Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Mass Schedule for Dec. 8
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

6:30 am, Noon, 7:00 pm
NO 9:00 am Mass
NO adoration

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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE memory of St. Clement has been surrounded with a peculiar glory from the very beginning of the Roman Church. After the death of the Apostles, he seems to eclipse Linus and Cletus, although these preceded him in the Pontificate. We pass as it were naturally from Peter to Clement; and the East celebrates his memory with no less honour than the West. He was in truth the universal Pontiff, and his acts as well as his writings are renowned throughout the entire Church. This wide-spread reputation caused numbers of apocryphal writings to be attributed to him, which, however, it is easy to distinguish from his own. But is remarkable that all the falsifiers who have thought fit to put his name to their own works, or to invest stories concerning him, agree in declaring that he was of imperial descent.

With only one exception, all the documents which attest Clement’s intervention in the affairs of distant churches, have perished with time; but the one that remains, shows us in full action the monarchical power of the Bishop of Rome at the primitive epoch. The church of Corinth was disturbed with intestine quarrels, caused by jealousy against certain pastors. These divisions, the germ of which had appeared even in St. Paul’s time, had destroyed all peace, and were causing scandal to the very pagans. The Corinthiansat last felt the necessity of putting an end to a disorder, which might be prejudicial to the extension of the Christian faith; and for this purpose, it was requisite to seek assistance from outside. The Apostles had al departed this life, except St. John, who was still the light of the Church. It was no great distance from Corinth to Ephesus, where the Apostle resided; yet it was not to Ephesus but to Rom that the Church of Corinth turned. Clement examined the case referred to his judgment by that Church, and sent to Corinth five commissaries to represent the Apostolic See. They were bearers of a letter, which St. Irenaeus calls potentissimas litteras.[1] It was considered at the time so beautiful and so apostolic, that it was long read in many churches as a sort of continuation of the canonical Scriptures. Its tone is dignified but paternal, according to Saint Peter’s advice to pastors. There is nothing in it of a domineering spirit; but the grave and solemn language bespeaks the universal pastor, whom none can disobey without disobeying God himself. These words so solemn and so firm wrought the desired effect: peace was re‑established in the church of Corinth, and the messengers of the Roman Pontiff soon brought back the happy news. A century later, St. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, expressed to Pope St. Soter the gratitude still felt by his flock towards St. Clement for the service he had rendered.

Brought up in the school of the Apostles, Clement had retained their style and manner. These are visible in his two Letters to virgins, which are mentioned by St. Epiphanius and St. Jerome, and were found in the eighteenth century translated into Syriac, in a manuscript brought from Aleppo.[2] As St. Cecilia reminded us yesterday, the principle of chastity being vowed to God was, from the very beginning, one of the bases of Christianity, and one of the most effectual means for the transformation of the world. Christ himself had praised the superior merit of this sacrifice; and St. Paul, comparing the two states of life, taught that the virgin is wholly taken up with our Lord, while the married woman, whatever her dignity, is divided.[3] Clement had to develop this doctrine, and he did so in these two letters. Anticipating those great doctors of Christina virginity, St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustin, he developed the teachings of St. Peter and St. Paul on this import subject. “He or she,” he says, “who aspires to this higher life, must lead like the Angels an existence all divine and heavenly. The virgin cuts herself off from the allurements of the senses; not only does she renounce the right to their even lawful use, but she aspires to that hope which God, who can never deceive, encourages by this promise, and which far surpasses the natural hope of posterity. In return for her generous sacrifice, her portion in heaven is the very happiness of the Angels.”

Thus spoke the Disciple chosen by St. Peter to set his hand to the task of renovating Rome. It needed no less than this strong doctrine, in order to combat the depraved manners of the Empire. Had Christianity been satisfied with inviting men to honour, as the Philosophers had done, its efforts would have been to no purpose. Stoicism, by exciting great pride, could bring some men even to despise death; but it was utterly powerless against sensuality, which we must own to have been the strongest auxiliary to the tyranny of the Caesars. The ideal of chastity, thrown into the midst of that dissolute society, could alone arrest the ignominious torrent that threatened to submerge all human dignity. Happily for the world, Christian morality succeeded in gaining ground; and, its maximums being followed up by striking examples, it at length forced itself upon the public notice. Roman corruption was amazed to hear of virginity being held in honour and practised by a great many followers of the new religion; and that at a time when the greatest privileges and the most terrible chastisements could scarcely keep to their duty the six vestals, upon whose fidelity depended the honour and the safety of the city. Vespasian and Titus were aware of the infringements upon their primary duty committed by these guardians of the Palladium; but they considered that the low level at which morals then stood, forbade them to inflict the ancient penalties upon these traitresses.

