Liturgical Calendar

Low Sunday – Sunday, April 7, 2024

April 2, 2024
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This Sunday, commonly called with us, Low Sunday, has two names assigned to it in the Liturgy: Quasimodo, from the first word of the Introit; and Sunday in albis (or, more explicitly, in albis deposita,) because on this day the neophytes assisted at the Church services attired in their ordinary dress. In the Middle-Ages, it was called Close-Pasch, no doubt in allusion to its being the last day of the Easter Octave. Such is the solemnity of this Sunday, that not only is it of a Double rite, but no Feast, however great, can ever be kept upon it.

Low Sunday

At Rome, the Station is in the basilica of Saint Pancras, on the Aurelian Way. Ancient writers have not mentioned the reason of this Church being chosen for today’s assembly of the faithful. It may, perhaps, have been on account of the Saint’s being only fourteen years old when put to death: a circumstance which gave the young Martyr a sort of right to have the neophytes round him, now that they were returning to their every day life.

Our neophytes closed the Octave of the Resurrection yesterday. They were before us in receiving the admirable mystery; their solemnity would finish earlier than ours. This, then, is the eighth day for us who kept the Pasch on the Sunday, and did not anticipate it on the vigil. It reminds us of all the glory and joy of that Feast of feasts, which united the whole of Christendom in one common feeling of triumph. It is the day of light, which takes the place of the Jewish Sabbath. Henceforth, the first day of the week is to be kept holy. Twice has the Son of God honored it with the manifestation of His almighty power. The Pasch, therefore, is always to be celebrated on the Sunday; and thus, every Sunday becomes a sort of Paschal Feast, as we have already explained in the Mystery of Easter.

Our risen Jesus gave an additional proof that He wished the Sunday to be, henceforth, the privileged day. He reserved the second visit He intended to pay to all His disciples for this the eighth day since His Resurrection. During the previous days, He has left Thomas a prey to doubt; but, today He shows Himself to this Apostle, as well as to the others, and obliges him, by irresistible evidence, to lay aside his incredulity. Thus does our Saviour again honour the Sunday. The Holy Ghost will come down from heaven upon this same day of the week, making it the commencement of the Christian Church: Pentecost will complete the glory of this favoured day.

Jesus’ apparition to the eleven, and the victory He gains over the incredulous Thomas,—these are the special subjects the Church brings before us today. By this apparition, which is the seventh since His Resurrection, our Saviour wins the perfect faith of His disciples. It is impossible not to recognize God, in the patience, the majesty, and the charity of Him who shows Himself to them. Here again, our human thoughts are disconcerted; we should have thought this delay excessive; it would have seemed to us, that our Lord ought to have, at once, either removed the sinful doubt from Thomas’s mind, or punished him for his disbelief. But no: Jesus is infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness. In His wisdom, He makes this tardy acknowledgement of Thomas become a new argument of the truth of the Resurrection; in His goodness, He brings the heart of the incredulous disciple to repentance, humility, and love, yea, to a fervent and solemn retraction of all his disbelief. We will not here attempt to describe this admirable scene, which holy Church is about to bring before us. We will select, for our today’s instruction, the important lesson given by Jesus to His disciple, and through him to us all. It is the leading instruction of the Sunday, the Octave of the Pasch, and it behooves us not to pass it by, for, more than any other, it tells us the leading characteristic of a Christian, shows us the cause of our being so listless in God’s service, and points out to us the remedy for our spiritual ailments.

Jesus says to Thomas: ‘because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed!’ Such is the great truth, spoken by the lips of the God-Man: it is a most important counsel, given, not only to Thomas, but to all who would serve God and secure their salvation. What is it that Jesus asks of His disciple? Has He not heard him make profession that now, at last, he firmly believes? After all, was there any great fault in Thomas’s insisting on having experimental evidence before believing in so extraordinary a miracle as the Resurrection? Was be obliged to trust to the testimony of Peter and the others, under penalty of offending his divine Master? Did he not evince his prudence, by withholding his assent until he had additional proofs of the truth of what his brethren told him? Yes, Thomas was, a circumspect and prudent man, and one that was slow to believe what O had heard; he was worthy to be taken as a model by those Christians, who reason and sit in judgment upon matters of faith. And yet, listen to the reproach made him by Jesus. It is merciful, and withal so severe! Jesus has so far condescended to the weakness of His disciple, as to accept the condition, on which alone he declares that he will believe: now that the disciple stands trembling before his risen Lord, and exclaims, in the earnestness of faith: ‘My Lord! and my God!’ oh! see how Jesus chides him! This stubbornness, this incredulity, deserves a punishment: the punishment is, to have these words said to him: ‘Thomas! thou hast believed, because thou hast seen!’

Then, was Thomas obliged to believe before having seen? Yes, undoubtedly. Not only Thomas, but all the Apostles were in duty bound to believe the Resurrection of Jesus, even before He showed Himself to them. Had they not lived three years with Him? Had they not seen Him prove Himself to be the Messias and the Son of God by the most undeniable miracles? Had he not foretold them that He would rise again on the third day? As to the humiliations and cruelties of His Passion, had He not told them, a short time previous to it, that He was to be seized by the Jews in Jerusalem, and be delivered to the Gentiles? that He was to be scourged, spit upon, and put to death?‘

After all this, they ought to have believed in His triumphant Resurrection, the very first moment they heard of His Body having disappeared. As soon as John had entered the sepulchre, and seen the winding sheet, he at once ceased to doubt; he believed. But it is seldom that man is so honest as this; he hesitates, and God must make still further advances, if He would have us give our faith! Jesus condescended even to this: He made further advances. He showed Himself to Magdalene and her companions, who were not incredulous, but only carried away by natural feeling, though the feeling was one of love for their Master. When the Apostles heard their account of what had happened, they treated them as women whose imagination had got the better of their judgment. Jesus had to come in person: He showed Himself to these obstinate men, whose pride made them forget all that He had said and done, sufficient indeed to make them believe in His Resurrection. Yes, it was pride, for faith has no other obstacle than this. If man were humble, he would have faith enough to move mountains.

To return to our Apostle. Thomas had heard Magdalene, and he despised her testimony; he had heard Peter, and he objected to his authority; he had heard the rest of his fellow-Apostles and the two disciples of Emmaus, and no, he would not give up his own opinion. How many there are among us, who are like him in this! We never think of doubting what is told us by a truthful and disinterested witness, unless the subject touch upon the supernatural; and then, we have a hundred difficulties. It is one of the sad consequences left in us by original sin. Like Thomas, we would see the thing ourselves: and. that alone is enough to keep us from the fullness of the truth. We comfort ourselves with the reflection that, after all, we are disciples of Christ; as did Thomas, who kept in union with his brother-Apostles, only he shared not their happiness. He saw their happiness, but he considered it to be a weakness of mind, and was glad that he was free from it!

How like this is to our modern rationalistic Catholic! He believes, but it is because his reason almost forces him to believe; he believes with his mind, rather than from his heart. His faith is a scientific deduction, and not a generous longing after God and supernatural truth. Hence, how cold and powerless is this faith! how cramped and ashamed! how afraid of believing too much! Unlike the generous unstinted faith of the saints, it is satisfied with fragments of truth, with what the Scripture terms diminished truths! It seems ashamed of itself. It speaks in a whisper, lest it should be criticized; and when it does venture to make itself heard, it adopts a phrase ology, which may take off the sound of the divine. As to those miracles which it wishes had never taken place, and which it would have advised God not to work, they are a forbidden subject. The very mention of a miracle, particularly if it has happened in our own times, puts it into a state of nervousness. The lives of the Saints, their heroic virtues, their sublime sacrifices, it has a repugnance to the whole thing! It talks gravely about those who are not of the true religion being unjustly dealt with by the Church in Catholic countries; it asserts that the same liberty ought to be granted to error as to truth; it has very serious doubts whether the world has been a geat loser by the secularization of society.

Now, it was for the instruction of persons of this class, that our Lord spoke those words to Thomas…

‘Blessed are they who have not seen, and Have believed.’ Thomas sinned in not having the readiness of mind to believe. Like him, we also are in danger of sinning, unless our faith have a certain expansiveness, which makes us see everything with the eye of faith, and gives our faith that progress which God recompenses with a superabundance of light and joy. Yes, having once become members of the Church, it is our duty to look upon all things from a supernatural point of view. There is no danger of going too far, for we have the teachings of an infallible authority to guide us. ‘The just man liveth by faith.’ Faith is his daily bread. His mere natural life becomes transformed for good and all, if only he be faithful to his Baptism. Could we suppose, that the Church, after all her instructions to her neophytes, and after all those sacred rites of their Baptism which are so expressive of the supernatural life, would be satisfied to see them straightway adopt that dangerous system, which drives faith into a nook of the heart and understanding and conduct, leaving all the rest to natural principles or instinct? O, it could not be so. Let us, therefore, imitate St. Thomas in his confession, and acknowledge that, hitherto, our faith has not been perfect. Let us go to our Jesus, and say to Him: ‘Thou art my Lord and my God! But, alas! I have many times thought and acted as though Thou wert my Lord and my god in some things, and not in others. Henceforth, I will believe without seeing; for I would be of the number of those, whom Thou callest blessed!’

Easter Sunday – Sunday, March 31, 2024

March 25, 2024
Categories:
The Resurrection

Morning

The night between Saturday and Sunday has well-nigh run its course, and the day-dawn is appearing. The Mother of sorrows is waiting, in courageous hope and patience, for the blissful moment of her Jesus’ return. Magdalene and the other holy women have spent the night in watching and are preparing to start for the sepulchre. In limbo, the Soul of our crucified Lord is about to give the glad word of departure to the myriads of the long-imprisoned holy souls, who cluster round Him in adoring love. Death is still holding his silent sway over the sepulchre, where rests the Body of Jesus. Since the day when he gained his first victim, Abel, he has swept off Countless generations; but never has he held in his grasp a prey so noble as this that now lies in the tomb near Calvary. Never has the terrible sentence of God, pronounced against our first parents, received such a fulfilment as this; but, never has death received such a defeat as the one that is now preparing. It is true, the power of God has, at times, brought back the dead to life: the son of the widow of Naim, and Lazarus, were reclaimed from the bondage of this tyrant death; but he regained his sway over them all. But his Victim of Calvary is to conquer him forever, for this is He of whom it is written in the prophecy: ‘O death! I will be thy death!’ [Osee, 13:14]. Yet a few brief moments and the battle will be begun, and life shall vanquish death.

As divine justice could not allow the Body that was united to the Word to see corruption, and there wait, like ours must, for the Archangel’s word to ‘rise and come to judgement,’ so neither could it permit the dominion of death to be long over such a Victim. Jesus had said to the Jews: ‘A wicked generation seeketh a sign; and a sign shall not be given it, but that of Jonas the prophet.’ [St. Matthew 12: 39]. Three days in the tomb, – the afternoon and night of Friday, the whole of Saturday, and a few hours of the Sunday, – yes, these are enough: enough to satisfy divine justice; enough to certify the death of the Crucified and make His triumph glorious; enough to complete the martyrdom of that most loving of mothers, the Queen of sorrows.

‘No man taketh away my life from Me: I lay it down of Myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.’ [St. John, 10: 18].  Thus spoke our Redeemer to the Jews before His Passion: now is the hour for the fulfilment of His words, and death shall feel their whole force. The day of light, Sunday, has begun, and its early dawn is struggling with the gloom. The Soul of Jesus immediately darts from the prison of limbo, followed by the whole multitude of the holy souls that are around Him. In the twinkling of an eye, it reaches and enters the sepulchre, and reunites itself with that Body, which, three days before, it had quitted amidst an agony of suffering. The sacred Body returns to life, raises itself up, and throws aside the winding-sheet, the spices, and the bands. The bruises have disappeared, the Blood has been brought back to the veins; and from these limbs that bad been torn by the scourging, from this head that had been mangled by the thorns, from these hands and feet that had been pierced with nails, there darts forth a dazzling light that fills the cave. The holy Angels had clustered round the stable and adored the Babe of Bethlehem; they are now around the sepulchre, adoring the conqueror of death. They take the shrouds, and reverently folding them up, place them on the slab, whereon the Body bad been laid by Joseph and Nicodemus.

