The number of the Sundays after Pentecost may exceed twenty-four, and go up as far as twenty-eight, according as Easter is each Year, more or less near to the vernal equinox. But the Mass here given is always reserved for the last; and the intervening ones, be their number what it may, are taken from the Sundays after the Epiphany, which in that case were not used at the beginning of the year. This, however, does not apply to the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion, which, as we have already said, are repeated from the twenty-third Sunday.
We have seen how that Mass of the twenty-third Sunday was regarded by our forefathers as really the last of the Cycle. Abbot Rupert has given us the profound meaning of its several parts. According to the teaching we have already pondered over, the reconciliation of Juda was shown us as being, in time, the term intended by God: the last notes of the sacred Liturgy blended with the last scene of the world’s history, as seen and known by God. The end proposed by eternal Wisdom, in the world’s creation, and mercifully continued after the Fall by the mystery of Redemption, has now (we speak of the Church’s Year and God’s workings) been fully carried out—this end was no other than that of divine Union with Human Nature, making it one in the unity of one only body. (Ephesians 2:16) Now that the two antagonist-people, gentile and jew, are brought together in the one same New Man in Christ Jesus their Head, (Ephesians 2:15) the Two Testaments, which so strongly marked the distinction between the ages of time, the one called the Old, the other the New—yes, these Two Testaments fade away and give place to the glory of the Eternal Alliance.
It was here, therefore, that Mother Church formerly finished her Liturgical Year. She was delighted at what she had done during all the past months; that is, at having led her children not only to have a thorough appreciation of the divine plan, which she had developed before then in her celebrations, but moreover, and more especially, to unite them themselves by a veritable Union to their Jesus, by a real communion of views and interests and loves. On this account, she used not to revert again to the second Coming of the God-Man and the Last Judgment, two great subjects which she had proposed for her children’s reflections, at the commencement of the Purgative Life, that is, her season of Advent. It is only since a few centuries that, with a view of giving to her Year a conclusion more defined and intelligible to the Faithful of these comparatively recent times, she closes the Cycle with the prophetic description of the dread Coming of her Lord, which is to put an end to Time and open Eternity. From time immemorial, St. Luke had had the office of announcing, in Advent, the approach of the Last Judgment; (Gueranger, First Sunday of Advent) the Evangelist St. Matthew was selected for this its second, and more detailed, description, on the last Sunday after Pentecost.
The Lord saith: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction; ye shall call upon me, and I will hear you: and bring back your captive people from all places.
Ps. Thou, O Lord, hast blessed thy land: thou hast brought back the captive children of Jacob. Glory, &c. The Lord.
The doing of good works, by the help of divine grace, prepares us to receive a still greater grace, for greater works in the future. In the Collect, let us unite with our Mother, the Church, in praying for an efficacious influence of the divine Mover upon our Wills.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy Faithful; that, becoming more zealous as to the fruit of the divine Work, they may receive the greater remedies of thy goodness. Through, etc.
The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle, to the Colossians 1:9-14
Thanksgiving, and Prayer! There we have the epitome of our Epistle, and an eloquent conclusion of the Apostle’s course of instructions: it is also both summary and conclusion of the Year of the sacred Liturgy. The Doctor of the Gentiles has been zealous beyond measure in his fulfillment of the task assigned to him by Mother Church. Of a certainty, the fault is not his if the souls her undertook to guide, on the morrow of the descent of the Spirit of Love, have not all reached that summit of perfection which he longed we should all get up to! Those who have gone bravely forward in the path which, a year since, was opened out to them by holy Church, now, by a happy experience, know that that path most surely leads them to the life of Union, where divine charity reigns supreme! Who is there that, with anything like earnestness, has allowed his mind and heart to take an interest in the several Liturgical Seasons, which have been brought before us and been celebrated by the Church during the past twelve months, has not also felt an immense increase of light imparted to him? Now, light is that indispensable element which delivers us from the power of darkness, and translates us, by the help of God, into the kingdom of the Son of his love. The work of redemption, which this his beloved Son came down upon earth to accomplish for his Father’s glory, could not do otherwise than make progress in those who have, with more or less fervor, entered into the spirit of his Church during the whole Year, that is, from the opening of Advent, right up to these the closing days of the sacred Cycle. All of us, then, whosoever we may be, should give thanks to this Father of Lights, (James 1:17) who hath thus made us worthy to be partakers,somewhat at least, of the lot of the Saints.