The time, however, was at hand, when the emperors, the senate, and all Rome, were to learn from the first Apology of St. Justin the marvels of purity concealed within that Babylon of iniquity. “Among us, in this city,” said the Apologist, “there are many men and women who have reached the age of sixty or seventy years; brought up from infancy under the law of Christ, they have persevered to this day in the state of virginity; and there is not a country where I could not point out many such.” Athenagorus, in a memorial presented a few years later to Marcus Aurelius, was able to say in like manner: “You will find among us a multitude of persons, both men and women, who have passed their life up to old age in the state of virginity, having no ambition but to unite themselves more intimately to God.”

Clement was predestined to the glory of martyrdom; he was banished to the Chersonesus on the Black Sea. The Acts, which relate the details of his sufferings, are very great antiquity; we shall not here enter into discussions concerning them. They tell us how Clement found in the peninsula a considerable number of Christians already transported there, and employed in working the rich and abundant marble quarries. The joy of these Christians on seeing clement is easily conceived; his zeal in propagating the faith in this far-off country, and the success of his apostolate, are no matter for surprise. The miracle of a fountain springing from the rock at Clement’s word, to quench the thirst of the Confessors, is a fact analogous to hundreds of others related in the most authentic Acts of the Saints. Lastly, the apparition of the mysterious Lamb upon the mountain, marking with his foot the spot whence the water was to flow, carries back the mind to the earliest Christian mosaics, on which may still be see the symbol of the lamb standing on a green hillock.[4]

In the ninth century St. Cyril, apostle of the Slavs, discovered near Cherson the precious remains of the martyr-pontiff. Clement was brought back to Rome; and the great church which had hitherto, according to St. Jerome, preserved the memory of his name[5], henceforth possessed a still richer treasure. The very memory, however, was of great value for science no less than for piety: on the testimony of ancient traditions, this church was built on the site of St. Clement’s old home in the region of Monte Coelio, which we know from other sources to have been the quarter preferred by the Roman aristocracy of the period. Modern archeological investigations have discovered beneath the apse of the primitive basilica, and forming a sort of underground Confession or crypt, the rooms of a private dwelling, the style and ornaments of which are of the Flavian period.[6]

It is time to read the liturgical account of the great Pope of the first century.

Clemens Romanus, Faustini filius, de regione Coelii montis, discipulus beati Petri, cujus meminit Paulus scribens ad Philippenses: Etiam rogo et te germane compar, adjuva illas quae mecum laboraverunt in Evangelio, cum Clemente et caeteris adjutoribus meis, quorum nominasunt in libro vitae. Hic septem Urbus regions divisit septem Notariis, singulas singulis attribuene, qui passions Martyrum et res ab eis gestas diligentissime conquisitas litteris mandarent. Multa scripsit et ipse accurate et salutariter, quibus christianam religionem illustravit.

Cum autem doctrina ac vitae sanctitate multos ad Christi fidem converteret, a Trajano imperatore relegates est trans mare Ponticum in solitudine Urbis Chersonae, in qua duo milia Christianorum reperit, qui ab eodem Trajano condemnati fuerant. Qui cum in eruendis et secandis marmoribus aquae penuria laborarent, Clements facta oration, in vicinum collem ascendit, in cujus jugo vidit Agnum dextero pede fontem aquae dulcis, qui inde scatebat, attingentem; ubi omnes sitim expleverunt: eoque miraculo ulti infidels ad Christi fidem conversi, Clementis etiam sanctitatem venerari coeperunt.

