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Friday, December 31, 2010

Saint Sylvester, Pope and Confessor

Saint Sylvester, Pope and Confessor
Sylvester, priest of the Church in the City of Rome, discharged his office with such praiseworthiness that in January, 314, he was chosen to succeed Saint Mechiades as Pope. Less than a year before this the Emperor Constantine had granted toleration to Christianity by the Edict of Milan. Sylvester established the Lateran Church, a gift to the Church in Rome from Constantine, as the Cathedral Church in that City. Several other great churches were founded during his pontificate, notably Saint Peter’s on Vatican Hill. It was also during his time that the Council of Arles was gathered out of divers provinces of Gaul, Italy, Africa, Spain, and Britain, to deal with the Donatist heresy. And, among other things, this Council ordered that Easter should be celebrated everywhere on one and the same day. In his time also was held the first Ecumenical Council, to wit, of Nicea in 325, to which he himself went not, but sent legates. Some three hundred and eighteen bishops were present, over whom Hosius of Cordova p0resided. And by these bishops, in the presence of Constantine, the Holy and Catholic Faith was declared, and Arius and his followers were condemned.
This Pope is reputed to have issued many useful ordinances for the Church of God : such as the reservation to bishops of the right of consecrating the holy Chrism and the custom of anointing the newly baptized therewith ; the wearing of a dalmatic and maniple by deacons; the consecration of the Sacrament of the Altar on a linen Corporal ; that all persons taking Holy Orders should remain a while in each grade before being promoted to a higher; that laymen should not go to law against clergy; and that clergy themselves were not to plead before civil tribunals.

To Sylvester is also ascribed the decrees that the first and seventh days of the week should be called respectively the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath; and the others, Second Feria, Third Feria, and so on, in accordance with the use of the word Feria for the week days which had already begun in the Church. This word signifieth an holy-day, and pointeth to the duty of the clergy to lay aside all worldly labour, and leave themselves free to do continually the work of the Lord. In 335 Sylvester went to God, and the date of his feast day is probably the anniversary of his burial, in the church which he built over the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla, on the Salerian Way. In 761 his relicks were translated to the Church of Saint Sylvester. His feast hath been general in the Latin Church since the thirteenth century, and is kept also in the East, because his pastoral concern for all Christians, everywhere, made him generally beloved. For he was Pope immediately after the Church came up out of the Catacombs into freedom. He reigned twenty-one years ten months, and one day.
GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we on this day devoutly observing the feast of thy holy Confessor Saint Sylvester, may thereby increase in godliness to the attainment of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Holy Innocents, Dec 28

The Holy Innocents, Dec. 28
A Homily by Saint Jerome the Priest
Joseph took the young Child and his Mother, and fled into Egypt, during the night and in the dark. And the darkness of that night was a figure of the darkness of ignorance in which they fled the unbelievers form whom they fled. But no mention is made in the Gospel either of night or of the dark on their return into Judea, and thereby we are put in mind of that light which will lighten the Jews, when, at the end of the world, they shall receive back the Faith which now lighteneth the Gentiles, even as Judea received Christ returning from Egypt.
We read further : That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying : Out of Egypt have I called my Son, Let those who deny the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures, tell us where any such passage is to be found in the Septuagint. And since they will not find it there, I tell them that the fact of its being written in the Prophet Hosea can be proved by the texts which I have lately published.
Again, we read: Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the Prophet, saying, In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, weeping and great mourning ; Rachel weeping for her children. Rachel was the mother of Benjamin, and Bethlehem is not a town belonging to this tribe. We must therefore seek another reason why Rachel should weep for the children of Judah, to whom Bethlehem belongeth, as for her own. The plain answer is that she is buried at Ephratah close to Bethlehem; and because it was there that a resting-place was found for this mother, the place became known by her name; or it is possible that the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were joined together, and Herod slew not only all the children that were in Bethlehem, but also in the borders or coasts thereof.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
These are they which were not defiled with women, * for they are virgins, and they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast
ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths: mortify and kill all vices in us; and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, Dec. 27

Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, Dec. 27
EPISTLE . I St. John I.1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 From the Commentary of St. Jerome on the Epistle to Galatians

The blessed Evangelist John lived at Ephesus down to such an extreme old age that he was with difficulty supported in the arms of his disciples and so was carried to the church. And being unable to articulate many words, he was wont to utter each time to the congregation the simple words: Little Children, love one another. At last his disciples and brethren were weary of hearing these words so often, and asked him : Master, wherefore ever sayest thou this only? Whereto he gave an answer worthy of John : It is the commandment of the Lord, and if this only be done, it is enough.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:This is the same John who leaned on the Lord’s bosom at the Last Supper, * the blessed Apostle, unto whom were revealed the secrets of heaven.

 Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it being illumined by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to the light everlasting life, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: * yet Jesus said not unto him : He shall not die, but: If I will that he tarry till I come.

Saint Stephen's Day Propers


Double of II Class with simple Octave

INTROIT. Sederunt principes. Ps. 119.
Princes, moreover, did sit, and did witness falsely against me; and the ungodly pressed sore upon me; O Lord, my God, stand up to help me, for thy servant is occupied continually in thy commandments. Ps. ibid. Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way: and walk in the law of the Lord. V. Glory be.

Grant, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with the Holy Ghost may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen; who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. AMEN.
Then shall follow the Collect of the Nativity, which shall be said continually unto New Year's Eve
EPISTLE. Acts 7:55-6055 IN those days: Stephen, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

GRADUAL. Ps. 119. Princes also did sit and speak against me: and wicked men have persecuted me. V. Help me, O Lord my God: save me for thy mercy's sake,
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Acts 7. I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Alleluia.
¶ In Votive Masses after Septuagesima, instead of the Alleluia and verse following, is said the Tract from the Common of a Martyr. But in Eastertide, the Gradual is omitted, and in its place is said the Alleluia as above, and then the verse: Thou hast set a crown of pure gold upon his head, O Lord. Alleluia

GOSPEL. St. Matthew 23:34-39
34 BEHOLD, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The Creed is said on account of the Octave.
OFFERTORY. Acts 6 & 7. The Apostles chose Stephen the Levite, a man full of faith and of the Holy ghost: whom the Jews had stoned calling upon God and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Accept, O Lord, we pray thee, the gifts which we offer unto thee in remembrance of thy Saints: that like as they by suffering obtained thy crown of glory, so we by godly conversation may attain to innocence of life. Through.
Of the Nativity. SECRET.WE beseech thee, O Lord, that by this new Birth of thy only-begotten Son thou wouldest vouchsafe to sanctify these our oblations: and to cleanse us from the defilements of all our iniquities. Through the same.
PREFACE and CANON of Christmas.
COMMUNION. Acts 7. I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of the power of God: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and lay not this sin to their charge, for they know not what they do.

