Sunday, 29 March 2020

29 MARCH – PASSION SUNDAY

Dom Prosper Guéranger:

Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

The Holy Church begins her Night Office of this Sunday with these impressive words of the Royal Prophet. Formerly, the faithful considered it their duty to assist at the Night Office, at least on Sundays and Feasts. They would have grieved to have lost the grand teachings given by the Liturgy. Such fervour has long since died out. The assiduity at the Offices of the Church, which was the joy of our Catholic forefathers, has now become a thing of the past, and even in countries which have not apostatised from the faith, the clergy have ceased to celebrate publicly Offices at which no-one assisted. Excepting in cathedral churches and in monasteries, the grand harmonious system of the Divine Praise has been abandoned, and the marvellous power of the Liturgy has no longer its full influence upon the faithful.
This is our reason for drawing the attention of our readers to certain beauties of the Divine Office, which would otherwise be totally ignored. Thus, what can be more expressive than this solemn Invitatory of today’s Matins, which the Church takes from one of the psalms, and which she repeats on every Feria between this and Maundy Thursday?
She says: Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts! The sweet voice of your suffering Jesus now speaks to you, poor sinners! Be not your own enemies by indifference and hardness of heart. The Son of God is about to give you the last and greatest proof of the love that brought Him down from heaven. His Death is near at hand: men are preparing the wood for the immolation of the new Isaac. Enter into yourselves and let not your hearts, after being touched with grace, return to their former obduracy, for nothing could be more dangerous. The great anniversaries we are to celebrate have a renovating power for those souls that faithfully correspond with the grace which is offered them, but they increase insensibility in those who let them pass without working their conversion. Today, therefore, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts!
During the preceding four weeks we have noticed how the malice of Jesus’ enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them, and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright. At the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messiah being a mighty conqueror, and to the Pharisee who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles. his discourses are more than ever energetic. His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous Temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should at least reflect upon what they hear. They should examine these wonderful works which render such strong testimony in favour of the Son of David, and they should consult those divine prophecies which up to the present time have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas, they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaias as having to be put upon the Messiah which these blind men are not scheming to verify. In them, therefore, was fulfilled that terrible saying: “He that will speak against the Holy Ghost, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come” (Matthew xii. 32). The Synagogue is near to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear. She has deliberately perverted her judgement. She has extinguished within herself the light of the Holy Spirit. She will go deeper and deeper into evil, and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations, for what happened in Jerusalem happens also in every sinner’s heart. His heart, according to the saying of Saint Paul, is a Calvary where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith knows Him whom he crucifies, whereas the Jews, as the same Apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians ii. 8). While, therefore, we listen to the Gospel which relates the history of the Passion, let us turn the indignation we feel for the Jews against ourselves and our own sins. Let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die.
Everything around us urges us to mourn. The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight. The Church is oppressed with grief. During the first four weeks of Lent she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert. His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish. We read in today’s Gospel that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer, but His hour is not yet come. He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation that the Church veils the Cross. A God hiding Himself, that He may evade the anger of men — what a mystery! Is it weakness? Is it that He fears death? No, we will soon see Him going out to meet His enemies. But at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die on a Cross, the tree of malediction, which, from that time forward is to be the Tree of Life.
Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of heaven and earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back in thought to the sad day of the first sin when Adam and Eve hid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus is come to assure us of our being pardoned! and lo, He hides Himself, not because He is naked —He that is to the Saints the garb of holiness and immortality — but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God. Jesus hides Himself from the eye of men, but it will not be thus forever. The day will come when sinners from whose anger He now flees will pray to the mountains that they fall on them to shield them from His gaze, but their prayer will not be granted, and they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty.
This Sunday is called Passion Sunday because the Church begins on this day to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. It is called also Judica from the first word of the Introit of the Mass, and again, Neomania, that is, the Sunday of the new (or the Easter) moon, because it always falls after the new moon which regulates the Feast of Easter Day.
In the Greek Church, this Sunday goes under the simple name of the Fifth Sunday of the Holy Fasts.
Epistle – Hebrews ix. 11‒15
Brethren, Christ having come, a high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by His own blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who, by the Holy Spirit, offered Himself without a spot to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? And therefore He is the Mediator of the New Testament, and by means of His death, for the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former testament; they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
It is by Blood alone that man is to be redeemed. He has offended God. This God cannot be appeased by anything short of the extermination of his rebellious creature, who, by shedding his blood, will give an earnest of his repentance and his entire submission to the Creator against whom he dared to rebel. Otherwise, the justice of God must be satisfied by the sinner’s suffering eternal punishment. This truth was understood by all the people of the ancient world, and all confessed it by shedding the blood of victims, as in the sacrifices of Abel, at the very commencement of the world, in the hecatombs of Greece, in the countless immolations by which Solomon dedicated the Temple. And yet God thus speaks to His people: “Hear, my people, and I will speak: Israel, and I will testify to you: I am God your God. I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, and your burnt-offerings are always in my sight. I will not take calves out of your house, nor he-goats out of your flocks. I need them not: for all the beasts of the woods are mine. If I should be hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bullocks? Or will I drink the blood of goats? (Psalm xlis. 7‒13) Thus God commands the blood of victims to be offered to Him and, at the same time, declares that neither it nor they are precious in His sight. Is this a contradiction? No. God would by this have man understand that it is only by Blood that he can be redeemed, but that the blood of brute animals cannot effect this redemption. Can the blood of man himself bring him his own redemption, and appease God’s justice? No, not even man’s blood, for it is denied, and even were it undefiled, it is powerless to compensate for the outrage done to God by sin. For this, there was needed the Blood of a God. That was the Blood of Jesus, and He has come that He may shed it for our redemption.
In Him is fulfilled the most sacred of the figures of the Old Law. Once each year, the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies, there to make intercession for the people. He went within the Veil to the Ark of the Covenant, but he was not allowed to enjoy this great privilege unless he entered the holy place carrying in his hands the blood of a newly-offered victim. The Son of God, the true High Priest, is now about to enter heaven, and we are to follow him there, but unto this, He must have an offering of blood, and that Blood can be none other than His own. We are going to assist at this His compliance with the divine ordinance. Let us open our hearts that this precious Blood may, as the Apostle says in today’s Epistle, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Gospel – John xiii. 46‒59
At that time Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews, “Which of you will convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God hears the words of God. Therefore you hear them not because you are not of God.” The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “Do not we say well, that you are a Samaritan and have a devil?” Jesus answered, “I have not a devil, but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. I seek not my own glory. There is one that seeks and judges. Amen, Amen, I say to you, if any man will keep my word, He will not see death forever.” The Jews therefore said, “Now we know that you have a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets. And you say, ‘If any man keeps my word, he will not taste death forever.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets who are dead. Who do you make yourself to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that He is your God. And you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I will say that I know Him not, I will be like to you, a liar. But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day. He saw it, and was glad.” The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.” They took up stones therefore to cast at Him but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The fury of the Jews is evidently at its height, and Jesus is obliged to hide Himself from them. But He is to fall into their hands before many days are over. Then will they triumph and put Him to death. They triumph, and Jesus is their victim: but how different is to be his lot from their ! In obedience to the decrees of His heavenly Father, and out of love for men, He will deliver Himself into the hands of His enemies, and they will put Him to death, but He will rise victorious from the tomb, He will ascend into heaven, He will be throned on the right hand of His Father. His enemies on the contrary, after having vented all their rage, will live on without remorse until the terrible day come for their chastisement.
That day is not far off, for observe the severity with which our Lord speaks to them: “You hear not the words of God, because you are not of God.” Yet there was a time, when they were of God, for the Lord gives His grace to all men, but they have rendered this grace useless. They are now in darkness, and the light they have rejected will not return.
“You say that my Father is your God, and you have not known Him, but I know Him.” Their obstinacy in refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah has led these men to ignore that very God whom they boast of honouring, for if they knew the Father, they would not reject His Son. Moses and the Psalms and the Prophets are all a dead letter to them. These sacred Books are soon to pass into the hands of the Gentiles who will both read and understand them. “If” continues Jesus, “you should say that I know Him not, I should be like you, a liar.” This strong language is that of the angry Judge who is to come down at the last day to destroy sinners. Jerusalem has not known the time of her visitation: the Son of God has visited her, He is with her, and she dares to say to Him: “You have a devil!” She says to the Eternal Word, who proves Himself to be God by the most astounding miracles, that Abraham and the Prophets are greater than He! Strange blindness, that comes from pride and hardness of heart! The Feast of the Pasch is at hand: these men are going to eat, and with much parade of religion, the flesh of the figurative lamb. They know full well that this lamb is a symbol or a figure which is to have its fulfilment. The true Lamb is to be sacrificed by their hands, and they will not know Him. He will shed his Blood for them, and it will not save them. How this reminds us of those sinners for whom this Easter promises to be as fruitless as those of the past years! Let us redouble our prayers for them, and beseech our Lord to soften their hearts, lest trampling the Blood of Jesus under their feet, they should have it to cry vengeance against them before the throne of the heavenly Father.




