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The Liturgical Year

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Lent, visit here.

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

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.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

A FOURTH Roman Virgin, wearing on her brow a martyr’s crown, comes today to share the honours given to Agnes, Emerentiana, and Prisca, and offer her palm to the Lamb. Her name is Martina, which the pagans were wont to give to their daughters in honour of their god of war. Her sacred relics repose at the foot of the Capitoline hill, in the ancient temple of Mars, which has now become the beautiful Church of Saint Martina. The holy ambition to render herself worthy of him whom she had chosen as her divine Spouse, gave her courage to suffer torments and death for his sake; so that of her, as of the rest of the martyrs, we may say those words of the Liturgy, washed her robes in the Blood of the Lamb. Our Emmanuel is the Mighty God,[1] the Lord that is mighty in war,[2] not, like the Mars of the pagans, needing the sword to win his battles. He vanquishes his enemies by meekness, patience, and innocence, as in the martyrdom of today’s Saint, whose victory was grander than was ever won by Rome’s boasted warriors.

This illustrious Virgin, who is one of the Patrons of the City of Rome, is honoured by having her praises sung by one of the Popes. It was Urban the Eighth who wrote the Hymns which are recited on her feast, and which we subjoin to the Lessons which recount the glorious combats of our Saint.

Martina Virgo Romana patre consulari, illustri genere nata, teneris adhuc annis orbata parentibus, christianæ pietatis ardore succensa, divitias quibus affluebat, mira in pauperes liberalitate distribuit. Sub Alexandro principe cum deos inanes colere juberetur, immane facinus summa Ubertate detestatur. Quaproper iterum atque iterum affecta verberibus, uncis, ungulis ferreis, testarum fragmentis lacerata, acutissimis gladiis membratim concisa, adipe ferventi peruncta, demum in amphitheatro damnatur ad bestias: a quibus illæsa divinitus evadens, in ardentem rogum injecta, incolumis pari beneficio servatur.

Ex ejus tortoribus nonnulli miraculi novitate correpti, Dei aspirante gratia, Christi fidem amplexi, post cruciatus gloriosam martyrii palmam, capitis abscissione promeruere. Ad ejusdem preces nunc terræ motibus exortis, nunc ignibus e cœlo tonante delapsis, deorum templa prostrata sunt, et simulacra consumpta. Interdum ex vulneribus lac cum sanguine erupit, splendorque nitidissimus ac suavissimus odore corpore emanavit: interdum sublimis regia in sede divinis laudibus una cum cœlitibus interesse visa est.

Hisce prodigiis, ejusque in primis constantia, acriter permotus judex, caput Virgini amputari præcepit; qua perempta, auditaque de cœlo voce, qua ad Superos evocabatur, urbs tota contremuit, ac multi idolorum cultores ad Christi fidem conversi sunt. Sacrum Martinæ corpus sedente sancto Urbano Primo, martyrio affectum, Urbano Octavo Pontifice Maximo, in pervetusta ejusdem Ecclesia, ad Mamertinum carcerem in Capitolini divi radicibus, cum sanctorum Martyrum Concordii, Epiphanii, et sociorum corporibus repertum, eodem loco in meliorem formam redacto, atque decentius ornato, magno populi concursu, totius Urbis lætitia, solemni ritu ac pompa repositum est.
Martina, a noble virgin of Rome, was the daughter of a Consul. Having lost her parents when quite a child, and being exceedingly fervent in the practice of the Christian religion, she was singularly charitable to the poor, and distributed among them her immense riches. During the reign of Alexander Severus, she was ordered to worship the false gods, but most courageously refused to commit so detestable a crime. Whereupon she was several times scourged; her flesh was torn with iron hooks and nails, and with potsherds, and her whole body was cut with most sharp swords; she was scalded with boiling oil, and was at length condemned to be devoured by wild beasts in the amphitheatre; but being miraculously left untouched by them, she was thrown on a burning pile, from which she also escaped unhurt, by the same divine power.

Some of the men that had inflicted these tortures upon her, being struck by the miracle, and touched by the grace of God, embraced the Christian faith, and, after suffering many tortures, gained the glorious palm of martyrdom by being beheaded. The prayers of Martina were powerful with God. Earthquakes shook the city, fire fell from the heavens in the midst of loud thunder, the temples and idols of the gods were overthrown and destroyed. More than once, milk flowed from her wounds together with the blood, and a most sweet fragrance was perceived by the bystanders; and sometimes she was seen raised up and placed on a beautiful throne, and singing the divine praises surrounded by heavenly spirits.

Vexed above measure by these prodigies, and above all by her constancy, the judge ordered her to be beheaded. Which being done, a voice from heaven was heard calling Martina to ascend: the whole city trembled, and many of the idolaters were converted to the faith of Christ. Martina suffered under the Pontificate of Urban the First; and under that of Urban the Eighth, her body was discovered in an ancient Church, together with those of the holy Martyrs Concordius, Epiphanius and Companions, near the Mamertine prison, at the foot of the Capitoline hill. The Church was restored and decorated, and the body of the Saint was again placed in it, with much solemnity, in the presence of a great concourse of people, and amidst shouts of joy from the whole city.

We unite into one the three hymns of Urban the Eighth, in which the holy Church prays for the deliverance of Jerusalem. It is the last cry of the Crusades.

Hymn

Martinæ celebri plaudite nomini,
Cives Romulei, plaudite gloriæ:
Insignem meritis dicite Virginem,
Christi dicite Martyrem.

Hæc dum conspicuis orta parentibus,
Inter delicias, inter amabiles
Luxus illecebras, ditibus affluit
Faustæ muneribus domus.

Vitæ despiciens commoda, dedicat
Se rerum Domino, et munifica manu
Christi pauperibus distribuens opes,
Quærit præmia cœlitum.

Non illam crucians ungula, non feræ,
Non virgæ horribili vulnere commovent :
Hinc lapsi e Superum sedibus Angeli
Cœesti dape recreant.

Quin et deposita sævitie leo,
Se rictu placido projicit ad pedes;
Te, Martina, tamen dans gladius neci
Cœli coetibus inserit.

Te, thuris redolens ara vaporibus
Quæ fumat, precibus jugiter invocat,
Et falsum perimens auspicium, tui
Delet nominis omine.

Tu natale solum protege, tu bonæ
Da pacis requiem Christianum plagis;
Armorum strepitus, et fera prælia
In fines age Thracios.

Et regum socians agmina sub crucis
Vexillo, Solymas nexibus exime,
Vindexque innocui sanguinis hosticum
Robur funditus erue.

Tu nostrum columen, tu decus inclytum,
Nostrarum obsequium respice mentium :
Romæ vota libens excipe, quæ pio
Te ritu canit, et colit.

A nobis abigas lubrica gaudia,
Tu, qui Martyribus dexter ades, Deus
Une, et Trine, tuis da famulis jubar,
Quo clemens animos beas.

Amen.
Citizens of Rome! sing to the celebrated name
of the glorious Martina.
Sing the praises of this admirable Virgin
and Martyr of Christ.

She was born of noble parents,
and was brought up in every delicacy,
surrounded by all that could pamper nature,
and with riches of a princely house at her command.

But she spurns these luxuries,
dedicates herself to the Creator of all things,
and with a liberal hand distributes her riches to the poor of Christ,
that she may gain the riches of heaven.

She shrinks not at the torturing hook, the wild beasts,
or the cruel wound-inflicting rods.
Angels descend from heaven,
comforting her with divine food.

The very lions lose their fierceness,
and tamely come crouching at her feet.
The sword, Martina! gave thee the wished-for death,
and death united thee to the choirs of heaven.

Our ceaseless prayers mount up to thee from thine altar,
where clouds of incense shroud devotion's love;
and thy blessed name banishes
that of the false deity Mars.

Do thou protect thy fatherland,
and give to Christian countries the rest of holy peace,
driving unto Thracian coasts
the din of arms and war.

Marshal the armies of princes under the banner of the Cross,
deliver Jerusalem from her chains.
Avenge innocent blood,
and once for all crush down the Turkish foe,

O thou our Patron, and our City’s Saint!
see this homage of our loving hearts.
Hear the prayers of thy Rome,
which on this festive day offers thee its hymns and reveres thy name.

O God, whose arm protects the Martyrs,
take from us the pleasures which would make us fall.
O Triune God! give to thy servants the blessed light,
wherewith thy mercy crowns the soul with bliss.

Amen.

Thus does Christian Rome hymn thy praises, O generous Martyr! and whilst praising, begs thee to protect her with thy loving care. She is safe from danger, if shielded by such watchfulness as thine. Hear her prayers, and drive far from the Holy City the enemies that would plot her ruin. She has foes more to be dreaded than they that attack her walls with the cannon of their fierce artillery; she has them who plot the destruction of her independence. Disconcert these plans of perfidy, and remember, O Martina! that the City which now asks thy aid was the mother that trained thee to be a martyr.

Obtain for us from Jesus, thy Spouse, the courage to destroy those idols of our affections, to which we are so prone to offer the sacrifice of our hearts. The enemies of our salvation are untiring in their attacks upon our frailty; oh! stretch out to us thy helping hand; that hand which made the idols of Rome tremble, is not less powerful now to stay the violence of the world that threatens to destroy our souls. Thy own brave combats have given thee a place of honour near our Redeemer’s Crib: if, like thee, we will but resist and conquer, this Mighty God will welcome us, too, and bless us. He came into this world that he might vanquish our enemies, but he requires of us to share with him the toils of the battle. Pray for us, O Martina! that our confidence in God may ever be accompanied by diffidence in ourselves, and we shall never be cowards in the great contest for heaven!


[1] Isa. ix 6.
[2] Ps. xxiii 8.

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:[1] 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;[2] 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,[3] 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.


[1] Ps. xxxix 7, 8; cited by St Paul, Heb. x 5 and following verses.
[2] St John iv x6.
[3] Rom. viii 21.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

TWO days more, and the happy season of Christmas will be over! This is the vigil of its termination, and lo! there comes to gladden us one of the grandest Martyrs of the year—Ignatius surnamed the Theophorus,[1] Bishop of Antioch. A venerable tradition tells us that this old man, who so generously confessed the faith before Trajan, was the child whom Jesus took into his arms, and showed to his Disciples as a model of that simplicity which we must all have if we would enter into the kingdom of heaven. Today he appears before us, standing near the Crib in which this same Jesus gives us his own divine lessons of humility and simplicity.

But, in this the Court of our Emmanuel, Ignatius stands near to Peter, the Feast of whose Chair we kept a few days since; for the Prince of the Apostles made him his second successor in his first See of Antioch. From so honoured a position Ignatius derived that courage which made him resist a powerful Emperor even to his face, defy the wild beasts of the amphitheatre, and triumph by a glorious martyrdom. As it were to show the supremacy of the See of Rome, Divine Providence willed that he, with his chains upon him, should go to see Peter,[2] and finish his course in the Holy City, and thus mingle his blood with that of the Apostles. Rome would have been imperfect without the glory of Ignatius’ martyrdom, which is the pride of her Coliseum, rich as it is with the blood of so many thousands of martyrs.

His chief characteristic is impetuous love for God. He has but one fear—it is that the prayers of the Romans will stay the lions from devouring him, and his desire of being united to Christ be thus denied him. Let us admire this superhuman fortitude, which shows itself thus suddenly in the pagan world, and let us acknowledge that so ardent a love of God, and so vehement a longing to possess him, could only have come from the accomplishment of the Mysteries of our Redemption, which showed man how much God loved him. The Crib of Bethlehem, even had there never been the Sacrifice of Calvary, would of itself be sufficient to convince us of all this. God comes down from heaven for the sake of his creature, man; he himself becomes Man, nay, a Child, and is laid in a manger! Such miracles of love would have sufficed to save the guilty world; how then shall they not have power to prompt men to give their whole heart to their loving God? And would it be too much if we made a sacrifice of our very lives to repay Jesus for only that much of his love which he showed us by being born among us?

The Church gives us, in the Lessons of today's Office, the brief account of our Saint given by St Jerome in his Book On Ecclesiastical Writers. The holy Doctor has inserted a few sentences from the Martyr's admirable Epistle, written to the Faithful of Rome. We would have gladly offered the whole of this Epistle to our readers, had it not been for want of space. But the passages quoted by St Jerome are some of the finest.

Ignatius, Antiochenæ Ecclesiæ tertius post Petrum Apostolum Episcopus, commovente persecutionem Trajano, damnatus ad bestias, Romam vinctus mittitur. Cumque navigans Smyrnam venisset, ubi Polycarpus, auditor Joannis, Episcopus erat, scripsit unam Epistolam ad Ephesios, alteram ad Magnesianos, tertiam ad Trallenses, quartam ad Romanos: et inde egrediens scripsit ad Philadelphios et ad Smyrnæos, et propriam ad Polycarpum, commendans illi Antiochensem Ecclesiam: in qua et de Evangelio, quod nuper a me translatum est, super persona Christi ponit testimonium.

Dignum autem videtur, quia tanti viri fecimus mentionem, et de epistola ejus, quam ad Romanos scribit, pauca ponere. De Syria usque ad Romam pugno ad bestias in mari et in terra, nocteque dieque ligatus cum decem leopardis, hoc est militibus, qui me custodiunt: quibus et cum benefeceris, pejores fiunt. Iniquitas autem eorum mea doctrina est: sed non idcirco justificatus sum. Utinam fruar bestiis, quæ mihi sunt præparatæ, quas et oro mihi veloces esse ad interitum et ad supplicia, et allici ad comedendum me, ne, sicut et aliorum Martyrum, non audeant corpus attingere. Quod si venire noluerint, ego vim faciam, ego me urgebo, ut devorer. Ignoscite mihi, filioli: quid mihi prosit, ego scio.