Assist us mercifully, O Lord: that we, which have received these holy mysteries; may, at the intercession of thy blessed Martyr Saint Stephen, be stablished by thy everlasting protection. Through.
Of the Nativity. POSTCOMMUNION.GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as thy Son, born this day the Saviour of the world, hath been made the author of our heavenly birth; so he may bestow upon us the gift of everlasting life. Who liveth and reigneth with thee.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

From a Sermon by St. Leo the Pope

Dearly beloved: Unto us in born this day a Saviour. Therefore let us rejoice. Sadness should find no place amongst those who keep the Birthday of Life. For as of this day Life came unto us dying creatures, to take away the sting of death, and to bring the bright promise of joy eternal. And no one is excluded from sharing in this our gladness. For all mankind hath one and the same cause thereof, to wit, that our Lord, the Destroyer of sin and death, because he findeth no one free from condemnation, is come to set everyone free. Rejoice, O saint, for thou drawest nearer thy crown! Rejoice, o sinner, for thy Saviour offered thee pardon! Rejoice, O Jew, for Messias is come. Rejoice, O Gentile, for God calleth thee to life! Now is come the fulness of the time, fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, when the Son of God took upon Him the nature of man, that he might reconcile it to its Maker. Now is come the time when the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which hath been the field of his victory.
When the Almighty Lord entered this field of battle against the devil, he did so in great and wondrous fairness. For against our cruel enemy he opposed not the armament of his uncreate Majesty, but the lowliness of our flesh. He brou8ght against him the very shape and the very nature of our mortality, with this difference only, that he was without sin. For his birth is not like that of the ordinary run of men, of whom there is the saying : No one is clean from stain, not even the day-0ld babe. In this birth alone no desires of the flesh had place. In this birth alone no consequence of sin had part. A Virgin of the kingly lineage of David was chosen to be the Mother who grew heavy with the sacred Child. She was chosen to conceive this divine and human offspring in her body because already she had conceived him in her soul. And that the unwonted events ordained by the counsel of God might cause her no alarm, she was taught them before-hand when the Angel annou7nced that what was to be wrought in her was of the Holy Ghost, and that to become the Mother of God was not to forego her virgin modesty.
Wherefore, dearly beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Ghost ; who for his great love wherewith he loved us, hath had mercy on us ; and even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, that in him we might be a new creature, and a new workmanship. Let us then put off the old man with his deeds. And, having obtained a share in the Sonship of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh. Acknowledge, O Christian, thine own dignity, who hast been made partaker of the divine nature, and change not back by misdoing into thy former baseness. Bethink thee whose Body it is whereof thou art made a member, and who is its Head. Be mindful that he hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into God’s light and God’s kingdom.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Glory to God in the highest: * and on earth peace to men of good-will, alleluia, alleluia.
GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that, as thou hast poured forth upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word; so he, who doth illuminate our hearts by faith, may likewise in all our works shew forth his brightness. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat: ( II Vespers)
In the day of thy power shall the people offer thee free-will offerings with an holy worship: * the dew of thy birth is of the womb of the morning.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Vigil of the Nativity, Dec. 24

The Vigil of the Nativity - December 24
A Homily by St. Jerome the Priest
Why was the Lord conceived of a virgin espoused rather than of one who was not? First, that Mary’s genealogy might be reckoned from that of Joseph. Secondly, lest she be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress. Thirdly, that she might have a guardian on their flight into Egypt. To these, the Martyr Ignatius hath added a fourth reason; namely, that the birth might take place unknown to the devil, who would thus suppose that Mary had conceived by Joseph.
Before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. That is, she was found by Joseph, not by anyone else, for already he had almost an husband’s privilege to know all that concerned her. But from the words, Before they came together, it doth not follow that they ever did come together. The Scripture is concerned only to shew that up to this time they had not so done.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. If any man be joined to an harlot, he becometh one body with her ; and according to the law, they that be privy to a crime are held to be guilty. How then can it be that Joseph is described as a just man, at the very time he was compounding the criminality of his espoused? These words be none other than a testimony to the virginity of Mary ; for Joseph knew her to be chaste ; wherefore he marveled at all that had come to pass, and hid in silence that of which he knew not the mystery.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
The Saviour of the world shall arise like as the dawning of the sun upon the darkened world, * even as his coming down into the womb of the Virgin was like as the mist upon the little herbs, alleluia.
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly Expectation of the birth of thine only Son Jesus Christ : grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

3rd Sunday of Advent Propers



INTROIT. Gaudete. Philippians 4:4-6
REJOICE in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice: let your moderation be known unto all men: the Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. Ps. 85:1 Lord, thou art become gracious unto thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. V. Glory be.

O LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. AMEN.

EPISTLE. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

GRADUAL. Ps. 80. Shew thyself, O Lord, thou that sittest upon the Cherubims, stir up thy strength and come. V. Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep.
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Stir up thy strength, O Lord: and come and help us. Alleluia

GOSPEL. St. Matthew 11:2-10
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

OFFERTORY. Ps. 85. Lord, thou art become gracious unto thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob: thou hast forgiven the offence of thy people.

COMMUNION. Isa. 35. Say to them that are of a fearful heart: Be strong, fear not: behold your God will come and save you.

HAVE mercy upon us, O Lord, we beseech thee: and grant that the heavenly assistance of thy holy mysteries may so cleanse us from all our iniquities, that we may be made ready worthily to keep thy coming festival. [Through.]

