The Liturgical Year
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.
The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.
We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.
We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.
For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.
We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.
 St Luke ii 10.
(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)
For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.
This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.
Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.
For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.
We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.
The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.
For more information on Lent, visit here.
After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.
(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)
For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.
WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.
The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.
For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.
This volume opens to us the second part of the Liturgical Year, beginning the long period of the Time after Pentecost. It treats of the feasts of the most holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, and of the sacred Heart of Jesus. These three feasts require to be explained apart. Their dates depend on that of Easter; and yet they are detached, if we consider their object, from the moveable cycle, whose aim is to bring before us, each year, the successive, and so to speak historic, memories of our Lord’s mysteries. After the sublime drama, which has, by gradually presenting to us the facts of our Redeemer’s history, shown us the divine economy of the redemption, these feasts immediately follow, and give us a deep and dogmatic teaching: a teaching which is a marvellous synthesis, taking in the whole body of Christian doctrine.
The Holy Ghost has come down upon the earth, in order to sanctify it. Faith being the one basis of all sanctification, and the source of love, the holy Spirit would make it the starting-point of His divine workings in the soul. To this end, He inspires the Church, which has sprung up into life under the influence of His impetuous breathing, to propose at once to the faithful that doctrinal summary, which is comprised in the three feasts immediately coming after Pentecost. The volumes following the present one will show us the holy Spirit continuing His work, and, on the solid foundations of the faith He established at the outset, building the entire superstructure of the Christian virtues.
This was the idea which the author of the Liturgical year was busy developing in the second part of his work, when death came upon him; and the pen that had begun this volume was put by obedience into the hands of one, who now comes before the faithful, asking their prayers for the arduous task he has undertaken, of continuing the not quite finished work of his beloved father and master. He begs of them to beseech our Lord, that He Himself will vouchsafe to bring to a successful termination an undertaking that was begun for His honour and glory, and that has already produced so much fruit in the souls of men.
Br. L.F. O.S.B.
Solesmes, May 10, 1879.
For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of advent
- Chapter 1: The History of Advent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Advent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Advent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Advent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Advent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Advent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS
- Chapter 1: The History of Christmas
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Christmas
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Christmas
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Christmas
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Christmas
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Christmas
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima
- Chapter 1: The History of Septuagesima
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Septuagesima
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Septuagesima
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Septuagesima
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Septuagesima
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Septuagesima
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
Introduction to the Season of Lent
- Chapter 1: The History of Lent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Lent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Lent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Lent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Lent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Lent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Lent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Lent
Introduction to passiontide and holy week
- Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Passiontide and Holy Week
Introduction to the Season of Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of Paschal Time
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Paschal Time
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Paschal Time
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Paschal Time
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Paschal Time
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Paschal Time
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Paschal Time
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 3: The Practice for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During the Time after Pentecost
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Gothic Church of Spain deputes, today, one of her most glorious Prelates, to represent her at the Crib of the Divine Babe, and to celebrate his ineffable Birth. The praise, which falls from Ildephonsus’ lips, seems, at our first hearing it, to have the Mother’s dear honour for its only theme: but, how can we honour the Mother, without at the same time proclaiming the praise of the Son, to whose Birth she owes all her greatness?
Among the glorious Pontiffs, who honoured the noble episcopate of Spain, during the 7th and 8th centuries—for example: Leander, Isidore, Fulgentius, Braulio, Eugenius, Julian, Helladius—among them, and in the foremost rank, stands Ildephonsus, with his glory of having been the Doctor of the Virginity of the Mother of God, just as Athanasius is the Doctor of the Divinity of the Word, Basil the Doctor of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and Augustine the Doctor of Grace. The holy Bishop of Toledo has treated the dogma of Mary’s Virginity in all its completeness. With profound learning and with fervid eloquence, he proves, against the Jews, that Mary conceived without losing her Virginity; against the followers of Jovinian, that she was a Virgin in her Delivery; against the disciples of Helvidius, that she remained a Virgin, after she had given birth to her Divine Son. Other holy Doctors had treated separately on each of these sublime questions, before our Saint: but he brought together all their teachings, and merited that a Virgin-Martyr should rise from her tomb to thank him for having defended the honour of the Queen of Heaven. Nay, Mary herself, with her own pure hand, clothed him with that miraculous Chasuble, which was an image of the robe of light wherewith Ildephonsus shines now in heaven, at the foot of Mary’s Throne.
The Monastic Breviary gives us the following Lessons, in the Office of our holy Bishop.
We salute thee with devout hearts, O holy Pontiff! who standest pre-eminent in thy love of the Mother of God, even in that glorious Spain, where her honour has had such brave defenders. Come, and take thy place near the Crib of Jesus, where this incomparable Mother is watching over this Babe, who, being both her God and her Son, consecrated her virginity, but did not impair it. Pray for us to her, and remind her that she is our Mother also. Ask her to receive the hymns we sing in her honour, and to bless the offering we make of our hearts to her divine Son. That our prayer may find a readier welcome from this august Queen, we will make use of thy own words, O holy Doctor of Mary’s Virginity; and thus will we speak to her:
I come to thee, the sole Virgin-Mother of God; I prostrate myself before thee, the sole co-operatrix of the Incarnation of my God; I humble myself before thee, that wast alone found worthy to be the Mother of my Lord; I pray to thee, the Handmaid, unlike all others, of thy Son, that thou obtain for me the forgiveness of my sins, that thou procure for me the being cleansed from my evil deeds, that thou get me a love of thy grand glory, that thou reveal unto me the exceeding sweetness of thy Jesus, that thou grant me to proclaim and defend the purity of our holy Faith. Grant, that I may cling to my God and to thee, and be faithful to thy Son and to thee—to him as my Creator, to thee as Mother of my Creator; to him as the Lord of hosts, to thee as the Handmaid of the Lord of all; to him as God, to thee as Mother of God; to him as my Redeemer, to thee as the instrument of my redemption.
He became the price of my ransom, but he became so by his becoming incarnate from thy flesh. He assumed a mortal Body, but he took it from thine, and with this his sacred Body he blotted out my sins. My own human nature, which he took to his kingdom, and set it, above the Angels, on the right hand of his Father, he took from thy pure flesh and blood, when he humbled himself and was made Man.
I, then, am thy servant, O Mary! because thy Son is my Lord. Thou art our Lady, because thou art the Handmaid of our Lord. I am the servant of the Handmaid of my Lord, because thou, that art our Lady, wast made Mother of my Lord. I pray thee, I fervently pray thee, O Holy Virgin! that I may receive Jesus by that Holy Spirit, by whom thou didst become Mother of Jesus. May I be made to know Jesus by that Holy Spirit, by whom thou didst know, and possess, and bring forth Jesus. May I speak of Jesus in that same Holy Spirit, in whom thou didst confess thyself the Handmaid of the Lord. May I love Jesus in that same Holy Ghost, in whom thou adorest him as thy God, and gazest upon him as thy Son. And may I obey this thy Jesus as faithfully, as he himself, though God, was subject to thee, and to Joseph.
 Non minuit, sed sacravit. Prayer of the Church, on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, September 8th.
 St. Ildephonsus, On the perpetual Virginity of Mary, ch. xii.x
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
BEFORE giving thanks to God for the miraculous Conversion of the Apostle of the Gentiles, the Church assembles us together for the feast of his favourite disciple. Timothy—the indefatigable companion of St Paul—the friend to whom the great Apostle, a few days before shedding his blood for Christ, wrote his last Epistle—comes now to await his master's arrival at the Crib of the Emmanuel. He there meets John the Beloved Disciple, together with whom he bore the anxieties attendant on the government of the Church of Ephesus; Stephen too, and the other martyrs, welcome him, for he also bears a martyr's palm in his hand. He presents to the august Mother of the Divine Babe the respectful homage of the Church of Ephesus, which Mary had sanctified by her presence, and which shares with the Church of Jerusalem the honour of having had her as one of its number, who was not only, like the Apostles, the witness, but moreover, in her quality of Mother of God, the ineffable instrument of the salvation of mankind.
Let us now read, in the Office of the Church, the abridged account of the actions of this zealous disciple of the Apostles.
Timotheus, Lystris in Lycaonia natus ex patre Gentili et matre Judæa, Christianam colebat religionem, cum imca loca venit Paulus Apostolus. Qui fama commotus quæ de Timothei sanctitate percrebuerat, ipsum adhibuit socium suæ peregrinationis: sed propter Judæos, qui se ad Christum converterant, scientes Timothei patrem esse Gentilem, eum circumcidit. Cum igitur ambo Ephesum venissent, ibi ordinatus est Episcopus ab Apostolo, ut eam Ecclesiam gubernaret.
Ad quem Apostolus duas Epistolas scripsit, alteram Laodicea, alteram Roma: quibus in pastoralis officii cura confirmatus, cum sacrificium, quod uni Deo debetur, fieri dæmonum simulacris ferre non posset, populum Ephesinum Dianæ in ejus celebritate immolantem, abilla impietate removere conatus, lapidibus obrutus est; ac pene mortuus a Christianis ereptus, et in montem oppido vicinum delatus, nono kalendas Februarii obdormivit in Domino.
Timothy was born at Lystra in Lycaonia. His father was a Gentile, and his mother a Jewess. When the Apostle Paul came into those parts, Timothy was a follower of the Christian religion. The Apostle had heard much of his holy life, and was thereby induced to take him as the companion of his travels: but on account of the Jews, who had become converts to the faith of Christ, and were aware that the father of Timothy was a Gentile, he administered to him the rite of circumcision. As soon as they arrived at Ephesus, the Apostle ordained him Bishop of that Church.
The Apostle addressed two of his Epistles to him—one from Laodicea, the other from Rome—to instruct him how to discharge his pastoral office. He could not endure to see sacrifice, which is due to God alone, offered to the idols of devils; and finding that the people of Ephesus were offering victims to Diana on her festival, he strove to make them desist from their impious rites. But they, turning upon him, stoned him. The Christians could not deliver him from their hands till he was more dead than alive. They carried him to a mountain not far from the town, and there, on the ninth of the Kalends of February (January 24), he slept in the Lord.
