This Sunday, called, from the first word of the Introit, Laetare Sunday, is one of the most solemn of the year. The Church interrupts her Lenten mournfulness; the chants of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; the Organ, which has been silent during the preceding three Sundays, now gives forth its melodious voice; the Deacon resumes his Dalmatic, and the Subdeacon his Tunic; and instead of purple, Rose-coloured Vestments are allowed to be used. These same rites were practised in Advent, on the third Sunday, called Gaudete. The Church’s motive for introducing this expression of joy in to-day’s Liturgy, is to encourage her Children to persevere fervently to the end of this holy Season. The real Mid-Lent was last Thursday, as we have already observed; but the Church, fearing lest the joy might lead to some infringement on the spirit of penance, has deferred her own notice of it to this Sunday, when she not only permits, but even bids, her children to rejoice!
The Station at Rome, is in the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem, one of the seven principal Churches of the Holy City. It was built in the fourth century, by the Emperor Constantine, in one of his villas, called Sessorius, on which account it goes also under the name of the Sessorian Basilica. The Emperor’s mother, St. Helen, enriched it with most precious relies, and wished to make it the Jerusalem of Rome. It was with this intention that she ordered a great quantity of earth, taken from Mount Calvary, to be put on the site. Among the other Relics of the Instruments of the Passion which she gave to this Church, was the Inscription which was fastened to the Cross; it is still kept there, and is called the Title of the Cross. The name of Jerusalem, - which has been given to this Basilica, and which recals to our minds the heavenly Jerusalem, towards which we are tending, - suggested the choosing it as to-day’s Station. Up to the fourteenth century, (when Avignon became, for a time, the City of the Popes,) the ceremony of the Golden Rose took place in this Church; at present, it is blessed in the Palace where the Sovereign Pontiff happens to be residing at this Season.
The blessing of the Golden Rose is one of the ceremonies peculiar to the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is called on this account Rose Sunday. The thoughts suggested by this flower harmonise with the sentiments wherewith the Church would now inspire her Children. The joyous time of Easter is soon to give them a spiritual Spring, of which that of nature is but a feeble image. Hence, we cannot be surprised that the institution of this ceremony is of a very ancient date. We find it observed under the Pontificate of St. Leo the Ninth (eleventh century); and we have a Sermon on the Golden Rose preached by the glorious Pope Innocent the Third, on this Sunday, and in the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In the Middle Ages, when the Pope resided in the Lateran Palace, having first blessed the Rose, he went on horseback to the Church of the Station. He wore the mitre, was accompanied by all the Cardinals, and held the blessed Flower in his hand. Having reached the Basilica, he made a discourse on the mysteries symbolised by the beauty, the colour, and the fragrance of the Rose. Mass was then celebrated. After the Mass, the Pope returned to the Lateran Palace. Surrounded by the sacred College, he rode across the immense plain which separates the two Basilicas, with the mystic Flower still in his hand. We may imagine the joy of the people as they gazed upon the holy symbol. When the procession had got to the Palace gates, if there were a Prince present, it was his privilege to hold the stirrup, and assist the Pontiff to dismount; for which filial courtesy he received the Rose, which had received so much honour and caused such joy.
At present, the ceremony is not quite so solemn; still the principal rites are observed. The Pope blesses the Golden Rose in the Vestiary; he anoints it with Holy Chrism, over which he sprinkles a scented powder, as formerly; and when the hour for Mass is come, he goes to the Palace Chapel, holding the Flower in his hand. During the Holy Sacrifice, it is fastened to a golden rose-branch prepared for it on the Altar. After the Mass, it is brought to the Pontiff, who holds it in his hand as he returns from the Chapel to the Vestiary. It is usual for the Pope to send the Rose to some Prince or Princess, as a mark of honour; sometimes, it is a City or a Church that receives the Flower.
We subjoin a free translation of the beautiful Prayer used by the Sovereign
Pontiff when blessing the Golden Rose. It will give our readers a clearer appreciation of this ceremony, which adds so much solemnity to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. “O God!
by whose word and power all things were created, and by whose will they are all governed!
