Wednesday, 29 January 2014

February 29 - St. Francis de Sales: A Short Description of Charity

From St. Francis de Sales' Treatise on the Love of God.

Behold at length, Theotimus, how God, by a progress full of ineffable sweetness, conducts the soul which he makes leave the Egypt of sin, from love to love, as from mansion to mansion, till he has made her enter into the land of promise, I mean into most holy charity, which to say it in one word, is a friendship, and a disinterested love, for by charity we love God for his own sake, by reason of his most sovereignty amiable goodness.

But this friendship is a true friendship, being reciprocal, for God has loved eternally all who have loved him, do, or shall love him temporally. It is shown and acknowledged mutually, since God cannot be ignorant of the love we bear him, he himself bestowing it upon us, nor can we be ignorant of his love to us, seeing that he has so published it abroad, and that we acknowledge all the good we have, to be true effects of his benevolence.

And in fine we have continual communications with him, who never ceases to speak unto our hearts by inspirations, allurements, and sacred motions; he ceases not to do us good, or to give all sorts of testimonies of his most holy affection, having openly revealed unto us all his secrets, as to his confidential friends.

And to crown his holy loving intercourse with us, he has made himself our proper food in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist; and as for us, we have freedom to treat with him at all times when we please in holy prayer, having our whole life, movement and being not only with him, but in him and by him.

Now this friendship is not a simple friendship, but a friendship of dilection, by which we make election of God, to love him with a special love. He is chosen, says the sacred spouse, out of thousands(1) - she says out of thousands, but she means out of all, whence this love is not a love of simple excellence, but an incomparable love; for charity loves God by a certain esteem and preference of his goodness so high and elevated above all other esteems, that other loves either are not true loves in comparison of this, or if they be true loves, this love is infinitely more than love; and therefore, Theotimus, it is not a love which the force of nature either angelic or human can produce, but the Holy Ghost gives it and pours it abroad in our hearts.(2)
And as our souls which give life to our bodies, have not their origin from the body but are put in them by the natural providence of God, so charity which gives life to our hearts has not her origin from our hearts, but is poured into them as a heavenly liquor by the supernatural providence of his divine Majesty.

For this reason, and because it has reference to God and tends unto him not according to the natural knowledge we have of his goodness, but according to the supernatural knowledge of faith, we name it supernatural friendship. Whence it, together with faith and hope, makes its abode in the point and summit of the spirit, and, as a queen of majesty, is seated in the will as on her throne, whence she conveys into the soul her delights and sweetnesses, making her thereby all fair, agreeable and amiable to the divine goodness.

So, that if the soul be a kingdom of which the Holy Ghost is king, charity is the queen set at his right hand in gilded clothing surrounded with variety;(3) if the soul be a queen, spouse to the great king of heaven, charity is her crown, which royally adorns her head; and if the soul with the body be a little world, charity is the sun which beautifies all, heats all, and vivifies all.

Charity, then, is a love of friendship, a friendship of dilection, a dilection of preference, but a preference incomparable, sovereign, and supernatural, which is as a sun in the whole soul to enlighten it with its rays, in all the spiritual faculties to perfect them, in all the powers to moderate them, but in the will as on its throne, there to reside and to make it cherish and love its God above all things. O how happy is the soul wherein this holy love is poured abroad, since all good things come together with her!(4)
1. Cant. v. 10.
2. Rom v. 5.
3. Ps. xliv. 10.
4. Wisdom vii. 11.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Propers for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

INTROIT (Ps. 96:7-8)
Worship God, all you his angels. Sion heard and was glad, and all the daughters of Juda rejoiced. Ps. 96:1. The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many isles be glad! V. Glory be . . .

O God, You know that our weakened nature cannot withstand the dangers that surround us. Make us stron in mind and body, that with Your help we may be able to overcome the afflictions that our own sins have brought upon us. Through Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE (Rom. 13:8-10)
Brethren: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law. For: "Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet." And if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.

GRADUAL (Ps. 101:16-17)
The nations shall revere Your name, O LOrd, and all the kings of the earth shall reverence Your glory. V. For the Lord has built up Sion, and He shall appear in His glory.

Alleluia, alleluia! (V. Ps. 96:1)
The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many isles be glad!

GOSPEL (Matt. 8:23-27)
At that time, Jesus entered into the boat, and his disciples followed him: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: "Lord, save us, we perish." And Jesus saith to them: "Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?" Then rising up, he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: "What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?"

The right hand of the Lord has exercised power; the right hand of the Lord has lifted me up. I shall not die, but live, and shall declare the works of the Lord.

Almighty God, grant that our sacrificial offering may cleanse and protect our frail nature from all evil. Through Our Lord . . .

All marveled at these things that came from the mouth of God.

May this Gift draw us away from earthly pleasures, O God, and may the nourishment we recieve from this Bread of Heaven fill us always with new strength. Through Our Lord . . .

Monday, 20 January 2014

Garrigou-Lagrange on the Virtue of Humility

"The Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a redemption for many." Matt. 20:28

Since we are discussing here especially the moral virtues that have a special connection with the theological virtues and the life of union with God, we must consider what humility should be in proficients.

The importance and nature of this Christian virtue show clearly the distance which separates the acquired virtues described by the pagan philosophers from the infused virtues spoken of in the Gospel. In speaking of prudence, we recalled the distance between them, which is based on a distinction of nature. We shall get a clearer idea of this distance in speaking of humility, and even more in considering this virtue in our model, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Humility is considered in all Christian tradition as the foundation of the spiritual life, since it removes pride, which is, says Holy Scripture, the beginning of every sin because it separates us from God. Thus humility has often been compared to the excavation which must be dug for the erection of a building, an excavation which should be so much the deeper in proportion as the building is to be higher. From this point of view, as we have seen,(1) the two principal pillars of the temple to be built are faith and hope, and its dome is charity.

Humility ought certainly to repress pride under all its forms, including intellectual and spiritual pride, which we have already discussed.(2) But the principal, essential act and the highest act of humility is not, to be exact, the actual repression of movements of pride. It is evident, in fact, that in our Lord and in Mary there never was a first movement of pride to repress, and nevertheless there was in them and there still is the eminent exercise of the virtue of humility. What is, therefore, the essentially characteristic act of humility, first toward God, then toward our neighbor?


The act proper to humility consists in bowing toward the earth, called humus in Latin, from which the name of this virtue is derived. To speak without metaphor, its essential act consists in abasing ourselves before God and adore what is of God in every creature. To abase ourselves before the Most High is to recognize, not only in a speculative but in a practical manner, our inferiority, littleness, and indigence, manifest in us even though we are innocent, and, once we have sinned, it consists in recognizing our wretchedness.