The Greek Church celebrates the memory of St Timothy in her Menæa, from which we extract the following strophes.
Die XXII Januarii
Deisapiens Timothee, torrentem ingressus es deliciarum, et divinitus hausisti gnosim, ferventes imitatus amatores Christi, cujus nunc lætanter adiisti gloriam, contemplans Trinitatem splendidissimam et pacem placidissimam.
Deisapiens Timothee, frequentibus corporis debilitatibus et infirmitatibus corroboratus secundum mentem, erroris potentiam facile dissolvisti, Christi custoditus potestate, et prædicasti sublimiter divinissimum pacis nobis Evangelium.
Mundi fines tua nunc decantant miracula, Thaumaturge immortalis; miraculis etenim te Christus remunerans adornavit, propter ipsum tormenta perpessum, et pro morte tolerata immortali gloria et beatitudine donavit.
Effusa est, omnisancte, abundanter gratia e labiis tuis, et flumina dogmatum scaturire fecit Christi Ecclesiam irrigantia et centuplicem ferentia fructum, o Timothee, Christi præco, divine Apostole.
Mortificans tuæ membra carnis Verbo subjecisti; dans pejoris, beate Timothee, regimen meliori, passionibus dominatus es, et animam alleviasti, Pauli documentis harmonice ordinatus.
Fulgurans quasi sol Paulus te misit quasi radium splendidum terram abundantiori lumine illuminantem lucidissime, Theophantes Timothee, ad directionem nostram et confirmationem.
Currus Dei apparuisti, Timothee, portans divinum nomen, ante impios tyrannos, Deograte, non timens istorum crudelitatem; tu enim invincibilem Salvatoris fortitudinem induisti.
Coronam gloriosam recepisti, Timothee omnibeate, divina mente prædite, Apostole, et diadema regni præcinxisti, et astitisti ante thronum magistri tui, cum Paulo decoratus in æternis tabernaculis, beatissime.
O Timothy! full of godly wisdom! thou didst enter into the torrent of delights, and drink in of the mysterious knowledge, imitating the fervent lovers of Christ, into whose glory thou hast now joyfully gone, contemplating the infinitely resplendent Trinity, and most tranquil peace.
O Timothy! full of godly wisdom! thy frequent weaknesses and ailments of body gave thee strength of spirit; thou didst readily reduce to nought the power of error, for thou wast guarded by the power of Christ, and sublimely didst thou preach to us the most divine Gospel of peace.
The furthermost ends of the earth now sing thy miracles, immortal Thaumaturgus! for Christ rewarding thee, adorned thee with the gift of miracles, because thou didst suffer torments for his sake; and he gave thee, for the death thou didst endure, glory and blessedness everlasting.
Most holy Saint! grace flowed in plenty from thy lips, and made the streams of dogma water the Church of Christ, and yield fruit a hundredfold, O Timothy! thou herald of Christ! thou Apostle of God!
Mortifying thy flesh, thou didst subject it to the Word: and making what is superior govern that which is inferior, O blessed Timothy! thou didst master thy passions and unburden thy soul, and the harmony was established in thee which was taught by blessed Paul.
He, Paul, brilliant as the sun, sent thee forth as a shining ray, that thou mightest most brightly illumine the earth with a rich abundance of light, unto our direction and encouragement, O Timothy, thou revealer of God!
O Timothy I as a chariot of God, thou didst carry his divine name before impious tyrants, fearing not their cruelty, O thou beloved of God! for thou hadst clad thyself with the invincible strength of Jesus.
O most blessed Timothy! O divinely gifted mind! O Apostle! thou hast received a glorious crown; thy brow has been encircled with a heavenly crown; and thou hast stood before the throne of thy Master, beautiful in glory, together with Paul, in the eternal tabernacles, O most blessed one!
In thee, O holy Pontiff! we honour one of the disciples of the Apostles—one of the links which connect us immediately with Christ. Thou appearest to us all illumined by thy intercourse with Paul the great Doctor of the Gentiles. Another of his disciples, Dionysius the Areopagite, made thee the confidant of his sublime contemplations on the Divine Names; but now, bathed in light eternal, thou thyself art contemplating the Sun of Justice, in the beatific vision. Intercede for us, who enjoy but a glimpse of his beauty through the veil of his humiliations, that we may so love him, as to merit to see him one day in his glory. In order to lessen the pressure of the corruptible body, which weigheth down the soul, thou didst subject thy outward man to so rigorous a penance that St Paul exhorted thee to moderate it: do thou assist us in our endeavours to reduce our flesh to obedience to the spirit. The Church reads without ceasing the counsels, which the Apostle gave to thee, and to all Pastors through thee, for the election and the conduct of the clergy: pray that the Church may be blessed with Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, endowed with all those qualifications which he requires from the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Lastly, we beseech thee, who didst ascend to heaven decked with the aureole of martyrdom, encourage us who are also soldiers of Christ, that we may throw aside our cowardice, and win that kingdom where he welcomes and crowns his elect for all eternity.
 Wisd. ix 15.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
WE have already seen how the Gentiles, in the person of the Three Magi, offered their mystic gifts to the Divine Child of Bethlehem, and received from him in return the precious gifts of faith, hope and charity. The harvest is ripe; it is time for the reaper to come. But who is to be God's labourer? The Apostles of Christ are still living under the very shadow of Mount Sion. All of them have received the mission to preach the gospel of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world; but not one among them has as yet received the special character of Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter, who had received the Apostleship of Circumcision, is sent specially, as was Christ himself, to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. And yet, as he is the Head and the Foundation, it belongs to him to open the door of Faith to the Gentiles; which he solemnly does by conferring Baptism on Cornelius, the Roman Centurion.
But the Church is to have one more Apostle, an Apostle for the Gentiles; and he is to be the fruit of the martyrdom and prayer of St Stephen. Saul, a citizen of Tarsus, has not seen Christ in the flesh, and yet Christ alone can make an Apostle. It is then from heaven, where he reigns impassible and glorified, that Jesus will call Saul to be his disciple, just as, during the period of his active life, he called the fishermen of Genesareth to follow him and hearken to his teachings. The Son of God will raise Saul up to the third heaven, and there will reveal to him all his mysteries: and when Saul, having come down again to this earth, shall have seen Peter, and compared his Gospel with that recognized by Peter, he can say, in all truth, that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus, and that he has done nothing less than the great Apostles.
It is on this glorious day of the Conversion of Saul, who is soon to change his name into Paul, that this great work is commenced. It is on this day that there is heard the Almighty voice which breaketh the cedars of Libanus, and can make a persecuting Jew become first a Christian and then an Apostle. This admirable transformation had been prophesied by Jacob, when upon his deathbed he unfolded to each of his sons the future of the tribe of which he was to be the father Juda was to have the precedence of honour; from his royal race was to be born the Redeemer, the Expected of nations. Benjamin's turn came; his glory is not to be compared with that of his brother Juda, and yet it was to be very great—for from his tribe is to be born Paul, the Apostle of the Gentile nations.
These are the words of the dying Prophet: Benjamin, a ravenous wolf , in the morning shall eat the prey, and in the evening shall divide the spoil. Who, says an ancient writer, is he that in the morning of impetuous youth goes like a wolf in pursuit of the sheep of Christ, breathing threatenings and slaughter against them? Is it not Saul on the road to Damascus, the bearer and doer of the high-priest's orders, and stained with the blood of Stephen, whom he has stoned by the hands of all those over whose garments he kept watch? And he who in the evening, not only does not despoil, but with a charitable and peaceful hand breaks to the hungry the bread of life—is it not Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the Apostle of Christ, burning with zeal for his brethren, making himself all to all, and wishing even to be an anathema for their sakes?
Oh! the power of our dear Jesus! how wonderful! how irresistible! He wishes that the first worshippers at his Crib should be humble Shepherds—and he invites them by his Angels, whose sweet hymn was enough to lead these simple-hearted men to the Stable, where, in swaddling-clothes, he lies who is the hope of Israel. He would have the Gentile Princes, the Magi, do him homage—and bids a star to arise in the heavens, whose mysterious apparition, joined to the interior speaking of the Holy Ghost, induces these men of desire to come from the far East, and lay at the feet of an humble Babe their riches and their hearts. When the time is come for forming the Apostolic College, he approaches the banks of the sea of Tiberias, and with this single word: Follow me, he draws after him such as he wishes to have as his Disciples. In the midst of all the humiliations of his Passion, he has but to look at the unfaithful Peter, and Peter is a penitent. Today, it is from heaven that he evinces his power: all the mysteries of our redemption have been accomplished, and he wishes to show mankind that he is the sole author and master of the Apostolate, and that his alliance with the Gentiles is now perfect: he speaks; the sound of his reproach bursts like thunder over the head of this hot Pharisee, who is bent on annihilating the Church; he takes this heart of the Jew, and, by his grace, turns it into the heart of the Apostle, the Vessel of election, the Paul who is afterwards to say of himself: I live, not I, bid Christ liveth in me.
The commemoration of this great event was to be a Feast in the Church, and it had a right to be kept as near as might be to the one which celebrates the martyrdom of St Stephen, for Paul is the Protomartyr's convert. The anniversary of his martyrdom would, of course, have to be solemnized at the summer solstice; where, then, place the feast of his Conversion if not near Christmas, and thus our own Apostle would be at Jesus' Crib, and Stephen's side? Moreover, the Magi could claim him, as being the conqueror of that Gentile world of which they were the first-fruits.
And lastly, it was necessary, in order to give the court of our Infant-King its full beauty, that the two Princes of the Church—the Apostle of the Jews, and the Apostle of the Gentiles—should stand close to the mystic Crib; Peter with his Keys, and Paul with his Sword. Bethlehem thus becomes the perfect figure of the Church, and the riches of this season of the Cycle are abundant beyond measure.
