Immaculate Mary, most Holy Mother of God and of Our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, we the people of the United States of America at this historic
moment stand before you in a humbled condition of love, loyalty, affection,
and thankfulness. To your Immaculate Heart we recommit and dedicate
ourselves throughout the entire American nation. To your Son Jesus Christ we
pledge to serve His teaching, His church, and to work for His kingdom on
earth. O Mary, to you do we flee for protection. Surround the American
family with your maternal care; enfold us in your arms. Give to this
American land, built on the blood and tears of so many faithful forebears, a
peaceful and praiseworthy existence in truth, love, justice, and freedom. O
Mary, we submit to you as the Patroness of our beloved country. O Mary, Help
of Christians, enfold the Holy Father and the Catholic Church within your
protective cloak; be our shield in the days ahead. Give to the Church true
holiness and freedom. Obtain for our leaders holy zeal, the ability to face
the truth, and the courage to correct all abuses. Stop the flood of atheism,
greed, heresy, impurity, lukewarmness, materialism, and selfishness that
threaten our nation. Show to those who have strayed from the Church the way
to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Mother of God, accept our personal consecration to
you and, through you, bind us forever to the Holy Trinity. Gather us all
into your Immaculate Heart and unite us forever with Jesus.
O Mary, we love you. Amen.
SALVATION IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE OUR SOULS ARE IMMORTAL
My friends, our souls are immortal. They are spirits that will live forever. Material things are subject to decay and death, but spirits will never die. The universal longing for immortality was planted in the human heart by God. It could not arise from error or misconception. The spirituality of the soul is quite evident from our actions. The actions of inferior creatures are governed by fixed laws, which God has implanted in their very nature. When subjected to the same external conditions, a flower blooms to-day as it did at the dawn of creation, and birds build their nests in our age as their ancestors did in the garden of Eden. But we, with our intelligence and free will, can produce actions that transcend matter. We can form ideas, reason and deliberately exercise dominion over our human actions. And, if we thus produce the actions of spirits, the principle of life within us must be a spirit, though it is not revealed by the surgeon’s knife, nor by the chemist’s test-tube. This teaching of reason is emphasized by the Holy Ghost, who says: “God made man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him” (Wis. ii. 23). Now, as the cradle and the grave of every one is in the vestibule of eternity, we should seriously meditate on those words of our Saviour in which He asks: “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matt. xvi. 26). For we “were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, but with the precious Blood of Jesus Christ” (i Peter i. 18, 19).
SALVATION IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT IS THE OBJECT OF OUR EXISTENCE
My Brethren, God said to the Israelites of old: “I place before thee this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil” (Deut. xxx. 15). He says the same to us to-day: “I place before you life and death.” We must enter eternity. Before us is the happiness of heaven, or the misery of hell. Every step we take, every breath we draw, brings us nearer the brink of eternity. Enter eternity we must. We cannot return to that nothingness from which God created us. We cannot stray so far away from Him that His all-seeing eye will not be upon us, or that His all-powerful hand cannot arrest us and bring us to judgment. We must go on in existence forever and forever, for “man shall go into the house of his eternity” (Eccles. xii. 5). We must now choose between an eternity in heaven and an eternity in hell. With death the time of our trial will come to an end. As we now sow, so shall we then reap. To encourage us to work for Heaven now, St. Paul said: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (i Cor. ii. 9). God was even more explicit when He said to Abraham: “Fear not, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great” (Gen. xv. i). The fact is that we can find our happiness only in God. In creating us He has implanted in our hearts a longing for an endless possession of an infinite good. This He alone can satisfy. St. Augustine acknowledged this longing when he said: “Thou hast created me, O God, and my heart will never rest till it rest in Thee!” If we are interested in our own happiness we will, therefore, not content ourselves with loving God in a negative way by striving to avoid sin. We will ever give Him the first place in our mind’s esteem and in our heart’s affection. We will resolutely turn away from all inordinate concupiscence and avoid the voluntary occasions of sin. Knowing that we can do nothing without God’s help, we should daily renew our consecration to Him and make Him the source of our strength, by fidelity in the practice of our devotions.
SALVATION IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE OF THE WORTH OF OUR SOULS
Another reason, my dear Brethren, why the salvation of our souls should be the most important affair of our daily life is found in their objective value. We treasure an article in proportion to its intrinsic value. Even a child knows how to choose between a penny, a dime, and a dollar. Now, the fact is, our souls are the most valuable things in this world. This is evident from the history of creation. When God created the sun, the moon, and the earth, with its varied vegetable and animal life, He merely said: “Let them be,” but when He came to the creation of man, the Almighty considered the work of so great importance that the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity first held a consultation. Only then did they say: “Let us make man to our image and likeness” (Gen. i. 26). Again, in proportion to the value of an article we wish to send, we take precaution that it reaches its destination. A postal card may suffice for a message, but an article of importance we send by registered mail or entrust to the keeping of one of our own household. Now, this precaution God took when He created your immortal soul and sent it on the journey to eternity. He entrusted it to the guardianship of an angel, one of His own household. Though Providence watches over the grass in the fields, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the forest, He entrusted man alone to the special protection of a guardian angel.
In the second place, the value of the human soul is evident from the work of the Redemption. You and I might go to a sale and later on regret the rashness of our purchase. But Jesus Christ is the God of infinite wisdom. He could make no mistake nor do a foolish thing. In the parable of the merchant who went into a far-off country in search of pearls He teaches us the objective value of human souls. For He himself is that merchant, who left His starry throne in heaven and came into this country of misery and sin in search of the pearls of our immortal souls. And when He found them, defiled by original sin and steeped in the mire of ignorance and vice, He deliberately estimated their value as immortal images of His Father in Heaven. He then sold everything He had as man to buy those pearls. He sold His honor by allowing Himself to be mocked, reviled and spit upon. He sold His liberty by permitting Himself to be taken prisoner. He sold His virginal flesh by submitting to a cruel scourging and an ignominious crowning with thorns. He sold His very life by consenting to die the shameful death of the Cross. Remember that He said: “No man taketh my life from me: but I lay it down of myself” (John x. 18). The great St. Bernard, therefore, truly says: “O Christian soul, do you wish to know your true value? Then go in spirit to Calvary’s heights. Consider the life of the Saviour on earth, His prayers, His labors, His sacrifices. Yes, estimate this human life of the Son of God at its true value, and you will find the value at which He has estimated your own soul in particular, for He gave this life for your redemption.”
Finally, if we must have an object-lesson in our day to convince us of the importance of saving our immortal souls, we need but look at the Church which our Saviour has instituted to carry on His work on earth. Behold not only those costly temples that have been erected by the faith and sacrifice of the faithful to give “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will” (Luke ii. 14), but concentrate your attention rather on those living temples of the Most High, those other Christs, priests and religious, who have consecrated their lives to the salvation of mankind. With St. Peter they can say to the Master: “Behold we have left all things, and have followed Thee” (Mark x. 28). While other men and women were busy about many things, they thought of the one thing necessary. While others planned their own temporal happiness, they planned for the eternal happiness of all redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ. While many others spent their youth in pursuing the follies of life, they, like the Master, spent their time in prayer, in study, and in self-discipline, to prepare themselves for their sublime ministry. Thanks to the ministry of the priest, you were born to the spiritual life in holy Baptism, cleansed from your actual sins in the tribunal of Penance, and nourished with the living bread that came down from Heaven. He ministers to you the countless blessings of Jesus Christ during life, consoles you in the hour of death and hastens your entrance into Heaven. Behold that countless number of generous women that “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (Apoc. xiv. 4). As the holy women in the Gospel ministered to the Saviour, so these minister to the least of His brethren to-day. They teach our children to know, to love, and to serve God. They adopt our orphans and cherish them with maternal love. Like true angels of charity they minister to the sick and the dying, and they shelter even the aged and the outcast and serve them with filial love. We read in the life of the great St. Francis Xavier, Apostle of India, that he said, when he learned that a child he had baptized had died: “If I had no other recompense for all my labors, privations and prayers than the assurance that a single soul, redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, has been saved, I would consider my life well spent.”
Ah, my dearly beloved brethren, only when we consider the importance of salvation in the light of faith do our souls appear in their true perspective. In the balance of eternity the things that end with time dwindle into insignificance. God and the soul remain. God is eternal; the soul is His immortal image. We now have time, grace and opportunity to save our souls. If now we hearken to the voice of Christ we shall be happy for all eternity; if not, it were better for us if we had never been born. Judas was destined to save countless souls as an Apostle. By betraying his Master for a few pieces of silver he lost his own immortal soul. On the other hand, the good thief heard the Master’s voice only when he saw Him dying at his side. Others had witnessed stupendous miracles, he beheld the Redeemer lay down His life for the human race and humbly begged to be remembered. His faith was rewarded by the promise of Paradise. My friends, what are we prepared to do for our eternal happiness? If there be anyone among you, my hearers, who is not seriously looking toward that end or who has turned away from it, let him take to heart, the warning of St. Paul, who exhorts us that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil, ii. 12.) “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. vi. 2).
Prayer to Venerate With Solemn Worship The Price of Our Salvation
Almighty, and everlasting God, who hast appointed thine only- begotten Son to be the Redeemer of the world, and hast been pleased to be reconciled unto us by His Blood, grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate with solemn worship the price of our salvation, that the power thereof may here on earth keep us from all things hurtful, and the fruit of the same may gladden us for ever hereafter in heaven Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen
(An Indulgence of 5 Years –Roman Missal)
Through the Holy Spirit
He Offered Himself Without Blemish to God
To the One Who Love Us
Who Washed Our Sins Through His Blood
And Made Us Kings and Priests of God His Father
To Him Be Glory and Power. Amen
Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Dom Gueranger, 1866
John the Baptist has pointed out the Lamb, Peter has firmly fixed His throne, Paul has prepared the Bride; this their joint work, admirable in its unity, at once suggests the reason for their feasts occurring almost simultaneously on the cycle. The alliance being now secured, all three fall into shade; whilst the Bride herself, raised up by them to such lofty heights, appears alone before us, holding in her hands the sacred cup of the nuptial-feast.
This gives the key of today’s solemnity; revealing how its illumining the heavens of the holy Liturgy, at this particular season, is replete with mystery. The Church, it is true, has already made known to the sons of the New Covenant, and in a much more solemn manner, the price of the Blood that redeemed them, its nutritive strength, and the adoring homage which is its due. Yes; on Good Friday, earth and heaven beheld all sin drowned in the saving stream, whose eternal flood-gates at last gave way, beneath the combined effort of man’s violence and of the love of the divine Heart. The festival of Corpus Christi witnessed our prostrate worship before the altars whereon is perpetuated the Sacrifice of Calvary, and where the outpouring of the Precious Blood affords drink to the humblest little ones, as well as to the mightiest potentates of earth, lowly bowed in adoration before it. How is it, then, that Holy Church is now inviting all Christians to hail, in a particular manner, the stream of life ever gushing from the sacred fount? What else can this mean, but that the preceding solemnities have by no means exhausted the mystery? The peace which the Blood has made to reign in the high places as well as in the low; the impetus of its wave bearing back the sons of Adam from the yawning gulf, purified, renewed, and dazzling white in the radiance of their heavenly apparel; the Sacred Table outspread before them, on the waters’ brink, and the Chalice brimful of inebriation; all this preparation and display would be objectless, all these splendours would be incomprehensible, if man were not brought to see therein the wooings of a love that could never endure its advances to be outdone by the pretensions of any other. Therefore, the Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes, at this moment, as the Blood of the Testament; the pledge of the alliance proposed to us by God (Exod. xxiv. 8; Heb. ix. 20); the dower stipulated upon by Eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which He is inviting all men, and whereof the consummation in our soul is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost.
