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January

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr

VINCENT, the Victorious, vested in the sacred dalmatic, and holding his palm in his hand, comes, today, to the Crib, and right welcome is he to Stephen, the Crowned, his leader and his brother. Spain is his country. He is a deacon of the glorious Church of Saragossa, and, by the strength and warmth of his faith, he is a type of that land, which is pre-eminently the Catholic Kingdom.But he does not belong to Spain only: like Stephen, and like Laurence, Vincent is the favourite and hero of the whole Church. Stephen, the deacon, preached the divinity of Jesus amidst the shower of stones which were hurled upon him as a blasphemer; Vincent, the deacon, confessed his faith in Jesus upon his red-hot gridiron, as did that other deacon, Laurence. This triumvirate of Martyr-deacons cluster together in the sacred Litany, and when we hear their three grand names, the Crown, the Laurel, and the Conqueror, we hail them as the three bravest Knights of our most dear Lord.

Vincent triumphed over the torture of fire, because the flame of divine love which burned within his soul was keener than that which scorched his body. He was comforted in the most miraculous manner during his great sufferings; but God worked these prodigies not to deprive Vincent of his crown, but to show his own power. The holy deacon had but one thought in the midst of all his pains; he was ambitious to make a return, by the gift of his own life, for that sacrifice whereby his divine Master had died for him and for all men. And now, is it not right and just that so generous a lover of God should be found beside the Crib? How he urges us, every Christmas, to love this Divine Infant! He that hesitated not, when called on to give himself to his Lord, even though it was to cost him such cruel pains—what cowards would he not call us, who can come so many Christmases to Bethlehem, and have nothing to give but cold and divided hearts! His sacrifice was to be burnt alive and tom and cut, and he smiled as he offered it: what are we to say of ourselves, who take years to think before we will give up those childish things which prevent us from ever seriously beginning a new life with our new-born Jesus! Would that the sight of all these Martyrs, in whose company the Church has made us live during these few last days, would touch our hearts, and make them resolute and simple!

There is an ancient Christian tradition, which makes St Vincent the patron of vineyards and labourers in vineyards. This was, no doubt, suggested by the Saint's having held the office of deacon; for the deacon has to pour wine into the chalice during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and that wine is to be changed into the Blood of Christ. A few days ago, we assisted at the mystery of the Feast at Cana; Jesus then offered us the sacred cup, the wine of his love: today, again, he offers it to us by the hand of his Martyr Vincent. To make himself worthy of his high office, the holy deacon mingled his own blood, as a generous wine, in the cup that holds the price of the world's salvation. It is thus that we are to understand that expression of St Paul, which says that the Saints fill up in the flesh, by the merit of their sufferings, those things that are wanting, not in their efficacy, but in their fulness, of the sufferings of Christ,[1] whose members the Saints are.

We will now give the abridged account of the martyrdom of St Vincent, as it is related in the Lessons of his Feast.

Vincentius, Oscæ in Hispania citeriore natus, a prima setate studiis deditus, sacras litteras a Valerio Cæsaraugustano Episcopo didicit: cujus etiam partes suscepit prædicandi Evangelium, quod Episcopus, propter linguæ impedimentum, prædicationis officio fungi non poterat. Ea re ad Dacianum, provinciæ a Diocletiano et Maximiano præpositum, delata, Vincentius Cæsaraugustæ comprehenditur, et vinctus ad Dacianum Valentiam adducitur. Ubi verberibus et equuleo tortus, multis præsentibus, cum nulla aut tormentorum vi, aut acerbitate vel lenitate verborum a proposito deterreri posset; in craticula impositus, prunis ardentibus suppositus, ac ferreis unguibus excarnificatus, candentibusque laminis exustus, iterum ducitur in carcerem stratum testaceis fragmentis, ut ejus nudum corpus, somno oppressum, a subjectis etiam testarum aculeis torqueretur.

Veruni illo in tenebricosa incluso custodia, clarissimus splendor obortus totum carcerem illustravit: quæ lux cum summa admiratione omnes, qui aderant, affecisset, res a custode carceris ad Dacianum defertur. Qui eductum in molli culcitra collocat: et quem cruciatibus in suam sententiam trahere non poterat, deliciis perducerc conatur. Sed invictus Vincentii animus Jesu Christi fide speque munitus, vicit omnia: et ignis, ferri, tortorum immanitate superata, victor ad cœlestem martyrii coronam advolavit undecimo kalendas Februarii. Cujus corpus, cum projectum esset inhumatum; corvus et a volucribus et a lupo, unguibus, rostro, alis mirabiliter defendit. Qua re cognita, Dacianus iliud in altum mare demergi jubet: sed inde etiam divinitus ejectum ad littus, Christiani sepeliunt.
Vincent was born at Huesca, a town of northern Spain, and when quite a child applied himself to study. He was taught the sacred sciences by Valerius, the Bishop of Saragossa. This prelate intrusted him with the duty of preaching the Gospel, because he was not able to discharge that office himself, by reason of an impediment in his speech. This having reached the ears of Dacian, who had been made governor of that province by Diocletian and Maximian, Vincent was apprehended at Saragossa, and was led in chains to Valencia, before the judgement-seat of Dacian. There he was tortured by lashes and the rack, in the presence of many people; but neither the violence of the torments, nor the harsh nor bland speeches addressed to him, could induce him to swerve from his resolution. He was therefore laid on a gridiron, which was set upon burning coals; his flesh was torn off with iron hooks, and red-hot plates were laid over him. After this he was led back to prison, the floor of which had been strewed with broken potsherds, in order that when he lay down to sleep, his body might be tortured by their sharp edges.

But whilst he was shut up in this dark prison, a most bright light penetrated the place. They who were present were astonished beyond measure, and the gaoler informed Dacian of what had occurred. Vincent was then ordered to be taken out of prison, and put on a soft bed; for the governor thought by such comforts as this to gain over him whom he had failed to seduce by tortures. But Vincent's invincible spirit, strengthened by his faith and hope in Christ Jesus, overcame all their efforts; and after triumphing over fire and sword, and all his tortures, took his flight to heaven, there to receive the crown of martyrdom, on the eleventh of the Kalends of February (January 22). His body was thrown in a marsh, and denied burial; but a crow miraculously defended it by its claws, beak, and wings, against birds of prey and a wolf. Dacian, hearing this, ordered it to be thrown into a deep part of the sea: but by a fresh prodigy it was washed to the shore, and the Christians gave it burial.

The Gothic Church of Spain, in her Mozarabic Liturgy, is magnificent in her praises of St Vincent. The first and second of the following prayers are taken from the Breviary, the third is from the Missal of that Rite.

Prayer

Deus qui multis passionum generibus mirifice Vincentium coronasti,liberans ilium ab omni exitio tormentorum, ut vestigia ejus, quæ luto non inhæserant vitiorum, mirifice calcarent omne crudelitatis supplicium: ne aquarum absorberetur profundo, qui mente sæculum calcans, jam hæres esset proximus cœlo: præbe nobis precibus tanti Martyris, nec luto vitiorum attingi, nec profunda desperationis voragine operiri, sed candida conscientiæ libertate decori tibi præsentemur in die judicii. Amen.
O God, who didst wonderfully, with manifold sufferings, crown thy servant Vincent, and didst deliver him from the effects of his torments, to the end that he might gloriously trample upon each cruel punishment with those feet of his, that had never trod in the mire of vice; who didst, moreover, save him from the deep waters, to the end that he whose spirit had despised the world might be near to his heritage in heaven: grant unto us, by the prayers of this so great a Martyr, that we may never be defiled by the mire of sin, nor be plunged in the deep pool of despair, but may be presented to thee on the day of judgement beautified with a spotless freedom of conscience. Amen.

Prayer

Benedicimus te, omnipotens Deus, qui beatissimum Vincentium Martyrem tuum, sicut quondam tres pueros, ab ignis incendio liberasti:cum ejus utique membris adhibita flamma, etsi esset quæ exureret, non tamen esset quæ vinceret; ejus ergo precibus rorem misericordiæ tuæ nostris infunde visceribus, ut madefacto igne carnalis incendii, flamma in nobis tepescat peccati; quæ etsi a nobis naturaliter non desistat, quæsumus, ne fragilitatem nostram materialiter succensam comburat; sed ita gratia naturæ subveniat, ut quod origine caremus, munere restinguere valeamus. Amen.
We bless thee, O Almighty God, for that thou didst deliver thy most blessed Martyr Vincent, as heretofore the three children, from the flames of fire; for when his body was laid on the fire, it burned, but could not conquer him. Hear his prayer for us, and pour into our innermost spirit the dew of thy mercy, that so, the fire of our carnal passions being slaked, the flame of sin that is within us may smoulder, and though by nature it cease not to molest us, permit not, we beseech thee, that our weakness, while passing through the fire, should ever be burnt; but grant that grace may in such manner assist nature, as that we may be able to quench by thy gift what originated without us. Amen.

Prayer

Christe, cujus magnitudo potentiæ Vincentii Martyris tui corpus, quod vesano Daciani furore fuerat marinis projectum in fluctibus, undis advehentibus honorandum revocabit littoribus: tu nos, eodem Martyre suffragante, a procelloso istius sæculi profundo, manu pietatis in supernis attolle: ut qui, inimico impellente, in mare, excrescentibus delictis, cecidimus, et per caritatem, quæ est coopertio peccatorum, ad portum salutis quandoque perveniamus, lætaturi cum omnibus invicem quos dilectio tua jungit in hac præsenti Martyris tui solemnitate. Amen.
O Jesus! by whose great power the body of thy Martyr Vincent, which the mad fury of Dacian had cast into the sea, was borne to the shore on the bosom of the waves, that it might receive honour from man: do thou, by this thy Martyr’s praying for us, stretch out thy hand of pity, and raise us from the stormy sea of this world to the heavenly country above; that thus we, who were driven by the impulse of the enemy to burden ourselves with guilt and so fall into the gulf, may at length, by charity, which covereth sin, arrive at the port of salvation, and rejoice in the company of all these who out of love for thee are assembled on this Feast of thy Martyr. Amen.

We regret being obliged to content ourselves with a few stanzas of the magnificent hymn composed by Prudentius in honour of St Vincent. The Ambrosian Breviary has selected several verses of this long poem for one of its hymns; and these we offer to our readers.

Hymn

Beate Martyr, prospera
Diem triumphalem tuum:
Quo sanguinis merces tibi
Corona Vincenti datur.

Hic te ex tenebris sæculi,
Tortore victo et judice,
Evexit ad cœlum dies,
Christoque ovantem reddidit.

Nunc Angelorum particeps,
Collucis insigni stola,
Quam testis indomabilis
Rivis cruoris laveras.

Levita de tribu sacra,
Minister altails Dei,
Septem ex columnis lacteis.
Martyr triumpho nobili.

Tu solus, o bis inclyte,
Solus bravii duplicis
Palmas tulisti: tu duas
Simul parasti laureas.

In morte victor aspera,
Dum deinde post mortem pari
Victor triumpho proteris
Solo latronem corpore.

Per vincla, flammas, ungulas,
Per carceralem stipitem,
Per fragmen illud testeum
Quo parta crevit gloria;

Adesto nunc et percipe
Voces precantum supplices,
Nostri reatus efficax
Orator ad thronum Dei.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Ejusque soli Filio,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
Nunc et per omne sæculum.

Amen.
O blessed Martyr! bless this day of thy feast,
whereon the crown is given to thee,
the Conqueror; and thou didst
purchase it by thy blood.

This is the day which took thee from this dark world to heaven,
and restored thee in triumph to Christ,
for thou hadst conquered
thy torturer and thy judge.

Fellow now of the Angels,
thou shinest in thy bright stole,
which thou didst wash in the stream of thy blood,
for thou wast the invincible witness of Christ.

Thou wast a levite of the holy tribe,
a Minister of God’s altar,
which is surrounded by its seven snow-white pillars;
and by thy noble triumph, thou art a Martyr of Christ.

Thou alone, O doubly noble
didst bear away the palms of a double victory,
and wreathe two laurels
for thy brow.

Conqueror, once, in the hard death thou didst endure;
and then, after death,
thou wast conqueror over the tyrant-thief,
and with thy body alone didst gloriously defeat him.

Oh! by thy chains and fires and hooks;
by thy prisonchains;
by the potsherds,
strewed to enhance thy glory,

Assist us now, and hear
the humble prayers of thy suppliants,
and make intercession for us sinners
at the throne of God.

To God the Father,
and to his Only Son,
and to the Holy Paraclete,
be glory now and for all ages.

Amen.

Adam of Saint-Victor composed two Sequences in honour of the great Deacon of Saragossa. We consider it a duty to insert them both, for they are very beautiful.

First Sequence

Ecce dies præoptata,
Dies felix, dies grata,
Dies digna gaudio.

Nos hanc diem veneremur,
Et pugnantem admiremur
Christum in Vincentio.

Ortu, fide, sanctitate,
Sensu, verbo, dignitate,
Clarus et officio.

Hic arcem Diaconi,
Sub patris Valerii
Regebat imperio.

Linguæ præsul impeditæ
Deo vacat: et Levitæ
Verbi dat officium.

Cujus linguam sermo rectus,
Duplex quoque, simplex pectus
Exornat seientia.

Dumque fidem docet sanam
Plebem Cæsaraugustanam,
Comitante gratia,

Sævit in Ecclesiam
Zelans idolatriam
Præsidis invidia.

Post auditam fidei constantiam,
Jubet ambos pertrahi Valentiam
Sub catenis.

Nec juveni parcitur egregio,
Nec ætas attenditur ab impio
Sancti senis.

Fessos ex itinere,
Pressos ferri pondere
Tetro claudit carcere,
Negans victualia.

Sic pro posse nocuit,
Nec pro voto potuit,
Quia suos aluit
Christi providentia.

Seniorem relegat exilio:
Juniorem reservat supplicio
Præses acerbiori.

Equuleum perpessus et ungulam
Vincentius, conscendit craticulam
Spiritu fortiori.

Dum torretur, non terretur;
Christum magis confitetur,
Nec tyrannum reveretur,
In ejus præsentia.

Ardet vultus inhumanus:
Hæret lingua, tremit manus:
Nec se capit Dacianus
Præ cordis insania.

Inde specu Martyr retruditur,
Et testulis fixus illiditur;
Multa tamen hic luce fruitur.
Ab Angelis visitatus.

In lectulo tandem repositus,
Ad superos transit emeritus,
Sicque suo triumphans spiritus
Est Principi præsentatus.

Non communi sinit jure
Virum tradi sepulturæ:
Legi simul et naturæ
Vim facit malitia.

In defunctum judex sævit:
Hinc defuncto laus accrescit:
Nam quo vesci consuevit
Reformidat bestia.

En cadaver inhumatum
Corvus servat illibatum:
Sicque sua sceleratum
Frustratur intentio.

At profanus Dacianus
Quod consumi nequit humi,
Vult abscondi sub profundi
Gurgitis silentio.

Nec tenetur a molari,
Nec celari potest mari:
Quem nunc laude singulari
Venerari voto pari
Satagit Ecclesia.

Ustulatum corpus igne,
Terra, mari fit insigne.
Nobis, Jesu. da benigne.
Ut cum Sanctis te condigne
Laudemus in patria.

Amen.
Lo! the wished-for day is come!
The happy, dear
and joyous day!

Let us honour this day,
and admire in Vincent
the combats of Christ.

Vincent was great by birth and faith
and piety and wisdom, and preaching
and dignity and office.

He held the position of deacon,
under the command
of his father, Valerius.

The Bishop could not speak,
so served his God in quiet,
and gives to the Levite the office of the word.

On his lips was the word of truth;
and in his simple soul the
gracefulness of a twofold science;

For whilst, by the help of grace,
he instructs the people
of Saragossa in the faith,

There rages against the Church
the envious tyranny of the governor,
an idolatrous zealot.

He had heard of Valerius and his deacon,
and how boldly they taught the faith;
he orders both to be put in chains, and led to Valentia.

To such a wretch as he,
what was the flower of Vincent's age,
or the grey locks of the saintly Bishop?

Worn out by the journey,
and galled by their iron chains,
he confines them in a dark dungeon,
denying them food and drink.

He does all he can,
though not all he would, to give his captives pain;
they are dear to Christ,
and he provides them food.

The governor sends the venerable Bishop into exile,
keeping the young deacon
for a sharper test.

And first he is put on the rack;
then torn with hooks; and then, with a braver heart,
he mounts the iron bed.

His flesh is grilled, but his heart is staunch:
louder than ever he confesses Christ:
and heeds not the tyrant,
who stands looking on.

The monster’s eyes flash with fire;
his tongue is dumb, his hand is palsied,
and himself wild
with a maddened heart.

He bids them throw the Martyr into a prison,
strewed with sharp potsherds, which will cut him as he stands or sleeps;
but here he enjoys a bright light,
and is visited by Angels.

At last he is laid upon a bed;
his victorious and triumphant soul
thus takes its flight to heaven,
and is presented to its Lord.

The wicked tyrant refuses
to the Martyr’s body
the common right of burial,
thus trampling on both law and nature.

He wreaks his anger on the dead,
but only to increase the Martyr’s praise;
and beasts of prey approach,
but fear to touch the holy corpse.

For lo! a crow
protects the unburied saint;
and thus is foiled
the wicked tyrant’s scheme.

Then Dacian, finding that he cannot,
destroy the holy remains on land,
has them thrown into
the silent grave of the deep sea.

But neither does the huge stone weigh them down,
nor will the sea retain them.
And now the Church studies how to honour Vincent
with special praise, and the faithful,
with one accord, join her in her hymns.

This body, which was scorched by fire,
is honoured both on sea and land.
O Jesus! mercifully grant
that together with thy Saints we too
may worthily praise thee in our heavenly home.

Amen.

 


Second Sequence

Triumphalis lux illuxit,
Lux preclara, quæ reduxit Levitæ solemnium;
Omnes ergo jocundemur,
Et Vincentem veneremur in Christo Vincentium.

Qui Vincentis habet nomen
Ex re probat dignum omen sui fore nominis:
Vincens terra, Vincens mari,
Quidquid potest irrogali pœnæ vel formidinis.

Hic effulget ad bis tincti
Cocci instar et jacinthi,
Cujus lumbi sunt præcincti
Duplici munditia.

Hic retortam byssum gerens
Purpuræque palmam quærens,
Stat invictus, dira ferens
Pro Christo supplicia.

Hic hostia medullata,
Vervex pelle rubricata tegens tabernaculum;
Pio serit in mærore,
Et vitalem ex sudore reportat manipulum.

Ad cruenta Daciani
Dei servus inhumani rapitur prætoria.
Præses sanctum prece tentat,
Nunc exterret, nunc præsentat mundana fastigia.

Miles spernens mundi fiorem,
Dona, preces et terrorem elatæ tyrannidis,
Equuleo admovetur:
Quem plus torquet, plus torquetur spretus tumor præsidis.

Flamma vigens, ardens, lectus,
Lictor cædens, sal injectus in nudata viscera,
Simul torrent, simul angunt,
Nec athletam lætum frangunt tot pœnarum genera.

Antro clausum testa pungit,
Membra scindit et disjungit;
Sed confortat et perungit cœlestis jocunditas:
Illic onus in honorem,
Cæcus carcer in splendorem,
Florum transit in dulcorem testarum asperitas.

Collocatur molli thoro,
Sursum spirat, et canoro
Angelorum septus choro cœlo reddit spiritum:
Feris dato custos datur,
Mari mersus non celatur,
Sed hunc digne veneratur mundus sibi redditum.

Claruerunt ita dignis
Elementa cuncta signis,
Aqua, tellus, ær, ignis, in ejus victoria;
Summe testis veritatis,
Ora Christum, ut peccatis
Nos emundet, et mundatis vera præstet gaudia;
Ut cantemus, claritatis Cohæredes: Alleluia!
The day of triumph has dawned,
the honoured day that brings us the deacon's feast.
Therefore let us all be glad
and venerate our Vincent victorious in Christ.

He is called Vincent,
and he proves that his name was prophetic of his deeds:
vanquishing on land and vanquishing on sea
every insult, pain and fear.

He is clad as with a twice-dyed crimson robe;
he shines as the hyacinth.
His loins are girt with purity
twice pure.

He wears the Deacon's linen stole,
and he seeks the Martyr's palm,
bearing for Christ, and with unflinching heart,
the pangs of cruel torture.