Nunc incipio Christi esse discipulus, nihil de his quæ videntur desiderans, ut Je sum Christum inveniam. Ignis, crux, bestiæ, confractio ossium, membrorum divisio, et totius corporis contritio, et tota tormenta diaboli in me veniant: tantum ut Christo fruar. Cumque jam damnatus esset ad bestias, et ardore patiendi rugientes audiret leones, ait: Frumentum Christi sum, dentibus bestiarum molar, ut panis mundus inveniar. Passus est anno undecimo Trajani. Reliquiæ corporis ejus Antiochiæ jacent extra Portam Daphniticam in Cœmeterio.
Ignatius was the third Bishop of the Church of Antioch, St Peter the Apostle being the first. During the persecution under Trajan, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, and was sent in chains to Rome. During this voyage, which was made by sea, he had to stop at Smyrna, where Polycarp, the disciple of St John, was Bishop. From this city, he wrote several Epistles: one to the Ephesians, a second to the Magnesians, a third to the Trallians, a fourth to the Romans. When he had left Smyrna, he addressed an Epistle to the Philadelphians and Smyrneans, and one to Polycarp himself, recommending to him his Church of Antioch. It is in this last-named Letter that he quotes from the Gospel which I have lately translated a passage bearing testimony to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I cannot pass by this mention of so great a man, without citing a few sentences from the Epistle which he wrote to the Romans. ‘ From Syria,' he says, ' even unto Rome, I am fighting with wild beasts, both by sea and land, both night and day, for I am fastened to ten leopards, I mean to the soldiers who have care of me. When I show them a kindness, they grow more brutal. Their injuries are my instruction, but I am not thereby justified. I long for the wild beasts that are prepared for me, which I heartily wish may rush upon me and torture me and devour me, and not be afraid to touch me, as has happened with other Martyrs. Nay, if they refuse to approach me, I will make them come on, I will rush upon them, that so they may devour me. Pardon me, my little children: I know what is for my own welfare.

‘Now do I begin to be a disciple of Christ, and care for nothing in this world, that so I may find Jesus. Let fire, or the cross, or wild beasts, or the breaking of my bones, or the cutting me to pieces, or the shattering of my whole body, yea, all the tortures of the devil—let them all come upon me, only let me enjoy my God.' When he was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts, and heard the roaring of the lions, his impatience to suffer made him exclaim: ‘I am the wheat of Christ; let me be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may become the pure bread.' He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan's reign. His Relics are at Antioch, in the Cemetery outside the Daphne Gate.

We find the following stanzas in the Menæa of the Greek Church, for the Feast of St Ignatius.

Theologorum verticis successor vocatus, istorum vestigia prosecutus es, ortus ab Oriente et in Occidente manifestatus, et splendens fulgoribus divinæ prædicationis, ibique, omnisapiens, e mundo quidem secessisti, ad Deum autem elevaris splendore coronatus gratiæ.

Resplendens quasi sol radiis Spiritus Sancti, mundi fines hilariter illuminasti fulgoribus certaminum tuorum, ferventer producens et veraciter scribens pietatis documenta; ideoque factus es alimentum Magistro qui alit omnia, omnibeate, benignitate continua.

Deifer Ignat i, tuum amorem Christum confovens in pectore, pretium accepisti sacrificii Evangelii Christi in perfectionem per sanguinem; ideo frumentum factus immortalis agricolæ, per dentes bestiarum molitus es, et panis jucundus ipsi demonstratus es : deprecare pro nobis, athleta beate.

O quam solida et adamantina tui anima, beatissime Ignati; tu enim ad tuum vere amatorem, inexorabile habens desiderium, dicebas : Non est in me ignis materialis, magis vero aqua viva, in me dicens intus: Veni ad Patrem. Ideo, divino Spiritu inflammatus, bestias irritasti, ad separandum te quam citius a mundo, et immittendum te ad desideratum Christum: ipsum deprecare salvare animas nostras.
Thou wast called to be the successor of the Prince of Theologians whose footsteps thou didst follow; thy rising was in the East, but thou wast manifested in the West, and there, O Ignatius, full of wisdom! thou didst shine with the splendour of thy heavenly preaching. Thou didst, indeed, depart from this world, but thou wast taken up to God, richly crowned with grace.

Resplendent as the sun with the rays of the Holy Ghost, thou didst sweetly illumine the ends of the earth with the brilliancy of thy combat, and the maxims of piety breathed forth so warmly and so truly in thy writings. Thus didst thou, most blessed one! make thyself bread to the Master who, in his ceaseless love, feeds all created things.

O Ignatius! O thou that carriest God! by cherishing Christ, thy Love, in thy breast, thou didst give thy blood for him, thus receiving the perfection of the sacrifice of the Gospel of Christ. Hereby thou wast the wheat of the divine Husbandman; and being ground by the teeth of lions, thou wast made his bread most sweet. O blessed Combatant! pray to him for us.

Most saintly Ignatius I thy soul was firm as adamant; for thou didst say to thy Beloved Jesus, with an insatiable longing: ‘ It is not material fire that burns within me—it is the voice of Him who is the living Water, saying within my breast, 'Come to the Father!' Therefore, being inflamed by the Holy Spirit, thou didst urge on the lions to take thee quickly from this world, and carry thee to Christ, the object of all thy desires. Oh! pray to him that he save our souls.

All thy desires were satisfied, O glorious Martyr! Thou hast died for Jesus—thou art with Jesus. Rome's sons and daughters filled the Coliseum; their savage joy made it tremble with their cheers as they saw thee mangled by the lions. It was the hour thou hadst prayed for; thy sacrifice for him, who had sacrificed himself for thee, is over, and thy soul is buried in his divine embrace! Generous and impetuous lover of Christ! thou wast ambitious to pay thy debt to the Crucified—the debt of suffering. It seemed to thee that thou hadst no right to his kingdom until thou hadst repaid his Passion by some cruel tortures endured for him. O worthy companion of Stephen, Sebastian, Vincent and Agnes I how rich and verdant is the palm thou holdest over the Crib! Canst thou look upon us, weak Christian cowards, and not pity us? Pray for us that we may at least be faithful to our Lord when we are persecuted by the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil; that we may at least give our hearts to his service, if we are not to be permitted to give our bodies to be tortured for his name. Thou wast chosen, when a little child, as the model of the simplicity which our Saviour was teaching to his Disciples, and this innocence never left thee: ask for us from him, who is the King of Little Children, that one of the graces of the Christmas we have been keeping may be this holy Simplicity of heart.

Successor of Peter in the See of Antioch! pray for the Churches of thy Patriarchate, that they may return to the true Faith and Catholic unity. Intercede for the holy City of Rome, which thou didst water with thy blood, and which is now in possession of thy sacred relics, that were saved from the lions’ jaws. Watch over the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline and order, of which thou hast left such admirable rules in thy Epistles; and obtain for the Church that all the members of her hierarchy may be united in the bonds of duty and love, that thus she may be beautiful in the strength of her unity and terrible to the enemies of God, as an army set in array.[3]


[1] I.e., he that carries God, or, he that is carried of God, according as the accent is placed in the Greek word.
[2] Gal.i 18.
[3] Cant. vi 3.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE Forty Days of Mary's Purification are now completed, and she must go up to the Temple, there to offer to God her Child Jesus. Before following the Son and his Mother in this their mysterious journey, let us spend our last few moments at Bethlehem, in lovingly pondering over the mysteries at which we are going to assist.

The Law commanded that a woman who had given birth to a son should not approach the Tabernacle for the term of forty days; after which time she was to offer a sacrifice for her purification. She was to offer up a lamb as a holocaust, and a turtle-dove or pigeon as a sin-offering. But if she were poor, and could not provide a lamb, she was to offer in its stead a second turtle-dove or pigeon.

By another ordinance of the Law, every first-born son was to be considered as belonging to God, and was to be redeemed by five sides, each side weighing, according to the standard of the Temple, twenty obols.[1]

Mary was a Daughter of Israel—she had given birth to Jesus—he was her First-born Son. Could such a Mother and such a Son be included in the laws we have just quoted? Was it becoming that Mary should observe them?

If she considered the spirit of these legal enactments, and why God required the ceremony of Purification, it was evident that she was not bound to them. They for whom these laws had been made were espoused to men; Mary was the chaste Spouse of the Holy Ghost, a Virgin in conceiving and a Virgin in giving birth to her Son; her purity had ever been spotless as that of the Angels; but it received an incalculable increase by her carrying the God of all sanctity in her womb, and bringing him into this world. Moreover, when she reflected upon her Child being the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all things, how could she suppose that he was to be submitted to the humiliation of being ransomed as a slave, whose life and person are not his own?

And yet the Holy Spirit revealed to Mary that she must comply with both these laws. She, the holy Mother of God, must go to the Temple like other Hebrew mothers, as though she had lost something which needed restoring by a legal sacrifice. He that is the Son of God and Son of Man must be treated in all things as though he were a servant, and be ransomed in common with the poorest Jewish boy. Mary adores the will of God, and embraces it with her whole heart.

The Son of God was only to be made known to the world by gradual revelations. For thirty years he led a hidden life in the insignificant village of Nazareth; and during all that time men took him to be the son of Joseph.[2] It was only in his thirtieth year that John the Baptist announced him, and then only in mysterious words, to the Jews, who flocked to the Jordan, there to receive from the Prophet the baptism of penance. Our Lord himself gave the next revelation, the testimony of his wonderful works and miracles. Then came the humiliations of his Passion and Death, followed by his glorious Resurrection, which testified to the truth of his prophecies, proved the infinite merits of his Sacrifice, and in a word, proclaimed his Divinity. The earth had possessed its God and its Saviour for three and thirty years, and men, with a few exceptions, knew it not. The Shepherds of Bethlehem knew it; but they were not told, as were afterwards the Fishermen of Genesareth, to go and preach the Word to the furthermost parts of the world. The Magi, too, knew it; they came to Jerusalem and spoke of it, and the City was in a commotion; but all was soon forgotten, and the Three Kings went back quietly to the East. These two events, which would, at a future day, be celebrated by the Church as events of most important interest to mankind, were lost upon the world, and the only ones that appreciated them were a few true Israelites, who had been living in expectation of a Messias who was to be poor and humble, and was to save the world. The majority of the Jews would not even listen to the Messias having been born; for Jesus was born at Bethlehem, and the Prophets had distinctly foretold that the Messias was to be called a Nazarene.[3]

The same Divine plan which had required that Mary should be espoused to Joseph, in order that her fruitful Virginity might not seem strange in the eyes of the people, now obliged her to come, like other Israelite mothers, to offer the sacrifice of Purification for the birth of the Son, whom she had conceived by the operation of the power of the Holy Ghost, but who was to be presented in the Temple as the Son of Mary, the Spouse of Joseph. Thus it is that Infinite Wisdom delights in showing that his thoughts are not our thoughts, and in disconcerting our notions; he claims the submissiveness of our confidence, until the time that he has fixed for withdrawing the veil, and showing himself to our astonished view.

The Divine Will was dear to Mary in this as in every circumstance of her life. The Holy Virgin knew that by seeking this external rite of Purification, she was in no wise risking the honour of her Child, or failing in the respect due to her own Virginity. She was in the Temple of Jerusalem what she was in the house of Nazareth, when she received the Archangel's visit; she was the Handmaid of the Lord. She obeyed the Law because she seemed to come under the Law. Her God and her Son submitted to the ransom as humbly as the poorest Hebrew would have to do; he had already obeyed the edict of the emperor Augustus in the general census; he was to be obedient even unto death, even to the death of the Cross. The Mother and the Child both humbled themselves in the Purification, and man's pride received, on that day, one of the greatest lessons ever given it.

What a journey was this of Mary and Joseph, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem! The Divine Babe is in his Mother's arms; she had him on her heart the whole way. Heaven and earth and all nature are sanctified by the gracious presence of their merciful Creator. Men look at this Mother as she passes along the road with her sweet Jesus; some are struck with her appearance, others pass her by as not worth a look; but of the whole crowd, there was not one that knew he had been so close to the God who had come to save him.

Joseph is carrying the humble offering, which the Mother is to give to the Priest. They are too poor to buy a lamb; besides, their Jesus is the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. The Law required that a turtledove or pigeon should be offered in the place of a lamb, when the mother was poor. Innocent birds! emblems of purity, fidelity and simplicity. Joseph has also provided the five sides, the ransom to be given for the First-born Son—Mary's only Son, who has vouchsafed to make us his brethren, and, by adopting our nature, to render us partakers of his.

At length the Holy Family enter Jerusalem. The name of this holy City signifies Vision of Peace; and Jesus comes to bring her Peace. Let us consider the names of the three places in which our Redeemer began, continued and ended his life on earth. He is conceived at Nazareth, which signifies a Flower; and Jesus is, as he tells us in the Canticle, the Flower of the field and the Lily of the valley,[4] by whose fragrance we are refreshed. He is born at Bethlehem, the House of Bread; for he is the nourishment of our souls. He dies on the Cross in Jerusalem, and, by his Blood, he restores peace between heaven and earth, peace between men, peace within our own souls; and, on this day of his Mother's Purification, we shall find him giving us the pledge of this peace.

Whilst Mary, the Living Ark of the Covenant, is ascending the steps which lead up to the Temple, carrying Jesus in her arms, let us be attentive to the mystery; one of the most celebrated of the prophecies is about to be accomplished in this Infant. We have already had the other predictions fulfilled, of his being conceived of a Virgin, and born in Bethlehem; today he shows us a further title to our adoration—he enters the Temple.

