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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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)