Keyword

Category

December

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Church of Rome does not keep this day as a feast of any saint; she simply recites the Office of the feria, unless it happen that the first Sunday of Advent fall on this first day of the month, in which case the Office of that Sunday is celebrated, as given above in the Proper of the Time.

But should this first day of December be a simple feria of Advent, we shall do well to begin at once our considerations upon the preparations which were made for the merciful coming of the Saviour of the world.

Four thousand years of expectation preceded that coming, and they are expressed by the four weeks of Advent, which we must spend before we come to the glorious festivity of our Lord’s Nativity. Let us reflect upon the holy impatience of the saints of the old Testament, and how they handed down, from age to age, the grand hope, which was to be but hope to them, since they were not to see it realized. Let us follow, in thought, the long succession of the witnesses of the promise: Adam, and the first patriarchs, who lived before the deluge; then, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs of the Hebrew people; then Moses, Samuel, David, and Solomon; then, the prophets and the Machabees; and, at last, John the Baptist and his disciples. These are the holy ancestors, of whom the Book of Ecclesiasticus speaks, where it says: ‘Let us praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation’:[1] and of whom the apostle thus speaks to the Hebrews: ‘All these being approved by the testimony of faith, received not the promise; God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us their faith was tried and approved, and yet they received not the object of the promises made to them. It is for us that God had reserved the stupendous gift, and therefore He did not permit them to attain the object of their desires.[2]

Let us honour them for their faith; let us honour them as our veritable fathers, since it is in reward of their faith, that our Lord remembered and fulfilled His merciful promise; let us honour them, too, as the ancestors of the Messias in the flesh. We may imagine each of them saying, as he lay on his dying bed, this solemn prayer to Him who alone could conquer death: ‘I will look for Thy Salvation, O Lord!’ It was the exclamation of Jacob, at his last hour, when he was pronouncing his prophetic blessings on his children: ‘and then,’ says the Scripture, ‘he drew up his feet upon his bed, and died, and he was gathered unto his people.’[3]

Thus did all these holy men, on quitting this life, go to await, far from the abode of eternal fight, Him who was to come in due time and reopen the gate of heaven. Let us contemplate them in this place of expectation, and give our grateful thanks to God, who has brought us to His admirable light, without requiring us to pass through a limbo of darkness. It is our duty to pray ardently for the coming of the Deliverer, who will break down, by His cross, the gates of the prison, and will fill it with the brightness of His glory. During this holy season, the Church is continually borrowing the fervent expressions of these fathers of the Christian people, making them her own prayer for the Messias to come. Let us turn to those great saints, and beg of them to pray, that our work of preparation for Jesus’ coming to our hearts may be blessed by God.

We will make use, for this end, of the beautiful hymn wherein the Greek Church celebrates the memory of all the saints of the old Testament, on the Sunday immediately preceding the feast of Christmas.

Hymn for the Feast of the Holy Fathers
(Taken from the Menæa of the Greeks)

Avorum hodie, fideles, perficientes memorias, renymnificemus Christum Redemptorem, qui illos magnificavit in omnibus gentibus, et qui incredibilia in eis per fidem operatus est; Dominum, utpote fortem et potentem; et ex illis manifestavit virgam potentiae nobis, unicam virum nescientem et Deiparam, Mariam castam, ex qua flos prodiit, Christus germinans omnibus vitam, et salutem aeternam.

Tu es qui sanctos pueros ex igne liberasti, Domine, et ex ore leonum Daniel; qui Abraham benedixisti, et Isaac servum tuum, et filium ejus Jacob; qui dignatus es ex illorum semine nasci apud nos, ut prius lapsos salvares proavos nostros, crucifigi autem et sepeliri; et rupisti mortis vincula, et consurgere facis omnes qui a saeculo inter mortuos erant, adorantes tuum, Christe, regnum aeternum.

Adam primum veneremur, manu honoratum Creatoris et omnium nostrum proavum, jam nunc habitantem in cœlestibus tabernaculis, inter sanctos electos quiescentem.

Abel dona proferentem mente generosa, admisit omnium Deus et Dominus; eumque homicida olim manu peremptum, in altum recepit ad lumen, ut divinum martyrem.

Canitur in mundo Seth pro suo erga Creatorem ardore: nam in irreprehensibili vitæ ratione et animæ dispositione illum vere sanavit; et in regione vivorum clamat: Sanctus es, Domine.

Ore et lingua et corde Enos admirabilis cognominatus prophetice, in omnium Dominum speravit in spiritu, et optime vita in terris acta, gloriosus decessit.

Sacris eloquiis et orationibus Henoch beatum prædicemus; qui, cum Deo placuisset, translatus est in gloriam, visus, ut fertur, mortem superasse, sicut Dei servus fidelissimus.

Laudem proferamus Deo, honorantes melodiis Noe, qui fuit justus: in omnibus enim divinis mandatis ornatus, visus est Christo beneplacitus; cui canamus cum fide: Gloria virtuti tuæ, Domine.

Videns tuam Deus nobilem indolem et mentis tuæ sinceritatem, et te in omnibus, Noe, perfectum, secundi mundi ducem te signat, salvantem ex omni genere contra diluvium, sensibile semen, ut ipse mandaverat.

Noe, Dei legem incorruptam servantem, justum que inventum in generatione sua, et qui lignea salvavit olim in arca irrationabilia genera, ordinatione omnimoda, beatum piis prædicemus hymnis.

Vinum compunctionis nobis scaturire facit honorantibus te, Noe beate, memoria tua, lætificans et animas et corda undique beatificantium sincere mores tuos honestos, et divinam agendi rationem.

Laudibus honoretur Sem, qui fructificare fecit paternam benedictionem, et ante Deum placidus demonstratus, et proavorum choris adscriptus, et in regione vivorum laetantissime requiescens.

Videre meruit, tamquam Dei amicus, Abraham diem Creatoris sui, plenus factus lætitiæ paternæ; hunc ergo recto corde honorantes, beatum dicamus omnes, ut Dei fidelem servum.

Vidisti, ut homini videre fas est, Trinitatem, et illam hospitatus es: undo mercedem recopisti hospitalitatis, factus immensarum gentium in fide pater.

Typus Christi passionis factus es sapienter, Isaac beatissime, patris bona fide ad immolandum adducte: ideoque beatus effectus es et amicus Dei visus es fidelissimus, et cum omnibus justis sedem consecutus es.

Visus est Jacob omnium Dei servorum fidelissimus: ideoque pugnavit cum angelo, in mente videns Deum, et nomen mutavit, dormiensque divinam contemplatus est scalam, cui insidebat Deus, carni in bonitate sua adhærens.

Patris obedientiam cum amore amplectens Joseph in puteum demissus, tamquam illius prototypus venditur qui immolatus est, et in puteum demissus est Christus; et Ægypto frumenta distribuens monstratus est, sapiens et justus effectus, rexque concupiscentiarum verissimus.

Legitime incessantium certamini tentationum luctatus, celebratus est Job Dei servus verissimus, mitis, vir sine malitia, rectus, perfectus, irreprehensibilis, clamans: Benedictus es, Deus.

In fide Moysen Aaronque et Hor honoremus, adhuc celebrantes Josue et Levi sanctissimum, Gedeonque et Samson, et clamemus: Deus patrum, benedictus es.

Phalangem Deo gratam divinorum patrum celebremus, Baruch et Nathan, et Eleazarum, Josiam et David, Jephte, Samuel qui anteacta videbat, et clamabat: Benedicat omnis creatura Dominum.

Laudem melodiæ Dei prophetis feramus, celebrantes Osee, Michæam, Sophoniam et Habacuc, Zachariam, Jonam, Aggæum et Amos, et cum Abdia, Malachia, Nahum, Isaiam, et Jeremiam, et Ezechiel, et simul Daniel, Eliam et Elisæum.

Fortitudine tua, Domine, virtutes operatæ sunt sorores nostrae Anna, Judith et Debbora, Olda, Jahelque, et Esther, Sara, Maria Moysis, et Rachel, et Rebecca, et Ruth, magnanimes.

