Saturday, 31 December 2016

Octave of the Nativity (Jan 1)

The Readings for the Octave Day of the Nativity (aka Circumcision of Our Lord) in the Benedictine Office are set out below.

Nocturn I: Romans 4 1-5, 6-8, 9-12, 13-17

[Psalms 2, 18, 23, 44, 47, 71]

Reading 1: What shall we say then that Abraham hath found, who is our father according to the flesh.  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.

R. Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Which taketh away the sins of the world; behold Him of Whom I said unto you: He That cometh after me is preferred before me * Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
V. He that is of the earth speaketh of the earth; He That cometh from heaven is above all.
R. Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

Reading 2: As David also termeth the blessedness of a man, to whom God reputeth justice without works: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.

R. This day which is breaking is holy; O come, ye Gentiles, and worship the Lord.* For this day is much light come down unto us from heaven.
V. This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
R. For this day is much light come down unto us from heaven.

Reading 3: This blessedness then, doth it remain in the circumcision only, or in the uncircumcision also? For we say that unto Abraham faith was reputed to justice. How then was it reputed? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the justice of the faith, which he had, being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, being uncircumcised, that unto them also it may be reputed to justice: And might be the father of circumcision; not to them only, that are of the circumcision, but to them also that follow the steps of the faithful, that is in the uncircumcision of our father Abraham.

R. Blessed be He That cometh in the name of the Lord! God is the Lord Who hath showed us light.* Alleluia, Alleluia.
V. This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
R. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Reading 4: For not through the law was the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world; but through the justice of faith. For if they who are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, the promise is made of no effect. For the law worketh wrath. For where there is no law, neither is there transgression. Therefore is it of faith, that according to grace the promise might be firm to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, As it is written: I have made thee a father of many nations, before God, whom he believed, who quickeneth the dead; and calleth those things that are not, as those that are.

Nocturn II: Sermon of St Leo (27 on the Nativity of Our Lord 7)

[Psalms 84, 86, 95, 96, 97, 98]

Reading 5: Dearly beloved brethren, whosoever will keep truly and honour piously this day's festival, it is necessary for him neither to think falsely of the Lord's Incarnation, nor meanly of the Lord's Godhead. For as there is danger, on the one hand, of denying the truth of Christ's participation of our nature, so is there no less danger, on the other, of doing despite to the equality of His glory with the glory of the Father. Wherefore, when we draw near to understand the mystery of Christ's Birth, wherein He was born of the Virgin Mary, we must leave the clouds of earthly imagination behind and pierce the fog of human wisdom with the eye of enlightened faith.

R. Rejoice with me, all ye that love the Lord.* For while I was yet little I pleased the Most High, and from my womb have I brought forth God and man.
V. All generations shall call me blessed, for God hath regarded the lowliness of His hand-maiden.
R. For while I was yet little I pleased the Most High, and from my womb have I brought forth God and man.

Reading 6:The authority on which we believe is the authority of God Himself; the teaching which we follow is the teaching of God Himself. Wherefore whether we lend the ear of our mind to the testimony of the Law, or to the revelations of the Prophets, or to the full pealing of the Gospel trumpet, that is true, which John the Son of Thunder, uttered, when he was filled with the Holy Ghost, and said: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

R. The heart of the Virgin was fixed, when the Angel declared unto her the mystery of God, and she conceived, then did she receive in her pure womb Him That is fairer than the children of men.* And, she that is blessed for ever, brought forth for us God and man.
V. Soon rises, in that modest shrine, The Temple of the Lord Divine The stainless and unwedded one, Within her womb conceived the Son.
R. And, she that is blessed for ever, brought forth for us God and man.

Reading 7: The Same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made. True also is his witness when he saith: The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father. The Person of the Son of God therefore remaineth unchanged and one, though He have two natures, keeping His own, and taking ours. He appeareth as man to be the restorer of men, but abideth all the while in His immutable Godhead.

R. Blessed and worshipful art thou, O Virgin Mary; from thee, still maiden undefiled, the Saviour came a little Child.* He Whose glory filled the heavens lay in a manger.
V. O Lord, I have heard thy speech and was afraid; I considered thy works and trembled. O Thou That dwellest between the two living creatures!
R. He Whose glory filled the heavens lay in a manger.

