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Temporal Cycle

Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.

The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.

We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.

We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.

For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels[1] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.
[1] St Luke ii 10.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.

This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.

Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.

For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.

We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.

The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.

For more information on Lent, visit here.

After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)

For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.

WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.

The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

This volume opens to us the second part of the Liturgical Year, beginning the long period of the Time after Pentecost. It treats of the feasts of the most holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, and of the sacred Heart of Jesus. These three feasts require to be explained apart. Their dates depend on that of Easter; and yet they are detached, if we consider their object, from the moveable cycle, whose aim is to bring before us, each year, the successive, and so to speak historic, memories of our Lord’s mysteries. After the sublime drama, which has, by gradually presenting to us the facts of our Redeemer’s history, shown us the divine economy of the redemption, these feasts immediately follow, and give us a deep and dogmatic teaching: a teaching which is a marvellous synthesis, taking in the whole body of Christian doctrine.

The Holy Ghost has come down upon the earth, in order to sanctify it. Faith being the one basis of all sanctification, and the source of love, the holy Spirit would make it the starting-point of His divine workings in the soul. To this end, He inspires the Church, which has sprung up into life under the influence of His impetuous breathing, to propose at once to the faithful that doctrinal summary, which is comprised in the three feasts immediately coming after Pentecost. The volumes following the present one will show us the holy Spirit continuing His work, and, on the solid foundations of the faith He established at the outset, building the entire superstructure of the Christian virtues.

This was the idea which the author of the Liturgical year was busy developing in the second part of his work, when death came upon him; and the pen that had begun this volume was put by obedience into the hands of one, who now comes before the faithful, asking their prayers for the arduous task he has undertaken, of continuing the not quite finished work of his beloved father and master. He begs of them to beseech our Lord, that He Himself will vouchsafe to bring to a successful termination an undertaking that was begun for His honour and glory, and that has already produced so much fruit in the souls of men.

Br. L.F. O.S.B.

Solesmes, May 10, 1879.


For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

(If this Sunday fall on December 24, it is omitted, and in its place is said the Office of Christmas Eve, which is given in the proper of the saints, December 24, page 506.)

We have now entered into the week which immediately precedes the birth of the Messias. That longdesired coming might be even to-morrow; and at furthest, that is, when Advent is as long as it can be, the beautiful feast is only seven days from us. So that the Church now counts the hours; she watches day and night, and since December 17 her Offices have assumed an unusual solemnity. At Lauds, she varies the antiphons each day; and at Vespers, in order to express the impatience of her desires for her Jesus, she makes use of the most vehement exclamations to the Messias, in which she each day gives Him a magnificent title, borrowed from the language of the prophets.

To-day,[1] she makes a last effort to stir up the devotion of her children. She leads them to the desert; she shows them John the Baptist, upon whose mission she instructed them on the third Sunday. The voice of the austere Precursor resounds through the wilderness, and penetrates even into the cities. It preaches penance, and the obligation men are under of preparing by self-purification for the coming of Christ. Let us retire from the world during these next few days; or if that may not be by reason of our external duties, let us retire into the quiet of our own hearts and confess our iniquities, as did those true Israelites, who came, full of compunction and of faith in the Messias, to the Baptist, there to make perfect their preparation for worthily receiving the Redeemer on the day of His appearing to the world.

See, then, with what redoubled earnestness the Church, before opening the book of her great prophet, repeats her invitatory:

Prope est jam Dominus; venite, adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. xxxv.

Lætabitur deserta et invia, et exsultabit solitudo, et florebit quasi lilium. Germinans germinabit, et exsultabit laetabunda et laudans; gloria Libani data est ei, decor Carmeli et Saron. Ipsi videbunt gloriam Domini, et decorem Dei nostri. Confortate manus dissolutas, et genua debilia roborate. Dicite pusillanimis: Confortamini, et nolite timere. Ecce Deus vester ultionem adducet retributionis: Deus ipse veniet et salvabit vos. Tunc aperientur oculi caecorum, et aures surdorum patebunt. Tunc saliet sicut cervus claudus, et aperta erit lingua mutorum: quia scissæ sunt in deserto aquae, et torrentes in solitudine. Et quæ erat arida, erit in stagnum, et sitiens in fontes aquarum. In cubilibus, in quibus prius dracones habitabant, orietur viror calami et junci. Et erit ibi semita et via, et via sancta vocabitur, non transibit per eam pollutus; et hæc erit vobis directa via, ita ut stulti non errent per eam. Non erit ibi leo, et mala bestia non ascendet per eam, nec invenietur ibi: et ambulabunt qui liberati fuerint. Et redempti a Domino convertentur, et venient in Sion cum laude, et lætitia sempiterna super caput eorum; gaudium et lætitiamobtinebunt, et fugiet dolor et gemitus.
The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. xxxv.

The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise; the glory of Libanus is given to it, the beauty of Carmel and Saron. They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God. Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees. Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not. Behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense: God himself will come and will save you. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall bo unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free: for waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness. And that which was dry land, shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. In the dens where dragons dwelt before shall rise up the verdure of the reed and the bulrush. And a path and a way shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it; and this shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor shall any mischievous beast go up by it, nor be found there: but they shall walk there, that shall be delivered. And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

Oh, the joy of Thy coming, dear Jesus! How great it must needs be, when the prophecy says it shall be like an everlasting crown upon our heads. And could it be otherwise? The very desert is to flourish as a lily, and living waters are to gush forth out of the parched land, because their God is coming. Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, and which the Samaritan woman, the type of us sinners, asked of Thee with such earnest entreaty. This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst, and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples. Thou, O Jesus, art our way, our path, to God; and Thou art Thyself God; Thou art, therefore, both our way and the term to which our way leads us. We had lost our way; we had gone astray as lost sheep: how great Thy love to come thus in search of us! To teach us the way to heaven, Thou hast deigned to come down from heaven, and then tread with us the road which leads to it. No! there shall be no more weak hands, nor feeble knees, nor faint hearts; for we know that it is in love that Thou art coming to us. There is but one thing which makes us sad: our preparation is not complete. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind! We desire to obey the voice of Thy Precursor, and make plain those rugged paths, which would prevent Thy coming into our hearts, O divine Infant! Give us to be baptized in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptizing us in the Holy Ghost and love.


The prophet has made us thirst for that clear cool fountain, which he tells us is to spring up on the coming of the Messias; let us ask, together with the Church, for the Dew which will give new life to our hearts, and for the Rain which will make them fruitful.


Rorate cœli desuper, et nubes pluant Justum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.

Ps. Cœli enarrant gloriam Dei: et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum. V. Gloria Patri. Rorate.
Drop down Dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour.

Ps. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the works of his hands. V. Glory, &c. Drop down, &c.

In the Collect, the Church implores God to hasten the time of His coming to her assistance; she fears lest her sins might keep her Spouse from visiting her; she, therefore, prays that this obstacle may be removed by His mercy.


Excita, quæsumus, Domino, potentiam tuam, et veni, et magna nobis virtute succurre: ut per auxilium gratiæ tuæ quod nostra peccata praepediunt, indulgentia tuæ propitiationis acceleret. Qui vivis et regnas.
Exert, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power and come, and succour us by thy great might: that by the assistance of thy grace, thy indulgent mercy may hasten what is delayed by our sins; who livest and reignest God, world without end.

The other Collects of the blessed Virgin, against the persecutors of the Church, and for the Pope, are the same as on the first Sunday in Advent, page 128.


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.

1. Cap. iv.

Fratres, sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi, et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei. Hic jam quæritur inter dispensatores ut fidelis quis inveniatur. Mihi autem pro minimo est ut a vobis judicer, aut ab humano die: sed neque meipsum judico. Nihil enim mihi conscius sum: sed non in hoc justificatus sum: qui autem judicat me Dominus est. Itaque nolite ante tempus judicare, quoadusque veniat Dominus: qui et illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum, et manifestabit consilia cordium: et tunc laus erit unicuique a Deo.
Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.

1. Ch. iv.

Brethren, let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man’s day: but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything: yet I am not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come: who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise from God.

The Church here reminds the people of the dignity of the Christian priesthood. The occasion is an appropriate one, as the ordinations were held yesterday. She also brings before her sacred ministers the obligation they have contracted of being faithful to the duties imposed upon them. But let not the flock judge their pastor; since all, both priest and people, are living in expectation of the day of our Saviour’s coming; not only of that second one, for which we are now preparing, but also of that last coming which will be as terrible as the other two are dear to the hearts of men. After having spoken these words of stern admonition, the Church resumes the expressions of her hope and her entreaties for the speedy coming of her Spouse.


Prope est Dominus omnibus invocantibus eum, omnibus qui invocant eum in veritate.

V. Laudem Domini loquetur os meum: et benedicat omnis caro nomen sanctum ejus.

Alleluia, alleluia.

V. Veni, Domine, et noli tardare: relaxa facinora plebi tuæ Israel. Alleluia.
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him: to all that call upon him in truth.

V. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name.

Alleluia, alleluia.

V. Come, O Lord, and delay not: release thy people Israel from their sins. Alleluia.


Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. iii.