Venite omnes, cum fide panegyrim dicamus patribus ante Legem: Abrahæ, et eorum qui cum illo sunt festivam memoriam celebremus; Judæ tribum digne honoremus; juvenes in Babylone qui flammam in camino exstinxerunt, ut Trinitatis typum, cum Daniele celebremus; prophetarum vaticinia tuto servantes, cum Isaia magna voce clamemus: Ecce Virgo in utero concipiet et pariet Filium, Emmanuel, quod est, Nobiscum Deus.
Celebrating, O ye faithful, on this day, the memory of the ancient fathers, let us sing a new hymn to our Redeemer Christ, who magnified them in all nations, and worked incredible things in them by faith, for he is the strong and mighty Lord. By them did he manifest to us the sceptre of his power, the unparalleled Virgin-Mother of God, the chaste Mary, from whom came Christ, the Flower that buds forth life and eternal salvation to all.

It is thou, O Lord, that didst deliver the holy children from the furnace, and Daniel from the mouth of the lions; that didst bless Abraham, and Isaac thy servant, and Jacob his son: that didst vouchsafe to be bora among us from their seed, so to save our first parents who had fallen, and to be crucified and buried; that didst break the bonds of death, and gavest resurrection to all them who had died from the beginning, and who adored, O Christ, thy eternal kingdom.

And first let us venerate Adam, who was honoured by the Creator’s hand, and was the first father of us all: who now dwells in the heavenly tabernacles, and rests amidst the holy elect.

The God and the Lord of all things received Abel, who offered his gifts with a generous heart; and took him into the heavenly light as a divine martyr, when he was slain by the murderer’s hand.

Seth is celebrated throughout the world for his ardour towards the Creator: who saved him for his irreproachable life and this holy disposition of mind; and now, m the region of the living, he sings: Holy art thou, O Lord!

Enos, prophetically called the admirable, for his words and voice and heart, hoped in spirit in the Lord of all, and after a life spent on earth in exceeding goodness, he departed full of glory.

Let us praise, in our sacred canticles and prayers, the blessed Henoch; who, when he had pleased God, was translated to glory, and, as became so faithful a servant of God, without being overcome by death, as it is written of him.

Let us give praise to God by celebrating, with our hymns, Noah, who was just: in all things, God honoured him with his divine commands, and he was well pleasing to Christ, to whom let us sing with faith: Glory be to thy power, O Lord!

God, seeing thy noble heart, and the sincerity of thy mind, and how in all things thou wast perfect, O Noah, makes thee the father of the second world, and bids thee save from the deluge a remnant of every species of animal.

Let us in our holy hymns praise Noah, who kept the law of God without reproof, and was found just in his generation, and who, by an admirable arrangement, saved, in the wooden ark, all the brute creation.

Thy memory, O blessed Noah, fills us with the wine of compunction, which gladdens our souls and hearts, whilst we devoutly extol thy holy life and thy divine manner of acting.

Sem is worthy of our praise, who brought forth plentiful fruit from his father’s blessing, and by his meekness found favour with God, and was numbered in the choir of the fathers, and now rests in perfect joy in the land of the living.

Abraham merited, as the friend of God, to see the day of his Creator, and was filled with the joy promised to the fathers: him, therefore, let us honour with sincere devotion, and let us all proclaim him the blessed Abraham, God’s faithful servant.

Thou didst see, as far as it is permitted man to see, the Trinity, and thou didst make it thy guest: wherefore thou receivedst the reward of thy hospitality, and wast made the father, in the faith, of countless nations.

Most blessed Isaac, the divine wisdom made thee the type of Jesus in his Passion, when thy father’s sublime faith led thee to the sacrifice: therefore art thou blest, and loved of God as a most faithful friend, and seated on a throne with all the just.

Of all the servants of God Jacob was the most faithful: therefore is it that he wrestled with the angel, seeing God in spirit, and his name was changed; and as he slept, he beheld the divine ladder, on which God was leaning; it was God, assuming to himself, in his mercy, human flesh.

Joseph, when he lovingly obeyed his father, was let down into a well and sold, and was the prototype of him that was sacrificed, and thrown down into a pit. He gave com to Egypt and saved it; he was wise and just, and a most true king over his passions.

Job lawfully endured the combat of ceaseless temptations, and deserves to be praised; he was God’s most true servant, he was meek, and a man without guile, upright, perfect, without reproof, ever saying: Blessed art thou, O God!

Let us faithfully honour Moses, and Aaron, and Hor: let us commemorate Josue, and the most holy Levi, and Gedeon, and Samson; and let us sing: Blessed art thou, O God of our fathers!

Let us celebrate the memory of that group of fathers so loved of God, Baruch and Nathan and Eleazar; Josias, David, Jephte, and Samuel who had the vision of what had passed, and cried out: Lot every creature bless the Lord!

Lot our melodies praise God’s prophets, celebrating Osee, Micheas, Sophonias, Habacuc, Zacharias, Jonas, Aggeus, Amos, Abdias, Malachias, Nahum, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel, Elias, Eliseus.

By thy power, O Lord, virtuous exploits were achieved by those magnanimous women, our sisters, Anna, Judith, Debbora, Olda, Jahel, Esther, Sara, Mary, sister of Moses, Rachel, Rebecca and Ruth.

Come, all ye people, let us, with faith, give praise to the fathers who were before the Law; let us celebrate the festive memory of Abraham and them that are with him; let us give due honour to the tribe of Juda; let us celebrate the children who quenched the fiery furnace in Babylon, the blessed three, the type of the Trinity, and with them Daniel; let us hold fast to the oracles of the prophets, and with Isaias sing with a loud voice: Lo! a Virgin shall conceive in her womb and shall bring forth a Son, Emmanuel, that is, God with us.

A responsory for Advent
(The Roman breviary, first Sunday of Advent, at Matins)

R. Adspiciens a longe, ecco video potentiam Dei venientem et nebulam totam terram tegentem: * Ite obviam ei, et dicite: * Nuncia nobis si tu es ipse, * Qui regnaturus es in populo Israel.

V. Quique terrigenæ et filii hominum, simul in unum dives et pauper,

* Ite obviam ei et dicite,

V. Qui regis Israel intende, qui deducis velut ovem Joseph,

* Nuncia nobis si tu es ipse.

V. Tollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevamini, portæ ætern ales, et introibit Rex gloriæ.

* Qui regnaturus es in populo Israel.
R. Looking afar off, lo! I see the power of God coming and a cloud that covereth the whole earth: * Go ye out to meet him and say: Tell us, if thou be he, * Who art to rule over the people of Israel.

V. All ye that are earthborn and children of men, both rich and poor together,

* Go ye out to meet him, and say:

V. Give ear, O thou that rulest Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep,

* Tell us if thou be he.

V. Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of glory shall enter in.

* Who art to rule over the people of Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Ecclus. xliv. 1.
[2] Heb. xi. 39, 40.
[3] Gen. xlix. 32.

 

 

 

From Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year.

The apostles being the heralds of the coming of the Messias, it was fitting that Advent should have in its calendar the name of some one among them. Divine Providence has provided for this; for, to say nothing of St. Andrew, whose feast is oftentimes past before the season of Advent has commenced, St. Thomas’s day is unfailingly kept immediately before Christmas. We will explain, later on, why St. Thomas holds that position rather than any other apostle; at present, we simply assert the fitness of there being at least one of the apostolic college, who should announce to us, in this period of the Catholic cycle, the coming of the Redeemer. But God has not wished that the first apostolate should be the only one to appear on the first page of the liturgical calendar; great also, though in a lower degree, is the glory of that second apostolate, whereby the bride of Jesus Christ multiplies her children, even in her fruitful old age, as the psalmist expresses it.[1] There are Gentiles who have still to be evangelized; the coming of the Messias is far from having been announced to all nations. Now of all the valiant messengers of the divine Word who have, during the last few hundred years, proclaimed the good tidings among infidel nations, there is not one whose glory is greater, who has worked greater wonders, or who has shown himself a closer imitator of the first apostles, than the modern apostle of the Indies, St. Francis Xavier.

