From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
AFTER having consecrated the joyous Octave of the Epiphany to the glory of the Emmanuel who was manifested to the earth, the Church—incessantly occupied with the Divine Child and his august Mother, during the whole time from Christmas Day to that whereon Mary will bring Jesus to the Temple, there to be offered to God, as the law prescribes—the Church, we say, has on her Calendar of this portion of the year the names of many glorious Saints, who shine like so many stars on the path which leads us, from the joys of the Nativity of our Lord, to the sacred mystery of our Lady’s Purification.
And firstly there comes before us, on the very morrow of the day consecrated to the Baptism of Jesus, the faithful and courageous Hilary—the pride of the Churches of Gaul, and the worthy associate of Athanasius and Eusebius of Vercelli in the battle fought for the Divinity of our Emmanuel. Scarcely were the cruel persecutions of paganism over, when there commenced the fierce contest with Arianism, which had sworn to deprive of the glory and honours of his divinity that Jesus who had conquered, by his Martyrs, the violence and craft of the Roman Emperors. The Church had won her liberty by shedding her blood, and it was not likely that she would be less courageous on the new battlefield into which she was driven. Many were the Martyrs that were put to death by her new enemies—Christian, though heretical, Princes: it was for the Divinity of that Lord, who had mercifully appeared on the earth in the weakness of human flesh, that they shed their blood. Side by side with these stood those holy and illustrious Doctors, who, with the martyr-spirit within them, defended by their learning and eloquence the Nicene Faith, which was the Faith of the Apostles. In the foremost rank of these latter we behold the Saint of to-day, covered with the rich laurels of his brave confessorship, Hilary: who, as St Jerome says of him, was brought up in the pompous school of Gaul, yet had culled the flowers of Grecian science, and became the Rhone of Latin eloquence. St Augustine calls him the illustrious Doctor of the Churches.
Though gifted with the most extraordinary talents, and one of the most learned men of the age, yet St Hilary's greatest glory is his intense love for the Incarnate Word, and his zeal for the liberty of the Church. His great soul thirsted after martyrdom, and, by the unflinching love of truth which such a spirit gave him, he was the brave champion of the Church in that trying period when Faith, that had stood the brunt of persecution, seemed to be on the point of being betrayed by the craft of Princes, and the cowardice of temporizing and unorthodox Pastors.
Let us listen to the short Life of our Saint, contained in the Lessons of his Office.
Hilarius, in Aquitania nobili genere natus, doctrina et eloquentia excelluit. Qui primum in matrimonio quasi monachi vitam egit; deinde propter singulares virtutes Pictavorum episcopus creatur: quod munus episcopale sic gessit, ut a fidelibus summam laudem consequeretur. Quo tempore, cum terroribus, bonorum spoliatione, exsilio et omni crudelitate Constantius Imperator Catholicos vexaret, nisi ad Arianas partes transirent: Hilarius tamquam firmissimum murum se Arianis opponens, illorum furorem in se concitavit. Itaque multis petitus insidiis, tandem dolo Saturnini Arelatensis Episcopi, de Synodo Biterrensi in Phrygiam relegatus est: ubi et mortuum suscitavit, et libros duodecim scripsit de Trinitate contra Arianos.
Quadriennio post coacto Concilio ad Seleuciam Isauriæ urbem, Hilarius adesse compulsus est: ac deinde Constantinopolim profectus, ubi extremum fidei periculum animadvertit, tribus libellis publice datis audientiam Imperatoris poposcit, ut de fide cum adversariis coram disputaret. Verum cum Ursacius et Valens Ariani Episcopi, quos Hilarius scriptis confutarat, præsentis eruditionem pertimescerent, Constantio persuaserunt, ut specie honoris eum in suum Episcopatum restitueret. Tunc Hilarium e prælio hæreticorum revertentem, ut inquit sanctus Hieronymus, Galliarum Ecclesia complexa est: quem ad Episcopatum secutus est Martinus, qui postea Turonensi præfuit Ecclesiæ: tantumque illo doctore profecit, quantum ejus postea sanctitas declaravit.
Magna deinceps tranquillitate Pictavorum Ecclesiam administravit: Galliamque universam adduxit, ut Arianorum impietatem condemnaret. Multos libros scripsit mira eruditione: quos omnes sanctus Hieronymus ad Lætam, sine ulla erroris suspicione legi posse testatur illis verbis; Hilarii libros inoffenso decurrat pede. Migravit in cœlum Idibus Januarii, Valentiniano et Valente imperatoribus, anno post Christum natum trecentesimo sexagesimo nono. Eum a multis Patribus et conciliis insignem Ecclesiæ Doctorem nuncupatum, atque uti talem in aliquot diœcesibus cultum, tandem, instante synodo Burdigalensi, Pius nonus, Pontifex Maximus, ex sacrorum Rituum Congregationis consulto, universæ Ecclesiæ Doctorem declaravit et confirmavit: ac ipsius festo die Missam et Officium de Doctoribus ab omnibus recitare jussit.
Hilary was born of a noble family in Aquitaine, and was distinguished for his learning and eloquence. He was married, but the life he led was almost that of a monk, so that later on, on account of his great virtues, he was made Bishop of Poitiers, and so well did he discharge the episcopal office as to be the object of the deepest veneration on the part of the faithful. At that time the Emperor Constantius was inflicting every sort of harsh treatment, intimidation, confiscation of their property, and banishment, on the Catholics who refused to side with the Arians. Hilary set himself as a bulwark against the Arians, thereby bringing on himself all their fury. On this account they many times sought to ensnare him, and at length, by the treachery of Satuminus, the Bishop of Arles, he was banished from the Council at Beziers into Phrygia. There he raised a dead man to life, and wrote his twelve books On the Trinity, against the Arians.
Four years after, a Council was called at Seleucia, a town in Isauria, at which Hilary was compelled to assist. Thence he set out for Constantinople, where, seeing the extreme dangers to which the true faith had been exposed, he petitioned the Emperor, by three public petitions, to grant him an audience, in order that he might obtain permission to hold a controversy with his adversaries concerning matters of faith. But Ursacius and Valens, two Arian Bishops, whom Hilary had refuted in his writings, were afraid of allowing so learned a man to continue there any longer, and persuaded Constantius to restore him to his episcopal see, under the pretence of showing him honour. Then did the Church of Gaul open her arms, as St Jerome says, to receive Hilary on his return from battle with the heretics. St Martin, who was afterwards Bishop of Tours, followed the holy Doctor to Poitiers; how much he profited by the instructions of such a master is evidenced by the sanctity of his after-life.
From that time, he was left in perfect peace in the government of the Church of Poitiers. He led the whole of Gaul to condemn the Arian blasphemies. He composed a great many exceedingly learned books, of which St Jerome, in a letter to Læta, says that they may be all read without the slightest fear of meeting any false doctrine in them; he assures her that she may run through the books of Hilary without stumbling on anything dangerous. He passed from this earth to heaven on the Ides of January (January 13th), during the reign of the Emperors Valentinian and Valens, in the year of our Lord 369. Hilary was called by several Fathers and Councils an illustrious Doctor of the Church, and was publicly honoured as such in certain dioceses. At length, at the petition of the Council of Bordeaux, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius the Ninth, after having consulted the Sacred Congregation of Rites, declared him to have been justly called, and to be in effect, a Doctor of the universal Church; and ordered that on his Feast all should recite the Mass and Office Of Doctors.
The ancient Gallican Liturgy, of which a few precious remnants have been handed down to us, thus celebrated the praise of the most illustrious of the Bishops of that great country. Our first extract is an Allocution addressed to the Faithful, taken from an ancient Sacramentary.
Adorabilem, populi, beatissimi Hilarii antistitis festivitate solemniter recurrente, cujus lingua in sæculo pro sanctæ Trinitatis æqualitate sic tonuit, ut hujus mundi Principem miles Christi prosterneret, et in cœlestis Regis aula victor intraret, Dominum votis uberioribus deprecemur, ut qui eum inter diversas acies ita fecit esse sollicitum, ut redderet inter bella securum, nobis concedere dignetur, ut quod in ejus honore deposcimus, eo suffragante consequi mereamur.
On the recurrence, Brethren, of this solemn Feast of the most blessed Bishop Hilary, whose tongue, during his mortal life, so thundered forth the truth concerning the equality of the Three Divine Persons, that he, the soldier of Christ, threw down the Prince of this world, and entered a conqueror into the palace of the heavenly King—let us, with more than our wonted fervour, beseech the adorable God, that he, who made Hilary so vigilant in all his combats as to give security in the battle, may mercifully grant to us that what we ask in his honour may be granted to us by his intercession.
This Preface, which extols the virtues and the miracles of St Hilary, was sung in the Church of Gaul, even after the introduction of the Roman Liturgy.
Vere dignum et justum est gratias agere, vota solvere, munera consecrare. Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, qui beatum Hilarium Confessorem tuum præelegisti tibi sacratæ confessionis tuæantistitem, ingenti lumine coruscantem, morum lenitate pollentem, fidei fervore flagrantem, eloquii fonte torrentem: cui quæ sit gloriatio ostendit concursus ad tumulum, purificatio incursorum, medela languentium, mirandarum signa virtutum. Qui etsi natura fecit finem per transitum, illic vivunt Pontificis merita post sepulcrum, ubi præsentia Salvatoris est Jesu Christi Domini nostri.
It is truly right and just that we give thanks, and pay our vows, and consecrate our gifts to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, who didst choose unto thyself the blessed Hilary thy Confessor, that he might be the Pontiff of thy sacred doctrines. He was a great and brilliant light, he was full of meekness in his comportment, he was all fire in fervour of faith, he was a torrent of eloquence. How great is his glory, is shown by the concourse of people at his tomb, the deliverance of the possessed, the healing of sicknesses, and the miracles of wonderful power. He has, by nature’s law, ended his course and passed hence; but the merits of the Pontiff are still living there, beyond the grave, where reigns our Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The following prayer has been culled out of several old manuscript missals.
Deus, cujus miseratione delinquentes mutantur ad veniam, justi transferuntur ad palmam, qui infusus in corde beati Hilarii antistitis quasi de tuo tempio fidei responsa dedisti, concede propitius, ut qui tunc inclytum Confessorem tuum fecisti Cæsarem non timere, ejus intercessione ab spiritali hoste plebem protegas obsecrantem, ut cujus solemnitati tripudiat, ejus sit fida prece defensa.
O God, by whose mercy sinners are raised up to pardon, and the just are translated to heaven for their crown; who, dwelling in the heart of the blessed Bishop Hilary, didst thence, as from thy sanctuary, give the answers of faith; mercifully grant that as thou didst make thy glorious Confessor to be fearless before Cæsar, so mayest thou, by his intercession, protect thy suppliant people from their spiritual enemy: thus may they, who rejoice on his solemnity, be defended by his powerful prayers.
The Church of Poitiers has ever cherished with the utmost devotion the memory of her heroic Pontiff, and his Feast, as we may suppose, is kept there with great solemnity. She formerly sang in the Mass of this day the Preface of the Blessed Trinity, to express more forcibly her admiration of the zeal wherewith Hilary defended the master-dogma of our holy faith—the mystery of Three Persons in one God. It will be interesting to our readers to hear a few passages from the ancient liturgical books of this illustrious Church of Poitiers. The following Responsories are taken, in part, from the Life of the Saint, and were composed by St Venantius Fortunatus, one of St Hilary's successors.
℟. Beatus Hilarius, præ cæteris gratia generositatis ornatus, nitore pectoris addito, * Quasi refulgens Lucifer inter astra processit.
℣. Igitur beatus Hilarius, Pictavensis urbis Episcopus, regionis Aquitanicæ partibus oriundus. * Quasi refulgens.
℟. O quam perfectissimum laicum! cujus imitatores ipsi esse desiderant sacerdotes; * Cui non fuit aliud vivere nisi Christum cum dilectione timere, et cum timore diligere.
