This blog contains regular postings relating to the Traditional Latin Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It includes regular commentary on the saints days and the liturgical cycle, with brief background and extracts from the liturgy both in Latin and English. Much of the material has been extracted from the 'St Andrew's Daily Missal', Dom Gueranger's 'Liturgical Year', or similar sources.

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Monday 31 December 2018

31st December, St Sylvester I, Pope and Confessor

St Sylvester I, Pope and Confessor

The Church reproduces in her liturgy all the phases of the life of her Divine founder. When only just born, the Infant God is persecuted by Herod: the Church still in her cradle sends to heaven her first martyr in the person of the deacon Stephen, and her first twenty-five popes die as martyrs.

Returned from Egypt, Jesus grows in age and wisdom at Nazareth, where the years pass in quietness: under the pontificate of Sylvester I (314-325) the Church, after three hundred years of persecution, begins to enjoy liberty, which is her greatest boon. She spreads in the Roman Empire, and the Council of Nicea (325) establishes triumphantly against Arius the doctrine of the Divinity of the Saviour, of which the liturgy of the season of Christmas is full.

"At the first Council of Nicea," the Breviary tells us, "the Catholic faith on the subject of the Divinity of Christ was explained by three hundred and eighteen bishops; Arius and his sect being condemned. At the request of the Fathers, Sylvester confirmed this council in a Synod held at Rome, and in which Arius was condemned again."

According to the lesson in the Breviary, Sylvester decreed also that the bishop alone should consecrate the chrism; that in the administration of Baptism the priest should anoint with the holy oils the crown of the head of the person being baptized; that deacons should wear the dalmatic and have a maniple of linen on the left arm; and finally that the sacrifice of the Mass should be offered up upon an altar cloth of linen.

He fixed also a certain period for those who should receive Holy Orders, during which they must exercise successively their Order in the Church, before being raised to a higher degree. Sylvester ruled the Church twenty one and a half years. He was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way.

Sacerdotes tui, Domine, induant justitiam, et sancti tui exsultent: propter David servum tuum, non avertas faciem Christi tui. * Memento, Domine, David et omnis mansuetudinis ejus.
Let Thy priests, O Lord, be clothed with justice, and let Thy saints rejoice: for thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of Thy anointed. * O Lord, remember David and all his meekness.
(Psalm 131:9-10,1 from the Introit of Mass)

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the solemn festivity of blessed Sylvester Thy confessor and pontiff may increase both our devotion and salvation.

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.
(Commemoration of Christmas)

Hymn for Confessors from the Breviary

Iste Conféssor Dómini, coléntes
Quem pie laudant pópuli per orbem,
Hac die laetus méruit beátas
Scándere sedes.

Qui pius, prudens, húmilis, pudícus,
Sóbriam duxit sine labe vitam,
Donec humános animávit aurae
Spíritus artus.

Cujus ob præstans méritum, frequénter,
Aegra quæ passim jacuére membra,
Víribus morbi dómitis, salúti

Noster hinc illi chorus obsequéntem
Cóncinit laudem celebrésque palmas,
Ut piis ejus précibus juvémur
Omne per aevum.

Sit salus illi, decus atque virtus,
Qui, super cæli solio corúscans,
Totíus mundi sériem gubérnat,
Trinus et unus.  Amen.

This the Confessor of the Lord, whose triumph
Now through the wide world celebrate the faithful,
At his departure entered with rejoicing
Heavenly mansions.

Fervent and holy, prudent in his converse,
Humbly and chastely here on earth he sojourned,
Curbing all passions, and in peace and meekness,
Constant abiding.

What though the grave now hold his hallowed relicks?
He, ever living, ever interceding,
Reigns with the Blessed, nor from us his brethren
Is he divided.

Whence we in chorus gladly do him honour,
Chanting his praises with devout affection,
That in his merits we may have our portion,
Ever and ever.

Glory and virtue, honour and salvation,
Be unto him that, sitting in the highest,
Governeth all things, Lord and God Almighty,
Trinity blessed.  Amen.

From the Catholic Encyclopaedia on Pope St Sylvester I:

Sunday 25 November 2018

Last Sunday after Pentecost

Last Sunday after Pentecost

It's the last week of the liturgical year - next Sunday will be Advent Sunday, the start of a new cycle. As the liturgical year come to a close, the texts of the mass meditate on the end of the world.

The preparation for both Advents of Christ engrossed the Church's care during the Season of Advent: His first advent of mercy, and his second advent of justice. The Gospel of this Sunday was, in ancient times, an Advent Gospel, when that season had more than four Sundays. The collect bears the same character. The shortening of Advent made of them a prophetic reading and an appropriate prayer for the last Sunday of the year. The Apostle exhorts us to behave in a manner worthy of the Saviour and to bring forth all kinds of good works, in order that we may bear all trials with patience and joy.

The Gospel today, our Lord's sermon predicting both the fall of Jerusalem and the End of the World, is called the 'Eschatological Discourse.'

In England, this Sunday is often called popularly "Stir Up" Sunday, from the first words of the Collect, Excita. There is a popular tradition of making Christmas puddings at this stage - stirring them up. Some of the other Advent collects also start with the word, Excita. So this is a season for stirring - both ourselves, and puddings.

Dicit Dóminus: Ego cógito cogitatiónes pacis, et non afflictiónis: invocábitis me, et ego exáudiam vos: et redúcam captivitátem vestram de cunctis locis. * Benedixísti, Dómine, terram tuam: avertísti captivitátem Jacob.
The Lord saith: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction: you shall call upon Me, and I will hear you; and I will bring back your captivity from all places. * Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land: Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.
(Jeremias 29:11-12,14 and Psalm 84:2 from the Introit of Mass)

Excita, quaesumus, Dómine, tuórum fidélium voluntátes: ut, divíni óperis fructum propénsius exsequéntes; pietátis tuae remédia majóra percípiant.
Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people, that they more earnestly seeking the fruit of divine service, may receive more abundantly healing gifts from Thy tender mercy.

Sunday 21 October 2018

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

As we have seen, the breviary lessons throughout October are taken from the Book of Machabees.

Judas Machabeus had heard very great things of the power of Rome, of far-off countries brought to subjection and many kings compelled to pay yearly tribute; and on the other hand, of the willingness of the Roman people to accede to requests made to them, and of their readiness to swear friendship with any nation that approached them for the purpose. Judas, therefore, decided to take the step of sending messengers to Rome itself, to seek the friendship and alliance of its people. This request was received favourably by the Senate, who later twice renewed the treaty of peace, first with Jonathas and then with Simon, who had succeeded their brother Judas Machabeus as a ruler. Soon however, the little kingdom was torn by civil war, brothers in hostile camps disputing the power between them. One of these thought fit to summon the Romans to his assistance; the invitation was accepted, and in 63 B.C. Pompey took Jerusalem.

It must be remembered that Rome never gave back what it had taken by force of arms. Palestine became and remained a Roman colony, the Senate appointing Herod, king of the Jews. This ruler, by way of pleasing the Jews richly rebuilt and enlarged the Temple at Jerusalem, and it was into this third Temple that our divine Lord made His triumphal entry later on.

From the moment of this conquest the Chosen People had to pay tribute to Rome, a fact which is alluded to in to-day's Gospel. This incident marks one of the last days of our Lord's life, and it was an occasion when the Master, in an answer full of heavenly wisdom, put to confusion His enemies, who from then on, were more than ever bent upon His destruction.

The necessity of paying tribute to Caesar was all the more odious to the Jews, since it went quite contrary to their instinct for universal supremacy, the promise of which Israel believed it had received. It followed that anyone who maintained the duty of payment had public opinion against him, while those who held the opposite view incurred the anger of the Roman authority in possession, and of those among the Jews who approved it and who formed the party of the Herodians. When therefore, the Pharisees thought to drive our Lord on to one or the other of the horns of this dilemma, it was in order to embroil Him either with the people or with the Roman power; on one count or the other they thought they could secure His arrest.

