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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘Dimitte me, jam enim ascendit aurora; let me go for it is break of day;’[1] such were the words which put an end to the struggle between the angel and the patriarch on the banks of the torrent. Blessed dawn which triumphed over God Himself! How long had been that night, during which the human race had been struggling by its supplications and tears![2] Ever since the fall, the angel of justice had been guarding the entrance to the true land of promise; at every turn he was to be found, resisting in his inexorable vengeance poor, wandering, outcast man. How is it, then, that the inflexible has now yielded? That spiritual being, so superior to our weak, halting nature, why is he the first to speak of closing the struggle, and to own himself vanquished? It is because, as with God so with the angel, light is strength. Now our earth, hitherto buried in deepest night, has suddenly reflected back to heaven brighter splendours than ever Cherubim shed down upon the Dominations and Virtues and Powers and Principalities, beside whom, a while ago, man was so very little. It is because at length in the glimmering dawn, which already subdues him, the angel of justice foresees the Sun Himself, the Sun of justice, who, rising from the bosom of the human race, is to make Himself answerable for it. Man is no longer a pariah compared with the angel; he is Israel, ‘the strong against God.’ To come to terms with him is no longer derogatory to the angelic dignity; to yield to him is no humiliation: the day is breaking.

Blessed be thou, whose radiant innocence thus raises up to the throne of God our proscribed race. With the angels for allies instead of adversaries, we are henceforth one great army, of which thou art the Queen.

Our Lady shares her honours to-day with two brothers, whose martyrdom, under Valerian, raised them from servile condition to the highest rank of heaven’s nobility. Their bodies were first laid in the cemetery of St. Hermes: but Protus had already been honoured within the walls of the eternal city for more than a thousand years, when, in 1845, the discovery of Hyacinth’s bones in his primitive tomb, opened a new era in the history of the catacombs and of Christian archæology.


Beatorum martyrum tuorum Proti et Hyacinthi nos, Domine, foveat pretiosa Confessio, et pia jugiter intercessio tueatur. Per Dominum.
May the precious confession of thy blessed martyrs Protus and Hyacinth animate us, O Lord, and may their pious intercession ever defend us. Through our Lord.

The abbey of St. Gall in the tenth century furnishes us with the following ancient sequence in honour of Mary’s birth.


Ecce solemnis diei canamus festa,
Qua sæculo processit gemma potens et nobilis Maria.
Regalibus exorta parentelis theotochos inclita.
Hæc egressura de germine Jesse tempore prisco prædicta est virgula.
Et flos ex ejus radice procedens turbida mundi absolveret crimina.
Istam venturam veterum parentum linguæ prophetiis pienæ testabantur cœlitus ac præcinuerant alma oracula.
Quæ virgo manens paritura foret unico more filium spiritualiter conceptum, qui contraderet mundo remedia.
Quæ Davidis genita stirpe clara generosi nominis fert insignia.
Salomonis creditur hæc propinqua, sed majore prædita sapientia.
Hæc de regibus generis clari sumpsit primordia.
Et hæc eadem regis æterni mater castissima.
Ejus qui ante tempora fuerat atque sæcula.
Qui angelos et homines junxerat pace placida.
lllius nobis adesse cuncti precemur auxilia,
Per quem tam gravis destructa paci concessit discordia.
lllius hæc nobis acquirat Genitrix sanctam quam sonant gaudia.
Atque suum nobis placatum faciat natum per cuncta sæcula.
Ille nobis cuncta ut demittat pleniter delieta,
Et æterne clemens tribuat omarier corona.
O nunc cœlorum domina, famulorum vocibus mota, quæ deposcunt aure suscipe benigna,
Et nos tuo munimine tuearis sedule, donec nosmet regna dones scandere superna.
Let us hail with song the festivity of this solemn day
Which ushered into the world the noble, queenly pearl, Mary.
The illustrious Mother of God, born of a royal stock.
In ancient times it was foretold that this little branch should spring from the rod of Jesse,
And that the Flower proceeding from its root should put an end to the darksome crimes of earth.
The prophetic tongues of her remote ancestors testified in heaven’s name to her future coming, and propitious oracles sang her praises of old.
Alone of all women she was to remain ever a virgin, whilst bringing forth a Son spiritually conceived, who was to heal the world.
She is honoured with a noble name, being sprung of the illustrious race of David.
She is descended from Solomon, but she far surpasses him in wisdom.
Born of the glorious lineage of kings,
She is herself the most pure Mother of the eternal King,
Who was before all times and ages;
Who had united angels and men in tranquil peace.
Then let us all implore him to come to our assistance;
Through whom such terrible discord was destroyed and gave place to peace.
May his Mother obtain this for us, whom our joyous songs proclaim holy.
And may she render her Son for ever propitious to us;
So that he may grant us full remission of our sins,
And give us in his mercy to be adorned with the eternal crown.
O thou who now art heaven’s Queen, touched by the prayers of thy servants, receive their petitions with a kindly ear,
And assiduously shield us with thy protection, until thou bringest us too into the heavenly kingdom.


[1] Gen. xxx, 26.
[2] Cf. Osee, xii, 4.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?’[1] Such is thy growth, O Mary! Not the holiest life, were it even of patriarchal duration, will ever attain the degree of progress made under the influence of divine power by the soul of the most pure Virgin, in these few days elapsed since her coming on earth. First, there is the progress of her intellect: not subject to the obscurity which envelopes the minds of all men at their entrance into the world, it is a faithful mirror, into which the Word of God pours floods of that light which is also life Then the progress of love in that heart of the Virgin and the Mother, wherein the holy Spirit already delights to awake such ineffable harmonies, and to dig still deeper depths. Lastly, the progress of that victorious power, which made satan tremble at the moment of the Immaculate Conception, and which has constituted Mary the incomparable Queen of the hosts of the Lord.

Two glorious triumphs, two victories won under the protection of our Lady, have rendered this present day illustrious in the annals of the Church and of history.

Manicheism, revived under a variety of names, had established itself in the south of France, whence it hoped to spread its reign of shameless excess. But Dominic appeared with Mary’s rosary for the defence of the people. On September 12, 1213, Simon de Montfort and the crusaders of the faith, one against forty, crushed the Albigensian army at Muret. This was in the pontificate of Innocent III.

Nearly five centuries later, the Turks, who had more than once caused the west to tremble, again poured down upon Christendom. Vienna, worn out and dismantled, abandoned by its emperor, was surrounded by 300,000 infidels. But another great Pope, Innocent XI, again confided to Mary the defence of the baptized nations. Sobieski, mounting his charger on the feast of our Lady’s Assumption, hastened from Poland by forced marches. On the Sunday within the octave of the Nativity, September 12, 1683, Vienna was delivered; and then began for the Osmanlis that series of defeats which ended in the treaties of Carlowitz and Passarowitz, and the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire. The feast of the most holy name of Mary inscribed on the calendar of the universal Church, was the homage of the world’s gratitude to Mary, our Lady and Queen.

As a supplement to the ancient sequence given yesterday, we choose for to-day a hymn of the same period, to celebrate the blessed birth which brought peace and honour to the world.


O sancta mundi domina,
Regina cœli inclyta!
O stella mans, Maria,
Virgo mater deifica!

Emerge, dulcis filia,
Nitesce jam virguncula,
Florem latura nobileni,
Christum Deum et hominem.

Natalis tui annua
En colimus solemnia,
Quo stirpe electissima
Mundo fulsisti genita.

Per te sumus, terrigenæ
Simulque jam cœligense,
Pacati pace nobili
More inestimabili.

Hinc Trinitati gloria
Sit semper ac victoria,
In unitate solida,
Per sæculorum sæcula.

O holy Lady of the world,
illustrious Queen of heaven!
O Mary, star of the sea,
Virgin Mother after God’s own heart!

