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The Twentieth Week after Pentecost

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Gospel of last Sunday spoke to us of the nuptials of the Son of God with the human race. The realization of those sacred nuptials is the object which God had in view in the creation of the visible world; it is the only one He intends in His government of society. This being the case, we cannot be surprised, that the parable of the Gospel, whilst revealing to us this divine plan, has also brought before us the great fact of the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles, which is not only the most important fact of the world’s history, but is also intimately connected with the consummation of the mystery of the divine union.

And yet, as we have already said,[1] the exclusion of Juda is one day to cease. His obstinate refusal of the grace has caused it to be brought to us Gentiles by the messengers of God’s loving mercy. But, now that the fullness of the Gentiles[2] has heard and followed the heavenly invitation, the time is advancing when the accession of Israel will complete the Church in her members, and give the bride the signal of the final call, which will put an end to the long labour of ages,[3] by the appearance of the Bridegroom.[4] The holy jealousy, which the apostle was so desirous to rouse in the people of his race by turning towards the Gentiles,[5] will, at last, make itself felt by the descendants of Jacob. What joy will there be in heaven, when they, repentant and humble, shall unite before God in the song of gladness sung by the Gentiles, in celebration of the entrance of His countless Jewish people into the house of the divine banquet! That union of the two peoples will truly be a prelude to the great day mentioned by St. Paul, when, speaking in his patriotic enthusiasm of the Jews, he said : ‘If their offence (i.e., their fall) hath been the riches of the world, and their diminution be the riches of the Gentiles, how much more the fullness of them!’[6] Now, the Mass of this twentieth Sunday after Pentecost gives us a foretaste of that happy day, when the new people will not be alone in singing hymns of praise for the divine favours bestowed on our earth. The ancient liturgists tell us that our Mass consists partly of the words of the prophets, giving to Jacob an expression of his repentance, whereby he is to merit a return of God’s favours, and partly of inspired formulas, wherein the Gentiles, who are already within the hall of the marriage-feast, are singing their canticles of love.[7] The Gentile-choir takes the Gradual and Communion-anthem; the choir of the Jews, the Introit and Offertory.

The Introit is from the book of Daniel.[8] Exiled to Babylon with his people, the prophet—in that captivity whose years of bitterness were a figure of the still longer and intenser sufferings of the present dispersion—laments with Juda in that strange land, and, at the same time, instructs his people how they may be readmitted into God’s favour. It is a secret which Israel had lost ever since his commission of the crime on Calvary; though, in the previous ages of his history, he knew the happy secret, and had continually experienced its efficacy. What it was, it still is and ever will be : it consists in the humble avowal of the sinner’s falls, in the suppliant regret of the culprit, and in the sure confidence that God’s mercy is infinitely above the sins of men, how grievous soever those may have been.

Introit

Omnia, quæ fecisti nobis, Domine, in vero judicio fecisti : quia peccavimus tibi, et mandatis tuis non obedivimus : sed da gloriam nomini tuo : et fac nobiscum secundum multitudinem misericordiæ tuæ.

Ps. Beati immaculati in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini. Gloria Patri. Omnia.
All things whatsoever thou hast done unto us, O Lord, thou hast done by a just judgment : for we have sinned, and disobeyed thy commandments : but glorify thy name: and deal with us according to thy great mercy.

Ps. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Glory, etc. All things.

The divine forgiveness, which restores the soul to purity and peace, is the indispensable preparation for the sacred marriage-feast; for the wedding garment of its guests must, under pain of exclusion, be without a stain; their heart, too, must be without bitterness, lest it should cause the Bridegroom to be offended. Let us implore this precious pardon. Our Lord is all the more ready to grant it us, when we ask it through His beloved bride, the Church, our mother. Let us unite our voices with hers, and say her Collect.

Collect

Largire, quæsumus Do mine, fidelibus tuis indulgentiam placatus, et pacem: ut pariter ab omnibus mundentur offensis, et secura tibi mente deserviant. Per Dominum.
Being appeased, O Lord, bestow pardon and peace upon thy faithful; that they being also cleansed from all their offences, may serve thee with a secure mind. Through, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Ephesios.

Cap. v.

Fratres, Videte quomodo caute ambuletis : non quasi insipientes, sed ut sapientes : redimentes tempus, quoniam dies mali sunt. Propterea nolite fieri imprudentes, sed intelligentes quæ sit voluntas Dei. Et nolite inebrian vino, in quo est luxuria, sed implemini Spiritu sancto, loquentes vobismetipsis in psalmis, et hymnis, et canticis spiritualibus, cantantes, et psallentes in cordibus vestris Domino, gratias agentes semper pro omnibus, in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi Deo et Patri. Subjecti invicem in timore Christi.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians.

