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March

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Among all the pastors whom our Lord Jesus Christ has placed, as His vicegerents, over the universal Church, there is not one whose merits and renown have surpassed those of the holy Pope, whose feast we keep to-day. His name is Gregory, which signifies watchfulness; his surname is ‘the Great,’ and he was in possession of that title, when God sent the Seventh Gregory, the glorious Hildebrand, to govern His Church.

In recounting the glories of this illustrious Pontiff, it is but natural we should begin with his zeal for the services of the Church. The Roman liturgy, which owes to him some of its finest hymns, may be considered as his work, at least in this sense, that it is he who collected together and classified the prayers and rites drawn up by his predecessors, and reduced them to the form in which we now have them. He collected also the ancient chants of the Church, and arranged them in accordance with the rules and requirements of the divine Service. Hence it is, that our sacred music, which gives such solemnity to the liturgy, and inspires the soul with respect and devotion during the celebration of the great mysteries of our faith, is known as the Gregorian chant.

He is, then, the apostle of the liturgy, and this alone would have immortalized his name; but we must look for far greater things from such a Pontiff as Gregory. His name was added to the three, who had hitherto been honoured as the great Doctors of the Latin Church. These three are Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome; who else could be the fourth but Gregory? The Church found in his writings such evidence of his having been guided by the Holy Ghost, such a knowledge of the sacred Scriptures, such a clear appreciation of the mysteries of faith, and such unction and authority in his teachings, that she gladly welcomed him as a new guide for her children.

Such was the respect wherewith everything he wrote was treated, that his very letters were preserved as so many precious treasures. This immense correspondence shows us that there was not a country, scarcely even a city, of the Christian world, on which the Pontiff had not his watchful eye steadily fixed; that there was not a question, however local or personal, which, if it interested religion, did not excite his zeal and arbitration as the Bishop of the universal Church. If certain writers of modern times had but taken the pains to glance at these letters, written by a Pope of the sixth century, they would never have asserted, as they have, that the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff are based on documents fabricated, as they say, two hundred years after the death of Gregory.

Throned on the apostolic See, our saint proved himself to be a rightful heir of the apostles, not only as the representative and depositary of their authority, but as a fellow-sharer in their mission of calling nations to the true faith. To whom does England owe her having been, for so many ages, ‘the island of saints’? To Gregory, who, touched with compassion for those Angli, of whom, as he playfully said, he would fain make Angeli, sent to their island the monk Augustine with forty companions, all of them, as was Gregory himself, children of St. Benedict. The faith had been sown in this land as early as the second century, but it had been trodden down by the invasion of an infidel race. This time the seed fructified, and so rapidly that Gregory lived to see a plentiful harvest. It is beautiful to hear the aged Pontiff speaking with enthusiasm about the results of his English mission. He thus speaks in the twenty-seventh Book of his Morals: ‘Lo! the language of Britain, which could once mutter naught save barbarous sounds, has long since begun to sing, in the divine praises, the Hebrew Alleluia! Lo! that swelling sea is now calm, and saints walk on its waves. The tide of barbarians, which the sword of earthly princes could not keep back, is now hemmed in at the simple bidding of God’s priests.’[1]

During the fourteen years that this holy Pope held the place of Peter, he was the object of the admiration of the Christian world, both in the east and in the west. His profound learning, his talent for administration, his position, all tended to make him beloved and respected. But who could describe the virtue of his great soul? That contempt for the world and its riches, which led him to seek obscurity in the cloister; that humility, which made him flee the honours of the papacy, and hide himself in a cave, where, at length, he was miraculously discovered, and God Himself put into his hands the keys of heaven, which he was evidently worthy to hold, because he feared the responsibility; that zeal for the whole flock, of which he considered himself not the master, but the servant, so much so indeed that he assumed the title, which the Popes have ever since retained, of ‘servant of the servants of God’ that charity which took care of the poor throughout the whole world; that ceaseless solicitude, which provided for every calamity, whether public or private; that unruffled sweetness of manner, which he showed to all around him, in spite of the bodily sufferings which never left him during the whole period of his laborious pontificate; that firmness in defending the deposit of the faith, and crushing error wheresoever it showed itself; in a word, that vigilance with regard to discipline, which made itself felt for long ages after in the whole Church? All these services and glorious examples of virtue have endeared our saint to the whole world, and will cause his name to be blessed by all future generations, even to the end of time.

Let us now read the abridged life of our saint, as given us in the liturgy.

Gregorius magnus, Romanus, Gordiani senatoris filius, adolescens philosophiæ operam dedit, et prætorio officio functus, patre mortuo, sex monasteria in Sicilia ædificavit; Romæ septimum sancti Andreæ nomine insuisædibus, pro pe basilicam sanctorum Joannis et Pauli ad clivum Seauri: ubi Hilarione ac Maximiano magistris monachi vitam professus, postea abbas fuit. Mox Diaconus Cardinalis creatus, Constantinopolim a Pelagio Pontifice ad Tiberium Constantinum imperatorem legatus mittitur; apud quern memorabile etiam iliud effecit, quod Eutychium patriarcham, qui scripserat contra veram ac tractabilem corporum resurrectionem, ita convicit, ut ejus librum imperator in ignem injiceret. Quare Eutychius paulo post cum in morbum incidisset, instante morte, pellem manus suæ tenebat, multis præsentibue, dicens: Confiteor quia om nes in hac came resurge mus.

Romam rediens, Pelagio pestilentia sublato, summo omnium consensu Pontifex eligitur: quern honorem ne acciperet, quamdiu potuit, recusavit. Nam alieno vestitu in spelunca delituit: ubi deprehensus indicio igneæ columnæ, ad Sanctum Petrum consecratur. In pontificatu multa successoribus doctrinæ ac sanctitatis exempla reliquit. Peregrinos quotidie ad mensam adhibebat: in quibus et angelum, et Dominum angelorum peregrini facie accepit. Pauperes et urbanos et externos, quorum numerum descriptum habebat, benigne sustentabat. Catholicam fidem multis locis labefactatam restituit. Nam Donatistas in Africa, Arianos in Hispanla repressit: Agnoitas Alexandria ejecit. Pallium Syagrio Augustodunensi episcopo dare noluit, nisi Neophytos hæreticos expelleret ex Gallia. Gothos hæresim Arianam relinquere coegit. Missis in Britanniam doctis et sanctis viris Augustino et aliis monachis, insulam ad Jesu Christi fidem convertit, vere a Beda presbytero Angliæ vocatus apostolus. Joannis patriarchæ Constantinopolitani audaciam fregit, qui sibi universalis Ecclesiae episcopi nomen arrogabat. Mauritium imperatorem, eos qui milites fuissent, monachos fieri prohibentem, a sententia deterruit.

Ecclesiam ornavit sanctissimis institutis et legibus. Apud Sanctum Petrum coacta synodo, multa constituit. In iis, ut in Missa Kyrie eleison novies repeteretur; ut extra id tempus, quod continetur Septuagesima et Pascha, Alleluia diceretur: ut adderetur in Canone: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas. Litanias, Stationes, et Ecclesiasticum officium auxit. Quatuor Conciliis, Nicaeno, Constantinopolitano, Ephesino et Chalcedonensi, tamquam quatuor E vangeliis honorem haberi voluit. Episcopis Siciliæ, qui ex antiqua Ecclesiarum consuetudine Romam singulis trienniis conveniebant, quinto quoque anno semel venire indulsit. Multos libros confecit: quos cum dictaret, testatus est Petrus diaconus se Spiritum sanctum columbæ specie in ejus capite eæpe vidisse. Adrairabüia sunt quæ dixit, fecit, scripsit, decrevit, præsertim infirma semper et ægra valetudine. Qui denique multis editis miraculis, Pontificatus anno decimo tertio, mense sexto, die decimo,quarto Idus Martii, qui dies festus a Græcis etiam propter insignem hujus Pontificis sapientiam ac sanctitatem, praecipuo honore celebratur, ad cœleetem beatitudinem evocatus est. Cujus corpus sepultum est in basilica sancti Petri, prope secretarium.
Gregory the Great, a Roman by birth, was son of the senator Gordian. He applied early to the study of philosophy, and was entrusted with the office of prætor. After his father’s death he built six monasteries in Sicily, and a seventh, under the title of Saint Andrew, in his own house in Rome, near the basilica of Saints John and Paul, on the hill Scaurus. In this last named monastery, he embraced the monastic life, under the guidance of Hilarión and Maximian, and was, later on, elected abbot. Shortly afterwards, he was created Cardinal-Deacon, and was by Pope Pelagius sent to Constantinople, as legate, to confer with the emperor Constantine. While there, he achieved that celebrated victory over the patriarch Eutychius, who had written against the resurrection of the flesh, maintaining that it would not be a real one. Gregory so convinced him of his error, that the emperor threw his book into the fire. Eutychius himself fell ill not long after, and when he perceived his last hour had come, he took between his fingers the skin of his hand, and said before the many who were there: ‘I believe that we shall all rise in this flesh.’

On his return to Rome, he was chosen Pope, by unanimous consent, for Pelagius had been carried off by the plague. He refused, as long as it was possible, the honour thus offered him. He disguised himself and hid himself in a cave; but he was discovered by a pillar of fire shining over the place, and was consecrated at Saint Peter’s. As Pontiff, he was an example to his successors by his learning and holiness of life. He every day admitted pilgrims to his table, among whom he received, on one occasion, an angel, and, on another, the Lord of angels, who wore the garb of a pilgrim. He charitably provided for the poor, both in and out of Rome, and kept a list of them. He re-established the Catholic faith in several places where it had fallen into decay. Thus, he put down the Donatists in Africa, and the Arians in Spain; and drove the Agnoites out of Alexandria. He refused to give the pallium to Syagrius, bishop of Autun, until be should have expelled the Neophyte heretics from Gaul. He induced the Goths to abandon the Arian heresy. He sent Augustine and other monks into Britain, and, by these learned and saintly men, converted that island to the faith of Christ Jesus; so that Bede truly calls him the Apostle of England. He checked the haughty pretensions of John, the patriarch of Constantinople, who had arrogated to himself the title of bishop of the universal Church. He obliged the emperor Mauritius to revoke the decree, whereby he had forbidden any soldier to become a monk.

He enriched the Church with many most holy practices and laws. In a Council held at St. Peter’s he passed several decrees. Among these, the following may be mentioned: That in the Mass the Kyrie eleison should be said nine times; that the Alleluia should always be said, except during the interval between Septuagesima and Easter. That these words should be inserted in the Canon: Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas (And mayst thou dispose our days in thy peace). He increased the number of processions (litanies) and stations, and completed the Office of the Church. He would have the four Councils, of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, to be received with the same honour as the four Gospels. He allowed the bishops of Sicily, who, according to the ancient custom of their Churches, used to visit Rome every three years, to make that visit once every fifth year. He wrote several books; and Peter the deacon assures us, that he frequently saw the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove resting on the head of the Pontiff, while he was dictating. It is a matter of wonder thkt, with his incessant sickness and illhealth, he pould have said, done, written, and decreed, as he did. At length, after performing many miracles, he was called to his reward in heaven, after a pontificate of thirteen years, six months and ten days; it was on the fourth of the Ides of March (March 12), which the Greeks also observe ae a great feast, on account of this Pontiff’s extraordinary learning and virtue. His body was buried in the basilica of Saint Peter near the secretarium.

To these admirable lessons we subjoin a selection of antiphons and responsories, which are taken from an Office approved of by the holy See, for this feast of so great a saint.

Antiphons and Responsories*

Beatus Gregorius in cathedra Petri sublimatus, Vigilantis nomen factis implevit.

Pastor eximius pastoralis vitæ specimen tradidit et regulam.

Dum paginæ sacræ mysteria panderet, columba nive candidior apparuit.

Gregorius, monachorum speculum, pater Urbis, orbis deliciæ.

Gregorius, respiciens Anglorum juvenes, ait: Angelicam ha bent faciem; et tales angelorum in cœlis decet esse consortes.


R.
 Gregorius, ab annis adofescentiæ suæ, Deo caepit devotus existe re.
* Et ad supernæ vitæ patriam totis desideriis anhelavit.
V. Pauperibus opes distribuens, Christum pro nobis egenum, egenus ipse secutus est.
* Et ad supemae vitæ patriam totis desideriis anhelavit.

R.
 Sex in Sicilia monasteria constituens, fratres illic Christo servituros aggregavit; septimum vero intra Romanæ urbis muros instituit:
* In quo et ipse militiam cœlestem aggressus est.
V. Mundum cum flore despiciens, dilectas solitudinis locum quæsivit.
* In quo et ipse militiam ccelestem aggresseus est.

R.
 Ad summi Pontificatus apicem quæsitus, quum ad sylvarum et cavernarum latebras confugisset,
* Visa est columna lucis a summo cœli usque ad eum linea recta refulgens.
V. Tam eximium pastorem sitiens populus, jejuniis et orationibus ad cælum insistebat.
* Visa est columna lucis a summo cœli usque ad eum linea recta refulgens.

R.
 Ecce nunc magni marie fluctibus quatior, pastoralis curæ procellis illisus:
* Et quum priorem vitam recolo, quasi post tergum reductis oculis viso littore suspiro.
V. Immensis fluctibus turbatus feror, vix jam portum valeo videre quern reliqui
* Et quum priorem vitam recolo, quasi post tergum reductis oculis, viso littore suspiro.

R.
 E fonte Scripturarum moralia et mystica proferens, fluenta Evangelii in populos derivavit: 
* Et defunctus adhuc loquitur.
V. Velut aquila perlustrane mundum amplitudine charitatis majoribus et minimis providet.
* Et defunctus adhuc loquitur.

R.
 Cernens Gregorius Anglorum adolescentulos, dolebat tarn lucidi vultus homines a tenebrarum principe possideri:
* Tantamque frontis speciem, mentem ab internis gaudiis vacuam gestare.
V. Ex intimo corde longa trahens suspiria, lugebat imapnem Dei ab antiquo serpente deturpatam.
* Tantamque frontis epeciem, mentem ab internis gaudiis vacuam gestare.

R.
 Quum Joannes episcopus arroganter primæ Sedis jura dissolvere tentaret, surrexit Gregorius fortis et mansuetus:
* Apostólica fulgens auctoritate, humilitate præclarus.
V. Petri claves invictus asseruit, et cathedram principalem illæsam custodivit.
* Apostolica fulgens auctoritate, humilitate præclarus.

R.
 Gregorius, præsul meritis et nomine dignus, antiquæ divinæ laudis modulationes renovans,
* Militantis Ecclesiæ vocem triumphantis sponsæ concentibus sociavit.
V. Sacramentorum codicem mystico calamo rescribens, vete rum patrum instituta posteris transmisit.
* Militantis Ecclesiæ vocem triumphantis sponsæ concentibus sociavit.

R. Stationes per basilicas et martyrum cœmeteria ordinavit:
* Et sequebatur exercitus Domini Gregorium præeuntem.
V. Ductor cœlestis militiæ arma spiritualia proferebat.
* Et sequebatur exercitus Domini Gregorium præeuntem.

The blessed Gregory, being raised to the chair of Peter, fulfilled, by his actions, the meaning of his name, ‘the Watchman.’

This glorious Pastor was the model, and wrote the rule, of the pastoral life.

While he was interpreting the mysteries of the sacred volume, there was seen upon him a dove whiter than snow.

Gregory was the mirror of monks, the father of the holy city, and the favourite of mankind.

Gregory looks upon some youths from Anglia, and says: They have the faces of angels, and such children must needs be companions of angels in heaven.


R.
 From his early youth, Gregory was devout in God’s service,
* And with all his heart sighed after the land of heavenly life.
V. He distributed his wealth to the poor, and became poor himself, after the example of Christ, who made himself poor for us.
* And with all his heart sighed after the land of heavenly life.

R. Six monasteries did he found in Sicily, and put in them communities of brethren, who should serve Christ; a seventh also he founded within the walls of Rome’s city,
* Wherein he, too, enrolled himself in the heavenly warfare.
V. He despised the world with its flowers, and sought out a place of solitude most dear to his soul.
* Wherein he, too, enrolled himself in the heavenly warfare.

R.
 When they were in search of him to set him on the throne of the Papal dignity, he fled to the woods and caves and hid himself;
* But a bright pillar of light was seen to shine upon him, in a straight line from the high heavens.
V. The people, in their eager desire to have so excellent a pastor, besieged heaven with their fastings and prayers.
* But a bright pillar was seen to shine upon him, in a straight line from the highest heavens.

R.
 Lo! now I am tossed by the waves of the great sea, and am buffeted by the storms of pastoral care:
* And when I remember my former life, I sigh like one that looks back on the shore he has left behind.
V. I am carried to and fro on huge waves, which scarcely permit me to see the port I sailed from.
* And when I remember my former life, I sigh like one that looks back on the shore he has left behind.

R.
 He drew moral and mystical interpretations from the Scripture fountain, and made the streams of the Gospel flow upon the people:
* And being dead, he yet speaketh.
V. Like an eagle flying from one end of the world to the other, he provided for all, both little and great, by his large-hearted charity.
* And being dead, he yet speaketh.

R.
 As he gazed on the boys of Anglia, it grieved him to think that such bright-faced youths should be in the power of the prince of darkness:
* And that they who had such comely faces, should have souls devoid of interior joy.
V. Deeply did he sigh, and, from his inmost soul, grieve that the image of God should be disfigured by the old serpent.
* And that they who had such comely faces, should have souls devoid of interior joy.

R.
 When John, the bishop, arrogantly strove to interfere with the rights of the first See, bravely and meekly did Gregory rise up,
* Radiant with apostolic authority, and humble exceedingly.
V. Unflinchingly did he defend the keys of Peter, and guard from insult the principal Chair.
* Radiant with apostolic authority, and humble exceedingly.

R.
 Gregory, a Pontiff great in merit and name, restored the ancient melodies used in the divine praise,
* And united the songs of the Church militant with those of the bride triumphant.
V. His mystic pen transcribed the book of the Sacraments, and handed down to posterity the institutions of the ancient fathers.
* And united the songs of the Church militant with those of the bride triumphant.

R.
 He regulated the Stations to be made at the basilicas and cemeteries of the martyrs:
* And the army of Christ went in procession, with Gregory at their head.
V. He was the leader of the heavenly warfare, and gave to all their spiritual armour.
* And the army of Christ went in procession, with Gregory at their head.

St. Peter Damian, whose feast we kept a few days back, composed the following hymn in honour of our apostle:

Anglorum jam apostolus,
Nunc angelorum eocius,
Ut tunc, Gregori, gentibus
Succurre jam credentibus.

Tu largas opum copias,
Omnemque mundi gloriam
Spernis, ut inops inopem
Jesum sequaris principem.

Videtur egens naufrague,
Dum stipem petit angelus;
Tu munus jam post geminum,
Præbes et vas argenteum.

Ex hoc te Christus tempore
Suæ præfert Ecclesiæ:
Sic Petri gradum percipis,
Cujus et normam sequeris.

O Pontifex egregie,
Lux et decus Ecclesiæ,
Non sinas in periculis,
Quos tot mandatis instruis.

Mella cor obdulcantia
Tua distillant labia,
Fragrantum vim aromatum
Tuum vincit eloquium.

Scripturæ sacræ mystica
Mire solvis ænigmata,
Theorica mysteria
Te docet ipsa Veritas.

Tu nactus apostolicam
Vicem simul et gloriam,
Nos solve culpæ nexibus,
Redde polorum sedibus.

Sit Patri laus ingenito,
Sit decus Unigenito,
Sit utriusque pariti
Majestas summa Flamini.

Amen.
O Gregory, that once wast the apostle of the Angli,
and now art a companion of the angels!
protect now, as of old, the nations
that believe in Christ.