Anno quintodecimo imperii Tiberii Caesaris, procurante Pontio Pilato Judæam, tetrarcha autem Galilææ Herode, Philippo autem fratre ejus tetrarcha Iturææ, et Trachonitidis regionis, et Lysania Abilinæ tetrarcha, sub principibus sacerdotum Anna et Caipha: factum est verbum Domini super Joannem Zachariæ filium in deserto. Et venit in omnem regionem Jordanis, prædicans baptismum pœnitentiæ in remissionem peccatorum; sicut scriptum est in libro sermonum Isaiæ prophetae: Vox clamantis in deserto: Parate viam Domini: rectas facite semitas ejus: omnis vallis implebitur, et omnis mons et collis humiliabitur: et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: et videbit omnis caro salutare Dei.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. iii.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high priests Annas and Caiphas, the word of the Lord came to John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins: as it was written in the book of the words of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight his paths: every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Thou art nigh, O Lord, for the inheritance of Thy people has passed into the hands of the Gentiles, and the land which Thou didst promise to Abraham is now but a province of that vast empire, to which Thine own is to succeed. The oracles of the prophets are being rapidly fulfilled, each in its turn; the prediction of Jacob himself has been accomplished: the sceptre is taken from Juda. Everything is ready for Thy coming, O Jesus! Thus it is that Thou renewest the face of the earth; deign also, I beseech Thee, to renew my heart, and give me courage during these last few hours of my preparation for receiving Thee. I feel the need I have of withdrawing into solitude, of receiving the baptism of penance, of making straight all my ways: O divine Saviour, let all this be done in me, that so my joy may be full on the day of Thy coming.

During the Offertory, the Church salutes the ever glorious Virgin, in whose chaste womb is still concealed the Saviour of the world. Give us, O Mary, this God, who fills thee with Himself and His grace. The Lord is with thee, O incomparable Mother! but the happy hour is rapidly advancing when He will also be with us; for His name is Emmanuel.


Ave, Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
Hail, Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.


Sacrificiis præsentibus, quæsumus, Domine, placatus intendo: ut et devotioni nostræ proficiant, et saluti. Per Dominum.
Hear us, O Lord, we beseech thee, and being appeased by these offerings, grant they may increase our devotion, and advance our salvation. Through, &c.

The other Secrets are given on page 132.

During the Communion, the Church, now filled with the God who has just come into her, borrows the words of Isaias, wherewith to celebrate the praise of the Virgin Mother. The same words apply also to the Church herself, since that same God, who made Mary His tabernacle, has this instant visited her.


Ecco Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.
Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son: and his name shall be called Emmanuel.


Sumptis muneribus, quæsumus, Domine: ut cum frequentatione mysterii crescat nostræ salutis effectus. Per Dominum.
Having received what has been offered to thee, O Lord, grant, we beseech thee, that the more frequently we partake of these sacred mysteries, the more our devotion may increase. Through, &c.

The other Postcommunions as on the first Sunday, page 134.


(If this Sunday be Christmas Eve, the following antiphons are not sung, as the Vespers are of Christmas, which are given in the next volume.)

1. Ant. Canite tuba in Sion, quia prope est dies Domini: ecce veniet ad salvandum nos, alleluia, alleluia.

2. Ant. Ecce veniet desideratus cunctis Gentibus: et replebitur gloria domus Domini, alleluia.

3. Ant. Erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: veni, Domine, et noli tardare, alleluia.

4. Ant. Dominus veniet, occurrite illi, dicentes: Magnum principium, et regni ejus non erit finis; Dous, Fortis, Dominator, Princeps pacis, alleluia, alleluia.

5. Ant. Omnipotens sermo tuus, Domine, a regalibus sedibus voniet, alleluia.

1. Ant. Sound the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: Behold he will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.

2. Ant. Lo! the Desired of all nations will come: and the house of the Lord shall be filled with glory, alleluia.

3. Ant. The crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough smooth: come, O Lord, and delay not, alleluia.

4. Ant. The Lord will come, go, meet him and say: Great is his empire, and his reign shall have no end; he is God, the Mighty, the Ruler, and Prince of peace, alleluia, alleluia.

5. Ant. Thy almighty word, O Lord, shall come from thy royal throne, alleluia.


Fratres, sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi, et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei. Hio jam quæritur inter dispensatores ut fidelis quis inveniatur.
Brethren, let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God; here now it is required amongst the dispensers, that a man be found faithful.

The hymn Creator alme siderum, the verse Rorate and the canticle Magnificat, are given on pages 107 and 109.

The Great Antiphon which is marked for the day of December on which this Sunday falls, is sung at the Magnificat. The Great Antiphons are given in the proper of the saints (pages 483-504).


Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni, et magna nobis virtute succurre: ut per auxilium gratiae tuæ quod nostra peccata praepediunt, indulgentia tuae propitiationis acceleret. Qui vivis et regnas.
Exert, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power and come, and succour us by thy great might: that by the assistance of thy grace, thy indulgent mercy may hasten what is delayed by our sins; who livest and reignest, &c.

[1] The fourth Sunday of Advent is called Rorate, from the Introit; but more frequently, Canite tuba, which are the first words of the first responsory of Matins, and of the first antiphon of Lauds and Vespers.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. xli.

Et tu Israel, serve meus, Jacob quem elegi, semen Abraham amici mei; in quo apprehendi te ab extremis terræ, et a longinquis ejus vocavi te, et dixi tibi: Servus meus es tu, elegi te, et non abjeci te, Ne timeas, quia ego tecum sum: ne declines, quia ego Deus tuus: confortavi te, et auxiliatus sum tibi, et suscepit te dextera Justi mei. Ecce confundentur et erubescent omnes qui pugnant adversum te: erunt quasi non sint, et peribunt viri qui contradicunt tibi. Quæres eos, et non invenies, viros rebelles tuos; erunt quasi non sint, et veluti consumptio homines bellantes adversum te: quia ego Dominus Deus tuus apprehendens manum tuam, dicensque tibi: Ne timeas, ego adjuvi te. Noli timere, vermis Jacob, qui mortui estis ex Israel: ego auxiliatus sum tibi, dicit Dominus, et redemptor tuus Sanctus Israel Ego posui te quasi plaustrum triturans novum, habens rostra serrantia: triturabis montes, et comminues, et colles quasi pulverem pones. Ventilabis eos, et ventus tollet, et turbo disperget eos: et tu exsultabis in Domino, in Sancto Israel lætaberis.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. xli.

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend; in whom I have taken thee from the ends of the earth, and from the remote parts thereof have called thee, and said to thee: Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee, and have not cast thee away. Fear not, for I am with thee; turn not aside, for I am thy God: I have strengthened thee, and have helped thee, and the right hand of my just One hath upheld thee. Behold all that fight against thee shall be confounded and ashamed: they shall be as nothing, and the men shall perish that strive against thee. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find the men that resist thee: they shall be as nothing, and as a thing consumed the men that war against thee: for I am the Lord thy God, who take thee by the hand, and say to thee: Fear not, I have helped thee. Fear not, thou worm of Jacob, you that are dead of Israel: I have helped thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the holy One of Israel. I have made thee as a new thrashing wain with teeth like a saw: thou shalt thrash the mountains, and break them in pieces: and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, in the holy One of Israel thou shalt be joyful.

It is thus Thou raisest us up from our abject lowliness, O eternal Son of the Father! It is thus Thou consolest us under the fear we so justly feel by reason of our sins. Thou sayest to us: Israel, my servant!Jacob, whom I have chosen! seed of Abraham, in whom I have called thee from the remote farts of the earth! fear not, for I am with thee. But, O divine Word, how low Thou hast had to come, that Thou mightest be thus with us! We could never have come to Thee, for between us and Thee there was fixed an immense chaos. Nay, we had not so much as the desire to see Thee, so dull of heart had sin made us: and had we desired it, our eyes could never have borne the splendour of Thy majesty. Then it was, that Thou didst descend to us in person, yet so that our weakness could look fixedly upon Thee, because veiled under the cloud of Thy Humanity. 'Who could doubt,’ says St. Bernard,[1] ‘of there being some great cause pending, seeing that so great a Majesty deigned to come down, from so far off, into so unworthy a place? Oh yes, there is some great thing at stake, for the mercy is great, and the commiseration is extreme, and the charity is abundant. And why, think you, did He come? He came from the mountain to seek the hundredth sheep that was lost. O wonderful condescension, a God seeking! O wonderful worth of man, that he should be sought by God! If man should therefore boast, he is surely not unwise; for he boasts not for aught that he sees in himself as of himself, but for his very Maker making such account of him. All the riches and all the glory of the world, and all that men covet in it, all is less than his glory, nay, is nothing, when compared to it. What is man, O Lord, that Thou shouldst magnify him? or why dost Thou set Thy Heart upon him?'[2] Delay not, then, good Shepherd! show Thyself to Thy sheep. Thou knowest them; not only hast Thou seen them from heaven, Thou also lookest on them with love, from the womb of Mary where Thou still art concealed. They also wish to know Thee; they are impatient to behold Thy divine features, to hear Thy voice and to follow Thee to the pastures that Thou hast promised them.