Thus humility is united to obedience and religion, but it differs from them. Obedience is concerned with the authority of God and His precepts; religion considers His excellence and the worship due Him. Humility, by inclining us toward the earth, recognizes our littleness, our poverty, and in its way glorifies the majesty of God. It sings His glory as when the archangel Michael said: "Who is like to God?" The interior soul experiences a holy joy in annihilating itself, as it were, before God to recognize practically that He alone is great and that, in comparison with His, all human greatness is empty of truth like a lie.

Humility thus conceived is based on truth, especially on the truth that there is an infinite distance between the Creator and the creature. The more this distance appears to us in a living and concrete manner, the more humble we are. However lofty the creature may be, this abyss is always infinite; and the higher we ascend, the more evident does this infinite abyss become for us. In this sense, the highest soul is the most humble, because the most enlightened: the Blessed Virgin Mary is more humble than all the saints, and our Lord is far more humble than His holy Mother.

We see the connection of humility with the theological virtues by determining its twofold dogmatic basis, which was unknown to the pagan philosophers. At its root are two dogmas. Primarily, it is based on the mystery of creation ex nihilo, which the philosophers of antiquity did not know, at least explicitly, but which reason can know by its natural powers. We have been created from nothing; this is the basis of humility according to the light of right reason.(3)

Humility is also based (4) on the mystery of grace and on the necessity of actual grace for the slightest salutary act. This mystery exceeds the natural powers of reason; it is known by faith, and it is expressed in these words of the Savior: "Without Me you can do nothing" (5) in the order of salvation.

From this principle spring four consequences in respect to God the Creator, to His providence and to His goodness, which is at once the source of grace and of the remission of sin.

First of all, in relation to God the Creator, we should recognize not only speculatively, but practically and concretely, that of ourselves we are nothing: "My substance is as nothing before Thee." (6) "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" (7) We were created out of nothing by a sovereignly free fiat of God, by His love of benevolence, which preserves us in existence, without which we would be immediately annihilated. Furthermore, after creation, though there are a number of beings, there is no increase in reality, no increase of perfection, wisdom, or love; for before creation the infinite plenitude of divine perfection already existed. Therefore in comparison with God we are not.

If all that comes from God were taken away from even our best free acts, strictly speaking nothing would remain, for in such an act one part does not come from us and the other from God. The act is entirely from God as from its first cause, and it is entirely from us as from its second cause. Thus the fruit of a tree is entirely from God as from its first cause and entirely from the tree as from Its second cause. We should recognize practically that without God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, we are nothing.

Secondly, in regard to Providence, without God the supreme Ordainer, without His providence which directs all things, our life completely lacks direction. We should, therefore, humbly receive from Him the general direction of the precepts that we may reach eternal life, and the particular direction that the Most High  has chosen from all eternity for each one of us. This particular direction is manifested to us by our superiors, who are intermediaries between God and us, by counsels to which we should have recourse, by events, by the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. Consequently we should humbly accept the place, it may perhaps be very modest, which God has willed from all eternity for each one of us. Thus in the religious life, according to the divine will, some should be like the branches of the tree, others like flowers, others like roots hidden in the earth. Yet the root is most useful; it draws from the soil the secretions that constitute the sap necessary for the nourishment of the tree. If all its roots were cut, the tree would die; but it would not die were all its branches and flowers cut. Humility, which leads a Christian, a religious, to accept a hidden place very willingly, is extremely fruitful not only for himself but for others. Christ in His sorrowful life humbly wished the last place, that in which Barabbas was preferred to Him, the opprobrium of the cross; by so doing He became the corner stone in the edifice of the kingdom of God: "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes." (8) St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "You are no more strangers. . . , but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." (9)

Such is the solid, marvelously fruitful humility, which even in the most hidden places sings the glory of God. We ought, therefore, to receive humbly the special direction He has chosen for us, even though it should lead us to profound immolation: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to hell and bringeth back again. . . . He humbleth and He exalteth." (10) This is one of the most beautiful recurrent themes in the Scriptures.

Thirdly, in this special direction chosen by God for us, we cannot take the slightest step forward, or perform the least salutary and meritorious act without the help of an actual grace. We need this grace particularly to persevere to the end and should, consequently, humbly ask. for it.

Even if we had a high degree of sanctifying grace and charity, ten talents for example, we should still need an actual grace for the least salutary act. And especially for a happy death we need the great gift of final perseverance, which we must daily ask for in the Hail Mary with humility and confidence. Christian humility says joyfully with St. Paul: "Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God." (11) "No man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost." (12) In short, humility should recognize practically and a little better every day the majesty of God the Creator, the Ordainer of all things, and the Author of grace.

Finally, while humility, which recognizes our indigence, should be found in all the just and should be in the innocent man, it is after we commit sin that we should recognize practically not only our indigence, but our wretchedness: the baseness of our selfish, narrow hearts, of our inconstant wills, of our vacillating, whimsical, ungovernable characters; the wretched weaknesses of our minds, guilty of unpardonable forgetfulness and contradictions that they could and should avoid; the wretchedness of pride, of concupiscence, which leads to indifference to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. This wretchedness is beneath nothingness itself since it is a disorder, and it occasionally plunges our souls into a contemptible state of abjection.

The Divine Office often reminds us in the Miserere of these great truths: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. . . . To Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee. . . . Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow: .. . . Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God; and renew a right spirit Within my bowels. . . . Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation." (13) "Who can understand sins? From my secret ones, cleanse me, 0 Lord." (14)

How greatly this abasement of genuine humility differs from pusillanimity, which is born of human respect or of spiritual sloth! Contrary to magnanimity, pusillanimity refuses the necessary labor. Humility, far from being opposed to grandeur of soul, is united to it. A Christian should tend toward great things worthy of great honor, but he should tend toward them humbly and, if necessary, by the way of great humiliations.(15) He should learn to say often: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to Thy name give glory." (16)

The pusillanimous man is one who refuses to do what he can and should do; he may sin mortally when he refuses to accomplish what is gravely obligatory. Humility, on the contrary, abases man before the Most High that he may take his true place. It abases him before God only to allow God to act more freely in him. Far from becoming discouraged, the humble soul entrusts itself to God and, if the Lord does great things through it, it does not glorify itself any more than the ax in the hands of the woodsman, than the harp in the hands of the harpist. With the Blessed Virgin Mary, the humble soul says: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."


