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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.

WE finish to-day the Octave consecrated to the memory of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. Thanks be to God, who has given them to us to be our intercessors and our models! Their name will not reappear on the Church’s Calendar until the return of the Christmas Solemnity; let us therefore devoutly approach these sweet Infant Saints—venerate them, love them, and address to them our farewell prayers.

The Holy Church, which on the Feast vested in the colour of mourning, and this out of condolence with Rachel’s grief, now on the Octave Day clothes herself in the red of her Martyrs, in order to honour these Babes who shed their Blood for Jesus. Notwithstanding, she is full of tender compassion for those poor Mothers, who suffered such agonies of grief at the sight of the murder of their little ones; she continually alludes to them in to-day’s Liturgy, and reads in the Office of Matins a passage from an ancient Sermon which vividly describes their feelings. We cannot withhold it from our readers. The Sermon from which it is taken was for a long time attributed to St Augustine.

'When our Lord was born, there began lamentation, not indeed in heaven, but on earth! Lamentation for the Mothers, joy for the Angels, heaven for the Babes. He that is born is God: a victim must be offered him, and Innocents must be that offering, for he came to condemn the malice of this world. Tender lambs must be slain, for the Lamb who is come to take away the sins of the world is to be crucified. But the Mothers wail because they lose their lambs, that scarce have voice to make their bleatings heard. O wonderful martyrdom! O sight most cruel! The sword is unsheathed, and there is no enemy; jealousy alone spurs on the band, for he that is born would injure no man.

‘There, then, sit the Mothers, weeping over their lambs. A voice in Rama is heard, lamentation and great mourning. These sweet pledges are not mere things intrusted to their care, they are the children of their own wombs; they are pledges, but they are not given, they are cruelly stolen from them. Nature herself is witness, it betrays the children of whom the tyrant is in search. The Mother tears her hair, for she has lost her beauty in losing her babe. Oh! how she sought to hide him, and the innocent one betrayed himself! He knew not how to be silent, for he had not yet learnt to fear. The Mother struggled with the executioner; he seized her child, resolved to murder him; she clung to him, resolved to hold him to her bosom. "Why," she exclaimed, "why separate me from my child? I gave him birth, and I fed him at my breast untiringly. I bore him in my arms with fondest care, and thy cruel hand has dashed him on the ground! This fresh and lovely fruit—thus trampled on!"

'A second Mother bade the executioner take away her life together with that of her child; he would not, and she cried out to him: “ Why dost thou send me away, having slain my son? If there were any fault, I only could be guilty: if there were no fault, let me die with my babe, and rid me of my wretched life.” A third exclaimed: "What is it that ye seek? Ye are in search of one, and ye slay so many! and him who is One ye cannot find!" And again another cried out: “Come, O come, thou Saviour of the world! How long shalt thou be sought for? Thou fearest no man: let these soldiers see thee, and so not slay our children.” These were the lamentations of the Mothers; and the immolation of their Babes ascended as a sacrifice to heaven.’

Among these Children thus cruelly massacred, from the age of two years and under, there were some belonging to those Shepherds of Bethlehem who had been called on the Night of our Saviour's Birth to go and adore him in his Crib. These, after Mary and Joseph the first worshippers of the Incarnate Word, thus offered to the God who had called them the most precious treasure they possessed. They knew to what Child their children were sacrificed, and a holy pride filled their souls as they thought of this new proof of God's singular mercy to them in preference to so many others of their fellowcreatures.

As to Herod, he was foiled in his schemes, as must ever be the case with those who wage war against Christ and his Church. His edict for the murder of every male child that was two years old or younger, included Bethlehem and its entire neighbourhood; but the Child he alone cared for, and wished to destroy, escaped the sword and fled into Egypt. It was another proof of the world's folly in opposing the designs of God; and, in this instance, the very measure that was intended to effect evil produced good: the tyrant enriched the Church of heaven with Saints, and the Church militant with so many fresh patrons.

Jesus, the new-born King of the Jews,[1] who causes Herod to tremble on his throne, is but a Little Child, without so much as one single soldier to defend him. Herod, like all the persecutors of the Church, has an instinctive knowledge which teaches him that this apparent weakness is real and formidable power: what neither he nor his successors knew was that it is worse than useless, and worse than folly, to attempt to crush a spiritual power by the sword. This apparent weakness of the Babe of Bethlehem will increase with his years; now he flees from the tyrant who seeks his life; but later on, when he has grown into Manhood, he will not escape from his enemies; they will fasten him to an infamous gibbet, between two Thieves: but on that very day a Roman Governor will declare this Jesus to be King; he will write with his own hand the inscription to be nailed on the Cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate will give Jesus with all possible formality that very Title which now makes Herod turn pale: the enemies of Jesus will protest, they will insist on the Title being altered; but Pilate will not change an iota, and will say: What I have written, I have written.[2] As on the day of his Crucifixion he will admit one of the two Thieves to share in his triumph; so now that he is laid in the Crib, he will share his glory with the Innocents of Bethlehem.

The Mass is given above, p. 281. The Gloria in excelsis is said, the other prayers are given on pp. 415-417.

Let us once more honour these dear Innocents, by culling their praises from the various Liturgies. We will begin with three Responsories from the Roman Breviary.

Responsories

℟. Isti qui amicti sunt stolis albis, qui sunt, et unde venerunt? Et dixit mihi: * Hi sunt qui venerunt de tribuiatione magna, et laverunt stolas suas, et dealbaverunt eas in sanguine Agni.
℣. Vidi sub altare Dei animas interfectorum propter Verbum Dei, et propter testimonium quod habebant. * Hi sunt.

℟. Isti sunt qui non inquinaverunt vestimenta sua; * Ambulabunt mecum in albis, quia digni sunt.
℣. Hi sunt qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati; virgines enim sunt. * Ambulabunt.

℟. Cantabant Sancti canticum novum ante sedem Dei et Agni: * Et resonabat terra in voces eorum.
℣. Hi empti sunt ex hominibus, primitiæ Deo et Agno, et in ore ipsorum non est inventum mendacium. * Et resonabat.
℟. These that are clad in white robes, who are they, and whence came they? And he said unto me; * These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
℣. I saw under the altar of God the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. * These.

. These are they which have not defiled their garments; * They shall walk with me in white, because they are worthy.
℣. These are they who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. * They.

℟. These Saints sang a new canticle before the throne of God and the Lamb; * And the earth resounded with their voices.
℣. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouth there was found no lie. * And the earth.

The two Collects which follow are from the Leonine Sacramentary.

Prayer

Deus qui licet sis magnus in magnis, mirabilia tamen gloriosius operaris in minimis: da nobis, quæsumus, in eorum celebritate gaudere, qui Filio tuo Domino nostro testimonium præbuerunt etiam non loquentes.
O God, who though great in great things, dost nevertheless work with exceeding glory in those that are the least: grant, we beseech thee, that we may rejoice on this the Feast of them who bore testimony, though they spoke not, to thy Son our Lord.

Prayer

Tribue, Domine, quæsumus, fidelibus tuis, ut, sicut ait Apostolus, non efficiantur pueri sensibus, sed malitia innoxii reperiantur ut parvuli; ut Martyres festivitatis hodiernæ, quos mentis æquare non possunt, mentis simplicitate sectentur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to thy faithful people, that, as thy Apostle saith, they may become children not in sense, but in malice; that thus they may imitate the Martyrs of this day's Feast by the simplicity of their hearts, since they cannot attain to the merits they acquired. Through Christ our Lord.

We take the following beautiful prayer from the Mozarabic Breviary of the Gothic Liturgy of Spain.

Capitula

Christe, inenarrabile lumen mundi, qui adhuc in ipsis cunabulis constitutus, nondum effectus martyr, martyrii palma catervas Infantium dedicasti: qui necdum loqui valentes, sub mucrone sævientium varios fecisti mugitus emittere: quorum animas de abditis infernorum, te spontanee pro nobis omnibus moriente, maluisti eripere; inspira eis, sine intermissione orare pro parvulis: ut, qui propriis non valeamus supplicationibus emundari a crimine, eorum, qui te, quocumque ieris, cum hymnis et canticis adsequuntur, et hic et in æternum postulationibus abluamur.
O Jesus, Light ineffable of the world! who, whilst yet in thy Crib, and not thyself a Martyr, didst give the palm of martyrdom to the army of Innocents, who, not being able to speak, did by thy will utter their many cries when being massacred by the cruel soldiers: whose souls, when thou didst freely die for all our sakes, were taken by thee from the depths of limbo: to these same, O Jesus, inspire the desire of incessantly praying for us, the little and weak: that thus, not deserving to be cleansed from our sins by our own prayers, we may obtain both present and eternal purity by the intercession of them that follow thee whithersoever thou goest, singing to thee their hymns and canticles.

The Missal of the same Church gives us also this prayer.

Prayer

Deus cujus misericordia utrumque sexum et per omnem cucurrit ætatem, ita plurimum Infantibus affectum paternæ pietatis indulgens, ut parvulos nec ab Ægypto teneri sineres, nec ab Evangelio prohiberi, dum in Lege cum patribus evaderent mundum; et in gratia cum perfectis vocarentur ad regnum, atque institutione doctrinæ, innocentia expers mali forma induceretur exempli: Dona nobis famulis tuis, ut malitiæ viribus defecati, in usum concupiscentiæ carnalis invalidi, docibilem servemus disciplinis voluntatem. Quo mens nec rigida nec superba, sic sit blanda, sic innocens, ne imprudens: sic humilis, ne imbecillis; quatenus maturo discretionis judicio sic sufficiat probare quod placeat, ut effectare nesciat quod delinquat. Atque ita salubrem sumat temperantiam moderante consilio, ut et simplicitatem imitetur infantium, et fortitudinem vindicet pugnatorum. Amen.
O God, whose mercy is granted to every age and sex; and who didst lavish on the Innocents such richness of fatherly love, that thou wouldst neither suffer them to be kept in Egyptian bondage, nor, when they left this world under the Law, as their fathers had done, to be deprived of the Gospel’s fulness of grace; but didst call them to thy kingdom, in common with them that were made perfect under the law of Grace, thus making them a lesson and an example to us of innocence that knows no evil: grant unto us thy servants, that laying aside our power for evil, and dying to the concupiscence of the flesh, we may have no will save that of being taught by thy instructions. May our soul be thus neither rigid nor proud; may she be gentle and innocent without being imprudent; may she be humble without being weak; that hereby, by the timely judgement of discernment, she may both know thy goodpleasure and do it, and ignore how to do that which offends thee. May she, moreover, possess that wholesome temperance which flows from the guidance of counsel; that so she both imitate the simplicity of these Innocents, in that they were children, and emulate their fortitude, in that they were combatants. Amen.

Prudentius, the Poet of the Mysteries and the Martyrs, from whom the Church has taken her beautiful stanzas for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Salvete, Flores Martyrum, celebrates the immolation of these lovely Babes of Bethlehem in his exquisite Hymn for the Epiphany. It is to this Hymn that the Roman Liturgy has had recourse for several great Feasts; and we now extract from it the strophes which refer to our dear Innocents.

Hymn

Audit tyrannus anxius
Adesse regum Principem,
Qui nomen Israel regat,
Teneatque David regiam.


Exclamat amens nuntio:
Successor instat, pellimur:
Satelles, i, ferrum rape,
Perfunde cunas sanguine.

Mas infans omnis occidat;
Scrutare nutricum sinus;
Interque materna ubera
Ensem cruentet pusio.

Suspecta per Bethlem mihi
Puerperarum est omnium
Fraus, ne qua furtim subtrahat
Prolem virilis indolis.

Transfigit ergo carniiex,
Mucrone districto furens,
Effusa nuper corpora,
Animasque rimatur novas.

Locum minutis artubus
Vix interemptor invenit,
Quod plaga descendat patens,
Juguloque major pugio est.

O barbarum spectaculum!
Illisa cervix cautibus
Spargit cerebrum lacteum,
Oculosque per vulnus vomit.

Aut in profundum palpitans
Mersatur infans gurgitem,
Cui subter arctis faucibus
Singultat unda, et halitus.

Salvete flores Martyrum,
Quos lucis ipso in limine
Christi insecutor sustulit,
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas?
Quid crimen Herodem juvat?
Unus tot inter funera
Impune Christus tollitur.

Inter cœevi sanguinis
Fluenta, solus integer,
Ferrum, quod orbabat nurus,
Partus fefellitVirginis.

Sic stulta Pharaonis mali
Edicta quondam fugerat,
Christi figuram præferens,
Moses, receptor civium.

The anxious Tyrant hears
that the King of kings is come,
who is to rule over the Jews,
and sit on the throne of David.


Maddened by jealous fear he calls a messenger,
and says to him: ‘Our rival is at hand—we are in danger:
go, slave, arm thee with thy sword,
and bathe every cradle with blood.

‘Let every male-child be slain,
and every nurse be watched,
and every Babe feel thy sharp-edged blade,
even whilst he sucks his mother's breast.

‘Not a Mother about Bethlehem
but I suspect her;
then watch them all,
lest they hide their boys from thee.'

On this the executioner goes,
and in his wild cruelty plunges
his naked dagger into the tender flesh
and the but freshly formed hearts of these little ones.

But where shall he strike?
where find space enough to hold
a gaping wound in these infant-bodies
not so big as the dagger in his hand?

Yet still these butchers murder every child.
Here it is an infant dashed against a rock,
covering its flinty sides, oh! cruel sight!
with blood and brains and eyes.

There it is a lovely babe torn from his mother’s arms
and thrown into a deep stream,
whose gurgling waters weep
whilst drowning sobs and life so sweet as these.

Hail, ye Flowers of the Martyrs!
The enemy of Christ cut you down
in the very threshold of life,
as rose-buds are snapped by a storm.

First Victims for Jesus!
Tender flock of his Martyrs!
ye, with sweet simplicity, play with palms and your crowns
even at the very altar of your sacrifice!

And what does Herod gain by this dark crime?
Does it give him what he sought?
The single One he cared to kill is Jesus,
and he still lives!

The stream of infant-blood has ceased to flow,
and he alone is safe:
the Virgin’s Child has escaped that sword
which robbed all other Mothers of their babes.

So was it in that time of old, when Moses,
the liberator of his people,
and the type of Christ,
escaped the senseless edicts of the wicked Pharaoh.


We will close our selection by this Sequence of Notker, which is given in the collection of St Gall.

Sequence

Laus tibi, Christe, Patris optimi Nate, Deus omnipotentiæ,


Quem cœlitus jubilat supra astra manentis plebis decus harmoniæ:

Quem agmina infantium sonoris hymnis collaudant ætheris in arce:

Quos impius, ob nominis odium tui, misero straverat vulnere:

Quos pie nunc remuneras in cœlis, Christe, pro pœnis nitide;

Solita usus gratia, qua tuos ornas coronis splendide;

Quorum precibus sacris dele, precamur, nostra pie crimina vitæ,

Et quos laudibus tuis junxeras, nobis istic dones Clemens favere:

Illis aeternæ dans lumen gloriæ, nobis terrea concede vincere;

Ut liceat serenis actibus pleniter adipisci dona tuæ gratiæ:

Herodis ut non fiat socius, quisquis in horum laude se exercet propere;

Sed æternaliter cum eisdem catervis tecum sit, Domine. Amen.

Praise be to thee, O Jesus, Son of the all-perfect Father, Almighty God!


Unto whom the sweet hymns of the citizens of heaven are ever giving praise,

And the Innocent Babes are ever singing their melodious songs of praise in the courts above.

These Babes were slain by the ruthless sword, at the bidding of a wicked king who hated thy name,

And now are richly rewarded in heaven by thee, O Jesus, in return for the sufferings they endured;

Herein showing thy wonted mercy, which gives to all who serve thee crowns of richest beauty.

By the holy prayers of these Innocents, mercifully cleanse us, we beseech thee, from the sins of our past lives,

And lovingly grant that they whom thou hast associated to thyself to give thee praise, may become our protectors here below.

On them bestow the light of endless glory; on us the victory over earthly things,

That thus, by a life of holiness, we may merit an abundance of the riches of thy grace.

Of all that devoutly praise these thy holy Innocents, may none be made companions with Herod.

But may they all live for ever with thee, O Lord, in the society of this sweet choir of heaven. Amen.


Sweet Flowers of the Martyrs! your Feast is over in our Church on earth, but your patronage will never leave us. During this new year of the holy Liturgy, which God has given us, you will watch over us, and pray for us to the Lamb, who loves you so tenderly. We entrust to you the fruits of grace which our souls have gathered from the Christmas Feasts. We have become little children together with our Lord; we have begun a new life with him; pray for us, that we may grow with him in wisdom and age before God and man.[1] Secure us perseverance by your prayers; and to this end, keep up in our hearts that Christian simplicity which is the special virtue of Children of Christ. You are innocent; we are sinners; still, we are brethren; love us, then, with brotherly love. You were garnered into heaven at the very dawn of the Law of Grace; our lives have fallen on the close of time, and the world has grown cold in charity; be near and help us; cheer and encourage us in our combat, by showing us your lovely palms of victory; pray to our Lord, that we may speedily obtain by repentance the heavenly crown which his infinite mercy allowed you to win, without the fatigues and risks of a battle.

Infant Martyrs! forget not the young generation, which has just entered on the scene of life. You were taken to eternal glory at the age of infancy; these little ones are like you in their innocence; love them, watch over them, pray for them. The grace of their Baptism is upon them in all its freshness, and their pure souls reflect as a mirror the holiness of the God that dwells in them by grace. Alas! these Babes are to go through great trials; many of them will forfeit the grace of God, and their Baptismal garment will lose its unspotted purity. The world will seek to corrupt their heart and mind, and the frightful influence of bad example is almost always successful. Christian mothers will have to weep over the ruin of their children’s souls, and what consolation is there for such a grief as theirs? There is a Christian Rama and a Christian Rachel ever wailing in the Church: do you, sweet Innocents of Bethlehem, comfort these mothers, by praying for their little ones. Pray that our times may grow less evil, and that parents may have less need to fear than they now have that the first step taken by their children in the world will be death to their souls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] St Matt. ii 2.
[2] St John xix 22.
[3] St Luke ii 52.

 

 

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year .

THE Feast of Christmas is over; the four Octaves are closed; and we are on the Eve of the Solemnity of our Lord's Epiphany. We must spend this January 5 in preparing ourselves for the Manifestation which Jesus, the Angel of Great Counsel, is about to make to us of his glory. A few more hours, and the Star will stand still in the heavens, and the Magi will be seeking for admission into the stable of Bethlehem.

This Vigil is not like that of Christmas, a day of penance. The Child whose coming we were then awaiting, in the fervour of our humble desires, is now among us, preparing to bestow fresh favours upon us. This eve of to-morrow’s Solemnity is a day of joy, like those that have preceded it; and therefore we do not fast, nor does the Church put on the vestments of mourning. If the Office of the Vigil be the one of to-day, the colour used is White. This is the Twelfth day since the Birth of our Emmanuel.

If the Vigil of the Epiphany fall on a Sunday, it shares with Christmas Eve the privilege of not being anticipated, as all other Vigils are, on the Saturday: it is kept on the Sunday, has all the privileges of a Sunday, and the Mass is that of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas Day. Let us, therefore, celebrate this Vigil in great joy of heart, and prepare our souls for to-morrow’s graces.

The Greek Church keeps this a fasting-day, in memory of the preparation for Baptism, which used formerly to be administered, especially in the East, on the night preceding the feast of the Epiphany. She still solemnly blesses the Water on this Feast. We will in our next volume speak of this ceremony, of which some vestiges still remain in the Western Church.

