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Twelvetide, or the Twelve Days of Christmas

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Octave of the Beloved Disciple closes to-day: let us devoutly offer him our parting homage. We shall meet him again, during the year; for, on May 6, when the Resurrection of his Divine Master is gladdening the Church with the Easter joys, we shall have the Feast of our Apostle's Confession made before the Latin Gate: but his grand Feast ends to-day, and he has done too much on our behalf this Christmas for us to allow this Octave Day to pass without returning him our warmest thanks. Let us begin by exciting ourselves to a great reverence for our Saint; and to this end, let us continue the considerations we were making this day week on the favours conferred upon him by Jesus.

The Apostolate of St John produced a plentiful harvest among the people to whom he was sent. The Parthians received the Gospel from him, and most of the Churches of Asia Minor were founded by him. Of these latter, seven, together with their Angels, were chosen by Christ himself[1] to typify the several kinds of Pastors; and probably, as some have interpreted this passage of the Apocalypse, these Seven may be taken as representing the seven Ages of the Church herself. Neither must we forget that these Churches of Asia Minor, shortly after St John had founded them, sent Apostles into western Europe. Thus, for example, the illustrious Church of Lyons was one of the conquests made by these early Missioners; and St Pothinus, the first Bishop of Lyons, was a disciple of the disciple of St John—St Polycarp—the Angel of the Church of Smyrna,[2] whose Feast we shall keep a few days hence.

But St John’s apostolic labours in no wise interfered with the care which his own filial affection and the injunctions of our Saviour imposed upon him—the care of the Blessed Mother and Virgin Mary. So long as Jesus judged her visible presence on the earth to be necessary for the consolidation of his Church, so long did John enjoy the immense happiness of her society, and of being permitted to treat her as his most beloved Mother. After a certain number of years, during which he had dwelt with her in the city of Ephesus, he returned with her to Jerusalem, whence she ascended to heaven from the desert of this world, as the Church sings of her, as a pillar of smoke of aromatic spices of myrrh and frankincense.[3] The holy Apostle had to bear this second separation, and continue preaching the Gospel until that happy day should come when he also should ascend to that blissful region where Jesus his Divine Friend, and Mary his incomparable Mother, were awaiting his arrival.

The Apostles, those Lights placed by the hand of Jesus himself upon the candlestick[4] of the Church, died out by martyrdom one after the other, leaving St John the sole survivor of the Twelve. His white hair, as the early Fathers tell us, was encircled with a thin plate of gold, the mark of episcopal dignity; the Churches treasured up the words which fell from his inspired lips, and considered them as their rule of Faith; and his prophecy of Patmos, the Apocalypse, proves that the future of the Church was also revealed to him. Notwithstanding all this, John was humble and simple, like the Divine Infant of Bethlehem; and one cannot read without emotion what the early writers tell us of him, how he was often seen fondling a pet bird in his venerable hands.

He who had, when young, leaned his head upon the Breast of God, whose delights are to he with the children of men;[5] who had stood near his Lord during the Crucifixion, when all the other Apostles kept away in fear; who had seen the soldiers Spear pierce the Sacred Heart which so loved the world; when old age had come upon him, was for ever urging upon all he met the duty of loving one another. His tender compassion for sinners was such as we might naturally look for from the favourite Disciple of the Redeemer; and we are not surprised at that example, which would have been wonderful in any other Saint than John, of his going in search of a young man, whom he had loved with a Father's love, and who had abandoned himself, during the Apostle’s absence, to every sort of sin: old age was no hindrance to this fatiguing search, which ended in his finding the young man amidst the mountains, and leading him back to repentance.

And yet this same gentle and loving Saint was the inflexible enemy of heresy; for heresy, by destroying Faith, poisons Charity in its very source. It is from this Apostle that the Church has received the maxim she gives to us, of shunning heresy as we would shun a plague: If any man come to you and bring not the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into the house, nor say to him ''God speed thee for he that saith unto him, 'God speed thee,’ communicateth with his wicked works.[6] St John having one day entered one of the public baths, he was no sooner informed that the heresiarch Cerinthus was in the same building, than he instantly left the place as though it were infected. The disciples of Cerinthus were indignant at this conduct of the Apostle, and endeavoured to take away his life by putting poison into the cup from which he used to drink; but St John having made the sign of the cross over the cup, a serpent was seen to issue from it, testifying both to the wickedness of his enemies and to the divinity of Christ. This apostolic firmness in resisting the enemies of the Faith made him the dread of the heretics of Asia; and hereby he proved how justly he had received from Jesus the surname of Son of Thunder, a name which he shared with his Brother, James the Greater, the Apostle of Spain.

The miracle we have just related has suggested assigning to St John, as one of his emblems, a cup with a serpent coming from it; and in many countries, in Germany particularly, is a custom of blessing wine on the Feast of St John; and the prayer used on the occasion alludes to the miracle. In these same countries prevails also the custom of taking at the end of meals what is called St John’s Cup, putting as it were under the Saint’s protection the repast just taken.

For brevity’s sake, we omit several other traditions regarding our holy Apostle, to which allusion is made in many of the Medieval Liturgical pieces which we have quoted: but we cannot refrain from saying a few words in reference to his Death.

The passage of the holy Gospel read on the Feast of St John has often been interpreted in the sense that the Beloved Disciple was never to die, although our Lord’s words are easily explained without putting such a meaning upon them. The Greek Church, as we have already seen in her Offices, professes her belief in St John’s exemption from death. It was also the opinion of several holy Doctors of the Church, and found its way into some of the Hymns of the Western Church. The Church of Rome seems to countenance it, by one of the Antiphons at Lauds of the Feast; but it must be acknowledged that she has never favoured this opinion, although she has not thought proper to condemn it. Moreover, the Tomb of St John once existed at Ephesus; we have early traditions regarding it, and miracles are related which were wrought by the miraculous oil which flowed for centuries from the Tomb.

Still it is strange that no mention has ever been made of any Translation of the Body of St John; no Church has ever boasted of its possessing it; and as to particular Relics of this Apostle, they are not only very rare, but a great deal of vagueness has always clung to them. At Rome, when a Relic of St John is asked for, the only one given is a small piece of the Tomb. With these facts before us, we are forced into the idea that there is something mysterious in this total ignorance with regard to the Body of a Saint so dear to the whole Church; whereas the Bodies of all the other Apostles have been the subject of most interesting and detailed accounts, and we can name the Churches which have possessed either the whole or a portion of their venerable remains. Has our Redeemer willed that the Body of his dear Disciple should be glorified before the Day of Judgement? Has he, in his own inscrutable designs, withdrawn it from the sight of man, as he did that of Moses? These are questions which will, perhaps, never be solved on this earth; but it is almost impossible not to acknowledge, as so many holy writers have done, that the mystery wherewith it has pleased our Lord to shroud the virginal Body of St John may be considered as an additional reward given to the Disciple whom he so tenderly loved during life, on account of his purity.