Let us borrow from the ancient Liturgies a suitable expression of our admiration of our Apostle's Conversion. The following Sequence, which belongs to the tenth century, is found in the old Missals of the Churches of Germany. It is full of mysterious allusions, which bear a certain grandeur of thought.
Dixit Dominus: Ex Basan convertam, convertam in profundum maris.
Quod dixit et fecit, Saulum ut stravit, Paulum et statuit,
Per Verbum suum incarnatum, per quod fecit et sæcula.
Quod dum impugnat, audivit: Saule, Saule, quid me persequeris?
Ego sum Christus: durum est tibi ut recalcitres stimulo.
A facie Domini mota est terra, contremuitque mox et quievit.
Dum cognito credidit Domino, Paulus persequi cessat Christianos.
Hic lingua tuorum est canum, ex inimicis ad te rediens, Deus;
Dum Paulus in ore omnium sacerdotum jura dat præceptorum,
Docens crucifixum non esse alium præter Christum Deum,
Cum Patre qui regnat et Sancto Spiritu, cujus testis Paulus.
Hinc lingua sacerdotum, more canis dura perlinxit legis et Evangelii duos molares in his contrivit,
Corrosit universas species medicinarum, quibus curantur saucii, reficiuntur enutriendi.
Per quem conversus ad nos tu vivifices, Christe, peccatores:
Qui convertendis conversum converteras Paulum, vas electum.
Quo docente Deum, mare vidit et fugit, Jordanis conversus est retrorsum;
Quia turba gentium, rediens vitiorum profundo, Og rege Basan confuso,
Te solum adorat Christum creatorem, quem et cognoscit in carne venisse redemptorem.
The Lord said: I will turn him from Basan (the land of barrenness); I will turn him into the deep sea (of my faith).
What he said he did, when he prostrated Saul, and raised him up Paul,
By his Incarnate Word, by whom also he made the world.
It was whilst opposing this Word, that the Jew heard the voice: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
I am Christ: it is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
The earth was moved at the presence of the Lord; it trembled and then was at rest.
Paul, when he knew the Lord Jesus, believed, and ceased to persecute the Christians.
He became, O God, the tongue of thy faithful ones; leaving thine enemies, he returned to thee.
For it is Paul who, by the mouth of the priests throughout the world, proclaims the commandments,
Teaching that the Crucified is no other than God, the Christ,
Who reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost; and Paul is his witess.
By the light of his teaching the priests meditate on the law and the Gospel; and by these, as with two mill-stones, have pounded
And prepared every spiritual medicine, whereby the wounded are healed, and the hungry are fed.
O Jesus! hear his prayers for us sinners; turn to us; give us life;
Who didst turn Paul into a true convert, for the sake of all who are to return to thee, and didst make him the vessel of election.
When he preached God to men, the sea beheld and fled, the Jordan was turned back,
Because the multitude of the nations, returning from the depths of sin, to the confusion of Og the King of Basan,
Now adore but thee, O Christ! their creator, whom they believe to have come in the flesh to redeem them.
The Roman-French Missals give us this beautiful Hymn of Adam of Saint-Victor.
Corde, voce pulsa cœlos,
Triumphale pange melos,
Paulus Doctor gentium
Triumphans in gloria.
Hic Benjamin adolescens,
Lupus rapax, præda vescens,
Hostis est fidelium.
Mane lupus, sed ovis vespere.
Post tenebras lucente sidere,
Hic mortis viam arripit,
Quem vitæ via corripit,
Dum Damascum graditur.
Spirat minas, sed jam cedit;
Sed prostratus jam obedit;
Sed jam vinctus ducitur.
Ad Ananiam mittitur:
Lupus ad ovem trahitur;
Mens resedit effera.
Fontis subit sacramentum:
Mutat virus in pigmentum
Vas sacratum, vas divinum,
Vas propinans dulce vinum
Christi fidem astruit
Verbum crucis protestatur:
Causa crucis cruciatur:
Mille modis moritur:
Sed perstat vivax hostia:
Et invicta constantia
Omnis poena vincitur.
Segregatus docet gentes:
Mundi vincit sapientes
Raptus ad cœlum tertium,
Videt Patrem et Filium
In una substantia.
Roma potens et docta Græcia
Præbet colla, discit mysteria:
Fides Christi proficit.
Crux triumphat: Nero sævit.
Quo docente, fides crevit,
Paulum ense conficit.
Sic exutus carnis molem
Paulus, videt verum
Solem Patris Unigenitum.
Lumen videt in lumine,
Cujus vitemus numine
Church of the Gentiles!
sing with heart and voice thy hymn of triumph,
and make the heavens echo.
Paul, the Doctor of the Gentiles,
has finished his course,
and triumphs in glory.
This is he that was the youthful Benjamin,
the ravenous wolf, the devourer of the prey,
the enemy of the Faithful.
He was a wolf in the morning, but in the evening a lamb.
The night was past, the day-star rose,
and he preaches the Gospel.
This is he that marched in the road of death,
but was stayed, as he goes to Damascus,
by Him who is the Way of Life.
He had breathed forth threats, but at length he yields;
he prostrates, and obeys;
he is made captive, and goes whither he is led.
He is sent to Ananias
—the wolf to the lamb;
his stormy heart is calm.
He receives the sacrament of the font;
its saving waters turn the venom of his soul
into the fragrance of love.
He becomes a sacred vessel, a vessel divine,
a vessel that gives forth to men the sweet wine
of the grace of doctrine.
He visits the synagogues;
and proves the Christian faith
by unfolding the prophets.
He preaches the cross of Christ;
and for the sake of that Cross himself does bear the cross,
dying a thousand deaths.
Yet dies not, but is a living victim,
conquering every pain
by unconquered courage.
He is set apart by God as the teacher of the Gentiles;
and by the wisdom of God he overcomes
the wise ones of the world.
Rapt to the third heaven,
he sees the Father and Son
in one substance.
The mighty Rome, and the learned Greece
—both bow down their heads, and learn the Mysteries,
and embrace the Faith of Christ.
The Cross triumphs! Then does Nero rage
to see this Paul spreading the Faith by his preaching,
and sentences him to die by the sword.
Thus disburthened from the flesh,
Paul sees the true Sun,
the Only Begotten of the Father.
He sees the Light in Light,
by whose almighty power
we shun the pains of hell.
The ancient Sacramentaries give us nothing upon the Conversion of St Paul. We take the following Prayer and Preface from the Gallican Missal published by Dom Mabillon, under the title of Missale Gothicum.
Deus qui Apostolum tuum Paulum insolentem contra Christiani nominis pietatem, Cœlesti voce cum terrore perculsum, hodierna die Vocationis ejus, mentem cum nomine commutasti: et quem prius persecutorem metuebat Ecclesia, nunc cœlestium mandatorum lætatur se habere Doctorem: quemque ideo foris cæcasti, ut introrsus videntem faceres: cuique post tenebras crudelitatis ablatas, ad evocandas Gentes divinæ legis scientiam contulisti: sed et tertio naufragantem pro fide quam expugnaverat, jam devotum in elemento liquido fecisti vita incolumem. Sic nobis, quæsumus, ejus et mutationem et fidem colentibus, post cæcitatem peccatorum, fac te videre in cœlis, qui illuminasti Paulum in terris.
O God, who by a voice from heaven didst strike with terror thine Apostle Paul when raging against the holiness of the Christian religion, and on this the day of his Vocation didst change him both in his heart and his name: so that the Church having once dreaded him as her persecutor, now rejoices in having him as her Teacher in the commandments of God: whom thou didst strike with exterior blindness, that thou mightest give him interior sight: to whom, moreover, when the darkness of his cruelty was removed, thou didst give the knowledge of thy divine law, whereby he might call the Gentiles: and didst thrice deliver him from shipwreck, which he suffered for the Faith, saving this thy devoted servant from the waves of the sea: grant also to us, we beseech thee, who are solemnizing both his conversion and his faith, that, after the blindness of our sins, we may be permitted to see thee in heaven, who didst enlighten Paul here on earth.
Dignum et justum est; vere æquum et justum est: nos tibi gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: qui, ut ostenderes te omnium cupere indulgere peccatis, persecutorem Ecclesiæ tuæ, ad unum verbum tuæ vocationis lucratus es, et statim fecisti nobis ex persecutore doctorem: nam qui alienas epistolas ad destructionem Ecclesiarum acceperat, coepit suas ad restaurationem earum scribere; et ut seipsum Paulum factum ex Saulo monstraret, repente architectus sapiens, fundamentum posuit, ut sancta Ecclesia tua Catholica, eo ædificante, gauderet, a quo fuerat ante vastata; et tantus ejus defensor existeret, ut omnia supplicia corporis, et ipsam cædem corporis non timeret: nam factus est caput Ecclesiæ, qui membra Ecclesiæ conquassaverat: caput terreni corporis tradidit, ut Christum caput in suis omnibus membris acciperet, per quod etiam vas electionis esse meruit; qui eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum in sui pectoris habitationem suscepit.
It is meet and just, yea it is right and just, that we should give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God: who, to show that thou desirest to forgive all men their sins, didst win over the persecutor of thy Church with one word of thy calling, and straightway madest the persecutor our teacher: for he that had received epistles from others unto the destruction of the Churches, began to write his own unto their restoration; and who, to show that Saul had become Paul, did immediately, as a wise architect, lay the foundation, giving joy to thy holy Catholic Church, by becoming her builder after being her destroyer: and in such wise did he defend her, that he feared neither tortures nor very death, and became a Head of the Church after having crushed the members of the Church, delivering up the head of his own body, that he might be united with the Divine Head Christ in all his members, by whom also he merited to be made a vessel of election, and into the dwelling of his own heart he received this same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord.