He is the rich victim,
and the lamb whose fleece is dyed with scarlet to cover the tabernacle.
He sows in holy tears,
and reaps the sheaf of life, earned by the sweat of his blood.

The servant of God is hurried
to the blood-stained court of the cruel Dacian,
who tempts the Saint first by entreaty,
then by threat, and then by offers of worldly pomps.

The soldier of Christ spurns the proposal of the haughty tyrant;
the flower of the world, his gifts, his gentle words, and his threats.
For this, the rack.
But while he tortures more, the more tortured is the tyrant by his slighted pride.

The crackling flame, the fiery bed,
the cutting whips, the salt rubbed deep within his gaping wounds,
burn indeed, and torture,
but conquer not the laughing combatant of Christ,

The sharp potsherds of his prison-floor
cut and tear his flesh;
but joy, imparting ease and unction, is sent to him by God.
His chains become his ornament,
his gloomy prison a glittering hall,
and the cruel potsherds soft sweet flowers.

He is laid on a soft couch;
panting to ascend, and surrounded
by a tuneful choir of Angels, his spirit soars to heaven.
His body is thrown to beasts of prey;
a faithful guard protects. It is cast into the sea;
the waves convey it to the shore.

Welcomed by mankind,
he receives the loving veneration of a world.
Thus did the elements, sea and earth and air and fire, celebrate his victory.
O admirable witness of the truth!
pray for us to Christ, that he cleanse us
from our sins, and bring us purified to the heavenly joys,
to sing with thee, companions in thy bliss, our ceaseless Alleluia.

Hail, Victorious Deacon! How beautiful art thou, with the Chalice of salvation in thy brave hands! It was thine office to offer it at the Altar, in order that the wine it contained might be changed by the sacred words into the Blood of Christ; and, when the Mystery was accomplished, thou hadst to take this same Chalice, and present it to the Faithful, to the end that they who thirsted after their God might drink at the source of eternal life. But on this day thou offerest it thyself to Jesus, and it is full to the brim with thine own blood. Oh! how faithful a Deacon! giving even thy very life in testimony to the Mysteries of which thou wast the dispenser. Three centuries had elapsed since Stephen's sacrifice; sixty years had gone by since the sweet incense of Laurence's martyrdom had ascended to the throne of God; and now it is the last persecution; peace is dawning on the Church; and a third Deacon comes to prove that time had not impaired the Order—it was the Deacon of Saragossa—thyself, dear Saint!

Bright is thy name in the list of Martyrs, O Vincent! and the Church is proud of thy triumph. It was for the Church, after Jesus, that thou didst combat: have pity on us therefore, and signalize this day of thy Feast by showing us the effects of thy protection. Thou art face to face with the King of Ages, whose battle thou didst fight on earth, and thou gazest, with a loving yet dazzled eye, on his eternal beauty. We also, we who are in this valley of tears, possess him and see him, for he calls himself our Emmanuel, God with us. But it is under the form of a weak Babe that he shows himself, for he fears to overpower us with the splendour of his majesty. Pray for us, O holy Martyr Vincent! for at times we tremble at the thought that this sweet Jesus is one day to be our Judge. When we reflect on what thou didst suffer for him, we have scarcely courage to think upon ourselves, for what good works can we show, or who can say of us that we were ever warm in defending the cause of our Divine Master? Oh! that thy Feast might shame us into the earnest, uncalculating simplicity which this sweet Babe of Bethlehem is come to teach us—the simplicity which springs from humility and confidence in God, and which made thee go through all thy martyrdom with such a brave and calm spirit! Pray for us, that we may at length obey God who teaches us by his own example, and accomplish his will, whatever that may ask of us, with the calm cheerfulness of devoted service.

Pray, Vincent, for all Christians, for all are called to fight against the world and their own passions. Jesus will admit none but conquerors to the banquet of eternal glory, where he has promised to drink with us the new wine, in the Kingdom of his Father.[2] The wedding garment, which all must have on who enter there, must be washed in the blood of the Lamb: we must all be Martyrs, at least in heart, for we have all to triumph over self, and self is the harshest of tyrants.

Fly to the assistance of the Martyrs who, in distant countries, are dying for the true Faith; obtain for them such courage, that they may be the Vincents of our age. Protect Spain, thy country. Beseech our Emmanuel to send her heroes of thy stamp; that so, the Catholic Kingdom, which has ever been so jealous of purity of Faith, may speedily triumph over the trials which are heavy upon her. Shall the illustrious Church of Saragossa—founded by St James the Apostle, visited by the Blessed Mother of God, and sanctified by the ministry of thy deaconship—shall such a country as this ever grow indifferent about Faith, or suffer the bond of unity to be broken? And since the devotion of the Christian people looks upon thee as the protector of the vine, bless this fruit of the earth, which God has destined for man's use, and which he has deigned to make both the instrument of the deepest of his Mysteries, and the symbol of his love of mankind.

Saint Anastasius, Martyr

On this same 22nd of January, the Church honours the memory of the holy Persian monk Anastasius, who suffered Martyrdom in the year 628. Chosroes, having made himself master of Jerusalem, had carried with him into Persia the wood of the True Cross, which was afterwards recovered by Heraclius. The sight of this Holy Wood excited in the heart of Anastasius, who was then a Pagan, the desire to know the religion of which it is the trophy. He renounced the Persian superstitions in order to become a Christian, and a monk. This, together with the neophyte's zeal, excited the Pagans against him; and after enduring frightful tortures, the soldier of Christ was beheaded. His body was taken to Constantinople, and thence to Rome, where it is still honoured. Two celebrated Churches of Rome, one in the City itself, and the other outside the walls, are dedicated in common to St Vincent and St.Anastasius, because these two great Martyrs suffered on the same day of the year, though in different centuries. This is the motive of the Church in uniting their two feasts into one. Let us pray to this new champion of the Faith, that he intercede for us to the Saviour, whose Cross was so dear to him.

We add the short lesson of St Anastasius. It occurs immediately after those of St Vincent.

Anastasius, Persa, monachus, Heraclio imperatore, cum sanctam Jerosolymorum terram visitasset, ad Cæsaream Palæstinæ pro Christi religione vincula et verbera constanter perpessus est. Mox a Persis ob eamdem causam variis cruciatibus affectus, a rege Chosroa, una cum Septuaginta aliis Christianis, securi percutitur. Cujus reliquiæ primum Jerosolymam, ad monasterium, in quo monasticam vitam professus erat, deinde Romam delatæ, collocatæ sunt in monasterio ad Aquas Salvias.
Anastasius, a Persian by birth, had embraced the monastic life during the reign of Heraclius. After visiting the Holy Places in Jerusalem, he courageously endured at Cæsarea in Palestine both imprisonment and scourgings for the faith of Christ. Not long after, the Persians put him to several kinds of torture for the same reason. King Chosroes at last ordered him to be beheaded, together with seventy other Christians. His relics were at first carried to Jerusalem, to the Monastery where he had professed the monastic life; afterwards they were translated to Rome, and were deposited in the monastery near the Salvian Waters.

Let us now address ourselves to both these holy Martyrs, using the prayer of their feast.

Ant. Istorum est enim regnum cœlorum, qui contempserunt vitam mundi, et pervenerunt ad præmia regni, et laverunt stolas suas in sanguine Agni.

℣. Lætamini in Domino, et exsultate justi.
℟. Et gloriamini omnes recti corde.

Oremus

Adesto, Domine, supplicationibus nostris, ut qui ex iniquitate nostra reos nos esse cognoscimus, beatorum Martyrum tuorum Vincentii et Anastasii intercessione liberemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Ant. For of such is the kingdom of heaven; they despised the life of the world, and attained to the rewards of the kingdom, and washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb.

. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just.
℟. And glory, all ye right of heart.

LET US PRAY

Hear, O Lord, our earnest prayers, that we who are sensible of the guilt of our crimes may be delivered therefrom by the prayers of thy blessed Martyrs Vincent and Anastasius. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 


 

[1] Col. i 24.
[2] St Matt. xxvi 29.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE glorious choir of martyrs, that stands round our Emmanuel till the day of his Presentation in the Temple, opens its ranks from time to time to give admission to the confessors, whom divine Providence has willed should grace the cycle during this sacred season. The martyrs surpass all the other saints in number; but still, the confessors are well represented. After Hilary, Paul, Maurus, and Antony, comes Raymund of Pennafort, one of the glories of the Order of St Dominic and of the Church, in the thirteenth century.

According to the saying of the Prophets, the Messias is come to be our Lawgiver; nay, he is himself our law. His words are to be the rule of mankind; he will leave with his Church the power of legislation, to the end that she may guide men in holiness and justice, in all ages. As it is his Truth that presides over the teaching of the Faith, so is it his Wisdom that regulates canonical discipline. But the Church, in the compilation and arrangement of her laws, engages the services of men, whom she judges to be the most competent for the work, by their knowledge of Canon Law and the holiness of their lives.

St Raymund has the honour of having been intrusted to draw up the Church's Code of Canon Law. It was he who, in the year 1234, compiled, by order of Pope Gregory the Ninth, the five Books of the Decretals; and his name will ever be associated with this great work which forms the basis of the actual discipline of the Church.

Raymund was a faithful disciple of that God who came down from heaven to save sinners by calling them to receive pardon. He has merited the beautiful title, conferred on him by the Church, of excellent Minister of the Sacrament of Penance. He was the first who collected together into one body of doctrine the maxims of Christian morality, which regulate the duties of the confessor with regard to the faithful who confess their sins to him. The Sum of Penitential Cases opened the series of those important treatises in which learned and holy men have carefully considered the claims of law and the obligations of man, in order to instruct the Priest how to pass judgement, as the Scripture says, between leprosy and leprosy.[1]

In fine, when the glorious Mother of God, who is also the Mother of men, raised up for the redemption of captives the generous Peter Nolasco—whom we shall meet, a few days hence, at the Crib of our Redeemer—Raymund was an important instrument in this great work of mercy; and it is with good reason that the Order of Mercy looks upon him as one of its Founders, and that so many thousand captives, who were ransomed by the Religious of that Order from the captivity of the Moors, have honoured him as one of the principal authors of their liberty.

Let us now read the account of the actions of this holy man, whose life was indeed a full one, and rich in merit. The Lessons of his Feast thus abridge his history.

Beatus Raymundus Barcinonensis, ex nobili familia de Pennafort, christianæ religionis rudimentis imbutus, adhuc parvulus, eximia animi et corporis indole magnum aliquid portendere visus est. Nam adolescens humaniores litteras in patria professus, Bononiam se contulit, ubi pietatis officiis, ac Pontificio civilique juri sedulo incumbens, et Doctoris laurea insignitus, ibidem sacros canones magna cum hominum admiratione est interpretatus. Ejus virtutum fama percrebrescente, Berengarius Barcinonensis Episcopus, cum Roma suam ad Ecclesiam rediret, eum conveniendi causa Bononiam iter instituit, et tandem summis precibus, ut secum in patriam reverteretur, obtinuit. Mox ejusdem Ecclesiæ Canonicatu et Præpositura ornatus, universo clero et populo, integritate, modestia, doctrina et morum suavitate præfulsit, ac Deiparæ Virginis, quam singulari pietatis affectu venerabatur, honorem et cultum semper pro viribus auxit.

Annum circiter quintum supra quadragesimum agens, in Ordine Fratrum Prædicatorum solemni emissa professione, ut novus miles, in omni virtutum genere, sed præcipue in caritate erga egenos, et maxime captivos ab infidelibus detentos se exercuit. Unde cum ejus hortatu sanctus Petrus Nolascus (cujus ipse confessiones audiebat) suas opes piissimo huic operi conferret, tum eidem, tum beato Raymundo et Jacobo Primo Aragoniæ Regi apparens beatissima Virgo, gratissimum sibi et unigenito Filio suo fore dixit, si in suum honorem institueretur Ordo Religiosorum, quibus captivos ex infidelium tyrannide liberandi cura incumberet. Quare collatis inter se consiliis, Ordinem beatæ Mariæ de Mercede Redemptionis captivorum fundaverunt: cui beatus Raymundus certas vivendi leges præscripsit ad ejusdem Ordinis vocationem accommodatissimas: quarum approbationem aliquot post annos a Gregorio Nono impetravit, et dictum sanctum Petrum primum Generalem Ordinis Magistrum suis ipse manibus habitu eodem indutum creavit.

Ab eodem Gregorio Romam accersitus, et Capellam ac Pœnitentiarii et Confessarii sui munere decoratus, ejusdem jussu, Romanorum Pontificum Decreta, in diversis Conciliis et Epistolis sparsa, in unum Decretalium volumen redegit. Archiepiscopatum Tarraconensem ab ipso Pontifice sibi oblatum constantissime recusavit: et totius Ordinis Prædicatorum generale Magisterium, quod per biennium sanctissime administraverat, sponte dimisit. Jacobo Aragoniæ Regi sacræ Inquisitionis Officii suis in regnis instituendi auctor fuit. Multa patravit miracula: inter quæ illud clarissimum, quod ex insula Baleari Majori Barcinonem reversurus, strato super aquas pallio, centum sexaginta milliaria sex horis confecerit, et suum coenobium januis clausis fuerit ingressus. Tandem prope centenarius, virtutibus et meritis cumulatus, obdormivit in Domino, anno salutis millesimo ducentesimo septuagesimo quinto, quem Clemens Octavus in Sanctorum numerum retulit.
The blessed Raymund was born at Barcelona, of the noble family of Pennafort. Having been imbued with the rudiments of the Christian faith, the admirable gifts he had received, both of mind and body, were such that even when quite a boy he seemed to promise great things in his after life. Whilst still young, he taught humanities in Barcelona. Later on, he went to Bologna, where he applied himself with much diligence to the exercises of a virtuous life, and to the study of canon and civil law. He there received the Doctor's cap, and interpreted the sacred canons so ably that he was the admiration of his hearers. The holiness of his life becoming known far and wide, Berengarius, the Bishop of Barcelona, when returning to his diocese from Rome, visited Bologna in order to see him; and after most earnest entreaties, induced Raymund to accompany him to Barcelona. He was shortly after made Canon and Provost of that Church, and became a model to the clergy and people by his uprightness, modesty, learning and meekness. His tender devotion to the Holy Mother of God was extraordinary, and he never neglected an opportunity of zealously promoting the devotion and honour which are due to her.

When he was about forty-five years of age, he made his solemn profession in the Order of the Friars Preachers. He then, as a soldier but just entered into service, devoted himself to the exercise of every virtue, but above all to charity to the poor, and this mainly to the captives who had been taken by the infidels. It was by his exhortation that St Peter Nolasco (who was his penitent) was induced to devote all his riches to this work of most meritorious charity. The Blessed Virgin appeared to Peter, as also to blessed Raymund and to James the First, King of Aragon, telling them that it would be exceedingly pleasing to herself and her divine Child, if an Order of Religious men were instituted whose mission it should be to deliver captives from the tyranny of infidels. Whereupon, after deliberating together, they founded the Order of our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Captives; and blessed Raymund drew up certain rules of life, which were admirably adapted to the spirit and vocation of the said Order. Some years after, he obtained their approbation from Gregory the Ninth, and made St Peter Nolasco, to whom he gave the habit with his own hands, first General of the Order.

Raymund was called to Rome by the same Pope, who appointed him to be his Chaplain, Penitentiary, and Confessor. It was by Gregory’s order that he collected together, in the volume called the Decretals, the Decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, which were to be found separately in the various Councils and Letters. He was most resolute in refusing the Archbishopric of Tarragona, which the same Pontiff offered to him, and, of his own accord resigned the Generalship of the Dominican Order, which office he had discharged in a most holy manner for the space of two years. He persuaded James the King of Aragon to establish in his dominions the Holy Office of the Inquisition. He worked many miracles; among which is that most celebrated one of his having, when returning to Barcelona from the island of Majorca, spread his cloak upon the sea, and sailed upon it, in the space of six hours, the distance of a hundred and sixty miles, and having reached his convent, entered it through the closed doors. At length, when he had almost reached the hundredth year of his age, and was full of virtue and merit, he slept in the Lord, in the year of the Incarnation 1275. He was canonized by Pope Clement the Eighth.

We take the following Hymn from the Dominican Breviary.

Hymn

Grande Raymundi celebrate nomen,
Præsules, Reges, populique terræ:
Cujus æternæ fuit universis Cura salutis.

Quidquid est alta pietate mirum
Exhibet purus, niveusque morum:
Omne virtutum rutilare cernis lumen in illo.

Sparsa Summorum monumenta
Patrum Colligit mira studiosus arte:
Quæque sunt prisci sacra digna cedro dogmata juris.

Doctus infidum solidare pontum.
Currit invectus stadio patenti:
Veste componens, baculoque cymbam, æquora calcat.

Da, Deus, nobis sine labe mores.
Da vitæ tutum sine clade cursum:
Da perennalis sine fine vitæ Tangere portum.

Amen.
Prelates, Kings, and people of the earth!
celebrate the glorious name of Raymund,
to whom the salvation of all mankind was an object of loving care.

His pure and spotless life
reflected all the marvels of the mystic life;
and the light of every virtue shines brightly forth in him.

With admirable study and research,
he collects together the scattered Decrees of the Sovereign Pontiffs,
and all the sacred maxims of the ancient Canons, so worthy to be handed down to all ages.

He bids the treacherous sea be firm, and on her open waters carry him to land;
he spreads his mantle, and his staff the mast,
he rides upon the waves.

Grant us, O Lord, to traverse through the sea of life
with innocence and safety,
and reach at length the port of life eternal.

Amen.

Faithful dispenser of the Mystery of reconciliation! It was from the Heart of an Incarnate God that thou didst draw the sweet charity which made thee the friend of the sinner. Thou didst love thy fellow-men, and didst labour to supply all their wants, whether of soul or body. Enlightened by the rays of the Sun of Justice, thou hast taught us how to discern between good and evil by giving us those rules whereby our wounds are judged and healed. Rome was the admirer of thy knowledge of her laws, and it is one of her glories that she received from thy hand the sacred Code whereby she governs the Churches of the world.

Excite in our hearts, O Raymund! that sincere compunction which is the condition required of us when we seek our pardon in the Sacrament of Penance. Make us understand both the grievousness of mortal sin, which separates us from our God for all eternity, and the dangers of venial sin, which disposes the tepid soul to fall into mortal sin. Pray, that there may abound in the Church men Med with charity and learning, who may exercise that sublime ministry of healing souls. Preserve them from the two extremes of rigorism, which drives to despair, and of laxity which flatters into sloth. Revive amongst them the study of the holy Canons, which can alone keep disorder and anarchy from the fold of Christ. Oh! thou that hadst such tender love for captives, console all that are pining now in exile or in prison; pray for their deliverance; and pray that we all may be set loose from the ties of sin, which but too often make them slaves in their souls who boast of their outward liberty.

Thou wast the confidant of the Heart of Mary, the Queen of Mercy, and she made thee share with her in the work of the Redemption of Captives. Pray for us to this incomparable Mother of God, that we may have the grace to love the Divine Child she holds in her arms. May she be induced, by thy prayers, to be our Star on the Sea of this world, more stormy by far than that which thou didst pass, when sailing on thy miraculous bark.

Remember, too, thy dear Spain, where thou didst pass thy saintly life. Her Church is in mourning, because she has lost the Religious Orders which made her so grand and so strong: pray that they may be speedily restored to her, and assist her as of old. Protect the Dominican Order, of whose Habit and Rule thou wast so bright an ornament. Thou didst govern it with great prudence whilst on earth; now that thou art in heaven, be a father to it by thy love. May it repair its losses. May it once more flourish in the universal Church, and produce, as in former days, those fruits of holiness and learning which made it one of the chief glories of the Church of God.


[1] Deut. xvii 8.

 

 

Commemoration of Saint Emerentiana

Three days have scarcely passed since the martyrdom of St Agnes, when the Liturgy, so jealous of every tradition, invites us to visit the Martyr's tomb. There we shall find a young Virgin named Emerentiana; she was the friend and foster-sister of our dear little heroine, and has come to pray and weep at the spot where lies her loved one, so soon and so cruelly taken from her. Emerentiana has not yet been regenerated in the waters of Baptism; she is going through the exercises of a Catechumen; but her heart already belongs, by faith and desire, to Jesus.

