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Twelvetide, or the Twelve Days of Christmas

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

(When the first Sunday occurring in the year falls on January 1 or 6, or 7, the feast of the holy Name is kept on January 2.)

THE second Sunday after the Epiphany, which recalls the Marriage feast of Cana, was at first chosen as the day on which to honour the most holy Name of Jesus. It is on the Wedding Day that the Bridegroom gives his Name to the Bride, and it is the sign that, from that day forward, she belongs to him alone. The Church, therefore, wishing to honour a name so precious to her with a special feast, could find no day more appropriate for it than that of the Marriage at Cana. But now she has chosen for the celebration of this august Name, a day closer to the Anniversary on which it was given, ‘after eight days were accomplished, his name was called Jesus’; she leaves, however, the commemoration of the Sacred Nuptials to the Sunday of which it has ever been the glory.

In the Old Covenant, the Name of God inspired fear and awe: nor was the honour of pronouncing it granted to all the children of Israel. We can understand this. God had not yet come down from heaven to live on earth, and converse with men; he had not yet taken upon himself our poor nature, and become Man like ourselves; the sweet Name expressive of love and tenderness, could not be applied to him.

But, when the fulness of time had come—when the mystery of love was about to be revealed—then did heaven send down the Name of ‘Jesus ' to our earth, as a pledge of the speedy coming of him who was to bear it. The archangel Gabriel said to Mary: Thou shalt call his Name Jesus. ‘Jesus’ means Saviour. How sweet will this Name not be to poor lost man! It seems to link earth to heaven! No name is so amiable, none is so powerful. Every knee in heaven, on earth, and in hell, bows in adoration at hearing this Name! and yet, who can pronounce it, and not feel love spring up within his heart? But we need such a saint as Bernard, to tell us of the power and sweetness of this blessed Name. He thus speaks of it in one of his Sermons.

The Name of Jesus is Light, and Food, and Medicine. It is Light, when it is preached to us; it is Food, when we think upon it; it is the Medicine that soothes our pains when we invoke it. Let us say a word on each of these. Tell me, whence came there, into the whole world, so bright and sudden a light, if not from the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Was it not by the light of this Name that God called us unto his admirable Light? Wherewith being enlightened, and in this light, seeing the Light, we take these words of Paul as truly addressed to ourselves: Heretofore, you were darkness; but now, light in the Lord.

Nor is the Name of Jesus Light only; it is also Food. Art thou not strengthened, as often as thou thinkest of this Name? What is there that so feeds the mind of him that meditates upon this Name? What is there that so restores the wearied faculties, strengthens virtue, gives vigour to good and holy habits, and fosters chastity? Every food of the soul is dry, that is not steeped in this unction; it is insipid, if it be not seasoned with this salt. If thou write, I relish not thy writing, unless I read there the Name of Jesus. If thou teach me, or converse with me, I relish not thy words, unless I hear thee say the Name of Jesus. Jesus is honey to the mouth, and music to the ear, and gladness to the heart.

It is also Medicine. Is any one among you sad? Let but Jesus come into his heart, and the mouth echo him, saying Jesus! and lo! the light of that Name disperses every cloud, and brings sunshine back again. Have any of you committed sin? and is despair driving you into the snare of death? Invoke the Name of life, and life will come back to the soul. Was there ever a man, that, hearing this saving Name, could keep up that common fault of hardness of heart, or drowsiness of sluggishness, or rancour of soul, or languor of sloth? If any one, perchance, felt that the fountain of his tears was dry, did it not gush forth more plentifully than ever, and flow more sweetly than ever, as soon as he invoked the Name of Jesus? If any of us were ever in danger, and our heart beat with fear, did not this Name of power bring us confidence and courage the moment we pronounced it? When we were tossed to and fro by perplexing doubts, did not the evidence of what was right burst on us as we called upon the Name of light? When we were discouraged, and well nigh crushed, by adversity, did not our heart take courage, when our tongue uttered the Name of help? All this is most true; for all these miseries are the sicknesses and faintings of our soul, and the Name of Jesus is our Medicine.

But, let us see how all this comes to pass. Call upon me in the day of trouble, says the Lord; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.[1] There is nothing which so restrains the impulse of anger, calms the swelling of pride, heals the wound of envy, represses the insatiability of luxury, smothers the flame of lust, quenches the thirst of avarice, and dispels the fever of uncleanliness—as the Name of Jesus. For when I pronounce this Name, I bring before my mind the Man, who, by excellence, is meek and humble of heart, benign, sober, chaste, merciful, and filled with everything that is good and holy, nay, who is the very God Almighty—whose example heals me, and whose assistance strengthens me. I say all this, when I say Jesus. Here have I my model, for he is Man; and my help, for he is God; the one provides me with precious drugs, the other gives them efficacy; and from the two I make a potion such as no physician knows how to make.

Here is the electuary, my soul, hid in the casket of this Name Jesus; believe me, it is wholesome, and good for every ailment thou canst possibly have. Ever have it with thee, in thy bosom and in thy hand; so that all thy affections and actions may be directed to Jesus.[2]

The feast of the Holy Name is of comparatively recent origin, its first promoter was St Bernardine of Siena, who lived in the fifteenth century. This holy man established the practice of representing the Holy Name of Jesus surrounded with rays, and formed into a monogram of its three first letters, ihs.[3] The custom spread rapidly through Italy, and was zealously propagated by the great St John of Capestrano, who, like St Bernardine of Siena, was of the Order of Friars Minor. The Holy See gave its formal approbation to this manner of honouring the Name of our Saviour, and, in the early part of the sixteenth century, Pope Clement VI, after long entreaties, granted to the whole Franciscan Order the privilege of keeping a special Feast in honour of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

Rome extended the same favour to various Churches; and, at length, the Feast was inserted in the universal Calendar. It was in the year 1721, at the request of Charles VI, Emperor of Germany, that Pope Innocent XII decreed that the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus should be kept throughout the whole Church; he also chose the Second Sunday after the Epiphany as the day, but as we have already explained, the feast is now fixed for the Sunday following the Circumcision.

MASS

The Church begins her chants by proclaiming the glory of the Name of her Spouse. Heaven, earth, and hell! bow ye down at the sound of this adorable Name, for the Son of Man, who bears this Name, is also the Son of God.

Introit

In Nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur, cœlestium, terrestrium et infernorum; et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris.

Ps. Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirabile est Nomen tuum in universa terra! ℣. Gloria Patri. In Nomine Jesu.
At the Name of Jesus, let every knee bend in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue confess, that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

Ps. O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is thy name over the whole earth, ℣. Glory. At the Name.

In the Collect, the Church, which, during her exile, finds consolation in the Name of her divine Spouse, prays that she may see his blessed face in heaven.

Collect

Deus, qui unigenitum Filium tuum constituisti humani generis Salvatorem, et Jesum vocari jussisti: concede propitius, ut cujus sanctum Nomen veneramur in terris, ejus quoque aspectu perfruamur in cœlis. Per eumdem.
O God, who didst appoint thy Only-Begotten Son the Saviour of mankind, and commandedst that his name should be called Jesus: mercifully grant, that we who venerate this holy Name on earth, may also enjoy his sight in heaven. Through the same, etc.

No commemoration is made of the Sunday; but on January 2, 3, or 4 the occurring Octave Day is commemorated in private Masses only; and on January 5 the Vigil of the Epiphany is commemorated in all Masses, and St Telesphorus, Pope and Martyr, in private Masses.


Epistle

Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.

Cap. IV.

In diebus illis, Petrus Spiritu Sancto repletus, dixit: Principes populi, et seniores, audite: si nos hodie dijudicamur in benefacto hominis infirmi, in quo iste salvus factus est; notum sit omnibus vobis, et omni plebi Israel, quia in Nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi Nazareni, quem vos crucifixistis, quem Deus suscitavit a mortuis, in hoc iste adstat coram vobis sanus. Hic est lapis qui reprobatus est a vobis ædificantibus, qui factus est in caput anguli; et non est in alio aliquo salus. Nec enim aliud nomen est sub cœlo datum hominibus, in quo oporteat nos salvos fieri.
Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Ch. IV.

In those days: Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost, said: Ye princes of the people and ancients, hear. If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner; neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.

Oh! how true is this, dear Jesus! no other Name but thine could give us salvation, and thy Name means Saviour. Be thou praised for having taken such a Name! Be thou praised for having saved us! Thou art of heaven heavenly, and yet thou takest a Name of earth, and one which our mortal lips can say.

The holy Church then commences a second canticle in praise of this divine Name, which is blessed by all nations, for it is the name of him who redeemed them all.

Gradual

Salvos fac nos, Domine Deus noster; et congrega nos de nationibus: ut confiteamur Nomini sancto tuo, et gloriemur in laude tua.

℣. Tu, Domine, Pater noster, et Redemptor noster; a sæculo nomen tuum.
Alleluia, alleluia.

. Laudem Domini loquetur os meum, et benedicat omnis caro Nomen sanctum ejus. Alleluia.

Save us, O Lord, our God! and gather us from amidst the nations: that we may give thanks to thy holy Name, and may glory in thy praise.

. Thou, Lord, art our Father and Redeemer; thy Name is from eternity.

Alleluia, alleluia.

. My mouth shall publish the praises of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy Name. Alleluia.


After Septuagesima, the following Tract is sung, instead of the Alleluia.

Tract

Domine, Deus virtutum, converte nos; et ostende faciem tuam et salvi erimus: sonet vox tua in auribus meis.

. Vox enim tua dulcis, et facies tua decora nimis.

. Oleum effusum Nomen tuum, Jesu; ideo adolescentulæ dilexerunt te.
Convert us to thee, O Lord God of hosts; and show thy face, and we shall be saved: let thy voice sound in my ears.

. For sweet is thy voice, and very beautiful is thy countenance.

. Thy Name, O Jesus, is as oil poured out; therefore have virgins loved thee.

