Nearest to Jesus' Crib, after Stephen, stands John, the Apostle and Evangelist. It was only right, that the first place should be assigned to him, who so loved his God, that he shed his blood in his service; for, as this God himself declares, greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends [1 John, 15:13] and Martyrdom has ever been counted, by the Church, as the greatest act of love, and as having, consequently, the power of remitting sins, like a second Baptism. But, next to the sacrifice of Blood, the noblest, the bravest, and which most wins the heart of Him who is the Spouse of souls, is the sacrifice of Virginity. Now, just as St. Stephen is looked upon as the type of Martyrs, St. John is honoured as the Prince of Virgins. Martyrdom won for Stephen the Crown and palm; Virginity merited for John most singular prerogatives, which, while they show how dear to God is holy Chastity, put this Disciple among those, who, by their dignity and influence, are above the rest of men.
St. John was of the family of David, as was our Blessed Lady. He was, consequently, a relation of Jesus. This same honour belonged to St. James the Greater, his Brother; as also to St. James the Less, and St Jude, both Sons of Alpheus. When our Saint was in the prime of his youth, he left, not only his boat and nets, not only has lather Zebedee, but even his betrothed, when everything was prepared for the marriage. He followed Jesus, and never once looked back. Hence, the special love which our Lord bore him. Others were Disciples or Apostles, John was the Friend, of Jesus. The cause of this our Lord's partiality, was, as the Church tells us in the Liturgy, that John had offered his Virginity to the Man-God. Let us, on this his Feast, enumerate the graces and privileges that came to St. John from his being The Disciple whom Jesus loved.
This very expression of the Gospel, which the Evangelist repeats several times - The Disciple whom Jesus loved [John, 13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 21:20] - says more than any commentary could do. St. Peter, it is true was chosen by our Divine Lord, to be the Head of the Apostolic College, and the Rock whereon the Church was to be built: he, then, was honoured most; but St. John was loved most. Peter was bid to love more than the rest loved, and he was able to say, in answer to Jesus' thrice repeated question, that he did love him in this highest way: and yet, notwithstanding, John was more loved by Jesus than was Peter himself, because his Virginity deserved this special mark of honour.
Chastity of soul and body brings him who possesses it into a sacred nearness and intimacy with God. Hence it was, that at the Last Supper - that Supper, which was to be renewed on our Altars, to the end of the world, in order to cure our spiritual infirmities, and give life to our souls - John was placed near to Jesus, nay, was permitted, as the tenderly loved Disciple, to lean his head upon the Breast of the Man-God. Then it was, that he was filled, and from their very Fountain, with Light and Love: it was both a recompense and a favour, and became the source of two signal graces, which make St. John an object of special reverence to the whole Church.
Divine wisdom wishing to make known to the
world the Mystery of the Word, and commit to
Scripture those profound secrets, 'which, so far, no
pen of mortal had been permitted to write - the task
was put upon John. Peter had been crucified, Paul
had been beheaded, and the rest of the Apostles had
laid down their lives in testimony of the Truths they
had been sent to preach to the world; John was the
only one left in the Church. Heresy had already
begun its blasphemies against the Apostolic Teach
ings; it refused to admit the Incarnate Word as
the Son of God, Consubstantial to the Father.
John was asked by the Churches to speak, and he did
so in language heavenly above measure. His Divine
Master had reserved to this his Virgin-Disciple the
honour of writing those sublime Mysteries, which
the other Apostles had been commissioned only to
teach - THE WORD WAS GOD, and this WORD WAS
MADE FLESH for the salvation of mankind. Thus did
our Evangelist soar, like the Eagle, up to the Divine
Sun, and gaze upon Him with undazzled eye,
because his heart and senses were pure, and there
fore fitted for such vision of the uncreated Light.
If Moses, after having conversed with God in the
cloud, came from the divine interview with rays of
miraculous light encircling his head: - how radiant
must have been the face of St. John, which had
rested on the very Heart of Jesus, in whom are hid
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! [Col. 2:3] how
sublime his writings! how divine his teaching!
Hence, the symbol of the Eagle, shown to the
Prophet Ezechiel, [Ezechiel 1:10, 10:14] and to St. John himself in his
Revelations, [Apoc. 4:7] has been assigned to him by the
Church: and to this title of The Eagle has been
added, by universal tradition, the other beautiful name of Theologian, This was the first recompense given by Jesus to his Beloved John a profound penetration into divine Mysteries. The second was the imparting to him a most ardent charity, which was equally a grace consequent upon his angelic purity, for purity unburdens the soul from grovelling egotistic affections, and raises it to a chaste and generous love. John had treasured up in his heart the Discourses of his Master: he made them known to the Church, and especially that divine one of the Last Supper, wherein Jesus had poured forth his whole Soul to his own, whom he had always tenderly loved, but most so at the end [John, 13:1]. He wrote his Epistles, and Charity is his subject: God is Charity - he that loveth not, knoweth not God - perfect Charity casteth out fear - and so on throughout, always on Love. During the rest of his fife, even when so enfeebled by old age as not to be able to walk, he was for ever insisting upon all men loving each other, after the example of God, who had loved them and so loved them! Thus, he that had announced more clearly than the rest of the Apostles the divinity of the Incarnate Word, was by excellence the Apostle of that divine Charity, which Jesus came to enkindle upon the earth.
