The Liturgical Year
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.
The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.
We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.
We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.
For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.
We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.
 St Luke ii 10.
(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)
For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.
This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.
Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.
For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.
We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.
The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.
For more information on Lent, visit here.
After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.
(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)
For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.
WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.
The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.
For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.
This volume opens to us the second part of the Liturgical Year, beginning the long period of the Time after Pentecost. It treats of the feasts of the most holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, and of the sacred Heart of Jesus. These three feasts require to be explained apart. Their dates depend on that of Easter; and yet they are detached, if we consider their object, from the moveable cycle, whose aim is to bring before us, each year, the successive, and so to speak historic, memories of our Lord’s mysteries. After the sublime drama, which has, by gradually presenting to us the facts of our Redeemer’s history, shown us the divine economy of the redemption, these feasts immediately follow, and give us a deep and dogmatic teaching: a teaching which is a marvellous synthesis, taking in the whole body of Christian doctrine.
The Holy Ghost has come down upon the earth, in order to sanctify it. Faith being the one basis of all sanctification, and the source of love, the holy Spirit would make it the starting-point of His divine workings in the soul. To this end, He inspires the Church, which has sprung up into life under the influence of His impetuous breathing, to propose at once to the faithful that doctrinal summary, which is comprised in the three feasts immediately coming after Pentecost. The volumes following the present one will show us the holy Spirit continuing His work, and, on the solid foundations of the faith He established at the outset, building the entire superstructure of the Christian virtues.
This was the idea which the author of the Liturgical year was busy developing in the second part of his work, when death came upon him; and the pen that had begun this volume was put by obedience into the hands of one, who now comes before the faithful, asking their prayers for the arduous task he has undertaken, of continuing the not quite finished work of his beloved father and master. He begs of them to beseech our Lord, that He Himself will vouchsafe to bring to a successful termination an undertaking that was begun for His honour and glory, and that has already produced so much fruit in the souls of men.
Br. L.F. O.S.B.
Solesmes, May 10, 1879.
For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of advent
- Chapter 1: The History of Advent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Advent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Advent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Advent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Advent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Advent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Advent
Introduction to the Season of CHRISTMAS
- Chapter 1: The History of Christmas
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Christmas
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Christmas
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Christmas
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Christmas
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Christmas
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Christmas
For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.
Introduction to the Season of Septuagesima
- Chapter 1: The History of Septuagesima
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Septuagesima
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Septuagesima
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Septuagesima
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Septuagesima
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Septuagesima
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline for Sundays and Feasts During Septuagesima
Introduction to the Season of Lent
- Chapter 1: The History of Lent
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Lent
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Lent
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Lent
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Lent
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Lent
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Lent
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Lent
Introduction to passiontide and holy week
- Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Passiontide and Holy Week
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Passiontide and Holy Week
Introduction to the Season of Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of Paschal Time
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of Paschal Time
- Chapter 3: The Practice During Paschal Time
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for Paschal Time
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During Paschal Time
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During Paschal Time
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During Paschal Time
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During Paschal Time
- Chapter 1: The History of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 2: The Mystery of the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 3: The Practice for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 4: Morning and Night Prayers for the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 5: On Hearing Mass During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 6: On Holy Communion During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 7: On the Office of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts During the Time after Pentecost
- Chapter 8: On the Office of Compline During the Time after Pentecost
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
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. 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. 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,’ 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, 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!
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.
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. 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, 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:
Mentibus lætis jubilemus omnes,
Plectra tangentes fidibus canoris,
Inclytus quando Gabriel ab alto
Virginia summæ Paranymphus adest
Hodie nobis, simul Angelorum,
Plurimis Christum venerans triumphis,
Principia laudes Gabrielis ergo
Concinat noster chorus, ipse quando est
Unus ex septem, Domino qui adstant
Nuntius cceli, mediator idem,
Exstat a summis Gabriel ubique
Lætus, et mundo reserat secreta
Nuntia nobis, Gabriel, precamur,
Pacis æternæ speciale munus,
Quo poli tandem teneamus aulam
Præstet hoc nobis Deitas beata
Patris, ac Nati, pariterque sancti
Spiritus cujus resonat per omnem
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.