“Having therefore, Brethren, a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the Blood of Christ,” says the Apostle, “a new and living way which He hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, let us draw near with a pure heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promised. Let us consider one another to provoke unto charity and to good works (Heb. x. 19-24). And may the God of peace who brought again from the dead the great pastor of the sheep, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Blood of the everlasting Testament, fit you in all goodness, that you may do His will: doing in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen!” (Ibid. xiii. 20, 21)
Nor must we omit to mention here, that this feast is a monument of one of the most brilliant victories of Holy Church, in our own age. Pius IX. had been driven from Rome in 1848, by the triumphant revolution; but the following year, just about this very season, his power was re-established. Under the aegis of the Apostles on June 28th and the two following days, the eldest daughter of the Church, faithful to her past glories, swept the ramparts of the Eternal City; and on July 2nd, Mary’s festival, the victory was completed. Not long after this, a twofold decree notified to the City and to the world the Pontiff’s gratitude and the way in which he intended to perpetuate, in the sacred Liturgy, the memory of these events. On August 10th, from Gaeta itself, the place of his exile in the evil day, Pius IX, before returning to re-assume the government of his States, addressing himself to the invisible Head of the Church, confined her in a special manner to His divine care, by the institution of this day’s Festival; reminding Him that it was for His Church that He vouchsafed to shed all His Precious Blood.
Then, when the Pontiff re-entered his Capital, turning to Mary, just as Pius V. and Pius VII. had done under other circumstances, he, the Vicar of Christ, solemnly attributed the honour of the recent victory to Her who is ever the “Help of Christians,” for on the Feast of Her Visitation it had been gained; and he now decreed that this said Feast of July 2nd should be raised from the rite of double-major to that of second class throughout the whole world. This was but a prelude to the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which the immortal Pontiff had already in project, whereby the crushing of the serpent’s head would be completed.
The Nativity of St. John, the Baptist
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
In the holy Gospel, the nativity of St. John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Christ, is described by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, not only for our instruction, but also that we may rejoice in the Lord our God. In the mountains of Judaea, at Hebron, eight miles from Jerusalem, lived Zachary and Elizabeth. They were just people, and lived in accordance with the commandments of God, but had no children, although they had prayed for them many years. The great age which they had attained, naturally gave them no longer any hope of issue. But still they continued their prayer. One day, when Zachary, who was a priest, offered incense in the Temple at Jerusalem, he saw at the right side of the altar, an angel, whose appearance filled the pious old man with fear and trembling. The angel, however, said to him: ” Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard. Elizabeth, thy wife, shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. He shall bring thee joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. He shall be great before the Lord and shall drink no strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb. He shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God: and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias: that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.”
Zachary listened with great astonishment: the angel’s promise seemed to him to be out of the course of nature. Hence, he said: “Whereby shall I know this? For, I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered: “I am Gabriel, who stand before God, and I am sent to speak to thee and bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.” After this the angel disappeared, and Zachary, mute from that hour, returned home after he had discharged his priestly functions.
The words of the Archangel Gabriel came to pass. Elizabeth conceived and gave praise and thanks to God that He had removed from her the disgrace of being barren. Six months later, the Most High sent the angel Gabriel to the blessed Virgin, at Nazareth, to announce to her that she should become the mother of the long expected Messiah. He at the same time informed her that her cousin Elizabeth, although she was old and barren, had conceived a son, as to God nothing was impossible. After Mary had resigned herself with deep humility to the will of the Almighty, and become the mother of the Son of God, she went into the mountains of Judaea, to the house of Elizabeth and Zachary. She did not go to see if the angel’s words in regard to Elizabeth were true, but to congratulate her happy cousin, and render her such services as she would need. The Gospel assures us that when the Virgin Mother entered the dwelling of Zachary and greeted Elizabeth, John, the yet unborn child, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb, as soon as Mary’s words of salutation reached Elizabeth’s ear, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Ghost. This leaping of the unborn Saint, was, according to the holy fathers, a sign that John, by special favor of the Almighty, knew the Saviour, yet concealed from the eyes of the world, and rejoicing in His presence, adored Him. Hence they teach that John was at that moment cleansed from original sin and filled with the Holy Ghost, and thus fulfilled the words of the angel and was sanctified in the womb of his mother.
At length came the time when he was to see the light of day, and Elizabeth gave birth to him whom the angel had promised and prophesied. When the neighbors and relatives heard how gracious God had been to Elizabeth, they all went to see her and congratulate her. On the eighth day the child was circumcised according to the law. As children, on this occasion, received a name, the relatives wished to give him that of his father, but Elizabeth opposed it, saying: ” John is his name!” “But there is none among thy kindred that is called by this name,” said her friends. Elizabeth, however, remained inflexible. Turning to the still mute Zachary, they desired to know how he would have him called. Zachary asked for a writing-table and wrote; “John is his name.” And at the same time his speech returned, and filled with the Holy Ghost, he gave thanks to God in the beautiful hymn which is one of the daily prayers of the Church, and begins: ” Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people.” All those present marvelled at these events, praised God, and spread among the people all that they had heard and seen, and concluded from it that the new-born child was destined to be great among them. Hence they said to each other: “What do you think shall this child be? for the hand of the Lord is with him.”
Thus writes St. Luke, in his gospel, of the nativity of St. John, and then adds that, “he grew and was strengthened in spirit;” and was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel, by his preaching and baptizing.
Several holy fathers write that Elizabeth fled with her child into the desert, to conceal herself from the cruelties of king Herod; and that John was nourished and kept either by an angel or in some other manner by divine Providence. Others write that, in his third or at most in his fifth year, he had voluntarily gone into the desert, eager to serve God more perfectly and to prepare himself for his mission. No one ought to think this incredible; since, even before he was born, he was gifted with the use of his reason, and comprehended the great mission to which he was called by the Almighty. So much is certain that he was from his most tender years in the wilderness. The holy Evangelists and the holy fathers tell us what manner of life he led there. He subsisted on wild honey and locusts, which are used as food in the East; but he ate so little, that our Lord said of him, that he had neither taken food nor drink. His drink was water; his garments, a coat of camels’-hair, which was fastened round his loins by a leathern belt. The ground was his bed, and he employed day and night in prayer and meditation. By fasting and other austere penances, he prepared himself for his mission. St. Augustine remarks that the severe life of penance of John was the model after which the hermits regulated their lives; hence they acknowledge him as their founder.
When in his thirtieth year, St. John was admonished by God to leave the wilderness and commence his mission. Going to the river Jordan, he preached penance and baptized the penitents. This baptism was not that which Christ instituted in the course of time: neither had it the power which the baptism of Christ has; but was only a sign of penance. In the Gospel it is related how great a multitude of people came to St. John; what he preached; how he exhorted them to do penance: how he had the honor to baptize Christ Himself, and what occurred during this event. The splendid testimony is spoken of, which he gave at different times, to the effect that Christ was the true Messiah. It is also recorded what he answered to those who were sent to him to ask whether he was the promised Messiah; for, his life was so holy and wonderful, that many believed him to be the long promised Redeemer. The events of the latter part of the life of this Saint will be related in the chapter for the day on which the church commemorates his decapitation.
Among the writings of the holy Fathers we find many sermons which contain magnificent praises of the virtues of St. John, the Baptist. They call him an angel in the flesh; an apostle in his sermons; a miracle of penance; the first hermit who induced so many thousands to imitate him; the first preacher of repentance, and proclaimer of the heavenly kingdom. They praise his fearlessness in reproving vice, both in high and in low; his deep humility, by which he deemed himself not worthy to baptize Christ, or even to unloose the latchet of His shoes; his angelic purity; his continual penance and his unwearied zeal for the honor of God and the welfare of men. But what should inspire every one with the greatest reverence towards this Saint is the fact, that Christ our Lord Himself praised the greatness and holiness of St. John so frequently, and said that among men there had been none greater than John the Baptist. What more can be said in his praise?
At the time when the Divine Mother visited her holy cousin Elizabeth, the yet unborn John was cleansed from original sin and sanctified by the grace of the Almighty. What an inexpressibly great grace! You partook of the same after your birth, when you received holy baptism. You were at that time cleansed from the stain of original sin, and from a child of wrath became a child of God, a temple and a dwelling of the Holy Ghost, and obtained the right to eternal happiness. ” Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called and should be the sons of God;” writes the holy Apostle John (John iii.) Consider this unspeakably great favor which God in His mercy has shown to you, in preference to so many thousands. But have you ever made manifest to God your gratitude for this great mercy? Commence this day to offer your thanks to Him, and repeat them yearly on the day of your birth or of your baptism. Take heed that you turn not again to a child of wrath from a child of God, and that from “a dwelling of the Holy Ghost you become not a habitation for the devil; and thus, by sin, forfeit the claim you had on heaven. “By baptism, you have become a temple and a dwelling of the Holy Ghost,” says St. Leo; “do not drive away so noble an inhabitant and become again a slave of the devil.”
St. John kept the grace and innocence which he received in the womb of his mother unimpaired, and yet led a most austere life from his tenderest years until his end. How does it happen that you have such an aversion to all penances, as you certainly must know that you have long since lost the grace and innocence received in holy baptism? Why will you not mortifiy your body either by fasts or other acts of self-denial? Why do you persist in allowing yourself all that your body desires; and why do you avoid every thing that is in the least burdensome or hard for you? “John punished and mortified his innocent body so severely;” says St. Bernard, “and you desire to adorn your sinful body with silk and velvet, and nourish it with delicate food.” How is this? How do you suppose you will be able to render an account of your doings to God? Truly, if we could save our souls as easily without all self-denial, by enjoying the pleasures of the world, and living in comfort and luxury, we might say that John did not act wisely in leading so severe a life. But who dares even think this of one who before he was born was already filled with the Holy Ghost? We act very unwisely if we flatter ourselves that, living so different a life, shall obtain a place in heaven near him. “Hence,” says the above-cited holy teacher, “let us encourage ourselves to do penance,” in consideration of the austere penances, of St. John. “Let us stimulate ourselves to mortify our bodies, that we may escape the awful judgment of the living God.”
Homily of St. Ambrose
Elizabeth brought forth a son, and her neighbors rejoiced with her. The birth of Saints brings joy to very many, since it is a benefit to all; for justice is a virtue for all. And so, in the birth of a just man, a token of his future life is foreshown, and the grace of the virtue to come is expressed by the prophetic joy of the neighbors. It is fitting that there should be mention of the time when the Prophet was in the womb, lest the presence of Mary should not be remembered; but nothing is told of the time of his childhood, for he did not know the disabilities of childhood. And so we read nothing of him in the Gospel, except his birth, and his announcement, the leaping in the womb, the voice in the wilderness.
For he did not experience the helplessness of childhood, he who supernaturally, outstripping his age, began from the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ, when still tying in his mother’s womb. It is strange how the holy Evangelist thought it necessary to tell us that many considered that the child should be called by his father’s name of Zachary; in order that you might notice that the mother would not have the name of any relative, but only that given by the Holy Ghost, which the Angel had previously announced to Zachary. And indeed, the latter, still dumb, could not tell his wife the name of their son; but Elizabeth learned by prophecy what she had not learned from her husband.
John, he says, is his name; that is, it is not for us to give a name to the one who has already received a name from God. He has his name, which we know, but we did not choose it. To receive a name from God is one of the rewards of the Saints. So Jacob was called Israel, because he saw God. So our Lord Jesus was named before he was born; not an Angel, however, but his Father gave him his name. You see that Angels announce what they have heard, not what they take upon themselves. Do not wonder, that the woman pronounced a name she had not heard; when the Holy Ghost, who had commanded the Angel, revealed it to her.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us.*
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,*
God the Holy Ghost,*
Holy Trinity, one God,*
Pray for us.**
Queen of Prophets,**
Queen of Martyrs,**
St. John the Baptist,**
St. John the Baptist, glorious forerunner of the Son of justice,**
St. John the Baptist, minister of baptism to Jesus,**
St. John the Baptist, burning and shining lamp of the world,**
St. John the Baptist, angel of purity, before thy birth,**
St. John the Baptist, special friend and favorite of Christ,**
St. John the Baptist, heavenly contemplative, whose element was prayer,**
St. John the Baptist, intrepid preacher of truth,**
St. John the Baptist, miracle of mortification and penance,**
St. John the Baptist, example of profound humility,**
St. John the Baptist, glorious martyr of zeal for God’s holy law,**
St. John the Baptist, glorious patron of this State,**
Lamb of God, Who Takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God! Who takest away the sins of the world,
Hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God! Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us;
Christ, graciously hear us.
V. Pray for us, O glorious St. John the Baptist,
R. That we may be made worth of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, Who hast honored this world by the birth of St. John the Baptist, grant that Thy faithful people may rejoice in the way of eternal salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
A Novena to St. John the Baptist
O Glorious precursor of Jesus Christ! great prophet of the Most High! angel of the Lord! who wert created to go before his face, and to prepare his ways, how high must thy throne be in heaven, since even on earth thou wert so exalted! Thou art truly the first and greatest amongst those born of woman, since the Searcher of hearts pronounced thee such. Thou wert great in thy miraculous birth and wonderful life–great in thy penance and in thy zeal; but thou wert much greater in thy purity of heart, and in the depth of thy humility. Thou didst enter this world of sin in the friendship of thy Creator, and never had the misfortune to offend him–thou wert the minister of baptism to Jesus Christ, yet thou didst humbly acknowledge thyself unworthy to loose the latchet of his shoe. O great saint! that glory which always follows the humble, has been abundantly granted to thee. Jesus Christ Himself proclaimed thy praises, and the whole world, to the end of time, will rejoice in thy sacred birth. O miracle of God’s power and grace! I conjure thee to raise for us and for all the people of this state, of which thou art the special patron, that powerful voice, which once crying in the wilderness, penetrated the heavens in favor of sinners; and to implore for us the intentions of this Novena, N.N.
O blessed contemplative, whose sweet communications with God were earlier than thy birth; thy food and thy life were the heavenly exercise of prayer; thou wert by excellence the friend of the bridegroom, and canst therefore obtain all things of Him, Who so ardently loved thee. Deign then to take all my spiritual necessities under thy protection, and to obtain for us all the graces we stand in need of, particularly perfect docility to the voice of those who preach to us, as thou didst to the Jews, the baptism of penance for the remission of our sins.
O burning lamp! may our hearts be at length inflamed with the fire of love which consumed thee, and which is cast also amongst us by the zealous preaching of those whom the Lord has sent amongst us, to show us the way to Him. O shining lamp! enlighten us by thy prayers, that w may know ourselves but infinitely more, that we may know our God and His only Son Jesus Christ our Lord whom He hath sent, obtain for us to participate frequently and worthily in the holy communion, and with the purity of heart, which enables thee to discover the Lamb of God, though he was then hidden from all others. O blessed martyr of Jesus Christ, though I am most unworthy to lay down my life for his love as thou didst, yet I entreat of thee to intercede for me that I may live and die in the happy martyrdom of Christian mortification, and the faithful discharge of every duty required by the divine law. Amen
Prayer to St. John the Baptist
O glorious Saint John the Baptist, greatest prophet among those born of woman, although thou wast sanctified in thy mother’s womb and didst lead a most innocent life, nevertheless it was thy will to retire into the wilderness, there to devote thyself to the practice of austerity and penance; obtain for us of thy Lord the grace to be wholly detached, at least in our hearts, from earthly goods, and to practice Christian mortification with interior recollection and with the spirit of holy prayer.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be, etc.
O most zealous Apostle, who, without working any miracle on others, but solely by the example of thy life of penance and the power of thy word, didst draw after thee the multitudes, in order to dispose them to receive the Messias worthily and to listen to His heavenly doctrine; grant that it may be given unto us, by means of the example of a holy life and the exercise of every good work, to bring many souls to God, but above all those souls that are enveloped in the darkness of error and ignorance and are led astray by vice.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.
O Martyr invincible, who, for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, didst with firmness and constancy withstand the impiety of Herod even at the cost of thine own life, and didst rebuke him openly for his wicked and dissolute life; by thy prayers obtain for us a heart, brave and generous, in order that we may overcome all human respect and openly profess our faith in loyal obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ, our divine Master.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.
V. Pray for us. Saint John the Baptist,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, who hast made this day to be honorable in our eyes by the Nativity (or commemoration) of blessed John, grant unto Thy people the grace of spiritual joy, and direct the minds of all Thy faithful into the way of everlasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Indulgence of 3 years; indulgence of 5 years once a day, if the prayers are said with the intention of completing a triduum; plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, at the close of the triduum.
Hymn: Antra deserti
Thou, in thy childhood, to the desert caverns
Fleddest for refuge from the cities’ turmoil,
Where the world’s slander might not dim thy luster,
Camel’s hair raiment clothed thy saintly members;
Leathern the girdle which thy loins encircled;
Locusts and honey, with the fountain-water,
Daily sustained thee.
Oft in past ages, seers with hearts expectant
Sang the far-distant advent of the Daystar;
Thine was the glory, as the world’s Redeemer
First to proclaim him.
Far as the wide world reacheth, born of woman,
Holier was there none than John the Baptist;
Meetly in water laving him who cleanseth
Man from pollution.
Praise to the Father, to the Sole-begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resoundeth. Amen.
A Mother’s Prayer to St. John the Baptist
St. John, child of saintly parents, child of prayer and grace, gift of heaven, forerunner of Jesus Christ, preacher of penance, preparer of the way of the Lord! You are the model of all those that, with an upright heart, seek Jesus and desire to belong to Him. Although innocent and pure as an angel, you performed during your whole life the strictest penance. Scanty and poor was your nourishment. You abstained entirely from intoxicating beverages. You perseveringly shunned all occasions and dangers of falling into sin, and spent your time in converse with God, in meditation and prayer. You daily increased in wisdom, courage, and strength of soul, and daily exercised yourself in the practice of those high virtues demanded of you by your vocation. You, by the holiest actions, proved the truth of your enlightened teaching, your glowing admonitions, and your menacing warnings. You aroused hearts to faith in Jesus Christ, inflamed them with His love, and incited them to His imitation.
O holy St. John, take my children, take me, and all my dear ones under your protection and guidance! Show Jesus to our hearts. Teach us to believe firmly in Him, to repose unshaken confidence in Him, and to love Him with our whole soul! Be, finally, our mediator with Jesus Christ. Oh, obtain for us the pardon of our sins, worthy fruits of penance, entire satisfaction for all the offenses committed against God, faithful imitation of your life, strict curbing of our evil fancies and perverse inclinations, an ardent desire for heavenly riches, perseverance in grace, fervent imitation of Jesus, the patient bearing of our cross, and in the hour of death your blessed company for all eternity. Obtain this for us, O well-beloved of our Divine Savior! Obtain it by your high rank in the Kingdom of God, by your superabundant merits, by the love you bear our souls, and by the ardent desire you have to see us all enclosed in the Heart of Jesus, there to be preserved, guarded, and saved forever! Amen.
Prayer to St. John the Baptist as your Patron Saint
Saint John the Baptist, whom I have chosen as my special patron, pray for me that I, too, may one day glorify the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Obtain for me your lively faith, that I may consider all persons, things, and events in the light of almighty God. Pray, that I may be generous in making sacrifices of temporal things to promote my eternal interests, as you so wisely did.
Set me on fire with a love for Jesus, that I may thirst for His sacraments and burn with zeal for the spread of His kingdom. By your powerful intercession, help me in the performance of my duties to God, myself and all the world.
Win for me the virtue of purity and a great confidence in the Blessed Virgin. Protect me this day, and every day of my life. Keep me from mortal sin. Obtain for me the grace of a happy death. Amen
The Festival of Corpus Christi by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
The same reason which caused the Festival of the Holy Trinity, induced the Catholic Church to institute the festival of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate today. She requires that we shall confess and renew today the faith which we have in the Blessed Eucharist, and that we bestow all possible honors upon the Most Holy Sacrament and give due thanks to our Saviour for its institution. In order that this just requirement of the Church may be more fully complied with, we shall here give some explanation of the above reasons. In regard to the first reason, the following are the facts, which the church especially desires to call to our memory by this joyous festival. Our dear Saviour, on the same evening when His bitter suffering for the redemption of man began, instituted the Blessed Eucharist, out of His immeasurable love for us. In it He is truly and substantially present with body and soul, with flesh and blood, as God and Man, under the form of bread and wine. Under the form of bread, not only His holy body, but also His holy blood is present; because a living body cannot exist without blood. Hence he receives it, who partakes of holy communion only in the form of bread, not less than he who receives it in two forms, as the priests, when they say holy Mass. The latter partake of holy communion under two forms, in order that the passion and death of our Saviour, during which His blood flowed from His wounds, might be more vividly represented.
From the moment that the priest speaks the prescribed holy words, in the name of Christ, over the bread and wine, the Lord is present in the Holy Sacrament. Bread and wine change their substance miraculously into the true body and blood of the Saviour, in such a manner, that all that remains of the bread and wine is their form, color and taste. The presence of Christ lasts so long as the bread and the wine are unconsumed. It is further to be considered that our Lord is present in a small host as well as in a large one, as well in a portion of a host as in a whole one. Hence he who receives an entire host, has no more than he who receives only a part of one, the latter has just as much as the former. The same is the case with those who by inadvertence receive more than one Host, while others receive only one. It is only to be remarked that in case a consecrated Host is broken or divided, the holy body of the Saviour is not broken nor divided, but the form of the bread only: even as Christ will not again die, so his holy body can neither be broken nor divided. All these points are articles of faith in the Catholic Church, and are explained in sermons, in religious instructions and in many books, and are especially demonstrated by the word of God. All true Catholics believe this without any doubt, as the Almighty, who is eternal and infallible truth, has revealed it, and as that Church assures us, which on account of the assistance of the Holy Ghost, promised to her by Christ, cannot err.
Those who are not Catholics teach in many points quite differently. They especially reject the real presence of Christ in the form of bread and wine, and also the transubstantiation of these latter into the real body and blood of the Lord. They maintain it to be impossible that bread and wine can be changed into the body and blood of Christ, or that Christ can be really present at the same time, in so many different places, in so small a compass as the holy Host. If we ask them why they consider it impossible, they answer: “because we cannot conceive, cannot comprehend, how it can be possible.” But if they believe impossible all which they cannot understand, they must, besides many other articles of faith, reject the creation of the world; the humanity and resurrection of Christ; the Holy Trinity; because all these are just as inconceivable for the mind of man, as the transubstantiation of the bread and wine and the substantial presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It matters not in articles of faith whether we are able to comprehend them or not so long as they are revealed by God.
That which the Almighty has revealed must be true, whether I can understand it or not: for He is omniscient, hence infallible, and cannot be deceived, while our understanding can as easily be deceived as our senses. God is truth: therefore can not deceive. He is omnipotent; hence He can do more than the human mind can comprehend. “With God all things are possible,” said Christ Himself. “Let us admit that God can do more than we are able to fathom,” says St. Augustine, while St. Cyril of Alexandria writes; “The Lord says by the prophet Isaias: ‘My counsel is not like yours, neither are my ways like your ways: for as the heaven is above the earth, so are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.’ Cannot therefore the works of Him, who stands so high above us in wisdom and power, exceed in their greatness the limits of our understanding?”
The same is taught by all the Holy Fathers. They also refer to many occurrences in nature, which, although we cannot comprehend them, nevertheless take place. They speak of the creation of the world, and say, if we believe that God created a whole world out of nothing, how can we hesitate to believe that He can change bread and wine, or that He can be present in that form? The water at Cana was changed into wine: why then should He not possess the power to transform bread and wine into His holy body and blood? Truly, whoever believes that God is omnipotent, infallible and infinite, cannot doubt this article of faith. We Catholics believe so, and hence we cannot doubt any of the above mentioned points of the true faith. This faith we this day renew and confess publicly. The Catholic Church requires it, and has for this reason instituted today’s Festival. She further demands that we unanimously, bestow today all possible honor upon the Blessed Sacrament, and that we praise and glorify with all the powers of our soul, the Saviour therein concealed. And is not this justly demanded of us? of us who firmly believe that our Lord is present in His double nature as God and as man, in the Blessed Sacrament? All honor, all praise belongs to the true God.
King David, in the Old Testament, bestowed great honor upon the Ark of the Covenant, in which a part of the manna was preserved, as Holy Writ relates. The manna of the Old Testament was only a feeble type of our Most Holy Sacrament, as Christ Himself teaches: hence we owe so much greater honor to it. The wise man said, many thousand years ago: “Glorify the Lord, as much as you can . . . Bless ye the Lord, exalt Him as much as you can.” (Eccl. xliii.) As we are assured by our faith that our God and Lord is truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament, it is natural that we honor, praise and glorify Him with all our strength. We are bound to do this not merely today, but during the whole year. Who is there, however, that can say of himself that he has not sometimes been remiss in this sacred duty? Hence the Holy Church requires that we, remembering our duty this day, kindle anew our zeal, if it has abated, and thus with united hearts, honor, praise and exalt the Most Holy Sacrament. For this purpose she has also ordained that the Blessed Sacrament shall be carried through the streets in solemn processions.
Everything connected with this ceremony is intended to honor our Lord in every possible manner. The Church tries, by this public manifestation, to atone somewhat for the many and great wrongs to which the Blessed Sacrament is so frequently subjected by heretics as well as by Catholics. One cannot, without horror, think how this sacred mystery has been assailed and dishonored in centuries gone by, and down to our days. A pious Christian dares not even relate the wrongs done to it, which are great enough to deserve hell. And what does our Saviour, concealed in the Blessed Sacrament, suffer from those who believe in his presence? The irreverence and levity with which many Christians conduct themselves in presence of the Blessed Eucharist, tend to dishonor and disgrace our Saviour. The unworthy communions which unhappily take place, offend Him in a most grievous manner. The misuse of the body, especially of the tongue and mouth, which are so often sanctified by partaking of the true body and blood of Christ, cannot but excite the wrath of the Lord. For these, as well as other wrongs done to the Blessed Sacrament, the Church of Christ seeks to make amends by these solemn processions, and by all the other pious exercises she has ordained for this festival and during the whole octave. Hence, every pious Christian should be solicitous to conform to the ordinances of the Church, and not only assist in the procession and all other devout exercises, but also endeavour to contribute to render them what the Church desires.
Those who are not Catholics disapprove of every thing that we do today in honor of the blessed Sacrament, and accuse us of idolatry, as we according to them, worship bread. They say also that all that we do in this regard cannot be agreeable to God, because it was not ordained by Him. We, Catholics, are, however, not disturbed by this, for we know that we do not worship bread, but Him whom three wise men worshipped in the manger, namely, Jesus Christ, true God and Man. We know also that though what we do this day in honor of the blessed Sacrament is not especially and expressly ordained in Holy Writ, still we are assured that a voluntary worship of it is in accordance with reason and the laws of God, pleasing and agreeable to His Majesty. And this is made clear to us from the above-mentioned example of the three Wise Men, and from the acts with which King David honored the Most High, on the solemn return of the Ark of the Covenant; not to mention that Christ gave us a general command to worship God, in the words: “The Lord thy God shalt thou adore and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matth. iv.) This command we fulfil today by our actions, as they all aim at one end, namely, the honor of the Lord, who is concealed in the Blessed Sacrament. The more we are blamed and derided by the heretics for our adoration of the Holy Eucharist, the more fervent should we become in our zeal. When King David was derided by Michol, on account of his devotion at the return of the Ark of the Covenant, he said: “Before the Lord who chose me . . . . I will both play and make myself meaner than I have done, and I will be little in my own eyes.” (II. Kings vi.)
We will still add in a few words, what the true Church further demands of us. We today give humble thanks to the Lord for the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. This is no more than our duty: for if we are obliged to thank God for the smallest benefit He confers upon us, we are surely under much greater obligation when the benefit is great and of especial importance. Who can tell, who can comprehend the greatness of the benefit, which Christ our Saviour and Lord bestowed upon us by the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. It is as great as it is unfathomable: great as He who devised it; as Christ our Lord, true God and man, the King of all Kings, the Lord of all who reign. Great and inconceivable is the miracle by which the substance of bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, and the miraculous presence of the Lord in the form of bread and wine. St. Thomas of Aquinas calls the Blessed Sacrament a miracle, and the greatest that Christ ever wrought.
Inexpressibly great must have been the love which induced the Saviour not only to institute it at the time He chose for it, namely, the evening before His Passion. Since the world was created, there has never been found a parent willing to nourish his children with his own body, much as he may have loved them. Such excess of love Christ alone manifested. “Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end,” writes St. John (John, xiii.). Already had He loved them and had given them many indubitable proofs of His love; but at the end of His life, He gave them one which surpassed all others, namely, having nourished them with His own body and blood, He instituted a sacrament, by means of which all the faithful might partake of this divine food. And when did He institute this? St. Paul writes: “In the night when He was delivered into the hands of the embittered Jews.” The last night of His life was approaching, and the time when his enemies would seize Him, scourge Him most cruelly, crown Him with thorns, and nail Him like the greatest malefactor to the Cross. All this was known to the Lord. He knew also the wrong which would be done to Him in the Blessed Eucharist to the end of time: and yet this was not sufficient to prevent Him from instituting it.
Truly, a love which surpasses all the bounds, not only of human, but angelic understanding. Love seeks to be always with the loved ones and to enjoy their presence. Jesus Christ, who out of love to us had descended from heaven upon earth, had remained with us for 33 years: and it was the will of His heavenly Father that, after having accomplished our Redemption, He should return to heaven. This also took place; but His infinite love for us found a means by which He will remain with us in the world until the end of time. This means is the Blessed Sacrament, which He instituted before the commencement of His bitter passion. In it He is God and Man, as He is in heaven, truly and substantially present in every Church where the Blessed Sacrament is kept. By this same blessed Sacrament, He unites Himself most closely with us, when we partake of it, because He gives Himself to us as food, and nourishment. And this union with us is, according to the opinion of the Holy Fathers, a still greater proof of His love for us, than His presence in the Sacrament. It is the property of love to unite closely those who love one another: can there be a more intimate union than ours is with Christ, by virtue of the Holy Sacrament?
When Christ became man, He united His divine nature, in an incomprehensible manner, with humanity. When we partake of the Blessed Eucharist, He unites His divine and human natures with our nature, although not in the same manner as when He became Man. “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood,” says He, “abideth in me, and I in him.” (John, vi.) How wonderful a union! How incomprehensibly great a love!
Besides the love which induced our Lord to institute the Most Holy Sacrament, the end for which He instituted it, and with which we have already become partly acquainted, is also great and most excellent. Our adorable Saviour would leave us in it an eternal memorial of His love and of His bitter passion and death, as His own words make clear to us: “Do this for a commemoration of me.” (Luke, xxn.) He desired to remain constantly with us, in order that we might, in all our cares, go to Him with greater confidence, and opening our hearts to Him, request and receive from Him, comfort, strength and help. It was His wish that His holy flesh and blood should nourish and strengthen our souls. This was the intention, the end and aim of our Lord in instituting the Most Holy Eucharist. As the religion He founded is holy and most perfect, and as no true religion can exist without sacrifice, He would leave us for evermore the most divine sacrifice, namely, His own flesh and blood that we might sacrifice it in holy Mass in honor of the Majesty of God, as a thanks-offering for all graces and benefits bestowed upon us; for the pardon of our sins, for the obtaining of new grace, and for the comfort of all, living and dead. How high, how admirable an end and aim! Had Christ been willing to remain among us, in the Blessed Eucharist, only in one place on earth, in order that we might there lay our burdens more trustingly at His feet, He would then have conferred on us a favor, which we could never sufficiently esteem, and for which we could never be sufficiently thankful. How much greater, therefore, is the grace that He dwells among us in so many different places of the world, to nourish our souls and to serve as sacrifice, and this not once only, but as often as we desire. How inexpressibly great a favor! How wonderful an invention of truly Divine love!
Just as great and excellent are the results of the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord expressed it all in a few words when He said: “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” (John, vi.) Which means: Whoever worthily partakes of this holy Sacrament, shall receive the special grace of God to preserve the life of his soul, or to remain in the sanctifying grace of God, and hence obtain life everlasting. By virtue of this Sacrament, man receives strength to abstain from sin, to resist temptation and to serve the Most High with constant fidelity. Therefore it is called by the Council of Trent, a medicine, by the strength of which we are freed from our daily iniquities, and protected and guarded against great crimes. “This divine mystery,” says Albert the Great, “strengthens man in grace and succors him when he is in danger of committing sin.” The pious Thomas a Kempis writes: “This most holy and venerable Sacrament conduces to the well-being of body and soul. It is the remedy for spiritual weakness. It heals the wounds of vice, it keeps within bounds all evil inclination, it conquers temptations, gives more abundance of grace, multiplies virtue, strengthens faith, augments hope, and inflames love.”
Other teachers say, that Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament under the form of a bodily food, that we might more easily perceive its effects. For, as bodily food preserves the life of the body, renews strength, refreshes man: thus is the spiritual life of the soul preserved by the holy Eucharist, the soul is strengthened, and all the inner faculties of man inflamed with new zeal in the service of the Almighty. The true Church has not hesitated, for causes already mentioned, to call it a pledge of future glory, so that those who worthily partake of Holy Communion, receive, so to speak, an assurance of eternal salvation. I say, who partake worthily of the Holy Communion; for, one who receives it when not in the state of grace, will not only fail to share in the benefits it imparts, but becomes guilty of eternal punishment, according to the words of St. Paul: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself” (i Cor. xi.) that is, as St. Chrysostom and other holy fathers teach, damnation.
Whoever reflects on what we have said, cannot but come to the conclusion, that the Lord, by instituting the Blessed Eucharist, has bestowed upon us an inexpressibly great gift. Hence, it is only our duty to give Him our most humble thanks, to which effect the Church has ordained today’s festival, demanding of us to give thanks to the Lord for the institution of this Blessed Gift.
So much for the reason which gave rise to the ordinance of the festival of Corpus Christi. Only one point must I yet touch upon, to confirm the true faith and at the same time give an instruction. The non-Catholics maintain that we act wrongly in not administering the Blessed Sacrament in two forms, as Christ our Lord instituted it and commanded it to be partaken of in such a manner. To this I answer, Luther himself more than once said that the real Blessed Eucharist was to be found in the Catholic Church; and that it mattered not whether it is administered under one form or under two. It is true that Christ instituted it in two forms, but that He commands all to receive it in two forms is false. From the act of the institution of the Eucharist this cannot be proved: for, Christ instituted and adminstered it after washing his disciples’ feet. He gave it only to the men, the strong, and this after they had partaken of supper, and yet the non-Catholics do not say that it is a commandment to wash the feet before Holy Communion, or administer it only to men, the strong, and after supper. The non-Catholics may rest assured that we are more favored when we partake of Holy Communion in one form than they, even if they received it in a hundred: for we receive under one form really the flesh and blood of Christ, while they, under two forms, neither partake of the Saviour’s holy flesh nor of His blood, because they possess no priests to whom Christ gave power to consecrate.
You have considered the aim and end of today’s festival and also the reasons that gave rise to it: hence, prepare your devotions accordingly. First, exercise yourself today in the virtue of faith. Confess to God and the whole world that you believe everything that God the Lord has revealed of the Blessed Eucharist, and which His true Church explains to you; and that you will believe it for no other reason than because the infallible truth has revealed it. Confess openly, that you willingly give your reason up in the service of the Almighty. Oppose, in advance, all temptations by which the Evil One might endanger the peace of your soul, during your life, or while on your death-bed in regard to the Blessed Eucharist or other articles of faith. Manifest openly the faith which you bear in your heart and be not ashamed of it in the presence of heretics. Hence, accompany the procession today with due reverence, and assist, today and always, in all public devotions ordained in honor of the Holy Eucharist. In the churches where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, show your faith in the presence of the Lord by your modesty and reverence. Whoever is wanting in this is wanting also in faith.
Secondly, endeavor especially today to honor, with every power of your soul, the Most Holy Sacrament, but let not your devotion cease with this day: continue in it as long as your life lasts. Accompany the Holy Eucharist devoutly when it is carried in processions; frequently visit the churches where it is kept; worship it in deepest humility. Assist at Holy Mass, if possible, daily. Receive the Holy Communion as often as your confessor will permit; but always with a heart purified and adorned by exercises of virtue. Take time for devotions before and after Holy Communion. Guard yourself in the presence of the Holy Sacrament, from everything that might be displeasing to Him who is concealed in it: as, unrestrained roving of the mind and eyes; the volubility of the tongue; irreverent manner, &c. Take care that you do not, by using indecent language, soil your tongue, which has been purified by partaking of the Holy Sacrament. Before all things, however, take care that you do not receive the Holy Eucharist while a mortal sin weighs upon your soul, for this would be the greatest insult, the most frightful disgrace to your loving Jesus, and to you it might bring eternal damnation. Beg your Saviour also to pardon every irreverence of which during your past life, you have been guilty in presence of the Blessed Sacrament, or in your Communions. To this end, offer to Him everything that is done in the whole world today and during the entire Octave, to His honor and glory, and make the firm resolution to amend all your faults by redoubled zeal in honoring the holy Sacrament.
Thirdly: In consideration of the infinite benefit which our Lord has conferred upon us in instituting the Blessed Eucharist, return Him your most fervent thanks. Give thanks to Him that He made you a member of that Church, which alone is in possession of the Blessed Eucharist. Thank Him also that He gives you time and opportunity to partake frequently of the Holy Sacrament. And as everything connected with it is great and holy, so on your side, all in regard to it should be great and holy. Great must be your faith in the real presence of Christ; great your zeal to worship Him; great your reverence for the church in which He dwells; great your devotion to Him in the Sacrament; great your preparation to receive it. Let all the powers of your mind be directed towards one end: cleanse your soul from every stain of sin, and adorn it most beautifully by exercises of virtue, to make it a fit dwelling for your Saviour. When King Solomon was about to erect a temporal dwelling for the Most High, he collected gold and silver, precious stones and other treasures, saying: “I have prepared, according to my strength, all that is necessary for the dwelling of my Lord.” Why? He gives his reason in the following words: “For, it is a great work, because we erect a house, not for man, but for God.” (I. Par. 29.) Through Holy Communion, your soul becomes a much more real temple of God than the Temple which Solomon erected: hence your care in preparing this dwelling should be much greater than that of Solomon. Finally, great should be your solicitude, after Holy Communion, to remain with Christ in your heart, and to thank, praise and love Him. Oh! exert all the powers of your soul; “for it is a great work!”
Litany of the Blessed Sacrament
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us. *
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, *
God, the Holy Ghost, *
Holy Trinity, one God, *
Living Bread, that camest down from heaven, *
Hidden God and Saviour, *
Wheat of the elect, *
Wine of which virgins are the fruit, *
Bread of fatness and royal dainties, *
Perpetual Sacrifice, *
Clean Oblation, *
Lamb without spot, *
Most pure Feast, *
Food of Angels, *
Hidden manna, *
Memorial of the wonders of God, *
Supersubstantial Bread, *
Word-made-Flesh, dwelling among us, *
Sacred Host, *
Chalice of benediction, *
Mystery of faith, *
Most high and most adorable Sacrament, *
Most holy of all sacrifices, *
True propitiation for the living and the dead, *
Heavenly antidote against the poison of sin, *
Most stupendous of all miracles, *
Holy commemoration of the Passion of Christ, *
Singular pledge of Divine Love, *
Gift of God, exceeding all fulness, *
Affluence of Divine bounty, *
Overflow of Divine liberality, *
Most august and holy Mystery, *
Medicine of immortality, *
Awful and life-giving Sacrament, *
Bread-made-Flesh by the omnipotence of the Word, *
Unbloody Sacrifice, *
Our Food and our Guest, *
Sweetest banquet, at which angels minister, *
Sacrament of piety, *
Bond of unity and charity, *
Priest and Victim, *
Offerer and Oblation, *
Spiritual sweetness, tasted in its very source, *
Refreshment of holy souls, *
Viaticum of those who die in the Lord, *
Pledge of future glory, *
Spare us, O Lord,
Graciously hear us, O Lord
From an unworthy reception of Thy Body and Blood,
Deliver us, O Lord. **
From the lust of the flesh, **
From the lust of the eyes, **
From the pride of life, **
From every occasion of sin, **
Through the desire wherewith Thou didst long to eat this pasch with Thy disciples, **
Through that profound humility wherewith Thou didst wash their feet, **
Through that ardent charity whereby Thou didst institute this DivineSacrament, **
Through Thy Precious Blood, which Thou hast left us on our altars, **
Through the five Wounds which Thou didst receive for us in this Thy most holy Body, **
Beseech Thee to hear us.
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve and increase our faith, reverence and devotion toward this admirable Sacrament,
We beseech Thee, hear us. ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to conduct us, through a true confession of our sins, to frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to deliver us from all heresy, perfidy, and blindness of heart, ***
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to impart to us the precious and heavenly fruits of this most Holy Sacrament, ***
That Thou wouldst confirm us in Thy grace, ***
That Thou wouldst preserve us from all snares of the enemy, ***
That at the hour of death Thou wouidst strengthen and defend us by this heavenly Viaticum, ***
That Thou wouldst preserve us unto eternal life, ***
Son of God, ***
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Jesus!
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Hear us, O Jesus!
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us, O Jesus!
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
V. Thou hast given them Bread from Heaven,
R. Containing in Itself all sweetness.
Let us pray:
O God, Who in this wonderful Sacrament has bequeathed to us a perpetual memorial of Thy Passion: grant us the grace, we beseech Thee, so to venerate the Sacred Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may ever feel within us the fruits of Thy redemption. Who livest and reignest, God, world without end. Amen.
Indulgenced Prayers to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament
O sacrament most holy! O sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.
(Indulgence 100 days, once a day)
I adore Thee at every moment, O living bread of heaven, great sacrament! Jesus, heart of Mary, I pray you, bless my soul. Holiest Jesus, my Saviour, I give Thee my heart.
(Indulgence 100 days, three times a day)
An Act for Spiritual Communion
by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
My Jesus, I believe that thou art in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love thee above all things, and in my soul I desire thee. Since I cannot receive thee now sacramentally, come at least spiritually to my heart. I embrace thee as already there and unite myself wholly to thee; do not permit that I may ever be separated from thee. Jesus, all my good and all my love, Wound, inflame this heart of mine, that it may all and always burn for Thee.
(An Indulgence of 60, once a day)
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
O Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, thou glory of the Christian people, joy of the universal Church, salvation of the whole world, pray for us, and awaken in all believers a lively devotion toward the Most Holy Eucharist, that so they may be made worthy to partake of the same daily.
Gospel. John xiv. 23-31. At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: If any man love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words. And the word which you have heard is not mine: but the Father’s who sent me. These things have I spoken to you, abiding with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. You have heard that I have said to you: I go away and come again to you. If you loved me, you would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father: for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass: that when it shall come to pass, you may believe. I will not now speak many things with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and in me he hath not anything. But that the world may know that I love the Father: and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I.
The disciples and the Blessed Virgin were assembled in the cenacle. For ten days they had been meditating and praying in unison with God, when of a sudden a great noise was heard, as of a violent hurricane, which shook the house in which they were, and then they saw that fiery tongues settled down on the heads of each one of them. They felt themselves illumined, strengthened, encouraged by the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost. They began to speak in different languages. People of every nation had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the great Jewish feast of Pentecost, a feast which was held by them in commemoration of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai to Moses; and all the Jews wished to see the magnificent ceremonies in their temple in Jerusalem.
Though these Jews had come from different places, where different languages were spoken, still they understood what the Apostles said. Such were the wonderful effects which the Holy Ghost produced in the Apostles. They were illumined by a clear, celestial light, which made them understand all the truths of God, and the future Church, and gave them the faculty of forming right judgment in all things that came under their jurisdiction.
This will also be the effect on you, my dear young people, if you beg the Holy Spirit to come into your hearts. You will feel these effects when He has come, and your way of thinking, your old way of judging, will have changed. New thoughts and other desires will grow up in you. You understand what the thoughts of young people are generally; what their hearts are fixed on; what they delight in. The young man and woman want pleasure, enjoyment, plenty of money, and good company, and they care not whether these things are sinful or not. But when the Spirit of God shall come into their hearts they will no longer love what is sinful; they will avoid all such pleasures. Then they will know, too, that all in this world is vanity, and that it is all-important to serve God and love Him.
Not only did the Holy Spirit infuse a great light into the minds of the Apostles–He also inspired them with great courage. After the death of Christ, the Apostles had become very much disheartened, and very fretful. They had not the courage to stand up openly and boldly. Before the death of Christ, Peter even denied Christ three times, and the Apostles all fled in dismay when He was apprehended. As soon as the Holy Ghost had come down on them they were changed men; they no longer feared; they confessed Christ before the tribunals of tyrants; they were not dismayed at tortures; they feared neither the sword nor the bitterest death; they braved every danger to preach the Gospel before the nations of the earth. My dear young people, if you really receive the Holy Ghost into your hearts, you also will courageously profess the faith of Christ, and human respect will not affect you any more. How many, however, are there who in spite of having received the strength and illumination of the Divine Spirit, are weak and infirm in doing good; they fear to speak a word of correction to a wicked companion, who is likely to draw them away from the path of rectitude.
With all the other gifts came that of holy charity upon the Apostles. With what lively flames of love did not their hearts burn towards their neighbor. Charity is the great virtue of the Apostles. With their hearts burning with this divine flame they went forth to enkindle it in all parts of the world, and to set the hearts of all on fire. Their sermons were frequent appeals to the intellect and hearts of their hearers. At. St. Peter’s first sermon three thousand were converted, and at another five thousand. St. Peter came out on a balcony, his face all aglow with a holy zeal. It is thus related in the Acts of the Apostles: “Ye men of Israel hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as you also know: This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain: Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the Apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter saith to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” They were converted, and baptized; they, too, received the Holy Ghost, and after that became zealous members of the holy faith.
Let us pray, my dear young people, that the Holy Spirit kindle in our hearts also this fire, that we may become, like the Apostles, strong in word to persuade people to follow Christ; and that we ourselves show our love for God by openly practising virtue. Happy shall we be if such is the fire of love of God and man in our hearts.
But is your heart really inflamed with divine love? Do you not on the contrary feel that you are cold and careless? Few there are indeed among young people who think so much of religion and God that they become enthusiastic to do something for His greater glory. In your younger days, in your school-days, perhaps, you were better; you loved God more tenderly. Now it may be said of you, ” You always resist the Holy Ghost.” You have the spirit of the world and of sin for your guide, and in this way you sadden the Holy Ghost. We resist the Holy Ghost when we go to confession, and fall back into sin, because we do not reform our lives, as the Holy Spirit asks of us. We resist the Holy Ghost and sadden Him when we follow bad companions, when we are disobedient or impudent to our superiors, who wish to guide us in the paths of virtue. On the contrary we give joy to the Holy Spirit by our good will, and He will fill our hearts with His heavenly graces.
Should one of you not yet be confirmed, let him look for an opportunity to receive this sacrament, so that he may receive the necessary virtues which it confers, namely: the spirit of Wisdom, and of Intellect, spirit of Counsel and of Fortitude, of Piety and of Knowledge, of the Fear of the Lord. In order that we may be filled with the Holy Ghost, let us live always a pure, good, and holy life. It is only with those who lead such a life that the Spirit of God remains. We read a beautiful example illustrating this in the Roman breviary. The impious governor Paschasius asked of St. Lucy, “Is this Holy Ghost in you?” The virgin answered, “They whose hearts are pure, and who live piously, are the temples of the Holy Ghost.” “But,” said the wicked man, “I will make you fall into sin, and then the Holy Ghost will leave you.” To which the virgin Lucy answered, “I will remain faithful to God, and not consent to sin, and the Holy Spirit will double my reward of glory.”
Then the tyrant had her dragged to a place of infamy. Arriving there she stood so firm in the one spot that no power could move her further, and she had to be brought back, when she said to the tyrant: “You see, now, I am the temple of the Holy Ghost, and He protects me; no power on earth can move me, unless He permits it.” In this wise, too, should we fly from sin, and we shall be the temple of God and the habitation of the Holy Ghost. Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Yes, the Holy Spirit will help us to pray “with inexpressible groans.” Let us pray to the Holy Ghost, and in our soul will burn such a flame that we will not be able to resist any longer, we shall run delighted in the odor of the love of God. Then may we repeat the words of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians: “All you are the children of light and children of the day.”
5 Hóstem repéllas lóngius,
Pacémque dones prótinus:
Ductóre sic te práevio,
Vitémus omne nóxium.
6 Per te sciámus da Patrem,
Noscámus atque Fílium
Teque utriúsque Spíritum
Credámus omni témpore.
7 Deo Patri sit glória,
Et Fílio, que a mórtuis
Surréxit, ac Paráclito,
In saeculórum sáecula.
O Come, Creator Spirit, visit our souls; and with Thy heavenly grace fill the hearts that were made by Thee.
Thou art called the Paraclete, the Gift of the Most High God, the Living Fountain, Fire, Love, and Spiritual Unction.
Thou art seven fold in Thy gifts; the Finger of the Father’s hand; the Father’s solemn Promise, that enrichest men with the gift of tongues.
Enkindle thy light in our minds; infuse thy love into our hearts; and strengthen the weaknesses of our flesh by Thine unfailing power.
Repel the enemy far from us, and delay not to give us peace; by Thou our guide, that we may shun all that could bring us harm.
Grant that, through Thee, we may know the Father and the Son; and that we may evermore confess Thee the Spirit of them both.
Glory be to God the Father, and to the Son Who rose from the dead, and to the Paraclete, for everlasting ages! Amen.
Whit Sunday, The Day of Pentecost
(by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870)
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of thy love.
The great day, which consummates the work that God had undertaken for the human race, has, at last, shone upon the world. The days of Pentecost, as St. Luke says, are accomplished (Acts. ii. 1). We have had seven weeks since the Pasch; and now comes the day that opens the mysterious number of Fifty. This day is the Sunday, already made holy by the Creation of the Light, and by the Resurrection of Jesus; it is about to receive its final consecration, and bring us the fullness of God (Eph. iii. 19).
In the Old and figurative Law, God foreshadowed the glory that was to belong, at a future period, to the Fiftieth Day. Israel had passed the waters of the Red Sea, thanks to the protecting power of his Paschal Lamb! Seven weeks were spent in the Desert, which was to lead to the Promised Land; and the very morrow of those seven weeks was the day, whereon was made the alliance between God and his people. The Pentecost (the Fiftieth Day) was honored by the promulgation of the ten commandments of the Divine Law; and every following year, the Israelites celebrated the great event by a solemn Festival. But their Pentecost was figurative, like their Pasch: there was to be a second Pentecost for all people, as there was to be a second Pasch for the Redemption of the whole world. The Pasch, with all its triumphant joys, belongs to the Son of God, the Conqueror of death: Pentecost belongs to the Holy Ghost, for it is the day whereon He began His mission into this world, which, henceforward, was to be under His Law.
But, how different are the two Pentecosts! The one, on the rugged rocks of Arabia, amidst thunder and lightning, promulgates a Law that is written on tablets of stone; the second is in Jerusalem, on which God’s anger has not as yet been manifested, because it still contains within its walls the first-fruits of that new people, over whom the Spirit of love is to reign. In this second Pentecost, the heavens are not overcast, nor is the roar of thunder heard; the hearts of men are not stricken with fear, as when God spake on Sinai; repentance and gratitude, these are the sentiments which are now uppermost. A divine fire burns within their souls, and will spread throughout the whole world. Our Lord Jesus had said: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled (St. Luke, xii. 49)? The hour for the fulfillment of this word is come: the Spirit of Love, the Holy Ghost, the eternal uncreated Flame, is about to descend from heaven, and realize the merciful design of our Redeemer.
Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims, who have flocked thither from every country of the Gentile world: they feel a strange mysterious expectation working in their souls. They are Jews, and are come from every foreign land where Israel has founded a Synagogue; they are come to keep the feasts of Pasch and Pentecost. Asia, Africa, and even Rome, have here their representatives. Amidst these Jews properly so called, are to be seen many Gentiles, who, from a desire to serve God more faithfully, have embraced the Mosaic law and observances; they are called Proselytes. This influx of strangers, who have come to Jerusalem out of a desire to observe the Law, gives the City a Babel-like appearance, for each nation has its own language. They are not, however, under the influence of pride and prejudice, as are the inhabitants of Judea; neither have they, like these latter, known and rejected the Messias, nor blasphemed His works whereby He gave testimony of His divine character. It may be that they took part with the other Jews in clamouring for Jesus’ death, but they were led to it by the Chief Priests and Magistrates of the Jerusalem which they reverenced as the holy City of God, and to which nothing but religious motives have brought them.
It is the hour of Tierce, the third hour of the day (Our nine o’clock. Acts, ii. 15), fixed from all eternity, for the accomplishment of a divine decree. It was at the hour of midnight, that the Father sent into this world, that He might take flesh in Mary’s womb, the Son eternally begotten of Himself: so now, at this hour of Tierce, the Father and Son, send upon the earth the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from them both. He is sent to form the Church, the Spouse and Kingdom of Christ; He is to assist and maintain her; He is to save and sanctify the souls of men; and this His Mission is to continue to the end of time.
Suddenly is heard, coming from heaven, the sound of a violent wind: it startles the people in the City, it fills the Cenacle with its mighty breath. A crowd is soon round the house that stands on Mount Sion; the hundred and twenty Disciples that are within the building, feel that mysterious emotion within them, of which their Master once said: The Spirit breatheth where He will, and thou hearest His voice (St. John, iii. 8). Like that strange invisible creature, which probes the very depth of the sea and makes the waves heave mountains high, this Breath from heaven will traverse the world from end to end, breaking down every barrier that would stay its course.
The holy assembly have been days in fervent expectation; the Divine Spirit gives them this warning of His coming, and they, in the passiveness of extatic longing, await his will. As to them that are outside the Cenacle, and have responded to the appeal thus given, let us, for the moment, forget them. A silent shower falls in the House; it is a shower of Fire, which, as holy Church says, “burns not, but enlightens, consumes not, but shines (Responsory for the Thursday within the Octave).” Flakes of fire, in the shape of tongues, rest on the heads of the hundred and twenty Disciples: it is the Holy Ghost taking possession of all and each. The Church is now, not only in Mary, but also in these hundred and twenty Disciples. All belong now to the Spirit that has descended upon them; His kingdom is begun, it is manifested, its conquests will be speedy and glorious.
But let us consider the symbol chosen to designate this divine change. He Who showed himself under the endearing form of a Dove, on the occasion of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, now appears under that of Fire. He is the Spirit of Love; and love is not only gentle and tender, it is, also, ardent as fire. Now, therefore, that the world is under the influence of the Holy Ghost, it must needs be on fire, and the fire shall not be checked. And why this form of Tongues? To show that the heavenly fire is to be spread by the word, by speech. These hundred and twenty Disciples need but to speak of the Son of God, made Man, and our Redeemer; of the Holy Ghost, Who renews our souls; of the heavenly Father, who loves and adopts us as His children; their word will find thousands to believe and welcome it. Those that receive it, shall all be united in one faith; they shall be called the Catholic Church, that is, universal, existing in all places and times. Jesus had said: Go, teach all nations (St. Matth. xxviii. 19)!–the Holy Ghost brings from heaven both the tongue that is to teach, and the fire, (the love of God and mankind,) which is to give warmth and efficacy to the teaching. This Tongue and Fire are now given to these first Disciples, who, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, will transmit them to others: so will it be to the end of time.
An obstacle, however, opposes the mission at the very onset. Since the confusion at Babel, there have been as many languages as countries; communication by word has been interrupted. How, then, is the word to become the instrument of the world’s conquest, and make one family out of all these nations, that cannot understand each other? Fear not: the Holy Spirit is all-powerful, and has provided for this difficulty. With the other gifts, wherewith He has enriched the hundred and twenty Disciples, He has given them that of understanding all languages, and of making themselves understood in every language. In a transport of holy enthusiasm, they attempt to speak the languages of all nations their tongue and their ear take in, not only without effort, but even with charm and joy, this plenitude of word and speech which is to re-unite mankind together. The Spirit of love has annulled the separation of Babel; men are once more made Brethren by the unity of language.
How beautiful art thou, dear Church of our God! Heretofore, the workings of the Holy Ghost have been limited; but now, He breatheth freely where He willeth; He brings thee forth to the eyes of men by this stupendous prodigy. Thou art the image of what this earth was, when all its inhabitants spoke the same language. The prodigy is not to cease with the day of Pentecost, nor with the Disciples who are its first receivers. When the Apostles have terminated their lives and preaching, the gift of tongues, at least in its miraculous form, will cease, because no longer needed: but thou, O Church of Christ! wilt continue to speak all languages, even to the end of time, for thou art to dwell in every clime. The one same Faith is to be expressed in the language of every country; and thus transformed, the miracle of Pentecost is to be kept up forever within thee, as one of thy characteristic marks.
The great St. Augustine alluded to this, when he spoke the following admirable words: “The whole body of Christ, the Church, now speaks in all tongues. Nay, I myself speak all tongues, for I am in the body of Christ, I am in the Church of Christ. If the body of Christ now speaks all languages, then am I in all languages. Greek is mine, Syriac is mine, Hebrew is mine, and all are mine, for I am one with all the several nations that speak them (Enarratio in Psalmum cxlvii. vers. 14).” During the Ages of Faith, the Church, (which is the only source of all true progress,) succeeded in giving one common language to all the nations that were in union with her. For centuries, the Latin language was the bond of union between civilized countries. However distant these might be from one another, there was this link of connection between them; it was the medium of communication for political negotiations, for the spread of science, or for friendly epistolary correspondence. No one was a stranger, in any part of the West, or even beyond it, who could speak this language. The great heresy of the 16th century robbed us of this as of so many other blessings; it dismembered that Europe, which the Church had united, not only by her Faith, but by her language. But let us return to the Cenacle, and continue our contemplation of the wondrous workings of the Holy Spirit within this still closed sanctuary.
First of all, we look for Mary; for Her who now, more than ever, is full of grace. After those measureless gifts lavished upon her in her Immaculate Conception; after the treasures of holiness infused into her by the Incarnate Word during the nine months she bore Him in her womb; after the special graces granted her for acting and suffering in union with her Son, in the work of the world’s Redemption; after the favors wherewith this same Jesus loaded her when in the glory of His Resurrection; after all this, we should have thought that heaven had given all it could give to a mere creature, however sublime the destiny of that creature might be. But no. Here is a new mission opened for Mary. The Church is born; she is born of Mary. Mary has given birth to the Spouse of her Son; new duties fall upon the Mother of the Church. Jesus has ascended into heaven, leaving Mary upon the earth, that she may nurse the infant-Church. Oh! how lovely, and yet how dignified, is this infancy of our dear Church, cherished as she is, fed, and strengthened by Mary! But this second Eve, this true Mother of the living? must receive a fresh infusion of grace to fit her for this her new office: therefore it is, that She has the first claim to, and the richest portion of, the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Heretofore, He overshadowed her and made her Mother of the Son of God; now, He makes her the Mother of the Christian people. It is the verification of those words of the Royal Prophet: The stream (literally, the impetuosity) of the river maketh the City of God joyful: the Most High hath sanctified His own Tabernacle (Ps. xlv. 5). The Spirit of Love here fulfils the intention expressed by our Redeemer when dying on the Cross. Woman! said Jesus to her, behold thy Son! St. John was this son, and he represented all mankind. The Holy Ghost now infuses into Mary the plenitude of the grace needful for her maternal mission. From this day forward, she acts as Mother of the infant Church: and when, at length, the Church no longer needs her visible presence, this Mother quits the earth for heaven, where she is crowned Queen; but there, too, she exercises her glorious title and office of Mother of men. Let us contemplate this master-piece of Pentecost, and admire the new loveliness that beams in Mary from this second Maternity. She is inflamed by the fire of divine love, and this in a way not felt before. She is all devoted to the office put upon her, and for which she has been left on earth. The grace of the Apostolate is granted to her. She has received the tongue of fire; and although her voice is not to make itself heard in public preaching, yet will she speak to the Apostles, directing and consoling them in their labors. She will speak, too, to the Faithful, but with a force, sweetness, and persuasiveness, becoming one whom God has made the most exalted of His creatures. The primitive Christians, with such a training as this, will have a vigour and an energy enough to resist all the attacks of hell, and, like Stephen, who had often listened to her inspiring words, die Martyrs for the Faith.
Let us next look at the Apostolic College. The frequent instructions they have been receiving from their Lord, during the forty days after His Resurrection, have changed them into quite other men; but now that they have received the Holy Ghost, the change and conversion is complete. They are filled with the enthusiasm of faith; their souls are on fire with divine love; the conquest of the whole world, this is their ambition, and they know it is their mission. What their Master had told them, is fulfilled: they are endued with Power from on high (St. Luke, xxiv. 49) and are ready for the battle. Who would suppose that these are the men who crouched with fear, when their Jesus was in the hands of His enemies? Who would take these to be the men that doubted of His Resurrection? All that this beloved Master has taught them is now so clear to them! They see it all, they understand it all. The Holy Ghost has infused into them, and in a sublime degree, the gift of Faith; they are impatient to spread this Faith throughout the whole earth. Far from fearing, they even long to suffer persecution in the discharge of the office entrusted to them by Jesus that of preaching His name and His glory unto all nations.
Look at Peter. You easily recognize him by that majestic bearing, which, though sweetly tempered by deep humility, bespeaks his pre-eminent dignity. A few hours ago, it was the tranquil gravity of the Head of the Apostolic College; now, his whole face gleams with the flash of enthusiasm, for the Holy Ghost is now sovereign possessor of this Vicar of Christ, this Prince of the word, this master-teacher of truth. Near him are seated the other Apostles: Andrew, his elder brother, who now conceives that ardent passion for the Cross, which is to be his grand characteristic; John, whose meek and gentle eye now glistens with the fire of inspiration, betokening the Prophet of Patmos; James, the brother of John, and called, like him, the son of thunder (St. Mark, iii. 17), bears in his whole attitude the appearance of the future chivalrous conqueror of Iberia. The other James, known and loved under the name of Brother of Jesus, feels a fresh and deeper transport of joyousness as the power of the Spirit thrills through his being. Matthew is encircled with a glowing light, which points him out to us as the first writer of the New Testament. Thomas, whose faith was the fruit he took from Jesus’ Wounds, feels that faith now made perfect; it is generous, free, unreserved, worthy of the brave Apostle of the far East. In a word, all Twelve are a living hymn to the glory of the almighty Spirit, Whose power is thus magnificently evinced even at the onset of His reign.
The Disciples, too, are sharers, though in a less degree than the Apostles, of the divine gifts; they receive the same Spirit, the same sacred Fire, for they, too, are to go forth, conquer the world, and found Churches. The holy Women, also, who form part of the assembly of the Cenacle, have received the graces of this wondrous Descent of the Holy Ghost. It was love that emboldened them to stand near the Cross of Jesus, and be the first to visit His Sepulchre on Easter morning; this love is now redoubled. A tongue of fire has stood over each of them, and the time will come when they will speak, with fervid eloquence, of Jesus, to both Jews and Gentiles. The Synagogue will banish Magdalene and her Companions: the Gentiles of our western Europe will receive them, and the word of these holy exiles will produce a hundredfold of fruit.
Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews has collected round the mysterious Cenacle. Not only has the mighty wind excited their curiosity, but, moreover, that same divine Spirit, Who is working such wonders upon the holy assembly within, is impelling them to visit the House, wherein is the new-born Church of Christ. They clamour for the Apostles, and these are burning with zeal to begin their work: so, too, are all. At once, then, the crowd sees these men standing in its midst, and relating the prodigy that has been wrought by the God of Israel.
What is the surprise of this multitude, composed as it is of people of so many different nations, when these poor uneducated Galileans address them, each in the language of his own country? They have heard them speak before this, and they expected a repetition of the jargon now; when, lo! there is the correct accent and diction of every country, and with such eloquence! The symbol of unity is here shown in all its magnificence. Here is the Christian Church, and it is One, One though consisting of such varied elements: the walls of division, which divine justice had set up between nation and nation, are now removed. Here, also, are the heralds of the Faith of Christ: they are ready for their grand mission; they long to traverse the earth, and save it by the word of their preaching.
But, in the crowd, there are some who are shocked at witnessing this heavenly enthusiasm of the Apostles. These men, say they, are full of new wine! It is the language of rationalism, explaining away mystery by reason. These Galileans, these drunken men, are, however, to conquer the whole world to Christ, and give the Holy Ghost, with His inebriating unction, to all mankind. The holy Apostles feel that it is time to proclaim the new Pentecost; yes, this anniversary of the Old is a fitting day for the New to be declared. But, in this proclamation of the law of mercy and love, which is to supersede the law of justice and fear, who is to be the Moses? Our Emmanuel, before ascending into heaven, had selected one of the Twelve for the glorious office: it is Peter, the Rock on whom is built the Church. It is time for the Shepherd to show himself, and speak, for the Flock is now to be formed. Let us hearken to the Holy Ghost, Who is about to speak, by his chief organ, to this wondering and attentive multitude. The Apostle, though he speaks in one tongue, is understood by each of his audience, no matter what his country and language may be. The discourse is, of its own-self, a guarantee of the truth and divine origin of the new law.
The fisherman of Genesareth thus pours forth his wondrous eloquence: “Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and, with your ears, receive my words! For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken of by the Prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids, will I pour out, in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you, by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as you also know. This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, by the hands of wicked men, have crucified and slain. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell (the tomb), as it was impossible that He should be holden by it. For David saith concerning him: ‘My flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in the Tomb, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.’ Ye men, Brethren, let me freely speak to you of the Patriarch David: that he died and was buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. Whereas, therefore, he was a Prophet, he spoke of the Resurrection of Christ; for neither was He ‘left in the Tomb,’ neither did his ‘flesh’ see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses. Being exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this which you see and hear. Therefore, let all the House of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ this same Jesus, Whom you have crucified (Acts, ii. 14-36).”
Thus did the second Moses promulgate the New Law. How must not his hearers have welcomed the stupendous gift of this new Pentecost, which put them in possession of the divine realities foreshadowed by that figurative one of old! Here again, it was God revealing Himself to His creatures, and, as usual, by miracles. Peter alludes to the wonders wrought by Jesus, Who thus bore testimony of His being the Messias. He tells his audience, that the Holy Ghost has been sent from heaven, according to the promise made to this Jesus by his Father: they have proof enough of the great fact, in the gift of tongues of which themselves are witnesses.
The Holy Spirit makes His presence and influence to be felt in the hearts of these favored listeners. A few moments previous, and they were disciples of Sinai, who had come from distant lands to celebrate the by-gone Pasch and Pentecost; now they have faith, simple and full faith, in Christ. They repent the awful crime of His Death, of which they have been accomplices; they confess His Resurrection and Ascension; they beseech Peter and the rest of the Apostles to put them in the way of salvation: Men and Brethren! say they, what shall we do (Acts, ii. 37)? Better dispositions could not be: they desire to know their duty, and are determined to do it. Peter resumes his discourse, saying: “Do penance, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call (Ibid. 38, 39).”
The Jewish Pentecost pales at each word of the new Moses; the Christian Pentecost manifests itself with clearer light. The reign of the Holy Ghost is inaugurated in Jerusalem, and under the very shadow of that Temple which is doomed to destruction. Peter continued his instructions; but the sacred volume has left us only these few words, wherewith, probably, the Apostle made his final appeal to his hearers: “Save yourselves from this perverse generation (Acts. ii 40)!
Yes, these children of Israel had to make this sacrifice, or they never could have shared in the graces of the new Pentecost; they had to cut themselves off from their own people; they had to leave the Synagogue for the Church. There was a struggle in many a heart at that moment; but the Holy Spirit triumphed; three thousand declared themselves disciples of Christ, and received the mark of adoption in holy Baptism. Church of the living God! how lovely art thou in thy first reception of the divine Spirit! how admirable is thy early progress! Thy first abode was in the Immaculate Mary, the Virgin full of grace, the Mother of God; thy second victory gave thee the hundred and twenty Disciples of the Cenacle; and now, three thousand elect proclaim thee as their Mother, and, leaving the unhappy Jerusalem, will carry thy name and kingdom to their own countries. Tomorrow, Peter is to preach in the Temple, and five thousand men will enroll themselves as Disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Hail! then, dear creation of the Holy Ghost! Militant on earth; triumphant in heaven; beautiful, noble, immortal Church! all hail! And thou, bright Pentecost! day of our truest birth! how fair, how glorious, thou makest these first hours of Jesus’ Spouse on earth! The Divine Spirit thou givest us, has written, not upon stone, but upon our hearts, the Law that is to govern us. In thee, O Pentecost! we find realized the hopes foreshadowed in the mystery of the Epiphany; for though thyself art promulgated in Jerusalem, yet thy graces are to be extended to all that are afar off, that is, to us Gentiles. The Magi came from the East; we watched them as they visited the Crib of the Divine Babe, for we knew that we, too, were to have our season of grace. It was Thou, O Holy Spirit! that didst attract them to Bethlehem: and now, in this Pentecost of Thy power, Thou callest all men; the Star is changed into Tongues of Fire, and the face of the earth is to be renewed. Oh! grant that we may be ever faithful to the graces Thou offerest us, and carefully treasure the Gifts sent us, with Thee and through Thee, by the Father and the Son!
The mystery of Pentecost holds so important a place in the Christian dispensation, that we cannot be surprised at the Church’s ranking it, in her Liturgy, on an equality with her Paschal Solemnity. The Pasch is the redemption of man by the victory of Christ; Pentecost is the Holy Ghost taking possession of man redeemed. The Ascension is the intermediate mystery; it consummates the Pasch, by placing the Man-God, the Conqueror of death, and our Head, at the right hand of the Father; it prepares the mission of the Holy Ghost to our earth. This mission could not take place until Jesus had been glorified, as St. John tells us (St. John, vii. 39); and there are several reasons assigned for it by the Holy Fathers. It was necessary that the Son of God, Who, together with the Father, is the principle of the procession of the Holy Ghost in the divine essence, should also personally send this Divine Spirit upon the earth. The exterior mission of one of the Three Persons is but the sequel and manifestation of the mysterious and eternal production which is ever going on within the Divinity. Thus the Father is not sent either by the Son or by the Holy Ghost, because He does not proceed from them. The Son is sent to men by the Father, of Whom He is eternally begotten. The Holy Ghost is sent by the Father and the Son, because He proceeds from both. But, in order that the mission of the Holy Ghost might give greater glory to the Son, there was a congruity in its not taking place until such time as the Incarnate Word should be enthroned at the right hand of the Father. How immense the glory of Human Nature, that it was hypostatically united to the Person of the Son of God when this mission of the Holy Ghost was achieved! and that we can say, in strict truth, the Holy Ghost was sent by the Man-God!
This divine Mission was not to be given to the Third Person, until men were deprived of the visible presence of Jesus. As we have already said, the hearts of the Faithful were henceforward to follow their absent Redeemer by a purer and wholly spiritual love. Now, Who was to bring us this new love, if not He Who is the link of the eternal love of the Father and the Son? This Holy Spirit of love and union is called, in the Sacred Scriptures?, the “Gift of God (St. John, iv. 10);” and it is on the day of Pentecost that the Father and Son send us this ineffable Gift. Let us call to mind the words spoken by our Emmanuel to the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Sichar: If thou didst know the Gift of God (St. John, iv. 10)! He had not yet been given, He had not yet been manifested, otherwise than in a partial way. From this day forward, He inundates the whole earth with his Fire, He gives spiritual life to all, He makes His influence felt in every place. We know the Gift of God; so that we have but to open our hearts to receive Him, as did the three thousand who listened to St. Peter’s sermon.
Observe, too, the Season of the Year, in which the Holy Ghost comes to take possession of His earthly kingdom. Our Jesus, the Sun of Justice, arose in Bethlehem in the very depth of winter; humble and gradual was His ascent to the zenith of His glory. But the Spirit of the Father and the Son came in the Season that harmonizes with His own divine characteristic. He is a consuming Fire (Deut. iv. 24); He comes into the world when summer is in his pride, and sunshine decks our earth with loveliest flowers. Let us welcome the life-giving heat of the Holy Ghost, and earnestly beseech Him that it may ever abide within us. The Liturgical Year has brought us to the full possession of Truth by the Incarnate Word; let us carefully cherish the Love, which the Holy Ghost has now enkindled within our hearts.
The Christian Pentecost, prefigured by the ancient one of the Jews, is of the number of the Feasts that were instituted by the Apostles. As we have already remarked, it formerly shared with Easter the honor of the solemn administration of Baptism. Its Octave, like that of Easter, and for the same reason, ended with the Saturday following the Feast. The Catechumens received Baptism on the night between Saturday and Sunday. So that the Pentecost Solemnity began on the Vigil, for the Neophytes at once put on their white garments: on the eighth day, the Saturday, they laid them aside.
In the Middle-Ages, the Feast of Pentecost was called by the beautiful name of The Pasch of Roses, just as the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension was termed the Sunday of Roses. The colour and fragrance of this lovely flower were considered by our Catholic Forefathers as emblems of the Tongues of Fire, which rested on the heads of the hundred and twenty Disciples, and poured forth the sweet gifts of love and grace on the infant Church. The same idea suggested the red-coloured Vestments for the Liturgical Services during the whole Octave. In his Rational, (a work which abounds in most interesting information regarding the Medieeval Liturgical usages,) Durandus tells us, that in the 13th Century, a Dove was allowed to fly about in the Church, and flowers and lighted tow were thrown down from the roof, during the Mass on Whit Sunday; these were allusions to the two mysteries of Jesus’ Baptism, and of the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.
At Rome, the Station is in the Basilica of Saint Peter. It was but just, that special honour should be paid to the Prince of the Apostles, for it was on this day that his preaching won three thousand converts to the Church. Though the Station, and the Indulgences attached to it, are at Saint Peter’s, yet the Sovereign Pontiff and the sacred College of Cardinals solemnize today’s Service in the Lateran Basilica, which is the Mother Church of the City and the World.
Acts i. 9:: “And when He had said these things, while they looked on, He was raised up,
and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
Twice twenty days have come and gone,
Since Thou didst pass the sealed stone;
O Jesus, live for ever!
Now on the brow of Olivet
With that loved band Thou lingerest yet;
Sweet Jesus, live for ever!
Bright angels throng the pomp to swell,
With souls set free from death and hell,
O Jesus, live for ever!
Earth may Thy flight no longer stay.
Man triumphs, heaven is won for aye,
Sweet Jesus, live for ever!
Soft is the summer sun, and high
Floateth a cloud in deep blue sky;
O Jesus, live for ever!
Once more Thy mother near Thee stands,
With tender gaze and folded hands;
Sweet Jesus, live for ever!
Oh, glorious train rejoicing move
On wings of gladness, wings of love;
O Jesus, live for ever!
To Thee Redeemer, Man Divine,
Praise in the highest, Lord, be Thine!
Sweet Jesus, live for ever!
Th’ Eternal gates of Heaven unbar,
They spy the victor from afar,
O Jesus, live for ever!
One blessing more–earth sinks away,
The cloud receives Him! Mother, pray!
Sweet Jesus, live for ever!
On the Joy of Ascension Day
John xiv. 28: “If you love Me, you would indeed be glad,
because I go to the Father.”
Why is thy face so lit with smiles,
O blessed Mother, why?
And wherefore is thy beaming look
So fixed upon the sky?
From out thine overflowing eyes
Bright lights of gladness part,
As though some gushing fount of joy
Had broken in thy heart.
Yes, He hath left thee, Mother dear;
His throne is far above;
How canst thou be so full of joy,
When thou hast lost thy love?
Ah, no! thy love is rightful love,
From all self-seeking free;
The change that is such gain to Him
Can be no loss to thee.
Mother, how canst thou smile today!
How can thine eyes be bright,
When He, thy Life, thy Love, thine All.
Hath vanished from thy sight?
The feet which thou hast kissed so oft,
Those living feet, are gone;
And now thou canst but stoop and kiss
Their print upon the stone.
‘Tis sweet to feel a Saviour’s love,
To feel His Presence near;
Yet loyal love His glory holds
A thousand times more dear.
Ah! never is our love so pure
As when refined by pain,
Or when God’s glory upon earth
Finds in our loss its gain.
The Ascension of Our Lord In Ascensione Domini Missa ‘Viri Galilaei’ 1st Class White