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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”