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Second Week of Lent

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Station is in the church of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, two celebrated martyrs of Rome under the persecution of Diocletian. Their names are inserted in the Canon of the Mass.

Collect

Da, quæsumus, Domine, nostris effectum jejuniis salutarem: ut castigatio camis assumpta, ad nostrarum vegetationem transeat animarum. Per Christum Dorainum nostrum. Amen.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, this saving effect of our fast, that the chastisement of the flesh, which we have undertaken, may become the improvement of our souls. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle

Lectio libri Genesis.

Cap. xxvii.

In diebus illis: Dixit Rebecca filio suo Jacob: Audivi patrem tuum loquentem cum Esaü fratre tuo et dicentem ei: Affer mihi de venatione tua, et fac cibos ut comedam, et benedioam tibi coram Domino antequam moriar. Nunc ergo, fili mi, acquiesce consiliis meis: et pergens ad gregem, affer mihi duos hcedos optimos, ut faciam ex eis escas patri tuo, quibus libenter vescitur: quas cum intuleris, et comederit derit, benedicat tibi priusquam moriatur. Cui ille reepondit: Nosti quod Esaü frater meus homo pilosus sit, et ego lenis: si attrecta verit me pater meus, et senserit, timeo ne putet me sibi voluisse illudere, et inducam super me maledictionem pro benedictione. Ad quern mater: In me sit, inquit, ista maledictio, fill mi: tantum audi vocem meam, et pergens affer quæ dixi. Abiit, et attulit, deditque matri. Paravit illa cibos eicut velle noverat patrem illius. Et vestibus Esaü valde bonis, quas apud se habebat domi, induit eum: pelliculasque hædorum circumdedit manibus, et colli nuda protexit. Deditque pulmentum, et panes quos coxerat tradidit. Quibus illatis dixit: Pater mi! At ille respondit: Audio. Quis es tu, fili mi? Dixitque Jacob: Ego sum primogenitus tuus Esaü: feci sicut præcepisti mihi: surge, eede, et comede de venatione mea, ut benedicat mihi anima tua. Kursumque Isaac ad filium suum: Quomodo, inquit, tam cito invenire potuisti fili mi? Qui respondit: Voluntas Dei fuit, ut cito occurreret mihi quod volebam. Dixitque Isaac: Accede hue, ut tangam te, fili mi, et probem utrum tu sis filiue meus Esaü, an non. Accessit ille ad patrem, et palpato eo, dixit Isaac: Vox quidem, vox Jacob est: sed manus, manus sunt Esaü. Et non cognovit eum, quia pilosæ manus similitudinem majoris expresserant. Benedicens ergo illi, ait: Tu es filiua meufl Esaü? Respondit: Ego sum. At ille: Affer mihi, inquit, cibos de venatione tua, fill mi, ut benedicat tibi anima mea. Quos cum oblatos comedieset, obtulit ei etiam vinum. Quo hausto, dixit ad eum: Accede ad me, et da mihi osculum, fili mi. Accessit, et osculatus est eum. Statimque ut sensit vestimentorum illius fragrantiam, benedicens illi, ait: Ecco odor filii mei, sicut odor agri pleni, cui benedixit Dominus. Det tibi Deus de rore cœli, et de pinguedine terræ, abundantiam frumenti et vini. Et serviant tibi populi, et adorent te tribus: esto dominus fratrum tuorum, et incurventur ante te filii matris tuæ. Qui maledixerit tibi, sit ille maledictus: et qui benedixerit tibi, benedictionibus repleatur. Vix Isaac sermone m impleverat: et egresso Jacob foras, venit Esaü, coctoeque de venatione cibos intulit patri, dicens: Surge, pater mi, et comede de venatione filii tui, ut benedicat mihi anima tua. Dixitque illi Isaac: Quis enim es tu? Qui respondit: Ego sum filius tuus primogenitus Esaü. Expavit Isaac stupore vehementi, et ultra quam credi potest, admirans, ait: Quis igitur ille est, qui dudum captam venationem attulit mihi, et comedi ex omnibus priusquam tu venires? Benedixique ei, et erit benedictus. Auditie Esaü sermonibus patris, irrugiit clamore magno: et conetematus, ait: Benedio etiam et mihi, pater mi. Qui ait: Venit germanus tuus fraudulenter, et accepit benedictionem tuam. At ille subjunxit: Juste vocatum est nomen ejus Jacob: supplantavit enim me in altera vice: primogenita mea ante tulit, et nunc secundo surripuit benedictionem meam. Rursumque ad patrem: Numquid non reservasti, ait, et mihi benedictionem? Respondit Isaac: Dominum tuum ilium conetitui, et omnes fra tres ejus servituti illius subjugavi: frumento et vino stabilivi eum; et tibi post haec, fili mi, ultra quid faciam? Cui Esaü: Num unam, inquit, tan turn benedictionem habes, pater? Mihi quoque obsecro ut benedicas. Cumque ejulatu magno fleret, motus Isaac, dixit ad eum: In pinguedine terræ, et in rore caeli desuper erit benedictio tua.
Lesson from the Book of Genesis.

Ch. xxvii.

In those days: Rebecca said to her son Jacob: I heard thy father talking with Esau thy brother, and saying to him: Bring me of thy hunting, and make me meats that I may eat, and bless thee in the sight of the Lord before I die. Now, therefore, my son, follow my counsel: and go thy way to the flock, bring me two kids of the best, that I may make of them meat for thy father, such as he gladly eateth; which when thou hast brought in, and he hath eaten, he may bless thee before he die. And he answered her: Thou knowest that Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am smooth; if my father shall feel me, and perceive it, I fear lest he will think I would have mocked him, and I shall bring upon me a curse instead of a blessing. And his mother said to him: Upon me be this curse, my son; only hear thou my voice, and go, fetch me the things which I have said. He went, and brought, and gave them to his mother. She dressed meats such as she knew his father liked. And she put on him very good garments of Esau, which she had at home with her; and the little skins of the kids she put about his hands, and covered the bare of his neck. And she gave him the savoury meat, and delivered him bread that she had baked. Which when he had carried in, he said: My father? But he answered: I hear; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said: I am Esau thy first-born; I have done as thou didst command me; arise, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said to his son: How couldst thou find it so quickly, my son? He answered: It was the will of God, that what I sought came quickly in my way. And Isaac said: Come hither, that I may ioel thee, my sun. and may prove whether thou be my son Esau or not. He came near to his father, and when he had felt him, Isaac said: The voice, indeed, is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he knew him not, because his hairy hands made him like to the elder. Then blessing him, he said: Art thou my son Esau? He answered: I am. Then he said: Bring me the meats of thy hunting, my son, that my soul may bless thee. And when they were brought and he had eaten, he offered him wine also; which after he had drunk, he said to him: Come near me, and give me a kiss, my son. He came near, and kissed him. And immediately as he smelled the fragrant smell of his garments, blessing him, he said: Behold the smell of my son is as the smell of a plentiful field, which the Lord hath blessed. God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of com and wine. And let peoples serve thee, and tribes worship thee; be thou lord of thy brethren, and let thy mother’s children bow down before thee. Cursed be he that curseth thee, and let him that blesseth thee be filled with blessings. Isaac had scarce ended his words when Jacob being now gone out abroad, Esau came, and brought in to his father meats made of what he had taken in hunting, saying: Arise, my father, and eat of thy son’s venison; that thy seul may bless me. And Isaac said to him: Why! who art thou? He answered: I am thy firstborn son Esau. Isaac was struck with fear, and astonished exceedingly, and wondering beyond what can be believed, said: Who is he then that even now brought me venison that he had taken and I ate of all before thou earnest? and I have blessed him and he shall be blessed. Esau having heard his father’s words, roared out with a great cry, and being in a consternation, said: Bless me also, my father. And he said: Thy brother came deceitfully and got thy blessing. But he said again: Rightly is his name called Jacob, for he hath supplanted me, lo! this second time; my first birth-right he took away before, and now this second time he hath stolen away my blessing. And again he said to his father: Hast thou not reserved me also a blessing? Isaac answered: I have appointed him thy lord, and have made all his brethren his servants: I have established him with corn and wine, and after this, what shall I do more for thee, my son? And Esau said to him: Hast thou only one blessing, father? I beseech thee, bless me also. And when he wept with a loud cry, Isaac being moved, said to him: In the fat of the earth and in the dew of heaven from above, shall thy blessing be.

