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 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.
 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.
This volume opens to us the second part of the Liturgical Year, beginning the long period of the Time after Pentecost. It treats of the feasts of the most holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, and of the sacred Heart of Jesus. These three feasts require to be explained apart. Their dates depend on that of Easter; and yet they are detached, if we consider their object, from the moveable cycle, whose aim is to bring before us, each year, the successive, and so to speak historic, memories of our Lord’s mysteries. After the sublime drama, which has, by gradually presenting to us the facts of our Redeemer’s history, shown us the divine economy of the redemption, these feasts immediately follow, and give us a deep and dogmatic teaching: a teaching which is a marvellous synthesis, taking in the whole body of Christian doctrine.
The Holy Ghost has come down upon the earth, in order to sanctify it. Faith being the one basis of all sanctification, and the source of love, the holy Spirit would make it the starting-point of His divine workings in the soul. To this end, He inspires the Church, which has sprung up into life under the influence of His impetuous breathing, to propose at once to the faithful that doctrinal summary, which is comprised in the three feasts immediately coming after Pentecost. The volumes following the present one will show us the holy Spirit continuing His work, and, on the solid foundations of the faith He established at the outset, building the entire superstructure of the Christian virtues.
This was the idea which the author of the Liturgical year was busy developing in the second part of his work, when death came upon him; and the pen that had begun this volume was put by obedience into the hands of one, who now comes before the faithful, asking their prayers for the arduous task he has undertaken, of continuing the not quite finished work of his beloved father and master. He begs of them to beseech our Lord, that He Himself will vouchsafe to bring to a successful termination an undertaking that was begun for His honour and glory, and that has already produced so much fruit in the souls of men.
Br. L.F. O.S.B.
Solesmes, May 10, 1879.
For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of advent
- Chapter 1: The History of Advent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Advent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Advent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Advent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Advent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Advent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS
- Chapter 1: The History of Christmas
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Christmas
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Christmas
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Christmas
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Christmas
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Christmas
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima
- Chapter 1: The History of Septuagesima
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Septuagesima
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Septuagesima
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Septuagesima
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Septuagesima
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Septuagesima
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
Introduction to the Season of Lent
- Chapter 1: The History of Lent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Lent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Lent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Lent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Lent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Lent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Lent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Lent
Introduction to passiontide and holy week
- Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Passiontide and Holy Week
Introduction to the Season of Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of Paschal Time
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Paschal Time
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Paschal Time
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Paschal Time
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Paschal Time
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Paschal Time
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Paschal Time
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 3: The Practice for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During the Time after Pentecost
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
When asked to tell the names of the saints who were foremost in defending the dogma of the Incarnation, we think at once of the intrepid Eusebius of Vercelli, as one of the glorious number. The Catholic faith, which was so violently attacked in the fourth century by the Arian heresy, was maintained at that time by the labours and zeal of four sovereign Pontiffs: Sylvester, who confirmed the decrees of the Council of Nicæa: Julius, the supporter of St. Athanasius; Liberius, whose faith failed not, and who, when restored to his liberty, confounded the Arians; and lastly, Damasus, who destroyed the last hopes of the heretics. One of these four Pontiffs appears on our Advent calendar—Damasus, whose feast we kept but a few days since. The four Popes have for their fellow-combatants, in this battle for the Divinity of the Incarnate Word, four great bishops, of whom it may be said that the defence of the dogma of the Consubstantiality of the Son of God was what they lived for, and that to say anathema to them was to say anathema to Christ Himself; all four most powerful in word and work, lights of the Churches of the world, objects of the people’s love, and the dauntless witnesses of Jesus. The first and greatest of the four is the bishop of the second See of Christendom, St. Athanasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria: the second is St. Ambrose of Milan, whose feast we kept on the seventh of this month; the third is the glory of Gaul, St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers; the fourth is the ornament of Italy, St. Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli, whom we have to honour to-day. Hilary will come to us during Christmastide, and will stand at the crib of the Word, whose Divinity he so bravely confesses; Athanasius will meet us at Easter, and help us to celebrate, in the triumphant Resurrection, Him whom he proclaimed as God in those dark times, when human wisdom hoped to destroy, by fifty years of peace, that Church which had survived the storm of three centuries of persecution. St. Eusebius’ place is Advent; and divine Providence has thus chosen him as one of the patrons of the faithful during this mystic season. His powerful prayers will help us to come devoutly to Bethlehem, and see in the Child, that is lying there, the eternal Word of God. So great were the sufferings which St. Eusebius had to undergo for the Divinity of Jesus, that the Church awards him the honours of a martyr, although he did not actually shed his blood. Let us now listen to the admirable account which the Church gives us of his life.
