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Sanctoral Cycle

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ; veni et illumina sedentesin tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Orient! splendour of eternal light, and Sun of justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

O Jesus, divine Sun! Thou art coming to snatch us from eternal night: blessed for ever be Thy infinite goodness! But Thou puttest our faith to the test, before showing Thyself in all Thy brightness. Thou hidest Thy rays, until the time decreed by Thy heavenly Father comes, in which all Thy beauty will break upon the world. Thou art traversing Judea; Thou art near Jerusalem; the journey of Mary and Joseph is nigh its term. Crowds of men pass or meet Thee on the road, each one hurrying to his native town, there to be enrolled, as the edict commands. Not one of all these suspects that Thou, O divine Orient! art so near him. They see Thy Mother Mary, and they see nothing in her above the rest of women; or if they are impressed by the majesty and incomparable modesty of this august Queen, it is but a vague feeling of surprise at there being such dignity in one so poor as she is; and they soon forget her again. If the Mother is thus an object of indifference to them, it is not to be expected that they will give even so much as a thought to her Child, that is net yet born. And yet this Child is Thyself, O Sun of justice! Oh! increase our faith, but increase, too, our love. If these men loved Thee, O Redeemer of mankind, Thou wouldst give them the grace to feel Thy presence. Their eyes, indeed, would not yet see Thee, but their hearts, at least, would burn within them, they would long for Thy coming, and would hasten it by their prayers and sighs. Dearest Jesus! who thus traversest the world Thou hast created, and who forcest not the homage of Thy creatures, we wish to keep near Thee during the rest of this Thy journey: we kiss the footsteps of her that carries Thee in her womb; we will not leave Thee, until we arrive together with Thee at Bethlehem, that house of bread, where, at last, our eyes will see Thee, O splendour of eternal light, our Lord and our God!

Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Monday of the fifth week. Oratio)

Immane satis facinus video coram tuis, Deus Pater, oculis a reprobis perpetratum: qui, dum Filium tuum, prædicatum in Lege, contemnunt, in incredulitatis suæ voragine remanserunt; dum hi quibus non erat de eo nuntiatum, viderunt eum, et qui non audierunt, intelligentia contemplati sunt. Amove ergo, quæsumus, quidquid resistit tibi in opere, ut credulo pectore sic in nobis virgulta donorum praepolleant, ut radix humilitatis nunquam arescat. Amen.
O God, our Father! what horrid crime is this I see committed in thy presence by the reprobate Jews! They spurn thy Son, that was foretold in the Law, and remain in the gulf of their incredulity; whereas, they to whom he was not announced, have seen him; and they who heard not, contemplated him in their spirit. Remove, therefore, we beseech thee, from us all that resists thee in our conduct, that so, with a believing heart, we may in such manner bring forth the branches of thy gifts bestowed on us, as that the root of humility may never dry up within us. Amen.

O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum; veni, et salva hominem quem de limo formasti.
O King of nations, and their desired One, and the comer stone that makest both one; come and save man whom thou fonnedst out of slime.

O King of nations! Thou art approaching still nigher to Bethlehem, where Thou art to be born, The journey is almost over, and Thy august Mother, consoled and strengthened by the dear weight she bears, holds an unceasing converse with Thee on the way. She adores Thy divine Majesty; she gives thanks to Thy mercy; she rejoices that she has been chosen for the sublime ministry of being Mother to God. She longs for that happy moment when her eyes shall look upon Thee, and yet she fears it. For, how will she be able to render Thee those services which are due to Thy infinite greatness, she that thinks herself the last of creatures? How will she dare to raise Thee up in her arms, and press Thee to her heart, and feed Thee at her breasts? When she reflects that the hour is now near at hand, in which, being born of her, Thou wilt require all her care and tenderness, her heart sinks within her; for, what human heart could bear the intense vehemence of these two affections—the love of such a Mother for her Babe, and the love of such a creature for her God? But Thou supportest her, O Thou the Desired of nations! for Thou, too, longest for that happy birth, which is to give to the earth its Saviour, and to men that corner-stone, which will unite them all into one family. Dearest King! be Thou blessed for all these wonders of Thy power and goodness! Comespeedily, we beseech Thee, come and save us, for we are dear to Thee, as creatures that have been formed by Thy divine hands. Yea, come, for Thy creation has grown degenerate; it is lost; death has taken possession of it: take Thou it again into Thy almighty hands, and give it a new creation; save it; for Thou hast not ceased to take pleasure in and love Thine own work.

The Great Antiphon in Honour of Christ

O Rex pacifice, tu ante sæcula nate, per auream egredere portam, redemptos tuos visita, et eos illuc revoca, unde ruerunt per culpam.
O King of peace! that wast bora before all ages, come by the golden gate; visit them whom thou hast redeemed, and lead them back to the place whence they fell by sin.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Church sings this antiphon in to-day’s Lauds:

Ant. Ecce completa sunt omnia quæ dicta sunt per angelum, de Virgine Maria.
Ant. Lo! all things are accomplished that were said by the angel, of the Virgin Mary.

O Emmanuel, Rex et Legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et salvator earum; veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Saviour of the nations! come and save us, O Lord our God!

O Emmanuel! King of peace! Thou enterest today the city of Thy predilection, the city in which Thou hast placed Thy temple—Jerusalem. A few years hence the same city will give Thee Thy cross and Thy sepulchre: nay, the day will come on which Thou wilt set up Thy judgement-seat within sight of her walls. But to-day Thou enterest the city of David and Solomon unnoticed and unknown. It lies on Thy road to Bethlehem. Thy blessed Mother and Joseph her spouse would not lose the opportunity of visiting the temple, there to offer to the Lord their prayers and adoration. They enter; and then, for the first time, is accomplished the prophecy of Aggeus, that great shall be the glory of this last house more than of the first;[1] for this second temple has now standing within it an ark of the Covenant more precious than was that which Moses built; and within this ark, which is Mary, is contained the God whose presence makes her the holiest of sanctuaries. The Lawgiver Himself is in this blessed ark, and not merely, as in that of old, the tablet of stone on which the Law was graven. The visit paid, our living ark descends the steps of the temple, and sets out once more for Bethlehem, where other prophecies are to be fulfilled. We adore Thee, O Emmanuel! in this Thy journey, and we reverence the fidelity wherewith Thou fulfillest all that the prophets have written of Thee; for Thou wouldst give to Thy people the certainty of Thy being the Messias, by showing them that all the marks, whereby He was to be known, are to be found in Thee. And now, the hour is near; all is ready for Thy birth; come then, and save us; come, that Thou mayst not only be called our Emmanuel, but our Jesus, that is, He that saves us.

The Great Antiphon to Jerusalem

O Hierusalem! civitas Dei summi, leva in circuitu oculos tuos; et vide Dominum tuum, quia jam veniet solvere te a vinculis.
O Jerusalem! city of the great God: lift up thine eyes round about, and see thy Lord, for he is coming to loose thee from thy chains.

[1] Agg. ii. 10.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

‘At length,’ says St. Peter Damian, in his sermon for this holy eve, 'at length we have come from the stormy sea into the tranquil port; hitherto it was the promise, now it is the prize; hitherto labour, now rest; hitherto despair, now hope; hitherto the way, now our home. The heralds of the divine promise came to us; but they gave us nothing but rich promises. Hence our psalmist himself grew wearied and slept, and, with a seemingly reproachful tone, thus sings his lamentation to God: “But Thou hast rejected and despised us; Thou hast deferred the coming of Thy Christ.”[1] At another time he assumes a tone of command and thus prays: “O Thou that sittest upon the Cherubim, show Thyself!”[2] Seated on Thy high throne, with myriads of adoring angels around Thee, look down upon the children of men, who are victims of that sin, which was committed indeed by Adam, but permitted by Thy justice. Remember what my substance is;[3] Thou didst make it to the likeness of Thine own; for though every living man is vanity, yet inasmuch as he is made to Thy image, he is not a passing vanity.[4] Bend Thy heavens and come down, and turn the eyes of Thy mercy upon us Thy miserable suppliants, and forget us not unto the end!

'Isaias, also, in the vehemence of his desire, thus spoke: “For Sion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest, till her Just One come forth as brightness. Oh! that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down!” So, too, all the prophets, tired of the long delay of the coming, have prayed to Thee, now with supplication, now with lamentation, and now with cries of impatience. We have listened to these their prayers; we have made use of them as our own, and now, nothing can give us joy or gladness, till our Saviour come to us, and, kissing us with the kiss of His lips, say to us: “I have heard and granted your prayers.”

