The Liturgical Year
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year:
Finally, the ‘Liturgical Year,’ the plan of which we have been explaining, will bring continually before us the sublimest poetry that the human mind has conceived. Not only will it enable us to understand the divine songs of David and the prophets, on which mainly the liturgy has formed her own; but the cycle will elicit from the Church, according as the different seasons and feasts come round, canticles and hymns the finest, the sublimest, and the worthiest of the subject. We shall hear the several countries, united as they are in one common faith, pouring forth their admiration and love in accents, wherein are blended the most perfect harmony of thought and sentiment with the most marked diversity of genius and expression....but the productions of liturgical genius, no matter of what age in the Church, are profusely admitted; from Sedulius and Prudentius, down to Adam of Saint Victor and his contemporaries, for the Latin Church; and from Saint Ephrem, down to the latest Catholic Byzantine hymnologists, for the Greek Church. A rich vein of poetry will be found as well in the prayers which have been composed in simple prose, as in those which are presented to us in the garb of measure and rhythm. Poetry, being the only language adequate to the sublime thought which is to be expressed, is to be found everywhere in the liturgy, as it is in the inspired writings; and a complete collection of the formulæ of public prayer would be, at the same time, the richest selection of Christian poetry, of that poetry which sings on earth the mysteries of heaven and prepares us for the canticles of eternity.
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.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE star foretold by Balaam having risen in the East, the three Magi, whose hearts were full of the expectation of the promised Redeemer, are immediately inflamed with the desire of going in search of him. The announcement of the glad coming of the King of the Jews is made to these holy Kings in a mysterious and silent manner; and hereby it differs from that made to the Shepherds of Bethlehem, who were invited to Jesus’s Crib by the voice of an Angel. But the mute language of the star was explained to them by God himself, for he revealed his Son to them; and this made their Vocation superior in dignity to that of the Jewish Shepherds, who, according to the dispensation of the Old Law, could know nothing save by the ministry of Angels.
The divine grace which spoke, directly and by itself, to the souls of the Magi, met with a faithful and unhesitating correspondence. St Luke says of the Shepherds, that they came with haste to Bethlehem; and the Magi show their simple and fervent eagerness by the words they addressed to Herod: We have seen his star in the East, they say, and we are come to adore him.
When Abraham received the command from God to go out of the land of Chaldea, which was the land of his fathers and kindred, and go into a strange country, he obeyed with such faithful promptitude as to merit being made the Father of all them that believe. so, likewise, the Magi, by reason of their equally docile and admirable faith, have been judged worthy to be called the Fathers of the Gentile Church.
They too, or at least one or more of them, went out from Chaldea, if we are to believe St Justin and Tertullian. Several of the Fathers, among whom are the two just mentioned, assert that one, if not two, of these holy Kings was from Arabia. A popular tradition, now for centuries admitted into Christian Art, tells us that one of the three was from Ethiopia; and certainly, as regards this last opinion, we have David and other Prophets telling us that the coloured inhabitants of the banks of the Nile were to be objects of God's special mercy.
The term Magi implies that they gave themselves to the study of the heavenly bodies, and that, too, for the special intention of finding that glorious star whose rising had been prophesied. They were of the number of those Gentiles who, like the centurion Cornelius, feared God, had not been defiled by the worship of idols, and maintained, in spite of all the ignorance which surrounded them, the sacred traditions of the religion that was practised by Abraham and the Patriarchs.
The Gospel does not say that they were Kings, but the Church applies to them those verses of the Psalm, where David speaks of the Kings of Arabia and Saba, that should hereafter come to the Messias bringing their offerings of gold. The tradition of their being Kings rests on the testimony of St Hilary of Poitiers, of St Jerome, of the poet Juvencus, of St Leo, and several others; and it would be impossible to controvert it by any well-grounded arguments. Of course, we are not to suppose them to have been Monarchs, whose kingdoms were as great as those of the Roman Empire; but we know that the Scripture frequently applies this name of King to petty princes, and even to mere governors of provinces. The Magi, therefore, would be called Kings if they exercised authority over a considerable number of people; and that they were persons of great importance, we have a strong proof in the consideration and attention showed them by Herod, into whose palace they enter, telling him that they are come to pay their homage to the new-born King of the Jews. The city of Jerusalem is thrown into a state of excitement by their arrival, which would scarce have occurred had not the three strangers, who came for a purpose which few heeded, been attended by a numerous retinue, or had they not attracted attention by their imposing appearance.
These Kings, then, docile to the divine inspiration, suddenly leave their country, their riches, their quiet, in order to follow a star: the power of that God, who had called them, unites them in the same path, as they were already one in faith. The star goes on before them, marking out the route they were to follow: the dangers of such a journey, the fatigues of a pilgrimage which might last for weeks or months, the fear of awakening suspicions in the Roman Empire towards which they were evidently tending—all this was nothing to them; they were told to go, and they went.
Their first stay is at Jerusalem, for the star halts there. They, Gentiles, come into this Holy City, which is soon to have God's curse upon it, and they come to announce that Jesus Christ is come! With all the simple courage and all the calm conviction of Apostles and Martyrs, they declare their firm resolution of going to him and adoring him. Their earnest inquiries constrain Israel, who was the guardian of the divine prophecies, to confess one of the chief marks of the Messias—his Birth in Bethlehem. The Jewish Priesthood fulfils, though with a sinful ignorance, its sacred ministry, and Herod sits restlessly on his throne, plotting murder. The Magi leave the faithless City, which has turned the presence of the Magi into a mark of its own reprobation. The Star reappears in the heavens, and invites them to resume their journey. Yet a few hours, and they will be at Bethlehem, at the feet of the King of whom they are in search.
O dear Jesus! we also are following thee; we are walking in thy light, for thou hast said, in the Prophecy of thy beloved Disciple: I am the bright and morning Star. The meteor that guides the Magi is but thy symbol, O divine Star! Thou art the morning Star; for thy Birth proclaims that the darkness of error and sin is at an end. Thou art the morning Star; for, after submitting to death and the tomb, thou wilt suddenly arise from that night of humiliation to the bright morning of thy glorious Resurrection. Thou art the morning Star; for by thy Birth and the Mysteries which are to follow, thou announcest unto us the cloudless day of eternity. May thy light ever beam upon us! May we, like the Magi, be obedient to its guidance, and ready to leave all things in order to follow it! We were sitting in darkness when thou didst call us to thy grace, by making this thy light shine upon us. We were fond of our darkness, and thou gavest us a love for the Light! Dear Jesus! keep up this love within us. Let not sin, which is darkness, ever approach us. Preserve us from the delusion of a false conscience. Avert from us that blindness into which fell the City of Jerusalem and her king, and which prevented them from seeing the Star. May thy Star guide us through life, and bring us to thee, our King, our Peace, our Love!
We salute thee, too, O Mary, thou Star of the Sea that shinest on the waters of this life, giving calm and protection to thy tempest-tossed children who invoke thee! Thou didst pray for the Magi as they traversed the desert; guide also our steps, and bring us to Him who is thy Child and thy Light eternal.
Let us close this day with the expressions of divine praise offered us by the ancient Liturgies. Let us begin with the continuation of the Hymn of Prudentius, on the vocation of the Gentiles. The following are the concluding stanzas.
O sola magnarum urbium
Major Bethlem: cui contigit
Ducem salutis cœlitus
Altrice te, summo Patri
Hæres creatur unicus.
Homo ex Tonantis Spiritu,
Idemque sub membris Deus.
Hunc et Prophetis testibus,
Testator et Sator jubet
Adire regnum, et cernere.
Regnum, quod ambit omnia,
Dia, et marina, et terrea,
A solis ortu ad exitum,
Et tartara, et cœlum supra.
Hic Rex priorum judicum,
Rexere qui Jacob genus,
Dominæque Rex ecclesiæ,
Templi et novelli et pristini.
Hunc posteri Ephraim colunt,
Hunc sancta Manasse domus,
Omnesque suscipiunt tribus,
Bissena fratrum semina.
Quin et propago degener,
Ritum secuta inconditum,
Quæcumque dirum fervidis
Baal caminis coxerat:
Fumosa avorum numina,
Saxum, metallum, stipitem,
Rasum, dolatum, sectile,
In Christi honorem deserit.
Gaudete quidquid gentium est,
Judæa, Roma et Græcia,
Ægypte, Thrax, Persa, Scytha,
Rex unus omnes possidet.
Laudate vestrum Principem,
Omnes beati ac perditi,
Vivi, imbecilli, ac mortui:
Jam nemo posthac mortuus.
O Bethlehem! greater than the greatest of cities!
'Twas thy happy lot to give birth
to the Prince of our salvation,
who had become incarnate by the heavenly mystery.
'Twas thou didst nurse him who is the Only-Begotten Son
and Heir of the eternal Father;
he was made Man by the power of the Spirit of the God who darts the thunderbolts;
and this same Jesus is God under human flesh.
His eternal Father, who bears witness to him,
bids him enter on his kingdom and inherit it.
The Prophets, who are his witnesses and vouchers,
were the proclaimers of the Father’s will.
This kingdom of Jesus includes all things
—the firmament, the sea, the earth
from where the sun rises to where he sets,
and hell and heaven.
He is the King of those ancient judges
who ruled the race of Jacob:
he is the King of the Church, the Mistress of the earth:
he is King of both temples, the new and old.
The children of Ephraim
and the holy family of Manasses worship him;
the tribes of the twelve Brethren,
sons of Jacob, also receive him as their God.
The degenerate race too,
which, observing the rites of idolatrous worship,
had framed in hot furnaces
the statue of the cruel Baal,
Now turns to worship Christ,
leaving for his sake the smokegrimed gods of their fathers,
stones and metals and stocks,
planed, hewn and chiselled by the hands of man.
Rejoice, all ye nations of the earth!
Judea, Rome and Greece,
Egypt, Thrace, Persia, Scythia!
Ye are now all under the one same King!
Praise your King,
O all ye people! just and sinners,
living, weak and dead, give him praise.
None must die henceforth!
The following beautiful prayer from the Mozarabic Missal will assist us to celebrate in a becoming manner the triple Mystery of the Epiphany.
Deus qui nobis ad relevandos istius vitæ labores, diversadonorumtuorum solatia et gaudia contulisti, quibus insignes annuis recursibus dies agimus, ut Ecclesiæ tuæ vota solemnia præsenti festivitate celebremus: unde et proxime Natalem Domini Salvatoris peregimus, qui nobis natus in tempore est, qui de te natus sine tempore, omnium sæculorum et temporum est antecessor et œ: deinde subsecutum diem Circumcisionis octavum, Unigeniti luce signatum, pari observantia recolentes, sacrificiis solemnibus honoravimus: nunc Epiphaniæ diem, revelante in homine divinitate, excolimus, diversa Domini nostri Jesu Christi Filii tui in hoc mundo suum adventum manifestantia insignia prædicantes, sive quod stellam ortus sui nunciam misit e cœlo, quam stupentibus Magis usque ad cunabula suæ carnalis infantiæ præviam fecit: sive quod aquas baptismate suo, ad omnium gentiumlavationem, Jordanis alveum sanctificaturus intravit: ubi ipsum esse Filium unigenitum dilectum, Spiritu, columbæ specie, advolante, monstrasti, et paterna insuper voce docuisti: sive quod primum in Cana Galilææ prodidit signum, cum in connubio nuptiali, aquas in vinum convertit, alto et admirabili Sacramento docens, quod a sæculis sponsæ sibi jungendus Ecclesiæ advenerat, ac in vinum prudentiæ spiritualis saporis fidem veritatis esse mutandum: itaque in his tribus mirabilium tuorum causis fide hodiernæ solemnitatis edita, Dominus noster Jesus Christus, Filius tuus, nihilominus tuæ virtutis operatio et nostræ salutis præparatio est. Propterea, Domine, secundum hæctria magna mirabilia,maneat in nobis gratiæ spiritualis integritas, sapiat in cordibus nostris vinum prudentiæ,fulgeatin operibus Stella justitiæ. Amen.
O God, who to lighten the labours of this present life hast conferred upon us the various consolations and joys of thy gifts which we commemorate in the yearly recurrence of the festivals: thou grantest us now, on this present solemnity, to unite in the mysteries celebrated by thy Church. Having kept, a few days past, the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour, who was born unto us in time and yet was born of thee from eternity, and preceded and created all ages and time; having, eight days after that, with like devotion and with the same solemn sacrifice, honoured the Circumcision, that feast resplendent with the light of thine Only Begotten Son; we now on this day worship the Epiphany, which revealed unto us the divinity of him who had assumed our Humanity. We proclaim those various manifestations, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son made known his having come into this world. We proclaim his having sent from the heavens that Star which announced his own rising, and by whose guidance he led the wondering Magi to the cradle where helay in his assumed Infant Flesh. We proclaim his sanctifying, unto the cleansing of all nations, the waters by his own Baptism, when he entered the bed of the Jordan, and where by thy Spirit hovering in the shape of a dove over him, thou didst show and by thy paternal voice didst declare that he was thy beloved Only-Begotten Son. We proclaim his first miracle wrought in Cana of Galilee, when, at the marriage-feast, he changed the water into wine, teaching us, by a sublime and admirable mystery, that he had come in order to be united to the Church, the Spouse he had, for ages, chosen to himself, and that the faith in the promises was henceforth to be changed into the wine of sweet spiritual wisdom. Thus it is, that in the three wonders which are the object of our faith on thisday’s solemnity, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, achieves both the operation of thy power, and the preparation of our salvation. Wherefore, we beseech thee, O Lord, grant us, agreeably to these three prodigies, that there may abide in us the soundness of spiritual grace, that our hearts may relish the wine of prudence, and that the star of justice may shine forth in our works. Amen.
The ancient Paris Missal of 1584 contains the following Sequence for one of the days during this Octave. It is full of unction.
Orto crucis sidere,
Regem regum omnium.
Non panditur aliter
Jacet in præsepio.
Spreto regum solio,
Degens in penuria.
Formam dans quærentibus,
Magos cultu debito
Stella duce cursitant
Ad Regem quem prædicant
Quod illi magnifice
Thus superno Numini,
Myrrham vero homini,
Aurum Regi pariter.
His donis, o lilium,
Placa nobis Filium
Ut possimus libere
Secum semper vivere
The Star of the Cross has risen;
let us most earnestly seek
the King of kings.
Let us seek him in humility,
for it is to humble hearts alone
that he shows himself.
He lies in a crib,
for he scorns a regal couch,
and lives in poverty.
He thus teaches them that seek him
to despise the things of earth,
and love those of heaven.
Let us turn away from Herod,
and follow without delay, the Magi,
and pay our homage to Jesus.
They are led by the Star,
and hasten to the King, whom they proclaim
as the everlasting Ruler.
Let us mystically offer the gifts,
which they really offered him
Let us offer Incense to Jesus, as our God;
our Myrrh to him, as Man;
our Gold to him, as King.
Do thou, O Mary, pure Lily!
pray for us to thy Son, who is full of sweetness,
that these our gifts may render him propitious;
That so, being freed from this world,
we may live with him for ever
in the heavenly land above.
We here insert a few stanzas from the exquisite Hymn composed by St Ephrem for the Syrian Church.
Quam mitis es Puer, quam vehemens judiciorum tuorum vis omnipotens, et ineluctabilis est, suavis et dulcis est amor tuus; quis tibi obsistet?
In sublimi habitat Pater tuus, tua Mater humi jacet; undenam tui notitiam quis capiat? Si quis terrenus homo tuam disquirat naturam ab humanis remotam sensibus, hæc supereminet cœlo in magnum divinitatis retrusa sinum.
Si rursus quispiam corpus cognoscere cupiat oculi expositum, en humi jacet, teque ab angusto Mariæ gremio præbet aspectabilem. Errat incertus animus, neque sibi constat mens tuas, o dives, rationes supputans.
Congeminatis seris clauditur tua divinitas; pelagus es tamen immensum, cedo, qui ejus fundum attingat, etiam postquam magnitudinem tuam ad nostram parvitatem deduxisti. Cum tuum conspectum petimus, hominem videmus, visuros nos Deum sperantes; si hominem videre velimus, inde statim in oculos incurrit hebetatque aciem coruscans divinitatis splendor.