Eusebius, natione Sardus, Komanæ urbis lector, post Vercellensis episcopus, ad hanc regendam Ecclesiam merito est creditus divino electus judicio; nam quem nunquam ante constituti electores cognoverant, posthabitis civibus, simul ut viderunt, et probaverunt, tantumque interfuit ut probaretur, quantum ut videretur. Primus in Occidentis partibus in eadem Ecclesia eosdem monachos instituit esse quos clericos, ut esset in ipsis viris contemptus rerum, et accuratio levitarum. Arianis impietatibus ea tempestate per Occidentem longelateque traductis, adversus eas viriliter sic dimicavit, ut ejus invicta fides Liberium, summum Pontificem, ad vitas solatium erigeret. Quare hio sciens, in ipso fervere Spiritum Dei, quum ei significasset ut penes imperatorem, una cum suis legatis patrocinium fidei susciperet, mox cum illis profectus est ad Constantium, apud quem enixius agens, quidquid legatione petebatur, obtinuit, ut episcoporum nempe coetus celebraretur.
Collectum est Mediolani anno sequenti concilium, ad quod a Constantio invitatum Eusebium, concupitumque ac vocatum a Liberii legatis, tantum abest ut malignantium synagoga Arianorum contra sanctum Athanasium furentium in suas partes adduceret, ut potius diserte statina ipse declarans, e præsentibus quosdam sibi compertos haeretica labe pollutos Nicaenam imo fidem proposuerit iis subscribendam, antequam cætera tractarentur. Quod Arianis acerbe iratis negantibus, nedum in Athanasium recusavit ipse subscribere, quin sancti Dionysii martyris, qui deceptus ab ipsis subscripserat, captivatam simplicitatem ingeniosissime liberavit. Quamobrem illi graviter indignantes, post multas illatas injurias, exsilio illum mulctarunt; sed sanctus vir excusso pulvere, nec Cæsaris minas veritus, nec enses obstrictos, exsilium veluti sui ministerii officium accepit, missusque Scytopolim, famem, sitim, verbera diversaque supplicia perpessus, pro fide strenue vitam contempsit, mortem non metuit, corpus carnificibus tradidit.
Quanta in eum tunc Arianorum crudelitas fuerit, ac effrons inverecundia, ostendunt graves litteræ plenæ roboris, pietatis ac religionis, quas e Scytopoli scripsit ad Vercellensem clerum et populum, aliosque finitimos, e quibus etiam est exploratum, ipsorum neo minis inhumanaque sævitia potuisse umquam eum deterreri, nec serpentina blanda subtilitate ad eorum societatem perduci. Hinc in Cappadociam, postremoque ad superiores Ægypti Thebaidas præ constantia sua deportantibus, exsilii rigores tulit ad mortem usque Constantii, post quam ad gregem suum reverti permissus, non prius redire voluit, quam reparandis fidei jacturis ad Alexandrinam Synodum sese conferret; postque medici præstantis instar peragrans Orientis provincias, in fide infirmos ad integram valetudinem restitueret, eos instituens in Ecclesiæ doctrina. Inde salubritate pari, digresso in Illyricum, tandemque in Italiam delato, ad ejus reditum, lugubres vestes Italia mutavit, ubi postquam Psalmorum omnium expurgatos a se commentarios Origenis edidit, Eusebiique Cæsareensis quos verterat de Græco in Latinum: demum tot egregie factis illustris ad immarcescibilem gloriæ coronam tantis ærumnis promeritam sub Valentiniano, et Valente, Vercellis migravit.
Eusebius, by birth a Sardinian, was a lector in the Church at Rome, and afterwards Bishop of Vercelli. It may well be said that it was God himself who chose him to be the pastor of this Church; for the electors, who had never before seen him, no sooner set their eyes upon him, than they preferred him before all their fellowcitizens; and this instantly, and as soon as they first saw him. Eusebius was the first of the bishops in the western Church, who established monks in his Church to exercise the functions of the clergy; he did it in order that he might thus unite, in the same persons, the detachment from riches and the dignity of levites. It was during this time that the impious doctrines of the Arians were devastating the whole of the west; and so vigorously did Eusebius attack them, that Pope Liberius’ greatest consolation was the unflinching faith of this holy man. It was on this account, that the same Pope, knowing that the Spirit of God burned in Eusebius’ soul, commissioned him to go, accompanied by his legates, to the emperor, and plead the cause of the true faith. Eusebius and the legates being come before Constantius, the saint pleaded so powerfully, that the emperor granted what he asked, namely, that a council of the bishops should be convened.
