From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Church of Spain, the fair pearl of Christendom, brings before us on this same tenth of December her illustrious martyr Eulalia, the glory of Merida, the ornament of Iberia, the joy of the universal Church. She is the third of those wise virgins, whose names are most prominent in the Church’s liturgy during the season of Advent. She is the worthy companion of Bibiana and Barbara, and that heroic Lucy whose feast we shall keep on the thirteenth. We give the whole of the beautiful poem on the life and martyrdom of Eulalia, written by Prudentius. Never, perhaps, did this prince of Christian poets write finer verses than these; nor can we be surprised that the Mozarabic liturgy, in its admiration of this exquisite canticle, should have made but one hymn of its forty-five stanzas. As it gives the life of our saint, we shall not add the legend of the proper Office as used in the Churches of Spain.
Germine nobilis Eulalia,
Mortis et indole nobilior,
Emeritam sacra virgo suam,
Cujus ab ubere progenita est,
Ossibus ornat, amore colit.
Proximus occiduo locus est,
Qui tulit hoc decus egregium,
Urbe potens, populis locuples:
Sed mage sanguine martyrii,
Virgineoque potens titulo.
Curriculis tribus atque novem,
Tres hyemes quater attigerat,
Quum crepitante pyra trepidos
Terruit aspera carnifices,
Supplicium sibi dulce rata.
Jam dederat prius indicium,
Tendere se Patris ad solium,
Nec sua membra dicata toro.
Ipsa crepundia repulerat,
Ludere nescia pusiola.
Spernere succina, flare rosas,
Fulva monilia respuere:
Ore severa, modesta gradu,
Moribus et nimium teneris
Canitiem meditata senum.
Ast ubi se furiata lues
Excitat in famulos Domini,
Christicolasque cruenta jubet
Thura cremare, jecur pecudis
Mortiferis adolere deis;
Infremuit sacer Eulaliæ
Spiritus ingeniique ferox
Turbida frangere bella parat,
Et, rude pectus anhela Deo,
Femina provocat arma virum.
Sed pia cura parentis agit,
Virgo animosa domi ut lateat.
Abdita rure, et ab urbe procul:
Ne fera sanguinis in pretium
Mortis amore puella ruat.
Illa perosa quietis opem
Degeneri tolerare mora,
Nocte fores sine teste movet,
Septaque claustra fugax aperit,
Inde per invia carpit iter.
Ingreditur pedibus laceris
Per loca senta situ, et vepribus,
Angelico comitata choro:
Et licet horrida nox sileat,
Lucis habet tamen illa ducem.
Sic habuit generosa patrum
Turba columniferum radium:
Scindere qui tenebrosa potens,
Nocte viam face perspicua
Praestitit, intereunte chao.
Non aliter pia virgo, viam
Nocte secuta, diem meruit,
Nec tenebris adoperta fuit,
Regna canopica quum fugeret,
Et super astra pararet iter.
Illa gradu cita pervigili,
Millia multa prius peragit,
Quam plaga pandat eoa polum:
Mane superba tribunal adit,
Fascibus adstat et in mediis.
Vociferans: Rogo, quis furor est
Perdere præcipites animas,
Et male prodiga corda sui
Sternere rasilibus scopulis,
Omnipatremque negare Deum?
Quæritis, O miseranda manus,
Christicolum genus? En ego sum
Daemonicis inimica sacris:
Idola protero sub pedibus:
Pectore, et ore Deum fateor.
Isis, Apollo, Venus nihil est.
Maximianus et ipse nihil:
Illa nihil, quia facta manu:
Hic manuum quia facta colit:
Fivola utraque, et utraque nihil.
Maximianus opum dominus,
Et tamen ipse cliens lapidum,
Prostituat, voveatque suis
Numinibus caput ipse suum:
Pectora cur generosa quatit?
Dux bonus, arbiter egregius
Sanguine pascitur innocuo:
Corporibusque piis inhians
Viscera sobria dilacerat,
Gaudet et excruciare fidem.
Ergo age, tortor, adure, seca,
Divide membra coacta luto.
Solvere rem fragilem facile est:
Non penetrabitur interior
Exagitante dolore animus.
Talibus excitus in furias Praetor, ait:
Lictor, et obrue suppliciis;
Sentiat esse deos patrios.
Nec leve principis imperium.
Quam cuperem tamen ante necem,
Si potis est, revocare tuam,
Torva puellula, nequitiam!
Respice, gaudia quanta metas,
Quæ tibi fert genialis honor.
Te lacrymis labefacta domus
Prosequitur, generisque tui
Ingemit anxia nobilitas,
Flore quod occidis in tenero,
Proxima dotibus et thalamo.
Non movet aurea pompa tori,
Non pietas veneranda senum,
Quos temeraria debilitas?
Ecce parata ministeria
Aut gladio feriere caput,
Aut laniabere membra feris,
Aut facibus data fumificis,
Flebiliterque ululanda tuis
In cineres resoluta flues.
Haec, rogo, quis labor est fugere?
Si modicum salis eminulis
Thuris et exiguum digitis
Tangere, virgo, benigna velis,
Poena gravis procul abfuerit.
Martyr ad ista nihil: sed enim
Infremit, inque tyranni oculos
Sputa jacit. Simulacra dehinc
Dissipat, impositamque molam
Thuribulis pede prosubigit.
Nec more, carnifices gemini
Juncea pectora dilacerant,
Et latus ungula virgineum
Pulsat utrinque, et ad ossa secat,
Eulalia numerante notas.
Scriberis ecce mihi, Domine,
Quam juvat hos apices legere,
Qui tua, Christe, trophea notant!
Nomen et ipsa sacrum loquitur
Purpura sanguinis eliciti.
Hæc sine fletibus et gemitu
Læta canebat, et intrepida.
Dirus abest dolor ex animo.
Membraque picta cruore novo
Fonte cutem recalente lavant.
Ultima carnificina dehinc,
Non laceratio vulnifica,
Crate tenus neo arata cutis:
Flamma sed undique lampadibus
In latera, stomachumque furit.
Crinis odorus et in jugulos
Fluxerat, involitans humeris,
Quo pudibunda pudicitia,
Virgineusque lateret honos,
Tegmine verticis opposito.
Flamma crepans volat in faciem,
Perque comas vegetata, caput
Occupat, exsuperatque apicem:
Virgo, citum cupiens obitum,
Appetit, et bibit ore rogum.
Emicat inde columba repens,
Martyris os nive candidior
Visa relinquere, et astra sequi:
Spiritus hio erat Eulaliæ
Lacteolus, celer, innocuus.
Colla fluunt, abeunte anima,
Et rogus igneus emoritur;
Pax datur artubus exanimis,
Flatus in æthera plaudit ovans,
Templaque celsa petit volucer.
Vidit et ipse satelles avem,
Feminæ ab ore meare palam,
Obstupefactus, et attonitus
Prosilit, et sua gesta fugit,
Lictor et ipse fugit pavidus.
Ecce nivem glacialis hyems
Ingerit, et tegit omne forum:
Membra tegit simul Eulaliæ,
Axe jacentia sub gelido,
Pallioli vice linteoli.
Cedat amor lacrymantum hominum,
Qui celebrare suprema solent,
Flebile cedat et officium:
Ipsa elementa, jubente Deo,
Exsequias tibi, virgo, ferunt.
Nunc locus Emerita est tumulo
Clara colonia Vettoniæ:
Quam memorabilis amnis Ana
Præterit, et viridante rapax
Gurgite mænia pulchra lavit.
Hic, ubi marmore perspicuo
Atria luminat alma nitor
Et peregrinus, et indigena,
Relliquias, cineresque sacros
Servat humus veneranda sinu.
Tecta corusca super rutilant
De laquearibus aureolis,
Saxaque caesa solum variant,
Floribus ut rosulenta putes
Prata rubescere multimodis.
Carpite purpureas violas,
Sanguineosque crocos metite:
Non caret his genialis hyems,
Laxat et arva tepens glacies,
Floribus ut cumulet calathos.
Ista comantibus e foliis
Munera, virgo, puerque, date:
Ast ego serta choro in medio
Texta feram pede dactylico,
Vilia, marcida, festa tamen.
Sic venerarier ossa libet,
Ossibus altar et impositum:
Illa Dei sita sub pedibus
Prospicit hæc, populosque suos
Carmine propitiata fovet.
Eulalia, noble by birth,
but still nobler by her death,
was born at Merida;
and this city the holy virgin adorns with her relics,
and cherishes with her loving protection.
Where the sun sets, there lies the birthplace of this splendid heroine:
it is a powerful and populous city,
but its proudest title to fame is that there
the saint shed her blood,
and there rests her shrine.
But thrice four winters had passed over Eulalia,
when she braved the fierce tortures of fire,
and made her executioners
tremble by her courage,
suffering as though it were sweet to suffer.
Already had she proved to men
that she would have no spouse but God,
and that earthly nuptials were too poor for her.
Though but a girl,
she despised the toys and sports of children.
Perfumes and wreaths of roses,
and golden trinkets, all were beneath her.
Her look demure, her gait modest,
her whole conduct, even at that tender age,
as though the gravity of old age were upon it.
But when a rabid persecution
began to threaten the servants of God,
and the Christians were commanded to burn incense
and the flesh of victims
before the dead gods of the pagans,
Oh! then did Eulalia’s soul
chafe within her,
and her high spirit thirst for the battle!
She, a girl, defies the threats of men that talk of war,
for her heart pants after God.
But her fond mother trembles for her courageous child,
and insists on her keeping at home.
She takes her into the country, as far as may be from the city,
lest the dauntless child, that longed to die for Christ,
should seek to purchase that glory at the price of her blood.
She ill brooks this quiet, this shelter which seems to her so unchristian:
the night comes on; she is alone;
she forces open the doors,
and escaping from her enclosure,
she tends she knows not whither.
The paths are rugged,
and thorns prick her feet at every step;
yet on she goes, with angels in her company.
All is silent in the dark grim night;
but she has light which leads her.
As our fathers, that brave Hebrew band,
had of old a pillar of light,
which piercing the murky gloom of night,
led them on by its bright blaze,
and turned darkness into day;
So this holy maid;
in her midnight journey, God gave her light;
and as she fled from the land of Egypt,
to enter into that of heaven,
she was not hindered by the darkness.