This edifice is not the magnificent Temple of Solomon, which was destroyed by fire during the Jewish captivity. It is the second Temple, which was built after the return from Babylon, and is not comparable to the first in beauty. Before the century is out, it also is to be destroyed; and our Saviour will soon tell the Jews that not a stone shall remain on stone that shall not be thrown down.[5] Now, the Prophet Aggeus, in order to console the Jews, who had returned from banishment and were grieving because they were unable to raise a House to the Lord equal in splendour to that built by Solomon, addressed these words to them, which mark the time of the coming of the Messias: Take courage, O Zorobabel, saith the Lord; and take courage, O Jesus, the son of Josedec, the High Priest; and take courage, all ye people of the land; for thus saith the Lord of hosts : Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations; and the Desired of all nations shall come; and I will fill this House with glory. Great shall be the glory of this House, more than of the first; and in this place I will give Peace, saith the Lord of hosts.[6]

The hour is come for the fulfilment of this prophecy. The Emmanuel has left Bethlehem; he has come among the people; he is about to take possession of his Temple, and the mere fact of his entering it will at once give it a glory, which is far above that of its predecessor. He will often visit it during his mortal life; but his coming to it to-day, carried as he is in Mary's arms, is enough for the accomplishment of the promise, and all the shadows and figures of this Temple at once pale before the rays of the Sun of Truth and Justice. The blood of oxen and goats will, for a few years more, flow on its altar; but the Infant, who holds in his veins the Blood that is to redeem the world, is at this moment standing near that very altar. Amidst the Priests who are there, and amidst the crowd of Israelites, who are moving to and fro in the sacred building, there are a few faithful ones, who are in expectation of the Deliverer, and they know that the time of his manifestation is at hand; but there is not one among them who knows that at this very moment the Messias has entered the House of God.

But this great event could not be accomplished without a prodigy being wrought by the Eternal God as a welcome to his Son. The Shepherds had been summoned by the Angel, and the Magi had been called by the Star, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem: this time it is the Holy Ghost himself who sends a witness to the Infant, now in the great Temple.

There was then living in Jerusalem an old man whose life was well nigh spent. He was a Man of desires,[7] and his name was Simeon; his heart had longed unceasingly for the Messias, and at last his hope was recompensed. The Holy Ghost revealed to him that he should not see death without first seeing the rising of the Divine Light. As Mary and Joseph were ascending the steps of the Temple, to take Jesus to the altar, Simeon felt within himself the strong impulse of the Spirit of God: he leaves his house, and walks towards the Temple; the ardour of his desire makes him forget the feebleness of age. He reaches the porch of God’s House, and there, amidst the many mothers who had come to present their children, his inspired gaze recognizes the Virgin of whom he had so often read in Isaias, and he presses through the crowd to the Child she is holding in her arms.

Mary, guided by the same Divine Spirit, welcomes the saintly old man, and puts into his trembling arms the dear object of her love, the Salvation of the world. Happy Simeon! figure of the ancient world, grown old in its expectation, and near its end. No sooner has he received the sweet Fruit of Life, than his youth is renewed as that of the eagle, and in his person is wrought the transformation which was to be granted to the whole human race. He cannot keep silence; he must sing a Canticle; he must do as the Shepherds and Magi had done, he must give testimony: Now, says he, now, O Lord, thou dost dismiss thy servant in Peace, because my eyes have seen thy Salvation, which thou hast prepared—a Light that is to enlighten the Gentiles, and give glory to thy people Israel.[8]

Immediately there comes, attracted to the spot by the same Holy Spirit, the holy Anna, Phanuel's daughter, noted for her piety, and venerated by the people on account of her great age. Simeon and Anna, the representatives of the Old Testament, unite their voices, and celebrate the happy coming of the Child who is to renew the face of the earth; they give praise to the mercy of Jehovah, who in this place, in this second Temple, gives Peace to the world, as the Prophet Aggeus had foretold.

This was the Peace so long looked forward to by Simeon, and now in this Peace will he sleep. Now, O Lord, as he says in his Canticle, thou dost dismiss thy servant, according to thy word, in Peace! His soul, quitting its bond of the flesh, will now hasten to the bosom of Abraham, and bear to the elect, who rest there, the tidings that Peace has appeared on the earth, and will soon open heaven. Anna has some years still to pass on earth; as the Evangelist tells us, she has to go and announce the fulfilment of the promises to such of the Jews as were spiritually minded, and looked for the Redemption of Israel.[9] The divine seed is sown; the Shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna, have all been its sowers; it will spring up in due time; and when our Jesus has spent his thirty years of hidden life in Nazareth, and shall come for the harvest-time, he will say to his Disciples: Lift up your eyes, and see the countries, for they are white already for the harvest:[10] pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he send labourers into his harvest.[11]

Simeon gives back to Mary the Child she is going to offer to the Lord. The two doves are presented to the Priest, who sacrifices them on the Altar; the price for the ransom is paid; the whole law is satisfied; and after having paid her homage to her Creator in this sacred place, where she spent her early years, Mary, with Jesus pressed to her bosom, and her faithful Joseph by her side, leaves the Temple.

Such is the mystery of this fortieth day, which closes, by this admirable feast of the Purification, the holy season of Christmas. Several learned writers, among whom we may mention Henschenius and Pope Benedict the Fourteenth, are of opinion that this Solemnity was instituted by the Apostles themselves. This much is certain, that it was a long-established feast even in the fifth century.

The Greek Church and the Church of Milan count this feast among those of our Lord; but the Church of Rome has always considered it as a feast of the Blessed Virgin. It is true, it is our Saviour who is this day offered in the Temple; but this offering is the consequence of our Lady's Purification. The most ancient of the Western Martyrologies and Calendars call it The Purification. The honour thus paid by the Church to the Mother tends in reality to the greater glory of her Divine Son, for He is the Author and the End of all those prerogatives which we revere and honour in Mary.

FIRST VESPERS

The holy Church sings, in this Office, the celebrated Antiphons of the Feast of the Circumcision, which speak of the great Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, and of Mary’s fruitful Virginity. We give the Psalms in the Second Vespers, inasmuch as they are more generally assisted at by the faithful than the First.

Ant. O admirabile commercium! Creator generis humani, animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est; et procedens homo sine semine, largitus est nobis suam Deitatem.
Ant. O admirable Interchange! The Creator of mankind, assuming a living Body, deigned to be born of a Virgin; and becoming Man without man's aid, bestowed on us his Divinity.

Psalm, Dixit Dominus, p. 488.


Ant. Quando natus es inefiabiliter ex Virgine, tunc impletæ sunt Scripturæ; sicut pluvia in vellus descendisti, ut salvum faceres genus humanum : te laudamus, Deus noster.
Ant. When thou wast born ineffably of the Virgin, the Scriptures were fulfilled. As dew upon Gedeon's Fleece, thou camest down to save mankind. O Lord our God! we praise thee.

Psalm, Laudate pueri, p. 489.


Ant. Rubum, quem viderat Moyses incombustum, conservatam agnovimus tuam laudabilem virginitatem : Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.
Ant. In the bush seen by Moses as burning yet unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy glorious Virginity. O Mother of God, intercede for us.

Psalm, Lætatus sum, p. 490.


Ant. Germinavit radix Jesse, orta est stella ex Jacob, Virgo peperit Salvatorem: te laudamus, Deus noster.
Ant. The Root of Jesse hath budded; the Star hath risen out of Jacob; a Virgin hath brought forth the Saviour. O Lord our God! we praise thee.

Psalm, Nisi Dominus, p. 490.


Ant. Ecce Maria genuit nobis Salvatorem, quem Joannes videns exclamavit, dicens: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi, alleluia.
Ant. Lo! Mary hath brought forth a Saviour unto us, whom John seeing, exclaimed: Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him that taketh away the sins of the world. Alleluia.

Psalm, Lauda Jerusalem, p. 491.


The Capitulum is the prophecy of Malachy, announcing the coming of the Lord, the Angel of the Testament, into his Temple.The prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Mary’s Purification.

Capitulum
(Malach. iii)

Ecce ego mitto Angelum meum, et præparabit viam ante faciem meam. Et statim veniet ad Templum sanctum suum Dominator quem vos quæritis, et Angelus testamenti, quem vos vultis.
Behold I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom ye seek, and the Angel of the testament, whom ye desire, shall come to his holy Temple.

Hymn[12]

Ave maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix cœli porta.

Sumens illud
Ave Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Evæ nomen.

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen cæcis,
Mala nostra pelle:
Bona cuncta posce.

Monstra te esse Matrem.
Sumat per te preces
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis:
Nos culpis solutos,
Mites fac et castos.

Vitam præsta puram,
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Jesum,
Semper collætemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto,
Tribus honor unus.

Amen.

. Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto,
℟. Non visurum se mortem, nisi videret Christum Domini.
Hail, Star of the Sea!
Blessed Mother of God,
yet ever a Virgin!
O happy gate of heaven!

Thou that didst receive
the Ave from Gabriel’s lips,
confirm us in peace,
and so let Eva be changed into an Ave of blessing for us.

Loose the sinner’s chains,
bring light to the blind,
drive from us our evils,
and ask all good things for us.

Show thyself a Mother,
and offer our prayers to Him,
who would be born of thee,
when born for us.

O incomparable Virgin,
and meekest of the meek,
obtain us the forgiveness of our sins,
and make us meek and chaste.

Obtain us purity of life,
and a safe pilgrimage;
that we may be united with thee
in the blissful vision of Jesus.

Praise be to God the Father,
and to the Lord Jesus,
and to the Holy Ghost:
to the Three one self-same praise.

Amen.

℣. Simeon had received an answer from the Holy Ghost,
℟. That he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Ant. Senex Puerum portabat, Puer autem senem regebat: quem Virgo peperit, et post partum Virgo permansit: ipsum quem genuit adoravit.

Oremus

Omnipotens sempiterne De, us, Majestatem tuam supplices exoramus: ut sicut unigenitus Filius tuus hodierna die cum nostræ carnis substantia in Templo est præsentatus; ita nos facias purificatis tibi mentibus præsentari. Per eumdem.
Ant. The old man carried the Child, but the Child guided the old man. A Virgin bore him, and after childbirth continued a Virgin: she adored him whom she brought forth.

Let us Pray

O Almighty and Eternal God, we humbly beseech thy divine Majesty, that as thy only Son, in the substance of our flesh, was this day presented in the Temple, so our souls, being perfectly cleansed, may become a pure oblation, and be presented to thee. Through the same, etc.

THE BLESSING OF THE CANDLES

After Terce, follows the Blessing of the Candles, which is one of the three principal Blessings observed by the Church during the year; the other two are those of the Ashes and of the Palms. The signification of this ceremony bears so essential a connection with the mystery of our Lady’s Purification, that if Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima Sunday fall on the 2nd of February, the Feast is deferred to tomorrow; but the Blessing of the Candles, and the Procession which follows it, always take place on this precise day.

In order to give uniformity to the three great Blessings of the year, the Church prescribes for that of the Candles the same colour for the vestments of the sacred Ministers as is used in the two other Blessings of the Ashes and Palms—namely, purple. Thus this solemn function, which is inseparable from the day on which our Lady’s Purification took place, may be gone through every year on the 2nd of February, without changing the colour prescribed for the three Sundays just mentioned.

It is exceedingly difficult to say what was the origin of this ceremony. Baronius, Thomassin, and others are of opinion that it was instituted towards the close of the 5th century, by Pope St Gelasius, in order to give a Christian meaning to certain vestiges still retained by the Romans of the old Lupercalia. St Gelasius certainly did abolish the last vestiges of the feast of the Lupercalia,which in earlier times the pagans used to celebrate in the month of February. Pope Innocent the Third, in one of his Sermons for the Feast of the Purification, attributes the institution of this ceremony of Candlemas to the wisdom of the Roman Pontiffs, who turned into the present religious rite the remnants of an ancient pagan custom, which had not quite died out among the Christians. The old pagans, he says, used to carry lighted torches in memory of those which the fable gives to Ceres, when she went to the top of Mount Etna in search of her daughter Proserpine. But against this we have to object that on the pagan Calendar of the Romans there is no mention of any Feast in honour of Ceres for the month of February. We therefore prefer adopting the opinion of Dom Hugh Menard, Rocca, Henschenius, and Pope Benedict the Fourteenth: that an ancient feast, which was kept in February, and was called the Amburbalia, during which the pagans used to go through the city with lighted torches in their hands, gave occasion to the Sovereign Pontiffs to substitute, in its place, a Christian ceremony, which they attached to the Feast of that sacred mystery, in which Jesus, the Light of the world, was presented in the Temple by his Virgin-Mother.

The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to St Ivo of Chartres,[13] the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by his conception or his birth, the spotless purity of his Blessed Mother. The same holy Bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus, who came to enlighten our darkness. St Anselm,[14] Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blest Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is his Soul; the flame, which bums on the top, is his Divinity.

Formerly, the faithful looked upon it as an honour to be permitted to bring their wax tapers to the Church, on this Feast of the Purification, that they might be blessed together with those which were to be borne in the procession by the Priests and sacred Ministers; and the same custom is still observed in some congregations. It would be well if Pastors were to encourage this practice, retaining it where it exists, or establishing it where it is not known. There has been such a systematic effort made to destroy, or at least to impoverish, the exterior rites and practices of religion, that we find, throughout the world, thousands of Christians who have been insensibly made strangers to those admirable sentiments of faith, which the Church alone, in her Liturgy, can give to the body of the faithful. Thus, we shall be telling many what they have never heard before, when we inform them that the Church blesses the Candles, not only to be carried in the Procession, which forms part of the ceremony today, but also for the use of the faithful, inasmuch as they draw, upon such as use them with respect, whether on sea or on land, as the Church says in the Prayer, special blessings from heaven. These blest Candles ought also to be lit near the bed of the dying Christian, as a symbol of the immortality merited for us by Christ, and of the protection of our Blessed Lady.

As soon as all is prepared, the Priest goes up to the Altar, and thus begins the Blessing of the Candles.

℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℟. cum spiritu tuo.

