ON HOLY COMMUNION DURING SEPTUAGESIMA

CHAPTER THE SIXTH
ON HOLY COMMUNION DURING SEPTUAGESIMA

We have already said, that the Christian, who, by the meditations suitable to the spirit of Septuagesima, has come to a clearer knowledge, not only of the sad consequences of original sin, but also of the malice of his own personal faults, – should be all the more eager to assist at the Holy Sacrifice, wherein is offered the Victim of man’s salvation. But, now that his own unworthiness is more than ever-evident to him, ought he to abstain from partaking, by Holy Communion, of this life-giving and purifying Host? Such is not our Saviour’s will. He came down from heaven, not to judge, but to save us [St. John, iii. 17]. He knows how long and rugged is the road we have to traverse, before we reach that happy day, on which we shall rest with him, in the joy of his Resurrection. He has compassion on us; he fears lest we faint in the way [St. Matth. xv. 32]; and he, therefore, offers us the divine Food, which gives light and strength to our souls, and refreshes them in their toil. We feel that our hearts are not yet pure enough; let us, then, with an humble and contrite heart, go to him, who is come that he may restore to our souls their original beauty. Let us, at all times, remember the solemn injunction, which this Saviour so graciously deigned to give us: Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, ye shall not have life in you [St. John, vi. 54].

If, therefore, sin has no longer dominion over us; if we have destroyed it by true sorrow and sincere confession, made efficacious by the absolution of God’s Priest;- let us not deprive ourselves of the Bread of Life [St. John, vi. 35], no matter how great soever our infirmities may seem; for it is for us that our Jesus has prepared the Feast. If we feel that the chains of sin are still upon us; if by self-examination, made with the light of the Truth that is now granted to us, we discover in our souls certain stains, which the false principles of the world and too easy a conscience had hitherto made us wink at;- let us lose no time, let us make a good Confession: and when we have made our peace with the God of mercy, let us approach the holy Table and receive the pledge of our reconciliation.

Yes, let us go to Holy Communion, during this season of Septuagesima, with a most heart-felt conviction of our unworthiness. It may be, that hitherto we have sometimes gone with too much familiarity, on account of our not sufficiently understanding our nothingness, our misery, and the infinite holiness of the God, who thus unites himself with his sinful creatures. Henceforth, our heart shall be more truthful; blending together the two sentiments of humility and confidence, we will say, with an honest conviction, those words of the Centurion of the Gospel, which the Church puts upon our lips, when she is distributing to us the Bread of Life: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be healed [St. Matth. viii. 8].

We will here give, as in the two preceding Seasons, Acts which may serve as a preparation for Holy Communion during these weeks of Septuagesima. There are souls that feel the want of some such assistance as this; and, for the same reason, we will add a form of Thanksgiving for after Communion.

BEFORE COMMUNION

ACT OF FAITH

The signal grace which thou, O my God, hast granted to me, that I should know the wounds of my soul, has revealed to me the greatness of my misery. I have been taught how deep was the darkness that covered me, and how much I needed thy Divine Light. But, whilst the torch of Faith has thus shown me the abyss of my own poor nature, it has also taught me how wonderful are the works, which thy love of thy ungrateful creature has made thee undertake, in order that thou mightest raise him up mid save him. It was for me thou didst assume my human nature, and wast born at Bethlehem; it is for me that thou art soon to shed thy Blood on the Cross. Thou commandest me to believe these miracles of thy love. I do believe them, O my God, humbly and gratefully. I also believe, and with an equally lively Faith, that in a few moments, thou art to give thyself to me in this ineffable Mystery of Holy Communion. Thou sayest to me: This is my Body – this is my Blood:- thy word is enough in spite of my unworthiness seeming to forbid the possibility of such Communion, I believe, I consent, I bow me down before thine infinite Truth. Oh can there be Communion between the God of all holiness and a Sinner such as I? – And yet, thou assurest me, that thou art verily coming to me! I tremble, O Eternal Truth – but I believe. I confess that thy love of me is infinite, and that having resolved to give thyself to thy poor and sinful creature, thou wilt suffer no obstacle to stand in thy way

ACT OF HUMILITY

During the season just past, I have often contemplated, O my Jesus, thy coming from thy high throne into the bosom of Mary, thy inuting thy divine person to our weak mortal nature, and thy being born in the crib of a poor stable: and when I thought on these humiliations of my God, they taught me not only to love thee tenderly, but to know also my own nothingness, for I saw more clearly what an infinite distance there is between the Creature and his Creator; and, seeing these prodigies of thy immense love, I gladly confessed my own vileness. But now, dearest Saviour, I am led to consider something far more humiliating than the lowliness of my nature. That Nothingness should be but nothingness, is not a sin. No, – it is my sins that appal me. Sin has so long tyrannised over me; its consequences are still upon me; it has given me such dangerous tendencies; and I am so weak in resisting its bidding. When my first Parent sinned, he hid himself, lest he should meet thee; and thou biddest me come unto thee, not to sentence me to the punishment I deserve but to give me, oh! such a mark of love, – union with thyself! Can this be? Art thou not the infinitely holy God? – I must needs yield, and come, for thou art my sovereign Master; and who is there that dares resist thy will? I come, then, humbling myself, even to my very nothingness, before thee, and beseeching thee to pardon my coming, for I come because thou wilt have it so.

ACT OF CONTRITION

And shall I, O my Jesus, confess thus the grievousness and multitude of my sins, without promising thee to sin no more? Thou wishest this sinner to be reconciled with thee, thou desirest to press him to thy Sacred Heart:- and could he, whilst thanking thee for this thy wonderful condescension, still love the accursed cause which made him thine enemy? – No, my infinitely merciful God, no! I will not, like my first Parent, seek to escape thy justice, but, like the Prodigal Son, I will arise and go to my Father; like Magdalene, I will take courage and enter the banquet-hall; and, though trembling at the sight of my sins, I will comply with thy loving invitation. My heart has no further attachment to sin, which I hate and detest as the enemy of thy honour and my own happiness. I am resolved to shun it from this time forward, and to spare no pains to free myself from its tyranny. There shall be no more of that easy life which chilled my love, nor of that studied indifference which dulled my conscience, nor of those dangerous habits which led me to stray from my loyalty to thee. Despise not, O God, this my humble and contrite heart.

ACT OF LOVE

Such is thy love for us in this world, O my Jesus, that as thyself sayest, thou art come not to judge, but to save. I should not satisfy thee, in this happy Communion hour, were I to offer thee but this salutary fear, which has led me to thy sacred feet, and this shame-stricken conscience, which makes me tremble in thy holy presence. The visit thou art about to pay me, is a visit of Love. The Sacrament, which is going to unite me to thee, is the Sacrament of thy Love. Thou, my Good Shepherd, hast said, that he loves most, who has been forgiven most. My heart then must dare to love thee; it must love thee with all its warmth; the very recollection of its past disloyalty must make its loving thee doubly needed and doubly fervent. Ah! sweet Lord! – see this poor heart of mine; strengthen it, console it, drive away its fears, make it feel that thou art its Jesus! It has come back to thee, because it feared thee; if it love thee, it will never again leave thee.

And thou, O Mary, Refuge of Sinners, help me to love Him, who is thy Son, and our Brother. – Holy Angels! – ye who live eternally in that love, which has never ceased to glow in your mighty spirits, – remember, I reverently pray you, that this God created me, as he did you, that I might love him. – All ye holy Saints of God! I beseech you, by the love wherewith ye are inebriated in heaven, graciously give me a thought, and prepare now my heart to be united with him. Amen.