Jam quis credat hæredem te esse Davidici throni, cui ex lauta ejus supellectile præsepe duntaxat relictum est, et ex amplissimis ædibus, spelunca, deque ejus equitatu vix vilem asellum cernere aliquando continget?
Attamen quam benignus es, puer, qui te omnibus indulges, et obviis quibusque arrides! talis nempe tuus amor est, qualem credibile est futurum fuisse ejus, quihomines desideraret, ut panem quilibet esuriens.
Parentes ab externis non discernís, nec genitricem ab ancillis, nec virginem te lactantem ab impuris prostitutæ pudicitiæ feminis. Quid? Num tui ingenii naturalis facilitas huc te demisit, an caritas, qui nihil od isti eorum quæ fecisti?
Quidistuc quod te movet, ut ad omnes descendas, ad locupletes ac tenues, et ad eos accurras etiam non vocatus? Unde tibi istud inditum, ut homines tantopere cupias?
Quæ hæc tua caritas est, ut si quis te objurgat, non succenseas, si minis terret, non trepides, si duriter tecum agit, frontem non contrahas? Tua nimirum caritas antecellit legem illorum, qui suas persequebantur injurias et vindicabant.
How gentle art thou, dear Babe! How mighty is the omnipotent and irresistible power of thy judgements I How sweet and amiable is thy love! Who can withstand thee?
Thy Father dwells in the high heavens; thy Mother stands on the lowly earth; who can understand thee? If the earthly man investigate thy nature, which surpasses the ken of mortals, it is found in the highest heavens, hid in the vast bosom of the divinity.
If, again, one wish to see thy Body made visible to the eye of man, lo! it lies upon the earth: it has issued from the narrow womb of Mary, and all may see it. The soul knows not what to think, and the mind grows bewildered in the calculation of thy ways, O Jesus! rich Lord and God!
Thy divinity is shut beneath a twofold barrier; yet art thou, and I confess it, an immeasurable ocean to him who attempts to fathom thee, even now that thou hast humbled thy greatness to our littleness. When we seek for a sight of thee, we see thee a Man, having hoped to see thee as the great God: and when we wish to look upon thee as Man, then straightway is our eye struck and dazzled by the bright splendour of thy Divinity.
And who would think thee to be the Heir of David’s throne? Instead of costly furniture, thou hast but a Crib: instead of the regal palaces, thou hast but a Cave: instead of the richly caparisoned steeds, there stands near thee one poor ass.
Yet, dear Babe, how lovely art thou! accessible to all, and meeting with thy smile all who come to thee! Thy love is verily the love of one who longeth after men, as a hungry man that longeth after bread.
Thou welcomest to thee, with a like affection, strangers and thy kindred, women and thy Mother, impure prostitutes and the Virgin that feeds thee at her Breast. And how is this? Is it the sweet condescension of thy heart, or is it the love wherewith thou lovest all things thou hast made, that has brought thee to this excess of affection?
What is it that induces thee to stoop thus towards all, rich and poor, and run even to them that ask thee not to come? Whence hast thou this inclination to love us men so much?
What charity is this, that if a man insult thee, thou art not indignant? or if he threaten thee, thou fearest not to go to him? or if he treat thee with cruelty, there is not a wrinkle on thy brow? Ah! thy charity is of another sort from theirs who persecute them that do them wrong and who seek revenge upon their enemies.
Let us honour the Virgin-Mother by addressing to her these stanzas of a Hymn composed by St Joseph the Hymnographer. It is in the Menæa of the Greek Church.
Die IV Januarii
Divinum Regis palatium honoremus, in quo quemadmodum ipse voluit, habitavit, innuptam ac solam Deiparam, per quam deificati sumus, collaudemus.
Casta ante partum, in partu, et post partum, vere, o Virgo mater, apparuisti: Deum enim peperisti, quem Apostolorum collegium manifeste prædicavit.
Beatissimus olim Prophetarum chorus sacris vaticiniis in Spiritu divinitus te, o castissima, Portam et Montem umbrosum nominavit.
Illumina, o Virgo, oculos cordis mei, effulge super me pœnitentiæ radio; a tenebris perennibus libera me; o Porta lucis, Refugium omnium christianorum te fideliter laudantium.
Laudo te, o sola digna omni laude; glorifico te, o semper a Deo glorificatissima; et beatifico te, o Virgo, divina beatitudine felicissima, quam generationes generationum beatam appellant.
Expiatorium facta es, o purissima, eorum qui assidue delinquunt, supra naturæ ordinem enixa Christum, qui tollit peccata mundi, ad quem clamamus; Dominus ac Deus patrum, benedictus es.
O miraculum, quod omnia miracula transcendit; quomodo paris et permanes virgo, o castissima sponsa Dei! nimirum Verbum Patri coæternum genuisti, cui omnes psallimus: Laudate omnia opera, et superexaltate Dominum in omnia sæcula.
Jubar fulgoris partus tui eflulsit, atque universum terrarum orbem lætissimo lumine perfudit, actenebrarum principem perdidit, o Dei Genitrix castissima, Angelorum gloriatio, atque omnium hominum salus, qui incessantibus vocibus te concelebrant.
Let us honour the divine Palace of the King, in which it was his will to dwell: the virgin and incomparable Mother of God: let us sing our praises to Her by whom we were raised up to God.
Thou, O truly Virgin-Mother, wast pure before thy delivery, and in thy delivery, and after thy delivery; for thou didst give birth to that God whom the Apostolic College made known to the world by their preaching.
The most blessed choir of the Prophets of old, divinely inspired by the Spirit, did, in their sacred prophecies, call thee, O most chaste one, the Gate and the Mountain o’ershadowed.
Enlighten, O Virgin! the eyes of my heart, and send within me the bright ray of compunction; deliver me from eternal darkness; O thou Gate of Light, and Refuge of all Christians faithfully praising thee.
I praise thee, the creature alone worthy of all praise; I glorify thee, O thou that hast ever been glorified by God; and I bless thee, O Virgin, thou most happy in a divine blessedness, who art called Blessed by all generations.
O most pure one! thou hast been made the propitiatory of them that sin often, for thou didst miraculously bring forth Christ, who taketh away the sins of the world, and to whom we cry: Blessed art thou, O Lord and God of our fathers!
O miracle that surpasseth all miracles! How is it, O most chaste Spouse of God, that thou bearest a Child, yet remainest a Virgin? Thou hast given birth to the Word, coeternal with the Father, to whom we all thus sing: Praise him, all ye his works, and magnify the Lord above all for ever.
The bright splendour of thy delivery has shone forth, and has shed a most joyful light over the whole earth, and has destroyed the prince of darkness, O most chaste Mother of God, thou joy of the Angels, and protectress of all who honour thee with their unceasing praises.
 St Luke ii 16.
 St Matt. ii 2.
 Rom. iv 11.
 Apoc. xxii 16.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE Magi have reached Bethlehem; the humble dwelling of the King of the Jews has been thrown open to them; there, says St Matthew, they found the Child with Mary his Mother. Falling down, they adore the divine King they have so fervently sought after, and for whom the whole earth has been longing.
Here we have the commencement of the Christian Church. In this humble stable we have the Son of God made Man, presiding as Head over his mystical body; Mary is present, as the co-operatrix in the world's salvation, and as the Mother of divine Grace; Juda is represented by this holy Queen and her Spouse St Joseph; the Gentiles are adoring, in the person of the Magi, whose faith is perfect now that they have seen the Child. It is not a Prophet that they are honouring, nor is it to an earthly King that they open their treasures; he before whom they prostrate in adoration is their God. ‘See, I pray you,’ says St Bernard, ‘and attentively consider how keen is the eye of faith. It recognizes the Son of God whether feeding at his Mother's breasts, or hanging on the Cross, or dying in the midst of suffering; for the Good Thief recognizes him on the Cross, and the Magi recognize him in the stable; he in spite of the nails which fasten him, and they in spite of the clouts which swathe him.’
So that all is consummated, Bethlehem is not merely the birthplace of our Redeemer; it is the cradle of the Church. Well did the Prophet say of it: And thou, Bethlehem, art not the least among the princes of Juda. We can understand St Jerome leaving all the ambitions and comforts of Rome to go and bury himself in the seclusion of this cave, where all these mysteries were accomplished. Who would not gladly live and die in this privileged place, sanctified as it is by the presence of our Jesus, embalmed with the fragrance of the Queen of Heaven, filled with the lingering echoes of the songs of Angels, and fresh, even yet, with the memory of those ancestors of our faith, the holy Magi!
These happy kings are not scandalized at the sight they behold on entering the humble dwelling. They are not disappointed at finding at the end of their long journey a weak Babe, a poor Mother, and a wretched stable. On the contrary, they rightly understand the mystery. Once believing in the promise that the Infinite God would visit his creature Man, and show him how he loved him, they are not surprised at seeing him humble himself, and take upon himself all our miseries that he might be like us in all save sin. Their own hearts told them that the wound inflicted on man by pride was too deep to be healed by anything short of an extreme remedy; so that to them these strange humiliations at Bethlehem bespeak the design and action of a God. Israel, too, is in expectation of the Messias, but he must be mighty and wealthy and exalted above all other kings in earthly glory; the Magi, on the contrary, see in the humility and poverty of this weak Babe of Bethlehem the indications of the true Messias. The grace of God has triumphed in these faithful men; they fall down before him, and, full of admiration and love, they adore him.
Who could describe the sweet conversations they held with his blessed Mother? for the King himself, of whom they were come in search, broke not, even for their sakes, the voluntary silence he had imposed on himself by becoming an Infant. He accepted their homage, he sweetly smiled upon them, he blessed them; but he would not speak to them; Mary alone was to satisfy, by her sublime communications, the holy curiosity of the three pilgrims, who represented the entire human race. How amply must she not have rewarded their faith and love, by announcing to them the Mystery of that virginal Birth which was to bring salvation to the world; by telling them of the joys of her own maternal heart; and by describing to them the sweet perfections of the divine Child! They themselves would fix their eyes on the blessed Mother, and listen to her every word with devout attention; and oh! how sweetly must not divine grace have penetrated their hearts through the words of her whom God himself has chosen as the means to lead men to the knowledge and the love of his sovereign Majesty! The star which, but an hour ago, had brightly shone for them in the heavens, was replaced by another, of a lovelier light and stronger influence; and it prepared them for the contemplation of that God who calls himself the bright and morning Star! The whole world seemed now a mere nothing in their eyes; the stable of Bethlehem held within it all the riches of heaven and earth. They had shared in that long expectation of the human race, the expectation of four thousand years—and now it seemed but as a moment, so full and perfect was their joy at having found the God who alone can satisfy the desires of man's heart.
They understood and entered into the merciful designs of their Emmanuel; they gratefully and humbly contracted with him the alliance he so mercifully made, through them, with the human race; they adored the just judgements of God, who was about to cast off an unbelieving people; they rejoiced at the glories of the Christian Church, which had thus been begun in their persons; they prayed for us, their posterity in that same Church.
We, dear Babe of Bethlehem!—we, the Gentiles, who by our regeneration have become the posterity of these first Christians—we adore thee as they did. Since their entrance into Bethlehem, long ages have passed away; but there has been an unbroken procession of people and nations tending towards thee under the guidance of the Star of Faith. We have been made members of thy Church, and we adore thee with the Magi. In one thing are we happier than these firstborn of the Church; we have heard thy sacred words and teachings, we have contemplated thy sufferings and thy Cross, we have been witnesses of thy Resurrection, we have heard the whole universe, from the rising to the setting of the sun, hymning thy blessed and glorious Name: well may we adore and love thee as King of the earth! The Sacrifice whereby all thy Mysteries are perpetuated and renewed is now offered up daily in every part of the world; the voice of thy Church is heard speaking to all men; and all this light and all these graces are ours! The Church, the ever-enduring Bethlehem, the House of the Bread of Life, gives thee to us; and we are for ever feasting on thy adorable beauty. Yea, sweet Jesus, we adore thee with the Magi.
And thou, O Mary! teach us as thou didst teach the Magi. Unfold to us, and each year more clearly, the sweet Mystery of thy Jesus, and at length win us over unreservedly to his service. Thou art our Mother; watch over us, and suffer us not to lose any of the lessons he teaches us. May Bethlehem, wherein we have entered in company with the holy Magi, work in us the renovation of our whole lives.
Let us close the day by reciting some of the ancient hymns written in honour of the Mystery of our new-born King. Let us begin with these stanzas of one composed by St Ambrose.
Fit porta Christi pervia,
Referta plena gratia,
Transitque Rex, et permanet
Clausa ut fuit per sæcula.
Genus superni Numinis
Processit aula Virginis,
Sponsus, Redemptor, conditor,
Suæ gigas Ecclesiæ.
Honor Matris et gaudium,
Immensa spes credentium,
Per atra mortis pocula
Resolvit nostra crimina.
Lapis de monte veniens,
Mundumque replens gratia,
Quem non præcisum manibus
Vates vetusti nuntiant.
Qui Verbum caro factus est
De claustris virginalibus
Virginis virgo natus est.
Rorem dederunt æthera,
Nubesque justum fuderunt,
Patens excepit Dominum
Terra salutem generans.
Christum protulit sobolem,
Ut Virgo partum funderet,
Post partum virgo sisteret.
Exsulta omnis anima,
Nunc Redemptorem gentium
Mundi venisse Dominum
Redimere quos condidit.
Creator cuncti generis,
Orbis quem totus non capit,
In tua, sancta Genitrix,
Sese reclusit viscera.
Quem Pater ante tempora
Deus Deumque genuit,
Matris almæ virginitas
Cum tempore partum edidit.
Tollens cuncta facinora.
Et donans sancta munera,
Augmentum lucis afferens,
Tenebris damnum inferens.
The Gate of Christ is opened
—a Gate all filled with grace:
—the King passes, and the Gate remains
shut, as it had for ever been
The Son of the infinite God
came forth from the Virgin's womb:
he is the Spouse, Redeemer, Creator,
and (as the Psalm speaks) the Giant of his Church.
He is the glory and the joy of his Mother;
he is the immense hope of them that believe in him.
He drank the bitter cup of death,
and so absolved our sins.
He is the Stone that came from the mountain,
filling the world with grace.
The ancient prophets tell us that this Stone is to come,
and is not to be cut by the hand.
It is he, the Word, who was made Flesh
as the Angel was speaking;
He was born a Virgin
from the Virgin’s virginal womb.
The heavens gave forth their Dew,
and the clouds rained down the Just One;
the earth opens
and buds forth its Saviour, our Lord.
O wonderful conception!
the Child it has produced is Christ,
and the Mother that was Virgin in giving him birth
remained a Virgin after she had given him birth.
Let every soul be glad,
for the Redeemer of nations,
the Lord of the world,
is come to redeem the creatures he had made.
The Creator of the human race,
whom the whole world is too little to hold,
has hid himself, O holy Mother!
in thy womb.
He that was born of his Father
before all ages, God of God,
is now born in time
of his dear Virgin-Mother.
He takes away all sin,
and gives his sacred gifts;
he brings increase of light,
and breaks the power of night.
The following prayer is from the Breviary of the Gothic Church of Spain.
Domine Jesu Christe, qui ad interrogationem Herodis, ita Magorum ora præconio veritatis tuæ irradias, ut te Regem regum per eos nuntiatum ostendas, dum se vidisse aiunt stellæ refulgentis indicium, quod mundum illuminet universum: Te quæsumus, te precamur, ut des in Ecclesia tua visionis tuæ lumen optatum: appareas etiam in ea sidus omnibus pretiosum, quod nulla adversarii interrogatione deterriti, sic magnalia tua prædicemus ore diffuso, ut in æternæ lucis radiemus usquequaque præsidio. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, when the Magi were questioned by Herod, didst enlighten them with the announcement of thy truth by showing thyself to be the King of kings whom they declared by saying that they had seen thy sign, the bright Star, which gives light to the whole world: we beseech and implore thee that thou grant to thy Church the light she so much desires of thy vision. Show thyself also in her as the Star prized by all; that so, when questioned by our enemy, we may not be afraid, but may so boldly confess thy mysteries as that we may shine for all eternity in the mansion of eternal light. Amen.