Hymn for the Time of Advent
(Composed by St Ambrose. It is in the Ambrosian breviary for the sixth Sunday of Advent)

Mysterium Ecclesiæ,
Hymnum Christo referimus,
Quem genuit Puerpera
Verbum Patris in filio.

Sola in sexu fœmina
Electa es in sæculo:
Et meruisti Dominum
Sancto portare in utero.

Mysterium hoc magnum est;
Mariae quod concessum est,
Ut Deum per quem omnia
Ex se videret prodire.

Vere gratia plena es,
Et gloriosa permanes,
Quia ex te natus est Christus
Per quem facta sunt omnia.

Rogemus ergo, populi,
Dei Matrem et Virginem,
Ut ipsa nobis impetret,
Pacem et indulgentiam.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre et sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

It is a mystery of the Church,
it is a hymn that we sing to Christ,
the Word of the Father,
become the Son of a Virgin.

Among women, thou alone, O Mary!
wast chosen in this world,
and wast made worthy to carry in thy holy womb
him who is thy Lord.

This is a great mystery, that is given to Mary:
that she should see the
God, who created all things,
become her own Child!

How truly art thou full of grace,
ever glorious Virgin!
for of thee is born the Christ,
by whom all things were made.

Come then, ye people,
let us pray to the Virgin Mother of God,
that she would obtain for us
peace and indulgent mercy.

Glory be to thee, O Lord,
who wast born of the Virgin!
and to the Father and the Holy Ghost,
for everlasting ages.


Prayer from the Ambrosian Missal
(In the Mass of the fifth Sunday of Advent)

Deus, qui hominem delapsum in mortem conspiciens, unigeniti Filii tui adventu redimere voluisti; præsta, quæsumus, ut, qui ejus gloriosam Incarnationem fatentur, ipsius etiam Redemptoris consortia mereantur. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
O God, who, seeing man fallen a prey to death, didst resolve to redeem him by the coming of thine only-begotten Son; grant, we beseech thee, that they who confess his glorious Resurrection, may deserve to be for ever with their Redeemer. Who, with thee, liveth and reigneth for ever. Amen.

[1] First sermon of Advent.
[2] Job vii. 17.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. xli.

Ecce servus meus, suscipiam eum, electus meus, complacuit sibi in illo anima mea: dedi spiritum meum super eum, judicium Gentibus proferet. Non clamabit, neque accipiet personam, neo audietur vox ejus foris. Calamum quassatum non conteret, et linum fumigans non exstinguet: in veritate educet judicium. Non erit tristis, neque turbulentus, donec ponat in terra judicium: et legem ejus insulæ exspectabunt. Hæc dicit Dominus Deus creans cœlos, et extendens eos: firmans terram, et quæ germinant ex ea: dans flatum populo qui est super eam, et spiritum calcantibus eam. Ego Dominus vocavi te in justitia, et apprehendi manum tuam, 'et servavi te. Et dedi te in foedus populi, in lucem Gentium: ut aperires oculos cæcorum, et educeres de conclusione vinctum, de domo carceris sedentes in tenebris.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. xli.

Behold my servant, I will uphold him; my elect, my soul delighteth in him; I have given my spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor have respect to person, neither shall his voice be heard abroad. The bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax he shall not quench: he shall bring forth judgement unto truth. He shall not be sad, nor troublesome, till he set judgement in the earth: and the islands shall wait for his law. Thus saith the Lord God that created the heavens, and stretched them out: that established the earth, and the things that spring out of it: that giveth breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that tread thereon. I the Lord have called thee in justice, and taken thee by the hand, and preserved thee. And I have given thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles: that thou mightest open the eyes of the blind, and bring forth the prisoner out of prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.

How sweet and peaceful is Thy entrance into this world, O Jesus! Thy voice is not heard giving its commands; and Thy hands, the hands of a yet unborn Babe, seem too weak to break the reed, so frail, that a breath would break it. What is it Thou hast come to do in this first coming? Thy heavenly Father tells us by the prophet. Thou art coming that Thou mayst be the pledge of a covenant between heaven and earth. O divine Infant! Son of God, and yet Son of man, blessed be Thy coming among us! Thy crib will be the ark which will save us; and when Thou walkest on our earth, it will be to give us light, and set us free from our prison-house of darkness. It is just, therefore, that we should rise and meet Thee on Thy approach, seeing that Thou hast come all this way to us. ‘If the sick man cannot go out some distance to meet so great a Physician,’ says St. Bernard, ‘let him, at least, make an effort to raise his head and turn towards Him as He enters. It is not required of thee, O man! to pass the seas, or ascend the clouds, or cross the Alps. The way that is shown unto thee is not a long one; go as far as thine own self, and there meet thy God: for the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.[1] Meet Him at least at thy heart’s compunction, and thy mouth’s confession, that thou mayst at least go out of the filth of thy guilty conscience, for into that thou surely never wouldst make the author of purity enter!’[2] Glory, then, be to Thee, O Jesus, for sparing the broken reed, that so it may regain its verdure and strength on the banks of the stream of which Thou art the source! Glory be to Thee, for having checked the breath of Thy almighty justice, and so cherishing the last spark left in the smoking flax, that it might burn up again, and give light at the Bridegroom’s feast.

Hymn in Honour of the Blessed Virgin
(Composed by St. Peter Damian)

Terrena cuncta jubilent, Astra laudibus intonent, Virginis ante thalamum, Laudes alternent dramatum.
Hæc Virgo Verbo gravida, Fit paradisi janua;
Quæ Deum mundo reddidit, cœlum nobis aperuit.
Felix ista Puerpera, Evæ lege liberrima, Concepit sine masculo, Peperit absque gemitu.
Dives Mariae gremium! Mundi gestavit pretium, Quo gloriamur redimi Soluti jugo debiti.
Quam Patris implet Filius, Sanctus obumbrat Spiritus cœlum fiunt castissima Sacræ puellae viscera.
Sit tibi laus, Altissime, Qui natus es ex Virgine; Sit honor ineffabilis Patri, sanctoque Flamini.
May all earth and heaven be glad and resound with the praises which, in this double choir, are sung to the maternity of the Virgin.
Yea, this Virgin, Mother of the Word, is made the gate of heaven; she gave God to the world, and, by this, opened heaven to us.
This happy Mother of Jesus conceived him without humiliation, and bore him without a moan; such a Mother could not be under the law put on Eve.
O that rich treasury of Mary’s womb! it held the price which purchased our redemption, setting us free from the yoke of our debt.
The Son of the eternal Father dwelt within her; the Holy Ghost overshadowed her; what is such a Virgin’s womb but a new-made heaven?
To thee, Most High, who wast born of the Virgin, be praise! Honour ineffable be to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit.

Prayer from the Gallican Sacramentary
(In Adventu Domini, Oratio post Prophetiam)

Opifex lucis alme, plebis visitator immeritæ, qui illa prophetalium vaticiniorum oracula, quæ sæculis fuerunt nuntiata, beati Joannis ore exples, opere perficis, professione peragis; concede plebi supplici tibi sine formidine famulari; ut per viscera misericordiæ repleti scientia, veritate dirigi mereamur.
Benign Creator of the light, visiting an unworthy people! the oracles of the prophetic predictions, which were announced in the past ages, thou didst fulfil by the mouth of John, thou didst perfect by his works, thou didst accomplish by his mission. Grant to thy people, making supplication to thee, to serve thee without fear; that, through the bowels of thy mercy, we, being filled with knowledge, may deserve to be directed by truth.

[1] Rom. x. 8.
[2] First sermon for Advent.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. li.

Audite me, qui sequimini quod justum est, et quæritis Dominum: attendite ad petram unde excisi estis, et ad cavernam laci, de qua præcisi estis. Attendite ad Abraham patrem vestrum, et ad Saram, quæ peperit vos: quia unum vocavi eum, et benedixi ei, et multiplicavi eum. Consolabitur ergo Dominus Sion, et consolabitur omnes ruinas ejus, et ponet desertum ejus quasi delicias, et solitudinem ejus quasi hortum Domini. Gaudium et lætitia invenietur in ea, gratiarum actio, et vox laudis. Attendite ad me, popule meus, et tribus mea, me audite: quia lex a me exiet, et judicium meum in lucem populorum requiescet. Prope est Justus meus, egressus est Salvator meus, et brachia mea populos judicabunt: me insulæ expectabunt, et brachium meum sustinebunt. Levate in cœlum oculos vestros, et videte sub terra deorsum: quia cœli sicut fumus liquescent, et terra sicut vestimentum atteretur, et habitatores ejus sicut hæc interibunt: salus autem mea in sempiternum erit, et justitia mea non deficiet.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. li.

Give ear to me, you that follow that which is just, and you that seek the Lord: look unto the rook whence you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you are dug out. Look unto Abraham your father and to Sara that bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him, and multiplied him. The Lord therefore will comfort Sion, and will comfort all the ruins thereof, and he will make her desert as a place of pleasure, and her wilderness as the garden of the Lord. Joy ana gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of praise. Hearken unto me, O my people, and give ear to me, O my tribes: for a law shall go forth from me, and my judgement shall rest to be a light of the nations. My just One is near at hand, my Saviour is gone forth, and my arms shall judge the people: the islands shall look for me, and shall patiently wait for my arm. Lift up your eyes to heaven, and look down to the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish like smoke, and the earth shall be worn away like a garment, and the inhabitants thereof shall perish in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my justice shall not fail.