The better to attain their end, they sent Him a deputation of Jews consisting of members of both parties, of "their disciples with the Herodians", as St. Matthew puts it. To get an answer to their question, these men began by telling our Lord that they knew that He "taught the way of God in truth" without "regarding the person of men". And then they laid their snare before Him. "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing the malice that was in them, answers: "Why do ye tempt me, ye hypocrites?" And then, evading their attack with the greatest skill, He bade them show Him "the coin of the tribute" to force them, as He always did on these occasions, to answer their own question.

For when the Jews had offered him "a penny" of this money, He asks them: "Whose image and inscription is this?" They say to Him: "Caesar's." As a matter of fact, before the tribute could be paid it was a necessary preliminary to change the money of the country for coins bearing the image of the emperor; and since a coin is only of value in the country of the monarch whose image it bears, by this very exchange the Jews acknowledged that they were under Caesar's rule, and that they intended to pay tribute to him. "Render therefore to Caesar," says our Lord, "the things that are Caesar's", and then suddenly becoming the Judge of His hearers, He adds: "And to God the things that are God's", which means that since the soul of a man belongs to God who made it in His image, all the faculties ought to return to Him, in the sense of paying the tribute of their worship and service.

"We," says St. Augustine, "are the coins of God stamped with His image, and God demands the return of His coins as Caesar did the return of his." And St. Jerome adds: "Let us give to Caesar the money which bears his inscription, since we cannot do otherwise, but let us give ourselves freely and of our own accord to God, for what our soul bears is the glorious imprint of the face of a God and not the more or less majestic head of an emperor." Bossuet says: "This image will one day pass again through the hands and before the eyes of Jesus Christ, and some day He will look at us and say: 'Whose image and inscription is this?' And the very depth of our being will answer: 'God's'." "It is for Him that we were made and we must bear His stamp upon us. It had to be restored in baptism of which it is the effect and character. But what has become of the divine features which we ought to bear? Christian soul, may God's image be in your reason! But this you have drowned in drunkenness ; you have sunk it in the love of pleasure; you have surrendered it to ambition ; you have made it the slave of gold, which is a form of idolatry; you have sacrificed it to your appetites of which you have made a god; you have made of it an idol of vain glory, and instead of praising and blessing God day and night, it is itself constantly praised and admired."

And the divine Redeemer will say: "Amen, Amen, I know you not: you are not my work, no longer do see in you what I put there. You have chosen to form yourself in your own way: you are the work of pleasure and ambition: you are the work of the devil, whose works you have done, and whom, by taking him as your model, you have made your father. Go with him who knows you, and whose promptings you have followed; go to fire eternal which has been prepared for him. O just Judge! And where shall I be found? Shall I acknowledge myself, when my Creator has disowned me?" (Meditations sur l'Evangile. Thirty-ninth day.)

It is in this sense that we must interpret this Sunday's Gospel, one of the last of the ecclesiastical year and in which the Church reminds us of the end of the world. Thus the Epistle twice speaks of the coming of Christ as nigh at hand. St. Paul prays that " He who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus," since the grace of final perseverance comes from Him alone. Again the apostle asks that our "charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding"; that we "may approve the better things"; that we "may be sincere and without offense unto the day of Christ " (Epistle). For in this dread moment: If the Lord "shall observe iniquities ... who shall endure it?" (Introit).

But the Lord is the "helper and protector" of them that hope in Him. (Alleluia), for there is propitiation with the God of Israel (Introit, Secret). And we shall ourselves experience this mercy if we are merciful to our neighbour. " How good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity," says the Gradual. Especially must we be found in prayer in the hour of danger, for if we cry to the Lord, He will hear us. (Communion).

The prayer, in the highest degree social and fraternal, to which almighty God is especially attentive is the prayer of His bride the Church. He hears and answers her, like Assuerus the king, when as the Offertory reminds us, Esther his wife approached him that he might save God's people from death" (See the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost).

Si iniquitátes observáveris, Dómine: Dómine, quis sustinébit? quia apud te propitiátio est, Deus Israël. * De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam.
If Thou shalt observe iniquities, O Lord, who shall endure it? for with Thee is propitiation, O God of Israel. * Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.
(Psalm 129:3-4,1-2 from the Introit of Mass).

Deus, refúgium nostrum et virtus: adésto piis Ecclésiae tuae précibus, auctor ipse pietátis, et praesta; ut, quod fidéliter pétimus, efficáciter consequámur.

O God, our refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness; hear, we pray Thee, the devout prayers of Thy Church, and grant that what we ask confidently we may obtain effectually.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time, the Pharisees went and consulted among themselves, how to ensnare Jesus in His speech. And they send to Him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that Thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man, for Thou dost not regard the person of the men. Tell us therefore, what dost Thou think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt Me, ye hypocrites ? Show Me the coin of the tribute. And they offered Him a penny. And Jesus saith to them : Whose image and superscription is this? They say to Him : Caesar's. Then He saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the to God the things that are God's.
(St Matthew 22:15-21)

Ego clamavi, quoniam exaudisti me, Deus: inclina aurem tuam, et exaudi verba mea.
I have cried for Thou, O God, hast heard me: O incline Thy ear unto me, and hear my words.
(Communion, from Psalm 16:6)

Reddite ergo * quae sunt Caesaris, Caesari: et quae sunt Dei, Deo, alleluia.
Render therefore to Caesar, the things that are Caesar's and to God, the things that are God's, alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat, from St. Matt. 22:21)

Sunday 14 October 2018

21st Sunday after Pentecost

21st Sunday after Pentecost

The lessons in the divine office for this Sunday are often taken from the Book of Machabees.

As St. John Chrysostom says: "Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, having invaded Judea and ravaged wholesale, forcing many Jews to give up the holy practices of their fathers, the Machabees remained steadfast and uncorrupted, amidst all these trials. Traversing the whole country they gathered together all the faithful and loyal citizens whom they met, and even a great number of those who had allowed themselves to be discouraged or led astray, urging them to return to the law of their fathers.

For they remembered that almighty God is full of indulgence and mercy, never refusing to repentance the gift of salvation.

These exhortations resulted in the raising of an army composed of men of the utmost bravery who were fighting not so much for their wives and children and servants; not to ward off slavery and ruin from their country, but for the laws of their fathers and the rights of their nation. God Himself was their leader. Moreover, when they went into battle to sacrifice their lives, this alone was enough to put the enemy to rout; in fact they trusted less in their arms than in the cause for which they had armed, which they considered sufficient to secure victory even if armour were altogether lacking. When on the march, they did not, like the people of some races, fill the air either with curses or profane songs; no flute players were to be found among them as in other camps; but they prayed God to send them aid from on high, to help and keep them, and to give them His strength, since they made war for His sake and not for their own glory" (Fourth Sunday in October, 2nd Nocturn).

God's primary care in the world is for His own people, i.e. Christ and His Church who together make only one. Everything else is of secondary importance. "Lord," says the Gradual, "Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation." While the Alleluia psalm relates that "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people, Judea was made His sanctuary," and "Israel His dominion". And then having recounted all the wonders wrought by God for the preservation of His people, the psalmist adds: "But our God is in heaven: He hath done all things whatsoever He would ... The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: He is their helper and protector."

The psalm, from which the Communion and the verse of the Introit are borrowed, repeat the cry of hope raised by just souls to heaven. "My soul is in Thy salvation ... When wilt thou execute justice on them that persecute me? The wicked have persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God."

In the same sense the Church prays in to-day's Collect: "Lord, we pray Thee, keep Thy household the Church in continual godliness ; that through Thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to good works, to the glory of Thy holy name."