Come forth, thou maiden sweet;
grow verdant, thou tender little branch;
for thou wilt bear the noble flower,
Christ, both God and man.

Lo! we are celebrating
the annual solemnity of thy birth,
the day whereon, sprung from a most choice root,
thou didst begin to shine upon our earth.

We who are earth-born,
yet now are citizens of heaven too,
have been through thee, in wondrous wise,
set at peace by an honourable treaty.

Glory then and victory
be ever to the Trinity,
in undivided Unity,
through everlasting ages.



[1] Cant. vi. 9.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

How beautiful are thy first steps, O prince’s daughter! Our eyes are never weary of contemplating in thee the marvel of harmonious sweetness united to the strength of an army.[1] Blessed child, continue to grow in grace; may thy course be prosperous; may thy royalty be strengthened and established. But the Church will not wait till thou be grown up, to sing to thee her beautiful antiphon: ‘Rejoice O Virgin Mary; thou alone hast destroyed all heresies throughout the world.’[2]

Heresy, satan’s denial of what God affirms by His Christ, this is the great struggle, or rather the only one, which suras up history. God having created the world for the sole purpose of uniting it to Himself by His Word made Flesh; the enemy of God and of the world, in order to break the bond of this mysterious love, attacks by turns the Divinity and the Humanity of Christ the Mediator. But all his lies are in vain: Jesus is Man, for He is born of a Mother, like every one of us; He is God, for He alone is born of a Virgin. The Man-God, who, according to Simeon’s prophecy, is a sign of contradiction to the sons of perdition, has Himself a sign, for unprejudiced eyes, viz: a Virgin-Mother: ‘The Lord Himself,’ said the prophet, ‘shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be called Emmanuel:[3] God with us.’

In the second of the celebrated conferences held with Manes in 277 by the holy bishop Archelaus, the heresiarch having denied that Christ was born of Mary, Archelaus replied:

If such be the case, if He was not born, then obviously He did not suffer, for to suffer is impossible to one not born. If He did not suffer, no mention can be made of the cross; do away with the cross, and Jesus cannot have risen from the dead. But if Jesus be not risen, no one else can rise again; and if there is no resurrection, there can be no judgment. In that case there is no use in keeping the commandments of God: Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.[4] Such is the corollary to thy argument. Confess, on the other hand, that our Lord was born of Mary, and thence will follow the passion, the resurrection, and the judgment; then the whole of Scripture is saved. No, this is no vain question; for, as the whole Law and the Prophets are contained in the two precepts of charity, so all our hope depends on the motherhood of the blessed Virgin.[5]

The Church of Milan, which celebrates the most holy name of Mary on September 11, sings on that day the following beautiful Preface, so perfectly in harmony with the sentiments inspired by this bright octave.


Vere quia dignum libi gratias agere, æterne Deus. Qui beutissimam Mariam virginem Unigeniti tui genitricem esse voluisti: quoniam nec alia Deum mater decebat, quam virgo; nec virginem alius filius, quam Deus. Sicut autem divinæ Majestati tuæ in nomine Jesu omne genu flectitur cœlestium, terrestiurn et infernorum; sic audito Mariæ nomine, inclinantes se cœdi, terra procumbens, trepidantes inferi tuam in Virgine Matre adorandam omnipoten tiam confiten tur. Et ideo cum angelis.
It is truly meet to give thee thanks, O eternal God. Who didst will that the most blessed Virgin Mary should be the Mother of thy only-begotten Son: for it was not fitting that God’s Mother should be other than a Virgin, nor that a virgin’s Son should be other than God. As, at the name of Jesus, every knee in heaven, on earth, and in hell, bends before thy divine Majesty; so, on hearing the name of Mary, the heavens bow down, earth prostrates, hell trembles, confessing thine adorable omnipotence in the Virgin-Mother. And therefore with the angels.

On the day of the Nativity itself, the Preface in the Ambrosian rite is as follows:


Vere quia dignum tibi gratias agere, æterne Deus. Recensemus enim præclarissimæ Nativitatis diem, quo gloriosissima Dei Genitrix, intemerata Virgo Maria, stella corusca et arimi rabilis, munrio effulsit. Quænobis perennis vitæ januam quam Eva in paradiso clauserat, reseravit: nosque rie tenebris ad lucis antiquæ gaudia revocavit. Per eumdem.
It is truly meet to give thee thanks, O eternal God. For we are celebrating the day of a most illustrious birth, when the most glorious Mother of God, the spotless Virgin Mary, the bright and wonderful star, shone upon the world. It is she who has opened to us again the gate of everlasting life, which Eve had closed in paradise: and has brought us back from darkness to the joys of the ancient light. Through the same Jesus Christ.

[1] Cant. vii. 1, 2.
[2] First antiphon of the third nocturn of the feast.
[3] Isaias. vii. 14
[4] 1 Cor. xv. 32.
[5] Acta disputationis Archelai, xlix.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘Through thee the precious cross is honoured and worshipped throughout the world.’[1] Thus did Saint Cyril of Alexandria apostrophize our Lady on the morrow of that great day, which saw her divine maternity vindicated at Ephesus. Eternal Wisdom has willed that the octave of Mary’s birth should be honoured by the celebration of this feast of the triumph of the holy cross. The cross indeed is the standard of God’s armies, whereof Mary is the Queen; it is by the cross that she crushes the serpent’s head, and wins so many victories over error, and over the enemies of the Christian name.

‘By this sign thou shalt conquer.’ Satan had been suffered to try his strength against the Church by persecution and tortures; but his time was drawing to an end. By the edict of Sardica, which emancipated the Christians, Galerius, when about to die, acknowledged the powerlessness of hell. Now was the time for Christ to take the offensive, and for His cross to prevail. Towards the close of the year 311, a Roman army lay at the foot of the Alps, preparing to pass from Gaul into Italy. Constantine, its commander, thought only of revenging himself for an injury received from Maxentius, his political rival; but his soldiers, as unsuspecting as their chief, already belonged henceforward to the Lord of hosts. The Son of the Most High, having become, as Son of Mary, king of this world, was about to reveal Himself to His first lieutenant, and, at the same time, to discover to His first army the standard that was to go before it. Above the legions, in a cloudless sky, the cross, proscribed for three long centuries, suddenly shone forth; all eyes beheld it, making the western sun, as it were, its footstool, and surrounded with these words in characters of fire: In hoc vince: by this be thou conqueror! A few months later, October 27, 312, all the idols of Rome stood aghast to behold, approaching along the Flaminian Way, beyond the bridge Milvius, the Labarum with its sacred monogram, now become the standard of the imperial armies. On the morrow was fought the decisive battle, which opened the gates of the eternal city to Christ, the only God, the everlasting King.

‘Hail, O cross, formidable to all enemies, bulwark of the Church, strength of princes; hail in thy triumph! The sacred Wood still lay hidden in the earth, yet it appeared in the heavens announcing victory; and an emperor, become Christian, raised it up from the bowels of the earth.’[2] Thus sang the Greek Church yesterday, in preparation for the joys of to-day; for the east, which has not our peculiar feast of May 3, celebrates on this one solemnity both the overthrow of idolatry by the sign of salvation revealed to Constantine and his army, and the discovery of the holy cross a few years later in the cistern of Golgotha.

But another celebration, the memory of which is fixed by the Menology on September 13, was added in the year 335 to the happy recollections of this day; namely, the dedication of the basilicas raised by Constantine on Mount Calvary and over the holy sepulchre, after the precious discoveries made by his mother St. Helena. In the very same century that witnessed all these events, a pious pilgrim, thought to be St. Silvia, sister of Rufinus the minister of Theodosius and Arcadius, attested that the anniversary of this dedication was celebrated with the same solemnity as Easter and the Epiphany. There was an immense concourse of bishops, clerics, monks, and seculars of both sexes, from every province; and the reason, she says, is that the ‘cross was found on this day’; which motive had led to the choice of the same day for the primitive consecration, so that the two joys might be united into one.