Reading 8: That Godhead which He shareth with the Father was not a whit the less Almighty, nor did the form of a servant touch the form of God to derogate from it. The Most High and Everlasting Being, bending down for man's salvation, took the Manhood into His glory; He ceased not to be That which He is from everlasting. Hence we see the Only-begotten Son of God in one place confessing that the Father is greater than He, John xiv. 28, and in another declaring that He and the Father are One. This is an evident proof of the distinction of His two natures, and the unity of His Person; for He is inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood, and yet equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and yet, though He be God and Man, He is not two, but One Christ.

Nocturn III: Homily of Ambrose (On Luke 2:55-57)

Reading 9: So the Child is circumcised. This is the Child of Whom it is said: Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. Made under the law to redeem them that were under the law.  To present Him to the Lord.  In my Commentary on Isaiah I have already explained what is meant by being presented to the Lord in Jerusalem, and therefore I will not enter into the subject again. He that is circumcised in heart gaineth the protection of God, for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous.

R. O Mary, how holy and how spotless is thy virginity! I am too dull to praise thee* For thou hast borne in thy breast Him Whom the heavens cannot contain.
V. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
R. For thou hast borne in thy breast Him Whom the heavens cannot contain.

Reading 10: We will see that as all the ceremonies of the old law were types of realities in the new, so the circumcision of the body signified the cleansing of the heart from the guilt of sin.But since the body and mind of man remain yet infected with a proneness' to sin, the circumcision of the eighth day is also a type of that complete cleansing from sin which we shall have at the resurrection. This ceremony was also performed in obedience to the commandment of God: Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord. These words were written with especial reference to the delivery of the Blessed Virgin.

R. The Virgin-Mother that knew not a man, bore, but travailed not.* She fed the Saviour of the world, The King of Angel hosts above, Jesus, our Redeemer blest, From the fountain of her breast.
V. Soon rises in that modest shrine, The Temple of the Lord Divine; The stainless and unwedded one, Within her womb conceived the Son.
R. She fed the Saviour of the world, The King of Angel hosts above, Jesus, our Redeemer blest, From the fountain of her breast.

Reading 11: Truly He That opened her womb was holy, for He was altogether without spot, and we may gather that the law was written specially for Him from the words of the Angel: That Holy Thing Which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.Among all that are born of women the Lord Jesus Christ stood alone in holiness. Fresh from His immaculate Birth, He felt no contagion from human corruption, and His heavenly Majesty drove it away.

Reading 12: If we are to follow the letter and say that every male that openeth the womb is holy, how shall we explain that so many have been unrighteous? Was Ahab holy? Were the false prophets holy? Were they holy on whom Elijah justly called down fire from heaven? But He to Whom the sacred commandment of the law of God is mystically directed is the Holy One of Israel; Who also alone hath opened the secret womb of His holy Virgin-bride the Church, filling her with a sinless fruitfulness to give birth to Christian souls.

Gospel: St Luke 2:21

When eight days had passed, and the boy must be circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before ever he was conceived in the womb.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Fifth to seventh days in the Octave of the Nativity

The readings for December 29&30 in the Benedictine Office (1963) are unfortunately not available online as far as I can find.  They are:

29 December (5th day in the Octave)

Nocturn I: Homily of St Bede (I, 7 on the Nativity of Our Lord)
Nocturn II (chapter): Isaiah 9:6

(or Common of a Martyr for St Thomas Beckett)

30 December (6th day in Octave)

Nocturn I: Homily of St Ambrose (on St Luke 2:53-54)
Nocturn II (chapter): Isaiah 9:6

The readings for 31 December (7th day in the Octave)

Nocturn I: Homily of St Leo (Sermon 26 on the Nativity of Our Lord, 6)

Reading 1: On all days and at all times, dearly beloved, does the birth of our Lord and Saviour from the Virgin-mother occur to the thoughts of the faithful, who meditate on divine things, that the mind may be aroused to the acknowledgment of its Maker, and whether it be occupied in the groans of supplication, or in the shouting of praise, or in the offering of sacrifice, may employ its spiritual insight on nothing more frequently and more trustingly than on the fact that God the Son of God, begotten of the co-eternal Father, was also born by a human birth. But this Nativity which is to be adored in heaven and on earth is suggested to us by no day more than this when, with the early light still shedding its rays on nature , there is borne in upon our senses the brightness of this wondrous mystery. For the angel Gabriel's converse with the astonished Mary and her conception by the Holy Ghost as wondrously promised as believed, seem to recur not only to the memory but to the very eyes.

Reading 2: For today the Maker of the world was born of a Virgin's womb, and He, who made all natures, became Son of her, whom He created. Today the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and That which had never been visible to human eyes began to be tangible to our hands as well. Today the shepherds learned from angels' voices that the Saviour was born in the substance of our flesh and soul; and today the form of the Gospel message was pre-arranged by the leaders of the Lord's flocks , so that we too may say with the army of the heavenly host: Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace to men of good will.