Saturday, 28 March 2020

28 MARCH – SATURDAY IN THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT

Lesson – Isaias xlix. 815
Thus says the Lord: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you; and I have preserved you, and given you to be a covenant of the people, that you might raise up the earth, and possess the inheritances that were destroyed, that you might say to them that are bound: Come forth” and to them that are in darkness: Show yourselves.They will feed in the ways, and their pastures will be in every plain. They will not hunger nor thirst, neither will the heat nor the sun strike them: for he that is merciful to them will be their shepherd, and at the fountains of waters he will give them drink. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my paths will be exalted. Behold these will come from afar, and behold these from the north and from the sea, and these from the south country. Give praise, ye heavens, and rejoice, earth; ye mountains, give praise with jubilation, because the Lord has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His poor ones. And Sion said: The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget you,” says the Lord Almighty.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Never did our heavenly Father express His tender mercy towards us in more glowing terms, and He bade His Prophet deliver them to us. He gives the whole earth to His Son, Jesus Christ, our Incarnate Lord, not that He may judge and condemn it, as it deserves, but that He may save it (John iii. 17). This divine Ambassador having come on the earth, he tells all that are galled by fetters, or that sit in the gloomy shadow of death, to come to him, promising them liberty and light. Their hunger will be appeased, and their thirst quenched. They will no longer pant under the scorching rays of the sun, but will be led by their merciful Shepherd to the cool shades on the banks of the water of life.
They came from every nation under heaven: the Fountain, the Font, will be the centre where all the human race is to meet. The Gentile world is to be henceforth called Sion, and the Lord loves the gates of this new Sion above all the tabernacles of Jacob (Psalm lxxxvi. 2). No God had not forgotten her during the long ages of her idol-worship. His love is tender as that of the fondest mother; yes, and though a mothers heart may forget her child, God never will forget His Sion. You, then, who received Baptism at your very entrance into the world but have since then served another Master besides Him to whom you swore perpetual allegiance at the font — be of good heart! If the grace of God has found you submissive, if the holy exercises of Lent and the prayers offered for you by the Church have had their effect, and you are now preparing to make your peace with God,— read these words of your heavenly Father and fear not! How can you fear? He has given you to His own Son. He has told him to save, heal, and comfort you. Are you in the bonds of sin? Jesus can break them. Are you in spiritual darkness? He is the Light of the world, and can dispel the thickest gloom. Are you hungry? He is the Bread of Life. Are you thirsty? He is the Fountain of living Water. Are you scorched, are you burnt to the very core, by the heat of concupiscence? Even so, poor sufferers, you must not lose courage. There is a cool fountain ready to refresh you, and heal all your wounds. Not indeed the First Font, which gave you the life you have lost, but the second Baptism, the divine Sacrament of Penance, which can restore you to grace and purity.
Gospel – John viii. 12‒20
At that time Jesus spoke to the multitude of the Jews, saying: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me walks not in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees therefore said to Him: “You give testimony of yourself. Your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered and said to them: “Although I give testimony of myself, my testimony is true, for I know from where I came and where I go, but you know not from where I come, or where I go. You judge according to the flesh, I judge not any man. And if I do judge, my judgment is true because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. And in your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true. I am one, that give testimony of myself, and the Father that sent me, gives testimony of me.” They said therefore to Him: “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered: “Neither me do you know, nor my Father: if you did know me, perhaps you would know my Father also.” These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, teaching in the temple, and no man laid hands on him because his hour was not yet come.
Praise be to you, O Christ. 

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
What a contrast between the tender mercy of God, who invites all men to receive His Son as their Redeemer, and the obduracy of heart with which the Jews receive the heavenly Ambassador! Jesus has proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God, and, in proof of His divine origin, has, for three long years wrought the most astounding miracles. Many of the Jews have believed in Him, because they argued that God could never have authorised falsity by miracles, and they therefore accepted the doctrine of Jesus as coming from heaven. The Pharisees hate the light and love darkness. Their pride will not yield even to the evidence of facts. At one time they denied the genuineness of Jesus miracles, at another they pretended to explain them by the agency of the devil. Then too, they put questions to Him of such a captious nature that, in whatever way Jesus answered, they might accuse Him of blasphemy or contempt for the Law. Today they have the audacity to make this objection to Jesus being the Messiah — that He gives testimony in His own favour! Our Blessed Lord who knows the malice of their hearts deigns to refute their impious sarcasm, but He avoids giving them an explicit answer. It is evident that the Light is passing from Jerusalem and is to bless other lands. How terrible is this punishment of a soul that abuses the truth, and rejects it by an instinctive hatred! Her crime is that sin against the Holy Ghost, which will not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come (Matthew xii. 32). Happy he that loves the truth, though it condemns his evil passions and troubles his conscience! Such an one proves that he reveres the wisdom of God, and if it do not altogether rule his conduct, it does not abandon him. But happier far he that yields himself wholly to the Truth and as a humble disciple follows Jesus. He walks not in darkness. He will have the light of life. Let us then lose no time, but take at once that happy path marked out for us by Him who is our Light and our Life. Keeping close to His footsteps, we went up the rugged hill of Quarentana, and there we witnessed His rigid Fast, but now that the time of His Passion is at hand, He invites us to follow Him up another mountain, that of Calvary, there to contemplate His sufferings and Death. Let us not hesitate: we will be repaid — we will have the light of life.

