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September

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The great patriarch of Assisi will soon appear a second time in the holy liturgy, and we shall praise God for the marvels wrought in him by divine grace. The subject of to-day’s feast, while a personal glory to St. Francis, is of greater importance for its mystical signification.

The Man-God still lives in the Church by the continual reproduction of His mysteries in this His bride, making her a faithful copy of Himself. In the thirteenth century, while the charity of the many had grown cold,[1] the divine fire burned with redoubled ardour in the hearts of a chosen few. It was the hour of the Church’s passion; the beginning of that series of social defections, with their train of denials, treasons, and derisions, which ended in the proscription we now witness. The cross had been exalted before the eyes of the world: the bride was now to be nailed thereto with her divine Spouse, after having stood with Him in the pretorium exposed to the insults and blows of the multitude.

Like an artist selecting a precious marble, the holy Spirit chose the flesh of the Assisian seraph as the medium for the expression of His divine thought. He thereby manifested to the world the special direction He intended to give to the sanctity of souls; He offered to heaven a first and complete model of the new work He was meditating, viz: the perfect union, upon the very cross, of the mystical body with its divine Head. Francis was the first to be chosen for this honour: but others were to follow; and henceforward, here and there through the world, the stigmata of our blessed Lord will ever be visible in the Church.

Let us read in this light the admirable history of the event, composed by the seraphic doctor in honour of his holy father St. Francis.

Fidelis revera famulus et minister Christi Franciscus, biennio antequam spiritimi redderet cœlo, cum in loco excelso seorsum, qui mons Alverniædicitur, quadragenarium ad honorem Archangeli Michælis jejunium inchoasset, supernæ contemplationis dulcedine abundantius solito superfusus, ac cœlestium desideriorum ardentiori flamma succensus, supernarum cœpit immissionum cumulatius dona sentire. Dum igitur seraphicis desideriorum ardoribus sursum ageretur in Deum, et affectus compassiva teneritudine in eum transformaretur, cui ex cantate nimia crucifigi complacuit: quodam mane circa festum Exaltationis sanctæ crucis, in latere montis orans, vidit quasi speciem unius Seraphim sex alas tam fulgidas quam ignitas habentem de cœlorum sublimitate descendere: qui volatu celerrimo ad æris locum viro Dei propinquum perveniens, non solum alatus, sed et crucifixus apparuit: manus quidem et pedes habens extensos, et cruci affixos, alas vero sic miro modo hinc inde dispositas, ut duas super caput erigeret, duas ad volandum extenderet, duabus vero reliquis totum corpus circumplectendo velaret. Hoc videns, vehementer obstupuit, mixtumque dolori gaudium mens ejus incurrit, dum et in gratioso ejus aspectu sibi tam mirabiliter quam fainiliariter apparentis excessivam quamdam concipiebat lætitiam, et dira conspecta crucis affixio ipsius animam compassivi doloris gladio pertransivit.

Intellexit quidem illo docente interius, qui et apparebat exterius: quod licet passions infirmitas cum immortalitate spiritus seraphici nullatenus conveniret, ideo tamen hujusmodi visio suis fuerat præsentata conspectibus; ut amicus ipse Christi prænosceret, se non per martyrium carnis, sed per incendium mentis totum in Christi Jesu crucifixi expressam similitudinem transformandum. Disparens itaque visio post arcanum ac familiare colloquium mentem ipsius seraphico interius inflammavit ardore; carnem vero Crucifixo conformi exterius insignivit effigie, tamquam si ad ignis liquefactivam virtutem præambulam sigillativa quædam esset impressio subsecuta. Statim namque in manibus et pedibus ejus apparere cœperunt signa clavorum, ipsorum capitibus in inferiori parte manuum et superiori pedum apparentibus, et eorum acuminibus exsistentibus ex adverso. Dextrum quoque latus quasi lancea transfixum rubra cicatrice obductum erat: quod sæpe sanguinem sacrum effundens, tunicam et femoralia respergebat.

Postquam igitur novus homo Franciscus novo et stupendo miraculo claruit, cum singulari privilegio retroactis sæculis non concesso insignitus apparuit, sacris videlicet stigmatibus decoratus, descendit de monte secum ferens Crucifìxi effigiem, non in tabulis lapideis vel ligneis manu figuratam artificis, sed in carneis membris descriptam digito Dei vivi: quoniam sacramentum regis seraphicus vir abscondere bonum esse optime norat, secreti regalis conscius, signacula illa sacra pro viribus occultabat. Veruni quia Dei est ad gloriam suam magna revelare, quæ facit Dominus ipse, qui signacula illa secrete impresserat, miracula quædam aperte per ipsa monstravit, ut illorum occulta et mira vis stigmatum, manifesta pateret claritate signorum. Porro rem admirabilem ac tantopere testatam, atque in pontificiis diplomatibus præcipuis laudibus et favoribus exaltatam, Benediotus Papa undecimus anniversaria solemnitate celebrari voluit: quam postea Paulus quintus Pontifex maximus, ut corda fidelium in Christi crucifìxi accenderentur amorem, ad universam Ecclesiam propagavit.
He, who appeared outwardly to Francis, taught him inwardly that, although weakness and suffering are incompatible with the immortal life of a seraph, yet this vision had been shown to him to the end that he, Christ’s lover, might learn how his whole being was to be transformed into a living image of Christ crucified, not by martyrdom of the flesh, but by the burning ardour of his soul. After a mysterious and familiar colloquy, the vision disappeared, leaving the saint’s mind burning with seraphic ardour, and his flesh impressed with an exact image of the Crucified, as though, after the melting power of that fire, it had next been stamped with a seal. For immediately the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet, their heads showing in the palms of his hands and the upper part of his feet, and their points visible on the other side. There was also a red scar on his right side, as if it had been wounded by a lance, and from which blood often flowed staining his tunic and underclothing.

