Jan. 18, 2019

 

January 18, 2019: CHAIR OF ST. PETER APOSTLE AT ROME

 

Rank: Greater Double

 

 

“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shalt be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”
(St. Matth, xvi. 18, 19)

 

 

℟. Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, O Prince of the Apostles! To thee hath God given all the kingdoms of the world;
*Therefore, also, have the keys of the kingdom of heaven been delivered to thee.

℣. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.
*Therefore, also, have the keys of the kingdom of heaven been delivered to thee.

℣. Let them exalt him in the church of the people.
℟. And let them praise him in the chair of the ancients.

Let Us Pray.

O God, who by delivering to the blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst give him the power of binding and loosing: grant, that by his intercession, we may be freed from the bonds of our sins. Who livest, and resignest, world without end. Amen.

 

(Commemoration of St. Paul) And, that we may conform to the tradition of the same Church of [the Bishop of] Rome, which never celebrates a Feast of St. Peter without making a commemoration of St. Paul, who, that he might add to the glory of her who is the Mother and Mistress of all Churches, came within her walls and paid her the triple tribute of his Apostolate, his teaching, and his martyrdom—let us say this Antiphon and Collect in honour of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Ant. Holy Apostle Paul! preacher of the truth, and Doctor of the Gentiles! Intercede for us to the God, that chose thee.

℣. Thou art a vessel of election, O holy Apostle Paul!
℟. The preacher of truth in the whole world.

Let Us Pray.

O God, who by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle, didst instruct the multitude of the Gentiles: grant, we beseech thee, that whilst we celebrate his memory, we may find the effects of his prayers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The Archangel Gabriel told Mary, in the Annunciation, that the Son, who was to be born of her, should be a King, and that of his Kingdom there should be no end. Hence, when the Magi were led from the East to the Crib of Jesus, they proclaimed it in Jerusalem, that they came to seek a King. But this new Empire needed a Capital; and, whereas the King, who was to fix his throne in it, was, according to the eternal decrees, to re-ascend into heaven, it was necessary that the visible character of his Royalty should be left here on earth, and this even to the end of the world. He that should be invested with this visible character of Christ our King, would be the Vicar of Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ chose Simon for this sublime dignity of being his Vicar. He changed his name into one which signifies the Rock, that is “Peter”; and in giving him this new name, he tells us, that the whole Church, throughout the world, is to rest upon this man, as upon a Rock, which nothing shall ever move (St. Matth, xvi. 18). But this promise of our Lord included another;—namely, that as Peter was to close his earthly career by the Cross, he would give him Successors, in whom Peter and his authority should live to the end of time.

But, again:—there must be some mark or sign of this succession, to designate to the world who the Pontiff is, on whom, to the end of the world, the Church is to be built. There are so many Bishops in the Church—in which one of them is Peter continued? This Prince of the Apostles founded and governed several Churches; but only one of these was watered with his blood, and that one was Rome; only one of these is enriched with his Tomb, and that one is Rome;—the Bishop of Rome, therefore, is the Successor of Peter, and, consequently, the Vicar of Christ. It is of the Bishop of Rome alone that it is said: Upon thee will I build my Church (St. Matth, xvi. 18): and again: To thee will I give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (St. Matth, xvi. 19): and again: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not—do thou confirm thy brethren (St. Luke, xxii. 32): and again: Feed my lambs; feed my sheep (St. John, xxi. 15, 17).

Protestantism saw the force of this argument, and therefore strove to throw doubts on St. Peter's having lived and died in Rome. They who laboured to establish doubts of this kind, rightly hoped, that if they could gain their point, they would destroy the authority of the Roman Pontiff, and even the very notion of a Head of the Church. But History has refuted this puerile objection... It was in order to nullify, by the authority of the Liturgy, this strange pretension of Protestants, that Pope Paul the Fourth, in 1558, restored the ancient Feast of St. Peter's Chair at Rome, and fixed it on the 18th of January. For many centuries, the Church had not solemnised the mystery of the Pontificate of the Prince of the Apostles on any distinct feast, but had made the single Feast of February 22nd serve for both the Chair at Antioch and the Chair at Rome. From that time forward, the 22nd of February has been kept for the Chair at Antioch, which was the first occupied by the Apostle.

To-day, therefore, the Kingship of our Emmanuel shines forth in all its splendour, and the children of the Church rejoice in finding themselves to be Brethren and fellow-citizens, united in the Feast of their common Capital, the Holy City of Rome. When they look around them, and find so many sects, separated from each other, and almost forced into decay, because they have no centre of union—they give thanks to the Son of God, for his having provided for the preservation of his Church and Truth, by his instituting a visible Head who never dies, and in whom Peter is for ever continued, just as Christ himself is continued in Peter. Men are no longer sheep without a Shepherd; the word, spoken at the beginning, is uninterruptedly perpetuated through all ages; the primitive mission is never suspended, and, by the Roman Pontiff, the end of time is fastened on to the world's commencement. “What a consolation for the children of God!” cries out Bossuet, in his Essay on Universal History, “and what conviction that they are in possession of the truth, when they see, that from Innocent the Eleventh, who now (1681) so worthily occupies the first See of the Church, we go back, in unbroken succession, even to St. Peter, whom Jesus appointed Prince of the Apostles; that from St. Peter, we come, traversing the line of the Pontiffs who ministered under the Law, even to Aaron, yea, even to Moses; thence, even to the Patriarchs, and even to the beginning of the world!”

When Peter enters Rome, therefore, he comes to realise and explain the destinies of this Queen of Cities; he comes to promise her an Empire even greater than the one she possesses. This new Empire is not to be founded by the sword, as was the first. Rome has been, hitherto, the proud mistress of nations; henceforth, she is to be the Mother of the world, by charity; and though all peaceful, yet her Empire shall last to the end of time. Let us listen to St. Leo the Great, describing to us, in one of the finest of his Sermons, and in his own magnificent style, the humble yet all-eventful entrance of the Fisherman of Genesareth into the Capital of the Pagan world.

“The good, and just, and omnipotent God, who never refused his mercy to the human race, and instructed all men, in general, in the knowledge of himself by his super-abundant benefits—took pity, by a more hidden counsel and a deeper love, on the voluntary blindness of them that had gone astray, and on the wickedness which was growing in its proneness to evil; and sent, therefore, into the world his co-equal and co-eternal Word. The which Word being made Flesh did so unite the divine to the human nature, as that the deep debasement of the one was the highest uplifting of the other.

“But, that the effect of this unspeakable gift might be diffused throughout the entire world, the providence of God had been preparing the Roman Empire, which had so far extended its limits, as to embrace in itself all the nations of the earth. For nothing could be better suited to the divine plan, than the confederation of various kingdoms under one and the same Empire; and the preaching of the gospel to the whole world would the more rapidly be effected by having the several nations united under the government of one common City.

“But this City, ignoring the author of this her promotion, whilst mistress of almost every nation under the sun, was the slave of every nation's errors; and prided himself on having got a grand religion, because she had admitted every false doctrine. So that, the faster the devil's hold of her, the more admirable her deliverance by Christ.

“For, when the twelve Apostles, after receiving, by the Holy Ghost, the gift of tongues, divided among themselves the world they had to evangelise—the most blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostolic order, was sent to the Capital of the Roman Empire, in order that the light of truth, which had been revealed for the salvation of all nations, might the more effectively flow, from the head itself, into the whole body of the world.

“The fact was, that there were, in this City, people belonging to every nation, and the rest of the world soon learnt whatever was taught at Rome. Here, therefore, were to be refuted the opinions of philosophy; here, the follies of human wisdom to be exploded; here, the worship of devils to be convicted of blasphemy; here, the impiety of all the sacrifices to be first abolished; for, it was here that an official superstition had systematised into one great whole the fragmentary errors of every other portion of the earth.

“To this City, therefore, O most blessed Apostle, Peter, thou fearest not to come! The companion of thy glory, Paul the Apostle, is not with thee, for he is busy founding other Churches; yet, thou enterest this forest of wild beasts, and, with greater courage than when walking on the waters, thou settest foot on this deep stormy sea! Thou, that didst tremble before a servant-girl in the house of Caiphas, art fearless now before this Rome, this mistress of the world. Is it, that the power of Claudius is less than the authority of Pilate? or the cruelty of Nero less than the savageness of the Jews? Not so: but the vehemence of thy love made thee heedless of thy risks; and having come that thou mightest love, thou forgottest to fear. Thou didst imbibe this sentiment of fearless charity, on that day, when the profession of thy love for thy Master was made perfect by the mystery of his thrice put question. And what asks he of thee, after thus probing thy heart, but that thou feed the the sheep of Him thou lovest, with the food, whereon thyself hadst feasted.

“Then, too, there were the miracles thou hadst wrought, the gifts of grace thou hadst received, the proofs of the great works thou hadst achieved—all giving thee fresh courage. Thou hadst taught the truth to such of the children of Israel as had embraced the faith; thou hadst founded the Church of Antioch, where first began the glorious Christian title; thou hadst preached the gospel in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; and assured of the success of thy work, and of the many years thou hadst yet to live, thou didst bring the trophy of the Cross of Christ into the very walls of Rome, where the counsels of God had already determined that thou shouldst have both the honour of power, and the glory of martyrdom.”

