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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.

Introduction to the Season of advent

Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS

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

Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima

Introduction to the Season of Lent

Introduction to passiontide and holy week

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

To-day, Joseph, the spouse of Mary, the fosterfather of the Son of God, comes to cheer us by his dear presence. In a few days hence, the august mystery of the Incarnation will demand our fervent adoration: who could better prepare us for the grand feast, than he that was both the confidant and thd faithful guardian of the divine secret?

The Son of God, when about to descend upon this earth to assume our human nature, would have a Mother; this Mother could not be other than the purest of Virgins, and her divine maternity was not to impair her incomparable virginity. Until such time as the Son of Mary were recognized as the Son of God, His Mother’s honour had need of a protector: some man, therefore, was to be called to the high dignity of being Mary’s spouse. This privileged mortal was Joseph, the most chaste of men.

Heaven designated him as being the only one worthy of such a treasure: the rod he held in his hand in the temple suddenly produced a flower, as though it were a literal fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaias: ‘There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.’[1] The rich pretenders to an alliance with Mary were set aside; and Joseph was espoused to the Virgin of the house of David, by a union which surpassed in love and purity everything the angels themselves had ever witnessed.

But he was not only chosen to the glory of having to protect the Mother of the Incarnate Word; he was also called to exercise an adopted paternity over the very Son of God. So long as the mysterious cloud was over the Saint of saints, men called Jesus the Son of Joseph and the carpenter's Son. When our blessed Lady found the Child Jesus in the temple, in the midst of the doctors, she thus addressed Him: ‘Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing’;[2] and the holy evangelist adds that Jesus was subject to them, that is, that He was subject to Joseph as He was to Mary.

Who can imagine or worthily describe the sentiments which filled the heart of this man, whom the Gospel describes to us in one word, when it calls him the just man?[3] Let us try to picture him to ourselves amidst the principal events of his life: his being chosen as the spouse of Mary, the most holy and perfect of God’s creatures; the angel’s appearing to him, and making him the one single human confidant of the mystery of the Incarnation, by telling him that his Virgin bride bore within her the fruit of the world’s salvation: the joys of Bethlehem, when he assisted at the birth of the divine Babe, honoured the Virgin Mother, and heard the angels singing; his seeing first the humble and simple shepherds, and then the rich eastern magi, coming to the stable to adore the new-born Child; the sudden fears which came to him, when he was told to arise, and, midnight as it was, to flee into Egypt with the Child and the Mother; the hardships of that exile, the poverty and the privations which were endured by the hidden God, whose foster-father he was, and by the Virgin, whose sublime dignity was now so evident to him; the return to Nazareth, and the humble and laborious life led in that village, where he so often witnessed the world's Creator sharing in the work of a carpenter; the happiness of such a life, in that cottage where his companions were the Queen of the angels and the eternal Son of God, both of whom honoured, and tenderly loved him as the head of the family—yes, Joseph was beloved and honoured by the uncreated Word, the Wisdom of the Father, and by the Virgin, the masterpiece of God’s power and holiness.

We ask, what mortal can justly appreciate the glories of St. Joseph? To do so, he would have to understand the whole of that mystery, of which God made him the necessary instrument. What wonder, then, if this foster-father of the Son of God was prefigured in the old Testament, and that by one of the most glorious of the patriarchs? Let us listen to St. Bernard, who thus compares the two Josephs: ‘The first was sold by his brethren, out of envy, and was led into Egypt, thus prefiguring our Saviour’s being sold; the second Joseph, that he might avoid Herod’s envy, led Jesus into Egypt. The first was faithful to his master, and treated his wife with honour; the second, too, was the most chaste guardian of his bride, the Virgin Mother of his Lord. To the first was given the understanding and interpretation of dreams; to the second, the knowledge of, and participation in, the heavenly mysteries. The first laid up stores of corn, not for himself, but for all the people; the second received the living Bread that came down from heaven, and kept It both for himself and for the whole world.’[4]

Such a life could not close save by a death that was worthy of so great a saint. The time came for Jesus to quit the obscurity of Nazareth, and show Himself to the world. His own works were henceforth to bear testimony to His divine origin; the ministry of Joseph, therefore, was no longer needed. It was time for him to leave this world, and await, in Abraham’s bosom, the arrival of that day, when heaven’s gates were to be opened to the just. As Joseph lay on his bed of death, there was watching by his side He that is the master of life, and that had often called this His humble creature, father. His last breath was received by the glorious VirginMother, whom he had, by a just right, called his bride. It was thus, with Jesus and Mary by his side, caring for and caressing him, that Joseph sweetly slept in peace. The spouse of Mary, the fosterfather of Jesus, now reigns in heaven with a glory which, though inferior to that of Mary, is marked with certain prerogatives which no other inhabitant of heaven can have.

From heaven, he exercises a powerful protection over those that invoke him. In a few weeks from this time, the Church will show us the whole magnificence of this protection; a solemn feast will be kept in his honour in the third week after Easter. To-day the Liturgy sets before us his glories and privileges. Let us unite with the faithful throughout the world, and ofier to the spouse of Mary the hymns which are this day sung in his praise.

Hymn I

Te, Joseph, celebrent agmina cœlitum,
Te cuncti resonent Christiadum chori,
Qui clams meritis junctus es inclytæ
Casto fœdere Virgini.

Almo cum tumidam germine conjugem
Admirans, dubio tangeris anxius,
Afflatu superi Flaminis angelus
Conceptum puerum docet.

Tu natum Dominum stringis; ad exterae
Ægypti profugum tu sequeris plagas:
Amissum Solymis quæris, et invenis,
Miscene gaudia fletibus.

Post mortem reliquos mors pia consecrat,
Palmamque emeritos gloria suscipit;
Tu vivens, Superis par, frueris Deo,
Mira sorte beatior.

Nobis summa Trias, parce precantibus,
Da Joseph meritis sidera scandere:
Ut tandem liceat nos tibi perpetim
Gratum promere canticum.

Amen.
May the heavenly host praise thee, O Joseph!
May the choirs of Christendom resound with thy name,
for great are thy merits,
who wast united by a chaste alliance to the holy Virgin.

Seeing that thy bride was soon to be a Mother,
a cruel doubt afflicts thy heart; but an angel visits thee,
telling thee that she had conceived of the Holy Ghost
the Child she bore in her womb.

When Jesus was born, thou didst take him in thine arms,
and go with the little fugitive to Egypt’s distant land.
When he was lost in Jerusalem, thou didst seek after him;
and having found him, thy tears were mingled with joy.

Other saints receive their beatitude after death, when a holy death
has crowned their life; they receive their glory, when they have won the palm:
but thou, by a strange, happy lot, hadst, even during life,
what the blessed have in heaven—thou hadst the sweet society of thy God.

O sovereign Trinity! have mercy on us thy suppliants,
and may the intercession of Joseph aid us to reach heaven:
that there we may sing to thee
our eternal hymn of grateful love.

Amen.

Hymn II

Cœlitum Joseph decus, atque nostræ
Certa spes vitæ, columenque mundi,
Quas tibi læti canimus, benignus
Suscipe laudes.

Te Sator rerum statuit pudicæ
Virginia sponsum, voluitque Ver bi
Te patrem dici, dedit et ministrum
Esse salutis.

Tu Redemptorem stabulo jacentem,
Quem chorus vatum cecinit futurum,
Aspicis gaudens, humilisque natum
Numen adoras.

Rex, Deus, regum, Dominator orbis,
Cujus ad nutum tremit inferorum
Turba, cui pronus famulatur æther,
Se tibi subdit.

Laus sit excelsæ Triadi perennis,
Quæ tibi præbens superos honores,
Det tuis nobis meritis beatæ
Gaudia vitae.

Amen.
O Joseph, thou that art the delight of the blessed,
the sure hope of our life, and the pillar of the world!
Receive, in thy kind love,
the praises we now joyfully sing to thee.

The Creator appointed thee
the spouse of the holy Virgin;
willed thee to be called the father of the Word;
and gave thee to be an instrument of our salvation.

Thou didst fix thy glad gaze
on the Redeemer lying in the stable,
him that the prophets had foretold was to come;
and seeing him, thou didst humbly adore the new-born King.

He that is King, the God of kings, the Lord of the earth,
at whose bidding hell trembles
and before whom heaven prostrates ready to do his will,
yea, even he makes himself subject to thee.

Praise eternal be to the most high Trinity!
May he that has conferred such high honours upon thee,
grant us, through the merits of thine intercession,
to come to the joys of heavenly life.

Amen.

Hymn III

Iste quem læti colimus fideles,
Cujus excelsos canimus triumphos,
Hac die, Joseph meruit perennis
Gaudia vitæ.

O nimis felix, nimis o beatus,
Cujus extremam vigiles ad horam
Christus et Virgo simul adstiterunt,
Ore sereno.

Hine Stygis victor, laqueo solutus
Camis, ad sedes placido sopore
Migrat æternas, rutilisque cingit
Tempora sertis.

Ergo regnantem flagitemus omnes,
Adsit ufc nobis, veniamque nostris
Obtinene culpis, tribuat supernæ
Munera pacis.

Sint tibi plausus, tibi sint honores,
Trine qui regnas, Deus; et coronas
Aureas servo tribuis fideli,
Omne per ævum.

Amen.
It is on this day that Joseph,
whose praises we, the faithful,
now gladly tell, and whose high triumph we sing,
deserved to receive the joys of eternal life.

Thrice happy,
thrice blessed saint,
at whose last hour Jesus and Mary
stood watching in tender love.

Death was vanquished, the snare of the flesh was broken,
and Joseph, sweetly sleeping,
passed to the eternal home,
and received upon his brott the glittering crown.

Now that he reigns in heaven,
let us beseech him to help us,
obtain us the pardon of our sins,
and procure us the gift of heavenly peace.

Glory and honour be to thee,
O God, O blessed Trinity,
who art our sovereign Lord!
who givest to thy faithful servant an everlasting crown of gold.

Amen.

The Greek liturgy, which honours St. Joseph on the Sunday following the feast of Christmas, thus hymns his praise in the Menæa:

Hymn
(Dominica post Natale Domini)

Prophetarum prædicationes evidenter adimpletas vidit Joseph sponsus, qui ad singularem designat us desponsationem, revelationes accepit ab angelis clamantibus: Gloria Domino, quia pacem terræ largitus est.

Annuntia, Joseph, Davidi Dei parenti prodigia: Virginem vidisti puerum in sinu habentem; una cum magis adorasti, cum pastoribus gloriam Deo dedisti, ab angelo præmonitus. Deprecare Christum Deum, ut animæ nostræ salventur.

Quem supernæ Deum incircumscriptum tremunt potestates, tu, Joseph, natum ex Virgine in manibus tuis accipis consecratus venerando contactu; ideo te honorificamus.

Spiritum divinis mandatis obedientem habens, et purus omnino factua, solam in mulieribus puram et immaculatam tu, beate Joseph, in sponsam acoepieti, Virginem castam custodiens, ut Creatoris tabernaculum effici mereretur.

Soli Gabrieli in cœlis, et tibi eoli, celeberrime, post solam Virginem intactam, mysterium creditum est, maximum et venerandum, beate Joseph, mysterium quod peraiciosum principem tenebrarum dejiceret.

Ut divinam nubem, solam castam, in sinu suo Solem absconditum habentem, in Ægyptum ex civitate David perduxisti, ut ejusdem idololatriæ fugares tenebras, Joseph, incomprehensibilis mysterii minister.

Astitisti, sapiens Joseph, Deo in came puerascenti ministrans, sicut angelus; et immediate ab illo illustratus es radios ejus spirituales accipiens, beate; et illuminatissimus corde et anima vis us fuisti.

Qui cœlum, terram et mare verbo fabricatus est vocatus fuit filius fabri, tui, Joseph admiratione digne. Vocatus ts pater illius qui sine principio est, qui te glorificavit ut mysteriorum eupra rationem ministrum.

O quam pretiosa fuit mors tua in conspectu Domini, beate Joseph; tu enim Domino ab infantia sanctificatus, sacer fuisti custos benedictæ Virginis, et cum ea cecinisti: Omnis creatura benedicat Dominum, et superexaltet eum in sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.
Joseph, the spouse, saw with his own eyes the fulfilment of what the prophets had foretold. He was destined fot an espousal such as no other mortal had, and he received the revelation from angels, saying: Glory be to the Lord, for he hath given peace to the earth!

Tell, O Joseph, to David, the ancestor of God our Saviour, the prodigies thou hast seen. Thou hast seen the Virgin holding the Infant in her arms; thou didst adore with the magi; thou didst unite with the shepherds in giving glory to God, according to the word of the angel. Do thou beseech Christ our Lord, that he save us.

The infinite God, before whom the powers of heaven tremble, thou, O Joseph, didst receive into thy arms, when he was born of the Virgin. Thou wast consecrated by the holy contact; therefore do we honour thee.

Thy spirit was obedient to the divine commands, and thy purity was without reproach; therefore, O blessed Joseph, didst thou receive as thy bride her that was pure and immaculate among women. Thou wast the guardian of the chaste Virgin, when she became the worthy tabernacle of the Creator.

To Gabriel alone in heaven, and to thee alone, O blessed Joseph, most worthy of praise, was entrusted, after the spotless Virgin, that great and venerable mystery, which brought the downfall of the cruel prince of darkness.

Thou, O Joseph, the minister of the incomprehensible mystery, in order that the darkness of idolatry might be dispelled, didst lead from the city of David into Egypt the pure Mother, who like a mysterious cloud, held the Sun hidden in her bosom.

O prudent Joseph! thou, angel-like, didst minister to the Incarnate God when he had reached the age of boyhood. His spiritual rays came direct upon thee, O blessed one! and enlightened thee. Thy heart and soul were bathed in light.

He that, by his only word, made heaven and earth and sea, was called the carpenter’s Son, yes, thine, O Joseph, that deservest all our admiration. Thou wast called the father of him that had no beginning, and receivedst from him the glory of being minister of unfathomable mysteries.

Oh! how precious, in the sight of the Lord, was thy death, O blessed Joseph! for thou wast consecrated to him from thine infancy, and wast the holy guardian of the blessed Virgin. Thou didst thus sing together with her: Let every creature bless the Lord, and praise him above all for endless ages.

Amen.

We praise and glorify thee, O happy saint! We hail thee as the spouse of the Queen of heaven, and foster-father of our Redeemer. These titles, which would seem too grand for any human being to enjoy, are thine; and they are but the expression of the dignities conferred on thee by God. The Church of heaven admires the sublime favours thou hast received; the Church on earth joyfully celebrates thy glories, and blesses thee for the favours thou art so unceasingly bestowing upon her.

Though born of the kingly race of David, thou wast the humblest of men; thy spirit led thee to seek obscurity, and a hidden life was thine ambition: but God chose thee to be an instrument in the sublimest of all His works. A noble Virgin of the same family of David, the object of heaven’s admiration, and the glory and hope of the world, is to be thy bride. The Holy Ghost is to dwell within her as in a most pure tabernacle; it is to thee, the just and chaste, that He entrusts her as an inestimable treasure. Espouse, then, to thyself her whose beauty the very King of heaven so greatly desires.[5]

The Son of God comes down to this earth, that He may live the life of man; He comes that He may sanctify the ties and affections of kindred. He calls thee father; He obeys thy orders. What strange emotions must have filled thy heart, O Joseph! when, knowing the prerogatives of thy bride and the divinity of thy adopted Son, thou hadst to be the head of this family, which united heaven and earth into one! What respectful and tender love for Mary, thy blessed bride! What gratitude and profound worship of Jesus, who obeyed thee as thy Child! Oh mysteries of Nazareth! a God dwells among men, and permits Himself to be called the Son of Joseph!

O sublime minister of the greatest of blessings, intercede for us with God made Man. Ask Him to bestow humility upon us, that holy virtue which raised thee to such exalted dignity, and which must be the basis of our conversion. It is pride that led us into sin, and made us prefer our own will to that of God: yet will He pardon us if we offer Him the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart.[6] Get us this virtue, without which there can be no true penance. Pray also for us, O Joseph, that we may be chaste. Without purity of mind and body we cannot come nigh the God of all sanctity, who suffers nothing defiled to approach Him. He wills to make our bodies, by His grace, the temples of His holy Spirit: do thou, great saint, help us to maintain ourselves in so exalted a dignity, or to recover it if we have lost it.

And lastly, O faithful spouse of Mary! recommend us to our Mother. If she cast a look of pity upon us during these days of reconciliation, we shall be saved: for she is the Queen of mercy, and Jesus, her Son, will pardon us and change our hearts, if she intercede for us, O Joseph! Remind her of Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, in all of which she received from thee such marks of thy devotedness. Tell her that we, also, love and honour thee; and Mary will reward us for our devotion to him who was given her by heaven as her protector and support.