We give thee thanks, O Jesus! who hast this day prostrated thine enemy by thy power, and raised him up again by thy mercy. Truly art thou the Mighty God, and thy victories shall be praised by all creatures. How wonderful art thou, in thy plans for the world's salvation! Thou makest men thy associates in the work of the preaching of thy word, and in the dispensing of thy Mysteries; and in order to make Paul worthy of such an honour, thou usest all the resources of thy grace. It pleased thee to make an Apostle of Stephen’s murderer, that so thy sovereign power might be shown to the world, thy love of souls be evinced in its richest gratuitous generosity, and grace abound where sin had so abounded. Sweet Saviour! often visit us with this grace which converts the heart; for we desire to have the life of grace abundantly, and we feel that its very principle is often in danger within us. Convert us, as thou didst thine Apostle; and after having converted us, assist us; for without thee we can do nothing. Go before us, follow us, stand by our side; never leave us, but as thou hast given us the commencement, secure to us our perseverance to the end. Give us that Christian wisdom which will teach us how to acknowledge, with fear and love, that mysterious gift of grace which no creature can merit, and to which, nevertheless, a creature's will may put an obstacle. We are captives: thou alone art master of the instrument, wherewith we can break our chains; thou puttest it into our hands, bidding us make use of it; so that our deliverance is thy work, not ours—but our captivity, if it continue, can only be attributed to our negligence and sloth. Give us, O Lord, this thy grace; and graciously receive the promise we now make, that we will render it fruitful by co operating with it.
Assist us, thou holy Apostle of Jesus! to correspond with the merciful designs of God in our regard; obtain of him for us, that we may be overcome by the sweetness of an Infant-God. His voice does not make itself heard; he does not blind us by the glare of his divine light; but this we know—he often complains that we persecute him! Oh! that we could have the courage to say to him, with a heart honest like thine: Lord! what wilt thou that we do? He would answer, and tell us to be simple, and to become little children like himself—to recognize now, after so many Christmases of indifference, the love he shows us in this mystery of Bethlehem—to declare war against sin—to resist our evil inclinations—and to advance in virtue, by walking in his divine footsteps. Thou hast said, in one of thine Epistles: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema! Oh! teach us to know him more and more, so that we may grow in his love; and by thy prayers, preserve us from that ingratitude which turns even the sweet Mysteries of this holy season into our own greater condemnation.
Glorious Vessel of election! pray for the conversion of sinners who have forgotten their God. When on this earth, thou didst spend thyself for the salvation of souls; continue thy ministry, now that thou art reigning in heaven, and draw down, upon them that persecute Jesus, the graces which triumph over the hardest hearts. Apostle of the Gentiles! look with an eye of loving pity on so many nations, that are still sitting in the shadow of death. During thy mortal life, thou wast divided between two ardent desires—one, to be with Christ, the other, to remain longer on earth labouring for the salvation of immortal souls: now that thou art united for ever with the Jesus thou didst preach to men, forget not the poor ones to whom their God is a stranger. Raise up in the Church apostolic men, who may continue thy work. Pray to our Lord that he bless their labours, and the blood of such among them as are martyrs of zeal. Shield with thy protection the See of Peter, thy BrotherApostle and thy Leader. Support the authority of the Church of Rome, which has inherited thy power, and looks upon thee as her second defence. May thy powerful intercession lead her enemies into humble submission, destroy schisms and heresies, and fill her Pastors with thy spirit, that like thee they may seek not themselves, but solely and in all things the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 Gal. ii 8.
 St Matt. xv 24.
 Acts xiv 26.
 Gal. i 18.
 Ibid. ii 2.
 Gal. i 1, and frequently elsewhere.
 2 Cor. xi 5.
 Ps. xxviii 5.
 Gen. xlix 27.
 These words are taken from a sermon which for a long time was thought to be St Augustine's.
 Gal. ii 20.
 1 Cor. xvi 22.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
AMIDST the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna, all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has in his soul the fervent love that made him say in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: "Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and he has never done me any wrong; nay, he has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?" After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King his Saviour, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labours he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured.
He was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master, he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honour of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows himself to us in all his loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honour this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Saviour said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit by the holy season.
The Church gives us a passage from St Jerome's book, On Ecclesiastical Writers, in which there is contained the following short notice of our holy Martyr.
Polycarpus, Joannis Apostoli discipulus, et ab eo Smyrnæ Episcopus ordinatus, totius Asiæ princeps fuit; quippe qui nonnullos Apostolorum, et eorum qui viderant Dominum, magistros habuerit et viderit. Hic propter quasdam super die Paschæ quæstiones, sub Imperatore Antonino Pio, Ecclesiam in Urbe regente Aniceto, Romam venit: ubi plurimos credentium, Marcionis et Valentini persuasione deceptos, reduxit ad fidem. Cumque ei fortuito obviam fuisset Marcion, et diceret: Cognoscis nos? respondit: Cognosco primogenitum diaboli. Postea vero regnante Marco Antonino et Lucio Aurelio Commodo, quarta post Neronem persecutione, Smyrnæ sedente proconsule, et universo populo in amphitheatro adversus eum personante, igni traditus est. Scripsit ad Philippenses valde utilem epistolam, quæ usque hodie in Asiæ conventu legitur.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna, was looked up to by all the Churches of Asia, inasmuch as he had not only known some of the Apostles, and those who had seen our Lord, but had been trained by them. He went to Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and under the Pontificate of Anicetus, in order to have an answer to certain questions regarding Easter-day. Whilst there, he brought back to the faith several Christians who had been misled by the teaching of Marcion and Valentine. Having, on a certain occasion, casually met Marcion, who said to him: 'Dost thou know us?' Polycarp replied: 'Yes, I know thee as the firstborn of Satan.’ Some time after, under the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the fourth persecution after that under Nero, he was cited before the Proconsul of Smyrna, who condemned him to be burnt alive; which sentence was carried into effect in the amphitheatre, amidst the clamours of the whole people. He wrote an important Letter to the Philippians, which is still read in the Churches of Asia.
The Greek Church sings the praises of St Polycarp in her Menæa, from which we extract the following passages.
Die XXIII Februarii
Quando fructus ille Virginis, et semen germinans vitæ principium, in terram cecidit, tunc te Polycarpum spicam produxit, fideles nutrientem pietatis verbo et documentis, et eos sanctificantem divino certaminis sanguine et sanctitatis unguento.
Quando in ligno crucis vitis vera suspensa elevata est, tunc te fructuosum palmitem extendit, falce incisum venerandi martyrii, et tormentorum torculari agitatum, cujus lætitiæ calicem cum fide libantes, o Pater, veneranda tua certamina glorificamus.
Caritatis uvam in anima vere coluisti, ô Pater sapiens, et tamquam vinum effudisti fidei verbum; lætificans omnium fidelium mentes, et miraculorum demonstratus es immensum mare; unde martyrum decus apparuisti, igne purificatus et lumine dignatus æterao, o Polycarpe: deprecare Christum Deum dare veniam peccatorum, nobis celebrantibus cum amore tuam sanctam commemorationem.
Honeste ambulans et filium lucis pacisque denuncians, noctis primogenitum revelasti Marcionem.
Firma ratione comburentem flammam supergressus es, o gloriose, quasi tres pueri qui fornacis ignem rore sedarunt, et in medio ignis incombustus permansisti clamans: Benedictus es, Deus patrum nostrorum.
Pie coluisti Christi mysticam culturam, et rationabilis victima ipse oblatus es Deo sacrificium acceptabile et optimum, omnino fructuosa victima, Polycarpe ter beate.
Supra crucem visus, et hierarchico ornamento digne indutus, Pater, in templum Dei introisti proprio sanguine.
Archipastori Christo præsentandus, a Christo signatus quasi aries insignis, Hierophantes, imitator demonstratus es passionum ejus, et gloriæ effectus particeps, et regni ipsius cohæres.
Commemoratio tua ignifera exorta, o Pater, illuminat animas eorum qui illam pie perficiunt, o divine, et omnes participes tuæ divinæ illuminationis afficit, quam digne, o sapiens, in hymnis magnificamus.
When the Fruit of the Virgin, and the Seed that is the germ of life, came on the earth, he produced thee, O Polycarp, as the grain of wheat that nourishest the faithful with the word and teachings of piety, and trainest them to holiness by the glorious shedding of thy blood, and the odour of thy saintliness.
When Christ, the True Vine, was raised up pendent on the Tree of the Cross, then wast thou produced as one of his fruit ful branches, that wast pruned with the knife of a venerable martyrdom, and wast put into the wine-press of torture. Drinking his Cup of gladness with faith, we glorify, O Father! thy glorious combat.
Truly, O wise Father! didst thou cherish in thy soul the growth of the vine of charity, and didst pour forth the wine of the word of faith. Thou didst gladden the hearts of all the Faithful, and wast like the boundless sea in thy miracles. Therefore art thou the glory of Martyrs, O Polycarp I for thou hast been purified by fire,and rewarded with light everlasting. Pray for us to Christ our God, that he grant pardon of our sins to us, who lovingly celebrate thy holy memory.
Walking in uprightness, and showing thyself a son of light and peace, thou didst unmask Marcion, the first-born of night.
O glorious Polycarp! by thy undaunted soul thou didst overcome the burning fire, like unto the Three Children, who quenched the furnace with dew; and in the midst of the flames thou wast unconsumed, and didst cry out: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers!
Religiously didst thou cultivate the mystical garden of Christ, and thou thyself, the spiritual victim, wast offered to God an acceptable and perfect sacrifice, a victim most fruitful, O thrice blessed Polycarp!
Thou wast seen upon the cross, O Father! and being worthily clad with the pontifical robes, thou didst enter by thine own blood into the temple of God.
That thou, O holy Pontiff! mightest be presented to Christ, the Prince of Pastors, as the victim elect marked out by him, thou becamest the imitator of his passion, and art now a partaker of his glory, and the coheir of his kingdom.