The two sons of Isaac are another illustration of God’s judgments upon Israel, and His vocation of the Gentiles. The instruction contained in this passage from Genesis was intended for the catechumens. Here we have two brothers, Esau the elder, and Jacob the younger; Esau represents the Jewish people; he is his father’s heir, and, as such, he has a glorious future before him. Jacob, though twin-brother to Esau, is the second-born, and has no right to the special blessing which Esau claimed; he is the figure of the Gentiles. How, then, is it that Jacob receives the blessing and not Esau? The sacred volume tells us that Esau is a carnal-minded man. Rather than deny himself the momentary gratification of his appetite, he sacrifices the spiritual advantages which his father’s blessing is to bring him; he sells his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. We know the mother’s plan for securing Jacob’s claim; and how the aged father is, unsuspectingly, the instrument in God’s hands, ratifying and blessing this substitution, of which he himself has no knowledge. Esau, having returned home, is made aware of the greatness of his loss; but it is too late, and he becomes an enemy to his brother. The same thing happens with the Jewish people; they are carnal-minded and lose their birthright, their pre-eminence over the Gentiles. They refuse to acknowledge a Messias who is poor and persecuted; their ambition is for earthly triumph and earthly greatness; and the only kingdom that Jesus holds out to His followers is a spiritual one. The Jews, then, reject this Messias; but the Gentiles receive Him, and they become the first-born, the favoured people. And, whereas the Jews repudiate this substitution (to which, however, they assented, when they said to Pilate: ‘We will not have this Man to reign over us’),[1] they are indignant at seeing the heavenly Father bestowing all His love and blessings on the Christian people. They that are children of Abraham according to the flesh are disinherited; and they that are the children of Abraham by faith alone are evidently the children of the promise; according to those words of the Lord, which He spoke to that great patriarch: ‘I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea-shore. ... In thy seed (that is, in Him who is to be born of thy race) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’[2]

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. xv.

In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus pharisæis et scribis parabolam istam: Homo quidam habuit duos filios: et dixit adolescentior ex illis patri: Pater, da mihi portionem substantiae quæ me contingit. Et divisit illis substantiam. Et non post multos dies, congregatis omnibus, adolescentior filius peregre profectus est in regionem longinquam, et ibi dissipavit substantiam suam vivendo luxuriose. Et postquam omnia consummasset, facta est fames valida in regione ilia, et ipse coepit egere. Et abiit, et adhæsit uni civium regionis illius. Et misit ilium in villain suam ut pasceret porcos. Et cupiebat implere ventre m suum de siliquis quas porci manducabant: et nemo illi dabat. In se autem reversus, dixit: Quanti mercenarii in domo patrie mei abundant panibus: ego autem hicfame pereo! Surgam, et ibo ad patrem meum, et dicam ei: Pater, peccavi in cœlum et coram te; jam non sum dignus vocan filius tuus: fac me sicut unum de mercenariis tuis. Et surgens venit ad patrem suum. Cum autem adhue longe esset, vidit ilium pater ipsius, et misericordia motus est, et accurrens cecidit super collum ejus, et osculatus est eum. Dixitque ei filius: Pater, peccavi in ccelum, et coram te: jam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus. Dixit autem pater ad servos suos: Cito proferte stolam primam, et induite ilium, et date annulum in manum ejus, et calceamenta in pedes ejus: et * adducite vitulum saginatum, et occidite, et manducemus et epulemur: quia hicfilius meus mortuus erat, et revixit: perierat, et inventus est. Et coeperunt epulari. Erat autem filius ejus senior in agro: et cum veniret, et appropinquaret domui, audivit symphoniam, et chorum; et vocavit unum de servis, et interrogavit quid hæc essent. Isque dixit illi: Frater tuus venit, et occidit pater tuus vitulum saginatum, quia salvum ilium recepit. Indignatus est autem, et nolebat introire. Pater ergo illius egressus, cœpit rogare ilium. At file respondens, dixit patri suo: Ecce tot annis servio tibi, et numquam mandatum tuum præterivi, et numquam dedisti mihi hcedum, ut cum amicis meis epularer: sed postquam filius tuus hie, qui devoravit substantiam suam cum meretricibus, venit, oceidisti illi vitulum saginatum. At ipse dixit illi: Fili, tu semper mecum es, et omnia mea tua sunt: epulari autem et gaudere oportebat, quia frater tuus hic mortuus erat, et revixit: perierat et inventus est.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. xv.

At that time: Jesus spoke to the scribes and pharisees this parable: A certain man had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his substance. And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country, and there wasted his substance, living riotously. And, after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country, and he began to be in want. And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. And returning to .himself hesaid: How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger! I will arise and will go to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; I am not now worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants. And rising up, he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion; and running to him, fell upon his neck, and kissed him. And the son said to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; I am not now worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry; because this my son was dead, and is come to life again, was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing, and he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said to him: Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe. And he was angry, and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him. And he answering said to his father: Behold for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandment, and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends; but as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine. But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is come to life again, he was lost, and is found.

The mystery brought before us in the Epistle is repeated in our Gospel. Again it is the history of two brothers; the elder is angry at seeing his father show mercy to the younger. This younger brother has gone abroad into a far country; he has quitted his father’s house, that he might be under no control, and indulge in every kind of disorder. But when a mighty famine came, and he was perishing with hunger, he remembered that he had a father; and, at once, he arose, and humbly besought his father to receive him, and give him the last place in that housey which, but for his own folly, might have been all his own. The father received the prodigal with the tenderest affection; not only did he pardon him, he restored him to all his family rights; nay, he would have a feast kept in honour of this happy return. The elder brother, hearing what the father had done, was indignant, and conceived the bitterest jealousy against his younger brother. Let the Jews be jealous, if they will; let them be indignant with their God for showing His mercy to any but themselves. The time has come when all the nations of the earth are to be called to the one fold. The Gentiles, notwithstanding all the misery into which their errors and their passions had led them, are to receive the preaching of the apostles. Greeks and Romans, Scythians and barbarians, are to come, humbly acknowledging the evil of their ways, and ask to share in the favours offered to Israel. Not only are they to be allowed to eat of the crumbs that fall from the table, which was all the poor woman of Chanaan dared to hope for; they are to be made sons and heirs of the Father, with all the attendant rights and privileges. Israel will be jealous, and will protest; but to no purpose. He will refuse to take part in the feast; it matters not, the feast is to be. This feast is the Pasch. The prodigals that have come, starved and naked, to the Father’s house, are our catechumens, on whom God is about to bestow the grace of adoption.

But there are also the public penitents, who are being prepared by the Church for reconciliation; they, too, are the frodigals, who come seeking mercy from their offended Father. This Gospel was intended for them as well as for the catechumens. But now that the Church has relaxed her severe discipline, she offers this parable to all those who are in the state of sin, and are preparing to make their peace with God. They know not, as yet, how good is the God from whom they have strayed by sin: let them read to-day’s Gospel, and see how mercy exalteth itself above judgment,[3] in that God, who so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son.[4] How far soever they may have gone astray, or how great soever may have been their ingratitude, let them take courage; a feast is being prepared in their Father’s house, to welcome them home again. The loving Father is waiting at the door to receive and embrace them; the first robe, the robe of innocence, is to be restored to them; the ring, which they alone wear that are of God’s family, is to be once more placed on their hand. There is a banquet being prepared for them, at which the angels, out of joy, will sing their glad songs. Let these poor sinners, then, cry out with a contrite heart: Father! I have sinned against heavenand before Thee; I am not now worthy to be called Thy son: make me as one of Thy hired servants. This tender-hearted Father asks only this much of them: sincere sorrow for their sins, humble confession, and a firm resolution of being faithful for the time to come. Let them accept these easy terms, and He will receive them, once more, as His dearest children.

Humiliate capita vestra Deo. Familiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, continua pietate custodi: ut quæin sola spe gratiæ cœlestis innititur, cœlesti etiam protectione muniatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.

Protect, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy family, by thy continual goodness, that as it relieth on the hopes of thy heavenly grace, so it may bo defended by thy heavenly aid. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This being Saturday, let us have recourse to Mary the Queen of mercy. Let us address ourselves to her in these devout words of a sequence, taken from the ancient Cluny missals. This is our request: that she would obtain for us the pardon of our sins.

Sequence

Ave novi luminis
Stella promens radium,
Quo nostræ propaginis
Deletur opprobrium.

Tu sola spes hominis,
Tu nostrum refugium,
In hora discriminis
Placa nobis Filium.

Florens Jesse virgula,
Vera veris primula,
Salutem initians.

Rosa semper vernula,
Tota sine macula,
Maculosos expians.

Uterus virgineus,
Fons hortorum, puteus
Aquarum viventium.

Imo thronus aureus,
In quo Rex æthereus
Coronavit Filium.

Domus aromatica,
Quam arte mirifica
Fecit summus Artifex.

In qua Christus unica
Sumpta camis tunica,
Consecratur Pontifex.

Fons distillans oleum,
Imo rorem melleum,
Per amoris fistulas.

Inde surgit balneum,
Purgans omne felleum,
Et peccati maculas.

Mater cujus viscera
Penetrarunt vulnera
Patientis Filii.

Lac profer et ubera;
Nos a pænis libera
Tremendi judicii.

Amen.
Hail, fair star!
that yieldest a ray of new light,
whereby is blotted out
the shame of our race.

O thou the singular hope of man!
O thou our refuge!
Appease thy Son,
at the hour of our judgment.

Thou art the flowery rod of Jesse:
thou art the true first spring-flower,
bringing us our Jesus.

O ever blooming rose
there is not a stain upon thee,
and thy Fruit taketh our stains away.

Thy virginal womb is the fount of the garden,
the source of him
that is the water of life.

Yea, thou art the golden throne,
whereon the King of heaven
crowned his Son.

The palace of sweet perfumes,
formed with exquisite skill
by the hand of the great Artificer;

Wherein Jesus,
having put on the garment of our flesh,
was consecrated High Priest.

Thou art the fount that givest forth oil,
yea, a dew sweet as honey;
for thou art all love.

Hence came to us the font
that washeth away
the bitterness and the stains of sin.

O Mother! whose heart
was pierced by the wounds
of thy suffering Son.

Show us a Mother’s care and love;
and when the dread judgment comes,
deliver us from punishment.

Amen.

 

[1] St. Luke xix. 14.
[2] Gen. xxii. 17, 18.
[3] St. James ii, 13.
[4] St. John iii. 16.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Station for to-day is in the church of Saint Vitalis, martyr, the father of the two illustrious Milanese martyrs, Saints Gervasius and Protasius.

Collect

Da, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus; ut sacro nos purificante jejunio, sinceris mentibus ad sancta ventura facias pervenire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Grant, O almighty God, that being purified by this fast, we may come to the approaching solemnity with clean hearts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle

Lectio libri Genesis.

Ch. xxxvii.

In diebus illis: Dixit Joseph fratribus suis: Audite somnium meum quod vidi: Putabam nos ligare manipulos in agro: et quasi consurgere manipulum meum, et stare, vestrosque manipulos circumstantes adorare manipulum meum. Responderunt fratres ejus: Numquid rex noster eris? aut subjiciemur ditioni tuæ? Hæe ergo causa somniorum atque sermonum, invidiæ et odii fomitem ministra vit. Aliud quoque vidit somnium, quod narrans fratribus ait; Vidi per somnium quasi solem, et lunam, et Stellas undecim adorare me,Quod quum patri suo et fratribue retulisset, increpavit eum pater suns, et dixit: Quid sibi vult hoc somnium quod vidisti? Num ego, et mater tua, et fratres tui adorabimus te super terram? Invidebant ei igitur fratres sui: pater vero rem tacitus considerabat. Cumque fratres illiue in pascendis gregibus patris morarentur in Sichem, dixit ad eum Israël: Fratres tui pascunt oves in Siohimie: veni, mittam te ad eos. Quo respondente: Præsto sum; ait ei: Vade, et vide si cuneta prospera sint erga fratres tuos, et pecora: et renuntia mihi quid agatur. Missus de valle Hebron, venit in Sichem: invenitque eum vir errantem in agro, et interrogavit quid quæreret. At ille respondit: Fratres meos quæro: indica mihi ubi paecant greges. Dixitque ei vir: Recesserunt de loco isto; audivi autem eos dicentes: Eamus in Dothain. Perrexit ergo Joseph post fratres suos, et invenit eos in Dothain. Qui cum vidissent eum procul, antequam accederet ad eos, cogitaverunt ilium occidere, et mutuo loquebantur: Ecce somniator venit: venite, occidamus eum, et mittamus in cistemam veterem: dicemusque: Fera pessima devoravit eum, et tune apparebit quid illi prosint somnia sua. Audiens autem hoc Ruben, nitebatur liberare eum de manibus eorum, et dicebat: Non interficiatis animam ejus, nec effundatis sanguinem; sed projicite eum in cisternam hane, quæ est in solitudine, manusque vestras servate innoxias. Hoc autem dicebat, volens eripere eum de manibus eorum, et reddere patri suo.
Lesson from the Book of Genesis.

Cap. xxxvii.

In those days: Joseph said to his brethren: Hear my dream which I have dreamed. I thought we were binding sheaves in the field; and my sheaf arose, as it were, and stood, and your sheaves, standing about, bowed down before my sheaf. His brethren answered: Shalt thou be our king? or shall we be subject to thy dominion? Therefore this matter of his dreams and words ministered nourishment to their envy and hatred. He dreamed also another dream, which he told his brethren, saying: I saw in a dream, as it were, the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars, worshipping me. And when he had told this to his father and brethren, his father rebuked him and said: What meaneth this dream that thou hast dreamed? shall I and thy mother, and thy brethren, worship thee upon the earth? His brethren therefore envied him, but his father considered the thing with himself. And when his brethren abode in Sichem, feeding their father’s flocks, Israel said to him: Thy brethren feed the sheep in Sichem; come, I will send thee to them. And when he answered: I am ready; he said to him: Go, and see if all things be well with thy brethren and the cattle, and bring me word again what is doing. So being sent from the vale of Hebron, he came to Sichem. And a man found him there wandering in the field, and asked him what he sought. But he answered: I seek my brethren; tell me where they feed their flocks. And the man said to him: They are departed from this place; for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothain. And Joseph went forward after his brethren, and found them in Dothain. And when they saw him afar off, before he came nigh them, they thought to kill him, and said one to another: Behold the dreamer cometh; come, let us kill him, and cast him into some old pit: and we will say: Some evil beast hath devoured him: and then it shall appear what his dreams avail him. And Ruben hearing this, endeavoured to deliver him out of their hands, and said: Do not take away his life, nor shed his blood; but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and keep your hands harmless. Now he said this, being desirous to deliver him out of their hands, and to restore him to his father.

To-day the Church reminds us of the apostasy of the Jewish nation, and of the consequent vocation of the Gentiles. This instruction was intended for the catechumens; let us, also, profit by it. The history here related from the old Testament is a figure of what we read in to-day’s Gospel. Joseph is exceedingly beloved by his father Jacob, not only because he is the child of his favourite spouse Rachel, but also because of his innocence. Prophetic dreams have announced the future glory of this child: but he has brothers; and these brothers, urged on by jealousy, are determined to destroy him. Their wicked purpose is not carried out to the full; but it succeeds at least this far, that Joseph will never more see his native country. He is sold to some merchants. Shortly afterwards, he is cast into prison; but he is soon set free, and is made the ruler, not of the land of Chanaan that had exiled him, but of a pagan country, Egypt. He saves these poor Gentiles from starvation, during a most terrible famine, nay, he gives them abundance of food, and they are happy under his government. His very brothers, who persecuted him, are obliged to come down into Egypt, and ask food and pardon from their victim. We easily recognize in this wonderful history our divine Redeemer, Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary. He was the victim of His own people’s jealousy, who refused to acknowledge in Him the Messias foretold by the prophets, although their prophecies were so evidently fulfilled in Him. Like Joseph, Jesus is the object of a deadly conspiracy; like Joseph, He is sold. He traverses the shadow of death, but only to rise again, full of glory and power. But it is no longer on Israel that He lavishes the proofs of His predilection; He turns to the Gentiles, and with them He henceforth dwells. It is to the Gentiles that the remnant of Israel will come seeking Him, when, pressed by hunger after the truth, they are willing to acknowledge, as the true Messias, this Jesus of Nazareth, their King, whom they crucified.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. xxi.