O Jesus, Thou Flower of the field, Thou Lily of the valley, Thy visit is to change our barren parched earth into a garden of delights! We had lost Eden and all its lovely magnificence, by our sins; and lo! Eden is restored to us; Thou art coming, that Thou mayst set it in our hearts. O heavenly plant, tree of life, transplanted from heaven to earth, Thou first takest root in Mary, that fruitful soil; and thence Thou wilt come to us, and we must be to Thee a grateful land, cherishing the divine seed and making it fructify. Let it be so, O divine Husbandman! who didst appear to Magdalene under the form of a gardener. Thou knowest how far are our hearts from being ready for Thy working in them. Move, and break, and water this land; the season is come; our hearts long to be fertile, and to have growing within them that exquisite Flower which makes the beauty of all heaven, and comes down to hide its splendour for a time here below. O Jesus! let our souls be fertile; let them be crowned with the flowers of virtue; let them become flowers growing around Thee, O divine Flower, and forming to the heavenly Father a garden, which He may unite with that which He formed from all eternity. O Flower of heaven, Jesus! Thou art also the Dew, refresh us; Thou art the Sun, warm us; Thou art the fragrant Perfume, impart to us Thy sweetness; Thou art the sovereign Beauty, give us of Thy fair and ruddy bloom, and make us cluster round Thee in eternity, as a crown Thou hast wreathed to Thyself.

Hymn of Preparation for Christmas
(Composed by St. Ambrose. It is in the Ambrosian breviary for first Vespers of Christmas, and in the ancient RomanFrench breviaries)

Veni, Redemptor gentium,
Ostende partum Virginis;
Miretur omne sæculum,
Talis decet partus Deum.

Non ex virili semine,
Sed mystico spiramine,
Verbum Dei factum est caro
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit Virginis,
Claustra pudoris permanent,
Vexilla virtutum micant,
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedit e thalamo suo,
Pudoris aula regia,
Geminæ gigas substantiae,
Alacris ut currat viam.

Egressus ejus a Patre,
Regressus ejus ad Patrem;
Excursus usque ad inferos,
Recursus ad sedem Dei.

Æqualis æterno Patri,
Carnis trophæo cingere;
Infirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans porpeti.

Præsepe jam fulget tuum,
Lumenque nox spirat novum,
Quod nulla nox interpolet,
Fideque jugi luceat.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre et sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Come, O Redeemer of mankind!
reveal to us the Virgin’s delivery:
let all ages be in admiration:
for what other birth would have been worthy of God?

Not of man,
but of the Holy Ghost,
was the Word of God made flesh,
and the fruit of the womb ripened.

The Virgin has become Mother,
and yet the Mother is still a Virgin.
It is the banner of omnipotence which here shines;
God has come into his temple.

He comes forth from the royal palace of virginity,
as from his bride-chamber,
that he may exultingly run the way,
as a giant, who is both God and Man.

He comes forth from the Father;
he returns to the Father;
he descends into hell;
he ascends to the throne of God.

Coequal Son of the eternal Father,
gird thee with the trophy of the flesh;
strengthening the weaknesses of our flesh
by thy unfailing power.

Thy crib is already resplendent,
and the night breathes forth a new light,
the light of faith;
let no night interrupt it, let its brightness be incessant.

Glory be to thee, O Lord,
who wast born of the Virgin!
and to the Father and the Holy Ghost,
for everlasting ages.


Prayer from the Mozarabic Missal
(Second Sunday of Advent)

Domino Deus omnipotens, qui pro humani generis redemptione coætemum tibi coæqualemque Filium angeli annuntiatione per Mariæ Virginis uterum usque ad nos voluisti transmittere; da nobis hoc tempore adventus tui Unigeniti eamdem pacis gratiam, quam in præterita largiri dignatus es sæcula, et illi nos in occursum fidei socios numerandos, quos in fidei primordia a Joanne pœnitentiæ undis aquarum ablutos, a te postremo per Filium in Spiritu sancto et igni cognoscimus baptizatos.
Lord God omnipotent! who, for the redemption of the human race, didst deign to send even unto us, by the message of an angel and by the Virgin Mary’s womb, thy coeternal and coequal Son; grant us, in this time of the advent of thy only Son, that same grace of peace which thou hast mercifully bestowed upon the past ages, and number us among those who, at the first beginning of the faith, were acceptable to him by embracing the faith; and who, being washed in the water of penance by John, were afterwards baptized by thee, through thy Son, in the Holy Ghost and fire.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. lxiv.

Utinam dirumperes cœlos, et descenderes; a facie tua montes defluerent; sicut exustio ignis tabescerent: aquæ arderent igni, ut notum fleret nomen tuum inimicis tuis; a facie tua Gentes turbarentur. Quum feceris mirabilia, non sustinebimus: descendisti, et a facie tua montes defluxerunt. A sæculo non audierunt, neque auribus perceperunt: oculus non vidit, Deus, absque te, quae præparasti exspectantibus te. Occurristi lactanti, et facienti justitiam: in viis tuis recordabuntur tui: ecce tu iratus es, et peccavimus; in ipsis fuimus semper, et salvabimur. Et facti sumus ut immundus omnes nos, et quasi pannus menstruatae universae justitiae nostræ: et cecidimus quasi folium universi, et iniquitates nostrae quasi ventus abstulerunt nos. Non est qui invocet nomen tuum; qui consurgat, et teneat te: abscondisti faciem tuam a nobis, et allisisti nos in manu iniquitatis nostrae. Et nunc, Domine, Pater noster es tu, nos vero lutum: et fictor noster tu, et opera manuum tuarum omnes nos. Ne irascaris, Domine, satis, et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostræ: ecce, respice, populus tuus omnes nos. Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta, Sion deserta facta est, Jerusalem desolata est. Domus sanctificationis nostræ, et gloriæ nostræ, ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri, facta est in exustionem ignis: et omnia desiderabilia nostra versa sunt in ruinas.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. lxiv.

O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down; the mountains would melt away at thy presence; they would melt as at the burning of fire; the waters would bum with fire; that thy name might be made known to thy enemies: that the nations might tremble at thy presence. When thou shalt do wonderful things, we shall not bear them: thou didst come down, and at thy presence the mountains melted away. From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee. Thou hast met him that rejoiceth, and doth justice: in thy ways they shall remember thee: behold thou art angry, and we have sinned; in them we have been always, and we shall be saved. And we are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. There is none that calleth upon thy name, that riseth up and taketh hold of thee: thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us in the hand of our iniquity. And now, O Lord, thou art our Father, and we are clay: and thou art our maker, and we all are the works of thy hands. Be not very angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity: behold, see, we are all thy people. The city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert, Jerusalem is desolate. The house of our holiness, and of our glory, where our fathers praised thee, is burnt with fire, and all our lovely things are turned into ruins.

O Jesus, Thou Flower of the field, Thou Lily of the valley, Thy visit is to change our barren parched earth into a garden of delights! We had lost Eden and all its lovely magnificence, by our sins; and lo! Eden is restored to us; Thou art coming, that Thou mayst set it in our hearts. O heavenly plant, tree of life, transplanted from heaven to earth, Thou first takest root in Mary, that fruitful soil; and thence Thou wilt come to us, and we must be to Thee a grateful land, cherishing the divine seed and making it fructify. Let it be so, O divine Husbandman! who didst appear to Magdalene under the form of a gardener. Thou knowest how far are our hearts from being ready for Thy working in them. Move, and break, and water this land; the season is come; our hearts long to be fertile, and to have growing within them that exquisite Flower which makes the beauty of all heaven, and comes down to hide its splendour for a time here below. O Jesus! let our souls be fertile; let them be crowned with the flowers of virtue; let them become flowers growing around Thee, O divine Flower, and forming to the heavenly Father a garden, which He may unite with that which He formed from all eternity. O Flower of heaven, Jesus! Thou art also the Dew, refresh us; Thou art the Sun, warm us; Thou art the fragrant Perfume, impart to us Thy sweetness; Thou art the sovereign Beauty, give us of Thy fair and ruddy bloom, and make us cluster round Thee in eternity, as a crown Thou hast wreathed to Thyself.

O God of our fathers! delay not, but show Thyself unto us. The city which Thou lovest is desolate; come and raise up Jerusalem; avenge the glory of her temple. This was the cry of the prophet; Thou hast heard it, and hast come to deliver Sion from her captivity, giving her a new era of glory and holiness. Thou hast come, not to destroy but to fulfil the law; and, by Thy visit, Sion has been changed into the Church, Thy bride. But why, O Thou her beloved Saviour! why hast Thou turned away Thy face? Why is this Church of Thy love left in the wilderness, weeping like Jeremias over the ruins of the sanctuary, and as Rachel over her children that had been taken from her? Why has her inheritance been delivered to the stranger? By Thy power, she had become the mother of countless children; she had nourished them; she had taught them, in Thy name, the things that pertain to the present and the future life; and these ungrateful children have turned against her. She has been driven from nation to nation, bearing away with her the heavenly treasure of faith; her mysteries have ceased to be celebrated where once they were the glory and happiness of the people; and from Thy throne above, O divine Word, Creator of the universe, Thou seest everywhere, throughout the earth, altars overturned and temples profaned. Oh! come, then, and rekindle the smouldering fire of faith.

