14 - 20 minutes readFifteenth Sunday after Pentecost ~ Dom Prosper Gueranger

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday’s Introit—which now goes under the name of the Sunday of the widow of Naim, because of the Gospel read on it—gives us a sample of the prayers we should address to our Lord in our necessities. Last Sunday, we heard our Jesus promising to provide for all our wants, on the condition that we would serve him faithfully, by seeking his kingdom. When we present our petitions to him, let us show him the confidence he so well deserves from us; and we shall be graciously heard.

Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam ad me, et exaudi me: salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperantem in te: miserere mihi, Domine, quoniam ad te clamavi tota die. Incline thine ear, O Lord, unto me, and hear me: save thy servant, O my God, who hopeth in thee: have mercy on me, O Lord, for I have cried to thee all the day.
Ps. Lætifica animam servi tui: quia ad te, Domine, animam meam levavi. Gloria Patri. Inclina. Ps. Give joy to the soul of thy servant: for, to thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul. Glory, &c. Incline.

The humility wherewith our holy Mother the Church presents her supplications to God should serve as a model to us. If the Bride herself thus treats with God, what ought not be our sentiments of lowliness, when we appear in the presence of sovereign Majesty? We may well say to this tender Mother of ours what the Disciples said to Jesus: Teach us how to pray! Let us unite with her in this Collect.

Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, mieratio continuata mundet et muniat: et, quia sine te non potest salva consistere, tuo semper munere gubernetur. Per Dominum. May thy continued mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend thy Church; and because, without thee, she cannot keep safe, may she always be governed by thy Gift. Through, etc.

The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Galatas. Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul, the Apostle, to the Galatians.
Cap. v. et vi. Ch. v. and vi.
Fratres, Si Spiritu vivimus, Spiritu et ambulemus. Non efficiamur inanis gloriae cupidi, invicem provocantes, invicem invidentes. Fratres, et si præoccupatus fuerit homo in aliquo delicto, vos, qui spirituales estis, hujusmodi instruite in spiritu lenitatis, considerans teipsum, ne et tu tenteris. Alter alterius onera portate, et sic adimplebitis legem Christi. Nam si quis existimat se aliquid esse, cum nihil sit, ipse se seducit. Opus autem suum probet unusquisque, et sic in semetipso tantum gloriam habebit, et non in altero. Unusquisque enim onus suum portabit. Communicet autem is qui catechizatur verbo, ei qui se catechizat, in omnibus bonis. Nolite errare: Deus non irridetur. Quæ enim seminaverit homo, hæc et metet. Quoniam qui seminat in carne sua, de carne et metet corruptionem: qui autem seminat in spiritu, de spiritu metet vitam æternam. Bonum autem facientes, non deficiamus: tempore enim suo metemus non deficientes. Ergo dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum ad omnes, maxime autem ad domesticos fidei. Brethren: If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying on another. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’ s burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ. For if any man think himself to be some thing, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every one prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself only, and not in another. For every one shall bear his own burden. And let him that is instructed in the word, communicate to him that instructeth him, in all good things. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. and in doing good, let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing. Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Holy Church resumes the lesson of St. Paul, where she left it last Sunday. The Spiritual life, the life produced in our souls by the Holy Spirit, in place of the former life of the flesh—this is still the subject of the Apostle’s teaching. When the flesh has been subdued, we must take care and not suppose that the structure of our perfection is completed. Not only must the combat be kept up after the victory, under penalty of losing all we have won, but we must also be on the watch lest one or other of the heads of the triple concupiscence take advantage of the soul’s efforts being elsewhere directed, to raise itself against us, and sting us all the more terribly, because it is left to do just as it pleases. The Apostle warns us here of vainglory, and well he may; for vainglory is, more than other enemies, always in a menacing attitude, ready to infuse its subtle poison even into acts of humility and penance; hence the Christian, who is desirous to serve God and not his own gratification, by the virtues he practices, must keep up a specially active vigilance over this passion.