The future of the human race, now under the guidance of the Church, is, therefore, centred in Rome, and the destinies of that City are interwoven with those of her undying Pontiff. We, the children of the Church, though differing in race, and tongue, and character, yet are we all Romans by holy religion; as Romans, we are united, by Peter, to Christ; and this our glorious name is the link of that great Fraternity of Catholics throughout the world.

Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor—these are our rulers in the order of spiritual Government. Every Pastor, whose authority emanates not from the See of [the Bishop of] Rome, is a stranger to us, and an intruder. So likewise, in the order of our Faith, that is, of what we believe, Jesus Christ by Peter, and Peter by his successor, teach us divine doctrine, and how to distinguish truth from error. Every Symbol of Faith, every doctrinal judgment, every teaching, contrary to the Symbol, and judgments, and teachings of the See of Rome, is of man, and not of God, and must be rejected, hated, and anathematised. On the Feast of St. Peter's Chair at Antioch, (February 22,) we will speak of the Apostolic See, as the one only source of governing power in the Church; to-day, we will consider and honour the Chair at Rome as the source and rule of our Faith. Here, again, let us borrow the sublime words of St. Leo, and hear him discuss the claims of Peter to Infallibility of teaching. The Holy Doctor will teach us how to understand the full force of those words, which were spoken by our Lord, and which he intended should be, for all ages, the grand charter of Faith.

“The Word made Flesh was dwelling among us, and he, our Saviour, had spent his whole self for the reparation of the human race. There was nothing too complicated for his wisdom, nothing too difficult for his power. The elements were subject to him, Spirits ministered to him, Angels obeyed him, nor could the mystery of human Redemption be ineffectual, for God, both in his Unity and Trinity, was the worker of that mystery. And yet, Peter is chosen from the rest of the entire world, to be the one, the only one, put over the vocation of all nations, and over all the Apostles, and over all the Fathers of the Church: that so, whilst there were to be many Priests and many Pastors in the people of God, Peter should govern, by the special power given to him, all those whom Christ also rules by his own supreme power. Great and wonderful, dearly Beloved, is this fellowship with Christ's power granted, by divine condescension, to this man! Moreover, if our Lord willed that there should be something in common to Peter and the rest of the Princes of his Church, it was only on this condition—that whatever he gave to them, he gave to them through Peter.”

“Again: our Lord questions all the Apostles as to what men say of him; and, as far as the telling him the opinions of human ignorance goes, they all, indifferently, join in making answer. But as soon as the sentiment of the disciples themselves is called for, he is the first to confess our Lord's divinity, who is the first in dignity among the Apostles. These were his words: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God (St. Matth, xvi. 16); which when he had said, our Lord thus answered him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father, who is in heaven (St. Matth, xvi. 17); that is, blessed art thou, in that my Father hath taught thee, and human opinion hath not misled thee, but heavenly inspiration hath instructed thee; not flesh and blood, but He, whose Only Begotten Son I am, hath shown me to thee. And I say to thee: that is, as my Father hath manifested to thee my divinity, so do I now declare to thee thine own dignity. That thou art Peter (the Rock): that is, though I am the immoveable Rock (I Cor, x. 4), the Corner-Stone (Eph, ii. 20), who make both one (Eph, ii. 14), and the Foundation, other than which no man can lay (I Cor, iii. 11); yet, art thou, also, a Rock, because thou art solidly based by my power, and what I have by right, thou hast by participation. And upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (St. Matth, xvi. 18): that is, I will construct an everlasting temple upon thy Strength, and my Church, which is to reach to heaven, shall grow up on the firmness of this thy faith.

“On the eve of his Passion, which was to test the courage of his disciples, our Lord said to Peter: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. And thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren (St. Luke, xxii. 31, 32). All the Apostles were in danger of being tempted to fear, and all stood in need of the divine help, for the devil desired to sift and crush them all; and yet, it is especially for Peter that our Lord is careful; it is for Peter's faith that he offers an express prayer; as though the others would be sure to be firm, if the mind of their leader were unflinching. So that, the strength of all the rest is in Peter, and the assistance of divine grace is distributed in this order—Peter is to receive firmness through Christ, and he himself then give it to the Apostles.” (St. Leo, Sermon 4)

In another of his Sermons, the same holy Doctor explains to us, how it is that Peter ever lives and ever teaches in the Chair of Rome. After having cited the passage from the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew, {verses 16-19,) he says: “This promise, of Him who is truth itself, must, therefore, be a permanent fact—and Peter, the unceasing Rock of strength, must be the ceaseless ruler of the Church. For we have only to consider the pre-eminence that is given him, and the mysterious titles conferred on him, and we at once see the fellowship he has with our Lord Jesus Christ: he is called the Rock (Peter); he is named the Foundation; he is appointed keeper of the gates of heaven; he is made judge, with such power of loosing and binding, that his sentence holds even in heaven. These commissions, and duties, and responsibilities, wherewith he was invested, he discharges with fuller perfection and power, now that he is in Him and with Him, from whom he received all these honours.

“If, therefore, we do anything that is right, if we decree anything that is right, if, by our daily supplications, we obtain anything from the divine mercy—it is his doing and his merit, whose power lives, and whose authority is supreme, in this his own Chair. All this, dearly Beloved, was obtained by that confession, which, being inspired into the Apostle's heart by God the Father, soared above all the incertitudes of human opinions, and drew upon him, who spoke it, the solidity of a Rock, that was to be proof against every attack. For, throughout the whole Church, Peter is every day still proclaiming: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; and every tongue, that confesses the Lord, is guided by the teaching of this word. This is the faith which conquers the devil, and sets his captives free. This is the faith which delivers men from the world, and takes them to heaven, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. For such is the solidity wherewith God has strengthened it, that neither heretical depravity has been able to corrupt, nor pagan perfidy to crush, it.” (St. Leo, Sermon 3)

Thus speaks St. Leo. “Let it not, therefore, be said,” observes Bossuet, in his Sermon on the Unity of the Church, “let it not be said, or thought, that this ministry of Peter finishes with his life on earth. That which is given as the support of a Church which is to last for ever, can never be taken away. Peter will live in his successors; Peter will speak, in his Chair, to the end of time. So speak the Fathers; so speak the six hundred and thirty Bishops of the Council of Chalcedon.” And again: “Thus, the Roman Church is ever a Virgin-Church; the Faith of Rome is always the Faith of the Church; what has once been believed, will be for ever believed; the same voice is heard all over the world; and Peter, in his successors, is now, as he was during his life, the foundation on which the Faithful rest. Jesus Christ has said that it shall be so; and heaven and earth shall pass away rather than his word.”

Full of gratitude, therefore, to the God of truth, who has vouchsafed to raise up this Chair in his Church, we will listen, with submission of intellect and heart, to the teaching which emanates from it. Rejecting with indignation those dangerous theories, which can only serve to keep up sects within the Church; and confessing, with all the past ages, that the promises made to St. Peter continue in his successors;—we will conclude, aided by the twofold light of logic and history, that the teachings, addressed to the Church by the Roman Pontiff, can never contain error, and can contain nothing but the doctrine of truth. Such has always been the sense of the Church, and her practice has been the expression of her spirit. Now, if we acknowledge a permanent miracle in the uninterrupted succession of the Bishops of Rome, in spite of all the revolutions of [twenty] centuries—we acknowledge it to be a still higher prodigy, that, notwithstanding the instability of man's opinions and judgments, the Chair of Rome has faithfully preserved the truth without the slightest admixture of error, whereas the sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople, were scarcely able to maintain the true Faith for a few centuries, and have become, so frequently, those Chairs of pestilence spoken of by the Royal Prophet (Ps, i. 1).

We are in that season of the ecclesiastical year, which is devoted to honouring the Incarnation and Birth of the Son of God, and the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin: it behoves us to remember, especially on this present Feast, that it is to the See of Peter that we owe the preservation of these dogmas, which are the very basis of our holy religion. Rome [Bishop of Rome] not only taught them to us when she sent us the saintly missioners who evangelised our country [England]; but, moreover, when heresy attempted to throw its mists and clouds over these high Mysteries, it was Rome that secured the triumph to truth, by her sovereign decision. At Ephesus—when Nestorius was condemned, and the dogma, which he assailed, was solemnly proclaimed, that is, that the Divine Nature and the Human Nature, which are in Christ, make but one Person, and that Mary is, consequently, the true Mother of God—the two hundred Fathers of that General Council thus spoke:—“Compelled by the Letters of our Most Holy Father Celestine, Bishop of the Roman Church, we have proceeded, in spite of our tears, to the condemnation of Nestorius.” At Chalcedon—where the Church had to proclaim, against Eutyches, the distinction of the two Natures in the Incarnate Word, God and Man—the six hundred and thirty Fathers, after hearing the Letter of the Roman Pontiff, gave their decision, and said: “Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo.”

 

Journey of St. Peter to Rome.

