Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sunday within the Octave of Christmas

INTROIT Sap. 18:14-15
While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Your Almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from heaven, from Your royal throne.
Ps. 92:1. The Lord reigns, robed in beauty. The Lord is clothed and girt about with strength.
V. Glory be . . .

O Almighty and Eternal God, direct our actions according to Your holy will, so that, in the name of Your beloved Son, we may lead lives that are marked by good deeds; who lives and rules with You . . .

Commemoration of the Octave of CHRISTMAS
O Almighty God, free us from the old bondage and yoke of sin by Your only-begotten Son's new birth as man. Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE Gal. 4:1-7
Brethren: As long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father. So we also, when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: that he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: "Abba, Father". Therefore, now he is not a servant, but a son. And if a son, an heir also through God.

GRADUAL Ps. 44:3, 2
You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured out upon your lips.
V. My heart overflows with good tidings; I sing my song to the king; my tongue is as nimble as the pen of a skillful scribe.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 92:1
The Lord reigns, robed in beauty. The Lord is clothed with strength, and he has girded himself about with power.

GOSPEL Luke 2:33-40
At that time, And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: "Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed."
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser. She was far advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years: who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord: and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel.
And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the child grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him.

God has made the world firm, and it shall not be shaken. Your throne, O God, is prepared from of old; You are from eternity.

Grant that the gifts we offer to Your majesty, O Almighty God, may obtain for us the grace of sincere devotion and the reward of a blessed eternity. Through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the Octave of Christmas
Bless these gifts we offer You, O Lord, by the new birth of Your only-begotten Son. May they cleanse us from the stain of our sins. Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord . . .

Take the Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel, for those who sought the Child's life are dead.

O Lord, may this sacred rite wash away our sins and fulfill our reasonable desires. Through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the Octave of CHRISTMAS
O Almighty God, may the Savior of the world, who came upon earth this day to bring us the Gift of supernatural life, bestow on us also the treasure of eternal life; who lives and rules with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Dom Gueranger - Practice during Christmas

From The Liturgical Year.

The time has now come for the faithful soul to reap the fruit of the efforts she made during the penitential weeks of Advent to prepare a dwelling-place for the Son of God, who desires to be born within her. The Nuptials of the Lamb are come, and his Spouse hath prepared herself [Apoc. xix 7]. Now the Spouse is the Church; the Spouse is also every faithful soul. Our Lord gives his whole self to the whole flock, and to each sheep of the flock with as much love as though he loved but that one. What garments shall we put on, to go and meet the Bridegroom? Where shall we find the pearls and jewels wherewith to deck our soul for this happy meeting? Our holy Mother the Church will tell us all this in her Liturgy. Our best plan for spending Christmas is, undoubtedly, to keep close to her, and do what she does; for she is most dear to God, and being our Mother, we ought to obey all her injunctions.

But, before we speak of the mystic Coming of the Incarnate Word into our souls; before we tell the secrets of that sublime familiarity between the Creator and the Creature; let us, first, learn from the Church the duties which human nature and each of our souls owes to the Divine Infant, whom the Heavens have at length given to us as the refreshing Dew we asked them to rain down upon our earth. During Advent, we united with the Saints of the Old Law, in praying for the coming of the Messias, our Redeemer; now that he is come, let us consider what is the homage we must pay him.

The Church offers to the Infant-God, during this holy season, the tribute of her profound adoration, the enthusiasm of her exceeding joy, the return of her unbounded gratitude, and the fondness of her intense love. These four offerings, adoration, joy, gratitude, and love, must be also those of every Christian to his Jesus, his Emmanuel, the Babe of Bethlehem. The prayers of the Liturgy will express all four sentiments in a way that no other Devotions could do. But, the better to appropriate to ourselves these admirable formulas of the Church, let us understand thoroughly the nature of each of these four sentiments.

The first of our duties at our Saviour’s Crib is Adoration. Adoration is Religion’s first act; but there is something in the Mystery of our Lord’s Birth which seems to make this duty doubly necessary. In heaven the Angels veil their faces, and prostrate themselves before the throne of Jehovah; the Four-and-Twenty Elders are for ever casting their crowns before the throne [Apoc. iv 10] of the Lamb; what, then, shall we do - we who are sinners, and unworthy members of the Tribe of the Redeemer - now that this same great God shows himself to us, humbled for our sakes, and stript of all his glory? now that the duties of the creature to his Creator are fulfilled by the Creator himself? now that the eternal God bows down not only before the Sovereign Majesty of the Godhead, but even before sinful man, his creature?

Let us endeavour to make, by our profound adorations, some return to the God who thus humbles himself for us; let us thus give him back some little of that whereof he has deprived himself out of love for us, and in obedience to the will of his Father. It is incumbent on us to emulate, as far as possible, the sentiments of the Angels in heaven, and never to approach the Divine Infant without bringing with us the incense of our soul's adoration, the protestation of our own extreme unworthiness, and lastly, the homage of our whole being. All this is due to the infinite Majesty of the Babe of Bethlehem, who is the more worthy of every tribute we can pay him, because he has made himself thus little for our sakes. Unhappy we, if the apparent weakness of the Divine Child, or the familiarity wherewith he is ready to caress us, should make us negligent in this our first duty, or forget what he is, and what we are!

The example of his Blessed Mother will teach us to be thus humble. Mary was humble in the presence of her God, even before she became his Mother; but, once his Mother, she comported herself before him who was her God and her Child with greater humility than ever. We too, poor sinners, sinners so long and so often, we must adore with all the power of our soul him who has come down so low: we must study to find out how by our self-humiliation to make him amends for this Crib, these swathing-bands, this eclipse of his glory. And yet all our humiliations will never bring us so low as that we shall be on a level with his lowliness. No; only God could reach the humiliations of God.

But our Mother, the Church, does not only offer to the Infant God the tribute of her profound adoration. The mystery of Emmanuel, that is, of God with us, is to her a source of singular joy. Look at her sublime Canticles for this holy Season, and you will find the two sentiments admirably blended - her deep reverence for her God, and her glad joy at his Birth. Joy! did not the very Angels come down and urge her to it? She therefore studies to imitate the blithe Shepherds, who ran for joy to Bethlehem [St Luke ii 16], and the glad Magi, who were well-nigh out of themselves with delight when, on quitting Jerusalem, the star again appeared and led them to the Cave where the Child was [St Matt. ii 10]. Joy at Christmas is a Christian instinct, which originated those many Carols,which, like so many other beautiful traditions of the ages of Faith, are unfortunately dying out amongst us; but which Rome still encourages, gladly welcoming each year those rude musicians, the Pifferari, who come down from the Apennines, and make the streets of the Eternal City re-echo with their shrill melodies.