But Jesus is not to tarry in the gloomy sepulchre. Quicker than a ray of light through a crystal, He passes through the stone that closes the entrance of the cave. Pilate had ordered his seal to be put upon this stone, and a guard of soldiers is there to see that no one touches it. Untouched it is, and unmoved; and yet Jesus is free! Thus, as the holy Fathers unanimously teach us, was it at His birth: He appeared to the gaze of Mary, without having offered the slightest violence to her maternal womb. The birth and the resurrection, the commencement and the end of Jesus’ mission, these two mysteries bear On them the seal of resemblance: in the first, it is a Virgin Mother; in the last, it is a sealed tomb giving forth its captive God.

And while this Jesus, this Man-God, thus breaks the scepter of death, the stillness of the night is undisturbed. His and our victory has cost Him no effort. 0 death! where is now thy kingdom? Sin had made us thy slaves; thy victory was complete; and now, lo! thou thyself art defeated! Jesus, whom thou didst exultingly hold under thy law, has set Himself free; and we, after thou hast domineered over us for a time, we too shall be free from thy grasp. The tomb thou makest for us, will become to us the source of a new life, for He that now conquers thee is ‘the First-born among the dead; and today is the Pasch, the Passover, the deliverance, for Jesus and for us, His brethren. He has led the way; we shall follow; and the day will come, when thou, the enemy, that destroyest all things, shalt thyself be destroyed by immortality. Thy defeat dates from this moment of Jesus’ resurrection, and, with the great Apostle, we say to thee: ‘O death! where is thy victory? O death! where is thy sting?

But the sepulchre is not to remain shut: it must be thrown open, and testify to men, that He, whose lifeless Body lay there, is indeed risen from the dead. As when our Jesus expired upon the Cross, so now, immediately after His resurrection, an earthquake shook the foundations of the world; but, this time, it was for joy. ‘The Angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror,’ and fell on the ground ‘as dead men.’ God has mercy on them; they return to themselves, and quitting the dread sepulchre, they hasten to the city, and relate what they have seen.

Meanwhile, our risen Jesus, seen by no other mortal eye, has sped to His most holy Mother. He is the Son of God; He is the vanquisher of death; but He is, likewise, the Son of Mary. She stood near Him to the last, uniting the sacrifice of her mother’s heart with that He made upon the Cross; it is just, therefore, that she should be the first to partake of the joy of His resurrection. The Gospel does not relate the apparition thus made by Jesus to His Mother, whereas all the others are fully described. It is not difficult to assign the reason. The other apparitions were intended as proofs of the resurrection; this to Mary was dictated by the tender love borne to her by her Son. Both nature and grace required that His first visit should be to such a Mother, and Christian hearts dwell with delight on the meditation of the mystery. There was no need of its being mentioned in the Gospel; the tradition of the holy Fathers, beginning with St. Ambrose, bears sufficient testimony to it; and even had they been silent, our hearts would have told it us. And why was it that our Saviour rose from the tomb so early on the day He had fixed for His resurrection? It was because His filial love was impatient to satisfy the vehement longings of His dearest and most afflicted Mother. Such is the teaching of many pious and learned writers; and who that knows aught of Jesus and Mary could refuse to accept it?

But who is there would attempt to describe the joy of such a meeting? Those eyes, that had grown dim from wakefulness and tears, now flash with delight at beholding the brightness which tells her Jesus is come. He calls her by her name; not with the tone of voice which pierced her soul when He addressed her from the Cross, but with an accent of joy and love, such as a son would take when telling a mother that he had triumphed. The Body, which, three days ago, she had seen covered with Blood and dead, is now radiant with life, beaming with the reflections of divinity. He speaks to her words of tenderest affection, He embraces her, He kisses her. Who, we ask, would dare to describe this scene, which the devout Abbot Rupert says so inundated the soul of Mary with joy, that it made her forget all the sorrows she had endured. Nor must we suppose that the visit was a short One, In one of the Revelations to St. Teresa, our Lord told her, that when He appeared to His blessed Mother immediately after His resurrection, He found her so overwhelmed with grief that she would soon have died; that it was not until several moments had passed, that she was able to realize the immense joy of His presence; and that He remained a long time with her, in order to console her.’

Let us, who love this blessed Mother and have seen her offer up her Son on Calvary for our sake, let us affectionately rejoice in the happiness wherewith Jesus now repays her, and let us learn to compassion ate her in her dolours. This is the first manifestation of our risen Jesus: it is a just reward for the unwavering faith which has dwelt in Mary’s soul during these three days, when all but she had lost it. But it is time for Him to show Himself to others, that so the glory of His resurrection may be made known to the world. His first visit was to her who is the dearest to Him of all creatures, and who well deserved the favor; now, in His goodness, He is about to console those devoted women, whose grief is, perhaps, too human, but their love is firm, and neither death nor the tomb have shaken it.

Yesterday, when sunset proclaimed to the Jews the end of the great Sabbath and the commencement of the Sunday, Magdalene and her companions went into the city and bought perfumes, wherewith, this morning at break of day, they purpose embalming the Body of their dear Master. They have spent a sleepless night. Before the dawn of day, Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James), and Salome, axe on the road that leads to Calvary, for the sepulchre is there. So intent are they on the one object, that it never occurs to them, until it is too late, to provide for the removing of the heavy stone, which closes the sepulchre. There is the seal, too, of the Governor, which must be broken before they can enter; there are the soldiers who are keeping guard: these difficulties are quite overlooked. It is early daybreak when they reach the tomb. The first thing that attracts their attention is, that the stone has been removed, so that one can see into the sepulchre. The Angel of the Lord, who had received the mission to roll back the stone, is seated on it, as upon a throne; he thus addresses the three holy women, who are speechless from astonishment and fear: ‘Be not affrighted! Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: He is risen, He is not here.’ Then encouraging them to enter the sepulchre, he adds: ‘Behold the place where they laid Him !’

These words should fill them with joy: but no; their faith is weak, and, as the Evangelist says, ‘a trembling and fear seize them. The dear Remains they are in search of are gone: the Angel tells them so: his saying that Jesus is risen fails to awaken their faith in the resurrection: they had hoped to find the Body! While in the sepulchre, two other Angels appear to them, and the place is filled with light. St. Luke tells us that Magdalene and her companions ‘bowed down their heads,’ for they were overpowered with fear and disappointment. Then the Angels said to them: ‘Why seek ye the Living with the dead? Remember how He spake auto you, when He was yet in Galilee, saying: “The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of~ sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again!” These words make some impression upon the holy women, and they begin to remember something of what our Lord had said of His resurrection. ‘Go!’ said one of the Angels, ‘tell His disciples and Peter, that He is going before you into Galilee.’

The three Women leave the sepulchre and return with haste to the city; they are full of fear, and yet there is an irresistible feeling of joy mingled with their fear. They relate what they have seen: they have seen Angels, and the sepulchre open, and Jesus’ Body was not there. All three agree in their account; but the Apostles, as the Evangelist tells us, set it down to womanish excitement: ‘Their words seem idle tales and they believe them not.’1 The Resurrection, of which their divine Master had so clearly and so often spoken, never once crosses their mind. It is particularly to Peter and John that Magdalene relates the wonderful things she has seen and heard; but her own faith is still so weak! She went with the intention of embalming the Body of Jesus, and she found it not! She can speak of nothing but her disappointment: ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him!

Peter and John determine to go themselves to the sepulchre. They enter. They see the ‘linen cloths lying’ upon the slab whereon the Body of Jesus had been placed; but the Angels who are now keeping guard in the holy cave appear not to them. Saint John tells us, that this was the moment he received the faith in the resurrection: he believes.4 We are now merely giving the history of the events of this greatest of days, in the order in which they occurred: we will afterwards meditate upon them more leisurely, when the holy Liturgy brings them before us.

So far, Jesus has appeared to no one save His blessed Mother; the holy women have only seen the Angels, who spoke to them. These heavenly spirits bade them go and announce the resurrection of their Master to the disciples and Peter. They are not told to bear the message to Mary; the reason is obvious: Jesus has already appeared to His Mother and is with her while all these events are happening. The sun is now shedding his beams upon the earth, and the hours of the grand morning are speeding onwards: the Man-God is about to proclaim the triumph He has won for us over death. Let us reverently follow Him in each of these manifestations, and attentively study the lessons they teach us.

As soon as Peter and John have returned, Magdalene hastens once more to the tomb of her dear Master. A. soul like hers, ever earnest, and now tormented with anxiety, cannot endure to rest. Where is the Body of Jesus? Perhaps being insulted, by His enemies? Having reached the door of the sepulchre, she bursts into tears. Looking in, she sees two Angels, seated at either end of the slab on which her Jesus had been laid. They speak to her, for she knows not what to say: ‘Woman! why weepest thou?‘ — ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.’ Without waiting for the Angels to reply, she turns as though she would leave the sepulchre; when lo! she sees a man standing before her, and this Man is Jesus.’ She does not recognize Him: she is in search of the dead Body of her Lord; she is absorbed in the resolution of giving it a second burial! Her love distracts her, for it is a love that is not guided by faith; her desire to find Him, as she thinks Him to be, blinds her from seeing Him as He really is,—living, and near her.

Jesus, with his wonted condescension, speaks to her: ‘Woman! why weepest thou: ~ Whom seekest thou?’ Magdalene recognizes not this voice; her heart is dulled by an excessive and blind sentiment of grief; her spirit does not as yet know Jesus. Her eyes are fixed upon Him; but her imagination persuades her that this man is the gardener, who has care of the ground about the sepulchre. She thinks within herself, ‘This perhaps, is he that has taken my Jesus!’ and thereupon she thus speaks to him:

‘Sir, if thou hast taken Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. How is our loving Redeemer to withstand this? If He praised her for the love she showed Him in the pharisee’s house, we may be sure He will now reward this affectionate simplicity. A single word, spoken to her with the tone of voice she so well understood, is enough: —’ Mary! ‘—‘Master! ‘exclaims the delighted and humble Magdalene. All is now clear: she believes. She rushes forward: she would kiss those sacred feet, as on the happy day when she received her pardon; but Jesus stays her; this is not the time for such a demonstration of her affection. Magdalene, the first witness of the resurrection, is to be raised, in reward of her love, to the high honor of publishing the great mystery. It is not fitting that the blessed Mother should reveal the secret favor she has received from her Son: Magdalene is to pro claim what she has seen and heard at the sepulchre, and become as the holy Fathers express it, the Apostle of the very Apostles. Jesus says to her:

‘Go to my brethren and say to them: I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
The second apparition of Jesus, then, is to Mary Magdalene: it is the first in testimony of His resurrection, for the one to his blessed Mother was for another object. The Church will bring it before us on the Thursday of this week, and we will then make it the subject of our meditation. At present, let us adore the infinite goodness of our Redeemer, who, before seeking to fix the faith of His resurrection in them that are to preach it to all nations, deigns to recompense the love of this woman, who followed Turn even to the Cross, was faithful to Him after His death, and loved Him most, because most forgiven. By thus showing Himself to Magdalene, Jesus teaches us, that He is more anxious to satisfy the love He bears His faithful creature than to provide for His own glory.