 

[1] Is. xi. 1.
[2] St. Luke ii. 48.
[3] St. Matt. i. 19.
[4] Homily II. on the Missus est.
[5] Ps. xiiv. 12.
[6] Ps. l. 19.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Forty days after the white dove of Cassino had mounted to heaven, Benedict, her glorious brother, ascended by a bright path to the blissful abode, where they were to be united for ever. Both of them reached the heavenly country during that portion of the year which corresponds with the holy season of Lent. It frequently happens, however, that St. Scholastica’s feast is kept before Lent has begun; whereas St. Benedict’s day, the twenty-first of March, always comes during the season of penance. God, who is the sovereign Master of time, willed that the faithful, whilst practising their exercises of penance, should always have before their eyes a saint whose example and intercession would inspire them with courage.

With what profound veneration ought we to celebrate the festival of this wonderful saint, who, as St. Gregory says, was filled with the spirit of all the just! If we consider his virtues, we find nothing superior in the annals of perfection presented to our admiration by the Church.

Love of God and man, humility, the gift of prayer, dominion over the passions—form him into a masterpiece of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Miracles seem to constitute his life: he cures the sick, commands the elements, casts out devils, and raises the dead to life. The spirit of prophecy unfolds futurity to him; and the most intimate thoughts of men are not too distant for the eye of his mind to scan. These superhuman qualifications are heightened by a sweet majesty, a serene gravity, and a tender charity, which shine in every page of his wonderful life; and it is one of his holiest children who wrote it, St. Gregory the Great. It is this holy Pope and Doctor, who had the honour of telling posterity all the wonders which God vouchsafed to work in His servant Benedict.

Posterity had a right to know the life and virtues of a man, whose salutary influence upon the Church and society has been so observable during the ages of the Christian era. To describe the influence exercised by the spirit of St. Benedict, we should have to transcribe the annals of all the nations of the western Church, from the seventh century down to our own times. Benedict is the father of Europe. By his Benedictines, numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the sea-shore, he rescued the last remnants of Roman vigour from the total annihilation threatened by the invasion of barbarians; he presided over the establishment of the public and private laws of those nations, which grew out of the ruins of the Roman empire; he carried the Gospel and civilization into England, Germany, and the northern countries, including Slavonia; he taught agriculture; he put an end to slavery; and to conclude, he Baved the precious deposit of the arts and sciences from the tempest which would have swept them from the world, and would have left mankind a prey to a gloomy and fatal ignorance.

And Benedict did all this by that little book which we call his Rule. This admirable code of Christian perfection and prudence disciplined the countless legions of religious, by whom the holy patriarch achieved all these prodigies. During the ages which preceded the promulgation of this rule, so wonderful m its simple eloquence, the monastic life in the western Church had produced some few saintly men; but there was nothing to justify the hope that this kind of life would become, even more than it had been in the east, the principal means of the Christian regeneration and civilization of so many nations. Once this rule was written, all others gradually give place to it, as the stars are eclipsed when the sun has risen. The west was overspread with monasteries; and from these monasteries flowed upon Europe all those blessings, which have made it the privileged quarter of the globe.

An incredible number of saints, both men and women, who look up to Benedict as their father, purify and sanctify the world, which had not yet emerged from the state of semi-barbarism. A long series of Popes who had once been novices in the Benedictine cloister, preside over the destinies of this new world, and form for it a new legislation, which, being based exclusively on the moral law, is to avert the threatening prevalence of brutal despotism. Bishops innumerable, trained in the same school of Benedict, consolidate this moral legislation in the provinces and cities over which they are appointed. The apostles of twenty barbarous nations confront their fierce and savage tribes, and, with the Gospel in one hand and the rule of their holy father in the other, lead them into the fold of Christ. For many centuries, the learned men, the doctors of the Church, and the instructors of youth, belong, almost exclusively, to the Order of the great patriarch, who, by the labours of his children, pours forth on the people the purest beauty of light and truth. This choir of heroes in every virtue, of Popes, of bishops, of apostles, of holy doctors, proclaiming themselves as his disciples, and joining with the universal Church in glorifying that God, whose holiness and power shine forth so brightly in the life and actions of Benedict—what a corona, what an aureola of glory for one saint to have!

Let us now read the sketch of his life, as given us in the liturgy:

Benedictus, Nursiæ nobili genere ortus, Romæ liberalibus disciplinis eruditus, ut totum se Jesu Christo daret, ad eum locum qui Sublacus dicitur, in altissimam speluncam penetravit: in qua sic per triennium delituit, ut unus id sciret Romanus mo· nachus, quo ad vitae necessitatem ministro utebatur. Dum igitur ei quadam die ardentes ad libidinem faces a diabolo subjicerentur, se in vepribus tamdiu volutavit, dum lacerato corpore, voluptatis sensus dolore opprimeretur. Sed jam erumpente ex illis latebris fama ejus sanctitatis, quidam monachi se illi instituendos tradiderunt: quorum vivendi licentia cum ejus objurgationes ferre non posset, venenum in potione ei dare constituunt. Verum poculum ei præbentibue, crucis signo vas confregit, ac relicto monasterio in solitudinem se recepit.

Sed cum multi ad eum quotidie discipuli convenirent, duodecim monasteria ædificavit, eaque sanctissimis legibus communivit. Postea Cassinum migravit, ubi simulacrum Apollinis, qui adhuo ibi colebatur, comminuit, aram evertit, et lucos succendit: ibique Sancti Martini sacellum et Sancti Joannis ædiculam exstruxit: oppidanos autem et incolas Christiania præceptis imbuit. Quare augebatur in dies magis divina gratia Benedictus, ut etiam prophetico spiritu ventura prædiceret. Quod ubi accepit Totila Gothorum rex, exploraturus an res ita esset, spatharium suum regio ornatu et comitatu præmittit, qui se regem simularet. Quern ut ille vidit: Depone, inquit, fill, depone quod geris; nam tuum non est. Totilæ vero prædixit adventum ej us in Urbem, maris transmissionem, et post novem annos mortem.

Qui aliquot mensibus antequam e vita migraret, præmonuit discipulos quo die esset moriturus: ac sepulchrum, in quo suum corpus condi vellet, sex diebus antequam eo inferretur, aperiri jussit: sextoque die deferri voluit in ecclesiam: ubi sumpta Eucharistia, sublatis in ccelum oculis orans, inter manus discipulorum efflavit animam: quam duo monachi euntem in ccelum viderunt, pallio omatam pretiosissimo, circum eam fulgentibus lampadibus, et clarissima et gravissima specie virum stantern supra caput ipsius dicentem audierunt: Hæc est via, qua dilectus Domini Benedictus in cœlum ascendit.
Benedict was born of a noble family at Nursia. He was sent to Rome, that he might receive a liberal education; but not long after, he withdrew to a place called Subiaeo, and there hid himself in a very deep cave, that he might give himself entirely to Jesus Christ. He passed three years in that retirement, unknown to all save a monk, by name Romanus, who supplied him with the necessaries of life. The devil having one day excited him to a violent temptation of impurity, he rolled himself amidst prickly brambles, and extinguished within himself the desire of carnal pleasure by the pain he thus endured. The fame of his sanctity, however, became known beyond the limits of his hiding-place, and certain monks put themselves under his guidance. He sharply rebuked them for their wicked lives; which rebuke so irritated them, that they resolved to put poison in his drink. When he made the sign of the cross over the cup as they proffered it to him, it broke, and he, leaving that monastery, returned to his solitude.

But whereas many daily came to him, beseeching him to take them as his disciples, he built twelve monasteries, and drew up the most admirable rules for their government. He afterwards went to Monte Cassino, where he destroyed an image of Apollo, which was still adored in those parts; and having pulled down the altar and burnt the groves, he built a chapel in that same place, in honour of St. Martin, and another in honour of St. John. He instructed the inhabitants in the Christian religion. Day by day did Benedict advance in the grace of God, and he also foretold, in a spirit of prophecy, what was to take place. Totila, the king of the Goths, having heard of this, and being anxious to know if it .were the truth, went to visit him; but first sent his sword-bearer, who was to pretend that he was the king, and who, for this end, was dressed in royal robes and accompanied by attendants. As soon as Benedict saw him, he said: ‘Put off, my spn, put off this dress, for it is not thine.’ But he foretold to Totila, that he would reach Rome, cross the sea, and die at the end of nine years.

Several months before he departed from this life, he foretold to his disciples the day on which he should die. Six days previous to his death, he ordered them to open the sepulchre wherein he wished to be buried. On the sixth day, he desired to bo carried to the church, and there having received the Eucharist, with his eyes raised in prayer towards heaven, and held up by his disciples, he breathed forth his soul. Two monks saw it ascending to heaven, adorned with a most precious robe, and surrounded by shining lights. They also saw a most beautiful and venerable man, who stood above the saint’s head, and they heard him thus speak: ‘This is the way whereby Benedict, the beloved of the Lord, ascended to heaven.’

The Benedictine Order celebrates the praise of its illustrious patriarch in these three hymns:

Hymn I

Laudibus cives resonent canoris,
Templa solemnes modulentur hymnos;
Hac die summi Benedicts arcem
Scandit Olympi.

Ille florentes peragebat annos,
Cum puer dulcis patriae penates
Liquit, et solus latuit silenti
Conditus antro.

Inter urticas rigidosque sentes
Vicit altricem scelerum juventam:
lade conscripsit documenta vitæ
Pulchra beatæ.

Æream turpis Clarii figuram,
Et nemus stravit Veneri dicatum,
Atque Baptistæ posuit sacrato
Monte sacellum.

Jamque felici residens Olympo,
Inter ardentes Seraphim catervas,
Spectat, et dulci reficit clientum
Corda liquore.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
Let the faithful give forth their songs of praise;
let our temples echo with solemn hymns:
for on this day Benedict ascended
to the highest heavens.

When a boy, and in the flower of youth,
he left his sweet home,
and hid himself from the sight of all
in a lonely cave.

He conquered his passions of youth
by rolling amidst nettles and prickly thorns.
After this, he wrote a beautiful rule
of a holy life.

He destroyed a brazen statue of the vile Apollo,
and a grove that was sacred to Venus:
and on the holy mount
he built an oratory in honour of the Baptist.

Now he dwells in the happy land above,
amidst the burning Seraphim:
he looks down on those that invoke him,
and refreshes their hearts with a nectar of sweetness.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God,
be glory for endless ages.

Amen.

Hymn II

Quidquid antiqui cecinere vates,
Quidquid æternæ monimenta legis,
Continet nobis celebranda summi
Vita monarchæ.

Extulit Mosen pietas benignum,
Inclytum proles Abraham decorat,
Isaac sponsae decus, et severi
Jussa parentis.

Ipse virtutum cumulis onustus,
Celsior nostri patriarcha coetus
Isaac, Mosen, Abraham sub uno
Pectore clausit.

Ipse, quos mundi rapuit procellis,
Hic pius flatu statuat secundo,
Pax ubi nullo, requiesque gliscit
Mista pavore.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
All that the ancient prophets preached,
and all that the books of the divine Law tell us of holiness,
is contained in the life of the great patriarch
which we are now extolling.

Moses was celebrated for his meekness;
Abraham for his being father of all believers;
Isaac for the beauty of his bride, and his obedience
to the trying commands of his father.

The sublime patriarch of our family
was richly laden with every virtue;
and in his single person represented
Isaac, Moses, and Abraham.

May he have a loving care of those
whom he has delivered from this stormy world,
and lead them with prosperous gales to the port
where there is no fear that can ruffle peace and repose.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God, be glory
for endless ages.

Amen.

Hymn III

Inter æternas Superum coronas,
Quas sacro partas retinent agone,
Emicas celsis meritis coruscus,
O Benedicte.

Sancta te compsit puerum seneotus,
Nil sibi de te rapuit voluptas,
Aruit mundi tibi flos ad alta
Mente levato.

Hinc fuga lapsus, patriam, parentes
Deseris, fervens nemorum colonus,
Edomas carnem, subigisque Christo
Tortor acerbus.

Ne diu tutus latebras foveres,
Signa te produnt operum pioruin,
Spargitur felix celeri per orbem
Fama volatu.

Gloria Patri, genitæque Proli,
Et tibi, compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni.
Tempore sæcli.

Amen.
Amidst the saints that glitter
with the crowns they have won in the holy contest,
thou, O Benedict, shinest resplendent
with thy sublime merits.

Thy boyhood was graced with the holy gravity of old age;
the pleasures of the world had no hold on thee,
and its flowers seemed but as withered weeds to a soul like thine,
that was fixed on heavenly things.

Therefore didst thou flee from the world, leaving thy country and thy parents,
and becamest a fervent solitary.
Thou didst tame the rebellion of the flesh, and by sharp mortification
thou didst bring it into subjection to Christ.

But thy fond hope of concealment was to be cut short:
thy holy miracles betrayed thee,
and the glorious fame of thy sanctity
swiftly spread through the world.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son that is begotten of him!
To thee, also, O Spirit of love,
coequal with them, one God,
be glory for endless ages.

Amen.

The monastic missal contains the following sequence in honour of St. Benedict:

Sequence

Læta quies magni ducis,
Dona ferens novæ lucis,
Hodie recolitur.

Charis datur piæ menti,
Corde sonet in ardenti
Quidquid foris promitur.

Hunc per callem orientis
Admiremur ascenderitis
Patriarchæ speciem.

Amplum semen magnæ prolis
Ilium fecit instar solis,
Abrahæ persimilem.

Corvum cemis ministrantem;
Hine Eliam latitantem
Specu nosce parvulo.

Eliseus dignoscatur,
Cum securis revocatur
De torrentis alveo.

Illum Joseph candor morum,
Illum Jacob futurorum
Mens effecit conscia.

Ipse memor suae gentis,
Nos perducat in manentis
Semper Christi gaudia.

Amen.
We celebrate, this day,
the happy death of our great leader,
which brings us the blessings of new light.

On this day grace is given to the souls of his loving children.
Oh! may the fervent heart re-echo
what the voice sings forth!

Let us admire the beauty of our patriarch,
as he ascends to heaven
by the path of the east.

He shines as a sun in the world, he is most like to Abraham,
for he is the rich seed from which
a countless race hath sprung.

When thou seest him fed by the crows
thou thinkest of Elias,
that hid himself in the little cave.

He reminds us of Eliseus,
when he makes the head of the axe return
from the bed of the stream.

He is like Joseph by the purity of his life,
and like Jacob by the spirit
of prophecy.

May he be mindful of his children,
and lead us safe to the joys of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who abideth for ever.

Amen.

The Greek Church has not forgotten, in her liturgy, the praise of the great patriarch of the monks of the west. We take from the menæa some of the stanzas, in which she celebrates the name of Saint Benedict:

Hymn
(Die XXI Martii)

Mihi laudabilem memoriam tuam, o sancte, hymnis celebrare aggresso gratiam ac peccatorum omnium remissionem tribui, Benedicte, Sancto deprecare.

In eremo tuam a pueritia crucem tollens, Omnipotentem insecutus es, atque carne mortificata vitam, o beatissime, promeruisti.

Angusta semita calcata pedem in Paradisi latitudine fixisti, o prorsus beate, ac dæmonum calliditates et insidias elusisti.

Lacrymarum tuarum profluviis fructiferi ligni instar irrigatus, o Benedicte, divinos virtutum ac miraculorum fructus, Dei virtute, ubertim attulisti.

Per continentiæ certamina, o beate, carnis membris mortificatis, mortuos precibus exsuscitasti, ac debilibus expeditam gradiendi vim tradidisti, morbumque omnem curasti, cum fide in admiratione habitus, o pater.

Siccas, atque aridas animas vivifico sermone tuo, o beate, frugiferas reddidisti, miraculorum exhibitione, et pastor divinitus inspiratus, et speciossisimus monachorum decor effectus.

Misericordem Deum deprecatus, sapiens pater, olei thecam, quemadmodum Elias, illico replevisti, o beatissime, a videntibus cum fide in admiratione habitus.

Utpote mente purus, utpote extra te raptus, universam terram conspexisti, ceu ab unico radio Dei te honorantis illustratus, o beatissime Benedicte.

In Christo imperans fontis aquam, precibus bonorum datorem obsecrans, emanare fecieti, quæ miraculum deprædicans, o Benedicte, adhuc perseverat.

Spiritus splendore collustratus, pravorum etiam dæmonum tenebras dissipasti, o miraculorum patrator Benedicte, splendidissimum monachorum luminare.

Te, o beate, venenatis potionibus interimere insipienter volentes, quern divina universi Creatoris manus custodiebat, insipientes oonfusi sunt. Quos prævia tua per Spiritum scientia deprehendit.

