The Liturgical Year – Paschal Time Vol. III
By: Dom Gueranger Imprimatur 1927
For the third time, holy Church marshals her children in procession, and makes a solemn appeal to the divine mercy. Let us follow her sacred standard, and join her in invoking the intercession of the saints. The Litany, in which we pray to all the choirs of the heavenly Jerusalem, is both a magnificent and a powerful prayer: it is the Church triumphant uniting with the Church militant in praying for the salvation of the world.
O MARY! Mother of God, Virgin of virgins, miracle of divine power, exercise in our favour thy maternal mediation with Him, who, though God, is thy Son!
Michael the invincible, Gabriel, welcome messenger of our salvation, Raphael, affectionate physician of them that are suffering; Angels and Archangels who
watch over us, and co-operate in the work of our salvation; all ye choirs of blessed spirits, who are waiting for your ranks to be filled up by the elect of earth: intercede for your brethren, your clients!
John the Baptist, precursor of the Lamb of God’ Joseph, spouse of Mary Immaculate, and foster-father of the Son of God; patriarchs, the glorious forefathers of the human race, and ancestors of the Messiahs; prophets, who foretold His coming, and described the events of His life, that so the earth might recognize Him as its promised Redeemer: remember us who are living in this exile, through which you also passed!
Peter, universal pastor, that holdest the keys of the kingdom of heaven; Paul, apostle of the Gentiles, armed with the sword of the word, and immolated by the sword of martyrdom; Andrew, crucified like thy master; James the Greater, son of thunder, founder of the Catholic kingdom; John, the beloved disciple, the adopted son and guardian of Mary, evangelist and prophet; Thomas, apostle of the Indies, pierced to death by a spear; James the Less, surnamed the ‘brother of the Lord’; Philip, who didst preach the Gospel to the Scythians, and wast crucified at Heirapolis; Bartholomew, the teacher and martyr of Armenia; Matthew, the evangelist, who didst carry the faith into the scorching regions of Ethiopia; Simon, by whose zeal Mesopotamia was led to the knowledge of Christ; Thaddeus, the courageous destroyer of the idols of Egypt; Mathias, chose to fill up the place of the traitor Judas, and well worthy of the honour; Barnabas, Paul’s companion, of the apostle of the Gentiles, and historian of the Incarnate Word; Mark, disciple of Peter, under whose direction thou wrotest the Gospel of salvation: we devoutly honour you as our fathers in the faith; pray for and with us!
Disciples of our Lord, who, though not raised to the rank of apostles, were chosen by Him to be their fellow-labourers, and who, on the day of Pentecost, were filled with the Holy Ghost; dear Innocents of Bethlehem, first-fruits of the martyrs: deign to join us in our supplications!
Stephen the crowned, Laurence the brave and cheerful winner of immortal laurels, Vincent the victorious,- the glorious triumvirate of deacons; Fabian, pontiff designated by a dove sent from heaven; Sebastian, dauntless soldier of holy Church; John and Paul, Cosmas and DAmian, Gervasius and Protasius, brothers by nature and by martyrdom; oh! all ye holy martyrs, protect us under the shadow of your palms!
Sylvester, pontiff of peace; Gregory, vicar both of the meekness and of the authority of Christ; Ambrose, whose eloquence was sweet as honey, and whose courage was that of a lion; Augustine, doctor of doctors, and apostle of divine charity; Jerome inspired interpreter of the Scriptures; Martin thaumaturgus of the west, and Nicholas, wonder-worker in the east; holy pontiffs, holy doctors of the Church, lead back to Christ all His sheep that have gone astray.
Antony, the glory of the desert, and the conqueror of satan; Benedict, the Abraham of the new Testament, whose children are countless as the stars of heaven; Bernard, pillar of the Church, and favourite of the Mother of God; Dominic, preacher of the divine truth, and scourage of heresy; Francis friend of the spouse of poverty, crucified together with Christ; we honour you all; enkindle within our souls the desire of Christian perfection!
Priests of the Lord; holy monks, hermits, and confessors: pray for us who implore your aid!
Mary Magdalene, once a sinner, but afterwards a saint, whose devotedness to Jesus was so generous and fervent: obtain for us that compunction of heart, which makes amends for sin by love!
Agatha and Lucy, beautiful flowers of fair Sicily; Agnes who followest the Lamb whithersoever He goeth; Cicily, wreathed with thy roses and lilies, and queen of sweet melody; Catharine the wise virgin that confoundest the false wisdom of philosophers; Anastasia, the valiant woman that didst triumph over the trials of life and severity of tortures; oh! all ye holy virgins, spouses of Jesus, look with compassion on us who are dwelling in this land of exile!
All ye holy men and women, saints of God, who now reign in heaven above, think of us your brethren, who mourn in this vale of tears. We, too, are created for eternal happiness; and yet vanities of time engross our thoughts and affections. Make intercession for us, that, henceforth, we may walk worthy of God, who hath called us unto His kingdom and glory. (I Thess. ii.12)
The Litany is finished and for the third time, the holy Sacrifice is about to work reconciliation between our God and us His guilty children. Let us hope that He will make this year of peace and plenty; and next year, when the Church invites us to join her in this public supplication for pardon, may the number of those who respond to her call, be such as to merit an increase of every blessing!
The Mass is given above, page 144. Let us assist at it with a deep conviction of our own insufficiency to make atonement for our sins, and yet with a firm confidence in the infinite merits of the Paschal Lamb, our risen Jesus.
The ancient Church of Gual used to recite the following prayer on this third of the Rogation days. It will aid us to a spirit of penance.
It is truly meet and just, year most meet, that they who fast should seek thee alone, thee that art the teacher of abstinence, and the giver of eternal rewards to them that practise it. To them that fast, thou grantest that they, with faith ask of thee: thou cleanest them from the stains contracted by intemperate indulgence. It was thou that didst proclaim holy fasting by thy servant Moses, in the book of Leviticus, wherein thou commandedst that we should humble our souls, let we should be destroyed, as was the people that gave themselves up to excess in eating. Thine only-begotten Son sanctified this institution by himself fulfilling it, and, by his fast, opening to us the kingdom we had lost, and pardoning our sins. Do thou, therefore, graciously accept the fasts thou hast instituted, and, by them, absolve us from all our guilt.
The third morning of the Rogation days is over; the hour of noon has come, and from it we begin to count the hours of the last day which the Son of God is to spend upon earth in His visible presence. During these three days, we seem to have forgotten that the time of separation is close upon us; but not: the thought itself, and the humble supplications we have been presenting to heaven, in union with holy Church, have prepared us to celebrate the last mystery achieved by our Emmanuel on earth.
The disciples are all assembled in Jerusalem. They are grouped around the blessed Mother, in the cenacle, awaiting the hour when their divine Master is to appear to them for the last time. Recollected and silent, they are reflecting upon all the kindness and condescension He has been lavishing upon them during the last forty days; they are ruminating upon the instructions they have received from His sacred lips. They know Him so well now! They know in very deed that He came out from the Father. (St. John, xvii. 8.) As to what regards themselves, they have leared from Him what their mission is: they have to go, ignorant men as they are, and teach all nations; (St. Matt. xxviii. 19.) but (Oh sad thought!) He is about to leave them; yet a little while, and they shall not see Him! (St. John, xvi. 16.)
What a contrast between their sorrow and the smiling face of nature, which is decked out in her best, for she is going to celebrate the triumphant departure of her Creator! The earth is blooming with the freshness of her first-fruits, the meadows have put on their richest emerald, the air is perfumed with blossom and flower; and all this loveliness of spring is due to the bright sun that shines upon the earth to give her the gladness and life, and is privileged to be, both by its kingly splendour and the successive phases of its influence upon our glove, the grand symbol of our Emmanuel’s passage through this world.
Let us go back in through to the dismal days of the winter solstice. The sun looked then so pallid; his triumph over night was slow and short; he rose, and sank again, often without our seeing him; his light had a certain timid reserve about it, and his heat was, for weeks, too feeble to rescue nature from the grasp of frost. Such was our divine Sun of Justice, when first He came on earth; His rays made but little way in the world’s thick gloom; He kept His spendour in, lest men should be dazzled by too sudden a change from darkness to light. Like the material sun, He gained upon the world by slow advances; and even so, His progress was shrouded by many a cloud. His sojourn in the land of Egypt, His hidden life at Nazareth, were long periods during which He was wholly lost sight of. But when the time came for all magnificence, upon Galilee and Judea; He spoke as one having power (St. Matt. vii. 29), His works bore testimony to His being God (St. John, x, 25.), and the people hailed Him with the cry of ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
He was almost at the zenith of His glory, when suddenly came the eclipse of His Passion and Death. For some hours, His enemies flattered themselves that they had for ever put out His light. Vain hope! On the third day, our divine Sun triumphed over this final obstruction, and now stands in the firmament, pouring out His light upon all creation, but warning us that His course is run. For He can never descend; there is no setting for Him; and here finishes the comparison between Himself and the orb of day. It is from heaven itself that He, our beautiful Orient, is henceforth to enlighten and direct us, as Zachary foretold at the birth of the Baptist (St. Luke, i, 79.). The royal prophet, too, thus exultingly sang of Him: ‘He hath rejoiced, as a great, to run the way: His going out is from the highest heaven, and His circuit even to the summit thereof: and there is no one that can hid himself from His heat. (Ps. xviii. 6,7).
This Ascension, which enthroned our Emmanuel as the eternal center of light, was, by His own decree, to take place on one of the days of the month which men call May, and which clothes in its richest beauty the creation of this same God, who, when He had made it, was pleased with it, and found it very good (Gen. i. 31). Sweet month of May! Not gloomy and cold like December, which brought us the humble joys of Bethlehem; not lowering and clouded like March, when the Lamb was sacrificed on Calvary; but buoyant with sunshine, and flowers, and life, and truly worth to be offered, each year, to Mary, the Mother of God, for it is the month of her Jesus’ triumph.
O Jesus! our Creator and our Brother! our eyes and heart have followed Thee from Thy first rising uon our world. We have celebrated, in the holy liturgy, each of Thy giant steps. But Thy very growth in beauty and brightness told us that Thou must one day leave us, to go and take possession of the place that was alone worthy of Thee, the throne at the right hand of Thine eternal Father. The spendour that has been on Thee since Thy Resurrection, is not of this world; Thou canst no longer abide among us. Thou hast remained here below, for these forty days, only for the sake of consolidating Thy work’ and tomorrow the earth that has been blessed with Thy presence for three and thirty years, will be deprived of its privilege and joy. We rejoice at Thy approaching triumph, as did Thy blessed Mother, Thy disciples, Mary Magdalene and her companions; but we are sad at the thought of losing Thee, and Thou wilt forgive us. Thou wast our Emmanuel, our ‘God with us’; henceforth, Thou art to be our Sun, our King, reigning from the throne of heaven, and we shall no longer be able to hear Thee, nor see Thee, nor touch Thee, O Word of life(I St. John, i.l.). Still, dearest Jesus, we say to Thee with all our hearts: Glory and love be to Thee, for Thou hast treated us with infinite mercy! Thou owedst nothing to us; we were unworthy of a single look from Thee; and yet Thou camest down to this sinful earth, Thou hast dwelt among us, Thou hast paid our ransom by Thy Blood, Thou hast re-established peace between God and man. Oh, yes! it is most just that Thou shouldst now return to Him that sent Thee (St. John, svi. 5.). The Church, Thy bride, consents to her exile; she thinks only of what is most glorious to her Jesus; and she thus addresses Thee, in the words of the Canticle: ‘Flee way, O my Beloved! and be swift as the roe and as the young hart, and ascend to the mountians, where the flowers of heaven exhale their sweet fragrance (Cant. viii. 14.)!’ Can we, poor sinners as we are, refuse to imitate this loving resignation of her, who is Thy bride, and our mother?