‘But, what is this that has been said to us: “Sanctify yourselves, O ye children of Israel, and be ready; for on the morrow the Lord will come down”? We are, then, but one half day and night from the grand visit, the admirable birth of the Infant God! Hurry on your course, ye fleeting hours, that we may the sooner see the Son of God in His crib, and pay our homage to this world-saving birth. You, brethren, are the children of Israel, that are sanctified, and cleansed from every defilement of soul and body, ready, by your earnest devotion, for to morrow’s mysteries. Such, indeed, you are, if I may judge from the manner in which you have spent these sacred days of preparation for the coming of your Saviour.

‘But if, notwithstanding all your care, some drops of the stream of this life’s frailties are still on your hearts, wipe them away and cover them with the snow-white robe of confession. This I can promise you from the mercy of the divine Infant: he that shall confess his sins and be sorry for them, shall have born within him the Light of the world; the darkness that deceived him shall be dispelled; and he shall enjoy the brightness of the true Light. For how can mercy be denied to the miserable this night, in which the merciful and compassionate Lord is so mercifully born? Therefore, drive away from you all haughty looks, and idle words, and unjust works; let your loins be girt, and your feet walk in the right paths; and then come, and accuse the Lord, if this night He rend not the heavens, and come down to you, and throw all your sins into the depths of the sea.’

This holy eve is, indeed, a day of grace and hope, and we ought to spend it in spiritual joy. The Church, contrary to her general practice, prescribes that, if Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday, the fasting alone shall be anticipated on the Saturday; but that the Office and Mass of the vigil should take precedence of the Office and Mass of the fourth Sunday of Advent. How solemn, then, in the eyes of the Church, are these few hours, which separate us from the great feast! On all other feasts, no matter how great they may be, the solemnity begins with first Vespers, and until then the Church restrains her joy, and celebrates the Divine Office and Sacrifice according to the lenten rite. Christmas, on the contrary, seems to begin with the vigil; and one would suppose that this morning’s Lauds were the opening of the feast; for the solemn intonation of this portion of the Office is that of a double, and the antiphons are sung before and after each psalm or canticle. The purple vestments are used at the Mass, but all the genuflexions peculiar to the Advent ferias are omitted; and only one Collect is said, instead of the three usually said when the Mass is not that of a solemnity.

Let us enter into the spirit of the Church, and prepare ourselves, in all the joy of our hearts, to meet the Saviour who is coming to us. Let us observe with strictness the fast which is prescribed; it will enable our bodies to aid the promptness of our spirit. Let us delight in the thought that, before we again lie down to rest, we shall have seen Him born, in the solemn midnight, who comes to give light to every creature. For surely it is the duty of every faithful child of the Catholic Church to celebrate with her this happy night, when, in spite of all the coldness of devotion, the whole universe keeps up its watch for the arrival of its Saviour. It is one of the last vestiges of the piety of ancient days, and God forbid it should ever be effaced!

Let us, in a spirit of prayer, look at the principal portions of the Office of this beautiful vigil. First, then, the Church makes a mysterious announcement to her children. It serves as the Invitatory of Matins, and as the Introit and Gradual of the Mass. They are the words which Moses addressed to the people of God when he told them of the heavenly manna, which they would receive on the morrow. We, too, are expecting our Manna, our Jesus, the Bread of life, who is to be born in Bethlehem, which is the house of Bread.

Invitatory

Hodie scietis quia veniet Dominus, et mane videbitis gloriam ejus.
This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and in the morning ye shall see his glory.

The responsories are full of sublimity and sweetness. Nothing can be more affecting than their lyric melody, sung to us by our mother the Church, on the very night which precedes the night of Jesus’ birth.

R. Sanctificamini hodie et estote parati: quia die crastina videbitis * Majestatem Dei in vobis. V. Hodie scietis quia veniet Dominus, et mane videbitis * Majestatem Dei in vobis.

R. Constantes estote; videbitis auxilium Domini super vos; Judæa et Jerusalem, nolite timere: * Cras egrediemini, et Dominus erit vobiscum: V. Sanctificamini, filii Israel et estote parati * Cras egrediemini, et Dominus erit vobiscum.

R. Sanctificamini, filii Israel, dicit Dominus: die enim crastina descendet Dominus: * Et auferet a vobis omnem languorem. V. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terrae, et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi. * Et auferet a vobis omnem languorem.
R. Sanctify yourselves this day, and be ye ready: for on the morrow ye shall see * the Majesty of God amongst you. V. This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and in the morning ye shall see * the Majesty of God amongst you.

R. Be ye constant; ye shall see the help of the Lord upon you: fear not, Judea and Jerusalem: * To-morrow ye shall go forth, and the Lord shall be with you: V. Sanctify yourselves, ye children of Israel, and be ye ready. * Tomorrow ye shall go forth, and the Lord shall be with you.

R. Sanctify yourselves, ye children of Israel, saith the Lord: for on the morrow, the Lord shall come down: * And shall take from you all that is languid. V. To-morrow the iniquity of the earth shall be cancelled, and over us shall reign the Saviour of the world. * And he shall take from you all that is languid.

At the Office of Prime, in cathedral chapters and monasteries, the announcement of to-morrow’s feast is made with unusual solemnity. The lector, who frequently is one of the dignitaries of the choir, sings, to a magnificent chant, the following lesson from the martyrology. All the assistants remain standing during it, until the lector comes to the word Bethlehem, at which all genuflect, and continue in that posture until all the glad tidings are told.

Octavo Kalendas Januarii

Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit cœlum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono: A diluvio vero, anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo: A nativitate Abrahæ, anno bis millesimo quintodecimo: A Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Ægypto, anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo: Ab unctione David in regem, anno millesimo trigesimo secundo: Hebdomada sexagesima quinta juxta Danielis prophetiam: Olympiade centesima nonagesima quarta: Ab urbe Roma condita, anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo: Anno imperii Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo: toto orbe in pace composito, sexta mundi ætate, Jesus Christus æternus Deus, æternique Patris Filius, mundum volens adventu suo piissimo consecrare, de Spiritu sancto conceptus, novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus, in Bethlehem Judæ nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus homo: NATIVITAS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI SECUNDUM CARNEM!
The Eighth of the Calends of January

The year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created heaven and earth, five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine: from the deluge, the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven: from the birth of Abraham, the year two thou, sand and fifteen: from Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt, the year one thousand five hundred and ten: from David’s being anointed king, the year one thousand and thirty-two: in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel: in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad: from the building of the city of Rome, the year seven hundred and fiftytwo: in the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus: the whole world being in peace: in the sixth age of the world: Jesus Christ, the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months since his conception having passed, in Bethlehem of Juda, is born of the Virgin Mary, being made Man: THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDINO TO THE FLESH!

Thus have passed before us, in succession, all the generations of the world.[5] Each of them is asked if it have seen Him whom we are expecting, and each is silent; until the name of Mary is pronounced, and then is proclaimed the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made Man. St. Bernard, speaking of this announcement, says: 'The voice of joy has gone forth in our land, the voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just. There has been heard a good word, a word that gives consolation, a word that is full of gladsomeness, a word worthy of all acceptance. Resound with praise, ye mountains, and all ye trees of the forests clap your hands before the face of the Lord, for He is coming. Hearken, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! be astounded and give praise, O all ye creatures! but thou, O man, more than all they! JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, IS BORNIN BETHLEHEM OF JUDA! Who is there that is so hard of heart, that this word does not touch him? Could anything be told us sweeter than this? Could any news delight us like this? Was such a thing ever heard, or anything like it ever told to the world? JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, IS BORN IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDA! O brief word of the Word abridged![6] and yet how full of heavenly beauty! The heart, charmed with the honeyed sweetness of the expression, would fain diffuse it and spread it out into more words; but no, it must be given just as it is, or you spoil it: JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, IS BORN IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDA!’[7]

MASS

Introit

Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam ejus. Ps. Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus; orbis terrarum, et universi qui habitant in eo. V. Gloria.
This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning ye shall see his glory. Ps. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world and all that dwell therein. V. Glory.

In the Collect, the Church makes a last allusion to the coming of Jesus as our Judge at the end of the world. But after this, she can look upon her Jesus only as the Prince of peace, and as the Spouse who comes to her. Her children must imitate her confidence.

Collect

Deus, qui nos redemptionis nostræ annua exspectatione lætificas: præsta, ut Unigenitum tuum, quem Redemptorem læti suscipimus, venientem quoque Judicem securi videamus, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum.
O God, who makest us rejoice in the yearly expectation of the feast of our redemption: grant that we who joyfully receive thy only-begotten Son as a Redeemer, may behold, without fear, the same Lord Jesus Christ coming as our Judge. Who liveth, &c.