Te monachorum turbæ a te convocatæ diu noctuque concelebrant, corpus tuum in medio positum servantes, quod largos miraculorum fluvios effundit, o pater sapiens, eorumque gressus perenni lumine collustrat.

Divinis mandatis obsecutus, o pater, super solares radios effulsisti, atque ad inocciduum translatus es, exorans propitiationem peccatorum concedi iis, qui te cum fide colunt, Celebris Benedicte.
O holy Benedict! pray to the holy God for me, who now begin to sing a hymn to thy praiseworthy name. Obtain for me that I may receive grace and the forgiveness of all my sins.

From thy childhood, O most blessed one! thou didst carry thy cross in the desert, walking in the footsteps of the Omnipotent. Thou didst merit life, by putting thy flesh to death.

Treading the narrow path, O truly blessed! thou didst take thy stand in the spaciousness of paradise, and didst elude the craft and snares of the devils.

Watered by the streams of thy tears, O Benedict! thou, like unto a fruitful tree, didst, by God’s power, bring forth in abundance the divine fruits of virtues and miracles.

O blessed one! by the struggle of continency thou didst mortify thy bodily members: thy prayers raised the dead to life, gave to the lame the power to walk, and cured every disease, for men were in admiration at thee and had faith in thee, O father!

Thy life-giving words, O blessed one! and the sight of thy miracles, gave fruitfulness to souls that before were parched and dry. Thou wast the divinely inspired shepherd, and the fairest glory of the monastic life.

O wise father! thou didst beseech the God of mercy, and like Elias, thou didst suddenly fill the vessel with oil, for men were in admiration at thee, and had faith in thee, O most blessed Benedict!

Because of thy clean-heartedness, and because thou wast out of thyself with rapture, thou didst behold the whole earth, for God honoured thee with a ray of his own light, O most blessed Benedict!

Thou didst command in the name of Christ, thou didst pray to the Giver of all good gifts, and a fountain of water sprang up at thy bidding: it still exists, O Benedict! the abiding witness of thy miracle.

Enlightened by the bright rays of the holy Spirit, thou didst dispel the darkness of the wicked devils, O Benedict, thou worker of miracles, thou fairest light of monasticism!

Those foolish men that madly plotted to destroy thy life by poison were confounded, for thou wast guarded, O blessed one! by the divine hand of the great
Creator. The knowledge thou hadet from the holy Spirit forewarned thee of their plot.

The choirs of monks, whom thou hast called, celebrate thy name day and night. They possess thy body, which is enshrined in their midst, and from which flow abundant streams of miracles, and an unfading light that illumines their path, O father full of wisdom!

By thine obedience to the divine precepts, O father 1 thou hast been made brighter than the sun, and hast beeii taken to the land where the light sets not. Pray for them that have confidence in thee and honour thee; pray that they may receive the forgiveness of their sins, O Benedict', thou whose name is known throughout the world.

O Benedict! thou vessel of election, thou palm of the wilderness, thou angel of earth, we offer thee the salutation of our love! What man was ever chosen to work on the earth more wonders than thou hast done? The Saviour has crowned thee as one of His principal co-operators in the work of the salvation and sanctification of men. Who could count the millions of souls who owe their eternal happiness to thee? Thy immortal rule has sanctified them in the cloister, and the zeal of thy Benedictines has been the means of their knowing and serving the great God who chose thee. Around thee, in the realms of glory, a countless number of the blessed acknowledge themselves indebted to thee, after God, for their eternal happiness; and upon the earth whole nations profess the true faith, because the Gospel was first preached to them by thy disciples.

O father of so many people! look down upon thine inheritance, and once more bless this ungrateful Europe, which owes everything to thee, yet has almost forgotten thy name! The light which thy children imparted to it has become dimmed, the warmth they imparted to the societies they founded and civilized by the cross has grown cold; thorns have covered a large portion of the land in which they sowed the seed of salvation. Come and protect thine own work; and, by thy prayers, keep it from perishing. Give firmness to what has been shaken. May a new Europe, a Catholic Europe, spring up in place of that which heresy and false doctrines have formed.

O patriarch of the servants of God! look down from heaven on the vineyard which thy hand hath planted, and see into what a state of desolation it has fallen. There was a time when thy name was honoured as that of a father in thirty thousand monasteries, from the shores of the Baltic to the borders of Syria, and from the green Erin to the steppes of Poland. Now, alas! few and feeble are the prayers that ascend to thee from the whole of that immense patrimony, which the faith and gratitude of the people had once consecrated to thee. The blight of heresy and the rapaciousness of avarice have robbed thee of these harvests of thy glory. The work of sacrilegious spoliation is now centuries old, and unceasingly has it been pursued; at one time having recourse to open violence, and at another pleading the urgency of political interests. Sainted father of our faith! thou hast been robbed of those thousands of sanctuaries, which, for long ages, were fountains of life and light to the people. The race of thy children has become almost extinct: watch over them that still remain, and are labouring to perpetuate thy rule. An ancient tradition tells us how our Lord revealed to thee that thy Order would last to the end of the world, and that thy children would console the Church of Rome and confirm the faith of many in the last great trials: deign to protect, by thy powerful intercession, the remnants of that family which still calls thee its father. Raise it up again; multiply it; sanctify it: let the spirit which thou hast deposited in thy holy rule flourish in its midst, and show, by thus blessing it, that thou art ever Benedict, the servant of God.

Support the holy Church, by thy powerful intercession, dear father! Assist the apostolic See, which has been so often occupied by disciples of thy school. Father of so many pastors of thy people! obtain for us bishops like those sainted ones whom thy rule has formed. Father of so many apostles! ask for the countries which have no faith preachers of the Gospel, who may convert the people by their blood and by their words, as did those who went out missioners from thy cloisters. Father of so many holy doctors! pray that the science of sacred literature may revive, to aid the Church and confound error. Father of so many sublime ascetics! rekindle the zeal of Christian perfection, which has grown so cold among the Christians of our days. Patriarch of the religious life in the western Church! bless all the religious Orders which the holy Spirit has given successively to the Church; they all look on thee with admiration, as their venerable predecessor: do thou pour out upon them the influence of thy fatherly love.

Lastly, O blessed favourite of God! pray for all the faithful of Christ during these days which are consecrated to thoughts and works of penance. It was in the midst of the holy austerities of Lent that thou didst mount to the abode of everlasting delight; ah! help us Christians, who are, at this very time, in the same campaign of penance. Rouse our courage by thy example and precepts. Teach us to keep down the flesh, and to subject it to the spirit, as thou didst. Obtain for us a little of thy blessed spirit, that, turning away from this vain world, we may think on the eternal years. Pray for us, that our hearts may never love, and our thoughts never dwell on, joys so fleeting as are those of time.

Catholic piety invokes thee as one of the patrons, as well as one of the models, of a dying Christian. It loves to tell men of the sublime spectacle thou didst present at thy death, when standing at the foot of the altar, leaning on the arms of thy disciples, and barely touching the earth with thy feet, thou didst give back, in submission and confidence, thy soul to its Creator. Obtain for us, dear saint! a death courageous and sweet as was thine. Drive from us, at our last hour, the cruel enemy who will seek to ensnare us. Visit us by thy presence, and leave us not till we have breathed forth our soul into the bosom of the God who has made thee so glorious a saint.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

So far in the Church’s calendar, we have not met with any feast in honour of the holy angels. Amidst the ineffable joys of Christmas night, we mingled our timid but glad voices with the hymns of these heavenly spirits, who sang around the crib of our Emmanuel. The very recollection brings joy to our hearts, saddened as they now are by penitential feelings and by the near approach of the mournful anniversary of our Jesus’ death. Let us, for a moment, interrupt our sadness, and keep the feast of the Archangel Gabriel. Later on, we shall have Michael, Raphael, and the countless host of the angel guardians; but to-day, the eve of the Annunciation, it is just that we should honour Gabriel. Tomorrow we shall see this heavenly ambassador of the blessed Trinity coming down to the Virgin of Nazareth; let us, therefore, recommend ourselves to him, and beseech him to teach us how to celebrate, in a becoming manner, the grand mystery of which he was the messenger.

Gabriel is one of the first of the angelic kingdom. He tells Zachary that he stands before the face of God.[1] He is the angel of the Incarnation, because it is in this mystery, which apparently is so humble, that the power of God is principally manifested: and Gabriel signifies the strength of God. We find the Archangel preparing for this sublime office, even in the old Testament. First of all, he appeared to Daniel, after this prophet had had the vision of the Persian and Grecian empires; and such was the majesty of his person that Daniel fell on his face trembling.[2] Shortly afterwards, he appeared again to the same prophet, telling him the exact time of the coming of the Messias: ‘Know thou and take notice: that from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,’[3] that is, sixty-nine weeks of years.

When the fulness of time had come, and heaven was about to send the last of the prophets, who, after preaching to men the approach of the Messias, is to show Him to the people, saying: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world,’ Gabriel descends from heaven to the temple of Jerusalem, and prophesies to Zachary the birth of John the Baptist,[4] which was to be followed by that of Jesus Himself.

Six months later on, the holy Archangel again appears on the earth; and this time it is Nazareth that he visits. He brings the great message from heaven. Angel as he is, he reveres the humble Maid, whose name is Mary; he has been sent to her by the most high God, to offer her the immense honour of becoming the Mother of the eternal Word. It is Gabriel that receives the great Fiat, the consent of Mary; and when he quits this earth, he leaves it in possession of Him, for whom it had so long prayed in those words of Isaias: Drop down Dew, O ye heavens![5]

The hour at length came, when the Mother of the Emmanuel was to bring forth the blessed Fruit of her virginal womb. Jesus was born amidst poverty; but heaven willed that His crib should be surrounded by fervent adorers. An angel appeared to some shepherds, inviting them to go to the stable near Bethlehem. He is accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly army, sweetly singing their hymn: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will!’ Who is this angel that speaks to the shepherds, and seems as the chief of the other blessed spirits that are with him? In the opinion of several learned writers, it is the Archangel Gabriel, who is continuing his ministry as messenger of the good tidings.[6]

Lastly, when Jesus is suffering His agony in the garden of Gethsemani, an angel appears to Him, not merely as a witness of His sufferings, but that he might strengthen Him under the fear His human nature felt at the thought of the chalice of the Passion He was about to drink.[7] Who is this angel? It is Gabriel, as we learn not only from the writings of several holy and learned authors, but also from a hymn which the holy See has permitted to be used in the liturgy, and which we give below.

These are the claims of the great Archangel to our veneration and love; these are the proofs he gives of his deserving his beautiful name, the strength of God. God has employed him in each stage of the great work, in which He has chiefly manifested His power; for Jesus, even on His cross, is the Power of God,[8] as the apostle tells us. Gabriel prepares the way for Jesus. He foretells the precise time of His coming; he announces the birth of His Precursor; he is present at the solemn moment when the Word is made Flesh; he invites the shepherds of Bethlehem to come to the crib, and adore the divine Babe; and when Jesus, in His agony, is to receive strength from one of His own creatures, Gabriel is found ready in the garden of Gethsemani, as he had been at Nazareth and Bethlehem.

Let us, then, honour the angel of the Incarnation. For this purpose, let us recite in his praise some of the pieces which liturgical piety has composed for his feast. The two following hymns are from the old Franciscan breviary:

Hymn I

Mentibus lætis jubilemus omnes,
Plectra tangentes fidibus canoris,
Inclytus quando Gabriel ab alto
Fulget Olympo.

Virginia summæ Paranymphus adest
Hodie nobis, simul Angelorum,
Plurimis Christum venerans triumphis,
Concio tota.

Principia laudes Gabrielis ergo
Concinat noster chorus, ipse quando est
Unus ex septem, Domino qui adstant
Jussa sequentes.

Nuntius cceli, mediator idem,
Exstat a summis Gabriel ubique
Lætus, et mundo reserat secreta
Omnipotentis.

Nuntia nobis, Gabriel, precamur,
Pacis æternæ speciale munus,
Quo poli tandem teneamus aulam
Semper ovantes.

Præstet hoc nobis Deitas beata
Patris, ac Nati, pariterque sancti
Spiritus cujus resonat per omnem
Gloria mundum.

Amen.
Let us all exult with joyous hearts,
and strike the tuneful lyre;
’tis the great Gabriel that comes in all his brightness
from the high heavens.

This is the feast of the glorious Virgin’s messenger,
and with him comes the whole
host of angels, singing in varied hymns
the praise of Christ.

Let our choir, therefore,
sing the praises of Gabriel the prince,
for he is one of the seven
that stand before the Lord and do his biddings.

Gabriel cheerfully descends whithersoever God wills,
for he is the messenger of heaven,
nay the mediator that reveals to the world
the secret decrees of the omnipotent God.

Be thou, O Gabriel, we beseech thee,
messenger to us of the special gift of eternal peace,
wherewith we may finally reach heaven,
and everlastingly rejoice.

May the Godhead ever blessed of Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, whose glory is proclaimed
through the whole world,
grant us this our prayer.

Amen.

Hymn II

En noctis medium: surgite propere,
Cantemus Domino jam nova cantica;
Hac hora Gabriel nam fuit omnibus
Vitæ nuntius optimus.

Hac hora Dominum Virgineus alvus
Humano generi protulit; insuper
Devictis pariter funditus hostibus,
Victor surgit ab inferis.

Surgentes igitur mitibus invicem
Oremus precibus ccelica Numina:
Praesertim Dominum, qui dedit angelum
Curam qui gerit hominum.

Quæ virtus hominis promere sufficit,
Quæ mundo Gabriel munera conferat?
Banctas hic animas visere Dominum
Præsto ducit in æthera.

Te, princeps igitur inclyte, quæsumus,
Pro nobis miseris poscito gratiam;
Fac et propitium, qui valet omnia,
Nobis ut veniam afferat.

Amen.
’Tis the midnight hour: quickly arise,
and sing your new canticles to the Lord;
for it is at this hour that was sent
the most welcome messenger of life to the world.

It is at this hour that the Virgin’s womb
brought forth our Lord, for the salvation of mankind:
and at the same, that he arose from the grave,
having defeated his enemies.

Let us, then, arise, and in our humble choral prayers,
make supplication to the heavenly spirits;
let us pray especially to the God
who gave us an angel to guard us.

What tongue of man could tell the blessings
brought by Gabriel to the world?
He it is that leads holy souls to heaven,
there to contemplate our Lord.

We beseech thee, therefore, great prince,
pray for us miserable sinners.
Propitiate him that can do all things,
and obtain for us his pardon.

Amen.

The Dominican breviary contains this beautiful hymn in honour of the holy Archangel:

Hymn

O Robur Domini, lucide Gabriel!
Quem de principibus signat Emmanuel:
A. quo promeruit discere Daniel
Hirci prodigium feri.

Tu vatis precibus curris alacriter,
Monstras hebdomadum sacrata tempora:
Quæ nos ætherei germine Principis,
Ditabunt bene gaudiis.

Baptistæ pariter mira parentibus
Affers a superis lætaque nuntia,
Quod mater, sterili corpore, pignora
Longævo pariet patri.

Quod vates referunt, mundi ab origine,
Hoc sacræ veniens tu piene Virgini
Longo mysterium pandis ab ordine,
Verum quod pariet Deum.

Pastores Solymos, inclyte, gaudiis
Implesti, reserans ccelica nuntia:
Et tecum celebrat turba canentium
Nati mysterium Dei.

Oranti Domino nocte novissima,
Dum sudor madidum sanguine conficit,
Adstas a superis, ut calicem bibat,
Assensum Patris indicans.

Mentes catholicas, inclyta Trinitas,
Confirma fidei munere cælico:
Da nobis gratiam, nos quoque gloriam
Per cuncta tibi sæcula.

Amen.
Gabriel, angel of light, and strength of God!
whom our Emmanuel selected from the rest of the heavenly princes,
that thou shouldst expound unto Daniel
the mystery of the savage goat.

Thou didst joyfully hasten to the prophet as he prayed,
and didst tell him of the sacred weeks,
which were to give us the birth of the King of heaven,
and enrich us with plenteous joy.

’Tis thou didst bring to the parents of the Baptist
the wondrous and gladsome tidings that Elizabeth,
though barren, and Zachary,
though old, should have a son.

What the prophets had foretold from the beginning of the world,
this thou didst announce in all the fulness
of the mystery to the holy virgin,
telling her that she was to be the true Mother of God.

Thou, fair spirit, didst fill the Bethlehem shepherds with joy,
when thou didst tell them the heavenly tidings;
and with thee a host of angels sang
the praises of the newborn God.