The Church of Syria received the following Hymn of the Magi from her admirable Poet, St Ephrem.
Exsultantes Principes Persidis ex sua regione acceperunt munera, et Filio Virginis attulerunt aurum, myrrham et incensum.
Ingressi ut infantem repererunt illum in domo jacentem pauperculæ: at procidentes exsultando adoraverunt eum, et suos ipsi obtulerunt thesauros.
Dixit Maria: Cui hæc? et ad quid? et quæ causa vocavit vos ex vestra regione, ut ad puerum cura thesauris vestris veniretis?
Respondent illi: Rex est filius tuus, et diademata connectit cum sit Rex omnium, altiusque mundo est regnum ejus, ac imperioipsiussingula parent.
Quando contigit hoc unquam, ut paupercula Regem pariat? Inops sane sum, ac egena, undeque mihi erit ut Regem pariam?
Tibi soli hoc contigit, ut magnum Regem parias; et per te magnificabitur paupertas, filioque tuo subjicientur diademata.
Non sunt mihi gazæ regum, nec divitiæ unquam mihi obvenerunt; domus en paupercula est, et vacuum domicilium: cur ergo filium meum Regem prædicatis?
Gazæ magnæ est filius tuus, et divitiæ, quæ omnes ditare valent; gazæ namque regum deficiunt; ille vero nec deficiet, nec mensurabitur.
Ne alius forte sit vester Rex, qui natus est, hunc perquirite; etenim hic pauperculæ est filius, quæ Regem vel videre nequit.
Numquid fieri unquam potest, ut aberret viam lumen, quando immittitur? Siquidem non tenebræ nos vocarunt et adduxerunt: sed in lumine ambulavimus, et filius tuus Rex est.
Ecce videtis infantem silientem, et matris domum inanem et vacuam, nullumque in ea Regis apparere vestigium; quomodo ergo ejusmodi incolans domum Rex est?
Ecce sane videmus ilium silentem, et quietum; sed Regem, etsi pauperem, ut dixisti: at videmus etiam eum suo commovere imperio astra cœli, ut prænuntient ortum ejus.
Parvulus est infans, et ecce, ut cernitis, nec diadema regium habet, nec thronum: quid ergo videtis ut honoretis eum thesauris vestris, ut Regem?
Parvulus est, quia ipse voluit, et diliget mansuetudinem, et humilitatem, donec manifestetur. At erit tempus, cum incurvabuntur illi diademata, ac illum adorabunt.
Virtutes nullas habet, neque legiones; neque cohortes filius meus, in paupertate suæ jacet matris; et Rex a vobis quomodo appellatur?
Virtutes filii tui desuper sunt, cœlum equitant, et micant flammis, ex quorum numero unus nos vocare venit, totaque perterrita est regio nostra.
The Persian Princes were filled with joy, and took with them such gifts as their country yielded, and brought to the Son of the Virgin gold, myrrh, and frankincense.
Having entered, they found the Child lying in the house of a poor maid: but falling down they adored him with much joy, and offered him their treasures.
Mary spoke to them and said: To whom offer ye these things? and why offer ye them? what has brought you from your country, to come to my Child with your treasures?
They answered: Thy Child is King, and all diadems are made by him, for he is the King of all kings, and his kingdom is above this world, and all things are subject to his dominion.
But how could this have happened, that a poor maid should have given birth to a King? I am indeed needy and poor: could I have brought forth a King?
Thou alone hast had this happiness, to give birth to the great King. Poverty shall now be honoured on thy account, and thrones shall be subject to thy Son.
But I have no treasures such as kings have, nor did I ever possess riches. Lo! my house is little and poor, and empty is this my dwelling: why then call you my Son King?
Thy Son himself is treasure and riches enough to enrich all men; for the treasures of kings fail; but he shall never fail, and there shall be no limits to his wealth.
Go, seek this your King, who is born; for this Babe is the Child of a poor maid, who would not be allowed to even look at a king.
No, it cannot be that light sent down from heaven can mislead us. It is not darkness that has called and guided us; but we have walked in the light, and thy Son is King.
But this Babe is speechless, and his Mother’s house is poor and empty, and there is nought here that suits a King: how can he be King that dwells in such a house?
Silent indeed he is, and motionless, and as thou sayest, poor; still is he King, for we have seen him move the stars of heaven, when he bade them proclaim his birth.
He is but a tiny Babe, and as you see, he has neither crown northrone: what is it that makes you honour him with your treasures, as though he were a King?
He is a little Child, for he wished so to be, and he will love meekness and humility, until the day shall come for him to show himself: but the time shall be when crowned heads shall bow before him and adore him.
My Son has no troops or legions or armies, but lies couched as best his Mother's poverty can provide: how, then call you him King?
The armies of thy Child are there above, they ride on the clouds of heaven, and light up the firmament with their brightness, and one of their number came down to call us, and all our people were in consternation.
As our offering to our Lady, we will recite this beautiful Sequence, which our own dear England used to sing in the Middle Ages.
Salve, Virgo serena,
Ac moribus Vernantibus!
Gignis Dei Filium;
Tu post puerperium.
Digna Domini paris.
Profers, expers paris.
Ob hoc rite,
Tu spes, et refugium
Tu medela criminum,
Tu solamen tristium,
Tu purgatrix sordium,
Tu laus, tu remedium
In te confidentium:
Tu vitale præmium
O pia Maria,
Tu cunctis miseris
Dulcis spes et grata.
Ad pia gaudia
Quo vere gaudere
Per te possimus,
Cum Natoque tuo,
O flower of purity!
Sanctuary of chastity!
Mother of mercy!
Hail, gentle Maid!
Source of Life!
Full of the dew
of the sevenfold Spirit!
Adorned with all virtues,
and blooming in holiness of life!
Lily of chastity!
thou givest birth to the Son of God!
And after thy delivery
thou remainest a pure Virgin!
Thou art made his Mother in a wonderful way
—nature stood aside
to let its God do all.
How beautiful art thou
by giving birth to him
that is the very Light—the great King!
Those ancient figures of the Law
—the Rod, the Flower, the Bush, the Dew
—all were types of thee, sweet Virgin-Mother!
And Gedeon's Fleece,
soaked with the dew of heaven, foreshadowed thee,
O Mary, the worthy Mother of our God!
Thou art a Virgin, and thou hast a Child!
Thou art a Star,
and thou bringest forth a Sun! Dear peerless Queen!
And after this,
can men be found who deem it wrong to call thee
‘the Way of Life'?
Thou art the Hope, and the Refuge of humble sinners:
thou healest them
whose hearts are sick from crime,
and thou winnest salvation for them that repent.
Thou art the comfortress of the afflicted,
and the support of the weak;
the unclean of heart ask thee to pray them pure,
and souls discouraged obtain bravery from thee.
Thou art the glory and the helper of them
that have confidence in thee;
and by thy prayers thou obtainest the reward
of eternal life for them that serve thee.
O Mary, full of motherly love!
thou art the sinner's advocate,
and the sweet consoling hope
of them that are in wretchedness.
Raise up the hearts
of us thy clients,
and turn them to the holy joys
of the heavenly kingdom.
Where we may,
by thy intercession,
and reign together with thy Son.
 St Matt, ii 11.
 Second Sermon for the Epiphany.
 St Matt. ii 6; Mich. v 2.
 Apoc. xxii 16.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE Magi were not satisfied with paying their adorations to the great King whom Mary presented to them. After the example of the Queen of Saba, who paid her homage to the Prince of Peace in the person of King Solomon, these three Eastern Kings opened their treasures and presented their offerings to Jesus. Our Emmanuel graciously accepted these mystic gifts, and suffered them not to leave him until he had loaded them with gifts infinitely more precious than those he had vouchsafed to receive. The Magi had given him of the riches which this earth produces; Jesus repays them with heavenly gifts. He strengthened in their hearts the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; he enriched, in their persons, the Church of which they were the representatives; and the words of the Canticle of Mary were fulfilled in them: He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away, for the Synagogue refused to follow them in their search after the King of the Jews.
But let us consider the gifts made by the Magi, and let us, together with the Church and the Holy Fathers, acknowledge the Mysteries expressed by them. The gifts were three in number, in order to honour the sacred number of the Persons in the divine Essence, as likewise to express the triple character of Emmanuel. He had come that he might be King over the whole world; it was fitting that men should offer gold to him, for it is the emblem of sovereign power. He had come to be High Priest, and, by his mediation, reconcile earth to heaven; incense, then, was an appropriate gift, for the Priest uses it when he offers sacrifice. But thirdly, it was only by his own death that he was to obtain possession of the throne which was prepared for his glorified Human Nature, and the perpetual Sacrifice of the Divine Lamb was to be inaugurated by this same his Death; the gift of Myrrh was expressive of the Death and Burial of an immortal Victim. The Holy Ghost, who inspired the Prophets, had guided the Magi in their selection of these three gifts. Let us listen to St Leo, who, speaking of this Mystery, says with his usual eloquence:
O admirable Faith, which leads to Knowledge and perfect Knowledge, and which was not taught in the school of earthly wisdom, but was enlightened by the Holy Ghost himself! For whence had they learnt the supernatural beauty of their three Gifts? they that had come straight from their own country, and had not as yet seen Jesus, nor beheld in his infant Face the Light which directed them in the choice of their offerings? Whilst the star met the gaze of the bodily eye, their hearts were instructed by a stronger light—the ray of Truth. Before setting out on the fatiguing journey they knew him, to whom were due, by Gold, the honours of a King; by Incense, the worship of God; by Myrrh, the faith in his Mortal Nature.
But these three gifts, which so sublimely express the three characters of the Man-God, are fraught with instruction for us. They signify three great virtues, which the Divine Infant found in the souls of the Magi, and to which he added increase by his grace. Gold signifies charity, which unites us to God; Frankincense prayer, which brings God into man's heart; and Myrrh self-abnegation, suffering and mortification, whereby we are delivered from the slavery of corrupt nature. Find a heart that loves God, that raises herself up to him by prayer, that understands and relishes the power of the cross—and you have in that heart the worthiest offering which can be made to God, and one which he always accepts.
We, too, O Jesus! offer thee our treasure and our gifts. We confess thee to be God and Priest and Man. We beseech thee to accept the desire we have of corresponding to the love thou showest us by giving thee our love in return; we love thee, dear Saviour! do thou increase our love. Receive also the gift of our Prayer, for though of itself it be tepid and poor, yet it is pleasing to thee because united with the prayer of thy Church: teach us how to make it worthy of thee and how to give it the power of obtaining what thou desirest to grant: form within us the gift of prayer, that it may unceasingly ascend up like sweet Incense in thy sight. And lastly, receive the homage of our contrite and humble hearts, and the resolution we have formed of restraining and purifying our senses by mortification and penance.
The sublime Mysteries which we are celebrating during this holy season have taught us the greatness of our own misery, and the immensity of thy love for us, and we feel more than ever the obligation we are under of fleeing from the world and its concupiscences, and of uniting ourselves to thee. The Star shall not have shone upon us in vain: it has brought us to thee, dear King of Bethlehem! and thou shalt be King of our hearts. What have we that we prize and hold dear, which we can hesitate to give thee in return for the sweet infinite treasure of thyself, which thou hast given to us?
Dear Mother of our Jesus! we put these our offerings into thy hands. The gifts of the Magi were made through thee, and they were pleasing to thy Son; thou must present ours to him, and he will be pleased with them, in spite of their poverty. Our love is deficient; fill up its measure by uniting it with thine own immense love. Second our prayer by thy maternal intercession. Encourage us in our warfare against the world and the flesh. Make sure our perseverance, by obtaining for us the grace of a continual remembrance of the sweet Mysteries which we are now celebrating; pray for us that, after thine own example, we may keep all these things in our hearts. That must be a hard and depraved heart which could offend Jesus in Bethlehem; or refuse him anything now that he is seated on thy lap, waiting for our offering! O Mary! keep us from forgetting that we are the children of the Magi, and that Bethlehem is ever open to receive us.
Let us borrow the language of the ancient Liturgies, in order to give expression to the sentiments awakened in us by all these ineffable Mysteries. Let us begin with this Hymn on the Nativity of our Lord left us by the saintly Bishop of Poitiers, Venantius Fortunatus.
Agnoscat omne sæculum
Venisse vitæ præmium;
Post hostis asperi jugum
Esaias quæ cecinit
Completa sunt in Virgine:
Sanctus replevit Spiritus.
Maria ventre concipit
Verbi fidelis semine:
Quem totus orbis non capit
Portant puellæ viscera.
Radix Jesse floruit,
Et Virga fructum edidit;
Fœcunda partum protulit,
Et Virgo mater permanet.
Præsepe poni pertulit
Qui lucis auctor exstitit,
Cum Patre cœlos condidit,
Sub Matre pannos induit.
Legem dedit qui sæculo,
Cujus decem præcepta sunt,
Dignando factus est homo
Sub Legis esse vinculo.
Adam vetus quod polluit
Adam novus hoc abluit:
Tumens quod ille dejicit
Humillimus hic erigit.
Jam nata lux est et salus,
Fugata nox et victa mors,
Venite gentes, credite,
Deum Maria protulit.
Let all ages acknowledge
that he is come who is the reward of life.
After mankind had carried the yoke of its cruel enemy,
our Redemption appeared.
What Isaias foretold
has been fulfilled in the Virgin;
an Angel announced the mystery to her,
and the Holy Ghost filled her by his power.
Mary conceived in her womb,
for she believed in the word that was spoken to her:
the womb of a youthful maid
holds him whom the whole earth cannot contain.
The Root of Jesse has given its flower,
and the Branch has borne its fruit:
Mary has given birth to Jesus,
and the Mother is still the spotless Virgin.
He that created the light
suffers himself to be laid in a manger;
he that, with the Father, made the heavens,
is now wrapt by his Mother's hand in swaddling-clothes.
He that gave to the world
the ten commandments of the law,
deigns, by becoming Man,
to be under the bond of the law.
What the old Adam defiled,
that the new Adam has purified;
and what the first cast down by his pride,
the second raised up again by his humility.
Light and salvation are now born to us,
night is driven away, and death is vanquished:
oh! come, all ye people, believe;
God is born of Mary.
The Mozarabic Breviary contains the following eloquent prayer.
Deus, Dei Filius, Patris ineffabilis Virtus, qui novo sidere in Gentibus Rex regum ostenderis magnus, et in civitate illa beata appares gloriosus: quem insulæ tremunt: cui principes et nationes Gentium obsequuntur, dum tibi omnia regna cedunt, tibi regum diademata substernuntur; dignare jam gratianostris te ostendere sensibus pium, et in conversationibus manifestum: ut primitias Spiritus habentes, ea tibi semper munera dedicemus, per quæ introire beatam illam Hierusalem placitis cordibus mereamur, ut tibi mundissimum aurum nostrorum operum deferentes, regni tui mereamur esse participes. Amen.
O God, Son of God, the ineffable Power of the Father, who, by the rising of a new star, didst reveal thyself to the Gentiles as the King of kings, and now art seen in thy glory in that happy city above: O thou before whom the islands tremble, and the Gentile princes and nations bow in homage, and to whom all kingdoms are subject, and at whose feet all kings lay down their crowns: vouchsafe now, by thy grace, to show thyself in thy mercy to our souls, and manifest thyself by our lives: that having within us the firstfruits of the Spirit, we may ever offer thee such gifts as thereby to merit to enter, with hearts well-pleasing to thee, into the blessed Jerusalem, and by offering thee now the most pure gold of our works, we may deserve to be partakers of thy kingdom. Amen.
We take the following Sequence from the Paris Missal of 1584.
In excelsis canitur
Nato Regi gloria,
Per quem terræ redditur
In cœlo concordia.
Jure dies colitur
Quo nascente, nascitur
Novæ legis gratia.
Mediator nobis datus
In salutis præmium,
Non nature, sed reatus
Non amittit claritatem
Stella fundens radium,
Nec Maria castitatem,
Quis de monte lapis cæsus
Sine manu, nisi Jesus
Qui de Regum linea,
Sine carnis opere,
De carne puerperæ
Et desertum floreat:
Virga Jesse floruit.
Radix virgam, virga florem,
Virgo profert Salvatorem,
Sicut Lex præcinuit.
Radix David typum gessit:
Virga, matris quæ processit
Ex regali semine.
Flos est Puer nobis natus,
Jure flori comparatus
Præ mira dulcedine.
In præsepe reclinatur,
Cujus ortus celebratur
Cœli cives jubilant,
Dum pastores vigilant
Sub noctis silentio.
Cuncta laudes intonant
Super partum Virginis.
Lex et psalmi consonant
Angelorum et pastorum,
Stellæ simul et Magorum
Reges currunt Orientis
Ad præsepe vagientis,
Jesu puer immortalis,
Ex terreno temporalis,
Nos ab hujus vitæ malis
Tu potenter erue.
Tu, post vitam hunc mortalem,
Sive mortem hanc vitalem,
Vitam nobis immortalem
There is sung in the highest heavens:
Glory be to the newborn King,
by whom peace is restored
between heaven and earth.
Rightly do we keep
the Birthday of Jesus as a feast;
for by his birth,
the grace of the new law is born.
He, our Mediator, is given to us
to be the reward of our salvation:
he takes upon himself our nature,
refusing only to be like us in our sin.
As a star loses nothing of its brightness
by giving forth its ray;
so neither does Mary suffer the loss of her purity
by giving birth to her Son.
Who is the Stone cut from the mountain
and not by the hand of man, if not our Jesus,
who was of the line of kings.
And was born from the womb
of his Virgin-Mother,
after she had virginaily conceived?
Let the wilderness be glad,
and the desert bloom;
—the rod of Jesse has flowered.
As was foretold in the Law, the Root has yielded its Branch,
the Branch its Flower,
and the Virgin our Saviour.
The Root was the figure of David:
the Branch was the type of Mary,
who was born of a kingly race.
The Flower is the Child that is born unto us,
well likened to a flower,
by reason of his wonderful sweetness.
He, whose birth is celebrated
by the heavenly spirits,
is laid in a manger!
The citizens of heaven are in jubilee,
whilst the Shepherds are keeping
watch in the still night.
Let all creatures give forth praise
for that the Virgin has given birth to her Son.
The law and the psalms harmonize
with the writings of the Prophets.
The Angels and the Shepherds,
the Star and the Magi,
all agree in proclaiming the Birth.
The Eastern Kings run
to the Crib of the Babe
—they are the first-fruits of the Gentiles.
O Jesus, immortal Babe!
born in time because thou wouldst assume our nature,
snatch us, by thy power,
from this life's woes.
After this our mortal life,
or rather this living death,
mercifully restore unto us
that life which is immortal.
Totum mysterium ut actum est apud vos in regione vestra, aperite nunc mihi, ut amici; et quis vocabit vos, ut ad me veniretis?
Magna stella nobis apparuit, reliquis multo splendidior stellis, cujus lumine nostra terra est inflammata, et quod Rex ortus sit, nobis annuntiavit.
Nollem, vos quæso, loquamini hæc in regione nostra, ne sentientes Reges terræ, machinentur sua invidia adversus puerum.
Ne timeas, Virgo, quia omnia diademata solvet Filius tuus, eaque pessumdabit, nec sua invidia nocumentum inferre illi valebunt.Herodem timeo, lupum pollutum, ne me perturbet, gladium stringat, quo præcidat dulcem botrum adhuc immaturum.
Herodem ne timeas: per Filium enim tuum subvertetur ejus thronus, et statim atque regnabit, destruetur, et ejus diadema decidet.
Torrens sanguinis est Hierusalem, in eaque optimi quique cadunt: quare si hoc præsenserit, machinabitur in ilium; ideoque secreto loquamini, precor, et ne tumultuetis.
Torrentes omnes, et lanceæ etiam per manus Filii tui sedabuntur, et Hierosolymæ obstupescet gladius, et nisi voluerit, non cadet.
Scribæ et sacerdotes Hierusalem, qui sanguinem subdole effundere solent, excitabunt forte lethale litigium adversum me, et adversum puerum: Magi, quæso, silete.
Scribæ et sacerdotes nequáquam valebunt sua invidia Filio tuo nocere; et per ipsum solvetur eorum sacerdotium, et solemnitates eorum cessabunt.
Angelus apparuit mihi, quando concepi puerum; quod Rex sit Filius meus, et quod ab alto sit ejus diadema, et non solvetur, ipse quoque explicavit mihi ut et vobis.
Angelus igitur, quem dicis, ipse venit sub specie sideris et apparuit nobis, atque annuntiavit quod Puer major sit et splendidior stellis.
Coram vobis ecce aperio aliud arcanum, ut confirmemini; scilicet virgo peperi filium, Filiumque Dei; euntes prædicate ipsum.
Jam nos prædocuit stella, nativitatem ejus extra ordinem esse naturæ, et super omnia esse Filium tuum, eumdemque etiam Filium esse Dei.
Pacem referte in terram vestram; pax gliscat in finibus vestris: veraces veritatis nuntii habeamini in toto itinere vestro.
Pax Filii tui nos reducat incolumes in regionem nostram, ut duxit; et cum imperium ejus mundo manifestabitur, invisat terram nostram, et benedicat illi.
Gaudeat Persis vestro nuntio, exsultet Assyria vestro reditu; et quando regnum Filii mei manifestabitur, in regione vestra suum collocabit vexillum.
Tell me, I beg of you as friends, how the mystery was declared to you in your country, and who it was that told you to come to me?
A star of great size appeared to us, more brilliant far than other stars; its light illumined our land, and it was an announcement to us that the King was born.
Tell not this, I pray you, in these our parts, lest the kings of the earth should hear it, and plot, in their envy, against the Child.
Fear not, O Virgin! for thy Son shall be master of all crowns, and shall crush them; neither shall the envy of kings be able to hurt him.
I fear that unclean wolf Herod, lest perhaps he bring grief upon me, and draw his sword to cut from off its vine my sweet though not yet ripened Fruit.
Fear not Herod, for his throne shall be o'erthrown by thy Son, and his reign shall be short, and his crown shall fall from his head.
Jerusalem is a torrent of blood, and all that are good are slain; if this be known, the city will plot against my Child. I pray you, then, whisper these things, and noise them not abroad.
All blood-shedding shall be stayed, and all weapons sheathed by the hand of thy Son; Jerusalem's sword shall be stupefied, powerless to strike, unless by his consent.
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem are skilled in secret murders, and may stir up some deadly purposes against me and the Child. Be silent, Magi, I beseech you.
Not so: the envious Scribes and Pharisees shall not have power to injure thy Child; nay, he will take away their priesthood, and put an end to their solemn feasts.
An Angel appeared to me when I conceived my Babe; he told me, as he told you, that my Child is King, and that his throne is from above, and shall never have an end.
This Angel, then, of whom thou speakest, is he that appeared to us under the figure of the star, and told us that thy Son is greater and brighter than the stars.
Lo, now I will reveal to you another secret, that you may take fresh courage: I have given birth to my Child, who is the Son of God, and yet am I a Virgin. Go forth and preach his name to the nations.
All this was taught us by the Star: it told us that his birth was beyond the course of nature, and that thy Son is above all creatures, and that he is the Son of God.
Take peace back with you to your land; may peace be in your territories; may you be the truthful messengers of the Truth on all your journey.
May the peace of thy Son, which brought us hither, lead us back safe to our country; and, when his kingdom shall be declared to the world, may he visit our land, and bless it.
May Persia rejoice at your tidings, and Assyria be glad in your return; and when the kingdom of my Son shall be declared, he shall set his standard in your land.
Die XV Januarii
Molestissimis passionum insultibus, quasi tempestatibus exagitatus, et peccatorum ictibus quasi fluctibus concussus, ad indefessam protectionem tuam confugio cum affectu, o puella omni laude dignissima: miserere mei, et salva me, o Virgo perpetua.
Cum te tamquam rosam redolentem punis ille in convallibus reperisset, o inviolata; in medio tui habitavit, humanum genus suavissimo replens odore.
Dirige motus animæ meæ, o purissima, ad divina illius præcepta qui ex utero tuo coruscavit, atque a tempestate scandalorum hujus vitæ eripe me intercessionibus tuis.
Omnium Dominum Emmanuel sine viri opera peperisti, manens Virgo post partum, o Virgo mater. Eumdem incessanter exora ut ab hostium invasionibus liberentur illi qui confugiunt sub protectionem tuam.
Verbum quod æquale est in operatione et in throno Genitori suo, ex visceribus tuis corporasti, o casta; atque inde propter ineffabilem misericordiam suam, totam naturam nostram assumpsit.
Prolem tuam laudamus, o benedicta, per quam ab antiqua damnatione redempti sumus; te vero beatificamus, o divina felicitate cumulatissima; quam solam dilexit ille qui est benedictus ac supergloriosus.
Fluvium perennem nobis effundis recurrentibus ad te, o casta; cujus uberem gratiam delibantes, partum tuum laudamus, o inviolatissima, et superexaltamus in omnia sæcula.
Lucis habitacuium venter tuus factus est, per quam sedentes in tenebris viderunt lumen: unde te incessabili voce semper laudamus, o Dei Mater; et cum affectu veneramur te spem animarum nostrarum.
Tossed by the troublesome attacks of my passions, as by so many storms, and buffeted by the blows of my sins as by angry billows, I lovingly fly to thy untiring protection, O Maid most worthy of all praise. Have pity on me, and save me, O ever spotless Virgin!
When the God of purity found thee, O spotless Virgin, in the lowly valleys as the Rose that breathes forth sweet fragrance, he dwelt within thee, and filled the human race with the most delicious perfume.
Turn the faculties of my soul, O most pure one, to the divine commandments of him who shone forth from thy womb, and by thy prayers deliver me from the storm of this life's scandals.
Thou didst virginally bring forth our Emmanuel, the Lord of all, O Virgin-Mother, and didst remain a Virgin after thy delivery. Pray to him unceasingly, that they who fly to thy protection may be freed from the attacks of their enemies.
O chaste Virgin! thou didst, from thy womb, clothe with a human body him who is the Word equal to his Father in works and in majesty; from thee, by reason of his unspeakable mercy, did he assume our entire human nature.
O Blessed Mother! we praise thy Son, who redeemed us from the old curse. We bless thee, O blessed by God above all women, who art loved above all by him who is blessed and glorious above all.
Thou pourest forth an everflowing stream on us who have recourse to thee, O VirginMother! Refreshed by its plentiful grace, we praise thy Son, O purest Maid, and we extol him above all for ever.
Thy womb was made the dwelling-place of Light, whereby they saw the light that sat in darkness. Therefore do we ever praise thee with our unceasing hymns, O Mother of God, and devoutly venerate thee, the hope of our hearts.
The Church makes commemoration, to-day, of the holy Pope and Martyr Hyginus. He held the Apostolic Chair under the reign of Antoninus, and closed his four years’ Pontificate by martyrdom. We have no history of his life, but we venerate in him one of the links of that grand chain of Pontiffs which unites us, by St Peter, to our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole weight of the government of the Church was upon his shoulders, and he was courageous and faithful in the discharge of his duties; his reign was during the age of Persecution, when to be Pope was to be a victim of tortures and death. As we have already said, he soon won his Palm, and was associated in heaven with the three Magi, who had, before leaving this world, preached the Gospel in Greece, the country of our Saint. Let us ask him to bless the offerings we are making to the Divine Infant of Bethlehem, and to pray for us, that we may obey this sweet King, who asks us to give him not our blood by martyrdom, but our hearts by charity.
Let us honour the memory of this holy Pope, and say with the Church:
Ant. Iste Sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non timuit; fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.
Infirmitatem nostram respice, omnipotens Deus, et quia pondus propriæactionis gravat, beati Hygini Martyris tui atque Pontificis intercessio gloriosa nos protegat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Ant. This Saint fought, even unto death, for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was set upon a firm rock.
Let us Pray
Have regard, O Almighty God, to our weakness; and whereas we sink under the weight of our own doings, let the glorious intercession of blessed Hyginus, thy Martyr and Bishop, be a protection to us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
 St Luke i 53.
 Sermon the Fourth On the Epiphany.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
HAVING laid their offerings at the feet of Jesus, as the sign of the alliance they had, in the name of all mankind, contracted with him, and laden with his graces and blessings, the Magi take their leave of the Divine Babe; for such was his will. They take their departure from Bethlehem, and the rest of the world seems a wilderness to them. Oh, if they might be permitted to fix their abode near the new-born King and his incomparable Mother! But no; God's plan for the salvation of the world requires that everything savouring of human pomp and glory should be far from him who had come to take upon himself all our miseries.
Besides, they are to be the first messengers of the Gospel; they must go and tell to the Gentiles that the Mystery of Salvation has begun, that the earth is in possession of its Saviour, and that their salvation is nigh at hand. The star does not return to them; they needed it to find Jesus; but now they have him in their hearts, and will never lose him. These three men are sent back into the midst of the Gentile world, as the leaven of the Gospel which, notwithstanding its being so little, is to leaven the whole paste. For their sakes, God will bless the nations of the earth; from this day forward infidelity will lose ground, and faith will progress; and when, the Blood of the Lamb having been shed, Baptism shall be promulgated, the Magi shall be, not merely men of desire, but perfect Christians, initiated into all the Mysteries of the Church.
The ancient tradition, which is quoted by the author of The Imperfect Work on St Matthew, which is put in all the editions of St John Chrysostom, and was probably written about the close of the 6th century, tells us that the three Magi were baptized by St Thomas the Apostle, and devoted themselves to the preaching of the Gospel. But we scarcely need a tradition on such a point as this. The vocation of these three Princes could never be limited to the mere privilege of being the first among the Gentiles to visit the eternal King who had come down from heaven to be born on this earth and show himself to his creatures; a second vocation was the consequence of the first, the vocation of preaching Jesus to men.
There are many details relating to the life and actions of the Magi, after they had become Christians, which have been handed down to us; but we refrain from mentioning them, as not being sufficiently ancient or important traditions to have induced the Church to give them place in her Liturgy. We would make the same observation with regard to the names assigned to them of Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthassar; the custom of thus naming them is too modem to deserve credit; and though it might be indiscreet to deny that these were their true names, it seems very difficult to give proofs of their correctness.
The Relics of these holy Kings were translated from Persia to Constantinople, under the first Christian Emperors, and, for a long time, were kept in the Church of Saint Sophia. At a later period, they were trans lated to Milan, when Eustorgius was Bishop of that city. There they remained till the 12th century, when, through the influence of the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa, they were translated to the Cathedral Church of Cologne by Reynold, Archbishop of that metropolitan see. The Relics are in a magnificent Shrine, perhaps the finest specimen now extant of medieval metallic art, and the superb Cathedral where it is religiously kept is, by its size and architectural beauty, one of the grandest Churches of the Christian world.
Thus have we followed you, O Blessed Magi! Fathers of the Gentile world! from your first setting out from the East for Bethlehem to your return to your own country, and even to your sacred resting-place; which the goodness of God has made to be in this cold West of ours. It was the love of children for their parents that made us thus cling to you. Besides, were we not ourselves in search of that dear King whom you so longed for and found? Blessed be those ardent desires of yours, blessed be your obedience to the guidance of the star, blessed be your devotion at the Crib of Jesus, blessed be the gifts you made him, which, while they were acceptable to God, were full of instruction to us! We revere you as Prophets, for you foretold the characters of the Messias by the selection of your three gifts. We honour you as Apostles, for you preached, even to Jerusalem herself, the Birth of the humble Jesus of Bethlehem, of that Jesus whom his Disciples preached not till after the triumph of his Resurrection. We hail you as the Spring Flowers of the Gentile world, but Flowers which produced abundant and rich fruits, for you brought over entire nations and countless people to the service of our divine King. Watch over us, and protect the Church. Be mindful of those Eastern countries, whence rises to the earth the light of day, the beautiful image of your own journey towards Bethlehem. Bless this Western world of ours, which was buried in darkness when you first saw the star, and is now the favoured portion of God's earth, and on which the Divine Sun of Justice pours forth his brightest and warmest rays. Faith has grown weak among us; reenkindle it. Obtain of the divine mercy that the West may ever send forth her messengers of salvation to the South and North, and even to that infidel East, where are laid the tents of Sem, and where the light that you gave her has been long extinguished by her apostasy. Pray for the Church of Cologne, that illustrious sister of our holiest Churches in the West; may she preserve the faith, may she defend her sacred rights and liberty; may she be the bulwark of Catholic Germany, and be ever blessed by the protection of her Three Kings, and the patronage of the glorious Ursula and her virginal army. Lastly, we beseech you, O venerable Magi! to introduce us to the Infant Jesus, and his Blessed Mother; and grant us to go through these forty days, which the Church consecrates to the Mystery of Christmas, with hearts burning with love for the Divine Child, and may that same love abide with us during the pilgrimage of our life on this earth.
To-day, also, we will make use of the formulas employed by the several ancient Churches in honour of the Mystery of the Epiphany. Our first selection is a hymn written by the great Fulbert of Chartres.
Nuntium vobis fero de supernis;
Natus est Christus, Dominator orbis,
In Bethlehem Judæ; sic enim Propheta
Hunc canit lætus chorus Angelorum,
Stella declarat, veniunt Eoi
Principes, dignum celebrare cultum,
Thus Deo, myrrham tribuunt sepulchro,
Auream Regi speciem decenti,
Dum colunt unum, meminere Trino
Tres dare terna.
Gloriam trinæ monadi canamus,
Cum Deo divæ Genitore Proli,
Flamini necnon ab utroque fuso
'I bring you tidings from heaven above:
Christ, the Ruler of the earth,
is born in Bethlehem of Juda:
for thus was it foretold by the Prophet.’
Thus sing the glad choir of Angels;
the same is announced by the Star,
and the Eastern Kings come to offer to Jesus
the worthy homage of their mystic gifts.
They offer their Frankincense to him as to their God;
the Myrrh honours his sepulchre; the Gold is the token of his Kingly character.
Whilst thus worshipping One,
the three offerers give three gifts to the Blessed Three,
Let us, too, sing praise to our Triune God:
glory to the Father, and to his divine Son,
and to the Holy Spirit, who is sent into the hearts of the faithful
by the Father and the Son.
Tu es. Domine, stella veritatis oriens ex Jacob, homoque consurgens ex Isræl: et in novo sidere ostenderis Deus, et in præsepio positus Deus et homo, unus crederis Christus: propter magnam misericordiam tuam visionis tuæ nobisproroga gratiam: appareat in nobis lucis tuæ radiabile signum, quod expellat omnes tenebras vitiorum; ut qui visionis tuæ desiderio anhelamus, visionis tuæ præmio consolemur. Amen.
Thou, O Lord, art the Star of truth, that riseth out of Jacob, and the man that springeth from Israel. In the new Star thou showest thyself as God, and lying in the Crib God and Man, we confess thee to be the one Christ. In thy great mercy grant us the grace of seeing thee, and show unto us the radiant sign of thy light, whereby all the darkness of our sins may be put to flight: that so we who now languish with the desire of seeing thee, may be refreshed with the enjoyment of that blissful vision. Amen.
Fulget, Domine, cœlum rutilum serenitate astrorum, terraque ipsa refulgenti lumine serenatur, quia apparere dignatus es mundo de habitaculo sancto tuo; sana ergo cordis nostri mœstitiam, quia ad hoc venisti, ut redimas universa: illudque nostris oculis lumen attribue, quo te purificati semper mereamur aspicere: ut qui Apparitionis tuæ gaudia lætabunda nuntiamus in gentibus, infinita tecum lætitia gaudeamus. Amen.
The heavens are shining with the clear beauty of the stars, O Lord, and the very earth is made beautiful by a shining light, because thou didst vouchsafe to appear to the world from out thy holy dwelling place. Remove, therefore, from our hearts all sadness, for unto this end art thou come, that thou mayest make all things new. Grant also that light unto our eyes which may purify us and fit us to behold thee for ever; that thus we who preach to the nations the glad joys of thy Apparition, may be made glad with thee in infinite joy. Amen.
We take the following Sequence from the ancient Missals of the Churches of Germany.
Nato nobis Salvatore
Celebremus cum honore
Nobis datus, nobis natus,
Et nobiscum conversatus,
Lux et salus gentium.
Eva prius interemit;
Sed Salvator nos redemit
Carnis suæ merito.
Prima parens nobis luctum,
Sed Maria vitæ fructum
Protulit cum gaudio.
Negligentes non neglexit,
Sed ex alto nos prospexit
Pater mittens Filium.
Præsens mundo, sed abs consus,
De secreto tamquam sponsu:
Prodiit in publicum.
Gigas velox, gigas fortis,
Gigas nostræ victor mortis,
Ad currendam venit viam,
Complens in se prophetiam
Et Legis mysteria.
Jesu, nostra salutaris
Nostra pax et gloria;
Quia servis redimendis
Tam decenter condescendis,
Te collaudant omnia.
Our Saviour is born unto us!
Let us solemnly celebrate
To us was he given, unto us was he born,
and with us has he lived,
he the light and salvation of the Gentiles.
In the beginning Eve caused our death;
but Jesus, by the merits of the human nature he assumed,
has redeemed us.
Our first mother brought us woe;
but Mary joyfully brought forth
for us the fruit of life.
We neglected our heavenly Father, but he did not neglect us;
he looked down upon us from heaven,
and sent us his only Son.
This Jesus, though in the world, was hidden from the s world;
but, at length he came forth as a Bridegroom from the nuptial chamber,
and made himself known.
He is the Giant foretold by the Psalmist—swift, and strong,
and vanquishing our death,
for he was girt with power.
He came that he might run his course,
and so verify the prophecy,
and the mysteries of the Law.
Jesus, thou our
our only Peace and glory!
May all creatures give thee praise,
for that thou didst so mercifully condescend
to redeem us thy servants!
This beautiful canticle in honour of the Infant Jesus is from the pen of St Ephrem, the sublime bard of the Syrian Church.
Hebrææ virgines assuetæ alias Jeremiæ Threnos recantare, pro lugubri suarum Scripturarum carmine, indidem acceptos lætitiæ hymnos hujusmodi refuderunt, Spiritu ipsarum ora movente:
Læta jam nunc oculos ab inferis attollat Eva hunc visura diem, in quo ipsius nepos vitæ auctor descendit extinctam Matris suæ genitricem excitaturus. Adoran dus puer caput serpentis contudit, cujus illa olim infecta veneno periit.
A cunis decori Isaac, Sara mater tuam speculabatur infantiam, teque illo adumbratum suo mulcebat cantu; relegensque infantiæ tuæ mysteria in eo puero expressa:Euge, fili, votorum fructus meorum, cantabat; jam nunc video in te, qui latet in te Dominum, omnium piorum vota precesque suscipiens, et ratas efficiens.
Nazaræus Samson juvenis fortissimus tuæ fortitudinis umbra fuit; leonem laceravit, mortis quam concidisti typum; rupisti scilicet mortem, vitamque ex ejus amarissimo ventre exclusisti, cujus usura nobis futura erat jucundissima.
Anna pariter te in Samuele figuratum, suo non semel pectori oppressiti tum primum, quando tuam præsensit justissimam severitatem ab illo repræsentatam eo die, quo regem Agag in frusta dissectum occidit, expressam diaboli imaginem: tum iterum, quando tuam contemplabatur clementiam ab eodem velut rudiore manu descriptam, eo tempore quo Saulis ruinam piis et veris lacrymis lugere non destitit.
The Hebrew maidens, who heretofore had been wont to chant the Lamentations of Jeremias in the plaintive strain of their Scriptures, now borrowed from the same holy volume joyful thoughts, and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sang them thus in hymns:
'Let Eve, in Limbo, now raise up her eyes, and see this day whereon one of her race, and he the author of life, descends to raise up from death the mother of his own dear Mother. The adorable Infant crushed the head of the serpent, by whose poison Eve had perished.
'Sara, the fair Isaac’s mother, foresaw thine Infancy, O Jesus, in her own son’s crib; the lullaby she sang over him told the mysteries of thy Childhood, which were foreshadowed and prefigured in her own child. Thus did she sing: “Sweet Babe! fruit of my prayers! I see in thee the Lord, who is hidden in thee as in his type: ’tis he receives the wishes and the prayers of pious hearts, and grants them their requests."
'The Nazarite Samson, the youth of exceeding strength, was a figure of thy strength, O Jesus! He tore a lion to pieces, typifying the death thou didst slay, for thou didst crush death, and from its bitter entrails didst draw forth life, whose taste would be most sweet to us.
'Anna, too, pressed thee to her bosom in the person of Samuel the Prophet, who was twice a figure of thy ministry; firstly when he prefigured thy most just severity on the day when he slew King Agag, the figure of the devil, and cut him to pieces; secondly, by imitating thy mercy, though imperfectly, when he unceasingly shed his tears of loving and sincere compassion over the fall of Saul.'
The Menæa of the Greek Church furnish us with these beautiful stanzas in honour of the holy Mother of God.
Die XVI Januarii
Terra inarata apparuisti, o augustissima, quæ spicam nobis protulisti, universi nutritorem Dominum Jesum, ex quo nos comedentes, ad vitam revocamur.
Deum ex te incarnatum videntes, o Virgo casta, Deiparam te proprie confitemur, quæ omnium reformationis, absque ulla dubitatione, causa fuisti.
Superessentialis ille, qui carnis erat expers, ex venerandis sanguinibus tuis incarnatus est, o castissima; et caro sine ulla mutatione factus, cum hominibus conversatus est.
Naturæ leges in te, o purissima Virgo, revera innovantur: Virgo quippe post partum manes, velut ante partum, Christum legislatorem enixa.
Miserabilis animæ meæ passionibus medere, o Dei Genitrix castissima; mentem tranquilla hostilibus invasionibus velut tempestatibus jactatam, et cor meum pacatum redde, o puella.
Rosam in medio spinarum te vere invenit in hujus mundi convallibus, o casta Virgo, Jesus omnium piantator atque ex utero tuo natus, nos divinæ cognitionis suavissimo perfudit odore.
Te spirituale candelabrum, qua lucem inaccessibilem suscepisti, agnovimus, o Virgo Maria, quæ omnium fidelium animos illuminasti, et peccati tenebras eliminasti.
Vocibus gratiarum actione plenis ad te clamamus: Ave, immaterialis, lucis habitaculum purissimum; ave, causa deificationis omnium; ave, maledictionis dissolutio; ave, terrigenarum expulsorum revocatio.
O most august Queen! thou wast the untilled land that gavest us our Wheat, Jesus, the Lord and feeder of the universe; by eating this Bread we are restored to life.
Seeing our Lord made incarnate from thee, chaste Virgin! we confess thee to be in very deed the Mother of God, that didst thus become, we hesitate not to proclaim it, the cause of the regeneration of all things.
He, the Being above all beings, who was a pure spirit, took flesh to himself from thy pure blood, O Spotless Maid! and remaining God as before, he was made flesh, and lived among men.
Nature’s Laws were truly suspended in thee, most pure Virgin! for thou remainest a Virgin after thy delivery, as thou wast before it, for thou didst give birth to him who is the giver of all laws, Christ.
Spotless Mother of God! heal the passions of my wretched soul: appease my mind, tossed by the attacks of my enemy as with tempests, and bring, O Virgin, peace unto my heart.
Jesus, the divine Husbandman of the world, found thee, chaste Virgin! in the lowly valley of this earth, growing as a Rose amidst thorns. He entered thy womb, and was born of thee, refreshing us with the delicious fragrance of the knowledge of divine things.
O Virgin Mary! we acknowledge thee to be the mystic candlestick on which was placed the Light inaccessible; thereby thou hast enlightened the minds of all the faithful, and hast put to flight the darkness of sin.
Thus do we cry out to thee in words of thankful love: Hail, most pure dwelling of spiritual Light! Hail, cause of our union with God! Hail, destroyer of the curse! Hail, O thou that didst call from their exile the children of this earth.
 St Matt. xiii 33.
ST BENET BISCOP is one of the great Benedictine saints to whom England owes so much. His devotion and loyalty to the Holy See, his love of learning, his zeal for the beauty of the house of God, for the monastic observance and for the Church's chant, show him to be a true monk, though his influence extended far wider than the narrow limits of his monastery, and affected the social condition of the people and the whole life of the Church in England. His feast is kept in several dioceses in England, but as there is no uniformity with regard to the date, we have inserted it in our calendar on the day of his death.
St Benet stands out among the great travellers in the cause of religion. He visited Rome no fewer than seven times, not only to satisfy his own devotion, but to obtain from the mother of all the churches the purest traditions, the most correct books for use in the divine liturgy, and objects of piety wherewith to inspire the devotion of the faithful. These treasures were all destined to be used for the benefit of his own countrymen, who were unable to seek them for themselves at the fountain-head. He inspired all those with whom he came in contact with a more exalted idea of the dignity of the worship of God. With regard to the Divine Service, his ruling principle was that nothing but the best was worthy of use, whether it were in the carrying out of liturgical functions or the actual fabric of the church. In his day Britain was far behind the continental nations in industry and art, and stone buildings were hardly known. St Benet, therefore, journeyed into Gaul to procure stonemasons, who came to the monastery at Wearmouth in Northumbria, and, with the help of the monks whom they instructed, built a stone church for the Community. The making and use of glass was also unknown in these islands at the time, and again St Benet sent messengers to Gaul who brought back workers in glass to glaze the windows of his church.
The record of St Benet's life has come down to us as written by the Venerable Bede, who was a monk of the abbey founded by the saint at Jarrow. Bede was admitted into this monastery when a child, during the lifetime of St Benet Biscop, and thus in his Life speaks from personal experience. He records several charming incidents which are not included in the Breviary lessons, one of which is given here as being illustrative of the saint's zeal for the Divine Office.
The Venerable Bede records that once during a visitation of the pestilence the monks at Jarrow were all stricken with the sickness with such severity that there remained but two persons in the house who were able to go to the church to sing the Divine Office, the Abbot Benet and Bede, who was still a child. These two performed the duties of the whole choir with unflagging zeal until the monks gradually regained sufficient strength to resume their share of the work of God. One can well imagine the joy of the angels at the sight of the venerable Abbot and the innocent child, each intent upon performing his share of the psalmody with exactitude so that it might never be said that the praise of God had ceased to resound through the Abbey church.
The following is the life of the saint as given in the Breviary lessons.
Benedictus cognomento Biscopus nobili stirpe genitus, quum esset minister Osvii regio, annos natus circiter viginti quinque Romam adiit, et Apostolorum Beatorum loca visere curavit. Ad patriam mox reversus, quævidit ecclesiasticæ vitæ instituía, non solum diligere et venerari, sed prædicare non desiit. Quo tempore Alchfridus Osvii filius et ipse Romani venire disponens, eum comitem accepit. Quem quum pater revocaret, ipse cœptum explens iter Romam rediit tempore Vitaliani Papæ. Et post menses aliquot inde digrediens, ad insulam Lirinensem tonsuram accepit, et disciplinam regularem, monachi voto insignitus, servavit; ubi per biennium institutus, rursus beati Petri Apostolorum Principis amore devictus, sacram ejus corpore civitatem repetere statuit, nec post longum tempus adveniente nave mercatoria desiderio satisfecit.
Eo tempore Egbertus Cantuariorum rex electum ad Episcopatus officium virum nomine Vigardum Romam miserat, qui veniens defunctus est. Ast Romanus Pontifex, ne legatio fructu careret, elegit de suis, quem Archiepiscopum mitteret, Theodorum nomine, et quia Benedictum sapientem, industrium, religiosum, et nobilem compererat, huic ordinatum commendavit. Venerunt Cantium, Theodorus sedem episcopalem conscendit, Benedictus vero monasterium beati Petri regendum suscepit. Quod ubi duobus annis rexit, tertium de Britannia Romam iter accipiens, libros divinæ eruditionis vel emptos vel largitos retulit. Tandem ad patriam pedens convertens Egfridum Transumbranæ regionis regem adiit, tantamque apud eum gratiam invenit, ut terram septuaginta familiarum largitus, monasterium ibi primo Pastori Ecclesiæ facere præciperet.
Unius anni spatio post fundatum monasterium interjecta, Benedictus Gallias petens casmentarios, qui lapideam sibi ecclesiam facerent, accepit. Proximante ad profectum opere, misit legatorios Galliam qui vitrificatores artifices Britannis eatenus incognitos, ad cancellandas fenestras adducerent. Ea quoque, quæ nec in Gallia reperiri valebant Romanis e finibus ecclesiæsuæ ut conferret, quarta illa post compositum monasterium profectione, ampliori quam prius fenore cumulatus rediit. Inter alia ordinem psallendi juxta morem Romanæ institutionis suo monasterio tradidit ab Agathone Papa accepto archicantore ecclesiæ sancti Petri, Joanne, Abbate monasterii Sancti Martini. Attulitetiam epistolam privilegii a Papa, qua monasterium ab extrinseca irruptione perpetuo redderetur liberum.
Verum quarta vice de Britannia Romam accurrens, innumeris donis locupletatus rediit, magna copia voluminum sacrorum, sed non minori sicut prius, sanctorum imaginum. Haud multo post morbo cœpit fatigari et per triennium languere, paulatim accrescente tanta paralysi membrorum parte factus sit præmortuus: superioribus solum, sine quorum vita vivere nequit homo, ad officium patientiæ virtutumque reservatio. Satagebat interim Benedictus advenientes sæpius ad se fratres de custodienda, quam statuerat, regula firmare; et hoc sedulus iisdem solebat iterare mandatum ne quis in electione Abbatis generis prosapiam, et non magis vivendi, docendique probitatem putaret esse quærendam. Vero inquit, dico vobis quia tolerabilius mihi est hunc locum si sic judicaverit Deus, in solitudinem sempiternam redigi, quam ut frater meus carnalis quem novimus viam veritatis non ingredi, in monasterio regendo post me succedat. Sexto decimo postquam monasterium fundavit anno quievit in Domino pridie Idus Januarii, sepultus in ecclesia beati Petri Apostoli, ut quem degens in carne semper solebat amare, ab hujus reiiquiis ex altari post mortem nec longius abesset.
Benedict, surnamed Biscop, of noble parentage and a member of the household of King Oswy, journeyed to Rome when he was about twenty-five years of age to visit the tombs of the blessed Apostles. Upon his return to his native land soon afterwards, he endeavoured to introduce the customs of ecclesiastical life which he had seen and which he had not ceased to love and venerate. Alchfrid, son of Oswy, wishing also to visit Rome, took Benedict as his companion, but when Alchfrid was recalled by his father, Benedict continued the journey and arrived at Rome in the time of Pope Vitalian. After spending some months there, he went to the island of Lerins,. where he received the tonsure, and making his monastic profession, followed the regular observance. After two years, again overcome by the love of blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles, he decided to revisit the city made holy by his body, and not long after, upon the arrival of a merchant vessel, he was able to satisfy his desire.
About that time Egbert, King of Kent, had sent to Rome as bishop-elect a man named Vigard, who died in the Holy City. In order that this embassy should not be fruitless, the Roman pontiff chose Theodore from those about him and nominated him to the Archbishopric, and having learnt that Benedict, was wise, diligent, devout, and of noble birth, he entrusted the bishop to him. When they arrived in Kent, Theodore took possession of his see and Benedict was placed at the head of the monastery of blessed Peter. He governed this monastery for two years, at the end of which time he took the road from Britain to Rome a third time, whence he brought back books of divine learning which he had either bought or been given. At length, returning to his native land, he went to Egfrid, King of Northumbria, with whom he found so much favour that he received land enough to support seventy families, and was enjoined to found there a monastery in honour of the first pastor of the Church.
A year after the foundation of the monastery, Benedict fetched masons from Gaul to build a stone church. Glass had been hitherto unknown in Britain, and therefore shortly before the completion of this work he sent messengers into Gaul to bring back artificers to glaze the windows. When the church was finished he set out for Rome (the fourth journey after the foundation of the monastery) in order to obtain those things which he could not procure in Gaul, and he returned even more laden than before. Amongst other things, he introduced into his monastery the method of psalmody according to the custom of the Roman Church, having received from Pope Agatho the Archcantor of the Church of St Peter, John, Abbot of the monastery of St Martin. He also brought back a letter of privileges from the Pope by which the monastery was made free for ever from outside interference.
For the fourth time he hastened from Britain to Rome, and, enriched with many gifts, he returned with a great store of sacred books and with no less store of holy pictures. Shortly afterwards he was attacked by his last illness, which lasted three years, for his body was a prey to paralysis in such wise that while his lower members became entirely dead, the upper part of his body, without the use of which life is impossible, remained unafflicted for the exercise of patience and virtue. Meanwhile Benedict was careful to confirm the brethren who frequently visited him in the observance of the rule he had instituted, and he often repeated the following injunction lest anyone should think that in the election of the Abbot one should be sought for among his relatives and not rather by the test of life and teaching. ‘Truly,' he said, 'I tell you that I should prefer that this place should be reduced to a solitude for ever, if God so wills, rather than that my brother according to the flesh who, we know, has not entered upon the way of truth, should succeed me in the government of the monastery.' He slept in the Lord on the day before the Ides of January sixteen years after the foundation of the monastery, and was buried in the church of blessed Peter the Apostle, that his remains might rest after death not far from the relics and altar of him to whom, during life, he had always been most devout.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE thoughts of the Church today are fixed on the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan, which is the second of the three Mysteries of the Epiphany. The Emmanuel manifested himself to the Magi, after having shown himself to the Shepherds; but this manifestation was made within the narrow space of a stable at Bethlehem, and the world knew nothing of it. In the Mystery of the Jordan, Christ manifested himself with greater publicity. His coming is proclaimed by the Precursor; the crowd that is flocking to the river for Baptism is witness of what happens; Jesus makes this the beginning of his public life. But who could worthily explain the glorious circumstances of this second Epiphany?
It resembles the first in this, that it is for the benefit and salvation of the human race. The star has led the Magi to Christ; they had long waited for his coming, they had hoped for it; now they believe. Faith in the Messias having come into the world is beginning to take root among the Gentiles. But faith is not sufficient for salvation; the stain of sin must be washed away by water. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. The time is come, then, for a new manifestation of the Son of God, whereby there shall be inaugurated the great remedy, which is to give to Faith the power of producing life eternal.
Now the decrees of divine Wisdom had chosen Water as the instrument of this sublime regeneration of the human race. Hence, in the beginning of the world, we find the Spirit of God moving over the Waters, in order that they might ‘even then conceive a principle of sanctifying power,' as the Church expresses it in her Office for Holy Saturday. But before being called to fulfil the designs of God’s mercy, this element of Water had to be used by the Divine Justice for the chastisement of a sinful world. With the exception of one family, the whole human race perished, by the terrible judgement of God, in the Waters of the Deluge.
A fresh indication of the future supernatural power of this chosen element was given by the Dove, which Noe sent forth from the Ark; it returned to him, bearing in its beak an Olive-branch, the symbol that peace was given to the earth by its having been buried in Water. But this was only the announcement of the mystery; its accomplishment was not to be for long ages to come.
Meanwhile, God spoke to his people by many events, which were figurative of the future Mystery of Baptism. Thus, for example, it was by passing through the waters of the Red Sea that they entered into the Promised Land, and during the miraculous passage, a pillar of a cloud was seen covering both the Israelites and the Waters to which they owed their deliverance.
But in order that Water should have the power to purify man from his sins, it was necessary that it should be brought in contact with the Sacred Body of the Incarnate God. The Eternal Father had sent his Son into the world, not only that he might be its Lawgiver, and Redeemer, and the Victim of its salvation, but that he might also be the Sanctifier of Water; and it was in this sacred element that he would divinely bear testimony to his being his Son, and manifest him to the world a second time.
Jesus, therefore, being now thirty years of age, comes to the Jordan, a river already celebrated for the prophetic miracles which had been wrought in its waters. The Jewish people, roused by the preaching of John the Baptist, were flocking thither in order to receive a Baptism which could indeed excite a sorrow for sin, but could not effect its forgiveness. Our divine King approaches the river, not, of course, to receive sanctification, for he himself is the author of all Justice—but to impart to Water the power of bringing forth, as the Church expresses the mystery, a new and heavenly progeny. He goes down into the stream, not, like Josue, to walk dry-shod through its bed, but to let its waters encompass him, and receive from him, both for itself and for the Waters of the whole earth, the sanctifying power which they would retain for ever. The saintly Baptist places his trembling hand upon the sacred head of the Redeemer, and bends it beneath the water; the Sun of Justice vivifies this his creature; he imparts to it the glow of life-giving fruitfulness; and Water thus becomes the prolific source of supernatural life.
But in this the commencement of a new creation, we look for the intervention of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. All Three are there. The heavens open; the Dove descends, not as a mere symbol, prophetic of some future grace, but as the sign of the actual presence of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of love, who gives peace to men and changes their hearts. The Dove hovers above the head of Jesus, overshadowing at one and the same time the Humanity of the Incarnate Word and the water which bathed his sacred Body.
The manifestation is not complete; the Father's voice is still to be heard speaking over the Water, and moving by its power the entire element throughout the earth. Then was fulfilled the prophecy of David: The Voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of majesty hath thundered. The Voice of the Lord breaketh cedars, that is, the pride of the devils. The Voice of the Lord divideth the flame of fire, that is, the anger of God. The Voice of the Lord shaketh the desert, and maketh the flood to swell, that is, announces a new Deluge, the Deluge of divine Mercy. And what says this Voice of the Father? This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Thus was the Holiness of Emmanuel manifested by the presence of the Dove and by the voice of the Father, as his kingly character had been previously manifested by the mute testimony of the star. The mystery is accomplished, the Waters are invested with a spiritual purifying power, and Jesus comes from the Jordan and ascends the bank, raising up with himself the world, regenerated and sanctified, with all its crimes and defilements drowned in the stream. Such is the interpretation and language of the Holy Fathers of the Church regarding this great event of our Lord's Life.
The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates this wonderful mystery of Jesus' Baptism; and we cannot be surprised at the Eastern Church having selected this day for one of the solemn administrations of the sacrament of Baptism. The same custom was observed, as we learn from ancient documents, in certain Churches in the West. John Mosch tells us that, as regards the Oriental Church, the Font was more than once miraculously filled with water on the Feast of the Epiphany, and that immediately after having administered the Sacrament, the people saw the water disappear. The Roman Church, even so early as the time of St Leo, decreed that Easter and Pentecost should be the only two days for the solemn administration of Baptism; but the custom of blessing the baptismal water with great solemnity on the Epiphany was still retained, and is observed even now in some parts of the West.
The Eastern Church has always religiously observed it. Amidst all the pomp of sacred rites, accompanied by his Priests and Ministers, who are clothed in the richest vestments, and followed by the whole people, the Bishop repairs to the banks of a river. After reciting certain beautiful prayers, which we regret not being able to offer to our readers, the Bishop plunges into the water a Cross richly adorned with precious stones; it represents our Lord being baptized by St John. At St Petersburg, the ceremony takes place on the River Neva, and it is through a hole made on the ice that the Metropolitan dips the Cross into the Water. This same ceremony is observed by those Churches in the West which have retained the custom of blessing the baptismal water on this Feast.
The faithful are very anxious to carry home with them the water of the stream thus sanctified; and St John Chrysostom, in his twenty-fourth Homily, on the Baptism of Christ, speaks to his audience of the circumstance, which was well known by all of them, of this water never turning corrupt. The same has been often seen in the Western Church.
Let us honour our Lord in this second Manifestation of his divinity, and thank him, with the Church, for having given us both the Star of Faith which enlightens us, and the Water of Baptism which cleanses us from our iniquities. Let us lovingly appreciate the humility of our Jesus, who permits himself to be weighed down by the hand of a mortal man, in order, as he says himself, that he might fulfil all justice; for having taken on himself the likeness of sin, it was requisite that he should bear its humiliation, that so he might raise us from our debasement. Let us thank him for this grace of Baptism, which has opened to us the gates of the Church both of heaven and earth; and let us renew the engagements we made at the holy Font, for they were the terms on which we were regenerated to our new life in God.
The Introit, Epistle, Gradual and Alleluia-Verse, Offertory, Preface, and Communion, are the same as on the Feast.
Ecce advenit dominator Dominus; et regnum in manu ejus, et potestas, et imperium.
Ps. Deus, judicium tuum Regi da, et justitiam tuam filio Regis. ℣. Gloria Patri.
Behold the Lord the ruler is come; and dominion, power, and empire are in his hand.
Ps. Give to the king thy judgement, O God, and to the king’s son thy justice. ℣. Glory.
In the Collect, the Church prays that her children may have the grace of becoming like to Jesus, who appeared in the Jordan, filled, indeed, with the Holy Ghost, and the object of the Heavenly Father's love, but at the same time, truly Man like us, and faithful in the fulfilment of all justice.
Deus, cujus Unigenitus in substantia nostræ carnis apparuit: præsta, quæsumus, ut per eum, quem similem nobis foris agnovimus, intus reformari mereamur. Qui tecum.
O God, whose Only Begotten Son appeared in the substance of our flesh: grant, we beseech thee, that we may be interiorly reformed by him, whom we confess to have outwardly taken our flesh on himself. Who liveth, etc.
Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.
Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem; quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est. Quia ecce tenebra operient terram, et caligo populos; super te autem onetur Dominus, et gloria ejus in te videbitur. Et ambulabunt gentes in lumine tuo, et Reges in splendore ortus tui. Leva in circuitu oculos tuos, et vide: omnes isti congregati sunt, venerunt tibi; filli tui de longe venient, et filiæ tuæ de latere surgent. Tunc videbis et afflues, et mirabitur et dilatabitur cor tuum, quando conversa fuerit ad te multitudo maris, fortitudo gentium venerit tibi. Inundatio camelorum operiet te, dromedarii Madian et Epha. Omnes de Saba venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes.
Lesson from Isaias the Prophet.
Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and Kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee; thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, thedromedaries of Madian and Epha; all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.
Omnes de Saba venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes.
℣. Surge et illuminare, Jerusalem, quia gloria Domini super te orta est.
Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum. Alleluia.
All shall come from Saba, bringing gold and frankincense, and publishing the praises of the Lord.
℣. Arise, and be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. We saw his star in the East, and are come with our offerings to adore the Lord. Alleluia.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore: Vidit Joannes Jesum venientem ad se, et ait: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi. Hic est de quo dixi: Post me venit vir, qui ante me factus est quia prior me erat. Et ego nesciebam eum; sed ut manifestetur in Isræl, propterea veni ego in aqua baptizans. Et testimonium perhibuit Joannes, dicens: Quia vidi Spiritum descendentem quasi columbam de cœlo, et mansit super eum. Et ego nesciebam eum, sed qui misit me baptizare in aqua, ille mihi dixit: Super quem videris Spiritum descendentem, et manentem super eum, hic est qui baptizat in Spiritu Sancto. Et ego vidi: et testimonium perhibui, quia hic est Filius Dei.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sins of the world. This is he of whom I said: After me there cometh a man who is preferred before me; because he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he may be made manifest in Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him. And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me: he upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw: and I gave testimony, that this is the Son of God.
O Lamb of God! thou didst enter into the stream to purify it, the Dove came down from heaven, for thy sweet meekness attracted the Spirit of love; and having sanctified the waters, the mystery of thy Baptism was over. But what tongue can express the prodigy of mercy effected by it! Men have gone down after thee into the stream made sacred by contact with thee; they return regenerated; they were wolves, and Baptism has transformed them into lambs. We were defiled by sin, and were unworthy to stand near thee, the spotless Lamb; but the waters of the holy Font have been poured upon us and we are made as the sheep of the Canticle, which come up from the washing fruitful, and none is barren among them; or as doves upon the brooks of water, white and spotless as though they had been washed with milk, sitting near the plentiful streams! Preserve us, O Jesus, in this white robe which thou hast put upon us. If, alas! we have tarnished its purity, cleanse us by that second Baptism, the Baptism of Penance. Permit us, too, dear Lord, to intercede for those countries to whom thy Gospel has not yet been preached; let this river of peace, the waters of Baptism, flow out upon them, and inundate the whole earth. We beseech thee, by the glory of thy manifestation at thy Baptism, forget the crimes of men, which have hitherto caused the Gospel to be kept from those unhappy countries. Thy heavenly Father bids every creature hear thee; speak, dear Jesus! to every creature.
Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent, Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent: et adorabunt eum omnes Reges terræ; omnes gentes servient ei.
The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents, the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: and all the Kings of the earth shall adore him; all nations shall serve him.
In the Secret, the Church once more proclaims the divine Manifestation, and begs that the Lamb, who by his Sacrifice has enabled us to offer God an acceptable oblation, may graciously receive it at our hands.
Hostias tibi, Domine, pro nati Filii tui Apparitione deferimus, suppliciter exorantes; ut sicut ipse nostrorum auctor est munerum, ita sit ipse misericors et susceptor, Jesus Christus Dominus noster. Qui tecum.
We offer sacrifice to thee, O Lord, in remembrance of the Manifestation of thy new-born Son, humbly beseeching thee; that as our Lord Jesus Christ is the author of what we offer, so he may mercifully receive the same. Who liveth, etc.
Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.
We have seen his star in the East, and are come with offerings to adore the Lord.
While giving thanks for the heavenly nourishment just received, the holy Church prays for the unceasing help of that divine Light, which has appeared to her, and which will enable her to contemplate the purity of the Lamb, and to love him as he deserves.
Cœlesti lumine, quæsumus, Domine, semper et ubique nos præveni; ut mysterium, cujus nos participes esse voluisti, et puro cernamus intuitu, et digno percipiamus affectu. Per Dominum.
May thy heavenly light, we beseech thee, O Lord, go before us at all times and in all places; that we may contemplate with a clear sight, and receive with due affection, the mystery whereof thou hast been pleased we should partake. Through, etc.
Let us once more sing the praises of the divine Epiphany—the Theophany. Let us make a concert, as it were, of the Liturgies of all the Churches. St Hilary of Poitiers shall be our first chanter, in the Hymn he has written on the three mysteries of this great Octave.
Jesus refulsit omnium
Pius Redemptor gentium;
Totum genus fidelium
Laudes celebret dramatum.
Quem stella naturn fulgida
Monstrat micans in æthera,
Magosque ducit prævia
Ipsius ad cunabula.
Illi cadentes parvulum
Pannis adorant obsitum
Verum fatentur ut Deum,
Munus ferendo mysticum.
Denis ter annorum cyclis,
Jam parte vivens temporis,
Lympham petit baptismatis,
Cunctis carens contagiis.
Felix Joannes mergere
Illum tremiscit flumine,
Potest suo qui sanguine
Peccata cosmi tergere.
Vox ergo Prolem de polis
Testatur excelsa Patris,
Virtus adestque Pneumatis,
Sancti datrix charismatis.
Nos, Christe, subnixa prece
Omnes, precamur, protege,
Qui præcipis rubescere
Aquas potenter hydriæ.
Laus Trinitati debita,
Honor, potestas omnium,
Perenniter sint omnia
Per sæculorum sæcula.
Jesus, the merciful Redeemer of all nations,
shone forth on this day;
let the faithful of every race
celebrate him in their songs of praise.
A Star, shining in the heavens,
announces his Birth;
it leads the way,
and guides them to his Crib.
Prostrating, they adore the Infant
wrapped in swaddling clothes;
they confess him to be the true God,
offering him their mystic gifts.
Thirty years of his life
had passed, and he,
the infinitely pure God,
seeks the laver of baptism.
John, the favoured Baptist,
trembles as he bends the head of Jesus beneath the waters
—that Jesus whose Blood was to purify
the whole earth from its sins.
The divine voice of the Father is heard from heaven,
bearing testimony to his Son;
and the Holy Spirit, too, is present,
the giver of holy grace.
We beseech thee in humble supplication,
O Jesus! protect thy people;
we ask it of thee by the power thou didst show
when thou didst command the water to be changed into wine.
honour, and all power
be to the Trinity
for ever and for ever.
The Ambrosian Church of Milan thus celebrates the Baptism of our Lord in the beautiful Preface we take from its Missal.
Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper hic et ubique gratias agere, Domine sáncte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, qui te nobis super Jordanis alveum de cœlis in voce tonitrui præbuisti, ut Salvatorem cœli demonstrares, et te Patrem æterni iuminis ostenderes, cœlos aperuisti, ærem benedixisti, fontem purificasti: et tuum unicum Filium per speciem columbæ Sancto Spiritu declarasti. Susceperunt hodie fontes benedictionem tuam, et abstulerunt maledictionem nostram, ita ut credentibus purificationem omnium delictorum exhibeant, et Dei filios adoptione faciant ad vitam æternam. Nam quos ad temporalem vitam carnalis nativitas fuderat, quos mors per prævaricationem ceperat, hos vita æterna recipiens, ad regni cœlorum gloriam revocavit.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, here and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, who didst show thyself unto us in the river Jordan by speaking to us from heaven in the voice of thunder, whereby thou wouldst manifest unto us our heavenly Saviour, and show thyself to be the Father of eternal light; and therefore thou didst open the heavens, and bless the air, and purify the stream: and thou didst announce him to be thine Only Begotten Son by the Holy Ghost, who appeared in the form of a Dove. On this day did the waters receive thy benediction, and take away our malediction, so that they give to believers the purification of all their sins, and make them by adoption sons of God unto life everlasting. For, they that were born by the flesh unto temporal life, and made by sin subject to death, have been admitted into life everlasting, and restored to the glory of the heavenly kingdom.
The venerable Antiphons we now give are the precious remnants of the ancient Gallican Liturgy: they are of Oriental origin, and are still preserved in the Cistercian Breviary.
Veterem hominem renovans Salvator venit ad baptismum, ut naturam quæ corrupta est, per aquam recuperaret: incorruptibili veste circumamictans nos.
Te, qui in Spiritu et igne purificas humana contagia, Deum et Redemptorem omnes glorificamus.
Baptista contremuit, et non audet tangere sanctum Dei verticem; sed clamat cum tremore: Sanctifica me, Salvator.
Caput draconis Salvator contrivit in Jordane flumine, et ab ejus potestate omnes eripuit.
Magnum Mysterium declarator hodie, quia Creator omnium in Jordane expurgat nostra facinora.
Baptizat miles Regem, servus Dominum suum, Joannes Salvatorem: aqua Jordanis stupuit, columba protestabatur: paterna vox audita est: Hic est Filius meus.
Fontes aquarum sanctificati sunt, Christo apparente in gloria: orbis terrarum, haurite aquas de fonte Salvatoris: sanctifica vit enim tunc omnem creaturam Christus Deus noster.
Renewing our old man, the Saviour comes to Baptism, that he might by water restore our nature which had been corrupted: he clothed us with an incorruptible garment.
We glorify thee as our God and Redeemer, that didst purify the contagious defilements of mankind in the Spirit and in fire.
The Baptist trembled, and dares not to touch the head of God; but cries out, with fear: Sanctify me, O Saviour!
The Saviour crushed the serpent's head in the river Jordan, and delivered us all from his power.
A great Mystery is this day declared to us; for the Creator of all wipes away our sins in the Jordan.
The soldier baptizes his King, the servant his Lord, and John his Saviour: the waters of the Jordan were amazed, and testimony was borne by the Dove: the voice of the Father was heard: This is my Son.
The springs of water were sanctified when the glory of Christ was manifested: all ye countries of the earth, draw out waters from the Saviour's fountains, for on that day did Christ our God sanctify every creature.
Orta lux mirifice,
Nunc lucis deificæ
Hac Magus instruitur,
Ad Jesum gens ducitur,
Stella prodit Puerum,
Et ultorem scelerum,
Quem mystico munere
Monstrat cuncta regere
Et tandem redimere
Nos per mortem.
Hic aquis abluitur,
Et aquis infunditur
Virtus qua diluitur
Vox Patris complectitur
Natum, quo dignoscitur
Et sumit initium
Cum facit officium
Vini, liquor fontium,
In Virginis clausula,
Sponsæ sine macula,
Dulci nubit copula
Nostra solvat vincuia,
Protegens in sæcula
A Star has miraculously risen,
that was foretold by the Prophets:
it tells the rising
of the divine Light.
It guides the Magi,
it terrifies Herod,
it leads the Gentiles to Jesus,
the haven of peace.
It reveals the Child,
the creator of the stars,
the avenger of crime,
the Strong God.
The mystic gifts proclaim him
to be the Ruler of all things,
and the Redeemer who saved
us by his death.
He is baptized in the waters,
and the waters imbibe from him
a virtue whereby they wash away
The Dove is seen:
the voice of the Father speaks
his love of the Son,
therefore making known his glory.
The word of John
bears also testimony;
and the law of love
The guests are gladdened
when the spring-water is made
to do the service
of the better wine.
The Word of the Father
is espoused in sweet love
in the womb of the Virgin,
the Spouse without stain.
May he cleanse our sins,
and so loosen our chains,
protecting us for ever,
at his Mother’s prayer.
Die VI Januarii, In Theophania
Conversus est olim Jordanis fluvius Elisei melota, rapto in altum Elia, et divisæ sunt aquæ hinc et inde, et ipsi sicca facta est via, et humida in typum vere baptismatis, per quod nos fiuidum vitæ transimus iter. Christus apparuit, omnem volens renovare creaturam.
Hodie aquarum sanctificata natura, scinditur Jordanis, et suorum sistit fluenta fontium, Dominum videns lavatum.
Tamquam homo in flumen venisti, Christe Rex, servile baptisma accipere; festinas, o bone, sub Præcursoris manu, propter peccata nostra, philanthrope.
Ad vocem clamantis in deserto: Præparate viam Domini, venisti, Domine, formam servi assumens, baptisma flagitans, qui peccatum nescis: viderunt te aquæ et tremuerunt; contremiscens effectus est Præcursor, et exclamavit dicens: Quomodo illuminabit lampas lumen? Quomodo imponet manus servus super Dominum? Sanctifica me et aquas, Salvator, qui tollis mundi peccatum.
Præcursoris et Baptistæ et Prophetæ, super omnes Prophetas honorati, tremuit dextera, quia contemplabatur Agnum Dei peccata mundi lavantem, et anxietate sollicitus, exclamabat: Non audeo imponere, o Verbum, manum capiti tuo; tu ipse sanctifica me et illumina, o misericors; ipse enim es vita et lux et pax mundi.
Mira res erat videre cœli terræque Dominum in fluvio denudatimi, baptismum a servo pro nostra salute suscipientem quasi servum; et stupebant Angelorum chori in timore et gaudio: cum illis te adoramus; salva nos.
Manum tuam, quæ Domini intactum tetigit caput, cum qua et digito ipsum nobis submonstrasti, eleva pro nobis ad ilium, Baptista, tamquam potestatem habens magnam: nam ab ipso major Prophetis declaratus es, oculosque iterum tuos, qui sanctissimum viderunt Spiritum in columbæ specie descendentem, ad ipsum converte, Baptista, misericorditer cum nobis operatus, et hic sta nobiscum approbans hymnum, incipiensque primus panegyriam.
Jordanica flumina te fontem receperunt, et Paraclitus in forma columbæ descendit. Inclinat caput, qui cœlos inclinavit; ejulat et clamat lutum plasmanti: Cur mihi jubes quæ supra me sunt; ego opus habeo tuo baptismate, o impeccabilis.
Inclinasti caput Præcursori, capita contrivisti draconum; in flumina descendisti, illuminasti omnia ad glorificandum te, Salvator, lumen animarum nostrarum.
Qui indutus est lumine sicut vestimento, pro nobis secundum nos fieri dignatus
est: fluenta induit hodie Jordanica, istis ipse ad purificationem non indigens, sed nobis in seipso dispensans regenerationem: o prodigium!
Venite, imitemur sapientes virgines; venite, eamus obviam manifestato Domino; quia venit tamquam sponsus ad Joannem. Jordanis te videns conversus est retrorsum; inflexit se et stetit. Joannes clamabat: Non audeo tangere immortale caput; Spiritus descendebat in forma columbæ ad sanctificandum aquas; et vox de cœlo: Hic est Filius meus veniens in mundum ad salvandum genus humanum. Gloria tibi, Christe.
Baptizatur Christus et ascendit de aqua; sursum effert cum seipso mundum, et videt reseratos cœlos, quos Adam sibi suisque clauserat. Et Spiritus confitetur divinitatem, et simul adest vox de cœlo; inde enim declaratur Salvator animarum nostrarum.
Domine, adimplere volens quæ ab æterno decrevisti, ab omni creatura mysterii tui ministeria suscepisti: ex Angelis, Gabrielem; ex hominibus, Virginem; e cœlis, stellam; ex aquis, Jordanem: peccatum mundi suscepisti. Salvator noster, gloria tibi.
Jordanis flumen, quid obstupescis, videns invisibilem nudum? Vidi, inquis, et exhorrui: et quomodo non tremuissem? Hunc videntes Angeli, horruerunt: commoti sunt cœli, terra contremuit, et contractum est mare, et omnia visibilia et invisibilia. Christus manifestatus est in Jordane, et aquas sanctificandas.
Maculatimi solem quis vidit, clamabat Præco, natura coruscantem? quomodo te, splendor gloriæ, æterni Patris imago, aquis abluam, cum fœnum sim? Quomodo ignem tangam tuæ divinitatis? Tu enim Christus, Dei sapientia et virtus.
Galilææ gentium, Zabulon regioni, et Naphtalim terræ, lumen magnum illuxit Christus, his qui erant in tenebris fulgidus visus est splendor in Bethlehem fulgida. Sed amplius ex Maria Dominus universo orbi terrarum ostendit radios, Sol justitiæ.
Ideo qui ex Adam nudi, venite omnes, induamus eum, ut refocillemur; tegumentum enim nudorum, tenebrosorum splendor venisti: manifestatus es inaccessibile lumen.
Elias had been taken up on high: Eliseus touched the Jordan with his cloak, and the stream was turned back; the waters divided, leaving the Prophet a dry yet moistened path, as a true type of that Baptism whereby we pass the streamlike path of life. Christ appeared, desiring to renew his creature.
On this day was sanctified the element of water; the Jordan is divided, and its waters cease to flow, seeing its Lord seeking baptism in its stream.
Thou hast come to the river, O Christ our King! thou hast come as Man to receive baptism at thy servant's hands; good Jesus! lover of mankind! thou art eager to bend beneath thy Precursor’s hand.
At the voice of him that cried out in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! thou didst come, O Lord! taking to thyself the likeness of a servant, and thou that knowest not sin asking for Baptism! The waters saw thee and trembled. The Precursor trembled, and exclaimed: 'How shall the lamp give light to the Light? How shall the servant impose his hands on his Lord? O Saviour! that takest away the sins of the world, sanctify me and the waters.’
His right hand trembled, for though Precursor, and Baptist, and Prophet greater than all Prophets, he saw before him the Lamb of God that washes away the sins of the world: oppressed with anxious doubt, he exclaimed: 'O Word! I dare not put my hand upon thy head: do thou sanctify and enlighten me, O Merciful One! for thou art the life and light and peace of the world.'
It was a wonderful thing to see the Lord of heaven and earth standing naked in the river, receiving as a servant, and from his servant. Baptism for our salvation. The choirs of Angels stood amazed in fear and in joy. We adore thee, O Jesus! together with them. Save us.