Magdalene loses no time in doing her Master’s bidding. She hastens back to the city, and having come to the disciples, says to them: ‘I have seen the Lord, and these things He said to me.” But as yet, they have not faith; John alone has received that gift, although he has seen nothing more than the empty sepulchre. Let us remember, that, after having fled like the rest of the disciples, he followed Jesus to Calvary, was present at His death, and was made the adopted son of Mary.

Meanwhile, Magdalene’s two companions, Salome, and Mary the mother of James, are following her, though slowly and at some distance, to Jerusalem. Jesus meets them, and greets them, saying; ‘All hail.’ Overcome with joy they fall down and adore Him and kiss His sacred feet. it is the third apparition; and they that are favored with it, are permitted to do what was denied to the more favored and fervent Magdalene. Before the day is over, Jesus will show Himself to them whom He has chosen as the heralds of His glory; but He first wishes to honor those generous women, who, braving every danger, and triumphing over the weakness of their sex, were more faithful to Him, in His Passion, than the men He had so highly honored as to make them His Apostles. When He was born in the stable at Bethlehem, the first he called to worship Him in His crib, were some poor shepherds; He sent his Angels to invite them to go to Him, before He sent the star to call the magi. So now, —when He has reached the summit of His glory, put the finish to all His works by His resurrection, and confirmed our faith in His divinity by the most indisputable miracle, —He does not begin by instructing and enlightening His Apostles, but by instructing, consoling, and most affectionately honouring, these humble but courage ous women. How admirable are the dispensations of our God! How sweet, and yet, how strong! 1 Well does He say to us by His prophet: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts!

Let us suppose, for a moment, that we had been permitted to arrange the order of these two mysteries. We should have summoned the whole world, kings and people, to go and pay homage at the crib. We should have trumpeted to all nations the miracle of miracles, the resurrection of the Crucified, the victory over death, the restoration of mankind to immortality! But He who is ‘the power and wisdom of God,” Christ Jesus our Lord, has followed a very different plan. When born in Bethlehem He would have for His first worshippers a few simple-minded shepherds, whose power to herald the great event was confined to their own village: and yet the birthday of this little Child is now the era of every civilized nation. For the first witnesses of His resurrection, He chose three weak women; and yet, the whole earth is now, at this very moment, celebrating the anniversary of this resurrection. There is in it a mysterious feeling of joy unlike that of any other day throughout the year: no one can resist it, not even the coldest heart. The infidel who scoffs at the believer, knows at least that this is Easter Sunday. Yea, in the very countries where paganism and idolatry are still rife, there are Christians whose voices unite with ours in singing the glorious Alleluia to our risen Jesus. Let us, then, cry out as Moses did, when the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, and were keeping their first Pasch: ‘Who, O Lord, is like unto Thee, among the strong?‘ We will resume our history of the resurrection, when we come to the hour of each apparition. It is now time for us to unite with the Church in her Office of Matins. She has spent the greatest part of the night in administering that holy Sacrament of regeneration, which gives her a new people; and now she is about to offer to God the wonted tribute of her praise.

The Office of Lauds being over, the faithful retire from the church: but they will soon return, to assist at the solemn Sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb. In order the better to understand the holy Liturgy of our Easter, we will again imagine ourselves to be in one of the cathedral churches of the 4th or 5th century, where the sacred rites were carried out in all their magnificence.

The city is filled with strangers. The priests of the country churches have come to assist at the consecration of the oils, at the administration of Baptism, and at the grand functions of Easter. The inhabitants are not allowed to undertake any journey that would prevent them from assisting at the Offices of the Church; for we find several councils forbid ding even the nobles to go beyond the city walls until the Paschal solemnity is over. We shall not be surprised at these regulations, if we remember what we have already stated with regard to Palm Sunday, how the monks of the East, who had obtained permission from their Abbots to leave their monasteries at the beginning of Lent, and retire into the desert, there to live with God alone, were obliged to return for the celebration of Easter. St. Pachomius, – who was the first to organize, in the desert of the east, a congregation or confederation of all the houses that had sprung from his celebrated monastery of Tabenna, – insisted upon all his disciples convening every year in this central monastery, for the purpose of celebrating the Resurrection. On some of these occasions, there were to be seen encamped around Tabenna as many as fifty thousand monks.

Even now, notwithstanding all the deplorable in juries done to the spirit of Christianity by heresy, our churches are crowded on the great Paschal solemnity. Even they that never think of entering the House of God on any other day of the year, make an exception for Easter Sunday, as though they could not resist the i)o~~’er of the great mystery of Jesus’ triumph. It is the last remnant of faith left in these men; it keeps them from total forgetfulness of their religion. When their last hour comes, their celebration of Easter, though so imperfect, may draw down upon them the mercy of their Saviour ; but if their Easters have been but so many neglects of the Sacraments, what consolation, what hope, can they yield? those slighted invitations to mercy will then cry out for vengeance, and give to the Resurrection the awful triumph of justice !—But these are thoughts far too sad for our festivity: let us turn them into a prayer to our risen Jesus, that He ‘break not the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax ; ‘ I let us delight in the thought of those bright days of the past, when faith made Easter so glorious a sight for heaven and earth; let us exult in the reflection, that the same faith is still that of millions, and will be so till the end of time!

And before going to Mass, let us aid our enthusiasm by a remembrance of the Martyrs of Easter. Yes, the grand solemnity was once consecrated by the blood of Saints, and the Church chronicles the event in her Martyrology. In the year 459, Easter Sunday fell upon the 5th of April. The Church in Africa was then suffering persecution from the Vandals; they were Arians and had been brought into the country by their kings, Genserie and Hunnerio. The Catholics of the city of Regia were assembled in the church for the celebration of the Resurrection, and, in order to keep out the heretics, they had closed the doors. The Arians, marshalled by one of their priests, forced an entrance, and rushed in, brandishing their swords. At that very moment a lector was in the ambo, singing the Alleluia; an arrow, shot by one of the barbarians, pierced his throat; he fell, and finished his song in heaven. The Vandals fell upon the faithful, and the church streamed with blood. They dragged others from the holy place and executed them by order of their king. The little children were the only ones spared. Let us unite with the Church, who honors these noble victims of Easter on the 5th of April.

Afternoon

The day is fast advancing, and Jesus has not yet shown Himself to His disciples. The holy women are overpowered with joy and gratitude at the favor they have received. They have told it to the Apostles, assuring them that not only have they seen Angels, but Jesus Himself; that He has spoken to them; that they have kissed His sacred feet. But all their assurances fail to convince these men, who are oppressed with what they have seen of their Master’s Passion. They are cruelly disappointed, and their disappointment makes them deaf to everything that speaks of consolation. And yet, we shall soon find them laying down their very lives in testimony of the Resurrection of that Master, whose name and remembrance is now a humiliation to them.

We may form some idea of their feelings, from the conversation of two who have been spending a part of the day with them, and who themselves were disciples of Jesus. This very evening while returning to Emmaus, they thus express their disappointment: ‘We hoped that Jesus would have re deemed Israel: and now besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company affrighted us; who, before it was light, were at the sepulchre; and not finding His Body, came, saying that they had also seen a vision of Angels, who say that He is alive. And some of our people went to the sepulchre, and found it so as the women had said; but Him they found not.’ How strange, that the resurrection of which Jesus had so often spoken to them, even in the presence of the Jews, does not recur to their minds! They are still carnal-minded men, and the awful fact of His death stifles within them every idea of that new birth, which our bodies are to receive in the tomb.

But our risen Jesus must now show Himself to these men, who are to preach His divinity to the furthest ends of the world. So far, His manifestations have been made to satisfy His affection for His blessed Mother, and His infinite love for those souls, that had done all in their power to testify their gratitude towards Him. It is now time for Him to provide for His own glory; at least so it would seem to us. But no; having rewarded those that love Him, He would now show the generosity of His Heart; and then, after this, proclaim His triumph. The apostolic college, of which every member fled at the hour of danger, has seen its very head so forgetful of his duty as to deny his divine Master. But, from the moment when Jesus cast upon His disciple a look of reproach and pardon, Peter has done nothing but shed bitter tears over his fall. Jesus would now console the humble penitent; tell him, with His own lips, that He has pardoned him; and confirm, by this mark of His divine predilection, the sublime prerogatives, that He so recently conferred upon him in the presence of all the other Apostles. As yet, Peter doubts of the resurrection; Magdalene’s testimony has not convinced him; but now, that his offended Master is about to appear to him, his faith will ac knowledge the grand mystery.

We have already heard the Angel sending Jesus’ message by the three women: ‘Go,’ said he, ‘tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee.” Why this express mention of Peter, but that he may know, that although he has denied Jesus, Jesus has not denied him? Why is he not, on this occasion, mentioned before the others, except to spare him the humiliation of the contrast between his high position and the unworthy conduct he has shown? But this special mention of his name tells him that he is still dear to Jesus, and that he will soon have an opportunity of expiating his sin, by expressing his regret and repentance at the very feet of his ever loving, and now glorified, Master. Yes, Peter is tardy in believing; but his conversion is sincere, and Jesus would reward it.

Suddenly, then, in the course of this afternoon, the Apostle sees standing before him that divine Master, whom, three days previously, he had beheld bound and led away by the servants of Caiphas. This Jesus is now resplendent with light; he is the conqueror, the glorious Messias: and yet, what most affects the Apostle, is the ineffable goodness of this his Lord, who comes to console him, rather than to show him the splendors of His resurrection. Who could describe the interview between the penitent and his offended Master; the sorrow of Peter, now that he finds himself treated with such generosity; the loving pardon which comes from Jesus’ lips, and fills the Apostle’s heart with Paschal joy? Blessed be Thy name, 0 Jesus! who thus raisest up from his fall him whom Thou art to leave us for our chief pastor and father, when Thou ascendest into heaven!

It is, indeed, just that we adore the infinite mercy which dwells in the Heart of our risen Jesus, and which he shows with the same profusion and power, as during His mortal life: but let us also admire bow, by this visit, He continues in St. Peter the mystery of the unity of the Church,—a mystery which is to be perpetuated in this Apostle and his successors. At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to him, in the presence of the other Apostles:
‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.’ ~ The time is now come for establishing Peter in this faith which is never to fail: Jesus gives it to him. He Himself instructs Peter: He makes him the foun dation of His Church. In a few hours hence, He will manifest Himself to the other Apostles; but Peter will be present with his brethren. Thus, if Peter receive favours not granted to the rest, they never receive any but he has a share in them. It is their duty to believe on Peter’s word: they do so. On Peter’s testimony, they believe in the Resurrection, and proclaim it to others, as we shall soon see. Jesus is to appear likewise to them, for He loves them; He calls them His brethren; He has chosen them to be the preachers of His name throughout the world:
but He will find them already instructed in the faith of His resurrection, because they have believed Peter’s testimony; and Peter’s testimony has affected in them the mystery of that unity, which he will affect in the Church to the end of time. Jesus’ apparition to the prince of the Apostles rests on the authority of St. Luke’s Gospel’ and St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians. It is the fourth of those that took place on the day of the resurrection.

Palm Sunday – Sunday, March 24, 2024

March 19, 2024
Categories:
Palm Sunday

Early in the morning of this day, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, leaving Mary His Mother, and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania. The Mother of sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose Himself to danger, for His enemies are bent upon His destruction; but it is not death, it is triumph, that Jesus is to receive today in Jerusalem. The Messias, before being nailed to the cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the great city; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosannas to the Son of David; and this in presence of the soldiers of Rome’s emperor, and of the high priests and Pharisees: the first standing under the banner of their eagles; the second, dumb with rage.

The prophet Zachary had foretold this triumph which the Son of Man was to receive a few days before His Passion, and which had been prepared for Him from all eternity. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion! Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and the Saviour. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.’ [Zacharias. 9: 9]. Jesus, knowing that the hour has come for the fulfilment of this prophecy, singles out two from the rest of His disciples, and bids them lead to Him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached Beth phage, on Mount Olivet. The two disciples lose no time in executing the order given them by their divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon brought to the place where He stands.