The Church of Rome commemorates to-day the holy Pope and Martyr, St Telesphorus. This Pontiff began his reign in the year 127; and among his decrees, we find that he prescribed the holy sacrifice of the Mass to be offered up on Christmas Night, in order to honour the hour when our Saviour was born he also ordered that the Angelic Hymn Gloria in excelsis should be said on most days at the beginning of Mass. This devotion of the holy Pope towards the great Mystery which we are now celebrating renders his commemoration at this season of the year doubly dear to us. Telesphorus suffered a glorious martyrdom, as St Irenæus expresses it, and was crowned with eternal glory in the year 138.

MASS

The Mass of the Vigil of the Epiphany is that of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, except the Commemoration of St Telesphorus and the Gospel.

Introit

Dum medium silentium, p. 341.


Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, p. 342.


Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Oremus

Deus qui nos beati Telesphori, Martyris tui atque Pontificis, annua solemnitate lætificas: concede propitius; ut cujus natalitia colimus, de ejusdem etiam protectione gaudeamus.
Let us Pray

O God, who by the yearly solemnity of blessed Telesphorus, thy Martyr and Bishop, rejoicest the hearts of the faithful; mercifully grant that we who celebrate his martyrdom may enjoy his protection.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Deus, qui salutis œternœ, p. 415.


Epistle

Fratres, quanto tempore, p. 342.


Gradual

Speciosus forma, p. 343.


Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: defuncto Herode, ecce Angelus Domini apparuit in somnis Joseph in Ægypto, dicens: Surge, et accipe Puerum et Matrem ejus, et vade in terram Israel; defuncti sunt enim qui quærebant animam Pueri. Qui consurgens accepit Puerum et Matrem ejus, et venit in terram Israel. Audiens autem quod Archelaus regnaret in Judæa pro Herode patre suo, timuit illo ire: et admonitus in somnis, secessit in partes Galilææ. Et veniens habitavit in civitate quæ vocatur Nazareth: ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per Prophetas: quoniam Nazaræus vocabitur.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. II.

When Herod was dead, behold an Angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, saying: Arise and take the Child and his Mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead that sought the life of the Child. Who arose, and took the Child and his Mother, and came into the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by the prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene.

Offertory

Deus firmavit, p. 345.


Secret

Concede, quœsumus, p. 345.


Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Munera tibi Domine, dicata sanctifica: et, intercedente beato Telesphoro, Martyre tuo atque Pontifice, per eadem nos placatus intende.
Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings consecrated to thee: and being appeased thereby, mercifully look upon us, by the intercession of blessed Telesphorus, thy Martyr and Bishop.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Tua, Domine, propitiatione, p. 416.


Communion

Tolle puerum, p. 346.


Postcommunion

Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Oremus

Refecti participatione muneris sacri, quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut cujus exsequimur cultum, intercedente beato Telesphoro, Martyre tuo atque Pontifice, sentiamus effectum.
Let us Pray

May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from sin, and by the intercession of blessed Telesphorus, thy Martyr and Bishop, make us effectually partakers of this heavenly remedy.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Hæc nos communio, p. 417.


The last words of Advent were those of the Spouse, recorded in the prophecy of the Beloved Disciple: Come, Lord Jesus, come![1] We will close this first part of our Christmas with those words of the Prophet Isaias, which the Church has so often spoken to us: unto us a Child is born![2] The heavens have dropped down their Dew, the clouds have rained down the Just One, the earth has yielded its Saviour, the Word is made Flesh, the Virgin has brought forth her sweet Fruit, our Emmanuel, that is, God with us. The Sun of Justice now shines upon us; darkness has fled; in heaven there is Glory to God; on earth there is Peace to men. All these blessings have been brought to us by the humble yet glorious Birth of this Child. Let us adore him in his Crib; let us love him for all his love of us; and let us prepare the gifts we intended to present to him, with the Magi, on to-morrow's Feast. The joy of the Church is as great as ever; the Angels are adoring in their wondering admiration; all nature thrills with delight: Unto us is born a little Child!

APPENDIX

Hymn

The stanzas usually sung are marked thus *

* Adeste fideles, læti, triumphantes.
Venite, venite in Bethlehem!
Natum videte Regem Angelorum!
Venite adoremus! Venite adoremus!
Venite adoremus Dominum!

* Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant Puellæ viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus! etc.
En grege relicto, humiles ad cunas
Vocati Pastores adproperant:

Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.
Venite adoremus! etc.
Æterni Parentis splendorem æternum
Velatum sub carne videbimus,
Deum Infantem pannis involutum.
Venite adoremus! etc.

Pro nobis egenum et fœno cubantem
Piis foveamus amplexibus. Sic nos amantem quis non redamaret?
Venite adoremus! etc.

* Cantet nunc Io chorus angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula cœlestium:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus! etc.

* Ergo qui natus die ho dierna,
Jesu, tibi sit gloria!
Patris æterni Verbum caro factum!
Venite adoremus! etc.

* Come, ye Faithful,
in joy and triumph,
to Bethlehem,
and gaze on the new-born King of Angels!
Come, let us adore the Lord!

* The Virgin's womb carries the God of God, the Light of Light,
the true God that was born, not made.
Come, let us adore the Lord!
Lo! the Shepherds are called, and leaving their flocks,
hasten to the humble Crib. Let us also go thither with joy.
Come, let us adore the Lord!

We shall see
the eternal brightness
of the Eternal Father
hid under the veil of Flesh:
the Infant-God wrapped in swaddling-clothes.
Come, let us adore the Lord!

Let us devoutly embrace him who, for our sakes, is become poor and lies on straw.
Oh! who will refuse to love him who so loves us?
Come, let us adore the Lord!

* Let the Angel choir now sing its hymns.
Let the court of the Blessed give forth
its Glory be to God in the highest!
Come, let us adore the Lord!

* To thee, O Jesus!
who art this day born, be glory. Glory be to thee,
O Word of the Eternal Father, that art now made Flesh!
Come, let us adore!


 

 

[1] Apoc. xxii 20.
[2] Isa. ix 6.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas; but it appears on the Calendar of the Church with its own special character. Its very name, which signifies Manifestation, implies that it celebrates the apparition of God to his creatures.

For several centuries the Nativity of our Lord was kept on this day; and when, in the year 376, the decree of the Holy See obliged all Churches to keep the Nativity on the 25th December, as Rome did, the Sixth of January was not robbed of all its ancient glory. It was still to be called the Epiphany, and the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ was also commemorated on this same Feast, which Tradition had marked as the day on which that Baptism took place.

The Greek Church gives this Feast the venerable and mysterious name of Theophania, which is of such frequent recurrence in the early Fathers, as signifying a divine Apparition. We find this name applied to this Feast by Eusebius, St Gregory Nazianzen, and St Isidore of Pelusium. In the liturgical books of the Melchite Church the Feast goes under no other name.

The Orientals call this solemnity also the Holy Lights, on account of its being the day on which Baptism was administered; for, as we have just mentioned, our Lord was baptized on this same day. Baptism is called by the holy Fathers Illumination, and they who received it Illuminated.

Lastly, this Feast is called, in many countries, King's Feast: it is of course an allusion to the Magi, whose journey to Bethlehem is so continually mentioned in to-day's Office.

The Epiphany shares with the Feasts of Christmas, Easter. Ascension, and Pentecost the honour of being called, in the Canon of the Mass, a Day most holy. It is also one of the cardinal Feasts, that is, one of those on which the arrangement of the Christian Year is based; for, as we have Sundays after Easter, and Sundays after Pentecost, so also we count six Sundays after the Epiphany.

The Epiphany is indeed a great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light. It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus. At Christmas it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognize the Word made Flesh; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear him.

The mystery of the Epiphany brings upon us three magnificent rays of the Sun of Justice, our Saviour. In the calendar of pagan Rome, this Sixth day of January was devoted to the celebration of a triple triumph of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire: but when Jesus, our Prince of peace, whose empire knows no limits, had secured victory to his Church by the blood of the Martyrs, then did this his Church decree that a triple triumph of the Immortal King should be substituted, in the Christian Calendar, for those other three triumphs which had been won by the adopted son of Cæsar.

The Sixth of January, therefore, restored the celebration of our Lord's Birth to the Twenty-Fifth of December; but in return, there were united in the one same Epiphany three manifestations of Jesus' glory: the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the divine King; the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of this same Jesus, when he changed the water into wine at the marriage-feast of Cana.

But did these three Mysteries really take place on this day? Is the Sixth of January the real anniversary of these great events? As the chief object of this work is to assist the devotion of the Faithful, we purposely avoid everything which would savour of critical discussion; and with regard to the present question, we think it enough to state that Baronius, Suarez, Theophilus Raynaldus, Honorius de Sancta-Maria, Cardinal Gotti, Sandini, Benedict XIV, and an almost endless list of other writers, assert that the Adoration of the Magi happened on this very day. That the Baptism of our Lord, also, happened on the Sixth of January, is admitted by the severest historical critics, even by Tillemont himself, and has been denied by only two or three. The precise day of the miracle at the marriage feast of Cana is far from being as certain as the other two mysteries, though it is impossible to prove that the Sixth of January was not the day. For us the children of the Church, it is sufficient that our Holy Mother has assigned the commemoration of these three manifestations for this Feast; we need nothing more to make us rejoice in the triple triumph of the Son of Mary.

If we now come to consider these three mysteries of our Feast separately, we shall find that the Church of Rome, in her Office and Mass of to-day, is more intent on the Adoration of the Magi than on the other two. The two great Doctors of the Apostolic See, St Leo and St Gregory, in their Homilies for this Feast, take it as the almost exclusive object of their preaching; though, together with St Augustine, St Paulinus of Nola, St Maximus of Turin, St Peter Chrysologus, St Hilary of Arles, and St Isidore of Seville, they acknowledge the three mysteries of to-day's Solemnity. That the mystery of the Vocation of the Gentiles should be made thus prominent by the Church of Rome is not to be wondered at; for, by that heavenly vocation which, in the three Magi, called all nations to the admirable light of Faith, Rome, which till then had been the head of the Gentile world, was made the head of the Christian Church and of the whole human race.

The Greek Church makes no special mention, in her Office of to-day, of the Adoration of the Magi, for she unites it with the mystery of our Saviour's Birth in her celebration of Christmas Day. The Baptism of Christ absorbs all her thoughts and praises on the solemnity of the Epiphany.

In the Latin Church, this second mystery of our Feast is celebrated, unitedly with the other two, on the Sixth of January, and mention is made of it several times in the Office. But as the coming of the Magi to the crib of our new-born King absorbs the attention of Christian Rome on this day, the mystery of the sanctification of the waters was to be commemorated on a day apart. The day chosen by the Western Church for paying special honour to the Baptism of our Saviour is the Octave of the Epiphany.

The third mystery of the Epiphany being also somewhat kept in the shade by the prominence given to the first (though allusion is several times made to it in the Office of the Feast) a special day has been appointed for its due celebration; and that day is the second Sunday after the Epiphany.

Several Churches have appended to the Mystery of changing the water into wine that of the multiplication of the loaves, which certainly bears some analogy with it, and was a manifestation of our Saviour's divine power. But whilst tolerating the custom in the Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites, the Roman Church has never adopted it, in order not to interfere with the sacredness of the triple triumph of our Lord, which the Sixth of January was intended to commemorate; as also because St John tells us, in his Gospel, that the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves happened when the Feast of the Pasch was at hand,[1] which, therefore, could not have any connection with the season of the year when the Epiphany is kept.

We propose to treat of the three mysteries united in this great solemnity in the following order. To-day, we will unite with the Church in honouring all three; during the Octave, we will contemplate the Mystery of the Magi coming to Bethlehem; we will celebrate the Baptism of our Saviour on the Octave Day; and we will venerate the Mystery of the Marriage of Cana on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.

Let us, then, open our hearts to the joy of this grand Day; and on this Feast of the Theophany, of the Holy Lights, of the Three Kings, let us look with love at the dazzling beauty of our Divine Sun, who, as the Psalmist expresses it,[2] runs his course as a Giant, and pours out upon us floods of a welcome and yet most vivid light. The Shepherds, who were called by the Angels to be the first worshippers, have been joined by the Prince of Martyrs, the Beloved Disciple, the dear troop of Innocents, our glorious Thomas of Canterbury, and Sylvester the Patriarch of Peace; and now to-day these Saints open their ranks to let the Kings of the East come to the Babe in his crib, bearing with them the prayers and adorations of the whole human race. The humble Stable is too little for such a gathering as this, and Bethlehem seems to be worth all the world besides. Mary, the Throne of the divine Wisdom, welcomes all the members of this court with her gracious smile of Mother and Queen; she offers her Son to man for his adoration, and to God, that he may be well pleased. God manifestshimself to men, because he is great; but he manifests himself by Mary, because he is full of mercy.

The great Day, which now brings us to the crib of our Prince of Peace, has been marked by two great events of the first ages of the Church. It was on the Sixth of January in the year 361, and Julian, who in heart was already an apostate, happened to be at Vienne in Gaul. He was soon to ascend the imperial throne, which would be left vacant by the death of Constantius, and he felt the need he had of the support of that Christian Church in which it is said he had received the order of Lector, and which, nevertheless, he was preparing to attack with all the cunning and cruelty of a tiger. Like Herod, he too would fain go on this Feast of the Epiphany, and adore the new-born King. His panegyrist Ammianus Marcellinus tells us that this crowned Philosopher, who had been seen, just before, coming out of the pagan temple, where he had been consulting the soothsayers, made his way through the porticoes of the church, and standing in the midst of the faithful people, offered to the God of the Christians his sacrilegious homage.

Eleven years later, in the year 372, another Emperor found his way into the Church, on the same Feast of the Epiphany. It was Valens; a Christian, like Julian, by baptism; but a persecutor, in the name of Arianism, of that same Church which Julian persecuted in the name of his vain philosophy and still vainer gods. As Julian felt himself necessitated by motives of worldly policy to bow down, on this day, before the divinity of the Galilean; so, on this same day, the holy courage of a saintly Bishop made Valens prostrate himself at the feet of Jesus the King of kings.

Saint Basil had just then had his famous interview with the Prefect Modestus, in which his episcopal intrepidity had defeated all the might of earthly power. Valens had come to Cæsarea, and, with his soul defiled with the Arian heresy, he entered the Basilica, when the Bishop was celebrating, with his people, the glorious Theophany. Let us listen to St Gregory Nazianzen, thus describing the scene with his usual eloquence: 'The Emperor entered the church. The chanting of the psalms echoed through the holy place like the rumbling of thunder. The people, like a waving sea, filled the house of God. Such was the order and pomp in and about the sanctuary, that it looked more like heaven than earth. Basil himself stood erect before the people, as the Scripture describes Samuel—his body and eyes and soul motionless, as though nothing strange had taken place, and, if I may say so, his whole being was fastened to his God and the holy Altar. The sacred ministers, who surrounded the Pontiff, were in deep recollectedness and reverence. The Emperor heard and saw all this. He had never before witnessed a spectacle so imposing. He was overpowered. His head grew dizzy, and darkness veiled his eyes.’

Jesus, the King of ages, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, had conquered. Valens was disarmed; his resolution of using violence against the holy Bishop was gone; and if heresy kept him from at once adoring the Word consubstantial to the Father, he at least united his exterior worship with that which Basil's flock was paying to the Incarnate God. When the Offertory came, he advanced towards the Sanctuary, and presented his gifts to Christ in the person of his holy priest. The fear lest Basil might refuse to accept them took such possession of the Emperor, that had not the sacred ministers supported him, he would have fallen at the foot of the Altar.

Thus has the Kingship of our new-born Saviour been acknowledged by the great ones of this world. The Royal Psalmist had sung this prophecy—the Kings of the earth shall serve him, and his enemies shall lick the ground under his feet.[3]

The race of Emperors like Julian and Valens was to be followed by Monarchs who would bend their knee before this Babe of Bethlehem, and offer him the homage of orthodox faith and devoted hearts. Theodosius, Charlemagne, our own Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor, Stephen of Hungary, the Emperor Henry II, Ferdinand of Castile, Louis IX of France, are examples of Kings who had a special devotion to the Feast of the Epiphany. Their ambition was to go in company with the Magi to the feet of the Divine Infant, and offer him their gifts. At the English Court the custom is still retained, and the reigning Sovereign offers an ingot of gold as a tribute of homage to Jesus the King of kings: the ingot is afterwards redeemed by a certain sum of money.

But this custom of imitating the Three Kings in their mystic gifts was not confined to Courts. In the Middle Ages, the Faithful used to present, on the Epiphany, gold, frankincense and myrrh, to be blessed by the Priest These tokens of their devotedness to Jesus were kept as pledges of God's blessing upon their houses and families. The practice is still observed in some parts of Germany: and the prayer for the Blessing was in the Roman Ritual, until Pope Paul V suppressed it, together with several others, as being seldom required by the Faithful.

There was another custom which originated in the Ages of Faith, which is still observed in many countries. In honour of the Three Kings, who came from the East to adore the Babe of Bethlehem, each family chose one of its members to be King. The choice was thus made. The family kept a feast, which was an allusion to the third of the Epiphany Mysteries—the Feast of Cana in Galilee—a cake was served up, and he who took the piece which had a certain secret mark was proclaimed the King of the day. Two portions of the cake were reserved for the poor, in whom honour was thus paid to the Infant Jesus and his Blessed Mother; for on this Day of the triumph of him who, though King, was humble and poor, it was fitting that the poor should have a share in the general joy. The happiness of home was here, as in so many other instances, blended with the sacredness of Religion. This custom of King's Feast brought relations and friends together, and encouraged feelings of kindness and charity. Human weakness would sometimes, perhaps, show itself during these hours of holiday-making; but the idea and sentiment and spirit of the whole feast was profoundly Catholic, and that was sufficient guarantee to innocence.

King's Feast is still a Christmas joy in thousands of families; and happy those where it is kept in the Christian spirit which first originated it! For the last three hundred years, a puritanical zeal has decried these simple customs, wherein the seriousness of religion and the home enjoyments of certain Festivals were blended together. The traditions of Christian family rejoicing have been blamed under pretexts of abuse; as though a recreation, in which religion had no share and no influence, were less open to intemperance and sin! Others have pretended (though with little or no foundation) that the Twelfth Cake and the custom of choosing a King are mere imitations of the ancient pagan Saturnalia. Granting this to be correct (which it is not), we would answer that many of the old pagan customs have undergone a Christian transformation, and no one thinks of refusing to accept them thus purified. All this mistaken zeal has produced the sad effect of divorcing the Church from family life and customs, or excluding every religious manifestation from our traditions, and of bringing about what is so pompously called (though the word is expressive enough) the secularization of society.

But let us return to the triumph of our sweet Saviour and King. His magnificence is manifested to us so brightly on this Feast! Our mother, the Church, is going to initiate us into the mysteries we are to celebrate. Let us imitate the faith and obedience of the Magi; let us adore, with the holy Baptist, the divine Lamb, over whom the heavens open: let us take our place at the mystic feast of Cana, where our dear King is present, thrice manifested, thrice glorified. In the last two mysteries, let us not lose sight of the Babe of Bethlehem; and in the Babe of Bethlehem let us cease not to recognize the Great God, in whom the Father was well pleased, and the supreme Ruler and Creator of all things.

The Church begins the Solemnity of the Epiphany by singing First Vespers.

FIRST VESPERS

1. Ant. Ante luciferum genitus et ante sæcula, Dominus Salvator noster hodie mundo apparuit.
1. Ant. The Lord our Saviour, begotten before the day-star and all ages, appeared to the world on this day.