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.
’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.
The Dominican breviary contains this beautiful hymn in honour of the holy Archangel:
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.
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.
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; to the Son, who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant; and to the Holy Ghost, who rested on the Flower that sprang up out of the root of Jesse.
’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!’
 St. Luke i. 19.
 Dan. viii. 17.
 Ibid. ix. 25.
 St. Luke i. 13.
 Is. xlv. 8.
 St. Luke ii. 10.
 Ibid. xxii. 42, 43.
 1 Cor. i. 24.
 St. John iii. 16.
 Phil. ii. 7.
 Is. xi. 1.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
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. 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; 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. 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.
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.’ 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.’
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  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 bucceUas: * ante faciem frig oris 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.
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.
Ave, maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix cœli porta.
Sumens illud Ave
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.
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos
Mites fac et castos.
Vitam præsta puram,
Iter para tutum;
Ut videntes Jesum,
Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.
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.
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.” ’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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,
Cujus per alvum fusus est.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine;
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.
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.
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.
Mittit ad Virginem
Non quemvis Angelum,
Pro nobis nuntium,
In partu Virginis.
Natus Rex gloriæ:
Regnet et imperet,
Et zyma scoriæ
Tollat de medio.
Calcet vi propria,
Potens in prælio.
Exi qui mitteris,
Hæc dona dissere:
Dic: Ave, cominus,
Dic: Plena gratia,
Dic: Tecum Dominus,
Et dic: Ne timeas.
In quo perficiae
Et votum teneas.
Audit et suscipit
Credit et concipit,
Et parit Filium,
Deum et hominem,
Et Patrem posteris,
In pace stabilem.
Nos reddat stabiles,
Ne nos labilitas
Sed dator veniæ
Per matrem gratiæ
In nobis habitet.
Qui nobis tribuat
Donet et patriam
In arce siderum.
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
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
she believes and conceives,
and brings forth a Son,
but he is the Admirable.
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.
The Ambrosian liturgy gives us this fine Preface, which is used in its celebration of to-day’s mystery.
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:—
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.
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, and lead a life of humiliation and suffering. O Word made Flesh, who comest not to judge, but to save, 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!’
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.
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 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.
Ant. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, alleluia.
Ant.Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, alleluia.
Ant. Ne timeas, Maria; invenisti gratiam apud Dominum; ecce concipies, et paries filium, alleluia.
Ant. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive, and shalt bring forth a son, alleluia.
Ant. Dabit ei Dominus sedem David patris ejus, et regnabit in æternum, alleluia.
Ant. And the Lord shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign for ever, alleluia.
Ant. Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, alleluia.
Ant. Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word, alleluia.
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.
Then is made a commemoration of Low Sunday, as on p. 307.
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.
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.
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.
Lectio Isaiæ Prophetæ.
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.
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.’
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.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.
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.
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.”‘
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
 St. John i. 14.
 Ibid. iii. 16.
 St. Augustine, De Trinitate, Lib. iv. cap. v.
 Adv. hæreses. Lib. v. cap. xix.
 Judges v. 7, 8.
 Judith xiii. 17, 18; xvi. 7.
 See our volume for Advent, in the Vespers for December 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,
 2 St. Peter i. 4.
 St. Bernard. Homil. II. super Missus est.
 Phil, ii, 7.
 St. John xii. 47.
 See our volume for Advent, in the Vespers for December 8.
 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.
 2 St Pet. i 4.
 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.’ ‘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, to whom through them all our adoration is addressed, and to the saints whom we venerate in their portraits.’
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, 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. 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. 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.’
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,’ 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.
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. The daughters of Jerusalem, who are the Churches, sing the death and resurrection of Christ, 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.
 Concil., Nic. II., sees. vii.
 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.
 Concil., Trident,, sess. xxv.
 Collect of the feast.
 Damasc., De Imaginibus, i. 19-21.
 Damasc., Comment, in Basil.
 Ibid., De Imaginibus, iii. 3.
 Ibid., Dialectica, i.
 Joan. Hierosolymit., Vita J. Dama&ceni, xxxi.