The holy fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the Law; the colt, upon which, as the evangelist says, no man yet hath sat [St. Mark 9: 2], is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection. The future of these two peoples is to be decided a few days hence: the Jews will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias; the Gentiles will take their place, to be adopted as God’s people, and become docile and faithful.

The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Saviour, that the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sits upon him [Ibid. 7, and St. Luke 19: 35.], and advances towards Jerusalem. As soon as it is known that Jesus is near the city, the holy Spirit works in the hearts of those Jews, who have come from all parts to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet our Lord, holding palm branches in their hands, and loudly proclaiming Him to be King [St. Luke 19: 38]. They that have accompanied Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the palm-trees, and strew them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole city that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.

Thus did God, in His power over men’s hearts, procure a triumph for His Son, and in the very city which, a few days later, was to clamor for His Blood. This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and the holy Church would have us renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Shortly after the birth of our Emmanuel, we saw the Magi coming from the extreme east, and looking in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, to whom they intended offering their gifts and their adorations: but it is Jerusalem herself that now goes forth to meet this King. Each of these events is an acknowledgment of the kingship of Jesus; the first, from the Gentiles; the second, from the Jews. Both were to pay Him this regal homage, before He suffered His Passion. The inscription to be put upon the cross, by Pilate’s order, will express the kingly character of the Crucified: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate, the Roman governor, the pagan, the base coward, has been unwittingly the fulfiller of a prophecy; and when the enemies of Jesus insist on the inscription being altered, Pilate will not deign to give them any answer but this: ‘What I have written, I have written.’ Today, it is the Jews themselves that proclaim Jesus to be their King: they will soon be dispersed, in punishment for their revolt against the Son of David; but Jesus is King and will be so forever. Thus, were literally verified the words spoken by the Archangel to Mary, when he announced to her the glories of the Child that was to be born of her: ‘The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever.’ [St. Luke 1: 32]. Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth, and become the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.

This is the glorious mystery which ushers in the great week, the week of dolours. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our heart and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the service of today, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself with the loyal hosannas of the city of David; and sorrow, by compassionating the Passion of her divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three parts, which we will now proceed to explain.

The first is the blessing of the palms; and we may have an idea of its importance from the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite. One would suppose that the holy Sacrifice has begun, and is going to be offered up in honour of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, even a Preface, are said, as though we were, as usual, preparing for the immolation of the spotless Lamb; but, after the triple Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! the Church suspends these sacrificial formulas, and turns to the blessing of the palms. The prayers she uses for this blessing are eloquent and full of instruction; and, together with the sprinkling with holy water and the incensation, impart a virtue to these branches, which elevates them to the supernatural order, and makes them means for the sanctification of our souls and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The faithful should hold these palms in their hands during the procession, and during the reading of the Passion at Mass, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression of their faith, and as a pledge of God’s watchful love.

It is scarcely necessary to tell our reader that the palms or olive branches, thus blessed, are carried in memory of those wherewith the people of Jerusalem strewed the road, as our Saviour made His triumphant entry; but a word on the antiquity of our ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early in the east. It is probable that, as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the custom was established immediately after the ages of persecution. St. Cyril, who was bishop of that city in the fourth century, tells us that the palm-tree, from which the people cut the branches when they went out to meet our Saviour, was still to be seen in the vale of Cedron [Cateches. x. versus fin.] Such a circumstance would naturally suggest an annual commemoration of the great event. In the following century, we find this ceremony established, not only in the churches of the east, but also in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria. At the beginning of Lent, many of the holy monks obtained permission from their abbots to retire into the desert, that they might spend the sacred season in strict seclusion; but they were obliged to return to their monasteries for Palm Sunday, as we learn from the life of Saint Euthymius, written by his disciple Cyril [Act. SS. Jan. 20]. In the west, the introduction of this ceremony was more gradual; the first trace we find of it is in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, that is, at the end of the sixth, or the beginning of the seventh, century. When the faith had penetrated into the north, it was not possible to have palms or olive branches; they were supplied by branches from other trees. The beautiful prayers used in the blessing, and based on the mysteries expressed by the palm and olive trees, are still employed in the blessing of our willow, box, or other branches; and rightly, for these represent the symbolical ones which nature has denied us.

The second of today’s ceremonies is the procession, which comes immediately after the blessing of the palms. It represents our Saviour’s journey to Jerusalem, and His entry into the city. To make it the more expressive, the branches that have just been blessed are held in the hand during it. With the Jews, to hold a branch in one’s hand was a sign of joy. The divine law had sanctioned this practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus, where God commands His people to keep the feast of tabernacles: And you shall take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God [Lev. xxiii. 40]. It was, therefore, to testify their delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with palms in their hands. Let us, also, go before our King, singing our hosannas to Him as the conqueror of death, and the liberator of His people.

During the middle ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the book of the holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The procession halted at an appointed place, or station: the deacon then opened the sacred volume, and sang from it the passage which describes our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. This done, the cross which, up to this moment, was veiled, was uncovered; each of the clergy advanced towards it, venerated it, and placed at its foot a small portion of the palm he held in his hand. The procession then returned, preceded by the cross, which was left unveiled until all had re-entered the church. In England and Normandy, as far back as the eleventh century, there was practised a holy ceremony which represented, even more vividly than the one we have just been describing, the scene that was witnessed on this day at Jerusalem: the blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy of Berengarius, against the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, had been broached about that time; and the tribute of triumphant joy here shown to the sacred Host was a distant preparation for the feast and procession which were to be instituted at a later period.

A touching ceremony was also practiced in Jerusalem during today’s procession, and, like those just mentioned, was intended to commemorate the event related by the Gospel. The whole community of the Franciscans (to whose keeping the holy places are entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the father guardian of the holy Land, being vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics of Jerusalem, all holding palms in their hands, he entered the city, and alighted at the church of the holy sepulchre where Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity.

This beautiful ceremony, which dated from the period of the Latin kingdom in Jerusalem, has been forbidden, for now almost two hundred years, by the Turkish authorities of the city.

We have mentioned these different usages, as we have done others on similar occasions, in order to aid the faithful to the better understanding of the several mysteries of the liturgy. In the present instance, they will learn that, in to-day’s procession, the Church wishes us to honour Jesus Christ as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Saviour, who comes to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us. He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honour with our palms: let us give Him our hearts too. He comes that He may be our King; let us welcome Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

At the close of the procession a ceremony takes place, which is full of the sublimest symbolism. On returning to the church, the doors are found to be shut. The triumphant procession is stopped; but the songs of joy are continued. A hymn in honour of Christ our King is sung with its joyous chorus; and at length the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross; the door opens, and the people, preceded by the clergy, enter the church, proclaiming the praise of Him, who is our resurrection and our life.

This ceremony is intended to represent the entry of Jesus into that Jerusalem of which the earthly one was but the figure – the Jerusalem of heaven, which has been opened for us by our Saviour. The sin of our first parents had shut it against us; but Jesus, the King of glory, opened its gates by His cross, to which every resistance yields. Let us, then, continue to follow in the footsteps of the Son of David, for He is also the Son of God, and He invites us to share His kingdom with Him. Thus, by the procession, which is commemorative of what happened on this day, the Church raises up our thoughts to the glorious mystery of the Ascension, whereby heaven was made the close of Jesus’ mission on earth. Alas! the interval between these two triumphs of our Redeemer are not all days of joy; and no sooner is our procession over, than the Church, who had laid aside for a moment the weight of her grief, falls back into sorrow and mourning.

The third part of to-day’s service is the offering of the holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of our Lord’s Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or the evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the faithful should hold their palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer Him our palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring, than when He is most suffering?

These are the leading features of this great day. According to our usual plan, we will add to the prayers and lessons any instructions that seem to be needed.

This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday, has had several other names. Thus it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem. Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is to-day in bud, so to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfil the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida. We also find the name of Capililavium given to this Sunday, because, during those times when it was the custom to defer till Holy Saturday the baptism of infants born during the preceding months (where such a delay entailed no danger), the parents used, on this day, to wash the heads of these children, out of respect to the holy chrism wherewith they were to be anointed. Later on, this Sunday was, at least in some churches, called the Pasch of the competents, that is, of the catechumens, who were admitted to Baptism; they assembled to-day in the church, and received a special instruction on the symbol, which had been given to them in the previous scrutiny. 

Dom Gaspar Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

Passion Sunday – Sunday, March 17, 2024

March 12, 2024
Categories:
Passion Sunday

The holy Church begins her night Office of this Sunday with these impressive words of the royal prophet, “Today if you shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts”. Formerly, the faithful considered it their duty to assist at the night Office, at least on Sundays and feasts; they would have grieved to lose the grand teachings given by the liturgy. Such fervor has long since died out; the assiduity at the Offices of the Church, which was the joy of our Catholic forefathers, has now become a thing of the past; and even in countries which have not apostatized from the faith, the clergy have ceased to celebrate publicly Offices at which no one assisted. Excepting in cathedral churches and in monasteries, the grand harmonious system of the divine praise has been abandoned, and the marvellous power of the liturgy has no longer its full influence upon the faithful.

This is our reason for drawing the attention of our readers to certain beauties of the Divine Office, which would otherwise be totally ignored. Thus, what can be more impressive than this solemn Invitatory of to-day’s Matins, which the Church takes from one of the psalms, and which she repeats on every feria between this and Maundy Thursday? She says; To-day, if ye will hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts! The sweet voice of your suffering Jesus now speaks to you, poor sinners! be not your own enemies by indifference and hardness of heart. The Son of God is about to give you the last and greatest proof of the love that brought Him down from heaven; His death is nigh at hand: men are preparing the wood for the immolation of the new Isaac: enter into yourselves, and let not your hearts, after being touched with grace, return to their former obduracy; for nothing could be more dangerous. The great anniversaries we are to celebrate have a renovating power for those souls that faithfully correspond with the grace which is offered them; but they increase insensibility in those who let them pass without working their conversion. To-day, therefore, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts!

During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus’ enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messias being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render such strong testimony in favour of the Son of David; and they should consult these divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas! they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaias, as having to be put upon the Messias, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.

In them, therefore, was fulfilled that terrible saying: ‘He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.’ [St. Matthew 12: 32.] The Synagogue is nigh to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment: she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil, and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner’s heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory [1 Corinthians 2: 8.] Whilst, therefore, we listen to the Gospel, which relates the history of the Passion, let us turn the indignation which we feel for the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die.

Everything around us urges us to mourn. The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight. The Church is oppressed with grief. During the first four weeks of Lent, she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert; His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish. We read in to-day’s Gospel, that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer: but His hour is not yet come. He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation, that the Church veils the cross. A God hiding Himself, that He may evade the anger of men – what a mystery! Is it weakness? Is it, that He fears death? No; we shall soon see Him going out to meet His enemies: but at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die upon a cross, the tree of malediction, which, from that time forward, is to be the tree of life. Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of heaven and earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men, who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve bid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus has come to assure us of our being pardoned, and lo! He hides Himself, not because He is naked – He that is to the saints the garb of holiness and immortality – but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God; Jesus hides Himself from the eye of men. But it will not be thus for ever. The day will come when sinners, from whose anger He now flees, will pray to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from His gaze; but their prayer will not be granted, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty [St. Matt. xxiv. 30].

