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The Liturgical Year

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.

The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.

We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.

We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.

For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels[1] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.
[1] St Luke ii 10.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.

This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.

Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.

For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.

We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.

The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.

For more information on Lent, visit here.

After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)

For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.

WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.

The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS Sunday has been chosen by the Church for the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family; the liturigy of the day, as expressed in the Gospel, harmonizes well with the mystery of the new Feast, for it already carries us forward to the childhood of our Emmanuel and gives us those wonderful words which, after the example of his Blessed Mother, we must ever ponder within our hearts: ‘And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.’

The Feast of the Holy Family is of recent origin. In 1663 Barbara d'Hillehoust founded at Montreal the Association of the Holy Family; this devotion soon spread and in 1893 Leo XIII expressed his approval of a feast under this title and himself composed part of the Office. The Feast was welcomed by succeeding Pontiffs as an efficacious means for bringing home to the Christian people the example of the Holy Family at Nazareth, and by the restoration of the true spirit of family life, stemming, in some measure, the evils of present-day society. These motives led Benedict XV to insert the Feast in the universal Calendar, and from 1921 it has been fixed for this present Sunday.


The Introit recalls the joy that must have filled the cave of Bethlehem on that Christmas night; let us again rejoice with Mary and Joseph and sing the praises of the resting-place of the Lord of Hosts.


Exsultet gaudio pater Justi, gaudeat pater tuus et mater tua, et exsultet quæ genuit te.

Ps. 83. Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum: concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini. ℣. Gloria.
Let the father of the Just One exult with joy; let thy father and thy mother rejoice; and let her that bare thee be glad.

Ps. 83. How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts: my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. ℣. Glory.

The Church prays in the Collect that the home life of every Christian family may be sanctified and perfected by the example of that of the Holy Family; this is her unceasing wish for her children.


Domine Jesu Christe, qui, Mariæ et Joseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiæ sanctæ tuæ exemplis instrui; et consortium consequi sempiternum. Qui vivis.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, becoming subject to Mary and Joseph, didst hallow home life by singular virtues; by the help of both, do thou grant that we may be taught by the example of thy Holy Family, and have fellowship with it for evermore: Who livest.

Commemoration is made of the Sunday within the Octave:

Vota, quæsumus, Domine, supplicantis populi cœlesti pietate prosequere: ut et quæ agenda sunt, videant; et ad implenda quæ viderint, convalescant. Per Dominum.
According to thy divine mercy, O Lord, receive the vows of thy people, who pour forth their prayers to thee: that they may know what their duty requireth of them, and be able to comply with what they know. Through, etc.

Then of the Epiphany:

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus, Stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuæ celsitudinis perducamur. Per cumdem
O God, who by the direction of a star, didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant, that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, etc.


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Colossenses.

Cap. III.

Fratres, induite vos, sicut electi Dei, sancti, et dilecti, viscera misericordiæ, benignitatem, humilitatem, modestiam, patientiam, supportantes invicem, et donantes vobismetipsis, si quis adversus aliquem habet querelam: sicut et Dominus donavit vobis, ita et vos. Super omnia autem hæc, caritatem habete, quod est vinculum perfectionis: et pax Christi exsultet in cordibus vestris, in qua et vocati estis in uno corpore; et grati estote. Verbum Christi habitet in vobis abundanter, in omni sapientia, docentes, et commonentes vosmetipsos, psalmis, hymnis, et canticis spiritualibus, in gratia cantantes in cordibus vestris Deo. Omne quodcumque facitis, in verbo aut in opere, omnia in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi, gratias agentes Deo et Patri per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.
Lesson of the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to the Colossians.

Ch. III.

Brethren, put ye on therefore as the elect of God. holy, and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another; even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection; and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word, or in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If we would attain to charity, the bond of perfection which unites all Christians together in the one great family of God, we must pay heed to those virtues which the Epistle puts before us. We must be full of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty and patience; we must bear with one another and forgive one another, after the example of the Incarnate Word. Then the peace of Christ will dwell not only in our hearts, but in those around us, and our homes will truly become like that of Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph were ever singing in grace to the Lord God.

In the Gradual Holy Church again celebrates the praises of the House of the Lord; she proclaims the blessedness of those that obtain lasting fellowship in the heavenly home above; yet in the Alleluia verse she recalls the lowliness of the earthly home of our Emmanuel which made him truly a hidden King.

(Ps. xxiii)

Unam petti a Domino, hanc requiram: ut inhabitem in domo Domini omnibus diebus vitæ meæ. ℣. Ps. 83. Beati qui habitant in domo tua, Domine, in sæcula sæculorum laudabunt te.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Isa. 45. Vere tu es Rex absconditus. Deus Isræl Salvator. Alleluia.
One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. ℣. Ps. 83. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Isa. 45. Verily thou art a hidden King, the God of Israel, the Saviour. Alleluia.


Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

Cum factus esset Jesus annorum duodecim, ascendentibus illis Jerosolymam secundum consuetudinem diei festi, consummatisque diebus, cum redirent, remansit puer Jesus in Jerusalem, et non cognoveruntparentes ejus. Existimantes autem ilium esse in comitatu, venerunt iter diei, et requirebant eum inter cognatos et notos. Et non invenientes, regressi sunt in Jerusalem, requirentes eum. Et factum est, post triduum invenerunt illum in tempio sedentem in medio doctorum, audientem illos, et interrogantem eos. Stupebant autem omnes, qui eum audiebant, super prudentia et responsis ejus. Et videntes admirati sunt. Et dixit mater ejus ad ilium: Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? ecce pater tuus et ego dolentes quærebamus te. Et ait ad illos: Quid est quod me quærebatis? Nesciebatis quia in his quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse? Et ipsi non intellexerunt verbum, quod locutus est ad eos. Et descendit cum eis, et venit Nazareth: et erat subditus illis. Et mater ejus conservabat omnia verba hæc in corde suo. Et Jesus proficiebat sapientià, et ætate, et gratia apud Deum et homines.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast; and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his Mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his Mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.

Thus, O Jesus! didst thou come down from heaven to teach us. The tender age of Childhood, which thou didst take upon thyself, is no hindrance to the ardour of thy desire that we should know the one only God, who made all things, and thee, his Son, whom he sent to us. When laid in the Crib, thou didst instruct the Shepherds by a mere look; when swathed in thy humble swaddling-clothes, and subjected to the voluntary silence thou hadst imposed on thyself, thou didst reveal to the Magi the light they sought in following the star. When twelve years old, thou explainest to the Doctors of Israel the Scriptures which bear testimony to thee. Thou gradually dispellest the shadows of the Law by thy presence and thy words. In order to fulfil the commands of thy heavenly Father, thou dost not hesitate to occasion sorrow to the heart of thy Mother, by thus going in quest of souls that need enlightening. Thy love of man will pierce that tender Heart of Mary with a still sharper sword, when she shall behold thee hanging on the Cross, and expiring in the midst of crudest pain. Blessed be thou, sweet Jesus, in these first Mysteries of thine Infancy, wherein thou already showest thyself devoted to us, and leavest the company of thy Blessed Mother for that of sinful men, who will one day conspire thy Death.

The Offertory takes us in thought to the Feast of the Purification; let us again offer ourselves to the Lord.

(Luke ii)

Tulerunt Jesum parentes ejus in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino.
The parents of Jesus carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

In the Secret the Church again prays that she may be strengthened in peace and grace; these gifts have been purchased for us by our Lord himself; it is through the Holy Mass that we can be more strongly established in them.


Placationis hostiam offerimus tibi, Domine, suppliciterdeprecantes: ut, per intercessionem Deiparæ Virginis cum beato Joseph, familias nostras in pace et gratia tua firmiter constituas. Per eundem Dominum.
We offer to thee, O Lord, an atoning victim, humbly entreat ing that through the inter cession of the Virgin Mother of God and blessed Joseph, thou wouldst strongly establish our families in thy peace and grace. Through the same Lord.

Commemoration of the Sunday

Oblatum tibi Domine Sacrificium vivificet nos semper et muniat. Per Dominum.
May the sacrifice we have offered to thee, O Lord, always enlighten and defend us. Through, etc.

Commemoration of the Epiphany

Ecclesiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, dona propitius intuere; quibus non jam aurum, thus et myrrha profertur; sed quod eisdem muneribus declaratur, immolatur et sumitur, Jesus Christos Filius tuus Dominus noster. Qui tecum.
Mercifully look down, O Lord, we beseech thee, on the offerings of thy Church; among which, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are no longer offered; but what was signified by those offerings is sacrificed, and received, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Who liveth, etc.

The Preface is as on the Epiphany, p. 126.

The Communion recalls the subject of to-day's Gospel; let us never cease to meditate on the divine humility shown us in these words.

(Luke ii)

Descendit Jesus cum eis et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.
Jesus went down with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.

If we have kept before our eyes the example of the holy Family, we may humbly trust that at the hour of our death we shall be helped and consoled and be found worthy to have fellowship with Christ in the eternal dwellings. Such is the last prayer of the Church, and may it be one we love to repeat and dwell on.


Quos cœlestibus reficis sacramentis, fac, Domine Jesu, sanctæ familiæ tuæ exempla jugiter imitari: ut in hora mortis nostræ, occurrente gloriosa Virgine Matre tua cum beato Joseph; per te in æterna tabernacula recipi mereamur. Qui vivis et regnas.
Let us whom thou dost refresh by thy heavenly sacraments, O Lord, ever follow the example of thy Holy Family; that at the hour of our death thy glorious Virgin Mother and blessed Joseph may be near us, and we may be found worthy to be received by thee into eternal dwellings: Who livest, etc.

Commemoration of the Sunday

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: ut quos tuis reficis Sacramentis, tibi etiam placitis moribus dignanter deservire concedas. Per Dominum.
Grant, we humbly beseech thee, O Almighty God, that those whom thou refreshest with thy Sacraments, may, by a life well-pleasing to thee, worthily serve thee. Through, etc.

Commemoration of the Epiphany

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut quæ solemni celebramus officio, purificatæ mentis intelligentia consequamur. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that our minds may be so purified, as to understand what we celebrate on this great solemnity. Through, etc.



1. Post triduum invenerunt Jesum in tempio sedentem in medio doctorum, audientem illos, et interrogantem eos.
1. After three days * they found Jesus in the temple sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions.

The Psalms are from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and will be found on the Feast of the Purification, p. 488.

2. Dixit mater * Jesu ad ilium: Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? Ecce pater tuus et ego dolentes quærebamus te.

3. Descendit Jesus * cum eis, et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.

4. Et Jesus * proficiebat sapientia, et ætate, et gratia apud Deum et homines.

5. Et dicebant: * Unde huic sapientia hæc, et virtutes? Nonne hic est fabri filius?
2. The Mother of Jesus* said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

3. And Jesus went down * with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.

4. And Jesus * advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with God and men.

5. And they said: * How came this man by this wisdom and miracles? Is not this the carpenter's son?

Little Chapter
(Luke ii)

Descendit Jesus cum Maria et Joseph, et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.
And Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.


O Lux beata Cælitum,
Et summa spes mortalium, Jesu,
O cui domestica
Arrisit orto caritas.

Maria, dives gratia,
O sola quæ casto potes
Fovere Jesum pectore,
Cum lacte donans oscula.

Tuque ex vetustis patribus
Delecte custos Virginis,
Dulci patris quem nomine
Divina proies invocat.

De stirpe Jesse nobili
Nati in salutem gentium,
Audite nos qui supplices
Vestras ad aras sistimus.

Dum sol redux ad vesperum
Rebus nitorem detrahit,
Nos hic manentes intimo
Ex corde vota fundimus.

Qua vestra sedes floruit
Virtutis omnis gratia,
Hanc detur in domesticis
Referre posse moribus.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.


℣. Ponam universos filios tuos doctos a Domino.
℟. Et multitudinem pacis filiis tuis.
Blest light of all the heavenly hosts,
Sole hope of them that dwell on earth,
The purest love that ever graced
A home, did smile upon thy birth.

Mary, dear Mother, who but thee
Was ever yet so rich in grace?
Didst nourish Christ upon thy knee
And fold him in a sweet embrace?

And Joseph, chosen out to guard
The Virgin with thy gentle might,
The Infant Jesus smiled on thee
And called thee father as by right.

You, who to save a guilty race
Were born of David’s noble line,
O hear the humble prayers of all
To-day, who gather round your shrine.

The sun now wends his way to rest
And earth is veiled in shadows gray;
Yet hearts a-fire with joy and love
Still bid us linger on to pray.

O may the grace of that sweet home
Which held the earthly Trinity,
Be shed abroad upon the world
And bless the Christian family.

O Jesu, born of Virgin bright,
Immortal glory be to thee;
Praise to the Father infinite
And Holy Ghost eternally.


℣. I will make all thy children to be taught of the Lord.
℟. And great the peace of thy children.

At the Magnificat

Ant. Maria autem conservabat omnia verba hæc, conferens in corde suo.
Ant. But Mary * kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

Collect as at Mass, p. 139.

Commemoration of the Epiphany

Ant. Magi videntes stellam, dixerunt ad invicem: Hoc signum magni Regis est: eamus et iniquiramus eum, et offeramus ei munera, aurum, thus et myrrham. Alleluia.
Ant. The Magi, seeing the Star, said to each other: This is the sign of the great King: let us go and seek him, and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Alleluia.


Ant. Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus: hodie stella Magos duxit ad præsepium: hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias: hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos. Alleluia.

℣. Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent.
℟. Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent.
Ant. We celebrate a festival adorned by three miracles: this day, a star led the Magi to the manger; this day, water was changed into wine, at the marriage-feast; this day, Christ vouchsafed to be baptized by John, in the Jordan, for our salvation. Alleluia.

℣. The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents.
℟. The Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.

The Collect as on p. 139.

Commemoration of the Sunday

Ant. Fili! quid fecisti nobis sic? ego et pater tuus dolentes quærebamus te. Quid est quod me quærebatis? nesciebatis quia in his quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse?

℣. Omnes de Saba venient. Alleluia.
℟. Aurum et thus deferentes. Alleluia.
Ant. Son! why hast thou done so to us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?

℣. All they from Saba shall come. Alleluia.
℟. Bringing gold and frankincense. Alleluia.

The Collect as on p. 139.


(In some Churches, the Feast of the Holy Family is not observed on this day; the Mass will then be of the Sunday.)

It is the Kingship of the divine Infant that the Church again proclaims in the opening Canticle of the Mass for the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany. She sings the praises of her Emmanuel's Throne, and takes her part with the Angels who hymn the glory of Jesus' eternal Empire. Let us do the same, and adore the King of Ages, in his Epiphany.


In excelso throno vidi sedere virimi, quem adorat multitudo Angelorum psallentes in unum: ecce cujus imperii nomen est in æternum. Ps. Jubilate Deo omnis terra: servite Domino inlætitia. Gloria Patri. In excelso.
I saw a man seated on a high throne, whom a multitude of Angels adored, singing all together: Behold him, whose name and empire are to last for ever. Ps. Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Glory. I saw.

The Collect is given on p. 139.


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Romanos.

Cap. XII.

Fratres, obsecro vos per misericordiam Dei, ut exhibeatis corpora vestra hostiamviventem, sanctam, Deo placentem, rationabile obsequium vestrum. Et nolite conformari huic sæculo, sed reformamini in novitate sensus vestii: ut probetis quse sit voluntas Dei bona, et beneplacens, et perfecta. Dico enim per gratiam quæ data est mihi, omnibus qui sunt inter vos: Non plus sapere quam oportet sapere, sed sapere ad sobrietatem: et unicuique sicut Deus divisit mensuram fidei. Sicut enim in uno corpore multa membra habemus, omnia autem membra non eumdem actum habent: ita multi unum corpus sumus in Christo, singuli autem alter alterius membra: in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Romans.

Ch. XII.

Brethren, I beseech you, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be reformed in the newness of your mind: that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. For I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you, not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety, and according as God hath divided unto every one the measure of faith. For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Apostle invites us to make our offering to the new-born King, after the example of the Magi; but the offering which this Lord of all things asks of us is not anything material or lifeless. He that is Life gives his whole self to us; let us, in return, present him our hearts, that is, a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God; whose service may be reasonable, that is, whose obedience to the divine will may be accompanied by a formal intention of offering itself to its Creator. Here again, let us imitate the Magi, who went back another way into their own country—let us not adopt the ideas of this world, for the world is the covert enemy of our beloved King. Let us reform our worldly prudence according to the divine wisdom of Him, who may well be our guide, seeing he is the Eternal Wisdom of the Father. Let us understand, that no man can be wise without Faith, which reveals to us that we must all be united by love, so as to form one body in Christ, partaking of his life, his wisdom, his light, and his kingly character.

In the chant which follows the Epistle, the Church returns to her praise of the ineffable wonders of a God with us: Justice and righteousness have come down from heaven, to take up their abode on our mountains and hills.