That Council was held the following year, at Milan; Eusebius was invited by Constantius to be present at it, which was what the legates of Liberius had desired and begged. So far was he from being duped by the synagogue of the malicious Arians to side with them against St. Athanasius, that he openly declared from the first that several of those present were known to him to be heretics, and he therefore proposed that they should subscribe to the Nicene Creed before proceeding any further. This the Arians, infuriated with anger, refused to do; whereupon, he not only refused to subscribe to what was drawn up against Athanasius, but he also, by a most ingenious device, succeeded in having the name of St. Denis the martyr blotted out from the decree, which the craft of the Arians had induced him to sign. Wherefore, they being exceedingly angry against Eusebius, loaded him with injuries, and had him sent into banishment. The holy man, on his side, shaking off the dust from his feet, caring little either for the threats of the emperor, or the sword which was held over him, submitted to banishment as to something which belonged to his episcopal office. Being sent to Scythopolis, he there endured hunger, thirst, blows, and sundry other punishments; he generously despised his life for the true faith, feared not death, and gave up his body to the executioners.
How much he had to put up with from the cruelty and insolence of the Arians, we learn from the admirable letters, full of energy, piety, and religion, which he addressed, from Scythopolis, to the clergy and people of Vercelli, and to other persons of the neighbouring country. It is evident from these letters that the heretics were unable, either by their threats or by their inhuman treatment, to shake his constancy, or to induce him by the craft of their flattery or arguments to join their party. Thence he was taken into Cappadocia, and lastly into Thebais of Upper Egypt, in punishment of his refusing to yield. Thus did he suffer the hardships of exile until the death of Constantius: after which he was allowed to return to his flock; but this he would not do, until he had assisted at the Counoil which was being held at Alexandria for the purpose of repairing the injuries done by heresy. This done, he travelled through the provinces of the east, endeavouring, like a clever physician, to restore to perfect health such as were weak in the faith, by instructing them in the doctrine of the Church. Animated by the like zeal for the salvation of souls, he passed over into Illyricum; and having at length returned to Italy, that country put off its mourning. He there published the commentaries of Origen and Eusebius of Cæsarea on the Psalms, which two works he translated from the Greek into Latin, with such corrections as were needed. At length, having rendered himself celebrated by a life spent in such actions as these, he died at Vercelli, in the reign of Valentinian and Valens, and went to receive the immortal crown of glory which his so many and great sufferings had merited for him.
Valiant soldier of Jesus, Eusebius, martyr and pontiff, how much labour and suffering thou didst undergo for the Messias! And yet, they seemed to thee to be little in comparison with what is due to this eternal Word of the Father, who, out of His pure love, has made Himself the Servant of His own creatures, by becoming Man for them in the mystery of the Incarnation. We owe the same debt of gratitude to this divine Saviour. He is born in a stable for our sake, as He was for thine; pray, therefore, for us that we may be ever faithful to Him both in war and in peace; and that we may resist our temptations and evil inclinations with that same firmness, wherewith we would confess His name before tyrants and persecutors. Obtain for the bishops of our holy mother the Church such vigilance, that no false doctrines may surprise them, and such courage that no persecution may make them yield. May they be faithful imitators of the divine Pastor, who gives His life for His sheep; and may they ever feed the flock entrusted to them in the unity and charity of Jesus Christ.
Let us consider how our blessed Lady, having returned to Nazareth, is overwhelmed with joy to feel living within her Him, who gives being to every created thing, and whom she loves with all the intensity of the Mother of God. Joseph, the faithful guardian of her virginity, tenderly loves this his spouse, and blesses God for having entrusted such a treasure to his keeping. The angels crowd round this favoured house wherein dwell their sovereign Lord, and she whom He has chosen to be His Mother. Never was there happiness like that which fills this little dwelling; and yet, God has decreed to visit it with a heavy trial, in order that He may give an occasion to Mary to exercise heroic patience, and to Joseph an occasion of meriting by his exquisite prudence. Let us listen to the Meditation of St. Bonaventure, in which he thus ponders the Gospel narrative:
'But while our Lady and Joseph her spouse were thus dwelling together, the Infant Jesus grew within His Mother’s womb. Then Joseph, perceiving that Mary was with Child, was above all measure grieved. Here give, I pray thee, all thine attention, for thou hast many fair things to learn. If thou wouldst know wherefore it was that our Lord wished that His Mother should have a husband, whereas He always wished that she should be a Virgin, I answer thee that He so wished on three accounts: firstly, that she might not be disgraced when it was seen that she was a Mother: secondly, that she might have Joseph’s aid and company; and thirdly, that the birth of the Son of God might be concealed from the devil.