Friday, 27 March 2020

27 MARCH – SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS (Confessor and Doctor of the Church)

The last of the Greek Fathers, John was born at Damascus where his father was the Caliphs Vizier. He was educated with great care by Cosmas, a Greek monk who had been brought into Syria as a slave. On his fathers death he succeeded him as Vizier, and had thus all that the world could give him — wealth, honours, power, learning. But realising the danger of his high position at a Muslim court, he divided his riches among the poor and went as a pilgrim to Jerusalem, eventually settling in the famous Laura or monastery of Saint Sabbas. His life henceforth is a simple record of humility, prayer, labour and obedience. He passed away 6 May 780 AD, being as is asserted one hundred and four years old. On account of the flowing eloquence of his writings Saint John acquired the surname Chrysorrhoes (Golden Stream). His chief work, that on the Orthodox Faith, is the first systematic Treatise on Dogmatic Theology we possess and has been a model to the writers of succeeding ages. His convincing discourses in defence of the veneration of icons marked him out as a champion of the faith against Leo the Isaurian, the iconoclast emperor of Constantinople, through whose machinations he was sentenced to have his right hand cut off. It was afterwards miraculously restored to him by Our Blessed Lady, whose devout client he ever was. Venerated from his own age as a Saint, Pope Leo XIII numbered him among the Doctors of the Church.

Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Drizipara in Pannonia, St. Alexander, a soldier, in the time of emperor Maximian. Having overcome many tribulations for Christ, and wrought many miracles, he completed his martyrdom by decapitation.

The same day, the Saints Philetus, senator, his wife Lydia, and their sons Macedon and Theoprepides. Also Amphilochius, an officer in the army, and Chronidas, a notary, who were put to death for the confession of Christ.

In Persia, in the reign of King Sapor, the holy martyrs Zanitas, Lazarus, Marotas, Narses, and five others, who merited the palm of martyrdom by being barbarously murdered.

At Salzburg, St. Rupert, bishop and confessor, who spread the Gospel extensively in Bavaria and Austria.

In Egypt, the hermit St. John, a man of great holiness, who among other virtues, was replenished with the spirit of prophecy, and predicted to the emperor Theodosius that he would gain the victory over the tyrants Maximus and Eugenius.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

27 MARCH – FRIDAY IN THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT

Lesson – 3 Kings xvii. 17‒24
In those days the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick and the sickness was very grievous so that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elias: “What have I to do with you, you man of God? Are you come to me that my iniquities should be remembered, and that you should kill my son?” And Elias said to her: “Give me your son.”And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him into the upper chamber where he abode, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, and said: “Lord, my God, have you afflicted also the widow with whom I am after a sort maintained, so as to kill her son?” And he stretched, and measured himself on the child three times, and cried to the Lord and said: “Lord, my God. Let the soul of this child, I beseech you, return into his body.” And the Lord heard the voice of Elias, and the soul of the child returned to him, and he revived. And Elias took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber to the house below, and delivered him to his mother and said to her: “Behold your son lives.” And the woman said to Elias: “Now, by this, I know you are a man of God, and the word of the Lord in your mouth is true.”
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Again, it is a mother that comes, with tears in her eyes, praying for the resurrection of her child. This mother is the Widow of Sarephta whom we have already had as the type of the Gentile Church. She was once a sinner, and an idolatress, and the remembrance of the past afflicts her soul. But the God that has cleansed her from her sins, and called her to be his spouse, comforts her by restoring her child to life.
The charity of Elias is a figure of that of the Son of God. Observe how this great Prophet stretches himself on the body of the boy, fitting himself to his littleness, as did also Eliseus. Here again, we recognise the divine mystery of the Incarnation. Elias thrice touches the corpse: thrice also will our catechumens be immersed in the baptismal font while the minister of God invokes the Three Persons of the adorable Trinity. On the solemn night of Easter, Jesus, too, will say to the Church, His Spouse: “Behold, your son lives,” and she, transported with joy, will acknowledge the truth of God’s promises. Nay, the very pagans bore witness to this truth, for when they saw the virtuous lives of this new people which came forth regenerated from the waters of Baptism, they acknowledged that God alone could produce such virtue in man. There suddenly arose from the midst of the Roman Empire, demoralised and corrupt beyond imagination, a race of men of angelic purity, and these very men had, but a short time before their Baptism wallowed in all the abominations of paganism. From where had they derived this sublime virtue? From the Christian teaching, and from the supernatural remedies it provides for man’s spiritual miseries. Then it was that unbelievers sought for the true faith, though they knew it was at the risk of martyrdom. They ran to the Church, asking her to become their mother, and saying to her: “We know that you are of God, and the word of the Lord in your mouth is true.”
Gospel – John xi. 1‒45
At that time there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, of the town of Mary and of Martha her sister. (And Mary was she that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair: whose brother Lazarus was sick.) His sisters therefore sent to him, saying: “Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.” And Jesus hearing it, said to them: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He still remained in the same place two days. Then after that, He said to his disciples: “Let us go into Judea again.” The disciples say to Him: “Rabbi, the Jews but now sought to stone you, and you go there again?” Jesus answered: “Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world: But if he walk in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” These things he said, and after that He said to them: “Lazarus our friend sleeps, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.” His disciples therefore said: “Lord, if he sleeps, he will do well.” But Jesus spoke of his death, and they thought that He spoke of the repose of sleep. Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad, for your sakes, that I was not there, that you may believe: but let us go to him.” Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Jesus therefore came, and found that he had been four days already in the grave. (Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.) And many of the Jews were come to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus was come, went to meet Him: but Mary sat at home. Martha therefore said to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would had not died. But now also I know that whatever you will ask of God, God will give it to you.” Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him: “I know that he will rise again, in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, although he be dead, will live: And every one that lives, and believes in me, will not die forever. Believe you this?” She said to Him: “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are Christ the Son of the living God, who have come into this world.” And when she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: “The master has come, and calls for you.” She, as soon as she heard this, rose quickly and came to Him. For Jesus was not yet come into the town, but He was still in that place where Martha had met Him. The Jews therefore who were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she rose up speedily and went out, followed her, saying: “She goes to the grave to weep there.”
When Mary therefore had come where Jesus was, seeing Him she fell down at His feet and said to Him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would have not died.” Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her, weeping, groaned in the spirit, and troubled Himself and said: “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him: “Lord, come and see.” And Jesus wept. The Jews therefore said: “Behold how he loved him.” But some of them said: “Could not he that opened the eyes of the man born blind, have caused that this man should not die?” Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, came to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave, and a stone was laid over it. Jesus said: “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him that was dead, said to Him: “Lord, by this time he stinks, for he is now of four days.” Jesus said to her: “Did not I say to you, that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” They took therefore the stone away. And Jesus lifting up His eyes said: “Father, I give you thanks that you have heard me. And I know that you hear me always, but because of the people who stand about have I said it, that they may believe that you have sent me.” When He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come forth.” And presently he that had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with winding bands, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them: “Loose him, and let him go.” Many therefore of the Jews who had come to Mary and Martha, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in Him.
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Let us meditate on this admirable history, and as we meditate, let us hope, for it not only shows us what Jesus for the souls of others, but what He had done for ours. Let us also renew our prayers for the penitents who now throughout the world are preparing far the great reconciliation. It is not a mother that is here represented as praying for the resurrection of her child. It is two sisters asking this grace for a brother. The example must not be lost on us: we must pray far one another. But let us take our Gospel in the order of its truths. First, Lazarus was sick and then he died. The sinner begins by being tepid and careless and then he receives the mortal wound. Jesus could have cured Lazarus of his sickness, but he permitted it to be fatal. He intends to work such a miracle, and that within sight of Jerusalem, that His enemies will have no excuse far refusing to receive Him as the Messiah. He would also prove that He is the sovereign Master of life, in order that he might hereby teach His Apostles and disciples not to be scandalised at the death He Himself was soon to suffer. In the moral sense, God in His wisdom sometimes leaves an ungrateful soul to itself, although He foresees that it will fall into sin. It will rise again, and the confusion it will feel for having sinned will lead it to that great preservative against a future fall ― humility.
The two sisters, Martha and Mary, are full of grief, yet full of confidence in Jesus. Let us observe how their two distinct characters are shown on this occasion. Jesus tells Martha that He is the Resurrection and the Life, and that they who believe in Him will not die, that is, will not die the death of sin. But when Mary came to him, and He saw her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and troubled Himself because he knew the greatness of her love. His divine Heart was touched with compassion as He beheld these who were so dear to Him smarting under that chastisement of death which sin had brought into the world. Having reached the sepulchre where Lazarus was buried, He wept, for He loved Lazarus. Thus did our Redeemer by his own weeping sanctify the tears which Christian affection sheds over the grave of a relative or friend. Lazarus has been in the sepulchre four days. It is the image of the sinner buried in his sin. To see him now is what even his sister shudders at, but Jesus rebukes her, and bids them take away the stone. Then with that voice which commands all nature and makes hell tremble, He cries out “Lazarus, come forth!” He that had been dead rises up in the sepulchre, but his feet and hands are tied, his face is covered with a napkin. He lives, but he can neither walk nor see. Jesus orders him to be set free, and then, by the hands of the men that are present, he recovers the use of his limbs and eyes. So is it with the sinner that receives pardon. There is no voice but that of Jesus which can call him to conversion and touch his heart, and bring him to confess his sins, but Jesus has put into the hands of priests the power to loosen, enlighten and give movement. This miracle, which was wrought by our Saviour at this very season of the year filled up the measure of His enemies’ rage, and set them thinking how they could soon put Him to death. The few days He has still to live are all to be spent at Bethany where the miracle has taken place, and which is but a short distance from Jerusalem. In nine days from this, He will make His triumphant entry into the faithless city, after which he will return to Bethany, and after three or four days, will once more enter Jerusalem, there to consummate the sacrifice whose infinite merits are to purchase resurrection for sinners.
The early Christians loved to see this history of our Lord’s raising Lazarus to life painted on the walls of the Catacombs. We also find it carved on the sarcophagi of the fourth and fifth centuries, and later on, it was not infrequently chosen as a subject for the painted windows of our Cathedrals. This symbol of spiritual resurrection was formerly honoured by a most solemn ceremony in the great Monastery of Holy Trinity at Vendome in France. Every year, on this day, a criminal who had been sentenced to death was led to the church of the Monastery. He had a rope round his neck, and held in his hand a torch weighing thirty-three pounds, in memory of the years spent on earth by our Saviour. The Monks made a procession in which the criminal joined, after which a sermon was preached at which he also assisted. He was then taken to the foot of the altar where the Abbot after exhorting him to repentance imposed on him, as a penance, the pilgrimage to Saint Martin’s Church at Tours. The Abbot loosened the rope from his neck, and declared him to be free. The origin of this ceremony was that when Louis of Bourbon, Count of Vendome, was prisoner in England in 1426, he made a vow that if God restored him to liberty, he would establish this custom in the Church of Holy Trinity as a return of gratitude, and as a homage to Christ, who raised up Lazarus from the tomb. God accepted the vow and the prince soon recovered his freedom.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