Come, then, faithful Children of the Church, let us take our share in her joy! This is not the season for sighing or for weeping. For unto us a Child is born! [Isa. ix 6]. He for whom we have been so long waiting is come; and he is come to dwell among us [St John i 14]. Great, indeed, and long was our suspense; so much the more let us love our possessing him. The day will too soon come when this Child, now born to us, will be the Man of Sorrows [Isa. liii 3], and then we will compassionate him; but at present we must rejoice and be glad at his coming and sing round his Crib with the Angels. Heaven sends us a present of its own joy: we need joy, and forty days are not too many for us to get it well into our hearts. The Scripture tells us that a secure mind is like a continual feast  [Prov. xv 15], and a secure mind can only be where there is peace; now it is Peace which these blessed days bring to the earth; Peace, say the Angels, to men of good will!

Intimately and inseparably united with this exquisite mystic joy is the sentiment of gratitude. Gratitude is indeed due to him who, neither deterred by our unworthiness nor restrained by the infinite respect which becomes his sovereign Majesty, deigned to be born of his own creature, and have a stable for his birth-place. Oh! how vehemently must he not have desired to advance the work of our salvation, to remove everything which could make us afraid of approaching him, and to encourage us, by his own example, to return, by the path of humility, to the heaven we had strayed from by pride!

Gratefully, therefore, let us receive the precious gift - this Divine Babe, our Deliverer. He is the Only- Begotten Son of the Father, that Father who hath so loved the world as to give his only Son[St John iii 16]. He, the Son, unreservedly ratifies his Father’s will, and comes to offer himself because it is his own will [Isa. liii 7]. How, as the Apostle expresses it, hath not the Father with him given us all things? [Rom. viii 32]. O gift inestimable! How shall we be able to repay it by suitable gratitude, we who are so poor as not to know how to appreciate it? God alone, and the Divine Infant in his Crib, know the value of the mystery of Bethlehem, which is given to us.

Shall our debt, then, never be paid? Not so: we can pay it by love, which, though finite, gives itself without measure, and may grow for ever in intensity. For this reason, the Church, after she has offered her adorations and hymns and gratitude, to her Infant Saviour, gives him also her tenderest Love. She says to him: ‘How beautiful art thou, my Beloved One, and how comely! [Cant. i 15]. How sweet to me is thy rising, O Divine Sun of Justice! How my heart glows in the warmth of thy beams! Nay, dearest Jesus, the means thou usest for gaining me over to thyself are irresistible - the feebleness and humility of a Child!’ Thus do all her words end in love; and her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving, when she expresses them in her Canticles, are transformed into love.

Christians! let us imitate our Mother, and give our hearts to our Emmanuel. The Shepherds offer him their simple gifts, the Magi bring him their rich presents, and no one must appear before the Divine Infant without something worthy his acceptance. Know, then, that nothing will please him, but that which he came to seek - our love. It was for this that he came down from heaven. Hard indeed is that heart which can say, He shall not have my love!

These, then, are the duties we owe to our Divine Master in this his first Coming, which, as St Bernard says, is in the flesh and in weakness, and is for the salvation, not for the judgement, of the world.

As regards that other Coming, which is to be in majesty and power on the Last Day, we have meditated upon it during Advent. The fear of the Wrath to come should have roused our souls from their lethargy, and have prepared them, by humility of heart, to receive the visit of Jesus in that secret Coming which he makes to the soul of man. It is the ineffable mystery of this intermediate Coming that we are now going to explain.

We have shown elsewhere how the time of Advent belongs to that period of the spiritual life which is called, in Mystic Theology, the Purgative Life, during which the soul cleanses herself from sin and the occasions of sin, by the fear of God’s judgements, and by combating against evil concupiscence. We are taking it for granted that every faithful soul has journeyed through these rugged paths, which must be gone through before she could be admitted to the Feast to which the Church invites all mankind, saying to them, on the Saturday of the Second Week of Advent, these words of the Prophet Isaias: Lo! this is our God: we hare waited for him, and he will save us. We have patiently waited for him, and we shall rejoice and be joyful in his Salvation! [Isa. xxv 9]. As in the house of our heavenly Father there are many mansions [St John xiv 2], so likewise, on the grand Solemnity of Christmas, when those words of Isaias are realized, the Church sees, amongst the countless throng who receive the Bread of Life, a great variety of sentiments and dispositions. Some were dead, and the graces given during the holy Season of Advent have restored them to life: others, whose spiritual life had long been healthy, have so spent their Advent that its holy exercises have redoubled their love of their Lord, and their entrance into Bethlehem has been to them a renewal of their soul’s life.

Now every soul that has been admitted to Bethlehem, that is to say, into the House of Bread, and has been united with him who is the Light of the World - that soul no longer walks in darkness. The mystery of Christmas is one of Illumination; and the grace it produces in the soul that corresponds with it, places her in the second stage of the mystic Life, which is called the Illuminative Life.Henceforward, then, we need no longer weary ourselves watching for our Saviour’s arrival; he has come, he has shone upon us, and we are resolved to keep up the light, nay, to cherish its growth within us, in proportion as the Liturgical Year unfolds its successive seasons of mysteries and graces. God grant that we may reflect in our souls the Church’s progressive development of this divine Light; and he led by its brightness to that Union which crowns both the year of the Church, and the faithful soul which has spent the year under the Church’s guidance!

But, in the mystery of Christmastide, this Light is given to us, so to speak, softened down; our weakness required that it should be so. It is indeed the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father, that we are invited to know and imitate; but this Word, this Wisdom, are shown us under the appearance of a Child. Let nothing keep us from approaching him. We might fear were he seated on a throne in his palace; but he is lying on a crib in a stable! Were it the time of his Fatigues, his Bloody Sweat, his Cross, his Burial, or even of his Glory and his Victory, we might say we had not courage enough: but what courage is needed to go near him in Bethlehem, where all is sweetness and silence, and a simple Little Babe! Come to Him, says the Psalmist, and be enlightened! [Ps. xxxiii 6].

Where shall we find an interpreter of the twofold mystery which is wrought at this holy season - the mystery of the Infancy of Jesus in the soul of man, and the mystery of the infancy of man’s soul in his Jesus? None of the Holy Fathers has so admirably spoken upon it as St Leo: let us listen to his grand words.

