This morning, also, Jesus goes with his Disciples to Jerusalem. He is fasting, for the Gospel tells us, that he was hungry [St Matth. xxi. 18]. He approaches a fig-tree, which is by the way-side; but finds nothing on it, save leaves only. Jesus, wishing to give us an instruction, curses the fig-tree, which immediately withers away. He would hereby teach us what they are to expect, who have nothing but good desires, and never produce in themselves the fruit of a real conversion. Nor is the allusion to Jerusalem less evident. This City is zealous for the exterior of Divine Worship; but her heart is hard and obstinate, and she is plotting, at this very hour, the death of the Son of God.
The greater portion of the day is spent in the Temple, where Jesus holds long conversations with the Chief Priests and Ancients of the people. His language to them is stronger than ever, and triumphs over all their captious questions. It is principally in the Gospel of St. Matthew [Chapters xxi. xxii. and xxiii.] that we shall find these answers of our Redeemer, which so energetically accuse the Jews of their sin of rejecting the Messias, and so plainly foretell the punishment their sin is to bring after it.
At length, Jesus leaves the Temple, and takes the road that leads to Bethania. Having come as far as Mount Olivet, which commands a view of Jerusalem, he sits down, and rests awhile. The Disciples make this an opportunity for asking him, how soon the chastisements he has been speaking of in the Temple will come upon the City. His answer comprises two events: the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final destruction of the world. He thus teaches them that the first is a figure of the second. The time when each is to happen, is to be when the measure of iniquity is filled up. But, with regard to the chastisement that is to befall Jerusalem, he gives this more definite answer: ‘Amen I say to you: this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.’ [St Matth. xxiv 34.] History tells us how this prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled: forty years had scarcely elapsed after his Ascension when the Roman army encamped on this very place where he is now speaking to his Disciples, and laid siege to the ungrateful and wicked City. After giving a prophetic description of that Last Judgment, which is to rectify all the unjust judgments of men, he leaves Mount Olivet, returns to Bethania, and consoles the anxious heart of his most holy Mother.
The Station, at Rome, is in the Church of Saint Praxedes. It was in this Church, that Pope Paschal the Second, in the 9th century, placed two thousand three hundred bodies of holy Martyrs, which he had ordered to be taken out of the Catacombs. The Pillar, to which our Saviour was tied during his scourging, is also here.
The Introit is taken from the 34fth Psalm. Jesus, by these words of the “Royal Prophet, prays to his Eternal Father, that he would defend him against his enemies.
|Judica, Domine, nocentes me, expugna impugnantes me: apprehende arma et scutim, et exsurge in adjutorium meum, Domine virtus salutis meae.|
Ps. Effunde frameam, et conclude adversus eos qui persequuntur me: die animae meae: Salus tua ego sum.
|Judge thou, Lord, them that wrong me; overthrow them that fight against me: take hold of arms and shield, and rise up to help me, O Lord, my mighty deliverer.|
Ps. Bring out the sword, and shut up the way against them that persecute me; say to my soul, I am thy salvation.
Judge thou, &c.
In the Collect, the Church teaches us to have recourse to the merits of our Saviour’s Passion, in order that we may obtain from God the help we stand in need of amidst our many miseries.
|Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus, intercedente unigeniti Filii tui Passione respiremus. Qui tecum.||Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we, who through our weakness, faint under so many adversities, may recover by the Passion of thy Only Begotten Son. Who liveth, etc.|
Then is added one of the following Collects.
AGAINST THE PERSECUTORS OF THE CHURCH.
|Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, preces placatus admitte: ut destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, secura tibi serviat libertate. Per Dominum.||Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, Lord, the prayers of thy Church: that all oppositions and errors being removed, she may serve thee with a secure liberty. Through, etc.|
FOR THE POPE.
|Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum N. quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae prseesse voluisti propitius respice: da ei,quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Dominum.||O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the Faithful, look down, in thy mercy, on thy servant N., whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church; and grant, we beseech thee, that both by word and example, he may edify all those that are under his charge; and with the flock|
intrusted to him, arrive at length at eternal happiness. Through, etc.