Remember Thy apostles and Thy martyrs; remember Thy saints who have founded Churches, and honoured them by their virtues and miracles; remember Thy bride the Church, and support her during her earthly pilgrimage, until the number of Thy elect is filled up. She longs to possess Thee in the eternal light of the vision; but Thou hast given her a heart with such mother’s love, that she will not leave her children as long as there is one to save, nor cease to save until that day come when there shall no more be a militant Church, but the one sole triumphant Church, inebriated with the enjoyment of the sight and embraces of her God. But that last day has not yet come, O Jesus! there is yet time for Thee to descend from heaven and visit Thy vineyard. Restore to the branches of the tree the leaves which have fallen in the storm of iniquity. Let this tree of Thy predilection bud forth new branches; and the old ones, which have separated from it, and have seemed to force Thy justice to cast them in the fire, let them be once more grafted on the parent trunk, so torn by their rupture from her. Come, O Jesus, for the sake of Thy Church; she is dearer to Thee than was the Jerusalem of old.

Hymn Taken from the Anthology of the Greeks
(December 21)

Acervus areæ uterus tuus, Dei Mater, dignoscitur; spicam inexcultam, omnem sensum superantem, Verbum ferens ineffabiliter, quod in spelunca Bethlehem paries, eum qui omnem creaturam divina agnitione aliturus est in charitate, et a fame lethifera humanum genus liberaturus.
Innupta Virgo, unde venis? Quis te genuit? Quæ mater tua? Quomodo Creatorem fers in brachiis? Quomodo non corrupta fuisti utero? Magnas in te gratias, in terra stupenda adimpleta cernimus mysteria, o omnipancta. Prout decet speluncam adornamus, et a cœlo petimus sidus; Magi progrediuntur ab oriente orbis ad usque occidentem, salutem visuri mortalium, tuis in brachiis sicut facem prælucentem.
Lucidum Magistri palatium, quomodo venis in exiguissimam speluncam, Regem paritura Dominum, omnisancta, Virgo Dei sponsa.
Eva quidem per inobedientiæ nocumentum exsecrationem subintroduxit; tu autem, Virgo Dei Mater, per tuæ gestationis germinationem mundo florere fecistibenedictionem; unde omnes te magnificamus.Ne contristeris, Joseph, meum intuens uterum; videbis enim qui ex me nasciturus est atque gaudebis, eumque sicut Deum adorabis, aiebat Dei Mater suo sponso, dum Christum paritura veniret. Illam commemoremus dicentes: Gaude, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, et per te nobiscum.
Thy womb, O Mother of God, is the heap of wheat of the Canticle; carrying, in an ineffable manner, the ear of com, which, like no other, grew without being sown; thy Child is the Word, and thou wilt give him birth in Bethlehem’s cave: he it is will lovingly feed every creature with the knowledge of God, and free the human race from deadly hunger.
Whence comest thou, O pure Virgin? Thy father and mother, who are they? How dost thou carry thy Creator in thy arms? Mother, and yet a Virgin! These are great graces, and stupendous mysteries, which have been done in thee, all-holy creature! We adorn the cave as it behoves us, and we look for the star in the heavens: the Magi are coming from the east to our western world, to see the Saviour of men shining in thy arms as a bright torch.
O Mary! fair palace of our Master, how is it thou comest into so poor a cave, there to give birth to the King our Lord, O all-holy Virgin, bride of God?
Eve, indeed, by the crime of disobedience brought a curse into the world: but thou, Virgin-Mother of God, by the flower thou bearest, hast made blessing bloom inthe world; therefore do we all magnify thee.The Mother of God, when the birth of Christ was near, spoke thus to her spouse: Be not sad, Joseph, finding that I am Mother; for thou shalt see him who is to be born of me, and thou shalt rejoice and adore him as thy God. Let us commemorate this divine Mother, saying: Be glad, O full of grace! the Lord is with thee, and with us by thee.

Prayer from the Ambrosian Missal
(In the Mass of the first Sunday of Advent)

Deus, qui Unigenito tuo novam creaturam nos tibi esse fecisti, respice propitius in opera misericordiae tuae, et in ejus adventu ab omnibus nos maculis vetustatis emunda. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who, by thine onlybegotten Son, hast made us to be a new creature unto thyself, mercifully look on the works which thy mercy has produced, and cleanse us, in the coming of thy Son, from all the stains of our old habits. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. lxvi.

Audite verbum Domini, qui tremitis ad verbum ejus. Dixerunt fratres vestri odientes vos, et abjicientes propter nomen meum: Glorificetur Dominus, et videbimus in lætitia vestra: ipsi autem confundentur. Vox populi de civitate, vox de templo, vox Domini reddentis retributionem inimicis suis. Antequam parturiret, peperit; antequam veniret partus ejus, peperit masculum. Quis audivit unquam tale? Et quis vidit huic simile? Numquid parturiet terra in die una? aut parietur gens simul, quia parturivit et peperit Sion filios suos? Numquid ego qui alios parere facio, ipse non pariam, dicit Dominus? Si ego, qui generationem cæteris tribuo, sterilis ero, ait Dominus Deus tuus? Lætamini cum Jerusalem, et exsultate in ea omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum ea gaudio universi, qui lugetis super eam: ut sugatis et repleamini ab ubere consolationis ejus: ut mulgeatis, et deliciis affluatis ab omnimoda gloria ejus. Quia haec dicit Dominus: Ecce ego declinabo super eam quasi fluvium pacis, et quasi torrentem inundantem gloriam Gentium, quam sugetis: ad ubera portabimini, et super genua blandientur vobis. Quomodo si cui mater blandiatur, ita ego consolabor vos, et in Jerusalem consolabimini. Videbitis, et gaudebit cor vestrum, et ossa vestra quasi herba germinabunt: et cognoscetur manus Domini servis ejus, et indignabitur inimicis suis. Quia ecce Dominus in igne veniet, et quasi turbo quadrigæ ejus: reddere in indignatione furorem suum, et increpationem suam in flamma ignis: quia in igne Dominus dijudicabit: et in gladio suo ad omnem carnem; et multiplicabuntur interfecti a Domino.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. lxvi.

Hear the word of the Lord, you that tremble at his word. Your brethren that hate you, and cast you out for my name’s sake, have said: Let the Lord be glorified, and we shall see in your joy: but they shall be confounded. A voice of the people from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to his enemies. Before she was in labour, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man-child. Who hath ever heard such a thing? And who hath seen the like of this? Shall the earth bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be brought forth at once, because Sion hath been in labour, and hath brought forth her children? Shall not I that make others to bring forth children, myself bring forth, saith the Lord? Shall I, that give generation to others, be barren, saith the Lord thy God? Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all you that mourn for her: that you may suck and be filled with the breasts of her consolations: that you may milk out and flow with delights, from the abundance of her glory. For thus saith the Lord: Behold I will bring upon her as it were a river of peace, and as an overflowing torrent the glory of the Gentiles, which you shall suck: you shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You. shall sec and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb, and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall be angry with his enemies. For behold the Lord will come with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind: to render his wrath in indignation, and his rebuke with flames of fire: for the Lord shall judge by fire: and by his sword unto all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many.

Thy. presence, O Jesus, will give fruitfulness to her that was barren, and the despised Sion shall suddenly bring forth a people which the world is too small to hold. But all the glory of this fruitfulness belongs to Thee, O divine Word! The psalmist had foretold it when, speaking to Jerusalem as to a queen, he said to her: ‘Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shalt make them princes over all the earth: they shall remember thy name throughout all generations; therefore shall people praise thee for ever and ever, yea for ever and ever.’[1] But for this end it was necessary that God Himself should come down in person. He alone could make a Virgin-Mother; He alone could raise up children to Abraham out of the very stones. 'Yet. one little while,’ as He says by one of His prophets, 'and I will move heaven and earth, and I will move all nations.’[2] And by another ‘From the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation.’[3] There will soon be, then, but one sacrifice; for the Lamb, who is to be offered therein, will be born a few hours hence; and since sacrifice is the bond of union among men, when there shall be but one sacrifice there will be but one people.

Come then quickly, O Church of God, that art to unite us all into one; come and be born into our world. And since for us thy children thou art already born, may the Lamb, thy Spouse, pour out upon thee the river of peace announced by the prophet: may He open out upon thee the glory of the Gentiles, as an overflowing torrent; may the nations cluster round thee as their common mother, and be filled with the abundance of thy glory, with the breasts of thy consolations; and thou carry them on thy heart and caress them in thy tender love. O Jesus! it is Thou that hast inspired our mother with this wonderful love; it is Thou that consolest us, and enlightenest us, by her. Come to her and visit her; come, and, by the new birth Thou art about to take among us, renew her life within her. Give her, during this year also, firmness of faith, the grace of the Sacraments, the efficacy of prayer, the gift of miracles, the succession of her hierarchy, power of government, fortitude against the princes of the world, love of the cross, victory over satan, and the crown of martyrdom. During this new year make her, as ever, Thy beautiful bride; make her faithful to Thy love, and more than ever successful in the great work Thou hast entrusted to her; for each year brings us nearer to the day when Thou wilt come for the last time, not in the swathing bands of infancy, but on a cloud with great majesty, to render Thy rebuke with flames of fire, and destroy those that have despised or have not loved Thy Church, which Thou wilt then raise up and admit into Thy eternal kingdom.