As Jesus was in prayer on that last night,
when a bloody sweat bathed his limbs,
thou didst leave heaven to be near him,
and offer him the chalice that his Father willed him to drink.

O blessed Trinity!
strengthen Catholic hearts with the heavenly gift of faith.
Give us grace,
as we to thee give glory for ever.

Amen.

The whole human race is indebted to thee, O Gabriel! and, on this day, we would fain pay thee the honour and gratitude we owe thee. Thou wast moved to holy compassion on seeing the miseries of the world; for all flesh had corrupted its way, and the forgetfulness of God increased with each new generation of men. Then did the Most High commission thee to bring to the world the good tidings of its salvation. How beautiful thy steps, O prince of the heavenly court, as thou earnest down to this our humble sphere! How tender and fraternal is thy love of man, whose nature, though so inferior to thine own, was to be raised, by the mystery of the Incarnation, to union with God Himself! With what respectful awe didst thou approach the Virgin, who surpassed all the angels in holiness!

Blessed messenger of our redemption, whom God selects as His minister when He would show His power, we beseech thee, offer the homage of our gratitude to Him that thus sent thee. Help us to pay the immense debt we owe to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give it His only-begotten Son;[9] to the Son, who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant;[10] and to the Holy Ghost, who rested on the Flower that sprang up out of the root of Jesse.[11]

’Tis thou, O Gabriel! that taughtest us the salutation wherewith we should greet Mary full of grace. Thou wast the first to pronounce these sublime words, which thou broughtest from heaven. The children of the Church are now, day and night, repeating these words of thine; pray for us that we may say them in such a manner, that our blessed Mother may find them worthy of her acceptance.

Angel of strength, friend of mankind! continue thy ministry of aiding us. We are surrounded by terrible enemies: our weakness makes them bold; come to our assistance, procure us courage. Pray for us during these days of conversion and penance. Obtain for us the knowledge of all we owe to God in consequence of that ineffable mystery of the Incarnation, of which thou wast the first witness. We have forgotten our duties to the Man-God, and we have offended Him: enlighten us, that so, henceforth, we may be faithful to His teachings and examples. Raise up our thoughts to the happy abode where thou dwellest; assist us to merit the places left vacant by the fallen angels, for God has reserved them for His elect among men.

Pray, O Gabriel, for the Church militant, and defend her against the attacks of hell. The times are evil; the spirits of malice are let loose, nor can we make stand against them, unless with God’s help. It is by His holy angels that He gives victory to His bride. Be thou, O strength of God! foremost in the ranks. Drive heresy back, keep schism down, foil the false wisdom of men, frustrate the policy of the world, arouse the well-minded from apathy; that thus the Christ whom thou didst announcemay reign over the earth He has redeemed, and that we may sing together with thee and the whole angelic choir: ‘Glory be to God, peace to men!’

 


[1] St. Luke i. 19.
[2] Dan. viii. 17.
[3] Ibid. ix. 25.
[4] St. Luke i. 13.
[5] Is. xlv. 8.
[6] St. Luke ii. 10.
[7] Ibid. xxii. 42, 43.
[8] 1 Cor. i. 24.
[9] St. John iii. 16.
[10] Phil. ii. 7.
[11] Is. xi. 1.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Including:

Feast of the Annunciation during Lent

This is a great day, not only to man, but even to God Himself; for it is the anniversary of the most solemn event that time has ever witnessed. On this day, the divine Word, by whom the Father created the world, was made flesh in the womb of a virgin, and dwelt among us.[1] We must spend it in joy. Whilst we adore the Son of God who humbled Himself by thus becoming Man, let us give thanks to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son;[2] let us give thanks to the Holy Ghost, whose almighty power achieves the great mystery. We are in the very midst of Lent, and yet the ineffable joys of Christmas are upon us: our Emmanuel is conceived on this day, and, nine months hence, will be born in Bethlehem, and the angels will invite us to come and honour the sweet Babe.

During Septuagesima week, we meditated upon the fall of our first parents, and the triple sentence pronounced by God against the serpent, the woman, and Adam. Our hearts were filled with fear as we reflected on the divine malediction, the effects of which are to be felt by all generations, even to the end of the world. But in the midst of the anathemas then pronounced against us, a promise was made us by our God; it was a promise of salvation, and it enkindled hope within us. In pronouncing sentence against the serpent, God said that his head should one day be crushed, and that, too, by a woman.

The time has come for the fulfilment of this promise. The world has been in expectation for four thousand years; and the hope of its deliverance has been kept up, in spite of all its crimes. During this time, God has made use of miracles, prophecies, and types, as a renewal of the engagement He has entered into with mankind. The blood of the Messias has passed from Adam to Noe; from Sem to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; from David and Solomon to Joachim; and now it flows in the veins of Mary, Joachim’s daughter. Mary is the woman by whom is to be taken from our race the curse that lies upon it. God has decreed that she should be Immaculate; and has thereby set an irreconcilable enmity between her and the serpent. She, a daughter of Eve, is to repair all the injury done by her mother’s fall; she is to raise up her sex from the degradation into which it has been cast; she is to co-operate, directly and really, in the victory which the Son of God is about to gain over His and our enemy.

A tradition, which has come down from the apostolic ages, tells us that the great mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March.[3] It was at the hour of midnight, when the most holy Virgin was alone and absorbed in prayer, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her, and asked her, in the name of the blessed Trinity, to consent to become the Mother of God. Let us assist, in spirit, at this wonderful interview between the angel and the Virgin: and, at the same time, let us think of that other interview which took place between Eve and the serpent. A holy bishop and marytr of the second century, Saint Irenæus, who had received the tradition from the very disciples of the apostles, shows us that Nazareth is the counterpart of Eden.[4]

In the garden of delights there is a virgin and an angel; and a conversation takes place·between them. At Nazareth a virgin is also addressed by an angel, and she answers him; but the angel of the earthly paradise is a spirit of darkness, and he of Nazareth is a spirit of light. In both instances it is the angel that has the first word. ‘Why,’ said the serpent to Eve, ‘hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?’ His question implies impatience and a solicitation to evil; he has contempt for the frail creature to whom he addresses it, but he hates the image of God which is upon her.

See, on the other hand, the angel of light; see with what composure and peacefulness he approaches the Virgin of Nazareth, the new Eve; and how respectfully he bows himself down before her: ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women! Such language is evidently of heaven: none but an angel could speak thus to Mary.

Eve imprudently listens to the tempter’s words; she answers him; she enters into conversation with one that dares to ask her to question the justice of God’s commands. Her curiosity urges her on. She has no mistrust in the serpent; this leads her to mistrust her Creator.

Mary hears what Gabriel has spoken to her; but this most prudent Virgin is silent. She is surprised at the praise given her by the angel. The purest and humblest of virgins has a dread of flattery; and the heavenly messenger receives no reply from her, until he has fully explained his mission by these words: ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.’

What magnificent promises are these, which are made to her in the name of God! What higher glory could she, a daughter of Juda, desire, knowing, as she does, that the fortunate Mother of the Messias is to be the object of the greatest veneration? And yet it tempts her not. She has for ever consecrated her virginity to God, in order that she may be the more closely united to Him by love. The grandest possible privilege, if it is to be on the condition of violating this sacred vow, would be less than nothing in her estimation. She thus answers the angel: ‘How shall this be done? because I know not man.’

The first Eve evinces no such prudence or disinterestedness. No sooner has the wicked spirit assured her that she may break the commandment of her divine Benefactor and not die; that the fruit of her disobedience will be a wonderful knowledge, which will put her on an equality with God Himself: than she immediately yields; she is conquered. Her self-love has made her at once forget both duty and gratitude: she is delighted at the thought of being freed from the twofold tie which binds her to her Creator.

Such is the woman that caused our perdition. But how different is she that was to save us! The former cares not for her posterity; she looks but to her own interests: the latter forgets herself to think only of her God, and of the claims He has to her service. The angel, charmed with this sublime fidelity, thus answers the question put to him by Mary, and reveals to her the designs of God: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God.’ This said, he is silent, and reverently awaits the answer of the Virgin of Nazareth.

Let us look once more at the virgin of Eden. Scarcely has the wicked spirit finished speaking than Eve casts a longing look at the forbidden fruit: she is impatient to enjoy the independence it is to bring her. She rashly stretches forth her hand; she plucks the fruit; she eats it, and death takes possession of her: death of the soul, for sin extinguishes the light of life; and death of the body, which, being separated from the source of immortality, becomes an object of shame and horror, and finally crumbles into dust.

But let us turn away our eyes from this sad spectacle, and fix them on Nazareth. Mary has heard the angel’s explanation of the mystery; the will of heaven is made known to her, and how grand an honour it is to bring upon her! She, the humble maid of Nazareth, is to have the ineffable happiness of becoming the Mother of God, and yet the treasure of her virginity is to be left to her! Mary bows down before this sovereign will, and says to the heavenly messenger: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.’

Thus, as the great St. Irenæus and so many of the holy fathers remark, the obedience of the second Eve repaired the disobedience of the first: for no sooner does the Virgin of Nazareth speak her fiat, ‘be it done,’ than the eternal Son of God (who, according to the divine decree, awaited this word) is present, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the chaste womb of Mary, and there He begins His human life. A Virgin is a Mother, and Mother of God; and it is this Virgin’s consenting to the divine will that has made her conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost. This sublime mystery puts between the eternal Word and a mere woman the relations of Son and Mother; it gives to the almighty God a means whereby He may, in a manner worthy of His majesty, triumph over satan, who hitherto seemed to have prevailed against the divine plan.

Never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat than that which this day befel satan. The frail creature, over whom he had so easily triumphed at the beginning of the world, now rises and crushes his proud head. Eve conquers in Mary. God would not choose man for the instrument of His vengeance; the humiliation of satan would not have been great enough; and therefore she who was the first prey oi hell, the first victim of the tempter, is selected to give battle to the enemy. The result of so glorious a triumph is that Mary is to be superior not only to the rebel angels, but to the whole human race, yea, to all the angels of heaven. Seated on her exalted throne, she, the Mother of God, is to be the Queen of all creation. Satan, in the depths of the abyss, will eternally bewail his having dared to direct his first attack against the woman, for God has now so gloriously avenged her; and in heaven, the very Cherubim and Seraphim reverently look up to Mary, and deem themselves honoured when she smiles upon them, or employs them in the execution of any of her wishes, for she is the Mother of their God.

Therefore is it that we, the children of Adam, who have been snatched by Mary’s obedience from the power of hell, solemnize this day of the Annunciation. Well may we say of Mary those words of Debbora, when she sang her song of victory over the enemies of God’s people: ‘The valiant men ceased, and rested in Israel, until Debbora arose, a mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and He Himself overthrew the gates of the enemies.’[5] Let us also refer to the holy Mother of Jesus these words of Judith, who by her victory over the enemy was another type of Mary: ‘Praise ye the Lord our God, who hath not forsaken them that hope in Him. And by me, His handmaid, He hath fulfilled His mercy, which He promised to the house of Israel; and He hath killed the enemy of His people by my hand this night. . . . The almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman, and hath slain him.’[6]

 

FIRST VESPERS

 

When the Annunciation falls on any other day than Monday, the first Vespers of this feast are sung before midday, according to the rule prescribed for fast-days of Lent: but when it falls on a Monday, this Office is celebrated at the ordinary time of Vespers, and only & commemoration is made of the Sunday by the Magnificat antiphon and the prayer.

The Office of first Vespers is always the commencement of a feast. The antiphons of the Vespers, at which we are going to assist, are taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, where the evangelist reveals to us the sublime interview between the angel and the Virgin. The psalms are those which tradition has consecrated to the celebration of Mary’s glories. We have elsewhere [7] shown how each of the five refers to the Mother of God.

Ant. Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph.
Ant. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin espoused to Joseph.

Psalm 109

 

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donee 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. Missus est Gabriel angelus, ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph.
Ant. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: nenedicta tu in mulieribus.
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 earning, 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, sneaking of thee, the OodMan: 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. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin, espoused to Joseph.
Ant. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

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 cælos 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 filiorum lætantem.

Ant. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus.
Ant. Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti gratiam apud Dominum: ecce concipies, et paries filium.
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 unto 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 ow things in heaven and in earth, nay, who cometh down amidst us?
Raising up the needy from the earth: 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. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Ant. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.

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 at civitas: * cujus participate ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: * testimonium Israël ad confiten dum 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: * loque bar pacem de te.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri: * quæsivi bona tibi.

Ant. Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti gratiam apud Dominum; ecce concipies et paries filium.
Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ejus, et regnabit in aeternum.
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 thees 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 judgment; 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. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.
Ant. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever.

 


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 luoem surgere: * eurgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum: * ecce hæreditas Domini filii, merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittae in manu potentis: * ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir, qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis: * non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.

Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ej us, et regnabit in æternu m.
Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.
It is vain for you to rise before light; rise ye after you have sit ten, 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 hand 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. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever.
Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

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 Israël.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: * et judicia sua non manifestavit eis.

Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: flat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
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.
Who hath placed peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the fat of com, toith 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 judgments to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.

Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

Capitulum
(Is. vii.)

Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum, et eligere bonum.
Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.

Hymn[8]

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 cuneta posee.

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.
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.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Spiritus sanctus in te descended Maria, et virtue Altissimi obumbrabit tibi.

Oremus

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginia utero Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, camem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, O Mary, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.

Let us Pray

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, &c.

 

MASS

 

The Church has taken most of the chants of today’s Mass from the forty-fourth Psalm, wherein the royal prophet celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation. In the Introit, she greets Mary as the Queen of the human race, to whom every creature should pay respectful homage. It is her virginity that fitted Mary to become the Mother of God. This virtue will be imitated in the Church, and each generation will produce thousands of holy virgins, who will walk in the footsteps of her who is their Mother and their model.

Introit

Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: adducentur Regi virginea post eam: proximæ ejus adducentur tibi in lætitia et exsultatione.

Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bopum: dico ego opera mea Regi. V. Gloria Patri. Vultum tuum.
All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: after her shall virgins be brought to the King; her neighbours shall be brought to thee in joy and gladness.

Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. F. Glory, &c. All the rich.

In the Collect, the Church glories in her faith in the divine maternity; she puts it forward as a claim to Mary’s interceding for her with God, who is her Son. This dogma of Mary’s being the Mother of God is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the basis of our faith, and which was accomplished on this twenty-fifth of March.

Collect

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei oredimus, ejus apud te intercessionibua adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Collect for the feria of Lent.

Epistle

Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. vii.

In diebus illis: Locutus est Dominus ad Achaz, dicens: Pete tibi signum a Domino Deo tuo, in profundum infemi, sive in excelsum supra. Et dixit Achaz: Non petam, et non tentabo Dominum. Et dixit: Audite ergo domua David: Numquid parum vobis est, molestos esse hominibus, quia molesti estis et Deo meo? Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum. Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum et eligere bonum.
Lesson from the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. vii.

In those days: the Lord spoke unto Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he (Isaias) said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.

The prophet is speaking to a wicked king, who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God’s merciful protection over Jerusalem; and he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Juda the great portent which we are celebrating to-day: A Virgin shall conceive, and hear a Son. And when was it, that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age, when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. The fulness of time came, and the tradition, which had found its way into every country, that a Virgin should bring forth a Son, was exciting much interest. This is the day on which the mystery was accomplished; let us adore the power of God, and the fidelity wherewith He fulfils His promises. The Author of the laws of nature suspends them; He acts independently of them: virginity and maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the Child that is to be born is God. A Virgin could not bring forth other than God Himself: the Son of Mary is therefore called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.

Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles Himself. Henceforth, He will have every tongue confess, not only His Divinity, but also His human Nature, which He has assumed in order that He might redeem us. From this day forward He is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in His Mother’s womb, as other children. Like them, He will, after His birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for He is the New Man, who has come down from heaven that He might restore the old. Without losing aught of His Divinity, He shares in our weak finite being, that He may make us partakers of the divine nature.[9]

In the Gradual, the Church unites with David in praising the beauty of the Emmanuel, His kingdom and His strength; for He comes in humility, that He may rise again in glory; He comes to give battle that He may conquer and triumph.

Gradual

Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in ætemum. V. Propter veritatem, et mansuetudinera, et justitiam; et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua.
Grace is spread on thy lips; therefore hath the Lord blessed thee for ever. V. For thy truth, meekness and righteousness, shall thy right hand lead thee on wonderfully.

The Church continues the same canticle in the Tract, but it is in praise of Mary, the Virgin and Mother. The Holy Ghost loves her for her incomparable beauty; it is on this day that He overshadows her and she conceives the Word. Where is there a glory like that of Mary, who is an object of complacency to the three Persons of the Trinity? God could create nothing more exalted than the Mother of God. David foretells how this, his daughter, was to receive homage from the great ones of the earth, and how she was to be surrounded by holy virgins, who would follow her as their Queen and model. This day is also the triumph of her virginity, for it is raised to the dignity of divine maternity! Her triumph frees her sex from slavery, and renders it capable of everything that is honourable and great.