O thou, that art the joy and gladness of all thy Faithful people! we beseech thy Divine Majesty, that thou
vouchsafe to bless and sanctify this Rose, so lovely in its beauty and fragrance. We are to bear it,
this day, in our hands, as a symbol of spiritual joy; that thus, the people that is devoted to thy service,
being set free from the captivity of Babylon, by the grace of thine Only Begotten Son, who is the glory
and the joy of Israel, may show forth, with a sin cere heart, the joys of that Jerusalem, which is
above, and is our Mother. And whereas thy Church seeing this symbol, exults with joy, for the glory of
thy Name;- do thou, O Lord! give her true and perfect happiness. Accept her devotion, forgive us
our sins, increase our faith; heal us by thy word, protect us by thy mercy; remove all obstacles;
grant us all blessings; that thus, this same thy Church may offer unto thee the fruit of good works;
and walking in the odour of the fragrance of that Flower, which sprang from the Root of Jesse, and is
called the Flower of the Field, and the Lily of the
Valley, may she deserve to enjoy an endless joy in the bosom of heavenly glory, in the society of all
the Saints, together with that Divine Flower, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the
Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.”
We now come to the explanation of another name given to the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which was suggested by the Gospel of the day. We find this Sunday called in several ancient documents, the Sunday of the Five Loaves. The miracle alluded to in this title not only forms an essential portion of the Church’s instructions during Lent, but it is also an additional element of to-day’s joy. We forget for an instant the coming Passion of the Son of God, to give our attention to the greatest of the benefits he has bestowed on us; for under the figure of these Loaves multiplied by the power of Jesus, our Faith sees that Bread which came down from heaven, and given life to the world’[ St. John, vi. 33]. The Pasch, says our Evangelist, was near at hand; and, in a few days, our
Lord will say to us: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you [St. Luke, xxii. 15]. Before leaving this world to go to his Father, Jesus desires to feed the multitude that follows him; and in order to this, he displays his omnipotence. Well may we admire that creative power, which feeds five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and in such wise, that even after all have partaken of the feast as much as they would, there remain fragments enough to fill twelve baskets. Such a miracle is, indeed, an evident proof of Jesus’ mission; but he intends it as a preparation for something far more wonderful; he intends it as a figure and a pledge of what he is soon to do, not merely once or twice, but every day, even to the end of time; not only for five thousand men, but for the countless multitudes of believers. Think of the millions, who, this very year, are to partake of the banquet of the Pasch; and yet, He whom we have seen born in Bethlehem, (the House of Bread,) He is to be the nourishment of all these guests; neither will the Divine Bread fail. We are to feast as did our fathers before us; and the generations that are to follow us, shall be invited as we now are, to come and taste how sweet is the Lord [Ps. xxxiii. 9].
But observe, it is in a desert place, (as we learn from St. Matthew, [St. Matth, xiv. 13]) that Jesus feeds these men, who represent us Christians. They have quitted the bustle and noise of cities in order to follow him. So anxious are they to hear his words, that they fear neither hunger nor fatigue; and their courage is rewarded. A like recompense will crown our labours, - our fasting and abstinence, - which are now more than half over. Let us, then, rejoice, and spend this day with the light-heartedness of pilgrims, who are near the end of their journey. The happy moment is advancing, when our soul, united and filled with her God, will look back with pleasure on the fatigues of the body, which, together with our heart’s compunction, have merited for her a place at the Divine Banquet.
The primitive Church proposed this miracle of the multiplication of the loaves as a symbol of the Eucharist, the Bread that never fails. We find it frequently represented in the paintings of the Catacombs and on the bas-reliefs of the ancient Christian tombs. The Fishes, too, that were given together with the Loaves, are represented on these venerable monuments of our faith; for the early Christians considered the Fish to be the symbol of Christ, because the word Fish in Greek, is made up of five letters, each of which is the initial of these words: Jesus Christ, Son (of) God, Saviour.
The Greek Church, too, keeps this Sunday with much solemnity. According to her manner of counting the days of Lent, this is the great day of the week called, as we have already noticed, Mesonestios. The solemn adoration of the Cross takes place to-day; and breaking through her rule of never admitting a Saint’s Feast during Lent, this mid-Lent Sunday is kept in honour of the celebrated Abbot of the Monastery of Mount Sinai, St. John Climacus, who lived in the 6th century.
The seventy-years captivity will soon be over. Yet a little while, and the captives shall return to Jerusalem. This is the idea expressed by the Church in all the chants of to-day’s Mass. She ventures not to pronounce the heavenly Alleluia; but all her canticles bespeak jubilation; for, in a few days hence, the House of the Lord will lay aside her mourning, and will be keeping the gladdest of her Feasts.
|Laetare, Jerusalem; et conventum facite omnes, qui diligitis
eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: at exsultetis et satiemini ab uberibus
Ps. Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.