‘Although that Childhood, which the majesty of the Son of God did not disdain to assume, has developed, by growth of age, into the fulness of the perfect man, and, the triumph of his Passion and Resurrection having been achieved, all the humiliations he submitted to for our sakes are passed; nevertheless, the Feast we are now keeping brings back to us the sacred Birth of the Virgin Mary’s Child, Jesus our Lord. So that whilst adoring his Birth, we are, in truth, celebrating our own commencement of life; for the Generation of Christ is the origin of the Christian people, and the Birth Day of him that is our Head is the Birth Day of us that are his Body. It is true, that each Christian has his own rank, and the children of the Church are born each in their respective times; yet the whole mass of the Faithful, once having been regenerated in the font of Baptism, are born, on this Day of Christmas, together with Christ; just as they are crucified together with him in his Passion, and have risen together with his Resurrection, and in his Ascension are placed at the right hand of the Father. For every believer, no matter in what part of the world he may be living, is born again in Christ; his birth according to nature is not taken into account; he becomes a new man by his second birth; neither is he any longer called of the family of his father in the flesh, but of the family of our Redeemer, who unto this was made a Son of Man, that we might become the Sons of God.’ [Sixth Sermon On the Nativity of our Lord, Ch. 2].

Yes, this is the Mystery achieved in us by the holy Season of Christmas! It is expressed in those words of the passage from St John’s Gospel which the Church has chosen for the third Mass of the great Feast: As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the Sons of God, to them that believe in his name; who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God [St John i 22]. So that all they who, having purified their souls, freed themselves from the slavery of flesh and blood, and renounced everything which is of man, inasmuch as man means sinner, wish now to open their hearts to the Divine Word, that is, to the LIGHT which shineth in darkness, which darkness did not comprehend [Ibid. i 5], these, I say, are born with Jesus; they are born of God; they begin a new life, as did the Son of God himself in this mystery of his Birth in Bethlehem.

How beautiful are these first beginnings of the Christian Life! How great is the glory of Bethlehem, that is, of our holy Mother the Church, the true House of Bread! for in her midst there is produced, during these days of Christmas, and everywhere throughout the world, a countless number of sons of God. Oh! the unceasing vitality of our mysteries! As the Lamb, who was slain from the beginning of the world [Apoc. xiii 8], sacrifices himself without ceasing, ever since his real sacrifice; so also, once born of the Holy Virgin his Mother, he makes it a part of his glory to be ceaselessly born in the souls of men. We are not, therefore, to think for a moment that the dignity of Mary’s divine Maternity is lessened, or that our souls enjoy the same grand honour which was granted to her: far from that, ‘let us,’ as Venerable Bede says, ‘raise our voice from amid the crowd, as did the woman in the Gospel, and say to our Saviour, with the Catholic Church, of which that woman was the type: Blessed is the Womb that bore thee, and the Breasts that gave thee suck!’ [Commentary on St Luke, Bk. 4, Ch. 49]. Mary’s prerogative is indeed incommunicable, and it makes her the Mother of God, and the Mother of men. But we must also remember the answer made by our Saviour to the woman, who spoke those words: Yea rather, said Jesus, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it [St Matt. xii 50], ‘hereby declaring,’ continues Venerable Bede, ‘that not only is she blessed, who merited to conceive in the flesh the Word of God, but they also who endeavour to conceive this same Word spiritually, by the hearing of faith, and to give him birth and nourish him by keeping and doing what is good, either in their own or their neighbour’s heart. For the Mother of God herself was Blessed in that she was made, for a time, the minister to the wants of the Incarnate Word; but much more Blessed was she, in that she was and ever will be the keeper and doer of the love due to that same her Son.’

Is it not this same truth which our Lord teaches us on that other occasion, where he says: Whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother?[St Matt xii 50]. And why was the Angel sent to Mary in preference to all the rest of the daughters of Israel, but because she had already conceived the Divine Word in her heart by the vehemence of her Undivided love, the greatness of her profound humility and the incomparable merit of her virginity? Why again, is this Blessed among women holy above all creatures, but because, having once conceived and brought forth a Son of God, she continues for ever his Mother, by her fidelity in doing the will of the heavenly Father, by her love for the uncreated light of the Divine Word, and by her union as Spouse with the Spirit of sanctification?

But no member of the human race is excluded from the honour of imitating Mary, though at a humble distance, in this her spiritual Maternity: for, by that real birth which she gave him in Bethlehem, which we are now celebrating, and which initiated the world into the mysteries of God, this ever Blessed Mother of Jesus has shown us how we may bear the resemblance of her own grand prerogative. We ought to have prepared the way of the Lord [St Matt. iii 3; Isa. xl 3] during the weeks of Advent; and if so, our hearts have conceived him: therefore now our good works must bring him forth, that thus our heavenly Father, seeing not us ourselves, but his own Son Jesus now living within us, may say of each of us, in his mercy, what he heretofore said in very truth of the Incarnate Word: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased [St Matt. iii 17].

Let us give ear to the words of the Seraphic St Bonaventure, who in one of his sermons for Christmas Day thus explains the mystery of the birth of Jesus in the soul of man: ‘This happy birth happens when the soul, prepared by long thought and reflection, passes at length to action; when the flesh being made subject to the spirit, good works are produced in due time: then do interior peace and joy return to the soul. In this birth there is neither travail nor pain nor fear; everything is admiration and delight and glory. If then, O devout soul! thou art desirous for this birth, imagine thyself to be like Mary. Mary signifies bitterness; bitterly bewail thy sins: it signifies illuminatrix, be thou illumined by thy virtues: and lastly, it signifies Mistress; learn how to be mistress and controller of thy evil passions. Then will Christ be born of thee, and oh! with what happiness to thyself ! For it is then that the soul tastes and sees how sweet is her Lord Jesus. She experiences this sweetness when, in holy meditation, she nourishes this Divine Infant; when she covers him with her tears; when she clothes him with her holy longings; when she presses him to her heart in the embrace of holy tenderness; when, in a word, she cherishes him in the warmth of her glowing love. O happy Crib of Bethlehem in thee I find the King of glory: but happier still than thou, the pious soul which holds within itself him whom thou couldst hold but corporally!’

Now that we may pass on from this spiritual conception to the birth of our Lord Jesus; in other words, that we may pass from Advent to Christmas, we must unceasingly keep the eyes of our soul on him who wishes to be born within us, and in whom the world is born to a new life. Our study and ambition should be, how best to become like Jesus, by imitating him; for, though the imitation must needs be imperfect, yet we know from the Apostle that our heavenly Father himself gives this as the sign of the elect - that they are made like to the image of his Son [Rom. viii 29].

Let us, therefore, hearken to the invitation of the Angels, and go over to Bethlehem [St Luke ii 15].We know what sign will be given to us of our Jesus - a Child wrapped in swaddling-clothes,and laid in a crib [Ibid. ii 22]. So that you, O Christians must become children; you must not disdain to be tied in the bonds of a spiritual childhood; you must come down from your proud spirit, and meet your Saviour who has come down from heaven, and with him hide yourselves in the humility of the crib. Thus will you begin, with him, a new life. Thus will the Light that goeth forwards and increaseth even to perfect day [Prov. iv 18] illumine your path the whole remaining length of your Journey. Thus the sight of God which leaves room for faith, which you receive at Bethlehem, will merit for you the face-to-face vision on Thabor, and prepare you for the blissful UNION, which is not merely Light, but the plenitude and repose of Love.