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,’ 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. 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.’ 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, 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, ‘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.
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.’ Thus did the angel of the Lord salute Gedeon when he chose him from among the least of his people 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.’ 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.
 Deut. xxxii. 7.
 Ps. lxxvii. 5.
 Ps. xix. 8.
 Judg. vii.
 Ps. xliii. 4, 5.
 St. Matt. xvii. 5.
 Judg. vi.
 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.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
One of the most striking examples of penance ever witnessed, is this day proposed for our consideration: Mary, the sinner and penitent of Egypt, comes to animate us to persevere in our lenten exercises. Like Magdalene and Margaret of Cortona, she had sinned grievously; like them she repented, atoned for her guilt, and is now the associate of angels. Let us adore the omnipotence of our God, who thus changed a vessel of dishonour into one of honour; let us lovingly contemplate the riches of His mercy, and hope for our own participation in them. At the same time, let us remember that pardon is not granted save where there is repentance; and that repentance is not genuine, unless it produce an abiding spirit and deeds of penance. Mary of Egypt had the misfortune to lead a life of sin for seventeen years; but her penance lasted forty: and what kind of penance must hers have been, living alone in a desert, under a scorching sun, without the slightest human consolation, and amidst every sort of privation! The pledge of pardon—the holy Communion —which we received so soon after our sins, was not granted to Mary, till she had done penance for nearly half a century. That pledge of Jesus' forgiveness, which He has given us in the Sacrament of His love, and which was communicated to us so promptly, was withheld from this admirable penitent, so that she received it for the second time only at the moment when death was on the point of separating her soul from her body which was worn out by austerities! Let us humble ourselves at such a comparison; let us think with fear on this great truth—that God’s justice will require an exact account of all the graces He has heaped upon us; and with this thought, let us rouse ourselves to a determination to merit, by the sincerity of our repentance, a place near the humble penitent of the desert.
We take the lessons of the Office of St. Mary of Egypt from the ancient Roman-French breviaries:
Maria Ægyptia, duodecennis, tempore Justini imperatoris, relictis parentibus, Alexandriam venit, fuitque per annos septemdecim ea in civitate peccatrix. Cum autem Hierosolymam profecta, Calvariæ templum in festo Exaltationis sanctae Crucis ingredi tentasset, ter divinitus repulsa, in atrio coram imagine Deiparæ Virginia vovit pcenitentiam, si liceret sibi vivificum crucis lignum videre et adorare: moxque templum ingressa, vidit et adoravit.
Inde sumpto trium panum viatico, perceptaque Eucharistia in oratorio sancti Joannis ad ripam Jordanis, ultra flumen in vastissimam solitudinem recessit. Ibi, consumpto viatico detritisque vestibus, ignota permansit annis quadraginta septem, donec ad torrentem quemdam occurrit ei Zozimas presbyter, a quo obtinuit ut vespere in Cœna Domini, in adversam Jordania ripam afferret aibi Corpus et Sanguinem Domini, quorum participatione tot annoe caruerat.
Condicto die accessit ad eumdem locum Zozimas, quo et Maria signo crucis impresso super aquas ambulans pervenit; recitatoque Symbolo et Oratione Dominica, ut moris erat, divina dona suscepit; rursumque precata est Zozimam ut anno recurrente ad eumdem torrentem veniret. Qui cum eo accessisset, conspexit corpus ejus jacens in terra, in qua scripta hæc legit: Sepeli, Abba Zozima, miseræ Mariæ corpusculum; redde terræ quod suum est, et pulveri adjice pulverem; ora tamen Deum pro me: transeunte mense Pharmuthi, nocte salutiferæ Passionis, post divinæ et sacræ Cænæ communionem. Corpori ejus leo adveniens, effossa ungulis terra, paravit sepulchrum.
Mary of Egypt left her parents, when she was twelve years of age. It was during the reign of the emperor Justin. She entered Alexandria, and was a sinner in that city, for seventeen years. Having visited Jerusalem, and, if being the feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross, having endeavoured to enter the church of Calvary, she felt herself thrice repelled by divine power. Standing under the portico, she made a vow before an image of the Virgin Mother of God, that if our Lord would grant her to see and venerate the life-giving wood of the cross, she would lead a life of penance. Immediately, she entered the church; she saw; she adored.