Ch. v.

Brethren: See, therefore, how you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise : redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of God. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury, but be ye filled with the holy Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord : giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God and the Father. Being subject one to another in the fear of Christ.

The other Collects, as on page 120.


As the nuptials of the Son of God approach their final completion, there will be, also, on the side of hell, a redoubling of rage against the bride, with a determination to destroy her. The dragon of the Apocalypse,[9] the old serpent who seduced Eve, will cast out water, as a river, from his mouth[10]—that is, he will urge on all the passions of man, that they may league together for her ruin. But, do what he will, he can never weaken the bond of the eternal alliance; and, having no power against the Church herself, he will turn his fury against the last children of the new Eve, who will have the perilous honour of those final battles, which are described by the prophet of Patmos.[11]

It is then, more than at all previous times, that the faithful will have to remember the injunction given to us by the apostle in to-day’s Epistle. They will have to comport themselves with that circumspection which he enjoins, taking every possible care to keep their understanding, no less than their heart, pure, in those evil days. Supernatural light will, in those days, not only have to withstand the attacks of the children of darkness, who will put forward their false doctrines; it will, moreover, be minimized and falsified by the very children of the light yielding on the question of principles; it will be endangered by the hesitations, and the human prudence, of those who are called far-seeing men. Many will practically ignore the master-truth, that the Church never can be overwhelmed by any created power. If they do remember that our Lord has promised to uphold His Church even to the end of the world,[12] they will still believe that they do a great service to the good cause by making certain politically clever concessions, not weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Those future worldly-wise people will forget that our Lord needs no shrewd schemes to help Him to keep His promise; they will entirely overlook this most elementary consideration, that the co-operation which Jesus deigns to accept at the hands of His servants in the defence of the rights of His Church, never could consist in the disguising of those grand truths which constitute the power and beauty of the bride. They will forget the apostle’s maxim, laid down in his Epistle to the Romans, that to conform oneself to this world, to attempt an impossible adaptation of the Gospel to a world that is unchristianized, is not the means for proving what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.[13]So that it will be a thing of great and rare merit, in many an occurrence of those unhappy times, merely to understand what is the will of God, as our Epistle expresses it.

‘Look to yourselves,’ would St. John say to those men, 'that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought; make yourselves sure of the full reward,’ which is given only to the persevering thoroughness of doctrine and faith![14] Besides, it will be then, as in all other times, that, according to the saying of the Holy Ghost, the simplicity of the just shall guide them,[15] and far more safely than any human ingenuity could do; humility will give them wisdom;[16] and, keeping themselves closely united to this noble companion, they will be made truly wise by her, and will know what is acceptable to God.[17] They will understand that, aspiring like the Church herself to union with the eternal Word, fidelity to the Spouse, for them as for the Church, is nothing else than fidelity to the truth; for the Word, who is the one same object of love to both of them, is, in God, no other than the splendour of infinite truth.[18] Their one care, therefore, will ever be to approach nearer and nearer to their Beloved, by a continually increasing resemblance to Him— that is to say, by the completest reproduction, both in their words and works, of the beautiful truth. By so doing, they will be serving their fellowcreatures in the best possible way, for they will be putting in practice the counsel of Jesus, who bids them seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and confide in Him for all the rest.[19] Others may have recourse to human and accommodating combinations, fitted to please all parties; they may put forward dubious compromises, which (so their suggesters think) will keep back, for some weeks or some months perhaps, the fierce tide of revolution; but those who have God’s spirit in them will put a very different construction on the admonition given us by the apostle in to-day’s Epistle, where he tells us to redeem the time.

It was our Lord who bought time, and at a great price; and He bought it for us, that it might be employed by His faithful servants in procuring glory for God. By most men it is squandered away in sin or folly; but those who are united to Christ, as living members to the Spouse of their souls, will redeem it—that is, they will put such an intensity into their faith and their love that, as far as it is possible for human nature, not a moment of their time shall be anything but an earnest tribute of service to their Lord. To the insolent and blasphemous things which are then to be spoken by the beast,[20] these determined servants of God will give, for their brave answer, the cry of St. Michael, which he uttered against satan, the helper of the beast :[21] ‘Who is like unto God?’