So far we have been speaking only of the living members of the Church, whether they began the life of grace during the holy Season of Advent, or were already living in the grace of the Holy Ghost when the ecclesiastical year commenced, and spent their Advent in preparing to be born with Jesus to a new year of higher perfection. But how shall we overlook those of our Brethren who are dead in sin; and so dead, that neither the coming of their Emmanuel, nor the example of the Christians throughout the universal Church earnestly preparing for that coming, could rouse them? No, we cannot forget them: we love them, and come to tell them (for even now they may yield to grace, and live), that there hath appeared the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour [Tit. iii 4]. If this volume of ours should perchance fall into the hands of any of those who have not yielded to the solicitations of grace, which press them to be converted to the sweet Babe of Bethlehem, their Lord and their God; who, instead of spending the weeks of Advent in preparing to receive him at Christmas, lived them out, as they began them, in indifference and in sin: we shall, perhaps, be helping them to a knowledge of the grievousness of their state, by reminding them of the ancient discipline of the Church, which obliged all the Faithful, under pain of being considered as no longer Catholics, to receive Holy Communion on Christmas Day, as well as on Easter and Whit Sundays. We find a formal decree of this obligation given in the fifteenth Canon of the Council of Agatha (Agde) held in 506. We would also ask these poor sinners to reflect on the joy the Church feels at seeing, throughout the whole world, the immense number of her children, who still, in spite of the general decay of piety, keep the Feast of the birth of the Divine Lamb, by the sacramental participation of his Body and Blood.

Sinners! take courage; this Feast of Christmas is one of grace and mercy, on which all, both just and sinners, meet in the fellowship of the same glad Mystery. The heavenly Father has resolved to honour the Birthday of his Son, by granting pardon to all save those who obstinately refuse it. Oh! how worthy is the Coming of our dear Emmanuel to be honoured by this divine amnesty!

Nor is it we that give this invitation; it is the Church herself. Yes, it is she that with divine authority invites you to begin the work of your new life on this day whereon the Son of God begins the career of his human life. That we may the more worthily convey to you this her invitation, we will borrow the words of a great and saintly Bishop of the Middle Ages, the pious Rabanus Maurus, who, in a homily on the Nativity of our Lord, encourages sinners to come and take their place, side by side with the just, in the stable of Bethlehem, where even the ox and the ass recognize their Master in the Babe who lies there.

‘I beseech you, dearly beloved Brethren, that you receive with fervent hearts the words our Lord speaks to you through me on this most sweet Feast, on which even infidels and sinners are touched with compunction; on which the wicked man is moved to mercy, the contrite heart hopes for pardon, the exile despairs not of returning to his country, and the sick man longs for his cure; on which is born the Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world, that is, Christ our Saviour. On such a Birthday, he that has a good conscience rejoices more than usual; and he whose conscience is guilty fears with a more useful fear ... Yes, it is a sweet Feast, bringing true sweetness and forgiveness to all true penitents. My little children, I promise you without hesitation that every one who, on this day, shall repent from his heart, and return not to the vomit of his sins, shall obtain all whatsoever he shall ask; let him only ask with a firm faith, and not return to sinful pleasures.

‘On this day are taken away the sins of the entire world: why needs the sinner despair? ... On this day of our Lord’s Birth let us, dearest Brethren, offer our promises to this Jesus, and keep them, as it is written: Vow ye, and pay to the Lord your God [Ps. lxxv 12]. Let us make our promises with confidence and love; he will enable us to keep them. ... And when I speak of promises, I would not have anyone think that I mean the promise of fleeting and earthly goods. No - I mean, that each of us should offer what our Saviour redeemed, namely, our soul. “But how,” someone will say, “how shall we offer our souls to him, to whom they already belong?” I answer: by leading holy lives, by chaste thoughts, by fruitful works, by turning away from evil, by following that which is good, by loving God, by loving our neighbour, by showing mercy (for we ourselves were in need of it, before we were redeemed), by forgiving them that sin against us (for we ourselves were once in sin), by trampling on pride, since it was by pride that our first parent was deceived and fell.’ [Fourth Homily On the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.]

It is thus our affectionate Mother the Church invites sinners to the Feast of the Divine Lamb; nor is she satisfied until her House be filled [St Luke x 2]. The grace of a New Birth, given her by the Sun of Justice, fills this Spouse of Jesus with joy. A new year has begun for her, and, like all that have preceded it, it is to be rich in flower and fruit. She renews her youth as that of an eagle. She is about to unfold another Cycle, or Year, of her mysteries, and to pour forth upon her faithful children the graces of which God has made the Cycle to be the instrument. In this season of Christmas, we have the first-fruits of these graces offered to us; they are the knowledge and the love of our Infant God: let us accept them with attentive hearts, that so we may merit to advance, with our Jesus, in wisdom and age and grace before God and men [Ibid. ii 52]. The Christmas Mystery is the gate of all the others of the rest of the year; but it is a gate which we may all enter, for, though most heavenly, yet it touches earth; since, as St Augustine beautifully remarks in one of his sermons for Christmas [Eleventh Sermon On the Nativity of our Lord]: ‘We cannot as yet contemplate the splendour of him who was begotten of the Father before the Day Star [Ps. cix 3]; let us, then, visit him who was born of the Virgin in the night- hour. We cannot understand how his Name continued before the sun [Ibid. lxxi 17]; let us, then, confess that he hath set his tabernacle in her that is purer than the sun [Ibid. xviii 6]. We cannot as yet see the Only-Begotten Son dwelling in the Father’s Bosom; let us, then, think on the Bridegroom that come/h out of his bridechamber [Ibid].We are not yet ready for the banquet of our heavenly Father; let us, then, keep to the Crib of Jesus, our Master [Isa. i 3].

Propers for the Third Mass on Christmas Day

INTROIT Isa. 9:6
A Child is born to us, and a son is given to us; upon his shoulder is supreme sovereignty, and his name shall be called the Angel of great counsel.
Ps. 97:1. Sing a new canticle to the Lord, for He has done wondrous things.
V. Glory be . . .

O Almighty God, free us from the old bondage and yoke of sin by Your only-begotten Son's new birth as man. Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE Heb. 1:1-12
God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world. Who being the brightness of his glory and the figure of his substance and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high: Being made so much better than the angels as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath he said at any time: "Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee?" And again: "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?" And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith: "And let all the angels of God adore him. And to the angels indeed he saith: "He that maketh his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire." But to the Son: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." And: "Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth: and the works of thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish: but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shalt be changed. But thou art the selfsame: and thy years shall not fail."

GRADUAL Ps. 97:3-4, 2
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Sing joyfully to God, all the earth.
V. The Lord has made His salvation known; in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.

Alleluia, alleluia! V.
A blessed day has dawned on us! Come, you nations, and adore the Lord, for this day a great light has descended upon the earth!

GOSPEL John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world: and the world was made by him: and the world knew him not. He came unto his own: and his own received him not. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.

Yours are the heavens and yours is the earth, the world and its fullness you have founded. Justice and judgment are the foundation of your throne.

Bless these gifts we offer You, O Lord, by the new birth of Your only-begotten Son. May they cleanse us from the stain of our sins. Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord . . .

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

O Almighty God, may the Savior of the world, who came upon earth this day to bring us the Gift of supernatural life, bestow on us also the treasure of eternal life; who lives and rules with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Dom Gueranger - Christmas Eve

The following is taken from The Liturgical Year.

December 24

'At length,' says St. Peter Damian, in his Sermon for this holy Eve, 'at length we have got from the stormy sea into the tranquil port; hitherto it was the promise, now it is the prize; hitherto labour, now rest; hitherto despair, now hope; hitherto the way, now our home. The heralds of the divine promise came to us; but they gave us nothing but rich promises. Hence, our Psalmist himself grew wearied, 'and slept, and, with a seeming reproachful tone, thus sings his lamentation to God: "But thou hast rejected and despised us; thou hast deferred the coming of thy Christ." [Ps. lxxxviii.]. At another time he assumes a tone of demand, and thus prays: "O thou that sittest upon the Cherubim, show thyself!" [Ibid. lxxix.]. Seated on thy high throne, with myriads of adoring Angels around thee, look down upon the children of men, who are victims of that sin, which was committed indeed by Adam, but permitted by thy justice. Remember what my substance is [Ibid. lxxxviii.]; thou didst make it to the likeness of thine own; for though every living man is vanity, yet inasmuch as he is made to thy Image, he is not a passing vanity [Ibid. xxxviii.]. Bend thy heavens and come down, and turn the eyes of thy mercy upon us thy miserable suppliants, and forget us not unto the end!

'Isaias, also, in the vehemence of his desire, thus spoke: "For Sion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest, till her Just One come forth as brightness. Oh! that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down!" So, too, all the Prophets, tired of the long delay of the Coming, have prayed to thee, now with supplication, now with lamentation, and now with cries of impatience. We have listened to these their prayers; we have made use of them as our own, and now, nothing can give us joy or gladness, till our Saviour come to us, and, kissing us with the kiss of his lips, say to us: "I have heard and granted your prayers."

'But, what is this that has been said to us: "Sanctify yourselves, ye children of Israel, and be ready; for on the morrow, the Lord will come down"? We are, then, but one half day and night from the grand visit, the admirable Birth of the Infant-God! Hurry on your course, ye fleeting hours, that we may the sooner see the Son of God in his crib, and pay our homage to this world-saving Birth. You, Brethren, are the Children of Israel, that are sanctified, and cleansed from every defilement of soul and body, ready, by your earnest devotion, for to-morrow's mysteries. Such, indeed, you are, if I may judge from the manner in which you have spent these sacred days of preparation for the Coming of your Saviour.

'But if, notwithstanding all your care, some drops of the stream of this life's frailties are still on your hearts, wipe them away and cover them with the snow-white robe of Confession. This I can promise you from the mercy of the divine Infant: he that shall confess his sins and be sorry for them, shall have born within him the Light of the World; the darkness that deceived him, shall be dispelled; and he shall enjoy the brightness of the true Light. For how can mercy be denied to the miserable this night, in which the merciful and compassionate Lord is so mercifully born? Therefore, drive away from you all haughty looks, and idle words, and unjust works; let your loins be girt, and your feet walk in the right paths; and then come, and accuse the Lord, if this night he rend not the heavens, and come down to you, and throw all your sins into the depths of the sea.'

This holy Eve is, indeed, a day of grace and hope, and we ought to spend it in spiritual joy. The Church, contrary to her general practice, prescribes, that if Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday, the fasting alone should be anticipated on the Saturday; but that the Office and Mass of the Vigil should take precedence of the Office and Mass of the fourth Sunday of Advent. How solemn, then, in the eyes of the Church, are these few hours which separate us from the great Feast! On all other Feasts, no matter how great they may be, the solemnity begins with first Vespers, and until then the Church restrains her joy, and celebrates the Divine Office and Sacrifice according to the Lenten rite. Christmas, on the contrary, seems to begin with the Vigil; and one would suppose that this morning's Lauds were the opening of the Feast; for the solemn intonation of this portion of the Office is that of a Double, and the Antiphons are sung before and after each Psalm or Canticle. The purple Vestments are used at the Mass, but all the genuflexions peculiar to the Advent Ferias are omitted; and only one Collect is said, instead of three, which always denote that the Mass is not that of a solemnity.[*] Let us enter into the spirit of the Church, and prepare ourselves, in all the joy of our hearts, to meet the Saviour who is coming to us. Let us observe with strictness the fast which is prescribed; it will enable our bodies to aid the promptness of our spirit. Let us delight in the thought, that before we again lay down to rest, we shall have seen Him born, in the solemn mid-night, who comes to give light to every creature. For, surely, it is the duty of every faithful this happy Night, when, in spite of all the coldness of devotion, the whole universe keeps up its watch for the arrival of its Saviour. It is one of the last vestiges of the piety of ancient days, and God forbid it should ever be effaced!

[*Maestro's note: The three collects are actually not said in the 1962 missal, but only one is prayed - a common difference between 1962 and pre-1962 missals, and a topic of liturgical interest in itself.]

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Propers for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

INTROIT Isa. 45:8
Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just one. Let the earth be opened and bud forth a savior.
Ps. 18:2.
The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.
Glory be . . .

O Lord, show yourself an all-powerful God and come to us. Aid us with Your powerful assistance so that, through Your grace and merciful forgiveness, we may attain salvation, which now is hindered by our sins; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

EPISTLE I Cor. 4:1-5
Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man's day. But neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything. Yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore, judge not before the time: until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then shall every man have praise from God.

GRADUAL Ps. 144:18, 21
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.
V. My lips shall speak the praise of the Lord; let all men bless His holy name.

Alleluia, alleluia! V.
Come, O Lord; do not delay. Forgive the sins of Israel, Your people.

GOSPEL Luke 3:1-6
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina: Under the high priests Anna and Caiphas: the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins. As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: "A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Look with favor upon these offerings, O Lord, that they may be an aid to our devotion and to our salvation. Through Our Lord . . .

