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August

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘IT is a great thing for a saint to have as much grace as would suffice for many; but if he had sufficient for all men in the world, that would be fulness of measure: and this is the case with Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin.’[1] So speaks the prince of theologians with regard to her whom Suarez salutes as the 'universal cause, intimately united to the Lord her Son.'[2]

A higher authority than that of the School has confirmed this teaching of the Angelic Doctor; in his encyclical Magnœ Dei Matris, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII has deigned to make his own the words we have just quoted; and he adds: 'When, therefore, we hail Mary as full of grace, we awaken the recollection of her sublime dignity and of the redemption of the human race, wrought by God through her intermediary; moreover we call to mind the divine and eternal relationship whereby she is associated to Christ in His joys and His sorrows, His humiliations and His triumphs, in ruling and aiding men with a view to their eternal welfare.’[3]

St. Bernardine of Siena compares our Lady to the fountain mentioned in Genesis, which sprang from the earth and watered its whole surface.[4] And as it is well to know the different expressions of the different schools, we may add that the illustrious representative of the Seraphic Order recognizes in Mary what he calls ‘a sort of jurisdiction or authority over every temporal procession of the Holy Ghost,’[5] because, he continues, ‘she is the Mother of Him from whom the Holy Ghost proceeds; and therefore all the gifts, graces, and virtues of this Holy Spirit are administered by her hands, distributed to whom she wills, when she wills, and as she wills, and as much as she wills.’[6]

We must not, however, conclude from these words that the Blessed Virgin has a right, properly so called, over the Holy Ghost or His gifts. Nor may we ever consider our Lady to be in any way a principle of the Holy Ghost, any more than she is of the Word Himself as God. The Mother of God is great enough not to need any exaggeration of her titles. All that she has, she has, it is true, from her Son by whom she is the first redeemed. But in the historical order of the accomplishment of our salvation, the divine predilection, whereby she was chosen to be Mother of the Saviour, made her to be ' the source of the source of life,' according to the expression of St. Peter Damian.[7] Moreover, being Bride as perfectly as she was Mother, and united, in the fulness of all her powers of nature and of grace to all the prayers, to all the sufferings, to the whole oblation of the Son of Man, as His truly universal co-operatrix in the time of His sorrow: what wonder that she should in the days of His glory have a Bride's full share in the dispensation of the goods acquired in common, though differently, by the new Adam and the new Eve? Even if Jesus were not bound in justice to give it her, who would expect such a Son to act otherwise?

Bossuet, who cannot be suspected of being carried away, and whom we therefore quote by preference, did not consider his necessary controversies with heresy an excuse for not following the doctrine of the saints. ‘God,’ says he, ‘having once willed to give us Jesus Christ by the holy Virgin, the gifts of God are without repentance, and this order remains unchanged. It is and ever will be true, that having received by her charity the universal principle of grace, we also receive through her mediation its various applications in all the different states whereof the Christian life is made up. Her maternal love having contributed so much to our salvation in the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the universal principle of grace, she will eternally contribute to it in all the other operations, which are but dependent on the first.

Theology recognizes three principal operations of the grace of Jesus Christ: God calls us, justifies us, gives us perseverance. Vocation is the first step; justification is our progress; perseverance ends the voyage, and gives us in our true country glory and rest, which are not to be found on earth. Mary’s charity takes part in these three works. Mary is the Mother of the called, of the justified, and of the persevering; her fruitful charity is an universal instrument of the operations of grace.’[8]

This noble language is an authentic testimony to the tradition of the holy Church of Gaul, which by its Irenæus, its Bernard, its Anselm, and so many others, made France the kingdom of Mary. May the present teachers put to profit what they have inherited from their great predecessors, and continue to sound the inexhaustible depths of mystery in Mary; so that one day they may deserve to hear from her lips that word of Eternal Wisdom: They that explain me shall have life everlasting.[9]

We borrow from the ancient processional of our English St. Edith the beautiful Responsory Quœ est ista; after which we will give a series of other graceful Responsories written in metre, which are to be found in the Antiphoner of Sens, 1552.

Responsories

℟. Quæ est ista quæ penetravit cœlos? ad cujus transitum Salvator advenit, et induxit eam in thalamo regni sui, ubi cantantur organa hymnorum;
* Quæ ab angelis ad laudem Regis æterni sine fine resonant semper.

℣. O Virgo ineffabiliter veneranda, cui Michæl Archangelus, et omnis militia angelorum deferunt honorem, quam vident exaltatam super cœlos cœlorum.
* Quæ ab angelis.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
* Qua ab angelis.
℟. Sanctas primitias offert Genitus Genitori: * Florem virgineum niveo candore decorum.

℣. Non calor hunc coxit, nec frigus noctis adussit. * Florem.
℟. Regni cœlestis, per fructum virginitatis, * Damna reformantur vetitum contracta per esum.

℣. Restitui numerum gaudet sacer ordo minutum. * Damna.
℟. Virginitas cœlum post lapsum prima recepit: * Sed prius in Genito, post in Genitrice beata.

℣. Cœlicus ordo sacram reveretur virginitatem. * Sed prius.
℟. Porta Sion clausi portam penetrat paradisi: * Prima parens toti quam secum clauserat orbi.

℣. Intactæ matri reseratur janua cœli. * Prima.
℟. Unam quam petiit Virgo benedicta recepit: * Ut facie Domini sine tempore perfrueretur.

℣. Divinum munus votum prævenit et auxit. * Ut facie.
℟. Quindenis gradibus dum scandit ad atria vitæ: * Angelicum meruit Virgo transcendere culmen.

℣. Post Genitum Genitrix meruit præcellere cunctis. * Angelicum.
℟. Ecclesiæ Sponsum Virgo genuit speciosum: * Qui Deus est et homo persona junctus in una.

℣. Sic secum Matrem cœlesti sede locavit. * Qui Deus.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. * Qui Deus.
℟. Who is this that hath penetrated the heavens? At whose passage the Saviour came to meet her, and introduced her into His royal chamber, where music and hymns resound:
* Which the angels sing unceasingly, for ever praising the Eternal King.

℣. O Virgin unspeakably venerable, to whom Michæl the Archangel and all the angelic hosts pay honour, whom they behold exalted above the heaven of heavens.
* Which the angels.

Glory be to the Father, etc.
* Which the angels.
℟. Holy firstfruits does the Son offer to His Father. * The virginal flower lovely in its snowy whiteness.

℣. No heat has scorched it, nor night-cold withered it. * The virginal flower.
℟. Through the fruit of virginity of the heavenly kingdom, * The loss incurred by eating the forbidden fruit is repaired.

℣. The sacred hierarchy rejoices that its diminished number is restored. * The loss incurred.
℟. After the fall virginity is the first to recover heaven: * First of all in the Son, then in his Blessed Mother.

℣. The heavenly ranks revere holy virginity. * First of all.
℟. The gate of Sion enters the gate of closed Paradise. * Which our first mother had closed to herself and the whole world.

℣. To the spotless Mother the gate of heaven is opened. * Which our first.
℟. The Blessed Virgin received the one thing she requested. * To enjoy the face of the Lord for all eternity.

℣. The divine bounty both prevented and surpassed her desire. * To enjoy.
℟. While she mounts the fifteen steps to the palace of life, * The Virgin deserved to rise above the angelic heights.

℣. Next to her Son the Mother merited to surpass all others. * The Virgin.
℟. The Virgin brought forth the beautiful Spouse of the Church. * Who is both God and man united in one Person.

℣. Thus he placed His Mother with Him on His heavenly throne. * Who is.

Glory be to the Father, etc. * Who is.

The following Hymn was composed by St. Peter Damian:

Hymn

Aurora velut fulgida,
Ad cœli meat culmina,
Ut sol Maria splendida,
Tamquam luna pulcherrima.

Regina mundi hodie
Thronum conscendit gloriæ,
Illum enixa filium
Qui est ante luciferum.

Assumpta super angelos,
Excedit et archangelos;
Cuncta sanctorum merita
Transcendit una femina.

Quem foverat in gremio,
Locarat in præsepio:
Nunc Regem super omnia
Patris videt in gloria.

Pro nobis, Virgo virginum,
Tuum deposce Filium:
Per quam nostra susceperat
Ut sua nobis præbeat.

Sit tibi laus, Altissime,
Qui natus es ex Virgine:
Sit honor ineffabili
Patri, sanctoque Flamini.

Amen.
As a brilliant aurora
Mary rises to the heights of heaven,
glittering as the sun,
most beautiful like the moon.

To-day the Queen of the world
ascends to her throne of glory,
the Mother of that Son
who was begotten before the day-star.

She is raised above the angels
and passes beyond the archangels;
this one woman surpasses
all the merits of the saints.

Him, whom she had cherished in her bosom,
she placed in a manger;
now she beholds Him King
over all in the glory of His Father.

O Virgin of virgins,
implore for us thy Son:
by thee He received of ours,
through thee may He give us of His own.

To Thee, O Most High, be praise,
who wast born of the Virgin:
be honour to Thy ineffable
Father and to the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

[1] Thom. Aq. Opusc. in Salutat. Angelicam.
[2] Suarez in IIIam P., qu. xxxvii, art. 4. Disputat. xxi, sect. 3.
[3] Encyclical of September 8, 1892.
[4] Bernardin. Sen. Pro festiv. V.M. Sermo vi de annuntiatione, art. i, c. 2.
[5] Ibid. Sermo v. de Nativit. B.M., cap. 8.
[6] Bernardin Sen. etc.
[7] Petr. Dam. Homilia in Nativ. B.V.
[8] Bossuet, Sermon sur la dévotion à la Ste. Vierge, pour la fete de la Conception 9 Dec., 1669.
[9] Eccli. xxiv. 31.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE valley of wormwood has lost its bitterness; having become Clairvaux, or the bright valley, its light shines over the world; from every point of the horizon vigilant bees are attracted to it by the honey from the rock which abounds in its solitude. Mary turns her glance upon its wild hills, and with her smile sheds light and grace upon them. Listen to the harmonious voice arising from the desert; it is the voice of Bernard, her chosen one. 'Learn, O man, the counsel of God; admire the intentions of Wisdom, the design of love. Before bedewing the whole earth, he saturated the fleece; being to redeem the human race, he heaped up in Mary the entire ransom. O Adam, say no more: “The woman whom Thou gavest me offered me the forbidden fruit;" say rather: “The woman whom Thou gavest me has fed me with a fruit of blessing.”With what ardour ought we to honour Mary, in whom was set all the fulness of good! If we have any hope, any saving grace, know that it overflows from her who to-day rises replete with love: she is a garden of delights, over which the divine South Wind does not merely pass with a light breath, but sweeping down from the heights, He stirs it unceasingly with a heavenly breeze, so that it may shed abroad its perfumes, which are the gifts of various graces. Take away the material sun from the world: what would become of our day? Take away Mary, the star of the vast sea: what would remain but obscurity over all, a night of death and icy darkness? Therefore, with every fibre of our heart, with all the love of our soul, with all the eagerness of our aspirations, let us venerate Mary; it is the will of Him who wished us to have all things through her.'[1]

Thus spoke the monk who had acquired his eloquence, as he tells us himself, among the beeches and oaks of the forest,[2]and he poured into the wounds of mankind the wine and oil of the Scriptures. In 1113, at the age of twenty-two, Bernard arrived at Citeaux, in the beauty of his youth, already ripe for great combats. Fifteen years before, on March 21, 1098, Robert of Molesmes had created this new desert between Dijon and Beaune. Issuing from the past, on the very feast of the patriarch of monks, the new foundation claimed to be nothing more than the literal observance of the precious Rule given by him to the world. The weakness of the age, however, refused to recognize the fearful austerity of these newcomers into the great family, as inspired by that holy code, wherein discretion reigns supreme;[3] for this discretion is the characteristic of the school accessible to all, where Benedict 'hoped to ordain nothing rigorous or burthensome in the service of God.’[4] Under the government of Stephen Harding, the next after Alberic, successor of Robert, the little community from Molesmes was becoming extinct, without human hope of recovery, when the descendant of the lords of Fontaines arrived with thirty companions, who were his first conquest, and brought new life where death was imminent.