AFTER COMMUNION

ACT OF ADORATION

Thou art here within me, great God of heaven! Thou art, at this moment, residing in a sinner’s heart! I, yea, I, am thy temple, thy throne, thy resting-place! – How shall I worthily adore thee, thee that hast deigned to come down into this abyss of my lowliness and misery? The angels veil their faces in thy presence; thy Saints lay their crowns at thy feet; and I, that am but a sinful mortal, how shall I sufficiently honour thee, O Infinite Power, Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Goodness? – This soul wherein thou art now dwelling, has presumed so many times to set thee at defiance, and boldly disobey and break thy commands. And thou canst come to me after all this, and bring all thy beauty and greatness with thee! What else can I do, but give thee the homage of a heart, that knows not how to bear the immensity of the honour thou art now lavishing on me? Yes, my own wonderful and loving God, I adore thee, I acknowledge thee to be the Sovereign Being, the Creator and preserver of all creatures, and the undisputed Master of everything that belongs to me. I delightedly confess my dependence on thee, and offer thee, with all my heart, my humble service.

ACT OF THANKSGIVING

Thy greatness,  O God, is infinite; but thy goodness to me is incomprehensible. Thy being now, present within this breast of mine is, I know, a proof of that immense power, which shows itself where and when it wills; but it is also a mark of thy love for me. Thou art come to my soul, that thou mayest be closely united with her, comfort her, give her a new life, and bring her all good things. Oh! who will teach me how to value this grace, and thank thee for it in a becoming way? But, how shall I hope to value it as I ought, when I am not able to understand either the love, that brings thee thus within me, nor my own need of having thee? And when I think of my inability to make thee a suitable return of thanks, I feel as though I can give thee nothing but my speechless gratitude. Yet thou willest that this my heart, poor as it is, should give thee its thanks; thou takest delight in receiving its worthless homage. Take it, then, my loving Jesus! I give it thee with all possible joy, and beseech thee to reveal unto me the immensity of thy gift, and to enrich me more that I may give thee more.

ACT OF LOVE

But nothing will satisfy thee, O my Infinite Treasure unless I give thee my love. Thou hast ever loved me, and thou art still loving me; I must love thee in return! Thou hast borne with me, thou hast forgiven me, thou art, at this moment, overpowering me with honour and riches; and all this out of love for me! The return thou askest of me, is my love. Gratitude will not content thee -thou wilt have my love! – But, Jesus, my dear Jesus – my past life – the long years I have spent in offending thee – rise up before me, and tell me to hide myself from thee! And yet, whither could I go without carrying thee within me, for thou hast taken up thine abode in my inmost soul? No, –  I will not run from thee! I will summon all the energies of my heart, to tell thee, that I love thee; that thy love for me has emboldened me; that I belong to thee; that I love thee above all else that I love; and that henceforth, all my joy and happiness shall be in pleasing thee, and doing whatsoever thou askest of me.

ACT OF OBLATION

I know, dear Jesus, that what thou askest of me is not the passing sentiment of a heart excited by the thought of thy goodness towards it. Thou hast loved me from eternity; thou lovedst me, even when I was doing nothing for thee; thou hast given me light to know my miseries; thou hast shielded me against thine own angry justice; thou hast mercifully pardoned me a countless number of times; thou art even now embracing me with tenderest love; – and all these works of thy almighty hand have been but for one end, – to make me give myself to thee, and live, at last, for thee. It is this thou wouldst obtain of me, by granting me this precious earnest of thy love, which I have just received. Thou hast said, speaking of this ineffable gift: As I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me [St. John vi. 58]. Henceforth, O Bread, which came down from heaven! [Ibid. 51] thou art the source of my life. Now, more than ever, my life belongs to thee. I give it unto thee. I dedicate unto thee my soul, my body, my faculties, my whole being. Do thou direct and govern me. I resign myself entirely into thy hands. I am blind, but thy light will guide me; I am weak, but thy power will uphold me; I am inconstant, but thy unchangeableness will give me stability. I trust unreservedly in thy mercy, which never abandons them that hope in thee.

O Mary! pray for me, that I lose not the fruit of this Visit. – Holy Angels! watch over this dwelling-place of your Lord, which he has so mercifully chosen: let nothing defile it. – Oh! all ye Saints of God! pray for the sinner, unto whom he has given this pledge of his Divine pardon.

St John Bosco 31- January

Collect

Deus, qui sanctum Ioánnem Confessórem tuum adolescentium patrem et magístrum excitásti, ac per eum, auxiliatríce Vírgine María, novas in Ecclésia tua famílias floréscere voluísti: concéde, quǽsumus; ut eódem caritátis igne succénsi, ánimas quaerere, ubíque soli servíre valeámus.

O God, Who in Your Confessor, blessed John, raised up a father and teacher of youth, and willed that through him, with the help of the Virgin Mary, new religious families should bloom in the Church, grant, we beseech You, that, inflamed by the same fire of love, we may seek to win souls and to serve You alone.

Gospel

Matt 18:1-5
In illo témpore: Accessérunt discípuli ad Iesum dicéntes: Quis, putas, maior est in regno cælórum? Et ad vocans Iesus párvulum, státuit eum in médio eórum, et dixit: Amen dico vobis, nisi convérsi fueritis, et efficiámini sicut párvuli, non intrábitis in regnum coelórum. Quicúmque ergo humiliáverit se sicut párvulus iste, hic est maior in regno coelórum. Et qui suscéperit unum párvulum talem in nómine meo, me súscipit.

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in their midst, and said, Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such little child for My sake, receives Me.

Post Communion

Córporis et Sánguinis tui, Dómine, mystério satiátis, concéde, quǽsumus; ut, intercedénte sancto Ioánne Confessóre tuo, in gratiárum semper actióne maneámus:

Filled, O Lord, with the sacramental food, grant that through the intercession of blessed John, Your Confessor, we may continue steadfast in thanksgiving.

PRACTICE DURING SEPTUAGESIMA

CHAPTER THE THIRD
PRACTICE DURING SEPTUAGESIMA

The joys of Christmastide seem to have fled far from us. The forty days of gladness brought us by the Birth of our Emmanuel are gone. The atmosphere of holy Church has grown overcast, and we are warned that the gloom is still to thicken. Have we, then, for ever lost Him, we so anxiously and longingly sighed after, during the four slow weeks of our Advent? Has our divine Sun of Justice, that rose so brightly in Bethlehem, now stopped his course, and left our guilty earth?

Not so. The Son of God, the Child of Mary, has not left us. The Word was made Flesh in order that he might dwell among us. A glory, far greater than that of his Birth, when Angels sang their hymns, awaits him, and we are to share it with him. Only, he must win this new and greater glory by strange countless sufferings; he must purchase it by a most cruel and ignominious death: and we, if we would have our share in the triumph of his Resurrection, must follow him in the Way of the Cross, all wet with the Tears and the Blood he shed for us.

The grave maternal voice of the Church will soon be heard, inviting us to the Lenten penance; but she wishes us to prepare for this laborious baptism, by employing these three weeks in considering the deep wounds caused in our souls by sin. True, – the beauty and loveliness of the Little Child, born to us in Bethlehem, are great beyond measure; but our souls are so needy, that they require other lessons than those He gave us of humility and simplicity. Our Jesus is the Victim of the divine justice, and he has now attained the fulness of his age; the altar, on which he is to be slain, is ready: and since it is for us that he is to be sacrificed, we should at once set ourselves to consider, what are the debts we have contracted towards that infinite Justice, which is about to punish the Innocent One instead of us the guilty.

The mystery of a God becoming Incarnate for the love of his creature, has opened to us the path of the Illuminative Way; but we have not yet seen the brightest of its Light. Let not our hearts be troubled; the divine wonders we witnessed at Bethlehem are to be surpassed by those that are to grace the day of our Jesus’ Triumph: but, that our eye may contemplate these future mysteries, it must be purified by courageously looking into the deep abyss of our own personal miseries. God will grant us his divine light for the discovery; and if we come to know ourselves, to understand the grievousness of original sin, to see the malice of our own sins, and to comprehend, at least in some degree, the infinite mercy of God towards us, – we shall be prepared for the holy expiations of Lent, and for the ineffable joys of Easter.