℣. Cujus sequaces currunt ad gloriam, divertentes ad pœnam; credenti succedunt præmia, recusanti tormenta. * Cui.
℟. Tum itaque sanctissimus Hilarius in Phrygiam, Asiæ regionem, missus est exsilio, ad virtutis augmentum; * Quia quantum, pro Christi nomine, longius discedebat a solo proprio, tantum merebatur fieri vicinior cœlo.
℣. Qui dum ad locum pervenisset optabilem, nobis tacendum non est quid illi concessum est. * Quia.
℟. Cum de exsilio regressus sanctus Hilarius Pontifex Pictavim introivit; summo favore plaudebant omnes pariter, * Eo quod recepisset Ecclesiaz Pontificem, grex Pastorem.
℣. Gemma præsulum remeante ad propria, laudemus Dominum; lætetur quoque chorus Angelorum. * Eo quod.
℟. Blessed Hilary shone above others by the nobility of his birth, to which was added an unsullied heart; * He was as the day-star is among other stars.
℣. Blessed Hilary, the Bishop of the city of Poitiers, was born in the province of Aquitaine. * He was.
℟. Oh! how perfect was he as a layman! The very Priests made him their model. * His whole life was fearing Christ with love and loving him with fear.
℣. They who follow him attain to glory; they who follow him not incur punishment; they who believe him are rewarded; they who disbelieve him are tormented. * His whole life.
℟. The most saintly Hilary was therefore banished into Phrygia, a country of Asia; it served but to increase his virtue; * Since the farther he was separated from his own land for the name of Christ, the nearer he deserved to approach to heaven.
℣. When he had reached the longed-for place, great were the favours bestowed on him, and we will publish them. * Since.
℟. When the holy Bishop Hilary, returning from exile, entered Poitiers, all men were alike loud in the expression of unbounded joy. * For the Church recovered her Pontiff, and the flock its Shepherd.
℣. The pearl of Bishops has returned home; let us give praise to our Lord, and let the choir of Angels rejoice. * For the Church.
The same venerable Church of Poitiers sings these two Hymns in honour of her glorious Saint. They were composed by the pious Simon Gourdan, a Canon Regular of Saint Victor’s Abbey, that celebrated House in Paris where Adam of Saint-Victor wrote his admirable Sequences.
Ex quo Relligio, tot procerum parens,
Gallos addiderit Christianum gregi,
Quis par Hilario? quis generosius
Natum de Patre vindicat?
Insignes títulos, eloquium grave,
Dotes innumeras plebs sacra concinat:
Laus suprema fides, qua genitum
Deo Altis vocibus asserit.
Si non tincta fuit sanguine profluo
Clara fronte micans infula nobilis,
Curis mille litat: martyrii decus
Supplet continuus labor.
Hoc Nicæna fides vindice nititur:
Frustra tartareus concutit hanc furor;
Hic oris gladio fulgurat aureo,
Vastantes abigens lupos.
Quo vultu reducem grex pius excipit!
Quas post longa metit prælia laureas!
Te, Martine, docet quam pede strenuo
Virtutum rapias viam.
Patri maxima laus, maxima Filio,
Fœcundo generat quem Pater in sinu,
Æquum Principio, numine comparem:
Sacro maxima Flamini.
From the time that the Church, the mother of so many great men,
united Gaul to the flock of Christ,
who is there that can be compared to Hilary?
who is there that ever defended more zealously than he the Son of the Eternal Father?
Let the holy flock sing the great titles of his glory,
his majestic eloquence, and his innumerable gifts;
but his grandest praise is the faith wherewith he
so loudly proclaimed Christ to be the Son of God.
The noble mitre that glittered on his venerable head
was not, indeed, purpled with the blood of martyrdom;
his sacrifice was that of a thousand cares,
and his ceaseless labours supply for the beauty of martyrdom.
He was the bold defender of the Nicene Faith,
which the fury of hell sought in vain to destroy.
The golden sword which came so brightly from his mouth
drives away the ravenous wolves.
With what beaming joy did his devoted flock welcome him from exile!
How fair the laurels he reaped in the long campaigns for Christ!
He taught thee, O Martin!
to walk with vigour in the path of virtue.
Infinite praise to the Father, and infinite be to the Son,
begotten in the fruitful bosom of the Father;
to the Son, who is equal to the Father, and God like him.
To the Divine Spirit, too, be there infinite praise!
Non fraus magnanimum, non favor aut minæ,
Athletam quatiunt: jussa tyrannidis
Explens, Pastor oves linquere cogitur;
Quis jam contineat lupos?
Ergo, Prassul, abis? dum generosa mens
Te parere facit, Gallia lacrymas
Fundat: terra Phrygum suscipiens patrem,
Verbi vindice gaudeat.
Erroris latebras Doctor Hilarius
Spargit luce nova, fonteque vivido
Expurgat nocuis pascua fæcibus.
Gentes erudit efferas.
Ipsos dum titubant, instituit fide
Pastores: redeunt mox ad ovilia,
Quos error timidos abstulerat procul,
Et vocem Patris audiunt.
Præsul magne, poli qui super ardua
Solem justitiæ cominus adspicis;
Verbum nos doceat, quæsumus, impetra.
Cujus dogmata prædicas.
Mundani metuant imperii ducem,
Qui terram sapiunt: Cæsaris haud timet
Infensi furias pastor, et asserit
Christi liberius fidem.
Patri maxima laus, maxima Filio,
Fœcundo generat quem Pater in sinu,
Æquum Principio, numine comparem:
Sacro maxima Flamini.
Nor craft, nor favour, nor threat,
can move this highminded soldier of Christ.
He obeys the sentence of the tyrant, and the flock is deprived of its Shepherd
—oh! who will now defend them from the wolves?
And must thou go, then, O Pontiff? Thy noble mind
makes thee submit to the sentence, but Gaul sheds floods of tears.
Phrygia receives thee on her land, happy to possess
the champion of the Word Incarnate.
Hilary, the holy Doctor, casts new light on the darkness of hidden error,
and with a stream of living water
cleanses the pastures of the flock from all impurities.
Barbarous nations receive instruction at his hands.
There were Pastors that had faltered, and he confirms them in the faith;
then sends them back to the flocks they had,
in timid compromise to error, abandoned;
and thus the children hear their Father’s voice again.
Great Pontiff! who now, in heaven above,
seest the Sun of Justice face to face;
pray for us, we beseech thee, that he, the Incarnate Word,
whose nature thou didst preach to men, may teach us all truth.
Let worldly men that are earthly minded,
fear if they will an Emperor’s tyranny:
Hilary heeds not the passion of an angry Cæsar,
but preaches, with holy liberty, the faith of Christ.
Infinite praise to the Father, and infinite be to the Son,
begotten in the fruitful bosom of the Father,
to the Son, who is equal to the Father, and God like him.
To the Divine Spirit, too, be there infinite praise!
Thus did the holy bishop, Hilary of Poitiers, receive the honours of the Church's love for his having so courageously, and even at the peril of his life, fought in defence of the great Mystery. Another of his glories is that he was one of the most intrepid champions of that principle, which cannot be compromised without the vitality and very existence of the Church being endangered—the principle of that Church’s liberty. A few days ago we were celebrating the Feast of our holy Martyr, St Thomas of Canterbury; to-day, we have the Feast of the glorious Confessor, whose example enlightened and encouraged him in the great struggle. Both Hilary and Thomas a Becket were obedient to the teaching left to the Pastors of the Church by the Apostles; who, when they were arraigned the first time before the authorities of this world, uttered this great maxim: We ought to obey God rather than men. The Apostles and the Saints were strong in the battle against flesh and blood, only because they were detached from earthly goods, and were convinced that the true riches of a Christian and a Bishop consist in the humility and poverty of the Crib, and that the only victorious power is in the imitation of the simplicity and the weakness of the Child that is born unto us. They relished the lessons of the School of Bethlehem; hence no promise of honours, of riches, or even of peace, could make them swerve from the principles of the Gospel.
How dignified is this family of Soldiers of Christ, which springs up in the Church! If the policy of tyrants, who insist on being Christians without Christianity, carry on a persecution in which they are determined that no one shall have the glory of Martyrdom—these brave Champions raise their voice and boldly reproach the persecutors for their interference with that liberty which is due to Christ and his Ministers. They begin by telling them their duty, as Hilary did to Constantius, when he sent him his first Memorial: 'My Lord and most gracious Augustus! Your admirable prudence will tell you that it is unreasonable and impossible either to force submission on men who resist you with all their strength, or to compel them to take part with the sowers of the seed of false doctrine. The one end of your endeavours, wise counsels, government and vigilance should be that all your subjects may enjoy the sweets of liberty. There is no other means of settling the troubles of the state, or of uniting what discord has separated, than that every one be master of his own life, unconstrained by slavish compulsion. You should not turn a deaf ear to the voice of any subject who thus appeals to you for support: “I am a Catholic; I will not be a heretic: I am a Christian, and not an Arian: I would rather lose my life than allow the tyranny of any man to corrupt the purity of my faith.”'
When some people spoke to Hilary in favour of those who had been traitors to the Church, and had been disloyal to Jesus Christ, in order to keep in the good graces of the Emperor, they ventured to tell the Saint that their conduct was justifiable, on the ground that they had but obeyed the Law! The holy Pontiff was indignant at this profanation of the word, and, in his Book against Auxentius, courageously reminds his fellow Bishops of the origin of the Church: how her very establishment depended on the breaking of unjust human laws, and how she counts it one of her glories to infringe all such laws as would oppose her existence, her development, and her action.
We have a contempt for all the trouble that men of these days are giving themselves; and I am grieved to see them holding such mad opinions as that God needs man's patronage, and that the Church of Christ requires to be upheld by an ambition that curries favour with the world. I ask of you Bishops, what favour did the Apostles court, in order that they might preach the Gospel? Who were the princes that helped them to preach Christ, and convert almost the whole world from idolatry to God? Did they, who sang hymns to God in prisons and chains, and whilst bleeding from being scourged—did they accept offices from the state? Did Paul wait for a royal permission to draw men to the Church of Christ? Did he, think you, cringe for the patronage of a Nero, or a Vespasian, or a Decius, whose very hatred of our faith was the occasion of its being more triumphantly preached? These Apostles, who lived by the labour of their own hands, who assembled the Faithful in garrets and hiding-places, who visited villages and towns, and wellnigh the whole world, travelling over sea and land, in spite of the Senate's decrees and Imperial Edicts—these men, according to your principles, had not received the keys of the kingdom of heaven! What say you to all this manifestation of God's power in the very face of man's opposition, when the more there was a prohibition to preach Christ, the more that preaching was exercised?
But the time came at last to speak to the Emperor himself, and to protest against the system whereby he aimed at making the Church a slave; then did Hilary, who was exceedingly gentle in disposition, put on that holy indignation which our Lord himself had, when he scourged the profaners of his Father's House, and drove them out of the Temple. He braved every danger, and held up to execration the system invented by Constantius for insulting and crushing the Church of Christ. Let us listen to the language of his apostolic zeal.
The time for speaking is come, the time for silence is past. Let Christ now appear, for Antichrist has begun his reign. Let the Shepherds give the alarm, for the hirelings have fled. Let us lay down our lives for our sheep, for thieves have got into the fold, and a furious lion is prowling around it. Let us prepare for martyrdom . . ., for the angel of satan hath transformed himself into an angel of light. . . .
Why, O my God, didst thou not permit me to confess thy holy Name, and be the minister of thine Only Begotten Son, in the times of Nero or Decius? Full of the fire of the Holy Spirit, I would not have feared the rack, for I would have thought of Isaias, how he was sawn in two. I would not have feared fire, for I would have said to myself that the Hebrew Children sang in their fiery furnace. The cross and the breaking of every bone of my body should not have made me a coward, for the good thief would have encouraged me, who was translated into thy kingdom. If they had threatened to drown me in the angry billows of the deep ocean, I would have laughed at their threats, for thou hast taught us, by the example of Jonas and Paul, that thou canst give life to thy servants even in the sea.