V. Gloria Patri. Laetare.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and meet together all you who love her; rejoice exceedingly, you who have been in sorrow, that you may leap for joy, and be satiated with comfort from her breasts.
Ps. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. V. Glory. Rejoice.
In the Collect, the Church acknowledges that her Children deserve the penance they are going through; but she begs that, to-day, the hope of the coming divine consolations may refresh their spirits. The full force of the closing word of her prayer, is that they may breathe awhile.
|Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus; ut qui ex merito nostrae actionis affligimur, tuae gratiae consolatione respiremus. Per Dominum.||Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we, who are justly afflicted according to our demerits, may be relieved by thy comforting grace. Through, &c.|
The second and third Collects are given on the First Sunday of Lent, above.
Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Galatas.
| Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
Let us, then, rejoice! - we are children, not of Sina, but of Jerusalem. Our mother, the holy Church is not a bond-woman, but free; and it is unto freedom that she has brought us up. Israel served God in fear; his heart was ever tending to idolatry, and could only be kept to duty by the heavy yoke of chastisement. More happy than he, we serve God through love; our yoke is sweet, and our burden is light [St. Matth. xi. 30]. We are not citizens of the earth; we are but pilgrims passing through it to our true country, the Jerusalem which is above. We leave the earthly Jerusalem to the Jew, who minds only terrestrial things, is disappointed with Jesus, and is plotting how to crucify him. We also have too long been grovelling in the goods of this world; we have been slaves to sin; and the more the chains of our bondage weighed upon us, the more we talked of our being free. Now is the favourable time; now are the days of salvation: we have obeyed the Church’s call, and have entered into the practice and spirit of Lent. Sin seems to us, now, to be the heaviest of yokes; the Flesh, a dangerous burden; the World, a merciless tyrant. We begin to breathe the fresh air of holy liberty, and the hope of our speedy deliverance fills us with transports of joy. Let us, with all possible affection, thank our Divine Liberator, who delivers us from the bondage of Agar, emancipates us from the law of fear, and making us his new People, opens to us the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, at the price of his Blood.
The Gradual expresses the joy felt by the Gentiles, when invited to enter the House of the Lord, which is now become their own. The Tract shows God protecting his Church, the new Jerusalem, which is not to be conquered and destroyed as was that first one. This holy City communicates her own stability and security to them that are in her, for the Lord watches over both the Mother and her children.
Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.
V. Fiat pax in virtute tua: et abundantia in turribus tuis.
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me; we shall go into the house of the Lord.
V. Let peace be in thy strength, and abundance in thy towers.
Qui confidunt in Domino, sicut mons Sion : non commovebitur in aeternum, qui habitat in
V. Montes in circuitu ejus: et Dominus in circuitu populi sui, ex hoc nunc, at usque in saeculum.
They that trust in the Lord, shall be as Mount Sion; he shall not be moved for ever that
dwelleth in Jerusalem.
V. Mountains are round about it; so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth now and for ever.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secnudum Joannem.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
These men, whom Jesus has been feeding by a miracle of love and power, are resolved to make Him their King. They have no hesitation in proclaiming him worthy to reign over them; for where can they find one worthier? What, then, shall we Christians do, who know the goodness and the power of Jesus incomparably better than these poor Jews:- We must beseech him to reign over us, from this day forward. We have just been reading in the Epistle, that it is He who has made us free, by delivering us from our enemies. O glorious Liberty! But the only way to maintain it, is to live under his Law. Jesus is not a tyrant, as are the world and the flesh; his rule is sweet and peaceful, and we are his Children rather than his Servants. In the court of such a King “to serve is to reign.” What, then, have we to do with our old slavery? If some of its chains be still upon us, let us lose no time, - let us break them, for the Pasch is near at hand; the great Feast-Day begins to dawn. Onwards, then, courageously to the end of our journey! Jesus will refresh us ; he will make us sit down as he did the men of the Gospel; and the Bread he has in store for us will make us forget all our past fatigues.
In the Offertory, the Church again borrows the words of David, wherewith to praise the Lord; but, to-day, it is mainly his goodness and power that she celebrates.
|Laudate Dominum, quia benignus est; psallite Nomini ejus, quoniam suavis est: omnia quaecumque voluit, fecit in coelo et in terra.||Praise ye the Lord, for he is good, sing ye to his Name, for it is sweet: what he pleased he hath done, in heaven and on earth.|
The Secret is a prayer for the increase of devotion. We ask it by the merits of the Sacrifice at which we are assisting, for it is the source of our Salvation.
|Sacrificiis praesentibus, Domine, quaesumus, intende placatus: ut et devotioni nostrae proficiant et saluti. Per Dominum.||We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully regard this present Sacrifice that it may both increase our devotion, and advance our salvation. Through, &c.|
The second and third Secrets are given on the First Sunday of Lent, above.