Then, taking three loaves as provision for her journey, and having received the Eucharist in St. John’s church on the banks of the Jordan, she withdrew into an immense wilderness, on the other side of the river. There, her provisions consumed, and her garments worn to tatters, she abode unknown to all, for forty-seven years, when she was discovered by the priest Zozimus. She asked him to bring to her, on the evening of Maundy Thursday, and on the other side of the Jordan, the Body and Blood of our Lord, which she had not received during all these years.
On the appointed day, Zozimus came to the place that had been agreed on; and Mary, having made the sign of the cross upon the waters, walked over them, and came to the priest. Having recited the Symbol and the Lord’s Prayer, as was the custom, she received the divine gifts. She again besought Zozimus that he would come to the same torrent, the following year. He did so, and found her body lying on the ground, on which were written these words: “Abbot Zozimus! bury the body of this wretched Mary. Give back to the earth what belongs to it, and add dust unto dust. Yet pray to God for me. This last day of the month of Pharmuthi, on the night of the saving Passion, after the Communion of the divine and sacred Supper.” A lion then came towards the place, and making a hole in the ground with his paws, he prepared a grave for her body.
In praise of our incomparable penitent, we offer to the reader the following beautiful sequence, taken from the ancient missals of Germany:
Ex Ægypto Pharaonis
In amplexum Salomonis
Nostri transit filia;
Ex abjecta fit electa,
Ex rugosa fit formosa,
Ex lebete phiala.
Stella marie huio illuxit,
Ad dilectum quam conduxit
Pacia nectens fædera;
Matre Dei mediante,
Peccatrici, Christo dante,
Sunt dimissa scelera.
Vitam ducene hæc carnalem,
Pervenit in Jerusalem,
Hinc excluso adultero
Maritatur Sponso vero
Dei templum introire
Dum laborat, mox redire
Necdum digna cogitur;
Ad cor suum revertitur,
Fletu culpa submergitur,
Fletu culpa teritur.
Locus desertus quæritur,
Mundus, caro vincitur,
Domus patris postponitur,
Vultus mentis componitur,
Decor camis spernitur.
Lætare filia Thanis,
Tuia ornata tympanis,
Lauda quondam sterilis,
Gaude, plaude, casta, munda,
Virtutum prole fœcunda,
Vitis meri fertilis.
Te dilexit noster risus,
Umbilicus est præcisus
Aquis lotam, pulchram totam
Te salivit, te condivit
Septem pannis involuta,
Intus tota delibuta
Croco rubene charitatis;
Bysso cincta castitatis,
Hinc hyacintho calciaris,
Dum superna contemplaris,
Cubile vernat floribus,
O Maria, gaude quia
Decoravit et amavit
Sic te Christi gratia,
Memor semper peccatorum,
Et cunctorum populorum,
Plaude nunc in gloria.
This daughter passes from the Egypt of Pharao
to the espousals with Jesus,
our true Solomon.
She that was abject, is made a chosen one;
she that was deformed, is made fair;
the vessel of dishonour is made one of honour.
The Star of the sea shone upon her,
and leading her to her beloved Son,
has knit the bond of peace.
The Mother of God interceded;
the sinner’s sins are pardoned.
She that led a carnal life,
came to Jerusalem,
to be espoused to the King of peace;
leaving her false lover,
she is united to the true Spouse,
honoured by the wonderful One.
She strives to enter the house of God,
but her unworthiness forbids it;
she is compelled to retire.
Then does she return to her own heart;
she weeps for her sins,
and her weeping blots them out.
She flees to the desert;
tramples on Leviathan;
conquers the world and the flesh;
forgets her father’s house:
neglects the beauty of the body,
that her spirit may be made comely.
Rejoice, O daughter of Egypt!
Thou, that once wast barren,
take up thy harp, and sing.
Exult and be joyful, for now thou art chaste and pure,
fruitful in virtue,
a vine that yields a precious fruit.
He that is our Joy hath loved thee;
the shame of thy disorders
is effaced by the merit of thy purity.