Happy I, could I thus have fought with men who professed themselves to be the enemies of thy name; every one would have said that they who had recourse to tortures, and sword, and fire, to compel a Christian to deny thee, were persecutors; and my death would have been sufficient testimony to thy truth, O God! The battle would have been an open one, and no one would have hesitated to call by the honest name these men that denied thee, and racked and murdered us; and thy people, seeing that it was an evident persecution, would have followed their Pastors in the confession of their faith.
But nowadays, we have to do with a disguised persecutor, a smooth-tongued enemy, a Constantius who has put on Antichrist; who scourges us, not with lashes, but with caresses; who instead of robbing us, which would give us spiritual life, bribes us with riches, that he may lead us to eternal death; who thrusts us not into the liberty of a prison, but into the honours of his palace, that he may enslave us; who tears not our flesh, but our hearts; who beheads not with a sword, but kills the soul with his gold; who sentences not by a herald that we are to be burnt, but covertly enkindles the fire of hell against us. He does not dispute with us, that he may conquer; but he flatters us, that so he may lord it over our souls. He confesses Christ, the better to deny him; he tries to procure a unity which shall destroy peace; he puts down some few heretics, so that he may also crush the Christians; he honours Bishops, that they may cease to be Bishops; he builds up Churches, that he may pull down the Faith. . . .
Let men talk as they will, and accuse me of strong language, and calumny: it is the duty of a minister of the truth to speak the truth. If what I say be untrue, let me be branded with the name of an infamous calumniator: but if I prove what I assert, then I am not exceeding the bounds of apostolic liberty, nor transgressing the humility of a successor of the Apostles by speaking thus, after so long observing silence. . . . No, this is not rashness, it is faith; it is not inconsiderateness, it is duty; it is not passion, it is conscience.
I say to thee, Constantius, what I would have said to Nero, or Decius, or Maximian: You are fighting against God, you are raging against the Church, you are persecuting the saints, you are hating the preachers of Christ, you are destroying religion, you are a tyrant, not in human things, but in things that appertain to God. Yes, this is what I should say to thee as well as to them; but listen, now, to what can only be said to thyself: Thou falsely callest thyself a Christian, for thou art a new enemy of Christ; thou art a precursor of Antichrist, and a doer of his mystery of iniquity; thou, that art a rebel to the faith, art making formulas of faith; thou art intruding thine own creatures into the sees of the Bishops; thou art putting out the good and putting in the bad.... By a strange ingenious plan, which no one had ever yet discovered, thou hast found a way to persecute, without making Martyrs.
We owe much to you, Nero, Decius, and Maximian! your cruelty did us service. We conquered the devil by your persecutions. The blood of the holy Martyrs you made has been treasured up throughout the world, and their venerable relics are ever strengthening us in faith by their mute unceasing testimony. . . . But thou, Constantius, cruel with thy refinement of cruelty, art an enemy that ragest against us, doing us more injury, and leaving us less hope of pardon. . . . Thou deprives!: the fallen of the excuse they might have had with their Eternal Judge, when they showed him the scars and wounds they had endured for him, for perhaps their tortures might induce him to forgive their weakness. Whereas thou, most wicked of men! thou hast invented a persecution which, if we fall, robs us of pardon, and, if we triumph, does not make us Martyrs!
. . . We see thee, ravenous wolf, under thy sheep's clothing. Thou adornest the sanctuaries of God's temples with the gold of the State, and thou offerest to him what is taken from the temples, or taxed by edict, or extorted by penalty. Thou receivest his Priests with a kiss like that which betrayed Christ. Thou bowest down thy head for a blessing, and then thou tramplest on our Faith. Thou dispensest the clergy from paying tributes and taxes to Cæsar, that thou mayest bribe them to be renegades to Christ, foregoing thy own rights, that God may be deprived of his!
Glorious Hilary! thou didst well deserve that thy Church of Poitiers should, of old, address to thee the magnificent praise given by the Roman Church to thy illustrious disciple, St Martin: 'O blessed Pontiff! who with his whole heart loved Christ our King, and feared not the majesty of emperors! O most holy soul! which, though not taken away by the sword of the persecutor, yet lost not the palm of martyrdom!' If the Palm of a Martyr is not in thy hand, yet hadst thou a Martyr's spirit, and well might we add to thy other titles, of Confessor, Bishop, and Doctor, the glorious one of Martyr, just as our holy Mother the Church has conferred it upon thy fellow-combatant, Eusebius, who was but Martyr in heart like thyself. Yes, thy glory is great; but it is all due to thee for thy courage in confessing the Divinity of that Incarnate Word, whose Birth and Infancy we are now celebrating. Thou hadst to stand before a Herod, as had the Magi, and like them thou hadst no fear: and when the Cæsar of those times banished thee to a foreign land, thy soul found comfort in the thought that the Infant Jesus, too, was exiled into Egypt. Oh! that we could imitate thee in the application of these Mysteries to ourselves!
Now that thou art in heaven, pray for our Churches, that they may be firm in the Faith, and may study to know and love Jesus, our Emmanuel. Pray for thy Church of Poitiers, which still loves thee with the reverence and affection of a child; but since the ardour of thy zeal embraced all the world, pray also for all the world. Pray that God may bless his Church with Bishops powerful in word and work, profound in sacred science, faithful in the guardianship of that which is entrusted to them, and unswerving defenders of ecclesiastical liberty.
 Acts v 29.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
ENCIRCLED by the radiant splendours of the Epiphany, there comes before us to-day, in company with Hilary of Poitiers, a humble lover of the virtues of the Crib of our Emmanuel. Though withdrawn by God himself from the fury of his persecutors, and thus from a martyr's death which would have crowned his cruel torments and imprisonment, Felix nevertheless has won the right to his palm by the invincible courage he showed amidst all his sufferings. In heaven he was already accounted worthy of his reward, but he was yet for a long time to gladden and strengthen the Church on earth by those examples of wonderful poverty, humility, and ardent charity, which now claim for him a place in the sacred cycle near to the lowly manger of the King of Peace.
The Infant God, in all his hidden lowliness, was to Felix his one love and exemplar, hence to-day this King of angels and men who is now manifested to the world and adored by kings, hastens to share with him the honours of his triumphant Epiphany. To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne, saith the Lord (Apoc. iii 21), and in whom, other than Felix, has the realization of this blessed promise of the Divine Head to his members been more apparent? A poor tomb received the mortal remains of the humble priest of Campania, and in its silence and obscurity, emblems of his earthly desires, he seemed destined to await the blast of the angel's trumpet at the final Resurrection. But miracles, many and great, suddenly rendered this tomb illustrious; the name of Felix was carried far and wide, and everywhere wrought the like prodigies of grace. Hardly had peace been given to the Church and world by the accession of Constantine to the throne, when on all sides the people were aroused, and in countless flocks thronged to the martyr's tomb; on certain days Rome herself seemed deserted, and the ancient Appian Road, the very soil of which was worn away by the tramp of the pilgrims, appeared to have no other purpose than to carry to the feet of Felix the homage, gratitude, and love of the entire world. Five basilicas did not suffice for the immense concourse; a sixth was erected, and the lowly field where once the remains of the martyr lay hid was encircled by a new town. The fourth century, so rich in Christian developments, saw the beginning of pilgrimages, and the city of Nola in Campania was, after Rome, the principal centre of this devotion. ‘O happy city of Nola,' cries a contemporary, eyewitness of these wonders, ‘O happy city which through the merits of the blessed Felix has become second only to Rome herself, Rome ever the mistress, yesterday by her empire and victorious armies, to-day by the tombs of the Apostles! ' We have cited Paulinus, the illustrious consul whose name is inseparably linked with that of Felix, Paulinus whom we shall find, in the time after Pentecost, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, giving also admirable examples of renunciation to the world. In the flower of a brilliant youth and already surrounded by honours and glory, Paulinus once found himself by the tomb of Felix—here it was given to him to understand true greatness, to realize the emptiness of human ambitions and glory. The Roman Senator, the consul, the descendant of Paulus Amelius and of the Scipios, here vowed himself to Felix who had conquered. Riches, honours, country, he sacrificed all and aspired only to dwell near to this tomb. A poet of no small merit, whose talents had already won applause in Rome, his inspiration now found expression in singing the praises of the blessed Felix on his feast day and in proclaiming himself the slave and humble doorkeeper of the servant of Christ. Such then is the triumph of our Emmanuel in his saints, such is the glory of his members—does it not seem that the Divine Head, mindful of his promises, is desirous only of the glory which this feast of Manifestation brings, so that they, enthroned with him, may also receive the homage of peoples and kings?
Let us listen now to the abridged lesson of the life of our saint which the Church puts before us to-day.
Felix Nolanus presbyter, cum in idola vehementius inveheretur, ab infidelibus varie vexatus, in carcerem conjicitur. Unde ab Angelo nocte eductus, quærere jussus est Maximianum Nolæ episcopum: qui cum senio confectus desperaret se ferre posse supplicia persequentium, se abdiderat in silvam. Quo cum Felix Deo duce pervenisset, sanctum episcopum humi jacentem pene mortuum videt; quem recreatum ac sublatum in humeros, apud fidelem viduam reficiendum curavit. Sed cum is iterum idolorum cultores impietatis argueret, facto in ipsum impetu, fugiens in angusto duorum parietum intervallo se occultavit; qui aditus cum repente aranearum telis pertextus visus esset, nemini recentis latebræ suspicionem reliquit. Inde igitur evadens Felix in ædibus piæ mulieris tres menses latuit. Cum vero Dei Ecclesia requiescere cœpisset, Nolam rediens, multisque ibi vitæ exemplis, et doctrinæ præceptis, miraculisque ad Christi fidem conversis, constanter etiam recusato ejus urbis episcopatu, obdormivit in Domino, sepultusque est prope Nolam in loco, quem in Pincis appellabant.
Felix, a priest of Nola, was tormented in various ways by the infidels for his violent attacks on idols, and was cast into prison. He was set free in the night by an angel, and ordered to seek Maximianus, the Bishop of Nola, who had hidden himself in a wood because he feared that, at his advanced age, he would not be able to bear the torments of his persecutors. Felix, arriving at the place by the divine guidance, found the holy bishop lying on the ground half dead. He succoured him, and carried him on his shoulders to a Christian widow to be cared for. On another occasion when he was upbraiding the idolworshippers for their impiety, they rushed at him, and he, flying from them, hid in a narrow space between two walls, and the opening was so quickly filled with spider's webs that no one suspected a man had recently taken refuge there. After thus escaping his persecutors, Felix lay hid for three months in the house of a pious woman. When peace was restored to the Church he returned to Nola and converted many to the faith of Christ, by his example, his teaching, and his miracles. He steadily refused to be made bishop of the city, and, falling asleep in the Lord, was buried near Nola at the place called In Pincis.