Monday, December 13, 2010

Of Thy Mystic Supper O Son of God

This Chant is set to an Ambrosian chant tune. It is chanted immediately before the Communion in our parish.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Propers for the 2nd Sunday in Advent

Better Late than never, I always say! These propers are used for all Ferial days until the 3rd Sunday anyway, like they were at yesterday's Mass.

INTROIT. Populus Sion. Isa. 30
O PEOPLE of Sion, behold, the Lord is nigh at hand to redeem the nations: and in the gladness of your heart the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard. Ps. 80. Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. V. Glory be.

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou has given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. AMEN
COLLECT 2 of Advent; 3 of St Mary.
EPISTLE. Romans 15:4-13
4 BRETHREN: whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

GRADUAL. Ps. 50. Out of Sion hath God appeared: in perfect beauty. V. Gather my saints together unto me: those that have made a covenant with me with sacrifice.
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Ps. 122 I was glad when they said unto me: we will go into the house of the Lord. Alleluia.

GOSPEL. St. Luke 21:25-33
25 AT that time; Jesus said unto his disciples: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Conception of the Mother of God

A Sermon by Saint Jerome the Priest
The Angel, divinely inspired, declared who and what the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary is when he said : Hail, thou that art highly favored with a fulness of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women. For surely it was fitting that a fulness of grace should be poured into that Virgin who was to give glory to heaven and the Saviour to the world ; whereby she brought peace to earth, death to sin, law to life, and faith to the Gentiles ; thus making plain before our face the straight and narrow path to perfection. It is well said of her that she is full of grace. To others grace cometh measure by measure. On Mary grace was poured out once, in all fulness. It is well said : Full of grace. We believe that the holy Fathers and Prophets had grace, but they were not full of grace. But into Mary came a fulness of all grace which is in Christ, although it came otherwise than it did to him. Therefore is it said : Blessed art thou among women : that is, Blessed art thou above all women. The fulness of the blessing of Mary utterly neutralized in her any effects of the curse of Eve. As if in praise of her, it is said in the Song of Solomon : Rise up, my dove, my fair one, for the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. And again : come from Lebanon, my spouse ; come, thou shalt be crowned.
Not unfitly is it said : Come from Lebanon. For Lebanon is so named on account of its stainless and glistering whiteness. The earthly Lebanon is white with snow, but the lonely heights of Mary’s holiness are white with purity and grace, brilliantly fair, whiter far than snow, sparkling with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Again it is said : Rise up, my dove. For like a dove, she is clean, and in her is simplicity. Thus she is full of grace and truth, for the heavens dropped down from above, and the skies poured down righteousness upon her. And therefore she is immaculate, because in her hath never been any corruption. She hath compassed a man in her womb, as saith holy Jeremiah, but she conceived not by the will of fallen man. The Lord, saith the Prophet, hath created a new thing in the earth ; a woman shall compass a man. Verily, it is a new thing, a thing of power greater than all other works, when God, (whom the world cannot compass nor carry, and whom no man shall see and live,) entered the hospice of her womb, breaking not the cloister of her virgin flesh. And in her womb he dwelt, the Infinite inclosed within her finiteness.
And from her the Infinite One came forth, so that thereby was fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet Ezekiel : This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. Hence also in the Song of Songs it is said : A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, and orchard with pleasant fruits, with trees of frankincense, and all the chief spices. Verily she was a garden of delights, filled with the perfumes of all flowers and spices, rich with the sweet savour of graces. She was a garden inclosed in such wise that never did Satan enter therein to sully the blossoms. She was a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, yes, sealed with the seal of the Trinity.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Today let us celebrate with duteous solemnity the Conception of
God's most holy mother, the ever Virgin Mary: * from whom the Son of the Highest went forth, alleluia.
O merciful God, hear the supplication of thy servants; that we who are gathered
together to honor the conception of the Virgin Mother of God may through her prayers be delivered by thee from the perils which beset us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Antiphon on Magnificat:
All generations shall call me blessed: * for God hath regarded his lowly handmaiden.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Saint Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Bibiana, Virgin and Martyr
Bibiana (also known as Viviana) hath been venerated as a virgin and Martyr since the earliest times. A church dedicated to her is known to have existed in Rome in the fifth century, which same is said to have been built by Pope Saint Simplicius. This saint suffered her passion in the reign of Julian the Apostate, and the tale is as follows: The family of Bibiana, being pre-eminent for Christianity, was marked for persecution. Hence her father, who had been prefect of Rome, was branded as a slave, and banished, shortly after which he was martyred. * His wife Dafrosa, and his two daughters, Bibiana and Demetria, were at first imprisoned and starved, and then Dafrosa was beheaded. Whereafter the two daughters were continually persecuted, in an attempt to keep them from imitating the unshakeable constancy of their holy parents ; and Demetria was so worn out by her sufferings that she suddenly dropped dead in the presence of the judge before whom she was making a brave witness to Christ. * Whereupon Bibiana was put in charge of an artful woman who had orders to seduce her, with promises of freedom if she would embrace a life of luxury and ill-fame. But she stedfastly refused such blandishments, and kept her virginity undefiled. Hence she was cruelly flogged to death, and her body left to be eaten by dogs. But a priest named John cam by night, and buried her remains near the graves of her holy mother and sister, nigh to which place was built the church named for her. And Urban VIII, when he restored this ancient temple is said to have placed the relicks of all three of these holy women under the high altar.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Come, thou bride of Christ, receive the crown, * which the Lord hath prepared for thee for ever (alleluia).
O God, the giver of all good gifts, who didst bestow on thy servant Bibiana both the flower of virginity and the palm of martyrdom : we pray thee, that, by her intercession, our hearts may in such wise be joined in charity unto thee, that we, being defended against all dangers, may attain unto the rewards of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, * who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (alleluia).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor
Peter ( on account of his eloquence surnamed Chrysologus, which is Greek for Him-of-the -golden-words) was born in Imola, near Ravenna and very early displayed a leaning to godliness. Wherefore Cornelius, Bishop of Imola, soon ordained him deacon. On the death of the Archbishop of Ravenna, Saint Pope Sixtus III ( so it is said ) was warned in a dream to consecrate this deacon to that post, and thereupon refused to ratify the election made by the people of Ravenna, but consecrated the unwilling Peter instead. The Emperor Valentinian and the Empress-Mother Galla Placidia lived in Ravenna, and the young Archbishop soon won their confidence, and well as that of the successor to Saint Sixtus III, who was Pope Saint Leo the Great. * Now there was much paganism left round about Ravenna, and many abuses had crept in amongst the faithful. Wherefore Peter strove mightily for Christ, building splendid churches, caring for the poor, and above all preaching the Gospel. He once preached a most severe sermon against the revelries of New Year’s Day, in which he said : He that jesteth with the Devil shall never rejoice with Christ. In his preaching he was wont to recommend frequent Communions, that the Body of Christ might be our daily bread. In 708, and hundred and seventy-six of his discourses were collected, which same are still extant, all of them being brief, for he feared to weary his hearers. * It is said that when he preached his vehemence was such that he sometimes became speechless with excitement. Moreover, his hearers were not seldom moved to tears, cries, and prayers. By command of Pope Saint Leo, he addressed an Epistle to the Council of Chalcedon against the heretick Eutyches, and also confuted him in another letter addressed to Eutyches himself. When he had ruled the Church in Ravenna for about eighteen years, he passed in peace to a better life, on December 2nd, about 450, at Imola ; whither he had gone, forewarned by God, to prepare himself for his death ; and where his holy body was buried, hard by the remains of his chosen patron Saint Cassian the Schoolmaster.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, saith the Lord (alleluia).
O God, who by divine foreshowing wast pleased to summon thy great teacher Saint Peter Chrysologus to be a ruler and Doctor of thy Church : grant, we beseech thee, that, as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:The Lord loved him and adorned him, he clothed him with a rove of glory, * and at the gates of Paradise he crowned him (alleluia).

