St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
The Liturgical Year – Ven. Dom Gueranger, O.S.B.
Amidst the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna, all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has in his soul the fervent love that made him say in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: “Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and he has never done me any wrong; nay, he has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my king, who has saved me?” After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King his Savior, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labors he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured. He was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master,’ he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honor of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows himself to us in all his loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honor this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Savior said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit by the holy season.
The Church gives us a passage from St Jerome’s book, On Ecclesiastical Writers, in which there is contained the following short notice of our holy Martyr.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna, was looked up to by all the Churches of Asia, inasmuch as he had not only known some of the Apostles, and those who had seen our Lord, but had been trained by them. He went to Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and under the Pontificate of Anicetus, in order to have an answer to certain questions regarding Easter-day. Whilst there, he brought back to the faith several Christians who had been misled by the teaching of Marcion and Valentine. Having, on a certain occasion, casually met Marcion, who said to him: ‘Dost thou know us?’ Polycarp replied: Yes, I know thee as the first born of Satan.’ Some time after, under the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the fourth persecution after that under Nero, he was cited before the Proconsul of Smyrna, who condemned him to be burnt alive; which sentence was carried into effect in the amphitheatre, amidst the clamors of the whole people. He wrote an important Letter to the Philippians, which is still read in the Churches of Asia.
Double / Red vestments
INTROIT – Daniel 3: 84, 87, 57
Sacerdotes Dei, benedicite Dominum: sancti et humiles corde, laudate Deum. Ps. Benedicite, omnia opera Domini Domino: laudate et superexaltate eum in sæcula. Gloria Patri.
O ye priests of the Lord, bless the Lord: O ye holy and humble of heart, praise God. Ps. All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord: praise and exalt Him above all for ever. Glory be to the Father.
O God, who dost gladden us by the annual feast of blessed Polycarp, Thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that we who celebrate his heavenly birthday, may also rejoice in his protection. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – I John 3: 10-16
Most dearly beloved: Whosoever is not just, is not of God, nor he that loveth not his brother. For this is the declaration, which you have heard from the beginning, that you should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of the wicked one, and killed his brother. And wherefore did he kill him? Because his own works were wicked: and his brother’s just. Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself. In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
GRADUAL – Psalm 8: 6-7
Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. And hast set him over the works of Thy hands, O Lord.
TRACT – Psalm 111: 1-3
Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he delighteth exceedingly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed. Glory and wealth shall be in his house, and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.
GOSPEL – Matthew 10: 26-32
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Nothing is covered that shall not be revealed: nor hid, that shall not be known. That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light: and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops. And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 88: 21-22
I have found David My servant, with My holy oil I have anointed him; for My hand shall help him, and My arm shall strengthen him.
Sanctify, O Lord, the gifts dedicated to Thee, and through them, by the intercession of blessed Polycarp, Thy Martyr and Bishop, graciously regard us. Through our Lord.
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, Dominations worship, Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise…
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 – Psalm 20: 4
Thou hast set on his head, O Lord, a crown of precious stones.
Refreshed by the participation in the holy gift, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that by the intercession of blessed Polycarp Thy Martyr and Bishop, we may experience the effect of that which we celebrate. Through the Lord.
THE SAME DAY
SAINT PAULA, WIDOW
The noble and pious Widow, who left all the pomps of Rome, and bade adieu to her children, to lead a life of retirement in Bethlehem, comes before us today, as one of the Saints that have a special right to be near the Crib of the Infant Jesus. She was, during her life, irresistibly attracted to it, as to something far richer, in her eyes, than all the palaces of kings. There did she find her god, who had rendered himself poor for our sakes, and whose poverty she, in the days of her opulence, used to console by relieving the wants of the indigent It was through her zeal, that several Monasteries were founded in the neighbourhood of the holy Cave, where the Word made Flesh first appeared to men. She spent her days in prayer, in works of penance and charity, and in the meditation of the Holy Scriptures, which she studied under the guidance of the great St. Jerome. It is a sight worthy of our admiration to behold these Christian ladies and virgins filled with the sublime spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, whilst everything around them was corrupted by the grossest sensualism of pagan Rome. We find them retiring either to the deserts of Egypt, there to study the virtues of the Monks and hermits, or to the Holy Land, there to venerate the scenes of our Lord’s life. Paula is one of the foremost of these noble Christian women; and it is with extreme regret, that we are obliged to omit the account of her pilgrimage, given with so much spirit and unction by St Jerome, in letters addressed to the illustrious virgin Eustochium, the daughter of St. Paula. We must limit ourselves to the following quotation, in which the Holy Doctor describes the arrival at Bethlehem.
Having divided among the poor and her attendants what little money she had still remaining, Paula left Jerusalem and proceeded to Bethlehem. After paying a short visit to the tomb of Rachel, which lies on the right hand of the road, she arrived at the City she so much longed to see, and she entered into the Grotto of our Lord. As soon as she beheld the sacred spot wherein our Lady sought shelter, and saw the stable where the ox knew his owner, and the ass his Master’s crib, she told me, with much emotion, that she saw, with the eyes of her faith, the Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and weeping in the manger: the Magi adoring, the Star brightly shining over the Stable, the Virgin-Mother, Joseph eager to render her his service, the Shepherds arriving at midnight, the Innocents massacred, Herod enraged, and Joseph and Mary fleeing into Egypt. Tears of joy trickled down her cheeks, and she exclaimed, Hail, O Bethlehem! house of bread, wherein was born the Bread that came down from heaven! Hail, O Ephrata! fertile land, whose fruit is our very God. It is of thee, that the Prophet Micheas spoke, when he said: Bethlehem, Ephrata! thou art not the least of the thousand cities of Juda, for out of thee shall come He, that is to be the Ruler in Israel, and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity Yes, it was in thee that was born the Prince, who was begotten before the day-star, and whose birth in the bosom of the Father was before all ages. I, a poor wretched sinner, even I have been permitted to kiss the Crib, wherein the Infant Saviour shed his first tears; I have been permitted to pray in that Cave, wherein the Virgin-Mother brought forth our Lord.