'Rejoice, thou barren one that bearest not, for many will be the children of the barren.' La Ferté was founded that same year in Chalonnais; next Pontigny, near Auxerre; and in 1115 Clairvaux and Morimond were established in the diocese of Langres; while these four glorious branches of Citeaux were soon, together with their parent stock, to put forth numerous shoots. In 1119 the Charter of charity confirmed the existence of the Cistercian Order in the Church. Thus the tree, planted six centuries earlier on the summit of Monte Cassino, proved once more to the world that in all ages it is capable of producing new branches, which, though distinct from the trunk, live by its sap, and are a glory to the entire tree.

During the months of his novitiate Bernard so subdued nature that the interior man alone lived in him; the senses of his own body were to him as strangers. By an excess, for which he had afterwards to reproach himself, he carried his rigour, though meant for a desirable end, so far as to ruin the body, that indispensable help to every man in the service of his brethren and of God. Blessed fault, which heaven took upon itself to excuse so magnificently. A miracle (a thing which no one has a right to expect) was needed to uphold him henceforth in the accomplishment of his destined mission.

Bernard was as ardent in the service of God as others are for the gratification of their passions. 'You would learn of me,’ he says in one of his earliest works, 'why and how we must love God. And I answer you: The reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of loving Him is to love Him without measure.'[5] What delights He enjoyed at Citeaux in the secret of the face of the Lord! When, after two years, he left this blessed abode to found Clairvaux, it was like coming out of paradise. More fit to converse with angels than with men, he began, says his historian, by being a trial to those whom he had to guide: so heavenly was his language, such perfection did he require surpassing the strength of even the strong ones of Israel, such sorrowful astonishment did he show on the discovery of infirmities common to all flesh.[6]

But the Holy Spirit was watching over the vessel of election called to bear the name of the Lord before kings and people; the divine charity which consumed his soul taught him that love has two inseparable, though sadly different, objects: God, whose goodness makes us love Him; and man, whose misery exercises our charity. According to the ingenious remark of William de Saint-Thierry, his disciple and friend, Bernard re-learnt the art of living among men.[7] He imbued himself with the admirable recommendations given by the legislator of monks to him who is chosen Abbot over his brethren: "When he giveth correction, let him act prudently, and push nothing to extremes, lest whilst eager of extreme scouring off the rust, the vase be broken. . . . When he enjoineth work to be done, let him use discernment and moderation, and think of holy Jacob's discretion, who said: “If I cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all die in one day." Taking, therefore, these and other documents regarding that mother of virtue, discretion—let him so temper all things as that the strong may have what to desire and the weak nothing to deter them.'[8]

Having received what the Psalmist calls 'understanding concerning the needy and the poor,' Bernard felt his heart overflowing with the tenderness of God for those purchased by the divine Blood. He no longer terrified the humble. Beside the little ones who came to him attracted by the grace of his speech might be seen the wise, the powerful, and the rich ones of the world, abandoning their vanities, and becoming themselves little and poor in the school of one who knew how to guide them all from the first elements of love to its very summits. In the midst of seven hundred monks receiving daily from him the doctrine of salvation, the Abbot of Clairvaux could cry out with the noble pride of the saints: ‘ He that is mighty has done great things in us, and with good reason our soul magnifies the Lord. Behold we have left all things to follow Thee: it is a great resolution, the glory of the great apostles; yet we, too, by His great grace have taken it magnificently. Perhaps, even if I wish to glory therein, I shall not be foolish, for I will say the truth: there are some here who have left more than a boat and fishing-nets.'[9]

‘What more wonderful,' he said on another occasion,‘than to see one who formerly could scarce abstain two days from sin preserve himself from it for years, and even for his whole life? What greater miracle than that so many young men, boys, noble personages—all those, in a word, whom I see here—should be held captive without bonds in an open prison by the sole fear of God, and should persevere in penitential macerations beyond human strength, above nature, contrary to habit? What marvels we should discover, as you well knew, were we allowed to seek out the details of each one's exodus from Egypt, of his passage through the desert, his entrance into the monastery, and his life within its walls.'[10]

But there were other marvels not to be hidden within the secret of the cloister. The voice that had peopled the desert was bidden to echo through the world; and the noises of discord and error, of schism and the passions, were hushed before it; at its word the whole West was precipitated as one man upon the infidel East. Bernard had now become the avenger of the sanctuary, the umpire of kings, the confidant of sovereign Pontiffs, the thaumaturgus applauded by enthusiastic crowds; yet, at the very height of what the world calls glory, his one thought was the loved solitude he had been forced to quit. 'It is high time,' he said, ' that I should think of myself. Have pity on my agonized conscience: what an abnormal life is mine! I am the chimera of my time; neither clerk nor layman, I have the habit of a monk and none of the observances. In the perils which surround me, at the brink of precipices yawning before me, help me with your advice, pray for me.'[11]

While absent from Clairvaux he wrote to his monks: ‘My soul is sorrowful and cannot be comforted till I see you again. Alas! Must my exile here below, so long protracted, be rendered still more grievous? Truly those who have separated us have added sorrow upon sorrow to my evils. They have taken away from me the only remedy which enabled me to live away from Christ; while I could not yet contemplate His glorious face, it was given me at least to see you, you His holy temple. From that temple the way seemed easy to the eternal home. How often have I been deprived of this consolation? This is the third time, if I mistake not, that they have torn out my heart. My children are weaned before the time; I had begotten them by the Gospel, and I cannot nourish them. Constrained to neglect those dear to me and to attend to the interests of strangers, I scarcely know which is harder to bear, to be separated from the former or to be mixed up with the latter. O Jesus, is my whole life to be spent in sighing? It were better for me to die than to live; but I would fain die in the midst of my family; there I should find more sweetness, more security. May it please my Lord that the eyes of a father, how unworthy soever of the name, may be closed by the hands of his sons; that they may assist him in his last passage; that their desires, if Thou judge him worthy, may bear his soul to the abode of the blessed; that they may bury the body of a poor man with the bodies of those who were poor with him. By the prayers and merits of my brethren, if I have found favour before Thee, grant me this desire of my heart. Nevertheless, Thy will, not mine, be done; for I wish neither to live nor to die for myself.’[12]

Greater in his Abbey than in the noblest courts, Bernard was destined to die at home at the hour appointed by God; but not without having had his soul prepared for the last purification by trials both public and private. For the last time he took up again, but could not finish, the discourses he had been delivering for the last eighteen years on the Canticle. These familiar conferences, lovingly gathered by his children, reveal in a touching manner the zeal of the sons for divine science, the heart of the father and his sanctity, and the incidents of daily life at Clairvaux. Having reached the first verse of the third chapter, he was describing the soul seeking after the Word in the weakness of this life, in the dark night of this world, when he broke off his discourses, and passed to the eternal face-to-face vision, where there is no more enigma, nor figure, nor shadow.

The following is the notice consecrated by the Church to her great servant:

Bernardus, Fontanis in Burgundia honesto loco natus, adolescens propter egregiam formam vehementer sollicitatus a mulieribus, numquam de sententia colendæ castitatis dimoveri potuit. Quas diaboli tentationes ut efiugeret, duos et viginti annos natus, monasterium Cisterciense, unde hic ordo incepit, et quod tum sanctitate florebat, ingredi constituit. Quo Bernardi consilio cognito, fratres summopere conati sunt eum a proposito deterrere: in quo ipse eloquentior ac felicior fuit. Nam sic eos aliosque multos in suam perduxit sententiam, ut cum eo triginta juvenes eamdem religionem susceperint. Monachus jejunio ita deditus erat, ut quoties sumendus esset cibus, toties tormentum subire videretur. In vigiliis etiam et orationibus mirifice se exercebat; et christianam paupertatem colens, quasi cœlestem vitam agebat in terris, ab omni caducarum rerum cura et cupiditate alienam.

Elucebat in eo humilitas, misericordia, benignitas: contemplationi autem sic addictus erat, ut vix sensibus, nisi ad officia pietatis, uteretur: in quibus tamen prudentiæ laude excellebat. Quo in studio occupatus, Genuensem ac Mediolanensem aliosque episcopatus oblatos recusant, professus se tanti officii munere indignum esse. Abbas factus Claravallensis, multis in locis ædificavit monasteria, in quibus præclara Bernardi institutio ac disciplina diu viguit. Romæ, sanctorum Vincentii et Anastasii monasterio ab Innocentio Secundo Papa restituti præfecit abbatem ilium, qui postea Eugenius Tertius Summus Pontifex fuit, ad quem etiam librum misit de Consideratione.

Multa præterea scripsit, in quibus apparet, eum doctrina potius divinitus tradita, quam labore comparata, instructum fuisse. In summa virtutum laude exoratus a maximis principibus de eorum componendis controversiis, et de ecclesiasticis rebus constituendis, sæpius in Italiam venit. Innocentium item Secundum Pontificem Maximum in confutando schismate Petri Leonis, cum apud imperatorem et Henricum Angliæ regem, tum in concilio Pisis coacto, egregie adjuvit. Denique tres et sexaginta annos natus, obdormivit in Domino, ac miraculis illustris, ab Alexandro Tertio Papa inter sanctos relatus est. Pius vero Octavus Pontifex Maximus ex sacrorum Rituum Congregationis consilio sanctum Bernardum universalis Ecclesiæ Doctorem declaravit et confirmavit, necnon Missam et Officium de Doctoribus ab omnibus recitari jussit, atqueindulgentias plenarias quotannis in perpetuimi ordinis Cisterciensium ecclesias visitantibus die hujus sancti festo concessit.
Bernard was born of a distinguished family at Fontaines in Burgundy. As a youth, on account of his great beauty he was much Bought after by women, but could never be shaken in his resolution of observing chastity. To escape these temptations of the devil, he, at twenty-two years of age, determined to enter the monastery of Citeaux, the first house of the Cistercian Order, then famous for sanctity. When his brothers learnt Bernard’s design, they did their best to deter him from it; but he, more eloquent and more successful, won them and many others to his opinion; so that together with him thirty young men embraced the Cistercian Rule. As a monk he was so given to fasting, that whenever he had to take food he seemed to be undergoing torture. He applied himself in a wonderful manner to prayer and watching, and was a great lover of Christian poverty; thus he led a heavenly life on earth, free from all anxiety or desire of perishable goods.

The virtues of humility, mercy, and kindness shone conspicuously in his character. He devoted himself so earnestly to contemplation, that he seemed hardly to use his senses except to do acts of charity, and in these he was remarkable for his prudence. While thus occupied he refused the bishoprics of Genoa, Milan, and others, which were offered to him, declaring that he was unworthy of so great an office. He afterwards became Abbot of Clairvaux, and built monasteries in many places, wherein the excellent rules and discipline of Bernard long flourished. When the monastery of SS. Vincent and Anastasius of Rome was restored by Pope Innocent II, St. Bernard appointed as Abbot the future Sovereign Pontiff, Eugenius III; to whom he also sent his book 'De Considera tione.'

He wrote many other works which clearly show that his doctrine was more the gift of God than the result of his own labours. On account of his great reputation for virtue, the greatest princes begged him to act as arbiter in their disputes, and he went several times into Italy for this purpose, and for arranging ecclesiastical affairs. He was of great assistance to the Supreme Pontiff Innocent II in putting down the schism of Peter de Leone, both at the courts of the emperor and of King Henry of England, and at a Council held at Pisa. At length, being sixty-three years old, he fell asleep in the Lord. He was famous for miracles, and Pope Alexander III placed him among the saints. Pope Pius VIII, with the advice of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, declared St. Bernard a Doctor of the universal Church, and commanded all to recite the Mass and Office of a Doctor on his feast. He also granted a plenary indulgence yearly for ever, to all who visit churches of the Cistercian Order on this day.

Let us offer to St. Bernard the following hymn, with its ingenuous allusions; it is worthy of him by the graceful sweetness wherewith it celebrates his grandeurs:

Hymn

Lacte quondam profluentes,
Ite, montes vos procul,
Ite, colles, fusa quondam
Unde mellis ilumina;
Israel, jactare late
Manna priscum desine.