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, The Vigil of Saint Andrew the Apostle

A Homily by St. Augustine the Bishop
Because John was the friend of the Bridegroom, he sought not his own glory, but rather bore witness to the Truth. Did he manifest any desire that his disciples should remain with him instead of following the Lord? Nay, he himself shewed his disciples whom they should follow. Because they thought of him as the Lamb, he spake unto them in some such words as these : Why wait ye on me? I am not the Lamb, look ye there, and behold the Lamb of God. As we have read above, the one thus pointed out was he of whom John once before had spoken, saying : Behold the Lamb of God. And would ye know of what use to us the Lamb of God is? Behold the Lamb of God, saith John, which taketh away the sins of the world.

Let us see what then came to pass : And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. This doth not mean that they companied with him continuously from that time, but only that they thereafter considered themselves to be Christ’s disciples rather than John’s. for it is manifest that they clave unto Jesus only in the time whereinafter he had called them out of the ship. Thus it is added : One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Matthew describeth how they were finally called, thus : Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers ; and he saith unto them : Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men ; and they straightway left their nets and followed him. And from this latter time they clave into him, so as never to depart.

Concerning the former occasion we read that Jesus asked : What seek ye? They said unto him : Rabbi, (which is to day, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? So at this time they are said to have followed him, but not in the sense of cleaving unto him as though never to depart, but in the sense of drawing nigh unto him, in obedience to the words in Ecclesiaticus : If thou see a man of understanding, get thee betimes unto him, and let thy foot wear the steps of his doors. He saith unto them : come and see : so they came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day. O what a blessed day they passed! And since it was about the tenth hour, what a blessed night! Who shall tell what they heard from the Lord? O let us make a house in our heart whither he may come, and there teach us, and abide with us.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that as we do prevent the festival of thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, so he may implore thy mercy for us ; that we being delivered from all our iniquities, may likewise be defended against all adversities, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saint Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr
This Peter, of whom the historian Eusebius hath written, succeeded that eminent man, Saint Thomas, as Pope of Alexandria, in the year of our Lord 300. And the glory of his holiness and teaching hath enlightened not Egypt only, but the whole Church of God. The wondrous patience wherewith he bore the roughness of the times in the persecution under Maximian Galerius caused many greatly to increase in Christian grace. He was the first who cut off Arius, then a Deacon of Alexandria, from the Communion of the faithful on account of his leaning to the Meletian schism. He was condemned to death by Maximian, and was in prison when there came to him the two priests Achilles and Alexander to plead for Arius. But Peter told them that Jesus had appeared to him in the night clad in a rent garment, and had said : Arius hath torn my vesture, which is the Church. Also, he foretold to them that they should be Popes of Alexandria after him and strictly commanded them never to receive Arius into Communion, because he knew him to be dead in the sight of God. That this was a true prophecy the event did shortly prove. At length, in the twelfth year of his episcopate, on November 26th, 311, his head was cut off, and he went hence to receive the crown of his testimony.
Beheading of Saint Peter of Alexandria
Almighty God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, that whereas we are afflicted by the burden of our sins; the glorious intercession of thy Martyr and Bishop blessed Peter may be our succour and defence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr, November 24

Saint Chrysogonus Martyr, November 24

Ss. Chrysogonus and Anastasia
 Saint Chrysogonus was imprisoned at Rome in the fourth century, during the reign of Diocletian. There he lived for the space of two years upon the alms of that holy Anastasia who, along with Chrysogonus, is mentioned in the Gregorian Canon, and is also commemorated in the second Mass of Christmas. She was at that time suffering much persecution from her husband Publius for Christ’s Name’s sake, and was used to write to Chrysogonus to ask for the help of his prayers, and he in return comforted her by his epistles. Presently the Emperor wrote to Rome, commanding the rest of the Christians who were in prison there to be put to death, and Chrysogonus to be sent to himself at Aquileia. When he was brought thither, he said unto him : I have sent for thee, O Chrysogonus, that I may increase thine honours, if only thou wilt bring thy mind to worship the gods. Thereto Chrysogonus answered : With my mind and with my prayers I worship him who is very God, but such gods as are nothing but images of devils, them I hate and curse. Then was the Emperor kindled to fury at this answer, and commanded Chrysogonus to be beheaded. Which done, on the 24th day of November, his body was cast into the sea. A little afterwards the same washed up on the shore, and the Priest Zoilus took it and buried it in his own house. But the Holy Matron Anastasia was burned to death for Christ on December 25th.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
This is a Saint who strove for the truth, even unto death, and feared not the words of sinful men, * forasmuch as he was founded on a sure foundation, even upon the rock of his Master’s precepts.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that by the prayers of thy holy Martyr blessed Chrysogonus, we may be delivered from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
He that hateth his life in this world * shall keep it unto life eternal.