These closing weeks of the year used, in olden times, to be called ‘Weeks of the holy Angel.'’ We have seen, on one of these Sundays,[22] how the liturgy formerly announced the great Archangel’s coming to the aid of God’s people, according to the prophecy of Daniel.[23] When, therefore, the final tribulations shall commence; when exile shall scatter the faithful, and the sword shall slay them,[24] and the world shall approve all that, prostrate, as it then will be, before the beast and his image[25]— let us not forget that we have a leader chosen by God, and proclaimed by the Church; a leader who will marshal us during those final combats, in which the defeat of the saints[26] will be more glorious than were the triumphs of the Church in the days when she ruled the world. For what God will then ask of His servants is not success of diplomatical arrangements, nor a victory won by arms, but fidelity to His truth—that is, to His Word; a fidelity all the more generous and perfect, as there will be an almost universal falling off around the little army fighting under the Archangel’s banner. Uttered by a single faithful heart, under such circumstances, and uttered with the bravery of faith and the ardour of love, the cry of St. Michael, which heretofore routed the infernal legions, will honour God more than the blasphemies uttered by the millions of degraded followers of the beast will insult Him.

Let us be thoroughly imbued with these thoughts which are suggested by the opening lines of our Epistle. Let us also master the other instructions it contains, and which, after all, differ but little from those we have been developing. As the Gospel of the nuptials of the Son of God and the invitation to His divine banquet was formerly read on this day, our holy mother the Church appropriately points out in the Epistle the immense difference there is between these sacred delights, and the joys of the world’s marriage-feasts. The calm, the purity, the peace of the just man, who is admitted into intimacy with God, are a continual feast to his soul;[27] the food served up at that feast is Wisdom;[28] Wisdom, too, is the beloved Guest, who is unfailingly there.[29] The world is quite welcome to its silly, and often shameful, pleasures; the Word and the soul, which, in a mysterious way, He has filled with the holy Spirit,[30] join together to sing to the eternal Father in admirable unison; they will go on for ever with their hymns of thanksgiving and praise, for the materials of both are infinite. The hideous sight of the earth’s inhabitants, who will then by thousands be paying homage to the harlot who sits on the beast, and offers them the golden cup of her abominations—no, not even that will interfere in the least with the bliss caused in heaven by the sight of those happy souls on earth. The convulsions of a world in its last agony, the triumphs of the woman drunk with the blood of the martyrs,[31] far from breaking in on the harmony of a soul which is united with the Word, will but give greater fullness to the divine notes, and greater sweetness to the human music of her song. The apostle tells all this in his own magnificent way, where he says : ‘Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword? It is written : For thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter[32]—but in all these things we overcome, because of Him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[33]

In the Introit, the Jewish people sang its repentance and humble confidence; and now, in the Gradual, we have the Gentiles proclaiming, in music taught them by the Church, how, in the delights of the nuptial banquet, their hopes have been realized, yea, and surpassed.

Gradual

Oculi omnium in te sperant, 'Domine : et tu das illis escam in tempore opportuno.

V. Aperis tu manum tuam, et imples omne animai benedictione.

Alleluia, alleluia. V. Paratum cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum, cantabo, et psallam tibi, gloria mea. Alleluia.
The eyes of all do hope in thee, O Lord: and thou givest them meat in due season.

V. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest every living creature with thy blessing.

Alleluia, alleluia. V. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready; I will sing, and give praise to thee, my glory. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancii Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. iv.

In illo tempore : Erat quidam regulus, cujus filius infirmabatur Capharnaum. Hic cum audisset, quia Jesus adveniret a Judæa in Galilæam, abiit ad eum: et rogabat eum ut descenderet, et sanaret filium ejus: incipiebat enim mori. Dixit ergo Jesus ad eum : Nisi signa, et prodigia videritis, non creditis. Dicit ad eum regulus: Domine, descende priusquam moriatur filius meus. Dicit ei Jesus: Vade; filius tuus vivit. Credidit homo sermoni, quem dixit ei Jesus, et ibat. Jam autem eo descendente, servi occurrerunt ei, et nuntiaverunt dicentes, quia filius ejus viveret. Interrogabat ergo horam ab eis, in qua melius habuerit. Et dixerunt ei: quia heri hora septima reliquit eum febris. Cognovit ergo pater, quia illa hora erat, in qua dixit ei Jesus: Filius tuus vivit: et credidit ipse, et domus ejus tota.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. iv.

