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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Station, at Rome, is in the church of Saint Chrysogonus, one of the most celebrated martyrs of the Church of Rome. His name is inserted in the Canon of the Mass.

Collect

Sanctifica, quæsumus, Domine, nostra jejunia: et cunctarum nobis indulgentiam propitius largire culparum. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Sanctify, O Lord, we beseech thee, our fasts, and mercifully grant us the pardon of all-our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle

Lectio Jonæ Prophetæ

Cap. iii.

In diebus illis: Factum est verbum Domini ad Jonam prophetam secundo, dicens: Surge, et vade in Nineven civitatem magnam: et prædica in ea prædicationem quam ego loquor ad te. Et surrexit Jonas, et abiit in Niniven juxta verbum Domini. Et Ninive erat civitæ magna itinere trium dierum. Et cœpit Jonas introire in civitatem itinere diei unius: et clamavit, et dixit: adhuc quadraginta dies et Ninive subvertetur. Et crediderunt viri Ninivitæ in Deum: et prædicaverunt jejunium, et vestiti sunt saccis a majore usque ad minorem. Et pervenit verbum ad regem Ninive: et surrexit de solio suo, et abjecit vestimentum suum a se, et indutus est sacco, et sedit in cinere. Et clamavit, et dixit in Ninive ex ore regis, et principum ejus, dicens: Homines, et jumenta, et boves, et pecora non gustent quidquam; nec pascantur, et aquam non bibant. Et operiantur saccis homines, et jumenta, et clament ad Dominum in fortitudine; et converbatur vir a via sua mala, et ab iniquitate, quæ est in manibus eorum. Quis scit si convertatur et ignoscat Deus: et revertatur a furore iræ suæ, et non peribimus? Et vidit Deus opera eorum, quia conversi sunt de via sua mala: et misertus est populo suo Dominus Deus noster.
Lesson from Jonas the Prophet.

Ch. iii.

In those days: the word of the Lord came to Jonas the second time, saying: Arise and go to Ninive, the great city: and preach in it the preaching that I bid thee. And Jonas arose, and went to Ninive, according to the word of the Lord. Now Ninive was a great city of three days’ journey. And Jonas began to enter into the city one day’s journey: and he cried and said: Yet forty days and Ninive shall be destroyed. And the men of Ninive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least. And the word came to the king of Ninive: and he rose up out of his throne, and cast away his robe from him, and was clothed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published in Ninive, from the mouth of the king and of his princes, saying: Let neither men nor beasts, oxen nor sheep, taste anything: let them not feed nor drink water. And let men and beasts be covered with sackcloth, and cry to the Lord with all their strength, and let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the iniquity that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish? And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and the Lord our God had mercy on his people.

The Church’s intention in this day’s lesson is to encourage us to earnestness and perseverance in our penance. Here we have an idolatrous city, a haughty and debauched capital, whose crimes have merited the anger of heaven. God threatens it with His vengeance: yet forty days, and Ninive and its inhabitants shall he destroyed. How came it, that the threat was not carried into effect? What was it that caused Ninive to be spared? Its people returned to the God they had left; they sued for mercy; they humbled themselves, and fasted; and the Church concludes the prophet’s account by these touching words of her own: 'And the Lord our God had mercy on His people.' They are Gentiles, but they became His people, because they did penance at the preaching of the prophet. God had made a covenant with one only nation, the Jews; but He rejected not the Gentiles as often as they renounced their false gods, confessed His holy name and desired to serve Him. We are here taught the efficacy of corporal mortification; when united with spiritual penance, that is, with the repentance of the heart, it has power to appease God’s anger. How highly, then, should we prize the holy exercises of penance, put upon us by the Church during this holy season! Let us also learn to dread that false spirituality, which tells us that exterior mortification is of little value: such doctrine is the result of rationalism and cowardice.

This passage from the prophet Jonas is also intended for the catechumens, whose Baptism is so close at hand. It teaches them to have confidence in this merciful God of the Christians, whose threats are so terrible, but who, notwithstanding, turns from His threats to forgive the repentant sinner. These catechumens, who had hitherto lived in the Ninive of paganism, were here taught that God, even before sending His Son into the world, invited all men to become His people. Seeing the immense obstacles their Gentile ancestors had to surmount in order to receive and persevere in the grace offered them, they would bless God their Saviour for having, by His Incarnation, His Sacrifice, His Sacraments, and His Church, facilitated salvation for us who live under the new Testament. True, He was the source of salvation to all preceding generations: but with what incomparable richness is He the source of ours! The public penitents, too, had their instruction in this Epistle. What an encouragement for them to hope for pardon! God has shown pardon to Ninive, sinful as it was, and sentenced to destruction: He would, therefore, accept their repentance and penance, He would stay His justice, and show them mercy and pardon.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. vii.