‘Now, Joseph did look many times on Mary, and grief and trouble of heart fell upon him, and his displeasure was seen in his face, and he turned his eyes away from her as one that was guilty of that which he perforce suspected. See how God permits His servants to be afflicted and sorely tried, that they may so receive their crown. Now Joseph was minded to put her away privately. In very truth may it be said of this holy man, that his praise is in the Gospel, for the Gospel says of him that he was a just man, that is, a man of great virtue. For albeit they say that no shame, nor suffering, nor insult can befall a man so grievous as that of his wife’s unfaithfulness; yet did Joseph restrain himself withal, and would not accuse Mary, but bore this great injury patiently. He sought not how to avenge himself, but, overcome with pity, and wishing to forgive, he was minded to put her away privately. But herein also had our Lady her share of tribulation, for she took notice of Joseph’s trouble, and it sorely grieved her. Yet did she humbly hold her peace, and hide the gift of God. Better did it seem unto her that evil should be thought of her than that she should reveal the divine mystery, and say aught of herself which would come nigh to boasting. Therefore did she beseech our Lord that Himself would right this matter, and make pass this grief from Joseph and herself. Here thou mayst learn what great tribulation and anxiety was theirs. But God came unto their assistance.
‘He therefore sent His angel, who spake unto Joseph in his sleep, and told him that his spouse had conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that he was to abide with her in all surety and joy. Whereupon, the tribulation ceased, and they were both exceedingly comforted. So likewise would it befall us if we would suffer patiently, for after a storm God brings a calm. Neither oughtest thou to doubt this, for God suffereth not His servants to be afflicted save for their good. After this, Joseph requested our Lady to narrate unto him what had happened; and she faithfully narrated all unto him. Whereupon Joseph remains with his blessed spouse, and lives with her in all contentment, and loves her above what words can say, and diligently provides her with whatsoever she needed. So also our Lady continues to remain confidently with Joseph, and they live right joyfully in their poverty.’
Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, Wednesday of the first week of Advent, Capitula)
Deus, cui omnis terra præconans jubilat laudem; cujus gloriam canora psalmi conclamant voce; cujusque terribilem in tuis operibus fatentur virtutem; notum facito salutare tuum in conspectu omnium nostrum. Revela justitiam tuam, qua possimus te nostrum agnoscere Creatorem: et esto memor misericordiæ tuae, qua nostrorum criminum mereamur invenire remissionem: ut videntes salutare tuum, jubilemus tibi hymnum, cantemus in exsultatione psalmum, et perfrui mereamur tuæ beatitudinis praemio. Amen.
O God, to whom the whole earth proclaims its glad praise; whose glory is celebrated in the sweet melody of the psalms; and whose mighty power is confessed by thy works; make known thy Saviour unto all of us thy servants. Reveal thy justice, whereby we may acknowledge thee to be our Creator: and be mindful of thy mercy, whereby we may deserve to find the forgiveness of our sins; that seeing the Saviour whom thou sendest, we may hymn thee our hymns of joy, and sing our psalms in gladness, and deserve to enjoy the reward of thy blessed sight. Amen.
The Church enters to-day on the seven days which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the antiphons of the psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn antiphon, consisting of a fervent prayer to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given Him in the sacred Scriptures.
In the Roman Church, there are seven of these antiphons, one for each of the greater ferias. They are commonly called the O’s of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection. In other Churches, during the middle ages, two more were added to these seven; one to our blessed Lady, O Virgo virginum; and the other to the angel Gabriel, O Gabriel; or to St. Thomas the apostle, whose feast comes during the greater ferias; it began O Thoma Didyme. There were even Churches where twelve great antiphons were sung; that is, besides the nine we have just mentioned, O Rex Pacifice to our Lord, O mundi Domina, to our Lady, and O Hierusalem to the city of the people of God.
The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate time for this solemn supplication to our Saviour, because, as the Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the evening of the world (vergente mundi vespere) that the Messias came amongst us. These antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Saviour whom we expect is to come to us by Mary. They are sung twice, once before and once after the canticle, as on double feasts, and this to show their great solemnity. In some Churches it was formerly the practice to sing them thrice; that is, before the canticle, before the Gloria Patri, and after the Sicut erat. Lastly, these admirable antiphons, which contain the whole pith of the Advent liturgy, are accompanied by a chant replete with melodious gravity, and by ceremonies of great expressiveness, though, in these latter, there is no uniform practice followed. Let us enter into the spirit of the Church; let us reflect on the great day which is coming; that thus we may take our share in these the last and most earnest solicitations of the Church imploring her Spouse to come, to which He at length yields.
O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia; veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and disposing all things sweetly! come and teach us the way of prudence.