Thou spurnest wealth and riches
and all the glory of the world,
that so thou, being poor,
mayst follow the Lord Jesus, who was poor.

An angel presents himself to thee,
in the garb of one that was shipwrecked, and asks an alms;
thou first makest him a double gift,
and then thou givest him a silver vase.

After this, Christ puts thee over his Church,
for thou didst imitate the virtues,
and now thou hast
the honours, of Peter.

O excellent Pontiff!
Light and ornament of the Church!
Thou hast so richly instructed us,
assist us in our dangers.

From thy lips there flows honey
that brings sweetness to the heart.
Thy words are more fragrant
than the richest perfume.

Admirably dost thou solve
the obscure figures of sacred Writ.
The divine mysteries are taught thee
by him that is the very Truth.

O thou that hast
the office and the glory of the apostles,
pray for us, that we may be loosed from the bonds of sin,
and obtain the thrones prepared for us above.

To the unbegotten Father,
and to his only-begotten Son,
and to the Spirit of them
both be praise and highest kingship.

Amen.

Father of the Christian people! Vicar of the charity, as well as of the authority, of Christ! O Gregory, vigilant Pastor! the Church, which thou hast so faithfully loved and served, turns to thee with confidence. Thou canst not forget the flock, which keeps up such an affectionate remembrance of thee; hear the prayer she offers thee on this thy solemnity. Protect and guide the Pontiff, who now holds the place of Peter, as thou didst; enlighten and encourage him in the difficulties wherewith he is beset. Bless the hierarchy of the pastors, which has received from thee such magnificent teachings and such admirable examples. Assist it to maintain inviolate the sacred trust of faith; bless the eSorts it is now making for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline, without which all is disorder and confusion. God chose thee as the regulator of the divine service, the holy liturgy; foster, by thy blessing, the zeal which is now rising up among us for those holy traditions of prayer, which have been so neglected; teach us the long-forgotten secret, that the best way of praying is to use the prayers of the Church. Unite all Churches in obedience to the apostolic See, which is the ground and pillar of faith, and the fountain of spiritual authority.

But there is one country which was most dear to thee—our own native land. O apostle of England! look down with aSection on this island, which has now rebelled from Rome, and has become the resort of countless false religions. But now, after three centuries of apostasy from the true faith, the hand of God’s mercy is pressing her to conversion. She is thine own child in Christ Jesus: wilt thou not aid her to return to Him? Wilt thou not guide her, by thy prayers, to come forth out of the darkness, which still so thickly clouds her, and follow the light which heaven holds out to her? Oh! if England were once more Catholic, who can tell the good she would do? For what country is there that can do grander things for the propagation of the faith? Pray for her, then; she may regain her glorious title of Isle of Saints, for she has thee for her apostle!

These are the days of salvation; pray for the faithful, who have entered on their career of penance. Obtain for them compunction of heart, love of prayer, and an appreciation of the liturgy and its mysteries. The solemn ami devout homilies which thou didst address, at this season, to the people of Rome, are still read to ns; may they sink into our hearts and fill them with fear of God’s justice, and hope in His mercy, for His justice and mercy change not to suit the time. We are weak and timid, and this makes us count as harsh the laws of the Church which oblige us to fasting and abstinence; get us brave hearts, brave with the spirit of mortification. Thy holy life is an example to us, and thy writings are our instruction; what we still want is to be made true penitents, and this thy intercession must do for us: that so we may return, with the joy of a purified conscience, to the divine Alleluia, which thou hast taught us to sing on earth, and which we hope to chant together with thee in heaven.

 

[1] Moral, in Job. Lib. xxvii. Cap. xi.

* We may be permitted to express a hope, that the day is not far distant, when the Proper Offices, approved of by the holy See, will be adopted in England, for those saints in whom England has a special interest. Proper hymns, &c., have been composed and approved for St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Anselm. [TRANSULATOR.]

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The saint we have to honour to-day is the apostle of that faithful people, whose martyrdom has lasted three hundred years: it is the great St. Patrick, he that gave Erin the faith. There shone most brightly in this saint that gift of the apostolate, which Christ has left to His Church, and which is to remain with her to the end of time. The ambassadors or missioners, sent by our Lord to preach His Gospel, are of two classes. There are some who have been entrusted with a small tract of the Gentile world; they had to sow the divine seed there, and it yielded fruit more or less according to the dispositions of the people that received it: there are others, again, whose mission is like a rapid conquest, that subdues a whole nation, and brings it into subjection to the Gospel. St. Patrick belongs to this second class; and in him we recognize one of the most successful instruments of God's mercy to mankind.

And then, what solidity there is in this great saint’s work! When is it that Ireland received the faith? In the fifth century, when Britain was almost wholly buried in paganism; when the race of the Franks had not as yet heard the name of the true God; when Germany had no knowledge of Christ’s having come upon the earth; when the countries of northern Europe deeply slumbered in infidelity: yes, it was before these several nations had awakened to the Gospel, that Ireland was converted. The faith, brought to her by her glorious apostle, took deep root and flourished and fructified in this isle, more lovely even by grace than she ifl by nature. Her saints are scarcely to be numbered, and went about doing good in almost every country of Europe; her children gave, and are still giving, to other countries, the faith that she herself received from her beloved patron. And when the sixteenth century came with its protestantism; when the apostasy of Germany was imitated by England, Scotland, and the whole north of Europe, Ireland stood firm and staunch; no persecution, however cleverly or however cruelly carried on against her, has been able to detach her from the faith taught her by Saint Patrick.

Let us honour the admirable apostle, chosen by God to sow the seed of His word in this privileged land; and let us listen to the simple account of his labours and virtues, thus given in the lessons of his feast:

Patritius, Hiberniæ dictus apostolus, Calphurnio patre, matre Conchessa, sancti Martini Turonensis episcopi, ut perhibent, consanguInea, majori in Britannia natus, puer in barbarorum sæpius incidit captivitatem. Eo in statu pascendis gregibus præpositus, jam tum futuræ sanctitatis specimen præbuit. Fidei namque, divinique timoris, et amoris spiritu repletus, antelucano tempore per nivea, gelu, ac pluvias ad preces Deo fundendas impiger consurgebat; solitus centies interdiu, centiesque noctu Deum orare. A servitute tertio exemptus, et inter clericos relatus, in divinis lectionibus longo se tempore exercuit. Galliis, Italia, insulisque Tyrrheni maris labore summo peragratis, divino tandem monitu ad Hibernorum salutem advocatur; et facta a beato Cœlestino Papa Evangelii nunciandi potestate, coneecratusque episcopus, in Hibemiam perrexit.

Eo in munere mirum quot vir apostoiicus mala, quot ærumnas, et labores, quot pertulerit adversarios. Verum Dei afilante benignitate, terra illa, idolorum antea cultrix, eum mox prædicante Patritio fructum dedit, ut sanctorum insula deinde fuerit appellata. Frequentissimi ab eo populi sacro sunt regenerati lavacro:episcopi, clericique plurimi ordinati; virginea ac viduæ ad continentiæ leges institutæ. Armachanam Sedem, Romani Pontificis auctoritate, totius insulæ principem metropolim constituit, sanctorumque reliquiis ab Urbe relatis decoravit. Supernis visionibus, prophetiæ dono, ingentibusque signis, et prodigiis a Deo exornatus adeo refulsit, ut longe, lateque celebrior Patritii se fama diffuderit.

Præter quotidianam Ecclesiarum sollicitudinem, invietum ab oratione spiritum nunquam relaxabat. Aiunt enim, integrum quotidie psalterium, una cum canticis et hymnis, ducentisque orationibus consuevisse recitare: ter centies per dies singulos flexis genibus Deum adorare, ac in qualibet hora diei canónica centies se crucis signo munire. Noctem tria in spatia distribuens, primum in centum psalmis percurrendis, et bis centies genuflectendo, alterum in reliquis quinquaginta psalmis, algidis aquis immersus, ac corde, oculis manibusque ad ccelum erectus, absolvendis insumebat; tertium vero super nudum lapidem stratus tenui dabat quieti. Humilitatis eximius cultor, apostólico more a manuum suarum labore non abstinuit. Assiduis tandem curis pro Ecclesia consumptus, verbo et opere clarus, in extrema senectute, divinis mysteriis refectus, obdormivit in Domino; sepultusque est apud Dunum in Ultonia, a Christiana salute sæculo quinto.
Patrick, called the apostle of Ireland, was born in Great Britain. His father’s name was Calphumius. Conchessa, his mother, is said to have been a relation of St. Martin, bishop of Tours. He was several times taken captive by the barbarians, when he was a boy, and was put to tend their flocks. Even in that tender age, he gave signs of the great sanctity he was afterwards to attain. Full of the spirit of faith, and of the fear and love of God, he used to rise at the earliest dawn of day, and, in spite of snow, frost, or rain, go to offer up his prayers to God. It was his custom to pray a hundred times during the day, and a hundred during the night. After his third deliverance from slavery, he entered the ecclesiastical state and applied himself, for a considerable time, to the study of the sacred Scriptures. Having made several most fatiguing journeys through Gaul, Italy, and the islands of the Mediterranean, he was called by God to labour for the salvation of the people of Ireland. Pope Saint Celestine gave him power to preach the Gospel, and consecrated him bishop. Whereupon, he set out for Ireland.

It would be difficult to relate how much this apostolic man had to suffer in the mission thus entrusted to him: he had to bear with extraordinary trials, fatigues, and adversaries. But, by the mercy of God, that land, which heretofore had worshipped idols, so well repaid the labour wherewith Patrick had preached the Gospel, that it was afterwards called the island of saints. He administered holy Baptism to many thousands: he ordained several bishops, and frequently conferred Holy Orders in their several degrees; he drew up rules for virgins and widows, who wished to lead a life of continency. By the authority of the Roman Pontiff, he appointed Armagh the metropolitan See of the whole island, and enriched that church with the saints’ relics, which he had brought from Rome. God honoured him with heavenly visions, with the gift of prophecy and miracles; all which caused the name of the saint to be held in veneration in almost every part of the world.

Besides his daily solicitude for the churches, his vigorous spirit kept up an uninterrupted prayer. For it h said, that he was wont to recite every day the whole psalter, together with the canticles and the hymns, and two hundred prayers: that he every day knelt down thrco hundred times to adore God; and that at each canonical hour of the day, he signed himself a hundred times with the sign of the cross. He divided the night into three parts: the first was spent in the recitation of a hundred psalms, during which he genuflected two hundred times: the second was spent in reciting the remaining fifty psalms, which he did standing in cold water, and his heart, eyes, and hands lifted up to heaven; the third he gave to a little sleep, which he took laid upon a bare stone. Being a man of extraordinary humility, he imitated the apostles, and practised manual labour. At length, being worn out by his incessant fatigues in the cause of the Church, powerful in word and work, having reached an extreme old age he slept in the Lord, after being refreshed with the holy mysteries. He was buried at Down, in Ulster, in the fifth century of the Christian era.

The following sequence, in honour of our saint, is taken from an ancient manuscript missal, published by Messingham, in his Florilegiam Insulœ Sanctorum, Paris, 1624:

Sequence

Læta lux est hodierna,
Qua conscendit ad superna
Vir Dei Patricius.

Qui prælatus in hanc lucem
Puer bonus Christi crucem
Veneratur ocyus.

Humo pressit signum crucis,
Fons erupit, donum lucis
Cæco nato præbuit.

In mel aquam convertebat,
Quo nutrici, quæ languebat,
Sanitatem tribuit.

A piratis venditur,
Fit cuetos porcorum:
Aurum quo redimitur
Reperit decorum.

Opprimens per triduum
Satan hunc vexavit:
Sed Helias artuum
Robur reparavit.

Deprimit a vitiis,
Moribus imbutus,
Corpus abstinentiis,
Moysen secutus;
In montis cacumina
Scandit et jejunat;
Glacierum fragmina
Succendens adunat.

Sub Germani disciplina,
Documentis et doctrina
Studet evangelicis.

His a Papa Cœlestino
Doctor est, nutu divino,
Transmissus Hibemicis.

Balat hircus ventre furis,
Fur punitur plagie duris,
Et ejus successio.

Fugiens mortem sago tectus
Obiit ante, post revectus
Orante Patricio.

Virosa reptilia
Prece congregata
Pellit ab Hibernia,
Mari liberata.
Cœlos aliquoties
Apertos aspexit;
Et Jesum suspiciens
Dominum conspexit.
Transit pater ab hac luce
Signis plenus,
Christo duce,
Lucie ad palatium.

Ubi nobis, prece sua,
Confer, bone Jesu, tua
Pietate gaudium.

Amen.
Joyful is the light of this day's feast,
whereon Patrick, the man of God,
ascended to heaven!

When yet in the early dawn of life,
the holy youth devoutly venerated
the cross of Christ.

He made the sign of the cross on the ground:
a fount gushed forth upon the spot,
and with its waters he gave sight to one born blind.

He turned water into honey,
and by it restored
his nurse to health.

He was led captive by pirates,
and was made keeper of swine:
but the saint found a piece of glittering gold,
and with it bought his freedom.

For three days did satan harass him
with bodily injuries;
but Elias healed him,
and gave him back his strength.

His soul was vigorous in grace,
and, like Moses,
he restrained his body
from vices by fasting.
He ascends a high mountain,
and there he fasts.
He throws ice upon a fire,
and it burns as though it were wood.

He puts himself under the care
and teaching of Germanus,
and studies under him the maxims of the Gospel.

Pope Celestino, by a divine inspiration,
sends him to teach salvation
to the people of Hibernia.

The thief, that had stolen a goat,
was discovered by its bleating;
and he and his family were punished with a severe scourge.

A man had covered himself with a cloth,
and asked to be restored to health. He was first punished with real death,
and was then restored to life by Patrick’s prayer.

He drew together, by his prayer,
all venomous reptiles,
and drove them from Hibernia’s shore.
At times, he saw
the heavens opened;
and as he gazed above,
he saw the Lord Jesus.
Our father passed out of this world,
under the guidance of Christ;
and, glorious by his miracles,
he was taken to the courts
of heavenly light.

Mercifully grant unto us, O good Jesus!
by his intercession,
that we may enter into joy.

Amen.

The following antiphons and prayers are taken from the Officium Sancti Patricii, Paris, 1622:

ANT. Veneranda imminentis diei solemnia, læta mente, concelebrat fidelium turma; quo beatus præsul Patricius, deposita corporali gleba, felix migravit ad regna cælestia.

ANT. Ave præsul egregio, pastor gregis Hiberniæ! O Patrici, præsul pie, nostræ cuetos familiæ, funde preces quotidie, pro nobis, Regi glorias.

ANT. Benedictus sit Dominus universorum, qui suam visitavit plebem per beatum Patricium, cujus prece absoivamur a vinculis criminum, et requie perfruamur cum illo beatorum.
ANTThe faithful people, with glad souls, celebrate the venerable solemnity of this day’s feast; whereon the blessed pontiff Patrick laid aside the burden of mortality, and joyfully took his flight to the heavenly kingdom.

ANT. Haü illustrious pontiff, pastor of Hibernia’s flock! O Patrick! holy bishop! the guardian of our people! pray for us daily to the Kin of glory.

ANT. Blessed be the Lord of all, who hath visited his people by blessed Patrick; by whose prayers may we be loosed from the bonds of our sins, and come to the enjoyment of rest of the blessed, together with him.


Another favourite antiphon, used in the ancient Proper Office of St. Patrick, was composed of the words spoken to him by the angel:

ANT. Hibernenses omnes clamant ad te pueri: Veni, sancte Patrici, salvos nos facere.
ANT. All the children of Ireland cry out to thee: Come, O holy Patrick, and save us!

We conclude these liturgical extracts with a prayer from an ancient manuscript breviary of Armagh.

Prayer

Deus qui beatum Patricium Scotorum apostolum tua providentia elegisti, ut Hibernenses gentes, in tenebris et in errore gentilitatis errantes, per lavacra regenerationis filios Dei excelsi efficeres: tribue nobis quæsumus, ut ejus intercessionibus ad ea quæ recta sunt quantocyus festinemus. Per Dominum.
O God, by whose providence the blessed Patrick was chosen to be the apostle of the Irish; that thus the people of Hibernia, who had gone astray in darkness and in the errors of the Gentiles, might be made children of the Most High by the laver of regeneration: grant, we beseech thee, that by his intercession, we may hasten without delay to the paths of justice. Through, etc.

Thy life, great saint, was spent in the arduous toils of an apostle; but how rich was the harvest thou didst reap! Every fatigue seemed to thee light, if only thou couldst give to men the precious gift of faith; and the people to whom thou didst leave it have kept it with a constancy which is one of thy greatest glories. Pray for us, that this faith, without which it is impossible to please God,[1] may take possession of our hearts and minds. It is by faith that the just man liveth,[2] says the prophet, and it is faith that, during this holy season of Lent, is showing us the justice and mercy of God, in order that we may be converted, and offer to our offended Lord the tribute of our penance. We are afraid of what the Church imposes on us, simply because our faith is weak. If our principles were those of faith, we should soon be mortified men. Thy life, though so innocent, and so rich in good works, was one of extraordinary penance: gain for us thy spirit, and help us to follow thee, at least at a humble distance. Pray for Erin, that dear country of thine, which loves and honours thee so fervently. She is threatened with danger even now, and many of her children have left the faith thou didst teach. An odious system of proselytism has disturbed thy flock; protect it, and suffer not the children of martyrs to be apostates. Let thy fatherly care follow them that have been driven by suffering to emigrate from their native land: may they keep true to the faith, be witnesses of the true religion in the countries to which they have fled, and ever show themselves to be the obedient children of the Church. May their misfortunes thus serve to advance the kingdom of God. Holy pontiff! intercede for England; pardon her the injustice she has shown to thy children; and, by thy powerful prayers, hasten the happy day of her return to Catholic unity. Pray, too, for the whole Church; thy prayer, being that of an apostle, easily finds access to Him that sent thee.

 


[1] Heb. xi. 6.
[2] Hab. ii. 4.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

It was right that the Church should honour, during these days devoted to the instruction of catechumens, the Pontiff whose very name suggests the zeal and knowledge which pastors ought to show in preparing candidates for baptism. He has long had a place in the Martyrology of the Western Church, but to-day, in addition to expressing our gratitude for what he did fifteen hundred years ago, we ask him for aid, which is as necessary now as it was in the first ages of Christianity. It is true that baptism is now administered to infants. The gift of faith then infused puts man in possession of all truth before his intelligence has ever met with falsehood. But it too often happens in our days that children are deprived of the protection their weakness really needs. Modern society has denied Jesus Christ, and strives by the hypocritical neutrality of its laws to stifle the divine seed in the baptized soul before it can grow and bear fruit. Baptism, however, has its rights with regard to society as well as with regard to the individual, and our best way of honouring St. Cyril is to remind ourselves on his feast that this first Sacrament has just claims in respect of the education due to the baptized.