In illo tempore: Miserunt principes et pharisæi ministros, ut apprehenderent Jesum. Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Adhuc modicum tempus vobiscum sum: et vado ad eum qui me misit. Quæretis me. et non invenietis: et ubi ego sum vos non potestis venire. Dixerunt ergo Judæi ad semetipsos: Quo hic iturus est, quia non inveniemus eum? Numquid in dispersionem Gentium iturus est, et docturus Gentes? Quis est hic sermo quem dixit: Quæretis me, et non invenietis: et ubi sum ego, vos non potestis venire? In novissimo autem die magno festivitatis stabat Jesus, et clamabat dicens: Si quis sitit, veniat ad me, et bibat. Qui credit in me, sicut dicit Scriptura, flumina de ventre ejus fluent aquæ vivæ. Hoc autem dixit de Spiritu, quem accepturi erant credentes in eum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. vii.

At that time: The rulers and pharisees sent ministers to apprehend Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me. You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come. The Jews therefore said among themselves: Whither will he go that we shall not find him? Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What is this saying that he hath said: You shall seek me and shall not find me; and where I am, you cannot come? And on the last and great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as the Scripture saith, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him.

The enemies of Jesus sought to stone Him to death, as we were told in yesterday’s Gospel; to-day they are bent on making Him a prisoner, and send soldiers to seize Him. This time Jesus does not hide Himself; but how awful are the words He speaks: I go to Him that sent Me: you shall seek Me, and shall not find Me! The sinner, then, who has long abused the grace of God, may have his ingratitude and contempt punished in this just, but terrific way—that he shall not be able to find the Jesus he has despised: he shall seek, and shall not find. Antiochus, when humbled under the hand of God, prayed, yet obtained not mercy.[1]After the death and resurrection of Jesus, whilst the Church was casting her roots in the world, the Jews, who had crucified the just One, were seeking the Messias in each of the many impostors, who were then rising up in Judea, and fomenting rebellions, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Surrounded on all sides by the Roman legions, with their temple and palaces a prey to flames, they sent up their cries to heaven, and besought the God of their fathers to send, as He had promised, the Deliverer! It never occurred to them that this Deliverer had shown Himself to their fathers, to many even of themselves; that they had put Him to death, and that the apostles had already carried His name to the ends of the earth. They went on looking for Him, even to the very day when the deicide city fell, burying beneath its ruins them that the sword had spared. Had they been asked what it was they were awaiting, they would have replied that they were expecting their Messias! He had come, and gone. You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me! Let those, too, think of these terrible words of Jesus, who intend to neglect the graces offered to them during this Easter. Let us pray, let us make intercession for them, lest they fall into that awful threat, of a repentance that seeks mercy when it is too late to find aught save an inexorable justice.

But what consoling thoughts are suggested by the concluding words of our Gospel! Faithful souls, and you that have repented! listen to what your Jesus says, for it is to you that He speaks: If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. Remember the prayer of the Samaritan woman: Give me O Lord, to drink of this water! This water is divine grace: come and drink your fill at the fountains of your Saviour, as the prophet Isaias bids you.[2] This water gives purity to the souls that are defiled, strength to them that are weak, and love to them that have no fervour. Nay, our Saviour assures us that he who believes in Him shall himself become as a fountain of living water, for the Holy Ghost will come upon him, and he shall pour out upon others of the fulness that he himself has received. With what joy must the catechumen have listened to these words, which promised him that his thirst should soon be quenched at the holy font! Jesus has made Himself everything to the world He has come to save: Light to guide us, Bread to nourish us, a Vine to gladden our hearts with its fruit, and, lastly, a Fountain of living water to quench our thirst.

Humiliate capita vestra Deo.

Da, quæsumus, Domine, populo tuo salutem mentis et corporis: ut bonis operibus inhærendo, tua semper mereatur protectione defendi. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, to thy people, health both of body and mind, that being constant in the practice of good works, they may always be safe under thy protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This being the day on which the Church offers to our meditations the history of the prophet Jonas preaching to Ninive, we subjoin a new fragment from the hymn of Prudentius on fasting. It is the passage where he relates the life of this prophet, and the repentance of the wicked city.

Hymn

Referre prisci stemma nunc jejunii
Libet, fideli proditum volumine,
Ut diruendæ civitatis incolis
Fulmen benigni mansuefactum Patris,
Pie repressis ignibus, pepercerit.