Two years before the faithful servant and minister of Christ, Francis, gave up his spirit to God, he retired alone into a high place, which is called Mount Alvernia, and began a forty days’ fast in honour of the Archangel St. Michæl. The sweetness of heavenly contemplation was poured out on him more abundantly than usual, till, burning with the flame of celestial desires, he began to feel an increasing overflow of these divine favours. While the seraphic ardour of his desires thus raised him up to God, and the tenderness of his love and compassion was transforming him into Christ the crucified Victim of excessive love; one morning about the feast of the Exaltation of holy cross, as he was praying on the mountain-side, he saw what appeared to be a Seraph, with six shining and fiery wings, coming down from heaven. The vision flew swiftly through the air and approached the man of God, who then perceived that it was not only winged, but also crucified; for the hands and feet were stretched out and fastened to a cross; while the wings were arranged in a wondrous manner, two being raised above the head, two outstretched in flight, and the remaining two crossed over and veiling the whole body. As he gazed, Francis was much astonished, and his soul was filled with mingled joy and sorrow. The gracious aspect of him, who appeared in so wonderful and loving a manner, rejoiced him exceedingly, while the sight of his cruel crucifixion pierced his heart with a sword of sorrowing compassion.

Francis, now a new man, honoured by this new and amazing miracle, and, by a hitherto unheard of privilege, adorned with the sacred stigmata, came down from the mountain bearing with him the image of the Crucified, not carved in wood or stone by the hand of an artist, but engraved upon his flesh by the finger of the living God. The seraphic man well knew that it is good to hide the secret of the king; wherefore, having been thus admitted into his king’s confidence, he strove, as far as in him lay, to conceal the sacred marks. But it belongs to God to reveal the great things which he himself has done; and hence, after impressing those signs upon Francis in secret, he publicly worked miracles by means of them, revealing the hidden and wondrous power of the stigmata by the signs wrought through them. Pope Benedict XI willed that this wonderful event, which is so well attested and in pontifical diplomas has been honoured with the greatest praises and favours, should be celebrated by a yearly solemnity. Afterwards, Pope Paul V, wishing the hearts of all the faithful to be enkindled with the love of Christ crucified, extended the feast to the whole Church.

Standard-bearer of Christ and of His Church, we would fain, with the apostle and with thee, glory in nothing save the cross of our Lord Jesus. We would fain bear in our souls the sacred stigmata, which adorned thy holy body. To him whose whole ambition is to return love for love, every suffering is a gain, persecution has no terrors; for the effect of persecutions and sufferings is to assimilate him, together with his mother the Church, to Christ persecuted, scourged, and crucified.

It is with our whole hearts that we pray, with the Church: ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, who, when the world was growing cold, didst renew the sacred marks of Thy Passion in the flesh of the most blessed Francis, to inflame our hearts with the fire of Thy love; mercifully grant, that by bis merits and prayers we may always carry the cross, and bring forth worthy fruits of penance. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.’[2]

At Bingen, in the diocese of Mayence, Saint Hildegarde, virgin.[3] Let us salute the ‘great prophetess of the new Testament.’[4] What St. Bernard’s influence over his contemporaries was in the first half of the twelfth century, that in the second half was Hildegarde’s, when the humble virgin became the oracle of popes and emperors, of princes and prelates. Multitudes from far and near flocked to Mount St. Rupert, where the doubts of ordinary life were solved, and the questions of doctors answered. At length, by God’s command, Hildegarde went forth from her monastery to administer to all alike, monks, clerics, and laymen, the word of correction and salvation.

The Spirit indeed breatheth where He will.[5] To the massy pillars that support His royal palace, God preferred the poor little feather floating in the air, and blown about, at His pleasure, hither and thither in the light.[6] In spite of labours, sicknesses, and trials, the holy abbess lived to the advanced age of eighty-two, ‘in the shadow of the living light.’[7] Her precious relics are now at Eibingen. The writings handed down to us from the pen of this illiterate virgin,[8] are a series of sublime visions, embracing the whole range of contemporary science, physical and theological, from the creation of the world to its final consummation. May Hildegarde deign to send us an interpreter of her works and an historian of her life such as they merit!

Prayer

Deus, qui beatam Hildegardem virginem tuam, donis cœlestibus decorasti: tribue, quæsumus: ut ejus vestigiis et documentis insistentes, a prsesentis hujus sæculi caligine ad lucem tuam delectabilem transire mereamur. Per Dominum.
O God, who didst adorn thy blessed virgin Hildegarde with heavenly gifts: grant, we beseech thee, that walking in her footsteps and according to her teachings, we may deserve to pass from the darkness of this world into thy lovely light. Through our Lord.

[1] Collect of the feast.
[2] Collect of the feast.
[3] Martyrology on this day.
[4] VitaS.Gerlaci coæva.
[5] St. John iii. 8.
[6] Hildegard. Epist. ad Engenium Pontificem.
[7] Guibert. Vita Hildegardis, iv.
[8] Scivias; Lib. Vitæ mer itorum; Lib. Divinorum operum; etc.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

While, in France, the rising spirit of Jansenism was driving God from the hearts of the people, a humble son of St. Francis, in southern Italy, was showing how easily love may span the distance between earth and heaven. ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself,’[1] said our Lord; and time has proved it to be the most universal of His prophecies. On the feast of the holy cross, we witnessed its truth, even in the domain of social and political claims. We shall experience it in our very bodies on the great day, when we shall be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air.[2] But Joseph of Cupertino had experience of it without waiting for the resurrection: innumerable witnesses have borne testimony to his life of continual ecstasies, wherein he was frequently seen raised high in the air. And these facts took place in what men are pleased to call the noonday of history.

Let us read the account of him given by holy Church.

Josephus a Cupertino, oppido in Salentinis diœcesis Neritonensis, anno reparatæ salutis millesimo sexcentesimo tertio, piis ibidem parentibus ortus, Deique amore præventus, pueritiam atque adolcscentiam summa cum simplicitate morumque innocentia transegit. A diuturno molestoque morbo patientissime tolerato, Deiparæ Virginis ope liberatus, se totum pietatis operibus ac excolendis virtutibus dedit: utque Deo ad majora vocanti se intimius conjungeret, Ordini seraphico nomen dare constituit. Post varios eventus voti tandem compos factus, apud Minores Conventuales in cœnobio Cryptulæ, inter laicos primum ob litterarum imperitiam, deinde inter clericos divina dispositione connumeratua est. Sacerdotio post solemnia vota initiatus, perfectius sibi vitæ institutum proposuit. Quamobrem mundanis quibuscumque affectibus, terrenisque rebus pene ad vitam necessariis illico a se abdicatis, ciliciis, flagellis, catenis, omni demum asperitatum ac pœnarum genere corpus afflixit: spiritum vero sanctæ orationis altissimæque contemplationis assiduitate dulciter enutrivit. Hinc factum est, ut caritas Dei, quæ jam erat in ejus corde a prima ætate diffusa, miro planeque singulari modo in dies coruacaverit.