Psalm, Dixit Dominus, p. 89.


2. Ant. Venit lumen tuum, Jerusalem, et gloria Domini super te orta est; et ambulabunt Gentes in lumine tuo. Alleluia.
2. Ant. Thy light is come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; and the Gentiles shall walk in thy light. Alleluia.

Psalm, Confitebor tibi, p. 90.


3. Ant. Apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt Magi Domino aurum, thus, et myrrham. Alleluia.
3. Ant. Opening their treasures, the Magi offered to the Lord gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Alleluia.

Psalm, Beatus vir, p. 91.


4. Ant. Maria et flumina, benedicite Domino: hymnum dicite, fontes, Domino. Alleluia.
4. Ant. Ye seas and rivers, bless the Lord: ye fountains, sing a hymn to the Lord. Alleluia.

Psalm, Laudate pueri, p. 92.


5. Ant. Stella ista sicut flamma coruscat, et Regem regum Deum demonstrat: Magi eam viderunt, et magno Regi munera obtulerunt.
5. Ant. This star shineth as a flame, and pointeth out God, the King of kings: the Magi saw it, and offered gifts to the great King.

Psalm 116

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.

The holy Church, after having thus celebrated the power given to the Divine Babe over kings, whom he shall break, in the day of his wrath: his covenant with the Gentiles, whom he will give as an inheritance to his Church; the light that is risen up in darkness: his Name blessed from the rising to the setting of the sun: and after having, on this day of the Vocation of the Gentiles, invited all nations and all people to praise the eternal mercy and truth of God, addresses herself to Jerusalem, the figure of the Church, and conjures her, by the Prophet Isaias, to take advantage of the Light which has this day risen upon the whole human race.

Capitulum
(Isa. lx)

Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem, quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est.
Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Then follows the Hymn. It is the beautiful one composed by Sedulius, of which we sang the opening stanzas in the Lauds of Christmas Day. In the verses selected for the present Feast, the Church celebrates the three Epiphanies: Bethlehem, the Jordan, and Cana, each in its turn, manifested the glory of Jesus, our great King.

Hymn[4]

Crudelis Herodes, Deum
Regem venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat cœlestia.


Ibant Magi, quam viderant
Stellam sequcntes præviam;
Lumen requirunt lumine;
Deum fatentur munere.

Lavacra puri gurgitis
Cœlestis Agnus attigit:
Peccata quæ non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.

Novum genus potentiæ:
Aquæ rubescunt hydriæ,
Vinumque jussa fundere,
Mutavit unda originem.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui te revelas Gentibus,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.

℣. Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent.
℟. Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent.

Cruel tyrant Herod!
why tremblest thou at the coming of the King our God?
He that gives men a heavenly kingdom,
takes not from kings their earthly ones.


On went the Magi, following the Star that went before them,
and which they had seen in the East.
They seek by this light Him that is the light,
and by their gifts acknowledge him to be God.

The heavenly Lamb touched the pure stream,
wherein he deigned to be baptized:
it is we whom he hereby washes from our sins,
for he could have none to be cleansed.

At Cana he showed a new sort of power:
the water in the vases at the feast turns red;
and when ordered to be poured out, lo!
it had changed its nature, and was wine.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus,
who manifestest thyself to the Gentiles:
and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love,
for everlasting ages.

Amen.

℣. The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents.
℟. The kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.


Antiphon Of The Magnificat

Magi videntes stellam, dixerunt ad invicem: Hoc signum magni Regis est: eamus et inquiramus eum, et offeramus ei munera, aurum, thus et myrrham. Alleluia.
The Magi, seeing the Star, said to each other: This is the sign of the great King: let us go and seek him, and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Alleluia.

The Canticle, Magnificat, p. 96.


Collect

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus, stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuæ celsitudinis perducamur. Per eumdem.
O God, who by the direction of a star didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles; mercifully grant that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, etc.

The Church has thus opened her chants in honour of the divine Theophany. To-morrow, the offering of the great Sacrifice will unite us all in the prayers we present to our King and Saviour. Let us finish this day in recollection and joy.

The Matins for the Epiphany are exceedingly rich and magnificent; but, as the Faithful do not assist at them, we will not give them. At Milan, they are sung during the Night, like the Christmas Matins, and are also composed of three Nocturns—contrary to the custom of the Ambrosian Liturgy, which has only one Nocturn at Matins. The people assist at them, and altogether these holy Vigils are kept up with almost as much devotion as those of Christmas Night.

January 6

THE day of the Magi, the day of the Baptism, the day of the Marriage Feast, has come: our divine Sun of Justice reflects upon the world these three bright rays of his glory. Material darkness is less than it was; Night is losing her power; Light is progressing day by day. Our sweet Infant Jesus, who is still lying in his humble crib, is each day gaining strength. Mary showed him to the shepherds, and now she is going to present him to the Magi. The gifts we intend to offer him should be prepared; let us, like the three Wise Men, follow the star, and go to Bethlehem, the House of the Bread of Life.

MASS

At Rome, the Station is at St Peter's on the Vatican, near the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, to whom, in Christ, all nations have been given as an inheritance.

The Church proclaims, in the opening chant of the Mass, the arrival of the great King, for whom the whole earth was in expectation, and at whose Birth the Magi are come to Jerusalem, there to consult the prophecies.

Introit

Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus: et regnum in mann ejus, et potestas et imperium.

Ps. Deus, judicium tuum Regi da: et justitiam tuam Filio Regis. Gloria Patri. Ecce advenit.
Magi videntes stellam, dixerunt ad invicem: Hoc signum magni Regis est: eamus et inquiramus eum, et offeramus ei munera, aurum, thus et myrrham. Alleluia.

Ps. Give to the King thy judgement, O God, and to the King's Son thy justice. Glory. Behold.

After the Angelic Hymn, Gloria in excelsis, the holy Church, all in gladness at the bright Star which leads the Gentiles to the crib of the Divine King, prays, in the Collect, that she may be permitted to see that living Light for which faith pepares us, and which will enlighten us for all eternity.

Collect

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus, stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuæ celsitudinis perducamur. Per eumdem.
O God, who by the direction of a star didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. LX.

Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem: quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est. Quia ecce tenebræ operient terram, et caligo populos; super te autem orietur Dominus, et gloria ejus in te videbitur. Et ambulabunt Gentes in lumine tuo, et Reges in splendore ortus tui. Leva in circuitu oculos tuos, et vide: omnes isti congregati sunt, venerunt tibi: filii tui de longe venient, et filiæ tuæ de latere surgent. Tunc videbis et afflues, et mirabitur et dilatabitur cor tuum, quando conversa fuerit ad te multitudo maris, fortitudo Gentium venerit tibi. Inundatio camelorum operiet te, dromedarii Madian et Epha: omnes de Saba venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes.
Lesson from the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. LX.

Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and Kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder, and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.

Oh! the greatness of this glorious Day, on which begins the movement of all nations towards the Church, the true Jerusalem! Oh! the mercy of our heavenly Father, who has been mindful of all these people that were buried in the shades of death and sin! Behold! the glory of the Lord has risen upon the Holy City; and Kings set out to find and see the Light.Jerusalem is not large enough to hold all this sea of nations; another city must be founded, and towards her shall be turned the countless Gentiles of Madian and Epha. Thou, O Rome! art this Holy City, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged. Heretofore thy victories have won thee slaves; but from this day forward, thou shalt draw within thy walls countless children. Lift up thine eyes, and see—all these, that is the whole human race, give themselves to thee as thy sons and daughters; they come to receive from thee a new birth. Open wide thine arms, and embrace them that come from North and South, bringing gold and frankincense to him who is thy King and ours.

Gradual

Omnes de Saba venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes. ℣. Surge et illuminare, Jerusalem, quia gloria Domini super te orta est.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente: et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum. Alleluia.

All shall come from Saba, bringing gold and frankincense, and publishing the praises of the Lord. ℣. Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. We saw his star in the east, and are come with our offerings to adore the Lord. Alleluia.


Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. II.

Cum natus esset Jesus in Bethlehem Juda, in diebus Herodis regis, ecce Magi ab Oriente venerunt Jerosolymam, dicentes: Ubi est qui natus est Rex Judæorum? vidimus enim stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus adorare eum. Audiens autem Herodes rex, turbatus est, et omnis Jerosolyma cum illo. Et congregans omnes principes sacerdotum, et scribas populi, sciscitabatur ab eis ubi Christus nasceretur. At illi dixerunt ei: In Bethlehem Judæ: sic enim scriptum est per Prophetam: Et tu, Bethlehem, terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus Juda: ex te enim exiet dux qui regat populum meum Isræl. Tunc Herodes, clam vocatis Magis, diligenter didicit ab eis tempus stellæ, quæ apparuit eis: et mittens illos in Bethlehem, dixit: Ite, et interrogate diligenter de puero: et cum inveneritis, renuntiate mihi, ut et ego veniens adorem eum. Qui cum audissent regem, abierunt. Et ecce Stella quam viderant in Oriente antecedebat eos, usque dum veniens staret supra ubi erat puer. Videntes autem stellam, gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde. Et intrantes domum, invenerunt puerum cum Maria matre ejus, (here all kneel) et procidentes adoraverunt eum. Et apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt ei munera, aurum, thus et myrrham. Et responso accepto in somnis ne redirent ad Herodem, per aliam viam reversi sunt in regionem suam.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. II.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And Herod hearing this was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests, and the scribes of the people, he enquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda: for it is written by the Prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod privately calling the Wise Men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them: and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go, and diligently enquire after the Child: and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him. Who, having heard the king, went their way. And behold the star, which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary his Mother (here all kneel) and falling down, they adored him. And opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their own country.

The Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentile world, have been admitted into the court of the great King whom they have been seeking, and we have followed them. The Child has smiled upon us, as he did upon them. All the fatigues of the long journey which man must take to reach his God—all are over and forgotten; our Emmanuel is with us, and we are with him. Bethlehem has received us, and we will not leave her again: for in Bethlehem we have the Child and Mary his Mother. Where else could we find riches like these that Bethlehem gives us? Oh! let us beseech this incomparable Mother to give us this Child of hers, for he is our light, and our love, and our Bread of life, now that we are about to approach the Altar, led by the Star of our faith. Let us at once open our treasures; let us prepare our gold, our frankincense, and our myrrh, for the sweet Babe, our King. He will be pleased with our gifts, and we know he never suffers himself to be outdone in generosity. When we have to return to our duties, we will, like the Magi, leave our hearts with our Jesus; and it shall be by another way, by a new manner of life, that we will finish our sojourn in this country of our exile, looking forward to that happy day when life and light eternal will come and absorb into themselves the shadows of vanity and time which now hang over us.

In Cathedral and other principal Churches, after the Gospel has been sung, the approaching Feast of Easter Sunday is solemnly announced to the people. This custom, which dates from the earliest ages of the Church, shows both the mysterious connection which unites the great Solemnities of the year one with another, and the importance the Faithful ought to attach to the celebration of that which is the greatest of all, and the centre of all Religion. After having honoured the King of the universe on the Epiphany, we shall have to celebrate him on the day which is now announced to us, as the conqueror of death. The following is the formula used for this solemn announcement.

The Announcement Of Easter

Noveritis, fratres carissimi, quod annuente Dei misericordia, sicut de Nativitate Domini nostri Jesu Christi gavisi sumus, ita et de Resurrectione ejusdem Salvatoris nostri gaudium vobis annuntiamus. Die... erit Dominica in Septuagesima . . . Dies cinerum, et initium jejunii sacratissima Quadragesimæ . . . Sanctum Pascha Domini nostri Jesu Christi cum gaudio celebrabimus. Dominica secunda post Pascha, Diœcesana Synodus habebitur . . . erit Ascensio Domini nostri Jesu Christi . . . Festum Pentecostes . . . Festum sacratissimi Corporis Christi . . . Dominica prima Adventus Domini nostri Jesu Christi, cui est honor et gloria in sæcula sæculorum.

Amen.
Know, dearly beloved Brethren, that by the mercy of God, as we have been rejoicing in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also do we announce unto you the joy of the Resurrection of the same our Saviour. Septuagesima Sunday will be on the . . . day of . . . Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the fast of most holy Lent will be on the ... of .. On the . .. of... we shall celebrate with joy the holy Pasch of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Diocesan Synod will be held on the second Sunday after Easter. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ will be on the . . . of . . . The Feast of Pentecost on the ... of ... The Feast of Corpus Christi on the . . . of . . . On the ... of . . . will occur the first Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom are honour and glory for ever and ever.

Amen.

During the Offertory, the holy Church, whilst presenting the Bread and Wine to God, makes use of the words of the Psalmist, who prophesied that the Kings of Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba, together with the Kings and people of the whole earth, would come to the new-born Saviour and offer him their gifts.

Offertory

Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent: Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent: et adorabunt eum omnes Reges terræ; omnes gentes servient illi.
The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: and all the Kings of the earth shall adore him; all nations shall serve him.

Secret

Ecclesiæ tuæ, quæsumus, Domine, dona propitius intuere, quibus non jam aurum, thus et myrrha profertur: sed quod eisdem muneribus declaratur, immolatur et sumitur, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster. Qui tecum.
Mercifully look down, O Lord, we beseech thee, on the offerings of thy Church, among which gold, frankincense and myrrh are no longer offered: but what is signified by these offerings is sacrificed and received, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Who liveth, etc.

There is a proper Preface for the Feast and Octave of the Epiphany. It celebrates the Divine and immortal Light that appeared through the veil of our human nature, under which the Word, out of love for us, concealed his glory.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: quia cum Unigenitus tuus in substantia nostræ mortalitatis apparuit, nova nos immortalitatis suæ luce reparavit. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia Cœlestis exercitus, hymnum gloriæ tuæ canimus, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God; because when thine Only Begotten Son appeared in the substance of our mortal flesh, he repaired us by the new light of his immortality. And therefore, with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing a hymn to thy glory, saying unceasingly: Holy, Holy, Holy.

During the Communion, the holy Church, now united to him who is her King and Spouse, sings the praises of that star which was the messenger of this Jesus; she is full of joy that she followed its light, for it has brought her to her God.

Communion

Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente: et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.
We have seen his star in the east: and are come with offerings to adore the Lord.

Such graces as these that you have received require from you a corresponding fidelity; the Church asks it for you in her Postcommunion; she begs of God to give you that spiritual understanding and purity which these ineffable mysteries call for.

Postcommunion

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut quæ solemni celebramus officio, purificatæ mentis intelligentia consequamur. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that our minds may be so purified as to understand what we celebrate on this great solemnity. Through, etc.

SECOND VESPERS

The Second Vespers of our great Feast are almost exactly the same as the First. The same Antiphons tell us of the Theophany, the divine Apparition here below of that eternal Word, begotten before the day-star, and come down to us to be our Saviour; of the glory of the Lord that has risen upon Jerusalem, and of the Gentiles walking in the light he gives them; of the Magi opening their treasures, and laying their mystic gifts at the feet of the Child our King; of the seas, and rivers, and fountains, that are sanctified by the baptism of the God-Man; and lastly, of the wonderful brightness of the star, which points out the King of kings.

But the fifth Psalm is changed. Instead of the Psalm which yesterday invited all nations to praise the Lord, the Church sings the 113th, In exitu Israel (p. 93), wherein the Royal Prophet, after having commemorated the deliverance of Israel, denounces the idols of the Gentiles as the works of the hands of men; all are to fall at the approach of Jesus. The adoption granted to Jacob is now extended to all nations. God will bless, not only the house of Israel, and the house of Aaron, but all that fear the Lord, no matter of what race or nation they may be.

The Antiphons and Psalms are, therefore, as in First Vespers (p. 116) excepting the fifth Psalm, which is In exitu Israel (p. 93).

The Capitulum is also as in First Vespers, p. 117.

The Hymn, Crudelis Herodes, after the Capitulum. After the Hymn, the following versicle:

℣. Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent.
℟. Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent.
℣. The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents.
℟. The Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.

In the Antiphon of our Lady's Canticle, the Church once more commemorates the triple mystery of to-day's solemnity.

Antiphon Of The Magnificat

Ant. Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus: hodie stella Magos duxit ad præsepium: hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias: hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos. Alleluia.

Oremus

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus stella duce revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuæ celsitudinis perducamur. Per eumdem.
Ant. We celebrate a festival adorned by three miracles: this day a star led the Magi to the manger; this day water was changed into wine at the marriage-feast; this day Christ vouchsafed to be baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation. Alleluia.

Let us Pray

O God, who by the direction of a star didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, etc.

On each day during the Octave of this great Feast, we intend giving portions from the ancient Liturgies which were used by the several Churches in honour either of the triple mystery of the Epiphany, or of the coming of the Wise Men to Bethlehem, or of the Baptism of Christ. Some of these pieces were upon the Birth of the Infant God, or upon the Maternity of the Holy Virgin.

We commence our selection for to-day by the Hymn composed by St Ambrose; it is used by the Church of Milan.

Hymn

Illuminans Altissimus
Micantium astrorum globos,
Pax, vita, lumen, veritas,
Jesu, fave precantibus.


Seu mystico baptismate,
Fluenta Jordanis retro
Conversa quondam tertio,
Præsentem sacraris diem.

Seu Stella partum
Virginis Cœlo micans signaveris.
Et hac adoratum die
Præsepe Magos duxeris.

Vel hydriis plenis aqua
Vini saporem infuderis:
Hausit minister conscius
Quod ipse non impleverat.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui apparuisti hodie,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.

Most High God! thou that enkindlest the fires of the shining stars!
O Jesus! thou that art
peace and life and light and truth,
hear and grant our prayers.


This present day has been made holy
by thy mystic Baptism,
whereby thou didst sanctify those waters of the Jordan,
which of old were thrice turned back.

It is holy by the star shining in the heavens,
whereby thou didst announce thy Virginal Mother’s delivery,
and didst, on the same day, lead the Magi
to adore thee in thy Crib.

It is holy, too, by thy changing the water of the pitchers into wine;
which the steward of the feast,
knowing that he had not so filled them,
drew forth for the guests.

Glory be to thee, O Lord Jesus,
that didst appear on this Day!
and to the Father and to the Holy Ghost,
for everlasting ages.

Amen.


The following Preface is from the Sacramentary of St Gelasius.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, te laudare mirabilem Dominum in omnibus operibus tuis, quibus regni tui mysteria revelasti. Hancque enim festivitatem index puerperævirginalis stella præ cessit, quæ natum in terra cœli Dominum Magis stupentibus nuntiaret, ut manifestandus mundo Deus, et Cœlesti denunciaretur indicio, et temporaliter procreatus, signorum temporalium ministerio panderetur.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we give thee praise, O Lord, for that thou art wonderful in all thy works, whereby thou hast revealed the mysteries of thy Kingdom. Thus it was that a star, the messenger of the Virginal Delivery, was the forerunner of this Feast; a star, which proclaimed to the wondering Magi that the Lord of heaven was born on the earth: that thus the God who was to be manifested unto the world, might both be made known by a heavenly indication, and He that was to be born in time be revealed by the ministry of those signs which serve to mark time.

The Sequence-book of the Monastery of St Gall contains the one we now give: it was composed in the ninth century by the celebrated Notker.

Sequence

Festa Christi omnis christanitas celebret.

Quæ miris sunt modis ornata, cunctisque veneranda populis.


Per omnitenentis adventum, atque vocationem Gentium.

Ut natus est Christus, est stella Magis visa lucida.