Hymn of the Birth of Christ
(Taken from the poet Prudentius. VIII, kal. januArias)

Emerge, dulcis Pusio,
Quem Mater edit castitas,
Parens et expers conjugis,
Mediator, et duplex genus.

Ex ore quamlibet Patris
Sis ortus, et verbo editus,
Tamen paterno in pectore
Sophia callebas prius.

Quæ prompta cœlum condidit,
cœlum, diemque et cætera,
Virtute Verbi effecta sunt
Hæc cuncta: nam Verbum Deus.

Sed ordinatis sæculis,
Rerumque digesto statu,
Fundator ipse et artifex
Permansit in Patris sinu.

Donec rotata annalium
Trans volverentur millia,
Atque ipse peccantem diu
Dignatus orbem viseret.

Nam cæca vis mortalium
Venerans inanes naenias,
Vel æra, vel saxa algida,
Vel ligna credebat Deum.

Hæc dum sequuntur, perfidi
Prædonis in jus venerant,
Et mancipatam fumido
Vitam barathro immerserant.

Stragem sed istam non tulit
Christus cadentum gentium
Impune; ne forsan sui
Patris periret fabrica.

Mortale corpus induit,
Ut, excitato corpore,
Mortis catenam frangeret,
Hominemque portaret Patri.

Sentisne, Virgo nobilis,
Matura per fastidia,
Pudoris intactum decus
Honore partus crescere?

O quanta rerum gaudia
Alvus pudica continet;
Ex qua novellum sæculum
Procedit et lux aurea.
Come forth, sweet Babe!
Child of chastity, Child of a Virgin Mother!
Come, O thou, our Mediator,
Man and God.

Though thou didst come, in time,
from the mouth of the most high Father, and becamest incarnate at the angel’s word;
yet hadst thou, O eternal Wisdom, dwelt for ever in the bosom of thy Father.

This eternal Wisdom manifested itself
when it made heaven, light, and the other creatures;
by the power of the Word were all these made,
for the Word is God.

But having thus created the world,
and fixed the laws of the universe,
this creator and maker
still left not his Father’s bosom.

Until at length thousands of years
rolled on,
and then he deigned to visit
the world grown old in sin.

For man, blinded with passion,
paid adoration to empty vanities,
and believed that brass,
or stiff blocks of stone and wood, were God.

Abandoned to idolatry,
they became the slaves of the treacherous enemy,
and plunged their enslaved souls
into the dark abyss.

But the Son of God compassionated
this destruction of his fallen creatures;
for it was the ruin
of his Father’s image.

He took to himself a mortal body,
that by the resurrection of that body
he might break the chain of death,
and raise up man to his Father.

Thou forebodest his sufferings,
O noble Virgin! and yet to give birth to this thy Son
is an honour which adds
fresh lustre to thy spotless purity.

Oh that Virgin Mother,
what joy for the world does she contain within her
A new age, a golden light,
will come by her.

Prayer from the Gallican Sacramentary
(In Adventu Domini, Contestatio)

Vere dignum et justum est, nos tibi hic et ubique semper gratias agere, omnipotens Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum, quem Joannes fidelis amicus, præcessit nascendo, praecessit in desertis eremi praedicando, praecessit baptizando, viam quoque praeparans Judici ac Redemptori. Convocavit peccatores ad pœnitentiam; et populum Salvatori acquirens, baptizavit in Jordano peccata propria confitentes;non hominis innovandi plenam conferens gratiam, sed piissimi Salvatoris admonens exspectare præsentiam: non remittens ipse peccata ad se venientibus, sed remissionem peccatorum ad futurum pollicens esse credentibus: ut descendentes in aquam poenitentiae ab illo sperarent remedium indulgentiae, quem venturum audiebant plenum dono veritatis et gratiae, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum.
It is truly meet and just that we should here and in all places ever give thee thanks, O almighty God, through Christ our Lord, of whom John, the faithful friend, was the precursor in birth, the precursor in preaching in the wilderness, the precursor in baptism, preparing thus the way to the Judge and Redeemer. Ho called sinners to repentance; and purchasing a people for the Saviour, ho baptized in the Jordan them that confessed their sins. He conferred not the full grace which regenerates man, but taught him to look for the coming of the most merciful Saviour. He remitted not the sins of them that came unto him, but he promised the future remission of sins to believers; that thus they who went down into the waters of penance, might hope for a merciful cure and forgiveness from him, who, they were told, was to come full of the gift of truth and grace, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Vigil of Christmas is given below in the proper of saints, December 24, p. 506.

[1] Ps. xliv.
[2] Agg. ii. 7, 8.
[3] Malach. i. 11.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CHRISTMAS Eve, with its own happy spirit, is drawing to its close. Already has the Church terminated all her Advent Offices, by the celebration of the Holy Sacriftce. In her maternal considerateness, she has permitted her children to break their Fast of preparation for the great Feast, by taking their meal at mid-day. Whilst refreshing their bodies with this repast, to which Abstinence gives merit, the Faithful feel an instinct of gladness which comes as a harbinger, to tell them of that immense joy which this beautiful Night will bring them, by giving them their Emmanuel.

But so great a Solemnity as that of to-morrow could not possibly be an exception to that usage of the Church whereby she anticipates all her Feasts on their Eves. In a few moments the Office of First Vespers, in which is offered to God the evening incense, will call us to the Church, and the splendour of the function, and the magnificence of the chants, will open our hearts to those feelings of love and gratitude which will prepare them to receive the graces of to-night.

Let us spend the interval in endeavouring to gain a clear knowledge of the Mystery of our Feast; and let us absorb well the sentiments and spirit of the Church. We shall be assisted to do both by considering some of the principal traditions which attach to this joyful Solemnity.

Let us begin by listening to the Holy Fathers speaking of Christmas Day with an eloquence worthy of the Feast. And first we have St Gregory the Theologian, Bishop of Nazianzum, who thus opens his thirty-eighth discourse, which is on the Theophania,or Nativity of our Lord.

Christ is born—glorify him! Christ comes down from heaven—go ye forth to meet him! Christ is on the earth—be ye lifted up above it! O sing to the Lord, all thou earth [1] and to say all in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad,[2]because he that is now born is both of heaven and of earth! Christ has assumed our Flesh—exult in fear and in joy; in fear, because of sin; in joy, because of hope! Christ is born of a Virgin: women! honour holy virginity, that you may become Mothers of Christ!

Who would not adore him that is from the beginning? Who would not praise and extol him that is born in time? Darkness is at an end; Light is created; Egypt remains in darkness, and Israel is enlightened by the pillar of fire. The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, now possess the bright light of knowledge and wisdom. The old things are passed away, and lo! all things are made new. The letter has given way, the spirit has triumphed; shadows have faded, the reality is come. . . . The laws of nature are set aside; the world of Heaven is to be peopled; Christ commands it—let us obey.

O clap your hands, all ye nations![3] for a Child is born unto us, and a Son is given unto us. The emblem of his Government is upon his shoulder, for his exaltation shall come by the Cross; and his name shall be called the Angel of the Great Counsel, that is, of the Counsel of his Father.[4]

Let the Baptist now cry out: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! I, too, will proclaim the virtues and power of this day. He that is without flesh takes flesh; the Word takes a Body; the Unseen is seen; the Intangible may be touched; the Eternal has a beginning; the Son of God is made the Son of Man—Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day, and the same for ever.[5] Let the Jew take scandal, and the Greek mock, and the heretic prate. They will believe when they shall see him ascending into heaven; and if not even then, at least when they shall see him coming down from heaven, and seated on his judgement-seat.

It is hard to hear such thrilling eloquence as this, and remain cold. But let us now give ear to a Father of the Latin Church, the devout St Bernard, who, in his Sixth Sermon for Christmas Eve, pours forth his heart’s joy in these fervent words:

We have just heard the saying, which is full of grace, and worthy of all acceptation: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda. At these words my soul melts with love, yea, and my spirit that is within me bums with impatience to tell you, as in other years, of this joy, this thrilling joy. Jesus means Saviour. And what so necessary to them that are lost? what so welcome to them that are in misery? what so precious to them that are in despair? Besides, what salvation, what chance of salvation, was there in the law of sin, in that body of death, in so evil a day, and in such a place of affliction—had not a new and unlooked-for Salvation been born? Say not that thou dost indeed desire salvation, but that, knowing thy delicacy and the grievousness of thy sickness, thou fearest lest the cure be violent. No, fear not: this Jesus is Christ, that is, he is all sweetness; he is meek and plenteous in mercy; he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, that is, above them who, though they receive not the fulness, yet receive of his fulness. Yet lest thou shouldst think that because this Jesus is the Anointed with sweetness, he is therefore weak in power, it is added, he is the Son of God. . . . Let us, then, be exceeding glad, as we think over within ourselves, or say to each other, this sweet sentence: Jesus Christ—the Son of Godis born in Bethlehem of Juda!

Glorious day, indeed, is this of the Birth of the Saviour!

It had been looked forward to by the human race for four thousand years. The Church had prepared for it by the four weeks of her Advent, a Season which has ever such a charm about it. Nature, too, longs for this day, on which the Sun begins his yearly victory over the dreary reign of wintry darkness. A Holy Doctor of the Syrian Church, St Ephrem, has written the most admirable words on the beauty and fruitful virtue of this mysterious day. Let us borrow some of these from him and say them with his enthusiasm.

Grant, O Lord! that we may now celebrate this the Day of thy Birth, which to-day's Solemnity brings round to us. This Day is like thyself—it is the friend of mankind. It comes to us in its regular course, visiting us each year. It grows old with the old; it is young and fresh with little children. We remember when we were young, how it came and passed away; and here it is again, faithful as ever in its welcome visit. It knows that nature could not do without it; here again like to thee, it comes in search of our fallen race. The whole earth thirsts after thy Birthday, O Jesus! It stands, as it were, between the past and the future, commanding all ages, as thou dost. It is one, and yet it multiplies itself, as thou dost. And since we behold thy past Birthday in this presentFeast, make the two resemble each other in this also—that as thy Birthday brought Peace between heaven and earth, when the infinitely High God descended to this low earth; so may this solemnity signify and give us Peace. . . . And truly, if every day of the year be rich in thy gifts, how much more ought not this to overflow with them?

The other days of the year borrow their beauty from this, and the other Feasts owe to this all their solemnity and loveliness. . . . Thy Birthday, O Jesus! is a treasure out of which we all take wherewith to pay our debts. . . . Blessed be the Day which has brought us back the Sun, after we had been wandering in the dark night; which has brought us the Divine Sheaf that enriches us with plentifulness; which has given us the Vine-Branch that is to yield us, in due time, the cup of our salvation. ... In the bosom of that Winter which robs our trees of their fruit, the virgin Vine has given forth its divine growth. In the Season of frost, which strips our plants of their beauty, the Root of Jesse has given us its Bud. It is in December, which hides the seed sown in the earth, that the Wheat of our salvation appears from the Virgin's womb, into which he had entered in that fresh Spring-time, when the lambkins were skipping in our meadows.[6]

It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, if this day, which, we may say, is an important one even to God himself, has been made a privileged one above those of the rest of the year. We have already seen that the old pagan world paid homage to it, and thus, in their own way, were carrying out the design of God. The Holy Doctors, and the Church herself in her Liturgy, allude continually to the material Sun being the symbol of him who is called the Sun of Justice. Then again, there is the venerable tradition which tells us that the Incarnation of the Son of God having been accomplished on a Friday (March 25), the Birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, must have taken place on December 25, a Sunday. This gives a peculiar sacredness to Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday, as it was on that day of the week that God began the Creation, and said: Let there he Light! and on the same, also, did our Lord rise from the tomb. St Sophronius of Jerusalem has beautifully treated this mystery in his first homily for Christmas Day.

In order to impress the nations of Europe, that is, of the favoured portion of the Church, with the importance of this ever-blessed day, God, who is the Sovereign Ruler of all things, has willed that on it should happen certain events of intense interest. We will select three of these. To begin with the first in order of time: it was on a Christmas Day that the Kingdom of the Franks was founded; for it was on this glorious Solemnity that King Clovis was baptized at Rheims by St Remigius. The haughty Sicambrian, thus admitted into the Fold of Christ, became a meek and humble Christian, and the founder of the first Catholic monarchy, which is now the nation of France.

A century later, that is in the year 596, our own dearest country was converted to the true faith by the labours of St Augustine, of whom St Gregory the Great, who sent him, says: ‘he was a Monk of my Monastery’[7] This holy Missionary had baptized King Ethelbert, and travelled through the land, preaching everywhere the name and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having reached York, he preached the word of Eternal Life to the people, and when he had ended, they seek baptism from his hands. Christmas Day is fixed upon for the regeneration of the Catechumens, and the river which flows through the City is chosen as the Baptismal Font. Ten thousand men, not counting women and children, go down into this stream, whose waters were to cleanse their souls. The severity of the season is unheeded by these fervent disciples of the Babe of Bethlehem, who, but a few days before, knew not so much as his name. From the frozen waters there comes, full of joy and innocence, the long line of Neophytes; and the Birthday of Jesus counts, that year, one nation more as belonging to his Kingdom.

Three hundred years after this, God gives us another glorious event in honour of the Birthday of his Son. It was on this divine Anniversary, in the year 800, and at Rome, in the Basilica of St Peter, that the Holy Roman Empire was created, to which God assigned the grand mission of propagating the Kingdom of Christ among the barbarian nations of the North, and of upholding, under the direction of the Sovereign Pontiffs, the confederation and unity of Europe. St Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor. Here, then, was a new Cæsar, a new Augustus, on the earth; not, indeed, a successor of those ancient Lords of Pagan Rome, butone who was invested with the title and power by the Vicar of him who is called, in the Sacred Scriptures, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Thus has God glorified, in the eyes of men, the Divine Babe who is this day born: thus has he prepared, at various times, worthy anniversaries of that Birth which gave glory to God and Peace to men. Time will reveal in what other ways the Most High still wishes to magnify, upon this twenty-fifth of December, himself and his Christ.

Impressed with the extreme importance of this Feast, and justly looking upon it as the beginning of the Era of the world's regeneration, the nations of the West, for a long time, began their year with Christmas Day, as we find in the ancient Calendars, in the Martyrologies of Usuard and Ado, and in numberless Bulls, Charts and Diplomas. It is evident, from a Council held at Cologne in 1310, that this manner of computing the year was still observed at that time. In several countries of Europe, our own among the rest, the custom has been kept up of wishing a Happy Christmas, which was the ancient salutation when this Feast was the beginning of a new year. Hence too, in these countries, the custom of making presents, of writing letters of good wishes, and other friendly acts. How many of our practices of everyday life have originated from Faith, and yet are looked upon as mere consequences of natural good-feeling, or even compliments which society requires us to pay to each other!

To encourage her children in their Christmas joy, the Church has dispensed with the law of abstinence, if this Feast fall on a Friday. This dispensation was granted by Pope Honorius III, who ascended the Papal Throne in 1216. It is true that we find it mentioned by Pope St Nicholas I, in the ninth century; but the dispensation was not universal; for the Pontiff is replying to the consultations of the Bulgarians, to whom he concedes this indulgence, in order to encourage them to celebrate these Feasts with solemnity and joy: ChristmasDay, St Stephen, St John the Evangelist, the Epiphany, the Assumption of our Lady, St John the Baptist, and SS Peter and Paul. When the dispensation for Christmas Day was extended to the whole Church, these other Feasts were not mentioned.

In the Middle Ages, the Civil Law, also, contributed to the people's love of Christmas, by enacting that no creditor could demand any payment from his debtors during the entire week of Christmas, which was called, on that account, the week of remission—a name which it had in common with the weeks of Easter and Pentecost.

But let us interrupt these interesting details regarding the grand Solemnity, whose near approach makes our hearts throb with joy. Let us repair to the House of our Heavenly Father, for the Hour of Vespers is near; and on our way, let our thoughts be at Bethlehem, where Joseph and Mary are already arrived. The sun is rapidly setting; and our Divine Sun of Justice is still hid beneath the Cloud, the Womb of the purest of Virgins. Night is coming on: Joseph and Mary are going through the narrow streets of the City of David, seeking a shelter. Let our hearts be attentive, and united in love with the two holy Pilgrims. Every heart and voice should now be giving forth to our God the tribute of praise and grateful love. Oh! happy we, that have a tribute of Song and Psalmody ready for our use, worthy of the day and of its ineffable Mystery—it is our Mother that offers us her Liturgy. Let us prepare to join her.


After the usual invocation of the divine assistance, the Church intones, in a most solemn chant, the five following Antiphons, which precede as many Psalms:

1. Ant. Hex pacificus magnificatus est, cujus vultum desiderat universa terra.
1. Ant. The King of Peace, whom the whole earth desireth to see, hath shown his greatness.

Psalm, Dixit Dominus, p. 89.

2. Ant. Magnificatus est Rex pacificus super omnes reges universæ terræ.
2. Ant. The King of Peace is magnified above all the Kings of the earth.

Psalm, Confitebor tibi, p. 90.

3. Ant. Impleti sunt dies Mariæ, ut pareret Filium suum primogenitum.
3. Ant. The days were completed for Mary, that she should bring forth her first-born Son.

Psalm, Beatus vir, p. 91.

4. Ant. Scitote quia prope est regnum Dei: amen dico vobis quia non tardabit.
4. Ant. Know ye, that the Kingdom of God is at hand; amen I say unto you, it shall not tarry.

Psalm, Laudate pueri, p. 92.

5. Ant. Levate capita vestra; ecce appropinquat redemptio vestra.
5. Ant. Raise up your heads: lo! your redemption is at hand.