St. Peter having triumphed over the devil in the East, pursued him to Rome in the person of Simon Magus. He who had formerly trembled at the voice of a poor maid, now feared not the very throne of idolatry and superstition. The capital of the empire of the world, and the centre of impiety, called for the zeal of the prince of the apostles. God had established the Roman empire, and extended its dominion beyond that of any former monarchy, for the more easy propagation of his gospel. Its metropolis was of the greatest importance for this enterprise. St. Peter took that province upon himself; and repairing to Rome, there preached the faith and established his Episcopal chair, whose successors the bishops of Rome have been accounted in all ages. That St. Peter founded that church by his preaching, is expressly asserted by Caius, a priest of Rome under pope Zephyrinus; who relates also that his body was then on the Vatican-hill, and that of his fellow-laborer, St. Paul, on the Ostian road. That he and St. Paul planted the faith at Rome, and were both crowned with martyrdom at the same time, is affirmed by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in the second age. St. Irenaeus, who lived in the same age, calls the church at Rome “The greatest and most ancient church, founded by the two glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.” Eusebius, in several places, mentions St. Peter's being at Rome, and the several important transactions of this apostle in that city. Not to mention Origen, Hegesippus, Arnobius, St. Ambrose, St. Austin, St. Jerom, St. Optatus, Orosius, and others on the same subject. St. Cyprian calls Rome the chair of St. Peter, (as Theodoret calls it his throne,) which the general councils and ecclesiastical writers, through every age, and on every occasion, repeat. That St. Peter at least preached in Rome, founded that church, and died there by martyrdom under Nero, are facts the most incontestable by the testimony of all writers of different countries, who lived near that time; persons of unquestionable veracity, and who could not but be informed of the truth, in a point so interesting, and of its own nature so public and notorious, as to leave them no possibility of a mistake. This is also attested by monuments of every kind; also by the prerogatives, rights, and privileges, which that church enjoyed from those early ages, in consequence of this title.

It was an ancient custom, as cardinal Baronius and Thomassin show by many examples, observed by churches, to keep an annual festival of the consecration of their bishops. The feast of the chair of St. Peter is found in ancient Martyrologies, as in one under the name of St. Jerom, at Esternach, copied in the time of St. Willibrord, in 720. Christians justly celebrate the founding of this mother-church, the centre of Catholic communion, in thanksgiving to God for his mercies on his church, and to implore his future blessings.

Christ has taught us, in the divine model of prayer which he has delivered to us, that we are bound to recommend to him, before all other things, the exaltation of his own honor and glory, and to beg that the kingdom of his holy grace and love be planted in all hearts. If we love God above all things, and with our whole hearts, or have any true charity for our neighbor, this will be the centre of all our desires, that God be loved and served by all his creatures, and that he be glorified in the most perfect manner, in our own souls. By placing this at the head of our requests, we shall most strongly engage God to crown all our just and holy desires. As one of his greatest mercies to his church, we must earnestly beseech him to raise up in it zealous pastors, eminently replenished with his Spirit, with which he animated his apostles.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

“Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the Lord Himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.”
(The Vatican Council, Fourth Session, First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, - Ch. 2,5 On The Permanence of the Primacy of Blessed Peter in the Roman Pontiff -July 18th, 1870 A.D.)

 

Ss. Peter and Paul, pray for us.

 

Jan. 17, 2019

January 17, 2019: ST. ANTHONY (OF EGYPT), ABBOT

Rank: Double

[Patriarch of Monks]

 

When, O Father! thou didst shut thyself in a sepulchre, with joy, for the love of Christ, thou didst most bravely endure the attacks of the demons, putting to flight, by prayer and charity, their smoke-like temptations; and the choirs of Angels applauding, cried out: Glory, O Antony! be to Him that strengthens thee.

Rejoice, most richly gilded Star of the East, the lamp-bearer and shepherd of Monks! Rejoice, illustrious Saint, child of the desert, unshaken pillar of the Church! Rejoice, most glorious Chieftain! Rejoice, O thou our glory, and brightest ornament of the whole earth!

 

Prayer (Collect).

May the intercession, O Lord, of blessed Anthony, the Abbot recommend us to thee; that what we cannot hope for through any merits of our own, we may obtain by his prayers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Thou that didst, by the love of the Holy Spirit, break the arrows and darts of the demons, laying open their malice and their snares to all men; thou that didst shine with the divine teachings, thou wast made, O Antony! the brightest luminary of Monks, the grandest glory of the desert, the ablest physician of the sick, the Archetype of virtue.

 

The East and West unite, to-day, in honouring St. Antony, the Father of Cenobites. The Monastic Life existed before his time, as we know from indisputable testimony; but he was the first Abbot, because he was the first to bring Monks under the permanent government of one Superior or Father.

Antony began with seeking solely his own sanctification; he was known only as the wonderful Solitary, against whom the wicked spirits waged an almost continued battle: but, in course of time, men were attracted to him by his miracles and by the desire of their own perfection; this gave him Disciples; he permitted them to cluster round his cell; and Monasteries thus began to be built in the desert. The age of the Martyrs was near its close; the persecution under Dioclesian, which was to be the last, was over as Antony entered on the second half of his course: and God chose this time for organising a new force in the Church. The Monastic Life was brought to bear upon the Christian world; the Ascetics, as they were called, not even such of them as were consecrated—were not a sufficient element of power. Monasteries were built in every direction, in solitudes and in the very cities; and the Faithful had but to look at these communities living in the fervent and literal fulfilment of the Counsels of Christ, and they felt themselves encouraged to obey the Precepts. The apostolic traditions of continual prayer and penance were perpetuated by the Monastic system; it secured the study of the Sacred Scriptures and Theology; and the Church herself would soon receive from these arsenals of intellect and piety her bravest defenders, her holiest Prelates, and her most zealous Apostles. Yes, the Monastic Life was to be and give all this to the Christian world, for the example of St. Antony had given her a bias to usefulness. If there ever were a Monk to whom the charms of solitude and the sweetness of contemplation were dear, it was our Saint; and yet, they could not keep him in his desert, when he could save souls by a few days spent in a noisy city. Thus, we find him in the streets of Alexandria, when the pagan persecution was at its height; he came to encourage the Christians in their martyrdom. Later on, when that still fiercer foe of Arianism was seducing the Faith of the people, we again meet the great Abbot in the same capital, this time, preaching to its inhabitants, that the Word is consubstantial to the Father, proclaiming the Nicene faith, and keeping up the Catholics in orthodoxy and resolution. There is another incident in the life of St. Antony, which tells in the same direction, inasmuch as it shows how an intense interest in the Church must ever be where the Monastic Spirit is. We are alluding to our Saint's affection for the great St. Athanasius, who, on his part, reverenced the Patriarch of the Desert, visited him, promoted the Monastic Life to the utmost of his power, used to say that he considered the great hope of the Church to be in the good discipline of Monasticism, and wrote the Life of his dear St. Antony.

But, to whom is due the glory of the Monastic Institute, with which the destinies of the Church were, from that time forward, to be so closely connected, as that the period of her glory and power was to be when the monastic element flourished, and the days of her affliction were to be those of its decay? Who was it that put into the heart of Antony and his disciples the love of that poor and unknown, yet ever productive, life? It is Jesus, the humble Babe of Bethlehem. To him, then, wrapt in his swaddling clothes, and yet the omnipotent God, be all the glory!

 

It is time to hear the account of some of the virtues and actions of the great St. Antony, given by the Church in her Office of his Feast.

Antony was born in Egypt, of noble and Christian parents, who left him an orphan at an early age. Having, one day, entered a Church, he heard these words of the Gospel being read: If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast, and give to the poor. He took them as addressed to himself, and thought it his duty to obey these words of Christ his Lord. Selling therefore his possessions, he distributed all the money among the poor. Being freed from these obstacles, he resolved on leading on earth a heavenly life. But at his entrance on the perils of such a combat, he felt, that besides the shield of faith, wherewith he was armed, he must needs fortify himself with the other virtues; and so ardent was his desire to possess them, that whomsoever he saw excelling in any virtue, him did he study to imitate.

Nothing, therefore, could exceed his continency and vigilance. He surpassed all in patience, meekness, mercy, humility, manual labour, and the study of the Sacred Scriptures. So great was his aversion for the company of, or conversation with, heretics, especially the Arians, that he used to say, that we ought not even to go near them. He lay on the ground, when necessity obliged him to sleep. As to fasting, he practised it with so much fervour, that his only nourishment was bread seasoned with salt, and he quenched his thirst with water; neither did he take this his food and drink until sun-set, and frequently abstained from it altogether, for two successive days. He very frequently spent the whole night in prayer. Antony became so valiant a soldier of God, that the enemy of mankind, ill-brooking such extraordinary virtue, attacked him with manifold temptations; but the Saint overcame them all by fasting and prayer. Neither did his victories over Satan make him heedless, for he knew how innumerable are the devil's artifices for injuring souls.

Knowing this, he betook himself into one of the largest deserts of Egypt, where such was his progress in Christian perfection, that the wicked spirits, whose attacks grew more furious as Antony's resistance grew more resolute, became the object of his contempt, so much so, indeed, that he would sometimes taunt them for their weakness. When encouraging his disciples to fight against the devil, and teaching them the arms wherewith they would vanquish him, he used often to say to them: “Believe me, Brethren, Satan dreads the watchings of holy men, and their prayers, and fasts, and voluntary poverty, and works of mercy, and humility, and, above all, their ardent love for Christ our Lord, at the mere sign of whose most holy Cross, he is disabled and put to flight.” So formidable was he to the devils, that many persons, in Egypt, who were possessed by them, were delivered by invoking Antony's name. So great, too, was his reputation for sanctity, that Constantine the Great and his Sons wrote to him, commending themselves to his prayers. At length, having reached the hundred and fifth year of his age, and having received a countless number into his institute, he called his Monks together; and having instructed them how to regulate their lives according to Christian perfection, he, venerated both for the miracles he had wrought, and for the holiness of his life, departed from this world to heaven, on the sixteenth of the Calends of February (January 17).