Many a mile had she walked with hasty step,
before the day-dawn broke upon the world:
and scarce had morn begun,
when there stood before the tribunal,
amidst the ensigns of the empire, the fearless virgin.
‘What madness is this,’ she cried,
'which makes you lose your unthinking souls?
wasting away your love
in adoring these chiselled lumps of stone,
whilst you deny God the Father of all?
O wretched men!
you are in search of the Christians:
lo! I am one: I hate your worship of devils:
I trample on your idols;
and with heart and mouth I acknowledge but one God,
Isis, Apollo, Venus, all are nothing;
Maximian, too, is nothing;
they, because they are idols;
he, because he worships idols;
both are vain, both are nothing.
Maximian calls himself lord,
and yet he makes himself a slave of stones,
ready to give his very head to such gods.
And why does he persecute them
that have nobler hearts?
This good emperor, this most upright judge,
feeds on the blood of the innocent.
He gluts himself on the bodies of the saints,
embowelling those temples of purity,
and cruelly insulting their holy faith.
Do thy worst, thou cruel butcher;
burn, cut, tear asunder
these clay-made bodies.
It is no hard thing to break a fragile vase like this.
But all thy tortures cannot reach the soul.’
At these words the prætor, maddening with rage, cried out:
‘Away, lictor, with this senseless prattler,
and punish her in every way thou canst.
Teach her that our country’s gods are gods,
and that our sovereign’s words are not to be slighted.
Yet stay, rash girl.
Would I could persuade thee
to recall thy impious words before it is too late!
Think on all the joys thou thus wilt obtain;
think on that noble marriage which we will procure thee.
Thy family is in search of thee,
and thy noble house weeps
and grieves after thee,
their tender floweret so near its prime,
yet so resolved to wither.
What! are nuptials like these I offer
not enough to move thee?
Wilt thou send the grey hairs of thy parents
into the tomb by thy rash disobedience?
Tremble at least at all these fearful instruments of torture and death.
There is a sword which will sever thy head;
there are wild beasts to tear thee to pieces;
there are fires on which to burn thee,
leaving to thy family
but thy ashes to weep over.
And what do we ask of thee
in order that thou mayst escape these tortures?
Do, I beseech thee, Eulalia,
touch but with the tip of thy finger these grains of salt and incense,
and not a hair of thy head shall be hurt.'
The martyr answered him not:
but full of indignation,
spat in the tyrant’s face;
then, with her foot,
upset idols, cakes, and incense.
Scarce had she done it,
two executioners seize her:
they tear her youthful breast,
and, one on each side, cut off her innocent flesh even to the very ribs.
Eulalia counts each gash, and says:
'See, dear Jesus, they write thee on my flesh!
Beautiful letters, that tell of thy victory!
Oh, how I love to read them!
So, this red stream of my blood
speaks thy holy name!'
Thus sang the joyous and intrepid virgin:
not a tear, not a moan.
The sharp tortures reach not her soul.
Her body is all stained with the fresh blood,
and the warm stream trickles down the snow-white skin.
But this is not the end.
It was not enough to plough
and harrow up her flesh:
it was time to burn:
torches, then, are applied to her sides and breast.
Her beauteous locks
fell veiling her
from worse than all their butchery,
the stare of these wretches.
The crackling flame mounts to her face,
and, running through her hair,
surrounds and blazes over her head.
The virgin, thirsting for death,
opens her mouth and drinks it in.
Suddenly is been a snowwhite dove
coming from the martyr’s mouth,
and flying up to heaven.
It was Eulalia’s spirit,
spotless, eager, innocent.
Her soul is fled: her head droops,
the fire dies out:
her lifeless body sleeps in peace,
while her glad spirit keeps feast in its ethereal home,
and this sweet dove rests in the house of her most high God.
The executioners, too,
see the dove issuing from the martyr’s mouth:
astonished and trembling
they flee from the spot.
The lictor, too, is seized with fear and takes to flight.
'Tis winter, and the snow in thick flakes
falls on the forum,
covering the tender corpse of Eulalia,
which lay stiffening in the cold,
with its fair pall of crystal.
Ye men that mourn at funerals,
weeping and sobbing out your love for the dead,
ye are not needed here: give place.
God bids his elements, O Eulalia,
do the honours of thy exequies.
Her tomb is now at Merida,
illustrious city of Vettonia,
whose beautiful walls are washed
by the swift green waters of Ana,
that celebrated stream.
'Tis there, in a temple
rich with polished marbles
both of Spain and foreign lands,
that repose in a venerable tomb
the holy relics of the martyr.
The roof, above, glitters
with its golden pendants;
and the pavement, with its mosaics,
looks like a meadow strewn
with the gayest flowers.
Cull the purple violet and the golden crocus,
which even winter spares us,
and with its hours of sunshine
lets our fields yield plentifully enough
to deck our Eulalia’s altar.
Twine them into your green garlands,
and these be your offering, dear children!
Mine shall be these verses for our choir;
poor I know they are and savouring of the dulness of my own old age;
still, they suit a feast.
Thus will we venerate Eulalia’s relics
and Eulalia’s altar:
she, standing before the throne of God,
will be pleased with our offerings,
and hearing our hymns and prayers will protect her devoted people.
Nothing can surpass the magnificence of the prayers in the missal and breviary of the Mozarabic liturgy for this feast. Out of a score of examples which we could here insert, we select, almost at hazard, two from the missal; but they will give only a faint idea of the eloquence with which the love for her martyr Eulalia inspired this ancient Church of Spain.
Lætetur in te, Domine, quæso, virginitas: et huic proxima congaudeat continentia. Non sexum quærunt hujus modi bella: sed animum. Non mucronis confidentiam, sed pudoris. Non etiam personas discussuras, sed causas. Impune inter armatas transit acies innocens conscientia: quæ superavit crimina, superat et metalla. Facile vincit alios quisque se vicerit; et cum laudabile sit viro fecisse virtutem, majoris tamen præconii est fecisse virginem rem virilem. Prophanum sacra ingreditur puella concilium: et solum Deum in pectore gestans infert violentiam passioni. Nec deest lictor tam impudens quam crudelis: qui sponsam (secure dixerim) Christi, fornicantium verberibus oculorum, supplicio libidinante torqueret: ut quæ pænas inadulterio non luebat, saltem pænas adulteras sustineret. Dudum quod gravius carnifex putat, exspectantium oculis corpus exponit, et per divaricatas viscerum partes, ictuum sulcos cursus fusi sanguinis antecedit. Periit timo tortoris iniqui commentum: sola patiuntur tormenta ludibrium. Habet quidem virginem nostram nuditas, sed pudicam. Discat ergo, discat uterque sexus ex virgine, non pulchritudinem colere, sed virtutem: fidem amare, non formam. Placiturus Domino, non decoris exspectare judicium, sed pudoris. Sed quia tuum est, Christe, totum quod meruit: tuum etiam quod peregit. Nec enim tela repellimus adversantium, nisi tuæ divinitatis beneficio sublevemur. Nunc præsta nobis, ut sicut hæc beatissima martyr tua pugnando præmium adepta est castitatis; ita nos commissorum nostrorum ad te dimissis contagiis, adipiscamur praemia tuæ promissionis.
Let virginity be glad in thee, O Lord, we beseech thee; and with it let its sister-virtue of continency rejoice. Battles like these are won not by sex but by courage; not by them that can well wield the sword, but by them that can be chaste; not by the combatant’s title, but by his motive. An innocent conscience fears not an armed legion. He that has vanquished sin, will not flinch at a sword. He that has conquered himself, easily conquers others: and if it be praiseworthy when a man does a virtuous act, it is more so when a virgin does a manly deed. The holy virgin Eulalia stands before a tribunal of ungodly men; and with God alone in her heart, she bids defiance to all their tortures. There comes a lictor as lustful as he is cruel: he punishes this bride of Christ as we may indeed call her, by the torture of his impure looks; and she that could have no adultery to atone for suffered its punishment from him that had. He reserves to the last what he knew was the worst; he exposes her body to the gaze of the spectators, and the stream of blood from the open gashes on her sides stains her flesh before the knife can open deeper wounds. Then was confounded the design of ths wicked tormentor, and his torments are insulted by the victim. Impiety strips our martyr, but modesty veils her. Let all, then, learn from this virgin to cultivate not beauty but virtue, not form but faith. He that would please the Lord must be tried not for how much comeliness he possesses, but for how much modesty he has. And yet, O Jesus! since it was from thee that Eulalia had all her merits, and from thee all that she achieved (for it is in vain that we would repel the darts of our enemies, unless we be shielded by thy divine mercy); grant, we beseech thee, that, as this thy most holy martyr won, by her combat, the reward of chastity, we also may be forgiven the uncleanness of our sins, and obtain the rewards thou hast promised.
Dignum et justum est, Domine Deus, qui tam prudentem virginem fidei sociatam apice gloriæ consecrasti, tibi gratias agere: Ut per quem facta est Mater Maria, fieret martyr Eulalia: illa pariendi affectu felix, ista moriendi. Illa implens Incarnationis officium, ista rapiens Passionis exemplum: illa credidit angelo, ista resistit inimico. Illa electa per quam Christus nasceretur: ista assumpta per quam diabolus vinceretur. Digna re Eulalia martyr et virgo placitura Domino suo: quæ, Spiritu sancto protegente, tenero sexu bellum forte sudaverit; et ultra opinionem humanæ virtutis ad tolerantiam pœnarum zelo tui amoris se obtulerit: quum in specie pretiosi Unigeniti tui sanguinem suum sub testimonio bonæ confessionis effuderit: et incorrupta flammis viscera in odorem suavissimi thymiamatis adoleverit. Vadit ad tribunal cruenti præsidis, non quaesita. In qua tam solum fuit animus incontihens ad secretum, quam locus competens ad triumphum. Lucratura regnum, contemptura supplicium, inventura quaesitum, visura confessum. Non trepida de pœna, non ambigua de corona, non defessa de equuleo, non diffisa de praemio. Interrogatur, confitetur; occiditur, coronatur. Ingentique miraculo majestas tua exhalatum virginis spiritum, quem assumpsit per flammam, suscepit per columbam. Ut hoc prodigio in cœlis martyr ascenderet, quo in terris Filium Pater ostenderat. Siquidem nec inhonorum patiuntur elementa corpusculum, quod deciduis nix aspersa velleribus, et virtutis rigorem et virginitatis tecta candorem eluceret, vestiret, absconderet. Superni velaminis operimento, cœlum funeri praestat exequias, et per misericordiam Redemptoris daret animae sedem, pro sepultura redderet dignitatem.
