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Introductions to Each Season

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Christian who enters into the spirit of the Church during this season of Lent, will find an increase in his soul of that holy fear of God, which the psalmist tells us is the beginning of wisdom.[1] The remembrance of his sins, the practice of the holy penances of Lent, the example of a God expiating our sins by fasting in the desert, the Church’s ceaseless prayer for her guilty children: all combine to arouse him from the indifference which so easily fastens on the soul. He has need, therefore, of some refuge, some powerful and saving help, which may re-enkindle within his heart that Christian hope, without which he cannot be in the grace of God. Nay, more: he has need of a victim of propitiation, which may appease the divine anger; he has need of a sacrifice, whereby to stay the arm of God, which he knows is raised to punish his sins.

This Victim is ready; this infinitely efficacious sacrifice is prepared for us. We shall soon have to celebrate the sad anniversary of His being offered upon the Cross: meanwhile, He is daily offered to the divine Majesty, and it is by assisting at this holy sacrifice that we shall be taking the most efficacious means for obtaining the regeneration of our souls. When, therefore, we would offer to our God the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart, let us ensure its acceptance by going to the altar, and supplicating the Victim, who there offers Himself for our sake, that He join His infinite merits with our feeble works. When we leave the house of God, the weight of our sins will be lessened, our confidence in divine mercy will be increased, and our love, renewed by compunction, will be firmer and truer.

We will now endeavour to embody these sentiments in our explanation of the mysteries of the holy Mass, and initiate the faithful into these divine secrets; not, indeed, by indiscreetly presuming to translate the sacred formulæ, but by suggesting such acts as will enable those who hear Mass to enter into the ceremonies and the spirit of the Church and of the priest.

The purple vestments, and the penitential rites already explained, give to the holy sacrifice during Lent an air of sadness, which harmonizes with the mysteries of this season. But if, on the week-days, there occur a saint’s feast, the Church keeps it, and laying aside her purple vestments, she celebrates the holy sacrifice in memory of the saint.

On the Sundays, if the Mass at which the faithful assist be the parochial, or, as it is often called, the public Mass, two solemn rites precede it, and they are full of instruction and blessing: the Asperges, or sprinkling of the holy water, and the procession.

During the Asperges, let us ask with David, whose words are used by the Church in this ceremony, that our souls may be purified by the hyssop of humility and become whiter than snow.

Antiphon of the Asperges

Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Ps. Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
℣. Gloria Patri, etc.
Ant. Asperges me, etc.
℣. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
℟. Et salutare tuum da nobis.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Oremus

Exaudi nos, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: et mittere digneris sanctum Angelum tuum de cœlis, qui custodiat, foveat, protegat, visitet atque defendat omnes habitantes in hoc habitaculo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
℟. Amen.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
Ps. Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy.
℣. Glory, etc.
Ant. Sprinkle me, etc.
℣. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
℟. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from thee.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.

Let us Pray

Graciously hear us, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God: and vouchsafe to send thy holy Angel from heaven, who may keep, cherish, protect, visit and defend all who are assembled in this place. Through Christ our Lord.
℟. Amen.

The procession, which immediately precedes the Mass, shows us the ardour wherewith the Church advances towards her God. Let us imitate her fervour, for it is written: ‘The Lord is good to them that hope in Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.’[2]

But see, Christians! the Sacrifice begins! The priest is at the foot of the altar; God is attentive, the angels are in adoration, the whole Church is united with the priest, whose priesthood and action are those of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Let us make the sign of the cross with him.

The Ordinary Of The Mass

 

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
℣. Introibo ad altare Dei.
℟. Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.
Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.
Quia tu es, Deus, fortitudo mea: quare me repulisti? et quare tristis incedo, dum affiigit me inimicus?
Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.
Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.
Confitebor tibi in cithara Deus, Deus meus: quare tristis es anima mea? et quare conturbas me?
Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi: salutare vultus mei, et Deus meus.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. Introibo ad altare Dei.
℟. Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.
℣. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
℟. Qui fecit cœlum et terram.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I unite myself, O my God, with thy Church, who comes to seek consolation in Jesus Christ thy Son, who is the true Altar.
Like her, I beseech thee to defend me against the malice of the enemies of my salvation.
It is in thee that I have put my hope; yet do I feel sad and troubled at being in the midst of the snares which are set for me.
Send me, then, him who is light and truth; it is he who will open to us the way to thy holy mount, to thy heavenly tabernacle.
He is the Mediator, and the living Altar; I will draw nigh to him, and be filled with joy.
When he shall have come, I will sing in my gladness, Be not sad, O my soul! why wouldst thou be troubled?
Hope in his coming; he who is thy Saviour and thy God will soon be with thee.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
I am to go to the altar of God, and feel the presence of him who consoles me!
This my hope comes not from any merits of my own, but from the all-powerful help of my Creator.

The thought of being about to appear before his God, excites in the soul of the priest a lively sentiment of compunction. He cannot go further in the holy Sacrifice without confessing, and publicly, that he is a sinner, and deserves not the grace he is about to receive. Listen with respect to this confession of God’s minister, and earnestly ask our Lord to show mercy to him; for the priest is your father; he is answerable for your salvation, for which he every day risks his own. When he has finished, unite with the servers, or the sacred ministers, in this prayer:

Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam æternam.
May almighty God have mercy on thee, and, forgiving thy sins, bring thee to everlasting life.

The priest having answered Amen, make your confession, saying with a contrite spirit:

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beatæ Mariæ semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistæ. sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te, Pater, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to thee, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, and thee, Father, to pray to our Lord God for me.

Receive with gratitude the paternal wish of the Priest, who says to you:

Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis vestris, perducat vos ad vitam æternam.
℟. Amen.

Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum nostrorum tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.
℟. Amen.
May Almighty God be merciful to you, and forgiving your sins, bring you to everlasting life.
℟. Amen.

May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins.
℟. Amen.

 

Invoke the divine assistance, that you may approach to Jesus Christ.

℣. Deus, tu conversus vivificabis nos.
℟. Et plebs tua lætabitur in te.
℣. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
℟. Et Salutare tuam da nobis.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. O God, it needs but one look of thine to give us life.
℟. And thy people shall rejoice in thee.
℣. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
℟. And give us the Saviour whom thou hast prepared for us.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.


The Priest here leaves you to ascend to the altar; but first he salutes you:

℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℣. The Lord be with you.

 

Answer him with reverence:

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
℣. Oremus.
℟. And with thy spirit.
℣. Let us pray.

He ascends the steps, and comes to the Holy of holies. Ask, both for him and for yourself, deliverance from sin:

Aufer a nobis quæsumus, Domine, iniquitates nostras; ut ad Sancta sanctorum puris mereamur mentibus introire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Take from our hearts, O Lord, all those sins, which make us unworthy to appear in thy presence; we ask this of thee by thy divine Son, our Lord.

When the priest kisses the altar, out of reverence for the relics of the martyrs which are there, say:

Oramus te Domine, per merita sanctorum tuorum, quorum reliquiæ hic sunt, et omnium sanctorum: ut indulgere digneris omnia peccata mea. Amen.
Generous soldiers of Jesus Christ, who have mingled your own blood with his, intercede for us that our sins may be forgiven: that so we may, like you, approach unto God.

If it be a High Mass at which you are assisting, the priest here blesses the incense, saying:

Ab illo benedicaris, in cujus honore cremaberis. Amen.
Mayst thou be blessed by him, in whose honour thou art to be burned. Amen.

He then censes the altar in a most solemn manner. This white cloud, which you see ascending from every part of the altar, signifies the prayer of the Church, who addresses herself to Jesus Christ; while the divine mediator causes that prayer to ascend, united with His own, to the throne of the majesty of His Father.

The priest then says the Introit. It is a solemn opening-anthem, in which the Church, at the very commencement of the holy Sacrifice, gives expression to the sentiments which fill her heart.

It is followed by nine exclamations, which are even more earnest, for they ask for mercy. In addressing them to God, the Church unites herself with the nine choirs of angels, who are standing round the altar of heaven, one and the same as this before which you are kneeling.

To the Father:

Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!

To the Son:

Christe eleison.
Christe eleison.
Christe eleison.
Christ, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!

To the Holy Ghost:

Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!

As we have already mentioned, the Church abstains, during the season of Lent, from the heavenly hymn which the angels sang over the crib of the divine Babe. But, if she be keeping the feast of a saint, she recites this beautiful canticle on that day. The beginning of the Angelic Hymn seems more suitable for heavenly than for earthly voices; but the second part is in no way out of keeping with the sinner’s wants and fears, for we there remind the Son of the eternal Father that He is the Lamb who came down from heaven that He might take away the sins of the world. We beseech Him to have mercy on us, and receive our humble; prayer. Let us foster these sentiments within us, for they are so appropriate to the present season.

The Angelic Hymn

Gloria in excelsis Deo, Et in terra pax homibus bonæ voluntatis.
Laudamus te: benedicimus te: adoramus te: glorificamus te: gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex cœlestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine, Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe, cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.
Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace to men of good will.
We praise thee: we bless thee: we adore thee: we glorify thee: we give thee thanks for thy great glory.
O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Who takest away the sins of the world, receive our humble prayer.
Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For thou alone art holy, thou alone art Lord, thou alone, O Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The priest then turns towards the people, and again salutes them, as it were to make sure of their pious attention to the sublime act, for which all this is but the preparation.

Then follows the Collect or Prayer, in which the Church formally expresses to the divine Majesty the special intentions she has in the Mass which is being celebrated. You may unite in this prayer, by reciting with the priest the Collects which you will find in their proper places: but on no account omit to join with the server of the Mass in answering Amen.

After this comes the Epistle, which is generally a portion of one or other of the Epistles of the apostles, or a passage from some Book of the old Testament. While it is being read, ask of God that you may profit by the instruction it conveys.

The Gradual is an intermediate formula of prayer between the Epistle and Gospel. It again brings to us the sentiments already expressed in the Introit. Read it with devotion, that so you may enter more and more into the spirit of the mystery proposed to you by the Church.

During every other portion of her year, the Church here repeats her joyous Alleluia; but now she denies herself this demonstration of gladness, until such time as her divine Spouse has passed through that sea of bitterness, into which our sins have plunged Him. Instead of the Alleluia, then, she sings in a plaintive tone some verses from the Psalms, appropriate to the rest of that day’s Office. This is the Tract, of which we have already spoken.

If it be a High Mass, the deacon, meanwhile, prepares to fulfil his noble office—that of announcing the good tidings of salvation. He prays God to cleanse his heart and lips. Then kneeling before the priest, he asks a blessing; and, having received it, goes to the place where he is to sing the Gospel.

As a preparation for hearing it worthily, you may thus pray, together with both priest and deacon:

Munda cor meum, ac labia mea, onmipotens Deus, qui labia Isaiæprophetæ calculo mundasti ignito: ita me tua grata miseratione dignare mundare, ut sanctum Evangelium tuum digne valeam nuntiare. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Dominus sit in corde meo, et in labiis meis: ut digne et competenter annuntiem Evangelium suum: In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
Alas! these ears of mine are but too often defiled with the world’s vain words: cleanse them, O Lord, that so I may hear the words of eternal life, and treasure them in my heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Grant to thy ministers thy grace, that they may faithfully explain thy law; that so all, both pastors and flock, may be united to thee for ever. Amen.

You will stand during the Gospel, as though you were waiting for the orders of your Lord; at the commencement make the sign of the cross on your forehead, lips, and breast; and then listen to every word of the priest or deacon. Let your heart be ready and obedient. ‘While my beloved was speaking,’ says the bride in the Canticle, ‘my soul melted within me.’[3] If you have not such love as this, have at least the humble submission of Samuel, and say: ‘Speak, Lord! thy servant heareth.’[4]

After the Gospel, if the priest says the Symbol of faith, the Credo, you will say it with him. Faith is that gift of God, without which we cannot please Him. It is faith that makes us see 'the light which shineth in darkness,’ and which the darkness of unbelief ‘did not comprehend.' It is faith alone that teaches us what we are, whence we come, and the end for which we are made. It alone can point out to us the path whereby we may return to our God, when once we have separated ourselves from Him. Let us love this admirable faith, which, if we but make it fruitful by good works, will save us. Let us, then, say with the Catholic Church, our mother:

The Nicene Creed

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem cœli et terræ, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia sæcula, Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum non factum, consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem, descendit de cœlis. Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine; et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in cœlum; sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos; cujus regno non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur; qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam sanctam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum Baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi sæculi. Amen.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. And born of the Father before all ages; God of God, light of light; true God of true God. Begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And became incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; AND WAS MADE MAN. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of the Father. And he is to come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end.
And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I expect the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The priest and the people should, by this time, have their hearts ready: it is time to prepare the offering itself. And here we come to the second part of the holy Mass; it is called the Oblation, and immediately follows that which was named the Mass of Catechumens, on account of its being formerly the only part at which the candidates for Baptism had a right to be present.

See, then, dear Christians! bread and wine are about to be offered to God, as being the noblest of inanimate creatures, since they are made for the nourishment of man; and even that is only a poor material image of what they are destined to become in our Christian Sacrifice. Their substance will soon give place to God Himself, and of themselves nothing will remain but the appearances. Happy creatures, thus to yield up their own being, that God may take its place! We, too, are to undergo a like transformation, when, as the apostle expresses it, that which is mortal shall put on immortality.[5] Until that happy change shall be realized, let us offer ourselves to God, as often as we see the bread and wine presented to Him in the holy Sacrifice; and let us glorify Him, who, by assuming our human nature, has made us 'partakers of the divine nature.’[6] The priest again turns to the people with the usual salutation, as though he would warn them to redouble their attention. Let us read the Offertory with him, and when he offers the Host to God, let us unite with him in saying:

Suscipe, sancte Pater, omnipotens æterne Deus, hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus famulus tuus offero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis, et pro Omnibus circumstantibus, sed et pro omnibus fidelibus christianis vivis atque defunctis; ut mihi et illis proficiat ad salutem in vitam æternam. Amen.
All that we have, O Lord, comes from thee, and belongs to thee; it is just, therefore, that we return it unto thee. But how wonderful art thou in the inventions of thy immense love! This bread which we are offering to thee, is to give place, in a few moments, to the sacred Body of Jesus. We beseech thee, receive, together with this oblation, our hearts which long to live by thee, and to cease to live their own life of self.