The Mass is given above, p. 255, the other prayers are given on pp. 415-417.

Let us listen, once more, to the sweet praises given to St John in the various Liturgies. And first, let us open the Roman Breviary, where we shall find the following Responsories:

Responsories

℟. Iste est Joannes qui supra pectus Domini in cœna recubuit: * Beatus Apostolus, cui revelata sunt secreta cœlestia.


℣. Fluenta Evangelii de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris fonte potavit. * Beatus.

℟. Diligebat autem eum Jesus, quoniam specialis prærogativa castitatis ampliori dilectione fecerat dignum: * Quia virgo electus ab ipso, virgo in ævum permansit.

. In cruce denique moriturus, huic Matrem suam virginem virgini commendavit. * Quia.

. In illum diem suscipiam te servum meum, et ponam te sicut signaculum in conspectu meo: * Quoniam ego elegi te, dicit Dominus.

℣. Esto fidelis usque ad mortem, et dabo tibi coronam vitæ. * Quoniam.

This is John, who at the Supper reclined his head on the Lord’s Breast: * Blessed Apostle, unto whom the secrets of heaven were revealed.


℣. He drank in the streams of the Gospel from the sacred fount itself of our Lord's Breast. * Blessed.

℟. Jesus loved him, for the special prerogative of his chastity made him worthy of a special love: * Because, being chosen by Christ as a virgin, he remained a virgin for ever.

. When at length he was about to die on the Cross, he commended his Virgin-Mother to this his virgin disciple. * Because.

. In that day I will take thee to be my Servant, and I will make thee as a signet in my sight: * For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord.

. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. * For.


The Mozarabic Breviary, in the Office of St John the Evangelist, contains the following beautiful prayer:

Capitulum

Ineffabilia sunt, Domine, fiuenta uteri tui, quibus præ cæteris dilectus ille a te discipulus, recubans in sinu tuo, satiari promeruit: quæsumus ergo, ut mortificatis membris nostris, tuis semper mereamur inhærere vestigiis: ut intercessu hujus sancti Joannis, ita nos ignis amoris tui concremet et absumat, qualiter beneplacitum nos tibi in toto holocaustum efficiat.
Ineffable, O Lord, are the streams of thy Heart, wherewith the Disciple whom thou lovedst above the rest deserved to be filled, when leaning on thy Breast: we therefore humbly beseech thee that, our senses being mortified, we may deserve to walk at all times in thy footsteps: that thus, by the intercession of this thy holy disciple John, the fire of thy love may so burn and consume us, as to make us in all things a holocaust well-pleasing unto thee.

We find also this other prayer in the Missal of the same Gothic Liturgy.

Prayer

Vide, vide, Deus, quibus gravati delictis obruimur; qualiterque nobis ipsi quotidie efficimur causa veneni et pœna supplicii, dum cum quotidiano carnis nostræ veneno polluimur, et de reparatione melioris vitæ nullo modo cogitamus. Sed quia certuni est quod hoc videas, qui semper es clemens; et ideo per confessionem nos ad te redituros exspectas, ideo suggerimus ut Apostolo tuo Joanne intercedente, qui invocato nomine tuo lethale ebibens virus, non solum ipse evasit, sed etiam alios ex eodem extinctos populo suscitavit. Procul a nobis efficias et incentivam carnis nostræ libidinem, et virus persuasionis hostis antiqui, ut fide te colentes, sicut Joannem Apostolum non nocuit oblatum venenum, ita nos non noceat latentium vitiorum virus occultum.
See, see, O God, the sins whereby we are weighed down, and how we daily create to ourselves the poison that destroys and the pain that punishes, inasmuch as we are each day infected with the poison of the deeds of our flesh, yet give we no thought to the amending our lives. But whereas faith teaches us that thou seest our sins, and because thou art merciful, thou awaitest us that we return to thee by humble confession; therefore do we beg the intercession of John thine Apostle, who having drunk a deadly poison, not only, by the invocation of thy name, escaped hurt himself, but raised them to life who had been poisoned by that same cup. By this his intercession, drive far from us both the lustful flames of our own flesh, and the poison of the old enemy’s suggestions; that worshipping thee by our faith, we may be guarded against the hidden poison of latent passions, as the poison offered to the Apostle John left him uninjured.

We take from the Menæa of the Greek Church a second selection of stanzas in honour of the holy Evangelist.

On The Feast Of St John The Theologian
(XXVI Septembris)

Maris abyssum derelinquens, crucis calamo omnes sapienter fidei piscatus es gentes velut pisces; nam, ut dixit tibi Christus, apparuisti piscator hominum carpens eos ad pietatem; ideo sparsisti Verbi gnosim; Patmos et Ephesum sermonibus cepisti tuis, Theologe Apostole; deprecare Christum Deum ut det lapsuum remissionem celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.


Lingua tua facta est calamus scriptoris Spiritus sancti, deifice demonstrans venerabile et divinum Evangelium.

Magnæ divinæque tuæ theologiæ faces totam; gloriose, illuminarunt terrain luce trisolari splendentem.

Vere fuit tamquam calamus velociter scribentis tua lingua theodica, veram pulchre scribens gnosim et legem novissimam in tabulis, theologe, cordium nostrorum.

Cœlorum scire celsitudines, marisque explorare abyssos temerarium et intentabile; astra autem numerare vel littoralem arenam par est. Sic de theologo dici non potest quot ipsum coronis quem amabat coronavit Christus, supra cujus pectus recubuit, et in mystica cœna eum lautissime refecit sicut theologum et Christi amicum.

Terrestrem peristi apud Christum sedem habere; at ille tibi pectus suum donat, o vocate theologe, tranquilla et permanente sede pulchritudinis ditatus es Apostolorum gloria.

Virginitatis florem, venerandarum virtutum electum habitaculum, sapientiæ instrumentum, templum Spiritus, os Ecclesiæ igniferum, charitatis manifestissimum oculum, venerandissimum Joannem, spiritualibus canticis nunc sursum celebremus, tamquam Christi famulum.

Evangelista Joannes, par Angelo, virgo a Deo docte, limpidissimum latus sanguine et aqua fluens prædicasti, per quem deducimur ad vitam æternam animabus nostris.