The Season, then, of Septuagesima is one of most serious thought. Perhaps we could not better show the sentiments, wherewith the Church would have her children to be filled at this period of her year, than by quoting a few words from the eloquent exhortation, given to his people, at the beginning of Septuagesima, by the celebrated Ivo of Chartres. He spoke thus to the Faithful of the 11th century [12th Sermon for Septuagesima]:
We know, says the Apostle, that every creature groaneth, and travaileth in pain even till now: and not only it, but ourselves, also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body [Rom. viii. 22,23]. The creature here spoken of is the soul, that has been regenerated, from the corruption of sin, unto the likeness of God: she groaneth within herself, at seeing herself made subject to vanity; she, like one that travaileth, is filled with pain, and is devoured by an anxious longing to be in that country, which is still so far off. It was this travail and pain that the Psalmist was suffering, when he exclaimed: Wo is me, that my suffering is prolonged! [Ps. cxix. 5]. Nay, that Apostle, who was one of the first members of the Church, and had received the Holy Spirit, longed to have, in all its reality, that adoption of the sons of God, which he already had in hope; and he, too, thus exclaimed in his pain: I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ [Philipp. i. 23]. * * *  During these days, therefore, we must do what we do at all seasons of the Year, – only, we must do it more earnestly and fervently: we must sigh and weep after our country, from which we were exiled in consequence of having indulged in sinful pleasures; we must redouble our efforts in order to regain it by compunction and weeping of heart. * * *  Let us now shed tears in the way, that we may afterwards be glad in our country. Let us now so run the race of this present life, that we may make sure of the prize of the supernal vocation [Philipp. iii. 14]. Let us not be like imprudent wayfarers, forgetting our country, and preferring our banishment to our home. Let us not become like those senseless invalids, who feel not their ailments, and seek no remedy. We despair of a sick man, who will not be persuaded that he is in danger. No: let us run to our Lord, the Physician of eternal salvation. Let us show him our wounds, and cry out to him with all our earnestness: Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, for my bones are troubled [Ps. vi, 3]. Then, will he forgive us our iniquities, heal us of our infirmities, and satisfy our desire with good things [Ps. cii. 3,5].”

From all this it is evident, that the Christian, who would spend Septuagesima according to the spirit of the Church, must make war upon that false security, that self-satisfaction, which are so common to effeminate and tepid souls, and produce spiritual barrenness. It is well for them, if these delusions do not insensibly lead them to the absolute loss of the true Christian spirit. He that thinks himself dispensed from that continual watchfulness, which is so strongly inculcated by our Divine Master [St. Mark, xiii. 37], is already in the enemy’s power. He that feels no need of combat and of struggle in order to persevere and make progress in virtue, (unless he have been honoured with a privilege, which is both rare and dangerous), should fear that he is not even on the road to that Kingdom of God, which is only to be won by violence [St. Matth,. xi. 12]. He that forgets the sins, which God’s mercy has forgiven him, should fear his being the victim of a dangerous delusion [Ecclus. v. 5]. Let us, during these days, which we are going to devote to the honest unflinching contemplation of our miseries, give glory to our God, and derive, from the knowledge of ourselves, fresh motives of confidence in Him, who, in spite of all our wretchedness and sin, humbled himself so low as to become one of us, in order that he might exalt us even to union with Himself.

THE MYSTERY OF SEPTUAGESIMA

CHAPTER THE SECOND
THE MYSTERY OF SEPTUAGESIMA

The Season, upon which we are now entering, is expressive of several profound mysteries. But these mysteries belong not only to the three weeks, which are preparatory to Lent; they continue throughout the whole period of time, which separates us from the great Feast of Easter.

The number seven is the basis of all these mysteries. We have already seen how the Holy Church came to introduce the season of Septuagesima into her Calendar. Let us now meditate on the doctrine hid under the symbols of her Liturgy. And first, let us listen to St. Augustine, who thus gives us the clue to the whole of our Season’s mysteries. “There are two times,” says the Holy Doctor: “one which is now, and is spent in the temptations and tribulations of this life; the other which shall be then, and shall be spent in eternal security and joy. In figure of these, we celebrate two periods: the time ‘before Easter’ and the time ‘after Easter.’ That which is ‘before Easter,’ signifies the sorrow of this present life; that which is ‘after Easter,’ the blessedness of our future state. * *  Hence it is, that we spend the first in fasting and prayer; and in the second, we give up our fasting, and give ourselves to praise.” [Enarrations; Psalm clviii.]

The Church, the interpreter of the Sacred Scriptures, often speaks to us of two places, which correspond with these two times of St. Augustine. These two places are Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon is the image of this world of sin, in the midst whereof the Christian has to spend his years of probation; Jerusalem is the heavenly country, where he is to repose after all his trials. The people of Israel, whose whole history is but one great type of the human race, was banished from Jerusalem and kept in bondage in Babylon.

Now, this captivity, which kept the Israelites exiles from Sion, lasted seventy years; and it is to express this mystery, as Alcuin, Amalarius, Ivo of Chartres, and all the great Liturgists tell us, that the Church fixed the number of Seventy for the days of expiation. It is true, there are but sixty-three days between Septuagesima and Easter; but the Church, according to the style so continually used in the Sacred Scriptures, uses the round number instead of the literal and precise one.

The duration of the world itself, according to the ancient Christian tradition, is divided into seven ages. The human race must pass through seven Ages before the dawning of the Day of eternal life. The first Age included the time from the creation of Adam to Noah; the second begins with Noah and the renovation of the earth by the Deluge, and ends with the vocation of Abraham; the third opens with this first formation of God’s chosen people, and continues as far as Moses, through whom God gave the Law; the fourth consists of the period between Moses and David, in whom the house of Juda received the kingly power; the fifth is formed of the years, which passed between David’s reign and the captivity of Babylon, inclusively; the sixth dates from the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, and takes us on as far as the Birth of our Saviour. Then, finally, comes the seventh Age; it starts with the rising of this merciful Redeemer, the Sun of Justice, and is to continue till the dread coining of the Judge of the living and the dead. These are the Seven great divisions of Time; after which, Eternity.

In order to console us in the midst of the combats, which so thickly beset our path, the Church, – like a beacon shining amidst the darkness of this our earthly abode, – shows us another Seven, which is to succeed the one we are now preparing to pass through. After the Septuagesima of mourning, we shall have the bright Easter with its Seven weeks of gladness, foreshadowing the happiness and bliss of Heaven. After having fasted with our Jesus, and suffered with him, the day will come when we shall rise together with him, and our hearts shall follow him to the highest heavens, and then after a brief interval, we shall feel descending upon us the Holy Ghost, with his Seven Gifts. The celebration of all these wondrous joys will take us Seven weeks, as the great Liturgists observe in their interpretation of the Rites of the Church:- the seven joyous weeks from Easter to Pentecost will not be too long for the future glad Mysteries, which, after all, will be but figures of a still gladder future, the future of eternity.

Having heard these sweet whisperings of hope, let us now bravely face the realities brought before us by our dear Mother the Church. We are sojourners upon this earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, – if we long to return to it, – we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river’s bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem [Ps. cxxv]. She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but, how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to sing the Song of the Lord in a strange Land? [Ps. cxxxvi]. No, – there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage, or we shall deserve to be slaves for ever.

These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us, during the penitential Season, which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us, – dangers which arise from our own selves, and from creatures. During the rest of the year, she loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia! – but now, she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from Our Lord [II Cor. v. 6]; – let us keep our glad hymn for the day of his return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God’s enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written, that Praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner [Ecclus. xv. 9].

The leading feature, then, of Septuagesima is the total suspension of the Alleluia, which is not to be again heard upon the earth, until the arrival of that happy day, when, having suffered death with our Jesus, and having been buried together with him, we shall rise again with him to a new life [Coloss. ii. 12].