GOSPEL

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: Postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur Puer, vocatum est Nomen ejus Jesus; quod vocatum est ab Angelo, priusquam in utero conciperetur.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

At that time, After eight days were accomplished that the Child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.

It is during the first shedding of thy Blood, by the Circumcision, that thou didst receive this Name of Jesus, dear Lord! and it was fitting that it should be so, for this Name signifies Saviour, and we could not be saved but by thy Blood. Our immortal life is to be purchased at the price of thy Death! This truth is expressed to us by thy Name, O Jesus! Saviour! Thou art the Vine, and thou invitest us to drink of thy delicious Wine; but the heavenly Fruit must be first unsparingly pressed in the wine-press of thy Eternal Father’s justice; we cannot drink of its juice, until it shall have been tom from the branch and bruised for our sakes. May thy sacred Name ever remind us of this sublime Mystery, and may the remembrance keep us from sin, and make us always faithful.

During the Offertory, the holy Church resumes her chants in honour of the Holy Name; she celebrates the mercies, which are reserved for all them that call on this Name.

Offertory

Confitebor tibi, Domine Deus meus, in toto corde meo; et glorificabo Nomen tuum in æternum. Quoniam tu, Domine, suavis et mitis es, multæmisericordiæ omnibus invocantibus te. Alleluia.
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify thy name for ever; because, O Lord, thou art good and gracious, and full of mercy towards all that call upon thee. Alleluia.

Secret

Benedictio tua, clementissime Deus, qua omnis viget creatura, sanctificet, quæsumus, hoc sacrificium nostrum, quod ad gloriam Nominis Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi offerimus tibi: ut majestati tuæ piacere possit ad laudem, et nobis proficere ad salutem. Per eumdem.
May thy blessing, O most merciful God, by which every creature is enlivened and subsists, sanctify this our sacrifice, which we offer thee in honour of the name of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: that it may be acceptable to the praise of thy majesty, and available to our salvation. Through the same, etc.

The Faithful having received the heavenly food—the Body and Blood of their Saviour, Jesus—the Church, filled with gratitude towards her Lord, invites all nations to glorify the Name of him who made and redeemed them.

Communion

Omnes gentes quascumque fecisti venient, et adorabunt coram te. Domine, et glorificabunt Nomen tuum: quoniam magnus es tu, et faciens mirabilia; tu es Deus solus. Alleluia.
All the nations thou hast made shall come and adore before thee, O Lord, and they shall glorify thy name, for thou art great and dost wonderful things: thou art God alone. Alleluia.

The holy Church has now but one more prayer to make: it is, that the names of her children may be written, under the glorious Name of 'Jesus,' in the book of eternal predestination, which is, as it were, the deed of the contract made with us by our Saviour. This happiness will assuredly be ours, if we are but wise enough to profit by all that this sweet Name offers us, and to make our life conformable to the lessons it teaches us.

Postcommunion

Omnipotens, aeterne Deus, qui creasti et redemisti nos: respice propitius vota nostra, et sacrrficium salutaris hostiæ, quod in honorem Nominis Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi, majestati tuæ obtulimus, placido et benigno vultu suscipere digneris; ut gratia tua nobis infusa, sub glorioso Nomine Jesu, æternæ prædestinationis titulo, gaudeamus nomina nostra scripta esse in cœlis. Per eumdem.
O Almighty and Eternal God, who didst both create and redeem us, mercifully hear our prayers, and vouchsafe, with a pleasing and kind countenance, to receive the sacrifice of this victim of our salvation, which we have offered to thy divine Majesty, in honour of the Name of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; that thy grace being poured upon us, through the glorious Name of Jesus as a pledge of our eternal predestination, we may rejoice that our names are written in heaven. Through the same, etc.

Vespers

Ant. Omnis qui invocaverit Nomen Domini salvus erit.
Ant. Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved.

Psalm: Dixit Dominus, p. 89.

Ant. Sanctum et terribile Nomen ejus: initium sapientiæ timor Domini.
Ant. Holy and terrible is his Name: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Psalm: Confitebor, p. 90.

Ant. Ego autem in Domino gaudebo, et exsultabo in Deo Jesu meo.
Ant. But I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will joy in God my Jesus.

Psalm: Beatus vir, p. 91.

Ant. A solis ortu usque ad occasum, laudabile Nomen Domini.
Ant. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Name of the Lord is worthy of praise.

Psalm: Laudate pueri, p. 92.

Ant. Sacrificabo hostiam laudis, et Nomen Domini invocabo.
Ant. I will sacrifice the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord.

Psalm 115

Credidi, propter quod locutus sum: * ego autem humiliatus sum nimis.
Ego dixi in excessu meo: * Omnis homo mendax.
Quid retribuam Domino, * pro omnibus, quæ retribuit mihi?
Calicem salutaris accipiam: * et Nomen Domini invocabo.
Vota mea Domino reddam coram omni populo ejus: * pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum ejus.
O Domine, quia ego servus tuus: * ego servus tuus et filius ancillæ tuæ.
Dirupisti vincula mea: * tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis, et Nomen Domini invocabo.
Vota mea Domino reddam in conspectu omnis populi ejus: * in atriis domus Domini, in medio tui Jerusalem.



I have believed, therefore have I spoken: but I have been humbled exceedingly.
I said in my excess: Every man is a liar.
What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that he hath rendered to me?
I will take the chalice of salvation: and I will call upon the Name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord before all his people: precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, for I am thy servant: I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice to thee the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the sight of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.

 


Capitulum
(Phil, ii)

Fratres, Christus humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis: propter quod et Deus exaltavit ilium, et donavit illi Nomen quod est super omne nomen: ut in Nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur.
Brethren, Christ humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross; for which cause, God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a Name, which is above all names: that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow.

Hymn[4]

Jesu, dulcis memoria,
Dans vera cordi gaudia:
Sed super mel et omnia,
Ejus dulcis præsentia.

Nil canitur suavius,
Nil auditur jucundius,
Nil cogitatur dulcius,
Quam Jesus Dei Filius.

Jesu, spes pœnitentibus,
Quam pius es petentibus!
Quam bonus te quærentibus!
Sed quid invenientibus?

Nec lingua valet dicere,
Nec littera exprimere;
Expertus potest credere,
Quid sit Jesum diligere.

Sis Jesu nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus præmium,
Sit nostra in te gloria,
Per cuncta semper sæcula.

Amen.

℣. Sit Nomen Domini benedictum, Alleluia.
. Ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum, Alleluia.
Jesus! how sweet the remembrance of that name,
which gives true joy to the heart!
But, the sweet presence of him who bears that Name
is sweeter than honey and every pleasure.

No song is so sweet,
no word is so sweet,
no thought is so sweet as
Jesus, the Son of God!

Dear Jesus! thou hope of penitent hearts!
how merciful thou art to them that ask for thee!
how good to them that seek thee!
but, oh! what art thou to them that find thee!

No tongue can tell,
no pen can describe,
what it is to love Jesus.
He that has felt it, can alone believe the bliss.

Jesus! be thou our joy,
as thou wilt, one day,
be our reward.
May our glory for eternal ages be in thee.

Amen.

℣. Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Alleluia.
. From henceforth, now, and for ever, Alleluia.

 


Antiphons Of The Magnificat

Ant. (1 Vp.). Fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus, alleluia.

Ant. (2 Vp.). Vocabis Nomen ejus Jesum; ipse enim salvum faciet populum suum a peccatis eorum. Alleluia.

Oremus

Deus qui unigenitum Filium tuum constituisti humani generis Salvatorem, et Jesum vocari jussisti; concede propitius, ut, cujus sanctum Nomen veneramur in terris, ejus quoque aspectu perfruamur in cœlis. Per eumdem.

Ant. (1 Vp.). For he that is mighty has done great things to me, and holy is his Name, alleluia.

Ant. (2 Vp.). Thou shalt call his Name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Alleluia.

Let us Pray

O God, who didst appoint thy Only-Begotten Son, the Saviour of mankind, and commandedst that his Name should be called Jesus: mercifully grant, that we who venerate his holy Name on earth, may also enjoy his sight in heaven. Through the same, etc.


The two Hymns which follow, and which are used by the Church for the Matins and Lauds of the Feast, are by the same writer as the Hymn of Vespers, Jesu dulcis memoria. They were for a long time attributed to St Bernard; but Manuscripts have been found, which prove beyond a doubt, that they were composed by a holy Abbess of the Order of St Benedict, who lived in the fourteenth century.

Hymn

Jesu, Rex admirabilis,
Et triumphator nobilis,
Dulcedo inefabilis,
Totus desiderabilis.


Quando cor nostrum visitas,
Tunc lucet ei veritas,
Mundi vilescit vanitas,
Et intus fervet charitas.

Jesu, dulcedo cordium,
Fons vivus, lumen mentium,
Excedens omne gaudium,
Et omne desiderium.

Jesum omnes agnoscite;
Amorera ejus poscite;
Jesum ardenter quærite,
Quærendo inardescite.

Te nostra, Jesu, vox sonnet.
Nostri te mores exprimant,
Te corda nostra diligant,
Et nunc et in perpetuum.

Amen.

O Jesus! admirable King!
noble Conqueror!
ineffable Sweetness!
most lovely Jesus!


When thou visitest the heart,
then does truth shine upon her,
the vanity of the world grows contemptible,
and charity burns within.

O Jesus! Sweetness of the heart!
Fount of life! Light of the soul!
Thou surpassest every joy,
and every desire.

Acknowledge this Jesus, all ye people!
Pray for his love,
seek him with all eagerness,
and, as ye seek him, burn with love of him.

May our tongue proclaim thee, O Jesu!
may our lives reflect thy virtues!
may our hearts love thee,
both now and for eternity!

Amen.


Hymn

Jesu decus Angelicum,
In aure dulce canticum,
In ore mel mirificum,
In corde nectar cœlicum.