At that time : There was a certain ruler whose son was sick at Capharnaum. He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders you believe not. The ruler saith to him : Lord, come down before that my son die. Jesus saith to him: Go thy way, thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him: and they brought word, saying that his son lived. He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. The father therefore knew that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him: Thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house.

The Gospel for to-day is taken from St. John; it is the first and only time during the whole course of these Sundays after Pentecost. It gives the twentieth Sunday the name of ‘the Ruler of Capharnaum.’ The Church has selected this Gospel on account of its bearing a certain mysterious relation to the state of the world in those last days which the liturgy prophetically brings before us at the close of the year.

The world is drawing towards its end; like the ruler’s son, it begins to die. Tormented by the fever of the passions which have been excited in Capharnaum, the city of business and pleasure, it is too weak to go itself to the Physician who could cure it. It is for its father—for the pastors, who, by Baptism, gave it the life of grace, and who govern the Christian people as rulers of holy Church—to go to Jesus, and beseech Him to restore the sick man to health. St. John begins this account[34] by mentioning the place where they were to find Jesus : it was at Cana, the city of the marriagefeast, where He first manifested His power[35] in the banquet-hall; it is in heaven that the Man-God abides, now that He has quitted our earth, where He has left His disciples deprived of the Bridegroom,[36] and having to pass a certain period of time in the field of penance. Capharnaum signifies the field of penance, and of consolation, which penance brings with it. Such was this earth intended to be, when man was driven from Eden; such was the consolation, to which, during this life, the sinner was to aspire; and, because of his having sought after other consolations, because of his having pretended to turn this field of penance into a new paradise, the world is now to be destroyed. Man has exchanged the life-giving delights of Eden for the pleasures which kill the soul, and ruin the body, and draw down the divine vengeance.

There is one remedy for all this, and only one: it is the zeal of the pastors, and the prayers of that portion of Christ’s flock which has withstood the torrent of universal corruption. But it is of the utmost importance that, on this point, the faithful and their pastors should lay aside all personal considerations, and thoroughly enter into the spirit which animates the Church herself. Though treated with the most revolting ingratitude, and injustice, and calumny, and treachery of every sort, this mother of mankind forgets all these her own wrongs, and thinks only of the true prosperity and salvation of the very countries which despise her.[37] She is well aware that the time is at hand when God will make justice triumphant; and yet she goes on struggling, as Jacob did, with God,[38] until the dawn of that terrible day, foretold by David and the sibyl.[39] At the thought of the pool of fire,[40] into which her rebellious children are to be plunged, she seems to have almost forgotten the approach of the eternal nuptials, and lost her vehement longings as a bride. One would say that she thinks of nothing but of her being a mother; and, as such, she keeps on praying as she has always prayed, only more fervently than ever, that the end may be deferred (pro mora finis).[41]

That we may fulfil her wishes, let us, as Tertullian says, ‘assemble together in one body, that we may, so to speak, offer armed force to God by our prayers. God loves such violence as that.'[42] But that our prayer may have power of that kind, it must be inspired by a faith which is thorough, and proof against every difficulty. As it is our faith which overcometh the world,[43] so it is, likewise, our faith which triumphs over God, even in cases which seem beyond all human hope. Let us do as our mother does, and think of the danger incurred by those countless men, who madly play on the brink of the precipice, into which, when they fall, they fall for ever. It is quite true they are inexcusable; it was only last Sunday that they were reminded of the weeping and gnashing of teeth, in the exterior darkness, which they will undergo that despise the call to the Kings marriage-feast.[44] But they are our brethren, and we should not be quietly resigned to see them lose their souls. Let us hope against all hope. Did our Lord, who knew with certainty that obstinate sinners would be lost, hesitate, on that account, to shed all His Blood for them?

It is our ambition to unite ourselves to Him by the closest possible resemblance; let us, then, be resolved to imitate Him in that also, did occasion serve; at all events, let us pray without ceasing for the Church’s and our enemies, so long as we are not assured of their being lost. Such prayer is never useless, never thrown away; for, come what may, God is greatly honoured by our faith, and by the earnestness of our charity.

Only, let us be careful not to merit the reproach uttered by our Redeemer against the halting[45] faith of the fellow-townsmen of the ruler of Capharnaum. We know that our Jesus has no need to come down from heaven to earth, in order to give efficiency to the commands of His gracious will. If He deign to multiply signs and wonders around us, we will rejoice at them, because of our brethren who are weak of faith; we will make them an occasion for exalting His holy name; but we will lovingly assure Him that our soul has no need of new proofs of His power, in order to believe in Him!