Gens insolenti præpotens jactantia
Pollebat olim: quam fluentem nequiter
Corrupta vulgo solverat lascivia;
Et inde bruto contumax fastidio
Cultum superni negligebat Numinis.

Offensa tandem jugis indulgentiæ
Censura, justis excitatur motibus,
Dextram perarmat rhomphæali incendio,
Nimbos crepantes, et fragosos turbines
Vibrans tonantum nube flammarum quatit.

Sed pœnitendi dum datur diecula,
Si forte vellent improbam libidinem
Veteresque nugas condomare, ac frangere.
Suspendit ictum terror exorabilis,
Paulumque dicta substitit sententia.

Jonam prophetam mitis ultor excitat,
Pœnæ imminentis iret ut prænuncius;
Sed nosset ille quum minacem judicem
Servare malle, quam ferire ac plectere,
Tectam latenter vertit in Tharsos fugam.

Celsam paratis pontibus scandit ratem:
Udo revincta fune puppis solvitur.
Itur per altum; fit procellosum mare:
Tum causa tanti quæritur periculi:
Sors in fugacem missa vatem decidit.

Jussus perire solus e cunctis reus,
Cujus voluta crimen urna expresserat,
Præceps rotatur, et profundo immergitur:
Exceptus inde belluinis faucibus,
Alvi capacis vivus hauritur specu.

Intactus exin tertiæ noctis vice,
Monstri vomentis pellitur singultibus,
Qua murmuranti fine fluctus frangitur,
Salsosque candens spuma tundit pumices,
Ructatus exit, seque servatum stupet.

In Ninivitas se coactus percito
Gressu reflectit: quos ut increpaverat,
Pudenda censor imputans opprobria.
Impendit, inquit, ira summi vindicis,
Urbemque flamma mox cremabit: credite.

Apicem deinceps ardui montis petit,
Visurus inde conglobatum turbidæ
Fumum ruinæ, cladis et diræ struem,
Tectus flagellis multinodi germinis,
Nato et repente perfruens umbraculo.

Sed mœsta postquam civitas vulnus novi
Hausit doloris, heu! supremum palpitat.
Cursant per ampla congregatim mœnia
Plebs, et senatus, omnis ætas civium,
Pallens juventus, ejulantes feminæ.

Placet frementem publicis jejuniis
Placare Christum: mos edendi spernitur.
Glaucos amictus induit monilibus
Matrona demptis, proque gemma, et serico
Crinem fluentem sordibus spargit cinis.

Squalent recincta veste pullati patres,
Setasque plangens turba sumit textiles,
Impexa villis virgo bestialibus
Nigrante vultum contegit velamine,
Jacens arenis et puer provolvitur.

Rex ipse Coos æstuantem murices
Lænam revulsa dissipabat fibula,
Geminas virentes, et lapillos sutiles,
Insigne frontis exuebat vinculum
Turpi capillos impeditus pulvere.

Nullus bibendi, nemo vescendi memor:
Jejuna mensas pubes omnis liquerat:
Quin et negato lacte vagientium
Fletu madescunt parvulorum cunulæ:
Succum papillæ parca nutrix derogat.

Greges et ipsos claudit armentalium
Solers virorum cura, ne vagum pecus
Contingat ore rorulenta gramina,
Potum strepentis neve fontis hauriat:
Vacuis querelæ personant præsepibus.

Mollitus his, et talibus, brevem Deus
Iram refrænat, temperans oraculum
Prosper sinistrum: prona nam dementia
Haud difficulter supplicum mortalium
Solvit reatum, fitque fautrix flentium.
I fain would now, in holy fasting’s praise,
tell, from the book of truth,
how God our Father, with his wonted love,
repressed the fire and thunder of his wrath,
and spared the city doomed to be destroyed.

In ancient days a city flourished, whose mighty
power drove her into haughtiness extreme. Criminal indulgence and lewd corruption had destroyed the
morals of her people, so brutalizing them, that
they left the worship of the God of heaven.

At length, the tired patience of God’s long-suffering
gave way to justice, which moves his hand
to prepare his arrowed lightnings,
and storm-voiced clouds, and jarring whirlwind,
and thunderbolts that shake the vault of heaven.

Yet does he grant them time for penitence,
wherein to tame and break the wickedness
of their lust and wonted follies. Mercy, that
waits for prayer, holds back the blow of anger;
a brief delay puts off the day of doom.

The meek avenger sends a herald of the coming
woe: it is Jonas the prophet.
But he, well knowing that the threatening Judge
is prone to save rather than to strike and punish,
stealthily to Tharsis flees.

A noble vessel was prepared for sail, whereon he takes
his place. The anchor weighed, the vessel puts from
shore. She ploughs the deep, when, lo! a storm. Endangered thus, the crew would know the cause,
and casting lots, it falls upon the fugitive, the prophet.