Oremus

Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, qui omnia ex nihilo creasti, et jussu tuo per opera apum hunc liquorem ad perfectionem cerei pervenire fecisti; et qui hodierna die petitionem justi Simeonis implesti: te humiliter deprecamur, ut has candelas ad usus hominum, et sanitatem corporum et animarum, sive in terra, sive in aquis, per invocationem tui sancti Nominis, et per intercessionem beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis, cujus hodie festa devote celebrantur, et per preces omnium Sanctorum tuorum, benedicere et sanctificare digneris; et hujus plebis tuæ, quæ illas honorifice in manibus desiderat portare, teque cantando laudare, exaudias voces de cœlo sancto tuo, et de sede Majestatis tuæ; et propitius sis omnibus clamantibus ad te, quos redemisti pretioso sanguine Filii tui, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum,
℟. Amen.

Oremus

Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum ulnis sancti Simeonis in Templo sancto tuo suscipiendum præsentasti: tuam supplices deprecamur clementiam, ut has candelas, quas nos famuli tui, in tui Nominis magnificentiam suscipientes, gestare cupimus luce accensas, benedicere et sanctificare, atque lumine supernæ benedictionis accendere digneris; quatenus eas tibi Domino nostro offerendo, digni et sancto igne dulcissimæ caritatis tuæ succensi, in Templo sancto gloriæ tuæ repræsentari mereamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.
℟. Amen.

Oremus

Domine Jesu Christe, lux vera, quæ illuminas omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum : effunde benedictionem tuam super hos cereos, et sanctifica eos lumine gratiæ tuæ; et concede propitius, ut sicut hæc luminaria, igne visibili accensa, nocturnas depellunt tenebras, ita corda nostra invisibili igne, id est Sancti Spiritus splendore illustrata, omnium vitiorum cæcitate careant : ut purgato mentis oculo, ea cernere possimus quæ tibi sunt placita, et nostræ saluti utilia; quatenus post hujus sæculi caliginosa discrimina, ad lucem indeficientem pervenire mereamur. Per te, Christe Jesu, Salvator mundi, qui in Trinitate perfecta vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
℟. Amen.

Oremus

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui per Moysen famulum tuum, purissimum olei liquorem ad luminaria ante conspectum tuum jugiter concinnanda præparari jussisti: benedictionis tuæ gratiam super hos cereos benignus infunde, quatenus sic administrent lumen exterius ut, te donante, lumen Spiritus tui nostris non desit mentibus interius. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate ejusdem Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
℟. Amen.

Oremus

Domine Jesu Christe, qui hodierna die, in nostræ carnis substantia inter homines apparens, a parentibus in Templo es præsentatus; quem Simeon venerabilis senex, lumine Spiritus tui irradiatus, agnovit, suscepit et benedixit: præsta propitius, ut ejusdem Spiritus Sancti gratia illuminati atque edocti, te veraciter agnoscamus et fideliter diligamus. Qui cum Deo Patre, in unitate ejusdem Spiritus sancti, vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
℟. Amen.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.

Let us Pray

Holy Lord, Father Almighty and Eternal God, who didst create all things out of nothing, and by the labour of the bees, following thy commands, hast brought this liquor to the perfection of wax; and who, on this day, didst accomplish the desire of the righteous Simeon; we humbly beseech thee, that by the invocation of thy most holy name, and by the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, whose festival wc this day devoutly celebrate, and by the prayers of all thy Saints, thou wouldst vouchsafe to bless and sanctify these candles, for the service of men, and for the good of their bodies and souls in all places, whether on sea or on land; and that thou wouldst be pleased mercifully to hear from thy holy temple, and from the throne of thy majesty, the prayers of this thy people, who desire to carry them in their hands with reverence, and with sacred hymns to praise thy name; and show mercy to all that cry out unto thee, whom thou hast redeemed by the precious blood of thy beloved Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
℟. Amen.

Let us Pray

O Almighty and Eternal God, who on this day wast pleased that thy only Son should be presented in the Temple, and be received into the arms of holy Simeon : we humbly beseech thy mercy to bless, sanctify, and give the light of thy heavenly benediction to these candles, which we thy servants desire to carry in honour of thy name: that by offering them to thee, our Lord God, we may be inflamed by the fire of thy sweet love, and made worthy to be presented in the holy temple of thy glory. Through the same Christ our Lord.
℟. Amen.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, the true light, that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world : pour forth thy blessing upon these candles, and sanctity them by the light of thy grace; and grant in thy mercy that as these candles by their visible light dispel the darkness of the night, so our hearts, burning with invisible fire, and enlightened by the grace of the Holy Ghost, may be delivered from all blindness of sin: that the eye of our soul being purified, we may discern those things that are pleasing to thee, and beneficial to us: that after having finished the darksome passage of this life, we may come to never-fading joys, through thee, O Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who in perfect Trinity livest and reignest God, world without end.
℟. Amen.

Let us Pray

O Almighty and Eternal God, who, by thy servant Moses, commandedst the purest oil to be prepared for lamps, continually to burn in thy presence, mercifully pour forth the grace of thy blessing on these candles: that as they supply us with visible light, so by thy assistance the light of thy Spirit may never be wanting inwardly in our souls. Through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God, world without end.
℟. Amen.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, who appearing amongst men in the substance of our flesh, wast pleased this day to be presented in the Temple by thy parents, and whom the venerable Simeon, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, publicly confessing, received in his arms, and blessed : mercifully grant that, being inspired and taught by the grace of the same Holy Spirit, we may sincerely acknowledge and faithfully love thee. Who with God the Father, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, livest and reignest God, world without end.
℟. Amen.

These five Prayers having been said, the Celebrant sprinkles the Candles with holy water, saying the Asperges in secret, and then incenses them; after which, he distributes them to both clergy and laity.[15] During the distribution, the Church, filled with emotion at the sight of these sacred symbols, which remind her of Jesus, shares in the joyous transports of the aged Simeon, who, whilst holding the Child in his arms, confessed him to be the Light of the Gentiles. She chants his sweet Canticle, separating each verse by an Antiphon, which is formed out of the last words of Simeon.

Canticle Of Simeon
(St Luke ii)

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine: * secundum verbum tuum in pace.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.

Quia viderunt oculi mei: * Salutare tuum.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.

Quod parasti: * ante faciem omnium populorum.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.

Gloria Patri et Filio, * et Spiritui Sancto.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.
Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Because my eyes have seen thy Salvation.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

After the distribution of the Candles, the following Antiphon, and verse of the 43rd Psalm, are sung.

Exsurge, Domine, adjuva nos, et libera nos propter nomen tuum.

Ps. Deus, auribus nostris audivimus: patres nostri annuntiaverunt nobis, ℣. Gloria Patri. Exsurge.
Arise, O Lord, help us, and for thy name's sake deliver us.

Ps. We have heard, O God, with our ears: our fathers have declared unto us. ℣. Glory. Arise.

If it be in the season of Septuagesima, there is also added by the Deacon, Flectamus genua, Let us kneel down; to which the Subdeacon replies, Levate, Arise.

Oremus

Exaudi, quæsumus, Domine, plebem tuam: et quæ extrinsecus annua tribuis devotione venerari, interius assequi gratiæ tuæ luce concede. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Let Us Pray

Hear thy people, O Lord, we beseech thee, and grant us to obtain those things interiorly by the light of thy grace, which thou permittest us outwardly to venerate with annual devotion, Through, etc.

THE PROCESSION

Filled with holy joy, radiant with the mystic light, excited, like the venerable Simeon, by the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the Church goes forth to meet her Emmanuel. It is this meeting which the Greek Church calls the Hypaparite,[16] under which name she also designates today’s Feast. The Church would imitate that wondrous Procession, which was formed in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day of Mary’s Purification. Let us listen to St Bernard.

On this day the Virgin-Mother brings the Lord of the Temple into the Temple of the Lord; Joseph presents to the Lord a Son, who is not his own, but the Beloved Son of that Lord himself, and in whom he is well pleased ; Simeon, the just man, confesses him for whom he had been so long waiting; Anna, too, the widow, confesses him. The Procession of this solemnity was first made by these four, which afterwards was to be made, to the joy of the whole earth, in every place and by every nation. Let us not be surprised at its then being so little; for he they carried was little! Besides, all who were in it were just, and saints, and perfect—there was not a single sinner.[17]

And yet let us join the holy procession. Let us go to meet Jesus, the Spouse of our souls, as did the Wise Virgins, carrying in our hands lamps burning with the flame of charity. Let us remember the command given us by our Lord: Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands: and you yourselves like to men who wait for their Lord.[18] Guided by faith, and enlightened by charity, we shall meet and know him, and he will give himself to us.

The holy Church opens her chants in this Procession with the following Antiphon, which is found, word for word, in the Greek Liturgy of this same Feast.

Ant. Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion, et suscipe Regem Christum : amplectere Mariam, quæ est cœlestis porta; ipsa enim portat Regem gloriæ novi luminis; subsistit Virgo, adducens manibus Filium ante luciferum genitum ; quem accipiens Simeon in ulnas suas, prædicavit populis Dominum eum esse vitæ et mortis et Salvatorem mundi.
Ant. Adorn thy bride-chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ, thy King. Salute Mary, the gate of heaven; for she beareth the King of glory, who is the new Light. The Virgin stands, bringing in her hands her Son, the Begotten before the daystar; whom Simeon receiving into his arms, declared to the people as the Lord of life and death, and the Saviour of the world.

Then is added the following Anthem, taken from the Gospel, in which is related the mysterious meeting between Jesus and Simeon.

Ant. Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi videret Christum Domini; et cum inducerent Puerum in Templum, accepit eum in ulnas suas, et benedixit Deum, et dixit: Nunc dimittis servum tuum. Domine, in pace.

℣. Cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus ut facerent secundum consuetudinem legis pro eo, ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas.
Ant. Simeon had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord ; and when his parents brought the Child into the Temple, he took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said : Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, in peace.

℣. When his parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him into his arms.

On re-entering the Church, the Choir sings the following Responsory:

℟. Obtulerunt pro eo Domino par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum: * Sicut scriptum est in Lege Domini.

℣. Postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis Mariæ, secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt Jesum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino. * Sicut scriptum est in Lege Domini. Gloria Patri. * Sicut scriptum est.
℟. They offered for him to the Lord a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons: * As it is written in the Law of the Lord.

℣. After the days of Mary’s purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. * As it is written in the law of the Lord. Glory. * As it is written.

After the Procession, the Celebrant and his Ministers put off their purple vestments, and vest in white for the Mass of the Purification. But if it be any of the three Sundays, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima, the Mass of the Feast is deferred till the morrow, as we have already explained.

MASS

In the Introit, the Church sings the glory of Jerusalem's Temple, that was this day visited by Emmanuel. Great is the Lord in the City of David, great is he on his mount of Sion. Simeon, the representative of the whole human race, receives into his arms Him that is the Mercy sent us by God.

Introit

Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio Templi tui: secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terræ: justitia plena est dextera tua.
Ps. Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis, in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus. ℣. Gloria Patri. Suscepimus.
We have received thy mercy, O God, in the midst of thy Temple: according to thy name, O God, so also is thy praise unto the ends of the earth : thy right hand is full of justice.
Ps. Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised: in the City of our God, in his holy Mountain. ℣. Glory, etc. We have.

In the Collect, the Church prays that her children may be presented, as Jesus was, to the Eternal Father; but, in order that they may meet with a favourable reception, she asks him to give them purity of heart.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, Majestatem tuam supplices exoramus, ut sicut unigenitus Filius tuus hodierna die cum nostræ carnis substantia in Templo est præsentatus, ita nos facias purificatis tibi mentibus præsentari. Per eumdem.
O Almighty and Eternal God, we humbly beseech thy divine Majesty, that as thy Only Begotten Son, in the substance of our flesh, was this day presented in the Temple, so thou wouldst grant that we too, with purified souls, may be presented unto thee. Through the same, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Malachiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. III.

Hæc dicit Dominus Deus: Ecce ego mitto Angelum meum, et præparabit viam ante faciem meam. Et statini veniet ad Templum suum Dominator quem vos quæritis, et Angelus testamenti quem vos vultis. Ecce venit, dicit Dominus exercituum ; et quis poterit cogitare diem adventus ejus? et quis stabit ad videndum eum? Ipse enim quatti ignis conflans, et quasi herba fullonum ; et sedebit conflans, et emundans argentum, et purgabit filios Levi, et colabit eos quasi aurum et quasi argentum : et erunt Domino offerentes sacrificia in justitia. Et placebit Domino sacrificium Juda et Jerusalem, sicut dies sæculi et sicut anni antiqui, dicit Dominus omnipotens.
Lesson from the Prophet Malachy.

Ch. III.

Thus saith the Lord God : Behold I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord whom you seek, and the Angel of the Testament whom you desire, shall come to his Temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts: and who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? For he is like a refining fire, and like the fuller's herb: and he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years, saith the Lord Almighty.

All the Mysteries of the Man-God have for their object the purifying of our hearts. He sends his Angel, that is, his Precursor, before his face, that he may prepare his way; and we have heard this holy Prophet crying out to us, in the wilderness: Be humbled, O ye hills! and ye valleys, be ye filled up! At length, he that is the Angel of the Testament comes in person to seal the alliance with us. He comes to his Temple, and this temple is our heart. But he is like a refining fire, that takes away the dross of metals. He wishes to renew us, by purifying us; that thus we may be worthy to be offered to him, and with him, by a perfect sacrifice. We must therefore take care, and not be satisfied with admiring these sublime mysteries. We must hold as a principle of our spiritual lue, that the mysteries brought before us, feast after feast, are intended to work in us the destruction of the old, and the creation of the new man. We have been spending Christmas; we ought to have been born together with Jesus; this new Birth is now at its fortieth day. Today, we must be offered by Mary, who is also our Mother, to the Divine Majesty, as Jesus was. The moment is come for our offering, for it is the hour of the Great Sacrifice; let us redouble the fervour of our preparation.

In the Gradual the Church again celebrates the sweet Mercy who has appeared in the Temple of Jerusalem, and who is about to show himself to us in this more perfect manifestation of the Holy Sacrifice.

