Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19: SS Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum, Memorial

Butler's Lives of the Saints gives this account of today's saints:

"Maris, a nobleman of Persia, with his wife Martha, and two sons, Audifax and Abachum, being converted to the faith, distributed his fortune among the poor, as the primitive Christians did at Jerusalem, and came to Rome to visit the tombs of the apostles. The emperor Aurelian then persecuted the church, and by his order a great number of Christians were shut up in the amphitheater, and shot to death with arrows, and their bodies burnt. Our saints gathered and buried their ashes with respect; for which they were apprehended, and after many torments under the governor Marcianus, Maris and his two sons were beheaded; and Martha drowned, thirteen miles from Rome, at a place now called Santa Ninfa. Their relics were found at Rome in 1590. They are mentioned with distinction in all the western Martyrologies from the sacramentary of Saint Gregory. Their relics are kept principally at Rome; part in the church of Saint Adrian, part in that of Saint Charles, and in that of Saint John of Calybite. Eginhart, son-in-law and secretary of Charlemagne, deposited a portion of these relics, which had been sent him from Rome, in the abbey of Selghenstadt, of which he was the founder, in the diocese of Mentz.

The martyrs and confessors triumphed over the devil by prayer; by this, poor and weak as they were, they were rendered invincible, by engaging Omnipotence itself to be their comfort, strength, and protection. If the art of praying well be the art of living well, according to the received maxim of the fathers and masters of a spiritual life, nothing is certainly of greater importance, than for us to learn this heavenly art of conversing with God in the manner we ought. We admire the wonderful effects which this exercise produced in the saints, who by it were disengaged from earthly ties and made spiritual and heavenly, perfect angels on earth; but we experience nothing of this in ourselves. Prayer was in them the channel of all graces, the means of attaining all virtues, and all the treasures of heaven. In us it is fruitless: the reason is plain; for the promises of Christ cannot fail we ask, and receive not, because we ask amiss."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16: Pope St Marcellus I, Memorial

Pope St Marcellus I was pope from May 308 to 309.  He seems to have been an active administrator, doing much to reorganize the Church after the devastation caused by the persecutions of Diocletian. 

He sparked the enmity, though, of those who had lapsed during this period by his demands that they do penance. 

Both this and the vigour of his efforts to re-establish the Church seem to have contributed to his banishment by the Emperor Maxentius.  He died not long thereafter.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15: The Office of Our Lady on Saturday after Christmas

Though Christmastide is now technically over, as Dom Gueranger points out in his Liturgical Year, the older tradition is that the season conceived more broadly extends for the forty days Our Lady spent in contemplation after the birth of Our Lord, until her re-entry to the Temple at the Feast of the Purification on February 2. 

This is reflected liturgically in Marian antiphon and prayers at Compline and in the Office of Our Lady on Saturday where the psalm antiphons of the Nativity continue to be used until February 2.

Here is a setting of the Lauds antiphon (albeit with a few extra alleluias):

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 14: St Felix of Nola, Memorial

According to the Wikipedia:

"Felix was the elder son of Hermias, a Syrian soldier who had retired to Nola, Italy. After his father's death, Felix sold off most of his property and possessions, gave the proceeds to the poor, and pursued a clerical vocation. Felix was ordained by, and worked with, Saint Maximus of Nola.

When Maximus fled to the mountains to escape the persecution of Decius, Felix was arrested and beaten for his faith instead. He escaped prison, according to legend being freed by an angel, so he could help his sick bishop, Maximus. Felix found Maximus alone, ill, and helpless, and hid him from soldiers in a vacant building. When the two were safely inside, a spider quickly spun a web over the door, fooling the imperial forces into thinking it was long abandoned, and they left without finding the Christians. A subsequent attempt to arrest Felix followed, which he avoided by hiding in a ruined building where a spider's web spun across the entrance convinced the soldiers the building was abandoned. The two managed to hide from authorities until the persecution ended with the death of Emperor Decius in 251.

After Maximus's death, the people wanted Felix to be the next bishop of Nola, but he declined, favoring Quintus, a "senior" priest who had seven days more experience than Felix. Felix himself continued as a priest. He also continued to farm his remaining land, and gave most of the proceeds to people even poorer than himself.

