DECEMBER 28.
THE HOLY INNOCENTS.

(Anciently 'Childermas Day').

 

The feast of the beloved Disciple is followed by that of the Holy Innocents. The Crib of Jesus - where we have already met and venerated the Prince of Martyrs and the Eagle of Patmos - has today standing round it a lovely choir of little Children, clad in snow-white robes, and holding green branches in their hands. The Divine Babe smiles upon them - he is their King; and these Innocents are smiling upon the Church of God. Courage and Fidelity first led us to the Crib; Innocence now comes, and bids us tarry there.

Herod intended to include the Son of God amongst the murdered Babes of Bethlehem. The Daughters of Rachel wept over their little ones, and the land streamed with blood; but, the Tyrant's policy can do no more:- it cannot reach Jesus, and its whole plot ends in recruiting an immense army of Martyrs for heaven. These Children were not capable of knowing what an honour it was for them, to be made victims for the sake of the Saviour of the world; but, the very first instant after their immolation, and all was revealed to them: they had gone through this world without knowing it, and now that they know it, they possess an infinitely better. God showed here the riches of his mercy - he asks of them but a momentary suffering, and that over, they wake up in Abraham's Bosom: no further trial awaits them, they are in spotless innocence, and the glory due to a soldier who died to save the life of his Prince, belongs eternally to them.

They died for Jesus' sake - therefore, their death was a real Martyrdom, and the Church calls them by the beautiful name of The Flowers of the Martyrs, because of their tender age and their innocence. Justly, then, does the ecclesiastical Cycle bring them before us today, immediately after the two valiant Champions of Christ, Stephen and John. The connection of these three Feasts is thus admirably explained by St. Bernard: "In St Stephen, we have both the act and the desire of Martyrdom; in St. John, we have but the desire; in the Holy Innocents, we have but the act. ... Will any one doubt whether a crown was given to these Innocents? ... If you ask me what merit could they have, that God should crown them? let me ask you, what was the fault, for which Herod slew them? What! is the mercy of Jesus less than the cruelty of Herod? and whilst Herod could put these Babes to death, who had done him no injury, Jesus may not crown them for dying for Him?

"Stephen, therefore, is a Martyr, by a Martyrdom of which men can judge, for he gave this evident proof of his sufferings being felt and accepted, that, at the very moment of his death, his solicitude both for his own soul and for those of his persecutors increased; the pangs of his bodily passion were less  intense than the affection of his soul's compassion, which made him weep more for their sins than for his own wounds. John was a Martyr, by a Martyrdom which only Angels could see, for the proofs of his sacrifice being spiritual, only spiritual creatures could ken them. But, the Innocents were Martyrs to none other eye save thine, O God! Man could find no merit; Angel could find no merit: the extraordinary prerogative of thy grace is the more boldly brought out. From the mouth of the Infants and the Sucklings thou hast perfected praise. [Ps. viii. 3.] The praise the Angels give thee, is: Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will: [St. Luke, ii. 14.] it is a magnificent praise, but I make bold to say, that it is not perfect, till He cometh who will say: 'Suffer Little Children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven;' [St Matth. xix. 14.] and in the mystery of my mercy, there shall be peace to men that cannot even use their will." (Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Innocents.)

Yes, God did for these Innocents, who were immolated on his Son's account, what he is doing every moment now by the sacrament of regeneration, in the case of children, who die before coming to the use of reason. We, who have been baptised by water, should be all the more ready to honour these Little Ones, who were baptised in their own blood, and thereby associated to all the mysteries of the Divine Infancy. We ought, together with the Church, to congratulate them, for that a glorious and premature death secured them their innocence. They have lived upon our earth, and yet it defiled them not! Truly, these tender Lambs deserve to be for ever with the Lamb of God! May this same earth of ours, grown old in wickedness, draw down the divine mercy on itself, by the love and honour it gives, each year, to these sweet Children of Bethlehem, who, like the Dove of Noah's Ark, could not find whereon to rest their feet.

In the midst of the joy, which, at this holy time, fills both heaven and earth, the Holy Church of Rome forgets not the lamentations of the Mothers, who beheld their Children cruelly butchered by Herod's soldiers. She hears the wailing of Rachel, and condoles with her; and, unless it be a Sunday, she suspends on this Feast some of the manifestations of the joy, which inundates her soul during the Octave of her Jesus' Birth. The Red Vestments of a Martyr's Day would be too expressive of that stream of infant blood which forbids the Mothers to be comforted, and joyous White would ill suit their poignant grief; she, therefore, vests in Purple, the symbol of mournfulness. [Unless it be a Sunday; in which case, the colour used is Red.] The Gloria in excelsis, the Hymn she loves so passionately during these days, when Angels come down from heaven to sing it - even that must be hushed today: and, in the Holy Sacrifice, she sings no Alleluia. In this, as in everything she does, the Church acts with an exquisite delicacy of feeling. Her Liturgy is a school of refined Christian considerateness.

This expression of sympathy gives today's Office a pathetic sadness, which, however, in no ways interferes with the joy, which the Church feels in celebrating the Feast of the Holy Innocents. She keeps it with an Octave, as she does the two preceding Feasts of St. Stephen and St. John. She sanctions the practice, observed in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, of allowing young boys to share in the duties of the Choir, and blend their innocent chanting with that of the Ministers of God. She grants them several privileges, and takes pleasure in seeing the delight wherewith these children perform the several functions entrusted to them. This joy, this simplicity, this innocence, all add a charm to the divine Service; and through these youthful Choristers, the Church pays honour to the Infant Jesus, and to the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem.

In Rome, the Station for the Feast of St. Stephen is in the Church dedicated to the holy Protomartyr, on Monte Celio; that for St. John is in the Basilica of St. Mary Major; today, the Station is made at St. Paul's beyond the Walls, which possessed several of the bodies of the Holy Innocents. In the 16th century, Pope Xystus the Fifth caused a portion of these Relics to be translated to St Mary Major's, and put near the holy Relic of our Lord's Crib.


