Sunday, 13 December 2015

Matins readings for the third week of Advent

Matins readings in the Benedictine Office for the third week of Advent are as follows:


Isaiah 28:1-3, 4-7a, 16-18a


Isaiah 30 18-20, 22b-25, 26-28

Wednesday (Ember Day)

Homily of St Ambrose (Gospel of the day: Luke 1:26-28)

Reading 1: Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Luke - In that time, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And so on.

The mysteries of God are unsearchable, and it is especially declared by a Prophet, that a man can hardly know His counsels. Nevertheless, some things have been revealed to us, and we may gather from some of the words and works of the Lord our Saviour, that there was a special purpose of God, in the fact that she who was chosen to be the mother of the Lord was espoused to a man. Why did not the power of the Highest overshadow her before she was so espoused? Perhaps it was lest any might blasphemously say that she had conceived in adultery the Holy One.

Reading 2: And the Angel came in unto her. Let us learn from this Virgin how to bear ourselves, let us learn her modesty, let us learn by her devout utterance, above all let us learn by the holy mystery enacted. It is the part of a maiden to be timid, to avoid the advances of men, and to shrink from men's addresses. Would that our women would learn from the example of modesty here set before us. She upon whom the stare of men had never been fixed was alone in her chamber, and she found herself alone with Angels. There was neither companion nor witness there, that what passed might not be debased in gossip and the Angel saluted her.

Reading 3: The message of God to the Virgin was a mystery, which it was not lawful for the mouth of men, but only of Angels, to utter. For the first time on earth the words are spoken: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee. The holy maiden heareth, and believeth. At length she said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Here is an example of lowliness, here is a pattern of true devotion. At the very moment that she is told she is chosen to be the mother of the Lord, she at once declareth herself His handmaid. The knowledge that she was mother of God caused in the heart of Mary only an act of humility.


Isaiah 33 1-2, 3-6, 14-17

Friday (Ember Day)

Homily of St Ambrose (Gospel of the day: Luke 1:39-47)

Reading 1: Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Luke - In that time, Mary, rising up, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And so on.

When any one asketh another for credence, he is bound to give some reasonable ground. And so the Angel, when he announced to Mary the counsel of God, gave, as a proof, the conception of Elizabeth, then aged and barren, that Mary might perceive, by this example, that with God nothing is impossible. When the holy Virgin had heard it, she arose and went to visit her cousin. She did not go to see if what she had heard was true, because she did not believe God, or because she knew not who the messenger had been, or yet because she doubted the fact adduced in proof. She went joyfully as one who hath received a mercy in answer to his vow goeth to pay the same. She went with devotion, as a godly person goeth to execute a religious duty. She went into the hill country in joyful haste. And is it not something that she went up into the hills? God was already in her womb, and her feeling bore her continually upward. The grace of the Holy Spirit knoweth no slow working.

Reading 2: Godly women will learn from the example of the Mother of God to take a tender care of their kinswomen who are with child. In pursuance of this charity, Mary, who had hitherto remained alone at home, was not deterred by her maidenly shyness from entering on a public journey; she faced for this end the hardships of mountain travelling; and encountered with a sense of duty the weary length of the way. The Virgin left her home, and went into the hill country with haste, unmindful of the trouble, and remembering only the office to which her cousinly love prompted her, in spite of the delicacy of her sex. Maidens will learn from her not to idle about from house to house, to loiter in the streets, nor to take part in conversations in public. Mary, as she was hasteful to pass through the public roads, so was she slow again to enter on them she abode with her cousin about three months.

Reading 3: As the modesty of Mary is a pattern for the imitation of all maidens, so also is her humility. She went to see Elizabeth, like one cousin going to visit another, and as the younger to the elder. Not only did she first go, but she first saluted Elizabeth. Now, the purer a virgin is, the humbler ought she to be. She will know how to submit herself to her elders. She that professeth chastity ought to be a very mistress of humility. Lowly-mindedness is at once the very ground in which devotion groweth, and the first and principal rule of its teaching. In this act of the Virgin then we see the greater going to visit and to succour the lesser Mary to Elizabeth, Christ to John.

Saturday (Ember Day)

Homily of St Gregory (Gospel of the day: Luke 3:1-6)

Reading 1: Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Luke - In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea. And so on.

The date, at which the Fore-runner of our Redeemer entered on his public office of preaching, is indicated to us by the name of the ruler of the Roman Commonwealth, and by those of the princes of Palestine. The time of his preaching is indicated by these names, because he came as the Fore-runner of Him Who was to be the Redeemer of some Jews and many Gentiles. Moreover in the enumeration of these worldly monarchs there is a foreshadowing of the fact, that the Gentiles were about to be gathered into one, and the Jews to be scattered abroad in punishment of their unbelief; in the whole heathen Commonwealth we find the title of one Emperor, but in the small kingdom of Judaea are mentioned four masters.

Reading 2 - The blessed voice of the Saviour itself hath said, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. And we may well look for the ruin of the Jewish state when we see it divided among so many rulers. We observe likewise that the names of the reigning priests as well as kings are given. The Evangelist Luke hath left on record the chiefs both of the monarchy and of the priesthood who held office when John the Baptist began to preach, because John preached Him Who is at once our Priest and our King.

Reading 3 - And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. It is evident from these words that John the Baptist not only preached, but also administered the baptism of repentance, and yet that baptism of repentance which he gave, was not really a baptism for the remission of sins. For there is only one baptism for the remission of sins, and that is our Christian baptism. It is worthy of note here that the words used are, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, for he himself owned that his baptism was not the true baptism that washes away sin. Even as the Eternal Word of God made Flesh was greater than the preacher that went before Him, so was His holy baptism, by which our sins are washed away, far greater than that baptism of repentance which the Fore-runner preached, and which could never wash away sin.

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