Dom Prosper Guéranger:
For the years when the number of the Sundays after Pentecost is only twenty-three, the Mass for today is taken from the twenty-fourth and last Sunday, and the Mass appointed for the twenty-third is said on the previous Saturday, or on the nearest day of the preceding week which is not impeded by a double or semi-double feast.
But under all circumstances the Antiphonary ends today. The Introits, Graduals, Communions and Postcommunions are to be repeated on each of the Sundays till Advent, which may be more or less in number, according to the Years. Our readers will remember how in the time of Saint Gregory Advent was longer than we now have it, and that in those days its weeks commenced in that part of the Cycle which is now occupied by the last Sundays after Pentecost. This is one of the reasons which explain there being a lack of liturgical riches in the composition of the dominical Masses which follow the twenty-third.
Even on this one, formerly, the Church, without losing sight of the Last Day, used to lend a thought to the new season which was fast approaching, the season, that is, of preparation for the great feast of Christmas. There used to be read as Epistle the following passage from Jeremias, which was afterwards, in several Churches, inserted in the Mass of the first Sunday of Advent:
“Behold! The days come, says the Lord, and I will raise up to David a just branch: and a King will reign, and will be wise: and will execute judgement and justice in the earth. In those days will Judah be saved, and Israel will dwell confidently: and this is the name that they will call Him: The Lord our Just One. Therefore, behold the days come, says the Lord, and they will say no more: The Lord lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt! But: The Lord lives, who has brought out, and brought here, the seed of the house of Israel, from the land of the north, and out of all the lands, to which I had cast them forth! And they will dwell in their own land” (Jeremias xxiii. 5‒8).
As is evident, this passage is equally applicable to the conversion of the Jews and the restoration of Israel which are to take place at the end of the world. This was the view taken by the chief liturgists of the Middle Ages in order to explain thoroughly the Mass of the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost. First mentioning to our readers that originally the Gospel of this Sunday was that of the multiplication of the five loaves, let us listen to the profound and learned Abbot Rupert who, better than anyone, will teach us the mysteries of this day, which brings to a close the grand and varied Gregorian Melodies that we have been having during the whole year. “Holy Church,” says he, “is so intent on paying her debt of supplication, and prayer, and thanksgiving, for all men, as the Apostle demands (1 Timothy ii. 1), that we find her giving thanks also for the salvation of the children of Israel who she knows are one day to be united with her. And, as their remnants are to be saved at the end of the world (Romans ix. 27), so on this last Sunday of the Year she delights at having them just as though they were already her members! In the Introit, calling to mind the prophecies concerning them, she thus sings every Year: My thoughts are thoughts of peace, and not of affliction. Verily, His thoughts are those of peace, for he promises to admit to the banquet of His grace the Jews who are His brethren according to the flesh, thus realising what had been prefigured in the history of the patriarch Joseph. The brethren of Joseph, having sold him, came to him when they were tormented by hunger. For then he ruled over the whole land of Egypt. He recognised them, he received them, and made, together with them, a great feast. So too our Lord who is now reigning over the whole earth, and is giving the bread of life in abundance to the Egyptians, (that is, to the Gentiles), will see coming to Him the remnants of the children of Israel. He whom they had denied and put to death will admit them to His favour, will give them a place at His table, and the true Joseph will feast delightedly with his brethren.
The benefit of this divine Table is signified in the Office of this Sunday by the Gospel which tells us of our Lord’s feeding the multitude with five loaves. For it will be then that Jesus will open to the Jews the five books of Moses which are now "being carried whole and not yet broken — yes, carried by a child, that is to say, this people itself, who, up to that time will have been cramped up in the narrowness of a childish spirit. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremias, which is so aptly placed before this Gospel: They will say no more: The Lord lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt! But, the Lord lives, who has brought out the seed of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands into which they had been cast.
Thus delivered from the spiritual bondage which still holds them, they will sing with all their heart, the words of thanksgiving as we have them in the Gradual: You have saved us, Lord, from them that afflict us!”
Epistle – Philippians iii. 17‒21; iv. 1‒3
Brethren, be followers of me and observe them who walk so as you have our model. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping) that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame: who mind earthly things. But our conversation is in heaven, from where also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory, according to the operation by which also He is able to subdue all things to Himself. Therefore, my dearly beloved brethren, and most desired, my joy, and my crown: so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beg of Evodia, and I beseech Syntyche, to be of one mind in the Lord. And I entreat you also, my sincere companion, help those women that have laboured with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Thanks be to God.
Dom Prosper Guéranger:
The Clement whose name is here mentioned by the Apostle is that of Saint Peter’s second successor. Very frequently the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost comes close upon the feast of this great Pope and Martyr of the first century. Disciple of Paul and, later on, in close intimacy with Peter, and named by the Vicar of Christ as the fittest to succeed him in the apostolic chair, Clement, as we will see on the 23rd of November, was one of those Saints who in those early times were the most venerated by the Faithful. The mention made of him in the Office of the Time, just before his appearance on the Cycle of holy Church, excited the Christian people to joy and roused its fervour. It reminded them that one of their best and dearest protectors would soon be visiting them. At the time when Saint Paul was writing to the Philippians, Clement, who was long to survive the Apostles, was prominently one of those men spoken of in our Epistle, that is, one of the followers of those illustrious models who were called to perpetuate in the flock confided to their care (1 Peter v. 3) the pattern of holy living, and that, not so much by their zealous teaching, as by the force of example. The Church, the One true Bride of the divine Word, was known by the incommunicable privilege of possessing within her the Truth — not only its dead letter, but its ever living self, and this by her holiness. The Holy Ghost has not kept the books of sacred Scripture from passing into the hands of the sects separated from the centre of unity, but He has reserved to the Church the treasure of tradition which transmits, surely and fully, from one generation to another, the Word who is light and life (John i. 4). Yes, this tradition is kept up by the truth and holiness of the Man-God. They are ever existing in His members, they are ever tangible and visible in the Church (1 John i. 1). Holiness, which is inherent in the Church, is tradition in its purest and strongest form because it is the truth, not only preached, but reduced to action and work (1 Thessalonians ii. 13), as it was in Christ Jesus, and as it is in God (John v. 17). It is the deposit (1 Timothy vi. 20) which the disciples of the Apostles had the mission to hand faithfully down to their successors, just as the Apostles themselves had received it from the Word who had come upon the Earth.
Hence Saint Paul did not content himself with entrusting dogmatic teaching to his disciple Timothy (2 Timothy ii. 2). He said to him: “Be you an example to the Faithful, in word, and in living” (1 Timothy iv. 12). He said much the same to Titus: “Show yours elf an example of good works, in doctrine and in integrity of life” (Titus ii. 7). He repeated to all: “Be followers of me, as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians iv. 16). He sent Timothy to the Corinthians that he might remind them, or, where it was necessary, might teach them not only the dogmas of his Gospel, but, likewise, his ways in Christ Jesus, that is, his manner of life. For this manner of life of the Apostle was, in a certain measure, his teaching every where in all the Churches (1 Corinthians iv. 17), and he lauded the Faithful of Corinth for their being mindful to imitate him in all things, which was a keeping to the tradition of Christ (1 Corinthians xi. 1‒2). As for the Thessalonians, they had so thoroughly entered into this teaching, taken from their Apostle’s life, that, as Saint Paul says of them, they had become a pattern to all believers. This silent teaching of Christian revelation, which they showed forth in their conduct, made it superfluous for the messengers of the Gospel to say much (1 Thessalonians i. 5‒8).
The Church is a magnificent Temple which is built up, to the glory of God, by the living stones which let themselves be set into its walls. The constructing of those sacred walls, and on the plan laid down by Christ, is a work in which all are permitted to share. What one does by word (1 Corinthians xiv. 3), another does by good example (Romans xiv. 19). But both of them build, both of them edify the holy City. And as it was in the Apostolic Age, so always, example is more powerful than word unless that word be backed by the authority of holiness in him who speaks it: unless, that is, he leads a life according to the perfection taught by the Gospel. But, as the giving edification to those around him is an obligation incumbent on the Christian, an obligation imposed both by charity he owes to his neighbour and by the zeal he should have for the house of God,so, likewise, under pain of presumption, he should seek his own edification in the conduct of others. The reading of good books, the study of the Lives of the Saints, the observing, as our Epistle says, the respectfully observing those holy people with whom he lives — all this will be incalculable aid to him in the work of his own personal sanctification and in the fulfilment of God’s purposes in his regard.
This devout intercourse with the elect of Earth and Heaven will keep us away from men who are enemies of the Cross of Christ and mind earthly things, and put their happiness in carnal pleasures. It will make our conversation be in Heaven. Preparing for the day which cannot now be far off —the day of the Coming of our Lord — we will stand fast in Him, in spite of the falling off of so many among us who, by the current of the world’s fashion, are hurried into perdition. The troubles and sufferings of the last times will but intensify our hope in God, for they will make us long all the more ardently for the happy day when our Redeemer will appear and complete the work of the salvation of His servants by imparting, to their very flesh, the brightness of His own divine Body. Let us, as our Apostle says, be of one mind in the Lord. And, then, as he bids his dear Philippians do, let us rejoice in the Lord always, yes, let us rejoice, for, the Lord is near (Philippians iv. 4, 5).
Gospel – Matthew ix. 18‒26
At that time Jesus was speaking to the multitude. Behold a certain ruler came up and adored Him, saying: “Lord, my daughter is even now dead. But come lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rising up followed him, with His disciples. And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment. For she said within herself: “If I will touch only his garment I will be healed.” But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: “Be of good heart, daughter, your faith has made you whole.” And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, He said: “Give place: for the girl is not dead, but sleeps.” And they laughed Him to scorn. And when the multitude was put forth, He went in and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country.