Thy Feast, with its blaze of glory, O Father! has risen, enlightening the souls of them that piously keep it, O heavenly man! and making them all partakers of thy supreme brightness, which we worthily magnify in our hymns, O wise Polycarp!
How well didst thou bear out the full meaning of thy name, O Polycarp! for thou didst produce many fruits for thy Saviour, during thy six-and-eighty years spent in his service. The numerous souls won over to Christ, the virtues which adorned thy life, and thy life itself, which thou didst present to thy Lord in its full maturity—these were thy fruits. And what happiness was thine to have received instruction from the Disciple that leaned upon Jesus' Breast! After being separated from him for more than sixty years, thou art united with him on this the day of thy martyrdom, and thy venerable master receives thee in a transport of joy. Thou adorest, with him, that Divine Babe, whose simplicity thou hadst imitated during life, and who was the single object of thy love. Ask of him for us, that we too may be Faithful unto death.
By thy prayers, now that thou art throned in heaven, make fruitful the vineyard of the Church, which when on earth thou didst cultivate by thy labours, and water with the blood of thy glorious martyrdom. Re-establish faith and unity in the Churches of Asia, which were founded by thy venerable hand. Hasten, by thy prayers, the destruction of that degrading slavery of Mohammedanism which has kept the East in bondage so long, because her once faithful children severed themselves from Rome by the great schism of Byzantium. Pray for the Church of Lyons, which regards thee as its founder, through the ministry of thy disciple Pothinus, and takes itself so glorious a share in the apostolate of the Gentiles, by the Work of the Propagation of the Faith.
Watch over the purity of our holy Faith, and preserve us from being deceived by false teachers. The error which thou didst combat, and which teaches that all the mysteries of the Incarnation are but empty symbols, has risen up again in these our days. There are Marcions, even now, who would reduce all religion to myths; and they find some few followers; may thy powerful prayers rid the world of this remnant of so impious a doctrine. Thou didst pay homage to the Apostolic Chair, for thou, too, wouldst see Peter, and didst journey to Rome, in order to consult its Pontiff on questions regarding the interests of thy Church of Smyrna. Defend the rights of this august See, whence alone are derived both the jurisdiction of our Pastors, and the authoritative teachings of Faith. Pray for us, that we may spend the remaining days of this holy Season in the contemplation and the love of our new-born King. May this love, accompanied with purity of heart, draw down upon us the merciful blessings of God, and at length, after our course is run, obtain for us the Crown of Life.
 Apoc. ii 8.
 2 St John i 10.
 Apoc. ii 10.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
BEFORE our Emmanuel came upon this earth, men were as sheep without a shepherd; the flock was scattered, and the human race was hastening on to perdition. Jesus would, therefore, not only be the Lamb that was to be slain for our sins; he made himself, moreover, a Shepherd, that so he might bring us all back to the divine fold. But as he had to leave us when he ascended into heaven, he has provided for the wants of his sheep by providing us with a succession of Pastors, who should in his name feed the flock even to the end of the world. Now instruction, which is the light of life, is what the flock of Christ needs above all other things; and therefore our Emmanuel required that the Pastors of his Church should also be Doctors of sacred science. The Pastor owes two things to his people; namely, the Word of God and the Sacraments. He is under the obligation of dispensing, personally and unceasingly, this twofold nourishment to his flock, and of laying down his very life, if needed, in the fulfilment of a duty on which rests the whole work of the world’s salvation.
But since the disciple is not above his Master, the Pastors and Doctors of the Christian people, if they are faithful in the discharge of their duties, are sure to be hated by the enemies of God; for they cannot spread the Kingdom of Christ without at the same time taking from the power of Satan. Hence it is that the history of the Church is filled with the persecutions endured by her Pastors and Doctors, who continued the ministry of zeal and charity begun by Christ upon the earth. These contests have been threefold, and gave occasion to three admirable victories.
The Pastors and Doctors of the Church have had to struggle with Paganism, which sought, by inflicting tortures and death, to oppose the preaching of the law of Christ. It was this sort of persecution which gave the Church such saints as those whom we celebrate during this season of Christmas—Polycarp, Ignatius, Fabian, Marcellus, Hyginus, and Telesphorus.
When the era of Persecution was over, the Pastors and Doctors of the Christian people had to engage with enemies of another kind. Kings and Princes became children of the Church, and then sought to make her their own slave. They imagined that it would serve their political interests to interfere with the liberty of the Word of God, which, like the light of the sun, was intended to be carried, without hindrance, throughout the whole earth. They usurped the priestly power, as did the Pagan Cæsars, and presumed to set limits to the administration of those sources of life which become corrupt as soon as they are touched by a profane hand. This usurpation gave rise to an incessant contest between the temporal and spiritual powers, and produced a second class of martyrs. God has glorified his Church during this long period of struggle, and has given her, from time to time, a brave defender of ecclesiastical liberty. We have met two of these champions of the Word and the holy ministry during Christmastide—Thomas of Canterbury, and Hilary of Poitiers.
But there is a third sort of battle in which the Pastors and Doctors of the flock of Christ have had to fight—it is the battle with the world and its vices. It began when Christianity began, and will continue to the day of Judgement. It was their courage in this battle that made so many saintly prelates hated for the name of Jesus Christ. Neither their charity, nor their services to mankind, nor their humility, nor their meekness, protected them from ingratitude, spleen, calumny, and persecution. And what was their offence? They had been faithful in their duty of preaching the doctrines of their Divine Master, of encouraging virtue, and of chiding the sins of men. The amiable Francis de Sales was as much disliked and even hated by bad men as was John Chrysostom himself, whose triumph gladdens the Church today, and who stands near the Crib of his Lord as one of the most illustrious martyrs of pastoral duty courageously discharged.
Fervent in the service of his Saviour, even to the observance of the divine Counsels (for he had embraced the monastic life), this golden-mouthed Preacher made no other use of his wonderful gift of eloquence than that of urging men to the observance of the virtues taught in the Gospel, and of reproving every vice. Satan sought to have his revenge against our Saint by raising against him many enemies. Among these were an Empress, whose vanities and sins he had rebuked; men in power, whose wickedness he had held up to notice; women of influence, who would have him preach a morality more in accordance with their own depravity; a Bishop of Alexandria, and certain Prelates of the Court, who were jealous of his virtues, and still more so of his reputation. He was exceedingly loved by his people—but neither that nor his great virtues protected him from persecution. He whose eloquence had enraptured the people of Antioch, and won for him the enthusiastic admiration of the citizens of Constantinople, was deposed in a council convened for the purpose, his name was ordered to be cancelled from the diptychs of the Altar, notwithstanding the energetic protest of the Roman Pontiff; and at length he was condemned to exile, and died on the way, worn out by the hardships and fatigues he had to undergo.
But this Pastor, and Doctor, was not vanquished. He said, in the midst of all his persecutions, Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel! He made use, too, of those other words of the great Apostle: The word of God is not bound. The Church triumphed in him; she was more glorified and more consoled by the unflinching courage of Chrysostom, who was led into captivity for having preached the Gospel of Christ, than she had been by the success achieved by his eloquence, an eloquence which Libanius was heard to covet for his pagan orators. Let us hearken to the thrilling words of Chrysostom, which he addressed to the faithful immediately before his last banishment. He had been sent into exile once before; but a terrific earthquake immediately after his departure was looked upon as sent by heaven to punish the authors of so crying an injustice, and the Empress herself went, with tears in her eyes, to ask the Emperor to recall him. Accordingly, he was permitted to return. Shortly after, fresh occasions were sought for, and John was again sentenced to exile. He received the intimation with all the calmness of a Saint who knows that the whole Church is on his side. Let us study this glorious model of a Bishop trained in the school of our Lord who is, as the Apostle calls him, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
'Many are the waves, and threatening are the storms, which surround me; but I fear them not; for I am standing on the Rock. Let the sea roar; it cannot wash away the Rock: Let the billows mount as they will; they cannot sink the barque of our Lord Jesus Christ. And tell me, what would you have me fear? Death? To me, to live is Christ; and to die is gain. Exile? The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. Confiscation of my goods? We brought nothing into this world; and certainly we can carry nothing out. No—the evils of this world are contemptible, and its goods deserve but to be laughed at. I fear not poverty, I desire not riches; I neither fear to die, nor wish to live, save for your advantage. Your interest alone induces me to speak of these things, and to ask of you, by the love you bear me, to take courage.
'For no one can separate us; no human power can part what God has united. It is said of husband and wife: Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh: Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Thou canst not, O man, dissolve the nuptial tie: how hopest thou to divide the Church of God? It is she whom thou attackest, because thou canst not reach him whom thou fain wouldst strike. Thou makest me more glorious, and thou dost but waste thy strength in warring against me, for it is hard for thee to kick against the sharp goad. Thou canst not blunt its point, and thou makest thine own foot bleed, just as the billows, when they dash against the rock, fall back mere empty froth.
'Believe me, O man, there is no power like the power of the Church. Cease thy battling, lest thou lose thy strength; wage not war with heaven. When it is with man thou warrest, thou mayst win or lose; but when thy fighting is against the Church, it is impossible thou shouldst conquer, for God is above all in strength. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? God founded, God gave firmness: who shall be so bold as to attempt to pull down? Knowest thou not his power? He looketh upon the earth, and maketh it tremble; he gives his order, and that which trembled is made firm again. If he made firm the City after an earthquake had shaken it, how much more could he not give firmness to the Church? The Church is stronger than heaven itself: Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. What words? Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
'If thou wilt not believe his word, believe facts. How many tyrants have sought to crush the Church? They had their gridirons and fiery furnaces, and wild beasts, and swords—and all failed. Where are those enemies now? Buried and forgotten. And the Church? Brighter than the sun. All they had is now past; but her riches are immortal. If the Christians conquered when they were but few in number, canst thou hope to vanquish them, now that the whole earth is filled with the holy religion? Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. Wonder not at it; for the Church is dearer unto God than the very heavens. He took flesh not from heaven, but from his Church on earth; and heaven is for the Church, not the Church for heaven.