In the Epistle, the apostle St. Paul, addressing himself to the Romans, makes known to them the dignity and holiness of the Gospel, that is, of those good tidings, which the angels are to bring to us this very night. Now, the subject of this Gospel is Jesus, the Son that is born unto God, of the family of David, according to the flesh. This Jesus comes that He may be to His Church the source of grace and apostleship. It is by these two gifts that we are still associated, after so many ages, to the joys of the great mystery of His birth in Bethlehem.

Epistle

Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Romanos.

Cap. i.

Paulus, servus Jesu Christi, vocatus apostolus, segregatus in Evangelium Dei, quod ante promiserat per prophetas suos in Scripturis sanctis, de Fillo suo, qui factus est ei ex semine David secundum carnem, qui prædestinatus est Filius Dei in virtute, secundum Spiritum sanctificationis, ex resurrectione mortuorum Jesu Christi Domini nostri: per quem accepimus gratiam et apostolatum, ad obediendum fidei in omnibus gentibus pro nomine ejus, in quibus estis et vos vocati Jesu Christi Domini nostri
Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans.

Ch. i.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle separated unto the Gospel of God, which he had promised before by his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith in all nations for his name, among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gradual

Hodie scietis quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam ejus.

V. Qui regis Israel intende: qui deducis velut ovem Joseph: qui sedes super Cherubim, appare coram Ephraim, Benjamin et Manasse.
This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning ye shall see his glory.

V. Thou who rulest Israel, hearken: thou who leadest Joseph like a sheep: thou who sittest on the Cherubim, show thyself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasses.

If the vigil of Christmas fall on a Sunday, the following is added:

Alleluia, alleluia.

V. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terræ, et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi. Alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia.

V. To-morrow the sins of the earth shall be cancelled, and the Saviour of the world shall reign over us. Alleluia.

The Gospel of to-day’s Mass is the passage which relates the trouble of St. Joseph and the visit he received from the angel. This incident, which forms one of the preludes to the birth of our Saviour, could not but enter into the liturgy for Advent; and so far, there was no suitable occasion for its insertion. The vigil of Christmas was the right day for this Gospel, for another reason: the angel, in speaking to St. Joseph, tells him that the name to be given to the Child of Mary is Jesus, which signifies that He will save His people from their sins.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum

Cap. i.

Quum esset desponsata Mater Jesu Maria Joseph, antequam convenirent, inventa est in utero habens de Spiritu sancto. Joseph autem vir ejus, quum esset justus, et nollet eam traducere, voluit occulte dimittere eam. Hæc autem eo cogitante, ecce angelus Domini apparuit in somnis ei, dicens: Joseph, fili David, noli timere accipere Mariam conjugem tuam: quod enim in ea natum est, de Spiritu sancto est. Pariet autem Filium: et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum: ipse enim salvum faciet populum suum a peccatis eorum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew

Ch. i.

When Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lora appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.

Offertory

Tollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevamini portæ æternales: et introibit Rex gloriæ.
Lift up your gates, O ye princes, ana be ye lifted up, O eternal gates; and the King of glory shall enter in.


Secret

Da nobis, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut sicut adoranda Filii tui natalitia prævenimus; sic ejus munera capiamus sempiterna gaudentes. Qui tecum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that as we celebrate the eve of the adorable birth of thy Son; we may one day receive with joy his eternal rewards. Who liveth, &c.

During the Communion, the Church expresses her joy at receiving, in the Eucharistic Sacrament, Him whose flesh purifies and nourishes ours. She is strengthened by the consolation given to her by the divine Food, to wait yet a little longer for that happy moment, in which angels will come and invite her to the crib of the Messias.

Communion

Revelabitur gloria Domini: et videbit omnis caro salutare Dei nostri.
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed: and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.

Postcommunion

Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, unigeniti Filii tui recensita Nativitate respirare: cujus cœlesti mysterio pascimur, et potamur. Per eumdem.
Grant us, we beseech thee, O Lord, relief by celebrating the birth of thy only Son, whose sacred mystery is our meat and drink. Through, &c.

The Ambrosian and Mozarabic liturgies have nothing in their Office and Mass for this vigil which we deem telling enough for insertion here. In the anthology of the Greeks there is a hymn, which will assist our devotion, and from which we take the following stanzas. It is called: The beginning of the Hours of the Nativity: Tierce, Sext, and None.

Hymn for the Vigil of Christmas
(Taken from the Anthology of the Greeks)

Inscribebatur die quadam cum sene Joseph, tanquam ex semine David, in Bethlehem, Maria, sine semine foetum utero gestans; advenerat pariendi tempus, et nullus erat in diversorio locus, sed pro splendido palatio spelunca Reginæ aderat.

Adimpleri nunc urget propheticum præconium mystice nuncians: Et tu Bethlehem, terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus, prima adornans speluncam. Ex te enim mihi veniet dux gentium, per carnem ex puella Virgine, Christus Detis qui reget populum suum novum Israel. Demus ei omnes magnificentiam.

Iste Deus noster, præter eum non numerabitur alius, natus ex Virgine, et cum hominibus conversatus: in pauperculo jacens præsepio Filius Unigenitus mortalis apparet, et fasciis implicatur gloriae Dominus: stella Magis indicat ut illum adorent, nosque canamus: Trinitas sancta, salva animas nostras.

Venite, fideles: divinitus extollamur, Deumque videamus ex alto in Bethlehem manifeste descendentem, et sursum mentem elevantes, pro myrrha vitæ afferamus virtutes, praeordinantes cum fide natalitium introitum, et dicamus: Gloria in excelsis Deo qui trinus est, cujus erga homines manifestatur benevolentia! qui Adam redimens et plasma tuum elevasti, philanthrope!

Audi, cœlum, et auribus percipe, terra: commoveantur fundamenta orbis, tremorem apprehendant terrestria; quia Deus et auctor carnis plasmatis formam induit, et qui creaturam creatrice corroboravit manu, misericordia motus videtur forma indutus. O divitiarum sapientiæ scientiæque Dei abyssus! quam inscrutabilia illius judicia, et investigabiles viæ ejus!

Venite, Christiferi populi, videamus prodigium omnem stupefaciens et cohibens cogitationem, et pie procumbentes cum fide hymnificemus. Hodie ad Bethlehem puella advenit paritura Dominum; præcurrunt angelorum chori: illamque videns Joseph sponsus ejus clamabat: Quidnam in te prodigiosum mysterium, Virgo? Et quomodo parturire debes, jugi expers juvenca?

Hodie nascitur ex Virgine qui pugillo omnem creaturam continet: panniculis sicut mortalis fasciatur qui essentia intactibilis est; Deus in præsepio reclinatur, qui olim in principio cœlos stabilivit; ex uberibus lacte nutritur per quem in deserto manna pluebat populo; Magos advocat Sponsus Ecclesiæ; dona illorum accipit Virginis Filius. Adoramus tuam Nativitatem, Christe; ostende nobis tuas divinas Theophanias.

On a certain day, there was enrolled at Bethlehem, together with the old man Joseph, as being of the family of David, Mary, who bore in her virginal womb the divine fruit. The time of her delivery was come, and there was no place in the inn; and instead of a splendid palace for the Queen there was but a cave.

The moment has come for the accomplishment of the mystic prophecy: ‘And thou Bethlehem, land of Juda, art not the least among the princes, for thou art the first to adorn the cave. For there shall come to me from thee the leader of the nations, born of a Virgin-Maid according to the flesh; it is Christ, who is God, and he shall rule his new people of Israel.’ Let us all give him highest praise.

This is our God, and there is none other; he was born of a Virgin, and he conversed with men; the only-begotten Son becomes mortal, and is laid in a poor crib; the Lord of glory is wrapped in swaddling clothes; the star invites the Magi to adore him, and let us sing: O holy Trinity, save our souls!

Come, all ye faithful: let us be transported with divine enthusiasm; let us look at God coming in a visible form from on high and descending into Bethlehem; then raising up our minds, let us bring to him our virtues as the myrrh we offer him, thus preparing, with faith, for his birth among us: let us sing, Glory in the highest be to God, one in three Persons, whose good-will to man is thus made manifest! for thou, O Jesus! the Lover of man, hast redeemed Adam and restored the work of thy hands!

Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! let the foundations of the earth be moved, and all the earth tremble: for God the maker of man has himself put on a created form, and he whose creative hand upheld his creatures, has, by mercy moved, clothed himself with a body. Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgements, and how unsearchable his ways!

O come, ye Christian people! let us see the prodigy that stupefies all thought and holds it in suspense; then let us devoutly adore, and sing our hymns with hearts full of faith. This day there hath come to Bethlehem a Maid that is to give birth to God! Choirs of angels are already there! Joseph, her spouse, seeing her, has already received the answer to his question: What is this mystery which I see in thee, pure Virgin? How canst thou bring forth, that never hast borne a mother’s humiliation?