Ecce cujus corde sudant,
Cujus ore profluunt
Dulciores lacte fontes,
Mellis amnes æmuli:
Ore tanto, corde tanto
Manna nullum dulcius.

Quæris unde duxit ortum
Tanta lactis copia;
Unde favus, unde prompta
Tanta mellis suavitas;
Unde tantum manna fluxit,
Unde tot dulcedines.

Lactis imbres Virgo fudit
Cœlitus puerpera:
Mellis amnes os leonis
Excitavit mortui:
Manna sylvæ, cœlitumque
Solitudo proxima.

Doctor o Bernarde, tantis
Aucte cœli dotibus,
Lactis hujus, mellis hujus,
Funde rores desuper;
Funde stillas, pleniore
Jam potitus gurgite.

Summa summo laus Parenti,
Summa laus et Filio:
Par tibi sit, sancte, manans
Ex utroque, Spiritus;
Ut fuit, nunc et per ævum
Compar semper gloria.

Amen.
Ye mountains, once flowing with milk,
depart to a distance;
depart, ye hills that once
poured forth streams of honey;
Israel, cease to boast freely
of your ancient manna.

Behold one from whose heart ebb forth,
and from whose mouth
flow out sweeter fountains
of milk and rival rivers of honey:
than such a mouth,
than such a heart no manna could be sweeter.

Thou askest whence
such abundance of milk originated;
whence the honeycomb,
whence the swift-flowing sweetness of honey;
whence such manna;
and whence so many delights.

The showers of milk the Virgin Mother
shed on him from heaven:
the mouth of the dead lion
was the source of the honeyed rivers:
the woods and the solitude
so nigh the heavens produced the manna.

O Bernard, O Doctor, enriched
with such gifts of heaven,
shed down upon us
the dews of this milk and of this honey;
give us the drops,
now that thou possessest the full sea.

Highest praise be to the Sovereign Father,
and highest praise to the Son:
and be the like to Thee, O Holy Spirit,
proceeding from them both,
as it was, now is, and ever will be,
equal glory eternally.

Amen.

It was fitting to see the herald of the Mother of God following so closely her triumphal car; entering heaven during this bright Octave, thou delightest to lose thyself in the glory of her whose greatness thou didst proclaim on earth. Be our protector in her court; attract her maternal eyes towards Citeaux; in her name save the Church once more, and protect the Vicar of Christ.

But to-day, rather than to pray to thee, thou invitest us to sing to Mary and pray to her with thee; the homage most pleasing to thee, O Bernard, is that we should profit by thy sublime writings and admire the Virgin who, ‘to-day ascending glorious to heaven, put the finishing touch to the happiness of the heavenly citizens. Brilliant as it was already, heaven became resplendent with new brightness from the light of the virginal torch. Thanksgiving and praise resound on high. And shall we not in our exile partake of these joys of our home? Having here no lasting dwelling, we seek the city where the Blessed Virgin has arrived this very hour. Citizens of Jerusalem, it is but just that, from the banks of the rivers of Babylon, we should think with dilated hearts of the overflowing river of bliss, of which some drops are sprinkled on earth to-day. Our Queen has gone before us; the reception given to her encourages us who are her followers and servants. Our caravan will be well treated with regard to salvation, for it is preceded by the Mother of mercy as advocate before the Judge her Son.'[13]

'Whoso remembers having ever invoked thee in vain in his needs, O Blessed Virgin, let him be silent as to thy mercy. As for us, thy little servants, we praise thy other virtues, but on this one we congratulate ourselves. We praise thy virginity, we admire thy humility; but mercy is sweeter to the wretched; we embrace it more lovingly, we think of it more frequently, we invoke it unceasingly. Who can tell the length and breadth and height and depth of thine, O blessed one? Its length, for it extends to the last day; its breadth, for it covers the earth; its height and depth, for it has filled heaven and emptied hell. Thou art as powerful as merciful; having now rejoined thy Son, manifest to the world the grace thou hast found before God: obtain pardon for sinners, health for the sick, strength for the weak, consolation for the afflicted, help and deliverance for those who are in any danger,[14] O clement, O merciful, O sweet Virgin Mary!’[15]

[1] Bernard. Sermo. Nativ. B.M.
[2] Vita Bernardi, L. iv. 23.
[3] Greg. Dialogue II., xxxvi.
[4] S. P. Benedict. in Reg. Prolog.
[5] De diligendo Deo, I, 1.
[6] Vita, I, vi. 27-30.
[7] Vita, I, vi. 30.
[8] S. P. Bened. Reg. lxiv.
[9] Bern. De diversis, Sermo xxxvii. 7.
[10] In Dedicat. Eccl, Sermo i. 2.
[11] Epist, ccl.
[12] Epist, cxliv.
[13] Bernard. In Assumpt. B.M.V., Sermo i.
[14] Bernard. In Assumpt B.M.V., Sermo iv.
[15] A tradition of the cathedral of Spires attributes to St. Bernard the addition of this triple cry of the heart to the Salve Regina.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ALTHOUGH Mary's glory is within her, beauty appears also in the garment wherewith she is clad: a mysterious robe woven of the virtues of the saints, who owe to her both their justice and their reward. As every grace comes to us through our Mother, so all the glory of heaven converges towards that of the Queen.

Now among the blessed souls there are some more immediately connected with the holy Virgin. Prevented by the peculiarly tender love of the Mother of grace, they left all things, when on earth, to run after the odour of the perfumes of the Spouse she gave to the world; in heaven they keep the greater intimacy with Mary which was theirs even in the time of exile. Hence it is, that at this time of her exaltation beside the Son of God, the Psalmist sings also of the virgins entering joyously with her into the temple of the King. The crowning of our Lady is truly the special feast of these daughters of Tyre, who have themselves become princesses and queens in order to form her noble escort and her royal court.

If the saint proposed to our veneration to-day is not adorned with the diadem of virginity, she is nevertheless one of those who have deserved in their humility to hear the heavenly message: Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear; and forget thy people and thy father's house.[1] In reply, such was her eagerness in the ways of love, that numberless virgins followed in her footsteps in order to be more sure of reaching the Spouse. She also, then, has a glorious place in the vesture of gold, with its play of colours, wherewith the Queen of Saints is clad in her triumph. For what is the variety noticed by the psalm in the embroideries and fringes of that robe of glory, if not the diversity of tints in the gold of divine charity among the elect? In order to bring forward the happy effect produced by this diversity in the light of the saints, Eternal Wisdom has multiplied the forms under which the life of the counsels may be presented to the world. Such is the teaching given in the holy liturgy, by bringing together the feasts of yesterday and to-day on its sacred cycle. Between Cistercian austerity and the more interior renouncement of the Visitation of holy Mary there seems to be a great distance: nevertheless the Church unites the memory of St. Jane de Chantal and of the Abbot of Clairvaux in homage to the Blessed Virgin during the happy octave which consummates her glory; it is because all rules of perfection are alike in being merely variations of the one rule, that of love, of which Mary’s life was a perfect pattern. ‘Let us not divide the robe of the Bride,’ says St. Bernard. ‘Unity, as well in heaven as on earth, consists in charity. Let him who glories in the rule not break the rule by acting contrary to the Gospel. If the kingdom of God is within us, it is because it is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.[2] To criticize others on their exterior observance, and to neglect the rule in what regards the soul, is to take out a gnat from the cup and to swallow a camel. Thou breakest thy body with endless labour, thou mortifiest with austerities thy members which are on the earth; and thou dost well. But while thou allowest thyself to judge him who does not so much penance, he perhaps is following the advice of the Apostle: more eager for the better gifts, keeping less of that bodily exercise which is profitable to little, he gives himself up more to that godliness which is profitable to all things.[3] Which, then, of you two keeps the rule better? doubtless he that becomes better thereby. Now which is the better? The humbler, or the more fatigued? Learn of me, said Jesus,[4]because I am meek and humble of heart.'[5]

St. Frances de Sales, in his turn, speaking of the diversity of religious Orders, says very well: 'All religious Orders have one spirit common to them all, and each has a spirit peculiar to itself. The common spirit is the design they all have of aspiring after the perfection of charity; but the peculiar spirit of each is the means of arriving at that perfection of charity—that is to say, at the union of our souls with God, and with our neighbour through the love of God.' Coming next to the special spirit of the institute he had founded together with our saint, the Bishop of Geneva declares that it is 'a spirit of profound humility towards God and of great sweetness towards our neighbour, inasmuch as there is less rigour towards the body, so much the more sweetness must there be in the heart.’[6] And because 'this Congregation has been so established that no great severity may prevent the weak and infirm from entering it and giving themselves up to the perfection of divine love,’[7] he adds playfully: 'If there be any sister so generous and courageous as to wish to attain perfection in a quarter of an hour by doing more than the Community does, I would advise her to humble herself and be content to become perfect in three days, following the same course as the rest. For a great simplicity must always be kept in all things: to walk simply, that is the true way for the daughters of the Visitation, a way exceedingly pleasing to God and very safe.’[8] With sweetness and humility for motto, the pious Bishop did well to give his daughters for escutcheon the divine Heart whence these gentle virtues derive their source. We know how magnificently Heaven justified the choice. Before a century had elapsed, a nun of the Visitation, St. Margaret Mary, could say: 'Our adorable Saviour showed me the devotion to His divine Heart as a beautiful tree which He had destined from all eternity to take root in the midst of our institute. He wills that the daughters of the Visitation should distribute the fruits of this sacred tree abundantly to all those that wish to eat of it, and without fear of its failing them.’[9]

‘Love! love! love! my daughters; I know nothing else.' Thus did Jane de Chantal, the glorious cooperatrix of St. Francis in establishing the Visitation of holy Mary, often cry out in her latter years. ' Mother, said one of the sisters, ‘I shall write to our houses that your charity is growing old, and that, like your godfather St. John, you can speak of nothing but love.' To which the saint replied: ‘My daughter, do not make such a comparison, for we must not profane the saints by comparing them to poor sinners; but you will do me a pleasure if you tell those sisters that if I went by my own feelings, if I followed my inclination, and if I were not afraid of wearying the sisters, I should never speak of anything but charity; and I assure you, I scarcely ever open my mouth to speak of holy things, without having a mind to say: Thou shalt love the Lord with thy whole heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.'[10]

Such words are worthy of her who obtained for the Church the admirable Treatise on the Love of God, composed, says the Bishop of Geneva, for her sake, at her request and solicitation, for herself and her companions.[11] At first, however, the impetuosity of her soul, overflowing with devotedness and energy, seemed to unfit her to be mistress in a school where heroism can only express itself by the simple sweetness of a life altogether hidden in God. It was to discipline this energy of the valiant woman without extinguishing its ardour, that St. Francis perseveringly applied himself during the eighteen years he directed her. ‘ Do all things,' he repeats in a thousand ways, ' without haste, gently, as do the angels; follow the guidance of divine movements, and be supple to grace; God wills us to be like little children,' And this reminds us of an exquisite page from the lovable saint, which we cannot resist quoting: ‘ If one had asked the sweet Jesus when He was carried in His Mother’s arms, whither He was going, might He not with good reason have answered: I go not, 'tis My Mother that goes for Me: and if one had said to Him: But at least do You not go with Your Mother? might He not reasonably have replied: No, I do not go, or if I go whither My Mother carries Me, I do not Myself walk with her nor by My own steps, but by My Mother's, by her, and in her. But if one had persisted with Him, saying: But at least, O most dear divine Child, You really will to let Yourself be carried by Your sweet Mother? No, verily, might He have said, I will nothing of all this, but as My entirely good Mother walks for Me, so she wills for Me; I leave her the care as well to go as to will to go for Me where she likes best; and as I go not but by her steps, so I will not but by her will; and from the instant I find Myself in her arms, I give no attention either to willing, or not willing, turning all other cares over to My Mother, save only the care to be on her bosom, to suck her sacred breast, and to keep myself close clasped to her most beloved neck, that I may most lovingly kiss her with the kisses of My mouth. And be it known to you that while I am amidst the delights of these holy caresses which surpass all sweetness, I consider that my Mother is a tree of life, and Myself on her as its fruit, that I am her own heart in her breast, or her soul in the midst of her heart, so that as her going serves both her and Me without My troubling Myself to take a single step, so her will serves us both without My producing any act of My will about going or coming. Nor do I ever take notice whether she goes fast or slow, hither or thither; nor do I inquire whither she means to go, contenting Myself with this, that go whither she please I go still locked in her arms, close laid to her beloved breasts, where I feed as among lilies. .... Thus should we be, Theotimus,[12] pliable and tractable to God’s good pleasure.’[13] The Church abridges for us far better than we could the life of St. Jane Frances de Chantal:

