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July

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

UNITING the blood of kings with that of pontiffs, the glory of Anne’s illustrious origin is far surpassed by that of her offspring, without compare among the daughters of Eve. The noblest of all who have ever conceived by virtue of the command to ‘increase and multiply,’ beholds the law of human generation pause before her as having arrived at its summit, at the threshold of God; for from her fruit God Himself is to come forth, the fatherless Son of the Blessed Virgin, and the grandson of Anne and Joachim.

Before being favoured with the greatest blessing ever bestowed on an earthly union, the two holy grandparents of the Word made Flesh had to pass through the purification of suffering. Traditions which, though mingled with details of less authenticity, have come down to us from the very beginning of Christianity, tell us of 

these noble spouses subjected to the trial of prolonged sterility, and on that account despised by their people; of Joachim cast out of the temple and going to hide his sorrow in the desert; of Anne left alone to mourn her widowhood and humiliation. For exquisite sentiment this narrative might be compared with the most beautiful histories in Holy Scripture.

It was one of the great festival days of the Lord. In spite of extreme sorrow, Anne laid aside her mourning garments, and adorned her head and clothed herself with her nuptial robes. And about the ninth hour she went down to the garden to walk; seeing a laurel she sat down in its shade, and poured forth her prayer to the Lord God, saying: “God of my fathers, bless me and hear my supplication, as Thou didst bless Sara and didst give her a son!”

And raising her eyes to heaven, she saw in the laurel a sparrow's nest, and sighing she said: "Alas! of whom was I born to be thus a curse in Israel?

"To whom shall I liken me? I cannot liken me to the birds of the air; for the birds are blessed by Thee, O Lord.

"To whom shall I liken me? I cannot liken me to the beasts of the earth: for they, too, are fruitful hefore thee.

"To whom shall I liken me? I cannot liken me to the waters; for they are not barren in thy sight. and the rivers and the oceans full of fish praise thee in their heavings and in their peaceful flowing.

"To whom shall I liken me? I cannot liken me even to the earth, for the earth too bears fruit in season, and praises thee, O Lord."

And behold an angel of the Lord stood by, and said to her: "Anne, God has heard thy prayer; thou shalt conceive and bear a child, and thy fruit shall be honoured throughout the whole inhabited earth.”And in due time Anne brought forth a daughter, and said: "My soul is magnified this hour." And she called the child Mary; and giving her the breast, she intoned this canticle to the Lord:

"I will sing the praise of the Lord my God: for he has visited me and has taken away my shame, and has given me a fruit of justice. Who shall declare to the sons of Ruben that Anne is become fruitful? Hear, hear, O ye twelve tribes: behold Anne is giving suck!"[1]

The feast of St. Joachim, which the Church celebrates on the day following his blessed daughter's Assumption, will give us an occasion of completing the account of these trials and joys in which he shared. Warned from heaven to leave the desert, he met his spouse at the golden gate which leads to the Temple on the east side. Not far from here, near the Probatica piscina, where the little white lambs were washed before being offered in sacrifice, now stands the restored basilica of St. Anne originally called St. Mary of the Nativity. Here, as in a peaceful paradise, the rod of Jesse produced that blessed branch which the prophet hailed as about to bear the flower that had blossomed from eternity in the bosom of the Father. It is true that Sepphoris, Anne’s native city, and Nazareth, where Mary lived, dispute with the Holy City the honour which ancient and constant tradition assigns to Jerusalem. But our homage will not be misdirected if we offer it to-day to blessed Anne, in whom were wrought the prodigies, the very thought of which brings new joy to heaven, rage to Satan, and triumph to the world.

Anne was, as it were, the starting-point of redemption, the horizon scanned by the prophets, the first span of the heavens to be empurpled with the rising fires of dawn; the blessed soil whose produce was so pure as to make the angels believe that Eden had been restored to us. But in the midst of the incomparable peace that surrounds her, let us hail her as the land of victory surpassing the most famous fields of battle; as the sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception, where our humiliated race took up the combat begun before the throne of God by the angelic hosts; where the serpent’s head was crushed, and Michæl, now surpassed in glory, gladly handed over to his sweet Queen, at the first moment of her existence, the command of the Lord’s armies.

What human lips, unless touched like the prophet’s with a burning coal, could tell the admiring wonder of the angelic Powers, when the Blessed Trinity, passing from the burning Seraphim to the lowest of the nine choirs, bade them turn their fiery glances and contemplate the flower of sanctity blossoming in the bosom of Anne? The Psalmist had said of the glorious City whose foundations were now hidden in her that was once barren: The foundations thereof are in the holy mountains;[2] and the heavenly hierarchies crowning the slopes of the eternal hills beheld in her heights to them unknown and unattainable summits approaching so near to God, that He was even then preparing His throne in her. Like Moses at the sight of the burning bush on Horeb, they were seized with a holy awe on recognizing the mountain of God in the midst of the desert of this world; and they understood that the affliction of Israel was soon to cease. Although shrouded by the cloud, Mary was already that blessed mountain whose base—i.e., the starting-point of her graces—was set far above the summits where the highest created sanctities are perfected in glory and love.

How justly is the mother named Anne, which signifies grace, she in whom for nine months were centred the complacencies of the Most High, the ecstasy of the angelic spirits, and the hope of all flesh! No doubt it was Mary, the daughter, and not the mother, whose sweetness so powerfully attracted the heavens to our lowly earth. But the perfume first scents the vessel which contains it, and, even after it is removed, leaves it impregnated with its fragrance. Moreover, it is customary to prepare the vase itself with the greatest care; it must be all the purer, made of more precious material, and more richly adorned, according as the essence to be placed in it is rarer and more exquisite. Thus Magdalen enclosed her precious spikenard in alabaster. The Holy Spirit, the preparer of heavenly perfumes, would not be less careful than men. Now the task of blessed Anne was not limited, like that of a material vase, to containing passively the treasure of the world. She furnished the body of her who was to give flesh to the Son of God; she nourished her with her milk; she gave to her, who was inundated with floods of divine light, the first practical notions of life. In the education of her illustrious daughter, Anne played the part of a true mother: not only did she guide Mary's first steps, but she co-operated with the Holy Ghost in the education of her soul and the preparation for her incomparable destiny; until, when the work had reached the highest development to which she could bring it, she, without a moment’s hesitation or a thought of self, offered her tenderly loved child to Him from whom she had received her.

Sic fingit tabernaculum Deo—'Thus she frames a tabernacle for God.' Such was the inscription around the figure of St. Anne instructing Mary, which formed the device of the ancient guild of joiners and cabinetmakers; for they, looking upon the making of tabernacles wherein God may dwell in our churches as their most choice work, had taken St. Anne for their patroness and model. Happy were those times when the simplicity of our fathers penetrated so deeply into the practical understanding of mysteries which their infatuated sons glory in ignoring. The valiant woman is praised in the Book of Proverbs for her spinning, weaving, sewing, embroidering, and household cares: naturally, then, those engaged in these occupations placed themselves under the protection of the spouse of Joachim. More than once, those suffering from the same trial which had inspired Anne’s touching prayer beneath the sparrow’s nest, experienced the power of her intercession in obtaining for others, as well as for herself, the blessing of the Lord God.

The East anticipated the West in the public cultus of the grandmother of the Messias. Towards the middle of the sixth century a church was dedicated to her in Constantinople. The Typicon of St. Sabbas makes a liturgical commemoration of her three times in the year: on September 9, together with her spouse St. Joachim, the day after the birthday of their glorious daughter; on December 9, whereon the Greeks, a day later than the Latins, keep the feast of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, under a title which more directly expresses St. Anne’s share in the mystery; and lastly, July 25, not being occupied by the feast of St. James, which was kept on April 30, is called the Dormitio or precious death of St. Anne, mother of the most holy Mother of God: the very same expression which the Roman martyrology adopted later.

Although Rome, with her usual reserve, did not until much later authorize the introduction into the Latin Churches of a liturgical feast of St. Anne, she nevertheless encouraged the piety of the faithful in this direction. So early as the time of Leo III[3]and by that illustrious Pontiffs express command, the history of Anne and Joachim was represented on the sacred ornaments of the noblest basilicas in the Eternal City.[4] The Order of Carmel, so devout to St. Anne, powerfully contributed, by its fortunate migration into our countries, to the growing increase of her cultus. Moreover, this development was the natural outcome of the progress of devotion among the people to the Mother of God. The close relation between the two cults is noticed in a concession, whereby in 1381 Urban VI satisfied the desires of the faithful in England by authorizing for that kingdom a feast of the blessed Anne. The Church of Apt in Provence had been already a century in possession of the feast; a fact due to the honour bestowed on that Church of having received, almost together with the faith, the saint's holy body, in the first age of Christianity.