Leaving the waters of the sea, thou didst, with much wisdom, draw all nations to the Faith by the rod of the Cross; for, as Christ told thee, thou wast a Fisher of men, drawing them unto holiness. Therefore didst thou spread abroad the knowledge of the Word, and by thy preachings, O Theologian Apostle, thoudidst gain over Patmos and Ephesus. Beseech Christ our Lord to grant forgiveness of sin to us who lovingly celebrate thy holy memory.


Thy tongue was made the pen of him who wrote by thee, the Holy Ghost; it showed us, by divine inspiration, the venerable and divine Gospel.

The blaze of thy great and divine Theology, O glorious Apostle, illumined the earth that was shining with a triple light.

Truly was thy divinely taught tongue, O Theologian, as the pen of one that writes swiftly, for it beautifully wrote on the tablets of our hearts the true knowledge and the New Law.
To measure the height of the heavens, and explore the depths of the sea, is a rash and vain attempt: so too is it to count the stars or the sand on the shore. In like manner we may not count the number of crowns wherewith Christ crowned his Beloved Disciple, who reposed on his Breast, and in the mystic Supper was most sumptuously regaled as the Theologian and Friend of Jesus.

Thou didst once ask to sit near Jesus on a terrestrial throne; but he gave thee to recline on his Breast, and placed thee on a peaceful and eternal throne of beauty, O thou that art called the Theologian, and art the glory of the Apostles!

Let us now loudly celebrate in spiritual canticles this servant of Christ: he is the flower of holy Virginity, the chosen dwelling of sublime virtues, the instrument of wisdom, the temple of the Spirit, the burning tongue of the Church, the most bright eye of charity, the most venerable John.

O Evangelist John! angelic, virgin taught of God! 'twas thou didst tell us of that Sacred Side, from whence, as from a most limpid stream, flowed Blood and Water: thus didst thou teach our souls the way to life eternal.


The Latin Churches of the Middle Ages were fervent in their praises of St John, and have left us a great many Hymns in his honour. Out of the number we select only two; the first is the composition of Adam of St Victor, and is the finest of the four written on St John by the great lyric poet of those times.

Sequence

Gratulemur ad festivum,
Jocundemur ad votivum Joannis præconium.


Sic versetur laus in ore,
Ne fraudetur cor sapore
Quo degustet gaudium.

Hic est Christi prædilectus
Qui reclinans supra pectus,
Hausit sapientiam.

Huic in cruce commendavit
Matrem Christus; hic servavit
Virgo viri nesciam.

Intus ardens charitate,
Foris lucens honestate,
Signis et eloquio,

Ut ab æstu criminali,
Sic immunis a pœnali,
Prodiit ex dolio.

Vim veneni superavit,
Morti, morbis imperavit,
Nec non et demonibus.

Sed vir tantæ potestatis,
Non minoris pietatis
Erat tribulantibus.

Cum gemmarum partes fractas
Solidasset, has distractas
Tribuit pauperibus.

Inexhaustum fert thesaurum,
Qui de virgis fecit aurum,
Gemmas de lapidibus.

Invitatur ab amico Convivan;
Christum dico
Visum cum discipulis.

De sepulcro quo descendit
Redivivus sic ascendit,
Frui summis epulis.

Testem habes populum,
Immo, si vis, oculum,
Quod ad ejus tumulum
Manna scatet, epulum
De Christi convivio.

Scribens Evangelium,
Aquilæ fert proprium,
Cernens solis radium,
Scilicet Principium
Verbum in Principio.

Hujus signis est conversa
Gens gentilis, gens perversa,
Gens totius Asiæ.

Hujus scriptis illustratur,
Illustrata solidatur
Unitas Ecclesiæ.

Salve, salvi vas pudoris,
Vas cœlestis plenum roris,
Mundum intus, clarum foris,
Nobile per omnia!

Fac nos sequi sanctitatem;
Fac per mentis puritatem
Contemplan Trinitatem
In una substantia.

Amen.

'Tis the Feast of St John:
let us rejoice; let us sing his praise with glad hearts.

But let our lips so speak his praise
that our hearts be not devoid of fervour,
and so relish the hidden joy.

This is the Disciple the Beloved of Christ,
who leaned on his sacred breast,
and imbibed wisdom.

'Twas to him that Jesus,
dying on the Cross, left his Mother:
John, the virgin, was guardian of the Virgin.

His heart was filled with burning charity;
his exterior, his miracles,
his words, were a shining light.

As the fire of criminal passion had never impaired his soul,
so did he come unhurt
from the caldron of boiling oil.

He checked the power of poison;
death, disease and demons
fled at his bidding.

And yet, with all this heavenly power,
he was the tenderest-hearted friend
to them that were in grief.

Some precious stones had been broken;
he miraculously brought the fragments together,
and thus pieced, gave them to the poor.

He was a living treasure,
for he changed the branches of a tree into gold,
and stones into gems.

He is invited to a banquet by a Friend;
that Friend was Jesus,
surrounded by his Disciples:

From the tomb wherein he had been laid,
he then came forth alive,
and ascended to enjoy the infinite feast.

Innumerable witnesses will tell thee
(though thyself may see it, if thou wilt),
that round his tomb there falls a Manna,
the symbol of that Banquet
which Jesus gave him.

The Eagle is the emblem
of this Evangelist,
for he looks steadfastly at the Sun,
that is, at the Eternal Word
in the Bosom of the Eternal Father.

By his miracles the gentile world,
a stubborn world,
the world of Asia, was converted.

His writings enlighten,
and by their light confirm
the one true Church.

Hail then, vessel of unsullied chastity!
vessel filled with heavenly dew!
pure within, fair without,
and noble in every part.

Oh! pray for us, that we may follow the path of holiness,
and by the cleanliness of our hearts
be rewarded with the vision
of the Triune God.

Amen.


Our second Sequence is taken from the ancient Missals of the Churches of Germany, and is extremely beautiful.

Sequence

Verbum Dei,
Deo natum,
Quod nec factum nec creatum,

Venit de cœlestibus:
Hoc vidit, hoc attrectavit,
Hoc de cœlo reseravit
Joannes hominibus.

Inter illos primitivos
Veros veri fontis rivos
Joannes exsiliit,
Toti mundo propinare
Nectar illud salutare
Quod de throno prodiit.

Coelum transit, veri rotam
Solis ibi vidit, totam
Mentis figens aciem;
Speculator spiritalis
Quasi Seraphim sub alis
Dei videt faciem.

Audiit in gyro sedis
Quid psallant cum citharœdis
Quater seni proceres:
De sigillo Trinitatis
Nostræ nummo civitatis
Impressit characteres.

Iste custos Virginis
Arcanum originis
Divinæ mysterium,
Scribens Evangelium,
Mundo demonstravit:
Cordis cui sacrarium
Suum Christus lilium,
Filio tonitrui
Sub amoris mutui
Pace commendavit.

Haurit virus hic lethale,
Ubi corpus virginale
Virtus servat fidei:
Pœna stupet quod in pœna
Sit Joannes sine poena
Bullientis olei.

Hic naturis imperat
Ut et saxa transferat
In decus gemmarum:
Quo jubente riguit,
Auri fulvum induit
Virgula silvarum.

Hic infernum reserat,
Morti jubet, referat
Quos venenum stravit:
Obstruit quod Ebion,
Cerinthus et Marcion
Perfide latravit.

Volat avis sine meta
Quo nec vates, nec Propheta
Evolavit altius:
Tam implenda, quam impleta
Numquam vidit tot secreta
Purus homo purius.

Sponsus rubra veste tectus,
Visus sed non intellectus,
Redit ad palatium:
Aquilam Ezechielis
Sponsæ misit quæ de cœlis
Referret mysterium.

Dic, dilecte, de dilecto,
Qualis sit, et ex dilecto
Sponsus sponsæ nuncia:
Dic quis cibus Angelorum,
Quæ sint festa superorum
De sponsi præsentia.

Veri panem intellectus,
Cœnam Christi supra pectus
Christi sumptam resera:
Ut cantemus de patrono,
Coram Agno, coram throno,
Laudes super aethera.

The Word of God,
who was born of God,
and was not made nor created,
and who came down from heaven
—this Word was seen and handled
and revealed to men
by John the Evangelist.


John sprang up amidst those true rivulets,
which from the commencement
flowed from the True Fountain;
he has made the whole world
drink of that life-giving nectar
that flows from the throne of God.

He soared above the heavens,
and gazed with the fixedness of his soul's eye
on the brightness of the true Sun;
this spiritual contemplator saw,
as it were from under the wings of the Seraphim,
the Face of God.

He hears what songs are sung
round the Throne by the four
and twenty elders and the heavenly Harpers.
He has stamped upon the coin
of our terrestrial city the impress
and seal of the Holy Trinity.

He, the guardian of the Virgin,
wrote his Gospel,
that he might show to the world
the profound mystery
of the Divine Generation:
and Jesus, after allowing him
to recline on his Sacred Heart,
commended his own pure Lily,
Mary, to this his and her much loved one,
the Son of Thunder.

He drinks a deadly poison!
but the virtue of his faith
preserves his virginal body from death.
Nay, the very creature that was prepared to torture him
—the boiling oil—stood wondering
at his feeling not its cruel power to pain.

Nature is obedient to him.
He bids the stones be gems,
and they obey:
he bids the branch of a tree turn its pliant fibres
into the precious metal of gold,
and it obeys.

He bids the sepulchre and death
yield back them whom poison
had made their victims; they obey.
He stops the blasphemous
howlings of Ebion,
Cerinthus, and Marcion.

He is the Eagle,
soaring to the infinite;
nor Seer nor Prophet passed him in his flight.
No pure mind ever saw more clearly
than he so many mysteries,
already past or yet to come.

Jesus, the Bridegroom,
clothed in his scarlet robe,
after being seen by men, but not understood,
returned to his palace above:
he sent to his Bride the Eagle of Ezechiel,
that he might relate to her the mystery seen in heaven.

O Beloved Disciple! speak to us of thy Beloved:
tell the Church the beauty of this thy Jesus,
who is her chosen Spouse:
tell her who is the Bread of the Angels:
tell her what feasts her Spouse's presence
causes to the citizens of heaven.

Speak to her of that Bread which feeds the soul with truth;
reveal to her that Supper of thy Lord taken
on the Breast of thy Lord: we will sing to the Lamb,
we will sing round the Throne, we will praise him
above the heavens, for his having given
us such a Patron as thee.


O glorious Saint! we thank thee with all the gratitude of our hearts for the assistance thou hast so lovingly granted us during the celebration of this grand Feast of Jesus' Birth. Thou art ever with us at Christmas; but it is only to help us to know Jesus the more; for, in considering thy prerogatives, we are giving praise to him who gave them to thee. We offer thee, then, the homage of our admiration and thanks, dear Friend of Jesus, and adopted Child of Mary! Before leaving us, suffer us to offer thee once more our humble petitions.

Pray, sweet Apostle of Fraternal Love! that the hearts of all men may be united in holy charity; that dissensions may cease; that the simplicity of the dove, of which thou wast such a touching example, may become the spirit of our present age, adverse though it seem to this commandment of our Lord. May Faith, without which love and charity cannot exist, be maintained in all its purity; may the serpent of heresy be crushed, and its poisoned cup find neither teachers to offer it, nor disciples to drink it. May the attachment to the doctrines of the Church be firm and courageous; may no human schemes or theories, or cowardly toleration of error, enervate the principles of truth and morals; may the children of light boldly disown fellowship with the children of darkness.

Remember, O holy Prophet! the sublime vision granted thee of the Churches of Asia Minor; and obtain for the Angels who are set over ours, that unflinching faithfulness which alone wins the victory and the Crown. Pray also for those countries which received the Gospel from thee, but have since deserved to lose the Faith. They have been suffering now for ages the consequences of false doctrines, slavery and degradation; intercede for them, that they may be regenerated by Jesus and his Spouse the Church. From thy heavenly home send Peace to thine own dear Church of Ephesus, and to her Sister Churches of Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea; may they awake from their sleep; may they rise from their tomb; may Mohammedanism cease its brutalizing tyranny over them; may schism and heresy, which now keep the East in a state of barbarism, be extinguished; and may the whole flock be once more united in the one Fold. Cover with thy protecting love the holy Church of Rome, which was witness of thy glorious Confession, which she counts as one of those her grand glories which began with the Martyrdom of thy fellow Apostles, Peter and Paul. May she receive a fresh infusion of light and charity, now that the harvest is whitening over so many countries.[7] And, lastly, Beloved Disciple of the Saviour of mankind! pray that, on the last day we may enjoy the sight of thy glorified Body; and after having so often presented us on this earth to Jesus and Mary in Bethlehem, present us on that day to the same Jesus and Mary in the glories of the eternal Vision.