When the priest puts the wine into the chalice, and then mingles with it a drop of water, let your thoughts turn to the divine mystery of the Incarnation, which is the source of our hope and our salvation; and say:

Deus, qui humanæ substantiæ dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per hujus aquæ et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostræ fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
O Lord Jesus, who art the true vine, and whose Blood, like a generous wine, has been poured forth under the pressure of the cross! thou hast deigned to unite thy divine nature to our weak humanity, which is signified by this drop of water. Oh, come and make us partakers of thy divinity, by showing thyself to us in thy sweet and wondrous visit.

The priest then offers the mixture of wine and water, beseeching God graciously to accept this oblation, which is so soon to be changed into the reality, of which it is now but the figure. Meanwhile, say, in union with the priest:

Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem salutaris, tuam deprecantes clementiam: ut in conspectu divinæ Majestatis tuæ, pro nostra et totius mundi salute, cum odore suavitatis ascendat. Amen.
Graciously accept these gifts, O sovereign Creator of all things. Let them be fitted for the divine transformation, which will make them, from being mere offerings of created things, the instrument of the world’s salvation.

After having thus held up the sacred gifts towards heaven, the priest bows down; let us, also, humble ourselves, and say:

In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine:et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus.
Though daring, as we do, to approach thy altar, O Lord, we cannot forget that we are sinners. Have mercy on us, and delay not to send us thy Son, who is our saving Host.

Let us next invoke the Holy Ghost, whose operation is about to produce on the altar the presence of the Son of God, as it did in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, in the divine mystery of the Incarnation:

Veni Sanctificator, omnipotens æterne Deus, et benedic hoc sacrificium tuo sancto nomini præparatum.
Come, O divine Spirit, make fruitful the offering which is upon the altar, and produce in our hearts him whom they desire.

If it be a High Mass, the priest, before proceeding further with the sacrifice, takes the thurible a second time, after blessing the incense in these words:

Per intercessionem beati Michaelis archangeli, stantis a dextris altaris incensi, et omnium electorum suorum, inoensum istud dignetur Dominus benedicere, et in odorem suavitatis accipere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Through the intercession of blessed Michael the archangel, standing at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all his elect, may our Lord deign to bless this incense, and to receive it for an odour of sweetness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

He then censes first the bread and wine, which have just been offered, and then the altar itself; hereby inviting the faithful to make their prayer, which is signified by the fragrant incense, more and more fervent, the nearer the solemn moment approaches. St. John tells us that the incense he beheld burning on the altar in heaven is made up of the 'prayers of the saints'; let us take a share in those prayers, and with all the ardour of holy desires, let us say with the priest:

Incensum istud, a te benedictum, ascendat ad te, Domine, et descendat super nos misericordia tua.

Dirigatur, Domine, oratio mea sicut incensum in conspectutuo: elevatio manuum mearum sacrificium vespertinum. Pone, Domine, custodiam ori meo, et ostium circumstantiæ labiis meis; ut non declinet cor meum in verba inalitiæ, ad excusandas excusationes in peccatis.
May this incense, blessed by thee, ascend to thee, O Lord, and may thy mercy descend upon us.

Let my prayer, O Lord, be directed like incense in thy sight: the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a door round about my lips; that my heart may not incline to evil words, to make excuses in sins.

Giving back the thurible to the deacon, the priest says:

Accendat in nobis Dominus ignem sui amoris, et flammam æternæ charitatis. Amen.
May the Lord enkindle in us the fire of his love and the flame of eternal charity. Amen.

But the thought of his own unworthiness becomes more intense than ever in the heart of the priest. The public confession which he made at the foot of the altar is not enough; he would now at the altar itself express to the people, in the language of a solemn rite, how far he knows himself to be from that spotless sanctity, wherewith he should approach to God. He washes his hands. Our hands signify our works; and the priest, though by his priesthood he bear the office of Jesus Christ, is, by his works, but man. Seeing your father thus humble himself, do you also make an act of humility, and say with him these verses of the Psalm.

Psalm 25

Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas: et circumdabo altare tuum, Domine.
Ut audiam vocem laudis: et enarrem universa mirabilia tua.
Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuæ, et locum habitationis gloriæ tuæ.
Ne perdas cum impiis, Deus, animam meam, et cum viris sanguinum vitam meam.
In quorum manibus iniquitates sunt: dextera eorum repleta est muneribus.
Ego autem in innocentia mea ingressus sum: redime me, et miserere mei.
Pes meus stetit in directo: in ecclesiis benedicam te, Domine.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
I, too, would wash my hands, O Lord, and become like unto those who are innocent, that so I may be worthy to come near thy altar, and hear thy sacred Canticles, and then go and proclaim to the world the wonders of thy goodness. I love the beauty of thy House, which thou art about to make the dwelling place of thy glory. Leave me not, O God, in the midst of them that are enemies both to thee and me. Thy mercy having separated me from them, I entered on the path of innocence, and was restored to thy grace; but have pity on my weakness still; redeem me yet more, thou who hast so mercifully brought me back to the right path. In the midst of these thy faithful people, I give thee thanks. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The priest, taking encouragement from the act of humility he has just made, returns to the middle of the altar, and bows down full of respectful awe, begging of God to receive graciously the Sacrifice which is about to be offered to Him, and expresses the intentions for which it is offered. Let us do the same.

Suscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem, quam tibi offerimus ob memoriara Passionis, Resurrectionis, et Ascensionis Jesu Christi Domininostri: et in honorem beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis, et beati Joannis Baptistæ, et sanctorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et istorum, et omnium sanctorum: ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: et illi pro nobis intercedere dignentur in cœlis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O holy Trinity, graciously accept the Sacrifice we have begun. We offer it in remembrance of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Permit thy Church to join with this intention that of honouring the ever glorious Virgin Mary, the blessed Baptist John, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the martyrs whose relics lie here under our altar awaiting their resurrection, and the saints whose memory we this day celebrate. Increase the glory they are enjoying, and receive the prayers they address to thee for us.

The priest again turns to the people; it is for the last time before the sacred mysteries are accomplished. He feels anxious to excite the fervour of the people. Neither does the thought of his own unworthiness leave him; and before entering the cloud with the Lord, he seeks support in the prayers of his brethren who are present. He says to them:

Orate, fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.
Brethren, pray that my Sacrifice, which is yours also, may be acceptable to God, our almighty Father.

This request made, he turns again to the altar, and you will see his face no more until our Lord Himself shall have come down from heaven upon that same altar. Assure the priest that he has your prayers, and say to him:

Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram totiusque Ecclesiæ suæ sanctæ.
May our Lord accept this Sacrifice at thy hands, to the praise and glory of his name, and for our benefit and that of his holy Church throughout the world.

Here the priest recites the prayers called the Secrets, in which he presents the petition of the whole Church for God’s acceptance of the Sacrifice, and then immediately begins to fulfil that great duty of religion—thanksgiving. So far he has adored God, and has sued for mercy; he has still to give thanks for the blessings bestowed on us by the bounty of our heavenly Father, and expressly for that chiefest of all His gifts, the Messias. We are on the point of receiving a new visit of this Son of God; the priest, in the name of the Church, is about to give expression to the gratitude of all mankind. In order to excite the faithful to that intensity of gratitude which is due to God for all His gifts, he interrupts his own and their silent prayer by terminating it aloud, saying:

Per omnia sæcula sæculorum!
For ever and ever

In the same feeling, answer your Amen! Then he continues:

℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.

℣. Sursum corda!
℣. Lift up your hearts!

Let your response be sincere:

℟. Habemus ad Dominum.
℟. We have them fixed on God.

And when he adds:

℣. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.
℣. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,

Answer him with all the earnestness of your soul:

℟. Dignum et justum est.
℟. It is meet and just.

Then the priest:

The Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus. Qui corporali jejunio vitia comprimis, mentem elevas, virtutem largiris et præmia, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates; Cœli cœlorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes:
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God, who by this bodily fast extinguishest our vices, elevatest our understanding, bestowest on us virtue and its rewards, through Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the Heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee, glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying:

 


Here unite with the priest, who, on his part, unites himself with the blessed spirits, in giving thanks to God for the unspeakable gift; bow down and say:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus sabaoth!
Pleni sunt cœli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis!
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis!
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed be the Saviour whom we were expecting, and who is coming to us in the name of the Lord who sends him.
Hosanna be to him in the highest!

After these words commences the Canon, that mysterious prayer, in the midst of which heaven bows down to earth, and God descends unto us. The voice of the priest is no longer heard; yea, even at the altar, all is silence. Let a profound respect stay all distractions, and keep our senses in submission to the soul. Let us fix our eyes on what the priest does in the holy place.

The Canon of the Mass

In this mysterious colloquy with the great God of heaven and earth, the first prayer of the sacrificing priest is for the Catholic Church, his and our mother.

Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Jesum Christum Filium tuum Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus ac petimus, uti accepta habeas, et benedicas hæc dona, hæc munera, hæc sancta sacrificia illibata, in primis quætibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta Catholica: quam pacificare, custodire, adunare, et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum, una cura famulo tuo Papa nostro N., et Antistite nostro N., et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicæ et apostolicæ fidei cultoribus.
O God, who manifestest thyself unto us by means of the mysteries which thou hast entrusted to thy holy Church, our mother; we beseech thee, by the merits of this sacrifice, that thou wouldst remove all those hindrances which oppose her during her pilgrimage in this world. Give her peace and unity. Do thou thyself guide our holy Father the Pope, thy Vicar on earth. Direct thou our Bishop, who is our sacred link of unity; and watch over all the orthodox children of the Catholic apostolic Roman Church.

Here pray, together with the priest, for those whose interests should be dearest to you.

Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., et omnium circumstantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est, et nota devotio: pro quibus tibi offerimus, vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis, pro se, suisque omnibus, pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis et incolumitatis suæ; tibique reddunt vota sua æterno Deo, vivo et vero.
Permit me, O God, to intercede with thee in more earnest prayer for those, for whom thou knowest that I have a special obligation to pray: * * * Pour down thy blessings upon them. Let them partake of the fruits of this divine Sacrifice, which is offered unto thee in the name of all mankind. Visit them by thy grace, pardon them their sins, grant them the blessings of this present life and of that which is eternal.

Here let us commemorate the saints: they are that portion of the Body of Jesus Christ, which is called the Church triumphant.

Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosæ semper Virginis Mariæ, Genitricis Dei et Domini nostri Jesu Christi: sed et beatorum apostolorum ac martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreæ, Jacobi,Joannis, Thomæ, Jacobi, Philippi, Bartholomæi, Matthæi, Simonis, et Thaddai: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Joannis et Pauli, Cosmæ et Damiani, et omnium sanctorum tuorum, quorum meritis precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuæ muniamur auxilio. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
But the offering of this Sacrifice, O my God, does not unite us with those only of our brethren who are still in this transient life of trial; it brings us closer to those also, who are already in possession of heaven. Therefore it is that we wish to honour by it the memory of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, of whom Jesus was born to us; of the apostles, confessors, virgins, and of all the saints; that so they may assist us, by their powerful intercession, to become worthy to contemplate thee, as they now do, in the mansion of thy glory.

The priest, who up to this time has been praying with his hands extended, now joins them, and holds them over the bread and, wine, as the high priest of the old Law did over the figurative victim; he thus expresses his intention of bringing these gifts more closely under the notice of the divine Majesty, and of marking them as the material offering whereby we profess our dependence, and which is, in a few instants, to yield its place to the living Host, upon whom all our iniquities are to be laid.

Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostræ, sed et eunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab æterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum jubeas grege numerari. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Quam oblationem tu Deus in omnibus, quæsumus, benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris; ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi.
Vouchsafe, O God, to accept this offering which this thy assembled family presents to thee as the homage of its most happy servitude. In return, give us peace, save us from thy wrath, and number us among thy elect, through him who is coming to us—thy Son our Saviour.

Yea, Lord, this is the moment when this bread is to become his sacred Body, which is our food; and this wine is to be changed into his Blood, which is our drink. Ah! delay no longer, but send to us this divine Son our Saviour!

And here the priest ceases to act as man; he now becomes more than a mere minister of the Church. His word becomes that of Jesus Christ, with all its power and efficacy. Prostrate yourself in profound adoration: for God Himself is about to descend upon our altar, coming down from heaven.

Qui pridie quam pateretur, aocepit panem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: et elevatis oculis in cœlum, ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, tibi gratias agens, benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite, et manducate ex hoc omnes. HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM.
What, O God of heaven and earth, my Jesus, the long-expected Messias, what else can I do at this solemn moment but adore thee, in silence, as my sovereign Master, and open my whole heart to thee, as to its dearest King? Come, then, Lord Jesus, come!

The divine Lamb is now lying on our altar! Glory and love be to Him for ever! But He is come, that He may be immolated. Hence, the priest, who is the minister of the will of the Most High, immediately pronounces over the chalice those sacred words, which will produce the great mystical immolation, by the separation of the Victim’s Body and Blood. The substances of bread and wine have ceased to exist: the species alone are left, veiling, as it were, the Body and Blood, lest fear should keep us from a mystery, which God gives us in order to give us confidence. Let us associate ourselves to the angels, who tremblingly look upon this deepest wonder.

Simili modo postquam ccenatum est, accipiens et hunc præclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes. HIC EST ENIM CALIX SANGUINIS MEI, NOVI ET ÆTERNI TESTAMENTI: MYSTERIUM FIDEI: QUI PRO VOBIS ET PRO MULTIS EFFUNDETUR IN REMISSIONEM PECCATORUM. Hæc quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis.
O precious Blood! thou price of my salvation! I adore thee! Wash away my sins, and give me a purity above the whiteness of snow. Lamb ever slain, yet ever living, thou comest to take away the sins of the world! Come also and reign in me by thy power and by thy love.