26 MARCH – FERIA

On this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, on the Via Labicana, St. Castulus, martyr, chamberlain in the palace of the emperor. For harbouring Christians he was three times suspended by the hands, three times cited before the tribunals, and as he persevered in the confession of the Lord, he was thrown into a pit, overwhelmed with a mass of sand, and thus obtained the crown of martyrdom.

In the same city, the crowning of the holy martyrs Peter, Marcian, Jovinus, Thecla, Cassian and others.

At Pentapolis in Lybia, the birthday of the holy martyrs Theodore, bishop, Irenaeus, deacon, Serapion and Ammonius, lectors.

At Sirmium, the holy martyrs Montanus, priest, and Maxima, who were cast into a river for the faith of Christ.

Also the holy martyrs Quadratus, Theodosius, Emmanuel and forty others.

At Alexandria, the holy martyrs Eutychius and others, who died by the sword for the Catholic faith in the time of Constantine under the Arian bishop George.

The same day, St. Ludger, bishop of Munster, who preached the Gospel to the Saxons.

At Saragossa in Spain, St. Braulio, bishop and confessor.

At Treves, St. Felix, bishop.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

26 MARCH – THURSDAY IN THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT

Lesson – 4 Kings iv. 25‒38
In those days a Sunamitess came to Eliseus on Mount Carmel, and when the man of God saw her coming towards him he said to Giezi his servant: “Behold that Sunamitess. Go therefore to meet her, and say to her: ‘Is all well with you, and with your husband, and with your son?’” And she answered: “Well.” And when she came to the man of God to the mountain, she caught hold on his feet, and Giezi came to remove her. And the man of God said: “Let her alone, for her soul is in anguish, and the Lord has hid it from me, and has not told me.” And she said to him: “Did I ask a son of my Lord? Did I not say to you: Do not deceive me?” Then he said to Giezi: “Gird up your loins, and take up my staff in your hand, and go. If any man meets you, salute him not. And if any man salutes you, answer him not. And lay my staff on the face of the child.” But the mother of the child said: “As the Lord lives, and as my soul lives, I will not leave you.” He arose, therefore, and followed her. But Giezi was gone before them, and laid the staff on the face of the child, and there was no voice nor sense. And he returned to meet him, and told him, saying: “The child is not risen.” Eliseus therefore went into the house, and behold the child lay dead on his bed. And going in, he shut the door upon him, and upon the child, and prayed to the Lord. And he went up, and lay upon the child. And he put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands, and he bowed himself upon him, and the child’s flesh grew warm. Then he returned and walked in the house, once to and fr. And he went up and lay upon him, and the child gaped seven times, and opened his eyes. And he called Giezi, and said to him: “Call this Sunamitess.” And she being called, went in to him. And he said: “Take up your son.” She came and fell at his feet, and worshipped on the ground, and took up her son, and went out. And Eliseus returned to Galgal.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
In this mysterious event are clustered together all the wonders of the plan laid down by God for the salvation of man. If the catechumens were instructed in these sublime truths, it would be a disgrace in us to be ignorant of them; therefore, let us be attentive to the teachings of this Epistle.
This dead child is the human race. Sin has caused its death. But God has resolved to restore it to life. First of all, a servant is sent to the corpse. This servant is Moses. His mission is from God. But of itself the Law he brings gives not life. This Law is figured by the staff winch Giezi holds in his hand, and which he lays upon the child’s face. But to no purpose. The Law is severe. Its rule is one of fear, on account of the hardness of Israel’s heart. Yet is it with difficulty that it triumphs over his stubbornness, and they of Israel who would be just must aspire to something more perfect and more filial than the Law of Sinai. The Mediator who is to bring down from heaven the sweet element of charity, is not yet come. He is promised, he is prefigured, but he is not made flesh, he has not yet dwelt among us. The dead child in not risen.
The Son of God must Himself come down. Eliseus is the type of this divine Redeemer. See how he takes on himself the littleness of the child’s body, and bows himself down into closest contact with its members, and this in the silence of a closed chamber. It was thus that the Word of the Father, shrouding His brightness in the womb of a Virgin, united Himself to our nature, and as the Apostle expresses it, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men (Pilippians ii. 7) that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly (John x. 10) than when it was given to them at the beginning. Take notice too of what happens to the child, and what are the signs of the resurrection wrought in him.
He breathes seven times: the Holy Ghost, with His seven gifts, is to take possession of man’s soul and make it His temple. The child opens his eyes: the blindness of death is at an end. Neither must we forget the Sunamites, the mother of the child: she is the type of the Church, who is praying her divine Eliseus to give her the resurrection of her dear catechumens, and of all unbelievers who are dwelling in the region of the shadow of death (Isaias ix. 2) Let us join our prayers with hers, and beg that the light of the Gospel may be spread more and more, and that the obstacles made by Satan and the malice of men to its propagation, may be forever removed.
Gospel – Luke vii. 11‒16
At that time Jesus went into a city called Naim, and there went with Him His disciples and a great multitude. And when he came near the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and much people of the city were with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said to her: “Weep not.” And He came near, and touched the bier. And they that carried it, stood still. And He said: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on them all, and they glorified God, saying: “A great prophet is risen up among us, and God has visited His people.”
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The Church, both today and tomorrow, gives us types of the Resurrection. It is an announcement of the coming Pasch, and an encouraging sinners to hope that their spiritual death will soon be changed into life. Before entering on the two weeks which are to be devoted to the commemoration of our Saviour’s Passion, the Church shows her children the tender mercies of Him whose Blood is to purchase our reconciliation with Divine Justice. She would have us argue for our own consolation that from such a Saviour we may well hope for pardon. Being thus rid of our fears, we will be the more at liberty to contemplate the sacrifice of our august Victim, and compassionate His sufferings. Let us attentively consider the Gospel just read to us. A heart-broken mother is following to the grave the corpse of an only son. Jesus has compassion on her. He stays the bearers. He puts His divine hand on the bier. He commands the young man to arise and then, as the Evangelist adds, Jesus delivered him to his mother. This mother is the Church who mourns over the death of so many of her children. Jesus is about to comfort her. He, by the ministry of his priests, will stretch forth his hand over these dead children. He will pronounce over them the great word that gives resurrection, and the Church will receive back into her arms these children she had lost, and they will be full of life and gladness.
Let us consider the mystery of the three resurrections wrought by our Saviour: that of the ruler’s daughter, that of the young man of today’s Gospel, and that of Lazarus, at which we are to assist tomorrow. The daughter of Jairus (for such was the ruler’s name) had been dead only a few hours: she represents the sinner who has but recently fallen and has not yet contracted the habit of sin, nor grown insensible to the qualms of conscience. The young man of Naim is a figure of a sinner who makes no effort to return to God, and whose will has lost its energy: he is being carried to the grave and but for Jesus’ passing that way, he would soon have been of the number of them that are forever dead. Lazarus is an image of a worse class of sinners. He is already a prey to corruption. The stone that closes his grave, seals his doom. Can such a corpse as this ever come back to life? Yes, if Jesus mercifully deign to exercise His power. Now, it is during this holy Season of Lent that the Church is praying and fasting, and we with her, to the end that these three classes of sinners may hear the voice of the Son of God, and hearing, rise and live (John v. 25) The mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection is to produce this wonderful effect in them all. Let us take our humble share in these merciful designs of God. Let us day and night offer our supplications to our Redeemer, that, in a few days hence, seeing how He has raised the dead to life, we may cry out, with the people of Naim: “A great Prophet is risen up among us, and God has visited His people!

