|Hodie, si vocem Domini audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra.||To-day if you shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.|
The holy Church begins her night Office of this Sunday with these impressive words of the royal prophet. Formerly, the faithful considered it their duty to assist at the night Office, at least on Sundays and feasts; they would have grieved to lose the grand teachings given by the liturgy. Such fervour has long since died out; the assiduity at the Offices of the Church, which was the joy of our Catholic forefathers, has now become a thing of the past; and even in countries which have not apostatized from the faith, the clergy have ceased to celebrate publicly Offices at which no one assisted. Excepting in cathedral churches and in monasteries, the grand harmonious system of the divine praise has been abandoned, and the marvellous power of the liturgy has no longer its full influence upon the faithful.
This is our reason for drawing the attention of our readers to certain beauties of the Divine Office, which would otherwise be totally ignored. Thus, what can be more impressive than this solemn Invitatory of to-day’s Matins, which the Church takes from one of the psalms, and which she repeats on every feria between this and Maundy Thursday? She says; To-day, if ye will hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts! The sweet voice of your suffering Jesus now speaks to you, poor sinners! be not your own enemies by indifference and hardness of heart. The Son of God is about to give you the last and greatest proof of the love that brought Him down from heaven; His death is nigh at hand: men are preparing the wood for the immolation of the new Isaac: enter into yourselves, and let not your hearts, after being touched with grace, return to their former obduracy; for nothing could be more dangerous. The great anniversaries we are to celebrate have a renovating power for those souls that faithfully correspond with the grace which is offered them; but they increase insensibility in those who let them pass without working their conversion. To-day, therefore, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts!
During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus’ enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messias being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render
such strong testimony in favour of the Son of David; and they should consult these divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas! they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and
Isaias, as having to be put upon the Messias, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.
In them, therefore, was fulfilled that terrible saying: ‘He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.' [St. Matt. xii. 32.] The Synagogue is nigh to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment: she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil, and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner’s heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory [1 Cor. ii. 8.] Whilst, therefore, we listen to the Gospel, which relates the history of the Passion, let us turn the indignation which we feel for the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die.
Everything around us urges us to mourn. The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight. The Church is oppressed with grief. During the first four weeks of Lent, she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert; His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish. We read in to-day’s Gospel, that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer: but His hour is not yet come. He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation, that the Church veils the cross. A God hiding Himself, that He may evade the anger of men - what a mystery! Is it weakness? Is it, that He fears death? No; we shall soon see Him going out to meet His enemies: but at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die upon a cross, the tree of malediction, which, from that time forward, is to be the tree of life. Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of heaven and earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men, who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve bid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus has come to assure us of our being pardoned, and lo! He hides Himself, not because He is naked - He that is to the saints the garb of holiness and immortality - but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God; Jesus hides Himself from the eye of men. But it will not be thus for ever. The day will come when sinners, from whose anger He now flees, will pray to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from His gaze; but their prayer will not be granted, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty [St. Matt. xxiv. 30].
This Sunday is called Passion Sunday, because the Church begins, on this day, to make the sufferings of our Redeemer her chief thought. It is called also, Judica, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass; and again Neomania, that is, the Sunday of the new (or the Easter) moon, because it always falls after the new moon which regulates the feast of Easter.
In the Greek Church, this Sunday goes under the simple name of the fifth Sunday of the holy fast.
At Rome, the Station is in the basilica of St. Peter. The importance of this Sunday, which never gives way to any feast, no matter what its solemnity may be, required that the place for the assembly of the faithful should be in one of the chief sanctuaries of the holy city.
The Introit is taken from the first verses of Psalm xlii. The Messias appeals to God’s tribunal, and protests against the sentence about to be pronounced against Him by men. He likewise expresses his confidence in His Father’s help, who, after His sufferings and death, will lead Him in triumph into the holy mount.
|Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et
doloso eripe me: quia tu es Deus meus, et fortitudo mea.
Ps. Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernaculum tuum. Judica me.
| Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy; deliver me from the unjust and deceitful
man: for thou art my God and my strength.
Ps. Send forth thy light and thy truth; for they have conducted me, and brought me to thy holy mount, and into thy tabernacles. Judge me, &c.
The Gloria Patri is not said during Passiontide and Holy Week (unless a saint’s feast be kept), but the Introit is repeated immediately after the Psalm.