The priest is now face to face with God. He again raises his hands towards heaven, and tells our heavenly Father, that the oblation now on the altar is no longer an earthly offering, but the Body and Blood, the whole Person, of His divine Son.

Unde et memores, Domine, nos servi tui, sed et plebs tua sancta, ejusdem Christi Filii tui Domini nostri tam beatæ Passionis, necnon et ab inferis Resurrectionis, sed et in cœlos gloriosæ Ascensioni: offeri mus præclaræ majestati tuæ de tuis donis ac datis Hostiam puram, Hostiara sanctam, Hostiam immaculatam: Panem sanctum vitæ æternæ, et Calicem salutis perpetuæ.

Supra quæ propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris: et accepta habere, sicuti accepta habere dignatus es munera pueri tui justi Abel, et sacrificium patriarchæ nostri Abrahæ, et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam.
Father of infinite holiness, the Host so long expected is here before thee! Behold this thy eternal Son, who suffered a bitter passion, rose again with glory from the grave, and ascended triumphantly into heaven. He is thy Son; but he is also our Host, Host pure and spotless, our meat and drink of everlasting life.

Heretofore thou didst accept the sacrifice of the innocent lambs offered to thee by Abel; and the sacrifice which Abraham made thee of his son Isaac, who, though immolated, yet lived; and, lastly, the sacrifice, which Melchisedech presented thee, of bread and wine. Receive our Sacrifice, which is above all those others It is the Lamb, of whom all others could be but figures: it is the undying Victim: it is the Body of thy Son, who is the Bread of life, and his Blood, which, whilst a drink of immortality for us, is a tribute adequate to thy glory.

The priest bows down to the altar, and kisses it as the throne of love on which is seated the Saviour of men.

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: jube hæc perferri per manus sancti angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu divinæ Majestatis tuæ: ut quotquot ex hac altaris participatione, sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione celesti et gratia repleamur.Per eumclem Christium Dominum nostrum. Amen.
But, O God of infinite power, these sacred gifts are not only on this altar here below; they are also on that sublime altar of heaven, which is before the throne of thy divine Majesty. These two altars are but one and the same, on which is accomplished the great mystery of thy glory and our salvation. Vouchsafe to make us partakers of the Body and Blood of the august Victim, from whom flow every grace and blessing.

Nor is the moment less favourable for making supplication for the Church suffering. Let us, therefore, ask the divine Liberator, who has come down among us, that He mercifully visit, by a ray of His consoling light, the dark abode of purgatory, and permit His Blood to flow, as a stream of mercy’s dew, from this our altar, and refresh the panting captives there. Let us pray expressly for those among them who have a claim on our suffrages.

Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., qui nos præcesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in sonano pacis. Ipsis Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescenti bus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Dear Jesus! let the happiness of this thy visit extend to every portion of thy Church. Thy face gladdens the elect in the holy city; even our mortal eyes can see beneath the veil of our delighted faith; ah! hide not thyself from those brethren of ours, who are imprisoned in the place of expiation. Be thou refreshment to them in their flames, light in their darkness, and peace in their agonies of torment.

This duty of charity fulfilled, let us pray for ourselves, sinners, alas! who profit so little by the visit which our Saviour pays us. Let us, together with the priest, strike our breast, saying:

Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis, de multitudine miserationum tuarum sperantibus, partem aliquam et societatem donare digneris cum tuis sanctis apostolis et martyribus: cum Joanne, Stephano, Matthia, Barnaba, Ignatio, Alexandro, Marcellino, Petro, Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Cæcilia, Anastasia, et omnibus sanctis tuis; intra quorum nos consortium, non æstimator meriti, sed veniæ, quæsumus, largitor admitte. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem hæc omnia, Domine, semper bona creas, sanctificas, vivificas, benedicis, et præstas nobis: per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria.
Alas! we are poor sinners, 0 God of all sanctity! yet do we hope that thy infinite mercy will grant us to share thy kingdom, not, indeed, by reason of our works, which deserve little else than punishment, but because of the merits of this Sacrifice, which we are offering unto thee. Remember, too, the merits of thy holy apostles, of thy holy martyrs, of thy holy virgins, and of all thy saints. Grant us, by their intercession, grace in this world, and glory eternal in the next: which we ask of thee, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. It is by him thou bestowest upon us thy blessings of life and sanctification; and by him also, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, may honour and glory be to thee!

While saying the last of these words, the priest has taken up the sacred Host, which was upon the altar; he has held it over the chalice: thus reuniting the Body and Blood of the divine Victim, in order to show that He is now immortal. Then raising up both chalice and Host, he offers to God the noblest and most perfect homage which the divine Majesty could receive.

This sublime and mysterious rite ends the Canon. The silence of the mysteries is interrupted. The priest concludes his long prayers, by saying aloud, and so giving the faithful the opportunity of expressing their desire that his supplications be granted:

Per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
For ever and ever.

Answer him with faith, and in a sentiment of union with your holy Mother the Church:

Amen.
Amen! I believe the mystery which has just been accomplished. I unite myself to the offering which has been made, and to the petitions of the Church.

It is time to recite the prayer which our Saviour himself has taught us. Let it ascend up to heaven together with the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. How could it be otherwise than heard, when he himself who made it for us is in our very hands now whilst we say it? As this prayer belongs in common to all God’s children, the Priest recites it aloud, and begins by inviting us all to join in it.

Oremus

Præceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere:
Let us Pray

Having been taught by a saving precept, and following the form given us by a divine instruction, we thus presume to speak:

The Lord's Prayer

Pater noster, qui es in cœlis: Sanctificetur nomen tuum: Adveniat regnum tuum: Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cœlo, et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily Bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation.

Let us answer with deep feeling of our misery:

Sed libera nos a malo.
But deliver us from evil.

The priest falls once more into the silence of the holy mysteries. His first word is an affectionate Amen to your last petition—deliver us from evil— on which he forms his own next prayer: and could he pray for anything more needed? Evil surrounds us everywhere, and the Lamb on our altar has been sent to expiate it and to deliver us from it.

Libera nos, quæsumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, præteritis, præsentibus et futuris: et, intercedente beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiætuæ adjuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus.
How many, O Lord, are the evils which beset us! Evils past, which are the wounds left on our soul by our sins, and which strengthen her wicked propensities. Evils present, that is, the sins now at this very time upon our soul; the weakness of this poor soul, and the tempations which molest her. There are, also, future evils, that is the chastisement which our sins deserve from the hand of thy justice. In presence of this Host of our salvation, we beseech thee, O Lord, to deliver us from all these evils, and to accept in our favour the intercession of Mary the Mother of Jesus, of thy holy apostles Peter and Paul and Andrew. Liberate us, break our chains, give us peace: through Jesus Christ, thy Son, who with thee liveth and reigneth God.

The priest is anxious to announce the peace, which he has asked and obtained; he therefore finishes his prayer aloud, saying:

Per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

℟. Amen.
World without end.

℟. Amen.

Then he says:

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.
May the Peace of our Lord be ever with you.

To this paternal wish reply:

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
℟. And with thy spirit.

The mystery is drawing to a close: God is about to be united with man, and man with God, by means of Communion. But first, an imposing and sublime rite takes place at the altar. So far the priest has announced the death of Jesus; it is time to proclaim His Resurrection. To this end, he reverently breaks the sacred Host; and having divided it into three parts, he puts one into the chalice, thus reuniting the Body and Blood of the immortal Victim. Do you adore and say:

Hæc commixtio et consecratio Corporis et Sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, fiat accipientibus nobis in vitam æternam. Amen.
Glory be to thee, 0 Saviour of the world, who didst, in thy Passion, permit thy precious Blood to be separated from thy sacred Body, afterwards uniting them again together by thy divine power.

Offer now your prayer to the ever-living Lamb, whom St. John saw on the altar of heaven, standing as though slain:[7] say to this your Lord and King, who has taken upon Himself all our iniquities in order to wash them away by His Blood:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, give us Peace.

Peace is the grand object of our Saviour’s coming into the world: He is the Prince of peace. The divine Sacrament of the Eucharist ought therefore to be the mystery of peace, and the bond of Catholic unity; for, as the apostle says, all we who partake of one Bread, are all one bread and one body.[8] It is on this account that the priest, now that he is on the point of receiving, in Communion, the sacred Host, prays that fraternal peace may be preserved in the Church, and more especially in this portion of it which is assembled round the altar. Pray with him, and for the same blessing:

Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti apostolis tuis: Paoem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis: ne respici as peccata mea, sed fidem Ecclesiæ tuæ: eamque secundum voluntatem tuam pacificare, et coadunare digneris. Qui vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst to thy apostles, 'My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:' regard not my sins, but the faith of thy Church, and grant her that peace and unity which is according to thy will. Who livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

If it be a High Mass, the priest here gives the kiss of peace to the deacon, who gives it to the subdeacon, and he to the choir. During this ceremony, you should excite within yourself feelings of Christian charity, and pardon your enemies, if you have any. Then continue to pray with the priest:

Domine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi, qui ex voluntate Patris, cooperante Spiritu Sancto, per mortem tuam mundum vivificasti: libera me per hoc sacrosanctum Corpus, et Sanguinem tuum, ab omnibus iniquitatibus meis, et universis malis, et fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis, et a te nunquam separari pcrmittas. Qui cum eodem Deo Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, according to the will of the Father, through the co-operation of the Holy Ghost, hast by thy death given life to the world; deliver me by this thy most sacred Body and Blood from all my iniquities, and from all evils; and make me always adhere to thy commandments, and never suffer me to be separated from thee, who with the same God the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

If you are going to Communion at this Mass, say the following prayer; otherwise prepare yourself to make a spiritual Communion;

Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Jesu Clmste, quod ego indignus sumere præsumo, non mihi proveniat in judicium et condemnationem: sed pro tua pietate prosit mihi ad tutamentum mentis et corporis, et ad medelam percipiendam. Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in imitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Let not the participation of thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, though unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgment and condemnation; but through thy mercy may it be a safeguard and remedy both to my soul and body. Who with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

When the priest takes the Host into his hands, in order to receive it in Communion, say:

Panem cœlcstem accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo.
Come, my dear Jesus, come!

When he strikes his breast, confessing his unworthiness, say thrice with him these words, and in the same disposition as the centurion of the Gospel, who first used them:

Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; say it only with one word of thine, and my soul shall be healed.

Whilst the priest receives the sacred Host, if you also are to communicate, adore profoundly your God, who is ready to take up His abode within you, and again say to Him with the bride: 'Come, Lord Jesus, come!'

But should you not be going to receive sacramentally, make a spiritual Communion. Adore Jesus Christ who thus visits your soul by His grace, and say to Him:

Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi, custodiat animam meam in vitam æternata. Amen.
I give thee, O Jesus, this heart of mine, that thou mayst dwell in it, and do with me what thou wilt.

Then the priest takes the chalice, in thanksgiving, and says:

Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus, quæ retribuit mihi? Calicem salutaris accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo. Laudans invocabo Dominum, et ab inimicis meis salvus ero.
What return shall I make to the Lord for all he hath given to me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and will call upon the name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from mine enemies.

But if you are to make a sacramental Communion, you should, at this moment of the priest’s receiving the precious Blood, again adore the God who is coming to you, and keep to your prayer: ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come!’

If, on the contrary, you are going to communicate only spiritually, again adore your divine Master, and say to Him:

Sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam meam in vitam æternam. Amen.
I unite myself to thee, my beloved Jesus! do thou unite thyself to me! and never let us be separated.

It is here that you must approach to the altar, if you are going to Communion. The dispositions suitable for holy Communion, during this season of Lent, are given in the next chapter.

The Communion being finished, and while the priest is purifying the chalice the first time, say:

Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus: et de munere temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum.
Thou hast visited me, O God, in these days of my pilgrimage; give me grace to treasure up the fruits of this visit for my future eternity.

While the priest is purifying the chalice the second time, say:

Corpus tuum, Domine, quod sumpsi, et Sanguis quem potavi, adhæreat visceribus meis: et præsta ut in me non remaneat scelerum macula, quem pura et sancta refecerunt Sacramenta. Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Be thou for ever blessed, 0 my Saviour, for having admitted me to the sacred mystery of thy Body and Blood. May my heart and senses preserve, by thy grace, the purity which thou hast imparted to them; and may I be thus rendered less unworthy of thy divine visit.

The priest, having read the antiphon called the Communion, which is the first part of his thanksgiving for the favour just received from God, whereby He has renewed His divine presence among us, turns to the people with the usual salutation; after which he recites the prayers, called the Postcommunion, which are the completion of the thanksgiving. You will join him here also, thanking God for the unspeakable gift He has just lavished on you, and asking Him, with most earnest entreaty, that He will bestow upon you a lasting spirit of compunction.

These prayers having been recited, the priest again turns to the people, and full of joy for the immense favour he and they have been receiving, he says:

Dominus vobiscum.
The Lord be with you.

Answer him:

Et cum spiritu tuo.
And with thy spirit.

 


 

The deacon, or (if it be not a High Mass) the priest himself, then says:

V. Benedicamus Domino.
V. Let us bless the Lord.

If it be neither a Sunday, nor a feria of Lent, he says as usual:

Ite, Missa est.

℟. Deo gratias.
Go, the Mass is finished.

℟. Thanks be to God.

The priest makes a last prayer, before giving you his blessing; pray with him:

Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitas, obsequium servitutis mese, et præsta ut sacrificium quod oculis tuæ majestatis indignus obtuli, tibi sit acceptabile, mihique, et omnibus, pro quibus illud obtuli, sit, te miserante, propitiabile. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Eternal thanks be to thee, O adorable Trinity, for the mercy thou hast shown to me, in permitting me to assist at this divine Sacrifice. Pardon me the negligence and coldness wherewith I have received so great a favour, and deign to confirm the blessing, which thy minister is about to give me in thy name.

