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:
TO-DAY the Church honours the memory of one of those men who were expressly chosen by God to represent the sublime detachment from all things which was taught to the world by the example of the Son of God, born in a Cave, at Bethlehem. Paul the Hermit so prized the poverty of his Divine Master that he fled to the desert, where he could find nothing to possess and nothing to covet. He had a mere cavern for his dwelling; a palm-tree provided him with food and clothing; a fountain gave him wherewith to quench his thirst; and heaven sent him his only luxury, a loaf of bread brought to him daily by a crow. For sixty years did Paul thus serve, in poverty and in solitude, that God who was denied a dwelling on the earth he came to redeem, and could have but a poor Stable wherein to be born.
But God dwelt with Paul in his cavern; and in him began the Anchorites, that sublime race of men who, the better to enjoy the company of their God, denied themselves not only the society, but the very sight of men. They were the Angels of earth, in whom God showed forth, for the instruction of the rest of men, that he is powerful enough and rich enough to supply the wants of his creatures, who, indeed, have nothing but what they have from him. The Hermit, or Anchoret, is a prodigy in the Church, and it behoves us to glorify the God who has produced it. We ought to be filled with astonishment and gratitude, at seeing how the Mystery of a God made Flesh has so elevated our human nature as to inspire a contempt and abandonment of those earthly goods which heretofore had been so eagerly sought after.
The two names, Paul and Antony, are not to be separated; they are the two Apostles of the Desert; both are Fathers—Paul of Anchorites, and Antony of Cenobites; the two families are sisters, and both have the same source, the Mystery of Bethlehem. The sacred Cycle of the Church's year unites, with only a day between their two Feasts, these two faithful disciples of Jesus in his Crib.
The Church reads in her Office the following abridgement of St Paul's wonderful Life.
Paulus, Eremitarum auctor et magister, apud inferiorem Thebaidem natus, cum quindecim esset annorum, orbatus parentibus est. Qui postea declinandæ causa persecutionis Decii et Valeriani, et Deo liberius inserviendi, in eremi speluncam se contulit: ubi, palma ei victum et vestitum præbente, vixit ad centesimum et decimum tertium annum: quo tempore ab Antonio nonagenario Dei admonitu invisitur. Quibus inter se, cum antea non nossent, proprio nomine consalutantibus, et multa de regno Dei colloquentibus, corvus, qui antea semper dimidiatum panem attulerat, integrum detulit.
Post corvi discessum: Eia, inquit Paulus, Dominus nobis prandium misit vere pius, vere misericors. Sexaginta jam anni sunt, cum accipio quotidie dimidii panis fragmentum; nunc ad adventum tuum militibus suis Christus duplicavit annonam. Quare cum gratiarum actione ad fontem capientes cibum, ubi tantisper recreati sunt, iterum gratiis de more Deo actis, noctem in divinis laudibus consumpserunt. Diluculo Paulus de morte, quæ sibi instaret, admonens Antonium, hortatur ut pallium, quod ab Athanasio acceperat, ad involvendum suum corpus afferret. Quo ex itinere rediens ille, vidit inter Angelorum choros, inter Prophetarum et Apostolorum cœtus, Pauli animam in cœlum ascendere.
Cumque ad ejus cellam pervenisset, invenit genibus complicatis, erecta cervice, extensisque in altum manibus corpus examine: quod pallio obvolvens, hymnosque et psalmos ex Christiana traditione decantans, cum sarculum, quo terram foderet, non haberet; duo leones ex interiore eremo rapido cursu ad beati senis corpus feruntur: ut facile intelligeretur, eos, quo modo poterant, ploratum edere; qui certatim terram pedibus effodientes, foveam, quæ hominem commode caperet, effecerunt. Qui cum abiissent, Antonius sanctum corpus in eum locum intulit: et injecta humo, tumulum ex christiano more composuit: tunicam vero Pauli, quam in sportæ modum ex palma foliis ille sibi contexuerat, secum auferens, eo vestitu diebus solemnibus Paschæ et Pentecostes, quoad vixit, usus est.
Paul, the institutor and master of Hermits, was born in the Lower Thebaid. He lost his parents when he was fifteen years of age. Not long after that, in order to escape the persecution of Decius and Valerian, and to serve God more freely, he withdrew into the desert, where he made a cave his dwelling. A palm-tree afforded him food and raiment, and there he lived to the age of a hundred and thirteen. About that time, he received a visit from Antony, who was ninety years old. God bade him visit Paul. The two Saints, though they had not previously known each other, saluted each other by their names. Whilst holding a long conversation on the kingdom of God, a crow, which every day brought half a loaf of bread, carried them a whole one.
When the crow had left them, Paul said: ‘See! our truly good and truly merciful Lord has sent us our repast. For sixty years I have daily received a half loaf; now, because thou art come to see me, Christ has doubled the portion for his soldiers.' Wherefore they sat near the fountain, and giving thanks, they ate the bread; and when they were refreshed, they again returned the accustomed thanks to God, and spent the night in the divine praises. At daybreak, Paul tells Antony of his approaching death, and begs him go and bring the cloak which Athanasius had given him, and wrap his corpse in it. As Antony was returning from his cell, he saw Paul’s soul going up into heaven amidst choirs of Angels, and a throng of Prophets and Apostles.
When he had reached the hermit’s cell, he found the lifeless body: the knees were bent, the head erect, and the hands stretched out and raised towards heaven. He wrapped it in the cloak, and sang hymns and psalms over it, according to the custom prescribed by Christian tradition. Not having a tool wherewith to make a grave, two lions came at a rapid pace from the interior of the desert, and stood over the body of the venerable Saint, showing how, in their own way, they lamented his death. They began to tear up the earth with their feet, and seemed to strive to outdo each other in the work, until they had made a hole large enough to receive the body of a man. When they had gone, Antony carried the holy corpse to the place, and covering it with the soil, he arranged the grave after the manner of the Christians. As to the tunic, which Paul had woven for himself out of palmleaves, as baskets are usually made, Antony took it away with him, and as long as he lived, wore it on the great days of Easter and Pentecost.
We give three stanzas of the Hymn sung by the Greek Church in honour of our holy Hermit. We take them from the Menæa.
Die XV Januarii
Quando nutu divino, Pater, vitæ sollicitudines sapienter reliquisti, et ad ascesis labores transisti, tunc gaudens invia occupasti deserta; æstu inflammatus amoris Domini; ideo deserens libidines, in meliorum perseverantia rerum, Angelo similis, vitam duxisti.
Ab omni humana teipsum, Pater, societate segregans ex adolescentia, primus omnino solitudinem, Paule, occupasti ultra quemcumque solitarie viventem, et per totam vitam visus es incognitus; ideo Antonius te invenit nutu divino tamquam latentem, et orbi terrarum manifestavit.
Insolitæ in terra conversationi deditus, Paule, cum bestiis habitasti, avis ministerio divina voluntate utens; et hoc ut vidit quando te maximus invenit Antonius, stupens, omnium et Prophetam et Magistrum, quasi Deum, te sine intermissione magnificavit.
When, O Father! thou didst by divine inspiration wisely leave the cares of this life, and devote thyself to the labours of an ascetic, thou didst joyfully enter the trackless desert. Inflamed with the heat of divine love, thou didst abandon human affections, and Angel-like, didst spend thy life in the persevering search after more perfect things.
Father! thou didst, from thy early youth, separate thyself from all human society, and wast the first to live in the desert, surpassing all other Anchorets. Thou, Paul, didst pass thy whole life unknown to men; therefore was Antony divinely inspired to go in search of thee, as the hidden Saint; he found thee and revealed thee to the whole earth.
A life unknown to the world was thine, O Paul! the wild beasts were thy companions, and a bird, sent thee by God, ministered to thee. When the great Antony found thee, and saw all this, he was filled with wonder, and never ceased speaking thy praises, as a Prophet and Teacher of all men, and as something divine.
Father and Prince of Hermits! thou art now contemplating in all his glory that God whose weakness and lowliness thou didst study and imitate during the sixty years of thy desert life: thou art now with him in the eternal union of the Vision. Instead of thy cavern, where thou didst spend thy life of unknown penance, thou hast the immensity of the heavens for thy dwelling; instead of thy tunic of palm-leaves, thou hast the robe of Light; instead of the pittance of material bread, thou hast the Bread of eternal life; instead of thy humble fountain, thou hast the waters which spring up to eternity, filling thy soul with infinite delights. Thou didst imitate the silence of the Babe of Bethlehem by thy holy life of seclusion; now thy tongue is for ever singing the praises of God, and the music of infinite bliss is for ever falling on thine ear. Thou didst not know this world of ours, save by its deserts; but now thou must compassionate and pray for us who live in it; speak for us to our dear Jesus; remind him how he visited it in wonderful mercy and love; pray his sweet blessing upon us, and the graces of perfect detachment from transitory things, love of poverty, love of prayer, and love of our heavenly country.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year:
SAINT MAURUS—one of the greatest masters of the Cenobitical Life, and the most illustrious of the Disciples of St Benedict, the Patriarch of the Monks of the West—shares with the First Hermit the honours of this fifteenth day of January. Faithful, like the holy Hermit, to the lessons taught at Bethlehem, Maurus has a claim to have his Feast kept during the forty days, which are sacred to the sweet Babe Jesus. He comes to us each January to bear witness to the power of that Babe's humility. Who, forsooth, will dare to doubt of the triumphant power of the poverty and the obedience shown in the Crib of our Emmanuel, when he is told of the grand things done by those virtues in the cloisters of fair France?
It was to Maurus that France was indebted for the introduction into her territory of that admirable Rule which produced the great Saints and the great men to whom she owes the best part of her glory. The children of St Benedict trained by St Maurus struggled against the barbarism of the Franks under the first race of her kings; under the second, they instructed in sacred and profane literature the people in whose civilization they had so powerfully co-operated; under the third—and even in modem times, when the Benedictine Order, enslaved by the system of Commendatory Abbots, and decimated by political tyranny or violence, was dying out amidst every kind of humiliation—they were the fathers of the poor by the charitable use of their large possessions, and the ornaments of literature and science by their immense contributions to ecclesiastical science and archæology, as also to the history of their own country.
St Maurus built his celebrated Monastery of Glanfeuil, and Glanfeuil may be considered as the mother house of the principal Monasteries in France, Saint Germain and Saint Denis of Paris, Marmoutier, Saint Victor, Luxeuil, Jumièges, Fleury, Corbie, Saint Vannes, Moyen-Moutier, Saint Wandrille, Saint Waast, La Chaise-Dieu, Tiron, Cheza, Benoit, Le Bec, and innumerable other Monasteries in France gloried in being daughters of Monte-Cassino by the favourite Disciple of St Benedict. Cluny, which gave several Popes to the Church, and among them St Gregory the Seventh and Urban the Second, was indebted to St Maurus for that Rule which gave her her glory and her power. We must count up the Apostles, Martyrs, Bishops, Doctors, Confessors, and Virgins who were formed, for twelve hundred years, in the Benedictine Cloisters of France; we must calculate the services, both temporal and spiritual, done to this great country by the Benedictine Monks during all that period; and we shall have some idea of the results produced by the mission of St Maurus—results whose whole glory redounds to the Babe of Bethlehem, and to the mysteries of his humility, which are the source and model of the Monastic Life. When, therefore, we admire the greatness of the Saints, and recount their wonderful works, we are glorifying Jesus, the King of all Saints.
The Monastic Breviary, in the Office of this Feast, gives us the following sketch of the Life of St Maurus.