This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. It is called also, Judica, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass; and again Neomania, that is, the Sunday of the new (or the Easter) moon, because it always falls after the new moon which regulates the feast of Easter.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

Laetare Sunday – The Fourth Sunday of Lent – Sunday, March 10, 2024

March 5, 2024
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This Sunday, called, from the first word of the Introit, Laetare Sunday, is one of the most solemn of the year. The Church interrupts her Lenten mournfulness; the chants of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; the Organ, which has been silent during the preceding three Sundays, now gives forth its melodious voice; the Deacon resumes his Dalmatic, and the Subdeacon his Tunic; and instead of purple, Rose-colored Vestments are allowed to be used. These same rites were practiced in Advent, on the third Sunday, called Gaudete. The Church’s motive for introducing this expression of joy in to-day’s Liturgy, is to encourage her Children to persevere fervently to the end of this holy Season. The real Mid-Lent was last Thursday, as we have already observed; but the Church, fearing lest the joy might lead to some infringement on the spirit of penance, has deferred her own notice of it to this Sunday, when she not only permits, but even bids, her children to rejoice!

The Station at Rome, is in the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem, one of the seven principal Churches of the Holy City. It was built in the fourth century, by the Emperor Constantine, in one of his villas, called Sessorius, on which account it goes also under the name of the Sessorian Basilica. The Emperor’s mother, St. Helen, enriched it with most precious relies, and wished to make it the Jerusalem of Rome. It was with this intention that she ordered a great quantity of earth, taken from Mount Calvary, to be put on the site. Among the other Relics of the Instruments of the Passion which she gave to this Church, was the Inscription which was fastened to the Cross; it is still kept there and is called the Title of the Cross. The name of Jerusalem, – which has been given to this Basilica, and which recalls to our minds the heavenly Jerusalem, towards which we are tending, – suggested the choosing it as today’s Station. Up to the fourteenth century, (when Avignon became, for a time, the City of the Popes,) the ceremony of the Golden Rose took place in this Church; at present, it is blessed in the Palace where the Sovereign Pontiff happens to be residing at this Season.

The blessing of the Golden Rose is one of the ceremonies peculiar to the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is called on this account Rose Sunday. The thoughts suggested by this flower harmonize with the sentiments wherewith the Church would now inspire her Children. The joyous time of Easter is soon to give them a spiritual Spring, of which that of nature is but a feeble image. Hence, we cannot be surprised that the institution of this ceremony is of a very ancient date. We find it observed under the Pontificate of St. Leo the Ninth (eleventh century); and we have a Sermon on the Golden Rose preached by the glorious Pope Innocent the Third, on this Sunday, and in the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In the Middle Ages, when the Pope resided in the Lateran Palace, having first blessed the Rose, he went on horseback to the Church of the Station. He wore the mitre, was accompanied by all the Cardinals, and held the blessed Flower in his hand. Having reached the Basilica, he made a discourse on the mysteries symbolized by the beauty, the color, and the fragrance of the Rose. Mass was then celebrated. After the Mass, the Pope returned to the Lateran Palace. Surrounded by the sacred College, he rode across the immense plain which separates the two Basilicas, with the mystic Flower still in his hand. We may imagine the joy of the people as they gazed upon the holy symbol. When the procession had got to the Palace gates, if there were a Prince present, it was his privilege to hold the stirrup, and assist the Pontiff to dismount; for which filial courtesy he received the Rose, which had received so much honor and caused such joy.

At present, the ceremony is not quite so solemn; still the principal rites are observed. The Pope blesses the Golden Rose in the Vestiary; he anoints it with Holy Chrism, over which he sprinkles a scented powder, as formerly; and when the hour for Mass is come, he goes to the Palace Chapel, holding the Flower in his hand. During the Holy Sacrifice, it is fastened to a golden rose-branch prepared for it on the Altar. After the Mass, it is brought to the Pontiff, who holds it in his hand as he returns from the Chapel to the Vestiary. It is usual for the Pope to send the Rose to some Prince or Princess, as a mark of honor; sometimes, it is a City or a Church that receives the Flower.

We subjoin a free translation of the beautiful Prayer used by the Sovereign Pontiff when blessing the Golden Rose. It will give our readers a clearer appreciation of this ceremony, which adds so much solemnity to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. “O God! by whose word and power all things were created, and by whose will they are all governed! O thou, that art the joy and gladness of all thy Faithful people! we beseech thy Divine Majesty, that thou vouchsafe to bless and sanctify this Rose, so lovely in its beauty and fragrance. We are to bear it, this day, in our hands, as a symbol of spiritual joy; that thus, the people that is devoted to thy service, being set free from the captivity of Babylon, by the grace of thine Only Begotten Son, who is the glory and the joy of Israel, may show forth, with a sin cere heart, the joys of that Jerusalem, which is above, and is our Mother. And whereas thy Church seeing this symbol, exults with joy, for the glory of thy Name; – do thou, O Lord! give her true and perfect happiness. Accept her devotion, forgive us our sins, increase our faith; heal us by thy word, protect us by thy mercy; remove all obstacles; grant us all blessings; that thus, this same thy Church may offer unto thee the fruit of good works; and walking in the odor of the fragrance of that Flower, which sprang from the Root of Jesse, and is called the Flower of the Field, and the Lily of the Valley, may she deserve to enjoy an endless joy in the bosom of heavenly glory, in the society of all the Saints, together with that Divine Flower, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.”

We now come to the explanation of another name given to the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which was suggested by the Gospel of the day. We find this Sunday called in several ancient documents, the Sunday of the Five Loaves. The miracle alluded to in this title not only forms an essential portion of the Church’s instructions during Lent, but it is also an additional element of to-day’s joy. We forget for an instant the coming Passion of the Son of God, to give our attention to the greatest of the benefits he has bestowed on us; for under the figure of these Loaves multiplied by the power of Jesus, our Faith sees that Bread which came down from heaven, and given life to the world’ [St. John, 6: 33]. The Pasch, says our Evangelist, was near at hand; and, in a few days, our Lord will say to us: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you [St. Luke, xxii. 15]. Before leaving this world to go to his Father, Jesus desires to feed the multitude that follows him; and in order to this, he displays his omnipotence. Well may we admire that creative power, which feeds five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and in such wise, that even after all have partaken of the feast as much as they would, there remain fragments enough to fill twelve baskets. Such a miracle is, indeed, an evident proof of Jesus’ mission; but he intends it as a preparation for something far more wonderful; he intends it as a figure and a pledge of what he is soon to do, not merely once or twice, but every day, even to the end of time; not only for five thousand men, but for the countless multitudes of believers. Think of the millions, who, this very year, are to partake of the banquet of the Pasch; and yet, He whom we have seen born in Bethlehem, (the House of Bread,) He is to be the nourishment of all these guests; neither will the Divine Bread fail. We are to feast as did our fathers before us; and the generations that are to follow us, shall be invited as we now are, to come and taste how sweet is the Lord [Psalm 23: 9].

But observe, it is in a desert place, (as we learn from St. Matthew, [St. Matthew, 14: 13]) that Jesus feeds these men, who represent us, Christians. They have quitted the bustle and noise of cities in order to follow him. So anxious are they to hear his words, that they fear neither hunger nor fatigue; and their courage is rewarded. A like recompense will crown our labors, – our fasting and abstinence, – which are now more than half over. Let us, then, rejoice, and spend this day with the light-heartedness of pilgrims, who are near the end of their journey. The happy moment is advancing, when our soul, united and filled with her God, will look back with pleasure on the fatigues of the body, which, together with our heart’s compunction, have merited for her a place at the Divine Banquet.

The primitive Church proposed this miracle of the multiplication of the loaves as a symbol of the Eucharist, the Bread that never fails. We find it frequently represented in the paintings of the Catacombs and on the bas-reliefs of the ancient Christian tombs. The Fishes, too, that were given together with the Loaves, are represented on these venerable monuments of our faith; for the early Christians considered the Fish to be the symbol of Christ, because the word Fish in Greek, is made up of five letters, each of which is the initial of these words: Jesus Christ, Son (of) God, Savior.

The Greek Church, too, keeps this Sunday with much solemnity. According to her manner of counting the days of Lent, this is the great day of the week called, as we have already noticed, Mesonestios. The solemn adoration of the Cross takes place to-day; and breaking through her rule of never admitting a Saint’s Feast during Lent, this mid-Lent Sunday is kept in honor of the celebrated Abbot of the Monastery of Mount Sinai, St. John Climacus, who lived in the 6th century.

Dom Prosper Gueranger

The Third Sunday of Lent – Sunday, March 3, 2024

February 27, 2024
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Christ Casts Out Demons - Tissot

The holy Church gave us, as the subject of our meditation for the first Sunday of Lent, the Temptation which our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to suffer in the Desert. Her object was to enlighten us with regard to our own temptations and teach us how to conquer them. Today, she wishes to complete her instruction on the power and stratagems of our invisible enemies; and for this she reads to us a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke. During Lent, the Christian ought to repair the past, and provide for the future; but he can neither understand how it was he fell, nor defend himself against a relapse, unless he has correct ideas as to the nature of the dangers which have hitherto proved fatal and are again threatening him. Hence, the ancient Liturgists would have us consider it as a proof of the maternal watchfulness of the Church, that she should have again proposed such a subject to us. As we shall find, it is the basis of all today’s instructions.

Assuredly, we should be the blindest and most unhappy of men, if, —surrounded as we are by enemies, who unceasingly seek to destroy us, and are so superior to us both in power and knowledge, —we were seldom or never to think of the existence of these wicked spirits. And yet, such is really the case with innumerable Christians now-a-days; for, truths are diminished from among the children of men [Ps. xi. 2].

So common, indeed, is this heedlessness and forgetfulness of truth, which the Holy Scriptures put before us in almost every page, that it is no rare thing to meet with persons who ridicule the idea of Devils being permitted to be on this earth of ours! They call it a prejudice, a popular superstition, of the Middle-Ages! Of course, they deny that it is a dogma of Faith. When we read the History of the Church or the Lives of the Saints, they have their own way of explaining whatever is there related on this subject. To hear them talk, one would suppose that they look upon Satan as a mere abstract idea, to be taken as the personification of evil.

When they would account for the origin of their own or others’ sins, they explain all by the evil inclination of man’s heart, and by the bad use we make of our free-will. They never think of what we are taught by Christian doctrine; namely, that we are also instigated to sin by a wicked being, whose power is as great as is the hatred he bears us. And yet, they know, they believe, with a firm faith, that Satan conversed with our First Parents, and persuaded them to commit sin, and showed himself to them under the form of a serpent. They believe that this same Satan dared to tempt the Incarnate Son of God, and that he carried him through the air, and set him first upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and then upon a very high mountain. Again, they read in the Gospel, and they believe, that one of the Possessed, who were delivered by our Savior, was tormented by a whole legion of devils, who, upon being driven out of the man, went, by Jesus’ permission, into a herd of swine, and the whole herd ran violently into the sea of Genesareth, and perished in the waters. These, and many other such like facts, are believed, by the persons of whom we speak, with all the earnestness of faith; yet, notwithstanding, they treat as a figure of speech, or a fiction, all they hear or read about the existence, the actions, or the craft of these wicked spirits. Are such people Christians, or have they lost their senses? One would scarcely have expected that this species of incredulity could have found its way into an age like this, when sacrilegious consultations of the devil have been, we might almost say, —fashionable. Means, which were used in the days of paganism, have been resorted to for such consultations; and they who employed them seemed to forget, or ignore, that they were committing what God in the Old Law, punished with death, and which, for many centuries, was considered by all Christian nations as a capital crime.