In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus turbis Judæorum, et principibus sacerdotum parabolam hane: Homo erat paterfamilias, qui plantavit vineam, et sepem circumdedit ei, et fodit in ea torcular, et ædifieavit turrim, et locavit eam agricolis, et peregre profectus est. Cum autem tempus fructuum appropinquasset, misit servos suos ad agricolas, ut acciperent fructus ejus. Et agricolæ, apprehensis servis ejus, alium ceciderunt, alium occiderunt, alium vero lapidaverunt. Iterum misit alios servos plures priori bus, et fecerunt illis similiter. Novissime autem misit ad eos filium suum, dicens: Verebuntur filium meum. Agricolæ autem videntes filium, dixerunt intra se: Hic est hæres: venite, occidamus eum, et habebimus hæreditatem ejus. Et apprehensum eum ejecerunt extra vineam, et occiderunt. Cum ergo venerit dominus vineae, quid faciet agricolis illis? Aiunt illi: Malos male perdet: et vineam suam locabit aliis agricolis, qui reddant ei fructum temporibus suis. Dicit illis Jesus: Nunquam legistis in Scripturis: Lapidem quem reprobaverunt ædificantes, hicfactus est in caput anguli? A Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris. Ideo dico vobis, quia auferetur a vobis regnum Dei, et dabitur genti facienti fructus ejus. Et qui ceciderit super lapidem istum, confringetur: super quem vero ceciderit, conteret eum. Et cum audissent principes sacerdotum et pharisæi parabolas ejus, cognoverunt quod de ipsis diceret. Et quærentes eum tenere, timuerunt turbas: quoniam sicut prophetam eum habebant.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. xxi.

At that time: Jesus spoke to the multitude of the Jews, and to the chief priests this parable: There was a man an householder, who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round about it, and dug in it a press, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a strange country. And when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he.sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits thereof. And the husbandmen laying hands on his servants, beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the former; and they did to them in like manner. And last of all he sent to them his son, saying: They will reverence my son. But the husbandmen seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance. And taking him, they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him. When, therefore, the lord of the vineyard shaU come, what will he do to those husbandmen? They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end: and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen that shall render him the fruit in due season. Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes. Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and pharisees had heard his parables, they knew that he spoke of them. And seeking to lay hands on him they feared the multitude; because they held him as a prophet.

Here we have more than the mere figures of the old Law, which show us our Redeemer in the far distant future; we have the great reality. Yet a little while, and the thrice holy Victim will have fallen beneath the blows of His persecutors. How awful and solemn are the words of Jesus, as His last hour approaches! His enemies feel the full weight of what He says; but, in their pride, they are determined to keep up their opposition to Him, who is the Wisdom of the Father. They have made up their minds not to acknowledge Him to be what they well know He is—the stoneon which he that falls shall be broken, and which shall grind to powder him on whom it shall fall. But what is the vineyard, of which our Lord here speaks? It is revealed truth; it is the rule of faith and morals; it is the universal expectation of the promised Redeemer; and, lastly, it is the family of the children of God, His inheritance, His Church. God had chosen the Synagogue as the depository of such a treasure; He willed that His vineyard should be carefully kept, that it should yield fruit under their keeping, and that they should always look upon it as His possession, and one that was most dear to Him. But, in its hard-heartedness and avarice, the Synagogue appropriated the Lord’s vineyard to itself. In vain did He, at various times, send His prophets to reclaim His rights; the faithless husbandmen put them to death. The Son of God, the Heir, comes in Person. Surely, they will receive Him with due respect, and pay Him the homage due to His divine character! But no; they have formed a plot against Him; they intend to cast Him forth out of the vineyard, and kill Him. Come, then, ye Gentiles, and avenge this God! Leave not a stone on a stone of the guilty city that has uttered this terrible curse: ‘May His Blood be upon us and upon our children!’[1] But you shall be more than the ministers of the divine justice; you yourselves are now the favoured people of God. The apostasy of these ungrateful Jews is the beginning of your salvation. You are to be keepers of the vineyard to the end of time; you are to feed on its fruits, for they now belong to you. From east and west, from north and south, come to the great Pasch, that is being prepared! Come to the font of salvation, O ye new people, who are gathered unto God from all nations under the sun! Your mother the Church will fill up from you, if you be faithful, the number of the elect; and when her work is done, her Spouse will return, as the dread Judge, to condemn those who would not know the time of their visitation.[2]

Humiliate capita vestra Deo.

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

Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to thy people health both of soul and body, that by the continual practice of good works they may always be defended by thy powerful protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us encourage within ourselves the spirit of humility and penance by the following hymn, which we take from the Greek liturgy. It was composed by St. Andrew of Crete.

Hymn
(Feria V. quintæ hebdomadæ)

Unde primum miseræ vitæ meæ actiones lamenter? quod, Christe, hodierni planctus initium faciam? enim vero, qui misericors sis, debitorum veniam concede.

Veni, misera anima, tua carne comite, omnium confitero Creatori, deincepsque antiqua abstine aliena a ratione affectione, ac Deo lacrymas pænitens exhibe.

Qui Adam protoplastum prævaricando sim æmulatus; Deo, ætemoque regno et voluptate, meis cognovi peccatis me nudatum.

Heu me, misera anima! ut quid primæ Evæ similis facta es? male quippe vidisti, direque vulnerata es; ac manum admovisti ligno, petulansque escam absonam gustasti.

Jure merito Adam, ut qui unum tuum mandatum, O Salvator, non custodivisset, Eden ilia ejectus est: at ego, qui continue vivifica eloquia tua spemam,quid sustinuero?

Tempus est pænitentiæ: ad te accedo, fictorem meum: grave a me tolle peccati jugum: mihique, ut misericors, tribue veniam delictorum.

Ne me, Salvator, abomineris, ne projicias a facie tua: grave a me tolle peccati jugum: mihique, ut misericors, tribue veniam delictorum.

Voluntaria mea debita præterque voluntatem, manifestaque et occulta, cognita omnia et incognita, tu Salvator, condona, velut Deus indulgens; propitius esto, ac me salvum facito.
I would mourn over the sins of my wretched life; but where shall I begin? O Jesus! how shall I commence the lamentation I fain would make this day? Do thou, my merciful God, forgive me my sins.

Come, my poor soul and thou, too, my body, come, and confess to the great Creator; and, henceforth, restrain your senseless passions, and offer to God the tears of repentance.

I have imitated my first parent in his sin; I acknowledge my nakedness, for I have lost my God, and the kingdom and the joys of eternity.

Alas, unhappy soul! wherefore hast thou made thyself like unto Eve! Oh that guilty look! Oh that cruel wound! Thou didst stretch forth thy hand to the tree; and, in thy frowardness, didst eat the forbidden fruit.

Adam was deservedly driven out of paradise, because he broke one of thy commandments. O my Saviour! I, then, who am for ever setting thy life-giving words at defiance, what punishment shall I not have?

Now is the time for repentance. I come to thee, O my Creator! Take from me the heavy yoke of sin, and, for thy mercy’s sake, pardon me my crimes.

Despise me not, my Saviour! Cast me not away from thy face. Take from me the heavy yoke of sin, and, for thy mercy’s sake, pardon me my crimes.

Do thou, my Saviour, and my merciful God, pardon mo my sins, deliberate or indeliberate, public or private, known or unknown. Have mercy on me, and save me!

[1] St. Matt. xxvii. 25.
[2] St. Luke xix. 44

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Station for to-day is in the celebrated basilica, St. Mary’s across the Tiber. It was consecrated in the third century, under the pontificate of St. Callixtus, and was the first church built in Rome in honour of our blessed Lady.

Collect

Præsta nobis, quæsumus Domine, auxilium gratiæ tuæ, ut jejuniis et orationibus convenienter intenti, liberemur ab hostibus mentis et corporis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Grant us, we beseech thee, O Lord, the assistance of thy grace; that whilst we duly apply ourselves to fasting and prayer, we may be delivered from all enemies both of soul and body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle

Lectio Jeremiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. xvii.

Hæc dicit Dominus Deus: Maledictus homo qui confidit in homine, et ponit carnem nem brachium euum, et a Domino recedit cor ejus. Erit enim quasi myricæ in deserto, et non videbit cum venerit bonum; sed habitant in siccitate in deserto, in terra salsuginis et inhabitabili. Benedictus vir, qui confidit in Domino, et erit Dominus fiducia ejus. Et erit quasi lignum quod transplantatur super aquas, quod ad humorem mittit radices euas: et non timebit cum venerit æstus. Et erit folium ejus viride, et in tempore siccitatis non erit sollicitum, nec aliquando desinet facere fructum. Pravum est cor omnium et inscrutabile: quis cognoscet illud? Ego Dominus scrutans cor, et probans renes; qui do unicuique juxta viam suam, et juxta fructum adinventionum suarum, dicit Dominus omnipotens.
Lesson from the Prophet Jeremias.