Maurus Romanus a patre Eutychio, Senatorii ordinis, Deo, sub sancti Benedicti disciplina, puer oblatus, et in schola talis ac tanti morum magistri institutus, prius sublimem monasticæ perfectionis gradum, quam primos adolescentiæ annos, attigit: adeo ut suarum virtutum admiratorem simul et præconem ipsummet Benedictum habuerit, qui eum velut observantiæ regularis exemplar, cæteris ad imitandum proponere consueverat. Cilicio, vigiliis, jejuniisque, carnem continuis atterebat, assidua interim oratione, piis lacrymis, sacrarumque litterarum lectione recreatus. Per quadragesimam bis tantum in hebdomada cibo ita parce utebatur, ut hunc prægustare potius quam sumere videretur: somnum quoque stando, vel cum nimia eum lassitudo compulisset, sedendo, alio autem tempore super aggestum calcis et sabuli strato cilicio recumbens capiebat; sed ita modicum, ut noctumas longioribus semper precibus, toto etiam sæpe psalterio recitato, vigilias preveniret.
Admirabilis obedientiæ specimen dedit, cum periclitante in aquis Placido, ipse sancti Patris jussu ad lacum advolans super undas sicco vestigio ambulavit: et apprehensum capillis adolescentulum, hostiam cruento gladio divinitus reservatam, ex aquis incolumem extraxit. Hinc eum ob eximias virtutes beatus idem Pater sibi curarum consortem assumpsit: quem jam inde ab ipsis monasticæ vitæ tirociniis socium miraculorum asciverat. Ad sacrum Levitarum ordinem ex ejusdem sancti Patris imperio promotus, stola quam ferebat, muto puero vocem, eidemque claudo gressum impertívit.Missus in Galliam ab eodem sancto Benedicto, vix eam ingressus erat, cum triumphalem beatissimi Patris in cœlos ingressum suspexit. Gravissimis subinde laboribus, curisque perfunctus, Regulam ejusdem Legislatoris manu exaratam datamque promulgavit: exstructoque celebri monasterio, cui quadraginta annos præfuit, fama nominis sui factorumque adeo inclaruit, ut nobilissimi proceres, ex aula Theodeberti regis, in sanctiore militia merituri, ad ejus signa convolarint.
Biennio ante obitum abdicans se Monasterii regimine, in cellam sancti Martini sacello proximam secessit: ubi se in arctioris pœnitentiæ operibus exercens, cum humani generis hoste, internecionem Monachis minitante, pugnaturus in arenam descendit. Qua in lucta solatorem Angelum bonum habuit, qui mali astus, divinumque illi decretum aperiens, eum una cum discipulis ad coronam evocavit. Quare cum emeritos milites supra centum dux ipse brevi secuturus, veluti totidem triumphi sui antecessores, in cœlum præmisisset: in Oratorium deferri voluit, ubi vitæ sacramento munitus, substratoque cilicio recubans ad aram ipse victima, pretiosa morte procubuit septuagenario major, postquam in Galliis Monasticam disciplinam mirifice propagasset, innumeris ante et post obitum clarus miraculis.
Maurus was by birth a Roman. His father, whose name was Eutychius, a Senator by rank, had placed him, when a little boy, under the care of St Benedict. Trained in the school of such and so great a Master of holiness, he attained to the highest degree of monastic perfection, even before he had ceased to be a child; so that Benedict himself was in admiration, and used to speak of his virtues to everyone, holding him forth to the rest of the house as a model of religious discipline. He subdued his flesh by austerities, such as wearing a hair-shirt, night watching, and frequent fasting; giving, meanwhile, to his spirit the solace of assiduous prayer, holy compunction, and reading the Sacred Scriptures. During Lent, he took food but twice in the week, and that so sparingly as to seem rather to be tasting than taking it. He slept standing, or when excessive fatigue obliged him to it, sitting, or at times lying down on a heap of lime and sand, over which he threw his hair-shirt. His sleep was exceedingly short, for he always recited very long prayers, and often the whole of the Psalms, before the midnight Office.
He gave a proof of his admirable spirit of obedience on the occasion of Placid’s fall into the lake. Maurus, at the bidding of the Holy Father, ran to the lake, walked dry-shod upon the water, and taking the child by the hair of his head, drew him safe to the bank; for Placid was to be slain by the sword as a martyr, and our Lord reserved him as a victim which should be offered to him. On account of such signal virtues as these, the same Holy Father made Maurus share the care of his duties; for, from his very entrance into the monastic life, he had had a part in his miracles. He had been raised to the holy order of Deaconship by St Benedict’s command; and by placing the stole he wore on a dumb and lame boy, he gave him the power both to speak and walk.Maurus was sent by his Holy Father into France. Scarcely had he set his foot in that land, than he had a vision of the triumphant entrance of that great saint into heaven. He promulgated in that country the Rule which St Benedict had written with his own hand, and had given to him on his leaving Italy; though the labour and anxiety he had to go through in the accomplishment of his mission were exceedingly great. Having built the celebrated Monastery, which he governed for forty years, so great was the reputation of his virtues, that several of the noblest lords of King Theodebert’s court put themselves under Maurus’ direction, and enrolled in the holier and more meritorious warfare of the monastic life.
Two years before his death, he resigned the government of his Monastery, and retired into a cell near the Oratory of St Martin. There he exercised himself in most rigorous penance, wherewith he fortified himself for the contest he had to sustain against the enemy of mankind, who threatened him with the death of his Monks. In this combat a holy Angel was his comforter, who, after revealing to him the snares of the wicked spirit, and the designs of God, bade him and his disciples win the crown prepared for them. Having, therefore, sent to heaven before him, as so many forerunners, a hundred and more of his brave soldiers, and knowing that he, their leader, was soon to follow them, he signified his wish to be carried to the Oratory, where, being strengthened by the Sacrament of Life, and lying or his hair-shirt, as a victim before the Altar, he died a saintly death. He was upwards of seventy years of age. It would be difficult to describe the success wherewith he propagated Monastic discipline in France, or to tell the miracles which, both before and after his death, rendered him glorious among men.
We give a selection of Antiphons, taken from the Monastic Office of St Maurus.
Beatus Maurus patricio genere illustris, a puero majores divitias æstimavit thesauris mundi, improperium Christi Domini.
Induit eum Dominus stola sancta Levitarum, qua claudos fecit ambulare, et mutos loqui.
In Franciam missus, doctrinam Regulæ quasi antelucanum illuminavit omnibus, et enarravit eam usque ad longinquum.
Floro, primariisque Regni proceribus decorata exsultabat, et fiorebat quasi lilium novi cœnobii solitudo.
Quos in Christo genuerat filios, morti proximus in cœlum præmisit, et inter preces corpus ad aras, animam cœlo deposuit. Alleluia.
O dignissimum Patris Benedicti discipulum, quem ipse sui spiritus hæredem reliquit, ut Regulæ sanctæ promulgator esset primarius, et in Galliis Monastici Ordinis propagator mirificus. Alleluia.
O beatum virum, qui spreto sæculo jugum sanctæ Regulæ a teneris annis amanter portavit, et factus obediens usque ad mortem semetipsum abnegavit, ut Christo totus adhæreret. Alleluia.
Hodie sanctus Maurus super cilicium stratus, coram altari feliciter occubuit. Hodie primogenitus beati Benedicti discipulus per ducatum sanctæ Regulæ securus ascendens, choris comitatus angelicis, pervenit ad Christum. Hodie vir obediens, loquens victorias, a Domino coronari meruit. Alleluia, alleluia.
The blessed Maurus, illustrious by birth, as being of a patrician family, esteemed the reproach of Christ our Lord to be greater riches than the treasures of this world.
The Lord clothed him with the holy stole of Levites: wherewith he made the lame walk, and the dumb speak.
Being sent into France, he enlightened all men by the teaching of the Rule, as the dawn lights the world, and he made it known even to distant lands.
The solitude of the new monastery bloomed with the coming of Florus and the chief nobles of the kingdom; it was glad and flowered as the lily.
When near his death, he sent before him to heaven the children he had begotten in Christ; and whilst in prayer, he laid down his body at the Altar, his soul resting in heaven. Alleluia.
O most worthy disciple of his Father Benedict, who made him heir of his own spirit, that he might become the chief promulgator of the Holy Rule, and the wonderful propagator of the Monastic Order in France! Alleluia.
O blessed Maurus! who from early childhood despised the world, and lovingly bore the yoke of the Holy Rule, and being obedient even unto death, denied himself, that he might cling unreservedly to Christ. Alleluia.
On this day did Saint Maurus, laid before the Altar on his hairshirt, happily breathe forth his soul. On this day the eldest disciple of blessed Benedict, securely ascending by the path of the Holy Rule, and accompanied by choirs of Angels, was led to Christ. On this day the obedient man, speaking victory, was rewarded by receiving the crown from his Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Responsories of the same Office are equally fine. We select the following.
℟. Maurus a teneris annis sancto Benedicto in disciplinam ab Eutychio patre in Sublaco traditus, Magistri sui virtutes imitando expressit, * Et similis ejus effectus est.
℣. Inspexit et fecit secundum exemplar, quod ipsi in monte monstratum est. * Et similis.
℟. Prolapso in lacum Placido, Maurus advolans, Spiritu Domini ferebatur super aquas; * Dum Patri suo in auditu auris obediret.
℣. Aquæ multæ non potuerunt exstinguere caritatem ejus, neque flumina illam obruere. * Dum Patri.
℟. Sanctus Benedictus dilectum præ cæteris Discipulum suum Maurum transmittit in Galliam: * Et magnis patitur destitui solatiis, ut proximi saluti provideat.
℣.Caritas benigna est, nec quærit quæ sua sunt, sed quæ Jesu Christi. * Et magnis.
℟. In Deo raptus viam vidit innumeris coruscam lampadibus, qua Benedictus ascendebat in gloriam, * In perpetuas æternitates.
℣. Justorum semita quasi lux splendens procedit, et crescit usque ad perfectam diem. * In perpetuas.
℟. Quæ in sinu beati Patris Benedicti hauserat Maurus sapientiæ flumina in Galliis effudit; * Et inter Franciæ lilia sacri Ordinis propagines sevit.
℣. Quasi trames aquæ de fluvio rigavit hortum plantationum suarum. * Et inter.
℟. Christianissimus Francorum Rex venit ad monasterium, ut audiret sapientiam novi Salomonis: * Et regiam purpuram submisit pedibus ejus.
℣. Quia humilis fuit in oculis suis, glorificavit illum Dominus in conspectu regum. * Et regiam.
℟. Biennio ante mortem siluit sejunctus ab hominibus, * Et solus in superni inspectoris oculis habitavit secum.
℣. Præparavit cor suum, et in conspectu Domini sanctificavit animam suam. * Et solus.
℟. Maxima pars fratrum sub Mauro duce militantium per Angelum de morte monita, ultimum cum dæmone pugnavit; * Et in ipso agone occumbens, cœlestes triumphos promeruit.
℣. Bonum certamen certavit, cursum consummavit, fidem servavit. * Et in ipso agone.
℟. Postquam sexaginta annos in sacra militia meruisset, imminente jam morte, ad aras deferri voluit, ut effunderet in conspectu Domini orationem, et animam suam, dicens: * Concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini.
℣. Altana tua, Domine virtutum, Rex meus, et Deus meus. * Concupiscit.
℟. Substrato cilicio in Ecclesia recumbens, ex domo orationis transivit in locum tabernaculi admirabilis, usque ad domum Dei, * Cujus nimio amore flagrabat.
℣. Coarctabatur enim, desiderium habens dissolvi, et esse cum Christo. * Cujus nimio.
℟. Maurus, when quite a child, was taken to Subiaco, and consigned by his father Eutychius to the care of Saint Benedict: he imitated the virtues of his Master, and reflected them in his own conduct, * And became like unto him.
℣. He looked and did according to the image that was shown him on the mount. * And became.
℟. Placid having fallen into the lake, Maurus flies to his rescue, and was borne upon the waters by the Spirit of the Lord; * Whilst obeying his Father in the hearing of the ear.
℣. Many waters could not quench his charity, neither could floods drown it. * Whilst obeying.
℟. Saint Benedict sent into France his disciple Maurus, whom he loved above the rest: * And suffers himself to be deprived of his great consolation, that he may provide for his neighbour’s salvation.
℣. Charity is kind, neither seeketh she her own, but the things that are of Jesus Christ. * And suffers.
℟. Being rapt in God, he beheld the path glittering with countless lamps, whereby Benedict was mounting to glory, * For an endless eternity,
℣. The path of the just, as a shining light, proceedeth and increaseth even unto perfect day. * For an endless.
℟. The wisdom that he had learnt from the blessed Father Benedict he poured forth in France; * And he planted shoots of the Holy Order amidst the lilies of France.
℣. As a brook out of a river, he waters the garden of his plants. * And he planted.
℟. The Most Christian King of the Franks went to the monastery, that he might hear the wisdom of the new Solomon: * And he laid the regal purple under his feet.
℣. Because he was humble in his own eyes, the Lord glorified him in the sight of kings. * And he laid.
℟. He spent the two years before his death in silence and separation from men, * And alone, he dwelt with himself under the eye of the all-seeing God.
℣. He prepared his heart, and in the sight of the Lord he sanctified his soul. * And alone.
℟. The greater part of the brethren, who fought under the leadership of Maurus, were warned by an Angel of their death, and fought their last battle with the demon: * And dying in that battle, they won to themselves the triumph of heaven.
℣. They fought the good fight, they finished their course, they kept the faith. * And dying.
℟. After he had meritoriously served sixty years in the holy warfare, and death being at hand, he willed that they should carry him to the Altar, there to breathe forth, in the presence of the Lord, his prayer and his soul: he said: * My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord;
℣. Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. * My soul.
℟. Laid on his hair-shirt in the Church, he passed from the house of prayer into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God. * With love of whom he burned exceedingly.
℣. For he was straitened, desiring to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. * With love.
Of the three Hymns to St Maurus, we choose this, as being the finest.
Maurum concelebra Gallia canticis,
Qui te prole nova ditat, et inclyti
Custos imperii, regia protegit
Sacro pignore lilia.
Hic gentilitiis major honoribus,
Spretis lætus adit claustra palatiis,
Calcat delicias, prædia, purpuram,
Ut Christi subeat jugum.
Sancti propositam Patris imaginem
Gestis comparibus sedulus exprimit;
Spectandis pueri lucet in actibus
Vitæ norma monasticæ.
Se sacco rigidus conterit aspero,
Frænat perpetui lege silentii;
Noctes in precibus pervigil exigit,
Jejunus solidos dies.
Bum jussis patriis excitus advolat,
Sicco calcat aquas impavidus pede,
Educit Placidum gurgite sospitem,
Et Petro similis redit.
Laudem jugis honor sit tibi Trinitas,
Quæ vultus satias lumine cœlites!
Da sanctæ famulis tramite Regulæ
Mauri præmia consequi.
Hymn Maurus in thy canticles, O France!
for he enriched thee with a new race;
he is the guardian of thy fair throne,
and his sacred relics protect thy royal lilies.
Rising above the honours of his family,
and deeming palaces beneath him, he gladly seeks the cloister:
luxuries, lands, robes of state, he tramples on them all,
that he may take up the yoke of Christ,
Strenuously does he express in his conduct the image he had proposed to himself
—he does what his Holy Father does:
the Rule of the monastic life is brightly mirrored
in the actions of the youthful Maurus.
Severe to himself, he subdues the flesh by a rough hair-shirt;
he bridles nature by the law of perpetual silence;
he spends his wakeful nights in prayer,
and whole days are passed in long unbroken fast.
He flies at his Father's bidding,
and dryshod and fearless treads upon the waters of the lake;
he rescues Placid from a watery grave,
and, like another Peter, sinks not as he walks.
Unending praiseful homage be to thee, O holy Trinity,
that givest to the Saints the satiating Light of Vision!
Grant to thy servants, who are walking in the path of the Holy Rule,
to obtain the rewards so bravely won by Maurus.
How blessed was thy Mission, O favourite and worthy disciple of the great Saint Benedict! How innumerable the Saints that sprang from thee and thy illustrious Patriarch! The Rule thou didst promulgate was truly the salvation of that great country which thou and thy disciples evangelized; and the fruits of the Order thou didst plant there have been indeed abundant. But now that from thy throne in heaven thou beholdest that fair France which was once covered with Monasteries, and from which there mounted up to God the ceaseless voice of prayer and praise, and scarce findest the ruins of these noble Sanctuaries—dost thou not turn towards our Lord, and beseech him that he make the wilderness bloom once more as of old? Oh! what has become of those Cloisters, wherein were trained Apostles of Nations, learned Pontiffs, intrepid defenders of the liberty of the Church, holy Doctors and heroes of sanctity—all of whom call thee their second Father? Who will bring back again those vigorous principles of poverty, obedience, hard work, and penance, which made the Monastic Life the object of the people’s admiration and love, and attracted thousands of every class in society to embrace it? Instead of this holy enthusiasm of the ages of faith, we, alas! can show little else than cowardice of heart, love of this life, zeal for enjoyment, dread of the cross, and at best, comfortable and inactive piety. Pray, great Saint! that these days may be shortened; that the Christians of the present generation may grow earnest by reflecting on the sanctity to which they are called; that new strength may spring up in our tepid hearts, for the Church has need of courageous souls in order that her future glory may be as great and bright as we could hope for in our most fervent love. Oh! if God hear thy prayer, and give us once more the Monastic Life in all its purity and vigour, we shall be safe, and the evil of faith without earnestness, which is now producing such havoc in the spiritual world, will be replaced by Christian energy. Teach us, O Maurus! to know the dear Babe of Bethlehem, and to fix well in our hearts his life and doctrine; for we shall then understand the greatness of our Christian vocation, and that only by following him, our Guide and Master, shall we be able to overcome our enemy the world.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE name of Marcellus is brought before us by the Calendar to-day: he was a successor of the glorious Hyginus in the papacy and in martyrdom, and their Feasts fall in the same season of the year. Each Christmastide shows us these two Pontiffs offering their Keys in homage to Jesus, the invisible Head of the Church they governed. In a few days hence, we shall find our Christmas list of Saints giving us the name of a third Pope and Martyr, Fabian. These three valiant Vicars of Christ are like the three generous Magi; they offered their richest presents to the Emmanuel, their blood and their lives.
Marcellus governed the Church at the close of the last general Persecution. A few months after his death, the tyrant Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, and the Cross of Christ glittered in triumph on the Labarum of the Roman Legions. The time for martyrdom was, therefore, very short; but Marcellus was in time; he shed his blood for Christ, and won the honour of standing in Stephen's company over the Crib of the Divine Infant, with his palm-branch in his venerable hand. He withstood the tyrant Emperor, who bade him abdicate the majesty of the supreme Pontificate, and this in the very City of Rome; for Rome was to be the capital of another King—of Christ—who, in the person of his Vicar, would take possession of it, and her old masters, the Cæsars, would make Byzantium their Rome. It is three hundred years since the decree of Cæsar Augustus ordered the census of the world to be taken, which brought Mary to Bethlehem, where she gave birth to an humble Babe; and now the Empire of that Babe has outgrown the Empire of the Cæsars, and its victory is upon the point of being proclaimed. After Marcellus, we shall have Eusebius; after Eusebius, Melchiades; and Melchiades will see the triumph of the Church.
The Acts of Marcellus are thus given in the Lessons of his Feast.
Marcellus, Romanus, a Constantio et Galerio usque ad Maxentium Pontificatum gessit. Cujus hortatu, Lucina, Matrona Romana, bonorum suonim Dei Ecclesiam fecit hæredem. Viginti quinque titulos in urbe instituit, quasi dioeceses quasdam, et ad baptismum pœnitentiamque eorum qui ex infidelibus Christianam religionem susciperent, et ad Martyrum sepulturam. Quibus rebus ira incensus Maxentius, Marcello gravia supplicia minatur, nisi, deposito Pontificatu, idolis immolaret.
Qui cum insanas hominis voces negligeret, misit eum in catabulum, ut bestiarum, quæ publice alebantur, curam sustineret. Ubi Marcellus assiduis jejuniis et precibus novem menses vitam duxit, parochias, quas præsens non poterat, visitans per epistolas. Inde ereptus a clericis, hospitio recipitur a beata Lucina: in cujus ædibus Ecclesiam dedicavit, quæ hodie titulo sancti Marcelli nominatur: in qua et Christiani orabant, et ipse beatus Marcellus prædicabat.
Quibus cognitis, Maxentius in eam Ecclesiam catabuli bestias transferri, et a Marcello custodiri jubet: ubi loci fœditate, multisque ærumnis afflictus, obdormivit in Domino. Cujus corpus in coemeterio Priscillæ, via Salaria, a beata Lucina sepultus est decimo septimo Kalendas Februarii. Sedit annos quinque, mensem unum, dies viginti quinque. Scripsit epistolam ad Episcopos Antiochenæ provinciæ de Primatu Romana Ecclesia, quam Caput Ecclesiarum appellandam demonstrat. Ubi etiam illud scriptum est nullum concilium jure celebrari, nisi ex auctoritate Romani Pontificis. Ordinavit mense Decembri Roma Presbyteros viginti quinque, Diaconos duos, Episcopos per diversa loca viginti unum.
Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City five and twenty Titles, as so many districts for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.
Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was therefore sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.
Maxentius, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16). He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called 'the Head of the Churches.' In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council may be rightly celebrated without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.
What must have been thy thoughts, O glorious Marcellus, when imprisoned in a stable, with poor dumb brutes for thy companions! Thou didst think upon Jesus, thy Divine Master, how he was born in a stable, and laid in a manger between two senseless animals. Thou didst appreciate the humiliations of Bethlehem, and joyfully acknowledge that the Disciple is not above his Master. But from that stable wherein the tyranny of an Emperor had thrust it, the majesty of the Apostolic See was soon to be set free, and its glory made manifest to the whole earth. Christian Rome, insulted in thy person, was soon to receive an additional consecration by thy martyrdom, and God was on the point of making over to thy successors the palaces of that proud City, which then knew not the glorious destiny that awaited her. O Marcellus! thou didst triumph, like the Babe of Bethlehem, by thy humiliations. Like him, too, thou hadst thy cross, and gavest thy life for thy sheep. Forget not the Church of thy unceasing love: bless that Rome which venerates so profoundly the spot where thou didst suffer and die. Bless all the Faithful children of Christ, who keep thy Feast during this holy Season, praying thee to obtain for them the grace of profiting by the mystery of Bethlehem. Pray for them, that they may imitate Jesus, conquer pride, love the Cross, and be faithful in all their trials.
 St Matt. x 24.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE East and West unite, to-day, in honouring St Antony, the Father of Cenobites. The Monastic Life existed before his time, as we know from indisputable testimony; but he was the first Abbot, because he was the first to bring Monks under the permanent government of one Superior or Father.
Antony began with seeking solely his own sanctification; he was known only as the wonderful Solitary against whom the wicked spirits waged an almost continuous battle: but in course of time, men were attracted to him by his miracles and by the desire of their own perfection; this gave him disciples; he permitted them to cluster round his cell; and monasteries thus began to be built in the desert. The age of the Martyrs was near its close; the persecution under Diocletian, which was to be the last, was over as Antony entered on the second half of his course: and God chose this time for organizing a new force in the Church. The Monastic Life was brought to bear upon the Christian world; the Ascetics, as they were called, not even such of them as were consecrated, were not a sufficient element of power. Monasteries were built in every direction, in solitudes and in the very cities; and the Faithful had but to look at these communities living in the fervent and literal fulfilment of the Counnsels of Christ, and they felt themselves encouraged to obey the Precepts. The apostolic traditions of continual prayer and penance were perpetuated by the monastic system; it secured the study of the Sacred Scriptures and Theology; and the Church herself would soon receive from these arsenals of intellect and piety her bravest defenders, her holiest Prelates, and her most zealous Apostles. Yes, the Monastic Life was to be and give all this to the Christian world, for the example of St Antony had given her a bias to usefulness. If there ever were a monk to whom the charms of solitude and the sweetness of contemplation were dear, it was our Saint; and yet they could not keep him in his desert when he could save souls by a few days spent in a noisy city. Thus, we find him in the streets of Alexandria when the pagan persecution was at its height; he came to encourage the Christians in their martyrdom. Later on, when that still fiercer foe of Arianism was seducing the Faith of the people, we again meet the great Abbot in the same capital, this time preaching to its inhabitants that the Word is consubstantial with the Father, proclaiming the Nicene faith, and keeping up the Catholics in orthodoxy and resolution. There is another incident in the life of St Antony which tells in the same direction, inasmuch as it shows how an intense interest in the Church must ever be where the Monastic Spirit is. We are alluding to our Saint's affection for the great St Athanasius, who on his part reverenced the Patriarch of the Desert, visited him, promoted the Monastic Life to the utmost of his power, used to say that he considered the great hope of the Church to be in the good discipline of monasticism, and wrote the Life of his dear St Antony.
But to whom is the glory of the institution of monasticism due, with which the destinies of the Church were, from that time forward, to be so closely connected, that the period of her glory and power was to be when the monastic element flourished, and the days of her affliction were to be those of its decay? Who was it that put into the heart of Antony and his disciples the love of that poor and unknown, yet ever productive life? It is Jesus, the humble Babe of Bethlehem. To him, then, wrapt in his swaddling-clothes, and yet the omnipotent God, be all the glory!
It is time to hear the account of some of the virtues and actions of the great St Antony, given by the Church in her Office of his Feast.
Antonius Ægyptius, nobilibus et christianis parentibus natus, quibus adolescens orbatus est, cum ingressus Ecclesiam ex Evangelio audivisset: Si vis perfectas esse, vade et vende omnia quæ habes, et da pauperibus; tanquam ea sibi dicta essent, sic Christo Domino obtemperandura existimavit. Itaque, vendita re familiari, pecuniam omnem pauperibus distribuit. Quibus solutus impedimentis, cœlestis vitæ genus in terris colere instituit. Sed cum in periculosum illud certamen descenderet, ad fidei præsidium, quo erat armatus, adhibendum sibi putavit subsidium reliquarum virtutum, quarum tanto studio incensus fuit, ut quemcumque videret aliqua virtutis laude excellentem, illum imitari studeret.
Nihil igitur eo continentius, nihil vigilantius erat. Patientia, mansuetudine, misericordia, humilitate, labore, ac studio divinarum Scripturarum superabat omnes. Ab hæreticorum et schismaticorum hominum, maxime Arianorum, congressu et colloquio sic abhorrebat, ut ne prope quidem ad eos accedendum diceret. Humi jacebat, cum eum necessarius somnus occupasset. Jejunium autem adeo coluit, ut salem tantummodo ad panem adhiberet, sitim aqua exstingueret; neque se ante solis occasum cibo aut potu recreabat; sæpe etiam biduura cibo abstinebat, sæpissime in oratione pernoctabat. Cum talis tantusque Dei miles evasisset Antonius, sanctissimum juvenem hostis humani generis variis tentationibus aggreditur, quas ille jejunio et oratione vincebat. Nec vero frequens de satana triumphus securum reddebat Antonium, qui diaboli innumerabiles artes nocendi noverat.
Itaque contulit se in vastissimam Ægypti solitudinem, ubi quotidie ad Christianam perfectionem proficiens, dæmones (quorum tanto erant acriores impetus, quanto Antonius ad resistendam fortior evadebat) ita contempsit, ut illis exprobraret imbecillitatem: ac sæpe discipulos suos excitans ad pugnandum contra diabolum, docensque quibus armis vinceretur: Mihi credite, dicebat, fratres: pertimescit satanas piorum vigilias, orationes, jejunia, voluntariam paupertatem, misericordiam et humilitatem, maxime vero ardentem amorem in Christum Dominum, cujus unico sanctissimæ Crucis signo debilitatus aufugit. Sic autem dæmonibus erat formidolosus, ut multi per Ægyptum ab illis agitati, invocato nomine Antonii liberarentur: tantaque erat ejus fama sanctitatis, ut per litteras se ejus orationibus Constantinus Magnus et filii commendarent. Qui aliquando quintum et centesimum annum agens, cum innumerabiles sui instituti imitatores haberet, convocatis monachis, et ad perfectam christianæ vitæ regulam instructis, sanctitate et miraculis clarus migravit in cœlum, decimosexto Kalendas Februarii.
Antony was born in Egypt, of noble and Christian parents, who left him an orphan at an early age. Having one day entered a Church, he heard these words of the Gospel being read: If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast, and give to the poor. He took them as addressed to himself, and thought it his duty to obey these words of Christ his Lord. Selling therefore his possessions, he distributed all the money among the poor. Being freed from these obstacles, he resolved to lead on earth a heavenly life. But at his entrance on the perils of such a combat, he felt that besides the shield of faith, wherewith he was armed, he must needs fortify himself with the other virtues; and so ardent was his desire to possess them, that whomsoever he saw excelling in any virtue, him did he study to imitate.
Nothing, therefore, could exceed his continency and vigilance. He surpassed all in patience, meekness, mercy, humility, manual labour, and the study of the Sacred Scriptures. So great was his aversion for the company of, or conversation with, heretics, especially the Arians, that he used to say that we ought not even to go near them. He lay on the ground when necessity obliged him to sleep. As to fasting, he practised it with so much fervour that his only nourishment was bread seasoned with salt, and he quenched his thirst with water; neither did he take this his food and drink until sunset, and frequently abstained from it altogether for two successive days. He very frequently spent the whole night in prayer. Antony became so valiant a soldier of God that the enemy of mankind, ill-brooking such extraordinary virtue, attacked him with manifold temptations; but the Saint overcame them all by fasting and prayer. Neither did his victories over Satan make him heedless, for he knew how innumerable are the devil’s artifices for injuring souls.
Knowing this, he betook himself into one of the largest deserts of Egypt, where such was his progress in Christian perfection that the wicked spirits, whose attacks grew more furious as Antony’s resistance grew more resolute, became the object of his contempt, so much so indeed, that he would sometimes taunt them for their weakness. When encouraging his disciples to fight against the devil, and teaching them the arms wherewith they would vanquish him, he used often to say to them: 'Believe me, Brethren, Satan dreads the watchings of holy men, and their prayers, and fasts, and voluntary poverty, and works of mercy, and humility, and above all, their ardent love for Christ our Lord, at the mere sign of whose most holy Cross he is disabled and put to flight.' So formidable was he to the devils that many persons in Egypt who were possessed by them were delivered by invoking Antony's name. So great. too, was his reputation for sanctity, that Constantine the Great and his sons wrote to him, commending themselves to his prayers. At length, having reached the hundred and fifth year of his age, and having received a countless number into his institute, he called his Monks together; and having instructed them how to regulate their lives according to Christian perfection, he, venerated both for the miracles he had wrought, and for the holiness of his life, departed from this world to heaven on the sixteenth of the Calends of February (January 17).
The Churches of the West, during the Middle Ages, have left us several Sequences in honour of St Antony. They are to be found in the ancient Missals. As they are not by any means remarkable as liturgical pieces, we shall content ourselves with inserting only one, omitting the three which begin Alme Confessor; In hac die lætabunda; Antonins hnmilis.
Pia voce prædicemus,
Et devotis celebremus
Dei Sanctus exaltetur,
Et in suis honoretur
Sanctis, auctor omnium.
Hic contempsit mundi florem,
Opes ejus et honorem:
Et coniugit ad desertum:
Ut non currat in incertum
In hoc vitæ stadio.
Mira fuit ejus vita:
Clarus fulsit eremita.
Sed mox hostis subdoli
Bella perfert: sæpe concutitur
Gravi pugna: verum non vincitur
Ictu crebro flagellatur:
Et a sævis laceratur
Lux de cœlo micuit:
Et clara personuit
Dei vox de nubibus.
Quia fortis in agone
Te clamabit totus orbis.
Pro pellendis item morbis
Id, Antoni, nunc impletum
Conspicamur, et repletum
Mundum tuo nomine.
Hoc implorat gens devota:
Tibi pia defert vota
Pro tuo munimine.
Nunc in forma speciosæ
Nunc in massæ specie,
Dæmon struit illi fraudes;
Sed, qui tanta, vafer, audes,
Succumbis in acie.
Mille fraudes, mille doli
Sunt inanes: illi soli
Cedit orcus ingemens,
Militem hunc veneratum,
Et robustam ejus manum
Horret hostis infremens.
Non lorica corporali
Fultus, inimico tali
Hic athleta restitit.
Aqua potus, terra lectus
Illi fuit: his protectus
Armis, victor exstitit.
Herba fuit illi victus:
Palmæ frondes et amictus,
Ac cum bestiis conflictus,
Atque somni parcitate
Et philosophis profanis,
Paulum visit, nec inanis
Fit via, nec irrita.
Nam convenit hunc viventem,
Inde sanctam ejus mentem
Cœlos vidit ascendentem,
Carne terræ reddita.
O Antoni, cum beatis
Nunc in regno claritatis
Gloriaris; hie gravatis
Mole camis, pietatis
Tuæ pande viscera.
Ne nos rapiat tremendæ
Mors gehennæ, manum tende.
Nos a morbido defende
Igne, nobis et impende
Gloriam post funera.
Let us piously proclaim
the praises of Antony,
and celebrate his name in sacred hymns.
Let us honour God's Saint;
and God, the author of all,
be honoured in his Saints!
Antony despised, in obedience to the Gospel,
the beauty, and riches,
and honours of the world.
He fled into the desert,
that he might not run with uncertainty
in the race of this life.
Wonderful was his life.
He was a celebrated hermit.
But soon does the crafty enemy
Wage war against him.
The combat is fierce and oft renewed;
but he is not vanquished by the devil's attacks.
The demons scourge him with many blows,
and his flesh is cruelly torn
by the angry enemy.
But a light shone down from heaven;
and the sweet voice of God was heard
speaking from above:
'Because thou hast bravely fought in the combat,
thy name shall be published
in every country.
'The whole earth shall proclaim thy glory.
Thou shalt be invoked
against the disease of Fire.'
This, O Antony! we see fulfilled,
and the world resounds
with thy name.
The devout servants of God call on thy name,
and fervently pray to thee
for help and protection.
Sometimes, again, it is in the appearance of a beautiful woman,
and sometimes under the form
of a piece of gold,
That the devil lays snares for the holy man:
but after all thy daring, O crafty tempter!
thou art defeated in the fight.
Yea, vain are his thousand frauds and tricks;
and all hell falls back bemoaning
that one man single-handed has repelled them.
Roaring with rage, the enemy trembles
before this venerable soldier,
whose hand so roughly deals its blows.
The brave combatant resists these mighty enemies,
and yet he wears no breast-plate
such as soldiers use.
His drink is water, his bed the ground;
these were his arms,
and by these he conquered.
Herbs were his food;
the palm-leaf gave him raiment;
and his companions were the wild beasts
of the wilderness.
He restrained lust
by assiduous prayer,
frequent manual labour,
and short sleep.
He confuted the Arians
and the profane Philosophers;
he visited Paul the Hermit,
nor was the journey fruitless or vain;
For he found him alive,
and then saw his holy soul
mounting up to heaven,
and buried his body.
O Antony! thou art now in glory,
with the Blessed, in the kingdom of light;
show thy affectionate pity on us,
who are here weighed down
by the burden of the flesh.
Stretch out thy hand,
lest the terrible death of hell seize upon us.
Defend us from the burning distemper,
and assist us to gain heaven
when our life is spent.
The Greek Church is enthusiastic in her praises of St Antony. We extract the following stanzas from her Menæa.
Die XVII Januarii
Quando in sepulchro teipsum gaudens inclusisti, Pater, propter Christi amorem, sufferebas quam fortiter dæmonum insultus, oratione et caritate istorum fumo debiliora depellens tentamenta; tunc plauserunt Angelorum ordines clamantes: Gloria roboranti te, Antoni.
Helias demonstratus es alter, habens celebres discípulos, novos Elíseos, sapiens, quibus et gratiam tuam duplicem dereliquisti, raptus tanquam in curru, æthereus pater; nunc ab illis decoratus, omnium recordaris, beatissime, tuam celebrantium cum amore venerabilem festivitatem, o Antoni.
In terris Angelum, in cœlis Dei virum, mundi omamentum, bonorum et virtutum florem, asceticorum gloriam, Antonium honoremus; plantatus enim in domo Domini effloruit justissime, et quasi cedrus in deserto multiplicavit greges ovium Christi spiritualium in sanctitate et justitia.
O illuminate Spiritus radiis, quando te divinus amor combussit, et animam evolare fecit ad desiderabile caritatis fastigium, tunc despexisti carnem et sanguinem, et extra mundum factus es, multa ascesi et tranquillitate ipsi unitus, quo repletus es; exinde quæsisti bona et resplenduisti sicut stella irradians animas nostras, Antoni.
Tu qui dæmonum sagittas et jacula contrivisti caritate divini Spiritus, et malitiam insidiasque ejus omnibus patefecisti, divinis coruscans illustrationibus, Monachorum effectus es fulgidissimum luminare, et eremi primum decus, et supremus ægrotantium medicus, et Archetypus virtutum, Antoni Pater.
Asceticum super terram proíessus exercitium, Antoni, passionum ictus in torrente lacrymarum omnes hebetasti; scala divina et veneranda, ad cœlos elevans, mederis passionum infirmitatibus eorum qui ad te cum fide exclamant; Gaude, Orientis stella deauratissima, Monachorum lampadifer et pastor; gaude, celebrande, tu deserti alumne, et Ecclesiæ inconcussa columna; gaude errantium dux illustrissime; gaude, o gloriatio nostra, et orbis terrarum decor fulgidissime.
Columna splendida et virtutibus obfirmata, et nubes obumbrans effectus es, his qui in deserto ad cœlum e terra Deum contemplantur, præpositus; crucis báculo passionum rumpens mare, spiritualem autem arduamque ad cœlum in facilem mutatus viam, invenisti, beatissime, incorruptibilem hæreditatem; cum incorporeis throno assistens Christi, quem deprecare animabus nostris dare magnam misericordiam.
Vitæ derelinquens perturbationes, crucem tuam humeris deferens, totum te commisisti Domino, et extra carnem. Pater, et mundum factus, Sancti effectus es confabulator Spiritus, ideoque ad zelum populos evigilans, civitates vacuas fecisti, civitatem in deserto transferens. Antoni Deifer, deprecare Christum Deum dare peccatorum remissionem celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.
When, O Father! thou didst shut thyself in a sepulchre, with joy, for the love of Christ, thou didst most bravely endure the attacks of the demons, putting to flight, by prayer and charity, the cloud of their temptations; and the choirs of Angels applauding, cried out: Glory, O Antony! be to him that strengthens thee.
Thou wast as another Elias, surrounded by thy glorious disciples; to whom, as to Eliseus, thou, their wise father, taken up as it were to heaven in a chariot, didst leave thy twofold grace; now that they are thy ornament above, thou art mindful of us all who lovingly celebrate thy venerable feast, O Antony!
Let us honour Antony, who was an Angel on earth, the man of God in heaven, the ornament of the world, the flower of good men and of virtues, the glory of Ascetics; for being planted in the house of the Lord, he bloomed in perfect justice, and as a cedar in the desert, he multiplied the flocks of Christ's spiritual sheep in holiness and justice.
O Antony! illumined by the rays of the Spirit! when divine love consumed thee, and made thy soul take her flight to the summit of charity thou didst long for—then didst thou despise flesh and blood, and become a stranger to this world, in deep spirituality and peace united to him with whom thou wast filled. Then didst thou seek after true goods, and shine as a star reflecting light on our souls.
Thou that didst, by the love of the Holy Spirit, break the arrows and darts of the demons, laying open their malice and their snares to all men; thou that didst shine with the divine teachings, thou wast made, O Antony! the brightest luminary of Monks, the grandest glory of the desert, the ablest physician of the sick, the Archetype of virtue.
Professing on earth the life of an Ascetic, O Antony! thou didst deaden in the torrent of thy tears all the blows of thy passions. Thou art the holy and venerable ladder that raises men to heaven; and thou healest the infirmities of their passions from those that cry to thee with faith: Rejoice, most richly gilded Star of the East, the lamp-bearer and shepherd of Monks! Rejoice, illustrious Saint, child of the desert, unshaken pillar of the Church! Rejoice, most glorious Chieftain I Rejoice, O thou our glory, and brightest ornament of the whole earth!
God made thee a bright pillar solid in virtue, and a shadegiving cloud, to lead the way to such as, in the journey from earth to heaven, contemplate God. By the rod of the Cross thou didst break up the sea of the passions; and changing the spiritual and difficult way to heaven into one that is easy, thou didst obtain, O most blessed Antony! the incorruptible inheritance. Pray to that Christ, at whose throne thou assistest with the Angelic spirits, that he bestow his great mercy on our souls.
Leaving the distractions of this life, and carrying thy cross on thy shoulders, thou didst commit thy whole self to the Lord; and estranging thyself, O Father! from the flesh and the world, thou wast admitted into intimate communication with the Holy Spirit; and therefore didst thou rouse up the people to fervour, emptying the cities of their inhabitants, and changing the desert into a city. O Antony, that bearest God within thee! beseech Christ our God that he give remission of sin to us all who lovingly celebrate thy holy commemoration.
We unite, great Saint! with the universal Church in offering thee the homage of our affectionate veneration, and in praising our Emmanuel for the gifts he bestowed upon thee. How sublime a life was thine, and how rich in fruit were thy works! Verily thou art the Father of a great people, and one of the most powerful auxiliaries of the Church of God. We beseech thee, therefore, pray for the Monastic Order, that it may reappear in all its ancient fervour; and pray for each member of the great Family. Fevers of the body have been often allayed by thy intercession, and we beg for a continuance of this thy compassionate aid; but the fevers of our soul are more dangerous, and we beg thy pity and prayers that we may be delivered from them. Watch over us in the temptations which the enemy is unceasingly putting in our way; pray for us, that we may be viligant in the combat, prudent in avoiding dangerous occasions, courageous in the trial, and humble in our victory. The angel of darkness appeared to thee in a visible shape; but he hides himself and his plots from us; here again we beg thy prayers that we be not deceived by his craft. May the fear of God's judgements, and the thought of eternity, penetrate into the depth of our souls. May prayer be our refuge in every necessity, and penance our safeguard against sin. But above all, pray that we may have that which thou didst counsel—the Love of Jesus; of that Jesus who, for love of us, deigned to be born into this world, that so he might merit for us the graces wherewith we might triumph—of that Jesus who humbled himself even so far as to suffer temptation, that so he might show us how we were to resist and fight.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE Archangel Gabriel told Mary, in the Annunciation, that the Son who was to be born of her should be a King, and that of his Kingdom there should be no end. Hence, when the Magi were led from the East to the Crib of Jesus, they proclaimed it in Jerusalem that they came to seek a King. But this new Empire needed a capital; and whereas the King, who was to fix his throne in it, was, according to the eternal decrees, to re-ascend into heaven, it was necessary that the visible character of his Royalty should be left here on earth, and this even to the end of the world. He that should be invested with this visible character of Christ our King would be the Vicar of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ chose Simon for this sublime dignity of being his Vicar. He changed his name into one which signifies the Rock, that is ‘Peter’; and in giving him this new name, he tells us that the whole Church throughout the world is to rest upon this man as upon a Rock which nothing shall ever move. But this promise of our Lord included another; namely, that as Peter was to close his earthly career by the Cross, he would give him Successors in whom Peter and his authority should live to the end of time.
But again, there must be some mark or sign of this succession, to designate to the world who the Pontiff is on whom, to the end of the world, the Church is to be built. There are so many Bishops in the Church: in which one of them is Peter continued? This Prince of the Apostles founded and governed several Churches; but only one of these was watered with his blood, and that one was Rome; only one of these is enriched with his Tomb, and that one is Rome; the Bishop of Rome, therefore, is the Successor of Peter, and consequently the Vicar of Christ. It is of the Bishop of Rome alone that it is said: Upon thee will I build my Church: and again: To thee will I give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and again: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; do thou confirm thy brethren: and again: Feed my lambs;feed my sheep.
Protestantism saw the force of this argument, and therefore strove to throw doubts on St Peter's having lived and died in Rome. They who laboured to establish doubts of this kind rightly hoped that, if they could gain their point, they would destroy the authority of the Roman Pontiff, and even the very notion of a Head of the Church. But History has refuted this puerile objection, and now all learned Protestants agree with Catholics in admitting a fact which is one of the most incontestable, even on the ground of human authority.
It was in order to nullify, by the authority of the Liturgy, this strange pretension of Protestants, that Pope Paul the Fourth, in 1558, restored the ancient Feast of St Peter's Chair at Rome, and fixed it on the 18th of January. For many centuries the Church had not solemnized the mystery of the Pontificate of the Prince of the Apostles on any distinct feast, but had made the single Feast of February 22nd serve for both the Chair at Antioch and the Chair at Rome. From that time forward, the 22nd of February has been kept for the Chair at Antioch, which was the first occupied by the Apostle.
To-day, therefore, the Kingship of our Emmanuel shines forth in all its splendour, and the children of the Church rejoice in finding themselves to be brethren and fellow-citizens, united in the Feast of their common Capital, the Holy City of Rome. When they look around them, and find so many sects separated from each other, and almost formed into decay, because they have no centre of union, they give thanks to the Son of God for having provided for the preservation of his Church and Truth by instituting a visible Head who never dies, and in whom Peter is for ever continued, just as Christ himself is continued in Peter. Men are no longer sheep without a Shepherd; the word spoken at the beginning is uninterruptedly perpetuated through all ages; the primitive mission is never suspended, and by the Roman Pontiff the end of time is united to the world's commencement. ‘What a consolation for the children of God!' cries out Bossuet, in his Essay on Universal History, ‘and what conviction that they are in possession of the truth, when they see that from Innocent the Eleventh, who now (1681) so worthily occupies the first See of the Church, we go back in unbroken succession even to St Peter, whom Jesus appointed Prince of the Apostles; that from St Peter we come, traversing the line of the Pontiffs who ministered under the Law, even to Aaron, yea, even to Moses; thence even to the Patriarchs, and even to the beginning of the world!’
When Peter enters Rome, therefore, he comes to realize and explain the destinies of this Queen of Cities; he comes to promise her an Empire even greater than the one she possesses. This new Empire is not to be founded by the sword, as was the first. Rome has been hitherto the proud mistress of nations; henceforth she is to be the Mother of the world by Charity; and though all peaceful, yet her Empire shall last to the end of time. Let us listen to St Leo the Great, describing to us in one of the finest of his Sermons, and in his own magnificent style, the humble yet all-eventful entrance of the Fisherman of Genesareth into the Capital of the Pagan world.
The good and just and omnipotent God, who never refused his mercy to the human race, and instructed all men in general in the knowledge of himself by his superabundant benefits, took pity, by a more hidden counsel and a deeper love, on the voluntary blindness of them that had gone astray, and on the wickedness which was growing in its proneness to evil; and sent therefore into the world his co-equal and co-eternal Word. The which Word being made Flesh did so unite the divine to the human nature, as that the deep debasement of the one was the highest uplifting of the other.
But that the effect of this unspeakable gift might be diffused throughout the entire world, the providence of God had been preparing the Roman Empire, which had so far extended its limits as to embrace in itself all the nations of the earth. For nothing could be better suited to the divine plan than the confederation of various kingdoms under one and the same Empire; and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world would the more rapidly be effected by having the several nations united under the government of one common City.
But this City, ignoring the author of this her promotion, whilst mistress of almost every nation under the sun, was the slave of every nation's errors; and prided herself on having a grand religion, because she had admitted every false doctrine. So that the faster the devil’s hold of her, the more admirable her deliverance by Christ.
For when the twelve Apostles, after receiving by the Holy Ghost the gift of tongues, divided among themselves the world they had to evangelize, the most blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostolic order, was sent to the Capital of the Roman Empire, in order that the light of truth, which had been revealed for the salvation of all nations, might the more effectively flow from the head itself into the whole body of the world.
The fact was that there were in this City people belonging to every nation, and the rest of the world soon learnt whatever was taught at Rome. Here, therefore, were to be refuted the opinions of philosophy; here the follies of human wisdom to be exploded; here the worship of devils to be convicted of blasphemy; here the impiety of all the sacrifices to be first abolished; for it was here that an official superstition had systematized into one great whole the fragmentary errors of every other portion of the earth.
To this City, therefore, O most blessed Apostle Peter, thou fearest not to come! The companion of thy glory, Paul the Apostle, is not with thee, for he is busy founding other Churches; yet thou enterest this forest of wild beasts, and with greater courage than when walking on the waters, thou settest foot on this deep stormy sea! Thou, that didst tremble before a servant-girl in the house of Caiphas, art fearless now before this Rome, this mistress of the world. Is it that the power of Claudius is less than the authority of Pilate? or the cruelty of Nero less than the savageness of the Jews? Not so: but the vehemence of thy love made thee heedless of thy risks; and having come that thou mightest love, thou didst forget to fear. Thou didst imbibe this sentiment of fearless charity on that day when the profession of thy love for thy Master was made perfect by the mystery of his thriceput question. And what asks he of thee, after thus probing thy heart, but that thou feed the sheep of him thou lovest with the food whereon thyself had feasted?
Then, too, there were the miracles thou hadst wrought, the gifts of grace thou hadst received, the proofs of the great works thou hadst achieved; all giving thee fresh courage. Thou hadst taught the truth to such of the children of Israel as had embraced the faith; thou hadst founded the Church of Antioch, where first began the glorious Christian title; thou hadst preached the gospel in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia; and assured of the success of thy work, and of the many years thou hadst yet to live, thou didst bring the trophy of the Cross of Christ into the very walls of Rome, where the counsels of God had already determined that thou shouldst have both the honour of power and the glory of martyrdom.
The future of the human race, now under the guidance of the Church, is, therefore, centred in Rome, and the destinies of that City are interwoven with those of her undying Pontiff. We, the children of the Church, though differing in race and tongue and character, are all Romans by holy religion; as Romans we are united by Peter to Christ; and thus our glorious name is the link of that great Fraternity of Catholics throughout the world.
Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor—these are our rulers in the order of spiritual Government. Every Pastor whose authority emanates not from the See of Rome is a stranger to us, and an intruder. So likewise, in the order of our Faith, Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor, teach us divine doctrine, and how to distinguish truth from error. Every Symbol of Faith, every doctrinal judgement, every teaching, contrary to the Symbol and judgements and teachings of the See of Rome, is of man, and not of God, and must be rejected, hated, and anathematized. On the Feast of St Peter’s Chair at Antioch (February 22) we will speak of the Apostolic See as the one only source of governing power in the Church; today we will consider and honour the Chair at Rome as the source and rule of our Faith. Here again let us borrow the sublime words of St Leo, and hear him discuss the claims of Peter to Infallibility of teaching. The Holy Doctor will teach us how to understand the full force of those words which were spoken by our Lord, and which he intended should be for all ages the grand charter of Faith.
The word made Flesh was dwelling among us, and he, our Saviour, had spent his whole self for the reparation of the human race. There was nothing too complicated for his wisdom, nothing too difficult for his power. The elements were subject to him, Spirits ministered to him, Angels obeyed him, nor could the mystery of human Redemption be ineffectual, for God, both in his Unity and Trinity, was the worker of that mystery. And yet Peter is chosen from the rest of the entire world to be the one, the only one, put over the vocation of all nations, and over all the Apostles, and over all the Fathers of the Church: that so, whilst there were to be many Priests and many Pastors in the people of God, Peter should govern, by the special power given to him, all those whom Christ also rules by his own supreme power. Great and wonderful, dearly Beloved, is this fellowship with Christ’s power granted, by divine condescension, to this man! Moreover, if our Lord willed that there should be something in common to Peter and the rest of the Princes of his Church, it was only on this condition—that whatsoever he gave to the rest, he gave it to them through Peter.
Again: our Lord questions all the Apostles as to what men say of him; and while telling him the opinions of human ignorance, they all indifferently join in making answer. But as soon as the sentiment of the disciples themselves is called for, he is the first to confess our Lord's divinity, who is the first in dignity among the Apostles. These were his words: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; which when he had said, our Lord thus answered him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven: that is, blessed art thou in that my Father hath taught thee, and human opinion hath not misled thee, but heavenly inspiration hath instructed thee; not flesh and blood, but he whose Only Begotten Son I am hath shown me to thee. And I say to thee: that is, as my Father hath manifested to thee my divinity, so do I now declare to thee thine own dignity. That thou art Peter (the Rock): that is, though I am the immovable Rock, the Corner-Stone who make both one, and the Foundation other than which no man can lay; yet art thou also a Rock, because thou art solidly based by my power, and what I have by right thou hast by participation. And upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: that is, I will construct an everlasting temple upon thy strength, and my Church, which is to reach to heaven, shall grow up on the firmness of this thy faith.
On the eve of his Passion, which was to test the courage of his disciples, our Lord said to Peter: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not. And thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. All the Apostles were in danger of being tempted to fear, and all stood in need of the divine help, for the devil desired to sift and crush them all; and yet it is especially for Peter that our Lord is careful; it is for Peter's faith that he offers an express prayer; as though the others would be sure to be firm if the mind of their leader were unflinching. So that the strength of all the rest is in Peter, and the assistance of divine grace is distributed in this order: Peter is to receive firmness through Christ, and he himself then give it to the Apostles.
In another of his Sermons, the same holy Doctor explains to us how it is that Peter ever lives and ever teaches in the Chair of Rome. After having cited the passage from the sixteenth chapter of St Matthew (verses 16-19), he says: 'This promise, of him who is truth itself must, therefore, be a permanent fact, and Peter, the unceasing Rock of strength, must be the ceaseless ruler of the Church. For we have only to consider the pre-eminence that is given him, and the mysterious titles conferred on him, and we see at once the fellowship he has with our Lord Jesus Christ: he is called the Rock (Peter); he is named the Foundation; he is appointed keeper of the gates of heaven; he is made judge, with such power of loosing and binding that his sentence holds even in heaven. These commissions and duties and responsibilities wherewith he was invested, he discharges with fuller perfection and power now that he is in him and with him from whom he received all these honours.
If, therefore, we do anything that is right, if we decree anything that is right, if, by our daily supplications, we obtain anything from the divine mercy, it is his doing and his merit, whose power lives and whose authority is supreme in this his own Chair. All this, dearly Beloved, was obtained by that confession which, being inspired into the Apostle's heart by God the Father, soared above all the incertitudes of human opinions, and drew upon him who spoke it the solidity of a Rock that was to be proof against every attack. For, throughout the whole Church, Peter is every day still proclaiming: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; and every tongue that confesses the Lord is guided by the teaching of this word. This is the faith which conquers the devil, and sets his captives free. This is the faith which delivers men from the world, and takes them to heaven, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. For such is the solidity wherewith God has strengthened it, that neither heretical depravity has been able to corrupt, nor pagan perfidy to crush it.
Thus speaks St Leo. ‘Let it not, therefore, be said,’ observes Bossuet, in his Sermon on the Unity of the Church, ‘let it not be said, or thought, that this ministry of Peter finishes with his life on earth. That which is given as the support of a Church which is to last for ever, can never be taken away. Peter will live in his sucsessors; Peter will speak, in his Chair, to the end of time. So speak the Fathers; so speak the six hundred and thirty Bishops of the Council of Chalcedon.’ And again: ‘Thus the Roman Church is ever a Virgin-Church; the Faith of Rome is always the Faith of the Church; what has once been believed will be for ever believed; the same voice is heard all over the world; and Peter, in his successors, is now, as he was during his life, the foundation on which the Faithful rest. Jesus Christ has said that it shall be so; and heaven and earth shall pass away rather than his word.’ who has vouchsafed to raise up this Chair in his Church, we will listen with submission of intellect and heart to the teaching which emanates from it. Rejecting with indignation those dangerous theories which can only serve to keep up sects within the Church; and confessing with all the past ages that the promises made to St Peter continue in his successors; we will conclude, aided by the twofold light of logic and history, that the teachings addressed to the Church by the Roman Pontiff can never contain error, and can contain nothing but the doctrine of truth. Such has always been the sense of the Church, and her practice has been the expression of her spirit. Now if we acknowledge a permanent miracle in the uninterrupted succession of the Bishops of Rome, in spite of all the revolutions of eighteen centuries, we acknowledge it to be a still higher prodigy that, notwithstanding the instability of man's opinions and judgements, the Chair of Rome has faithfully preserved the truth without the slightest admixture of error, whereas the sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople were scarcely able to maintain the true Faith for a few centuries, and have become so frequently those Chairs of pestilence spoken of by the Royal Prophet.