The sweet Hymn of the Angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo, which we have sung every Sunday since the Birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem, is also taken from us; it is only on the Feasts of the Saints, which may be kept during the week, that we shall be allowed to repeat it. The night Office of the Sunday is to lose, also, from now till Easter, its magnificent Ambrosian Hymn, the Te Deum; and at the end of the Holy Sacrifice, the Deacon will no longer dismiss the Faithful with his solemn Ite, Missa est, but will simply invite them to continue their prayers in silence, and bless the Lord, the God of mercy, who bears with us, notwithstanding all our sins.

After the Gradual of the Mass, instead of the thrice repeated Alleluia, which prepared our hearts to listen to the voice of God in the Holy Gospel, we shall hear but a mournful and protracted chant, called, on that account, the Tract.

That the eye, too, may teach us, that the Season we are entering on, is one of mourning, the Church will vest her Ministers, (both on Sundays and the days during the week, which are not Feasts of Saints,) in the sombre Purple. Until Ash Wednesday, however, she permits the Deacon to wear his dalmatic, and the Subdeacon his tunic; but from that day forward, they must lay aside these vestments of joy, for Lent will then have begun, and our holy Mother will inspire us with the deep spirit of penance, by suppressing everything of that glad pomp, which she loves, at other seasons, to bring into the Sanctuary of her God.

St Francis de Sales – 29 January

Collect

Deus, qui ad animárum salútem beátum Franciscum Confessórem tuum atque Pontificem ómnibus ómnia factum esse voluísti: concede propítius; ut caritátis tuæ dulcédine perfusi, eius dirigéntibus monitis ac suffragántibus meritis, æterna gaudia consequamur.

O God, Who for the salvation of souls willed that blessed Francis, Your Confessor and Bishop, should become all things to all men, mercifully grant that we, inspired by the sweetness of Your love, guided by his teachings, and aided by his merits, may attain the joys of everlasting life

January 29.—ST. FRANCIS OF SALES.

FRANCIS was born of noble and pious parents, near Annecy, 1566, and studied with brilliant success at Paris and Padua. On his return from Italy he gave up the grand career which his father had marked out for him in the service of the state, and became a priest. When the Duke of Savoy had resolved to restore the Church in the Chablais, Francis offered himself for the work, and set out on foot with his Bible and breviary and one companion, his cousin Louis of Sales. It was a work of toil, privation, and danger. Every door and every heart was closed against him. He was rejected with insult and threatened with death. But nothing could daunt or resist him, and ere long the Church burst forth into a second spring. It is stated that he converted 72,000 Calvinists. He was then compelled by the Pope to become Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva, and succeeded to the see in 1602. At times the exceeding gentleness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and one of them said to him, “Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure of the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn.” “Ah,” said the Saint, “I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. Is not God all love? God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove—that is, gentleness itself. And are you wiser than God?” In union with St. Jane Frances of Chantal he founded at Annecy the Order of the Visitation, which soon spread over Europe. Though poor, he refused provisions and dignities, and even the great see of Paris. He died at Avignon, 1622.

Reflection.—”You will catch more flies,” St. Francis used to say, “with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar. Were there anything better or fairer on earth than gentleness, Jesus Christ would have taught it us; and yet He has given us only two lessons to learn of Him—meekness and humility of heart.”

SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY

SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY

The holy Church calls us together to-day, in order that we may hear from her lips the sad history of the fall of our First Parents. This awful event implies the Passion and cruel Death of the Son of God made Man, who has mercifully taken upon himself to expiate this and every subsequent sin committed by Adam and us his children. It is of the utmost importance that we should understand the greatness of the remedy; we must, therefore, consider the grievousness of the wound inflicted. For this purpose, we will spend the present week in meditating on the nature and consequences of the sin of our First Parents.

Formerly, the Church used to read in her Matins of to-day that passage of the Book of Genesis, where Moses relates to all future generations, but in words of most impressive arid sublime simplicity, how the first sin was brought into the world. In the present form of the Liturgy, the reading of this history of the Fall is deferred till Wednesday, and the preceding days give us the account of the six days of Creation. We will anticipate the great instruction, and begin it at once, inasmuch as it forms the basis of the whole week’s teaching.

De Libro Genesis.Cap. III.
Sed et serpens erat callidior cunctis animantibus  terrae, quae fecerat Dominus  Deus. Qui dixit ad mulierem: Cur praecepit vobis  Deus ut non comederetis de omni ligno paradisi? Cui respondit mulier: De fructu lignorum quae sunt in paradiso vescimur: de fructu vero ligni, quod est in medio paradisi, praecepit nobis Deus ne comederemus, et ne tangeremus illud, ne forte moriamur. Dixit autem serpens ad mulierem: Nequaquam morte moriemini; scit enim Deus quod in quocumque die comederitis ex eo, aperientur oculi vestri, et eritis sicut dii, scientes bonum et malum. Vidit igitur mulier, quod bonum esset lignum ad vescendum, et pulchrum oculis, aspectuque delectabile: et tulit de fructu illius, et comedit: deditque viro suo, qui comedit. Et aperti sunt oculi amborum.
Cumque cognovissent se esse nudos, consuerunt folia ficus, et fecerunt sibi perizomata. Et cum audissent vocem Domini Dei deambulantis in paradiso, ad auram post meridiem, abscondit se Adam et uxor ejus a facie Domini Dei, in medio ligni paradisi. Vocavitque Dominus Deus Adam, et dixit ei: Ubi es? Qui ait: Vocem tuam audivi in paradiso, et timui, eo quod nudus essem et abscondi me. Qui dixit: Quis enim indicavit tibi quod nudus esses, nisi quod ex ligno de quo praeceperam tibi, ne comederes, comedisti? Dixitque Adam: Mulier, quam dedisti mihi sociam, dedit mihi de ligno, et comedi. Et dixit Dominus Deus ad mulierem: Quare hoc fecisti? Quae respondit: Serpens decepit me, et comedi.
Et ait Dominus Deus ad serpentem: Quia fecisti hoc, maledictus es inter omnia animantia, et bestias terrae: super pectus tuum gradieris, et terram comedes cunctis diebus vitae tuae. Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, et semen tuum et semen illius; ipsa conteret caput tuum, et tu insidiaberis calcaneo ejus. Mulieri quoque dixit: Multiplicabo aerumnas tuas, et conceptus tuos: in dolore paries filios, et sub viri potestate eris, et ipso domninabitur tibi. Adae vero dixit: Quia audisti vocem uxoris tuae, et comedisti de ligno, ex quo praeceperam tibi ne comederes, maledicta terra in opere tuo: in laboribus comedes ex ea cunctis diebus vitae tuae. Spinas et tribulos germinabit tibi, et comedes herbam terrae. In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, donec revertaris in terram, de qua sumptus es: quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
From the Book of Genesis.Ch. III. 
Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth, which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death; for God doth know, that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat: and gave to her husband, who did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened.
And when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig-leaves, and made themselves aprons. And when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise, at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise. And the Lord God called Adam, and said to him: Where art thou? And he said: I heard thy voice in paradise, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. And he said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And Adam said: The woman, whom thou gavest me, to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.
And the Lord God said to the serpent: because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. To the woman, also, he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee. And to Adam he said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work: with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.

Oh! terrible page of man’s history! It alone explains to us our present position on the earth. It tells us what we are in the eyes of God, and how humbly we should comport ourselves before his divine Majesty. We will make it the subject of this week’s meditation. And now, let us prepare to profit by the Liturgy of this Sunday, which we call Septuagesima.

In the Greek Church, it is called Prophöné, (Proclamation,) because on this day they announce to the people the coming Fast of Lent, and the precise day of Easter. It is also called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, because that Parable is read in their Liturgy for this Sunday, as an invitation to sinners to draw nigh to the God of Mercy. But it is the last day of the week, Prophöné,  which, by a strange custom, begins with the preceding Monday, as do also the two following weeks.