At illi non cassam putantes tanti signi gloriam,
Secum numera deferunt. parvulo offerunt, ut Regi Cœli quem sidus prædicat.

Atque aureo tumidi principis lectulo transito, Christi præsepe quæritant.

Hinc ira sævi Herodis fervida invidi recens rectori genito.
Bethlehem parvulos præcipit ense crudeli perdere.

O Christe! quantum Patri exercitum, juvenis doctus ad bella maxima, populis prædicans colliges, sugens cura tantum miseris.
Anno hominis tricesimo, subtus famuli se inclyti inclinaverat magnus Deus, consecrans nobis baptisma, in absolutionem criminum.

Ecce Spiritus in specie ipsum alitis innocuææ uncturus sanctus præ omnibus, visitat, semper ipsius contentus mansione pectoris.
Patris etiam insonuit vox pia, veteris oblita sermonis: pœnitet me fecisse hominem.

Vere Filius es tu meus, mihimet placitus, in quo sum placatus: hodie, Fili mi, genui te.

Huic omnes auscultate populi præceptori. Amen.

Let the whole of Christendom celebrate the feasts of Christ.
They are adorned in a wonderful way, and are venerated by all nations.

They commemorate the coming of Him that is Lord of all things, and the vocation of the Gentiles.
When Christ was born, a bright star was seen by the Magi.

Whereupon they, knowing that the splendour of such a sign could not be unmeaning.

Take with them gifts, and offer them to the Little Child, as the King foretold by the star of heaven.

Passing by the golden couch of a haughty prince, they set out in search of the Crib of Christ.

At this, the cruel Herod boils with anger; he is jealous of the new-born King.

He commands the male children of Bethlehem to be cruelly put to death by the sword.

O Jesus! what an army wilt thou not levy for thy Father, when in the fulness of thine age thou shalt carry on the supreme battle, preaching thy doctrines to mankind!—for even now that thou art a weak Babe thou sendest such a host.

Having reached his thirtieth year, this great God bowed himself down beneath the hand of his glorious servant; thus consecrating Baptism for us, unto the remission of our sins.

Lo! the Spirit visits him in the form of the innocent dove: he is about to anoint him above all the Saints, and will abide with everlasting love in the dwelling of that Breast.

The loving voice of the Father is also heard; and those ancient words: it repents me that I made man, are now forgotten.

'Thou art,' he says, ‘my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased. This day, my Son! have I begotten thee.

'All ye people, hear this your Teacher.’ Amen.


The Menæa of the Greek Church gives us the following fine stanzas in the Hymn for the Nativity of our Lord.

In Natali Domini

Gloria in excelsis Deo, in Bethlehem audio ab Angelis; in terra pacem fieri hominibus bonæ voluntatis. Nunc Virgo Cœlis amplior; exortum est enim lumen sedentibus in tenebris, et exaltavit humiles ac angelice canentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Lætare, Isræl; laudem dicite omnes qui diligitis Sion. Solutum est vinculum damnationis Adam; Paradisus apertus est nobis; serpens debilitatus est:quam enim deceperat principio, nunc contemplatur Creatoris Matrem effectam. O abyssus divitiarum et sapientiæ et scientiæ Dei! Quæ mortem in omnem carnem introduxerat peccati opus, salutis principium facta est per Deiparam. Parvulus enim ex ea nascitur, omniperfectus Deus, et per partum Virginitati apponit sigillum, peccatorum catenas fasciis resolvens, et propria infantia. Evæ mœste parturientis doloribus medelam afferens. Chorea ducat nunc omnis creatura et exsullet: ad revocandam enim eam advenit Christus, et ad salvandas animas nostras.

Nativitas tua, Deus noster, lumen gnoseos attulit mundo: in ipsa enim qui adorabant sidera, a sidere discunt adorare te Solem Justitiæ, et cognoscere Orientem ex alto: Domine, gloria tibi.
Eden in Bethlehem apertum est: venite, videamus, thesaurum absconditum inveniemus; venite, teneamus in antro quæ sunt in Paradiso. Hic apparuit radix non irrigata, germinans veniam; hic invenitur puteus infossus e cujus aqua olim David bibere desideravit; hic Virgo parvulum enixa, sitim Davidis et Adami ocius sedavit: ideoque magis festinemus ad locum ubi natus est parvulus novus ante sæcula Deus.

Gaudete justi; cœli jubilate, exsultate montes: Christus natus est; Virgo sedet, Cherubini imitata, portans in sinu suo Deum Verbum caro factum; pastores natum glorificant: Magi Domino dona offerunt: Angeli hymnificantes clamant: Incomprehensibilis Domine, gloria tibi.

I hear the angels singing at Bethlehem Gloria in excelsis Deo! I hear them tell us that there is peace on earth to men of good will. Oh! see that Virgin, she is lovelier than the heavens: for from her has risen a light to them that sat in darkness, exalting humble hearts that sing, as did the Angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Rejoice, O Israel! Sing forth praise, all ye that love Sion! The chain of Adam's condemnation is broken; Paradise is opened to us; the Serpent is weakened, for woman, whom he had deceived in the beginning, is now before his gaze the Mother of the Creator. Oh! the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! She that had brought Death, the work of sin, into all flesh, is now, through the Mother of God, made the source of salvation. For of Her is born a Little Child who is the allperfect God, and who, by his Birth, did but consecrate the Virginity of his Mother; by his swathing-bands he loosened the chains of sin; and by his own Infancy he comforted the pangs of child-birth to sorrowing Eve. Let every creature now keep choir and be glad, for Christ is come that he may reclaim mankind, and save our souls.

Thy Nativity, O Lord our God! brought to the world the light of knowledge; for by it they that had adored the stars, were taught, by a Star, to adore thee, the Sun of Justice, and acknowledge thee as the Orient from on high. Glory be to thee, O Lord!
Eden has been opened in Bethlehem! Come, let us go and see; we shall find the hidden Treasure. Come, let us go and possess in the Cave the things that are in Paradise. Here it is that there has appeared the unwatered Root that has budded forth our pardon. Here is the well not dug by human hand, of whose water David heretofore desired to drink. Here a Virgin has brought forth a Child, by whom she quickly slakes the thirst of Adam and David. Therefore let us go more hastily to the placewhere is born the new Babe, who is God before all ages.

Rejoice, ye just; be glad, ye heavens; exult, ye mountains! Christ is born. The Virgin, cherub-like, sits bearing on her lap God, the Word made Flesh. The Shepherds are giving glory to the Babe. The Magi are offering gifts to the Lord. The Angels are singing this hymn: O Incomprehensible God! glory be to thee.


Let us recite the following Prose, composed by the pious Monk Herman Contractus: it will assist us to honour the ever Blessed Mother of our Jesus.

Sequence

Ave, præclara maris stella, in lucem gentium, Maria, divinitus orta.


Euge, Dei porta, quæ non aperta; veritatis lumen, ipsum Solem justitiæ, indutum carne, ducis in orbem.

Virgo decus mundi, regina cœli, præelecta ut sol, pulchra lunaris ut fulgor: agnosce omnes te diligentes.

Te plena fide, virgam almæ stirpis Jesse nascituram priores desideraverant Patres et Prophetæ.

Te lignum vitæ, Sancto rorante Pneumate parituram divini floris amygdalum, signavit Gabriel.

Tu Agnum, Regem terræ dominatorem, Moabitici de petra deserti ad montem filiæ Sion traduxisti.

Tuque furentem Leviathan, serpentem tortuosum et vectera collidens, damnoso crimine mundum exemisti.

Hinc gentium nos reliquiæ, tuæ sub cultu memoriæ, mirum in modum quem es enixa Agnum regnantem cœlo æternaliter, revocamus ad aram, mactandum mysterialiter.

Hinc manna verum Isrælitis veris, veri Abrahæ filiis admirantibus, quondam Moysi quod Typus figurabat, jam nunc abducto velo datur perspici. Ora Virgo, nos illo pane cœli dignos effici.

Fac fontem dulcem, quem in deserto petra præmonstravit, degustare cum sincera fide, renesque constringi lotos in mari, anguem æneum in crucespeculari.

Fac igni sancto Patrisque verbo, quod, rubus ut flammam, tu portasti, Virgo mater facta, pecuali distinctos pede, mundos labiis cordeque propinquare.

Audi nos: nam te Filius nihil negans honorat.

Salva nos, Jesu, pro quibus Virgo mater te orat.

Da fontem boni visere, da puræ mentis oculos in te defigere.

Quo haustu sapientiæ saporem vitææ valeat mens intelligere.

Christianismi fidem operibus redimire, beatoque fine ex hujus incolatu, sæculi auctor, ad te transire.

Amen.

Hail, Mary! beautiful Star of the Sea! that hast risen by God’s mercy, to give light to all nations.


Welcome! O Gate open to none but God! Thou bringest. into the world the Light of truth, the very Sun of Justice, clad in human flesh.

O Virgin! thou beauty of the world, Queen of heaven, brilliant as the Sun, lovely as the moon’s brightness! think on us all who love thee.

The ancient Fathers and Prophets, full of faith, longed for thee to be born, the Rod of the fair root of Jesse.

Gabriel spoke of thee as the Tree of Life, that by the dew of the Holy Spirit shouldst bring forth the divine flowering Almond Tree.

'Twas thou didst lead the Lamb, the King that rules the earth, from the rock of the desert of Moab to the mount of the daughter of Sion.

'Twas thou didst free the world of its destroying sin, by crushing the angry Leviathan, the bar and crooked Serpent.

We therefore, the remnants of the nations, in honour of thy dear memory, call down upon our altar, there to be mystically immolated, the Lamb that reigns eternally in heaven, whom thou didst so wonderfully bring forth.

The veil is now drawn aside, and we, the true Israelites, the children of the true Abraham, are permitted to fix our astonished eyes on the true Manna, of which that of Moses was the figure and type. Pray for us, O Virgin, that we may be made worthy of that Bread of heaven.

Pray for us, that with sincere faith we may taste of that sweet fountain, which was prefigured by the rock in the desert; and that, having our loins girt, we may safely cross the sea, and be permitted to look upon the brazen serpent on the Cross.

Having our sandals off our feet, and our lips and hearts made pure, pray for us, that we may come nigh to that holy flame, the Word of the Father, which thou, O Virgin Mother, didst carry within thee, as the Bush did the fire.

Hear us, O Mary! for thy Son honours thee by granting thee all thy prayers.

And thou, O Jesus! save us. for whom thy Virgin Mother prays.
Grant us to see the source of every good! Grant us to fix on thee the eyes of our purified souls.

May our souls drink in the water of wisdom, and feed with understanding on the sweet food of Life.

Do thou, Creator of the world! give us grace to adorn our Christian faith with works and by a happy death to pass from this life’s exile to thee.

Amen.


 

We also, O Jesus! come to adore thee on this glorious Epiphany, which brings all nations to thy feet. We walk in the footsteps of the Magi; for we too have seen the star, and we are come to thee. Glory be to thee, dear King! to thee who didst say in the Canticle of David thine ancestor: 'I am appointed King over Sion, the holy mountain, that I may preach the commandment of the Lord. The Lord hath said to me, that he will give me the Gentiles for mine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for my possession. Now, therefore, O ye kings, understand: receive instruction, ye that judge the earth.'[5]

Thou wilt say, O Emmanuel! with thine own lips: All power is given to me in heaven and on earth,[6] and a few years after, the whole earth will have received thy law. Even now Jerusalem is troubled; Herod is trembling on his throne; but the day is at hand when the heralds of thy coming will go throughout the whole world, proclaiming that he, who was the Desired of nations,[7] is come. The word that is to subject the earth to thee will go forth,[8] and, like an immense fire, will stretch to the uttermost parts of the universe. In vain will the strong ones of this world attempt to arrest its course. An Emperor will propose to the Senate, as the only means of staying the progress of thy conquests, that thy Name be solemnly enrolled in the list of those gods whom thou comest to destroy. Other Emperors will endeavour to abolish thy kingdom by the slaughter of thy soldiers. But all these efforts are vain. The day will come when the Cross, the sign of thy power, will adorn the imperial banner; the Emperors will lay their crowns at thy feet; and proud Rome will cease to be the Capital of the empire of this world’s strength and power, in order that she may become, for ever, the centre of thy peaceful and universal kingdom.

We already see the dawn of that glorious day. Thy conquests, O King of ages! begin with thine Epiphany. Thou callest, from the extreme parts of the unbelieving East, the first-fruits of that Gentile world, which hitherto had not been thy people, and which is now to form thine inheritance. Henceforth there is to be no distinction of Jew and Greek, of Barbarian and Scythian.[9] Thou hast loved Man above Angel, for thou hast redeemed the one, whilst thou hast left the other in his fall. If thy predilection, for a long period of ages, was for the race of Abraham, henceforth thy preference is to be given to the Gentiles. Israel was but a single people; we are numerous as the sands of the sea, and the stars of the firmament.[10] Israel was under the law of fear; thou hast reserved the law of love for us.

From this day of thy Manifestation, O divine King! begins thy separation from the Synagogue, which refuses thy love; and on this same Day, thou takest, in the person of the Magi, the Gentiles as thy Spouse. Thy union with her will soon be proclaimed from the Cross, when, turning thy face from the ungrateful Jerusalem, thou wilt stretch forth thy hands towards the nations of the Gentiles. O ineffable joy of thy Birth! but O still better joy of thine Epiphany, wherein we, the once disinherited, are permitted to approach to thee, offer thee our gifts, and see thee graciously accept them, O merciful Emmanuel!

Thanks be to thee, O Infant God! for that unspeakable gift[11] of Faith, which, as thy Apostle teaches us, hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into thy kingdom, making us partakers of the lot of the Saints in Light.[12] Give us grace to grow in the knowledge of this thy Gift, and to understand the importance of this great Day, whereon thou makest alliance with the whole human race, which thou wouldst afterwards make thy Bride by espousing her. Oh! the Mystery of this Marriage Feast, dear Jesus! ‘A Marriage,' says one of thy Vicars on earth,[9] ‘that was promised to the Patriarch Abraham, confirmed by oath to King David, accomplished in Mary when she became Mother, and consummated, confirmed, and declared on this day; consummated in the adoration of the Magi, confirmed in the Baptism in the Jordan, and declared in the miracle of the water changed into wine.' On this Marriage-Feast, where the Church, thy Spouse, already receives queenly honours, we will sing to thee, O Jesus! with all the fervour of our hearts, these words of to-day’s Office, which sweetly blend the Three Mysteries into one—that of thy Alliance with us.

 

Antiphon Of Lauds

Ant. Hodie Cœlesti Sponso juncta est Ecclesia, quoniam in Jordane lavit Christus ejus crimina: currunt cum muneribus Magi ad regales nuptias, et ex aqua facto vino lætantur convivæ. Alleluia.
Ant. This day is the Church united to the heavenly Spouse, for Christ, in the Jordan, washes away her sins: the Magi run to the royal Nuptials with their gifts: and the guests of the Feast are gladdened by the water changed into wine. Alleluia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] St John vi 4.
[2] Ps. xviii 6.
[3] Ps. lxxi 9, 11.
[4] In the Monastic Rite it is as follows: ℟. breve. Omnes de Saba venient: * Alleluia, alleluia. Omnes. ℣. Aurum et thus deferentes. * Alleluia. Gloria Patri. Omnes. Hostis Herodes impie, Christum venire quid times? Non eripit mortalia, Qui regna dat cœlestia. Ibant Magi quam viderant, Stellam sequentes præviam; Lumen requirunt lumine, Deum fatentur munere. Lavacra puri gurgitis Cœlestes Agnes atteignit: Piccata qui non Detroit, Nos abluendo sustulit. Novum tenus potentat: Aquæ rubescunt hydriæ, Vinumque jussa fundere Mutavit unda originem, Gloria tibi Domine, Qui apparuisti hodie, Cum Patre, et Sancto Spiritu, In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.
[5] Ps. ii 6, 8, 10.
[6] St Matt xxviii 18.
[7] Agg. ii 8.
[8] Ps. xviii 5.
[9] Col. iii 11
[10] Gen. xxii 17.
[11] 2 Cor. ix 15.
[12] Col. i 12, 13.
[13] Innocent III.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS Sunday has been chosen by the Church for the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family; the liturigy of the day, as expressed in the Gospel, harmonizes well with the mystery of the new Feast, for it already carries us forward to the childhood of our Emmanuel and gives us those wonderful words which, after the example of his Blessed Mother, we must ever ponder within our hearts: ‘And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.’

The Feast of the Holy Family is of recent origin. In 1663 Barbara d'Hillehoust founded at Montreal the Association of the Holy Family; this devotion soon spread and in 1893 Leo XIII expressed his approval of a feast under this title and himself composed part of the Office. The Feast was welcomed by succeeding Pontiffs as an efficacious means for bringing home to the Christian people the example of the Holy Family at Nazareth, and by the restoration of the true spirit of family life, stemming, in some measure, the evils of present-day society. These motives led Benedict XV to insert the Feast in the universal Calendar, and from 1921 it has been fixed for this present Sunday.

MASS

The Introit recalls the joy that must have filled the cave of Bethlehem on that Christmas night; let us again rejoice with Mary and Joseph and sing the praises of the resting-place of the Lord of Hosts.

Introit

Exsultet gaudio pater Justi, gaudeat pater tuus et mater tua, et exsultet quæ genuit te.

Ps. 83. Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum: concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini. ℣. Gloria.
Let the father of the Just One exult with joy; let thy father and thy mother rejoice; and let her that bare thee be glad.

Ps. 83. How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts: my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. ℣. Glory.

The Church prays in the Collect that the home life of every Christian family may be sanctified and perfected by the example of that of the Holy Family; this is her unceasing wish for her children.

Collect

Domine Jesu Christe, qui, Mariæ et Joseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiæ sanctæ tuæ exemplis instrui; et consortium consequi sempiternum. Qui vivis.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, becoming subject to Mary and Joseph, didst hallow home life by singular virtues; by the help of both, do thou grant that we may be taught by the example of thy Holy Family, and have fellowship with it for evermore: Who livest.

Commemoration is made of the Sunday within the Octave:

Vota, quæsumus, Domine, supplicantis populi cœlesti pietate prosequere: ut et quæ agenda sunt, videant; et ad implenda quæ viderint, convalescant. Per Dominum.
According to thy divine mercy, O Lord, receive the vows of thy people, who pour forth their prayers to thee: that they may know what their duty requireth of them, and be able to comply with what they know. Through, etc.

Then of the Epiphany:

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus, Stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuæ celsitudinis perducamur. Per cumdem
O God, who by the direction of a star, didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant, that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Colossenses.

Cap. III.

Fratres, induite vos, sicut electi Dei, sancti, et dilecti, viscera misericordiæ, benignitatem, humilitatem, modestiam, patientiam, supportantes invicem, et donantes vobismetipsis, si quis adversus aliquem habet querelam: sicut et Dominus donavit vobis, ita et vos. Super omnia autem hæc, caritatem habete, quod est vinculum perfectionis: et pax Christi exsultet in cordibus vestris, in qua et vocati estis in uno corpore; et grati estote. Verbum Christi habitet in vobis abundanter, in omni sapientia, docentes, et commonentes vosmetipsos, psalmis, hymnis, et canticis spiritualibus, in gratia cantantes in cordibus vestris Deo. Omne quodcumque facitis, in verbo aut in opere, omnia in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi, gratias agentes Deo et Patri per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.
Lesson of the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to the Colossians.

Ch. III.