In the Collect, the Church prays that there may be produced in her children that total reformation, which the holy season of Lent is intended to produce. This reformation is such, that it will not only subject the body to the spirit, but preserve also the spirit itself from those delusions and passions, to which it has been, hitherto, more or less a slave.
|Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, familiam tuam propitius respice: ut, te largente, regatur in corpore, et te servante, custodiatur in mente. Per Dominum.||Mercifully look down on thy people, we beseech thee O almighty God, that by thy bounty and protection, they may be governed and guarded both in body and soul. Through, &c.|
Then is added one of the following prayers
|Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, preces placatus admitte: ut destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, secura tibi serviat libertate. Per Dominum.||Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy Church: that all oppositions and errors being removed, she may serve thee with a secure liberty. Through, etc.|
|Deus, omnium fidelium Pastor et Rector, famulum tuum N., quem Pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeest, proficere; ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credi to, perveniat sempiternam. Per Dominum.||O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in thy mercy, on thy servant N., whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church: and grant we beseech thee, that both by word and example, he may edify all those that are under his charge: and, with the flock entrusted to him, arrive at length at eternal happiness. Through, &c.|
|Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebraeos.
|Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.
It is by blood alone that man is to be redeemed. He has offended God. This God cannot be appeased by anything short of the extermination of His rebellious creature, who, by shedding his blood, will give an earnest of his repentance and his entire submission to the Creator, against whom he dared to rebel. Otherwise, the justice of God must be satisfied by the sinner’s suffering eternal punishment. This truth was understood by all the people of the ancient world, and all confessed it by shedding the blood of victims, as in the sacrifices of Abel at the very commencement of the world, in the hecatombs of Greece, in the countless immolations whereby Solomon dedicated the temple. And yet God thus speaks to His people: ‘Hear, O My people, and I will speak: O Israel, and I will testify to thee: I am God thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, and thy burnt-offerings are always in my sight. I will not take calves out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy flocks. I need them not: for all the beasts of the woods are Mine. If I should be hungry I would not tell thee; for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks? or shall I drink the blood of goats?' [Ps. xlix. 7-13.] Thus, God commands the blood of victims to be offered to Him, and, at the same time, declares that neither it nor they are precious in His sight.
Is this a contradiction? No: God would hereby have man understand that it is only by blood that he can be redeemed, but that the blood of brute animals cannot effect this redemption. Can the blood of man himself bring him his own redemption, and appease God’s justice? No, not even man’s blood, for it is defiled; and even were it undefiled, it is powerless to compensate for the outrage done to God by sin. For this there was needed the Blood of a God; such was the Blood of Jesus, and He has come that He may shed it for our redemption.
In Him is fulfilled the most sacred of the figures of the old Law. Once each year, the high-priest entered into the Holy of holies, there to make intercession for the people. He went within the veil, even to the Ark of the Covenant; but he was not allowed to enjoy this great privilege, unless he entered the holy place carrying in his hands the blood of a newly-offered victim. The Son of God, the true High-Priest, is now about to enter heaven, and we are to follow Him thither; but unto this, He must have an offering of blood, and that Blood can be none other than His own. We are going to assist at this His compliance with the divine ordinance. Let us open our hearts, that this precious Blood may, as the apostle says in to-day’s Epistle, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
The Gradual is taken from the Psalms. Our Saviour here prays to be delivered from His enemies, and protected from the rage of them that have risen up against Him; yet is He ready to do the will of His Father, by whom He will be avenged.
In the Tract, which is also taken from the Psalms, the Messias, under the name of Israel, complains of the persecution He has met with from the Jews, even from His youth. They are now about to scourge Him in a most cruel manner. But He also foretells the punishment their deicide is to bring upon them.
|Eripe me, Domine, de inimicis meis: doce me facere voluntatem
V. Liberator meus, Domine, de gentibus iracundis: ab insurgentibus in me exaltabis me: a viro iniquo eripies me.
|Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; teach me to do thy will.
V. Thou, O Lord, art my deliverer from the enraged Gentiles: thou wilt put me out of the reach of those that assault me; and thou wilt rescue me from the unrighteous man.
|Saepe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea.
V. Dicat nunc Israel; Saepe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea.
V. Etenim non potuerunt rnihi: supra dorsum meum fabricaverunt peccatores.
V. Prolongaverunt iniquitates suas: Dominus justus concidet cervices peccatorum.
|Many a time have they fought against me from my youth.
V. Let Israel now say: They have often attacked me from my youth.
V. But they could not prevail over me: the wicked have wrought upon my back.
V. They have lengthened their iniquity: the Lord who is just, will cut the necks of sinners.
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
| Sequel of the holy Gospel, according to John.