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

O Lord, may we, who have received Your Gifts, be brought closer to our salvation by each performance of this Sacred Rite. Through Our Lord . . .

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Dom Gueranger on the Ember Days

This is from Gueranger's reflection on the Ember Days in Advent, in The Liturgical Year.


Today the Church begins the fast of Quatuor Tempora, or, as we call it, of Ember days: it includes also the Friday and Saturday of this same week. This observance is not peculiar to the Advent liturgy; it is one which has been fixed for each of the four seasons of the ecclesiastical year. We may consider it as one of those practices which the Church took from the Synagogue; for the prophet Zacharias speaks of the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months. Its introduction into the Christian Church would seem to have been made in the apostolic times; such, at least, is the opinion of St. Leo, of St. Isidore of Seville, of Rabanus Maurus, and of several other ancient Christian writers. It is remarkable, on the other hand, that the orientals do not observe this fast.

From the first ages the Quatuor Tempora were kept, in the Roman Church, at the same time of the year as at present. As to the expression, which is not infrequently used in the early writers, of the three times and not the four, we must remember that in the spring, these days always come in the first week of Lent, a period already consecrated to the most rigorous fasting and abstinence, and that consequently they could add nothing to the penitential exercises of that portion of the year.

The intentions, which the Church has in the fast of the Ember days, are the same as those of the Synagogue; namely, to consecrate to God by penance the four seasons of the year. The Ember days of Advent are known, in ecclesiastical antiquity, as the fast of the tenth month; and St. Leo, in one of his sermons on this fast, of which the Church has inserted a passage in the second nocturn of the third Sunday of Advent, tells us that a special fast was fixed for this time of the year, because the fruits of the earth had then all been gathered in, and that it behoved Christians to testify their gratitude to God by a sacrifice of abstinence, thus rendering themselves more worthy to approach to God, the more they were detached from the love of created things. "For fasting," adds the holy doctor, "has ever been the nourishment of virtue. Abstinence is the source of chaste thoughts, of wise resolutions, and of salutary counsel. By voluntary mortification, the flesh dies to its concupiscence, and the spirit is renewed in virtue. But since fasting alone is not sufficient whereby to secure the soul's salvation, let us add to it works of mercy towards the poor. Let us make that whihc we retrench from indulgence, serve unto the exercise of virtue. Let the abstinence of him that fasts, become the meal of the poor man."

Let us, the children of the Church practice what is in our power of these admonitions; and since the actual discipline of Advent is so very mild, let us be so much the more fervent in fulfilling the precept of the fast of the Ember days. By these few exercises which are now required of us, let us keep up within ourselves the zeal of our forefathers for this holy season of Advent. We must never forget that although the interior preparation is what is absolutely essential for our profiting by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet this preparation could scarcely be real unless it manifested itself by the exterior practices of religion and penance.

The fast of the Ember days has another object besides that of consecrating the four seasons of the year to God by an act of penance: it has also in view the ordination of the ministers of the Church, which takes place on the Saturday, and of which notice was formerly given to the people during the Mass of the Wednesday. In the Roman Church, the ordination held in the month of December was, for a long time, the most solemn of all; and it would appear, from teh ancient chronicles of the Popes, that, excepting very extraordinary cases, the tenth month was, for several ages, the only time for conferring Holy Orders in Rome. The faithful should unite with the Church in this her intention, and offer to God their fasting and abstinence for the purpose of obtaining worthy ministers of the word and of the Sacraments, and true pastors of the people.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Propers for the Third Sunday in Advent

INTROIT Philipp. 4:4-6
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety; but in every prayer let your petitions be made known to God.
Ps. 84:2.
O Lord, You have blessed Your land; You have restored Jacob from captivity.V. Glory be . . .

Hear our prayers, O Lord, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by Your coming on earth; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

EPISTLE Philipp. 4:4-7
Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety, but in every prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God. And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

GRADUAL Ps. 79:2, 3, 2
O Lord, enthroned above the Cherubim, stir up Your might and come.
. Take heed, you who rule Israel, you who are shepherd over Joseph.

Alleluia, alleluia! V.
Stir up Your might, O Lord, and come to save us.

GOSPEL John 1:19-28
At that time, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: "Who art thou?" And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: "I am not the Christ." And they asked him: "What then? Art thou Elias?" And he said: "I am not." "Art thou the prophet? And he answered: "No." They said therefore unto him: "Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?" He said: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias." And they that were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him and said to him: "Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?" John answered them, saying: "I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not. The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose." These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

O Lord, You have blessed Your land; You have restored Jacob from captivity; You have forgiven the sinfulness of Your people.

May we always offer the sacrifice of adoration in such a manner, O Lord, that it will attain the purpose for which You instituted this sacred rite, and bring about our salvation. Through Our Lord . . .COMMUNION ANTIPHON Isa. 35:4
Say to the fainthearted, "Take courage and fear not. Behold, our God will come and will save us."

In Your mercy cleanse us from our sins by these divine Rites, O Lord, and make us ready for the coming feast. Through Our Lord . . .

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Dom Gueranger - Practice During Advent

From Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year.


If our holy mother the Church spends the time of Advent in this solemn preparation for the threefold coming of Jesus Christ; if, after the example of the prudent virgins, she keeps her lamp lit ready for the coming of the Bridegroom; we, being her members and her children, ought to enter into her spirit, and apply to ourselves this warning of our Saviour: ‘Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands, and ye yourselves be like unto men who wait for their Lord!’ [St. Luke xii. 35, 36]. The Church and we have, in reality, the same hopes. Each one of us is, on the part of God, an object of mercy and care, as is the Church herself. If she is the temple of God, it is because she is built of living stones; if she is the bride, it is because she consists of all the souls which are invited to eternal union with God. If it is written that the Saviour hath purchased the Church with His own Blood [Acts xx. 28], may not each one of us say of himself those words of St. Paul, ‘Christ hath loved me, and hath delivered Himself up for me’ [Gal. ii. 20]. Our destiny being the same, then, as that of the Church, we should endeavour during Advent, to enter into the spirit of preparation, which is, as we have seen, that of the Church herself.

And firstly, it is our duty to join with the saints of the old Law in asking for the Messias, and thus pay the debt which the whole human race owes to the divine mercy. In order to fulfil this duty with fervour, let us go back in thought to those four thousand years, represented by the four weeks of Advent, and reflect on the darkness and crime which filled the world before our Saviour’s coming. Let our hearts be filled with lively gratitude towards Him who saved His creature man from death, and who came down from heaven that He might know our miseries by Himself experiencing them, yes, all of them excepting sin. Let us cry to Him with confidence from the depths of our misery; for, notwithstanding His having saved the work of His hands, He still wishes us to beseech Him to save us. Let therefore our desires and our confidence have their free utterance in the ardent supplications of the ancient prophets, which the Church puts on our lips during these days of expectation; let us give our closest attention to the sentiments which they express.