The life and apostolate of this wonderful man were a great triumph for our mother the holy Catholic Church; for St. Francis came just at a period when heresy, encouraged by false learning, by political intrigues, by covetousness, and by all the wicked passions of the human heart, seemed on the eve of victory. Emboldened by all these, this enemy of God spoke, with the deepest contempt, of that ancient Church which rested on the promises of Jesus Christ; it declared that she was unworthy of the confidence of men, and dared even to call her the harlot of Babylon, as though the vices of her children could taint the purity of the mother. God’s time came at last, and He showed Himself in His power: the garden of the Church suddenly appeared rich in the most admirable fruits of sanctity. Heroes and heroines issued from that apparent barrenness; and whilst the pretended reformers showed themselves to be the most wicked of men, two countries, Italy and Spain, gave to the world the most magnificent saints.

One of these is brought before us to-day, claiming our love and our praise. The calendar of the liturgical year will present to us, from time to time, his contemporaries and his companions in divine grace and heroic sanctity. The sixteenth century is, therefore, worthy of comparison with any other age of the Church. The so-called reformers of those times gave little proof of their desire to convert infidel countries, when their only zeal was to bury Christianity beneath the ruin of her churches. But at that very time, a society of apostles was offering itself to the Roman Pontiff, that he might send them to plant the true faith among people who were sitting in the thickest shades of death. But, we repeat, not one of these holy men so closely imitated the first apostles as did Francis, the disciple of Ignatius. He had all the marks and labours of an apostle: an immense world of people evangelized by his zeal, hundreds of thousands of infidels baptized by his indefatigable ministration, and miracles of every kind, which proved him, to the infidel, to be marked with the sign which they received who, living in the flesh, planted the Church, as the Church speaks in her liturgy. So that, in the sixteenth century, the east received from the ever holy city of Rome an apostle, who, by his character and his works, resembled those earlier ones sent her by Jesus Himself. May our Lord Jesus be for ever praised for having vindicated the honour of the Church, His bride, by raising up Francis Xavier, and giving to men, in this His servant, a representation of what the first apostles were, whom He sent to preach the Gospel when the whole world was pagan.

Let us now read the short account given us, in the words of the Church, of this new apostle.

 

Franciscus in Xaverio diœcesis Pampelonensis nobilibus parentibus natus, Parisiis sancto Ignatio sese comitem et discipulum junxit. Ipso magistro, eo brevi devenit, ut in rerum divinarum contemplatione defixus a terra aliquando sublimis elevaretur: quod illi sacrificanti coram populi multitudine aliquoties evenit. Has animi delicias magnis sui corporis cruciatibus merebatur. Nam, interdicto sibi, non camis solum et vini, sed panis quoque triticei usu, vilibus cibis vesci solitus, per biduum subinde triduumque omni prorsus alimento abstinuit. Ferreis in se flagellis ita sæviit, ut sæpe copioso cruore difflueret: somnum brevissimum humi jacens capiebat.

Vitae austeritate, ac sanctitate apostolico muneri jam maturus, quum Joannes tertius Lusitaniae rex aliquot nascentis Societatis viros a Paulo tertio pro Indiis postulasset, Sancti Ignatii hortatu ab eodem Pontifice ad tantum opus cum apostolici nuncii potestate deligitur. Eo appulsus, illico variarum gentium difficillimis et variis linguis divinitus instructus apparuit. Quin eum quandoque unico idiomate ad diversas gentes condonantem, unaquaeque sua lingua loquentem audivit. Provincias innumeras pedibus semper, et saepe nudis, peragravit. Fidem Japoniæ et sex aliis regionibus invexit. Multa centena hominum millia ad Christum in Indiis convertit; magnosque principes, regesque complures sacro fonte expiavit. Et quum tam magna pro Deo ageret, ea erat humilitate, ut sancto Ignatio, tunc præposito suo, flexis genibus scriberet.

Hunc dilatandi Evangelii ardorem multitudine, et excellentia miraculorum Dominus roboravit. Caeco visum reddidit. Tantum marinæ aquæ signo crucis convertit in dulcem, quantum quingentis vectoribus, qui siti adigebantur ad mortem, diu suffecit. Qua in varias quoque regiones asportata, ægri plurimi subito curati sunt. Plures mortuos revocavit ad vitam, inter quos pridie sepultum erui jussum e tumulo suscitavit, duosque alios dum efferebantur, apprehensa eorum manu, parentibus e feretro vivos restituit. Prophetiae spiritu passim afflatus, plurima et loco et tempore remotissima enuntiavit. Demum in Sanciano Sinarum insula, die secunda Decembris obiit plenus meritis laboribusque confectus. Demortui cadaver viva calce per multos menses bis obrutum, sed penitus incorruptum, odore et sanguine manavit, et ubi Malacam delatum est, pestem sævissimam confestim exstinxit. Denique ubique terrarum novis maximisque fulgentem miraculis, Gregorius decimus quintus sanctis adscripsit. Pius autom decimus ipsum sodalitati et operi Propagandæ Fidei cœlestempatronum elegit atque constituit.











Francis was born of noble parents, at Xavier, in the diocese of Pampelona. Having gone to Paris, he there became the companion and disciple of Saint Ignatius. Under such a master, he arrived at so high a contemplation of divine things, as to be sometimes raised above the ground: which occasionally happened to him whilst saying Mass before crowds of people. He had merited these spiritual delights by his severe mortifications of the body; for he never allowed himself either flesh meat, or wine, or even wheaten bread, and ate only the coarsest food; he not unfrequently abstained, for the space of two or three days, from every sort of nourishment. He scourged himself so severely with disciplines, to which were fastened pieces of iron, as to be frequently covered with blood. His sleep, which he took on the ground, was extremely short.

Such austerity and holiness of life had fitted him for the labours of an apostle; so that when John III., king of Portugal, asked of Paul III. that some of the newlyfounded Society might be sent to the Indies, that Pontiff, by the advice of St. Ignatius, selected Francis for so important a work, and gave him the powers of apostolic nuncio. Having reached those parts, he was found to be, on a sudden, divinely gifted with the knowledge of the exceedingly difficult and varied languages of the several countries. It sometimes even happened, that whilst he was preaching in one language to the people of several nations, each heard him speaking in their own tongue. He travelled over innumerable provinces, always on foot, and not unfrequently bare-footed. He carried the faith into Japan, and six other countries. He converted to Christ many hundred thousands in the Indies, and baptized several princes and kings. And yet, though he was doing such great things for God, he was so humble, that he never wrote to St. Ignatius, then General of the Society, but on his knees.

God blessed this zeal for the diffusion of the Gospel by many and extraordinary miracles. The saint restored sight to a blind man. By the sign of the cross he changed sea-water into fresh, sufficient for many days, for a crew of five hundred men, who were dying from thirst. This water was afterwards taken into several countries, and being given to sick people, they were instantly cured. He raised several dead men to life; one of these had been buried on the previous day, so that the corpse had to be taken out of the grave; two others were being carried to the grave, when the saint took them by the hand, and, raising them from the bier, restored them to their parents. Being continually gifted with the spirit of prophecy, he foretold many future events, or such as were happening in most distant parts. At length, full of merit, and worn out by his labours, he died on the second day of December, in Saneian, an island off the coast of China. His corpse was twice buried in unslaked lime, but was found, after several months, to bo incorrupt: blood flowed from it, and it exhaled a pleasing fragrance: when it was brought to Malacca, it instantly arrested a raging pestilence. At length, fresh and extraordinary miracles being everywhere wrought through the intercession of the man of God, he was enrolled among the saints by Gregory XV; and Pope Pius X declared him heavenly patron of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and its work.