O uncreated Wisdom, who art so soon to make Thyself visible to Thy creatures, truly Thou disposest all things. It is by Thy permission that the emperor Augustus issues a decree ordering the enrolment of the whole world. Each citizen of the vast empire is to have his name enrolled in the city of his birth. This prince has no other object in this order, which sets the world in motion, but his own ambition. Men go to and fro by millions, and an unbroken procession traverses the immense Roman world; men think they are doing the bidding of man, and it is God whom they are obeying. This world-wide agitation has really but one object; it is, to bring to Bethlehem a man and woman who live at Nazareth in Galilee, in order that this woman, who is unknown to the world but dear to heaven, and who is at the close of the ninth month since she conceived her Child, may give birth to this Child in Bethlehem; for the Prophet has said of Him: ‘His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. And thou, O Bethlehem! art not the least among the thousand cities of Juda, for out of thee He shall come.’ O divine Wisdom! how strong art Thou in thus reaching Thine ends by means which are infallible, though hidden; and yet, how sweet, offering no constraint to man’s free-will; and withal, how fatherly, in providing for our necessities! Thou choosest Bethlehem for Thy birth-place, because Bethlehem signifies the house of bread. In this, Thou teachest us that Thou art our Bread, the nourishment and support of our life. With God as our food, we cannot die. O Wisdom of the Father, living Bread that hast descended from heaven, come speedily into us, that thus we may approach to Thee and be enlightened by Thy light, and by that prudence which leads to salvation.
A Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, fourth Sunday of Advent, Oratio)
Christe, Dei Filius, qui in mundo per Virginem natus, Nativitatis tuæ terrore et regna concutis, et reges admirari compellis, praebe nobis initium Sapientiæ, quod est timor tuus; ut in eo fructificemur, in eo etiam proficientes, fructum tibi pacatissimum offeramus: ut, qui ad gentium vocationem, quasi fluvius violentus, accessisti; nasciturus in terris ad conversionem peccantium, manifesta tuæ gratiæ dona ostendas: quo, repulso terrore formidinis, casto te semper sequamur amore intimae charitatis. Amen.
O Jesus, Son of God! born of a Virgin! whose Nativity struck the nations with terror, and compelled kings to reverence thee; grant unto us the beginning of Wisdom, which is thy fear; that we may thereby yield fruit, and render thee, by our advancement in the same, the fruits of peace. O thou that didst come like a torrent to call the nations, and wast born on earth for the conversion of sinners, show unto us the gift of thy grace, whereby all fear being removed, we may ever follow thee by the chaste love of inward charity. Amen.
 It is more modern than the O Gabriel; but dating from the thirteenth century, it was almost universally substituted for it.
 Mich. v. 2; St. Matt. ii. 6.
 Ps. xxxiii. 6.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year
O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai; come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm.
O sovereign Lord! O Adonai! come and redeem us, not by Thy power, but by Thy humility. Heretofore, Thou didst show Thyself to Moses Thy servant in the midst of a mysterious flame; Thou didst give Thy law to Thy people amidst thunder and lightning; now, on the contrary, Thou co mest not to terrify, but to save us. Thy chaste Mother having heard the emperor’s edict, which obliges her and Joseph her spouse to repair to Bethlehem, prepares everything needed for Thy divine Birth. She prepares for Thee, O Sun of justice! the humble swathing-bands, wherewith to cover Thy nakedness, and protect Thee, the Creator of the world, from the cold of that midnight hour of Thy Nativity! Thus it is that Thou wiliest to deliver us from the slavery of our pride, and show man that Thy divine arm is never stronger than when he thinks it powerless and still. Everything is prepared, then, dear Jesus! Thy swathing-bands are ready for Thy infant limbs! Come to Bethlehem, and redeem us from the hands of our enemies.
This feast, which is now kept not only throughout the whole of Spain but in many other parts of the Catholic world, owes its origin to the bishops of the tenth Council of Toledo, in 656. These prelates thought that there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on the twenty-fifth of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent upon the Passion of our Lord, so that it is sometimes obliged to be transferred into Easter time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason; they therefore decreed that, henceforth, in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas, a solemn feast with an octave, in honour of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of our Lord’s Nativity. In course of time, however, the Church of Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practice of the Church of Rome, and of those of the whole world, which solemnize the twenty-fifth of March as the day of our Lady’s Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God. But such had been, for ages, the devotion of the people for the feast of the eighteenth of December, that it was considered requisite to maintain some vestige of it. They discontinued, therefore, to celebrate the Annunciation on this day; but the faithful were requested to consider, with devotion, what must have been the sentiments of the holy Mother of God during the days immediately preceding her giving Him birth. A new feast was instituted, under the name of 'the Expectation of the blessed Virgin’s delivery.’