For fifteen centuries the western nations, whose social fabric rested on the solid rock of the faith of Rome, have enjoyed a happy ignorance of the difficulties experienced by a soul in rising out of the abyss of error into the pure light of the truth. Our fathers, like ourselves, were baptized at their entrance into this world. They had, moreover, an advantage which we have not, for, in their day, the civil power joined with the Church to protect that plenitude of truth which was the greatest treasure of men, and the safeguard of the world. The protection of individuals is a duty binding upon all princes and rulers, whatever be their title, and this duty is greater in proportion to the interests to be safeguarded. But this protection gives greater glory to the power which exercises it, when it is extended to the lowly and weak. The law of man never appears more majestic than when standing beside a little child—a new-born babe or a defenceless orphan—to protect its name, its life or its inheritance. A newly-baptized child possesses advantages greater than all those given by noble birth, money or the richest natural gifts. He has a divine life within him; he is the equal of the angels in virtue of his name of Christian; his inheritance is that plenitude of truth of which we spoke above—God Himself, possessed by faith here below until the beatific vision opens out the possession of eternal love. What greatness there is in a little child! But what a responsibility for the world! If God does not wait for the age of reason before bestowing His gifts, this sublime haste is due to the impatience of His love, but at the same time He oounts upon men to reveal in due time their dignity to these children of heaven, to form them to the duties incumbent on them, and to educate them in a way befitting their divine lineage. The education of a king’s son corresponds to the dignity of his birth, and those who have the honour of being his tutors never forget that he is a prince. Instructions, common to all, are presented to him in a way which harmonizes with his exalted destiny, and everything is directed to rendering him capable of wearing his crown with glory. Does the education of a child of God need less care?

Is it right that his teachers should forget his birth and his destiny?

It is true that the Church alone can explain to us the ineffable origin of the sons of God. She alone knows how to use the elements of human knowledge for the supreme end which dominates the life of a Christian. The natural conclusion is, that the Church is by right the first and principal teacher of the nations. When she founds schools, she is on her own ground in all branches of knowledge, and a mission to teach from her is of more value than any diploma. Further, with regard to diplomas, which she herself has not conferred, these official commissions to teach draw their legal value, in the eyes of Christians, from her approval, and they are always by right subject to her supervision. She is the mother of the baptized, and even when a mother does not teach her own children, she has the right to supervise their education.

But the Church is not only the Mother of the Faithful, she is the Bride of the Son of God and the guardian of His sacraments. It is her duty to see that the Precious Blood has not been shed in vain. Our Lord has entrusted these seven fountains to the care of the ministers of His Church, and they must not be opened except when there is good reason to hope that the sacramental grace will be well used. Baptism especially, which raises man out of his own nothingness to a supernatural nobility, must be safeguarded in its administration with a prudence and watchfulness corresponding to the sublime and ineffaceable character which it confers. A baptized Christian who, through his own or others’ fault, is ignorant of his rights and duties, is like a descendant of a noble race who, knowing nothing of his family traditions, is despised by his kinsmen and drags out an aimless existence in a station of life below that to which by birth he is entitled.

The Church is no less vigilant to-day than she was in the time of Cyril. She has never admitted—she cannot admit—anyone to the sacred font without requiring from him a guarantee of sufficient instruction. An adult must give proof of his knowledge before he receives the Sacrament, and if the Church consents to receive an infant into the Christian family, it is because she considers that the Christian faith of those who present him to her and of the society in which they live will assure to him an education conformable to the supernatural life which is about to be given him.

Thus the baptism of infants could not become a general custom until the reign of Jesus Christ was firmly established upon earth. We must not be surprised to find that, as the conversion of the nations was gradually completed, the Church found herself alone in the work of education. The barren classes of grammarians, philosophers, and rhetoricians, who taught everything but the one thing necessary— the end for which man was created—were deserted for the episcopal and monastic schools, where the science of salvation held the first place, radiating its light upon all other branches of knowledge. Knowledge, thus made Christian, gave birth to the Universities, and produced a fruitful union of the sciences which, until then, had been quite unconnected, if not opposed to one another. The Universities were unknown before the establishment of Christianity, for it alone could solve the problem of this union, which is the essence of University life, and hence they remain the inalienable domain of the Church. The State, which to-day is pagan once more, may deny to the Mother of the nations and claim for itself the right to give the name of University to its higher schools, but peoples, which have lost their Christianity, can never have the right to found nor the power to maintain those glorious institutions in the true spirit of the name they bear. A state without faith cannot maintain any union among the sciences but that of Babel. This is already evident. The monument of a pride which rises against God and His Church will only serve to bring back that terrible confusion of tongues from which the Church had snatched the pagan peoples. Any thief or robber can assume the titles of the victim he has robbed, but his inability to display the qualities, which these titles suppose in their bearer, only serves to show more clearly that a theft has been committed.

Are we, then, to deny to a state which is pagan or, as they say nowadays, neutral, the right to educate the infidels which it has produced after its own image? No, the protection which is the right and duty of the Church extends only to the baptized. Moreover, if the Church finds one day that the state of society is no longer a sufficient guarantee for baptism, she will return to the discipline of the early ages, when the grace of this initial Sacrament was not granted indiscriminately to all, but only to those adults who had shown themselves to be worthy of it, or to infants whose families could give an assurance on which she could rely. The nations will then be once more divided into two classes—on the one side the children of God, living His life and heirs of His Kingship; on the other those men who have basely preferred to remain the slaves of the King, although by His Incarnation He has made His palace among the sons of Adam and desires to number them all among His children. An education which is common and neutral will then appear more impossible than ever. A training designed for the servants of the palace can never be suitable for the princes of the bloodroyal.

Are we drawing near to those times when men whom circumstances have unfortunately excluded from baptism at their entrance into this world will have to gain for themselves the privilege of admission into the Christian family? God alone knows, but more than one sign seems to point to it. It is possible that the institution of to-day’s feast is designed by divine Providence to correspond with the new situation which will then be created for the Church. A week ago we paid our homage to St. Gregory the Great, the Doctor of the Christian people; three days earlier our Christian students were honouring St. Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor of the Schools; why do we celebrate to-day, after fifteen centuries, the Doctor of the Catechumens, a class which has now disappeared, if not because the Church sees that St. Cyril of Jerusalem is called to render her new services by his immortal Catechetical Instructions? Even now many wandering Christians have no greater obstacle in the way of their return to God than an ignorance as desperate as, and more profound than, that of the Jews and pagans in the time of Cyril.

The lessons for the feast of this holy Doctor give a splendid account of his life and work.

Cyrillus Hierosolyraitanus, a teneris annis divinarum Scripturarum studio sumraopere deditus, adeo in carura scientia profecit, ut ortbodoxæ fidei strenuus assertor evaserit. Monasticis insti tutis imbutus, perpetuæ continentiæ, oranique severiori vivendi rationi se addictum voluit. Postquam a sancto Maximo Hierosolymæ Episcopo presbyter ordinatus fuit, munus verbi divini fidelibus prædicandi et catechumenos edocendi summa cum laude iraplevit, atque illas vere mirandas conscripsit catecheses, quibus totam ecclesiasticam doctrinam dilucide et copiose complexus, singula religionis dogmata contra fidei hostes solide propugnavit. Itavero in hic enucleate et distincte disseruit, ut non solum jam exortas hæreses, sed futuras etiam quasi præsagiens everterit, quemadmodum præetitit asserendo Corporis et Sanguinis Christi realem præsentiam in mirabili Eucharistiæ sacramento. Vita au tem functo sancto Maximo, a provinciæ episcopis in illius locum suffectus est.

In episcopatu injurias multas et calamitates, non secus ac beatus Athanasius, cui coævus erat, ab Arianorum factionibus fidei causa perpessus fuit. Hi enim ægre ferentes Cyrillum vehementer hæresibus obsistere, ipsum calumniis aggrediuntur et in concibabulo depositum e sua eede deturbant. Quorum furori ut se subtraheret, Tarsum Ciliciæ aufugit, et quoad vixit Constantius, exsilii rigorem pertulit. Post illius mortern, Juliano Apostata ad imperium evecto, Hierosolymam redire potuit, ubi ardenti zelo gregi suo ab erroribus et a vitiis revocando operam navavit. Sed iterum, Valente imperatore, exsulare coactus est, donee reddita Ecclesiæ pace per Theodosium Magnum et Arianorum crudelitate audaciaque repressa, ab eodem imperatore tamquam fortissimus Christi athleta honoribus sueceptus suæ sedi restitutus fuit. Quam strenue et sanete sublimis officii eui munia impleverit, luculenter apparet ex florenti tuno temporis Hierosolymitanæ ecclesiæ statu, quem sanctus Basilius loca sancta veneraturus, ibi aliquamdiu commoratus, describit.

Venerandi hujus Præsulis sanctitatem cælestibus signis a Deo fuisse illustratam, memorise traditum accepimus. Inter hæc recensetur præclara Crucis, solis radiis fulgentioris, apparitio, quæ episcopatus ejus initia decora vit. Hujus modi prodigii ethnici et christiani testes oculares fuerunt cum ipso Cyrillo, qui gratiis primum in Ecclesia Deo redditis, illud per epistolarn Constantio imperatori narravit. Nec minus admiratione dignum quod Judæis templum a Tito eversum restaurare ex impio imperatoria Juliani jussu conantibus, evenit. Vehement! enim terræmotu oborto, et ingentibus flammarum globis e terra erumpentibus, omnia opera ignis consumpsit, ita ut Judæi et Julianus deterriti, ab incepto destiterint; prout scilicet indubitanter futurum Cyrillus prædixerat. Qui demum paulo ante obitum concilio æcumenico Constantinopolitano interfuit, in quo Macedona hæresis, et iterum Ariana condemnata est. Ac Jerusalem inde reversus, fere septuagenarius, trigesimo quinto sui episcopatus anno, sancto fine quievit. Ejus officium et missam Leo deoimue tertiufl Pontifex Maximus ab universa Eccleeia celebran mandavit.
Cyril of Jerusalem was given to the study of the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and made such progress that he became an eminent champion of the orthodox faith. He embraced the monastic institute and bound himself to perpetual chastity and austerity of life. He was ordained priest by St. Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and undertook the work of preaching to the faithful and instructing the catechumens, in which he won the praise of all. He was the author of those truly wonderful Catechetical Instructions, which embrace clearly and fully all the teaching of the Church, and contain an excellent defence of each of the dogmas of religion against the enemies of the faith. His treatment of these subjects is so distinct and clear that he refutes not only the heresies of his own time, but also, by a kind of foreknowledge, as it were, those which were to arise later. Thus he maintains the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the adorable sacrament of the Altar. On the death of St. Maximus, the bishops of the province chose Cyril in his place.

As Bishop he endured, like blessed Athanasius, his contemporary, many wrongs and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and thus assailed him with calumnies, deposed him in a pseudo-council and drove him from his see. To escape their rage, he fled to Tarsus in Cilicia and, as long as Constantius lived, he bore the hardships of exile. On the death of Constantius and the accession of Julian the Apostate, Cyril was able to return to Jerusalem, where he set himself with burning zeal to deliver his flock from false doctrine and from sin. He was driven into exile a second time, under the Emperor Valens, but when peace was restored to the Church by Theodosius the Great, and the cruelty and insolence of the Arians were restrained, he was received with honour by the Emperor, as a valiant soldier of Christ, and restored to his see. With what earnestness and holiness he fulfilled the duties of his exalted office was proved by the flourishing state of the Church at Jerusalem, as described by St. Basil, who spent some time there on a pilgrimage to the holy places.

Tradition states that God rendered the holiness of this venerable Patriarch illustrious by signs from heaven, among which is numbered the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, which was seen at the beginning of his Patriarchate. Not only Cyril himself, but pagans and Christians alike were witnesses of this marvel, which Cyril, after having given thanks to God in church, announced by letter to Constantius. Å thing no less wonderful cama to pass when the Jews were commanded by the impious Emperor Julian to restore the Temple which had been destroyed by Titus. An earthquake arose and great balls of fire broke out of the earth and consumed the work, so that Julian and the Jews were struck with terror and gave up their plan. This had been clearly foretold by Cyril. A little while before his death, he was present at the (Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, where the heresies of Macedonius and Arius were condemned. After his return to Jerusalem, he died a holy death in the sixtyninth year of his age and thirty-fifth of his episcopate. Pope Leo XIIIordered that his office and mass should be said throughout the Universal Church.

Thou wert a true child of the light, O Cyril. Thou didst give thy heart to Holy Wisdom, while yet a child, and she set thee up as a lighthouse at the entrance of the harbour to be the guide of unfortunate souls tossing on the sea of error. The Church confided to thee the mission of preparing for baptism those happy multitudes whom her recent victory had won for her from all ranks of society, and this mission was to be accomplished in a century rich in holy doctors and in the region consecrated by the mysteries of our redemption. Thou wast nourished by Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Mother of all mankind, and thy words flowed pure and abundant as water from a spring. History tells us that the many duties of thy holy ministry would not permit thee to devote thyself exclusively to the Catechumens, and thus thou wert led to improvise those admirable instructions wherein the science of salvation is set forth with such clearness. The soundness of thy doctrine and the completeness of thy exposition have never been surpassed. In thy eyes, O holy Pontiff, this science of salvation was the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ, contained in the creed of Holy Church. Preparation for baptism, for life, for the love of God, was the acquisition of this knowledge, so deep, so far-reaching and so necessary. It was to be acquired, not by the impression of a vain sentimentality, but by the reception of the word of God in the right spirit, and by constant meditation, so that the soul comes to be firmly established in the fullness of truth, in moral rectitude, and in hatred of evil.

Thou wast sure of thy hearers and didst not fear to unveil before their eyes the arguments and abominable devices of their secret enemies. There are times and circumstances, only to be judged by the shepherds of the flock, when it is necessary to disregard the revulsion of feeling caused by such revelations in order to denounce the danger and warn the sheep against intellectual or moral scandals. Thus, O Cyril, thy invectives pursued Manicheism to its most secret haunts. Thou didst see in this heresy the principal agent of that mystery of iniquity which pursues its path of darkness and destruction throughout the ages, until it shall bring the world to decay. In these times the Manichee triumphs openly. The societies founded by him have gained power. The secret of the Lodges still hides from the uninitiated the sacrilegious symbols and dogmas brought once from Persia, but the prince of this world has cleverly united all social forces in the hands of this ally. The first use he makes of his power is to attack the Church out of hatred of Christ. He assails her fruitfulness by denying her the right to teach which she has received from her divine Head. The children, whom she has brought forth and who are hers in virtue of their baptism, are snatched from her by main force, and she is forbidden to preside over their education. She calls thee to her aid, O Cyril, in these unhappy times; do not disappoint her expectations. Thou didst understand so well the claims of the sacrament of regeneration. Protect the baptism of so many innocent souls in whom men seek to stifle the divine germ. Strengthen and rekindle the faith of Christian parents and teach them that if it is their duty to defend their children from death at the risk of their own bodies, they must remember that the souls of these little ones are still more precious. It has greatly consoled us to see how many have understood this and, faithful to the dictates of their conscience, have suffered violence rather than yield to the regulations of a pagan state. Bless them, O Cyril, and increase their number. Bless also, strengthen and multiply those faithful souls who devote themselves to the instruction of poor children whose spiritual interests are betrayed by the secular power. There is no mission to-day more urgent than that of catechists, and none, surely, dearer to thy heart.

Holy Church has just related to us the apparition of the holy Cross, which marked the beginning of thy episcopate, and similar marvels have been witnessed in our own times. But the apparition in thy day announced a triumph—the triumph thou didst foresee when St. Helena discovered the tree of our redemption, the triumph which, at the time of thy death, had been confirmed by the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the Jewish Temple. Can it be that our times are to witness only defeat and ruin? We have confidence in thy aid, O holy Pontiff. We remember that the triumph which thou didst witness was brought by the sufferings of the whole Church, in which thou thyself didst share by thrice-repeated deposition and twenty years of exile. The Cross, whose great anniversary is now approaching, is not conquered, but triumphs in the sufferings of the faithful and their patient endurance. It will appear once more, as a sign of eternal victory, over the ruins of the world on the Day of Judgment.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

To-dayJoseph, the spouse of Mary, the fosterfather of the Son of God, comes to cheer us by his dear presence. In a few days hence, the august mystery of the Incarnation will demand our fervent adoration: who could better prepare us for the grand feast, than he that was both the confidant and thd faithful guardian of the divine secret?

The Son of God, when about to descend upon this earth to assume our human nature, would have a Mother; this Mother could not be other than the purest of Virgins, and her divine maternity was not to impair her incomparable virginity. Until such time as the Son of Mary were recognized as the Son of God, His Mother’s honour had need of a protector: some man, therefore, was to be called to the high dignity of being Mary’s spouse. This privileged mortal was Joseph, the most chaste of men.

Heaven designated him as being the only one worthy of such a treasure: the rod he held in his hand in the temple suddenly produced a flower, as though it were a literal fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaias: ‘There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.’[1] The rich pretenders to an alliance with Mary were set aside; and Joseph was espoused to the Virgin of the house of David, by a union which surpassed in love and purity everything the angels themselves had ever witnessed.

But he was not only chosen to the glory of having to protect the Mother of the Incarnate Word; he was also called to exercise an adopted paternity over the very Son of God. So long as the mysterious cloud was over the Saint of saints, men called Jesus the Son of Joseph and the carpenter's Son. When our blessed Lady found the Child Jesus in the temple, in the midst of the doctors, she thus addressed Him: ‘Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing’;[2] and the holy evangelist adds that Jesus was subject to them, that is, that He was subject to Joseph as He was to Mary.

Who can imagine or worthily describe the sentiments which filled the heart of this man, whom the Gospel describes to us in one word, when it calls him the just man?[3] Let us try to picture him to ourselves amidst the principal events of his life: his being chosen as the spouse of Mary, the most holy and perfect of God’s creatures; the angel’s appearing to him, and making him the one single human confidant of the mystery of the Incarnation, by telling him that his Virgin bride bore within her the fruit of the world’s salvation: the joys of Bethlehem, when he assisted at the birth of the divine Babe, honoured the Virgin Mother, and heard the angels singing; his seeing first the humble and simple shepherds, and then the rich eastern magi, coming to the stable to adore the new-born Child; the sudden fears which came to him, when he was told to arise, and, midnight as it was, to flee into Egypt with the Child and the Mother; the hardships of that exile, the poverty and the privations which were endured by the hidden God, whose foster-father he was, and by the Virgin, whose sublime dignity was now so evident to him; the return to Nazareth, and the humble and laborious life led in that village, where he so often witnessed the world's Creator sharing in the work of a carpenter; the happiness of such a life, in that cottage where his companions were the Queen of the angels and the eternal Son of God, both of whom honoured, and tenderly loved him as the head of the family—yes, Joseph was beloved and honoured by the uncreated Word, the Wisdom of the Father, and by the Virgin, the masterpiece of God’s power and holiness.

We ask, what mortal can justly appreciate the glories of St. Joseph? To do so, he would have to understand the whole of that mystery, of which God made him the necessary instrument. What wonder, then, if this foster-father of the Son of God was prefigured in the old Testament, and that by one of the most glorious of the patriarchs? Let us listen to St. Bernard, who thus compares the two Josephs: ‘The first was sold by his brethren, out of envy, and was led into Egypt, thus prefiguring our Saviour’s being sold; the second Joseph, that he might avoid Herod’s envy, led Jesus into Egypt. The first was faithful to his master, and treated his wife with honour; the second, too, was the most chaste guardian of his bride, the Virgin Mother of his Lord. To the first was given the understanding and interpretation of dreams; to the second, the knowledge of, and participation in, the heavenly mysteries. The first laid up stores of corn, not for himself, but for all the people; the second received the living Bread that came down from heaven, and kept It both for himself and for the whole world.’[4]

Such a life could not close save by a death that was worthy of so great a saint. The time came for Jesus to quit the obscurity of Nazareth, and show Himself to the world. His own works were henceforth to bear testimony to His divine origin; the ministry of Joseph, therefore, was no longer needed. It was time for him to leave this world, and await, in Abraham’s bosom, the arrival of that day, when heaven’s gates were to be opened to the just. As Joseph lay on his bed of death, there was watching by his side He that is the master of life, and that had often called this His humble creature, father. His last breath was received by the glorious VirginMother, whom he had, by a just right, called his bride. It was thus, with Jesus and Mary by his side, caring for and caressing him, that Joseph sweetly slept in peace. The spouse of Mary, the fosterfather of Jesus, now reigns in heaven with a glory which, though inferior to that of Mary, is marked with certain prerogatives which no other inhabitant of heaven can have.