Since our Lord, reigning in heaven, has willed that His blessed Mother should also be crowned there in her virginal body, the relics of Mary's mother have become doubly dear to the world, first, as in the case of others, on account of the holiness of her whose precious remains they are, and then above all others, on account of their close connection with the mystery of the Incarnation. The Church of Apt was so generous out of its abundance, that it would now be impossible to enumerate the sanctuaries which have obtained, either from this principal source or from elsewhere, more or less notable portions of these precious relics. We cannot omit to mention as one of these privileged places, the great basilica of St. Paul outside the walls; St. Anne herself, in an apparition to St. Bridget of Sweden,[5] confirmed the authenticity of the arm which forms one of the most precious jewels in the rich treasury of that Church.

It was not until 1584 that Gregory XIII ordered the celebration of this feast of July 26 throughout the whole Church, with the rite of a double. Leo XIII in recent times (1879) raised it, together with that of St. Joachim, to the dignity of a solemnity of the second class. But before that, Gregory XV, after having been cured of a serious illness by St. Anne, had ranked her feast among those of precept, with the obligation of resting from servile work.

Now that St. Anne was receiving the homage due to her exalted dignity, she made haste to show her recognition of this more solemn tribute of praise. In the years 1623, 1624., and 1625, in the village of Kerouanne, near Auray, in Brittany, she appeared to Yves Nicolazic, and discovered to him an ancient statue buried in the field of Bocenno, which he tenanted. This discovery brought the people once more to the place where, a thousand years before, the inhabitants of ancient Armorica had honoured that statue. Innumerable graces obtained on the spot spread its fame far beyond the limits of the province, whose faith, worthy of past ages, had merited the favour of the grandmother of the Messias; and St. Anne d'Auray was soon reckoned among the chief pilgrimages of the Christian world.

More fortunate than the wife of Elcana, who prefigured thee both in her trial and by her name, thou, O Anne, now singest the magnificent gifts of the Lord. Where is now the proud synagogue that despised thee? The descendants of the barren one are now without number; and all we, the brethren of Jesus, children, like Him, of thy daughter Mary, come joyfully, led by our Mother, to offer thee our praises. In the family circle the grandmother's feast day is the most touching of all, when her grandchildren surround her with reverential love, as we gather around thee to-day. Many, alas! know not these beautiful feasts, where the blessing of the earthly paradise seems to revive in all its freshness; but the mercy of our God has provided a sweet compensation. He, the Most High God, willed to come so nigh to us as to be one of us in the flesh; to know the relations and mutual dependencies which are the law of our nature; the cords of Adam, with which He had determined to draw us and in which He first bound Himself. For in raising nature above itself, He did not eliminate it; He made grace take hold of it and lead it to heaven; so that, joined together on earth by their divine Author, nature and grace were to be united for all eternity. We, then, being brethren by grace of Him who is ever thy grandson by nature, are, by this loving disposition of Divine Wisdom, quite at home under thy roof; and to-day’s feast, so dear to the hearts of Jesus and Mary, is our own family feast.

Smile then, dear mother, upon our chants and bless our prayers. To-day and always be propitious to the supplications which our land of sorrows sends up to thee. Be gracious to wives and mothers who confide to thee their holy desires and the secret of their sorrows. Keep up, where they still exist, the traditions of the Christian home. Over how many families has the baneful breath of this age passed, blighting all that is serious in life, weakening faith, leaving nothing but languor, weariness, frivolity, if not even worse, in the place of the true and solid joys of our fathers. How truly might the Wise Man say at the present day: Who shall find a valiant woman? She alone by her influence could counteract all these evils; but on condition of recognizing wherein her true strength lies: in humble household works done with her own hands; in hidden, self-sacrificing devotedness; in watchings by night; in hourly foresight; working in wool and flax, and with the spindle; all those strong things which win for her the confidence and praise of her husband; authority over all, abundance in the house, blessings from the poor whom she has helped, honour from strangers, reverence from her children; and for herself in the fear of the Lord, nobility and dignity, beauty and strength, wisdom, sweetness and content, and calm assurance at the latter day.[6]

O blessed Anne, rescue society, which is perishing for want of virtues like thine. The motherly kindnesses thou art ever more frequently bestowing upon us have increased the Church’s confidence; deign to respond to the hopes she places in thee. Bless especially thy faithful Brittany; have pity on unhappy France, for which thou hast shown thy predilection, first, by so early confiding to it thy sacred body; later on, by choosing in it the spot whence thou wouldst manifest thyself to the world; and, again, quite recently entrusting to its sons the church and seminary dedicated to thy honour in Jerusalem. O thou who lovest the Franks, who deignest still to look on fallen Gaul as the kingdom of Mary, continue to show it that love which is its most cherished tradition. Mayest thou become known throughout the whole world. As for us, who have long known thy power and experienced thy goodness, let us ever seek in thee, O mother, our rest, security, strength in every trial; for he who leans on thee has nothing to fear on earth, and he who rests in thy arms is safely carried.

Let us offer blessed Anne a wreath gathered from the liturgy. We will first cull from the Menæa of the Greeks, as being the earliest in date:

Mensis Julii Die xxv
Ex Officio Vespertino

En splendida solemnitas et dies clara, universo mundo jucunda, venerabilis atque laudanda dormitio Annæ gloriosæ, ex qua prodiit Mater vitæ.

Quæ prius infecunda et sterilis, primitias nostræ salutis germinavit, Christum rogat ut culparum veniam largiatur his qui cum fide eum collaudant.

Salve, avis spiritualis, verni nuntia gratiæ. Salve, ovis agnam parta, quæ Agnum tollentem peccata mundi, Verbum, verbo genuit.

Salve, terra benedicta, quæ virgam divinitus germinantem mundo florescere fecisti.

Sterilitatem tuo partu fugasti, Anna in Deo beatissima, avia Christi Dei, quæ fulgentem lucernam, Dei genitricem, edidisti: quacum intercedere digneris, ut animabus nostris magna misericordia donetur.

Venite universæ creaturæ, in cymbalis psalmorum Annæ piæ acclamemus, quæ e visceribus suis genuit divinum Montem, et ad montes spirituales ac tabernacula Paradisi est translata.

Ad ipsam dicamus: Beata alvus tua quæ vere gestavit illam quæ in ventre suo portavit lumen mundi: gloriosa ubera tua, quibus lactata est ea qua Christum, cibum vitæ nostræ, aluit. Hunc deprecare, ut ab omni vexatione et incursu inimici liberemur, et anima nostra salventur.
O brilliant solemnity, day full of light and joy to the whole world! This day we celebrate the venerable and praiseworthy passage of the glorious Anne, of whom was born the Mother of life.

She who was once unfruitful and barren brought forth the firstfruits of our salvation; she beseeches Christ to grant pardon of their sins to them that sing His praises with faith.

Hail, spiritual bird, announcing the springtime of grace! Hail, sheep, mother of the ewe-lamb, who by a word conceived the Word, the Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world!

Hail, blessed earth, whence sprang the branch that bore a divine fruit. Thy fruitfulness put an end to barrenness, O Anne, most blessed in God, grandmother of Christ our God, who didst give to the world a shining lamp, the Mother of God; together with her deign to intercede, that great may be the mercy granted to our souls.

Come all ye creatures, let us cry out to holy Anne with cymbals and psaltery. She brought forth the mountain of God, and was borne up to the spiritual mountains, the tabernacles of Paradise. Let us say to her: Blessed is thy womb wherein she rested who herself bore the Light of the world; glorious are thy breasts which suckled her who fed Christ the food of our life. Beseech Him to deliver us from all harassing attacks of the enemy, and to save our souls.

Let us turn to our Western lands and join in the chants of the various churches. The Mozarabic liturgy thus interprets the feelings of the once barren woman, after her prayer had been so magnificently answered:

Antiphona

Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: quia exaudisti verba oris mei.
℟. In conspectu angelorum psallam tibi.
℣. Deus meus es tu, et confitebor tibi: Deus meus, et exaltabo te.
℟. In conspectu.
℣. Gloria et honor Patri, et Filio. et Spiritui Sancto in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℟. In conspectu.
I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; for Thou hast heard the words of my mouth.
℟. In the sight of angels I will sing praise to Thee.
℣. Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee: my God, and I will exalt Thee.
℟. In the sight.
℣. Glory and honour be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.
℟. In the sight.