Whilst the young girl is pouring forth her grief over the tomb of her much loved Agnes, she is surprised by the approach of some pagans; they ridicule her tears, and bid her pay no more of this sort of honour to one who was their victim. Upon this, the child, longing as she was to be with Christ, and to be clasped in the embraces of her sweet Agnes, was fired with holy courage—as well she might near such a Martyr's tomb—and turning to the barbarians, she confesses Christ Jesus, and curses the idols, and upbraids them for their vile cruelty to the innocent Saint who lay there.

This was more than enough to rouse the savage nature of men, who were slaves to the worship of Satan; and scarcely had the child spoken, when she falls on the tomb, covered with the heavy stones thrown on her by her murderers. Baptized in her own blood, Emerentiana leaves her bleeding corpse upon the earth, and her soul flies to the bosom of God, where she is to enjoy, for ever, union with him, in the dear company of Agnes.

Let us unite with the Church, which so devoutly honours these touching incidents of her own history. Let us ask Emerentiana to pray that we may have the grace to be united with Jesus and Agnes in heaven; and congratulate her on her triumph, by addressing her in the words of the holy Liturgy.

Ant. Veni, Sponsa Christi, accipe coronam quam tibi Dominus præparavit in æternum.

. Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis.
℟. Propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum.

Oremus

Indulgentiam nobis, quæsumus, Domine, beata Emerentiana Virgo et Martyr imploret: quæ tibi grata semper exstitit et merito castitatis, et tuæ professione virtutis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Ant. Come, O Spouse of Christ, receive the crown, which the Lord hath prepared for thee for ever.

. Grace is poured abroad in thy lips.
℟. Therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.

Let us Pray

Let blessed Emerentiana, thy Virgin and Martyr, O Lord, sue for our pardon: who by the purity of her life, and profession of thy virtue, was always pleasing to thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Gothic Church of Spain deputes, today, one of her most glorious Prelates, to represent her at the Crib of the Divine Babe, and to celebrate his ineffable Birth. The praise, which falls from Ildephonsus’ lips, seems, at our first hearing it, to have the Mother’s dear honour for its only theme: but, how can we honour the Mother, without at the same time proclaiming the praise of the Son, to whose Birth she owes all her greatness?

Among the glorious Pontiffs, who honoured the noble episcopate of Spain, during the 7th and 8th centuries—for example: Leander, Isidore, Fulgentius, Braulio, Eugenius, Julian, Helladius—among them, and in the foremost rank, stands Ildephonsus, with his glory of having been the Doctor of the Virginity of the Mother of God, just as Athanasius is the Doctor of the Divinity of the Word, Basil the Doctor of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and Augustine the Doctor of Grace. The holy Bishop of Toledo has treated the dogma of Mary’s Virginity in all its completeness. With profound learning and with fervid eloquence, he proves, against the Jews, that Mary conceived without losing her Virginity; against the followers of Jovinian, that she was a Virgin in her Delivery; against the disciples of Helvidius, that she remained a Virgin, after she had given birth to her Divine Son. Other holy Doctors had treated separately on each of these sublime questions, before our Saint: but he brought together all their teachings, and merited that a Virgin-Martyr should rise from her tomb to thank him for having defended the honour of the Queen of Heaven. Nay, Mary herself, with her own pure hand, clothed him with that miraculous Chasuble, which was an image of the robe of light wherewith Ildephonsus shines now in heaven, at the foot of Mary’s Throne.

The Monastic Breviary gives us the following Lessons, in the Office of our holy Bishop.


We salute thee with devout hearts, O holy Pontiff! who standest pre-eminent in thy love of the Mother of God, even in that glorious Spain, where her honour has had such brave defenders. Come, and take thy place near the Crib of Jesus, where this incomparable Mother is watching over this Babe, who, being both her God and her Son, consecrated her virginity, but did not impair it.[1] Pray for us to her, and remind her that she is our Mother also. Ask her to receive the hymns we sing in her honour, and to bless the offering we make of our hearts to her divine Son. That our prayer may find a readier welcome from this august Queen, we will make use of thy own words, O holy Doctor of Mary’s Virginity; and thus will we speak to her:

I come to thee, the sole Virgin-Mother of God; I prostrate myself before thee, the sole co-operatrix of the Incarnation of my God; I humble myself before thee, that wast alone found worthy to be the Mother of my Lord; I pray to thee, the Handmaid, unlike all others, of thy Son, that thou obtain for me the forgiveness of my sins, that thou procure for me the being cleansed from my evil deeds, that thou get me a love of thy grand glory, that thou reveal unto me the exceeding sweetness of thy Jesus, that thou grant me to proclaim and defend the purity of our holy Faith. Grant, that I may cling to my God and to thee, and be faithful to thy Son and to thee—to him as my Creator, to thee as Mother of my Creator; to him as the Lord of hosts, to thee as the Handmaid of the Lord of all; to him as God, to thee as Mother of God; to him as my Redeemer, to thee as the instrument of my redemption.

He became the price of my ransom, but he became so by his becoming incarnate from thy flesh. He assumed a mortal Body, but he took it from thine, and with this his sacred Body he blotted out my sins. My own human nature, which he took to his kingdom, and set it, above the Angels, on the right hand of his Father, he took from thy pure flesh and blood, when he humbled himself and was made Man.

I, then, am thy servant, O Mary! because thy Son is my Lord. Thou art our Lady, because thou art the Handmaid of our Lord. I am the servant of the Handmaid of my Lord, because thou, that art our Lady, wast made Mother of my Lord. I pray thee, I fervently pray thee, O Holy Virgin! that I may receive Jesus by that Holy Spirit, by whom thou didst become Mother of Jesus. May I be made to know Jesus by that Holy Spirit, by whom thou didst know, and possess, and bring forth Jesus. May I speak of Jesus in that same Holy Spirit, in whom thou didst confess thyself the Handmaid of the Lord. May I love Jesus in that same Holy Ghost, in whom thou adorest him as thy God, and gazest upon him as thy Son. And may I obey this thy Jesus as faithfully, as he himself, though God, was subject to thee, and to Joseph.[2]

 


[1] Non minuit, sed sacravit. Prayer of the Church, on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, September 8th.
[2] St. Ildephonsus, On the perpetual Virginity of Mary, ch. xii.x

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

BEFORE giving thanks to God for the miraculous Conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles, the Church assembles us together for the feast of his favourite disciple. Timothy—the indefatigable companion of St Paul—the friend to whom the great Apostle, a few days before shedding his blood for Christ, wrote his last Epistle—comes now to await his master's arrival at the Crib of the Emmanuel. He there meets John the Beloved Disciple, together with whom he bore the anxieties attendant on the government of the Church of Ephesus; Stephen too, and the other martyrs, welcome him, for he also bears a martyr's palm in his hand. He presents to the august Mother of the Divine Babe the respectful homage of the Church of Ephesus, which Mary had sanctified by her presence, and which shares with the Church of Jerusalem the honour of having had her as one of its number, who was not only, like the Apostles, the witness, but moreover, in her quality of Mother of God, the ineffable instrument of the salvation of mankind.

Let us now read, in the Office of the Church, the abridged account of the actions of this zealous disciple of the Apostles.

Timotheus, Lystris in Lycaonia natus ex patre Gentili et matre Judæa, Christianam colebat religionem, cum imca loca venit Paulus Apostolus. Qui fama commotus quæ de Timothei sanctitate percrebuerat, ipsum adhibuit socium suæ peregrinationis: sed propter Judæos, qui se ad Christum converterant, scientes Timothei patrem esse Gentilem, eum circumcidit. Cum igitur ambo Ephesum venissent, ibi ordinatus est Episcopus ab Apostolo, ut eam Ecclesiam gubernaret.

Ad quem Apostolus duas Epistolas scripsit, alteram Laodicea, alteram Roma: quibus in pastoralis officii cura confirmatus, cum sacrificium, quod uni Deo debetur, fieri dæmonum simulacris ferre non posset, populum Ephesinum Dianæ in ejus celebritate immolantem, abilla impietate removere conatus, lapidibus obrutus est; ac pene mortuus a Christianis ereptus, et in montem oppido vicinum delatus, nono kalendas Februarii obdormivit in Domino.
Timothy was born at Lystra in Lycaonia. His father was a Gentile, and his mother a Jewess. When the Apostle Paul came into those parts, Timothy was a follower of the Christian religion. The Apostle had heard much of his holy life, and was thereby induced to take him as the companion of his travels: but on account of the Jews, who had become converts to the faith of Christ, and were aware that the father of Timothy was a Gentile, he administered to him the rite of circumcision. As soon as they arrived at Ephesus, the Apostle ordained him Bishop of that Church.

The Apostle addressed two of his Epistles to him—one from Laodicea, the other from Rome—to instruct him how to discharge his pastoral office. He could not endure to see sacrifice, which is due to God alone, offered to the idols of devils; and finding that the people of Ephesus were offering victims to Diana on her festival, he strove to make them desist from their impious rites. But they, turning upon him, stoned him. The Christians could not deliver him from their hands till he was more dead than alive. They carried him to a mountain not far from the town, and there, on the ninth of the Kalends of February (January 24), he slept in the Lord.

The Greek Church celebrates the memory of St Timothy in her Menæa, from which we extract the following strophes.

Die XXII Januarii

Deisapiens Timothee, torrentem ingressus es deliciarum, et divinitus hausisti gnosim, ferventes imitatus amatores Christi, cujus nunc lætanter adiisti gloriam, contemplans Trinitatem splendidissimam et pacem placidissimam.

Deisapiens Timothee, frequentibus corporis debilitatibus et infirmitatibus corroboratus secundum mentem, erroris potentiam facile dissolvisti, Christi custoditus potestate, et prædicasti sublimiter divinissimum pacis nobis Evangelium.

Mundi fines tua nunc decantant miracula, Thaumaturge immortalis; miraculis etenim te Christus remunerans adornavit, propter ipsum tormenta perpessum, et pro morte tolerata immortali gloria et beatitudine donavit.

Effusa est, omnisancte, abundanter gratia e labiis tuis, et flumina dogmatum scaturire fecit Christi Ecclesiam irrigantia et centuplicem ferentia fructum, o Timothee, Christi præco, divine Apostole.

Mortificans tuæ membra carnis Verbo subjecisti; dans pejoris, beate Timothee, regimen meliori, passionibus dominatus es, et animam alleviasti, Pauli documentis harmonice ordinatus.

Fulgurans quasi sol Paulus te misit quasi radium splendidum terram abundantiori lumine illuminantem lucidissime, Theophantes Timothee, ad directionem nostram et confirmationem.