But if there be one Season of the Year more than another in which the Faithful ought to reflect upon what is taught us both by faith and experience, as to the existence and workings of the wicked spirits, —it is undoubtedly this of Lent, when it is our duty to consider what have been the causes of our last sins, what are the spiritual dangers we have to fear for the future, and what means we should have recourse to for preventing a relapse. Let us, then, hearken to the Holy Gospel. Firstly, we are told, that the devil had possessed a man, and that the effect produced by this possession was dumbness. Our Savior casts out the devil, and, immediately, the dumb man spoke. So that, the being possessed by the devil is not only a fact which testifies to God’s impenetrable justice; it is one which may produce physical effects upon them that are thus tried or punished. The casting out the devil restores the use of speech to him that had been possessed. We say nothing about the obstinate malice of Jesus’ enemies, who would have it, that his power over the devils, came from his being in league with the prince of devils: —all we would now do is, to show that the wicked spirits are sometimes permitted to have power over the body, and to refute, by this passage from the Gospel, the rationalism of certain Christians. Let these learn, then, that the power of our spiritual enemies is an awful reality; and let them take heed not to lay themselves open to their worst attacks, by persisting in the disdainful haughtiness of their Reason.

Ever since the promulgation of the Gospel, the power of Satan over the human body has been restricted by the virtue of the Cross, at least in Christian countries; but this power resumes its sway as often as faith and the practice of Christian piety lose their influence. And here we have the origin of all those diabolical practices, which, under certain scientific names, are attempted first in secret, and then are countenanced by being assisted at by well-meaning Christians. Were it not that God and his Church intervene, such practices as these would subvert society. Christians! remember your baptismal vow! you have renounced Satan: take care, then, that by a culpable ignorance you are not dragged into apostacy. It is not a phantom that you renounced at the Font; he is a real and formidable being, who, as our Lord tells us, was a murderer from the beginning [St. John, 8: 44].

But, if we ought to dread the power he may be permitted to have over our bodies; if we ought to shun all intercourse with him and take no share in practices over which he presides, and which are the worship he would have men give him; —we ought, also, to fear the influence he is ever striving to exercise over our souls. See, what God’s grace has had to do in order to drive him from our soul! During this holy season, the Church is putting within your reach those grand means of victory, —Fasting, Prayer, and Alms deeds. The sweets of peace will soon be yours, and, once more, you will become God’s temple, for both soul and body will have regained their purity. But be not deceived; your enemy is not slain. He is irritated; penance has driven him from you; but he has sworn to return. Therefore, fear a relapse into mortal sin; and in order to nourish within you this wholesome fear, meditate upon the concluding part of our Gospel.

Our Savior tells it, that when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water. There he writhes under his humiliation; it has added to the tortures of the hell he carries everywhere with him and to which he fain would give some alleviation, by destroying souls that have been redeemed by Christ. We read in the Old Testament that, sometimes, when the devils have been conquered, they have been forced to flee into some far-off wilderness: for example. the holy Archangel Raphael took the devil, that had killed Sara’s husbands, and bound him in the desert of Upper Egypt [Tobit 8: 3]. But the enemy of mankind never despairs of regaining his prey. His hatred is as active now, as it was at the very beginning of the world, and he says: I will return into my house, whence I came out. Nor will he come alone. He is determined to conquer; and therefore, he will, if he thinks it needed, take with him seven other spirits, even more wicked than himself. What a terrible assault is this that is being prepared for the poor soul, unless she be on the watch, and unless the peace, which God has granted her, be one that is well armed for war! Alas! with many souls the very contrary is the case, and our Saviour describes the situation in which the devils find them on his return: they are swept and garnished, and that is all! No precautions, no defense, no arms. One would suppose that they were waiting to give the enemy admission. Then Satan, to make his re-possession sure, comes with a seven-fold force. The attack is made; —but there is no resistance, and straightway the wicked spirits entering in, dwell there; so that, the last state becometh worse than the first; for before, there was but one enemy, —and now there are many.

In order that we may understand the full force of the warning conveyed to us by the Church in this Gospel, we must keep before us the great reality, that this is the acceptable time. In every part of the world, there are conversions being wrought; millions are being reconciled with God; divine Mercy is lavish of pardon to all that seek it. But, will all persevere? They that are now being delivered from the power of Satan, —will they all be free from his yoke, when next year’s Lent comes round? A sad experience tells the Church, that she may not hope so grand a result. Many will return to their sins, and that too before many weeks are over. And if the Justice of God overtake them in that state—what an awful thing it is to say it, yet it is true, —some, perhaps many, of these sinners will be eternally lost! Let us, then, be on our guard against a relapse; and in order that we may ensure our Perseverance, without which it would have been to little purpose to have been for a few days in God’s grace, —let us watch, and pray; let us keep ourselves under arms; let us ever remember that our whole life is to be a warfare. Our soldier-like attitude will disconcert the enemy, and he will try to gain victory elsewhere.

The Third Sunday of Lent is called Oculi, from the first word of the Introit. In the primitive Church, it was called Scrutiny-Sunday, because it was on this day that they began to examine the Catechumens, who were to be admitted to Baptism on Easter night. All the Faithful were invited to assemble in the Church, in order that they might bear testimony to the good life and morals of the candidates. At Rome, these examinations, which were called the Scrutinies, were made on seven different occasions, on account of the great number of the aspirants to Baptism; but the principal Scrutiny was that held on the Wednesday of the Fourth Week We will speak of it later on.

The Roman Sacramentary of St. Gelasius gives us the form, in which the Faithful were convoked to these assemblies. It is as follows. “Dearly beloved Brethren: you know that the day of Scrutiny, when our elect are to receive the holy instruction, is at hand. We invite you, therefore, to be zealous and assemble on N., (here, the day was mentioned,) at the hour of Sext; that so we may be able, by the divine aid, to achieve without error, the heavenly mystery, whereby is opened the gate of the kingdom of heaven, and the devil is excluded with all his pomps.” The invitation was repeated, if needed, on each of the following Sundays. The Scrutiny of this Sunday ended in the admission of a certain number of candidates: their names were written down, and put on the Diptychs of the Altar, that they might be mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. The same also was done with the names of their Sponsors.

The Station was, and still is, in the Basilica of Saint Laurence outside the walls. The name of this, the most celebrated of the Martyrs of Rome, would remind the Catechumens, that the Faith they were about to profess, would require them to be ready for many sacrifices.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

The Second Sunday of Lent – Sunday, February 20, 2024

February 20, 2024
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The Transfiguration - Raphael - Second Sunday of Lent

The subject offered to our consideration, on this Second Sunday, is one of the utmost importance for the holy Season. The Church applies to us the lesson which our Saviour gave to three of his Apostles. Let us endeavor to be more attentive to it than they were.

Jesus was about to pass from Galilee into Judea, that he might go up to Jerusalem, and be present at the Feast of the Pasch. It was that last Pasch, which was to begin with the immolation of the figurative lamb, and end with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. Jesus would have his disciples know him. His works had borne testimony to him, even to those who were, in a manner, strangers to him; but as for his Disciples, had they not every reason to be faithful to him, even to death? Had they not listened to his words, which had such power with them, that they forced conviction? Had they not experienced his love, which it was impossible to resist? and had they not seen how patiently he had borne with their strange and untoward ways? —Yes, they must have known him. They had heard one of their company, Peter, declare that he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God [St. Matthew 16: 16]. Notwithstanding this, the trial to which their faith was soon to be put, was to be of such a terrible kind, that Jesus would mercifully arm them against temptation by an extraordinary grace.

The Cross was to be a scandal and stumbling block [I Corinthians 1: 23] to the Synagogue, and, alas! to more than it. Jesus said to his Apostles, at the Last Supper: All of you shall be scandalized in me this night [St. Matthew 26: 32]. Carnal minded as they then were, what would they think, when they should see him seized by armed men, handcuffed, hurried from one tribunal to another, and he doing nothing to defend himself! And when they found that the High Priests and Pharisees, who had hitherto been so often foiled by the wisdom and miracles of Jesus, had now succeeded in their conspiracy against him, —what a shock to their confidence! But there was to be something more trying still: the people, who, but a few days before, greeted him so enthusiastically with their hosannas, would demand his execution, and he would have to die, between two thieves, on the Cross, amidst the insults of is triumphant enemies.

Is it not to be feared that these Disciples of his, when they witness his humiliations and sufferings, will lose their courage? They have lived in his company for three years; but when they see that the things be foretold would happen to him are really fulfilled, —with the remembrance of all they have seen and heard, keep them loyal to him? or will they turn cowards and flee from him? – Jesus selects three out of the number, who are especially dear to him: Peter, whom he has made the Rock, on which his Church is to be built, and to whom he has promised the Keys of the kingdom of heaven; James, the son of Thunder, who is to be the first Martyr of the Apostolic College; and John, James’ brother, and his own Beloved Disciple. Jesus has resolved to take them aside, and show them a glimpse of that glory, which until the day fixed for its manifestation, he conceals from the eyes of mortals.

He therefore leaves the rest of his Disciples in the plain near Nazareth, and goes in company with the three privileged ones, towards a high hill, called Thabor, which is a continuation of Libanus, and which the Psalmist tells us was to rejoice in the Name of the Lord [Psalm 88: 13]. No sooner has he reached the summit of the mountain, than the three Apostles observe a sudden change come over him; his Face shines as the sun, and his humble garments become white as snow. They observe two venerable men approach and speak with him upon what he was about to suffer in Jerusalem. One is Moses, the lawgiver; the other is Elias, the Prophet, who was taken up from earth on a fiery chariot, without having passed through the gates of death. These two great representatives of the Jewish Religion, the Law and the Prophets, humbly adore Jesus of Nazareth. The three Apostles are not only dazzled by the brightness which comes from their Divine Master; but they are filled with such a rapture of delight, that they cannot bear the thought of leaving the place. Peter proposes to remain there forever and build three tabernacles, for Jesus, Moses, and Elias. And whilst they are admiring the glorious sight and gazing on the beauty of their Jesus’ human Nature, a bright cloud overshadows them, and a voice is heard speaking to them: it is the voice of the Eternal Father, proclaiming the Divinity of Jesus, and saying: This my beloved Son!

This transfiguration of the Son of Man, this manifestation of his glory, lasted but a few moments; his mission was not on Thabor; it was humiliation and suffering in Jerusalem. He therefore withdrew into himself the brightness he had allowed to transpire; and when he came to the three Apostles, who, on hearing the voice from the cloud, had fallen on their faces with fear, —they could see no one save only Jesus. The bright cloud was gone; Moses and Elias had disappeared. What a favor they have had bestowed upon them! Will they remember what they have seen and heard? They have had such a revelation of the Divinity of their dear Master! —is it possible, that when the hour of trial comes, they will forget it, and doubt his being God? and, when they see him suffer and die, be ashamed of him and deny him? Alas! the Gospel has told us what happened to them.

A. short time after this, our Lord celebrated his Last Supper with his Disciples. When the Supper was over, he took them to another mount, Mount Olivet, which lies to the east of Jerusalem. Leaving the rest at the entrance of the Garden, he advances with Peter, James, and John, and then says to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here and watch with me [St. Matthew 26: 38]. He then retires some little distance from them and prays to his Eternal Father. The Heart of our Redeemer is weighed down with anguish. When he returns to his three Disciples, he is enfeebled by the Agony he has suffered, and his garments are saturated with Blood. The Apostles are aware that he is sad even unto death, and that the hour is close at hand when he is to be attacked: are they keeping watch? are they ready to defend him? No: they seem to have forgotten him; they are fast asleep, for their eyes are heavy [Ibid. 43]. Yet a few moments, and all will have fled from him; and Peter, the bravest of them all, will be taking his oath that he never knew the Man.