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

25 MARCH – THE ANNUNCIATION


Dom Prosper Guéranger:
This is a great day, not only to man, but even to God Himself, for it is the anniversary of the most solemn event that time has ever witnessed. On this day the Divine Word by which the Father created the world was made flesh in the womb of a virgin and dwelt among us (John i. 14). We must spend it in joy. While we adore the Son of God who humbled Himself by thus becoming Man let us give thanks to the Father who so loved the world as to give His Only Begotten Son (John iii. 16). Let us give thanks to the Holy Ghost whose almighty power achieves the great mystery. We are in the very midst of Lent and yet the ineffable joys of Christmas are upon us: our Emmanuel is conceived on this day, and nine months hence will be born in Bethlehem, and the Angels will invite us to come and honour the sweet babe.
During Septuagesima Week we meditated on the fall of our First Parents and the triple sentence pronounced by God against the serpent, the woman and Adam. Our hearts were filled with fear as we reflected on the divine malediction, the effects of which are to be felt by all generations, even to the end of the world. But in the midst of the anathemas then pronounced against us, there was a promise made us by our God. It was a promise of salvation, and it kindled hope within us. In pronouncing sentence against the serpent, God said that his head should one day be crushed, and that, too, by a woman.
The time has come for the fulfilment of this promise. The world has been in expectation for four thousand years, and the hope of its deliverance has been kept up in spite of all its crimes. During this time God has made use of miracles, prophecies and types as a renewal of the engagement He has entered into with mankind. The blood of the Messiah has passed from Adam to Noah; from Sem to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; from David and Solomon to Joachim. And now it flows in the veins of Mary, Joachim’s daughter. Mary is the woman by whom is to be taken from our race the curse that lies upon it. God has decreed that she should be Immaculate, and thereby has set an irreconcilable enmity between her and the serpent. She, a daughter of Eve, is to repair all the injury done by her mother’s fall. She is to raise up her sex from the degradation into which it has been cast. She is to co-operate, directly and really, in the victory which the Son of God is about to gain over His and our enemy.
A tradition which has come down from the Apostolic Ages tells us that the great mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March. It was at the hour of midnight when the most Holy Virgin was alone and absorbed in prayer that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her and asked her, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, to consent to become the Mother of God. Let us assist, in spirit, at this wonderful interview between the Angel and the Virgin. And at the same time let us think of that other interview which took place between Eve and the serpent. A holy Bishop and Martyr of the second century, Saint Irenaeus — who had received the tradition from the very disciples of the Apostles — shows us that Nazareth is the counterpart of Eden. In the garden of delights there is a virgin and an angel. And a conversation takes place between them. At Nazareth, a virgin is also spoken to by an angel, and she answers him. But the angel of the earthly Paradise is a spirit of darkness, and he of Nazareth is a spirit of light. In both instances it is the Angel that has the first word. “Why,” said the serpent to Eve, “why has God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?” His question implies impatience and a solicitation to evil. He has contempt for the frail creature to whom he addresses it, but he hates the image of God which is upon her.
See, on the other hand, the Angel of light. See with what composure and peacefulness he approaches the Virgin of Nazareth, the new Eve. And how respectfully he bows himself down before her: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women!” Such language is evidently of Heaven: none but an Angel could speak thus to Mary.
Eve imprudently listens to the tempter’s words. She answers him. She enters into conversation with one that dares to ask her to question the justice of God’s commands. Her curiosity urges her on. She has no mistrust in the serpent. This leads her to mistrust her Creator.
Mary hears what Gabriel has spoken to her, but this Most Prudent Virgin is silent. She is surprised at the praise given her by the Angel. The purest and humblest of virgins has a dread of flattery, and the heavenly Messenger can get no reply from her until he has fully explained his mission by these words: “Fear not, Mary, for you have found grace with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and will bring forth a son: and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father: and he will reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” What magnificent promises are these, which are made to her in the name of God! What higher glory could she, a daughter of Judah, desire? knowing, too, as she does, that the fortunate Mother of the Messiah is to be the object of the greatest veneration! And yet, it tempts her not. She has forever consecrated her virginity to God in order that she may be the more closely united to Him by love. The grandest possible privilege, if it is to be on the condition of her violating this sacred vow, would be less than nothing in her estimation. She thus answers the Angel: “How will this be done because I know not man?”
The first Eve evinces no such prudence or disinterestedness. No sooner has the wicked spirit assured her that she may break the commandment of her divine benefactor and not die, that the fruit of her disobedience will be a wonderful knowledge which will put her on an equality with God Himself, than she immediately yields. She is conquered. Her self-love has made her at once forget both duty and gratitude: she is delighted at the thought of being freed from the two-fold tie which binds her to her Creator.
Such is the woman that caused our perdition! But how different is She that was to save us! The former cares not for her posterity. She looks but to her own interests. The latter forgets herself to think only of her God, and of the claims He has to her service. The Angel, charmed with this sublime fidelity, thus answers the question put to him by Mary and reveals to her the designs of God: “The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And therefore also the Holy which will be born of you will be called the Son of God. And behold your cousin Elizabeth, she also has conceived a son in her old age. And this is the sixth month with her that is called barren, because no word will be impossible with God.” This said, he is silent and reverently awaits the answer of the Virgin of Nazareth.
Let us look once more at the Virgin of Eden. Scarcely has the wicked spirit finished speaking than Eve casts a longing look at the forbidden fruit: she is impatient to enjoy the independence it is to bring her. She rashly stretches forth her hand. She plucks the fruit. She eats it and death takes possession of her: death of the soul, for sin extinguishes the light of life, and death of the body, which, being separated from the source of immortality, becomes an object of shame and horror, and finally crumbles into dust.
But let us turn away our eyes from this sad spectacle and fix them on Nazareth. Mary has heard the Angel’s explanation of the mystery. The will of Heaven is made known to her and how grand an honour it is to bring upon her! She, the humble maid of Nazareth, is to have the ineffable happiness of becoming the Mother of God, and yet the treasure of her virginity is to be left to her! Mary bows down before this sovereign will and says to the heavenly Messenger: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to your word.”
Thus, as the great Saint Irenaeus and so many of the Holy Fathers remark, the obedience of the second Eve repaired the disobedience of the first: for no sooner does the Virgin of Nazareth speak her fiat — be it done — than the Eternal Son of God (who, according to the divine decree, awaited this word) is present by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the chaste womb of Mary, and there He begins his human life. A Virgin is a Mother, and Mother of God. And it is this virgin’s consenting to the divine will that has made her conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost.
This sublime Mystery puts between the Eternal Word and a mere woman the relations of Son and Mother. It gives to the Almighty God a means by which He may, in a manner worthy of His Majesty, triumph over Satan who had hitherto seemed to have prevailed against the divine plan. Never was there a more entire or humiliating defeat than that which was this day gained over Satan. The frail creature, over whom he had so easily triumphed at the beginning of the world, now rises and crushes his proud head. Eve conquers in Mary. God would not choose man for the instrument of his vengeance. The humiliation of Satan would not have been great enough. And therefore she who was the first prey of Hell, the first victim of the tempter, is selected as the one that is to give battle to the enemy. The result of so glorious a triumph is that Mary is to be superior not only to the rebel angels, but to the whole human race, yes, to all the Angels of Heaven. Seated on her exalted throne, she, the Mother of God, is to be the Queen of all creation. Satan, in the depths of the abyss, will eternally bewail his having dared to direct his first attack against the woman, for God has now so gloriously avenged her. And in Heaven the very Cherubim and Seraphim reverently look up to Mary and deem themselves honoured when she smiles upon them, or employs them in the execution of any of her wishes, for she is the Mother of their God.
Therefore is it that we, the children of Adam who have been snatched by Mary’s obedience from the power of Hell, solemnise this day of the Annunciation. Well may we say of Mary those words of Deborah when she sang her song of victory over the enemies of God’s people: “The valiant men ceased, and rested in Israel, until Deborah arose, a Mother arose in Israel. The Lord chose new wars, and He Himself overthrew the gates of the enemies” (Judges v. 7, 8). Let us also refer to the holy Mother of Jesus these words of Judith who by her victory over the enemy was another type of Mary: “Praise the Lord our God, who has not forsaken them that hope in Him. And by me, His handmaid, He has fulfilled His mercy, which He promised to the house of Israel; and He has killed the enemy of His people by my hand this night... The Almighty Lord has struck him, and has delivered him into the hands of a woman, and has slain him” (Judith xiii. 17, 18; xvi. 7).
Lesson – Isaias vii.
In those days the Lord spoke to Achaz, saying: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God, either to the depth of Hell, or to the height above.” And Achaz said: “I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.” And he (Isaias) said: “Hear, therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself gives you a sign. Behold: “a Virgin will conceive and bear a son, and his name will be called Emmanuel. He will eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.”
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The Prophet is speaking to a wicked king who refused to accept a miraculous proof of God’s merciful protection over Jerusalem. And he makes this an opportunity for announcing to Judah the great portent which we are celebrating today: “A Virgin will conceive and bear a son.” And when was it that God fulfilled the prophecy? It was in an age when mankind seemed to have reached the highest pitch of wickedness, and when idolatry and immorality reigned throughout the whole world. The fullness of time came, and the tradition which had found its way into every country, that a Virgin should bring forth a Son, was exciting much interest. This is the day on which the mystery was accomplished. Let us adore the power of God and the fidelity with which He fulfils His promises. The author of the laws of nature suspends them. He acts independently of them: Virginity and Maternity are united in one and the same creature, for the child that is to be born is God. A Virgin could not bring forth other than God Himself: the Son of Mary is therefore called Euunanuel, that is, God with us.
Let us adore this God, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, who thus humbles Himself. Henceforth, He will have every tongue confess not only His Divinity, but also His Human Nature, which He has assumed in order that He might redeem us. From this day forward He is truly the Son of Man. He will remain nine months in His Mother’s womb, as other children. Like them, He will, after His birth, be fed on milk and honey. He will sanctify all stages of human life, from infancy to perfect manhood, for He is the New Man who has come down from Heaven that he might restore the Old. Without losing anything of His Divinity, He shares in our weak finite being that He may make us partakers of the divine nature (1 Peter i. 4).
Gospel – Luke i.
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 to her: “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the Angel said to her: “Fear not, Mary, for you have found grace with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb, and will bring forth a son, and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father: and he will reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the Angel: “How will this be done, because I know not man?” And the Angel answering, said to her: “The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And therefore also the Holy which will be born of you will be called the Son of God. And behold your cousin Elizabeth she also has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word will be impossible with God.” And Mary said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.”
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
By these last words of yours, Mary, our happiness is secured. You consent to the desire of Heaven, and your consent brings us our Saviour. Virgin-Mother! Blessed among women! We unite our thanks with the homage that is paid you by the Angels. By you is our ruin repaired. In you is our nature restored, for you have wrought the victory of man over Satan! Saint Bernard, in one of his Homilies on this Gospel thus speaks: “Rejoice, our father Adam! But you, mother Eve, still more rejoice! You were our Parents, but you were also our destroyers. And what is worse, you had wrought our destruction before you gave us birth. Both of you must be consoled in such a Daughter as this: but you, Eve, who was the first cause of our misfortune, and whose humiliation has descended upon all women, you have a special reason to rejoice in Mary. For the time is now come when the humiliation is taken away, neither can man any longer complain against the woman as of old when he foolishly sought to excuse himself, and cruelly put all the blame on her, saying: “The woman whom you gave me, gave me of the Tree, and I did eat. Go, Eve, to Mary. Go, Mother, to your Daughter. Let your Daughter take your part, and free you from your disgrace, and reconcile you to her father: for, if man fell by a woman, he is raised up by a woman. What is this you say, Adam? The woman whom you gave me, gave me of the Tree, and I did eat? These are wicked words. Far from effacing your fault, they aggravate it. But divine Wisdom conquered your wickedness by finding in the treasury of His own inexhaustible mercy a motive for pardon which He had in vain sought to elicit by questioning you. In place of the woman of whom you complain He gives you another: Eve was foolish, Mary is wise. Eve was proud, Mary is humble. Eve gave you of the tree of death, Mary will give you of the Tree of life. Eve offered you a bitter and poisoned fruit, Mary will give you the sweet Fruit she herself is to bring forth, the Fruit of everlasting life. Change, then, your wicked excuse into an act of thanksgiving, and say: The woman whom you have given me, Lord, has given me of the Tree of Life, and I have eaten thereof. And it is sweeter than honey to my mouth, for by it you have given me life.”
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, St. Quirinus, martyr, who after losing his goods, suffering imprisonment in a dark dungeon, and being severely scourged, was put to death with the sword and thrown into the river Tiber. Christians found his body on the Island of St. Bartholomew and buried it in the Pontian cemetery.