We are in that season of the ecclesiastical year which is devoted to honouring the Incarnation and Birth of the Son of God, and the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin: it behoves us to remember, especially on this present Feast, that it is to the See of Peter that we owe the preservation of these dogmas, which are the very basis of our holy religion. Rome not only taught them to us when she sent us the saintly missioners who evangelized our country; but, moreover, when heresy attempted to throw its mists and clouds over these high Mysteries, it was Rome that secured the triumph for truth by her sovereign decision. At Ephesus, when Nestorius was condemned, and the dogma which he assailed was solemnly proclaimed, that is, that the Divine Nature and the Human Nature which are in Christ make but one Person, and that Mary is consequently the true Mother of God, the two hundred Fathers of that General Council thus spoke: ‘Compelled by the Letters of our Most Holy Father Celestine, Bishop of the Roman Church, we have proceeded, in spite of our tears, to the condemnation of Nestorius.' At Chalcedon, where the Church had to proclaim, against Eutyches, the distinction of the two Natures in the Incarnate Word, God and Man, the six hundred and thirty Fathers, after hearing the Letter of the Roman Pontiff, gave their decision, and said: 'Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo.'
Here then is the privilege of Rome: to watch by Faith over the eternal interests of mankind, as she watched previously, for long ages, and by the sword, over the temporal interests of the then known world. Let us love and reverence this City, our Mother and our Guide. Today we are called upon to celebrate her praise; let us do so with filial affection. Let us listen to some of the ancient Hymns in honour of St Peter, of which some were used in the Liturgy of certain Churches. First of all, there is the admirable poem which Prudentius gives as the Prayer of St Laurence, made during his martyrdom, for Christian Rome.
O Christe, nomen unicum,
O splendor, o virtus Patris,
O factor orbis et poli,
Atque auctor horum mœnium.
Qui sceptra Romæ in vertice
Rerum locasti, sanciens
Mundum quirinali togæ
Servire et armis cedere.
Ut discrepantum gentium
Mores et observantiam.
Linguasque et ingerua et sacra
Unis domares legibus.
En omne sub regnum Remi
Mortale concessit genus:
Idem loquuntur dissoni,
Ritus ad ipsum sentiunt.
Hoc destinatum, quo magis
Jus Christiani nominis,
Quodcumque terrarum jacet
Uno illigaret vinculo.
Da, Christe, Romanis tuis
Sit Christiana ut civitas
Per quam dedisti ut cæteris
Mens una sacrorum foret.
Hinc inde membra in symbolum;
Mansuescit orbis subditus,
Mansuescat et summum caput.
Advertat abjunctas plagas
Coire in unam gratiam:
Fiat fidelis Romulus,
Et ipse jam credat Numa.
Confundit error Troicus
Adhuc Catonum curiam,
Veneratus occultis focis
Phrygum Penates exsules.
Janum bifrontem, et Sterculum
Colit senatus (horreo
Tot monstra patrum dicere)
Et festa Saturni lenis.
Absterge, Christe, hoc dedecus,
Emitte Gabriel tuum,
Agnoscat ut verum
Deum Errans Iuli cæcitas.
Et jam tenemus obsides
Fidissimos hujus spei:
Hic nempe jam regnant duo
Alter vocator Gentium,
Alter Cathedram possidens
Primam, recludit creditas
Discede, adulter Jupiter,
Stupro sororis oblite,
Relinque Romam liberam,
Plebemque jam Christi fuge.
Te Paulus hinc exterminat,
Te sanguis exturbat Petri:
Tibi, id quod ipse armaveras
Factum Neronis officit.
Video futurum principem,
Quandoque qui servus Dei,
Tetris sacrorum sordibus
Servire Romam non sinat.
Qui templa claudat vectibus,
Valvas eburnas obstruat;
Nefasta damnet limina,
Obdens ænos pessulos.
Tunc pura ab omni sanguine
Tandem nitebunt marmora:
Stabunt et æra innoxia,
Quæ nunc habentur idola.
O Christ! name above all names
O Brightness, O Power of the Father!
O Creator of earth and heaven,
and founder of this City's walls!
'Twas thou didst give supremacy
to the sceptre of Rome,
and that didst will the subjection of the world
to the toga and the armies of the sons of Rome,
That thus uniting under one government the nations
which varied in manners and customs
and tongues and character and religion,
thou mightest subject them to thy law.
Lo! now all nations are tributary
to the kingdom of Remus;
all speak the same language,
and all practise the same rites.
This thou didst design,
that so the Christian Law
might the more easily link the universal world
together in unity of faith.
Then grant, O Christ! to thy Romans,
that Rome, the City
whereby thou didst give sacred unity of soul to others,
may herself become Christian.
It is by her that all mankind are united
in the fellowship of faith:
the world has yielded and obeys in meek submission:
oh! may the proud Capital, too, soften into faith.
Let her learn from other nations,
who, though separated in all else, are now made one in grace:
let Romulus become a believer, yea,
let even Numa embrace thy faith.
The descendants of the Catos still grovel
in the errors imported from Troy,
and venerate, on their domestic altars,
the banished gods of Phrygia.
The Senate (my soul recoils
to tell these wicked follies of sober men)
adores the two-faced Janus, and Sterculus,
and keeps the feasts of the effeminate Saturn.
O Jesus! blot out this infamy and shame.
Send forth thine Angel Gabriel,
and teach the blind, straying sons of Julius
to acknowledge the true God.
Well may we hope for this,
for thou hast conferred on Rome
two most sure pledges of thy love:
thou hast established here the reign of the two Princes of the Apostles:
Paul, by whom was wrought the vocation of the Gentiles;
and Peter, who, seated on the first Chair,
opens to mankind
the gates of heaven.
Go hence, adulterous Jupiter!
rid Rome of thy presence,
thou incestuous god!
and flee from the people of Christ.
Thou art banished hence by Paul;
thou art dethroned by the blood of Peter:
the very deed thou didst inspire
Nero to commit is thine own defeat.
I see coming a future Prince,
who shall be the servant of God;
he shall put an end to those wicked and polluted
rites which now are used by Rome.
He shall shut up the temples,
and bar their ivory doors;
he shall forbid all entrance within their cursed walls,
and fasten their brazen locks.
In his days the marble altars
shall stream no more with blood,
and the idols which are now held as gods
shall stand mere harmless lumps of brass.
The Gothic Church of Spain sang this Hymn of her Mozarabic Breviary on the Feast of St Peter's Chair.
O Petre, petra Ecclesia,
Isto beatus nomine,
Quo Petrus a Christo Petra,
Non Petra Christus a Petro.
Tu es Petrus, qui Filii
Confessor es primus Dei:
Hinc primus in membris ma nens;
Ob quod Cephas vocatus es.
Adest dies, quo Romula
In urbe consecratus es;
In quo Cathedræ nobilis
Scandens thronum attolleris
Conlata ergo gloriæ
In te potestas affluens,
Ligata solvat crimina,
Portasque averni obstruat.
Hinc pastor ut piissimus,
Oves guberna creditas;
Intus forisque pervigil
Ne subruamur, protege.
Et clave illa cœlica
Solvens catenas criminum,
Illic reos inducito,
Quo clarus exstas janitor.
Ut cum polorum Principi
Recisa membra junxeris,
Sit Trinitati gloria
Per cuncta semper sæcula.
O Peter, Rock of the Church!
Blessed art thou in this thy name,
which Jesus, the Rock, gave to thee;
for he was ‘the Rock,’ and shared his name with thee.
Thou art Peter, the first to confess that Jesus
is Son of God. In reward of this, thou wast made first
among the members of the Church,
and wast therefore called Cephas.
This is the day whereon thou wast inaugurated
in the city of Romulus; in which, ascending:
the throne of thy august Chair,
thou wast exalted.
May the rich glorious power
that was conferred on thee
loosen the chains of our sins,
and bind fast the gates of hell.
Then, as the most loving Shepherd,
govern the sheep entrusted to thee.
Protect us in thy great vigilance
from within and without, lest we be destroyed.
And loosing, with thy heavenly key,
the chains of our sins,
lead us poor sinners to the kingdom
of which thou art the Porter chosen by Christ.
That when thou shalt have united together
the members of God’s family, now separated by time and place,
and shalt have presented them before the King of heaven,
there may be glory for endless ages to the Trinity.
The Hymn we now offer to our readers is the one which is fastened to the balustrade of St Peter's confession in the Vatican Basilica. It is intended for the use of pilgrims.
O sancte cœli claviger,
Tu nos precando subleva,
Tu redde nobis pervia
Aulæ supernæ limina.
Ut ipse multis poenitens
Culpam rigasti lacrymis,
Sic nostra tolli poscimus
Fletu perenni crimina.
Sicut fuisti ab Angelo
Tuis solutus vinculis.
Tu nos iniquis exue
Tot implicatos nexibus.
O firma petra Ecclesiæ,
Columna flecti nescia,
Da robur et constantiam,
Error fidem ne subruat.
Romam tuo qui sanguine
Olim sacrasti, protege;
In teque confidentibus
Præsta salutem gentibus.
Tu rem tuere publicam,
Qui te colunt, fidelium.
Ne læsa sit contagiis,
Ne scissa sit discordiis.
Quos hostis antiquus dolos
Instruxit in nos, destrue;
Truces et iras comprime,
Ne clade nostra sæviat.
Contra furentis impetus,
In morte vires suffice,
Ut et supremo vincere
Possimus in certamine.
Sainted keeper of the keys of heaven!
raise us up by thy prayers,
and lead us to the portals
of the heavenly court.
As thou didst wash away thy sin
by penance and many tears;
so, we beseech thee, pray that our sins may be removed
by reason of our life-long weeping.
As thou wast loosened
from thy chains by the Angel;
so do thou set us free,
tied as we are by the fetters of sin.
O Rock immoveable,
and unshaken Pillar of the Church!
give us strength and courage,
that no error may ever subvert our faith.
Protect Rome, the city thou didst of old
consecrate by thy blood;
and grant thine assistance
to all nations that confide in thee.
Protect the countries of thy devout clients;
shield them against contagion,
and suffer not dissensions
to sow discord among them.
Destroy the plots laid
for us by the old enemy;
and restrain his ruthless wrath,
lest he madly exult in our destruction.
Supply us with strength when we are dying,
against his fierce attacks,
that so we may conquer
in the last combat.
And lastly, let us salute the Prince of the Apostles with these solemn words, which are used by the Church of Rome, in to-day’s Office.
℟. Tu es pastor ovium, princeps Apostolorum; tibi tradidit Deus omnia regna mundi; * Et ideo tibi traditæ sunt claves regni cœlorum.
℣. Quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cœlis; et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cœlis. * Et ideo tibi traditæ sunt claves regni cœlorum.
℣. Exaltent eum in ecclesia plebis.
℟. Et in cathedra seniorum laudent eum.
℟. Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, O Prince of the Apostles! To thee hath God given all the kingdoms of the world; * Therefore also have the keys of the kingdom of heaven been delivered to thee.
℣. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven. * Therefore also have the keys of the kingdom of heaven been delivered to thee.
℣. Let them exalt him in the church of the people.
℟. And let them praise him in the chair of the ancients.
Deus qui beato Petro Apostolo tuo, collatis clavibus regni cœlestis, ligandi atque solvendi pontificium tradidisti: concede ut intercessionis ejus auxilio, a peccatorum nostrorum nexibus liberemur. Qui vivis.
Let us Pray
O God, who by delivering to the blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst give him the power of binding and loosing: grant that by his intercession we may be freed from the bonds of our sins. Who livest, etc.