Writing on the subject of humility toward our neighbor, St. Thomas says in a manner as simple as profound: "Wherefore every man, in respect of that which is his own, ought to subject himself to every neighbor, in respect of that which the latter has of God's." (17)

In fact, every man, considering that of himself he is nothing, that what he has of himself is only his indigence, defectibility, and deficiencies, ought not only in a speculative way but also in a practical way to recognize that all he has of himself as coming from himself, is inferior to what every other man has from God in the order of nature and that of grace.

The holy doctor adds in substance: It is possible, without falsehood, to deem and avow ourselves the most despicable of men, as regards the hidden faults which we acknowledge in ourselves and the hidden gifts of God which others have.(18) For this reason the Psalmist says: "From my secret ones [sins], cleanse me, O Lord." (19) St. Augustine says also: "Consider that certain people are in a hidden way better than you are, although you may appear morally superior to them." (20)

We should also say with St. Augustine: "There is no sin committed by another which I, by reason of my own frailty, may not commit; and if I have not committed it, it is because God in His mercy has not permitted it and has preserved me in goodness." (21) We should give God the glory for our not having fallen and say to Him in the words of Scripture: "Create a clean heart in me, 0 God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels." (22) "Convert me, and I shall be converted." (23) "Look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor." (24)

St. Thomas says: "Since God's love is the cause of goodness in things, no one thing would be better than another if God did not will greater good for one than for another." (25) "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" (26) This truth leads the saints to say to themselves when they see a criminal about to undergo the last punishment: "If this man had received the same graces that I have been receiving for so many years, he would perhaps have been less unfaithful than I. And if God had permitted in my life the sins which He permitted in this man's, I would be in his place and he in mine." "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" This is the true basis of Christian humility. All pride should break against these divine words.

The humility of the saints thus becomes ever more profound, for they experience increasingly their own frailty in contrast with the majesty and the goodness of God. We should tend toward this humility of the saints, but should not employ the formulas they use so long as we are not profoundly convinced that they are true. Should we do so, our humility would evidently be false; in comparison with the true virtue, it is like a paste diamond.

Humility toward our neighbor, thus defined by St. Thomas, differs greatly from human respect and pusillanimity. Human respect (timor mundanus) is the fear of the judgment and wrath of the wicked; this fear turns us away from God. Pusillanimity refuses the necessary toil; it flees the great things it should accomplish and inclines toward base things. Humility, on the other hand, makes us abase ourselves nobly before God and before what is of God in our neighbor. The humble man does not abase himself before the power of the wicked; thus he differs, says St. Thomas, from the ambitious man who abases himself far more than he should to obtain what he desires, and makes himself a lackey in order to attain power.

Humility does not flee great things; on the contrary it strengthens magnanimity by making man tend humbly toward lofty things. These two virtues, which support each other like the arches of a vault, are complementary. They are magnificently presented to us in our Lord when He says: "The Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister [this is humility], and to give His life a redemption for many [this is magnanimity with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls]." (27) Our Savior could not tend to greater things and tend more humbly toward them: He willed to give us eternal life by the way of the humiliations of His passion and cross. Thus, all proportion being kept, these two virtues, which in appearance are so contradictory, are united in the saints. The humble John the Baptist did not fear the anger of Herod when he reproved him for his immoral conduct; the apostles in their humility did not fear the opposition of men; they were magnanimous even to martyrdom. There is something similar in all the saints, and the more humble they are, the stronger they are, the less they fear human opinions, however formidable these may be. We have an example of this courage in the humble and intrepid Vincent de Paul facing Jansenist pride, which he recognized and denounced, in order to preserve for souls the grace of frequent Communion.

Practically, what must we do to reach the perfection of humility, without which we cannot have that of charity? Our attitude toward praise and reproach is of great importance. In regard to praise, we must not laud ourselves; by so doing we would soil ourselves, as the Italian proverb says: "Chi si loda, s'imbroda." Men praise themselves when they think they are not sufficiently praised by others. Furthermore, we must not seek praise; should we do this, we would render ourselves ridiculous and lose the merit of our good acts. Lastly, we should not take pleasure in praise when it comes; to do so would be to lose, if not the merit of our good actions, at least the flower of merit.

We must, however, mount still higher by acting as we should in regard to reproaches. We must patiently accept deserved reproaches, especially when they come from superiors who have the right and the duty to make them. If we pout, we lose the benefit of these just observations. It is also fitting that we accept patiently at times a reproach that is only slightly deserved or undeserved. Thus, while still a novice, St. Thomas was unjustly reproved for a so­called mistake in Latin while reading in the refectory. He corrected himself as he had been told to do; later at recreation his brethren were astonished and said to him: "You were right. Why did you correct yourself?" "It is better in the eyes of God," answered the saint, "to make a mistake in grammar than to fail in obedience and humility." Lastly, we would do well to ask for a love of contempt, keeping in mind the examples of the saints. When our Lord asked St: John of the Cross: "What do you wish for a reward?" the saint replied: "To be scorned and to suffer for love of Thee." His prayer was granted a few days later in the most painful manner; he as treated like an unworthy religious in a scarcely credible fashion. Likewise St. Francis of Assisi said to Brother Leo: "If when we arrive this evening at the door of the convent, the brother porter does not wish to open the door for us, if he takes us for thieves and receives us with blows and leaves us outside all night in the rain and cold, then we must say: Santa letizia, that is, what joy, 0 Lord, to suffer for Thee and to become a little like Thee." The saints reached even this height.

St. Anselm admirably described the degrees of humility: "(1) to acknowledge ourselves contemptible; (2) to grieve on account of this; (3) to admit that we are so; (4) to wish our neighbor to believe it; (5) patiently to endure people's saying it; (6) willingly to be treated as a person worthy of contempt; (7) to love to be treated in this fashion." (28)

These higher degrees are stated in all books of piety but, as St. Teresa says: "The disposition to practice this (the higher degrees of humility) must be, in my opinion, the gift of God; for it seems to me a supernatural good." (29) They presuppose a certain infused contemplation of the humility of the Savior crucified for us and the ardent desire to become like to Him.

It is certainly fitting to tend to this lofty perfection. Rare are they who attain it; but before reaching it, the interior soul has many occasions to recall these words of Jesus, which are so simple, profound, and truly imitable, all proportion being kept: "The Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a redemption for many." (30) This is the deepest humility united to the loftiest grandeur of soul.