Ch. xvii.

Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like tamarick in the desert, and he shall not see when good shall come; but he shall dwell in dryness in the desert, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and the Lord shall be his confidence. And he shall be as a tree that is planted by the waters, and spreadeth out its roots towards moisture; and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. And the leaf thereof shall be green, and in the time of drought it shall not be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit. The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable; who can know it? I am the Lord who search the heart, and prove the reins; who give to every one according to his way, and according to the fruit of his devices, said the Lord almighty.

The Epistle and Gospel for to-day are intended as instructions upon Christian morality. Let us, for a moment, turn away our eyes from the sad spectacle of the plot which is being formed against our Redeemer, by His enemies; let us, to-day, think of our own sins, and how to apply a remedy. The prophet Jeremias here gives us the description of two classes of men: to which class do we belong? There are some men who make flesh their arm; that is to say, they care only for this present life and for created things; and this disposition of mind necessarily leads them to frequent violations of the commandments of their Creator. It was so with US, when we sinned: we lost sight of our last end, and the threefold concupiscence blinded us. Let us lose no time, but return to the Lord our God; a delay might bring upon us that curse, which our prophet says overtakes the unrepenting sinner; he shall not see goody when good shall come. The holy season of Lent is fast advancing; the choicest graces are being daily offered us; woe to the man whose mind is distracted by the fashion of this world that passeth away,[1] and takes no thought for eternity and heaven, and, even in this time of grace, is like tamarick a worthless weed of the desert. Oh how numerous is this class! and how terrible is their spiritual indifference! Pray for them, O ye faithful children of the Church, pray for them without ceasing. Offer up your penances and your almsgivings for them. Despair not; and remember that, each year, many straying sheep are brought to the fold by such intercession as this.

The prophet next describes the man that trusteth in the Lord; his whole hope is in God, and his whole care is to serve Him and to do His blessed will. He is like a beautiful tree that is planted near a stream of water, with its leaf ever green, and its fruit abundant. ‘I have appointed you,’says our Redeemer, ‘that you should go, and should bring forth fruit, and your fruit should remain. ’[2] Let us become this favoured and ever fruitful tree. The Church, during this holy time, is pouring out upon our hearts rich streams of God's grace: let us faithfully welcome them. The Lord searcheth the heart: if He find that our desire to be converted is sincere, what an Easter will the coming one be to us!

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. xvi.

In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus pharisaeis: Homo quidam erat dives, qui induebatur purpura et bysso: et epulabatur quotidie splendide. Et erat quidam mendicus, nomine Lazarus, qui jacebat ad januam ejus, ulceribus plenus, cupiens saturan de micis quæ cadebant de mensa divitis, et nemo illi dabat; sed et canes veniebant, et lingebant ulcera ejus. Factum est autem ut moreretur mendicus, et portaretur ab angelis in sinum Abrahæ. Mortuus est autem et dives, et sepultus est in inferno. Elevans autem oculos suos, cum esset in tormentis, vidit Abraham a longe, et Lazarum in sinu ejus: et ipse damans dixit: Pater Abraham miserere mei, et mitte Lazarum ut in tingat extremum digiti 8ui in aquam, ut ref rigeret linguam meam, quia crucior in hac flamma. Et dixit illi Abraham: Fili, recordare quia recepisti bona in vita tua, et Lazarus similiter mala: nunc autem hic consolatur, tu vero cruciaris. Et in his omnibus, inter nos et vos chaos magnum firmatum est: ut hi, qui volunt hinc transire ad vos, non possint, neque inde hue transmeare. Et ait: Rogo ergo te, pater, ut mittas eum in domum patris mei; habeo enim quinque fratres, ut testetur illis, ne et ipsi veniant in hunc locum tormento rum. Et ait illi Abraham: Habent Moysen et prophetas: audiant ülos. At ille dixit: Non, pater Abraham: sed si quis ex mortuis ierit ad eos, pœnitentiam agent. Ait autem illi: Si Moysen et prophetae non audiunt, neque si quis ex mortuis resurrexerit, credent.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. xvi.

At that time: Jesus said to the pharisees: There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him: moreover the dogs came and licked hia sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes, when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and .send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is fixed a great chaos; so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house; for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. But he said: No, father Abraham, but if any one went to them from the dead, they will do penance. And he said to him; If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe if one rise again from the dead.

The commandments of God cannot be broken with impunity; he that sins shall be punished. This is the teaching of to-day’s Gospel; and after reading it, we exclaim with the apostle: ‘How fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God!’[3]What a terrible truth is here told us! A man is in the enjoyment of every comfort and luxury this life can give; when suddenly death surprises him, and he is buried in hell! In the midst of those eternal burnings, he asks for a drop of water, and that drop is refused him. Other men, whom he knew on earth a few hours ago, are now in the abode of eternal happiness, and a great chaosseparates him from them for ever. Oh, what misery! To be in despair for endless ages! And yet there are men that live and die without giving so much as one day to think upon hell! Happy, then, are they that fear, for this fear will aid them to lighten that weight of their sins, which would drag them into the bottomless pit.

Alas! what strange darkness has come upon the mind of man as a consequence of sin! People that are shrewd, and prudent, and far-sighted in everything that regards their temporal concerns, are mere idiots and fools in every question that regards eternity. Can we imagine anything more frightful than their surprise when they awaken in the next world and find themselves buried in hell? Observe, too, that our Saviour, in order to make His instruction more impressive, has not here described the condemnation of one whose crimes scandalize the neighbourhood, and make even worldlings look upon him as a sure prey of hell. The history He gives us is that of a man who led a quiet life; he was agreeable in company, and sought after; he was respected, and did honour to the position he held in society. He is not accused of any public scandals; there is no mention made of any atrocious crime; our Saviour simply says of him: he was clothed in purple and fine linenand feasted sumptuously every day. It is true, he was not charitable to the poor man who lay at his gate; hut he did not ill-treat him: he allowed him to lie there, and did not even insult his misery. Why, then, was this rich man condemned to bum eternally in that fire which God created for the wicked? It is because a man who leads a life of luxury and feasting, such as he lived — never thinking of eternity, caring for nothing but this world, which we are told to use as though we used it not,[4] with nothing about him of the spirit of the cross of Christ—such a man as this is already a victim to the triple concupiscence of pride, avarice, and luxury; he is their slave, and seems determined to continue so, for he never makes an effort to throw off their tyranny. He has yielded himself up to them; and they have worked their work in him—the death of the soul. It was not enough that he should not ill-treat the poor man that sat at his gate, he ought to have shown him kindness and charity, for such is God’s commandment. His very dogs had more compassion than he; therefore, his condemnation and perdition were most just. But had he been told of his duty? Yes, he had the Scriptures; he had Moses and the prophets; nay more, he had Jesus and the Church. Men who are leading a life like this, are now surrounded by the graces of the holy season of Lent. What excuse will they have, if they so far neglect them, that they do not even give themselves the trouble to think of them? They will have turned their Lent into judgment against themselves, and it will have been but one great step nearer to eternal misery.

Humiliate capita veetra Deo.

Adesto, Domine, famulis tuis, et perpetuam benignitatem largire poscentibus: ut iis qui te auctore et gubematore gloriantur, et congregata restaures, et restaurata conserves. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.

Be favourable, O Lord, to thy servants, and hear their prayers in the grant of everlasting mercy; that glorying in thee their Creator and Governor, they may have all things perfected and perpetuated to them. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The hymn of Prudentius, which we have followed with so much interest during this week, thus closes:

Hymn

Hoc nos sequamur quisque nunc pro viribus,
Quod consecrati tu magister dogmatis
Tuis dedisti, Christe, sectatoribus;
Ut quum vorandi vicerit libidinem,
Late triumphet imperator spiritus.

Hoc est, quod atri livor hostis invidet,
Mundi, polique quod gubornator probat,
Altarie aram quod facit plac&bilem,
Quod dormientis excitat cordis fidem,
Quod limat ægram pectorum rubiginem.