From heaven, he exercises a powerful protection over those that invoke him. In a few weeks from this time, the Church will show us the whole magnificence of this protection; a solemn feast will be kept in his honour in the third week after Easter. To-day the Liturgy sets before us his glories and privileges. Let us unite with the faithful throughout the world, and ofier to the spouse of Mary the hymns which are this day sung in his praise.

Hymn I

Te, Joseph, celebrent agmina cœlitum,
Te cuncti resonent Christiadum chori,
Qui clams meritis junctus es inclytæ
Casto fœdere Virgini.

Almo cum tumidam germine conjugem
Admirans, dubio tangeris anxius,
Afflatu superi Flaminis angelus
Conceptum puerum docet.

Tu natum Dominum stringis; ad exterae
Ægypti profugum tu sequeris plagas:
Amissum Solymis quæris, et invenis,
Miscene gaudia fletibus.

Post mortem reliquos mors pia consecrat,
Palmamque emeritos gloria suscipit;
Tu vivens, Superis par, frueris Deo,
Mira sorte beatior.

Nobis summa Trias, parce precantibus,
Da Joseph meritis sidera scandere:
Ut tandem liceat nos tibi perpetim
Gratum promere canticum.

Amen.
May the heavenly host praise thee, O Joseph!
May the choirs of Christendom resound with thy name,
for great are thy merits,
who wast united by a chaste alliance to the holy Virgin.

Seeing that thy bride was soon to be a Mother,
a cruel doubt afflicts thy heart; but an angel visits thee,
telling thee that she had conceived of the Holy Ghost
the Child she bore in her womb.

When Jesus was born, thou didst take him in thine arms,
and go with the little fugitive to Egypt’s distant land.
When he was lost in Jerusalem, thou didst seek after him;
and having found him, thy tears were mingled with joy.

Other saints receive their beatitude after death, when a holy death
has crowned their life; they receive their glory, when they have won the palm:
but thou, by a strange, happy lot, hadst, even during life,
what the blessed have in heaven—thou hadst the sweet society of thy God.

O sovereign Trinity! have mercy on us thy suppliants,
and may the intercession of Joseph aid us to reach heaven:
that there we may sing to thee
our eternal hymn of grateful love.

Amen.

Hymn II

Cœlitum Joseph decus, atque nostræ
Certa spes vitæ, columenque mundi,
Quas tibi læti canimus, benignus
Suscipe laudes.

Te Sator rerum statuit pudicæ
Virginia sponsum, voluitque Ver bi
Te patrem dici, dedit et ministrum
Esse salutis.

Tu Redemptorem stabulo jacentem,
Quem chorus vatum cecinit futurum,
Aspicis gaudens, humilisque natum
Numen adoras.

Rex, Deus, regum, Dominator orbis,
Cujus ad nutum tremit inferorum
Turba, cui pronus famulatur æther,
Se tibi subdit.

Laus sit excelsæ Triadi perennis,
Quæ tibi præbens superos honores,
Det tuis nobis meritis beatæ
Gaudia vitae.

Amen.
O Joseph, thou that art the delight of the blessed,
the sure hope of our life, and the pillar of the world!
Receive, in thy kind love,
the praises we now joyfully sing to thee.

The Creator appointed thee
the spouse of the holy Virgin;
willed thee to be called the father of the Word;
and gave thee to be an instrument of our salvation.

Thou didst fix thy glad gaze
on the Redeemer lying in the stable,
him that the prophets had foretold was to come;
and seeing him, thou didst humbly adore the new-born King.

He that is King, the God of kings, the Lord of the earth,
at whose bidding hell trembles
and before whom heaven prostrates ready to do his will,
yea, even he makes himself subject to thee.

Praise eternal be to the most high Trinity!
May he that has conferred such high honours upon thee,
grant us, through the merits of thine intercession,
to come to the joys of heavenly life.

Amen.

Hymn III

Iste quem læti colimus fideles,
Cujus excelsos canimus triumphos,
Hac die, Joseph meruit perennis
Gaudia vitæ.

O nimis felix, nimis o beatus,
Cujus extremam vigiles ad horam
Christus et Virgo simul adstiterunt,
Ore sereno.

Hine Stygis victor, laqueo solutus
Camis, ad sedes placido sopore
Migrat æternas, rutilisque cingit
Tempora sertis.

Ergo regnantem flagitemus omnes,
Adsit ufc nobis, veniamque nostris
Obtinene culpis, tribuat supernæ
Munera pacis.

Sint tibi plausus, tibi sint honores,
Trine qui regnas, Deus; et coronas
Aureas servo tribuis fideli,
Omne per ævum.

Amen.
It is on this day that Joseph,
whose praises we, the faithful,
now gladly tell, and whose high triumph we sing,
deserved to receive the joys of eternal life.

Thrice happy,
thrice blessed saint,
at whose last hour Jesus and Mary
stood watching in tender love.

Death was vanquished, the snare of the flesh was broken,
and Joseph, sweetly sleeping,
passed to the eternal home,
and received upon his brott the glittering crown.

Now that he reigns in heaven,
let us beseech him to help us,
obtain us the pardon of our sins,
and procure us the gift of heavenly peace.

Glory and honour be to thee,
O God, O blessed Trinity,
who art our sovereign Lord!
who givest to thy faithful servant an everlasting crown of gold.

Amen.

The Greek liturgy, which honours St. Joseph on the Sunday following the feast of Christmas, thus hymns his praise in the Menæa:

Hymn
(Dominica post Natale Domini)

Prophetarum prædicationes evidenter adimpletas vidit Joseph sponsus, qui ad singularem designat us desponsationem, revelationes accepit ab angelis clamantibus: Gloria Domino, quia pacem terræ largitus est.

Annuntia, Joseph, Davidi Dei parenti prodigia: Virginem vidisti puerum in sinu habentem; una cum magis adorasti, cum pastoribus gloriam Deo dedisti, ab angelo præmonitus. Deprecare Christum Deum, ut animæ nostræ salventur.

Quem supernæ Deum incircumscriptum tremunt potestates, tu, Joseph, natum ex Virgine in manibus tuis accipis consecratus venerando contactu; ideo te honorificamus.

Spiritum divinis mandatis obedientem habens, et purus omnino factua, solam in mulieribus puram et immaculatam tu, beate Joseph, in sponsam acoepieti, Virginem castam custodiens, ut Creatoris tabernaculum effici mereretur.

Soli Gabrieli in cœlis, et tibi eoli, celeberrime, post solam Virginem intactam, mysterium creditum est, maximum et venerandum, beate Joseph, mysterium quod peraiciosum principem tenebrarum dejiceret.

Ut divinam nubem, solam castam, in sinu suo Solem absconditum habentem, in Ægyptum ex civitate David perduxisti, ut ejusdem idololatriæ fugares tenebras, Joseph, incomprehensibilis mysterii minister.

Astitisti, sapiens Joseph, Deo in came puerascenti ministrans, sicut angelus; et immediate ab illo illustratus es radios ejus spirituales accipiens, beate; et illuminatissimus corde et anima vis us fuisti.

Qui cœlum, terram et mare verbo fabricatus est vocatus fuit filius fabri, tui, Joseph admiratione digne. Vocatus ts pater illius qui sine principio est, qui te glorificavit ut mysteriorum eupra rationem ministrum.

O quam pretiosa fuit mors tua in conspectu Domini, beate Joseph; tu enim Domino ab infantia sanctificatus, sacer fuisti custos benedictæ Virginis, et cum ea cecinisti: Omnis creatura benedicat Dominum, et superexaltet eum in sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.
Joseph, the spouse, saw with his own eyes the fulfilment of what the prophets had foretold. He was destined fot an espousal such as no other mortal had, and he received the revelation from angels, saying: Glory be to the Lord, for he hath given peace to the earth!

Tell, O Joseph, to David, the ancestor of God our Saviour, the prodigies thou hast seen. Thou hast seen the Virgin holding the Infant in her arms; thou didst adore with the magi; thou didst unite with the shepherds in giving glory to God, according to the word of the angel. Do thou beseech Christ our Lord, that he save us.

The infinite God, before whom the powers of heaven tremble, thou, O Joseph, didst receive into thy arms, when he was born of the Virgin. Thou wast consecrated by the holy contact; therefore do we honour thee.

Thy spirit was obedient to the divine commands, and thy purity was without reproach; therefore, O blessed Joseph, didst thou receive as thy bride her that was pure and immaculate among women. Thou wast the guardian of the chaste Virgin, when she became the worthy tabernacle of the Creator.

To Gabriel alone in heaven, and to thee alone, O blessed Joseph, most worthy of praise, was entrusted, after the spotless Virgin, that great and venerable mystery, which brought the downfall of the cruel prince of darkness.

Thou, O Joseph, the minister of the incomprehensible mystery, in order that the darkness of idolatry might be dispelled, didst lead from the city of David into Egypt the pure Mother, who like a mysterious cloud, held the Sun hidden in her bosom.

O prudent Joseph! thou, angel-like, didst minister to the Incarnate God when he had reached the age of boyhood. His spiritual rays came direct upon thee, O blessed one! and enlightened thee. Thy heart and soul were bathed in light.

He that, by his only word, made heaven and earth and sea, was called the carpenter’s Son, yes, thine, O Joseph, that deservest all our admiration. Thou wast called the father of him that had no beginning, and receivedst from him the glory of being minister of unfathomable mysteries.

Oh! how precious, in the sight of the Lord, was thy death, O blessed Joseph! for thou wast consecrated to him from thine infancy, and wast the holy guardian of the blessed Virgin. Thou didst thus sing together with her: Let every creature bless the Lord, and praise him above all for endless ages.

Amen.

We praise and glorify thee, O happy saint! We hail thee as the spouse of the Queen of heaven, and foster-father of our Redeemer. These titles, which would seem too grand for any human being to enjoy, are thine; and they are but the expression of the dignities conferred on thee by God. The Church of heaven admires the sublime favours thou hast received; the Church on earth joyfully celebrates thy glories, and blesses thee for the favours thou art so unceasingly bestowing upon her.

Though born of the kingly race of David, thou wast the humblest of men; thy spirit led thee to seek obscurity, and a hidden life was thine ambition: but God chose thee to be an instrument in the sublimest of all His works. A noble Virgin of the same family of David, the object of heaven’s admiration, and the glory and hope of the world, is to be thy bride. The Holy Ghost is to dwell within her as in a most pure tabernacle; it is to thee, the just and chaste, that He entrusts her as an inestimable treasure. Espouse, then, to thyself her whose beauty the very King of heaven so greatly desires.[5]

The Son of God comes down to this earth, that He may live the life of man; He comes that He may sanctify the ties and affections of kindred. He calls thee father; He obeys thy orders. What strange emotions must have filled thy heart, O Joseph! when, knowing the prerogatives of thy bride and the divinity of thy adopted Son, thou hadst to be the head of this family, which united heaven and earth into one! What respectful and tender love for Mary, thy blessed bride! What gratitude and profound worship of Jesus, who obeyed thee as thy Child! Oh mysteries of Nazareth! a God dwells among men, and permits Himself to be called the Son of Joseph!

O sublime minister of the greatest of blessings, intercede for us with God made Man. Ask Him to bestow humility upon us, that holy virtue which raised thee to such exalted dignity, and which must be the basis of our conversion. It is pride that led us into sin, and made us prefer our own will to that of God: yet will He pardon us if we offer Him the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart.[6] Get us this virtue, without which there can be no true penance. Pray also for us, O Joseph, that we may be chaste. Without purity of mind and body we cannot come nigh the God of all sanctity, who suffers nothing defiled to approach Him. He wills to make our bodies, by His grace, the temples of His holy Spirit: do thou, great saint, help us to maintain ourselves in so exalted a dignity, or to recover it if we have lost it.

And lastly, O faithful spouse of Mary! recommend us to our Mother. If she cast a look of pity upon us during these days of reconciliation, we shall be saved: for she is the Queen of mercy, and Jesus, her Son, will pardon us and change our hearts, if she intercede for us, O Joseph! Remind her of Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, in all of which she received from thee such marks of thy devotedness. Tell her that we, also, love and honour thee; and Mary will reward us for our devotion to him who was given her by heaven as her protector and support.

 

[1] Is. xi. 1.
[2] St. Luke ii. 48.
[3] St. Matt. i. 19.
[4] Homily II. on the Missus est.
[5] Ps. xiiv. 12.
[6] Ps. l. 19.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Forty days after the white dove of Cassino had mounted to heaven, Benedict, her glorious brother, ascended by a bright path to the blissful abode, where they were to be united for ever. Both of them reached the heavenly country during that portion of the year which corresponds with the holy season of Lent. It frequently happens, however, that St. Scholastica’s feast is kept before Lent has begun; whereas St. Benedict’s day, the twenty-first of March, always comes during the season of penance. God, who is the sovereign Master of time, willed that the faithful, whilst practising their exercises of penance, should always have before their eyes a saint whose example and intercession would inspire them with courage.

With what profound veneration ought we to celebrate the festival of this wonderful saint, who, as St. Gregory says, was filled with the spirit of all the just! If we consider his virtues, we find nothing superior in the annals of perfection presented to our admiration by the Church.

Love of God and man, humility, the gift of prayer, dominion over the passions—form him into a masterpiece of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Miracles seem to constitute his life: he cures the sick, commands the elements, casts out devils, and raises the dead to life. The spirit of prophecy unfolds futurity to him; and the most intimate thoughts of men are not too distant for the eye of his mind to scan. These superhuman qualifications are heightened by a sweet majesty, a serene gravity, and a tender charity, which shine in every page of his wonderful life; and it is one of his holiest children who wrote it, St. Gregory the Great. It is this holy Pope and Doctor, who had the honour of telling posterity all the wonders which God vouchsafed to work in His servant Benedict.

Posterity had a right to know the life and virtues of a man, whose salutary influence upon the Church and society has been so observable during the ages of the Christian era. To describe the influence exercised by the spirit of St. Benedict, we should have to transcribe the annals of all the nations of the western Church, from the seventh century down to our own times. Benedict is the father of Europe. By his Benedictines, numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the sea-shore, he rescued the last remnants of Roman vigour from the total annihilation threatened by the invasion of barbarians; he presided over the establishment of the public and private laws of those nations, which grew out of the ruins of the Roman empire; he carried the Gospel and civilization into England, Germany, and the northern countries, including Slavonia; he taught agriculture; he put an end to slavery; and to conclude, he Baved the precious deposit of the arts and sciences from the tempest which would have swept them from the world, and would have left mankind a prey to a gloomy and fatal ignorance.

And Benedict did all this by that little book which we call his Rule. This admirable code of Christian perfection and prudence disciplined the countless legions of religious, by whom the holy patriarch achieved all these prodigies. During the ages which preceded the promulgation of this rule, so wonderful m its simple eloquence, the monastic life in the western Church had produced some few saintly men; but there was nothing to justify the hope that this kind of life would become, even more than it had been in the east, the principal means of the Christian regeneration and civilization of so many nations. Once this rule was written, all others gradually give place to it, as the stars are eclipsed when the sun has risen. The west was overspread with monasteries; and from these monasteries flowed upon Europe all those blessings, which have made it the privileged quarter of the globe.

An incredible number of saints, both men and women, who look up to Benedict as their father, purify and sanctify the world, which had not yet emerged from the state of semi-barbarism. A long series of Popes who had once been novices in the Benedictine cloister, preside over the destinies of this new world, and form for it a new legislation, which, being based exclusively on the moral law, is to avert the threatening prevalence of brutal despotism. Bishops innumerable, trained in the same school of Benedict, consolidate this moral legislation in the provinces and cities over which they are appointed. The apostles of twenty barbarous nations confront their fierce and savage tribes, and, with the Gospel in one hand and the rule of their holy father in the other, lead them into the fold of Christ. For many centuries, the learned men, the doctors of the Church, and the instructors of youth, belong, almost exclusively, to the Order of the great patriarch, who, by the labours of his children, pours forth on the people the purest beauty of light and truth. This choir of heroes in every virtue, of Popes, of bishops, of apostles, of holy doctors, proclaiming themselves as his disciples, and joining with the universal Church in glorifying that God, whose holiness and power shine forth so brightly in the life and actions of Benedict—what a corona, what an aureola of glory for one saint to have!

Let us now read the sketch of his life, as given us in the liturgy:

Benedictus, Nursiæ nobili genere ortus, Romæ liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, ut totum se Jesu Christo daret, ad eum locum qui Sublacus dicitur, in altissimam speluncam penetravit: in qua sic per triennium delituit, ut unus id sciret Romanus mo· nachus, quo ad vitae necessitatem ministro utebatur. Dum igitur ei quadam die ardentes ad libidinem faces a diabolo subjicerentur, se in vepribus tamdiu volutavit, dum lacerato corpore, voluptatis sensus dolore opprimeretur. Sed jam erumpente ex illis latebris fama ejus sanctitatis, quidam monachi se illi instituendos tradiderunt: quorum vivendi licentia cum ejus objurgationes ferre non posset, venenum in potione ei dare constituunt. Verum poculum ei præbentibue, crucis signo vas confregit, ac relicto monasterio in solitudinem se recepit.

Sed cum multi ad eum quotidie discipuli convenirent, duodecim monasteria ædificavit, eaque sanctissimis legibus communivit. Postea Cassinum migravit, ubi simulacrum Apollinis, qui adhuo ibi colebatur, comminuit, aram evertit, et lucos succendit: ibique Sancti Martini sacellum et Sancti Joannis ædiculam exstruxit: oppidanos autem et incolas Christiania præceptis imbuit. Quare augebatur in dies magis divina gratia Benedictus, ut etiam prophetico spiritu ventura prædiceret. Quod ubi accepit Totila Gothorum rex, exploraturus an res ita esset, spatharium suum regio ornatu et comitatu præmittit, qui se regem simularet. Quern ut ille vidit: Depone, inquit, fill, depone quod geris; nam tuum non est. Totilæ vero prædixit adventum ej us in Urbem, maris transmissionem, et post novem annos mortem.

Qui aliquot mensibus antequam e vita migraret, præmonuit discipulos quo die esset moriturus: ac sepulchrum, in quo suum corpus condi vellet, sex diebus antequam eo inferretur, aperiri jussit: sextoque die deferri voluit in ecclesiam: ubi sumpta Eucharistia, sublatis in ccelum oculis orans, inter manus discipulorum efflavit animam: quam duo monachi euntem in ccelum viderunt, pallio omatam pretiosissimo, circum eam fulgentibus lampadibus, et clarissima et gravissima specie virum stantern supra caput ipsius dicentem audierunt: Hæc est via, qua dilectus Domini Benedictus in cœlum ascendit.
Benedict was born of a noble family at Nursia. He was sent to Rome, that he might receive a liberal education; but not long after, he withdrew to a place called Subiaeo, and there hid himself in a very deep cave, that he might give himself entirely to Jesus Christ. He passed three years in that retirement, unknown to all save a monk, by name Romanus, who supplied him with the necessaries of life. The devil having one day excited him to a violent temptation of impurity, he rolled himself amidst prickly brambles, and extinguished within himself the desire of carnal pleasure by the pain he thus endured. The fame of his sanctity, however, became known beyond the limits of his hiding-place, and certain monks put themselves under his guidance. He sharply rebuked them for their wicked lives; which rebuke so irritated them, that they resolved to put poison in his drink. When he made the sign of the cross over the cup as they proffered it to him, it broke, and he, leaving that monastery, returned to his solitude.

But whereas many daily came to him, beseeching him to take them as his disciples, he built twelve monasteries, and drew up the most admirable rules for their government. He afterwards went to Monte Cassino, where he destroyed an image of Apollo, which was still adored in those parts; and having pulled down the altar and burnt the groves, he built a chapel in that same place, in honour of St. Martin, and another in honour of St. John. He instructed the inhabitants in the Christian religion. Day by day did Benedict advance in the grace of God, and he also foretold, in a spirit of prophecy, what was to take place. Totila, the king of the Goths, having heard of this, and being anxious to know if it .were the truth, went to visit him; but first sent his sword-bearer, who was to pretend that he was the king, and who, for this end, was dressed in royal robes and accompanied by attendants. As soon as Benedict saw him, he said: ‘Put off, my spn, put off this dress, for it is not thine.’ But he foretold to Totila, that he would reach Rome, cross the sea, and die at the end of nine years.

Several months before he departed from this life, he foretold to his disciples the day on which he should die. Six days previous to his death, he ordered them to open the sepulchre wherein he wished to be buried. On the sixth day, he desired to bo carried to the church, and there having received the Eucharist, with his eyes raised in prayer towards heaven, and held up by his disciples, he breathed forth his soul. Two monks saw it ascending to heaven, adorned with a most precious robe, and surrounded by shining lights. They also saw a most beautiful and venerable man, who stood above the saint’s head, and they heard him thus speak: ‘This is the way whereby Benedict, the beloved of the Lord, ascended to heaven.’

The Benedictine Order celebrates the praise of its illustrious patriarch in these three hymns:

Hymn I

Laudibus cives resonent canoris,
Templa solemnes modulentur hymnos;
Hac die summi Benedicts arcem
Scandit Olympi.

Ille florentes peragebat annos,
Cum puer dulcis patriae penates
Liquit, et solus latuit silenti
Conditus antro.

Inter urticas rigidosque sentes
Vicit altricem scelerum juventam:
lade conscripsit documenta vitæ
Pulchra beatæ.

Æream turpis Clarii figuram,
Et nemus stravit Veneri dicatum,
Atque Baptistæ posuit sacrato
Monte sacellum.

Jamque felici residens Olympo,
Inter ardentes Seraphim catervas,
Spectat, et dulci reficit clientum
Corda liquore.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
Let the faithful give forth their songs of praise;
let our temples echo with solemn hymns:
for on this day Benedict ascended
to the highest heavens.

When a boy, and in the flower of youth,
he left his sweet home,
and hid himself from the sight of all
in a lonely cave.

He conquered his passions of youth
by rolling amidst nettles and prickly thorns.
After this, he wrote a beautiful rule
of a holy life.

He destroyed a brazen statue of the vile Apollo,
and a grove that was sacred to Venus:
and on the holy mount
he built an oratory in honour of the Baptist.

Now he dwells in the happy land above,
amidst the burning Seraphim:
he looks down on those that invoke him,
and refreshes their hearts with a nectar of sweetness.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God,
be glory for endless ages.

Amen.

Hymn II

Quidquid antiqui cecinere vates,
Quidquid æternæ monimenta legis,
Continet nobis celebranda summi
Vita monarchæ.

Extulit Mosen pietas benignum,
Inclytum proles Abraham decorat,
Isaac sponsae decus, et severi
Jussa parentis.

Ipse virtutum cumulis onustus,
Celsior nostri patriarcha coetus
Isaac, Mosen, Abraham sub uno
Pectore clausit.

Ipse, quos mundi rapuit procellis,
Hic pius flatu statuat secundo,
Pax ubi nullo, requiesque gliscit
Mista pavore.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
All that the ancient prophets preached,
and all that the books of the divine Law tell us of holiness,
is contained in the life of the great patriarch
which we are now extolling.

Moses was celebrated for his meekness;
Abraham for his being father of all believers;
Isaac for the beauty of his bride, and his obedience
to the trying commands of his father.

The sublime patriarch of our family
was richly laden with every virtue;
and in his single person represented
Isaac, Moses, and Abraham.

May he have a loving care of those
whom he has delivered from this stormy world,
and lead them with prosperous gales to the port
where there is no fear that can ruffle peace and repose.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God, be glory
for endless ages.

Amen.

Hymn III

Inter æternas Superum coronas,
Quas sacro partas retinent agone,
Emicas celsis meritis coruscus,
O Benedicte.

Sancta te compsit puerum seneotus,
Nil sibi de te rapuit voluptas,
Aruit mundi tibi flos ad alta
Mente levato.

Hinc fuga lapsus, patriam, parentes
Deseris, fervens nemorum colonus,
Edomas carnem, subigisque Christo
Tortor acerbus.

Ne diu tutus latebras foveres,
Signa te produnt operum pioruin,
Spargitur felix celeri per orbem
Fama volatu.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi, compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni.
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
Amidst the saints that glitter
with the crowns they have won in the holy contest,
thou, O Benedict, shinest resplendent
with thy sublime merits.

Thy boyhood was graced with the holy gravity of old age;
the pleasures of the world had no hold on thee,
and its flowers seemed but as withered weeds to a soul like thine,
that was fixed on heavenly things.

Therefore didst thou flee from the world, leaving thy country and thy parents,
and becamest a fervent solitary.
Thou didst tame the rebellion of the flesh, and by sharp mortification
thou didst bring it into subjection to Christ.

But thy fond hope of concealment was to be cut short:
thy holy miracles betrayed thee,
and the glorious fame of thy sanctity
swiftly spread through the world.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God,
be glory for endless ages.

Amen.

The monastic missal contains the following sequence in honour of St. Benedict:

Sequence

Læta quies magni ducis,
Dona ferens novæ lucis,
Hodie recolitur.

Charis datur piæ menti,
Corde sonet in ardenti
Quidquid foris promitur.

Hunc per callem orientis
Admiremur ascenderitis
Patriarchæ speciem.

Amplum semen magnæ prolis
Ilium fecit instar solis,
Abrahæ persimilem.

Corvum cemis ministrantem;
Hine Eliam latitantem
Specu nosce parvulo.

Eliseus dignoscatur,
Cum securis revocatur
De torrentis alveo.

Illum Joseph candor morum,
Illum Jacob futurorum
Mens effecit conscia.

Ipse memor suae gentis,
Nos perducat in manentis
Semper Christi gaudia.

Amen.
We celebrate, this day,
the happy death of our great leader,
which brings us the blessings of new light.

On this day grace is given to the souls of his loving children.
Oh! may the fervent heart re-echo
what the voice sings forth!

Let us admire the beauty of our patriarch,
as he ascends to heaven
by the path of the east.

He shines as a sun in the world, he is most like to Abraham,
for he is the rich seed from which
a countless race hath sprung.

When thou seest him fed by the crows
thou thinkest of Elias,
that hid himself in the little cave.

He reminds us of Eliseus,
when he makes the head of the axe return
from the bed of the stream.

He is like Joseph by the purity of his life,
and like Jacob by the spirit
of prophecy.

May he be mindful of his children,
and lead us safe to the joys of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who abideth for ever.

Amen.

The Greek Church has not forgotten, in her liturgy, the praise of the great patriarch of the monks of the west. We take from the menæa some of the stanzas, in which she celebrates the name of Saint Benedict:

Hymn
(Die XXI Martii)

Mihi laudabilem memoriam tuam, o sancte, hymnis celebrare aggresso gratiam ac peccatorum omnium remissionem tribui, Benedicte, Sancto deprecare.

In eremo tuam a pueritia crucem tollens, Omnipotentem insecutus es, atque carne mortificata vitam, o beatissime, promeruisti.

Angusta semita calcata pedem in Paradisi latitudine fixisti, o prorsus beate, ac dæmonum calliditates et insidias elusisti.

Lacrymarum tuarum profluviis fructiferi ligni instar irrigatus, o Benedicte, divinos virtutum ac miraculorum fructus, Dei virtute, ubertim attulisti.

Per continentiæ certamina, o beate, carnis membris mortificatis, mortuos precibus exsuscitasti, ac debilibus expeditam gradiendi vim tradidisti, morbumque omnem curasti, cum fide in admiratione habitus, o pater.

Siccas, atque aridas animas vivifico sermone tuo, o beate, frugiferas reddidisti, miraculorum exhibitione, et pastor divinitus inspiratus, et speciossisimus monachorum decor effectus.

Misericordem Deum deprecatus, sapiens pater, olei thecam, quemadmodum Elias, illico replevisti, o beatissime, a videntibus cum fide in admiratione habitus.

Utpote mente purus, utpote extra te raptus, universam terram conspexisti, ceu ab unico radio Dei te honorantis illustratus, o beatissime Benedicte.

In Christo imperans fontis aquam, precibus bonorum datorem obsecrans, emanare fecieti, quæ miraculum deprædicans, o Benedicte, adhuc perseverat.

Spiritus splendore collustratus, pravorum etiam dæmonum tenebras dissipasti, o miraculorum patrator Benedicte, splendidissimum monachorum luminare.

Te, o beate, venenatis potionibus interimere insipienter volentes, quern divina universi Creatoris manus custodiebat, insipientes oonfusi sunt. Quos prævia tua per Spiritum scientia deprehendit.

Te monachorum turbæ a te convocatæ diu noctuque concelebrant, corpus tuum in medio positum servantes, quod largos miraculorum fluvios effundit, o pater sapiens, eorumque gressus perenni lumine collustrat.

Divinis mandatis obsecutus, o pater, super solares radios effulsisti, atque ad inocciduum translatus es, exorans propitiationem peccatorum concedi iis, qui te cum fide colunt, Celebris Benedicte.
O holy Benedict! pray to the holy God for me, who now begin to sing a hymn to thy praiseworthy name. Obtain for me that I may receive grace and the forgiveness of all my sins.

From thy childhood, O most blessed one! thou didst carry thy cross in the desert, walking in the footsteps of the Omnipotent. Thou didst merit life, by putting thy flesh to death.

Treading the narrow path, O truly blessed! thou didst take thy stand in the spaciousness of paradise, and didst elude the craft and snares of the devils.

Watered by the streams of thy tears, O Benedict! thou, like unto a fruitful tree, didst, by God’s power, bring forth in abundance the divine fruits of virtues and miracles.

O blessed one! by the struggle of continency thou didst mortify thy bodily members: thy prayers raised the dead to life, gave to the lame the power to walk, and cured every disease, for men were in admiration at thee and had faith in thee, O father!

Thy life-giving words, O blessed one! and the sight of thy miracles, gave fruitfulness to souls that before were parched and dry. Thou wast the divinely inspired shepherd, and the fairest glory of the monastic life.

O wise father! thou didst beseech the God of mercy, and like Elias, thou didst suddenly fill the vessel with oil, for men were in admiration at thee, and had faith in thee, O most blessed Benedict!

Because of thy clean-heartedness, and because thou wast out of thyself with rapture, thou didst behold the whole earth, for God honoured thee with a ray of his own light, O most blessed Benedict!

Thou didst command in the name of Christ, thou didst pray to the Giver of all good gifts, and a fountain of water sprang up at thy bidding: it still exists, O Benedict! the abiding witness of thy miracle.

Enlightened by the bright rays of the holy Spirit, thou didst dispel the darkness of the wicked devils, O Benedict, thou worker of miracles, thou fairest light of monasticism!

Those foolish men that madly plotted to destroy thy life by poison were confounded, for thou wast guarded, O blessed one! by the divine hand of the great
Creator. The knowledge thou hadet from the holy Spirit forewarned thee of their plot.

The choirs of monks, whom thou hast called, celebrate thy name day and night. They possess thy body, which is enshrined in their midst, and from which flow abundant streams of miracles, and an unfading light that illumines their path, O father full of wisdom!

By thine obedience to the divine precepts, O father 1 thou hast been made brighter than the sun, and hast beeii taken to the land where the light sets not. Pray for them that have confidence in thee and honour thee; pray that they may receive the forgiveness of their sins, O Benedict', thou whose name is known throughout the world.

O Benedict! thou vessel of election, thou palm of the wilderness, thou angel of earth, we offer thee the salutation of our love! What man was ever chosen to work on the earth more wonders than thou hast done? The Saviour has crowned thee as one of His principal co-operators in the work of the salvation and sanctification of men. Who could count the millions of souls who owe their eternal happiness to thee? Thy immortal rule has sanctified them in the cloister, and the zeal of thy Benedictines has been the means of their knowing and serving the great God who chose thee. Around thee, in the realms of glory, a countless number of the blessed acknowledge themselves indebted to thee, after God, for their eternal happiness; and upon the earth whole nations profess the true faith, because the Gospel was first preached to them by thy disciples.

O father of so many people! look down upon thine inheritance, and once more bless this ungrateful Europe, which owes everything to thee, yet has almost forgotten thy name! The light which thy children imparted to it has become dimmed, the warmth they imparted to the societies they founded and civilized by the cross has grown cold; thorns have covered a large portion of the land in which they sowed the seed of salvation. Come and protect thine own work; and, by thy prayers, keep it from perishing. Give firmness to what has been shaken. May a new Europe, a Catholic Europe, spring up in place of that which heresy and false doctrines have formed.

O patriarch of the servants of God! look down from heaven on the vineyard which thy hand hath planted, and see into what a state of desolation it has fallen. There was a time when thy name was honoured as that of a father in thirty thousand monasteries, from the shores of the Baltic to the borders of Syria, and from the green Erin to the steppes of Poland. Now, alas! few and feeble are the prayers that ascend to thee from the whole of that immense patrimony, which the faith and gratitude of the people had once consecrated to thee. The blight of heresy and the rapaciousness of avarice have robbed thee of these harvests of thy glory. The work of sacrilegious spoliation is now centuries old, and unceasingly has it been pursued; at one time having recourse to open violence, and at another pleading the urgency of political interests. Sainted father of our faith! thou hast been robbed of those thousands of sanctuaries, which, for long ages, were fountains of life and light to the people. The race of thy children has become almost extinct: watch over them that still remain, and are labouring to perpetuate thy rule. An ancient tradition tells us how our Lord revealed to thee that thy Order would last to the end of the world, and that thy children would console the Church of Rome and confirm the faith of many in the last great trials: deign to protect, by thy powerful intercession, the remnants of that family which still calls thee its father. Raise it up again; multiply it; sanctify it: let the spirit which thou hast deposited in thy holy rule flourish in its midst, and show, by thus blessing it, that thou art ever Benedict, the servant of God.

Support the holy Church, by thy powerful intercession, dear father! Assist the apostolic See, which has been so often occupied by disciples of thy school. Father of so many pastors of thy people! obtain for us bishops like those sainted ones whom thy rule has formed. Father of so many apostles! ask for the countries which have no faith preachers of the Gospel, who may convert the people by their blood and by their words, as did those who went out missioners from thy cloisters. Father of so many holy doctors! pray that the science of sacred literature may revive, to aid the Church and confound error. Father of so many sublime ascetics! rekindle the zeal of Christian perfection, which has grown so cold among the Christians of our days. Patriarch of the religious life in the western Church! bless all the religious Orders which the holy Spirit has given successively to the Church; they all look on thee with admiration, as their venerable predecessor: do thou pour out upon them the influence of thy fatherly love.

Lastly, O blessed favourite of God! pray for all the faithful of Christ during these days which are consecrated to thoughts and works of penance. It was in the midst of the holy austerities of Lent that thou didst mount to the abode of everlasting delight; ah! help us Christians, who are, at this very time, in the same campaign of penance. Rouse our courage by thy example and precepts. Teach us to keep down the flesh, and to subject it to the spirit, as thou didst. Obtain for us a little of thy blessed spirit, that, turning away from this vain world, we may think on the eternal years. Pray for us, that our hearts may never love, and our thoughts never dwell on, joys so fleeting as are those of time.

Catholic piety invokes thee as one of the patrons, as well as one of the models, of a dying Christian. It loves to tell men of the sublime spectacle thou didst present at thy death, when standing at the foot of the altar, leaning on the arms of thy disciples, and barely touching the earth with thy feet, thou didst give back, in submission and confidence, thy soul to its Creator. Obtain for us, dear saint! a death courageous and sweet as was thine. Drive from us, at our last hour, the cruel enemy who will seek to ensnare us. Visit us by thy presence, and leave us not till we have breathed forth our soul into the bosom of the God who has made thee so glorious a saint.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

So far in the Church’s calendar, we have not met with any feast in honour of the holy angels. Amidst the ineffable joys of Christmas night, we mingled our timid but glad voices with the hymns of these heavenly spirits, who sang around the crib of our Emmanuel. The very recollection brings joy to our hearts, saddened as they now are by penitential feelings and by the near approach of the mournful anniversary of our Jesus’ death. Let us, for a moment, interrupt our sadness, and keep the feast of the Archangel Gabriel. Later on, we shall have Michael, Raphael, and the countless host of the angel guardians; but to-day, the eve of the Annunciation, it is just that we should honour Gabriel. Tomorrow we shall see this heavenly ambassador of the blessed Trinity coming down to the Virgin of Nazareth; let us, therefore, recommend ourselves to him, and beseech him to teach us how to celebrate, in a becoming manner, the grand mystery of which he was the messenger.

Gabriel is one of the first of the angelic kingdom. He tells Zachary that he stands before the face of God.[1] He is the angel of the Incarnation, because it is in this mystery, which apparently is so humble, that the power of God is principally manifested: and Gabriel signifies the strength of God. We find the Archangel preparing for this sublime office, even in the old Testament. First of all, he appeared to Daniel, after this prophet had had the vision of the Persian and Grecian empires; and such was the majesty of his person that Daniel fell on his face trembling.[2] Shortly afterwards, he appeared again to the same prophet, telling him the exact time of the coming of the Messias: ‘Know thou and take notice: that from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,’[3] that is, sixty-nine weeks of years.

When the fulness of time had come, and heaven was about to send the last of the prophets, who, after preaching to men the approach of the Messias, is to show Him to the people, saying: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world,’ Gabriel descends from heaven to the temple of Jerusalem, and prophesies to Zachary the birth of John the Baptist,[4] which was to be followed by that of Jesus Himself.

Six months later on, the holy Archangel again appears on the earth; and this time it is Nazareth that he visits. He brings the great message from heaven. Angel as he is, he reveres the humble Maid, whose name is Mary; he has been sent to her by the most high God, to offer her the immense honour of becoming the Mother of the eternal Word. It is Gabriel that receives the great Fiat, the consent of Mary; and when he quits this earth, he leaves it in possession of Him, for whom it had so long prayed in those words of Isaias: Drop down Dew, O ye heavens![5]

The hour at length came, when the Mother of the Emmanuel was to bring forth the blessed Fruit of her virginal womb. Jesus was born amidst poverty; but heaven willed that His crib should be surrounded by fervent adorers. An angel appeared to some shepherds, inviting them to go to the stable near Bethlehem. He is accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly army, sweetly singing their hymn: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will!’ Who is this angel that speaks to the shepherds, and seems as the chief of the other blessed spirits that are with him? In the opinion of several learned writers, it is the Archangel Gabriel, who is continuing his ministry as messenger of the good tidings.[6]

Lastly, when Jesus is suffering His agony in the garden of Gethsemani, an angel appears to Him, not merely as a witness of His sufferings, but that he might strengthen Him under the fear His human nature felt at the thought of the chalice of the Passion He was about to drink.[7] Who is this angel? It is Gabriel, as we learn not only from the writings of several holy and learned authors, but also from a hymn which the holy See has permitted to be used in the liturgy, and which we give below.

These are the claims of the great Archangel to our veneration and love; these are the proofs he gives of his deserving his beautiful name, the strength of God. God has employed him in each stage of the great work, in which He has chiefly manifested His power; for Jesus, even on His cross, is the Power of God,[8] as the apostle tells us. Gabriel prepares the way for Jesus. He foretells the precise time of His coming; he announces the birth of His Precursor; he is present at the solemn moment when the Word is made Flesh; he invites the shepherds of Bethlehem to come to the crib, and adore the divine Babe; and when Jesus, in His agony, is to receive strength from one of His own creatures, Gabriel is found ready in the garden of Gethsemani, as he had been at Nazareth and Bethlehem.