The priest raises his hand, and thus blesses you:

Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. R. Amen.
May the almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bless you! R. Amen.

He then concludes the Mass, by reading the first fourteen verses of the Gospel according to St. John, which tell us of the eternity of the Word, and of the mercy which led Him to take upon Himself our flesh, and to dwell among us. Pray that you may be of the number of those, who, now that He has come unto His own, receive Him, and are made the sons of God.

℣. Dominus vobiscum.

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Initium sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
Cap. I.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt; et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est. In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum: et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt. Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes. Hic venit in testimonium, ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per ilium. Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine. Erat lux vera, quæ illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum. In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognovit. In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt. Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri, his, qui credunt in nomine ejus: qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt. Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre, plenum gratiæ et veritatis.

℟. Deo gratias.
℣. The Lord be with you.

℟. And with thy spirit.

The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to John.
Ch. I.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. That was the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to he made the sons of God; to them that believe in his name, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw his glory, as it were the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

℟. Thanks be to God.

 


[1] Ps. cx. 10.
[2] Lam. iii. 25.
[3] Cant. v. 6.
[4] 1 Kings iii. 10.
[5] 1 Cor. xv. 53.
[6] 2 St. Pet. i. 4.
[7] Apoc. v. 6.
[8] 1 Cor. x. 17.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Of all the works whereby a Christian can sanctify the time of Lent, there is none so pleasing to God as to assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, in which is offered the Victim of man’s salvation. But now that his own unworthiness is more than ever evident to him, ought he to abstain from partaking, by holy Communion, of this life-giving and purifying Host? Such is not our Saviour’s will. He came down from heaven, not to judge, but to save us.[1] He knows how long and rugged is the road we have to traverse, before we reach that happy day, on which we shall rest with Him, in the joy of His Resurrection. He has compassion on us; He fears lest we faint in the way;[2] and He, therefore, offers us the divine food, which gives light and strength to our souls, and refreshes them in their toil. We feel that our hearts are not yet pure enough; let us then, with a humble and contrite heart, go to Him, who has come that He may restore to our souls their original beauty. Let us, at all times, remember the solemn injunction which this Saviour so graciously deigned to give us: ‘Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, ye shall not have life in you.’[3]

If, therefore, sin has no longer dominion over us; if we have destroyed it by true sorrow and sincere confession, made efficacious by the absolution of God’s priest: let us not deprive ourselves of the Bread of life,[4] no matter how great soever our infirmities may seem; for it is for us that our Jesus has prepared the feast. If we feel that the chains of sin are still upon us; if by self-examination made with the light of the truth that is now granted to us, we discover in our souls certain stains, which the false principles of the world and too easy a conscience have hitherto made us overlook; let us lose no time, let us make a good confession: and when we have made our peace with the God of mercy, let us approach the holy Table, and receive the pledge of our reconciliation.

Yes, let us go to holy Communion, during this season of Lent, with a most heart-felt conviction of our unworthiness. It may be that hitherto we have sometimes gone with too much familiarity, on account of our not sufficiently understanding our nothingness, our misery, and the infinite holiness of the God who thus unites Himself with His sinful creatures. Henceforth, our heart shall be more truthful; blending together the two sentiments of humility and confidence, we will say, with an honest conviction, those words of the centurion of the Gospel, which the Church puts upon our lips, when she is distributing to us the Bread of life: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be healed.’[5]

We will here give, as usual, acts which may serve as a preparation for holy Communion during these weeks of Lent. There are souls that feel the want of some such assistance as this; and, for the same reason, we will add a form of thanksgiving for after Communion.

 

BEFORE COMMUNION 

 

Act of Faith

The signal grace which thou, O my God, hast granted to me, that I should know the wounds of my soul, has revealed to me the greatness of my misery. I have been taught how deep was the darkness that covered me, and how much I needed thy divine light. But whilst the torch of faith has thus shown me the abyss of my own poor nature, it has also taught me how wonderful are the works, which thy love of thy ungrateful creature has made thee undertake, in order that thou mightest raise him up and save him. It was for me thou didst assume my human nature, and wast born at Bethlehem; it is for me that thou art soon to shed thy Blood on the cross. Thou commandest me to believe these miracles of thy love. I do believe them, O my God, humbly and gratefully. I also believe, and with an equally lively faith, that in a few moments thou art to give thyself to me in this ineffable mystery of holy Communion. Thou sayest to me: ‘ This is my Body, this is my Blood': —thy word is enough; in spite of my unworthiness seeming to forbid the possibility of such Communion, I believe, I consent, I bow down before thine infinite truth. Oh! can there be Communion between the God of all holiness and a sinner such as I? And yet thou assurest me that thou art verily coming to me! I tremble, 0 eternal Truth, but I believe. I confess that thy love of me is infinite, and that, having resolved to give thyself to thy poor and sinful creature, thou wilt suffer no obstacle to stand in thy way!

Act of Humility

During the season just past, I have often contemplated, 0 my Jesus, thy coming from thy high throne into the bosom of Mary, thy uniting thy divine Person to our weak mortal nature, and thy being born in the crib of a poor stable. And when I thought on these humiliations of my God, they taught me not only to love thee tenderly, but also to know my own nothingness, for I saw more clearly what an infinite distance there is between the creature and his Creator; and seeing these prodigies of thy immense love, I gladly confessed my own vileness. But now, dearest Saviour, I am led to consider something far more humiliating than the lowliness of my nature. That nothingness should be but nothingness, is not a sin. No; it is my sins that appal me. Sin has so long tyrannized over me; its consequences are still upon me; it has given me such dangerous tendencies; and I am so weak in resisting its bidding. When my first parent sinned, he hid himself, lest he should meet thee; and thou biddest me come unto thee, not to sentence me to the punishment I deserve, but to give me, oh! such a mark of love—union with thyself! Can this be? Art thou not the infinitely holy God? I must needs yield, and come, for thou art my sovereign Master; and who is there that dares resist thy will? I come, then, humbling myself, even to my very nothingness, before thee, and beseeching thee to pardon my coming, for I come because thou wilt have it so.

Act of Contrition

And shall I, 0 my Jesus, confess thus the grievousness and multitude of my sins, without promising thee to sin no more? Thou wishest this sinner to be reconciled with thee, thou desirest to press him to thy sacred Heart: and could he, whilst thanking thee for this thy wonderful condescension, still love the accursed cause which made him thine enemy? No, my infinitely merciful God, no! I will not, like my first parent, seek to escape thy justice, but, like the prodigal son, I will arise and go to my Father; like Magdalene, I will take courage and enter the banquet-hall; and, though trembling at the sight of my sins, I will comply with thy loving invitation. My heart has no further attachment to sin, which I hate and detest as the enemy of thy honour and of my own happiness. I am resolved to shun it from this time forward, and to spare no pains to free myself from its tyranny. There shall be no more of that easy life which chilled my love, nor of that studied indifference which dulled my conscience, nor of those dangerous habits which led me to stray from my loyalty to thee. Despise not, O God, this my humble and contrite heart.

Act of Love

Such is thy love for us in this world, O my Jesus, that, as thou thyself sayest, thou art come not to judge, but to save. I should not satisfy thee, in this happy Communion hour, were I to offer thee but this salutary fear, which has led me to thy sacred feet, and this shame stricken conscience, which makes me tremble in thy holy presence. The visit thou art about to pay me is a visit of love. The Sacrament, which is going to unite me to thee, is the Sacrament of thy love. Thou, my good Shepherd, hast said, that he loves most, who has been forgiven most. My heart then must dare to love thee; it must love thee with all its warmth; the very recollection of its past disloyalty must make its loving thee doubly needed and doubly fervent. Ah! sweet Lord!See this poor heart of mine; strengthen it, console it, drive away its fears, make it feel that thou art its Jesus! It has come back to thee, because it feared thee; if it love thee, it will never again leave thee.


And thou, O Mary, refuge of sinners, help me to love him, who is thy Son, and our Brother. Holy angels! ye who live eternally on that love, which has never ceased to glow in your mighty spirits, remember, I reverently pray you, that this God created me, as he did you, that I might love him. All ye holy saints of God! I beseech you, by the love wherewith ye are inebriated in heaven, graciously give me a thought, and prepare now my heart to be united with him. Amen.


AFTER COMMUNION

Act of Adoration

Thou art here within me, great God of heaven! Thou art, at this moment, residing in a sinner’s heart! I, yea, I, am thy temple, thy throne, thy resting-place I How shall I worthily adore thee, who hast deigned to come down into this abyss of my lowliness and misery? The angels veil their faces in thy presence; thy saints lay their crowns at thy feet; and I, that am but a sinful mortal, how shall I sufficiently honour thee, O infinite Power, infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness? This soul, wherein thou art now dwelling, has presumed so many times to set thee at defiance, and boldly disobey and break thy commands. And thou canst come to me after all this, and bring all thy beauty and greatness with thee! What else can I do, but give thee the homage of a heart, that knows not how to bear the immensity of the honour thou art now lavishing on me? Yes, my own won-derful and loving God, I adore thee; I acknowledge thee to be the sovereign Being, the Creator and preserver of all creatures, and the undisputed Master of everything that belongs to me. I delightedly confess my dependence on thee, and offer thee, with all my heart, my humble service.

Act of Thanksgiving

Thy greatness, O my God, is infinite; but thy goodness to me is incomprehensible. Thy being now present within this breast of mine is, I know, a proof of that immense power, which shows itself where and when it wills; but it is also a mark of thy love for me. Thou art come to my soul, that thou mayst be closely united with her, comfort her, give her a new life, and bring her all good things. Oh! who will teach me how to value this grace, and thank thee for it in a becoming way? But how shall I hope to value it as I ought, when I am not able to understand either the love that brings thee thus within me, or my own need of having thee? And when I think of my inability to make thee a suitable return of thanks, I feel as though Ican give thee nothing but my speechless gratitude. Yet thou willest that this my heart, poor as it is, should give thee its thanks; thou takest delight in receiving its worthless homage. Take it, then, my loving Jesus! I give it thee with all possible joy, and beseech thee to reveal unto me the immensity of thy gift, and to enrich me more that I may give thee more.

Act of Love

But nothing will satisfy thee, O my infinite Treasure, unless I give thee my love. Thou hast ever loved me, and thou art still loving me; I must love thee in return! Thou hast borne with me; thou hast forgiven me; thou art, at this moment, overpowering me with honour and riches; and all this out of love for me! The return thou askest of me, is my love! Gratitude will not content thee, thou wilt have my love! But, Jesus, my dear Jesus!—my past life—the long years I have spent in offending thee—rise up before me, and tell me to hide myself from thee! And yet, whither could I go without carrying thee within me, for thou hast taken up thine abode in my inmost soul? No, I will not run from thee! I will summon all the energies of my heart to tell thee that I love thee; that thy love for me has emboldened me; that I belong to thee; that I love thee above all else that I love; and that, henceforth, all my joy and happiness shall be in pleasing thee, and doing whatsoever thou askest of me.

Act of Oblation

I know, dear Jesus, that what thou askest of me is not the passing sentiment of a heart excited by the thought of thy goodness towards it. Thou hast loved me from eternity; thou lovedst me, even when I was doing nothing for thee; thou hast given me light to know my miseries; thou hast shielded me against thine own angry justice; thou hast mercifully pardoned me a countless number of times; thou art even now embracing me with tenderest love; and all these works of thy almighty hand have been but for one end—to make me give myself to thee, and live, at last, for thee. It is this thou wouldst obtain of me, by granting me this precious earnest of thy love, which I have just received. Thou hast said, speaking of this ineffable gift: 'As I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.’[6] Henceforth, 0 Bread, which came down from heaven![7] thou art the source of my life. Now, more than ever, my life belongs to thee. I give it unto thee. I dedicate unto thee my soul, my body, my faculties, my whole being. Do thou direct and govern me. I resign myself entirely into thy hands. I am blind, but thy light will guide me; I am weak, but thy power will uphold me; I am inconstant, but thy unchangeableness will give me stability. I trust unreservedly in thy mercy, which never abandons them that hope in thee.


O Mary! pray for me, that I lose not the fruit of this visit. Holy angels! watch over this dwelling-place of your Lord, which he has so mercifully chosen: let nothing defile it. 0 all ye saints of God! pray for the sinner, unto whom he has given this pledge of his divine pardon.


[1] St. John iii. 17.
[2] St. Matt. xv. 32.
[3] St. John vi. 54.
[4] Ibid., 35.
[5] St. Matt. viii. 8.
[6] St. John vi. 58.
[7] Ibid., 51.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Office of Vespers, or Evensong, consists firstly of the five following psalms and antiphons. According to our custom, we preface each psalm with a short explanation, in order to draw attention to what is most in harmony with the spirit of Lent.

After the Pater and Ave have been said in secret, the Church commences this Hour with her favourite supplication:

℣. Deus in adjutorium meum intende.
℟. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

Laus tibi, Domine, Rex æternæ gloriæ.

Ant. Dixit Dominus.
℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.
℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.

Ant. The Lord said.

The first psalm is a prophecy of the future glory of the Messias. It shows us His triumph; after His humiliations and His cross, the Man-God shall sit on the right hand of His Father. Moreover, He is to come again into this world, to judge it, and to crush the proud heads of sinners. Whilst thus celebrating His glory, let us not forget His justice.

psalm 109

 

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.
Virgam virtutis tuæ emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ in splendoribus sanctorum: * ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
Juravit Dominus, et non poenitebit eum: * Tu es Sacerdos in æternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.
Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die iræ suæ reges.
Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multorum.
De torrente in via bibet: * propterea exaltabit caput.

Ant. Dixit Dominus Domino meo, sede a dextris meis.
Ant. Magna opera Domini.
The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.
Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.
O Christ! the Lord thy Father, will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the saints: For the Father hath said, to thee: From the womb, before the day star, I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, speaking of thee, the God-Man: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.
Therefore, O Father, the Lord thy Son is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall also judge among nations: in that terrible coming, he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
He cometh now in humility: he shall drink, in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: therefore, shall he lift up the head.