Currus Dei apparuisti, Timothee, portans divinum nomen, ante impios tyrannos, Deograte, non timens istorum crudelitatem; tu enim invincibilem Salvatoris fortitudinem induisti.

Coronam gloriosam recepisti, Timothee omnibeate, divina mente prædite, Apostole, et diadema regni præcinxisti, et astitisti ante thronum magistri tui, cum Paulo decoratus in æternis tabernaculis, beatissime.
O Timothy! full of godly wisdom! thou didst enter into the torrent of delights, and drink in of the mysterious knowledge, imitating the fervent lovers of Christ, into whose glory thou hast now joyfully gone, contemplating the infinitely resplendent Trinity, and most tranquil peace.

O Timothy! full of godly wisdom! thy frequent weaknesses and ailments of body gave thee strength of spirit; thou didst readily reduce to nought the power of error, for thou wast guarded by the power of Christ, and sublimely didst thou preach to us the most divine Gospel of peace.

The furthermost ends of the earth now sing thy miracles, immortal Thaumaturgus! for Christ rewarding thee, adorned thee with the gift of miracles, because thou didst suffer torments for his sake; and he gave thee, for the death thou didst endure, glory and blessedness everlasting.

Most holy Saint! grace flowed in plenty from thy lips, and made the streams of dogma water the Church of Christ, and yield fruit a hundredfold, O Timothy! thou herald of Christ! thou Apostle of God!

Mortifying thy flesh, thou didst subject it to the Word: and making what is superior govern that which is inferior, O blessed Timothy! thou didst master thy passions and unburden thy soul, and the harmony was established in thee which was taught by blessed Paul.

He, Paul, brilliant as the sun, sent thee forth as a shining ray, that thou mightest most brightly illumine the earth with a rich abundance of light, unto our direction and encouragement, O Timothy, thou revealer of God!

O Timothy I as a chariot of God, thou didst carry his divine name before impious tyrants, fearing not their cruelty, O thou beloved of God! for thou hadst clad thyself with the invincible strength of Jesus.

O most blessed Timothy! O divinely gifted mind! O Apostle! thou hast received a glorious crown; thy brow has been encircled with a heavenly crown; and thou hast stood before the throne of thy Master, beautiful in glory, together with Paul, in the eternal tabernacles, O most blessed one!

In thee, O holy Pontiff! we honour one of the disciples of the Apostles—one of the links which connect us immediately with Christ. Thou appearest to us all illumined by thy intercourse with Paul the great Doctor of the Gentiles. Another of his disciples, Dionysius the Areopagite, made thee the confidant of his sublime contemplations on the Divine Names; but now, bathed in light eternal, thou thyself art contemplating the Sun of Justice, in the beatific vision. Intercede for us, who enjoy but a glimpse of his beauty through the veil of his humiliations, that we may so love him, as to merit to see him one day in his glory. In order to lessen the pressure of the corruptible body, which weigheth down the soul,[1] thou didst subject thy outward man to so rigorous a penance that St Paul exhorted thee to moderate it: do thou assist us in our endeavours to reduce our flesh to obedience to the spirit. The Church reads without ceasing the counsels, which the Apostle gave to thee, and to all Pastors through thee, for the election and the conduct of the clergy: pray that the Church may be blessed with Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, endowed with all those qualifications which he requires from the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Lastly, we beseech thee, who didst ascend to heaven decked with the aureole of martyrdom, encourage us who are also soldiers of Christ, that we may throw aside our cowardice, and win that kingdom where he welcomes and crowns his elect for all eternity.

 


[1] Wisd. ix 15.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

WE have already seen how the Gentiles, in the person of the Three Magi, offered their mystic gifts to the Divine Child of Bethlehem, and received from him in return the precious gifts of faith, hope and charity. The harvest is ripe; it is time for the reaper to come. But who is to be God's labourer? The Apostles of Christ are still living under the very shadow of Mount Sion. All of them have received the mission to preach the gospel of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world; but not one among them has as yet received the special character of Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter, who had received the Apostleship of Circumcision,[1] is sent specially, as was Christ himself, to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.[2] And yet, as he is the Head and the Foundation, it belongs to him to open the door of Faith to the Gentiles;[3] which he solemnly does by conferring Baptism on Cornelius, the Roman Centurion.

But the Church is to have one more Apostle, an Apostle for the Gentiles; and he is to be the fruit of the martyrdom and prayer of St Stephen. Saul, a citizen of Tarsus, has not seen Christ in the flesh, and yet Christ alone can make an Apostle. It is then from heaven, where he reigns impassible and glorified, that Jesus will call Saul to be his disciple, just as, during the period of his active life, he called the fishermen of Genesareth to follow him and hearken to his teachings. The Son of God will raise Saul up to the third heaven, and there will reveal to him all his mysteries: and when Saul, having come down again to this earth, shall have seen Peter,[4] and compared his Gospel with that recognized by Peter,[5] he can say, in all truth, that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus,[6] and that he has done nothing less than the great Apostles.[7]

It is on this glorious day of the Conversion of Saul, who is soon to change his name into Paul, that this great work is commenced. It is on this day that there is heard the Almighty voice which breaketh the cedars of Libanus,[8] and can make a persecuting Jew become first a Christian and then an Apostle. This admirable transformation had been prophesied by Jacob, when upon his deathbed he unfolded to each of his sons the future of the tribe of which he was to be the father Juda was to have the precedence of honour; from his royal race was to be born the Redeemer, the Expected of nations. Benjamin's turn came; his glory is not to be compared with that of his brother Juda, and yet it was to be very great—for from his tribe is to be born Paul, the Apostle of the Gentile nations.

These are the words of the dying Prophet: Benjamin, a ravenous wolf , in the morning shall eat the prey, and in the evening shall divide the spoil.[9] Who, says an ancient writer,[10] is he that in the morning of impetuous youth goes like a wolf in pursuit of the sheep of Christ, breathing threatenings and slaughter against them? Is it not Saul on the road to Damascus, the bearer and doer of the high-priest's orders, and stained with the blood of Stephen, whom he has stoned by the hands of all those over whose garments he kept watch? And he who in the evening, not only does not despoil, but with a charitable and peaceful hand breaks to the hungry the bread of life—is it not Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the Apostle of Christ, burning with zeal for his brethren, making himself all to all, and wishing even to be an anathema for their sakes?

Oh! the power of our dear Jesus! how wonderful! how irresistible! He wishes that the first worshippers at his Crib should be humble Shepherds—and he invites them by his Angels, whose sweet hymn was enough to lead these simple-hearted men to the Stable, where, in swaddling-clothes, he lies who is the hope of Israel. He would have the Gentile Princes, the Magi, do him homage—and bids a star to arise in the heavens, whose mysterious apparition, joined to the interior speaking of the Holy Ghost, induces these men of desire to come from the far East, and lay at the feet of an humble Babe their riches and their hearts. When the time is come for forming the Apostolic College, he approaches the banks of the sea of Tiberias, and with this single word: Follow me, he draws after him such as he wishes to have as his Disciples. In the midst of all the humiliations of his Passion, he has but to look at the unfaithful Peter, and Peter is a penitent. Today, it is from heaven that he evinces his power: all the mysteries of our redemption have been accomplished, and he wishes to show mankind that he is the sole author and master of the Apostolate, and that his alliance with the Gentiles is now perfect: he speaks; the sound of his reproach bursts like thunder over the head of this hot Pharisee, who is bent on annihilating the Church; he takes this heart of the Jew, and, by his grace, turns it into the heart of the Apostle, the Vessel of election, the Paul who is afterwards to say of himself: I live, not I, bid Christ liveth in me.[11]

The commemoration of this great event was to be a Feast in the Church, and it had a right to be kept as near as might be to the one which celebrates the martyrdom of St Stephen, for Paul is the Protomartyr's convert. The anniversary of his martyrdom would, of course, have to be solemnized at the summer solstice; where, then, place the feast of his Conversion if not near Christmas, and thus our own Apostle would be at Jesus' Crib, and Stephen's side? Moreover, the Magi could claim him, as being the conqueror of that Gentile world of which they were the first-fruits.

And lastly, it was necessary, in order to give the court of our Infant-King its full beauty, that the two Princes of the Church—the Apostle of the Jews, and the Apostle of the Gentiles—should stand close to the mystic Crib; Peter with his Keys, and Paul with his Sword. Bethlehem thus becomes the perfect figure of the Church, and the riches of this season of the Cycle are abundant beyond measure.

Let us borrow from the ancient Liturgies a suitable expression of our admiration of our Apostle's Conversion. The following Sequence, which belongs to the tenth century, is found in the old Missals of the Churches of Germany. It is full of mysterious allusions, which bear a certain grandeur of thought.

Sequence

Dixit Dominus: Ex Basan convertam, convertam in profundum maris.

Quod dixit et fecit, Saulum ut stravit, Paulum et statuit,

Per Verbum suum incarnatum, per quod fecit et sæcula.

Quod dum impugnat, audivit: Saule, Saule, quid me persequeris?

Ego sum Christus: durum est tibi ut recalcitres stimulo.

A facie Domini mota est terra, contremuitque mox et quievit.

Dum cognito credidit Domino, Paulus persequi cessat Christianos.

Hic lingua tuorum est canum, ex inimicis ad te rediens, Deus;

Dum Paulus in ore omnium sacerdotum jura dat præceptorum,

Docens crucifixum non esse alium præter Christum Deum,

Cum Patre qui regnat et Sancto Spiritu, cujus testis Paulus.

Hinc lingua sacerdotum, more canis dura perlinxit legis et Evangelii duos molares in his contrivit,

Corrosit universas species medicinarum, quibus curantur saucii, reficiuntur enutriendi.

Per quem conversus ad nos tu vivifices, Christe, peccatores:

Qui convertendis conversum converteras Paulum, vas electum.

Quo docente Deum, mare vidit et fugit, Jordanis conversus est retrorsum;

Quia turba gentium, rediens vitiorum profundo, Og rege Basan confuso,

Te solum adorat Christum creatorem, quem et cognoscit in carne venisse redemptorem.

Amen.
The Lord said: I will turn him from Basan (the land of barrenness); I will turn him into the deep sea (of my faith).

What he said he did, when he prostrated Saul, and raised him up Paul,

By his Incarnate Word, by whom also he made the world.