Brethren, put ye on therefore as the elect of God. holy, and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another; even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection; and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word, or in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 


If we would attain to charity, the bond of perfection which unites all Christians together in the one great family of God, we must pay heed to those virtues which the Epistle puts before us. We must be full of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty and patience; we must bear with one another and forgive one another, after the example of the Incarnate Word. Then the peace of Christ will dwell not only in our hearts, but in those around us, and our homes will truly become like that of Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph were ever singing in grace to the Lord God.

In the Gradual Holy Church again celebrates the praises of the House of the Lord; she proclaims the blessedness of those that obtain lasting fellowship in the heavenly home above; yet in the Alleluia verse she recalls the lowliness of the earthly home of our Emmanuel which made him truly a hidden King.

Gradual
(Ps. xxiii)

Unam petti a Domino, hanc requiram: ut inhabitem in domo Domini omnibus diebus vitæ meæ. ℣. Ps. 83. Beati qui habitant in domo tua, Domine, in sæcula sæculorum laudabunt te.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Isa. 45. Vere tu es Rex absconditus. Deus Isræl Salvator. Alleluia.
One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. ℣. Ps. 83. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Isa. 45. Verily thou art a hidden King, the God of Israel, the Saviour. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

Cum factus esset Jesus annorum duodecim, ascendentibus illis Jerosolymam secundum consuetudinem diei festi, consummatisque diebus, cum redirent, remansit puer Jesus in Jerusalem, et non cognoveruntparentes ejus. Existimantes autem ilium esse in comitatu, venerunt iter diei, et requirebant eum inter cognatos et notos. Et non invenientes, regressi sunt in Jerusalem, requirentes eum. Et factum est, post triduum invenerunt illum in tempio sedentem in medio doctorum, audientem illos, et interrogantem eos. Stupebant autem omnes, qui eum audiebant, super prudentia et responsis ejus. Et videntes admirati sunt. Et dixit mater ejus ad ilium: Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? ecce pater tuus et ego dolentes quærebamus te. Et ait ad illos: Quid est quod me quærebatis? Nesciebatis quia in his quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse? Et ipsi non intellexerunt verbum, quod locutus est ad eos. Et descendit cum eis, et venit Nazareth: et erat subditus illis. Et mater ejus conservabat omnia verba hæc in corde suo. Et Jesus proficiebat sapientià, et ætate, et gratia apud Deum et homines.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast; and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his Mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his Mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.

Thus, O Jesus! didst thou come down from heaven to teach us. The tender age of Childhood, which thou didst take upon thyself, is no hindrance to the ardour of thy desire that we should know the one only God, who made all things, and thee, his Son, whom he sent to us. When laid in the Crib, thou didst instruct the Shepherds by a mere look; when swathed in thy humble swaddling-clothes, and subjected to the voluntary silence thou hadst imposed on thyself, thou didst reveal to the Magi the light they sought in following the star. When twelve years old, thou explainest to the Doctors of Israel the Scriptures which bear testimony to thee. Thou gradually dispellest the shadows of the Law by thy presence and thy words. In order to fulfil the commands of thy heavenly Father, thou dost not hesitate to occasion sorrow to the heart of thy Mother, by thus going in quest of souls that need enlightening. Thy love of man will pierce that tender Heart of Mary with a still sharper sword, when she shall behold thee hanging on the Cross, and expiring in the midst of crudest pain. Blessed be thou, sweet Jesus, in these first Mysteries of thine Infancy, wherein thou already showest thyself devoted to us, and leavest the company of thy Blessed Mother for that of sinful men, who will one day conspire thy Death.

The Offertory takes us in thought to the Feast of the Purification; let us again offer ourselves to the Lord.

Offertory
(Luke ii)

Tulerunt Jesum parentes ejus in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino.
The parents of Jesus carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

In the Secret the Church again prays that she may be strengthened in peace and grace; these gifts have been purchased for us by our Lord himself; it is through the Holy Mass that we can be more strongly established in them.

Secret

Placationis hostiam offerimus tibi, Domine, suppliciterdeprecantes: ut, per intercessionem Deiparæ Virginis cum beato Joseph, familias nostras in pace et gratia tua firmiter constituas. Per eundem Dominum.
We offer to thee, O Lord, an atoning victim, humbly entreat ing that through the inter cession of the Virgin Mother of God and blessed Joseph, thou wouldst strongly establish our families in thy peace and grace. Through the same Lord.

Commemoration of the Sunday

Oblatum tibi Domine Sacrificium vivificet nos semper et muniat. Per Dominum.
May the sacrifice we have offered to thee, O Lord, always enlighten and defend us. Through, etc.

Commemoration of the Epiphany

Ecclesiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, dona propitius intuere; quibus non jam aurum, thus et myrrha profertur; sed quod eisdem muneribus declaratur, immolatur et sumitur, Jesus Christos Filius tuus Dominus noster. Qui tecum.
Mercifully look down, O Lord, we beseech thee, on the offerings of thy Church; among which, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are no longer offered; but what was signified by those offerings is sacrificed, and received, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Who liveth, etc.

The Preface is as on the Epiphany, p. 126.


The Communion recalls the subject of to-day's Gospel; let us never cease to meditate on the divine humility shown us in these words.

Communion
(Luke ii)

Descendit Jesus cum eis et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.
Jesus went down with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.

If we have kept before our eyes the example of the holy Family, we may humbly trust that at the hour of our death we shall be helped and consoled and be found worthy to have fellowship with Christ in the eternal dwellings. Such is the last prayer of the Church, and may it be one we love to repeat and dwell on.

Postcommunion

Quos cœlestibus reficis sacramentis, fac, Domine Jesu, sanctæ familiæ tuæ exempla jugiter imitari: ut in hora mortis nostræ, occurrente gloriosa Virgine Matre tua cum beato Joseph; per te in æterna tabernacula recipi mereamur. Qui vivis et regnas.
Let us whom thou dost refresh by thy heavenly sacraments, O Lord, ever follow the example of thy Holy Family; that at the hour of our death thy glorious Virgin Mother and blessed Joseph may be near us, and we may be found worthy to be received by thee into eternal dwellings: Who livest, etc.

Commemoration of the Sunday

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: ut quos tuis reficis Sacramentis, tibi etiam placitis moribus dignanter deservire concedas. Per Dominum.
Grant, we humbly beseech thee, O Almighty God, that those whom thou refreshest with thy Sacraments, may, by a life well-pleasing to thee, worthily serve thee. Through, etc.

Commemoration of the Epiphany

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut quæ solemni celebramus officio, purificatæ mentis intelligentia consequamur. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that our minds may be so purified, as to understand what we celebrate on this great solemnity. Through, etc.

VESPERS

Antiphons

1. Post triduum invenerunt Jesum in tempio sedentem in medio doctorum, audientem illos, et interrogantem eos.
1. After three days * they found Jesus in the temple sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions.

The Psalms are from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and will be found on the Feast of the Purification, p. 488.

2. Dixit mater * Jesu ad ilium: Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? Ecce pater tuus et ego dolentes quærebamus te.

3. Descendit Jesus * cum eis, et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.

4. Et Jesus * proficiebat sapientia, et ætate, et gratia apud Deum et homines.

5. Et dicebant: * Unde huic sapientia hæc, et virtutes? Nonne hic est fabri filius?
2. The Mother of Jesus* said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

3. And Jesus went down * with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.

4. And Jesus * advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with God and men.

5. And they said: * How came this man by this wisdom and miracles? Is not this the carpenter's son?

Little Chapter
(Luke ii)

Descendit Jesus cum Maria et Joseph, et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.
And Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.

Hymn

O Lux beata Cælitum,
Et summa spes mortalium, Jesu,
O cui domestica
Arrisit orto caritas.

Maria, dives gratia,
O sola quæ casto potes
Fovere Jesum pectore,
Cum lacte donans oscula.

Tuque ex vetustis patribus
Delecte custos Virginis,
Dulci patris quem nomine
Divina proies invocat.

De stirpe Jesse nobili
Nati in salutem gentium,
Audite nos qui supplices
Vestras ad aras sistimus.

Dum sol redux ad vesperum
Rebus nitorem detrahit,
Nos hic manentes intimo
Ex corde vota fundimus.

Qua vestra sedes floruit
Virtutis omnis gratia,
Hanc detur in domesticis
Referre posse moribus.

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

Amen.

℣. Ponam universos filios tuos doctos a Domino.
℟. Et multitudinem pacis filiis tuis.
Blest light of all the heavenly hosts,
Sole hope of them that dwell on earth,
The purest love that ever graced
A home, did smile upon thy birth.

Mary, dear Mother, who but thee
Was ever yet so rich in grace?
Didst nourish Christ upon thy knee
And fold him in a sweet embrace?

And Joseph, chosen out to guard
The Virgin with thy gentle might,
The Infant Jesus smiled on thee
And called thee father as by right.

You, who to save a guilty race
Were born of David’s noble line,
O hear the humble prayers of all
To-day, who gather round your shrine.

The sun now wends his way to rest
And earth is veiled in shadows gray;
Yet hearts a-fire with joy and love
Still bid us linger on to pray.

O may the grace of that sweet home
Which held the earthly Trinity,
Be shed abroad upon the world
And bless the Christian family.

O Jesu, born of Virgin bright,
Immortal glory be to thee;
Praise to the Father infinite
And Holy Ghost eternally.

Amen.

℣. I will make all thy children to be taught of the Lord.
℟. And great the peace of thy children.

At the Magnificat

Ant. Maria autem conservabat omnia verba hæc, conferens in corde suo.
Ant. But Mary * kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

Collect as at Mass, p. 139.


Commemoration of the Epiphany

Ant. Magi videntes stellam, dixerunt ad invicem: Hoc signum magni Regis est: eamus et iniquiramus eum, et offeramus ei munera, aurum, thus et myrrham. Alleluia.
Ant. The Magi, seeing the Star, said to each other: This is the sign of the great King: let us go and seek him, and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Alleluia.

or—

 

Ant. Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus: hodie stella Magos duxit ad præsepium: hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias: hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos. Alleluia.

℣. Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent.
℟. Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent.
Ant. We celebrate a festival adorned by three miracles: this day, a star led the Magi to the manger; this day, water was changed into wine, at the marriage-feast; this day, Christ vouchsafed to be baptized by John, in the Jordan, for our salvation. Alleluia.

℣. The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents.
℟. The Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.

The Collect as on p. 139.


Commemoration of the Sunday

Ant. Fili! quid fecisti nobis sic? ego et pater tuus dolentes quærebamus te. Quid est quod me quærebatis? nesciebatis quia in his quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse?

℣. Omnes de Saba venient. Alleluia.
℟. Aurum et thus deferentes. Alleluia.
Ant. Son! why hast thou done so to us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?

℣. All they from Saba shall come. Alleluia.
℟. Bringing gold and frankincense. Alleluia.

The Collect as on p. 139.


MASS OF THE SUNDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE EPIPHANY

(In some Churches, the Feast of the Holy Family is not observed on this day; the Mass will then be of the Sunday.)

It is the Kingship of the divine Infant that the Church again proclaims in the opening Canticle of the Mass for the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany. She sings the praises of her Emmanuel's Throne, and takes her part with the Angels who hymn the glory of Jesus' eternal Empire. Let us do the same, and adore the King of Ages, in his Epiphany.

Introit

In excelso throno vidi sedere virimi, quem adorat multitudo Angelorum psallentes in unum: ecce cujus imperii nomen est in æternum. Ps. Jubilate Deo omnis terra: servite Domino inlætitia. Gloria Patri. In excelso.
I saw a man seated on a high throne, whom a multitude of Angels adored, singing all together: Behold him, whose name and empire are to last for ever. Ps. Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Glory. I saw.

The Collect is given on p. 139.


Epistle

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Romanos.

Cap. XII.

Fratres, obsecro vos per misericordiam Dei, ut exhibeatis corpora vestra hostiamviventem, sanctam, Deo placentem, rationabile obsequium vestrum. Et nolite conformari huic sæculo, sed reformamini in novitate sensus vestii: ut probetis quse sit voluntas Dei bona, et beneplacens, et perfecta. Dico enim per gratiam quæ data est mihi, omnibus qui sunt inter vos: Non plus sapere quam oportet sapere, sed sapere ad sobrietatem: et unicuique sicut Deus divisit mensuram fidei. Sicut enim in uno corpore multa membra habemus, omnia autem membra non eumdem actum habent: ita multi unum corpus sumus in Christo, singuli autem alter alterius membra: in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Romans.

Ch. XII.

Brethren, I beseech you, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind: that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. For I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you, not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety, and according as God hath divided unto every one the measure of faith. For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Apostle invites us to make our offering to the new-born King, after the example of the Magi; but the offering which this Lord of all things asks of us is not anything material or lifeless. He that is Life gives his whole self to us; let us, in return, present him our hearts, that is, a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God; whose service may be reasonable, that is, whose obedience to the divine will may be accompanied by a formal intention of offering itself to its Creator. Here again, let us imitate the Magi, who went back another way into their own country—let us not adopt the ideas of this world, for the world is the covert enemy of our beloved King. Let us reform our worldly prudence according to the divine wisdom of Him, who may well be our guide, seeing he is the Eternal Wisdom of the Father. Let us understand, that no man can be wise without Faith, which reveals to us that we must all be united by love, so as to form one body in Christ, partaking of his life, his wisdom, his light, and his kingly character.

In the chant which follows the Epistle, the Church returns to her praise of the ineffable wonders of a God with us: Justice and righteousness have come down from heaven, to take up their abode on our mountains and hills.

Gradual

Benedictus Dominus Deus Isræl, qui facit mirabilia magna solus a sæculo. ℣. Suscipiant montes pacem populo tuo, et colles justitiam.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Jubilate Deo omnis terra: servite Domino in lætitia. Alleluia.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone hath done great wonders from the beginning. ℣. Let the mountains receive peace for thy people, and the hills righteousness.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Sing joyfully to the Lord, ail the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Alleluia.

The Gospel is the one for the Feast of the Holy Family, p. 141.


During the Offertory, the Church resumes her canticles of joy; the presence of the Divine Infant fills her with joy.

Offertory

Jubilate Deo omnis terra: servite Domino in lætitia: intrate in conspectu ejus in exsultatione: quia Dominus ipse est Deus.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness: present yourselves to him with transports of joy: for the Lord is God.

The Secret is given on p. 143.


Whilst distributing the Bread of Life come down from heaven, the Church repeats the words addressed by Mary to her Son: Why hast thou done so to us? I and thy father have sought thee. The Good Shepherd, who feeds his Sheep with his own Flesh, replies, that he must needs do the will of his Father who is in heaven. He is come to be our Life, our light, and our food: he, therefore, leaves everything in order to give himself to us. But, whilst the Doctors in the Temple only saw and heard him, we, in this Living Bread, possess him and are united with him in sweetest union.

Communion

Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? Ego et pater tuus dolentes quærebamus te. Et quid est, quod me quærebatis? Nesciebatis, quia in his, quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse?
Son, why hast thou done so with us? I and thy father have sought thee with sorrow.—And why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about the concerns of my Father?

The Postcommunion is given on p. 144.


 

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A SOLEMNITY of such importance as the Epiphany could not be without an Octave. The only Octaves during the year that are superior to this of the Epiphany, are those of Easter and Pentecost. It has a privilege which the Octave of Christmas has not; for no Feast can be kept during the Octave of the Epiphany, unless it be that of a principal Patron; whereas Feasts of double and semi-double rite are admitted during the Christmas Octave. It would even seem, judging from the ancient Sacramentaries, that anciently the two days immediately following the Epiphany were Days of Obligation, as were the Monday and Tuesday of Easter and Whitsuntide. The names of the Stational Churches are given, where the Clergy and Faithful of Rome assembled on these two days.

In order that we may the more fully enter into the spirit of the Church during this glorious Octave, we will contemplate, each day, the Mystery of the Vocation of the Magi, and we will enter, together with them, into the holy Cave of Bethlehem, there to offer our gifts to the Divine Infant, to whom the star has led the Wise Men.

These Magi are the harbingers of the conversion of all nations to the Lord their God; they are the Fathers of the Gentiles in the faith of the Redeemer that is come; they are the Patriarchs of the human race regenerated. They arrive at Bethlehem, according to the tradition of the Church, three in number; and this tradition is handed down by St Leo, by St Maximus of Turin, by St Cesarius of Arles, and by the Christian paintings in the Catacombs of Rome, which paintings belong to the period of the Persecutions.

Thus is continued in the Magi the Mystery prefigured by the three just men at the very commencement of the world: Abel, who, by his death, was the figure of Christ; Seth, who was the father of the children of God, as distinct from the family of Cain; and Enos, who had the honour of regulating the ceremonies and solemnity to be observed in man's worship of his Creator.

The Magi also continued, in their own person, that other Mystery of the three new parents of the human family, after the Deluge, and from whom all races have sprung: Sem, Cham, and Japheth, the Sons of Noe.

And, thirdly, we behold in the Magi that third Mystery of the three fathers of God's chosen people: Abraham, the Father of believers; Isaac, another figure of Christ immolated; and Jacob, who was strong against God,[1] and was the father of the twelve Patriarchs of Israel.

All these were but the receivers of the Promise, although the hope of mankind, both according to nature and grace, rested on them; they, as the Apostle says of them, saluted the accomplishment of that Promise afar off.[2] The nations did not follow them, by serving the true God; nay, the greater the light that shone on Israel, the greater seemed the blindness of the Gentile world. The three Magi, on the contrary, come to Bethlehem, and they are followed by countless generations. In them the figure becomes the grand reality, thanks to the mercy of our Lord, who having come to find what was lost, vouchsafed to stretch out his arms to the whole human race, for the whole was lost.

These happy Magi were also invested with regal power, as we shall see further on; as such, they were prefigured by those three faithful Kings who were the glory of the throne of Juda, the earnest maintainers among the chosen people of the traditions regarding the future Deliverer, and the strenuous opponents of idolatry: David, the sublime type of the Messias; Ezechias, whose courageous zeal destroyed the idols; and Josias, who reestablished the Law of the Lord, which the people had forgotten.

And if we would have another type of these holy pilgrims, who come from a far distant country of the Gentiles to adore the King of Peace, and offer him their rich presents, the sacred Scripture puts before us the Queen of Saba, also a Gentile, who hearing of the fame of the wisdom of Solomon, whose name means the Peaceful, visits Jerusalem, taking with her the most magnificent gifts—camels laden with gold, spices, and precious stones—and venerates, under one of the sublimest of his types, the kingly character of the Messias.

Thus, O Jesus! during the long and dark night, in which the justice of thy Father left this sinful world, did the gleams of grace appear in the heavens, portending the rising of that Sun of thine own Justice, which would dissipate the shadows of death, and establish the reign of Light and Day. But now all these shadows have passed away; we no longer need the imperfect light of types: it is thyself we now possess; and though we wear not royal crowns upon our heads, like the Magi and the Queen of Saba, yet thou receivest us with love. The very first to be invited to thy Crib, there to receive thy teachings, were simple Shepherds. Every member of the human family is called to form part of thy court. Having become a Child, thou hast opened the treasures of thine infinite wisdom to all men. What gratitude do we not owe for this gift of the light of Faith, without which we should know nothing, even whilst flattering ourselves that we know all things! How narrow and uncertain and deceitful is human science, compared with that which has its source in thee! May we ever prize this immense gift of Faith, this Light, O Jesus! which thou makest to shine upon us, after having softened it under the veil of thy humble Infancy. Preserve us from pride, which darkens the soul’s vision and dries up the heart. Confide us to the keeping of thy Blessed Mother; and may our love attach us for ever to thee, and her maternal eye ever watch over us lest we should leave thee, O thou the God of our hearts!