Joanna Francisca Fremiot de Chantal, Divione in Burgundia clarissimis orta natalibus, ab ineunte ætate eximiæ sanctitatis non obscuras edidit significationes. Eam enim vix quinquennem nobilem quemdam Calvinistam solida supra ætatem argumentatione perstrinxisse ferunt, collatumque ab eo munusculum fiammis illico tradidisse in hæc verba: En quomodo hæretici apud inferos comburentur, qui loquenti Christo fidem detrectant. Matre orbata, Deiparæ Virginis tutelæ se commendavit, et famulam, qua ad mundi amorem eam alliciebat, ab se rejecit. Nihil puerile in moribus exprimens, a sæculi deliciis abhorrens, martyriumque anhelans, religioni ac pietati impense studebat. Baroni de Chantal nuptui a patre tradita, virtutibus omnibus excolendis operam dedit, liberos, famulos, aliosque sibi subjectos in fidei doctrina, bonisque moribus imbuere satagens. Profusa liberalitate pauperum inopiam sublevabat, annona divinitus non raro multiplicata: quo factum est, ut nemini se umquam Christi nomine roganti stipem abnegaturam spoponderit.

Viro in venatione interempto, perfectioris vitæ consilium iniens, continentiæ voto se obstrinxit. Viri necem non solum æquo animo tulit, sed, in publicum indultæ veniæ testimonium, occisoris filium e sacro fonte suscipere sui victrix elegit. Modica familia, tenui victu atque vestitu contenta, pretiosas vestes in pios usus convertit. Quidquid a domesticis curis supererat temporis, precibus, piis lectionibus, laborique impendebat. Numquam adduci potuit ut alteras nuptias, quamvis utiles et honorificas, iniret. Ne autem a proposito castimoniæ observandæ in posterum dimoveretur, illius voto innovato, sanctissimum Jesu Christi nomen candenti ferro pectori insculpsit. Ardentius in dies caritate fervescens, pauperes, derelictos, ægros, teterrimisque morbis infectos ad se adducendos curabat; eosque non hospitio tantum excipiebat, solabatur, fovebat, verum etiam sordidas eorumdem vestes depurgabat, laceras reficiebat, et manantibus fcetido pure ulceribus labia admovere non exhorrebat.

A Sancto Francisco Salesio, quo spiritus moderatore usa fuit, divinam voluntatem edocta, proprium parentem, socerum, filium denique ipsum,quem etiam vocationi obsistentem, sua e domo egrediens, pedibus calcare non dubitavit, invicta constantia deseruit, et sacri instituti Visitationis sanctæ Mariæ fundamenta jecit. Ejus instituti leges integerrime custodivit, et adeo paupertatis fuit amans, ut vel necessaria sibi deesse gauderet. Christianæ vero animi demissionis et obedientiæ, virtutumque denique omnium perfectissimum exemplar se præbuit. Altiores in corde suo ascensiones disponens, arduissimo efficiendi semper id quod perfectius esse intelligeret, voto se obstrinxit. Denique, sacro Visitationis instituto ejus potissimum opera longe lateque diffuso, verbo, exemplo et scriptis etiam divina sapientia refertis, ad pietatem et caritatem sororibus excitatis, meritis referta, et sacramentis rite susceptis, Molinis, anno millesimo sexcentesimo quadragesimo primo, die decima tertia Decembris, migravit ad Dominum,ejusque animam, occurrente sancto Francisco Salesio, in cœlos deferri sanctus Vincentius a Paulo procul distans adspexit. Ejus corpus postea Annecium translatum est: eamque miraculis ante et post obitum claram Benedictus decimus quartus beatorum, Clemens vero decimus tertius Pontifex Maximus albo sanctorum adjecit. Festum autem ejusdem die duodecimo Kalendas Septembris ab universa Ecclesia Clemens decimus quartus Pontifex Maximus celebrari præcepit.
Jane Frances Frémiot de Chantal was born at Dijon in Burgundy, of noble parents, and from her childhood gave clear signs of her future great sanctity. It was said that when only five years of age she put to silence a Calvinist nobleman by substantial arguments, far beyond her age, and when he offered her a little present she immediately threw it into the fire, saying: 'This is how heretics will burn in hell, because they do not believe Christ when He speaks.' When she lost her mother, she put herself under the care of the Virgin Mother of God, and dismissed a maid-servant who was enticing her to love of the world. There was nothing childish in her manners; she shrank from worldly pleasures, and thirsting for martyrdom, she devoted herself entirely to religion and piety. She was given in marriage by her father to the Baron de Chantal, and in this new state of life she strove to cultivate every virtue, and busied herself in instructing in faith and morals her children, her servants and all under her authority. Her liberality in relievingthe necessities of the poor was very great, and more than once God miraculously multiplied her stores of provisions; on this account she promised never to refuse anyone who begged an alms in Christ’s name.

Her husband having been killed while hunting, she determined to embrace a more perfect life and bound herself by a vow of chastity. She not only bore her husband’s death resignedly, but overcame herself so far as to stand godmother to the child of the man who had killed him, in order to give a public proof that she pardoned him. She contented herself with a few servants and with plain food and dress, devoting her costly garments to pious usages. Whatever time remained from her domestic cares she employed in prayer, pious reading, and work. She could never be induced to accept offers of second marriage, even though honourable and advantageous. In order not to be shaken in her resolution of observing chastity, she renewed her vow, and imprinted the most holy name of Jesus Christ upon her breast with a red-hot iron. Her love grew more ardent day by day. She had the poor, the abandoned, the sick, and those who were afflicted with the most terrible diseases brought to her, and not only sheltered and comforted and nursed them, but washed and mended their filthy garments, and did not shrink from putting her lips to their running sores.

Having learnt the will of God from St, Francis de Sales her director, she founded the Institute of the Visitation of our Lady. For this purpose she quitted, with unfaltering courage, her father, her fatherin-law, and even her son, over whose body she had to step in order to leave her home, so violently did he oppose her vocation. She observed her Rule with the utmost fidelity, and so great was her love of poverty, that she rejoiced to be in want of even the necessaries of life. She was a perfect model of Christian humility, obedience, and all other virtues. Wishing for still higher ascensions in her heart, she bound herself by a most difficult vow always to do what she thought most perfect. At length when the Order of the Visitation had spread far and wide, chiefly through her endeavours, after encouraging her sisters to piety and charity by words and example, and also by writings full of divine wisdom; laden with merits, she passed to the Lord at Moulins, having duly received the Sacraments of the Church. She died on December 13, in the year 1641. St. Vincent de Paul, who was at a great distance, saw her soul being carried to heaven, and St. Francis de Sales coming to meet her. Her body was afterwards translated to Annecy. Miracles having made her illustrious both before and after her death, Benedict XIV placed her among the blessed, and Pope Clement XIII among the saints. Pope Clement XIV commanded her feast to be celebrated by the universal Church on the twelfth of the Kalends of September.

The office of Martha seemed at first to be destined for thee, O great saint! Thy father, Francis de Sales, forestalling St. Vincent de Paul, thought of making thy companions the first Daughters of Charity. Thus was given to thy work the blessed name of Visitation, which was to place under Mary’s protection thy visits to the sick and neglected poor. But the progressive deterioration of strength in modern times had laid open a more pressing want in the institutions of holy Church. Many souls called to share Mary’s part were prevented from doing so by their inability to endure the austere life of the great contemplative Orders. The Spouse, who deigns to adapt His goodness to all times, made choice of thee, O Jane, to second the love of His Sacred Heart, and come to the rescue of the physical and moral miseries of an old, worn-out, and decrepit world.

Renew us, then, in the love of Him whose charity consumed thee first; in its ardour thou didst traverse the most various paths of life, and never didst thou fail of that admirable strength of soul, which the Church presents before God to-day in order to obtain through thee the assistance necessary to our weakness.[14] May the insidious and poisonous spirit of Jansenism never return to freeze our hearts; but at the same time as we learn from thee, love is only then real when, with or without austerities, it lives by faith, generosity, and selfrenunciation, in humility, simplicity, and gentleness. It is the spirit of thy holy institute, the spirit which became, through thy angelic Father, so amiable and so strong; may it ever reign amidst thy daughters, keeping up among their houses the sweet union which has never ceased to rejoice heaven; may the world be refreshed by the perfumes which ever exhale from the silent retreats of the Visitation of holy Mary!

 

[1] Ps. xliv. 11.
[2] Rom. xiv. 17.
[3] 1 Tim. iv. 8.
[4] St Matt. xi. 29.
[5] Bernard. Apologia ad Gulielm.
[6] Entretiens spirituels.
[7] Constitutions of the Visitation, Introduction.
[8] Entretiens spirituels.
[9] Letter of June 17, 1689, to Mother de Saumaise.
[10] Memoirs of Mother de Chaugy, Part III., chap. v.
[11] Treatise on the Love of God, Preface; Memoirs of Mother de Chaugy.
[12] ‘A great servant of God informed me not long ago that by addressing my speech to Philothea in the “Intro duction to a Devout Life,” I hindered many men from profiting by it: because they did not esteem advice given to a woman to be worthy of a man. I marvel that there were men who, to be thought men, showed themselves in effect so little men. . . . Nevertheless, to imitate the great Apostle in this occasion, who esteemed himself a debtor to everyone, I have changed my address in this treatise and speak to Theotimus; but if perchance there should be any woman (and such an unreasonableness would be more tolerable in them) who would not read the instructions which are given to men, I beg them to know that Theotimus to whom I speak is the human spirit desirous of making progress in holy love, which spirit is equally in women as in men.’—'Treatise on the Love of God,’ Preface.
[13] ‘Treatise on the Love of God,’ Book IX, chap. xiv. (We have preferred the translation by Dom H. B. Mackey, O.S.B.)
[14] Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion of the Feast.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year:

HE alone who could understand Mary’s holiness could appreciate her glory. But Wisdom, who presided over the formation of the abyss, has not revealed to us the depth of that ocean, beside which all the virtues of the just and all the graces lavished upon them are but streamlets. Nevertheless, the immensity of grace and merit, whereby the Blessed Virgin’s supernatural perfection stands quite apart from all others, gives us a right to conclude that she has an equal supereminence in glory, which is always proportioned to the sanctity of the elect. Whereas all the other predestined of our race are placed among the various ranks of the celestial hierarchy, the holy Mother of God is exalted above all the choirs, forming by herself a distinct order, a new heaven, where the harmonies of angels and saints are far surpassed. In Mary God is more glorified, better known, more loved than in all the rest of the universe. On this ground alone, according to the order of creative Providence, which subordinates the less to the more perfect, Mary is entitled to be Queen of earth and heaven. In this sense, it is for her, next to the Man-God, that the world exists. The great theologian, Cardinal de Lugo, explaining the words of the saints on this subject, dares to say: 'Just as, creating all things in His complacency for His Christ, God made Him the end of creatures; so, with due proportion we may say He drew the rest of the world out of nothing, through the love of the Virgin Mother, so that she, too, might thus be justly called the end of all things.’[1]

As Mother of God, and at the same time His firstborn, she had a right and title over His goods; as Bride she ought to share His crown. 'The glorious Virgin,' says St. Bernardine of Siena, 'has as many subjects as the Blessed Trinity has. Every creature, whatever be its rank in creation, spiritual as the angels, rational as man, material as the heavenly bodies or the elements, heaven and earth, the reprobate and the blessed, all that springs from the power of God, is subject to the Virgin. For He who is the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin, wishing, so to say, to make His Mother's principality in some sort equal to His Father's, became, God as He is, the servant of Mary. If, then, it be true to say that everyone, even the Virgin, obeys God, we may also convert the proposition, and affirm that everyone, even God, obeys the Virgin.'[2]

The empire of Eternal Wisdom comprises, so the Holy Spirit tells us, the heavens, the earth, and the abyss: the same, then, is the appanage of Mary on this her coronation day. Like the divine Wisdom to whom she gave Flesh, she may glory in God. He whose magnificence she once chanted to-day exalts her humility. She who is blessed above all others has become the honour of her people, the admiration of the saints, the glory of the armies of the Most High. Together with the Spouse, let her, in her beauty, march to victory; let her triumph over the hearts of the mighty and the lowly. The giving of the world's sceptre into her hands is no mere honour void of reality: from this day forward she commands and fights, protects the Church, defends its head, upholds the ranks of the sacred militia, raises up saints, directs apostles, enlightens doctors, exterminates heresy, crushes hell.