Apt shall speak in the name of all Provence, and tell of its glorious honour:

Antiphon

O splendor Provinciæ, nobilis mater Mariæ Virginis, et Davidis filia; avia Redemptoris. nobis opem feras veniæ ut vivamus cum beatis.
O glory of Provence, noble mother of the Virgin Mary, daughter of David, grandmother of our Redeemer, bring us the grace of pardon, that we may live with the blessed.

Brittany shall declare the confidence it places in its illustrious protectress:

Responsory

Hæc est mater nobis electa a Domino, Anna sanctissima Britonum spes et tutela: * Quam in prosperis adjutricem, in adversis auxiliatricem habemus.
℣. Populi sui memor sit semper; adsitque grata filiis suis, terra marique laborantibus. * Quam in prosperis.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. * Quam in prosperis.
Behold the mother chosen for us by our Lord, most holy Anne, the hope and protection of the Bretons. * In prosperity our helper, in adversity our succour.
℣. May she be ever mindful of her people, ever gracious to her children, whether on land or toiling o’er the sea. * In prosperity.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. * In prosperity.

Let us all unite with Brittany in the following hymn:

Hymn

Lucis beatæ gaudiis Gestit parens Ecclesia, Annamque Judææ decus Matrem Mariæ concinit.
Regum piorum sanguini Jungens sacerdotes avos, Illustris Anna splendidis Vincit genus virtutibus.
Cœlo favente nexuit Vincli jugalis fœdera, Alvoque sancta condidit Sidus perenne virginum.
O mira cœli gratia! Annæ parentis in sinu Concepta virgo conterit Sævi draconis verticem.
Tanto salutis pignore Jam sperat humanum genus: Orbi redempto prævia Pacem columba nuntiat.
Sit laus Patri, sit Filio Tibique Sancte Spiritus. Annam pie colentibus Confer perennem gratiam. Amen.
Mother Church exults with the joy of this blessed day, and sings the praise of Anne, the beauty of Judea, the mother of Mary.
Uniting the blood of holy kings with that of pontiffs, the glory of her ancestry is far outstripped by Anne’s resplendent virtues.
Neath heaven’s smile she ties the nuptial bond; and in her holy tabernacle hides the unwaning star of virgins.
O wondrous grace of heaven! Scarce is the Virgin conceived in the womb of her mother when she there crushes the head of the cruel dragon.
With such a pledge of salvation mankind finds hope at length; the dove has come foretelling peace to the redeemed world.
Praise be to the Father, to the Son, and to Thee, O holy Spirit! To them that lovingly honour blessed Anne, grant everlasting grace. Amen,

We will conclude with these beautiful formulæ of praise and prayer to our Lord, from the Ambrosian Missal of Milan:

Preface

Æterne Deus, qui beatam Annam singulari tuæ gratiæ privilegio sublimasti. Cui desideratæ fœcunditatis munus magnificum, et excellens adeo contulisti; ut ex ipsa Virgo virginum, Maria, angelorum Domina, Regina mundi, maris stella, Mater Filii tui Dei et hominis nasceretur. Et ideo cum angelis.
It is right and just to give thanks to Thee, O eternal God, who by a singular privilege of Thy grace, hast exalted the blessed Anne. To whose desire of fruitfulness Thou didst give a gift so magnificent and so far surpassing all others, that from her was born Mary, the Virgin of virgins, the Lady of the angels, the Queen of the world, the star of the sea, the Mother of Thy Son, who is both God and Man. And, therefore, with the angels, etc.

Oratio Super Sindonem

Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, qui beatam Annam, diuturna sterilitate afflictam, gloriosæ prolis fœtu tua gratia fœcundasti; da, quæsumus: ut, pro nobis apud te intervenientibus ejus meritis, efificiamur sincera fide fœcundi, et salutiferis operibus fructuosi. Per Dominum.
O almighty everlasting God, who didst give to blessed Anne, after the affliction of a long barrenness, the grace to bear a glorious fruit; grant, we beseech thee, that, as her merits intercede with thee for us, we may be made rich in sincere faith and fruitful in works of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Protevangelium Jacobi.
[2] Ps. lxxxvi. 1.
[3] 795-816.
[4] Lib. pontif. in Leon. 111.
[5] Revelationes S. Birgittæ, lib. vi, cap. 104.
[6] Cf. Prov. xxxi. 10-31.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE East celebrates to-day one of her great martyrs, who was both a healer of bodies and a conqueror of souls. His name, which recalls the strength of the lion, was changed by heaven at the time of his death into Panteleemon, or all-merciful—a happy presage of the gracious blessings our Lord would afterwards bestow on the earth through his means. The various translations and the diffusion of his sacred relics in our West have made his cultus widespread, together with his renown as a friend in need, which has caused him to be ranked among the saints called helpers.

Pantaleon Nicomediensis, nobilis medicus ab Hermolao Presbytero in Jesu Christi fide eruditus, baptizatus est: qui mox patri Eustorgio persuasit ut Christianus fieret. Quare cum Nicomediæ postea Christi Domini fidem libere prædicaret, et ad ejus doctrinam omnes cohortaretur, Diocletiano imperatore equuleo tortus, et admotis ad ejus corpus laminis candentibus, cruciatus est: quam tormen torum vim æquo et forti animo ferens, ad extremum gladio percussus, martyrii coronam adeptus est.

 

Pantaleon was a nobleman of Nicomedia and a physician. He was instructed in the faith and baptized by the priest Hermolaus, and soon persuaded his father Eustorgius to become a Christian. Afterwards he freely preached the faith of our Lord Christ in Nicomedia, and encouraged all to embrace his doctrine. This was in the reign of Diocletian. He was tortured on the rack and red-hot plates were applied to his body. He bore the violence of these tortures calmly and bravely, and being finally beheaded, obtained the crown of martyrdom.

What is stronger than a lion, and what is sweeter than honey?[1] Greater than Samson, thou, O martyr, didst in thy own person propose and solve the riddle: Out of the strong came forth sweetness.[1] O lion, who didst follow so fearlessly the Lion of Juda, thou didst imitate His ineffable gentleness; and as He deserved to be called eternally the Lamb, so did He will His divine mercy to shine forth in the everlasting heavenly name, into which He changed thy earthly name. Justify that title more and more for the honour of Him who gave it to thee. Be merciful to those who call on thee: to the sufferers whom a weary consumption brings daily nearer to the tomb; to physicians, who, like thee, spend themselves in the care of their brethren; assist them in giving relief to physical suffering, in restoring corporal health; teach them still better to heal moral wounds, and lead souls to salvation.

 

[1] Judg. xiv. 18
[2] Judg. xiv. 14.

 

NAZARIUS and Celsus bring glory to the Church of Milan by appearing on the cycle to-day. After lying forgotten for three centuries in the obscure tomb that had received their precious remains in the time of Nero, they now receive the united homage of East and West. It was nine years since the triumphal day when Gervase and Protase, no less forgotten by the city once witness of their combat, had come to console and strengthen an illustrious bishop who was persecuted for his profession of the divine consubstantiality of the same Christ who had had all their love and faith. Ambrose, loved by the martyrs, though denied their palm, was soon to receive the white wreath of confession in reward for his holy works, when heaven revealed to him a new treasure, the discovery of which was again 'to illustrate the times of his episcopate.’[1] Theodosius was no more; Ambrose was about to die; the barbarians were at the gates. But as if simultaneous with the threat of imminent destruction to the ancient world, the hour for the first resurrection spoken of by St. John had sounded, the martyrs rose from their tombs to reign a thousand years with Christ on the renovated earth.