This first duty complied with, we must next turn our minds to the coming which our Saviour wishes to accomplish in our own hearts. It is, as we have seen, a coming full of sweetness and mystery, and a consequence of the first; for the good Shepherd comes not only to visit the flock in general, but He extends His solicitude to each one of the sheep, even to the hundredth which is lost. Now, in order to appreciate the whole of this ineffable mystery, we must remember that, since we can be pleasing to our heavenly Father only inasmuch as He sees within us His Son Jesus Christ, this amiable Saviour deigns to come into each one of us, and transform us, if we will but consent, into Himself, so that henceforth we may live, not we, but He in us. This is, in reality, the one grand aim of the Christian religion, to make man divine through Jesus Christ: it is the task which God has given to His Church to do, and she says to the faithful what St. Paul said to his Galatians: ‘My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed within you!’ [Gal. iv. 19].

But as, on His entering into this world, our divine Saviour first showed Himself under the form of a weak Babe, before attaining the fulness of the age of manhood, and this to the end that nothing might be wanting to His sacrifice, so does He intend to do in us; there is to be a progress in His growth within us. Now, it is at the feast of Christmas that He delights to be born in our souls, and that He pours out over the whole Church a grace of being born, to which, however, not all are faithful.

For this glorious solemnity, as often as it comes round, finds three classes of men. The first, and the smallest number, are those who live, in all its plenitude, the life of Jesus who is within them, and aspire incessantly after the increase of this life. The second class of souls is more numerous; they are living, it is true, because Jesus is in them; but they are sick and weakly, because they care not to grow in this divine life; their charity has become cold! [Apoc. ii. 4]. The rest of men make up the third division, and are they that have no part of this life in them, and are dead; for Christ has said: ‘I am the Life.’ [St. John xiv.6].

Now, during the season of Advent, our Lord knocks at the door of all men’s hearts, at one time so forcibly that they must needs notice Him; at another, so softly that it requires attention to know that Jesus is asking admission. He comes to ask them if they have room for Him, for He wishes to be born in their house. The house indeed is His, for he built it and preserves it; yet He complains that His own refused to receive Him [Ibid. i. 11]; at least the greater number did. ‘But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, born not or blood, nor of the flesh, but of God.’ [Ibid. 12, 13].

He will be. born, then, with more beauty and lustre and might than you have hitherto seen in Him, O ye faithful ones, who hold Him within you as your only treasure, and who have long lived no other life than His, shaping your thoughts and works on the model of His. You will feel the necessity of words to suit and express your love; such words as He delights to hear you speak to Him. You will find them in the holy liturgy.

You, who have had Him within you without knowing Him, and have possessed Him without relishing the sweetness of His presence, open your hearts to welcome Him, this time, with more care and love. He repeats His visit of this year with an untiring tenderness; He has forgotten your past slights; He would ‘that all things be new.’ [Apoc. xxi. 5]. Make room for the divine Infant, for He desires to grow within your soul. The time of His coming is close at hand: let your heart, then, be on the watch; and lest you should slumber when He arrives, watch and pray, yea, sing. The words of the liturgy are intended also for your use: they speak of darkness, which only God can enlighten; of wounds, which only His mercy can heal; of a faintness, which can be braced only by His divine energy.

And you, Christians, for whom the good tidings are as things that are not, because you are dead in sin, lo! He who is very life is coming among you. Yes, whether this death of sin has held you as its slave for long years, or has but freshly inflicted on you the wound which made you its victim, Jesus, your Life, is coming: ‘why, then, will you die? He desireth not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live.’ [Ezechiel xviii. 31, 32]. The grand feast of His birth will be a day of mercy for the whole world; at least, for all who will give Him admission into their hearts: they will rise to life again in Him, their past life will be destroyed, and where sin abounded, there grace will more abound. [Rom. v. 20].

But, if the tenderness and the attractiveness of this mysterious coming make no impression on you, because your heart is too weighed down to be able to rise to confidence, and because, having so long drunk sin like water, you know not what it is to long with love for the caresses of a Father whom you have slighted - then turn your thoughts to that other coming, which is full of terror, and is to follow the silent one of grace that is now offered. Think within yourselves, how this earth of ours will tremble at the approach of the dread Judge; how the heavens will flee from before His face, and fold up as a book [Apoc vi. 14]; how man will wince under His angry look; how the creature will wither away with fear, as the two-edged sword, which comes from the mouth of his Creator [Ibid. i. 16], pierces him; and how sinners will cry out, ‘Ye mountains, fall on us! ye rocks, cover us!’ [St. Luke xxiii. 30]. Those unhappy souls who would not know the time of their visitation [Ibid. xix. 44], shall then vainly wish to hide themselves from the face of Jesus. They shut their hearts against this Man-God who, in His excessive love for them, wept over them: therefore, on the day of judgement they will descend alive into those everlasting fires, whose flame devoureth the earth with her increase, and burneth the foundations of the mountains [Deut. xxxii. 22]. The worm that never dieth [St. Mark ix. 43], the useless eternal repentance, will gnaw them for ever.

Let those, then, who are not touched by the tidings of the coming of the heavenly Physician and the good Shepherd who giveth His life for His sheep, meditate during Advent on the awful yet certain truth, that so many render the redemption unavailable to themselves by refusing to co-operate in their own salvation. They may treat the Child who is to be born [Is. ix. 6] with disdain; but He is also the mighty God, and do they think they can withstand Him on that day, when He is to come, not to save, as now, but to judge? Would that they knew more of this divine Judge, before whom the very saints tremble! Let these, also, use the liturgy of this season, and they will there learn how much He is to be feared by sinners.

We would not imply by this that only sinners need to fear; no, every Christian ought to fear. Fear, when there is no nobler sentiment with it, makes man a slave; when it accompanies love, it is a feeling which fills the heart of a child who has offended his father, yet seeks for pardon; when, at length, love casteth out fear [1 St. John iv. 18], even then this holy fear will sometimes come, and, like a flash of lightning, pervade the deepest recesses of the soul. It does the soul good. She wakes up afresh to a keener sense of her own misery and of the unmerited mercy of her Redeemer. Let no one, therefore, think that he may safely pass his Advent without taking any share in the holy fear which animates the Church. She, though so beloved by God, prays to Him to give her this fear; and in her Office of Sext, she thus cries out to Him: ‘Pierce my flesh with Thy fear.’ It is, however, to those who are beginning a good life, that this part of the Advent liturgy will be peculiarly serviceable.

