To-day, again, the Church is full of joy, and the joy is greater than it was. It is true that her Lord has not come; but she feels that He is nearer than before, and therefore she thinks it just to lessen some what the austerity of this penitential season by the innocent cheerfulness of her sacred rites. And first, this Sunday has had the name of Gaudete given to it, from the first word of the Introit; it also is honoured with those impressive exceptions which belong to the fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare. The organ is played at the Mass; the vestments are rose-colour; the deacon resumes the dalmatic, and the subdeacon the tunic; and in cathedral churches the bishop assists with the precious mitre. How touching are all these usages, and how admirable this condescension of the Church, wherewith she so beautifully blends together the unalterable strictness of the dogmas of faith and the graceful poetry of the formulae of her liturgy. Let us enter into her spirit, and be glad on this third Sunday of her Advent, because our Lord is now so near unto us. To-morrow we will resume our attitude of servants mourning for the absence of their Lord and waiting for Him; for every delay, however short, is painful and makes love sad.
The Station is kept in the basilica of St. Peter, at the Vatican. This august temple, which contains the tomb of the prince of the apostles, is the home and refuge of all the faithful of the world; it is but natural that it should be chosen to witness both the joy and the sadness of the Church.
The night Office commences with a new Invitatory. The voice of the Church no longer invites the faithful to come and adore in fear and trembling the King, our Lord, who is to come. Her language assumes another character; her tone is one of gladness; and now, every day, until the vigil of Christmas, she begins her nocturns with these grand words:
|Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.||The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.|
Now let us take the book of the Prophet, and read with the Church:
|De Isaia Propheta.
|From the Prophet Isaias.
O holy Roman Church, city of our strength! behold us thy children assembled within thy walls, around the tomb of the fisherman, the prince of the apostles, whose sacred relics protect thee from their earthly shrine, and whose unchanging teaching enlightens thee from heaven. Yet, O city of strength: it is by the Saviour, who is coming, that thou art strong. He is thy wall, for it is He that encircles, with His tender mercy, all thy children; He is thy bulwark, for it is by Him that thou art invincible, and that all the powers of hell are powerless to prevail against thee. Open wide thy gates, that all nations may enter thee for thou art mistress of holiness and the guardian of truth. May the old error, which sets itself against the faith, soon disappear, and peace reign over the whole fold! O holy Roman Church! thou hast for ever put thy trust in the Lord; and He, faithful to His promise, has humbled before thee the haughty ones that defied thee, and the proud cities that were against thee. Where now are the Caesars. who boasted that they had drowned thee in thine own blood? where the emperors, who would ravish the inviolate virginity of thy faith? where the heretics, who, during the past centuries of thine existence, have assailed every article of thy teaching, and denied what they listed? where the ungrateful princes, who would fain make a slave of thee, who hadst made them what they were? where that empire of Mahomet, which has so many times raged against thee, for that thou, the defenceless State, didst arrest the pride of its conquests? where the reformers, who were bent on giving the world a Christianity, in which thou wast to have no part? where the more modern sophists, in whose philosophy thou wast set down as a system that had been tried, and was a failure, and is now a ruin? and those kings who are acting the tyrant over thee, and those people that will have liberty independently and at the risk of truth, where will they be in another hundred years? Gone and forgotten as the noisy anger of a torrent; whilst thou, O holy Church of Rome, built on the immovable rock, wilt be as calm, as young, as unwrinkled as ever. Thy path through all the ages of this world’s duration, will be right as that of the just man; thou wilt ever be the same unchanging Church, as thou hast been during the eighteen hundred years past, whilst everything else under the sun has been but change. Whence this thy stability, but from Him who is very truth and justice? Glory be to Him in thee! Each year, He visits thee; each year, He brings thee new gifts, wherewith thou mayst go happily through thy pilgrimage; and to the end of time, He will visit thee, and renew thee, not only with the power of that look wherewith Peter was renewed, but by filling thee with Himself, as He did the ever glorious Virgin, who is the object of thy most tender love, after that which thou bearest to Jesus Himself. We pray with thee, O Church, our mother, and here is our prayer: ‘Come, Lord Jesus! Thy name and Thy remembrance are the desire of our souls: they have desired Thee in the night, yea, and early in the morning have they watched for Thee.’
The assembly of the faithful is attentive; the cantors intone the Gregorian melody, and the church echoes with these sweet words:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus
hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones
vestrae innotescant apud Deum.
Ps. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob. V. Gloria Patri.
| Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in every prayer let your petitions be made known to
Ps. O Lord thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. V. Glory.
In the Collect, the Church asks for the grace of that divine visit, which dispels darkness and brings light. Darkness produces fear in the soul; whereas, light gives courage and joy to the heart.
Aurem tuam, quaesumus, Domino, precibus nostris accommoda: et mentis nostrae tenebras gratia tuae visitationis illustra. Qui vivis.
|Bend thine ear, O Lord, we beseech thee, to our prayers; and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of thy visitation. Who livest, &c.|
The other Collects of the blessed Virgin, against the persecutors of the Church, and for the Pope, are given in the Mass of the first Sunday of Advent.
Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli
Apostoli ad Philippenses.
| Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians.
Nothing is more just than that we rejoice in the Lord. Both the prophet and the apostle excite us to desire the Saviour, both of them promise us peace. Therefore, let us not be solicitous: the Lord is nigh; nigh to His Church, and nigh to each of our souls. Who can be near so burning a fire, and yet be cold? Do we not feel that He is coming to us, in spite of all obstacles? He will let nothing be a barrier between Himself and us, neither His own infinite high majesty, nor our exceeding lowliness, nor our many sins. Yet a little while, and He will be with us. Let us go out to meet Him by these prayers and supplications, and thanksgiving which the apostle recommends to us. Let our zeal to unite ourselves with our holy mother the Church become more than ever fervent: now every day her prayers will increase in intense earnestness, and her longings after Him, who is her light and her love, will grow more ardent. First let us say together with her:
Qui sedes, Domine, super Cherubim, excita potentiam tuam et veni.
V. Qui regis Israel, intende: Qui deducis velut ovem Joseph.
O Lord, who sittest on the Cherubim, exert thy power
V. Thou who rulest Israel, hearken. Thou who leadest Joseph as a sheep.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii
| Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
There hath stood One in the midst of you, whom you know not, says Saint John the Baptist to them that were sent by the Jews. So that our Lord may be near, He may even have come, and yet by some be not known! This Lamb of God is the holy Precursor’s consolation: he considers it a singular privilege to be but the voice, which cries out to men to prepare the way of the Redeemer. In this, St. John is the type of the Church, and of all such as seek Jesus. St. John is full of joy because the Saviour has come: but the men around him are as indifferent as though they neither expected nor wanted a Saviour. This is the third week of Advent; and are all hearts excited by the great tidings told them by the Church, that the Messias is near at hand? They that love Him not as their Saviour, do they fear Him as their Judge? Are the crooked ways being made straight, and the hills being brought low? Are Christians seriously engaged in removing from their hearts the love of riches and the love of sensual pleasures? There is no time to lose: the Lord is nigh! If these lines should come under the eye of any of those Christians who are in this state of sinful indifference, we would conjure them to shake off their lethargy, and render themselves worthy of the visit of the divine Infant: such a visit will bring them the greatest consolation here, and give them confidence hereafter, when our Lord will come to judge all mankind. Send Thy grace, O Jesus, still more plentifully into their hearts; ‘compel them to go in,’ and permit not that it be said of the children of the Church, as St. John said of the Synagogue: There standeth in the midst of you One, whom you know not.
During the Offertory the faithful should unite in the prayer of the Church, and beg that the captivity in which our sins hold us may be brought to an end, and that the divine Deliverer may come.
|Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam; avertisti captivitatem Jacob, remisisti iniquitatem plebis tuae.||Lord, thou hast blessed thy land; thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob, thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people.|
|Devotionis nostrae tibi, quaesumus, Domine, hostia jugiter immoletur: quae et sacri peragat instituta mysterii, et salutare tuum in nobis mirabiliter operetur. Per Dominum.||May we always, O Lord, offer thee this sacrifice of our devotion; both to effect that for which thou didst institute this mystery, and wonderfully to procure ourselves that salvation which thou designest us. Through, &c.|
The other Secrets are as on the first Sunday.
During the Communion, the Church chants the words of the prophet Isaias, which bid the heart of the sinner take courage. Fear not, Christian people! He that is coming is God; but He comes to save His creatures, and to give himself to them.
|Dicite: Pusillanimes, confortamini et nolite timere: ecce Deus noster veniet, et salvabit nos.||Say: Be comforted, O ye timid of heart, and fear not; behold our God will come, and save us.|
The Church asks of God, in the following prayer, that the secret visit which she has just been receiving from her divine Spouse, may fit her for that solemn one which she is preparing to receive at the feast of Christmas.
|Imploramus, Domine, clementiam tuam: ut haec divina subsidia, a vitiis expiatos ad festa ventura nos praeparent. Per Dominum.||
We implore, O Lord, thy mercy: that these divine helps, having cleansed us from sin, may prepare us for the ensuing solemnity. Through, &c.
The other Postcommunions as on the first Sunday.
|1. ANT. Veniet Dominus, et non tardabit, et illuminabit abscondita
tenebrarum, et manifestabit se ad omnes gentes, alleluia.
2. ANT. Jerusalem, gaude gaudio magno, quia veniet Salvator, alleluia.
3. ANT. Dabo in Sion salutem, et in Jerusalem gloriam meam, alleluia.
4. ANT. Montes et omnes colles humiliabuntur: et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: veni, Domine, et noli tardare, alleluia.
5. ANT. Juste et pie vivamus, exspectantes beatam spem, et adventum Domini, alleluia.
|1. ANT. The Lord will come, and will not delay, and he will reveal things hidden in darkness, and will manifest himself to all nations,
2. ANT. Rejoice, O Jerusalem, with great joy, for thy Saviour will come to thee, alleluia.
3. ANT. I will settle salvation in Sion, and my glory in Jerusalem. alleluia.
4. ANT. Mountains and hills shall be brought low: the crooked paths shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth: come, O Lord, and delay not, alleluia.
5. ANT. Let us live justly and piously, expecting the blessed hope, and the coming of the Lord, alleluia.
|Fratres, gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est.||Brethren, rejoice in the Lord always: again I say rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: the Lord is nigh.|
The hymn Creator alme siderum, and the canticle Magnificat, are given elsewhere.
|Beata es, Maria, qui credidisti Domino; perficientur in te, quae dicta sunt tibi a Domino, alleluia.||Blessed art thou, O Mary, who didst believe the Lord; what the Lord said to thee shall be fulfilled in thee, alleluia.|
But if the third Sunday of Advent fall on December 17, then, instead of the above, is said the first of the Great Antiphons (O Sapientia), which will be found, with the other six, in the proper of saints, from December 17 to 23.
LET US PRAY