|Lectio Isaiae Prophetae.Cap. X.|
In diebus illis : Dixit Isaias: Dominus Deus aperuit mihi aurem: ego autem non contradico: retrorsum non abii. Corpus meum dedi percutientibus, et genas meas vellentibus; faciem meam non averti ab increpantibus et conspuentibus in me. Dominus Deus auxiliator meus, ideo non sum confusus. Ideo posui faciem meam ut petram durissimam: et scio quoniam non confundar. Juxta est qui justificat me: quis contradicet mihi? Stemus simul: quis est adversarius meus? Accedat ad me. Ecce Dominus Deus, auxiliator meus: quis est qui condemnet me? Ecce, omnes quasi vestimentum conterentur: tinea comedet eos. Quis ex vobis timens Dominum, audiens vocem servi sui? Qui ambulavit in tenebris, et non est lu men ei, speret in nomine Domini et innitatur super Deum suum.
|Lesson from Isaias the Prophet.Ch. X.|
In those days, Isaias said: The Lord hath opened my ear, making known his will to me, and I do not resist: I have not gone back. I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me. The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded. He is near that justifieth me, who will contend with me? let us stand together. Who is my adversary? let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God is my helper: who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they shall all be destroyed as a garment, the moth shall eat them up. Who is there among you that feareth the Lord, that heareth the voice of his servant? He that hath walked in darkness, and hath no light, let him hope in the name of the Lord, and lean upon his God.
The Sufferings of our Redeemer, and the patience wherewith he is to bear them, are thus prophesied by Isaias, who is always so explicit on the Passion. Jesus has accepted the office of Victim for the world’s salvation; he shrinks from no pain or humiliation: He turns not his Face from them that strike him and spit upon him. What reparation can we make to this Infinite Majesty, who, that he might save us, submitted to such outrages as these? Observe these vile and cruel enemies of our Divine Lord: now that they have him in their power, they fear him not. When they came to seize him in the Garden, he had but to speak, and they fell back upon the ground; but he has now permitted them to bind his hands and lead him to the High Priest. They accuse him; they cry out against him; and he answers but a few words. Jesus of Nazareth, the great Teacher, the wonder-worker, has seemingly lost all his influence; they can do what they will with him. It is thus with the sinner; when the thunder-storm is over, and the lightning has not struck him, he regains his courage. The holy Angels look on with amazement at the treatment shown by the Jews to Jesus, and falling down, they adore the Holy Face, which they see thus bruised and defiled: let us, also, prostrate and ask pardon for our sins have outraged that same Face.
But let us hearken to the last words of our Epistle: He that hath walked in darkness, and hath no lights let him hope in the name of the Lord and lean upon his God. Who is this but the Gentile, abandoned to sin and idolatry? He knows not what is happening at this very hour in Jerusalem; he knows not that the earth possesses its Saviour, and that this Saviour is being trampled beneath the feet of his own chosen people: but, in a very short time, the light of the Gospel will shine upon this poor Gentile: he will believe; he will obey; he will love his Redeemer, even to the laying down his life for him. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of the unworthy Pontiff, who prophesied against his will that the death of Jesus would bring salvation to the Gentiles, by gathering into one family the children of God, that hitherto had been dispersed [St. John, xi. 52].
In the Gradual, the Royal Prophet again calls down, on the executioners of our Lord, the chastisements they have deserved by their ingratitude and their obstinacy in sin.
The Tract is the one used by the Church on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, during Lent. It is a prayer, begging God to bless the works of penance done during this holy Season.
|Exsurge, Domine, et intende judicio meo, Deus meus et Dominus meus, in causam meam.|
V. Effunde frameam, et conclude adversus eos qui me persequuntur.
|Arise, O Lord, and be attentive to my trial; my God and my Lord, undertake my cause. |
V. Draw thy sword, and stop those that are in pursuit of me.
|V. Domine, non secundum peccata nostra, quae fecimus nos: neque secundum iniquitates nostras retribuas nobis.|
V. Domine, ne memineris iniquitatum nostrarum antiquarum: cito anticipent nos misericordiae tuae, quia pauperes facti sumus nimis.
V. Adjuva nos, Deus salutaris noster: et propter gloriam Nominis tui, Domine, libera nos: et propitius esto peccatis nostris propter Nomen tuum.
|V. O Lord, deal not with us according to our sins, which we have done, nor reward us according to our iniquities.|
V. O Lord remember not our former iniquities: let thy mercies speedily prevent us, for we are become exceeding poor.
V. Help us, God, our Saviour: and for the glory of thy Name, Lord, deliver us: and forgive us our sins, for thy Name’s sake.
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii, secundum Joannem.Cap. XII.|
Ante sex dies Paschae venit Jesus Bethaniam, ubi Lazarus fuerat mortuus, quem suscitavit Jesus. Fecerunt autem ei coenam ibi: et Martha ministrabat; Lazarus vero unus erat ex discumbentibus cum eo. Maria ergo accepit libram unguenti nardi pistici pretiosi: et unxit pedes Jesu, et extersit pedes ejus capillis suis; et domus impleta est ex odore unguenti. Dixit ergo unus ex discipulis ejus, Judas Iscariotes, qui erat eum traditurus: quare hoc unguentum non vendit trecentis denariis, et datum est egenis? Dixit autem hoc non quia de egenis pertinebat ad eum: sed quia fur erat, et loculos habens, ea quae mittebantur, portabat. Dixit ergo Jesus: Sinite illam, ut in diem sepulturae meae servet illud. Pauperes enim semper habetis vobiscum: me autem non semper habetis. Cognovit ergo turba multa ex Judaeis, quia illic est: et venerunt, non propter Jesum tantum, sed ut Lazarum viderent, quem suscitavit a mortuis.
|Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.Ch. XII.|
Jesus, six days before the Pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life, And they made him a supper there; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him said: Why was et not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and, having the purse, carried the things that were put therein. Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial; for the poor you have always with you, but me you have not always. A great multitude therefore of the Jews knew that he was .there; and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
As we have already said, the event related in this passage of the Gospel took place on Saturday, the eve of Palm Sunday; but, as formerly there was no Station for that day, the reading of this Gospel was deferred till the following Monday. The Church brings this episode of the last days of our Saviour before us, because it enables us to have a clearer understanding of the history of the Passion.
Mary Magdalene, whose conversion was the subject of our meditation a few days back, is a prominent figure in the Passion and Resurrection of her Divine Master. She is the type of a soul that has been purified by grace, and then admitted to the enjoyment of God’s choicest favours. It is of importance that we study her in each of the several phases; through which divine grace led her. We have already seen how she keeps close to her Saviour and supplies his sacred wants; elsewhere, we shall find Jesus giving the preference to her over her sister Martha, and this because Mary chose a better part than Martha; but now, during these days of Passion-tide, it is her tender love for Jesus that makes her dear to us. She knows that the Jews are plotting Jesus’ death; the Holy Ghost, who guides her through the different degrees of perfection, inspires her, on the occasion mentioned in to-day’s Gospel, to the performance of an action which prophesied what she most dreaded.
One of the three gifts offered by the Magi to the Divine Infant, was Myrrh; it is an emblem of death, and the Gospel tells us that it was used at the Burial of our Lord. Magdalene, on the day of her conversion, testified the earnestness of her change of heart by pouring on the feet of Jesus the most precious of her perfumes. She gives him, to-day, the same proof of her love. Her divine Master is invited by Simon the Leper to a feast: his Blessed Mother and his Disciples are among the guests: Martha is busy, looking after the service. Outwardly, there is no disturbance; but inwardly, there are sad forebodings. During the repast, Magdalene is seen entering the room, holding in her hand a vase of precious spikenard. She advances towards Jesus, kneels at his feet, anoints them with the perfume, and wipes them with her hair, as on the previous occasion.
Jesus lay on one of those couches, which were used by the Eastern people during their repasts. Magdalene, therefore, could easily take her favourite place at Jesus’ feet, and give him the same proof of her love as she had already done in the Pharisee’s house. The Evangelist does not say that this time, she shed tears. St. Matthew [St. Matth., xxvi 7], and St. Mark [St. Mark, xiv. 3] add, that she poured the ointment on his head also. Whether or no Magdalene herself understood the full import of what the Holy Ghost inspired her to do, the Gospel does not say; but Jesus himself revealed the mystery to his Disciples, and we gather from his words that this action of Magdalene was, in a certain manner, the commencement of his Passion: She, in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial [St. Matth., xxvi. 12].
The fragrance of the Ointment fills the whole house. One of the Disciples, Judas Iscariot, dares to protest against this waste, as he calls it. His base avarice deprives him of feeling and respect for his Divine Master. His opinion was shared in by several of the other Disciples, for they were still carnal-minded. For several reasons Jesus permits Magdalene’s generosity to be thus blamed. And firstly, he wishes to announce his approaching death, which is mystically expressed by the pouring of this ointment upon his body. Then, too, he would glorify Magdalene; and he therefore tells them that are present, that her tender and ardent love shall be rewarded, and that her name shall be celebrated in every country, wheresoever the Gospel shall be preached [Ibid. 13]. And lastly, he would console those whose generous love prompts them to be liberal in their gifts to his Altars, for what he here says of Magdalene is, in reality, a defence for them, when they are accused of spending too much over the beauty of God’s House.
Let us prize each of these divine teachings. Let us love to honour Jesus, both in his own person, and in his poor. Let us honour Magdalene, and imitate her devotion to the Passion and Death of our Lord. In fine, let us prepare our perfumes for our Divine Master; there must be the myrrh of the Magi, which signifies penance, and the precious Spikenard of Magdalene, which is the emblem of generous and compassionating love.
In the Offertory, our Redeemer implores his Eternal Father to deliver him from his enemies, and to fulfil the decrees regarding the salvation of mankind
|Eripe me de inimicis meis, Domine: ad te confugi, doce me facere voluntatem tuam: quia Deus meus es tu.||Deliver me from my enemies, Lord; to thee have I fled, teach me to do thy will, because thou art my God.|
The Secret tells us the wonderful power of the Sacred Mysteries. Not only does this Sacrifice purify our souls; it also raises them to perfect union with Him who is their Creator.
|Haec sacrificia nos, omnipotens Deus, potenti virtute mundatos, ad suum faciant puriores venire principium. Per Dominum.||Grant, O Almighty God, that being purified by the powerful virtue of this sacrifice, we may arrive with greater purity to the author and institutor thereof. Through, &c|
Then is added one of the following Prayers:
AGAINST THE PERSECUTORS OF THE CHURCH.
|Protege nos, Domine, tuis mysteriis servientes: ut divinis rebus inhaerentes, et corpore tibi famulemur et mente. Per Dominum.||Protect us, Lord, while we assist at thy sacred mysteries: that being employed in acts of religion, we may serve thee both in body and mind. Through, &c.|
FOR THE POPE.
|Oblatis, quaesumus, Domine, placare muneribus: et famulum tuum N. quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, assidua protectione guberna. Per Dominum. &c.||Be appeased, O Lord, with the offering we have made: and cease not to protect thy Servant N., whom thou hast been pleased to appoint Pastor over thy Church. Through, &c.|
After the Faithful have partaken of the Divine Mystery, there is read, in the Communion-Anthem, a malediction against the enemies of our Saviour. Thus does God act in his government of the world: they who refuse his mercy, cannot escape his justice.
|Erubescant, et revereantur simul, qui gratulantur malis meis: induantur pudore et reverentia, qui maligna loquuntur adversus me.||Let them blush, and be ashamed, who rejoice at my misfortunes; let them be covered with shame and confusion, who speak maliciously against me.|
The Church concludes her Prayers of this morning’s Sacrifice, by begging that her children may persevere in the holy fervour, which they have received at its very source.
|Praebeant nobis, Domine, divinum tua Sancta fervorem; quo eorum pariter et actu delectemur et fructu. Per Dominum.||Let thy holy mysteries, Lord, inspire us with divine fervour; that we may delight both in their effect and celebration. Through, &c.|
To this is added one of the following:
AGAINST THE PERSECUTORS OF THE CHURCH.
|Quaesumus, Domine Deus noster: ut quos divina tribuis participatione gaudere, humanis non sinas subjacere periculis. Per Dominum, &c.||We beseech thee, Lord our God, not to leave exposed to the dangers of human life, those whom thou hast permitted to partake of these divine mysteries. Through, &c.|
FOR THE POPE.
|Haec nos, quaesumus, Domine, divini sacramenti perceptio protegat: et famulum tuum N. quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, una cum commisso sibi grege salvet semper, et muniat. PerDominum.||May the participation of this divine Sacrament protect us, we beseech thee, O Lord; and always procure safety and defence to thy Servant N. whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church, together with the flock committed to his charge. Through, &c.|
Humiliate capita vestra Deo.
Adjuva nos, Deus salutaris noster; et ad beneficia recolenda, quibus nos instaurare dignatus es, tribue venire gaudentes. Per Dominum
|LET US PRAY.|
Bow down your heads to God.
Help us, O God, our salvation; and grant that we may celebrate with joy the memory of these benefits, by which thou hast been pleased to redeem us. Through, etc.
As an appropriate conclusion to this day, we may use the following beautiful Prayer, taken from the ancient Gallican Liturgy:
(Oratio ad Sextam.)
|Christe Deus, Adonai mag ne, nos tecum quasi huic mundo crucifige; ut vita tua in nobis sit: nostraque peccata super te pone, ut ea crucifigas: nos quoque ad teipsum trahe, cum pro nobis exaltatus es a terra, ut nos eripias ab adultero tyranno: quia licet carne et vitiis diabolo noxii sumus; tibi tamen, non illi optamus servire: et sub tuo jure vivere desideramus, et a te gubernari rogamus; qui nos mortales et a morte invasos, per mortem crucis liberare voluist. Pro quo singulari beneficio hodierna tibi nostra famulatur devotio: teque nunc hodie supplices adoramus, imploramus, invocamus; ut ad nos properes, virtus aeterna Deus: quod nobis proficiat tua crux, triumjphans scilicet de mundo in nobis per crucis virtutem: atque tua pietas nobis illud antiquum restituat beneficium, virtute scilicet et gratia: qui per potentiam futura praeterita; per praesentiam facis similiter praeterita praesentia: redde, ut nobis tua Passio salutaris sit, quasi praesens et hodiema; et sic nobis hodie, illa gutta sancti sanguinis super terram olim de cruce stiliantis, sit salus: ut omnia terrae nostras delicta lavans, et corporis nostri humo quodam modo immixta, nos de terra tuos efficiat; nos quoque tibi quasi corpus idem reconciliati capitis. Qui regnas cum Patre semper et Spiritu Sancto; nunc nobis regnare incipe, Homo Deus, Christi Jesu, Rex in saecula saeculorum.||O great and Sovereign Lord ! (Adonai!) Christ our God ! crucify us, with thyself, to this world, that so thy life may be in us. Take upon thee our sins, that thou mayst crucify them. Draw us unto thyself, since it was for our sakes that thou wast raised up from the earth; and thus snatch us from the power of the unclean tyrant: for, though by flesh and our sins, we be exposed to the insults of the devil, yet do we desire to serve, not him, but thee. We would be thy subjects; we ask to be governed by thee; for, by thy death on the cross, thou didst deliver us, who are mortals and surrounded by death. It is to bless thee for this wonderful favour, that we this day offer thee our devoted ser vice; and humbly adoring thee, we now implore and beseech thee, to hasten to our assistance, O thou our God, the Eternal and Almighty! Let thy Cross thus profit us unto good, that thou, by its power, mayst triumph over the world in us, and thine own mercy restore us, by thy might and grace, to the ancient blessing. O thou, whose power hath turned the future into the past, and whose presence maketh the past to be present, – grant, that thy Passion may avail us to salvation, as though it were accomplished now on this very day. May the drops of thy holy Blood, which heretofore fell upon the earth from the Cross, be our present salvation: may it wash away all the sins of our earthly nature, and be, so to say, commingled with the earth of our body, rendering it all thine, since we, by our reconciliation with thee, our Head, have been made one body with thee. Thou that ever reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, now, begin to reign over us, O God- Man, Christ Jesus, King for ever and ever !|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)