MASS.

In the Introit, the Church proclaims the wisdom of God in disconcerting the impious plans of Herod, and turning the murder of the Innocents into his own glory, by raising them to the dignity of Martyrs of Christ, whose praises they gratefully sing for ever.

INTROIT.

Ex ore infantium, Deus, et lactentium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos.
Ps. Domine, Dominus noster, quart admirabile est Nomen tuum in universa terra!
Gloria Patri.
Ex ore infantium, Deus, et lactentium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos.
Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, thou hast perfected praise, O God, to confound thine enemies.
Ps. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth.
Glory, etc.
Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, thou hast perfected praise, O God, to confound thine enemies.

In the Collect, the Church prays that her children may confess, by their works, their faith in Christ. The Holy Innocents give their testimony - the only one in their power - of suffering for their divine Master: but the Christian, who has attained the use of reason, has more to do than suffer for his faith - he must confess it before Persecutors and Tyrants, when they bid him deny it, and also before that more permanent tribunal of the world and his own passions. No man has received the glorious character of a Christian, on the condition that he should never own himself one.

COLLECT.

Deus, cujus hodierna die praeconium Innocentes Martyres non loquendo, sed monendo confessi sunt: omnia in nobis vitiorum mala mortifica, ut fidem tuam, quam lingua nostra loquitur, etiam moribus vita fateatur. Per Dominum. O God, whose praise the Holy Martyrs, the Innocents, published this day, not by speaking, but by dying; mortify in us all our vicious inclinations: that we may show forth, in our actions, thy faith, which we profess with our lips. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day.

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, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.

Commemoration of St. Stephen.

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. 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.

Commemoration of St. John.

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, etc.

EPISTLE.

Lectio libri Apocalypsis beati Joannis Apostoli.

Cap. XIV.
In diebus illis: Vidi supra montem Sion Agnum stantem, et cum eo centum quadraginta quatuor millia, habentes nomen ejus; et nomen Patris ejus scriptum in frontibus suis. Et audivi vocem de coelo, tamquam vocem aquarum multarum, et tamquam vocem tonitrui magni; et vocem quam audivi, sicut citharaedorum citharizantium in citharis suis. Et cantabant quasi canticum novum ante sedem, et ante quatuor animalia et seniores; et nemo poterat dicere canticum, nisi illa centum quadraginta quatuor millia, qui empti sunt de terra. Hi sunt qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati: virgines enim sunt. Hi sequuntur Agnum quocumque ierit. Hi empti sunt ex hominibus, primitiae Deo et Agno, et in ore eorum non est inventum mendacium: sine macula enim sunt ante thronum Dei.

Lesson from the book of the Apocalypse of Saint John the Apostle.

Ch. XIV.
In those days: I beheld the Lamb standing on mount Sion, and with him a hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder; and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping on their harps. And they sung as it were a new canticle, before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the ancients; and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand, who were purchased from the earth. These are they, who are not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouths there was found no lie: for they are without spot, before the throne of God.

The Church shows us, by her choice of this mysterious passage of the Apocalypse, how great a value she sets on Innocence, and what our own esteem of it ought to be. The Holy Innocents follow the Lamb, because they are pure. Personal merits on earth they could not have; but they went rapidly through this world, and its defilements never reached them. Their Purity was not tried, as was St. John's; but, it is beautified by the blood they shed for the Divine Lamb, and He is pleased with it, and makes them his companions. Let the Christian, therefore, be ambitious for this Innocence, which is thus singularly honoured. If he have preserved it, let him keep and guard it as his most precious treasure; if he have lost it, let him repair the loss by repentance, and having done so, let him say with the Spouse in the Canticle: I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them them? [Cant. v. 3.]

In the Gradual, we have the Innocents blessing their God for having broken the snare, wherewith the world would have made them captive. They have fled as a bird set free; there was nothing to clog their flight.

The Tract expresses the lamentation of Rachel over the cruelty of Herod and his minions. It invokes the divine vengeance, which swept away the whole family of this vile Tyrant.

GRADUAL.

Anima nostra, sicut passer, erepta est de laqueo venantium.
V. Laqueus contritus est, et nos liberati sumus: adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini, qui fecit coelum et terram.
Our soul hath been delivered, as a sparrow, out of the snare of the fowlers.
V. The snare is broken, and we are delivered: our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

TRACT.

Effuderunt sanguinem Sanctorum, velut aquam, in circuitu Jerusalem.
V. Et non erat qui sepeliret.
V. Vindica, Domine, sanguinem Sanctorum tuorum, qui effusus est super terram.
They have spilt the blood of the Saints, like water, about Jerusalem.
V. And there was none to bury them.
V. Revenge, O Lord, the blood of thy Saints, which hath been spilt on earth.

If the Feast of Holy Innocents fall on a Sunday, the Tract is not sung, but, in its place, the usual Alleluia verse, as follows:

Alleluia, alleluia.
V. Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate nomen Domini.
Alleluia.
Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. Praise the Lord, ye children, praise ye the name of the Lord.
Alleluia.

GOSPEL.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.

Cap. II.
In illo tempore: Angelus Domini apparuit in somnis Joseph, dicens: surge, et accipe puerum et matrem ejus, et fuge in Aegyptum, et esto ibi usque dum dicam tibi. Futurum est enim, ut Herodes quaerat puerum ad perdendum eum. Qui consurgens, accepit puerum et matrem ejus nocte, et secessit in Aegyptum, et erat ibi usque ad obitum Herodis; ut adimpleretur quod dictum est a Domino per Prophetam dicentem: Ex Aegypto vocavi Filium meum. Tunc Herodes videns quoniam illusus esset a Magis, iratus est valde: et mittens, occidit omnes Pueros qui erant in Bethlehem, et in omnibus finibus ejus, a bimatu et infra, secundum tempus quod exquisierat a Magis. Tunc adimpletum est quod dictum est per Jeremiam Prophetam dicentem: Vox in Rama audita est, ploratus et ululatus multus: Rachel plorans filios suos; et noluit consolari, quia non sunt.