Benedictus Dominus Deus Isræl, qui facit mirabilia magna solus a sæculo. ℣. Suscipiant montes pacem populo tuo, et colles justitiam.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Jubilate Deo omnis terra: servite Domino in lætitia. Alleluia.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone hath done great wonders from the beginning. ℣. Let the mountains receive peace for thy people, and the hills righteousness.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Sing joyfully to the Lord, ail the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Alleluia.

The Gospel is the one for the Feast of the Holy Family, p. 141.

During the Offertory, the Church resumes her canticles of joy; the presence of the Divine Infant fills her with joy.


Jubilate Deo omnis terra: servite Domino in lætitia: intrate in conspectu ejus in exsultatione: quia Dominus ipse est Deus.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness: present yourselves to him with transports of joy: for the Lord is God.

The Secret is given on p. 143.

Whilst distributing the Bread of Life come down from heaven, the Church repeats the words addressed by Mary to her Son: Why hast thou done so to us? I and thy father have sought thee. The Good Shepherd, who feeds his Sheep with his own Flesh, replies, that he must needs do the will of his Father who is in heaven. He is come to be our Life, our light, and our food: he, therefore, leaves everything in order to give himself to us. But, whilst the Doctors in the Temple only saw and heard him, we, in this Living Bread, possess him and are united with him in sweetest union.


Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? Ego et pater tuus dolentes quærebamus te. Et quid est, quod me quærebatis? Nesciebatis, quia in his, quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse?
Son, why hast thou done so with us? I and thy father have sought thee with sorrow.—And why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about the concerns of my Father?

The Postcommunion is given on p. 144.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A SOLEMNITY of such importance as the Epiphany could not be without an Octave. The only Octaves during the year that are superior to this of the Epiphany, are those of Easter and Pentecost. It has a privilege which the Octave of Christmas has not; for no Feast can be kept during the Octave of the Epiphany, unless it be that of a principal Patron; whereas Feasts of double and semi-double rite are admitted during the Christmas Octave. It would even seem, judging from the ancient Sacramentaries, that anciently the two days immediately following the Epiphany were Days of Obligation, as were the Monday and Tuesday of Easter and Whitsuntide. The names of the Stational Churches are given, where the Clergy and Faithful of Rome assembled on these two days.

In order that we may the more fully enter into the spirit of the Church during this glorious Octave, we will contemplate, each day, the Mystery of the Vocation of the Magi, and we will enter, together with them, into the holy Cave of Bethlehem, there to offer our gifts to the Divine Infant, to whom the star has led the Wise Men.

These Magi are the harbingers of the conversion of all nations to the Lord their God; they are the Fathers of the Gentiles in the faith of the Redeemer that is come; they are the Patriarchs of the human race regenerated. They arrive at Bethlehem, according to the tradition of the Church, three in number; and this tradition is handed down by St Leo, by St Maximus of Turin, by St Cesarius of Arles, and by the Christian paintings in the Catacombs of Rome, which paintings belong to the period of the Persecutions.

Thus is continued in the Magi the Mystery prefigured by the three just men at the very commencement of the world: Abel, who, by his death, was the figure of Christ; Seth, who was the father of the children of God, as distinct from the family of Cain; and Enos, who had the honour of regulating the ceremonies and solemnity to be observed in man's worship of his Creator.

The Magi also continued, in their own person, that other Mystery of the three new parents of the human family, after the Deluge, and from whom all races have sprung: Sem, Cham, and Japheth, the Sons of Noe.

And, thirdly, we behold in the Magi that third Mystery of the three fathers of God's chosen people: Abraham, the Father of believers; Isaac, another figure of Christ immolated; and Jacob, who was strong against God,[1] and was the father of the twelve Patriarchs of Israel.

All these were but the receivers of the Promise, although the hope of mankind, both according to nature and grace, rested on them; they, as the Apostle says of them, saluted the accomplishment of that Promise afar off.[2] The nations did not follow them, by serving the true God; nay, the greater the light that shone on Israel, the greater seemed the blindness of the Gentile world. The three Magi, on the contrary, come to Bethlehem, and they are followed by countless generations. In them the figure becomes the grand reality, thanks to the mercy of our Lord, who having come to find what was lost, vouchsafed to stretch out his arms to the whole human race, for the whole was lost.

These happy Magi were also invested with regal power, as we shall see further on; as such, they were prefigured by those three faithful Kings who were the glory of the throne of Juda, the earnest maintainers among the chosen people of the traditions regarding the future Deliverer, and the strenuous opponents of idolatry: David, the sublime type of the Messias; Ezechias, whose courageous zeal destroyed the idols; and Josias, who reestablished the Law of the Lord, which the people had forgotten.

And if we would have another type of these holy pilgrims, who come from a far distant country of the Gentiles to adore the King of Peace, and offer him their rich presents, the sacred Scripture puts before us the Queen of Saba, also a Gentile, who hearing of the fame of the wisdom of Solomon, whose name means the Peaceful, visits Jerusalem, taking with her the most magnificent gifts—camels laden with gold, spices, and precious stones—and venerates, under one of the sublimest of his types, the kingly character of the Messias.

Thus, O Jesus! during the long and dark night, in which the justice of thy Father left this sinful world, did the gleams of grace appear in the heavens, portending the rising of that Sun of thine own Justice, which would dissipate the shadows of death, and establish the reign of Light and Day. But now all these shadows have passed away; we no longer need the imperfect light of types: it is thyself we now possess; and though we wear not royal crowns upon our heads, like the Magi and the Queen of Saba, yet thou receivest us with love. The very first to be invited to thy Crib, there to receive thy teachings, were simple Shepherds. Every member of the human family is called to form part of thy court. Having become a Child, thou hast opened the treasures of thine infinite wisdom to all men. What gratitude do we not owe for this gift of the light of Faith, without which we should know nothing, even whilst flattering ourselves that we know all things! How narrow and uncertain and deceitful is human science, compared with that which has its source in thee! May we ever prize this immense gift of Faith, this Light, O Jesus! which thou makest to shine upon us, after having softened it under the veil of thy humble Infancy. Preserve us from pride, which darkens the soul’s vision and dries up the heart. Confide us to the keeping of thy Blessed Mother; and may our love attach us for ever to thee, and her maternal eye ever watch over us lest we should leave thee, O thou the God of our hearts!

Let us now listen to the Hymns and Prayers of the several Churches in praise of the Mysteries of the glorious Epiphany. We will begin with this of Prudentius, in which he celebrates that never-setting Star, of which the other was but a figure.


Quicumque Christura quæritis,
Oculos in altum tollite:
Illic licebit visere
Signum perennis gloriæ.

Hæc stella, quæ solis rotam
Vincit decore ac lumine,
Venisse terris nuntiat
Cum carne terrestri Deum.

Non illa servit noctibus,
Secuta lunam menstruam:
Sed solam cœlum possidens
Cursum dierum temperat.

Arctoa quamvis sidera
In se retortis motibus
Obire nolint; attamen
Plerumque sub nimbis latent.

Hoc sidus æternum manet:
Hæc stella numquam mergitur:
Nec nubis occursu abdita
Obumbrat obductam facem.

Tristis cometa intercidat,
Et si quod astrum
Sirio Fervet vapore, jam
Dei Sub luce destructum cadet.
O ye, that are in search of Jesus,
raise up your eyes aloft:
there shall you see
the sign of his eternal glory.

This Star, which surpasseth
the sun’s disc in beauty and light,
announces that God has come
upon the earth clothed in human flesh.

It is not a Star that is made to serve the night,
following the monthly changes of the moon;
but it seems to preside over the heavens
and mark the course of the day.

’Tis true, that Polar Stars
are lights that never set;
yet are they often hid
beneath the clouds.

But this Star is never dimmed;
this Star is never extinguished;
nor does a coming cloud
o'ershadow her blaze of light.

Let comet, the harbinger of ill,
and meteors formed by Dogstar’s vaporous heat,
now fade away
before this God’s own light.

We take the three following solemn Prayers from the Gregorian Sacramentary.


Deus, illuminator omnium gentium, da populis tuis perpetua pace gaudere, et illud lumen splendidum infunde cordibus nostris, quod trium Magorum mentibus aspirasti.

Omnipotens et sempiterne Deus, fidelium splendor animarum, qui hanc solemnitatem electionis gentium primitiis consecrasti; imple mundum gloria tua, et subditis tibi populis per luminis tui appare claritatem.

Concede nobis, omnipotens Deus, ut Salutare tuum nova cœlorum luce mirabile, quod ad salutem mundi hodierna festivitate processit, nostris semper innovandis cordibus oriatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, the enlightener of all nations, give thy people to enjoy perpetual peace, and infuse into our hearts that shining light which thou didst enkindle in the minds of the three Magi.

Almighty and eternal God, the light of faithful souls, who hast consecrated this solemnity by the first-fruits of the vocation of the Gentiles; fill this world with thy glory, and manifest thyself to thy devoted people by the brightness of thy light.

Grant unto us, O Almighty God, that the Saviour sent by thee, who was made known by a new light in the heavens, and comes down for the salvation of the world on this day’s solemnity, may arise in our hearts and give them a perpetual renovation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The following Sequence is found in the ancient Roman-French Missals.


Epiphaniam Domino canamus gloriosam,
Qua prolem Dei vere Magi adorant:
Immensam Chaldæi cujus Persæque venerantur potentiam.
Quem cuncti Prophetæ cecinere venturum, gentes ad salvandas:
Cujus Majestas ita est inclinata, ut assumeret servi formam.
Ante sæcula qui Deus, et tempora, homo factus est in Maria:
Balaam de quo vaticinans: Exhibit et Jacob rutilans, inquit, stella,
Et confringet ducum agmina regionis Moab, maxima potentia.
Huic Magi munera deferunt præclara: aurum, simul thus et myrrham.
Thure Deum prsedicant, auro Regem magnum, hominem mortalem myrrha.
In somnis hos monet Angelus, ne redeant ad regem commotum propter regna;
Pavebat etenim nimium Regem natum, verens amittere regni jura.
Magi, stella sibi micante prævia, pergunt alacres itinera, patriam quæ eos ducebat ad propriam, liquentes Herodis mandata.
Qui percussus corde nimium præ ira, extemplo mandat eludia magica non linqui taliter impunita, sed mox privari eos vita.
Omnis nunc caterva tinnulum jungat laudibus organi pneuma,
Mystice offerens Regi regum Christo munera, pretiosa,
Poscens ut per orbem regna omnia protegat in sæcula sempiterna. Amen.
Let us sing to the Lord the glorious Epiphany,
Wherein the Magi adore the true Son of God.
The Chaldeans and Persians offer homage to his infinite power.
All the Prophets had foretold that he would come to save the nations.
His Majesty so far humbled itself, as to assume the form of a servant.
He that was God before all ages and time, was made Man in Mary's womb.
Balaam thus prophesied concerning him: There shall go forth a bright star from Jacob,
And with exceeding power he shall break the armies of the chiefs of Moab.
The Magi bring him rich presents, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
By the frankincense they confess him to be God; by the gold, the great King; by the myrrh, a mortal Man.
An Angel warns them in their sleep, that they return not to King Herod, who feared to lose his kingdom.
For he was exceedingly troubled at the birth of the new King, and trembled lest he should be deprived of his throne.
The Magi, guided by a Star that went before them, set out on their journey with joy. The Star guided them to their own country, and Herod's commands were not heeded.
This prince, struck to the heart with exceeding wrath, straightway commands that the disobedience of the Magi be chastised, and that they be speedily put to death.
Now, therefore, let this assembly sing its songs of praise accompanied by the organ's shrill sounding notes.
And offer to Christ, the King of kings, its precious mystic gifts,
Beseeching him that he protect all the kingdoms of the universe for ever and ever. Amen.

St Ephrem gives us the following beautiful Hymn upon the Nativity of our Lord.


Nascente Filio, altis resonat clamoribus Bethlehem. Cœlo delapsi Vigiles canunt vocibus tonitruum imitantibus. Concentu exciti novo convenere silentes, silentium rupere laudes nascentis Filii Dei.

Plaudamus, aiebant, Infanti qui Evæ Adæque juventutis restituit annos. Confluxere pastores, gregum suorum proventum portantes, dulcis lactis copiam, mundas carnes, et decoram laudem.

Distinxere munera, carnes Josepho, Mariæ lac, Filio laudem. Obtulere agnum lactentem paschali Agno, primum Primo, hostiam Hostiæ, agnum caduci temporis Agno veritatis sempiternæ.

Decorum sane spectaculum! agnus oblatus Agno! balavit agnus Unigenito præsentatus, agnus Agno acceptam referebat gratiam, quod suo adventu greges et armenta mactationi subtraxisset, et novum a veteri Paschata traductum Pascha Filii introduxisset.

Illum adoravere pastores, et prophetantes Pastorum Principem salutarunt. Mosaica virga, aiebant, tuum, universalis Pastor, sceptrum commendat, quique illam gestavit Moses te magnum prædicat, dolens gregum suorum mutatas formas, et agnos in lupos transiisse, ac oves evasisse dracones, et ferocissimas bestias. Scilicet et istæ in illa horribili solitudine passæ fuerant malum, quando furentes rabidæ in suum incubuere Pastorem.

Divine Puer, hanc tibi acceptam profitentur gratiam pastores, quod lupos et agnos in easdem caulas congregaveris: Puer Noe antiquior, et Noe recentior, qui intra arcam, pelago fremente, pacem dissidentibus vectoribus sanxisti.

David proavus tuus agni necem leonis cæde vindicavit: tu vero, fili David, occultum peremisti lupum, a quo interfectus fuerat Adamus, agnus ille simplex, qui in Paradiso pastus est et balavit.
The Son being born, Bethlehem resounds with loud shouts of joy. The ever wakeful Angels come down from heaven, singing their hymn with voices loud as thunder. Men that were in still silence ran to the cave, aroused by the strange music: they too broke the silence with their praises of the new-born Son of God.

'Let us,’ said they, 'give praise to the Infant, who has restored to Adam and Eve the years of their youth.' These Shepherds came bringing with them the produce of their flocks, abundance of sweet milk, clean meats, and songs of praise.

Thus did they divide the gifts: the meats to Joseph; the milk to Mary; their praise to Jesus. They offered a lambkin to the paschal Lamb, a first-born to the First-Born, a victim to the Victim, a mortal lamb to the true eternal Lamb.

Fair sight indeed! A lamb offered to the Lamb! The lamb bleated, thus offered to the Only Begotten Son of God; it thanked him for that his coming would save the flocks and herds from being immolated, and that a new Pasch, that of the Son of God, would be brought in in place of the Pasch of old.

The Shepherds adored him, and prophesying, saluted him as the Prince of Shepherds. They said: 'Thy sceptre, O universal Shepherd! is prefigured by the rod of Moses; and Moses, who held it in his hand, declares thy greatness. But he grieves over the change that befell his flock: he grieves to see his lambs changed into wolves, and his sheep transformed into dragons and savage beasts. This evil happened to them in that terrible desert, where this flock, grown mad with rage, attacked their Shepherd.

‘O Divine Child! the Shepherds give thee thanks, for that thou hast united into the one fold both wolves and lambs. O Child! that art older and younger than Noe! ’twas thou didst establish peace among them that sailed in the ark on the stormy sea, and were enemies.

'Thy ancestor David avenged the massacre of a lamb by slaying the lion: but thou, O Son of David! didst slay the invisible lion, who murdered that simple lamb, who fed and bleated in Eden—our first parent Adam.'

The Greek Church gives us, in honour of the VirginMother, this beautiful song of Saint Joseph the Hymnographer.

Ut inferiores superioribus ac cœlestibus conjungeret solus omnium Deus, virginalem uterum ingressus est, cumquein similitudine carnis apparuisset, intermedio inimicitiæ pariete sublato, pacem interposuit, vitamque ac divinam redemptionem largitus est.

Virgo casta post partum permansisti, O sanctissima: Deum enim Verbum genuisti similem nobis factum sine peccato.

Sana vulnera cordis mei, o puella, et motus animæ meæ recta ac felici tramite dirige, o Virgo, ad Dei voluntatem faciendam.

Salve, o unica Genitrix illius qui carnem emendicavit. Salve collapsi mundi erectio, o immaculatissima: salve, mœroris dissolutio; salve, salus fidelium; salve, throne Dei altissime.

Mente revolventes divineloqui Prophetæ mysterii tui profunditatem, o Virgo, prophetice prænunciaverunt illud divino Spiritu illustrati. Nos vero cum illorum vaticinia opere completa nunc læti intueamur, credimus.

O Puella omnibus miraculis admirabilior; illum genuisti qui est ante omnia sæcula, nobis similem factum propter summam misericordiam suam, ut salvos faceret eos qui canunt: Benedictus es Deus Patrum nostrorum.

Divinis verbis tuis hominum generationes inhærentes, beatam te dicunt, o semper beatissima, suaviter concinentes: Benedicite omnia opera Dominum.

O Virgo bonorum amatrix, bonam effice animam meam, peccati malitia depravatam: tu enim bonum Deum ac Dominum peperisti.