Eluxit præcipue ardentissima ejus caritas in extasibus ad Deum suavissimis, Btupendisque raptibus, quibus frequenter afficiebatur. Mirum autem, quod alienato a sensibus animo statim ab extasi eum rovocabat sola obedientia. Hanc quippe virtutem eximio studio prosequebatur, dicere solitus, se ab ea veluti cæcum circumduci, et mori potius velie quam non obedire. Paupertatem vero seraphici patriarchæ ita æmulatus est, ut morti proximus prælato suo asserere vere potuerit, se nihil habere, quod more religiosorum resignaret. Itaque mundo sibique mortuus, vitam Jesu manifestabat in carne sua, quæ dum in aliquibus ex turpitudine obscœnum flagitium sentiebat, prodigiosum de se efflabat odorem, indicium nitidissimæillius puritatis, quam, immundo spiritu vehementissimis tentationibus frustra obnubilare diu conante, servavit illæsam, tum arcta sensuum custodia, tum jugi corporis maceratione, tum denique speciali protectione purissimæ Virginis Mariæ, quam matrem suam appellare consuevit, ac veluti Matrem dulcissimam intimo cordis affectu venerebatur, eamque ab aliis venerari exoptabat, ut cum ejusdem patrocinio, sicut ipse aiebat, omnia bona consequerentur.

Hæc beati Josephi sollicitudo a sua erga proximos cantate prodibat: tanto enim animarum zelo exardebat, ut omnium salutem modisomnibusinstantissime procuraret. Extendens pariter caritatem suam in proxinium sive pauperem, sive infirmum, sive quacumque alia tribulatione vexatum, quantum in ipso erat, illum recreabat. Nec alieni erant ab ejus caritate, qui objurgationibus, probris, omnisque generis injuriis ipsum appeterent; nam eadem patientia, mansuetudine, vultusque hilaritate talia excipiebat, qua tot inter ac tantas vicissitudines resplenduit, dum vel moderatorum Ordinis, vel sacræ Inquisitionis jussu hac illac errare versarique coactus est. Quamquam vero populi non solum, sed viri principes eximiam ejus sanctitatem et superna charismata admirarentur, ea nihilominus erat humilitate, ut magnum se peccatorem reputans Deum enixe deprecaretur, ut sua ab eo illustria dona removeret, homines vero exoraret, ut in eum locum mortuum ejus corpus injicerent, ubi memoria sui esset prorsus oblitterata. At Deus, qui ponit humiles in sublime, quique servum suum, dum viveret, cœlesti sapientia, prophetia, cordium perscrutatione, curationum gratia, ceterisque donis cumulatissime exornaverat, ejus quoque mortem iis, quibus ipse antea prædixerat, loco ac tempore, anno ætatis suæ sexagesimo primo, Auximi in Piceno pretiosam reddidit, sepulchrumque gloriosum. Ilium denique etiam post obitum miraculis coruscantem Benedictus quartusdecimus beatorum, Clemens tertiusdecimus sanctorum fastis adscripsit. Ejus autem Officium et Missam Clemens quartusdecimus ejusdem Ordinis ad universam Ecclesiam extendit.
Joseph was born of pious parents at Cupertino, a town of the Salentines in the diocese of Nardo, in the year of salvation one thousand six hundred and three. Prevented with the love of God, he spent his boyhood and youth in the greatest simplicity and innocence. The Virgin Mother of God delivered him from a long and painful malady, which he had borne with the greatest patience; whereupon he devoted himself entirely to works of piety and the practice of virtue. But God called him to something higher; and in order to attain to closer union with him, Joseph determined to enter the Seraphic Order. After several trials he obtained his desire, and was admitted among the Minor Conventuals in the convent called Grotella, first as a lay-brother, on account of his lack of learning; but afterwards, God so disposing, ho was raised to the rank of a cleric. After making his solemn vows he was ordained priest, and began a new life of greater perfection. Utterly renouncing all earthly affections and everything of this world almost to the very necessaries of life, he afflicted his body with hairshirts, chains, disciplines, and every kind of austerity and penance; while he assiduously nourished his spirit with the sweetness of holy prayer, and the highest contemplation. By this means, the love of God, which had been poured out in his heart from his childhood, daily increased in a most wonderful manner.

His burning charity shone forth most remarkably in the sweet ecstasies which raised his soul to God, and the wonderful raptures he frequently experienced. Yet, marvellous to tell, however rapt he was in God, obedience would immediately recall him to the use of his senses. He was exceedingly zealous in the practice of obedience; and used to say that he was led by it like a blind man, and that he would rather die than disobey. He emulated the poverty of the seraphic patriarch to such a degree, that on his deathbed he could truthfully tell his superior he had nothing which, according to custom, he could relinquish. Thus dead to the world and to himself Joseph showed forth in his flesh the life of Jesus. While in others he perceived the vice of impurity by an evil odour, his own body exhaled a most sweet fragrance, a sign of the spotless purity which he preserved unsullied in spite of long and violent temptations from the devil. This victory he gained by strict custody of his senses, by continual mortification of the body, and especially by the protection of the most pure Virgin Mary, whom he called his Mother, and whom he venerated with tenderest affection as the sweetest of mothers, desiring to see her venerated by others, that they might, said he, together with her patronage gain all good things.

Blessed Joseph’s solicitude in this respect sprang from his love for his neighbour, for he was consumed with zeal for souls, urging him to seek the salvation of all. His love embraced the poor, the sick, and all in affliction, whom he comforted as far as lay in his power, not excluding those who pursued him with reproaches and insults, and every kind of injury. He bore all this with the same patience, sweetness, and cheerfulness of countenance as were remarked in him when he was obliged frequently to change his residence, by the command of the superiors of his Order, or of the holy Inquisition. People and princes admired his wonderful holiness and heavenly gifts; yet, such was his humility, that, thinking himself a great sinner, he earnestly besought God to remove from him his admirable gifts: while he begged men to cast his body after death in a place where his memory might utterly perish. But God, who exalts the humble, and who had richly adorned his servant during life with heavenly wisdom, prophecy, the reading of hearts, the grace of healing, and other gifts, also rendered his death precious and his sepulchre glorious. Joseph died at the place and time he had foretold, namely, at Osimo in Picenum, in the sixty-first year of his age. He was famous for miracles after his death; and was enrolled among the blessed by Benedict XIV and among the saints by Clement XIII. Clement XIV, who was of the same Order, extended his Office and Mass to the universal Church.