In our way we should also follow the Savior and gradually be conformed to Him. For this reason we shall devote the following chapter to a consideration of the humility of Jesus as the eminent exemplar of ours.(31)

1. Cf. supra, chap 7.

2. Cf. Vol. I, chap. II.

3. Acquired humility is conceived from this point of view.

4. Infused humility is understood here.

5. John 15:5.

6. Ps. 38:6.

7. Cf. I Cor. 4:7.

8. Matt. 21:42.

9. Eph.2:19f.

10. Cf. I Kings 2:6 f.

11. Cf. II Cor. 3:5.

12. Cf. I Cor. 12:3.

13. Ps. 50, passim.

14. Ps. 18:13.

15. Cf. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q.161, a. I: "A twofold virtue is necessary with regard to the difficult good: one, to temper and restrain the mind, lest it tend to high things immoderately; and this belongs to the virtue of humility: and another to strengthen the mind against despair and urge it on to the pursuit of great things according to right reason; and this is magnanimity." Ibid., a.2 ad 3um; q.129, a'3 ad 4um. These two virtues are complementary like the two sides of an ogive. The virtues, from the fact that they are connected, grow together like the five fingers of the hand. Consequently one cannot have profound humility without true nobility of soul or magnanimity.

16. Ps.113:1.

17. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 161, a.3.

18. Ibid., a.6 ad 1um.

19. Ps.I8:I3.

20. De Virginitate, chap. 52.

21. We read this statement in substance in the Confessions, Bk. II, chap. 7.

22. Ps. 50: 12.

23. Jer. 31: 18.

24. Ps. 24: 16.

25. Cf. Ia, q.20, a.3.

26. Cf. I Cor. 4:7.

27. Matt. 20: 28.

28. Lib. de similitudinibus, chaps. 01-9, quoted by St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 161, a.6 ad 3um.

29. Life by herself, chap. 31; The Way of Perfection, chap. 12.

30. Matt. 20: 28.

31. Cf. St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life, Part III, chaps. 4-7, in which the saint discusses humility, the voluntary recognition of our abjection and nothingness. Humility conceals the other virtues and seeks to hide itself; it scarcely speaks of humility. Humility which does not produce generosity is without a doubt false. Humility does not neglect the care of a good reputation, but it endures contempt with joy.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Propers for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

INTROIT (Ps. 65:4)
Let all on earth worship You, O God, and sing praise to You; let them sing a psalm to Your name, O Most High.
Ps. 65:1-2. Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing a psalm to the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise.
V. Glory be . . .

Almighty and Eternal God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace in our days. Through Our Lord . . .

O God, You have added glory to Your Church by granting to the blessed king Canute the gift of miracles and the crown of martyrdom. May we walk in the footsteps of Your saint and follow our Lord's own path of suffering, so that we too may enter into everlasting happiness. Through Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE (Rom. 12:6-16)
Brethren: We having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us, either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith; or ministry, in ministering; or he that teacheth, in doctrine; he that exhorteth, in exhorting; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with carefulness; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good, loving one another with the charity of brotherhood: with honour preventing one another. In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent. Serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer. Communicating to the necessities of the saints. Pursuing hospitality. Bless them that persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice: weep with them that weep. Being of one mind one towards another. Not minding high things, but consenting to the humble. Be not wise in your own conceits.

GRADUAL (Ps. 106:20-21)
The Lord sent forth His word and healed them, and rescued them from destruction. V. Let them praise the Lord for His mercies, and His wondrous deeds towards the children of men.

Alleluia, alleluia! (V. Ps. 148:2)
Praise the Lord, all you His angels; praise Him, all you His hosts.

GOSPEL (John 2:1-11)
At that time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: "They have no wine." And Jesus saith to her: "Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come." His mother saith to the waiters: "Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye." Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: "Draw out now and carry to the chief steward of the feast." And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, And saith to him: "Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now." This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing a psalm to the glory of His name. Come and hear, all you who fear God, while I declare what He has done for me, alleluia!

O Lord, sanctify the gifts we offer You, and cleanse us from the stain of our sins. Through Our Lord . . .

COMMUNION ANTIPHON (John 2:7, 8, 9, 10-11)
The Lord said, "Fill the waterpots with water, and carry them to the chief steward of the feast." When the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, he calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him: "thou hast kept the good wine until now." This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

O Lord, increase Your grace within us, so that this divine Sacrament may bring us life and prepare us for the blessedness It promises. Through Our Lord . . .

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Just how Important is the Liturgy?

It seems that many Catholics today tend to underestimate the value and importance of liturgy in the Church. In particular, I have seen some conservatives put forth that doctrine is more important. At first this seems evident, since in comparison to the truths of faith, which are of the speculative order, the practices of the liturgy seem to be less lasting and set-in-stone. One might even attempt a Thomistic justification of this mentality: the speculative order is, after all, superior to the practical. So the truths of faith seem to be of greater importance than the practices of the liturgy. However, even on Thomistic grounds, this argument does not quite succeed. For St. Thomas himself notes that, although the speculative is indeed superior to the practical, the intellect to the will, nonetheless the highest particular act that a man can perform in this life is in fact an act of the will. That act is the love of God. Charity is indeed the highest virtue, surpassing even the intellectual virtues, whether natural or supernatural. All the wisdom and knowledge in the world are nothing without charity; and even the firm assent of supernatural faith cannot avail to salvation, if it is not enlivened by charity. Thus, St. Thomas tells us that charity is the greatest of the three theological virtues. All virtues, then, are ordered to the virtue of charity, the love of God.

Now, the saints will all tell us that charity, the love of God, is primarily exercised and perfected in prayer, which is understood to be simply a lifting of one's mind and heart to God. This is the classic spirituality of such saints as Francis de Sales, or Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and many others. Prayer is the principal and most effective means by which Christians show their love for God. Now prayer comes in many forms, obviously. But of all forms of prayer, the first place must be given to liturgical prayer, whether in the Mass or the Divine Office. Indeed, the liturgy is not simply a prayer, but it is the prayer of the Catholic Church, which has continuously formed the faithful and produced saints for many centuries. The liturgy is thus absolutely one of the most important aspects in the life of a Christian - even more important, in some sense, than the truths of faith. This is not to say that a right belief in the truths of faith may be sacrificed for the sake of the liturgy - that is obviously nonsense, since one cannot truly love God if one does not have at least an implicit belief in Him. It is sometimes said that faith can be had without charity, but not charity without faith. Thus, rather, in saying that the liturgy is more important than the truths of faith, all that is implied is that faith is not an end in itself, but is ordered and directed to the virtue of charity, which finds perhaps its highest expression in liturgical prayer.