Glorious apostle of Jesus Christ, who didst impart His divine light to the nations that were sitting in the shadows of death! we, though unworthy of the name of Christians, address our prayers to thee, that by the charity which led thee to sacrifice everything for the conversion of souls, thou wouldst deign to prepare us for the visit of the Saviour, whom our faith and our love desire. Thou wast the father of infidel nations; be the protector, during this holy season, of them that believe in Christ. Before thy eyes had contemplated the Lord Jesus, thou didst make Him known to countless people; now that thou seest Him face to face, obtain for us that, when He is come, we may see Him with that simple and ardent faith of the Magi, those glorious first-fruits of the nations to which thou didst bear the admirable light.[2]

Remember also, O great apostle, those nations which thou didst evangelize, and where now, by a terrible judgement of God, the word of life has ceased to bring forth fruit. Pray for the vast empire of China, on which thou didst look when dying, but which was not blessed with thy preaching. Pray for Japan, thy dear garden which has been laid waste by the savage wild beast, of which the psalmist speaks. May the blood of the martyrs, which was poured out on that land like water, bring it the long-expected fertility. Bless, too, all the missions which our holy mother the Church has undertaken in those lands where the cross has not yet triumphed. May the heart of the infidel be opened to the grand simplicity and light of faith; may the seed bring forth fruit a hundred-fold; may the number of thy successors in the new apostolate ever increase; may their zeal and charity fail not; may their toil receive its reward of abundant fruit; and may the crown of martyrdom, which they receive, be not only the recompense but the perfection and the triumph of their apostolic ministry. Recommend to our Lord the innumerable members of that Association, which is the means of the faith being propagated through the world, and which has thee for its patron. Pray, with a filial affection and earnestness, for that holy Society, of which thou art so bright an ornament, and which reposes on thee its firmest confidence. May it more and more flourish under the storm of trial which never leaves it at rest; may it be multiplied, that so the children of God may be multiplied by its labours; may it ever have ready, for the service of the Christian world, zealous apostles and doctors; may it not be in vain that it bears the name of Jesus.

Let us consider the wretched condition of the human race, at the time of Christ’s coming into the world. The diminution of truths[3] is emphatically expressed by the little light which the earth enjoys at this season of the year. The ancient traditions are gradually becoming extinct; the Creator is not acknowledged, even in the very work of His hands; everything has been made God, except the God who made all things. This frightful pantheism produces the vilest immorality, both in society at large, and in individuals. There are no rights acknowledged, save that of might. Lust, avarice, and theft, are honoured by men in the gods of their altars. There is no such thing as family, for divorce and infanticide are legalized; mankind is degraded by a general system of slavery; nations are being exterminated by endless wars. The human race is in the last extreme of misery; and unless the hand that created it reform it, it must needs sink a prey to crime and bloodshed. There are indeed some few just men still left upon the earth, and they struggle against the torrent of universal degradation; but they cannot save the world; the world despises them, and God will not accept their merits as a palliation of the hideous leprosy which covers the earth. All flesh has corrupted its way, and is more guilty than even in the days of the deluge: and yet, a second destruction of the universe would but manifest anew the justice of God; it is time that a deluge of His divine mercy should flood the universe, and that He who made man, should come down and heal him. Come then, O eternal Son of God! give life again to this dead body; heal all its wounds; purify it; let grace superabound, where sin before abounded; and having converted the world to Thy holy law, Thou wilt have proved to all ages that Thou, who camest, wast in very truth the Word of the Father; for as none but a God could create the world, so none but the same omnipotent God could save it from satan and sin, and restore it to justice and holiness.

A Responsory in Advent
(The Roman breviary, fourth Sunday of Advent)

R. Intuemini quantus sit iste, qui ingreditur ad salvandas gentes: ipse est Rex justitiæ, * Cujus generatio non habet finem.

V. Praecursor pro nobis ingreditur, secundum ordinem Melchisedech Pontifex factus in aeternum; * Cujus generatio non habet finem.
R. Behold! how great is he that cometh in to save the nations; he is the King of justice, * Whose generation hath no end.

V. He comes in as our precursor, made Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech; * Whose generation hath no end.

[1] Ps. xci. 15.
[2] 1 St. Peter ii. 9.
[3] Ps. xi. 2.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The same divine Providence, which would not that the Church should be deprived of the consolation of keeping, during Advent, the feast of some of the apostles, who announced to the Gentiles the coming of the Messias, has also willed that the holy doctors, who defended the true faith against heretics, should be represented in this important season of the Ca holic year. Two of them, Saint Ambrose and Saint Peter Chrysologus, shine as two brilliant stars in the firmament of the Church during Advent. It is worthy of note, that both of them were the zealous avengers of that Son of God whom we are preparing to receive. The first was the valiant opponent of the Arians, whose impious doctrine taught that Jesus, the object of our hopes, is merely a creature and not God; the second was the adversary of Eutyches, whose sacrilegious system robs the Incarnation of the Son of God of all its glory, by asserting that, in this mystery, the human nature was absorbed by the Divinity.

It is this second doctor, the holy bishop of Ravenna, that we are to honour to-day. His pastoral eloquence gained for him a great reputation, and a great number of his sermons have been handed down to us. In almost every page we find passages of the most exquisite beauty, though we also occasionally meet with indications of the decay of literature, which began in the fifth century. The mystery of the Incarnation is a frequent subject of the saint’s sermons, and he always speaks upon it with a precision and enthusiasm, which show his learning and piety. His veneration and love towards Mary, the Mother of God, who, in that very age, had triumphed over her enemies by the decree of the Council of Ephesus, inspire him with thoughts and language which are extremely fine. Let us take a passage from the sermon on the Annunciation. ‘God sends to the Virgin an angelic messenger, who, whilst he brings graces, gives her the entrusted pledge, and receives hers. Then does Gabriel return with Mary’s plighted troth. But, before ascending to heaven, there to tell the consent promised him by the Virgin, he delivers to her the gifts due to her virtues. Swiftly does this ambassador fly to the bride, that he may assert God’s claim to her as His own. Gabriel takes her not from Joseph, but he restores her to Christ, to whom she was espoused when she was first formed in the womb.[1] Christ, therefore, did but take His own, when He thus made Mary His bride. It is not a separation that He thus produces, but a union with Himself of His own creature by becoming Incarnate in her womb.

‘But let us hearken to the angel’s words. Being come in, he said unto her: Hail, full of grace! the Lord is with thee! These words are not a mere salutation; they convey the heavenly gift. Hail! that is, Take, O Mary, the grace I bring thee; fear not; this is not the work of nature. Full of grace! that is, thou art not in grace as others are; thou art to be filled with it. The Lord is with thee!What means this, but that He is coming to thee not merely to visit thee, but to enter within thee by the new mystery of becoming thy Child? Blessed art thou among women. How fittingly does he add these words! They imply, that they who heretofore were mothers with the curse of Eve upon them, now have the blessed Mary as their joy, and honour, and type: and whereas Eve was by nature the mother of children of death, Mary is by grace the mother of children of life.’[2]

In the following passage from another sermon, the holy doctor teaches us with what profound veneration we ought to contemplate Mary during these days when God is still residing in her womb. ‘What reverence and awe are shown to that inner chamber of a king, where he sits in all the majesty of his power! Therein no man may enter that is a stranger, or unclean, or unfaithful. The usages of courts require, that when men come to pay their homage, everything must be the best, and fairest, and most loyal. Who would go to the palace-gate in rags? Who would go, that knew he was odious to the prince? So it is with the sanctuary of the divine Spouse. No one is permitted to come nigh, but he that is of God’s family, and is intimate, and has a good conscience, and has a fair name, and leads a holy life. Within the holy place itself God receives but the Virgin, and spotless virginity. Hence learn, O man, to examine thyself: who thou art, and what thou art, and what merits thou hast. Ask thyself, after this, if thou mayst dare to penetrate into the mystery of the birth of thy Lord, or canst be worthy to approach that living sanctuary, wherein reposes the whole majesty of thy King, and thy God.’[3] Let us now listen to our holy mother the Church, who thus speaks of our saint:

Petrus, qui ob auream ejus eloquentiam Chrysologi cognomen adeptus est, ForoCornelii in Æmilia honestis parentibus natus, a prima ætate animam ad religionem adjiciens, Cornelio Romano, tunc ejusdem urbis Corneliensis episcopo, operam dedit: a quo etiam scientia et vitæ sanctitate quum brevi profecisset, diaconus creatus est. Postmodum contigit, ut Ravennates ob mortem archipræsulis sui, alium, ut moris erat, ab eis electum, Romam ad sanctum Sixtum Papam tertium pro confirmatione miserint una cum legatis suis, et cum prædicto Cornelio, qui eumdem levitam secum perduxit. Interim sanctus Petrus apostolus, et martyr Apollinaris summo Pontifici in somnis apparuerunt, mediumque habentes hunc juvenem, jusserunt, ut illum et non alium, in archiepi8copum Ravennæ crearet. Hinc pontifex, mox ut vidit Petrum, cognovit eum a Domino Deo præelectum: propterea rejecto illo quem ipsi offerebant, hunc solum anno Christi quadringentesimo trigesimo tertio, illi metropolitanæ præfecit Ecclesiae. Quod quum legati Ravennatenses ægre ferrent, audita visione, divinæ voluntati libenter acquiescentes, novum archiepiscopum maxima cum reverentia susceperunt.