 

Leaving the distractions of this life, and carrying thy cross on thy shoulders, thou didst commit thy whole self to the Lord; and estranging thyself, O Father! from the flesh and the world, thou wast admitted into intimate communication with the Holy Spirit; and therefore didst thou rouse up the people to fervour, emptying the cities of their inhabitants, and changing the desert into a City. O Antony, that bearest God within thee! beseech Christ our God, that he give remission of sin to all us who lovingly celebrate thy holy commemoration.

 

Another account of St. Anthony, the Great.

A.D. 356

St. Antony was born at Coma, a village near Heraclea, or Great Heracleopolis, in Upper Egypt, on the borders of Arcadia, or Middle Egypt, in 251. His parents, who were Christians, and rich, to prevent his being tainted by bad example and vicious conversation, kept him always at home; so that he grew up unacquainted with any branch of human literature, and could read no language but his own. He was remarkable from his childhood for his temperance, a close attendance on church duties, and a punctual obedience to his parents. By their death he found himself possessed of a very considerable estate, and charged with the care of a younger sister, before he was twenty years of age. Near six months after, he heard read in the church those words of Christ to the rich young man: Go sell what thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven (St. Matth, xix. 21). He considered these words as addressed to himself; going home, he made over to his neighbors three hundred aruras, that is, above one hundred and twenty acres of good land, that he and his sister might be free forever from all public taxes and burdens. The rest of his estate he sold, and gave the price to the poor, except what he thought necessary for himself and his sister. Soon after, hearing in the church those other words of Christ; Be not solicitous for to-morrow; (St. Matth, vi. 34) he also distributed in alms the moveables which he had reserved; and placed his sister in a house of virgins, which most moderns take to be the first instance mentioned in history of a nunnery. She was afterwards intrusted with the care and direction of others in that holy way of life. Antony himself retired into a solitude, near his village, in imitation of a certain old man, who led the life of a hermit in the neighborhood of Coma. Manual labor, prayer, and pious reading, were his whole occupation: and such was his fervor, that if he heard of any virtuous recluse, he sought him out, and endeavored to make the best advantage of his example and instructions. He saw nothing practised by any other in the service of God, which he did not imitate; thus he soon became a perfect model of humility, Christian condescension, charity, prayer, and all virtues.

The devil assailed him by various temptations; first, he represented to him divers good works he might have been able to do with his estate in the world, and the difficulties of his present condition: a common artifice of the enemy, whereby he strives to make a soul slothful or dissatisfied in her vocation, in which God expects to be glorified by her. Being discovered and repulsed by the young novice, he varied his method of attack, and annoyed him night and day with filthy thoughts and obscene imaginations. Antony opposed to his assaults the strictest watchfulness over his senses, austere fasts, humility, and prayer, till Satan, appearing in a visible form, first of a woman coming to seduce him, then of a black boy to terrify him, at length confessed himself vanquished. The saint's food was only bread, with a little salt, and he drank nothing but water; he never ate before sunset, and sometimes only once in two, or four days: he lay on a rush mat, or on the bare floor. In quest of a more remote solitude he withdrew further from Coma, and hid himself in an old sepulchre; whither a friend brought him from time to time a little bread. Satan was here again permitted to assault him in a visible manner, to terrify him with dismal noises; and once he so grievously beat him, that he lay almost dead, covered with bruises and wounds; and in this condition he was one day found by his friend, who visited him from time to time to supply him with bread, during all the time he lived in the ruinous sepulchre. When he began to come to himself, though not yet able to stand, he cried out to the devils, while he yet lay on the floor, “Behold! here I am; do all you are able against me: nothing shall ever separate me from Christ my Lord.” Hereupon the fiends appearing again, renewed the attack, and alarmed him with terrible clamors, and a variety of spectres, in hideous shapes of the most frightful wild beasts, which they assumed to dismay and terrify him; till a ray of heavenly light breaking in upon him, chased them away, and caused him to cry out: “Where wast thou, my Lord and my Master - Why wast thou not here, from the beginning of my conflict, to assuage my pains!” A voice answered: “Antony, I was here the whole time; I stood by thee, and beheld thy combat: and because thou hast manfully withstood thine enemies, I will always protect thee, and will render thy name famous throughout the earth.” At these words the saint arose, much cheered, and strengthened, to pray and return thanks to his deliverer. Hitherto the saint, ever since his retreat, in 272, had lived in solitary places not very far from his village; and St. Athanasius observes, that before him many fervent persons led retired lives in penance and contemplation, near the towns; others remaining in the towns imitated the same manner of life. Both were called ascetics, from their being entirely devoted to the most perfect exercises of mortification and prayer, according to the import of the Greek word. Before St. Athanasius, we find frequent mention made of such ascetics: and Origen, about the year 249, says they always abstained from flesh, no less than the disciples of Pythagoras. Eusebius tells us that St. Peter of Alexandria practised austerities equal to those of the ascetics; he says the same of Pamphilus; and St. Jerom uses the same expression of Pierius. St. Antony had led this manner of life near Coma, till resolving to withdraw into the deserts about the year 285, the thirty-fifth of his age, he crossed the eastern branch of the Nile, and took up his abode in the ruins of an old castle on the top of the mountains; in which close solitude he lived almost twenty years, very rarely seeing any man, except one who brought him bread every six months.

To satisfy the importunities of others, about the year 305, the fifty-fifth of his age, he came down from his mountain, and founded his first monastery at Phaium. The dissipation occasioned by this undertaking led him into a temptation of despair, which he overcame by prayer and hard manual labor. In this new manner of life his daily refection was six ounces of bread soaked in water, with a little salt; to which he sometimes added a few dates. He took it generally after sunset, but on some days at three o'clock; and in his old age he added a little oil. Sometimes he ate only once in three or four days, yet appeared vigorous, and always cheerful: strangers knew him from among his disciples by the joy which was always painted on his countenance, resulting from the inward peace and composure of his soul. Retirement in his cell was his delight, and divine contemplation and prayer his perpetual occupation. Coming to take his refection, he often burst into tears, and was obliged to leave his brethren and the table without touching any nourishment, reflecting on the employment of the blessed spirits in heaven, who praise God without ceasing. He exhorted his brethren to allot the least time they possibly could to the care of the body. Notwithstanding which, he was very careful never to place perfection in mortification, as Cassian observes, but in charity, in which it was his whole study continually to improve his soul. His under garment was sackcloth, over which he wore a white coat of sheepskin, with a girdle. He instructed his monks to have eternity always present to their minds, and to reflect every morning that perhaps they might-not live till night, and every evening that perhaps they might never see the morning; and to perform every action, as if it were the last of their lives, with all the fervor of their souls to please God. He often exhorted them to watch against temptations, and to resist the devil with vigor: and spoke admirably of his weakness, saying: “He dreads fasting, prayer, humility, and good works: he is not able even to stop my mouth who speak against him. The illusions of the devil soon vanish, especially if a man arms himself with the sign of the cross.” The devils tremble at the sign of the cross of our Lord, by which he triumphed over and disarmed them.” He told them in what manner the fiend in his rage had assaulted him by visible phantoms, but that these disappeared while he persevered in prayer. He told them, that once when the devil appeared to him in glory, and said, “Ask what you please; I am the power of God:” he invoked, the holy name of Jesus, and he vanished. Maximinus renewed the persecution in 311; St. Antony, hoping to receive the crown of martyrdom, went to Alexandria, served and encouraged the martyrs in the mines and dungeons, before the tribunals, and at the places of execution. He publicly wore his white monastic habit, and appeared in the sight of the governor; yet took care never presumptuously to provoke the judges, or impeach himself, as some rashly did. In 312 the persecution being abated, he returned to his monastery, and immured himself in his cell. Some time after he built another monastery, called Pispir, near the Nile; but he chose, for the most part, to shut himself up in a remote cell upon a mountain of difficult access, with Macarius, a disciple, who entertained strangers. If he found them to be Hierosolymites, or spiritual men, St. Antony himself sat with them in discourse; if Egyptians, (by which name they meant worldly persons,) then Macarius entertained them, and St. Antony only appeared to give them a short exhortation. Once the saint saw in a vision the whole earth covered so thick with snares, that it seemed scarce possible to set down a foot without falling into them. At this sight he cried out, trembling: “Who, O Lord, can escape them all?” A voice answered him: “Humility, O Antony” St. Antony always looked upon himself as the least and the very outcast of mankind; he listened to the advice of every one, and professed that he received benefit from that of the meanest person. He cultivated and pruned a little garden on his desert mountain, that he might have herbs always at hand to present a refreshment to those who, on coming to see him, were always weary by travelling over a vast wilderness and inhospitable mountain, as St. Athanasius mentions. This tillage was not the only manual labor in which St. Antony employed himself. The same venerable author speaks of his making mats as an ordinary occupation. We are told that he once fell into dejection, finding uninterrupted contemplation above his strength; but was taught to apply himself at intervals to manual labor, by a vision of an angel who appeared platting mats of palm-tree leaves, then rising to pray, and after some time sitting down again to work; and who at length said to him, “Do thus, and thou shalt be saved.” But St. Athanasius informs us, that our saint continued in some degree to pray while he was at work. He watched great part of the nights in heavenly contemplation; and sometimes, when the rising sun called him to his daily tasks, he complained that its visible light robbed him of the greater interior light which he enjoyed, and interrupted his close application and solitude. He always rose after a short sleep at midnight, and continued in prayer on his knees with his hands lifted up to heaven till sunrise, and sometimes till three in the afternoon, as Palladius relates in his Lausiac history.