So, then, all of us, be the share of such participation what it may—yes, all of us must pray, that the excellent gift (James 1:17) which has been put into our hearts may fervent yield itself to the still richer development, which the coming new Cycle is intended to produce within us.
The just man cannot possibly remain stationary in this world; he must either descend or ascend; and whatever may be the degree of perfection to which grace has led him, he must be ever going still higher, (Psalm 83:6) as long as he is left in this life. The Colossians, to whom the Apostle was writing, had fully received the Gospel: the word of truth, which had been sown in them, had produced abundant fruit in faith, hope, and love: (Colossians 1:4-6) and yet, instead of relenting, on that account, his solicitude in their regard, it is precisely for that reason that St. Paul, who had prayed for them up to then, ceases not to go on praying for them. So let us do—let us go on praying. Let us beg of God that he will again, and always, fill us with his divine Wisdom, and with the Spirit of understanding. (Colossians 1:9) We need all that, in order to correspond with his merciful designs. If the new Year of the Church, which is so soon to begin, find us faithful and making fresh progress, we shall be repaid with new aspects of Truth in the garden of the Spouse, and the fruits we shall produce there will be more plentiful, and far sweeter, than in any bygone Year. Therefore, let us make up our minds to walk worthy of God “with dilated hearts,” (Rule of St Benedict, Prologue) and bravely, for the eye of his approving love will be ever upon us as we toil along. Oh, yes! let us run on in that uphill path which will lead us to eternal repose in the Beatific Vision!
Thou hast saved us, O Lord, from them that afflict us: and hast put them to shame that hate us.
℣. In God shall we glory all the day long; and, in thy name, we will give praise forever.
℣. Out of the depths I have cried unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer. Alleluia.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 24:15-35
Several times, during Advent, we meditated on the circumstances which are to accompany the Last Coming of Christ our Lord; and in a few days, the same great teachings will be again brought before us, filling our souls with a salutary fear. May we, then, be permitted, on this last Sunday of our Liturgical Year, to address ourselves in a prayer of desire and praise to our adorable Lord and King, the solemn honor whose Judgment is to be the consummation of his work, and the signal of his triumph.
Oh Jesus! who then art to come to deliver thy Church and avenge that God who has so long borne every sort of insult from his creature man, that day of thy coming will indeed be terrible to the sinner! He will then understand how the Lord hath made all things for himself, all, even the ungodly who, on the evil day, is to show forth the divine justice. (Proverbs 16:4) The whole world, fighting on his side against the wicked (Wisdom 5:21) shall then, at last, be avenged for that slavery of sin, which had been forced upon it. (Romans 8:21) Vainly will the wicked cry out to the rocks to fall upon them and hide them from the face of him who then be seated on his throne: (Apocalypse 6:16) the abyss will refuse to engulf them: in obedience to him who holds the keys of death and hell, (Apocalypse 1:18) it will give forth, to a man, its wretched victims and set them at the foot of the dread tribunal. O Jesus, how magnificent will not thy power then appear! The heavenly hosts will also be standing around thee, forming thy brilliant court (Apocalypse 19:4) and assembling thy elect from the four quarters of the earth.
For we also, we thy redeemed, who had become thy members by becoming the members of thy beloved Church—we are to be there on that day, and our place, O ineffable mystery! is to be the one thou hast reserved for thy Bride, it is to be thy own throne, (Apocalypse 3:21) where seated, we shall judge the very angels. (1 Corinthians 6:3) Even now, all those blessed of the Father, (Matthew 25:34) all those elect, whose youth, like that of the eagle, has been so often renewed (Psalm 102:5) by their receiving thy precious Blood—have they not had their eyes fitted to gaze, and without being dazzled, on the Sun of Justice, when he shall appear in the heavens? The tediousness of their long exile has given such keenness to their hunger that nothing will have power to stay their flight, once the sacred prey of thy divine Body shall be shown them! What hindrance could be strong enough to check the impetuosity of the love (Song of Solomon 8:6) which will bring them all together to the banquet of the eternal Pasch? The trumpet of the Archangel, which will ring through the graves of the just, is to be a summons calling them not to death, but to life—to the sight of the old enemy’s destruction (1 Corinthians 15:8) —to a redemption, which is to include their very bodies (Romans 8:23) —to the unimpeded passover to the true Land of promise—in a word, to the Pasch, and this tie, quite real, and for all, and forever. What will not be the joy of that true Day of the Lord! (Psalm 117:4) —what joy for them that have, by faith, lived in Christ and loved him without seeing him! (1 Peter 1:8) Identifying themselves with thee, O Jesus, notwithstanding the weakness of the flesh, they have continued here below thy life of suffering and humiliation: what a triumph when, delivered forever from sin and vested in their immortal bodies, they shall be borne aloft before thy face, that they may forever be with thee! (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