Let us hail our Queen, let us sing her mighty deeds; let us be docile to her; above all, let us love her and trust in her love. Let us not fear that, amidst the great interests of the spreading of God’s kingdom, she will forget our littleness or our miseries. She knows all that takes place in the obscurest comers, in the furthest limits of her immense domain. From her title of universal causeunder the Lord is rightly deduced the universality of her providence; and the masters of doctrine show us Mary in glory sharing in the science called of vision, whereby all that is, has been, or is to be is present before God. On the other hand, we must believe that her charity could not possibly be defective: as her love of God surpasses the love of all the elect, so the tenderness of all mothers united, centred upon an only child, is nothing to the love wherewith Mary surrounds the least, the most forgotten, the most neglected of all the children of God, who are her children too. She forestalls them in her solicitude, listens at all times to their humble prayers, pursues them in their guilty flights, sustains their weakness, compassionates their ills, whether of body or of soul, sheds upon all men the heavenly favours whereof she is the treasury. Let us, then, say to her, in the words of one of her great servants: ' O most holy Mother of God, who hast beautified heaven and earth, in leaving this world thou hast not abandoned man. Here below thou didst live in heaven; from heaven thou conversest with us. Thrice happy those who contemplated thee and lived with the Mother of life! But in the same way as thou didst dwell in the flesh with them of the first age, thou now dwellest with us spiritually. We hear thy voice; and all our voices reach thine ear; and thy continual protection over us makes thy presence evident. Thou dost visit us; thine eye is upon us all; and although our eyes cannot see thee, O most holy one, yet thou art in the midst of us, showing thyself in various ways to whomsoever is worthy. Thy immaculate body, come forth from the tomb, hinders not the immaterial power, the most pure activity of that spirit of thine, which being inseparable from the Holy Ghost, breathes also where it wills. O Mother of God, receive the grateful homage of our joy, and speak for thy children to Him who has glorified thee: whatsoever thou askest of Him, He will accomplish it by His divine power; may He be blessed for ever!'[3]

Let us honour the group of martyrs which forms the rearguard of our triumphant Queen. Timothy, who came from Antioch to Rome, Hippolytus, Bishop of Porto, and Symphorian, the glory of Autun, suffered for God at different periods and at different places; but they gathered their palms on the same day of the year, and the same heaven is now their abode. ' My son, my son,' said his valiant mother to Symphorian, 'remember life eternal; look up, and see Him who reigns in heaven; they are not taking thy life away, but changing it into a better.' Let us admire these heroes of our faith; and let us learn to walk like them, though by less painful paths, in the footsteps of our Lord, and so to rejoice Mary.

Prayer

Auxilium tuum nobis, Domine, quæsumus, placatus impende: et intercedentibus beatis martyribus tuis Timotheo, Hippolyto et Symphoriano, dexteram super nos tuæ propitiationis extende. Per Dominum.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, to be appeased, and to impart to us Thy help: and, by the intercession of blessed Timothy, Hippolytus, and Symphorian, Thy martyrs, extend over us the right hand of Thy mercy. Through our Lord, etc.

The inexhaustible Adam of St. Victor gives us another sequence for the Assumption; it was sung at Saint Victor on the octave day.

Sequence

Gratulemur in hac die
In qua sanctæ fit Mariæ celebris Assumptio;
Dies ista, dies grata
Qua de terris est translata in cœlum cum gaudio.

Super choros exaltata
Angelorum, est prælata cunctis cœli civibus.
In decore contemplatur
Natum suum, ut precatur pro cunctis fidelibus.

Expurgemus nostras sordes
Ut illius, mundicordes, assistamus laudibus;
Si concordent linguis mentes,
Aures ejus intendentes erunt nostris vocibus.

Nunc concordes hanc laudemus
Et in laude proclamemus: Ave, plena gratia!
Ave, Virgo Mater Christi,
Quæ de Sancti concepisti Spiritus præsentia!

Virgo sancta, Virgo munda,
Tibi nostræ sit jocunda vocis modulatio.
Nobis opem fer desursum,
Et, post hujus vitæ cursum, tuo junge Filio.

Tu a sæclis præelecta,
Litterali diu tecta fuisti sub cortice;
De te, Christum genitura,
Prædixerunt in Scriptura prophetæ, sed typice.

Sacramentum patefactum
Est, dum Verbum, caro factum, ex te nasci voluit,
Quod nos sua pietate
A maligni potestate potenter eripuit.

Te per thronum Salomonis,
Te per vellus Gedeonis præsignatam credimus;
Et per rubum incombustum,
Testamentum si vetustum mystice perpendimus.

Super vellus ros descendens
Et in rubo flamma splendens (neutram tamen læditur),
Fuit Christus carnem sumens,
In te tamen non consumens pudorem, dum gignitur.

De te virga processurum
Florem mundo profuturum Isaias cecinit,
Flore Christum præfigurans
Cujus virtus semper durans nec cœpit, nec desinit.

Fontis vitæ tu cisterna,
Ardens, lucens es lucerna;
Per te nobis lux superna suum fudit radium:
Ardens igne caritatis,
Luce lucens castitatis,
Lucem surnmæ claritatis mundo gignens Filium.

O salutis nostræ porta,
Nos exaudi, nos conforta,
Et a via nos distorta revocare propera:
Te vocantes de profundo,
Navigantes in hoc mundo,
Nos ab hoste furibundo tua prece libera.

Jesu, nostrum salutare.
Ob meritum singulare
Tuæ Matris, visitare
In hac valle nos dignare tuæ dono gratiæ.
Qui neminem vis damnari,
Sic directe conversari
Nos concedas in hoc mari,
Ut post mortem munerari digni simus requie.

Amen.
Let us rejoice on this day
whereon is celebrated the Assumption of holy Mary;
this day, this happy day
when from earth she was translated into heaven with joy.

Exalted above the choirs of angels,
she is set over all the citizens of heaven.
She contemplates her Son in His beauty,
and prays for all the faithful.

Let us cleanse away our stains,
that clean of heart we may take part in her praises;
if our minds be in accord with our tongues,
her ears will be attentive to our voices.

Let us, then, praise her with one accord,
and in her praise cry out: Hail, full of grace!
hail, Virgin Mother of Christ,
who didst conceive Him by the presence of the Holy Spirit!

Holy Virgin, spotless Virgin,
may the music of our voice be pleasing to thee.
Bring us help from on high,
and after this life’s course, unite us to thy Son.

O thou elect from all eternity,
long wast thou hidden in the shell of the letter;
of thee as future Mother of Christ,
the Prophets foretold in the Scripture, but in types.

The Mystery was unveiled
when the Word made Flesh willed to be born of thee,
who in His love did powerfully
snatch us from the power of the wicked one.

Thee by the throne of Solomon,
thee by the fleece of Gedeon, we believe to be foreshown,
and by the bush unburnt,
if the ancient Testament we mystically ponder.

On the fleece the dew descending,
in the bush the flame resplendent (yet neither hurt thereby),
was Christ assuming flesh in thee,
yet not destroying thy purity by His birth.

The flower that was to spring from thee,
the stem, and benefit the world, Isaias sang;
by the flower prefiguring Christ,
whose power everlasting neither began nor endeth.

Thou art the reservoir of the fountain of life,
thou art a lamp burning and shining:
through thee the light supernal on us hath shed its ray;
burning with fire of charity,
shining with light of chastity,
bringing into the world thy Son, the light of supreme brightness.

O gate of our salvation,
hear us and comfort us,
and from our crooked ways hasten to call us back:
we are calling on thee from the abyss,
sailing on the sea of the world;
from the furious enemy deliver us by thy prayer.

O Jesus our salvation,
by the incomparable merit
of Thy Mother, deign to visit
us in this valley with the gift of Thy grace.
Thou who willest that no one be condemned,
grant us to steer our course so straightly
through this sea that after death
we may be worthy to be rewarded in Thy rest.

Amen.

The following prayer is remarkable for the symbolism wherewith it is inspired. It is used at the blessing of medicinal herbs and fruits, given from time immemorial, in certain places, on the day of the Assumption.

Prayer

Deus qui virgam Jesse, Genitricem Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi, hodierna die ad cœlorum fastigia ideo evexisti, ut per ejus sufiragia et patrocinia fructum ventris illius, eumdem Filium tuum, mortalitati nostræcommunicares: te supplices exoramus; ut ejusdem Filii tui virtute, ejusque Genitricis glorioso patrocinio, istorum terræ fructuum præsidiis per temporalem ad æternam salutem disponamur. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum.
O God, who on this day didst raise up to the height of heaven the rod of Jesse, the Mother of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that through her prayers and patronage Thou mightest communicate to our mortality the same Thy Son the fruit of her womb: we humbly beseech Thee, that by the power of this Thy Son, and by the glorious patronage of His Mother, we may, by the help of these fruits of the earth, be disposed by temporal health for eternal salvation. Through the same Christ our Lord.

But let us close the radiant octave by hearing Mary herself speak in this beautiful antiphon, appointed amongst others in certain manuscripts to accompany the Magnificat on the feast. Our Lady there appears, not in her own name alone, but as representing the Church, which begins in her its entrance in body and soul into heaven. The present happiness of the Blessed Virgin is the pledge for us all of the eternal felicity promised us; the triumph of the Mother of God will not be complete until the last of her children has followed her into glory. Let us, then, join in this prayer so full of sweet love: it is truly worthy to express the feelings of Mary as she crossed the threshold of her heavenly home.

Antiphon

Maria exsultavit in spiritu, et dixit: Benedico te, qui dominarla super omnem benedictionem. Benedico habitaculum gloriæ tuæ, benedico te, cui factum est habitaculum in utero meo; et benedico omnia opera manuum tuarum, qua obediunt tibi in omni subjeetione. Benedico dilectionem tuam qua nos dilexisti. Benedico omnia verba qua exierunt de ore tuo, qua data sunt nobis. In veritate enim credam, quia sicut dixisti sic fiet.

Alleluia.
Mary exulted in spirit and said: I bless Thee who art Lord over every blessing. I bless the dwelling of Thy glory, I bless Thee for whom was made a dwelling in my womb, and I bless all the works of Thy hands which obey Thee in all subjection. I bless Thy love wherewith Thou hast loved us. I bless all the words that have come forth from Thy mouth and are given to us. For I believe in truth that as Thou hast said, so shall it be done.

Alleluia.

 

 

[1] De Lugo, De Incarnat disput vii, sect. 11.
[2] Bernardin. Sen. Sermo v de festiv. B.M., cap. 6.
[3] German. Constantinof. In Dormit. B.M., Oratio i.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

OUR Lady is now reigning in heaven. Her triumph over death cost her no labour; and yet it was through suffering that she like Jesus entered into her glory. We too cannot attain eternal happiness otherwise than did the Son and the Mother. Let us keep in mind the sweet joys we have been tasting during the past week; but let us not forget that our own journey to heaven is not yet completed. ‘Why stand ye looking up into heaven?’ said the angels to the disciples on Ascension day, in the name of the Lord who had gone up in a cloud; for the disciples, who had for an instant beheld the threshold of heaven, could not resign themselves to turn their eyes once more down to this valley of exile. Mary, in her turn, sends us a message to-day from the bright land whither we are to follow her, and where we shall surround her after having in the sorrows of exile merited to form her court: without distractiug us from her, the apostle of her dolours, Philip Benizi, reminds us of our true condition of strangers and pilgrims upon earth.

Combats without, fears within:[1] such for the most part was Philip’s life, as it was also the history of his native city of Florence; of Italy too, and indeed of the whole Christian world, in the thirteenth century. At the time of his birth, the city of flowers seemed a new Eden for the blossoms of sanctity that flourished there; nevertheless it was a prey to bloody factions, to the assaults of heresy, and to the extremity of every misery. Never is hell so near us as when heaven manifests itself with greatest intensity; this was clearly seen in that age, when the serpent’s head came in closest contact with the heel of the woman. The old enemy, by creating new sects, had shaken the faith in the very centre of the provinces surrounding the eternal city. While in the east, Islam was driving back the last crusaders, in the west the papacy was struggling with the empire, which Frederick II had made as a fief of satan. Throughout Christendom social union was undone, faith had grown weak, and love cold; but the old enemy was soon to discover the power of the reaction heaven was preparing for the relief of the aged world. Then it was that our Lady presented to her angered Son Dominic and Francis, that, by uniting science with self-abnegation, they might counterbalance the ignorance and luxury of the world; then, too, Philip Benizi, the Servite of the Mother of God, received from her the mission of preaching through Italy, France, and Germany, the unspeakable sufferings whereby she became the co-redemptress of the human race.

Philippus ex nobili Benitiorum familia Florentiæ natus, futuræ sanctitatis jam inde ab incunabulis indicium præbuit. Vix enim quintum ætatis mensem ingressus, linguam in voces mirifice solvit, hortatusque fuit matrem, ut Deiparæ servis eleemosynam impertiret. Adolescens, dum Parisiis litterarura studia cum pietatis ardore conjungerct, plurimos ad cœlestis patriæ desiderium inflaminavit. Reversus in patriam, et singulari visione a beatissima Virgine in Servorum suorum familiam nuper institutam vocatus, in Senarii montis antrum concessit, ubi asperam quidem jugi corporis castigatione, sed Christi Domini cruciatuum meditatione suavem vitam duxit: indeque per universam pene Europam, magnamquo Asiæ partem, quam evangelicis prædicationibus obivit, sodalitia septem dolorum Dei Matris instituit, suumque ordinem eximio virtutum exemplo propagavit.

Divinæ caritatis et catholicæ fidei dilatandæ ardore vehementer accensus, sui Ordinis generalis reluctans atque invitus renuntiatus, fratres ad prædieandum Christi Evangelium in Scythiam misit; ipse vero plurimas Italiæ urbes coneursans, gliscentes in eis civium discordias composuit; multasque ad Romani Pontificis obedientiam revocavit; nihilque de studio alienæ salutis omittens, perditissimos homines e vitiorum cœno ad pænitentiam ac Jesu Christi amorem perduxit. Oratione summopere addictus, sæpe in extasim rapi visus est. Virginitatem vero adeo coluit, ut ad extremum usque spiritum voluntariis ac durissimis suppliciis illibatam custodierit.

Effloruit in eo jugiter singularis erga pauperes misericordia, sed præcipue cum apud Camilianum agri Senensis vicum leproso nudo eleemosynam petenti propriain, qua indutus erat, vestem fuit elargitus: qua ille contectus, statim a lepra mundatus est. Cujus miraculi cum longe lateque fama manasset, nonnulli ex Cardinalibus, qui Viterbium, Clemente quarto vita functo, pro successore deligendo convenerant, in Philippum, cujus cœlestem etiam prudentiam perspectam habebant, intenderunt. Quo comperto vir Dei, ne forte pastoralis regiminis onus subire cogeretur, apud Tuniatum montem tamdiu delituit, donec Gregorius decimus Pontifex Maximus fuerit renuntiatus: ubi balneis, quæ etiam hodie sancti Philippi vocantur, virtutem sanandi morbos suis precibus impetravit. Deriique Tuderti, anno millesimo ducentesimo octogesimo quinto in Christi Domini e cruce pendentis amplexu, quem suum appellabat librum, sanctissime ex hac vita migravit. Ad ejus tumulum cæci visum, Claudi gressum, mortui vitam receperunt. Quibus aliisque plurimis fulgentem signis Clemens decimus Pontifex Maximus sanctorum numero adscripsit.
Philip was born at Florence of the noble family of the Benizi, and from his very cradle gave signs of his future sanctity. When he was scarcely five months old he received the power of speech by a miracle, and exhorted his mother to bestow an alms on the servants of the Mother of God. As a youth, he pursued his studies at Paris, where he was remarkable for his ardent piety, and enkindled in many hearts a longing for our heavenly fatherland. After his return home he had a wonderful vision in which he was called by the blessed Virgin to join the newly-founded Order of the Servites. He therefore retired into a cave on Mount Sonario, and there led an austere and penetential life, sweetened by meditation on the sufferings of our Lord. Afterwards he travelled over nearly all Europe and great part of Asia, preaching the Gospel and instituting everywhere the sodality of the sevendolours of the Mother of God, while he propagated his Order by the wonderful example of his virtues.

He was consumed with love of God and zeal for the propagation of the Catholic faith. In spite of his refusals and resistance he was chosen general of his Order. He sent some of his brethren to preach the Gospel in Scythia, while he himself journeyed from city to city of Italy repressing civil dissensions, and recalling many to the obedience of the Roman Pontiff. His unremitting zeal for the salvation of souls won the most abandoned sinners from the depths of vice to a life of penance and to the true love of Jesus Christ. He was very much given to prayer and was often seen rapt in ecstasy. He loved and honoured holy virginity, and preserved it unspotted to the end of his life by means of the greatest voluntary austerities.

He was ramarkable for his love and pity for the poor. On one occasion when a poor leper begged an alms of him, at Camegliano a village near Siena, he gave him his own garment, which the beggar had no sooner put on than his leprosy was cleansed. The fame of this miracle having spread far and wide, some of the Cardinals who were assembled at Viterbo for the election of a successor to Clement IV, then lately dead, thought of choosing Philip, as they were aware of his heavenly prudence. On learning this, the man of God, fearing lest he should be forced to take upon himself the pastoral office hid himself at Montamiata until after the election of Pope Gregory X. By his prayers he obtained for the baths of that place, which still bear his name, the virtue of healing the sick. At length, in the year 1285, he died a most holy death at Todi, while in the act of kissing the image of his crucified Lord, which he used to call his book. The blind and lame were healed at his tomb, and the dead were brought back to life. His name having become illustrious by these and many other miracles, Pope Clement X. enrolled him among the saints.

‘Philip, draw near, and join thyself to this chariot.’[2] When the world was smiling on thy youth and offering thee renown and pleasures, thou didst receive this invitation from Mary. She was seated in a golden chariot which signified the religious life; a mourning mantle wrapped her round; a dove was fluttering about her head; a lion and a lamb were drawing her chariot over precipices from whose depths were heard the groans of hell. It was a prophetic vision: thou wast to traverse the earth accompanied by the Mother of sorrows; and this world, which hell had already everywhere undermined, was to have no dangers for thee; for gentleness and strength were to be thy guides, and simplicity thy inspirer. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.[3]

But this gentle virtue was to avail thee chiefly against heaven itself; heaven, which wrestles with the mighty, and which had in store for thee the terrible trial of an utter abandonment, such as had made even the God-Man tremble. After years of prayer and labour and heroic devotedness, for thy reward thou wast apparently rejected by God and disowned by the Church, while imminent ruin threatened all those whom Mary had confided to thee. In spite of her promises, the existence of thy sons the Servites was assailed by no less an authority than that of two general Councils, whose resolutions the vicar of Christ had determined to confirm. Our Lady gave thee to drink of the chalice of her sufferings. Thou didst not live to see the triumph of a cause which was hers as well as thine; but as the ancient patriarchs saluted from afar the accomplishment of the promises, so death could not shake thy calm and resigned confidence. Thou didst leave thy daughter Juliana Falconieri to obtain by her prayers before the face of the Lord, what thou couldst not gain from the powers of this world.

The highest power on earth was once all but laid at thy feet; the Church, remembering the humility wherewith thou didst flee from the tiara, begs thee to obtain for us that we may despise the prosperity of the world and seek heavenly goods alone;[4] deign to hear her prayer. But the faithful have not forgotten that thou wert a physician of the body before becoming a healer of souls; they have great confidence in the water and bread blessed by thy sons on this feast, in memory of the miraculous favours granted to their father: graciously regard the faith of the people, and reward the special honour paid to thee by Cristian physicians. Now that the mysterious chariot, shown thee at the beginning, has become the triumphal car whereon thou accompaniest our Lady in her entrance into heaven, teach us so to condole, like thee, with her sorrows, that we may deserve to be partakers with thee in her eternal glory.


[1] 2 Cor. vii. 5.
[2] Acts viii. 29.
[3] St. Matth. v. 4.
[4] Collect of the day.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A witness of the Son of God, one of the princes who announced His glory to the nations, lights up this day with his apostolic flame. While his brethren of the sacred college followed the human race into all the lands whither the migration of nations had led it, Bartholomew appeared as the herald of the Lord at the very starting point, the mountains of Armenia, whence the sons of Noe spread over the earth. There had the figurative Ark rested; humanity, everywhere else a wanderer, was there seated in stillness, remembering the dove with its olive branch, and awaiting the consummation of the alliance signified by the rainbow which had there for the first time glittered in the clouds. Behold, blessed tidings awake in those valleys the echoes of ancient traditions: tidings of peace, making the universal deluge of sin subside before the Wood of salvation. The serenity announced by the dove of old, was now far outdone. Love was to take the place of punishment. The ambassador of heaven showed God to the sons of Adam, as the most beautiful of their own brethren. The noble heights whence formerly flowed the rivers of paradise, were about to see the renewal of the covenant annulled in Eden, and the celebration, amid the joy of heaven and earth, of the divine nuptials so long expected, the union of the Word with regenerated humanity.

Personally, what was this apostle whose ministry borrowed such solemnity from the scene of his apostolic labours? Under the name or surname of Bartholomew,[1] the only mark of recognition given him by the first three Gospels, are we to see, as many have thought, that Nathaniel, whose presentation to Jesus by Philip forms so sweet a scene in St. John’s Gospel?[2] A man full of uprightness, innocence, and simplicity, who was worthy to have had the dove for his precursor, and for whom the Man-God had choice graces and caresses from the very beginning.

Be this as it may, the lot which fell to our saint among the twelve, points to the special confidence of the divine Heart; the heroism of the terrible martyrdom which sealed his apostolate reveals his fidelity; the dignity preserved by the nation he grafted on Christ, in all the countries where it has been transplanted, witnesses to the excellence of the sap first infused into its branches. When, two centuries and a half later, Gregory the Illuminator so successfully cultivated the soil of Armenia, he did but quicken the seed sown by the apostle, which the trials never wanting to that generous land had retarded for a time, but could not stifle.

How strangely sad, that evil men, nurtured in the turmoil of endless invasions, should have been able to rouse and perpetuate a mistrust of Rome among a race whom wars and tortures and dispersion could not tear from the love of Christ our Saviour! Yet, thanks be to God! the movement towards return, more than once begun and then abandoned, seems now to be steadily advancing; the chosen sons of this illustrious nation are labouring perseveringly for so desirable a union, by dispelling the prejudices of her people; by revealing to our lands the treasures of her literature so truly Christian, and the magnificences of her liturgy; and above all by praying and devoting themselves to the monastic state under the standard of the father of western monks.[3] Together with these holders of the true national tradition, let us pray to Bartholomew their apostle; to the disciple Thaddeus[4] who also shared in the first evangelization; to Ripsima the heroic virgin, who from the Roman territory led her thirty-five companions to the conquest of a new land; and to all the martyrs whose blood cemented the building upon the only foundation set by our Lord. Like these great forerunners, may the leader of the second apostolate, Gregory the Illuminator, who wished to 'see Peter’ in the person of St. Sylvester and receive the blessing of the Roman Pontiff, may the holy kings the patriarchs and doctors of Armenia, become once more her chosen guides, and lead her back entirely and irrevocably to the one fold of the one Shepherd!