Tract

Audi, filia, et vide, et inclina aurem tuam: quia concupivit Rex speciem tuam. V. Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: filiæ regum in honore tuo. V. Adducentur Regi virgines post eam: proximæ ejus afferentur tibi. V. Adducentur in lætitia et exsultatione: adducentur in templum Regis.
Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: for the King is taken with thy beauty. V. All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: the daughters of kings shall honour thee. V. Virgins shall be brought in her retinue to the King: the virgins, her companions, shall be presented to thee. V. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the King.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Ch. i.

In illo tempore: Missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis, Maria. Et ingressus angelus ad eam, dixit: Ave, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus: et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait angelus ei: Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti enim gratiam aqud Deum. Ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium: et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum. Hic erit magnus: et Filius Altissimi vocabitur. Et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus: et regnabit in domo Jacob in æternum; et regni ejus non erit finis. Dixit autem Maria ad angelum: Quomodo fiet istud? quoniam virum non cognosco. Et respondens angelus, dixit ei: Spiritus sanctus superveniet in te; et virtue Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. Et ecceElisabeth cognata tua: et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua. Et hic mensis sertufl est illi, quse vocatur sterilis; quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum. Dixit autem Maria: Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Cap. i.

At that time: the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the Virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.

By these last words of thine, O Mary! our happiness is secured. Thou consentest to the desire of heaven, and thy consent brings us our Saviour. O Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! we unite our thanks with the homage that is paid thee by the angels. By thee is our ruin repaired; in thee is our nature restored; for thou hast wrought the victory of man over satan! St. Bernard, in one of his homilies on this Gospel, thus speaks: ‘Rejoice, O thou our father Adam! but thou, O mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our parents, but you were also our destroyers; and, what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a daughter as this: but thou, O Eve, who wast the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, thou hast a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time has now come, when the humiliation is taken away; neither can man any longer complain against the woman, as of old, when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: “The woman, whom Thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Go, Eve, to Mary; go, mother, to thy daughter; let thy daughter take thy part, and free thee from thy disgrace, and reconcile thee to her father: for, if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman.

‘What is this thou sayest, Adam? “The woman, whom Thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat?” These are wicked words; far from effacing thy fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered thy wickedness, by finding in the treasury of His own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon, which He had in vain sought to elicit by questioning thee. In place of the woman, of whom thou complainest, He gives thee another: Eve was foolish, Mary is wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the Tree of life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet Fruit she herself is to bring forth, the Fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: “ The Woman, whom Thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the Tree of life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it Thou hast given me life.” ’[10]

In the Offertory, the Church addresses Mary in the words spoken to her by the Archangel, to which she also adds those used by Elizabeth, when she saluted the Mother of her God.

Offertory

Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
Had, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

In the Secret, the Church renews her profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnation; she confesses the reality of the two Natures, divine and human, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Son of Mary.

Secret

In mentibue nostris, quæeumus, Domine, veræ fidei sacramenta confirma: ut, qui conceptum de Virgine Deum verum et hominem confitemur, per ejus salutiferæ resurrectionis potentiam, ad æternam mereamur pervenire lætitiam. Per eumdem.
Strengthen, we beseech thee, O Lord, in our soul, the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess him, that was conceived of a Virgin, to be true God and true Man, may, by the power of his saving resurrection, deserve to come to eternal joys. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Secret for the feria of Lent.


The greatness of the solemnity obliges the Church to substitute, for the lenten Preface, the one she uses on our Lady’s feasts.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratiae agere: Domine sanete, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: Et te in Annuntiatione beatæ Mariæ semper Virginia collaudare, benedicere, et prædicare. Quæ et Unigenitum tuum saneti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, lumen æternum mundo effudit Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Cœli cælorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places, give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: and that we should praise, bless, and glorify thee, on the Annunciation of the blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, conceived thy only-begotten Son, and the glory of her virginity still remaining, brought forth to the world the eternal Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. By whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the Heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee, glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying: Holy! Holy! Holy!

 

The Communion-anthem repeats the prophetic words of the Epistle. It is a Virgin that has conceived and brought forth Him, who, being God and Man, is also the living Bread that came down from heaven, whereby God is with us, and in us.

Communion

Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.
Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

In the Postcommunion, the Church gratefully recalls to mind all the mysteries which God has achieved for our salvation, and which are the consequences of the one we honour to-day. After the Incarnation, which unites the Son of God to our human nature, we have had the Passion of this our divine Redeemer; and His Passion was followed by His Resurrection, whereby He triumphed over our enemy death.

Postcommunion

Gratiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut, qui angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus; per Passionem ejus et crucem, ad Resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem.
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his Passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same, &c.

To this is added the Postcommunion of the feria of Lent.


 

SECOND VESPERS

 

The antiphons, psalms, hymn, and versicle, are the same as in the first Vespers, pages 449-455.


The Magnificat antiphon alone is changed, and is as follows:

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Gabriel angelus locutus est Mariæ dicens: Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus.

Oremus

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, camem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
The angel Gabriel spoke unto Mary, saying: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Let us Pray

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant, that we who. believe her to be truly the Mother cf God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, &c.

Let us now bring together the different liturgies, and hear them celebrate the great mystery of this glad feast. First of all, let us listen to the Church of Rome, who, in her Office of Matins, thus proclaims the praises of Mary, the Mother of God:

Hymn

Quem terra, pontus, sidera
Colunt, adorant, prædicant,
Trinam regentem machinam,
Claustrum Mariæ bajulat.

Cui luna, sol et omnia
Deserviunt per tempora,
Perfusa cceli gratia,
Gestant puellæ viscera.

Beata Mater munere,
Cujus, supernus artifex
Mundum pugillo contincns,
Ventris sub area clausus est.

Beata cœli nuntio,
Fœcunda eancto Spiritu,
Desideratus gentibus
Cujus per alvum fusus est.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine;
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.
He, whom earth, and sea, and the firmament,
worship, adore, and praise;
he, the King of the triple kingdom,
is carried in Mary’s womb.

The womb of a Virgin, who has been filled
with heavenly grace, bears him,
whom the moon, and sun, and all creatures
serve in the order marked for them.

O Mother, blessed in her great office!
He, the sovereign Creator,
who holds the world in the palm of his hand,
is enclosed in the tabernacle of her womb.

The angelic messenger
proclaims her blessed;
the holy Spirit makes her fruitful;
and the Desired of nations is born of her.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus,
that wast born of the Virgin!
and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love,
for everlasting ages.

Amen.

Many of the Latin Churches, in the middle ages, used to recite, in the Mass of the Annunciation, the following sequence, which is thought to have been composed by Peter Abailard.

Sequence

Mittit ad Virginem
Non quemvis Angelum,
Sed Fortitudinem
Suum Archangelum,
Amator hominis.

Fortem expediat
Pro nobis nuntium,
Naturae faciat
Ut præjudicium
In partu Virginis.

Naturam superet
Natus Rex gloriæ:
Regnet et imperet,
Et zyma scoriæ
Tollat de medio.

Superbientium
Terat fastigia:
Colla sublimium
Calcet vi propria,
Potens in prælio.

Foras ejiciat
Mundanum principem:
Secumque faciat
Matrem participem
Patris imperii.

Exi qui mitteris,
Hæc dona dissere:
Revela veteris
Velamen litteræ
Virtute nuncii.

Accede, nuncia:
Dic: Ave, cominus,
Dic: Plena gratia,
Dic: Tecum Dominus,
Et dic: Ne timeas.

Virgo suscipias
Dei depositum,
In quo perficiae
Casta propoeitum,
Et votum teneas.

Audit et suscipit
Puella nuntium:
Credit et concipit,
Et parit Filium,
Sed admirabilem.

Consiliarium
Humani generis:
Deum et hominem,
Et Patrem posteris,
In pace stabilem.

Cujus stabilitas
Nos reddat stabiles,
Ne nos labilitas
Humana labiles
Secum praecipitet.

Sed dator veniæ
Concessa venia,
Per matrem gratiæ
Obtenta gratia,
In nobis habitet.

Qui nobis tribuat
Peccati veniam:
Reatue deleat,
Donet et patriam
In arce siderum.

Amen.
God, the lover of man,
sends to the Virgin
no less an angel than him
who is called God's Strength,
the Archangel Gabriel.

May this strong messenger
be speedily at his work;
may he stay the rights
and laws of nature
in the Virgin’s delivery.

May the King of glory,
when born, triumph over nature;
may he reign and command;
may he take away from the midst of men
all leaven and rust.

May he humble
proud heads;
may this God, mighty in war,
trample in his power
on the necks of the haughty.

May he cast forth
the prince of this world;
and make his Mother
share with him the empire
which his Father has given him.

Go forth, messenger of God,
announce these gifts;
lift up, by the virtue
of thy Annunciation,
the veil of the ancient Scripture.

Approach, tell thy announcement:
say, when thou art in her presence, ‘Hail!’
Say: ‘O full of grace!’
Say: ‘The Lord is with thee!’
And then: ‘Fear not!’

Receive, O Virgin!
the divine deposit;
by him fulfil
thy chaste purpose,
and keep thy vow.

The Maid hears and accepts
the announcement;
she believes and conceives,
and brings forth a Son,
but he is the Admirable.

The Counsellor
of mankind,
God and Man,
Father of the world to come,
the Prince of peace.

May his firmness
render us firm,
lest human frailty
should make us stumble
into the abyss.

But may the giver
of pardon, granting us pardon
and grace, obtained by
the Mother of grace,
dwell within us.

May he that grants
us pardon of our sins,
wipe away all our guilt,
and give us the country
in the starry heaven.

Amen.

The Ambrosian liturgy gives us this fine Preface, which is used in its celebration of to-day’s mystery.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare: nos tibi, Domine Deus omnipotens, gratias agere, et cum tuæ invocations virtutis, beatæ Mariæ Virginia festa celebrare: de cujus ventre fructue effloruit, qui panis angelici munere nos replevit. Quod Eva voravit in crimine, Maria restituit in salute. Distat opus serpent is et virgin is: inde fusa sunt venena discriminis; hine egressa mysteria Salvatorie. Inde se præbuit tentantis iniquitas; hine Redemptoris est opitulata majestas. Inde partus oocubuit; hino Conditor resurrexit, a quo humana natura, non jam captiva, sed libera restituitur; quod Adam perdidit in parente, Christo recepit auctore.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should give thanks to thee, O Lord God almighty: and that we should, whilst invoking thy power, celebrate the feasts of the blessed Virgin Mary; from whose womb came the Fruit, which has filled us with the Bread of angels. That Fruit, which Eve took from us, when she sinned, Mary hath restored to us, and it hath saved us. Not as the work of the serpent, is the work of Mary. From the one, came the poison of our destruction; from the other, the mysteries of salvation. In the one, we see the malice of the tempter; in the other, the help of the divine Majesty. By the one, came death to the creature; by the other the resurrection of the Creator, by whom human nature, now not captive but free, is restored: and what it lost by its parent Adam, it regained by its Maker, Christ.

The Mozarabic liturgy (which, as we have already observed, keeps the feast of the Annunciation on December 18) has several admirable prayers touching this mystery: we select the following:—

Prayer

Gratiam plenam habere te credimus, o Virgo Christi genitrix, et humani generis reparatrix, gloriosa Maria, quæ tanta nobis gaudia pariendo contulisti, ut fructus ventris tui, qui est Christus Filius Dei, a dominio in nos sævientis eriperet inimici, et in regno æterno consortes faceret sibimetipsi. Proinde, quæsumus, te rogamus, ut adsis patrona nobis, ut et merito tuo nos films tuus a delicto exsules reddat, et post in regno suo perenniter habitaturos introducat. Præsta nobis, ut qui te concupiscens sibi advocavit in Matrem, nobis concupiscentiæ suæ opulentam largiatur dulcedinem. Amen.
We believe thee to be full of grace, O glorious Mary, Virgin Mother of Christ, and reparatrix of mankind! Great indeed are the blessings thou hast conferred on us by giving him birth: for the Fruit of thy womb, Christ the Son of God, hath delivered us from the tyranny of our oruei enemy, and hath made us his companions in the eternal kingdom. Be thou, therefore, we beseech thee, our advocate; that, through thy merits, thy Son may set us free from our sins, and, after this life, give us to reign for ever in his kingdom. Grant that he, who out of love for thee called thee to be his Mother, may grant unto us the rich sweetness of his love. Amen.

The Greek liturgy, with its wonted abundance, celebrates the glory of Mary in the Incarnation of the Word. We give the following hymn, which comes in the Office of the vigil of the Annunciation. In our opinion, it is finer than the one on the feast itself.

Hymn
(DieXXIV. Martii)

Terra, quæ magno hactenus dolore spinas germinasti, jam nunc age choreas et salta: ecce enim immortalis agricola, qui te a spinis maledictionis expurget, nunc appropinquat.

Sed et tu intaminata, o Virgo, tamquam vellus plane divinum, te præpara excipiendo Numini, quod in te velut imber descendat, ut torrentes transgressionis præceptorum exsiccet.

Esto paratus, o divinæ munditiæ liber; quippe tibi sancti Spiritus digito inscribetur Sapientia divina sed incarnate, quæ ineipientiæ meæ prævaricationem e medio toilat.

O aureum item candelabrum, ignem recipe divinitatis; ut per te illuceat mundo, unaque nequitiarum nostrarum tenebras dissipet.

O magni Regis palatium, Virgo, aurium tuarum divina vesti bula pande: jamjam enira ingredietur ad te ipsa Ventas Christus, ut habitet in medio tui.

O Agna incontaminata, Agnus Dei nostri, qui tollit peccata nostra, uterum tuum festinat intrare. Mystica etiam virga brevi germinabit florera divinum, de radice Jesse palam exortum, ut loquitur Scriptura.

O vitis quoque Maria, compara te, ut per angelicam vocem fæcundata, botrum quoque maturum, neque corruption! obnoxium procrees.

O denique mons salve, quem Daniel prævidit in Spiritu, ex quo lapis ille spiritalis abscindetur, qui inanimate dæmonum sculptilia conteret.

O ratione prædita Arca, quam verus legislator araore singulari prosecutus inhabitare nunc ceu incola statuit, impleat te jucunditas mentis: per te enim innovabit destructos.

Quin et vatum chorus divina dare præsagia doctus, tanquam pacatum in te Redemptoris ingressum præsentiret exclamat: Cunctorum salve Redemptio, salve unica hominum salus.

O aerea divini luminis nubes, orituro mox soli te para. Nam ecce sol inaccessus de sedibus tibi cœlestibus explendescet, ut in te aliquantum absconditus, illuceat mundo, et improbitatis tene bras dissipet.

Ille qui a dextera Patris nunquam digressus, substantiam omnem transcendit, in te sibi diversorium delecturus adventat: ut te a dextris constituat suis, tamquam reginam dignitate sibi propinquam, et excellenti pulchritudine præditam, utque te velut dexteram suam omnibus lapsis ad surgendum extendat.

Inter angelos autem primarme Dei minister, vocem ad te lætabundam emittit, ut ex te corporandum significet magni consilii Angelum.

O Verbum divinum, cœlos inclina, et nunc jam ad nos descends. Modo enim uterus Virginia præparatus est tibi ceu thronus, in quo tamquam rex splendidissimus sedeas, opus dexteræ tuæ a ruina sustollens.

Tu quoque, o Virgo, ceu terra numquam seminata, accingere nunc ad recipiendum sub angeli verbo Vorbum cœleste, frumento per quam frugifero simile, quod ex te germinans semina enutriet in panem intelligentiæ.
O Earth! that heretofore hast, with much sorrow, brought forth thorns, now dance and leap with joy; for lo! the immortal Husbandman, who will cleanse thee from the thorns of the curse, is at hand.

And thou, too, O spotless Virgin! as a divine fleece, prepare thyself to receive thy God, who is about to come down upon thee as the Dew, that he may dry up the torrent of iniquity.

Hold thyself in readiness, O book of heavenly purity! for, by the finger of the Holy Ghost, there shall be written in thee the divine Wisdom made Incarnate, who is to take away the foolishness of my sin.

Receive, O golden candlestick! the flame of the Godhead; that by thee he may enlighten the world, and scatter the darkness of our sins.

O Virgin! Palace of the great King, throw open the holy portals of thine ears; for Christ, the very Truth, is about to enter into thee, that he may dwell in thy midst.