But their chiefest joy on that great Day will be to assist at the glorification of their most dear Lord by the manifestation of the power which was given to him over all flesh. (John 17:2) It is to be then, O Emmanuel! that, crushing the heads of kings and making thine enemies thy footstool, (Psalm 109) thou wilt be shown as the one Ruler of all nations. (Psalm 2) It is to be then that heaven and earth and hell will bow their knee (Philippians 2:10) before that Son of Man who heretofore appeared on earth as a slave, and was judged and condemned and put to death between two thieves; it is to be then, dear Jesus, that thou wilt judge the unjust judges, to whom, even in the midst of all the humiliations they put on thee, thou didst foretell this thy Coming on the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64) And when, after the irrevocable sentence has been passed, the wicked shall go to everlasting torments and the just to life eternal, (Matthew 25:46) thy Apostle tells us that having conquered thine enemies and been proclaimed undisputed King, thou wilt consign to thy eternal Father this thy Kingdom won over death; it will be the perfect homage of thee, the Head, and of all thy faithful members. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) God will thus be all in all. It will be the perfect accomplishment of that sublime prayer thou taughtest mankind to make, which they daily offer up to the Father who is in heaven, and say to him: Hallowed be thy name! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven! (Matthew 6:9-10) O blissfully peaceful Day, when blasphemy is to cease, and when this poor earth of ours, cleansed by fire from the filth of sin, shall be turned into a new paradise! Where, then, is the Christian, who would not thrill with emotion at the thought of that last of all the Days of time, which is to usher in beautiful Eternity? Who would not despise the agonies of his own last hour, when he reflects that those sufferings have really only one meaning in them—that is, as the Gospel words it, that the Son of Man is nigh even at the very doors!
O sweet Jesus, detach us, every Year, more and more from this world, whose fashion passeth away, (1 Corinthians 7:31) with its vain toils, its false glories, and its lying pleasures. It was thine own foretelling that, as in the days of Noe and Sodom, men will go on with their feasting and business and amusements, without giving any more thought to thy approaching Coming than their forefathers heeded the threat of the Deluge, or of the fire which came upon them and destroyed them. (Luke 17:26-30) Let these men go on with their merry-making and their sending gifts one to the other, as thine Apocalypse expresses it, because, so they will have it, Christ and his Church are then to be worn-out ideas! (Apocalypse 11:10) While they are tyrannizing over thy holy City in a thousand varied ways, and persecuting her as no past period had ever done, they little think that all this is an announcement of the Eternal Nuptials, which are nigh at hand. All these trials were the fresh jewels which the Bride was to have on her before all her beauty was complete; and the blood of her last Martyrs was to incarnadine her already splendid robes with all the richness of royal crimson. As for us, we lend an ear to the echoes of our home above; and from the throne of our God, we hear going forth the voice heard by thy beloved Prophet of Patmos: Give praise unto our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, little and great! Alleluia! For the Lord our God the almighty hath reigned! Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory unto him; for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and his Wife hath prepared herself! (Apocalypse 19:5-7) Yet a little while till the number of our brethren be made up, (Apocalypse 6:11) and then, with the Spirit and the Bride, we will say to thee, in all the ardor of our souls that have long thirsted after thee: Come, Lord Jesus! (Apocalypse 22:17) Come, and perfect us in love, by Union eternal, unto the glory of the Father, and of thyself the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever!
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer: out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord!
In the Secret, let us ask of God that on the approach of the Last Judgment, he turn all hearts towards himself, and vouchsafe to make our earthly desires give place to the desire for, and relish of, heavenly things.
Mercifully hear our supplications, O Lord: and, having received the offerings and prayers of thy people, turn the hearts of us all unto thee; that, being freed from earthly desires, we may come to desire heavenly things. Through, etc.
The other Secrets, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
May the divine Sacrament, as is the Church’s petition in the Postcommunion, fully cure, by its virtue, whatsoever there may remain faulty in our souls, at this close of the Year!
Amen I say unto you,—all things whatsoever ye ask for when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive, and it shall be done unto you.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that whatsoever be faulty in our souls, may be cured by the virtue of the mysteries we have received. Through, etc.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)