Through not being aware of the nearness of the dedication of the Anastasia, or church of the Resurrection, to the feast of the holy cross, many have misunderstood the discourse pronounced on this feast by Sophronius the holy patriarch of Jerusalem. ‘It is the feast of the cross; who would not exult? It is the triumph of the Resurrection; who would not be full of joy? Formerly, the cross led to the Resurrection; now it is the Resurrection that introduces us to the cross. Resurrection and cross: trophies of our salvation!’[3] And the pontiff then developed the instructions resulting from this connexion.

It appears to have been about the same time that the west also began to unite in a certain manner these two great mysteries; leaving to September 14 the other memories of the holy cross, the Latin Churches introduced into Paschal Time a special feast of the finding of the Wood of redemption. In compensation, the present solemnity acquired a new lustre to its character of triumph by the contemporaneous events which, as we shall see, form the principal subject of the historical legend in the Roman liturgy.

A century earlier, St. Benedict had appointed this day for the commencement of the period of penance known as the monastic Lent,[4] which continues till the opening of Lent proper, when the whole Christian army joins the ranks of the cloister in the campaign of fasting and abstinence. ‘The cross,’ says St. Sophronius, ‘is brought before our minds; who will not crucify himself? The true worshipper of the sacred Wood is he who carries out his worship in his deeds.’[5]

The following is the legend we have already alluded to.

Chosroas Persarum rex, extremis Phocæ imperii temporibus, Ægypto et Africa occupata, ac Jerosolyma capta, multisque ibi cæsis Christianorum millibus, Christi Domini crucem, quam Helena in monte Calvariæ collocarat, in Persidem abstulit. Itaque Heraclius, qui Phocæ successerat, multis belli incommodis et calamitatibus affectus, pacem petebat, quam a Chosroa victoriis insolente ne iniquis quidem conditionibus impetrare poterat. Quare in summo discrimine se assiduis jejuniis et orationibus exercens, opem a Deo vehementer implorabat: cujus monitu exercitu comparato, signa cum hoste contulit, ac tres duces Chosroæ cum tribus exercitibus superavit.

Quibus cladibus fractus Chosroas, in fuga, qua trajicere Tigrim parabat, Medarsenfiilium socium regni designat. Sed eam contumeliam cum Siroes Chosroæ major natu filius ferret atrociter, patri simul ac fratri necem machinatur: quam paulo post utrique ex fuga retracto attulit, regnumque ab Heraclio impetravit, quibusdam acceptis conditionibus, quarum ex prima fuit, ut crucem Christi Domini restitueret. Ergo crux, quatuordecim annis postquam venerat in potestatem Persarum, recepta est: quam rediens Jerosolymam Heraclius solemni celebritate suis humeris retulit in eum montem, quo eam Salvator tulerat.

Quod factum illustri miraculo commendatum est. Nam Heraclius, ut erat auro et gemmis ornatus, insistere coactus est in porta, quæ ad Calvariæmontem ducebat. Quo enim magia progredi conabatur, eo magis retineri videbatur. Cumque ea re et ipso Heraclius, et reliqui omnes obstupescerent: Zacharias, Jerosolymorum antistes, Vide, inquit, imperator, ne isto triumphali ornatu, in cruce ferenda panini Jesu Christi paupertatem et humilitatem imitere. Tum Heraclius abjecto amplissimo vestitu, detractisque calceis, ac plebeio amictu indutus, reliquum viæ facile confecit, et in eodem Calvariæ loco crucem statuit, unde fuerat a Persia asportata. Itaque Exaltationis sanctæ crucis solemnitas, quæ hac die quotannis celebrabatur, illustrior haben cœpit ob ejus rei memoriam, quod ibidem fuerit reposita ab Heraclio, ubi Salvatori primum fuerat constituta.
About the end of the reign of the emperor Phocas, Chosroes king of the Persians invaded Egypt and Africa. He then took possession of Jerusalem; and after massacring there many thousand Christians, he carried away into Persia the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which Helena had placed upon Mount Calvary. Phocas was succeeded in the empire by Heraclius; who, after enduring many losses and misfortunes in the course of the war, sued for peace, but was unable to obtain it even upon disadvantageous terms, so elated was Chosroes by his victories. In this perilous situation he applied himself to prayer and fasting, and earnestly implored God’s assistance. Then, admonished from heaven, he raised an army, marched against the enemy, and defeated three of Chosroes’ generals with their armies.

Subdued by these disasters Chosroes took to flight; and, when about to cross the river Tigris, named his son Medarses his associate in the kingdom. But his eldest son Siroes, bitterly resenting this insult, plotted the murder of his father and brother. He soon afterwards overtook them in flight, and put them both to death. Siroes then had himself recognized as king by Heraclius, on certain conditions, the first of which was to restore the cross of our Lord. Thus, fourteen years after it had fallen into the hands of the Persians, the cross was recovered; and on his return to Jerusalem, Heraclius, with great pomp, bore it back on his own shoulders to the mountain whither our Saviour had carried it.

This event was signalized by a remarkable miracle. Heraclius, attired as he was in robes adorned with gold and precious stones was forced to stand still at the gate which led to Mount Calvary. The more he endeavoured to advance, the more he seemed fixed to the spot. Heraclius himself and all the people were astounded; but Zacharias, the bishop of Jerusalem, said: Consider, O emperor, how little thou imitatest the poverty and humility of Jesus Christ, by carrying the cross clad in triumphal robes. Heraclius thereupon laid aside his magnificent apparel, and barefoot, clothed in mean attire, he easily completed the rest of the way, and replaced the cross in the same place on Mount Calvary, whence it had been carried off by the Persians. From this event, the feast of the Exaltation of the holy cross, which was celebrated yearly on this day, gained fresh lustre, in memory of the cross being replaced by Heraclius on the spot where it had first been set up for our Saviour.

The victory thus chronicled in the sacred books of the Church, was not, O cross, thy last triumph; nor were the Persians thy latest enemies. At the very time of the defeat of these fire-worshippers, the prince of darkness was raising up a new standard, the crescent. By the permission of God, whose ensign thou art, and who, having come on earth to struggle like us, flees not before any foe, Islam also was about to try its strength against thee: a twofold power, the sword and the seduotion of the passions. But here again, alike in the secret combats between the soul and satan, as in the great battles recorded in history, the final success was due to the weakness and folly of Calvary.

Thou, O cross, wert the rallying-standard of all Europe in those sacred expeditions which borrowed from thee their beautiful title of crusades, and which exalted the Christian name in the east. While on the one hand thou wert thus warding off degradation and ruin, on the other thou wert preparing the conquest of new continents; so that it is by thee that our west remains at the head of nations. Through thee, the warriors in those glorious campaigns are inscribed on the first pages of the golden book of nobility. And now the new orders of chivalry, which claim to hold among their ranks the élite of the human race, look upon thee as the highest mark of merit and honour. It is the continuation of to-day’s mystery, the exaltation, even in our times of decadence, of the holy cross, which in past ages was the standard of the legions, and glittered on the diadems of emperors and kings.

It is true, men have appeared in France, who have made it their aim to overthrow the sacred sign, wheresoever our fathers had honoured it. This invasion of the servants of Pilate into the country of the crusaders was inexplicable, until it was discovered that they were in Jewish pay. These, as St. Leo says of the Jews in to-day’s Office, see in the instrument of salvation nothing hut their own crime;[6] and their guilty conscience makes them hire, to pull down the holy cross, the very men whom they formerly paid to set it up. The coalition of such enemies is but one more homage to thee! O adorable cross, our glory and our love here on earth, save us on the day when thou shalt appear in the heavens, when the Son of Man, seated in His majesty, is to judge the world!