Horrescunt Cherubim atque universa cœlestis natura ob reverentiam venerandæ Prolis tuæ incomprehensibilis, o immaculatissima, quæ similis facta est nobis propterineffabilem misericordiam suam, et secundum carnem baptizata est, cujus divinam Apparitionem nunc omnes exsultantes celebramus.
The one only God of all, wishing to unite the inferior creation with the superior and heavenly, entered the womb of the Virgin; ,and when he had appeared in the likeness of the flesh, he established peace between God and man, having taken away the wall of enmity that had stood between them; he also bestowed on us life and divine redemption,

Thou, O most holy Mary! didst remain a pure Virgin after thy delivery; for thou didst give birth to God the Word, made like unto us in all save sin.

Heal the wounds of my heart, O Virgin! and direct the movements of my soul in a bright and happy path, so that I may fulfil God’s will.

Hail, incomparable Mother of Him who deigned to take our flesh! Hail. O most Immaculate Mary, that didst bring the fallen world its resurrection! Hail, thou dispeller of sorrow! Hail, thou that givest the faithful their Saviour! Hail, most high throne of God!

The divinely-speaking Prophets, revolving in their minds the depth of thy mystery, O Virgin! prophetically foretold it, for they were enlightened by the divine Spirit. We that now joyfully behold their prophecies fulfilled, we believe.

O Virgin! thou that art more admirable than all miracles! thou didst give birth to Him who was before all ages, and who was made like unto us through his great mercy, for he came that he might save them that sing: Blessed art thou, the God of our Fathers!

All generations of men, keeping to thy most sacred words, call thee Blessed, O most Blessed Mother! and sweetly sing in choral hymns: All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord!

O Virgin, that lovest holy souls! make mine holy, for it is depraved by the evil of sin: make it good, for thou hast given birth to the good God and Lord,

The Cherubim and the whole heavenly kingdom tremble in reverence before the incomprehensible majesty of thy Son, O most Immaculate Mother! He was made like unto us, through his ineffable mercy, and was baptized according to the flesh: and now do we all exultingly celebrate his divine Apparition.

[1] Gen. xxxii 28.

[2] Heb. xi 13.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE great Mystery of the Alliance of the Son of God with the universal Church, which is represented in the Epiphany by the Magi, was looked forward to by the world in every age previous to the coming of our Emmanuel. The Patriarchs and Prophets had propagated the tradition; and the Gentile world gave frequent proofs that the tradition prevailed even with them.

When Adam in Eden first beheld her whom God had formed from one of his ribs, and whom he called Eve, because she was the Mother of all the living.[1] he exclaimed: 'This is the bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh.'[2] In uttering these words, the soul of our first Parent was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and, as we are told by the most profound interpreters of the Sacred Scriptures (such as Tertullian, St Augustine, St Jerome, etc.), he foretold the alliance of the Son of God with his Church, which issued from his Side, when opened by the spear, on the Cross; for the love of which Spouse he left the right hand of his Father, and the heavenly Jerusalem, his mother, that he might dwell with us in this our earthly abode.

The second father of the human race, Noe, after he had seen the Rainbow in the heavens, announcing that now God’s anger was appeased, prophesied to his three Sons their own respective future, and in theirs, that of the world. Cham had drawn upon himself his father’s curse; Sem seemed to be the favoured son, for from his race there should come the Saviour of the world; but, the Patriarch immediately adds: 'May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Sem.'[3] In the course of time, the ancient alliance that had been made between God and the people of Israel was broken; the Semitic race fluctuated in its religion, and finally fell into infidelity; and at length God adopts the family of Japheth, that is, the Gentiles of the West, as his own people; for ages, they had been without God, and now the very Seat of religion is established in their midst, and they are put at the head of the whole human race.

Later on it is the great God himself that speaks to Abraham, promising him that he shall be the father of a countless family. ‘I will bless thee,' says the Lord, 'and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven.'[4] As the Apostle tells us, more numerous was to be the family of Abraham according to the faith than that which should be born to him of Sara. All they that have received the faith of a Mediator to come, and all they that, being warned by the Star, have come to Jesus as their God—all are the children of Abraham.

The Mystery is again expressed in Rebecca, the wife of Isaac. She feels that there are two children struggling within her womb;[5] and this is the answer she received from God, when she consulted him: ‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb; and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.'[6] Now, who is this ‘younger’ child that overcomes the elder, but the Gentiles, who struggle with Juda for the light, and who, though but the child of the promise, supplants him who was son according to the flesh? Such is the teaching of St Leo and St Augustine.

Next it is Jacob, who, when dying, calls his twelve sons, the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel, around his bed, and prophetically assigns to each of them the career they were to run. Juda is put before the rest; he is to be the king of his brethren, and from his royal race shall come the Messias. But the prophecy concludes with the prediction of Israel's humiliation, which humiliation is to be the glory of the rest of the human race. 'The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a Ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the Expectation of the Nations.'[7]

When Israel had gone out of Egypt, and was in possession of the Promised Land, Balaam cried out, setting his face towards the desert where Israel was encamped: 'I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not near. A Star shall rise out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel. . . . Who shall live when God shall do these things? They shall come in galleys from Italy; they shall overcome the Assyrians, and shall waste the Hebrews, and at the last they themselves also shall perish.'[8] And what kingdom shall succeed this? The kingdom of Christ, who is the Star, and the King that shall rule for ever.

David has this great day continually before his mind. He is for ever celebrating, in his Psalms, the Kingship of his Son according to the flesh: he shows him to us as bearing the Sceptre, girt with the Sword, anointed by God his Father, and extending his kingdom from sea to sea: he tells us how the Kings of Tharsis and the Istlands, the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba, and the Princes of Ethiopia, shall prostrate at his feet and adore him: he mentions their gifts of gold.[9]

In his mysterious Canticle of Canticles, Solomon describes the joy of the spiritual union between the divine Spouse and his Church, and that Church is not the Synagogue. Christ invites her, in words of tenderest love, to come and be crowned; and she, to whom he addresses these words, is dwelling beyond the confines of the land where lives the people of God. 'Come from Libanus, my Spouse, come from Libanus, come! Thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards.’[10] This daughter of Pharaoh confesses her unworthiness: I am black, she says; but, she immediately adds that she has been made beautiful by the grace of her Spouse.[11]

The Prophet Osee follows with his inspired prediction: 'And it shall be in that day, saith the Lord, that she shall call me My Husband, and she shall call me no more Baali. And I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and she shall no more remember their name. . . . And I will espouse thee to me for ever. . . . And I will sow her unto me in the earth, and I will have mercy on her that was without mercy. And I will say to that which was not my people: Thou art my people:and they shall say: Thou art my God.'[12]

The elder Tobias, whilst captive in Babylon, prophesies the same alliance. The Jerusalem which was to receive the Jews after their deliverance by Cyrus, is not the City of which he speaks in such glowing terms; it is a new and richer and lovelier Jerusalem. 'Jerusalem! City of God! bless the God eternal, that he may rebuild his tabernacle in thee, and may call back all the captives to thee. Thou shalt shine with a glorious light. Nations from afar shall come to thee, and shall bring gifts, and shall esteem thy land as holy. For they shall call upon the great Name in thee. . . . All that fear God shall return thither. And the Gentiles shall leave their idols, and shall come into Jerusalem, and shall dwell in it. And all the kings of the earth shall rejoice in it, adoring the King of Israel.'[13]

It is true, the Gentiles shall be severely chastised by God on account of their crimes; but that justice is for no other end than to prepare those very Gentiles for an eternal alliance with the great Jehovah. He thus speaks by his Prophet Sophonias: 'My judgement is to assemble the Gentiles, and to gather the kingdoms: and to pour upon them my indignation, all my fierce anger: for with the fire of my jealousy shall all the earth be devoured. Because then I will restore to the people a chosen lip, that all may call upon the name of the Lord, and may serve him with one shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall my suppliants, the children of my dispersed people, bring me an offering.'[14]

He promises the same mercy by his Prophet Ezechiel: ‘One King shall be over all, and they shall no more be two nations, neither shall they be divided any more into two kingdoms. Nor shall they be defiled any more with their idols: and I will save them out of all the places in which they have sinned. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And they shall have One Shepherd. And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will establish them, and will multiply them, and will set my Sanctuary in the midst of them for ever.'[15]

After the prophet Daniel has described the three great Kingdoms which were successively to pass away, he says there shall be a Kingdom 'which is an everlasting Kingdom, and all kings shall serve him' (the King) 'and shall obey him.' He had previously said: ‘The power' (that was to be given to the Son of man) ‘is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away; and his Kingdom shall not be destroyed.'[16]

Aggeus thus foretells the great events which were to happen before the coming of the One Shepherd, and the establishment of that everlasting Sanctuary which was to be set up in the very midst of the Gentiles: ‘Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations, and the Desired of all nations shall come.'[17]

But we should have to cite all the Prophets in order to describe in all its grandeur the glorious spectacle promised by God to the world, when, being mindful of the Gentiles, he should lead them to the feet of Jesus. The Church has quoted the Prophet Isaias in the Epistle of the Feast, and no Prophet is so explicit and so sublime as this son of Amos.

The expression of the same universal expectation and desire is found also among the Gentiles. The Sibyls kept up the hope in the heart of the people; and in Rome itself we find the Poet Virgil repeating in one of his poems the oracles they had pronounced. ‘The last age,' says he, ‘foretold by the Cumean Sibyl, is at hand; a new and glorious era is coming: a new race is being sent down to earth from heaven. At the birth of this Child, the iron age will cease, and one of gold will rise upon the whole world.... No remnants of our crimes will be left, and their removal will free the earth from its neverending fear.'[18]

If we are unwilling to accept, as did St Augustine and so many other holy Fathers, these Sibylline oracles as the expression of the ancient traditions—we have pagan philosophers and historians, such as Cicero, Tacitus, and Suetonius, testifying that in their times the world was in expectation of a Deliverer; that this Deliverer would come, not only from the East, but from Judea; and that a Kingdom was on the point of being established which would include the entire world.

O Jesus, our Emmanuel! this universal expectation was that of the holy Magi, to whom thou didst send the star. No sooner do they receive the signal of thy having come, than they set out in search of thee, asking, 'Where is he born, that is King of the Jews?' The oracles of thy Prophets were verified in them; but if they received the first-fruits of the great promise, we possess it in all its fulness. The Alliance is made, and our souls, for love of which thou didst come down from heaven, are thine. The Church is come forth from thy divine side, with the Blood and Water; and all that thou dost for this thy chosen Spouse, thou accomplishest in each of her faithful children. We are the sons of Japheth, and we have supplanted the race of Sem, which refused us the entrance of its tents; the birthright which belonged to Juda has been transferred to us. Each age do our numbers increase, for we are to become numerous as the stars of heaven. We are no longer in the anxious period of expectation; the star has risen, and the Kingdom it predicted will now for ever protect and bless us. The Kings of Tharsis and the Islands, the Kings of Arabia and Saba, the Princes of Ethiopia, are come, bringing their gifts with them; all generations have followed them. The Spouse has received all her honours, and has long since forgotten Amana, and Sanir, and Hermon, where she once dwelt in the mdist of wild beasts; she is not black, she is beautiful, with neither spot nor wrinkle upon her, but in every way is worthy of her divine Lord. Baal is forgotten for ever, and she lovingly speaks the language given her by her God. The One Shepherd feeds the one flock. The last Kingdom, the Kingdom which is to continue for ever, is faithfully fulfilling its glorious destiny.

It is thou, O Divine Infant! that bringest us all these graces, and receivest all this devoted homage of thy creatures. The time will soon come, dear Jesus! when thou wilt break the silence thou hast imposed on thyself in order that thou mightest teach us humility—thou wilt speak to us as our Master. Cæsar Augustus has long ruled over Pagan Rome, and she thinks herself the kingdom that is to have no end; but she and her Rulers must yield to the Eternal King and his eternal City: the throne of earthly power must now give place for the Throne of Christian charity, and a new Rome is to spring up, grander than the first. The Gentiles are looking for thee, their King; but the day will come when they will have no need to seek thee, but thou, in thy mercy, wilt go in search of them, by sending them apostles and missioners who will preach thy Gospel to them. Show thyself to them as he to whom all power has been given in heaven and on earth; and show them also Her whom thou hast made to be Queen of the universe. May this august Mother of thine be raised up from the poor Stable of Bethlehem, and from the humble dwelling of Nazareth, and be taken on the wings of Angels to that throne of mercy which thou hast made for her, and from which she will bless all peoples and generations with her loving protection.

We will now borrow some of those Canticles wherewith the several Churches were formerly wont to celebrate the Epiphany. Prudentius, the Prince of our Latin liturgical Poets, thus sings the Magi's journey to Bethlehem.


En Persici ex orbis sinu,
Sol unde sumit januam,
Cernunt periti interpretes
Regale vexillum Magi.

Quod ut refulsit, cæteri
Cessere signorum globi:
Nec pulcher est ausus suam
Conferre formam Lucifer.

Quis iste tantus, inquiunt,
Regnator, astris imperans;
Quem sic tremunt cœlestia,
Cui lux, et æthra inserviunt?

Illustre quiddam cernimus,
Quod nesciat finem pati:
Sublime, celsum, interminum,
Antiquius cœlo, et chao.

Hic ille Rex est Gentium,
Populique Rex Judaici,
Promissus Abrahæ Patri,
Ejusque in ævum semini.

Æquanda nam stellis sua
Cognovit olim germina
Primus sapor credential,
Nati isolator unici.

Jam flos subit Davidicus,
Radice Jesse editus:
Sceptrique per virgam virens,
Rerum cacumen occupat.

Exin sequuntur perciti
Fixis in altum vultibus,
Qua stella sulcum traxerat,
Claramque signabat viam.

Sed verticem pueri supra
Signum pependit imminens,
Pronaque submissum face
Caput sacratum prodidit.

Videre quod postquam Magi,
Eoa promunt munera,
Stratique votis offerunt
Thus, myrrham, et aurum regium.

Agnosce clara insignia
Virtutis, ac regni tui,
Puer o, cui trinam
Pater Prædestinavit indolem.

Regem Deumque annuntiant
Thesaurus et fragrans odor
Thuris Sabæi: ac myrrheus
Pulvis sepulcrum prædocet.

Hoc est sepulcrum, quo Deus,
Dum corpus exstingui sinit,
Atque id sepulcrum suscitat,
Mortis refregit carcerem.
Lo! in the heart of Persia’s world,
where opens first the gate unto the rising sun,
the Magi, most wise interpreters,
perceive the standard of the King.

It shone, and the other stars of heaven
put out their lights:
not even would the lovely
DayStar show his face.

'Who, ‘say they, 'is this great King,
who commands the stars?
at whose presence the heavens tremble,
and light and air do his bidding?

‘The sign we see tells us of that great Being,
who is eternal and infinite
—the most, high, exalted, boundless One,
who existed before heaven and earth were made.

‘This is he that is King of the Gentiles,
and King of the Jews:
he was promised to our Father Abraham,
and to his seed for ever.

‘For Abraham, the first parent of believers,
and the sacrificer of his only Son,
was told that his race should become numerous
as the stars of heaven.

‘At length the Flower of David is come,
springing from Jesse's root:
blooming by his sceptre's rod,
he now rules over the universe.’

Then quickly do they follow,
with their gaze fixed aloft,
and the Star sails through the air,
pointing the bright path to be pursued.

But when the Star had reached the point
direct above the Child’s head,
it hovered there: then stooping down its torch,
it showed the sacred face they sought.

The Magi looked upon the Babe,
then opening their eastern treasures,
prostrate, and offer him the votive homage
of incense, myrrh, and kingly gold.

These, dear Babe, are the rich tokens
of thy power and kingdom,
for they mark the triple character
which thy Father would have us recognize.

The Gold proclaims him King;
the sweet-smelling Saba Incense declares him to be God;
and the Myrrh signifies that he is Man,
for it is the symbol of his future tomb;

That Tomb, whereby God
broke open the prison of Death,
after he had permitted his sacred Body to suffer death,
and the Tomb had raised it up again to life.

We find in the Sacramentary of the ancient Gallican Church the following beautiful prayer.


Deus qui dives es in omnibus misericordia, Pater gloriæ, qui posuisti Filium tuum lumen in nationibus, prædicare captivis redemptionem, cæcis visum, remissionem peccatorum, et sortem inter sanctos per fidem, qui es in Christo largus miserator indulge. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who in all thy works art rich in mercy! Father of glory! who didst set thy Son as a light to the Gentiles, that he might preach redemption to captives, and give sight to the blind; O thou that art through Christ plenteous in thy mercy! grant us the remission of our sins, and fellowship through faith with the Saints. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us celebrate the mystery of the Birth of Jesus and his alliance with mankind, by this Sequence taken from the ancient Roman-French Missals.


Ecce jam votiva festa recurrunt annua.
Addat se vox nostra ad Angelorum carmina.
Christus hac ut sponsus materna die processit clausula.
Exsultans ut gigas ad hujus vitæ currendas semitas.
Angelica gloriam reboant in excelsis agmina.
Pax in terra homines te~ neat, cum benevolentia.
Jam se replicat sæculi series maxima: venit etiam vatis Cumææ veridica jam ætas carminis ultima.
Virgo remeat sæcla revehens altera: adsunt tempora quo gens ferrea jam desinat, et mundo pullulet aurea.
Adauctus solis jubar die pluscula menses producere inchoat.
Nocturnas stella fugat, Magos excitat, Balaamitica tenebras.
Impleta, quæ prædixerat plebs utraque, et Gentilitas et Hebræa, oracula, Christo nascente, sunt omnia.
Sunt cuncta jam nunc scelerum recidiva et recentia et antiqua vestigia, quæque remanserant irrita.
O mira atque nova genitural fit gravida Virgo fideliter credula.
Et porta, quæ fuerat semper clausa, est reserata, Naturam dum hominis induit Deitas.
Conserva hæc, quæsumus, Christe, nobis munera tanta, a te prærogata. Amen.
Lo! the year has brought us once again the much loved Feasts.
Let our voices unite in the hymns of the Angels.
On this day, Christ, as a Bridegroom, came from his Mother’s womb.
He hath rejoiced to run, as a giant, the way of this our life.
The Angelic host make earth re-echo with their song: Glory in the highest!
Peace on earth to men of good will!
Now begins the most glorious of the eras of time; now too has come that truthful last age of the Cumæan Sibyl’s song.
Let the Virgin come, bringing new times to the world. The day is at hand for the iron age to cease, and the golden one to spring up on the earth.
The bright sun begins to lengthen out our days and months.
Balaam’s Star wakens up the Magi, and puts to flight the night’s dark gloom.
Christ is born:—all the prophecies are fulfilled which were fore-spoken by the two people, the Gentiles and the Jews.
The vestiges of crime, both new and old, are now all wiped away and destroyed.
O wonderful and unheardof Mother! A Virgin faithfully believes, and the Fruit is in her womb.
The gate, which was ever closed, is opened to the Lord, When he, the great God, assumed the nature of man.
Grant us, O Jesus! ever to hold fast these wondrous gifts, which thou hast bestowed upon us. Amen.


Venere agrorum cultores, et vitæ sospitatorem suæ venerati sunt, lætique talia prophetabant: Ave, designatus nostrorum cultor agrorum, tu cordium nostrorum arva coles, et frumenta inde collecta in horreum vitæ congregabis.

Secuti sunt vinitores, vineamque laudarunt ex radice ramisque Jesse propagatam, quæ virginem botrum ex veneranda vite protulit, nos, quæso, refingito in vasa digna vino tuo novo innovante omnia; statum vineæ tuæ restitue, quæso; nil illa præter siliquas hucusque protulit; tuos jam insere vitibus surculos.

Ad filium Joseph propter Joseph venere fabri. Beatum natalem tuum auguramur, aiebant, artificum Princeps, qui Noeticam arcam delineasti; atque tabernaculum architectatus es illud extemporaneum, et ad tempus duraturum; nostra te laudant opificia: esto, precamur, tu gloria nostra, jugumfabricare, futurum gestaturi, leve et suave onus.

Simili instinctu salutavere natum infantem novi conjuges, ut dicerent: Salve puer, cujus mater sponsa Sancti facta est. Beatas nuptias, quibus inter futurus es, beatos sponsos, quibus, cum vinum defuerit, tuo repente nutu, illud affluere cernent.

Clamavere simul parvuli: O nos beatos, quibus contigit habere te fratrem, et in foris sodalem: felicem diem, felices pueros, quibus continget laudare te arborem vitæ, qui celsitudinem tuam ad nostram ætatulam demisisti.

Rumor pervaserat aures feminarum, fore ut virgo aliquando pareret; injecta est cuilibet illarum hujusmodi partus spes; speravere nobiles, speravere formosæ tuas se fore matres. Tibi, Altissime, benedicimus, quod pauperem matrem elegeris.

Prophetavere etiam puellæ, quibus obtigit ad ilium deferri, dicentes: Seu deformis sim, seu formosa sim, seu humilis sim, tibi ero, adhærebo tibi: mortales thalamituo numquam mihi erunt potiores.
There came the husbandmen of Bethlehem, and they paid homage to him who was the protector of their life, and thus, in their joy, did they prophesy: 'Hail! thou the appointed cultivator of our lands! Thou shalt till the soil of our hearts, and thou shalt put into the garnerhouse of life the harvests they yield.'

The vine-dressers came next. They spoke the praises of the Vine grown from the root and branch of Jesse, that bore, from its venerable stock, the virginal Fruit. 'We beseech thee,' said they, 'reform us into vessels worthy of thy new Wine, which maketh all things new. Restore thy vineyard to its former state. Hitherto, it has produced nought but wild grapes. Ingraft thine own scions on our vines.'

Then, because Joseph was a Carpenter, Carpenters approach to this his Son. ‘We greet thy happy birth,' say they: ‘ we hail thee as our Prince, for thou it was didst plan the Ark of Noe. Thou wast Architect of that tabernacle so soon built, and to last but for a time. Our works praise thee. We beseech thee, be thou our glory, and make for us that yoke of thine, which we intend to carry; for it is a light yoke, and a sweet burden.'

A like instinct brought the newly married to the new-born Babe: they saluted him, and said: 'Hail, Child! whose Mother is the Spouse of the Holy One! O blessed nuptials those, where thou art to be present! O blessed Spouses they, who shall see the Wine that had failed flow out abundantly at thy bidding!’

Little Children, too, cried out: 'O happy we, to whom it has been given to have thee for our Brother and our Companion! Happy day! and happy children who, on that day, shall be permitted to praise thee, the tree of life, who hast humbled thy immensity to the littleness of our infant age!’

The report of the prophecy that a Virgin would one day bring forth a Child, came to the women’s ears; and each one hoped that this privilege would fall to their lot. ‘Noblewomen, and beautiful women, hoped that they might be thy mother. We bless thee, O Most High God, that thou choosest for thy Mother one that was poor.'

Young Maidens, too, were presented to Jesus, and they prophesied, saying: 'I may be uncomely, or I may be beautiful, or I may be poor: but thine will I be, and to thee will I cling. I will prefer espousals with thee to those I could contract with mortal man.'

Let us, in honour of the Blessed Mother, sing this sweet Hymn used by some Churches in the Middle Ages.


Verbum bonum et suave,
Personemus illudi Ave
Per quod Christi fit conclave
Virgo, mater, filia.

Per quod Ave salutata
Mox concepit fœcundata
Virgo David stirpe nata,
Inter spinas lilia.

Ave, veri Salomonis
Mater, vellus Gedeonis,
Cujus Magis tribus donis
Laudant puerperium.

Ave, solem genuisti;
Ave, solem protulisti,
Mundo lapso contulisti
Vitam et imperium.

Ave, sponsa Verbi summi,
Maris portus, signum dumi,
Aromatum virga fumi,
Angelorum Domina.

Supplicamus: nos emenda,
Emendatos nos commenda
Tuo Nato, ad habenda
Sempiterna gaudia.

Let us sing that word, so good and sweet:
Ave—Hail! It was by that salutation
that the Virgin was made the sanctuary of Christ
—the Virgin, who was both his Mother and his Child.

Greeted by that Hail,
the Virgin, born of the family of David,
conceived the Divine Fruit in her womb
—She that was the Lily amidst the thorns.

Hail! thou Mother of the true Solomon,
thou Fleece of Gedeon!
The Magi, by their three gifts,
praise thy delivery.

Hail! thou hast given birth to the Sun!
Hail! thou hast given us to see the Sun,
and thereby hast restored life
and power to this fallen world.

Hail! thou Spouse of the Divine Word!
Haven of the sea! Burning Bush!
Cloud of sweet aromatic spices!
Queen of Angels!

We beseech thee, convert us;
and commend us, so converted,
to thy Son, that he bestow upon us
the eternal joys of heaven.


[1] Gen. iii 20.
[2] Ibid. ii 23, 24.
[3] Gen. ix 27.
[4] Ibid. xxii 17.
[5] Ibid. xxv 22.
[6] Ibid. xxv 23.
[7] Gen. xlix 10.
[8] Num. xxiv 17, 23, 24.
[9] Ps. lxxi.
[10] Cant. iv 8.
[11] Ibid. i 4.
[12] Osee ii 16 et seq.
[13] Tob. xiii, xiv.
[14] Soph. iii. 8, 9, 10.
[15] Ezech. xxxvii 22 et seq.
[16] Dan. vii 27.
[17] Agg. ii 7, 8.
[18] Eclog. iv.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE star foretold by Balaam having risen in the East, the three Magi, whose hearts were full of the expectation of the promised Redeemer, are immediately inflamed with the desire of going in search of him. The announcement of the glad coming of the King of the Jews is made to these holy Kings in a mysterious and silent manner; and hereby it differs from that made to the Shepherds of Bethlehem, who were invited to Jesus’s Crib by the voice of an Angel. But the mute language of the star was explained to them by God himself, for he revealed his Son to them; and this made their Vocation superior in dignity to that of the Jewish Shepherds, who, according to the dispensation of the Old Law, could know nothing save by the ministry of Angels.

The divine grace which spoke, directly and by itself, to the souls of the Magi, met with a faithful and unhesitating correspondence. St Luke says of the Shepherds, that they came with haste to Bethlehem;[1] and the Magi show their simple and fervent eagerness by the words they addressed to Herod: We have seen his star in the East, they say, and we are come to adore him.[2]

When Abraham received the command from God to go out of the land of Chaldea, which was the land of his fathers and kindred, and go into a strange country, he obeyed with such faithful promptitude as to merit being made the Father of all them that believe.[3] so, likewise, the Magi, by reason of their equally docile and admirable faith, have been judged worthy to be called the Fathers of the Gentile Church.

They too, or at least one or more of them, went out from Chaldea, if we are to believe St Justin and Tertullian. Several of the Fathers, among whom are the two just mentioned, assert that one, if not two, of these holy Kings was from Arabia. A popular tradition, now for centuries admitted into Christian Art, tells us that one of the three was from Ethiopia; and certainly, as regards this last opinion, we have David and other Prophets telling us that the coloured inhabitants of the banks of the Nile were to be objects of God's special mercy.

The term Magi implies that they gave themselves to the study of the heavenly bodies, and that, too, for the special intention of finding that glorious star whose rising had been prophesied. They were of the number of those Gentiles who, like the centurion Cornelius, feared God, had not been defiled by the worship of idols, and maintained, in spite of all the ignorance which surrounded them, the sacred traditions of the religion that was practised by Abraham and the Patriarchs.

The Gospel does not say that they were Kings, but the Church applies to them those verses of the Psalm, where David speaks of the Kings of Arabia and Saba, that should hereafter come to the Messias bringing their offerings of gold. The tradition of their being Kings rests on the testimony of St Hilary of Poitiers, of St Jerome, of the poet Juvencus, of St Leo, and several others; and it would be impossible to controvert it by any well-grounded arguments. Of course, we are not to suppose them to have been Monarchs, whose kingdoms were as great as those of the Roman Empire; but we know that the Scripture frequently applies this name of King to petty princes, and even to mere governors of provinces. The Magi, therefore, would be called Kings if they exercised authority over a considerable number of people; and that they were persons of great importance, we have a strong proof in the consideration and attention showed them by Herod, into whose palace they enter, telling him that they are come to pay their homage to the new-born King of the Jews. The city of Jerusalem is thrown into a state of excitement by their arrival, which would scarce have occurred had not the three strangers, who came for a purpose which few heeded, been attended by a numerous retinue, or had they not attracted attention by their imposing appearance.

These Kings, then, docile to the divine inspiration, suddenly leave their country, their riches, their quiet, in order to follow a star: the power of that God, who had called them, unites them in the same path, as they were already one in faith. The star goes on before them, marking out the route they were to follow: the dangers of such a journey, the fatigues of a pilgrimage which might last for weeks or months, the fear of awakening suspicions in the Roman Empire towards which they were evidently tending—all this was nothing to them; they were told to go, and they went.

Their first stay is at Jerusalem, for the star halts there. They, Gentiles, come into this Holy City, which is soon to have God's curse upon it, and they come to announce that Jesus Christ is come! With all the simple courage and all the calm conviction of Apostles and Martyrs, they declare their firm resolution of going to him and adoring him. Their earnest inquiries constrain Israel, who was the guardian of the divine prophecies, to confess one of the chief marks of the Messias—his Birth in Bethlehem. The Jewish Priesthood fulfils, though with a sinful ignorance, its sacred ministry, and Herod sits restlessly on his throne, plotting murder. The Magi leave the faithless City, which has turned the presence of the Magi into a mark of its own reprobation. The Star reappears in the heavens, and invites them to resume their journey. Yet a few hours, and they will be at Bethlehem, at the feet of the King of whom they are in search.

O dear Jesus! we also are following thee; we are walking in thy light, for thou hast said, in the Prophecy of thy beloved Disciple: I am the bright and morning Star.[4] The meteor that guides the Magi is but thy symbol, O divine Star! Thou art the morning Star; for thy Birth proclaims that the darkness of error and sin is at an end. Thou art the morning Star; for, after submitting to death and the tomb, thou wilt suddenly arise from that night of humiliation to the bright morning of thy glorious Resurrection. Thou art the morning Star; for by thy Birth and the Mysteries which are to follow, thou announcest unto us the cloudless day of eternity. May thy light ever beam upon us! May we, like the Magi, be obedient to its guidance, and ready to leave all things in order to follow it! We were sitting in darkness when thou didst call us to thy grace, by making this thy light shine upon us. We were fond of our darkness, and thou gavest us a love for the Light! Dear Jesus! keep up this love within us. Let not sin, which is darkness, ever approach us. Preserve us from the delusion of a false conscience. Avert from us that blindness into which fell the City of Jerusalem and her king, and which prevented them from seeing the Star. May thy Star guide us through life, and bring us to thee, our King, our Peace, our Love!

We salute thee, too, O Mary, thou Star of the Sea that shinest on the waters of this life, giving calm and protection to thy tempest-tossed children who invoke thee! Thou didst pray for the Magi as they traversed the desert; guide also our steps, and bring us to Him who is thy Child and thy Light eternal.

Let us close this day with the expressions of divine praise offered us by the ancient Liturgies. Let us begin with the continuation of the Hymn of Prudentius, on the vocation of the Gentiles. The following are the concluding stanzas.


O sola magnarum urbium
Major Bethlem: cui contigit
Ducem salutis cœlitus
Incorporatum gignere.

Altrice te, summo Patri
Hæres creatur unicus.
Homo ex Tonantis Spiritu,
Idemque sub membris Deus.

Hunc et Prophetis testibus,
Iisdemque signatoribus,
Testator et Sator jubet
Adire regnum, et cernere.

Regnum, quod ambit omnia,
Dia, et marina, et terrea,
A solis ortu ad exitum,
Et tartara, et cœlum supra.

Hic Rex priorum judicum,
Rexere qui Jacob genus,
Dominæque Rex ecclesiæ,
Templi et novelli et pristini.

Hunc posteri Ephraim colunt,
Hunc sancta Manasse domus,
Omnesque suscipiunt tribus,
Bissena fratrum semina.

Quin et propago degener,
Ritum secuta inconditum,
Quæcumque dirum fervidis
Baal caminis coxerat:

Fumosa avorum numina,
Saxum, metallum, stipitem,
Rasum, dolatum, sectile,
In Christi honorem deserit.

Gaudete quidquid gentium est,
Judæa, Roma et Græcia,
Ægypte, Thrax, Persa, Scytha,
Rex unus omnes possidet.

Laudate vestrum Principem,
Omnes beati ac perditi,
Vivi, imbecilli, ac mortui:
Jam nemo posthac mortuus.
O Bethlehem! greater than the greatest of cities!
'Twas thy happy lot to give birth
to the Prince of our salvation,
who had become incarnate by the heavenly mystery.

'Twas thou didst nurse him who is the Only-Begotten Son
and Heir of the eternal Father;
he was made Man by the power of the Spirit of the God who darts the thunderbolts;
and this same Jesus is God under human flesh.

His eternal Father, who bears witness to him,
bids him enter on his kingdom and inherit it.
The Prophets, who are his witnesses and vouchers,
were the proclaimers of the Father’s will.

This kingdom of Jesus includes all things
—the firmament, the sea, the earth
from where the sun rises to where he sets,
and hell and heaven.

He is the King of those ancient judges
who ruled the race of Jacob:
he is the King of the Church, the Mistress of the earth:
he is King of both temples, the new and old.

The children of Ephraim
and the holy family of Manasses worship him;
the tribes of the twelve Brethren,
sons of Jacob, also receive him as their God.

The degenerate race too,
which, observing the rites of idolatrous worship,
had framed in hot furnaces
the statue of the cruel Baal,

Now turns to worship Christ,
leaving for his sake the smokegrimed gods of their fathers,
stones and metals and stocks,
planed, hewn and chiselled by the hands of man.

Rejoice, all ye nations of the earth!
Judea, Rome and Greece,
Egypt, Thrace, Persia, Scythia!
Ye are now all under the one same King!

Praise your King,
O all ye people! just and sinners,
living, weak and dead, give him praise.
None must die henceforth!

The following beautiful prayer from the Mozarabic Missal will assist us to celebrate in a becoming manner the triple Mystery of the Epiphany.


Deus qui nobis ad relevandos istius vitæ labores, diversadonorumtuorum solatia et gaudia contulisti, quibus insignes annuis recursibus dies agimus, ut Ecclesiæ tuæ vota solemnia præsenti festivitate celebremus: unde et proxime Natalem Domini Salvatoris peregimus, qui nobis natus in tempore est, qui de te natus sine tempore, omnium sæculorum et temporum est antecessor et œ: deinde subsecutum diem Circumcisionis octavum, Unigeniti luce signatum, pari observantia recolentes, sacrificiis solemnibus honoravimus: nunc Epiphaniæ diem, revelante in homine divinitate, excolimus, diversa Domini nostri Jesu Christi Filii tui in hoc mundo suum adventum manifestantia insignia prædicantes, sive quod stellam ortus sui nunciam misit e cœlo, quam stupentibus Magis usque ad cunabula suæ carnalis infantiæ præviam fecit: sive quod aquas baptismate suo, ad omnium gentiumlavationem, Jordanis alveum sanctificaturus intravit: ubi ipsum esse Filium unigenitum dilectum, Spiritu, columbæ specie, advolante, monstrasti, et paterna insuper voce docuisti: sive quod primum in Cana Galilææ prodidit signum, cum in connubio nuptiali, aquas in vinum convertit, alto et admirabili Sacramento docens, quod a sæculis sponsæ sibi jungendus Ecclesiæ advenerat, ac in vinum prudentiæ spiritualis saporis fidem veritatis esse mutandum: itaque in his tribus mirabilium tuorum causis fide hodiernæ solemnitatis edita, Dominus noster Jesus Christus, Filius tuus, nihilominus tuæ virtutis operatio et nostræ salutis præparatio est. Propterea, Domine, secundum hæctria magna mirabilia,maneat in nobis gratiæ spiritualis integritas, sapiat in cordibus nostris vinum prudentiæ,fulgeatin operibus Stella justitiæ. Amen.
O God, who to lighten the labours of this present life hast conferred upon us the various consolations and joys of thy gifts which we commemorate in the yearly recurrence of the festivals: thou grantest us now, on this present solemnity, to unite in the mysteries celebrated by thy Church. Having kept, a few days past, the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour, who was born unto us in time and yet was born of thee from eternity, and preceded and created all ages and time; having, eight days after that, with like devotion and with the same solemn sacrifice, honoured the Circumcision, that feast resplendent with the light of thine Only Begotten Son; we now on this day worship the Epiphany, which revealed unto us the divinity of him who had assumed our Humanity. We proclaim those various manifestations, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son made known his having come into this world. We proclaim his having sent from the heavens that Star which announced his own rising, and by whose guidance he led the wondering Magi to the cradle where helay in his assumed Infant Flesh. We proclaim his sanctifying, unto the cleansing of all nations, the waters by his own Baptism, when he entered the bed of the Jordan, and where by thy Spirit hovering in the shape of a dove over him, thou didst show and by thy paternal voice didst declare that he was thy beloved Only-Begotten Son. We proclaim his first miracle wrought in Cana of Galilee, when, at the marriage-feast, he changed the water into wine, teaching us, by a sublime and admirable mystery, that he had come in order to be united to the Church, the Spouse he had, for ages, chosen to himself, and that the faith in the promises was henceforth to be changed into the wine of sweet spiritual wisdom. Thus it is, that in the three wonders which are the object of our faith on thisday’s solemnity, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, achieves both the operation of thy power, and the preparation of our salvation. Wherefore, we beseech thee, O Lord, grant us, agreeably to these three prodigies, that there may abide in us the soundness of spiritual grace, that our hearts may relish the wine of prudence, and that the star of justice may shine forth in our works. Amen.

The ancient Paris Missal of 1584 contains the following Sequence for one of the days during this Octave. It is full of unction.


Orto crucis sidere,
Quæramus summopere
Regem regum omnium.

Quæramus humiliter,
Non panditur aliter
Cordibus quærentium.

Jacet in præsepio.
Spreto regum solio,
Degens in penuria.

Formam dans quærentibus,
Calcatis terrestribus,
Amare cœlestia.

Herode postposito,
Magos cultu debito
Sequamur celeriter.

Stella duce cursitant
Ad Regem quem prædicant
Regnare perenniter.

Offeramus typice,
Quod illi magnifice
Tulerunt realiter.

Thus superno Numini,
Myrrham vero homini,
Aurum Regi pariter.

His donis, o lilium,
Placa nobis Filium
Repletum dulcedine.

Ut possimus libere
Secum semper vivere
Paradisi culmine.

The Star of the Cross has risen;
let us most earnestly seek
the King of kings.

Let us seek him in humility,
for it is to humble hearts alone
that he shows himself.

He lies in a crib,
for he scorns a regal couch,
and lives in poverty.

He thus teaches them that seek him
to despise the things of earth,
and love those of heaven.

Let us turn away from Herod,
and follow without delay, the Magi,
and pay our homage to Jesus.

They are led by the Star,
and hasten to the King, whom they proclaim
as the everlasting Ruler.

Let us mystically offer the gifts,
which they really offered him
so magnificently:

Let us offer Incense to Jesus, as our God;
our Myrrh to him, as Man;
our Gold to him, as King.

Do thou, O Mary, pure Lily!
pray for us to thy Son, who is full of sweetness,
that these our gifts may render him propitious;

That so, being freed from this world,
we may live with him for ever
in the heavenly land above.


We here insert a few stanzas from the exquisite Hymn composed by St Ephrem for the Syrian Church.


Quam mitis es Puer, quam vehemens judiciorum tuorum vis omnipotens, et ineluctabilis est, suavis et dulcis est amor tuus; quis tibi obsistet?

In sublimi habitat Pater tuus, tua Mater humi jacet; undenam tui notitiam quis capiat? Si quis terrenus homo tuam disquirat naturam ab humanis remotam sensibus, hæc supereminet cœlo in magnum divinitatis retrusa sinum.

Si rursus quispiam corpus cognoscere cupiat oculi expositum, en humi jacet, teque ab angusto Mariæ gremio præbet aspectabilem. Errat incertus animus, neque sibi constat mens tuas, o dives, rationes supputans.

Congeminatis seris clauditur tua divinitas; pelagus es tamen immensum, cedo, qui ejus fundum attingat, etiam postquam magnitudinem tuam ad nostram parvitatem deduxisti. Cum tuum conspectum petimus, hominem videmus, visuros nos Deum sperantes; si hominem videre velimus, inde statim in oculos incurrit hebetatque aciem coruscans divinitatis splendor.

Jam quis credat hæredem te esse Davidici throni, cui ex lauta ejus supellectile præsepe duntaxat relictum est, et ex amplissimis ædibus, spelunca, deque ejus equitatu vix vilem asellum cernere aliquando continget?

Attamen quam benignus es, puer, qui te omnibus indulges, et obviis quibusque arrides! talis nempe tuus amor est, qualem credibile est futurum fuisse ejus, quihomines desideraret, ut panem quilibet esuriens.

Parentes ab externis non discernís, nec genitricem ab ancillis, nec virginem te lactantem ab impuris prostitutæ pudicitiæ feminis. Quid? Num tui ingenii naturalis facilitas huc te demisit, an caritas, qui nihil od isti eorum quæ fecisti?

Quidistuc quod te movet, ut ad omnes descendas, ad locupletes ac tenues, et ad eos accurras etiam non vocatus? Unde tibi istud inditum, ut homines tantopere cupias?

Quæ hæc tua caritas est, ut si quis te objurgat, non succenseas, si minis terret, non trepides, si duriter tecum agit, frontem non contrahas? Tua nimirum caritas antecellit legem illorum, qui suas persequebantur injurias et vindicabant.
How gentle art thou, dear Babe! How mighty is the omnipotent and irresistible power of thy judgements I How sweet and amiable is thy love! Who can withstand thee?

Thy Father dwells in the high heavens; thy Mother stands on the lowly earth; who can understand thee? If the earthly man investigate thy nature, which surpasses the ken of mortals, it is found in the highest heavens, hid in the vast bosom of the divinity.

If, again, one wish to see thy Body made visible to the eye of man, lo! it lies upon the earth: it has issued from the narrow womb of Mary, and all may see it. The soul knows not what to think, and the mind grows bewildered in the calculation of thy ways, O Jesus! rich Lord and God!

Thy divinity is shut beneath a twofold barrier; yet art thou, and I confess it, an immeasurable ocean to him who attempts to fathom thee, even now that thou hast humbled thy greatness to our littleness. When we seek for a sight of thee, we see thee a Man, having hoped to see thee as the great God: and when we wish to look upon thee as Man, then straightway is our eye struck and dazzled by the bright splendour of thy Divinity.

And who would think thee to be the Heir of David’s throne? Instead of costly furniture, thou hast but a Crib: instead of the regal palaces, thou hast but a Cave: instead of the richly caparisoned steeds, there stands near thee one poor ass.

Yet, dear Babe, how lovely art thou! accessible to all, and meeting with thy smile all who come to thee! Thy love is verily the love of one who longeth after men, as a hungry man that longeth after bread.

Thou welcomest to thee, with a like affection, strangers and thy kindred, women and thy Mother, impure prostitutes and the Virgin that feeds thee at her Breast. And how is this? Is it the sweet condescension of thy heart, or is it the love wherewith thou lovest all things thou hast made, that has brought thee to this excess of affection?

What is it that induces thee to stoop thus towards all, rich and poor, and run even to them that ask thee not to come? Whence hast thou this inclination to love us men so much?

What charity is this, that if a man insult thee, thou art not indignant? or if he threaten thee, thou fearest not to go to him? or if he treat thee with cruelty, there is not a wrinkle on thy brow? Ah! thy charity is of another sort from theirs who persecute them that do them wrong and who seek revenge upon their enemies.

Let us honour the Virgin-Mother by addressing to her these stanzas of a Hymn composed by St Joseph the Hymnographer. It is in the Menæa of the Greek Church.

Die IV Januarii

Divinum Regis palatium honoremus, in quo quemadmodum ipse voluit, habitavit, innuptam ac solam Deiparam, per quam deificati sumus, collaudemus.

Casta ante partum, in partu, et post partum, vere, o Virgo mater, apparuisti: Deum enim peperisti, quem Apostolorum collegium manifeste prædicavit.

Beatissimus olim Prophetarum chorus sacris vaticiniis in Spiritu divinitus te, o castissima, Portam et Montem umbrosum nominavit.

Illumina, o Virgo, oculos cordis mei, effulge super me pœnitentiæ radio; a tenebris perennibus libera me; o Porta lucis, Refugium omnium christianorum te fideliter laudantium.

Laudo te, o sola digna omni laude; glorifico te, o semper a Deo glorificatissima; et beatifico te, o Virgo, divina beatitudine felicissima, quam generationes generationum beatam appellant.

Expiatorium facta es, o purissima, eorum qui assidue delinquunt, supra naturæ ordinem enixa Christum, qui tollit peccata mundi, ad quem clamamus; Dominus ac Deus patrum, benedictus es.

O miraculum, quod omnia miracula transcendit; quomodo paris et permanes virgo, o castissima sponsa Dei! nimirum Verbum Patri coæternum genuisti, cui omnes psallimus: Laudate omnia opera, et superexaltate Dominum in omnia sæcula.

Jubar fulgoris partus tui eflulsit, atque universum terrarum orbem lætissimo lumine perfudit, actenebrarum principem perdidit, o Dei Genitrix castissima, Angelorum gloriatio, atque omnium hominum salus, qui incessantibus vocibus te concelebrant.
Let us honour the divine Palace of the King, in which it was his will to dwell: the virgin and incomparable Mother of God: let us sing our praises to Her by whom we were raised up to God.

Thou, O truly Virgin-Mother, wast pure before thy delivery, and in thy delivery, and after thy delivery; for thou didst give birth to that God whom the Apostolic College made known to the world by their preaching.

The most blessed choir of the Prophets of old, divinely inspired by the Spirit, did, in their sacred prophecies, call thee, O most chaste one, the Gate and the Mountain o’ershadowed.

Enlighten, O Virgin! the eyes of my heart, and send within me the bright ray of compunction; deliver me from eternal darkness; O thou Gate of Light, and Refuge of all Christians faithfully praising thee.

I praise thee, the creature alone worthy of all praise; I glorify thee, O thou that hast ever been glorified by God; and I bless thee, O Virgin, thou most happy in a divine blessedness, who art called Blessed by all generations.

O most pure one! thou hast been made the propitiatory of them that sin often, for thou didst miraculously bring forth Christ, who taketh away the sins of the world, and to whom we cry: Blessed art thou, O Lord and God of our fathers!

O miracle that surpasseth all miracles! How is it, O most chaste Spouse of God, that thou bearest a Child, yet remainest a Virgin? Thou hast given birth to the Word, coeternal with the Father, to whom we all thus sing: Praise him, all ye his works, and magnify the Lord above all for ever.

The bright splendour of thy delivery has shone forth, and has shed a most joyful light over the whole earth, and has destroyed the prince of darkness, O most chaste Mother of God, thou joy of the Angels, and protectress of all who honour thee with their unceasing praises.

[1] St Luke ii 16.
[2] St Matt. ii 2.
[3] Rom. iv 11.
[4] Apoc. xxii 16.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Magi have reached Bethlehem; the humble dwelling of the King of the Jews has been thrown open to them; there, says St Matthew, they found the Child with Mary his Mother.[1] Falling down, they adore the divine King they have so fervently sought after, and for whom the whole earth has been longing.

Here we have the commencement of the Christian Church. In this humble stable we have the Son of God made Man, presiding as Head over his mystical body; Mary is present, as the co-operatrix in the world's salvation, and as the Mother of divine Grace; Juda is represented by this holy Queen and her Spouse St Joseph; the Gentiles are adoring, in the person of the Magi, whose faith is perfect now that they have seen the Child. It is not a Prophet that they are honouring, nor is it to an earthly King that they open their treasures; he before whom they prostrate in adoration is their God. ‘See, I pray you,’ says St Bernard, ‘and attentively consider how keen is the eye of faith. It recognizes the Son of God whether feeding at his Mother's breasts, or hanging on the Cross, or dying in the midst of suffering; for the Good Thief recognizes him on the Cross, and the Magi recognize him in the stable; he in spite of the nails which fasten him, and they in spite of the clouts which swathe him.’[2]

So that all is consummated, Bethlehem is not merely the birthplace of our Redeemer; it is the cradle of the Church. Well did the Prophet say of it: And thou, Bethlehem, art not the least among the princes of Juda.[3] We can understand St Jerome leaving all the ambitions and comforts of Rome to go and bury himself in the seclusion of this cave, where all these mysteries were accomplished. Who would not gladly live and die in this privileged place, sanctified as it is by the presence of our Jesus, embalmed with the fragrance of the Queen of Heaven, filled with the lingering echoes of the songs of Angels, and fresh, even yet, with the memory of those ancestors of our faith, the holy Magi!

These happy kings are not scandalized at the sight they behold on entering the humble dwelling. They are not disappointed at finding at the end of their long journey a weak Babe, a poor Mother, and a wretched stable. On the contrary, they rightly understand the mystery. Once believing in the promise that the Infinite God would visit his creature Man, and show him how he loved him, they are not surprised at seeing him humble himself, and take upon himself all our miseries that he might be like us in all save sin. Their own hearts told them that the wound inflicted on man by pride was too deep to be healed by anything short of an extreme remedy; so that to them these strange humiliations at Bethlehem bespeak the design and action of a God. Israel, too, is in expectation of the Messias, but he must be mighty and wealthy and exalted above all other kings in earthly glory; the Magi, on the contrary, see in the humility and poverty of this weak Babe of Bethlehem the indications of the true Messias. The grace of God has triumphed in these faithful men; they fall down before him, and, full of admiration and love, they adore him.

Who could describe the sweet conversations they held with his blessed Mother? for the King himself, of whom they were come in search, broke not, even for their sakes, the voluntary silence he had imposed on himself by becoming an Infant. He accepted their homage, he sweetly smiled upon them, he blessed them; but he would not speak to them; Mary alone was to satisfy, by her sublime communications, the holy curiosity of the three pilgrims, who represented the entire human race. How amply must she not have rewarded their faith and love, by announcing to them the Mystery of that virginal Birth which was to bring salvation to the world; by telling them of the joys of her own maternal heart; and by describing to them the sweet perfections of the divine Child! They themselves would fix their eyes on the blessed Mother, and listen to her every word with devout attention; and oh! how sweetly must not divine grace have penetrated their hearts through the words of her whom God himself has chosen as the means to lead men to the knowledge and the love of his sovereign Majesty! The star which, but an hour ago, had brightly shone for them in the heavens, was replaced by another, of a lovelier light and stronger influence; and it prepared them for the contemplation of that God who calls himself the bright and morning Star![4] The whole world seemed now a mere nothing in their eyes; the stable of Bethlehem held within it all the riches of heaven and earth. They had shared in that long expectation of the human race, the expectation of four thousand years—and now it seemed but as a moment, so full and perfect was their joy at having found the God who alone can satisfy the desires of man's heart.

They understood and entered into the merciful designs of their Emmanuel; they gratefully and humbly contracted with him the alliance he so mercifully made, through them, with the human race; they adored the just judgements of God, who was about to cast off an unbelieving people; they rejoiced at the glories of the Christian Church, which had thus been begun in their persons; they prayed for us, their posterity in that same Church.

We, dear Babe of Bethlehem!—we, the Gentiles, who by our regeneration have become the posterity of these first Christians—we adore thee as they did. Since their entrance into Bethlehem, long ages have passed away; but there has been an unbroken procession of people and nations tending towards thee under the guidance of the Star of Faith. We have been made members of thy Church, and we adore thee with the Magi. In one thing are we happier than these firstborn of the Church; we have heard thy sacred words and teachings, we have contemplated thy sufferings and thy Cross, we have been witnesses of thy Resurrection, we have heard the whole universe, from the rising to the setting of the sun, hymning thy blessed and glorious Name: well may we adore and love thee as King of the earth! The Sacrifice whereby all thy Mysteries are perpetuated and renewed is now offered up daily in every part of the world; the voice of thy Church is heard speaking to all men; and all this light and all these graces are ours! The Church, the ever-enduring Bethlehem, the House of the Bread of Life, gives thee to us; and we are for ever feasting on thy adorable beauty. Yea, sweet Jesus, we adore thee with the Magi.

And thou, O Mary! teach us as thou didst teach the Magi. Unfold to us, and each year more clearly, the sweet Mystery of thy Jesus, and at length win us over unreservedly to his service. Thou art our Mother; watch over us, and suffer us not to lose any of the lessons he teaches us. May Bethlehem, wherein we have entered in company with the holy Magi, work in us the renovation of our whole lives.

Let us close the day by reciting some of the ancient hymns written in honour of the Mystery of our new-born King. Let us begin with these stanzas of one composed by St Ambrose.


Fit porta Christi pervia,
Referta plena gratia,
Transitque Rex, et permanet
Clausa ut fuit per sæcula.

Genus superni Numinis
Processit aula Virginis,
Sponsus, Redemptor, conditor,
Suæ gigas Ecclesiæ.

Honor Matris et gaudium,
Immensa spes credentium,
Per atra mortis pocula
Resolvit nostra crimina.

Lapis de monte veniens,
Mundumque replens gratia,
Quem non præcisum manibus
Vates vetusti nuntiant.

Qui Verbum caro factus est
Præconio angelico,
De claustris virginalibus
Virginis virgo natus est.

Rorem dederunt æthera,
Nubesque justum fuderunt,
Patens excepit Dominum
Terra salutem generans.

Mirabilis conceptio:
Christum protulit sobolem,
Ut Virgo partum funderet,
Post partum virgo sisteret.

Exsulta omnis anima,
Nunc Redemptorem gentium
Mundi venisse Dominum
Redimere quos condidit.

Creator cuncti generis,
Orbis quem totus non capit,
In tua, sancta Genitrix,
Sese reclusit viscera.

Quem Pater ante tempora
Deus Deumque genuit,
Matris almæ virginitas
Cum tempore partum edidit.

Tollens cuncta facinora.
Et donans sancta munera,
Augmentum lucis afferens,
Tenebris damnum inferens.
The Gate of Christ is opened
—a Gate all filled with grace:
—the King passes, and the Gate remains
shut, as it had for ever been

The Son of the infinite God
came forth from the Virgin's womb:
he is the Spouse, Redeemer, Creator,
and (as the Psalm speaks) the Giant of his Church.

He is the glory and the joy of his Mother;
he is the immense hope of them that believe in him.
He drank the bitter cup of death,
and so absolved our sins.

He is the Stone that came from the mountain,
filling the world with grace.
The ancient prophets tell us that this Stone is to come,
and is not to be cut by the hand.

It is he, the Word, who was made Flesh
as the Angel was speaking;
He was born a Virgin
from the Virgin’s virginal womb.

The heavens gave forth their Dew,
and the clouds rained down the Just One;
the earth opens
and buds forth its Saviour, our Lord.

O wonderful conception!
the Child it has produced is Christ,
and the Mother that was Virgin in giving him birth
remained a Virgin after she had given him birth.

Let every soul be glad,
for the Redeemer of nations,
the Lord of the world,
is come to redeem the creatures he had made.

The Creator of the human race,
whom the whole world is too little to hold,
has hid himself, O holy Mother!
in thy womb.

He that was born of his Father
before all ages, God of God,
is now born in time
of his dear Virgin-Mother.

He takes away all sin,
and gives his sacred gifts;
he brings increase of light,
and breaks the power of night.

The following prayer is from the Breviary of the Gothic Church of Spain.


Domine Jesu Christe, qui ad interrogationem Herodis, ita Magorum ora præconio veritatis tuæ irradias, ut te Regem regum per eos nuntiatum ostendas, dum se vidisse aiunt stellæ refulgentis indicium, quod mundum illuminet universum: Te quæsumus, te precamur, ut des in Ecclesia tua visionis tuæ lumen optatum: appareas etiam in ea sidus omnibus pretiosum, quod nulla adversarii interrogatione deterriti, sic magnalia tua prædicemus ore diffuso, ut in æternæ lucis radiemus usquequaque præsidio. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, when the Magi were questioned by Herod, didst enlighten them with the announcement of thy truth by showing thyself to be the King of kings whom they declared by saying that they had seen thy sign, the bright Star, which gives light to the whole world: we beseech and implore thee that thou grant to thy Church the light she so much desires of thy vision. Show thyself also in her as the Star prized by all; that so, when questioned by our enemy, we may not be afraid, but may so boldly confess thy mysteries as that we may shine for all eternity in the mansion of eternal light. Amen.

The Church of Syria received the following Hymn of the Magi from her admirable Poet, St Ephrem.


Exsultantes Principes Persidis ex sua regione acceperunt munera, et Filio Virginis attulerunt aurum, myrrham et incensum.

Ingressi ut infantem repererunt illum in domo jacentem pauperculæ: at procidentes exsultando adoraverunt eum, et suos ipsi obtulerunt thesauros.

Dixit Maria: Cui hæc? et ad quid? et quæ causa vocavit vos ex vestra regione, ut ad puerum cura thesauris vestris veniretis?

Respondent illi: Rex est filius tuus, et diademata connectit cum sit Rex omnium, altiusque mundo est regnum ejus, ac imperioipsiussingula parent.

Quando contigit hoc unquam, ut paupercula Regem pariat? Inops sane sum, ac egena, undeque mihi erit ut Regem pariam?

Tibi soli hoc contigit, ut magnum Regem parias; et per te magnificabitur paupertas, filioque tuo subjicientur diademata.

Non sunt mihi gazæ regum, nec divitiæ unquam mihi obvenerunt; domus en paupercula est, et vacuum domicilium: cur ergo filium meum Regem prædicatis?

Gazæ magnæ est filius tuus, et divitiæ, quæ omnes ditare valent; gazæ namque regum deficiunt; ille vero nec deficiet, nec mensurabitur.

Ne alius forte sit vester Rex, qui natus est, hunc perquirite; etenim hic pauperculæ est filius, quæ Regem vel videre nequit.

Numquid fieri unquam potest, ut aberret viam lumen, quando immittitur? Siquidem non tenebræ nos vocarunt et adduxerunt: sed in lumine ambulavimus, et filius tuus Rex est.

Ecce videtis infantem silientem, et matris domum inanem et vacuam, nullumque in ea Regis apparere vestigium; quomodo ergo ejusmodi incolans domum Rex est?

Ecce sane videmus ilium silentem, et quietum; sed Regem, etsi pauperem, ut dixisti: at videmus etiam eum suo commovere imperio astra cœli, ut prænuntient ortum ejus.

Parvulus est infans, et ecce, ut cernitis, nec diadema regium habet, nec thronum: quid ergo videtis ut honoretis eum thesauris vestris, ut Regem?

Parvulus est, quia ipse voluit, et diliget mansuetudinem, et humilitatem, donec manifestetur. At erit tempus, cum incurvabuntur illi diademata, ac illum adorabunt.

Virtutes nullas habet, neque legiones; neque cohortes filius meus, in paupertate suæ jacet matris; et Rex a vobis quomodo appellatur?

Virtutes filii tui desuper sunt, cœlum equitant, et micant flammis, ex quorum numero unus nos vocare venit, totaque perterrita est regio nostra.
The Persian Princes were filled with joy, and took with them such gifts as their country yielded, and brought to the Son of the Virgin gold, myrrh, and frankincense.

Having entered, they found the Child lying in the house of a poor maid: but falling down they adored him with much joy, and offered him their treasures.

Mary spoke to them and said: To whom offer ye these things? and why offer ye them? what has brought you from your country, to come to my Child with your treasures?

They answered: Thy Child is King, and all diadems are made by him, for he is the King of all kings, and his kingdom is above this world, and all things are subject to his dominion.

But how could this have happened, that a poor maid should have given birth to a King? I am indeed needy and poor: could I have brought forth a King?

Thou alone hast had this happiness, to give birth to the great King. Poverty shall now be honoured on thy account, and thrones shall be subject to thy Son.

But I have no treasures such as kings have, nor did I ever possess riches. Lo! my house is little and poor, and empty is this my dwelling: why then call you my Son King?

Thy Son himself is treasure and riches enough to enrich all men; for the treasures of kings fail; but he shall never fail, and there shall be no limits to his wealth.

Go, seek this your King, who is born; for this Babe is the Child of a poor maid, who would not be allowed to even look at a king.

No, it cannot be that light sent down from heaven can mislead us. It is not darkness that has called and guided us; but we have walked in the light, and thy Son is King.

But this Babe is speechless, and his Mother’s house is poor and empty, and there is nought here that suits a King: how can he be King that dwells in such a house?

Silent indeed he is, and motionless, and as thou sayest, poor; still is he King, for we have seen him move the stars of heaven, when he bade them proclaim his birth.

He is but a tiny Babe, and as you see, he has neither crown nor throne: what is it that makes you honour him with your treasures, as though he were a King?

He is a little Child, for he wished so to be, and he will love meekness and humility, until the day shall come for him to show himself: but the time shall be when crowned heads shall bow before him and adore him.

My Son has no troops or legions or armies, but lies couched as best his Mother's poverty can provide: how, then call you him King?

The armies of thy Child are there above, they ride on the clouds of heaven, and light up the firmament with their brightness, and one of their number came down to call us, and all our people were in consternation.

As our offering to our Lady, we will recite this beautiful Sequence, which our own dear England used to sing in the Middle Ages.


Flos pudicitiæ,
Aula munditiæ,
Mater misericordiæ.

Salve, Virgo serena,
Vitæ vena,
Lux amœna,
Rore plena
Septiformis Spiritus,
Virtutibus Ornantibus,
Ac moribus Vernantibus!

Rosa jucunda,
Castitatis lilium,
Prole fœcunda,
Gignis Dei Filium;
Virgoque munda
Tu post puerperium.

Modo miro,
Sine viro,
Prole fœcundaris.

Summi Ducis,
Veræ lucis
Partu decoraris.

Virga, flore,
Rubo, rore
Virgo designaris.

Digna Domini paris.

Virgo prolem,
Stella solem,
Profers, expers paris.

Ob hoc rite,
Via vitæ
Jure prædicaris.

Tu spes, et refugium
Lapsorum humilium:
Tu medela criminum,
Salus pœnitentium.

Tu solamen tristium,
Levamen debilium;
Tu purgatrix sordium,
Confirmatrix cordium.

Tu laus, tu remedium
In te confidentium:
Tu vitale præmium
Tibi servientium.

O pia Maria,
Lapsis advocata,
Tu cunctis miseris
Dulcis spes et grata.

Erige, dirige
Corda tuorum,
Ad pia gaudia
Regni cœlorum.

Quo vere gaudere
Per te possimus,
Cum Natoque tuo,
Regnantes simus.

O flower of purity!
Sanctuary of chastity!
Mother of mercy!

Hail, gentle Maid!
Source of Life!
Beautiful light!
Full of the dew
of the sevenfold Spirit!
Adorned with all virtues,
and blooming in holiness of life!

Sweet Rose!
Lily of chastity!
Fruitful Mother,
thou givest birth to the Son of God!
And after thy delivery
thou remainest a pure Virgin!

Thou art made his Mother in a wonderful way
—nature stood aside
to let its God do all.

How beautiful art thou
by giving birth to him
that is the very Light—the great King!

Those ancient figures of the Law
—the Rod, the Flower, the Bush, the Dew
—all were types of thee, sweet Virgin-Mother!

And Gedeon's Fleece,
soaked with the dew of heaven, foreshadowed thee,
O Mary, the worthy Mother of our God!

Thou art a Virgin, and thou hast a Child!
Thou art a Star,
and thou bringest forth a Sun! Dear peerless Queen!

And after this,
can men be found who deem it wrong to call thee
‘the Way of Life'?

Thou art the Hope, and the Refuge of humble sinners:
thou healest them
whose hearts are sick from crime,
and thou winnest salvation for them that repent.

Thou art the comfortress of the afflicted,
and the support of the weak;
the unclean of heart ask thee to pray them pure,
and souls discouraged obtain bravery from thee.

Thou art the glory and the helper of them
that have confidence in thee;
and by thy prayers thou obtainest the reward
of eternal life for them that serve thee.

O Mary, full of motherly love!
thou art the sinner's advocate,
and the sweet consoling hope
of them that are in wretchedness.

Raise up the hearts
of us thy clients,
and turn them to the holy joys
of the heavenly kingdom.

Where we may,
by thy intercession,
truly rejoice,
and reign together with thy Son.


[1] St Matt, ii 11.
[2] Second Sermon for the Epiphany.
[3] St Matt. ii 6; Mich. v 2.
[4] Apoc. xxii 16.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Magi were not satisfied with paying their adorations to the great King whom Mary presented to them. After the example of the Queen of Saba, who paid her homage to the Prince of Peace in the person of King Solomon, these three Eastern Kings opened their treasures and presented their offerings to Jesus. Our Emmanuel graciously accepted these mystic gifts, and suffered them not to leave him until he had loaded them with gifts infinitely more precious than those he had vouchsafed to receive. The Magi had given him of the riches which this earth produces; Jesus repays them with heavenly gifts. He strengthened in their hearts the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; he enriched, in their persons, the Church of which they were the representatives; and the words of the Canticle of Mary were fulfilled in them: He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away,[1] for the Synagogue refused to follow them in their search after the King of the Jews.

But let us consider the gifts made by the Magi, and let us, together with the Church and the Holy Fathers, acknowledge the Mysteries expressed by them. The gifts were three in number, in order to honour the sacred number of the Persons in the divine Essence, as likewise to express the triple character of Emmanuel. He had come that he might be King over the whole world; it was fitting that men should offer gold to him, for it is the emblem of sovereign power. He had come to be High Priest, and, by his mediation, reconcile earth to heaven; incense, then, was an appropriate gift, for the Priest uses it when he offers sacrifice. But thirdly, it was only by his own death that he was to obtain possession of the throne which was prepared for his glorified Human Nature, and the perpetual Sacrifice of the Divine Lamb was to be inaugurated by this same his Death; the gift of Myrrh was expressive of the Death and Burial of an immortal Victim. The Holy Ghost, who inspired the Prophets, had guided the Magi in their selection of these three gifts. Let us listen to St Leo, who, speaking of this Mystery, says with his usual eloquence:

O admirable Faith, which leads to Knowledge and perfect Knowledge, and which was not taught in the school of earthly wisdom, but was enlightened by the Holy Ghost himself! For whence had they learnt the supernatural beauty of their three Gifts? they that had come straight from their own country, and had not as yet seen Jesus, nor beheld in his infant Face the Light which directed them in the choice of their offerings? Whilst the star met the gaze of the bodily eye, their hearts were instructed by a stronger light—the ray of Truth. Before setting out on the fatiguing journey they knew him, to whom were due, by Gold, the honours of a King; by Incense, the worship of God; by Myrrh, the faith in his Mortal Nature.[2]

But these three gifts, which so sublimely express the three characters of the Man-God, are fraught with instruction for us. They signify three great virtues, which the Divine Infant found in the souls of the Magi, and to which he added increase by his grace. Gold signifies charity, which unites us to God; Frankincense prayer, which brings God into man's heart; and Myrrh self-abnegation, suffering and mortification, whereby we are delivered from the slavery of corrupt nature. Find a heart that loves God, that raises herself up to him by prayer, that understands and relishes the power of the cross—and you have in that heart the worthiest offering which can be made to God, and one which he always accepts.

We, too, O Jesus! offer thee our treasure and our gifts. We confess thee to be God and Priest and Man. We beseech thee to accept the desire we have of corresponding to the love thou showest us by giving thee our love in return; we love thee, dear Saviour! do thou increase our love. Receive also the gift of our Prayer, for though of itself it be tepid and poor, yet it is pleasing to thee because united with the prayer of thy Church: teach us how to make it worthy of thee and how to give it the power of obtaining what thou desirest to grant: form within us the gift of prayer, that it may unceasingly ascend up like sweet Incense in thy sight. And lastly, receive the homage of our contrite and humble hearts, and the resolution we have formed of restraining and purifying our senses by mortification and penance.

The sublime Mysteries which we are celebrating during this holy season have taught us the greatness of our own misery, and the immensity of thy love for us, and we feel more than ever the obligation we are under of fleeing from the world and its concupiscences, and of uniting ourselves to thee. The Star shall not have shone upon us in vain: it has brought us to thee, dear King of Bethlehem! and thou shalt be King of our hearts. What have we that we prize and hold dear, which we can hesitate to give thee in return for the sweet infinite treasure of thyself, which thou hast given to us?

Dear Mother of our Jesus! we put these our offerings into thy hands. The gifts of the Magi were made through thee, and they were pleasing to thy Son; thou must present ours to him, and he will be pleased with them, in spite of their poverty. Our love is deficient; fill up its measure by uniting it with thine own immense love. Second our prayer by thy maternal intercession. Encourage us in our warfare against the world and the flesh. Make sure our perseverance, by obtaining for us the grace of a continual remembrance of the sweet Mysteries which we are now celebrating; pray for us that, after thine own example, we may keep all these things in our hearts. That must be a hard and depraved heart which could offend Jesus in Bethlehem; or refuse him anything now that he is seated on thy lap, waiting for our offering! O Mary! keep us from forgetting that we are the children of the Magi, and that Bethlehem is ever open to receive us.

Let us borrow the language of the ancient Liturgies, in order to give expression to the sentiments awakened in us by all these ineffable Mysteries. Let us begin with this Hymn on the Nativity of our Lord left us by the saintly Bishop of Poitiers, Venantius Fortunatus.


Agnoscat omne sæculum
Venisse vitæ præmium;
Post hostis asperi jugum
Apparuit redemptio.

Esaias quæ cecinit
Completa sunt in Virgine:
Annuntiavit Angelus,
Sanctus replevit Spiritus.

Maria ventre concipit
Verbi fidelis semine:
Quem totus orbis non capit
Portant puellæ viscera.

Radix Jesse floruit,
Et Virga fructum edidit;
Fœcunda partum protulit,
Et Virgo mater permanet.

Præsepe poni pertulit
Qui lucis auctor exstitit,
Cum Patre cœlos condidit,
Sub Matre pannos induit.

Legem dedit qui sæculo,
Cujus decem præcepta sunt,
Dignando factus est homo
Sub Legis esse vinculo.

Adam vetus quod polluit
Adam novus hoc abluit:
Tumens quod ille dejicit
Humillimus hic erigit.

Jam nata lux est et salus,
Fugata nox et victa mors,
Venite gentes, credite,
Deum Maria protulit.

Let all ages acknowledge
that he is come who is the reward of life.
After mankind had carried the yoke of its cruel enemy,
our Redemption appeared.

What Isaias foretold
has been fulfilled in the Virgin;
an Angel announced the mystery to her,
and the Holy Ghost filled her by his power.

Mary conceived in her womb,
for she believed in the word that was spoken to her:
the womb of a youthful maid
holds him whom the whole earth cannot contain.

The Root of Jesse has given its flower,
and the Branch has borne its fruit:
Mary has given birth to Jesus,
and the Mother is still the spotless Virgin.

He that created the light
suffers himself to be laid in a manger;
he that, with the Father, made the heavens,
is now wrapt by his Mother's hand in swaddling-clothes.

He that gave to the world
the ten commandments of the law,
deigns, by becoming Man,
to be under the bond of the law.

What the old Adam defiled,
that the new Adam has purified;
and what the first cast down by his pride,
the second raised up again by his humility.

Light and salvation are now born to us,
night is driven away, and death is vanquished:
oh! come, all ye people, believe;
God is born of Mary.


The Mozarabic Breviary contains the following eloquent prayer.


Deus, Dei Filius, Patris ineffabilis Virtus, qui novo sidere in Gentibus Rex regum ostenderis magnus, et in civitate illa beata appares gloriosus: quem insulæ tremunt: cui principes et nationes Gentium obsequuntur, dum tibi omnia regna cedunt, tibi regum diademata substernuntur; dignare jam gratianostris te ostendere sensibus pium, et in conversationibus manifestum: ut primitias Spiritus habentes, ea tibi semper munera dedicemus, per quæ introire beatam illam Hierusalem placitis cordibus mereamur, ut tibi mundissimum aurum nostrorum operum deferentes, regni tui mereamur esse participes. Amen.
O God, Son of God, the ineffable Power of the Father, who, by the rising of a new star, didst reveal thyself to the Gentiles as the King of kings, and now art seen in thy glory in that happy city above: O thou before whom the islands tremble, and the Gentile princes and nations bow in homage, and to whom all kingdoms are subject, and at whose feet all kings lay down their crowns: vouchsafe now, by thy grace, to show thyself in thy mercy to our souls, and manifest thyself by our lives: that having within us the firstfruits of the Spirit, we may ever offer thee such gifts as thereby to merit to enter, with hearts well-pleasing to thee, into the blessed Jerusalem, and by offering thee now the most pure gold of our works, we may deserve to be partakers of thy kingdom. Amen.

We take the following Sequence from the Paris Missal of 1584.


In excelsis canitur
Nato Regi gloria,
Per quem terræ redditur
In cœlo concordia.

Jure dies colitur
Christi natalitia,
Quo nascente, nascitur
Novæ legis gratia.

Mediator nobis datus
In salutis præmium,
Non nature, sed reatus
Effugit consortium.

Non amittit claritatem
Stella fundens radium,
Nec Maria castitatem,
Pariendo Filium.

Quis de monte lapis cæsus
Sine manu, nisi Jesus
Qui de Regum linea,

Sine carnis opere,
De carne puerperæ
Processit virginea?

Solitudo gaudeat,
Et desertum floreat:
Virga Jesse floruit.

Radix virgam, virga florem,
Virgo profert Salvatorem,
Sicut Lex præcinuit.

Radix David typum gessit:
Virga, matris quæ processit
Ex regali semine.

Flos est Puer nobis natus,
Jure flori comparatus
Præ mira dulcedine.

In præsepe reclinatur,
Cujus ortus celebratur
Cœlesti præconio.

Cœli cives jubilant,
Dum pastores vigilant
Sub noctis silentio.

Cuncta laudes intonant
Super partum Virginis.

Lex et psalmi consonant
Prophetarum paginis.

Angelorum et pastorum,
Stellæ simul et Magorum
Concordant indicia.

Reges currunt Orientis
Ad præsepe vagientis,
Gentium primordia.

Jesu puer immortalis,
Ex terreno temporalis,
Nos ab hujus vitæ malis
Tu potenter erue.

Tu, post vitam hunc mortalem,
Sive mortem hanc vitalem,
Vitam nobis immortalem
Clementer restitue.

There is sung in the highest heavens:
Glory be to the newborn King,
by whom peace is restored
between heaven and earth.

Rightly do we keep
the Birthday of Jesus as a feast;
for by his birth,
the grace of the new law is born.

He, our Mediator, is given to us
to be the reward of our salvation:
he takes upon himself our nature,
refusing only to be like us in our sin.

As a star loses nothing of its brightness
by giving forth its ray;
so neither does Mary suffer the loss of her purity
by giving birth to her Son.

Who is the Stone cut from the mountain
and not by the hand of man, if not our Jesus,
who was of the line of kings.

And was born from the womb
of his Virgin-Mother,
after she had virginaily conceived?

Let the wilderness be glad,
and the desert bloom;
—the rod of Jesse has flowered.

As was foretold in the Law, the Root has yielded its Branch,
the Branch its Flower,
and the Virgin our Saviour.

The Root was the figure of David:
the Branch was the type of Mary,
who was born of a kingly race.

The Flower is the Child that is born unto us,
well likened to a flower,
by reason of his wonderful sweetness.

He, whose birth is celebrated
by the heavenly spirits,
is laid in a manger!

The citizens of heaven are in jubilee,
whilst the Shepherds are keeping
watch in the still night.

Let all creatures give forth praise
for that the Virgin has given birth to her Son.

The law and the psalms harmonize
with the writings of the Prophets.

The Angels and the Shepherds,
the Star and the Magi,
all agree in proclaiming the Birth.

The Eastern Kings run
to the Crib of the Babe
—they are the first-fruits of the Gentiles.

O Jesus, immortal Babe!
born in time because thou wouldst assume our nature,
snatch us, by thy power,
from this life's woes.

After this our mortal life,
or rather this living death,
mercifully restore unto us
that life which is immortal.



Totum mysterium ut actum est apud vos in regione vestra, aperite nunc mihi, ut amici; et quis vocabit vos, ut ad me veniretis?

Magna stella nobis apparuit, reliquis multo splendidior stellis, cujus lumine nostra terra est inflammata, et quod Rex ortus sit, nobis annuntiavit.

Nollem, vos quæso, loquamini hæc in regione nostra, ne sentientes Reges terræ, machinentur sua invidia adversus puerum.

Ne timeas, Virgo, quia omnia diademata solvet Filius tuus, eaque pessumdabit, nec sua invidia nocumentum inferre illi valebunt.Herodem timeo, lupum pollutum, ne me perturbet, gladium stringat, quo præcidat dulcem botrum adhuc immaturum.

Herodem ne timeas: per Filium enim tuum subvertetur ejus thronus, et statim atque regnabit, destruetur, et ejus diadema decidet.

Torrens sanguinis est Hierusalem, in eaque optimi quique cadunt: quare si hoc præsenserit, machinabitur in ilium; ideoque secreto loquamini, precor, et ne tumultuetis.

Torrentes omnes, et lanceæ etiam per manus Filii tui sedabuntur, et Hierosolymæ obstupescet gladius, et nisi voluerit, non cadet.

Scribæ et sacerdotes Hierusalem, qui sanguinem subdole effundere solent, excitabunt forte lethale litigium adversum me, et adversum puerum: Magi, quæso, silete.

Scribæ et sacerdotes nequáquam valebunt sua invidia Filio tuo nocere; et per ipsum solvetur eorum sacerdotium, et solemnitates eorum cessabunt.

Angelus apparuit mihi, quando concepi puerum; quod Rex sit Filius meus, et quod ab alto sit ejus diadema, et non solvetur, ipse quoque explicavit mihi ut et vobis.

Angelus igitur, quem dicis, ipse venit sub specie sideris et apparuit nobis, atque annuntiavit quod Puer major sit et splendidior stellis.

Coram vobis ecce aperio aliud arcanum, ut confirmemini; scilicet virgo peperi filium, Filiumque Dei; euntes prædicate ipsum.

Jam nos prædocuit stella, nativitatem ejus extra ordinem esse naturæ, et super omnia esse Filium tuum, eumdemque etiam Filium esse Dei.

Pacem referte in terram vestram; pax gliscat in finibus vestris: veraces veritatis nuntii habeamini in toto itinere vestro.

Pax Filii tui nos reducat incolumes in regionem nostram, ut duxit; et cum imperium ejus mundo manifestabitur, invisat terram nostram, et benedicat illi.

Gaudeat Persis vestro nuntio, exsultet Assyria vestro reditu; et quando regnum Filii mei manifestabitur, in regione vestra suum collocabit vexillum.
Tell me, I beg of you as friends, how the mystery was declared to you in your country, and who it was that told you to come to me?

A star of great size appeared to us, more brilliant far than other stars; its light illumined our land, and it was an announcement to us that the King was born.

Tell not this, I pray you, in these our parts, lest the kings of the earth should hear it, and plot, in their envy, against the Child.

Fear not, O Virgin! for thy Son shall be master of all crowns, and shall crush them; neither shall the envy of kings be able to hurt him.

I fear that unclean wolf Herod, lest perhaps he bring grief upon me, and draw his sword to cut from off its vine my sweet though not yet ripened Fruit.

Fear not Herod, for his throne shall be o'erthrown by thy Son, and his reign shall be short, and his crown shall fall from his head.

Jerusalem is a torrent of blood, and all that are good are slain; if this be known, the city will plot against my Child. I pray you, then, whisper these things, and noise them not abroad.

All blood-shedding shall be stayed, and all weapons sheathed by the hand of thy Son; Jerusalem's sword shall be stupefied, powerless to strike, unless by his consent.

The Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem are skilled in secret murders, and may stir up some deadly purposes against me and the Child. Be silent, Magi, I beseech you.

Not so: the envious Scribes and Pharisees shall not have power to injure thy Child; nay, he will take away their priesthood, and put an end to their solemn feasts.

An Angel appeared to me when I conceived my Babe; he told me, as he told you, that my Child is King, and that his throne is from above, and shall never have an end.

This Angel, then, of whom thou speakest, is he that appeared to us under the figure of the star, and told us that thy Son is greater and brighter than the stars.

Lo, now I will reveal to you another secret, that you may take fresh courage: I have given birth to my Child, who is the Son of God, and yet am I a Virgin. Go forth and preach his name to the nations.

All this was taught us by the Star: it told us that his birth was beyond the course of nature, and that thy Son is above all creatures, and that he is the Son of God.

Take peace back with you to your land; may peace be in your territories; may you be the truthful messengers of the Truth on all your journey.

May the peace of thy Son, which brought us hither, lead us back safe to our country; and, when his kingdom shall be declared to the world, may he visit our land, and bless it.

May Persia rejoice at your tidings, and Assyria be glad in your return; and when the kingdom of my Son shall be declared, he shall set his standard in your land.

Die XV Januarii

Molestissimis passionum insultibus, quasi tempestatibus exagitatus, et peccatorum ictibus quasi fluctibus concussus, ad indefessam protectionem tuam confugio cum affectu, o puella omni laude dignissima: miserere mei, et salva me, o Virgo perpetua.

Cum te tamquam rosam redolentem punis ille in convallibus reperisset, o inviolata; in medio tui habitavit, humanum genus suavissimo replens odore.

Dirige motus animæ meæ, o purissima, ad divina illius præcepta qui ex utero tuo coruscavit, atque a tempestate scandalorum hujus vitæ eripe me intercessionibus tuis.

Omnium Dominum Emmanuel sine viri opera peperisti, manens Virgo post partum, o Virgo mater. Eumdem incessanter exora ut ab hostium invasionibus liberentur illi qui confugiunt sub protectionem tuam.

Verbum quod æquale est in operatione et in throno Genitori suo, ex visceribus tuis corporasti, o casta; atque inde propter ineffabilem misericordiam suam, totam naturam nostram assumpsit.

Prolem tuam laudamus, o benedicta, per quam ab antiqua damnatione redempti sumus; te vero beatificamus, o divina felicitate cumulatissima; quam solam dilexit ille qui est benedictus ac supergloriosus.

Fluvium perennem nobis effundis recurrentibus ad te, o casta; cujus uberem gratiam delibantes, partum tuum laudamus, o inviolatissima, et superexaltamus in omnia sæcula.

Lucis habitacuium venter tuus factus est, per quam sedentes in tenebris viderunt lumen: unde te incessabili voce semper laudamus, o Dei Mater; et cum affectu veneramur te spem animarum nostrarum.
Tossed by the troublesome attacks of my passions, as by so many storms, and buffeted by the blows of my sins as by angry billows, I lovingly fly to thy untiring protection, O Maid most worthy of all praise. Have pity on me, and save me, O ever spotless Virgin!

When the God of purity found thee, O spotless Virgin, in the lowly valleys as the Rose that breathes forth sweet fragrance, he dwelt within thee, and filled the human race with the most delicious perfume.

Turn the faculties of my soul, O most pure one, to the divine commandments of him who shone forth from thy womb, and by thy prayers deliver me from the storm of this life's scandals.

Thou didst virginally bring forth our Emmanuel, the Lord of all, O Virgin-Mother, and didst remain a Virgin after thy delivery. Pray to him unceasingly, that they who fly to thy protection may be freed from the attacks of their enemies.

O chaste Virgin! thou didst, from thy womb, clothe with a human body him who is the Word equal to his Father in works and in majesty; from thee, by reason of his unspeakable mercy, did he assume our entire human nature.

O Blessed Mother! we praise thy Son, who redeemed us from the old curse. We bless thee, O blessed by God above all women, who art loved above all by him who is blessed and glorious above all.

Thou pourest forth an everflowing stream on us who have recourse to thee, O VirginMother! Refreshed by its plentiful grace, we praise thy Son, O purest Maid, and we extol him above all for ever.

Thy womb was made the dwelling-place of Light, whereby they saw the light that sat in darkness. Therefore do we ever praise thee with our unceasing hymns, O Mother of God, and devoutly venerate thee, the hope of our hearts.

The Church makes commemoration, to-day, of the holy Pope and Martyr Hyginus. He held the Apostolic Chair under the reign of Antoninus, and closed his four years’ Pontificate by martyrdom. We have no history of his life, but we venerate in him one of the links of that grand chain of Pontiffs which unites us, by St Peter, to our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole weight of the government of the Church was upon his shoulders, and he was courageous and faithful in the discharge of his duties; his reign was during the age of Persecution, when to be Pope was to be a victim of tortures and death. As we have already said, he soon won his Palm, and was associated in heaven with the three Magi, who had, before leaving this world, preached the Gospel in Greece, the country of our Saint. Let us ask him to bless the offerings we are making to the Divine Infant of Bethlehem, and to pray for us, that we may obey this sweet King, who asks us to give him not our blood by martyrdom, but our hearts by charity.

Let us honour the memory of this holy Pope, and say with the Church:

Ant. Iste Sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non timuit; fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.


Infirmitatem nostram respice, omnipotens Deus, et quia pondus propriæactionis gravat, beati Hygini Martyris tui atque Pontificis intercessio gloriosa nos protegat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Ant. This Saint fought, even unto death, for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was set upon a firm rock.

Let us Pray

Have regard, O Almighty God, to our weakness; and whereas we sink under the weight of our own doings, let the glorious intercession of blessed Hyginus, thy Martyr and Bishop, be a protection to us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[1] St Luke i 53.
[2] Sermon the Fourth On the Epiphany.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

HAVING laid their offerings at the feet of Jesus, as the sign of the alliance they had, in the name of all mankind, contracted with him, and laden with his graces and blessings, the Magi take their leave of the Divine Babe; for such was his will. They take their departure from Bethlehem, and the rest of the world seems a wilderness to them. Oh, if they might be permitted to fix their abode near the new-born King and his incomparable Mother! But no; God's plan for the salvation of the world requires that everything savouring of human pomp and glory should be far from him who had come to take upon himself all our miseries.

Besides, they are to be the first messengers of the Gospel; they must go and tell to the Gentiles that the Mystery of Salvation has begun, that the earth is in possession of its Saviour, and that their salvation is nigh at hand. The star does not return to them; they needed it to find Jesus; but now they have him in their hearts, and will never lose him. These three men are sent back into the midst of the Gentile world, as the leaven of the Gospel which, notwithstanding its being so little, is to leaven the whole paste.[1] For their sakes, God will bless the nations of the earth; from this day forward infidelity will lose ground, and faith will progress; and when, the Blood of the Lamb having been shed, Baptism shall be promulgated, the Magi shall be, not merely men of desire, but perfect Christians, initiated into all the Mysteries of the Church.

The ancient tradition, which is quoted by the author of The Imperfect Work on St Matthew, which is put in all the editions of St John Chrysostom, and was probably written about the close of the 6th century, tells us that the three Magi were baptized by St Thomas the Apostle, and devoted themselves to the preaching of the Gospel. But we scarcely need a tradition on such a point as this. The vocation of these three Princes could never be limited to the mere privilege of being the first among the Gentiles to visit the eternal King who had come down from heaven to be born on this earth and show himself to his creatures; a second vocation was the consequence of the first, the vocation of preaching Jesus to men.

There are many details relating to the life and actions of the Magi, after they had become Christians, which have been handed down to us; but we refrain from mentioning them, as not being sufficiently ancient or important traditions to have induced the Church to give them place in her Liturgy. We would make the same observation with regard to the names assigned to them of Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthassar; the custom of thus naming them is too modern to deserve credit; and though it might be indiscreet to deny that these were their true names, it seems very difficult to give proofs of their correctness.

The Relics of these holy Kings were translated from Persia to Constantinople, under the first Christian Emperors, and, for a long time, were kept in the Church of Saint Sophia. At a later period, they were translated to Milan, when Eustorgius was Bishop of that city. There they remained till the 12th century, when, through the influence of the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, they were translated to the Cathedral Church of Cologne by Reynold, Archbishop of that metropolitan see. The Relics are in a magnificent Shrine, perhaps the finest specimen now extant of medieval metallic art, and the superb Cathedral where it is religiously kept is, by its size and architectural beauty, one of the grandest Churches of the Christian world.

Thus have we followed you, O Blessed Magi! Fathers of the Gentile world! from your first setting out from the East for Bethlehem to your return to your own country, and even to your sacred resting-place; which the goodness of God has made to be in this cold West of ours. It was the love of children for their parents that made us thus cling to you. Besides, were we not ourselves in search of that dear King whom you so longed for and found? Blessed be those ardent desires of yours, blessed be your obedience to the guidance of the star, blessed be your devotion at the Crib of Jesus, blessed be the gifts you made him, which, while they were acceptable to God, were full of instruction to us! We revere you as Prophets, for you foretold the characters of the Messias by the selection of your three gifts. We honour you as Apostles, for you preached, even to Jerusalem herself, the Birth of the humble Jesus of Bethlehem, of that Jesus whom his Disciples preached not till after the triumph of his Resurrection. We hail you as the Spring Flowers of the Gentile world, but Flowers which produced abundant and rich fruits, for you brought over entire nations and countless people to the service of our divine King. Watch over us, and protect the Church. Be mindful of those Eastern countries, whence rises to the earth the light of day, the beautiful image of your own journey towards Bethlehem. Bless this Western world of ours, which was buried in darkness when you first saw the star, and is now the favoured portion of God's earth, and on which the Divine Sun of Justice pours forth his brightest and warmest rays. Faith has grown weak among us; reenkindle it. Obtain of the divine mercy that the West may ever send forth her messengers of salvation to the South and North, and even to that infidel East, where are laid the tents of Sem, and where the light that you gave her has been long extinguished by her apostasy. Pray for the Church of Cologne, that illustrious sister of our holiest Churches in the West; may she preserve the faith, may she defend her sacred rights and liberty; may she be the bulwark of Catholic Germany, and be ever blessed by the protection of her Three Kings, and the patronage of the glorious Ursula and her virginal army. Lastly, we beseech you, O venerable Magi! to introduce us to the Infant Jesus, and his Blessed Mother; and grant us to go through these forty days, which the Church consecrates to the Mystery of Christmas, with hearts burning with love for the Divine Child, and may that same love abide with us during the pilgrimage of our life on this earth.

To-day, also, we will make use of the formulas employed by the several ancient Churches in honour of the Mystery of the Epiphany. Our first selection is a hymn written by the great Fulbert of Chartres.


Nuntium vobis fero de supernis;
Natus est Christus, Dominator orbis,
In Bethlehem Judæ; sic enim Propheta
Dixerat ante.

Hunc canit lætus chorus Angelorum,
Stella declarat, veniunt Eoi
Principes, dignum celebrare cultum,
Mystica dona.

Thus Deo, myrrham tribuunt sepulchro,
Auream Regi speciem decenti,
Dum colunt unum, meminere Trino
Tres dare terna.

Gloriam trinæ monadi canamus,
Cum Deo divæ Genitore Proli,
Flamini necnon ab utroque fuso
Corde fideli.

'I bring you tidings from heaven above:
Christ, the Ruler of the earth,
is born in Bethlehem of Juda:
for thus was it foretold by the Prophet.’

Thus sing the glad choir of Angels;
the same is announced by the Star,
and the Eastern Kings come to offer to Jesus
the worthy homage of their mystic gifts.

They offer their Frankincense to him as to their God;
the Myrrh honours his sepulchre; the Gold is the token of his Kingly character.
Whilst thus worshipping One,
the three offerers give three gifts to the Blessed Three,

Let us, too, sing praise to our Triune God:
glory to the Father, and to his divine Son,
and to the Holy Spirit, who is sent into the hearts of the faithful
by the Father and the Son.



Tu es. Domine, stella veritatis oriens ex Jacob, homoque consurgens ex Isræl: et in novo sidere ostenderis Deus, et in præsepio positus Deus et homo, unus crederis Christus: propter magnam misericordiam tuam visionis tuæ nobisproroga gratiam: appareat in nobis lucis tuæ radiabile signum, quod expellat omnes tenebras vitiorum; ut qui visionis tuæ desiderio anhelamus, visionis tuæ præmio consolemur. Amen.
Thou, O Lord, art the Star of truth, that riseth out of Jacob, and the man that springeth from Israel. In the new Star thou showest thyself as God, and lying in the Crib God and Man, we confess thee to be the one Christ. In thy great mercy grant us the grace of seeing thee, and show unto us the radiant sign of thy light, whereby all the darkness of our sins may be put to flight: that so we who now languish with the desire of seeing thee, may be refreshed with the enjoyment of that blissful vision. Amen.


Fulget, Domine, cœlum rutilum serenitate astrorum, terraque ipsa refulgenti lumine serenatur, quia apparere dignatus es mundo de habitaculo sancto tuo; sana ergo cordis nostri mœstitiam, quia ad hoc venisti, ut redimas universa: illudque nostris oculis lumen attribue, quo te purificati semper mereamur aspicere: ut qui Apparitionis tuæ gaudia lætabunda nuntiamus in gentibus, infinita tecum lætitia gaudeamus. Amen.
The heavens are shining with the clear beauty of the stars, O Lord, and the very earth is made beautiful by a shining light, because thou didst vouchsafe to appear to the world from out thy holy dwelling place. Remove, therefore, from our hearts all sadness, for unto this end art thou come, that thou mayest make all things new. Grant also that light unto our eyes which may purify us and fit us to behold thee for ever; that thus we who preach to the nations the glad joys of thy Apparition, may be made glad with thee in infinite joy. Amen.

We take the following Sequence from the ancient Missals of the Churches of Germany.


Nato nobis Salvatore
Celebremus cum honore
Diem natalitium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus,
Et nobiscum conversatus,
Lux et salus gentium.

Eva prius interemit;
Sed Salvator nos redemit
Carnis suæ merito.

Prima parens nobis luctum,
Sed Maria vitæ fructum
Protulit cum gaudio.

Negligentes non neglexit,
Sed ex alto nos prospexit
Pater mittens Filium.

Præsens mundo, sed abs consus,
De secreto tamquam sponsu:
Prodiit in publicum.

Gigas velox, gigas fortis,
Gigas nostræ victor mortis,
Accinctus potentia.

Ad currendam venit viam,
Complens in se prophetiam
Et Legis mysteria.

Jesu, nostra salutaris
Medicina, singularis
Nostra pax et gloria;

Quia servis redimendis
Tam decenter condescendis,
Te collaudant omnia.

Our Saviour is born unto us!
Let us solemnly celebrate
his Birthday.

To us was he given, unto us was he born,
and with us has he lived,
he the light and salvation of the Gentiles.

In the beginning Eve caused our death;
but Jesus, by the merits of the human nature he assumed,
has redeemed us.

Our first mother brought us woe;
but Mary joyfully brought forth
for us the fruit of life.

We neglected our heavenly Father, but he did not neglect us;
he looked down upon us from heaven,
and sent us his only Son.

This Jesus, though in the world, was hidden from the s world;
but, at length he came forth as a Bridegroom from the nuptial chamber,
and made himself known.

He is the Giant foretold by the Psalmist—swift, and strong,
and vanquishing our death,
for he was girt with power.

He came that he might run his course,
and so verify the prophecy,
and the mysteries of the Law.

Jesus, thou our
saving medicine,
our only Peace and glory!

May all creatures give thee praise,
for that thou didst so mercifully condescend
to redeem us thy servants!


This beautiful canticle in honour of the Infant Jesus is from the pen of St Ephrem, the sublime bard of the Syrian Church.


Hebrææ virgines assuetæ alias Jeremiæ Threnos recantare, pro lugubri suarum Scripturarum carmine, indidem acceptos lætitiæ hymnos hujusmodi refuderunt, Spiritu ipsarum ora movente:

Læta jam nunc oculos ab inferis attollat Eva hunc visura diem, in quo ipsius nepos vitæ auctor descendit extinctam Matris suæ genitricem excitaturus. Adoran dus puer caput serpentis contudit, cujus illa olim infecta veneno periit.

A cunis decori Isaac, Sara mater tuam speculabatur infantiam, teque illo adumbratum suo mulcebat cantu; relegensque infantiæ tuæ mysteria in eo puero expressa:Euge, fili, votorum fructus meorum, cantabat; jam nunc video in te, qui latet in te Dominum, omnium piorum vota precesque suscipiens, et ratas efficiens.

Nazaræus Samson juvenis fortissimus tuæ fortitudinis umbra fuit; leonem laceravit, mortis quam concidisti typum; rupisti scilicet mortem, vitamque ex ejus amarissimo ventre exclusisti, cujus usura nobis futura erat jucundissima.

Anna pariter te in Samuele figuratum, suo non semel pectori oppressiti tum primum, quando tuam præsensit justissimam severitatem ab illo repræsentatam eo die, quo regem Agag in frusta dissectum occidit, expressam diaboli imaginem: tum iterum, quando tuam contemplabatur clementiam ab eodem velut rudiore manu descriptam, eo tempore quo Saulis ruinam piis et veris lacrymis lugere non destitit.
The Hebrew maidens, who heretofore had been wont to chant the Lamentations of Jeremias in the plaintive strain of their Scriptures, now borrowed from the same holy volume joyful thoughts, and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sang them thus in hymns:

'Let Eve, in Limbo, now raise up her eyes, and see this day whereon one of her race, and he the author of life, descends to raise up from death the mother of his own dear Mother. The adorable Infant crushed the head of the serpent, by whose poison Eve had perished.

'Sara, the fair Isaac’s mother, foresaw thine Infancy, O Jesus, in her own son’s crib; the lullaby she sang over him told the mysteries of thy Childhood, which were foreshadowed and prefigured in her own child. Thus did she sing: “Sweet Babe! fruit of my prayers! I see in thee the Lord, who is hidden in thee as in his type: ’tis he receives the wishes and the prayers of pious hearts, and grants them their requests."

'The Nazarite Samson, the youth of exceeding strength, was a figure of thy strength, O Jesus! He tore a lion to pieces, typifying the death thou didst slay, for thou didst crush death, and from its bitter entrails didst draw forth life, whose taste would be most sweet to us.

'Anna, too, pressed thee to her bosom in the person of Samuel the Prophet, who was twice a figure of thy ministry; firstly when he prefigured thy most just severity on the day when he slew King Agag, the figure of the devil, and cut him to pieces; secondly, by imitating thy mercy, though imperfectly, when he unceasingly shed his tears of loving and sincere compassion over the fall of Saul.'

The Menæa of the Greek Church furnish us with these beautiful stanzas in honour of the holy Mother of God.

Die XVI Januarii

Terra inarata apparuisti, o augustissima, quæ spicam nobis protulisti, universi nutritorem Dominum Jesum, ex quo nos comedentes, ad vitam revocamur.

Deum ex te incarnatum videntes, o Virgo casta, Deiparam te proprie confitemur, quæ omnium reformationis, absque ulla dubitatione, causa fuisti.

Superessentialis ille, qui carnis erat expers, ex venerandis sanguinibus tuis incarnatus est, o castissima; et caro sine ulla mutatione factus, cum hominibus conversatus est.

Naturæ leges in te, o purissima Virgo, revera innovantur: Virgo quippe post partum manes, velut ante partum, Christum legislatorem enixa.

Miserabilis animæ meæ passionibus medere, o Dei Genitrix castissima; mentem tranquilla hostilibus invasionibus velut tempestatibus jactatam, et cor meum pacatum redde, o puella.

Rosam in medio spinarum te vere invenit in hujus mundi convallibus, o casta Virgo, Jesus omnium piantator atque ex utero tuo natus, nos divinæ cognitionis suavissimo perfudit odore.

Te spirituale candelabrum, qua lucem inaccessibilem suscepisti, agnovimus, o Virgo Maria, quæ omnium fidelium animos illuminasti, et peccati tenebras eliminasti.

Vocibus gratiarum actione plenis ad te clamamus: Ave, immaterialis, lucis habitaculum purissimum; ave, causa deificationis omnium; ave, maledictionis dissolutio; ave, terrigenarum expulsorum revocatio.
O most august Queen! thou wast the untilled land that gavest us our Wheat, Jesus, the Lord and feeder of the universe; by eating this Bread we are restored to life.

Seeing our Lord made incarnate from thee, chaste Virgin! we confess thee to be in very deed the Mother of God, that didst thus become, we hesitate not to proclaim it, the cause of the regeneration of all things.

He, the Being above all beings, who was a pure spirit, took flesh to himself from thy pure blood, O Spotless Maid! and remaining God as before, he was made flesh, and lived among men.

Nature’s Laws were truly suspended in thee, most pure Virgin! for thou remainest a Virgin after thy delivery, as thou wast before it, for thou didst give birth to him who is the giver of all laws, Christ.

Spotless Mother of God! heal the passions of my wretched soul: appease my mind, tossed by the attacks of my enemy as with tempests, and bring, O Virgin, peace unto my heart.

Jesus, the divine Husbandman of the world, found thee, chaste Virgin! in the lowly valley of this earth, growing as a Rose amidst thorns. He entered thy womb, and was born of thee, refreshing us with the delicious fragrance of the knowledge of divine things.

O Virgin Mary! we acknowledge thee to be the mystic candlestick on which was placed the Light inaccessible; thereby thou hast enlightened the minds of all the faithful, and hast put to flight the darkness of sin.

Thus do we cry out to thee in words of thankful love: Hail, most pure dwelling of spiritual Light! Hail, cause of our union with God! Hail, destroyer of the curse! Hail, O thou that didst call from their exile the children of this earth.

[1] St Matt. xiii 33.