MASS

The Station, at Rome, is in the Church of Saint Laurence outside the walls. The ancient Liturgists observe how there is the relation of martyrdom between the just Abel, (whose being murdered by Cain is the subject of one of the Responsories of to-day’s Matins,) and the courageous Martyr, over whose tomb the Church of Rome commences her Septuagesima.

The Introit describes the fears of death, wherewith Adam and his whole posterity are tormented, in consequence of sin. But, in the midst of all this misery, there is heard a cry of hope, for man is still permitted to ask mercy from his God. God gave man a promise, on the very day of his condemnation:- the sinner needs but to confess his miseries, and the very Lord, against whom he sinned, will become his Deliverer.

INTROIT

Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, dolores inferni circumdederunt me: et in tribulatione mea invocavi Dominum, et exaudivit de templo sancto suo vocem meam.
Ps. Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea: Dominus firmamentum meum, et refugium meum, et liberator meus. V. Gloria Patri. Circumdederunt.
The groans of death surrounded me, and the sorrows of hell encompassed me; and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice from his holy temple.
Ps. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer. V. Glory. The groans.

In the Collect, the Church acknowledges that her children justly suffer the chastisements, which are the consequences of sin; but she beseeches her divine Lord to send them that Mercy, which delivers from misery.

COLLECT

Preces populi tui, quaesumus Domine, clementer exaudi, ut qui juste pro peccatis nostris affligimur, pro tui Nominis gloria misericorditer liberemur. Per Dominum. Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy people; that we who are justly afflicted for our sins, may be mercifully delivered for the glory of thy name. Through, &c.

SECOND COLLECT

A cunctis nos, quaesumus, Domine, mentis et corporis defende periculis: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semperque Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque beato N., et omnibus Sanctis, salutem nobis tribue benignus et pacem: ut destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, Ecclesia tua secura tibi serviat libertate. Preserve us, O Lord, we beseech thee, from all dangers of soul and body: and by the intercession of the glorious and blessed Mary, the ever Virgin-Mother of God, of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, of Blessed N. (here is mentioned the titular Saint of the Church,) and of all the Saints, grant us, in thy mercy, health and peace; that all adversities and errors being removed, thy Church may serve thee with undisturbed liberty.

The Priest adds a third Collect, which is left to his own choice.

EPISTLE

Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.Cap. IX.
Fratres, nescitis quod ii qui in stadio currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit bravium? Sic currite, ut comprehendatis. Omnis autem, qui in agone contendit, ab omnibus se abstinet: et illi quidem ut corruptibilem coronam accipiant, nos autem incorruptam. Ego igitur sic curro, non quasi in incertum: sic pugno, non quasi aerem verberans: sed castigo corpus meum et in servitutem redigo: ne forte cum aliis praedicaverim, ipse reprobus efficiar. Nolo enim vos ignorare, fratres, quoniam patres nostri omnes sub nube fuerunt, et omnes mare transierunt, et omnes in Moyse, baptizati sunt, in nube et in mari: et omnes eamdem escam spiritalem manducaverunt et omnes eumdem potum spiritalem biberunt (bibebant autem de spiritali, consequente eos petra; petra autem erat Christus): Sed non in pluribus eorum beneplacitum est Deo.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.Ch. IX.
Brethren, know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things; and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air: but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest, perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all in Moses were baptised in the cloud, and in the sea: and did all eat the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink: (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.) But with the most of them God was not well pleased.

These stirring words of the Apostle deepen the sentiments already produced in us by the sad recollections of which we are this day reminded. He tells us, that this world is a race, wherein all must run but that they alone win the prize, who run well. Let us, therefore, rid ourselves of everything that could impede us, and make us lose our crown. Let us not deceive ourselves: we are never sure, until we reach the goal. Is our conversion more solid than was St. Paul’s? Are our good works better done, or more meritorious, than were his? Yet, he assures us, that he was not without the fear that he might perhaps be lost; for which cause, he chastises his body, and keeps it in subjection to the spirit. Man, in his present state, has not the same will for all that is right and just, which Adam had before he sinned, and which, notwithstanding, he abused to his own ruin. We have a bias which inclines us to evil; so that our only means of keeping our ground is by sacrificing the flesh to the spirit. To many this is very harsh doctrine; hence, they are sure to fail, – they never can win the prize. Like the Israelites spoken of by our Apostle, they will be left behind to die in the desert, and so lose the Promised Land. Yet, they saw the same miracles that Josue and Caleb saw! So true is it that nothing can make a salutary impression on a heart, which is obstinately bent on fixing all its happiness in the things of this present life; and though it is forced, each day, to own that they are vain, yet each day it returns to them, vainly but determinedly loving them.

The heart, on the contrary, that puts its trust in God, and mans itself to energy by the thought of the divine assistance being abundantly given to him that asks it, – will not flag or faint in the race, and will win the heavenly prize. God’s eye is unceasingly on all them that toil and suffer. These are the truths expressed in the Gradual.

GRADUAL

Adjutor in opportunitatibus, in tribulatione sperent in te qui noverunt te, quoniam non derelinquis quaerentes te, Domine.
Quoniam non in finem oblivio erit pauperis; patientia pauperum non peribit in aeternum: exsurge, Domine, non praevaleat homo.
A helper in due time, in tribulation: let them trust in thee, who know thee, for thou hast not forsaken them that seek thee, O Lord.
For the poor man shall not be forgotten to the end; the patience of the poor man shall not perish for ever: arise, O Lord, let not man prevail.

The Tract sends forth our cry to God, and thee cry is from the very depths of our misery. Man is humbled exceedingly by the Fall; but he knows, that God is full of mercy, and that, in his goodness, he punishes our iniquities less than they deserve: were it not so, none of us could hope for pardon.

TRACT

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
V. Fiant aures tuae intendentes in orationem servi tui.
V. Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
V. Quia apud te propitatio est, et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.
V. Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
V. If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord, who shall stand it?
V. For with thee there is merciful forgiveness, and by reason of thy law, I have waited for thee, O Lord.

GOSPEL

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.Cap. XX.
In illo tempore, dixit Jesus discipulis suis parabolam hanc: Simile est regnum coelorum homini patrifamilias, qui exiit primo mane conducere operarios in vineam suam. Conventione autem facta cumu operariis ex denario diurno, misit eos in vineam suam. Et egressus circa horam tertiam, vidit alios stantes in foro otiosos, et dixit illis: Ite et vos in vineam meam, et quod justum fuerit, dabo vobis. Illi autem abierunt. Iterum autem exiit circa sextam et nonam horam, et fecit similiter. Circa undecimam vero exiit; et invenit alios stantes, et dicit illis: Quid hic statis tota die otiosi? Dicunt ei: Quia nemo nos conduxit. Dixit illis: Ite et vos in vineam meam. Cum sero autem factum esset, dicit Dominus vineae procuratori suo: Voca operarios, et redde illis mercedem, incipiens a novissimis usque ad primos. Cum venissent ergo qui circa undecimam horam venerant, acceperunt singulos denarios. Venientes autem et primi, arbitrati sunt quod plus essent accepturi: acceperunt autem et ipsi singulos denarios. Et accipientes murmurabant adversus patremfamilias, dicentes: Hi novissimi una hora fecerunt, et pares illos nobis fecisti qui portavimus pondus diei et aestus? At ille respondens uni eorum, dixit: Amice, non facio tibi injuriam; nonne ex denario convenisti mecum? Tolle quod tuum est, et vade: volo autem et huic novissimo dare sicut et tibi. Aut non licet mihi quod volo facere? An oculus tuus nequam est, quia ego bonus sum? Sic erunt novissimi primi, et primi novissimi. Multi enim sunt vocati, pauci vero electi.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.Ch. XX.
At that time, Jesus spoke to his disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is like to a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market-place idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner. But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go ye also into my vineyard. And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first. When, therefore, they were come that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny. And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us that have borne the burden of the day, and the heats. But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good? So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.

