|Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus; exsultemus et lætemur in ea!||This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice therein!|
The seventh day of the gladdest of weeks has risen upon us, bringing with it the memory of the Creator’s rest, after the six days of creation. It also reminds us of that other rest, which this same God took in the tomb; like a warrior who, when sure of the victory, calmly reposes before the final combat with the enemy. Our Jesus slept His rest in the sepulcher, after permitting death to vanquish Him: but when He awoke by His Resurrection, what a victory over the tyrant! Let us, today, visit this holy sepulcher and venerate it: it will speak to us of Him we love, and make our love the warmer. Here, we shall say to ourselves, here rested our dear Master, after He had died for us! Here was the scene of the glorious victory, when He arose again, and this, too, for us!
The prophet Isaias had said: In that day, the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of people, Him shall the Gentiles beseech; and His sepulcher shall be glorious. The prophecy has been fulfilled. There is not a nation under the sun where Jesus has not His adorers. The tombs of other men are either destroyed, or they are monuments of death; the tomb of Jesus is everlasting, and speaks but of life.
What a sepulcher this, the sight of which fills us with thoughts of glory, and whose praises had been celebrated so many ages beforehand! When the fullness of time came, God raised up in Jerusalem a holy man named Joseph of Arimathea, who secretly but sincerely became one of Jesus’ disciples. He was a rich counsellor, or senator. He had prepared his own tomb, and the place he chose was on the side of the hill of Calvary. It was hewn out of the live rock, and consisted of two cells, one serving as a sort of entry into the other. Joseph thought he was laboring for himself, whereas he was preparing the sepulcher of a God. He only thought of the debt which every man has to pay in consequence of Adam’s sin; but heaven had decreed that Joseph should never lie in that tomb, and that here should originate man’s immortality.
Jesus had expired on the cross, amidst the insults of His people; the entire city had risen up against the Son of David, whom, but a few days before, it had hailed as its King. Then did Joseph brave the fury of the deicides, and ask permission from the Roman governor to be allowed the honor of burying the Body of the Crucified. He at once repaired to Calvary, accompanied by Nicodemus and, having taken down the sacred Corpse from the cross, he devoutly laid It upon the stone which he had intended as his own resting place. He felt that it was a happiness and an honor to give up his own tomb to the dear Master, for whom he had not been ashamed to profess, and that in the very court of Pilate, his devoted attachment. Right worthy art thou, O Joseph! of the thanks of mankind! Thou wast our representative at the burial of our Jesus! And Mary, too, the afflicted Mother, who was present, recompensed thee, in her own way, for the sacrifice thou didst so willingly make for her Son!
The Evangelists draw our attention to one special circumstance of the sepulcher. St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John, tell us that it was new, and that no man had ever been laid in it. The holy Fathers teach us that we must see here a mysterious dispensation, and one of the grand glories of the holy tomb. It marks, as they observe, the resemblance that exists between the sepulcher, which restored the Man-God to the life of immortality, and the virginal womb which gave Him birth that He might be a Victim for the world’s redemption: and they bid us learn from this how God, when He deigns to dwell in any of His creatures, would have the dwelling to be pure and worthy of His infinite holiness. Here, then, is one of the glories of the holy sepulcher—that it was an image of the incomparable purity of the Mother of Jesus.
During the few hours that it possessed the precious trust, where was there glory on earth like unto what it enjoyed? Within that silent cave, there lay, wrapped in shrouds that were bedewed with Mary’s tears, the Body which had ransomed the world. Hosts of holy Angels stood in that little rocky cell, keeping watch over the corpse of Him who was their Creator; they adored it, in Its sleep of death; they longed for the hour to come when this Lamb that was slain would arise a Lion in power and majesty. And when the moment fixed by the eternal decree came, that humble spot was made the scene of the grand prodigy; Jesus rose to life and, swifter than lightning, passed through the rock to the outer world. An Angel then rolled back the stone from the entrance to the sepulcher, thus proclaiming the departure of the divine Captive. Other Angels showed themselves to Magdalene and her companions when they came to visit it. Peter, too, and John were soon there. O truly, most holy is this place! The Son of God deigned to dwell within it; His Mother honored it with her presence and her tears; Angels adored in it; the holiest souls on earth visited, venerated, and loved it. O sepulcher of the Son of Jesse, thou art indeed glorious!