O Felix, this day is the twentieth since the birth of our Emmanuel, the new sun, the vanquisher of cold and frosts, the restorer of light, the conqueror of darkness. His splendour is yours. Grant that, warmed by his life-giving rays, we may, like you, ever grow in him. Having become children once more at the crib, we possess within us the Seed of the Word; may the innocence of a new heart cause it ever to fructify. By you, Christ’s yoke becomes light to the weak, by you the Infant God is touched with pity and turns in love to penitent souls. This day, then, which witnesses your heavenly birth, should be dear to us, for we too die to the world and are born to our Emmanuel.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
ST KENTIGERN, whose feast is kept to-day in several dioceses of the North of England and in Scotland, stands out as one of the zealous monks of the sixth century who laboured incessantly for the conversion of the inhabitants of these islands. He was brought up in the monastery at Culross from early childhood, and was thus trained from his youth in all the practices of monastic observance. However, when he reached man's estate, feeling called to a more rigorous manner of life, he left Culross and took up his abode in a solitude in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, where he led a most mortified life, eating but once in three or four days, spending the night in prayer, and wearing a garment of haircloth. This manner of life gave the greatest edification to all who came in contact with him, and his virtue was such that at the age of twenty-five he was elected to the bishopric of Glasgow. He had grave misgivings as to the validity of his ordination on account of his age, but was forced to bow before the importunities of those who had chosen him for their pastor. He ruled his vast diocese, which was bordered by the North Sea on the east and by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, with wisdom and prudence, though his manner of living remained unchanged, and, moreover, each Lent it was his custom to retire into solitude, giving himself entirely to prayer and living upon roots and herbs. He was assiduous in visiting his flock, travelling always on foot, and the force of his preaching together with the mildness and sweetness of his character and the asceticism of his life was the means whereby innumerable pagans were brought into the Church and many Pelagian heretics converted to the true Faith. This devoted prelate was the father of many monks, a great number of whom he sent to evangelize the north of Scotland, the Orkney Isles, and even Norway and Iceland.
The enemy of mankind, however, would not suffer so many souls to be snatched from his grasp without molestation, and he caused the royal family to raise such a bitter persecution against the saint that he was forced to leave the country. He took refuge in Wales, first at Caerleon, now Usk, where he built a church, then with St David, and finally he settled at the junction of the Rivers Elwy and Cluid, where he built a monastery, now known as St Asaph's. One of the princes of the country opposed this undertaking, whereupon he was struck with blindness, but was cured by the intercession of St Kentigern and thereafter became his great benefactor.
The great crime committed against St Kentigern in Scotland was not permitted to remain unpunished. All those who had persecuted the saint were visited by the just vengeance of Almighty God, and a prince, virtuous and loyal to the Church, ascended the throne, and his first act was to recall St Kentigern, who returned bringing with him some monks from St Asaph's. In 593 the Saint visited Pope St Gregory the Great and unburdened his soul of the doubts he had always held regarding his ordination. The supreme Pontiff set his mind at rest, and confirming him in office sent him back to his see, which he governed in peace for eight years more. On January 13, 601, he was called to his eternal reward at the advanced age of eighty-five, and was buried in his Cathedral Church at Glasgow.
The following is an abridgement of the account given of St Kentigern in the Breviary lessons for his feast.
Kentigernus, quem Scoti propter innocentiam morumque suavitatem, Munghum, id est, valde dilectum, appellarunt, ex regali Pictorum genere in Britannia Septentrionali ortum duxit. Adhuc puer monasterio Culross traditus, sub sancto Servano non minus litterarum quam rerum divinarum studiis mirabiliter profecit. Inde in solitudinem secessit apud Glascuam in Scotia, ubi vitam asperrimam in continua oratione rerumque cælestium meditatione traduxit. In episcopum delectus, et ad pastoralem dignitatem evectus, quasi lucerna supra candelabrum positus, apostolicis virtutibus statim inclaruit. Ejus prædicationem Deus multis magnisque miraculis roboravit, ita ut sanctus præsul, potens opere et sermone, a Pelagiana hæresi gregem suum servaret incolumem, innumeramque paganorum multitudinem Christi Ecclesiæ adjungeret. Ipse autem ab impio quodam tyranno exsulare in Walliam coactus, ibique, apud sanctum David episcopum aliquamdiu commoratus, mox ad fluenta Elwi et Cluidæ celebre fundavit monasterium, in quo sanctum Asaphum discipulum habuit. Tandem sæculo septimo, plenus dierum ad Deum migravit; cujus corpus, Glascuæ in ecclesia cathedrali conditum, ibi in maxima veneratione fuit, usque ad tempora, quibus sectæ Calvinianæ furor Catholicam fidem a Scotia pene exterminavit.
Kentigern, whom the Scots, on account of his innocence and sweetness of disposition, called Mungo, that is well-beloved, was of the royal family of the Picts of Northern Britain. While still a boy he was sent to the monastery of Culross, where, under St Servanus, he made great progress both in secular and in religious learning. Thence he withdrew into solitude, near Glasgow in Scotland, where he led an austere life of continual prayer and meditation upon heavenly things. He was elected bishop, and when he was thus raised to the pastoral charge his virtues shone forth as from a candle set upon a candlestick. God confirmed his preaching by many and great miracles, so much so that the holy bishop, mighty in word and deed, kept his flock safe from the Pelagian heresy and added a countless multitude of pagans to Christ's Church. A certain impious tyrant banished him to Wales, where, after having spent some time with the holy bishop St David, he founded a celebrated monastery at the junction of the rivers Elwy and Cluid, where he had as his disciple St Asaph. At length, in the seventh century, full of days, he slept in the Lord. His body was buried in the cathedral church of Glasgow, where it was held in great veneration until the time when the fury of the Calvinists almost extinguished the Catholic Faith in Scotland.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year:
TO-DAY the Church honours the memory of one of those men who were expressly chosen by God to represent the sublime detachment from all things which was taught to the world by the example of the Son of God, born in a Cave, at Bethlehem. Paul the Hermit so prized the poverty of his Divine Master that he fled to the desert, where he could find nothing to possess and nothing to covet. He had a mere cavern for his dwelling; a palm-tree provided him with food and clothing; a fountain gave him wherewith to quench his thirst; and heaven sent him his only luxury, a loaf of bread brought to him daily by a crow. For sixty years did Paul thus serve, in poverty and in solitude, that God who was denied a dwelling on the earth he came to redeem, and could have but a poor Stable wherein to be born.
But God dwelt with Paul in his cavern; and in him began the Anchorites, that sublime race of men who, the better to enjoy the company of their God, denied themselves not only the society, but the very sight of men. They were the Angels of earth, in whom God showed forth, for the instruction of the rest of men, that he is powerful enough and rich enough to supply the wants of his creatures, who, indeed, have nothing but what they have from him. The Hermit, or Anchoret, is a prodigy in the Church, and it behoves us to glorify the God who has produced it. We ought to be filled with astonishment and gratitude, at seeing how the Mystery of a God made Flesh has so elevated our human nature as to inspire a contempt and abandonment of those earthly goods which heretofore had been so eagerly sought after.
The two names, Paul and Antony, are not to be separated; they are the two Apostles of the Desert; both are Fathers—Paul of Anchorites, and Antony of Cenobites; the two families are sisters, and both have the same source, the Mystery of Bethlehem. The sacred Cycle of the Church's year unites, with only a day between their two Feasts, these two faithful disciples of Jesus in his Crib.
The Church reads in her Office the following abridgement of St Paul's wonderful Life.
Paulus, Eremitarum auctor et magister, apud inferiorem Thebaidem natus, cum quindecim esset annorum, orbatus parentibus est. Qui postea declinandæ causa persecutionis Decii et Valeriani, et Deo liberius inserviendi, in eremi speluncam se contulit: ubi, palma ei victum et vestitum præbente, vixit ad centesimum et decimum tertium annum: quo tempore ab Antonio nonagenario Dei admonitu invisitur. Quibus inter se, cum antea non nossent, proprio nomine consalutantibus, et multa de regno Dei colloquentibus, corvus, qui antea semper dimidiatum panem attulerat, integrum detulit.
Post corvi discessum: Eia, inquit Paulus, Dominus nobis prandium misit vere pius, vere misericors. Sexaginta jam anni sunt, cum accipio quotidie dimidii panis fragmentum; nunc ad adventum tuum militibus suis Christus duplicavit annonam. Quare cum gratiarum actione ad fontem capientes cibum, ubi tantisper recreati sunt, iterum gratiis de more Deo actis, noctem in divinis laudibus consumpserunt. Diluculo Paulus de morte, quæ sibi instaret, admonens Antonium, hortatur ut pallium, quod ab Athanasio acceperat, ad involvendum suum corpus afferret. Quo ex itinere rediens ille, vidit inter Angelorum choros, inter Prophetarum et Apostolorum cœtus, Pauli animam in cœlum ascendere.
Cumque ad ejus cellam pervenisset, invenit genibus complicatis, erecta cervice, extensisque in altum manibus corpus examine: quod pallio obvolvens, hymnosque et psalmos ex Christiana traditione decantans, cum sarculum, quo terram foderet, non haberet; duo leones ex interiore eremo rapido cursu ad beati senis corpus feruntur: ut facile intelligeretur, eos, quo modo poterant, ploratum edere; qui certatim terram pedibus effodientes, foveam, quæ hominem commode caperet, effecerunt. Qui cum abiissent, Antonius sanctum corpus in eum locum intulit: et injecta humo, tumulum ex christiano more composuit: tunicam vero Pauli, quam in sportæ modum ex palma foliis ille sibi contexuerat, secum auferens, eo vestitu diebus solemnibus Paschæ et Pentecostes, quoad vixit, usus est.
Paul, the institutor and master of Hermits, was born in the Lower Thebaid. He lost his parents when he was fifteen years of age. Not long after that, in order to escape the persecution of Decius and Valerian, and to serve God more freely, he withdrew into the desert, where he made a cave his dwelling. A palm-tree afforded him food and raiment, and there he lived to the age of a hundred and thirteen. About that time, he received a visit from Antony, who was ninety years old. God bade him visit Paul. The two Saints, though they had not previously known each other, saluted each other by their names. Whilst holding a long conversation on the kingdom of God, a crow, which every day brought half a loaf of bread, carried them a whole one.
When the crow had left them, Paul said: ‘See! our truly good and truly merciful Lord has sent us our repast. For sixty years I have daily received a half loaf; now, because thou art come to see me, Christ has doubled the portion for his soldiers.' Wherefore they sat near the fountain, and giving thanks, they ate the bread; and when they were refreshed, they again returned the accustomed thanks to God, and spent the night in the divine praises. At daybreak, Paul tells Antony of his approaching death, and begs him go and bring the cloak which Athanasius had given him, and wrap his corpse in it. As Antony was returning from his cell, he saw Paul’s soul going up into heaven amidst choirs of Angels, and a throng of Prophets and Apostles.
When he had reached the hermit’s cell, he found the lifeless body: the knees were bent, the head erect, and the hands stretched out and raised towards heaven. He wrapped it in the cloak, and sang hymns and psalms over it, according to the custom prescribed by Christian tradition. Not having a tool wherewith to make a grave, two lions came at a rapid pace from the interior of the desert, and stood over the body of the venerable Saint, showing how, in their own way, they lamented his death. They began to tear up the earth with their feet, and seemed to strive to outdo each other in the work, until they had made a hole large enough to receive the body of a man. When they had gone, Antony carried the holy corpse to the place, and covering it with the soil, he arranged the grave after the manner of the Christians. As to the tunic, which Paul had woven for himself out of palmleaves, as baskets are usually made, Antony took it away with him, and as long as he lived, wore it on the great days of Easter and Pentecost.
We give three stanzas of the Hymn sung by the Greek Church in honour of our holy Hermit. We take them from the Menæa.
Die XV Januarii
Quando nutu divino, Pater, vitæ sollicitudines sapienter reliquisti, et ad ascesis labores transisti, tunc gaudens invia occupasti deserta; æstu inflammatus amoris Domini; ideo deserens libidines, in meliorum perseverantia rerum, Angelo similis, vitam duxisti.
Ab omni humana teipsum, Pater, societate segregans ex adolescentia, primus omnino solitudinem, Paule, occupasti ultra quemcumque solitarie viventem, et per totam vitam visus es incognitus; ideo Antonius te invenit nutu divino tamquam latentem, et orbi terrarum manifestavit.
Insolitæ in terra conversationi deditus, Paule, cum bestiis habitasti, avis ministerio divina voluntate utens; et hoc ut vidit quando te maximus invenit Antonius, stupens, omnium et Prophetam et Magistrum, quasi Deum, te sine intermissione magnificavit.
When, O Father! thou didst by divine inspiration wisely leave the cares of this life, and devote thyself to the labours of an ascetic, thou didst joyfully enter the trackless desert. Inflamed with the heat of divine love, thou didst abandon human affections, and Angel-like, didst spend thy life in the persevering search after more perfect things.
Father! thou didst, from thy early youth, separate thyself from all human society, and wast the first to live in the desert, surpassing all other Anchorets. Thou, Paul, didst pass thy whole life unknown to men; therefore was Antony divinely inspired to go in search of thee, as the hidden Saint; he found thee and revealed thee to the whole earth.
A life unknown to the world was thine, O Paul! the wild beasts were thy companions, and a bird, sent thee by God, ministered to thee. When the great Antony found thee, and saw all this, he was filled with wonder, and never ceased speaking thy praises, as a Prophet and Teacher of all men, and as something divine.
Father and Prince of Hermits! thou art now contemplating in all his glory that God whose weakness and lowliness thou didst study and imitate during the sixty years of thy desert life: thou art now with him in the eternal union of the Vision. Instead of thy cavern, where thou didst spend thy life of unknown penance, thou hast the immensity of the heavens for thy dwelling; instead of thy tunic of palm-leaves, thou hast the robe of Light; instead of the pittance of material bread, thou hast the Bread of eternal life; instead of thy humble fountain, thou hast the waters which spring up to eternity, filling thy soul with infinite delights. Thou didst imitate the silence of the Babe of Bethlehem by thy holy life of seclusion; now thy tongue is for ever singing the praises of God, and the music of infinite bliss is for ever falling on thine ear. Thou didst not know this world of ours, save by its deserts; but now thou must compassionate and pray for us who live in it; speak for us to our dear Jesus; remind him how he visited it in wonderful mercy and love; pray his sweet blessing upon us, and the graces of perfect detachment from transitory things, love of poverty, love of prayer, and love of our heavenly country.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year:
SAINT MAURUS—one of the greatest masters of the Cenobitical Life, and the most illustrious of the Disciples of St Benedict, the Patriarch of the Monks of the West—shares with the First Hermit the honours of this fifteenth day of January. Faithful, like the holy Hermit, to the lessons taught at Bethlehem, Maurus has a claim to have his Feast kept during the forty days, which are sacred to the sweet Babe Jesus. He comes to us each January to bear witness to the power of that Babe's humility. Who, forsooth, will dare to doubt of the triumphant power of the poverty and the obedience shown in the Crib of our Emmanuel, when he is told of the grand things done by those virtues in the cloisters of fair France?
It was to Maurus that France was indebted for the introduction into her territory of that admirable Rule which produced the great Saints and the great men to whom she owes the best part of her glory. The children of St Benedict trained by St Maurus struggled against the barbarism of the Franks under the first race of her kings; under the second, they instructed in sacred and profane literature the people in whose civilization they had so powerfully co-operated; under the third—and even in modem times, when the Benedictine Order, enslaved by the system of Commendatory Abbots, and decimated by political tyranny or violence, was dying out amidst every kind of humiliation—they were the fathers of the poor by the charitable use of their large possessions, and the ornaments of literature and science by their immense contributions to ecclesiastical science and archæology, as also to the history of their own country.
St Maurus built his celebrated Monastery of Glanfeuil, and Glanfeuil may be considered as the mother house of the principal Monasteries in France, Saint Germain and Saint Denis of Paris, Marmoutier, Saint Victor, Luxeuil, Jumièges, Fleury, Corbie, Saint Vannes, Moyen-Moutier, Saint Wandrille, Saint Waast, La Chaise-Dieu, Tiron, Cheza, Benoit, Le Bec, and innumerable other Monasteries in France gloried in being daughters of Monte-Cassino by the favourite Disciple of St Benedict. Cluny, which gave several Popes to the Church, and among them St Gregory the Seventh and Urban the Second, was indebted to St Maurus for that Rule which gave her her glory and her power. We must count up the Apostles, Martyrs, Bishops, Doctors, Confessors, and Virgins who were formed, for twelve hundred years, in the Benedictine Cloisters of France; we must calculate the services, both temporal and spiritual, done to this great country by the Benedictine Monks during all that period; and we shall have some idea of the results produced by the mission of St Maurus—results whose whole glory redounds to the Babe of Bethlehem, and to the mysteries of his humility, which are the source and model of the Monastic Life. When, therefore, we admire the greatness of the Saints, and recount their wonderful works, we are glorifying Jesus, the King of all Saints.
The Monastic Breviary, in the Office of this Feast, gives us the following sketch of the Life of St Maurus.
Maurus Romanus a patre Eutychio, Senatorii ordinis, Deo, sub sancti Benedicti disciplina, puer oblatus, et in schola talis ac tanti morum magistri institutus, prius sublimem monasticæ perfectionis gradum, quam primos adolescentiæ annos, attigit: adeo ut suarum virtutum admiratorem simul et præconem ipsummet Benedictum habuerit, qui eum velut observantiæ regularis exemplar, cæteris ad imitandum proponere consueverat. Cilicio, vigiliis, jejuniisque, carnem continuis atterebat, assidua interim oratione, piis lacrymis, sacrarumque litterarum lectione recreatus. Per quadragesimam bis tantum in hebdomada cibo ita parce utebatur, ut hunc prægustare potius quam sumere videretur: somnum quoque stando, vel cum nimia eum lassitudo compulisset, sedendo, alio autem tempore super aggestum calcis et sabuli strato cilicio recumbens capiebat; sed ita modicum, ut noctumas longioribus semper precibus, toto etiam sæpe psalterio recitato, vigilias preveniret.
Admirabilis obedientiæ specimen dedit, cum periclitante in aquis Placido, ipse sancti Patris jussu ad lacum advolans super undas sicco vestigio ambulavit: et apprehensum capillis adolescentulum, hostiam cruento gladio divinitus reservatam, ex aquis incolumem extraxit. Hinc eum ob eximias virtutes beatus idem Pater sibi curarum consortem assumpsit: quem jam inde ab ipsis monasticæ vitæ tirociniis socium miraculorum asciverat. Ad sacrum Levitarum ordinem ex ejusdem sancti Patris imperio promotus, stola quam ferebat, muto puero vocem, eidemque claudo gressum impertívit.Missus in Galliam ab eodem sancto Benedicto, vix eam ingressus erat, cum triumphalem beatissimi Patris in cœlos ingressum suspexit. Gravissimis subinde laboribus, curisque perfunctus, Regulam ejusdem Legislatoris manu exaratam datamque promulgavit: exstructoque celebri monasterio, cui quadraginta annos præfuit, fama nominis sui factorumque adeo inclaruit, ut nobilissimi proceres, ex aula Theodeberti regis, in sanctiore militia merituri, ad ejus signa convolarint.
Biennio ante obitum abdicans se Monasterii regimine, in cellam sancti Martini sacello proximam secessit: ubi se in arctioris pœnitentiæ operibus exercens, cum humani generis hoste, internecionem Monachis minitante, pugnaturus in arenam descendit. Qua in lucta solatorem Angelum bonum habuit, qui mali astus, divinumque illi decretum aperiens, eum una cum discipulis ad coronam evocavit. Quare cum emeritos milites supra centum dux ipse brevi secuturus, veluti totidem triumphi sui antecessores, in cœlum præmisisset: in Oratorium deferri voluit, ubi vitæ sacramento munitus, substratoque cilicio recubans ad aram ipse victima, pretiosa morte procubuit septuagenario major, postquam in Galliis Monasticam disciplinam mirifice propagasset, innumeris ante et post obitum clarus miraculis.
Maurus was by birth a Roman. His father, whose name was Eutychius, a Senator by rank, had placed him, when a little boy, under the care of St Benedict. Trained in the school of such and so great a Master of holiness, he attained to the highest degree of monastic perfection, even before he had ceased to be a child; so that Benedict himself was in admiration, and used to speak of his virtues to everyone, holding him forth to the rest of the house as a model of religious discipline. He subdued his flesh by austerities, such as wearing a hair-shirt, night watching, and frequent fasting; giving, meanwhile, to his spirit the solace of assiduous prayer, holy compunction, and reading the Sacred Scriptures. During Lent, he took food but twice in the week, and that so sparingly as to seem rather to be tasting than taking it. He slept standing, or when excessive fatigue obliged him to it, sitting, or at times lying down on a heap of lime and sand, over which he threw his hair-shirt. His sleep was exceedingly short, for he always recited very long prayers, and often the whole of the Psalms, before the midnight Office.
He gave a proof of his admirable spirit of obedience on the occasion of Placid’s fall into the lake. Maurus, at the bidding of the Holy Father, ran to the lake, walked dry-shod upon the water, and taking the child by the hair of his head, drew him safe to the bank; for Placid was to be slain by the sword as a martyr, and our Lord reserved him as a victim which should be offered to him. On account of such signal virtues as these, the same Holy Father made Maurus share the care of his duties; for, from his very entrance into the monastic life, he had had a part in his miracles. He had been raised to the holy order of Deaconship by St Benedict’s command; and by placing the stole he wore on a dumb and lame boy, he gave him the power both to speak and walk.Maurus was sent by his Holy Father into France. Scarcely had he set his foot in that land, than he had a vision of the triumphant entrance of that great saint into heaven. He promulgated in that country the Rule which St Benedict had written with his own hand, and had given to him on his leaving Italy; though the labour and anxiety he had to go through in the accomplishment of his mission were exceedingly great. Having built the celebrated Monastery, which he governed for forty years, so great was the reputation of his virtues, that several of the noblest lords of King Theodebert’s court put themselves under Maurus’ direction, and enrolled in the holier and more meritorious warfare of the monastic life.
Two years before his death, he resigned the government of his Monastery, and retired into a cell near the Oratory of St Martin. There he exercised himself in most rigorous penance, wherewith he fortified himself for the contest he had to sustain against the enemy of mankind, who threatened him with the death of his Monks. In this combat a holy Angel was his comforter, who, after revealing to him the snares of the wicked spirit, and the designs of God, bade him and his disciples win the crown prepared for them. Having, therefore, sent to heaven before him, as so many forerunners, a hundred and more of his brave soldiers, and knowing that he, their leader, was soon to follow them, he signified his wish to be carried to the Oratory, where, being strengthened by the Sacrament of Life, and lying or his hair-shirt, as a victim before the Altar, he died a saintly death. He was upwards of seventy years of age. It would be difficult to describe the success wherewith he propagated Monastic discipline in France, or to tell the miracles which, both before and after his death, rendered him glorious among men.
We give a selection of Antiphons, taken from the Monastic Office of St Maurus.
Beatus Maurus patricio genere illustris, a puero majores divitias æstimavit thesauris mundi, improperium Christi Domini.
Induit eum Dominus stola sancta Levitarum, qua claudos fecit ambulare, et mutos loqui.
In Franciam missus, doctrinam Regulæ quasi antelucanum illuminavit omnibus, et enarravit eam usque ad longinquum.
Floro, primariisque Regni proceribus decorata exsultabat, et fiorebat quasi lilium novi cœnobii solitudo.
Quos in Christo genuerat filios, morti proximus in cœlum præmisit, et inter preces corpus ad aras, animam cœlo deposuit. Alleluia.
O dignissimum Patris Benedicti discipulum, quem ipse sui spiritus hæredem reliquit, ut Regulæ sanctæ promulgator esset primarius, et in Galliis Monastici Ordinis propagator mirificus. Alleluia.
O beatum virum, qui spreto sæculo jugum sanctæ Regulæ a teneris annis amanter portavit, et factus obediens usque ad mortem semetipsum abnegavit, ut Christo totus adhæreret. Alleluia.
Hodie sanctus Maurus super cilicium stratus, coram altari feliciter occubuit. Hodie primogenitus beati Benedicti discipulus per ducatum sanctæ Regulæ securus ascendens, choris comitatus angelicis, pervenit ad Christum. Hodie vir obediens, loquens victorias, a Domino coronari meruit. Alleluia, alleluia.
The blessed Maurus, illustrious by birth, as being of a patrician family, esteemed the reproach of Christ our Lord to be greater riches than the treasures of this world.
The Lord clothed him with the holy stole of Levites: wherewith he made the lame walk, and the dumb speak.
Being sent into France, he enlightened all men by the teaching of the Rule, as the dawn lights the world, and he made it known even to distant lands.
The solitude of the new monastery bloomed with the coming of Florus and the chief nobles of the kingdom; it was glad and flowered as the lily.
When near his death, he sent before him to heaven the children he had begotten in Christ; and whilst in prayer, he laid down his body at the Altar, his soul resting in heaven. Alleluia.
O most worthy disciple of his Father Benedict, who made him heir of his own spirit, that he might become the chief promulgator of the Holy Rule, and the wonderful propagator of the Monastic Order in France! Alleluia.
O blessed Maurus! who from early childhood despised the world, and lovingly bore the yoke of the Holy Rule, and being obedient even unto death, denied himself, that he might cling unreservedly to Christ. Alleluia.
On this day did Saint Maurus, laid before the Altar on his hairshirt, happily breathe forth his soul. On this day the eldest disciple of blessed Benedict, securely ascending by the path of the Holy Rule, and accompanied by choirs of Angels, was led to Christ. On this day the obedient man, speaking victory, was rewarded by receiving the crown from his Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Responsories of the same Office are equally fine. We select the following.
℟. Maurus a teneris annis sancto Benedicto in disciplinam ab Eutychio patre in Sublaco traditus, Magistri sui virtutes imitando expressit, * Et similis ejus effectus est.
℣. Inspexit et fecit secundum exemplar, quod ipsi in monte monstratum est. * Et similis.
℟. Prolapso in lacum Placido, Maurus advolans, Spiritu Domini ferebatur super aquas; * Dum Patri suo in auditu auris obediret.
℣. Aquæ multæ non potuerunt exstinguere caritatem ejus, neque flumina illam obruere. * Dum Patri.
℟. Sanctus Benedictus dilectum præ cæteris Discipulum suum Maurum transmittit in Galliam: * Et magnis patitur destitui solatiis, ut proximi saluti provideat.
℣.Caritas benigna est, nec quærit quæ sua sunt, sed quæ Jesu Christi. * Et magnis.
℟. In Deo raptus viam vidit innumeris coruscam lampadibus, qua Benedictus ascendebat in gloriam, * In perpetuas æternitates.
℣. Justorum semita quasi lux splendens procedit, et crescit usque ad perfectam diem. * In perpetuas.
℟. Quæ in sinu beati Patris Benedicti hauserat Maurus sapientiæ flumina in Galliis effudit; * Et inter Franciæ lilia sacri Ordinis propagines sevit.
℣. Quasi trames aquæ de fluvio rigavit hortum plantationum suarum. * Et inter.
℟. Christianissimus Francorum Rex venit ad monasterium, ut audiret sapientiam novi Salomonis: * Et regiam purpuram submisit pedibus ejus.
℣. Quia humilis fuit in oculis suis, glorificavit illum Dominus in conspectu regum. * Et regiam.
℟. Biennio ante mortem siluit sejunctus ab hominibus, * Et solus in superni inspectoris oculis habitavit secum.
℣. Præparavit cor suum, et in conspectu Domini sanctificavit animam suam. * Et solus.
℟. Maxima pars fratrum sub Mauro duce militantium per Angelum de morte monita, ultimum cum dæmone pugnavit; * Et in ipso agone occumbens, cœlestes triumphos promeruit.
℣. Bonum certamen certavit, cursum consummavit, fidem servavit. * Et in ipso agone.
℟. Postquam sexaginta annos in sacra militia meruisset, imminente jam morte, ad aras deferri voluit, ut effunderet in conspectu Domini orationem, et animam suam, dicens: * Concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini.
℣. Altana tua, Domine virtutum, Rex meus, et Deus meus. * Concupiscit.
℟. Substrato cilicio in Ecclesia recumbens, ex domo orationis transivit in locum tabernaculi admirabilis, usque ad domum Dei, * Cujus nimio amore flagrabat.
℣. Coarctabatur enim, desiderium habens dissolvi, et esse cum Christo. * Cujus nimio.
℟. Maurus, when quite a child, was taken to Subiaco, and consigned by his father Eutychius to the care of Saint Benedict: he imitated the virtues of his Master, and reflected them in his own conduct, * And became like unto him.
℣. He looked and did according to the image that was shown him on the mount. * And became.
℟. Placid having fallen into the lake, Maurus flies to his rescue, and was borne upon the waters by the Spirit of the Lord; * Whilst obeying his Father in the hearing of the ear.
℣. Many waters could not quench his charity, neither could floods drown it. * Whilst obeying.
℟. Saint Benedict sent into France his disciple Maurus, whom he loved above the rest: * And suffers himself to be deprived of his great consolation, that he may provide for his neighbour’s salvation.
℣. Charity is kind, neither seeketh she her own, but the things that are of Jesus Christ. * And suffers.
℟. Being rapt in God, he beheld the path glittering with countless lamps, whereby Benedict was mounting to glory, * For an endless eternity,
℣. The path of the just, as a shining light, proceedeth and increaseth even unto perfect day. * For an endless.
℟. The wisdom that he had learnt from the blessed Father Benedict he poured forth in France; * And he planted shoots of the Holy Order amidst the lilies of France.
℣. As a brook out of a river, he waters the garden of his plants. * And he planted.
℟. The Most Christian King of the Franks went to the monastery, that he might hear the wisdom of the new Solomon: * And he laid the regal purple under his feet.
℣. Because he was humble in his own eyes, the Lord glorified him in the sight of kings. * And he laid.
℟. He spent the two years before his death in silence and separation from men, * And alone, he dwelt with himself under the eye of the all-seeing God.
℣. He prepared his heart, and in the sight of the Lord he sanctified his soul. * And alone.
℟. The greater part of the brethren, who fought under the leadership of Maurus, were warned by an Angel of their death, and fought their last battle with the demon: * And dying in that battle, they won to themselves the triumph of heaven.
℣. They fought the good fight, they finished their course, they kept the faith. * And dying.
℟. After he had meritoriously served sixty years in the holy warfare, and death being at hand, he willed that they should carry him to the Altar, there to breathe forth, in the presence of the Lord, his prayer and his soul: he said: * My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord;
℣. Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. * My soul.
℟. Laid on his hair-shirt in the Church, he passed from the house of prayer into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God. * With love of whom he burned exceedingly.
℣. For he was straitened, desiring to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. * With love.
Of the three Hymns to St Maurus, we choose this, as being the finest.
Maurum concelebra Gallia canticis,
Qui te prole nova ditat, et inclyti
Custos imperii, regia protegit
Sacro pignore lilia.
Hic gentilitiis major honoribus,
Spretis lætus adit claustra palatiis,
Calcat delicias, prædia, purpuram,
Ut Christi subeat jugum.
Sancti propositam Patris imaginem
Gestis comparibus sedulus exprimit;
Spectandis pueri lucet in actibus
Vitæ norma monasticæ.
Se sacco rigidus conterit aspero,
Frænat perpetui lege silentii;
Noctes in precibus pervigil exigit,
Jejunus solidos dies.
Bum jussis patriis excitus advolat,
Sicco calcat aquas impavidus pede,
Educit Placidum gurgite sospitem,
Et Petro similis redit.
Laudem jugis honor sit tibi Trinitas,
Quæ vultus satias lumine cœlites!
Da sanctæ famulis tramite Regulæ
Mauri præmia consequi.
Hymn Maurus in thy canticles, O France!
for he enriched thee with a new race;
he is the guardian of thy fair throne,
and his sacred relics protect thy royal lilies.
Rising above the honours of his family,
and deeming palaces beneath him, he gladly seeks the cloister:
luxuries, lands, robes of state, he tramples on them all,
that he may take up the yoke of Christ,
Strenuously does he express in his conduct the image he had proposed to himself
—he does what his Holy Father does:
the Rule of the monastic life is brightly mirrored
in the actions of the youthful Maurus.
Severe to himself, he subdues the flesh by a rough hair-shirt;
he bridles nature by the law of perpetual silence;
he spends his wakeful nights in prayer,
and whole days are passed in long unbroken fast.
He flies at his Father's bidding,
and dryshod and fearless treads upon the waters of the lake;
he rescues Placid from a watery grave,
and, like another Peter, sinks not as he walks.
Unending praiseful homage be to thee, O holy Trinity,
that givest to the Saints the satiating Light of Vision!
Grant to thy servants, who are walking in the path of the Holy Rule,
to obtain the rewards so bravely won by Maurus.
How blessed was thy Mission, O favourite and worthy disciple of the great Saint Benedict! How innumerable the Saints that sprang from thee and thy illustrious Patriarch! The Rule thou didst promulgate was truly the salvation of that great country which thou and thy disciples evangelized; and the fruits of the Order thou didst plant there have been indeed abundant. But now that from thy throne in heaven thou beholdest that fair France which was once covered with Monasteries, and from which there mounted up to God the ceaseless voice of prayer and praise, and scarce findest the ruins of these noble Sanctuaries—dost thou not turn towards our Lord, and beseech him that he make the wilderness bloom once more as of old? Oh! what has become of those Cloisters, wherein were trained Apostles of Nations, learned Pontiffs, intrepid defenders of the liberty of the Church, holy Doctors and heroes of sanctity—all of whom call thee their second Father? Who will bring back again those vigorous principles of poverty, obedience, hard work, and penance, which made the Monastic Life the object of the people’s admiration and love, and attracted thousands of every class in society to embrace it? Instead of this holy enthusiasm of the ages of faith, we, alas! can show little else than cowardice of heart, love of this life, zeal for enjoyment, dread of the cross, and at best, comfortable and inactive piety. Pray, great Saint! that these days may be shortened; that the Christians of the present generation may grow earnest by reflecting on the sanctity to which they are called; that new strength may spring up in our tepid hearts, for the Church has need of courageous souls in order that her future glory may be as great and bright as we could hope for in our most fervent love. Oh! if God hear thy prayer, and give us once more the Monastic Life in all its purity and vigour, we shall be safe, and the evil of faith without earnestness, which is now producing such havoc in the spiritual world, will be replaced by Christian energy. Teach us, O Maurus! to know the dear Babe of Bethlehem, and to fix well in our hearts his life and doctrine; for we shall then understand the greatness of our Christian vocation, and that only by following him, our Guide and Master, shall we be able to overcome our enemy the world.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE name of Marcellus is brought before us by the Calendar to-day: he was a successor of the glorious Hyginus in the papacy and in martyrdom, and their Feasts fall in the same season of the year. Each Christmastide shows us these two Pontiffs offering their Keys in homage to Jesus, the invisible Head of the Church they governed. In a few days hence, we shall find our Christmas list of Saints giving us the name of a third Pope and Martyr, Fabian. These three valiant Vicars of Christ are like the three generous Magi; they offered their richest presents to the Emmanuel, their blood and their lives.
Marcellus governed the Church at the close of the last general Persecution. A few months after his death, the tyrant Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, and the Cross of Christ glittered in triumph on the Labarum of the Roman Legions. The time for martyrdom was, therefore, very short; but Marcellus was in time; he shed his blood for Christ, and won the honour of standing in Stephen's company over the Crib of the Divine Infant, with his palm-branch in his venerable hand. He withstood the tyrant Emperor, who bade him abdicate the majesty of the supreme Pontificate, and this in the very City of Rome; for Rome was to be the capital of another King—of Christ—who, in the person of his Vicar, would take possession of it, and her old masters, the Cæsars, would make Byzantium their Rome. It is three hundred years since the decree of Cæsar Augustus ordered the census of the world to be taken, which brought Mary to Bethlehem, where she gave birth to an humble Babe; and now the Empire of that Babe has outgrown the Empire of the Cæsars, and its victory is upon the point of being proclaimed. After Marcellus, we shall have Eusebius; after Eusebius, Melchiades; and Melchiades will see the triumph of the Church.
The Acts of Marcellus are thus given in the Lessons of his Feast.
Marcellus, Romanus, a Constantio et Galerio usque ad Maxentium Pontificatum gessit. Cujus hortatu, Lucina, Matrona Romana, bonorum suonim Dei Ecclesiam fecit hæredem. Viginti quinque titulos in urbe instituit, quasi dioeceses quasdam, et ad baptismum pœnitentiamque eorum qui ex infidelibus Christianam religionem susciperent, et ad Martyrum sepulturam. Quibus rebus ira incensus Maxentius, Marcello gravia supplicia minatur, nisi, deposito Pontificatu, idolis immolaret.
Qui cum insanas hominis voces negligeret, misit eum in catabulum, ut bestiarum, quæ publice alebantur, curam sustineret. Ubi Marcellus assiduis jejuniis et precibus novem menses vitam duxit, parochias, quas præsens non poterat, visitans per epistolas. Inde ereptus a clericis, hospitio recipitur a beata Lucina: in cujus ædibus Ecclesiam dedicavit, quæ hodie titulo sancti Marcelli nominatur: in qua et Christiani orabant, et ipse beatus Marcellus prædicabat.
Quibus cognitis, Maxentius in eam Ecclesiam catabuli bestias transferri, et a Marcello custodiri jubet: ubi loci fœditate, multisque ærumnis afflictus, obdormivit in Domino. Cujus corpus in coemeterio Priscillæ, via Salaria, a beata Lucina sepultus est decimo septimo Kalendas Februarii. Sedit annos quinque, mensem unum, dies viginti quinque. Scripsit epistolam ad Episcopos Antiochenæ provinciæ de Primatu Romana Ecclesia, quam Caput Ecclesiarum appellandam demonstrat. Ubi etiam illud scriptum est nullum concilium jure celebrari, nisi ex auctoritate Romani Pontificis. Ordinavit mense Decembri Roma Presbyteros viginti quinque, Diaconos duos, Episcopos per diversa loca viginti unum.
Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City five and twenty Titles, as so many districts for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.
Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was therefore sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.
Maxentius, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16). He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called 'the Head of the Churches.' In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council may be rightly celebrated without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.
What must have been thy thoughts, O glorious Marcellus, when imprisoned in a stable, with poor dumb brutes for thy companions! Thou didst think upon Jesus, thy Divine Master, how he was born in a stable, and laid in a manger between two senseless animals. Thou didst appreciate the humiliations of Bethlehem, and joyfully acknowledge that the Disciple is not above his Master. But from that stable wherein the tyranny of an Emperor had thrust it, the majesty of the Apostolic See was soon to be set free, and its glory made manifest to the whole earth. Christian Rome, insulted in thy person, was soon to receive an additional consecration by thy martyrdom, and God was on the point of making over to thy successors the palaces of that proud City, which then knew not the glorious destiny that awaited her. O Marcellus! thou didst triumph, like the Babe of Bethlehem, by thy humiliations. Like him, too, thou hadst thy cross, and gavest thy life for thy sheep. Forget not the Church of thy unceasing love: bless that Rome which venerates so profoundly the spot where thou didst suffer and die. Bless all the Faithful children of Christ, who keep thy Feast during this holy Season, praying thee to obtain for them the grace of profiting by the mystery of Bethlehem. Pray for them, that they may imitate Jesus, conquer pride, love the Cross, and be faithful in all their trials.
 St Matt. x 24.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE East and West unite, to-day, in honouring St Antony, the Father of Cenobites. The Monastic Life existed before his time, as we know from indisputable testimony; but he was the first Abbot, because he was the first to bring Monks under the permanent government of one Superior or Father.
Antony began with seeking solely his own sanctification; he was known only as the wonderful Solitary against whom the wicked spirits waged an almost continuous battle: but in course of time, men were attracted to him by his miracles and by the desire of their own perfection; this gave him disciples; he permitted them to cluster round his cell; and monasteries thus began to be built in the desert. The age of the Martyrs was near its close; the persecution under Diocletian, which was to be the last, was over as Antony entered on the second half of his course: and God chose this time for organizing a new force in the Church. The Monastic Life was brought to bear upon the Christian world; the Ascetics, as they were called, not even such of them as were consecrated, were not a sufficient element of power. Monasteries were built in every direction, in solitudes and in the very cities; and the Faithful had but to look at these communities living in the fervent and literal fulfilment of the Counnsels of Christ, and they felt themselves encouraged to obey the Precepts. The apostolic traditions of continual prayer and penance were perpetuated by the monastic system; it secured the study of the Sacred Scriptures and Theology; and the Church herself would soon receive from these arsenals of intellect and piety her bravest defenders, her holiest Prelates, and her most zealous Apostles. Yes, the Monastic Life was to be and give all this to the Christian world, for the example of St Antony had given her a bias to usefulness. If there ever were a monk to whom the charms of solitude and the sweetness of contemplation were dear, it was our Saint; and yet they could not keep him in his desert when he could save souls by a few days spent in a noisy city. Thus, we find him in the streets of Alexandria when the pagan persecution was at its height; he came to encourage the Christians in their martyrdom. Later on, when that still fiercer foe of Arianism was seducing the Faith of the people, we again meet the great Abbot in the same capital, this time preaching to its inhabitants that the Word is consubstantial with the Father, proclaiming the Nicene faith, and keeping up the Catholics in orthodoxy and resolution. There is another incident in the life of St Antony which tells in the same direction, inasmuch as it shows how an intense interest in the Church must ever be where the Monastic Spirit is. We are alluding to our Saint's affection for the great St Athanasius, who on his part reverenced the Patriarch of the Desert, visited him, promoted the Monastic Life to the utmost of his power, used to say that he considered the great hope of the Church to be in the good discipline of monasticism, and wrote the Life of his dear St Antony.
But to whom is the glory of the institution of monasticism due, with which the destinies of the Church were, from that time forward, to be so closely connected, that the period of her glory and power was to be when the monastic element flourished, and the days of her affliction were to be those of its decay? Who was it that put into the heart of Antony and his disciples the love of that poor and unknown, yet ever productive life? It is Jesus, the humble Babe of Bethlehem. To him, then, wrapt in his swaddling-clothes, and yet the omnipotent God, be all the glory!
It is time to hear the account of some of the virtues and actions of the great St Antony, given by the Church in her Office of his Feast.
Antonius Ægyptius, nobilibus et christianis parentibus natus, quibus adolescens orbatus est, cum ingressus Ecclesiam ex Evangelio audivisset: Si vis perfectas esse, vade et vende omnia quæ habes, et da pauperibus; tanquam ea sibi dicta essent, sic Christo Domino obtemperandura existimavit. Itaque, vendita re familiari, pecuniam omnem pauperibus distribuit. Quibus solutus impedimentis, cœlestis vitæ genus in terris colere instituit. Sed cum in periculosum illud certamen descenderet, ad fidei præsidium, quo erat armatus, adhibendum sibi putavit subsidium reliquarum virtutum, quarum tanto studio incensus fuit, ut quemcumque videret aliqua virtutis laude excellentem, illum imitari studeret.
Nihil igitur eo continentius, nihil vigilantius erat. Patientia, mansuetudine, misericordia, humilitate, labore, ac studio divinarum Scripturarum superabat omnes. Ab hæreticorum et schismaticorum hominum, maxime Arianorum, congressu et colloquio sic abhorrebat, ut ne prope quidem ad eos accedendum diceret. Humi jacebat, cum eum necessarius somnus occupasset. Jejunium autem adeo coluit, ut salem tantummodo ad panem adhiberet, sitim aqua exstingueret; neque se ante solis occasum cibo aut potu recreabat; sæpe etiam biduura cibo abstinebat, sæpissime in oratione pernoctabat. Cum talis tantusque Dei miles evasisset Antonius, sanctissimum juvenem hostis humani generis variis tentationibus aggreditur, quas ille jejunio et oratione vincebat. Nec vero frequens de satana triumphus securum reddebat Antonium, qui diaboli innumerabiles artes nocendi noverat.
Itaque contulit se in vastissimam Ægypti solitudinem, ubi quotidie ad Christianam perfectionem proficiens, dæmones (quorum tanto erant acriores impetus, quanto Antonius ad resistendam fortior evadebat) ita contempsit, ut illis exprobraret imbecillitatem: ac sæpe discipulos suos excitans ad pugnandum contra diabolum, docensque quibus armis vinceretur: Mihi credite, dicebat, fratres: pertimescit satanas piorum vigilias, orationes, jejunia, voluntariam paupertatem, misericordiam et humilitatem, maxime vero ardentem amorem in Christum Dominum, cujus unico sanctissimæ Crucis signo debilitatus aufugit. Sic autem dæmonibus erat formidolosus, ut multi per Ægyptum ab illis agitati, invocato nomine Antonii liberarentur: tantaque erat ejus fama sanctitatis, ut per litteras se ejus orationibus Constantinus Magnus et filii commendarent. Qui aliquando quintum et centesimum annum agens, cum innumerabiles sui instituti imitatores haberet, convocatis monachis, et ad perfectam christianæ vitæ regulam instructis, sanctitate et miraculis clarus migravit in cœlum, decimosexto Kalendas Februarii.
Antony was born in Egypt, of noble and Christian parents, who left him an orphan at an early age. Having one day entered a Church, he heard these words of the Gospel being read: If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast, and give to the poor. He took them as addressed to himself, and thought it his duty to obey these words of Christ his Lord. Selling therefore his possessions, he distributed all the money among the poor. Being freed from these obstacles, he resolved to lead on earth a heavenly life. But at his entrance on the perils of such a combat, he felt that besides the shield of faith, wherewith he was armed, he must needs fortify himself with the other virtues; and so ardent was his desire to possess them, that whomsoever he saw excelling in any virtue, him did he study to imitate.
Nothing, therefore, could exceed his continency and vigilance. He surpassed all in patience, meekness, mercy, humility, manual labour, and the study of the Sacred Scriptures. So great was his aversion for the company of, or conversation with, heretics, especially the Arians, that he used to say that we ought not even to go near them. He lay on the ground when necessity obliged him to sleep. As to fasting, he practised it with so much fervour that his only nourishment was bread seasoned with salt, and he quenched his thirst with water; neither did he take this his food and drink until sunset, and frequently abstained from it altogether for two successive days. He very frequently spent the whole night in prayer. Antony became so valiant a soldier of God that the enemy of mankind, ill-brooking such extraordinary virtue, attacked him with manifold temptations; but the Saint overcame them all by fasting and prayer. Neither did his victories over Satan make him heedless, for he knew how innumerable are the devil’s artifices for injuring souls.
Knowing this, he betook himself into one of the largest deserts of Egypt, where such was his progress in Christian perfection that the wicked spirits, whose attacks grew more furious as Antony’s resistance grew more resolute, became the object of his contempt, so much so indeed, that he would sometimes taunt them for their weakness. When encouraging his disciples to fight against the devil, and teaching them the arms wherewith they would vanquish him, he used often to say to them: 'Believe me, Brethren, Satan dreads the watchings of holy men, and their prayers, and fasts, and voluntary poverty, and works of mercy, and humility, and above all, their ardent love for Christ our Lord, at the mere sign of whose most holy Cross he is disabled and put to flight.' So formidable was he to the devils that many persons in Egypt who were possessed by them were delivered by invoking Antony's name. So great. too, was his reputation for sanctity, that Constantine the Great and his sons wrote to him, commending themselves to his prayers. At length, having reached the hundred and fifth year of his age, and having received a countless number into his institute, he called his Monks together; and having instructed them how to regulate their lives according to Christian perfection, he, venerated both for the miracles he had wrought, and for the holiness of his life, departed from this world to heaven on the sixteenth of the Calends of February (January 17).