After the Resurrection, our three Apostles made ample atonement for this cowardly and sinful conduct, and acknowledged the mercy wherewith Jesus had sought to fortify them against temptation, by showing them his glory on Thabor, a few days before his Passion. Let us not wait till we have betrayed him: let us at once acknowledge that he is our Lord and our God. We are soon to be keeping the anniversary of his Sacrifice; like the Apostles, we are to see him humbled by his enemies and bearing, in our stead, the chastisements of Divine Justice. We must not allow our faith to be weakened, when we behold the fulfilment of those prophecies of David and Isaias, that the Messias is to be treated as a worm of the earth [Psalm 21: 7], and be covered with wounds, so as to become like a leper, the most abject of men, and the Man of sorrows [Isaiah 53: 3, 4]. We must remember the grand things of Thabor, and the adorations paid him by Moses and Elias, and the bright cloud, and the voice of the Eternal Father. The more we see him humbled, the more must we proclaim his glory and divinity; we must join our acclamations with those of the Angels and the Four-and-Twenty Elders, whom St. John, (one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration,) heard crying out with a loud voice: The Lamb that was slain, is worthy to receive power and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and benediction! [Apocalypse. v. 12].

The Second Sunday of Lent is called, from the first word of the Introit, Reminiscere; and also Transfiguration-Sunday, on account of the Gospel which is read in the Mass.

The Station at Rome is in the Church of St. Mary in Dominica, on Monte Celio. Tradition tells us that in this Basilica was the Diaconium of which St. Laurence had charge, and from which he distributed to the poor the alms of the Church.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

The First Sunday of Lent – Sunday, February 18, 2024

February 13, 2024
Categories:
Christ in the Desert - First Sunday of Lent

This Sunday, the first of the six which come during Lent, is one of the most solemn throughout the year. It has the same privilege as Passion and Palm Sundays, – that is, it never gives place to any Feast, not even to that of the Patron, Titular Saint, or Dedication of the Church. In the ancient Calendars, it is called Invocabit, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass. In the Middle-Ages [More especially in France. Translator.], it was called Brand Sunday, because the young people, who had misconducted themselves during the carnival, were obliged to show themselves to-day, at the Church, with a torch in their hands, as a kind of public satisfaction for their riot and excess.

Lent solemnly opens today. We have already noticed, that the four preceding days were added since the time of St. Gregory the Great, in order to make up Forty days of fasting. Neither can we look upon Ash Wednesday as the solemn opening of the Season, for the Faithful are not bound to hear Mass on that day. The Holy Church, seeing her children now assembled together, speaks to them, in her Office of Matins, these eloquent and noble words of St. Leo the Great: “Having to announce to you, dearly beloved, the most sacred and chief Fast, how can I more appropriately begin, than with the words of the Apostle, (in whom Christ himself spoke,) and by saying to you what has just been read: Behold! now is the acceptable time; behold! now is the day of salvation. For although there be no time, which is not replete with divine gifts, and we may always, by God’s grace, have access to his mercy, – yet ought we all to redouble our efforts to make spiritual progress and be animated with unusual confidence, now that the anniversary of the day of our Redemption is approaching, inviting us to devote ourselves to every good work, that so we may celebrate, with purity of body and mind, the incomparable Mystery of our Lord’s Passion.

“It is true, that our devotion and reverence towards so great a Mystery should be kept up during the whole year, and we ourselves be, at all times, in the eyes of God, the same as we are bound to be at the Easter Solemnity. But this is an effort which only few among us have the courage to sustain. The weakness of the flesh induces us to relent our austerities; the various occupations of every-day life take up our thoughts; and thus, even the virtuous find their hearts clogged by this world’s dust. Hence it is, that our Lord has most providentially given us these Forty Days, whose holy exercises should be to us a remedy, whereby to regain our purity of soul. The good works and the holy fastings of this Season were instituted as an atonement and obliteration of the sins we commit during the rest of the Year.

“Now, therefore, that we are about to enter upon these days, which are so full of mystery, and were instituted for the holy purpose of purifying both our soul and body, let us, dearly beloved, be careful to do as the Apostle bids us, and cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and the spirit: that thus the combat between the two substances being made less fierce, the soul, which, when she herself is subject to God, ought to be the ruler of the body, will recover her own dignity and position. Let us also avoid giving offence to any man, so that there be none to blame or speak evil things of us. For we deserve the harsh remarks of infidels, and we provoke the tongues of the wicked to blaspheme religion, when we, who fast, lead unholy lives. For our Fast does not consist in the mere abstaining from food; nor is it of much use to deny food to our body, unless we restrain the soul from sin.” [Fourth Sermon for Lent]

Each Sunday of Lent offers to our consideration a passage from the Gospel, which is in keeping with the sentiments wherewith the Church would have us be filled. To-day she brings before us the Temptation of our Lord in the Desert. What light and encouragement there is for us in this instruction!

We acknowledge ourselves to be sinners; we are engaged, at this very time, in doing penance for the sins we have committed;- but, how was it that we fell into sin? The devil tempted us; we did not reject the temptation; then, we yielded to the suggestion, and the sin was committed. This is the history of our past; and such it would, also, be for the future, were we not to profit by the lesson given us, to-day, by our Redeemer.

When the Apostle speaks of the wonderful mercy shown us by our Divine Saviour, who vouchsafed to make himself like to us in all things, save in sin, he justly lays stress on his temptations [Heb. iv. 15]. He, who was very God, humbled himself even so low as this, to prove how tenderly he compassionated us. Here, then, we have the Saint of Saints allowing the wicked spirit to approach him, in order that we might learn, from His example, how are to gain victory under temptation.

Satan has had his eye upon Jesus; he is troubled at beholding such matchless virtue. The wonderful circumstances of his Birth, – the Shepherds called by Angels to his Crib, and the Magi guided by the Star; the Infant’s escape from Herod’s plot; the testimony rendered to this new Prophet by John the Baptist;- all these things which seem so out of keeping with the thirty years spent in obscurity at Nazareth, are a mystery to the infernal serpent, and fill him with apprehension. The ineffable mystery of the Incarnation has been accomplished unknown to him; he never once suspects that the humble Virgin, Mary, is she who was foretold by the Prophet Isaias, as having to bring forth the Emmanuel [Is. viii. 14]; but he is aware that the time is come, that the last Week spoken of to Daniel has begun its course, and that the very Pagans are looking towards Judea for a Deliverer. He is afraid of this Jesus; he resolves to speak with him, and elicit from him some expression which will show him whether he be or not the Son of God; he will tempt him to some imperfection, or sin, which, should he commit, will prove that the object of so much fear is, after all, but a mortal Man.

The enemy of God and men was, of course, disappointed. He approached Jesus; but all his efforts only turn to his own confusion. Our Redeemer, with all the self-possession and easy majesty of a God-Man, repels the attacks of Satan; but he reveals not his heavenly origin. The wicked spirit retires, without having made any discovery beyond this, – that Jesus is a prophet, faithful to God. Later on, when he sees the Son of God treated with contempt, calumniated, and persecuted; when he finds, that his own attempts to have him put to death, are so successful;- his pride and his blindness will be at their height: and not till Jesus expires on the Cross, will he learn, that his victim was not merely Man, but Man and God. Then will he discover, how all his plots against Jesus have but served to manifest, in all their beauty, the Mercy and Justice of God;- his Mercy, because be saved mankind: and his Justice, because be broke the power of hell for ever.

These were the designs of Divine Providence in permitting the wicked spirit to defile, by his presence, the retreat of Jesus, and speak to him, and lay his hands upon him. But, let us attentively consider the triple temptation in all its circumstances; for our Redeemer only suffered it, in order that he might instruct and encourage us.

We have three enemies to fight against; our soul has three dangers; for, as the Beloved Disciple says: All that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life! [1 St. John, ii. 16].
By the concupiscence of the flesh, is meant the love of sensual things, which covets whatever is agreeable to the flesh, and, when not curbed, draws the soul into unlawful pleasures. Concupiscence of the eyes expresses the love of the goods of this world, such as riches, and possessions; these dazzle the eye, and then seduce the heart. Pride of life is that confidence in ourselves, which leads us to be vain and presumptuous, and makes us forget that all we have, – our life and every good gift, – we have from God.

Not one of our sins but what comes from one of these three sources; not one of our temptations but what aims at making us accept the concupiscence of the flesh, or the concupiscence of the eyes, or the pride of life. Our Saviour, then, who would be our model in all things, deigned to subject himself to these three temptations.

First of all, Satan tempts him in what regards the Flesh:- he suggests to him to satisfy the cravings of hunger, by working a miracle, and changing the stones into bread. If Jesus consent, and show an eagerness in giving this indulgence to his body, the tempter will conclude that he is but a frail mortal, subject to concupiscence like other men. When he tempts us, who have inherited evil concupiscence from Adam, his suggestions go further than this; he endeavours to defile the soul by the body. But the sovereign holiness of the Incarnate Word could never permit Satan to use upon Him the power which he has received of tempting man in his outward senses. The lesson, therefore, which the Son of God here gives us, is one of temperance: but we know, that, for us, temperance is the mother of purity, and that intemperance excites our senses to rebel.

The second temptation is to pride; Cast thyself down; the Angels shall bear thee up in their hands. The enemy is anxious to see if the favours of heaven have produced in Jesus’ soul that haughtiness, that ungrateful self-confidence, which makes the creature arrogate God’s gifts to itself, and forget its benefactor. Here, also, he is foiled; our Redeemer’s humility confounds the pride of the rebel angel.

He then makes a last effort: he hopes to gain over by ambition Him who has given such proofs of temperance and humility. He shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and says to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down, thou wilt adore me. Jesus rejects the wretched offer, and drives from him the seducer, the prince of this world [St. John, xiv. 30]; hereby teaching us, that we must despise the riches of this world, as often as our keeping or getting them is to be on the condition of our violating the law of God and paying homage to Satan.

But let us observe how it is, that our Divine Model, our Redeemer, overcomes the tempter. Does be hearken to his words? Does he allow the temptation time? and give it strength by delay? We did so, when we were tempted, and we fell. But our Lord immediately meets each temptation with the shield of God’s word. He says: It is written: Not on bread alone doth man live. – It is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. – It is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve. – This, then, must be our practice for the time to come. Eve brought perdition on herself, and on the whole human race, because she listened to the serpent. He that dallies with temptation, is sure to fall. We are now in a Season of extraordinary grace; our hearts are on the watch, dangerous occasions are removed, everything that savors of worldliness is laid aside; our souls, purified by prayer, fasting, and alms deeds, are to rise with Christ, to a new life; – but shall we persevere? All depends upon how we behave under temptation. Here, at the very opening of Lent, the Church gives us this passage of the Holy Gospel, that we may have, not only precept, but example. If we be attentive and faithful, the lesson she gives us will produce its fruit; and when we come to the Easter Solemnity, we shall have those sure pledges of perseverance, – vigilance, self-diffidence, prayer, and the never-failing help of Divine Grace.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

Quinquagesima Sunday – Sunday, February 11, 2024

February 6, 2024
Categories:
Quinquagesima Sunday

The Church gives us today another subject for our meditation: it is the Vocation of Abraham. When the waters of the Deluge had subsided, and mankind had once more peopled the earth, the immorality, which had previously excited God’s anger, again grew rife among men. Idolatry, too, into which the ante-diluvian race had not fallen, now showed itself, and human wickedness seemed thus to have reached the height of its malice. Foreseeing that the nations of the earth would fall into rebellion against him, God resolved to select one people that should be peculiarly his, and among whom should be preserved those sacred truths, which the Gentiles were to lose sight of. This new people was to originate from one man, who would be the father and model of all future believers. This was Abraham. His faith and devotedness merited for him that he should be chosen to be the Father of the children of God, and the head of that spiritual family, to which belong all the elect, both of the Old and New Testament.

It is necessary, therefore, that we should know Abraham, our father and our model. This is his grand characteristic: – fidelity to God, submissiveness to his commands, abandonment and sacrifice of everything in order to obey his holy will. Such ought to be the prominent virtues of every Christian. Let us, then, study the life of our great Patriarch, and learn the lessons it teaches.