The wisdom of thy heavenly Spouse has given thee,
cleansed and all fair,
the incorruption of his grace.
Robed in the seven fold veil of his Spirit,
thou wast anointed with the oil of gladness.
The scarlet of charity,
the lily of chastity,
the girdle of modesty
—all were upon thee.
Thy feet were decked with violet,
for thy affections were changed
from earthly to heavenly things.
Thy vesture was of every richest hue,
and thy couch was decked with flowers,
sweeter than those of spring.
Rejoice, O Mary,
in that Christ so loved thee,
and beautified thee with grace.
Be mindful of us sinners;
pray for all mankind;
feast now in thy eternal glory!
Thou wilt sing for all eternity, O Mary, the mercies of the Lord, who changed thee from a sinner into so glorious a saint; we join thee in thy praises, and we give Him thanks for having shown us so evidently, in thy person, that a true penitent, whatever and how great soever may have been his sins, may not only avoid eternal torments, but merit everlasting bliss. How light must now appear to thee, O Mary, that forty years’ penance, the very thought of which terrifies us! How short a time, when compared with eternity! How insignificant its austerity, if we think of hell! And how rich must its reward seem to thee, now that thou art face to face with infinite Beauty! We, too, are sinners; dare we say that we are penitents? Aid our weakness, O Mary! Thou wast made known to the world at the close of thy hidden life, in order that Christians might learn from thee the grievousness of sin, of which they make so little account; the justice of God, of which they are so apt to form so false an idea; ¿md the goodness of that Father, whom they cease not to offend. Pray for us, O Mary, that we may profit by the instructions given to us so profusely during this holy season. Pray that our conversion may be complete; that we may leave our pride and our cowardice; that we may appreciate the grace of reconciliation with our Maker; and, lastly, that we may ever approach to the holy Table with compunction and love such as thou hadst, when, in thy last happy Communion, Jesus gave Himself to thee in His Sacrament, and then took thee to Himself in the kingdom of everlasting rest and joy.
From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
The Church presents to us to-day, for our devout admiration, the memory of one of the holiest of her bishops—Isidore, the bishop of Seville, the most learned man of his age, and, what is a still greater praise, the most zealous patriot and friend of his noble country. Let us study his virtues and confide in his patronage: both will help us to fervour during this holy season.
Among Christian lands, there is one that has gained for herself the glorious name of the Catholic kingdom. Towards the close of the seventh century, divine Providence subjected her to a most severe trial, by permitting the Saracen hordes to invade her: so that her heroic children had to struggle for eight hundred years for the recovery of their country. Contemporaneously with Spain, Asia also and Africa fell under the Mussulman yoke, and have continued in their slavery up to the present day. Whence comes it that Spain has triumphed over her oppressors, and that tyranny has never been able to make her children degenerate? The answer is easily given: Spain, at the period of her invasion, was Catholic, and Catholicity was the very spirit of the land: whereas those other nations, that yielded themselves slaves to the Saracens, were already separated from the Christian Church by heresy or schism. God abandoned them, because they had rejected both the truth of faith, and unity with the Church; they fell an easy prey to the infidel conqueror.
Nevertheless, Spain had incurred an immense risk. The race of the Goths, by their long invasion of her territory, had sowed the seeds of heresy: Arianism had set up its sacrilegious altars in Iberia. But God did not permit this privileged country to be long under the yoke of error. Before the Saracens came upon her, she had been reconciled to the Church; and God had chosen one family to be the glorious instrument in the completion of this great work. Even to this day, the traveller through Andalusia will find the squares of its cities adorned with four statues: they are those of three brothers and a sister: St. Leander, bishop of Seville; St. Isidore, whose feast we are keeping to-day; St. Fulgentius, bishop of Carthagena; and their sister, St. Florentina, a nun. It was by the zeal and eloquence of St. Leander that king Reccared and his Goths were converted from Arianism to the Catholic faith, in the year 589; the learning and piety of our glorious Isidore consolidated the great work; Fulgentius gave it stability by his virtues and erudition; and Florentina co-operated in it by her life of sacrifice and prayer.