Let us now listen to the Hymns and Prayers of the several Churches in praise of the Mysteries of the glorious Epiphany. We will begin with this of Prudentius, in which he celebrates that never-setting Star, of which the other was but a figure.

Hymn

Quicumque Christura quæritis,
Oculos in altum tollite:
Illic licebit visere
Signum perennis gloriæ.

Hæc stella, quæ solis rotam
Vincit decore ac lumine,
Venisse terris nuntiat
Cum carne terrestri Deum.

Non illa servit noctibus,
Secuta lunam menstruam:
Sed solam cœlum possidens
Cursum dierum temperat.

Arctoa quamvis sidera
In se retortis motibus
Obire nolint; attamen
Plerumque sub nimbis latent.

Hoc sidus æternum manet:
Hæc stella numquam mergitur:
Nec nubis occursu abdita
Obumbrat obductam facem.

Tristis cometa intercidat,
Et si quod astrum
Sirio Fervet vapore, jam
Dei Sub luce destructum cadet.
O ye, that are in search of Jesus,
raise up your eyes aloft:
there shall you see
the sign of his eternal glory.

This Star, which surpasseth
the sun’s disc in beauty and light,
announces that God has come
upon the earth clothed in human flesh.

It is not a Star that is made to serve the night,
following the monthly changes of the moon;
but it seems to preside over the heavens
and mark the course of the day.

’Tis true, that Polar Stars
are lights that never set;
yet are they often hid
beneath the clouds.

But this Star is never dimmed;
this Star is never extinguished;
nor does a coming cloud
o'ershadow her blaze of light.

Let comet, the harbinger of ill,
and meteors formed by Dogstar’s vaporous heat,
now fade away
before this God’s own light.

We take the three following solemn Prayers from the Gregorian Sacramentary.

Prayers

 

Deus, illuminator omnium gentium, da populis tuis perpetua pace gaudere, et illud lumen splendidum infunde cordibus nostris, quod trium Magorum mentibus aspirasti.

Omnipotens et sempiterne Deus, fidelium splendor animarum, qui hanc solemnitatem electionis gentium primitiis consecrasti; imple mundum gloria tua, et subditis tibi populis per luminis tui appare claritatem.

Concede nobis, omnipotens Deus, ut Salutare tuum nova cœlorum luce mirabile, quod ad salutem mundi hodierna festivitate processit, nostris semper innovandis cordibus oriatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, the enlightener of all nations, give thy people to enjoy perpetual peace, and infuse into our hearts that shining light which thou didst enkindle in the minds of the three Magi.

Almighty and eternal God, the light of faithful souls, who hast consecrated this solemnity by the first-fruits of the vocation of the Gentiles; fill this world with thy glory, and manifest thyself to thy devoted people by the brightness of thy light.

Grant unto us, O Almighty God, that the Saviour sent by thee, who was made known by a new light in the heavens, and comes down for the salvation of the world on this day’s solemnity, may arise in our hearts and give them a perpetual renovation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The following Sequence is found in the ancient Roman-French Missals.

Sequence

Epiphaniam Domino canamus gloriosam,
Qua prolem Dei vere Magi adorant:
Immensam Chaldæi cujus Persæque venerantur potentiam.
Quem cuncti Prophetæ cecinere venturum, gentes ad salvandas:
Cujus Majestas ita est inclinata, ut assumeret servi formam.
Ante sæcula qui Deus, et tempora, homo factus est in Maria:
Balaam de quo vaticinans: Exhibit et Jacob rutilans, inquit, stella,
Et confringet ducum agmina regionis Moab, maxima potentia.
Huic Magi munera deferunt præclara: aurum, simul thus et myrrham.
Thure Deum prsedicant, auro Regem magnum, hominem mortalem myrrha.
In somnis hos monet Angelus, ne redeant ad regem commotum propter regna;
Pavebat etenim nimium Regem natum, verens amittere regni jura.
Magi, stella sibi micante prævia, pergunt alacres itinera, patriam quæ eos ducebat ad propriam, liquentes Herodis mandata.
Qui percussus corde nimium præ ira, extemplo mandat eludia magica non linqui taliter impunita, sed mox privari eos vita.
Omnis nunc caterva tinnulum jungat laudibus organi pneuma,
Mystice offerens Regi regum Christo munera, pretiosa,
Poscens ut per orbem regna omnia protegat in sæcula sempiterna. Amen.
Let us sing to the Lord the glorious Epiphany,
Wherein the Magi adore the true Son of God.
The Chaldeans and Persians offer homage to his infinite power.
All the Prophets had foretold that he would come to save the nations.
His Majesty so far humbled itself, as to assume the form of a servant.
He that was God before all ages and time, was made Man in Mary's womb.
Balaam thus prophesied concerning him: There shall go forth a bright star from Jacob,
And with exceeding power he shall break the armies of the chiefs of Moab.
The Magi bring him rich presents, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
By the frankincense they confess him to be God; by the gold, the great King; by the myrrh, a mortal Man.
An Angel warns them in their sleep, that they return not to King Herod, who feared to lose his kingdom.
For he was exceedingly troubled at the birth of the new King, and trembled lest he should be deprived of his throne.
The Magi, guided by a Star that went before them, set out on their journey with joy. The Star guided them to their own country, and Herod's commands were not heeded.
This prince, struck to the heart with exceeding wrath, straightway commands that the disobedience of the Magi be chastised, and that they be speedily put to death.
Now, therefore, let this assembly sing its songs of praise accompanied by the organ's shrill sounding notes.
And offer to Christ, the King of kings, its precious mystic gifts,
Beseeching him that he protect all the kingdoms of the universe for ever and ever. Amen.

St Ephrem gives us the following beautiful Hymn upon the Nativity of our Lord.

Hymn

Nascente Filio, altis resonat clamoribus Bethlehem. Cœlo delapsi Vigiles canunt vocibus tonitruum imitantibus. Concentu exciti novo convenere silentes, silentium rupere laudes nascentis Filii Dei.

Plaudamus, aiebant, Infanti qui Evæ Adæque juventutis restituit annos. Confluxere pastores, gregum suorum proventum portantes, dulcis lactis copiam, mundas carnes, et decoram laudem.

Distinxere munera, carnes Josepho, Mariæ lac, Filio laudem. Obtulere agnum lactentem paschali Agno, primum Primo, hostiam Hostiæ, agnum caduci temporis Agno veritatis sempiternæ.

Decorum sane spectaculum! agnus oblatus Agno! balavit agnus Unigenito præsentatus, agnus Agno acceptam referebat gratiam, quod suo adventu greges et armenta mactationi subtraxisset, et novum a veteri Paschata traductum Pascha Filii introduxisset.

Illum adoravere pastores, et prophetantes Pastorum Principem salutarunt. Mosaica virga, aiebant, tuum, universalis Pastor, sceptrum commendat, quique illam gestavit Moses te magnum prædicat, dolens gregum suorum mutatas formas, et agnos in lupos transiisse, ac oves evasisse dracones, et ferocissimas bestias. Scilicet et istæ in illa horribili solitudine passæ fuerant malum, quando furentes rabidæ in suum incubuere Pastorem.

Divine Puer, hanc tibi acceptam profitentur gratiam pastores, quod lupos et agnos in easdem caulas congregaveris: Puer Noe antiquior, et Noe recentior, qui intra arcam, pelago fremente, pacem dissidentibus vectoribus sanxisti.

David proavus tuus agni necem leonis cæde vindicavit: tu vero, fili David, occultum peremisti lupum, a quo interfectus fuerat Adamus, agnus ille simplex, qui in Paradiso pastus est et balavit.
The Son being born, Bethlehem resounds with loud shouts of joy. The ever wakeful Angels come down from heaven, singing their hymn with voices loud as thunder. Men that were in still silence ran to the cave, aroused by the strange music: they too broke the silence with their praises of the new-born Son of God.

'Let us,’ said they, 'give praise to the Infant, who has restored to Adam and Eve the years of their youth.' These Shepherds came bringing with them the produce of their flocks, abundance of sweet milk, clean meats, and songs of praise.

Thus did they divide the gifts: the meats to Joseph; the milk to Mary; their praise to Jesus. They offered a lambkin to the paschal Lamb, a first-born to the First-Born, a victim to the Victim, a mortal lamb to the true eternal Lamb.

Fair sight indeed! A lamb offered to the Lamb! The lamb bleated, thus offered to the Only Begotten Son of God; it thanked him for that his coming would save the flocks and herds from being immolated, and that a new Pasch, that of the Son of God, would be brought in in place of the Pasch of old.

The Shepherds adored him, and prophesying, saluted him as the Prince of Shepherds. They said: 'Thy sceptre, O universal Shepherd! is prefigured by the rod of Moses; and Moses, who held it in his hand, declares thy greatness. But he grieves over the change that befell his flock: he grieves to see his lambs changed into wolves, and his sheep transformed into dragons and savage beasts. This evil happened to them in that terrible desert, where this flock, grown mad with rage, attacked their Shepherd.

‘O Divine Child! the Shepherds give thee thanks, for that thou hast united into the one fold both wolves and lambs. O Child! that art older and younger than Noe! ’twas thou didst establish peace among them that sailed in the ark on the stormy sea, and were enemies.

'Thy ancestor David avenged the massacre of a lamb by slaying the lion: but thou, O Son of David! didst slay the invisible lion, who murdered that simple lamb, who fed and bleated in Eden—our first parent Adam.'

The Greek Church gives us, in honour of the VirginMother, this beautiful song of Saint Joseph the Hymnographer.

Ut inferiores superioribus ac cœlestibus conjungeret solus omnium Deus, virginalem uterum ingressus est, cumquein similitudine carnis apparuisset, intermedio inimicitiæ pariete sublato, pacem interposuit, vitamque ac divinam redemptionem largitus est.

Virgo casta post partum permansisti, O sanctissima: Deum enim Verbum genuisti similem nobis factum sine peccato.

Sana vulnera cordis mei, o puella, et motus animæ meæ recta ac felici tramite dirige, o Virgo, ad Dei voluntatem faciendam.

Salve, o unica Genitrix illius qui carnem emendicavit. Salve collapsi mundi erectio, o immaculatissima: salve, mœroris dissolutio; salve, salus fidelium; salve, throne Dei altissime.

Mente revolventes divineloqui Prophetæ mysterii tui profunditatem, o Virgo, prophetice prænunciaverunt illud divino Spiritu illustrati. Nos vero cum illorum vaticinia opere completa nunc læti intueamur, credimus.

O Puella omnibus miraculis admirabilior; illum genuisti qui est ante omnia sæcula, nobis similem factum propter summam misericordiam suam, ut salvos faceret eos qui canunt: Benedictus es Deus Patrum nostrorum.

Divinis verbis tuis hominum generationes inhærentes, beatam te dicunt, o semper beatissima, suaviter concinentes: Benedicite omnia opera Dominum.

O Virgo bonorum amatrix, bonam effice animam meam, peccati malitia depravatam: tu enim bonum Deum ac Dominum peperisti.

Horrescunt Cherubim atque universa cœlestis natura ob reverentiam venerandæ Prolis tuæ incomprehensibilis, o immaculatissima, quæ similis facta est nobis propterineffabilem misericordiam suam, et secundum carnem baptizata est, cujus divinam Apparitionem nunc omnes exsultantes celebramus.
The one only God of all, wishing to unite the inferior creation with the superior and heavenly, entered the womb of the Virgin; ,and when he had appeared in the likeness of the flesh, he established peace between God and man, having taken away the wall of enmity that had stood between them; he also bestowed on us life and divine redemption,

Thou, O most holy Mary! didst remain a pure Virgin after thy delivery; for thou didst give birth to God the Word, made like unto us in all save sin.

Heal the wounds of my heart, O Virgin! and direct the movements of my soul in a bright and happy path, so that I may fulfil God’s will.

Hail, incomparable Mother of Him who deigned to take our flesh! Hail. O most Immaculate Mary, that didst bring the fallen world its resurrection! Hail, thou dispeller of sorrow! Hail, thou that givest the faithful their Saviour! Hail, most high throne of God!

The divinely-speaking Prophets, revolving in their minds the depth of thy mystery, O Virgin! prophetically foretold it, for they were enlightened by the divine Spirit. We that now joyfully behold their prophecies fulfilled, we believe.

O Virgin! thou that art more admirable than all miracles! thou didst give birth to Him who was before all ages, and who was made like unto us through his great mercy, for he came that he might save them that sing: Blessed art thou, the God of our Fathers!

All generations of men, keeping to thy most sacred words, call thee Blessed, O most Blessed Mother! and sweetly sing in choral hymns: All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord!

O Virgin, that lovest holy souls! make mine holy, for it is depraved by the evil of sin: make it good, for thou hast given birth to the good God and Lord,

The Cherubim and the whole heavenly kingdom tremble in reverence before the incomprehensible majesty of thy Son, O most Immaculate Mother! He was made like unto us, through his ineffable mercy, and was baptized according to the flesh: and now do we all exultingly celebrate his divine Apparition.

 

 

 

[1] Gen. xxxii 28.

[2] Heb. xi 13.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE great Mystery of the Alliance of the Son of God with the universal Church, which is represented in the Epiphany by the Magi, was looked forward to by the world in every age previous to the coming of our Emmanuel. The Patriarchs and Prophets had propagated the tradition; and the Gentile world gave frequent proofs that the tradition prevailed even with them.

When Adam in Eden first beheld her whom God had formed from one of his ribs, and whom he called Eve, because she was the Mother of all the living.[1] he exclaimed: 'This is the bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh.'[2] In uttering these words, the soul of our first Parent was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and, as we are told by the most profound interpreters of the Sacred Scriptures (such as Tertullian, St Augustine, St Jerome, etc.), he foretold the alliance of the Son of God with his Church, which issued from his Side, when opened by the spear, on the Cross; for the love of which Spouse he left the right hand of his Father, and the heavenly Jerusalem, his mother, that he might dwell with us in this our earthly abode.

The second father of the human race, Noe, after he had seen the Rainbow in the heavens, announcing that now God’s anger was appeased, prophesied to his three Sons their own respective future, and in theirs, that of the world. Cham had drawn upon himself his father’s curse; Sem seemed to be the favoured son, for from his race there should come the Saviour of the world; but, the Patriarch immediately adds: 'May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Sem.'[3] In the course of time, the ancient alliance that had been made between God and the people of Israel was broken; the Semitic race fluctuated in its religion, and finally fell into infidelity; and at length God adopts the family of Japheth, that is, the Gentiles of the West, as his own people; for ages, they had been without God, and now the very Seat of religion is established in their midst, and they are put at the head of the whole human race.

Later on it is the great God himself that speaks to Abraham, promising him that he shall be the father of a countless family. ‘I will bless thee,' says the Lord, 'and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven.'[4] As the Apostle tells us, more numerous was to be the family of Abraham according to the faith than that which should be born to him of Sara. All they that have received the faith of a Mediator to come, and all they that, being warned by the Star, have come to Jesus as their God—all are the children of Abraham.

The Mystery is again expressed in Rebecca, the wife of Isaac. She feels that there are two children struggling within her womb;[5] and this is the answer she received from God, when she consulted him: ‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb; and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.'[6] Now, who is this ‘younger’ child that overcomes the elder, but the Gentiles, who struggle with Juda for the light, and who, though but the child of the promise, supplants him who was son according to the flesh? Such is the teaching of St Leo and St Augustine.

Next it is Jacob, who, when dying, calls his twelve sons, the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel, around his bed, and prophetically assigns to each of them the career they were to run. Juda is put before the rest; he is to be the king of his brethren, and from his royal race shall come the Messias. But the prophecy concludes with the prediction of Israel's humiliation, which humiliation is to be the glory of the rest of the human race. 'The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a Ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the Expectation of the Nations.'[7]

When Israel had gone out of Egypt, and was in possession of the Promised Land, Balaam cried out, setting his face towards the desert where Israel was encamped: 'I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not near. A Star shall rise out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel. . . . Who shall live when God shall do these things? They shall come in galleys from Italy; they shall overcome the Assyrians, and shall waste the Hebrews, and at the last they themselves also shall perish.'[8] And what kingdom shall succeed this? The kingdom of Christ, who is the Star, and the King that shall rule for ever.

David has this great day continually before his mind. He is for ever celebrating, in his Psalms, the Kingship of his Son according to the flesh: he shows him to us as bearing the Sceptre, girt with the Sword, anointed by God his Father, and extending his kingdom from sea to sea: he tells us how the Kings of Tharsis and the Istlands, the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba, and the Princes of Ethiopia, shall prostrate at his feet and adore him: he mentions their gifts of gold.[9]

In his mysterious Canticle of Canticles, Solomon describes the joy of the spiritual union between the divine Spouse and his Church, and that Church is not the Synagogue. Christ invites her, in words of tenderest love, to come and be crowned; and she, to whom he addresses these words, is dwelling beyond the confines of the land where lives the people of God. 'Come from Libanus, my Spouse, come from Libanus, come! Thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards.’[10] This daughter of Pharaoh confesses her unworthiness: I am black, she says; but, she immediately adds that she has been made beautiful by the grace of her Spouse.[11]

The Prophet Osee follows with his inspired prediction: 'And it shall be in that day, saith the Lord, that she shall call me My Husband, and she shall call me no more Baali. And I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and she shall no more remember their name. . . . And I will espouse thee to me for ever. . . . And I will sow her unto me in the earth, and I will have mercy on her that was without mercy. And I will say to that which was not my people: Thou art my people:and they shall say: Thou art my God.'[12]

The elder Tobias, whilst captive in Babylon, prophesies the same alliance. The Jerusalem which was to receive the Jews after their deliverance by Cyrus, is not the City of which he speaks in such glowing terms; it is a new and richer and lovelier Jerusalem. 'Jerusalem! City of God! bless the God eternal, that he may rebuild his tabernacle in thee, and may call back all the captives to thee. Thou shalt shine with a glorious light. Nations from afar shall come to thee, and shall bring gifts, and shall esteem thy land as holy. For they shall call upon the great Name in thee. . . . All that fear God shall return thither. And the Gentiles shall leave their idols, and shall come into Jerusalem, and shall dwell in it. And all the kings of the earth shall rejoice in it, adoring the King of Israel.'[13]

It is true, the Gentiles shall be severely chastised by God on account of their crimes; but that justice is for no other end than to prepare those very Gentiles for an eternal alliance with the great Jehovah. He thus speaks by his Prophet Sophonias: 'My judgement is to assemble the Gentiles, and to gather the kingdoms: and to pour upon them my indignation, all my fierce anger: for with the fire of my jealousy shall all the earth be devoured. Because then I will restore to the people a chosen lip, that all may call upon the name of the Lord, and may serve him with one shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall my suppliants, the children of my dispersed people, bring me an offering.'[14]

He promises the same mercy by his Prophet Ezechiel: ‘One King shall be over all, and they shall no more be two nations, neither shall they be divided any more into two kingdoms. Nor shall they be defiled any more with their idols: and I will save them out of all the places in which they have sinned. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And they shall have One Shepherd. And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will establish them, and will multiply them, and will set my Sanctuary in the midst of them for ever.'[15]

After the prophet Daniel has described the three great Kingdoms which were successively to pass away, he says there shall be a Kingdom 'which is an everlasting Kingdom, and all kings shall serve him' (the King) 'and shall obey him.' He had previously said: ‘The power' (that was to be given to the Son of man) ‘is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away; and his Kingdom shall not be destroyed.'[16]

Aggeus thus foretells the great events which were to happen before the coming of the One Shepherd, and the establishment of that everlasting Sanctuary which was to be set up in the very midst of the Gentiles: ‘Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations, and the Desired of all nations shall come.'[17]

But we should have to cite all the Prophets in order to describe in all its grandeur the glorious spectacle promised by God to the world, when, being mindful of the Gentiles, he should lead them to the feet of Jesus. The Church has quoted the Prophet Isaias in the Epistle of the Feast, and no Prophet is so explicit and so sublime as this son of Amos.