Laudate Dominum omnes gentes: * laudate eum, omnes populi.

Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: * et veritas Domini manet in æternum.

O! praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

For his mercy is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.

After having extolled, in these divine canticles, the eternal generation, the fidelity, the mercy, the greatness, and the truth, of her divine Spouse, who is coming, and in a few short hours will show himself to her, the Church suspends her praise for a moment, and listens, in the Capitulum, to the consoling words of the Apostle of the Gentiles concerning the coming of God our Saviour.

(Tit. iii 4)

Apparuit benignitas et humanitas Salvatoris nostri Dei, non ex operibus justitiae quæ fecimus nos, sed secundum misericordiam suam salvos nos fecit.
The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath appeared; not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy hath he saved us.

Encouraged afresh by these beautiful words, the Church resumes her praises, not borrowing, this time, the psalmody of the Royal Prophet, but singing a Hymn to Jesus, her Spouse, on the glory and beauty of his Birthday, which makes all Nature glad, and brings the sweetest joy of heart to such as know how to love the Divine Babe. It was St Ambrose—the Bee of Milan, as he has been called—who composed this Hymn, which is sung to-day in almost every part of the world.


Jesu, redemptor omnium,
Quem, lucis ante originem,
Parem paternæ gloriæ
Pater supremus edidit;

Tu lumen et splendor Patris,
Tu spes perennis omnium,
Intende quas fundunt preces
Tui per orbem servuli.

Memento, rerum conditor,
Nostri quod olim corporis,
Sacrata ab alvo Virginis
Nascendo, formam sumpseris.

Testatur hoc præsens dies,
Currens per anni circulum,
Quod solus e sinu Patris
Mundi salus adveneris.

Hunc astra, tellus, æquora,
Hunc omne quod cœlo subest,
Salutis auctorem novæ
Novo salutat cantico.

Et nos, beata quos sacri
Rigavit unda sanguinis,
Natalis ob diem tui,
Hymni tributum solvimus.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.


. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terræ;
. Et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi.
O Jesu! Redeemer of mankind!
born before the light was made,
and born of the Eternal Father,
equal to him in infinite glory;

O thou the Light and brightness of the Father!
O thou the everlasting hope of all men!
hear the prayers offered thee
by thy servants throughout the world.

Be mindful, O Creator of all things!
that heretofore thou didst assume
a Body like unto ours,
and wast born from the sacred womb of a Virgin.

This present day,
which the year has brought round to us, tells us of this mystery
—that thou, the one Saviour of the world,
didst come to us from the Father's Bosom.

The stars, and earth, and sea,
and all that is under heaven
greet this the Author of their new salvation
with a new canticle.

And we, who have been redeemed
by the stream of thy precious Blood,
we too pay thee the tribute of this Hymn,
in honour of thy Birthday.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus!
who wast born of the Virgin!
and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love,
for everlasting ages.


. To-morrow the iniquity of the earth shall be cancelled;
℟. And over us shall reign the Saviour of the world.

And now Mary's own words are to resound in the holy place! The sweet Canticle which she sang at her Visitation to Elizabeth, when, holding within herself the divine and secret Treasure, she celebrated the great things of God's power in her—this Canticle, without which the Church never lets the sun go down, is now going to be sung. O Mary! the hour is fast approaching which will manifest to both heaven and earth that divine Maternity of thine which will make all generations call thee Blessed.Suffer us to unite our souls with thine in magnifying the Lord, and to rejoice in our spirit, as thou didst in thine, in God our Saviour, who is thy Son!

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Cum ortus fuerit sol de cœlo, videbitis Regem regum procedentem a Patre, tanquam sponsum de thalamo suo.
When the sun shall have risen in the heavens, ye shall see the King of Kings coming from the Father, as a Bridegroom from his bride-chamber.

The Canticle Magnificat, p. 96.

Finally, the Church expresses all her desires in the following Prayer, which is to ascend to the Throne of God not only at every Hour of Christmas Day, but several times each day during the Octave:


Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only-Begotten Son. Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

During our Vespers, the last rays of day have disappeared, and darkness has covered the earth. The Sacred Ministers, vested in their richest copes, have left the Sanctuary. In a few moments they will reenter the Church, and repair to the Tribunal of Penance, there to administer to penitent sinners the reconciliation they ask of God through the merciful Birth of his OnlyBegotten Son. All is solemn silence in the Church, which, but a few moments before, echoed with the glad chants of our praise. Let us adore the Majesty of our God, and once more present our prayer to the King of Ages, that he send down the Dew for which our earth is thirsting; and with this prayer of our hope, let us, for a last time, mingle a thought of that salutary fear of the Last Judgement which the Church has nurtured within our souls during the holy Season of Advent.

Let us embody these sentiments in a Prayer taken from the Gothic or Mozarabic Liturgy: it is a beautiful one, and most appropriate.

Prayer from the Mozarabic Breviary
(For the Nativity of our Lord, in the Evening Office, Capitula)

Rorate cœli desuper, utique prophetando Christum, et nubes pluant justum; dum Sancti omnes ejus præconantur adventum. Aperiatur terra, ut, Angelo scilicet alloquente, Virgo concipiat, et pariat Salvatorem. Hic igitur ros, qui abs te est, omnipotens Pater, rogamus, et petimus, ut fiat sanitas infirmorum; et hæc pluvia matutini temporis, præbe, nostri temporis infundat arentem, quæ infusa, tanta gratia præteritum facinus abluat, et æternum credentibus justitiæ lumen infundat; nec non ejusdem Filii tui Domini nostri indemnes præsentiam contuentes, atque cum cœlicolis coetui ejus in jubilo occurrentes, hoc canticum lætitiæ præcinamus orantes: Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, Deus Dominus, et illuxit nobis; cujus nos adventus redemit, et Nativitas illustravit: Qui veniens requisivit perditos, illuminavit in tenebris constitutos. Tribue ergo omnipotens Pater, ut diem Nativitatis ejus ita devotione piissima celebremus, ut judicii diem mitissimum sentiamus: ut cujus benignitatem in redemptione cognovimus, ejus pietatem in judicio mansuetam sentiamus.
Drop down Dew, ye heavens, from above—by prophesying Jesus to our earth; and let the clouds rain the Just One—let all the saintly prophets herald his coming. Let the earth be opened, that, as the Angel is speaking unto her, the Virgin may conceive and bring forth the Saviour. We pray and we beseech thee, O Almighty Father, let this Dew, which comes down from thee, give health to the sick; and this Rain of morn, let it sink into the parched soil of our times, and by the infusion of its abundant grace, cleanse away past sins, and shed over them that believe the eternal light of justice. Moreover, may we, looking with confidence at the presence of our Lord Jesus thy Son, and joyfully going to meet him in company with the heavenly citizens, sing to him this canticle of joy and prayer: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: The Lord is God, and he hath shone upon us: his Coming hath redeemed us, and his Nativity hath enlightened us: he that came looking for the lost ones hath given light to them that sat in darkness. Grant unto us, therefore, O Almighty Father, so most devoutly to celebrate the day of his Birth, as that the day of his Judgement may be to us a day of exceeding mercy: that thus, having felt how great is his goodness in redeeming, we may experience how gentle is his mercy in judging us.

And now we will leave the House of God, and attend to the duties of our state of life at home, until the hour of Matins summons us to return and celebrate the Midnight Birth of our Saviour. In order to prepare ourselves for that most imposing Service, we shall do well to resume the reflections upon the Liturgy of our Feast, which we interrupted in order to assist at Vespers. How few would keep from the Service of Christmas Night, and how still fewer would complain that they never seem to derive that benefit from it, which they are told is so great, if they would but take the pains to ask themselves why it is that the Church attaches such importance to her children's joining her in the celebration of this gay Winter Midnight!

[1] Ps. xcv 1.
[2] Ibid. xcv 11.
[3] Ibid. xlvi 2.
[4] Isa. ix 6.
[5] Heb. xiii 8.
[6] Third Sermon On our Lord's Nativity.
[7] Lib. 8, Ep. 30.
[8] In the Monastic Breviary, it is as follows: ℟. Breve. Hodie scietis * quia veniet Dominus. Hodie. ℣. Et mane videbitis gloriam ejus. * Quia. Gloria. Hodie. In 2nd Vespers. ℟. Breve. Verbum caro factum est, * Alleluia, Alleluia. Verbum. ℣. Et habitavit in nobis. * Alleluia. Gloria. Verbum. Christe, Redemptor omnium, Ex Patre Patris Unice, Solus ante principium Natus ineffabiliter, Tu lumen, tu splendor Patris, Tu spes perennis omnium, Intende quas fundunt preces Tui per orbem famuli. Memento salutis Auctor Quod nostri quondam corporis Ex illibata Virgine Nascendo formam sumpseris. Sic præsens testatur dies, Currens per anni circulum, Quod solus a sede Patris Mundi salus adveneris. Hunc cœlum, terra, hunc mare, Hunc omne quod in eis est, Auctorem adventus tui Laudans exsultat cantico. Nos quoque qui sancto tuo Redempti Sanguine sumus, Ob diem Natalis tui Hymnum novum concinimus. Gloria tibi Domine, Qui natus es de Virgine, Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu, In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.