'Be not troubled at what has happened. I ask this favour of you—be firm in your faith. Have you not observed that when Peter was walking on the waters, and began to fear, he was in danger of sinking, not because the sea was rough, but because his faith was weak? Have I been raised to this dignity by human intrigue? Was it man that brought me to it, or can man now depose me? I say not this from arrogance or boasting; God forbid! I say it from the desire of calming your trouble.
‘The devil no sooner saw that your City was tranquillized, than he plotted how he might disturb the Church. Thou wicked and most impious spirit! thou couldst not throw down the walls of a city; and thinkest thou thou canst make the Church fall? Does the Church consist of walls? The Church consists of the multitude of the faithful. Look at her pillars, and see how solid they are, fastened, not by iron, but by faith. Not only is the great multitude itself more vehement than fire, but even one single Christian would conquer thee. Hast thou forgotten the wounds thou receivedst from the martyrs? Oftentimes the combatant was a tender maiden: delicate as a flower, yet firmer than a rock. Thou didst mangle her flesh, but her faith was proof against all thy tortures Her blood fell as nature felt the wounds, but her faith fell not; her body was tom, but her manly soul flinched not; what was material was spoilt, what was spiritual was untouched. Thou couldst not vanquish one woman; and yet thou hopest to vanquish a whole people! Hast thou not heard these words of the Lord: Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them? And thinkest thou he will not be in the midst of a numerous people, united together by the ties of charity?
‘I have his pledge, and on that I trust, not on my own strength. I have his written promise. That is my staff, and my guarantee, and my tranquil port. What matters it to me if the whole world be upset—have I not his written word? have I not his letters? There is my rampart, and there my defence. What letters? I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. Christ is with me—of whom shall I be afraid? Though stormy billows should rise up against me, though the sea should open to swallow me, though the wrath of kings should be enkindled against me, I will heed them no more than if they were so many spider's webs. Had not my love for you kept me, I would have started this very day on my exile, for this is my constant prayer: "O Lord! thy will be done; I will do thy will; not what such or such an one may will, but what thou wiliest." This is my tower of strength, this is my firm rock, this is my trusty staff. If God will that I go, I will go. If he will me to remain here, I will give him thanks. Yea, whithersoever he wills me to go, I will bless his holy name.'
What humility and courage in this saintly minister of Christ! What a consolation for the Church when God sends her men like this! He has given four to the Eastern Church: Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzum, Basil and Chrysostom. In spite of the immense dangers to which faith was exposed during the age in which they lived, these four holy Doctors, by their sanctity, learning, and courage, kept it alive among the people. Athanasius and Gregory appear to us in that period of the Ecclesiastical Year when the Church is radiant with her Easter joy, and celebrates the Resurrection of her Divine Spouse. Basil's feast gladdens us in the season of Pentecost, when the Church is filled with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Chrysostom comes at Christmastide, and adds to the joy of the dear Mystery of Bethlehem. Let us, the favoured children of the Latin Church, which alone has preserved the primitive faith, because Peter is with her—let us honour these four faithful guardians of Tradition; let us today pay the homage of our devotion to Chrysostom, the Doctor of the universal Church, the conqueror of the world, the dauntless Pastor, the successor of the Martyrs, the Preacher par excellence, the admirer of St Paul, and the fervent imitator of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Roman Church, in the lessons of today's Office, thus speaks the praises of our Saint.
Joannes Antiochenus, propter aureum eloquentiæ flumen cognomento Chrysostomus, a forensibus et sæcularibus studiis ad divinas litteras summa cum ingenii et industriæ laude se contulit. Itaque sacris initiatus, ac Presbyter Antiochenæ Ecclesiæ factus, mortuo Nectario, Arcadii Imperatoris opera, invitus Constantinopolitanæ Ecclesiæ præficitur: quo suscepto pastorali munere, depravatos mores, et nobiliorum hominum vivendi licentiam vehementius objurgare coepit. Qua ex libertate magnam multorum subiit invidiam. Apud Eudoxiam etiam, quod eam propter Callitropæ viduæ pecuniam, et alterius viduæ agrum reprehendisset, graviter offendit.
John, surnamed Chrysostom on account of his golden eloquence, was born at Antioch. Having gone through the study of the law and the profane sciences, he applied himself with extraordinary application and success to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. Having been admitted to holy orders, and made a Priest of the Church at Antioch, he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople, after the death of Nectarius, by the express wish of the Emperor Arcadius. No sooner had he entered upon the pastoral charge than he began to inveigh against the licentious lives led by the rich. This his courageous preaching procured him many enemies. He likewise gave great offence to the Empress Eudoxia, because he had reproved her for having appropriated to herself the money belonging to a widow named Callitropa, and for having taken possession of some land which was the property of another widow,
Quare aliquot Episcoporum acto Chalcedone conventu, quo ipse vocatus ire noluit, quod nec legitimum concilium, nec publicum esse diceret, nitente in primis ipsa contra Chrysostomum Eudoxia, ejicitur in exilium: sed paulo post propter ejus desiderium, seditione populi facta, admirabili civitatis plausu ab exilio revocatur. Verum cum perditos mores increpare non desisteret, et ad argenteam Eudoxiæ statuam in foro Sanctæ Sophiæ ludos fieri prohiberet: conspiratione inimicorum Episcoporum iterum exulare cogitur, viduis et egentibus communis parentis ejectionem lugentibus. In exilio Chrysostomum incredibile est et quanta mala perpessus sit, et quam multos ad Jesu Christi fidem converterit.
At the instigation, therefore, of Eudoxia, several Bishops met together at Chalcedon. Chrysostom was cited to appear, which he refused to do. because it was not a Council either lawfully or publicly convened. Whereupon, he was sent into exile. He had not been gone long before the people rose in sedition on account of the Saint's banishment, and he was recalled, to the immense joy of the whole city. But his continuing to inveigh against the scandals which existed, and his forbidding the games held before the silver statue of Eudoxia, which was set up in the space opposite Sancta Sophia, were urged by certain Bishops, enemies of the Saint, as motives for a second banishment. The widows and the poor of the city bewailed his departure as that of a father. It is incredible how much Chrysostom had to suffer in this exile, and how many he converted to the Christian Faith.
Verum dum Concilio Romæ habito, decreto Innocentii Primi Pontificis restituitur, a militibus, qui eum custodiebant, miris in itinere malis et calamitatibus afficitur. Cumque per Armeniam duceretur, sanctus Basiliscus Martyr, in cujus templo antea oraverat, noctu sic eum affatus est: Joannes frater crastinus dies nos loco conjunget. Quare postridie, sumpto Eucharistiæ sacramento, seque crucis signo muniens, animam Deo reddidit decimo octavo kalendas Octobris. Quo mortuo, horribilis grando Constantinopoli cecidit, et quatriduo Augusta cessit e vita. Ejus corpus insigni pompa et hominum multitudine celebratum, Theodosius Arcadii filius Constantinopolim portandum, et honorifice sepeliendum curavit sexto kalendas Februarii; cujus etiam reliquias veneratus, parentum suorum veniam petiit: quod deinde Romam translatum, in Basilica Vaticana conditum est. Multitudinem, pietatem, ac splendorem concionum, cæterorumque ejus scriptorum, interpretandi etiam rationem, et inhærentem sententiæ sacrorum Librorum explanationem, omnes admirantur, dignumque existimant cui Paulus Apostolus, quem ille mirifice coluit, scribenti et prædicanti multa dictasse videatur. Hunc vero præclarissimum ecclesiæ doctorem Pius decimus Pontifex maximus cœlestem oratorum sacrorum patronum declaravit atque constituit.
At the very time that Pope Innocent the First, in a Council held at Rome, was issuing a decree ordering that Chrysostom should be set at liberty, he was being treated by the soldiers, who were taking him into exile, with unheard-of harshness and cruelty. Whilst passing through Armenia, the holy Martyr Basiliscus, in whose Church he had offered up a prayer, thus spoke to him during the night: 'Brother John! we shall be united together tomorrow.’ Whereupon, on the following morning, Chrysostom received the sacrament of the Eucharist, and signing himself with the sign of the cross, he breathed forth his soul to his God, on the eighteenth of the Kalends of October (September 14th). A fearful hail-storm happened at Constantinople after the Saint’s death, and four days after, the Empress died. Theodosius, the son of Arcadius, had the Saint's body brought to Constantinople with all due honour, where, amidst a large concourse of people, it was buried on the sixth of the Kalends of February (January 27th). Theodosius, whilst devoutly venerating the Saint’s relics, interceded for his parents, that they might be forgiven. The body was, at a later period, translated to Rome, and placed in the Vatican Basilica. All men agree in admiring the unction and eloquence of his numerous sermons, as indeed of all his other writings. He is also admirable in his interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, which he explains in their genuine sense. It has always been thought that he was aided, in his writings and sermons, by St Paul the Apostle, to whom he entertained an extraordinary devotion. This most renowned Doctor of the Church was by Pope Pius X declared and appointed heavenly Patron of the preachers of holy things.
The Greek Church, in her Menæa, honours the memory of her great Doctor with an enthusiasm which even herliturgy has seldom surpassed. We extract the following stanzas.
Die XIII Novembris
Tubam auream, divine flans organum, doctrinarum mare inexhaustum, Ecclesiæ firmamentum, mentem cœlestem, sapientiæ abyssum, craterelli deauratum, diffundentem flumina dogmatum melliflua, irrigantia creationem, meloditer hymnificemus.
Sidus inocciduum, radiis illuminans dogmatum omne subsolare, poenitentiæ præconem, spongiam auratissimam humiditatem terribilis desperationis auferentem, et rorificantem cor peccatis consumptum, Joannem digne Chrysologum honoremus.