Sequel to the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. II.
At that time: An Angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the Child, and his Mother, and fly into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee. For it shall come to pass, that Herod will seek the Child, to destroy him. Who arose, and took the Child, and his Mother, by night, and retired into Egypt, and he was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the Prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the Wise Men, was exceedingly angry: and sending, killed all the men children, that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time? which he had diligently inquired of the Wise Men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias, the Prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Thus does the Gospel, in its sublime simplicity, relate the Martyrdom of the Innocents. Herod, sending, killed all the Children. The earth paid no attention to the fell tyranny, which made so rich a harvest for heaven: there was heard a voice in Rama, Rachel wailing her little ones - it went up to heaven, and Bethlehem was still again, as though nothing had happened. But, these favoured Victims had been accepted by God, and they were to be the companions of his Son. Jesus looked at them from his crib, and blessed them; Mary compassionated with them and their mothers; the Church, which Jesus had come to form, would, for all future ages, glorify these youthful Martyrs, and place the greatest confidence in the patronage of these Children, for she knows how powerful their intercession is with her heavenly Spouse.

During the Offertory, it is the choir of our Holy Innocents again singing their beautiful Canticle: as birds set free, they give praise to Him who broke the snare which held them.

OFFERTORY.

Anima nostra, sicut passer erepta est de laqueo venantium: laqueus contritus est, et nos liberati sumus. Our soul hath been delivered, as a sparrow, out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are delivered.

SECRET.

Sanctorum tuorum, Domine, nobis pia non desit oratio; quae et munera nostra conciliet, et tuam nobis indulgentiam semper obtineat. Per Dominum. May the pious prayers of thy Saints, O Lord, be never wanting to us; both to make our offerings acceptable, and to obtain for us thy mercy. Through, &c.

Commemoration of Christmas Day.

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.

Commemoration of St. Stephen.

Suscipe, Domine, munera, pro tuorum commemoratione Sanctorum: ut sicut illos passio gloriosos effecit, ita nos devotio reddat innocuos. 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.

Commemorcation of St. John.

Suscipe, Domine, munera, quae in ejus nos 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, etc.

In the Communion-Anthem, we again hear the voice of Rachel's lamentation. Now that the Church has been nourished by the mystery of divine charity, she could not forget the affliction of the mothers of her dear Innocents. She compassionates them all through her Office, and turns to Him who alone can comfort them that are in sorrow.
communion.

COMMUNION.

Vox in Rama audita est, ploratus et ululatus: Rachel plorans filios suos; et noluit consolari, quia non sunt. A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

POSTCOMMUNION.

Votiva, Domine, dona percepimus: quae Sanctorum nobis precibus, et praesentis quaesumus vitae, pariter et aeternae tribue conferre subsidium. Per Dominum. Now we have partaken, O Lord, of the votive offerings: grant, we beseech thee, that by the prayers of thy Saints, they may procure us the helps of this present life, and those of that which is to come. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day.

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.

Commemoration of St. Stephen.

Auxilientur nobis, Domine, sumpta mysteria, et intercedente beato Stephano, Martyre tuo, sempiterna protectione confirment. 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.

Commemoration of St. John.

Refecti cibo potuque coelesti, Deus noster, te supplices deprecamur, ut in cujus haec commemoratione percepimus, ejus muniamur et precibus. 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, etc.

 


VESPERS.

The Antiphons and Psalms of Christmas Day having been sung, as given above, the rest of the Office is of St Thomas of Canterbury, and is the First Vespers of tomorrow's Feast.

CAPITULUM.

(Jos. I.)

Beatus vir qui suffert tentationem: quoniam, cum probatus fuerit, accipiet coronam vitae, quam repromisit Deus diligentibus se. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for, when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.

HYMN.

Deus tuorum militum
Sors, et corona, praemium,
Laudes canentes Martyris
Absolve nexu criminis.

Hic nempe mundi gaudia,
Et blanda fraudum pabula,
Imbuta felle deputans,
Pervenit ad coelestia. 

Poenas cucurrit fortiter,
Et sustulit viriliter,
Fundensque pro te sanguinem
Aeterna dona possidet.

Ob hoc precatu supplici
Te poscimus, Piissime,
In hoc triumpho Martyris,
Dimitte noxam servulis. 

Jesu tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.
Amen.

O God! thou the inheritance. Crown, and reward of thy Soldiers! absolve from the bonds of our sins us who sing the praises of thy Martyr.

For, counting the joys of the world, and the deceitful bait of its caresses, as things embittered with gall, thy Martyr Stephen obtained the delights of heaven.

Bravely did he go through, and manfully did he bear, his pains; and, shedding his blood for thy sake, he now possesses thy eternal gifts.

Therefore, most merciful Father! we beseech thee, in most suppliant prayer, forgive us, thy unworthy servants, our sins, for it is the feast of thy Martyr's triumph.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus, that wast born of the Virgin! and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love, for overlaying ages. Amen.

 

After the Hymn, the following Versicles and Antiphons are sung:

First Vespers.

V. Gloria et honore coronasti eum, Domine.
R. Et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.

Ant. Iste sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non timuit: fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.

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

Ant. This Saint fought, even to death, for the law of his God. and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was founded upon a firm rock.

Second Vespers.

V. Justus ut palma florebit.
R. Sicut cedrus Libani multiplicabitur.

Ant. Qui vult venire post me, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me.

V. The just man shall flourish like the palm-tree.
R. He shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.

Ant. He that willeth to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

 

Oremus.
Deus, pro cujus Ecclesia gloriosus Pontifex Thomas gladiis impiorum occubuit: praesta quaesumus, ut omnes qui ejus implorant auxilium, petitionis suae salutarem consequantur effectum. Per Dominum.
Let us pray.
O God, in defence of whose Church, the glorious Prelate Thomas fell by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee, that all who implore his assistance, may find comfort in the grant of their petition. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Holy Innocents.

Ant. Innocentes pro Christo infantes occisi sunt, ab iniquo rege lactentes interfecti sunt: ipsum sequuntur Agnum sine macula, et dicunt semper: Gloria tibi, Domine.

V. Sub throno Dei omnes Sancti clamant:
R. Vindica sanguinem nostrum, Deus noster.

Oremus.
Deus, cujus hodierna die praeconium Innocentes Martyres non loquendo, sed moriendo confessi sunt, omnia in nobis vitiorum mala mortifica: ut fidem tuam, quam lingua nostra loquitur, etiam moribus vita fateatur.

Ant. Innocent Infants were slain for Christ; children at the breast were murdered by a wicked king: they follow the spotless Lamb himself, and say ever: Glory be to thee, O Lord.

V. Beneath the throne of God, all the Saints cry out:
R. O God, avenge thou our blood.

Let us pray.
O God, whose praise the Holy Martyrs, the Innocents, published this day, not by speaking, but by dying; mortify in us all our vicious inclinations: that we may show forth, in our actions, thy faith which we profess with our lips.

Commemoration of Christmas Day.

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.
R. Salutare suum, alleluia.

Oremus.
Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem Nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem.

Ant. This day, Christ is born; this day, the Saviour hath appeared; this day. Angels sing on earth; the Archangels rejoice; this day, the just exult, saying: Glory be to God in the highest, alleluia.

V. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.
R. His salvation, alleluia.

Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son. Through the same, etc.

 


And now, let us listen to the several Churches celebrating the triumph of the Holy Innocents. Their chants for this Feast are very beautiful. We will begin with the following fine Preface, which is in both the Ambrosian Missal, and in the Leonian Sacramentary.

PREFACE.

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare: nos in pretiosa morte parvulorum te, sancte Pater omnipotens, gloriosius collaudare: quos propter Filii tui Domini nostri Salvatoris infantiam immani saevitia Herodes funestus occidit: immensa clementiae tuae dona cognoscimus. Fulget namque sola magis gratia, quam voluntas: et clara est prius confessio, quam loquela. Ante passio, quam membra passionis existerent: testes Christi, qui ejus nondum fuerant agnitores, O infinita benignitas Omnipotentis: cum pro suo nomine trucidatis, etiam nescientibus, aeternae meritum glorias perire non patitur; sed proprio cruore perfusis et salus regenerationis expletur et imputatur corona martyrii! It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should exceedingly praise thee, O Holy Almighty Father, in the precious death of the Infants, whom the unhappy Herod, with savage cruelty, slew because of the Infant Jesus, thy Son, our Lord. Herein do we recognise how immeasurable are the gifts of thy mercy, for the splendour of thy free grace outshines the martyrs' will; and they nobly confess thy name, who are not yet able to speak. They suffer martyrdom before their bodies are ripe for martyrdom: they bear testimony to Christ, before they have even known him. O the infinite goodness of the Omnipotent God! He suffers not the merit of everlasting glory to be lost by them that are slain for his sake, though they know not what they do: and being bathed in their own blood, he effects in them the salvation of regeneration, and gives them the crown of martyrdom.

The following is from the Mozarabic Missal, and is full of unction and eloquence.

Dignum et justum est: vere dignum et justum est, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine, sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus, pro his praecipue, quorum hodierno die annua festivitate recolentes memoriam passionis celebramus: quos Herodianus satelles lactantum matrum uberibus abstraxit. Qui jure dicuntur Martyrum flores; qui in medio frigore infidelitatis exorti, velut primas erumpentes Ecclesiae gemmas quaedam persecutionis pruina discussit, rutilante fonte in Bethlehem civitate. Infantes enim quia aetate loqui non poterant, laudem Domini cum gaudio resonabant. Occisi praedicant: quod vivi non poterant. Loquuntur sanguine, quod lingua nequiverunt. Contulit his Martyrium laudem; quibus abnegaverat lingua sermonem. Praemittit infantes Infans Christus ad coelos; transmittit nova xenia Patri; primitias exhibet Genitori parvalorum prima martyria, Herodis scelere perpetrata. Praestat hostis corporis dum nocet, beneficium tribuit; dum occidit, moriendo vivitur: cadendo resurgitur: victoria per interitum comprobatur. It is meet and just, yea  truly right and just, that we should always and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, and now especially for these whose yearly feast we this day keep, celebrating the memory of their passion. These are they, whom Herod's satellites snatched from their mothers' breasts. Rightly are they called The Flowers of the Martyrs, for they grew in the midwinter of infidelity, as the first buds of the Church, and, being nipped by the frost of persecution, filled the city of Bethlehem with a ruddy stream. They were Babes, and could not speak; yet did they joyfully proclaim the praise of the Lord. Their deaths profess, what their lives could not. They say by their blood, what they could not with their tongue. Martyrdom gave them power to praise, though their tongue denied them that of speech. The Infant Jesus sends these Infants, before himself, to heaven: he presents these new gifts to his Father, and offers to him, as the first fruits of martyrdom, this of the Innocents, who were slain by the wicked Herod. This enemy confers on them what their body could not; while he injures their body, he benefits it; whilst their body falls, it lives by its death, it rises by its fall, it conquers by its defeat.

Our own Venerable Bede offers us the following Hymn, which is full of melody and pathos.

HYMN.

Hymnum canentes Martyrum
Dicamus Innocentium,
Quos terra flendo perdidit,
Gaudens sed aethra suscipit.

Vultum Patris per saecula,
Quorum tuentur Angeli,
Ejusque laudant gratiam,
Hymnum canentes Martyrum.

Quos rex peremit impius,
Pius sed Auctor colligit,
Secum beatos collocans,
In luce regni perpetis.

Qui mansiones singulis
Largitus in domo Patris;
Donat supernis sedibus,
Quos rex peremit impius.

Bimos et infra parvulos,
Herodis ira perculit;
Bethlemiticos,
Sancto respersit sanguine.

Praeclara Christo splenduit
Mors innocens fidelium:
Coelis ferebant Angeli
Bimos et infra parvulos.

Vox in Rama percrebuit,
Lamenta luctus maximi,
Rachel suos, cum lacrymis
Perfusa, flevit filios.

Gaudent triumpho perpeti,
Tormenta quique vicerant,
Quorum gemens ob verbera,
Vox in Rama percrebuit.

Ne, grex pusille, formides
Dentes leonis perfidos!
Pastor bonus nam pascua
Vobis dabit coelestia.

Agnum Dei qui candidum
Mundo sequens tramite;
Manus latronis impias
Ne, grex pusille formides.

Absterget omnem lacrymam
Vestris Pater de vultibus;
Mors vobis ultra non nocet,
Vitae receptis moenibus.

Qui seminant in lacrymis,
Longo metent in gaudio,
Genis lugentum Conditor
Absterget omnem lacrymam.

O quam beata civitas,
In qua Redemptor nascitur:
Natoque primae Martyrum
In qua dicantur hostiae.

Nunquam vocaris parvula,
In civitatum millibus,
Ex qua novus dux ortus est;
O quam beata civitas.

Adstant nitentes fulgidis
Ejus throno nunc vestibus,
Stolas suas qui laverant
Agni rubentes sanguine.

Qui perpetis pro patriae
Regno gementes fleverant:
Laeti Deo cum laudibus
Adstant nitentes fulgidis.

Let us chant the hymn of the Martyred Innocents, whom earth lost, and wept, but heaven gained and was glad.

Their Angels see the Face of the Eternal Father, and sing the Hymn of their Martyrs, lauding the grace of God.

A cruel king destroyed them, the merciful Creator received them, making them happy with Himself in the brightness of the never-ending kingdom.

He that gives to each elect a mansion in his Father's house, places the Innocents, massacred by the impious king, on thrones in heaven above.

Herod was angry, and slew every child below the age of two, staining with their sacred blood the borders of Bethlehem.

Precious in the sight of Jesus shone the innocent death of these his faithful ones; and Angels came down to carry them to the land of heaven.

A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation of poignant grief, and Rachel shed a flood of tears over her infant sons.

Who now rejoice in endless triumph, for they overcame their torments, whose cruel blows filled Rama with the voice of wailing.

Fear not, Little Flock, the prowling lion's tooth! for the Good Shepherd will give yon the pastures of heaven.

Following the spotless Lamb of God in the path of purity, ye need not fear, dear little flock, a robber's wicked grasp.

The Father will wipe every tear from off your cheeks; death shall have no further power to hurt you, inclosed now within the walls of Life.

They that sow in tears, reap eternal joy: and the Creator wipes every tear away from the mourner's face.

O truly happy Bethlehem! city wherein our Redeemer was born, and where he was presented with the first Martyrs - the first Victims dedicated to the newborn King.

No, Bethlehem! thou shalt not be called the least among the thousand cities, for out of thee came the divine Leader! O truly blessed City!

Around his throne now stand, glittering in their fair bright robes, these Innocents that washed their garments red in the Blood of the Lamb.

They had sighed and wept for the kingdom of the everlasting world - now they stand joyful before God, and bright in their robes of glory, are ever singing his praise.

The Greek Church is, of course, profuse in her praises of the Holy Innocents. We extract from her Menaea the following stanzas.

{XXVI. Decembris, in magna Vespertino, et passim.)

Thesaurum occultatum exquirens impiua, Innocentes pueros immolavit, et Rachel inconsolabilis exundantem intuens cladem iniquam, mortemque praematuram: quos ploravit, imis visceribus commota, eos nunc in sinu Abraham contemplata gaudet.

Regem sine tempore sub tempore natum, rex impius exquirebat, et non inveniens quomodo occideret, puerorum messuit malinesdam multitudinem, quos (et non cogitabat) fecit Martyres, supernique regni habitatores, et ilhus in saecula impietatem exprobantes.

Te ex Viigine nato, antesaecularis Domine, teque parvrilo, ob tuam bomtatem facto; parvulorum chorus tibi oblatus est in Martyrum sanguine; limpida anima justissime fulgiaus; quos inhabitare fecisti in mansionibus sempiternis, Herodis infamantes malitiam et crudelissimam iniquitatem.

Rachel clamans lacrymatur, ut scriptum est, super filios: parvulos enim Herodes occidens impius implebat Scripturam, Judaeam inundans mnocuo sanguine; nam terra rubescebat infantium sanguinibus, Ecclesiaque ex gentibus mystice punficatur, et stola induitur. Venit Veritas, sedentibus in umbra mortis Deus apparuit, ex Virgine natus ad salvandum nos.

Sursum et deorsum exsultantibus omnibus in Regis omnium manifestatione, solus Herodes tristatur cum Prophetarum homicidis Judaeis; decet enim illos solos lamentari deinceps enim non amphus regnant, sed regnum Domini posthac dominabitur, inimicorum depulsans audaciam, et multitudinem Fidelium convocans, ad videndum cum venerandis pueris ilium qui in prsesepio jacet velut infans.