Petrus igitur, licet invitus, in archipræsulem consecratus Ravennam deducitur: ubi a Valentiniano imperatore, et a Galla Placidia ejus matre, et ab universo populo maxima lætitia exceptus est. Et ille ab eis id unum petere dixit, ut quando tantum oneris pro ipsorum salute subire non recusaret, studerent ipsi monitis suis obtemperare, divinisque præceptis non obsistere. Suorum sanctorum tunc ibi defunctorum corpora optimis unguentis condita sepelivit; Barbatiani videlicet presbyteri, et Germani Antissiodorensis episcopi, cujus etiam cucullam et cilicium sibi vindicavit in hæreditatem. Projectum et Marcellinum episcopos ordinavit. In Classe fontem exstruxit magnitudinis vero admirabilis, et templa quædam magnifica ædificavit, tum beato Andreæ apostolo, tum aliis sanctis. Ludos ab hominibus personatis cum variis saltationibus, Kalendis Januarii fieri solitos, concione cohibuit acerrima, ubi inter alia illud præclare dixit: Qui jocari voluerit cum diabolo, non poterit gaudere cum Christo. Jussu sancti Leonis Papæ primi scripsit ad Chalcedonense Concilium adversus hæresim Eutychetis. Respondit præterea ad Eutychen ipsum et alia epistola, quæ eidem Concilio in novis editionibus praefixa, et in annales ecclesiasticos rolata fuit.

Dum publice sermones haberet ad populum, adeo vehemens erat in dicendo, ut præ nimio ardore vox illi interdum defecerit: sicut contigit in concione mulieris hæmorrhoissæ. Unde Ravennates commoti, tot lacrymis, clamoribus et orationibus locum repleverunt, ut postea ipse gratias ageret Deo, quod in lucrum amoris verterit damnum ejusdem sermonis. Cum tandem annos circiter decem et octo eam Ecclesiam sanctissime rexisset, laborum suorum finem adesse divinitus praenoscens, in patriam se contulit; ubi sancti Cassiani templum ingressus, magnum diadema aureum, gemmis distinctum pretiosissimis offerens, super altare majus posuit; neenon aureum craterem et patenam argenteam, quam tum rabidi canis morsus, tum febres sanare expertum est, aqua inde demissa. Ex tunc Ravennates qui eumdem secuti fuerant dimisit, admonens, ut in eligendo optimo pastore invigilarent attente. Mox Deum humiliter precatus, et sanctum Cassianum patronum, ut benigne animam ejus exciperet, tertio Nonas Decembris, placide ex hac vita migravit, anno Domini circiter quadringentesimo quinquagesimo. Sacrum illius corpus communi totius civitatis fletu ac pietate prope corpus ejusdem sancti Cassiani honorifice conditum, nostris etiam temporibus religiose colitur: cujus tamen brachium, auro et gemmis ornatum, Ravennam delatum in Ursicana æde veneratur.
Peter, surnamed, for hia golden eloquence, Chrysologus, was born at Forum Cornelii (Imola) in Æmilia, of respectable parents. Turning his mind to religion from his childhood, he put himself under Cornelius, the bishop of that city, who was a Roman, In a short while he made such progress in learning and holiness of life, that, in due time, the bishop ordained him deacon. Not long after, it happened that the archbishop of Ravenna having died, the inhabitants of that city sent, as usual, to Rome the successor they had elected, that this election might be confirmed by the holy Pope Sixtus III. Cornelius, who was also sent in company with the deputies of Ravenna, took with him the young deacon. Meanwhile, the apostle Saint Peter, and the holy martyr Apollinaris, appeared to the Roman Pontiff in his sleep. They stood with the young levite between them, and ordered the Pontiff to create him, and none other, archbishop of Ravenna. The Pontiff, therefore, no sooner saw Peter than he recognized him as the one chosen by God; and rejecting the one presented to him, he appointed Peter to the metropolitan Church of that city, in the year of our Lord 433. At first, the deputies from Ravenna were dissatisfied at this decision of the Pope; but, having been told of the vision, they readily acquiesced in the divine will, and received the new archbishop with the greatest reverence.

Peter, therefore, being, though reluctant, consecrated archbishop, was conducted to Ravenna, where he was received with the greatest joy by the emperor Valentinian, and Galla Placidia the emperor’s mother, and the whole people. On his part, he told them that he asked of them but this, that since he had not refused this great burden for their salvation’s sake, they would make it their study to follow his counsels, and to obey the commandments of God. He then buried in the city the bodies of two saints, after having embalmed them with the most precious perfumes; Barbatian, a priest, was one; and the other, Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, whose cowl and hair-shirt he claimed as his own inheritance. He ordained Projectus and Marcellinus bishops. In the town of Classis he erected a fountain of an incredible size, and built some magnificent churches in honour of several saints, of Saint Andrew among the rest. The people had a custom of assisting at certain games, on the first day of January, which consisted of theatrical performances and dances; the saint repressed these by the severity with which he preached against them. One of his expressions deserves to be handed down: He that would play with the devil, can never enjoy the company of Jesus. At the command of Pope St. Leo I., he wrote to the Council of Chalcedon against the heresy of Eutyches. He answered Eutyches himself by another epistle, which has been added to the acts of that same Council in the new editions, and has been inserted in the ecclesiastical annals.

In his sermons to the people he was so earnest, that at times his voice completely failed him, as in his sermon on the woman healed by our Lord, as mentioned in the ninth chapter of St. Matthew; on which occasion his people of Ravenna were so affected, and so moved to tears, that the whole church rang with their sobbings and prayers, and the saint afterwards thanked God that he had turned the failure of his speech into the gain of so much love. After having governed that Church, in a most holy manner, about eighteen years, and having received a divine warning that his labours were soon to end, he withdrew to his native town. There he visited the church of St Cassian, and presented an offering of a largo golden diadem, set with most precious stones, which he placed upon the high altar: he also gave a golden cup, and a silver paten, which imparts to water poured on it the virtue of healing the bites of mad dogs, and of assuaging fevers, as frequent instances have attested. He then took leave of those who had accompanied him from Ravenna, admonishing them to spare no pains in electing for their pastor him who was the most worthy. Immediately after this he turned in humble prayer to God, that, through the intercession of his patron St. Cassian, he would mercifully receive his soul; and calmly passed out of this life, on the third of the Nones of December (Dec. 3), about the year 450. His holy body was buried, amidst the tears and prayers of the whole city, near the body of the same St. Cassian: there it is venerated even at this day; though Ravenna possesses and venerates one of the arms, which was enshrined in gold and gems and placed in the basilica Ursicana.