Ant. The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right hand.
Ant. Great are the works of the Lord.

 


The following psalm commemorates the mercies of God to His people, the promised Covenant, the Redemption, His fidelity to His word. But it also tells us that the name of the Lord is terrible because it is holy; and concludes by telling us, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

psalm 110

 

Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: * in concilio justorum et congregatione.
Magna opera Domini: * exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.
Confessio et magnificentia opus ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum, misericors et miserator Dominus: * escam dedit timentibus se.
Memor erit in sæculum testamenti sui: * virtutem operum suorum annuntiabit populo suo.
Ut det illis haereditatem Gentium: * opera manuum ejus veritas et judicium.
Fidelia omnia mandata ejus, confirmata in sæculum sæculi: * facta in veritate et æquitate.
Redemptionem misit populo suo: * mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.
Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus: * initium sapientiæ timor Domini.
Intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum: * laudatio ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.

Ant. Magna opera Domini: exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.
Ant. Qui timet Dominum.
I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: in the council of the just, and in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.
His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continueth for ever and ever.
He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: and being the bread of life, he hath given food to them that fear him.
He will be mindful for ever of his covenant with men: he is come and will show forth to his people the power of his works.
That he may give them, his Church, the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hand are truth and judgement.
All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever: made in truth and equity.
He hath sent Redemption to his people; he hath thereby commanded his covenant for ever.
Holy and terrible is his name: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever.

Ant. Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.
Ant. He that feareth the Lord.

The next psalm sings the happiness of the just man, and his hopes on the day of his Lord’s coming. It tells us, likewise, of the confusion and despair which will torment the sinner, who, during life, was insensible to his own interests, and deaf to the invitations made him by the Church.

psalm 111

 

Beatus vir qui timet Dominum: * in mandatis ejus volet nimis.
Potens in terra erit semen ejus: * generatio rectorum benedicetur.
Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis: * misericors, et miserator, et justus.
Jucundus homo qui miseretur et commodat, disponet sermones suos in judicio: * quia in æternum non commovebitur.
In memoria æterna erit justus: * ab auditione mala non timebit.
Paratum cor ejus sperare in Domino, confirmatum est cor ejus: * non commovebitur donec despiciat inimicos suos.
Dispersit, dedit pauperibus, justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi: * cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.
Peccator videbit et irascetur, dentibus suis fremet et tabescet: * desiderium peccatorum peribit.

Ant. Qui timet Dominum, in mandatis ejus cupit nimis.
Ant. Sit nomen Domini.
Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed.
Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.
To the righteous a light is risen up in darkness: he is merciful, and compassionate, and just: he is born and dwells amongst us.
Acceptable is the man that showeth mercy and lendeth; he shall order his words with judgement: because he shall not be moved for ever.
The just shall be in everlasting remembrance: he shall not fear the evil hearing.
His heart is ready to hope in the Lord; his heart is strengthened: he shall not be moved until he look over his enemies.
He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor; his justice remaineth for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory.
The wicked shall see, and shall be angry; he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Ant. He that feareth the Lord delighteth exceedingly in his commandments.
Ant. May the name of the Lord.

The psalm, Laudate pueri, is a canticle of praise to the Lord, who, from His high heaven, has taken pity on the fallen human race, and facilitated its return to its Maker.

psalm 112

 

Laudate, pueri, Dominum: * laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini bene* dictum: * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
A solis ortu usque ad occasum: * laudabile nomen Domini.
Excelsus super omnes Gentes Dominus: * et super cœlos gloria ejus.
Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster qui in altis habitat: * et humilia respicit in cœlo et in terra?
Suscitans a terra inopem: * et de stercore erigens pauperem.
Ut collocet eum cum principibus: * cum principibus populi sui.
Qui habitare facit sterilem in domo: * matrem filiorum lætantem.

Ant. Sit nornen Domini benedictum in sæcula.
Ant. Deus autem noster.
Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth now and for ever.
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.
The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.
Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth, nay, who cometh down amidst us?
Raising up the needy from the earth: and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.
That he may place him with princes: with the princes of his people.
Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.

Ant. May the name of the Lord be for ever blessed.
Ant. But our God.

The fifth psalm, In exitu, recounts the prodigies witnessed under the ancient Covenant: they were figures, whose realities are to be accomplished in us, if we will but return to the Lord our God. He will deliver Israel from Egypt, emancipate the Gentiles from their idolatry, and pour out a blessing on every man who will consent to fear and love the Lord.

psalm 113

 

In exitu Israel de Ægypto: * domus Jacob de populo barbaro.
Facta est Judæa sanctificatio ejus: * Israel potestas ejus.
Mare vidit, et fugit: * Jordanis conversus est retrorsum.
Montes exsultaverunt ut arietes: * et colles sicut agni ovium.
Quid est tibi, mare, quod fugisti: * et tu, Jordanis, quia conversus es retrorsum?
Montes exsultastis sicut arietes: * et colles sicut agni ovium?
A facie Domini mota est terra: a facie Dei Jacob.
Qui convertit petram in stagna aquarum: * et rupem in fontes aquarum.
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis: * sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Super misericordia tua, et veritate tua: * nequando dicant Gentes: Ubi est Deus eorum?
Deus autem noster in cœlo: * omnia quæcumque voluit, fecit.
Simulacra Gentium argentum et aurum: * opera manuum hominum.
Os habent, et non loquentur: * oculos habent, et non videbunt.
Aures habent, et non audient: * nares habent, et non odorabunt.
Manus habent, et non palpabunt, pedes habent, et non ambulabunt: * non clamabunt in gutture suo.
Similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea: * et omnes qui confidunt in eis.
Domus Israel speravit in Domino: * adjutor eorum et protector eorum est.
Domus Aaron speravit in Domino: * adjutor eorum et protector eorum est.
Qui timent Dominum, speraverunt in Domino: * adjutor eorum et protector eorum est.
Dominus memor fuit nostri: * et benedixit nobis.
Benedixit domui Israel: * benedixit domui Aaron.
Benedixit omnibus qui timent Dominum: * pusillis cum majoribus.
Adjiciat Dominus super vos: * super vos, et super filios vestros.
Benedicti vos a Domino: * qui fecit cœlum et terrain.
Cœlum cœli Domino: * terram autem dedit filiis hominum.
Non mortui laudabunt te, Domine: * neque omnes qui descendunt in infernum.
Sed nos qui vivimus, benedicimus Domino: * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.

Ant. Deus autem noster in cœlo: omnia quæcumque voluit, fecit.
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people.
Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea saw and fled; Jordan was turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams: and the hills like the lambs of the flock.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou didst flee: and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back?
Ye mountains that ye skipped like rams: and ye hills like lambs of the flock?
At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob.
Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hills into fountains of waters.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us: but to thy name give glory.
For thy mercy and for thy truth's sake: lest the Gentiles should say: Where is their God?
But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.
The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold: the works of the hands of men.
They have mouths, and speak not: they have eyes, and see not.
They have ears, and hear not: they have noses, and smell not.
They have hands, and feel not: they have feet, and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.
Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.
The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
They that feared the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us.
He hath blessed the house of Israel: he hath blessed the house of Aaron.
He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great.
May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children.
Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men.
The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord, nor any of them that go down to hell.
But we that live bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever.

Ant. But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.

After these five psalms, a short lesson from the holy Scriptures is read. It is called because it is always very short. The one for the Sundays of Lent is given in the Proper.

After the capitulum, follows the hymn, Audi, benigne, which was written by St. Gregory the Great.

Hymn*

Audi, benigne Conditor,
Nostras preces cum fletibus
In hoc sacro jejunio
Fusas quadragenario.

Scrutator alme cordium,
Infirma tu seis virium:
Ad te reversis exhibe
Remissionis gratiam.

Multum quidem peccavimus,
Sed parce confitentibus;
Ad nominis laudem tui
Confer medelam languidis.

Concede nostrum conteri
Corpus per abstinentiam;
Culpae ut relinquant pabulum
Jejuna corda criminum.

Præsta, beata Trinitas,
Concede, simplex Unitas,
Ut fructuosa sint tuis
Jejuniorum munera.

Amen.

V. Angelis suis Deus manda vit de te.
R. Ut custodiant te in omnibus viis tuis.
Hear, O merciful Creator,
the tearful prayers
we present to thee,
during these forty days of fast.

O loving searcher of the heart,
thou knowest that our strength is weak:
grant us the grace of thy pardon,
for we are converted unto thee.

Grievously have we sinned;
yet, spare us, for we confess our sins to thee:
and, for the glory of thy name,
heal our languid hearts.

Grant that we may subdue
our flesh by abstinence;
that thus our hearts may leave what nourishes sin,
and fast from every crime.

O blessed Trinity,
O undivided Unity,
grant to us thy servants,
that our fasts may produce abundant fruits.

Amen.

V. God hath given his angels charge over thee.
R. To keep thee in all thy ways. 

 


Then is said the Magnificat antiphon, which is to be found in the proper. After this, the Church sings the canticle of Mary, the Magnificat, in which are celebrated the divine maternity and all its consequent blessings. This exquisite canticle is an essential part of the Vespers throughout the year. Let us unite with all generations, and call her blessed; but let us, also, enter into those sentiments of humility, which she recommends to us both by her words and her example. Her inspired lips speak to us this promise: If the great God, whose triumph is to gladden us on the glorious day of Easter, finds us humble and submissive, He will exalt us, yea, raise us up even to Himself; if we confess our misery and poverty to Him, He will enrich us, even to the fully with every blessing.

Our Lady's Canticle
(St Luke i.)

Magnificat: * anima mea Dominum:
Et exsultavit spiritus meus: * in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ: * ecce enim ex hoc Beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: * et sanctum nomen ejus.
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies: * timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: * dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede: * et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis: * et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum: * recordatus misericordiæ suæ.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros: * Abraham et semini ejus in sæcula.
My soul doth magnify the Lord;
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generation, to them that fear him.
He hath showed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy.
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

The Magnificat Antiphon is then repeated. The Prayer, or Collect, will be found in the Proper of each Sunday.

The Vespers end with the following Versicles:

℣. Benedicamus Domino.
. Deo gratias.

℣. Fidelium animæ per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace.
. Amen.
℣. Let us bless the Lord.
. Thanks be to God.

℣. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
℟. Amen.

 

 

 

* According to the monastic rite, it is as follows :— R. breve. Scapulis suis, * Obumbrabit tibi. Scapulis. V. Et sub pennis ejus sperabis. * Obumbrabit. Gloria Patri, &c. Scapulis.



 

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

This Office, which concludes the day, commences by a warning of the dangers of the night: then immediately follows the public confession of our sins, as a powerful means of propitiating the divine justice, and obtaining God’s help, now that we are going to spend so many hours in the unconscious and therefore dangerous state of sleep, which is also such an image of death.

The lector, addressing the priest, says to him:

V. Jube, domne, benedicere.
Pray, father, give me thy blessing.

The priest answers:

Noctem quietam, et finem perfectum concedat nobis Dominus omnipotens.

R. Amen.
May the almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

R. Amen.

The lector then reads these words, from the first Epistle of St. Peter:

Fratres: Sobrii estote, et vigilate: quia adversarius vester diabolus, tamquam leo rugiens circuit quærens quem devoret: cui resistite fortes in fide. Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis,
Brethren, be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist ye, strong in faith. But thou, O Lord, have mercy on us.

The choir answers:

R. Deo gratias.
R. Thanks be to God.

Then, the priest:

V. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

The choir:

R. Qui fecit cœlum et terrain.
R. Who hath made heaven and earth.

Then the Lord’s Prayer is recited in secret; after which the priest says the Confiteor; and, when he has finished, the choir says:

Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam æternam.
May almighty God have mercy on thee, and, forgiving thy sins, bring thee to everlasting life.

The priest having answered Amen, the choir repeats the Confiteor, thus:

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beatæ Mariæ semper Virgini, beato Michaeli archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistæ, sanctis apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus sanctis, et tibi, pater: quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelein archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos apostolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes sanctos, et te, pater, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.
I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to thee, father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed; through my fault; through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, and thee, father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.

The priest then says:

Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis vestris, perducat vos ad vitam æternam.

R. Amen.
May almighty God be merciful to you, and, forgiving your sins, bring you to everlasting life.

R. Amen.

Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum nostrorum, tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.
R. Amen.

V. Converte nos, Deus, Salutaris noster.
R. Et averte iram tuam a nobis.

V. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.
R. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, etc.
Laus tibi, Domine, Rex æternæ gloriæ.

Ant. Miserere.
May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins.

R. Amen.

V. Convert us, O God, our Saviour.
R. And turn away thy anger from us.

V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory, etc.
Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.

Ant. Have mercy.

The first psalm expresses the confidence with which the just man sleeps in peace; but it also rebukes those tepid Christians, whose dull hearts are but too often enslaved to vanity and lies, and exhorts them to examine, at the close of the day, the thoughts of their hearts, and be sorry for them at that time of stillness and repose.

Psalm 4

Cum invocarem exaudivit me Deus justitiæ meæ: * in tribulatione dilatasti mihi.
Miserere mei: * et exaudi orationem meam.
Filii hominum, usquequo gravi corde: * ut quid diligitis vanitatem, et quferitis mendacium?
Et scitote quoniam mirificavit Dominus sanctum suum: * Dominus exaudiet me, cum clamavero ad eum.
Irascimini, et nolite peccare: * quæ dicitis in cordibus vestris, in cubilibus ve~ stris compungimini.
Sacrificate sacrificium justitiæ, et sperate in Domino: * multi dicunt: Quis ostendit nobis bona?
Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui Domine: * de disti lætitiam in corde meo.
A fructu frumenti, vini et olei sui: * multiplicati sunt.
In pace in idipsum: * dormiam et requiescam.
Quoniam tu, Domine, singulariter in spe: * costituisti me.
When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, thou hast enlarged me.
Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
Know ye also that the Lord hath made his holy One wonderful: the Lord will hear me, when I cry unto him.
Be ye angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, who showeth us good things?
The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: thou hast given gladness in my heart.
By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they are multiplied.
In peace, in the self-same, I will sleep, and I will rest.
For thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope.