In the same city, two hundred and sixty-two holy martyrs.

At Sirmium, the martyrdom of St. Irenaeus, bishop. In the time of the emperor Maximian under the governor Probus, after undergoing bitter torments and a painful imprisonment for many days, he was beheaded.

At Nicomedia, St. Dula, the servant of a soldier, who was killed for the preservation of her chastity and deserved the crown of martyrdom.

At Jerusalem, the commemoration of the Good Thief who confessed Christ on the cross and deserved to hear from Him the words, “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.”

At Laodicea, St. Pelagius, bishop, who having endured exile and other afflictions for the Catholic faith under Valens, rested in the Lord.

At Pistoja, the holy confessors Barontius and Desiderius.

In Indre, an island of the Loire, the abbot St. Hermelandus, whose glorious life is attested by signal miracles.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.



25 MARCH – WEDNESDAY IN THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
This day is called the Feria of the Great Scrutiny, because in the Church of Rome, after the necessary inquiries and examinations, the list of the catechumens who were to receive Baptism was closed. The Station was held in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, both because of the size of the building, and also in order to honour the Apostle of the Gentiles by offering him these new recruits, which the Church was about to make from paganism.
First Lesson – Ezechiel xxxvi. 23‒28
Thus says the Lord God: “I will sanctify my great name which was profaned among the Gentiles, which you have profaned in the midst of them, that the Gentiles may know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord of Hosts, “when I will be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the Gentiles and will gather you together out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. And I will pour on you clean water, and you will be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in the midst of you, and I will cause you to walk in my commandments, and to keep my judgements, and do them. And you will dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you will be my people, and I will be your God,” says the Lord Almighty.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
These magnificent promises which are to be fulfilled in favour of the Jewish people as soon as God’s justice will have been satisfied, are to be realised firstly in our catechumens. These are they that have been gathered together from all the countries of the Gentile world in order that they may be brought into their own land, the Church. A few days hence, and there will be poured on them that clean water which will cleanse them from all the defilement of their past idolatry. They will receive a new heart and a new spirit; they will be God’s people forever.
Second Lesson – Isaias i. 16‒19
Thus says the Lord God: “Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, learn to do well: seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. And then come and accuse me,” says the Lord: “if your sins be as the scarlet, they will be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they will be white as wool. If you be willing, and will hearken to me, you will eat the good things of the land,” says the Lord Almighty.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
It is to her penitents that the Church addresses these grand words of Isaias. There is a baptism also prepared for them: a laborious baptism indeed, but still, one that has power to cleanse their souls from all their defilements, if only they receive it with sincere contrition and be resolved to make atonement for the evil they have committed. What could be stronger than the language used by God, in making His promise of forgiveness? He compares the change He will make in the soul of a repentant sinner to that of scarlet and crimson become white as snow. The unjust is to be made just. Darkness is to be turned into light. The slave of Satan is to become the child of God. Let us rejoice with our glad mother, the holy Church, and redoubling the fervour of our prayer and penance, let us induce our Lord to grant that on the great Easter Feast the number of conversions may surpass our hopes.
Gospel – John ix. 1‒38
At that time, Jesus passing by, saw a man that was blind from his birth, and His disciples asked Him: “Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered: “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and spread the clay on his eyes, and said to him: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloe,” which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore, and washed, and he came seeing. The neighbours therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: “Is not this he that sat and begged?” Some said: “This is he.” But others said: “No, but he is like him.” But he said: “I am he.” They said therefore to him: “How were your eyes opened?” He answered: “That man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe, and wash. And I went, I washed, and I see.” And they said to him: “Where is he?” He said: “I know not.” They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees. Now it was the Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some therefore of the Pharisees said: “This man is not of God, who keeps not the Sabbath.” But others said: “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” And there was a division among them. They say therefore to the blind man again: “What say you of him that has opened your eyes?” And he said: “He is a prophet.” The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight, and asked them, saying: “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered them, and said: “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But how he now sees, we know not; or who has opened his eyes, we know not: ask himself: he is of age, let him speak for himself.” These things his parents said because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” Therefore did his parents say: “He is of age, ask himself.” They therefore called the man again that had been blind, and said to him: “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He said therefore to them: “If he be a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” They said then to him: “What did he to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them: “I have told you already, and you have heard: why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?” They reviled him therefore, and said: Be his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from where he is.” The man answered, and said to them: “Why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from where he is, and he has opened my eyes. Now we know that God does not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God, and does His will, him He hears. From the beginning of the world it has not been heard that any man has opened the eyes of one born blind. Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.” They answered, and said to him: “You were wholly born in sins, and you teach us?” And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and when He had found him, He said to him: “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He answered, and said: “Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?” And Jesus said to him: “You have both seen him, and it is he that talks with you.” And he said: “I believe, Lord.” And falling down, he adored Him.
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
In the early ages of the Church, Baptism was frequently called Illumination because this Sacrament confers supernatural faith by which man is enlightened with the divine Light. It was on this account that there was read on this day the history of the cure of the man born blind, for it is the figure of man’s being enlightened by Christ. This subject is frequently met with in the paintings in the Catacombs, and on the bas-reliefs of the ancient Christian monuments.
We are all born blind. Jesus by the mystery of His Incarnation, figured by this clay which represents our flesh, has merited for us the gift of sight. But in order that we may receive it, we must go to the pool of Him that is divinely Sent, and we must be washed in the water of Baptism. Then will we be enlightened with the very light of God, and the darkness of reason will disappear. The humble obedience of the blind man who executes with the utmost simplicity all that our Saviour commands him is an image of our catechumens, who listen with all docility to the teachings of the Church, for they too wish to receive their sight. The blind man of the Gospel is by the cure of his eyes a type of what the grace of Christ works in us by Baptism.
Let us listen to the conclusion of our Gospel, and we will find that he is also, a model for those who are spiritually blind, yet would wish to be healed. Our Saviour asks him, as the Church asked us on the day of our Baptism: “Do you believe in the Son of God?” The blind man, ardently desiring to believe, answers eagerly: “Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?” Faith brings the weak reason of man into union with the sovereign wisdom of God, and puts us in possession of His eternal truth. No sooner has Jesus declared himself to be God, than this simple hearted man falls down and adores Him: he that from being blind is blessed with bodily sight is now a Christian! What a lesson was here for our catechumens!
At the same time this history showed them and reminds us of the frightful perversity of Jesus’ enemies. He is shortly to be put to death, He the Just by excellence, and it is by the shedding of His Blood that He is to merit for us, and for all mankind, the cure of that blindness in which we were all born, and which our own personal sins have tended to increase. Glory, then, love and gratitude be to our Divine Physician who, by uniting himself to our human nature, has prepared the ointment by which our eyes are cured of their infirmity and strengthened to gaze, for all eternity, on the brightness of the Godhead!