The Churches of the West, during the Middle Ages, have left us several Sequences in honour of St Antony. They are to be found in the ancient Missals. As they are not by any means remarkable as liturgical pieces, we shall content ourselves with inserting only one, omitting the three which begin Alme Confessor; In hac die lætabunda; Antonins hnmilis.
Pia voce prædicemus,
Et devotis celebremus
Dei Sanctus exaltetur,
Et in suis honoretur
Sanctis, auctor omnium.
Hic contempsit mundi florem,
Opes ejus et honorem:
Et coniugit ad desertum:
Ut non currat in incertum
In hoc vitæ stadio.
Mira fuit ejus vita:
Clarus fulsit eremita.
Sed mox hostis subdoli
Bella perfert: sæpe concutitur
Gravi pugna: verum non vincitur
Ictu crebro flagellatur:
Et a sævis laceratur
Lux de cœlo micuit:
Et clara personuit
Dei vox de nubibus.
Quia fortis in agone
Te clamabit totus orbis.
Pro pellendis item morbis
Id, Antoni, nunc impletum
Conspicamur, et repletum
Mundum tuo nomine.
Hoc implorat gens devota:
Tibi pia defert vota
Pro tuo munimine.
Nunc in forma speciosæ
Nunc in massæ specie,
Dæmon struit illi fraudes;
Sed, qui tanta, vafer, audes,
Succumbis in acie.
Mille fraudes, mille doli
Sunt inanes: illi soli
Cedit orcus ingemens,
Militem hunc veneratum,
Et robustam ejus manum
Horret hostis infremens.
Non lorica corporali
Fultus, inimico tali
Hic athleta restitit.
Aqua potus, terra lectus
Illi fuit: his protectus
Armis, victor exstitit.
Herba fuit illi victus:
Palmæ frondes et amictus,
Ac cum bestiis conflictus,
Atque somni parcitate
Et philosophis profanis,
Paulum visit, nec inanis
Fit via, nec irrita.
Nam convenit hunc viventem,
Inde sanctam ejus mentem
Cœlos vidit ascendentem,
Carne terræ reddita.
O Antoni, cum beatis
Nunc in regno claritatis
Gloriaris; hie gravatis
Mole camis, pietatis
Tuæ pande viscera.
Ne nos rapiat tremendæ
Mors gehennæ, manum tende.
Nos a morbido defende
Igne, nobis et impende
Gloriam post funera.
Let us piously proclaim
the praises of Antony,
and celebrate his name in sacred hymns.
Let us honour God's Saint;
and God, the author of all,
be honoured in his Saints!
Antony despised, in obedience to the Gospel,
the beauty, and riches,
and honours of the world.
He fled into the desert,
that he might not run with uncertainty
in the race of this life.
Wonderful was his life.
He was a celebrated hermit.
But soon does the crafty enemy
Wage war against him.
The combat is fierce and oft renewed;
but he is not vanquished by the devil's attacks.
The demons scourge him with many blows,
and his flesh is cruelly torn
by the angry enemy.
But a light shone down from heaven;
and the sweet voice of God was heard
speaking from above:
'Because thou hast bravely fought in the combat,
thy name shall be published
in every country.
'The whole earth shall proclaim thy glory.
Thou shalt be invoked
against the disease of Fire.'
This, O Antony! we see fulfilled,
and the world resounds
with thy name.
The devout servants of God call on thy name,
and fervently pray to thee
for help and protection.
Sometimes, again, it is in the appearance of a beautiful woman,
and sometimes under the form
of a piece of gold,
That the devil lays snares for the holy man:
but after all thy daring, O crafty tempter!
thou art defeated in the fight.
Yea, vain are his thousand frauds and tricks;
and all hell falls back bemoaning
that one man single-handed has repelled them.
Roaring with rage, the enemy trembles
before this venerable soldier,
whose hand so roughly deals its blows.
The brave combatant resists these mighty enemies,
and yet he wears no breast-plate
such as soldiers use.
His drink is water, his bed the ground;
these were his arms,
and by these he conquered.
Herbs were his food;
the palm-leaf gave him raiment;
and his companions were the wild beasts
of the wilderness.
He restrained lust
by assiduous prayer,
frequent manual labour,
and short sleep.
He confuted the Arians
and the profane Philosophers;
he visited Paul the Hermit,
nor was the journey fruitless or vain;
For he found him alive,
and then saw his holy soul
mounting up to heaven,
and buried his body.
O Antony! thou art now in glory,
with the Blessed, in the kingdom of light;
show thy affectionate pity on us,
who are here weighed down
by the burden of the flesh.
Stretch out thy hand,
lest the terrible death of hell seize upon us.
Defend us from the burning distemper,
and assist us to gain heaven
when our life is spent.
The Greek Church is enthusiastic in her praises of St Antony. We extract the following stanzas from her Menæa.
Die XVII Januarii
Quando in sepulchro teipsum gaudens inclusisti, Pater, propter Christi amorem, sufferebas quam fortiter dæmonum insultus, oratione et caritate istorum fumo debiliora depellens tentamenta; tunc plauserunt Angelorum ordines clamantes: Gloria roboranti te, Antoni.
Helias demonstratus es alter, habens celebres discípulos, novos Elíseos, sapiens, quibus et gratiam tuam duplicem dereliquisti, raptus tanquam in curru, æthereus pater; nunc ab illis decoratus, omnium recordaris, beatissime, tuam celebrantium cum amore venerabilem festivitatem, o Antoni.
In terris Angelum, in cœlis Dei virum, mundi omamentum, bonorum et virtutum florem, asceticorum gloriam, Antonium honoremus; plantatus enim in domo Domini effloruit justissime, et quasi cedrus in deserto multiplicavit greges ovium Christi spiritualium in sanctitate et justitia.
O illuminate Spiritus radiis, quando te divinus amor combussit, et animam evolare fecit ad desiderabile caritatis fastigium, tunc despexisti carnem et sanguinem, et extra mundum factus es, multa ascesi et tranquillitate ipsi unitus, quo repletus es; exinde quæsisti bona et resplenduisti sicut stella irradians animas nostras, Antoni.
Tu qui dæmonum sagittas et jacula contrivisti caritate divini Spiritus, et malitiam insidiasque ejus omnibus patefecisti, divinis coruscans illustrationibus, Monachorum effectus es fulgidissimum luminare, et eremi primum decus, et supremus ægrotantium medicus, et Archetypus virtutum, Antoni Pater.
Asceticum super terram proíessus exercitium, Antoni, passionum ictus in torrente lacrymarum omnes hebetasti; scala divina et veneranda, ad cœlos elevans, mederis passionum infirmitatibus eorum qui ad te cum fide exclamant; Gaude, Orientis stella deauratissima, Monachorum lampadifer et pastor; gaude, celebrande, tu deserti alumne, et Ecclesiæ inconcussa columna; gaude errantium dux illustrissime; gaude, o gloriatio nostra, et orbis terrarum decor fulgidissime.
Columna splendida et virtutibus obfirmata, et nubes obumbrans effectus es, his qui in deserto ad cœlum e terra Deum contemplantur, præpositus; crucis báculo passionum rumpens mare, spiritualem autem arduamque ad cœlum in facilem mutatus viam, invenisti, beatissime, incorruptibilem hæreditatem; cum incorporeis throno assistens Christi, quem deprecare animabus nostris dare magnam misericordiam.
Vitæ derelinquens perturbationes, crucem tuam humeris deferens, totum te commisisti Domino, et extra carnem. Pater, et mundum factus, Sancti effectus es confabulator Spiritus, ideoque ad zelum populos evigilans, civitates vacuas fecisti, civitatem in deserto transferens. Antoni Deifer, deprecare Christum Deum dare peccatorum remissionem celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.
When, O Father! thou didst shut thyself in a sepulchre, with joy, for the love of Christ, thou didst most bravely endure the attacks of the demons, putting to flight, by prayer and charity, the cloud of their temptations; and the choirs of Angels applauding, cried out: Glory, O Antony! be to him that strengthens thee.
Thou wast as another Elias, surrounded by thy glorious disciples; to whom, as to Eliseus, thou, their wise father, taken up as it were to heaven in a chariot, didst leave thy twofold grace; now that they are thy ornament above, thou art mindful of us all who lovingly celebrate thy venerable feast, O Antony!
Let us honour Antony, who was an Angel on earth, the man of God in heaven, the ornament of the world, the flower of good men and of virtues, the glory of Ascetics; for being planted in the house of the Lord, he bloomed in perfect justice, and as a cedar in the desert, he multiplied the flocks of Christ's spiritual sheep in holiness and justice.
O Antony! illumined by the rays of the Spirit! when divine love consumed thee, and made thy soul take her flight to the summit of charity thou didst long for—then didst thou despise flesh and blood, and become a stranger to this world, in deep spirituality and peace united to him with whom thou wast filled. Then didst thou seek after true goods, and shine as a star reflecting light on our souls.
Thou that didst, by the love of the Holy Spirit, break the arrows and darts of the demons, laying open their malice and their snares to all men; thou that didst shine with the divine teachings, thou wast made, O Antony! the brightest luminary of Monks, the grandest glory of the desert, the ablest physician of the sick, the Archetype of virtue.
Professing on earth the life of an Ascetic, O Antony! thou didst deaden in the torrent of thy tears all the blows of thy passions. Thou art the holy and venerable ladder that raises men to heaven; and thou healest the infirmities of their passions from those that cry to thee with faith: Rejoice, most richly gilded Star of the East, the lamp-bearer and shepherd of Monks! Rejoice, illustrious Saint, child of the desert, unshaken pillar of the Church! Rejoice, most glorious Chieftain I Rejoice, O thou our glory, and brightest ornament of the whole earth!
God made thee a bright pillar solid in virtue, and a shadegiving cloud, to lead the way to such as, in the journey from earth to heaven, contemplate God. By the rod of the Cross thou didst break up the sea of the passions; and changing the spiritual and difficult way to heaven into one that is easy, thou didst obtain, O most blessed Antony! the incorruptible inheritance. Pray to that Christ, at whose throne thou assistest with the Angelic spirits, that he bestow his great mercy on our souls.
Leaving the distractions of this life, and carrying thy cross on thy shoulders, thou didst commit thy whole self to the Lord; and estranging thyself, O Father! from the flesh and the world, thou wast admitted into intimate communication with the Holy Spirit; and therefore didst thou rouse up the people to fervour, emptying the cities of their inhabitants, and changing the desert into a city. O Antony, that bearest God within thee! beseech Christ our God that he give remission of sin to us all who lovingly celebrate thy holy commemoration.
We unite, great Saint! with the universal Church in offering thee the homage of our affectionate veneration, and in praising our Emmanuel for the gifts he bestowed upon thee. How sublime a life was thine, and how rich in fruit were thy works! Verily thou art the Father of a great people, and one of the most powerful auxiliaries of the Church of God. We beseech thee, therefore, pray for the Monastic Order, that it may reappear in all its ancient fervour; and pray for each member of the great Family. Fevers of the body have been often allayed by thy intercession, and we beg for a continuance of this thy compassionate aid; but the fevers of our soul are more dangerous, and we beg thy pity and prayers that we may be delivered from them. Watch over us in the temptations which the enemy is unceasingly putting in our way; pray for us, that we may be viligant in the combat, prudent in avoiding dangerous occasions, courageous in the trial, and humble in our victory. The angel of darkness appeared to thee in a visible shape; but he hides himself and his plots from us; here again we beg thy prayers that we be not deceived by his craft. May the fear of God's judgements, and the thought of eternity, penetrate into the depth of our souls. May prayer be our refuge in every necessity, and penance our safeguard against sin. But above all, pray that we may have that which thou didst counsel—the Love of Jesus; of that Jesus who, for love of us, deigned to be born into this world, that so he might merit for us the graces wherewith we might triumph—of that Jesus who humbled himself even so far as to suffer temptation, that so he might show us how we were to resist and fight.