[1] Apoc.
[2] Apoc. ii 8.
[3] Cant. iii 6.
[4] St Matt. v 15.
[5] Prov. viii 31.
[6] 2 St John i 10, 11.
[7] St John iv 35.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

WE finish to-day the Octave consecrated to the memory of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. Thanks be to God, who has given them to us to be our intercessors and our models! Their name will not reappear on the Church’s Calendar until the return of the Christmas Solemnity; let us therefore devoutly approach these sweet Infant Saints—venerate them, love them, and address to them our farewell prayers.

The Holy Church, which on the Feast vested in the colour of mourning, and this out of condolence with Rachel’s grief, now on the Octave Day clothes herself in the red of her Martyrs, in order to honour these Babes who shed their Blood for Jesus. Notwithstanding, she is full of tender compassion for those poor Mothers, who suffered such agonies of grief at the sight of the murder of their little ones; she continually alludes to them in to-day’s Liturgy, and reads in the Office of Matins a passage from an ancient Sermon which vividly describes their feelings. We cannot withhold it from our readers. The Sermon from which it is taken was for a long time attributed to St Augustine.

'When our Lord was born, there began lamentation, not indeed in heaven, but on earth! Lamentation for the Mothers, joy for the Angels, heaven for the Babes. He that is born is God: a victim must be offered him, and Innocents must be that offering, for he came to condemn the malice of this world. Tender lambs must be slain, for the Lamb who is come to take away the sins of the world is to be crucified. But the Mothers wail because they lose their lambs, that scarce have voice to make their bleatings heard. O wonderful martyrdom! O sight most cruel! The sword is unsheathed, and there is no enemy; jealousy alone spurs on the band, for he that is born would injure no man.

‘There, then, sit the Mothers, weeping over their lambs. A voice in Rama is heard, lamentation and great mourning. These sweet pledges are not mere things intrusted to their care, they are the children of their own wombs; they are pledges, but they are not given, they are cruelly stolen from them. Nature herself is witness, it betrays the children of whom the tyrant is in search. The Mother tears her hair, for she has lost her beauty in losing her babe. Oh! how she sought to hide him, and the innocent one betrayed himself! He knew not how to be silent, for he had not yet learnt to fear. The Mother struggled with the executioner; he seized her child, resolved to murder him; she clung to him, resolved to hold him to her bosom. "Why," she exclaimed, "why separate me from my child? I gave him birth, and I fed him at my breast untiringly. I bore him in my arms with fondest care, and thy cruel hand has dashed him on the ground! This fresh and lovely fruit—thus trampled on!"

'A second Mother bade the executioner take away her life together with that of her child; he would not, and she cried out to him: “ Why dost thou send me away, having slain my son? If there were any fault, I only could be guilty: if there were no fault, let me die with my babe, and rid me of my wretched life.” A third exclaimed: "What is it that ye seek? Ye are in search of one, and ye slay so many! and him who is One ye cannot find!" And again another cried out: “Come, O come, thou Saviour of the world! How long shalt thou be sought for? Thou fearest no man: let these soldiers see thee, and so not slay our children.” These were the lamentations of the Mothers; and the immolation of their Babes ascended as a sacrifice to heaven.’

Among these Children thus cruelly massacred, from the age of two years and under, there were some belonging to those Shepherds of Bethlehem who had been called on the Night of our Saviour's Birth to go and adore him in his Crib. These, after Mary and Joseph the first worshippers of the Incarnate Word, thus offered to the God who had called them the most precious treasure they possessed. They knew to what Child their children were sacrificed, and a holy pride filled their souls as they thought of this new proof of God's singular mercy to them in preference to so many others of their fellowcreatures.

As to Herod, he was foiled in his schemes, as must ever be the case with those who wage war against Christ and his Church. His edict for the murder of every male child that was two years old or younger, included Bethlehem and its entire neighbourhood; but the Child he alone cared for, and wished to destroy, escaped the sword and fled into Egypt. It was another proof of the world's folly in opposing the designs of God; and, in this instance, the very measure that was intended to effect evil produced good: the tyrant enriched the Church of heaven with Saints, and the Church militant with so many fresh patrons.

Jesus, the new-born King of the Jews,[1] who causes Herod to tremble on his throne, is but a Little Child, without so much as one single soldier to defend him. Herod, like all the persecutors of the Church, has an instinctive knowledge which teaches him that this apparent weakness is real and formidable power: what neither he nor his successors knew was that it is worse than useless, and worse than folly, to attempt to crush a spiritual power by the sword. This apparent weakness of the Babe of Bethlehem will increase with his years; now he flees from the tyrant who seeks his life; but later on, when he has grown into Manhood, he will not escape from his enemies; they will fasten him to an infamous gibbet, between two Thieves: but on that very day a Roman Governor will declare this Jesus to be King; he will write with his own hand the inscription to be nailed on the Cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate will give Jesus with all possible formality that very Title which now makes Herod turn pale: the enemies of Jesus will protest, they will insist on the Title being altered; but Pilate will not change an iota, and will say: What I have written, I have written.[2] As on the day of his Crucifixion he will admit one of the two Thieves to share in his triumph; so now that he is laid in the Crib, he will share his glory with the Innocents of Bethlehem.

The Mass is given above, p. 281. The Gloria in excelsis is said, the other prayers are given on pp. 415-417.

Let us once more honour these dear Innocents, by culling their praises from the various Liturgies. We will begin with three Responsories from the Roman Breviary.

Responsories

℟. Isti qui amicti sunt stolis albis, qui sunt, et unde venerunt? Et dixit mihi: * Hi sunt qui venerunt de tribuiatione magna, et laverunt stolas suas, et dealbaverunt eas in sanguine Agni.
℣. Vidi sub altare Dei animas interfectorum propter Verbum Dei, et propter testimonium quod habebant. * Hi sunt.

℟. Isti sunt qui non inquinaverunt vestimenta sua; * Ambulabunt mecum in albis, quia digni sunt.
℣. Hi sunt qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati; virgines enim sunt. * Ambulabunt.

℟. Cantabant Sancti canticum novum ante sedem Dei et Agni: * Et resonabat terra in voces eorum.
℣. Hi empti sunt ex hominibus, primitiæ Deo et Agno, et in ore ipsorum non est inventum mendacium. * Et resonabat.
℟. These that are clad in white robes, who are they, and whence came they? And he said unto me; * These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
℣. I saw under the altar of God the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. * These.

. These are they which have not defiled their garments; * They shall walk with me in white, because they are worthy.
℣. These are they who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. * They.

℟. These Saints sang a new canticle before the throne of God and the Lamb; * And the earth resounded with their voices.
℣. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouth there was found no lie. * And the earth.

The two Collects which follow are from the Leonine Sacramentary.

Prayer

Deus qui licet sis magnus in magnis, mirabilia tamen gloriosius operaris in minimis: da nobis, quæsumus, in eorum celebritate gaudere, qui Filio tuo Domino nostro testimonium præbuerunt etiam non loquentes.
O God, who though great in great things, dost nevertheless work with exceeding glory in those that are the least: grant, we beseech thee, that we may rejoice on this the Feast of them who bore testimony, though they spoke not, to thy Son our Lord.

Prayer

Tribue, Domine, quæsumus, fidelibus tuis, ut, sicut ait Apostolus, non efficiantur pueri sensibus, sed malitia innoxii reperiantur ut parvuli; ut Martyres festivitatis hodiernæ, quos mentis æquare non possunt, mentis simplicitate sectentur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to thy faithful people, that, as thy Apostle saith, they may become children not in sense, but in malice; that thus they may imitate the Martyrs of this day's Feast by the simplicity of their hearts, since they cannot attain to the merits they acquired. Through Christ our Lord.

We take the following beautiful prayer from the Mozarabic Breviary of the Gothic Liturgy of Spain.

Capitula

Christe, inenarrabile lumen mundi, qui adhuc in ipsis cunabulis constitutus, nondum effectus martyr, martyrii palma catervas Infantium dedicasti: qui necdum loqui valentes, sub mucrone sævientium varios fecisti mugitus emittere: quorum animas de abditis infernorum, te spontanee pro nobis omnibus moriente, maluisti eripere; inspira eis, sine intermissione orare pro parvulis: ut, qui propriis non valeamus supplicationibus emundari a crimine, eorum, qui te, quocumque ieris, cum hymnis et canticis adsequuntur, et hic et in æternum postulationibus abluamur.
O Jesus, Light ineffable of the world! who, whilst yet in thy Crib, and not thyself a Martyr, didst give the palm of martyrdom to the army of Innocents, who, not being able to speak, did by thy will utter their many cries when being massacred by the cruel soldiers: whose souls, when thou didst freely die for all our sakes, were taken by thee from the depths of limbo: to these same, O Jesus, inspire the desire of incessantly praying for us, the little and weak: that thus, not deserving to be cleansed from our sins by our own prayers, we may obtain both present and eternal purity by the intercession of them that follow thee whithersoever thou goest, singing to thee their hymns and canticles.

The Missal of the same Church gives us also this prayer.

Prayer

Deus cujus misericordia utrumque sexum et per omnem cucurrit ætatem, ita plurimum Infantibus affectum paternæ pietatis indulgens, ut parvulos nec ab Ægypto teneri sineres, nec ab Evangelio prohiberi, dum in Lege cum patribus evaderent mundum; et in gratia cum perfectis vocarentur ad regnum, atque institutione doctrinæ, innocentia expers mali forma induceretur exempli: Dona nobis famulis tuis, ut malitiæ viribus defecati, in usum concupiscentiæ carnalis invalidi, docibilem servemus disciplinis voluntatem. Quo mens nec rigida nec superba, sic sit blanda, sic innocens, ne imprudens: sic humilis, ne imbecillis; quatenus maturo discretionis judicio sic sufficiat probare quod placeat, ut effectare nesciat quod delinquat. Atque ita salubrem sumat temperantiam moderante consilio, ut et simplicitatem imitetur infantium, et fortitudinem vindicet pugnatorum. Amen.
O God, whose mercy is granted to every age and sex; and who didst lavish on the Innocents such richness of fatherly love, that thou wouldst neither suffer them to be kept in Egyptian bondage, nor, when they left this world under the Law, as their fathers had done, to be deprived of the Gospel’s fulness of grace; but didst call them to thy kingdom, in common with them that were made perfect under the law of Grace, thus making them a lesson and an example to us of innocence that knows no evil: grant unto us thy servants, that laying aside our power for evil, and dying to the concupiscence of the flesh, we may have no will save that of being taught by thy instructions. May our soul be thus neither rigid nor proud; may she be gentle and innocent without being imprudent; may she be humble without being weak; that hereby, by the timely judgement of discernment, she may both know thy goodpleasure and do it, and ignore how to do that which offends thee. May she, moreover, possess that wholesome temperance which flows from the guidance of counsel; that so she both imitate the simplicity of these Innocents, in that they were children, and emulate their fortitude, in that they were combatants. Amen.

Prudentius, the Poet of the Mysteries and the Martyrs, from whom the Church has taken her beautiful stanzas for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Salvete, Flores Martyrum, celebrates the immolation of these lovely Babes of Bethlehem in his exquisite Hymn for the Epiphany. It is to this Hymn that the Roman Liturgy has had recourse for several great Feasts; and we now extract from it the strophes which refer to our dear Innocents.

Hymn

Audit tyrannus anxius
Adesse regum Principem,
Qui nomen Israel regat,
Teneatque David regiam.


Exclamat amens nuntio:
Successor instat, pellimur:
Satelles, i, ferrum rape,
Perfunde cunas sanguine.

Mas infans omnis occidat;
Scrutare nutricum sinus;
Interque materna ubera
Ensem cruentet pusio.

Suspecta per Bethlem mihi
Puerperarum est omnium
Fraus, ne qua furtim subtrahat
Prolem virilis indolis.

Transfigit ergo carniiex,
Mucrone districto furens,
Effusa nuper corpora,
Animasque rimatur novas.

Locum minutis artubus
Vix interemptor invenit,
Quod plaga descendat patens,
Juguloque major pugio est.

O barbarum spectaculum!
Illisa cervix cautibus
Spargit cerebrum lacteum,
Oculosque per vulnus vomit.

Aut in profundum palpitans
Mersatur infans gurgitem,
Cui subter arctis faucibus
Singultat unda, et halitus.

Salvete flores Martyrum,
Quos lucis ipso in limine
Christi insecutor sustulit,
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas?
Quid crimen Herodem juvat?
Unus tot inter funera
Impune Christus tollitur.

Inter cœevi sanguinis
Fluenta, solus integer,
Ferrum, quod orbabat nurus,
Partus fefellitVirginis.

Sic stulta Pharaonis mali
Edicta quondam fugerat,
Christi figuram præferens,
Moses, receptor civium.

The anxious Tyrant hears
that the King of kings is come,
who is to rule over the Jews,
and sit on the throne of David.


Maddened by jealous fear he calls a messenger,
and says to him: ‘Our rival is at hand—we are in danger:
go, slave, arm thee with thy sword,
and bathe every cradle with blood.