Holy pontiff, who didst open thy lips and pour out on the assembly of the faithful, in the streams of thy golden eloquence, the knowledge of Jesus, cast an eye of compassion on the Christians throughout the world, who are watching in expectation of that same God-Man, whose two Natures thou didst so courageously confess. Obtain for us grace to receive Him with the sovereign respect which is due to a God who comes down to His creatures, and with the loving confidence which is due to a Brother who comes to offer Himself in sacrifice for His most unworthy brethren. Strengthen our faith, most holy doctor! for the love we stand in need of comes from faith. Destroy the heresies which lay waste the vineyard of our Father; and uproot that frightful pantheism, which is the form under which the heresy thou didst combat is still among us. May the numerous Churches of the East abjure that heresy of Eutyches which reigns so supreme amongst them, and gives them the knowledge of the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation only to blaspheme it. Pray that the children of the Church may show to the judgements of the apostolic See that perfect obedience, to which thou didst so eloquently urge the heresiarch Eutyches, in the epistle thou didst address to him, and which will ever be precious to the world: ‘We exhort thee above all things, most honoured brother, that thou receive with obedience whatsoever has been written by the most blessed Pope of the city of Rome: for, blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own See, shows the truth of faith to all them that seek it.’ (Letter 25.)

 

 


[1] St. Peter Chrysologus here asserts the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. If Mary was espoused to the Son of God from the first moment of her existence, how could original sin ever have been upon her?
[2] Sermon 140.
[3] Sermon 141.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Although, in the Roman liturgy, St. Barbara is merely commemorated in the Office of St. Peter Chrysologus, yet the Church has approved an entire Office for the use of those Churches which honour the memory of this illustrious virgin in a special manner. The legend which follows, although of considerable weight, has not, consequently, the authority of those which are promulgated for the use of the whole Church, in the Roman breviary. Let us not, on this account, be less fervent in honouring this glorious martyr, so celebrated in the east, and whose feast has been for so many ages admitted, with more or less solemnity, into the Roman Church. The acts of her martyrdom, though not of the highest antiquity, contain nothing in them but what redounds to the glory of God and the honour of the saint. We have already shown the liturgical importance which attaches to St. Barbara in this season of Advent. Let us admire the constancy wherewith this virgin waited for her Lord, who came at the appointed hour, and was for her, as the Scripture speaks, a Spouse of blood, because He put the strength of her love of Him to the severest of all tests.

Barbara, virgo Nicomediensis, Dioscori nobilis sed superstitiosi hominis filia, per ea quæ visibilia facta sunt ad invisibilia, divina opitulante gratia, facile pervenit. Quapropter soli Deo rebusque divinis vacare cœpit. Eam pater, utpote forma venustiori nitentem, a quocumque virorum occursu tutari cupiens, turri inclusit: ubi pia virgo meditationibus et precibus addicta, soli Deo, quem sibi in sponsum elegerat, placere studebat. Oblata a patre pluries nobilium connubia fortiter sprevit. Pater vero per sui absentiam filiae animum posse facilius emolliri confidens, jussit primo balneum extrui, ne quid ei deesset ad commoditatem; deinde peregre in exteras regiones profectus est.

Absente patre, jussit Barbara duabus fenestris quæ in turri erant, tertiam addi in honorem divinæ Trinitatis, labiumque balnei sacrosanctæ crucis signo muniri: quod ubi rediens Dioscorus inspexit, audita novitatis causa, adeo in filiam excanduit ut stricto ense eam appetens, parum abfuerit ut eam dire confoderet; sed præsto adfuit Deus; nam fugienti Barbaræ saxum ingens se patefaciens viam aperuit, per quam montis fastigium petere, et sic in specu latere potuit; sed paulo post quum a nequissimo genitore reperta fuisset, ejus latera pedibus dorsumque pugnis immaniter percussit, et crinibus per loca aspera difficilesque vias raptatam Marciano præsidi puniendam tradidit. Itaque ab ipso omnibus modis, sed incassum tentata nudam nervis cædi et inflicta vulnera testulis confricari, deinde in carcerem trahi præcepit: ubi immensa luce circumdatus ei Christus apparens, mirifice confortatam in passionum tolerantia confirmavit: quod animadvertens Juliana matrona, ad fidem conversa ejusdem palmæ particeps effecta est.

Barbaræ demum ferreis unguibus membra laniantur, facibus latera incenduntur, et malleolis caput contunditur: quibus in cruciatibus consortem solabatur, et hortabatur ut ad finem usque constanter certaret. Præcisis tandem utrique uberibus, nudæ per loca publica tractæ, filiæque cervicem ipse scelestissimus pater, humanitatis expers, propriis manibus amputavit; cujus fera crudelitas non diu inulta remansit; nam statina eo ipso in loco fulmine percussus interiit. Corpus hujus beatissimæ virginis Justinus Imperator Nicomedia auferens, Constantinopolim primum transportavit. Illud idem, cum in progressu temporis ab Imperatoribus Constantino et Basilio impetrassent Veneti, Constantinopoli deductum in sancti Marci basilica fuit deinde solemniter collocatum. Postremo et ultimo, supplicantibus Torcellano episcopo ejusque sorore abbatissa, ad ecclesiam monialium Sancti Joannis Evangelistæ Torcellanæ diœcesis, anno salutis millesimo nono defertur: ubi et honorifice conditum, perpetuo cultu ad præsens usque tempus summopere veneratur.
Barbara, a virgin of Nicomedia, the daughter of Dioscorus, a nobleman but a superstitious pagan, came readily, by the assistance of divine grace, from the contemplation of the visible things of creation to the knowledge of the invisible. Wherefore, she devoted herself to God alone and to the things of God. Her father, desirous to preserve her from all danger of insult, to which he feared her great beauty might expose her, shut her up in a tower. There the pious virgin passed her days in meditation and prayer, studying to please God alone, whom she had chosen as her Spouse. She courageously rejected several offers of marriage, which were made to her, through her father, by rich nobles. But her father hoped that, by separating himself by a long absence from his child, her intentions would easily change. He first ordered that a bath should be built for her in the tower, so that she might want for nothing; and then he set out on a journey into distant countries.

During her father’s absence, Barbara ordered that to the two windows already in the tower a third should be added, in honour of the blessed Trinity; and that on the edge of the bath the sign of the most holy cross should be drawn. When Dioscorus returned home, and saw these changes, and was told their meaning, he became so incensed against his daughter, that he went in search of her with a naked sword in his hand, and, but for the protection of God, he would have cruelly murdered her. Barbara had taken to flight: an immense rock opened before her, and she found a path by which she reached the top of a mountain, and there she hid herself in a cave. Not long after, however, she was discovered by her unnatural father, who savagely kicked and struck her, and dragging her by the hair over the sharp rocks, and rugged ways, he handed her over to the governor Marcian, that he might punish her. He, therefore, having used every means to shake her constancy, and finding that all was in vain, gave orders for her to be stripped and scourged with thongs, to have her wounds scraped with potsherds, and then to be dragged to prison. There Christ, surrounded by an immense light, appearing to her, strengthened her in a divine manner for the sufferings she was yet to endure. A matron, named Juliana, who witnessed this, was converted to the faith, and became her companion in martyrdom.

At length Barbara had her body tom with iron hooks, her sides burnt with torches, and her head bruised with mallets. During these tortures she consoled her companion, and exhorted her to fight manfully to the last. Both of them had their breasts cut off, were dragged naked through the streets, and beheaded. The head of Barbara was cut off by her own father, who in his excessive wickedness had hardened his heart thus far. But his ferocious cruelty was not long left unpunished, for instantly, and on the very spot, he was struck dead by lightning. The emperor Justinus had the body of this most holy virgin translated from Nicomedia to Constantinople. It was afterwards obtained by the Venetians from the emperors Constantine and Basil; and having been translated from Constantinople to Venice, was deposited with great solemnity in the basilica of St. Mark. Lastly, at the earnest request of the bishop of Torcello and his sister, who was abbess, it was translated in the year of grace 1009, to the nuns’ church of St. John the Evangelist, in the diocese of Torcello; where it was placed in a worthy sepulchre, and from that time has never ceased to be the object of most fervent veneration.