While praising God for the marvellous gifts He bestowed on thee, we acknowledge that thy virtues were yet more wonderful. Otherwise thy ecstasies would be regarded with suspicion by the Church, who usually witholds her judgment until long after the world has begun to admire and applaud. Obedience, patience, and charity, increasing under trial, were incontestable guarantees for the divine authorship of these marvels, which the enemy is sometimes permitted to mimic to a certain extent. Satan may raise a Simon Magus into the air: he cannot make a humble man. O worthy son of the seraph of Assisi, may we, after thy example, be raised up, not into the air, but into those regions of true light, where far above the earth and its passions, our life, like thine, may be hidden with Christ in God![3]


[1] St. John xii. 32.
[2] 1 Thess. iv. 16.
[3] Collect and proper antiphons of the feast. Col. iii. 3.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Januarius is ever preaching the Gospel to every creature; lor his miraculous blood perpetuates the testimony he bore to Christ. Let those who say they cannot believe unless they see, go to Naples; there they will behold the martyr’s blood, when placed near his head which was out off sixteen hundred years ago, to liquefy and boil as at the moment it escaped from his sacred veins. No; miracles are not lacking in the Church at the present day. True, God cannot subject Himself to the fanciful requirements of those proud men, who would dictate to Him the conditions of the prodigies they must needs witness ere they will bow before His infinite Majesty. Nevertheless, His intervention in interrupting the laws of nature framed by Him and by Him alone to be suspended, has never yet failed the man of good faith in any period of history. At present there is less dearth than ever of such manifestations.

The following is the legend concerning St. Januarius and the sharers in his glorious martyrdom.

Januarius, Beneventi episcopus, Diocletiano et Maximiano in christianos sævientibus, ad Timotheum Campaniæ præsidem ob christianæ fidei professionem Nolam perducitur. Ibi ejus constantia varie tentata, in ardentem fornacem conjectus, ita illæsus evasit, ut ne vestimentum aut capillum quidem fiamma violaverit. Hinc præses accensus iracundia, martyris corpus imperat usque eo distrahi, quoad nervorum compages artuumque solvantur. Festus interea ejus diaconus, et Desiderius lector comprehensi, vinctique, una cum episcopo ante rhedam præsidis Puteolos pertrahuntur, et in eumdem carcerem, in quo Sosius Misenas, et Proculus Puteolanus diaconus, Eutyches et Acutius laici ad bestias damnati detinebantur, simul conjiciuntur.

Postero die omnes in amphitheatro feris objecti sunt: quæ naturalis oblitæ feritatis, ad Januarii pedes se prostravere. Id Timotheus magicis cantionibus tribuens, cum sententiam capitis in Christi martyres pronuntiasset, oculis repente captus, orante mox beato Januario, lumen recepit: quo miraculo hominum millia fere quinque Christi fidem susceperunt. Verum ingratus judex nihilo placatior factus beneficio, sed conversione tantæ multitudinis actus in rabiem; veritus maxime principum decreta, sanctum episcopum cura sociis gladio percuti jussit.

Horum corpora finitimiæ urbes, pro suo quæque studio certum sibi patronum ex iis apud Deum adoptandi, sepeliendi curarunt. Januarii corpus Neapolitani divino admonitu extulere: quod primo Beneventum, inde ad monasterium Montis Virginis, postremo Neapolim translatum, et in majoriecclesia conditura, multis miraculis claruit. Sed illud in primis memorandum, quod erumpentes olim e monte Vesuvio flammarum globos, nec vicinis modo, sed longinquis etiam regionibus vastitatis metum afferentes, extinxit. Præclarum ilium quoque quod ejus sanguis, qui in ampulla vitrea concretus asservatur, cum in conspectu capitis ejusdem martyris ponitur, admirandum in modum colliquefieri et ebullire, perinde atque recens effusus, ad hæc usque tempora cernitur.
During the persecution of the Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, Januarius, bishop of Beneventum, was brought before Timothy, president of Campania, at Nola, for the profession of the Christian faith. There his constancy was tried in various ways. He was cast into a burning furnace, but escaped unhurt, not even his garments or a hair of his head being injured by the flames. This enraged the president, who commanded the martyr’s body to be so stretched that all his joints and nerves were displaced. Meanwhile Festus his deacon, and Desiderius a lector, were seized, loaded with chains, and dragged, together with the bishop, before the president’s chariot to Pozzuolo. There they were cast into a dungeon, where they found the deacons Sosius of Misenum and Proculus of Pozzuolo, with Eutyches and Acutius laymen all condemned to be thrown to wild beasts.

The following day they were all exposed in the amphitheatre; but the beasts, forgetting their natural ferocity, crouched at the feet of Januarius.Timothy, attributing this to magical arts, condemned the martyrs of Christ to be beheaded; but as he was pronouncing the sentence, he was suddenly struck blind. However, at the prayer of Januarius he soon recovered his sight; on account of which miracle, about five thousand men embraced the faith. The ungrateful judge was in no way softened by the benefit conferred upon him, on the contrary, he was enraged by so many conversions; and, fearing the emperor’s edicts, he ordered the holy bishop and his companions to be beheaded.

Eager to secure, each for itself, a patron before God among these holy martyrs, the neighbouring towns provided burial places for their bodies. In obedience to a warning from heaven, the Neapolitans took the body of St. Januarius, and placed it first at Beneventum, then in the monastery of Monte Vergine, and finally in the principal church at Naples, where it became illustrious for many miracles. One of the most remarkable of these was the extinction of a fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius, When the terrible flames threatened with destruction not only the neighbourhood but even distant parts. Another remarkable miracle is seen even to the present day, namely: when the martyr’s blood, which is preserved congealed in a glass vial, is brought in presence of his head, it liquefies and boils up in a wonderful manner, as if it had been but recently shed.

O holy martyrs, and thou especially, O Januarius, the leader no less by thy courage than by thy pontifical dignity, your present glory increases our longing for heaven; your past combats animate us to fight the good fight; your continual miracles confirm us in the faith. Praise and gratitude are therefore due to you on this day of your triumph; and we pay this our debt in the joy of our hearts. In return, extend to us the protection, of which the fortunate cities placed under your powerful patronage are so justly proud. Defend those faithful towns against the assaults of the evil one. In compensation for the falling away of society at large, offer to Christ our King the growing faith of all who pay you honour.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The twentieth of September marks one of the saddest events in history. At the height of her power, in the glorious days of Pepin and Charlemagne, the eldest daughter of the Church had crowned her mother; and the Church, in the person of her Head, reigned in reality, as well as by right, until, a thousand years later, satan took advantage of the fallen state of France to despoil Peter of the patrimony which ensured his independence. The holy cross is still shedding its rays upon us!