[1] Cyrill. Alex. Hom. iv. Ephesi habita.
[2] Ap Grœ. Menœ, in profesto Exaltations.
[3] Sophron. in exaltat. venerandœ crucis.
[4] S. P. Benedicti Beg. xli.
[5] Sophron. ubi supra.
[6] Homily of the 3rd nocturn ex Leon. Serm. viii. de Passione.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘Praise and glory be to thee, O holy Trinity, who hast brought us all to this day’s solemnity. Praise be to thee also, O holy Mother of God, sceptre of the orthodox faith: through thee the cross triumphs, and man is called back to heaven; through thee the idols are overthrown, and the nations are brought to repentance.’[1] Such words as these, which the Church borrows from her doctors to close the bright octave, were doubtless sung in prophecy by the angels around the new-born babe Mary. And such, in the light of the ages since elapsed, must needs be our answer to the question so often repeated at the cradle side: What shall this child be?

The doctrine lately laid down so magisterially by the infallible successor of St. Peter, is this: Since the days of her mortal life, when Mary was, even in this world, truly the Mother of the Church, the Queen of the apostles and their mistress with regard to the divine oracles; but especially since she has received in heaven an almost infinite power for dispensing the fruits of redemption: the mighty helper of the Christian people, the restorer of the world, has not ceased to prove herself the impregnable rampart of the Church, the solid foundation of the faith, the fountain springing from God, whence the rivers of divine Wisdom pour out their pure waters, sweeping away heresy from all places.[2]

May so glorious a past give us confidence for the future. ‘It is by Mary,’ says the blessed Grignon de Montfort, ‘that the salvation of the world has begun, and it is by Mary that it must be consummated. Being the way by which Jesus Christ came to us the first time, she will also be the way by which He will come the second time, though not in the same manner. Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might and in grace, in these latter times: in mercy, to bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who shall be converted and shall return to the Catholic Church; in might, against the enemies of God, idolaters, schismatics, Mahometans, Jews, and souls hardened in impiety, who shall rise in terrible revolt against God, to seduce all those who shall be contrary to them, and make them fall by promises and threats; and finally, she must shine forth in grace, in order to animate and sustain the valiant soldiers and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who shall do battle for His interests. Mary must be terrible as an army ranged in battle, principally in these latter times. It is principally of these last and cruel persecutions of the devil, which shall go on increasing daily till the reign of Antichrist, that we ought to understand that first and celebrated prediction and curse of God, pronounced in the terrestrial paradise against the serpent: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed.

God has never made or formed but one enmity; but it is an irreconcilable one: it is between Mary, His worthy Mother, and the devil; between the children and servants of the blessed Virgin and the children and instruments of Lucifer. Satan fears Mary not only more than all angels and men, but in some sense more than God Himself. It is not that the anger, the hatred, and the power of God are not infinitely greater than those of the blessed Virgin, for the perfections of Mary are limited; but it is because satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of God, and her humility humbles him more than the divine power. The devils fear one of her sighs for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her menaces against them more than all other torments.’[3]

A holy priest named Nicomedes is honoured today. The virgin martyr St. Felicula, whose body he had buried, obtained for him in return the palm of martyrdom. Let us, together with the Church, implore his protection.


Adesto, Domine, populo tuo: ut beati Nicomedis martyris tui merita præclara suscipiens, ad impetrandam misericordiam tuam semper ejus patrociniis adjuvetur. Per Dominum.
Attend to thy people, O Lord, that having recourse to the splendid merits of blessed Nicomedes, thy martyr, they may ever be assisted by his patronage for obtaining thy mercy. Through &c.

Let us sing to Mary on her birthday feast this graceful sequence of the fourteenth century.


Nativitas Mariæ Virginis
Quæ nos lavit a labe criminis
Celebratur hodie, dies est lætitiæ:

De radice Jesse propaginis
Hanc eduxit Solveri luminis manu Sapientiæ,
Templum suæ gratiæ.

Stella nova noviter oritur
Cujus ortu mors nostra moritur,
Evæ lapsus jam restituitur in Maria:

Ut aurora surgens progredite,
Sicut luna pulchra describitur,
Super cunctas ut sol eligitur Virgo pia.

Virgo Mater et virgo unica,
Virga fumi sed aromatica,
In te cœli mundique fabrica Gloriatur:

Te signarunt ora prophetica,
Tibi canit Salomon cantica
Canticorum, te vox angelica Protestatur.

Verbum Patris processu temporis,
Intra tui secretum corporis,
In te totum et totum deforis Simul fuit:

Fructus virens arentis arboris,
Christus, gigas immensi roboris,
Nox a nexu funesti pignoris Eripuit.

Condoluit humano generi
Virginalis filius uteri,
Accingantur senes et pueri ad laudem Virginis:

Qui poterat de nobis conqueri
Pro peccato parentum veteri,
Mediator voluit fieri Dei et hominis.

O Maria, dulce commercium
Intra tuum celasti gremium,
Quo salutis reis remedium indulgetur:

O vera spes et verum gaudium,
Fac post vitæ præsentis stadium,
Ut optatu m in cœlis bravium nobis detur.

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary,
who cleansed us from the stain of our crimes,
is celebrated to-day: it a day of joy!

This is the branch produced
from the root of Jesse by the Sun of true light;
she is the handiwork of Wisdom, the temple of divine grace.

A new star newly rises,
at whose rising our death dies;
the fall of Eve is now repaired in Mary.

The gentle Virgin comes forth as the rising aurora;
appearing beautiful as the moon,
chosen above all maidens as the sun outshines the stars.

Virgin-Mother and Virgin without peer,
pillar of smoke of aromatical spices,
both heaven and earth are justly proud of thee.

Thee did the ancient seers prophesy;
to thee sang Solomon his Song of songs;
the angel’s voice thy greatness did proclaim.

In course of time, the heavenly Father’s Word,
in thy chaste body took up his abode,
at once wholly within, wholly without.

Christ, the fair fruit of an unwatered tree,
the giant of immeasurable strength,
has freed us from the bond of the fatal pledge.

The Son of a Virgin Mother
has taken pity on the human race:
then let old men and children be prompt to praise the Virgin.

He who might well have spoken against us
for that ancient sin of our first parents,
chose to become the mediator between God and man.

How sweet, O Mary, was the secret commerce
carried on within thy bosom,
whereby the remedy of salvation was mercifully given to the guilty!

O our true joy and most assured hope,
grant that, after the course of this present life,
we may obtain in heaven the reward we so desire.


[1] Lessons of the 2nd nocturn, ex Cyrill. Alex. Hom. iv. Ephesi.
[2] Leo xiii. Encycl. Adjutricem populi Christiani, Sept. 5, 1895.
[3] Treatise on the true devotion to the blessed Virgin. Translated by Father Faber.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow!’[1] Is this, then, the first cry of that sweet babe, whose coming brought such pure joy to our earth? Is the standard of suffering to be so soon unfurled over the cradle of such lovely innocence? Yet the heart of mother Church has not deceived her; this feast, coming at such a time, is ever the answer to that question of the expectant human race: What shall this child be?

The Saviour to come is not only the reason of Mary’s existence, He is also her exemplar in all things. It is as His Mother that the blessed Virgin came, and therefore as the ‘Mother of sorrows’; for the God, whose future birth was the very cause of her own birth, is to be in this world 'a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity.’[2] ‘To whom shall I compare thee?’ sings the prophet of lamentations: ‘O Virgin . . . great as the sea is thy destruction.’[3] On the mountain of the sacrifice, as Mother she gave her Son, as bride she offered herself together with Him; by her sufferings both as bride and eus Mother, she was the co-redemptress of the human race. This teaching and these recollections were deeply engraved on our hearts on that other feast of our Lady’s dolours which immediately preceded Holy Week.

Christ dieth now no more: and our Lady’ sufferings are over. Nevertheless the Passion of Christ is continued in His elect, in His Church, against which hell vents the rage it cannot exercise against Himself. To this Passion of Christ’s mystical body, of which she is also Mother, Mary still contributes her compassion; how often have her venerated images attested the fact, by miraculously shedding tears! This explains the Church’s departure from liturgical custom, by celebrating two feasts, in different seasons, under one same title.

On perusing the register of the apostolic decrees concerning sacred rites, the reader is astonished to find a long and unusual interruption lasting from March 20, 1809 to September 18, 1814, at which latter date is entered the decree instituting on this present Sunday a second Commemoration of our Lady’s Dolours.[4] 1809-1814, five sorrowful years, during which the government of Christendom was suspended; years of blood which beheld the ManGod agonizing once more in the person of His captive Vicar. But the Mother of sorrows was still standing beneath the cross, offering to God the Church's sufferings; and when the trial was over, Pius VII, knowing well whence the mercy had come, dedicated this day to Mary as a fresh memorial of the day of Calvary.

Even in the seventeenth century, the Servites had the privilege of possessing this second feast, which they celebrated as a double of the second class, with a vigil and an octave. It is from them that the Church has borrowed the Office and Mass. This honour and privilege was due to the Order established by our Lady to honour her sufferings and to spread devotion to them. Philip Benizi, heir to the seven holy Founders, propagated the flame kindled by them on the heights of Monte Senario; thanks to the zeal of his sons and successors, the devotion to the Seven Dolours of the blessed Virgin Mary, once their family property, is now the treasure of the whole world.

The prophecy of the aged Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the divine Child in Jerusalem, the carrying of the cross, the Crucifixion, the taking down from the cross, and the burial of Jesus: these are the seven mysteries into which are grouped the well-nigh infinite sufferings which made our Lady the Queen of martyrs, the first and loveliest rose in the garden of the Spouse. Let us take to heart the recommendation from the Book of Tobias which the Church reads during this week in the Office of the time: Thou shalt honour thy mother: for thou must be mindful what and how great perils she suffered in giving thee birth.[5]



The daily Sacrifice, though surrounded with all the pomps of the liturgy, is substantially the same as that of Calvary. But the only assistants at the foot of the cross were, as our Introit points out, one man, and a few women weeping around the Mother of sorrows. The Gospel will repeat this Introit, and even its verse which, contrary to custom, is not taken from the Psalms.


Stabant juxta crucem Jesu Mater ejus, et soror Matris ejus Maria Cleophæ, et Salome, et Maria Magdalene.
℣. Mulier, ecce filius tuus, dixit Jesus: ad discipulum autem: Ecce mater tua. Gloria Patri. Stabant.

There stood by the cross of Jesus his Mother, and his Mother’s sister Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalene.
℣. Woman, behold thy son, said Jesus; to the disciple however, Behold thy mother. Glory be. There stood.

The honouring of our Lady’s Dolours does not distract our thoughts from the one Victim of salvation. On the contrary, its immediate result, as the Collect shows, is to cause the Passion of our Saviour to bear fruit in our souls.


Deus, in cujus passione, secundum Simeonis prophetiam, dulcissimam animam gloriosæ Virginis et Matris Mariæ doloris gladius pertransivit: concede propitius; ut qui dolores ejus venerando recolimus, passionis tuæ effectum felicem consequamur. Qui vivis.

O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of sorrow pierced the most sweet soul of the glorious Mary, Mother and Virgin: grant in thy mercy, that we who call to mind her sorrows with veneration, may obtain the happy effect of thy Passion. Who livest &c.

Then is added the Collect of the occurring Sunday.


Lectio libri Judith.

Cap. xiii.

Benedixit te Dominus in virtute sua, quia per te ad nihilum redegit inimicos nostros. Benedicta es tu, filia, a Domino Deo excelso, præ omnibus mulieribus super terram. Benedictus Dominus, qui creavit cœlum et terram: quia hodie nomen tuum ita magnificavit, ut non recedat laus tua de ore hominum, qui memores fuerint virtutis Domini in sternum, pro quibus non pepercisti animie tuæ propter angustias, et tribulationem generis tui, sed subvenisti ruinæ ante conspectum Dei nostri.
Lesson from the Book of Judith.

Ch. xiii.

The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought. Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, because he hath so magnified thy name this day, thatthy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men, who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever; for that thou hast not spared thy life by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.

Oh the greatness of our Judith among all creatures! ‘God,’ says the pious and profound Father Faber, ‘vouchsafed to select the very things about Him which are most incommunicable, and in a most mysteriously real way communicate them to her. See how He had already mixed her up with the eternal designs of creation, making her almost a partial cause and partial model of it. Our Lady’s co-operation in the redemption of the world gives us a fresh view of her magnificence. Neither the Immaculate Conception nor the Assumption will give us a higher idea of Mary’s exaltation than the title of co-redemptress. Her dolours were not necessary for the redemption of the world, but in the counsels of God they were inseparable from it. They belong to the integrity of the divine plan. Are not Mary’s mysteries Jesus’ mysteries, and His mysteries hers? The truth appears to be, that all the mysteries of Jesus and Mary were in God’s design as one mystery. Jesus Himself was Mary’s sorrow, seven times repeated, aggravated sevenfold. During the hours of the Passion, the offering of Jesus and the offering of Mary were tied in one. They kept pace together; they were made of the same materials; they were perfumed with kindred fragrance; they were lighted with the same fire; they were offered with kindred dispositions. The two things were one simultaneous oblation, interwoven each momentthrough the thickly crowded mysteries of that dread time, unto the eternal Father, out of two sinless hearts, that were the hearts of Son and Mother, for the sins of a guilty world which fell on them contrary to their merits, but according to their own free will.’[6]Let us mingle our tears with Mary’s, in union with the sufferings of the great Victim. In proportion as we do this during life we shall rejoice in heaven with the Son and the Mother; if our Lady is now, as we sing in the Alleluia verse, Queen of heaven and mistress of the world, is there one among all the elect who can recall sufferings comparable to hers?

After the Gradual follows the Stabat Mater, the touching Complaint attributed to the Franciscan, blessed Jacopone de Todi.


Dolorosa et lacrymabilis es Virgo Maria, stans juxta crucem Domini Jesu Filii tui Redemptoris.

℣. Virgo Dei Genitrix, quem totus non capit orbis, hoc crucis fert supplicium, auctor vitæ factus homo. Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Stabat sancta Maria, cœli Regina, et mundi Domina, juxta crucem Domini nostri Jesu Christi dolorosa.
Thou art sorrowful and worthy of tears, O Virgin Mary, standing near the cross of the Lord Jesus, thy Son, our Redeemer.

℣. O Virgin Mother of God, he whom the whole world doth not contain, beareth this punishment of the cross, he the author of life being made man. Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Holy Mary, the Queen of heaven, and mistress of the world, stood by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, full of sadness.


Stabat Mater dolorosa,
Juxta crucem lacrymosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.

Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti!

Quæ mærebat et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati pænas inclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suæ gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
Moriendo desolatum,
Dum emisit spiritum.

Eia, Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac ut tecum lugeam.

Fac ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.

Tui Nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Pænas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.

Juxta crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum præclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara:
Fac me tecum plangere.

Fac ut portem Christi mortem,
Passionis fac consortem,
Et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagas vulneran,
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus,
In die judicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriæ.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac ut animæ donetur
Paradisi gloria.

Near the cross, while on it
hung her Son, the sorrowing
Mother stood and wept.

A sword pierced her soul,
that sighed, and mourned,
and grieved.

Oh! how sad, and how afflicted,
was that blessed Mother
of an only Son!

The loving Mother sorrowed
and mourned at seeing
her divine Son suffer.

Who is there would not weep
to see Jesus’ Mother
in such suffering?

Who is there could contemplate
the Mother and the Son in sorrow,
and not join his own with theirs?

Mary saw her Jesus
tormented and scourged
for the sins of his people.

She saw her sweet Child abandoned by all,
as he breathed forth
his soul and died.

Ah, Mother, fount of love,
make me feel the force of sorrow;
make me weep with thee!

Make this heart of mine burn
with the love of Jesus my God,
that so I may content his heart.

Do this, O holy Mother:
deeply stamp the wounds
of the Crucified upon my heart.

Let me share with thee the sufferings of thy Son,
for it is for me he graciously deigned
to be wounded and to suffer.

Make me lovingly weep with thee:
make me compassionate with thee our crucified Jesus,
as long as life shall last.

This is my desire,
to stand nigh the cross with thee,
and be a sharer in thy grief.

Peerless Virgin of virgins!
be not displeased at my prayer:
make me weep with thee.

Make me to carry the death of Jesus;
make me a partner of his Passion,
an adorer of his Wounds.

Make me to be wounded with his Wounds;
make me to be inebriated with the cross
and Blood of thy Son.

And that I may not suffer the eternal flames,
let me be defended by thee, O Virgin,
on the day of judgment!

O Jesus! when my hour of death comes,
let me, by thy Mother’s aid,
come to my crown of victory.

And when my body dies,
oh! give to my soul
the reward of heaven’s glory.



Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. xix.

In illo tempore: Stabant juxta crucem Jesu Mater ejus, et soror Matris ejus Maria Cleophæ, et Maria Magdalene. Cum vidisset ergo Jesus Matrem, et discipulum stantem quem diligebat, dicit Matri suæ: Mulier, ecce filius tuus. Deinde dicit discipulo: Ecce mater tua. Et ex illa hora accepit eam discipulus in sua.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. xix.

At that time, there stood by the cross of Jesus, his Mother, and his Mother’s sister Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore had seen his Mother and the disciple standing, whom he loved, he saith to his Mother, Woman, behold thy Son. After that he saith to the disciple, Behold thy Mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own.

‘Woman, behold thy son.—My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ Such are the words of Jesus on the cross. Has He, then, no longer a Father in heaven, a Mother on earth? Oh! mystery of justice, and still more of love! God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son for it, so far as to lay upon Him, instead of upon sinful men, the curse our sins deserved; and our Lady too, in her sublime union with the Father, did not spare, but offered in like manner for us all, this same Son of her virginity. If on this head we belong to the eternal Father, we belong henceforth to Mary also; each has bought us at a great price: the exchange of an only Son for sons of adoption.

It is at the foot of the cross that our Lady truly became the Queen of mercy. At the foot of the altar, where the renewal of the great Sacrifice is preparing, let us commend ourselves to her omnipotent influence over the Heart of her divine Son.


Recordare, Virgo Mater Dei, dum steteris in conspectu Domini, ut loquaris pro nobis bona, et ut avertat indignationem suam a nobis.

Be mindful, O Virgin Mother of God, when thou standest in the sight of the Lord, to speak good things for us, that he may turn away his anger from us.

How many holy souls, in the course of ages, have come to keep faithful company with the Mother of sorrows! Their intercession united with Mary’s is a strength to the Church; and we hope to obtain thereby the effect of the merits of our Saviour’s death.


Offerimus tibi preces et hostias, Domine Jesu Christe, humiliter supplicantes: ut, qui transfixionem dulcissimi spiritus beatæ Mariæ Matris tuæ precibus recensemus; suo, suorumque sub cruce sanctorum consortium, multiplicato piissimo interventu, meritis mortis tuæ, meritum cum beatis habeamus. Qui vivis.

We offer to thee prayers and sacrifices, O Lord Jesus Christ, humbly beseeching, that we who pray in remembrance of the transfixion of the most sweet soul of blessed Mary thy Mother, by the multiplied and pious intercession of her and her holy companions under the cross, may have a reward with the blessed, by the merits of thy death. Who livest.

A commemoration is then made of the Sunday.

The Preface is the same as on September 8, page 165, except that for ‘in Nativitate, on the Nativity,’ is substituted ‘in Transfixione, on the Transfixion’ of the blessed Mary ever Virgin.

So great, it has been said, was Mary’s grief on Calvary, that, had it been divided among all creatures capable of suffering, it would have caused them all to die instantly.[7] It was our Lady’s wonderful peace, maintained by perfect acquiescence and the total abandonment of her whole being to God, that alone was able to sustain in her the life which the Holy Ghost was preserving for the Church’s sake. May our participation in the sacred mysteries give us that peace of God which passeth all understanding, and which keepeth minds and hearts in Christ Jesus!


Felices sensus beatæ Mariæ Virginis, qui sine morte meruerunt martyrii palmam sub cruce Domini.

Happy senses of the blessed Virgin Mary, which without dying deserved the palm of martydom beneath the cross of our Lord.

As the Postcommunion points out, the loving memory of our Mother’s sorrows will powerfully assist us to find all good things in the holy Sacrifice of the altar.


Sacrificia, quæ sumpsimus, Domine Jesu Christe, transfixionem Matris tuæ et Virginis devote celebrantes, nobis impetrent apud clementiam tuam omnis boni salutans effectum. Qui vivis.

O Lord Jesus Christ, may the sacrifices of which we have partaken, in the devout celebration of the transfixion of thy Virgin Mother, obtain for us of thy clemency the effect of every salutary good. Who livest &c.

The Postcommunion of the occurring Sunday is added, and the Gospel of the same is read at the end of the Mass instead of the usual passage from St. John.



The first and fifth antiphons of Vespers are taken from the Canticle of canticles, the three intermediate ones from Isaias, and that of the Magnificat from Job; the capitulum is from Jeremias.

1. Ant. Quo abiit dilectus tuus, o pulcherrima mulierum? quo declinavit dilectus tuus, et quæremus eum tecum?

1. Ant. Whither is thy beloved gone, o thou most beautiful among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside, and we will seek him with thee?

Ps. Dixit Dominus, page 38.

2. Ant. Recedite a me, amare fliebo, nolite incumbere, ut consolemini me.

2. Ant. Depart from me, I will weep bitterly: labour not to comfort me.

Ps. Laudate pueri, page 41.

3. Ant. Non est ei species, neque decor, et vidimus eum, et non erat adspectus.

3. Ant. There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness.

Ps. Lætatus sum, page 152.

4. Ant. A planta pedis usque ad verticem capitis, non est in eo sanitas.

4. Ant. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness in him.

Ps. Nisi Dominus, page 153.

5. Ant. Fulcite me floribus, stipate me malis, quia amore langueo.

5. Ant. Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples, because I languish with love.

Ps. Lauda Jerusalem, page 154.

Thren. ii.

Cui comparabo te? vel cui assimilabo te filia Jerusalem? cui exæquabo te, et consolabor te virgo filia Sion? magna est velut mare contritio tua.

To what shall I compare thee? or to what shall I liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? to what shall I equal thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Sion? for great as the sea is thy destruction.


O quot undis lacrymarum,
Quo dolore volvitur,
Luctuosa de cruento
Dum, revulsum stipite,
Cernit ulnis incubantem
Virgo Mater Filium!

Os suave, mite pectus,
Et latus dulcissimum,
Dexteramque vulneratam,
Et sinistram sauciam,
Et rubras cruore plantas
Ægra tingit lacrymis.

Centiesque milliesque
Stringit arctis nexibus
Pectus illud, et lacertos,
Illa figit vulnera:
Sicque tota colliquescit
In doloris osculis.

Eia Mater, obsecramus
Per tuas has lacrymas,
Filiique triste funus,
Vulnerumque purpuram,
Hunc tui cordis dolorem
Conde nostris cordibus.

Esto Patri, Filioque,
Et coævo Flamini,
Esto summæ Trinitati
Sempiterna gloria,
Et perennis laus, honorque
Hoc, et omni sæculo.

Oh! in what floods of tears,
in what an abyss of sorrow
is she whelmed, that Virgin Mother,
as mourning she beholds her Son
taken down from the blood-stained tree
and laid in her arms!

That lovely mouth, that gentle breast,
that side most sweet,
that right hand all pierced,
and the left hand wounded too,
those feet all rosy with his blood:
the desolate Mother bathes them with her tears.

A hundred and a thousand times
she locks in loving embrace
that breast and those arms,
and kisses their wounds;
and thus she melts away
in sorrowful caresses.

O Mother, we beseech thee,
by these thy tears,
by the cruel death of thy Son,
and by his empurpled wounds,
plant deep in our hearts
this anguish of thine own.

To the Father and to the Son
and to the coequal Spirit,
to the most high Trinity,
be everlasting glory,
unending praise and honour,
now and for evermore.


℣. Regina martyrum, ora pro nobis.
℟. Quæ juxta crucem Jesu constitisti.
℣. Pray for us, O Queen of martyrs.
℟. Who didst stand by the cross of Jesus.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Oppressit me dolor, et facies mea intumuit a fletu, et palpebræ meæcaligaverunt.
My sorrow hath oppressed me, my face is swollen with weeping, and my eyelids are dim.

The Prayer is the Collect of the Mass page 211.

Then is made a commemoration of the Sunday.

[1] Lam. i. 12.
[2] Isaias, liii. 3.
[3] Lam. ii. 13.
[4] Gardellini, Decreta authentica Congr. Sacr. Rit.
[5] Tobias, iv. 3, 14.
[6] Faber.. The Foot of the Cross, ix. 1, 2.
[7] Bernardin. Sen. Pro festivit. V. M. Senno xiii. De exaltatione B. V. in gloria, art 11. c. 2.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

There is a peculiar beauty in the meeting of these two saints upon the sacred cycle. Cyprian, in a famous dispute,[1] was once opposed to the apostolic See: eternal Wisdom now offers him to the homage of the world, in company with one of the most illustrious successors of St. Peter.

Cornelius was, by birth, of the highest nobility; witness his tomb, lately discovered in the family crypt, surrounded by the most honorable names in the patrician ranks. The elevation of a descendant of the Scipios to the sovereign pontificate linked the past grandeurs of Rome to her future greatness. Decius, who ‘would more easily have suffered a competitor in his empire than a bishop in Rome,’[2] had just issued the edict for the seventh general persecution. But the Cæsar bestowed upon the world’s capital by a village of Pannonia, could not stay the destinies of the eternal city. Beside this bloodthirsty emperor, and others like him, whose fathers were known in the city only as slaves or conquered enemies, the true Roman, the descendant of the Cornelii, might be recognized by his native simplicity , by the calmness of his strength of soul, by the intrepid firmness belonging to his race, wherewith he first triumphed over the usurper, who was soon to surrender to the Goths on the borders of the Danube.[3] And yet, O holy Pontiff, thou art even greater by the humility which Cyprian, thy illustrious friend, admired in thee, and by that ‘purity of thy virginal soul,' through which, according to him, thou didst become the elect of God and of His Christ.[4]

At thy side, how great is Cyprian himself! What a path of light is traced across the heavens of holy Church by this convert of the priest Cæcilius! In the generosity of his soul, when once conquered to Christ, he relinquished honours and riches, his family inheritance, and the glory acquired in the field of eloquence. All marvelled to see in him, as his historian says, the harvest gathered before the seed was sown.[5] By a justifiable exception, he became a pontiff while yet a neophyte. During the ten years of his episcopate, all men, not only in Carthage and Africa, but in the whole world, had their eyes fixed upon him; the pagans crying: Cyprian to the lions! the Christians awaiting but his word of command in order to obey. Those ten years represent one of the most troubled periods of history. In the empire, anarchy was rife; the frontiers were the scene of repeated invasions; pestilence was raging everywhere: in the Church, a long peace, which had lulled men’s souls to sleep, was followed by the persecutions of Decius, Gallus, and Valerian. The first of these, suddenly bursting like a thunderstorm, caused the fall of many; which evil, in its turn, led to schisms, on account of the too great indulgence of some, and the excessive rigour of others, towards the lapsed.

Who, then, was to teach repentance to the fallen,[6] the truth to the heretics, unity to the schismatics,[7] and to the sons of God prayer and peace?[8] Who was to bring back the virgins to the rules of a holy life?[9] Who was to turn back against the Gentiles their blasphemous sophisms?[10] Under the sword of death, who would speak of future happiness, and bring consolation to souls?[11] Who would teach them mercy,[12] patience,[13] and the secret of changing the venom of envy into the sweetness of salvation?[14] Who would assist the martyrs to rise to the height of their divine vocation? Who would uphold the confessors under torture, in prison, in exile? Who would preserve the survivors of martyrdom from the dangers of their regained liberty?[15]

Cyprian, ever ready, seemed in his incomparable calmness to defy the powers of earth and of hell. Never had a flock a surer hand to defend it under a sudden attack, and to put to flight the wild boar of the forest. And how proud the shepherd was of the dignity of that Christian family, which God had entrusted to his guidance and protection! Love for the Church was, so to say, the distinguishing feature of the bishop of Carthage. In his immortal letters to his ‘most brave and most happy brethren,’ confessors of Christ, and the honour of the Church, he exclaims: ‘Oh! truly blessed is our mother the Church, whom the divine condescension has so honoured, who is made illustrious in our days by the glorious blood of the triumphant martyrs; formerly white by the good works of our brethren, she is now adorned with purple from the veins of her heroes; among her flowers, neither roses nor lilies are wanting.’[16]

Unfortunately this very love, this legitimate, though falsely applied, jealousy for the noble bride of our Saviour, led Cyprian to err on the serious question of the validity of heretical baptism. ‘The only one,’ he said, ‘alone possesses the keys, the power of the Spouse; we are defending her honour, when we repudiate the polluted water of the heretics.’[17]He was forgetting that although, through our Lord’s merciful liberality, the most indispensable of the Sacraments does not lose its virtue when administered by a stranger, or even by an enemy of the Church, nevertheless it derives its fecundity, even then, from and through the bride; being valid only through union with what she herself does. How true it is, that neither holiness nor learning confers upon man that gift of infallibility, which was promised by our Lord to none but the successor of St. Peter. It was, perhaps, as a demonstration of this truth, that God suffered this passing cloud to darken so lofty an intellect as Cyprian’s. The danger could not be serious, or the error lasting, in one whose ruling thought is expressed in these words: ‘He that keeps not the unity of the Church, does he think to keep the faith? He that abandons the See of Peter whereon the Church is founded, can he flatter himself that he is still in the Church?’[18]

Great in his life, Cyprian was still greater in death. Valerian had given orders for the extermination of the principal clergy; and in Rome, Sixtus II, followed by Laurence, had led the way to martyrdom. Galerius Maximus, proconsul of Africa, was then holding his assizes at Utica, and commanded Thascius Cyprian to be brought before him. But the bishop would not allow ‘the honour of his Church to be mutilated,’ by dying at a distance from his episcopal city.[19] He therefore waited till the proconsul had returned to Carthage, and then delivered himself up by making a public entrance into the town.