Such is the account of the life and martyrdom of the courageous virgin of Nicomedia. She is invoked in the Church against lightning, on account of the punishment inflicted by divine justice on her execrable father. This same incident of the saint’s history has suggested several Catholic customs: thus her name is sometimes given to the hold of men-of-war where the ammunition is stowed; she is the patroness of artillery men, miners, etc.; and she is invoked by the faithful against the danger of a sudden death.

Of the liturgical pieces, used in our western Churches in honour of St. Barbara, we will content ourselves with the following beautiful antiphon, composed in the days of chivalry.

Antiphon

O divinæ bonitatis immensa dementia, quae Barbaram illustravit vero claritatis lumine, ut terrenae dignitatis contempto splendore, divinitatisconscia effici mereretur: hæc velut lilium inter spinis enituit, et lux in tenebris eluxit. Alleluia.
O immeasurable mercy of divine goodness, which did enlighten Barbara with the brightness of the true light, making her worthy, by her contempt for what was dazzling in earthly grandeur, to be admitted to a union with God! As the lily among thorns, as light in darkness, so shone Barbara. Alleluia.

The Greek Church is profuse in its praises of St. Barbara. We will take from the Menæa a few out of the many strophes which are sung in honour of the holy martyr:

Hymn of the Greek Church

Quando coram te, veneranda martyr Barbara, dulcis mors apparuit, gaudens et festinans cursum complevisti, impiique genitoris injustis manibus sacrificata es, et Deo oblata es victima: unde vere prudentium virginum conjuncta choris, tui Sponsi contemplaris splendorem.

Agna tua, Jesu, magna voce clamat: Te, Sponse mi, desidero, et quærens te pugno, et confixa sum et consepulta tuo baptismati, et patior propter te, ut regnemtecum; et morior pro te, ut et vivam in te: igitur ut sacrificium irreprehensibile suscipe amanter sacrificatam tibi. Illius precibus, ut misericors, salva animas nostras.

E spinosa exorta radice, rosa sacratissima, Ecclesiam suaviter inodorans, te rubore prælii per sanguinem purpuratam, gloriosa Barbara, nunc dignissime beatam celebramus.

Non deliciarum jucunditas, non pulchritudinis flos, neque divitiæ, neque juventutis voluptates te mulserunt, Barbara gloriosa, Christo desponsata, pulcherrima virgo.

In certamine tuo omnes obstupefecisti; nam tolerasti tyrannorum cruciatus, vincula, tormenta, Barbara celeberrima; quapropter et corona Deus te donavit quam desiderasti: cum animo cucurristi, et ille sanam te fecit.

Sponsum tuum Christum adamata, lampadis tuse fulgore præparato, virtutibus refulsisti, laude digna: unde ingressa es cum eo ad nuptias, ab eo recipiens certaminis coronam: sed a periculis libera nos celebrantes, Barbara, tui memoriam.

Tribus ostiolis lavacrum illustrari jubens mystice indicasti Baptisma, O Barbara, Trinitatis lumine animabus splendidam suppetens purgationem.

Furore terribili patris declinato, Barbaram statim se scindens mons recepit, ut olim illustrem protomartyrem Theclam, miraculum operante Christo.

Gladio te, martyr Barbara, immolans pater, Abraham alter, sed diabolo favit.

Apparuit Christus in lumine inaccessibili tibi inclusæ, O Barbara, in carcere, ut confidentem te incitans et vibices sanans et lætitiam præbens: unde alas accepisti Sponsi tui amore.

Angelus fulgidus te, propter Christum denudatam veneranda Barbara, vestivit, ut sponsam, veste splendida quæ vulnera texit; stolam enim induisti divinam afferentem mutationem.

Demonstrata est evidenter, Christe, prophetia tua adimpleta: pater namque filiam ad caedem tradit, ipse artifex jugulationis; qui improbus genitor tuæ martyris stupendo modo e cœlo igne consumitur.

Athleticam ingressa viam, paternam renuisti voluntatem, tota honorabilis, et virgo quidem sapiens lampadem ferens, egressa es ad mansiones Domini tui; et ut martyr generosa, gratiam accepisti sanandi carnis putidam pestilentiam: et nos hymnificantes te spiritualibus doloribus libera, tuis ad Deum precibus.
When welcome death came before thee, O venerable martyr Barbara! joyously and nimbly didst thou run thy course, and being immolated by the wicked hands of an impious parent, thou wast offered a victim to God. Now, therefore, art thou in the choir of the truly wise virgins, and contemplatest the beauty of thy Spouse.

This lamb of thine, O Jesus, cries to thee with a loud voice: Thee, O my Spouse, do I desire, thee do I seek by my combat; I am immolated and buried in thy baptism; I suffer for thee, that I may reign with thee; I die for thee, that I may live in thee; receive me, therefore, as an unreserved sacrifice lovingly sacrificed to thee. Save our souls, O merciful Jesus, by her prayers.

Glorious Barbara! most sacred rose grown out of a thorny stem, sweetly perfuming the Church, and ruddy by the blood of thy battle! we this day most fervently proclaim thee blessed.

Neither the sweetness of luxury, nor the flower of beauty, nor riches, nor the pleasures of youth, could rob thee of thy energy, O glorious Barbara, most fair virgin, espoused to Christ.

All stood in amazement at witnessing thy combat; for thou didst endure the tortures, and chains, and cruelties, of thy persecutors, O Barbara, of wide-world fame! Therefore, did God give thee the crown thou didst covet; thou didst run thy course with courage, and he healed thee.

Full of love for Jesus thy Spouse, thy bright lamp was well trimmed, and thy virtues shed forth their splendour, O virgin worthy of praise! Therefore didst thou enter in with Christ to the marriage-feast, and he wreathed thee with the crown of thy combat. We celebrate thy memory, O Barbara! Deliver us from danger.

By those three apertures, which thou wouldst have to thy bath, thou didst symbolize, O Barbara, the mystery of Baptism, which, by the light of the Trinity, imparts to our souls a cleansing that illuminates.

Fleeing the terrible violence of her father, a rock immediately opened a reception of safety to Barbara, as happened heretofore to the illustrious protomartyr of her sex, Thecla, for whom Christ worked a like miracle.

O martyr Barbara! thou wast sacrificed with a sword, by thy father; like in this to Abraham, but his devotedness was to the devil.

Jesus appeared to thee, O Barbara, in thy prison: he was surrounded by light inaccessible, but he came to animate thy confidence, heal thy wounds and make thee glad: this gave wings to thy love of thy Lord.

When for Christ’s sake thou wast stripped of thy garments, O venerable Barbara! a bright angel clothed thee, as a bride, with a splendid robe, which covered thy wounds; for thou hast put on the stole which gives creatures a divine transformation.

Thy prophecy, O Christ, has been evidently fulfilled: for the father delivers his daughter up to death, nay himself becomes her murderer; but this cruel parentof thy martyr is, in a wonderful manner, consumed by fire from heaven.

Thou, most honoured virgin, having entered the path of combatants, didst resist thy father’s demands, and, as a wise virgin bearing her lamp, thou didst go into the mansions of thy Lord; he gave thee, O generous martyr, the power to drive away pestilence; pray to God for us who hymn thy praises, and deliver us from our spiritual diseases.

To this the voice of so many Churches we join ours, O faithful virgin! and though we are unworthy, yet do we offer thee our praise and our prayers. Behold! our Lord cometh, and the darkness of the night is upon us; give to our lamp both the light which will guide us, and the oil which will keep in the light. Thou knowest that He who came for love of thee, and with whom thou art now united for all eternity, is coming to visit us too; pray for us that nothing may keep us from receiving Him. May we go towards Him courageously and swiftly as thou didst; and being once with Him, may we never be separated from Him again, for He is the centre where we creatures find our only rest. Pray also, O glorious martyr, that the faith in the blessed Trinity may be ever increasing in this world. May our enemy, satan, be confounded by every tongue confessing the threefold light, and the triumphant cross which sanctifies the waters of Baptism. Remember, O blessed Barbara, thou bride of Jesus, that He has put in thy gentle hands the power not of hurling, but of staying and averting, the thunderbolt. Protect our ships against the fires of heaven and of war. Shield by thy protection the arsenals where are placed the defences of our country. Hear the prayers of them that invoke thee, whether in the fierceness of the storm, or in the dark depths of the earth; and save us all from the awful chastisement of a sudden death.