It is meet and just that we give thee thanks, O Lord, our God! who hast raised to the highest glory this most wise virgin that was loyal to the faith. Thus didst thou, that madest Mary be the Mother of Jesus, make Eulalia be a martyr of Jesus. The Mother was happy in giving him birth; the martyr in giving him her life. The Mother ministered to his Incarnation; the martyr imitated his Passion. Mary believed the angel that appeared to her; Eulalia withstood the enemy that tormented her. Mary was chosen by whom Christ should be born; Eulalia was elected by whom the devil should be conquered. Eulalia, the martyr and virgin, was indeed worthy to please her Lord, for, by the protection of the Holy Ghost, she, a young maiden, waged a fierce war; she, with more than human strength, made herself, for thy love, a victim of suffering; she, for the sake of thy beloved Son, shed her blood in the noble confession of her faith, and offered to him, as a fragrance of sweetest incense, the flesh which fire could not consume. She goes unbidden to the tribunal of the cruel persecutor. As fit as was the place for a triumph, so bold was her spirit to speak the secret of her faith. She wants a kingdom, she cares not for tortures, she would find him she longs for, she would see him that she confesses. Fearless of pain, certain of a crown, happy on her rack, hopeful of her prize. She is questioned, she confesses; men put her to death, God gives her the crown. By an admirable miracle, the virgin’s spirit, which thy divine Majesty did draw from its prison by a flame, thou didst take to thyself as a dove; thus under the same symbol whereby thou didst show thy Son to the earth, did thy martyr ascend into heaven. Neither did the elements withhold their homage; but over her body, which remained on the earth, they form a snowy canopy, that beautifies, and covers, and hides that body where there had ever been the inflexibility of virtue and the unsullied lily of virginity. Whilst thus her body lay palled in the coverlet of heaven’s making, her soul was placed, by the mercy of our Redeemer, on its throne. Rich compensation for the burial which men denied her!
And we too, O glorious martyr, would join our humble praises with these sublime expressions of the Church’s love for thee. The love of Jesus so filled thy heroic soul, that torments could not torture thee; nay, they satisfied thy love by giving thee to suffer for Him, until thy whole heart should be filled by possessing Him. And yet, with all this ardour which heeds no obstacle, with all this noble daring which makes thee confront a tyrant and a furious rabble, nothing is more gentle and meek than thy loving spirit. Pray for us to Him who made thee thus worthy to be His bride, that we also may be courageous in the fight against the enemies of our salvation, and full of that tender love for Jesus which can alone preserve us from hardness and pride of heart.
O thou, the glory of Iberia! O dove of peace, have pity on that Catholic land which prepared thee for heaven. Suffer not that the ancient faith grow dim in a country which, for ages, stood so prominent in the Catholic Church, as the faithful and fervent Spain. Pray for her, that the days of her trial may be shortened; that God may bring to nought the sacrilegious attempts of men, who have sworn to destroy His kingdom on earth; that He give to the clergy of Spain the courage and energy of former days; that He render fruitful the blood of her martyrs, who have already suffered; that He take away those scandals, which so readily mislead the simple and weak; and lastly, that He efface not thy beloved Spain from the number of Catholic nations, but spare, for the sake of the fathers, those among her children that are degenerate.
A Responsory of Advent
(Ambrosian breviary, fourth Sunday of Advent)
R. Per Gabrielis angeli os, nunciatum est Virgini Mariæ, et Verbum concepit e cœlo: * Et illum suscepit modicus uterus, cui parvus fuerat mundus. V. Spiritus sanctus in te ingredietur, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi: * Et illum suscepit modicus uterus, cui parvus fuerat mundus.
R. A message was announced to the Virgin Mary by the mouth of the angel Gabriel; and she conceived the Word from heaven: * And the womb of a tender Virgin contained him, whom the world was too little to contain. V. The Holy Ghost shall enter within thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: * And the womb of a tender Virgin contained him, whom the world was too little to contain.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
This great Pontiff comes before us in the liturgical year, not to bring us tidings of peace as St. Melchiades did, but as one of the most illustrious defenders of the great mystery of the Incarnation. He defends the faith of the universal Church in the divinity of the Word, by condemning, as his predecessor Liberius had done, the acts and the authors of the celebrated Council of Rimini. With his sovereign authority, he bore witness to the teaching of the Church regarding the Humanity of Jesus Christ, and condemned the heretic Apollinaris, who taught that Jesus Christ had assumed only the flesh and not the soul of man. He commissioned St. Jerome to make a new translation of the new Testament from the Greek, for the use of the Church of Rome; here, again, giving a further proof of the faith and love which he bore to the Incarnate Word. Let us honour this great Pontiff, whom the Council of Chalcedon calls ‘the ornament and support of Rome by his piety.’ St. Jerome, too, who looked upon St. Damasus as his friend and patron, calls him ‘a man of the greatest worth; a man whose equal could not be found, well versed in the holy Scriptures, and a virgin doctor of the virgin Church.’ The legend of the breviary gives us a brief account of his life.
(Taken from the Cluny Missal of 1523)
Damasus Hispanus, vir egregius et eruditus in Scripturis, indicto primo Constantinopolitano Concilio, nefariam Eunomii et Macedonii hæresim exstinxit. Idem Ariminensem conventum a Liberio jam ante rejectum, iterum condemnavit: in quo, ut scribit Sanctus Hieronymus, Valentis potissimum et Ursacii fraudibus damnatio Nicenæ fidei conclamata fuit, et ingemiscens orbis terrarum, se Arianum esse miratus est.
Basilicas duas ædificavit; alteram Sancti Laurentii nomine ad theatrum Pompeii, quam maximis muneribus auxit, eique domos, et prædia attribuit: alteram via Ardeatina ad Catacumbas. Platoniam etiam, ubi corpora sanctorum Petri et Pauli aliquandiu jacuerunt, dedicavit, et exornavit elegantibus versibus. Idemque prosa, et versu scripsit de virginitate, multaque alia metro edidit.
Pœnam talionis constituit iis, qui alterum falsi criminis accusassent. Statuit, ut quod pluribus jam locis erat in usu, psalmi per omnes ecclesias die noctuque ab alternis canerentur; et in fine cujusque psalmi diceretur: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui sancto. Ejus jussu sanctus Hieronymus novum Testamentum Græcæ fidei reddidit. Quum Ecclesiam rexisset annos decem et septem, menses duos, dies viginti sex, et habuisset ordinationes quinque mense Decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros triginta unum, diaconos undecim, episcopos per diversa loca sexaginta duos; virtute, doctrina, ac prudentia clarus, prope octogenarius, Theodosio seniore imperante, obdormivit in Domino, et via Ardeatina una cum matre et sorore sepultus est in basilica, quam ipse ædificaverat. Illius reliquiae postea translatae sunt in ecclesiam sancti Laurentii, ab ejus nomine in Damaso vocatam.
Damasus was a Spaniard, a man of highest worth, and learned in the Scriptures. He called the first Council of Constantinople, in which he condemned the impious heresy of Eunomius and Macedonius. He also condemned the Council of Rimini, which had already been rejected by Liberius, inasmuch as it was in this assembly of Rimini, as St. Jerome tells us, that mainly by the craft of Valens and Ursacius, was published a condemnation of the faith which had been taught by the Nicene Council, and thus the whole world grieved to find itself made Arian.
He built two basilicas; one dedicated to St. Laurence, near Pompey’s theatre, and this he endowed with magnificent presents, with houses and with lands: the other, on the Ardeatine Way, at the Catacombs. The bodies of SS. Peter and Paul lay for some time in a place richly adorned with marbles; this place he dedicated, and composed for it several inscriptions in beautiful verses. He also wrote on virginity, both in prose and verse, and several other poems.
He established the law of retaliation for cases of false accusation. He decreed that, as was the custom in many places, the psalms should be sung in all churches in alternate choirs, day and night; and that at the end of each psalm, there should be added: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.’ It was by his order that St. Jerome translated the new Testament from the Greek text. He governed the Church seventeen years, two months, and twenty-six days; and five times during this period, he gave ordinations, in the month of December, to thirty-one priests, eleven deacons, and sixty two bishops, for divers places. Conspicuous for his virtue, learning, and prudence, and having lived little short of eighty years, he slept in the Lord, during the reign of Theodosius the Great. He was buried in the basilica which he had built on the Ardeatine Way, where also lay his mother and sister. His relics were afterwards translated to the church of Saint Laurence, called after him St. Laurence’s in Damaso.
Holy Pontiff Damasus! during thy life on earth, thou wast the light, which guided the children of the Church; for thou didst teach them the mystery of the Incarnation, and didst guard them against those perfidious doctrines, wherewith hell ever strives to corrupt that glorious symbol of our faith, which tells us of God’s infinite mercy towards us, and of the sublime dignity of man thus mercifully redeemed. Seated on the Chair of Peter, thou didst confirm thy brethren, and thy faith failed not; for Jesus had prayed to His Father for thee. We rejoice at the infinite recompense with which this divine Prince of pastors has rewarded the unsullied purity of thy faith, O thou ‘virgin doctor of the virgin Church!’ Oh that we could have a ray of that light which now enables thee to see Jesus in His glory! Pray for us, that we may have light to see Him, and know Him, and love Him, under the humble guise in which He is so soon to appear to us. Obtain for us the science of the sacred Scriptures, in which thou wast so great a master; and docility to the teachings of the Bishop of Rome, to whom, in the person of St. Peter, Christ has said: ‘Launch out into the deep!’
Obtain also for all Christians, O thou the successor of this prince of the apostles, that they be animated with those sentiments, which St. Jerome thus describes in one of his letters addressed to thee: ‘It is the Chair of Peter that I will consult, for from it do I derive that faith which is the food of my soul. I will search for this precious pearl, heeding not the vast expanse of sea and land which I must pass over. Where the body is, there shall the eagles be gathered together. It is now in the west that the Sun of justice rises. I ask the Victim of salvation from the priest, and from the shepherd the protection of the sheep. On that rock I know the Church is built. He that eats the Lamb in any house but this, is profane. He that is not in Noah’s ark, shall perish in the waters of the deluge. I know not Vitalis, I reject Meletius, I pass by Paulinus. He that gathers not with thee, Damasus, scatters; for he that is not of Christ, is of Antichrist.’