It is evident, from what we have said, that Advent is a season specially devoted to the exercises of what is called the purgative life, which is implied in that expression of St. John, so continually repeated by the Church during this holy time: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Let all, therefore, strive earnestly to make straight the path by which Jesus will enter into their souls. Let the just, agreeably to the teaching of the apostle, forget the things that are behind [Phil. iii. 13], and labour to acquire fresh merit. Let sinners begin at once and break the chains which now enslave them. Let them give up those bad habits which they have contracted. Let them weaken the flesh, and enter upon the hard work of subjecting it to the spirit. Let them, above all things, pray with the Church. And when our Lord comes, they may hope that He will not pass them by, but that He will enter and dwell within them; for He spoke of all when He said these words: ‘Behold I stand at the gate and knock: if any man shall hear My voice will open to Me the door, I will come in unto him.’ [Apoc. ii. 20].

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My Hope is in the Lord

I've posted this before, but because I haven't posted any of my poetry for a while, and because I've slightly modified this one, I'm reposting it. This poem is very much influenced by the works of Catholic spirituality which I have read - writers like Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Dom Lehodey, Dom Cassuade, and others. We are taught the virtue of hope, and of abandonment to divine providence - a virtue which is tested and strengthened by trials and sufferings of all kinds. This is the theme of the following poem.

My Hope is in the Lord

Though storms and earthquakes rage around,
And heavens roar with thunderous sound;
Though mountains move and sea o’erflow,
And life be fraught with endless woe,
My hope is in the Lord.

Though wars be fought and death be dealt,
And endless desolation felt;
Though famine strike and plagues abound,
And illness spread itself around,
My hope is in the Lord.

Though all the world should turn on me,
And friends should call me enemy;
Though loved ones’ love be turned to hate,
And evils endless touch my fate,
My hope is in the Lord.

Though darkness should my soul enshroud,
A hopeless, dense, and murky cloud;
Though dryness should my soul oppress,
And cast me into sore distress,
My hope is in the Lord.

Though God should all my wants deny,
And all intentions turn awry;
Although my heart be cleaved in twain
And I cannot my tears restrain,
My hope is in the Lord.

Though Satan stare me in the face,
And tempt me from the state of grace;
Though I, indeed, fall into sin,
And all the guilt well up within,
My hope is in the Lord.

Though I a wretched sinner be,
The worst that man did ever see;
Though hell itself before me loom,
And demons urge me to my doom,
My hope is in the Lord.

In every trial may God be praised,
And I my broken voice upraise,
Through sobs and tears to glorify
The God who loves me from on high:
My hope is in the Lord.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

December 8 - The Immaculate Conception

From Pope Pius IX's Ineffabilis Deus


Therefore, having full trust in the Lord that the opportune time had come for defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, which Holy Scripture, venerable Tradition, the constant mind of the Church, the desire of Catholic bishops and the faithful, and the memorable Acts and Constitutions of our predecessors, wonderfully illustrate and proclaim, and having most diligently considered all things, as we poured forth to God ceaseless and fervent prayers, we concluded that we should no longer delay in decreeing and defining by our supreme authority the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. And thus, we can satisfy the most holy desire of the Catholic world as well as our own devotion toward the most holy Virgin, and at the same time honor more and more the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord through his holy Mother -- since whatever honor and praise are bestowed on the Mother redound to the Son. 

Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

Our soul overflows with joy and our tongue with exultation. We give, and we shall continue to give, the humblest and deepest thanks to Jesus Christ, our Lord, because through his singular grace he has granted to us, unworthy though we be, to decree and offer this honor and glory and praise to his most holy Mother. All our hope do we repose in the most Blessed Virgin -- in the all fair and immaculate one who has crushed the poisonous head of the most cruel serpent and brought salvation to the world: in her who is the glory of the prophets and apostles, the honor of the martyrs, the crown and joy of all the saints; in her who is the safest refuge and the most trustworthy helper of all who are in danger; in her who, with her only-begotten Son, is the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix in the whole world; in her who is the most excellent glory, ornament, and impregnable stronghold of the holy Church; in her who has destroyed all heresies and snatched the faithful people and nations from all kinds of direst calamities; in her do we hope who has delivered us from so many threatening dangers. We have, therefore, a very certain hope and complete confidence that the most Blessed Virgin will ensure by her most powerful patronage that all difficulties be removed and all errors dissipated, so that our Holy Mother the Catholic Church may flourish daily more and more throughout all the nations and countries, and may reign "from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth," and may enjoy genuine peace, tranquility and liberty. We are firm in our confidence that she will obtain pardon for the sinner, health for the sick, strength of heart for the weak, consolation for the afflicted, help for those in danger; that she will remove spiritual blindness from all who are in error, so that they may return to the path of truth and justice, and that here may be one flock and one shepherd. 

Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race. And since she has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth, and is exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the right hand of her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, she presents our petitions in a most efficacious manner. What she asks, she obtains. Her pleas can never be unheard.

Propers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - Commemorating the Second Sunday of Advent

INTROIT Isa. 61:10 
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God, for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation and covered me with the robe of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels.
Ps. 29:2. I will extol You, O Lord, for You have upheld me, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
V. Glory be . . .


O God, by foreseen merits of the death of Christ, You shielded Mary from all stain of sin and preserved the Virgin Mother immaculate at her conception so that she might be a fitting dwelling place for Your Son. Cleanse us from sin through her intercession so that we also may come to You untainted by sin. Through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the Second Sunday of Advent

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Your only-begotten Son, so that through His coming we may be able to serve You with purified minds. Who livest... 

Prov. 8:22-35 
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived, neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out. The mountains, with their huge bulk, had not as yet been established: before the hills, I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law, and compass, he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when he balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.
Now, therefore, ye children, hear me: blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.

Judith 13:23; 15:10
By the Lord the Most High God you are blessed, O Virgin Mary, above all women upon earth. 
 You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the honor of our people.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. 
Cant. 4:7
You are all fair, O Mary, and there is in you no stain of original sin.

Luke 1:26-28
At that time, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."

Luke 1:28
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. Alleluia!


Accept this saving host, O Lord, which we offer you on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We firmly believe that she was shielded from all stain of sin by Your prevenient grace; may we be freed from all our faults through her holy intercession. Through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of the Second Sunday in Advent

Be appeased, we beseech You, O Lord, by the prayers and offerings of our human frailty, and where the support of our own merits is lacking, come to our assistance with Your protection. Through Jesus Christ... 


Glorious things are said of you, O Mary, for He who is mighty has done great things for you.


O Lord our God, may the Sacrament that we have received heal in us the wounds of that sin from which blessed Mary alone was preserved by her Immaculate Conception. Through Our Lord . . .