Praise to you, O Christ.
Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Although the choice of this Gospel for the twenty-third Sunday has not great antiquity on its side, yet is it in most perfect keeping with the post-pentecostal Liturgy and confirms what we have stated, relative to the character of this portion of the Church’s Year. Saint Jerome tells us, in the homily selected for the day, that the Hemorrhoissa healed by our Lord is a type of the Gentile world, while the Jewish people is represented by the daughter of the Ruler of the Synagogue. This latter is not to be restored to life until the former has been cured. And this is precisely the mystery we are so continually commemorating during these closing weeks of the Liturgical Year — the fullness of the Gentiles recognising and welcoming the divine Physician, and the blindness of Israel at last giving way to the Light (Romans xi. 25).
We have celebrated, during this Year of Grace, all the grand Mysteries of the Redemption, and this ought to enable us to appreciate the glorious economy, as the Fathers love to call what we admire under another name. The spirit of the Church’s Liturgy at this close of her and our Year, lets us see the world as though its end were come. It looks as though it were sinking away down into some deep abyss — and yet, no. It is only that it may shake off the wicked from its surface, and then it will come up again blooming in light and love. All this has been the divine reality of the Year of Grace we have had put before us, yes, and in us, by our sweet Mother the Church. And now we are, or ought to be, in a mood to feel a thrill of admiration at the mysterious yet, at the same time, the strong and sweet ways of eternal Wisdom (Wisdom viii. 1). At the beginning, when Man was first created, sin soon followed, breaking up the harmony of God’s beautiful world and throwing man off the divine path where his Creator had placed him. Time and wickedness went on till there was a family on which God’s mercy fell. The light which beamed on that privileged favourite only showed the plainer the thick darkness in which the rest of mankind was vegetating. The Gentiles, abandoned to their misery — all the more terrible because they had caused it and loved it — saw God’s favours all bestowed on Israel, while themselves were disregarded and wished to be so. Even when the time came for original sin to be remedied, it seemed as though that was just the time for the final reprobation of the Gentiles — for the salvation that came down from Heaven in the person of the Man-God was seen to be exclusively directed towards the Jews and the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew xv. 24).
But the people that had been treated with so much predilection, and whose Fathers and first Rulers had so ardently prayed for the coming of the Messiah, was no longer up to the position made for it by the holy patriarchs and prophets. Its beautiful religion, founded as it was on desire and hope, was then nothing but a sterile expectancy which kept it motionless and unable to advance a single step towards its Redeemer. As to its Law, Israel then minded nothing but the letter and, at last, turned it into a mummy of sectarian formalism. Now, while in spite of all this sinful apathy it was mad with jealousy, pretending that no one else had any right to Heaven’s favours, the Gentile, whose ever increasing misery urged him to go in search of some deliverer, found one and recognised him in Jesus the Saviour of the world. He was confident that this Jesus could cure him, so he took the bold initiative, went up to Him, and had the merit of being the first to be healed. True, our Lord had treated him with an apparent disdain, but that had only had the effect of intensifying his humility, and humility has a power of making way anywhere, even into Heaven itself (Ecclesiasticus xxxv. 21).
Israel, therefore, was now made to wait. One of the Psalms he sang, ran thus: “Ethiopia will be the first to stretch out her hands to God” (Psalm lxvii. 32). It is now the turn for Israel to recover, by the pangs of a long abandonment, the humility which had won the divine promises for his Fathers, the humility which alone could merit his seeing those promises fulfilled. By this time, however, the word of salvation has made itself heard throughout all the nations, healing and saving all who desired the blessing. Jesus, who had been delayed on the road, came at last to the house towards which He first purposed to direct His sacred steps. He reached, at last, the house of Judah where the daughter of Sion was in a deep sleep. She is in it still! His almighty compassion drives away from the poor abandoned one the crowd of false teachers and lying prophets who had sent her into that mortal sleep, by all the noise of their vain babbling: He casts forth forever from her house those insulters of His own divine self who were quite resolved to keep the dead one dead. Taking the poor daughter by the hand, He restores her to life, and to all the charm of her first youth, proving thus that her apparent death had been but a sleep, and that the long delay of dreary ages could never belie the word of God which He had given to Abraham, His servant (Luke i. 54, 55).
Now therefore, let this world of ours hold itself in readiness for its final transformation, for the tidings of the restoration of the daughter of Sion puts the last seal to the accomplishment of the prophecies. It remains now but for the graves to give back their dead (Daniel xii. 1, 2). The valley of Josaphat is preparing for the great meeting of the nations (Joel iii. 2). Mount Olivet is once more (Acts i. 11) to have Jesus standing upon it, but this time as Lord and Judge! (Zacharias xiv. 4).