Passiontide and Holy Week
After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.
(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)
For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Hodie, si vocem Domini audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra.
To-day if you shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.
The holy Church begins her night Office of this Sunday with these impressive words of the royal prophet. Formerly, the faithful considered it their duty to assist at the night Office, at least on Sundays and feasts; they would have grieved to lose the grand teachings given by the liturgy. Such fervour has long since died out; the assiduity at the Offices of the Church, which was the joy of our Catholic forefathers, has now become a thing of the past; and even in countries which have not apostatized from the faith, the clergy have ceased to celebrate publicly Offices at which no one assisted. Excepting in cathedral churches and in monasteries, the grand harmonious system of the divine praise has been abandoned, and the marvellous power of the liturgy has no longer its full influence upon the faithful.
This is our reason for drawing the attention of our readers to certain beauties of the Divine Office, which would otherwise be totally ignored. Thus, what can be more impressive than this solemn Invitatory of to-day’s Matins, which the Church takes from one of the psalms, and which she repeats on every feria between this and Maundy Thursday? She says: To-day, if ye shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts! The sweet voice of your suffering Jesus now speaks to you, poor sinners! be not your own enemies by indifference and hardness of heart. The Son of God is about to give you the last and greatest proof of the love that brought Him down from heaven; His death is nigh at hand: men are preparing the wood for the immolation of the new Isaac: enter into yourselves, and let not your hearts, after being touched with grace, return to their former obduracy; for nothing could be more dangerous. The great anniversaries we are to celebrate have a renovating power for those souls that faithfully correspond with the grace which is offered them; but they increase insensibility in those who let them pass without working their conversion. To-day, therefore, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts!
During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus' enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stem purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messias being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render such strong testimony in favour of the Son of David; and they should consult those divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas! they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaias, as having to be put upon the Messias, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.
In them, therefore, was fulfilled that terrible saying: ‘He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.’ The Synagogue is nigh to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment: she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil, and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner’s heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory. Whilst, therefore, we listen to the Gospel, which relates the history of the Passion, let us turn the indignation which we feel for the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die.
Everything around us urges us to mourn. The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight. The Church is oppressed with grief. During the first four weeks of Lent, she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert; His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish. We read in to-day’s Gospel, that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer: but His hour is not yet come. He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation, that the Church veils the cross. A God hiding Himself, that He may evade the anger of men—what a mystery! Is it weakness? Is it, that He fears death? No; we shall soon see Him going out to meet His enemies: but at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die upon a cross, the tree of malediction, which, from that time forward, is to be the tree of life. Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of heaven and earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men, who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve hid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus has come to assure us of our being pardoned, and lo! He hides Himself, not because He is naked—He that is to the saints the garb of holiness and immortality—but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God; Jesus hides Himself from the eye of men. But it will not be thus for ever. The day will come when sinners, from whose anger He now flees, will pray to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from His gaze; hut their prayer will not be granted, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.
This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. It is called also, Judica, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass; and again Neomania, that is, the Sunday of the new (or the Easter) moon, because it always falls after the new moon which regulates the feast of Easter.
In the Greek Church, this Sunday goes under the simple name of the fifth Sunday of the holy fasts.
At Rome, the Station is in the basilica of St. Peter. The importance of this Sunday, which never gives way to any feast, no matter what its solemnity may be, required that the place for the assembly of the faithful should be in one of the chief sanctuaries of the holy city.
The Introit is taken from the first verses of Psalm xlii. The Messias appeals to God’s tribunal, and protests against the sentence about to be pronounced against Him by men. He likewise expresses His confidence in His Father’s help, who, after His sufferings and death, will lead Him in triumph into the holy mount.
Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me: quia tu es Deus meus, et fortitudo mea.
Ps. Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua. Judica me.
Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy; deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for thou art my God and my strength.
Ps. Send forth thy light and thy truth; for they have conducted me, and brought me to thy holy mount, and into thy tabernacles. Judge me, &c.
The Gloria Patri is not said during Passiontide and Holy Week (unless a saint’s feast be kept), but the Introit is repeated immediately after the Psalm.
In the Collect, the Church prays that there may be produced in her children that total reformation, which the holy season of Lent is intended to produce. This reformation is such, that it will not only subject the body to the spirit, but preserve also the spirit itself from those delusions and passions, to which it has been, hitherto, more or less a slave.
Quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, familiam tuam propitius respice: ut, te largiente, regatur in corpore, et, te servante, custodiatur in mente. Per Dominum.
Mercifully look down on thy people, we beseech thee O almighty God, that by thy bounty and protection, they may be governed and guarded both in body and soul. Through, &c.
Against the Persecutors of the Church
Ecclesiæ tuæ, quæsumus, Domine, preces placatus admitte: ut destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, secura tibi serviat libertate. Per Dominum.
Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy Church: that all oppositions and errors being removed, she may serve thee with a secure liberty. Through, &c.
For the Pope
Deus, omnium fidelium Pastor et Rector, famulum tuum N., quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quæsumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus præest, proficere; ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Dominum.
O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in thy mercy, on thy servant N„ whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church; and grant we beseech thee, that both by word and example, he may edify all those that are under his charge: and, with the flock entrusted to him, arrive at length at eternal happiness. Through, &c.
Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebræos.
Fratres: Christus assistens Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis: neque per sanguinem hircorum aut vitulorum, sed per proprium Sanguinem introivit semel in Sancta, æterna redemptione inventa. Si enim sanguis hircorum et taurofum, et cinis vitulæ aspersus inquinatos sanctificat ad emundationem carnis: quanto magis Sanguis Christi, qui per Spiritum sanctum semetipsum obtulit immaculatum Deo, emundabit conscientiam nostram ab operibus mortuis, ad serviendum Deo viventi? Et ideo novi Testamenti mediator est: ut morte intercedente, in redemptionem earum prævaricationum, quæ erant sub priori Testamento, repromissionem accipiant, qui vocati sunt, æternæ hæreditatis: in Christo Jesu Domino nostro
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.
Brethren: Christ being come, an High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own Blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For, if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh; how much more shall the Blood of Christ (who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God), cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And therefore, he is the mediator of the new Testament: that by means of his death, for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former Testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is by blood alone that man is to be redeemed. He has offended God. This God cannot be appeased by anything short of the extermination of His rebellious creature, who, by shedding his blood, will give an earnest of his repentance and his entire submission to the Creator, against whom he dared to rebel. Otherwise, the justice of God must be satisfied by the sinner’s suffering eternal punishment. This truth was understood by all the people of the ancient world, and all confessed it by shedding the blood of victims, as in the sacrifices of Abel at the very commencement of the world, in the hecatombs of Greece, in the countless immolations whereby Solomon dedicated the temple. And yet God thus speaks to His people: ‘Hear, O My people, and I will speak: O Israel, and I will testify to thee: I am God thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, and thy burnt-offerings are always in my sight. I will not take calves out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy flocks. I need them not: for all the beasts of the woods are Mine. If I should be hungry I would not tell thee; for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks? or shall I drink the blood of goats?’ Thus, God commands the blood of victims to be offered to Him, and, at the same time, declares that neither it nor they are precious in His sight. Is this a contradiction? No: God would hereby have man understand that it is only by blood that he can be redeemed, but that the blood of brute animals cannot effect this redemption. Can the blood of man himself bring him his own redemption, and appease God’s justice? No, not even man’s blood, for it is defiled; and even were it undefiled, it is powerless to compensate for the outrage done to God by sin. For this there was needed the Blood of a God; such was the Blood of Jesus, and He has come that He may shed it for our redemption.
In Him is fulfilled the most sacred of the figures of the old Law. Once each year, the high-priest entered into the Holy of holies, there to make intercession for the people. He went within the veil, even to the Ark of the Covenant; but he was not allowed to enjoy this great privilege, unless he entered the holy place carrying in his hands the blood of a newlyoffered victim. The Son of God, the true HighPriest, is now about to enter heaven, and we are to follow Him thither; but unto this, He must have an offering of blood, and that Blood can be none other than His own. We are going to assist at this His compliance with the divine ordinance. Let us open our hearts, that this precious Blood may, as the apostle says in to-day’s Epistle, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
The Gradual is taken from the Psalms. Our Saviour here prays to be delivered from His enemies, and protected from the rage of them that have risen up against Him; yet is He ready to do the will of His Father, by whom He will be avenged.
In the Tract, which is also taken from the Psalms, the Messias, under the name of Israel, complains of the persecution He has met with from the Jews, even from His youth. They are now about to scourge Him in a most cruel manner. But He also foretells the punishment their deicide is to bring upon them.
Eripe me, Domine, de inimicis meis: doce me facere voluntatem tuam.
℣. Liberator meus, Domine, de gentibus iracundis: ab insurgentibus in me exaltabis me: a viro iniquo eripies me.
Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; teach me to do thy will.
℣. Thou, O Lord, art my deliverer from the enraged Gentiles: thou wilt put me out of the reach of those that assault me; and thou wilt rescue me from the unrighteous man.
Sæpe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea.
℣. Dicat nunc Israel; Sæpe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea.
℣. Etenim non potuerunt mihi: supra dorsum meum fabricaverunt peccatores.
℣. Prolongaverunt iniquitates suas: Dominus justus concidet cervices peccatorum.
Many a time have they fought against me from my youth.
℣. Let Israel now say: They have often attacked me from my youth.
℣. But they could not prevail over me: the wicked have wrought upon my back.
℣. They have lengthened their iniquity: the Lord who is just, will cut the necks of sinners.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Dicebat Jesus turbis Judæorum: Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? Si veritatem dico vobis, quare non creditis mihi? Qui ex Deo est, verba Dei audit. Propterea vos non auditis, quia ex Deo non estis. Responderunt ergo Judæi, et dixerunt ei: Nonne bene dicimus nos quia Samaritanus es tu, et dæmonium habes? Respondit Jesus: Ego dæmonium non habeo: sed honorifico Patrem meum, et vos inhonorastis me. Ego autem non quæro gloriam meam: est qui quærat et judicet. Amen, amen dico vobis: Si quis sermonem meum servavaverit, mortem non videbit in æternum. Dixerunt ergo Judæi: Nunc cognovimus quia dæmonium habes. Abraham mortuus est, et prophetæ: et tu dicis: Si quis sermonem meum servaverit, non gustabit mortem in æternum. Numquid tu major es patre nostro Abraham, qui mortuus est? et prophetæ mortui sunt. Quem teipsum facis? Respondit Jesus: Si ego glorifico meipsum, gloria mea nihil est: est Pater meus, qui glorificat me, quem vos dicitis quia Deus vester est, et non cognovistis eum; ego autem novi eum: et si dixero quia non scio eum, ero similis vobis mendax. Sed scio eum, et sermonem ejus servo. Abraham pater vester exsultavit ut videret diem meum: vidit, et gavisus est. Dixerunt ergo Judæi ad eum: Quinquaginta armos nondum habes, et Abraham vidisti? Dixit eis Jesus: Amen, amen, dico vobis, antequam Abraham fieret, ego sum. Tulerunt ergo lapides ut jacerent in eum: Jesus autem abscondit se, et exivit de templo.
Sequel of the holy Gospel, according to John.
At that time: Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews: Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. The Jews, therefore, answered and said to him; Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets: and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself? Jesus answered: If I glorify myself my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God; and you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad. The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
The fury of the Jews is evidently at its height, and Jesus is obliged to hide Himself from them. But He is to fall into their hands before many days are over; then will they triumph and put Him to death. They triumph, and Jesus is their victim: but how different is to be His lot from theirs! In obedience to the decrees of His heavenly Father, and out of love for men, He will deliver Himself into the hands of His enemies, and they will put Him to death; but He will rise victorious from the tomb, He will ascend into heaven, He will be throned on the right hand of His Father. His enemies, on the contrary, after having vented all their rage, will live on without remorse, until the terrible day come for their chastisement. That day is not far off, for observe the severity wherewith our Lord speaks to them: 'You hear not the words of God, because you are not of God' Yet there was a time when they were of God, for the Lord gives His grace to all men; but they have rendered this grace useless; they are now in darkness, and the light they have rejected will not return.
You say that My Father is your God, and you have not known Him; but I know Him. Their obstinacy in refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias, has led these men to ignore that very God, whom they boast of honouring; for if they knew the Father, they would not reject His Son. Moses, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, are all a dead letter to them; these sacred Books are soon to pass into the hands of the Gentiles, who will both read and understand them. If, continues Jesus, I should say that I know Him not, I should be like to you, a liar. This strong language is that of the angry Judge who is to come down, at the last day, to destroy sinners. Jerusalem has not known the time of her visitation: the Son of God has visited her, He is with her, and she dares to say to Him: Thou hast a devil! She says to the eternal Word, who proves Himself to be God by the most astonishing miracles, that Abraham and the prophets are greater than He! Strange blindness, that comes from pride and hardness of heart! The feast of the Pasch is at hand; these men are going to eat, and with much parade of religion, the flesh of the figurative lamb; they know full well that this lamb is a symbol, or a figure, which is to have its fulfilment. The true Lamb is to be sacrificed by their hands, and they will not know Him. He will shed His Blood for them, and it will not save them. How this reminds us of those sinners, for whom this Easter promises to be as fruitless as those of the past years! Let us redouble our prayers for them, and beseech our Lord to soften their hearts, lest trampling the Blood of Jesus under their feet, they should have it to cry vengeance against them before the throne of the heavenly Father.
At the Offertory, confiding in the merits of the Blood that has redeemed us, let us, in the words of the Psalm, give praise to God, and proclaim Him to be the author of that new life, of which the sacrifice of the Lamb is the never-failing source.
Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: retribue servo tuo; vivam, et custodiam sermones tuos: vivifica me secundum verbum tuum, Domine.
I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: reward thy servant: I shall live, and keep thy commandments: save me according to thy word, O Lord.
The Sacrifice of the spotless Lamb has produced two effects upon the sinner: it has broken his fetters, and has made him the object of God’s love. The Church prays, in the Secret, that the Sacrifice which she is about to offer, and which is one with that of the cross, may work the same results in us.
Hæc munera, quæsumus, Domine, et vincula nostræ pravitatis absolvant, et tuæ nobis misericordiæ dona concilient. Per Dominum.
May these offerings, O Lord, both loosen the bonds of our wickedness, and obtain for us the gifts of thy mercy. Through, &c.
Protege nos, Domine, tuis mysteriis servientes: ut divinis rebus inhærentes, et corpore tibi famulemur et mente. Per Dominum.
Protect us, O Lord, while we assist at thy sacred mysteries: that being employed in acts of religion, we may serve thee both in body and mind. Through &c.
For The Pope
Oblatis, quæsumus, Domine, placare muneribus: et famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, assidua protectione guberna. Per Dominum.
Be appeased, O Lord, with the offering we have made: and cease not to protect thy servant N., whom thou hast been pleased to appoint Pastor over thy Church. Through, &c.
The Communion-antiphon is formed out of the very words spoken by Jesus, when instituting the august Sacrifice which has just been celebrated, and of which the priest and people have partaken, in memory of the Passion, for it renews both the remembrance and the merits of the Passion.
Hoc corpus, quod pro vobis tradetur: hic calix novi testamenti est in meo sanguine, dicit Dominus: hoc facite, quotiesque sumitis, in meam commemorationem.
This is the body which shall be delivered up for you; this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, saith the Lord. As often as you roceive them, do it in remembrance of me.
In the Postcommunion, the Church prays to God, that He would maintain in the faithful the fruits of the visit He has so graciously paid them; for, by their participation in the sacred mysteries, He has entered into them.
Adesto nobis, Domine Deus noster: et, quos tuis mysteriis recreasti, perpetuis defende subsidiis. Per Dominum.
Help us, O Lord our God, and for ever protect those whom thou hast refreshed with thy sacred mysteries. Through, &c.
Quæsumus, Domine Deus noster: ut quos divina tribuis participatione gaudere, humanis non sinas subjacere periculis. Per Dominum.
We beseech thee, O Lord our God, not to leave exposed to the dangers of human life, those whom thou hast permitted to partake of these divine mysteries. Through, &c.
For the Pope
Hæc nos quæsumus, Domini, divini Sacramenti perceptio protegat: et famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, una cum commisso sibi grege salvet semper et muniat. Per Dominum.