It was whilst opposing this Word, that the Jew heard the voice: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

I am Christ: it is hard for thee to kick against the goad.

The earth was moved at the presence of the Lord; it trembled and then was at rest.

Paul, when he knew the Lord Jesus, believed, and ceased to persecute the Christians.

He became, O God, the tongue of thy faithful ones; leaving thine enemies, he returned to thee.

For it is Paul who, by the mouth of the priests throughout the world, proclaims the commandments,

Teaching that the Crucified is no other than God, the Christ,

Who reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost; and Paul is his witess.

By the light of his teaching the priests meditate on the law and the Gospel; and by these, as with two mill-stones, have pounded

And prepared every spiritual medicine, whereby the wounded are healed, and the hungry are fed.

O Jesus! hear his prayers for us sinners; turn to us; give us life;

Who didst turn Paul into a true convert, for the sake of all who are to return to thee, and didst make him the vessel of election.

When he preached God to men, the sea beheld and fled, the Jordan was turned back,

Because the multitude of the nations, returning from the depths of sin, to the confusion of Og the King of Basan,

Now adore but thee, O Christ! their creator, whom they believe to have come in the flesh to redeem them.

Amen.

The Roman-French Missals give us this beautiful Hymn of Adam of Saint-Victor.

Sequence

Corde, voce pulsa cœlos,
Triumphale pange melos,
Gentium Ecclesia.

Paulus Doctor gentium
Consummavit stadium
Triumphans in gloria.

Hic Benjamin adolescens,
Lupus rapax, præda vescens,
Hostis est fidelium.

Mane lupus, sed ovis vespere.
Post tenebras lucente sidere,
Docet Evangelium.

Hic mortis viam arripit,
Quem vitæ via corripit,
Dum Damascum graditur.

Spirat minas, sed jam cedit;
Sed prostratus jam obedit;
Sed jam vinctus ducitur.

Ad Ananiam mittitur:
Lupus ad ovem trahitur;
Mens resedit effera.

Fontis subit sacramentum:
Mutat virus in pigmentum
Unda salutifera.

Vas sacratum, vas divinum,
Vas propinans dulce vinum
Doctrinalis gratiæ.

Synagogas circuit:
Christi fidem astruit
Prophetarum serie.

Verbum crucis protestatur:
Causa crucis cruciatur:
Mille modis moritur:

Sed perstat vivax hostia:
Et invicta constantia
Omnis poena vincitur.

Segregatus docet gentes:
Mundi vincit sapientes
Dei sapientia.

Raptus ad cœlum tertium,
Videt Patrem et Filium
In una substantia.

Roma potens et docta Græcia
Præbet colla, discit mysteria:
Fides Christi proficit.

Crux triumphat: Nero sævit.
Quo docente, fides crevit,
Paulum ense conficit.

Sic exutus carnis molem
Paulus, videt verum
Solem Patris Unigenitum.

Lumen videt in lumine,
Cujus vitemus numine
Gehennalem gemitum.

Amen.
Church of the Gentiles!
sing with heart and voice thy hymn of triumph,
and make the heavens echo.

Paul, the Doctor of the Gentiles,
has finished his course,
and triumphs in glory.

This is he that was the youthful Benjamin,
the ravenous wolf, the devourer of the prey,
the enemy of the Faithful.

He was a wolf in the morning, but in the evening a lamb.
The night was past, the day-star rose,
and he preaches the Gospel.

This is he that marched in the road of death,
but was stayed, as he goes to Damascus,
by Him who is the Way of Life.

He had breathed forth threats, but at length he yields;
he prostrates, and obeys;
he is made captive, and goes whither he is led.

He is sent to Ananias
—the wolf to the lamb;
his stormy heart is calm.

He receives the sacrament of the font;
its saving waters turn the venom of his soul
into the fragrance of love.

He becomes a sacred vessel, a vessel divine,
a vessel that gives forth to men the sweet wine
of the grace of doctrine.

He visits the synagogues;
and proves the Christian faith
by unfolding the prophets.

He preaches the cross of Christ;
and for the sake of that Cross himself does bear the cross,
dying a thousand deaths.

Yet dies not, but is a living victim,
conquering every pain
by unconquered courage.

He is set apart by God as the teacher of the Gentiles;
and by the wisdom of God he overcomes
the wise ones of the world.

Rapt to the third heaven,
he sees the Father and Son
in one substance.

The mighty Rome, and the learned Greece
—both bow down their heads, and learn the Mysteries,
and embrace the Faith of Christ.

The Cross triumphs! Then does Nero rage
to see this Paul spreading the Faith by his preaching,
and sentences him to die by the sword.

Thus disburthened from the flesh,
Paul sees the true Sun,
the Only Begotten of the Father.

He sees the Light in Light,
by whose almighty power
we shun the pains of hell.

Amen.

The ancient Sacramentaries give us nothing upon the Conversion of St Paul. We take the following Prayer and Preface from the Gallican Missal published by Dom Mabillon, under the title of Missale Gothicum.

Prayer

Deus qui Apostolum tuum Paulum insolentem contra Christiani nominis pietatem, Cœlesti voce cum terrore perculsum, hodierna die Vocationis ejus, mentem cum nomine commutasti: et quem prius persecutorem metuebat Ecclesia, nunc cœlestium mandatorum lætatur se habere Doctorem: quemque ideo foris cæcasti, ut introrsus videntem faceres: cuique post tenebras crudelitatis ablatas, ad evocandas Gentes divinæ legis scientiam contulisti: sed et tertio naufragantem pro fide quam expugnaverat, jam devotum in elemento liquido fecisti vita incolumem. Sic nobis, quæsumus, ejus et mutationem et fidem colentibus, post cæcitatem peccatorum, fac te videre in cœlis, qui illuminasti Paulum in terris.
O God, who by a voice from heaven didst strike with terror thine Apostle Paul when raging against the holiness of the Christian religion, and on this the day of his Vocation didst change him both in his heart and his name: so that the Church having once dreaded him as her persecutor, now rejoices in having him as her Teacher in the commandments of God: whom thou didst strike with exterior blindness, that thou mightest give him interior sight: to whom, moreover, when the darkness of his cruelty was removed, thou didst give the knowledge of thy divine law, whereby he might call the Gentiles: and didst thrice deliver him from shipwreck, which he suffered for the Faith, saving this thy devoted servant from the waves of the sea: grant also to us, we beseech thee, who are solemnizing both his conversion and his faith, that, after the blindness of our sins, we may be permitted to see thee in heaven, who didst enlighten Paul here on earth.

Preface

Dignum et justum est; vere æquum et justum est: nos tibi gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: qui, ut ostenderes te omnium cupere indulgere peccatis, persecutorem Ecclesiæ tuæ, ad unum verbum tuæ vocationis lucratus es, et statim fecisti nobis ex persecutore doctorem: nam qui alienas epistolas ad destructionem Ecclesiarum acceperat, coepit suas ad restaurationem earum scribere; et ut seipsum Paulum factum ex Saulo monstraret, repente architectus sapiens, fundamentum posuit, ut sancta Ecclesia tua Catholica, eo ædificante, gauderet, a quo fuerat ante vastata; et tantus ejus defensor existeret, ut omnia supplicia corporis, et ipsam cædem corporis non timeret: nam factus est caput Ecclesiæ, qui membra Ecclesiæ conquassaverat: caput terreni corporis tradidit, ut Christum caput in suis omnibus membris acciperet, per quod etiam vas electionis esse meruit; qui eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum in sui pectoris habitationem suscepit.
It is meet and just, yea it is right and just, that we should give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God: who, to show that thou desirest to forgive all men their sins, didst win over the persecutor of thy Church with one word of thy calling, and straightway madest the persecutor our teacher: for he that had received epistles from others unto the destruction of the Churches, began to write his own unto their restoration; and who, to show that Saul had become Paul, did immediately, as a wise architect, lay the foundation, giving joy to thy holy Catholic Church, by becoming her builder after being her destroyer: and in such wise did he defend her, that he feared neither tortures nor very death, and became a Head of the Church after having crushed the members of the Church, delivering up the head of his own body, that he might be united with the Divine Head Christ in all his members, by whom also he merited to be made a vessel of election, and into the dwelling of his own heart he received this same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord.

We give thee thanks, O Jesus! who hast this day prostrated thine enemy by thy power, and raised him up again by thy mercy. Truly art thou the Mighty God, and thy victories shall be praised by all creatures. How wonderful art thou, in thy plans for the world's salvation! Thou makest men thy associates in the work of the preaching of thy word, and in the dispensing of thy Mysteries; and in order to make Paul worthy of such an honour, thou usest all the resources of thy grace. It pleased thee to make an Apostle of Stephen’s murderer, that so thy sovereign power might be shown to the world, thy love of souls be evinced in its richest gratuitous generosity, and grace abound where sin had so abounded. Sweet Saviour! often visit us with this grace which converts the heart; for we desire to have the life of grace abundantly, and we feel that its very principle is often in danger within us. Convert us, as thou didst thine Apostle; and after having converted us, assist us; for without thee we can do nothing. Go before us, follow us, stand by our side; never leave us, but as thou hast given us the commencement, secure to us our perseverance to the end. Give us that Christian wisdom which will teach us how to acknowledge, with fear and love, that mysterious gift of grace which no creature can merit, and to which, nevertheless, a creature's will may put an obstacle. We are captives: thou alone art master of the instrument, wherewith we can break our chains; thou puttest it into our hands, bidding us make use of it; so that our deliverance is thy work, not ours—but our captivity, if it continue, can only be attributed to our negligence and sloth. Give us, O Lord, this thy grace; and graciously receive the promise we now make, that we will render it fruitful by co operating with it.

Assist us, thou holy Apostle of Jesus! to correspond with the merciful designs of God in our regard; obtain of him for us, that we may be overcome by the sweetness of an Infant-God. His voice does not make itself heard; he does not blind us by the glare of his divine light; but this we know—he often complains that we persecute him! Oh! that we could have the courage to say to him, with a heart honest like thine: Lord! what wilt thou that we do? He would answer, and tell us to be simple, and to become little children like himself—to recognize now, after so many Christmases of indifference, the love he shows us in this mystery of Bethlehem—to declare war against sin—to resist our evil inclinations—and to advance in virtue, by walking in his divine footsteps. Thou hast said, in one of thine Epistles: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema![12] Oh! teach us to know him more and more, so that we may grow in his love; and by thy prayers, preserve us from that ingratitude which turns even the sweet Mysteries of this holy season into our own greater condemnation.