The second psalm gives the motives of the just man’s confidence, even during the dangers of the night. The description here given of peace of mind should make the sinner long for a reconciliation with his God, that so he, too, may enjoy that divine protection, without which there can be no security or happiness in this life of peril and misery.

Psalm 90

 

Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi: * in protectione Dei cœli commorabitur.
Dicet Domino: Susceptor meus es tu, et refugium meum: * Deus meus, sperabo in eum.
Quoniam ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium: * et a verbo aspero.
Scapulis suis obumbrabit tibi: * et sub pennis ejus sperabis.
Scuto circumdabit te veritas ejus: * non timebis a more nocturno.
A sagitta volante in die, a negotio perambulante in tenebris: * ab incursu, et dæmonio meridiano.
Cadent a latere tuo mille, et decem millia a dextris tuis: * ad te autem non appropinquabit.
Verumtamen oculis tuis considerabis: * et retributionem peccatorum videbis.
Quoniam tu es, Domine, spes mea: * Altissimum posuisti refugium tuum.
Non accedet ad te malum: * et flagellum non appropinquabit tabernaculo tuo.
Quoniam angelis suis mandavit de te: * ut custo diant te in omnibus viis tuis.
In manibus portabunt te: * ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum.
Super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis: * et conculcabis leonem et draconem.
Quoniam in me speravit, liberabo eum: * protegam euro, quoniam cognovit nomen meum.
Clamabit ad me, et ego exaudiam eum: * cum ipso sum in tribulatione, eripiam eum, et glorificabo eum.
Longitudine dierum replebo eum: * et ostendam illi salutare meum.
He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of heaven.
He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.
For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word.
He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust.
His truth shall compass thee with a shield: thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night.
Of the arrow that flieth in the day: of the business that walketh about in the dark: of invasion, or of the noonday devil.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
But thou shalt consider with thy eyes: and shalt see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast said: Thou, O Lord, art my hope: thou hast made the Most High thy refuge.
There shall no evil come to thee, nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.
For he hath given his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.
In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.
God will say of thee: Because he hoped in me, I will deliver him: I will protect him, because he hath known my name.
He will cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.
I will fill him with length of days: and I will show him my salvation.

The third psalm invites the servants of God to persevere, with fervour, in the prayers they offer during the night. The faithful should say this psalm in a spirit of gratitude to God, for raising up, in the Church, adorers of His holy name, whose grand vocation is to lift up their hands, day and night, for the safety of Israel. On such prayers depend the happiness and the destinies of the world.

Psalm 133

Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum: * omnes servi Domini.
Qui statis in domo Domini: * in atriis domus Dei nostri.
In noctibus extollite manas vestras in sancta: * et benedicite Dominum.
Benedicat te Dominus ex Sion: * qui fecit cœlum et terram.
Ant. Miserere mihi, Domine, et exaudi orationem meam.
Behold now bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord.
Who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
In the nights lift up your hands to the holy places, and bless ye the Lord.
Say to Israel: May the Lord out of Sion bless thee, he that made heaven and earth.
Ant. Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, and hear my prayer.

Hymn[1]

Te lucis ante terminum,
Rerum Creator, poscimus,
Ut pro tua dementia
Sis præsul et custodia.

Procul recedant somnia,
Et noctium phantasmata;
Hostemque nostrum comprime,
Ne polluantur corpora.

Præsta, Pater piissime,
Patrique compar Unice,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito
Regnans per omne sæculum.

Amen.
Before the closing of the light,
we beseech thee, Creator of all things!
that in thy clemency,
thou be our protector and our guard.

May the dreams and phantoms of night
depart far from us;
and do thou repress our enemy,
lest our bodies be profaned.

Most merciful Father!
and thou, his only-begotten Son, coequal with him,
reigning for ever with the holy Paraclete,
grant this our prayer!

Amen.

Capitulum
(Jeremias xiv.)

Tu autem In nobis es, Domine, et nomen sanctum tuum invocatimi est super nos; ne derelinquas nos, Domine Deus noster.
But thou art in us, 0 Lord, and thy holy name has been invoked upon us forsake us not, 0 Lord our God.

 

Responsory

R. In manus tuas, Domine: * Commendo spiritum menni. In manus tuas.
V. Redemisti nos, Domine Deus veritatis. * Commendo.
Gloria In manus tuas.
V. Custodi nos, Domine, ut pupillam oculi.
R. Sub umbra alarum tuarum protege nos.
Ant. Salva nos.
R. Into thy hands, 0 Lord: * I commend my spirit. Into thy hands.
V. Thou hast redeemed us, 0 Lord God of truth. * I commend.
Glory. Into thy hands.
V. Preserve us, 0 Lord, as the apple of thine eye.
R. Protect us under the shadow of thy wings.
Ant. Save us.

The canticle of the venerable Simeon—who, whilst holding the divine Infant in his arms, proclaimed Him to be the light of the Gentiles, and then slept the sleep of the just—admirably expresses the repose of heart which the soul that is in the grace of God will experience in her Jesus; for, as the apostle says, we may live together with Jesus, whether we are awake or asleep.[2]

Canticle Of Simeon
(St. Luke ii.)

Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine: * secundum verbum tuum in pace.
Quia viderunt oculi mei: * salutare tuum.
Quod parasti: * ante faciem omnium populorum.
Lumen ad revelationem Gentium: * et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, etc.

Ant. Salva nos, Domine, vigilantes, custodi nos dormientes; ut vigilemus cum Christo, et requiescamus in pace.
Now dost thou dismiss thy servant, 0 Lord, according to thy word in peace.
Because my eyes have seen thy salvation.
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.
A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory, etc.

Ant. Save us, 0 Lord, while awake, and watch us as we sleep; that we may watch with Christ, and rest in peace.

Prayers

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Pater noster.
V. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
R. Sed libera nos a malo. Credo in Deum, etc.

V. Carnis resurrectionem.
R. Vitam æternam. Amen.

V. Benedictus es, Domine Deus patrum nostrorum.
R. Et laudabilis et gloriosus in sæcula.

V. Benedicamus Patrem et Filium cum sancto Spiritu.
R. Laudemus, et superexaltemus eum in sæcula.

V. Benedictus es, Domine, in firmamento cœli.
R. Et laudabilis, et gloriosus, et superexaltatus in sæcula.

V. Benedicat et custodiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus. R. Amen.

V. Dignare, Domine, nocte ista,
R. Sine peccato nos custodire.

V. Miserere nostri, Domine.
R. Miserere nostri.

V. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos,
R. Quemadmodum speravimus in te.

V. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Lord have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us.

Our Father.
V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil. I believe in God, etc.

V. The resurrection of the body.
R. And life everlasting. Amen.

V. Blessed art thou, 0 Lord God of our fathers.
R. And praiseworthy and glorious for ever.

V. Let us bless the Father and the Son, with the Holy Ghost.
R. Let us praise and magnify him for ever.

V. Thou art blessed, 0 Lord, in the firmament of heaven.
R. And praiseworthy, and glorious, and magnified for ever.

V. May the almighty and merciful Lord bless us and keep us. R. Amen.

V. Vouchsafe, O Lord, this night,
R. To keep us without sin.

V. Have mercy on us, 0 Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.

V. Let thy mercy be upon us, 0 Lord,
R. As we have hoped in thee.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.

After these prayers (which are omitted if the Office be of a double rite), the priest says:

V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Oremus.

Visita, quæsumus, Domine, habitationem istam, et omnes insidias inimici ab ea longe repelle: angeli tui sancti habitent in ea, qui nos in pace custodiant, et benedictio tua sit super nos semper. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

Amen.

V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V. Benedicamus Domino.
R. Deo gratias.

Benedicat et custodiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus sanctus.

R. Amen.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us Pray.

Visit, we beseech thee, 0 Lord, this house and family, and drive from it all snares of the enemy: let thy holy angels dwell herein, who may keep us in peace, and may thy blessing be always upon us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

Amen.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bless and preserve us.

R. Amen.

Anthem to the Blessed Virgin

Ave Regina cœlorum,
Ave Domina angelorum:
Salve radix, Salve porta,
Ex qua mundo lux est orta;

Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa:
Vale, O valde decora,
Et pro nobis Christum exora.

V. Dignare me laudare te, Virgo sacrata.
R, Da mihi virtutem contra hostes tuos.

Oremus.

Concede, misericors Deus, fragilitati nostræ præsidium: ut, qui sanctæ Dei Genitricis memoriam agimus, intercessionis ejus auxilio, a nostris iniquitatibus resurgamus. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.

Amen.

V. Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum.
R. Amen.
Hail Queen of heaven!
Hail Lady of the angels!
Hail blessed root and gate,
from which came light upon the world!

Rejoice, O glorious Virgin,
that surpassest all in beauty!
Hail, most lovely Queen!
and pray to Christ for us.

V. Vouchsafe, 0 holy Virgin, that I may praise thee.
R. Give me power against thine enemies.

Let us Pray.

Grant, O merciful God, thy protection to us in our weakness; that we who celebrate the memory of the holy Mother of God, may, through the aid of her intercession, rise again from our sins. Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

V. May the divine assistance remain always with us.
R. Amen.[3]

 


Then, in secret, PaterAve, and Credo; page 16.


 

[1] According to the monastic rite, as follows: Te lucis ante terminum, Rerum Creator, poscimus, Ut solita clementia Sis præsul ad custodiam. Procul recedant somnia Et noctium phantasmata; Hostemque nostrum comprime Ne polluantur corpora. Præsta, Pater omnipotens, Per Jesum Christum Dominum, Qui tecum in perpetuum Regnat cum sancto Spiritu.
[2] 1 Thess. v. 10.
[3] In the monastic rite, this response is as follows: R. Et cum fratribus nostris absentibus. Amen. V. And with our absent brethren. Amen.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

The most ancient sacramentaries and antiphonaries of the several Churches attest, by the prayers, the lessons, and the whole liturgy of these two weeks, that the Passion of our Lord is now the one sole thought of the Christian world. During Passion week, a saint’s feast, if it occur, will be kept; but Passion Sunday admits no feast, however solemn it may be; and even on those which are kept during the days intervening between Passion and Palm Sunday, there is always made a commemoration of the Passion, and the holy images are not allowed to be uncovered.

We cannot give any historical details upon the first of these two weeks; its ceremonies and rites have always been the same as those of the four preceding ones.[1] We, therefore, refer the reader to the following chapter, in which we treat of the mysteries peculiar to Passiontide. The second week, on the contrary, furnishes us with abundant historical details; for there is no portion of the liturgical year which has interested the Christian world so much as this, or which has given rise to such fervent manifestations of piety.

This week was held in great veneration even as early as the third century, as we learn from St. Denis, bishop of Alexandria, who lived at that time.[2] In the following century, we find St. John Chrysostom, calling it the great week:[3] ‘Not,’ says the holy doctor, ‘that it has more days in it than other weeks, or that its days are made up of more hours than other days; but we call it great, because of the great mysteries which are then celebrated.’ We find it called also by other names: the painful week (hebdomada pænosa, on account of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the fatigue required from us in celebrating them; the week of indulgence, because sinners are then received to penance; and, lastly, Holy Week, in allusion to the holiness of the mysteries which are commemorated during these seven days. This last name is the one under which it most generally goes with us; and the very days themselves are, in many countries, called by the same name, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.

The severity of the lenten fast is increased during these its last days; the whole energy of the spirit of penance is now brought out. Even with us, the dispensation which allows the use of eggs ceases towards the middle of this week. The eastern Churches, faithful to their ancient traditions, have kept up a most rigorous abstinence ever since the Monday of Quinquagesima week. During the whole of this long period, which they call Xerophagia, they have been allowed nothing but dry food. In the early ages, fasting during Holy Week was carried to the utmost limits that human nature could endure. We learn from St. Epiphanius,[4] that there were some of the Christians who observed a strict fast from Monday morning to cock-crow of Easter Sunday. Of course it must have been very few of the faithful who could go so far as this. Many passed two, three, and even four consecutive days, without tasting any food; but the general practice was to fast from Maundy Thursday evening to Easter morning. Many Christians in the east, and in Russia, observe this fast even in these times. Would that such severe penance were always accompanied by a firm faith and union with the Church, out of which the merit of such penitential works is of no avail for salvation!

Another of the ancient practices of Holy Week were the long hours spent, during the night, in the churches. On Maundy Thursday, after having celebrated the divine mysteries in remembrance of the Last Supper, the faithful continued a long time in prayer.[5] The night between Friday and Saturday was spent in almost uninterrupted vigil, in honour of our Lord’s burial.[6] But the longest of all these vigils was that of Saturday, which was kept up till Easter Sunday morning. The whole congregation joined in it: they assisted at the final preparation of the catechumens, as also at the administration of Baptism; nor did they leave the church until after the celebration of the holy Sacrifice, which was not over till sunrise.[7]

Cessation from servile work was, for a long time, an obligation during Holy Week. The civil law united with that of the Church in order to bring about this solemn rest from toil and business, which so eloquently expresses the state of mourning of the Christian world. The thought of the sufferings and death of Jesus was the one pervading thought: the Divine Offices and prayer were the sole occupation of the people: and, indeed, all the strength of the body was needed for the support of the austerities of fasting and abstinence. We can readily understand what an impression was made upon men’s minds, during the whole of the rest of the year, by this universal suspension of the ordinary routine of life. Moreover, when we call to mind how, for five full weeks, the severity of Lent had waged war on the sensual appetites, we can imagine the simple and honest joy wherewith was welcomed the feast of Easter, which brought both the regeneration of the soul, and respite to the body.