St. Antony, in the year 339, saw in a vision, under the figure of mules kicking down the altar, the havoc which the Arian persecution made two years after in Alexandria, and clearly foretold it, as St. Athanasius, St. Jerom, and St. Chrysostom assure us. He would not speak to a heretic, unless to exhort him to the true faith; and he drove all such from his mountain, calling them venomous serpents. At the request of the bishops, about the year 355, he took a journey to Alexandria, to confound the Arians, preaching aloud in that city, that God the Son is not a creature, but of the same substance with the Father; and that the impious Arians, who called him a creature, did not differ from the heathens themselves, who worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator. All the people ran to see him, and rejoiced to hear him; even the pagans, struck with the dignity of his character, flocked to him; saying, “We desire to see the man of God.” He converted many, and wrought several miracles: St. Athanasius conducted him back as far as the gates of the city, where he cured a girl possessed by the devil. Being desired by the duke or general of Egypt, to make a longer stay in the city than he had proposed, he answered: “As fish die if they leave the water, so does a monk if he forsakes his solitude.”

St. Jerom and Rufin relate, that at Alexandria he met with the famous Didymus, and told him that he ought not to regret much the loss of eyes, which were common to ants and flies, but to rejoice in the treasure of that interior light which the apostles enjoyed, and by which we see God, and kindle the fire of his love in our souls. Heathen philosophers, and others, often went to dispute with him, and always returned much astonished at his humility, meekness, sanctity, and extraordinary wisdom. He admirably proved to them the truth and security of the Christian religion, and confirmed it by miracles. “We,” said he, “only by naming Jesus Christ crucified, put to flight those devils which you adore as gods; and where the sign of the cross is formed, magic and charms lose their power.” At the end of this discourse he invoked Christ, and signed with the cross twice or thrice several persons possessed with devils; in the same moment they stood up sound, and in their senses, giving thanks to God for his mercy in their regard. When certain philosophers asked him how he could spend his time in solitude, without the pleasure of reading books, he replied, that nature was his great book, and amply supplied the want of others. When others, despising him as an illiterate man, came with the design to ridicule his ignorance, he asked them with great simplicity, which was first, reason or learning, and which had produced the other? The philosophers answered, “Reason, or good sense.” “This, then,” said Antony, “suffices.” The philosophers went away astonished at the wisdom and dignity with which he prevented their objections. Some others demanding a reason of his faith in Christ, on purpose to insult it, he put them to silence by showing that they degraded the notion of the divinity, by ascribing to it infamous human passions, but that the humiliation of the cross is the greatest demonstration of infinite goodness, and its ignominy appears the highest glory, by the triumphant resurrection, the miraculous raising of the dead, and curing of the blind and the sick. He then admirably proved, that faith in God and his works is more clear and satisfactory than the sophistry of the Greeks. St. Athanasius mentions that he disputed with these Greeks by an interpreter. Our holy author assures us, that no one visited St. Antony under any affliction and sadness, who did not return home full of comfort and joy; and he relates many miraculous cures wrought by him, also several heavenly visions and revelations with which he was favored. Belacius, the duke or general of Egypt, persecuting the Catholics with extreme fury, St. Antony, by a letter, exhorted him to leave the servants of Christ in peace. Belacius tore the letter, then spit and trampled upon it, and threatened to make the abbot the next victim of his fury; but five days after, as he was riding with Nestorius, governor of Egypt, their horses began to play and prance, and the governor's horse, though otherwise remarkably tame, by justling, threw Belacius from his horse, and by biting his thigh, tore it in such a manner that the general died miserably on the third day. About the year 337, Constantine the Great, and his two sons, Constantius and Constans, wrote a joint letter to the saint; recommending themselves to his prayers, and desiring an answer. St. Antony seeing his monks surprised, said, without being moved: “Do not wonder that the emperor writes to us, one man to another; rather admire that God should have wrote to us, and that he has spoken to us by his Son.” He said he knew not how to answer it: at last, through the importunity of his disciples, he penned a letter to the emperor and his sons, which St. Athanasius has preserved; and in which he exhorts them to the contempt of the world, and the constant remembrance of the judgment to come. St. Jerom mentions seven other letters of St. Antony, to divers monasteries, written in the style of the apostles, and filled with their maxims: several monasteries of Egypt possess them in the original Egyptian language. We have them in an obscure, imperfect, Latin translation from the Greek. He inculcates perpetual watchfulness against temptations, prayer, mortification, and humility. He observes, that as the devil fell by pride, so he assaults virtue in us principally by that temptation. A maxim which he frequently repeats is, that the knowledge of ourselves is the necessary and only step by which we can ascend to the knowledge and love of God. The Bollandists give us a short letter of St. Antony to St. Theodorus, abbot of Tabenna, in which he says that God had assured him in a revelation, that he showed mercy to all true adorers of Jesus Christ, though they should have fallen, if they sincerely repented of their sin. No ancients mention any monastic rule written by St. Antony. His example and instructions have been the most perfect rule for the monastic life to all succeeding ages. It is related that St. Antony, hearing his disciples express their surprise at the great multitudes who embraced a monastic life, and applied themselves with incredible ardor to the most austere practices of virtue, told them with tears, that the time would come when monks would be fond of living in cities and stately buildings, and of eating at dainty tables, and be only distinguished from persons of the world by their habit; but that still, some among them would arise to the spirit of true perfection, whose crown would be so much the greater, as their virtue would be more difficult, amid the contagion of bad example. In the discourses which this saint made to his monks, a rigorous self-examination upon all their actions, every evening, was a practice which he strongly inculcated. In an excellent sermon which he made to his disciples, recorded by St. Athanasius, he pathetically exhorts them to contemn the whole world for heaven, to spend every day as if they knew it to be the last of their lives, having death always before their eyes, continually to advance in fervor, and to be always armed against the assaults of Satan, whose weakness he shows at length. He extols the efficacy of the sign of the cross in chasing him, and dissipating his illusions, and lays down rules for the discernment of spirits, the first of which is, that the devil leaves in the soul impressions of fear, sadness, confusion, and disturbance.

St. Antony performed the visitation of his monks a little before his death, which he foretold them with his last instructions; but no tears could move him to die among them. It appears from St. Athanasius, that the Christians had learned from the pagans their custom of embalming the bodies of the dead, which abuse, as proceeding from vanity and sometimes superstition, St. Antony had often condemned: this he would prevent, and ordered that his body should be buried in the earth, as the patriarchs were, and privately, on his mountain, by his two disciples Macarius and Amathas, who had remained with him the last fifteen years, to serve him in his remote cell in his old age. He hastened back to that solitude, and some time after fell sick: he repeated to these two disciples his orders for their burying his body secretly in that place, adding; “In the day of the resurrection, I shall receive it incorruptible from the hand of Christ.” He ordered them to give one of his sheep-skins, with a cloak in which he lay, to the bishop Athanasius, as a public testimony of his being united in faith and communion with that holy prelate; to give his other sheep-skin to the bishop Serapion; and to keep for themselves his sackcloth. He added; “Farewell, my children, Antony is departing, and will be no longer with you.” At these words they embraced him, and he, stretching out his feet, without any other sign calmly ceased to breathe. His death happened in the year 356, probably on the 17th of January, on which the most ancient Martyrologies name him, and which the Greek empire kept as a holyday soon after his death. He was one hundred and five years old. From his youth to that extreme old age, he always maintained the same fervor in his holy exercises: age to the last never made him change his diet (except in the use of a little oil) nor his manner of clothing; yet he lived without sickness, his sight was not impaired, his teeth were only worn, and not one was lost or loosened. The two disciples interred him according to his directions. About the year 561, his body was discovered, in the reign of Justinian, and with great solemnity translated to Alexandria, thence it was removed to Constantinople, and is now at Vienne in France. Bollandus gives us an account of many miracles wrought by his intercession; particularly in what manner the distemper called the Sacred Fire, since that time St. Antony's Fire, miraculously ceased through his patronage, when it raged violently in many parts of Europe, in the eleventh century.