Reading 3: And hence the very greatness of the boon conferred demands of us reverence worthy of its splendour. For, as the blessed Apostle teaches, we have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are given us by God 1 Corinthians 2:12: and that Spirit can in no other way be rightly worshipped, except by offering Him that which we received from Him. But in the treasures of the Lord's bounty what can we find so suitable to the honour of the present feast as the peace, which at the Lord's nativity was first proclaimed by the angel-choir? For that it is which brings forth the sons of God, the nurse of love and the mother of unity: the rest of the blessed and our eternal home; whose proper work and special office it is to join to God those whom it removes from the world.

Nocturn II (chapter): Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents



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

Monday, 26 December 2016

Feast of St John the Evangelist



Nocturn I (1 John 1:1-10; 2:1-5)

[Psalms 18, 33, 44, 46, 60, 63]

Reading 1: 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life: For the life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness, and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father, and hath appeared to us: That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

R. Very worshipful is blessed John, which leaned on the Lord's Breast at supper. * To Him did Christ upon the Cross commit His mother, maiden to maiden.
V. The Lord chose him for his clean maidenhood, and loved him more than all the rest.
R. To him did Christ upon the Cross commit His mother, maiden to maiden.

Reading 2: And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice, and your joy may be full. And this is the declaration which we have heard from him, and declare unto you: That God is light, and in him there is no darkness. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he also is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

R. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things.
* And we know that his testimony is true.
V. He drank in the rivers of the Gospel from the Lord's Breast as from an holy fountain.
R. And we know that his testimony is true.

Reading 3: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

R. This is that most blessed Evangelist and Apostle John. * Who was found worthy that the Lord should honour him more than all the rest, by a special privilege of love.
V. This is the disciple whom Jesus loved, which also leaned on the Lord's Breast at supper.
R. Who was found worthy that the Lord should honour him more than all the rest, by a special privilege of love.

Reading 4: My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. And by this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments. He who saith that he knoweth him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But he that keepeth his word, in him in very deed the charity of God is perfected; and by this we know that we are in him.

Nocturn II: (From St jerome)

[Psalms 74, 95, 96, 97, 98, 100]

Reading 5: The Apostle John whom Jesus loved was a son of Zebedee, and brother of the Apostle James, who was beheaded by Herod soon after our Lord suffered. He was the last of the Evangelists to write his Gospel, which he published at the request of the Bishops of Asia, against Cerinthus and other heretics, and particularly against the then spreading doctrine of the Ebionites, who asserted that Christ had had no existence before Mary. It was therefore needful for the Evangelist to declare His Eternal and Divine Generation.

R. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in My temple, saith the Lord, * And I will write My name upon him, and the name of the city, which is New Jerusalem.
V. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of My God.
R. And I will write My name upon him, and the name of the city, which is New Jerusalem.

Reading 6: In the fourteenth year after Nero, Domitian stirred up the second persecution, and John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote his Apocalypse, which hath been explained by Justin the Martyr and Irenaeus.

R. Jesus loved him, because his singular gift of purity made him more worthy of love.
* He chose him for a virgin unto Himself, and he remaineth a virgin for ever.
V. At the end, when He was dying upon the Cross, to him did He commit His mother, maiden to maiden.
R. He chose him for a virgin unto Himself, and he remaineth a virgin for ever.

Reading 7: When Domitian was killed, the Senate annulled all his acts, on account of his savage cruelty, and the Apostle returned to Ephesus, during the reign of Nerva. He remained at Ephesus until the time of Trajan, and founded and governed all the Churches of Asia. There, in an extreme old age, he died, in the sixty-eighth year after the Lord's passion, and was buried near the city.

R. In the midst of the congregation did the Lord open his mouth. * And filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding.
V. He made him rich with joy and gladness.
R. And filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding.

Reading 8: The Blessed Evangelist John lived at Ephesus down to an extreme old age, and, at length, when he was with difficulty carried to the Church, and was not able to exhort the congregation at length, he was used simply to say at each meeting, My little children, love one another. At last the disciples and brethren were weary with hearing these words continually, and asked him, Master, wherefore ever sayest thou this only? Whereto he replied to them, worthy of John, It is the commandment of the Lord, and if this only be done, it is enough.