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

24 MARCH – ST GABRIEL THE ARCHANGEL

On this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, the holy martyrs Mark and Timothy, who were crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Antoninus.

In the same city, St. Epigmenius, priest, who consummated his martyrdom by the sword in the persecution of Diocletian under the judge Turpius.

Also at Rome, in the time of Julian the Apostate, the passion of blessed Pigmenius, a priest, who was killed for the faith of Christ by being precipitated into the river Tiber.

At Caesarea in Palestine, the birthday of the holy martyrs Timolaus, Denis, Pausides, Romulus, Alexander, another Alexander, Agapius and another Denis, who merited the crown of life by being beheaded in the persecution of Diocletian under the governor Urban.

In Mauritania (Barbary), the birthday of the saintly brothers Romulus and Secundus, who suffered for the faith of Christ.

At Trent, the martyrdom of the holy child Simeon, who was barbarously murdered by the Jews. He became celebrated for many miracles.

At Synnadas in Phrygia, St. Agapitus, bishop.

At Brescia, St. Latinus, bishop. In Syria, St. Seleucus, confessor.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

24 MARCH – TUESDAY IN THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT

Lesson – Exodus xxxii. 7‒14
In those days the Lord spoke to Moses saying: “Go, get down from the mountain, your people which you have hast brought out of the land of Egypt, have sinned. They have quickly strayed from the way which you showed, and they have made to themselves a molten calf and have adored it, and sacrificing victims to it, have said: ‘These are your gods, Israel, that have brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” And again the Lord said to Moses: “I see that this people is stiff-necked. Let me alone, that my wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them, and I will make of you a great nation.” But Moses besought the Lord his God, saying: “Why, Lord, is your indignation enkindled against your people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Let not the Egyptians say, I beseech you: ‘He craftily brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains, and destroy them from the earth.’ Let your anger cease and be appeased upon the wickedness of your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel your servants to whom you swore by your own self, saying: ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and this whole land that I have spoken of, I will give to your seed, and you will possess it for ever.’” And the Lord was appeased from doing the evil which He had spoken against His people.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
When the world first received the preaching of the Gospel, idolatry was the prevailing crime. For many centuries after, all the Catechumens who were instructed in the true faith were tainted with it. It was in order to inspire them with a horror of their past lives that the Church read to them on this day the terrible words of God who, had not Moses interceded, was about to exterminate His people, because they had relapsed into idolatry. And this, after He had worked in their favour the most unheard-of miracles, and had come in person to give them His Law. The worship of false gods is no longer to be found among us, but it exists in all those countries where the Gospel has been preached and rejected. Strange as it may sound, yet it is most true: Europe, with all its civilisation, would return to idolatry, were it to lose the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a century ago, and an idol was erected to Reason. It had its altar, its decorations and its incense, and they who paid homage to it were Europeans! An individual, or a people, once slaves to Satan, are not their own masters to say “we will go thus far in sin, and no farther.” The descendants of Noah, notwithstanding the terrible lesson given to them by the Deluge, fell into idolatry. Abraham was called by God from the rest of men, lest he should be led away by the almost universal corruption. Let us be grateful to the Church who by her teachings of faith and morals preserves us from this degrading abomination, and let us resist our passions, which, if the light of faith were taken from us, would lead us to Idolatry.
Gospel – John vii. 14‒31
At that time, about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews wondered, saying: “How does this man know letters, having never learned?” Jesus answered them and said: “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do the will of Him, he will know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he that seeks the glory of Him that sent him, he is true, and there is no injustice in him. Did not Moses give you the law? And yet none of you keep the law. Why seek you to kill me?” The multitude answered and said: “You have a devil? Who seeks to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them: “One work I have done, and you all wonder. Therefore Moses gave you circumcision (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers), and on the Sabbath day you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath day that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry at me, because I have healed the whole man on the Sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgement.” Some therefore of Jerusalem said: “Is not this he whom they seek to kill? And behold he speaks openly, and they say nothing to him. Have the rulers known for a truth that this is the Christ? But we know this man from where he is. But when the Christ comes, no man knows from where he is.” Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying: “You both know and you know from where I am: and I am not come of myself, but He that sent me is true, whom you know not. I know Him, because I am from him, and He has sent me.” They sought therefore to apprehend Him: and no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come. But of the people many believed in Him.
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
This Gospel carries our thoughts to the sacrifice of the Divine Lamb which is to be offered up in Jerusalem. The hour is not yet come, but it is fast approaching. His enemies are already seeking how they may put Him to death. So blinded are they by their passions that they accuse Him of being a violator of the Sabbath because he healed the sick by the simple act of His will on the Lord’s Day! In vain does Jesus refute their prejudices, by reminding them that they themselves have no scruple in fulfilling the law of circumcision on this day, or, (as be said to them on another occasion), in drawing out of the pit an ass or an ox that may have fallen in (Luke xiv. 5). They are deaf to all He says. They are men of one idea, and it is that their victim will not escape death. His miracles are incontestable, and all are wrought out of a motive of mercy and love. The only time He refuses to work one is when His enemies ask Him to satisfy their curiosity and pride by letting them see a sign. This exercise of His power of working miracles, far from exciting them to admiration and gratitude, only incites them to envy, and in their envy they declare not only that He acts by Beelzebub (Luke xi. 15), but that He has a devil within Him. We shudder at such a blasphemy. Yet, such is the pride of these Jewish doctors that they care neither for common sense nor for religion, and their hearts thirst more and more for the Blood of Jesus. While some of the people allow themselves to be seduced by their leaders into the same feelings against Jesus, others, who affect to be indifferent, reason about Him and then declare it to be their opinion that this Jesus does not realise in Himself the character of the promised Messiah! They argue that when the Christ comes no-one will know from where He is. But have not the Prophets declared that he is to be of the family of David? Now every Jew knows well enough that Jesus is of that royal race. Besides, they own that there is to be something mysterious about the Messiah, and that he is to come from God. Had they listened with docile attention to the teachings of Jesus — teachings which He had confirmed by numerous miracles — they would have been enlightened both as to His temporal birth, and to His being the Son of God.