Could the Christian have a finer model than this holy Patriarch, whose docility and devotedness in following the call of his God are so perfect? We are forced to exclaim, with the Holy Fathers: “O true Christian, even before Christ had come on the earth! He had the spirit of the Gospel, before the Gospel was preached! He was an Apostolic man, before the Apostles existed!” God calls him: he leaves all things, – his country, his kindred, his father’s house, – and he goes into an unknown land. God leads him, – he is satisfied; he fears no difficulties; he never once looks back. Did the Apostles themselves more? But, see how grand is his reward. God says to him: In thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed. This Chaldean is to give to the world Him that shall bless and save it. Death will, it is true, close his eyes ages before the dawning of that day, when one of his race, who is to be born of a Virgin and be united personally with the Divine Word, shall redeem all generations, past, present, and to come. But, meanwhile, till Heaven shall be thrown open to receive this Redeemer and the countless just, who have won the crown, Abraham shall be honoured, in the Limbo of expectation, in a manner becoming his great virtue and merit. It is in his Bosom [St. Luke, xvi. 22], that is, around him, that our First Parents, (having atoned for their sin by penance,) Noah, Moses, David, and all the just, including poor Lazarus, received that rest and happiness, which were a foretaste and a preparation for eternal bliss in Heaven. Thus is Abraham honoured; thus does God requite the love and fidelity of them that serve him.

When the fulness of time came, the Son of God, who was also Son of Abraham, declared his Eternal Father’s power, by saying, that he was about to raise up a new progeny of Abraham’s children from the very stones, that is, from the Gentiles [St. Matth. iii. 9]. We Christians are this new generation. But, are we worthy children of our Father? – Let us listen to the Apostle of the Gentiles: By faith, Abraham, when called (by God), obeyed to go out into a place, which he was to receive for an inheritance: and he went out not knowing whither he went. By faith, he abode in the land, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise; for he looked for a City that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God [Heb. xi. 8,9,10].

If, therefore, we be children of Abraham, we must, as the Church tells us, during Septuagesima, look upon ourselves as exiles on the earth, and dwell, by hope and desire, in that true country of ours, from which we are now banished, but towards which we are each day drawing nigher, if, like Abraham, we are faithful in those various stations allotted us by our Lord. We are commanded to use this world as though we used it not [I. Cor. vii. 31]; to have an abiding conviction of our not having here a lasting City [Heb. xiii. 14], and of the misery and danger we incur, when we forget that Death is one day to separate us from everything we possess in this life.

How far from being true children of Abraham are those Christians who spend this and the two following days in intemperance and dissipation, because Lent is so soon to be upon us. We can easily understand how the simple manners of our Catholic forefathers could keep a leave-taking of the ordinary way of living, which Lent was to put a stop to, and reconcile their innocent Carnival with Christian gravity; just as we can understand how their rigorous observance of the laws of the Church for Lent would inspire certain festive customs at Easter. Even in our own times, a joyous Shrovetide is not to be altogether reprobated, provided the Christian sentiment of the approaching holy Season of Lent be strong enough to check the evil tendency of corrupt nature: otherwise the original intention of an innocent custom would be perverted, and the forethought of Penance could in no sense be considered as the prompter of our joyous farewell to ease and comforts. While admitting all this, we would ask, what right or title have they to share in these Shrovetide rejoicings, whose Lent will pass and find them out of the Church, because they will not have complied with the precept of Easter Communion? And they, too, who claim dispensations from abstinence and fasting during Lent, and, from one reason or another, evade every penitential exercise during the solemn Forty Days of Penance, and will find themselves at Easter as weighed down by the guilt and debt of their sins as they were on Ash Wednesday, – what meaning, we would ask, can there possibly be in their feast-making at Shrovetide?

Oh that Christians would stand on their guard against such delusions as these, and gain that holy liberty of children of God [Rom. viii. 21], which consists in not being slaves to flesh and blood, and preserves man from moral degradation. Let them remember, that we are now in that holy Season, when the Church denies herself her songs of holy joy, in order the more forcibly to remind us that we are living in a Babylon of spiritual danger, and to excite us to regain that genuine Christian spirit, which everything in the world around us is quietly undermining. If the disciples of Christ are necessitated, by the position they hold in society, to take part in the profane amusements of these few days before Lent, let it be with a heart deeply imbued with the maxims of the Gospel. If, for example, they are obliged to listen to the music of theatres and concerts, let them imitate Saint Cecily, who thus sang, in her heart, in the midst of the excitement of worldly harmonies: May my heart, O God, be pure, and let me not be confounded! Above all, let them not countenance certain dances, which the world is so eloquent in defending, because so evidently according to its own spirit; and therefore they who encourage them, will be severely judged by Him, who has already pronounced wo upon the world. Lastly, let those who must go, on these days, and mingle in the company of worldlings, be guided by St. Francis of Sales, who advises them to think, from time to time, on such considerations as these:- that while all these frivolous, and often dangerous, amusements are going on, there are countless souls being tormented in the fire of hell, on account of the sins they committed on similar occasions; that, at that very hour of the night, there are many holy Religious depriving themselves of sleep in order to sing the divine praises and implore God’s mercy upon the world, and upon them that are wasting their time in its vanities; that there are thousands in the agonies of death, whilst all that gaiety is going on; that God and his Angels are attentively looking upon this thoughtless group; and finally, that life is passing away, and death so much nearer each moment. [Introduction to a Devout Life, Part III, Chapter 33].

We grant, that, on these three days immediately preceding the penitential Season of Lent, some provision was necessary to be made for those countless souls, who seem scarce able to live without some excitement. The Church supplies this want. She gives a substitute for frivolous amusements and dangerous pleasures; and those of her children upon whom Faith has not lost its influence, will find, in what she offers them, a feast surpassing all earthly enjoyments, and a means whereby to make amends to God, for the insults offered to his Divine Majesty during these days of Carnival. The Lamb, that taketh away the sins of the world, is exposed upon our Altars. Here, on this his throne of mercy, he receives the homage of them who come to adore him, and acknowledge him for their King; he accepts the repentance of those who come to tell him how grieved they are at having ever followed any other Master than Him; he offers himself to his Eternal Father for poor sinners, who not only treat his favours with indifference, but seem to have made a resolution to offend him during these days more than at any other period of the year.

It was the pious Cardinal Gabriel Paleotti, Archbishop of Bologna, who first originated the admirable devotion of the Forty Hours. He was a cotemporary of St. Charles Borromeo, and, like him, was eminent for his pastoral zeal. His object in this solemn Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, was to offer to the Divine Majesty some compensation for the sins of men, and, at the very time when the world was busiest in deserving his anger, to appease it by the sight of his own Son, the Mediator between heaven and earth. St. Charles immediately introduced the Devotion into his own diocese and province. This was in the 15th Century. Later on, that is, in the 18th Century, Prosper Lambertini was Archbishop of Bologna; he zealously continued the pious design of his ancient predecessor, Paleotti, by encouraging his flock to devotion towards the Blessed Sacrament during the three days of Carnival; and when he was made Pope, under the name of Benedict the Fourteenth, he granted many Indulgences to all who, during these days, should visit our Lord in this Mystery of his Love, and should pray for the pardon of sinners. This favour was, at first, restricted to the Faithful of the Papal States; but in the year 1763 it was extended, by Pope Clement the Thirteenth, to the universal Church. Thus, the Forty Hours’ Devotion has spread through out the whole world, and become one of the most solemn expressions of Catholic Piety. Let us, then, who have the opportunity, profit by it during these three last days of our preparation for Lent. Let us, like Abraham, retire from the distracting dangers of the world, and seek the Lord our God. Let us go apart, for at least one short hour, from the dissipation of earthly enjoyments; and, kneeling in the Presence of our Jesus, merit the grace to keep our hearts innocent and detached, whilst sharing in those we cannot avoid. [The Litanies for the Forty Hours are given at the end of this Volume].

We will now resume our considerations upon the Liturgy of Quinquagesima Sunday. The passage of the Gospel selected by the Church, is that wherein our Saviour foretells to his Apostles the Sufferings he was to undergo in Jerusalem. This solemn announcement prepares us for Passiontide. We ought to receive it with feeling and grateful hearts and make it an additional motive for imitating the devoted Abraham and giving our whole selves to our God. The ancient Liturgists tell us, that the blind man of Jericho, (spoken of, in this same Gospel,) is a figure of those poor sinners, who, during these days, are blind to their Christian character, and rush into excesses, which even Paganism would have coveted. The blind man recovered his sight, because he was aware of his wretched state, and desired to be cured and to see. The Church wishes us to have a like desire, and she promises us that it shall be granted.

Sexagesima Sunday – Sunday, February 4, 2024

January 30, 2024
Categories:
Sexagesima Sunday

The Church offers to our consideration, during this week of Sexagesima, the history of Noah and the deluge. Man has not profited by the warnings already given him. God is obliged to punish him once more, and by a terrible chastisement. There is found out of the whole human race one just man God makes a covenant with him, and with us through him. But, before he draws up this new alliance, he would show that he is the Sovereign Master, and that man, and the earth whereon he lives, subsist solely by his power and permission.

This awful chastisement of the human race by the Deluge was a fresh consequence of sin. This time, however, there was found one just man; and it was through him and his family that the world was restored. Having once more mercifully renewed his covenant with his creatures, God allows the earth to be re-peopled, and makes the three sons of Noah become the Fathers of the three great families of the human race.

This is the Mystery of the Divine Office during the week of Sexagesima. The Mystery expressed in to-day’s Mass is of still greater importance, and the first is but a figure of the second. The earth is deluged by sin and heresy. But the Word of God, the Seed of life, is ever producing a new generation, a race of men, who, like Noah, fear God. It is the Word of God that produces those happy children, of whom the Beloved Disciple speaks, saying: they are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God [St. John, 1. 13]. Let us endeavor to be of this family; or, if we already be numbered among its members, let us zealously maintain our glorious position. What we have to do, during these days of Septuagesima, is to escape from the Deluge of worldliness, and take shelter in the Ark of salvation; we have to become that good soil, which yields a hundred-fold from the heavenly Seed. Let us flee from the wrath to come, lest we perish with the enemies of God: let us hunger after that Word of God, which converteth and giveth life to souls [Ps. xviii].

With the Greeks, this is the seventh day of their week Apocreös, which begins on the Monday after our Septuagesima Sunday. They call this week Apocreös, because they then begin to abstain from flesh-meat, which abstinence is observed till Easter Sunday.

Whilst the earth is being moved, and is suffering those terrible revolutions, which, deluge-like, come first on one nation and then on another, – the Church prays for her Faithful Children, in order that they may be spared, for they are the elect, and the hope of the world. It is thus she prays in the following Tract which precedes the Gospel of the Word.

St. Gregory the Great justly remarks, that this Parable needs no explanation. since Eternal Wisdom himself has told us its meaning. All that we have to do, is to profit by this divine teaching, and become the good soil, wherein the heavenly Seed may yield a rich harvest. How often have we not, hitherto, allowed it to be trampled on by them that passed by, or to be torn up by the birds of the air? How often has it not found our heart like a stone, that could give no moisture, or like a thorn plot, that could but choke? We listened to the Word of God; we took pleasure in hearing it; and from this we argued well for ourselves. Nay, we have often received this Word with joy and eagerness. Sometimes, even, it took root within us. But alas! something always came to stop its growth. Henceforth, it must both grow and yield fruit. The Seed given to us is of such quality, that the Divine Sower has a right to expect a hundred-fold. If the soil, that is, if our heart, be good; if we take the trouble to prepare it, by profiting of the means afforded us by the Church; we shall have an abundant harvest to show our Lord on that grand Day, when, rising triumphant from his Tomb, he shall come to share with his faithful people the glory of His Resurrection.

"Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you: welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice"

~ St. Benedict of Nursia ~

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