From these principles, it follows how Catholics must be all the more careful in the regulation of the sacred liturgy. I have stressed before, on this blog, that extreme prudence is demanded of those in authority; but even more than being a matter of prudence, it is a matter of piety. To do damage to the liturgy amounts not only to an act of imprudence, but also one of impiety, since it comes with the grave risk of slowing the spiritual progress of the faithful. And the risk of doing such damage is quite great.

P.S. When I speak of "spiritual damage," I do not mean of such a nature that positively sends souls on their way to hell; in fact I think a liturgy like the Novus Ordo, if celebrated well, can be spiritually beneficial. But it is still gravely less so than the traditional liturgy, and it is there that the damage lies.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Letter of St. Thomas to Brother John on How to Study

Here is a famous letter, presumed to be from St. Thomas Aquinas, on how to study well. I have yet to put some of this advice to practice...


Because you have asked me, my brother John, most dear to me in Christ, how to set about acquiring the treasure of knowledge, this is the advice I pass on to you: 

That you should choose to enter by the small rivers, and not go right away into the sea, because you should move from easy things to difficult things.

Such is therefore my advice on your way of life:
1. I suggest you be slow to speak, and slow to go to the room where people chat.
2. Embrace purity of conscience; do not stop making time for prayer.
3. Love to be in your room frequently, if you wish to be led to the wine cellar.*
4. Show yourself to be likable to all, or at least try; but do not show yourself as too familiar with anyone; because too much familiarity breeds contempt, and will slow you in your studies; and do not get involved in any way in the deeds and words of worldly people.
5. Above all, avoid idle conversation; do not forget to follow the steps of holy and approved men.
6. Never mind who says what, but commit to memory what is said that is true.
7. Work to understand what you read, and make yourself sure of doubtful points.
8. Put whatever you can into the cupboard of your mind as if you were trying to fill a cup.
9. "Seek not the things that a higher than you." 

Follow the steps of blessed Dominic, who produced useful and marvelous shoots, flowers and fruits in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts for as long as life was his companion.

If you follow these things, you will attain to whatever you desire. Farewell.

*This reference to the "wine cellar" is actually a reference to Bernard's commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, and signifies the place of wisdom.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Proper for the Feast of the Holy Family

INTROIT (Prov. 23:24, 25)
The Father of the just one greatly rejoices. Let your father and your mother be joyful, and let her who bore you be glad.  
Ps. 83:2, 3. How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and faints for the courts of the Lord.  
V. Glory be . . .

O Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified home life with untold virtues by being subject to Mary and Joseph. May they assist us to imitate the example of Your Holy Family, so that we may share with them their eternal happiness; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

Commemoration of the First Sunday After The Epiphany
O Lord, mercifully hear the plea of those who call upon You, that Your people may understand their duty and be strengthened to fulfill it. Through Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE (Col. 3:12-17)
Brethren: Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another. Even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

GRADUAL (Ps. 26:4; 83:5)
One thing I have asked of the Lord; this will I seek after: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. V.Happy they who dwell in Your house, O Lord! They shall praise You forever and ever.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. (Isa. 45:15)
Verily You are a hidden king, the God of Israel, the Savior.

GOSPEL (Luke 2:42-52)
And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem. And his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: "Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." And he said to them: "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my father's business?"
And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.

The parents of Jesus took Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

O Lord, we offer You this sacrifice in atonement for our sins. May the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God and blessed Joseph, ever bestow Your peace and grace upon our families. Through our Lord . . .

May the sacrifice we offer You, O Lord, bring us new life and keep us safe. Through Our Lord . . .

Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.

We are refreshed by Your heavenly Sacrament, O Lord Jesus. Help us always to follow the example of Your Holy Family, that Your glorious Virgin Mother and blessed Joseph may meet us at the hour of our death, and find us worthy to enter with You into Your eternal home; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

Almighty God, we humbly ask that those who are nourished with Your Sacrament may live a life of worthy service pleasing to You. Through Our Lord . . .

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Liturgical History and the Novus Ordo

Adrian Fortescue (1874-1923)
I am no liturgical scholar (yet), but recently I have been acquiring some little knowledge of liturgical history over and above what I previously had. It has, I think, helped me understand better the liturgical questions surrounding the current crisis in the Church. With a closer reading of authors such as Adrian Fortescue, the historical development of the traditional Roman Rite has become clearer, as has the rupture with this tradition in the mass of Paul VI. Aside from all the theological problems with regard to tradition, the importance of liturgical tradition can be deduced from the fact that history demonstrates that that is simply how the Church works, and has always worked. The norm of tradition has always governed the development of Catholic liturgy, not only in the Roman Rite, making for a development that is real, but continuous and organic, always preserving the same substance.

The earliest example we have of the liturgy is, of course, at the Last Supper. With additional information given in the Epistles of St. Paul, it is possible to deduce the broader elements of the Eucharistic liturgy as it may have been: Jesus gives thanks; He blesses the bread and wine and pronounces over them the Words of Institution - whereat it is believed the sacrifice itself is made present; there are prayers commemorating Christ's sacrifice and death; and the disciples partake of the host and chalice. All of this, Christ commanded the Apostles to do, in memory of Him. In addition to this, there are other liturgical elements, distinct from the Eucharist liturgy, but not necessarily unrelated to it, that can be deduced from the Bible. Many of these elements originate in the services performed in the Jewish Synagogue. Generally, this includes the reading of scripture, sermons, the singing of psalms and hymns, other prayers, a profession of faith, etc. All of these elements are visible, in some form or another, in our present liturgies. 

Going beyond the scriptural evidence of the liturgy, the precise development of the liturgy in the first centuries is notoriously difficult to trace. Liturgy at this time seems not to have been formally written down, but rather was prayed more or less freely, but with habitual repetition - which alone is evidence for the traditional and habitual nature of liturgical prayer. Despite the lack of formal written sources, however, there are a few sources that give casual hints and indications as to what the liturgy was like at that time - I won't go through them all now. Suffice it to say that these sources point again towards a general structure or outline that was followed uniformly, albeit with certain local variations. This structure or outline is very likely the same as that given in the eighth book of the fourth-century work known as the Apostolic Constitutions, a treatise on early Christian doctrine, discipline, worship, and that sort. This liturgy also bears striking resemblances to the liturgy of the Roman Rite itself. There are still the readings from Scripture and the sermons; there is the kiss of peace; there are silent prayers said by the priest over the offering of the gifts, corresponding to the Secret (or the oratio super oblata) in the Roman offertory; there is a prayer of thanksgiving corresponding to the Roman preface; there are the Words of Institution said at the consecration; there is the reception of Communion; and several other elements which demonstrate with remarkable surety that the order of the liturgy in the Apostolic Constitutions is the same as that of the early Roman Rite. This is seen by a comparison of this order with certain liturgical references among the writings of the Roman fathers, particularly Clement of Rome and Justin Martyr. 