Saint Columbanus, Abbot, Nov. 21

Saint Columbanus, Abbot November 21

Columbanus was the greatest of all the Irish missionary-monks that laboured to spread the Gospel on the continent of Europe ; where he founded several monasteries, for which he wrote a monastic rule that came to have a wide observance before that of Saint Benedict was generally accepted. He was born in West Leinster, Ireland, and was excellently skilled in earthly and heavenly learning. In young manhood, being greatly troubled with the arrogance of his own flesh, he determined to bring it into subjection, and therefore fled from the world, to enter upon monastic discipline. Which same he sought in several places, under the direction of various holy men until, from being a learner, he was called to be a teacher. Whereupon, with the permission of Saint Comgall his superior and director, he took twelve monks, and with them passed over into Gaul, in which country, because of barbarian invasions and civil strife, the Church had become much weakened. And there the example of charity, prayer and penance set by these monks, made great impress on the people. * And their good reputation came to the King of Burgundy, who gave them a place in the mountains of the Vosges. Where at Annegray they founded a monastery, consisting mostly of little huts which they built with their own hands, and where they lived in the utmost sternness of life, with scantiness in all things except devotion, so that God often marvelously provided them with necessaries. When this place became too small for the numbers of men that desired to live under the stern rule of the Saint, he founded another monastery, about eight miles distant, at Luxeuil ; and then a third was founded about three miles from Luxeuil at a place called Fontaine, on account of the abundance of water there. These three, and another called Bobbio, were the foundations of Columbanus himself ; but from these four places his followers founded monasteries in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, to the number of an hundred or more ; which same were centers of religion, industry and learning during many of the dark centuries. * And the holiness and miracles of Columbanus were a light unto all Gaul. But King Theodoric II of Burgundy, whose unclean passions he had rebuked, caused him much trouble, and finally banished him from the country. Whereat he took ship for Ireland, with some of his Irish companions. But a storm drove him back again upon the coast of Gaul, and he therefore betook himself the Theodebert II, King of Austrasia, who graciously welcomed him, and settled him upon the Lake of Constance, where he destroyed the temples of the idols, and contended on all sides against the false worship. Thereupon he was expelled by the inhabitants, and went into Italy to Agilulf, the Arian King of the Lombards, and founded the aforesaid monastery of Bobbio in the Cottian Alps. Where by his writings he contended successfully against the Arians. At length he was worn out by his great labours, and went home to God at a great age, namely, on November 21st, 615.
Saint Columban, Abbot
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee, * and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee (alleluia).
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Columbanus, may commend us unto thee : that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me * are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Sion (alleluia).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr, November 23

Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr

Saint Clement I
Clement was chief pastor of the Church in Rome in the earliest days of Christianity, when to be bishop was almost certainly to live in persecution and die in martyrdom. He is believed to have been the son of Faustinus, a Roman citizen of the Emperors household, and to have received the Faith directly from blessed Peter himself. In the Gregorian Canon, Linus and Cletus are mentioned before Clement, and according to this order blessed Clement was the third successor of the Apostle Peter in the Roman See. It is supposed that he was martyred about the year 99. He is therefore reckoned as the first of the apostolic Fathers, and in the early Church his writings were esteemed next to the canonical Scriptures themselves. Holy Irenaeus testified that Clement had talked with the blessed Apostles, so that their preaching was still in his ears, and their tradition yet before his eyes. Origen identified him with the one whom Saint Paul, writing to the Phillipians, called his fellow-labourer. He is therefore venerated as one of the foremost bishops and shepherds of holy Church, and that both as to time and greatness. For it was such as he that shewed how a bishop in the Church of God should work and live and die.

By his teaching he brought many to Christ, and therefore he was marked for persecution. According to the Book of the Passion of Clement, he was exiled by Trajan to the remote City of Cherson, across the Black Sea, in the Crimea. There he found two thousand Christians at work in the marble quarries, condemned thereto by Trajan. Which same suffered much from want of water until Clement prayed and, whilst in the spirit on the mount hard by, saw the Lamb of God, with the water of life proceeding out from under his feet, wherewith they all quenched their thirst. And from this wonder many unbelievers were brought to Christ. For so a true pastor of the flock careth for the sheep, and useth their very necessities, whether in peace or persecution, to bring them unto salvation.

The same Passion of Saint Clement further saith that Trajan was enraged at the mighty deeds of this holy man, and sent an order to cast him into the depths of the sea, with an anchor tied about his neck. And that some whiles afterwards, when the Christians were praying on the shore, the sea receded three miles. And that on the ocean floor in a grotto of fair stone, shaped like unto a temple, they found the body of the Martyr resting in a depression like unto a stone coffin, and hard by the anchor wherewith he had been weighted down. And that thereafter many of the people that were round about came to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. In which story is set forth the certain hope, which hath ever sustained Christians in all the trials of this life, that Christ careth for us , even in death, and preserveth us unto resurrection, whereby our worth in his sight is to be made manifest to all. The relicks of Clement were brought to Rome by Saints Cyril and Methodius in the time of Nicholas I, and buried in a church dedicated to him, which was built over the place supposed to have been his residence. Likewise in the Crimea a church was built to mark the spot of his vision and the gift of the living waters. It is said that Clement lived as Pope nine years, six months, and six days, and that he held two December ordinations, wherein he made ten priests and two deacons, and for divers places, fifteen bishops.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Let us all pray our Lord Jesus Christ that he may open a well of living waters * for them that confess him.
Be merciful unto the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd and Bishop of the souls of men; and keep us in thy continual protection; at the intercession of thy blessed Martyr, the holy Father Clement, whom thou didst raise up in thy Church to be thine under-shepherd, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
As this blessed man was taken unto the sea, the people did cry with a loud voice : Deliver him, O Lord Jesu Christ; * and Clement wept and said : Father, receive my spirit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple: Propers and Lessons

November 22, Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, November 22

Cecilia was early recognized as one of the most illustrious of virgin Martyrs. Therefore, along with Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha, her name is mentioned in the Gregorian Canon. Her story, and that of Valerian and Tiburtius, her companions, is told as followeth.