Nocturn III: St Augustine, Tract 124 on John

[Canticles: Isaiah 61:6-9; Wisdom 3:7-9; Wisdom 10: 17-21]

Reading 9: From the holy Gospel according to John - In that time Jesus said to Peter: Follow me. Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following. And so on.

The Church knoweth of two different lives which God hath revealed and blessed one is the life of faith, the other the life of knowledge one the life of this pilgrimage, the other the life of the eternal mansions; one the life of work, the other the life of rest one the life of the journey, the other the life of home; one the life of action, the other the life of contemplation.

R. In that day will I take thee, O My servant, and will make thee as a signet before Me. * For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord.
V. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
R. For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord.

Reading 10: The one escheweth evil and doeth good; the other hath no evil to eschew, and only an exceeding good to enjoy. The one striveth with the enemy, the other hath no enemies, and reigneth. The succoureth the needy; the other is where there are no needy to succour. The one forgiveth them that trespass against it, that its own trespasses may be forgiven; the other neither hath trespasses to forgive nor to be forgiven.

R. This is that John which leaned on the Lord's Breast at supper * Even that blessed Apostle unto whom were made known the secret things of heaven.
V. He drank in the rivers of the Gospel from the Lord's Breast, as from an holy fountain.
R. Even that blessed Apostle unto whom were made known the secret things of heaven.

Reading 11: The one is chastened with evil, lest it be exalted above measure by good; the other enjoyeth such a fulness of grace that it feeleth no evil, and cleaveth so firmly unto the Highest Good, that it hath no temptation to pride.  Therefore the one is good, but still sorrowful; the other is better and perfectly blessed. And of these two lives there are types, of the one in the Apostle Peter, of the other in John.

Reading 12: The one laboureth here even unto the end, and findeth its end hereafter; the other stretcheth out into the hereafter, and in eternity findeth no end. Therefore is it said unto the one, Follow Me; but of the other, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me. What is the meaning of these words? who can know? who can understand? what is it? is it Follow thou Me, imitating Me in the bearing of earthly sorrow; let him tarry till I come again, bringing the everlasting reward?

R. So I will have him to remain till I come, * What is it to thee? follow thou me.
V. Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do?
R. What is it to thee? follow thou me.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. What is it to thee? follow thou me.

Gospel: John 21:19-24

And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me. Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper, and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee? Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? follow thou me. This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, 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, what is it to thee? This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Feast of St Stephen

Nocturn I  (Acts 6:1-10; 7: 54-60)

[Psalms: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10]

Reading 1: And in those days, the number of the disciples increasing, there arose a murmuring of the Greeks against the Hebrews, for that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

R. And Stephen, full of grace and power * Did great wonders and miracles among the people.
V. There arose certain of the synagogue, disputing with Stephen; and they were not able to resist the wisdom, and the Spirit which spake.
R. Did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Reading 2: And the saying was liked by all the multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles; and they praying, imposed hands upon them.

R. All that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on Stephen, saw * His face as it had been the face of an angel standing among them.
V. Full of grace and power, he did great wonders and miracles among the people.
R. His face as it had been the face of an angel standing among them.

Reading 3: And the word of the Lord increased; and the number of the disciples was multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly: a great multitude also of the priests obeyed the faith.  And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. Now there arose some of that which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke.  Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him.

R. The blessed Stephen looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and said
* Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the power of God.
V. But Stephen, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and said
R. Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of the power of God.

Reading 4: But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him.  And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking, and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his death. [ ]

Nocturn II: Sermons of St Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspa.

[Psalms 14, 20, 23, 63, 64, 91]

Reading 5: Yesterday we were celebrating the birth in time of our Eternal King; to-day we celebrate the victory, through suffering, of one of His soldiers. Yesterday our King was pleased to come forth from His royal palace of the Virgin's womb, clothed in a robe of flesh, to visit the world; to-day His soldier, laying aside the tabernacle of the body, entereth in triumph into the heavenly palaces. The One, preserving unchanged that glory of the Godhead which He had before the world was, girded Himself with the form of a servant, and entered the arena of this world to fight sin; the other taketh off the garments of this corruptible body, and entereth into the heavenly mansions, where he will reign for ever. The One cometh down, veiled in flesh; the other goeth up, clothed in a robe of glory, red with blood.

R. They stoned Stephen, calling upon God and saying * Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit; and lay not this sin to their charge.
V. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, saying
R. Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit; and lay not this sin to their charge.

Reading 6: The One cometh down amid the jubilation of angels; the other goeth up amid the stoning of the Jews. Yesterday the holy angels were singing, Glory to God in the highest; to-day there is joy among them, for they receive Stephen into their company. Yesterday the Lord came forth from the Virgin's womb; to-day His soldier is delivered from the prison of the body.