This day, there is bora of a Virgin, he that holds in his hand the whole creation. He whose very essence 'tis to be intangible, has become mortal and is bound in swathing-bands. He who, of old, in the beginning, poised and set the heavens, is laid in a manger. He who rained down manna on his people in the desert, is fed with milk at his Mother’s breast. The Spouse of the Church invites the Magi; the Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts. We adore thy Nativity, O Jesus! show unto us thy divine manifestations.


Let us contemplate our blessed Lady, and her faithful spouse Joseph, leaving the city of Jerusalem, and continuing their journey to Bethlehem, which they reach after a few hours. In obedience to the will of heaven, they immediately repair to the place where their names are to be enrolled, as the emperor’s edict requires. There is entered in the public register, Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth in Galilee. To his name, there is, doubtless, added that of Mary, spouse of the above-named Joseph. Perhaps they enter her as a young woman, in the ninth month of her pregnancy. And this is all! O Incarnate Word! Thou art not yet counted by men! Thou art upon this earth of Thine, and men set Thee down as nothing! And yet, all this excitement of the enrolment of the world is to be for nothing else but this, that Mary, Thy august Mother, may come to Bethlehem, and there give Thee birth!

O ineffable mystery! how grand is this apparent littleness! how mighty this divine weakness! But God has still lower to descend than merely coming on our earth. He goes from house to house of His people: not one will receive Him. He must go and seek a crib in the stable of poor dumb beasts. There, until such time as the angels sing to Him their hymn, and the shepherds and the Magi come with their offerings, He will meet ‘the ox that knoweth its Owner, and the ass that knoweth its Master’s crib!’[8] O Saviour of men, Emmanuel, Jesus! we, too, will go to this stable of Bethlehem. Thy new birth, which is to-night, shall not be without loving and devoted hearts to bless it. At this very hour, Thou art knocking at the doors of Bethlehem, and who is there that will take Thee in? Thou sayest to my soul in the words of the Canticle: ‘Open to me, my sister, my beloved! for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night!’[9] Ah! sweet Jesus! Thou shalt not be refused here! I beseech Thee, enter my house. I have been watching and longing for Thee. Come, then, Lord Jesus! come![10]


[1] Ps. lxxxviii
[2] Ibid. lxxix.
[3] Ibid. lxxxviii.
[4] Ibid. xxxviii.
[5] On this one day alone, and on this single occasion, does the Church adopt the Septuagint chronology, according to which the birth of our Saviour took place five thousand years after the creation; whereas the Vulgate version, and the Hebrew text, place only four thousand between the two events. This is not a fitting place to explain this discrepancy of chronology; we merely allude to it as showing the liberty which the . Church allows us on this question.
[6] Rom. ix. 28.
[7] Second sermon for Christmas Eve.
[8] Is. i. 3.
[9] Cant. v. 2.
[10] Apoc. xxii. 20.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AFTER having consecrated the joyous Octave of the Epiphany to the glory of the Emmanuel who was manifested to the earth, the Church—incessantly occupied with the Divine Child and his august Mother, during the whole time from Christmas Day to that whereon Mary will bring Jesus to the Temple, there to be offered to God, as the law prescribes—the Church, we say, has on her Calendar of this portion of the year the names of many glorious Saints, who shine like so many stars on the path which leads us, from the joys of the Nativity of our Lord, to the sacred mystery of our Lady’s Purification.

And firstly there comes before us, on the very morrow of the day consecrated to the Baptism of Jesus, the faithful and courageous Hilary—the pride of the Churches of Gaul, and the worthy associate of Athanasius and Eusebius of Vercelli in the battle fought for the Divinity of our Emmanuel. Scarcely were the cruel persecutions of paganism over, when there commenced the fierce contest with Arianism, which had sworn to deprive of the glory and honours of his divinity that Jesus who had conquered, by his Martyrs, the violence and craft of the Roman Emperors. The Church had won her liberty by shedding her blood, and it was not likely that she would be less courageous on the new battlefield into which she was driven. Many were the Martyrs that were put to death by her new enemies—Christian, though heretical, Princes: it was for the Divinity of that Lord, who had mercifully appeared on the earth in the weakness of human flesh, that they shed their blood. Side by side with these stood those holy and illustrious Doctors, who, with the martyr-spirit within them, defended by their learning and eloquence the Nicene Faith, which was the Faith of the Apostles. In the foremost rank of these latter we behold the Saint of to-day, covered with the rich laurels of his brave confessorship, Hilary: who, as St Jerome says of him, was brought up in the pompous school of Gaul, yet had culled the flowers of Grecian science, and became the Rhone of Latin eloquence. St Augustine calls him the illustrious Doctor of the Churches.

Though gifted with the most extraordinary talents, and one of the most learned men of the age, yet St Hilary's greatest glory is his intense love for the Incarnate Word, and his zeal for the liberty of the Church. His great soul thirsted after martyrdom, and, by the unflinching love of truth which such a spirit gave him, he was the brave champion of the Church in that trying period when Faith, that had stood the brunt of persecution, seemed to be on the point of being betrayed by the craft of Princes, and the cowardice of temporizing and unorthodox Pastors.

Let us listen to the short Life of our Saint, contained in the Lessons of his Office.

Hilarius, in Aquitania nobili genere natus, doctrina et eloquentia excelluit. Qui primum in matrimonio quasi monachi vitam egit; deinde propter singulares virtutes Pictavorum episcopus creatur: quod munus episcopale sic gessit, ut a fidelibus summam laudem consequeretur. Quo tempore, cum terroribus, bonorum spoliatione, exsilio et omni crudelitate Constantius Imperator Catholicos vexaret, nisi ad Arianas partes transirent: Hilarius tamquam firmissimum murum se Arianis opponens, illorum furorem in se concitavit. Itaque multis petitus insidiis, tandem dolo Saturnini Arelatensis Episcopi, de Synodo Biterrensi in Phrygiam relegatus est: ubi et mortuum suscitavit, et libros duodecim scripsit de Trinitate contra Arianos.

Quadriennio post coacto Concilio ad Seleuciam Isauriæ urbem, Hilarius adesse compulsus est: ac deinde Constantinopolim profectus, ubi extremum fidei periculum animadvertit, tribus libellis publice datis audientiam Imperatoris poposcit, ut de fide cum adversariis coram disputaret. Verum cum Ursacius et Valens Ariani Episcopi, quos Hilarius scriptis confutarat, præsentis eruditionem pertimescerent, Constantio persuaserunt, ut specie honoris eum in suum Episcopatum restitueret. Tunc Hilarium e prælio hæreticorum revertentem, ut inquit sanctus Hieronymus, Galliarum Ecclesia complexa est: quem ad Episcopatum secutus est Martinus, qui postea Turonensi præfuit Ecclesiæ: tantumque illo doctore profecit, quantum ejus postea sanctitas declaravit.

Magna deinceps tranquillitate Pictavorum Ecclesiam administravit: Galliamque universam adduxit, ut Arianorum impietatem condemnaret. Multos libros scripsit mira eruditione: quos omnes sanctus Hieronymus ad Lætam, sine ulla erroris suspicione legi posse testatur illis verbis; Hilarii libros inoffenso decurrat pede. Migravit in cœlum Idibus Januarii, Valentiniano et Valente imperatoribus, anno post Christum natum trecentesimo sexagesimo nono. Eum a multis Patribus et conciliis insignem Ecclesiæ Doctorem nuncupatum, atque uti talem in aliquot diœcesibus cultum, tandem, instante synodo Burdigalensi, Pius nonus, Pontifex Maximus, ex sacrorum Rituum Congregationis consulto, universæ Ecclesiæ Doctorem declaravit et confirmavit: ac ipsius festo die Missam et Officium de Doctoribus ab omnibus recitare jussit.
Hilary was born of a noble family in Aquitaine, and was distinguished for his learning and eloquence. He was married, but the life he led was almost that of a monk, so that later on, on account of his great virtues, he was made Bishop of Poitiers, and so well did he discharge the episcopal office as to be the object of the deepest veneration on the part of the faithful. At that time the Emperor Constantius was inflicting every sort of harsh treatment, intimidation, confiscation of their property, and banishment, on the Catholics who refused to side with the Arians. Hilary set himself as a bulwark against the Arians, thereby bringing on himself all their fury. On this account they many times sought to ensnare him, and at length, by the treachery of Satuminus, the Bishop of Arles, he was banished from the Council at Beziers into Phrygia. There he raised a dead man to life, and wrote his twelve books On the Trinity, against the Arians.