From the fourth century onward, the development of the liturgy is somewhat easier to trace. It seems to be the case that the structure of the liturgy given in the Apostolic Constitutions served as a universal outline for the liturgies of all early Christians, with their local differences of course. Around the time of the fourth century and thereafter, this general structure took on the particular forms of the four parent rites of Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Gaul. All of these rites preserved the general liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, with some of their own particular variations. There is, however, a mist which hangs over the precise history of how the particular parent rites, especially the Roman Rite, sprang forth from the primitive general liturgy described in the Apostolic Constitutions. In any case, it is certain that the Roman Rite retained this general liturgical outline in its core and essence, with the added Roman elements. These elements soon became definitive of the distinct, mature Roman Rite itself. The Roman Rite as known in the Tridentine missal is not altogether the same as this early Roman Rite, but has even further additions of Gallican influence. This is not to say it lost any of its previous identity: on the contrary, Fortescue points out that it lost nothing of its essence, but only gained new elements.

The original, early Roman Rite, can be seen in the well known books called the Sacramentaries, and other sources. The Sacramentaries contained all the prayers of the priest, omitting those sung by the choir or read by lectors; there was not yet a complete missal, containing all the prayers of the mass (the first complete missal would appear in the 15th century). The earliest Sacramentaries are three in number: the Leonine, the Gelasian, and the Gregorian Sacramentaries. The names of these are of the Popes to whom these works are attributed; but it is in fact not altogether certain who authored each. The first of these three, the Leonine, is the oldest, and exists in only one manuscript which dates from the seventh century. This book is a compilation of ancient proper prayers, primarily the orations and prefaces, lacking the ordinary parts of the mass or the Canon. Many of the prayers in this text are still in use. The Gelasian Sacramentary exists in several manuscripts which have some slight differences amongst themselves. This text is considerably more "Gallicanized" than the Leonine text. In its content, the Gelasian Sacramentary contains considerably more than the Leonine, still having the proper prayers for certain days and seasons, but also, significantly, adding the complete text of the Roman Canon, as it exists word for word in the Tridentine missal. Finally, the Gregorian Sacramentary, which was sent to Charlemagne by Pope Adrian I, when the former wished to impose the Roman Rite upon Gaul. This text contains the ordinary of the mass, some of the Propers, and prayers for ordinations, and seems in many ways to have its origins in the earlier Gelasian text. Being sent into Gaul, the Gregorian Sacramentary naturally underwent many revisions and additions of Gallican elements. Combined with those elements, the Gregorian Sacramentary forms much of the basis of the later Tridentine missal.

Other early liturgical books were the Antiphonaries or Graduales, which contained the proper chants sung by the choir or schola - Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion. Also the Lectionaries, which contained the lessons and readings which were read by the lectors - Epistle and Gospel readings, as they are in the Tridentine missal. In the very early liturgy of the Church, there were often several readings; whereas the Roman Rite normally had only two or three. There was not a great deal of normality as to the number of readings until later. 

Following Fortescue's lead, based on all these sources, and stripping away the Gallican additions, the early Roman mass would have consisted of the following, in order: Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, Offertory chant, Secret, Preface, Canon, Pater Noster, Kiss of Peace, reception of Communion, Communion Chant, Postcommunion, and Ite Missa Est. It might perhaps be possible to define the ancient Roman Rite itself according to these elements, as being essential to it; for throughout the very long history of the Roman Rite, from approximately the fourth-sixth centuries, these elements have always existed as its necessary constituents. (There may be other essential elements too, such as in the calendar - I'll address those at another time.) These essential parts exist also in the later Tridentine missal, but with the addition of later elements from outside of Rome. These later elements gradually became absorbed into the Roman structure, until many of them were officially approved as part of the Roman mass by Pope Pius V. These are elements such as the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Offertory prayers, Lavabo, Agnus Dei, Last Gospel, and some other smaller elements, both in prayer and in ritual. (Might these, or some of them, be said to belong essentially, not to the pure Roman Rite, but to the Tridentine Roman Rite?) It would be wrong to say, simply because these are later additions to the pure Roman Rite, that they are not properly a part of the liturgical tradition. Even these are very ancient, and were very good and spiritually beneficial additions to the Roman Rite. Thus they were legitimate additions to the more ancient tradition. It is not necessary, for something to be traditional, that it have its origins in the earliest days of Christianity. Ecclesiastical traditions can begin at any time in the course of history; the question is whether "new traditions" are harmonious with, or a truly beneficial addition to and improvement of, what came before. There have been legitimate changes and even innovations in the history of the liturgy; but these were added to the more basic traditions and fitted into the already existing liturgy, and were improvements on that liturgy. This is very different from reinventing the liturgy altogether.

This, then, is a very brief and incomplete sketch of the historical development of the mass. Does the Novus Ordo fit into this development? Does it retain the essential elements of the traditional Roman Rite? When compared to this old liturgical structure, the mass of Paul VI cannot but be a grave rupture from liturgical tradition and its continuous development. This is seen, first of all, by the extremely widespread revision of the Sacramentary, particularly in the prayers called the Orations - the Collects, Secrets, and Postcommunions. Very many of these, in the traditional missal, were extremely ancient. The core of this ancient collection had been preserved throughout the long development of the liturgy, in many cases for around 1500 years, until Pope Paul VI. Studies have been made of the revised collection of Sunday Collects, showing not only that there is a very great statistical difference, but that there is even a shift in spiritual and theological emphasis - and, on the whole, not a change for the better. Much the same is the case with regard to the Lectionary: a great part of the readings for the mass was fixed at the time of Pope Gregory I, and on the whole the age of the Lectionary was certainly well over 1000 years. Throughout the whole history of the liturgy, there was never any such thing as a three-year cycle. Furthermore, in the new selections of readings there are observable theological patterns that are questionable. In regards to the proper chants, which had been fixed for approximately 1200 years, these have been made optional in the new mass; virtually anything can be sung in their place, to the grave detriment of the identity of the Roman Rite. Finally, there has been a great change to the Roman Canon, which of all Christian prayers is the most revered and the most venerable - next to the Lord's Prayer itself. The history of the Canon alone is very fascinating. Apart from a minor change in 1962 (the addition of the name of St. Joseph), the Canon had remained word for word unchanged since the time of Pope Gregory I, and many of its prayers existed at a much earlier date. That such a sacred prayer, so important and essential a part of the traditional Roman Rite, could be reduced to a mere option is simply incredible, almost inconceivable to the religious soul imbibed with a love for tradition. The Canon was meant to be a fixed rule for all masses, the unchanging norm by which the sacrifice of Christ was made present on the altar - that is, in fact, the very significance of the word "Canon." This ideal was done away with by the liturgical reformers. Even if the text of the Canon itself remains in the missal as an option, it now no longer retains the venerable place it once held, as the heart, core, and essence of the Roman liturgy.