In the Communion-Anthem, the Church sings the praise of the Heavenly Jerusalem, which is figured by the Basilica of Holy Cross, as we have already explained. She speaks of the joy of the tribes of the Lord, who are assembled in this venerable Temple, and are contemplating, under the graceful symbol of the Rose, the Divine Spouse, Jesus. The fragrance of his perfections draws our hearts after him.
|Jerusalem quae aedificatur ut civitas, cujus participatio ejus in idipsum: illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini, ad confitendum Nomini tuo, Domine.||Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together; for thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise thy Name, O Lord.|
The divine Mystery of the Bread of Life has been brought before us, that we might believe and love it. The Church, therefore, in the Postcommunion, prays that we may have the grace to receive this august Mystery with becoming respect and careful preparation.
|Da nobis, quaesumus, misericors Deus: ut sancta tua, quibus incessanter explemur, sinceris tractemus obsequiis, et fideli semper mente sumamus. Per Dominum.||Grant, we beseech thee, O merciful God, that we may sincerely respect, and receive with faith thy holy mysteries, with which thou daily feedest us. Through, &c.|
The second and third Postcommunions are given on the First Sunday of Lent, above.
The Psalms and Antiphons are given above.
|Fratres: Scriptum est, quoniam Abraham duos filios habuit: unum de ancilla, et unum de libera. Sed qui de ancilla, secundum carnem natus est; qui autem de libera, per repromissionem: quae sunt per allegoriam dicta.||Brethren: It is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bond-woman, and the other by a free-woman. But he who was of the bond- woman, was born according to the flesh: but he of the free-woman, was by promise: which things are said by an allegory.|
For the Hymn and Versicle, see above.
|Subiit ergo in montem Jesus, et ibi sedebat cum discipulis suis.||Jesus therefore went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.|
Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus; ut qui ex merito nostrae actionis affligimur, tuae gratiae consolatione respiremus. Per Dominum.
LET US PRAY.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we, who are justly afflicted according to our demerits, may be relieved by thy comforting grace. Through, &c.
We borrow the following stanzas from the Triodion of the Greek Church. They are in keeping with to- day’s Office, and with the sentiments we should have on Mid-Lent Sunday.
(Dominica IV. Jejuniorum.)
Sacro jejunii stadio jam dimidio superemenso, ad futurum in laetitia recte curramus, bonorum operum oleo animos ungentes, ut Christi
Dei nostri divinas passiones
adorare, et ad ejus venerandam et sanctam resurrectionem pervenire
Qui vitem plantavit et operarios vocavit, prope adest Salvator; venite, jejunii athletae, mercedem capiamus, quia dives est dispensator et misericors; parum laborantes, animae misericordiam recipiemus.
O Deus qui das vitam, aperi mihi portas poenitentiae; vigilat enim ad templum sanctum tuum spiritus meus, templum corporis ferens penitus maculatum: sed tu miserans, purifica me propitiabili misericordia tua.
Venite, faciamus in mystica vite fructus poenitentiae in illa laborantes, non epulemur in escis et potibus, sed in precibus et jejuniis, actiones virtutis operantes his complacens Doniinus operis denarium praebet, per quod ab iniquitatis debito animas liberat solus multum Deus misericors.
We have passed one half of our journey through the holy Fast; let us, then, as it behoves us, joyfully complete what remains. Let us anoint our souls with the oil of good works, that we may be made worthy to celebrate the divine sufferings of Christ our Lord, and to be brought to his venerable and holy Resurrection.
Jesus, he that planted the vine and hired the labourers, is near at hand. Come, ye brave Fasters! let us receive the reward; for he that pays us is rich and merciful. After our short labours, he will requite our souls with his mercy.
O God, thou Giver of Life! open to me the gate of penance. My spirit keepeth watch in thy holy temple; but the temple of the flesh, which I have to carry with me, is defiled with many sins. Have pity on me, notwithstanding; and in thy tender mercy, cleanse me.
Come, let us, who are in the mystic Vine, produce fruits of penance. Here labouring, let our feasting be, not in meat and drink, but in prayer and fasting and good works. Our Lord, being pleased with our labour, will pay us with that, whereby he, the one God, rich in mercy, will forgive us the debt of our sins.