It is of importance, that we should well understand this Parable of the Gospel, and why the Church inserts it in to-day’s Liturgy. Firstly, then, let us recall to mind on what occasion our Saviour spoke this Parable, and what instruction he intended to convey by it to the Jews. He wishes to warn them of the fast approach of the day when their Law is to give way to the Christian Law; and he would prepare their minds against the jealousy and prejudice which might arise in them, at the thought that God was about to form a Covenant with the Gentiles. The Vineyard is the Church in its several periods, from the beginning of the world to the time of God himself coming to dwell among men, and form all true believers into one visible and permanent society. The Morning is the time, from Adam to Noah; the Third Hour begins with Noah and ends with Abraham; the Sixth Hour includes the period which elapsed between Abraham and Moses; and lastly, the Ninth Hour opens with the age of the Prophets, and closes with the Birth of the Saviour. The Messias came at the Eleventh Hour, when the world seemed to be at the decline of its day. Mercies unprecedented were reserved for this last period, during which, Salvation was to be given to the Gentiles by the preaching of the Apostles. It is by this mystery of Mercy that our Saviour rebukes the Jewish pride. By the selfish murmurings made against the Master of the House by the early Labourers, our Lord signifies the indignation which the Scribes and Pharisees would show at the Gentiles being adopted as God’s children. Then, he shows them how their jealousy would be chastised: Israel, that had laboured before us, shall be rejected for their obduracy of heart, and we Gentiles, the last comers, shall be made first, for we shall be made members of that Catholic Church, which is the Spouse of the Son of God.

This is the interpretation of our Parable given by St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, and by the generality of the Holy Fathers. But it conveys a second instruction, as we are assured by the two Holy Doctors just named. It signifies the calling given by God to each of us individually, pressing us to labour, during this life, for the Kingdom prepared for us. The Morning is our childhood. The Third Hour, according to time division used by the ancients in counting their day, is sun-rise; it is our youth. The Sixth Hour, by which name they called our mid-day, is manhood. The Eleventh Hour, which immediately preceded sun-set, is old age. The Master of the House calls his Labourers at all these various Hours. They must go that very hour. They that are called in the Morning may not put off their starting for the Vineyard, under pretext of going afterwards, when the Master shall call them later on. Who has told them that they shall live to the Eleventh Hour? They are called at the Third Hour; they may be dead at the Sixth. God will call to the labours of the last hour such as shall be living when that hour comes; but, if we should die at mid-day, that last call will not avail us. Besides, God has not promised us a second call, if we excuse ourselves from the first.

At the Offertory, the Church invites us to celebrate the praises of God. God has mercifully granted us, that the hymns we sing to the glory of his name, should be our consolation in this vale of tears.

OFFERTORY

Bonum est confiteri Domino, et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to thy name, O Most High.

SECRET

Muneribus nostris, quaesumus, Domine, precibusque susceptis: et coelestibus nos munda mysteriis, et clementer exaudi. Per Dominum. Having received, O Lord, our offerings and prayers, cleanse us, we beseech thee by these heavenly mysteries, and mercifully hear us. Through, &c.

SECOND SECRET

Exaudi nos, Deus Salutaris noster: ut per hujus Sacramenti virtutem, a cunctis nos mentis et corporis hostibus tuearis, gratiam tribuens in praesenti, et gloriam in futuro. Graciously grant us, O God our Saviour, that by virtue of this Sacrament, thou mayest defend us from all enemies, both of soul and body; giving us grace in this life, and glory in the next.

The third Secret is left to the Priest’s own choice.

In the Communion-Antiphon, the Church prays that man, having now been regenerated by the Bread of heaven, may regain that likeness to his God which Adam received at his creation. The greater our misery, the stronger should be our hope in Him, who descended to us that we might ascend to him.

COMMUNION

Illumina faciem tuam super servum tuum, et salvum me fac in tua misericordia: Domine, non confundar, quoniam invocavi te. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; save me in thy mercy. Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon thee.

POSTCOMMUNION

Fideles tui, Deus, per tua dona firmentur: ut eadem et percipiendo requirant, et quaerendo sine fine percipiant. Per Dominum. May thy Faithful, O God, be strengthened by thy gifts; that by receiving them, they may ever hunger after them, and hungering after them, they may have their desires satisfied in the everlasting possession of them. Through, &c.

SECOND POSTCOMMUNION

Mundet et muniat nos, quaesumus, Domine, divini Sacramenti munus oblatum, et intercedente beata Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque beato N. et omnibus Sanctis, a cunctis nos reddat et perversitatibus expiatos, et adversitatibus expeditos. May the oblation of this divine Sacrament, we beseech thee, O Lord, both cleanse and defend us; and by the intercession of Blessed Mary, the Virgin-Mother of God, together with that of thy blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, as likewise of blessed N., and of all the Saints, free us from all sin, and deliver us from all adversity.

The third Postcommunion is left to the Priest’s own choice.


VESPERS

The Psalms and Antiphons, are given above.

CAPITULUM

(I. Cor. IX.)

Fratres, nescitis quod ii, qui in stadio currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit bravium? Sic currite, ut comprehendatis. Brethren, know you not, that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain.

For the Hymn and Versicle, see above.

ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT

ANT. Dixit Paterfamilias operariis suis: Quid hic statis tota die otiosi  At illi resondentes, dixerunt: Quia nemo nos conduxit. Ite et vos in vineam meam: et quod justum fuerit, dabo vobis. ANT. The householder said to the labourers: Why stand you here all tHe day idle? But they answering, said to him: Because no man hath hired us. Go ye, also, into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.
OREMUS.
Preces populi tui, quaesumus Domine, clementer exaudi, ut qui juste pro peccatis nostris affligimur, pro tui Nominis gloria misericorditer liberemur. Per Dominum.
LET US PRAY.
Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy people; that we who are justly afflicted for our sins, may be mercifully delivered for the glory of thy name. Through, &c.

 


For each day of this Week we select a few stanzas from the Hymn, which the Greek Liturgy uses in her Office for the Sunday preceding the Fast of Lent. It is a lamentation over Adam’s Fall.

IN DOMINICA TYROPHAGI.

Excidit e paradise voluptatis Adamus, Domini praeceptnm, amaro cibo intemperanter degustato, transgressus, damnatusque fuit terrae unde desumptus fuerat colendae, suoque pani per sudorem multum comedendo; nos igitur temperantiam appetamus, ne velut ille extra paradisum ploremus, sed intus admittamur.
Conditor meus Dominus, pulvere e terra accepto, me vivifico spiritu animavit, atque visibilium omnium super terram dominatione, Angelorumque consortio dignatus est; dolosus autem Satan, serpentis instramento usus, esca decepit, et a Dei gloria procul aman davit, mortique in infimis terrae addixit: tu vero, utpote Dominus, atque benignus, ab exilio me revoca.
Stola divinitus texta spoliatsu fui miser ego, divino praecepto tuo, Domine, ex inimici fraude violato, foliisque ficulneis et pelliceis tunicis modo circumdor; panem laboris in sudore manducandi sententiam excepi, utque spinas et tribulos tellus mihi ferat, diris devota est; sed qui postremis temporibus e Virgine incarnatus es, revocatu me in paradisum restitue.
Paradise, omni honore dignissime, pulcherrima species, tabernaculum divinitus structum, perenne gaudium et oblectamentum, gloria justorum, Prophetarum laetitia, Sanctorumque domicilium, foliorum tuorum sonitu Conditorem uinversorum deprecare, ut fores, quas praevaricatione clausi, mihi adaperiat, utque dignus efficiar ligni vitae participatione, eoque gaudio quod dulcissime prius in temetipso degustavi.
Because he broke the commandment of his Lord, and was led by intemperance to taste a food which was to be one of bitterness to him, Adam was banished from the paradise of delight, and condemned to till the earth whence himself was taken, and to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow. Let us, therefore, covet temperance, lest, like him, we may have to weep out of paradise; let us be temperate and enter heaven.
God, my Creator, took dust from the earth, quickened me with a living soul, graciously made me the king of all visible things on earth, and gave me fellowship with the Angels; but crafty Satan, making the serpent his instrument, allured me with food, banished me far from the glory of God, and made me a slave to death in the bowels of the earth: but thou O God, art my Lord, and full of mercy, – recal me from exile.
Being deceived by the craft of the enemy. I, miserable man, violated thy commandment, O Lord, and being stripped of the garment which thy divine hand had woven for me, I am now clad with leaves of the fig-tree, and with a skin garment; I am condemned to eat a bread for which I must toil with the sweat of my brow, and the earth is cursed, so that it may yield me thorns and thistles: but do thou, that in after times tookest flesh from the Virgin, recal and restore me to Paradise.
O Paradise! – most worthy of all our reverence, beautiful beyond measure, tabernacle built by God, joy and delight without end, glory of the just, joy of the Prophets, and dwelling of the Saints, – may thy prayers, the sound of thy leaves, obtain for me from the Creator of all things, that thy gates, which my sin hath shut against me, may be thrown open to me, and that I may be made worthy to partake of the tree of life, and of that joy, which I once so sweetly tasted in thy bosom.