The ancient people of God and His people to-day, have the same end in view, to glorify God and to assert His rights ; and both have the same adversaries, the devil and his agents. To-day the Church draws on the breviary lessons of the preceding Sundays, reminding us of Satan's onslaught upon Job and the treatment of Mardochai by Aman who was "a slanderer like the devil" (See Introit psalm). God delivered these two just men, as He freed His people from the bondage of Egypt, and as He came to the aid of the Machabees who were fighting in His cause.

In the same way Christians are attacked by evil spirits, for the persecutors of the Church, like those of Israel under the Old Law, are really stirred up by the devil. "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places" (Epistle). Moreover, like the Machabees, who, valiant soldiers as they were, trusted more in God than in their arms, the means of defense used by Christians must be chiefly of a supernatural kind. "Be strengthened in the Lord," says the apostle, " and in the midst of His power ... Take unto you the armour of God ... that you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one."

St. Paul's Roman guards (and the Machabees were accoutred like them) here serve the apostle as a model for the detailed description which he gives us of the mystic panoply of the soldiers of Christ. Its defensive armour consists of justice, peace and faith, while its weapons of offence are the inspired words of the Holy Ghost whom the Church received at Pentecost.

Now that portion of the divine Word which we have in to-day's Gospel sums up the whole Christian life in the practice of that virtue of charity which makes us treat our neighbour as almighty God has treated us. He has forgiven us great sins; let us in turn, learn how to forgive our brethren their infinitely less important offenses against us. The devil in his jealousy drives men to act like the wicked servant who seized by the throat one who owed him a trifling sum and cast him into prison because he could not pay at once. In the day of Judgment God will treat us as we have treated our neighbour. Of that day this Sunday's Mass warns us in our Lord's words: "The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king who would take account of his servants." At that time of justice pure and simple, He will be merciless like us if, during this life when He is all mercy to us, we have not learned to be merciful like Him. The wicked servant was delivered to the torturers. "So," says our Lord, "shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts."

The executioners to whom we shall be delivered by our Lord in His just anger against us, will be the powers of hell from whom He has protected us on earth, but whom He will then leave to indulge their hatred against us. It is enough to recall their rage against holy Job. Let us be on our guard against them, the more so, that this Sunday reminds us of the time when the devils will use their power against men with greater violence, since they will soon lose it altogether.

If we seek strength from God, whose will none can resist (Introit), we shall be victorious over the devils even in those troublous times, and we shall have no fear of the judgment to come.

In voluntáte tua, Dómine, univérsa sunt pósita, et non est, qui possit resístere voluntáti tuae: tu enim fecísti ómnia, coelum et terram et univérsa, quae coeli ámbitu continéntur: Dominus universórum tu es. * Beáti immaculáti in via: qui ámbulant in lege Dómini.
All things are in Thy will, O Lord; and there is none that can resist Thy will: for Thou hast made all things, heaven and earth, and all things that are under the cope of heaven: Thou art the Lord of all. * Blessed are the undefiled in the way; who walk in the law of the Lord.
(Esther 13:9-11 and Psalm 118:1 from the Introit of Mass).

Famíliam tuam, quaesumus, Dómine, contínua pietáte custódi: ut a cunctis adversitátibus, te protegénte, sit libera, et in bonis áctibus tuo nómini sit devóta.
Lord, we pray Thee, keep Thy household in continual godliness; that through Thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to good works, to the glory of Thy holy name.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents: and as he has not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that servant falling down, besought him saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, let him go, and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow-servants that owed him a hundred pence: and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow-servant falling down besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison till he paid the debt. Now his fellow-servants, seeing what was done, were very much grieved; and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him, and saith to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me; shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
(St Matthew 18:23-35)

Immortalitatis alimoniam consecuti, quaesumus, Domine: ut, quod ore percepimus, pura mente sectemur.
Having been fed with the food of immortality, O Lord: we beseech Thee, that what we have received with our mouth, we may follow with a pure mind.

Serve nequam, omne debitum dimisi tibi, quoniam rogasti me: nonne ergo oportuit et te misereri conservi tui, sicut et ego tui misertus sum? alleluia.
Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt because thou besoughtest me: shouldst thou not then have had compassion also on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee? alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: St Matthew 18:32)

Sunday 7 October 2018

20th Sunday after Pentecost

20th Sunday after Pentecost

The lessons in the divine office during the whole month of October, are often taken from the books of Machabees.

After the Babylonian captivity God's people returned to Jerusalem where they rebuilt the Temple. Incidentally, it was at this time that today's Offertory psalm was composed. But soon they were once more punished because of renewed unfaithfulness. On this occasion Antiochus Epiphanes took Jerusalem and pillaged the Temple; afterwards publishing an edict everywhere forbidding the practice of the Jewish faith. Idolatrous altars were raised in every place, and the number of apostates became so great that it seemed as if the faith of Abraham, Israel and Moses must disappear.

Then God raised up some heroes. A priest named Mathathias rallied all who were still filled with zeal for the Law and the worship of the Covenant and named his son Judas Machabeus as leader of the force which he had raised to champion the rights of the true God; and with his tiny army Judas gladly fought the battles of Israel. In war he was "like a lion and like a lion's welp roaring for his prey." He wiped out "the wicked", and routed Antiochus' great army and re-established the true worship at Jerusalem, Filled with the Spirit of God, the Machabees had reconquered their country and saved the soul of their people.

"The sacrilegious superstitions of the Gentile world," says St. Augustine, "had filled the temple with defilement; but is was cleansed from all these profanations of idolatry by that most valiant captain Judas Machabeus, the conqueror of the generals of Antiochus" (Second Sunday in October, second Nocturn).

Again, St. Ambrose comments: "Some men have been captivated by the glory of arms, and rate courage in warfare above all else. But not of this kind was the valour of Josue, who, in a single battle, took six kings prisoners. With three hundred men Gedeon triumphed over a powerful army. Jonathas, while still a boy, distinguished himself by some fine feats of arms.

And what shall we say of the Machabees? With three thousand Jews they conquered forty-eight thousand Syrians! We can form some idea of the mettle of a captain like Judas Machabeus, from the action of one of his soldiers. This man, Eleazar, having noticed an elephant taller than the rest and covered with the royal body-cloth, concluding that it was ...

Sunday 30 September 2018

19th Sunday after Pentecost

19th Sunday after Pentecost

About this time (Fifth Sunday in September) the story of Esther is read in the divine office. In order, therefore, that with the Church, we may every year review these Old Testament types, and also continue our study of the Sundays after Pentecost in the light of the breviary, we may usefully make Esther the subject for exposition to-day.

Assuerus, king of Susa in Persia 4*2-472, B.C.), had chosen Esther, niece of Mardochai as his queen. Anin, the major-domo of the palace, noticing that Mardochai refused to bow the knee before him, flew into a great rage, and knowing Mardochai to be a Jew, swore to exterminate at one blow all the members of his rare. To this end, he laid a complaint before the king against these foreigners who were settled in all the towns of his kingdom, and obtained a decree authorizing their wholesale massacre.

Upon learning of this decree, Mardochai indulged in great lamentations, the Jewish community, as a whole, bin?, naturally, plunged into extreme 
mourning, while Mardochai took the further step of telling Esther that, if the opportunity presented itself, she ought, even at the peril of her life, to inform the king of Aman's plot. "Who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom that thou mightest be ready for such a time as this?"

(The Introit for the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost is Mardochai's prayer. Perhaps we have here a sign that the Church wishes at his season to connect the story of Esther with a Mass of this period.)

Whereupon Esther, after fasting three days with her servants, presented herself the third day, royally dressed before the king with the request that he would join her in a feast, together with Aman. This the king promised to do. In the course of the banquet the queen began her complaint to the king " We are given up, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish."