May the participation of this divine Sacrament protect us, we beseech thee, O Lord, and always procure safety and defence to thy servant N., whom thou hast appointed Pastor over the Church, together with the flock committed to his charge. Through &c.
The psalms and antiphons are given on page 81.
Fratres: Christus assiitene Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis, neque per sanguinem hircorum, aut vitulorum, sed per proprium sanguinem, introivit semel in Sancta, æterna redemptione inventa.
Brethren: Christ being come an High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own Blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.
For the hymn and versicle, see page 89.
Antiphon of the Magnificat
Abraham pater vester exsultavit ut videret diem meum: vidit et gavisus est.
Quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, familiam tuam propitius respice: ut, te largiente, regatur in corpore, et, te servante, custodiatur in mente. Per Dominum.
Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.
Let us Pray
Mercifully look down on thy people, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that by thy bounty and protection, they may be governed and guarded both in body and soul. Through, &c.
The following, appropriate prayer is from the Mozarabic breviary.
Passionis tuæ festum, Christe Dei Filius, devotis cordium officiis, recurs temporis inchoantes, quo pro nobis et linguae fuisti persequentium passus, et tradentium te vulneribus crucifixus; rogamus atque exposcimus ne te elonges a nobis: ut quia proximante tribulatione, non est qui adjuvet; tu solus Passionis tuæ nos subleves ope: ne tradas ergo nos inimicis nostris in malum, sed excipe servos tuos in bonum: ut nos calumniantes superbi, inimici scilicet animarum nostrarum, virtutis tuæ potentia propellantur; tu es enim divina lucerna per humanitatem super candelabrum crucis imposita; ideo te rogamus, ut nos accendas, ne veniamus in pænam. Quos ergo perspicis initiatum Passionis tuæ festum devotis cordibus excepisse, facito eos Passioni tuæ communicare: ut tenebrarum nostrarum errore discusso, lucis tuæ muniamur præsidio.
The course of the year has brought us to the time for celebrating, with devout hearts and offices, the feast of thy Passion, O Jesus, Son of God! wherein, for our sake, thou didst suffer the calumnies of thine enemies, and wast crucified by the wounds of them that betrayed thee. We pray and beseech thee, that thou depart not from us; and whereas tribulation is nigh at hand, and there is none to help us, do thou, by the help of thy Passion, become our sole protector. Deliver us not, therefore, into the hands of our enemies unto evil, but receive us, as thy servants, unto good; that the haughty ones who calumniate us, namely the enemies of our souls, may be repelled by the might of thy power. Thou, by the human nature thou hast assumed, art the lamp set on the stand of the cross: we beseech thee, therefore, that thou enkindle us by thy flame, lest we become a prey to punishment. Behold us now entering, with devout hearts, upon the feast of thy Passion; oh! grant that we may partake of the merits of thy Passion: that thus, being delivered from the error of our darkness, we may be fortified by the help of thy light.
That we may the better honour the holy cross, we give, for each day of this week, an appropriate hymn from one or other of the various ancient liturgies. The one we have selected for to-day is the composition of St. Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers.
Crux benedicta nitet, Dominus qua came pependit.
Atque cruore suo vulnera nostra lavat.
Mitis amore pio pro nobis victima factus,
Traxit ab ore lupi qua sacer Agnus oves.
Transfixis palmis ubi mundum a clade redemit,
Atque suo clausit funere mortis iter.
Hic manus illa fuit clavis confixa cruentis.
Quæ eripuit Paulum crimine, morte Petrum.
Fertilitate potens, o dulce et nobile lignum,
Quando tuis ramis tam nova poma geris.
Cujus odore novo defuncta cadavera surgunt,
Et redeunt vitæ qui caruere die.
Nullum uret æstus sub frondibus arboris hujus:
Luna nec in noctem, sol neque meridie.
Tu plantata micas secus est ubi cursus aquarum:
Spargis et ornatas flore recente comas.
Appensa est vitis inter tua brachia, de qua
Dulcia sanguineo vina rubore fluunt.
Brightly shineth the blessed cross, whereon hung the Body of our Lord, when, with his Blood, he washed our wounds.
Become, out of tender love for us, a meek Victim, this divine Lamb did by the cross rescue us his sheep from the jaws of the wolf.
’Twas there, with his hands nailed to the wood, that he redeemed the world from ruin, and by his own death, closed the way of death.
Here was fastened with cruel nails that hand which delivered Paul from sin, and Peter from death.
O sweet and noble tree! how vigorous in thy growth, when, on thy branches, hang fruits so rare as these!
Thy fresh fragrance gives resurrection to many that lay in the tomb, and restores the dead to life.
He that shelters beneath thy shade, shall not be scorched either by the moon at night or by the midday sun.
Planted near the running waters, thou art lovely in thy verdure, and blossoms ever fresh blow on each fair branch.
Between thine arms hangs the pendant Vine, whence wine most sweet flows in a ruddy stream,
 St. Matt. xii. 32.
 1 Cor. ii. 8.
 St. Matt. xxiv. 30.
 Ps. xlix. 7-13.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Station, at Rome, is in the church of Saint Chrysogonus, one of the most celebrated martyrs of the Church of Rome. His name is inserted in the Canon of the Mass.
Sanctifica, quæsumus, Domine, nostra jejunia: et cunctarum nobis indulgentiam propitius largire culparum. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Sanctify, O Lord, we beseech thee, our fasts, and mercifully grant us the pardon of all-our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lectio Jonæ Prophetæ
In diebus illis: Factum est verbum Domini ad Jonam prophetam secundo, dicens: Surge, et vade in Nineven civitatem magnam: et prædica in ea prædicationem quam ego loquor ad te. Et surrexit Jonas, et abiit in Niniven juxta verbum Domini. Et Ninive erat civitæ magna itinere trium dierum. Et cœpit Jonas introire in civitatem itinere diei unius: et clamavit, et dixit: adhuc quadraginta dies et Ninive subvertetur. Et crediderunt viri Ninivitæ in Deum: et prædicaverunt jejunium, et vestiti sunt saccis a majore usque ad minorem. Et pervenit verbum ad regem Ninive: et surrexit de solio suo, et abjecit vestimentum suum a se, et indutus est sacco, et sedit in cinere. Et clamavit, et dixit in Ninive ex ore regis, et principum ejus, dicens: Homines, et jumenta, et boves, et pecora non gustent quidquam; nec pascantur, et aquam non bibant. Et operiantur saccis homines, et jumenta, et clament ad Dominum in fortitudine; et converbatur vir a via sua mala, et ab iniquitate, quæ est in manibus eorum. Quis scit si convertatur et ignoscat Deus: et revertatur a furore iræ suæ, et non peribimus? Et vidit Deus opera eorum, quia conversi sunt de via sua mala: et misertus est populo suo Dominus Deus noster.
Lesson from Jonas the Prophet.
In those days: the word of the Lord came to Jonas the second time, saying: Arise and go to Ninive, the great city: and preach in it the preaching that I bid thee. And Jonas arose, and went to Ninive, according to the word of the Lord. Now Ninive was a great city of three days’ journey. And Jonas began to enter into the city one day’s journey: and he cried and said: Yet forty days and Ninive shall be destroyed. And the men of Ninive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least. And the word came to the king of Ninive: and he rose up out of his throne, and cast away his robe from him, and was clothed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published in Ninive, from the mouth of the king and of his princes, saying: Let neither men nor beasts, oxen nor sheep, taste anything: let them not feed nor drink water. And let men and beasts be covered with sackcloth, and cry to the Lord with all their strength, and let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the iniquity that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish? And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and the Lord our God had mercy on his people.
The Church’s intention in this day’s lesson is to encourage us to earnestness and perseverance in our penance. Here we have an idolatrous city, a haughty and debauched capital, whose crimes have merited the anger of heaven. God threatens it with His vengeance: yet forty days, and Ninive and its inhabitants shall he destroyed. How came it, that the threat was not carried into effect? What was it that caused Ninive to be spared? Its people returned to the God they had left; they sued for mercy; they humbled themselves, and fasted; and the Church concludes the prophet’s account by these touching words of her own: 'And the Lord our God had mercy on His people.' They are Gentiles, but they became His people, because they did penance at the preaching of the prophet. God had made a covenant with one only nation, the Jews; but He rejected not the Gentiles as often as they renounced their false gods, confessed His holy name and desired to serve Him. We are here taught the efficacy of corporal mortification; when united with spiritual penance, that is, with the repentance of the heart, it has power to appease God’s anger. How highly, then, should we prize the holy exercises of penance, put upon us by the Church during this holy season! Let us also learn to dread that false spirituality, which tells us that exterior mortification is of little value: such doctrine is the result of rationalism and cowardice.
This passage from the prophet Jonas is also intended for the catechumens, whose Baptism is so close at hand. It teaches them to have confidence in this merciful God of the Christians, whose threats are so terrible, but who, notwithstanding, turns from His threats to forgive the repentant sinner. These catechumens, who had hitherto lived in the Ninive of paganism, were here taught that God, even before sending His Son into the world, invited all men to become His people. Seeing the immense obstacles their Gentile ancestors had to surmount in order to receive and persevere in the grace offered them, they would bless God their Saviour for having, by His Incarnation, His Sacrifice, His Sacraments, and His Church, facilitated salvation for us who live under the new Testament. True, He was the source of salvation to all preceding generations: but with what incomparable richness is He the source of ours! The public penitents, too, had their instruction in this Epistle. What an encouragement for them to hope for pardon! God has shown pardon to Ninive, sinful as it was, and sentenced to destruction: He would, therefore, accept their repentance and penance, He would stay His justice, and show them mercy and pardon.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Miserunt principes et pharisæi ministros, ut apprehenderent Jesum. Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Adhuc modicum tempus vobiscum sum: et vado ad eum qui me misit. Quæretis me. et non invenietis: et ubi ego sum vos non potestis venire. Dixerunt ergo Judæi ad semetipsos: Quo hic iturus est, quia non inveniemus eum? Numquid in dispersionem Gentium iturus est, et docturus Gentes? Quis est hic sermo quem dixit: Quæretis me, et non invenietis: et ubi sum ego, vos non potestis venire? In novissimo autem die magno festivitatis stabat Jesus, et clamabat dicens: Si quis sitit, veniat ad me, et bibat. Qui credit in me, sicut dicit Scriptura, flumina de ventre ejus fluent aquæ vivæ. Hoc autem dixit de Spiritu, quem accepturi erant credentes in eum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: The rulers and pharisees sent ministers to apprehend Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me. You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come. The Jews therefore said among themselves: Whither will he go that we shall not find him? Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What is this saying that he hath said: You shall seek me and shall not find me; and where I am, you cannot come? And on the last and great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as the Scripture saith, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him.
The enemies of Jesus sought to stone Him to death, as we were told in yesterday’s Gospel; to-day they are bent on making Him a prisoner, and send soldiers to seize Him. This time Jesus does not hide Himself; but how awful are the words He speaks: I go to Him that sent Me: you shall seek Me, and shall not find Me! The sinner, then, who has long abused the grace of God, may have his ingratitude and contempt punished in this just, but terrific way—that he shall not be able to find the Jesus he has despised: he shall seek, and shall not find. Antiochus, when humbled under the hand of God, prayed, yet obtained not mercy.After the death and resurrection of Jesus, whilst the Church was casting her roots in the world, the Jews, who had crucified the just One, were seeking the Messias in each of the many impostors, who were then rising up in Judea, and fomenting rebellions, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Surrounded on all sides by the Roman legions, with their temple and palaces a prey to flames, they sent up their cries to heaven, and besought the God of their fathers to send, as He had promised, the Deliverer! It never occurred to them that this Deliverer had shown Himself to their fathers, to many even of themselves; that they had put Him to death, and that the apostles had already carried His name to the ends of the earth. They went on looking for Him, even to the very day when the deicide city fell, burying beneath its ruins them that the sword had spared. Had they been asked what it was they were awaiting, they would have replied that they were expecting their Messias! He had come, and gone. You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me! Let those, too, think of these terrible words of Jesus, who intend to neglect the graces offered to them during this Easter. Let us pray, let us make intercession for them, lest they fall into that awful threat, of a repentance that seeks mercy when it is too late to find aught save an inexorable justice.
But what consoling thoughts are suggested by the concluding words of our Gospel! Faithful souls, and you that have repented! listen to what your Jesus says, for it is to you that He speaks: If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. Remember the prayer of the Samaritan woman: Give me O Lord, to drink of this water! This water is divine grace: come and drink your fill at the fountains of your Saviour, as the prophet Isaias bids you. This water gives purity to the souls that are defiled, strength to them that are weak, and love to them that have no fervour. Nay, our Saviour assures us that he who believes in Him shall himself become as a fountain of living water, for the Holy Ghost will come upon him, and he shall pour out upon others of the fulness that he himself has received. With what joy must the catechumen have listened to these words, which promised him that his thirst should soon be quenched at the holy font! Jesus has made Himself everything to the world He has come to save: Light to guide us, Bread to nourish us, a Vine to gladden our hearts with its fruit, and, lastly, a Fountain of living water to quench our thirst.
Humiliate capita vestra Deo.
Da, quæsumus, Domine, populo tuo salutem mentis et corporis: ut bonis operibus inhærendo, tua semper mereatur protectione defendi. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, to thy people, health both of body and mind, that being constant in the practice of good works, they may always be safe under thy protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This being the day on which the Church offers to our meditations the history of the prophet Jonas preaching to Ninive, we subjoin a new fragment from the hymn of Prudentius on fasting. It is the passage where he relates the life of this prophet, and the repentance of the wicked city.
Referre prisci stemma nunc jejunii
Libet, fideli proditum volumine,
Ut diruendæ civitatis incolis
Fulmen benigni mansuefactum Patris,
Pie repressis ignibus, pepercerit.
Gens insolenti præpotens jactantia
Pollebat olim: quam fluentem nequiter
Corrupta vulgo solverat lascivia;
Et inde bruto contumax fastidio
Cultum superni negligebat Numinis.
Offensa tandem jugis indulgentiæ
Censura, justis excitatur motibus,
Dextram perarmat rhomphæali incendio,
Nimbos crepantes, et fragosos turbines
Vibrans tonantum nube flammarum quatit.
Sed pœnitendi dum datur diecula,
Si forte vellent improbam libidinem
Veteresque nugas condomare, ac frangere.
Suspendit ictum terror exorabilis,
Paulumque dicta substitit sententia.
Jonam prophetam mitis ultor excitat,
Pœnæ imminentis iret ut prænuncius;
Sed nosset ille quum minacem judicem
Servare malle, quam ferire ac plectere,
Tectam latenter vertit in Tharsos fugam.
Celsam paratis pontibus scandit ratem:
Udo revincta fune puppis solvitur.
Itur per altum; fit procellosum mare:
Tum causa tanti quæritur periculi:
Sors in fugacem missa vatem decidit.
Jussus perire solus e cunctis reus,
Cujus voluta crimen urna expresserat,
Præceps rotatur, et profundo immergitur:
Exceptus inde belluinis faucibus,
Alvi capacis vivus hauritur specu.
Intactus exin tertiæ noctis vice,
Monstri vomentis pellitur singultibus,
Qua murmuranti fine fluctus frangitur,
Salsosque candens spuma tundit pumices,
Ructatus exit, seque servatum stupet.
In Ninivitas se coactus percito
Gressu reflectit: quos ut increpaverat,
Pudenda censor imputans opprobria.
Impendit, inquit, ira summi vindicis,
Urbemque flamma mox cremabit: credite.
Apicem deinceps ardui montis petit,
Visurus inde conglobatum turbidæ
Fumum ruinæ, cladis et diræ struem,
Tectus flagellis multinodi germinis,
Nato et repente perfruens umbraculo.
Sed mœsta postquam civitas vulnus novi
Hausit doloris, heu! supremum palpitat.
Cursant per ampla congregatim mœnia
Plebs, et senatus, omnis ætas civium,
Pallens juventus, ejulantes feminæ.
Placet frementem publicis jejuniis
Placare Christum: mos edendi spernitur.
Glaucos amictus induit monilibus
Matrona demptis, proque gemma, et serico
Crinem fluentem sordibus spargit cinis.
Squalent recincta veste pullati patres,
Setasque plangens turba sumit textiles,
Impexa villis virgo bestialibus
Nigrante vultum contegit velamine,
Jacens arenis et puer provolvitur.