Let us, then, honour the angel of the Incarnation. For this purpose, let us recite in his praise some of the pieces which liturgical piety has composed for his feast. The two following hymns are from the old Franciscan breviary:

Hymn I

Mentibus lætis jubilemus omnes,
Plectra tangentes fidibus canoris,
Inclytus quando Gabriel ab alto
Fulget Olympo.

Virginia summæ Paranymphus adest
Hodie nobis, simul Angelorum,
Plurimis Christum venerans triumphis,
Concio tota.

Principia laudes Gabrielis ergo
Concinat noster chorus, ipse quando est
Unus ex septem, Domino qui adstant
Jussa sequentes.

Nuntius cceli, mediator idem,
Exstat a summis Gabriel ubique
Lætus, et mundo reserat secreta
Omnipotentis.

Nuntia nobis, Gabriel, precamur,
Pacis æternæ speciale munus,
Quo poli tandem teneamus aulam
Semper ovantes.

Præstet hoc nobis Deitas beata
Patris, ac Nati, pariterque sancti
Spiritus cujus resonat per omnem
Gloria mundum.

Amen.
Let us all exult with joyous hearts,
and strike the tuneful lyre;
’tis the great Gabriel that comes in all his brightness
from the high heavens.

This is the feast of the glorious Virgin’s messenger,
and with him comes the whole
host of angels, singing in varied hymns
the praise of Christ.

Let our choir, therefore,
sing the praises of Gabriel the prince,
for he is one of the seven
that stand before the Lord and do his biddings.

Gabriel cheerfully descends whithersoever God wills,
for he is the messenger of heaven,
nay the mediator that reveals to the world
the secret decrees of the omnipotent God.

Be thou, O Gabriel, we beseech thee,
messenger to us of the special gift of eternal peace,
wherewith we may finally reach heaven,
and everlastingly rejoice.

May the Godhead ever blessed of Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, whose glory is proclaimed
through the whole world,
grant us this our prayer.

Amen.

Hymn II

En noctis medium: surgite propere,
Cantemus Domino jam nova cantica;
Hac hora Gabriel nam fuit omnibus
Vitæ nuntius optimus.

Hac hora Dominum Virgineus alvus
Humano generi protulit; insuper
Devictis pariter funditus hostibus,
Victor surgit ab inferis.

Surgentes igitur mitibus invicem
Oremus precibus ccelica Numina:
Praesertim Dominum, qui dedit angelum
Curam qui gerit hominum.

Quæ virtus hominis promere sufficit,
Quæ mundo Gabriel munera conferat?
Banctas hic animas visere Dominum
Præsto ducit in æthera.

Te, princeps igitur inclyte, quæsumus,
Pro nobis miseris poscito gratiam;
Fac et propitium, qui valet omnia,
Nobis ut veniam afferat.

Amen.
’Tis the midnight hour: quickly arise,
and sing your new canticles to the Lord;
for it is at this hour that was sent
the most welcome messenger of life to the world.

It is at this hour that the Virgin’s womb
brought forth our Lord, for the salvation of mankind:
and at the same, that he arose from the grave,
having defeated his enemies.

Let us, then, arise, and in our humble choral prayers,
make supplication to the heavenly spirits;
let us pray especially to the God
who gave us an angel to guard us.

What tongue of man could tell the blessings
brought by Gabriel to the world?
He it is that leads holy souls to heaven,
there to contemplate our Lord.

We beseech thee, therefore, great prince,
pray for us miserable sinners.
Propitiate him that can do all things,
and obtain for us his pardon.

Amen.

The Dominican breviary contains this beautiful hymn in honour of the holy Archangel:

Hymn

O Robur Domini, lucide Gabriel!
Quem de principibus signat Emmanuel:
A. quo promeruit discere Daniel
Hirci prodigium feri.

Tu vatis precibus curris alacriter,
Monstras hebdomadum sacrata tempora:
Quæ nos ætherei germine Principis,
Ditabunt bene gaudiis.

Baptistæ pariter mira parentibus
Affers a superis lætaque nuntia,
Quod mater, sterili corpore, pignora
Longævo pariet patri.

Quod vates referunt, mundi ab origine,
Hoc sacræ veniens tu piene Virgini
Longo mysterium pandis ab ordine,
Verum quod pariet Deum.

Pastores Solymos, inclyte, gaudiis
Implesti, reserans ccelica nuntia:
Et tecum celebrat turba canentium
Nati mysterium Dei.

Oranti Domino nocte novissima,
Dum sudor madidum sanguine conficit,
Adstas a superis, ut calicem bibat,
Assensum Patris indicans.

Mentes catholicas, inclyta Trinitas,
Confirma fidei munere cælico:
Da nobis gratiam, nos quoque gloriam
Per cuncta tibi sæcula.

Amen.
Gabriel, angel of light, and strength of God!
whom our Emmanuel selected from the rest of the heavenly princes,
that thou shouldst expound unto Daniel
the mystery of the savage goat.

Thou didst joyfully hasten to the prophet as he prayed,
and didst tell him of the sacred weeks,
which were to give us the birth of the King of heaven,
and enrich us with plenteous joy.

’Tis thou didst bring to the parents of the Baptist
the wondrous and gladsome tidings that Elizabeth,
though barren, and Zachary,
though old, should have a son.

What the prophets had foretold from the beginning of the world,
this thou didst announce in all the fulness
of the mystery to the holy virgin,
telling her that she was to be the true Mother of God.

Thou, fair spirit, didst fill the Bethlehem shepherds with joy,
when thou didst tell them the heavenly tidings;
and with thee a host of angels sang
the praises of the newborn God.

As Jesus was in prayer on that last night,
when a bloody sweat bathed his limbs,
thou didst leave heaven to be near him,
and offer him the chalice that his Father willed him to drink.

O blessed Trinity!
strengthen Catholic hearts with the heavenly gift of faith.
Give us grace,
as we to thee give glory for ever.

Amen.

The whole human race is indebted to thee, O Gabriel! and, on this day, we would fain pay thee the honour and gratitude we owe thee. Thou wast moved to holy compassion on seeing the miseries of the world; for all flesh had corrupted its way, and the forgetfulness of God increased with each new generation of men. Then did the Most High commission thee to bring to the world the good tidings of its salvation. How beautiful thy steps, O prince of the heavenly court, as thou earnest down to this our humble sphere! How tender and fraternal is thy love of man, whose nature, though so inferior to thine own, was to be raised, by the mystery of the Incarnation, to union with God Himself! With what respectful awe didst thou approach the Virgin, who surpassed all the angels in holiness!

Blessed messenger of our redemption, whom God selects as His minister when He would show His power, we beseech thee, offer the homage of our gratitude to Him that thus sent thee. Help us to pay the immense debt we owe to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give it His only-begotten Son;[9] to the Son, who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant;[10] and to the Holy Ghost, who rested on the Flower that sprang up out of the root of Jesse.[11]

’Tis thou, O Gabriel! that taughtest us the salutation wherewith we should greet Mary full of grace. Thou wast the first to pronounce these sublime words, which thou broughtest from heaven. The children of the Church are now, day and night, repeating these words of thine; pray for us that we may say them in such a manner, that our blessed Mother may find them worthy of her acceptance.

Angel of strength, friend of mankind! continue thy ministry of aiding us. We are surrounded by terrible enemies: our weakness makes them bold; come to our assistance, procure us courage. Pray for us during these days of conversion and penance. Obtain for us the knowledge of all we owe to God in consequence of that ineffable mystery of the Incarnation, of which thou wast the first witness. We have forgotten our duties to the Man-God, and we have offended Him: enlighten us, that so, henceforth, we may be faithful to His teachings and examples. Raise up our thoughts to the happy abode where thou dwellest; assist us to merit the places left vacant by the fallen angels, for God has reserved them for His elect among men.

Pray, O Gabriel, for the Church militant, and defend her against the attacks of hell. The times are evil; the spirits of malice are let loose, nor can we make stand against them, unless with God’s help. It is by His holy angels that He gives victory to His bride. Be thou, O strength of God! foremost in the ranks. Drive heresy back, keep schism down, foil the false wisdom of men, frustrate the policy of the world, arouse the well-minded from apathy; that thus the Christ whom thou didst announcemay reign over the earth He has redeemed, and that we may sing together with thee and the whole angelic choir: ‘Glory be to God, peace to men!’

 


[1] St. Luke i. 19.
[2] Dan. viii. 17.
[3] Ibid. ix. 25.
[4] St. Luke i. 13.
[5] Is. xlv. 8.
[6] St. Luke ii. 10.
[7] Ibid. xxii. 42, 43.
[8] 1 Cor. i. 24.
[9] St. John iii. 16.
[10] Phil. ii. 7.
[11] Is. xi. 1.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Including:

Feast of the Annunciation during Lent

 

This is a great day, not only to man, but even to God Himself; for it is the anniversary of the most solemn event that time has ever witnessed. On this day, the divine Word, by whom the Father created the world, was made flesh in the womb of a virgin, and dwelt among us.[1] We must spend it in joy. Whilst we adore the Son of God who humbled Himself by thus becoming Man, let us give thanks to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son;[2] let us give thanks to the Holy Ghost, whose almighty power achieves the great mystery. We are in the very midst of Lent, and yet the ineffable joys of Christmas are upon us: our Emmanuel is conceived on this day, and, nine months hence, will be born in Bethlehem, and the angels will invite us to come and honour the sweet Babe.

During Septuagesima week, we meditated upon the fall of our first parents, and the triple sentence pronounced by God against the serpent, the woman, and Adam. Our hearts were filled with fear as we reflected on the divine malediction, the effects of which are to be felt by all generations, even to the end of the world. But in the midst of the anathemas then pronounced against us, a promise was made us by our God; it was a promise of salvation, and it enkindled hope within us. In pronouncing sentence against the serpent, God said that his head should one day be crushed, and that, too, by a woman.

The time has come for the fulfilment of this promise. The world has been in expectation for four thousand years; and the hope of its deliverance has been kept up, in spite of all its crimes. During this time, God has made use of miracles, prophecies, and types, as a renewal of the engagement He has entered into with mankind. The blood of the Messias has passed from Adam to Noe; from Sem to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; from David and Solomon to Joachim; and now it flows in the veins of Mary, Joachim’s daughter. Mary is the woman by whom is to be taken from our race the curse that lies upon it. God has decreed that she should be Immaculate; and has thereby set an irreconcilable enmity between her and the serpent. She, a daughter of Eve, is to repair all the injury done by her mother’s fall; she is to raise up her sex from the degradation into which it has been cast; she is to co-operate, directly and really, in the victory which the Son of God is about to gain over His and our enemy.

A tradition, which has come down from the apostolic ages, tells us that the great mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March.[3] It was at the hour of midnight, when the most holy Virgin was alone and absorbed in prayer, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her, and asked her, in the name of the blessed Trinity, to consent to become the Mother of God. Let us assist, in spirit, at this wonderful interview between the angel and the Virgin: and, at the same time, let us think of that other interview which took place between Eve and the serpent. A holy bishop and marytr of the second century, Saint Irenæus, who had received the tradition from the very disciples of the apostles, shows us that Nazareth is the counterpart of Eden.[4]

In the garden of delights there is a virgin and an angel; and a conversation takes place·between them. At Nazareth a virgin is also addressed by an angel, and she answers him; but the angel of the earthly paradise is a spirit of darkness, and he of Nazareth is a spirit of light. In both instances it is the angel that has the first word. ‘Why,’ said the serpent to Eve, ‘hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?’ His question implies impatience and a solicitation to evil; he has contempt for the frail creature to whom he addresses it, but he hates the image of God which is upon her.

See, on the other hand, the angel of light; see with what composure and peacefulness he approaches the Virgin of Nazareth, the new Eve; and how respectfully he bows himself down before her: ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women! Such language is evidently of heaven: none but an angel could speak thus to Mary.

Eve imprudently listens to the tempter’s words; she answers him; she enters into conversation with one that dares to ask her to question the justice of God’s commands. Her curiosity urges her on. She has no mistrust in the serpent; this leads her to mistrust her Creator.

Mary hears what Gabriel has spoken to her; but this most prudent Virgin is silent. She is surprised at the praise given her by the angel. The purest and humblest of virgins has a dread of flattery; and the heavenly messenger receives no reply from her, until he has fully explained his mission by these words: ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.’

What magnificent promises are these, which are made to her in the name of God! What higher glory could she, a daughter of Juda, desire, knowing, as she does, that the fortunate Mother of the Messias is to be the object of the greatest veneration? And yet it tempts her not. She has for ever consecrated her virginity to God, in order that she may be the more closely united to Him by love. The grandest possible privilege, if it is to be on the condition of violating this sacred vow, would be less than nothing in her estimation. She thus answers the angel: ‘How shall this be done? because I know not man.’

The first Eve evinces no such prudence or disinterestedness. No sooner has the wicked spirit assured her that she may break the commandment of her divine Benefactor and not die; that the fruit of her disobedience will be a wonderful knowledge, which will put her on an equality with God Himself: than she immediately yields; she is conquered. Her self-love has made her at once forget both duty and gratitude: she is delighted at the thought of being freed from the twofold tie which binds her to her Creator.

Such is the woman that caused our perdition. But how different is she that was to save us! The former cares not for her posterity; she looks but to her own interests: the latter forgets herself to think only of her God, and of the claims He has to her service. The angel, charmed with this sublime fidelity, thus answers the question put to him by Mary, and reveals to her the designs of God: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God.’ This said, he is silent, and reverently awaits the answer of the Virgin of Nazareth.

Let us look once more at the virgin of Eden. Scarcely has the wicked spirit finished speaking than Eve casts a longing look at the forbidden fruit: she is impatient to enjoy the independence it is to bring her. She rashly stretches forth her hand; she plucks the fruit; she eats it, and death takes possession of her: death of the soul, for sin extinguishes the light of life; and death of the body, which, being separated from the source of immortality, becomes an object of shame and horror, and finally crumbles into dust.

But let us turn away our eyes from this sad spectacle, and fix them on Nazareth. Mary has heard the angel’s explanation of the mystery; the will of heaven is made known to her, and how grand an honour it is to bring upon her! She, the humble maid of Nazareth, is to have the ineffable happiness of becoming the Mother of God, and yet the treasure of her virginity is to be left to her! Mary bows down before this sovereign will, and says to the heavenly messenger: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.’

Thus, as the great St. Irenæus and so many of the holy fathers remark, the obedience of the second Eve repaired the disobedience of the first: for no sooner does the Virgin of Nazareth speak her fiat, ‘be it done,’ than the eternal Son of God (who, according to the divine decree, awaited this word) is present, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the chaste womb of Mary, and there He begins His human life. A Virgin is a Mother, and Mother of God; and it is this Virgin’s consenting to the divine will that has made her conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost. This sublime mystery puts between the eternal Word and a mere woman the relations of Son and Mother; it gives to the almighty God a means whereby He may, in a manner worthy of His majesty, triumph over satan, who hitherto seemed to have prevailed against the divine plan.

Never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat than that which this day befel satan. The frail creature, over whom he had so easily triumphed at the beginning of the world, now rises and crushes his proud head. Eve conquers in Mary. God would not choose man for the instrument of His vengeance; the humiliation of satan would not have been great enough; and therefore she who was the first prey oi hell, the first victim of the tempter, is selected to give battle to the enemy. The result of so glorious a triumph is that Mary is to be superior not only to the rebel angels, but to the whole human race, yea, to all the angels of heaven. Seated on her exalted throne, she, the Mother of God, is to be the Queen of all creation. Satan, in the depths of the abyss, will eternally bewail his having dared to direct his first attack against the woman, for God has now so gloriously avenged her; and in heaven, the very Cherubim and Seraphim reverently look up to Mary, and deem themselves honoured when she smiles upon them, or employs them in the execution of any of her wishes, for she is the Mother of their God.

Therefore is it that we, the children of Adam, who have been snatched by Mary’s obedience from the power of hell, solemnize this day of the Annunciation. Well may we say of Mary those words of Debbora, when she sang her song of victory over the enemies of God’s people: ‘The valiant men ceased, and rested in Israel, until Debbora arose, a mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and He Himself overthrew the gates of the enemies.’[5] Let us also refer to the holy Mother of Jesus these words of Judith, who by her victory over the enemy was another type of Mary: ‘Praise ye the Lord our God, who hath not forsaken them that hope in Him. And by me, His handmaid, He hath fulfilled His mercy, which He promised to the house of Israel; and He hath killed the enemy of His people by my hand this night. . . . The almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman, and hath slain him.’[6]

 

FIRST VESPERS

 

When the Annunciation falls on any other day than Monday, the first Vespers of this feast are sung before midday, according to the rule prescribed for fast-days of Lent: but when it falls on a Monday, this Office is celebrated at the ordinary time of Vespers, and only & commemoration is made of the Sunday by the Magnificat antiphon and the prayer.

The Office of first Vespers is always the commencement of a feast. The antiphons of the Vespers, at which we are going to assist, are taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, where the evangelist reveals to us the sublime interview between the angel and the Virgin. The psalms are those which tradition has consecrated to the celebration of Mary’s glories. We have elsewhere [7] shown how each of the five refers to the Mother of God.

Ant. Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph.
Ant. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin espoused to Joseph.

Psalm 109

 

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

Ant. Missus est Gabriel angelus, ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph.
Ant. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: nenedicta tu in mulieribus.
The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.
Until, on the day of thy last earning, I make thy enemies thy footstool.
O Christ! the Lord thy Father, will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints: For the Father hath said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, sneaking of thee, the OodMan: Thou art a Priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.
Therefore, O Father, the Lord, thy Son, is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall also judge among nations: he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
He cometh now in humility: he shall drink, in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: therefore, shall he lift up the head.

Ant. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin, espoused to Joseph.
Ant. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Psalm 112

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

Ant. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus.
Ant. Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti gratiam apud Dominum: ecce concipies, et paries filium.
Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth, now and for ever.
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.
The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.
Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the ow things in heaven and in earth, nay, who cometh down amidst us?
Raising up the needy from the earth: and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.
That he may place him with princes: with the princes of his people.
Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.

Ant. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Ant. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.

Psalm 121

 

Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: * in domum Domini ibimus.
Stantes erant pedes nostri: * in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem quæ ædificatur at civitas: * cujus participate ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: * testimonium Israël ad confiten dum nomini Domini.
Quia illic sederunt sedes in judicio: * sedes super domum David.
Rogate quæ ad pacem sunt Jerusalem: * et abundantia diligentibus te.
Fiat pax in virtute tua: * et abundantia in turribus tuis.
Propter fratres meos et proximos meos: * loque bar pacem de te.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri: * quæsivi bona tibi.

Ant. Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti gratiam apud Dominum; ecce concipies et paries filium.
Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ejus, et regnabit in aeternum.
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem! Our heart loves and confides in thees O Mary.
Mary is like to Jerusalem, that is built as a city; which is compact together.
For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.
Because seats sat there in judgment; seats upon the house of David, and Mary is of a kingly race.
Pray ye, through Mary, for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and may abundance be on them that love thee, O Church of our God!
The voice of Mary: Let peace be in thy strength, O thou new Sion! and abundance in thy towers.
I, a daughter of Israel, for the sake of my brethren and of my neighbours, spoke peace of thee.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.

Ant. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.
Ant. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever.

 


Psalm 126

 

Nisi Dominus ædificaverit domum: * in vanum laboraverunt qui ædificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem: * frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
Vanum est vobis ante luoem surgere: * eurgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum: * ecce hæreditas Domini filii, merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittae in manu potentis: * ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir, qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis: * non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.

Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ej us, et regnabit in æternu m.
Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.
It is vain for you to rise before light; rise ye after you have sit ten, you that eat of the bread of sorrow.
When he shall give sleep to his beloved: behold the inheritance of the Lord are children; the reward, the fruit of the womb.
As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.
Blessed is the man that hath filled his desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.

Ant. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever.
Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

Psalm 147

Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum: * lauda Deum tuum, Sion.
Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: * benedixit filiis tuis in te.
Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: * et adipe frumenti satiat te.
Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ: * velociter currit sermo ejus.
Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: * nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suam siout bucceUas: * ante faciem frig oris ejus quis sustinebit?
Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: * flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ.
Qui annuntiat verbum suum Jacob: * justitias, et judicia sua Israël.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: * et judicia sua non manifestavit eis.

Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: flat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Praise the Lord, O Mary, thou true Jerusalem: O Mary, O Sion ever holy, praise thy God.
Because he hath strengthened against sin the bolts of thy gates: he hath blessed thy children within thee.
Who hath placed peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the fat of com, toith Jesus, who is the Bread of life.
Who sendeth forth, by thee, his Word to the earth: his word runneth swiftly.
Who giveth snow like wool; scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels; who shall stand before the face of his cold?
He shall send forth his Word by Mary, and shall melt them: his Spirit shall breathe, and the waters shall run.
Who declareth his word to Jacob: his justices and his judgments to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.

Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

Capitulum
(Is. vii.)

Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum, et eligere bonum.
Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.

Hymn[8]

Ave, maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix cœli porta.

Sumens illud Ave
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Evæ nomen.

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen cæcis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuneta posee.

Monstra te esse Matrem,
Sumat per te preces,
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos
Mites fac et castos.

Vitam præsta puram,
Iter para tutum;
Ut videntes Jesum,
Semper collætemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui sancto,
Tribus honor unus.
Hail, star of the sea!
Blessed Mother of God,
yet ever a Virgin!
O happy gate of heaven!

Thou that didst receive the Ave
from Gabriel’s lips,
confirm us in peace,
and so let Eva be changed into an Ave of blessing for us.

Loose the sinner's chains,
bring light to the blind,
drive from us our evils,
and ask all good things for us.

Show thyself a Mother,
and offer our prayers to him,
who would be born of thee,
when born for us.

O incomparable Virgin,
and meekest of the meek,
obtain us the forgiveness of our sins,
and make us meek and chaste.

Obtain us purity of life,
and a safe pilgrimage;
that we may be united with thee
in the blissful vision of Jesus.

Praise be to God the Father,
and to the Lord Jesus,
and to the Holy Ghost:
to the Three one self-same praise.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Spiritus sanctus in te descended Maria, et virtue Altissimi obumbrabit tibi.

Oremus

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginia utero Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, camem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, O Mary, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.

Let us Pray

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, &c.

 

MASS

 

The Church has taken most of the chants of today’s Mass from the forty-fourth Psalm, wherein the royal prophet celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation. In the Introit, she greets Mary as the Queen of the human race, to whom every creature should pay respectful homage. It is her virginity that fitted Mary to become the Mother of God. This virtue will be imitated in the Church, and each generation will produce thousands of holy virgins, who will walk in the footsteps of her who is their Mother and their model.

Introit

Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: adducentur Regi virginea post eam: proximæ ejus adducentur tibi in lætitia et exsultatione.

Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bopum: dico ego opera mea Regi. V. Gloria Patri. Vultum tuum.
All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: after her shall virgins be brought to the King; her neighbours shall be brought to thee in joy and gladness.

Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. F. Glory, &c. All the rich.

In the Collect, the Church glories in her faith in the divine maternity; she puts it forward as a claim to Mary’s interceding for her with God, who is her Son. This dogma of Mary’s being the Mother of God is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the basis of our faith, and which was accomplished on this twenty-fifth of March.

Collect

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei oredimus, ejus apud te intercessionibua adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Collect for the feria of Lent.

Epistle

Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. vii.

In diebus illis: Locutus est Dominus ad Achaz, dicens: Pete tibi signum a Domino Deo tuo, in profundum infemi, sive in excelsum supra. Et dixit Achaz: Non petam, et non tentabo Dominum. Et dixit: Audite ergo domua David: Numquid parum vobis est, molestos esse hominibus, quia molesti estis et Deo meo? Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum. Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum et eligere bonum.
Lesson from the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. vii.

In those days: the Lord spoke unto Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he (Isaias) said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.

The prophet is speaking to a wicked king, who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God’s merciful protection over Jerusalem; and he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Juda the great portent which we are celebrating to-day: A Virgin shall conceive, and hear a Son. And when was it, that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age, when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. The fulness of time came, and the tradition, which had found its way into every country, that a Virgin should bring forth a Son, was exciting much interest. This is the day on which the mystery was accomplished; let us adore the power of God, and the fidelity wherewith He fulfils His promises. The Author of the laws of nature suspends them; He acts independently of them: virginity and maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the Child that is to be born is God. A Virgin could not bring forth other than God Himself: the Son of Mary is therefore called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.

Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles Himself. Henceforth, He will have every tongue confess, not only His Divinity, but also His human Nature, which He has assumed in order that He might redeem us. From this day forward He is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in His Mother’s womb, as other children. Like them, He will, after His birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for He is the New Man, who has come down from heaven that He might restore the old. Without losing aught of His Divinity, He shares in our weak finite being, that He may make us partakers of the divine nature.[9]

In the Gradual, the Church unites with David in praising the beauty of the Emmanuel, His kingdom and His strength; for He comes in humility, that He may rise again in glory; He comes to give battle that He may conquer and triumph.

Gradual

Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in ætemum. V. Propter veritatem, et mansuetudinera, et justitiam; et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua.
Grace is spread on thy lips; therefore hath the Lord blessed thee for ever. V. For thy truth, meekness and righteousness, shall thy right hand lead thee on wonderfully.

The Church continues the same canticle in the Tract, but it is in praise of Mary, the Virgin and Mother. The Holy Ghost loves her for her incomparable beauty; it is on this day that He overshadows her and she conceives the Word. Where is there a glory like that of Mary, who is an object of complacency to the three Persons of the Trinity? God could create nothing more exalted than the Mother of God. David foretells how this, his daughter, was to receive homage from the great ones of the earth, and how she was to be surrounded by holy virgins, who would follow her as their Queen and model. This day is also the triumph of her virginity, for it is raised to the dignity of divine maternity! Her triumph frees her sex from slavery, and renders it capable of everything that is honourable and great.

Tract

Audi, filia, et vide, et inclina aurem tuam: quia concupivit Rex speciem tuam. V. Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: filiæ regum in honore tuo. V. Adducentur Regi virgines post eam: proximæ ejus afferentur tibi. V. Adducentur in lætitia et exsultatione: adducentur in templum Regis.
Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: for the King is taken with thy beauty. V. All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: the daughters of kings shall honour thee. V. Virgins shall be brought in her retinue to the King: the virgins, her companions, shall be presented to thee. V. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the King.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Ch. i.

In illo tempore: Missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis, Maria. Et ingressus angelus ad eam, dixit: Ave, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus: et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait angelus ei: Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti enim gratiam aqud Deum. Ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium: et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum. Hic erit magnus: et Filius Altissimi vocabitur. Et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus: et regnabit in domo Jacob in æternum; et regni ejus non erit finis. Dixit autem Maria ad angelum: Quomodo fiet istud? quoniam virum non cognosco. Et respondens angelus, dixit ei: Spiritus sanctus superveniet in te; et virtue Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. Et ecceElisabeth cognata tua: et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua. Et hic mensis sertufl est illi, quse vocatur sterilis; quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum. Dixit autem Maria: Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Cap. i.

At that time: the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the Virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.

By these last words of thine, O Mary! our happiness is secured. Thou consentest to the desire of heaven, and thy consent brings us our Saviour. O Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! we unite our thanks with the homage that is paid thee by the angels. By thee is our ruin repaired; in thee is our nature restored; for thou hast wrought the victory of man over satan! St. Bernard, in one of his homilies on this Gospel, thus speaks: ‘Rejoice, O thou our father Adam! but thou, O mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our parents, but you were also our destroyers; and, what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a daughter as this: but thou, O Eve, who wast the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, thou hast a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time has now come, when the humiliation is taken away; neither can man any longer complain against the woman, as of old, when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: “The woman, whom Thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Go, Eve, to Mary; go, mother, to thy daughter; let thy daughter take thy part, and free thee from thy disgrace, and reconcile thee to her father: for, if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman.

‘What is this thou sayest, Adam? “The woman, whom Thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat?” These are wicked words; far from effacing thy fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered thy wickedness, by finding in the treasury of His own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon, which He had in vain sought to elicit by questioning thee. In place of the woman, of whom thou complainest, He gives thee another: Eve was foolish, Mary is wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the Tree of life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet Fruit she herself is to bring forth, the Fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: “ The Woman, whom Thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the Tree of life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it Thou hast given me life.” ’[10]

In the Offertory, the Church addresses Mary in the words spoken to her by the Archangel, to which she also adds those used by Elizabeth, when she saluted the Mother of her God.

Offertory

Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
Had, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

In the Secret, the Church renews her profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnation; she confesses the reality of the two Natures, divine and human, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Son of Mary.

Secret

In mentibue nostris, quæeumus, Domine, veræ fidei sacramenta confirma: ut, qui conceptum de Virgine Deum verum et hominem confitemur, per ejus salutiferæ resurrectionis potentiam, ad æternam mereamur pervenire lætitiam. Per eumdem.
Strengthen, we beseech thee, O Lord, in our soul, the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess him, that was conceived of a Virgin, to be true God and true Man, may, by the power of his saving resurrection, deserve to come to eternal joys. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Secret for the feria of Lent.


The greatness of the solemnity obliges the Church to substitute, for the lenten Preface, the one she uses on our Lady’s feasts.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratiae agere: Domine sanete, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: Et te in Annuntiatione beatæ Mariæ semper Virginia collaudare, benedicere, et prædicare. Quæ et Unigenitum tuum saneti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, lumen æternum mundo effudit Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli cælorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: and that we should praise, bless, and glorify thee, on the Annunciation of the blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, conceived thy only-begotten Son, and the glory of her virginity still remaining, brought forth to the world the eternal Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the Heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee, glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy! Holy! Holy!

 

The Communion-anthem repeats the prophetic words of the Epistle. It is a Virgin that has conceived and brought forth Him, who, being God and Man, is also the living Bread that came down from heaven, whereby God is with us, and in us.

Communion

Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.
Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

In the Postcommunion, the Church gratefully recalls to mind all the mysteries which God has achieved for our salvation, and which are the consequences of the one we honour to-day. After the Incarnation, which unites the Son of God to our human nature, we have had the Passion of this our divine Redeemer; and His Passion was followed by His Resurrection, whereby He triumphed over our enemy death.

Postcommunion

Gratiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut, qui angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus; per Passionem ejus et crucem, ad Resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem.
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his Passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Postcommunion of the feria of Lent.


 

SECOND VESPERS

 

The antiphons, psalms, hymn, and versicle, are the same as in the first Vespers, pages 449-455.


The Magnificat antiphon alone is changed, and is as follows:

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Gabriel angelus locutus est Mariæ dicens: Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus.

Oremus

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, camem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
The angel Gabriel spoke unto Mary, saying: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Let us Pray

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant, that we who. believe her to be truly the Mother cf God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, &c.

Let us now bring together the different liturgies, and hear them celebrate the great mystery of this glad feast. First of all, let us listen to the Church of Rome, who, in her Office of Matins, thus proclaims the praises of Mary, the Mother of God:

Hymn

Quem terra, pontus, sidera
Colunt, adorant, prædicant,
Trinam regentem machinam,
Claustrum Mariæ bajulat.

Cui luna, sol et omnia
Deserviunt per tempora,
Perfusa cceli gratia,
Gestant puellæ viscera.

Beata Mater munere,
Cujus, supernus artifex
Mundum pugillo contincns,
Ventris sub area clausus est.

Beata cœli nuntio,
Fœcunda eancto Spiritu,
Desideratus gentibus
Cujus per alvum fusus est.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine;
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.
He, whom earth, and sea, and the firmament,
worship, adore, and praise;
he, the King of the triple kingdom,
is carried in Mary’s womb.

The womb of a Virgin, who has been filled
with heavenly grace, bears him,
whom the moon, and sun, and all creatures
serve in the order marked for them.

O Mother, blessed in her great office!
He, the sovereign Creator,
who holds the world in the palm of his hand,
is enclosed in the tabernacle of her womb.

The angelic messenger
proclaims her blessed;
the holy Spirit makes her fruitful;
and the Desired of nations is born of her.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus,
that wast born of the Virgin!
and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love,
for everlasting ages.

Amen.

Many of the Latin Churches, in the middle ages, used to recite, in the Mass of the Annunciation, the following sequence, which is thought to have been composed by Peter Abailard.

Sequence

Mittit ad Virginem
Non quemvis Angelum,
Sed Fortitudinem
Suum Archangelum,
Amator hominis.

Fortem expediat
Pro nobis nuntium,
Naturae faciat
Ut præjudicium
In partu Virginis.

Naturam superet
Natus Rex gloriæ:
Regnet et imperet,
Et zyma scoriæ
Tollat de medio.

Superbientium
Terat fastigia:
Colla sublimium
Calcet vi propria,
Potens in prælio.

Foras ejiciat
Mundanum principem:
Secumque faciat
Matrem participem
Patris imperii.

Exi qui mitteris,
Hæc dona dissere:
Revela veteris
Velamen litteræ
Virtute nuncii.

Accede, nuncia:
Dic: Ave, cominus,
Dic: Plena gratia,
Dic: Tecum Dominus,
Et dic: Ne timeas.

Virgo suscipias
Dei depositum,
In quo perficiae
Casta propoeitum,
Et votum teneas.

Audit et suscipit
Puella nuntium:
Credit et concipit,
Et parit Filium,
Sed admirabilem.

Consiliarium
Humani generis:
Deum et hominem,
Et Patrem posteris,
In pace stabilem.

Cujus stabilitas
Nos reddat stabiles,
Ne nos labilitas
Humana labiles
Secum praecipitet.

Sed dator veniæ
Concessa venia,
Per matrem gratiæ
Obtenta gratia,
In nobis habitet.

Qui nobis tribuat
Peccati veniam:
Reatue deleat,
Donet et patriam
In arce siderum.

Amen.
God, the lover of man,
sends to the Virgin
no less an angel than him
who is called God's Strength,
the Archangel Gabriel.

May this strong messenger
be speedily at his work;
may he stay the rights
and laws of nature
in the Virgin’s delivery.

May the King of glory,
when born, triumph over nature;
may he reign and command;
may he take away from the midst of men
all leaven and rust.

May he humble
proud heads;
may this God, mighty in war,
trample in his power
on the necks of the haughty.

May he cast forth
the prince of this world;
and make his Mother
share with him the empire
which his Father has given him.

Go forth, messenger of God,
announce these gifts;
lift up, by the virtue
of thy Annunciation,
the veil of the ancient Scripture.

Approach, tell thy announcement:
say, when thou art in her presence, ‘Hail!’
Say: ‘O full of grace!’
Say: ‘The Lord is with thee!’
And then: ‘Fear not!’

Receive, O Virgin!
the divine deposit;
by him fulfil
thy chaste purpose,
and keep thy vow.

The Maid hears and accepts
the announcement;
she believes and conceives,
and brings forth a Son,
but he is the Admirable.

The Counsellor
of mankind,
God and Man,
Father of the world to come,
the Prince of peace.

May his firmness
render us firm,
lest human frailty
should make us stumble
into the abyss.

But may the giver
of pardon, granting us pardon
and grace, obtained by
the Mother of grace,
dwell within us.

May he that grants
us pardon of our sins,
wipe away all our guilt,
and give us the country
in the starry heaven.

Amen.

The Ambrosian liturgy gives us this fine Preface, which is used in its celebration of to-day’s mystery.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare: nos tibi, Domine Deus omnipotens, gratias agere, et cum tuæ invocations virtutis, beatæ Mariæ Virginia festa celebrare: de cujus ventre fructue effloruit, qui panis angelici munere nos replevit. Quod Eva voravit in crimine, Maria restituit in salute. Distat opus serpent is et virgin is: inde fusa sunt venena discriminis; hine egressa mysteria Salvatorie. Inde se præbuit tentantis iniquitas; hine Redemptoris est opitulata majestas. Inde partus oocubuit; hino Conditor resurrexit, a quo humana natura, non jam captiva, sed libera restituitur; quod Adam perdidit in parente, Christo recepit auctore.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should give thanks to thee, O Lord God almighty: and that we should, whilst invoking thy power, celebrate the feasts of the blessed Virgin Mary; from whose womb came the Fruit, which has filled us with the Bread of angels. That Fruit, which Eve took from us, when she sinned, Mary hath restored to us, and it hath saved us. Not as the work of the serpent, is the work of Mary. From the one, came the poison of our destruction; from the other, the mysteries of salvation. In the one, we see the malice of the tempter; in the other, the help of the divine Majesty. By the one, came death to the creature; by the other the resurrection of the Creator, by whom human nature, now not captive but free, is restored: and what it lost by its parent Adam, it regained by its Maker, Christ.

The Mozarabic liturgy (which, as we have already observed, keeps the feast of the Annunciation on December 18) has several admirable prayers touching this mystery: we select the following:—

Prayer

Gratiam plenam habere te credimus, o Virgo Christi genitrix, et humani generis reparatrix, gloriosa Maria, quæ tanta nobis gaudia pariendo contulisti, ut fructus ventris tui, qui est Christus Filius Dei, a dominio in nos sævientis eriperet inimici, et in regno æterno consortes faceret sibimetipsi. Proinde, quæsumus, te rogamus, ut adsis patrona nobis, ut et merito tuo nos films tuus a delicto exsules reddat, et post in regno suo perenniter habitaturos introducat. Præsta nobis, ut qui te concupiscens sibi advocavit in Matrem, nobis concupiscentiæ suæ opulentam largiatur dulcedinem. Amen.
We believe thee to be full of grace, O glorious Mary, Virgin Mother of Christ, and reparatrix of mankind! Great indeed are the blessings thou hast conferred on us by giving him birth: for the Fruit of thy womb, Christ the Son of God, hath delivered us from the tyranny of our oruei enemy, and hath made us his companions in the eternal kingdom. Be thou, therefore, we beseech thee, our advocate; that, through thy merits, thy Son may set us free from our sins, and, after this life, give us to reign for ever in his kingdom. Grant that he, who out of love for thee called thee to be his Mother, may grant unto us the rich sweetness of his love. Amen.

The Greek liturgy, with its wonted abundance, celebrates the glory of Mary in the Incarnation of the Word. We give the following hymn, which comes in the Office of the vigil of the Annunciation. In our opinion, it is finer than the one on the feast itself.

Hymn
(DieXXIV. Martii)

Terra, quæ magno hactenus dolore spinas germinasti, jam nunc age choreas et salta: ecce enim immortalis agricola, qui te a spinis maledictionis expurget, nunc appropinquat.

Sed et tu intaminata, o Virgo, tamquam vellus plane divinum, te præpara excipiendo Numini, quod in te velut imber descendat, ut torrentes transgressionis præceptorum exsiccet.

Esto paratus, o divinæ munditiæ liber; quippe tibi sancti Spiritus digito inscribetur Sapientia divina sed incarnate, quæ ineipientiæ meæ prævaricationem e medio toilat.

O aureum item candelabrum, ignem recipe divinitatis; ut per te illuceat mundo, unaque nequitiarum nostrarum tenebras dissipet.

O magni Regis palatium, Virgo, aurium tuarum divina vesti bula pande: jamjam enira ingredietur ad te ipsa Ventas Christus, ut habitet in medio tui.

O Agna incontaminata, Agnus Dei nostri, qui tollit peccata nostra, uterum tuum festinat intrare. Mystica etiam virga brevi germinabit florera divinum, de radice Jesse palam exortum, ut loquitur Scriptura.

O vitis quoque Maria, compara te, ut per angelicam vocem fæcundata, botrum quoque maturum, neque corruption! obnoxium procrees.

O denique mons salve, quem Daniel prævidit in Spiritu, ex quo lapis ille spiritalis abscindetur, qui inanimate dæmonum sculptilia conteret.

O ratione prædita Arca, quam verus legislator araore singulari prosecutus inhabitare nunc ceu incola statuit, impleat te jucunditas mentis: per te enim innovabit destructos.

Quin et vatum chorus divina dare præsagia doctus, tanquam pacatum in te Redemptoris ingressum præsentiret exclamat: Cunctorum salve Redemptio, salve unica hominum salus.

O aerea divini luminis nubes, orituro mox soli te para. Nam ecce sol inaccessus de sedibus tibi cœlestibus explendescet, ut in te aliquantum absconditus, illuceat mundo, et improbitatis tene bras dissipet.

Ille qui a dextera Patris nunquam digressus, substantiam omnem transcendit, in te sibi diversorium delecturus adventat: ut te a dextris constituat suis, tamquam reginam dignitate sibi propinquam, et excellenti pulchritudine præditam, utque te velut dexteram suam omnibus lapsis ad surgendum extendat.

Inter angelos autem primarme Dei minister, vocem ad te lætabundam emittit, ut ex te corporandum significet magni consilii Angelum.

O Verbum divinum, cœlos inclina, et nunc jam ad nos descends. Modo enim uterus Virginia præparatus est tibi ceu thronus, in quo tamquam rex splendidissimus sedeas, opus dexteræ tuæ a ruina sustollens.

Tu quoque, o Virgo, ceu terra numquam seminata, accingere nunc ad recipiendum sub angeli verbo Vorbum cœleste, frumento per quam frugifero simile, quod ex te germinans semina enutriet in panem intelligentiæ.
O Earth! that heretofore hast, with much sorrow, brought forth thorns, now dance and leap with joy; for lo! the immortal Husbandman, who will cleanse thee from the thorns of the curse, is at hand.

And thou, too, O spotless Virgin! as a divine fleece, prepare thyself to receive thy God, who is about to come down upon thee as the Dew, that he may dry up the torrent of iniquity.

Hold thyself in readiness, O book of heavenly purity! for, by the finger of the Holy Ghost, there shall be written in thee the divine Wisdom made Incarnate, who is to take away the foolishness of my sin.

Receive, O golden candlestick! the flame of the Godhead; that by thee he may enlighten the world, and scatter the darkness of our sins.

O Virgin! Palace of the great King, throw open the holy portals of thine ears; for Christ, the very Truth, is about to enter into thee, that he may dwell in thy midst.

O spotless sheep, the Lamb of our God, who taketh away the sins of the world, longs to enter thy womb. The mystic branch, as the Scripture saith, shall soon bud forth the Flower divine, which is to spring from Jesse’s root.

O Mary, thou vine, prepare thyself to receive, by the angel’s words, the ripe GrapeBunch, that knoweth not corruption.

Hail, O mountain! that wast foreseen in the Spirit by Daniel, and from whence shall be hewn that living Stone, which is to destroy the dead idols of the demons.

O intellectual Ark! dear above all to the true Lawgiver, and which he has chosen for the place of his abode! Rejoice exceedingly, for, by thee, he will restore what hath been destroyed.

The choir of the prophets, skilled in announcing divine mysteries, foresaw the peaceful entrance of the Redeemer within thee, and they exclaimed: Hail, Redemption of the world! Hail, thou the only salvation of mankind!

O cloud of the divine Light, prepare thyself for the Sun that is about to rise. For lo! the inaccessible Sun shall shine on thee from his heavenly throne, that, after he has been for a while hid in thee, he may shed his light upon the world, and scatter the darkness of iniquity.

He that hath never left the right hand of the Father, and is above all, has chosen thee as his dwelling-place, and is coming unto thee: he will set thee on his right hand, as a Queen whose throne is near his own, and whose beauty surpasses that of all creatures: he will use thee, as his own right hand, to help the fallen to rise.

He that is the chief among the angels to minister unto God, addresses his joyous words to thee, telling thee, that the Angel of the great Counsel is to take flesh from thee.

O divine Word, bow down the heavens, and now descend unto us; for the Virgin’s womb is prepared for thee as a throne, whereon thou the all-glorious King mayst sit, and raise up from ruin the work of thy right hand.

Do thou, also, O Maiden, as a virgin soil, prepare thyself to receive, at the angel’s word, the heavenly Word, which, like unto most fruitful wheat, shall bud forth its seed from thee, and produce the bread of the spirit.

O Emmanuel, God with us! who, as Thy Church says in her hymn, ‘being to take upon Thee to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb,’ the whole human race gives thanks to Thee on this day, for Thy merciful coming. O eternal Word of the Father! it was not enough for Thee to have drawn man out of nothing by Thy power; Thine exhaustless love would follow him even to the abyss of misery into which he had fallen. By sin man had forfeited the dignity Thou hadst given him: that he might regain it, Thou didst come in person and assume his nature, so to raise him up again to Thyself. In Thee, from this day forward unto all eternity, God is made man, and man is made God. Thy Incarnation is the fulfilment of the promises made in the canticle; Thou unitest Thyself to human nature, and it is in the virginal womb of a daughtei of David that Thou celebratest these ineffable espousals. O incomprehensible humiliation! O ineffable glory! The humiliation is for the Son of God, the glory is for the Son of man. Thus hast Thou loved us, O divine Word, thus hast Thou removed from us the degradation of our fall! The rebel angels fell, and Thou didst leave them in the abyss; we fell, and Thou hadst mercy on us. A single look of Thy pity would have sufficed to save us; but it would not satisfy Thy love: therefore d dst Thou descend into this world of sin, take upon Thyself the form of a slave,[11] and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh, who comest not to judge, but to save,[12] we adore Thee, we praise Thee, we love Thee. Make us worthy of all that Thy love has led Thee to do for us.

We salute thee, O Mary, full of grace, on this day whereon thou didst receive thy sublime dignity of Mother of God. Thy incomparable purity drew down upon thee the love of the great Creator, and thy humility drew Him into thy womb; His presence within thee increased the holiness of thy spirit and the purity of thy body. What must have been thy happiness in knowing that this Son of God was living by thy life, and was taking from thine own substance the new being, which His love for us induced Him to assume! Between thee and Him is formed that ineffable union which is granted to none else but to thee: He is thy Creator, and thou art His Mother; He is thy Son, and thou art His creature. Every knee bows down before Him, O Mary! for He is the great God of heaven and earth; but every creature reveres thee, also, for thou hast carried Him in thy womb, thou hast fed Him at thy breast; thou alone canst say to Him, as does His heavenly Father: ‘Thou art my Son!’ O Mother of Jesus! thou art the greatest of God’s works: receive the humble homage of mankind, for thou art most dear to us, seeing that thou art of the same flesh and blood as ourselves.

Thou art a daughter of Eve, but without her sin. By thy obedience to the divine decrees, thou savest thy mother and her race; thou restorest Adam and his children to the innocence they had lost. Jesus, whom thou bearest in thy womb, is our pledge that all these blessings are to be ours; and it is by thee that He comes to us. Without Jesus, we should abide in death; without thee, we should not have had Him to redeem us. It is from thy virginal womb that He receives the precious Blood which is to be our ransom, that Blood whose purity He protected in thy Immaculate Conception, and which becomes the Blood of God by the union, that is consummated in thee, of the divine with the human Nature.

To-day, O Mary! is fulfilled in thee the promise made by God after Adam's sin, that He would put enmity between the woman and the serpent. Up to this time, the human race had not the courage to resist the enemy; it was subservient to him, and everywhere were altars raised up in his honour; but, on this day, his head is crushed beneath thy foot. Thy humility, thy purity, thy obedience, have conquered him; his tyranny is checked. By thee we areelivered from his sway; and nothing but our own perversity and ingratitude could again give him the mastery. Let not this be, O Mary! Come to our assistance. During this season of repentance, we humbly acknowledge that we have abused the grace of God; we beseech thee, on this the feast of thy Annunciation, intercede for us with Him, who, on this day, became thy Son. Holy Mother of God! by the salutation addressed to thee by the angel Gabriel, by thy virginal fear, by thy fidelity to God, by thy prudent humility, by thy consent, obtain for us conversion of heart, and sincere repentance; prepare us for the great mysteries we are about to celebrate. These mysteries are so full of sorrow to thy maternal heart; and yet thou wouldst have us rejoice on this day, as we think on the ineffable happiness which filled thy soul at the solemn moment when the Holy Ghost overshadowed thee, and the Son of God became thine. Yes, blessed Mother of Jesus! we will spend the whole of this day near thee, in thy humble dwelling at Nazareth. Nine months hence, we will follow thee to Bethlehem, and there, in company with the shepherds and the angels, we will prostrate ourselves in adoration before the Infant-God, our Saviour: we will join our voices with those of the heavenly host, and we will thus express our gladness: ‘Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will!’


Feast of the Annunciation during Paschaltide

 

IT very frequently happens that March 25 falls between Palm Sunday and Low Sunday: on these occasions, the feast of our Lady’s Annunciation, being out of keeping both with the dolorous mysteries of Holy Week and with the splendour of the Resurrection, is deferred to the Monday following Low Sunday. For the convenience of the faithful, we have here repeated the Vespers and Mass of this great feast. As to the instructions we gave upon the mystery of the Annunciation, our readers must refer to our volume on Lent.

 

FIRST VESPERS

 

The Office of First Vespers is always the commencement of a feast. The Antiphons of the Vespers at which we are going to assist are taken from the Gospel of St Luke, where the Evangelist reveals to us the sublime interview between the angel and the Virgin. The Psalms are those which tradition has consecrated to the celebration of Mary’s glories. We have elsewhere[13] shown how each of the five refers to the Mother of God.

Ant. Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam virginem desponsatam Joseph, alleluia.
Ant. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a virgin espoused to Joseph, alleluia.

Psalm 109

 

[...]


Ant. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, alleluia.
Ant.Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, alleluia.

Psalm 112

[...]


 

Ant. Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti gratiam apud Dominum; ecce concipies, et paries filium, alleluia.
Ant. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a son, alleluia.

Psalm 121

[...]


Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ejus, et regnabit in æternum, alleluia.
Ant. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever, alleluia.

Psalm 126


[...]


Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, alleluia.
Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word, alleluia.

Psalm 147

[...]


Capitulum
(Isa. vii.)

Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum, et eligere bonum.
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.

Hymn[14]

[...]


Then is made a commemoration of Low Sunday, as on p. 307.

 

MASS

 

The Church has taken most of the chants of to-day’s Mass from the forty-fourth Psalm, wherein the royal prophet celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation. In the Introit, she greets Mary as the Queen of the human race, to whom every creature should pay respectful homage. It was her virginity that fitted Mary to become the Mother of God. This virtue will be imitated in the Church, and each generation will produce thousands of holy virgins, who will walk in the footsteps of her that is their Mother and their model.

Introit

Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: adducentur Regi virgines post eam: proximæ ejus adducentur tibi in lætitia et exsultatione. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi. ℣. Gloria Patri. Vultum tuum.
All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: after her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbours shall be brought to thee in joy and gladness. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. ℣. Glory, etc. All the rich.

In the Collect, the Church glories in her faith in the divine maternity; she puts it forward as a claim to Mary’s interceding for her with God, who is her Son. This dogma of Mary’s being the Mother of God is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the basis of our faith.

Collect

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. vii.

In diebus illis: Locutus est Dominus ad Achaz dicens: Pete tibi signum a Domino Deo tuo, in profundum inferni sive in excelsum supra. Et dixit Achaz: Non petam, et non tentabo Dominum. Et dixit: Audite ergo domus David: Numquid parum vobis est, molestos esse hominibus, quia molestiestis et Deo meo? Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum. Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum et eligere bonum.
Lesson from Isaias the Prophet.

Ch. vii.

In those days: The Lord spoke unto Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he (Isaias) said: Hear ye, therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God, also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.

The prophet is speaking to a wicked king, who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God's merciful protection over Jerusalem; and he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Juda the great portent which we are celebrating to-day: A virgin shall conceive and bear a son. And when was it that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. 'The fulness of time came,' and the tradition, which had found its way into every country, that a virgin should bring forth a son, was exciting much interest. To-day we are celebrating the sublime mystery; let us adore the power of God, and the fidelity wherewith he fulfils his promises. The author of the laws of nature suspends them; he acts independently of them: virginity and maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the Child that is to be bom is God. A virgin could not bring forth other than God himself: the Son of Mary is, therefore, called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.

Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles himself. Henceforth, he will have every tongue confess, not only his divinity, but also his human nature, which he has assumed in order that he might redeem us. From this day forward, he is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in his Mother's womb, as other children. Like them, he will, after his birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for he is the New Man, who has come down from heaven that he might restore the old. Without losing aught of his divinity, he shares in our weak finite being, that he may make us ‘partakers of the divine nature.’[15]

The first Alleluia Versicle repeats the angel's salutation to Mary. Let us, with Gabriel, bow down before this holy Virgin, the masterpiece of nature and grace, predestined from all eternity to be the Mother of God.

Alleluia, alleluia. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus.
Alleluia, alleluia. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

The second Versicle celebrates in sublime and enthusiastic words, the effects of the divine mystery of the Incarnation—peace between God and man re-established in the virginal womb of Mary, wherein the divine and human nature are united in the Person of the Child, whom she conceives the very instant she consents to the will of the Most High.

Alleluia. Virga Jesse floruit: Virgo Deum et hominem genuit; pacem Deus reddidit, in se reconcilians ima summis, alleluia.
Alleluia. The rod of Jesse hath brought forth its flower; a virgin hath conceived him who is God and man; God hath restored peace, by uniting in himself the lowest with the highest, alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. i.

In illo tempore: Missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis Maria. Et ingressus angelus ad eam, dixit: Ave, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus: et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait angelus ei: Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum. Ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium: et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum. Hic erit magnus: et Filius Altissimi vocabitur. Et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus: et regnabit in domoJacob in æternam; et regni ejus non erit finis. Dixit autem Maria ad angelum: Quomodo fiet istud? quoniam virum non cognosco. Et respondens angelus, dixit ei: Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te; et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. Et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua: et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua. Et hic mensis sextus est illi, quæ vocatur sterilis; quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum. Dixit autem Maria: Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. i.

At that time: The angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.

By these last words of thine, O Mary! our happiness is secured. Thou consentest to the desire of heaven, and thy consent brings us our Saviour. O Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! we unite our thanks with the homage that is paid thee by the angels. By thee is our ruin repaired; in thee is our nature restored; for thou hast wrought the victory of man over Satan! St Bernard, in one of his homilies on this Gospel, thus speaks: 'Rejoice, O thou our father Adam! but thou, O mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our parents, but you were also our destroyers; and what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a daughter as this: but thou, O Eve, who wast the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, thou hast a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time is now come when the humiliation is taken away, neither can man any longer complain against the woman, as of old, when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: “The woman whom thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Go, Eve, to Mary; go, mother, to thy daughter; let thy daughter take thy part, and free thee from thy disgrace, and reconcile thee to her father: for if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman.

'What is this thou sayest, Adam? “The woman whom thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat?" These are wicked words; far from effacing thy fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered thy wickedness, by finding in the treasury of his own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon, which he had in vain sought to elicit by questioning thee. In place of the woman of whom thou complainest, he gives thee another: Eve was foolish, Mary is wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the tree of life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet fruit she herself is to bring forth, the fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: “The woman, whom thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the tree of life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it thou hast given me life.”‘[16]

In the Offertory, the Church addresses Mary in the words spoken to her by the archangel, to which she also adds those used by Elizabeth, when she saluted the Mother of her God.

Offertory

Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, alleluia.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, alleluia.

In the Secret, the Church renews her profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnation; she confesses the reality of the two natures, divine and human, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary.

Secret

In mentibus nostris, quæsumus, Domine, veræ fidei sacramenta confirma: ut, qui conceptum de virgine Deum verum et hominem confitemur, per ejus salutiferæ resurrectionis potentiam, ad æternam mereamur pervenire lætitiam. Per eumdem.
Strengthen, we beseech thee, O Lord, in our soul, the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess him that was conceived of a virgin to be true God and true Man, may, by the power of his saving Resurrection, deserve to come to eternal joys. Through the same, etc.

The greatness of the solemnity obliges the Church to substitute for the Paschal Preface, the one she uses on our Lady's feasts.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: Et te in Annuntiatione beatæ Mariæ semper virginis collaudare, benedicere, et prædicare. Quæ et Unigenitum tuum Sancti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, lumen æternum mundo effudit, Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant angeli, adorant dominationes, tremunt potestates. Cœli cœlorumque virtutes, ac beata seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: and that we should praise, bless, and glorify thee, on the Annunciation of the blessed Mary, ever a virgin, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, conceived thy only-begotten Son, and the glory of her virginity still remaining, brought forth to the world the eternal Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. By whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominations adore it, the powers tremble before it; the heavens and the heavenly virtues, and the blessed seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices saying: Holy! Holy! Holy!

The Communion Anthem repeats the prophetic words of the Epistle. It is a virgin that has conceived and brought forth him who, being God and man, is also the living Bread that came down from heaven, whereby God is with us, and in us.

Communion

Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel, alleluia.
Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, alleluia.

In the Postcommunion the Church gratefully recalls to mind all the mysteries which God has achieved for our salvation, and which were the consequences of the one of to-day. After the Incarnation, which unites the Son of God to our human nature, we have had the Passion of this our divine Redeemer; and his Passion was followed by his Resurrection, whereby he triumphed over our enemy, death.

Postcommunion

Gratiam tuam, quæsumus Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut, qui angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus; per Passionem ejus et Crucem, ad Resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem.
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same, etc.


SECOND VESPERS


The Antiphons, Psalms, Hymn, and Versicle are the same as in the First Vespers, pp. 310-315.


The Magnificat Antiphon is alone changed, and is as follows:

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Gabriel angelus locutus est Mariæ dicens: Ave gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus, alleluia.

Oremus.

Deus qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
The angel Gabriel spoke unto Mary, saying: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, alleluia.

Let us Pray.

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, etc.

 

 

[1] St. John i. 14.
[2] Ibid. iii. 16.
[3] St. Augustine, De Trinitate, Lib. iv. cap. v.
[4] Adv. hæreses. Lib. v. cap. xix.
[5] Judges v. 7, 8.
[6] Judith xiii. 17, 18; xvi. 7.
[7] See our volume for Advent, in the Vespers for December 8.
[8] In monastic churches it is preceded by this responsory:—,R. breve. Angelus Domini * Nuntiavit Mariæ. Angelus. V. Et concepit de Spiritu sancto. * Nuntiavit. Gloria Patri. Angelus,
[9] 2 St. Peter i. 4.
[10] St. Bernard. Homil. II. super Missus est.
[11] Phil, ii, 7.
[12] St. John xii. 47.
[13] See our volume for Advent, in the Vespers for December 8.
[14] In monastic churches it is preceded by this Responsory: R. breve. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ. * Alleluia, alleluia. Angelus ℣. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto. * Alleluia. Gloria Patri. Angelus.
[15] 2 St Pet. i 4.
[16] St Bernard, Homil. ii super Missus est.

 

 

 

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