That great Babylon is fallen, is fallen, which made all nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.[2] The great Pope Innocent I, whose memory seems to have been purposely united with that of the martyrs, bears witness to the deluge, wherein, during his pontificate, pagan Rome at length perished utterly, and made way for the new Jerusalem come down from heaven. Like the ancient Sion, the Rome of the Cæsars would not yield to the offers of that God who alone could fulfil her desires of immortality. Ever since the triumph of the Cross under Constantine, no city of the empire had remained so obstinately given to the worship of idols, or shed so much of that noble blood which might have renewed her youth. And yet after the defeat of her vain idols God, in His patience, determined to wait a century longer, the last decade of which was a series of salutary threats and merciful interventions, the evident work of the Christ whom she still obstinately repulsed. The incursions of the Goths, allies one day, enemies the next, everywhere spreading anarchy, gave her an opportunity of returning to superstitions which the Christian emperors had not tolerated; and in her dotage she welcomed the Tuscan soothsayers who had come to help her against Alaric, and allowed them to re-establish the worship of idols. Terrible was her awakening when, on the morning of August 24, 410, the true God of armies took His revenge; and while the barbarians were engaged in wholesale massacre and pillage, lightning set fire to the town and destroyed the statues in which she had so long placed her confidence and her glory.

The avengers of God, destroying Babylon, spared the tombs of the two founders of the eternal Rome. On these apostolic foundations Innocent began to rebuild the Holy City. Soon on her seven hills, purified by fire, she rose again, more brilliant than ever, the destined centre of the world of mind. It was in the year 417, the last of Innocent’s pontificate, that St. Augustine, hearing that the Pelagian heresy was condemned, cried out: 'Letters have arrived from Rome; the dispute is at an end.' The Councils of Carthage and Milevis, which on this occasion had requested the confirmation of their decree by the Apostolic See, did in this but continue the uninterrupted tradition of the churches with regard to the supremacy of their mother and mistress. This fact is eloquently attested by the holy Pope Victor, who shares with the martyrs the honours of to-day. His great name calls to mind the Councils of the second century, held by his orders throughout the Church to treat of the celebration of Easter; the condemnation he pronounced, or intended to pronounce, against the churches of Asia, without anyone questioning his right to do so; lastly, the uncontroverted anathemas he hurled against Montanus and the precursors of Arius.

Let us read the notice of our four saints given in to-day's office:

Nazarius a beato Lino Papa baptizatus, cum in Galliam profectus esset, ibi Celsum puerum, a se christianis præceptis prius instructum, baptizavit: qui una Trevirim euntes, Neronis persecutione in mare uterque dejicitur, unde mirabiliter evaserunt. Postea Mediolanum venientes, cum ibi Christi fidem disseminarent, ab Anolino præfecto, constantissime Christum Deum confìtentes, capite plectuntur: quorum corpora extra portam Romanam sepulta sunt. Quæ cum diu latuissent, Dei monitu a beato Ambrosio conspersa recenti sanguine sunt inventa, tamquam si paulo ante martyrium passi essent: unde in urbem translata, honorifico sepulcro contecta sunt.

Victor in Africa natus, Severo imperatore rexit Ecclesiam. Confirmavit decretum Pii Primi, ut sacrum Pascha die Dominico celebraretur: qui ritus ut postea in mores induceretur, habita sunt multis in locis concilia: et in Nicæna denique prima Synodo sancitum est, ut Paschæ dies festus post quartamdecimam lunam ageretur, ne Christian! Judæos imitari viderentur. Statuit, ut quavis aqua, modo naturali, si necessitas cogeret, quicumque baptizari posset. Theodotum coriarium Byzantinum docentem Christum tantummodo hominem fuisse, ejecit ex Ecclesia. Scripsit de quæstione Paschæ, et alia quadam opuscula. Creavit duabus ordinationibus mense Decembri presbyteros quatuor, diaconos septem, episcopos per diversa loco duodecim. Martyrio coronatus, sepelitur in Vaticano, quinto calendas Augusti. Sedit annos novem, mensem unum, dies viginti octo.

Innocentius Albanensi9, sancti Hieronymi et Augustini ætate floruit: de quo ille ad Demetriadem virginem: Sancti Innocentii, qui Apostolicæ Cathedræ, et beata memoria Anastasii successor et filius est, teneas fidem, nec peregrinam, quamvis tibi prudens, callidaque videaris, doctrinam recipias. Eum tamquam justum Lot subtractum Dei providentia ad Ravennam servatum fuisse, scribit Orosius, ne Romani populi videret excidium. Is, Pelagio et Cœlestio damnatis, contra eorum hæresim decretum fecit, ut parvuli ex Christiana etiam muliere nati, per baptismum renasci deberent; ut in eis regeneratione mundetur, quod generatione contraxerunt. Probavit etiam, ut Sabbato ob memoriam Christi Domini sepulturæ jejunium servaretur. Sedit annos quindecim, mensem unum, dies dicem. Quatuor ordinationibus mense Decembri creavit presbyteros triginta, diaconos quindecim, episcopos per diversa loco quinquaginta quatuor: sepultus est in cœmeterio ad Ursum Pileatum.

 

Nazarius was baptized by the blessed Pope Linus. He went into Gaul, and there baptized a child named Gelsus whom he had instructed in the Christian doctrine. Together they went to Treves, and in Nero’s persecution were both thrown into the sea, but were saved by a miracle. They proceeded to Milan, where they spread the faith of Christ; and as they with great constancy confessed Christ to be God, the prefect, Anolinus, condemned them to death. Their bodies were buried outside the Roman gate, and for a long time remained unknown. But through a divine revelation they were found by St. Ambrose, sprinkled with fresh blood, as if they had but just suffered martyrdom. They were translated to the city and buried in an honourable tomb.

Victor, an African by birth, governed the Church in the time of the Emperor Severus. He confirmed the decree of Pius I, which ordered Easter to be celebrated on a Sunday. Later on, Councils were held in many places in order to bring this rule into practice, and finally the first Council of Nicea commanded that the feast of Easter should be always kept after the fourteenth day of the moon, lest the Christians should seem to imitate the Jews. Victor ordained that, in case of necessity, baptism could be given with any water, provided it was natural. He expelled from the Church the Byzantine, Theodosius the currier, who taught that Christ was only man. He wrote on the question of Easter, and some other small works. In two ordinations which he held in the month of December, he made four priests, seven deacons, and twelve bishops for different places. He was crowned with martyrdom, and buried on the Vatican on the fifth of the Calends of August, after haying sat nine years, one month, and twenty-eight days.

Innocent, by nation an Albanian, lived at the time of Saints Jerome and Augustine. Jerome, writing to the virgin Demetrias, says of him: 'Hold fast to the faith of holy Innocent, who is the son of Anastasius of blessed memory and his successor in the apostolic throne; receive no strange doctrine, however shrewd and prudent you may think yourself.’ Orosius writes that, like the just Lot, he was withdrawn by God’s providence from Rome, and preserved in safety at Ravenna, that he might not be a witness of the ruin of the Roman people. After the condemnation of Pelagius and Celestinus, he decreed, contrary to their heretical teaching, that children, even though born of a Christian mother, must be born again by water, in order that their second birth may cleanse away the stain they have contracted by the first. He also approved the observance of fasting on the Saturday in memory of the burial of Christ our Lord. He sat fifteen years, one month, and ten days. He held four ordinations in the month of December, and made thirty priests, fifteen deacons, and fifty-four bishops for divers places. He was buried in the cemetery called ad Ursum Pileatum.

Glorious saints, who, either by shedding your blood in the arena or by promulgating decrees from the apostolic Chair, have exalted the faith of the Lord, bless our prayers. Give us to understand the teaching conveyed by your meeting to-day on the sacred cycle. We, who are neither martyrs nor pontiffs, may, nevertheless, merit to share in your glory; for the motive which explains your union to-day must be for us, each in his degree, the cause of salvation: the apostle tells us that in Christ Jesus nothing availeth but faith that worketh by charity.[3] It is only by that faith for which you laboured or suffered that we wait for the hope of justice,[4] and expect the crown.

O Nazarius, who, leaving all things, didst carry the name of Christ to countries that knew him not; and thou Celsus, who, though a mere child, didst not fear to sacrifice, like him, for Jesus’ sake, thy family, thy country, and thy very life: obtain for us the right appreciation of the treasure of faith, which every Christian is called upon to show to advantage by the confession of good works and of praise. Victor, jealous guardian of that divine praise with regard to the solemnity of solemnities, and avenger of the Man-God in His divine nature; Innocent, infallible teacher concerning the grace of Christ, and witness, too, of His inexorable justice, teach us to unite confidence with fear, uprightness of belief with the susceptibility a Christian ought to have with regard to his faith, the only foundation of justice and love. Martyrs and pontiffs, may your united attraction draw us along the straight road which leads to heaven.