The expression of the same universal expectation and desire is found also among the Gentiles. The Sibyls kept up the hope in the heart of the people; and in Rome itself we find the Poet Virgil repeating in one of his poems the oracles they had pronounced. ‘The last age,' says he, ‘foretold by the Cumean Sibyl, is at hand; a new and glorious era is coming: a new race is being sent down to earth from heaven. At the birth of this Child, the iron age will cease, and one of gold will rise upon the whole world.... No remnants of our crimes will be left, and their removal will free the earth from its neverending fear.'[18]

If we are unwilling to accept, as did St Augustine and so many other holy Fathers, these Sibylline oracles as the expression of the ancient traditions—we have pagan philosophers and historians, such as Cicero, Tacitus, and Suetonius, testifying that in their times the world was in expectation of a Deliverer; that this Deliverer would come, not only from the East, but from Judea; and that a Kingdom was on the point of being established which would include the entire world.

O Jesus, our Emmanuel! this universal expectation was that of the holy Magi, to whom thou didst send the star. No sooner do they receive the signal of thy having come, than they set out in search of thee, asking, 'Where is he born, that is King of the Jews?' The oracles of thy Prophets were verified in them; but if they received the first-fruits of the great promise, we possess it in all its fulness. The Alliance is made, and our souls, for love of which thou didst come down from heaven, are thine. The Church is come forth from thy divine side, with the Blood and Water; and all that thou dost for this thy chosen Spouse, thou accomplishest in each of her faithful children. We are the sons of Japheth, and we have supplanted the race of Sem, which refused us the entrance of its tents; the birthright which belonged to Juda has been transferred to us. Each age do our numbers increase, for we are to become numerous as the stars of heaven. We are no longer in the anxious period of expectation; the star has risen, and the Kingdom it predicted will now for ever protect and bless us. The Kings of Tharsis and the Islands, the Kings of Arabia and Saba, the Princes of Ethiopia, are come, bringing their gifts with them; all generations have followed them. The Spouse has received all her honours, and has long since forgotten Amana, and Sanir, and Hermon, where she once dwelt in the mdist of wild beasts; she is not black, she is beautiful, with neither spot nor wrinkle upon her, but in every way is worthy of her divine Lord. Baal is forgotten for ever, and she lovingly speaks the language given her by her God. The One Shepherd feeds the one flock. The last Kingdom, the Kingdom which is to continue for ever, is faithfully fulfilling its glorious destiny.

It is thou, O Divine Infant! that bringest us all these graces, and receivest all this devoted homage of thy creatures. The time will soon come, dear Jesus! when thou wilt break the silence thou hast imposed on thyself in order that thou mightest teach us humility—thou wilt speak to us as our Master. Cæsar Augustus has long ruled over Pagan Rome, and she thinks herself the kingdom that is to have no end; but she and her Rulers must yield to the Eternal King and his eternal City: the throne of earthly power must now give place for the Throne of Christian charity, and a new Rome is to spring up, grander than the first. The Gentiles are looking for thee, their King; but the day will come when they will have no need to seek thee, but thou, in thy mercy, wilt go in search of them, by sending them apostles and missioners who will preach thy Gospel to them. Show thyself to them as he to whom all power has been given in heaven and on earth; and show them also Her whom thou hast made to be Queen of the universe. May this august Mother of thine be raised up from the poor Stable of Bethlehem, and from the humble dwelling of Nazareth, and be taken on the wings of Angels to that throne of mercy which thou hast made for her, and from which she will bless all peoples and generations with her loving protection.

We will now borrow some of those Canticles wherewith the several Churches were formerly wont to celebrate the Epiphany. Prudentius, the Prince of our Latin liturgical Poets, thus sings the Magi's journey to Bethlehem.

Hymn

 

En Persici ex orbis sinu,
Sol unde sumit januam,
Cernunt periti interpretes
Regale vexillum Magi.

Quod ut refulsit, cæteri
Cessere signorum globi:
Nec pulcher est ausus suam
Conferre formam Lucifer.

Quis iste tantus, inquiunt,
Regnator, astris imperans;
Quem sic tremunt cœlestia,
Cui lux, et æthra inserviunt?

Illustre quiddam cernimus,
Quod nesciat finem pati:
Sublime, celsum, interminum,
Antiquius cœlo, et chao.

Hic ille Rex est Gentium,
Populique Rex Judaici,
Promissus Abrahæ Patri,
Ejusque in ævum semini.

Æquanda nam stellis sua
Cognovit olim germina
Primus sapor credential,
Nati isolator unici.

Jam flos subit Davidicus,
Radice Jesse editus:
Sceptrique per virgam virens,
Rerum cacumen occupat.

Exin sequuntur perciti
Fixis in altum vultibus,
Qua stella sulcum traxerat,
Claramque signabat viam.

Sed verticem pueri supra
Signum pependit imminens,
Pronaque submissum face
Caput sacratum prodidit.

Videre quod postquam Magi,
Eoa promunt munera,
Stratique votis offerunt
Thus, myrrham, et aurum regium.

Agnosce clara insignia
Virtutis, ac regni tui,
Puer o, cui trinam
Pater Prædestinavit indolem.

Regem Deumque annuntiant
Thesaurus et fragrans odor
Thuris Sabæi: ac myrrheus
Pulvis sepulcrum prædocet.

Hoc est sepulcrum, quo Deus,
Dum corpus exstingui sinit,
Atque id sepulcrum suscitat,
Mortis refregit carcerem.
Lo! in the heart of Persia’s world,
where opens first the gate unto the rising sun,
the Magi, most wise interpreters,
perceive the standard of the King.

It shone, and the other stars of heaven
put out their lights:
not even would the lovely
DayStar show his face.

'Who, ‘say they, 'is this great King,
who commands the stars?
at whose presence the heavens tremble,
and light and air do his bidding?

‘The sign we see tells us of that great Being,
who is eternal and infinite
—the most, high, exalted, boundless One,
who existed before heaven and earth were made.

‘This is he that is King of the Gentiles,
and King of the Jews:
he was promised to our Father Abraham,
and to his seed for ever.

‘For Abraham, the first parent of believers,
and the sacrificer of his only Son,
was told that his race should become numerous
as the stars of heaven.

‘At length the Flower of David is come,
springing from Jesse's root:
blooming by his sceptre's rod,
he now rules over the universe.’

Then quickly do they follow,
with their gaze fixed aloft,
and the Star sails through the air,
pointing the bright path to be pursued.

But when the Star had reached the point
direct above the Child’s head,
it hovered there: then stooping down its torch,
it showed the sacred face they sought.

The Magi looked upon the Babe,
then opening their eastern treasures,
prostrate, and offer him the votive homage
of incense, myrrh, and kingly gold.

These, dear Babe, are the rich tokens
of thy power and kingdom,
for they mark the triple character
which thy Father would have us recognize.

The Gold proclaims him King;
the sweet-smelling Saba Incense declares him to be God;
and the Myrrh signifies that he is Man,
for it is the symbol of his future tomb;

That Tomb, whereby God
broke open the prison of Death,
after he had permitted his sacred Body to suffer death,
and the Tomb had raised it up again to life.

We find in the Sacramentary of the ancient Gallican Church the following beautiful prayer.

Prayer

Deus qui dives es in omnibus misericordia, Pater gloriæ, qui posuisti Filium tuum lumen in nationibus, prædicare captivis redemptionem, cæcis visum, remissionem peccatorum, et sortem inter sanctos per fidem, qui es in Christo largus miserator indulge. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who in all thy works art rich in mercy! Father of glory! who didst set thy Son as a light to the Gentiles, that he might preach redemption to captives, and give sight to the blind; O thou that art through Christ plenteous in thy mercy! grant us the remission of our sins, and fellowship through faith with the Saints. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us celebrate the mystery of the Birth of Jesus and his alliance with mankind, by this Sequence taken from the ancient Roman-French Missals.

Sequence

Ecce jam votiva festa recurrunt annua.
Addat se vox nostra ad Angelorum carmina.
Christus hac ut sponsus materna die processit clausula.
Exsultans ut gigas ad hujus vitæ currendas semitas.
Angelica gloriam reboant in excelsis agmina.
Pax in terra homines te~ neat, cum benevolentia.
Jam se replicat sæculi series maxima: venit etiam vatis Cumææ veridica jam ætas carminis ultima.
Virgo remeat sæcla revehens altera: adsunt tempora quo gens ferrea jam desinat, et mundo pullulet aurea.
Adauctus solis jubar die pluscula menses producere inchoat.
Nocturnas stella fugat, Magos excitat, Balaamitica tenebras.
Impleta, quæ prædixerat plebs utraque, et Gentilitas et Hebræa, oracula, Christo nascente, sunt omnia.
Sunt cuncta jam nunc scelerum recidiva et recentia et antiqua vestigia, quæque remanserant irrita.
O mira atque nova genitural fit gravida Virgo fideliter credula.
Et porta, quæ fuerat semper clausa, est reserata, Naturam dum hominis induit Deitas.
Conserva hæc, quæsumus, Christe, nobis munera tanta, a te prærogata. Amen.
Lo! the year has brought us once again the much loved Feasts.
Let our voices unite in the hymns of the Angels.
On this day, Christ, as a Bridegroom, came from his Mother’s womb.
He hath rejoiced to run, as a giant, the way of this our life.
The Angelic host make earth re-echo with their song: Glory in the highest!
Peace on earth to men of good will!
Now begins the most glorious of the eras of time; now too has come that truthful last age of the Cumæan Sibyl’s song.
Let the Virgin come, bringing new times to the world. The day is at hand for the iron age to cease, and the golden one to spring up on the earth.
The bright sun begins to lengthen out our days and months.
Balaam’s Star wakens up the Magi, and puts to flight the night’s dark gloom.
Christ is born:—all the prophecies are fulfilled which were fore-spoken by the two people, the Gentiles and the Jews.
The vestiges of crime, both new and old, are now all wiped away and destroyed.
O wonderful and unheardof Mother! A Virgin faithfully believes, and the Fruit is in her womb.
The gate, which was ever closed, is opened to the Lord, When he, the great God, assumed the nature of man.
Grant us, O Jesus! ever to hold fast these wondrous gifts, which thou hast bestowed upon us. Amen.

 

Hymn

Venere agrorum cultores, et vitæ sospitatorem suæ venerati sunt, lætique talia prophetabant: Ave, designatus nostrorum cultor agrorum, tu cordium nostrorum arva coles, et frumenta inde collecta in horreum vitæ congregabis.

Secuti sunt vinitores, vineamque laudarunt ex radice ramisque Jesse propagatam, quæ virginem botrum ex veneranda vite protulit, nos, quæso, refingito in vasa digna vino tuo novo innovante omnia; statum vineæ tuæ restitue, quæso; nil illa præter siliquas hucusque protulit; tuos jam insere vitibus surculos.

Ad filium Joseph propter Joseph venere fabri. Beatum natalem tuum auguramur, aiebant, artificum Princeps, qui Noeticam arcam delineasti; atque tabernaculum architectatus es illud extemporaneum, et ad tempus duraturum; nostra te laudant opificia: esto, precamur, tu gloria nostra, jugumfabricare, futurum gestaturi, leve et suave onus.

Simili instinctu salutavere natum infantem novi conjuges, ut dicerent: Salve puer, cujus mater sponsa Sancti facta est. Beatas nuptias, quibus inter futurus es, beatos sponsos, quibus, cum vinum defuerit, tuo repente nutu, illud affluere cernent.

Clamavere simul parvuli: O nos beatos, quibus contigit habere te fratrem, et in foris sodalem: felicem diem, felices pueros, quibus continget laudare te arborem vitæ, qui celsitudinem tuam ad nostram ætatulam demisisti.

Rumor pervaserat aures feminarum, fore ut virgo aliquando pareret; injecta est cuilibet illarum hujusmodi partus spes; speravere nobiles, speravere formosæ tuas se fore matres. Tibi, Altissime, benedicimus, quod pauperem matrem elegeris.

Prophetavere etiam puellæ, quibus obtigit ad ilium deferri, dicentes: Seu deformis sim, seu formosa sim, seu humilis sim, tibi ero, adhærebo tibi: mortales thalamituo numquam mihi erunt potiores.
There came the husbandmen of Bethlehem, and they paid homage to him who was the protector of their life, and thus, in their joy, did they prophesy: 'Hail! thou the appointed cultivator of our lands! Thou shalt till the soil of our hearts, and thou shalt put into the garnerhouse of life the harvests they yield.'

The vine-dressers came next. They spoke the praises of the Vine grown from the root and branch of Jesse, that bore, from its venerable stock, the virginal Fruit. 'We beseech thee,' said they, 'reform us into vessels worthy of thy new Wine, which maketh all things new. Restore thy vineyard to its former state. Hitherto, it has produced nought but wild grapes. Ingraft thine own scions on our vines.'

Then, because Joseph was a Carpenter, Carpenters approach to this his Son. ‘We greet thy happy birth,' say they: ‘ we hail thee as our Prince, for thou it was didst plan the Ark of Noe. Thou wast Architect of that tabernacle so soon built, and to last but for a time. Our works praise thee. We beseech thee, be thou our glory, and make for us that yoke of thine, which we intend to carry; for it is a light yoke, and a sweet burden.'

A like instinct brought the newly married to the new-born Babe: they saluted him, and said: 'Hail, Child! whose Mother is the Spouse of the Holy One! O blessed nuptials those, where thou art to be present! O blessed Spouses they, who shall see the Wine that had failed flow out abundantly at thy bidding!’

Little Children, too, cried out: 'O happy we, to whom it has been given to have thee for our Brother and our Companion! Happy day! and happy children who, on that day, shall be permitted to praise thee, the tree of life, who hast humbled thy immensity to the littleness of our infant age!’

The report of the prophecy that a Virgin would one day bring forth a Child, came to the women’s ears; and each one hoped that this privilege would fall to their lot. ‘Noblewomen, and beautiful women, hoped that they might be thy mother. We bless thee, O Most High God, that thou choosest for thy Mother one that was poor.'

Young Maidens, too, were presented to Jesus, and they prophesied, saying: 'I may be uncomely, or I may be beautiful, or I may be poor: but thine will I be, and to thee will I cling. I will prefer espousals with thee to those I could contract with mortal man.'

Let us, in honour of the Blessed Mother, sing this sweet Hymn used by some Churches in the Middle Ages.

Sequence

Verbum bonum et suave,
Personemus illudi Ave
Per quod Christi fit conclave
Virgo, mater, filia.

Per quod Ave salutata
Mox concepit fœcundata
Virgo David stirpe nata,
Inter spinas lilia.

Ave, veri Salomonis
Mater, vellus Gedeonis,
Cujus Magis tribus donis
Laudant puerperium.

Ave, solem genuisti;
Ave, solem protulisti,
Mundo lapso contulisti
Vitam et imperium.

Ave, sponsa Verbi summi,
Maris portus, signum dumi,
Aromatum virga fumi,
Angelorum Domina.

Supplicamus: nos emenda,
Emendatos nos commenda
Tuo Nato, ad habenda
Sempiterna gaudia.

Amen.
Let us sing that word, so good and sweet:
Ave—Hail! It was by that salutation
that the Virgin was made the sanctuary of Christ
—the Virgin, who was both his Mother and his Child.

Greeted by that Hail,
the Virgin, born of the family of David,
conceived the Divine Fruit in her womb
—She that was the Lily amidst the thorns.

Hail! thou Mother of the true Solomon,
thou Fleece of Gedeon!
The Magi, by their three gifts,
praise thy delivery.

Hail! thou hast given birth to the Sun!
Hail! thou hast given us to see the Sun,
and thereby hast restored life
and power to this fallen world.

Hail! thou Spouse of the Divine Word!
Haven of the sea! Burning Bush!
Cloud of sweet aromatic spices!
Queen of Angels!

We beseech thee, convert us;
and commend us, so converted,
to thy Son, that he bestow upon us
the eternal joys of heaven.

Amen.

 

 


 

[1] Gen. iii 20.
[2] Ibid. ii 23, 24.
[3] Gen. ix 27.
[4] Ibid. xxii 17.
[5] Ibid. xxv 22.
[6] Ibid. xxv 23.
[7] Gen. xlix 10.
[8] Num. xxiv 17, 23, 24.
[9] Ps. lxxi.
[10] Cant. iv 8.
[11] Ibid. i 4.
[12] Osee ii 16 et seq.
[13] Tob. xiii, xiv.
[14] Soph. iii. 8, 9, 10.
[15] Ezech. xxxvii 22 et seq.
[16] Dan. vii 27.
[17] Agg. ii 7, 8.
[18] Eclog. iv.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE star foretold by Balaam having risen in the East, the three Magi, whose hearts were full of the expectation of the promised Redeemer, are immediately inflamed with the desire of going in search of him. The announcement of the glad coming of the King of the Jews is made to these holy Kings in a mysterious and silent manner; and hereby it differs from that made to the Shepherds of Bethlehem, who were invited to Jesus’s Crib by the voice of an Angel. But the mute language of the star was explained to them by God himself, for he revealed his Son to them; and this made their Vocation superior in dignity to that of the Jewish Shepherds, who, according to the dispensation of the Old Law, could know nothing save by the ministry of Angels.

The divine grace which spoke, directly and by itself, to the souls of the Magi, met with a faithful and unhesitating correspondence. St Luke says of the Shepherds, that they came with haste to Bethlehem;[1] and the Magi show their simple and fervent eagerness by the words they addressed to Herod: We have seen his star in the East, they say, and we are come to adore him.[2]

When Abraham received the command from God to go out of the land of Chaldea, which was the land of his fathers and kindred, and go into a strange country, he obeyed with such faithful promptitude as to merit being made the Father of all them that believe.[3] so, likewise, the Magi, by reason of their equally docile and admirable faith, have been judged worthy to be called the Fathers of the Gentile Church.

They too, or at least one or more of them, went out from Chaldea, if we are to believe St Justin and Tertullian. Several of the Fathers, among whom are the two just mentioned, assert that one, if not two, of these holy Kings was from Arabia. A popular tradition, now for centuries admitted into Christian Art, tells us that one of the three was from Ethiopia; and certainly, as regards this last opinion, we have David and other Prophets telling us that the coloured inhabitants of the banks of the Nile were to be objects of God's special mercy.

The term Magi implies that they gave themselves to the study of the heavenly bodies, and that, too, for the special intention of finding that glorious star whose rising had been prophesied. They were of the number of those Gentiles who, like the centurion Cornelius, feared God, had not been defiled by the worship of idols, and maintained, in spite of all the ignorance which surrounded them, the sacred traditions of the religion that was practised by Abraham and the Patriarchs.

The Gospel does not say that they were Kings, but the Church applies to them those verses of the Psalm, where David speaks of the Kings of Arabia and Saba, that should hereafter come to the Messias bringing their offerings of gold. The tradition of their being Kings rests on the testimony of St Hilary of Poitiers, of St Jerome, of the poet Juvencus, of St Leo, and several others; and it would be impossible to controvert it by any well-grounded arguments. Of course, we are not to suppose them to have been Monarchs, whose kingdoms were as great as those of the Roman Empire; but we know that the Scripture frequently applies this name of King to petty princes, and even to mere governors of provinces. The Magi, therefore, would be called Kings if they exercised authority over a considerable number of people; and that they were persons of great importance, we have a strong proof in the consideration and attention showed them by Herod, into whose palace they enter, telling him that they are come to pay their homage to the new-born King of the Jews. The city of Jerusalem is thrown into a state of excitement by their arrival, which would scarce have occurred had not the three strangers, who came for a purpose which few heeded, been attended by a numerous retinue, or had they not attracted attention by their imposing appearance.