The Jewish people, whilst enduring its wellmerited captivity, and straying along the riverbanks of Babylon, has grown repentant, and, in our Offertory, joins our mother the Church, in singing the admirable hundred and thirty-sixth Psalm; there never was such a song of exile.

Offertory

Super flumina Babylonia illic sedimus, et flevimus, dum recordaremur tui, Sion.
Upon the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered thee, O Sion!

The whole power of the God, who, with a word, cures both soul and body, resides in the mysteries which are about to be celebrated on our altar here. Let us, in the Secret, beseech Him, that their effects may tell on our hearts.

Secret

Cœlestem nobis præbeant hæc mysteria, quæsumus Domine, medicinam : et vitia nostri cordis expurgent. Per Dominum.
May these mysteries, O Lord, we beseech thee, procure us a heavenly remedy, and cleanse away the vices of our hearts. Through, etc.

The other Secrets, as on page 130.


The word, spoken of in the Communion-anthem as having raised man up from the abyss of his misery, is that of the Gospel, which calls mankind, saying: Come to the marriage![46] But, although deified by his participation, here below, in the mystery of faith, man aspires to the perfect and eternal union, which is to be in the midday of glory.

Communion

Memento verbi tui servo tuo, Domino, in quo mihi spem dedisti: hæc me consolata est in humilitate mea.
Remember, O Lord, thy word to thy servant, by which thou gavest me hope: this hath comforted me in my distress.

A persevering fidelity in observing God’s commandments is the best preparation a Christian can make for approaching the holy Table, as the Postcommunion tells us.

Postcommunion

Ut sacris, Domine, reddamur digni muneribus : fac nos, quæsumus, tuis semper obedire mandatis. Per Dominum.
That we may be worthy of thy sacred gifts, O Lord, grant, we beseech thee, that we may always obey thy commandments. Through, etc.

The other Postcommunions, as on page 181.


 

VESPERS

 


The psalms, capitulum, hymn and versicle, as above, pages 71-81.


Antiphon of the Magnificat

Cognovit autem pater quia illa hora erat, in qua dixit Jesus : Filius tuus vivit; et credidit ipse, et domus ejus tota.

Oremus.

Largire, quæsumus Domine, fidelibus tuis indulgentiam placatus et paccm : ut pariter ab omnibus mundentur offensis, et secura tibi mente deserviant. Per Dominum.
Now the father knew that it was at the same hour that Jesus said unto him: Thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house.

Let us Pray.

Being appeased, O Lord, bestow pardon and peace upon thy faithful; that they being also cleansed from all their offences may serve thee with a secure mind. Through, etc.

[1] The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
[2] Rom. xi. 25, 26.
[3] Ibid. viii. 22.
[4] Apoc. xxii. 17.
[5] Rom. xi. 13, 14.
[6] Ibid. 12.
[7] Berno Aug., v.; Rup., De Div. Off., xii. 20; Durand., Ration., vi. 137.
[8] Dan. iii.
[9] Apoc. xii. 9.
[10] Ibid. 15.
[11] Ibid. 17
[12] St. Matt. xxviii. 20.
[13] Rom. xii. 2.
[14] 2 St. John 8, 9.
[15] Prov. xi. 3.
[16] Ibid. 2.
[17] Wisd. ix. 10.
[18] Ibid. vii. 25, 26.
[19] St. Matt. vi. 33.
[20] Apoc. xiii. 5, 6.
[21] Ibid. 2.
[22] The Seventeenth.
[23] Dan. xii. 1.
[24] Apoc. xiii. 7, 10.
[25] Ibid. 3, 4, 8, 15.
[26] Ibid. 7.
[27] Prov. xv. 15.
[28] Ecclus. xxiv. 29.
[29] Wisd. viii. 16; Apoc. iii. 20.
[30] Cant. i. 1.
[31] Apoc. xvii. 1-6.
[32] Ps. xliii. 22.
[33] Rom. viii. 35-39.
[34] St. John iv. 46.
[35] Ibid. ii. 11.
[36] St. Matt. ix. 15.
[37] Allocutions of Leo XIII.
[38] Gen. xxxii. 24-28.
[39] The sequence Dies irœ.
[40] Apoc. xxi. 8.
[41] Tertull., Apol. xxxix.
[42] Ibid.
[43] 1 St. John v. 4.
[44] St. Matt. xxii. 13.
[45] Heb. xii. 13.
[46] St. Matt. xxii. 4.

 

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