[1] Amb. Ep. xxii.
[2] Apoc. xiv. 8; xvii. 24.
[3] Gal. v. 6.
[4] Ibid. 5.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

MAGDALEN this time was the first to meet our Lord. Scarce a week had elapsed since her glorious passage, when she repaid her sister’s former kind office, and came in her turn saying: ‘The Beloved is here and calleth for thee.’ And Jesus preventing her, appeared Himself and said: ‘Come, my hostess; come from exile, thou shalt be crowned.’[1] Hostess of the Lord, then, is to be Martha's title of nobility in heaven, as it was her privileged name on earth.

Into whatever city or town you shall enter, said the ManGod to His disciples, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide.[2] Now St. Luke relates that as they went, our Lord Himself entered into a certain town, and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.[3] How could we give greater praise to Magdalen’s sister than by bringing together these two texts of the holy Gospel?

This certain town, where she was found worthy to give Jesus a lodging, this village, says St. Bernard,[4] is our lowly earth, hidden like an obscure borough in the immensity of our Lord’s possessions. The Son of God had come down from heaven to seek the lost sheep; He had come into the world He had made, and the world knew Him not; Israel, His own people, had not given Him so much as a stone whereon to lay His head, and had left Him in His thirst to beg water from the Samaritan. We, the Gentiles, whom He was thus seeking amid contradictions and fatigues, ought we not, like Him, to show our gratitude to her who, braving present unpopularity and future persecution, paid our debt to Him?

Glory, then, be to this daughter of Sion, of royal descent, who, faithful to the traditions of hospitality handed down from the patriarchs and early fathers, was blessed more than all of them in the exercise of this noble virtue! These ancestors of our faith, pilgrims themselves and without fixed habitation, knew more or less obscurely that the Desired of Israel and the Expectation of the nations was to appear as a wayfarer and a stranger on earth; and they honoured the future Saviour in the person of every stranger that presented himself at their tent door; just as we, their sons, in the faith of the same promises now accomplished, honour Christ in the guest whom His goodness sends us. This relation between Him that was to come and the pilgrim seeking shelter made hospitality the most honoured handmaid of divine charity. More than once did God show his approval by allowing angels to be entertained in human form. If such heavenly visitations were an honour of which our earth was not worthy, how much greater was Martha’s privilege in rendering hospitality to the Lord of angels! If before the coming of Christ it was a great thing to honour Him in those who prefigured Him, and if now to shelter and serve Him in His mystical members deserves an eternal reward, how much greater and more meritorious was it to receive in person that Jesus, the very thought of whom gives to virtue its greatness and its merit. Again, as the Baptist excelled all the other prophets by having pointed out as present the Messias whom they announced as future, so Martha, by having ministered to the person of the Word made Flesh, ranks above all others who have ever exercised the works of mercy.

While Magdalen, then, keeps her better part at our Lord’s feet, we must not think that Martha’s lot is to be despised. As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office,[5] so each of us has a different work to perform in Christ, according to the grace we have received, whether it be to prophesy or to minister. And the apostle, explaining this diversity of vocations, says: I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you, not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety, and according as God hath divided to every one the measure of faith.[6] How many losses in souls, how many shipwrecks even, might be prevented by discretion, the guardian of doctrine and the mother of virtues.

‘Whoever,’ says St. Gregory with his usual discernment, 'gives himself entirely to God, must take care not to pour himself out wholly in works, but must stretch forward also to the heights of contemplation. Nevertheless, it is here very important to notice that there is a great variety of spiritual temperaments. One who could give himself peacefully to the contemplation of God would be crushed by works and fall; another, who would be kept in a good life by the ordinary occupations of men, would be mortally wounded by the sword of a contemplation above his powers: either for want of love to prevent repose from becoming torpor, or for want of fear to guard him against the illusions of pride or of the senses. He who would be perfect must, therefore, first accustom himself on the plain to the practice of the virtues, in order to ascend more securely to the heights, leaving behind every impulse of the senses which can only distract the mind from its purpose, every image whose outline cannot adapt itself to the figureless light he desires to behold. Action first, then, contemplation last. The Gospel praises Mary, but does not blame Martha, because the merit of the active life is great, though that of contemplation is greater.’[7]

If we would penetrate more deeply into the mystery of the two sisters, let us notice that, though the preference is given to Mary, nevertheless it is not in her house nor in that of their brother Lazarus, but in Martha's house, that the Man-God takes up His abode with those He loves. Jesus, says St. John, loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus.[8] Lazarus, a figure of the penitents whom His all-powerful mercy daily calls from the death of sin to divine life; Mary, giving herself up even in this life to the occupation of the next; and Martha, who is here mentioned first as being the eldest, as first in order of time mystically, according to what St. Gregory says, and also as being the one upon whom the other two depend in that home of which she has the care.

Here we recognize a perfect type of the Church, wherein, with the devotedness of fraternal love, and under the eye of our heavenly Father, the active ministry takes the precedence, and holds the place of government over all who are drawn by grace to Jesus. We can understand the Son of God showing a preference for this blessed house; He was refreshed from the weariness of His journeys by the devoted hospitality He there received, but still more by the sight of so perfect an image of that Church for whose love He had come on earth.

Martha, then, understood by anticipation that he who holds the first place must be the servant, as the Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister; and as, later on, the vicar of Jesus, the prince of prelates in the holy Church, was to call himself the servant of the servants of God. But in serving Jesus, as she served also with Him and for Him her brother and her sister, who can doubt that she had the greatest share in these promises of the Man-God: He that ministers to Me shall follow Me, and where I am, there shall also My minister he, and My Father will honour him.

And that beautiful rule of ancient hospitality, which created a link like that of relationship between the host and a guest once received, could not have been passed over by our Emmanuel on this occasion, since the Evangelist says: As many as received Him, He gave them power to he made the sons of God.[9] And He Himself declares that whoever receives Him, receives also the Father who sent Him.

The peace promised to every house deemed worthy of receiving the apostolic messengers, that peace which cannot be without the spirit of adoption of sons, rested on Martha with surpassing fulness. The too human impetuosity she at first showed in her eager solicitude had given our Lord an opportunity of showing His divine jealousy for the perfection of a soul so devoted and so pure. The sacred nearness of the King of peace stripped her lively nature of the last remnants of restless anxiety; while her service grew even more active and was well pleasing to Him, her ardent faith in Christ, the Son of the living God, gave her the understanding of the one thing necessary, the better part which was one day to be hers. What a master of the spiritual life Jesus here showed Himself to be; what a model of discreet firmness, of patient sweetness, of heavenly wisdom in leading souls to the highest summits!

As He had counselled His disciples to remain in one house, the Man-God Himself, to the end of His earthly career, continually sought hospitality at Bethania; it was from thence He set out to redeem the world by His dolorous Passion; and when leaving this world, it was from Bethania that He ascended into heaven. Then did this dwelling, this paradise on earth, which had given shelter to God Himself, to His Virgin Mother, to the whole college of apostles, seem too lonely to its inmates. Holy Church will tell us presently how the Spirit of Pentecost, in loving-kindness to us Gentiles, led into Gaul this blessed family of our Lord’s friends.

On the banks of the Rhone, Martha was still the same: full of motherly compassion for every misery, spending herself in deeds of kindness. Always surrounded by the poor, says the ancient historian of the two sisters, she fed them with tender care, with food which heaven abundantly supplied to her charity, while she herself, the only one she forgot, was contented with herbs; and as in the glorious past she had served the Head of the Church in person, she now served Him in His members, and was full of lovingkindness to all. Meantime she delighted in practices of penance that would frighten us. Martyred thus a thousand times over, Martha with all the powers of her holy soul yearned for heaven. Her mind lost in God, she spent the whole nights absorbed in prayer. Ever prostrate, she adored Him reigning gloriously in heaven, whom she had seen without glory in her own house. Often, too, she would travel through towns and villages, announcing to the people Christ the Saviour.

Avignon and other cities of the province of Vienne were thus evangelized by her. She delivered Tarascon from the old serpent,who in the shape of a hideous monster, not content with tyrannizing over the souls of men, devoured even their bodies. It was here at Tarascon, in the midst of the community of virgins she had founded, that she heard our Lord inviting her to receive hospitality from Him in heaven, in return for that which she had given Him on earth. [10] Here she still rests, protecting her people of Provence, and receiving strangers in memory of Jesus. The peace of the blessed, which seems to breathe from her noble image, fills the heart of the pilgrim as he kisses her apostolic feet; and coming up from the holy crypt to continue his journey in this land of exile, he carries away with him, like a perfume of his fatherland, the remembrance of her simple, touching epitaph: sollicita non turbatur—ever zealous, she is no longer troubled.