Saint Cecilia
Cecilia was a Roman maiden of noble birth, trained up from her earliest years in the teaching of the Christian Faith, who vowed herself unto God in virginity. Given in marriage, against her will, to Valerian, she said to him on their wedding night : Balerian, I am under the guardianship of an Angel who keepeth me always a maiden ; therefore touch me not lest the anger of God, be aroused against thee. And Valerian was in such wise moved at her words that he dared not touch her, and even said that he fain would believe in Christ if haply he might see the Angel. Whereupon Cecilia urged him to be baptized, and for the sake of seeing the Angel he was willing. So she urged him unto Urban the Bishop, who was hiding in the sepulchre of the Martyrs on the Appian Way, on account of the persecution. And he went and was baptized.
Thence he came back to Cecilia, and found her praying, and the Angel with her, shining from the glory of God. Whereupon, as soon as he had recovered from the wonder and fear thereof, he brought his brother Tiburtius, whom Cecilia also taught Christ, and who was baptized by the same Urban, and who also was vouchsafed to see the Angel. A little thereafter the brothers both bravely suffered martyrdom, thereby converting the pagan officer Maximus who chose death with them. The Prefect Almachius then took Cecilia and asked of her, first of all, where was the property of Tiburtius and Valerian. To him the virgin answered that all their goods had been given to the poor. Thereupon, filled with fury, he commanded her to be tortured by the heat of the bath. But after she was unharmed in that place a day and a night, he sent the executioner, who gave her three strokes of the axe. But nevertheless her head was not thereby cut off, although he left her half dead. Three days thereafter, namely upon the twenty-second of November, she winged her flight to heaven, glorified with the two palms of virginity and martyrdom. Her body was buried in the Cemetery of Saint Callistus, and her own house was consecrated as a church, and named after her. At the beginning of the ninth century her relicks were brought into the City by Pope Paschal I, along with those of Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus, and all laid together in the said Church of Saint Cecilia.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
As dawn was fading into day, Cecilia spake with a loud voice, * Arise O soldiers of Christ away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Cecilia thy Virgin and Martyr: grant we beseech thee, that as we do venerate her in our outward office, so we may follow the example of her godly conversation, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21, Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple

From the Book on Orthodox Faith by St. John of Damascus

Entry of Our Lady in the Temple
Joachim took to wife that most eminent and praiseworthy woman, Anne. And even as before her time the holy Hannah (being stricken with barrenness ) by prayer and promise became the mother of Samuel, so likewise this holy Anne, through prayer and promise, received from God the Mother of God, that in fruitfulness she might not be behind any of the famous matrons. And thus Grace ( for such is the signification of the name Anne) is mother of the lady ( for such is the signification of the name of Mary). And indeed this child of grace became the Lady of every creature, since she hath been Mother of the Creator. She first saw the light in Joachim’s house, hard by the Pool of Bethesda, at Jerusalem, and was carried to the temple. There planted in the Lord, the dew of his Spirit made her to flourish in the courts of her God, where she was like unto a green olive tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. And there she in such wise raised her mind utterly above the pride of life, and the lust of flesh, that she kept her soul virgin in her virgin body, as became her that was to receive God into her womb.

From the Treatise Concerning Virgins by Saint Ambrose the Bishop
Such was Mary that her single life offered an ensample to all. If then we be not displeased by the doer, let us applaud the deed ; if any other woman seek like reward, let her follow after like works. In the one Virgin how many glorious examples do shine forth. Hers was the hidden treasure of modesty, hers the high standard of faith, hers the self-sacrifice of earnestness, hers to be the pattern of maidenhood at home, of kinswoman hood in ministry, of motherhood in the temple. O to how many virgins hath she been helpful! How many hath she taken in her arms and presented unto the Lord, saying : here is one who, like me, hath kept stainless clean the wedding chamber, the marriage-bed of my Son.

Why should I go on to speak of the scantiness of her eating, or the multiplicity of her work? How her labour seemed above human capacity, and her refreshment insufficient for human strength ; how her toil never missed a moment, and her fasting took as much as two days together? And when she was fain to eat, she took not dainties, but whatsoever food came first to hand that would keep body and soul together. She would not sleep till need was, and even then, while her body rested, her soul watched. I opine that often she talked in her sleep, either repeating things that she had read, or going on with what she was doing before sleep interrupted her, or rehearsing things executed, or talking of things projected.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Blessed art thou O Mary, for that thou hast believed, * and there shall be a performance in thee of those things which were told thee from the Lord.
O God, who on this day didst vouchsafe that blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost, should be presented in the Temple : grant, we beseech thee, that by her intercession we may be found worthy to be presented unto thee in the temple of thy glory, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth with thee, world without end. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
O holy Mary, help thou the suffering, strengthen the faint-hearted, comfort the sorrowful ; pray for the people, plead for the clergy, entreat for all women dedicated to God * let everyone that keepeth holy-day in thine honour know the benefit of thine intercession (alleluia).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Saint Pontianus, Pope and Martyr, November 19

Saint Pontianus, Pope and Martyr, November 19

Saint Pope Pontianus
Pontianus was a Roman, and succeeded Saint Urban I as Pope, during the reign of the Emperor Alexander. This Emperor banished him into the Island of Sardinia, along with the priest Hippolytus, on account of their profession of the Christian Faith. There he endured many hardships because of his belief in Christ, and departed this life on October 30th, about the year 235. His body was brought to Rome by Pope Saint Fabian and his clergy, and buried in the Cemetery of Saint Callistus, on the Appian Way. He sat in the Seat of Peter four years, four months, and twenty-five days, and held two ordinations in the month of December wherein he made six priests, five deacons, and six bishops for divers places.

A Homily by Saint Augustine the Bishop

Today we keep holy day in anniversary of the triumph of the blessed Martyr Pontianus, concerning whom the Church biddeth us to rejoice at his glory, and to consider how we may follow in his footsteps. For if so be that we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him in glory. In his glorious contest we have two things chiefly to remember : the hardened cruelty of the tormentor, and the unconquered patience of the Martyr : the cruelty of the tormentor, that we may abhor it ; the patience of the Martyr, that we may imitate it. Hear what the Psalmist saith, complaining against sin ; Fret not thyself because of the ungodly, for they shall soon be cut down like the grass. But hear the teaching of the Apostle concerning the patience which is to be shewn against the ungodly : Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may receive the promise.

And so the patience of the blessed Martyr was crowned, and the spiteful ungodliness of the tormentor was given over to everlasting punishment. Christ’s glorious champion shrank not from the dungeon, for during his contest he looked forward to his reward. Like his Master, he bore reproach, endured mocking, and feared not the scourges. And as many sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us ; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Being uplifted above earthly things in the love inspired by this promise, and greatly moved by the pleasant foretaste of the heavenly sweetness, he could say with the Psalmist : Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee : my flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

St.Augustine of Hippo
For as man’s weakness could do so, in this our darkness, he fixed the eyes of his soul on things eternal, and contemplated the joys of the heavenly city. And being unable to describe it , he could only cry in wonder : whom have I in heaven but thee? As thought to say : What thou art passeth my strength to contemplate. It passeth the power of my utterance. It goeth beyond the reach of my understanding. Such is that beauty, that glory, that exaltation, wherein, far from the provoking of men, in the secret of his presence, our Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body, that is may be fashioned like unto his own glorious body! Because of his vision of this perfect liberty he shrank from no danger, and quailed before no torment. And if he could have died a thousand times, he would not have thought that he had paid a price high enough for this perfect liberty.

Collect :
Be merciful to the people of thy flock, O Lord, eternal Shepherd and Bishop of the souls of men : and keep us in thy continual protection, at the intercession of thy blessed Martyr, the Holy Father Pontianus, whom thou didst raise up in thy Church to be thine under-Shepherd, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saint Hilda, Virgin and Abbess, November 17

November 17, Saint Hilda of Whitby, Virgin and Abbess
Saint Hilda of Whitby, 680
Hilda of Whitby was born a princess of the blood-royal, but until the age of thirteen, she was an heathen, at which time along with her great-uncle, King Edwin of Northumbria, she received the light of faith in Baptism at the hands of Saint Paulinus. Whereupon, for over thirty years she lived very nobly amongst her fellows, and then understood that God had called her to leave her country and kindred and her royal honours, and become a nun. Whereat she planned to cross over to France, and enter there one of the monasteries whither many Saxon maidens had already gone, including (as some maintain) her sister Saint Hereswitha. But Saint Aidan sent for her, and after twelve months of religious discipline with some companions in a place on the north band of the Weir, he made her Abbess of Hartlepool, which convent she set in order and wisely ruled for nine years. Then she founded a new religious house on a high headland overlooking the sea, which same became a great abbey, afterwards called Whitby, wherein she ruled with wisdom and holiness for many years. * God had bestowed upon her not only high rank, but a rare prudence in the government of souls, and a zeal for knowledge and ecclesiastical discipline, whereby she became a choice instrument in his hands during the troublous times when the infant Church was carrying on a great battle with paganism. All who knew her, that is to say, common and simple folk, as well as monks and bishops, princes and kings, sought to profit by her clear judgement and wise experience, insomuch that she was honored as the mother her country. Truly was she so called, for both in her own land and is distant places whither her fame had gone, she was the mother of spiritual sons and daughters. And in later days many of her kinswomen followed her on the road to sanctity, such as Saints Sethrida, Audrey, Sexaburga, Ermenilda and Werburga. According to the Celtic custom, a place for monks was joined to the nunnery at Whitby, and Hilda ruled over both. She so inspired these monks with zeal for the rule, for study and for good order, that their house became a school of missionaries, of whom no less than five became bishops ; and of these were Saints John of Beverly and Wilfrid of York. Also a poor cowherd who worked on the monastic lands was encouraged by her to become an ecclesiastical bard, namely, Caedmon, the father of English poetry ; which same was admitted to monastic vows, wherein he lived in holiness till death, and ever after, even unto this present, hath been revered as a Saint. * A council was called at Whitby whilst Saint Theodore ruled the Church of Canterbury, to wit, in 664, to decide whether or not the Celtic customs should continue to be observed in respect to the date of Easter Day and other questions. Persuaded by Saint Wilfred, King Oswy moved the synod to adopt the Roman customs in these things, whereby the Saxon Church did greatly benefit from closer unity with Western Christendom and the larger culture and growing power thereof. Yet out of this council grew certain difficulties and controversies, albeit Saint Theodore and Saint Hilda liked not these things. During the last six years of her life a grievous fever never left her, yet failed she not this while to return thanks to her Maker, nor to instruct and rule her flock. She called the monks and nuns to her death-bed at early cock-crow, and exhorted them to peace amongst themselves and all men, and then passed by death to life eternal, in the year of salvation 680. The tolling of her passing bell was wondrously heard at Harkness, thirteen miles away, where also Begu, a devout soul, saw her blessed soul borne by Angels to heaven.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
Come, thou bride of Christ, receive the crown * which the Lord hath prepared for thee forever (alleluia).
Graciously hear us, O God of our salvation : that , like as we do rejoice in the festival of blessed Hilda, thy holy Virgin, so we may learn to follow her in all godly and devout affection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, * who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (alleluia).

