The holy Church calls us together to-day, in order that we may hear from her lips the sad history of the fall of our First Parents. This awful event implies the Passion and cruel Death of the Son of God made Man, who has mercifully taken upon himself to expiate this and every subsequent sin committed by Adam and us his children. It is of the utmost importance that we should understand the greatness of the remedy; we must, therefore, consider the grievousness of the wound inflicted. For this purpose, we will spend the present week in meditating on the nature and consequences of the sin of our First Parents.
Formerly, the Church used to read in her Matins of to-day that passage of the Book of Genesis, where Moses relates to all future generations, but in words of most impressive arid sublime simplicity, how the first sin was brought into the world. In the present form of the Liturgy, the reading of this history of the Fall is deferred till Wednesday, and the preceding days give us the account of the six days of Creation. We will anticipate the great instruction, and begin it at once, inasmuch as it forms the basis of the whole week’s teaching.
|De Libro Genesis.
|From the Book of Genesis.
Oh! terrible page of man’s history! It alone explains to us our present position on the earth. It tells us what we are in the eyes of God, and how humbly we should comport ourselves before his divine Majesty. We will make it the subject of this week's meditation. And now, let us prepare to profit by the Liturgy of this Sunday, which we call Septuagesima.
In the Greek Church, it is called Prophöné, (Proclamation,) because on this day they announce to the people the coming Fast of Lent, and the precise day of Easter. It is also called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, because that Parable is read in their Liturgy for this Sunday, as an invitation to sinners to draw nigh to the God of Mercy. But it is the last day of the week, Prophöné, which, by a strange custom, begins with the preceding Monday, as do also the two following weeks.
The Station, at Rome, is in the Church of Saint Laurence outside the walls. The ancient Liturgists observe how there is the relation of martyrdom between the just Abel, (whose being murdered by Cain is the subject of one of the Responsories of to-day’s Matins,) and the courageous Martyr, over whose tomb the Church of Rome commences her Septuagesima.
The Introit describes the fears of death, wherewith Adam and his whole posterity are tormented, in consequence of sin. But, in the midst of all this misery, there is heard a cry of hope, for man is still permitted to ask mercy from his God. God gave man a promise, on the very day of his condemnation:- the sinner needs but to confess his miseries, and the very Lord, against whom he sinned, will become his Deliverer.
|Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, dolores inferni
circumdederunt me: et in tribulatione mea invocavi Dominum, et exaudivit de
templo sancto suo vocem meam.
Ps. Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea: Dominus firmamentum meum, et refugium meum, et liberator meus. V. Gloria Patri. Circumdederunt.
|The groans of death surrounded me, and the sorrows of hell encompassed me; and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and
he heard my voice from his holy temple.
Ps. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer. V. Glory. The groans.
In the Collect, the Church acknowledges that her children justly suffer the chastisements, which are the consequences of sin; but she beseeches her divine Lord to send them that Mercy, which delivers from misery.
|Preces populi tui, quaesumus Domine, clementer exaudi, ut qui juste pro peccatis nostris affligimur, pro tui Nominis gloria misericorditer liberemur. Per Dominum.||Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy people; that we who are justly afflicted for our sins, may be mercifully delivered for the glory of thy name. Through, &c.|
|A cunctis nos, quaesumus, Domine, mentis et corporis defende periculis: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semperque Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque beato N., et omnibus Sanctis, salutem nobis tribue benignus et pacem: ut destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, Ecclesia tua secura tibi serviat libertate.||Preserve us, O Lord, we beseech thee, from all dangers of soul and body: and by the intercession of the glorious and blessed Mary, the ever Virgin-Mother of God, of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, of Blessed N. (here is mentioned the titular Saint of the Church,) and of all the Saints, grant us, in thy mercy, health and peace; that all adversities and errors being removed, thy Church may serve thee with undisturbed liberty.|
The Priest adds a third Collect, which is left to his own choice.
|Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.
|Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.
These stirring words of the Apostle deepen the sentiments already produced in us by the sad recollections of which we are this day reminded. He tells us, that this world is a race, wherein all must run but that they alone win the prize, who run well. Let us, therefore, rid ourselves of everything that could impede us, and make us lose our crown. Let us not deceive ourselves: we are never sure, until we reach the goal. Is our conversion more solid than was St. Paul’s? Are our good works better done, or more meritorious, than were his? Yet, he assures us, that he was not without the fear that he might perhaps be lost; for which cause, he chastises his body, and keeps it in subjection to the spirit. Man, in his present state, has not the same will for all that is right and just, which Adam had before he sinned, and which, notwithstanding, he abused to his own ruin. We have a bias which inclines us to evil; so that our only means of keeping our ground is by sacrificing the flesh to the spirit. To many this is very harsh doctrine; hence, they are sure to fail, - they never can win the prize. Like the Israelites spoken of by our Apostle, they will be left behind to die in the desert, and so lose the Promised Land. Yet, they saw the same miracles that Josue and Caleb saw! So true is it that nothing can make a salutary impression on a heart, which is obstinately bent on fixing all its happiness in the things of this present life; and though it is forced, each day, to own that they are vain, yet each day it returns to them, vainly but determinedly loving them.
The heart, on the contrary, that puts its trust in God, and mans itself to energy by the thought of the divine assistance being abundantly given to him that asks it, - will not flag or faint in the race, and will win the heavenly prize. God’s eye is unceasingly on all them that toil and suffer. These are the truths expressed in the Gradual.
|Adjutor in opportunitatibus, in tribulatione
sperent in te qui noverunt te, quoniam non derelinquis quaerentes te, Domine.
Quoniam non in finem oblivio erit pauperis; patientia pauperum non peribit in aeternum: exsurge, Domine, non praevaleat homo.
|A helper in due time, in tribulation: let them trust in thee, who know thee, for thou hast not forsaken them that seek thee,
For the poor man shall not be forgotten to the end; the patience of the poor man shall not perish for ever: arise, O Lord, let not man prevail.
The Tract sends forth our cry to God, and thee cry is from the very depths of our misery. Man is humbled exceedingly by the Fall; but he knows, that God is full of mercy, and that, in his goodness, he punishes our iniquities less than they deserve: were it not so, none of us could hope for pardon.
|De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi vocem
V. Fiant aures tuae intendentes in orationem servi tui.
V. Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
V. Quia apud te propitatio est, et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
|Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.
V. Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
V. If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord, who shall stand it?
V. For with thee there is merciful forgiveness, and by reason of thy law, I have waited for thee, O Lord.
| Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.
|Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
It is of importance, that we should well understand this Parable of the Gospel, and why the Church inserts it in to-day’s Liturgy. Firstly, then, let us recall to mind on what occasion our Saviour spoke this Parable, and what instruction he intended to convey by it to the Jews. He wishes to warn them of the fast approach of the day when their Law is to give way to the Christian Law; and he would prepare their minds against the jealousy and prejudice which might arise in them, at the thought that God was about to form a Covenant with the Gentiles. The Vineyard is the Church in its several periods, from the beginning of the world to the time of God himself coming to dwell among men, and form all true believers into one visible and permanent society. The Morning is the time, from Adam to Noah; the Third Hour begins with Noah and ends with Abraham; the Sixth Hour includes the period which elapsed between Abraham and Moses; and lastly, the Ninth Hour opens with the age of the Prophets, and closes with the Birth of the Saviour. The Messias came at the Eleventh Hour, when the world seemed to be at the decline of its day. Mercies unprecedented were reserved for this last period, during which, Salvation was to be given to the Gentiles by the preaching of the Apostles. It is by this mystery of Mercy that our Saviour rebukes the Jewish pride. By the selfish murmurings made against the Master of the House by the early Labourers, our Lord signifies the indignation which the Scribes and Pharisees would show at the Gentiles being adopted as God’s children. Then, he shows them how their jealousy would be chastised: Israel, that had laboured before us, shall be rejected for their obduracy of heart, and we Gentiles, the last comers, shall be made first, for we shall be made members of that Catholic Church, which is the Spouse of the Son of God.
This is the interpretation of our Parable given by St. Augustine and St. Gregory
the Great, and by the generality of the Holy Fathers. But it conveys a second instruction, as we are assured by the two Holy Doctors just named. It signifies the calling given by God to each of us individually, pressing us to labour, during this life, for the
Kingdom prepared for us. The Morning is our childhood.
The Third Hour, according to time division used by the ancients in counting their day, is sun-rise; it is our
youth. The Sixth Hour, by which name they called our mid-day, is manhood. The
Eleventh Hour, which
immediately preceded sun-set, is old age. The Master of the House calls his
Labourers at all these various Hours. They must go that very hour. They that are called in the Morning may not put off
their starting for the Vineyard, under pretext of going afterwards, when the Master shall call
them later on. Who has told them that they shall live to the Eleventh Hour?
They are called at the Third Hour; they may be dead at the Sixth. God will call to
the labours of the last hour such as shall be living
when that hour comes; but, if we should die at mid-day, that last call will not avail
us. Besides, God has not promised us a second call, if we excuse ourselves from the first.
At the Offertory, the Church invites us to celebrate the praises of God. God has mercifully granted us, that the hymns we sing to the glory of his name, should be our consolation in this vale of tears.
|Bonum est confiteri Domino, et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime.||It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to thy name, O Most High.|
|Muneribus nostris, quaesumus, Domine, precibusque susceptis: et coelestibus nos munda mysteriis, et clementer exaudi. Per Dominum.||Having received, O Lord, our offerings and prayers, cleanse us, we beseech thee by these heavenly mysteries, and mercifully hear us. Through, &c.|
|Exaudi nos, Deus Salutaris noster: ut per hujus Sacramenti virtutem, a cunctis nos mentis et corporis hostibus tuearis, gratiam tribuens in praesenti, et gloriam in futuro.||Graciously grant us, O God our Saviour, that by virtue of this Sacrament, thou mayest defend us from all enemies, both of soul and body; giving us grace in this life, and glory in the next.|
The third Secret is left to the Priest’s own choice.
In the Communion-Antiphon, the Church prays that man, having now been regenerated by the Bread of heaven, may regain that likeness to his God which Adam received at his creation. The greater our misery, the stronger should be our hope in Him, who descended to us that we might ascend to him.
|Illumina faciem tuam super servum tuum, et salvum me fac in tua misericordia: Domine, non confundar, quoniam invocavi te.||Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; save me in thy mercy. Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon thee.|
|Fideles tui, Deus, per tua dona firmentur: ut eadem et percipiendo requirant, et quaerendo sine fine percipiant. Per Dominum.||May thy Faithful, O God, be strengthened by thy gifts; that by receiving them, they may ever hunger after them, and hungering after them, they may have their desires satisfied in the everlasting possession of them. Through, &c.|
|Mundet et muniat nos, quaesumus, Domine, divini Sacramenti munus oblatum, et intercedente beata Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque beato N. et omnibus Sanctis, a cunctis nos reddat et perversitatibus expiatos, et adversitatibus expeditos.||May the oblation of this divine Sacrament, we beseech thee, O Lord, both cleanse and defend us; and by the intercession of Blessed Mary, the Virgin-Mother of God, together with that of thy blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, as likewise of blessed N., and of all the Saints, free us from all sin, and deliver us from all adversity.|
The third Postcommunion is left to the Priest’s own choice.
The Psalms and Antiphons, are given above.
(I. Cor. IX.)
|Fratres, nescitis quod ii, qui in stadio currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit bravium? Sic currite, ut comprehendatis.||Brethren, know you not, that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain.|
For the Hymn and Versicle, see above.
|ANT. Dixit Paterfamilias operariis suis: Quid hic statis tota die otiosi At illi resondentes, dixerunt: Quia nemo nos conduxit. Ite et vos in vineam meam: et quod justum fuerit, dabo vobis.||ANT. The householder said to the labourers: Why stand you here all tHe day idle? But they answering, said to him: Because no man hath hired us. Go ye, also, into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.|
Preces populi tui, quaesumus Domine, clementer exaudi, ut qui juste pro peccatis nostris affligimur, pro tui Nominis gloria misericorditer liberemur. Per Dominum.
|LET US PRAY.
Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy people; that we who are justly afflicted for our sins, may be mercifully delivered for the glory of thy name. Through, &c.
For each day of this Week we select a few stanzas from the Hymn, which the Greek Liturgy uses in her Office for the Sunday preceding the Fast of Lent. It is a lamentation over Adam’s Fall.
|Excidit e paradise voluptatis Adamus, Domini
praeceptnm, amaro cibo intemperanter degustato, transgressus, damnatusque fuit terrae
unde desumptus fuerat colendae, suoque pani per sudorem multum comedendo; nos igitur temperantiam
appetamus, ne velut ille extra paradisum ploremus, sed intus admittamur.
Conditor meus Dominus, pulvere e terra accepto, me vivifico spiritu animavit, atque visibilium omnium super terram dominatione, Angelorumque consortio dignatus est; dolosus autem Satan, serpentis instramento usus, esca decepit, et a Dei gloria procul aman davit, mortique in infimis terrae addixit: tu vero, utpote Dominus, atque benignus, ab exilio me revoca.
Stola divinitus texta spoliatsu fui miser ego, divino praecepto tuo, Domine, ex inimici fraude violato, foliisque ficulneis et pelliceis tunicis modo circumdor; panem laboris in sudore manducandi sententiam excepi, utque spinas et tribulos tellus mihi ferat, diris devota est; sed qui postremis temporibus e Virgine incarnatus es, revocatu me in paradisum restitue.
Paradise, omni honore dignissime, pulcherrima species, tabernaculum divinitus structum, perenne gaudium et oblectamentum, gloria justorum, Prophetarum laetitia, Sanctorumque domicilium, foliorum tuorum sonitu Conditorem uinversorum deprecare, ut fores, quas praevaricatione clausi, mihi adaperiat, utque dignus efficiar ligni vitae participatione, eoque gaudio quod dulcissime prius in temetipso degustavi.
| Because he broke the commandment of his Lord, and was led by intemperance to taste a food which was to be one of bitterness to
him, Adam was banished from the paradise of delight, and condemned to till the earth whence himself was taken, and to eat his bread in the sweat of
his brow. Let us, therefore, covet temperance, lest, like him, we may have to weep out
of paradise; let us be temperate and enter heaven.
God, my Creator, took dust from the earth, quickened me with a living soul, graciously made me the king of all visible things on earth, and gave me fellowship with the Angels; but crafty Satan, making the serpent his instrument, allured me with food, banished me far from the glory of God, and made me a slave to death in the bowels of the earth: but thou O God, art my Lord, and full of mercy, - recal me from exile.
Being deceived by the craft of the enemy. I, miserable man, violated thy commandment, O Lord, and being stripped of the garment which thy divine hand had woven for me, I am now clad with leaves of the fig-tree, and with a skin garment; I am condemned to eat a bread for which I must toil with the sweat of my brow, and the earth is cursed, so that it may yield me thorns and thistles: but do thou, that in after times tookest flesh from the Virgin, recal and restore me to Paradise.
O Paradise! - most worthy of all our reverence, beautiful beyond measure, tabernacle built by God, joy and delight without end, glory of the just, joy of the Prophets, and dwelling of the Saints, - may thy prayers, the sound of thy leaves, obtain for me from the Creator of all things, that thy gates, which my sin hath shut against me, may be thrown open to me, and that I may be made worthy to partake of the tree of life, and of that joy, which I once so sweetly tasted in thy bosom.