Glorious Vessel of election! pray for the conversion of sinners who have forgotten their God. When on this earth, thou didst spend thyself for the salvation of souls; continue thy ministry, now that thou art reigning in heaven, and draw down, upon them that persecute Jesus, the graces which triumph over the hardest hearts. Apostle of the Gentiles! look with an eye of loving pity on so many nations, that are still sitting in the shadow of death. During thy mortal life, thou wast divided between two ardent desires—one, to be with Christ, the other, to remain longer on earth labouring for the salvation of immortal souls: now that thou art united for ever with the Jesus thou didst preach to men, forget not the poor ones to whom their God is a stranger. Raise up in the Church apostolic men, who may continue thy work. Pray to our Lord that he bless their labours, and the blood of such among them as are martyrs of zeal. Shield with thy protection the See of Peter, thy BrotherApostle and thy Leader. Support the authority of the Church of Rome, which has inherited thy power, and looks upon thee as her second defence. May thy powerful intercession lead her enemies into humble submission, destroy schisms and heresies, and fill her Pastors with thy spirit, that like thee they may seek not themselves, but solely and in all things the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 


[1] Gal. ii 8.
[2] St Matt. xv 24.
[3] Acts xiv 26.
[4] Gal. i 18.
[5] Ibid. ii 2.
[6] Gal. i 1, and frequently elsewhere.
[7] 2 Cor. xi 5.
[8] Ps. xxviii 5.
[9] Gen. xlix 27.
[10] These words are taken from a sermon which for a long time was thought to be St Augustine's.
[11] Gal. ii 20.
[12] 1 Cor. xvi 22.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AMIDST the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna,[1] all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has in his soul the fervent love that made him say in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: "Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and he has never done me any wrong; nay, he has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?" After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King his Saviour, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labours he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured.

He was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master,[2] he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honour of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows himself to us in all his loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honour this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Saviour said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.[3] Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit by the holy season.

The Church gives us a passage from St Jerome's book, On Ecclesiastical Writers, in which there is contained the following short notice of our holy Martyr.

Polycarpus, Joannis Apostoli discipulus, et ab eo Smyrnæ Episcopus ordinatus, totius Asiæ princeps fuit; quippe qui nonnullos Apostolorum, et eorum qui viderant Dominum, magistros habuerit et viderit. Hic propter quasdam super die Paschæ quæstiones, sub Imperatore Antonino Pio, Ecclesiam in Urbe regente Aniceto, Romam venit: ubi plurimos credentium, Marcionis et Valentini persuasione deceptos, reduxit ad fidem. Cumque ei fortuito obviam fuisset Marcion, et diceret: Cognoscis nos? respondit: Cognosco primogenitum diaboli. Postea vero regnante Marco Antonino et Lucio Aurelio Commodo, quarta post Neronem persecutione, Smyrnæ sedente proconsule, et universo populo in amphitheatro adversus eum personante, igni traditus est. Scripsit ad Philippenses valde utilem epistolam, quæ usque hodie in Asiæ conventu legitur.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna, was looked up to by all the Churches of Asia, inasmuch as he had not only known some of the Apostles, and those who had seen our Lord, but had been trained by them. He went to Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and under the Pontificate of Anicetus, in order to have an answer to certain questions regarding Easter-day. Whilst there, he brought back to the faith several Christians who had been misled by the teaching of Marcion and Valentine. Having, on a certain occasion, casually met Marcion, who said to him: 'Dost thou know us?' Polycarp replied: 'Yes, I know thee as the firstborn of Satan.’ Some time after, under the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the fourth persecution after that under Nero, he was cited before the Proconsul of Smyrna, who condemned him to be burnt alive; which sentence was carried into effect in the amphitheatre, amidst the clamours of the whole people. He wrote an important Letter to the Philippians, which is still read in the Churches of Asia.

The Greek Church sings the praises of St Polycarp in her Menæa, from which we extract the following passages.

Die XXIII Februarii

Quando fructus ille Virginis, et semen germinans vitæ principium, in terram cecidit, tunc te Polycarpum spicam produxit, fideles nutrientem pietatis verbo et documentis, et eos sanctificantem divino certaminis sanguine et sanctitatis unguento.

Quando in ligno crucis vitis vera suspensa elevata est, tunc te fructuosum palmitem extendit, falce incisum venerandi martyrii, et tormentorum torculari agitatum, cujus lætitiæ calicem cum fide libantes, o Pater, veneranda tua certamina glorificamus.

Caritatis uvam in anima vere coluisti, ô Pater sapiens, et tamquam vinum effudisti fidei verbum; lætificans omnium fidelium mentes, et miraculorum demonstratus es immensum mare; unde martyrum decus apparuisti, igne purificatus et lumine dignatus æterao, o Polycarpe: deprecare Christum Deum dare veniam peccatorum, nobis celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.

Honeste ambulans et filium lucis pacisque denuncians, noctis primogenitum revelasti Marcionem.

Firma ratione comburentem flammam supergressus es, o gloriose, quasi tres pueri qui fornacis ignem rore sedarunt, et in medio ignis incombustus permansisti clamans: Benedictus es, Deus patrum nostrorum.

Pie coluisti Christi mysticam culturam, et rationabilis victima ipse oblatus es Deo sacrificium acceptabile et optimum, omnino fructuosa victima, Polycarpe ter beate.
Supra crucem visus, et hierarchico ornamento digne indutus, Pater, in templum Dei introisti proprio sanguine.

Archipastori Christo præsentandus, a Christo signatus quasi aries insignis, Hierophantes, imitator demonstratus es passionum ejus, et gloriæ effectus particeps, et regni ipsius cohæres.

Commemoratio tua ignifera exorta, o Pater, illuminat animas eorum qui illam pie perficiunt, o divine, et omnes participes tuæ divinæ illuminationis afficit, quam digne, o sapiens, in hymnis magnificamus.
When the Fruit of the Virgin, and the Seed that is the germ of life, came on the earth, he produced thee, O Polycarp, as the grain of wheat that nourishest the faithful with the word and teachings of piety, and trainest them to holiness by the glorious shedding of thy blood, and the odour of thy saintliness.

When Christ, the True Vine, was raised up pendent on the Tree of the Cross, then wast thou produced as one of his fruit ful branches, that wast pruned with the knife of a venerable martyrdom, and wast put into the wine-press of torture. Drinking his Cup of gladness with faith, we glorify, O Father! thy glorious combat.

Truly, O wise Father! didst thou cherish in thy soul the growth of the vine of charity, and didst pour forth the wine of the word of faith. Thou didst gladden the hearts of all the Faithful, and wast like the boundless sea in thy miracles. Therefore art thou the glory of Martyrs, O Polycarp I for thou hast been purified by fire,and rewarded with light everlasting. Pray for us to Christ our God, that he grant pardon of our sins to us, who lovingly celebrate thy holy memory.

Walking in uprightness, and showing thyself a son of light and peace, thou didst unmask Marcion, the first-born of night.

O glorious Polycarp! by thy undaunted soul thou didst overcome the burning fire, like unto the Three Children, who quenched the furnace with dew; and in the midst of the flames thou wast unconsumed, and didst cry out: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers!

Religiously didst thou cultivate the mystical garden of Christ, and thou thyself, the spiritual victim, wast offered to God an acceptable and perfect sacrifice, a victim most fruitful, O thrice blessed Polycarp!

Thou wast seen upon the cross, O Father! and being worthily clad with the pontifical robes, thou didst enter by thine own blood into the temple of God.
That thou, O holy Pontiff! mightest be presented to Christ, the Prince of Pastors, as the victim elect marked out by him, thou becamest the imitator of his passion, and art now a partaker of his glory, and the coheir of his kingdom.

Thy Feast, with its blaze of glory, O Father! has risen, enlightening the souls of them that piously keep it, O heavenly man! and making them all partakers of thy supreme brightness, which we worthily magnify in our hymns, O wise Polycarp!

How well didst thou bear out the full meaning of thy name, O Polycarp! for thou didst produce many fruits for thy Saviour, during thy six-and-eighty years spent in his service. The numerous souls won over to Christ, the virtues which adorned thy life, and thy life itself, which thou didst present to thy Lord in its full maturity—these were thy fruits. And what happiness was thine to have received instruction from the Disciple that leaned upon Jesus' Breast! After being separated from him for more than sixty years, thou art united with him on this the day of thy martyrdom, and thy venerable master receives thee in a transport of joy. Thou adorest, with him, that Divine Babe, whose simplicity thou hadst imitated during life, and who was the single object of thy love. Ask of him for us, that we too may be Faithful unto death.

By thy prayers, now that thou art throned in heaven, make fruitful the vineyard of the Church, which when on earth thou didst cultivate by thy labours, and water with the blood of thy glorious martyrdom. Re-establish faith and unity in the Churches of Asia, which were founded by thy venerable hand. Hasten, by thy prayers, the destruction of that degrading slavery of Mohammedanism which has kept the East in bondage so long, because her once faithful children severed themselves from Rome by the great schism of Byzantium. Pray for the Church of Lyons, which regards thee as its founder, through the ministry of thy disciple Pothinus, and takes itself so glorious a share in the apostolate of the Gentiles, by the Work of the Propagation of the Faith.

Watch over the purity of our holy Faith, and preserve us from being deceived by false teachers. The error which thou didst combat, and which teaches that all the mysteries of the Incarnation are but empty symbols, has risen up again in these our days. There are Marcions, even now, who would reduce all religion to myths; and they find some few followers; may thy powerful prayers rid the world of this remnant of so impious a doctrine. Thou didst pay homage to the Apostolic Chair, for thou, too, wouldst see Peter, and didst journey to Rome, in order to consult its Pontiff on questions regarding the interests of thy Church of Smyrna. Defend the rights of this august See, whence alone are derived both the jurisdiction of our Pastors, and the authoritative teachings of Faith. Pray for us, that we may spend the remaining days of this holy Season in the contemplation and the love of our new-born King. May this love, accompanied with purity of heart, draw down upon us the merciful blessings of God, and at length, after our course is run, obtain for us the Crown of Life.

 


[1] Apoc. ii 8.
[2] 2 St John i 10.
[3] Apoc. ii 10.

 

 

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