Fourth Sunday in Lent
Station at the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Violet or rose vestments
During this week the history of Moses is read by the Church in the divine office in which two main lines of thought are summarized. The lessons of the first nocturn, and the responses of the Sunday and of the week, are drawn from the book of Exodus. They are but an abbreviation of what was formerly read.] On the one hand, we see Moses rescuing God's people from the bondage of Egypt, and bringing them safe across the Red Sea. On the other, we see hIm nourishing them with manna in the desert; foretelling to them that God will send "the Prophet" (Gospel), in other words the Messias; giving them the Law of Sinai; and leading them towards the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. [In the catacombs the Eucharist was represented by a pot of milk or honey. around which were hovering bees representing the souls.] There one day Jerusalem (Communion) will rise from the ground with its temple made after the pattern of the Tabernacle in the desert and thither will the tribes of Israel go up to sing of what God has done for his people (Introit, Gradual, Communion). "Let my people go that they may sacrifice to me in the desert," said God to Pharao, through Moses.
In to-day's Mass we see how these types have been fulfilled. For the true Moses is Christ, who has delivered us from the bondage of sin (ibid.); and made us pass through the waters of baptism; who feeds us with His Eucharist of which the multiplication of the loaves is a type, and who has brought us into the true Jerusalem, the Church, figure of heaven, where we shall sing forever the "canticle of Moses and of the Lamb" (Apocalypse) in thanksgiving to the Lord for His infinite mercies to us. It is, therefore, quite natural that the station to-day should be made in Rome at the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. For St Helena, the mother of Constantine, who lived on Mount Coelius in a palace known as the Sessorian mansion, with the purpose of placing there some relics of the true Cross, converted it into a sanctuary, which in some sense represents Jerusalem in Rome.
The Introit, Communion and Tract speak to us of Jerusalem compared to Mount Sinai by St. Paul in the Epistle for to-day. There, will the Christian people best raise their song of joy, "Laetare" (Introit, Epistle) on account of the victory won by our Lord on the cross at Jerusalem, and there most easily, will be roused the memory of the heavenly Jerusalem, whose gates have been opened to us by the death of Christ.
It is for this reason, that formerly on this day, it was the custom in this same Church solemnly to bless a rose, the queen of flowers. [Even in the 20th century, the Pope blessed sometimes a golden rose (or branch or bunch of roses) and sent it to a Catholic queen: so Pope Pius XI in 1928 presented one to Victoria, Queen of Spain, and in 1925 to Elizabeth, Queen of the Belgians.] For, as we are reminded by the forms used for the blessing, in the traditional practice of Christian iconography, heaven is usually represented by a garden beautiful with flowers. For this blessing rose-coloured vestments were used, and on this day a priest may celebrate Mass and Office in vestments of this colour. Hence this custom was extended to the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete or "rejoicing" Sunday which, coming in the middle of Advent, stimulates us with a holy joy, to continue with courage our toilsome preparation for the coming of the Lord. And in its turn Laetare, also "rejoicing" Sunday, is a halting place in the midst of the Lenten observance.
Here in the Church of Calvary at Rome, that is of the Cross, our hope, the Church sends a ray of light upon our souls to stir us up to persevere in the struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil, until the great feast of Easter is reached. [The deacon wears his dalmatic and the sub-deacon his tunicle, vestments of Joy; the organ is heard again and the altar is decoroted with flowers.]
"Rejoice, rejoice with joy," we are told in the Introit, for having died to sin with our Lord during Lent, we are shortly to rise with Him by the Paschal confession and communion. The Gospel speaks at one and the same time of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, symbols of the Eucharist and of Baptism, which were formerly received on the same occasion at Easter, and in the Epistle allusion is made to our deliverance by the sacrament of Baptism, which the catechumens formerly received at this season. And if we have had the misfortune to grievously offend almighty God, we shall recover our freedom by means of our Easter confession. In the Epistle, the story of Sara and Agar becomes thus an allegory, reminding us that Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin.
Laetare, Jerusalem; et conventum facite omnes, qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: at exsultetis et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. * Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and meet together all you who love her; rejoice exceedingly, you who have been in sorrow, that you may leap for joy, and be satiated with comfort from her breasts. * I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.
(Isaias 66:10,11 and Psalm 121:2 from the Introit of Mass)
Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus; ut qui ex merito nostrae actionis affligimur, tuae gratiae consolatione respiremus.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we, who are justly afflicted according to our demerits, may be relieved by thy comforting grace.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time: Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias; and a great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased. Jesus therefore went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. Now the Pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand. When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes, and seen that a very great multitude cometh to him, he said to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? And this he said to try him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him: Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, saith to him: There is a boy here that hath five barley loaves, and two fishes; but what are they among so many? Then Jesus said: Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to them that were sat down. In like manner also of the fishes, as much as they would; and when they were filled, he said to his disciples: Gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost. They gathered up therefore, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten. Now these men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the Prophet that is to come into the world. Jesus therefore, when he knew that they would come to take him by force and make him king, fled again into the mountain himself alone.
(St John 6)
Dom Gueranger on the 4th Sunday in Lent: http://www.liturgialatina.org/lityear/lent/sunday4.htm#mass
Pictures of the Lenten Stational Churches: http://frcoulter.com/pics/station-churches/lent4/lent4.html