Four years after, a Council was called at Seleucia, a town in Isauria, at which Hilary was compelled to assist. Thence he set out for Constantinople, where, seeing the extreme dangers to which the true faith had been exposed, he petitioned the Emperor, by three public petitions, to grant him an audience, in order that he might obtain permission to hold a controversy with his adversaries concerning matters of faith. But Ursacius and Valens, two Arian Bishops, whom Hilary had refuted in his writings, were afraid of allowing so learned a man to continue there any longer, and persuaded Constantius to restore him to his episcopal see, under the pretence of showing him honour. Then did the Church of Gaul open her arms, as St Jerome says, to receive Hilary on his return from battle with the heretics. St Martin, who was afterwards Bishop of Tours, followed the holy Doctor to Poitiers; how much he profited by the instructions of such a master is evidenced by the sanctity of his after-life.

From that time, he was left in perfect peace in the government of the Church of Poitiers. He led the whole of Gaul to condemn the Arian blasphemies. He composed a great many exceedingly learned books, of which St Jerome, in a letter to Læta, says that they may be all read without the slightest fear of meeting any false doctrine in them; he assures her that she may run through the books of Hilary without stumbling on anything dangerous. He passed from this earth to heaven on the Ides of January (January 13th), during the reign of the Emperors Valentinian and Valens, in the year of our Lord 369. Hilary was called by several Fathers and Councils an illustrious Doctor of the Church, and was publicly honoured as such in certain dioceses. At length, at the petition of the Council of Bordeaux, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius the Ninth, after having consulted the Sacred Congregation of Rites, declared him to have been justly called, and to be in effect, a Doctor of the universal Church; and ordered that on his Feast all should recite the Mass and Office Of Doctors.

The ancient Gallican Liturgy, of which a few precious remnants have been handed down to us, thus celebrated the praise of the most illustrious of the Bishops of that great country. Our first extract is an Allocution addressed to the Faithful, taken from an ancient Sacramentary.

Allocution

Adorabilem, populi, beatissimi Hilarii antistitis festivitate solemniter recurrente, cujus lingua in sæculo pro sanctæ Trinitatis æqualitate sic tonuit, ut hujus mundi Principem miles Christi prosterneret, et in cœlestis Regis aula victor intraret, Dominum votis uberioribus deprecemur, ut qui eum inter diversas acies ita fecit esse sollicitum, ut redderet inter bella securum, nobis concedere dignetur, ut quod in ejus honore deposcimus, eo suffragante consequi mereamur.
On the recurrence, Brethren, of this solemn Feast of the most blessed Bishop Hilary, whose tongue, during his mortal life, so thundered forth the truth concerning the equality of the Three Divine Persons, that he, the soldier of Christ, threw down the Prince of this world, and entered a conqueror into the palace of the heavenly King—let us, with more than our wonted fervour, beseech the adorable God, that he, who made Hilary so vigilant in all his combats as to give security in the battle, may mercifully grant to us that what we ask in his honour may be granted to us by his intercession.

This Preface, which extols the virtues and the miracles of St Hilary, was sung in the Church of Gaul, even after the introduction of the Roman Liturgy.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est gratias agere, vota solvere, munera consecrare. Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, qui beatum Hilarium Confessorem tuum præelegisti tibi sacratæ confessionis tuæantistitem, ingenti lumine coruscantem, morum lenitate pollentem, fidei fervore flagrantem, eloquii fonte torrentem: cui quæ sit gloriatio ostendit concursus ad tumulum, purificatio incursorum, medela languentium, mirandarum signa virtutum. Qui etsi natura fecit finem per transitum, illic vivunt Pontificis merita post sepulcrum, ubi præsentia Salvatoris est Jesu Christi Domini nostri.
It is truly right and just that we give thanks, and pay our vows, and consecrate our gifts to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, who didst choose unto thyself the blessed Hilary thy Confessor, that he might be the Pontiff of thy sacred doctrines. He was a great and brilliant light, he was full of meekness in his comportment, he was all fire in fervour of faith, he was a torrent of eloquence. How great is his glory, is shown by the concourse of people at his tomb, the deliverance of the possessed, the healing of sicknesses, and the miracles of wonderful power. He has, by nature’s law, ended his course and passed hence; but the merits of the Pontiff are still living there, beyond the grave, where reigns our Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The following prayer has been culled out of several old manuscript missals.

Prayer

Deus, cujus miseratione delinquentes mutantur ad veniam, justi transferuntur ad palmam, qui infusus in corde beati Hilarii antistitis quasi de tuo tempio fidei responsa dedisti, concede propitius, ut qui tunc inclytum Confessorem tuum fecisti Cæsarem non timere, ejus intercessione ab spiritali hoste plebem protegas obsecrantem, ut cujus solemnitati tripudiat, ejus sit fida prece defensa.
O God, by whose mercy sinners are raised up to pardon, and the just are translated to heaven for their crown; who, dwelling in the heart of the blessed Bishop Hilary, didst thence, as from thy sanctuary, give the answers of faith; mercifully grant that as thou didst make thy glorious Confessor to be fearless before Cæsar, so mayest thou, by his intercession, protect thy suppliant people from their spiritual enemy: thus may they, who rejoice on his solemnity, be defended by his powerful prayers.

The Church of Poitiers has ever cherished with the utmost devotion the memory of her heroic Pontiff, and his Feast, as we may suppose, is kept there with great solemnity. She formerly sang in the Mass of this day the Preface of the Blessed Trinity, to express more forcibly her admiration of the zeal wherewith Hilary defended the master-dogma of our holy faith—the mystery of Three Persons in one God. It will be interesting to our readers to hear a few passages from the ancient liturgical books of this illustrious Church of Poitiers. The following Responsories are taken, in part, from the Life of the Saint, and were composed by St Venantius Fortunatus, one of St Hilary's successors.

Responsories

℟. Beatus Hilarius, præ cæteris gratia generositatis ornatus, nitore pectoris addito, * Quasi refulgens Lucifer inter astra processit.
. Igitur beatus Hilarius, Pictavensis urbis Episcopus, regionis Aquitanicæ partibus oriundus. * Quasi refulgens.

℟. O quam perfectissimum laicum! cujus imitatores ipsi esse desiderant sacerdotes; * Cui non fuit aliud vivere nisi Christum cum dilectione timere, et cum timore diligere.
. Cujus sequaces currunt ad gloriam, divertentes ad pœnam; credenti succedunt præmia, recusanti tormenta. * Cui.

℟. Tum itaque sanctissimus Hilarius in Phrygiam, Asiæ regionem, missus est exsilio, ad virtutis augmentum; * Quia quantum, pro Christi nomine, longius discedebat a solo proprio, tantum merebatur fieri vicinior cœlo.
. Qui dum ad locum pervenisset optabilem, nobis tacendum non est quid illi concessum est. * Quia.

℟. Cum de exsilio regressus sanctus Hilarius Pontifex Pictavim introivit; summo favore plaudebant omnes pariter, * Eo quod recepisset Ecclesiaz Pontificem, grex Pastorem.
. Gemma præsulum remeante ad propria, laudemus Dominum; lætetur quoque chorus Angelorum. * Eo quod.
℟. Blessed Hilary shone above others by the nobility of his birth, to which was added an unsullied heart; * He was as the day-star is among other stars.
℣. Blessed Hilary, the Bishop of the city of Poitiers, was born in the province of Aquitaine. * He was.

℟. Oh! how perfect was he as a layman! The very Priests made him their model. * His whole life was fearing Christ with love and loving him with fear.
℣. They who follow him attain to glory; they who follow him not incur punishment; they who believe him are rewarded; they who disbelieve him are tormented. * His whole life.


℟. The most saintly Hilary was therefore banished into Phrygia, a country of Asia; it served but to increase his virtue; * Since the farther he was separated from his own land for the name of Christ, the nearer he deserved to approach to heaven.
℣. When he had reached the longed-for place, great were the favours bestowed on him, and we will publish them. * Since.

℟. When the holy Bishop Hilary, returning from exile, entered Poitiers, all men were alike loud in the expression of unbounded joy. * For the Church recovered her Pontiff, and the flock its Shepherd.
℣. The pearl of Bishops has returned home; let us give praise to our Lord, and let the choir of Angels rejoice. * For the Church.

The same venerable Church of Poitiers sings these two Hymns in honour of her glorious Saint. They were composed by the pious Simon Gourdan, a Canon Regular of Saint Victor’s Abbey, that celebrated House in Paris where Adam of Saint-Victor wrote his admirable Sequences.

Hymn

Ex quo Relligio, tot procerum parens,
Gallos addiderit Christianum gregi,
Quis par Hilario? quis generosius
Natum de Patre vindicat?

Insignes títulos, eloquium grave,
Dotes innumeras plebs sacra concinat:
Laus suprema fides, qua genitum
Deo Altis vocibus asserit.

Si non tincta fuit sanguine profluo
Clara fronte micans infula nobilis,
Curis mille litat: martyrii decus
Supplet continuus labor.