Gradual

Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio Templi tui: secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terræ.

℣. Sicut audivimus, ita et vidimus in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Senex Puerum portabat: Puer autem senem regebat. Alleluia.
We have received thy Mercy, O God, in the midst of thy Temple: according to thy name, O God, so also is thy praise unto the ends of the earth.

℣. As we have heard, so have we seen in the City of our God, on his holy mountain. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. The old man carried the Child: but the Child guided the old man. Alleluia.

If the season of Septuagesima has already begun, the Church, instead of the Alleluia-verse, sings the following Tract, which is composed of the words of the venerable Simeon.

Tract

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.
℣. Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum.
, Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum.
℣. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.
Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace.
℣. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation.
℣, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.
℣. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: Postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis Mariæ, secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt Jesum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino, sicut scriptum est in Lege Domini : Quia omne masculinum adaperiens vulvam, sanctum Domino vocabitur. Et ut darent hostiam, secundum quod dictum est in Lege Domini, par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum. Et ecce homo erat in Jerusalem. cui nomen Simeon: et homo iste justus et timoratus, exspectans consolationem Isræl; et Spiritus Sanctus erat in eo. Et responsum acceperat a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem nisi prius videret Christum Domini. Et venit in Spiritu in Templum. Et cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus, ut facerent secundum consuetudinem Legis pro eo: et ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas, et benedixit Deum, et dixit : Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace; quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum, lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

At that time: After the days of the purification of Mary, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons. And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

The Holy Spirit has led us to the Temple, as he did Simeon. There we see the Virgin-Mother offering at the Altar her Son, who is the Son of God. We are filled with admiration at this fidelity of the Child and his Mother to the Law; and we feel in our hearts a desire also to be presented to our Creator, who will accept our homage as he accepted that offered him by his Divine Son. Let us at once put ourselves in those same holy dispositions, which filled the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The salvation of the world has this day gained ground; let the work of our individual sanctification also advance. From this feast forward, the mystery of the Infant-God will no longer be put before us by the Church as the special object of our devotion; the sweet season of Christmas will, in a few hours, have left us, and we shall have to follow Jesus in his combats against our enemies. Let us keep close to our dear King. Let us ever keep Simeon's spirit, and follow our Redeemer, walking in his footsteps, who is our Light. Let us love this Light, and merit, by our fidelity in using it, that it may unceasingly shine upon us.

During the Offertory, the Church speaks the praises of the grace put, by our Lord, on Mary's lips. She celebrates the favours poured out on Her, who was called by the Archangel Blessed among women.

Offertory

Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in ætenum, et in sæculum sæculi.
Grace is spread on thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever, and for ever.

Secret

Exaudi, Domine, preces nostras: et ut digna sint munera quæ oculis tuæMajestatis offerimus, subsidium nobis tuæ pietatis impende. Per Dominum.
Mercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, and grant us the assistance of thy mercy, that what we offer to thy divine Majesty may be worthy to be accepted. Through, etc.

The Preface is that of Christmas, page 64.


After having distributed the Bread of Life—the Fruit of Bethlehem—which has been offered on our Altar, and has redeemed us from all our iniquities, the holy Church again reminds her children of the sentiments which filled Simeon’s soul. But in the Mystery of love, we not only, like Simeon, receive into our arms him who is the Consolation of Israel; he enters into our very breast and soul, and there he takes up his abode.

Communion

Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi videret Christum Domini.
Simeon received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death till he beheld the Christ of the Lord.

Let us, in the Postcommunion, unite with the Church in praying that the heavenly remedy of our regeneration may not only produce in our souls a passing grace, but may, by our fidelity, fructify in us to life eternal.

Postcommunion

Quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut sacrosancta mysteria, quæ pro reparationis nostræ munimine contulisti, intercedente beata Maria semper Virgine, et præsens nobis remedium esse facias et futurum. Per Dominum.
We beseech thee, O Lord our God, that the sacred mysteries we have received to preserve our new life, may, by the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, become a remedy to us both now and for the future. Through, etc.

SECOND VESPERS

The Second Vespers of our solemnity are composed of the Psalms of our Lady's Office, which are sung to the Antiphons taken from the Gospel. Having elsewhere explained why the Church has applied these five Psalms to our Lady, we give them without any commentary. The Hymn is the same as in First Vespers,—the Ave maris Stella—which ever brings such sweet consolation to our hearts, and is so pleasing to Mary. When we come to the Magnificat, let us sing it with those sentiments wherewith our Lady herself sang it, when inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 109

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.
Virgam virtutis tuæ emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ, in splendoribus sanctorum: * ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
Juravit Dominus, et non pœnitebit eum; * tu es sacerdos in æternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.
Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die iræ suæ reges.
Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multorum.
De torrente in via bibet: * propterea exaltabit caput.

Ant. Simeon justus et timoratus exspectabat redemptionem Isræl, et Spiritus Sanctus erat in eo.
Ant. Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi videret Dominum.
The Lord said to my Lord, his Son, Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.
Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.
O Christ! the Lord, thy Father, will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints, for the Father hath said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent; he hath said, speaking of thee, the God-Man: Thou art a Priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.
Therefore, O Father! the Lord, thy Son, is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall, also, judge among nations; he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
He cometh now in humility; he shall drink, in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: therefore shall he lift up the head.

Ant. Simeon, a just man, and one that feared God, waited for the redemption of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him.
Ant. Simeon received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord.

Psalm 112

Laudate pueri Dominum: * Laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini benedictum : * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
A solis ortu usque ad occasum : * laudabile nomen Domini.
Excelsus super omnes Gentes Dominus : * et super cœlos gloria ejus.
Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster qui in altis habitat: * et humilia respicit in cœlo et in terra?
Suscitans a terra inopem: * et de stercore erigens pauperem.
Ut collocet eum cum principibus: * cum principibus populi sui.
Qui habitare facit sterilem in domo: matrem filiornm lætantem.

Ant. Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem nisi videret Dominum.
Ant. Accipiens Simeon Puerum in manibus, gratias agens benedixit Dominum.
Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth, now, and for ever.
From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.
The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.
Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth? Nay, not content with this, he deigns to come down among us.
Raising up, from his divine Crib, the needy, and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.
That he may place him with princes : with the princes of his people.
Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.

Ant. Simeon received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord.
Ant. Simeon taking the Child in his arms, giving thanks, blessed the Lord.

Psalm 121

Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: * In domum Domini ibimus.
Stantes erant pedes nostri; * in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem quæ ædificatur ut civitas: * cujus participatio ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: * testimonium Isræl ad confitendum nomini Domini.
Quia illic sederunt sedes in judicio: * sedes super domum David.
Rogate quæ ad pacem sunt Jerusalem: * et abundantia diligentibus te.
Fiat pax in virtute tua: * et abundantia in turribus tuis.
Propter fratres meos et proximos meos: * loquebar pacem de te.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri: * quæsivi bona tibi.

Ant. Accipiens Simeon Puerum in manibus, gratias agens benedixit Dominum.
Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem ! Our heart loves and confides in thee, O Mary!
Mary is like to Jerusalem, that is built as a City: which is compact together.
For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.
Because seats sat there in judgement: seats upon the house of David; and Mary is of a kingly race.
Pray ye, through Mary, for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and may abundance be on them that love thee, O Church of our God!
The voice of Mary: Let peace be in thy strength, O thou new Sion! and abundance in thy towers.
I, a Daughter of Israel, for the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, spoke peace of thee.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.

Ant. Simeon taking the Child in his arms, giving thanks, blessed the Lord.
Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Psalm 126

Nisi Dominus ædificaverit domum; * in vanum laboraverunt qui ædificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem: * frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere: * surgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum : * ecce hæreditas Domini, filii, merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittæ in manu potentis: * ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir, qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis: * non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Isræl.
Ant. Obtulerunt pro eo Domino par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keepeth it.
It is vain for you to rise before light: rise after you have sitten, you that eat of the bread of sorrow.
When he shall give sleep to his beloved: behold the inheritance of the Lord are children; the reward, the fruit of the womb.
As arrows in the hands of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.
Blessed is the man that hath filled his desire with them: he shall not be confounded, when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Ant. They offered for him to the Lord a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Psalm 147

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum: * lauda Deum tuum Sion.
Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: * benedixit filiis tuis in te.
Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: * et adipe frumenti satiat te.
Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ: * velociter currit sermo ejus.
Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: * nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas; * ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit?
Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: * flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ.
Qui annuntiat verbum suum Jacob: * justitias, et judicia sua Isræl.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: * et judicia sua non manifestavit eis.

Ant. Obtulerunt pro eo Domino par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum.
Praise the Lord, O Mary, thou true Jerusalem: O Mary, O Sion ever holy, praise thy God.
Because he hath strengthened against sin the bolts of thy gates : he hath blessed thy children within thee.
He hath placed peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the fat of corn, with Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.
Who sendeth forth by thee his Word to the earth: his Word runneth swiftly.
Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels; who shall stand before the face of his cold?
He shall send forth his Word, by Mary, and shall melt them: his spirit shall breathe, and the waters shall run.
Who declareth his Word to Jacob: his justices and his judgements to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgements he hath not made manifest to them.

Ant. They offered for him to the Lord a pair of turtles, or two young pigeons.

Capitulum
(Malach. iii)

Ecce ego mitto Angelum meum, et præparabit viam ante faciem meam. Et statini veniet ad Templum sanctum suum Dominator, quem vos quæritis, et Angelus testamenti, quem vos vultis.
Behold I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the Angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his Temple.

For the Hymn, Versicle, and Response, see page 471.


Antiphon of the Magnificat

Ant. Hodie beata Virgo Maria puerum Jesum præsentavit in templo ; et Simeon repletus Spiritu Sancto accepit eum in ulnas suas, et benedixit Deum in æternum.

Oremus

Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, Majestatem tuam supplices exoramus : ut sicut unigenitus Filius tuus hodierna die cum nostræ carnis substantia in Templo est præsentatus : ita nos facias purificatis tibi mentibus præsentari. Per eumdem.
Ant. This day the Blessed Virgin Mary presented the Child Jesus in the Temple; and Simeon, full of the Holy Ghost, took him in his arms, and blessed God for ever.

Let us Pray

O Almighty and Eternal God, we humbly beseech thy divine Majesty, that as thy Only Begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple, in the substance of our flesh: so our souls, being perfectly cleansed, may become a pure oblation, and presented to thee. Through the same, etc.

Let us now listen to the several Churches celebrating in their Liturgies the Mystery of the Purification. We will begin with the Mozarabic Breviary, where we find the five following prayers, in which the Gothic Church of Spain offers to God the sentiments inspired by the example of holy Simeon.

Prayer

Omnipotens Deus, Pater et Domine, largire credenti tuo populo pacem: ut in tempio tuo videamus Salutare tuum; quem Simeon justus ulnis suis accepit: ut, qui Lumen ad revelationem gentium exstitit, indultor criminum ipsemet credentium sentiatur. Amen.
O Almighty God, Father and Lord! grant peace unto thy faithful people; that we may see, in thy Temple, thy Salvation, whom the just Simeon took into his arms; that thus he, who was the Light for the revelation of the Gentiles, may be the pardoner of the sins of them that believe. Amen.

Prayer

Tu es, Domine, salus, et tua est salus: hanc gaudemus in nobis largitam; hanc etiam usque in finem a te petimus largiendam ; effunde, quæsumus, super populum tuum benedictionem tuam: ut privetur maledictio pænæ, et ditescat in nobis fructus justitiæ. Amen.
Thou, O Lord, art salvation, and thine is salvation. We rejoice that thou hast given it unto us; we beseech thee that thou wilt grant it unto us, even to the end. Pour out, we beseech thee, thy blessing on thy people; that so the curse of our punishment may be removed, and we grow rich in the fruits of justice. Amen.

Prayer

Beatam, Domine, illam justi tui Simeonis vocem fac in nobis pari diligentia personare: ut quia vidimus et credimus Salutare tuum, in pace, cum jusseris, dimittamur: non quo a te dimissos fines vitæ accipiamus; sed per te absolutos a debito, in fine pacem sempiternam possideamus. Amen.
Grant, O Lord, that with Simeon’s devotion, even we may sing his blessed words. May we, when thou so willest, be dismissed in peace, because we have seen and believed in thy Salvation. Dismiss us not from thyself at the close of life; but setting us free from our debts, give us in the end to possess everlasting peace. Amen.

Prayer

Vidimus gloriam tuam. Domine, gloriam quasi Unigenitum deitate, primogenitum munere: illic unicum Patris, hic in fratribus primum: illic æqualiter subsistentem, et in sinu Patris manentem, hic socios non derelinquentem : largire ergo tuo fieri participes regno, quibus es propitiatus in mundo: quibusque advenisti prius redemptor, existe in futuro remunerator. Amen.
We have seen thy glory, O Lord! the glory as of the Only Begotten in Divinity, and the First Born in grace: in heaven, the Only Son of the Father; on earth, the first among many brethren: in heaven, consubstantial with thy Father, and abiding in his bosom; on earth, dwelling with them that thou madest like to thyself. Grant, therefore, that we, to whom thou didst show such mercy on earth, may share with thee in thy kingdom. Thou hast already been our Redeemer; be, in the life to come, our Remunerator. Amen.

Prayer

Deus, qui in expiatione parientium, par turturum, vel duos pullos tibi offerri præcipis columbarum; in vivam nos præpara hostiam, qui pro nobis ipse factus es hostia: ut qui legem implere venisti, non solvere, in nobis Evangelii gratiam digneris opulentius propagare. Amen.
O God, who didst command that women who had given birth to a child should be purified by offering unto thee a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons: make us become a living victim to thee, who didst make thyself a victim for our sakes: that thus thou, who camest not to destroy, but to fulfil the law, mayst graciously infuse into us the riches of the grace of the Gospel.