Of all, the only one in fault is he.
His guilt is clear, the lot has told the tale.
Headlong is he cast, and buried in the deep;
and as he falls, a whale’s huge jaw receives the prophet,
burying him alive in the sepulchre of his capacious womb.

There for three nights does Jonas lie unhurt;
which passed, the sick monster heaves him from his womb,
just where the murmuring billows break upon the shore,
and whiten the salty rocks with foam.
The prophet comes forth, wondering, but safe.

Compelled, to Ninive he turns his hurried steps.
He chides, he censures, he charges her with all her shamless crimes,
saying: ‘The anger of the great Avenger shall fall upon you,
and speedily your city shall be made a prey to fire.
Believe the prophecy I speak.’

Then to the summit of a lofty hill he goes,
from whence to see the thickened clouds of smoke
rising from the ruined heap, and gaze upon the pile of unpitied dead.
Suddenly there grows upon the spot an ivy-tree
whose knotted branches yield a shady cover.

But scarce had the mournful city felt the wound of her coming grief,
than deathly fear possesses her.
Her people and her senate, her young and old,
youths pale with panic, and women wailing loud,
hurry in groups along the spacious walls.

It is decreed: the anger of Christ shall by fasting be
appeased. Henceforth they spurn to eat.
Matrons doff their trinkets, and vest in dingy garbs,
and, for their wreaths of pearls and silks,
sprinkle ashes on their hair

Patricians put on robes of sombre hue;
the people, weeping, take hair-shirts for their dress;
dishevelled maidens, clad in skins of beasts,
hide their faces in veils of black.
Children, too, make the dust of earth their bed.

The king himself from his shoulders
tears the Cossian purple robe,
and for the diadem that decks his brow
with emeralds and gems,
strews grim ashes on his head.

None thinks of drink or meat. Among the youths,
not one would touch the food prepared.
Nay, babes are kept from their mothers’ breasts,
and in their cradles, wet with tears,
these little fasters lie.

The herdsman, too, pens up his flock with care,
lest, left to roam, the dewy grass or rippling fount
should tempt them to transgress the universal fast;
but now, pent up, their moans
rebellow through their prison-cave.

Thus is God appeased, his anger brief restrained,
and threatened evil yields to proffered love:
for mercy leans to pardon men their sins,
if they but humbly pray; and when they weep,
she makes herself their friend.

Let us close the day with these stanzas in honour of the holy cross. We have taken them from the Triodion of the Greek Church.

Hymn
(Feria VI. mediæ Septimanæ)

Sanctissimum lignum, in quo Christus manibus extensis adversarias potestates devicit, adoremus jejunio nitidi, ad laudem et gloriam Omnipotentis.

Crux salutifera sanctificationem suppeditans proposita cenitur. Accedamus, cor et corpus emundantes.

Igne mandatorum tuorum munda me, benigne, et da, ut salutiferam Passionem tuam intuear, et cum desiderio adorem, cruce vallatus et conservatus.

Aquis jejunii pectora purgati, lignum crucis fideliter amplectamur, in quo Christus crucifixus aquam immortalitatis nobis emisit.

Crucis velut velo alati, salutarem jejunii navigationem jam mediam emensi sumus, Jesu Salvator, per quam deduc nos ad Passionis tuæ portum.

Præmonstrabat te Moyses in monte, o crux, in gentium interitum. Nos vero efformantes te, et corde intuentes et adorantes, hostes carnis expertes virtute tua profligamus.
Purified by our fast, let us, to the praise and glory of the omnipotent God, venerate that most holy cross, whereon Christ, with his arms stretched forth, overcame the power of our enemy.

The saving cross, that sanctifies us, is now exposed before our eyes. Let us draw nigh, having purified our body and our soul.

Cleanse me, O merciful Saviour, by the fire of thy commandments, and grant that I may contemplate thy saving Passion, and lovingly adore it, having the cross for my protection and defence.

Having our hearts purified by the waters of our fast, let us, with faith, embrace the wood of the cross, on which Christ was crucified, and gave us the water of immortality.

Having thy cross as our sail, we have already winged our way half through the saving voyage of our fast. Lead us by the same, O Jesus our Saviour, into the haven of thy Passion.

Moses on the mount was a figure of thee, O holy cross, (when he prayed with his outstretched arms), unto the destruction of the Amalekites. Grant that we, who sign thee on ourselves, and lovingly gaze on and venerate thee, may, by thy power, put our spiritual enemies to flight.

 

[1] 2 Mach. ix. 13.
[2] Is. xii. 3.