Hoc Nicæna fides vindice nititur:
Frustra tartareus concutit hanc furor;
Hic oris gladio fulgurat aureo,
Vastantes abigens lupos.

Quo vultu reducem grex pius excipit!
Quas post longa metit prælia laureas!
Te, Martine, docet quam pede strenuo
Virtutum rapias viam.

Patri maxima laus, maxima Filio,
Fœcundo generat quem Pater in sinu,
Æquum Principio, numine comparem:
Sacro maxima Flamini.

Amen.
From the time that the Church, the mother of so many great men,
united Gaul to the flock of Christ,
who is there that can be compared to Hilary?
who is there that ever defended more zealously than he the Son of the Eternal Father?

Let the holy flock sing the great titles of his glory,
his majestic eloquence, and his innumerable gifts;
but his grandest praise is the faith wherewith he
so loudly proclaimed Christ to be the Son of God.

The noble mitre that glittered on his venerable head
was not, indeed, purpled with the blood of martyrdom;
his sacrifice was that of a thousand cares,
and his ceaseless labours supply for the beauty of martyrdom.

He was the bold defender of the Nicene Faith,
which the fury of hell sought in vain to destroy.
The golden sword which came so brightly from his mouth
drives away the ravenous wolves.

With what beaming joy did his devoted flock welcome him from exile!
How fair the laurels he reaped in the long campaigns for Christ!
He taught thee, O Martin!
to walk with vigour in the path of virtue.

Infinite praise to the Father, and infinite be to the Son,
begotten in the fruitful bosom of the Father;
to the Son, who is equal to the Father, and God like him.
To the Divine Spirit, too, be there infinite praise!

Amen.

Hymn

Non fraus magnanimum, non favor aut minæ,
Athletam quatiunt: jussa tyrannidis
Explens, Pastor oves linquere cogitur;
Quis jam contineat lupos?

Ergo, Prassul, abis? dum generosa mens
Te parere facit, Gallia lacrymas
Fundat: terra Phrygum suscipiens patrem,
Verbi vindice gaudeat.

Erroris latebras Doctor Hilarius
Spargit luce nova, fonteque vivido
Expurgat nocuis pascua fæcibus.
Gentes erudit efferas.

Ipsos dum titubant, instituit fide
Pastores: redeunt mox ad ovilia,
Quos error timidos abstulerat procul,
Et vocem Patris audiunt.

Præsul magne, poli qui super ardua
Solem justitiæ cominus adspicis;
Verbum nos doceat, quæsumus, impetra.
Cujus dogmata prædicas.

Mundani metuant imperii ducem,
Qui terram sapiunt: Cæsaris haud timet
Infensi furias pastor, et asserit
Christi liberius fidem.

Patri maxima laus, maxima Filio,
Fœcundo generat quem Pater in sinu,
Æquum Principio, numine comparem:
Sacro maxima Flamini.

Amen.
Nor craft, nor favour, nor threat,
can move this highminded soldier of Christ.
He obeys the sentence of the tyrant, and the flock is deprived of its Shepherd
—oh! who will now defend them from the wolves?

And must thou go, then, O Pontiff? Thy noble mind
makes thee submit to the sentence, but Gaul sheds floods of tears.
Phrygia receives thee on her land, happy to possess
the champion of the Word Incarnate.

Hilary, the holy Doctor, casts new light on the darkness of hidden error,
and with a stream of living water
cleanses the pastures of the flock from all impurities.
Barbarous nations receive instruction at his hands.

There were Pastors that had faltered, and he confirms them in the faith;
then sends them back to the flocks they had,
in timid compromise to error, abandoned;
and thus the children hear their Father’s voice again.

Great Pontiff! who now, in heaven above,
seest the Sun of Justice face to face;
pray for us, we beseech thee, that he, the Incarnate Word,
whose nature thou didst preach to men, may teach us all truth.

Let worldly men that are earthly minded,
fear if they will an Emperor’s tyranny:
Hilary heeds not the passion of an angry Cæsar,
but preaches, with holy liberty, the faith of Christ.

Infinite praise to the Father, and infinite be to the Son,
begotten in the fruitful bosom of the Father,
to the Son, who is equal to the Father, and God like him.
To the Divine Spirit, too, be there infinite praise!

Amen.

Thus did the holy bishop, Hilary of Poitiers, receive the honours of the Church's love for his having so courageously, and even at the peril of his life, fought in defence of the great Mystery. Another of his glories is that he was one of the most intrepid champions of that principle, which cannot be compromised without the vitality and very existence of the Church being endangered—the principle of that Church’s liberty. A few days ago we were celebrating the Feast of our holy Martyr, St Thomas of Canterbury; to-day, we have the Feast of the glorious Confessor, whose example enlightened and encouraged him in the great struggle. Both Hilary and Thomas a Becket were obedient to the teaching left to the Pastors of the Church by the Apostles; who, when they were arraigned the first time before the authorities of this world, uttered this great maxim: We ought to obey God rather than men.[1] The Apostles and the Saints were strong in the battle against flesh and blood, only because they were detached from earthly goods, and were convinced that the true riches of a Christian and a Bishop consist in the humility and poverty of the Crib, and that the only victorious power is in the imitation of the simplicity and the weakness of the Child that is born unto us. They relished the lessons of the School of Bethlehem; hence no promise of honours, of riches, or even of peace, could make them swerve from the principles of the Gospel.

How dignified is this family of Soldiers of Christ, which springs up in the Church! If the policy of tyrants, who insist on being Christians without Christianity, carry on a persecution in which they are determined that no one shall have the glory of Martyrdom—these brave Champions raise their voice and boldly reproach the persecutors for their interference with that liberty which is due to Christ and his Ministers. They begin by telling them their duty, as Hilary did to Constantius, when he sent him his first Memorial: 'My Lord and most gracious Augustus! Your admirable prudence will tell you that it is unreasonable and impossible either to force submission on men who resist you with all their strength, or to compel them to take part with the sowers of the seed of false doctrine. The one end of your endeavours, wise counsels, government and vigilance should be that all your subjects may enjoy the sweets of liberty. There is no other means of settling the troubles of the state, or of uniting what discord has separated, than that every one be master of his own life, unconstrained by slavish compulsion. You should not turn a deaf ear to the voice of any subject who thus appeals to you for support: “I am a Catholic; I will not be a heretic: I am a Christian, and not an Arian: I would rather lose my life than allow the tyranny of any man to corrupt the purity of my faith.”'

When some people spoke to Hilary in favour of those who had been traitors to the Church, and had been disloyal to Jesus Christ, in order to keep in the good graces of the Emperor, they ventured to tell the Saint that their conduct was justifiable, on the ground that they had but obeyed the Law! The holy Pontiff was indignant at this profanation of the word, and, in his Book against Auxentius, courageously reminds his fellow Bishops of the origin of the Church: how her very establishment depended on the breaking of unjust human laws, and how she counts it one of her glories to infringe all such laws as would oppose her existence, her development, and her action.

We have a contempt for all the trouble that men of these days are giving themselves; and I am grieved to see them holding such mad opinions as that God needs man's patronage, and that the Church of Christ requires to be upheld by an ambition that curries favour with the world. I ask of you Bishops, what favour did the Apostles court, in order that they might preach the Gospel? Who were the princes that helped them to preach Christ, and convert almost the whole world from idolatry to God? Did they, who sang hymns to God in prisons and chains, and whilst bleeding from being scourged—did they accept offices from the state? Did Paul wait for a royal permission to draw men to the Church of Christ? Did he, think you, cringe for the patronage of a Nero, or a Vespasian, or a Decius, whose very hatred of our faith was the occasion of its being more triumphantly preached? These Apostles, who lived by the labour of their own hands, who assembled the Faithful in garrets and hiding-places, who visited villages and towns, and wellnigh the whole world, travelling over sea and land, in spite of the Senate's decrees and Imperial Edicts—these men, according to your principles, had not received the keys of the kingdom of heaven! What say you to all this manifestation of God's power in the very face of man's opposition, when the more there was a prohibition to preach Christ, the more that preaching was exercised?

But the time came at last to speak to the Emperor himself, and to protest against the system whereby he aimed at making the Church a slave; then did Hilary, who was exceedingly gentle in disposition, put on that holy indignation which our Lord himself had, when he scourged the profaners of his Father's House, and drove them out of the Temple. He braved every danger, and held up to execration the system invented by Constantius for insulting and crushing the Church of Christ. Let us listen to the language of his apostolic zeal.

The time for speaking is come, the time for silence is past. Let Christ now appear, for Antichrist has begun his reign. Let the Shepherds give the alarm, for the hirelings have fled. Let us lay down our lives for our sheep, for thieves have got into the fold, and a furious lion is prowling around it. Let us prepare for martyrdom . . ., for the angel of satan hath transformed himself into an angel of light. . . .

Why, O my God, didst thou not permit me to confess thy holy Name, and be the minister of thine Only Begotten Son, in the times of Nero or Decius? Full of the fire of the Holy Spirit, I would not have feared the rack, for I would have thought of Isaias, how he was sawn in two. I would not have feared fire, for I would have said to myself that the Hebrew Children sang in their fiery furnace. The cross and the breaking of every bone of my body should not have made me a coward, for the good thief would have encouraged me, who was translated into thy kingdom. If they had threatened to drown me in the angry billows of the deep ocean, I would have laughed at their threats, for thou hast taught us, by the example of Jonas and Paul, that thou canst give life to thy servants even in the sea.

Happy I, could I thus have fought with men who professed themselves to be the enemies of thy name; every one would have said that they who had recourse to tortures, and sword, and fire, to compel a Christian to deny thee, were persecutors; and my death would have been sufficient testimony to thy truth, O God! The battle would have been an open one, and no one would have hesitated to call by the honest name these men that denied thee, and racked and murdered us; and thy people, seeing that it was an evident persecution, would have followed their Pastors in the confession of their faith.

But nowadays, we have to do with a disguised persecutor, a smooth-tongued enemy, a Constantius who has put on Antichrist; who scourges us, not with lashes, but with caresses; who instead of robbing us, which would give us spiritual life, bribes us with riches, that he may lead us to eternal death; who thrusts us not into the liberty of a prison, but into the honours of his palace, that he may enslave us; who tears not our flesh, but our hearts; who beheads not with a sword, but kills the soul with his gold; who sentences not by a herald that we are to be burnt, but covertly enkindles the fire of hell against us. He does not dispute with us, that he may conquer; but he flatters us, that so he may lord it over our souls. He confesses Christ, the better to deny him; he tries to procure a unity which shall destroy peace; he puts down some few heretics, so that he may also crush the Christians; he honours Bishops, that they may cease to be Bishops; he builds up Churches, that he may pull down the Faith. . . .

Let men talk as they will, and accuse me of strong language, and calumny: it is the duty of a minister of the truth to speak the truth. If what I say be untrue, let me be branded with the name of an infamous calumniator: but if I prove what I assert, then I am not exceeding the bounds of apostolic liberty, nor transgressing the humility of a successor of the Apostles by speaking thus, after so long observing silence. . . . No, this is not rashness, it is faith; it is not inconsiderateness, it is duty; it is not passion, it is conscience.

I say to thee, Constantius, what I would have said to Nero, or Decius, or Maximian: You are fighting against God, you are raging against the Church, you are persecuting the saints, you are hating the preachers of Christ, you are destroying religion, you are a tyrant, not in human things, but in things that appertain to God. Yes, this is what I should say to thee as well as to them; but listen, now, to what can only be said to thyself: Thou falsely callest thyself a Christian, for thou art a new enemy of Christ; thou art a precursor of Antichrist, and a doer of his mystery of iniquity; thou, that art a rebel to the faith, art making formulas of faith; thou art intruding thine own creatures into the sees of the Bishops; thou art putting out the good and putting in the bad.... By a strange ingenious plan, which no one had ever yet discovered, thou hast found a way to persecute, without making Martyrs.

We owe much to you, Nero, Decius, and Maximian! your cruelty did us service. We conquered the devil by your persecutions. The blood of the holy Martyrs you made has been treasured up throughout the world, and their venerable relics are ever strengthening us in faith by their mute unceasing testimony. . . . But thou, Constantius, cruel with thy refinement of cruelty, art an enemy that ragest against us, doing us more injury, and leaving us less hope of pardon. . . . Thou deprives!: the fallen of the excuse they might have had with their Eternal Judge, when they showed him the scars and wounds they had endured for him, for perhaps their tortures might induce him to forgive their weakness. Whereas thou, most wicked of men! thou hast invented a persecution which, if we fall, robs us of pardon, and, if we triumph, does not make us Martyrs!

. . . We see thee, ravenous wolf, under thy sheep's clothing. Thou adornest the sanctuaries of God's temples with the gold of the State, and thou offerest to him what is taken from the temples, or taxed by edict, or extorted by penalty. Thou receivest his Priests with a kiss like that which betrayed Christ. Thou bowest down thy head for a blessing, and then thou tramplest on our Faith. Thou dispensest the clergy from paying tributes and taxes to Cæsar, that thou mayest bribe them to be renegades to Christ, foregoing thy own rights, that God may be deprived of his!

Glorious Hilary! thou didst well deserve that thy Church of Poitiers should, of old, address to thee the magnificent praise given by the Roman Church to thy illustrious disciple, St Martin: 'O blessed Pontiff! who with his whole heart loved Christ our King, and feared not the majesty of emperors! O most holy soul! which, though not taken away by the sword of the persecutor, yet lost not the palm of martyrdom!' If the Palm of a Martyr is not in thy hand, yet hadst thou a Martyr's spirit, and well might we add to thy other titles, of Confessor, Bishop, and Doctor, the glorious one of Martyr, just as our holy Mother the Church has conferred it upon thy fellow-combatant, Eusebius, who was but Martyr in heart like thyself. Yes, thy glory is great; but it is all due to thee for thy courage in confessing the Divinity of that Incarnate Word, whose Birth and Infancy we are now celebrating. Thou hadst to stand before a Herod, as had the Magi, and like them thou hadst no fear: and when the Cæsar of those times banished thee to a foreign land, thy soul found comfort in the thought that the Infant Jesus, too, was exiled into Egypt. Oh! that we could imitate thee in the application of these Mysteries to ourselves!

Now that thou art in heaven, pray for our Churches, that they may be firm in the Faith, and may study to know and love Jesus, our Emmanuel. Pray for thy Church of Poitiers, which still loves thee with the reverence and affection of a child; but since the ardour of thy zeal embraced all the world, pray also for all the world. Pray that God may bless his Church with Bishops powerful in word and work, profound in sacred science, faithful in the guardianship of that which is entrusted to them, and unswerving defenders of ecclesiastical liberty.


[1] Acts v 29.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ENCIRCLED by the radiant splendours of the Epiphany, there comes before us to-day, in company with Hilary of Poitiers, a humble lover of the virtues of the Crib of our Emmanuel. Though withdrawn by God himself from the fury of his persecutors, and thus from a martyr's death which would have crowned his cruel torments and imprisonment, Felix nevertheless has won the right to his palm by the invincible courage he showed amidst all his sufferings. In heaven he was already accounted worthy of his reward, but he was yet for a long time to gladden and strengthen the Church on earth by those examples of wonderful poverty, humility, and ardent charity, which now claim for him a place in the sacred cycle near to the lowly manger of the King of Peace.

The Infant God, in all his hidden lowliness, was to Felix his one love and exemplar, hence to-day this King of angels and men who is now manifested to the world and adored by kings, hastens to share with him the honours of his triumphant Epiphany. To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne, saith the Lord (Apoc. iii 21), and in whom, other than Felix, has the realization of this blessed promise of the Divine Head to his members been more apparent? A poor tomb received the mortal remains of the humble priest of Campania, and in its silence and obscurity, emblems of his earthly desires, he seemed destined to await the blast of the angel's trumpet at the final Resurrection. But miracles, many and great, suddenly rendered this tomb illustrious; the name of Felix was carried far and wide, and everywhere wrought the like prodigies of grace. Hardly had peace been given to the Church and world by the accession of Constantine to the throne, when on all sides the people were aroused, and in countless flocks thronged to the martyr's tomb; on certain days Rome herself seemed deserted, and the ancient Appian Road, the very soil of which was worn away by the tramp of the pilgrims, appeared to have no other purpose than to carry to the feet of Felix the homage, gratitude, and love of the entire world. Five basilicas did not suffice for the immense concourse; a sixth was erected, and the lowly field where once the remains of the martyr lay hid was encircled by a new town. The fourth century, so rich in Christian developments, saw the beginning of pilgrimages, and the city of Nola in Campania was, after Rome, the principal centre of this devotion. ‘O happy city of Nola,' cries a contemporary, eyewitness of these wonders, ‘O happy city which through the merits of the blessed Felix has become second only to Rome herself, Rome ever the mistress, yesterday by her empire and victorious armies, to-day by the tombs of the Apostles! ' We have cited Paulinus, the illustrious consul whose name is inseparably linked with that of Felix, Paulinus whom we shall find, in the time after Pentecost, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, giving also admirable examples of renunciation to the world. In the flower of a brilliant youth and already surrounded by honours and glory, Paulinus once found himself by the tomb of Felix—here it was given to him to understand true greatness, to realize the emptiness of human ambitions and glory. The Roman Senator, the consul, the descendant of Paulus Amelius and of the Scipios, here vowed himself to Felix who had conquered. Riches, honours, country, he sacrificed all and aspired only to dwell near to this tomb. A poet of no small merit, whose talents had already won applause in Rome, his inspiration now found expression in singing the praises of the blessed Felix on his feast day and in proclaiming himself the slave and humble doorkeeper of the servant of Christ. Such then is the triumph of our Emmanuel in his saints, such is the glory of his members—does it not seem that the Divine Head, mindful of his promises, is desirous only of the glory which this feast of Manifestation brings, so that they, enthroned with him, may also receive the homage of peoples and kings?