Quibus concitatus Trajanus, misit illuc, qui Clementem, alligata ad ejus collum anchors, in profundum dejicerent. Quod cum factum esset, Christianis ad littus orantibus, mare ad tria milliaria recessit: eoque illi accendentes, aediculam marmoream in temple formam, et intus arcam lapideam, ubi Martyris corpus conditum erate, et juxta illued anchoram, qua mersus fuerat, invenerunt. Quo miraculo incolae permoti, Christi fidem susceperunt. Ejus corpus postea Romam, Nicolao primo Pontifice translatum, in ecolesia ipsius sancti Clementis conditum est. ecclesia etiam in eo insulse loco, unde divinitus fons manarat, ejusdem nomine dedicate est. vixit in pontificatu annos novem, menses sex dies sex. Fecit ordinations duas mense decembri, quibus creavit presbyteros decem, diaconos duos, episcopos per diversa loca quindecim.
Clement was a Roman by birth, son of Faustinus who dwelt in the region of Monte Coelio. H was a disciple of blessed Peter; and is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians, in these words: I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with lement and the rest of my fellow-labourers, who names are in the book of life. He divided Rome into seven regions, appointing a notary for each, who was to ascertain and record with the greatest care the acts and sufferings of the martyrs. He wrote many useful and learned works, such as did honour to the Christian name.

He converted many to the faith of Christ by his learning and holiness of life, and was on that account banished by the emperor Trajan to the desert of Cherson beyond the Black Sea. Here he found two thousand Christians, likewise banished by Trajan, who were employed in quarrying marble. Seeing them suffering from want of water, Clement betook himself to prayer, and then ascended a neighbouring hill, on the summit of which he saw a Lamb, pointing out with his right foot a spring of sweet water. At this source they all quenched their thirst; and many infidels were converted by the miracle, and began to revere Clement as a Saint.

On hearing this Trajan was enraged, and sent officers with orders to cast Clement into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. After the execution of this sentence, as the Christians were praying on the shore, the sea began to recede for the distance of three miles; on approaching they found a small building of marble, in the form of a temple, wherein lay the martyr’s body in a stone coffin, and beside it the anchor with which he had been drowned. The inhabitants of the country were so astounded at the miracle, that they were led to embrace the Christian faith. The holy body was afterwards translated to Rome, under Pope Nicholas I. and deposited in the church of St. Clement. A church was also built and dedicated in his honour, on that spot in the island where the miraculous fountain had sprung up. He held the pontificate nine years, six months, and six days. In two ordinations in the month of December, he made ten priests, two deacons, and fifteen bishops for divers places.

The proper Antiphons of St. Clements Office form a graceful collection, bearing evident signs of antiquity.

Antiphons

Oremus omnes ad Dominum Jesum Christum, ut Confessoribus suis fontis venam aperiat.

Orante sancto Clemente, apparuit ei Agnus Dei.

Non meis meritis ad vos me misit Dominus, vestris, coronis participem fieri.

Vidi supra montem Agnum stantem, de sub cujus pede fons vivus emanate.

De sub cujus pede fons vivus emanate, fluminis impetus laetificat civitatem Dei.

Omnes gentes per gyrum crediderunt Christo Domino.

Cum iter ad mare cepisset, populous voce magna clamabat: Domine Jesu Christe, salva illum: et Clemens cum lacrymis dicebat: Suscipe Pater spiritum meum.

Dedisti Domine habitaculum Martyri tuo Clementi in mari, in modum temple marmorei, angelicis minibus preparatum, iter praebens populo terrae, ut enarrent mirabilia tua.
Let us all beseech our Lord Jesus Christ to discover a source of water to his confessors.

While holy Clement was praying, the Lamb of God appeared to him.

Not through any merits of mine hath the Lord sent me to you to share your crowns.

I sat upon the mountain the Lamb standing, from beneath whose feet sprang up a fount of living waters.

From beneath his feet sprang up a fount of living waters: the stream of the river maketh glad the city of God.

All the surrounding nations believed in Christ the Lord.

As he approached the sea, the people cried with a loud voice: Lord Jesus Christ, save him; and Clement weeping said: Father, receive my spirit.

Thou has given, O Lord, to thy martyr Clement, a dwelling-place in the sea, a marble temple built by the hands of Angels; and thou openest a way thither for the people of the earth, that they may tell thy wonderful works.

We take the following beautiful formulae from the Leonian Sacramentary.

Prayer

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui in omnium Sanctorum tuorum es virtute mirabilis: da nobis in beait Clementis annua solemnitate laetari, qui Filii tui Martyr et Pontifex, quod ministerio gessit, testimonio comprobavit, et quod praedicavit ore, firmavit exemplo. Per Dominum.
O Almighty, eternal God, who art wonderful in the virtue of all thy Saints, grant us to rejoice in the annual solemnity of blessed Clement, who, being the Martyr and Pontiff of the Son, justified his ministry by his words, and corroborated his teaching by his example. Through our Lord.

Preface

Vere dignum Sancti Clementis Martyris tui Natalitia celebrantes, qui cognationem reliquit et patriam; et post odorem tui nominis terras mariaque transmittens, abnegansque semetipsum, crucom peregrinationis assumpsit, ut te per Apostolorum tuorum vestigial sequeretur. Cui tu, Domine, … beatissimi Petri mox tradito discipulo, … deinde Magistri sui Vicarium per ordinem subrogando, Romanae Urbis, cujus propter te despexerat dignitatem, tenere constituis Principatum, proque transitoria claritate, coelesti facis honore conspicuum. Postremo Martyrii Gloria sublimatum, pro temporalibus gestis aeternam provehis ad coronam. Per.
It is truly right that we should give thee thanks, while celebrating the birthday of holy Clement thy Martyr, who abandoned his people and his country, and drawn by the sweet odour of thy name passed over lands and seas; denying himself, the took up the cross of these wanderings, that he might follow thee in the footsteps of thine Apostles. He was first a disciple of blessed Peter, and afterwards his vicar and successor; and thus didst thou, O Lord, appoint him to rule that city of Rome, who dignitaries he had despised for thy sake and instead of transitory honours thou didst ennoble him with heavenly dignity. Finally thou didst raise him to the glory of martyrdom, and reward his temporal labours with an eternal crown.

The Lord saith: My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth: and they gifts shall be accepted upon my alter.[7] Thus does the Church open the chants of the great Sacrifice in thy honour, O holy Pontiff! It was indeed a joy and a supreme consolation to her, to experience that after the departure of the Apostles, the word did not fail; for all the fits left her by her divine Spouse at his Ascension into heaven, this was the most indispensable. In thy writings, the word continued to traverse the world, authoritative and respected, directing, pacifying, sanctifying the people, as fully and as surely as in the days of the Apostles or of our Lord himself. Clear and manifest, thanks to thee, was the proof that Jesus, according to this promise, remains with his disciples till the end of the world. Be thou blessed for having thus, in the earliest times, consoled our Mother the Church.

Thou didst understand, O Clement, that the great apostolic work, the diffusion of the Gospel among all nations, was not to be interrupted by the departure of the first labourers. Thou didst cause death and darkness to retreat farther and farther. All nations owe thee a deep debt of gratitude; but especially the French: for thou didst send thy messengers to Paris and its sister cities, crying in thy name: Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee.[8]

But the labours of an apostolate attacked in every land by the prince of this world, and the cares of universal government, did not exhaust the zeal that fired thy apostolic soul. Be thou blessed for having reserved thy special teaching and solicitude for the best-loved portion of our Lord’s flock, for them that follow the Lamb on the mountain, where thou didst see him, and whithersoever he goeth. Through thy prayers, may the imitators of Flavia Domitilla increase in number and still more in merit. May every Christian learn from the lesson of thy life, that the nobility of this world is nothing compared with that which is won by the love of Christ. May the world, and its capital, once given to God by the Apostles and the Roman patricians, become once more his undisputed kingdom.

 


[1] Contra haereses, iii. 3.
[2] Although modern critics have questioned the authenticity of the text believed by others to be that of St. Clement to virgins, the fact that the holy Pope wrote in favour of virginity still remains, upheld by the concordant testimonies of St. Epiphanius (H. xxx, 15), and St. Jerome (contra Jovinian. 1, 12).
[3] I Cor. vii.
[4] Dom Gueranger, ubi supra.
[5] Hieron. De viris illustribus, xv.
[6] Mullooly, St. Clement and his basilica; DE ROSSI, Bullet. 1863, 1870 etc.
[7] Introit of the feast, from Isaias.
[8] Eph. v. 14.