To-day a group of martyrs, and this time a whole family, father, mother, and sons, take up their position around the standard of salvation. While the antiquity of their cultus in both east and west rests on the best authority, the details of their life are extremely vague. Could Placid the tribune, whose exploits are recorded by Josephus in his Wars of the Jews,[1] be the same as the Eustace we are celebrating to-day? Does the genealogy of our saint connect him with the Octaviafamily, from which Augustus sprang? Again are we to recognize as his direct descendant the noble Tertullus, who confided to St. Benedict his son Placid, the favourite child of the holy patriarch, and the proto-martyr of the Benedictine Order?[2] Subiaco long possessed the mountain designated by ancient tradition as the site of the apparition of the mysterious stag; Tertullus may have bequeathed it to the monastery, as his son's patrimony. But we have not space enough to do more than record the fact that these questions have been raised.[3]

There could hardly be a more touching legend than that of our martyrs.

Eustachius, qui et Placidus, genere, opibus et militari gloria inter Romanos insignis, sub Trajano imperatore magistri militum titulum meruit. Cum vero sese aliquando in venatione exerceret, ac fugientem miræmagnitudinis cervum insequeretur, vidit repente inter consistentis feræ cornuaexcelsam atque fulgentem Christi Domini e cruce pendentis imaginem, cujus voce ad immortalis vitæ prædam invitatus, una cum uxore Theopista, ac duobus parvulis filiis Agapito et Theopisto, Christianæ militiæ nomen dedit.

Mox ad visionis pristinæ locum, sicut ei Dominus præceperat, regressus, illuni prænuntiantem audivit, quanta sibi deinceps pro ejus gloria perferenda essent. Quocirca incredibiles calamitates mira patientia perpessus, brevi in summam egestatem redactus est. Cumque clam se subducere cogeretur, in itinere conjugem primum, deinde etiam liberos sibi miserabiliter ereptos ingemuit. Tantis obvolutus ærumnis, in regione longinqua villicum agens, longo tempore delituit, donec cœlesti voce recreatus, ac nova occasione a Trajano conquisitus, iteruin bello præficitur.

Illa in expeditione, liberis simul cum uxore insperato receptis, victor urbem ingenti omnium gratulatione ingreditur. Sed paulo post inanibus diis pro parta victoria sacrificare jussus, constantissime renuit. Cumque variis artibus ad Christi fidem ejurandam frustra tentaretur, una cum uxore et liberis leonibus objicitur. Horum mansuetudine concitatus imperator, æneum in taurum subjectis flammis candentem eos immitti jubet, ubi divinis in laudibusconsummato martyrio, duodecimo calendis Octobris ad sempiternam felicitatem convolarunt. Quorum illsesa corpora religiose a fidelibus sepulta, postmodum ad ecclesiam, eorum nomine erectam, honorifice translata sunt.
Eustace, otherwise called Placid, was a Roman, illustrious for his birth, wealth, and military renown, so that under the emperor Trajan he became general of the army. Once while hunting, he was chasing a stag of remarkable size, which suddenly halted, and showed him between its horns a large and bright image of Christ our Lord hanging upon the cross and inviting him to make everlasting life the object of his pursuit. Thereupon together with his wife Theopista and his two little sons Agapitus and Theopistus, he entered the ranks of the Christian warfare.

Some time afterwards he returned to the place of the vision, in obedience to the command of our Lord, from whom he there heard how much he was to suffer for God’s glory. He underwent, with wonderful patience, such incredible losses that in a short time he was reduced to the utmost need, and was obliged to retire privately. On the way he had the unhappiness to see first his wife, and then his two sons taken from him. Overwhelmed by all these misfortunes, he lived for a long time unknown, in a distant country, as a farm bailiff; until at length a voice from heaven comforted him; and soon after, a fresh occasion of war arising, Trajan had him sought out and again placed at the head of the army.

During the expedition, he unexpectedly found his wife and children again. He returned to Rome in triumph amidst universal congratulations; but was soon commanded to offer sacrifice to the false gods in thanksgiving for his victory. On his firm refusal, every art was tried to make him renounce the faith of Christ, but in vain. He was then, with his wife and sons, thrown to the lions. But the beasts showed nothing but gentleness; whereupon the emperor, in a rage, commanded the martyrs to be shut up in a brazen bull heated by a fire underneath it. There, singing the praises of God, they consummated their sacrifice, and took their flight to eternal happiness on the twelfth of the kalends of October. Their bodies were found intact, and reverently buried by the faithful, but were afterwards translated with honour to a church erected to their names.

Our trials are light compared with yours, O blessed martyrs! Obtain for us the grace not to betray the confidence of our Lord, when He calls us to suffer for Him in this world. It is thus we must win the glory of heaven. How can we triumph with the God of armies, unless we have marched under His standard? Now, that standard is the cross. The Church knows it, and therefore she is not troubled even by the greatest calamities. She knows, too, that her Spouse is watching over her, even when He seems to sleep; and she looks to the protection of such of her sons as are already glorified. And yet, O martyrs, for how many years has the sorrowful shadow of a sacrilegious invasion hung over the day of your triumph! Rome honoured you with so much love! Take vengeance on the audacity of hell, and deliver the holy city!