Let us contemplate our divine Saviour in the womb of His most holy Mother Mary. Let us, together with the holy angels, adore Him in this state of profound humiliation, to which His love for us has brought Him. See Him there offering Himself to His Father for the redemption of mankind, and commencing at once to fulfil the office of our Mediator, which He has taken upon Himself. What an excess of love is this of our Jesus, that He is not satisfied with having humbled Himself in assuming our nature,though that alone would have sufficed to redeem a million worlds! The eternal Son of God wills to remain, as other children, nine months in His Mother’s womb: after that, to be born in poverty, to live a life of labour and suffering, and to be obedient to death, even to the death of the cross. O Jesus! mayst Thou be praised and loved by all creatures for this Thy immense love of us! Thou hast come down from heaven the Victim that art to take the place of all those which were hitherto offered, but which could not efface man’s sin. At length, the earth possesses its Saviour, though as yet unseen. God will not curse the earth, which, though covered with crime, is rich in such a treasure as this. Still repose, O Jesus, in the chaste womb of Mary, that living ark which contains the true manna sent for the food of man. But the time is approaching for Thee to leave this loved sanctuary. The tender love which Thou hast received from Mary, must be changed for the malice wherewith men will treat Thee; yet it must needs be that Thou be born on the day which Thou Thyself hast decreed: it is the will of Thy eternal Father, it is the expectation of the world, it is the salvation of all who shall love Thee.
Prose in Honor of the Blessed Virgin
(Taken from the Cluny missal of 1523)
Ave, mundi gloria, Virgo Mater Maria, Ave, benignissima.
Ave, plena gratia, Angelorum domina, Ave, praeclarissima.
Ave, decus virginum, Ave, salus hominum, Ave, potentissima.
Ave, Mater Domini, Genitrix Altissimi, Ave, prudentissima.
Ave, mater gloriæ, Mater indulgentiæ, Ave, beatissima.
Ave, vena veniæ, Fons misericordiæ, Ave, clementissima.
Ave, mater luminis, Ave, honor ætheris, Ave, porta cœlica, Ave, serenissima.
Ave, candens lilium, Ave, opobalsamum, Ave, fumi virgula, Ave, splendidissima.
Ave, mitis, Ave, dulcis, Ave, pia, Ave, læta, Ave, lucidissima.
Ave, porta, Ave, virga, Ave, rubus, Ave, vellus, Ave, felicissima.
Ave, clara cœli gemma, Ave, alma Christi cella, Ave, venustissima.
Ave, virga Jesse data, Ave, scala cœli facta, Ave, nobilissima.
Ave, stirpe generosa, Ave, prole gloriosa, Ave, fætu gaudiosa, Ave, excellentissima.
Ave, Virgo singularis, Ave, dulce salutaris, Ave, digna admirari, Ave, admirandissima.
Ave, turtur, tu quæ munda Castitate, sed fœcunda Charitate, tu columba, Ave, pudicissima.
Ave, mundi imperatrix, Ave, nostra mediatrix, Ave, mundi sublevatrix, Ave, nostrum gaudium. Amen.
Hail, thou glory of the world; hail, Virgin Mother; hail, most merciful Mary!
Hail, full of grace; hail, Queen of the angels; hail, most glorious Mary!
Hail, Virgin of virgins; hail, protectress of men; hail, most powerful Mary!
Hail, Mother of the Lord; hail, parent of the Most High; hail, most prudent Mary!
Hail, mother of glory; hail, mother of mercy; hail, most blessed Mary!
Hail, source of pardon; hail, fount of pity; hail, most clement Mary!
Hail, mother of light; hail, honour of the firmament; hail, gate of heaven; hail, most gentle Mary!
Hail, fair lily; hail, precious fragrance; hail, sweet incense; hail, most resplendent Mary!
Hail, O meek; hail, O sweet; hail, O merciful; hail, O joyous; hail, O most beautiful Mary!
Hail, gate of heaven; hail, branch prophetic; hail, flaming bush; hail, mystic fleece; hail, most happy Mary I
Hail, beautiful pearl of heaven; hail, fruitful abode of Christ; hail, most comely Mary!
Hail, branch of Jesse; hail, mystic ladder that reaches to heaven; hail, most noble Mary!
Hail, daughter of a kingly race; hail, Mother of a Son who is God; hail, full of joy at the birth of this Son; hail, unrivalled Mary!
Hail, peerless Virgin; hail, lovely source of our happiness; hail, wonderful in thy graces; hail, most admirable Mary!
Hail, spotless dove, pure in thy chastity, yet fruitful in charity; hail, immaculate Mary!
Hail, empress of the world; hail, mediatrix of men; hail, protectrix of the world; hail, joy of our hearts! Amen..
Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Monday of the first week of Advent)
Nunciatum ecce vocem jucunditatis et lætitiæ, quam do tua, Christe, Incarnatione audivimus; ut in nobis dulciori efficiamus charitate fruentiores, imploramus tuae magnitudinis exspectantes potentiam; ut ita in nobis vocis hujus effectus usquequaque praepolleat, ut non confundamur in ea, quum manifestata nobis fuerit gloria tua. Amen.
The tidings we have heard of thy Incarnation, O Jesus, have filled us with gladness and joy. We beseech thee, grant that we, who are expecting the manifestation of thy power, may enjoy the abundant sweetness of charity; that thus corresponding to the grace of the mystery announced to us, we may not be confounded when thy glory shall appear to us. Amen.
 St. Luke v. 4.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Let us contemplate the sentiments of profound respect and maternal tenderness, which fill the soul of our blessed Lady, now that she has conceived Jesus in her chaste womb: He is her God, and yet He is her Son. Let us think upon this wonderful dignity bestowed upon a creature; and let us honour the Mother of our God. It is by this mystery that the prophecy of Isaias was fulfilled: ‘Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son;’ and that of Jeremias: ‘The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.’ The Gentiles themselves had received the tradition of these prophecies. Thus in the old pagan Carnutum (Chartres), there was an altar dedicated ‘To the Virgin that was to bring forth a Son and that of Jeremias: 'The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.' 11 The Gentiles them- selves had received the tradition of these prophecies. Thus in the old pagan Oarnutum (Chartres), there was an altar dedicated ' To the Virgin that was to bring forth a Son and that of Jeremias: 'The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.' 11 The Gentiles them- selves had received the tradition of these prophecies. Thus in the old pagan Oarnutum (Chartres), there was an altar dedicated ' To the Virgin that was to bring forth a Son (Virgini Parituræ)’; and whilst modern rationalism, with its ignorant scepticism, was affecting to throw a doubt on this fact of history, the researches of science were discovering that Carnutum was far from being the only city of the west which had such an altar.
But what human language could express the dignity of our Lady, who carries within her chaste womb Him that is the world’s salvation! If Moses, after a mere colloquy with God, returned to the Israelites with the rays of the majesty of Jehovah encircling his head, what an aureola of glory is due to Mary, who has within her, as in a living heaven, that very God Himself! The divine Wisdom tempers the effulgence of her glory that it be not visible to men; and this in order that the state of humility, which the Son of God has chosen as the one in which He would manifest Himself to the world, should not be removed at the very outset by the dazzling glory which would, otherwise, have been seen gleaming from His Mother.
The sentiments which filled the heart of Mary during these months of her ineffable union with the divine Word, may be thus expressed in the words of the bride in the sacred Canticle: ‘I sat under the shadow of Him whom I desired; and His fruit was sweet to my palate. I sleep, but my heart watches. My soul melted when He spoke. I to my Beloved and my Beloved to me, who feedeth among the lilies, till the day break, and the shadows retire.’ And if there ever were a human heart, that was forced, by the overpowering vehemence of its love of God, to use these other words of the same Canticle, it was Mary’s: ‘O daughters of Jerusalem! stay me up with flowers, compass me about with fragrant fruits; for I languish with love.’ ‘These sweet words,’ says the venerable Peter of Celles, ‘are those of the bride that dwelleth in the gardens, and is now near the time of her delivery. What so lovely in creation as this Virgin, who loves the Lord with such matchless love and is so exceedingly loved by this her Lord? It is she of whom the Scripture speaks, when it calls the bride the dearest hind. What, too, so lovely as that well-beloved Son of God, born of His beloved Father from all eternity, and now, at the end of time, as the apostle speaks, formed in the womb of His dearest Mother, and become to her, in the words of the same divine proverb, the sweetest fawn? Let us, therefore, cull our flowers, and offer them to both Child and Mother. But let me briefly tell you what are the flowers you must offer to our Lady. Christ says, speaking of His Humanity, “I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys.” By Him, therefore, let us purify our souls and bodies, and so be able to approach our God in chastity. Next, preserve this flower of purity from all that would injure it; for flowers are tender things, and soon droop and fade. Let us wash our hands among the innocent, and, with a pure heart, and pure body, and cleansed lips, and chaste soul, let us gather in the paradise of our heavenly Father our fresh flowers for the new Nativity of our new King. With these flowers let us stay up this most saintly Mother, this Virgin of virgins, this Queen of queens, this Lady of ladies; that so we may deserve to receive the blessing of the Mother and of the divine Babe.’
Ave, Virgo gratiosa,
Virgo Mater gloriosa,
Mater Regis gloriæ.
Ave, fulgens margarita
Per quam venit mundi vita,
Christus sol justitiæ.
O oliva fructifera,
Tu pietatis viscera
Nulli claudis hominum.
Nos exsules laetificas,
Ut vitis, dum fructificas
Ave, Virgo Mater Dei,
Tu superni sol diei,
Et mundi noctis luna.
Clementior præ caeleris,
Succurre nobis miseris,
Mortalium spes unica.
Ave, decus virginale,
Templum Dei speciale! Per te fiat veniale
Omne quod committimus.
Tu nobis es singularis;
Tu nos ducas, stella maris;
Tu nos semper tuearis:
En ad te confugimus.
