Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Thursday in the fourth week of Lent

Today's Gospel reading is Luke 7:11-16:

And it came to pass afterwards, that he went into a city that is called Naim; and there went with him his disciples, and a great multitude.  And when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow: and a great multitude of the city was with her.  Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, he said to her: Weep not. And he came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it, stood still. And he said: Young man, I say to thee, arise.  And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. And there came a fear on them all: and they glorified God, saying: A great prophet is risen up among us: and, God hath visited his people.

Matins readings

Reading 1  - From the holy Gospel according to Luke - In that time Jesus went into a city that is called Naim; and there went with him his disciples, and a great multitude. And so on.

Homily by St Ambrose - The history which we here read in the Holy Gospel hath for us specially two gracious lessons, the one from the literal, the other from the mystic interpretation thereof. According to the letter then, we see how quickly the compassion of God was aroused by the sorrow of this mother, who was a widow, a widow broken down by nursing her only son, or by the bitterness of her grief for his death. She was a widow also whose worshipful conversation is borne witness to by this, that, much people of the city was with her. Mystically however, this widow encompassed by the multitude was something more than a poor woman whose tears won from the Lord the resurrection of her young and only son; for she is a type of our holy Mother the Church, who calleth back her young children to life from the pursuit of deathly vanities, and soul-slaying honours, by bidding them look on those tears which she sheddeth for such as they, and which it is unlawful for her to shed for them of whom she knoweth that they will rise again.

R. The Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Go down now into Egypt, and say unto Pharaoh * Let My people go. And the heart of Pharaoh shall be hardened, that he will not let My people go but by a mighty hand.
V. The cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me, and I have seen their affliction come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, and thou shalt say unto him
R. Let My people go. And the heart of Pharaoh shall be hardened, that he will not let My people go but by a mighty hand.

Reading 2: This man, then, being dead, was carried out on a bier to the grave by four bearers, even as the sinner is borne to destruction by the four elements of which he is composed. But there was hope in his latter end, from this, that that whereon he was carried was of wood, and wood, albeit it had profited us little before, is become everything to us now since Jesus touched it, being a figure of that gibbet, the Cross, which was made thereof, and wherefrom salvation floweth unto all people. When, therefore, the horrid bearers of the corpse heard the commandment of God, they stood still, and carried no farther him who was dead through the fatal course of a material nature. And is not our case even as that of the widow's son, when we lie, as it were, lifeless, in our spiritual coffin, that is, in the last bed of our soul's death, consumed by the fever of unbridled lust, or frozen by cold-heartedness, or with our whole manliness sapped by some degrading habit of this earthly body, or starved by a spiritual lockjaw that shutteth our mouth to the bright food of our soul? These, and such as these, are they which carry us out to burial.

R. Moses stood before Pharaoh, and said Thus saith the Lord * Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.
V. The Lord God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying
R. Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.

Reading 3: But even at the last hour, when the hope of life hath been utterly extinguished, and the bodies of the dead are lying by the side of the grave, by the word of God those carcases live again, yea, arise and speak. Then doth Jesus deliver the son to his mother, for Jesus calleth him out of the grave, and delivereth him from death. O, what is the grave of the soul but a bad life? Sinner! thy grave is unbelief, and thy throat is a sepulchre! Even so is it written Their throat is an open sepulchre, Ps. v. ii, whereout breathe their pestilential words. Lo! Christ maketh thee free from that grave! If only thou wilt hear the word of God, thou shalt yet arise from that sepulchre! Yea, though thy sin be exceeding weighty, so that the tears of thine own sorrow cannot wash it away, let thy Mother the Church weep for thee, that longing Mother who weepeth for every one of her children as though he were the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. Believe me, her spiritual anguish is keen like the anguish of nature, when she seeth her children dead in sin, and carried out to be buried for ever.

R. Let us sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. * The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation.
V. The Lord is a man of war; Almighty is His Name.
R. The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The Lord is my strength, and my song, and He is become my salvation.

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