[1] Joseph. De bello Jud. iii. 3, 4, 13; iv. 2; v. 3.
[2] Greg. Dial. ii. 3.
[3] Kirchcr Historia Eustochio-Mariana, P. ii, iii.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.’[1] The Eagle and the Lion have already risen in the heavens of the holy liturgy; to-day we salute the Man; and next month the Ox will appear, to complete the number of the four living creatures, who draw the chariot of God through the world,[2] and surround His throne in heaven. These mysterious beings, with their six seraph-wings, are ever gazing with their innumerable eyes upon the Lamb who stands upon the throne as it were slain; and they rest not day and night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.’ St. John beheld them giving to the elect the signal to praise their Creator and Redeemer; and when all created beings in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, have adoringly proclaimed that the Lamb, who was slain, is worthy of power and divinity and glory and empire for ever, it is they that add to the world’s homage the seal of their testimony, saying: Amen, so it is![3]

Great and singular, then, is the glory of the evangelists. The name of Matthew signifies one who is given. He gave himself when, at the word of Jesus ‘follow Me’, he rose up and followed Him; but far greater was the gift he received from God in return. The Most High, who looks down from heaven upon the low things of earth, loves to choose the humble for the princes of His people. Levi, occupied in a profession that was hated by the Jews and despised by the Gentiles, belonged to the lowest rank of society; but still more humble was he in heart, when, laying aside the delicate reserve shown in his regard by the other evangelists, he openly placed his former ignominious title beside the glorious one of apostle. By so doing, he published the magnificent mercy of Him, who had come to heal the sick not the healthy, and to call not the just but sinners. For thus exalting the abundance of God’s grace, he merited its superabundance: Matthew was called to be the first evangelist. Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he wrote, with that inimitable simplicity which speaks straight to the heart, the Gospel of the Messias expected by Israel, and announced by the prophets; of the Messias the teacher and Saviour of His people, the descendant of its kings, and Himself the King of the daughter of Sion; of the Messias who had come not to destroy the Law, but to bring it to its full completion in an everlasting, universal covenant.

In his simple-hearted gratitude, Levi made a feast for his divine Benefactor. It was at this banquet that Jesus, defending His disciple as well as Himself, replied to those who pretended to be scandalized: 'Can the children of the Bridegroom mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.’[4] Clement of Alexandria bears witness to the apostle’s subsequent austerity; assuring us that he lived on nothing but vegetables and wild fruits.[5] The legend will tell us moreover of his zeal for the Master who had so sweetly touched his heart, and of his fidelity in preserving for Him souls inebriated with the 'wine springing forth virgins.’[6] This fidelity, indeed, cost him his life: his martyrdom was in defence and confirmation of the duties and rights of holy virginity. To the end of time the Church, in consecrating her virgins, will make use of the beautiful blessing pronounced by him over the Ethiopian princess, which the blood of the apostle and evangelist has imbued with a peculiar virtue.[7]

The Church gives us this short account of a life better known to God than to men.

Matthæus, qui et Levi, apostolus et evangelista, Capharnai cum ad telonium sederet, a Christo vocatus, statini secutus est ipsum: quem etiam cum reliquia discipulis convivio excepit. Post Christi resurrectionem, antequam in provinciam proficisceretur, quæ ei ad prædicandum obtigerat, primus in Judæa, propter eoa qui ex circumcisione crediderant, Evangelium Jesu Christi Hebraice scripsit. Mox in Ethiopiam profectus, Evangelium prædicavit, ac prædicationem multis miraculis confirmavit.

Illo igitur in primis miraculo, quo regis filiam a mortuis excita vit, regem patrem, et uxorem ejus, cum universa provincia ad Christi fidem convertit. Rege mortuo, Hirtacus, ejus successor, cum Iphigeniam, regiam filiam, vellet sibi dari in matrimonium, Matthæum, cujus opera illa virginitatem Deo voverat, et in sancto proposito perseverabat, ad altare mysterium celebrantem jussit occidi. Qui undecimo calendas Octobris munus apostolicum martyrii gloria cumulavit. Cujus corpus Salernum translatum, ac postmodum in ecclesia ejus nomine dedicata, Gregorio septimo summo Pontifice conditum, ibidem magno hominum concursu ac pietate colitur.
Matthew, also named Levi, was an apostle and evangelist. He was sitting in the customhouse at Capharnaum when called by Christ, whom he immediately followed; and then made a feast for him and his disciples. After the resurrection of Christ, and before setting out for the province which it was his lot to evangelize, Matthew was the first to write the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote it in Hebrew, for the sake of those of the circumcision, who had been converted. Soon after, he went into Ethiopia, where he preached the Gospel, and confirmed his teaching by many miracles.

One of the greatest of these was his raising to life the king’s daughter, whereby he converted the king and his wife, and the whole country. After theking's death, his daughter Iphigenia was demanded in marriage by his successor Hirtacus, who, finding that through Matthew’s exhortation she had vowed her virginity to God and now persevered in her holy resolution, ordered the apostle to be put to death, as he was celebrating the holy mysteries at the altar. Thus on the eleventh of the Kalends of October, he crowned his apostolate with the glory of martyrdom. His body was translated to Salerno; and in the time of Pope Gregory VII it was laid in a church dedicated in his name, where it is piously honoured by a great concourse of people.

How pleasing must thy humility have been to our Lord; that humility which has raised thee so high in the kingdom of heaven, and which made thee, on earth, the confidant of Incarnate Wisdom. The Son of God, who hides His secrets from the wise and prudent and reveals them to little ones, renovated thy soul by intimacy with Himself, and filled it with the new wine of His heavenly doctrine. So fully didst thou understand His love, that He chose thee to be the first historian of his life on earth. The Man-God revealed Himself through thee to the Church. She has inherited thy glorious teaching as she calls it in her Secret; for the Synagogue refused to understand both the divine Master and the prophets His heralds.

There is one teaching, indeed, which not all, even of the elect, can understand and receive; just as in heaven not all follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, nor can all sing the new canticle reserved to those whose love here on earth has been undivided. O evangelist of holy virginity, and martyr for its sake! watch over the choicest portion of our Lord’s flock. Remember also, O Levi, all those for whom, as thou tellest us, the Emmanuel received

His beautiful name of Saviour. The whole redeemed world honours thee and implores thy assistance. Thou hast recorded for us the admirable sermon on the mountain: by the path of virtue there traced out, lead us to that kingdom of heaven, which is the ever-recurring theme of thy inspired writing.


[1] St. Matt. i. 1.
[2] Ezech. i.
[3] Apoc. iv, v.
[4] St. Matt. ix. 15.
[5] Clem. Alex. Pædag. ii. 1.
[6] Zach. ix. 17.
[7] Pontificale rom. Le benedict. et consecrat. virginum: Deus plasmator corporum, afflator animarum.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

In 1517 a cruel blow fell upon the great Augustinian family; Luther, one of its members, raised the cry of revolt which was to be echoed for centuries by every passion. But the illustrious Order, which had unwittingly nurtured this child of evil, was none the less acceptable to God; and He deigned, before long, to demonstrate this, for the consolation of institutes whose very excellence exposes unworthy subjects to more dangerous falls. It was at the First Vespers of All Saints that Luther broached, at Wittenburg, his famous theses against indulgences and the authority of the Roman Pontiff; within a month, on November 25 of the same year, Thomas of Villanova pronounced his vows at Salamanca, and filled up the place left vacant by the heresiarch. Amid the storms of social disorder, and the noise of the world’s disturbances, the glory rendered by one saint to the ever-tranquil Trinity, outweighs all the insults and blasphemies of hell.