Let us consider how the various nations on the face of the earth, though differing in customs, and speech, and interests, are all united in the expectation of a Deliverer soon to come. Neither the frightful corruption of morals, nor the long ages which have passed since the promises were given, have been able to efface the tradition, or the hope it inspired. At the very time when the world seems crumbling into dissolution, a strong symptom of vigour is evinced, and from one end of the earth to the other there is heard this cry: The King of the universe is soon to appear; a new empire, holy and everlasting, is to bring all peoples into one. It is thus, O Jesus! that Jacob prophesied on his dying bed, when he said, speaking of Thee: 'He shall be the expectation of nations.’[1] Men have, indeed, searched after, and found, the way to the lowest degradation; but they could not prevent the fulfilment of this prophecy: and by their expectation of a happier state of things, they themselves fulfil it; and by fulfilling it, are confessing that their misery has no remedy save Thyself. Come, then, O Son of God! and cherish this ray of hope of the ancient world, which renders Thee this its only homage, even whilst falling under the weight of its own wretchedness. The expectation of a Deliverer is the bond of union between the two great divisions of the human race, those who preceded and those who have lived since Thy Nativity. But if the pagan world, from the depth of its vices and errors, could sigh after Thee, O Jesus! what shall we not do, who have inherited what was promised, now that Thou art preparing to come and take possession of our souls? We already know Thee, for Thou hast initiated us into Thy mysteries; we cannot do less, dear Jesus! we are longing for Thee during these days of Advent. When the beautiful day of Thy visit comes, mayst Thou find that Thy love is already in our hearts. Make our expectation more fervid, increase our faith, and come!

A Responsory of Advent
(The Roman breviary, Matins of the first Sunday)

R. Salvatorem exspectamus Dominum Jesum Christum; * Qui reformabit corpus humilitatis nostræ configuratum corpori claritatis suæ. V. Sobrie, juste, et pie, vivamus in hoc sæculo, exspectantes beatam spem, et adventum gloriæ magni Dei, * Qui reformabit corpus humilitatis nostræ configuratum corpori claritatis suæ.
R. We look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ; * Who will reform the body of our lowliness made like to the body of his glory. V. Let us live soberly, and justly, and piously in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God, * Who will reform the body of our lowliness made like to the body of his glory.

 

 

 

[1] Gen. xlix. 10.

 

 

From Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Roman Church confines herself to-day to the Office of the feria: but to that she joins a commemoration of St. Sabas, abbot of the celebrated laura of Palestine which still exists under his name. This saint, who died in 533, is the only one of the monastic Order of whom the Church makes any mention in her liturgy during the whole period of Advent; we might even say that he is the only simple confessor whose name occurs in the calendar of this part of the year: for, as regards St. Francis Xavier, the glorious title of apostle of the Indies puts him in a distinct class of saints. Here, again, we should recognize divine Providence, which has selected for these days of preparation for Christmas, those saints whose characteristic virtues would make them our fittest models in this work of preparation. We have the feasts of apostles, pontiffs, doctors, virgins: Jesus, the Man-God, the King and Spouse of men, is preceded by this magnificent procession of the noblest of His servants: simple confession has but a single representative, the anchoret and cenobite Sabas, who, by his profession of the monastic life, is of that family of holy solitaries, which began with the prophet Elias under the old Testament, and continued up to the time of St. John the Precursor, who was one of its members, and will continue on, during the new Covenant, until the last coming of Jesus. Let us, then, honour this holy abbot, towards whom the Greek Church professes a filial veneration, and under whose invocation Rome has consecrated one of her churches. Let us beg his prayers by this Collect of the holy liturgy.

Collect

Intercessio nos, quæsumus, Domine, beati Sabbæ abbatis commendet, ut quod nostris meritis non valemus, ejus patrocinio assequamur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
May the intercession, we beseech thee, O Lord, of the blessed abbot Sabas recommend us to thee; that what we cannot hope for through our own merits, we may obtain by his prayers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.



O Sabas, thou man of desires! in thy expectation of that Lord, who has bidden His servants watch until He come, thou didst withdraw into the desert, fearing lest the turmoil of this world might distract thy mind from its God. Have pity on us who are living in the world, and are so occupied in the affairs of that world, and yet who have received the commandment, which thou didst so take to heart, of keeping ourselves in readiness for the coming of our Saviour and our Judge. Pray for us, that when He comes we may be worthy to go out to meet Him. Kemember also the monastic state, of which thou art one of the brightest ornaments; raise it up again from its ruins; let its children be men of prayer and faith, as of old; let thy spirit be among them, and the Church thus regain, by thy intercession, all the glory which is reflected on her from the sublime perfection of this holy state.

Let us look again at the prophecy of Jacob. The holy patriarch not only foretells that the Messias will be the Expectation of nations; he adds that, when this promised Deliverer comes, the sceptre will have been taken away from Juda.[1] This oracle is now fulfilled. The flag of Cæsar Augustus floats on the ramparts of Jerusalem. The temple is still untouched; the abomination of desolation stands not yet in the holy place; sacrifices are there still offered up to God; but then, the true temple of God, the Incarnate Word, has not yet been built; the Synagogue has not denied Him, who was her expectation; the Victim, that was to supersede all others, has not been immolated. Yet, Juda has no chief of her own race; Cæsar’s coin is current throughout all Palestine; and the day is not far off when the leaders of the Jewish people will own, in the presence of the Roman governor, that they have not the power to put any man to death.[2] So that there is now no king upon the throne of David and Solomon, that throne which was to abide for ever. O Jesus! Son of David, and King of peace, now is the time when Thou must show Thyself and take possession of the sceptre which has been taken in battle from the hand of Juda, and put, for a time, into that of an emperor. Come! for Thou art King, and the psalmist, Thy ancestor, thus sang of Thee: 'Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Thou Most Mighty! With Thy comeliness and Thy beauty set out, proceed prosperously, and reign, because of truth and meekness and justice, and Thy right hand shall conduct Thee wonderfully. Thy arrows are sharp: under Thee shall people fall: Thy arrows shall go into the hearts of the King’s enemies. Thy throne is for ever and ever; the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness. . . . God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee, O Christ! who takest thence Thy name, with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows, who have been honoured with the name of king.’[3] When Thou hast come, O Messias! men will be no more as sheep going astray without a shepherd; there will be but one fold, in which Thou wilt reign by love and justice, for all power will be given unto Thee in heaven and on earth. When, in the hour of Thy Passion, Thy enemies shall ask Thee: ‘Art Thou King?’ Thou wilt answer them in all truth: ‘Verily, I am.’[4] Come, dearest King, and reign over our hearts; come, and reign over this world, which is Thine because Thou didst create it, and will soon be Thine because Thou wilt have redeemed it. Reign, then, over this world, and delay not the manifestation of Thy royal power until the day of which it is written: 'He will break kings in the day of His wrath’;[5] reign from this very hour, and let all people fall at Thy feet and adore Thee in one grand homage of love and obedience.

Sequence for the Time of Advent
(Composed in the eleventh century, and taken from the ancient Roman-French missals)

Qui regis sceptra forti dextra solus cuncta;

Tu plebi tuam ostende magnam excitando potentiam; Praesta illi dona salutaria.

Quem praedixerunt prophetica vaticinia, A clara poli regia,

In nostra Jesum mitte, Domine, arva.

Ame
O thou that, in the might of thy right hand, alone rulest over all sceptres,

Raise up thy great power, and show it to the people, To whom grant the gifts of salvation.

Jesus whom the oracles of the prophets foretold, Send him from the bright palace of heaven,

Send him, O Lord, into our land.

Amen.

[1] Gen. xlix. 10.
[2] St. John xviii. 31.
[3] Ps. xliv.
[4] St. John xviii. 37.
[5] Ps. cix. 5.