We learn from Eusebius[5] and from St. Jerome,[6] that before going to Armenia, his final destination, St. Bartholomew evangelized the Indies, where Pantænus a century later found a copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew characters, left there by him. St. Denis records a profound saying of the glorious apostle, which he thus quotes and comments: ‘The blessed Bartholomew says of theology, that it is at once abundant and succinct; of the Gospel, that it is vast in extent and at the same time concise; thus excellently giving us to understand that the beneficent Cause of all beings reveals or manifests Himself by many words or by few, or even without any words at all, as being beyond and above all language or thought. For He is above all by His superior essence;and they alone reach Him in His truth, without the veils wherewith He surrounds Himself, who, passing beyond matter and spirit, and rising above the summit of the holiest heights, leave behind them all reflexions and echoes of God, all the language of heaven, to enter into the darkness wherein He dwelleth, as the Scripture says, who is above all.’[7]

The city of Home celebrates the feast of St. Bartholomew to-morrow, as do also the Greeks who commemorate on August 25 a translation of the apostle’s relics. It is owing, in fact, to the various translations of his holy body and to the difficulty of ascertaining the date of his martyrdom that different days have been adopted for his feast by different Churches, both in the east and in the west. The twenty-fourth of this month, consecrated by the use of most of the Latin Churches, is the day assigned in the most ancient martyrologies, including that of St. Jerome. In the thirteenth century Innocent III, having been consulted as to the divergence, answered that local custom was to be observed.[8]

The Church gives us the following notice of the apostle of Armenia.

Bartholomæus apostolus, Galilæus, cum in Indiam citeriorem, quæ ei in orbis terrarum sortitione ad prædicandum Jesu Christi Evangelium obvenerat, progressus esset, adventum Domini Jesu juxta sancti MatthæiEvangelium illis gentibus prædicavit. Sed cum in ea provincia plurimos ad Jesum Christum convertisset, multos labores calamitatesque perpessus, venit in majorem Armeniam.

Ibi Polymium regem et conjugem ejus, ac præteroa duodecim civitates ad Christianamfidem perduxit. Quæ res in eum magnam invidiam concitavit illius gentis sacerdotum. Nam usque adeo Astyagem Polymii regis fratrem in apostolum incendcrunt, ut is vivo Bartholomæo pellem crudeliter detrahi jusserit, ac caput abscindi: quo in martyrio animam Deo reddidit.

Ejus corpus Albani, quæ est urbs majoris Armeniæ, ubi is passus fuerat, sepultum est: quod postea ad Liparam insulam delatum, inde Beneventum translatum est: postremo Romain ab Othone tertio imperatore portatum, in Tiberis insula, in ecclesia ejus nomine Deo dicata, collocatum fuit. A gitur autem Romæ dies festus octavo Kalendas Septembris, et per octo consequentes dies illa basilica magna populi frequentia celebratur.
The apostle Bartholomew was a native of Galilee. It fell to his lot to preach the Gospel in hither India; and he announced to those nations the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. But after converting many souls to Jesus Christ in that province and undergoing much labour and suffering, he went into eastern Armenia.

Here he converted to the Christian faith the king Polymius and his queen and twelve cities. This caused the pagan priests of that nation to be exceedingly jealous of him, and they stirred up Astyages the brother of king Polymius against the apostle, so that he commanded him to be flayed alive and finally beheaded. In this cruel martyrdom he gave up his soul to God.

His body was buried at Albanapolis, the town of eastern Armenia where he was martyred; but it was afterwards taken to the island of Lispari, and thence to Beueventum. Finally it was translated to Rome by the emperor Otho III and placed on the island of the Tiber in a church dedicated to God under his invocation. His feast is kept at Rome on the eighth of the Kalends of September, and during the eight following days that basilica is much frequented by the faithful.

On this day of thy feast, O holy apostle, the Church prays for grace to love what thou didst believe and to preach what thou didst teach.[9] Not that the bride of the Son of God could ever fail either in faith or in love; but she knows only too well that,though her Head is ever in the light, and her heart ever united to the Spouse in the holy Spirit who sanctifies her, nevertheless her several members, the particular churches of which she is composed, may detach themselves from their centre of life and wander away in darkness. O thou who didst choose our west as the place of thy rest; thou whose precious relics Rome glories in possessing, bring back to Peter the nations thou didst evangelize; fulfil the now reviving hopes of universal union; second the efforts made by the vicar of the Man-God to gather again under the shepherd's crook those scattered flocks whose pastures have become parched by schism. May thine own Armenia be the first to complete a return which she began long ago; may she trust the mother-Church and no more follow the sowers of discord. All being reunited, may we together enjoy the treasures of our concordant traditions, and go to God, even at the cost of being despoiled of all things, by the course so grand and yet so simple taught us by thy example and by thy sublime theology.


[1] Son of Tholmai.
[2] St. John i. 45-51.
[3] Mekhitarists, Armenian monks of St. Benedict.
[4] One of the seventy-two.
[5] Hist. Eccl. Lib. v. c. 1.
[6] De Script. Eccl. c. xxxvi.
[7] Dion. De mystica theolog. c. i. §. 3.
[8] Decretal, lib. iii. tit. xlvi, c. 2.Consilium.
[9] Collect of the day.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

It was his Christian faith that made Louis IX so great a prince. ‘You that are the judges of the earth, think of the Lord in goodness, and seek Him in simplicity of heart.’[1] Eternal Wisdom, in giving this precept to kings, rejoiced with divine foreknowledge among the lilies of France, where this great saint was to shine with so bright a lustre.

Subject and prince are bound to God by a common law, for all men have one entrance into life, and the like going out.[2]Far from being less responsible to the divine authority than his subjects, the prince is auswerable for every one of them as well as for himself. The aim and object of creation is that God be glorified by the return of all creatures to their Author, in the manner and measure that He wills. Therefore, since God has called man to a participation in His own divine life, and has made the earth to be to him but a place of passage, mere natural justice and the present order of things are not sufficient for him. Kings must recognize that the object of their civil sovereignty, not being the last end of all things, is, like themselves, under the direction and absolute rule of that higher end, before which they are but as subjects. Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty.[3] Thus did the divine goodness give merciful warnings under the ancient Covenant.

But not satisfied with giving repeated admonitions, Wisdom came down from her heavenly throne. Henceforth the world belongs to her by a twofold title. By the right of her divine origin, she held the principality in the brightness of the saints, before the rising of the day star; she now reigns by right of conquest over the redeemed world. Before her coming in the flesh, it was already from her that kings received their power, and that equity which directs its exercise. Jesus, the Son of Man, whose Blood paid the ransom of the world, is now, by the contract of the sacred nuptials which united Him to our nature, the only source of power and of all true justice. And now, once more, O ye kings, understand: says the psalmist; receive instruction, you that judge the earth.[4]

St. Augustine:

It is Christ who speaks: Now that I am king in the name of God My Father, be not sad, as though you were thereby deprived of some good you possessed; but rather acknowledging that it is good for you to be subject to Him who gives you security in the light, serve this Lord of all with fear, and rejoice unto Him.[5]

It is the Church that continues, in the name of our ascended Lord, to give to kings this security which comes from the light: the Church who, without trespassing upon the authority of princes, is nevertheless their superior as mother of nations, as judge of consciences, as the only guide of the human race journeying towards its last end. Let us listen to the sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII, speaking with the precision and power which characterize his infallible teaching:

As there are on earth two great societies: the one civil, whose immediate end is to procure the temporal and earthly well-being of the human race; the other religious, whose aim is to lead men to the eternal happiness for which they were created: so also God has divided the government of the world between two powers. Each of these is supreme in its kind; each is bounded by definite limits drawn in conformity with its nature and its peculiar end. Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church, willed that they should be distinct from one another, and that both should be free from trammels in the accomplishment of their respective missions; yet with this provision, that in those matters which appertain to the jurisdiction and judgment of both, though on different grounds, the power which is concerned with temporal interests, must depend, as is fitting, on that power which watches over eternal interests. Finally, both being subject to the eternal and to the natural Law, they must in such a manner mutually agree in what concerns the order and government of each, as to form a relationship comparable to the union of soul and body in man.

In the sphere of eternal interests, to which no one may be indifferent, princes are bound to hold not only themselves but their people also in subjection to God and to His Church.

[For] since men united by the bonds of a common society depend on God no less than individuals, associations whether political or private cannot, without crime, behave as if God did not exist, nor put away religion as something foreign to them, nor dispense themselves from observing, in that religion, the rules according to which God has declared that He wills to be honoured. Consequently, the heads of the State are bound, as such, to keep holy the name of God, make it one of of their principal duties to protect religion by the authority of the laws, and not command or ordain anything contrary to its integrity.[6]

Let us now return to St. Augustine’s explanation of the text of the Psalm:

How do kings serve the Lord with fear, except by forbidding and punishing with a religious severity all acts contrary to the commands of the Lord? In his twofold character as man and as prince, the king must serve God: as man, he serves Him by the fidelity of his life; as king, by framing or maintaining laws which command good and forbid evil. He must act like Ezechias and Josias, destroying the temples of the false gods and the high places that had been constructed contrary to the command of the Lord; like the king of Ninive obliging his city to appease the Lord; like Darius giving up the idol to Daniel to be broken, and casting Daniel’s enemies to the lions; like Nabuchodonosor forbidding blasphemy throughout his kingdom by a terrible law. It is thus that kings serve the Lord as kings, viz: when they do in His service those tilings which only kings can do.[7]

In all this teaching we are not losing sight of to-day’s feast; for we may say of Louis IX as an epitome of his life: ‘He made a covenant before the Lord to walk after Him and keep His commandments; and cause them to be kept by all.’[8]God was his end, faith was his guide: herein lies the whole secret of his government as well as of his sanctity. As a Christian he was a servant of Christ, as a prince he was Christ’s lieutenant; the aspirations of the Christian and those of the prince did not divide his soul; this unity was his strength, as it is now his glory. He now reigns in heaven with Christ, who alone reigned in him and by him on earth. If then your delight be in thrones and sceptres, O ye kings of the people, love wisdom, that you may reign for ever.[9]

Louis was anointed king at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent 1226; and he laid to heart for his whole life the words of that day’s Introit: ‘To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust!' He was only twelve years old; but our Lord had given him the surest safeguard of his youth, in the person of his mother, that noble daughter of Spain, whose coming into France, says William de Nangis, was the arrival of all good things.[10] The premature death of her husband Louis VIII left Blanche of Castille to cope with a most formidable conspiracy. The great vassals, whose power had been reduced during the preceding reigns, promised themselves that they would profit of the minority of the new prince, in order to regain the rights they had enjoyed under the ancient feudal system to the detriment of the unity of government. In order to remove this mother, who stood up single-handed between the weakness of the heir to the throne and their ambition, the barons, everywhere in revolt, joined hands with the Albigensian heretics; and made an alliance with the son of John Lackland, Henry III, who was endeavouring to recover the possessions in France lost by his father in punishment for the murder of prince Arthur. Strong in her son’s right and in the protection of Pope Gregory IX, Blanche held out; and she, whom the traitors to their country called the foreigner in order to palliate their crime, saved France by her prudence and her brave firmness. After nine years of regency, she handed over the nation to its king, more united and more powerful than ever since the days of Charlemagne.

We cannot here give the history of an entire reign; but, honour to whom honour is due: Louis, in order to become the glory of heaven and earth on this day, had but to walk in the footsteps of Blanche, the son had but to remember the precepts of his mother.