Perfusa non sic amne flamma exstinguitur,
Nec sic calente sole tabescunt nives,
Ut turbidarum scabra culparum seges
Vanescit almo trita sub jejunio,
Si blanda semper misceatur largitas.

Est quippe et illud grande virtutis genus
Operire nudos, indigentes pascere,
Opem benignam ferre supplicantibus,
Unam paremque sortis humanæ vicern
Inter potentes, atque egenos ducere.

Satis beatus quisque dextram porrigit
Laudis rapacem, prodigam pecuniae,
Cujus sinistra dulce factum nesciat.
Ilium perennes protinus complent opes,
Ditatque fructus foenerantem centuplex.
O Jesus! Teacher of holy doctrine!
grant that we may all now walk courageously
in the path thou hast marked out for thy followers;
that our spirit, having subdued gluttony,
may in all things triumph and be master.

O blessed fasting! It is the object of the devil’s hatred:
it is dear to the King of earth and heaven;
it makes the great sacrifice of tho altar acceptable:
it stirs up the faith of the drowsy heart;
it takes from the soul the rust that clogs her power.

As fire is quenched by water,
or as snow is melted by a scorching sun;
so (but by a higher law) are the wild weeds of our base sins
uprooted by the sacred power of fasting,
when joined with charitable alms unstintingly bestowed.

For this, too, is a great virtue:
to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry,
to kindfy help the needy, and to behave towards all,
both rich and poor,
as members of the one great family of mankind.

Right blessed is he,
whose right hand works the praiseworthy deed of lavish alms,
but whose left hand knows not the sweet charity done!
Such a man shall receive eternal riches,
and interest a hundredfold shall be given to him who thus lends to the poor.

 

[1] 1 Cor. vii. 31.
[2] St. John xv. 16.
[3] Heb. X. 31.
[4] 1 Cor. vii. 31.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Station is in the basilica of Saint Cecily. This church, one of the most venerable in Rome, was the house of the illustrious virgin and martyr whose name it bears. The body of Saint Cecily is under the high altar, together with those of Saints Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus, and of the holy Popes Urban and Lucius, all martyrs.

Collect

Populum tuum, quæsumus, Domine, propitius respice: et quos ab escis carnalibue præcipis abstinere, a noxiis quoque vitiis cessare concede. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Mercifully regard thy people, O Lord, we beseech thee; and grant that those whom thou commandest to abstain from flesh, may likewise cease from all sin. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle

Lectio libri Esther.

Cap. xiii.

In diebus illus: Oravit Mardochæus ad Dominum, dicens: Domine, Domine, Rex omnipotens, in ditione enim tua cuneta sunt posita, et non est qui possit tuæ resistero voluntad, si decreveris salvare Israël. Tu fecisti cœlum et terrain, et quidquid cœli ambitu continetur. Dominus omnium es, nec est qui resistat majestad tuæ. Et nunc, Domine Rex, Deus Abraham, miserere populi tui, quia volunt nos inimici nostri perdere, et hæreditatem tuam delere. Ne despicias partern tuam, quam redemisti tibi de Ægypto. Exaudi deprecationem meam, et propitius esto sorti et funiculo tuo, et converte luctum nostrum in gaudium, ut viventes laudemus nornen tuum, Domine, et ne claudas ora te canentium, Domine Deus noster.
Lesson from the Book of Esther.

Ch. xiii.

In those days: Mardochai besought the Lord, and said: O Lord, Lord, almighty King, for all things are in thy power, and there is none that can resist thy will, if thou determine to save Israel. Thou hast made heaven and earth, and all things that are under the cope of heaven. Thou art Lord of all, and there is none that can resist thy majesty. And now, O Lord, O King, O God of Abraham, have mercy on thy people, because our enemies resolve to destroy us, and extinguish thine inheritance. Despise not thy portion, which thou hast redeemed for thyself out of Egypt. Hear my supplication and be merciful to thy lot and inheritance, and turn our mourning into joy, that we may live and praise thy name, O Lord, and shut not the mouths of them that sing to thee, O Lord, our God.

This petition, which Mardochai presented to God in favour of a whole nation that was doomed to destruction, represents the prayers which the saints of the old Testament offered for the salvation of the world. The human race was, to a great extent, in the power of satan, who is figured by Aman. The almighty King had given sentence against mankind: ‘Ye shall die the death.’Who was there that could induce Him to revoke the sentence? Esther made intercession with Assuerus, her lord; and she was heard. Mary presented herself before the throne of the eternal God: and it is she that, by her divine Son, crushes the head of the serpent, who was to have tormented us for ever. The sentence, then, is to be annulled; all shall live that wish to live.

To-day we have the Church praying for her children who are in the state of sin. She trembles at seeing them in danger of being eternally lost. She intercedes for them, and she uses Mardochai’s prayer. She humbly reminds her divine Spouse, that He has redeemed them out of Egypt; and, by Baptism, has made them His members, His inheritance. She beseeches Him to change their mourning into joy, even into the great Easter joy. She says to Him: Oh! shut not the mouths of them that sing to Thee! It is true, these poor sinners have in past times offended their God by word, as well as by deed and thought; but now they speak but words of humble prayer for mercy; and, when they shall have been pardoned, how fervently will they sing to their divine Deliverer, and bless Him in canticles of grateful love!

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. xx.

In illo tempore: Ascendena Jesus Jerosolymam, assumpsit duodecim discipulos secreto, et ait illis: Ecce ascendimus Jerosolymam, et Filius hominis tradetur principibus sacerdotum et scribis, et condemnabunt eum morte, et tradent eum gentibus ad illudendum, et flagellandum, et crucifigendum, et tertia die resurget. Tunc accessit ad eum mater filiorum Zebedæi cum filiis suis, adorans et petens aliquid ab eo. Qui dixit ei: Quid vis? Ait illi: Die ut sedeant hi duo filii mei, unus ad dexteram tuam, et unus ad sinistram, in regno tuo. Respondens autem Jesus, dixit: Nescitis quid petatis. Potestis bibere calicem, quem ego bibiturus sum? Dicunt ei: Possumue. Ait illis: Calicem quidem meum bibetis: sedere autem ad dexteram meam vel sinistram, non est meum dare vobis, sed quibus paratum est a Patre meo. Et audientes decem, indignati sunt de duobus fratribus. Jesus autem vocavit eos ad se, et ait: Scitis quia principes gentium dominantur eorum: et qui majores sunt, potestatem exercent in eos. Non ita erit inter vos: sed quicumque voluerit inter vos major fieri, sit vester minister: et qui voluerit inter vos primus esse, erit vester servus. Sicut Filius hominis non venit ministran, sed ministrare, et dare animam suam redemptionem pro multis.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. xx.

At that time: Jesus going up to Jersualem, took the twelve disciples apart, and said to them: Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles, to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day he shall rise again. Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee, with her sons, adoring and asking something of him. Who said to her: What wilt thou? She saith to him: Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom. And Jesus answering, said: You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink? They said to him: We can. He saith to them: My chalice, indeed, you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father. And the ten hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the princes of the gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power over them. It shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister; and he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of Man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.

This is He that gave His own life in order to appease the anger of the almighty King, and redeem His people from death. It is Jesus, the Son of the new Esther, and the Son of God, who comes forward to humble the pride of Aman, at the very time when this perfidious enemy of ours is making sure of his victory. He goes up to Jerusalem, for it is there that the great battle is to be fought. He foretells to His disciples all that is to happen. He will be delivered up to the chief priests, who will condemn Him to death, and hand Him over to the Roman governor and soldiers. He will be mocked, scourged, and crucified; but He will rise again on the third day. The apostles heard this prophecy, for the Gospel says, that Jesus took the twelve apart, in order to tell them these things. Judas, consequently, was present; so were Peter, James, and John, the three that had witnessed the Transfiguration of their Master on Thabor, and had a clearer knowledge of His Divinity. And yet, all abandoned Him. Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the whole flock fled away in fear, when the Shepherd was in the power of His enemies. Not one of them recollected how He had said that on the third day He would rise again: unless it were Judas, who was perhaps encouraged to commit his crime by the reflection that Jesus would soon triumph over His enemies and be again free. The rest could see no further than the scandal of the cross; that put an end to all their faith, and they deserted their Master. What a lesson for all future generations of Christians! How very few there are who look upon the cross, either for themselves or for others, as a sign of God’s special love!