‘Let every male-child be slain,
and every nurse be watched,
and every Babe feel thy sharp-edged blade,
even whilst he sucks his mother's breast.

‘Not a Mother about Bethlehem
but I suspect her;
then watch them all,
lest they hide their boys from thee.'

On this the executioner goes,
and in his wild cruelty plunges
his naked dagger into the tender flesh
and the but freshly formed hearts of these little ones.

But where shall he strike?
where find space enough to hold
a gaping wound in these infant-bodies
not so big as the dagger in his hand?

Yet still these butchers murder every child.
Here it is an infant dashed against a rock,
covering its flinty sides, oh! cruel sight!
with blood and brains and eyes.

There it is a lovely babe torn from his mother’s arms
and thrown into a deep stream,
whose gurgling waters weep
whilst drowning sobs and life so sweet as these.

Hail, ye Flowers of the Martyrs!
The enemy of Christ cut you down
in the very threshold of life,
as rose-buds are snapped by a storm.

First Victims for Jesus!
Tender flock of his Martyrs!
ye, with sweet simplicity, play with palms and your crowns
even at the very altar of your sacrifice!

And what does Herod gain by this dark crime?
Does it give him what he sought?
The single One he cared to kill is Jesus,
and he still lives!

The stream of infant-blood has ceased to flow,
and he alone is safe:
the Virgin’s Child has escaped that sword
which robbed all other Mothers of their babes.

So was it in that time of old, when Moses,
the liberator of his people,
and the type of Christ,
escaped the senseless edicts of the wicked Pharaoh.


We will close our selection by this Sequence of Notker, which is given in the collection of St Gall.

Sequence

Laus tibi, Christe, Patris optimi Nate, Deus omnipotentiæ,


Quem cœlitus jubilat supra astra manentis plebis decus harmoniæ:

Quem agmina infantium sonoris hymnis collaudant ætheris in arce:

Quos impius, ob nominis odium tui, misero straverat vulnere:

Quos pie nunc remuneras in cœlis, Christe, pro pœnis nitide;

Solita usus gratia, qua tuos ornas coronis splendide;

Quorum precibus sacris dele, precamur, nostra pie crimina vitæ,

Et quos laudibus tuis junxeras, nobis istic dones Clemens favere:

Illis aeternæ dans lumen gloriæ, nobis terrea concede vincere;

Ut liceat serenis actibus pleniter adipisci dona tuæ gratiæ:

Herodis ut non fiat socius, quisquis in horum laude se exercet propere;

Sed æternaliter cum eisdem catervis tecum sit, Domine. Amen.

Praise be to thee, O Jesus, Son of the all-perfect Father, Almighty God!


Unto whom the sweet hymns of the citizens of heaven are ever giving praise,

And the Innocent Babes are ever singing their melodious songs of praise in the courts above.

These Babes were slain by the ruthless sword, at the bidding of a wicked king who hated thy name,

And now are richly rewarded in heaven by thee, O Jesus, in return for the sufferings they endured;

Herein showing thy wonted mercy, which gives to all who serve thee crowns of richest beauty.

By the holy prayers of these Innocents, mercifully cleanse us, we beseech thee, from the sins of our past lives,

And lovingly grant that they whom thou hast associated to thyself to give thee praise, may become our protectors here below.

On them bestow the light of endless glory; on us the victory over earthly things,

That thus, by a life of holiness, we may merit an abundance of the riches of thy grace.

Of all that devoutly praise these thy holy Innocents, may none be made companions with Herod.

But may they all live for ever with thee, O Lord, in the society of this sweet choir of heaven. Amen.


Sweet Flowers of the Martyrs! your Feast is over in our Church on earth, but your patronage will never leave us. During this new year of the holy Liturgy, which God has given us, you will watch over us, and pray for us to the Lamb, who loves you so tenderly. We entrust to you the fruits of grace which our souls have gathered from the Christmas Feasts. We have become little children together with our Lord; we have begun a new life with him; pray for us, that we may grow with him in wisdom and age before God and man.[1] Secure us perseverance by your prayers; and to this end, keep up in our hearts that Christian simplicity which is the special virtue of Children of Christ. You are innocent; we are sinners; still, we are brethren; love us, then, with brotherly love. You were garnered into heaven at the very dawn of the Law of Grace; our lives have fallen on the close of time, and the world has grown cold in charity; be near and help us; cheer and encourage us in our combat, by showing us your lovely palms of victory; pray to our Lord, that we may speedily obtain by repentance the heavenly crown which his infinite mercy allowed you to win, without the fatigues and risks of a battle.

Infant Martyrs! forget not the young generation, which has just entered on the scene of life. You were taken to eternal glory at the age of infancy; these little ones are like you in their innocence; love them, watch over them, pray for them. The grace of their Baptism is upon them in all its freshness, and their pure souls reflect as a mirror the holiness of the God that dwells in them by grace. Alas! these Babes are to go through great trials; many of them will forfeit the grace of God, and their Baptismal garment will lose its unspotted purity. The world will seek to corrupt their heart and mind, and the frightful influence of bad example is almost always successful. Christian mothers will have to weep over the ruin of their children’s souls, and what consolation is there for such a grief as theirs? There is a Christian Rama and a Christian Rachel ever wailing in the Church: do you, sweet Innocents of Bethlehem, comfort these mothers, by praying for their little ones. Pray that our times may grow less evil, and that parents may have less need to fear than they now have that the first step taken by their children in the world will be death to their souls.


[1] St Matt. ii 2.
[2] St John xix 22.
[3] St Luke ii 52.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year .

THE Feast of Christmas is over; the four Octaves are closed; and we are on the Eve of the Solemnity of our Lord's Epiphany. We must spend this January 5 in preparing ourselves for the Manifestation which Jesus, the Angel of Great Counsel, is about to make to us of his glory. A few more hours, and the Star will stand still in the heavens, and the Magi will be seeking for admission into the stable of Bethlehem.

This Vigil is not like that of Christmas, a day of penance. The Child whose coming we were then awaiting, in the fervour of our humble desires, is now among us, preparing to bestow fresh favours upon us. This eve of to-morrow’s Solemnity is a day of joy, like those that have preceded it; and therefore we do not fast, nor does the Church put on the vestments of mourning. If the Office of the Vigil be the one of to-day, the colour used is White. This is the Twelfth day since the Birth of our Emmanuel.