The Ancient Liturgies contain but few Hymns on the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. One of these is the composition of St Paulinus, the Patriarch of Aquileia, and is not without its merits.

Hymn

Postquam Puellæ ones quadragesimus
Est adimpletus juxta Legem Domini,
Maria Virgo Jesum sanctum puerum
Ulnis sacratis templi nunc in atriis
Tulit, tremendi Genitoris unicum.

Mater beata camis sub velamine
Deum ferebat humeris castissimis.
Dulcia strictim basia sub labiis
Deique veri hominisque impresserat
Ori, jubente quo sunt cuncta condita.

Duos parentes tulerunt candidulos
Pullos columbæ lacteolis plumulis,
Dedere in templo par pro eo turturum,
Legis veluti promulgabat sanctio,
Quales perustas consecrarent hostias.

Dei sacerdos humilis, mitissimus,
Erat in urbe justus, senex optimus.
Felix, beatus Simeon cœlifluus,
Sanctoque plenus adfuit Spiramine
Sacra sub aula, nutu Dei concitus.

Hic namque dudum responsum susceperat,
Sancto docente Spiritu, quod vinculo
Mortis resolvi non possit de corpore,
Donec videret Christum vivens Domini,
Quem misit altis Genitor de soliis.

Suscepit ergo Puerum in manibus,
Egit superno Genitori gratias.
Ulnis retentans benedixit Dominum,
Amore plenus cordis cum dulcedine
Addens et alto sermone subintulit:

Dimitte tuum, Domine, nunc obsecro,
In pace servum, quia meis merui
Videre tuum Salutare visibus,
Quod præparasti pietate unica
Ante tuorum populorum faciem.

Fulgensque lumen gentium in oculis.
Gloriam plebi Isræli germinis;
Positus hic est in ruinam scandali,
Et in salutem Jacob stirpis aureæ,
Donec secreta cordium se pallient.

Ipsius ecce tuam, sancta Genitrix,
Transibit ictus gladii per animam.
Servabat alta mystica sub pectore
Maria, verba conferens alacriter,
Dictis supernis credula fideliter.

Gloria Patri Jesu magni nominis,
Et tibi, Nate Patris unigenite,
Deus, potestas, virtus super æthera:
Sancto per omne sæculum Paraclito
Laus infinita, honor et imperium.

Amen.
As soon as the Maiden's forty days were accomplished,
according to the Law of the Lord,
the Virgin Mary took the Holy Child Jesus,
the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father,
into the Temple, carrying him in her saintly arms.

The Blessed Mother carried upon her most chaste bosom
God, who was hid under the veil of our flesh.
Sweetly and fondly does she kiss the lips
of him that was true God and Man,
and at whose bidding all things were made.

The Parents took two tender
little milk-white doves,
which they offered for Jesus,
and which, by the prescription of the Law,
were consumed in a holocaust.

There lived in the City a Priest of God, who was humble and meek exceedingly:
he was just, and, though old, was without a fault :
his name was Simeon, the happy, blessed, heavenly-minded Simeon,
who, being full of the Holy Ghost,
was urged by a divine impulse to enter the holy Temple.

He had long ago received an answer from the Holy Ghost,
that he should not be loosed by death
from the bonds of his flesh,
until he had seen in this present life the Christ of the Lord,
whom the Father was to send from his high throne.

Receiving, therefore, the Child into his hands,
he gave thanks to the heavenly Father:
and as he held the Babe in his arms, he blessed his Lord.
Then also, with his heart overflowing with love,
he thus sweetly cried aloud :

‘Dismiss thy servant, Lord! dismiss me, I beseech thee,
in peace, for I have now seen
with mine eyes the Saviour
thou hast in wondrous mercy prepared
before the face of every people.

'He is the Light that is to shine upon the Gentiles,
and bring glory to the people of Israel.
He is set for the fall and the salvation of the rich race of Jacob,
as shall be seen on the day
when the secrets of hearts shall be revealed.

‘Behold, O Holy Mother! thy own soul
shall be pierced with a sword!’
Mary heard these high mysterious words,
pondering them joyfully in her heart,
for she ever took the words of heaven with ready faith.

Glory be to the Father of our Lord Jesus!
And to thee, the Only Begotten Son of the Father,
to thee, O God! be power and heavenly virtue!
And to the Holy Paraclete be infinite praise,
honour, and empire, for endless ages.

Amen.

Sequences for the Purification are as rare as Hymns in the ancient Liturgies. The one we give here is taken from the old Sequence-Book of the Monastery of St Gall, and was composed by Blessed Notker.

Sequence

Concentu parili hic te, Maria, veneratur populus, teque piis colit cordibus.
Generosi Abrahæ tu filia veneranda, regia de Davidis stirpe genita.
Sanctissima corpore, castissima moribus, omniumque pulcherrima, Virgo virginum.
Lætare Mater et Virgo nobilis, Gabrielis Archangelico quæ oraculo credula, genuisti clausa filium.
In cujus sacratissimo sanguine emundatur universitas perditissima generis, ut promisit Deus Abrahæ.
Te Virga arida Aaron flore speciosa præfigurat, Maria, sine viri semine nato floridam.
Tu porta jugiter serata, quam Ezechielis vox testatur, Maria: soli Deo pervia esse crederis.
Sed tu tamen matris virtutum dura nobis exemplum cupisti commendare, subisti remedium pollutis statutum matribus.
Ad Templum deduxisti tecum mundandum, qui tibi integritatis decus Deus homo genitus adauxit, intacta Genitrix.
Lætare, quam scrutator cordis et renum probat habitatu proprio singulariter dignam, sancta Maria.
Exsulta, cui parvulus arrisit tunc, Maria, qui lætari omnibus et consistere suo nutu tribuit.
Ergo quique colimus festa parvuli Christi propter nos facti, ejusque piæ Matris Mariæ,
Si non Dei possumus tantam exsequi tardi humilitatem, forma sit nobis ejus Genitrix.
Laus Patri gloriæ, qui suum Filium Gentibus et populo revelans, Isræl nos sociat.
Laus ejus Filio, qui suo sanguine nos Patri reconcilians, supernis sociavit civibus.
Laus quoque Spiritui Sancto sit per ævum.

Amen.
This people, with one accord, venerates thee, O Mary! and honours thee with devout heart.
Thou art the Daughter of the noble Abraham, and of the kingly race of David.
O Virgin of virgins! thou wast pure above all creatures, most spotless in thy life, and of surpassing beauty.
Be glad, Mother and Virgin most glorious! Thou didst believe what Gabriel the Archangel said unto thee—thou didst bring forth a Son, and yet wast a Virgin as before.
In the most precious Blood of this thy Son, the lost human race was cleansed, as God had promised unto Abraham.
The dry Rod of Aaron that yielded a lovely flower was a figure of thee, O Mary! who wast the Virgin-Mother of the Flower Divine.
Thou wast the ever-closed Gate, O Mary, of which Ezechiel speaks, and which was opened to none save only God.
But on this day, wishing to give us an example worthy of the Mother of every virtue, thou didst subject thyself to the law which was made but for the mothers of men.
O spotless Mother! thou didst bring with thee to the Temple, as though he could be cleansed, Him who gave thee the splendour of thy virginity ; thou didst bring with thee the God made Man.
Be glad, O Holy Mary! for He that searcheth the hearts and reins found thee to be the only worthy dwelling of his majesty.
Rejoice, O Mary! on whom the Little One whose look gives joy and being to the world, looked and smiled.
We therefore, who celebrate the Feast of Jesus, become an Infant for our sakes, and of his sweet Mother Mary,
Since we cannot, because we are weak, follow the wondrous humility of a God, let us take Mary as our model.
Praise to the Father of glory, who hath united us all into one, by revealing his Son to both the Gentiles and his people of Israel.
Praise to the Son, who hath given us fellowship with the citizens of heaven, by reconciling us by his Blood to the Father.
Praise, too, be for ever to the Holy Ghost,
Amen.


The admirable Sequence we subjoin to this is one of the finest written by Adam of Saint-Victor. We are indebted for it to Gautier, who was the first to publish it in his beautiful edition of the great lyric poet's writings. But besides the interest it has as being so fresh a treasure, our readers will find in it so much beauty, that we should not be surprised if they gave it the first place among all the Hymns to our Lady written in the Middle Ages.

Sequence

Templum cordis adornemus,
Novo corde renovemus
Novum senis gaudium,
Quod dum ulnis amplexatur,
Sic longævi recreatur
Longum desiderium.

Stans in signum populorum,
Templum luce, laude chorum,
Corda replens gloria,
Templo Puer præsentatus,
Post in cruce vir oblatus,
Pro peccatis hostia.

Hinc Salvator, hinc Maria,
Puer pius, Mater pia,
Moveant tripudium;
Sed cum votis perferatur
Opus lucis, quod signatur
Luce luminarium.

Verbum Patris lux est vera,
Virginalis caro cera,
Christi splendens cereus;
Cor illustrat ad sophiam
Qua virtutis rapit viam,
Vitiis erroneus.

Christum tenens per amorem,
Bene juxta festi morem,
Gestat lumen cereum :
Sicut senex Verbum Patris
Votis, strinxit pignus Matris
Brachiis corporeum.

Gaude, Mater genitoris,
Simplex intus, munda foris,
Carens ruga, macula ;
A dilecto præelecta,
Ab electo prædilecta
Deo muliercula.

Omnis decor tenebrescit,
Deformatur et horrescit
Tuum intuentibus:
Omnis sapor amarescit,
Reprobatur et sordescit
Tuum prægustantibus.

Omnis odor redolere
Non videtur, sed olere
Tuum odorantibus;
Omnis amor aut deponi
Prorsus solet, aut postponi
Tuum nutrientibus.

Decens maris luminare,
Decus matrum singulare,
Vera parens veritatis,
Via vitæ pietatis,

Medicina sæculi ;
Vena vini fontis vitæ,
Sitienda cunctis rite,
Sano dulcis et languenti,
Salutaris fatiscenti
Confortantis populi.

Fons signate
Sanctitate,
Rivos funde,
Nos infunde;
Fons hortorum
Internorum,
Riga montes
Arescentes,
Unda tui rivuli.

Fons redundans,
Sis inundans ;
Cordis prava
Quæque lava;
Fons sublimis,
Munde nimis,
Ab immundo
Munda mundo
Cor immundi populi.

Amen.
Let us adorn the temple of our souls,
and with new hearts bring back again|
that old man's joy,
whose long-cherished
wish is granted,
as his arms press Jesus to his breast.

This Child is the Standard of the people,
filling the Temple with light, our choirs with praise,
and our hearts with jubilee.
This day is he presented in the Temple,
and will another day, when grown to manhood, be offered on the Cross,
the offering for sin.

On one side Jesus, on the other Mary;
here the sweet Infant, and there the sweet Mother ;
oh! what a glad sight!
But let us devoutly carry within us
that work of Light
which our lighted tapers symbolize.

The Father’s Word is the light;
his virginal flesh is the wax ;
our lighted taper is Christ himself,
who enlightens our hearts with that wisdom
which rescues the sinner from the error of his way,
and sets him on virtue’s path.

He that holds Jesus by love,
carries, as our Feast would have him do,
the Candle blest with light.
So did Simeon love the Father’s Word,
and fondly carry
in his arms the Mother’s Babe.

Be glad, O Mother of thy God!
simple, pure, unwrinkled,
spotless Mother! O Maiden!
chosen by the God of thy love,
and loved by the God
of thy choice.

All beauty is clouded,
deformed, and displeasing
to him that has seen thine.
All sweetness seems bitter,
sour or insipid,
to the soul that has tasted of thine.

All fragrance, put near thine,
grows faint or foul;
all other love must cease,
or be but an afterthought,
in hearts
that feed on thine.

Beautiful Star of the sea!
Thou beautiful honour of all mothers!
O true Mother of Truth!
O path of holy living!

O remedy of the world’s ills!
Source of the fount of that Wine of Life,
for which all men should thirst,
and whose strength giving chalice
is sweet to the healthy and the sick,
and restores the drooping heart!

O Fount
sealed up in holiness!
pour out on us
thy streams!
O Fount of inner gardens!
water with thy
rivulet’s wave
our parched
and stony hearts!

Overflowing Fount!
flow out on us,
and wash
our hearts' defilements.
O Fount sublime,
limpid above
our thoughts,
cleanse thy servants’ hearts
from an unclean world.

Amen.

Now let us listen to the sweet hymn of the Greek Church. She thus celebrates the Purification in her Menæa.

In Hypapante Domini

Hodie Simeon in brachiis Dominum gloriæ recipit, quem sub nube olim Moyses contemplatus est in Sina visibili tabulas sibi dantem; hic est qui in Prophetis loquitur et Legis factor; hic est quem David annuntiat, hic in omnibus terribilis, hic habens magnam ditissimamque misericordiam.

O thesaure sæculorum, vita omnium, propter me infans effectus es, sub lege factus es tu qui olim sculpsisti in tabulis legem in Sina, ut omnes solveres ab antiqua servitute legis, Gloria miserationi tuæ, Salvator; gloria regno tuo, gloria dispensationi tuæ, tu solus es philanthropus.

Illum qui fertur in curru Cherubim et hymnificatur in canticis Seraphim, ferens ulnis Deipara Maria nuptinescia ex se incarnatum, legislatorem adimplentem legis ordinem, dedit manibus senis sacerdotis; ferens autem ille Vitam, vitæ deprecabatur solutionem dicens: Domine, nunc dimitte me, ut nuntiem Adamo quia vidi immutabilem parvulum Deum, qui est ante sæcula, et Salvatorem mundi.

Procumbens senex et vestigiis intus insistens nuptinesciæ et Deimatris: Ignem, inquit, fers, o pura; infantem cum tremore in brachiis portas Deum luminis inoccidui, pacisque Dominum.