We are men of little faith; we cannot understand the trials God sends to our brethren, and we are often tempted to believe that He has forsaken them, because He sends them the cross. We are men of little love, too; worldly tribulation seems an evil to us, and we think ourselves hardly dealt with, at the very time when our God is showing us the greatest mercy. We are like the mother of the sons of Zebedee: we would hold a high and conspicuous place near the Son of God, forgetting that we must first merit it, by drinking of the chalice that He drank, that is, the chalice of suffering. We forget, too, that saying of the apostle: ‘That we may be glorified with Jesus, we must suffer with Him!’[1] He, the just and All holy, entered not into His rest by honours, and pleasures:the sinner cannot follow Him, save by treading the path of penance.

Humiliate capita vestra Deo.

Deus, innocentiæ restitutor et amator, dirige ad te tuorum corda servorum: ut Spiritus tui fervore concepto, et in fide inveniantur stabiles, et in opere efficaces. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.

O God, the restorer and lover of innocence, draw to thyself the hearts of thy servants, that being inflamed by thy holy Spirit, they may be constant in faith, and zealous in good works. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Christian poet continues his subject—the merits of fasting. To-day he is going to show us how Jesus consecrated it by His own practice of it.

Sed cur vetustæ gentis exemplum loquor?
Pridem caducis quum gravatus artubus
Jesus, dicato corde jejunaverit:
Prænuncupatus ore qui prophetico
Emmanuel est, sive nobiscum Deus.

Qui corpus istud molle naturaliter,
Captumque laxo sub voluptatum jugo,
Virtutis arcta lege fecit liberum,
Emancipator servientis plasmatis,
Regnantis ante victor et cupidinis.

Inhospitali namque secretus loco,
Quinis diebus octies labentibus,
Nullam ciborum vindicavit gratiam,
Firmans salubri scilicet jejunio
Vas appetendis imbecillum gaudiis.

Miratur hostis, posse limum tabidum
Tantum laboris sustinere ac perpeti.
Explorat arte sciscitator callida,
Deusne membris sit receptus terreis:
Sed, increpata fraude, post tergum ruit.
But why give I examples from the old Law?
Jesus, whom the prophet had announced to the world as the Emmanuel,
that is, God with us, when here on earth
sharing the miseries of our mortality,
fasted rigidly out of love for us.

’Twas he that by the stringent law of virtue,
set these our bodies free from their natural effeminacy,
and from the yoke of unbridled indulgence.
He emancipated his creatures from their slavery;
he conquered the tyrant concupiscence, that had reigned till then.

He withdrew into a desert place,
and for forty days refused himself the use of food.
By this salutary fast,
he strengthened the weakness of our bodies,
which crave after gratification.

The enemy wonders within himself how a frail body,
that is but clay, can bear and suffer pain as long and sharp as this.
He, by cunning craft, contrives a plot,
whereby to sift this Jesus, and see if he perchance be God in human form.
But, rebuked and foiled, he flees away with shame.

 

[1] Rom. viii. 17.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Station is in the church of Saint Balbina. This holy virgin of Rome was the daughter of the tribune Quirinus, and suffered martyrdom during the pontificate of Alexander I., in the second century. She consecrated her virginity to God, and led a life rich in good works.

Collect

Perfice, quæsumus, Domine, benignus in nobis observantiæ sanctæ subsidium: ut quæ, te auctore, facienda cognovimus, te operante impleamus. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Grant us, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy assistance, whereby we may go through the observance of this holy fast, that what we have undertaken by thy appointment, we may accomplish by thy grace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle

Lectio libri Regum.

III. Cap. xvii.

In diebus illis: Factus est sermo Domini ad Eliam Thesbiten, dicens: Surge, et vade in Sarephta Sidoniorum, et manebis ibi: præcepi enim ibi mulieri viduæ ut pascat te. Surrexit et abiit in Sarephta. Cumque venisset ad portam civitatis, apparuit ei mulier vidua colligens ligna, et vocavit eam, dixitque ei: Da mihi paululum aquæ in vase, ut bibam. Cumque ilia pergeret ut afierret, clamavit post tergum ejus dicens: After mihi, obsecro, et bucel1am panis in manu tua. Quæ respondit: Vivifc Dominus Deus tuus, quia non habeo panem, nisi quantum pugillus capere potest farinæ in hydria, et paululum olei in lecytho: en colligo duo ligna ut ingrediar et faciam illud mihi et filio meo, ut comedamus, et moriamur. Ad quam Elias ait: Noli timere, sed vade, et fac sicut dixisti: verumtamen mihi primum fac de ipsa farinula subcinericium panem parvulum, et after ad me: tibi autem et filio tuo facies postea. Hæc autem dicit Dominus Deus Israël: Hydria farinæ non deficiet, nec lecythus olei minuetur usque ad diem in qua Dominus daturus est pluviam super faciem terræ. Quæ abiit, et fecit juxta verbum Eliæ; et comedit ipse, et illa, et domus ejus: et ex illa die hydria farinæ non defecit, et lecythus olei non est imminutus, juxta verbum Domini, quod locutus fuerat in manu Eliæ.
Lesson from the Book of Kings.

III. Ch. xvii.

In those days: The word of the Lord came to Elias the Thesbite, saying: Arise, and go to Sarephta of the Sidonians, and dwell there; for I have commanded a widow woman there to feed thee. He arose and went to Sarephta. And when he was come to the gate of the city, he saw the widow woman gathering sticks, and he called her, and said to her: Give me a little water in a vessel that I may drink. And when she was going to fetch it, he called after her, saying: Bring me also, I beseech thee, a morsel of bread in thy hand. And she answered: As the Lord thy God liveth, I have no bread, but only a handful of meal in a pot, and a little oil in a cruse; behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elias said to her: Fear not, but go, and do as thou hast said; but first make for me of the same meal a little hearth cake, and bring it to me: and after, make for thyself and thy son. For thus saith the Lord the God of Israel: The pot of meal shall not waste, nor the cruse of oil be diminished, until the day wherein the Lord will give rain upon the face of the earth. She went, and did according to the word of Elias; and he ate, and she, and her house: and from that day the pot of meal wasted not, and the cruse of oil was not diminished, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke in the hand of Elias.

The instruction of the catechumens is continued by means of the Gospel facts, which are each day brought before them; and the Church reads to them the prophecies from the old Testament, which are to be fulfilled by the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles. Elias, who is our faithful companion during Lent, is represented to us to-day as foreshadowing, in his own conduct, the treatment which God is one day to show towards His ungrateful people. A three years’drought had been sent upon the kingdom of Israel; but the people continued obstinate in their sins. Elias goes in search of some one that will provide him with food. It is a great privilege to entertain the prophet; for God is with him. Then, whither will he go? Is it to any family in the kingdom of Israel? Or will he pass into the land of Juda? He neglects them both, and directs his steps towards the land of the Gentiles. He enters the country of Sidon; and coming to the gates of a city called Sarephta, he sees a poor widow; it is to her that he transfers the blessing which Israel had rejected. Our Lord Himself has taken notice of this event in the prophet’s life, which portrays, in such strong colours, the justice of God towards the Jews, and His mercy towards us Gentiles: ‘In truth I say to you, there were many widows in the days of Elias in Israel: and to none of them was he sent, but to Sarephta of Sidon, to a widow woman.’[1]

So, then, this poor woman is a figure of the Gentiles, who were called to the faith. Let us study the circumstances of this prophetic event. The Woman is a widow; she has no one to defend or protect her: she represents the Gentiles, who were abandoned by all, and had no one that could save them from the enemy of mankind. All the mother and her child have to live upon, is a handful of meal and a little oil: it is an image of the frightful dearth of truth, in which the pagans were living at the time when the Gospel was preached to them. Notwithstanding her extreme poverty, the widow of Sarephta receives the prophet with kindness and confidence; she believes what he tells her, and she and her child are saved: it is thus that the Gentiles welcomed the apostles, when these shook the dust from their feet and left the faithless Jerusalem. But what mean the two pieces of wood, which the widow holds in her hands? St. Augustine, St. Cesarius of Arles, and St. Isidore of Seville (who, after all, are but repeating what was the tradition of the early Church), tell us that this wood is a figure of the cross. With this wood the widow bakes the bread that is to support her; it is from the cross that the Gentiles receive life by Jesus, who is the living Bread. Whilst Israel dies of famine and drought, the Gentile Church feeds abundantly on the heavenly wheat, and on the oil, which is the symbol of strength and charity. Glory then be to Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous light[2] of faith! But let us tremble at witnessing the evils which the abuse of grace has brought upon a whole people. If God in His justice has not spared a whole nation, but cast it off; will He spare you or me, if we dare to resist His call?