In the preceding volume, we mentioned the laws of the Theodosian Code, which forbade all law business during the forty days preceding Easter. This law of Gratian and Theodosius, which was published in 380, was extended by Theodosius in 389; this new decree forbade all pleadings during the seven days before, and the seven days after, Easter. We meet with several allusions to this then recent law, in the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, and in the sermons of St. Augustine. In virtue of this decree, each of these fifteen days was considered, as far as the courts of law were concerned, as a Sunday.

But Christian princes were not satisfied with the mere suspension of human justice during these days, which are so emphatically days of mercy: they would, moreover, pay homage, by an external act, to the fatherly goodness of God, who has deigned to pardon a guilty world, through the merits of the death of His Son. The Church was on the point of giving reconciliation to repentant sinners, who had broken the chains of sin whereby they were held captives; Christian princes were ambitious to imitate this their mother, and they ordered that prisoners should be loosened from their chains, that the prisons should be thrown open, and that freedom should be restored to those who had fallen under the sentence of human tribunals. The only exception made was that of criminals whose freedom would have exposed their families or society to great danger. The name of Theodosius stands prominent in these acts of mercy. We are told by St John Chrysostom[8] that this emperor sent letters of pardon to the several cities, ordering the release of prisoners, and granting life to those that had been condemned to death, and all this in order to sanctify the days preceding the Easter feast. The last emperors made a law of this custom, as we find in one of St. Leo’s sermons, where he thus speaks of their clemency: ‘The Roman emperors have long observed this holy practice. In honour of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, they humbly withhold the exercise of their sovereign justice, and, laying aside the severity of their laws, they grant pardon to a great number of criminals. Their intention in this is to imitate the divine goodness by their own exercise of clemency during these days, when the world owes its salvation to the divine mercy. Let, then, the Christian people imitate their princes, and let the example of kings induce subjects to forgive each other their private wrongs; for, surely it is absurd that private laws should be less unrelenting than those which are public. Let trespasses be forgiven, let bonds be taken off, let offences be forgotten, let revenge be stifled; that thus the sacred feast may, by both divine and human favours, find us all happy and innocent.'[9]

This Christian amnesty was not confined to the Theodosian Code; we find traces of it in the laws of several of our western countries. We may mention France as an example. Under the first race of its kings, St. Eligius bishop of Noyon, in a sermon for Maundy Thursday, thus expresses himself: ‘On this day, when the Church grants indulgence to penitents and absolution to sinners, magistrates, also, relent in their severity and grant pardon to the guilty. Throughout the whole world prisons are thrown open; princes show clemency to criminals; masters forgive their slaves.’[10] Under the second race, we learn from the Capitularia of Charlemagne, that bishops had a right to exact from the judges, for the love of Jesus Christ (as it is expressed), that prisoners should be set free on the days preceding Easter;[11] and should the magistrates refuse to obey, the bishops could refuse them admission into the church.[12] And lastly, under the third race, we find Charles VI, after quelling the rebellion at Rouen, giving orders, later on, that the prisoners should be set at liberty, because it was Painful Week, and very near to the Easter feast.[13]

A last vestige of this merciful legislation was a custom observed by the parliament of Paris. The ancient Christian practice of suspending its sessions during the whole of Lent, had long been abolished: it was not till the Wednesday of Holy Week that the house was closed, which it continued to be from that day until after Low Sunday. On the Tuesday of Holy Week, which was the last day granted for audiences, the parliament repaired to the palace prisons, and there one of the grand presidents, generally the last installed, held a session of the house. The prisoners were questioned; but, without any formal judgment, all those whose case seemed favourable, or who were not guilty of some capital offence, were set at liberty.

The revolutions of the last eighty years have produced in every country in Europe the secularization of society, that is to say, the effacing from our national customs and legislation of everything which had been introduced by the supernatural element of Christianity. The favourite theory of the last half century or more, has been that all men are equal. The people of the ages of faith had something far more convincing than theory, of the sacredness of their rights. At the approach of those solemn anniversaries which so forcibly remind us of the justice and mercy of God, they beheld princes abdicating, as it were, their sceptre, leaving in God’s hands the punishment of the guilty, and assisting at the holy Table of Paschal Communion side by side with those very men, whom, a few days before, they had been keeping chained in prison for the good of society. There was one thought, which, during these days, was strongly brought before all nations: it was the thought of God, in whose eyes all men are sinners; of God, from whom alone proceed justice and pardon. It was in consequence of this deep Christian feeling, that we find so many diplomas and charts of the ages of faith speaking of the days of Holy Week as being the reign of Christ: such an event, they say, happened on such a day, ‘under the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ:’ regnante Domino nostro Jesu Christo.

When these days of holy and Christian equality were over, did subjects refuse submission to their sovereigns? Did they abuse the humility of their princes, and take occasion for drawing up what modern times call the rights of man? No: that same thought which had inspired human justice to humble itself before the cross of Jesus, taught the people their duty of obeying the powers established by God. The exercise of power, and submission to that power, both had God for their motive. They who wielded the sceptre might be of various dynasties: the respect for authority was ever the same. Now-a-days, the liturgy has none of her ancient influence on society; religion has been driven from the world at large, and her only life and power is now with the consciences of individuals; and as to political institutions, they are but the expression of human pride, seeking to command, or refusing to obey.

And yet the fourth century, which, in virtue of the Christian spirit, produced the laws we have been alluding to, was still rife with the pagan element. How comes it that we, who live in the full light of Christianity, can give the name of progress to a system which tends to separate society from everything that is supernatural? Men may talk as they please, there is but one way to secure order, peace, morality, and security to the world; and that is God’s way, the way of faith, of living in accordance with the teachings and the spirit of faith. All other systems can, at best, but flatter those human passions, which are so strongly at variance with the mysteries of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we are now celebrating.

We must mention another law made by the Christian emperors in reference to Holy Week. If the spirit of charity, and a desire to imitate divine mercy, led them to decree the liberation of prisoners; it was but acting consistently with these principles, that, during these days when our Saviour shed His Blood for the emancipation of the human race, they should interest themselves in what regards slaves. Slavery, a consequence of sin, and the fundamental institution of the pagan world, had received its death-blow by the preaching of the Gospel; but its gradual abolition was left to individuals, and to their practical exercise of the principle of Christian fraternity. As our Lord and His apostles had not exacted the immediate abolition of slavery, so, in like manner, the Christian emperors limited themselves to passing such laws as would give encouragement to its gradual abolition. We have an example of this in the Justinian Code, where this prince, after having forbidden all law-proceedings during Holy Week and the week following, lays down the following exception: ‘It shall, nevertheless, be permitted to give slaves their liberty; in such manner, that the legal acts necessary for their emancipation shall not be counted as contravening this present enactment.’[14]This charitable law of Justinian was but applying to the fifteen days of Easter the decree passed by Constantine, which forbade all legal proceedings on the Sundays throughout the year, excepting only such acts as had for their object the emancipation of slaves.

But long before the peace given her by Constantine, the Church had made provision for slaves, during these days when the mysteries of the world’s redemption were accomplished. Christian masters were obliged to grant them total rest from labour during this holy fortnight. Such is the law laid down in the apostolic constitutions, which were compiled previously to the fourth century. ‘During the great week preceding the day of Easter, and during the week that follows, slaves rest from labour, inasmuch as the first is the week of our Lord’s Passion, and the second is that of His Resurrection; and the slaves require to be instructed upon these mysteries.’[15]

Another characteristic of the two weeks, upon which we are now entering, is that of giving more abundant alms, and of greater fervour in the exercise of works of mercy. St. John Chrysostom assures us that such was the practice of his times; he passes an encomium on the faithful, many of whom redoubled, at this period, their charities to the poor, which they did out of this motive: that they might, in some slight measure, imitate the divine generosity, which is now so unreservedly pouring out its graces on sinners.


[1] It would be out of place to enter here on a discussion with regard to the name Mediana, under which title we find Passion Sunday mentioned both in ancient liturgies and in Canon Law.
[2] Epist. ad Basilidem, Canon i.
[3] Hom, xxx in Genes.
[4] Expositio fidei, ix Hæres, xxii.
[5] St. John Chrysostom, Hom, xxx in Genes.
[6] St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech, xviii.
[7] Const. Apost. lib. i. cap. xviii.
[8] Homil. in magn. Hebdom. Homil. xxx. in Genes. Homil. vi ad popul. Antioch.
[9] Sermon xl. de Quadragesima, ii.
[10] Sermon x.
[11] We learn from the same capitularia, that this privilege was also extended to Christmas and Pentecost.
[12] Capitular. lib. vi.
[13] Jean Juvénal des Ursins, year 1382.
[14] Cod. lib. iii. tit. xii. de feriis. Leg. 8.
[15] Constit. Apost. lib. viii. cap. xxxiii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The holy liturgy is rich in mystery during these days of the Church’s celebrating the anniversaries of so many wonderful events; but as the principal part of these mysteries is embodied in the rites and ceremonies of the respective days, we shall give our explanations according as the occasion presents itself. Our object in the present chapter, is to say a few words respecting the general character of the mysteries of these two weeks.

We have nothing to add to the explanation, already given in our Lent, on the mystery of forty. The holy season of expiation continues its course until the fast of sinful man has imitated, in its duration, that observed by the Man-God in the desert. The army of Christ’s faithful children is still fighting against the invisible enemies of man’s salvation; they are still vested in their spiritual armour, and, aided by the angels of light, they are struggling hand to hand with the spirits of darkness, by compunction of heart and by mortification of the flesh.

As we have already observed, there are three objects which principally engage the thoughts of the Church during Lent. The Passion of our Redeemer which we have felt to be coming nearer to us each week; the preparation of the catechumens for Baptism, which is to be administered to them on Easter eve; the reconciliation of the public penitents, who are to be readmitted into the Church on the Thursday, the day of the Last Supper. Each of these three objects engages more and more the attention of the Church, the nearer she approaches the time of their celebration.

The miracle performed by our Saviour almost at the very gates of Jerusalem, by which He restored Lazarus to life, has roused the fury of His enemies to the highest pitch of phrensy. The people’s enthusiasm has been excited by seeing him, who had been four days in the grave, walking in the streets of their city. They ask each other if the Messias, when He comes, can work greater wonders than these done by Jesus, and whether they ought not at once to receive this Jesus as the Messias, and sing their Hosanna to Him, for He is the Son of David. They cannot contain their feelings: Jesus enters Jerusalem, and they welcome Him as their King. The high priests and princes of the people are alarmed at this demonstration of feeling; they have no time to lose; they are resolved to destroy Jesus. We are going to assist at their impious conspiracy: the Blood of the just Man is to be sold, and the price put on it is thirty silver pieces. The divine Victim, betrayed by one of His disciples, is to be judged, condemned, and crucified. Every circumstance of this awful tragedy is to be put before us by the liturgy, not merely in words, but with all the expressiveness of a sublime ceremonial.

The catechumens have but a few more days to wait for the fount that is to give them life. Each day their instruction becomes fuller; the figures of the old Law are being explained to them; and very little now remains for them to learn with regard to the mysteries of salvation. The Symbol of faith is soon to be delivered to them. Initiated into the glories and the humiliations of the Redeemer, they will await with the faithful the moment of His glorious Resurrection; and we shall accompany them with our prayers and hymns at that solemn hour, when, leaving the defilements of sin in the life-giving waters of the font, they shall come forth pure and radiant with innocence, be enriched with the gifts of the holy Spirit, and be fed with the divine flesh of the Lamb that liveth for ever.

The reconciliation of the penitents, too, is close at hand. Clothed in sackcloth and ashes, they are continuing their work of expiation. The Church has still several passages from the sacred Scriptures to read to them, which, like those we have already heard during the last few weeks, will breathe consolation and refreshment to their souls. The near approach of the day when the Lamb is to be slain increases their hope, for they know that the Blood of this Lamb is of infinite worth, and can take away the sins of the whole world. Before the day of Jesus’ Resurrection, they will have recovered their lost innocence; their pardon will come in time to enable them, like the penitent prodigal, to join in the great Banquet of that Thursday, when Jesus will say to His guests: ‘With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer.’[1]

Such are the sublime subjects which are about to be brought before us: but, at the same time, we shall see our holy mother the Church mourning, like a disconsolate widow, and sad beyond all human grief. Hitherto she has been weeping over the sins of her children; now she bewails the death of her divine Spouse. The joyous Alleluia has long since been hushed in her canticles; she is now going to suppress another expression, which seems too glad for a time like the present. Partially, at first,[2] but entirely during the last three days, she is about to deny herself the use of that formula, which is so dear to her: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. There is an accent of jubilation in these words, which would ill suit her grief and the mournfulness of the rest of her chants.

Her lessons, for the night Office, are taken from Jeremias, the prophet of lamentation above all others. The colour of her vestments is the one she had on when she assembled us at the commencement of Lent to sprinkle us with ashes; but when the dreaded day of Good Friday comes, purple would not sufficiently express the depth of her grief; she will clothe herself in black, as men do when mourning the death of a fellow-mortal; for Jesus, her Spouse, is to be put to death on that day: the sins of mankind and the rigours of the divine justice are then to weigh him down, and in all the realities of a last agony, He is to yield up His Soul to His Father.

The presentiment of that awful hour leads the afflicted mother to veil the image of her Jesus: the cross is hidden from the eyes of the faithful. The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should not appear. The interpreters of the liturgy tell us that this ceremony of veiling the crucifix during Passiontide, expresses the humiliation to which our Saviour subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews threatened to stone Him, as is related in the Gospel of Passion Sunday. The Church begins this solemn rite with the Vespers of the Saturday before Passion Sunday. Thus it is that, in those years when the feast of our Lady’s Annunciation falls in Passion-week, the statue of Mary, the Mother of God, remains veiled, even on that very day when the Archangel greets her as being full of grace, and blessed among women.