And Assuerus learning that Esther was a Jewess and that Mardochai was her uncle, " answered and said : 4 Who is this, and of what power that he should do these things'. And Esther said : * It is this Aman that is our adversary and most wicked enemy.' Upon this, the king enraged against his minister rose up and commanded that Aman should be hanged on the gibet that he had prepared for Mardochai, this sentence being carried out immediately, while the edict against the Jews was revoked. Esther had saved her people and on the same day Mardochai became the king's favourite minister and " going forth from the palace, and from the king's presence, shone in royal apparel: to wit of violet and sky colour, wearing a golden crown on his head, and clothed with a cloak of silk and purple and with the king's ring on his finger.

This bible narrative shows how God watched over His people and preserved them, for the sake of the promised Messias. " I am the salvation of the people," saith the Lord, «in whatever tribulation they shall cry to me, I will hear them ; and I will be their Lord forever" (Introit). " If I walk in the midst of tribulation, Thou wilt quicken me, O Lord ; and Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies ; and Thy right hand shall save me " (Offertory). The Communion psalm speaks of the just man weighed down by misfortune whom God forsakes not, while that of the Gradual shows, how in answer to the cry of those who hope in Him God causes the sinner to fall into his own net and again, that of the Alleluia sings of all the marvels which God has wrought for the deliverance of His people.

All this is a type of what God is constantly doing for His Church and of what He will do in a special way at the end of time. Aman, whom the king condemned at Esther's banquet, is like the man spoken of in the Gospel who came to the wedding feast and was cast by the king's command into exterior darkness because he had not on a wedding garment, that is because he had not " put on the new man who according to God is created in justice and holiness and truth and for not having put away lying and those feelings of anger against his neighbour which he cherished in his heart (Epistle).

Thus will almighty God treat all those who, while belonging to the body of the Church by their faith, are found within the wedding-chamber without being clothed, as St. Augustine puts it, with the robe of charity Since they are not quickened by sanctifying grace they have no share in the soul of the mystical body of Christ. "Wherefore," says St. Paul," putting away lying speak the truth every one with his neighbour, for we are members one of another... Let not the sun go down upon your anger" (Epistle). Those who do not fulfil this command will be cast by the supreme judge into the torments of hell, like the Jews who refused the invitation to the wedding feast of the king's son, that is of Jesus Christ with the Church, His bride (2nd Nocturn), and who slew the prophets and apostles who were sent to bear the invitation.

Assuerus, in his anger, caused Aman to be hanged. So also the king in the Gospel "was angry; and sending he destroyed those murderers and burnt their city." More than a million Jews perished at the time of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, the Roman general when the city was destroyed, and the Temple burned.

1. In his " Journeys in Persia Chardin relates an incident of an official being put to death
for failing to conform to the etiquette which imposed the wearing of a festive costume upon
anyone present at a state banquet. Such a " garment " was often sent to the guests by the
host himself.

The faithless Aman was replaced by Mardochai; the wedilir by those whom the king's servants found in the highways ; the the Gentiles. To these last, at Pentecost, the apostles turned, illl. d wlili the Holy Ghost. And at the last Judgment, foretold on these 1bhI Numi of the cycle, these rewards and punishments will be final. The clret wilt take part in the eternal marriage feast, while the damned will be ciihi int.. exterior darkness, into the avenging flames, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Salus populi ego sum, dicit Dominus: de quacumque tribulatione clamaverint ad me, exaudiam eos: et ero illorum Dominus in perpetuum. * Attendite, popule meus, legem meam : inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei.
I am the salvation of the people, saith the Lord: in whatever tribulation they shall cry to Me, I will hear them; and I will be their Lord for ever. * Attend, O My people, to My law; incline your ear to the words of My mouth. (Introit, Ps. lxxvii. i.)

Omnipotens et misericors Deus, universa nobis adversantia propitiatus exclude: et mente et corpore pariter expediti, quae tua sunt, liberis mentibus exsequamur.
O almighty and merciful God, in Thy goodness keep us, we beseech Thee, from all things hurtful; that we, being ready both in body and soul may accomplish those things which belong to Thy service. (Collect)

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. At that time, Jesus spoke to the chief priests and the Pharisees in parables, saying: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son; and he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage, and they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying : Tell them that were invited: Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come ye to the marriage. But they neglected : and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise; and the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death. But when the king had heard of it, he was angry ; and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready, but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage. And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good; and the marriage was filled with guests. And the king went in to see the guests ; and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment: and he saith to him: Friend, how earnest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment? but he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters : Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, For many are called, but few are chosen.

Intravit autem Rex, ut videret discumbentes: et vidit ibi hominem non vestitum veste nuptiali, et ait illi: Amice, quomodo huc intrasti, non habens vestem nuptialem?
And the king went in to see the guests ; and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how earnest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment ?
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: Matt. xxii. n)

Sunday 23 September 2018

18th Sunday after Pentecost

18th Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday was, in former times left vacant, being inserted in the missal after Ember Saturday; for since the liturgy of the previous day continued to Sunday morning, to-day had no mass of its own.

The breviary lessons for the "Sunday after Ember Saturday" (Fourth Sunday of September), are taken from the book of Judith, whose story St. Ambrose, in the second nocturn, connects with this season of penance, since to the fasting and abstinence of this heroic woman he attributes the wonderful victory that she obtained.

To persevere with our plan of working out the connection between the missal and breviary, we too may study the Mass of Ember Saturday, formerly of this Sunday, in the light of Judith's history.

While Manasses, king of Juda, was in captivity in Babylon, the Assyrian monarch, Abuchodonosor, sent his general Holofernes to complete the conquest of Chanaan. This officer besieged Bethulia, whose inhabitants, reduced to the last extremity, decided to surrender the city, unless help came in five days.

But just then Judith, a widow in Israel of great influence, was living in the place. "Let us be penitent," was her advice to the ancients of Israel, "and with many tears let us beg God's pardon ... Let us humble our souls before Him and ask that He would show His mercy to us ... Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which like servants we are chastised, have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction."

Then this holy woman "went into her oratory, and putting on haircloth, laid ashes on her head and falling down prostrate before the Lord, she cried to the Lord."

Having finished her prayer, Judith put on her best apparel and left the town with her servant, reaching at daybreak the advanced Chaldean outposts and announced that she had come to surrender herself and her people to Holofernes. The soldiers took her before the general who was dazzled by her great beauty, which almighty God had been pleased to increase, since she made use of it, not from motives of sensuality but of virtue.

Holofernes believed everything that Judith told him and made a great feast in her honour, at which, carried away by enjoyment, he drank to greater excess than usual and overcome by intoxication, lay down on his bed and sank into a drunken sleep. Upon this everyone withdrew, Judith alone remaining with him. Then, praying that God would strengthen her arm for the deliverance of Israel, she took down the sword which hung over the bed, and with great courage cut off Holofernes' head, which she gave to the maid-servant with instructions to hide it in her wallet. Then they returned the same night to Bethulia.

When the ancients of the city heard of Judith's action they cried: "Blessed be the Lord who hath made heaven and earth." And the next day the blood-stained head of Holofernes was hoisted on the walls of the fortress. The Chaldeans complained loudly of Judith's treachery, but being pursued by the Israelites, all fled or were put to the sword. Meanwhile the High Priest came with the Ancients from Jerusalem, to celebrate the deliverance of their nation and saluted Judith with cries of: "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people."

In the second nocturn for the fourth Sunday in September, St. Ambrose comments as follows on this portion of the Scriptures: "It was through the strength given by sobriety that Judith cut off Holofernes' head. Fortified by fasting, she went boldly into the enemy's camp. The fasting of a single woman vanquished the countless hordes of Assyrians."

The Mass for Ember Saturday is full of similar expressions. The prayers implore the divine mercy, while relying on fasting and abstinence which make us stronger than our enemies. "Forgive us our sins, O Lord," says the first Gradual. "Help us, O God, our Saviour, and for the glory of Thy name, O Lord, deliver us." And the second Gradual: "Behold, O Lord, our protector; and look on Thy servants." While the third adds: "Return, O Lord, a little, and be entreated in favour of Thy servants."

The lessons all allude to the mercy of God towards His penitent people. "As I purposed to afflict you, when your fathers had provoked Me to wrath, saith the Lord, and I had no mercy: so turning again I have thought in these days to do good to the house of Juda and Jerusalem."

The story of the deliverance of the Jewish people from Assyrian bondage by Judith (whose name is the feminine of Juda) by fasting, is a type of the freeing of God's people by Jesus, of the race of Juda, at Easter after the penances of Lent.

Since the Book of Esther is read in the breviary on the following Sunday (the fifth in September), we can easily understand that St. Ambrose would also find there an illustration well suited to his subject, and in fact he points out that "it was to the fast of three days, thanks to which almighty God increased the grace which adorned her mortified soul, that Esther owed her victory over the wicked Aman and rescued the Jewish people from a cruel persecution."

We ourselves shall deal with the history of Esther on the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, with which it sometimes coincides.

When later on the custom of waiting until the evening to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice on Ember Saturday had ceased, the Mass composed in the sixth century for the Dedication of the Church of St. Michael at Rome, and said on September 29th, was borrowed for the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Consequently all the "Proper" of this Mass refers to the consecration of a church. "I was rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord" (Verse of the Introit and Gradual). "Moses consecrated an altar to the Lord" (Offertory). "Bring up sacrifices and come into his courts: adore ye the Lord in His holy court" (Communion).

We have here a symbol of heaven whither all nations shall flow at the end of time, referred to on this Sunday and on those which follow at the end of the cycle. The Alleluia is the same as that of the Sundays after Epiphany which foretell the entry of the Gentiles into the kingdom of heaven. The Epistle speaks of those who await the revelation of our Lord at His second coming. They will rejoice forever in the Lord's presence in the peace which, according to the prophets, He will give to those who await Him (Introit, Gradual); a peace assured to us by our Lord through His death on the cross, which is the true evening sacrifice of which that of Moses is only a type.

After he had offered a holocaust, the odour of which was pleasing to the Lord, the holy Lawgiver obtained the pardon of his people's sins, and rejoiced in the vision of God. In the same way men reconciled to God, by Him who has power to remit sins (Gospel), by their faith in Christ, will share in the unique and sovereign divinity, by beholding it face to face, a privilege granted by God Himself, and will thus be made rich in Christ in all utterance and all knowledge (Epistle).

Already in the Church all enjoy this pardon and peace, thanks to the power which our Lord has entrusted to His priests, and indeed in this Mass, coming after Ember Saturday, allusion is made to the Priesthood. Like our divine Redeemer, who went about exercising His ministry, curing the soul of the paralytic at the same time that he healed his body, those who have just been ordained preach the Word of Christ (Epistle), celebrate the Holy Sacrifice (Offertory), and remit sins (Gospel).

Thus they prepare men to receive their divine Judge in a manner beyond reproach.

Da pacem, Domine, sustinentibus te, ut prophetae tui fideles inveniantur: exaudi preces servi tui, et plebis tuae Israel. * Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.
Give peace, O Lord, to them that patiently wait for Thee, that Thy prophets may be found faithful: hear the prayers of Thy servant, and of Thy people Israel. * I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.
(Ecclus. 36:18 and Psalm 121:1 from the Introit of Mass)

Dirigat corda nostra, quaesumus, Domine, tuae miserationis operatio: quia tibi sine te placere non possumus.
In Thy tender mercy, direct our hearts, we beseech Thee, O Lord, because without Thee we are not able to please Thee.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.

At that time, Jesus entering into a boat, passed over the water and came into His own city. And behold they brought Him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee. And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth. And Jesus seeing their thoughts said: Why do you think evil in your hearts? whether is it easier to say: Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say: Arise and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (then said He to the man sick of the palsy): Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And he arose, and went into his house. And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God who had given such power to men.
(St Matthew 9:1-8)

Tulit ergo paralyticus lectum suum, in quo jacebat, magnificans Deum: et omnis plebs, ut vidit, dedit laudem Deo.
The man sick of the palsy therefore took up his bed in which he had been lying, glorifying God: and all the people, seeing it, gave praise to God.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat of Vespers, St Luke 5)

Sunday 16 September 2018

17th Sunday after Pentecost

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost 

It often happens that the story of Tobias, read in the divine office on the third Sunday of September, furnishes the breviary lessons for to-day. Continuing our effort to show the close connection between the missal and the breviary, it may be useful to study to-day's Mass in the light of this account of the life of Tobias.

Tobias seems to have lived in the reign of Salmanasar towards the end of the eighth century before Christ, at the time of the deportation to Assyria of the Israelites of the northern kingdom. This holy man gave proof, like Job, of his constancy and fidelity to God in the midst of all his trials. "He... forsook not the way of truth: but every day gave all he could get to his brethren, his fellow captives that were of his kindred. And when he was younger than any of the tribe of Nephtali, yet did he no childish thing in his work."

The Introit psalm can be applied to him because it speaks of a young man who from his youth up, has walked in the Law of the Lord. "These and such like things," says Holy Scripture, "did he observe when but a boy according to the Law of God. But when he was a man, he took to wife Anna of his own tribe, and had a son by her whom he called after his own name. And from his infancy he taught him to fear God and abstain from all sin. Having been carried captive into Niniveh, Tobias remembered God with all his heart, and went about looking for his fellow captives to whom he gave wholesome admonitions, comforted them and distributed to everyone as he was able out of his goods. He fed the hungry and gave clothes to the naked, and was careful to bury the dead and those that were slain."

Later on almighty God allowed Tobias to be stricken with blindness, so that his patience, like that of holy Job, might be an example to posterity. For whereas he had always feared God from his infancy and kept his commandments, he repined not against God, because the evil of blindness had befallen him: but continued immovable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life. "We are," said he, "the children of saints, and look to that life which God will give to those that never change their faith in Him."

When his wife spoke offensively about his misfortune, Tobias lamented, and began to pray with tears, using nearly the same words as those of the Introit: "Thou art just, O Lord, and all Thy judgments are just; and all Thy ways mercy and truth and judgment... And now, O Lord, deal with me according to Thy will." Later, when giving what he thought was a final charge to his son, he said: "My son... all the days of thy life have God in thy mind and take heed thou never consent to sin. Give alms out of thy substance and turn not away thy face from any poor person. According to thy ability be merciful. See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another."

Here we have that same precept of love to God and our neighbour, translated into practice, which is taught in the Epistle and Gospel for to-day. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind," and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Gospel). "Walk ... with all humility and mildness, with patience supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit with a bond of peace" (Epistle).

When Tobias sent his son to Gabelus at Rages under the guidance of the archangel Raphael, during the journey the angel told the young man to "draw to" him a fish that wanted to devour him, and to keep its liver as a means of driving away all kinds of devils. Again, he showed him how to take his kinswoman Sara to wife without coming to any harm at the hands of the devil who had killed her seven former husbands. "They," said the angel, "who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust ... over them the devil hath power."

So we pray in the Collect: "Grant unto Thy people, O Lord, to withstand the temptations of the devil: and pure in heart, to follow Thee, the only God."

"We," said Tobias to Sara, "are children of saints: and we must not be joined together like heathen that know not God." So they prayed earnestly both together, "to the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the fountains, and the rivers and all creatures", that health might be given them. And God blessed their marriage, as He had blessed that of the Patriarchs, that they might have children of the race of Abraham" (Gradual).