Just let us think, for a moment, on the madness that culprit would be guilty of who, having his sentence to death commuted for a severe flogging, should take pride in the stripes left on his body by the whip! May this madness never be ours! It would seem, however, as though it were far from being impossible, seeing how the Apostle, immediately after his telling us to mortify our flesh, bids us take heed of vainglory. In fact, we are not safe on this subject, excepting inasmuch as the outward humiliation, inflicted by us on our body has this for its principle, that our soul should voluntarily humble herself at the sight of her miseries. The ancient Philosophers, too, had their maxims about the restraint of the senses; but those among them who practiced those admirably worded maxims found them a stepping-stone for the pride to mount of mountains high in self-conceit. It could not be otherwise; for they were totally devoid of anything like the sentiments which actuated our Fathers in the faith who, when they clad themselves in sackcloth and prostrated on the ground, cried out from the heartfelt conviction of the miseries of human nature: Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy! for I was conceived in iniquities, and my sin is ever before me!

To practice bodily mortification with a view to get the reputation of being saints, is it not doing what St. Paul here calls sowing in the flesh, that in due time, that is, on the day, when the intentions of our hearts will be made manifest, we may reap not life and glory everlasting, but endless disgrace and shame? Among the works of the flesh mentioned in last Sunday’s Epistle, we found contentions, dissensions, jealousies, all of which are the ordinary outcome of this vainglory, against which the Apostle is now warning us. The production of such rotten fruits would be an unmistakable sign that the heavenly sap of grace had gone from our souls and that, in its stead, there had been brought the fermentation of sin; and that now, having made ourselves slaves, as of old, we must tremble because of the penalties threatened by God’s law. God is not mocked; and as to the confidence which generous fidelity of love imparts to those who live by the Spirit—it would, in the case we are now supposing, be but a hypocritical counterfeit of the holy liberty of the children of God. They alone are his children whom the Holy Spirit leads, and leads them in charity; those others are led on by the flesh, and such cannot please God.

If, on the contrary, we would have an equally unmistakable sign, which is quite compatible with the obscurities of faith that we are really in possession of divine Union, let us not take occasion from the sight of others’ defects and faults to be puffed up with pride, but rather, from the consideration of our own miseries, be indulgent to everyone else. If others fall, let us give them a helping and prudent hand. Let us bear one another’s burdens along the road of life, and then, having thus fulfilled the law of Christ, we shall know (and oh! the joy there is in such knowing!) that we abide in Him, and He in us. These most thrilling words, which were made use of by our Lord to express the future intimacy he would have with whomsoever should eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood in holy Communion, St. John, who had told them to us, takes them and uses them in his Epistles, and (let us mark the deep mystery of the application) applies them to whomsoever, in the Holy Ghost, observes the great commandment of loving his neighbor.

Would to God we could ever have ringing in our ears the saying of the Apostle: Whilst we have time, let us work good to all men! For the day will come, and it is not so very far off, when the Angel, carrying the mysterious Book, and having one foot on the earth and the other on the sea, shall make his mighty voice as that of a lion be heard through the universe and, with his hand lifted up towards heaven, shall swear by Him that liveth forever and ever, that time shall be no more! Then will man reap with joy what he shall have sown in tears; he failed not, he grew not weary of doing good while in the dreary land of his exile—still less will he ever tire of the everlasting harvest which is to be in the living light of the Eternal Day.

As we sing the Gradual, let us remember that the only praise which gives God pleasure is that which goes up to him from a soul where reigns the harmony of the several virtues. The christian life, which is regulated by the ten commandments, is the ten-stringed psaltery on which the Finger of God, who is the Holy Ghost, plays to the Spouse the music that he loves to hear.