In the house which served for a few hours as his prison, Cyprian, calm and unmoved, gathered his friends and family for the last time round his table. The Christians hastened from all parts to spend the night with their pastor and father. Thus, while he yet lived, they kept the first vigil of his future feast. When, in the morning, he was led before the proconsul, they offered him an arm-chair draped like a bishop’s seat. It was indeed the beginning of an episcopal function, the pontiff’s own peculiar office being to give his life for the Church, in union with the eternal High-Priest. The interrogatory was short, for there was no hope of shaking his constancy; and the judge pronounced sentence that Thascius Cyprian must die by the sword. On the way to the place of execution, the soldiers formed a guard of honour to the bishop, who advanced calmly, surrounded by his clergy as on days of solemnity. Deep emotion stirred the immense crowd of friends and enemies who had assembled to assist at the sacrifice. The hour had come. The pontiff prayed prostrate upon the ground; then rising, he ordered twenty-five gold pieces to be given to the executioner, and, taking off his tunic, handed it to the deacons. He himself tied the bandage over his eyes; a priest, assisted by a subdeacon, bound his hands; while the people spread linen cloths around him to receive his blood. Not until the bishop himself had given the word of command, did the trembling executioner lower his sword. In the evening, the faithful came with torches and with hymns to bury Cyprian. It was September 14, in the year 258.

Let us read first the lines consecrated by the holy liturgy to the Bishop of Rome.

Cornelius Romanus, Gallo et Volusiano imperatoribus pontificatum gerens, cum Lucina, femina sanctissima, corpora apostolorum Petri et Pauli e catacurabis in opportuniorem locum transtulit: ac Pauli corpus Lucina in suo prædio via Ostiensi, prope eum locum, ubi fuerat gladio percussus, collocavit: Cornelius principis apostolorum corpus non longe inde, ubi crucifixus fuerat, reposuit. Quod cum ad imperatores delatum esset, et Pontifice auctore multos fieri Christianos, mittitur is in exilium ad Centum celias: ubi eum sanctus Cyprianus episcopus Carthaginensis per litteras est consolatus.

Hoc autem christianæ caritatis oificium cum frequens alter alteri persolveret, deteriorem in partem id accipientes imperatores, accersitum Romam Cornelium, tamquam de majestate reum plumbatis cædi, raptumque ad Martis simulacrum ei sacrificare jubent. Quam impietatem cum ille detestaretur, ei caput abscissum est decimo octavo calendas Octobris: cujus corpus beata Lucina clericis adjutoribus humavit in arenaria prædii sui prope cœmeterium Callisti. Vixit in pontificatu annos circiter duos.
Cornelius, a Roman by birth, was sovereign Pontiff during the reign of the emperors Gallus and Volusianus. In concert with a holy lady named Lucina, he translated the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul from the catacombs to a more honourable resting place. St. Paul’s body was entombed by Lucina on an estate of hers on the Ostian Way, close to the spot where he had been beheaded; while Cornelius laid the body of the Prince of the apostles near the place of his crucifixion. When this became known to the emperors, and they were moreover informed that, by the advice of the Pontiff, many became Christians, Cornelius was exiled to Centumcellse, where Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, wrote to him to console him.

The frequency of this Christian and charitable intercourse between the two saints gave great displeasure to the emperors; and accordingly, Cornelius was summoned to Rome, where, as if guilty of treason, he was beaten with scourges tipped with lead. He was next dragged before an image of Mars, and commanded to sacrifice to it; but indignantly refusing to commit such an act of impiety, be was beheaded on the eighteenth of the Calends of October. The blessed Lucina, aided by some clerics, buried his body in a sandpit on her estate, near to the cemetery of Callixtus. His pontificate lasted about two years.

The Church borrows from St. Jerome her eulogy on St. Cyprian.

Ex libro sancti Hieronymi Presbyteri de Seriptoribus ecclesiasticis.

Cyprianus Afer, primum gloriose rhetoricam docuit: exinde, suadente presbytero Cæcilio, a quo et cognomentum sortitus est, Chritianus factus, omnem substantiam suam pauperibus erogavit. Ac post non multum temporis electus in presbyterum, etiam episcopus Carthaginensis constitutus est. Hujus ingenii superfluum est indicem texere, cum sole clariora sint ejus opera. Passus est sub Valeriano et Gallieno principibus, persecutione octava, eodem die quo Romæ Cornelius, sed non eodem anno.
From the book of St. Jerome, priest, on Ecclesiastical writers.

Cyprian was a native of Africa, and at first taught rhetoric there with great applause. The priest Cæcilius, from whom he adopted his surname, having persuaded him to become a Christian, he thereupon distributed all his goods among the poor. Not long afterwards, having been made priest, he was chosen bishop of Carthage. It would be useless to enlarge upon his genius, since his works outshine the sun. He suffered under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, in the eighth persecution, on the same day as Cornelius was martyred at Rome, but not in the same year.

Holy Pontiffs, united now in glory as you once were by friendship and in martyrdom, preserve within us the fruit of your example and doctrine. Your life teaches us to despise honours and fortune for Christ’s sake, and to give to the Church all our devotedness, of which the world is unworthy. May this be understood by those countless descendants of noble races, who are led astray by a misguided society. May they learn from you gloriously to confound the impious conspiracy that seeks to exterminate them in shameful oblivion and enforced idleness. If their fathers deserved well of mankind, they themselves may now enter upon a higher career of usefulness, where decadence is unknown, and the fruit once produced is everlasting. Remind the lowly as well as the great in the city of God, that peace and war alike have flowers to crown the soldier of Christ: the white wreath of good works is offered to those who cannot aspire to the rosy diadem of martyrdom.[20]

Watch, O Cyprian over thy Church of Carthage, now at length renewing her youth. And do thou, O Cornelius, restore to Rome her glorious past. Put down the foreigner from her throne; for the mistress of the world must obey no ruler but the Vicar of the King of kings. May her speedy deliverance be the signal to her people for a complete renovation, which cannot now be far distant, unless the end of the world be approaching.

The fourth Æcumenical Council was held at Chalcedon in the church of St. Euphemia; beside the tomb of this holy virgin, the impious Eutyches was condemned, and the twofold nature of the God-Man was vindicated. The‘great martyr’ seems to have shown a predilection for the study of sacred doctrine: the faculty of theology in Paris chose her for its special patroness, and the ancient Sorbonne treasured with singular veneration a notable portion of her blessed relics. Let us recommend ourselves to her prayers, and to those of the holy widow Lucy and the noble Geminian, whom the Church associates with her.


Præsta, Domine, precibus nostris cum exsultatione proventum: ut sanctorum martyrum Euphemiæ, Luciæ et Geminiani, quorum diem passionis annua devotione recolimus, etiam fidei constantiam subsequamur. Per Dominum.
Grant, O Lord, a joyful issue to our prayers, that we may imitate the constancy in faith of the holy martyrs Euphemia, Lucy, and Geminian, the day of whose sufferings we commemorate with annual devotion. Through.

[1] On the question of the validity of Baptism conferred by heretics.
[2] Cyprian. Epist. x. ad Antonianum, ix.
[3] Cyprian. Epist. x. ad Antonianum, viii. ix.
[4] Ibid. viii.
[5] Pontius Diac. De vita et pass. Cypr. ii.
[6] Cypr. De lapsis.
[7] De unitate Ecclesiæ.
[8] De oratione Dominica
[9] De habitu virginie.
[10] Lib. ad Demetrianum and De idolorum vanitate.
[11] De mortalitate.
[12] De opera et eleemosynis.
[13] De bono patientaæ.
[14] De zelo et livore.
[15] De exhortatione martyrii and Epistolæ ad confessores.
[16] Epist. viii. Ad martyres et confessores.
[17] Epist. ad Jubaianum, i. xi.
[18] De unitate Ecelesiæ, iv.
[19] Epist. ultima, lxxxiii. Ad clerum et plebem.
[20] Cypr. Epist. viii. Ad martyres et confessores.