Tobias then returned home with Sara and cured his father's blindness, whereupon the old man sang a hymn of thanksgiving in which the most magnificent Messianic prospects were disclosed. Jerusalem had been chastised for her deeds, but she would shine with a glorious light, and rejoice forever. Nations from afar should come to her, bringing gifts and adoring the Lord in her. They that despised her should be accursed, and they that blasphemed her condemned. "Blessed," he goes on, "are all they that love thee ... Happy shall I be if there shall remain of my seed to see the glory of Jerusalem. The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire and of emerald: and all the walls thereof round about of precious stones. All its streets shall be paved with white and clean stones: and Alleluia shall be sung in its streets ... Furthermore the destruction of Niniveh is at hand: for the word of the Lord must be fulfilled."

Here indeed is the "new canticle" which the Gradual psalm bids us sing (v. 3ff.). "The word of the Lord is right ... The Lord bringeth to nought the counsels of nations ... and casteth away the counsels of princes ... Blessed is ... the people whom He hath chosen for His inheritance ... Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have hoped in Thee."

And the Communion psalm adds that God has broken all hostile forces, scattered proud kings and destroyed their armies. " Vow ye and pay... to Him that is terrible, for He has looked favourably upon the people upon whom His name is invoked" (cf. Offertory).

By the Jerusalem where God reigns and to which all nations come to praise the Lord is meant the kingdom of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. To her all are summoned by an universal call, to form "one body" that is the Church, called by St. Gregory a new creation (cf. Gradual), and quickened by "one Spirit", the Holy Ghost given at Pentecost, for there exists for all but "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Epistle).

This is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of David, whom "the one God and Father of all" has made to sit on His right hand until His enemies have become His footstool" (Heb. 1:13).

Justus es, Domine, et rectum judicium tuum: fac cum servo tuo secundum misericordiam tuam. * Beati immaculati in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini.
Thou art just, O Lord, and Thy judgment is right; deal with Thy servant according to Thy mercy. * Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord.
(Introit from Mass, Psalm 118:137,124,1)

Da, quaesumus, Domine, populo tuo diabolica vitare contagia: et te solum Deum pura mente sectari. Grant, O Lord, unto Thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil, and with pure minds to follow Thee, the only God. (Collect)

Gospel: St Matthew 22:34-46
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time the Pharisees came to Jesus, and one of them, a doctor of the law, asked Him, tempting Him : Master, which is the great commandment of the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this : Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ, whose son is He? They say to Him: David's. He saith to them : How then doth David, in spirit, call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on my right hand until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son? And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man, from that day forth, ask Him any more questions.

Quid vobis * videtur de Christo? cujus filius est? Dicunt ei omnes: David. Dicit eis Jesus: Quomodo David in spiritu vocat eum Dominum, dicens : Dixit Dominus Domino meo: Sede a dextris meis? 
What think you of Christ, whose Son is He? They all say to Him: David's. Jesus saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying : The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand?
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: St Matthew 22:42-44)

Sunday 26 August 2018

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The lessons of this Sunday's office are often taken from Ecclesiasticus or Job, according as the Sunday falls in August (4th or 5th Sunday) or September (1st or 2nd Sunday).

Commenting on the former, St. Gregory says: "There are men all athirst for passing joys who are ignorant or indifferent where eternal blessings are concerned. Poor wretches! They congratulate themselves on possessing the good things of this life without regretting those of the world above, which they have lost. Fashioned for light and truth, they never lift up the eyes of the soul; never betray the smallest desire or longing for the contemplation of their eternal home. Giving themselves over to the pleasures among which they are thrown, they bestow their affection upon a dreary place of exile as if it were their fatherland; and surrounded by darkness, they are full of rejoicing as if they were illumined by a brilliant light. On the other hand the elect, in whose eyes fleeting goods are of no value, seek after those for which their souls were made. Kept in this world by the bonds of the flesh, each, none the less, is carried in spirit beyond it while making the wholesome resolve to despise the passing things of time and to desire the things which endure for eternity."

As for Job, he is set before us in Holy Scripture as the very type of a man detached from the goods of this world. " If," said he, "we have received good things at the hands of God, why should we not receive evil?... The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ... Blessed be the name of the Lord."

The proper of to-day's Mass is inspired by the same thoughts The Holy Ghost, whom the Church received at Pentecost, has formed a new man in us who resists the outward manifestations of the old man, namely covetousness and the search for riches, in order to satisfy it. The Spirit of God is a spirit of liberty, who by making us children of God, our Father, and brethren of Jesus our Lord, frees us from the slavery of sin and the tyranny of concupiscence. " They that are Christ's, " says St. Paul, " have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences." " Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh : for the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another" (Epistle). And our Lord says: "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon."

St. Augustine, in expounding this passage, says: "Whoever is the slave of riches (and we know that only too often they are the source of pride, avarice, injustice and lust)1 is subject to a hard and wicked master. Entirely at the mercy of his passions, he is under the tyranny of the devil. Certainly he does not love him, for who can love the devil? But all the same he endures him. On the other hand he does not hate God, for this, no man's conscience will let him do, but he despises Him, that is, he does not fear Him, as if he were sure of His goodness.

"The Holy Ghost puts us on our guard against this negligence and pernicious sense of security, when He says by the Prophet: 'Say not: The mercy of the Lord is great.' (Ecclesiasticus, 5:6), but know that 'the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance' (Romans 2:4). For who is more merciful than He who pardons the sins of all who turn to Him, and who gives the fertility of the olive to the wild branch? And who is more severe than He who has not spared the natural branches but because of their infidelity has cut them off? If anyone wishes to love God and to contrive never to offend Him, let him not think that he can serve two masters; let him have a single intention free from duplicity. Thus must you think about the Lord's goodness, and seek Him in simplicity of heart. Therefore," he goes on, "I tell you not to have any superfluous anxiety as to what you will eat and what you will put on, lest perhaps, without seeking superfluities, the heart may become double, and in pursuing what is necessary, your intention may be turned aside to seek your own interests rather than the advantage of your neighbour." (3rd Nocturn).

Before all, then, let us seek the kingdom of God, and His justice and glory (Gospel, Communion); let us put all our hope in the Lord for He is our protector (Introit); it is He who sends His angels to deliver those who serve Him (Offertory), and who upholds our weak human nature, for without this divine assistance it would surely fail (Gospel). It is the Eucharist which wins for us the favour of Almighty God (Secret) which by strengthening us makes our salvation sure (Postcommunion).

Let us love, above all things, to pray in the courts of the Lord (verse of the Introit), and to go there to sing the praises of God our Saviour (Alleluia). Then let us look after our temporal affairs but without being unduly anxious about them. Such solicitude would be an outrage to our heavenly Father who loves His children, and who lets them want for nothing provided they seek His glory before all else.

1. "Do not," asks St. John Chrysostom, "these daily feasts, these orgies, these theatres, these riches, bear witness to the insatiable greed of your evil passions?" (2nd Nocturn of the fifth Sunday of August, which sometimes coincides with this Sunday).

2. These words are taken from the 1st Nocturn of the fifth Sunday of August: "Say not: The mercy of the Lord is great; He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins, for mercy and wrath quickly come from Him: and His wrath looketh upon sinners. Delay not to be converted to the Lord: and defer it not from day to day. For His wrath shall come on a sudden: and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee. Be not anxious for goods unjustly gotten: for they shall not profit thee in the day of calamity and revenge." (See 2nd Nocturn.)