Let us bear all this in mind as we read the following lessons.

Thomas in oppido Fontisplani Toletanæ diœceseos in Hispania natus anno Domini millesimo quadringentesimo octogesimo oetavo, ab optimis parentibus ineunte vita pietatem et singularem in pauperes misericordiam accepit: cujus adhuc puer complura dedit exempla; sod illud in primis nobile, quod ut nudos operiret, propriis vestibus non semel seipsum exuit. Exacta pueritia, Compiuto, quo missus fuerat, ut alumnus in collegio majori sancti Ildephonsi litteris operam daret, patris obitu revocatus, universam hæreditatem egenis virginibus alendis dicavit; eodemque statim reversus est, et sacræ theologiæ cursu confecto, adeo doctrina excelluit, ut in eadem Universitate cathedram ascendere jussus, philosophicas, theologicasque quæstiones mirabiliter explanaverit; interim assiduis precibus scientiam sanetorum, et rectam vitæ morumque normam a Domino vehementissime postulans. Quare divino instinctu eremitarum sancti Augustini amplexus est institutum.

Religionem professus, omnibus religiosi hominis virtutibus et omamentis excelluit, humilitate, patientia, continentia, sed ardentissima caritate summe conspicuus: inter varios et assiduos labores orationi rerum que divinarum meditationi invicto spiritu semper intentus. Prædicandi onus, utpote sanctimonia et doctrina præstans, subire jussus, cœlesti aspirante gratia, innumerabiles e vitiorum cœno in viam salutis eduxit. Regendis deinde fratribus admotus, prudentiam, æquitatem et mansuetudinem pari sedulitate ac severitate conjunxit: adeo ut priscam sui Ordinis disciplinam multis in locis vel firmaverit, vel restituent.

Granatensis archiepiscopus designatus, mira humilitate et constantia insigne munus rejecit. Verum non multo post Valentinam ecclesiam superiorum auctoritate coactus, gubernandam suscepit: quam annis ferme undecim ita rexit, ut sanctissimi et vigilantissimi pastoris partes expleverit. Ceterum consueta vivendi ratione nihil admodum immutata; inexplebili cantati multo magis induisit, cum amplos ecclesiæ redditus in egenos dispersit, ne lectulo quidem sibi relicto: nam eum, in quo decumbebat, cum in cœlum evocaretur, ab eodem commodatum habuit,.cui paulo ante eleemosynæ loco donaverat. Obdormivit in Domino sexto idus Septembris, annos natus octo et sexaginta. Servi sui sanctitatem adhuc viventis, et exinde post mortem, miraculis Deus testatam voluit; præsertim, cum horreum, frumento pauperibus distributo, penitus vacuum, repente plenum inventum est, et cum ad ejus sepulchrum puer mortuus revixit. Quibus aliisque non paucis fulgentem signis Alexander septimus Pontifex maximus sanctorum numero adscripsit, atque ejus memoriam quarto decimo calendas Octobris celebran mandavit.
Thomas was born at Fuenllana, a town in the diocese of Toledo in Spain, in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and eighty eight. From his earliest youth, his excellent parents instilled into him piety and extraordinary charity to the poor. Of this virtue he gave, while still a child, many proofs, among the most remarkable of which was his more than once taking off his own garments to clothe the naked. As a youth, he was sent to Alcala to study humanities in the great college of St. Ildephonsus. He was recalled home by the death of his father; whereupon he devoted his whole fortune to the support of destitute virgins, and then returned to Alcala. Having completed his course of theology, he was promoted for his eminent learning to a chair in the University, and taught philosophy and theology with wonderful success. Meanwhile he besought God, with assiduous prayers, to teach him the science of the saints, and a virtuous rule of life and conduct. He was therefore divinely inspired to embrace the institute of the hermits of St. Augustine.

After his profession, he excelled in all virtues which should adorn a religious man: humility, patience, continency; but he was especially remarkable for ardent charity. In the midst of his many and varied labours, his unconquered spirit was ever intent on prayer and meditation of divine things. On account of his reputation for learning and holiness, he was commanded to undertake the duty of preaching, and, by the assistance of heavenly grace, he led countless souls from the mire of vice to the way of salvation. In the government of the brethren, to which he was next appointed, he so united prudence, equity, and sweetness, to zeal and severity, that in many places he restored or confirmed the ancient discipline of his Order.

When elected to the archbishopric of Granada, he rejected that high dignity with wonderful firmness and humility. But not long after, he was obliged by his superiors to undertake the government of the Church of Valentia, which he ruled for about eleven years as a most holy and vigilant pastor. He changed nothing of his former manner of life; but gave free scope to his insatiable charity, and distributed the rich revenues of his church among the needy, keeping not so much as a bed for himself. For the bed on which he was lying when called to heaven, was lent to him by the person to whom he had shortly before given it in alms. He fell asleep in our Lord on the sixth of the Ides of September, at the age of sixty-eight. God was pleased to bear witness to his servant’s holiness by miracles both during life and after death. A barn which was almost empty, the corn having been distributed to the poor, was by his intercession suddenly filled; and a dead child was restored to life at his tomb. These and many other miracles having rendered his name illustrious, Pope Alexander VII enrolled him among the saints, and commanded his feast to be celebrated on the fourteenth of the Kalends of October.

Thy name, as well as thy justice, shall remain for ever, O Thomas, because thou hast distributed and given to the poor;[1]all the church of the saints shall declare thy alms.[2] Teach us to show mercy to our brethren, so that, by thy prayers, we may obtain for ourselves the mercy of God. Thou hast great power with the Queen of heaven, whose praises thou didst love to celebrate, and whose birthday on earth was thy birthday in heaven. Give us an ever increasing knowledge of her, and an ever growing love.