Mundatur a Seraphim, dum accipit Isaias carbunculum, aiebat senex Deimatri; tu autem manibus quasi manubrio accendis me, donans quem fers Luminis inoccidui pacisque Dominum.

Ad Deiparam curramus, o bonæ voluntatis, ad videndum illius Filium quem ad Simeon ipsa deducit, quem e cœlo incorporati cernentes obstupescunt, dicentes: Mirabilia videmus nunc, et incredibilia et incomprehensibilia. Qui Adam finxit olim portatur ut infans; qui locum nescit collocatur in senilibus ulnis; qui ineffabili versatur Patris sinu volens circumscribitur carne et non divinitate, qui solus est philanthropus.
This day Simeon receives into his arms the Lord of glory, whom heretofore Moses saw under a cloud on Mount Sina, when he received the tables of the Law. This is he that speaks in the Prophets, and is the Maker of the Law. This is he whom David foretells: he is the terrible God: his mercy is great and exceeding rich.

O thou the Treasure of all ages, and the Life of all creatures! thou, for my sake, becamest an Infant; thou who heretofore didst engrave the Law on the tables on Sina, wast made under the Law, so to give all men freedom from the ancient servitude of the Law. Glory, O Jesus! be to thy mercy. Glory be to thy kingdom! Glory be to thy dispensation, O thou the only lover of mankind!

Mary, the Virgin-Mother of God, carries in her arms him that is seated on the chariot of Cherubim, and is hymned in the songs of Seraphim: him that was made incarnate from her : him, the Lawgiver, who now is observing the ordinance of the Law. She gave him into the arms of the aged Priest, who, as he thus held the Life, prayed to be loosed from life, saying: 'Now, O Lord, dismiss me, that I may tell Adam how I have seen the immutable God, who is from all eternity, made a Little Child, and Saviour of the world.'

The old man prostrates, and following in spirit the steps of the Virgin-Mother of God, he says: 'Thou art carrying Fire, O pure one! Thy trembling arms are bearing the Infant who is the God of neversetting light, and the Lord of peace.'

'Isaias was cleansed when he took from the Seraph the burning coal,' said the old man to the Mother of God: 'but thou inflamest me with the instrument of thy hands, giving me him thou holdest, the Lord of Light that setteth not, and of peace.'

O ye that are of good-will! let us all run to the Mother of God to see her give her Child to Simeon, which the heavenly Spirits seeing, say in deepest wonder: 'This day we behold wonderful, incredible, incomprehensible things. He, that heretofore made Adam is carried as a Babe! He whom no space may hold is held in an old man's arms! He that dwells in the bosom of the Father wills to have, by flesh, the limits Divinity could not have! Who but God could bear towards man such love as this?’

We adore and thank thee, O Emmanuel! on this happy day, which saw thee enter into the Temple of thy Majesty, carried in the arms of thy incomparable Mother. Thou comest into the Temple that thou mayst offer thyself for our sakes. Thou deignest to be redeemed by the payment of a ransom, for one day thou hast to pay an infinite ransom for us. Thou comest now to offer a ceremonial sacrifice, because thou art soon to abolish every sacrifice by the one that alone is perfect. Thou enterest today into Jerusalem which is to be the place of thy passion and death. Our salvation urges thee on. Thou wast born for us, but thou art not satisfied; and every gift of this thy fortieth day must needs bespeak the future proofs thou hast yet to give of the love thou bearest us.

O thou, the Consolation of Israel on whom the Angels love to look! thou enterest into the Temple, and they who were living in expectation of their Redeemer redouble their hope. Oh! that we had something of that love which burned in Simeon's heart as he held thee in his arms! All he lived for was to see thee, O Divine Infant! and having seen thee, he longs to die. One brief moment's sight of thee makes him sleep in peace! What must it be to possess thee eternally, when a glance could satisfy the longings of a whole life!

But, O Saviour of our souls! if Simeon was thus satisfied by seeing thee present thyself for mankind in the Temple, how ought we to love thee, we who have seen the final consummation of thy Sacrifice? The day will come when, as thy devout servant Bernard expresses it, thou wilt be offered, not in the Temple and on Simeon's arms, but outside the City-gates and on the arms of the Cross. On that day, man will not offer up the blood of a victim for thee, but thou wilt offer up thine own Blood for man. Now it is the morning; then, it will be the evening sacrifice. Now thou art an Infant; then thou wilt have attained the fulness of manhood; and having loved us from the beginning, thou wilt love us even unto the end.

What return shall we make to thee, O Divine Infant? for thou bearest within thy heart, during this thy first offering, the same infinite love of us wherewith thou wilt consummate thy last! Can we do less than offer ourselves to thee from this very day to be wholly thine? Thou givest thyself to us in the Adorable Sacrament, with more perfection than thou didst give thyself to Simeon; and we receive thee, not in our arms, but in our very breast. Dismiss us, dear Jesus! break our chains. Give us thy Peace, and may we, like Simeon, enter now on a new life. In order to imitate thy virtues, and be united with thee, we have endeavoured during this holy season to gain that humility and simplicity which thou wishest to see within us. Assist us to persevere in the spiritual life, that like thee we may grow in age and wisdom before both God and men.[19]

And thou, O Mary! purest of Virgins, and Mother blessed above all mothers! O Daughter of the Prince! how beautiful are thy steps[20] on this day of thy Purification, when thou enterest the Temple with Jesus in thy arms! Who could tell the joy and the humility of thy maternal heart, in this offering thou makest to the Eternal Father of his and thy Son? Looking around on the mothers who have come for their own purification on this same day, thou rejoicest at the thought that the babes they are now presenting in the Temple will one day see and know Jesus, their Saviour. What a privilege, that these children should be presented to the Lord together with thine! What honour for these mothers that they should be purified in thy holy company! If the Temple is glad at seeing enter within its walls the God in whose honour it has been built ; part of its joy is to see him throned there in thy arms, who art the holiest of creatures, the one child of Eve that has never known sin, the Virgin-Mother of God.

But whilst humbly keeping within thyself the secrets of the Eternal Father, and mingled in the throng of these Hebrew mothers, the holy Simeon advances towards thee, O Mary! Knowing that the Holy Ghost has revealed the mystery to him, thou affectionately placest in his hands the God of heaven and earth, who has come to be the Consolation of Israel. The holy Anna, too, approaches thee, and thou lovingly receivest her. Perhaps, in thy younger years, thou hadst received from her, in this very Temple, the affection and care of a second mother. Thy heart thrills with delight at hearing these two venerable Saints extolling God's faithfulness to his promises, and the glory of thy Child, and the splendour of the Light which is now to be shed forth on all nations. The happiness of thus hearing the praises of the God who is thy Child, fills thee with joy and thankfulness: but oh! what a sword of grief pierces thy heart, dear Mother, at the words of Simeon as he gives thee back thy Babe! Henceforth thou must weep as often as thou lookest on Him. He is to be a sign of contradiction,[21] and the wounds men are to give him are to wound thy soul! The blood of victims which now is offered in the Temple one day must cease to flow, but it must be replaced by the Blood of the Child who is in thine arms.

O Mother of Sorrows! we were the cause of this. It was our sins that changed thy joy into mourning. And yet thou lovest us, because Jesus loves us! Love us now and for ever. Intercede for us with thy Son. Pray that we may never lose the graces granted us during these forty happy days. These graces drew us to the Crib of thy Child, and thy affection encouraged us to stay. We are resolved to maintain our position near Jesus, following him through all the mysteries which are now to succeed this of his Infancy. We are resolved to be faithful disciples of this dear Master, and follow him as thou didst, even to the foot of that Cross which was revealed to thee on this day.


[1] Lev. xii: Num. iii 47. The Obol was about three halfpence of English money.
[2] St Luke iii 23.
[3] St Matt. ii 23.
[4] Cant. ii 1.
[5] St Luke xxi 6.
[6] Agg. ii 5. 7, 8, 10.
[7] Dan. x 11.
[8] St Luke ii 29 and following versts.
[9] St Luke ii 38.
[10] St John iv 33.
[11] St Luke x 2.
[12] In the Monastic Breviary, it is preceded by this Responsory: ℟. breve. Ave Maria, gratia plena, * Dominus tecum. Ave. ℣. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. Dominus. Gloria Patri. Ave.
[13] In his Second Sermon on the Purification.
[14] Commentary on St Luke.
[15] In receiving the Candle, the Faithful should kiss first the Candle itself, and then the Priest’s hand.
[16] Or Hypanic.
[17] First Sermon On the Purification.
[18] St Luke xii 35, 36.
[19] St Luke ii 52.
[20] Cant. vii 1.
[21] St Luke ii 34.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Now that the Church has closed the joyous period of her forty days of Christmas, and is putting us through a course of meditations on subjects which are to excite a spirit of penance within us, each of the saints’ feasts must produce an impression, which shall be in accordance with that spirit. From this day till Easter, we will study the saints, as they come to us, in this special light: how much they laboured and suffered during their pilgrimage of life, and what was the plan they took for conquering the world and the flesh. ‘They went,’ says the psalmist, ‘and wept, casting their seeds: but coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.’[1] It shall be the same with us; and at the end of our lenten labours, our risen Jesus will hail us as His living, regenerated children.

The calendar of this portion of the year abounds with martyrs; and, at the very outset, we meet with one of the most celebrated of these glorious champions of Christ. The scene of his pastoral virtues and of his martyrdom was Sebaste, a city of Armenia, the same that will give us forty martyred soldiers on a single day. The devotion to St. Blase is, even to this day, most fervently kept up in the east, especially in Armenia. The western Churches Boon began to love and honour his memory, and so universally, that we might call him one of the most popular of our saints. His feast, however, with us is only a simple, and the Church of Rome has given only one lesson on his life.

Blasius, Sebaste in Armenia cum virtutum laude floreret, ejusdem civitatis episcopus eligitur. Qui quo tempore Diocletianus insatiabilem crudelitatem in Christianos exercebat, se in speluncam abdidit montis Argæi, ubi tamdiu latuit, dum ab Agricolai præsidis militibus venantibus deprehensus, et ad præsidem ductus, ejus jussu conjectus est in vincula. Quo in loco multos ægrotos sanavit, qui ad Blasium, ejus fama sanctitatis adducti, deferebantur. In illis puer fuit, qui, desperata a medicis salute, transversa spina fauci bus inhærente, animam agebat. Productus autem ad præsidem Blasius semel et iterum, cum nec blanditiis, nec mims adduci posset ut diis sacrificaret, primum virgis cæsus, deinde in equuleo ferreis pectinibus dilaniatus est: postremo, dempto capite, illustre fidei testimonium Christo Domino dedit, tertio Nonas Februarii.
Blase, whose signal virtues made him dear to the people of Sebaste in Armenia, was chosen bishop of that city. When the emperor Diocletian waged his cruel persecution against the Christians, the saint hid himself in a cave on Mount Argeus, and there he remained some time concealed, but was at length discovered by some soldiers of the governor Agricolaus, while they were hunting. They led him to the governor, who gave orders that he should be put into prison. During his imprisonment, many sick people, attracted by the reputation of his sanctity, came to him, and he healed them. Among these was a boy, whose life was despaired of by the physicians, on account of his having swallowed a bone, which could not be extracted from his throat. The saint was twice brought before the governor, but neither fair promises nor threats could induce him to offer sacrifice to the gods. Whereupon, he was first beaten with rods, and then his flesh was torn with iron hooks while he lay stretched on the rack. At length he was beheaded, and nobly gave testimony to the faith of Christ our Lord, on the third of the Nones of February (February 3).

Accept, O glorious martyr, the praise which we, too, offer thee in union with that given thee by the whole Church. In return for this homage of our veneration, look down upon the Christian people, who are now preparing to enter on the season of penance, and to be converted to the Lord their God by holy compunction and tears. We ask it of thee by thine own combat: assist us in the one for which we are preparing. When duty required thee to undergo tortures and death, it found thee ready and brave; our duty is expiation by penance, and thy prayers must get us courage. Our enemies are not more cruel than thine, but they are more treacherous, and if we spare them we are lost. Obtain for us that heavenly assistance, which enabled thee to conquer. We are children of the martyrs; God forbid we should be degenerate! Pray, too, O holy pontiff, for the country thou didst water with thy blood. Armenia lost the faith for which thou didst lay down thy life. Intercede for her, that she may be restored to the Church, and let her conversion bring consolation to the few that have remained orthodox and faithful.


[1] Ps. cxxv. 6, 7.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The saintly bishop, whose feast we keep to-day pressingly invites us, by his austere life and his burning zeal for the salvation of souls, to procure, at all costs, our own reconciliation with the divine justice. We are indebted for this feast to a member of the illustrious family of the Corsini, Pope Clement XII., who, however, was but the instrument used by divine Providence. The holy bishop of the little town of Fiesole ever sought to be unknown during his life, and God, who willed that he should be glorified by the whole Church, inspired the sovereign Pontiff to inscribe his name among the saints of the universal calendar. Andrew the saint was once a sinner; his example will encourage us in the work of our conversion.

Let us read the account of his virtues as given us by the Church.

Andream Florentiæ ex nobili Corsinorum familia natura parentes precibus a Deo impetrarunt, et beatæ Virgini spoponderunt. Qualis autem futurus esset, divino præsagio, antequam nasceretur, ostensum est: nam mater gravida sibi visa est per quietem lupum edidisse, qui, ad Carmelitarum ædem pergens, in ipso templi vestibuio statim in agnum conversus est. Adolescens pie et ingenue educatus, cura sensim ad vitia declinaret, sæpe a matre increpatus fuit. Ubi autem cognovit, se parentum voto Deiparæ Virgini dicatum fuisse, Dei amore succensus, deque visu matris admonitus, Carmelitarum institutum amplexus est, in quo variis tentationibus a dæmone vexatus, numquam tamen potuit a religionis proposito dimoveri. Mox Lutetiam missus, emenso studiorum curriculo, et laurea donatus in patriam revocatur, suique Ordinis regimini in Etruria præficitur.