Ad te, pia, suspiramus,
Si non ducis, deviamus;
Ergo doce quid agamus;
Post hunc finem ut vivamus
Cum sanctis perenniter.
Jesu Christe, Fili Dei,
Tota salus nostræ spei;
Tuæ matris interventu,
Angelorum nos conventu
Fac gaudere jugiter.
Hail, Virgin full of grace!
of the King of glory!
Hail, fair pearl!
by whom came the life of the world,
Christ the Sun of justice.
O fruitful olive!
thou excludest no mortal
from thy tender compassion.
Thou givest gladness to us exiles,
for, like a fruitful vine,
thou yieldest thy fruit, Jesus our Lord.
Hail, Virgin Mother of God!
thou art the sun of the heavenly day!
thou art the moon of the world’s night!
Tenderest of Mothers!
help us poor mortals,
for God wills us to hope in thee above all creatures.
Hail, O purest Virgin!
God’s special temple! pray for us to him,
that he would forgive us all our sins.
Thou art unto us what no other creature is.
Guide us, O star of the sea!
Defend us always and in all places.
We fly to thee in our necessities.
Tender Mother! we pray thee guide us,
or we go astray.
Tell us what would thy Jesus have us do?
that so, after this life is ended,
we may live for ever with the saints.
O Jesus! Son of God,
our only Saviour, in whom rests all our hope!
grant by the intercession of thy Mother,
that we may be united
to the angels in eternal joy.
A Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, first Sunday of Advent)
Audivimus, Christe; confitemur, et credimus, quod de sinu Patris egrediens veneris, ut camis nostræ vestibulo cingereris, liberaturus, scilicet susceptæ Incarnationis mysterio, quod perierat naturæ vitiatæ contagio. Fac nos, praenuntiata adventus tui gaudia, promptissima surrectionis devotione excipere: ut quia tu e loco patrio, secretoque progrediens, salvaturus homines, humanitus properasti ad publicum; nos e loco criminis exeuntes, munditiores concitum Divinitatis tuæ prospectemus excursum: ut extrema vitæ nostræ, nullius discriminis conculcatione involvens: sic provoces terrore justitiæ, ut solita justifices pietate. Amen.
We have heard, O Christ, we confess, and believe, that thou art come from the bosom of thy Father, to clothe thyself in the cover of our flesh by the mystery of the Incarnation, that thou mayst thus deliver mankind, that had been lost by the corruption of sinful nature. Grant us so devoutly to welcome the joyful tidings of thy coming, that as thou, issuing from the divine sanctuary of thy Father’s bosom, didst, for man’s salvation, come into the world, in the form of man; we may abandon the sins in which we have been living, and hasten, thus purified, to meet thy divine majesty; that at the close of our lives, the fear of thy threats may not crush us by despair; but make us now so tremble at the dread of thy justice, that thy wonted mercy may then justify us. Amen.
 Isa. vii. 14.
 Jer. xxxi. 22.
 Cant. ii. 3, 16, 17; v. 2, 6.
 Ibid. ii. 5.
 Sermon for Christmas Eve.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
There comes to us, to-day, the fourth of our wise virgins, the valiant martyr, Lucy. Her glorious name shines on the sacred diptych of the Canon of the Mass, together with those of Agatha, Agnes, and Cecily; and as often as we hear it pronounced during these days of Advent, it reminds us (for Lucy signifies light) that He who consoles the Church, by enlightening her children, is soon to be with us. Lucy is one of the three glories of the Church of Sicily; as Catania is immortalized by Agatha, and Palermo by Rosalie, so is Syracuse by Lucy. Therefore, let us devoutly keep her feast: she will aid us by her prayers during this holy season, and will repay our love by obtaining for us a warmer love of that Jesus, whose grace enabled her to conquer the world. Once more let us consider, why our Lord has not only given us apostles, martyrs, and bishops as guides to us on our road to Bethlehem, but has willed also that we should be accompanied thither by such virgins as Lucy. The children of the Church are forcibly reminded by this, that, in approaching the crib of their sovereign Lord and God, they must bring with them, besides their faith, that purity of mind and body without which no one can come near to God. Let us now read the glorious acts of the virgin Lucy.
Lucia, virgo Syracusana, genere et Christiana fide ab infantia nobilis, una cum matre Eutychia, quæ sanguinis fluxu laborabat, Catanam ad venerandum corpus beatæ Agathæ venit. Quæ ad ejus sepulchrum quum suppliciter orasset, Agathæ intercessione matris sanitatem impetravit. Statim vero matrem exoravit, ut quam dotem sibi datura esset, Christi pauperibus tribui pateretur. Ut igitur Syracusas rediit, omnem pecuniam, quam ex facultatibus venditis redegerat, pauperibus distribuit.
Quod ubi rescivisset is, cui eam parentes contra virginis voluntatem desponderant, apud Paschasium praefectum, Luciam, quod Christiana esset, accusavit. Quam ille cum nec precibus nec minis ad cultum idolorum posset perducere; immo tanto magis incensam videret ad celebrandas christianæ fidei laudes, quanto magis ipse eam a sententia avertere conabatur: Cessabunt, inquit, verba, quum ventum erit ad verbera. Cui virgo: Dei servis verba deesse non possunt, quibus a Christo Domino dictum est: Quum steteritis ante reges et præsides, nolite cogitare quomodo aut quid loquamini; dabitur enim vobis in illa hora quid loquamini; non enim vos estis qui loquimini, sed Spiritus sanctus qui loquitur in vobis.
Quam quum Paschasius interrogasset: Estne in te Spiritus sanctus? Respondit: Caste et pie viventes templum sunt Spiritus sancti. At ille: Jubebo te ad lupanar duci, ut te Spiritus sanctus deserat. Cui virgo: Si invitam jusseris violari, castitas mihi duplicabitur ad coronam. Quare Paschasius ira inflammatus Luciam eo trahi jussit, ubi ejus virginitas violaretur: sed divinitus factum est, ut firma virgo ita consisteret, ut nulla vi de loco dimoveri possit. Quamobrem præfectus circum ipsam pice, resina, ac ferventi oleo perfusam, ignem accendi imperavit; sed quum ne flamma quidem eam læderet, multis tormentis excruciatae guttur gladio transfigitur. Quo vulnere accepto, Lucia prædicens Ecclesiæ tranquillitatem, quæ futura erat Diocletiano et Maximiano mortuis, Idibus Decembris, spiritum Deo reddidit. Cujus corpus Syracusis sepultum, deinde Constantinopolim, postremo Venetias translatum est.
Lucy, a virgin of Syracuse, illustrious by birth and by the Christian faith, which she had professed from her infancy, went to Catania, with her mother Eutychia, who was suffering from a flux of blood, there to venerate the body of the blessed Agatha. Having prayed fervently at the tomb, she obtained her mother’s cure, by the intercession of St. Agatha. Lucy then asked her mother that she would permit her to bestow upon the poor of Christ the fortune which she intended to leave her. No sooner, therefore, had she returned to Syracuse, than she sold all that was given to her and distributed the money amongst the poor.
When he, to whom her parents had against her will promised her in marriage, came to know what Lucy had done, he went before the prefect Paschasius and accused her of being a Christian. Paschasius entreated and threatened, but could not induce her to worship the idols; nay, the more he strove to shake her faith, the more inflamed were the praises which she uttered in professing its excellence. He said, therefore, to her: We shall have no more of thy words, when thou feelest the blows of my executioners. To this the virgin replied: Words can never be wanting to God’s servants, for Christ our Lord has said to them: When you shall be brought before kings and governors, take no thought how or what to speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what to speak; for it is not you that speak, but the holy Spirit that speaketh in you.
Paschasius then asked her: Is the holy Spirit in thee? She answered: They who live chastely and piously, are the temple of the holy Spirit. He said: I will order thee to be taken to a brothel, that this holy Spirit may leave thee. The virgin said to him: The violence wherewith thou threatenest me would obtain for me a double crown of chastity. Whereupon Paschasius being exceedingly angry, ordered Lucy to be dragged to a place where her treasure might be violated; but, by the power of God, so firmly was she fixed to the place where she stood, that it was impossible to move her. Wherefore the prefect ordered her to be covered over with pitch, resin, and boiling oil, and a fire to be kindled round her. But seeing that the flame was not permitted to hurt her, they tormented her in many cruel ways, and at length ran a sword through her neck. Thus wounded, Lucy foretold the peace of the Church, which would come after the death of Diocletian and Maximian, and then died. It was the Ides of December (Dec. 13). Her body was buried at Syracuse, but was translated thence first to Constantinople, and afterwards to Venice.
We here give some of the antiphons which occur in the Office of the saint: they form a lyric poem of great beauty.
Orante Sancta Lucia, apparuit ei beata Agatha, et consolabatur ancillam Christi.
Lucia virgo, quid a me petis, quod ipsa poteris præstare continuo matri tuæ?
Per te, Lucia virgo, civitas Syracusana decorabitur a Domino Jesu Christo.
Benedico te, Pater Domini mei Jesu Christi, quia per Filium tuum ignis extinctus est a latere meo.
In tua patientia possedisti animam tuam, Lucia, sponsa Christi: odisti quæ in mundo sunt, et coruscas cum angelis: sanguine proprio inimicum vicisti.
As Lucy was praying, there appeared unto her the blessed Agatha, and she comforted the handmaid of Christ.
O virgin Lucy! why askest thou of me, what thyself canst straightway grant unto thy mother?
Because of thee, O virgin Lucy! the city of Syracuse shall be honoured by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of Lucy: I bless thee, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because by thy Son the fire around me was quenched.
In thy patience thou didst possess thy soul, O Lucy, bride of Christ! thou didst hate the things that are in the world, and thou shinest among the angels. Thou didst conquer the enemy by thine own blood.