And, that we may conform to the tradition of the same Church of Rome, which never celebrates a Feast of St Peter without making a commemoration of St Paul, who, that he might add to the glory of her who is the Mother and Mistress of all Churches, came within her walls and paid her the triple tribute of his Apostolate, his teaching, and his martyrdom—let us say this Antiphon and Collect in honour of the Apostle of the Gentiles.
Ant. Sancte Paule Apostole, prædicator veritatis, et doctor gentium, intercede pro nobis ad Deum, qui te elegit.
℣. Tu es vas electionis, sancte Paule Apostole.
℟. Prædicator veritatis in universo mundo.
Ant. Holy Apostle Paul! preacher of the truth and Doctor of the Gentiles! intercede for us to God that chose thee.
℣. Thou art a vessel of election, O holy Apostle Paul!
℟. The preacher of truth in the whole world.
Deus, qui multitudinem gentium beati Pauli Apostoli prædicatione docuisti: da nobis, quæsumus: ut cujus commemorationem colimus, ejus apud te patrocinia sentiamus. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Let us Pray
O God, who by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle didst instruct the multitude of the Gentiles: grant, we beseech thee, that whilst we celebrate his memory, we may find the effects of his prayers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are founded on Christ in our faith and our hopes, because, O glorious Prince of the Apostles! we are founded on thee, who art the Rock he has set. We are the sheep of the flock of Jesus, because we obey thee as our shepherd. By following thee, O Peter! we are made sure of our being admitted into the kingdom of heaven, because our Lord gave the Keys of his kingdom to thee. Having the happiness of being thy members, we may also count ourselves as the members of Jesus Christ himself; for he, the invisible Head of the Church, recognizes none as his members save those that are members of the visible Head whom he appointed. So, too, when we adhere to the faith of the Roman Pontiff, and obey his orders, we are professing thy faith, O Peter, we are following thy commands; for if Christ teaches and governs by thee, thou teachest and governest by the Roman Pontiff.
Eternal thanks, then, to our Emmanuel for that he has not left us orphans; but before returning to heaven, vouchsafed to provide us with a Father and a Shepherd, even to the end of time! On the evening before his passion, keeping up his love for us even to the end, he left us his sacred Body and Blood for our food. After his glorious Resurrection, and a few hours before ascending to the right hand of his Father, he called his Apostles around him, and constituted his Church (his Fold), and said to Peter: Feed my Lambs, Feed my Sheep. Thus, dear Jesus! didst thou secure perpetuity to thy Church; thou gavest her Unity, for that alone could preserve her and defend her from both external and internal enemies. Glory be to thee, O Divine Architect! for that thou didst build the House of thy Church on the Rock which was never to be shaken, that is, on Peter! Winds and storms and waves have beat upon that House; but it hath stood, for it was built on a Rock.
O Rome! on this day, when the whole Church proclaims thy glory by blessing God for having built her on thy Rock, receive the renewal of our promise to love thee and be faithful to thee. Thou shalt ever be our Mother and our Mistress, our guide and our hope. Thy faith shall ever be ours; for he that is not with thee is not with Jesus Christ. In thee all men are brethren. Thou art not a foreign City to us; nor is thy Pontiff a foreign Sovereign to us, for he is our Father. It is by thee that we live the spiritual life, the life of both heart and intellect; and thou it is that preparest us to dwell one day in that other City of which thou art the image, the City of Heaven, into which men enter by thee.
Bless, O Prince of the Apostles! the flock committed to thy care; but forget not those that have unfortunately left the fold. There are whole nations whom thou didst bring up and civilize by the hands of thy Successors, who now have alienated themselves from thee, and continue their wretched existence, the more miserable, because they feel not the unhappiness of being separated from the Shepherd. They are victims either of schism or of heresy. Without Christ made visible in his Vicar, Christianity becomes sterile, and at last extinct. Those indiscreet doctrines which tend to throw a doubt on the richness of the prerogatives bestowed by Christ on thee, that is, on thee who wast to hold his place to the end of time—such doctrines produce a cold heart in those who profess them, and dispose them but too frequently to give to Cæsar that spiritual and religious obedience which they owe yet refuse to Peter. O supreme Pastor! do thou cure all these evils. Hasten the return of the nations that have separated themselves from thee. Let the heresy of the sixteenth century soon become a thing of the past. Open thine arms, and again press to thy heart the country once so dear to thee—England our fatherland—and pray for her, that she may regain her right to be called the beautiful 'Island of Saints.' Stir up the people of our northern Europe to redouble their ardour in the search of the Faith of their fathers; and let them learn the great truth that a religion out of union with the Chair at Rome is powerless to give salvation to its members. Destroy the Russian colossus of schism and heresy which tyrannizes over the consciences of so many millions of our dear fellow-creatures, and is ambitious to drag the rest of the world into apostasy from Jesus. Reclaim the East to her ancient fidelity, and let her Patriarchal Sees regain their dignity, by submission to the one Apostolic See.
And we, O Blessed Apostle! who by the mercy of God and the watchfulness of thy paternal love are still faithful, oh! preserve us in the faith of Rome, and submission to thy Successor. Instruct us in the mysteries which have been confided to thy teaching. What the Father revealed to thee, do thou reveal to us: show us Jesus, thy beloved Master; lead us to his Crib; and let us, after thine own example, be blessed by not being scandalized at his deep humiliations, and by ever saying thy beautiful confession: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.
 St Matt, xvi 18.
 St Matt. xvi 18.
 Ibid. 19.
 St Luke xxii 32.
 St John xxi 15, 17.
 Sermon 82, On the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
 Roma! illa una Patria Communis, Says Cicero (De legibus, II.)
 St Matt. xvi 16.
 Ibid. xvi 17.
 1 Cor. x 4.
 Eph. ii 20.
 Ibid, ii 14.
 1 Cor. iii 11.
 St Matt. xvi 18.
 St Luke xxii 31, 32.
 St Leo, Sermon 4.
 St Leo, Sermon 3.
 Ps. i 1.
 St John xxi 15, 17.
 St Matt. vii 25.
 St Matt. xvi 16.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
FOUR Virgins grace the Christmas cycle with their presence; the brightness they cast around is inter-spersed with rays of a darker hue denoting that the aureola of martyrdom is theirs as well. Truly it is those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and who have likewise shed their own for him that have the double right to enter in by the gates to the city and be presented to the new-born King. Perhaps this is the thought of the Church in choosing for such an honour those only who have been twice crowned. They are the gift that Rome herself offers to the Emmanuel; each of this glorious band achieved her triumph within her walls. To-day we have Prisca, but she will be followed by Agnes, Emerentiana, and Martina. The legend which is inserted in the Roman Office gives us all the details that can be known of the sufferings and martyrdom of Saint Prisca; her relics are preserved in the Church which bears her name.
Prisca, nobilis virgo Romana, tredecim annos nata, Claudioimperatore, Christianæfidei accusata, ejusdem jussu ducta ad Apollinis templum, ut idolis immolaret, cum rem detestaretur, colaphis cæsa, in carcerem traditur: atque inde emissa, cum in fidei constantia perseveraret,affecta verberibus, ferven tique adipe delibuta, rursus in carcerem includitur. Post triduum in amphitheatrum producta, leoni objicitur; qui suæ feritatis oblitus, humiliter se ad ejus pedes abjecit. Quæ postea in ergastulo triduum inedia afflicta, in equuleo suspenditur, et ungulis ferreis excarnificata in rogum injicitur, unde etiam mirabiliter evasit incolumis. Denique extra Urbem capite abscisso, virginitatis palmam martyrii corona cumulavit. Cujus corpus via Ostiensi, decimo ab Urbe milliario, a Christianis decimo quinto Kalendas Februarii sepelitur.
Prisca, a noble virgin of Rome, aged thirteen, was accused of being a Christian in the reign of the emperor Claudius. By his command she was led to the temple of Apollo that she might sacrifice to the idols, and when she had shown her detestation of them, was beaten and cast into prison. When brought out of prison she persevered in her steadfast confession of faith and was therefore scourged, tormented with boiling fat and again cast into prison. After three days she was exposed to a lion in the amphitheatre, but the beast, forgetting its natural fierceness, crouched humbly at her feet. After another three days in prison with nothing to eat, she was racked, torn with iron hooks, and cast on a funeral pyre, but was wonderfully preserved from harm. Finally she was beheaded outside the city walls, thus adding the crown of martyrdom to her virginity. Her body was buried by the Christians on the Ostian Way. about ten miles from the city, on the fifteenth of the Kalends of February.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
CHRISTIANS from all parts of the world have ever flocked to Rome as to the rock of faith and the foundation of the Church, and honoured with the greatest reverence and piety the spot hallowed by the sepulchre of the Prince of the Apostles.' These words of Holy Church are exemplified in the Martyrs of to-day. Fired with ambition to have some part and fellowship in the glorious Society of the holy Apostles and Martyrs, they left all things and hastened to the Eternal City, there to receive in fullest measure what they sought. Like the Magi of old they came from the far East. The star of faith had shone for them, and in obedience to its call they set forth in all eagerness to offer their gifts of homage and loyalty to the divine King in the person of his Vicar and his suffering members. Such generosity was not left unrewarded; our Emmanuel crowned it with the laurels of martyrdom, admitting them into that cloud of witnesses that ever stand about him. Let us keep before our minds with our Lord, the author and finisher of their faith, this great and glorious band of martyrs, so that we too may ever run unwearied and with courage and patience in the fight proposed to us.
The following lesson is given in the office:
Marius Persa, nobili loco natus, cum Martha conjuge pari nobilitate, et duobus filiis Audiface et Abachum, Romam venit Claudio imperatore, ut Martyrum sepulchra veneraretur. Ibi Christianos in vincula conjectos fovebant, et opera ac facultatibus suis sustentabant, et Sanctorum corpora sepeliebant. Quam ob rem coniprehensi omnes, cum nec impiorum minis nec terrore commoverentur, ut diis sacrificarent; primum fustibus debilitati, deinde funibus attracti, tum admotis candentibus laminis combusti, et ungulis ferreis excarnificatisunt. Postremo præcisis manibus, et ad collum alligatis, ducti per mediam urbem, via Cornelia ad tertium decimum ab Urbe milliarium, in eum locum, qui Nymphe dicebatur, necantur: ac primum Marthse, quæ virum ac filios ad supplicia prò Jesu Christi fide constanter perferenda, vehementer fuerat cohortata; mox ceteris in eadem arenaria cervices abscinduntur, eorumque corpora conjiciuntur in ignem. Quæsemiusta, Felicitas matrona Romana nobilis colligenda et in suo prædio sepelienda curavit.
Marius, a Persian of noble birth, came to Rome, under the emperor Claudius, to venerate the sepulchres of the martyrs in the company of his wife Martha, a noble lady, and their two sons Audifax and Abachum. There they ministered to the Christians in prison, maintaining them both by their wealth and their own personal service, and buried the bodies of the saints. They were all accordingly arrested, and since they could not be induced by fear or threats to sacrifice to the gods, they were first beaten with clubs, then dragged about with ropes, burnt with hot iron plates and torn with hooks. Lastly their hands were cut off and tied about their necks, and they were led through the city and by the Via Cornelia to the place called Nymphe, thirteen miles from Rome, where they were put to death. The first to die was Martha, who had earnestly exhorted her husband and sons to bear their sufferings with constancy for the faith of Jesus Christ. Then the others were beheaded in the same sandpit, and their bodies were thrown into the fire. Felicitas, a noble Roman matron, took them when they were half burned and buried them in her own estate.
 Lessons for the Dedication Feast of the Basilicas of SS Peter and Paul.