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!
℣. Ad annuntiandum mane misericordiam tuam, et veritatem tuam per noctem. ℣. To show forth thy mercy in the morning, and thy truth in the night.
Alleluia, alleluia. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et rex magnus super omnem terram. Alleluia. ℣. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King over all the earth. Alleluia.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam. Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
Cap. vii. Ch. vii.
In illo tempore: Ibat Jesus in civitatem quæ vocatur Naim: et ibant cum eo discipuli ejus et turba copiosa. Cum autem appropinquaret portae civitatis, ecce defunctus efferebatur filius unicus matris suæ: et hæc vidua erat: et turba civitatis multa cum illa. Quam cum vidisset Dominus, misericordia motus super eam, dixit illi: Noli flere. Et accessit, et tetigit loculum. (Hi autem qui portabant, steterunt.) Et ait: Adolescens, tibi dico, surge. Et resedit qui erat mortuus, et coepit loqui. Et dedit illum matri suae. Accepit autem omnes timor: et magnificabant Deum, dicentes: Quia propheta magnus surrexit in nobis: et quia Deus visitavit plebem suam. At that time: Jesus went into a city that is called Naim; and there went with him his disciples, and a great multitude. And when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow: and a great multitude of the city was with her. Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, he said to her: Weep not. And he came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it, stood still. And he said: Young man, I say to thee, arise. And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. And there came a fear on them all: and they glorified God, saying: A great prophet is risen up among us: and, God hath visited his people!

This is the second time, during the Year, holy Church offers this Gospel to our consideration; we cannot be surprised at this, for the fathers selected by her as its interpreters tell us, on both of these occasions, that the afflicted mother who follows her son to the grave is the Church herself.

The first time we saw her under this symbol of a mother mourning for her child was in the penitential season of Lent. She was then, by her fasting and prayer (united as those were with her Jesus’ sufferings), preparing the resurrection of such of our brethren as were dead in sin. Their resurrection was realized, and we had them, in all the fullness of their new life, seated side by side with us at the Paschal Table. What exquisite joy on that Feast of Feasts inundated the Mother’s heart as she thus shared in the triumphant gladness of her divine Spouse! He, her Jesus was, by his one Resurrection, twice over the conqueror of death—he rose from the grave, and he gave back the child to the Mother. The Disciples if this Risen Lord, who follow him closely by their observance of the evangelical counsels, yes, they, and the whole multitude that associated themselves with the Church, glorified Jesus for his wonderful works and sang the praises of that God who thus vouchsafed to visit his people.

The Mother ceased to weep. But since then, the Spouse has again left her to return to his Father; she has resumed her widow’s weeds, and her sufferings are continually adding to the already well-nigh insupportable torture of her exile. And whence these sufferings? From the relapses of so many of those ungrateful children of hers to whom she had given a second birth and at the cost of such pains and tears! The countless cares she then spent over her sinners, and that new life she gave them in the presence of her dying Jesus—all this made each of the penitents, during the Great Week, as though he were the only son of that Mother. What an intense grief, says St. John Chrysostom, that so loving a Mother should see them relapsing, after the communion of such mysteries, into sin which kills them! “Spare me,”—as she may well say, in the words which the holy Doctor puts into the Apostle’s mouth—”Spare me! No other child, once born into this world, ever made his Mother suffer the pangs of childbirth over again!” To repair the relapse of a sinner costs her no less travail than the giving birth to such as had never believed.

And if we compare these times of ours with the period when sainted Pastors made her words be respected all over the world—is there a single Christian who is still faithful to the Church who does not feel impelled, by such contrast, to be more and more devoted to a Mother so abandoned as she now is? Let us listen to the eloquent words of St. Laurence Justinian on this subject. “Then,” says he in his De compuncti et planctu christianem perfectus, “all resplendent with the mystic jewels wherewith the Bridegroom had beautified her on the wedding day, she thrilled with joy at the increase of her children, both in merit and number; she urged them to ascend to ever greater heights; she offered them to God, she raised them, in her arms, up towards heaven. Obeyed by them, she was, in all truth, the mother of fair love and fear; she was beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array. She stretched out her branches as the turpentine-tree, and beneath their shadow, she sheltered them she had begotten, against the heat, and the tempest, and the rain. So long, then, as she could, she labored, feeding at her breasts all those she was able to assemble. But her zeal, great as it was, has redoubled from the time she perceived that many, yea very many, had lost their first fervor. Now for many years, she is mourning at the sight of how, each day, her Creator is offended, how great are the losses she sustains, and how so many of her children suffer death. She that was once robed in scarlet has put on mourning garments; her fragrance is no longer felt by the world; instead of a golden girdle, she has but a cord, and instead of the rich ornament of her breast, she is vested in haircloth. Her lamentations and tears are ceaseless. Ceaseless is her prayer, striving if, by some way, she may make the present as beautiful as in times past; and yet, as thou it were impossible for her to call back that lovely past, she seems wearied at such supplication. The word of the prophet has come true: They are all gone aside, they are become unprofitable together; there is none that doth good, no, not one! … The manifold sins committed by the Church’s children against the divine precepts show that they who so sin are rotten members, members alien to the body of Christ. Nevertheless, the Church forgets not that she gave them birth in the laver of salvation; she forgets not the promises they then made to renounce the devil, and the pomps of the world, and all sin. Therefore does she weep over their fall, being their true mother, and never losing the hope of winning their resurrection by her tears. O what a flood of tears is thus every day shed before God! What fervent prayers does not this spotless virgin send, by the ministry of the holy Angels, up to Christ, who is the salvation of sinners! In the secret of hearts in lonely retreats, as well as in her public temples, she cries out to the divine mercy that they who are now buried in the filth of vice may be restored to life. Who shall tell the joy of her heart, when she receives back living the children she mourned over as dead? If the conversion of sinners is such a joy to heaven, what must it be to such a Mother? According to the multitude of the sorrows of her heart, so will be the consolations, giving joy to her soul.”

It is the duty of us Christians, who, by God’s mercy, have been preserved from the general decay to share in the anguish of our Mother, the Church; we should humbly but fervently cooperate with her in all her zealous endeavors to reclaim our fallen brethren. We surely can never be satisfied with not being the number of those senseless sons who are a sorrow to their Mother, and despise the labor of her that bore them. Had we not the Holy Spirit to tell us how he that honoreth his Mother is as one that layeth up to himself a treasure—the thought of what our birth cost her would force us to do everything that lies in our power to comfort her. She is the dear Bride of the Incarnate Word; and our souls, too, aspire to union with Him; let us prove that such Union is really ours by doing as the Church does—that is, by showing in our acts the one thought, the one love, which the divine Spouse always imparts to souls that enjoy holy intimacy with him, because there is nothing he Himself has so much at heart—the thought of bringing the whole world to give glory to his Eternal Father, and the love of procuring salvation for sinners.

Let us unite with the Church, our Mother, in singing now in the Offertory, the realization, in part at least, of her expectations; let not our lips ever be shut up in senseless silence, when we have our God bestowing favors on us.

Exspectans exspectavi Dominum, et respexit me: et exaudivit deprecationem meam, et immisit in os meum canticum novum, hymnum Deo nostro. With expectation, I have waited for the Lord, and he was attentive to me: and he heard my prayer; and he put a new canticle into my mouth, a song to our God.

In the Secret let us put ourselves, and everything that belongs to us, under the custody, the keeping all-powerful, of the divine Mysteries.

Tua nos, Domine, sacramenta custodiant: et contra diabolicos semper tueantur incursus. Per Dominum. May thy mysteries, O Lord, be custody unto us: and always defend us against the attacks of the devil. Through, etc.

The other Secrets, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

Jesus’ word called back from death the son of the widow of Naim; his Flesh is the Life of the world, for it is the Bread, whose praise we are now to celebrate in our Communion-Anthem.

Panis, quem ego dedero, caro mea est pro sæculi vita. The bread, which I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world.

Divine Union is not perfect in us, unless the Mystery of love so predominates over both our minds and bodies, as that they be fully possessed by it as our Mother here words its efficacy; we must be influenced and directed by it, and not by nature, that is, by the dictates of flesh and blood and human sense.

Mentes nostras et corpora possideat, quæsumus Domine, doni cœlestis operatio: ut non noster sensus in nobid, sed jugiter ejus præveniat effectus. Per Dominum. May the operation of the heavenly Gift possess our minds and bodies, we beseech thee, O Lord: that our own sense may not rule us, but may the efficiency (of that Gift) ever take the lead in us. Through, etc.

The other Postcommunion, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.


This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)