Thursday, 23 June 2016

Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

The Matins readings for the feast are set out below.  Unfortunately the readings for the Second Nocturn in the Benedictine Office are no available online, but you could substitute the Roman Office readings from St Augustine if you wish, available from Divinum Officium.

Nocturn I (Jeremiah 1:1-10, 17-19)

Reading 1: These are the words of Jeremias, son of Helcias, one of the priests who dwelt at Anathoth, in the lands of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him during the reign of Josias, son of Amon, over Juda, in the thirteenth year of it; came to him during the reign of Josias’ son, Joachim, and did not cease till the men of Jerusalem went into exile, when Sedecias, that was also son to Josias, had been reigning eleven years and five months.

R. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.* The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
V. John was in the wilderness, preaching the baptism of repentance.
R. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Reading 2: The word of the Lord came to me, and his message was: I claimed thee for my own before ever I fashioned thee in thy mother’s womb; before ever thou camest to the birth, I set thee apart for myself; I have a prophet’s errand for thee among the nations. Alas, alas, Lord God (said I), I am but a child that has never learned to speak. A child, sayest thou? the Lord answered. Nay, I have a mission for thee to undertake, a message to entrust to thee.

R. Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was the mother of a mighty man, even of John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Lord,* who made straight in the desert an highway for the Lord.
V. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
R. Who made straight in the desert an highway for the Lord.

Reading 3:  Have no human fears; am I not at thy side, to protect thee from harm? the Lord says. And with that, the Lord put out his hand, and touched me on the mouth; See, he told me, I have inspired thy lips with utterance. Here and now I give thee authority over nations and kingdoms everywhere; with a word thou shalt root them up and pull them down, overthrow and lay them in ruins; with a word thou shalt build them up and plant them anew.

R. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee;* And I ordained thee a Prophet unto the nations.
V. A man beloved of God and men, he was had in honour.
R. And I ordained thee a Prophet unto the nations.

Reading 4: Up, then, gird thee like a man, and speak out all the message I give thee. Meet them undaunted, and they shall have no power to daunt thee. Strong I mean to make thee this day as fortified city, or pillar of iron, or wall of bronze, to meet king, prince, priest of Juda, and common folk all the country through; impregnable thou shalt be to their attack; am I not at thy side, the Lord says, to deliver thee?

Nocturn II 

.[Sermon 67 of St Maximus of Turin is unfortunately not available online]

Nocturn III (St Ambrose on Luke 2:30-31)

Reading 9: From the Holy Gospel according to Luke: Elisabeth's fullness of time came that she should deliver, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her, and they rejoiced with her. And so on.

Elizabeth's full time came that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours rejoiced with her. The birth of a Saint is a joy for many, for it is a good to all. Righteousness is an help to all, and therefore when a righteous man is born it is an heralding of his life, which is still to come, that the helpful excellency of his future should be hailed by the, as it were, prophetic joy of the neighbours. It is well that we should be told concerning the prophet, while he was yet in the womb, that we may know how that Mary was there; but we hear nothing of his childhood, because,we know that it was safe and strong through the nearness of the Lord, Himself then in that womb which was free from the sorrows of pregnancy.

R. The Fore-runner of the Lord cometh, to whom He Himself bare witness, saying:
* Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.
V. A Prophet? Yea, and much more than a Prophet. This is he of whom the Saviour saith:
R. Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.

Reading 10: And therefore we read in the Gospel nothing touching him save his coming, the annunciation thereof to his father, the leap which he gave in the womb, and his crying in the wilderness.It was not for him to feel childishness, who beyond all use of nature or of his age, when as yet he lay in his mother's womb, leapt at once unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . It is strange how that the Holy Evangelist hath judged meet to tell us that they thought to call the child Zacharias, after the name of his father, that thou mayest notice that the mother would have none of the names whereby their kindred were called, but only that name which the Holy Ghost had dictated, and which the Angel had told before unto Zacharias.
.
R. The Angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias, and said thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John;
* And many shall rejoice at his birth.
V. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.
R. And many shall rejoice at his birth.
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Reading 11: The dumb man had certainly not been able to tell his wife by what name to call the child, and Elizabeth must needs have learnt by revelation what she could not have heard from her husband.His name is John; that is, it is not for us to choose a name now for him to whom God hath given a name already. He hath a name, which we know, but it is not one of our choosing.

Reading 12: To receive a name from God is one of the honours of the Saints. Thus was it that Jacob's name was no more called Jacob but Israel, because he saw God face to face. Thus was it that our Lord Jesus was named before He was born, with a name not given by an Angel, but by the Father. Thou seest that Angels tell that which they have been bidden to tell, not matters of their own choosing. Nor oughtest thou to wonder that Elizabeth named a name which she had not heard, since it had been revealed to her by the same Holy Ghost Who had commanded the Angel to tell it.

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