Rex ipse Coos æstuantem murices
Lænam revulsa dissipabat fibula,
Geminas virentes, et lapillos sutiles,
Insigne frontis exuebat vinculum
Turpi capillos impeditus pulvere.
Nullus bibendi, nemo vescendi memor:
Jejuna mensas pubes omnis liquerat:
Quin et negato lacte vagientium
Fletu madescunt parvulorum cunulæ:
Succum papillæ parca nutrix derogat.
Greges et ipsos claudit armentalium
Solers virorum cura, ne vagum pecus
Contingat ore rorulenta gramina,
Potum strepentis neve fontis hauriat:
Vacuis querelæ personant præsepibus.
Mollitus his, et talibus, brevem Deus
Iram refrænat, temperans oraculum
Prosper sinistrum: prona nam dementia
Haud difficulter supplicum mortalium
Solvit reatum, fitque fautrix flentium.
I fain would now, in holy fasting’s praise,
tell, from the book of truth,
how God our Father, with his wonted love,
repressed the fire and thunder of his wrath,
and spared the city doomed to be destroyed.
In ancient days a city flourished, whose mighty
power drove her into haughtiness extreme. Criminal indulgence and lewd corruption had destroyed the
morals of her people, so brutalizing them, that
they left the worship of the God of heaven.
At length, the tired patience of God’s long-suffering
gave way to justice, which moves his hand
to prepare his arrowed lightnings,
and storm-voiced clouds, and jarring whirlwind,
and thunderbolts that shake the vault of heaven.
Yet does he grant them time for penitence,
wherein to tame and break the wickedness
of their lust and wonted follies. Mercy, that
waits for prayer, holds back the blow of anger;
a brief delay puts off the day of doom.
The meek avenger sends a herald of the coming
woe: it is Jonas the prophet.
But he, well knowing that the threatening Judge
is prone to save rather than to strike and punish,
stealthily to Tharsis flees.
A noble vessel was prepared for sail, whereon he takes
his place. The anchor weighed, the vessel puts from
shore. She ploughs the deep, when, lo! a storm. Endangered thus, the crew would know the cause,
and casting lots, it falls upon the fugitive, the prophet.
Of all, the only one in fault is he.
His guilt is clear, the lot has told the tale.
Headlong is he cast, and buried in the deep;
and as he falls, a whale’s huge jaw receives the prophet,
burying him alive in the sepulchre of his capacious womb.
There for three nights does Jonas lie unhurt;
which passed, the sick monster heaves him from his womb,
just where the murmuring billows break upon the shore,
and whiten the salty rocks with foam.
The prophet comes forth, wondering, but safe.
Compelled, to Ninive he turns his hurried steps.
He chides, he censures, he charges her with all her shamless crimes,
saying: ‘The anger of the great Avenger shall fall upon you,
and speedily your city shall be made a prey to fire.
Believe the prophecy I speak.’
Then to the summit of a lofty hill he goes,
from whence to see the thickened clouds of smoke
rising from the ruined heap, and gaze upon the pile of unpitied dead.
Suddenly there grows upon the spot an ivy-tree
whose knotted branches yield a shady cover.
But scarce had the mournful city felt the wound of her coming grief,
than deathly fear possesses her.
Her people and her senate, her young and old,
youths pale with panic, and women wailing loud,
hurry in groups along the spacious walls.
It is decreed: the anger of Christ shall by fasting be
appeased. Henceforth they spurn to eat.
Matrons doff their trinkets, and vest in dingy garbs,
and, for their wreaths of pearls and silks,
sprinkle ashes on their hair
Patricians put on robes of sombre hue;
the people, weeping, take hair-shirts for their dress;
dishevelled maidens, clad in skins of beasts,
hide their faces in veils of black.
Children, too, make the dust of earth their bed.
The king himself from his shoulders
tears the Cossian purple robe,
and for the diadem that decks his brow
with emeralds and gems,
strews grim ashes on his head.
None thinks of drink or meat. Among the youths,
not one would touch the food prepared.
Nay, babes are kept from their mothers’ breasts,
and in their cradles, wet with tears,
these little fasters lie.
The herdsman, too, pens up his flock with care,
lest, left to roam, the dewy grass or rippling fount
should tempt them to transgress the universal fast;
but now, pent up, their moans
rebellow through their prison-cave.
Thus is God appeased, his anger brief restrained,
and threatened evil yields to proffered love:
for mercy leans to pardon men their sins,
if they but humbly pray; and when they weep,
she makes herself their friend.
Let us close the day with these stanzas in honour of the holy cross. We have taken them from the Triodion of the Greek Church.
(Feria VI. mediæ Septimanæ)
Sanctissimum lignum, in quo Christus manibus extensis adversarias potestates devicit, adoremus jejunio nitidi, ad laudem et gloriam Omnipotentis.
Crux salutifera sanctificationem suppeditans proposita cenitur. Accedamus, cor et corpus emundantes.
Igne mandatorum tuorum munda me, benigne, et da, ut salutiferam Passionem tuam intuear, et cum desiderio adorem, cruce vallatus et conservatus.
Aquis jejunii pectora purgati, lignum crucis fideliter amplectamur, in quo Christus crucifixus aquam immortalitatis nobis emisit.
Crucis velut velo alati, salutarem jejunii navigationem jam mediam emensi sumus, Jesu Salvator, per quam deduc nos ad Passionis tuæ portum.
Præmonstrabat te Moyses in monte, o crux, in gentium interitum. Nos vero efformantes te, et corde intuentes et adorantes, hostes carnis expertes virtute tua profligamus.
Purified by our fast, let us, to the praise and glory of the omnipotent God, venerate that most holy cross, whereon Christ, with his arms stretched forth, overcame the power of our enemy.
The saving cross, that sanctifies us, is now exposed before our eyes. Let us draw nigh, having purified our body and our soul.
Cleanse me, O merciful Saviour, by the fire of thy commandments, and grant that I may contemplate thy saving Passion, and lovingly adore it, having the cross for my protection and defence.
Having our hearts purified by the waters of our fast, let us, with faith, embrace the wood of the cross, on which Christ was crucified, and gave us the water of immortality.
Having thy cross as our sail, we have already winged our way half through the saving voyage of our fast. Lead us by the same, O Jesus our Saviour, into the haven of thy Passion.
Moses on the mount was a figure of thee, O holy cross, (when he prayed with his outstretched arms), unto the destruction of the Amalekites. Grant that we, who sign thee on ourselves, and lovingly gaze on and venerate thee, may, by thy power, put our spiritual enemies to flight.
 2 Mach. ix. 13.
 Is. xii. 3.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Station in Rome was formerly the church of the martyr St. Cyriacus, and as such it is still given in the Roman missal; but this holy sanctuary having been destroyed, and the relics of the holy deacon translated to the church of St. Mary in Via lata, it is here that the Station is now held.
Nostra tibi, Domine, quæsumus, sint accepta jejunia: quæ nos et expiando gratia tua dignos efficiant; et ad remedia perducant æterna. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
May our fast, O Lord, we beseech thee, be acceptable to thee, and, having purified us from sin, make us worthy of thy grace, and procure us everlasting remedies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Lectio Danielis Prophetæ.
In diebus illis: Congregati sunt Babylonii ad regem, et dixerunt ei: Trade nobis Danielem, qui Bel destruxit, et draconem interfecit; alioquin interficiemus te et domum tuam. Vidit ergo rex quod irruerent in eum vehementer: ut necessitate compulsus tradidit eis Danielem. Qui miserunt eum in lacum leonum, et erat ibi diebus sex. Porro in lacu erant leones septem, et dabantur eis duo corpora quotidie, et duæ oves: et tunc non data sunt eis, ut devorarent Danielem. Erat autem Habacuc propheta in Judæa, et ipse coxerat pulmentum, et intriverat panes in alveolo: et ibat in campum ut ferret messoribus. Dixitque angelus Domini ad Habacuc: Fer prandium quod habes in Babylonem Danieli, qui est in lacu leonum. Et dixit Habacuc: Domine, Babylonem non vidi, et lacum nescio. Et apprehendit eum angelus Domini in vertice ejus, et portavit eum capillo capitis sui, posuitque eum in Babylone supra lacum in impetu spiritus sui. Et clamavit Habacuc, dicens: Daniel, serve Dei, tolle prandium quod misit tibi Deus. Et ait Daniel: Recordatus es mei Deus, et non dereliquisti diligentes te. Surgensque Daniel comedit. Porro angelus Domini restituit Habacuc confestim in loco suo. Venit ergo rex die septimo, ut lugeret Danielem: et venit ad lacum, et introspexit, et ecce Daniel sedens in medio leonum. Et exclamavit voce magna rex, dicens: Magnus es, Domine Deus Danielis! Et extraxit eum de lacu leonum. Porro illos qui perditionis ejus causa fuerant, intromisit in lacum, et devorati sunt in momento coram eo. Tunc rex ait: Paveant omnes habitantes in universa terra Deum Danielis; quia ipse est Salvator, faciens signa et mirabilia in terra: qui liberavit Danielem de lacu leonum.
Lesson from Daniel the Prophet.
In those days: The people of Babylon gathered together against the king: and said to him: Deliver up to us Daniel, who hath destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon, otherwise we will destroy thee and thy house. And the king saw that they pressed upon him violently; and being constrained by necessity, he delivered Daniel to them. And they cast him into the den of lions, and he was there six days. And in the den there were seven lions, and they had given to them two carcasses every day, and two sheep: but then they were not given unto them, to the intent that they might devour Daniel. Now there was in Judea a prophet called Habacuc, and he had boiled pottage, and had broken bread in a bowl; and was going into the field to carry it to the reapers. And the angel of the Lord said to Habacuc: Carry the dinner which thou hast, into Babylon, to Daniel, who is in the lions’ den. And Habacuc said: Lord, I never saw Babylon, nor do I know the den. And the angel of the Lord took him by the top of his head, and carried him by the hair of his head, and set him in Babylon, over the den, in the force of his spirit. And Habacuc cried, saying: O Daniel, thou servant of God, take the dinner that God hath sent thee. And Daniel said: Thou hast remembered me, O God, and thou hast not forsaken them that love thee. And Daniel arose and ate. And the angel of the Lord presently set Habacuc again in his own place. And upon the seventh day the king came to bewail Daniel: and he came to the den, and looked in, and behold Daniel was sitting in the midst of the lions. And the king cried out with a loud voice, saying: Great art thou, O Lord, the God of Daniel. And he drew him out of the lions’ den. But those that had been the cause of his destruction, he cast into the den, and they were devoured in a moment before him. Then the king said: Let all the inhabitants of the whole earth fear the God of Daniel: for he is the Saviour, working signs and wonders in the earth; who hath delivered Daniel out of the lions den.
This lesson was intended, in an especial manner, as an instruction to the catechumens. They were preparing to enroll themselves as Christians; it was, therefore, necessary that they should have examples put before them, which they might study and imitate, Daniel, oast into the lions’ den for having despised and destroyed the idol Bel, was the type of a martyr. This prophet had confessed the true God in Babylon; he had put to death a dragon, to which the people, after Bel had been destroyed, had given their idolatrous worship; nothing less than Daniel’s death could appease their indignation. The holy man full of confidence in God, allowed himself to be thrown into the lions’ den, thus setting an example of courageous faith to the future Christians: they would imitate him, and for three centuries would nobly shed their blood for the establishment of the Church of Christ. In the Roman catacombs we continually meet with the representation of Daniel surrounded by lions, and many of these paintings date from the ages of persecution. Thus the eyes of the catechumens could see what their ears heard; both told them to be ready for trial and sacrifice. It is true, the history of Daniel showed them the power of God interfering and delivering him from death; but they were fully aware that, in order to merit a like deliverance, they would have to show a like constancy, and be ready to suffer death rather than deny their faith. From time to time, a Christian was led to the amphitheatre, and the wild beasts would fawn at his feet: but such miracles only put off the martyr’s sacrifice, and perhaps won others to the faith.
It was the prophet’s courage, and not his victory over the lions, that the Church proposed to her catechumens. The great thing for them to bear in mind was this maxim of our Lord: Fear not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that can destroy both soul and body into hell. We are the descendants of these early Christians; but our faith has not cost us what it cost them. And yet we have a tyrant to try even ours: we have to confess our faith, not indeed before pro consuls and emperors, but before the world. Let the example of the brave martyrs send us forth from our Lent with a courageous determination to withstand this tyrant, with his maxims, his pomps, and his works. There has been a truce between him and us, during these days of retirement and penance; but the battle will soon be renewed, and then we must stand the brunt, and show that we are Christians.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Ambulabat Jesus in Galilæam, non enim volebat in Judæam ambulare, quia quærebant eum interficere. Erat autem in proximo dies festus Judæorum, Scenopegia. Dixerunt autem ad eum fratres ejus: Transi hinc, et vade in Judæam, ut et disci puli tui videant opera tua quæ facis. Nemo quippe in occulto quid facit, et quærit ipse in palam esse: si hæc facis, manifesta teipsum mundo. Neque enim fratres ejus credebant in eum. Dicit ergo eis Jesus: Tempus meum nondum advenit: tempus autem vestrum semper est paratum. Non potest mundus odisse vos; me autem odit: quia ego testimonium perhibeo de illo, quod opera ejus mala sunt. Vos ascendite ad diem festum hunc, ego autem non ascendo ad diem festum istum: quia meum tempus nondum impletum est. Hæc cum dixisset, ipse mansit in Galilæa. Ut autem ascenderunt fratres ejus, tunc et ipse ascendit ad diem festum non manifeste, sed quasi in occulto. Judæi ergo quærebant eum in die festo, et dicebant: Ubi est ille? et murmur multum erat in turba de eo. Quidam enim dicebant: Quia bonus est. Aliiautem dicebant: Non, sed seducit turbas. Nemo tamen palam loquebatur de illo, propter metum Judæorum
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. And his brethren said to him: Depart from hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see thy works which thou dost. For there is no man that doth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly; if thou do these things, manifest thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said to them: My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth: because I give testimony of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go you up to this festival day, but I go not up to this festival day; because my time is not accomplished. When he had said these things, he himself staid in Galilee. But after his brethren were gone up, then he also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. The Jews therefore sought him on the festival day, and said: Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the multitude concerning him. For some said: He is a good man. And others said: No, but he seduceth the people. Yet no man spoke openly of him, for fear of the Jews.
The facts here related refer to an earlier part of our Lord’s life; but the Church proposes them to our consideration to-day, on account of their connexion with those given us in the Gospels read to us during the last few days. We learn from these words of St. John, that the Jews were plotting the death of Jesus, not only when this the last Pasch for the Synagogue was approaching, but even so far back as the feast of tabernacles, which was kept in September. The Son of God was reduced to the necessity of going from place to place as it were in secret; if He would go to Jerusalem, He must take precautions! Let us adore these humiliations of the Man-God, who has deigned to sanctify every position of life, even that of the just man persecuted and obliged to hide himself from his enemies. It would have been an easy matter for Him to confound His adversaries by working miracles, such as those which Herod’s curiosity sought for; He could have compelled them to treat Him with the reverence that was due to Him. But this is not God’s way: He does not force man to duty; He acts, and then leaves man to recognize his Creator’s claims. In order to do this, man must be attentive and humble, he must impose silence on his passions. The divine light shows itself to the soul that thus comports herself. First, she sees the actions, the works, of God; then, she believes, and wishes to believe: her happiness, as well as her merit, lies in faith, and faith will be recompensed in eternity with light, with the vision.
Flesh and blood cannot understand this; they love show and noise. The Son of God, having come down upon this earth, could not subject Himself to such an abasement as that of making a parade of His infinite power before men. He had to work miracles, in order to give a guarantee of His mission; but, as Man, not everything He did was to be a miracle. By far the longest period of His life was devoted to the humble duties of a creature; had it not been so, how should we have learned from Him what we so much needed to know? His brethren (the Jews gave the name of brothers to all who were collaterally related) wished Jesus to make a display of His miraculous power, for some of the glory would have accrued to them. This their ambition caused our Lord to address them in these strong words, upon which we should meditate during this holy season, for, later on, we shall stand in need of the teaching: 'The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth.’ Let us, therefore, for the time to come, not please the world; its friendship would separate us from Jesus Christ.
Humiliate capita vestra Deo.
Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, perseverantem in tua voluntate famulatum: ut in diebus nostris, et merito et numero, populus tibi serviens augeatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.
Grant us, O Lord, we beseech thee, perseverance in thy service; that in our days, thy faithful may increase both in number and goodness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The following devout hymn, taken from the ancient Roman-French missals, may serve us as an expression of the sentiments we entertain towards our loving Redeemer.
Rex Christe factor omnium,
Redemptor et credentium:
Placare votis supplicum
Te laudibus colentium.
Cujus benigna gratia
Crucis per alma vulnera,
Virtute solvit ardua
Primi parentis vincula.
Qui es Creator siderum,
Tegmen subisti carneum:
Dignatus es vilissimam
Pati doloris formulam.
Ligatus es ut solveres
Mundi mentis complices:
Per probra tergens crimina
Quæ mundus auxit plurima.
Cruci Redemptor figeris,
Terram sed omnem concutis:
Tradis potentem spiritum,
Nigrescit atque sæculum.
Mox in paternæ gloriæ
Victor resplendens culmine;
Cum Spiritus munimine
Defende nos, Rex optime.
O Jesus! thou King and Creator of all,
Redeemer, too, of believers,
be appeased by the prayer
and praise of thy humble suppliants.
’Twas thy loving grace that,
by the dear wounds of the cross,
broke so powerfully the fetters
forged by our first parents.
Thou, that art the Creator of the stars,
didst deign to assume
a body of flesh, and endure
the most humiliating sufferings.
Thy hands were tied, that thou mightest loosen sinners,
accomplices of a world condemned:
thou didst suffer shame, so to cleanse away
the manifold sins of the world.
Thou, our Redeemer, art fastened to the cross,
but thou movest the whole earth:
thou breathest forth thy mighty Spirit,
and the world is buried in darkness.
But soon we see thee shining
triumphantly on the high throne of thy Father’s glory:
do thou, O best of kings,
defend us by the protection of the holy Spirit.
Let us pay our homage to the holy cross, in these words of the Greek liturgy.
(Feria IV mediæ Septimanæ)
Domine omnium et conditor Deus, in medio terræ in crucem elevatus es, attrahens ad te eam, quæ pessimo inimici suasu corruerat, humanam naturam. Quapropter sincere te concelebramus, Passione tua roborati.
Mundatis sensibus jejunii lumine, intellectualibus crucis radiis largissime illustremur, eamque hodie propositam reverenter conspicientes, castis labiis, ore et corde adoremus.
Locum ubi steterunt pedes Domini adoremus, crucem videlicet divinam; obsecrantes ut animæ nostræ pedes in petra divinorum mandatorum firmentur, et ut gressus ejus, divina gratia, in viam pacis dirigantur.
Plaudite omnes fines terræ in hymnis, quando adorari videtis lignum in quo Christus suspensus, et diabolus vulneratus est.
Vivifica crux hodie proponitur: cum gaudio igitur et timore adoremus Domini crucem, ut Spiritum sanctum accipiamus.
Accedens ut te tangam, vivifica crux, cohorresco et lingua et mente, cernens in te divinum Domini mei sanguinem effusum esse.
Confirma, Domine, Ecclesiam tuam, quam acquisivisti virtute crucis tuæ; in illa enim inimicum triumphasti, totumque mundum illuminasti.
Thou, O Lord God, the Creator of all things, wast lifted up on the cross, in the middle of the earth; thou didst draw up to thyself that human nature which had fallen by the most wicked persuasion of the enemy. Wherefore we pay thee our loyal homage, for thy Passion has strengthened us.
The light of fasting has purified our senses; may we be most brightly enlightened by the spiritual rays of thy cross. On this day it is exposed to our view; grant that we may devoutly kiss it, and venerate it in our hymns and with our hearts.
Let us adore the place where stood his feet, that is, the holy cross, and beseech him to firmly fix the feet of our soul on the rock of his divine commandments, and, by his holy grace, guide her steps into the way of peace.
Loudly sing your hymns, O all ye ends of the earth, when ye behold men venerating that wood whereon Christ was fastened, and whereby satan received his wound.
The life-giying cross is this day exposed: let us, then, with joy and fear, venerate the cross of our Lord, that we may receive the Holy Ghost.
O life-giving cross, my tongue and heart tremble with fear, as I draw nigh to touch thee, for I see the divine Blood of my Lord poured forth upon thee.
Strengthen, O Lord, thy Church, which thou didst purchase to thyself by the power of thy cross; for by the cross thou didst triumph over the enemy and enlighten the whole world.
 St. Matt. X. 28.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
At Rome, the Station is in the church of Saint Marcellus, Pope and Martyr. This church was once the house of the holy lady Lucina, who gave it to the Pontiff, that he might consecrate it to God.
Sanctificato hoc jejunio, Deus, tuorum corda fidelium miserator illustra: et quibus devotionis præstas affectum, præbe supplicantibus pium benignus auditum. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Enlighten, O God of mercy, the hearts of thy people by means of this holy fast; and since all our devotion is the effect of thy bounty, mercifully hear the petitions we make. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lectio Libri Levitici.
In diebus illis: Locutus eat Dominus ad Moysen, dicens: Loquere ad omnem cœtum filiorum Israel, et dices ad eos: Ego Dominus Deus vester. Non facietis furtum. Non mentiemini, nec decipiet unuequisque proximum suum. Non perjurabis in nomine meo, nec pollues nomen Dei tui. Ego Dominus. Non facies calumniam proximo tuo, nec vi opprimes eum. Non morabitur opus mercenarii tui apud to usque mane. Non maledices surdo, nec coram cæco pones offendiculum: sed timebis Dominum Deum tuum, quia ego sum Dominus. Non facies quod iniquum est, nec injuste judicabis. Non consideres personam pauperis, nec honores vultum potentis. Juste judica proximo tuo. Non eris criminator, nec susurro in populo. Non stabis contra sanguinem proximi tui. Ego Dominus. Non oderis fratrem tuum in corde tuo, sed publice argue eum, ne habeas super illo peccatum. Non quæras ultionem, nec memor eris injuriæ civium tuorum. Diliges amicum tuum sicut teipsum. Ego Dominas. Leges meas custodite. Ego enim sum Dominus Deus vester.
Lesson from the book of Leviticus.
In those days: the Lord spake to Moses, saying: Speak to all the assembly of the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: I am the Lord your God. You shall not steal. You shall not lie: neither shall any man deceive his neighbour. Thou shalt not swear falsely by my name, nor profane the name of thy God. I am the Lord. Thou shalt not calumniate thy neighbour, nor oppress him by violence. The wages of him that has been hired by thee, shall not abide with thee until the morning. Thou shalt not speak evil of the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind: but thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, because I am the Lord. Thou shalt not do that which is unjust, nor judge unjustly. Respect not the person of the poor, nor honour the countenance of the mighty. Judge thy neighbour according to justice. Thou shalt not be a detractor nor a whisperer among the people. Thou shalt not stand against the blood of thy neighbour. I am the Lord. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, but reprove him openly, lest thou incur sin through him. Seek not revenge, nor be mindful of the injury of thy citizens. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord. Keep ye my laws, for I am the Lord your God.
This passage from Leviticus, wherein our duties to our neighbour are so dearly and so fully defined, is read to us to-day, in order that we may see how we fulfil these important duties, and correct whatever short-comings we may discover in ourselves. It is God who here speaks; it is God who commands. Observe that phrase: I am the Lord: He repeats it several times, to show us that if we injure our neighbour, He, God Himself, will become the avenger. How strange must this doctrine have seemed to the catechumens, who had been brought up in the selfish and heartless principles of paganism! Here they are told that all men are brethren, and that God is the common Father of all, commanding all to love one another with sincere charity, and without distinction of nation or class. Let us Christians resolve to fulfil this precept to the letter: these are days for good resolutions. Let us remember that the commandments we have been reading were given to the Israelite people, many ages before the preaching of the law of love. If, then, God exacted from the Jew a cordial love of his fellow-men, when the divine law was written on mere tablets of stone; what will He not require from the Christian, who can now read that law in the Heart of the Man-God, who has come down from heaven and made Himself our Brother, in order that we might find it easier and sweeter to fulfil the precept of charity? Human nature united in His Person to the divine, is henceforth sacred; it has become an object of the heavenly Father’s love. It is out of fraternal love for this our nature that Jesus suffered death, teaching us, by His own example, to have such love for our brethren, that, if necessary, we ought to lay down our lives for them. It is the beloved disciple that teaches us this, and he had it from his divine Master.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Facta sunt encœnia in Jerosolymis: et hiems erat. Et ambulabat Jesus in templo, in porticu Salomonis. Circumdederunt ergo eum Judæi, et dicebant ei: Quousque animam nostram tollis? Si tu es Christus, dic nobis palam. Respondit eis Jesus: Loquor vobis, et non creditis. Opera quæ ego facio in nomine Patris mei, hæc testimonium perhibent de me. Sed vos non creditis, quia non estis ex ovibus meis. Oves meæ vocem meam audiunt: et ego cognosco eas, et sequuntur me: et ego vitam æternam do eis: et non peribunt in æternam, et non rapiet eas quisquam de manu mea. Pater meus quod dedit mihi, majus omnibus est: et nemo potest rapere de manu Patris mei. Ego, et Pater unum sumus. Sustulerunt ergo lapides Judæi, ut lapidarent eum. Respondit eis Jesus: Multa bona opera ostendi vobis ex Patre meo; propter quod eorum opus me lapidatis? Responderunt ei Judæi: De bono opere non lapidamus te, sed de blasphemia, et quia tu homo cum sis, facis teipsum Deum. Respondit eis Jesus: Nonne scriptum est in lege vestra: Quia ego dixi, dii estis? Si illos dixit deos, ad quos sermo Dei factus est, et non potest solvi Scriptura: quem Pater sanctificavit, et misit in mundum, vos dicitis: Quia blasphemas; quia dixi, Filius Dei sum? Si non facio opera Patris mei, nolite credere mihi. Si autem facio, et si mihi non vultis credere, operibus credite, ut cognoscatis, et credatis, quia Pater in me est, et ego in Patre.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: it was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem: and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. The Jews therefore came round about him, and said to him: How long dost thou hold our souls in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them: I speak to you and you believe not. The works that I do in the name of my Father, they give testimony of me. But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me: and I give them eternal life: and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand. That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all: and no man can snatch it out of the hand of my Father. I and the Father are one. The Jews then took up stones to stone him. Jesus answered them: Many good works I have showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me? The Jews answered him: For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy: and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law: I said you are gods? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God was spoken, and the Scripture cannot be broken; do you say of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world: Thou blasphemest: because I said I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you will not believe me believe the works, that you may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
After the feast of tabernacles came that of the Dedication, and Jesus remained in Jerusalem. The hatred His enemies bore Him is greater than ever. They come round about Him, that they may make Him say He is the Christ, and then accuse Him of claiming a mission which does not belong to Him. Jesus deigns not to reply to their question, but tells them that they have seen His works, and that these give ample testimony of His being Christ, the Son of God. It is by faith, and by faith alone, that man can here know his God. God manifests Himself by His divine works: man sees them, and is bound to believe the truth to which they bear testimony. By thus believing, he has both the certitude of what he believes, and the merit of believing. The proud Jew rebels against this: he would fain dictate to God how He should act, and sees not that such a pretension is impious and absurd.
But, if Jesus openly declare the truth, He will scandalize these evil-minded men! Be it so; the truth must be preached. Our Lord has others to consult besides them; there are the well-intentioned, who will believe what He teaches. He, therefore, utters these sublime words, whereby He declares, not only that He is Christ, but that He is God: I and the Father are one. He knew that this would enrage His enemies; but He had to make Himself known to the world, and to arm the Church against the false doctrines of heretics, who would rise up in future ages. One of these is to be Arius, who will teach that Jesus is not God, but only the most perfect of creatures: the Church will answer, that Jesus is one with the Father, consubstantial with the Father: and then, after causing much trouble and sin, Arianism will die out and be forgotten. The Jews mentioned in to-day’s Gospel are the fore-runners of Arius; they understand what our Lord says: He says He is God, and they seek to stone Him. Jesus gives them a fresh grace; He shows them why they should receive what He here teaches; He reminds them, by the Scriptures they know off by heart, that the name god has sometimes been applied, in a limited sense, to men who had certain high offices put upon them by heaven; and then, He bids them think of all the miracles they have seen Him work, which so plainly testify to His being assisted by His Father, and once more declares Himself to be God, saying: The Father is in Me, and I in the Father. But men hardened in obstinacy, as these are, cannot be convinced: and the sin they have committed against the Holy Ghost is working its effects. How different is it with the sheep of this divine Shepherd! They hear His voice; they follow Him; He gives them eternal life; no man shall pluck them out of His hand. Happy sheep indeed! They believe, because they love; and as it is through the heart that truth gains ascendancy over them, so is it by pride of intellect that darkness gains admission into the soul of the unbeliever, and lasts as long as pride lasts. Alas! poor unbeliever! he loves his darkness; he calls it light; he blasphemes when he thinks he reasons, just as these Jews crucified the Son of God, that, as they said, they might give glory to God.
Humiliate capita vestra Deo.
Adesto supplicationibus nostris, omnipotens Deus; et quibus fiduciam sperandæ pietatis indulges, consuetæ misericordiæ tribue benignus effectum. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.
Hear our prayers and entreaties, O almighty God, and grant that those to whom thou givest hopes of thy mercy, may experience the effects of thy usual clemency. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Mozarabic breviary gives us the following beautiful prayer, which consists of exclamations to our suffering Jesus.
(Sabbato Dominicæ V. Quadragesimæ)
℣. Verus Dei Filius Christe,
℟. Exaudi: populo supplicanti miserere.
℣. Qui triumpho crucis tuæ salvasti solus orbem, tu cruoris tui pæna nos libera.
℟. Et exaudi.
℣. Qui moriens mortem damnas, resurgens vitam præstas, sustinens pro nobis pænam indebitam.
℟. Et exaudi.
℣. Passionis tuæ dies celebremus indemnes: ut per hoc dulcedo tua nos foveat.
℟. Et exaudi.
℣. Pro quibus passus es crucem, non permittas perire; sed per crucem due ad vitam perpetuam.
℟. Et exaudi.
℣. O Jesus! thou true Son of God.
℟. Graciously hear us! have mercy on thy suppliant people.
℣. Thou that alone didst save the world by the triumph of thy cross, do thou, by the Blood thou didst shed, deliver us.
℟. And graciously hear us.
℣. By thy death, thou didst destroy death; by thy Resurrection, thou didst give us life; for our sake thou didst suffer undue punishment.
℟. And graciously hear us.
℣. May we celebrate, in peace, these days of thy Passion, and thereby be consoled by thy sweetness.
℟. And graciously hear us.
℣. Let not them perish, for whom thou didst suffer the cross; but, by thy cross, lead them to life everlasting.
℟. And graciously hear us.
Let us now turn towards the holy cross. These words of the Greek Church, in her Triodion, will assist our devotion.
(Feriæ V. mediæ Septimanæ)
Crucis speciem insinuans, manus, permutato ordine, olim expandit decantatissimus Jacob, benedictionem nepotibus impertiens; simulque salutiferam benedictionem quæ ad nos omnes pertingit indicans.
Te salutiferam armaturam, te invictum trophæum, lætitiæ signum, quo mors occisa est, amplectimur, illustres effecti, ejus gloria qui in te, crux honoratissima, affixus est.
Assistunt incorporearum Virtutum ordines trementes coram ligno vitam præbente. In te enim Christus sanguinem effudit, pretium redemptionis repræsentans, dæmonibus piaculare et capitale, ob perniciem hominibus illatam.
Percussum me hostia gladio sana sanguine tuo, Verbum, et lancea celeriter peccatorum meorum chirographum disrumpe, et in librum vitæ inscribe.
Inferni habitaculum concussisti, ubi in terra defixa es: fidelibus autem fulcrum inconcussum et stabilis protectio effecta es, o veneranda crux.
Feraces virtutum effecti decerpamus divini ligni vivificos fructus, quos protulit nobis in hoc extensus Jesus vitis illa fructifera.
Laudamus, Jesu, immensam bonitatem tuam adorantes crucem, lanceam et arundinem per quam sustulisti, misericors, inimicitiarum medium parietem.
When the most praiseworthy patriarch Jacob was, of old, about to bless his children, he crossed his arms; in this he represented the cross, and prefigured that saving blessing which thence came to each of us.