 


[1] St. Luke xxii. 15.
[2] Unless it be the feast of a saint, as frequently happens during the first of these two weeks. The same exception is to be made in what follows.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The past four weeks seems to have been but a preparation for the intense grief of the Church during these two. She knows that men are in search of her Jesus, and that they are bent on His death. Before twelve days are over, she will see them lay their sacrilegious hands upon Him. She will have to follow Him up the hill of Calvary; she will have to receive His last breath; she must witness the stone placed against the sepulchre where His lifeless Body is laid. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at her inviting all her children to contemplate, during these weeks, Him who is the object of all her love and all her sadness.

But our mother asks something more of us than compassion and tears; she would have us profit by the lessons we are to be taught by the Passion and Death of our Redeemer. He Himself, when going up to Calvary, said to the holy women who had the courage to show their compassion even before His very executioners: ‘Weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children’.[1] It was not that He refused the tribute of their tears, for He was pleased with this proof of their affection; but it was His love for them that made Him speak thus. He desired, above all, to see them appreciate the importance of what they were witnessing, and learn from it how inexorable is God’s justice against sin.

During the four weeks that have preceded, the Church has been leading the sinner to his conversion; so far, however, this conversion has been but begun: now she would perfect it. It is no longer our Jesus fasting and praying in the desert, that she offers to our consideration; it is this same Jesus, as the great Victim immolated for the world’s salvation. The fatal hour is at hand; the power of darkness is preparing to make use of the time that is still left; the greatest of crimes is about to be perpetrated. A few days hence the Son of God is to be in the hands of sinners, and they will put Him to death. The Church no longer needs to urge her children to repentance; they know too well, now, what sin must be, when it could require such expiation as this. She is all absorbed in the thought of the terrible event, which is to close the life of the God-Man on earth; and by expressing her thoughts through the holy liturgy, she teaches us what our own sentiments should be.

The pervading character of the prayers and rites of these two weeks, is a profound grief at seeing the just One persecuted by His enemies even to death, and an energetic indignation against the deicides. The formulas, expressive of these two feelings are, for the most part, taken from David and the Prophets. Here, it is our Saviour Himself, disclosing to us the anguish of His soul; there, it is the Church pronouncing the most terrible anathemas upon the executioners of Jesus. The chastisement that is to befall the Jewish nation is prophesied in all its frightful details; and on the last three days, we shall hear the prophet Jeremias uttering his lamentations over the faithless city. The Church does not aim at exciting idle sentiment; what she principally seeks, is to impress the hearts of her children with a salutary fear. If Jerusalem’s crime strike them with horror, and if they feel that they have partaken in her sin, their tears will flow in abundance.

Let us, therefore, do our utmost to receive these strong impressions, too little known, alas! by the superficial piety of these times, Let us reflect upon the love and affection of the Son of God, who has treated His creatures with such unlimited confidence, lived their own life, spent His three and thirty years amidst them, not only humbly and peaceably, but in going about doing good.[2] And now this life of kindness, condescension, and humility, is to be cut short by the disgraceful death, which none but slaves endured: the death of the cross. Let us consider, on the one side, this sinful people, who, having no crimes to lay to Jesus’ charge, accuse Him of His benefits, and carry their detestable ingratitude to such a pitch as to shed the Blood of this innocent and divine Lamb; and then, let us turn to this Jesus, the Just by excellence, and see Him become a prey to every bitterest suffering: His Soul sorrowful even unto death;[3] weighed down by the malediction of our sins; drinking even to the very dregs the chalice He so humbly asks His Father to take from Him; and lastly, let us listen to His dying words: ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’[4] This it is that fills the Church with her immense grief; this it is that she proposes to our consideration; for she knows that, if we once rightly understood the sufferings of her Jesus, our attachments to sin must needs be broken, for, by sin, we make ourselves guilty of the crime we detest in these Jews.

But the Church knows, too, how hard is the heart of man, and how, to make him resolve on a thorough conversion, he must be made to fear. For this reason, she puts before us those awful imprecations, which the prophets, speaking in Jesus’ person, pronounced against them that put our Lord to death. These prophetic anathemas were literally fulfilled against the obdurate Jews. They teach us what the Christian, also, must expect, if, as the apostle so forcibly expresses it, we again crucify the Son of God.[5] In listening to what the Church now speaks to us, we cannot but tremble as we recall to mind those other words of the same apostle: How much more, think ye, doth he deserve worse punishment, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the Blood of the testament unclean, (as though it were some vile thing), by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said: ‘Vengeance belongeth to Me, and I will repay.’ And again: ‘The Lord shall judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.[6]

Fearful indeed it is! Oh! what a lesson God gives us of His inexorable justice, during these days of the Passion! He that spared not even his own Son,[7] His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased,[8] will He spare us, if, after all the graces He has bestowed upon us, He should find us in sin, which He so unpitifully chastised even in Jesus, when He took it upon Himself, that He might atone for it? Considerations such as these—the justice of God towards the most innocent and august of victims, and the punishments that befell the impenitent Jews—must surely destroy within us every affection to sin, for they will create within us that salutary fear which is the solid foundation of firm hope and tender love.

For if, by our sins, we have made ourselves guilty of the death of the Son of God, it is equally true that the Blood which flowed from His sacred wounds has the power to cleanse us from the guilt of our crime. The justice of our heavenly Father cannot be appeased, save by the shedding of this precious Blood; and the mercy of this same Father wills that it be spent for our ransom. The cruelty of Jesus’ executioners has made five wounds in His sacred Body; and from these, there flow five sources of salvation, which purify the world, and restore within each one of us the image of God which sin had destroyed. Let us, then, approach with confidence to this redeeming Blood, which throws open to the sinner the gates of heaven, and whose worth is such that it could redeem a million worlds, were they even more guilty than ours. We are close upon the anniversary of the day when it was shed; long ages have passed away since it flowed down the wounded Body of our Jesus, and fell in streams from the cross upon this ungrateful earth; and yet its power is as great as ever.

Let us go, then, and draw from the Saviour’s fountains;[9] our souls will come forth full of life, all pure, and dazzling with heavenly beauty; not one spot of their old defilements will be left; and the Father will love us with the love wherewith He loves His own Son. Why did He deliver up unto death this His tenderly beloved Son? Was it not that He might regain us, the children whom He had lost? We had become, by our sins, the possession of satan; hell had undoubted claims upon us; and, lo! we have been suddenly snatched from both, and all our primitive rights have been restored to us. Yet God used no violence in order to deliver us from our enemy; how comes it, then, that we are now free? Listen to the apostle: ‘Ye are bought at a great price.’[10] And what is this price? The prince of the apostles explains it: ‘Know ye,’ says he, ‘that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, but with the precious Blood of Christ as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled.’[11] This divine Blood was placed in the scales of God’s justice, and so far did it outweigh our iniquities, as to make the bias in our favour. The power of this Blood has broken the very gates of hell, severed our chains, and made peace both as to the things on earth, and the things that are in heaven.[12] Let us receive upon us, therefore, this precious Blood, wash our wounds in it, and sign our foreheads with it as with an indelible mark, which may protect us, on the day of wrath, from the sword of vengeance.

There is another object most dear to the Church, which she, during these two weeks, recommends to our deepest veneration; it is the cross, the altar upon which our incomparable Victim is immolated. Twice during the course of the year, that is, on the feasts of its Invention and Exaltation, this sacred Wood will be offered to us that we may honour it as the trophy of our Jesus’ victory; but now, it speaks to us but of His sufferings, it brings with it no other idea but that of His humiliation. God had said in the ancient Covenant: ‘Accursed is he that hangeth on a tree’.[13] The Lamb, that saved us, disdained not to suffer this curse; but, for that very cause, this tree, this wood of infamy, has become dear to us beyond measure. It is the instrument of our salvation, it is the sublime pledge of Jesus’ love for us. On this account, the Church is about to lavish her veneration and love upon it; and we intend to imitate her, and join her in this, as in all else she does. An adoring gratitude towards the Blood that has redeemed us, and a loving veneration of the holy cross—these are the two sentiments which are to be uppermost in our hearts during these two weeks.

But for the Lamb Himself—for Him that gave us this Blood, and so generously embraced the cross that saved us—what shall we do? Is it not just that we should keep close to Him, and that, more faithful than the apostles who abandoned Him during His Passion, we should follow Him day by day, nay, hour by hour, in the way of the cross that He treads for us? Yes, we will be His faithful companions during these last days of His mortal life, when He submits to the humiliation of having to hide Himself from His enemies. We will envy the lot of those devoted few, who shelter Him in their houses, and expose themselves, by this courageous hospitality, to the rage of His enemies. We will compassionate His Mother, who suffered an anguish that no other heart could feel, because no other creature could love Him as she did. We will go, in spirit, into that most hated Sanhedrim, where they are laying the impious plot against the life of the just One. Suddenly, we shall see a bright speck gleaming on the dark horizon; the streets and squares of Jerusalem will re-echo with the cry of Hosanna to the Son of David. That unexpected homage paid to our Jesus, those palm branches, those shrill voices of admiring Hebrew children, will give a momentary truce to our sad forebodings. Our love shall make us take part in the loyal tribute thus paid to the King of Israel, who comes so meekly to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet had foretold He would: but alas! this joy will be short-lived, and we must speedily relapse into our deep sorrow of soul!

The traitorous disciple will soon strike his bargain with the high priests; the last Pasch will be kept, and we shall see the figurative lamb give place to the true one, whose Flesh will become our food, and His Blood our drink. It will be our Lord’s Supper. Clad in the nuptial robe, we will take our place there, together with the disciples; for that day is the day of reconciliation, which brings together, to the same holy Table, both the penitent sinner, and the just that has been ever faithful. Then, we shall have to turn our steps towards the fatal garden, where we shall learn what sin is, for we shall behold our Jesus agonizing beneath its weight, and asking some respite from His eternal Father. Then, in the dark hour of midnight, the servants of the high priests and the soldiers, led on by the vile Iscariot, will lay their impious hands on the Son of God; and yet the legions of angels, who adore Him, will be withheld from punishing the awful sacrilege! After this, we shall have to repair to the various tribunals, whither Jesus is led, and witness the triumph of injustice. The time that elapses between His being seized in the garden and His having to carry His cross up the hill of Calvary, will be filled up with the incidents of His mock trial—lies, calumnies, the wretched cowardice of the Roman governor, the insults of the by-standers, and the cries of the ungrateful populace thirsting for innocent Blood! We shall be present at all these things; our love will not permit us to separate ourselves from that dear Redeemer, who is to suffer them for our sake, for our salvation.

Finally, after seeing Him struck and spit upon, and after the cruel scourging and the frightful insult of the crown of thorns, we will follow our Jesus up Mount Calvary; we shall know where His sacred feet have trod by the Blood that marks the road. We shall have to make our way through the crowd, and, as we pass, we shall hear terrible imprecations uttered against our divine Master. Having reached the place of execution, we shall behold this august Victim stripped of His garment, nailed to the cross, hoisted into the air, as if the better to expose Him to insult! We will draw near to the tree of life, that we may lose neither one drop of that Blood which flows for the cleansing of the world, nor one single word spoken, for its instruction, by our dying Jesus. We will compassionate His Mother, whose heart is pierced through with a sword of sorrow; we will stand close to her, when her Son, a few moments before His death, shall consign us to her fond care. After His three hours’ agony, we will reverently watch His sacred Head bow down, and receive, with adoring love, His last breath.

A bruised and mangled corpse, stiffened by the cold of death—this is all that remains to us of that Son of Man, whose first coming into the world caused us such joy! The Son of the eternal Father was not satisfied with emptying Himself and taking the form of a servant;[14] this His being born in the flesh was but the beginning of His sacrifice; His love was to lead Him even unto death, even to the death of the cross. He foresaw that He would not win our love save at the price of such a generous immolation, and His heart hesitated not to make it. ‘Let us, therefore, love God,’ says St. John, ‘because God first loved us.’[15] This is the end the Church proposes to herself by the celebration of these solemn anniversaries. After humbling our pride and our resistance to grace by showing us how divine justice treats sin, she leads our hearts to love Jesus, who delivered Himself up, in our stead, to the rigours of that justice. Woe to us, if this great week fail to produce in our souls a just return towards Him who loved us more than Himself, though we were, and had made ourselves, His enemies. Let us say with the apostle: ‘The charity of Christ presseth us; that they who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them.’[16] We owe this return to Him who made Himself a Victim for our sake, and who, up to the very last moment, instead of pronouncing against us the curse we so justly deserved, prayed and obtained for us mercy and grace. He is, one day, to reappear on the clouds of heaven, and as the prophet says, men shall look upon Him whom they have pierced.[17] God grant that we may be of the number of those who, having made amends by their love for the crimes they have committed against the divine Lamb, will then find confidence at the sight of those wounds!

Let us hope that, by God’s mercy, the holy time we are now entering upon will work such a happy change in us, that, on the day of judgment, we may confidently fix our eyes on Him we are now about to contemplate crucified by the hands of sinners. The death of Jesus puts the whole of nature in commotion; the midday sun is darkened, the earth is shaken to its very foundations, the rocks are split: may it be that our hearts, too, be moved, and pass from indifference to fear, from fear to hope, and, at length, from hope to love; so that, having gone down, with our Crucified, to the very depths of sorrow, we may deserve to rise again with Him unto light and joy, beaming with the brightness of His Resurrection, and having within ourselves the pledge of a new life, which shall then die no more!

 

[1] St. Luke xxiii. 28.
[2] Acts x. 38.
[3] St. Matt. xxvi. 38.
[4] Ibid, xxvii. 46.
[5] Heb. vi. 6.
[6] Ibid. x. 29-31.
[7] Rom. viii. 32.
[8] St. Matt. iii. 17.
[9] Is. xii. 3.
[10] 1 Cor. vi. 20.
[11] 1 St. Peter i. 18, 19.
[12] Coloss. i. 20.
[13] Deut. xxi. 23.
[14] Phil. ii. 7.
[15] 1 St. John iv. 19.
[16] 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
[17] Zach. xii. 10.

 

 

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