November 17, Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop and Confessor

Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop and Confessor

St.Gregory the Wonderworker
This Gregory was Bishop of Neocaesarea, in Pontus, in the third century, a man who gained much repute for holiness and learning, so that in time he gained ever greater repute for signs and wonders, for which reason he was called Thaumaturgus or Wonderworker. So much was he venerated for wonders that little regard was paid to the details of his holy life by those who wrote of him. By prayer he removed to another place a mountain which was hindering the building of a church ; that he dried up a swamp which was a cause of dissension between brothers ; that he restrained the Lycus Rover which was destructively inundating the fields, which same hi did by fixing in the bank thereof his staff, wherein it staitway grew into a green tree, and thereafter the river dared not flow beyond this limit. * Saint Basil the Great, from his grandmother Saint Macrina, learned much concerning the high repute with which this Gregory was regarded by his own generation. Of him Basil saith that he was a man like unto Moses, and that he had the vision of the Prophets and the spirit of the Apostles. It is known that he was a faithful missionary, and to make his converts love the feasts of holy Church, he instituted games and merry-making on all the great festivals, a thing not much hitherto done. * He drave out the evil of idol-worship, and as well he drave out evil from men’s souls, and did many other mighty works, by means of which he led many fold to the Faith of Jesus Christ. Also, in prophetic spirit, he foresaw things yet to come. When he was about to die, he asked how many infidels remained in the town of Neocaesarea, and when told there were only seventeen, he gave thanks to God, and said : Just so many were the faithful, when I began my episcopate. He wrote much whereby, as well as by wo9ndrous deeds, he adorned the Church. He passed to God about the year 270.

A Homily by the Venerable Saint Bede the Priest

St. Bede
Heathen, who have written evil things against the Church, are wont to Taunt our people with not having a complete faith in God, because they have never been able to remove mountains. To whom it should be answered that not all the things which trough faith have been done in the Church have been fully declared, any more than have the acts of Christ our Lord himself, as the Gospel itself doth testify. And therefore also this could have been done, that a mountain should be removed from the earth, and cast into the sea, if necessity had demanded that it should be done. It is said that such a thing was once done by the prayers of our blessed Father Gregory, Bishop of Neocaesarea in Pontus, a man illustrious by his merits and virtues. * For of him it is told that, when he wished to build a church on a suitable spot, he saw that the site was too narrow for the purpose required, because it was limited on one side y a cliff going down to the sea, and on the other by the proximity of a mountain ; and that therefore went to the place by night and, on bended knees, reminded the Lord of his promise, that according to the faith of him that prayeth, so should he move a mountain. And it is said that when he returned in the morning, he found that the mountain had left as much space to the builders of the church as the work required. Now, if this man did thus, any other man of equal merit could obtain from the Lord, by reason of his faith, that even a mountain should be removed and cast into the sea, provided that in the sight of God necessity required it. * Nevertheless, it should be noted, that by the name of mountain is sometimes signified the devil, and this because of the pride with which he exalteth himself against God, and wisheth to be like unto the Most High. Such a mountain is removed from the earth, and cast into the sea, at the command of those who are strong in faith when, by the preaching of holy teachers, the unclean spirit is driven from the heart of those who are pre-ordained unto life, and permitted to exercise the frenzy of his tyranny only upon the unquiet and bitter minds of the infidels.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, * I will make thee ruler over many things, saith the Lord (alleluia).
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the devout observance of this festival of blessed Gregory, thy Confessor and Bishop, may be profitable unto us for our advancement in all godliness, and for the attainment of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Antiphon on the Magnificat:
O holy Priest and Bishop, thou worker of so many mighty works, and good shepherd to Christ’s flock, * pray for us unto the Lord our God (alleluia).

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, Saint Machutus, Bishop and Confessor

November 15, Saint Machutus Bishop and Confessor
St. Machutus

Machutus, better known as Malo, was a Welshman who became a monk and went to Brittany, where he settled among the pagans, and began to preach to them, at a place them called Aleth, but now called Malo. And after he had made many converts, he was consecrated to the episcopate. * But violent discords grew up in his flock, and well nigh broke his heart ; so that he left, with thirty of his monks, and went to Saintes. Where after several years a deputation from Aleth waited upon him, and with tears implored him to return, for they said that with his departure the light had gone, and darkness had settled down upon Brittany. * But Malo returned only long enough to set things somewhat in order, and then went back to Saintes ; for he knew that his end was near, and he was fain to die there. Which same he did in the peace of God, and the year of salvation 621.
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the devout observance of this festival of blessed Malo, thy confessor and Bishop, may be profitable unto us for our advancement in all godliness, and for the attainment of everlasting salvation, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Alternate Matins Lesson for this Sunday, November 14 2010

In some uses of the Western Rite, this Sunday adopts the Lessons and some of the Propers for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany. I believe this is due to the variable length of the season resulting from the movable nature of the feast of Pascha.

Saint Athanasius
VI Sunday after Epiphany

From a Sermon by Saint Athanasius the Bishop

If the hereticks had but known the Person, the matter, and the time whereof the Apostle spake, when he was writing his Epistle to the Hebrews, they would never have behaved so wickedly and foolishly toward Christ as to attribute human qualities to his Godhead. This will be easily seen if ye will but read the beginning of the passage on which we are commenting, and consider it carefully. The Apostle there saith : God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in theses last days spoken unto us by his Son. And again, a little further on : When the Son had purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high ; being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent Name than they. The Apostle doth here expressly specify the time wherein God hath spoken unto us by his Son, namely : When the son had by himself purged our sins. Let us ask, then, when it was that God spake unto us by his Son? Or when did the Son purge our sins? Or when was he born Man? And the Apostle answereth : After God spake unto the fathers by the Prophets : namely: In these last days.
The Apostle, when about to enter upon a discussion of the human dispensation of the Word, which as he saith began in these last days, naturally mentioned first that God had been silent in time past, but had spoken unto the fathers by the Prophets. And secondly, he saith that after the Prophets had discharged their office, and the Law had been given by the ministry of Angels, then the Son also came down unto us to minister. Whereupon he addeth : Being made so much better than the Angels : to shew that as the Son differeth from a servant, so the ministry of the Son must have been better than the ministry and office of the Angels who are not sons but servants.

Russian Icon of Athanasius
It was for this reason that the Apostle, seeing the difference between the new ministry of the Son and the old of the Angels, maketh very bold in writing and speaking to the Hebrews. For this cause, therefore, he doth not compare the details of the two ministries, and then come to the general conclusion that the new was greater or more honorable than the old. For if he had so done, some might have reasoned therefrom that the two ministries were of the same kind : and on this wise thay might be misled to think that the Apostle’s conclusion (to wit, that the new ministry is better than the old) was arrived at by comparing the degrees in each of things which the two ministries had in common. Therefore he saith plainly that the Son himself was made better than the Angels, to distinguish at once and completely the nature of the Son from the nature of things created.