Let us unite with the Catholic kingdom in honouring this family of saints; and to-day in a special manner, let us pay the tribute of our devotion to St. Isidore. The holy liturgy thus speaks of him:
Isidorus natione Hispanus, doctor egregius, ex nova Carthagine, Severiano patre provinciæ duce natus, a sanctis episcopis Leandro Hispalensi, et Fulgentio Carthaginensi fratribus suis pie et liberaliter educatus, latinis, græcis et hebraicis litteris, divinisque et humanis legibus instractus, omni scientiarum, atque christianaram virtutum genere præstantissimus evasit. Adhuc adolescens hæresim arianam, quæ gentem Go· thorum Hispaniae latissime dominantem jam pridem in vase rat, tantaconstantia palam oppugnavit, ut parum abfuerit quin ab haereticis necaretur. Leandro vita functo ad Hispalensem cathedram invitus quidem, sed urgente in primis Recaredo rege, magnoque etiam cleri, populique consensu assumitur, ejusque electionem sanctus Gregorius Magnus nedum auctoritate apostólica confirmasse, sed et electum transmisso de more pallio decorasse, quin etiam suum, et apostolicæ Sedis in universa Hispania vicarium constituisse perhibetur.
In episcopatu quantum fuerit constans, humilis, patiens, misericors, in Christiana et ecclesiastica disciplina instauranda sollicitus, eaque verbo, et scriptis stabilienda indefessus, atque omni demum virtutum ornamento insignitus, nullius lingua enarrare sufficeret. Monastici quo que instituti per Hispaniam promotor et amplificator eximius, plura construxit monasteria; collegia itidem ædificavit, ubi studiis sacris et lectionibus vacans, plurimos discipulos, qui ad eum confluebant, erudivit; quos inter sancti Ildephonsus Toletanus, et Braulio Cfesaraugustanus episcopi emicuerunt. Coacto Hispaliconcilio, Acephalorum hæreeim Hispaniæ jam minitan tem, acri et eloquenti disputatione fregit atque oontrivit. Tantam apud omnes aanctitatis et doctrinæ famam adeptus est, ut elapso vix ab ejus obitu sextodecimo anno, universa Toletatana synodo duorum supra quinquaginta episcoporum plaudente, ipsoque etiam sancto Ildephonso suffragante, doctor egregius, Catholicæ Ecclesiæ novissimum decus, in sæculorum fine doctissimus, et cum reverentia nominandus, appellari meruerit; eumque sanctus Braulio nonmodo Gregorio Magno comparaverit, sed et erudiendæ Hispaniæ loco Jacobi apostoli cælitus datum esse censuerit.
Scripsit Isidorus libros Etymologiarum, et de ecclesiasticis Officiis, aliosque quamplurimos Christianæ et ecclesiasticæ disciplinæ adeo utiles, ut sanctus Leo Papa quartus ad episcopos Britanniæ scribere non dubita verit, sicut Hieronymi et Augustini, ita Isidori dicta retinenda esse, ubi contigerit inusitatum negotium, quod per Canones minimo definiri possit. Plures etiam ex ejusdem scriptis sententiæ inter canonicas Ecclesiæ legs relatæconspiciuntur. Præfuit Concilio Toletano quarto omnium Hispaniæoeleberrimo. Denique cum ab Hispania arianum haereeim eliminasset, morte sua, et regni vastatione a Saracenorum armis publice prænuntiata, postquam quadraginta cire iter annos suam rexisset Ecclesiam, Hispali migravit in cœelum anno sexcentesimo trigésimo sexto. Ejus corpus inter Leandrum fratrem, et Florentinam sororem, ut ipse mandaverat, primo conditum, Ferdinandus primus Castellæ et Legionis rex, ab Eneto Saraceno Hispali dominante magno pretio redemptum, Legionem transtulit; et in ejus honorem templum ædificatum est, ubi miraculis clarus, magna populi devotione colitur.
Isidore, by birth a Spaniard, was an illustrious Doctor of the Church. He was born at Carthagena, and his father, whose name was Severianus, was governor of that part of the country. He was solidly trained to piety and learning by his two brothers, Leander, bishop of Seville, and Fulgentius, bishop of Carthagena. He was taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; he was put through a course of canon and civil law; and there was no science or virtue in which he did not excel. While yet a youth, he so courageously combated the Arian heresy, which had long before infected the Goths who had entered Spain, that he with difficulty escaped being put to death by the heretics. After the death of Leander, he was, in spite of himself, raised to the episcopal See of Seville, by the influence of king Reccared, and with unanimous consent of both clergy and people. His election was not only confirmed by apostolic authority, but St. Gregory the Great, when sending him as usual the pallium, is said to have appointed him his own vicar, and that of the apostolic See, throughout all Spain.
It would be impossible to describe the virtues of Isidore as bishop: how firm, humble, patient, and merciful; how zealously he laboured for the restoration of Christian morals and ecclesiastical discipline, and how untiring he was in his efforts, both by word and writing, to establish them among his people; and, finally, how he excelled in every virtue. He was a fervent promoter of the monastic life in Spain, and built several monasteries. He also built colleges, in which he himself applied himself to teaching the sacred sciences to the many disciples that flocked to him; among whom may be mentioned those two glorious pontiffs,Ildephonsus bishop of Toledo, and Braulio bishop of Saragossa. In a Council held at Seville, he spoke with such power and eloquence, that he may be said to have destroyed the heresy of the Acephali, which threatened to undermine the true faith in Spain. So great, indeed, was the universal reputation he had gained for piety and learning, that he had scarcely been dead sixteen years, when, in a Council held at Toledo, and at which fifty-two bishops were present, St. Ildephonsus himself among them, he was called the illustrious doctor, the new glory of the Catholic Church, the most learned man who had been seen in those ages, and one whose name should never be mentioned but with great respect. St. Braulio not only compared him to St. Gregory the Great, but said that he looked on him as having been sent by heaven, as a second St. James the apostle, to instruct the people of Spain.
Isidore wrote a book on Etymologies, and another on Ecclesiastical Offices, and several others, of such importance to Christian and ecclesiastical discipline, that Pope St. Leo IV. hesitated not to say, in a letter addressed to the bishops of Britain, that one ought to adhere to the words of Isidore with the same respect as is shown to those of Jerome and Augustine, as often as a difficult case should arise, which could not be settled by canon law. Several sentences of his works have been inserted into the body of the canon law. He presided over the fourth Council of Toledo, which is the most celebrated of all those that have been held in Spain. At length, after having driven the Arian heresy out of Spain, he publicly foretold the day of his death, and the devastation of the country by the Saracens; and having governed his See for about forty years, he died at Seville, in the year 636. His body was first buried, as he himself had requested, between those of his brother and sister, Leander and Florentina. Afterwards, Ferdinand I., King of Castille and Leon, purchased it for a large sum of money, from Enetus, the Saracen governor of Seville, and had it translated to Leon. Here a church was built in his honour, and the miracles that are wrought by his intercession have led the people to honour him with great devotion.
Faithful pastor! the Christian people honour thy virtues and thy services; they rejoice in the recompense wherewith God has crowned thy merits; hear the prayers that are offered to thee during these the days of salvation. When on earth, thy vigilance over the flock entrusted to thy care was untiring; consider us as a part of it, and defend us from the ravenous wolves that cease not to seek our destruction. May thy prayers obtain for us the fullness of graces needed for worthily completing the holy season, which is so near its close. Keep up our courage; incite us to fervour; prepare us for the great mysteries we are about to celebrate. We have bewailed our sins, and, though feebly, we have done penance for them; the work of our conversion has, therefore, made progress; and now we must perfect it by the contemplation of the Passion and death of our Redeemer. Assist us, O thou His faithful and loving servant! Do thou, whose life was ever pure, take sinners under thy care and hear the prayers offered to thee on this day by the Church. Look down from heaven on thy beloved Spain, which honours thee with such earnest devotion. Revive her ancient ardour of faith; restore to her the vigour of Christian morality; remove from her the tares that have sprung up among the good seed. The whole Church reveres thy noble country for her staunch adhesion to the truths of faith: pray for her, that she may come unhurt through her trials, and ever prove herself worthy of that glorious title of the Catholic kingdom, which thou didst help her to gain.