O spotless sheep, the Lamb of our God, who taketh away the sins of the world, longs to enter thy womb. The mystic branch, as the Scripture saith, shall soon bud forth the Flower divine, which is to spring from Jesse’s root.

O Mary, thou vine, prepare thyself to receive, by the angel’s words, the ripe GrapeBunch, that knoweth not corruption.

Hail, O mountain! that wast foreseen in the Spirit by Daniel, and from whence shall be hewn that living Stone, which is to destroy the dead idols of the demons.

O intellectual Ark! dear above all to the true Lawgiver, and which he has chosen for the place of his abode! Rejoice exceedingly, for, by thee, he will restore what hath been destroyed.

The choir of the prophets, skilled in announcing divine mysteries, foresaw the peaceful entrance of the Redeemer within thee, and they exclaimed: Hail, Redemption of the world! Hail, thou the only salvation of mankind!

O cloud of the divine Light, prepare thyself for the Sun that is about to rise. For lo! the inaccessible Sun shall shine on thee from his heavenly throne, that, after he has been for a while hid in thee, he may shed his light upon the world, and scatter the darkness of iniquity.

He that hath never left the right hand of the Father, and is above all, has chosen thee as his dwelling-place, and is coming unto thee: he will set thee on his right hand, as a Queen whose throne is near his own, and whose beauty surpasses that of all creatures: he will use thee, as his own right hand, to help the fallen to rise.

He that is the chief among the angels to minister unto God, addresses his joyous words to thee, telling thee, that the Angel of the great Counsel is to take flesh from thee.

O divine Word, bow down the heavens, and now descend unto us; for the Virgin’s womb is prepared for thee as a throne, whereon thou the all-glorious King mayst sit, and raise up from ruin the work of thy right hand.

Do thou, also, O Maiden, as a virgin soil, prepare thyself to receive, at the angel’s word, the heavenly Word, which, like unto most fruitful wheat, shall bud forth its seed from thee, and produce the bread of the spirit.

O Emmanuel, God with us! who, as Thy Church says in her hymn, ‘being to take upon Thee to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb,’ the whole human race gives thanks to Thee on this day, for Thy merciful coming. O eternal Word of the Father! it was not enough for Thee to have drawn man out of nothing by Thy power; Thine exhaustless love would follow him even to the abyss of misery into which he had fallen. By sin man had forfeited the dignity Thou hadst given him: that he might regain it, Thou didst come in person and assume his nature, so to raise him up again to Thyself. In Thee, from this day forward unto all eternity, God is made man, and man is made God. Thy Incarnation is the fulfilment of the promises made in the canticle; Thou unitest Thyself to human nature, and it is in the virginal womb of a daughtei of David that Thou celebratest these ineffable espousals. O incomprehensible humiliation! O ineffable glory! The humiliation is for the Son of God, the glory is for the Son of man. Thus hast Thou loved us, O divine Word, thus hast Thou removed from us the degradation of our fall! The rebel angels fell, and Thou didst leave them in the abyss; we fell, and Thou hadst mercy on us. A single look of Thy pity would have sufficed to save us; but it would not satisfy Thy love: therefore d dst Thou descend into this world of sin, take upon Thyself the form of a slave,[11] and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh, who comest not to judge, but to save,[12] we adore Thee, we praise Thee, we love Thee. Make us worthy of all that Thy love has led Thee to do for us.

We salute thee, O Mary, full of grace, on this day whereon thou didst receive thy sublime dignity of Mother of God. Thy incomparable purity drew down upon thee the love of the great Creator, and thy humility drew Him into thy womb; His presence within thee increased the holiness of thy spirit and the purity of thy body. What must have been thy happiness in knowing that this Son of God was living by thy life, and was taking from thine own substance the new being, which His love for us induced Him to assume! Between thee and Him is formed that ineffable union which is granted to none else but to thee: He is thy Creator, and thou art His Mother; He is thy Son, and thou art His creature. Every knee bows down before Him, O Mary! for He is the great God of heaven and earth; but every creature reveres thee, also, for thou hast carried Him in thy womb, thou hast fed Him at thy breast; thou alone canst say to Him, as does His heavenly Father: ‘Thou art my Son!’ O Mother of Jesus! thou art the greatest of God’s works: receive the humble homage of mankind, for thou art most dear to us, seeing that thou art of the same flesh and blood as ourselves.

Thou art a daughter of Eve, but without her sin. By thy obedience to the divine decrees, thou savest thy mother and her race; thou restorest Adam and his children to the innocence they had lost. Jesus, whom thou bearest in thy womb, is our pledge that all these blessings are to be ours; and it is by thee that He comes to us. Without Jesus, we should abide in death; without thee, we should not have had Him to redeem us. It is from thy virginal womb that He receives the precious Blood which is to be our ransom, that Blood whose purity He protected in thy Immaculate Conception, and which becomes the Blood of God by the union, that is consummated in thee, of the divine with the human Nature.

To-day, O Mary! is fulfilled in thee the promise made by God after Adam's sin, that He would put enmity between the woman and the serpent. Up to this time, the human race had not the courage to resist the enemy; it was subservient to him, and everywhere were altars raised up in his honour; but, on this day, his head is crushed beneath thy foot. Thy humility, thy purity, thy obedience, have conquered him; his tyranny is checked. By thee we areelivered from his sway; and nothing but our own perversity and ingratitude could again give him the mastery. Let not this be, O Mary! Come to our assistance. During this season of repentance, we humbly acknowledge that we have abused the grace of God; we beseech thee, on this the feast of thy Annunciation, intercede for us with Him, who, on this day, became thy Son. Holy Mother of God! by the salutation addressed to thee by the angel Gabriel, by thy virginal fear, by thy fidelity to God, by thy prudent humility, by thy consent, obtain for us conversion of heart, and sincere repentance; prepare us for the great mysteries we are about to celebrate. These mysteries are so full of sorrow to thy maternal heart; and yet thou wouldst have us rejoice on this day, as we think on the ineffable happiness which filled thy soul at the solemn moment when the Holy Ghost overshadowed thee, and the Son of God became thine. Yes, blessed Mother of Jesus! we will spend the whole of this day near thee, in thy humble dwelling at Nazareth. Nine months hence, we will follow thee to Bethlehem, and there, in company with the shepherds and the angels, we will prostrate ourselves in adoration before the Infant-God, our Saviour: we will join our voices with those of the heavenly host, and we will thus express our gladness: ‘Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will!’


Feast of the Annunciation during Paschaltide

 

IT very frequently happens that March 25 falls between Palm Sunday and Low Sunday: on these occasions, the feast of our Lady’s Annunciation, being out of keeping both with the dolorous mysteries of Holy Week and with the splendour of the Resurrection, is deferred to the Monday following Low Sunday. For the convenience of the faithful, we have here repeated the Vespers and Mass of this great feast. As to the instructions we gave upon the mystery of the Annunciation, our readers must refer to our volume on Lent.

 

FIRST VESPERS

 

The Office of First Vespers is always the commencement of a feast. The Antiphons of the Vespers at which we are going to assist are taken from the Gospel of St Luke, where the Evangelist reveals to us the sublime interview between the angel and the Virgin. The Psalms are those which tradition has consecrated to the celebration of Mary’s glories. We have elsewhere[13] shown how each of the five refers to the Mother of God.

Ant. Missus est Gabriel angelus ad Mariam virginem desponsatam Joseph, alleluia.
Ant. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a virgin espoused to Joseph, alleluia.

Psalm 109

 

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donee 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. Missus est Gabriel angelus, ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph.
Ant. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: nenedicta tu in mulieribus.
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 earning, 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, sneaking of thee, the OodMan: 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. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin, espoused to Joseph.
Ant. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

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 cælos 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 filiorum lætantem.

Ant. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus.
Ant. Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti gratiam apud Dominum: ecce concipies, et paries filium.
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 unto 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 ow things in heaven and in earth, nay, who cometh down amidst us?
Raising up the needy from the earth: 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. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Ant. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.

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 at civitas: * cujus participate ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: * testimonium Israël ad confiten dum 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: * loque bar pacem de te.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri: * quæsivi bona tibi.

Ant. Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti gratiam apud Dominum; ecce concipies et paries filium.
Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ejus, et regnabit in aeternum.
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 thees 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 judgment; 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. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a Son.
Ant. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever.

 


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 luoem surgere: * eurgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum: * ecce hæreditas Domini filii, merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittae in manu potentis: * ita filii excussorum.
Beatus vir, qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis: * non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.

Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ej us, et regnabit in æternu m.
Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.
It is vain for you to rise before light; rise ye after you have sit ten, 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 hand 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. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever.
Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

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 siout 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 Israël.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: * et judicia sua non manifestavit eis.

Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
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.
Who hath placed peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the fat of com, toith 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 judgments to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.

Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

Capitulum
(Isa. vii.)

Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum, et eligere bonum.
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.

Hymn[14]

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 cuneta posee.

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.
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.

Then is made a commemoration of Low Sunday, as on p. 307.


 

MASS

 

The Church has taken most of the chants of to-day’s Mass from the forty-fourth Psalm, wherein the royal prophet celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation. In the Introit, she greets Mary as the Queen of the human race, to whom every creature should pay respectful homage. It was her virginity that fitted Mary to become the Mother of God. This virtue will be imitated in the Church, and each generation will produce thousands of holy virgins, who will walk in the footsteps of her that is their Mother and their model.

Introit

Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis: adducentur Regi virgines post eam: proximæ ejus adducentur tibi in lætitia et exsultatione. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi. ℣. Gloria Patri. Vultum tuum.
All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance: after her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbours shall be brought to thee in joy and gladness. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. ℣. Glory, etc. All the rich.

In the Collect, the Church glories in her faith in the divine maternity; she puts it forward as a claim to Mary’s interceding for her with God, who is her Son. This dogma of Mary’s being the Mother of God is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation, which is the basis of our faith.

Collect

Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.

Cap. vii.

In diebus illis: Locutus est Dominus ad Achaz dicens: Pete tibi signum a Domino Deo tuo, in profundum inferni sive in excelsum supra. Et dixit Achaz: Non petam, et non tentabo Dominum. Et dixit: Audite ergo domus David: Numquid parum vobis est, molestos esse hominibus, quia molestiestis et Deo meo? Propter hoc dabit Dominus ipse vobis signum. Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum et eligere bonum.
Lesson from Isaias the Prophet.

Ch. vii.

In those days: The Lord spoke unto Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he (Isaias) said: Hear ye, therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God, also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.

The prophet is speaking to a wicked king, who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God's merciful protection over Jerusalem; and he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Juda the great portent which we are celebrating to-day: A virgin shall conceive and bear a son. And when was it that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. 'The fulness of time came,' and the tradition, which had found its way into every country, that a virgin should bring forth a son, was exciting much interest. To-day we are celebrating the sublime mystery; let us adore the power of God, and the fidelity wherewith he fulfils his promises. The author of the laws of nature suspends them; he acts independently of them: virginity and maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the Child that is to be bom is God. A virgin could not bring forth other than God himself: the Son of Mary is, therefore, called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.

Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles himself. Henceforth, he will have every tongue confess, not only his divinity, but also his human nature, which he has assumed in order that he might redeem us. From this day forward, he is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in his Mother's womb, as other children. Like them, he will, after his birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for he is the New Man, who has come down from heaven that he might restore the old. Without losing aught of his divinity, he shares in our weak finite being, that he may make us ‘partakers of the divine nature.’[15]

The first Alleluia Versicle repeats the angel's salutation to Mary. Let us, with Gabriel, bow down before this holy Virgin, the masterpiece of nature and grace, predestined from all eternity to be the Mother of God.

Alleluia, alleluia. Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus.
Alleluia, alleluia. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

The second Versicle celebrates in sublime and enthusiastic words, the effects of the divine mystery of the Incarnation—peace between God and man re-established in the virginal womb of Mary, wherein the divine and human nature are united in the Person of the Child, whom she conceives the very instant she consents to the will of the Most High.

Alleluia. Virga Jesse floruit: Virgo Deum et hominem genuit; pacem Deus reddidit, in se reconcilians ima summis, alleluia.
Alleluia. The rod of Jesse hath brought forth its flower; a virgin hath conceived him who is God and man; God hath restored peace, by uniting in himself the lowest with the highest, alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. i.

In illo tempore: Missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, ad virginem desponsatam viro cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis Maria. Et ingressus angelus ad eam, dixit: Ave, gratia plena; Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus: et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. Et ait angelus ei: Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum. Ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium: et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum. Hic erit magnus: et Filius Altissimi vocabitur. Et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus: et regnabit in domoJacob in æternam; et regni ejus non erit finis. Dixit autem Maria ad angelum: Quomodo fiet istud? quoniam virum non cognosco. Et respondens angelus, dixit ei: Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te; et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. Et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua: et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua. Et hic mensis sextus est illi, quæ vocatur sterilis; quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum. Dixit autem Maria: Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. i.

At that time: The angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.

By these last words of thine, O Mary! our happiness is secured. Thou consentest to the desire of heaven, and thy consent brings us our Saviour. O Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! we unite our thanks with the homage that is paid thee by the angels. By thee is our ruin repaired; in thee is our nature restored; for thou hast wrought the victory of man over Satan! St Bernard, in one of his homilies on this Gospel, thus speaks: 'Rejoice, O thou our father Adam! but thou, O mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our parents, but you were also our destroyers; and what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a daughter as this: but thou, O Eve, who wast the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, thou hast a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time is now come when the humiliation is taken away, neither can man any longer complain against the woman, as of old, when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: “The woman whom thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Go, Eve, to Mary; go, mother, to thy daughter; let thy daughter take thy part, and free thee from thy disgrace, and reconcile thee to her father: for if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman.

'What is this thou sayest, Adam? “The woman whom thou gavest me, gave me of the tree, and I did eat?" These are wicked words; far from effacing thy fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered thy wickedness, by finding in the treasury of his own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon, which he had in vain sought to elicit by questioning thee. In place of the woman of whom thou complainest, he gives thee another: Eve was foolish, Mary is wise; Eve was proud, Mary is humble; Eve gave thee of the tree of death, Mary will give thee of the tree of life; Eve offered thee a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give thee the sweet fruit she herself is to bring forth, the fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, thy wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: “The woman, whom thou hast given me, O Lord, hath given me of the tree of life, and I have eaten thereof; and it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it thou hast given me life.”‘[16]

In the Offertory, the Church addresses Mary in the words spoken to her by the archangel, to which she also adds those used by Elizabeth, when she saluted the Mother of her God.

Offertory

Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, alleluia.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, alleluia.

In the Secret, the Church renews her profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnation; she confesses the reality of the two natures, divine and human, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary.

Secret

In mentibus nostris, quæsumus, Domine, veræ fidei sacramenta confirma: ut, qui conceptum de virgine Deum verum et hominem confitemur, per ejus salutiferæ resurrectionis potentiam, ad æternam mereamur pervenire lætitiam. Per eumdem.
Strengthen, we beseech thee, O Lord, in our soul, the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess him that was conceived of a virgin to be true God and true Man, may, by the power of his saving Resurrection, deserve to come to eternal joys. Through the same, etc.

The greatness of the solemnity obliges the Church to substitute for the Paschal Preface, the one she uses on our Lady's feasts.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: Et te in Annuntiatione beatæ Mariæ semper virginis collaudare, benedicere, et prædicare. Quæ et Unigenitum tuum Sancti Spiritus obumbratione concepit, et virginitatis gloria permanente, lumen æternum mundo effudit, Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant angeli, adorant dominationes, tremunt potestates. Cœli cœlorumque virtutes, ac beata seraphim, socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: and that we should praise, bless, and glorify thee, on the Annunciation of the blessed Mary, ever a virgin, who by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, conceived thy only-begotten Son, and the glory of her virginity still remaining, brought forth to the world the eternal Light, Jesus Christ our Lord. By whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominations adore it, the powers tremble before it; the heavens and the heavenly virtues, and the blessed seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices saying: Holy! Holy! Holy!

The Communion Anthem repeats the prophetic words of the Epistle. It is a virgin that has conceived and brought forth him who, being God and man, is also the living Bread that came down from heaven, whereby God is with us, and in us.

Communion

Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel, alleluia.
Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, alleluia.

In the Postcommunion the Church gratefully recalls to mind all the mysteries which God has achieved for our salvation, and which were the consequences of the one of to-day. After the Incarnation, which unites the Son of God to our human nature, we have had the Passion of this our divine Redeemer; and his Passion was followed by his Resurrection, whereby he triumphed over our enemy, death.

Postcommunion

Gratiam tuam, quæsumus Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut, qui angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus; per Passionem ejus et Crucem, ad Resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem.
Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same, etc.


SECOND VESPERS


The Antiphons, Psalms, Hymn, and Versicle are the same as in the First Vespers, pp. 310-315.


The Magnificat Antiphon is alone changed, and is as follows:

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Gabriel angelus locutus est Mariæ dicens: Ave gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus, alleluia.

Oremus.

Deus qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero, Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis: ut qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem.
The angel Gabriel spoke unto Mary, saying: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, alleluia.

Let us Pray.

O God, who wast pleased that thy Word, when the angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, give ear to our humble petitions, and grant, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers. Through the same, etc.

 

 

[1] St. John i. 14.
[2] Ibid. iii. 16.
[3] St. Augustine, De Trinitate, Lib. iv. cap. v.
[4] Adv. hæreses. Lib. v. cap. xix.
[5] Judges v. 7, 8.
[6] Judith xiii. 17, 18; xvi. 7.
[7] See our volume for Advent, in the Vespers for December 8.
[8] In monastic churches it is preceded by this responsory:—,R. breve. Angelus Domini * Nuntiavit Mariæ. Angelus. V. Et concepit de Spiritu sancto. * Nuntiavit. Gloria Patri. Angelus,
[9] 2 St. Peter i. 4.
[10] St. Bernard. Homil. II. super Missus est.
[11] Phil, ii, 7.
[12] St. John xii. 47.
[13] See our volume for Advent, in the Vespers for December 8.
[14] In monastic churches it is preceded by this Responsory: R. breve. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ. * Alleluia, alleluia. Angelus ℣. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto. * Alleluia. Gloria Patri. Angelus.
[15] 2 St Pet. i 4.
[16] St Bernard, Homil. ii super Missus est.

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The faithful have not forgotten that on the first Sunday of Lent the Greeks keep one of their greatest solemnities, that of Orthodoxy. History proves that the Church of Constantinople, the new Rome, did not share the indefectibility of that of the old Rome, for it passed through a cycle of heresies on the dogma of the Incarnation. It rejected successively the consubstantiality of the Word, the unity of Person in Jesus Christ, and the integrity of His two natures. It seemed as though there were nothing left for heretical emperors and patriarchs to deny. Yet there was one more error to proclaim before the measure of false teaching was filled up.

Christ enthroned in heaven could not be belittled, but His images might be proscribed on earth. Heresy was powerless to touch the King even in these pictorial representations, but schism could at least shake off the yoke of His Vicar, and this last denial rolled the stone to the door of a tomb which the Crescent was one day to seal.

The heresy of the Iconoclasts or Image-breakers represents the last phase of Oriental error with regard to the Incarnation of the Son of God. It was right that the feast which commemorates the restoration of the holy Images should receive the glorious name of the Feast of Orthodoxy. It celebrates the last blow struck at Byzantine dogma, and recalls all those delivered by the councils of the Church between the first and second of Nicæa. A peculiar solemnity was given to this feast by the fact that all the anathemas formulated in previous times against the adversaries of revealed truth were renewed in the Church of St. Sophia while the Cross and the holy Images were exalted in triumph and the emperor stood at his throne.

Satan, the sworn foe of the Word, showed clearly that he looked upon the doctrine of the Iconoclasts as his last resource. There is no heresy which has caused more martyrdoms or more destruction. Nero and Diocletian seemed to be reincarnate in the baptized Caesars who defended it: Leo the Isaurian, Constantine Copronymus, Leo the Armenian, Michael the Stammerer and his son Theophilus. The edicts of persecution, published in defence of the idols of former times, were renewed for the destruction of the idolatry which was said to defile the Church.

In the early days of the heresy, St. Germanus of Constantinople reminded the crowned theologian of Isauria that Christians do not adore images but give them a relative honour, which is due to the persons of the saints whom they represent. The imperial pontiff replied by sending the patriarch into exile. The soldiers, whom the emperor charged to carry out his will, gave themselves up to the pillage of churches and private houses. On all sides venerated statues fell under the hammer of the destroyer. Mural paintings were covered with chalk, vestments and sacred vessels mutilated and destroyed on account of images in embroidery or enamel. Masterpieces of art, which had nourished the devotion of the people, were publicly burnt, and the artist who dared to represent Christ, Our Lady, or the saints, was himself subjected to fire and torture together with those of the faithful who had not been able to restrain their sorrow at the sight of such destruction. The shepherds bowed beneath the storm and yielded to re grettable compromises, and the reign of terror was soon supreme over the deserted flock.

But the noble family of St. Basil, both monks and consecrated virgins, rose en masse to withstand the tyrant. They passed through exile, imprisonment, starvation, scourging, death by drowning and the sword, but they saved the tradition of ancient art and the faith of their ancestors. The whole Order seems personified in the holy monk and painter Lazarus, who was first tempted by flattery and threats, then tortured and put in chains. It was impossible to repress him. His hands were burned with red-hot plates, but he still continued to exercise his art for the love of the saints, for the sake of his brethren, and for God, and he outlived his persecutors.

The heresy of the Iconoclasts helped, moreover to establish the temporal independence of the Roman pontiffs, for when the Isaurian threatened to enter Rome and destroy the statue of St. Peter, all Italy rose to repel the invasion of these new barbarians, defend the treasures of her basilicas and withdraw the Vicar of Christ from the yoke of Byzantium.

It was a glorious period, a hundred and twenty years, comprising the reigns of great popes, from St. Gregory II. to St. Paschal I. In the history of the Eastern Church it begins with John Damascene, who saw the opening of the conflict, and ends with Theodore the Studite, whose indomitable firmness secured the final triumph. For many centuries this period, which gave so many saints to the Greek Kalendar, was unrepresented in the Latin Liturgy. The feast of to-day was added by Pope Leo XIII. in 1892, and now John Damascene, the quondam vizier, the protege of Our Lady, the monk, whose excellent doctrine won for him the name of ‘Golden stream,’ commemorates in the Western cycle the heroic struggle in which the East rendered such glorious services to the Church and to the world.

The account given by the Liturgy of the life of this holy Doctor is so complete that we need add nothing further. But it will be well to give a short summary of the definitions by which in the eighth and sixteenth centuries the Church has avenged the holy Images from the attacks made on them by hell. The second Council of Nicæa declares that: ‘It is lawful to place in churches, in frescoes, in pictures, on vestments and the sacred vessels, on the walls of houses and in public streets, images, whether painted or mosaic or of other suitable material, representing Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our most pure Lady, the holy Mother of God, the angels and the saints; and it is equally lawful to burn incense before them and surround them with lights.’[1] ‘Not that we must believe that these images have any divinity or virtue of their own,’ says the Council of Trent against the Protestants, ‘or that we must put our confidence in them as the pagans did in their idols. But the honour which is given to the images is referred to Christ the prototype,[2] to whom through them all our adoration is addressed, and to the saints whom we venerate in their portraits.’[3]

Joannes a patrio loco Damaecenus dictus, nobili genere natue, humanis divinisque litteris a Cosma monacho Constantinopoli fuit excultus; cumque ea tempestate imperator Leo Isauricus nefario bello sacrarum Imaginum cultum insectaretur, Joannes hortatu Gregorii Tertii Romani Pontificis, et sermone et scriptis eanctitatem illius cultus sedulo propugnavit. Quo facto tantum Leonis adversum se invidiam concita vit, ut hic confictis litteris ipsum tanquam proditorem accusarit apud Damasci Calipham, qui Joanne consiliario et administro utebatur. Credulus fraudi princeps Joanni nequidquam calumniam ejuranti præcidi dexteram jussit. Verum innocentiæ vindex adfuit clienti suo sanetissima Virgo, cujus opem precibus enixe imploraverat, ejusque beneficio trunca manus restituia ita brachio coaluit, ac si divisa nunquam fuisset. Quo maxime miraculo permotus Joannes, quod pridem animo conceperat, exsequi statuit. Itaque ægre a calipha impetrato secessu, suas omnes facultates in egenos distribuit, et servos libertate dona vit; tum eacra Palæstinas loca peregrinus lustravit, ac demum una cum Cosma institutore suo in lauram sancti Sabbæ prope Hierosolymam concessit, ibique presbyter initiatus est.

In religiosæ vitæ palæstra præclariora virtutum exempla monachis præbuit, demissionis potissimum et obe dientiæ. Abjectissima quæque cænobii munia veluti sibi propria deposcebat ac sedulo obibat. Contextas a se sportulas venditare Damasci jussus, in ea nimirum civitate ubi olim surnmis honeribus perfunctus fuerat, irrisiones ac ludibria vulgi avide captabat. Obedientiam adeo coluit, ut non modo ad quemlibet præsidum nutum præsto esset, sed ne causam quidem eorum quæ præcipiebantur, quamvis ardua essent et insolita, quærendam sibi un·quam putarit. Inter has virtutum exercitationes, catholicum dogma de sanctarum Imaginum cultu impense tueri nunquam destitit. Quare ut ante Leonis Isaurici, ita postmodum Constantini Copronymi adversum se odia vexationesque provocavit; eo vel magis quod libere arrogantiam imperatorum retunderet, qui fidei negotia pertractare, deque his sententiam arbitratu suo ferre audebant.

Mirum sane est quam multa turn ad fidem tutandam, turn ad pietatem fovendam, et soluta et adstricta numeris oratione, Joannes elucubraverit, dignus sane qui ab altera Nicæna sy nodo ampliseimis laudibus celebraretur, et ob aureum orationis flumen Chrysorrhoas appellaretur. Neque solum contra Iconomachos orthodoxam fidem defendit; sed omnes ferme hereticos, præsertim Acephalos, Monothelitas, Theopaschitas strenue impugnavit: Ecclesiæ jura potestatemque egregie vindicavit: primatum Principis Apostolorum disertissimis verbis assemit; ipsumque ecclesiarum columen, infractam petram, orbis terrarum magistrum et moderatorem saepius nominat. Universa autem ejus scripta non modo eruditione et doctrina præstant, sed etiam quemdam ingenuæ pietatis sensum præferunt, præcipue cum Genitricis Dei laudes prædicat, quam singular! cultu et amore prosequebatur. Illud vero maxime in laudem Joannis cedit, quod primus universam theologiam recto ordine comprelienderit et sancti Thomæ viam complanaverit ad sacram doc trin am tam præclara methodo tractandam. Tandem vir eanctissiraus meritis pienus devexaque ætate, in pace Chrieti quievit anno circiter septingentesimo quinquagesimo quarto. Ejus officium et missam Leo decimus tertius Pontifex Maximus, addito Doctoris titulo, universæ Ecclesiæ concessit.
John, who received the name of Damascene from his native place, was of noble birth, and studied sacred and profane letters at Constantinople under the monk Cosmas. When the Emperor Leo the Isaurian made a wicked attack upon the cult of the holy Images, John, at the desire of Pope Gregory III., earnestly defended the holiness of this cult both by words and writings. By this ho enkindled so great a hatred in the heart of Leo that the Emperor accused him, by means of forged letters, of treachery to the Caliph of Damascus, whom he was serving as a councillor and minister. John denied the charge, but the Caliph was deceived by it and ordered his right hand to be cut off. John implored most earnestly the help of the blessed Virgin, and she manifested the innocence of her servant by reuniting the hand and arm as though they had never been severed. This miracle moved John to carry out a design which he had long had in mind. He obtained, though not without difficulty, the Caliph’s permission to leave him, distributed all his goods to the poor and freed all his slaves. He then made a pilgrimage to the holy places in Palestine, and at length withdrew with his teacher Cosmas to the monastery of St. Sabbas near Jerusalem, where he was ordained priest.

In the religious life he was an example of virtue to all the monks, especially in his humility and obedience. He sought for the· lowest offices in the community as though they were peculiarly his own, and fulfilled them with the greatest care. When he was sent to Damascus to sell baskets made by himself, he welcomed the mockery and jests of the lowest classes in that city where he had once held the most honourable offices. He was so devoted to obedience, that not only was he ready to obey the nod of his superiors, but he never thought it right to ask the reason of any command, however strange or difficult. While practising these virtues, he never ceased earnestly to defend the Catholic doctrine as to the honouring of holy Images. Thus he drew upon himself the hatred and persecution of the Emperor Constantine Copronymus, as he had once done that of Leo the Isaurian, and this all the more because he freely rebuked the arrogance of these Emperors, who meddled with matters concerning the faith, and pronounced sentence on them according to their own judgment.

It is a marvel how much John wrote both in prose and verse for the protection of the faith and the enoouragement of devotion. He was worthy of the high praise which was given him by the second Council of Nicæa. He was surnamed Chrysorrhoas on account of the golden streams of his eloquence. It was not only against the enemies of the holy Images that he defended the orthodox faith, for he also etoutly opposed the Acephali, the Monothelites and the Theopaschites. He maintained the laws and the power of the Church. He asserted the primacy of the Prince of the Apostles in eloquent words, and often called him the pillar of the Churches, the unbroken rock and the teacher and ruler of the world. His writings are not only distinguished for doctrine and learning, but have a savour of simple piety, especially when he praises the Mother of God whom he honoured with a singular love and devotion. But the greatest praise of John is that he was the first to arrange in order a complete course of theology, thus preparing the way in which St. Thomas Aquinas has so clearly dealt with the whole body of sacred doctrine. This holy man, full of day s and good works, fell asleep in the peace of Christ about the year 754. Pope Leo XIII. declared him to be a Doctor of the Church, and ordered his office and mass to be said throughout the world.

O champion of the holy Images, obtain for us as the Church asks of thee,[4] that we may imitate the virtues and experience the aid of those whom we see thus represented. The image directs our veneration and our prayers to those to whom they are due, to Christ the King and to the saints, who are the princes of His army and the most valiant of His soldiers, for it is right that the King should share with His army the honours of His triumph.[5] The image is the book of those who cannot read, and even the learned may gain more from an instant’s gazing at an eloquent picture than from the prolonged study of many volumes.[6] The work of the Christian artist is not only an act of religion but also an apostolate; thus it is easy to understand the opposition raised by hell in all times of disturbance against Christian art. We unite ourselves with thee, O glorious saint, in thy warfare against the devil, and cry: ‘Get thee behind us, Satan, with that envy which will not suffer us to look upon the image of Our Lord and thus be sanctified. Thou wilt not permit us to contemplate those sufferings which were the source of our salvation, to admire the gracious condescension of our God, to recognize and praise the power displayed in His miracles. Thou art envious of the saints and of the glory they have received from God, and wilt not have us contemplate this glory, lest the sight inspire us to imitate their courage and their faith. Thou canst not endure the thought that our confidence in them will profit us both in soul and in body. We will not follow thee, O jealous demon, thou enemy of mankind.’[7]

Be thou rather our guide, dear saint, whom sacred science salutes as one of her earliest Doctors.

‘Knowledge is the most precious of all treasures,’[8] as thou didst once tell us, and it was thy desire to lead men to the only master who cannot lie, Christ the power and the wisdom of God. If they hear His voice in Holy Scripture, they will gain a true knowledge of all things. If they dispel all darkness of heart and mind, they will not stay on the threshold of the truth, but will pass into the secret of the nuptial chamber.[9]

Our Blessed Lady herself foretold the teaching and the works of John. She appeared to the master, whose voice he obeyed as that of God, and said to him: ‘Suffer the waters to flow, the clear sweet waters whose abundance will spread throughout the whole world, whose virtue will refresh souls athirst for knowledge and purity, whose power will stay the floods of heresy and transform them into a marvellous sweetness.’

The queen of the heavenly minstrels declared that thou, dear John, hadst received the prophetic harp and psaltery to sing the new canticle of the Lord our God in rivalry with the Cherubim.[10] The daughters of Jerusalem, who are the Churches, sing the death and resurrection of Christ,[11] and thou art one of the chief cantors. Lead us from the feasts of our exile— the Pasch of time—through the Red Sea and the desert to the eternal feast where all images of earth will vanish before the realities of heaven, where all knowledge will pass into vision, where reigns in glory the queen who inspired thy song, Mary, the mother of us all.

 


[1] Concil., Nic. II., sees. vii.
[2] This formula, which gives the true theological basis of the cult of images, is borrowed by the Council of Trent from the second Council of Nicæa, and was originally taken word for word from St. John Damascene, De fide Orthodoxy iv. 16.
[3] Concil., Trident,, sess. xxv.
[4] Collect of the feast.
[5] Damasc., De Imaginibus, i. 19-21.
[6] Damasc., Comment, in Basil.
[7] Ibid., De Imaginibus, iii. 3.
[8] Ibid., Dialectica, i.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Joan. Hierosolymit., Vita J. Dama&ceni, xxxi.
[11] Ibid

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The nearer the Church approaches to the end of her earthly existence, the more she seems to love to enrich her cycle with feasts that recall the glorious past. Indeed, one of the objects of the sacred Liturgy is to keep before our minds all that God has done for us. ‘Remember the days of old: think upon every generation,’[1] said God to His people in the alliance of Sinai. It was a law in Jacob that the fathers should hand on these traditions to their children, who were in their turn to transmit them to their descendants.[2] The Church has taken the place of the ancient Israel and her annals speak, even more than those of the Jewish people, of the manifestations of divine power. The children of the new Sion have more right than the sons and daughters of Juda to say, as they look back on the past: ‘Thou art thyself my king and my God, who commandest the saving of Jacob.’