O holy Baptist! raise up to him for us that hand of thine, which touched the untouched Head of our Lord, and wherewith thou didst point him out to us. Thou hast great power, for he declared thee to be greater than all the Prophets. Turn also to him thine eyes, which saw the Most Holy Spirit come down in the form of a Dove. Have pity on us, and be with us encouraging our hymn, and thyself beginning the canticle of praise.
The waters of the Jordan received thee, O Jesus, the Fountain of life! and the Paraclete came down upon thee in the form of a Dove. He who bent down the very heavens now bends his sacred Head! The clay that was formed cries out complainingly to Him who formed it: 'Why biddest thou me do what is above me? I have need to be baptized by thee, O Sinless One!'
Thou didst bend thine Head to thy Precursor; thou didst crush the heads of the serpents. Thou didst go down into the river; thou didst enlighten all things that they might glorify thee, O Saviour, thou Light of our souls!
He that is clad with light as with a garment, deigned for our sakes to become like unto us.
To-day he girds himself with the waters of the Jordan, not needing them for his own purification, but that he might give regeneration to us through himself. O wondrous work!
Come, let us imitate the wise virgins; come, let us go to meet our Lord thus manifested to us, for like a bridegroom he comes to John. The Jordan turned back when it saw thee, O Jesus! it bent its course and stood. John exclaimed: 'I dare not touch the head of the eternal God.' The Spirit came down, in the form of a Dove, to sanctify the waters, and a Voice said from heaven: 'This is my Son, that is come into the world to save mankind.’ Glory be to thee, O Christ!
Christ is baptized, and comes up from the water; he raises up the world with himself, and sees that heaven opened, which Adam had closed against himself and his children. The Spirit, too, proclaims the divinity of Him that was baptized, and a Voice from heaven is heard at the same time. Thus is Christ declared to be the Saviour of our souls.
When thou didst will, O Lord! to fulfil thy eternal decrees, thou didst permit all creatures to minister to thy Mystery! Gabriel among the Angels; the Virgin among men; the Star among the heavenly bodies; the Jordan among the streams of water. Thou didst take on thyself the sin of the world. Glory be to thee, O Saviour!
O Jordan, why wonderest thou at seeing the Invisible thus naked before thee? 'I saw,' thou repliest, 'and how should I not tremble? The angels see him, and are awed. The heavens were moved, the earth shook, the sea curled up its waves, and all things, visible and invisible, feared.' Christ manifested himself in the Jordan, that he might sanctify the waters.
The Precursor, the herald of Christ, exclaimed: 'Who is there that has seen a spot upon the sun, the orb of brightness! And how shall I, that am but as grass of the field, baptize thee, thou brightness of glory, and image of the eternal Father? How shall I dare touch the fire of the Divinity? For thou art the Christ, the wisdom and the power of God.'
Christ, the great Light, has shone on Galilee of the Gentiles, on the country of Zabulon, and on the land of Nephthalim; to them that sat in darkness there has appeared a bright light in Bethlehem the bright. But the Sun of Justice, the Lord, has risen from Mary, and shown far brighter rays on the whole earth.
Let us, therefore, who in Adam are naked of all good, put on Jesus, that we may grow warm; for thou art come, O Christ! to be the clothing of the naked, and the light of them that are in darkness. O Light inaccessible! thou hast appeared to the world.
Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia,
Quo fœcundata Deum peperit Virgo Maria,
Per quem sacrata floret Virginitas in Maria.
Spiritus alme, quo repletur Maria,
Tu rorem sacrum stillasti in Maria.
Amator sancte, quo intacta imprægnatur Maria.
Sub cujus umbra non torretur, dum fovetur Maria.
Tu præservasti ne prima culpa transfusa sit in Maria.
Tu cellam sacrasti sic benedicti ventris in Maria.
Ut tumeret, et Mater fieret Maria,
Sic pareret, nec florem perderet Maria.
Prophetas tu inspirasti, ut præcinerent quod Deum conciperet Maria.
Apostolos confortasti ut astruerent hunc Deum quem edidit Maria.
Quando machinam Deus mundanam fecit, est præfigurata Maria.
Tellus hominem, virgo virginem fudit primum, sic secundum Maria.
Tu animarum spes afflictarum dulcis Maria.
Tu servulorum tuorum nexus solve, Maria;
Tu collisum peccatis mundum ad vitam reparasti, Maria.
Idololatras et leges atras enervasti, Maria.
Ergo nos petimus supplices ut ope benigna subleves, Maria.
Et nato pro nobis supplices, qui tibi psallimus: Ave, Maria.
Tu felicibus felicior, Maria.
Tu sublimibus Angelorum cœtibus es prælata, Maria.
Ipsum hominem induisti, Maria,
Qui sine semine, rigante nemine, te fœcundavit, Maria.
Hunc Deum nobis placa, Maria.
May the grace of that Holy Spirit be now with us,
Whereby the Virgin Mary conceived, and brought forth Jesus, our God,
And holy Virginity, in this Mother, brought forth its Flower.
O Spirit of Love! thou didst fill Mary with thyself,
Thou didst infuse the dew of heaven into her.
O Divine Lover! the purest Virgin receives Jesus from Thee.
Under thy shadow, she continues a Virgin, and is made the Mother of God.
Thou didst preserve Mary from contracting the original guilt.
Thou didst consecrate the sanctuary of this so blessed womb,
That it might be the dwelling of Jesus, and Mary be his Mother,
And so bring forth her Son, as to be still the same pure Flower.
Thou it was that didst inspire the Prophets to foretell how Mary should conceive her God.
Thou it was that didst strengthen the Apostles to preach this God, the Son of Mary.
When God created this world, he gave us a type of Mary.
The virgin-earth produced the first Adam; so did Mary give birth to the second.
Thou art the hope of sorrowing hearts, sweet Mary!
Loosen the fetters of thy devoted servants, O Mary!
Thou didst restore to life the world that was crushed by sin, O Mary!I
Thou didst destroy idolaters and wicked laws, O Mary!
We humbly beseech thee, therefore, that thou mercifully help us, O Mary!
And pray to thy Son for us who sing to thee, Ave Maria!
Thou art Blessed of all the blessed, O Mary!
Thou art raised above the highest choirs of the Angels, O Mary!
Thou didst clothe with the nature of Man, O Mary,
Him who without the aid of man gave thee the fruitfulness of motherhood, O Mary!
He is our God; pray him to have mercy on us, O Mary!
 St Mark xvi 16.
 Gen. 1 2.
 The Blessing, of the Font.
 The Blessing of the Font.
 Ps. cxxviii 3, 5, 7, 8, 10.
 St Matt. iii 17.
 St Matt. iii 15.
 Cant. iv 2.
 Ibid. v 12.
 Isa. lxvi 12.
This, the eighth day from that on which we kept the feast of the Immaculate Conception, is the octave properly so called; whereas the other days were simply called days within the octave. The custom of keeping up the principal feasts for a whole week is one of those which the Christian Church adopted from the Synagogue. God had thus spoken in the Book of Leviticus: 'The first day shall be called most solemn and most holy, you shall do no servile work therein. . . . The eighth day also shall be most solemn and most holy, and you shall offer holocausts to the Lord, for it is the day of assembly and congregation: you shall do no servile work therein.' We also read in the Book of Kings, that Solomon, having called all Israel to Jerusalem for the dedication of the temple, suffered not the people to return home until the eighth day.
We learn from the Books of the new Testament that this custom was observed in our Saviour’s time, and we find Him authorizing, by His own example, this solemnity of the octave. Thus, we read in Saint John, that Jesus once took part in one of the Jewish festivals, about the midst of the feast; and the same Evangelist relating how our Lord cried out to the people: 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink’: observes, that it was on the last and great day of the festivity.
In the Christian Church there are three kinds of octaves. Some feasts are celebrated with a privileged octave—that is, one of which the Office is said daily, or at least a commemoration is always made. Other feasts have a common octave, or one whose commemoration may, on greater feasts, be sometimes omitted. And, lastly, some have a simple octave, of which only the Octave Day itself is kept or commemorated. Privileged octaves, whose office is said or commemorated every day, are divided into three Orders. The octaves of the First Order are those of Easter and Pentecost. Those of the Second Order, of which days within the octave exclude all feasts except doubles of the First Class, are the octaves of the Epiphany and of Corpus Christi. The octaves of the Third Order, which must always be commemorated, although days within the octave exclude only the same feasts as do common octaves, are those of Christmas and of the Ascension of Our Lord. The octave of the Immaculate Conception, the first that occurs in the ecclesiastical year, is a common octave.
Let us once more devoutly reverence the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception: our Emmanuel loves to see His Mother honoured. After all, is it not for Him and for His sake that this bright star was prepared from all eternity, and created when the happy time fixed by the divine decree came? When we honour the Immaculate Conception of Mary, it is really to the divine mystery of the Incarnation that we are paying our just homage. Jesus and Mary cannot be separated, for Isaias tells us that she is the branch and He the Flower.
We give Thee thanks, O Jesus our Emmanuel, because Thou hast granted us to live during the time that the privilege of Thy blessed Mother was proclaimed on this earth; the glorious privilege wherewith Thou didst enrich the first instant of the life of the happy creature, from whom Thou didst take upon Thyself our human nature! This definition of Thy Church has given us a clearer knowledge of Thine infinite holiness. It has taught us to see more distinctly the harmony there is in all Thy divine mysteries. But it has also impressed upon us the great truth that we ourselves, being destined to the most intimate union with Thee here, and to the face to-face vision of Thy infinite Majesty hereafter, must labour without ceasing to purify ourselves from the smallest stains of sin. Thou hast said: 'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God'; and Thou showest us, by the dogma of Thy blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception, what is the purity which Thy sovereign sanctity demands of us. Ah! by the love, which led Thee to preserve her from every stain of sin, have mercy on us who are her devoted children. Thou art so soon to be among us! Before many days are past we shall have yielded to Thy invitations, and have presumed to approach Thy sacred crib. We are not yet ready, dear Jesus! The effects of original sin are still so plainly upon us, and, what is worse, there are so many of our own sins, which we have added to this of our first parent. Oh! prepare our hearts and our senses, for we will not approach to Bethlehem unworthily. The sinless purity of Thy Mother is not for us; we ask not for that; but we ask for forgiveness of our countless sins, for conversion, for hatred of the world and the world’s maxims, and for perseverance in Thy holy love.
O Mary! created mirror of divine justice, and purer than the Cherubim and Seraphim, in return for the homage paid thee by this our generation, on that blissful day when the glory of thy Immaculate Conception was proclaimed throughout the world, give us that abundant richness of thy protecting love, which thou didst reserve till now. The world is shaken to its very foundations: thy hand can help it to rest again. Hell has let loose upon mankind the most terrible of its spirits of wickedness, who breathe but blasphemy and destruction; but, at the same time, the Church of thy Jesus feels that her youth has been renewed within her, and that the seed of the divine word is broadcast and healthy in a thousand fresh portions of the earth. Never was the battle more fierce on both sides: so that we need all our hope to make us feel that hell will not prevail. Is this the great struggle, which is to be followed by the day of judgement?
O blessed Mother of Jesus! O Queen of the universe! can it be that the star of thy Immaculate Conception has shone in the heavens only to light up the ruin and wreck of this earth? The sign foretold by the beloved disciple St. John, of the woman that appeared in the heavens clad with the sun, bearing on her head a crown of twelve stars, and crushing the crescent beneath her feet—has it not more brightness and power than that other, which appeared in the heavens telling men that God’s anger was appeased, and that the deluge was over? The light which shines upon us is from a Mother. It is our Mother that comes to console and heal us. It is heaven that smiles upon poor guilty earth. We have deserved the chastisement we have received, and more than we have received: but the anger of God will give way, and He will spare us.
The graces which God poured out upon the world on that great day of the Church’s definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, were not to be without their effect; a new period then commenced. Mary, on whom heresy had heaped its blasphemies for three hundred years, will again reign in the love of those whom her Son redeemed; countries will abandon those errors which have made them slaves and dupes of men’s doctrines; the old serpent will again writhe under that crushing pressure which God set up from the beginning; and the divine Sun of justice will pour out on the regenerated world the floods of a light more than ever dazzling and resplendent. We may not live to see that time; but we have signs of ite near approach.
It was in the last century that thy devout servant whom the Church has placed upon her altars, Leonard of Porto-Maurizio, predicted that when this dogma of thy Immaculate Conception should be defined, the world would enjoy a long period of peace. The troubles of the present time in which we are living are, we doubt not, a prelude to that happy peace, during which the divine word will traverse the whole world unimpeded, and the Church militant will reap her harvest for the Church in heaven. Sweet Mother of our Jesus! the world was also in agitation in those times which preceded the birth of thy divine Son; but peace reigned throughout the whole earth, when thou didst give it its Saviour in Bethlehem. Until that grand time come when thou wilt show to the world the magnificence of the power which God has given to thee, assist us, each year, to prepare for the glorious solemnity of Christmas: oh! pray for us, that we may be cleansed from all our sins when that splendid night comes, during which will be born of thee Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the light eternal.
Prose in Honour of the Holy Mother of God
(Taken from the ancient Roman-French missals)
Cor devotum elevetur,
Ut devote celebretur
Mens amore inflammetur
Et amori copuletur
Laus et jubilatio.
Haec concepta miro more
Est ut rosa cum nitore,
Est ut candens lilium.
Ut fructus exit a flore,
Est producta cum pudore,
Praeventa per Filium.
Sicut ros non corrumpitur,
Quando in terra gignitur,
Sic Virgo non inficitur.
Quum in matre concipitur,
Nos ergo dulci carmine,
Laudemus in hac Virgine
Conceptum Bine nubilo.
Hanc conceptam ex semine,
Et mundam ab origine,
Laudet chorus cum jubilo.
Ut mota dulci modulo,
Nos servet in hoc saeculo
Mundos ab omni crimine.
Et in mortis articulo,
Liberet a periculo
Et inferni voragine.
Let every heart that is devout now raise itself
and devoutly celebrate the Conception
of the Virgin ever blessed.
Let the mind be inflamed with love;
and let praise and jubilee
unite with the love.
In her admirable Conception,
she is a rose in its beauty,
she is a lily in its whiteness.
As fruit that comes from the flower,
so was Mary brought forth in her purity,
for her Son had possession of her from the first.
As a dew-drop contracts not a stain
from the earth
whereon ’tis formed,
So was Mary untainted by original sin
when she was conceived
in her mother’s womb.
Let us then sing our sweetest hymn
in praise of a cloudless brightness,
the Immaculate Conception.
Put on all your joy, ye choirs of earth,
and sing of her, that was a daughter of Adam,
but not of his sin.
May she be pleased with our hymns,
and defend us from all sin
in this our present life.
And when our last hour comes,
deliver us by her prayers from the abyss of hell,
into which the devil will seek to drag us.
A Prayer for the Time of Advent
(The Mozarabic breviary, fourth Sunday of Advent, Oratio)
Nova et inaudita sunt, Domine, quæ propheticus sermo intonuit mundo: quod novo Virginis partu salvatio exorietur creaturarum; cujus admirabile incarnationis mysterium quia devota cordium susceptione Ecclesia suscipit lætabunda: quaesumus, ut in laudem ejus et nova illi cantica deferat et accepta: ut cujus laus ab extremis terrae concinitur, ejus voluntas in toto mundo a fidelibus impleatur. Amen.
New and unheard-of tidings are those, which the word of thy prophet, O Lord, has announced to the world: A Virgin shall bring salvation to mankind by giving birth to her Son. Now, therefore, that thy Church, filled with joy, is preparing to receive, with great devotion, this admirable mystery of the Incarnation; we beseech thee, give her to celebrate the praise of the Incarnate Word with new and welcome canticles; that thus, he, whose praise is sung in the furthermost parts of the earth, may see his will fulfilled by the faithful throughout the universe. Amen.
 Lev. xxiii. 35, 36.
 St. John vii 14.
 Ibid. 37.
 Is. xi. 1.
 St. Matt. v. 8.
 Apoc. xii. 1.