R. They ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, calling upon God, and saying * Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
V. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul; and they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying
R. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Reading 7: Yesterday Christ was for our sakes wrapped in swaddling bands; to - day He girdeth Stephen with a robe of immortality. Yesterday the new-born Christ lay in a narrow manger; to-day Stephen entereth victorious into the boundless heavens. The Lord came down alone that He might raise many up; our King humbled Himself that He might set His soldiers in high places. Why brethren, it behoveth us to consider with what arms Stephen was able, amid all the cruelty of the Jews, to remain more than conqueror, and worthily to attain to so blessed a triumph.

R. The ungodly fell upon the righteous, to put him to death. * But he received the stones with joy, that he might earn a crown of glory.
V. They stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.
R. But he received the stones with joy, that he might earn a crown of glory.

Reading 8: Stephen, in that struggle which brought him to the crown whereof his name is a prophecy, had for armour the love of God and man, and by it he remained victorious on all hands. The love of God strengthened him against the cruelty of the Jews; and the love of his neighbour made him pray even for his murderers. Through love he rebuked the wandering, that they might be corrected; through love he prayed for them that stoned him, that they might not be punished. By the might of his love he overcame Saul his cruel persecutor; and earned for a comrade in heaven, the very man who had done him to death upon earth.

Nocturn III: Homily of St Jerome

[Canticles: Ecclesiasticus 14:22, 15:3-4, 6; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Ecclesiasticus 31:8-11]

Reading 9:  From the holy Gospel according to Matthew - In that time Jesus said to the scribes and pharisee: I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you will put to death and crucify. And so on,

We have already remarked that the Lord's words, Fill ye up the measure of your fathers, refer in the first place to Himself, Whom the Jews afterwards put to death. In a secondary sense it may likewise be applied to His disciples, of whom He saith, Behold, I send unto you Prophets, and wise men, and Scribes. Here observe that, according to the Apostle writing to the Corinthians, there are diversities of gifts among Christ's followers. Some are Prophets of that which is to come; some are wise men, who know the due season for rebuke and exhortation; some are Scribes learned in the law. And of these they stoned Stephen, slew Paul with the sword, crucified Peter, and scourged the Disciples mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

R. Stephen, the servant of God, who was stoned by the Jews, saw the heavens opened he saw and entered in. * Blessed is he, unto whom the heavens were opened.
V. While his poor body was crushed by the hurtling shower of stones, God's brightness broke upon him out of the heavenly palaces.
R. Blessed is he unto whom the heavens were opened.

Reading 10: It is a subject of dispute among commentators who is meant by Zacharias the son of Barachias. We read of several persons of the name of Zacharias. But here, in order to prevent any mistake, it is particularly said, Whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. I have read various opinions in various places upon this question, and I will give each. First, some hold that Zacharias the son of Barachias is the eleventh of the twelve Minor Prophets; and this opinion is supported by the father's name. But the Bible nowhere telleth us that this Prophet was slain between the temple and the altar; and it is hardly possible that he can have been, for in his time it could scarcely be said that even the ruins of the temple were in existence.

R. The gates of heaven were opened to Christ's blessed martyr Stephen, and he is the first of all the martyrs. * Wherefore he reigneth crowned in heaven.
V. For he was the first to make an offering of his death to that Saviour Who vouchsafed to suffer death for us.
R. Wherefore he reigneth crowned in heaven.

Reading 11: Secondly, others maintain that this Zacharias was Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. This interpretation is derived from the dreams of the Apocryphal Gospels, wherein it is asserted that he was martyred for preaching Christ's coming. A third school will have it that this Zacharias, the son of Barachias, was that Zacharias of whom we read, that he was slain by Joash, king of Judah, between the temple and the altar.

Reading 12: Against this it is to be remarked, that that Zacharias was not the son of Barachias, but of Jehoiada the priest; whence it is written, Joash remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him. The question therefore ariseth, if this opinion be true, why, the name and manner of death both agreeing with this explanation, Zacharias is called the son, not of Jehoiada, but of Barachias. In Hebrew, Barachias signifieth the Blessed of the Lord, and Jehoiada proves his Righteousness. In the Gospel used by the Nazarenes the name of Jehoiada is used instead of Barachias.

R. Devout men buried Stephen * And made great mourning over him. * There was raised a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem
V. Saul was consenting to his death, made havock of the church
R. There was raised a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. There was raised a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem