FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS – MASS PROPERS

Massacre of the Innocents, Guido Reni

THE HOLY INNOCENTS

From the Liturgical Year – Dom Guéranger

The feast of the beloved Disciple is followed by that of the Holy Innocents. The Crib of Jesus, where we have already met and venerated the Prince of Martyrs and the Eagle of Patmos has today standing round it a lovely choir of little Children, clad in snow-white robes, and holding green branches in their hands. The Divine Babe smiles upon them, he is their King; and these Innocents are smiling upon the Church of God. Courage and Fidelity first led us to the Crib; Innocence now comes, and bids us tarry there. Herod intended to include the Son of God amongst the murdered Babes of Bethlehem. The Daughters of Rachel wept over their little ones, and the land streamed with blood; but, the Tyrant’s policy can do no more: it cannot reach Jesus, and its whole plot ends in recruiting an immense army of Martyrs for heaven. These Children were not capable of knowing what an honor it was for them, to be made victims for the sake of the Savior of the world; but, the very first instant after their immolation, and all was revealed to them: they had gone through this world without knowing it, and now that they know it, they possess an infinitely better. God showed here the riches of his mercy, he asks of them but a momentary suffering, and that over, they wake up in Abraham’s Bosom: no further trial awaits them, they are in spotless innocence, and the glory due to a soldier who died to save the life of his Prince, belongs eternally to them.

They died for Jesus’ sake therefore, their death was a real Martyrdom, and the Church calls them by the beautiful name of The Flowers of the Martyrs, because of their tender age and their innocence. Justly, then, does the ecclesiastical Cycle bring them before us today, immediately after the two valiant Champions of Christ, Stephen and John.

DECEMBER FEASTS

     December 28 – 4th Day of Christmas

 THE HOLY INNOCENTS (Childermas)

Double of the Second Class with Simple Octave

Violet Vestments

 Station at St. Paul Without The Walls

In the Introit, the Church proclaims the wisdom of God in disconcerting the impious plans of Herod, and turning the murder of the Innocents into his own glory, by raising them to the dignity of Martyrs of Christ, whose praises they gratefully sing for ever.

INTROIT – Psalm 8: 3, 2

Ex ore infantium, Deus, et lactentium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos. Ps. Domine Dominus noster: quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! Gloria Patri.

Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings, O God, Thou hast perfected praise, because of Thine enemies. Ps. O Lord our God, how admirable is Thy Name in the whole earth! Glory be to the Father.

In the Collect, the Church prays that her children may confess, by their works, their faith in Christ. The Holy Innocents give their testimony, the only one in their power of suffering for their divine Master: but the Christian, who has attained the use of reason, has more to do than suffer for his faith, he must confess it before Persecutors and Tyrants, when they bid him deny it, and also before that more permanent tribunal of the world and his own passions. No man has received the glorious character of a Christian, on the condition that he should never own himself one.

COLLECT

O God, whose praise the martyred Innocents on this day confessed, not by speaking, but by dying: destroy in us all the evils of sin, that our life also may proclaim in deeds Thy faith which our tongues profess. Through our Lord.

OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Through the same our Lord.

EPISTLE – Apoc: 14:1-5

In those days I beheld a Lamb stood upon Mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the noise of many waters and as the voice of great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers, harping on their harps. And they sung as it were a new canticle before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the ancients: and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand who were purchased from the earth. These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb: and in their mouth there was found no lie: for they are without spot before the throne of God.

Holy Innocents follow the Lamb, because they are pure.

The Church shows us, by her choice of this mysterious passage of the Apocalypse, how great a value she sets on Innocence, and what our own esteem of it ought to be. The Holy Innocents follow the Lamb, because they are pure. Personal merits on earth they could not have; but they went rapidly through this world, and its defilements never reached them. Their Purity was not tried, as was St. John’s; but, it is beautified by the blood they shed for the Divine Lamb, and He is pleased with it, and makes them his companions. Let the Christian, therefore, be ambitious for this Innocence, which is thus singularly honoured. If he have preserved it, let him keep and guard it as his most precious treasure; if he have lost it, let him repair the loss by repentance, and having done so, let him say with the Spouse in the Canticles: I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? 

In the Gradual, we have the Innocents blessing their God for having broken the snare, wherewith the world would have made them captive. They have fled as a bird set free; there was nothing to clog their flight.

GRADUAL – Psalm 123: 7, 8

Our soul hath been delivered as a sparrow out of the snare of the fowlers. The snare hath been broken, and we have been delivered. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Massacre of the Innocents by Matteo di Giovanni (1482) WGA

The Tract expresses the lamentation of Rachel over the cruelty of Herod and his minions. It invokes the divine vengeance, which swept away the whole family of this vile Tyrant.

TRACT

They have poured out the blood of the saints as water, round about Jerusalem and there was none to bury them. Avenge, O Lord the blood of Thy saints, which has been shed upon the earth.

GOSPEL – Matthew 2: 13-18

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew

At that time an Angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the Child and His Mother and fly into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him. Who arose and took the Child and His Mother by night and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My Son. Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry, and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Thus does the Gospel, in its sublime simplicity, relate the Martyrdom of the Innocents. Herod, sending, killed all the Children! The earth paid no attention to the fell tyranny, which made so rich a harvest for heaven: there was heard a voice in Rama, Rachel wailing her little ones, it went up to heaven, and Bethlehem was still again, as though nothing had happened. But, these favored Victims had been accepted by God, and they were to be the companions of his Son. Jesus looked at them from his crib, and blessed them; Mary compassionated with them and their mothers; the Church, which Jesus had come to form, would, for all future ages, glorify these youthful Martyrs, and place the greatest confidence in the patronage of these Children, for she knows how powerful their intercession is with her heavenly Spouse.

During the Offertory, it is the choir of our Holy Innocents again singing their beautiful Canticle: as birds set free, they give praise to Him who broke the snare which held them.

OFFERTORY – Psalm 123: 7

Our soul hath been delivered as a sparrow out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are delivered.

SECRET

Let not the loving prayer of Thy Saints fail us, O Lord: may it render our offerings pleasing to Thee, and ever obtain for us Thy pardon. Through our Lord.

OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD

Sanctify, O Lord, the gifts offered to Thee, by the new birth of Thine Only-begotten Son: and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through our Lord.

CHRISTMAS PREFACE

It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God.  Because by the mystery of the Word made flesh the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind: that while we acknowledge Him to be God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen. And therefore with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the heavenly hosts, we sing a hymn to Thy glory, saying without ceasing.

holy sacrifice of the mass 15

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.

COMMUNION – Matthew 2: 18

A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

POSTCOMMUNION 

We have partaken, O Lord, of these votive gifts: grant, we beseech Thee, that by the prayers of the Saints they may procure aid for us both in this life in that which is to come. Through our Lord.

OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that as the Saviour of the world, born on this day, is the Author of our heavenly birth, so He may also be to us the Giver of immortality: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.

The massacre of the innocents by François-Joseph Navez, 1824

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS

By Francis Xavier Weninger

By the Holy Innocents, who are honored as martyrs today by the Catholic Church, we understand those happy infants, who, by the command of King Herod, were put to death, for no other cause than that the new-born King of the Jews might be deprived of life. When Christ was born, Herod, well known for his cruelty, reigned at Jerusalem. He was not of the Jewish nation, but a foreigner, and was therefore hated by the Jews Herod knew this well; hence he feared that they would dethrone him, and he had several illustrious persons executed, whom he suspected of aspiring to the throne. Meanwhile it happened that the three Magi or Kings from the East came to Jerusalem, to find and adore the new-born King, who had been announced to them by a star; as they doubted not that they would learn more of Him in the capital of Judea. They therefore asked without hesitation: ” Where is he, that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to adore him.” This question seemed very strange to the Jews, and the news of it spread through the whole city, until it reached the King. His fear can hardly be described; for he already believed his crown and sceptre lost. To escape the danger in which he supposed himself, he called the chief priests and scribes together, and inquired of them where the Messiah should be born. They answered: “In Bethlehem, according to the Prophets.” Satisfied with this answer, Herod had the three wise men brought to court, and speaking very confidentially with them, he asked diligently when and where the star had appeared to them. After this, he advised them to go to Bethlehem and inquire after the new-born child, and when they had found and adored it, to return and inform him, as he wished to go and adore it also. These words of the king, who was not less cunning than cruel, were only a deceit, as he had already re solved to kill the new-born child. Meanwhile the Magi followed the advice of the king, and, guided by the star, which again appeared to them when they had left Jerusalem, went to Bethlehem and inquire after the new-born child, and when they had found and adored it, to return and inform him, as he wished to go and adore it also. These words of the king, who was not less cunning than cruel, were only a deceit, as he had already re solved to kill the new-born child. Meanwhile the Magi followed the advice of the king, and, guided by the star, which again appeared to them when they had left Jerusalem, went to Bethlehem, found and adored the divine Child, and offered gold, frankincense and myrrh, as we read in Holy Writ. Having finished their devotion, they intended, in accordance with king Herod’s wish, to bring him word that they had happily found the Child. An angel, however, appeared to them in their sleep and admonished them not to return to Jerusalem, but to go into their own country by another way; which they accordingly did. When Herod perceived that they had deluded him, it was too late, and his rage was boundless. Hearing of what had taken place in the temple, at the Purification of Mary, that the venerable Simeon had pronounced a child, which he had taken into his arms, the true Messiah, the King’s heart was filled with inexpressible fear and anxiety. The danger in which he was, as he imagined, of losing his crown, left him no peace day or night. He secretly gave orders to search for this child; but all was of no avail; it could not be found. After long pondering how he might escape the danger, his unbounded ambition led him to an act of cruelty unprecedented in history. He determined to murder all the male children, in and around Bethlehem, that were not over two years of age, as he thought that thus he could not fail to take the life of the child so dangerous to him. This fearful design was executed amidst the despairing shrieks of the parents, especially the mothers. How many children were thus inhumanly slaughtered is not known, but the number must have been very large. Yet the tyrant gained not his end; for, the divine Child was already in security. The Gospel tells us that an Angel appeared during the night to St. Joseph, saying to him: “Arise, take the child and his mother, and, fly into Egypt, and remain there until I tell thee. For, it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.” St. Joseph delayed not to obey, and fled, the same night, with the child and his mother, into the land indicated to him. As this had happened before Herod executed his cruel determination, God thus frustrated the plot.

Herod soon after, received his just punishment. Several terrible maladies suddenly seized him, as Josephus, the Jewish historian, relates.

An internal fever consumed him, and all his limbs were covered with abominable ulcers, breeding vermin. His feet were swollen; his neck, shoulders and arms drawn together, and his breast so burdened, that the unfortunate man could hardly breathe, while his whole body exhaled so offensive an odor, that neither he nor others could endure it. Hence, in despair, he frequently cried for a knife or a sword, that he might end his own life. In this miserable condition, he ceased not his cruelties, and only five days before his death, he had his son, Antipater, put to death. As he had good reason to believe that the entire people would rejoice at his death, he wished at least to take to the grave the thought that many should grieve, if not for him, at least for their friends and relatives. Hence, he had the chief men of the nobility imprisoned, and gave orders to his sister Salome, that, as soon as he had closed his eyes, they were all to be murdered. This order, however, was not executed by Salome, who justly loathed its cruelty. In this lamentable condition, the cruel tyrant ended his life, but began one in eternity whose pains and torments were still more unendurable, and from which he cannot hope ever to be released; while the innocent children massacred by him, rejoice for all eternity in the glories of heaven, giving humble thanks to God for having thus admitted them into His presence. The Catholic Church has always honored them as martyrs; because, though not confessing Christ with their lips, as many thousands of others have done, yet they confessed Him with their death, by losing their lives for His sake.

             PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

How happy were the innocent children to end their lives at so tender an age! Had they lived longer, they might have been among those who cried: “Crucify him! Crucify him! “and have gone to destruction. The parents of these children naturally wept and lamented, and believed themselves most unhappy, because their children were torn from them and cruelly slaughtered. They did not recognize the mercy that God showed them. Still, at this day, does the Almighty sometimes take children, by an early death, from their parents. That the latter feel this loss and weep and mourn over it, is but human, and is no sin; but they do wrong if they grieve inordinately, or even murmur or complain against the decrees of the Almighty. They ought to think, God is the Lord of life and death; He has given the children; He can take them away again, without wronging any one. They should also think that an early death may be a great benefit to themselves and to their children; for, God perhaps foresaw that the parents would neglect the education of their children and thus condemn themselves, or that the children would lead a wicked life, and thus go to eternal perdition. By taking them thus early, He benefits the children and the parents, and deserves thanks instead of complaint. At least, the parents ought to submit to the divine will, and say from the depth of their hearts, what they have often said with their lips: “O Lord, thy will be done.” Herod undoubtedly did great sin in massacring, without just reason, so many innocent children.

end abortion

In our days, there are many who deprive an innocent child of its mortal life, or even endeavor to deprive it of the life to come. To the former of these belong all mothers, who destroy the fruit of their womb by imprudence or even by crime. In the same manner, those men, who ill-treat their wives, frequently become guilty of the same sin. Mothers again are guilty of it, who crush their children in sleep. To the second class belong those who murder their children before they are baptized, for without baptism they can never enter the kingdom of heaven. Secondly, all those persons who give scandal to innocent youth, either in word or deed; for example, when they speak impurely in their presence, sing bad songs, behave immodestly, or even entice them to do wrong. Thirdly, according to St. Chrysostom, those parents belong to this class, who, either by their example, or by neglecting to instruct their children, are the cause of many sins which their children commit. Further, those who do not duly punish-their children, and who do not earnestly endeavor to prevent their doing wrong. Lastly, all those who lead their own children into the path of wickedness and sin. All these are child-murderers. Of the latter, St. Chrysostom says: “Thus, parents, I say, are more vicious, more cruel than child-murderers; for, a murderer of children, as Herod was, separates only the body from the soul; while the others give the souls and bodies of their children to eternal flames. Further, those who are killed would have died in the course of time, though they had not been murdered; while children neglected by their parents, might have avoided eternal death, had not the wickedness of their parents prepared it for them. Besides this, the general resurrection would have compensated for the bodily death, while the death and destruction of the soul nothing can restore.  A child, condemned by the parent’s fault, has no hope of salvation, but has to suffer eternal pains. Hence I am right in saying that such parents are worse than child-murderers.” As there is no doubt that all the above-mentioned classes of people commit great sin, they make themselves guilty of eternal punishment. Those who give scandal to the young should remember the terrible menace of Jesus Christ: “He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a mill-stone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Wo to that man by whom scandal cometh!” “Wo to him,” exclaimed, one day, a dying man, “who has led me to evil.” “And how will these corrupted souls, one day, cry for vengeance at the throne of the Almighty,” says St. Thomas of Villanova; “how will they rage in hell against him who corrupted them or gave them scandal! ” They also, who murder only the bodies of their children, will have to render an account, and may expect terrible punishment. The blood of their children will cry for vengeance against them, as did the blood of Abel against Cain. “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth.” (Genesis, iv.)

 

 

 

 

 

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St. John, Apostle and Evangelist – Mass Propers

Madonna and St. John at the Crucifixion of Jesus by Pietro Perugino

Madonna and St. John at the Crucifixion of Jesus by Pietro Perugino     

              St. John, Apostle

         The Liturgical Year – Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.

Nearest to Jesus’ Crib, after Stephen, stands John, the Apostle and Evangelist. It was only right, that the first place should be assigned to him, who so loved his God, that he shed his blood in his service; for, as this God himself declares, greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends, and Martyrdom has ever been counted, by the Church, as the greatest act of love, and as having, consequently, the power of remitting sins, like a second Baptism. But, next to the sacrifice of Blood, the noblest, the bravest, and which most wins the heart of Him who is the Spouse of souls, is the sacrifice of Virginity. Now, just as St. Stephen is looked upon as the type of Martyrs, St. John is honoured as the Prince of Virgins. Martyrdom won for Stephen the Crown and palm; Virginity merited for John most singular prerogatives, which, while they show how dear to God is holy Chastity, put this Disciple among those, who, by their dignity and influence, are above the rest of men.

St. John was of the family of David, as was our Blessed Lady. He was, consequently, a relation of Jesus. This same honor belonged to St. James the Greater, his Brother; as also to St. James the Less, and St. Jude, both Sons of Alpheus. When our Saint was in the prime of his youth, he left, not only his boat and nets, not only his Father Zebedee, but even his betrothed, when everything was prepared for the marriage. He followed Jesus, and never once looked back. Hence, the special love which our Lord bore him. Others were Disciples or Apostles, John was the Friend, of Jesus. The cause of this our Lord’s partiality, was, as the Church tells us in the Liturgy, that John had offered his Virginity to the Man-God. Let us, on this his Feast, enumerate the graces and privileges that came to St. John from his being The Disciple whom Jesus loved.

This very expression of the Gospel, which the Evangelist repeats several times The Disciple whom Jesus loved says more than any commentary could do. St. Peter, it is true, was chosen by our Divine Lord, to be the Head of the Apostolic College, and the Rock whereon the Church was to be built: he, then, was honoured most; but St. John was loved most. Peter was bid to love more than the rest loved, and he was able to say, in answer to Jesus’ thrice repeated question, that he did love him in this highest way: and yet, notwithstanding, John was more loved by Jesus than was Peter himself, because his Virginity deserved this special mark of honor.

Chastity of soul and body brings him who possesses it into a sacred nearness and intimacy with God. Hence it was, that at the Last Supper that Supper, which was to be renewed on our Altars, to the end of the world, in order to cure our spiritual infirmities, and give life to our souls John was placed near to Jesus, nay, was permitted, as the tenderly loved Disciple, to lean his head upon the Breast of the Man-God. Then it was, that he was filled, and from their very Fountain, with Light and Love: it was both a recompense and a favor, and became the source of two signal graces, which make St. John an object of special reverence to the whole Church.

Divine wisdom wishing to make known to the world the Mystery of the Word, and commit to Scripture those profound secrets, which, so far, no pen of mortal had been permitted to write  the task was put upon John. Peter had been crucified, Paul had been beheaded, and the rest of the Apostles had laid down their lives in testimony of the Truths they had been sent to preach to the world; John was the only one left in the Church.

Heresy had already begun its blasphemies against the Apostolic Teachings; it refused to admit the Incarnate Word as the Son of God, Consubstantial to the Father. John was asked by the Churches to speak, and he did so in language heavenly above measure. His Divine Master had reserved to this his Virgin-Disciple the honor of writing those sublime Mysteries, which the other Apostles had been commissioned only to teach the Word was God, and this Word was made Flesh for the salvation of mankind. Thus did our Evangelist soar, like the Eagle, up to the Divine Sun, and gaze upon Him with undazzled eye, because his heart and senses were pure, and therefore fitted for such vision of the uncreated Light.

St. John the Apostle Beloved of Christ

If Moses, after having conversed with God in the cloud, came from the divine interview with rays of miraculous light encircling his head: how radiant must have been the face of St. John, which had rested on the very Heart of Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge  how sublime his writings! how divine his teaching! Hence, the symbol of the Eagle, shown to the Prophet Ezechiel, and to St. John himself in his Revelations, has been assigned to him by the Church: and to this title of The Eagle has been added, by universal tradition, the other beautiful name of Theologian.

This was the first recompense given by Jesus to his Beloved John a profound penetration into divine Mysteries. The second was the imparting to him a most ardent charity, which was equally a grace con sequent upon his angelic purity, for purity unburdens the soul from groveling egotistic affections, and raises it to a chaste and generous love. John had treasured up in his heart the Discourses of his Master: he made them known to the Church, and especially that divine one of the Last Supper, wherein Jesus had poured forth his whole Soul to his own, whom he had always tenderly loved, but most so at the end. He wrote his Epistles, and Charity is his subject: God is Charity he that loveth not, knoweth not God perfect Charity casteth out fear and so on throughout, always on Love. During the rest of his life, even when so enfeebled by old age as not to be able to walk, he was for ever insisting upon all men loving each other, after the example of God, who had loved them and so loved them! Thus, he that had announced more clearly than the rest of the Apostles the divinity of the Incarnate Word, was by excellence the Apostle of that divine Charity, which Jesus came to enkindle upon the earth.

WOMAN BEHOLD YOUR SON

But, our Lord had a further gift to bestow, and it was sweetly appropriate to the Virgin-Disciple. When dying on his cross, Jesus left Mary upon this earth. Joseph had been dead now some years. Who, then, shall watch over his Mother? Who is there worthy of the charge? Will Jesus send his Angels to protect and console her for, surely, what man could ever merit to be to her as a second Joseph? Looking down, he sees the Virgin-Disciple standing at the foot of the Cross: we know the rest, John is to be Mary’s Son Mary is to be John’s Mother. Oh! wonderful Chastity, that wins from Jesus such an inheritance as this! Peter, says St. Peter Damian, shall have left to him the Church, the Mother of men; but John, shall receive Mary, the Mother of God, whom he will love as his own dearest Treasure, and to whom he will stand in Jesus’ stead; whilst Mary will tenderly love John, her Jesus’ Friend, as her Son.

Can we be surprised after this that St. John is looked upon by the Church as one of her greatest glories? He is a Relative of Jesus in the flesh; he is an Apostle, a Virgin, the Friend of the Divine Spouse, the Eagle, the Theologian, the Son of Mary; he is an Evangelist, by the history he has given of the Life of his Divine Master and Friend; he is a Sacred Writer, by the three Epistles he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; he is a Prophet, by his mysterious Apocalypse, wherein are treasured the secrets of time and eternity.

St. John being lowered into the oil.

St. John being lowered into the oil.

But, is he a Martyr? Yes, for if he did not complete his sacrifice, he drank the Chalice of Jesus, when, after being cruelly scourged, he was thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, before the Latin Gate, at Rome. He was, therefore, a Martyr in desire and intention, though not in fact. If our Lord, wishing to prolong a life so dear to the Church, as well as to show how he loves and honors Virginity, miraculously stayed the effects of the frightful punishment, St. John had, on his part, unreservedly accepted Martyrdom. Such is the companion of Stephen at the Crib, wherein lies our Infant Jesus. If the Protomartyr dazzles us with the robes he wears of the bright scarlet of his own blood is not the virginal whiteness of John’s vestment fairer than the untrod snow? The spotless beauty of the Lilies of Mary’s adopted Son, and the bright vermilion of Stephen’s Roses what is there more lovely than their union? Glory, then, be to our New-Born King, whose court is tapestried with such heaven-made colours as these! Yes, Bethlehem’s Stable is a very heaven on earth, and we have seen its transformation. First, we saw Mary and Joseph alone there they were adoring Jesus in his Crib; then, immediately, there descended a heavenly host of Angels singing the wonderful Hymn; the Shepherds soon followed, the humble simple-hearted Shepherds; after these, entered Stephen the Crowned, and John the Beloved Disciple; and, even before there enters the pageant of the devout Magi, we shall have others coming in, and there will be, each day, grander glory in the Cave, and gladder joy in our hearts. Oh! This Birth of our Jesus! Humble as it seems, yet, how divine! What King or Emperor ever received, in his gilded cradle, honors like these shown to the Babe of Bethlehem? Let us unite our homage with that given him by these the favored inmates of his court. Yesterday, the sight of the Palm in Stephen’s hand animated us, and we offered to our Jesus the promise of a stronger Faith today, the Wreath, that decks the brow of the Beloved Disciple, breathes upon the Church the heavenly fragrance of Virginity an intenser love of Purity must be our resolution, and our tribute to the Lamb.

Prayer to holy Apostle St. John

(Taken from Mozarabic Missal)

O Son of God; Begotten of the Unbegotten infinite God! who didst open the sacred treasury of thy Breast to thine Apostle, when he, reclining on thy Bosom, merited to drink in, from the very fountain of thy Heart, the streams of his own Gospel: look upon us with an eye of pity, that so, by thee, we may know thy mysteries, and do the good thou hast manifested unto us. Reveal unto us the hidden things of thy Heart, whereby we may be taught both the weakness of our own nature, and the Divinity which is thine. Show us thyself, that we may love thee; show us in ourselves what we must correct. That thus, by the prayers of thy beloved Disciple, our evil ways being converted, pestilence may flee from us, sickness disappear, and the sword be sheathed. May all that is adverse to Christian faith perish; may all that prospers it, be strengthened.  May famines cease, may dissensions be appeased, may the upholders of heresy be confounded. May the earth be pregnant with fruits, our souls be clad with virtues, and all good things come unto us all. That thus faithfully serving thee our God, we may both use these gifts without sin, and, hereafter, enjoy the bliss of possessing thee for eternity. Amen.

St. John by Rusconi

                       December 27 

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

Double of the II class with a simple Octave

Com. of the Octave of the Nativity / White Vestments

Missa ‘In Medio Ecclesiae’

Station at St. Mary Major                

The Church commences her chants of the holy Sacrifice with words taken from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, which she applies to St. John. Our Lord has proclaimed his mysteries to the Church, by the teaching of his Beloved Disciple. He favored him with his divine intimacy, which filled him with the spirit of wisdom. He clad him with a robe of glory, in reward for his virginal purity. Saint’s close and resolute custody of the treasure of his Virginity, and the courageous profession of the religion of Christ before the Proconsuls of Domitian. The Treasure which Wisdom heaped upon him, is the magnificence of the prerogatives granted to him. Lastly, the everlasting Name, is that glorious title given him of John the Beloved Disciple.

INTROIT – Ecclesiasticus 15: 5

In medio Ecclesiæ aperuit os ejus: et implevit eum Dominus epiritu sapientiæ, et intellectus: stolam gloriæ induit eum. Ps. 91: 2. Bonum est confiteri Domino: et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. V. Glória Patri.

In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: He clothed him with a robe of glory. Ps. It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High. V. Glory be to the Father.

COLLECT

Of Thy goodness, O Lord, shine upon Thy Church, that, enlightened by the teachings of blessed John, Thy Apostle and Evangelist, she may attain to everlasting gifts. Through our Lord.

COMMEMORATION FOR OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Through the same our Lord.

The chalice held by St. John alludes to tradition according to which St. John was handed a cup of poisoned wine, from which, at his blessing, the poison fled in the shape of a serpent.

The chalice held by St. John alludes to tradition according to which St. John was handed a cup of poisoned wine, from which, at his blessing, the poison fled in the shape of a serpent.

EPISTLE – Ecclesiasticus 15: 1-6

He that feareth God will do good: and he that possesseth justice shall lay hold on her, and she will meet him as an honourable mother. With the bread of life and understanding she shall feed him and give him the water of wholesome wisdom to drink: and she shall be made strong in him, and he shall not be moved: and she shall hold him fast, and he shall not be confounded: and she shall exalt him among his neighbours, and in the midst of the Church she shall open his mouth, and shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and shall clothe him with a robe of glory. The Lord our God shall heap upon him a treasure of joy and gladness, and shall cause him to inherit an everlasting name.

GRADUAL – John 21: 23, 19

This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say: He should not die. V. But: So I will have him to remain until I come: follow thou Me.

ALLELUIA – John 21: 24

Alleluia, alleluia. V. This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things: and we know that his testimony is true. Alleluia.

St. John beloved disciple

GOSPEL – John 21: 19-24

At that time Jesus said to Peter: Follow Me. Peter turning about saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on His breast at supper and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray Thee? Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? Follow thou Me. This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come: what is it to thee? This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

OFFERTORY – Psalm 92: 15

The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall be multiplied like the cedar that is in Libanus.

SECRET

Receive, O Lord, the gifts we bring to Thee on the feast of him, by whose pleading we hope to be delivered. Through our Lord.

COMMEMORATION FOR OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY

Make holy the sacrificial gifts we offer, O Lord, and by the new birth of Your only-begotten Son cleanse us from the stains of our sins.

CHRISTMAS PREFACE

It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God.  Because by the mystery of the Word made flesh the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind: that while we acknowledge Him to be God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen. And therefore with angels and archangels, with thrones and dominions, and with all the heavenly hosts, we sing a hymn to Thy glory, saying without ceasing:

Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John and Mary Magdalene - Van Dyck, Sir Anthony

Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John and Mary Magdalene by Sir Anthony van Dyck

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.

COMMUNION – John 21: 23

This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain until I come.

POSTCOMMUNION

We who have been refreshed by heavenly food and drink, humbly entreat Thee, O our God, that we may be strengthened also by the prayers of him, in whose commemoration we have received them. Through our Lord.

COMMEMORATION FOR OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that as the Saviour of the world, born on this day, is the Author of our heavenly birth, so He may also be to us the Giver of immortality: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.

Virgin and Child Enthroned between St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist by Sandro Botticelli

Virgin and Child Enthroned between St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist by Sandro Botticelli

What St. John the Apostle Did When He Met a Fallen Away Christian

“Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale,” Eusebius begins, “but a narrative concerning John the Apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory.”

John has just returned from exile on the island of Patmos and is busy traveling around ordaining bishops. In one town, he takes particular concern for the spiritual welfare of one of their young men and exhorts the local bishop, “This one I commit to you in all earnestness in the presence of the Church and with Christ as witness.” The bishop agrees, and John heads home to Ephesus. The bishop gives one of his presbyters (or, priests) the task of watching over the young man, who instructs him and baptizes him. But, misjudging that the young man is now strong in the faith, the presbyter pre-maturely relaxes his discipline. That’s when things start to go down hill.

Enticed by “costly entertainments,” the young man gets in with a bad crowd who persuades him to commit robbery with them. But he still has some conscience. He knows that what he is doing is wrong, but unfortunately, knowing how great his crimes are, begins to despair of God’s mercy. Figuring he is now lost forever, he throws himself deeper into their illicit activities and, as Eusebius describes it, becomes “a bold bandit-chief, the most violent, most bloody, most cruel of them all.”

Sometime later, John is visiting the church again and asks the bishop, “Come, O bishop, restore us the deposit which both I and Christ committed to you, the church, over which you preside, being witness.” At first the bishop is confused, thinking John is referring to money, but John clarifies: “I demand the young man and the soul of the brother.” The bishop bursts into tears, and confesses to John, “He is dead, dead to God. For he turned wicked and is now a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.”

John, according to Eusebius “rends his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation” cries out, “A fine guard I left for a brother’s soul! But let a horse be brought me, and let someone show me the way.” And John rides off at once to the robber’s outpost. When he gets close, he is taken prisoner by some of the robbers. He doesn’t resist but just demands to meet their leader. The young man is standing armed when John approaches, but when the young man recognizes John, he turns “in shame to flee.”

Then, John, who may have been in his 70s or 80s, “forgets his age, pursues him with all his might,” and shouts after him,“Why, my son, do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death as the Lord suffered death for us. For you will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ has sent me.”

The young man stops and looks down, then throws away his weapons and begins to “tremble and weep bitterly.” As John embraces him, the young man confesses his sins, “baptizing himself,” as Eusebius puts it, “a second time with tears.”  John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Saviour, besought him, fell upon his knees, kissed his right hand itself as if now purified by repentance, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church, furnishing a great example of true repentance and a great proof of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.”

 

Eleison Comments – Number CDXXXIX (439)

Eleison Comments

Beethoven Blast

Beethoven towers o’er music of today.

Sonatas of his hear a young man play.

In two months’ time, from 18h00 on Friday evening of Feb. 19 to Sunday mid-day of Feb. 21, there will be held here in Broadstairs a three-day blast of the music of Beethoven. A young American pianist who can read at sight any of his 32 piano sonatas, and loves them all, is crossing the Atlantic to play some of them for us, we do not yet know which.

No doubt he will play the three great favourites, the Pathétique, Moonlight and Appassionata, also the Waldstein, but there will be time for him to analyze and present many others. Right now there will be no fixed programme for the three days. There will be room for plenty of questions and discussion and improvisation. A certain bishop will also be contributing to the analysis in some depth of his favourite composer. The purpose of the weekend will be for participants to take away with them an understanding they may not have had before, of how classical music ticks and of what makes Beethoven in particular one of its most famous composers.

But, somebody will object, what has music, especially Revolutionary music, to do with the defence and propagation of the Catholic Faith? The answer here has to be brief. Firstly, let nobody despise music. Both the Catholic Church and the Devil are acutely aware that it is a language uniquely capable of expressing and of shaping what goes on in the human soul, and therefore of influencing the direction which a soul is taking, towards Heaven (by Gregorian chant, for instance) or towards Hell (were not the victims of the recent shooting in Paris just then partaking in a Rock song that called on the Devil?). Almost every human being has some music or other in his soul, and that music normally runs deep, for good or ill. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that if a man does not have in him the music of his religion, he will have in him the religion of his music, e.g. the Devil. Catholics who realize that the music they love flies not much higher than Pop or Rock, may well seize the opportunity to get a handle on classical music, via a studious blast of Beethoven.

Now it is true that there is a great deal of music higher than Beethoven. He was born under the Old Order, 19 years before the French Revolution broke out in 1789, but he died 38 years later when the modern Revolutionary age was well under way, in 1827, so that his life straddled that tremendous upheaval which he expressed musically in a number of his masterworks, notably in the Appassionata piano sonata and in his Eroica Symphony, originally dedicated to that hero of the Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte. However, while the relative serenity of the musical masterworks prior to the Revolution is free of its agitation and Romantic disturbance, at the same time it is that much further removed from our own world of today, marinated in the Revolution. Therefore Beethoven can speak to souls of today that find little or no interest in music of the earlier masters. Nor is Beethoven only Revolutionary. The unique power of his best loved masterpieces derives from their Romantic wine being contained and ordered within the classical skins which he inherited from Haydn and Mozart.

To give us an idea of numbers, please let us know if you plan to attend the Beethoven weekend. Off season, local boarding-houses should have plenty of room to overnight. And if male readers would prefer something more directly Catholic, let them sign up as soon as possible for the Ignatian Exercises to be given here by Fr Abraham and myself between 18h00, December 26 and 18h00, December 31.

Kyrie eleison.

 

The Christian women who have left behind their jobs, studies and children to take up the fight against ISIS!

crusades join and fight on

Take note enemy-in-chief BHO! God bless these courageous women for standing up and fighting the enemy head on. Shame on all Syrian male refugees who leave their wives, children and their mothers behind and flee to Europe and beyond!

The Christian women who have left behind their jobs, studies and children to take up Kalashnikovs in the fight against ISIS 

  • Women from the Syriac Christian community flock to join fight against ISIS
  • Many of the female fighters have left behind their families and jobs to fight 
  • The new all-female Christian militia is called the ‘Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers’

Babylonia has no regrets about leaving behind her two children and her former job as a hairdresser to join a Christian female militia battling against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The 36-year-old soldier from the Syriac Christian minority in northeastern Syria believes she is making the future safe for her children after joining a new all-female Syriac militia.

‘I miss Limar and Gabriella and worry that they must be hungry, thirsty and cold. But I try to tell them I’m fighting to protect their future,’ she told AFP.

After leaving behind her studies, Christian Ormia is now a member of the battalion called the "Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers'

Syriac Christian women, members of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' train at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah

Babylonia belongs to a small, recently created battalion of Syriac Christian women in Hasakeh province who are fighting ISIS.

They are following in the footsteps of Syria’s other main female force battling the jihadists — the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG.

Although the new militia group is small, it is expected to grow in size.

One of its training camps has already produced around 50 graduates in the town of Al-Qahtaniyeh, also known as Kabre Hyore in Syriac.

The militia is known as the ‘Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers,’ referring to the area between the Tigris and Euphrates waterways historically inhabited by Syriacs.

Babylonia revealed it was actually her husband who encouraged her to leave their children Limar, nine, and six-year-old Gabriella, in order to join the unit whose first recruits graduated in August.

The recent recruits to the new group practice a variety of drills on a makeshift parade ground

Many of the Syriac Christian women have left behind their families and jobs to join the fight against ISIS in Syria

All of the fighters are members of the Syriac community in Syria, who follow Christianity

A small wooden crucifix hangs from the neck of one fighter as she practices in the training camp

Babylonia’s husband is also a soldier and he urged her to take up arms to ‘fight against the idea that the Syriac woman is good for nothing except housekeeping and make-up’, she said.

‘I’m a practising Christian and thinking about my children makes me stronger and more determined in my fight against Daesh (ISIS),’ added Babylonia.

Syriac Christians belong to the eastern Christian tradition and pray in Aramaic. They include both Orthodox and Catholic branches, and constitute around 15 percent of Syria’s 1.2 million Christians.

Before the conflict began in March 2011, Christians from some 11 different sects made up around five percent of the population.

The unit’s first major action was alongside the newly created Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters, which recently recaptured the strategic town of Al-Hol.

‘I took part in a battle for the first time in the Al-Hol area, but my team wasn’t attacked by IS,’ said 18-year-old Lucia, who gave up her studies to join the militia.

Her sister also joined up, against the wishes of their reluctant mother.

‘I fight with a Kalashnikov, but I’m not ready to become an elite sniper yet,’ the shy teenager said, a wooden crucifix around her neck and a camouflage bandana tied round her head.

Al-Hol, on a key route between territory IS controls in Syria and Iraq, was the first major victory for the SDF, which has captured around 200 villages in the region in recent weeks.

It has received air support from the US-led coalition fighting IS, as well as drops of American weapons.

Ormia, 18, found battle terrifying at first.

‘I was afraid of the noise of cannons firing, but the fear quickly went away. I would love to be on the front line in the fight against the terrorists,’ she said.

The battalion’s fighters train in an old mill in a programme that includes military, fitness and academic elements.

Some of the new recruits practice with their new rifles at a camp in al-Qahtaniyah, Syria

The unit's first major action was alongside the newly created Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters, which recently recaptured the strategic town of Al-Hol

Some of the fighter cooked up a tasty feast for the new battalion during a short lunch break

Syriac Christian Lucia, member of the battalion called the 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers' plays with puppies during training on December 1, 2015 at their camp in the town of al-Qahtaniyah

The 'Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers'' first major action was alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters, which recently recaptured the strategic town of Al-Hol ©Delil Souleiman (AFP)

With its limited combat experience, the unit for now focuses mainly on protecting majority Christian parts of Hasakeh province.

Thabirta Samir, 24, who helps oversee the training, estimates that around 50 fighters have graduated so far.

‘I used to work for a Syriac cultural association, but now I take pleasure in working in the military field,’ she said.

‘I’m not afraid of Daesh, and we will be present in the coming battles against the terrorists.’

Samir said both local and ‘foreign forces’ helped train the women, without specifying the nationality of the foreigners.

Some women cited what is known as the Sayfo ('Sword') massacres in 1915 of Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians as reasons for joining the unit

In late November, Kurdish sources said US soldiers had entered the town of Kobane in northern Syria to train Kurdish fighters and plan offensives

With its limited combat experience, the unit for now focuses mainly on protecting majority Christian parts of Hasakeh province

In late November, Kurdish sources said US soldiers had entered the town of Kobane in northern Syria to train Kurdish fighters and plan offensives.

Some women cited what is known as the Sayfo (‘Sword’) massacres in 1915 of Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians as reasons for joining the unit.

‘We are a community that is oppressed by others,’ said 18-year-old Ithraa. She joined four months ago inspired by the memory of Sayfo, in which Ottoman authorities are said to have killed tens of thousands of Christians in Turkey and Iran.

She said the community hoped to prevent ‘a new massacre like that committed by the Ottomans… when they tried to erase our Christian and Syriac identity’.


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