November 7 – Seventh Day within the Octave of All Saints
“A great mystery,” says St. John Chrysostom, “is accomplished in our dead. A mystery of praise and of joy, when, summoned by the King of kings, the soul goes to meet her Lord, accompanied by Angels sent from heaven for the purpose! And thou—dost thou lament? When the bridegroom, to whom thou hast given thy daughter, carries her to a far country, thou dost not complain, provided he makes her happy; although her absence is a grief to thee, the sadness is tempered. And now, because it is not a man, a fellow slave, but the Lord himself that claim one of thy family, is thy grief to be without measure? I do not forbid thee to shed a tear; weep, but be not disconsolate even as others who have no hope. And be ready also to return thanks, as is meet; honoring thereby thy dead, as well as glorifying God, and thus giving them magnificent obsequies.”
With such sentiments were our fathers inspired, in those farewells of the primitive liturgy, which contrasted so strangely with the sad pomp of pagans, and which made the funeral train resemble a bridal procession. First, loving hands respectfully washed the body, which had been sanctified by the waters of Baptism and the holy oil, and so often honored by the visit of our Lord in his blessed Sacrament. It was then clothed in the robes of honor in which it had served its divine Spouse; and, like him in the tomb, it was surrounded with fragrant spices. Often the sacred Host itself was laid upon the breast after the holy sacrifice of thanksgiving and propitiation. Thus, during an admirable succession of prayers and triumphant chants, amid clouds of incense and numberless torches, the body was carried to the place of rest, where Christian burial was to associate it to the last mystery of our Savior’s mortal career. There, as over the garden of Golgotha on the great Saturday, the naked Cross, despoiled of its divine Burden, looked down upon the graves, where the Man-God in his mystic members still awaited the hour of resurrection.
At Rome, and indeed in all the Latin Churches, in the middle ages, there were sung, during the procession to the tomb and the burial, seven celebrated Antiphons, whose touching inspiration, perpetuated in the In Paradisum and the Subvenite, is in complete harmony with the sentiments we have just alluded to. The first, Aperite mihi portas justitiæ, formed the refrain to Psalm 117, Confitemi Domino, and enhanced its accounts of victory. It is from this Psalm that the Church borrows the Verse she so unceasingly repeats on the Solemnity of solemnities: Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus, exsultemus et lætemur in ea. This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us be glad and rejoice therein.
But we cannot do better than give the entire series of Antiphons, indicating the Psalms which they accompanied. The last Psalm and the Canticle Benedictus are still used; as also the Responsory Subvenite and the Antiphon In Paradisum, which according to the present Ritual are sung, the former on entering the Church, the latter on leaving it.
|1. Ant. Aperite mihi portas justitiæ, ingressus in eas confitebor Domino.||1. Ant. Open to me the gates of justice: I will go in to them, and give praise to the Lord.|
Ps. 117. Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus.
|2. Ant. Ingrediar in locum tabernaculi admirabilis, usque ad domum Dei.||2. Ant. I shall go into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God.|
Ps. 41. Quemadmodum desiderat cervus.
|3. Ant. Hæc requies mea in sæculum sæculi, hic habitabo quoniam elegi eam.||3. Ant. This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.|
Ps. 131. Memento Domino David.
|4. Ant. De terra plasmasti me Domine, et carne induisti me: Redemptor meus, resuscita me in novissimo die.||4. Ant. Thou hast formed me, O Lord, of the earth, and with flesh thou hast clothed me: O my Redeemer, raise me up on the last day.|
Ps. 138. Domine probasti me.
|5. Ant. Non intres in judicium cum servo tuo, Domine, quia non justificabitur in conspectu tuo omnis vivens.||5. Ant. Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord: for in thy sight no man living shall be justified.|
Ps. 142. Domine exaudi orationem meam.
|6. Ant. Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum.||6. Ant. Let every spirit praise the Lord.|
Ps. 148 Laudate Dominum de cœlis.
|7. Ant. Ego sum resurrectio et vita: qui credit in me, etiam si mortuus fuerit, vivet: et omnis qui vivit et credit in me, non morietur in æternum.||7. Ant. I am the resurrection, and lie: he that believes in me, though he be dead, shall live; and every one that lives and believes in me shall never die.|
Cant. Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel.
In some places the following Antiphon was sung at the conclusion.
|Læto animo pergo ad te, suscipe me Domine; quia de terra plasmati me, spiritus de cœlo introivit in me jussu tuo, veni ut commendes terræ corpus meum: animam quam dedisti, suscipe illam Deus.||With a joyful heart I come to thee, receive me, O Lord; since of the earth thou didst form me, and a spirit from heaven entered into me by thy command, come and commit my body to the earth, and the soul which thou gavest receive O my God.|
|Responsory and Antiphon From the Roman Ritual|
|℟. Subvenite Sancti Dei, occurrite Angeli Domini: * Suscipientes animam ejus: * Offerentes eam in conspectu Altissimi.||℟. Come to his assistance, all ye Saints of God; meet him all ye Angels of the Lord, * Receiving his soul, * presenting it in the sight of the Most High.|
|℣. Suscipiat te Christus qui vocavit te, et in sinum Abrahæ Angeli deducant te. * Suscipientes.||℣. May Christ receive thee, who has called thee, and may the Angels conduct thee into Abraham’s bosom. * Receiving his soul.|
|℣. Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat ei. * Offerentes.||℣. Eternal rest give to him, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine on him. * Offering it in the sight of the Most High.|
|Ant. In paradisum deducant te Angeli: in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.||Ant. May the Angels conduct thee into paradise: may the Martyrs receive thee at thy coming, and lead thee into the holy city of Jerusalem. May the choir of angels receive thee, and mayst thou have eternal rest with Lazarus, who was formerly poor.|
For the consolation of mothers, as well as in homage to the Paradise of which their children are the graceful flowers, we will today commemorate, with St. Ephrem, the little ones snatched in the innocence from this land of miseries.
|Amabilis puer quem gratia in utero matris formavit, ut vidit lucem, ut insiliit acerba mors, et æstu infestiore quam solis esse solet, vernantis floris folia decussit, caulem arefecit, ramos siccavit.||The lovely child, whom grace formed in his mother’s womb, no sooner saw the light, than cruel death rushed upon him, and with a heat more burning than the sun’s, struck off the leaves of this spring flower, withered its stem, and scorched its branches.|
|Obitum flere tuum vereor, qui didici te a filio Regis ad supernæ lucis adyta fuisse deductum. Natura quidem tuo, fili, fato illacrymari cogit: ego vero dum recogito te ad regionem beatæ lucis translatum, cavendum mihi video ne Regis aula profano polluatur luctu, tum ipse arguar audax et impudens, qui lætitiæ regiam atratus et lacrymans intraverim. Quin ergo meliore consilio puram hostiam offeram, et ad hilaritatem animam componam.||I dare not lament thy death, for I have heard that the King’s Son has led thee into the inner courts of heavenly light. Nature indeed forces me, my child, to weep over thy fate: but when I think of thee carried into the region of blessed light, I see I must beware of dishonoring the King’s court by my profane grief; moreover I should be accused of being bold and impertinent, if I entered the palace of joy weeping and clad in mourning weeds. Therefore I will take a better way, and, offering a spotless victim, I will turn my soul to joyfulness.|
|Tui quidem cantus, care puer, meas ante mulcebant aures, meque vehementer delectarunt; suave melos quod olim fundebas memoria adhuc retineo, et verba recordor. Quamquam dum cor illa repetit, mens ad Superum evolat choros, et audit admirabunda Cœlites tecum canentes triumphale carmen Hosanna.||Thy songs, indeed, beloved boy, were once so welcome to my ears, and delighted me exceedingly; the sweet sounds thou didst utter and thy pretty prattle I well remember. But while the heart recalls them, the mind soars to the choirs of Angels, and listens entranced to the heavenly citizens singing with thee the triumphant song Hosanna.|
|Pars tua, Domine, sunt parvuli pueri; hisce sedes in cœlo super astra dabis. Illos pro nobis, oro, statue deprecatores; puras quippe scimus esse puerorum preces.||The little children, O Lord, are thine own portion; and to them thou wilt give thrones, beyond the stars. Set them before thee, I pray, as our intercessors, for we know that children’s prayers are pure.|
|Quin ergo te summis efferam laudibus, qui jubes tuis tales convivas assidere mensis. Nostræ Reparator salutis in oculis conspectuque populi amplexatus est pueros, eisque benedixit, quo hujus ætatis puritatem et innocentiam sibi placere demonstraret. Vere omni laude dignus est, cui innocentes pueros apud se habere placuit.||Why, then, should I not extol thee with highest praises, who commandest such guests to be seated at thy table? In the presence of the people, my Redeemer and Savior embraced children and blessed them, in order to show how pleasing to him are the purity and innocence of that age. Truly is he worthy of all praise, who loves to be surrounded by innocent little ones.|
|Vidit ille, in quo tamquam in sua sede considet justitia, hominum iniquitates ultra omnem increvisse modum, et pessumdata innocentia ubique regnare contumaciam in perversa nitentium. Delectum puerorum agmen, misso apparitore ad se accersivit, et in deliciarum æternarum sede locavit.||He, in whom justice is seated as on her own throne, sees that the sins of men have increased beyond all measure; that all innocence is crushed out, and that everywhere reigns the insolence of them that contend for evil. He has therefore sent his officer to gather the band of children and lead them to himself, where he has placed them in the abode of eternal delights.|
|Parvuli, quasi lilia de deserta et inculta regione revulsa, in amœnissimi horti areis iterato panguntur; et quasi margaritæ insreutur diademati; inde ad cœleste regnum evecti, sine fine laudant suæ felicitatis Auctorem.||The little ones, like lilies uprooted from this desert and uncultivated land, are planted again in the flower-beds of the most lovely garden; like pearls they are set in our Lord’s diadem; caught up from earth to the heavenly kingdom, they unceasingly praise the Author of their happiness.|
|Porro cuinam jucundum non sit, parvulos videre cœlo donatos? aut quisnam plangat eorum obitum, quod tensos ubique vitiorum laqueos evaserint? Utinam tua, Domine, favente gratia, talem mihi contingat habere finem, et beato eorum potiri convictu.||Who, then, would not rejoice at seeing heaven thus given to babes? Or who would bewail their death, since they have escaped from the snares of vices everywhere spread out? May it please thee, O Lord, that by thy grace a similar end may be my lot, and I may be admitted to a share in their blessed life.|
|Laus sit et gloria Optimo, Maximo, qui pueros terris abstulit et cœlo dedit, qui parvulos hujus vitæ ærumnis eripuit et in cœlestem et beatam domum transtulit, atque in illam jucundissimam securitatem asseruit.||Praise and glory be to God the supremely Good and Great, who has taken the children from earth and given them to heaven; who has snatched the little ones from the miseries of this life and taken them to a heavenly and blessed home, and has established them in that most happy security.|
|Perfecta tibi, Domine Deus noster, jam est laus ex ore infantium et lactentium; pueri quippe sunt, qui modo quasi agni simplices in horto deliciarum pubescunt, Gabrielem Archangelum electi hujus gregis ductorem sequentes. Incolunt terram nefariis scelerum vestigiis usquequaque expiatam; ejus autem quæ maledicto subjecta fuit, ne meminere quidem.||O Lord our God, thy praise is now perfected out of the mouths of babes and sucklings; these children, who now like simple lambs, grow up in the garden of delights, following the Archangel Gabriel the guide of this chosen flock. They dwell in a land entirely free from all traces of wicked crime; but of that other, which was subjected to the curse, they have not so much as the remembrance.|
|Veniet tandem sanctissimus ille dies, quando eorum cadavera vocem Filii Dei audient, et e tumulis cum tripudio exsilient; contra inimica virtutis voluptas frontem submittet rubore suffusa, quod illorum mentes perturbare nequiverit. Paucos hic quidem vixere dies, paradisus excepit in ævum sempiternum victuros: unde ipsorum parentes abesse se dolent, eoque ocyus pervenire desiderant.||At length that most holy day will come, when their bodies shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and exultingly spring from their tombs; while self-indulgence, the enemy of virtue, will hang down her head, being covered with confusion because she could not disturb their souls. They lived but few days on earth, paradise received them to live for eternal ages: wherefore their parents mourn that they themselves are still far off from that land, and long to reach it with all speed.|
Let us conclude with a prayer taken from the rites of the Latin church for the burial of infants.
|Omnipotens et mitissime Deus, qui omnibus parvulis renatis fonte baptismatis dum migrant a sæculo, sine ullis eorum meritis, vitam illico largiris æternam, sicut animæhujus parvuli hodie credimus te fecisse: fac nos, quæsumus Domine, per intercessionem beatæ Mariæ semper virginis, et omnium sanctorum tuorum, hic purificatis tibi mentibus famulari, et in paradiso cum beatis parvulus perenniter sociari. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.||O Almighty and most merciful God, who vouchsafest to all children baptized, departing this world, eternal life, without any merit of theirs, as we believe thou hast done this day to the soul of this child: grant us, we beseech thee, O Lord, by the intercession of the blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, and of all thy saints, to serve thee here with pure minds, and to be united hereafter with thy blessed children in heaven. Through.|
|℟. Amen.||℟. Amen.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)