Angelus terrenus et cœlestis homo, lyra bene loquens et multisonans, virtutum thesaurus, immobilis lapis, fidelium forma Martyrum æmulus, contubernalis sanctorum Angelorum, Apostolorum commensalis, in hymnis magnificetur Chrysostomus.
Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis, sancte Pater, Joannes Chrysostome; nam unxit te Deus sacerdotem populi sui, pascere gregem suum in sanctitate et justitia. Ideo cinctus gladio potentis, garrulitatem hæreseon amputasti, et nunc ne cesses deprecari ut pacificetur mundus, et salventur animæ nostræ.
Aureis verbis tuis Ecclesia, tamquam auro mundo circumornata, Joannes Chrysostome. festive gaudens exclamat: Satiata sum tuis auriferis pascuis, et auriparibus ac mellauratis fluentis; ex actione in contemplationem educor per tuas exhortationes, et Christo, spiritali Sponso, unior, imperans cum eo. Ideo et nos congregati in tui memoriam clamamus: Ne fatigeris deprecari pro nobis ad salvandas animas nostras.
Decebat Reginam urbium de Joanne gloriaritamquam de ornatu regali et de aurea tuba, circumsonante per omnem terram salutaria dogmata, et omnes convocante ad concentum canticorum divinorum, ad quem clamamus: Chrysologe et Chrysostome, Christum deprecare salvari animas nostras.
Gaude, orphanorum pater, injuste patientium magnum auxilium, pauperum largitio, esurientium cibus, peccatorum erectio, animarum solertissime medice, theologiæ excelsæ accuratio, explanatio Scripturarum, Sancti Spiritus lex practicissima, theoria et praxis sapientiæ celsitudinis; Christum exora mittere animabus nostris magnam misericordiam.
Sol splendidissime, terram verbis illustrans factus es, sidus fulgidissimum, lampas præclara, fax per mare mundanum hyeme agitatos evocans ad portum salutis tranquillissimum, in caritate: auridice Chrysostome, legate animarum nostrarum.
In tuo pastoratu, injusta perpessus es, Pater sancte, participans tribulationibus amaris exiliisque, in quibus dignatus es beato fine, tu qui, sicut athleta generosus, artificiosum inimicum superasti: ideo victoriæ diademate te Christus coronavit, Joannes Chrysostome, legate precum nostrarum.
Let us sweetly hymn the praises of Chrysostom, the golden trumpet, the divinely sounding organ, the exhaustless sea of doctrine, the pillar of the Church, the heavenly mind, the abyss of wisdom, the gilded vase, that pours forth the honeyed streams of dogma which refresh the world.
Let us worthily honour John the Chrysologus, the unsetting star that illumines with the rays of doctrine all nations under the sun; the preacher of penance, the golden sponge that takes away the clammy sweats of sad despair, and with refreshing dew revives the sinworn heart.
Let Chrysostom be extolled in our hymns: he is the angel of earth and the man of heaven, a sweet and many-tuned harp, a treasury of virtues, an immoveable rock, a model of the Faithful, an imitator of Martyrs, a companion of the holy Angels, an associate of the Apostles.
Grace is poured forth upon thy lips, O holy Father, John Chrysostom! for the Lord hath anointed thee priest of his people, to feed the flock in holiness and justice. Therefore, armed with the sword of strength, thou didst cut short the prattling of heresies: oh! cease not now to pray that the world may be in peace, and our souls be saved.
The Church, enriched with the pure gold of thy words, O Chrysostom! cries out to thee, on this thy feast: ‘I am nourished by thy golden pastures, and by the streams of thy rich honeyed words. By thy exhortations I am led from action unto contemplation, and am united to Christ, the Spouse of my soul, that I may reign with him.' We, too, that are assembled to celebrate thy memory, cry out unto thee: Cease not to pray for us, that our souls may be saved.
It was meet that the Queen of Cities should glory in her pontiff John, for he is her crown, and the golden trumpet, that makes the whole earth re-echo with the doctrines of salvation, and summons all men to keep choir in God's praise. We, also, cry out to him: O Chrysologus! O Chrysostom! beseech our Lord that he give us salvation.
Rejoice, O thou father of the orphans, great help of those that unjustly suffer! O treasury of the poor, food of the hungry, converter of sinners, most skilled physician of souls, accurate teacher of sublime theology, interpreter of the Scriptures, living law of the Holy Spirit, theory and practice of heavenly wisdom! Oh! pray for us to our Lord, that he show unto us his great mercy.
Thou art a most brilliant sun, enlightening the earth by thy words: a most bright star, a shining lamp: a beacon, by thy charity, that calls unto the tranquil haven of salvation them that are lost on the wintry stormy sea of this world: O golden mouthed Chrysostom, thou advocate of our souls!
O holy Father! thou didst suffer most unjustly in the discharge of thy pastoral office, and wast made to drink of bitter tribulation and exile, wherein thou didst receive a blessed death, for, as a courageous soldier, thou didst overcome the crafty enemy. Therefore, O Chrysostom! ambassador of our prayers \ thou didst receive from Christ the crown of victory.
What a crown is thine, O Chrysostom! Oh! how glorious is thy name in the Church of both heaven and earth! Thou didst preach the gospel in truth, thou didst fight the battle of thy Lord with courage, thou didst suffer for the cause of justice, and thou didst give up thy life in defence of the liberty of God's word. The applause of men did not make thee less stern in claiming the rights of God, and the gift of apostolic eloquence, wherewith the Holy Ghost had enriched thee, was but a feeble image of the divine fire which burned within thy heart, and which made thee love the Word Incarnate, Christ Jesus our Lord, more than thine own glory, or happiness, or life. Thou wast calumniated by wicked men; thy name was erased from the tablets of the holy altar; and, like thy divine Master, thou wast condemned as a criminal, and deposed from the episcopal throne. But as well might men strive to eclipse the sun, as efface thy loved name from the memory of the Christian world. Rome defended thee, and has ever honoured thy admirable virtues, just as she now venerates thy sacred relics, which repose near the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. She and all her children throughout the world consider thee as one of the most faithful dispensers of divine Truth.
Recompense the devotion we have for thee, O Chrysostom! by watching over us from heaven; instruct us, convert us, make us earnest Christians. Like thy beloved master, St Paul, thou didst care for no knowledge save that which would make thee know Christ Jesus: but is it not in Christ Jesus that are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom? Teach us to know this dear Saviour, who has come down to us with all his infinite perfections; teach us to know his spirit; tell us how we may please and imitate him; ask him to receive the offering of our faithful love. In one thing we resemble thee, great Saint! we are exiles; but, alas! we are so often tempted to love our exile as though it were our home. Oh! detach us from this earth and its vanities. May we long to be united with thee, as thou wast united with the holy Martyr Basiliscus, in order that we may be with Jesus.
Faithful Pastor! pray for our Pastors; obtain for them thine own spirit, and pray that their flocks may be docile to their teachings. Bless the Preachers of God’s word, that so they may preach not themselves, but Jesus Christ. Ask our Lord to give them that Christian eloquence which comes from the study of the Sacred Volume, and from prayer; that thus, the faithful may be allured to virtue by the charm of an unearthly language, and may give glory to God. Protect the Roman Pontiff, whose predecessor was thy sole defender; may he ever be the protector of the Bishops of the Church who are persecuted for justice' sake. Pray for thy Church of Constantinople, which has forgotten thy faith and thy virtues. May she be raised from the degradation in which she has been so long enslaved. May Jesus, the Eternal Wisdom, be appeased by thy prayers, and be mindful of his Church of Sancta Sophia, and purify it from profanation, and restore that altar whereon he was offered in sacrifice for so many ages. Show, too, thy love for the Western Church, which has ever revered and loved thee. Hasten the fall of the heresies which have so long laid waste large portions of her inheritance; dispel the dark clouds of incredulity, and obtain for us all, by thy powerful intercession, a lively faith and the fervent practice of every virtue.
 1 Cor. ix 16.
 2 Tim. ii 9.
 1 St Pet. ii 25.
 Phil. i 21.
 Ps. xxiii 1.
 1 Tim. vi 7.
 Gen. ii 24.
 St Matt. xix 6.
 Acts ix 6.
 1 Cor. x 22
 Ps. ciii 32.
 St Matt. xxiv 35.
 Ibid. xvi 18.
 St Matt. xviii 20.
 Ibid. xxviii 20.
 Ibid. vi 10.
 Homily before his exile.
[This feast day, originally kept on January 31, was moved to January 28 when St. John Bosco was placed on January 31.-Ed.]
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
THE Ransomer of Captives, Peter Nolasco, is thus brought before us by the Calendar, a few days after the Feast of his master, Raymund of Pennafort. Both of them offer to the Divine Redeemer the thousands of Christians they ransomed from slavery. It is an appropriate homage, for it was the result of the Charity which first began in Bethlehem, in the heart of the Infant Jesus, and was afterwards so fervently practiced by these two Saints.
Peter was born in France, but made Spain his adopted country, because it offered him such grand opportunities for zeal and self-sacrifice. In imitation of our Redeemer, he devoted himself to the ransom of his brethren; he made himself a prisoner to procure them their liberty; and remained in exile, that they might once more enjoy the happiness of home. His devotedness was blessed by God. He founded a new Religious Order in the Church, composed of generous-hearted men, who for six hundred years prayed, toiled, and spent their lives in obtaining the blessing of liberty for countless captives, who would else have led their whole lives in chains, exposed to the imminent danger of losing their faith.
Glory to the Blessed Mother of God, who raised up these ransomers of Captives! Glory to the Catholic Church, whose children they were! But above all glory be to our Emmanuel, who, on his entrance into this world, thus spoke to his Eternal Father: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, neither are they pleasing to thee; but a Body thou hast fitted unto me. Then said I, Behold I come: that is, Behold, I come to offer myself as a Sacrifice. The Divine Infant has deigned to call us his brethren, and has given himself for our salvation; it is this same spirit of charity which made St Peter Nolasco devote his life to his suffering fellow-men.