We embrace thee, most venerable cross, as our armour of salvation, the invincible trophy, the standard of joy, whereby death was put to death; for we have been made to share in the glory of him that was nailed upon thee.
The choirs of the angelic Powers stand in holy awe around thee, O life-giving tree! For it is on thee that Christ shed his Blood, which was the price of our redemption, and which utterly destroyed all those rights that sin had given the devil over mankind.
O Word (made Flesh)! the sword of the enemy hath struck me; heal me by thy Blood. Speedily tear, with thy spear, the hand-writing of my sins, and write my name in the book of life.
O venerable cross! when thou wast fixed in the earth, thou didst make the region of hell to tremble; but thou wast made a firm support and unshaken protection to the faithful.
Being made fruitful in virtue, let us pluck from the divine tree those life-giving fruits, offered unto us by that rich Vine, Jesus, who hung stretched upon it.
O Jesus! we praise thy immense goodness, as we venerate the cross, and spear, and reed, whereby, O merciful God, thou didst remove the wall of enmity that stood between us and thee.
 1 St. John iii. 16.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Station at Rome is in the church of Saint Apollinaris, who was a disciple of St. Peter, and afterwards bishop of Ravenna and martyr.
Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut dignitas conditions humanæ per immoderantiam sauciata, medicinalis parcimoniæ studio reformetur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that the dignity of human nature, which hath been wounded by excess, may be cured by the practice of healing temperance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lectio Danielis Prophetæ.
In diebus illis: Oravit Azarias Dominum dicens: Domine Deus noster, ne quæsumus, tradas nos in perpetuum propter nomen tuum, et ne dissipes testamentum tuum: neque auferas misericordiam tuam a nobis, propter Abraham dilectum tuum, et Isaac servum tuum, et Israel sanctum tuum; quibus locutus es, pollicens quod multiplicares semen eorum sicut stellae cœli, et sicut arenam quæ est in littore maris: quia, Domine, imminuti sumus plus quam omnes gentes,sumusque humiles in universa terra hodie propter peccata nostra. Et non est in tempore hoc princeps, et dux, et propheta, neque ho locaustum, neque sacrificium, neque oblatio, neque incensum, neque locus primitiarum coram te, ut possimus invenire misericordiam tuam: sed in animo contrito, et spiritu humilitatis suscipiamur. Sicut in holocausto arietum, et taurorum, et sicut in millibus agnorum pinguium: sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi: quoniam non est confusio confidentibus in te. Et nunc sequimur te in toto corde, et timemus te, et quærimus faciem tuam. Ne confundas nos, sed fac nobiscum juxta mansuetudinem tuam, et secundum multitudinem misericordiæ tuæ. Et erue nos in mirabilibus tuis, et da gloriam nomini tuo, Domine: et confundantur omnes qui ostendunt servis tuis mala, confundantur in omnipotentia tua, et robur eorum conteratur; et sciant quia tu es Dominus Deus solus, et gloriosus super orbem terrarum, Domine Deus noster.
Lesson from Daniel the Prophet.
In those days, Azarias prayed to the Lord saying: O Lord our God, deliver us not up for ever, we beseech thee, for thy name’s sake, and abolish not thy covenant: and take not away thy mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham thy beloved, and Isaac thy servant, and Israel thy holy one; to whom thou hast spoken, promising that thou wouldst multiply their seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the sea shore. For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins. Neither is there at this time prince, or leader, or prophet, or holocaust, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place of first-fruits before thee, that we may find thy mercy: nevertheless, in a contrite heart and humble spirit, let us be accepted. As in holocausts of rams, and bullocks, and as in thousands of fat lambs: so let our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day, that it may please thee: for there is no confusion to them that trust in thee. And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies. And deliver us according to thy wonderful works, and give glory to thy name, O Lord; and let all them be confounded that show evils to thy servants, let them be confounded in all thy might, and let their strength be broken; and let them know that thou art the Lord, the only God, and glorious over all the world, O Lord our God.
Thus did Juda, when captive in Babylon, pour forth her prayers to God, by the mouth of Azarias. Sion was desolate beyond measure; her people were in exile; her solemnities were hushed. Her children were to continue in a strange land for seventy years; after which God would be mindful of them, and lead them, by the hand of Cyrus, back to Jerusalem, when the building of the second temple would be begun, that temple which was to receive the Messias within its walls. What crime had Juda committed, that she should be thus severely punished? The daughter of Sion had fallen into idolatry; she had broken the sacred engagements which made her the bride of her God. Her crime, however, was expiated by these seventy years of captivity; and when she returned to the land of her fathers, she never relapsed into the worship of false gods. When the Son of God came to dwell in her, He found her innocent of idolatry. But scarcely had forty years elapsed after the Ascension of this divine Redeemer, than Juda was again an exile; not, indeed, led captive into Babylon, but dispersed in every nation under the sun, after having first seen the massacre of thousands of her children. This time it is not merely for seventy years, but for eighteen centuries, that she is without prince, or leader, or prophet, or holocaust, or sacrifice, or temple. Her new crime must be greater than idolatry; for, after all these long ages of suffering and humiliation, the justice of the Father is not appeased! It is, because the Blood that was shed by the Jewish people on Calvary was not the blood of a man—it was the Blood of a God. The very sight of the chastisement inflicted on the murderers proclaims to the world that they were deicides. Their crime was an unparalleled one; its punishment is to be so too; it is to last till the end of time, when God, for the sake of Abraham His beloved, and Isaac His servant, and Jacob His holy one, will visit Juda with an extraordinary grace, and her conversion will console the Church, whose affliction is then to be great by reason of the apostasy of many of her children. This spectacle of a whole people bearing on itself the curse of God for having crucified the Son of God, should make a Christian tremble for himself. It teaches him that divine justice is terrible, and that the Father demands an account of the Blood of His Son, even to the last drop, from those that shed it. Let us lose no time, but go at once, and, in this precious Blood, cleanse ourselves from the share we have had in the sin of the Jews; and, throwing off the chains of iniquity, let us imitate those among them whom we see, from time to time, separating themselves from their people and returning to the Messias: let us, also, be converts, and turn to that Jesus, whose hands are stretched out on the cross, ever ready to receive the humble penitent.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.
In illo tempore: Rogabat Jesum quidam de pharisæis, ut manducaret cum illo. Et ingressus domum pharisæi, discubuit. Et ecce mulier quæ erat in civitate peccatrix, ut cognovit quod accubuisset in domo pharisæi, attulit alabastrum unguenti; et stans retro secus pedes ejus, lacrymis cœpit rigare pedes ejus, et capillis capitis sui tergebat, et osculabatur pedes ejus, et unguento ungebat. Videns autem pharisæus, qui vocaverat eum, ait intra se dicens: Hic si esset Propheta sciret utique, quæ, et qualis est mulier, quæ tangit eum: quia peccatrix est. Et respondens Jesus, dixit ad illum: Simon, habeo tibi aliquid dicere. At ille ait: Magieter, dic. Duo debitores erant cuidam fœneratori: unus debebat denarios quingentos, et alius quinquaginta. Non habentibus illis unde redderent, donavit utrisque. Quis ergo eum plus diligit? Respondens Simon, dixit: Æstimo quia is, cui plus donavit. At ille dixit ei: Recte judicasti. Et conversus ad mulierem, dixit Simoni: Vides hanc mulierem? Intravi in domum tuam: aquam pedibus meis non dedisti; hæc autem lacrymis rigavit pedes meos, et capillis suis tersit. Osculum mihi non dedisti; hæc autem ex quo intravit, non cessavit osculari pedes meos. Oleo caput meum non unxisti; hæc autem unguento unxit pedes meos. Propter quod dico tibi: Remittuntur ei peccata multa, quoniam dilexit multum. Cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit. Dixit autem ad illam: Remittuntur tibi peccata. Et coeperunt qui simul accumbebant, dicere intra se: Quis est hic, qui etiam peccata dimittit? Dixit autem ad mulierem: Fides tua te salvam fecit: vade in pace.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time: one of the pharisees desired him to eat with him. And he went into the house of the pharisee, and sat down to meat. And behold a woman that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that he sat at meat in the pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment; and standing behind at his feet, she began to wash his feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. And the pharisee, who had invited him, seeing it, spoke within himself, saying: This man, if he were a prophet, would know surely who and what manner of woman this is that touches him, that she is a sinner. And Jesus answering, said to him: Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee. But he said: Master, say it. A certain creditor had two debtors: the one owed him five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And whereas they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which therefore of the two loveth him most? Simon answering, said: I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And he said to him: Thou hast judged rightly. And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon: Dost thou see this woman? I entered into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet, but she with tears hath washed my feet and with her hairs hath wiped them. Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, since she came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she with ointment hath anointed my feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less. And he said to her: Thy sins are forgiven thee. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves; Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman: Thy faith hath made thee safe: go in peace.
What consolation there is for us in this Gospel, and how different are the reflections it suggests, from those we were just making upon the Epistle! The event here related does not belong to the time of our Saviour’s Passion; but, during these days of mercy, does it not behove us to glorify the meekness of that divine Heart, which is preparing to grant pardon to countless sinners throughout the world? Besides, is not Magdalene the inseparable companion of her dear crucified Master, even to Calvary? Let us, then, study this admirable penitent, this type of love faithful even to death.
Magdalene had led a wicked life: as the Gospel tells us elsewhere, seven devils had taken up their abode within her. But, no sooner has she seen and heard Jesus, than immediately she is filled with a horror for sin; divine love is enkindled within her heart; she has but one desire: to make amends for her past life. Her sins have been public: her conversion must be so too. She has lived in vanity and luxury; she is resolved to give all up. Her perfumes are all to be for her God, her Jesus; that hair of hers, of which she has been so proud, shall serve to wipe His sacred feet; her eyes shall henceforth spend themselves in shedding tears of contrite love. The grace of the Holy Ghost urges her to go to Jesus. He is in the house of a pharisee, who is giving an entertainment. To go to Him now would be exposing herself to observation. She cares not. Taking with her an ointment of great worth, she makes her way in to the feast, throws herself at Jesus’ feet, washes them with her tears, wipes them with the hair of her head, kisses them, anoints them with the ointment. Jesus Himself tells us with what interior sentiments she accompanies these outward acts of respect: but even had He not spoken, her tears, her generosity, her position at His feet, tell us enough; she is heartbroken, she is grateful, she is humble: who but a pharisee could have mistaken her?
The pharisee, then is shocked! His heart has within it much of that Jewish pride which is soon to crucify the Messias. He looks disdainfully at Magdalene; he is disappointed with his Guest, and murmurs out his conclusion: This man, if He were a Prophet would surely know who and what manner of woman this is! Poor pharisee! If he had the spirit of God within him, he would recognize Jesus to be the promised Saviour, by this wonderful condescension shown to a penitent. With all his reputation as a pharisee, how contemptible he is compared with this woman! Jesus would give him a useful lesson, and draws the parallel between the two—Magdalene and the pharisee. He passes His own divine judgment on them, and the preference is given to Magdalene. What is it that has thus transformed her, and made her deserve, not only the pardon, but the praise, of Jesus? Her love: She hath loved her Redeemer, she hath loved Him much; and, therefore, she was forgiven much. A few hours ago this Magdalene loved but the world and its pleasures; now, she cares for nothing, sees nothing, loves nothing, but Jesus; she is a convert. Henceforward she keeps close to her divine Master; she is ambitious to supply His wants; but, above all, she longs to see and hear Him. When the hour of trial shall come, and His very apostles dare not be with Him, she will follow Him to Calvary, stand at the foot of the cross, and see Him die who has made her live. What an argument for hope is here, even for the worst of sinners! He to whom most is forgiven, is often the most fervent in love! You, then, whose souls are burdened with sins, think of your sins and confess them; but, most of all, think how you may most love. Let your love be in proportion to your pardon, and doubt it not: Your sins shall be forgiven.
Humiliate capita vestra Deo.
Esto, quæsumus Domine, propitius plebi tuæ: ut quæ tibi non placent respuentes, tuorum potius repleantur delectationibus mandatorum. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.
Be propitious, O Lord, we beseech thee, to thy people; that, forsaking what displeaseth thee, they may find comfort in keeping thy law. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us close this Thursday of Passion-week with the following devout hymn, taken from the Mozarabic breviary.
Verbum Patris quod prodiit factum caro;
Agnus Dei peccata mundi auferens;
Ad te venimus cernui, ut inclytum
Bibamus almæ Passionis sanguinem.
Ostende vulnerum sacrorum stigmata:
Exsurgat insignis crucis fortissimum
Signum, quod in vigore perpetim manens,
Credentibus salvationem conferat.
Arundo, clavi, sputa, potus myrrheus,
Corona spinarum, flagella, lancea,
Impressa sunt damnationis verbera:
Jam nostra pro his cuncta dele crimina.
Fons vulneris sacri riget præcordia,
Lavet cruor malitiæque contagia:
Sit vita præsens absque omni crimine:
Futura detur in beato munere.
Ut cum resurgendi dies effulserit,
Orbique regni claritas illuxerit,
Sequamur ætheris viam quæ nos trahat
In se receptos jam perennes incolas.
Honor sit æterno Deo, sit gloria
Uni Patri, ejusque soli Filio
Cum Spiritu; quæ Trinitas perenniter
Vivit potens in sæculorum sæculis.
O Word of the Father, that camest into this world, and wast made Flesh! O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world!
to thee do we come, and, in prostrate adoration, beseech thee to give us
to drink of the Blood shed for us in thy sacred Passion.
Show unto us the marks of thy divine wounds!
Let the invincible standard of thy glorious cross be raised on high,
and, by its imperishable power,
bring salvation to them that believe.
The reed, the nails, the spittle, the gall,
the crown of thorns, the whips, the spear
—these were the instruments of thy sufferings:
oh! cleanse us by them from all our sins.
May the Blood that gushed from thy sacred Wounds,
flow on our hearts and purify them from their stains of guilt,
enable us to pass through this world without sin,
and give us, in the next, the reward of bliss.
That when the resurrection day shall break upon the world,
brightening it with the splendours of the eternal kingdom,
we may ascend by the path that leads above,
and dwell in heaven, citizens eternal.
Honour be to the eternal God! Glory be
to the one Father, and to his only Son,
together with the Holy Ghost: the almighty Trinity,
that liveth unceasingly for ever and ever.
Let us again borrow from the Greek Church the expression of our devotion to the holy cross.
(Feria V. mediæ Septimanæ)
Securis quam Elisæus ex Jordane retulit, crucem significabat, qua ex profundo vanitatis retraxisti gentes lætis vocibus cantantes: Benedictus es, Deus patrum nostrorum.
Lætantur cum terra, cœlestia ob adorationem crucis tuæ; etenim per te angeli et homines conjuncti sunt, clamantes: Benedictus Dominus Deus noster.
Compassionem tamquam cupressum suaveolentem, fidem tamquam cedrum, veram charitatem tamquam pinum afferentes, Domini crucem adoremus, glorificantes eum qui in illa affixus est, liberatorem.
Extendisti manus tuas in ligno, incontinentis manus peccatum dissolvens; lancea vulneratus es, eademque inimicum sauciasti. Fel gustasti, et male blandam malitiam exemisti; aceto potatus es, qui omnium lætitia es.
Ligno peccati interemptus sum, guetuque voluptuoso morti traditus. Vivifica me, Domine. Excita jacentem: fac me cruciatuum tuorum adoratorem, et participem divinæ resurrectionis, et cohæredem eorum qui te diligunt.
Gaudii signum, armatura invicta, apostolorum decus, pontificum robur, vires suffice languenti animæ meæ, et dignare me ut te adorem, laudesque tibi decantem, damans: Omnia opera Domini, laudate Dominum et superexaltate in sæcula.
The wood wherewith Eliseus drew the axe from the Jordan, was a figure of thy cross, O Jesus! wherewith thou didst draw, from the depths of their vanities, the nations that thus sing to thee in joy: Blessed art thou the God of our Fathers!
The heavens rejoice together with the earth, as we venerate thy cross; for it is by thee that angels and men are united and sing: Blessed is the Lord our God!
Venerating the cross of our Lord, and venerating our Redeemer, who was nailed upon it, let us present him a threefold homage: our compassion, like the fragrant cypress; our faith, like the cedar; our love, like the pine.
Thou didst stretch forth thy hands upon the cross, to show that ’twas thou didst destroy the sin done by the hand of licentious man. Thou wast wounded with the spear, that thou mightest wound our foe. Thou didst taste gall, that thou mightest turn evil pleasures from us. Thy drink was vinegar, that thou mightest be a joy to each of us.
I have eaten of the tree of sin, and it was my ruin; I have tasted a pleasure that has caused me death. Bring me to life, O Lord! Raise me from my fall. Make me an adorer of thy sufferings, a partner in thy Resurrection, a coheir of them that love thee.
O cross! thou standard of joy, thou armour invulnerable, thou glory of the apostles, thou strength of pontiffs: supply my languid soul with power, and oh! may I venerate thee, and thus cry out thy praises: ‘All ye works of the Lord, praise the Lord, and extol him, above all, for ever!'
 St. Mark xvi. 9.
 This is an allusion to the tradition, that the cross was formed of the three kinds of wood here mentioned. (Translator.)
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Station, at Rome, is in the church of Saint Stephen on Monte Celio. By a sort of prophetic presentiment, this church of the great proto-martyr was chosen as the place where the faithful were to assemble on the Friday of Passion-week, which was to be, at a future time, the feast consecrated to the Queen of martyrs.
Cordibus nostris, quæsumus, Domine, gratiam tuam benignus infunde; ut peccata nostra castigatione voluntaria cohibentes, temporaliter potius maceremur, quam snppliciis deputemur æternis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Mercifully, O Lord, we beseech thee, pour forth thy grace into our hearts; that repressing our sins by voluntary mortifications, we may rather suffer for them in this life, than be condemned to eternal torments for them in the next. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lectio Jeremiæ Prophetæ.
In diebue illis, dixit Jeremias: Domine, omnes qui te derelinquunt, confundentur: recedentes a te in terra scribentur: quoniam dereliquerunt venam aquarum viventium, Dnminum. Sana me, Domine, et sanabor: salvum me fac, et salvus ero: quoniam laus mea tu es. Ecce ipsi dicunt ad me: Ubi est verbum Domini? veniat. Et ego non sum turbatus, te Pastorem sequens: et diem hominis non desideravi, tu scis. Quod egressum est de labile meis, rectum in conspectu tuo fuit. Non sis tu mihi formidini; spes mea tu in die afflictionis. Confundantur qui me persequuntur, et non confundar ego: paveant illi, et non paveam ego: induc super eos diem afflictionis, et duplici contritione contere eos, Domine Deus noster.
Lesson from Jeremias the Prophet.
In those days, Jeremias said: O Lord, all that forsake thee shall be confounded: they that depart from thee, shall be written in the earth, (as on sand, from which their names shall soon he effaced,) because they have forsaken the Lord, the vein of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed, save me and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise. Behold they say to me: where is the word of the Lord? let it come. And I am not troubled, following thee for my pastor, and I have not desired the day of man, thou knowest. That which went out of my lips, hath been right in thy sight. Be not thou a terror unto me; thou art my hope in the day of affliction. Let them be confounded that persecute me, and let not me be confounded: let them be afraid, and let not me be afraid: bring upon them the day of affliction, and with a double destruction destroy them, O Lord our God.
Jeremias is one of the most striking figures of the Messias persecuted by the Jews. It is on this account, that the Church selects from this prophet so many of her lessons during these two weeks that are sacred to the Passion. In the passage chosen for to-day’s Epistle, we have the complaint addressed to God by this just man against those that persecute him; and it is in the name of Christ that he speaks. He says: They have forsaken the Lord, the vein of living waters. How forcibly do these words describe the malice, both of the Jews that crucified, and of sinners that still crucify, Jesus our Lord! As to the Jews, they had forgotten the rock, whence came to them the living water which quenched their thirst in the desert; or, if they have not forgotten the history of this mysterious rock, they refuse to take it as a type of the Messias.
And yet, they hear this Jesus crying out to them in the streets of Jerusalem, and saying: 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink.’ His virtues, His teachings. His miracles, the prophecies that are fulfilled in His person, all claim their confidence in Him; they should believe every word He says. But they are deaf to His invitation; and how many Christians imitate them in their obduracy! How many there are, who once drank at the vein of living waters, and afterwards turned away, to seek to quench their thirst in the muddy waters of the world, which can only make them thirst the more! Let them tremble at the punishment that came upon the Jews; for, unless they return to the Lord their God, they must fall into those devouring and eternal flames, where even a drop of water is refused. Jesus, by the mouth of His prophet, tells the Jews that the day of affliction shall overtake them; and when, later on, He comes to them Himself, He forewarns them, that the tribulation which is to fall on Jerusalem, in punishment for her deicide, shall be so great that such hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. But if God so rigorously avenged the Blood of His Son against a city that was so long a place of the habitation of His glory, and against a people that He had preferred to all others, will He spare the sinner who, in spite of the Church’s entreaties, continues obstinate in his evil ways? Jerusalem had filled up the measure of her iniquities; we, also, have a measure of sin, beyond which the justice of God will not permit us to go. Let us sin no more: let us fill up that other measure, the measure of good works. Let us pray for those sinners who are to pass these days of grace without being converted; let us pray that this divine Blood, which is to be so generously given to them, but which they are about again to trample upon, may again spare them.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Collegerunt pontifices et pharisæi concilium ad versus Jesum, et dicebant: Quid facimus, quia hic homo multa signa facit? Si dimittimus eum sic, omnes credent in eum; et venient Romani, et tollent nostrum locum et gentem. Unus autem ex ipsis, Caiphas nomine, cum esset pontifex anni illius, dixit eis: Vos nescitis quidquam, nec cogitatis quia expedit vobis ut unus moriatur homo pro populo, et non tota gens pereat. Hoc autem a semetipso non dixit; sed cum esset pontifex anni illius prophetavit, quod Jesus moriturus erat pro gente; et non tantum pro gente sed ut filios Dei, qui erant dispersi, congregaret in unum. Ab illo ergo die cogitaverunt ut interficerent eum. Jesus ergo jam non in palam ambulabat apud Judæos, sed abiit in regionem juxta desertum, in civitatem quæ dicitur Ephrem, et ibi morabatur cum discipulis suis.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: The chief priests and pharisees gathered a council against Jesus, and said: What do we, for this man doth many miracles? If we let him alone so, all men will believe in him; and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation. But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high-priest that year, said to them: You know nothing, neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this he spoke not of himself; but being the high-priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed. From that day therefore they devised to put him to death. Wherefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews, but he went into a country near the desert, unto a city that is called Ephrem, and there he abode with his disciples.
Jesus is more than ever in danger of losing His life! The council of the nation assembles to devise a plan for His destruction. Listen to these men, slaves of that vilest of passions, jealousy. They do not deny the miracles of Jesus; therefore they are in a condition to pass judgment upon Him, and the judgment ought to be favourable. But they have not assembled to examine if He be or be not the Messias; it is to discuss the best plan for putting Him to death. And what argument will they bring forward to palliate the evident murder they contemplate? Political interests—their country’s good. They argue thus: ‘If Jesus be longer allowed to appear in public and work miracles, Judea will rise up in rebellion against the Romans, who now govern us, and will proclaim Jesus to bo King; Rome will never allow us, the weakest of her tributaries, to insult her with impunity, and, in in order to avenge the outrage offered to the Capitol, her armies will come and exterminate us.’ Senseless counsellors! If Jesus had come that He might be King after this world’s fashion, all the powers of the earth could not have prevented it. Again—how is it that these chief priests and pharisees, who know the Scriptures by heart, never once think of that prophecy of Daniel, which foretells that, in seventy weeks of years after the going forth of the decree for the rebuilding of the temple, the Christ shall be slain, and the people that shall deny Him shall cease to be His: moreover, that, after this crime, a people led on by a commander shall come and destroy Jerusalem; the abomination of desolation shall enter the holy place, the temple shall be destroyed, and the desolation shall last even to the end. How comes it, that this prophecy is lost sight of? Surely, if they thought of it, they would not put Christ to death; for, by putting Him to death, they ruin their country.
But to return to the council. The high-priest, who governed the Synagogue during the last days of the Mosaic Law, is a worthless man, by name Caiphas; he presides over the council. He puts on the sacred ephod, and he prophesies; his prophecy is from God, and is true. Let us not be astonished: the veil of the temple is not yet rent asunder; the covenant between God and Juda is not yet broken. Caiphas is a bloodthirsty man, a coward, a sacrilegious wretch; still, he is high-priest, and God speaks by his mouth. Let us hearken to this second Balaam: Jesus shall die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but to gather in one the children of God, that were dispersed. Thus, the Synagogue is near her end, and is compelled to prophesy the birth of the Church, and that this birth is to be by the shedding of Jesus’ Blood. Here and there throughout the world, there are children of God who serve Him among the Gentiles, as did the centurion Cornelius; but there is no visible bond of union among them. The time is at hand, when the great and only city of God is to appear on the mountain, and all nations shall flow unto it. As soon as the Blood of the new Testament shall have been shed, and the Conqueror of death shall have risen from the grave, the day of Pentecost willconvoke, not the Jews to the temple of Jerusalem, but all nations to the Church of Jesus Christ. By that time, Caiphas will have forgotten the prophecy he uttered; he will have ordered his servants to piece together the veil of the Holy of holies, which was torn in two at the moment of Jesus’ death; but this veil will serve no purpose, for the Holy of holies will be no longer there: a clean oblation will be offered up in every place, the Sacrifice of the new Law; and scarcely shall the avengers of Jesus’ death have appeared on Mount Olivet, than a voice will be heard in the sanctuary of the repudiated temple, saying: ‘Let us go out from this place!’
Humiliate capita vestra Deo.
Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui protectionis tuæ gratiam quærimus, liberati a malis omnibus, secura tibi mente serviamus. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we who seek the honour of thy protection, may be delivered from all evil, and serve thee with a secure mind. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE SEVEN DOLOURS OF OUR LADY
This Friday of Passion-week is consecrated in a special manner, to the sufferings which the holy Mother of God endured at the foot of the cross. The whole of next week is fully taken up with the celebration of the mysteries of Jesus’ Passion; and although the remembrance of Mary’s share in those sufferings is often brought before the faithful during Holy Week, yet, the thought of what her Son, our divine Redeemer, goes through for our salvation, so absorbs our attention and love, that it is not then possible to honour, as it deserves, the sublime mystery of the Mother’s com-passion.
It was but fitting, therefore, that one day in the year should be set apart for this sacred duty: and what day could be more appropriate than the Friday of this week, which, though sacred to the Passion, admits the celebration of saints’ feasts, as we have already noticed? As far back as the fifteenth century (that is, in the year 1423), we find the pious archbishop of Cologne, Theodoric, prescribing this feast to be kept by his people. It was gradually introduced, and with the knowledge of the holy See, into several other countries; and at length, in the last century, Pope Benedict XIII, by a decree dated August 22, 1727, ordered it to be kept in the whole Church under the name of the Feast of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for, up to this time, it had gone under various names. We will explain the title thus given to it, as also the first origin of the devotion of the Seven Dolours, when our Liturgical Year brings us to the third Sunday of September, the second feast of Mary’s Dolours. What the Church proposes to her children’s devotion for this Friday of Passion-week, is that one special dolour of Mary—her standing at the foot of the cross. Among the various titles given to this feast before it was extended by the holy See to the whole Church, we may mention, Our Lady of Pity, the Compassion of our Lady, and the one that was so popular throughout France, Notre Dame de la Pamoison. These few historical observations prove that this feast was dear to the devotion of the people, even before it received the solemn sanction of the Church.
That we may clearly understand the object of this feast, and spend it, as the Church would have us do, in paying due honour to the Mother of God and of men, we must recall to our minds this great truth: that God, in the designs of His infinite wisdom, has willed that Mary should have a share in the work of the world’s redemption. The mystery of the present feast is one of the applications of this divine law, a law which reveals to us the whole magnificence of God’s plan; it is, also, one of the many realizations of the prophecy, that satan’s pride was to be crushed by a woman. In the work of our redemption there are three interventions of Mary; that is, she was thrice called upon to take part in what God Himself did. The first of these was in the Incarnation of the Word, who would not take flesh in her virginal womb until she had given her consent to become His Mother; and this she gave by that solemn Fiat which blessed the world with a Saviour. The second was in the sacrifice which Jesus consummated on Calvary, where she was present that she might take part in the expiatory offering. The third was on the day of Pentecost, when she received the Holy Ghost, as did the apostles, in order that she might effectively labour in the establishment of the Church. We have already explained, on the feast of the Annunciation, the share Mary had in that wonderful mystery of the Incarnation, which God wrought for His own glory and for man’s redemption and sanctification. On the feast of Pentecost we shall speak of the Church commencing and progressing under the active influence of the Mother of God. To-day we must show what part she took in the mystery of her Son’s Passion; we must tell the sufferings, the Dolours, she endured at the foot of the cross, and the claims she thereby won to our filial gratitude.
On the fortieth day after the birth of our Emmanuel, we followed to the temple the happy Mother carrying her divine Babe in her arms. A venerable old man was there, waiting to receive her Child; and, when he had Him in his arms, he proclaimed Him to be the Light of the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel. But, turning to the Mother, he spoke to her these heart-rending words: ‘Behold! this Child is set to be a sign that shall be contradicted, and a sword shall pierce thine own soul.’ This prophecy of sorrow for the Mother told us that the holy joys of Christmas were over, and that the season of trial, for both Jesus and Mary, had begun. It had, indeed, begun; for, from the night of the flight into Egypt, up to this present day, when the malice of the Jews is plotting the great crime, what else has the life of our Jesus been, but the bearing of humiliation, insult, persecution, and ingratitude? And if so, what has the Mother gone through? what ceaseless anxiety? what endless anguish of heart? But let us pass by all her other sufferings, and come to the morning of the great Friday.
Mary knows that, on the previous night, her Son has been betrayed by one of His disciples, that is, by one that Jesus had numbered among His intimate friends; she herself had often given him proofs of her maternal affection. After a cruel Agony, her Son has been manacled as a malefactor, and led by armed men to Caiphas, His worst enemy. Thence, they have dragged Him before the Roman governor, whose sanction the chief priests and scribes must have before they can put Jesus to death. Mary is in Jerusalem; Magdalene, and the other holy women, the friends of Jesus, are with her; but they cannot prevent her from hearing the loud shouts of the people, and if they could, how is such a heart as hers to be slow in its forebodings? The report spreads rapidly through the city that the Roman governor is being urged to sentence Jesus to be crucified. Whilst the entire populace is on the move towards Calvary, shouting out their blasphemous insults at her Jesus, will His Mother keep away, she that bore Him in her womb, and fed Him at her breast? Shall His enemies be eager to glut their eyes with the cruel sight, and His own Mother be afraid to be near Him?
The air resounded with the yells of the mob. Joseph of Arimathea, the noble counseller, was not there, neither was the learned Nicodemus; they kept at home, grieving over what was done. The crowd that went before and after the divine Victim was made up of wretches without hearts, saving only a few who were seen to weep as they went along; they were women; Jesus saw them, and spoke to them. And if these women from mere sentiments of veneration, or, at most, of gratitude, thus testified their compassion, would Mary do less? Could she bear to be elsewhere than close to her Jesus? Our motive for insisting so much upon this point is that we may show our detestation of that school of modern rationalism, which, regardless of the instincts of a mother’s heart and of all tradition, has dared to call in question the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary. These systematic contradictors are too prudent to deny that Mary was present when Jesus was crucified; the Gospel is too explicit: Mary stood near the cross: but they would persuade us that, whilst the daughters of Jerusalem courageously walked after Jesus, Mary went up to Calvary by some secret path! What a heartless insult to the love of the incomparable Mother.
No; Mary, who is, by excellence, the valiant woman, was with Jesus as He carried His cross. And who could describe her anguish and her love, as her eye met that of her Son tottering under His heavy load? Who could tell the affection and the resignation of the look He gave her in return? Who could depict the eager and respectful tenderness wherewith Magdalene and the other holy women grouped around this Mother, as she followed her Jesus up to Calvary, there to see Him crucified and die? The distance between the fourth and the tenth Station of the Dolorous Way is long: it is marked with Jesus’ Blood, and with His Mother’s tears.