At the time when the defeat of the Iconoclasts was being completed in the East, a new and most terrible war was beginning in which the West was to fight for the sake of civilization and for the cause of the Incarnate Word of God. Like a sudden torrent, Islam overwhelmed Eastern Europe, reaching even to Gaul, and for a thousand years it disputed, foot by foot, with Christ and His Chutch, the land occupied by the Latin races. The glorious Crusades of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which attacked this power in its very centre, only succeeded in paralyzing it for the time being. In Spain the struggle continued until the triumph of the Cross was complete, but in other parts of Europe Christian princes forgot the traditions of Charlemagne and St. Louis, grew weary of the holy war, and gave themselves up to the pursuit of their private ambition, so that the Crescent was able once more to defy the Christian powers and renew its plan of universal conquest.

In 1453 Byzantium, the capital of the Eastern empire, fell before the Turkish janissaries, and three years later Mahomet II. invested Belgrade on the very outskirts of the Western empire. It might have been expected that all Europe would hasten to the aid of the besieged fortress, for if this last dyke were to fall, Hungary, Austria and Italy would be overwhelmed and the peoples of the North and West would share the fate of the East, that life in death, that irremediable sterility of soil and intelligence which still holds captive the once brilliant Greece. But this imminent danger only resulted in deepening the breach in Christian unity, and the Christian nations were at the mercy of a few thousand infidels. Only the Papacy was true to itself in the midst of all this egoism and perfidy. Truly Catholic in its thoughts, its labours, its sufferings, as in its joys and triumphs, it took up the common cause which had been basely betrayed by kings and princes. The powerful were deaf to the Pope’s appeals, but he turned to the humble and, trusting more in prayer to the God of armies than in military tactics, he sought for the deliverers of Christendom among the poor.

It was then that John Capistran, the saint of to-day, attained the consummation of his glory and his sanctity. At the head of a few poor men of good-will, unknown peasants gathered together by the Franciscan Friars, this ‘poor man of Christ’ undertook to defeat the strongest and best organized army of the century. On July 14, 1456, he broke through the Ottoman lines with John Hunyades, the only one of the Hungarian nobles who would accompany him, and revictualled Belgrade; and on July 22, feeling that he could no longer endure the defensive, he threw himself, to the stupefaction of Hunyades, on the enemy entrenchments. His troops were armed only with flails and pitchforks, and their only strategy was the name of Jesus. John had inherited this victorious battle-cry from his master, Bernardine of Siena. The Psalmist said: ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses: but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God.’[3] This name, so holy and so terrible, proved once more the salvation of the people. At the end of that memorable day twenty-four thousand Turks lay dead on the field of battle; three hundred cannon and all the spoils of the infidels were in the hands of the Christians, and Mahomet II. was seeking a distant hiding-place for his shame. The news of this victory, so like that of Gedeon,[4] reached Rome on August 6, and Pope Callistus III. decreed that henceforth the Universal Church should keep a solemn commemoration of the Transfiguration of Our Lord on that day, for it was with the soldiers of the Cross as with the heroes of Israel,[5] ‘they got not the possession of the land by their own sword: neither did their own arm save them, but thy right hand and thy arm and the light of thy countenance because thou wast pleased with them,’ as with Thy beloved Son on Mount Thabor.[6]

Let us read the life of St. John Capistran as related in the Liturgy:

Joannes Capistrani in Pelignis ortus, et Perusium studiorum causa missus, in christianis et liberalibus disciplinis adeo profecit, ut ob egregiam juris scientiam aliquot civitatibus a Neapolis rege Ladislao præfectus fuerit. Dum autem earum rempublicam sanctissime gerens perturbatis rebus tranquillitatem revocare studet, capitur ipse et in vincula conjicitur: quibus mirabiliter ereptus, Francisci Assisiensis regulam inter Fratres Minores profitetur. Ad divinarum litterarum studium progressus, præceptorem nactus sanctum Bemardinum Senensem, cuius et virtutis exempla, in cultu potissimum sanctissimi Nominis Jesu ac Deiparæ propagando, egregie est imitatus. Aquilanum episcopatum recusavit, et severiore disciplina atque scriptis, quæ plurima edidit ad mores reformandos, maxime enituit.

Prædicationi verbi Dei sedulo incumbens, Italiam fere universam lustravit, quo in muñere et virtute sermonis, et miraculorum frequentia innumeras prope animas in viam salutis reduxit. Eum Martinus Quintus ad exstinguendam Fraticellorum sectam inquisitorem instituit. A Nicolao Quinto contra Judæos et Saracenos generalis inquisitor in Italia constitutus, plurimos ad Christi fidem con vert it. In Oriente multa optime constituit et in Concilio Florentino, ubi veluti sol quidam fulsit, Armenos Ecclesiæ catholicæ restituit. Idem Pontifex postulante Friderico tertio imperatore, ilium apostolicæ sedis nuntium in Germaniam legavit, ut hæreticos ad catholicam fidem et principum animos ad concordiam revocaret. In Germania aliisque provinciis Dei gloriam sexennali ministerio mirifice auxit, Hussitis, Adamitis, Thaboritis, Hebræisque innumeris doctrinæ veritate ac miraculorum luce ad Ecclesiæ sinum traductis.

Cum Callistus tertius ipso potissimum deprecante, cruce signatos mittere decrevisset, Joannes per Pannoniam, aliasque provincias volitavit, qua verbo, qua litteris principum animos ita ad bellum accendit, ut brevi millia Christianorum septuaginta conscripta sint. Ejus consilio et virtute potissimum Taurunensis victoria relata est, centum ac viginti Turcarum millibus partim cæsis, partim fugatis. Cujus victoriæ cum Romam nuntius venisset octavo idus augusti, idem Callistus ejus diei memoriae solemnia Transfigurationis Christi Domini perpetuo consecravit. Lethali morboaegrotum et Villacum delatum viri principes plures visitarunt: quos ipse ad tuendam religionem hor ta tus, animam Deo sancte reddidit anno salutis millesimo quadringentesimo quinquagetsimo sexto. Ejus gloriam post mortem Deus multis miraculis confirmavit: quibus rite probatis, Alexander Octavus anno millesimo sexcentésimo nonagesimo Joannem in sanctorum numerum retulit, ejusque officium ac missam Leo decimus tertius, altero ab ej us canonizatione sæculo, ad universam extendit Ecclesiam.
John was born at Capistrano in the Abruzzi. He was sent to study at Perugia, and made such progress in learning, both sacred and profane, that on account of his eminent knowledge of law, he was made governor of many cities by Ladislaus, King of Naples. He was labouring piously to restore peace to these troubled states when he was kidnapped and put in chains. He was wonderfully delivered from this captivity and made his profession according to the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi among the Friars Minor. He devoted himself to the study of Divinity and had as master St. Bernardine of Siena, whom he zealously imitated in spreading devotion to the most holy name of Jesus and to the Mother of God. He refused the bishopric of Aquüa, and is most famous on account of his mortified life and his writings on the reformation of manners.

He zealously devoted himself to preaching the word of God and travelled throughout nearly all Italy, where he recalled countless souls to the way of salvation by the power of his words and the number of his miracles. Martin V. made him Inquisitor against the sect of the Fraticelli and Nicolas V. appointed him InquisitorGeneral in Italy, against Judaism and Mohammedanism. He converted many souls to the faith of Christ. He did much good in the East and at the Council of Florence, where he shonelike a sun, he brought the Armenians back to the Catholic Church. The same Pope, at the request of the Emperor Frederic III., sent him into Germany as nuncio of the Apostolic See, in order that he might bring back heretics to the Catholic faith, and the minds of princes to peace and union. He did a wonderful work for God’s glory during the six years of his mission, and brought back to the Church by the fight of his teaching and miracles almost countless numbers of Hussites, Adamites, Thaborites, and Jews.

It was mainly at the entreaty of John that Callistus III. proclaimed a crusade, and John hastened through Pannonia and other provinces where by his words and letters he so roused the minds of princes that in a short time seventy thousand Christian soldiers were enrolled. It was mainly through his advice and courage that a victory was gained at Belgrade, where one hundred and twenty thousand Turks were either slain or put to flight. The news of this victory reached Rome on the sixth of August, and Pope Callistus consecrated this day for ever to the solemn commemoration of the Transfiguration of our Lord. When John was seized with his last illness and taken to Illak, many princes came to see him, and he exhorted them to protect religion. He piously yielded up his soul to God in the year of salvation 1456. God confirmed his glory by many miracles after his death, and when these had been duly proved, Pope Alexander VIII. enrolled his name among those of the saints. Two hundred years later Leo XIII. extended his office and mass to the Universal Church.

‘The Lord is with thee, O most valiant of men. Go in this thy strength and thou shalt deliver Israel out of the hand of Madian. Know that I have sent thee.’[7] Thus did the angel of the Lord salute Gedeon when he chose him from among the least of his people[8] to fulfil a high destiny. Thus do we in our turn salute thee, O glorious son of St. Francis of Assisi, and we beseech thee to be our constant aid. The enemy whom thou didst defeat on the field of battle is no longer an imminent peril for the West, but there is a greater danger, as Moses said to his people after their deliverance from Egypt: ‘Take heed and beware lest at any time thou forget the Lord thy God . . . lest after thou hast eaten and art filled, hast built goodly houses . . . and shalt have herds of oxen and flocks of sheep and plenty of gold and of silver, and of all things; thy heart be lifted up and thou remember not the Lord who brought thee out of the house of bondage.’[9] If the Turk had conquered in that struggle of which thou wert the hero, what would have become of the civilization of which we are so proud? Since thy day the Church has had once more to champion the cause of Society, which the heads of the nations no longer seem to understand. May the need of giving expression to the gratitude which is due to her preserve her children from the forgetfulness which is the great evil of the present generation. We thank God for the feast of to-day; it is a perpetual memorial of His goodness and of the noble deeds of His saints. Help us to conquer in that warfare which is being incessantly carried on within our own souls against the world, the flesh, and the devil. May the name of Jesus put our enemies to flight, may His Cross be our standard and lead us through the death of self-love to the triumph of the Resurrection.

 


[1] Deut. xxxii. 7.
[2] Ps. lxxvii. 5.
[3] Ps. xix. 8.
[4] Judg. vii.
[5] Ps. xliii. 4, 5.
[6] St. Matt. xvii. 5.
[7] Judg. vi.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Deut. viii. 11-14.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The founder of a religious Order, whose distinguishing characteristics were humility and penance, comes before us to-day; it is Francis of Paula. Let us study his virtues and beg his intercession. His whole life was one of great innocence; and yet we find him embracing, from his earliest youth, mortifications which, nowadays, would not be expected from the very worst sinners. How was it that he could do so much? and we, who have so often sinned, do so little? The claims of divine justice are as strong now as ever they were; for God never changes, nor can the offence we have committed against Him by our sins be pardoned, unless we make atonement. The saints punished themselves, with life-long and austere penances, for the slightest sins; and the Church can scarcely induce us to observe the law of Lent, though it is now reduced to the lowest degree of severity.

What is the cause of this want of the spirit of expiation and penance? It is that our faith is weak, and our love of God is cold, because our thoughts and affections are so set upon this present life, that we seldom if ever consider things in the light of eternity. How many of us are like the king of France, who having obtained permission from the Pope that St. Francis of Paula should come and live near him, threw himself at the saint's feet, and besought him to obtain of God, that he, the king, might have a long life! Louis XI. had led a most wicked life; but bis anxiety was, not to do penance for his sins, but to obtain, by the saint's prayers, a prolongation of a career which had been little better than a storing up of wrath for the day of wrath. We, too, love this present life; we love it to excess. The laws of fasting and abstinence are broken, not because the obeying them would endanger life, or even seriously injure health—for where either of these is to be feared, the Church does not enforce her lenten penances—but people dispense themselves from fasting and abstinence, because the spirit of immortification renders every privation intolerable, and every interruption of an easy comfortable life insupportable. They have strength enough for any fatigue that business or pleasure calls for; but the moment there is question of observing those laws which the Church has instituted for the interest of the body as well as of the soul, all seems impossible; the conscience gets accustomed to these annual transgressions, and ends by persuading the sinner that he may be saved without doing penance.

St. Francis of Paula was of a very different way of thinking and acting. The Church gives us the following abridged account of his life:

Franciscus Paulæ, quod est Calabriæ oppidum, loco humili natus est: quem parentes, cum diu prole caruissent, voto facto, beati Francisci precibus susceperunt. Is adolescens divino ardore succensus, in eremum secessit: ubi annis sex victu asperam, sed meditationibus cælestibus suavem vitam duxit: sed cum virtutum ejus fama longius manaret, multique ad eum pietatis studio concurrerent, fraternæ charitatis causa e solitudine egressus, ecclesiam propePaulam ædificavit, ibique prima sui Ordinis fundamenta jecit.

Erat in eo mirifica loquendi gratia: perpetuam virginitatem servavit: humilitatem sio coluit, ut se omnium minimum diceret, suosque alumnos Minimos appellari voluerit. Rudi amictu, nudis pedibus incedens, humi cubabat. Cibi abstinentia fuit admirabili: semel in die post solis occasum reficiebatur, et ad panem et aquae potum vix aliquid ejusmodi obsonii adhibebat, quo vesoi in Quadragesima boet: quam consuetudinem, ut f rat res sui toto anni tempore retinerent, quarto eos voto adstrinxit.

Multis miraculis servi sui sanctitatem Deus testari voluit, quorum illud in primis celebre, quod a nautis rejectus, Siciliae fretum, strato super fluctibus pallio, cum socio transmisit. Multa etiam futura prophetico spiritu prædixit. A Ludovico undécimo Francorum rege expetitus, magnoque in honore est habitus. Denique annum primum et nonagesimum agens, Turonis migravit ad Dominum, anno salutis millesimo quingentesimo septimo: cujus corpus, dies undecim insepultum, ita incorruptum permansit, ut suavem etiam odorem effiaret. Eum Leo Papa decimus in sanctorum numerum retulit.
Francis was born at Paula, in Calabria, of humble parents, who, having been for a long time without children, obtained him from heaven, after having made a vow, and prayed to St. Francis. When very young, being inflamed with the love of God, he withdrew into a desert, where, for six years, he led an austere life, but one that was sweetened by heavenly contemplations. The fame of his virtues having spread abroad, many persons went to him, out of adesire to be trained in virtue. Out of a motive of fraternal charity, he left his solitude, built a church near Paula, and there laid the foundation of his Order.

He had a wonderful giftof preaching. He observed virginity during his whole life. Such was his love for humility, that he called himself the last of all men, and would have his disciples named Minims. His dress was of the coarsest kind, he always walked barefooted, and his bed was the ground. His abstinence was extraordinary: he ate only once in the day, and that not till after sunset. His food consisted of bread and water, to which he scarcely ever added those viands which are permitted even in Lent: and this practice he would have kept up by his religious, under the obligation of a fourth vow.

God bore witness to the holiness of his servant by many miracles, of which this is the most celebrated; that when he was rejected by the sailors, he and his companion passed over the straits of Sicily on his cloak, which he spread out on the water. He also prophesied many future events. Louis XI., king of France, had a great desire to see the saint, and treated him with great respect. Having reached his ninety-first year, he died at Tours, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and seven. His body, which was left unburied for eleven days, so far from becoming corrupt, yielded a sweet fragrance. He was canonized by Pope Leo X.

Apostle of penance: thy life was always that of a saint, and we are sinners: yet do we presume, during these days, to beg thy powerful intercession, in order to obtain of God that this holy season may not pass without having produced within us a true spirit of penance, which may give us a reasonable hope of receiving His pardon. We admire the wondrous works which filled thy life—a life that resembled, in duration, that of the patriarchs, and prolonged the privilege the world enjoyed of having such a saint to teach and edify it. Now that thou art enjoying in heaven the fruits of thy labours on earth, think upon us, and hearken to the prayers addressed to thee by the faithful. Gain for us the spirit of compunction, which will add earnestness to our works of penance. Bless and preserve the Order thou hast founded. Thy holy relics have been destroyed by the fury of heretics; avenge the injury thus offered to thy name, by praying for the conversion of heretics and sinners, and drawing down upon the world those heavenly graces, which will revive among us the fervour of the ages of faith.

 

 

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