This feast, which sometimes goes under the name of Our Lady of O, or the feast of O, on account of the great antiphons which are sung during these days, and, in a special manner, of that which begins O Virgo virginum (which is still used in the Vespers of the Expectation, together with the O Adonai, the antiphon of the Advent Office), is kept with great devotion in Spain. A High Mass is sung at a very early hour each morning during the octave, at which all who are with child, whether rich or poor, consider it a duty to assist, that they may thus honour our Lady’s Maternity, and beg her blessing upon themselves. It is not to be wondered at that the holy See has approved of this pious practice being introduced into almost every other country. We find that the Church of Milan, long before Rome conceded this feast to the various dioceses of Christendom, celebrated the Office of our Lady’s Annunciation on the sixth and last Sunday of Advent, and called the whole week following the Hebdomada de Exceptato (for thus the popular expression had corrupted the word Expectato). But these details belong strictly to the archaeology of liturgy, and enter not into the plan of our present work; let us, then, return to the feast of our Lady’s Expectation, which the Church has established and sanctioned as a new means of exciting the attention of the faithful during these last days of Advent.
Most just indeed it is, O holy Mother of God, that we should unite in that ardent desire thou hadst to see Him, who had been concealed for nine months in thy chaste womb; to know the features of this Son of the heavenly Father, who is also thine; to come to that blissful hour of His birth, which will give glory to God in the highest, and, on earth, peace to men of good-will. Yes, dear Mother, the time is fast approaching, though not fast enough to satisfy thy desires and ours. Make us redouble our attention to the great mystery; complete our preparation by thy powerful prayers for us, that when the solemn hour has come, our Jesus may find no obstacle to His entrance into our hearts.
The Great Antiphon to Our Lady
O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
O Virgin of virgins! how shall this be? for never was there one like thee, nor will there ever be. Ye daughters of Jerusalem, why look ye wondering at me? What ye behold, is a divine mystery.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
O radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, who standest as the ensign of the people; before whom kings shall not open their lips; to whom the nations shall pray: come and deliver us; tarry now no more.
At length, O Son of Jesse! Thou art approaching the city of Thy ancestors. The Ark of the Lord has risen, and journeys, with the God that is in her, to the place of her rest. ‘How beautiful are thy steps, O thou daughter of the Prince,’ now that thou art bringing to the cities of Juda their salvation! The angels escort thee, thy faithful Joseph lavishes his love upon thee, heaven delights in thee, and our earth thrills with joy to bear thus upon itself its Creator and its Queen. Go forward, O Mother of God and Mother of men! Speed thee, thou propitiatory that holdest within thee the divine Manna which gives us life! Our hearts are with thee, and count thy steps. Like thy royal ancestor David, ‘we will not enter into the dwelling of our house, nor go up into the bed whereon we lie, nor give sleep to our eyes, nor rest to our temples, until we have found a place in our hearts for the Lord whom thou bearest, a tabernacle for this God of Jacob.’ Come, then, O Root of Jesse! thus hidden in this Ark of purity; Thou wilt soon appear before Thy people as the standard round which all that would conquer must rally. Then their enemies, the kings of the world, will be silenced, and the nations will offer Thee their prayers. Hasten Thy coming, dear Jesus! come and conquer all our enemies, and deliver us.
A Responsory of Advent
(Ambrosian breviary, sixth Sunday of Advent)
R. Beatus uterus Mariæ Virginis qui portavit invisibilem: quem septem throni capere non possunt in eo habitare dignatus est: * Et portabat levem in sinu suo.
V. Dedit illi Dominus sedem David patris sui, et regnabit in domo Jacob in aeternum, cujus regni non erit finis: * Et portabat levem in sinu suo.
R. Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the invisible God: there did he deign to dwell, whom seven thrones cannot hold: * And she bore him as a light weight in her womb.
V. The Lord hath given him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end: * And she bore him as a light weight in her womb.
 Cant. vii. 1.
 Ps. cxxxi. 3-5.
O Clavis David et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit; veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel! who openest, and no man shutteth: who shuttest, and no man openeth; come, and lead the captive from prison, sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O Jesus, Son of David! heir to his throne and his power! Thou art now passing over, in Thy way to Bethlehem, the land that once was the kingdom of Thy ancestor, but now is tributary to the Gentiles. Scarce an inch of this ground which has not witnessed the miracles of the justice and mercy of Jehovah, Thy Father, to the people of the old Covenant, which is so soon to end. Before long, when Thou hast come from beneath the virginal cloud which now hides Thee, Thou wilt pass along this same road doing good, healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, and yet having not where to lay Thy head. Now, at least, Thy Mother’s womb affords Thee the sweetest rest, and Thou receivest from her the profoundest adoration and the tenderest love. But, dear Jesus, it is Thine own blessed will that Thou leave this loved abode. Thou hast, O eternal Light, to shine in the midst of this world’s darkness, this prison where the captive, whom Thou hast come to deliver, sits in the shadow of death.Open his prison-gates by Thy all-powerful key. And who is this captive, but the human race, the slave of error and vice? Who is this captive, but the heart of man, which is thrall to the very passions it blushes to obey? Oh! come and set at liberty the world Thou hast enriched by Thy grace, and the creatures whom Thou hast made to be Thine own brethren.