Let us listen now to the abridged lesson of the life of our saint which the Church puts before us to-day.

Felix Nolanus presbyter, cum in idola vehementius inveheretur, ab infidelibus varie vexatus, in carcerem conjicitur. Unde ab Angelo nocte eductus, quærere jussus est Maximianum Nolæ episcopum: qui cum senio confectus desperaret se ferre posse supplicia persequentium, se abdiderat in silvam. Quo cum Felix Deo duce pervenisset, sanctum episcopum humi jacentem pene mortuum videt; quem recreatum ac sublatum in humeros, apud fidelem viduam reficiendum curavit. Sed cum is iterum idolorum cultores impietatis argueret, facto in ipsum impetu, fugiens in angusto duorum parietum intervallo se occultavit; qui aditus cum repente aranearum telis pertextus visus esset, nemini recentis latebræ suspicionem reliquit. Inde igitur evadens Felix in ædibus piæ mulieris tres menses latuit. Cum vero Dei Ecclesia requiescere cœpisset, Nolam rediens, multisque ibi vitæ exemplis, et doctrinæ præceptis, miraculisque ad Christi fidem conversis, constanter etiam recusato ejus urbis episcopatu, obdormivit in Domino, sepultusque est prope Nolam in loco, quem in Pincis appellabant.
Felix, a priest of Nola, was tormented in various ways by the infidels for his violent attacks on idols, and was cast into prison. He was set free in the night by an angel, and ordered to seek Maximianus, the Bishop of Nola, who had hidden himself in a wood because he feared that, at his advanced age, he would not be able to bear the torments of his persecutors. Felix, arriving at the place by the divine guidance, found the holy bishop lying on the ground half dead. He succoured him, and carried him on his shoulders to a Christian widow to be cared for. On another occasion when he was upbraiding the idolworshippers for their impiety, they rushed at him, and he, flying from them, hid in a narrow space between two walls, and the opening was so quickly filled with spider's webs that no one suspected a man had recently taken refuge there. After thus escaping his persecutors, Felix lay hid for three months in the house of a pious woman. When peace was restored to the Church he returned to Nola and converted many to the faith of Christ, by his example, his teaching, and his miracles. He steadily refused to be made bishop of the city, and, falling asleep in the Lord, was buried near Nola at the place called In Pincis.

O Felix, this day is the twentieth since the birth of our Emmanuel, the new sun, the vanquisher of cold and frosts, the restorer of light, the conqueror of darkness. His splendour is yours. Grant that, warmed by his life-giving rays, we may, like you, ever grow in him. Having become children once more at the crib, we possess within us the Seed of the Word; may the innocence of a new heart cause it ever to fructify. By you, Christ’s yoke becomes light to the weak, by you the Infant God is touched with pity and turns in love to penitent souls. This day, then, which witnesses your heavenly birth, should be dear to us, for we too die to the world and are born to our Emmanuel.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ST KENTIGERN, whose feast is kept to-day in several dioceses of the North of England and in Scotland, stands out as one of the zealous monks of the sixth century who laboured incessantly for the conversion of the inhabitants of these islands. He was brought up in the monastery at Culross from early childhood, and was thus trained from his youth in all the practices of monastic observance. However, when he reached man's estate, feeling called to a more rigorous manner of life, he left Culross and took up his abode in a solitude in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, where he led a most mortified life, eating but once in three or four days, spending the night in prayer, and wearing a garment of haircloth. This manner of life gave the greatest edification to all who came in contact with him, and his virtue was such that at the age of twenty-five he was elected to the bishopric of Glasgow. He had grave misgivings as to the validity of his ordination on account of his age, but was forced to bow before the importunities of those who had chosen him for their pastor. He ruled his vast diocese, which was bordered by the North Sea on the east and by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, with wisdom and prudence, though his manner of living remained unchanged, and, moreover, each Lent it was his custom to retire into solitude, giving himself entirely to prayer and living upon roots and herbs. He was assiduous in visiting his flock, travelling always on foot, and the force of his preaching together with the mildness and sweetness of his character and the asceticism of his life was the means whereby innumerable pagans were brought into the Church and many Pelagian heretics converted to the true Faith. This devoted prelate was the father of many monks, a great number of whom he sent to evangelize the north of Scotland, the Orkney Isles, and even Norway and Iceland.

The enemy of mankind, however, would not suffer so many souls to be snatched from his grasp without molestation, and he caused the royal family to raise such a bitter persecution against the saint that he was forced to leave the country. He took refuge in Wales, first at Caerleon, now Usk, where he built a church, then with St David, and finally he settled at the junction of the Rivers Elwy and Cluid, where he built a monastery, now known as St Asaph's. One of the princes of the country opposed this undertaking, whereupon he was struck with blindness, but was cured by the intercession of St Kentigern and thereafter became his great benefactor.

The great crime committed against St Kentigern in Scotland was not permitted to remain unpunished. All those who had persecuted the saint were visited by the just vengeance of Almighty God, and a prince, virtuous and loyal to the Church, ascended the throne, and his first act was to recall St Kentigern, who returned bringing with him some monks from St Asaph's. In 593 the Saint visited Pope St Gregory the Great and unburdened his soul of the doubts he had always held regarding his ordination. The supreme Pontiff set his mind at rest, and confirming him in office sent him back to his see, which he governed in peace for eight years more. On January 13, 601, he was called to his eternal reward at the advanced age of eighty-five, and was buried in his Cathedral Church at Glasgow.

The following is an abridgement of the account given of St Kentigern in the Breviary lessons for his feast.

Kentigernus, quem Scoti propter innocentiam morumque suavitatem, Munghum, id est, valde dilectum, appellarunt, ex regali Pictorum genere in Britannia Septentrionali ortum duxit. Adhuc puer monasterio Culross traditus, sub sancto Servano non minus litterarum quam rerum divinarum studiis mirabiliter profecit. Inde in solitudinem secessit apud Glascuam in Scotia, ubi vitam asperrimam in continua oratione rerumque cælestium meditatione traduxit. In episcopum delectus, et ad pastoralem dignitatem evectus, quasi lucerna supra candelabrum positus, apostolicis virtutibus statim inclaruit. Ejus prædicationem Deus multis magnisque miraculis roboravit, ita ut sanctus præsul, potens opere et sermone, a Pelagiana hæresi gregem suum servaret incolumem, innumeramque paganorum multitudinem Christi Ecclesiæ adjungeret. Ipse autem ab impio quodam tyranno exsulare in Walliam coactus, ibique, apud sanctum David episcopum aliquamdiu commoratus, mox ad fluenta Elwi et Cluidæ celebre fundavit monasterium, in quo sanctum Asaphum discipulum habuit. Tandem sæculo septimo, plenus dierum ad Deum migravit; cujus corpus, Glascuæ in ecclesia cathedrali conditum, ibi in maxima veneratione fuit, usque ad tempora, quibus sectæ Calvinianæ furor Catholicam fidem a Scotia pene exterminavit.
Kentigern, whom the Scots, on account of his innocence and sweetness of disposition, called Mungo, that is well-beloved, was of the royal family of the Picts of Northern Britain. While still a boy he was sent to the monastery of Culross, where, under St Servanus, he made great progress both in secular and in religious learning. Thence he withdrew into solitude, near Glasgow in Scotland, where he led an austere life of continual prayer and meditation upon heavenly things. He was elected bishop, and when he was thus raised to the pastoral charge his virtues shone forth as from a candle set upon a candlestick. God confirmed his preaching by many and great miracles, so much so that the holy bishop, mighty in word and deed, kept his flock safe from the Pelagian heresy and added a countless multitude of pagans to Christ's Church. A certain impious tyrant banished him to Wales, where, after having spent some time with the holy bishop St David, he founded a celebrated monastery at the junction of the rivers Elwy and Cluid, where he had as his disciple St Asaph. At length, in the seventh century, full of days, he slept in the Lord. His body was buried in the cathedral church of Glasgow, where it was held in great veneration until the time when the fury of the Calvinists almost extinguished the Catholic Faith in Scotland.

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