The fury of the Jews is evidently at its height, and Jesus is obliged to hide Himself from them. But He is to fall into their hands before many days are over; then will they triumph and put Him to death. They triumph, and Jesus is their victim: but how different is to be His lot from theirs! In obedience to the decrees of His heavenly Father, and out of love for men, he will deliver Himself into the hands of His enemies, and they will put Him to death; but He will rise victorious from the tomb, He will ascend into heaven, He will be throned on the right hand of His Father. His enemies, on the contrary, after having vented all their rage, will live on without remorse, until the terrible day come for their chastisement. That day is not far off, for observe the severity wherewith our Lord speaks to them: ‘You hear not the words of God, because you are not of God.’ Yet there was a time when they were of God, for the Lord gives His grace to all men; but they have rendered this grace useless; they are now in darkness, and the light they have rejected will not return.
You say that My Father is your God, and you have not known Him; but I know Him. Their obstinacy in refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias, has led these men to ignore that very God, whom they boast of honouring; for if they knew the Father, they would not reject His Son. Moses, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, are all a dead letter to them; these sacred Books are soon to pass into the hands of the Gentiles, who will both read and understand them. If, continues Jesus, I should say that I know Him not, I should be like to you, a liar. This strong language is that of the angry Judge who is to come down, at the last day, to destroy sinners. Jerusalem has not known the time of her visitation: the Son of God has visited her, He is with her, and she dares to say to Him: Thou hast a devil! She says to the eternal Word, who proves Himself to be God by the most astonishing miracles, that Abraham and the prophets are greater than He! Strange blindness, that comes from pride and hardness of heart! The feast of the Pasch is at hand; these men are going to eat, and with much parade of religion, the flesh of the figurative lamb; they know full well that this lamb is a symbol, or a figure, which is to have its fulfilment. The true Lamb is to be sacrificed by their hands, and they will not know Him. He will shed His Blood for them, and it will not save them. How this reminds us of those sinners, for whom this Easter promises to be as fruitless as those of the past years! Let us redouble our prayers for them, and beseech our Lord to soften their hearts, lest trampling the Blood of Jesus under their feet, they should have it to cry vengeance against them before the throne of the heavenly Father.
At the Offertory, confiding in the merits of the Blood that has redeemed us, let us, in the words of the Psalm, give praise to God, and proclaim Him to be the author of that new life, of which the sacrifice of the Lamb is the never-failing source.
|Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: retribue servo tuo; vivam, et custodiam sermones tuos: vivifica me secundum verbum tuum, Domine.||I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: reward thy servant: I shall live, and keep thy commandments: save me according to thy word, O Lord.|
The Sacrifice of the spotless Lamb has produced two effects upon the sinner: it has broken his fetters, and has made him the object of God’s love. The Ohuroh prays, in the Secret, that the Sacrifice which she is about to offer, and which is one with that of the cross, may work the same results in us.
|Haec munera, quaesumus, Domine, et vincula nostrae pravitatis absolvant, et tuae nobis misericordiae dona concilient. Per Dominum.||May these offerings, O Lord, both loosen the bonds of our wickedness, and obtain for us the gifts of thy mercy. Through, &c.|
|Protege nos, Domine, tuis mysteriis servientes: ut divinis rebus inhaerentes, et corpore tibi famulemur et mente. Per Dominum.||Protect us, O Lord, while we assist at thy sacred mysteries: that being employed in acts of religion, we may serve thee both in body and mind. Through &c.|
|Oblatis, quaesumus, Domine, placare muneribus: et famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, assidua protectione guberna. Per Dominum.||Be appeased, O Lord, with the offering we have made: and cease not to protect thy servant N.. whom thou hast been pleased to appoint Pastor over thy Church. Through, &c.|
The Communion-antiphon is formed out of the very words spoken by Jesus, when instituting the august Sacrifice which has just been celebrated, and of which the priest and people have partaken, in memory of the Passion, for it renews both the remembrance and the merits of the Passion.
|Hoc corpus, quod pro vobis tradetur: hic calix novi testamenti est in meo sanguine, dicit Dominus: hoc facite, quotiesque sumitis, in meam commemorationem.||This is the body which shall be delivered up for you; this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, saith the Lord. As often as you receive them, do it in remembrance of me.|
In the Postcommunion, the Church prays to God, that He would maintain in the faithful the fruits of the visit He has so graciously paid them; for, by their participation in the sacred mysteries, He has entered into them.
|Adesto nobis, Domine Deus noster: et, quos tuis mysteriis recreasti, perpetuis defende subsidiis. Per Dominum.||Help us, O Lord our God, and for ever protect those whom thou hast refreshed with thy sacred mysteries. Through, &c.|
|Quaesumus, Domine Deus noster: ut quos divina tribuis participatione gaudere, humanis non sinas subjacere periculis. Per Dominum.||We beseech thee, O Lord our God, not to leave exposed to the dangers of human life, those whom thou hast permitted to partake of these divine mysteries. Through, &c.|
|Haec nos quaesumus, Domine, divini Sacramenti perceptio protegat: et famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, una cum commisso sibi grege salvet semper et muniat. Per Dominum.||May the participation of this divine Sacrament protect us, we beseech thee, O Lord, and always procure safety and defence to thy servant N. whom thou hast appointed Pastor over the Church, together with the flock committed to his charge. Through &c.|
The psalms and antiphons are given above.