There was a graceful simplicity in our saint’s life, which enhanced its greatness and heroism. One would have said he did not experience the difficulty that others feel, though far removed from the throne, in fulfilling those words of our Lord: Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.[11] Yet who was greater than this humble king, making more account of his Baptism at Poissy than of his anointing at Rheims; saying his Hours, fasting, scourging himself like his friends the Friars Preachers and Minors; ever treating with respect those whom he regarded as God’s privileged ones, priests, religious, the suffering and the poor? The great men of our days may smile at him for being more grieved at losing his breviary than at being taken captive by the Saracens. But how have they behaved in the like extremity? Never was the enemy heard to say of any of them: ‘You are our captive, and one would say we were rather your prisoners.’ They did not check the fierce greed and bloodthirstiness of their gaolers, nor dictate terms of peace as proudly as if they had been the conquerors. The country, brought into peril by them, has not come out of the trial more glorious. It is peculiar to the admirable reign of St. Louis, that disasters made him not only a hero but a saint; and that France gained for centuries in the east, where her king had been captive, a greater renown than any victory could have won for her.

The humility of holy kings is not forgetfulness of the great office they fulfil in God’s name; their abnegation could not consist in giving up rights which are also duties, any more than charity could cast out justice, or love of peace could oppose the virtues of the warrior. St. Louis, without an army, felt himself superior as a Christian to the victorious infidel, and treated him accordingly; moreover the west discovered very early, and more and more as his sanctity increased with his years, that this king, who spent his nights in prayer, and his days in serving the poor, was not the man to yield to anyone the prerogatives of the crown. ‘There is but one king in France,’ said the judge of Vincennes rescinding a sentence of Charles of Anjou; and the barons at the castle of Bellême, and the English at Taillebourg, were already aware of it; so was Frederick II who, threatening to crush the Church and seeking aid from the French, received this answer: ‘The kingdom of France is not so weak as to suffer itself to be driven by your spurs.’

Louis’s death was like his life, simple and great. God called him to Himself in the midst of sorrowful and critical circumstances, far from his own country, in that African land where he had before suffered so much; these trials were sanctifying thorns, reminding the prince of his most cherished jewel, the sacred crown of thorns which he had added to the treasures of France. Moved by the hope of converting the king of Tunis to the Christian faith, it was rather as an apostle than a soldier that he had landed on that shore where his last straggle awaited him. ‘I challenge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of His lieutenant Louis king of France;’ such was the sublime provocation hurled against the infidel city, and it was worthy of the close of such a life. Six centuries later, Tunis was to see the sons of those same Franks unwittingly following up the challenge of the saintly king, at the invitation of all the holy ones resting in the now Christian land of ancient Carthage.

The Christian army, victorious in every battle, was decimated by a terrible plague, Surrounded by the dead and dying, and himself attacked with the contagion, Louis called to him his eldest son, who was to succeed him as Philip III, and gave him his last instructions:

Dear son, the first thing I admonish thee is that thou set thy heart to love God, for without that nothing else is of any worth. Beware of doing what displeases God, that is to say mortal sin; yea rather oughtest thou to suffer all manner of torments. If God send thee adversity, receive it in patience, and give thanks for it to our Lord, and think that thou hast done Him ill service. If He give thee prosperity, thank Him humbly for the same and be not the worse, either by pride or in any other manner, for that very thing that ought to make thee better; for we must not use God’s gifts against Himself. Have a kind and pitiful heart towards the poor and the unfortunate, and comfort and assist them as much as thou canst. Keep up the good customs of thy kingdom, and put down all bad ones. Love all that is good and hate all that is evil of any sort. Suffer no ill word about God or our Lady or the saints to be spoken in thy presence, that thou dost not straightway punish. In the administering of justice be loyal to thy subjects, without turning aside to the right hand or to the left; but help the right, and take the part of the poor until the whole truth be cleared up. Honour and love all ecclesiastical persons, and take care that they be not deprived of the gifts and alms that thy predecessors may have given them. Dear son, I admonish thee that thou be ever devoted to the Church of Rome, and to the sovereign Bishop our father, that is the Pope, and that thou bear him reverence and honour as thou oughtest to do to thy spiritual father. Exert thyself that every vile sin be abolished from thy land; especially to the best of thy power put down all wicked oaths and heresy. Fair son, I give thee all the blessings that a good father can give to a son; may the blessed Trinity and all the saints guard thee and protect thee from all evils; may God give thee grace to do His will always, and may He be honoured by thee, and may thou and I after this mortal life be together in His company and praise Him without end.[12]

Continues Joinville:

When the good king had instructed his son my lord Philip, his illness began to increase greatly; ho asked for the Sacraments of holy Church, and received them in a sound mind and right understanding, as was quite evident; for when they were anointing him and saying the seven Psalms, he took his own part in reciting. I have heard my lord the Count d’Alencon his son relate, that when he drew nigh to death, he called the saints to aid and succour him, and in particular my lord St. James, saying his prayer which begins: Esto Domine; that is to say: O God, be the sanctifier and guardian of thy people. Then he called to his aid my lord St. Denis of France, saying his prayer, which is as much as to say: Sire God, grant that we may despise the prosperity of this world, and may fear no adversity! And I heard from my lord d’Alencon (whom God absolve), that his father next invoked Madame St. Genevieve. After this the holy king had himself laid on a bed strewn with ashes, and placing his hands upon his breast and looking towards heaven, he gave up his soul to his Creator, at the same hour wherein the Son of God died on the cross for the salvation of the world.

Let us read the short notice consecrated by the Church to her valiant eldest son.

Ludovicus nonus Galliæ rex, duodecim annos natus, patre amisso, et in Blanchæ matris sanctissima disciplina educatus, cum jam vigesimuin annum in regno ageret, in morbum incidit: quo tempore cogitavit de recuperanda possessione Jerosolymorum. Quamobrem ubi convaluisset, vexillum ab episcopo Parisiensi accepit: deinde mare cum ingenti exercitu trajiciens, primo prælio Saracenos fugavit. Sed cum ex pestilentia magna militum multitudo periisset, victus ipse captusque est.

Rebus postea cum Saracenis compositis, liber rex exercitusque dimittitur. Quinque annis in Oriente commoratus, plurimos christianos a barbarorum servituteredemit, multos etiam infideles ad Christi fidem convertit; præterea aliquot christianorum urbes refecit suis sumptibus. Interim mater ejus migrat e vita: quare domum redire cogitur, ubi totum se dedit pietatis officiis.

Multa ædificavit monasteria, et pauperum hospitia:beneficentia egentes sublevabat: frequens visebat ægrotos, quibus ipse non solum suis sumptibus omnia suppeditabat, sed etiam, quæ opus erant, manibus ministrabat. Vestitu vulgari utebatur, cilicio ac jejunio corpus assidue affligebat. Sed cum iterum transmisisset, bellum Saracenis illaturus, jamque castra in eorum conspectu posuisset, pestilentia decessit in illa oratione: Introibo in domum tuam; adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum, et confitebor nomini tuo. Ejus corpus postea Lutetiam Parisiorum translatum est, quod in celebri sancti Dionysii templo asservatur et colitur: caput vero in sacra æde sanctæ Capellæ. Ipse clarus miraculis a Bonifacio Papa octavo in sanctorum numerum est relatus.
Louis IX, king of France, having lost his father when he was only twelve years old, was educated in a most holy manner by his mother Blanche. When he had reigned for twenty years he fell ill and it was then he conceived the idea of regaining possession of Jerusalem. On his recovery therefore he received the great standard from the bishop of Paris and crossed the sea with a large army. In a first engagement he repulsed the Saracens; but a great number of his men being struck down by pestilence, he was conquered and made prisoner.

A treaty was then made with the Saracens, and the king and his army were set at liberty. Louis spent five years in the east. He delivered many Christian captives, converted many of the infidels to the faith of Christ, and also rebuilt several Christian towns out of his own lesources. Meanwhile his mother died, and on this account he was obliged to return home, where he devoted himself entirely to good works.

He built many monasteries and hospitals for the poor; heassisted those in need and frequently visited the sick, supplying all their necessities at his own expense and even serving them with his own hands. He dressed in a simple manner and subdued his body by continual fasting and wearing a hair-cloth. He crossed over to Africa a second time to fight with the Saracens, and had pitched his camp in sight of them when he was struck down by a pestilence and died while saying this prayer: ‘I will come into thy house; I will worship towards thy holy temple and I will confess to thy name.’ His body was afterwards translated to Paris and is honourably preserved in the celebrated church of St. Denis; but the head is in the Sainte-Chapelle. He was celebrated for miracles, and Pope Boniface VIII enrolled his name among the saints.

Jerusalem, the true Sion, at length opens her gates to thee, O Louis, who for her sake didst give up thy treasures and thy life. From the eternal throne whereon the Son of God gives thee to share His own honours and power, ever promote the kingdom of God on earth; be zealous for the faith; be a strong arm to our mother the Church. Thanks to thee, the infidel east, though it adores not Christ, at least respects His adorers, having but one name for Christian and Frank. For this reason our present rulers would remain protectors of Christianity in those lands, while they persecute it at home; a contradiction no less fatal to the country than opposed to its traditions of liberty, and its reputation for honour and honesty. How can they be said to know our traditions and our history, or to understand the national interests, who misunderstand the God of Clovis, of Charlemagne, and of St. Louis? In that Egypt, the scene of thy labours, what has now become of the patrimony of glorious influence which has been held by thy nation for centuries?

Thy descendants are no longer here to defend us against these men who use the country for their own purposes and exile those who have been the makers of it. But how terrible are the judgments of the Lord! Thou thyself hast said: ‘I would rather a stranger than my own son should rule my people and kingdom, if my son is to rule amiss.’[13] Thirty years after the Crusade of Tunis, an unworthy prince, Philip IV thy second successor, outraged the Vicar of Christ. Straightway he was rejected by heaven, and his direct male line became extinct. The withered bough was replaced by another branch, though still from the same root. But the nation had to suffer for its kings, and to expiate the crime of Anagni: the judgment of God allowed a terrible war to be brought about through the political indisoretion of the same Philip the Fair,[14] a prince as discreditable to the State as to the Church and to his own family. Then for a hundred years the country seemed to be on the brink of destruction; until by a wonderful protection of God over the land, the Maid of Orleans, blessed Joan of Arc, rescued the lily of France from the clutches of the English leopard.

Other faults alas! were to compromise still further, and then, twice over, to wither up or break the branches of the royal tree.Long did thy personal merits outweigh before God the scandalous immorality, which our princes had made their family mark, their odious privilege: a shame, which was transmitted by the expiring Valois to the Bourbons; which had to be expiated, but not effaced, by the blood of the just Louis XVI; and which so many illustrious exiles are still expiating in lowliness and sorrow in a foreign land. Would that thou couldst at least recognize these thy remaining sons by their imitation of thy virtues! For it is only by striving to win back this spiritual inheritance, that they can hope that God will one day restore them the other.

For God, who commands us to obey at all times the power actually established, is ever the master of nations and the unchangeable disposer of their changeable destinies. Then every one of thy descendants, taught by a sad experience, will be bound to remember, O Louis, thy last recommendation: 'Exert thyself that every vile sin be abolished from thy land; especially, to the best of thy power, put down all wicked oaths and heresy.’


[1] Wisd. i. 1.
[2] Ibid. vii. 6.
[3] Ibid. vi. 2, 9.
[4] Psalm ii. 10.
[5] S. Aug. Enarrat. in Ps. ii.
[6] Cf. Epist. Encycl. ad Episcopos Galliæ, Nohilissima Gallorum gens, 8 Febr. 1884,—Encycl. Immortale Dei, de civitatum constitutione Christiana, l Nov. 1885,—Encycl. Arcanum divinœ sapientiœ, de matrimonio Christiano, 10 Feb. 1880.
[7] Aug. ad Bonifac. Ep. 185.
[8] 2 Paralip. xxxiv. 31-33.
[9] Wisd. vi. 22.
[10] Gesta S. Ludovici.
[11] Matt, xviii. 3.
[12] Geoffrey do Beaulieu; Queen Margaret’s Confessor; William de Nangis; Joinville.
[13] Joinville, part 1.
[14] By marrying his daughter Isabella to Edward II of England; which marriage after the death of Philip’s three sons Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IX, without male issue, furnished the plea for Isabella’s son Edward III to pretend to the crown of France.

 

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