We present ourselves before thee, O virgin martyr, beseeching thee to obtain for us that we may recognize in His lowliness that same Jesus whom thou now seest in His glory. Take us under thy powerful patronage. Thy name signifies light; guide us through the dark night of this life. O fair light of virginity! enlighten us; evil concupiscence has wounded our eyes: pray for us, O thou bright light of virginity! that our blindness be healed, and that rising above created things, we may be able to see that true light, which shineth in darkness, but which darkness cannot comprehend. Pray for us, that our eye may be purified, and may see, in the Child who is to be born at Bethlehem, the new Man, the second Adam, the model on which the life of our regeneration must be formed. Pray too, O holy virgin, for the Church of Rome and for all those which adopt her form of the holy Sacrifice; for they daily pronounce at the altar of God thy sweet name; and the Lamb, who is present, loves to hear it. Heap thy choicest blessings on the fair Isle, which was thy native land, and where grew the palm of thy martyrdom. May thy intercession secure to her inhabitants firmness of faith, purity of morals, and temporal prosperity, and deliver them from the disorders which threaten her with destruction.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
On this same day, we have also the fifth of the wise virgins, whose bright lamps light us, during Advent, to the crib of Jesus their Spouse. Odilia did not shed her blood for Him, as did Bibiana, Barbara, Eulalia, and Lucy; her offering was her tears and her love. Her wreath of lilies blends sweetly with the roses, which form the crowns of her four companions. Her name is held in special veneration in the east of France, and beyond the Rhine. The holy hill whereon her tomb has rested now these thousand years, is still visited by numerous and devout pilgrims. Several kings of the Capetian race, and several emperors of the house of Hapsburg, were descendants of the father of our saint, Adalric or Atticus, Duke of Alsace.
Odilia was born blind. Her father insisted on her being removed from the house, for her presence would have been a continual humiliation to him. It seems as though this affliction was permitted by Providence, in order that the action and power of divine grace might be the more clearly manifested in her regard. The little exile was taken from her mother, and placed in a monastery. God, who designed to show the virtue of the holy Sacrament of regeneration, permitted that her Baptism should be deferred until she had reached her thirteenth year. The time at length came for Odilia to be made a child of God. No sooner was she taken from the baptismal font, than she received her eyesight, which was but a feeble figure of the light which faith had lit up in her soul. This prodigy restored Odilia to her father and to the world; and from that time forward, she had to defend, against unceasing attacks, the virginity which she had vowed to God. Her personal beauty, and her father’s wealth and power, attracted to her many rich suitors. She refused them all; and her father himself built a monastery on the rocks of Hohenburg, wherein she served her divine Lord, governed a large community, and gave relief to every sort of suffering.
After a long life spent in prayer, penance, and works of mercy, the day came which was to reward her for it all. It was this very day, the thirteenth of December, the feast of the holy virgin Lucy. The sisters of Hohenburg, desirous of treasuring up her last words, assembled round their saintly abbess. She was in an ecstasy, and already dead to the things of this life. Fearing lest she should die before she had received that holy Viaticum, which leads the soul to Him who is her last end, the sisters thought it their duty to rouse her from the mystic sleep, which, so it seemed to them, rendered her forgetful of the duties which she had to perform. Being thus brought to herself, she turned to the community, and said to them: ‘Dear sisters, why have you disturbed me? Why would you again oblige me to feel the weight of this corruptible body, when I had once left it? By the favour of His divine Majesty, I was in the company of the virgin Lucy, and the delights I was enjoying were so great that no tongue could tell them, nor ear hear them, nor human eye see them.’ No time was lost in giving her the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, which having received, she immediately rejoined her heavenly companion, and the thirteenth day of December thus united into one the feasts of the abbess of Hohenburg and of the martyr of Syracuse.
The Church of Strasburg, which honours Odilia as one of its greatest glories, has the following lessons for this feast. By giving them a place here, we do not adopt the statement they contain with regard to the rule which was followed in the monastery of Hohenburg. Mabillon, who proves that St. Odilia followed the rule of St. Benedict, shows that the Canonical Rule, as it was called, did not exist at that time.
Odilia, suæ decus et præsidium patriæ, Attici Alsatiæ ducis et Beresindæ primogenita soboles fuit; sed quod cæcis oculis nata esset, a patre repudiatam, mater humanior clam nutrici alendam tradidit. Post in Balmensi parthenio haud procul Vesontione educata, divinisque erudita litteris crevit aetate et sapientia. Jam adulta, dum a beato Erhardo præsule baptizatur, visum miraculo accepit. Interjectis aliquot annis, paternam in domum et gratiam reducitur. Ibi quidquid mundus amat despiciens, inter amplissimas opes paupertatis amorem, in medio aulae tumultu solitudinem anachoretarum retinebat; nuptiasque constanter aversata, post longum et acre certamen a patre obtinuit, ut sibi liceret cum aliis virginibus Deo se in perpetuum consecrare. Quare Atticus in vertice excelsi montis sacram sedem et monasterium ære suo excitavit, latos eidem fundos et prædia concessit, Odiliamque ei regendo præposuit.
Vixdum patuerat hoc sanctitatis asylum, quum ingens eo affluxit virginum multitudo; centum triginta fuisse traditum est. Hae primum nullis religiosae vitae legibus adscriptæ erant: Odiliam imitari pro legibus habebatur. Deliberantibus postmodo cuinam se regulæ addicerent, monasticae an canonicae; sapientissima praeses suadente loci natura, hanc alteri praetulit.
Cum vero esset in omnes lenis, se solam durius arctabat; pane hordeaceo et aqua, subinde modico legumine, tolerabat vitam. In rerum divinarum contemplatione defixa, vigilabat majorem noctis partem; quod supererat, quieti datum: pellis hirsuta pro lecto, saxum pro pulvinari erat.
Inter haec, materno erga pauperes et infirmos amore, aliud monasterium amplumque xenodochium in infimo clivo extraxit, quo facilius afflictae suae fortunae perfugium invenirent. Illic non solum sacras virgines collocavit, quae operam suam navarent miseris; sed etiam ipsa quotidie eos invisebat, cibis, solatiis refocillabat, neque pavebat leprosorum ulcera suis manibus fovere. Tandem meritis annisque gravis, quum se morti vicinam intelligeret, suas sodales in sacellum sancti Joannis Baptistae convocat: hortatur ut pii propositi tenaces arctiorem cœli viam nunquam deserant. Accepto deinde ibidem Corporis et Sanguinis Christi Viatico, vita cessit Idibus Decembris, anno, ut probabilius traditur, septingentesimo vigesimo. Corpus virginis in eodem sacello conditimi est, statimque sepulchrum ejus maxima veneratione coli ac miraculis clarere coepit.
Odilia, the glory and the protectress of her country, was the eldest child of Adalric, Duke of Alsace, and of Beresind his wife. Being born blind, she was repudiated by her father; but the mother, with more compassion, had her nursed privately. Later on she was sent to the monastery of Baume, not far from Besancon, where she was educated, and instructed in the holy Scriptures, and grew in age and wisdom. When an adult, she was baptized by the holy bishop Erhard, and was on that occasion miraculously cured of her blindness. After the lapse of some years, she was recalled to her father’s house, and became the object of his affection. During this time, she despised all that the world loves, preferring poverty to the greatest wealth, and leading a hermit’s life, amidst all the distractions of her father’s palace. She rejected, with great resolution, all the offers of marriage which were made to her, and, after a long and hard contest, obtained her father’s consent to devote herself for ever to God, with several other virgins. For this end, Adalric built, at his own cost, a church and monastery on the top of a high hill, and richly endowed it with land and possessions. It was at his request that Odilia was appointed to govern the monastery.
Scarce was this abode of sanctity established, when many sought for admission, and, as it is related, the community numbered no less than a hundred and thirty. At the commencement, no special rule was followed, the imitation of Odilia was their rale. When afterwards it was deliberated on which of the two rales should be adopted, the monastic or the canonical, this latter was preferred by the discreet Abbess, as being better adapted to the circumstances of the place.
To all around her she was indulgent; to herself alone she was severe. Her only food was barley-bread and water, to which she sometimes added a few herbs. Her contemplation of divine things was continual; she gave to it the greatest part of the night, and spent the rest in sleep. Her bed was a rough skin, and a stone her pillow.
To this she added a maternal solicitude for the poor and sick, for whom she built another monastery, and also a large hospital at the foot of the hill, that so they might have readier assistance in their various miseries. She not only placed there several of the nuns to take care of the poor inmates, but every day visited them herself, fed them and comforted them, and hesitated not to dress with her own hands the loathsome sores of lepers. At length, weighed down by age and merit, and knowing that her death was at hand, she assembles her sisters in the oratory of St. John the Baptist, and there exhorts them to continue firm to their holy engagements, and never to leave the narrow path which leads to heaven. Having received in the same place the Viaticum of the Body and Blood of Christ, she departed this life on the Ides of December (Dec. 13), and according to the more probable opinion, in the year seven hundred and twenty. The body of the holy virgin was buried in the same oratory, and her tomb became immediately an object of the greatest veneration to the faithful, and was celebrated for the miracles wrought there.
The ways of God in thy regard, O holy virgin, were admirable indeed, and He manifested in thee the riches and power of His grace. He deprived thee of sight, that so thy soul might the more eagerly cling to His own infinite beauty; and when afterwards He bestowed on thee thy bodily vision, thou hadst already made choice of the better part. The harshness of thy father deprived thee of the innocent pleasures of home; but it prepared thee to become the spiritual mother of so many noble virgins, who, following thy example, trampled on all the vanities of the world. Thou didst choose a life of humility, because thy heavenly Spouse Jesus had humbled Himself for our sake. Thou didst imitate Him also in His being our divine Deliverer, and taking upon Himself all our miseries, for thou hadst the tenderest compassion on the poor and the sick. Thou didst take on thyself the care of a poor leper, that had been abandoned by all else; with a mother’s courage thou didst feed him, and affectionately dress his loathsome sores. And is it not this that our Jesus is coming down from heaven to do for us; to heal our wounds by embracing our human nature, and to nourish us with that food, which He is preparing to give us at Bethlehem? Whilst the leper was receiving thy loving care, the frightful disease which excluded him from the society of his fellow-creatures suddenly disappeared; a delicious odour came from his whole person, whereas before, none but a saint like thyself could have borne to approach him. Is it not this which Jesus is coming down to do for us? The leprosy of sin was upon us; His grace heals us, and man regenerated sheds around him the good odour of Christ.