|Fratres: Christus assistens Pontifex futurorum bonorum, per amplius et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, id est, non hujus creationis, neque per sanguinem hircorum, aut vitulorum, sed per proprium sanguinem, introivit semel in Sancta, aeterna redemptione inventa.||Brethren: Christ being come as High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own Blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.|
For the hymn and versicle, see above.
|Abraham pater vester exsultavit ut videret diem meum: vidit et gavisus est.||Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.|
Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus familiam tuam propitius respice: ut, te largiente, regatur in corpore, et, te servante, custodiatur in mente. Per Dominum.
|LET US PRAY
Mercifully look down on thy people, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that by thy bounty and protection, they may be governed and guarded both in body and soul. Through, &c.
The following appropriate prayer is from the Mozarabic breviary.
Passionis tuae festum, Christe Dei Filius, devotis cordium officiis, recursu temporis inchoantes, quo pro nobis et linguas fuisti persequentium passus, et tradentium te vulneribus crucifixus; rogamus atque exposcimus ne te elonges a nobis: ut quia proximante tribulatione, non est qui adjuvet; tu solus Passionis tuae nos subleves ope: ne tradas ergo nos inimicis nostris in malum, sed excipe servos tuos in bonum: ut nos calumniantes superbi, inimici scilicet animarum nostrarum, virtutis tam potentia propellantur; tu es enim divina lucerna per humanitatem super candelabrum crucis imposita; ideo te rogamus, ut nos accendas, ne veniamus in poenam. Quos ergo perspicis initiatum Passionis tuae festum devotis cordibus excepisse, facito eos Passioni tuae communicare: ut tenebrarum nostrarum errore discusso, lucis tuae muniamur praesidio.
The course of the year has brought us to the time for celebrating, with devout hearts and offices, the feast of thy Passion, O Jesus, Son of God! wherein, for our sake, thou didst suffer the calumnies of thine enemies, and wast crucified by the wounds of them that betrayed thee. We pray and beseech thee, that thou depart not from us: and whereas tribulation is nigh at hand, and there is none to help us, do thou, by the help of thy Passion, become our sole protector. Deliver us not, therefore, into the hands of our enemies unto evil, but receive us, as thy servants, unto good; that the haughty ones who calumniate us, namely the enemies of our souls, may be repelled by the might of thy power. Thou, by the human nature thou hast assumed, art the lamp set on the stand of the cross: we beseech thee, therefore, that thou enkindle us by thy flame, lest we become a prey to punishment. Behold us now entering, with devout hearts, upon the feast of thy Passion; oh! grant that we may partake of the merits of thy Passion: that thus, being delivered from the error of our darkness, we may be fortified by the help of thy light.
That we may the better honour the holy cross, we give, for each day of this week, an appropriate hymn from one or other of the various ancient liturgies. The one we have selected for to-day is the composition of St. Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers.
|Crux benedicta nitet, Dominus qua carne
Atque cruore suo vulnera nostra lavat.
Mitis amore pio pro nobis victima factus,
Transfixis palmis ubi mundum a clade redemit,
Hic manus illa fuit clavis confixa cruentis.
Fertilitate potens, o dulce et nobile lignum,
Cujus odore novo defuncta cadavera surgunt,
Nullum uret aestus sub frondibus arboris hujus:
Tu plantata micas secus est ubi cursus aquarum:
Appensa est vitis inter
tua brachia, de qua
|Brightly shineth the blessed cross, whereon hung the Body of our Lord, when, with his Blood, he washed our wounds.
Become, out of tender love for us, a meek Victim, this divine Lamb did by the cross rescue us his sheep from the jaws of the wolf.
'Twas there, with his hands nailed to the wood, that he redeemed the world from ruin, and by his own death, closed the way of death.
Here was fastened with cruel nails that hand which delivered Paul from sin, and Peter from death.
O sweet and noble tree! how vigorous in thy growth, when, on thy branches, hang fruits so rare as these!
Thy fresh fragrance gives resurrection to many that lay in the tomb, and restores the dead to life.
He that shelters beneath thy shade, shall not be scorched either by the moon at night or by the midday sun.
Planted near the running waters, thou art lovely in thy verdure, and blossoms ever fresh blow on each fair branch.
Between thine arms hangs the pendant Vine, whence wine most sweet flows in a ruddy stream