These Kings, then, docile to the divine inspiration, suddenly leave their country, their riches, their quiet, in order to follow a star: the power of that God, who had called them, unites them in the same path, as they were already one in faith. The star goes on before them, marking out the route they were to follow: the dangers of such a journey, the fatigues of a pilgrimage which might last for weeks or months, the fear of awakening suspicions in the Roman Empire towards which they were evidently tending—all this was nothing to them; they were told to go, and they went.

Their first stay is at Jerusalem, for the star halts there. They, Gentiles, come into this Holy City, which is soon to have God's curse upon it, and they come to announce that Jesus Christ is come! With all the simple courage and all the calm conviction of Apostles and Martyrs, they declare their firm resolution of going to him and adoring him. Their earnest inquiries constrain Israel, who was the guardian of the divine prophecies, to confess one of the chief marks of the Messias—his Birth in Bethlehem. The Jewish Priesthood fulfils, though with a sinful ignorance, its sacred ministry, and Herod sits restlessly on his throne, plotting murder. The Magi leave the faithless City, which has turned the presence of the Magi into a mark of its own reprobation. The Star reappears in the heavens, and invites them to resume their journey. Yet a few hours, and they will be at Bethlehem, at the feet of the King of whom they are in search.

O dear Jesus! we also are following thee; we are walking in thy light, for thou hast said, in the Prophecy of thy beloved Disciple: I am the bright and morning Star.[4] The meteor that guides the Magi is but thy symbol, O divine Star! Thou art the morning Star; for thy Birth proclaims that the darkness of error and sin is at an end. Thou art the morning Star; for, after submitting to death and the tomb, thou wilt suddenly arise from that night of humiliation to the bright morning of thy glorious Resurrection. Thou art the morning Star; for by thy Birth and the Mysteries which are to follow, thou announcest unto us the cloudless day of eternity. May thy light ever beam upon us! May we, like the Magi, be obedient to its guidance, and ready to leave all things in order to follow it! We were sitting in darkness when thou didst call us to thy grace, by making this thy light shine upon us. We were fond of our darkness, and thou gavest us a love for the Light! Dear Jesus! keep up this love within us. Let not sin, which is darkness, ever approach us. Preserve us from the delusion of a false conscience. Avert from us that blindness into which fell the City of Jerusalem and her king, and which prevented them from seeing the Star. May thy Star guide us through life, and bring us to thee, our King, our Peace, our Love!

We salute thee, too, O Mary, thou Star of the Sea that shinest on the waters of this life, giving calm and protection to thy tempest-tossed children who invoke thee! Thou didst pray for the Magi as they traversed the desert; guide also our steps, and bring us to Him who is thy Child and thy Light eternal.

Let us close this day with the expressions of divine praise offered us by the ancient Liturgies. Let us begin with the continuation of the Hymn of Prudentius, on the vocation of the Gentiles. The following are the concluding stanzas.

Hymn

O sola magnarum urbium
Major Bethlem: cui contigit
Ducem salutis cœlitus
Incorporatum gignere.

Altrice te, summo Patri
Hæres creatur unicus.
Homo ex Tonantis Spiritu,
Idemque sub membris Deus.

Hunc et Prophetis testibus,
Iisdemque signatoribus,
Testator et Sator jubet
Adire regnum, et cernere.

Regnum, quod ambit omnia,
Dia, et marina, et terrea,
A solis ortu ad exitum,
Et tartara, et cœlum supra.

Hic Rex priorum judicum,
Rexere qui Jacob genus,
Dominæque Rex ecclesiæ,
Templi et novelli et pristini.

Hunc posteri Ephraim colunt,
Hunc sancta Manasse domus,
Omnesque suscipiunt tribus,
Bissena fratrum semina.

Quin et propago degener,
Ritum secuta inconditum,
Quæcumque dirum fervidis
Baal caminis coxerat:

Fumosa avorum numina,
Saxum, metallum, stipitem,
Rasum, dolatum, sectile,
In Christi honorem deserit.

Gaudete quidquid gentium est,
Judæa, Roma et Græcia,
Ægypte, Thrax, Persa, Scytha,
Rex unus omnes possidet.

Laudate vestrum Principem,
Omnes beati ac perditi,
Vivi, imbecilli, ac mortui:
Jam nemo posthac mortuus.
O Bethlehem! greater than the greatest of cities!
'Twas thy happy lot to give birth
to the Prince of our salvation,
who had become incarnate by the heavenly mystery.

'Twas thou didst nurse him who is the Only-Begotten Son
and Heir of the eternal Father;
he was made Man by the power of the Spirit of the God who darts the thunderbolts;
and this same Jesus is God under human flesh.

His eternal Father, who bears witness to him,
bids him enter on his kingdom and inherit it.
The Prophets, who are his witnesses and vouchers,
were the proclaimers of the Father’s will.

This kingdom of Jesus includes all things
—the firmament, the sea, the earth
from where the sun rises to where he sets,
and hell and heaven.

He is the King of those ancient judges
who ruled the race of Jacob:
he is the King of the Church, the Mistress of the earth:
he is King of both temples, the new and old.

The children of Ephraim
and the holy family of Manasses worship him;
the tribes of the twelve Brethren,
sons of Jacob, also receive him as their God.

The degenerate race too,
which, observing the rites of idolatrous worship,
had framed in hot furnaces
the statue of the cruel Baal,

Now turns to worship Christ,
leaving for his sake the smokegrimed gods of their fathers,
stones and metals and stocks,
planed, hewn and chiselled by the hands of man.

Rejoice, all ye nations of the earth!
Judea, Rome and Greece,
Egypt, Thrace, Persia, Scythia!
Ye are now all under the one same King!

Praise your King,
O all ye people! just and sinners,
living, weak and dead, give him praise.
None must die henceforth!

The following beautiful prayer from the Mozarabic Missal will assist us to celebrate in a becoming manner the triple Mystery of the Epiphany.

Oratio

Deus qui nobis ad relevandos istius vitæ labores, diversadonorumtuorum solatia et gaudia contulisti, quibus insignes annuis recursibus dies agimus, ut Ecclesiæ tuæ vota solemnia præsenti festivitate celebremus: unde et proxime Natalem Domini Salvatoris peregimus, qui nobis natus in tempore est, qui de te natus sine tempore, omnium sæculorum et temporum est antecessor et œ: deinde subsecutum diem Circumcisionis octavum, Unigeniti luce signatum, pari observantia recolentes, sacrificiis solemnibus honoravimus: nunc Epiphaniæ diem, revelante in homine divinitate, excolimus, diversa Domini nostri Jesu Christi Filii tui in hoc mundo suum adventum manifestantia insignia prædicantes, sive quod stellam ortus sui nunciam misit e cœlo, quam stupentibus Magis usque ad cunabula suæ carnalis infantiæ præviam fecit: sive quod aquas baptismate suo, ad omnium gentiumlavationem, Jordanis alveum sanctificaturus intravit: ubi ipsum esse Filium unigenitum dilectum, Spiritu, columbæ specie, advolante, monstrasti, et paterna insuper voce docuisti: sive quod primum in Cana Galilææ prodidit signum, cum in connubio nuptiali, aquas in vinum convertit, alto et admirabili Sacramento docens, quod a sæculis sponsæ sibi jungendus Ecclesiæ advenerat, ac in vinum prudentiæ spiritualis saporis fidem veritatis esse mutandum: itaque in his tribus mirabilium tuorum causis fide hodiernæ solemnitatis edita, Dominus noster Jesus Christus, Filius tuus, nihilominus tuæ virtutis operatio et nostræ salutis præparatio est. Propterea, Domine, secundum hæctria magna mirabilia,maneat in nobis gratiæ spiritualis integritas, sapiat in cordibus nostris vinum prudentiæ,fulgeatin operibus Stella justitiæ. Amen.
O God, who to lighten the labours of this present life hast conferred upon us the various consolations and joys of thy gifts which we commemorate in the yearly recurrence of the festivals: thou grantest us now, on this present solemnity, to unite in the mysteries celebrated by thy Church. Having kept, a few days past, the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour, who was born unto us in time and yet was born of thee from eternity, and preceded and created all ages and time; having, eight days after that, with like devotion and with the same solemn sacrifice, honoured the Circumcision, that feast resplendent with the light of thine Only Begotten Son; we now on this day worship the Epiphany, which revealed unto us the divinity of him who had assumed our Humanity. We proclaim those various manifestations, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son made known his having come into this world. We proclaim his having sent from the heavens that Star which announced his own rising, and by whose guidance he led the wondering Magi to the cradle where helay in his assumed Infant Flesh. We proclaim his sanctifying, unto the cleansing of all nations, the waters by his own Baptism, when he entered the bed of the Jordan, and where by thy Spirit hovering in the shape of a dove over him, thou didst show and by thy paternal voice didst declare that he was thy beloved Only-Begotten Son. We proclaim his first miracle wrought in Cana of Galilee, when, at the marriage-feast, he changed the water into wine, teaching us, by a sublime and admirable mystery, that he had come in order to be united to the Church, the Spouse he had, for ages, chosen to himself, and that the faith in the promises was henceforth to be changed into the wine of sweet spiritual wisdom. Thus it is, that in the three wonders which are the object of our faith on thisday’s solemnity, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, achieves both the operation of thy power, and the preparation of our salvation. Wherefore, we beseech thee, O Lord, grant us, agreeably to these three prodigies, that there may abide in us the soundness of spiritual grace, that our hearts may relish the wine of prudence, and that the star of justice may shine forth in our works. Amen.

The ancient Paris Missal of 1584 contains the following Sequence for one of the days during this Octave. It is full of unction.

Sequence

Orto crucis sidere,
Quæramus summopere
Regem regum omnium.

Quæramus humiliter,
Non panditur aliter
Cordibus quærentium.

Jacet in præsepio.
Spreto regum solio,
Degens in penuria.

Formam dans quærentibus,
Calcatis terrestribus,
Amare cœlestia.

Herode postposito,
Magos cultu debito
Sequamur celeriter.

Stella duce cursitant
Ad Regem quem prædicant
Regnare perenniter.

Offeramus typice,
Quod illi magnifice
Tulerunt realiter.

Thus superno Numini,
Myrrham vero homini,
Aurum Regi pariter.

His donis, o lilium,
Placa nobis Filium
Repletum dulcedine.

Ut possimus libere
Secum semper vivere
Paradisi culmine.

Amen.
The Star of the Cross has risen;
let us most earnestly seek
the King of kings.

Let us seek him in humility,
for it is to humble hearts alone
that he shows himself.

He lies in a crib,
for he scorns a regal couch,
and lives in poverty.

He thus teaches them that seek him
to despise the things of earth,
and love those of heaven.

Let us turn away from Herod,
and follow without delay, the Magi,
and pay our homage to Jesus.

They are led by the Star,
and hasten to the King, whom they proclaim
as the everlasting Ruler.

Let us mystically offer the gifts,
which they really offered him
so magnificently:

Let us offer Incense to Jesus, as our God;
our Myrrh to him, as Man;
our Gold to him, as King.

Do thou, O Mary, pure Lily!
pray for us to thy Son, who is full of sweetness,
that these our gifts may render him propitious;

That so, being freed from this world,
we may live with him for ever
in the heavenly land above.

Amen.

We here insert a few stanzas from the exquisite Hymn composed by St Ephrem for the Syrian Church.

Hymn

Quam mitis es Puer, quam vehemens judiciorum tuorum vis omnipotens, et ineluctabilis est, suavis et dulcis est amor tuus; quis tibi obsistet?

In sublimi habitat Pater tuus, tua Mater humi jacet; undenam tui notitiam quis capiat? Si quis terrenus homo tuam disquirat naturam ab humanis remotam sensibus, hæc supereminet cœlo in magnum divinitatis retrusa sinum.

Si rursus quispiam corpus cognoscere cupiat oculi expositum, en humi jacet, teque ab angusto Mariæ gremio præbet aspectabilem. Errat incertus animus, neque sibi constat mens tuas, o dives, rationes supputans.

Congeminatis seris clauditur tua divinitas; pelagus es tamen immensum, cedo, qui ejus fundum attingat, etiam postquam magnitudinem tuam ad nostram parvitatem deduxisti. Cum tuum conspectum petimus, hominem videmus, visuros nos Deum sperantes; si hominem videre velimus, inde statim in oculos incurrit hebetatque aciem coruscans divinitatis splendor.

Jam quis credat hæredem te esse Davidici throni, cui ex lauta ejus supellectile præsepe duntaxat relictum est, et ex amplissimis ædibus, spelunca, deque ejus equitatu vix vilem asellum cernere aliquando continget?

Attamen quam benignus es, puer, qui te omnibus indulges, et obviis quibusque arrides! talis nempe tuus amor est, qualem credibile est futurum fuisse ejus, quihomines desideraret, ut panem quilibet esuriens.

Parentes ab externis non discernís, nec genitricem ab ancillis, nec virginem te lactantem ab impuris prostitutæ pudicitiæ feminis. Quid? Num tui ingenii naturalis facilitas huc te demisit, an caritas, qui nihil od isti eorum quæ fecisti?

Quidistuc quod te movet, ut ad omnes descendas, ad locupletes ac tenues, et ad eos accurras etiam non vocatus? Unde tibi istud inditum, ut homines tantopere cupias?

Quæ hæc tua caritas est, ut si quis te objurgat, non succenseas, si minis terret, non trepides, si duriter tecum agit, frontem non contrahas? Tua nimirum caritas antecellit legem illorum, qui suas persequebantur injurias et vindicabant.
How gentle art thou, dear Babe! How mighty is the omnipotent and irresistible power of thy judgements I How sweet and amiable is thy love! Who can withstand thee?

Thy Father dwells in the high heavens; thy Mother stands on the lowly earth; who can understand thee? If the earthly man investigate thy nature, which surpasses the ken of mortals, it is found in the highest heavens, hid in the vast bosom of the divinity.

If, again, one wish to see thy Body made visible to the eye of man, lo! it lies upon the earth: it has issued from the narrow womb of Mary, and all may see it. The soul knows not what to think, and the mind grows bewildered in the calculation of thy ways, O Jesus! rich Lord and God!

Thy divinity is shut beneath a twofold barrier; yet art thou, and I confess it, an immeasurable ocean to him who attempts to fathom thee, even now that thou hast humbled thy greatness to our littleness. When we seek for a sight of thee, we see thee a Man, having hoped to see thee as the great God: and when we wish to look upon thee as Man, then straightway is our eye struck and dazzled by the bright splendour of thy Divinity.

And who would think thee to be the Heir of David’s throne? Instead of costly furniture, thou hast but a Crib: instead of the regal palaces, thou hast but a Cave: instead of the richly caparisoned steeds, there stands near thee one poor ass.

Yet, dear Babe, how lovely art thou! accessible to all, and meeting with thy smile all who come to thee! Thy love is verily the love of one who longeth after men, as a hungry man that longeth after bread.

Thou welcomest to thee, with a like affection, strangers and thy kindred, women and thy Mother, impure prostitutes and the Virgin that feeds thee at her Breast. And how is this? Is it the sweet condescension of thy heart, or is it the love wherewith thou lovest all things thou hast made, that has brought thee to this excess of affection?

What is it that induces thee to stoop thus towards all, rich and poor, and run even to them that ask thee not to come? Whence hast thou this inclination to love us men so much?

What charity is this, that if a man insult thee, thou art not indignant? or if he threaten thee, thou fearest not to go to him? or if he treat thee with cruelty, there is not a wrinkle on thy brow? Ah! thy charity is of another sort from theirs who persecute them that do them wrong and who seek revenge upon their enemies.

 

Let us honour the Virgin-Mother by addressing to her these stanzas of a Hymn composed by St Joseph the Hymnographer. It is in the Menæa of the Greek Church.

Die IV Januarii

Divinum Regis palatium honoremus, in quo quemadmodum ipse voluit, habitavit, innuptam ac solam Deiparam, per quam deificati sumus, collaudemus.

Casta ante partum, in partu, et post partum, vere, o Virgo mater, apparuisti: Deum enim peperisti, quem Apostolorum collegium manifeste prædicavit.

Beatissimus olim Prophetarum chorus sacris vaticiniis in Spiritu divinitus te, o castissima, Portam et Montem umbrosum nominavit.

Illumina, o Virgo, oculos cordis mei, effulge super me pœnitentiæ radio; a tenebris perennibus libera me; o Porta lucis, Refugium omnium christianorum te fideliter laudantium.

Laudo te, o sola digna omni laude; glorifico te, o semper a Deo glorificatissima; et beatifico te, o Virgo, divina beatitudine felicissima, quam generationes generationum beatam appellant.

Expiatorium facta es, o purissima, eorum qui assidue delinquunt, supra naturæ ordinem enixa Christum, qui tollit peccata mundi, ad quem clamamus; Dominus ac Deus patrum, benedictus es.

O miraculum, quod omnia miracula transcendit; quomodo paris et permanes virgo, o castissima sponsa Dei! nimirum Verbum Patri coæternum genuisti, cui omnes psallimus: Laudate omnia opera, et superexaltate Dominum in omnia sæcula.

Jubar fulgoris partus tui eflulsit, atque universum terrarum orbem lætissimo lumine perfudit, actenebrarum principem perdidit, o Dei Genitrix castissima, Angelorum gloriatio, atque omnium hominum salus, qui incessantibus vocibus te concelebrant.
Let us honour the divine Palace of the King, in which it was his will to dwell: the virgin and incomparable Mother of God: let us sing our praises to Her by whom we were raised up to God.

Thou, O truly Virgin-Mother, wast pure before thy delivery, and in thy delivery, and after thy delivery; for thou didst give birth to that God whom the Apostolic College made known to the world by their preaching.

The most blessed choir of the Prophets of old, divinely inspired by the Spirit, did, in their sacred prophecies, call thee, O most chaste one, the Gate and the Mountain o’ershadowed.

Enlighten, O Virgin! the eyes of my heart, and send within me the bright ray of compunction; deliver me from eternal darkness; O thou Gate of Light, and Refuge of all Christians faithfully praising thee.

I praise thee, the creature alone worthy of all praise; I glorify thee, O thou that hast ever been glorified by God; and I bless thee, O Virgin, thou most happy in a divine blessedness, who art called Blessed by all generations.

O most pure one! thou hast been made the propitiatory of them that sin often, for thou didst miraculously bring forth Christ, who taketh away the sins of the world, and to whom we cry: Blessed art thou, O Lord and God of our fathers!

O miracle that surpasseth all miracles! How is it, O most chaste Spouse of God, that thou bearest a Child, yet remainest a Virgin? Thou hast given birth to the Word, coeternal with the Father, to whom we all thus sing: Praise him, all ye his works, and magnify the Lord above all for ever.

The bright splendour of thy delivery has shone forth, and has shed a most joyful light over the whole earth, and has destroyed the prince of darkness, O most chaste Mother of God, thou joy of the Angels, and protectress of all who honour thee with their unceasing praises.

 

 

 

[1] St Luke ii 16.
[2] St Matt. ii 2.
[3] Rom. iv 11.
[4] Apoc. xxii 16.

 

 

 

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