The new liturgy also does damage to some of the later elements which were added to the pure Roman Rite, and which appeared in the Tridentine missal. A prime example is the Offertory. The traditional Offertory prayers, albeit a later addition to the Roman Rite - having originated from private prayers of the priest - contained a wealth of doctrinal and spiritual content that was lost in the new mass, and replaced by prayers which completely lack the rich doctrinal and spiritual content of the old prayers.

These changes altogether are enough to render the Novus Ordo to be just that: a new order of the liturgy. It is truly a new order, a new rite, a different construction, as attested by its authors. The essence of the Roman Rite, as it existed for around 1500 years, as well as the additional elements which had accumulated around it, was destroyed. And aside from this, it is highly doubtful whether many of these changes considered in themselves were really beneficial for the spiritual welfare of the Church (there may be a few exceptions, but only a few). On the whole, it is beyond doubt that the destruction of a 1500 year-old tradition was not beneficial.

Much more could be said of these and many other related matters. This post has been only a very general summary of the problems. I am currently endeavoring to deepen my own knowledge of the liturgy and its history, both in its general outlines and its particular parts. Hopefully I will be able to display some more of the results of my studies on this blog in the future.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Dom Gueranger on the Importance of Liturgical Prayer

This is a beautiful excerpt from the general preface of Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year. These reflections seem to have some relevance to the current liturgical crisis. Gueranger mentions past crises in Christendom which were closely wound up with revolutions in the liturgy - thus demonstrating the intimate connection between the liturgy and the spiritual welfare of the faithful. Any tampering with the liturgy is almost bound to have an effect on the spiritual and moral lives of people. Might this also be said of the current state of affairs in the Church?


Prayer is man’s richest boon. It is his light, his nourishment, and his very life, for it brings him into communication with God, who is light [St. John viii. 12], nourishment [Ibid. vi. 35], and life [Ibid. xiv. 6]. But of ourselves we know not what we should pray for as we ought [Rom. viii. 26]; we must needs, therefore, address ourselves to Jesus Christ, and say to Him as the apostles did: ‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’ [St. Luke xi. 1] He alone can make the dumb speak, and give eloquence to the mouths of children; and this prodigy He effects by sending His Spirit of grace and of prayers [Zach. xii. 10], who delights in helping our infirmity, asking for us with unspeakable groanings [Rom. viii. 26].

Now it is in the holy Church that this divine Spirit dwells. He came down to her as an impetuous wind, and manifested Himself to her under the expressive symbol of tongues of fire. Ever since that day of Pentecost, He has dwelt in this His favoured bride. He is the principle of everything that is in her. He it is that prompts her prayers, her desires, her canticles of praise, her enthusiasm, and even her mourning. Hence her prayer is as uninterrupted as her existence. Day and night is her voice sounding sweetly in the ear of her divine Spouse, and her words are ever finding a welcome in His Heart.

At one time, under the impulse of that Spirit, who animated the admirable psalmist and the prophets, she takes the subject of her canticles from the Books of the old Testament; at another, showing herself to be the daughter and sister of the holy apostles, she intones the canticles written in the Books of the new Covenant; and finally, remembering that she, too, has had given to her the trumpet and harp, she at times gives way to the Spirit who animates her, and sings her own new canticle [Ps. cxliii. 9]. From these three sources comes the divine element which we call the liturgy.

The prayer of the Church is, therefore, the most pleasing to the ear and heart of God, and therefore the most efficacious of all prayers. Happy, then, is he who prays with the Church, and unites his own petitions with those of this bride, who is so dear to her Lord that He gives her all she asks. It is for this reason that our blessed Saviour taught us to say our Father, and not my Father; give us, forgive us, deliver us, and not give me, forgive me, deliver me. Hence we find that, for upwards of a thousand years, the Church, who prays in her temples seven times in the day and once again during the night, did not pray alone. The people kept her company, and fed themselves with delight on the manna which is hidden under the words and mysteries of the divine liturgy. Thus initiated into the sacred cycle of the mysteries of the Christian year, the faithful, attentive to the teachings of the Spirit, came to know the secrets of eternal life; and, without any further preparation, a Christian was not unfrequently chosen by the bishops to he a priest, or even a bishop, that he might go and pour out on the people the treasures of wisdom and love, which he had drunk in at the very fountain-head.

For whilst prayer said in union with the Church is the light of the understanding, it is the fire of divine love for the heart. The Christian soul neither needs nor wishes to avoid the company of the Church, when she would converse with God, and praise His greatness and His mercy. She knows that the company of the bride of Christ could not be a distraction to her. Is not the soul herself a part of this Church, which is the bride? Has not Jesus Christ said: ‘Father, may they be one, as We also are one’? [St. John xvii. 11]. And, when many are gathered in His name, does not this same Saviour assure us that He is in the midst of them? [St. Matt. xviii. 20]. The soul, therefore, may converse freely with her God, who tells her that He is so near her; she may sing praise, as David did, in the sight of the angels, [Ps. cxxxvii. 1] whose eternal prayer blends with the prayer which the Church utters in time.

But now for many ages past, Christians have grown too solicitous about earthly things to frequent the holy vigils, and the mystical Hours of the day. Long before the rationalism of the sixteenth century had become the auxiliary of the heresies of that period by curtailing the solemnity of the divine service, the people had ceased to unite themselves exteriorly with the prayer of the Church, except on Sundays and festivals. During the rest of the year, the solemn and imposing grandeur of the liturgy was gone through, and the people took no share in it. Each new generation increased in indifference for that which their forefathers in the faith had loved as their best and strongest food. Social prayer was made to give way to individual devotion. Chanting, which is the natural expression of the prayers and even of the sorrows of the Church, became limited to the solemn feasts. That was the first sad revolution in the Christian world.