In the midst of the joys which thou art now sharing with Lucy, remember us, O thou that wast ever so compassionate to the needy! We cannot forget the tears thou didst shed, and the prayers thou didst offer up for the soul of thy father after his death, whereby thou didst deliver him from purgatory, and open the gates of heaven to him that had banished thee from his house. Thou art no longer in the land of tears; thine eyes are opened to the light of heaven, and contemplate God in His glory: pray therefore for us, for thy prayers are now more powerful than heretofore. Think of us who are poor and infirm; obtain the cure of our maladies. The Emmanuel, who is coming to us, tells us that He is the Physician of our souls, for He has said: 'They that are in health need not the Physician, but they that are ill.’ Ask Him to cure us of the leprosy of sin, and make us become even like unto Himself. Pray for France, thy country, and help her to maintain the purity of the Catholic faith. Watch over the ruins of the holy empire. Heresy has disunited the members of that great body; but it will once more flourish, if our Lord, propitiated by such prayers as thine, vouchsafe to bring Germany back again to the true faith and to submission to the Church. Yes, pray that these glorious things be brought about for the honour and glory of thy divine Spouse, and that nations, now weary of their errors and disunion, may unite together in propagating the kingdom of God upon earth.
Let us consider the ever blessed Mother of God leaving her humble dwelling at Nazareth, in order to visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth. The Church honours this mystery of the Visitation on the Friday in Ember Week of Advent, as we have mentioned above, in the Proper of the Time. We will let St. Bonaventure relate this sublime incident of Mary’s life, convinced that our readers will be pleased to hear the seraphic Doctor revealing to them, with his wonderful unction, these preludes to the birth of Jesus.
‘After, this, our Lady, pondering the words spoken unto her by the angel concerning her cousin Elizabeth, resolved to visit her, that she might congratulate with her and render her service. She, therefore, together with Joseph her spouse, set out from Nazareth for the house of Elizabeth, which might perhaps be fourteen or fifteen miles distant from Jerusalem. Neither the roughness nor the length of the journey discouraged her; but she walked with haste, forasmuch as she wished to be little seen in public. She was not like other mothers, burthened by her Child, nor was it to be thought that the Lord Jesus would be a burthen to His Mother. See, therefore, how the Queen of heaven and earth takes this journey alone, with none but her spouse Joseph; not riding, but walking; neither is she escorted by troops of soldiers and barons, nor attended by handmaids and fine ladies. Her train is poverty, humility, modesty, and the beauty of all virtues. The Lord Himself, too, is with her; and He verily hath a numerous and honourable suite, but it is not that of the world, vain and pompous.
‘Now, when she had entered the house of Elizabeth, she greeted her saying: “ Hail! my sister Elizabeth!” But she, exulting, and all full of joy, and inflamed by the holy Spirit, rises and most tenderly embraces Mary, exclaiming for joy: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And whence is this to me, that there should come unto me the Mother of my Lord?” For as soon as the Virgin had greeted Elizabeth, John, in his mother’s womb, was filled with the Holy Ghost, as was likewise the mother. Nor was it that the mother was filled and then her child, but contrariwise the child was filled first, and he communicated the Spirit unto the mother. The babe effected nought in Elizabeth’s soul, but he merited that the Holy Ghost should do a work in her soul, because the grace of the divine Spirit had descended into him with greater abundance, and he was the first to receive the grace. And as Elizabeth had perceived the coming of Mary, so did John perceive the coming of Jesus. Therefore was it that he leaped for joy, and she prophesied. See the virtue of our Lady’s words, when by their utterance the Holy Ghost is conferred; for so replenished was Mary with Him, that, by her merits, He filled others also with Himself. Upon this, Mary made answer unto Elizabeth, saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
Sequence in Honor of the Mother of God
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French missals)
Hodiernæ lux diei
Celebris in Matris Dei
Decantemus in hac die
Semper Virginis Mariæ
Landes et præconia.
Omnis homo, omni hora,
Ipsam ora et implora
Psalle, psalle, nisu toto,
Cordis, oris, voce, voto:
Ave plena gratia!
Ave, Domina cœlorum,
Inexperta viri torum,
Parens paris nescia.
Fœcundata sine viro,
Genuisti more miro
Florens hortus Austro flante,
Porta clausa post et ante,
Via viris invia.
Fusa cœli rore tellus,
Fusum Gedeonis vellus,
Salve, splendor firmamenti:
Tu caliginosae menti
Placa mare, maris stella,
Ne involvat nos procella
Et tempestas obvia.
A happy day is this!
for on it we make commemoration of Mary,
the Mother of God.
Lot us sing to-day
the praises and the dignity of the ever blessed
Whoe’er thou art,
and where’er thou art,
pray to her, beseech her to help thee.
Sing, sing, with all thy heart
and voice’s power;
Hail Mary! full of grace.
Hail, Queen of heaven,
purest of Virgins,
yet incomparable Mother!
Made fruitful by God,
thou, his creature, didst give birth,
O prodigy of prodigies! to thy Creator.
Here was the prophecy fulfilled;
that a garden should flower under the breath of the south wind;
that all its gates were closed, and no man could enter.
Mary is the earth spoken of as enriched with the dew of heaven;
she is as Gedeon’s fleece prefigured her,
filled with the dew of the Godhead.
Hail, Mary, thou brightness of heaven!
bring to our darkness
the light that is from above.
O star of the sea,
calm its storms,
and suffer not that they overwhelm us.
Introit of Advent
(Ambrosian missal, sixth Sunday, Ingressa)
Videsne Elisabeth cum Dei Genitrice Maria disputantem: Quid ad me venisti, Mater Domini mei? Si enim scirem, in tuum venirem occursum. Tu enim Regnatorem portas, et ego prophetam: tu legem dantem, et ego legem accipientem: tu Verbum, et ego vocem proclamantis adventum Salvatoris.
Seest thou not Elizabeth thus speaking to Mary the Mother of God: How is it that thou, the Mother of my Lord, art come unto me? for if I had known of thy coming, I would have come to meet thee. For thou bearest the King, and I the prophet; thou him that giveth the law, and I him that receiveth the law; thou the Word, and I the Voice that proclaimeth the coming of the Redeemer.
 2 Cor. ii. 14, 15.
 St. Matt. ix. 12.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Let us consider how our blessed Lady, having arrived at the house of her holy cousin Elizabeth, rendered her every possible service with the greatest love, favoured her with her sweet and holy conversations, assisted at the glorious birth of St. John the Baptist, and at length returned home to her humble dwelling in Nazareth. But, that we may the better enter into these divine mysteries, let us again listen to the seraphic St. Bonaventure.
‘When, therefore, her time was expired, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, whom our Lady took up, and with all diligence did what was required. The babe looked into Mary’s face like one that knew her; and as she gave him unto his mother, he turned his head towards Mary, for he fain would be in her arms again. Mary, on her part, delighted in nursing this holy babe, and fondled him, and kissed him with great joy. Consider the honour that is here given unto John. Never had child such arms as these to carry him. Many other privileges are related as being granted unto him; but for this present, I must needs pass them by.
‘Now, on the eighth day, the child was circumcised, and was called John. Then was the mouth of Zachary opened, and he prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel!” Thus were made, in that house, the two most beautiful canticles, namely, the Magnificat and the Benedictus. Meanwhile our Lady, going aside lest she should be seen by those that had come together for the ceremony, listened attentively to the canticle of Zachary, which prophesied of her Son, and most prudently pondered in her heart upon all these things. At length, when the time came for her to return home, she bade Elizabeth and Zachary farewell, and, giving John her blessing, she returned unto Nazareth. Recall to thy mind, in this her second journey, all that was told thee of her poverty. She returned to her house, where she would find neither bread, nor wine, nor those things which were needed. She had no property, nor money. She had been, now these three months, living with persons who were very rich; but now she returns unto her poor cottage, and has to procure her livelihood by the labour of her hands. Do thou sympathize with her, and learn to love poverty.’
Sequence in Honour of Our Blessed Lady
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French Missals)
Ave, Virgo gloriosa,
Cœli jubar, mundi rosa,
Ave, gemma pretiosa,
Super solem speciosa,
Spes reorum, O Maria,
Redemptoris Mater pia,
Finis lethi, vitæ via;
Tibi triplex hierarchia
Digna dat præconia.
Virga Jesse florida,
Stella maris lucida,
Sidus veræ lucis.
Fructum vitæ proferens,
Et ad portum transferens
Salutis, quod ducis.
Florens hortus, ægris gratus,
Puritatis fons signatus,
Dans fluenta gratiæ.
Thronus veri Salomonis,
Quem præclaris cœli donis
Ornavit Rex gloriæ.
O regina pietatis,
Et totius sanctitatis
In te salva confidentes,
Potu nos reficiens.
Ad te flentes suspiramus,
Rege mentes, invocamus,
Evæ proles misera.
Statum nostræ paupertatis,
Vultu tuæ bonitatis,
Cella fragrans aromatum,
Tuam nobis fragrantiam
Spirans, infunde gratiam
Dulcis Jesu Mater bona,
Mundi salus, et Matrona
Pacem confer sempiternam,
Et ad lucem nos supernam
Transfer post exsilium.
Hail, O glorious Virgin!
brightness of the heavens, rose of the world,
lily of purity.
Hail, precious gem!
more beauteous than the sun,
and joy of pure souls.
Thou art the sinner’s hope, O Mary!
thou art the holy Mother of our Redeemer,
and the consolation of us whom he redeemed.
Thou didst stay the reign of death,
thou didst commence the reign of life.
To thee, O Mary, the triple hierarchy sing their praises.
Hail! flowery stem of Jesse,
bright star of the sea,
source that broughtest to us him that is our true light.
Thou bearest the fruit of life,
and he whom thou leadest
will not miss the port of salvation.
O flowery garden, so sweet to the sick!
O sealed fount of purity,
that gavest us Jesus, the author of grace.
Thou throne of the true Solomon,
enriched by the King of glory
with the best of heaven’s gifts.
O merciful Queen!
thou art the rich unfailing
stream of all sanctity.
Have pity on us who trust in thee,
and refresh our thirsty souls
with thy efficacious prayers.
Hear our sighs, O Mary!
and suffer us not,
poor children of Eve, to go astray.
Look with thy eye of love
on our many wants:
compassionate our poverty.
Vessel of every fragrance,
and Mother and treasury
of divine grace.
Breathe thy fragrance
into our souls,
and obtain for us the riches of grace.
Beautiful Mother of our sweet Jesus!
the world received its Saviour through thee,
and the heavenly citizens call thee Queen.
Obtain for us that peace which has no end,
and, after this our exile,
that light which is divine.
Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Friday of the second week of Advent, Capitula)
Dominator desiderabilis, Domine Jesu Christe, quasi ignis conflans ab scoriis peccaminum nos absterge: et quasi aurum purum argentumque purgatum, nos effice; tuoque inspiramine, ad quaerendum te jugiter, conia nostra succende: Ut ad te ardenter nostra desideria anhelent, tibique conjungi tota aviditate festinent. Amen.
O King, whom our hearts desire, Lord Jesus Christ, come, we beseech thee, cleanse us as a furnace of fire from the dross of our sins, and make us like gold that is pure, and like silver that is without alloy. Inflame our hearts, by thy inspiration, that they seek thee unceasingly: so may our desires long with all ardour after thee, and pant with all eagerness to be united with thee. Amen.
This, the eighth day from that on which we kept the feast of the Immaculate Conception, is the octave properly so called; whereas the other days were simply called days within the octave. The custom of keeping up the principal feasts for a whole week is one of those which the Christian Church adopted from the Synagogue. God had thus spoken in the Book of Leviticus: 'The first day shall be called most solemn and most holy, you shall do no servile work therein. . . . The eighth day also shall be most solemn and most holy, and you shall offer holocausts to the Lord, for it is the day of assembly and congregation: you shall do no servile work therein.' We also read in the Book of Kings, that Solomon, having called all Israel to Jerusalem for the dedication of the temple, suffered not the people to return home until the eighth day.
We learn from the Books of the new Testament that this custom was observed in our Saviour’s time, and we find Him authorizing, by His own example, this solemnity of the octave. Thus, we read in Saint John, that Jesus once took part in one of the Jewish festivals, about the midst of the feast; and the same Evangelist relating how our Lord cried out to the people: 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink’: observes, that it was on the last and great day of the festivity.
In the Christian Church there are three kinds of octaves. Some feasts are celebrated with a privileged octave—that is, one of which the Office is said daily, or at least a commemoration is always made. Other feasts have a common octave, or one whose commemoration may, on greater feasts, be sometimes omitted. And, lastly, some have a simple octave, of which only the Octave Day itself is kept or commemorated. Privileged octaves, whose office is said or commemorated every day, are divided into three Orders. The octaves of the First Order are those of Easter and Pentecost. Those of the Second Order, of which days within the octave exclude all feasts except doubles of the First Class, are the octaves of the Epiphany and of Corpus Christi. The octaves of the Third Order, which must always be commemorated, although days within the octave exclude only the same feasts as do common octaves, are those of Christmas and of the Ascension of Our Lord. The octave of the Immaculate Conception, the first that occurs in the ecclesiastical year, is a common octave.
Let us once more devoutly reverence the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception: our Emmanuel loves to see His Mother honoured. After all, is it not for Him and for His sake that this bright star was prepared from all eternity, and created when the happy time fixed by the divine decree came? When we honour the Immaculate Conception of Mary, it is really to the divine mystery of the Incarnation that we are paying our just homage. Jesus and Mary cannot be separated, for Isaias tells us that she is the branch and He the Flower.
We give Thee thanks, O Jesus our Emmanuel, because Thou hast granted us to live during the time that the privilege of Thy blessed Mother was proclaimed on this earth; the glorious privilege wherewith Thou didst enrich the first instant of the life of the happy creature, from whom Thou didst take upon Thyself our human nature! This definition of Thy Church has given us a clearer knowledge of Thine infinite holiness. It has taught us to see more distinctly the harmony there is in all Thy divine mysteries. But it has also impressed upon us the great truth that we ourselves, being destined to the most intimate union with Thee here, and to the face to-face vision of Thy infinite Majesty hereafter, must labour without ceasing to purify ourselves from the smallest stains of sin. Thou hast said: 'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God'; and Thou showest us, by the dogma of Thy blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception, what is the purity which Thy sovereign sanctity demands of us. Ah! by the love, which led Thee to preserve her from every stain of sin, have mercy on us who are her devoted children. Thou art so soon to be among us! Before many days are past we shall have yielded to Thy invitations, and have presumed to approach Thy sacred crib. We are not yet ready, dear Jesus! The effects of original sin are still so plainly upon us, and, what is worse, there are so many of our own sins, which we have added to this of our first parent. Oh! prepare our hearts and our senses, for we will not approach to Bethlehem unworthily. The sinless purity of Thy Mother is not for us; we ask not for that; but we ask for forgiveness of our countless sins, for conversion, for hatred of the world and the world’s maxims, and for perseverance in Thy holy love.
O Mary! created mirror of divine justice, and purer than the Cherubim and Seraphim, in return for the homage paid thee by this our generation, on that blissful day when the glory of thy Immaculate Conception was proclaimed throughout the world, give us that abundant richness of thy protecting love, which thou didst reserve till now. The world is shaken to its very foundations: thy hand can help it to rest again. Hell has let loose upon mankind the most terrible of its spirits of wickedness, who breathe but blasphemy and destruction; but, at the same time, the Church of thy Jesus feels that her youth has been renewed within her, and that the seed of the divine word is broadcast and healthy in a thousand fresh portions of the earth. Never was the battle more fierce on both sides: so that we need all our hope to make us feel that hell will not prevail. Is this the great struggle, which is to be followed by the day of judgement?
O blessed Mother of Jesus! O Queen of the universe! can it be that the star of thy Immaculate Conception has shone in the heavens only to light up the ruin and wreck of this earth? The sign foretold by the beloved disciple St. John, of the woman that appeared in the heavens clad with the sun, bearing on her head a crown of twelve stars, and crushing the crescent beneath her feet—has it not more brightness and power than that other, which appeared in the heavens telling men that God’s anger was appeased, and that the deluge was over? The light which shines upon us is from a Mother. It is our Mother that comes to console and heal us. It is heaven that smiles upon poor guilty earth. We have deserved the chastisement we have received, and more than we have received: but the anger of God will give way, and He will spare us.
The graces which God poured out upon the world on that great day of the Church’s definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, were not to be without their effect; a new period then commenced. Mary, on whom heresy had heaped its blasphemies for three hundred years, will again reign in the love of those whom her Son redeemed; countries will abandon those errors which have made them slaves and dupes of men’s doctrines; the old serpent will again writhe under that crushing pressure which God set up from the beginning; and the divine Sun of justice will pour out on the regenerated world the floods of a light more than ever dazzling and resplendent. We may not live to see that time; but we have signs of ite near approach.
It was in the last century that thy devout servant whom the Church has placed upon her altars, Leonard of Porto-Maurizio, predicted that when this dogma of thy Immaculate Conception should be defined, the world would enjoy a long period of peace. The troubles of the present time in which we are living are, we doubt not, a prelude to that happy peace, during which the divine word will traverse the whole world unimpeded, and the Church militant will reap her harvest for the Church in heaven. Sweet Mother of our Jesus! the world was also in agitation in those times which preceded the birth of thy divine Son; but peace reigned throughout the whole earth, when thou didst give it its Saviour in Bethlehem. Until that grand time come when thou wilt show to the world the magnificence of the power which God has given to thee, assist us, each year, to prepare for the glorious solemnity of Christmas: oh! pray for us, that we may be cleansed from all our sins when that splendid night comes, during which will be born of thee Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the light eternal.
Prose in Honour of the Holy Mother of God
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French missals)
Cor devotum elevetur,
Ut devote celebretur
Mens amore inflammetur
Et amori copuletur
Laus et jubilatio.
Haec concepta miro more
Est ut rosa cum nitore,
Est ut candens lilium.
Ut fructus exit a flore,
Est producta cum pudore,
Praeventa per Filium.
Sicut ros non corrumpitur,
Quando in terra gignitur,
Sic Virgo non inficitur.
Quum in matre concipitur,
Nos ergo dulci carmine,
Laudemus in hac Virgine
Conceptum Bine nubilo.
Hanc conceptam ex semine,
Et mundam ab origine,
Laudet chorus cum jubilo.
Ut mota dulci modulo,
Nos servet in hoc saeculo
Mundos ab omni crimine.
Et in mortis articulo,
Liberet a periculo
Et inferni voragine.
Let every heart that is devout now raise itself
and devoutly celebrate the Conception
of the Virgin ever blessed.
Let the mind be inflamed with love;
and let praise and jubilee
unite with the love.
In her admirable Conception,
she is a rose in its beauty,
she is a lily in its whiteness.
As fruit that comes from the flower,
so was Mary brought forth in her purity,
for her Son had possession of her from the first.
As a dew-drop contracts not a stain
from the earth
whereon ’tis formed,
So was Mary untainted by original sin
when she was conceived
in her mother’s womb.
Let us then sing our sweetest hymn
in praise of a cloudless brightness,
the Immaculate Conception.
Put on all your joy, ye choirs of earth,
and sing of her, that was a daughter of Adam,
but not of his sin.
May she be pleased with our hymns,
and defend us from all sin
in this our present life.
And when our last hour comes,
deliver us by her prayers from the abyss of hell,
into which the devil will seek to drag us.
A Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, fourth Sunday of Advent, Oratio)
Nova et inaudita sunt, Domine, quæ propheticus sermo intonuit mundo: quod novo Virginis partu salvatio exorietur creaturarum; cujus admirabile incarnationis mysterium quia devota cordium susceptione Ecclesia suscipit lætabunda: quaesumus, ut in laudem ejus et nova illi cantica deferat et accepta: ut cujus laus ab extremis terrae concinitur, ejus voluntas in toto mundo a fidelibus impleatur. Amen.
New and unheard-of tidings are those, which the word of thy prophet, O Lord, has announced to the world: A Virgin shall bring salvation to mankind by giving birth to her Son. Now, therefore, that thy Church, filled with joy, is preparing to receive, with great devotion, this admirable mystery of the Incarnation; we beseech thee, give her to celebrate the praise of the Incarnate Word with new and welcome canticles; that thus, he, whose praise is sung in the furthermost parts of the earth, may see his will fulfilled by the faithful throughout the universe. Amen.
 Lev. xxiii. 35, 36.
 St. John vii 14.
 Ibid. 37.
 Is. xi. 1.
 St. Matt. v. 8.
 Apoc. xii. 1.