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. xxiii.

In illo tempore: Locutus est Jesus ad turbas, et ad discipulos suos, dicens: Super cathedram Moysi sederunt scribæ et pharisæi. Omnia ergo quæcumque dixerint vobis, servato et facite: secundum opera vero eorum nolite facere: dicunt enim et non faciunt. Alli· gant enim onera gravia, et importabilia, et imponunt in humeros hominum: digito autem suo nolunt ea movere. Omnia vero opera sua faciunt ut videantur ab hominibus; dilatant enim phylacteria sua, et magnificant fimbrias. Amant autem primos reoubitus in cænis,et primas cathedras dras in synagogis, et salutationes in foro, et vocari ab hominibujB Rabbi. Vos autem nolite vocari Rabbi. Unus est enim Magister vester, omnes autem vos fratres estis. Et patrem nolite vocare vobis super terrain: unus est enim Pater vester qui in cœlis est. Nec vocemini magistri: quia Magister vester unus est, Chris tus. Qui major est vest rum, erit minister vester. Qui autem se exaltaverit, humiliabitur: et qui se humiliaverit, exaltabitur.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew. 

Ch. xxiii.

At that time: Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying: The scribes and the pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works, do ye not; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of theit own they will not move them. And all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make their phylacteries broad, and enlarge their fringes. And they love the first places at feasts, and the first chaira in the synagogues, and salutations in the marketplace, and to be called by men, Rabbi. But be not you called Rabbi; for one is your master, and all you are brethren. And call none your father upon earth; for one is your Father, who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, Christ. He that is the greatest among you, shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

The doctors of the law were sitting on the chair of Moses; therefore, Jesus bids the people abide by their teachings. But this chair—which, in spite of the unworthiness of them that sit on it, is the chair of truth—is not to remain long in Israel. Caiphas, because he is a high priest for the year, will prophesy; but his crimes have rendered him unworthy of his office; and the chair, on which he sits, is to be taken away and set in the midst of the Gentiles. Jerusalem, which is preparing to deny her Saviour, is to be deprived of her honours; and Rome, the very centre of the pagan world, is to possess within her walls that chair which was the glory of Jerusalem, and from which were proclaimed the prophecies so visibly fulfilled in Jesus. Henceforth, this chair is never to be moved, though all the fury of the gates of hell will seek to prevail against it; it is to be the unfailing source, at which all nations are to receive the teaching of revealed truth. The torch of faith has been removed from Israel, but it has not been extinguished. Let us live in its light, and merit by our humility that its rays ever shine upon us.

What is it that caused Israel’s loss? His pride. The favours he had received from God excited him to self-complacency; he scorned to recognize any one for the Messias, who was not great in this world’s glory; he was indignant at hearing Jesus say that the Gentiles were to participate in the grace of redemption; he sought to imbrue his hands in the Blood of the God-Man, and this because He reproached him for the hardness of his heart. These proud Jews, even when they saw that the day of God’s judgment was close upon them, kept up their stubborn haughtiness. They despised the rest of the world as unclean and sinners. The Son of God became the Son of Man. He is our Master, and yet He ministered to us, as though He were our Servant. Does not this show us how precious a virtue is humility? If our fellow-creatures call us master or father, let us not forget that no one is master or father but by God’s appointment. No one deserves to be called master, but he by whose lips Jesus gives us the lessons of divine wisdom; he alone is truly a father, who acknowledges that his paternal authority comes from God alone; for the apostle says: ‘I bow my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.’[3]

Humiliate capita vestra Deo.

Propitiare, Domine, supplication bus nostris, et animarum nostrarum medere languoribus: ut remissione percepta, in tua semper benedictione lætemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bow down your heads to God.

Be appeased, O Lord, by our prayers, and heal the infirmities of our souls: that our sins being forgiven, we may ever rejoice in thy blessings. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us continue the hymn which we began yesterday; our readers will remember that it is by Prudentius, the prince of Christian poets.

Hymn

Helia tali crevit observantia,
Vetue sacerdos runs hospes aridi:
Fragore ab omni quem remotum et segregem
Sprevisse tradunt crimmum frequentiam?
Cateo fruentem syrtium silentio.

Sed mox in auras igneis jugalibus,
Curruque raptus evolavit præpeti,
Ne de propinquo eordium contagio
Dims quietum mundus afflaret virum,
Olim probatis inclytum jejuniis.

Non ante cœli Principem septemplicis
Moses tremendi fidus interpres throni
Potuit viderp, quam decem recursibus
Quater volutis sol peragrans sidera,
Omni carentem cerneret substantia.

Victus precan ti solus in lacrymis fuit:
Nam flendo pemox irrigatum pulverem,
Humi madentis ore pressit cemuo:
Donee loquentis voce præstrictus Dei
Expavit ignem non ferendum visibus.

Joannes hujus artis haud minus potens,
Dei perennis præcucurrit Filium,
Curvos viarum qui retorsit tramites,
Et flexuosa corrigens dispendia,
Dedit sequendam calle recto lineam.

Hanc obsequelam præparabat nuncius,
Mox affuturo construens iter Deo,
Clivosa planis, confragosa ut lenibus
Converterentur, neve quidquam devium
Illapsa terns in veniret Veritas.

Non usitatis ortus hic natalibus,
Oblita lactis jam vieto in pectore
Matris tetendit serus infans ubera:
Nec ante partu de senili effusus est,
Quam prædicaret Virginem plenam Deo.

Post in patentes ille solitudines,
Amictus hirtis bestiarum pellibus,
Setisve tectus, hispida et lanugine,
Secessit,. horrens inquinan ac pollui
Contaminatis oppidorum moribus.

Illic dicata parcus abstinentia,
Potum, cibumque vir severæ industriæ
In usque serum respuebat vesperum,
Parvum locustis, et favorum agrestium
Liquore pastum corpori suetus dare.

Hortator ille primus et doctor novæ
Fuit salutis: nam sacrato in flumine
Veterum piatas lavit errorum notas:
Sed tincta postquam membra defæcaverat,
Cœlo refulgena influebat Spiritus.
It was by the observance of a forty-days’ fast,
that Elias the venerable priest, the guest of the desert,
received his great glory.
We read that he fled far from the noisy world, and the wickedness of cities,
and lived in the happy innocence of silent deserts.

But soon was he carried to heaven in a chariot drawn by swift fiery steeds;
for so long as he remained nigh this wretched world,
it might breathe something of the contagion of its vices upon the prophet,
though his life was one of retirement,
and his spirit had long been fortified by holy fasts.

Moses, the faithful interpreter of the dread throne,
was not permitted to see
the King of the seventimes holy heaven,
until the sun had forty times passed over his head
and witnessed him abstaining from every food.

Prayer and weeping, these were his only nourishment.
He spent the night in weeping, and lay prostrate on the ground,
which was bedewed with his tears:
till at length, aroused by the voice of God,
he directed his steps towards the fire on which no man could fix his gaze.

John, too, was fervent in the practice of fasting.
He was the precursor of the Son of God,
who was to make the crooked ways straight,
and the rough ways plain,
and was to teach men the right path wherein to walk

The Baptist, as a herald that was preparing the way
of the Lord who was soon to come, exacted this of men:
that every mountain and hill should be made low,
and that all should be in the right path,
when Truth should come down upon the earth.

His birth was not like that of other children. Elizabeth,
old as she was, was made to bear this child within her
hitherto barren womb. She fed him, too, at her own breast.
Before his birth, he announced to his mother
the presence of the Virgin that was full of God.

He retired into the vast wilderness,
clad in the rough and bristly skins of wild beasts,
and in camels’ hair; for he trembled
lest he might become defiled and contaminated
by the wickedness of them that dwelt in cities.

There did he lead a life of fasting.
This man of rigid penance neither ate nor drank
till the evening was far spent;
and then, a few locusts and a little wild honey
were the only refreshment he took.

He was the first to teach the new salvation,
and the first to invite men to receive it.
In the sacred stream, he washed away the stains of the old errors;
but after he had administered to men this outward baptism,
the heavenly Spirit worked within their souls.

 


[1] St. Luke iv. 25, 26.
[2] 1 St. Peter ii. 9.
[3] Eph. iii. 14, 15.