Protector noster, aspice, Deus, et respice in faciem Christi tui: quia melior est dies una in atriis tuis super millia. * Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum! concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini.
Behold, O God, our protector, and look on the face of Thy Christ: for better is one day in Thy courts above thousands. * How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.
(Psalm 83:1-3, from the Introit of Mass)

Custodi, Domine, quaesumus, Ecclesiam tuam propitiatione perpetua: et quia sine te labitur humana mortalitas; tuis semper auxlliis et abstrahatur a noxiis, et ad salutaria dirigatur.
Keep, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy Church with perpetual peace; and because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by Thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.
In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus discipulis suis: Nemo potest duobus dominis servire: aut enim unum odio habebit, et alterum diliget: aut unum sustinebit, et alterum contemnet. Non potestis Deo servire, et mammonae. Ideo dico vobis, ne solliciti sitis animae vestrae quid manducetis, neque corpori vestro quid induamini. Nonne anima plus est quam esca: et corpus plus quam vestimentum? Respicite volatilia caeli, quoniam non serunt, neque metunt, neque congregant in horrea: et Pater vester caelestis pascit illa. Nonne vos magis pluris estis illis? Quis autem vestrum cogitans potest adjicere ad staturam suam cubitum unum? Et de vestimento quid solliciti estis? Considerate lilia agri quomodo crescunt: non laborant, neque nent. Dico autem vobis, quoniam nec Salomon in omni gloria sua coopertus est sicut unum ex istis. Si autem foenum agri, quod hodie est, et eras in clibanum mittitur, Deus sic vestit: quanto magis vos modicae fidei? Nolite ergo solliciti esse, dicentes: Quid manducabimus aut quid bibemus, aut quo operiemur? Haec enim omnia gentes inquirunt. Scit enim Pater vester, quia his omnibus indigetis. Quaerite ergo primum regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus: et haec omnia adjicientur vobis.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat, and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air; for they neither sow nor do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not of much more value than they? And which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they labour not, neither do they spin; but I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. Now if God so clothe the grass of the field, which is to-day, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more you, O ye of little faith! Be not solicitous therefore saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed, for after all these things do the heathens seek, For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.
(St Matthew 6:24-33)

Quaerite primum regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus, et haec omnia adjicientur vobis, alleluia.
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you, alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: Matt. 6)

Sunday 19 August 2018

13th Sunday after Pentecost

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Continuing with the reading of the sapiential books which began last Sunday (first Sunday of August) the Church orders the Book of Ecclesiastes to be commenced in the breviary lessons on the second Sunday of August.

"Vanity of vanities," says the sacred author, "and all is vanity. There is no remembrance of former things : nor indeed of those things which hereafter are to come, shall there be any remembrance within them that be in the latter end. I have seen all things that are done under the sun: and behold all is vanity and vexation of spirit. The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite " (1st Nocturn)

"As soon," says St. John Chrysostom, "as Solomon was enabled to perceive the divine Wisdom, he uttered this sublime exclamation, worthy of heaven itself: 'Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.' You, in your turn can bear a like witness, if you will. It is true that Solomon in past ages was not bound, to seek wisdom so diligently as we, since the Old Law did not regard the enjoyment of superfluities as vanity, though none the less, men could see that they were worthless and deserving of contempt. But we are called to more perfect virtues, scale loftier heights, and give ourselves to nobler practices. In a word, what can we say, but that we are commanded to regulate our conduct after the pattern of heavenly virtues which have nothing fleshly about them and are entirely spiritual" (2nd Nocturn).

These heavenly virtues are principally the theological ones, " faith, hope and charity", for which we ask God in the Collect, so that we may love what He commands (Collect). Moreover, for this reason, the Church takes for to-day's Epistle a passage from St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, the subject of which is faith in Jesus Christ, a faith which works by charity and which makes us, like Abraham of old, put our hope in this divine Redeemer. For it is by this faith, manifested in good works and trust in God, that souls, covered with the leprosy of sin, are cured, as we are reminded in to-day's Gospel. The ten lepers, who in some sense stand for the transgressions of men against the ten commandments, see from afar their divine Healer, and put their trust in Him. " Master, have mercy on us." Their faith issues in works, for when our Lord puts them to the test, telling them : "Go show yourselves to the priest," they obey without hesitation and are cured on the way. But the cure is only confirmed in the case of one of them who returns to Jesus to express his thanks. " And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God ; and he fell on his face before His feet, giving thanks." And Jesus said to him: "Arise, go thy way, for thy faith hath made thee whole."

Hence we learn that it is faith in Christ that saves souls. For here is St Augustine's interpretation of this gospel in the homily for to-day : " Our Lord does not say of those men who were freed from leprosy that they were cured, but purified ; for leprosy alters the colour of the skin without, generally, taking away the integrity of the senses and members of the body.

It is not, therefore, absurd to see in the lepers, a type of those who, being without the science of the true faith, profess the changing doctrines of error. For they do not conceal their ignorance, but bring it out into the light, making it pass for superior knowledge and showing it off in boastful talk. Now there is no false doctrine which does not contain a mixture of truth. These truths and errors, mingled haphazard, in a single discussion or narrative, are like differences of colour appearing in the same body, and represent leprosy which covers human bodies with spots, forming with the sound parts, diversity of colour.

This sort of leper the Church is bound to exclude, so that, if possible, seeing themselves thrust far from her, they may set themselves to call, with loud cries upon Christ, like the ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off, and lifted up their voices saying: c Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.'

Now if our Lord worked cures in person He leaves to the Church the task of spreading His doctrine and instructing, both by word and pen. Thus St. Paul was sent to Ananias to receive, from the duly constituted priesthood of the Church, the sacrament of faith. And later, the Apostle will go uj) to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus so that by jointly professing the doctrine of the faith before the congregation by this very reunion they might show that they had one single doctrine, excluding every kind of variation. It is about this that St Paul wisely warns the Corinthians : " I beseech you brethren, that you all speak the same thing " (Matins).

The Gospel narrative also foretells the rejection of the Jews who were ungrateful toward Him who came to cure them, while the Gentiles have been faithful. For among the ten lepers, nine were Jews and only one was not, and it was to this single Samaritan who came to thank our Lord that He said: "Thy faith hath made thee whole," showing that it is not only to the children of Abraham by blood that this promise has been made, but also to those who are his children because they share his faith in Jesus Christ, for it is by this faith that the promise of eternal life which was made to Abraham is extended to all nations. So the prayer after the third prophecy on Holy Saturday reminds us that God "by the paschal sacrament (Baptism)" made His servant Abraham, according to His oath, " the father of all nations", while the fourth prayer adds : " Grant that all the nations of the world may become the children of Abraham, and partake of the (lost) dignity of the people of Israel."

The Gentiles occupy the place of the Jews. "The nine," says St. Augustine, "swollen with pride, thought they would humiliate themselves by giving thanks, whereas by not doing so they are reproved and rejected from the unity which exists in the number ten (there were ten lepers), while the only one who thanks is praised by the only Church In the same way the Jews by their pride lost the kingdom of heaven in which dwells the greatest unity; while the Samaritan by submitting to the King, by his act of thanksgiving has preserved the unity of the kingdom by his devotion full of humility" (Matins)

The Jews will enter the kingdom of heaven all together at the end of time, believing in our Lord at last, after finding that they have been deceived in following Antichrist, a fact which is alluded to in the Introit, which contains a prayer that their exclusion from the Church may not be irrevocable: " Have regard, O Lord, to Thy covenant and forsake not to the end the souls of Thy poor: ... O God, why hast Thou cast us off unto the end : why is Thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of Thy pasture?" And again, the Church beseeches almighty God "to look with favour upon His people, and appeased by their oblation, forgive them their sins " (Secret).

As for the Gentiles, they say to the Lord that all their hope is fixed on Him (Offertory), for He is to become their refuge from generation to generation (Alleluia), feeding them with food from heaven as He did the Hebrews in the wilderness, and giving them the manna which contains in itself all sweetness (Communion).

Respice, Domine, in testamentum tuum et animas pauperum tuorum ne derelinquas in finem: exsurge, Domine, et judica causam tuam, et ne obliviscaris voces quaerentium te. * Ut quid, Deus, repulisti in finem: iratus est furor tuus super oves pascuae tuae?
Have regard, O Lord, to Thy covenant, and forsake not to the end the souls of Thy poor: arise, O Lord, and judge Thy cause, and forget not the voices of them that seek Thee. * O God, why hast Thou cast us off unto the end: why is Thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of Thy pasture?
(Psalm 73:20,19,23,1 from the Introit of Mass)

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei, spei, et caritatis augmentum: et, ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecipis.
Almighty and everlasting God, grant unto us an increase of faith, hope and charity : and that we may obtain what Thou dost promise, make us love that which Thou dost command.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.
In illo tempore: Dum iret Jesus in Jerusalem, transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilaeam. Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi qui steterunt a longe: et levaverunt vocem, dicentes: Jesu praeceptor, miserere nostri. Quos ut vidit, dixit: Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt. Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia mundatus est, regressus est, cum magna voce magnificans Deum, et cecidit in faciem ante pedes ejus, gratias agens: et hic erat Samaritanus. Respondens autem Jesus, dixit: Nonne decem mundati sunt? et novem ubi sunt? Non est inventus qui rediret, et daret gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena. Et ait illi: Surge, vade; quia fides tua te salvum fecit.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time, as Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee: and as He entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off, and lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when He saw, He said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God: and he fell on his face before His feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return, and give glory to God, but this stranger. And He said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.
(Gospel: St Luke 17:11-19)

Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quod mundatus est, regressus est, cum magna voce magmficans Deum, alleluia.
And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God, alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: Luke 17:15)

Sunday 12 August 2018

12th Sunday after Pentecost

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

To-day if this Sunday is the nearest to August 1st the Church begins to read in the divine office the proverbs of Solomon.

These proverbs are useful "to know wisdom and instruction, to understand the words of prudence; and to receive the instruction of doctrine, justice, and judgment and equity: to give subtilty to little ones, to the young man knowledge and understanding" (1st Nocturn).

Solomon was only a type of Christ, the Incarnate wisdom, as indeed, we read in to-day's Gospel: "Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them " "Blessed," says St. Bede, "are the eyes that can recognize the mysteries of the Lord; of whom it is said 'Thou hast revealed them to little ones'." Blessed are the eyes of these little ones, to whom the Son has vouchsafed to reveal Himself and the Father. Here is a doctor of the law who, tempting our Lord, asks Him questions about eternal life (Gospel). But the snare that he spread for Jesus Christ shows how true were the words our Redeemer had just uttered, when He said to His Father: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to little ones " (2nd Nocturn).

"The fear of the Lord," says Solomon, "is the beginning of wisdom ... If sinners shall entice thee consent not to them. If they shall say: 'Come with us, let us hide snares for the innocent without cause: let us swallow him up alive like hell, and whole as one that goeth down into the pit. We shall find all precious substance: we shall fill our houses with spoils.' My son, walk not with them: restrain thy foot from their paths. For their feet run to evil and make haste to shed blood. So the ways of every covetous man destroy the souls of the possessors" (1st Nocturn).

It was thus that the demons acted with regard to the first man, for when Adam fell into sin they stripped him of all his goods and covered him with wounds. For original sin deprives man of all the gifts of grace and wounds him in his very nature. His intelligence is less alert and his will weaker, for the concupiscence which reigns in his members carries him towards evil. To make him feel his impotence, for as St. Paul says, our sufficiency is from God (Epistle), almighty God instituted the Mosaic Law which gave him the commandments that faith enabled him to fulfil, but without supplying the sacramental help we enjoy in the New Dispensation.

Then man, understanding that he needs the divine assistance in order to be healed, to will what is good, to obtain it and to persevere in it to the end, looks towards heaven and cries: "Incline unto my aid, O God: O Lord, make haste to help me: let my enemies be confounded and ashamed who seek my soul" (Introit). "O Lord the God of my salvation, I have cried in the day, and in the night before Thee" (Alleluia).

God resolved to come to man's assistance, and since the priests and Levites of the Old Law could not help him, He sent Jesus Christ, who according to St. Gregory's teaching, made Himself man's neighbour, clothing Himself with our humanity that He might heal it (3rd Nocturn). This is what the Epistle and Gospel tell us. The Law of Sinai, engraven as St. Paul explains, with letters upon stones, was a ministration of death, for as we have seen, it did not supply the strength necessary to perform what it commanded. Thus in the Offertory we see how Moses had to intercede with almighty God to appease His anger, provoked by the sins of His people. The law of grace was a ministration of justification, for the Holy Ghost, who was sent to the Church at Pentecost, the day on which the Old Law was abrogated, bestows the strength to observe the precepts of the decalogue and of the Church. As St. Paul says: "The letter killeth but the spirit quickeneth" (Epistle). The Gospel gives practical proof of this in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the face of the impotence of the priesthood of the Old Law, represented by the priest and the Levite, the Good Samaritan, that is our Lord Himself sets up a new law, different to the first and comes Himself to the help of man. Physician of our souls, He pours into our wounds the ointment of His grace, the oil of His sacraments and the wine of His Eucharist. Therefore, in a style full of imagery, the liturgy sings the loving kindnesses of God, who has made the earth bring forth bread that strengthens man, wine that rejoices his heart and oil that makes his face cheerful (Communion). As the Gradual says: "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall ever be in my mouth."

What God has done for us, we should do for our neighbour, following the example set us by the divine Samaritan. "There being," says St. Bede, "no closer relationship than that of head and members, we should love him who is the imitation of Christ; we should be ready to render him every service both spiritual and temporal of which he has need." Neither the Mosaic Law nor the Gospel separate love towards God from that which we should have for our brethren, a love supernatural in its origin, since it is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and supernatural in its object, which is God in the person of our brethren. The neighbour of this wounded Jew was not, as the Jews thought, one connected with him by the tie of blood, but he who charitably bent over him to give him aid. That sense of union in Christ, which goes so far as to make us love those who hate us and pardon those who do us wrong, because God is in them or at least should be, is the true love of our neighbour. Made, by grace, partakers of the divine nature, we ought to imitate our heavenly Father, who appeased by the prayer of Moses, a type of our Redeemer, could only heap blessings upon the people who had offended Him (Offertory, Communion).

United with Christ, let us bend with Him over our suffering neighbour. This will be the best way to become, by divine mercy, qualified to serve almighty God in a fitting and laudable manner and raised up by His grace, we may run without hindrance, toward the heaven He has promised us (Collect). "Our Lord," says the Venerable Bede, "affirms in the clearest way that there is only one love, and that it must not only be expressed in words but shown forth by good deeds. It is this that leads to eternal life" (3rd Nocturn).

Deus, in adjutorium meum intende: Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina: confundantur et revereantur inimici mei, qui quaerunt animam meam. * Avertantur retrorsum, et erubescant: qui cogitant mihi mala.
Incline unto my aid, O God: O Lord, make haste to help me: let my enemies be confounded and ashamed, who seek my soul. * Let them be turned backward and blush for shame, who desire evils to me.
(Psalm 69:2-4 from the Introit of Mass)

Omnipotens et misericors Deus, de cujus munere venit, ut tibi a fidelibus tuis digne et laudabiliter serviatur; tribue quaesumus, nobis; ut ad promissiones tuas sine offensione curramus.
Almighty and merciful God, of whose gift it cometh that Thy faithful people do unto Thee true and laudable service; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may run without hindrance toward the attainment of Thy promises.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. For I say to you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them ; and to hear the things that you hear, and have not heard them. And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting Him, and saying : Master, what must I do to possess eternal life? But He said to him : What is written in the law? how readest thou? He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And He said to him: Thou hast answered rightly: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus: And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering, said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who also stripped him, and having wounded him went away, leaving him half dead: and it chanced that a certain priest went down the same way, and seeing him, passed by. In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by. But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him, and seeing him, was moved with compassion, and going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him : and the next day he took out two pence, and gave to the host, and said : Take care of him, and whatsoever thou shalt spend over and above, I, at my return will repay thee. Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him that fell among robbers? But he said : He that shewed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him : Go and do thou in like manner.
(St Luke 10:23-37)