A most sublime gift of heavenly contemplation and prayer was the fruit of this great saint's holy retirement. Whole nights seemed to him short in those exercises, and when the rising sun in the morning seemed to him too soon to call him from his knees to his manual labor, or other employments, he would lament that the incomparable sweetness which he enjoyed, in the more perfect freedom with which his heart was taken up in heavenly contemplation in the silent watching of the night, should be interrupted or abated. But the foundation of his most ardent charity, and that sublime contemplation by which his soul soared in noble and lofty flights above all earthly things, was laid in the purity and disengagement of his affections, the contempt of the world, a most profound humility, and the universal mortification of his senses and of the powers of his soul. Hence flowed that constant tranquillity and serenity of his mind, which was the best proof of a perfect mastery of his passions. St. Athanasius observes of him, that after thirty years spent in the closest solitude, “he appeared not to others with a sullen or savage, but with a most obliging sociable air.” A heart that is filled with inward peace, simplicity, goodness, and charity, is a stranger to a lowering or contracted look. The main point in Christian mortification is the humiliation of the heart, one of its principal ends being the subduing of the passions. Hence, true virtue always increases the sweetness and gentleness of the mind, though this is attended with an invincible constancy, and an inflexible firmness in every point of duty. That devotion or self-denial is false or defective which betrays us into pride or uncharitableness; and whatever makes us sour, morose, or peevish, makes us certainly worse, and instead of begetting in us a nearer resemblance of the divine nature, gives us a strong tincture of the temper of devils.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

God made thee a bright pillar solid in virtue, and a shade-giving cloud, to lead the way to such as, in the journey from earth to heaven, contemplate God. By the rod of the Cross, thou didst break up the sea of the passions; and changing the spiritual and difficult way to heaven into one that is easy, thou didst obtain, O most blessed Antony! the incorruptible inheritance. Pray to that Christ, at whose throne thou assistest with the Angelic spirits, that he bestow his great mercy on our souls.

 

Jan. 16, 2019

January 16, 2019: ST. MARCELLUS I, POPE AND MARTYR

Rank: Simple

 

Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, O Lord. And hast placed him over the works of thy hands.

 

Prayer (Collect).

Mercifully hear, O Lord, we beseech thee, the prayers of thy people that we may be assisted by the merits of blessed Marcellus, thy Martyr and Bishop, the feast of whose sufferings we celebrate with joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

The name of Marcellus is brought before us by the Calendar to-day—he was a successor of the glorious Hyginus in the papacy, and in martyrdom, and their Feasts fall in the same season of the year. Each Christmastide shows us these two Pontiffs offering their Keys in homage to our Jesus, the invisible Head of the Church they governed. In a few days hence, we shall find our Christmas list of Saints giving us the name of a third Pope and Martyr—Fabian. These three valiant Vicars of Christ are like the three generous Magi—they offered their richest presents to the Emmanuel, their blood and their lives.

Marcellus governed the Church at the close of the last general Persecution. A few months after his death, the tyrant Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, and the Cross of Christ glittered in triumph on the Labarum of the Roman Legions. The time for Martyrdom was, therefore, very short; but Marcellus was in time; he shed his blood for Christ, and won the honour of standing in Stephen's company over the Crib of the Divine Infant, waving his palm-branch in his venerable hand. He withstood the tyrant Emperor, who bade him abdicate the majesty of the supreme Pontificate, and this in the very City of Rome; for Rome was to be the capital of another King—of Christ—who, in the person of his Vicar, would take possession of it, and her old Masters, the Cӕsars, were to make Byzantium their Rome. It is three hundred years since the decree of Cӕsar-Augustus ordered the census of the world to be taken, which brought Mary to Bethlehem, and where she gave birth to an humble Babe; and now, the Empire of that Babe has out-grown the Empire of the Cӕsars, and its victory is upon the point of being proclaimed. After Marcellus, we shall have Eusebius; after Eusebius, Melchiades; and Melchiades will see the triumph of the Church.

 

The Acts of Marcellus are thus given in the Lessons of his Feast.

Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City, five and twenty Titles, as so many districts, for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for the providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment, unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.

Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was, therefore, sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts, which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St. Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.

Maxentius, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16). He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called “the Head of the Churches.” In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council maybe rightly celebrated, without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

Pope St. Marcellus I, pray for us.

 

Jan. 15, 2019

January 15, 2019: ST. PAUL, FIRST HERMIT, CONFESSOR

Rank: Double

 

 

Father! thou didst, from thy early youth, separate thyself from all human society, and wast the first to live in the desert, surpassing all other Anchorets. Thou, Paul, didst pass thy whole life unknown to men; therefore was Anthony divinely inspired to go in search, of thee, as the hidden Saint; he found thee and revealed thee to the whole earth.

 

 

Prayer (Collect).

O God, who comfortest us by the yearly solemnity of blessed Paul, thy Confessor; mercifully grant that while we celebrate his feast, we may imitate his actions. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Inflamed with the heat of divine love, thou didst abandon human affections, and, Angel-like, didst spend thy life in the persevering search after more perfect things.

 

To-day, the Church honours the memory of one of those men, who were expressly chosen by God to represent the sublime detachment from all things, which was taught to the world by the example of the Son of God, born in a Cave, at Bethlehem. Paul the Hermit so prized the poverty of his Divine Master, that he fled to the desert, where he could find nothing to possess and nothing to covet. He had a mere cavern for his dwelling; a palm-tree provided him with food and clothing; a fountain gave him wherewith to quench his thirst; and heaven sent him his only luxury, a loaf of bread brought to him daily by a crow. For sixty years did Paul thus serve, in poverty, and in solitude, that God, who was denied a dwelling on the earth he came to redeem, and could have but a poor Stable wherein to be born.

But God dwelt with Paul in his cavern; and in him began the Anchorites, that sublime race of men, who, the better to enjoy the company of their God, denied themselves, not only the society, but the very sight, of men. They were the Angels of earth, in whom God showed forth, for the instruction of the rest of men, that he is powerful enough, and rich enough, to supply the wants of his creatures, who, indeed, have nothing but what they have from Him. The Hermit, or Anchoret, is a prodigy in the Church, and it behoves us to glorify the God who has produced it. We ought to be filled with astonishment and gratitude, at seeing how the Mystery of a God made Flesh, has so elevated our human nature, as to inspire a contempt and abandonment of those earthly goods, which heretofore had been so eagerly sought after.

The two names, Paul and Anthony [of Egypt; Jan 17th], are not to be separated; they are the two Apostles of the Desert; both are Fathers—Paul of Anchorites, and Anthony [of Egypt] of Cenobites; the two families are sisters, and both have the same source, the Mystery of Bethlehem. The sacred Cycle of the Church's year unites, with only a day between their two Feasts, these two faithful disciples of Jesus in his Crib.

 

The Church reads in her Office, the following abridgment of St. Paul's wonderful Life.

Paul, the institutor and master of Hermits, was born in Lower Thebais. He lost his parents when he was fifteen years of age. Not long after that, in order to escape the persecution of Decius and Valerian, and to serve God the more freely, he withdrew into the desert, where he made a cave his dwelling. A palm-tree afforded him food and raiment, and there he lived to the age of a hundred and thirteen. About that time, he received a visit from Anthony [of Egypt], who was ninety-years old. God bade him visit Paul. The two Saints, though they had not previously known each other, saluted each other by their names. Whilst holding a long conversation on the kingdom of God, a crow, which every day brought half a loaf of bread, carried them a whole one.

When the crow had left them, Paul said: “See! our truly good and truly merciful Lord has sent us our repast. For sixty years, I have daily received a half loaf; now, because thou art come to see me, Christ has doubled the portion for his soldiers.” Wherefore, they sat near the fountain, and, giving thanks, they eat the bread; and when they were refreshed, they again returned the accustomed thanks to God, and spent the night in the divine praises. At daybreak, Paul tells Anthony of his approaching death, and begs him go and bring the cloak, which Athanasius had given him, and wrap his corpse in it. As Anthony was returning from his cell, he saw Paul's soul going up into heaven, amidst choirs of Angels, and a throng of Prophets and Apostles.

When he had reached the hermit's cell, he found the lifeless body: the knees were bent, the head erect, and the hands stretched out and raised towards heaven. He wrapped it in the cloak, and sang hymns and psalms over it, according to the custom prescribed by Christian tradition. Not having a hoe wherewith to make a grave, two lions came at a rapid pace from the interior of the desert, and stood over the body of the venerable Saint, showing how, in their own way, they lamented his death. They began to tear up the earth with their feet, and seemed to strive to outdo each other in the work, until they had made a hole large enough to receive the body of a man. When they had gone, Anthony carried the holy corpse to the place, and covering it with the soil, he arranged the grave after the manner of the Christians. As to the tunic, which Paul had woven for himself out of palm-leaves, as baskets are usually made, Anthony took it away with him, and, as long as he lived, wore it on the great days of Easter and Pentecost.

 

Another account of St. Paul, the First Hermit.

A.D. 342

Elias and St. John the Baptist sanctified the deserts, and Jesus Christ himself was a model of the eremitical state during his forty days' fast in the wilderness; neither is it to be questioned hut the Holy Ghost conducted the saint of this day, though young, into the desert, and was to him an instructor there; but it is no less certain, that an entire solitude and total sequestration of one’s self from human society, is one of those extraordinary ways by which God leads souls to himself, and is more worthy of our admiration, than calculated for imitation and practice: it is a state which ought only to be embraced by such as are already well experienced in the practices of virtue and contemplation, and who can resist sloth and other temptations, lest, instead of being a help, it prove a snare and stumbling-block in their way to heaven.

This saint was a native of the Lower Thebais, in Egypt, and had lost both his parents when he was but fifteen years of age: nevertheless, he was a great proficient in the Greek and Egyptian learning, was mild and modest, and feared God from his earliest youth. The bloody persecution of Decius disturbed the peace of the church in 250; and what was most dreadful, Satan, by his ministers, sought not so much to kill the bodies, as by subtle artifices and tedious tortures to destroy the souls of men. Two instances are sufficient to show his malice in this respect: A soldier of Christ, who had already triumphed over the racks and tortures, had his whole body rubbed over with honey, and was then laid on his back in the sun, with his hands tied behind him, that the flies and wasps, which are quite intolerable in hot countries, might torment and gall him with their stints. Another was bound with silk cords on a bed of down, in a delightful garden, where a lascivious woman was employed to entice him to sin; the martyr, sensible of his danger, bit of part of his tongue and spit it in her face, that the horror of such an action might put her to flight, and the smart occasioned by it be a means to prevent, in his own heart, any manner of consent to carnal pleasure. During these times of danger, Paul kept himself concealed in the house of another; but finding that a brother-in-law was inclined to betray him, that he might enjoy his estate, he fled into the deserts. There he found many spacious caverns in a rock, which were said to have been the retreat of money-coiners in the days of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. He chose for his dwelling a cave in this place, near which were a palm-tree and a clear spring, the former by its leaves furnished him with raiment and by its fruit with food; and the latter supplied him with water for his drink.

Paul was twenty-two years old when he entered the desert. His first intention was to enjoy the liberty of serving God till the persecution should cease; but relishing the sweets of heavenly contemplation and penance, and learning the spiritual advantages of holy solitude, he resolved to return no more among men, or concern himself in the least with human affairs, and what passed in the world: it was enough for him to know that there was a world, and to pray that it might be improved in goodness. The saint lived on the fruit of his tree till he was forty-three years of age, and from that time till his death, like Elias, he was miraculously fed with bread brought him every day by a raven. His method of life, and what he did in this place during ninety years, is unknown to us: but God was pleased to make his servant known a little before his death.

The great St. Antony [of Egypt], who was then ninety years of age, was tempted to vanity, as if no one had served God so long in the wilderness as he had done, imagining himself also to be the first example of a life so recluse from human conversation: but the contrary was discovered to him in a dream the night following, and the saint was at the same time commanded by Almighty God, to set out forthwith in quest of a perfect servant of his, concealed in the more remote parts of those deserts. The holy old man set out the next morning in search of the unknown hermit. St. Jerom relates from his authors, that he met a centaur, or creature not with the nature and properties, but with something of the mixed shape of man and horse, and that this monster, or phantom of the devil, (St. Jerom pretends not to determine which it was,) upon his making the sign of the cross, fled away, after having pointed out the way to the saint. Our author adds, that St. Antony soon after met a satyr, who gave him to understand that he was an inhabitant of those deserts, and one of that sort whom the deluded Gentiles adored for gods. St. Antony, after two days and a night spent in the search, discovered the saint's abode by a light that was in it, which he made up to. Having long begged admittance at the door of his cell, St. Paul at last opened it with a smile: they embraced, called each other by their names, which they knew by divine revelation. St. Paul then inquired whether idolatry still reigned in the world. While they were discoursing together, a raven flew towards them, and dropped a loaf of bread before them. Upon which St. Paul said, “Our good God has sent us a dinner. In this manner have I received half a loaf every day these sixty years past; now you are come to see me, Christ has doubled his provision for his servants.” Having given thanks to God they both sat down by the fountain; but a little contest arose between them who should break the bread; St. Antony alleged St. Paul's greater age, and St. Paul pleaded that Antony was the stranger: both agreed at last to take up their parts together. Having refreshed themselves at the spring, they spent the night in prayer. The next morning St. Paul told his guest that the time of his death approached, and that he was sent to bury him, adding “Go and fetch the cloak given you by St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in which I desire you to wrap my body.” This he might say with the intent of being left alone in prayer, while he expected to be called out of this world; as also that he might testify his veneration for St. Athanasius, and his high regard for the faith and communion of the Catholic church, on account of which that holy bishop was then a great sufferer. St. Antony was surprised to hear him mention the cloak, which he could not have known but by divine revelation. Whatever was his motive for desiring to be buried in it, St. Antony acquiesced to what was asked of him: so, after mutual embraces, he hastened to his monastery to comply with St. Paul's request. He told his monks that he, a sinner, falsely bore the name of a servant of God, but that he had seen Elias and John the Baptist in the wilderness, even Paul in Paradise. Having taken the cloak, he returned with it in all haste, fearing lest the holy hermit might be dead, as it happened. While on his road, he saw his happy soul carried up to heaven, attended by choirs of angels, prophets, and apostles. St. Antony, though he rejoiced on St. Paul's account, could not help lamenting on his own, for having lost a treasure so lately discovered. As soon as his sorrow would permit, he arose, pursued his journey, and came to the cave. Going in, he found the body kneeling, and the hands stretched out. Full of joy, and supposing him yet alive, he knelt down to pray with him, but by his silence soon perceived he was dead. Having paid his last respects to the holy corpse, he carried it out of the cave. While he stood perplexed how to dig a grave, two lions came up quietly, and, as it were, mourning; and tearing up the ground, made a hole large enough for the reception of a human body. St. Antony then buried the corpse, singing hymns and psalms, according to what was usual and appointed by the church on that occasion. After this he returned home praising God, and related to his monks what he had seen and done. He always kept as a great treasure, and wore himself on great festivals, the garment of St. Paul, of palm-tree leaves patched together. St. Paul died in the year of our Lord 342, the hundred and thirteenth year of his age, and the ninetieth of his solitude, and is usually called the first hermit, to distinguish him from others of that name. The body of this saint is said to have been conveyed to Constantinople, by the emperor Michael Comnenus, in the twelfth century, and from thence to Venice in 1210. Lewis I, king of Hungary, procured it from that republic, and deposited it at Buda, where a congregation of hermits under his name,… in Hungary, Poland, and Austria, was instituted by blessed Eusebius of Strigonium, a nobleman, who, having distributed his whole estate among the poor, retired into the forests; and being followed by others, built the monastery of Pisilia, under the rule of the regular canons of St. Austin

St. Paul, the hermit, is commemorated in several ancient western Martyrologies on the 10th of January, but in the Roman on the 15th, on which he is honored in the anthologium of the Greeks.

An eminent contemplative draws the following portraiture of this great model of an eremitical life: St. Paul, the hermit, not being called by God to the external duties of an active life, remained alone, conversing only with God, in a vast wilderness, for the space of near a hundred years, ignorant of all that passed in the world, both the progress of sciences, the establishment of religion, and the revolutions of states and empires; indifferent even as to those things without which he could not live, as the air which he breathed, the water he drank, and the miraculous bread with which he supported life. What did he do? say the inhabitants of this busy world, who think they could not live without being in a perpetual hurry of restless projects; what was his employment all this while? Alas! ought we not rather to put this question to them; what are you doing while you are not taken up in doing the Will of God, which occupies the heavens and the earth in all their motions? Do you call that doing nothing which is the great end God proposed to himself in giving us a being, that is, to be employed in contemplating, adoring, and praising him? Is it to be idle and useless in the world to be entirely taken up in that which is the eternal occupation of God himself, and of the blessed inhabitants of heaven? What employment is better, more just, more sublime, or more advantageous than this, when done in suitable circumstances? To be employed in any thing else, how great or noble soever it may appear in the eyes of men, unless it be referred to God, and be the accomplishment of his holy will, who in all our actions demands our heart more than our hand, what is it, but to turn ourselves away from our end, to lose our time, and voluntarily to return again to that state of nothing out of which we were formed, or rather into a far worse state?

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

Also read – January 15, 2019: St. Maurus, Abbot.

 

St. Paul, the First Hermit, pray for us.

 

Jan. 15, 2019

January 15, 2019: COMMEMORATION OF ST. MAURUS, ABBOT

 

On this day, did Saint Mauras, laid before the Altar on his hair-shirt, happily breathe forth his soul. On this day, the eldest disciple of blessed Benedict, securely ascending by the path of the Holy Rule, and accompanied by choirs of Angels, was led to Christ. On this day, the obedient man, speaking victory, was rewarded by receiving the crown from his Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

Prayer (Collect).

May the intercession, O Lord, of blessed Maurus, the Abbot recommend us to thee; that what we cannot hope for through any merits of our own, we may obtain by his prayers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

 

O most worthy Disciple of his Father Benedict, who made him heir of his own spirit, that he might become the chief promulgator of the Holy Rule, and the wonderful propagator of the Monastic Order in France! Alleluia.

O blessed Mauras! who, from early childhood, despised the world, and lovingly bore the yoke of the Holy Rule, and, being obedient even unto death, denied himself, that he might cling unreservedly to Christ. Alleluia.

 

Saint Maurus—one of the greatest masters of the Cenobitical Life, and the most illustrious of the Disciples of St. Benedict, the Patriarch of the Monks of the West—shares with the First Hermit the honours of this fifteenth day of January. Faithful, like the holy Hermit, to the lessons taught at Bethlehem, Maurus has a claim to have his Feast kept during the forty days, which are sacred to the sweet Babe Jesus. He comes to us each January to bear witness to the power of that Babe's humility. Who, forsooth, will dare to doubt of the triumphant power of the Poverty, and the obedience shown in the Crib of our Emmanuel, when he is told of the grand things done by those virtues in the Cloisters of Fair France?

It was to Maurus that France was indebted for the introduction into her territory of that admirable Rule, which produced the great Saints, and the great Men, to whom she owes the best part of her glory… St. Maurus built his celebrated Monastery of Glanfeuil, and Glanfeuil may be considered as the mother-house of the principal Monasteries in France, Saint Germain and Saint Denis of Paris, Marmoutier, Saint Victor, Luxeuil, Jumièges, Fleury, Corbie, Saint Vannes, Moyen-Moutier, Saint Wandrille, Saint Waast, La Chaise-Dieu, Tiron, Chezal Benoît, Le Bec, and innumerable other Monasteries in France gloried in being daughters of Monte-Cassino by the favourite Disciple of St. Benedict. Cluny, which gave several Popes to the Church—and among them, St. Gregory the Seventh, and Urban the Second—was indebted to St. Maurus for that Rule, which gave her her glory and her power. We must count up the Apostles, Martyrs, Bishops, Doctors, Confessors, and Virgins, who were formed, for… years, in the Benedictine Cloisters of France; we must calculate the services, both temporal and spiritual, done to this great country by the Benedictine Monks, during all that period; and we shall have some idea of the results produced by the mission of St. Maurus—results, whose whole glory redounds to the Babe of Bethlehem, and to the mysteries of his humility, which are the source and model of the Monastic Life. When, therefore, we admire the greatness of the Saints, and recount their wonderful works, we are glorifying our Jesus, the King of all Saints.

 

The Monastic Breviary, in the Office of this Feast, gives us the following sketch of the Life of St. Maurus.

Maurus was by birth a Roman. His father, whose name was Eutychius, and a Senator by rank, had placed him, when a little boy, under the care of St. Benedict. Trained in the school of such and so great a Master of holiness, he attained to the highest degree of monastic perfection, even before he had ceased to be a child; so that Benedict himself was in admiration, and used to speak of his virtues to every one, holding him forth to the rest of the house as a model of religious discipline. He subdued his flesh by austerities, such as the wearing a hair-shirt, night watching, and frequent fasting; giving, meanwhile, to his spirit the solace of assiduous prayer, holy compunction, and reading the Sacred Scriptures. During Lent, he took food but twice in the week, and that so sparingly, as to seem rather to be tasting than taking it. He slept standing, or, when excessive fatigue obliged him to it, sitting, or, at times, lying down on a heap of lime and sand, over which he threw his hair-shirt. His sleep was exceedingly short, for he always recited very long prayers, and often the whole of the Psalms, before the midnight Office.

He gave a proof of his admirable spirit of obedience on the occasion of [Saint] Placid's having fallen into the lake, and being nearly drowned. Maurus, at the bidding of the Holy Father, ran to the lake, walked dry-shod upon the water, and, taking the child by the hair of his head, drew him safe to the bank; for Placid was to be slain by the sword as a martyr, and our Lord reserved him as a victim, which should be offered to him. On account of such signal virtues as these, the same Holy Father made Maurus share the cares of his duties; for, from his very entrance into the monastic life, he had had a part in his miracles. He had been raised to the holy order of Deaconship by St. Benedict's command; and by placing the stole he wore on a dumb and lame boy, he gave him the power both to speak and walk.

Maurus was sent by his Holy Father into France. Scarcely had he set his foot on that land, than he had a vision of the triumphant entrance of that great saint into heaven. He promulgated in that country the Rule which St. Benedict had written with his own hand, and had given to him on his leaving Italy; though the labour and anxiety he had to go through in the accomplishment of his mission, were exceedingly great. Having built the celebrated Monastery, which he governed for forty years, so great was the reputation of his virtues, that several of the noblest lords of King Theodobert's court put themselves under Maurus' direction, and enrolled in the holier and more meritorious warfare of the monastic life.

Two years before his death, he resigned the government of his Monastery, and retired into a cell near the Oratory of St. Martin. There he exercised himself in most rigorous penance, wherewith he fortified himself for the contest he had to sustain against the enemy of mankind, who threatened him with the death of his Monks. In this combat a holy Angel was his comforter, who, after revealing to him the snares of the wicked spirit, and the designs of God, bade him and his disciples win the crown prepared for them. Having, therefore, sent to heaven before him, as so many forerunners, a hundred and more of his brave soldiers, and knowing that he, their leader, was soon to follow them, he signified his wish to be carried to the Oratory, where, being strengthened by the Sacrament of Life, and lying on his hair-shirt, as a victim before the Altar, he died a saintly death. He was upwards of seventy years of age. It would be difficult to describe the success wherewith he propagated Monastic discipline in France, or to tell the miracles which, both before and after his death, rendered him glorious among men.

 

The Lord clothed him with the holy stole of Levites: wherewith he made the lame walk, and the dumb speak.

Being sent into France, he enlightened all men by the teaching of the Rule, as the day-dawn lights the world, and he made it known even to distant lands.

 

Another account of St. Maurus

A.D. 584

Among the several noblemen who placed their sons under the care of St. Benedict, to be brought up in piety and learning, Equitius, one of that rank, left with him his son Maurus, then but twelve years old, in 522. The youth surpassed all his fellow monks in the discharge of monastic duties, and when he was grown up, St. Benedict made him his coadjutor in the government of Sublaco. Maurus, by his singleness of heart and profound humility, was a model of perfection to all the brethren, and was favored by God with the gift of miracles. St. Placidus, a fellow monk, the son of the senator Tertullus, going one day to fetch water, fell into the lake, and was carried the distance of a bow-shot from the bank. St. Benedict saw this in spirit in his cell, and bid Maurus run and draw him out. Maurus obeyed, walked upon the waters without perceiving it, and dragged out Placidus by the hair, without sinking in the least himself. He attributed the miracle to the prayers of St. Benedict; but the holy abbot, to the obedience of the disciple. Soon after that holy patriarch had retired to Cassino, he called St. Maurus thither, in the year 528…

St. Maurus coming to France in 543, founded, by the liberality of king Theodebert, the great abbey of Glanfeuil, now called St. Maur-sur-Loire, which he governed several years. In 581 he resigned the abbacy to Bertulf, and passed the remainder of his life in close solitude, in the uninterrupted contemplation of heavenly things, in order to prepare himself for his passage to eternity. After two years thus employed, he fell sick of a fever, with a pain in his side: he received the sacraments of the church, lying on sackcloth before the altar of St. Martin, and in the same posture expired on the 15th of January, in the year 584.

 

RESPONSORIES

The Responsories of the Monastic Office of St. Maurus.

℟. Maurus, when quite a child, was taken to Subiaco, and consigned by his father Eutychius to the care of Saint Benedict; he imitated the virtues of his Master, and reflected them in his own conduct,
*And became like unto him.

℣. He looked and did according to the image that was shown him on the mount.
*And became like unto him.

℟. Placid having fallen into the lake, Maurus flies to his rescue, and was borne upon the waters by the Spirit of the Lord;
*whilst obeying his Father in the hearing of the ear.

℣. Many waters could not quench his charity, neither could floods drown it.
*whilst obeying his Father in the hearing of the ear.

℟. Saint Benedict sent into France his disciple Maurus, whom he loved above the rest:
*And suffers himself to be deprived of his great consolation, that he may provide for his neighbour's salvation.

℣. Charity is kind, neither seeketh she her own, but the things that are of Jesus Christ.
*And suffers himself to be deprived of his great consolation, that he may provide for his neighbour's salvation.

℟. Being rapt in God, he beheld the path glittering with countless lamps, whereby Benedict was mounting to glory,
*For an endless eternity.

℣. The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and increaseth even unto perfect day.
*For an endless eternity.

℟. The streams of wisdom drunk by Maurus in the bosom of the blessed Father Benedict, he poured forth in France;
*And he set the shoots of the Holy Order amidst the lilies of France.

℣. As a brook out of a river, he waters the garden of his plants.
*And he set the shoots of the Holy Order amidst the lilies of France.

℟. The Most Christian King of the Franks went to the monastery, that he might hear the wisdom of the new Solomon:
*And he laid the regal purple under his feet.

℣. Because he was humble in his own eyes, the Lord glorified him in the sight of kings.
*And he laid the regal purple under his feet.

℟. He spent the two years before his death in silence and separation from men,
*And alone, he dwelt with himself under the eye of the all-seeing God.

℣. He prepared his heart, and, in the sight of the Lord, he sanctified his soul.
*And alone, he dwelt with himself under the eye of the all-seeing God.

℟. The greater part of the brethren, who fought under the leadership of Maurus, were warned, by an Angel, of their death, and fought their last battle with the demon:
*And dying in that battle, they won to themselves the triumph of heaven.

℣. They fought the good fight, they finished their course, they kept the faith.
*And dying in that battle, they won to themselves the triumph of heaven.

℟. After he had meritoriously served sixty years in the holy warfare, and death being at hand, he willed that they should carry him to the Altar, there to breathe forth, in the presence of the Lord, his prayer and his soul: he said:
*My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord;

℣. Thy altars, Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
*My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

℟. Laid on his hair-shirt in the Church, he passed from the house of prayer into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God,
*With love of whom he burned exceedingly.

℣. For he was straitened, desiring to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.
*With love of whom he burned exceedingly.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.

 

Also read – January 15, 2019: St. Paul, First Hermit, Confessor.

 

St. Maurus, pray for us.