Our Lord rewarded him by calling him to heaven at that very hour wherein twelve hundred years before he himself had been born at Bethlehem. It was during the joyful celebrations of Christmas night that the liberator of so many from bodily captivity was united for ever to the Divine Liberator of souls.
Peter’s last hymn on earth was the 110th Psalm: and as his faltering voice uttered the words: He hath sent redemption to his people; he hath commanded his covenant for ever, his soul took its flight to heaven.
The Church, in fixing a day for the feast of our Saint, could not of course take the anniversary of his death, which belongs so exclusively to Jesus: but it was just that he, who had been honoured with being born to heaven at the very hour which God had chosen for the Birth of his Son upon the earth, should receive the tribute of our festive commemoration on one of the forty days of Christmas; this last day of January was selected.
Let us now learn from the Liturgy the claims of Peter Nolasco to our veneration and love.
Petrus Nolascus, Recaudi prope Carcassonam in Gallia nobili genere natus, singulari erga proximum caritate excelluit; cujus virtutis præsagium fuit, quod cum adhuc in cunabulis vagiret infans, examen apum ad eum convolavit, et favum mellis in ejus dextera construxit. Adolescens parentibus orbatus, Albigensium hæresim, quæ tunc in Gallia grassabatur, execrans, divendito patrimonio, in Hispaniam secessit, et apud beatam Virginem Montis Serrati, votum, quo pridem se obstrinxerat, exsolvit. Tum Barcinonam pergens, quum in Christi fidelibus ab hostiam servitute redimendis omnem pecuniam consumpsisset, seipsum pro iis liberandis venumire, aut in illorum vincula suffici, cupere dictitabat.
Quam gratum Deo uerit hoc sancti viri desiderium subsequens declaravit eventus. Nam noctu oranti, et de Christianorum in captivitate degentium subsidio, multa animo volventi, beata Virgo apparens: Filio suo, sibique acceptissimum fore suggessit, si ad sui honorem Religiosorum Ordo institueretur, quibus præcipue esset cura, captivos ab infidelium tyrannide liberare. Huic cœlesti monito illico obtemperans, una cum sancto Raymundo de Pennafort, et Jacobo Primo rege Aragoniæ, de eadem re a Dei Genitrice ipsa nocte præmonitis, Religionem Beatæ Mariæ de Mercede redemptionis captivorum instituit: sodalibus suis quarto voto obstrictis, manendi in pignus sub Paganorum potestate, si pro Christianorum liberatione opus fuerit.
Edito virginitatis voto, illibatam perpetuo castitatem servavit. Patientia, humilitate, abstinentia, cæterisque virtutibus mirabiliter enituit. Prophetiæ dono illustris, futura prædixit, inter quæ maxime celebratur, quod Jacobus rex Valentiam a Mauris occupatam expugnaverit, accepta prius ab eo obtinendæ victoriæ securitate. Angeli Custodis ac Deiparæ Virginis frequenti apparitione recreabatur. Senio tandem confectus, de imminenti morte certior factus, in morbum incidit, sanctisque refectus Sacramentis, fratres suos ad caritatem erga captivos cohortatus et Psalmum, Confitebor tibi,' Domine, in toto corde meo, devotissime recitans, ad illa verba, Redemptionem misit Dominus populo suo, spiritum Deo reddidit, media nocte Vigiliæ Nativitatis Domini, anno millesimo ducentesimo quinquagesimo sexto. Cujus festivitatem Alexander Septimus die trigesima prima Januarii celebrari præcepit.
Peter Nolasco was born at Recaud, near Carcassonne, in France, of noble parents. His distinguishing virtue was the love of his neighbour, which seemed to be presaged by this incident that, when he was a babe in his cradle, a swarm of bees one day lighted upon him, and formed a honeycomb on his right hand. He lost his parents early in life. The Albigensian heresy was at that time making way in France; Peter, out of the hatred he had for that sect, withdrew into Spain, after having sold his estates. This gave him an opportunity of fulfilling a vow at our Lady of Montserrat, which he had made some time previously. After this he went to Barcelona; and having there spent all his money in ransoming the Christian captives from the slavery of their enemies, he was often heard saying that he would willingly sell himself to redeem others, or become a slave in the place of any captive.
God showed him, by the following event, how meritorious in his sight was this desire. He was one night praying for the Christian captives, and deliberating with himself how he might obtain their deliverance, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, and told him that he would render himself most dear to her Son and herself, if he would institute in her honour an Order of Religious men, who should devote themselves to ransome captives from the infidels. He delayed not to follow the heavenly suggestion, and instituted the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Redemption of Captives, in which he was aided by St Raymund of Pennafort, and James the First, King of Aragon, both of whom had, on that same night, received the like intimation from the Mother of God. The Religious of this Order take a fourth vow, namely, to offer themselves as slaves to the Moors, if they can in no other way obtain the ransom of the Christians.
Having taken a vow of virginity, he spent his whole life in the most perfect purity. He excelled in every virtue, especially in patience, humility, and abstinence. He foretold future events by the gift of prophecy, wherewith God had favoured him. Thus, when king James was laying siege to Valencia, then in the possession of the Moors, he received assurance from the Saint that he would be blessed with victory. He was frequently consoled with the sight of his Angel Guardian and the Virgin-Mother of God. At length, being worn out with old age, he received an intimation of his approaching death. When he was seized with his last sickness, he received the holy Sacraments, and exhorted his Religious Brethren to love the captives. After which, he began most devoutly to recite the Psalm, I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; and at these words : He hath sent Redemption to his people, he breathed forth his soul into the hands of his Creator, at Christmas midnight, in the year 1256. Pope Alexander the Seventh commanded that his Feast should be kept on the thirty-first day of January.
Thou, O Jesus! camest to cast fire upon the earth, and thy desire is that it be enkindled in the hearts of men. Thy desire was accomplished in Peter Nolasco, and the children of his Order. Thus dost thou permit men to co-operate with thee in the designs of thy sweet mercy, and, by thus restoring harmony between man and his Creator, thou hast once more given to the earth the blessing of fraternal love between man and man. Sweet Infant Jesus! we cannot love thee without loving all mankind; and thou, who art our Ransom and our Victim, willest that we also be ready to lay down our lives for one another.
Thou, O Peter! wast the Apostle and the model of this fraternal charity; and our God rewarded thee by calling thee to himself on the anniversary of the Birth of Jesus. That sweet Mystery, which so often encouraged thee in thy holy labours, has now been revealed to thee in all its glory. Thy eyes now behold that Jesus as the great King, the Son of the Eternal Father, before whom the very Angels tremble. Mary is no longer the poor humble Mother, leaning over the Crib where lies her Son; she now delights thy gaze with her queenly beauty, seated as she is on a throne nearest to that of the divine Majesty. Thou art at home amidst all this glory, for heaven was made for souls that love as thine did. Heaven is the land of love, and love so filled thy heart even when on earth, that it was the principle of thy whole life.
Pray for us, that we may have a clearer knowledge of this love of God and our neighbour, which makes us like to God. It is written that he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him; intercede for us, that the Mystery of Charity which we are now celebrating may transform us into him who is the one object of all our love during this season of grace. May we love our fellow-creatures as ourselves; bear with them, excuse their weaknesses, and serve them. May our good example encourage them, and our words edify them; may we comfort them and win them to the service of God by our kindness and our charities.
Pray for France, which is thy country, and for Spain, where thou didst institute thy grand Order. Protect the precious remnants of that Order, by whose means thou didst work such miracles of charity. Console all prisoners and captives. Obtain for all men that holy Liberty of Children of God, of which the Apostle speaks, which consists in obedience to the law of God. When this liberty is in man's soul, he never can be a slave; but when the inner man is enslaved, the outward man never can be free. Oh! pray that the fetters of false doctrines and passions may be broken, and then the world will enjoy that true liberty, which would soon put an end to tyranny, and make tyrants impossible.
 Ps. xxxix 7, 8; cited by St Paul, Heb. x 5 and following verses.
 St John iv x6.
 Rom. viii 21.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
FIVE days after the martyrdom of the Virgin Emerentiana, the parents of the glorious Saint Agnes visited the tomb of their child, during the night, there to weep and pray. It was the eighth day since her martyrdom. Whilst they were thinking upon the cruel death, which, though it had enriched their child with a Martyr's palm, had deprived them of her society, Agnes suddenly appeared to them: she was encircled with a bright light, and wore a crown on her head, and was surrounded by a choir of virgins of dazzling beauty. On her right hand there stood a beautiful white lamb, the emblem of the Divine Spouse of Agnes.
Turning towards her parents, she said to them: 'Weep not over my death: for I am now in heaven, together with these virgins, living with him whom I loved on earth with my whole soul.'
It is to commemorate this glorious apparition that the holy Church has instituted this Feast, which is called Saint Agnes' Second Feast (Sanctœ Agnetis secundo). Let us pray to this fervent spouse of the Divine Lamb, that she intercede for us with him, and present us to him in this life, until it be given to us to possess him face to face in heaven. Let us unite with the Church in the following Prayer, which she uses in today's Office:
Ant. Stans a dextris ejus Agnus nive candidior, Christus sibi Sponsam et Martyrem consecravit.
℣. Specie tua, et pulchritudine tua.
℟. Intende, prospere procede et regna.
Deus qui nos annua beatæ Agnetis Virginis et Martyris tuæ solemnitate lætificas: da quæsumus, ut quam veneramur officio, etiam piæ conversationis sequamur exemplo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Ant. Standing at her right hand as a Lamb whiter than snow, Christ consecrated her to himself as his Spouse and Martyr.
℣. With thy comeliness and thy beauty.
℟. Set out, proceed prosperously, and reign.
Let us Pray
O God, who rejoicest us by the yearly solemnity of blessed Agnes, the Virgin and Martyr: grant, we beseech thee, that we may imitate her life to whose memory we pay this honour. Through Christ our Lord.