Martha nobilibus et copiosis parentibus nata, sed Christi Domini hospitio clarior, post ejus ascensum in cœlum, cum fratre, sorore, et Marcella pedissequa, ac Maximino, uno ex Septuaginta duobus discipulis Christi Domini, qui totam illara domum baptizaverat, multisque aliis christianis, comprehensa a Judæis, in navem sine velo ac remigio imponitur, vastissimoque mari ad certum naufragium committitur: sed navis, Deo gubernante, salvis omnibus Massiliam appulsa est.

Eo miraculo, et horum prædicatione, primum Massilienses, mox Aquenses, ac finitimæ gentes in Christum crediderunt: Lazarusque Massiliensium, et Maximinus Aquensium episcopus creatur. Magdalena vero assueta orationi et pedibus Domini, ut optima parte contemplandæ cœlestis beatitudinis, quam elegerat, frueretur, in vastam altissimi montis speluncam se contulit: ubi triginta annos vixit, ab omni hominum consuetudine disjuncta, quotidieque per id tempus ad audiendas cœlestium laudes in altum ab angelis elata.

Martha autem, mirabili vitæ sanctitate et charitate, omnium Massiliensium animis in sui amorem et admirationem adductis, in locum a viris remotumcum aliquot honestissimis feminis se recepit: ubi summa cum laude pietatis et prudentiæ diu vixit: ac demum, morte sua multo ante prædicta, miraculis clara migravit ad Dominum, quarto kalendas Augusti. Cujus corpus apud Tarascum maguam habet venerationem.

Martha was born of noble and wealthy parents, but she is still more illustrious for the hospitality she gave to Christ our Lord. After His Ascension into heaven, she was seized by the Jews, together with her brother and sister, Marcella her handmaid, and Maximin, one of the seventytwo disciples of our Lord, who had baptized the whole family, and many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea, exposed to certain shipwreck. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles.

This miracle, together with their preaching, brought the people of Marseilles, of Aix, and of the neighbourhood to believe in Christ. Lazarus was made Bishop of Marseilles and Maximin of Aix. Magda len, who was accustomed to devote herself to prayer and to sit at our Lord’s feet, in order to enjoy the better part which she had chosen, that is, contemplation of the joys of heaven, retired into a deserted cave on a very high mountain. There she lived for thirty years, separated from all human intercourse; and every day she was carried to heaven by the angels to hear their songs of praise.

But Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew in the company of several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence. She foretold her death long before it occurred; and at length, famous for miracles, she passed to our Lord on the fourth of the Kalends of August. Her body which lies at Tarascon is held in great veneration.

Now that, together with Magdalen, thou hast entered for ever into possession of the better part, thy place in heaven, O Martha, is very beautiful. For they that have ministered well, says St. Paul, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.[11] The same service which the deacons, here alluded to by the apostle, performed for the Church, thou didst render to the Church’s Head and Spouse; thou didst rule well thine own house, which was a figure of that Church so dear to the Son of God. But God is not unjust, that He should forget your work and the love which you have shown in His name, you who have ministered and do minister to the saints.[12] And the Saint of saints Himself, who as thy guest was indebted to thee, gave us to understand something of thy greatness, when, speaking merely of a faithful servant set over the family to distribute food in due season, he cried out: Blessed is that servant whom when his Lord shall come, He shall find so doing. Amen I say to you, He shall place him over all His goods.[13] O Martha, the Church exults on this day, whereon our Lord found thee thus continuing to serve Him in the persons of those little ones in whom He bids us seek Him. The moment had come for Him to welcome thee eternally. Henceforth the Host, most faithful of all to the laws of hospitality, makes thee sit at His table in His own house, and, girding Himself, ministers to thee as thou didst minister to Him.

From the midst of thy peaceful rest, protect those who are now carrying on the interests of Christ on earth, in His mystical Body, which is the entire Church, and in His wearied and suffering members, the poor and the afflicted. Bless and multiply the works of holy hospitality; may the vast field of mercy and charity yield ever-increasing harvests. May the zeal displayed by so many generous souls lose nothing of its praiseworthy activity; and for this end, O sister of Magdalen, teach us all as our Lord taught thee, to place the one thing necessary above all else, and to value at its true worth the better part. After the word spoken to thee, for our sake as well as thine own, whosoever would disturb Magdalen at the feet of Jesus, or forbid her to sit there, would deserve to have his works frustrated by offended heaven.

Let us, in union with the Church, make a commemoration of Saints Simplicius and Faustinus, martyred in the persecution of Diocletian, together with their sister Viatrice, whose name was gracefully changed into Beatrice after she had gone to heaven. The sister had had time to bury her brothers; and after her own combat she was laid to rest beside them, by the last of the celebrated Lucina. The hour for the triumph of the Church had not yet arrived; nevertheless the tomb of this illustrious trio, in the very grove of the Dea Dia of the Arvales, proclaims the victory of Christ over the most ancient superstitions of Rome. The holy pontiff Felix, who shares the honours paid to this glorious company, suffered in the time of the Arians.

Prayer

Præsta, quæsumus Domine, ut sicut populus Christianus martyrum tuorum Felicis, Simplicii, Faustini, et Beatricis temporali solemnitate congaudet: ita perfruatur æterna; et quod votis celebrat, comprehendat effectu. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that as thy Christian people rejoice together in the temporal solemnity of thy martyrs, Felix, Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice, they may enjoy it in eternity, and may effectually attain to what they celebrate in desire. Through our Lord, etc.

[1] Raban. De vita B.M. Magd. et S. Marthæ, xlvii.
[2] St. Matt. x. 11.
[3] St. Luke x. 38.
[4] Bern. Sermo 2 in Aseump. Beatæ Mariæ Virginis.
[5] Rom. xii. 4.
[6] Rom. xii. 3.
[7] Moral. in Job v. 26, passim.
[8] St. John xi. 5.
[9] St. John i. 12.
[10] We are fully aware of the fact that certain writers have lately called in question the authenticity of this legend. But we are not deterred thereby from giving it here in all its simplicity. Until such time as holy Mother Church may think fit to decide on the matter, we, like the author, art unwilling to forestall her judgment.—(Tr.)
[11] 1 Tim. iii. 13.
[12] Heb. vi. 10.
[13] St. Matt. xxiv. 46, 47.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE decrees of eternal Wisdom ordained that the West should be honoured before the East with the glory of martyrdom. Yet when the hour had come, Jesus was to have, beyond the Tigris, millions of witnesses by no means inferior to their forerunners, astonishing heaven and earth by new forms of heroism. Impatient of the delay, two noble Persians won their palm on this day by the command of Rome. By shedding their blood they paid tribute for their native land to the eternal City; and now they protect our Latin Churches, and receive the prayers and praise of the West. France received a goodly portion of their sacred relics; and the city of Arles-sur-Tech, in Roussillon, can show to an incredulous generation the sarcophagus, from which flows a mysterious liquor, a symbol of the continual benefits bestowed on us by these holy martyrs.

Abdon et Sennen Persæ, Decio imperatore accusati, quod corpora Christianorum, quæ inhumata projiciebantur, in suo prædio sepelissent, jussu imperatoris comprehenduntur, et diis jubentur sacrificare. Quod cum facere negligerent, et Jesum Christum Deum constantissime prædicarent: traditos in arctam custodi am, Romam postea rediens Decius vinctos duxit in triumpho. Qui cum in urbe ad simulacra attracti essent, ea detestati conspuerunt. Quamobrem ursis ac leonibus objecti sunt: quos feræ non audebant attingere. Demum gladiis trucidati, colligatis pedibus tracti sunt ante solis simulacrum: quorum corpora clam inde asportata, Quirinus diaconus sepelivit in suis ædibus.

 

During the reign of Decius, two Persians, Abdon and Sennen, were accused of burying on their own estate the bodies of the Christians which had been exposed. By order of the Emperor they were apprehended and commanded to sacrifice to the gods. As they refused to obey, and moreover with the greatest constancy proclaimed Jesus Christ to be God they were placed in close confinement, and when later Decius returned to Rome they were led in chains in his triumphal march. They were dragged to the Roman idols, but to show their hatred of the demons, they spat upon them. Upon this they were exposed to the fury of lions and bears, but the beasts did not dare to touch them; at length they were put to death by the sword. Their bodies were dragged by the feet before the statue of the sun, but they were secretly carried away and buried by Quirinus the deacon in his own house.

Hearken to our earnest prayers, O blessed martyrs! May the faith at length triumph in that land of Persia whence so many flowers of martyrdom have been culled for heaven. Before the time appointed for the struggle to begin in your native land, ye went to meet death elsewhere, and thus ye gained a new fatherland whereon to bestow your love. Bless us, the fellow-citizens of your choice, and bring us all to the eternal fatherland of all the children of God.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ALTHOUGH the cycle of the time after Pentecost has shown us many times already the solicitude of the Holy Spirit for the defence of the Church, yet to-day the teaching shines forth with a new lustre. In the sixteenth century Satan made a formidable attack upon the Holy City, by means of a man who, like himself, had fallen from the height of heaven, a man prevented in early years by the choice graces which lead to perfection, yet unable in an evil day to resist the spirit of revolt. As Lucifer aimed at being equal to God, Luther set himself up against the Vicar of God, on the mountain of the covenant; and soon, falling from abyss to abyss, he drew after him the third part of the stars of the firmament of Holy Church. How terrible is that mysterious law whereby the fallen creature, be he man or angel, is allowed to keep the same ruling power for evil which he would otherwise have exercised for good. But the designs of eternal Wisdom are never frustrated: against the misused liberty of the angel or man is set up that other merciful law of substitution, by which St. Michæl was the first to benefit.

The development of Ignatius' vocation to holiness followed step by step the defection of Luther. In the spring of 1521 Luther had just quitted Worms, and was defying the world from the Castle of Wartburg, when Ignatius received at Pampeluna the wound which was the occasion of his leaving the world and retiring to Manresa.[1] Valiant as his noble ancestors, he felt within him from his earliest years the warlike ardour which they had shown on the battlefields of Spain. But the campaign against the Moors closed at the very time of his birth.[2] Were his chivalrous instincts to be satisfied with petty political quarrels? The only true King worthy of his great soul revealed Himself to him in the trial which put a stop to his worldly projects: a new warfare was opened out to his ambition; another crusade was begun; and in the year 1522, from the mountains of Catalonia to those of Thuringia, was developed that divine strategy of which the angels alone knew the secret.

In this wonderful campaign it seemed that hell was allowed to take the initiative, while heaven was content to look on, only taking care to make grace abound the more where iniquity strove to abound. As in the previous year Ignatius received his first call three weeks after Luther had completed his rebellion, so in this year, at three weeks' distance, the rival camps of hell and heaven each chose and equipped its leader. Ten months of diabolical manifestations prepared Satan's lieutenant, in the place of his forced retreat, which he called his Patmos; and on March 5 the deserter of the altar and of the cloister left Wartburg.

On the 25th of the same month, the glorious night of the Incarnation, the brilliant soldier in the armies of the Catholic kingdom, the descendant of the families of Ognes and Loyola, clad in sackcloth, the uniform of poverty, to indicate his new projects, watched his arms in prayer at Montserrat; then hanging up his trusty sword at Mary's altar, he went forth to make trial of his future combats by a merciless war against himself.

In opposition to the already proudly floating standard of the free-thinkers, he displayed upon his own this simple device: To the greater glory of God! At Paris, where Calvin was secretly recruiting the future Huguenots, Ignatius, in the name of the God of armies, organized his vanguard, which he destined to cover the march of the Christian army, to lead the way, to bear the brunt, to deal the first blows. On August 15, 1534, five months after the rupture of England from the Holy See, these first soldiers sealed at Montmartre the definitive engagement which they were afterwards solemnly to renew at St. Paul's outside the walls. For Rome was to be the rallying place of the little troop which was soon to increase so wonderfully, and which was, by its special profession, to be ever in readiness, at the least sign from the Head of the Church, to exercise its zeal in whatever part of the world he should think fit, in the defence or propagation of the faith, or for the progress of souls in doctrine and Christian life.[3]

An illustrious speaker of our own day[4] has said: ‘What strikes us at once in the history of the Society of Jesus is that it was matured at its very first formation. Whosoever knows the first founders of the Company knows the whole Company, in its spirit, its aim, its enterprises, its proceedings, its methods. What a generation was that which gave it birth! What union of science and activity, of interior life and military life! One may say they were universal men, men of a giant race, compared with whom we are but insects: de genere giganteo, quibus comparati quasi locustœ videbamur.’[5]

All the more touching, then, was the charming simplicity of those first Fathers of the Society, making their way to Rome on foot, fasting and weary, but their hearts overflowing with joy, singing with a low voice the Psalms of David.[6] When it became necessary, on account of the urgency of the times, for the new institute to abandon the great traditions of public prayer, it was a sacrifice to several of these souls; Mary could not give way to Martha without a struggle; for so many centuries the solemn celebration of the Divine Office had been the indispensable duty of every religious family, its primary social debt, and the principal nourishment of the individual holiness of its members.

But new times had come, times of decadence and ruin, calling for an exception as extraordinary as it was grievous to the brave company that was risking its existence amid ceaseless alarms and continual sallies upon hostile territory. Ignatius understood this; and to the special aim imposed upon him, he sacrificed his personal attraction for the sacred chants; nevertheless, to the end of his life, the least note of the psalmody falling on his ears drew tears of ecstasy from his eyes.[7]

After his death, the Church, which had never known any interest to outbalance the splendour of worship due to her Spouse, wished to return from a derogation which so deeply wounded the dearest instincts of her bridal heart; Paul IV revoked it absolutely, but St. Pius V, after combating it for a long time, was at last obliged to give in. In the latter ages so full of snares, the time had come for the Church to organize special armies. But while it became more and more impossible to expect from these worthy troops, continually taken up with outside combats, the habits of those who dwelt in security, protected by the ancient towers of the Holy City, at the same time Ignatius repudiated the strange misconception which would try to reform the Christian people according to this enforced but abnormal manner of life. The third of the eighteen rules which he gives as the crowning of the Spiritual Exercises, to have in us the true sentiments of the orthodox Church, recommends to the faithful the chants of the Church, the Psalms, and the different Canonical Hours at their appointed times. And at the beginning of this book, which is the treasure of the Society of Jesus, where he mentions the conditions for drawing the greatest fruit from the Exercises, he ordains in his twentieth annotation that he who can do so should choose for the time of his retreat a dwelling from whence he can easily go to Matins and Vespers as well as to the holy Sacrifice. What was our saint here doing, but advising that the Exercises should be practised in that same spirit in which they were composed in that blessed retreat of Manresa, where the daily attendance at solemn Mass and the evening offices had been to him the source of heavenly delights?

But it is time to listen to the Church's account of the life of this great servant of God:

Ignatius natione Hispanus, nobili genere, Loyolæ in Cantabria natus, primo catholici regis aulam deinde militiam secutus est. In propugnatione Pampelonensi accepto vulnere graviter decumbens, ex fortuita piorum librorum lectione, ad Christi sanctorumque sectanda vestigia mirabiliter exarsit. Ad montem Serratum profectus, ante aram beatæ Virginis suspensis armis, noctem excubans, sacræ militiæ tyrocinium posuit. Inde, ut erat indutus sacco, traditis antea mendico pretiosis vestibus, Manresam secessit: ubi emendicato pane et aqua victitans, exceptisque diebus Dominicis jejunans, aspera catena cilicioque carnem domans, humi cubans, et ferreis se flagellis cruentans, per annum commoratus est: Claris adeo iilustrationibus a Deo recreatus, ut postea dicere solitus sit: Si sacræ litteræ non exstarent, se tamen pro fide mori paratum ex iis solum, quæ sibi Manresæ patefecerat Dominus. Quo tempore homo litterarum piane rudis admirabilem illum composuit Exercitiorum librum, sedis apostolicæ judicio etomnium utilitate comprobatum.

Ut vero se ad animarum lucra rite formaret, subsidium litterarum, a grammatica inter pueros exorsus, adhibere statuit. Cumque nihil interim omitteret de studio alienæ salutis, mirum est, quas ubique locorum ærumnas ac ludibria devoraverit, asperrima quæque, et vincula et verbera pene ad mortem usque perpessus: quibus tamen longe plura pro Domini sui gloria semper expetebat. LutetiæParisiorum adjunctis sibi ex illa academia variarum nationum sociis novem, qui omnes artium magisteriis et theologiæ gradibus insignes erant, ibidem in monte Martyrum prima ordinis fundamenta jecit: quem postea Romæ instituens, ad tria consueta quarto addito de missionibus voto, sedi apostolicæ arctius adstrinxit: et Paulus tertius primo recepit confirmavitque: mox alii pontifices ac Tridentina synodus probavere. Ipse autem, misso ad prædicandum Indis Evangelium sancto Francisco Xaverio, aliisque in alias mundi plagas ad religionem propagandam disseminatis, ethnicæ superstitioni hæresique bellum indixit, eo successu continuatum, ut constans fuerit omnium sensus, etiam pontificio confirmatus oraculo, Deum sicut alios aliis temporibus sanctos viros, itaLuthero, ejusdemque temporis hæreticis, Ignatium et institutam ab eo Societatem objecisse.

Sed in primis inter catholicos instaurare pietatem curæ fuit. Templorum nitor, cathechismi traditio, concionum ac sacramentorum frequentia ab ipso incrementum accepere. Ipse apertis ubique locorum ad juventutem erudiendam in litteris ac pietate gymnasiis, erectis Romæ Germanorum collegio, male nuptarum et periclitantium puellarum cœnobiis, utriusque sexus tam orphanorum quam catechumenorum domibus, aliisque pietatis operibus, indefessus lucrandis Deo animis instabat; auditus aliquando dicere, Si optio daretur, malle se beatitudinis incertum vivere, et interim Deo inservire, et proximorum saluti, quam certum ejusdem gloriæ statim mori. In dæmones mirum exercuit imperium. Vultum ejus cœlesti luce radiantem sanctus Philippus Nerius aliique conspexere. Denique ætatis anno sexagesimo quinto ad Domini sui amplexum, cujus majorem gloriam in ore semper habuerat, semper in omnibus quæsierat, emigravit. Quem Gregorius decimus quintus, magnis in Ecclesiam meritis e miraculis illustrem, sanctorum fastis adscripsit, et Pius undecimus, sacrorum antistitum votis obsecundans, omnium Exercitiorum Spiritualium Patronum cœlestem constituit et declaravit.
Ignatius, by nation a Spaniard, was born of a noble family at Loyola, in Cantabria. At first he attended the court of the Catholic king, and later on embraced a military career. Having been wounded at the siege of Pampeluna, he chanced in his illness to read some pious books, which kindled in his soul a wonderful eagerness to follow in the footsteps of Christ and the saints. He went to Montserrat, and hung up his arms before the altar of the Blessed Virgin; he then watched the whole night in prayer, and thus entered upon his knighthood in the army of Christ. Next he retired to Manresa, dressed as he was in sackcloth, for he had a short time before given his costly garments to a beggar. Here he stayed for a year, and during that time he lived on bread and water, given to him in alms; he fasted every day except Sunday, subdued his flesh with a sharp chain and a hair-shirt, slept on the ground, and scourged himself with iron disciplines. God favoured and refreshed him with such wonderful spiritual lights, that afterwards he was wont to say that even if the sacred Scriptures did not exist, he would be ready to die for the faith, on account of those revelations alone which the Lord had made to him at Manresa. It was at this time that he, a man without education, composed that admirable book of the Exercises, which has been approved by the judgment of the Apostolic See, and by the benefit reaped from it by all.

However, in order to make himself more fit for gaining souls, he determined to procure the advantages of education, and began by studying grammar among children. Meanwhile he relaxed nothing of his zeal for the salvation of others, and it is marvellous what sufferings and insults he patiently endured in every place, undergoing the hardest trials, even imprisonment and stripes almost unto death. But he ever desired to suffer far more for the glory of his Lord. At Paris he was joined by nine companions from that University, men of different nations, who had taken their degrees in Arts and Theology; and there at Montmartre he laid the first foundations of the order, which he was later on to institute at Rome. He added to the three usual vows a fourth concerning missions, thus binding it closely to the Apostolic See. Paul III first welcomed and approved the Society, as did later other Pontiffs and the Council of Trent. Ignatius sent St. Francis Xavier to preach the Gospel in the Indies, and dispersed others of his children to spread the Christian faith in other parts of the world, thus declaring war against paganism, superstition, and heresy. This war he carried on with such success that it has always been the universal opinion, confirmed by the word of pontiffs, that God raised up Ignatius and the Society founded by him to oppose Luther and the heretics of his time, as formerly he had raised up other holy men to oppose other heretics.

He made the restoration of piety among Catholics his first care. He increased the beauty of the sacred buildings, the giving of catechetical instructions, the frequentation of sermons and of the sacraments. He everywhere opened schools for the education of youth in piety and letters. He founded at Rome the German College, refuges for women of evil life, and for young girls who were in danger, houses for orphans and catechumens of both sexes, and many other pious works. He devoted himself unweariedly to gaining souls to God. Once he was heard saying that if he were given his choice he would rather live uncertain of attaining the Beatific Vision, and in the meanwhile devote himself to the service of God and the salvation of his neighbour, than die at once certain of eternal glory. His power over the demons was wonderful. St. Philip Neri and others saw his countenance shining with heavenly light. At length in the sixty-fifth year of his age he passed to the embrace of his Lord, whose greater glory he had ever preached and ever sought in all things. He was celebrated for miracles and for his great services to the Church, and Gregory XV enrolled him amongst the saints; while Pius XI, in response to the prayers of the episcopate, declared him heavenly patron of all Spiritual Exercises.

This is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith.[8] And thou didst prove this truth once more to the world, O thou great conqueror of the age in which the Son of God chose thee to raise up again His ensign that had been humbled before the standard of Babel. Against the ever-increasing battalions of the rebels thou didst long stand almost alone, leaving it to the God of armies to choose His own moment for engaging thee against Satan’s troops, as He chose His own for withdrawing thee from human warfare. If the world had then been told of thy designs, it would have laughed them to scorn; yet now, no one can deny that it was a decisive moment in the history of the world when, with as much confidence as the most illustrious general concentrating his forces, thou gavest the word to thy nine companions to proceed three and three to the Holy City. What great results were obtained in the fifteen years during which this little troop, recruited by the Holy Ghost, had thee for its first General! Heresy was trampled out of Italy, confounded at Trent, checked everywhere, paralyzed in its very centre; immense conquests were made in new worlds, as a compensation for the losses suffered in our West; Sion herself, renewing the beauty of her youth, saw her people and her pastors raised up again, and her sons receiving an education befitting their heavenly destiny; in a word, all along the line, where he had rashly cried victory, Satan was now howling, overcome once more by the name of Jesus, which makes every knee to bow, in heaven, on earth, and in hell! Hadst thou ever, O Ignatius, gained such glory as this in the armies of earthly kings?

From the throne thou hast won by so many valiant deeds, watch over the fruits of thy works, and prove thyself always God’s soldier. In the midst of the contradictions which are never wanting to them, uphold thy sons in their position of honour and prowess which makes them the vanguard of the Church. May they be faithful to the spirit of their glorious Father; 'having unceasingly before their eyes: first, God; next, as the way leading to Him, the form of their institute, consecrating all their powers to attain this end marked out for them by God; yet each following the measure of grace he has received from the Holy Ghost, and the particular degree of his vocation.’[9] Lastly, O head of such a noble lineage, extend thy love to all religious families, whose lot in these times of persecution is so closely allied with that of thine own sons; bless, especially, the monastic order whose ancient branches overshadowed thy first steps in the perfect life, and the birth of that illustrious Society which will be thy everlasting crown in heaven. Have pity on France, on Paris, whose University furnished thee with foundations for the strong, unshaken building raised by thee to the glory of the Most High. May every Christian learn of thee to fight for the Lord, and never to betray his standard; may all men, under thy guidance, return to God, their beginning and their end.


[1] The Diet of Worms which condemned Luther was held in April, and on May 20 St. Ignatius received the wound which led to his conversion.,
[2] 1491.
[3] Litt Pauli III Regimini militantis Ecclesiæ; Julii III. Exposcit debitum, etc.
[4] Cardinal Pie, Homily delivered on the feast of the beatification of B. Peter Faber.
[5] Num. xiii. 34.
[6] P. Ribadeneira, Vita Ignatii Loiolæ, lib. ii, cap. vii.
[7] J. Rhous, la variis virtutum historiis, lib. iii., cap. ii.
[8] St. John v. 4.
[9] Litt. Apos. primæ Instituti approbatiois, Pauli III, Regimini militantis.

 

 

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