Jesus and Mary have reached the summit of the hill that is to be the altar of the holiest and most cruel Sacrifice: but the divine decree permits not the Mother as yet to approach her Son. When the Victim is ready, then she that is to offer Him shall come forward. Meanwhile, they nail her Jesus to the cross; and each blow of the hammer is a wound to Mary’s heart. When, at last, she is permitted to approach, accompanied by the beloved disciple (who has made amends for his cowardly flight), and the disconsolate Magdalene and the other holy women, what unutterable anguish must have filled the soul of this Mother, when raising up her eyes, she sees the mangled Body of her Son, stretched upon the cross, with His face all covered with blood, and His head wreathed with a crown of thorns!
Here, then, is this King of Israel, of whom the angel had told her such glorious things in his prophecy! Here is that Son of hers, whom she has loved both as her God and as the fruit of her own womb! And who are they that have reduced Him to this pitiable state? Men—for whose sake rather than for her own, she conceived Him, gave Him birth, and nourished Him! Oh! if by one of those miracles, which His heavenly Father could so easily work, He might be again restored to her! If that divine justice, which He has taken upon Himself to appease, would be satisfied with what He has already suffered I But no: He must die; He must breathe forth His blessed Soul after a long and cruel agony.
Mary then is at the foot of the cross, there to witness the death of her Son. He is soon to be separated from her. In three hours’ time, all that will be left her of this beloved Jesus will be a lifeless Body, wounded from head to foot. Our words are too cold for such a scene as this: let us listen to those of St Bernard, which the Church has inserted in her Matins of this feast. ‘O blessed Mother! a sword of sorrow pierced thy soul, and we may well call thee more than martyr, for the intensity of thy compassion surpassed all that a bodily passion could produce. Could any sword have made thee smart so much as that word which pierced thy heart, reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit: “Woman! behold thy Son!” What an exchange! John for Jesus! the servant, for the Lord! the disciple for the Master! the son of Zebedee, for the Son of God! a mere man, for the very God! How must thy most loving heart have been pierced with the sound of those words, when even ours, that are hard as stone and steel, break down as we think of them! Ah! my brethren, be not surprised when you are told that Mary was a martyr in her soul. Let him alone be surprised, who has forgotten that St. Paul counts it as one of the greatest sins of the Gentiles, that they were without affection. Who could say that of Mary? God forbid it be said of us, the servants of Mary!’
Amid the shouts and insults vociferated by the enemies of Jesus, Mary’s quick ear has heard these words, which tell her, that the only son she is hence forth to have on earth is one of adoption. Her maternal joys of Bethlehem and Nazareth are all gone; they make her present sorrow the bitterer; she was the Mother of a God, and men have taken Him from her! Her last and fondest look at her Jesus, her own dearest Jesus, tells her that He is suffering a burning thirst, and she cannot give Him to drink! His eyes grow dim; His head droops; all is consummated!
Mary cannot leave the cross; love brought her thither; love keeps her there, whatever may happen! A soldier advances near that hallowed spot; she sees him lift up his spear, and thrust it through the breast of the sacred Corpse. ‘Ah,’ cries out St. Bernard, ‘that thrust is through thy soul, O blessed Mother! It could but open His side, but it pierced thy very soul. His Soul was not there; thine was, and could not but be so.’ The undaunted Mother keeps close to the Body of her Son. She watches them as they take it down from the cross; and when, at last, the friends of Jesus, with all the respect due to both Mother and Son, enable her to embrace it, she raises it upon her lap, and He that once lay upon her knees receiving the homage of the eastern kings, now lies there cold, mangled, bleeding, dead! And as she looks upon the wounds of the divine Victim, she gives them the highest honour in the power of creatures: she kisses them, she bathes them with her tears, she adores them, but oh! with what intensity of grief!
The hour is far advanced; and before sunset, He, Jesus, the author of life, must be buried. The Mother puts the whole vehemence of her love into a last kiss, and oppressed with a bitterness great as is the sea, she makes over this adorable Body to them that have to embalm and then lay it on the sepulchral slab. The sepulchre is closed; and Mary, accompanied by John, her adopted son, and Magdalene, and the holy women, and the two disciples that have presided over the burial, returns sorrowing to the deicide city.
Now, in all this, there is another mystery besides that of Mary’s sufferings. Her dolours at the foot of the cross include and imply a truth, which we must not pass by, or we shall not understand the full beauty of to-day’s feast. Why would God have her assist in person at such a scene as this of Calvary? Why was not she, as well as Joseph, taken out of this world before this terrible day of Jesus’ death? Because God had assigned her a great office for that day, and it was to be under the tree of the cross that she, the second Eve, was to discharge her office. As the heavenly Father had waited for her consent before He sent His Son into the world: so, likewise, He called for her obedience and devotedness, when the hour came for that Son to be offered up in sacrifice for the world’s redemption. Was not Jesus hers? her Child? her own and dearest treasure? And yet, God gave Him not to her, until she had consented to become His Mother; in like manner, He would not take Him from her, unless she gave Him back.
But see what this involved, see what a struggle it entailed upon this most loving heart! It is the injustice, the cruelty, of men that rob her of her Son; how can she, His Mother, ratify, by her consent, the death of Him, whom she loved with a twofold love, as her Son, and as her God? But, on the other hand, if Jesus be not put to death, the human race is left a prey to satan, sin is not atoned for, and all the honours and joys of her being Mother of God are of no use or blessing to us. This Virgin of Nazareth, this noblest heart, this purest creature, whose affections were never blunted with the selfishness which so easily makes its way into souls that have been wounded by original sin, what will she do? Her devotedness to mankind, her conformity with the will of her Son who so vehemently desires the world’s salvation, lead her, a second time, to pronounce the solemn Fiat: she consents to the immolation of her Son. It is not God’s justice that takes Him from her; it is she herself that gives Him up. But, in return, she is raised to a degree of greatness, which her humility could never have suspected was to be hers: an ineffable union is made to exist between the two offerings, that of the Incarnate Word, and that of Mary; the Blood of the divine Victim, and the tears of the Mother, flow together for the redemption of mankind.
We can now understand the conduct and the courage of this Mother of sorrows. Unlike that other mother, of whom the Scripture speaks—the unhappy Agar, who after having sought in vain how she might quench the thirst of her Ismael in the desert, withdrew from him that she might not see him die—Mary no sooner hears that Jesus is condemned to death, than she rises, hastens to Him, and follows Him to the place where He is to die. And what is her attitude at the foot of His cross? Does her matchless grief overpower her? Does she swoon? or fall? No: the Evangelist says: ‘There stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother.’ The sacrificing priest stands, when offering at the altar; Mary stood for such a sacrifice as hers was to be. St. Ambrose, whose affectionate heart and profound appreciation of the mysteries of religion have revealed to us so many precious traits of Mary’s character, thus speaks of her position at the foot of the cross: ‘She stood opposite the cross, gazing with maternal love on the wounds of her Son; and thus she stood, not waiting for her Jesus to die, but for the world to be saved.’
Thus, this Mother of sorrows, when standing on Calvary, blessed us who deserved but maledictions; she loved us; she sacrificed her Son for our salvation. In spite of all the feelings of her maternal heart, she gave back to the eternal Father the divine treasure He had entrusted to her keeping. The sword pierced through and through her soul, but we were saved; and she, though a mere creature, co-operated with her Son in the work of our salvation. Can we wonder, after this, that Jesus chose this moment for making her the Mother of men, in the person of John the evangelist, who represented us? Never had Mary’s heart loved us as she did then; from that time forward, therefore, let this second Eve be the true Mother of the living! The sword, by piercing her immaculate heart, has given us admission there. For time and eternity, Mary will extend to us the love she has borne for her Son, for she has just heard Him saying to her that we are her children. He is our Lord, for He has redeemed us; she is our Lady, for she generously co-operated in our redemption.
Animated by this confidence, O Mother of sorrows! we come before thee, on this feast of thy dolours, to offer thee our filial love. Jesus, the blessed Fruit of thy womb, filled thee with joy as thou gavest Him birth; we, thy adopted children, entered into thy heart by the cruel piercing of the sword of suffering. And yet, O Mary! love us, for thou didst co-operate with our divine Redeemer in saving us. How can we not trust in the love of thy generous heart, when we know that, for our salvation, thou didst unite thyself to the Sacrifice of thy Jesus? What proofs hast thou unceasingly given us of thy maternal tenderness, O Queen of mercy! O refuge of sinners! O untiring advocate for us in all our miseries! Deign, sweet Mother, to watch over us, during these days of grace. Give us to feel and relish the Passion of thy Son. It was consummated in thy presence; thine own share in it was magnificent! Oh! make us enter into all its mysteries, that so our souls, redeemed by the Blood of thy Son, and helped by thy tears, may be thoroughly converted to the Lord, and persevere, henceforward, faithful in His service.
Let us now recite the devout Complaint, whereby the Church unites herself with Mary’s Dolours.
Stabat Mater dolorosa,
Juxta crucem lacrymosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.
Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Quæ mærebat et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati pænas inclyti.
Quis est homo qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?
Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?
Pro peccatis suæ gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
Dum emisit spiritum.
Eia, Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac ut tecum lugeam.
Fac ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.
Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.
Tui Nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Pænas mecum divide.
Fac me tecum pie flere,
Donec ego vixero.
Juxta crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.
Virgo virginum præclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara:
Fac me tecum plangere.
Fac ut portem Christi mortem,
Passionis fac consortem,
Et plagas recolere.
Fac me plagas vulneran,
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.
Flammis ne urar succensus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus,
In die judicii.
Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriæ.
Quando corpus morietur,
Fac ut animæ donetur
Near the cross, while on it
hung her Son, the sorrowing
Mother stood and wept.
A sword pierced her soul,
that sighed, and mourned,
Oh! how sad, and how afflicted,
was that blessed Mother
of an only Son!
The loving Mother sorrowed
and mourned at seeing
her divine Son suffer.
Who is there would not weep
to see Jesus’ Mother
in such suffering?
Who is there could contemplate
the Mother and the Son in sorrow,
and not join his own with theirs?
Mary saw her Jesus
tormented and scourged
for the sins of his people.
She saw her sweet Child abandoned by all,
as he breathed forth
his soul and died.
Ah, Mother, fount of love,
make me feel the force of sorrow;
make me weep with thee!
Make this heart of mine burn
with the love of Jesus my God,
that so I may content his heart.
Do this, O holy Mother:
deeply stamp the wounds
of the Crucified upon my heart.
Let me share with thee the sufferings of thy Son,
for it is for me he graciously deigned
to be wounded and to suffer.
Make me lovingly weep with thee:
make me compassionate with thee our crucified Jesus,
as long as life shall last.
This is my desire,
to stand nigh the cross with thee,
and be a sharer in thy grief.
Peerless Virgin of virgins!
be not displeased at my prayer:
make me weep with thee.
Make me to carry the death of Jesus;
make me a partner of his Passion,
an adorer of his Wounds.
Make me to be wounded with his Wounds;
make me to be inebriated with the cross
and Blood of thy Son.
And that I may not suffer the eternal flames,
let me be defended by thee, O Virgin,
on the day of judgment!
O Jesus! when my hour of death comes,
let me, by thy Mother’s aid,
come to my crown of victory.
And when my body dies,
oh! give to my soul
the reward of heaven’s glory.
Let us recite the concluding stanzas of the Greek hymn in honour of the holy cross.
(Feria IV. mediæ Septimanæ)
Adeste; crucem Domini propositam, jejuniis expiati, cum desiderio amplectamur. Est enim thesaurus sanctificationis et potentiæ, per quam laudamus Christum in sæcula.
Hæc crux tripartita et magna, vilis initio apparens, nunc cœlum tangit virtute sua, hominesque ad Deum semper sursum ducit; per quam laudamus Christum in sæcula.
Honoretur hoc sacratissimum lignum, quod jam olim propheta in panem Christi immissum esse ab Israelitis, qui eum crucifixerunt, vaticinatus est; quem superexaltamus in sæcula.
Montes dulcedinem, et colies exsultationem stillate. Ligna campi, cedri Libani, choreas ducite ob hodiernam vivificæ crucis adorationem. Prophetæ, martyres, apostoli et spiritus justorum, exilite.
Respice in populum et in clerum tuum, Domine, qui cum desiderio laudes tuas canit, cujus gratia mortem subiisti. Ne vincat misericordiam tuam infinita multitudo malorum nostrorum, sed salva omnes, o benignissime, per crucem tuam.
Divina armatura vitæ meæ es, o crux; in te Dominus ascendens, servavit me. Latere vulnerato fudit sanguinem et aquam, cujus particeps factus exsulto, Christum glorificans.
Divinum Regis sceptrum crux es, exercitus fortitudo; in tua fiducia profligamus hostes; nobis qui te adoramus, semper concede ad versus barbaros victorias.
Come, let us devoutly embrace the cross of our Lord that is exposed before us, for our fasts have made us pure. The cross is a treasure of holiness and power, and by it we give eternal praise to Christ.
This triple and glorious cross, contemptible as it seemed at first, now reaches to the very heavens with its power, ever raising and leading men up to God. By it we give eternal praise to Christ.
Honour to this most sacred Wood, which as the prophet anciently foretold was to be put in the bread of Christ, by them that crucified him; to him be praise above all for ever.
Rain down sweetness, O ye mountains! and ye, O hills, your gladness! Trees of the field, cedars of Libanus, exult with joy, for on this day we venerate the life-giving cross. Prophets, martyrs, apostles, spirits of the just, rejoice!
Look down, O Lord, upon thy people and clergy, who now devoutly sing thy praise, and for whose sake thou didst suffer death. Let not the countless number of our sins outdo thy mercy, but save us, most loving Jesus, by thy cross!
O cross! thou art the sacred armour of my life. My Lord saved me by ascending upon thee. From his wounded side there flowed Blood and Water, of which being made a partaker, I exult, and give glory to Christ.
O cross! thou art the divine sceptre of the King; thou art the strength of them that wage war; it is our confidence in thee that makes us put our enemies to flight. Oh ever grant to us who honour thee, victory over the barbarians.
 St. John vii. 37.
 St. Matt. xxiv. 21.
 Dan. ix. 25-27.
 Is. ii. 2.
 Malach. i. 11.
 Labb. Concil. t. xii. p. 365.
 St. John xix. 25.
 Prov. xxxi. 10.
 Sermon on the twelve stars.
 Sermon on the twelve stars.
 Lam. i. 4, ii. 13.
 St. John xix. 25.
 In Lucam cap. xxiii.
 Gen. iii. 20.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
To-day we begin, as does the holy Gospel, to number the days which precede the death, the sacrifice, of the Lamb of God. St. John, in the twelfth chapter of his Gospel, tells us that this is the sixth day before the Pasch.
Jesus is in Bethania, where a feast is being given in His honour. Lazarus, whom Jesus has restored to life, is present at this repast, which is given in the house of Simon the leper. Martha is busy looking after the various arrangements; her sister, Mary Magdalene, has a heavenly presentiment that the death and burial of her beloved Master are soon to be, and she has poured upon Him a precious perfume. The holy Gospel, which ever preserves such a mysterious reserve with regard to the Mother of Jesus, does not tell us that Mary was at Bethania on this occasion, but there can be no doubt of her being present. The apostles were also there, and partook of the repast. Whilst the friends of our Saviour are thus grouped around Him, in this village, which is about two thousand paces from Jerusalem, the aspect of the faithless city becomes more and more threatening; and yet, though His disciples are not aware of it, Jesus is to enter the city to-morrow, and in a most public manner. The heart of Mary is a prey to sadness; Magdalene is absorbed in grief; everything announces that the fatal day is near.
The Church has reserved for Monday next the Gospel which relates the history of this Saturday. The reason is that, formerly, and up to the twelfth century, there was no Station held on this day in Rome: it was left free, in order that the Pope might rest before the great fatigues of Holy Week, whose long and solemn services were to begin on the morrow. But, although he did not preside over the assembly of the faithful, he had to observe two usages, which had been handed down by tradition, and had almost become of liturgical importance in the Church at Rome.
During the whole year, the Pope used, every Sunday, to send a portion of the sacred Species consecrated by him, to each of the priests of the presbyterial titles, or parochial churches of the city. But it was to-day that this distribution was made for the whole of Holy Week, perhaps on account of to-morrow’s long service. We know from the ancient liturgical books of Rome, that it was in the Lateran consistory that to-day’s sacred distribution was made, and it is probable (as the blessed Cardinal Tommasi and Benedict XIV tell us) that the bishops of the suburbicarian churches were of the number of those who received it. We have several instances proving that, formerly, bishops occasionally sent to one another the blessed Sacrament, as a sign of the union that existed between them. With regard to the priests of the city parochial churches, to whom a Particle was sent by the Pope, they put a portion of it in the chalice before receiving the precious Blood.