If the Vigil of the Epiphany fall on a Sunday, it shares with Christmas Eve the privilege of not being anticipated, as all other Vigils are, on the Saturday: it is kept on the Sunday, has all the privileges of a Sunday, and the Mass is that of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas Day. Let us, therefore, celebrate this Vigil in great joy of heart, and prepare our souls for to-morrow’s graces.

The Greek Church keeps this a fasting-day, in memory of the preparation for Baptism, which used formerly to be administered, especially in the East, on the night preceding the feast of the Epiphany. She still solemnly blesses the Water on this Feast. We will in our next volume speak of this ceremony, of which some vestiges still remain in the Western Church.

The Church of Rome commemorates to-day the holy Pope and Martyr, St Telesphorus. This Pontiff began his reign in the year 127; and among his decrees, we find that he prescribed the holy sacrifice of the Mass to be offered up on Christmas Night, in order to honour the hour when our Saviour was born he also ordered that the Angelic Hymn Gloria in excelsis should be said on most days at the beginning of Mass. This devotion of the holy Pope towards the great Mystery which we are now celebrating renders his commemoration at this season of the year doubly dear to us. Telesphorus suffered a glorious martyrdom, as St Irenæus expresses it, and was crowned with eternal glory in the year 138.

MASS

The Mass of the Vigil of the Epiphany is that of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, except the Commemoration of St Telesphorus and the Gospel.

Introit

Dum medium silentium, p. 341.


Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, p. 342.


Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Oremus

Deus qui nos beati Telesphori, Martyris tui atque Pontificis, annua solemnitate lætificas: concede propitius; ut cujus natalitia colimus, de ejusdem etiam protectione gaudeamus.
Let us Pray

O God, who by the yearly solemnity of blessed Telesphorus, thy Martyr and Bishop, rejoicest the hearts of the faithful; mercifully grant that we who celebrate his martyrdom may enjoy his protection.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Deus, qui salutis œternœ, p. 415.


Epistle

Fratres, quanto tempore, p. 342.


Gradual

Speciosus forma, p. 343.


Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: defuncto Herode, ecce Angelus Domini apparuit in somnis Joseph in Ægypto, dicens: Surge, et accipe Puerum et Matrem ejus, et vade in terram Israel; defuncti sunt enim qui quærebant animam Pueri. Qui consurgens accepit Puerum et Matrem ejus, et venit in terram Israel. Audiens autem quod Archelaus regnaret in Judæa pro Herode patre suo, timuit illo ire: et admonitus in somnis, secessit in partes Galilææ. Et veniens habitavit in civitate quæ vocatur Nazareth: ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per Prophetas: quoniam Nazaræus vocabitur.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. II.

When Herod was dead, behold an Angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Arise and take the Child and his Mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead that sought the life of the Child. Who arose, and took the Child and his Mother, and came into the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by the prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene.

Offertory

Deus firmavit, p. 345.


Secret

Concede, quœsumus, p. 345.


Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Munera tibi Domine, dicata sanctifica: et, intercedente beato Telesphoro, Martyre tuo atque Pontifice, per eadem nos placatus intende.
Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings consecrated to thee: and being appeased thereby, mercifully look upon us, by the intercession of blessed Telesphorus, thy Martyr and Bishop.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Tua, Domine, propitiatione, p. 416.


Communion

Tolle puerum, p. 346.


Postcommunion

Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Oremus

Refecti participatione muneris sacri, quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut cujus exsequimur cultum, intercedente beato Telesphoro, Martyre tuo atque Pontifice, sentiamus effectum.
Let us Pray

May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from sin, and by the intercession of blessed Telesphorus, thy Martyr and Bishop, make us effectually partakers of this heavenly remedy.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Hæc nos communio, p. 417.


The last words of Advent were those of the Spouse, recorded in the prophecy of the Beloved Disciple: Come, Lord Jesus, come![1] We will close this first part of our Christmas with those words of the Prophet Isaias, which the Church has so often spoken to us: unto us a Child is born![2] The heavens have dropped down their Dew, the clouds have rained down the Just One, the earth has yielded its Saviour, the Word is made Flesh, the Virgin has brought forth her sweet Fruit, our Emmanuel, that is, God with us. The Sun of Justice now shines upon us; darkness has fled; in heaven there is Glory to God; on earth there is Peace to men. All these blessings have been brought to us by the humble yet glorious Birth of this Child. Let us adore him in his Crib; let us love him for all his love of us; and let us prepare the gifts we intended to present to him, with the Magi, on to-morrow's Feast. The joy of the Church is as great as ever; the Angels are adoring in their wondering admiration; all nature thrills with delight: Unto us is born a little Child!

APPENDIX

Hymn

The stanzas usually sung are marked thus *

* Adeste fideles, læti, triumphantes.
Venite, venite in Bethlehem!
Natum videte Regem Angelorum!
Venite adoremus! Venite adoremus!
Venite adoremus Dominum!

* Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant Puellæ viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus! etc.
En grege relicto, humiles ad cunas
Vocati Pastores adproperant:

Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.
Venite adoremus! etc.
Æterni Parentis splendorem æternum
Velatum sub carne videbimus,
Deum Infantem pannis involutum.
Venite adoremus! etc.

Pro nobis egenum et fœno cubantem
Piis foveamus amplexibus. Sic nos amantem quis non redamaret?
Venite adoremus! etc.

* Cantet nunc Io chorus angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula cœlestium:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus! etc.

* Ergo qui natus die ho dierna,
Jesu, tibi sit gloria!
Patris æterni Verbum caro factum!
Venite adoremus! etc.

* Come, ye Faithful,
in joy and triumph,
to Bethlehem,
and gaze on the new-born King of Angels!
Come, let us adore the Lord!

* The Virgin's womb carries the God of God, the Light of Light,
the true God that was born, not made.
Come, let us adore the Lord!
Lo! the Shepherds are called, and leaving their flocks,
hasten to the humble Crib. Let us also go thither with joy.
Come, let us adore the Lord!

We shall see
the eternal brightness
of the Eternal Father
hid under the veil of Flesh:
the Infant-God wrapped in swaddling-clothes.
Come, let us adore the Lord!

Let us devoutly embrace him who, for our sakes, is become poor and lies on straw.
Oh! who will refuse to love him who so loves us?
Come, let us adore the Lord!

* Let the Angel choir now sing its hymns.
Let the court of the Blessed give forth
its Glory be to God in the highest!
Come, let us adore the Lord!

* To thee, O Jesus!
who art this day born, be glory. Glory be to thee,
O Word of the Eternal Father, that art now made Flesh!
Come, let us adore!


[1] Apoc. xxii 20.
[2] Isa. ix 6.

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