Interea Fesulana Ecclesia suo viduata pastore eum sibi episcopum elegit: quo munere se indignum oestimans, diu latuit iguotus, donec pueri voce mirabiliter loquentis proditus, et extra urbem inventus, ne divinæ contradiceret voluntati episcopatum suscepit. Ea dignitate auctus, humilitate, quam semper coluerat, impensius incubuit et pastorali solicitudini, misericordiam in pauperes, liberalitatem, orationis assiduitatem, vigilias, aliasque virtutes adjunxit, et spiritu etiam prophetico clarus fuit, adeo ut ejus sanctitas ab omnibus celebraretur.

His permotus Urbanus quintus ad sedandas Bononiæ turbas Andream legatum misit: quo in munere multa perpessus, civium odia, quæ ad internecionem exarserant, summa prudentia restinxit; tum restituta tranquillitate ad propria reversus est. Nec multo post assiduis laboribus, et voluntaria carnis maceratione confectus, obitus die a beata Virgine sibi prædicto, ad cœlestia regna migravit, anno Domini millesimo trecentesimo septuagesimo tertio, ætatis suæ septuagesimoprimo. Quem Urbanus octavus multis magnisque miraculis clarum, sanctorum numero adscripsit. Ejus corpus Fiorentiæ in ecclesia sui Ordinis quiescit, et maxima civium veneratione colitur: quibus non semel in præsenti discrimine præsidio fuit.
Andrew was born at Florence, of the noble Corsini family. He was the fruit of his parents’ prayers, and was consecrated by them to the blessed Virgin. His future was thus shown by God to the mother. She dreamt that she had given birth to a wolf, which went to the church of the Carmelites, and, as it crossed the threshold, was suddenly changed into a lamb. Though his early education was calculated to form him to piety, and to everything that suited his high birth, he, by degrees, fell into a vicious manner of life, notwithstanding the frequent reproaches made him by his mother. But as soon as he was told that he had been consecrated by his parents to the Virgin Mother of God, and heard of his mother’s vision, he entered the Order of Carmelites. The devil ceased not to molest him, even then, with manifold temptations; but nothing could make him change his resolution of entering the religious life. Shortly after his profession, he was sent to Paris for a course of study; having completed it, and taken his degrees, he returned to Italy, and was made superior of his Order in the province of Tuscany.

It happened about that time, that the Church of Fiesole lost its bishop, and Andrew was chosen as his successor. But looking on himself as unworthy of such a dignity, he hid himself so that no one knew where he was. But a child, who had not yet received the use of speech, miraculously revealed the place, outside the town, where he was: upon which the saint, fearing that further refusal would be a resistance to the divine will, was consecrated bishop. Thus exalted to so great a dignity, he applied himself more than ever to the practice of humility, which had always been his favourite virtue. To the zeal of a good pastor, he united tender compassion for the poor, abundant almsgiving, a life of prayer, long watchings, and other virtues; all which, together with the gift of prophecy he had received, gained for him a great reputation for sanctity.

Pope Urban V., hearing of his great merits, sent him as his legate to Bologna, that he might quell a sedition that had arisen in that city. The fulfilment of this charge cost him much suffering; but such was his prudence, that he succeeded in restoring peace among the citizens, and so preventing further bloodshed; he then returned to Fiesole. Not long after this, being worn out by ceaseless labours and bodily mortifications, and having been told by the blessed Virgin of the precise day of his death, he passed from this life to the kingdom of heaven, in the year of our Lord thirteen hundred and seventy three, and in the seventy-first year of his age. Great was the reputation of his name on account of the many and wonderful miracles wrought through his intercession, and at length he was canonized by Urban VIII. His body reposes in the church of his Order at Florence, where it is held in great veneration, the citizens having often experienced his protection in times of public calamity.

Hear, O holy pontiff, our prayer: we are sinners, and would learn from thee how we are to return to the God we have offended. His mercy was poured out upon thee; obtain the same for us. Have pity on Christians throughout the world, for the grace of repentance is now being offered to all; pray for us, that we may be filled with the spirit of compunction. We have sinned; we sue for pardon; intercession like thine can win it for us. From wolves, change us into lambs. Strengthen us against our enemies; obtain for us an increase of the virtue of humility, which thou hadst in such perfection; and intercede for us with our Lord, that He crown our efforts with perseverance, as He did thine; that thus we may be enabled to unite with thee in singing, for ever, the praises of our Redeemer.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Since the commencement of the ecclesiastical year, we have kept the feasts of two out of the four illustrious virgins whose names are daily honoured in the holy Sacrifice of the Lamb: the third comes to-day, lighting up the heaven of the Church with her bright soft rays. Lucy first, then Agnes, and now the gracious visit of Agatha. The fourth, Cecily, the immortal Cecily, is to be one of that magnificent constellation which gives such splendour to the closing of the year. To-day, then, let us keep a feast in honour of Agatha, the virgin daughter of that same fair Sicily which can boast of her Lucy. We must not allow the holy sadness of our present season to take aught from the devotion we owe to our saint. The joy wherewith we celebrate her merits will lead us to study her virtues. She will repay us by her prayers; she will encourage us to persevere in the path which is to bring us to the God she so nobly loved and served, and with whom she is now for ever united.

Let us begin by reading what the Church tells us of the virtues and combats of this glorious bride of Christ.

Agatha virgo, in Sicilia nobilibus parentibus nata, quam Panormitani et Catanenses civem suam esse dicunt, in persecutione Decii imperatoris Catanæ gloriosi martyrii coronam consecuta est. Nam cum pari pulchritudinis et castitatis laude commendaretur, Quintianns, Sicilise prætor, ejus amore captus est. Sed cum, tentata modis omnibus ejus pudicitia, Agatham in suam sententiam perducere non posset, Christianæ superstitionis nomine comprehensam, Aphrodisiæ cuidam mulieri depravandam tradit. Quæ Aphrodisiæ consuetudine cum de constantia colendæ Christianæ fidei, et servandæ virginitatis, romoveri non posset, nuntiat illa Quintiano, se in Agatha operam perdere. Quare ille ad se virginem adduci jubet: et nonne, inquit, te pudet nobili genere natam humilem et servilem Christianomm vitam agere? Cui Agatha: Multo præstantior est Christiana humilitas et servitus, regum opibus, ac superbia.

Quamobrem iratus prætor hanc ei optionem dat, velitne potius venerari deos, an vim tormentorum subire. At illa constans in fide, primum colaphis cæsa mittitur in carcererem: unde postridie educta, cum in sententia permaneret, admotis candentibus laminis in equuleo torquetur: tum ei mamilla abscinditur. Quo in vulnere Quintianum appellans virgo: Crudelis, inquit, tyranne, non te pudet, amputare in femina, quod ipse in matre suxisti? Mox conjecta in vincula, sequenti nocte a sene quodam, qui se Christi apostolum esse dicebat, sanata est. Rursum evocata a prætore, et in Christi confessione perseverans, in acutis testulis, et candentibus carbonibus ei subjectis volutatur.

Quo tempore ingenti terræ motu urbs tota contremuit, ac duo parietes comientes, Silvinum et Falconium intimos prætoris familiares oppresserunt. Quare vehementer commota civitate, veritus populi tumultum Quintianus, Agatham semimortuam clam reduci imperat in carcerem. Quæ sic Deum precata: Domine, qui me custodisti ab infantia, qui abstulisti a me amorem sæculi, qui me carnificum tormentis superiorem præstitisti, accipe animam meam. Ea in oratione migravit in cœlum Noms Februarii: cujus corpus a Christianis sepelitur.
The holy virgin Agatha was born in Sicily, of noble parents. The cities of Palermo and Catania both claim the honour of having been the place of her birth. She received the crown of a glorious martyrdom at Catania, under the persecution of the Emperor Decius. Her beauty, which was as great as her chaste and innocent life was praiseworthy, attracted the notice of Quintianus, the governor of Sicily. He spared no means whereby to compass his lustful designs upon the innocent virgin; but seeing that she scorned his offers, he had her apprehended as being guilty of the Christian superstition, and gave her in charge of a woman, named Aphrodisia, who was noted for her power of alluring to evil. But finding that her words and company had no effect on the holy maiden, and that she was immovable in her resolution to maintain both her faith and her virginity, Aphrodisia told Quintianus that she was but losing her time with Agatha. Whereupon, he ordered the virgin to be brought before him, and he said to her: ‘Art not thou, that art so noble by birth, ashamed to lead the life of a base and slavish Christian?’ She replied: 'Better by far is the baseness and slavery of a Christian than the wealth and pride of kings.'

Angered by her words, the governor bids her choose one of these two: adoration of the gods, or sharp tortures. On her refusal to deny her faith, he ordered her to be buffeted, and cast into prison. On the following day, she was again led to trial. Finding that she was still firm in her purpose, they hoisted her on the rack, and laid hot iron plates on her flesh, and cut off her breast. While suffering this last torture, she thus spoke to Quintianus: ‘Cruel tyrant, art thou not ashamed to cut a woman’s breast, who wast thyself fed at the breast of thy mother?' She was then sent back to prison, where, during the night, a venerable old man, who told her that he was the apostle of Christ, healed her. A third time she was summoned by the governor, and being still firm in confessing Christ, she was rolled upon sharp potsherds, and burning coals.

Suddenly, the whole city was shaken by a violent earthquake, and two of the governor’s intimate friends were killed by the falling of two walls. The people were in such a state of excitement that the governor began to fear a sedition, and therefore ordered the almost lifeless Agatha to be secretly conveyed back to her prison. She thus prayed to our Lord: 'O God! who hast watched over me from my infancy, who hast separated me from the love of this world, and hast given me strength to bear the tortures of my executioners, receive my soul!’ Her prayer being ended, her soul took its flight to heaven, on the Nones of February (February 5), and the Christians buried her body.

The ancient books of the liturgy abound with verses in honour of St. Agatha; but most of them are so poor in sentiment that we pass them over. The following beautiful hymn is the composition of Pope St. Damasus.

Hymn

Martyris ecce dies Agathæ
Virginis emicat eximiæ:
Christus eam sibi qua sociat,
Et diadema duplex decorat.

Stirpe decens, elegans specie,
Sed magia actibus atque fide,
Terrea prospera nil reputans,
Jussa Dei sibi corde ligans.

Fortior hæc trucibusque viris,
Exposuit sua membra flagris,
Pectore quam fuerit valido
Torta mamilla docet patulo.

Deliciæ cui carcer erat,
Pastor ovem Petrus hanc recreat:
Inde gavisa magisque flagrans,
Cuncta flagella cucurrit ovans.

Ethnica turba rogum fugiens
Hujus et ipsa meretur opem;
Quos fidei titulus decorat,
His Venerem magis ipsa premat.

Jam renitens quasi sponsa polo,
Pro miseris supplica Domino,
Sio tua festa coli faciat,
Te celebrantibus ut faveat.

Gloria cum Patre sit Genito,
Spirituique proinde sacro,
Qui Deus unus et omnipotens
Hanc nostri faciat memorem.

Amen.
Lo! the bright festal day
of the glorious martyr and virgin Agatha,
when Christ took her to himself,
and a double crown wreathed her brow.

Though noble by birth and blessed with beauty,
her grandest riches were her deeds and her faith.
Earthly prosperity was nothing in her eyes,
but her whole heart was on the precepts of her God.

Her bravery tired out the men that tortured her;
she flinched not as they lashed her limbs:
and her wounded breast
reveals a dauntless heart.

Her prison was her paradise,
where the pastor Peter heals his bleeding lamb;
and thence once more she runs to suffer,
gladder and braver at every wound.

A pagan city once in flames
was saved by Agatha’s prayer.
The same can check, in Christian hearts,
the threatening fire of lust.

Now that thou art in heaven, clad as a bride of Christ,
intercede with him for us miserable sinners,
that he grant us so to spend thy feast,
that our celebration may draw down his grace.

Glory be to the Son, together with the Father
and the Holy Ghost.
May the one almighty God
grant that this his saint be mindful of us.

Amen.

How lovely are thy palms, O Agatha! But how long and cruel was thy combat for them! The day was thine; thy faith and thy virginity triumphed, but the battle-field streamed with thy blood, and thy glorious wounds bear testimony to the angels how stern was the courage of thy fidelity to Jesus thy Spouse. When thine enemies left thee, it was to Him thou didst look up; and then thy soul flew to its rest, in the bosom of thy King and God. The whole Church keeps feast to-day, praising her Lord in thee, great martyr and virgin! She knows the love thou bearest her, and how, amidst the joys of heaven, her interests and her wants are the object of thy prayers. Thou art our sister; be, too, our mother, by interceding for us. Centuries have passed away since that day, whereon thy soul quitted the body thou hadst sanctified by purity and suffering; but the great battle between the spirit and the flesh is still waging here on earth, and will do so to the end of time. Assist us in the struggle; keep up within our hearts the holy fire, which the world and our passions are ever seeking to quench.

It is now the season when every Christian should renew his whole being by repentance and compunction. We know the power of thy prayer; let it procure us these gifts: the fear of God, which keeps down the workings of corrupt nature; the spirit of penance, which repairs the injuries caused by our sins; and a solid love for our dear Lord, which sweetens the yoke, and ensures perseverance. More than once a whole people has witnessed how a relic of thine, thy veil, has checked the stream of lava which rolled down the sides of Etna; we are threatened with a torrent of vice, which will drive the world back to pagan corruption, unless divine mercy stay its wild fury; and prayers such as thine can obtain it for us. Delay not, O Agatha! each day gives strength to the danger. Not a nation but is now infected with the poison of a literature that is infidel and immoral; by thy prayers keep the poisonous cup from them that have not tasted, neutralize its power in them that have drunk its venom of death. Oh! spare us the shame of seeing our Europe the slave of sensuality, and the dupe of hell.

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