenious device, succeeded in having the name of St. Denis the martyr blotted out from the decree, which the craft of the Arians had induced him to sign. Wherefore, they being exceedingly angry against Eusebius, loaded him with injuries, and had him sent into banishment. The holy man, on his side, shaking off the dust from his feet, caring little either for the threats of the emperor, or the sword which was held over him, submitted to banishment as to something which belonged to his episcopal office. Being sent to Scythopolis, he there endured hunger, thirst, blows, and sundry other punishments; he generously despised his life for the true faith, feared not death, and gave up his body to the executioners.
How much he had to put up with from the cruelty and insolence of the Arians, we learn from the admirable letters, full of energy, piety, and religion, which he addressed, from Scythopolis, to the clergy and people of Vercelli, and to other persons of the neighbouring country. It is evident from these letters that the heretics were unable, either by their threats or by their inhuman treatment, to shake his constancy, or to induce him by the craft of their flattery or arguments to join their party. Thence he was taken into Cappadocia, and lastly into Thebais of Upper Egypt, in punishment of his refusing to yield. Thus did he suffer the hardships of exile until the death of Constantius: after which he was allowed to return to his flock; but this he would not do, until he had assisted at the Counoil which was being held at Alexandria for the purpose of repairing the injuries done by heresy. This done, he travelled through the provinces of the east, endeavouring, like a clever physician, to restore to perfect health such as were weak in the faith, by instructing them in the doctrine of the Church. Animated by the like zeal for the salvation of souls, he passed over into Illyricum; and having at length returned to Italy, that country put off its mourning. He there published the commentaries of Origen and Eusebius of Cæsarea on the Psalms, which two works he translated from the Greek into Latin, with such corrections as were needed. At length, having rendered himself celebrated by a life spent in such actions as these, he died at Vercelli, in the reign of Valentinian and Valens, and went to receive the immortal crown of glory which his so many and great sufferings had merited for him.
Valiant soldier of Jesus, Eusebius, martyr and pontiff, how much labour and suffering thou didst undergo for the Messias! And yet, they seemed to thee to be little in comparison with what is due to this eternal Word of the Father, who, out of His pure love, has made Himself the Servant of His own creatures, by becoming Man for them in the mystery of the Incarnation. We owe the same debt of gratitude to this divine Saviour. He is born in a stable for our sake, as He was for thine; pray, therefore, for us that we may be ever faithful to Him both in war and in peace; and that we may resist our temptations and evil inclinations with that same firmness, wherewith we would confess His name before tyrants and persecutors. Obtain for the bishops of our holy mother the Church such vigilance, that no false doctrines may surprise them, and such courage that no persecution may make them yield. May they be faithful imitators of the divine Pastor, who gives His life for His sheep; and may they ever feed the flock entrusted to them in the unity and charity of Jesus Christ.
Let us consider how our blessed Lady, having returned to Nazareth, is overwhelmed with joy to feel living within her Him, who gives being to every created thing, and whom she loves with all the intensity of the Mother of God. Joseph, the faithful guardian of her virginity, tenderly loves this his spouse, and blesses God for having entrusted such a treasure to his keeping. The angels crowd round this favoured house wherein dwell their sovereign Lord, and she whom He has chosen to be His Mother. Never was there happiness like that which fills this little dwelling; and yet, God has decreed to visit it with a heavy trial, in order that He may give an occasion to Mary to exercise heroic patience, and to Joseph an occasion of meriting by his exquisite prudence. Let us listen to the Meditation of St. Bonaventure, in which he thus ponders the Gospel narrative:
'But while our Lady and Joseph her spouse were thus dwelling together, the Infant Jesus grew within His Mother’s womb. Then Joseph, perceiving that Mary was with Child, was above all measure grieved. Here give, I pray thee, all thine attention, for thou hast many fair things to learn. If thou wouldst know wherefore it was that our Lord wished that His Mother should have a husband, whereas He always wished that she should be a Virgin, I answer thee that He so wished on three accounts: firstly, that she might not be disgraced when it was seen that she was a Mother: secondly, that she might have Joseph’s aid and company; and thirdly, that the birth of the Son of God might be concealed from the devil.
‘Now, Joseph did look many times on Mary, and grief and trouble of heart fell upon him, and his displeasure was seen in his face, and he turned his eyes away from her as one that was guilty of that which he perforce suspected. See how God permits His servants to be afflicted and sorely tried, that they may so receive their crown. Now Joseph was minded to put her away privately. In very truth may it be said of this holy man, that his praise is in the Gospel, for the Gospel says of him that he was a just man, that is, a man of great virtue. For albeit they say that no shame, nor suffering, nor insult can befall a man so grievous as that of his wife’s unfaithfulness; yet did Joseph restrain himself withal, and would not accuse Mary, but bore this great injury patiently. He sought not how to avenge himself, but, overcome with pity, and wishing to forgive, he was minded to put her away privately. But herein also had our Lady her share of tribulation, for she took notice of Joseph’s trouble, and it sorely grieved her. Yet did she humbly hold her peace, and hide the gift of God. Better did it seem unto her that evil should be thought of her than that she should reveal the divine mystery, and say aught of herself which would come nigh to boasting. Therefore did she beseech our Lord that Himself would right this matter, and make pass this grief from Joseph and herself. Here thou mayst learn what great tribulation and anxiety was theirs. But God came unto their assistance.
‘He therefore sent His angel, who spake unto Joseph in his sleep, and told him that his spouse had conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that he was to abide with her in all surety and joy. Whereupon, the tribulation ceased, and they were both exceedingly comforted. So likewise would it befall us if we would suffer patiently, for after a storm God brings a calm. Neither oughtest thou to doubt this, for God suffereth not His servants to be afflicted save for their good. After this, Joseph requested our Lady to narrate unto him what had happened; and she faithfully narrated all unto him. Whereupon Joseph remains with his blessed spouse, and lives with her in all contentment, and loves her above what words can say, and diligently provides her with whatsoever she needed. So also our Lady continues to remain confidently with Joseph, and they live right joyfully in their poverty.’
Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Wednesday of the first week of Advent, Capitula)
Deus, cui omnis terra præconans jubilat laudem; cujus gloriam canora psalmi conclamant voce; cujusque terribilem in tuis operibus fatentur virtutem; notum facito salutare tuum in conspectu omnium nostrum. Revela justitiam tuam, qua possimus te nostrum agnoscere Creatorem: et esto memor misericordiæ tuae, qua nostrorum criminum mereamur invenire remissionem: ut videntes salutare tuum, jubilemus tibi hymnum, cantemus in exsultatione psalmum, et perfrui mereamur tuæ beatitudinis praemio. Amen.
O God, to whom the whole earth proclaims its glad praise; whose glory is celebrated in the sweet melody of the psalms; and whose mighty power is confessed by thy works; make known thy Saviour unto all of us thy servants. Reveal thy justice, whereby we may acknowledge thee to be our Creator: and be mindful of thy mercy, whereby we may deserve to find the forgiveness of our sins; that seeing the Saviour whom thou sendest, we may hymn thee our hymns of joy, and sing our psalms in gladness, and deserve to enjoy the reward of thy blessed sight. Amen.