Legend assigns to Felix a martyr's death either in the year 255 under Emperor Valerian (253-260) or, in another version, in the general persecution instigated by the Emperor Decius (249-251)."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13: Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord

The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord marks the last day of the extended Christmas season, and symbolically marks the end of the hidden years of Our Lord's life, and the beginning of his public ministry.

The feast is very recent indeed in origin: originally this was the Octave Day of the Epiphany, which encompasses the visit of the Magi, the wedding feast at Cena, and the Baptism of Our Lord. But when Pope Pius XII abolished the Octave of the Epiphany, he instituted this feast in its place.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jan 9: Holy Family or Sunday after Epiphany?

This Sunday presents something of a liturgical oddity in the Benedictine calendar, in that the Sunday ends up being much less elaborate liturgically than it was before 1955, or is still in the 1962 Roman EF calendar. 

Once upon a time it would have been part of the Octave of Epiphany, and used the antiphons from that feast. 

In the Roman Extraordinary Form, this Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Family, a feast whose Gospel reading (the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple) provides something of a bridge between the Nativity and the Baptism of Our Lord (January 13).  

In the novus ordo, the feast was celebrated on the Sunday immediately after Christmas (where it really makes no sense chronologically at all!). 

But in the Benedictine calendar, the feast isn't celebrated at all - nor is this a '1962ism'.  In fact the Feast of the Holy Family is quite recent in origin, instituted only in 1893, and doesn't seem to have entered the monastic calendar at all as far as I can discover.  Instead, until 1955 at least, this was the Sunday within the Octave, and so the antiphons and so forth of Epiphany were used, in conjunction with - the same Gospel  as the Feast of the Holy Family!

But with the abolition of the Octave, the Sunday is of lower rank, and thus the standard antiphons of Sundays are used. 

Unless of course, you are associated with one of those monasteries that do actually celebrate the feast of the Holy Family (the feast has Canadian origins I believe), or are using the EF calendar...

January 7: Yes, it is still Christmastide (and Epiphanytide)...

Visiting the supermarket today I found that Hot Cross buns have appeared already!  Yet in fact, we are still in the last part of the Christmas season, Epiphanytide (so do keep saying Merry Christmas to people!). 

The traditional liturgy however keeps us firmly focused on Our Lord's birth, in this period particularly as a light to the whole world, represented by the worship of the Wise Men.  Fortunatley, the canticle antiphons from the old 'Octave' of Epiphany have been preserved (at least when not displaced by other feasts or the Saturday of Our Lady). 

Here's today's Magnificat antiphon:
Videntes stellam Magi, gavisi sunt gaudio magno: et intrantes domum, obtulerunt Domino aurum, thus et myrrham.

Seeing the star, the Magi rejoiced with great joy. And entering into the house, they offered the Lord gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And here's a rather attractive setting of it by Poulenc.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January 5: Once was...Vigil of Epiphany

The Vigil of the Epiphany was abolished in 1955, but restored in 2002 in the Novus Ordo Calendar (at least where it is not celebrated on the Sunday only!).  It is unusual in that it was not a day of fasting, in keeping with the season.

Here is a musical offering by Palestrina in keeping with the season.

The words are:

Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem,
quia venit lumen tuum,
et gloria Domini super te orta est.
Quia ecce tenebrae operient terram
et caligo populos.
Super te autem orietur Dominus
et gloria eius in te videbitur.

Arise, shine, Jerusalem;
for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 3: Once was...Octave day of St John the Evangelist

Sigmund Gleismüller (1449-1511) 
In the pre-1955 calendar, today was the Octave Day of St John the Evangelist, and it seems fitting to recall the day and the saint, with another banished part of the liturgy (this time by the Council of Trent!) in the form of the Sequence in his honour written by a fourteenth century Swiss Dominican novice nun, Kathrin Brümsin. 

The sister was struggling to learn Latin and the liturgy, and prayed to the saint, who taught her the twenty four verses in a dream-vision.  Here are a few of the opening verses, with the translation by Dom Laurence Shepherd from Gueranger's The Liturgical year:

Verbum Dei, Deo natum,

Quod nec factum nec creatum
Venit de caelestibus,
Hoc vidit, hoc attrectavit,
Hoc de caelo reseravit
Iohannes hominibus.

The Word of God, who was born of God
and was not made nor created,
and who came down from heaven
was seen and handled and revealed to men
by John the Evangelist.

Inter illos primitivos
Veros veri fontis rivos
Iohannes exsiliit
Toti mundo propinare
Nectar illud salutare
Quod de throno prodiit.

John sprang up
amidst those true rivulets,
which from the commencement
flowed from the True Fountain;
he has made the whole world drink
of that life-giving nectar that flows
from the throne of God.

Caelum transit, veri rotam
Solis videt ibi totam
Mentis figens aciem;
Speculator spiritalis
Quasi Seraphim sub alis
Dei videt faciem.

He soared above the heavens,
And gazed
with the fixedness of his soul’s eye
on the brightness of the true Sun
this spiritual contemplator saw,
as it were from under the wings of the Seraphim,
the face of God.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jan 2: Once was...Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

For reasons that are unclear to me, although the 1962 Roman EF calendar does contain it, the 1963 Benedictine calendar does not celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, traditionally set for January 2 or the nearest Sunday.  Instead, it constructs a completely new Office of the Second Sunday after the Nativity. 

And in the Novus Ordo calendar (in Australia at least) this day is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany (which actually traditionally occurs on January 6).

I suspect the absence of the feast from the calendar reflects the decision no longer to celebrate the Circumcision of Our Lord, since it was at that ceremony that he was formally named.  Certainly the absence of the feast in the Novus Ordo calendar is based on the claim that "the imposition of the name of Jesus is already commemorated in the office of the Octave of Christmas" (Paul VI, Mysterii Paschalis, 1969).

The Feast was however restored to the General Roman Calendar in 2002 as on optional memorial on January 3, so this may be one of those oddities of the 1962/3 period that would ordinarily have been eventually remedied.

In any case, for those inclined to say the Office of the feast devotionally but without access to the proper books, can I commend to you the Divinum Officium website.  And here are the second Nocturn readings for the feast from a Sermon of St Bernard:

"It is not idly that the Holy Ghost likeneth the Name of the Bridegroom to oil, when He maketh the Bride say to the Bridegroom: thy Name is as oil poured forth. Oil indeed giveth light, meat, and unction. It feedeth fire, it nourisheth the flesh, it sootheth pain; it is light, food, and healing. Behold, Thus also is the Name of the Bridegroom. To preach it, is to give light; to think of it, is to feed the soul; to call on it, is to win grace and unction. Let us take it point by point. What, thinkest thou, hath made the light of faith so suddenly and so brightly to shine in the whole world but the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Is it not in the light of this Name that God hath called us into His marvellous light, even that light wherewith we being enlightened, and in His light seeing light, Paul saith truly of us Ye were sometimes darkness, but now - are ye light in the Lord.

This is the Name which the Apostle was commanded to bear before Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, the Name which he bore as a light to enlighten his people, crying everywhere The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,.and let us put on the armour of light, let us walk honestly as in the day. lie pointed out to all that candle set upon a candlestick, preaching in every place Jesus and Him crucified. How did that Name shine forth and dazzle every eye that beheld it, when it came like lightning out of the mouth of Peter to give bodily strength to the feet of the lame man, and to clear the sight of many a blind soul? Cast he not fire when he said In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.

The Name of Jesus is not a Name of light only, but it is meat also. Dost thou ever call it to mind, and remain unstrengthened? Is there anything like it to enrich the soul of him that thinketh of it? What is there like it to restore the fagged senses, to fortify strength, to give birth to good lives and pure affections? The soul is fed on husks if that whereon it feedeth lack seasoning with this salt. If thou writest, thou hast no meaning for me if I read not of Jesus there. If thou preach, or dispute, thou hast no meaning for me if I hear not of Jesus there. The mention of Jesus is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and gladness in the heart. It is our healing too. Is any sorrowful among us? Let the thought of Jesus come into his heart, and spring to his mouth. Behold, when the day of that Name beginneth to break, every cloud will flee away, and there will be a great calm. Doth any fall into sin? Doth any draw nigh to an hopeless death? And if he but call on the life - giving Name of Jesus, will he not draw the breath of a new life again?"