But even then Christendom was still rich in churches and monasteries; and there, day and night, was still heard the sound of the same venerable prayers which the Church had used through all the past ages. So many hands lifted up to God drew down upon the earth the dew of heaven, averted storms, and won victory for those who were in battle. These servants of God, who thus kept up an untiring choir that sang the divine praises, were considered as solemnly deputed by the people, which was still Catholic, to pay the full tribute of homage and thanks giving due to God, His blessed Mother, and the saints. These prayers formed a treasury which belonged to all. The faithful gladly united themselves in spirit to what was done. When any affliction, or the desire to obtain a special favour, led them to the house of God, they were sure to hear, no matter at what hour they went, that untiring voice of prayer which was for ever ascending to heaven for the salvation of mankind. At times they would give up their worldly business, and cares, and take part in the Office of the Church, and all still understood, at least in a general way, the mysteries of the liturgy.

Then came the so-called reformation, and at the outset it attacked the very life of Christianity: it would put an end to man’s sacrifice of praise to God. It strewed many countries with the ruins of churches: the clergy, the monks, and virgins consecrated to God were banished or put to death; and in the churches which were spared the divine Offices were not permitted. In other countries, where the persecution was not so violent, many sanctuaries were devastated and irremediably ruined, so that the life and voice of prayer grew faint. Faith, too, was weakened; rationalism became fearfully developed; and now our own age seems threatened with what is the result of these evils - the subversion of all social order.

For, when the reformation had abated the violence of its persecution, it had other weapons wherewith to attack the Church. By these several countries which continued to be Catholic were infected with that spirit of pride which is the enemy of prayer. The modern spirit would have it that prayer is not action; as though every good action done by man were not a gift of God: a gift which implies two prayers, one of petition that it may be granted, and another of thanksgiving because it is granted. There were found men who said: ‘Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the earth’ [Ps. lxxiii. 8]; and then came upon us that calamity which brings all others with it, and which the good Mardochai besought God to avert from his nation, when he said: ‘Shut not, O Lord, the mouths of them that sing to Thee!’ [2 Esther xiii. 17].

But by the mercy of God we have not been consumed [Is. x. 20-22]; there have been left remnants of Israel [ Acts v. 14]; and the number of believers in the Lord has increased [Lam. iii. 22]. What is it that has moved the heart of our God to bring about this merciful conversion? Prayer, which had been interrupted, has been resumed. Numerous choirs of virgins consecrated to God, and, though far less in number, of men who have left the world to spend themselves in the divine praises, make the voice of the turtle-dove heard in our land [Cant. ii. 12]. This voice is every day gaining more power: may it find acceptance from our Lord, and move Him to show the sign of His covenant with us, the rainbow of reconciliation! May our venerable cathedrals again re-echo those solemn formulae of prayer, which heresy has so long suppressed! May the faith and munificence of the faithful reproduce the prodigies of those past ages, which owed their greatness to the acknowledgement paid by all, even the very civic authorities, to the all-powerfulness of prayer!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Prospers for the feast of the Epiphany

INTROIT Mal. 3:1; 1 Par. 29:12
Behold, the Lord, the Ruler, is come. He has dominion over all, and in His hand is power and might. 
Ps. 71:2.
 O God, with Your judgment endow the king, and with Your justice, the kings son.
V. Glory be . . .

O God, who by the star this day revealed Your only-begotten Son to all nations, grant that we, who know You now by faith, may be brought one day before the vision of Your majesty. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .

LESSON Isa. 60:1-6
Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense: and shewing forth praise to the Lord.

GRADUAL Isa. 60:6, 1
All they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord. 
. Arise and be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Alleluia, alleluia. V. Matt. 2:2
We have seen His star in the East and have come with gifts to worship the Lord.

GOSPEL Matt. 2:1-12
Now when Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: "Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him." And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: "In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet: 'And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.' " Then Herod, privately calling the wise men learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him.
Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, (here, genuflect) and falling down they adored him: and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.

The kings of Tharsis and the isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Saba shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him.

O Lord, look with favor upon the gifts offered by Your Church. It is not gold, frankincense, and myrrh that is offered now, but the King, God and Saviour, who was signified by these gifts, is Himself our Sacrifice and our Food, Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord; who lives and rules with You . . .

We have seen His star in the East and have come with gifts to worship the Lord.

O Almighty God, grant that we may understand with pure minds the revelation of Christ which we here solemnly commemorate. Through Our Lord . . .

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Propers for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

INTROIT Philip. 2:10-11
At the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of the Father.
Ps. 8:2. O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is Your name over all the earth!
V. Glory be . . .

O God, it was You who conferred the name of Jesus upon Your only-begotten Son, the Savior of the world. Grant that by venerating His holy name on earth we may enjoy His presence in heaven. Through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and rules with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

EPISTLE Acts 4:8-12
In those days, Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: "Ye princes of the people and ancients, hear. If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole: Be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him, this man standeth here before you, whole.
" This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."

GRADUAL Ps. 105:47; Isa 63:16
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in praising You.
V. You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer. From eternity is Your name.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 144:21
My lips shall speak the praise of the Lord; let all men bless His holy name.

GOSPEL Luke 2:21
At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forever. For You, O Lord, are sweet and mild, abounding in kindness to all who call upon You, alleluia!

O Most Merciful God, may Your blessing, which gives life to all creation, sanctify the sacrifice we offer in honor of the name of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let this act of praise be pleasing to Your majesty and profitable towards our own salvation. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .

The Preface for Christmas is said.

All the nations You have made shall come and worship You, O Lord, and glorify Your name. For great You are and do wondrous deeds. You alone are God. Alleluia!

O Almighty and eternal God, who created and redeemed us, graciously hear our petitions. Receive kindly and favorably this saving Sacrificial Victim, which we have offered to Your majesty in honor of the name of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Pour out Your grace upon us, that we may rejoice to see our names written in heaven under the glorious name of Jesus, who is the pledge of our eternal predestination. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Propers for the Feast of the Circumcision

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 God, it was through the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary that You bestowed the gift of eternal life upon mankind. Grant that we may feel the powerful intercession of Mary, through whom we were privileged to receive the giver of life, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord; who lives and rules with You . . .

EPISTLE Titus 2:11-15
Beloved: The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men: Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

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. Heb. 1:1-2
God, who in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by His Son.

GOSPEL Luke 2:21
At that time, when eight days were fulfilled for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given to Him by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Yours are the heavens and Yours are the earth; the world and its fullness You have founded. Justice and judgment are the foundation of Your throne.

Accept our offerings and prayers, O Lord. Cleanse us by this heavenly rite and in Your mercy hear our petitions. Through Our Lord . . .

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

O Lord, may this Communion cleanse us from sin, and bestow on us spiritual health from heaven through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .