Nocturn I: Jeremiah 31:15-23
[Psalms 1, 2, 10, 14, 15, 23]
Reading 1: Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. Thus saith the Lord: Let thy voice cease from weeping, and thy eyes from tears: for there is a reward for thy work, saith the Lord: and they shall return out of the land of the enemy. And here is hope for thy last end, saith the Lord: and the children shall return to their own borders.
R. An hundred, forty, and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth; these are they which were not defiled with women. * For they remained virgins; therefore are they kings before God, and the Lamb of God is with them.
V. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb.
R. For they remained virgins; therefore are they kings before God, and the Lamb of God is with them.
Reading 2: Hearing I heard Ephraim when he went into captivity: thou hast chastised me, and I was instructed, as a young bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Convert me, and I shall be converted, for thou art the Lord my God. For after thou didst convert me, I did penance: and after thou didst shew unto me, I struck my thigh: I am confounded and ashamed, because I have borne the reproach of my youth.
R. I heard under the altar the voices of them that were slain, saying: * How long dost Thou not avenge our blood? And it was said unto them from God Rest yet for a little season, until the number of your brethren be fulfilled.
V. I saw under the altar of God the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held, and they cried with a loud voice, saying:
R. How long dost Thou not avenge our blood? And it was said unto them from God Rest yet for a little season, until the number of your brethren be fulfilled.
Reading 3: Surely Ephraim is an honourable son to me, surely he is a tender child: for since I spoke of him, I will still remember him. Therefore are my bowels troubled for him: pitying I will pity him, saith the Lord. Set thee up a watchtower, make to thee bitterness: direct thy heart into the right way, wherein thou hast walked: return, O virgin of Israel, return to these thy cities.
R. They worshipped Him That liveth for ever and ever. * And cast their crowns before the throne of the Lord their God.
V. And they fell down upon their faces before the throne, and blessed Him That liveth for ever and ever.
R. And cast their crowns before the throne of the Lord their God.
Reading 4: How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth: A woman shall compass a man. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: As yet shall they say this word in the land of Juda, and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring back their captivity: The Lord bless thee, the beauty of justice, the holy mountain.
Nocturn II : Sermon of St Caesarius of Arles
[Psalms 32, 33, 45, 60, 63, 78]
Reading 5: Dearly beloved brethren, today we keep the birthday of those children, who, as we are informed by the Gospel, were massacred by the savage King Herod. Therefore let earth rejoice with exceeding joy, for she is the mother of these heavenly soldiers, and of this numerous host. The love of the vile Herod could never have crowned these blessed ones as hath his hatred.
R. The blood of thy saints have they shed like water round about Jerusalem. * And there was none to bury them.
V. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the air, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
R. And there was none to bury them.
Reading 6: For the Church testifieth by this holy solemnity, that whereas iniquity did specially abound against these little saints, so much the more were heavenly blessings poured out upon them. Blessed art thou, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, which hast suffered the cruelty of King Herod in the slaughter of thy children; who art found worthy to offer at once to God a whole white-robed army of guileless martyrs!
R. These holy ones suffered for thy sake, O Lord take vengeance for them. * For day by day they cry unto thee.
V. Avenge, O Lord, the blood of thy saints which is shed.
R. For day by day they cry unto thee.
Reading 7: Surely, it is well to keep their birth-day, even that blessed birthday which gave them from earth to heaven, more blessed than the day that brought them out of their mother's womb. Scarcely had they entered on the life that now is, when they obtained that glorious life which is to come.
R. These are they which have not defiled their garments.
* They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
V. These are they which were not defiled with women for they are virgins.
R. They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
Nocturn III: Homily of St Jerome
[Canticles: Wisdom 3: 1-6 ;3:7-9; 10: 17-21]
Reading 9: From the Holy Gospel according to Matthew - In 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. And so on.
He took the young Child, and His mother, and fled into Egypt, by night and in darkness; and the darkness of that night was a figure of the darkness of ignorance in which they left the unbelievers from whom they fled. But when they returned into Judaea, we learn not from the Gospel that it was by night, or in darkness; which is an image of that light which will lighten the Jews, when, at the end of the world, they shall receive back the faith, which now lighteneth the Gentiles, even as Judaea received Christ returning from Egypt.
R. The saints sung a new song before the throne of God and the Lamb * And their voices were echoed on earth.
V. These were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God, and to the Lamb, and in their mouth was found no guile.
R. And their voices were echoed on earth.
Reading 10: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying Out of Egypt have I called My Son. Those who go about to deny the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures, ask where any such passage is to be found in the Septuagint. But, although they find it not there, I tell them that the fact of its being written in the Prophet Hosea can be proved by the texts which I have lately published.
R. I saw under the Altar of God the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, which they held, and they cried with a loud voice: * Avenge, O Lord, the blood of thy saints, which is shed.
V. Under the throne of God all the saints cry aloud.
R. Avenge, O Lord, the blood of thy saints, which is shed.
Reading 11: Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the Prophet, saying; In Rama was there a voice heard, weeping and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children. The child of Rachel was Benjamin, and Bethlehem is not a town belonging to his tribe. We must therefore seek another reason why Rachel should weep for the children of Judah, to whom Bethlehem belongeth, as for her own.
R. What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And he said to me:
* These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
V. I saw under the Altar of God the souls of them which were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.
R. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
Reading 12: The plain answer is that she is buried at Ephrath close to Bethlehem, and she is called Mother on account of the resting-place of her earthly tabernacle being there. It is possible also that she is called Mother because the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were joined together, and Herod slew not only all the children that were in Bethlehem, but also in all the coasts thereof.
Gospel: Matthew 2: 13-18