But, our Lord had a further gift to bestow, and it was sweetly appropriate to the Virgin-Disciple. When dying on his cross, Jesus left Mary upon this earth. Joseph had been dead now some years. Who, then, shall watch over his Mother? who is there worthy of the charge? Will Jesus send his Angels to protect and console her? - for, surely, what man could ever merit to be to her as a second Joseph? Looking down, he sees the Virgin-Disciple standing at the foot of the Cross: we know the rest, John is to be Mary's Son - Mary is to be John's Mother. Oh! wonderful Chastity, that wins from Jesus such an inheritance as this! Peter, says St. Peter Damian, shall have left to him the Church, the Mother of men; but John, shall receive Mary, the Mother of God, whom he will love as his own dearest Treasure, and to whom he will stand in Jesus' stead; whilst Mary will tenderly love John, her Jesus' Friend, as her Son.
Can we be surprised after this, that St John is looked upon by the Church as one of her greatest glories? He is a Relative of Jesus in the flesh; he is an Apostle, a Virgin, the Friend of the Divine Spouse, the Eagle, the Theologian, the Son of Mary; he is an Evangelist, by the history he has given of the Life of his Divine Master and Friend; he is a Sacred Writer, by the three Epistles he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; he is a Prophet, by his mysterious Apocalypse, wherein are treasured the secrets of time and eternity. But, is he a Martyr? Yes, for if he did not complete his sacrifice, he drank the Chalice of Jesus [Matt. 20:22], when, after being cruelly scourged, he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, before the Latin Gate, at Rome. He was, therefore, a Martyr in desire and intention, though not in fact. If our Lord, wishing to prolong a life so dear to the Church, as well as to show how he loves and honours Virginity, - miraculously stayed the effects of the frightful punishment, St John had, on his part, unreservedly accepted Martyrdom.
Such is the companion of Stephen at the Crib, wherein lies our Infant Jesus. If the Protomartyr dazzles us with the robes he wears of the bright scarlet of his own blood - is not the virginal whiteness of John's vestment fairer than the untrod snow? The spotless beauty of the Lilies of Mary's adopted Son, and the bright vermilion of Stephen's Roses - what is there more lovely than their union? Glory, then, be to our New-Born King, whose court is tapestried with such heaven-made colours as these! Yes, Bethlehem's Stable is a very heaven on earth, and we have seen its transformation. First, we saw Mary and Joseph alone there - they were adoring Jesus in his Crib; then, immediately, there descended a heavenly host of Angels singing the wonderful Hymn; the Shepherds soon followed, the humble simple-hearted Shepherds; after these, entered Stephen the Crowned, and John the Beloved Disciple; and, even before there enters the pageant of the devout Magi, we shall have others coming in, and there will be, each day, grander glory in the Cave, and gladder joy in our hearts. Oh! this Birth of our Jesus! Humble as it seems, yet, how divine! What King or Emperor ever received, in his gilded cradle, honours like these shown to the Babe of Bethlehem? Let us unite our homage with that given him by these the favoured inmates of his court. Yesterday, the sight of the Palm in Stephen's hand animated us, and we offered to our Jesus the promise of a stronger Faith: to-day, the Wreath, that decks the brow of the Beloved Disciple, breathes upon the Church the heavenly fragrance of Virginity - an intenser love of Purity must be our resolution, and our tribute to the Lamb.
The Church commences her chants of the holy Sacrifice with words taken from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, which she applies to St. John. Our Lord has proclaimed his mysteries to the Church, by the teaching of his Beloved Disciple. He favoured him with his divine intimacy, which filled him with the spirit of wisdom. He clad him with a robe of glory, in reward for his virginal purity.
In medio Ecclesiae aperuit
os ejus; et implevit eum
Dominus Spiritu sapientiae
et intellectus; stolam gloriae
Ps. Bonum est confiteri Domino, et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime.
R. Gloria. In medio.
He opened his mouth in the
midst of the Church, and the
Lord filled him with the spirit
of wisdom: he clad him with
a robe of glory.
Ps. It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to thy name, O Most High.
R. Glory. He opened.
In the Collect, the Church asks for the Light, that is, for the Word of God, of whom St John was the propagator by his sublime writings. She aspires to the eternal possession of this Emmanuel, who is come to enlighten the world, and who has revealed to his Beloved Disciple the secrets of heaven.
|Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra: ut beati Joannis, Apostoli tui et Evangelistae illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiterna. Per Dominum.||Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church: that being taught by blessed John, thine Apostle and Evangelist, she may come to thy eternal rewards. Through, &c.|
|Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.||Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, maybe freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.|
|Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus: ut discamus et inimicos diligere, quia ejus natalitia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum.||Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may imitate him whose memory we celebrate, so as to learn to love even our enemies, because we now solemnise his martyrdom who knew how to pray, even for his persecutors, to our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son. Who liveth, &c.|
Lectio libri Sapientiae.
Eccli. cap, XV.
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom.
Ecclus, ch, XV.
The Wisdom here spoken of, is Jesus the Eternal Word, who came to St. John and called him to the Apostolate. The Bread of life wherewith she fed him, is the divine Bread of the Last Supper, the Body and Blood of Jesus; the wholesome Water, is that promised by our Saviour to the Samaritan Woman, and of which St. John drank so abundantly from its very source, when he rested his head on the Heart of Jesus. The unmovable Strength, is the Saint's close and resolute custody of the treasure of his Virginity, and the courageous profession of the religion of Christ before the Proconsuls of Domitian. The Treasure which Wisdom heaped upon him, is the magnificence of the prerogatives granted to him. Lastly, the everlasting Name, is that glorious title given him of John the Beloved Disciple.
Exiit sermo inter fratres,
quod discipulus ille non
moritur; at non dixit Jesus:
V. Sed: Sic eum volo manere, donec veniam; tu me sequere.
A report was spread among
the brethren, that that Disciple should not die; but
Jesus said not: He should not
V. But: So I will have him remain till I come; follow thou me.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to John.
This passage of the holy Gospel has been, much
commented upon. Some of the Fathers and Commentators interpret it as signifying, that St. John
was to be exempt from death, and that he is still
living in the flesh, awaiting the coming of the Judge
of the living and the dead. It is certain that this
opinion regarding our Apostle has been entertained;
and one of the arguments in its favour was this very
passage. But, the general opinion of the Holy Fathers is, that nothing further is implied by it, than the difference between the two vocations of St Peter and St. John. The former shall follow his divine Master, by dying, like Him, on the cross; the latter shall remain - he shall live to a venerable old age - and at length, Jesus shall come and take him out of this world, by sending him a sweet and peaceful death.
During the Offertory, the Church makes a remembrance of the flourishing Palms which grew up around the Beloved Disciple; she tells us of the spiritual children he had trained, and of the Churches he had founded; all which, like young cedars round the venerable parent-tree on Libanus, multiplied under the fostering care of their Father.
|Justus ut palma florebit; sicut cedrus, quae in Libano est multiplicabitur.||The just shall flourish, like the palm-tree; he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.|
|Suscipe, Domine, munera quae in ejus tibi solemnitate deferimus, cujus nos confidimus patrocinio liberari. Per Dominum.||Receive, O Lord, the offerings we make to thee, on his feast, by whose intercession we hope to be delivered. Through, &c.|
|Oblata, Domine, munera, nova Unigeniti tui nativitate sanctifica: nosque a peccatorum nostrorum maculis emunda.||Sanctify, O Lord, our offerings by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son, and cleanse us from the stains of our sins.|
|Suscipe, Domine, munera, pro tuorum commemoratione Sanctorum; ut sicut illos passio gloriosos effecit, ita nos devotio reddat innocuos. Per Dominum.||Receive, O Lord, these offerings in memory of thy Saints; and as their sufferings have made them glorious, so may our devotion render us free from sin. Through, &c.|
The Preface as for Christmas Day: but on the Octave-Day it is as below.
|Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, te Domine suppliciter exorare, ut gregem tuum, Pastor aeterne, non deseras, sed per beatos Apostolos tuos continua protectione custodias. Ut iisdem rectoribus gubernetur, quos operis tui vicarios eidem contulisti praeesse Pastores. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia coelestis exercitus, hymnum gloriae tuae canimus, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, &c.||It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, humbly to beseech thee, that thou, O Lord, our eternal Shepherd, wouldst not forsake thy flock, but keep it under thy continual protection, by thy blessed Apostles. That it may be governed by those whom thou hast appointed its vicars and pastors. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing an everlasting hymn to thy glory, saying: Holy, &c|
The mysterious words of the Gospel are repeated in the Communion, that is, at the moment when Priest and people have partaken of the Victim of salvation; they convey this teaching - that he who eats of this Bread, though he must die the death of the body, will yet live for the coming of the supreme Judge and Rewarder.
|Exiit sermo inter fratres quod discipulus ille non moritur. Et non dixit Jesus: Non moritur; sed: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam.||A report was spread among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. But Jesus said not: He should not die; but: So will I that he remain till I come.|
|Refecti cibo potuque coelesti, Deus noster, te supplices deprecamur; ut in cujus haec commemoratione percepimus, et precibus ejus muniamur. Per Dominum.||Being refreshed, O Lord, with this heavenly meat and drink, we humbly beseech thee, that we may be assisted by his prayers, on whose feast we have received these sacred mysteries. Through, &c.|
|Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut natus hodie Salvator mundi, sicut divinae nobis generationis est auctor, ita et immortalitatis sit ipse largitor.||Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as the Saviour of the world, who was born this day, procured for us a divine birth, he may, also, bestow on us immortality.|
|Auxilientur nobis, Domine, sumpta mysteria; et intercedente beato Stephano, Martyre tuo, sempiterna protectione confirment. Per Dominum.||May the mysteries we have received, O Lord, be a help to us; and, by the intercession of the blessed Martyr Stephen, strengthen us with thy perpetual protection. Through, &c.|
The Antiphons and Psalms are sung as yesterday, the Feast of St. Stephen: they are given in page 234. After the last Psalm, the Office of St. John is resumed, commencing as follows:
|Qui timet Deum, faciet bona: et qui continens est justitiae, apprehendet illam, et obviabit illi quasi mater honorificata.||He that feareth God, will do good: and he that possesseth justice, shall lay hold on her, and she shall meet him as an honourable mother.|
Exsultet orbis gaudiis:
Coelum resultet laudibus;
Tellus et astra concinunt.
Vos saeculorum judices,
Let the earth exult with joy: let the heavens re-echo with praise: the glory of the Apostles is sung by both earth and heaven.
O ye, the Judges of the world, and the true Lights of the earth! we pray to you with
'Tis ye that have power, by your word, to shut and open the gates of heaven: we beseech you, loosen us from the bonds of sin.
Sickness and health promptly do your bidding; on! heal our languid souls, bring us growth
Glory be to thee, O Jesus, that wast born of the Virgin! and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love, for
V. Valde honorandus est beatus Joannes.
R. Qui supra pectus Domini in coena recubuit.
V. Most worthy of honour is the blessed John.
R. Who leaned upon the Lord's breast at the supper.
According to the Monastic Rite it is as follows:-
R. Breve. Constitues eos principes, * Super omnem terram.
Constitues eos principes, * Super omnem terram.
V. Memores erunt nominis tui, Domine. * Super omnem terram.
Constitues eos principes, * Super omnem terram.
Exsultet coelum laudibus,
Resultet terra gaudiis;
Sacra canunt solemnia.
Vos saecli justi judices
Et vera mundi lumina,
Votis precamur cordium,
Audite preces supplicum.
Qui coelum verbo clauditis,
Serasque ejus solvitis
Nos a peccatis omnibus
Solvite jussu, quaesumus.
Quorum praecepto subditur
Salus et languor omnium,
Sanate aegros moribus,
Nos reddentes virtutibus.
Ut cum judex advenerit,
Christus in fine saeculi,
Nos sempiterni gaudii
Faciat esse compotes.
Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre, et Sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.
Ant. Exiit sermo inter fratres, quod discipulus ille non moritur: et non dixit Jesus: Non
Sic eum volo manere donec veniam.
|Ant. There went abroad among the brethren this saying, that that disciple should not die: and Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come.|
Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra, ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistae illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiterna. Per Dominum.
LET US PRAY.
Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church: that being taught by blessed John, thine Apostle and Evangelist, she may come to thy eternal rewards. Through, &c.
Ant. Hi sunt, qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati: virgines enim sunt, et sequuntur Agnum
V. Herodes iratus occidit multos pueros.
R. In Bethlehem Judae, civitate David.
Ant. These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are
virgins, and follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
V. Herod, being angry, killed many children.
LET US PRAY.
Ant. Hodie Christus natus est: hodie Salvator apparuit: hodie in terra canunt Angeli, laetantur
Archangeli: hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo. Alleluia.
V. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia.
Ant. This day, Christ is born; this day, the Saviour hath appeared; this day, the Angels sing on earth; the Archangels rejoice; this day, the just exult, saying: Glory be to God in the highest,
V. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.
R. His salvation, alleluia.
LET US PRAY.
Ant. Sepelierunt Stephanum viri timorati, et fecerunt planctum magnum
V. Stephanus vidit coelos apertos.
Ant. Devout men buried
Stephen, and made great mourning over him.
V. Stephen saw the heavens opened.
LET US PRAY.
Now let us listen to the several Churches, proclaiming, in their liturgical praises, the glory of St, John. We begin with the Church of
Rome, from which we take this beautiful Preface of the
|Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi gratias agere. Pater omnipotens, beati Apostoli tui Joannis Evangelistae natalitia venerantes. Qui Domini nostri Jesu Christi Filii tui vocatione suscepta, terrenum respuit patrem, ut posset invenire coelestem: retia saeculi, quibus implicabatur, abjecit, ut aeternitatis dona mente libera sectaretur: nutantem fluctibus navem reliquit, ut in ecclesiasticae gubernationis tranquilliate consisteret: a piscium captione cessavit, ut animas mundanis gurgitibus immersas, calamo doctrinae salutaris abstraheret: destitit pelagi profundari mari, secretorum scrutator redditus divinorum. Eo usque procedens, ut et in coenae mysticae sacrosancto convivio in ipsius recumberet pectore Salvatoris; et eum in cruce Dominus constitutus, vicarium sui, Matri Virgini Filium subrogaret, et in principio Verbum, quod Deus erat apud Deum, prae caeteris ostenderet praedicandum.||
It is truly meet and just,
right and available to salvation, that we should give
thanks to thee, O Almighty
Father! now that we are
celebrating the Feast of thy
blessed Apostle, John the
Evangelist. Having received
the vocation of our Lord Jesus
Christ thy Son, he left his
earthly father, that he might
find one in heaven. He threw
down the nets of this world,
wherein he was entangled, that
he might, with a free soul,
pursue the goods that are eternal He abandoned his boat,
which was ever tossing on the
waves, that he might calmly
steer a spiritual bark in the
Church. He gave up his trade
of fishing, that, by the hook
of saving doctrine, he might
draw out souls ingulfed in the
surges of the world. He ceased
his searching in the deep
waters of the sea, that he
might be made worthy to penetrate into secrets divine. Even
thus was he favoured - he
leaned his head on the Saviour's breast, in the most
holy banquet of the mystic
supper; our Lord, when hanging on the cross, gave him to
the Virgin-Mother to be her
Son in His own stead; and
it was he, above all others,
that showed how this was to
be preached: In the beginning
was the Word, who was God
The Church of Milan, in her Ambrosian Missal, thus sings forth the praises of the Beloved Disciple:
|Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi gratias agere, aeterne Deus: beati Joannis Evangelistae merita recolentes, quem Dominus Jesus Christus non solum peculiari semper decore ornavit; sed et in cruce positus, tamquam haereditario munere prosecutus, vicarium pro se Matri Filium clementer attribuit. Quem ad eum usque dignitatis gradum divina benignitas evexit, ut et fac tus ex piscatore Discipulus, et humanae dispensationis modum excedens, ipsam Verbi tui sine initio Deitatem prae caeteris et mente conspiceret, et voce perferret.||It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation , that we should give thanks to thee, O Eternal God! whilst celebrating the merits of blessed John the Evangelist, whom our Lord Jesus Christ not only adorned with every peculiar grace, but to whom also, he, when fastened to the cross, lovingly granted, as though it were the gift of inheritance, to take his own place and be the Son of Mary. Even unto this grade of honour did thy divine goodness raise him, that being changed from a fisher man into a Disciple, and, in the dispensing thy Truth, going beyond the measure of other men - he, above all others, both saw and preached the very Divinity of thy Eternal Word.|
The Mozarabic Missal has the following prayer to our holy Apostle and Evangelist:
|Genite ingeniti Filius Dei summi; qui sacrum illud arcanum pectoris tui dilecto tuo Joanni Apostolo reserasti: cum in sinu tuo recubans Evangelii sui fluenta ex ipso pectoris tui fonte haurire promeruit. Tu nos intuere propitius, ut perte abdita cognoscamus, per te bona quae manifesta sunt impleamus. Reserans nobis pectoris tui occulta, quibus possimus cognoscere, et conditionis nostrae infirmitatem, et ad tuae divinitatis pervenire cognitionem. Manifestans de te quid amemus, indicans de nobis quid corrigamus. Quo hujus dilecti tui suffragiis, moribus nostris in melius commutatis, aufugiat pestis, dispereat languor, pellatur mucro. Quidquid adversum est fidei christianae intereat; quidquid prosperum, convalescat. Arceantur fames, sedentur lites, haeresam obtrudantur fautores. Foecandetur frugibus terra, vestiatur virtutibus anima; atque cuncta nobis in commune proveniant bona. Quo tibi Deo nostro fideliter servientes, et his sine peccato utamur concessis, et post deliciis fruamur aeternae possessionis. Amen.||O Son of God! Begotten of the Unbegotten infinite God! who didst open the sacred treasury of thy Breast to thine Apostle, when he, reclining on thy Bosom, merited to drink in, from the very fountain of thy Heart, the streams of his own Gospel: look upon us with an eye of pity, that so, by thee, we may know thy mysteries, and do the good thou hast manifested unto us. Reveal unto us the hidden things of thy Heart, whereby we may be taught both the weakness of our own nature, and the Divinity which is thine. Show us thyself, that we may love thee; show us in ourselves what we must correct. That thus, by the prayers of thy beloved Disciple, our evil ways being converted, pestilence may flee from us, sickness disappear, and the sword be sheathed. May all that is adverse to Christian faith perish; may all that prospers it, be strengthened. May famines cease, may dissensions be appeased, may the upholders of heresy be confounded. May the earth be pregnant with fruits, our souls he clad with virtues, and all good things come unto us all. That thus, faithfully serving thee our God, we may both use these gifts without sin, and, hereafter, enjoy the bliss of possessing thee for eternity. Amen.|
The following Hymn, which we have taken from the Milan Liturgy, is attributed to St. Ambrose; it certainly bears a resemblance to his style - sublime thoughts, majestically told.
Amore Christi nobilis
Et filius Tonitrui,
Arcana Joannes Dei
Fatu revelavit sacro.
Captis solebat piscibus
Hamum profundo merserat,
Piscis bonus pia est Fides,
"Omnia per ipsum facta sunt."
Commune multis passio,
Vinctus tamen ab impiis,
Gloria tibi, Domine,
John - the honoured loved-
one of Jesus, and named by
Him the Son of Thunder - revealed in sacred words, the
hidden things of God.
He was a fisherman, and supported his aged parent by his toil: whilst sailing on the troubled waves, he received the faith, and firmly did he hold to it.
He throws his hook into the deep, and takes the Word of God; he lets down his nets into the waters, he draws in Him who is the Light of the world.
His fervent Faith is the good Fish which swam through the briny flood of this world; it rested on the Breast of Christ, and thus spoke in the Holy Spirit:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God."
"All things were made by Him." Then, let us sing the praises of this Disciple, and since he bears the laurels of the Spirit, let his writings be his crown.
Martyrdom has been granted to many, and this shedding of their own blood purifies them from every sin; our John did what was better than Martyrdom - he taught to the world that which made the Martyrs.
Yet we are told, that he was bound by wicked men, and plunged into boiling oil; it did but cleanse him from this world's dust, and give him victory over the enemy.
Glory be to thee, O Lord, that wast born of the Virgin! and to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, for everlasting ages. Amen.
We will now give a few stanzas from the Hymns which the Greek Church, in her accustomed pomp of language, sings in honour of St. John. She keeps his Feast on the 26th September.
(XXVI. Septembris, in magno Vespertino, et passim.)
|Venite, sapientiae abyssum et orthodoxorum scriptorem
hymnis coronemus divinis
hodie, Joannem gloriosum
et dilectum: is enim intonuit: Verbum erat in principio. Ideo voce tonitru simili demonstratus est, quasi
Evangelio mundum illuminans, multisapiens et celeberrimus.
Vere aperteque tu manifestatus es amicus ex corde magnus Christi magistri; pectori enim illius incubuisti, unde hausisti sapientiae dogmata, quibus tamquam Dei praeco divinus, ditas omnem terrae circuitum, quam possidens jucunda Christi Ecclesia nunc gaudens exornat.
Gaude, vere theologe, gaude, Matris Domini fili amabilissime: tu enim stans juxta crucem Christi divinam audisti vocem Magis tri: Ecce nunc mater tua, ad te clamantis. Ideo digne te omnes ut Christi Apostolum magnum et dilectum beatificamus.
Contemplator ineffabilium revelationum, et interpres supernorum Dei mysteriorum Zebedaei filius, scribens nobis Christi Evangelium, divine loqui Patrem, et Filium, et Spiritum nos docuit.
Lyra a Deo mota coelestium odarum, mysticus ille scriptor, os divina loquens, Canticum canticorum dulciter decantat, et precatur salvari nos.
Tonitru filium, divinorum sermonum fundamentum, theologiae ducem, et primum praeconem verae sapientiae dogmatum, Joannem dilectum et virginem, o mortalium genus, multis laudemus acclamationibus.
Flumina theologiae, ex venerando ore tuo salierunt, Apostole, quibus Ecclesia Dei potata, adorat, orthodoxe, Trinitatem consubstantialem; et nunc depre care, Joannes theologe, stabiliri et salvari animas nostras.
Virgultum puritatis, boni odoris unguentum apparuit nobis in hodierna festivitate; ad ipsum igitur clamemus: Tu qui supra pectus recubuisti Dominicum tu qui mundo stillare fecisti Verbum, Joannes Apostole; qui Virginem custodivisti ut pupillam oculi, postula pro nobis apud Christum magnam misericordiam.
Apostolorum celsitudinem, theologiae tubam, spiritalem ducem, qui orbem terrarum Deo subegit, venite, fideles, beatificemus Joannem illustrissimum, e terra sublatum et non ablatum, sed viventem et exspectantem terribilem Domini secundum adventum; cui ut inculpabiliter assistamus deprecare, amice mystice Christi pectori ejus innixe cum amore, tuam memoriam celebrantes.
Come, ye Faithful, let us
this day crown with sacred
hymns the glorious and Beloved John, an abyss of wisdom, and the writer of orthodox dogmas: for it was he
that uttered. In the beginning
was the Word. Therefore did
he appear as with the voice
of thunder, enlightening the
world with his Gospel - he the
exceeding wise and world-wide
Thou wast truly and manifestly the great bosom-friend of Jesus thy Master; for thou didst recline upon his Breast, imbibing thence the dogmas of wisdom, wherewith, as God's sublime herald, thou enrichest the earth's circuit, and which the glad Church of Christ, now possessing it, exultingly honours.
Rejoice, thou true Theologian! rejoice, thou most amiable Son of our Lord's Mother! for, when standing nigh the Cross of Jesus, thou didst hear his divine voice saying unto thee: Behold now thy Mother. Therefore do we all bless thee, as the great and Beloved Apostle of Christ.
The contemplator of ineffable revelations, the interpreter of God's most high mysteries, the son of Zebedee, wrote us the Gospel of Christ, and thereby taught us how to speak theologically of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
This heaven-hymned Harp attuned by God, this mystic writer, this mouth that speaks divine things, is now sweetly- singing the Canticle of Canticles, and prays for our salvation.
Let us, O ye mortals! proclaim his many praises:- John, the Son of thunder - the source of divine language - the Prince of Theology - the first preacher of true wisdom's dogmas - the Beloved and Virgin-Disciple.
The streams of Theology gushed from thy venerable lips, O Apostle! the Church of God has drunk them in, O teacher of truth! and adores the consubstantial Trinity. O holy Theologian John! now pray that our souls may be unwavering and saved.
The flower of purity, the fragrant perfume, breathes upon this day's feast; let us, therefore, pray to him: Blessed Apostle John! who didst recline upon Jesus' Breast! who didst pour out The Word upon the earth; who didst guard the Virgin as the apple of thine eye! Oh! ask Jesus to show his great mercy unto us.
Come, ye faithful! let us bless the most renowned John, the exalted one among the Apostles, the trumpet of theology, the spiritual guide - he that brought the world into subjection to God - he that was raised above the earth, not taken away from it, and is living and awaiting the dread second coming of our Lord. O thou the mystic Friend of Christ, that didst lovingly lean upon his Breast, help us, who celebrate thy memory, help us by thy prayers to present ourselves guiltless before our judge.
As usual, we will close these liturgical praises of our dear Saint, by a Prose of the Western Churches in the Middle-Ages, which we have taken from the collection of the Monastery of Saint Gal. It was composed by the Blessed Notker, and was for centuries in the Roman-French Missals.
|Joannes, Jesu Christo
Multum dilecte virgo.
Tu ejus amore
Tu leva conjugis
Tuque in terris positus,
Idem mortuos suscitas,
Tu nos omnes
O John! the dearly Beloved Virgin-Disciple of Jesus!
For love of Him, thou didst leave thy father Zebedee and his boat.
Thou didst disdain the caresses of thy young betrothed, and didst follow the Messias,
That thou mightest merit to drink at the sacred fount of his Heart.
Thou, too, when on this earth, didst behold the transfiguration of the Son of God,
Which vision, as we are taught, is not granted save to the Saints in life eternal.
Jesus, when conquering on his cross, entrusted his Mother to thy keeping;
That thou, a Virgin, mightest protect and care for the Virgin, in His stead.
Imprisoned and torn by scourges, thou didst rejoice - for it was thy bearing testimony to Christ.
Thou, too, raisest the dead to life, and, in the name of Jesus, breakest the poison's power.
To thee, above the rest; the Almighty Father reveals his own embosomed Word.
Do thou ever commend us
all to God, by unwearied intercession,
O John, Disciple dear to
Beloved Disciple of the Babe of Bethlehem! - how great is thy happiness! how wonderful is the reward given to thy love and thy purity! In thee was fulfilled that word of thy Master: Blessed are the dean of heart; for they shall see God. Not only didst thou see this God-Man - thou wast his Friend, and on his Bosom didst rest thy head. John the Baptist trembles at having to bend the head of Jesus under the water of Jordan; Magdalene, though assured by his own lips that her pardon was perfect as her love, yet dares not raise her head, but keeps clinging to his feet; Thomas scarce presumes to obey him when he bids him put his finger into his wounded Side; - and thou, in the presence of all the Apostles, sittest close to Him, leaning thy head upon his Breast! Nor is it only Jesus in his Humanity that thou seest and possessest; but, because thy heart is pure, thou soarest, like an eagle, up to the Sun of Justice, and fixest thine eye upon him in the light inaccessible, wherein he dwelleth eternally with the Father and the Holy Ghost.
Thus was rewarded the fidelity wherewith thou didst keep intact for Jesus the precious treasure of thy Purity. And now, O worthy favourite of the great King! forget not us poor sinners. We believe and confess the Divinity of the Incarnate Word, whom thou hast evangelised unto us; but we desire to draw nigh to him during this holy season, now that he shows himself so desirous of our company, so humble, so full of love, so dear a Child, and so poor! Alas! our sins keep us back; our heart is not pure like thine; we have need of a Patron to introduce us to our Master's Crib! [Isai. 1:3] Thou, O Beloved Disciple of the Emmanuel! thou must procure us this happiness. Thou hast shown us the Divinity of the Word in the bosom of the Eternal Father; lead us now to this same Word made flesh. Under thy patronage, Jesus will permit us to enter into the Stable, to stand near his Crib, to see with our eyes, and touch with our hands [1 John 1:1], this sweet Fruit of eternal Life. May it be granted us to contemplate the sweet Face of Him, that is our Saviour and thy Friend; to feel the throbs of that Heart, which loves both thee and us - and which thou didst see wounded by the Spear, on Calvary. It is good for us to fix ourselves here near the Crib of our Jesus, and share in the graces he there lavishes, and learn, as thou didst, the grand lesson of this Child's simplicity; - thy prayers must get us all this.
Then too, as Son and Guardian of Mary, thou hast
to present us to thine own and our Mother. Ask her
to give us somewhat of the tender love wherewith
she watches over the Crib of her Divine Son; to see
in us the Brothers of that Child she bore; and to
admit us to a share of the maternal affection she
had for thee, the favoured confidant of the secrets of
We also pray to thee, O holy Apostle! for the Church of God. She was planted and watered by thy labours, embalmed with the celestial fragrance of thy virtues, and illumined by thy sublime teachings; - pray now, that these graces may bring forth their fruit, and that, to the end of her pilgrimage, faith may be firm, the love of Jesus fervent, and christian morals pure and holy. Thou tellest us, in thy Gospel, of a saying of thy Divine Master: I will not now call you my Servants, but my Friends [John 15:15]: pray, dear Saint, that there may come to this, from our hearts and lips, a response of love and courage, telling our Emmanuel, that, like thyself, we will follow him whithersoever he leads us.
Let us, on this second day after our Divine Infant's Birth, meditate upon the Sleep he deigns to take. Let us consider how this God of all goodness, who has come down from heaven to invite his creature man to come to him and seek rest for his soul - seeks rest himself in our earthly home, and sanctifies, by his own divine Sleep, that rest, which to us is a necessity. We have just been dwelling, with delighted devotion, on the thought of his offering his Breast as a resting-place for the Beloved Disciple, and for all souls that imitate John in their love and devotedness: now, let us look at this our God, sweetly sleeping in his humble Crib, or on his Mother's lap.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, in one of his delicious Canticles, thus describes the Sleep of Jesus and the enraptured love of the Mother:
(Translation by the Very Rev. R.A. Coffin.)
Mary sings - the ravish'd heavens
Sleep my Babe! my God! my Treasure!
If within your lids unfolded,
Cheeks than sweetest roses sweeter.
As she ceased, the gentle Virgin
Ah! that look, those eyes, that beauty.
Where, my soul! thy sense, thy reason?
If, alas, O heavenly beauty!
Plant and fruit, and fruit and blossom,
Fermarono i cieli
La loro armonia,
La nanna a Gesù.
Con voce divina
La Virgine bella,
Più vaga che stella,
Mio figlio, mio Dio,
Mio caro tesoro,
Ta dormi, ed io moro
Per tanta beltà.
Dormendo, mio bene,
Tua l'aura non miri,
Ma Taura che spiri,
E foco per me.
Cogli occhi serrati
E tu non languisci,
Let us, then, adore the Divine Babe in this state of Sleep, to which he voluntarily subjects himself, and contrast it with the cruel fatigue, which are one day to be His when he is grown up, and come to the age of manhood, he will go through every toil and suffering in search of us his Lost Sheep. But these first slumbers shall not be troubled by any- thing of ours, which could pain this losing wakeful Heart; and the Blessed Mother shall not be disturbed in the blissful contemplation of her Sleeping Child, over whom she is, at a future time, to shed such bitter tears. The day is not far distant, when he will say: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head [Matt. 8:20].
"Christ has had three resting-places," says Peter of Celles. "The first was in the Bosom of his Eternal Father. He says: I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? [John, 14:11]. What repose could be compared to this, of the Father's complacency in the Son, and the Son's complacency in the Father? It is a mutual and ineffable love, and they are happy in the union. But, whilst maintaining this place of his eternal rest, the Son of God has sought a second, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He overshadowed her with the Holy Ghost, and slept a long sleep in her chaste womb, whilst his Body was there being formed. The holy Virgin troubled not the sleep of her Child: she kept all the powers of her soul in a silence like that of heaven; and, rapt in self-contemplation, she heard mysteries which it is not permitted to man to utter. The third resting-place of Christ is in man. Jesus dwells in a heart that is purified by faith, enlarged by charity, raised above Earth by contemplation, and is renewed by the Holy Ghost. Such a heart as this offers to Jesus not an earthly but a heavenly dwelling; and the Child, who is born unto us, will not refuse to enter it, and take his rest within it." [Fourth Sermon On our Lord's Nativity.]
To this Eternal Word, made Flesh for our salvation, let us offer up this Hymn of our great ecclesiastical Poet, Prudentius.
Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus:
Ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt,
Quaeque post futura sunt.
Ipse jussit, et creata,
Corporis formam caduci,
O beatus ortus ille,
Psallat altitude coeli,
Ecce quem vates vetustis
Te senes et te juventus,
Fluminum lapsus, et undae
Born from the bosom of the
Father before the world began,
his name is Alpha and Omega.
He is the beginning and end
of all things present, past, and
He commanded and they were created, he spoke and they were made: earth, heaven, and sea - the triple kingdom - and all things that are in them, under the sun and moon.
He clothes himself with a frail Body, and with members subject to death; lest the human race, the offspring of Adam, should perish together with their first Parent, whom a terrible sentence had condemned to the depth of hell.
O that happy Birth, when a Virgin-Mother, having conceived of the Holy Ghost, brought forth the Child that was our salvation ', and the Babe, the Redeemer of the world, showed unto us his divine Face!
Let high heaven sing, and sing all ye Angels! Let every living creature sing to the praise of God! Let every tongue proclaim it, and every voice join in the hymn of praise.
Behold the Promised Messias, of whom sang the Seers in the ancient times, and whom the Prophets foretold in their truthful oracles! Praise be to him from every creature.
May the aged, and the young, and children, mothers, and virgins, and innocent maidens, sing to thee, O Jesus! and with concordant voice chastely hymn thy praise!
May the flowing river and
the sea-shore wave, rain and
heat, snow and frost forest
and zephyr, day and night,
for ever and for ever give thee
Let us now honour and invoke the ever Blessed and most Merciful Mother of our God, and use the words of this beautiful Hymn of the ancient Roman-French Missals:
Ciujus casta viscera
Lacte fluunt ubera
Ibi sanctos reficit
Ibi regit omnia.
Ibi summi culminis
O homo! considera,
Non desperes veniam,
Sub Matris refugio
Hanc salutes saepius
Quondam flentis lacrymas
Jesu, lapsos respice,
Rejoice, O Virgin-Mother!
in thy joy-giving delivery, for
thy chaste womb was made
fruitful of the very Son of
O wondrous sight - Jesus feeding from the Lily of Purity! Yea, most pure Virgin, thou feedest at thy breasts his infant life.
The Only Begotten of the Father, by whom he made this world, is dwelling here the Babe of a poor Mother. There, be is feeding the holy Angels with joy:- here, he is in hanger and thirst, from his cradle.
There, he holds all things in subjection:- here, he is in subjection to a Mother. There, le commands:- here, he obeys his Handmaid.
There, he is seated on the throne of highest majesty:- here, he is lying swathed and weeping in a manger.
Think on this, O man! and to thy memory recall these stupendous works of God's mercy.
And though thy sins be great, yet canst thou not despair, for the proofs thou seest here of Jesus' love speak but of pardon.
Thou wouldst have pardon? fly to the Mother for protection, for she holds on her lap the Infinite Fountain of Mercy.
Often bend thy knee before her, and, with hopeful love, salute her thus: hail! full of grace!
As thou, of old, didst feed thy Jesus, and stay his infant tears; so now, dear Mother, appease him angered by our sins.
Hear, O Jesus! thy sweet
Mother's prayers, and, with an
eye of pity, look upon us sinners! Correct and change us,
and make us worthy to be
citizens of heaven.