The other custom, peculiar to this day, consisted in giving alms to all the poor. The Pope presided at this distribution, which was no doubt made ample enough to last the whole of the coming week, when, on account of the long ceremonies, it would scarcely be possible to attend to individual cases of poverty. The liturgists of the middle-ages allude to the beautiful appropriateness of the Roman Pontiff’s distributing alms with his own hand to the poor, on this day, the same on which Mary Magdalene embalmed with her perfumes the feet of Jesus.
Since the twelfth century, a Station has been assigned to this Saturday; it takes place in the Church of St. John before the Latin Gate. This ancient basilica is built near the spot where the beloved disciple was, by Domitian’s order, plunged into the cauldron of boiling oil.
Proficiat, quæsumus, Domine, plebs tibi dicata piæ devotionis affectu: ut sacris actionibus erudita, quanto majestati tuæ fit gratior, tanto donis potioribus augeatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
May the people consecrated to thy service, we beseech thee, O Lord, improve in the affections of piety; that instructed by these holy mysteries, they may be so much the more enriched with thy heavenly gifts, as they become more acceptable to thy divine majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lectio Jeremiæ Prophetæ.
In diebus illis: Dixerunt impii Judæi ad invicem: Venite, et cogitemus contra Justum cogitationes: non enim peribit lex a sacerdote, neque consilium a sapiente, nec sermo a propheta: venite, et percutiamus eum lingua, et non attendamus ad universos sermones ejus. Attende, Domine, ad me; et audi vocem adversariorum meorum. Numquid redditur pro bono malum, quia foderunt foveam animæ meæ? Recordare quod steterim in conspectu tuo, ut loquerer pro eis bonum, et averterem indignationem tuam ab eis. Propterea da filios eorum in famem, et deduc eos in manus gladii; fiant uxores eorum absque liberis, et viduæ: et viri earum interficiantur morte: juvenes eorum confodiantur gladio in prælio. Audiatur clamor de domibus eorum: adduces enim super eos latronem repente: quia foderunt foveam ut caperent me, et laqueos absconderunt pedibus meis. Tu autem, Domine, scis omne consilium eorum adversum me in mortem: ne propitieris iniquitati eorum, et peccatum eorum a facie tua non deleatur: fiant comientes in conspectu tuo, in tempore furoris tui abutere eis, Domine Deus noster.
Lesson from Jeremias the Prophet.
In those days, the wicked Jews said to one another: Come, and let us invent devices against the Just: for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us strike him with the tongue, and let us give no heed to all his words. Give heed to me, O Lord, and hear the voice of my adversaries. Shall evil be rendered for good, because they have digged a pit for my soul? Remember that I have stood in thy sight to speak good for them, and to turn away thy indignation from them. Therefore deliver up their children to famine, and bring them into the hands of the sword; let their wives be bereaved of children, and widows; and let their husbands be slain by death; let their young men be stabbed with the sword in battle. Let a cry be heard out of their houses; for thou shalt bring the robber upon them suddenly, because they have digged a pit to take me, and have hid snares for my feet. But thou, O Lord, knowest all their counsel against me unto death; forgive not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from thy sight: let them be overthrown before thy eyes, in the time of thy wrath do thou destroy them, O Lord our God.
It makes us tremble to read these awful anathemas, which Jeremias, the figure of Christ, speaks against his enemies, the Jews. This prophecy, which was literally fulfilled at the first destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, received a more terrible fulfilment at the second visitation of God’s anger upon this city of malediction. This time, it was not because the Jews had persecuted a prophet; it was because they had rejected and crucified the very Son of God. It was to their long-expected Messias that they had rendered evil for good. It was not a saint, like Jeremias, that had spoken good for them to the Lord, and besought Him to turn away His indignation from them; the Man-God Himself had, without ceasing, made intercession for them, and treated them with the tenderest mercy. But all was in vain; this ungrateful people seemed to hate their divine Benefactor in proportion to His love for them; and at length, in the transport of their fury, they cried out: ‘His Blood be upon us and upon our children!’ What a frightful chastisement they entailed on themselves by this imprecation! God heard and remembered. Alas! the sinner, who knows Jesus and the worth of His Blood, yet who again sheds this precious Blood, does not he expose himself to the severity of that same justice which fell so heavily on the Jews? Let us tremble and pray: let us implore the divine mercy in favour of those many obstinately blind and hardened sinners, who are hastening to destruction. Oh! that by the fervour of our supplications addressed to the merciful Heart of our common Redeemer, we could obtain a reversion of their sentence, and secure them pardon!
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Cogitaverunt principes sacerdotum, ut et Lazarum interficerent: quia multi propter ilium abibant ex Judæis, et credebant in Jesum. In crastinum autem turba multa, quæ venerat ad diem festum, cum audissent quia venit Jesus Jerosolymam: acceperunt ramos palmarum, et processerunt obviam ei, et clamabant: Hosanna: benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, Rex Israel. Et invenit Jesus asellum, et sedit super eum, sicut scriptum est: Noli timere, filia Sion: ecce Rex tuus venit sedens super pullum asinæ. Hæc non cognoverunt discipuli ejus primum: sed quando glorificatus est Jesus, tunc recordati sunt quia hæcerant scripta de eo: et hæc fecerunt ei.
Testimonium ergo perhibebat turba, quæ erat cum eo quando Lazarum vocavit de monumento, et suscitavit eum a mortuis. Propterea et obviam venit ei turba: quia audierunt eum fecisse hoc signum. Pharisæi ergo dixerunt ad semetipsos: Videtie quia nihil proficimus? Ecce mundus totus post eum abiit. Erant autem quidam Gentiles ex his, qui ascenderant ut adorarent in die festo. Hi ergo accesserunt ad Philippum, qui erat a Bethsaida Galilææ, et rogabant eum, dicentes: Domine, volumus Jesum videre. Venit Philippus, et dicit Andreæ: Andreas rursum et Philippus dixerunt Jesu.
Jesus autem, respondit eis, dicens: Venit hora, ut clarificetur Filius hominis. Amen, amen, dico vobis, nisi granum frumenti cadens in terrain, mortuum fuerit, ipsum solum manet. Si autem mortuum fuerit, multum fructum affert. Qui amat animam suam, perdet eam: et qui odit animam suam in hoc mundo, in vitam æternam custodit eam. Si quis mihi ministrat, me sequatur; et ubi sum ego, illic et minister meus erit. Si quis mihi ministraverit, honorificabit eum Pater meus. Nunc anima mea turbata est. Et quid dieam? Pater, salvifica me ex hac hora. Sed propterea veni in horam hanc. Pater, clarifica nomen tuum. Venit ergo vox de cœlo: Et clarificavi, et iterum clarificabo. Turba ergo, quæ stabat et audierat, dicebat tonitruum esse factum. Alii dicebant: Angelus ei locutus est.
Respondit Jesus, et dixit: Non propter me hæc vox venit, sed propter vos. Nunc judicium est mundi: nunc princeps hujus mundi ejicietur foras. Et ego si exaltatuB fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum: (hoc autem dicebat, significans qua morte esset moriturus). Respondit ei turba: Nos audivimue ex lege, quia Christus manet in æternum: et quomodo tu dicis: Oportet exaltari Filium hominis? Quis est iste Filius hominis? Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Adhuc modicum lumen in vobis est. Ambulate dum lucem habetis, ut non vos tenebræ comprehendant: et qui ambulat in tenebris, nescit quo vadat. Dum lucem habetis, credite in lucem, ut filii lucis sitis. Hæc locutus est Jesus: et abiit, et abscondit se ab eis.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: The chief priests thought to kill Lazarus also, because many of the Jews by reason of him went away, and believed in Jesus. And on the next day a great multitude, that was come to the festival day, when they had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried: Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel! And Jesus found a young ass, and sat upon it, as it is written: Fear not, daughter of Sion; behold thy king cometh sitting on an ass’s colt. These things his disciples did not know at first; but when Jesus was glorified, they then remembered that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things to him.
The multitude therefore gave testimony, which was with him, when he called Lazarus out of the grave, and raised him from the dead. For which reason also the people came to meet him, because they heard that he had done this miracle. The pharisees therefore said among themselves: Do you see that we prevail nothing? behold the whole world is gone after him. Now there were certain Gentiles among them, who came up to adore on the festival day. These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him saying: Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh, and telleth Andrew. Again Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come that the Son of man shall be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life, shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal. If any man minister to me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. A voice therefore came from heaven: I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The multitude therefore that stood and heard, said that it thundered. Others said: An angel spoke to him.
Jesus answered and said: This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of the world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself. (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.) The multitude answered him: We have heard out of the law, that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest thou: the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man? Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while, the light is among you. Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness overtake you not; and he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. Whilst you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be children of light. These things Jesus spoke, and he went away and hid himself from them.
The enemies of Jesus have come to that pitch of hatred, which robs a man of his senses. Lazarus, who has been restored from death to life, is here standing before them; and instead of his resuscitation convincing them of Jesus’ being the Messias, it sets them thinking how best to make away with this irresistible witness. O senseless men! that Jesus who raised him to life when dead, can again bring him to life if you murder him. Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which we are solemnly to commemorate to-morrow, adds to their jealousy and hatred. Behold! say they, 'We prevail nothing: the whole world goes after Him.' Alas! this ovation is to be soon followed by one of those reverses to which a populace is so subject. Meanwhile, however, we have certain Gentiles who desire to see Jesus. It is the beginning of the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy: ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.’ Then shall the Son of man be glorified; then shall all nations, by their humble homage to the Crucified, protest against the sinful blindness of the Jews. But, before this comes to pass, it is requisite that the divine Wheat be cast into the ground, and die. Then, the glorious harvest; and the beautiful seed shall yield a hundredfold.
And yet, Jesus feels, in His human nature, a momentary fear at the thought of this death He is to undergo. It is not the agony in the garden; it is a trouble of soul. Let us listen to His words: 'Father! save Me from this hour.' It is our God who foresees all that He is about to suffer for our sake, and it fills Him with fear: He asks to be freed from it, though His will has decreed and accepted it. He immediately adds: 'But for this cause I came unto this hour: Father! glorify Thy name.' His soul is now calm; He once more accepts the hard conditions of our salvation. After this, His words bespeak a triumph; by virtue of the sacrifice about to be offered, satan shall be dethroned: the prince of this world shall be cast out. But the defeat of satan is not the only fruit of our Saviour’s immolation: man, earthly and depraved creature as he is, is to be raised from this earth to heaven. The Son of God is to be the heavenly loadstone, attracting man to Himself: 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself.' He forgets His sufferings, and the terrible death which just now troubled Him; He thinks but of the defeat of our implacable enemy, and of our being saved and glorified by His cross. These few words reveal the whole Heart of our Redeemer: if we attentively weigh them, they will suffice to inflame us with devotion as we celebrate the ineffable mysteries of Holy Week.
Humiliate capita vestia Deo.
Tueatur quæsumus, Domine, dextera tua populum deprecantem, et purificatum dignanter erudiat: ut consolatione præsenti, ad futura bona proficiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.
May thy right hand, O Lord, we beseech thee, protect thy people making supplication to thee, and purifying them from their sins, make them wise, that they may make such use of the comforts of this present life, as to arrive at that which is eternal. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us sue for mercy from the Saviour of our souls, in these words of supplication used in the Gothic liturgy of Spain.
(Feria VI Dominicæ V)
℣. Miserere, et parce, clementissime Domine, populo tuo.
℟.Quia peccavimus tibi.
℣. De crucis throno aspice nos miseros, et passionum compeditos vinculis, nostris absolve, Redemptor, suppliciis.
℟. Quia peccavimus tibi.
℣. Passus flagella, et crucis injuriam, persecutorum sustinens convicia, dona delictis nostris poenitentiam.
℟. Quia peccavimus tibi.
℣. Qui justus judex, male judicatus es, et pænas crucis suscepisti innocens: tu nos a pænis nostris salva redimens.
℟. Quia peccavimus tibi.
℣. Vox tua Patrem pro nobis expostulet, quæ silens fuit olim ante judicem, ut te regnante perfruamur Domino.
℟.Quia peccavimus tibi.
℣. Have mercy upon, and spare, thy people, O most merciful Lord!
℟. For we have sinned against thee.
℣. Look down, from the throne of thy cross, upon us miserable creatures, who are fettered by the chains of our passions. Deliver us, O thou our Redeemer, from the punishments we deserve.
℟. For we have sinned against thee.
℣. O thou that wast scourged, ignominiously crucified, and insulted by them that persecuted thee! grant us repentance for our sins.
℟. For we have sinned against thee.
℣. O thou, the just Judge, that wast judged unjustly, and, though innocent, made to suffer the tortures of the cross! save us from our merited punishments, for thou art our Redeemer.
℟. For we have sinned against thee.
℣. O thou, that heretofore wast silent before the judge! raise up thy voice in pleading for us to thy Father, that we may be happy with thee, our King and Lord.
℟. For we have sinned against thee.
The following sequence, in praise of Mary, is most appropriate for this Saturday of Passion-week. It sweetly blends together the homages we owe to the cross of Jesus and to the dolours of Mary. We have taken it from the Horæ of the sixth century.
Lignum vitæ quærimus,
Qui vitam amisimus
Fructu ligni vetiti.
Nec inventum noverit
Qui fructum non viderit
Fructus per quem vivitur
Pendet, sicut creditur,
Virginis ad ubera.
Et ad crucem iterum,
Inter viros scelerum,
Passus quinque vulnera.
Hic Virgo puerpera,
Hic crux salutifera:
Ambo ligna mystica.
Hæc hyssopus humilis,
Illa cedrue nobilis:
Positus in medio,
Quo me vertam nescio.
In hoc dulci dubio,
Dulcis est collatio.
Hic complexus brachiis,
Modis vagit variis.
Hic extendit brachia,
Charum Mater tenere
Novit hic tenere.
Charitas sub latere,
Nescit hie latere.
Hic adhærens pectori,
Pascitur ab ubere.
Hic affixus arbori,
Pascit nos ex vulnere.
Crux ministrat pabula,
Fructu nos reficiens.
Mater est præambula,
Fructum nobis nutriens.
Tandem ad hoc trahitur
Quod nemo consequitur
Unam sine alia.
Qui crucem elegerit,
Nec sic Matrem deserit:
Cuna ad crucem venerit,
Matrem ibi poterit
Nec qui Matrem eligit,
Crucem prorsus abigit,
Si modum intelligit
Quo per Matrem contigit
Fili Matris unice,
Nos de cruce respice,
Fructus o vivifico,
Fructus ligni vitæ,
Nos teipso refice,
Nobis da frui te.
We that, by the fruit of the forbidden tree,
lost our life,
now seek the tree of life.
He alone hath found this tree,
who sees the branch
whereon is fixed the fruit.
Our faith tells us,
that the fruit, that gives us life,
hangs on Mary’s breast.
And on the cross,
between two thieves,
though here he is pierced with five wounds.
and the saving cross,
both are mystic trees;
The cross, humble as the hyssop;
Mary, noble as the cedar:
both are trees of life.
Placed between the two,
I know not to which to turn.
O sweet perplexity!
O sweet comparison!
Here, my Jesus lies, fondled in his Mother’s arms,
a weeping little Babe;
There, with his arms stretched out,
calling all to his embrace.
Here, 'tis a burden
sweet to a Mother’s love;
There, ’tis Love itself,
too ardent to be hid.
Here, leaning on his Mother’s heart,
he is fed at her breast;
There, fastened to the tree,
he feeds us from his wounds.
The cross supplies us with
the food of its refreshing fruit;
The Mother forestalls the cross,
feeding the very fruit, feeding him for us.
is my decision:
we cannot have the one
without the other.
He that chooses the cross,
must have the Mother;
for when he comes to the cross,
he will find the Mother
standing at the foot.
He that chooses the Mother,
meets the cross as well,
for it was while standing at the cross,
that the Mother’s heart
O Jesus! crucified Son
of a crucified Mother!
look upon us
from thy cross.
O living fruit!
O fruit of the tree of life!
refresh us with thyself,
give us the enjoyment of thine own dear self.
 St. Matt, xxvii. 26.
 St. Matt. xxi. 43.