THE HISTORY OF SEPTUAGESIMA

CHAPTER THE FIRST
THE HISTORY OF SEPTUAGESIMA

The Season of Septuagesima comprises the three weeks immediately preceding Lent. It forms one of the principal divisions of the Liturgical Year, and is itself divided into three parts, each part corresponding to a week: the first is called Septuagesima; the second, Sexagesima; the third, Quinquagesima.

All three are named from their numerical reference to Lent, which, in the language of the Church, is called Quadragesima, – that is, Forty, – because the great Feast of Easter is prepared for by tile holy exercises of Forty Days. The words Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima, tell us of the same great Solemnity as looming in the distance, and as being the great object towards which the Church would have us now begin to turn all our thoughts, and desires, and devotion.

Now, the Feast of Easter must be prepared for by a forty-days’ recollectedness and penance. Those forty-days are one of the principal Seasons of the Liturgical Year, and one of the most powerful means employed by the Church for exciting in the hearts of her children the spirit of their Christian vocation. It is of the utmost importance, that such a Season of penance should produce its work in our souls, – the renovation of the whole spiritual life. The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.

This prelude to the holy season of Lent was not known in the early ages of Christianity: its institution would seem to have originated in the Greek Church. The practice of this Church being never to fast on Saturdays, the number of fasting-days in Lent, besides the six Sundays of Lent, (on which, by universal custom, the Faithful never fasted,) there were also the six Saturdays, which the Greeks would never allow to be observed as days of fasting: so that their Lent was short, by twelve days, of the Forty spent by our Saviour in the Desert. To make up the deficiency, they were obliged to begin their Lent so many days earlier, as we will show in our next Volume.

The Church of Rome had no such motive for anticipating the season of those privations, which belong to Lent; for, from the earliest antiquity, she kept the Saturdays of Lent, (and as often, during the rest of the year, as circumstances might require,) as fasting days. At the close of the 6th century, St. Gregory tile Great, alludes, in one of his Homilies, to the fast of Lent being less than Forty Days, owing to the Sundays which come during that holy season. “There are,” he says, “from this Day (the first Sunday of Lent) to the joyous Feast of Easter, six Weeks, that is, forty-two days. As we do not fast on the six Sundays, there are but thirty-six fasting days; * * * which we offer to Gel as the “tithe of our year.” [The sixteenth homily on the Gospels.]

It was, therefore, after the pontificate of St. Gregory, that the last four days of Quinquagesima Week, were added to Lent, in order that the number of Fasting Days might be exactly Forty. As early, however, as the 9th century, the custom of beginning Lent on Ash Wednesday was of obligation in the whole Latin Church. All the manuscript copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary, which bear that date, call this Wednesday the In capite jejunii, that is to say, the beginning of the fast; and Amalarius gives us every detail of the Liturgy of the 9th century, tells us, that it was, even then, the rule to begin the Fast four days before the first Sunday of Lent. We find the practice confirmed by two Councils, held in that century [Meaux, and Soissons]. But, out of respect for the form of Divine Service drawn up by St. Gregory, the Church does not make any important change in the Office of these four days. Up to the Vespers of Saturday, when alone she begins the Lenten rite, she observes the rubrics prescribed for Quinquagesima Week.

Peter of Blois, who lived in the 12th century, tells us what was the practice in his days. He says: “All Religious begin the Fast of Lent at Septuagesima; the Greeks, at Sexagesima; the Clergy, at Quinquagesima; and the rest of Christians, who form the Church militant on earth, begin their Lent on the Wednesday following Quinquagesima.” [Sermon xiii.] The secular Clergy, as we learn from these words, were bound to begin the Lenten Fast somewhat before the laity: though it was only by two days, that is, on Monday, as we gather from the Life of St. Ulric, Bishop of Augsburg, written in the 10th century. The Council of Clermont, in 1095, at which Pope Urban the Second presided, has a decree sanctioning the
obligation of the Clergy beginning abstinence from meat at Quinquagesima. This Sunday was called, indeed, Dominica carnis privii, and Carnis privium Sacerdotum, (that is, Priests’ Carnival Sunday,) – but the term is to be understood in the sense of the announcement being made, on that Sunday, of the abstinence having to begin on the following day. We shall find, further on, that a like usage was observed in the Greek Church, on the three Sundays preceding Lent. This law, which obliged the Clergy to these two additional days of abstinence, was in force in the 13th century, as we learn from a Council held at Angers, which threatens with suspension all Priests who neglect to begin Lent on the Monday of Quinquagesima Week.

This usage, however, soon became obsolete; and in the 15th century, the secular Clergy, and even the Monks themselves, began the Lenten Fast, like the rest of the Faithful, on Ash Wednesday.

There can be no doubt, but that the original motive for this anticipation – which, after several modifications, was limited to the four days immediately preceding Lent, – was to remove from the Greeks the pretext of taking scandal at the Latins, who did not fast a full Forty days. Ratramnus, in his Controversy with the Greeks, clearly implies it. But the Latin Church did not think it necessary to carry her condescension further, by imitating the Greek ante-lenten usages, which originated, as we have already said, in the eastern custom of not fasting on Saturdays

[The Gallican Liturgy had retained several usages of the Oriental Churches, to which it owed, in part, its origin: hence, it was not without some difficulty, that the custom of abstaining and fasting on Saturdays was introduced into Gaul. Until such time as the Churches of that country had adopted the Roman custom, in that point of discipline, they were necessitated to anticipate the Fast of Lent. The first Council of Orleans, held in the early part of the 6th century, enjoins the Faithful to observe, before Easter, Quadragesima, (as the Latins call Lent,) and not Quinquagesima, in order, says the Council, that unity of custom may be maintained. Towards the close of the same century, the fourth Council held in the same City, repeals the same prohibition, and explains the intentions of the making such an enactment, by ordering that the Saturdays during Lent should be observed as days of fasting. Previously to this, that is, in the years 511 and 541, the first and second Councils of Orange had combated the same abuse, by also forbidding the imposing on the Faithful the obligation of commencing the Fast at Quinquagesima. The introduction of the Roman Liturgy into France; which was brought about by the zeal of Pepin and Charlemagne, finally established, in that country, the custom of keeping the Saturday as a day of penance; and, as we have just seen, the beginning Lent on Quinquagesima was not observed excepting by the Clergy. In the 13th century, the only Church in the Patriarchate of the West, which began Lent earlier than the Church of Rome, was that of Poland its Lent opened on the Monday of  Septuagesima, which was owing to the rites of the Greek Church being much used in Poland. The custom was abolished, even in that country, by Pope Innocent the fourth, in the year 1248.]

Thus it was, that the Roman Church, by this anticipation of Lent by Four days, gave the exact number of Forty Days to the holy Season, which she had instituted in imitation of the Forty Days spent by our Saviour in the Desert. Whilst faithful to her ancient practice of looking on the Saturday as a day appropriate for penitential exercises, she gladly borrowed from the Greek Church the custom of preparing for Lent, by giving to the Liturgy of the three preceding weeks a tone of holy mournfulness. Even as early as the beginning of the 9th century, as we learn from Amalarius, the Alleluia and Gloria in excelsis were suspended in the Septuagesima Offices. The Monks conformed to the custom, although the Rule of St. Benedict prescribed otherwise. Finally, in the second half of the 11th century, Pope Alexander the Second enacted, that the total suspension of the Alleluia should be everywhere observed, beginning with the Vespers of the Saturday preceding Septuagesima Sunday. This Pope was but renewing a rule already sanctioned, in that same century, by Pope Leo the Ninth, and which was inserted in the body of Canon Law [Cap. Hi duo. De consec. Dist. 1].

Thus was the present important period of the Liturgical Year, after various changes, established the Cycle of the Church. It has been there upward of a thousand years. Its name, Septuagesima (Seventy), expresses, as we have already remarked, a numerical relation to Quadragesima (the Forty Days); although, in reality, there are not seventy but only sixty-three days from Septuagesima Sunday to Easter. We will speak of the mystery of the name in the following Chapter. The first Sunday of Lent being called Quadragesima (Forty), each of the three previous Sundays has a name expressive of an additional ten: the nearest to Lent being called Quinquagesima (Fifty); the middle one, Sexagesima (Sixty); the third, Septuagesima (Seventy).

As the season of Septuagesima depends upon time of the Easter celebration, it comes sooner or later, according to the changes of that great Feast. The 18th of January and the 22nd of February called the Septuagesima Keys, because the Sunday, which is called Septuagesima, cannot be earlier in the year, than the first, nor later than the second, of these two days.

January 27—ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

Collect

Ecclésiam tuam, quǽsumus, Dómine, grátia coeléstis amplíficet: quam beáti Ioánnis Chrysóstomi Confessóris tui atque Pontíficis illustráre voluísti gloriósis méritis et doctrínis.

May heavenly grace, we beseech You, O Lord, prosper Your Church, which You mercifully enlightened by the blessed virtues and teachings of glorious and blessed John Chrysostom, Your Confessor and Bishop.

Secret

Sancti Ioánnis Chrysóstomi Pontíficis tui atque Doctóris nobis, Dómine, pia non desit orátio: quæ et múnera nostra concíliet; et tuam nobis indulgéntiam semper obtíneat.

May the loving prayer of blessed John Chrysostom, Your Bishop and Doctor, fail us never, O Lord; may it commend our offerings and ever secure for us Your forgiveness.

Post Communion

Ut nobis, Dómine, tua sacrifícia dent salútem: beátus Ioánnes Chrysóstomus Póntifex tuus et Doctor egrégius, quǽsumus, precátor accedat

So that your sacrificial rites may grant us salvation, we pray you, O Lord, that blessed John Chrysostom, Your Bishop and illustrious Doctor, may draw nigh as our intercessor.

January 27.—ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM.

ST. JOHN was born at Antioch in 344. In order to break with a world which admired and courted him, he in 374 retired for six years to a neighboring mountain. Having thus acquired the art of Christian silence, he returned to Antioch, and there labored as priest, until he was ordained Bishop of Constantinople in 398. The effect of his sermons was everywhere marvellous. He was very urgent that his people should frequent the holy sacrifice, and in order to remove all excuse he abbreviated the long Liturgy until then in use. St. Nilus relates that St. John Chrysostom was wont to see, when the priest began the holy sacrifice, “many of the blessed ones coming down from heaven in shining garments, and with bare feet, eyes intent, and bowed heads, in utter stillness and silence, assisting at the consummation of the tremendous mystery.” Beloved as he was in Constantinople, his denunciations of vice made him numerous enemies. In 403 these procured his banishment; and although he was almost immediately recalled, it was not more than a reprieve. In 404 he was banished to Cucusus in the deserts of Taurus. In 407 he was wearing out, but his enemies were impatient. They hurried him off to Pytius on the Euxine, a rough journey of nigh 400 miles. He was assiduously exposed to every hardship, cold, wet, and semi-starvation, but nothing could overcome his cheerfulness and his consideration for others. On the journey his sickness increased, and he was warned that his end was nigh. Thereupon, exchanging his travel-stained clothes for white garments, he received Viaticum, and with his customary words, “Glory be to God for all things. Amen,” passed to Christ.

Reflection.—We should try to understand that the most productive work in the whole day, both for time and eternity, is that involved in hearing Mass. St. John Chrysostom felt this so keenly that he allowed no consideration of venerable usage to interfere with the easiness of hearing Mass.

St Polycarp – 26 January

Introit

Dan 3:84; 3:87
Sacerdótes Dei, benedícite Dóminum: sancti et húmiles corde, laudáte Deum.
Dan 3:57
Benedícite, ómnia ópera Dómini, Dómino: laudáte et superexaltáte eum in saecula.

O ye priests of the Lord, bless the Lord: O ye holy and humble of heart, praise God.
Dan. 3:57
All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all for ever.

Collect

Deus, qui nos beáti Polycarpi Martyris tui atque Pontíficis ánnua sollemnitáte lætíficas: concéde propítius; ut, cuius natalítia cólimus, de eiúsdem étiam protectióne gaudeámus.

O God, who givest us joy by the annual solemnity of blessed Polycarp, Thy martyr and bishop, mercifully grant that we may rejoice in his protection, whose birthday we celebrate.

Post Communion

Refécti participatióne múneris sacri, quǽsumus, Dómine, Deus noster: ut, cuius exséquimur cultum, intercedénte beáto Polycárpo Mártyre tuo atque Pontífice, sentiámus efféctum.

May this communion, O Lord purify us from guilt, and by the intercession of blessed Polycarp Thy martyr and bishop, make us partakers of a heavenly remedy.

January 26.—ST. POLYCARP, Bishop, Martyr.

ST. POLYCARP, Bishop of Smyrna, was a disciple of St. John. He wrote to the Philippians, exhorting them to mutual love and to hatred of heresy. When the apostate Marcion met St. Polycarp at Rome, he asked the aged Saint if he knew him. “Yes,” St. Polycarp answered, “I know you for the first-born of Satan.” These were the words of a Saint most loving and most charitable, and specially noted for his compassion to sinners. He hated heresy, because he loved God and man so much. In 167, persecution broke out in Smyrna. When Polycarp heard that his pursuers were at the door, he said, “The will of God be done; ” and meeting them, he begged to be left alone for a little time, which he spent in prayer for “the Catholic Church throughout the world.” He was brought to Smyrna early on Holy Saturday; and, as he entered, a voice was heard from heaven, “Polycarp, be strong.” When the proconsul besought him to curse Christ and go free, Polycarp answered, “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never did me wrong; how can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?” When he threatened him with fire, Polycarp told him this fire of his lasted but a little, while the fire prepared for the wicked lasted forever. At the stake he thanked God aloud for letting him drink of Christ’s chalice. The fire was lighted, but it did him no hurt; so he was stabbed to the heart, and his dead body was burnt. “Then,” say the writers of his acts, “we took up the bones, more precious than the richest jewels or gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, at which may God grant us to assemble with joy to celebrate the birthday of the martyr to his life in heaven!”

Reflection.—If we love Jesus Christ, we shall love the Church and hate heresy, which rends His mystical body, and destroys the souls for which He died. Like St. Polycarp, we shall maintain our constancy in the faith by loves of Jesus Christ, Who is its author and its finisher.