Thou art the glory of Spain; watch over thy country, over thy church of Valencia, and over the Order adorned with such saints as Nicholas of Tolentino, John of San Facundo, and thyself. Bless the religious women who have inherited thy charity, and who, for well-nigh three centuries, have caused thy name, and that of thy father St. Augustine, to be held in veneration. May the preachers of the divine word throughout the world profit by the writings thou hast fortunately left us, monuments of that eloquence which made thee the oracle of princes, the light of the poor, and the mouth-piece of the Holy Ghost.[3]

At Sion in Valais, at a place called Agaunum, the birthday of the holy martyrs Maurice, Exuperius, Candidus, Victor, Innocent, and Vitalis, with their companions of the Theban legion, who were massacred under Maximian for the name of Christ, and filled the whole world with the renown of their martyrdom.[4] Let us unite with Rome in paying honour to these valiant soldiers, the glorious patrons of Christian armies as well as of numerous churches. ‘Emperor,’ said they, ‘we are thy soldiers, but we are also the servants of God. To Him we took our first oaths; if we break them, how canst thou trust us to keep our oaths to thee?’[5] No command, no discipline can overrule our baptismal engagements. Every soldier is bound, in honour and in conscience, to obey the Lord of hosts rather than all human commanders, who are but His subalterns.

Prayer

Annue, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut sanctorum martyrum tuorum Mauritii et sociorum ejus nos lætificet festiva solemnitas; ut quorum suffragiis nitimur, eorum natalitiis gloriemur. Por Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that the festive solemnity of thy holy martyrs, Maurice and his companions, may give us joy, that we may glory in their festival on whose help we rely. Through our Lord.

[1] Ps. cxi. 9; Magnificat ant.
[2] Ecclus. xxxi. 11. Benedictus ant.
[3] Alexand. vii. Bulla eanonizat.
[4] Martyrology for this day.
[5] Eucher. ad Sylvium.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The lives of the first Vicars of Christ are buried in a mysterious obscurity; just as the foundations of a monument built to defy the ravages of time are concealed from view. To be the supports of the everlasting Church is a sufficient glory: sufficient to justify our confidence in them, and to awaken our gratitude. Let us leave the learned to discuss certain points in the following short legend; as for ourselves, we will rejoice with the Church on this feast, and pay our loving veneration to the humble and gentle Pontiff, who was the first laid to rest beside St. Peter in the Vatican crypts.

Linus Pontifex, Volaterris in Etruria natus, primus post Petrum gubernavit Ecclesiam. Cujus tanta fides et sanctitas fuit, ut non solum dæmones ejiceret, sed etiam mortuos revocaret ad vitam. Scripsit res gestas beati Petri, et ea maxime quæ ab illo acta sunt contra Simonem Magum. Sancivit ne qua mulier, nisi velato capite, in ecclesiam introiret. Huic Pontifici caput amputatum est ob constantiam christianæ fidei, jussu Saturnini impii et ingratissimi consularis, cujus filiam a dæmonum vexatione libera verat. Sepultus est in Vaticano prope sepulchrum principis apostolorum, nono calendas Octobris. Sedit annos undecim, menses duos, dies viginti tres, creatis bis mense Decembri episcopis quindecim, presbyteris decem et octo.

Pope Linus was born at Volterra in Tuscany, and was the first to succeed St. Peter in the government of the Church. His faith and holiness were so great, that he not only cast out devils, but even raised the dead to life. He wrote the acts of blessed Peter, and in particular what he had done against Simon Magus. He decreed that no woman should enter a church with her head uncovered. On account of his constancy in confessing the Christian faith, this Pontiff was beheaded by command of Saturninus, a wicked and ungrateful ex-consul, whose daughter he had delivered from the tyranny of the devils. He was buried on the Vatican, near the sepulchre of the prince of the apostles, on the ninth of the Kalends of October. He governed the Church eleven years, two months, and twenty-three days. In two ordinations in the month of December he consecrated fifteen bishops and eighteen priests.

Simon Barjona was invested with the sovereign pontificate by our Lord in person, and openly before all; thou, O blessed Pontiff, didst receive in secret, yet none the less directly from Jesus, the keys of the kingdom of heaven. In thy person began the reign of pure faith; henceforth the bride, though she hears not the Man-God repeat His injunction to Peter: 'feed my lambs,’ nevertheless acknowledges the continuance of His authority in the lawfully appointed representative of her divine Spouse. Obtain by thy prayers, that the shadows of earth may never cause us to waver in our obedience; and that hereafter we may merit, with thee, to contemplate our divine Head in the light of eternal day.

While honouring the first successor of St. Peter, Rome commemorates the protomartyr of the female sex. Together with holy Church, then, let us unite in the concert of praise unanimously lavished upon Thecla by the fathers of east and west. When the martyr pontiff Methodius gave his ‘Banquet of virgins’ to the Church, about the end of the third century, it is on the brow of the virgin of Iconium that he placed the fairest of the crowns distributed at the banquet of the Spouse. And justly so; for had not Thecla been trained by Paul, who had made her more learned in the Gospel than she was before in philosophy and every science? Heroism in her kept pace with knowledge; her magnanimity of purpose was equalled by her courage; while, strong in the virginal purity of her soul and body, she triumphed over fire, wild beasts, and sea monsters, and won the glory of a triple martyrdom.

A fresh triumph is hers at the mysterious banquet. Wisdom has taken possession of her, and, like a divine harp, makes music in her soul, which is echoed on her lips in words of wondrous eloquence and sublime poetry. When the feast is over, and the virgins rise to give thanks to the Lord, Thecla leads the chorus, singing:

‘For thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet thee.

I have fled from the bitter pleasures of mortals, and the luxurious delights of life and its love; under Thy life-giving arms I desire to be protected, and to gaze for ever on Thy beauty, O blessed One.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

I have contemned union with mortal man; I have left my golden home for Thee, O King; I have come in undefiled robes, that I may enter with Thee into Thy happy bridal chamber.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

Having escaped the enchanting wiles of the serpent, and triumphed over the flaming fire and the attacks of wild beasts, I await Thee from heaven.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.

Through love of Thee, O Word, I have forgotten the land of my birth; I have forgotten the virgins my companions, and even the desire of mother and of

kindred; for Thou, O Christ, art all things to me.

For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet Thee.[1]

Prayer

Da, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut qui beatæ Theclæ virginis et martyris tuæ natalitia colimus, et annua soleranitate lætemur, et tantæ fidei proficiamus exemplo. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that we, who celebrate the festival of blessed Theda, thy virgin and martyr, may rejoice in her annual solemnity, and make progress by the example of such great faith. Through our Lord.

[1] Method. Conviv. dec. virg. vii, viii, xi.

 

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