Herbivirentem agellum puerorum impius Herodes mittens emessuit praematurum timidus; et natum Dominum cum nequit interficere, omni impletur confusione.

Plorat Rachel infantes, et in Rama vox magna audita hodie: Herodes furit et impie fremescit: Joannes fugit ad montes, petra matrem recipit, Zacharias in templo caeditur, et Christus fugit, desertam linquens Hebraeorum habitationem.

Immaculatae tuae Nativitati, Domine, prima hostia fuerunt infantes; Herodes enim manu apprehendere te imprehensibilem volens deceptus est, Martyrum adducens tibi chorum; ideo te deprecamur hominem factum salvare amimas nostras.

Ad anres Domini Sabaoth pervenit caedes vestra, Infantes honorandi; per eam enim sanguinem enudistis, et in sinu Abrahae requiescitis, Herodis in saacula odiosam malitiam repellentes, virtute Christi nati.

Odiosa Herodis puerorom internecio per illius cruentam militiam, et veneranda puerorum hostia, qui Christi coaetanei praesacrificati et pnepassi sunt: noli flere, Rachel, filios, recordata Abrahae sinum, ubi eorum omnium laetantium est cohabitatio.

The impious Herod, searching out Jesus the Hidden Treasure, slew the Innocent Children; and the inconsolable Rachel, seeing the iniquitous shedding of blood, and the premature death of her Babes, first grieving from the bottom of her heart, now rejoices seeing them in Abraham's Bosom.

The wicked king sought for the King, Eternal, yet born in time: and not finding how to kill Him, he mowed down the innocent multitude of children thinking not that he was making them Martyrs, and citizens of the heavenly kingdom, and eternal accusers of his impiety.

Thou, O Lord! being born of the Virgin, that wast born of the Father before all ages, and having become, out of thy infinite goodness, a Little Child - there was presented unto thee a choir of little children, made Martyrs by the shedding of their blood, and clad in brightness, the most just reward of their innocence of soul. Thou didst give them to dwell in eternal mansions, where they proclaim Herod's malice and most cruel injustice.

Rachel wailing, weeps, as 'tis written, over her Babes, for Herod fulfilled the Scripture when he slew the little ones, and inundated Judea with innocent blood. The earth was reddened by the Infants' blood, and the Gentile Church mystically made pure and beautiful The Truth had come: to them that were sitting in the shadow of death God had shown himself, born of a Virgin for our salvation.

In this manifestation of the King of all, all exulted in heaven and on earth, save only Herod and the Jews, the murderers of the Prophets - they are sad, for they alone have cause for sadness, seeing that their kingdom is at an end: but the kingdom of the Lord henceforth shall rule, repelling the daring of our enemies, and calling the multitude of the Faithful to come, with the holy Children, and see Him, The Little Child, that lies in the manger.

The impious Herod fearing, sent his reapers to cut the tender grass of Bethlehem's little field - the Innocents: and failing in the murder of the Infant-God, confusion fills his soul.

Rachel bewails her sons, and a loud cry is heard today in Rama: Herod rages and maddens in impiety: John flees to the mountains, his mother Elizabeth hides in a cave, Zachary is slain in the temple, and Jesus escapes, leaving the Hebrew land a desert.

The Innocents were the first offering consecrated to thy immaculate Birth, O Jesus! for Herod, that fain would apprehend Thee, the Incomprehensible God, was fooled in his craft, and gave thee a choir of Martyrs. Therefore, O God made Man! save us, we beseech thee!

Most honoured Innocents! the cry of your murder has ascended to the ears of the God of Sabaoth. Your blood was shed by the massacre, but ye are resting in Abraham's bosom, and, by the power of the Infant Christ, your triumph over Herod's detested malice is eternal.

Hateful is Herod's massacre of thy Children, O Rachel, by his cruel soldiers, but venerable the holocaust of thy Babes, the companions of Jesus in age, but his predecessors in their sacrifice and passion: then, weep not for thy Children, Rachel, remembering Abraham's Bosom, where is the one dwelling of them all, and they are in joy.

Into this sublime concert of the Liturgies singing the praises of the Innocents, we must admit the Latin Churches of the Middle Ages. We have selected a Prose of the 11th century, found in most of the ancient Roman-French Missals.

SEQUENCE.

Celsa pueri concrepent melodia,
Pia Innocentum colentes tripudia.
Quos infans Christus hodie vexit ad astra,
Hos trucidavit frendens insania
Herodianae fraudis, ob nulla crimina,
In Bethlehem ipsius cuncta.
Et per confinia,
A bimatu et infra,
Juxta nascendi tempora.
Herodes rex, Christi nati
Verens, infelix! imperia,
Infremit totus, erigit arma
Superba dextera.
Quaerit lucis et coeli Regem,
Cum mente turbida;
Ut extinguat, qui vitam praestat,
Per sua jacula.
Dum non valet intueri lucem splendidam,
Nebulosa quaerentis pectora.
Ira fervet, fraudes auget Herodes saevus,
Ut perdat piorum agmina.
Castra militum dux iniquus aggregat,
Ferrum figit in membra tenera.
Inter ubera lac effundit,
Antequam sanguinis fierent coagula.
Hostis naturae natos eviscerat
Atque jugulat:
Ante prosternit, quam aetas parvula
Sumat robora.
Quam beata sunt Innocentum caesa
Corpuscula!
Quam felices existunt matres,
Fuderunt quae talia pignora!
O dulces Innocentum acies!
O pia lactantum pro Christo certamina!
Parvorum trucidantur millia:
Membris ex teneris manant lactis flumina.
Cives angelici veniunt obviam,
Mira victoria,
Vitae captat merita
Turba candidissima.
Te, Christe, petimus, mente devotissima,
Nostra qui venisti reformare saecula,
Innocentum gloria
Perfrui nos concedas per aeterna.
Amen.
Sound forth, O Children! your shrill melodies,
In honour of the holy joys of the Innocents.
The Infant Jesus took them, this day, to the realms above,
When the rabid madness of Herod's craft slew them,
Though guilty of no crime:
They were the Children, in the city
And all the confines of Bethlehem,
Two years old and under,
Dating from the time of their birth.
The unhappy King Herod, fearing the Kingdom of the Infant Christ,
Trembles from head to foot, and brandishes his sword with his haughty hand.
He, with his troubled mind, seeks for the King of Light and heaven;
That, by his weapons, he might put to death Him that gives life:
For his eye cannot look on the bright Light of Him, who searcheth clouded hearts.
Herod is inflamed with rage, and cruelly plots the death of thousands of Innocents.
A wicked chieftain takes with him a troop of soldiers, and plunges his sword in the tender flesh.
The pure stream of infant veins, (for blood is scarce yet formed,) flows upon the mothers' breasts.
The brutal enemy tears the flesh with gaping wounds, and on the throat inflicts a fatal gash:
Trampling out life, e'er the tender age is sinewed into strength.
Oh! how glorious the bodies of these murdered Innocents!
How happy the Mothers of such Children!
O amiable legion of Innocents!
O holy infant-combats fought for Christ.
The Babes lay slain in thousands, and from their tender limbs there flows a stream of sinless blood.
The citizens of heaven come forth to meet the snow-white troop, that takes the crown of Life, won by a singular victory.
We most devoutly beseech thee, O Jesus! who earnest to reform the world,
That thou grant us to enjoy, for everlasting ages, the glory of the Innocents.
Amen.

And we, too, Blessed Babes! we celebrate your triumph, and we congratulate you in your having been chosen as the companions of Jesus when in his Crib. What a glad waking was yours, from the darkness of unconscious infancy to the divine light of life eternal! How dear to you the sword that thus transformed you! What gratitude had you not for the God, who thus chose you, out of millions of other children, to do honour to the birth of his Son, by this sacrifice of your blood and lives! Too young to fight the battle, yet did you win the crown. The Martyr's Palm waved in those tiny hands, which had not strength to pluck it God would give proof of his munificence—he would teach us that he is Master of his gifts. And, was it not fitting, that the birth of the Son of this great King should be commemorated by largess such as this? Sweet Infant Martyrs! we give praise to our God for his having thus favoured you, and, with the whole Church, we rejoice in the privileges you have received.

Flowers of the Martyrs! we confide in your intercession, and beseech you, by the reward so gratuitously conferred on you/to be mindful of us your Brethren, who are struggling amidst the dangers of this sinful world. We, too, desire to receive those same Palms and Crowns, which you have won, but with such innocence and simplicity, that the Church says you played with them* :  whereas we have to fight hard and long for them, and are so often on the point of losing them for ever! The God that has glorified you, is our last end as truly as he is yours; in Him alone can our hearts find their rest; pray for us, that we may possess him for all eternity.

 * ... Simplices
Palma et Coronis luditis.
(Hymn for Vespers.)

Pray for us, that we may obtain childlike simplicity of heart, whence comes that unreserved confidence in God, which leads man to the perfect accomplishment of his holy will. May we bear the cross with patience, when he sends it, and desire nothing but his holy will. You gazed upon the murderers who broke your gentle sleep, and you found nothing to make you fear; the bright sword they held over your cradle, had but the look of a toy you asked to play with; death stared you in the face, and you smiled on him. May we imitate you, and be meek and graceful in the trials that come to us; making them our martyrdom by the quiet endurance of our courage, and the conformity of our will with that of our Sovereign Lord and Master, who only gives the cross that he may give the crown. May we never object to or hate the instruments he uses wherewith to try us; may no harshness nor injustice nor pain ever quench the fire of our charity, nor any event ever deprive us of that peace, without which our souls live not to God.

And, lastly, O ye Innocent Lambs, slain for Jesus, and following him whithersoever he goeth, because ye are pure - pray for us to the Lamb of God, that he permit us to come to him in Bethlehem, and, like you, fix our dwelling there, for it is the abode of love and innocence. Speak for us to Mary, a Mother more compassionate than Rachel; tell her that we are her Children, and your Brethren. She that compassionated your momentary sufferings, will pity us and help us in our long years of temptation, pain, and sorrow.

 

Three days have passed since the Birth of Jesus - let us visit him in the Stable, and humbly adore our Emmanuel. Let us think on the Mercy, which led him to become a Little Child in order to bring us near to himself: let us be filled with astonishment at seeing our God thus close to his creatures. " He," says the holy Abbot Guerric, [Sermon the Fifth On the wonderful providence of God in the Nativity of Christ.] "that, in heaven, surpasses the sublime intellects of the Angels, is here on earth palpable to the dull sense of men. For, whereas God could not speak to us as spiritual beings - for we are carnal - his Word was made Flesh, that all flesh might not only hear, but might even see Him, whom the mouth of the Lord had spoken. [Is. xl. 5.] And whereas the world knew not the Wisdom of God in his wisdom, that same wisdom, by an ineffable condescension, made himself Foolishness. [I. Cor. i. 25] ... I give thee praise, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for that thou hast hid this Wisdom from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed it to little ones. [St. Matth. xi. 25] The haughtiness of the proud is exceedingly adverse to the humility of this Little One; and that which is high to men, is an abomination before God. [St. Luke, xvi. 15.] This Little One finds sympathy with none save with them that are little in heart, and he takes up his abode with none save with them that are humble and peaceful. As, therefore, these Little Children sing, glorying in Him: A Little Child is born unto us; [Is. ix. 6.] so does He say of them: Behold Me and my Children, whom the Lord hath given unto me. [Is. viii. 18.] Thus it " was that the glory of Martyrdom began with Innocent Babes; for the Father would give to his "Son, the Infant Jesus, Companions of his own " tender age; and hereby the Holy Ghost taught us, " that of such is the Kingdom of heaven." [St Matth. xix. 14.]

In honour of this Childhood of the Great King, let us recite the following admirable Hymn, composed by one of the most learned men of the primitive Church, Clement of Alexandria.

HYMN.

Fraenum pullorum indocilium,
Penna volucrum non errantium,
Verus clavus infantium,
Pastor agnorum regalium,
Tuos simplices
Pueros congrega,
Ad sancte laudandum,
Sincere canendum,
Ore innoxio,
Christum puerorum ducem.

Rex sanctorum,
Verbum, qui domas omnia,
Patris altissimi
Sapientiae rector,
Laborum sustentaculum,
Aevo gaudens,
Humani generis
Servator, Jesu,

Pastor, arator,
Clavus, fraenum,
Penna coelestis
Sanctissimi regis,
Piscator hominum
Qui salvi fiunt;
Pelagi vitii,
Pisces castos
Unda ex infesta,
Dulci vita inescans.

Sis dux, ovium
Rationalium pastor;
Sancte, sis dux,
Rex puerorum intactorum:
Vestigia Christi,
Via coelestis.

Verbum perenne,
Aevum infinitum,
Lux aeterna,
Fons misericordiae,
Operatrix virtutis,
Honesta vita
Deum laudantium,
Christe Jesu,

Lac coeleste,
Dulcibus uberibus
Nymphae gratiarum,
Sapientiae tuae expressum,
Infantuli
Ore tenero
Enutriti,
Mammae rationalis
Roscido spiritu
Impleti,
Laudes simplices,
Hymnos veraces
Regi Christo.

Mercedes sanctas
Vitae doctrinae
Canamus simul
Canamus simpliciter
Puerum valentem.
Chorus pacis,
Christo geniti,
Populus modestus,
Psallamus simul Deum pacis.

Curb of the young untamed ones — Wing that protectest chickens which keep nigh their mother—sure Rudder of infant age—Shepherd of the King's lambs!—call together thy simple children, and bid them praise with holy hearts, and sweetly sing with pure lips, Jesus, the King of Infants.

King of Saints—Incarnate Word—that rulest all things— Dispenser of the Most High, the Father—support of them that toil—joy eternal—Saviour of mankind—Jesus!

Shepherd— Husbandman— Rudder—Curb — Wing celestial of the most holy flock— Fisher of the elect, drawing the chaste fish, by the bait of the sweet Bread of Life, from the boisterous sea of sin.

O Shepherd of the spiritual flock, be thou our Guide! Guide us, O Holy One, O King of spotless Children! The way to heaven, is to follow the footsteps of Christ.

O Eternal Word—Infinite duration — Light Eternal — Fount of mercy—Author of virtue—the Holy Life of them that praise God — Christ Jesus!

We thy little ones, whose infant mouths have drunk the milk of heaven, drawn from the sweet breasts of thy wisdom. grace's virgin-spring: filled with the dewy spirit of thy divine breast, we sing to Christ, the King, our simple praises, and our truthful hymns.

Let us together sing the holy recompense of the doctrine of Life! Let us together sing to the Almighty Babe! O choir of peace—O children of Christ—O wisdom-loving people—let us together praise the God of Peace!

Let us also salute Mary, the Mother of this Divine Infant, in the words of this beautiful Prose, taken from the ancient Missals of Germany.

SEQUENCE.

Imperatrix gloriosa,
Potens et imperiosa,
Jesu Christi generosa
Mater atque filia:
Radix Jesse speciosa,
Virga florens et frondosa
Quam rigavit copiosa
Deitatis gratia.

Auster levis te perflavit,
Et perflando foecundavit,
Aquilonem qui fugavit
Sua cum potentia.
Florem ergo genuisti,
Fructum ex quo protulisti,
Gabrieli dum fuisti
Paranympho credula.

Joseph, justus vir, expavit,
Ista dum consideravit,
Sciens quod non irrigavit
Florescentem virgulam:
Bene tamen conservavit
Arcanum, nec divulgavit;
Sponsam sed magnificavit,
Honorans ut Dominam.

Coeli quoniam roraverunt,
Nubes ex quo concreverunt,
Concretaeque stillaverunt
Virginis in utero.
Res miranda! res novella!
Nam procedit sol de stella,
Regem dum parit puella,
Viri tori nescia.

Ergo clemens et benigna,
Cunctorumque laudum digna,
Tuo nato nos consigna
Pia per suffiragia:
Ut mortali quo gravamur,
Compede sic absolvamur,
Ut soluti transferamur
Ad coeli palatia.
Amen.

Glorious, powerful, and sovereign Empress! Noble Mother and Daughter of Jesus! Fair Root of Jesse, Branch lovely in thy bloom and leaf, watered by the plentiful grace of God.

The soft south zephyr breathed upon thee, and breathing gave thee Fruit, and by his power put the rough north wind to flight. Thou, therefore, believing the Angel Gabriel's word, didst conceive a Flower, one day to bring Him forth - thy Fruit.

Joseph, the Just Man, saw his lovely Branch in Flower: none else could know like him and tremble at the Mystery. But the secret was sacred and veil did he keep it, revealing it to no mortal ear. Mary was his Spouse, and he extolled her: she was his Lady, and he honoured her.

The heavens had truly dropped down their dew, and the clouds, laden with a mystic rain, rained the Holy One; He dwelt in the Virgin's womb. O wondrous thing! O thing most strange! A Star brings forth the Sun! A Maid, a Virgin most pure, brings forth the King of Heaven.

Then, by thy loving prayers, commend us to thy Son, O Mother sweet and kind, and worthy of this and every praise! Pray for us, that loosened from the shackle of mortality that weighs us down, we may take wing to the heavenly courts.
Amen.