Antiphon to the Angel Gabriel
O Gabriel! nuntius cœlorum, qui januis clausis ad me intrasti, et Verbum nunciasti: Concipies et paries: Emmanuel vocabitur.
O Gabriel! the messenger of heaven, who camest unto me through the closed doors, and didst announce the Word unto me: Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son, and he shall be called Emmanuel.
 Acts x. 38.
 St. Matt. iv. 23.
 St. Luke ix. 58.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Church announces to us, to-day, in her Office of Lauds, these solemn words:
Nolite timere: quinta enim die veniet ad vos Dominus noster.
Fear not: for on the fifth day, our Lord will come unto you.
This is the last feast the Church keeps before the great one of the Nativity of her Lord and Spouse. She interrupts the greater ferias in order to pay her tribute of honour to Thomas, the apostle of Christ, whose glorious martyrdom has consecrated this twenty-first day of December, and has procured for the Christian people a powerful patron, who will introduce them to the divine Babe of Bethlehem. To none of the apostles could this day have been so fittingly assigned as to St. Thomas. It was St. Thomas whom we needed; St. Thomas, whose festal patronage would aid us to believe and hope in that God whom we see not, and who comes to us in silence and humility in order to try our faith. St. Thomas was once guilty of doubting, when he ought to have believed, and learnt the necessity of faith only by the sad experience of incredulity: he comes then most appropriately to defend us, by the power of his example and prayers, against the temptations which proud human reason might excite within us. Let us pray to him with confidence. In that heaven of light and vision, where his repentance and love have placed him, he will intercede for us, and gain for us that docility of mind and heart, which will enable us to see and recognize Him, who is the Expected of nations, and who, though the King of the world, will give no other signs of His majesty, than the swaddling-clothes and tears of a Babe. But let us first read the acts of our holy apostle. The Church has deemed it prudent to give us them in an exceedingly abridged form, which contains only the most reliable facts, gathered from authentic sources; and thus she excludes all those details, which have no historic authority.
Thomas apostolus, qui et Didymus, Galilaeus, post acceptum Spiritum sanctum, in multas provincias profectus est ad prædicandum Christi Evangelium. Parthis, Medis, Persis, Hircanis, et Bactris christianæ fidei et vitæ praecepta tradidit. Postremo ad Indos se conferens, eos in Christiana religione erudivit. Qui ad extremum, vitæ doctrinæque sanctitate, et miraculorum magnitudine, quum cæteris omnibus sui admirationem, et Jesu Christi amorem commovisset, illius gentis regem, idolorum cultorem, magis ad iram accendit: cujus sententia condemnatus, telisque confossus, Calaminæ apostolatus honorem martyrii corona decoravit.
Thomas the apostle, who was also named Didymus, was a Galilean. After he had received the Holy Ghost, he travelled through many provinces, preaching the Gospel of Christ. He taught the principles of Christian faith and practice to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hircanians, and Bactrians. He finally went to the Indies, and instructed the inhabitants of those countries in the Christian religion. Up to the last, he gained for himself the esteem of all men by the holiness of his life and teaching, and by the wonderful miracles he wrought. He stirred up, also, in their hearts, the love of Jesus Christ. The king of those parts, a worshipper of idols, was, on the contrary, only the more irritated by all these things. He condemned the saint to be pierced to death by javelins: which punishment was inflicted at Calamina, and gave Thomas the highest honour of his apostolate, the crown of martyrdom.
The Great Antiphon of St. Thomas
O Thoma Didyme! qui Christum meruisti cernere; te precibus rogamus altisonis, succurre nobis miseris; ne damnemur cum impiis, in adventu Judicis.
O Thomas Didymus! who didst merit to see Christ; we beseech thee, by most earnest supplication, help us miserable sinners, lest we be condemned with the ungodly, at the coming of the Judge.
Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, beati apostoli tui Thomæ solemnitatibus gloriari: ut ejus semper et patrociniis sublevemur, et fidem congrua devotione sectemur. Per Dominum, &c. Amen.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may rejoice on the solemnity of thy blessed apostle, Thomas; to the end that we may always have the assistance of his prayers, and zealously profess the faith he taught. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The following prayer is from the Matins of the Gothic, or Mozarabic, breviary:
Domine Jesu Christe, qui posuisti in capite martyris tui Thomæ apostoli coronam de lapide pretioso, in fundamento fundatam; ut non confundatur,quia in te credidit; coronetur, quia pro te animam posuit: sit ergo intercessionibus ejus in nobis famulis tuis fides vera, qua te etiam coram persecutoribus promptissima devotione confiteamur: quatenus interveniente tanto martyre, coram te et angelis tuis minime confundamur. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast placed on the head of thy martyr, Thomas the apostle, a crown made of that precious stone, that is founded in the foundation; that so he might not be confounded, because he believed in thee; nor be uncrowned, because he laid down his life for thee; may there be, by his intercession, in us thy servants, that true faith, whereby we may confess thee with most ready hearts before persecutors: that thus, by the same great martyr’s intercession, we may not be confounded before thee and thy angels. Amen.