Qui te gustant esuriunt;
Qui bibunt adhuc sitiunt;
Desiderare nesciunt
Nisi Jesum, quem diligunt.

O Jesu, mi dulcissime,
Spes suspirantis animæ!
Te quærunt piæ lacrymæ,
Te clamor mentis intimæ.

Mane nobiscum, Domine,
Et nos illustra lumine;
Pulsa mentis caligine,
Mundum reple dulcedine.

Jesu, flos Matris virginis,
Amor nostræ dulcedinis,
Tibi laus, honor Nominis,
Regnum beatitudinis.

Amen.

My Jesus, thou glory of the Angels!
Thou art sweet music to the ear,
sweetest honey to the mouth,
heavenly nectar to the heart!


They that taste thee, still hunger after thee;
they that drink, still thirst to drink;
they know not what to desire
save the Jesus whom they love.

O Jesus! my sweetest Jesus!
hope of this panting heart!
these tears of love, this cry of my innermost soul,
both ask thee to be mine.

Abide with us, O Lord!
and illumine us with light;
drive darkness from our souls,
and fill the world with thy sweetness.

To thee, O Jesus! thou Flower of thy Virgin-Mother,
thou love of our delighted nature!
be praise, and the honour of thy Name,
and the kingdom of eternal bliss.

Amen.


The following Sequence is the composition of the devout Bernardine de Bustis, a Franciscan, who also composed, during the pontificate of Sixtus IV, an Office and a Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Sequence

Dulcis Jesus Nazarenus,
Judæorum Rex amœnus,
Pius, pulcher, floridus.


Pro salute suæ gentis
Subit mortem cum tormentis,
Factus pallens, lividus.

Dulce Nomen et cognomen,
Hoc transcendens est prænomen
Omnibus nominibus.

Mulcet reos, sanat eos;
Fovet justos, munit eos;
Servans ab insultibus.

Hujus Regis sub vexillo
Statu degis in tranquillo:
Hostes tui fugiunt.

Nomen Jesu meditatum
Belli fugat apparatum,
Hostes victi fugiunt.

Hoc est Nomen recolendum,
Quod sic semper est tremendum
Malignis spiritibus.

Hoc est Nomen salutare,
Et solamen singulare,
Quod succurrit tristibus.

Hoc nos decet honorare,
Arca cordis inserare,
Cogitare, peramare,
Amore sed heroico.

Ignatius hoc docuit,
Hoc passus insonuit,
Cor ejus scissum patuit
Inscriptum Jesu cœlico.

Ut quid majora cupimus
Quam quod Jesus sit intimus:
Qui est præamantissimus,
Et quærit nos amare.

Amat ferventissime,
Amat constantissime,
Amat fidelissime,
Et suos vult juvare.

Nomen suum fecit tale.
Ut sit cunctis cordiale,
Capitale, principale,
Dilectum ex intimis.

Habent hoc naturae jura:
Ut amantem tota cura
Redamemus, placitura
Præstantes ex animis.

Jesu Nomen omne bonum
Tenet, dulcem facit sonum:
Promeretur regni thronum,
Auditum lætificat.

In hoc lucet splendor Patris,
In hoc patet decor Matris:
In hoc fulget honor Patris,
Hoc fratres magnificat.

Ergo si quis velit scire
Quare Nomen Jesu mire
Facit bonos concupire
Sui inhærentia.

Jesu, pulcher in decore,
Summe bonus in valore,
Mitis, lenis, cum dulcore
Pronus ad clementiam.

Jesus est Rex gloriosus,
Jesus forma speciosus:
Jesus lingua gratiosus,
Et mirandus opere.

Jesus fortis, animosus,
Jesus pugil vigorosus,
Jesus donis copiosus,
Et gaudet tribuere.

Jesus pie viscerosus,
Jesus ductor luminosus,
Jesus est deliciosus,
Et sapit dulcissime.

Jesus fama gloriosus,
Jesus cunctis fructuosus,
Jesus totus virtuosus,
Fovet suos optime.

Summe celsus in honore,
Summe gratus in amore,
Omnem laudem obtinet.

In sciendo omne sapit,
Ambiendo cuncta capit,
Diligendo corda rapit,
Et illata detinet.

Eia nobis Nomen gratum,
Dulcis Jesus appellatum:
Sit in corde sic firmatum,
Ut non possit erui.

Hoc reatum peccatorum
Tollat, præstet jubilorum
Odas: sede beatorum
Donet nobis perfrui.

Amen.

Sweet Jesus of Nazareth!
dear King of the Jews!
the good, the beautiful, the flowerlike Jesus!


He suffers death and torments
for the salvation of his people:
he is pale and livid with his wounds.

Sweet Name and epithet!
It is the Name
surpassing all names.

It softens the sinner's heart, and heals him:
it warms up the just, and strengthens them,
and defends them from temptation.

Under this King's standard,
thou livest in peace,
for thine enemies fly before thee.

Think upon the Name of Jesus,
and it will break up thine enemies' plans,
conquer them, and put them to flight.

This is the Name deserving of all honour,
at which the wicked spirits
ever tremble.

This is the Name of salvation,
and the wonderful consolation
which comforts the sorrowful.

It behoves us to honour this Name,
put it in the treasury of our heart,
think on it, love it,
but love it bravely.

Ignatius taught men this Name;
when he suffered martyrdom he had it on his lips,
and when his heart was opened,
there was found written on it this heavenly word Jesus.

What could we wish for better than this,
to have Jesus as a bosom-friend?
He is lovely above all measure,
and desires to love us.

He loves most ardently,
he loves most constantly,
he loves most faithfully,
and seeks how to assist his friends.

He made his own Name,
and he made it such as that all should love it above all names,
and before all names,
and more intimately than all other names.

This is nature’s law:
that we study our best to love him who loves us,
and cordially do all we can
to please him.

The Name of Jesus includes all good things;
its sound is sweet;
it merits for us a throne in the kingdom;
it gladdens our hearing.

The brightness of the Father shines in it;
the beauty of the Mother beams through it;
the honour of the Father is reflected in it;
the glory of the Brethren comes from it.

Would any one, therefore, know,
how it is that the Name of Jesus
so wonderfully causes the good
to desire him whose Name it is?

It is that Jesus is beautiful in comeliness,
infinitely good in worth,
meek, gentle, and sweetly
prone to mercy.

Jesus is the King of glory;
Jesus is beautiful in appearance;
Jesus is graceful in speech,
and admirable in his works.

Jesus is strong, and valiant;
Jesus is a vigorous combatant;
Jesus is generous in his gifts,
and loves to give.

Jesus is tenderly compassionate;
Jesus is the enlightened guide;
Jesus is the delight of all who know him,
and most sweet is his company.

Jesus is glorified throughout the world;
Jesus brings the fruit of blessings to all;
Jesus is the source of every virtue,
and takes the tenderest care of those that are his.

There is none equal to him in honour,
there is none like him in affection,
and all the earth praises him.

He knows all things,
and holds all things in his omnipresent providence;
his love wins him the hearts of his creatures
and keeps them fastened to himself.

All hail, then, to this Name so loved
—‘Sweet Jesus'!
May it be so fixed within our hearts,
that no power may take it from us!

May it bring us the forgiveness of our sins;
may it inspire us to hymn God's praise;
may it lead us to the possession
of our blissful throne in heaven.

Amen.


We cannot refuse to our readers the following Hymn from the ancient Missals of Germany, notwithstanding its being, in several of the ideas and expressions, a repetition of the one just given.

Hymn

Nomen jure sublimatum,
In excelsis adoratum,
Nomen summæ gloriæ:

Gabrieli revelatum,
Et in terris nunciatum
Genitrici gratiæ.


Hæc octavo die natum,
Circumcisum more patrum,
Salvatorem nominat.

Universo publicatum
Mundo Nomen hoc beatum
Credentes salvificat.

In hoc lucet Trinitatis
Splendor atque unitatis;
Hoc cœlum lætificat.

In hoc fulget honor Patris,
In hoc patet decor Matris,
Hoc fratres glorificat.

Hoc est Nomen salutare,
Et solamen singulare,
Quod succurrit tristibus.

Hoc nos decet honorare,
Benedicere, laudare
Semper lætis mentibus.

Hoc est melos prædicatum,
Dulce mel est invocatum,
Servat ab insultibus.

Jubilus est cogitatum,
Nomen mire formidatum
Malignis spiritibus.

Ecce Nomen gratiosum,
Fructuosum, virtuosum
Præ cunctis nominibus.

Vultum Dei gratiosum,
Speciosum, amorosum,
Ostendit hominibus.

Nomen pulchrum in decore,
Summe bonum in valore,
Intus sapit dulciter;

Summe potens in vigore,
Summe celsum in honore
Delectat feliciter.

Ergo Pastor animarum,
Bone Jesu, et earum
Lumen indeficiens,

Propter Nomen tuum carum
Tetrum chaos tenebrarum
Obstrue, nos muniens.

O Reformator cunctarum
Nationum humanarum,
Vita mortem auferens,
Restaurator ruinarum
Virtutum angelicarum,
Te ipsum sis largiens.

Amen.

Jesus, Name so justly honoured,
adored in heaven,
and expressive of infinite glory!

It was revealed to Gabriel,
and announced on earth
to the Mother of divine grace.


She, on the eighth day,
when her Son had been circumcised according to the Jewish ceremony,
she called him Jesus.

The blessed Name was preached
to the whole world,
and saves them that believe.

The glory of the divine Trinity
and Unity blazes forth in this Name;
it gladdens heaven;

the brightness of the Father shines in it;
the beauty of the Mother beams through it;
the glory of the Brethren comes from it.

This is the Name of salvation,
and the wonderful consolation
which comforts the sorrowful.

It behoves us ever to honour,
and bless, and praise,
with joyful hearts, this dear Name.

It is music when preached to us;
it is sweet honey when invoked by us;
it defends us from temptation.

It is joy to us when we think on it,
and the wicked spirits are seized
with strange fear when they hear us say it.

This is the Name that is full of grace,
and fruit, and virtue,
above all names.

It makes known to men
the gracious, the beautiful,
the loving face of God.

It is fair in beauty,
it is surpassingly good in worth,
its inner relish is most sweet;

it is most powerful in energy,
most high in honour,
and gives a happy delight.

Do thou, therefore, good Jesus!
Shepherd and Light
unfailing of our souls!

defend us, and, for thy dear Name’s sake,
let not the dismal chaos of darkness
ingulf us.

O thou the Reformer
of all nations,
that destroyest death by thy Life!
O Restorer of the loss
sustained by the Angels,
give thyself unto us.
Amen.


 

 

 

 

[1] Ps. xlix 15.
[2] Fifteenth Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles.
[3] The Name was, anciently, often written Ihesus; hence, in its contracted form alluded to, the letter h would be given: the e following was virtually included in the aspirate. [Translator.]
[4] In the Monastic Breviary, it is preceded by this Responsory. ℟.Adjutorium nostrum in Nomine Domini, * Alleluia, alleluia. Adjutorium. V. Qui fecit cœlum et terrain. * Alleluia. Gloria Patri. Adjutorium.

 

 

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year .

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

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

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

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

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

MASS

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

Introit

Dum medium silentium, p. 341.


Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, p. 342.


Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Oremus

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

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

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Deus, qui salutis œternœ, p. 415.


Epistle

Fratres, quanto tempore, p. 342.


Gradual

Speciosus forma, p. 343.


Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. II.

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

Ch. II.

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

Offertory

Deus firmavit, p. 345.


Secret

Concede, quœsumus, p. 345.


Commemoration of St Telesphorus

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

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Tua, Domine, propitiatione, p. 416.


Communion

Tolle puerum, p. 346.


Postcommunion

Commemoration of St Telesphorus

Oremus

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

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

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin

Hæc nos communio, p. 417.


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

APPENDIX

Hymn

The stanzas usually sung are marked thus *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

 

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

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsories

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

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

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

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

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

The two Collects which follow are from the Leonine Sacramentary.

Prayer

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

Prayer

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

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

Capitula

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

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

Prayer

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

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

Hymn

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sequence

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


Quem cœlitus jubilat supra astra manentis plebis decus harmoniæ:

Quem agmina infantium sonoris hymnis collaudant ætheris in arce:

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

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

Solita usus gratia, qua tuos ornas coronis splendide;

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

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

Illis aeternæ dans lumen gloriæ, nobis terrea concede vincere;

Ut liceat serenis actibus pleniter adipisci dona tuæ gratiæ:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

 

 

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Octave of the Beloved Disciple closes to-day: let us devoutly offer him our parting homage. We shall meet him again, during the year; for, on May 6, when the Resurrection of his Divine Master is gladdening the Church with the Easter joys, we shall have the Feast of our Apostle's Confession made before the Latin Gate: but his grand Feast ends to-day, and he has done too much on our behalf this Christmas for us to allow this Octave Day to pass without returning him our warmest thanks. Let us begin by exciting ourselves to a great reverence for our Saint; and to this end, let us continue the considerations we were making this day week on the favours conferred upon him by Jesus.

The Apostolate of St John produced a plentiful harvest among the people to whom he was sent. The Parthians received the Gospel from him, and most of the Churches of Asia Minor were founded by him. Of these latter, seven, together with their Angels, were chosen by Christ himself[1] to typify the several kinds of Pastors; and probably, as some have interpreted this passage of the Apocalypse, these Seven may be taken as representing the seven Ages of the Church herself. Neither must we forget that these Churches of Asia Minor, shortly after St John had founded them, sent Apostles into western Europe. Thus, for example, the illustrious Church of Lyons was one of the conquests made by these early Missioners; and St Pothinus, the first Bishop of Lyons, was a disciple of the disciple of St John—St Polycarp—the Angel of the Church of Smyrna,[2] whose Feast we shall keep a few days hence.

But St John’s apostolic labours in no wise interfered with the care which his own filial affection and the injunctions of our Saviour imposed upon him—the care of the Blessed Mother and Virgin Mary. So long as Jesus judged her visible presence on the earth to be necessary for the consolidation of his Church, so long did John enjoy the immense happiness of her society, and of being permitted to treat her as his most beloved Mother. After a certain number of years, during which he had dwelt with her in the city of Ephesus, he returned with her to Jerusalem, whence she ascended to heaven from the desert of this world, as the Church sings of her, as a pillar of smoke of aromatic spices of myrrh and frankincense.[3] The holy Apostle had to bear this second separation, and continue preaching the Gospel until that happy day should come when he also should ascend to that blissful region where Jesus his Divine Friend, and Mary his incomparable Mother, were awaiting his arrival.

The Apostles, those Lights placed by the hand of Jesus himself upon the candlestick[4] of the Church, died out by martyrdom one after the other, leaving St John the sole survivor of the Twelve. His white hair, as the early Fathers tell us, was encircled with a thin plate of gold, the mark of episcopal dignity; the Churches treasured up the words which fell from his inspired lips, and considered them as their rule of Faith; and his prophecy of Patmos, the Apocalypse, proves that the future of the Church was also revealed to him. Notwithstanding all this, John was humble and simple, like the Divine Infant of Bethlehem; and one cannot read without emotion what the early writers tell us of him, how he was often seen fondling a pet bird in his venerable hands.

He who had, when young, leaned his head upon the Breast of God, whose delights are to he with the children of men;[5] who had stood near his Lord during the Crucifixion, when all the other Apostles kept away in fear; who had seen the soldiers Spear pierce the Sacred Heart which so loved the world; when old age had come upon him, was for ever urging upon all he met the duty of loving one another. His tender compassion for sinners was such as we might naturally look for from the favourite Disciple of the Redeemer; and we are not surprised at that example, which would have been wonderful in any other Saint than John, of his going in search of a young man, whom he had loved with a Father's love, and who had abandoned himself, during the Apostle’s absence, to every sort of sin: old age was no hindrance to this fatiguing search, which ended in his finding the young man amidst the mountains, and leading him back to repentance.

And yet this same gentle and loving Saint was the inflexible enemy of heresy; for heresy, by destroying Faith, poisons Charity in its very source. It is from this Apostle that the Church has received the maxim she gives to us, of shunning heresy as we would shun a plague: If any man come to you and bring not the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into the house, nor say to him ''God speed thee for he that saith unto him, 'God speed thee,’ communicateth with his wicked works.[6] St John having one day entered one of the public baths, he was no sooner informed that the heresiarch Cerinthus was in the same building, than he instantly left the place as though it were infected. The disciples of Cerinthus were indignant at this conduct of the Apostle, and endeavoured to take away his life by putting poison into the cup from which he used to drink; but St John having made the sign of the cross over the cup, a serpent was seen to issue from it, testifying both to the wickedness of his enemies and to the divinity of Christ. This apostolic firmness in resisting the enemies of the Faith made him the dread of the heretics of Asia; and hereby he proved how justly he had received from Jesus the surname of Son of Thunder, a name which he shared with his Brother, James the Greater, the Apostle of Spain.

The miracle we have just related has suggested assigning to St John, as one of his emblems, a cup with a serpent coming from it; and in many countries, in Germany particularly, is a custom of blessing wine on the Feast of St John; and the prayer used on the occasion alludes to the miracle. In these same countries prevails also the custom of taking at the end of meals what is called St John’s Cup, putting as it were under the Saint’s protection the repast just taken.

For brevity’s sake, we omit several other traditions regarding our holy Apostle, to which allusion is made in many of the Medieval Liturgical pieces which we have quoted: but we cannot refrain from saying a few words in reference to his Death.

The passage of the holy Gospel read on the Feast of St John has often been interpreted in the sense that the Beloved Disciple was never to die, although our Lord’s words are easily explained without putting such a meaning upon them. The Greek Church, as we have already seen in her Offices, professes her belief in St John’s exemption from death. It was also the opinion of several holy Doctors of the Church, and found its way into some of the Hymns of the Western Church. The Church of Rome seems to countenance it, by one of the Antiphons at Lauds of the Feast; but it must be acknowledged that she has never favoured this opinion, although she has not thought proper to condemn it. Moreover, the Tomb of St John once existed at Ephesus; we have early traditions regarding it, and miracles are related which were wrought by the miraculous oil which flowed for centuries from the Tomb.

Still it is strange that no mention has ever been made of any Translation of the Body of St John; no Church has ever boasted of its possessing it; and as to particular Relics of this Apostle, they are not only very rare, but a great deal of vagueness has always clung to them. At Rome, when a Relic of St John is asked for, the only one given is a small piece of the Tomb. With these facts before us, we are forced into the idea that there is something mysterious in this total ignorance with regard to the Body of a Saint so dear to the whole Church; whereas the Bodies of all the other Apostles have been the subject of most interesting and detailed accounts, and we can name the Churches which have possessed either the whole or a portion of their venerable remains. Has our Redeemer willed that the Body of his dear Disciple should be glorified before the Day of Judgement? Has he, in his own inscrutable designs, withdrawn it from the sight of man, as he did that of Moses? These are questions which will, perhaps, never be solved on this earth; but it is almost impossible not to acknowledge, as so many holy writers have done, that the mystery wherewith it has pleased our Lord to shroud the virginal Body of St John may be considered as an additional reward given to the Disciple whom he so tenderly loved during life, on account of his purity.

The Mass is given above, p. 255, the other prayers are given on pp. 415-417.

Let us listen, once more, to the sweet praises given to St John in the various Liturgies. And first, let us open the Roman Breviary, where we shall find the following Responsories:

Responsories

℟. Iste est Joannes qui supra pectus Domini in cœna recubuit: * Beatus Apostolus, cui revelata sunt secreta cœlestia.


℣. Fluenta Evangelii de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris fonte potavit. * Beatus.

℟. Diligebat autem eum Jesus, quoniam specialis prærogativa castitatis ampliori dilectione fecerat dignum: * Quia virgo electus ab ipso, virgo in ævum permansit.

. In cruce denique moriturus, huic Matrem suam virginem virgini commendavit. * Quia.

. In illum diem suscipiam te servum meum, et ponam te sicut signaculum in conspectu meo: * Quoniam ego elegi te, dicit Dominus.

℣. Esto fidelis usque ad mortem, et dabo tibi coronam vitæ. * Quoniam.

This is John, who at the Supper reclined his head on the Lord’s Breast: * Blessed Apostle, unto whom the secrets of heaven were revealed.


℣. He drank in the streams of the Gospel from the sacred fount itself of our Lord's Breast. * Blessed.

℟. Jesus loved him, for the special prerogative of his chastity made him worthy of a special love: * Because, being chosen by Christ as a virgin, he remained a virgin for ever.

. When at length he was about to die on the Cross, he commended his Virgin-Mother to this his virgin disciple. * Because.

. In that day I will take thee to be my Servant, and I will make thee as a signet in my sight: * For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord.

. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. * For.


The Mozarabic Breviary, in the Office of St John the Evangelist, contains the following beautiful prayer:

Capitulum

Ineffabilia sunt, Domine, fiuenta uteri tui, quibus præ cæteris dilectus ille a te discipulus, recubans in sinu tuo, satiari promeruit: quæsumus ergo, ut mortificatis membris nostris, tuis semper mereamur inhærere vestigiis: ut intercessu hujus sancti Joannis, ita nos ignis amoris tui concremet et absumat, qualiter beneplacitum nos tibi in toto holocaustum efficiat.
Ineffable, O Lord, are the streams of thy Heart, wherewith the Disciple whom thou lovedst above the rest deserved to be filled, when leaning on thy Breast: we therefore humbly beseech thee that, our senses being mortified, we may deserve to walk at all times in thy footsteps: that thus, by the intercession of this thy holy disciple John, the fire of thy love may so burn and consume us, as to make us in all things a holocaust well-pleasing unto thee.

We find also this other prayer in the Missal of the same Gothic Liturgy.

Prayer

Vide, vide, Deus, quibus gravati delictis obruimur; qualiterque nobis ipsi quotidie efficimur causa veneni et pœna supplicii, dum cum quotidiano carnis nostræ veneno polluimur, et de reparatione melioris vitæ nullo modo cogitamus. Sed quia certuni est quod hoc videas, qui semper es clemens; et ideo per confessionem nos ad te redituros exspectas, ideo suggerimus ut Apostolo tuo Joanne intercedente, qui invocato nomine tuo lethale ebibens virus, non solum ipse evasit, sed etiam alios ex eodem extinctos populo suscitavit. Procul a nobis efficias et incentivam carnis nostræ libidinem, et virus persuasionis hostis antiqui, ut fide te colentes, sicut Joannem Apostolum non nocuit oblatum venenum, ita nos non noceat latentium vitiorum virus occultum.
See, see, O God, the sins whereby we are weighed down, and how we daily create to ourselves the poison that destroys and the pain that punishes, inasmuch as we are each day infected with the poison of the deeds of our flesh, yet give we no thought to the amending our lives. But whereas faith teaches us that thou seest our sins, and because thou art merciful, thou awaitest us that we return to thee by humble confession; therefore do we beg the intercession of John thine Apostle, who having drunk a deadly poison, not only, by the invocation of thy name, escaped hurt himself, but raised them to life who had been poisoned by that same cup. By this his intercession, drive far from us both the lustful flames of our own flesh, and the poison of the old enemy’s suggestions; that worshipping thee by our faith, we may be guarded against the hidden poison of latent passions, as the poison offered to the Apostle John left him uninjured.

We take from the Menæa of the Greek Church a second selection of stanzas in honour of the holy Evangelist.

On The Feast Of St John The Theologian
(XXVI Septembris)

Maris abyssum derelinquens, crucis calamo omnes sapienter fidei piscatus es gentes velut pisces; nam, ut dixit tibi Christus, apparuisti piscator hominum carpens eos ad pietatem; ideo sparsisti Verbi gnosim; Patmos et Ephesum sermonibus cepisti tuis, Theologe Apostole; deprecare Christum Deum ut det lapsuum remissionem celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.


Lingua tua facta est calamus scriptoris Spiritus sancti, deifice demonstrans venerabile et divinum Evangelium.

Magnæ divinæque tuæ theologiæ faces totam; gloriose, illuminarunt terrain luce trisolari splendentem.

Vere fuit tamquam calamus velociter scribentis tua lingua theodica, veram pulchre scribens gnosim et legem novissimam in tabulis, theologe, cordium nostrorum.

Cœlorum scire celsitudines, marisque explorare abyssos temerarium et intentabile; astra autem numerare vel littoralem arenam par est. Sic de theologo dici non potest quot ipsum coronis quem amabat coronavit Christus, supra cujus pectus recubuit, et in mystica cœna eum lautissime refecit sicut theologum et Christi amicum.

Terrestrem peristi apud Christum sedem habere; at ille tibi pectus suum donat, o vocate theologe, tranquilla et permanente sede pulchritudinis ditatus es Apostolorum gloria.

Virginitatis florem, venerandarum virtutum electum habitaculum, sapientiæ instrumentum, templum Spiritus, os Ecclesiæ igniferum, charitatis manifestissimum oculum, venerandissimum Joannem, spiritualibus canticis nunc sursum celebremus, tamquam Christi famulum.

Evangelista Joannes, par Angelo, virgo a Deo docte, limpidissimum latus sanguine et aqua fluens prædicasti, per quem deducimur ad vitam æternam animabus nostris.

Leaving the waters of the sea, thou didst, with much wisdom, draw all nations to the Faith by the rod of the Cross; for, as Christ told thee, thou wast a Fisher of men, drawing them unto holiness. Therefore didst thou spread abroad the knowledge of the Word, and by thy preachings, O Theologian Apostle, thoudidst gain over Patmos and Ephesus. Beseech Christ our Lord to grant forgiveness of sin to us who lovingly celebrate thy holy memory.


Thy tongue was made the pen of him who wrote by thee, the Holy Ghost; it showed us, by divine inspiration, the venerable and divine Gospel.

The blaze of thy great and divine Theology, O glorious Apostle, illumined the earth that was shining with a triple light.

Truly was thy divinely taught tongue, O Theologian, as the pen of one that writes swiftly, for it beautifully wrote on the tablets of our hearts the true knowledge and the New Law.
To measure the height of the heavens, and explore the depths of the sea, is a rash and vain attempt: so too is it to count the stars or the sand on the shore. In like manner we may not count the number of crowns wherewith Christ crowned his Beloved Disciple, who reposed on his Breast, and in the mystic Supper was most sumptuously regaled as the Theologian and Friend of Jesus.

Thou didst once ask to sit near Jesus on a terrestrial throne; but he gave thee to recline on his Breast, and placed thee on a peaceful and eternal throne of beauty, O thou that art called the Theologian, and art the glory of the Apostles!

Let us now loudly celebrate in spiritual canticles this servant of Christ: he is the flower of holy Virginity, the chosen dwelling of sublime virtues, the instrument of wisdom, the temple of the Spirit, the burning tongue of the Church, the most bright eye of charity, the most venerable John.

O Evangelist John! angelic, virgin taught of God! 'twas thou didst tell us of that Sacred Side, from whence, as from a most limpid stream, flowed Blood and Water: thus didst thou teach our souls the way to life eternal.


The Latin Churches of the Middle Ages were fervent in their praises of St John, and have left us a great many Hymns in his honour. Out of the number we select only two; the first is the composition of Adam of St Victor, and is the finest of the four written on St John by the great lyric poet of those times.

Sequence

Gratulemur ad festivum,
Jocundemur ad votivum Joannis præconium.


Sic versetur laus in ore,
Ne fraudetur cor sapore
Quo degustet gaudium.

Hic est Christi prædilectus
Qui reclinans supra pectus,
Hausit sapientiam.

Huic in cruce commendavit
Matrem Christus; hic servavit
Virgo viri nesciam.

Intus ardens charitate,
Foris lucens honestate,
Signis et eloquio,

Ut ab æstu criminali,
Sic immunis a pœnali,
Prodiit ex dolio.

Vim veneni superavit,
Morti, morbis imperavit,
Nec non et demonibus.

Sed vir tantæ potestatis,
Non minoris pietatis
Erat tribulantibus.

Cum gemmarum partes fractas
Solidasset, has distractas
Tribuit pauperibus.

Inexhaustum fert thesaurum,
Qui de virgis fecit aurum,
Gemmas de lapidibus.

Invitatur ab amico Convivan;
Christum dico
Visum cum discipulis.

De sepulcro quo descendit
Redivivus sic ascendit,
Frui summis epulis.

Testem habes populum,
Immo, si vis, oculum,
Quod ad ejus tumulum
Manna scatet, epulum
De Christi convivio.

Scribens Evangelium,
Aquilæ fert proprium,
Cernens solis radium,
Scilicet Principium
Verbum in Principio.

Hujus signis est conversa
Gens gentilis, gens perversa,
Gens totius Asiæ.

Hujus scriptis illustratur,
Illustrata solidatur
Unitas Ecclesiæ.

Salve, salvi vas pudoris,
Vas cœlestis plenum roris,
Mundum intus, clarum foris,
Nobile per omnia!

Fac nos sequi sanctitatem;
Fac per mentis puritatem
Contemplan Trinitatem
In una substantia.

Amen.

'Tis the Feast of St John:
let us rejoice; let us sing his praise with glad hearts.

But let our lips so speak his praise
that our hearts be not devoid of fervour,
and so relish the hidden joy.

This is the Disciple the Beloved of Christ,
who leaned on his sacred breast,
and imbibed wisdom.

'Twas to him that Jesus,
dying on the Cross, left his Mother:
John, the virgin, was guardian of the Virgin.

His heart was filled with burning charity;
his exterior, his miracles,
his words, were a shining light.

As the fire of criminal passion had never impaired his soul,
so did he come unhurt
from the caldron of boiling oil.

He checked the power of poison;
death, disease and demons
fled at his bidding.

And yet, with all this heavenly power,
he was the tenderest-hearted friend
to them that were in grief.

Some precious stones had been broken;
he miraculously brought the fragments together,
and thus pieced, gave them to the poor.

He was a living treasure,
for he changed the branches of a tree into gold,
and stones into gems.

He is invited to a banquet by a Friend;
that Friend was Jesus,
surrounded by his Disciples:

From the tomb wherein he had been laid,
he then came forth alive,
and ascended to enjoy the infinite feast.

Innumerable witnesses will tell thee
(though thyself may see it, if thou wilt),
that round his tomb there falls a Manna,
the symbol of that Banquet
which Jesus gave him.

The Eagle is the emblem
of this Evangelist,
for he looks steadfastly at the Sun,
that is, at the Eternal Word
in the Bosom of the Eternal Father.

By his miracles the gentile world,
a stubborn world,
the world of Asia, was converted.

His writings enlighten,
and by their light confirm
the one true Church.

Hail then, vessel of unsullied chastity!
vessel filled with heavenly dew!
pure within, fair without,
and noble in every part.

Oh! pray for us, that we may follow the path of holiness,
and by the cleanliness of our hearts
be rewarded with the vision
of the Triune God.

Amen.


Our second Sequence is taken from the ancient Missals of the Churches of Germany, and is extremely beautiful.

Sequence

Verbum Dei,
Deo natum,
Quod nec factum nec creatum,

Venit de cœlestibus:
Hoc vidit, hoc attrectavit,
Hoc de cœlo reseravit
Joannes hominibus.

Inter illos primitivos
Veros veri fontis rivos
Joannes exsiliit,
Toti mundo propinare
Nectar illud salutare
Quod de throno prodiit.

Coelum transit, veri rotam
Solis ibi vidit, totam
Mentis figens aciem;
Speculator spiritalis
Quasi Seraphim sub alis
Dei videt faciem.

Audiit in gyro sedis
Quid psallant cum citharœdis
Quater seni proceres:
De sigillo Trinitatis
Nostræ nummo civitatis
Impressit characteres.

Iste custos Virginis
Arcanum originis
Divinæ mysterium,
Scribens Evangelium,
Mundo demonstravit:
Cordis cui sacrarium
Suum Christus lilium,
Filio tonitrui
Sub amoris mutui
Pace commendavit.

Haurit virus hic lethale,
Ubi corpus virginale
Virtus servat fidei:
Pœna stupet quod in pœna
Sit Joannes sine poena
Bullientis olei.

Hic naturis imperat
Ut et saxa transferat
In decus gemmarum:
Quo jubente riguit,
Auri fulvum induit
Virgula silvarum.

Hic infernum reserat,
Morti jubet, referat
Quos venenum stravit:
Obstruit quod Ebion,
Cerinthus et Marcion
Perfide latravit.

Volat avis sine meta
Quo nec vates, nec Propheta
Evolavit altius:
Tam implenda, quam impleta
Numquam vidit tot secreta
Purus homo purius.

Sponsus rubra veste tectus,
Visus sed non intellectus,
Redit ad palatium:
Aquilam Ezechielis
Sponsæ misit quæ de cœlis
Referret mysterium.

Dic, dilecte, de dilecto,
Qualis sit, et ex dilecto
Sponsus sponsæ nuncia:
Dic quis cibus Angelorum,
Quæ sint festa superorum
De sponsi præsentia.

Veri panem intellectus,
Cœnam Christi supra pectus
Christi sumptam resera:
Ut cantemus de patrono,
Coram Agno, coram throno,
Laudes super aethera.

The Word of God,
who was born of God,
and was not made nor created,
and who came down from heaven
—this Word was seen and handled
and revealed to men
by John the Evangelist.


John sprang up amidst those true rivulets,
which from the commencement
flowed from the True Fountain;
he has made the whole world
drink of that life-giving nectar
that flows from the throne of God.

He soared above the heavens,
and gazed with the fixedness of his soul's eye
on the brightness of the true Sun;
this spiritual contemplator saw,
as it were from under the wings of the Seraphim,
the Face of God.

He hears what songs are sung
round the Throne by the four
and twenty elders and the heavenly Harpers.
He has stamped upon the coin
of our terrestrial city the impress
and seal of the Holy Trinity.

He, the guardian of the Virgin,
wrote his Gospel,
that he might show to the world
the profound mystery
of the Divine Generation:
and Jesus, after allowing him
to recline on his Sacred Heart,
commended his own pure Lily,
Mary, to this his and her much loved one,
the Son of Thunder.

He drinks a deadly poison!
but the virtue of his faith
preserves his virginal body from death.
Nay, the very creature that was prepared to torture him
—the boiling oil—stood wondering
at his feeling not its cruel power to pain.

Nature is obedient to him.
He bids the stones be gems,
and they obey:
he bids the branch of a tree turn its pliant fibres
into the precious metal of gold,
and it obeys.

He bids the sepulchre and death
yield back them whom poison
had made their victims; they obey.
He stops the blasphemous
howlings of Ebion,
Cerinthus, and Marcion.

He is the Eagle,
soaring to the infinite;
nor Seer nor Prophet passed him in his flight.
No pure mind ever saw more clearly
than he so many mysteries,
already past or yet to come.

Jesus, the Bridegroom,
clothed in his scarlet robe,
after being seen by men, but not understood,
returned to his palace above:
he sent to his Bride the Eagle of Ezechiel,
that he might relate to her the mystery seen in heaven.

O Beloved Disciple! speak to us of thy Beloved:
tell the Church the beauty of this thy Jesus,
who is her chosen Spouse:
tell her who is the Bread of the Angels:
tell her what feasts her Spouse's presence
causes to the citizens of heaven.

Speak to her of that Bread which feeds the soul with truth;
reveal to her that Supper of thy Lord taken
on the Breast of thy Lord: we will sing to the Lamb,
we will sing round the Throne, we will praise him
above the heavens, for his having given
us such a Patron as thee.


O glorious Saint! we thank thee with all the gratitude of our hearts for the assistance thou hast so lovingly granted us during the celebration of this grand Feast of Jesus' Birth. Thou art ever with us at Christmas; but it is only to help us to know Jesus the more; for, in considering thy prerogatives, we are giving praise to him who gave them to thee. We offer thee, then, the homage of our admiration and thanks, dear Friend of Jesus, and adopted Child of Mary! Before leaving us, suffer us to offer thee once more our humble petitions.

Pray, sweet Apostle of Fraternal Love! that the hearts of all men may be united in holy charity; that dissensions may cease; that the simplicity of the dove, of which thou wast such a touching example, may become the spirit of our present age, adverse though it seem to this commandment of our Lord. May Faith, without which love and charity cannot exist, be maintained in all its purity; may the serpent of heresy be crushed, and its poisoned cup find neither teachers to offer it, nor disciples to drink it. May the attachment to the doctrines of the Church be firm and courageous; may no human schemes or theories, or cowardly toleration of error, enervate the principles of truth and morals; may the children of light boldly disown fellowship with the children of darkness.

Remember, O holy Prophet! the sublime vision granted thee of the Churches of Asia Minor; and obtain for the Angels who are set over ours, that unflinching faithfulness which alone wins the victory and the Crown. Pray also for those countries which received the Gospel from thee, but have since deserved to lose the Faith. They have been suffering now for ages the consequences of false doctrines, slavery and degradation; intercede for them, that they may be regenerated by Jesus and his Spouse the Church. From thy heavenly home send Peace to thine own dear Church of Ephesus, and to her Sister Churches of Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea; may they awake from their sleep; may they rise from their tomb; may Mohammedanism cease its brutalizing tyranny over them; may schism and heresy, which now keep the East in a state of barbarism, be extinguished; and may the whole flock be once more united in the one Fold. Cover with thy protecting love the holy Church of Rome, which was witness of thy glorious Confession, which she counts as one of those her grand glories which began with the Martyrdom of thy fellow Apostles, Peter and Paul. May she receive a fresh infusion of light and charity, now that the harvest is whitening over so many countries.[7] And, lastly, Beloved Disciple of the Saviour of mankind! pray that, on the last day we may enjoy the sight of thy glorified Body; and after having so often presented us on this earth to Jesus and Mary in Bethlehem, present us on that day to the same Jesus and Mary in the glories of the eternal Vision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

[1] Apoc.
[2] Apoc. ii 8.
[3] Cant. iii 6.
[4] St Matt. v 15.
[5] Prov. viii 31.
[6] 2 St John i 10, 11.
[7] St John iv 35.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

YESTERDAY we finished the Octave of the Birth of Jesus; to-day we shall finish the Octave of St Stephen; but this without losing sight one moment of the Divine Babe, whose Court is formed by Stephen, John the Beloved Disciple, the Holy Innocents, and St Thomas of Canterbury. In five days we shall see the Magi prostrate before the Crib of the new-born King; they are already on the way, and the Star is advancing towards Bethlehem. Let us spend the interval in reconsidering how great is the glory of our Emmanuel in his having lavished such extraordinary favours on these Saints whom he has chosen to be near him at his first coming into the world.

Let us begin with Stephen, for this is the last day of the Octave dedicated to him by the Church. We must take leave of him now till the month of August, when we shall again meet him on the Feast of the Finding of his Relics.

In a sermon which was for a long time thought to have been written by St Augustine, we find it mentioned that St Stephen was in the flower of his youth when he was called by the Apostles to receive the sacred character of deaconship. Six others were ordained deacons with him; and these seven, whose office was to minister at the Altar here below, represented the seven Angels, whom St John saw standing near the Altar in heaven. Stephen was appointed as the head of the Seven, and St Irenæus, who lived in the second century, calls him the Arch-Deacon.

The characteristic virtue of a Deacon is fidelity. Hence, he is intrusted with the care of the treasures of the Church, treasures which consist not merely in the alms destined for the poor, but in that which is the most precious thing in heaven and earth—the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which the Deacon is the minister, in virtue of his Order. For this reason, the Apostle St Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, bids the Deacons hold the Mystery of Faith in a pure conscience.[1]

It was, therefore, more than an appropriate coincidence, that the first of all the Martyrs was a Deacon, for Martyrdom is the great proof of fidelity, and fidelity is the official virtue of the Diaconate. This same truth is still more strongly impressed upon us by the fact that the three who stand pre-eminent amongst the Martyrs of Christ are vested in the holy Dalmatic—the three glorious Deacons: Stephen, the glory of Jerusalem; Laurence, the pride of Rome; and Vincent, of whom Spain so justly boasts. The present holy season gives us Stephen, who has been gladdening us with his festal presence ever since Christmas Day, and Vincent, whose feast falls on January 22. Laurence will come to us, with his rich waving Palm, in the sunny month of August; and Stephen, in the same month, will visit us, a second time, in the Feast of the Finding of his Relics.

With the intention of paying respect to the Holy Order of Deaconship in the person of its first representative, it is a custom in a great many Churches, on the Feast of St Stephen, that Deacons should fulfil every office which is not beyond their Order. For example, the Chanter yields his staff of office to a Deacon; the Choristers, who assist the Chanter, are also Deacons, vested in Dalmatics; and the Epistle of the Mass is sung by a Deacon, because it is the passage from the Acts of the Apostles which relates the history of the holy Martyr’s death.

The institution of St Stephen’s Feast, and its being fixed on the day immediately following that of our Lord’s Birth, are so ancient that it is impossible to assign their date. The Apostolic Constitutions, which were compiled at the latest towards the close of the third century, mention this Feast as already established, and that, too, on the morrow of Christmas Day. St Gregory of Nyssa and St Asterius of Amasea, both of them earlier than the miraculous discovery of the Holy Deacon’s Relics, have left us Homilies for the Feast of St Stephen, in which they lay stress on the circumstance of its having the honour to be kept the very day after the solemnity of Christmas. With regard to its Octave, the institution is less ancient, though the date cannot be defined. Amalarius, who wrote in the ninth century, speaks of this Octave as already established; and Notker's Martyrology, compiled in the tenth century, makes express mention of it.

But how comes it that the Feast of a mere Deacon has been thus honoured, whilst almost all those of the Apostles have no Octave? The rule followed by the Church in her Liturgy is to give more or less solemnity to the Feasts of the Saints, according to the importance of the services they rendered to mankind. Thus it is that the honour she pays to St Jerome, for example, who was only a Priest, is more marked than that she gives to a great number of holy Popes. It is her gratitude which guides her in assigning to the Saints their respective rank in her Calendar, and the devotion of the Faithful to the saintly benefactors whom she now venerates as members of the Church Triumphant is thus regulated by a safe standard. St Stephen led the way to Martyrdom; his example inaugurated that sublime witnessing by shedding one’s own blood, which is the very strength of the Church, ratifies the truths she teaches to the world, and confirms the hopes of eternal reward promised by those truths. Glory, then, and honour to the Prince of Martyrs! As long as time shall last, so long shall the Church on earth celebrate the name of Stephen, who was the first to shed his blood for the God who died on Calvary!

We have already noticed St Stephen's imitation of Jesus, by praying for and forgiving his enemies; it is the circumstance which the Church continually alludes to in her Office of his Feast. But there is another very important incident in the martyrdom of our Saint which we must, for a moment, dwell upon. One of the accomplices in the murder which was being committed under the walls of Jerusalem was a young man of the name of Saul. He made himself exceedingly active, for he was of an ardent temperament, and, as the Fathers observe, he helped every man who stoned the holy Deacon, because he took care of the murderers' garments whilst they committed the crime. Not long after, this same Saul, whilst travelling to Damascus, was converted into an Apostle of that Jesus whom he had heard Stephen confess as the Son of God. He was the fruit of Stephen's dying prayer. The blood of Stephen cried to heaven for mercy, and heaven sent to the Gentiles the Apostle who would bring them to the knowledge and love of Jesus. ‘What an admirable scene!’ cries out St Augustine. ‘Here is Stephen being stoned, and Saul taking care of the garments of them that stone him. But this Saul is now Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, and Stephen is the servant of Jesus Christ. ... O Saul! thou hast been prostrated, and raised up again: prostrated a persecutor, raised up a preacher. Everywhere are thy Epistles read; everywhere art thou bringing to Christ them that are his enemies; everywhere art thou the good Shepherd, surrounded by a numerous flock. Thou art now reigning with Christ, in company with him thou didst once stone. Both of you are looking upon us; both of you now hear what I am saying; do both of you pray, also, for us. He who crowned you both will hear both. Stephen was a lamb; Saul was a wolf; now both are lambs, and both will acknowledge us as of the flock of Christ, and will pray for us, that the Church of their Master may be blessed with a peaceful and tranquil life.’[2] Stephen and Paul both visit us during this grand season of Christmas; for we shall keep the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul on January 25; and thus Stephen leads his spiritual conquest to the Crib of their common Lord and Master.

Catholic piety has chosen St Stephen as one of the Patrons of a Happy Death. This choice was suggested by the death of the Holy Martyr: a death so tranquil that the Scripture calls it a Sleep, in spite of the cruel torture to which his executioners put him. Let us, therefore, beg the intercession of St Stephen for that awful hour of our death, when we must return to our Creator these souls of ours; nay, let us ask him to pray that we may be habitually in such a disposition of mind as to be ever ready to make the total sacrifice of the life which God has given to us: it was a sacred deposit he intrusted to our keeping, which we were to hold in readiness for him whensoever he might demand it at our hands.

The Mass is given above, p. 228, except the Collect, which is as follows:

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui primitias Martyrum in beati LevitæStephani sanguine dedicasti: tribue, quæsumus, ut pro nobis intercessor existat, qui pro suis etiam persecutoribus exoravit Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum.
O Almighty and eternal God, who didst consecrate the firstfruits of Martyrdom in the blood of blessed Stephen the Levite; grant, we beseech thee, that he may intercede for us, who even for his persecutors begged mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son.

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Deus qui salutis æternæ, beatæ Mariæ virginitate fœcunda, humano generi præmia præstitisti; tribue, quæsumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitæ suscipere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum.
O God, who, by the fruitful Virginity of the Blessed Mary, hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we received the Author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son.

The third Prayer is one of the following:

Against the persecutors of the Church

Ecclesiæ tuæ, quæsumus, Domine, preces placatus admitte: ut, destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, secura tibi serviat libertate.
Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy Church, that all oppositions and errors being removed, she may serve thee with a secure and undisturbed devotion.

For the Pope

Deus omnium fidelium Pastor et Rector, famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ praeesse voluisti, propitius respice; da ei, quæsumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus præest, proficere; ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Dominum.
O God, the Pastor and Governor of all the Faithful, look down in thy mercy on thy servant N. whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church; and grant, we beseech thee, that, both by word and example, he may edify all those that are under his charge, and, with the flock intrusted to him, arrive, at length, at eternal happiness. Through, etc.

Secret

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tua, Domine, propitiatione, et beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis intercessione, ad perpetuam atque præsentem hæc oblatio nobis proficiat prosperitatem et pacem.
Being appeased, O Lord, by the intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin, grant that this oblation may avail for our present and lasting prosperity and peace.

Against the persecutors of the Church

Protege nos, Domine, tuis mysteriis servientes: ut divinis rebus inhærentes, et corpore tibi famulemur et mente.
Protect us, O Lord, while we assist at thy sacred mysteries, that being employed in acts of religion, we may serve thee both in body and mind.

For the Pope

Oblatis, quæsumus, Domine, placare muneribus, et famulum tuum N., quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, assidua protectione guberna. Per Dominum.
Be appeased, O Lord, with the offering we have made, and cease not to protect thy servant N., whom thou hast been pleased to appoint Pastor over thy Church. Through, etc.

Postcommunion

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hæc nos communio, Domine, purget a crimine; et intercedente beata Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cœlestis remedii faciat esse consortes.
May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from sin, and by the intercession of blessed Mary, the Virgin-Mother of God, make us partakers of thy heavenly remedy.

Against the persecutors of the Church

Quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut quos divina tribuis participatione gaudere, humanis non sinas subjacere periculis.
We beseech thee, O Almighty God, not to leave exposed to the dangers of human life, those whom thou hast permitted to partake of these divine mysteries.

For the Pope

Hæc nos, quæsumus, Domine, divini sacramenti perceptio protegat: et famulum tuum N., quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, una cum commisso sibi grege, salvet semper et muniat. Per Dominum.
May the participation of this divine Sacrament protect us, we beseech thee, O Lord; and always procure safety and defence to thy servant N., whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church, together with the flock committed to his charge. Through, etc.

We will now select from the ancient Liturgies a few additional pieces in honour of our Saint. We begin with two Responsories as given in the Roman Breviary.

℟. Stephanus, servus Dei, quem lapidabant Judæi, vidit cœlos apertosi vidit et introivit: * Beatus homo, cui cœli patebant.

℣. Cum igitur saxorum crepitantium turbine quateretur, inter æthereos aulæ cœlestis sinus divina ei Claritas fulsit. * Beatus homo.

℟. Patefactæ sunt januæ cœli Christi Martyri beato Stephano, qui in numero Martyrum inventus est primus: * Et ideo triumphat in cœlis coronatus.

. Mortem enim, quam Salvator noster dignatus est pro nobis pati, hanc ille primus reddidit Salvatori. * Et ideo.

℟. Stephen, the servant of God, whom the Jews stoned, saw the heavens opened; he saw and entered: * Blessed man, to whom the heavens were opened.

℣. While, therefore, the loud pelting of the storm of stones was beating against him, a divine brightness shone upon him from the ethereal recesses of the heavenly court. * Blessed man.

℟. The gates of heaven were thrown open to Stephen, the blessed Martyr of Christ, who was the first among the Martyrs. * And he therefore triumphs in heaven, with his Crown upon him.

℣. For he was the first to pay back to the Saviour the Death our Saviour deigned to suffer for us. * And he.


The Church of Milan, in its Ambrosian Missal, consecrates this Preface to the praise of the Prince of Martyrs.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, aeterne Deus: qui Levitarum præconem vocasti Stephanum. Hic tibi primus dedicavit Martyrii nomen: hic tibi inchoavit primus effundere sanguinem: hic meruit videre cœlos apertos, et Filium stantem ad dexteram Patris. In terris hominem adorabat, et in cœlo Filium Patris esse clamabat. Hic Magistri verba referebat; quia, quod Christus dixit in cruce, hoc Stephanus docuit in sanguinis sui morte. Christus in cruce indulgentiam seminabat: et Stephanus pro suis lapidatoribus Dominum supplicabat.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O Eternal God, who didst call Stephen to be the first of Deacons. He was the first that dedicated unto thee the offering of Martyrdom: he was the first to shed his blood for thee: he it was that merited to see the heavens opened, and the Son standing at the right hand of the Father. He adored Jesus the Man-God on earth, and he proclaimed him to be the Son of the Father in heaven. He repeated the words of his Master; for what Christ said on the cross, that did Stephen teach when shedding his blood in death. Christ on the Cross sowed the seed of his pardon: so did Stephen beseech his Lord to have mercy on them that stoned him.

The same Liturgy has the following Collect for St Stephen’s Feast.

Collect

Ministrantium tibi, Deus, eruditor et rector, qui Ecclesiæ tuæprimordia beati Levitæ Stephani ministerio et pretioso martyrii sanguine decorasti; da, quæsumus: ut in excessu nostro veniam consequentes, mereamur exemplis ejus imbui, et intercessionibus adjuvari. Per Dominum Jesum Christum.
O God, the teacher and ruler of them that are thy ministers, who didst adorn the early days of thy Church by the ministry and precious blood of blessed Stephen the Levite; grant, we beseech thee, that meeting with pardon at the hour of our death, we may deserve to follow his example, and be aided by his intercession. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Gothic Liturgy of Spain gives us, in its Mozarabic Missal, the following admirable Prayer to St Stephen.

Capitulum

Beatissime Stephane, Protomartyr, vocabitur tibi nomen novum, quod os Domini nominavit: ut qui mortem pro illo sumeres, coronam per ilium et nomine et virtute susciperes: primus in Martyrio, primus in præmio; primus in aula mundi, primus in aula cœli: ut hic pro Christo lapidatus, illic ab ipso coronatus, exsuites; ut pro quo hic crudelissimam sustinuisti pœnam, illic pretiosissimam susciperes coronam: ergo qui exstitisti Ecclesiæ primitivus, nunc esto patronus assiduus: ut sit Christus nobis, te precante, propitius, pro quo Martyr exstitisti mirificus.
Most blessed Protomartyr Stephen! thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord hath named: for that thou, who didst suffer death for him, didst by him receive a Crown for thy name and a Crown for thy virtue. Thou wast the first in Martyrdom and first in its reward; first Martyr in the world, and the first in the courts of heaven. Here stoned for Christ; there exulting in the Crown he gave thee. Here thou didst suffer, for his sake, the most cruel torments; there thou didst receive the most precious Crown. Thou, therefore, that wast the first flower of the Church, be now her untiring patron; that so, by thy prayers, that Jesus for whose sake thou wast a glorious Martyr may be merciful unto us.

The following Hymn, remarkable for its unction and simplicity of style, is to be found in most of the ancient Roman-French Breviaries.

Hymn

Sancte Dei pretiose
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute charitatis
Circumfultus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo:

Tu cœlestis primitivus
Signifer militiæ,
Veritatis assertivus,
Testis primus gratiæ,
Fundamento lapis vivus,
Basis patientiæ.

Saxo cæsus, non mucrone,
Per saxorum cuspides,
Corpus membri passione
Circumcidi prævides:
Ad decorem sunt coronæ
Rubricati lapides.

Tu cœlorum primus stratam
Consternis lapideam,
Tu per Christum hebetatam
Primus transis rhomphæam,
Primum granum trituratum,
Ditans Christi aream.

Tibi primum reseratæ
Cœli patent januæ,
Jesum vides potestate,
Cui pugnas strenue;
Stans cum Patris majestate
Tecum est assidue.

Funde preces pro devoto
Tibi nunc collegio,
Ut tuo propitiatus
Interventu Dominus
Nos purgatos a peccatis
Jungat cœli civibus.

Gloria et honor Deo,
Qui te fiore roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo:
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo.

Amen.
O holy Protomartyr Stephen,
most dear to God!
in the virtue of charity wherewith
thou wast armed on every side,
thou didst beseech the Lord
to have mercy on thine enemies.

Thou art the Standardbearer
of heaven’s martyr-host;
the herald of truth;
the first witness of Christian grace;
the living foundation-stone,
and ground-work of martyrdom.

Stones were the instrument of thy martyrdom, not the sword. The sharp-edged stones,
like knives of a second circumcision,
tore thine innocent flesh;
but, tinged in thy blood,
they were made rubies for thy Crown.

Thou wast the first to tread the stony rugged path
that leads to heaven; thou wast the first to breast that sword
which had slain our Lord
and lost its keen edge by piercing him;
thou wast the earliest winnowed wheat that graced the granaries of Christ.


To thee were heaven’s gates first opened,
showing thee Jesus in his power,
for whom thou didst so bravely fight:
He, standing at the right hand
of his Father’s majesty,
is with thee incessantly.

Pray now for this thy devout people,
that our Lord,
through thy prayers,
may mercifully forgive us our sins,
and grant us fellowship
with the citizens of heaven.

Glory and honour to the God
who gave thee thy Crown of roses
and thy throne above the stars.
May he free us
from the sting of death,
and save us sinners.

Amen.


We will close our selection with a Sequence composed by Notker; we find it in the collection of St Gall.

Sequence

Hanc concordi famulatu, colamus solemnitatem,

Auctoris illius exemplo docti benigno,
Pro persecutorum precantis fraude suorum.
O Stephane, signifer Regis summe boni, nos exaudi:
Proficue qui es pro tuis exauditus inimicis.
Paulus tuis precibus, Stephane, te quondam persecutus Christo credit,
Et tecum tripudiat in regno, cui nullus persecutor appropinquat:
Nos proinde, nos supplices ad te clamantes et precibus te puisantes,
Oratio sanctissima nos tua semper conciliet Deo nostro.
Te Petrus Christi ministrum statuit: Tu Petro normam credenti adstruis, ad dextram summi Patris ostendendo, quem plebs furens crucifixit.
Se tibi Christus eligit, Stephane, per quem fideles suos corroboret, se tibi inter rotatus saxorum solatio manifestans.
Nunc inter inclytas Martyrum purpuras coruscas coronatus.

Let us solemnize this Feast in the union of fraternal charity,
Instructed by the sweet example of its Saint

Who prayed for his guilty persecutors.
Hear us, O Stephen, thou standard-bearer of the infinitely merciful King,
Who heard the prayers thou didst offer him for thine enemies.
By thy prayers, O Stephen, that very Paul who once persecuted thee was converted to believe in Jesus,
And now exults with thee in that Kingdom, nigh which no persecutors come.
We, then, who humbly cry to thee for pity, and besiege thee with our prayers,
We, surely, shall be reconciled to our God by thy most holy prayers.
Peter ordained thee as a minister of Christ: and thou to the faithful Peter didst affirm and show this truth, that he whom the mad populace crucified is at the right hand of the Father.
Christ chose thee, O Stephen! as the example whereby he would give courage to his faithful ones, for he showed himself to thee amidst the shower of stones, and sweetly consoled thee.
Now amidst the red-robed army of the Martyrs thou shinest as The Crowned Prince.


We return thee our grateful thanks, O glorious Stephen! for the help thou hast given us in this great Feast of Christmas. It is thy yearly office to initiate us into the sublime mystery of the Birth of Jesus. Thy Feast ever brings us into the company of this Divine Child, and the Church trusts thee to reveal him to the hearts of her children, as thou heretofore didst to the Jews. Thou hast done thy work, dear Saint! and here is our faith: we adore this Babe of Bethlehem as the Word of God; we hail him as our King; we offer ourselves to him, to serve him as thou didst; we acknowledge his absolute right over us, and our obligation of serving him even to the last drop of our blood, should he put our loyalty to that great test. Stephen, Faithful Deacon! pray for us, that we may have the grace to give our whole heart to Jesus from this time forward; that we may use our best efforts to please him; and that we may conform our lives and affections to his blessed will. Doing this, we shall have the grace to fight his Fight, if not before tyrants and persecutors, at least before the base passions of our own hearts. We are the descendants of the Martyrs, and the Martyrs conquered the world; for Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, had conquered it before them: shall we, then, be cowards, and re-enslave ourselves to our eternal enemy? Obtain for us also that fraternal charity which pardons every injury, and prays for them that hate us, and converts sinners and heretics when all means else have failed. O valiant Martyr of Jesus! watch over us at the hour of our death; assist us in our agony; show us that Jesus whom thou hast shown us so often as the dear Babe of Bethlehem; show us him then as the glorified, the triumphant, but above all as the merciful Jesus, holding in his divine hands the Crown he has prepared for us; and may our last words be those which thou didst utter when going to thy God: Lord Jesus! receive my Spirit![3]

 

 

 

 


 

[1] 1 Tim. iii 9.
[2] Sermon 316: The Third for the Feast of St Stephen.
[3] Acts vii 58.