The Greek Church celebrates, with her usual solemnity, the feast of St. Thomas; but she keeps it on the sixth of October. We extract the following stanzas from her hymns.
Hymn of St. Thomas
(Taken from the Menæa of the Greeks)
Domini palpato latere, bonorum assecutus es summitatem; nam velut spongia hinc hausisti latices, fontem bonorum, æternamque potasti vitam, mentibus expellens ignorantiam, divinaque Dei cognitionis dogmata scaturire faciens.
Tua incredulitate et tua fide stabilisti tentatos, nunciare incipiens omni creaturae Deum ac Dominum, carne pro nobis in terris indutum, crucem mortemque subeuntem, clavis perforatum, cujus lancea latus apertum, ex quo vitam haurimus.
Indorum omnem terram fulgere fecisti, sacratissime, ac Deum videns apostole! Quum enim illuminasses filios luminis et diei, horum, in Spiritu, sapiens, idolica evertisti templa, et sublimasti eos in charitate Dei ad laudem et gloriam Ecclesiæ, beate intercessor pro animabus nostris.
Divina videns, Christi Sapientiæ spiritualis demonstratus es crater mysticus, O Thoma apostole, in quem fidelium animæ laetantur, et Spiritus sagena populos eruisti ex abysso ignorantiæ: unde ex Sion sicut fluvius devenisti charitatis, tua divina scaturire faciens dogmata in omnem creaturam. Christi Passionis imitatus, latere pro ipso perforatus, induisti immortalitatem: illum deprecare misereri animabus nostris.
When thy hand touched Jesus’ side, thou didst find the perfection of good things; for, as a mystic sponge, thou didst thence imbibe the water of life, the fount of all that is good, and didst drink in everlasting life; whereby thou didst cleanse men’s minds from ignorance, giving them to drink of the divine dogmas of the knowledge of God.
Thou didst, by thine own incredulity and thy after-faith, confirm such as were tempted; for thou didst proclaim to all men, how he, that is thy Lord and thy God, became incarnate on this earth for us, was nailed to the cross and suffered death, and had his side opened with a spear, whence we draw life.
Thou didst make all the Indies shine with much light, O most holy apostle, thou contemplator of the Divinity! For after thou hadst enlightened these people, and made them to be children of the light and day, thou, by the Spirit of God, didst wisely overthrow the temples of their idols, and didst elevate the people to the love of God, making them an honour and a glory to the Church, O thou that helpest us by thy intercession!
By the vision thou hadst of divine things, thou becamest, O apostle Thomas! the mystic cup of the Wisdom of Christ, which gives joy to the souls of the faithful. Thou wert the spiritual net, drawing men from the sea of ignorance. Hence is it, that thou camest from Sion as a stream of charity, watering the world with the divine dogmas. Thou didst imitate the Passion of Jesus, thou wert pierced in thy side, thou hast put on immortality. Pray to God, that he have mercy on our souls.
O glorious apostle, Thomas! who didst lead to Christ so many unbelieving nations, hear now the prayers of the faithful, who beseech thee to lead them to that same Jesus, who, in five days, will have shown Himself to His Church. That we may merit to appear in His divine presence, we need, before all other graces, the light which leads to Him. That light is faith; then, pray that we may have faith. Heretofore, our Saviour had compassion on thy weakness, and deigned to remove from thee the doubt of Hishaving risen from the grave; pray to Him for us, that He will mercifully come to our assistance, and make Himself felt by our heart. We ask not, O holy apostle! to see Him with the eyes of our body, but with those of our faith; for He said to thee, when He showed Himself to thee: ‘Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed!’ Of this happy number we desire to be. We beseech thee, therefore, pray that we may obtain the faith of the heart and will, that so, when we behold the divine Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes and laid in a manger, we may cry out: ‘My Lord! and my God!’ Pray, O holy apostle, for the nations thou didst evangelize, but which have fallen back again into the shades of death. May the day soon come, when the Sun of justice will once more shine upon them. Bless the efforts of those apostolic men, who have devoted their labours and their very lives to the work of the missions; pray that the days of darkness may be shortened, and that the countries, which were watered by thy blood, may at length see that kingdom of God established amongst them, which thou didst preach to them, and for which we also are in waiting.