Hell witnesses this glory, and would fain destroy it. The sight of this sepulcher is insufferable to satan’s pride, for it is the trophy of the defeat of death, the offspring of sin. He flatters himself on having succeeded, when Jerusalem is destroyed by the Roman legions, and on her ruins there rises up a new and pagan city called Ælia. But no! neither the name of Jerusalem, nor the glory of the holy sepulcher shall perish. The pagans cover it with a mound of earth, on which they build a temple to Jupiter; it is the same spirit that dictated their raising an altar to Venus on Calvary, and another to Adonis over the cave of Bethlehem. But all these sacrilegious efforts only serve to tell the Christians the exact site of these several sacred places. The pagans think by this artifice to turn the respect and homage of the Christians from Jesus to their false gods: here again, they fail. The Christians abstain from visiting the holy places, as long as they are desecrated by the presence of these idols; but they keep their eye fixed on what their Redeemer has endeared to them, and wait in patience for the time when it shall please the eternal Father to again glorify His Son.
The time comes. God sends Jerusalem a Christian empress, mother of a Christian emperor: she is to restore the holy places, the scene of our Redeemer’s love. Like Magdalene and her companions, Helen hastens to the sepulcher. God would have it so—woman’s privilege in all that happened on the great morning of the Resurrection, is to be continued now. Magdalene and her companions sought Jesus; Helen, who adores Him as her risen Lord, only seeks His sepulcher: but their love is one and the same. The pious empress orders the temple of Jupiter to be pulled down, and the mound of earth to be removed; which done, the trophy of Jesus’ victory once more gleams in the light of day. The defeat of death is again proclaimed by this resurrection of the glorious sepulcher. A magnificent temple is built at the expense of the imperial treasury, and is called the basilica of the Resurrection. The whole world is excited by the news of such a triumph; the already tottering structure of paganism receives a shock which hastens its destruction; and pilgrimages to the holy sepulcher are begun by Christian people throughout the world, forming a procession of universal homage which is to continue to the end of time.
During the three centuries following, Jerusalem was the holy and free city, and the sepulcher of Jesus reflected its glory upon her; but the East became a very hotbed of heresies, and God, in His justice, sent her the chastisement of slavery. The Saracen hordes inundated the land of prodigy. If the torrent of invasion was checked, it was for a brief period, and the waters returned with redoubled power. Meanwhile, what becomes of the holy sepulcher? Let us not fear: it is safe. The Saracens themselves look upon it with awe, for it is, they say, the tomb of a great Prophet. True, a tax is imposed on the Christians who visit it; but the sepulcher is safe. One of the caliphs presented the keys of the venerable sanctuary to the emperor Charlemagne, hereby evincing not only the respect he had for this greatest of Christian monarchs, but, moreover, the veneration wherein he held the sacred grotto. Thus did our Lord’s sepulcher continue to be glorified, even in the midst of dangers which, humanly, would have wrought its utter destruction.
Its glory shone out still more brightly when, at the call of the Father of Christendom, the western nations rose up in arms and marched, under the banner of the cross, to the deliverance of Jerusalem. The love of the holy sepulcher was in every heart, its name on every tongue. The first engagement drove back the Saracen, and left the city in possession of the crusaders. A sublime spectacle was then witnessed in the church of the holy sepulcher; the pious Godfrey of Bouillon was consecrated king of Jerusalem, and the holy mysteries were celebrated for the first time in the language and ritual of Rome, under the oriental dome of St. Helen’s basilica. But the reign of Japheth in the tents of Sem was of short duration, owing partly to the short-sighted policy of the western sovereigns, which kept them from appreciating the importance of such a conquest; and partly to the treachery of the Greek Empire, which betrayed the defenseless Jerusalem once more into the hands of the Saracens. Still, the period of the Latin kingdom in the holy city was one of the glories of Jesus’ sepulcher, foretold by Isaias.
What are to be its future glories? At present, it is profaned by the sacrifices which are offered, in its basilica, by schismatical and heretical priests; it is entrusted, for a few hours each year, to the Catholics of Jerusalem, and during that brief interval, it receives the fervent homage of the true spouse of Jesus. When will the holy sepulcher be reinstated in its honor? Will the nations of the West return to the fervor of faith and emulate the holy chivalry of the crusaders of old? Or will the East renounce the schism, which has cost her her liberty; stretch out her hand to the mother and mistress of all churches; and, on the rock of the Resurrection, sign the covenant of a union which would be the death warrant of Islamism? Only God knows: but this much He has revealed to us in sacred Scripture; that, before the end of the world, Israel will return to the Messias he despised and crucified, and that the glory of Jerusalem is to be restored by the Jews who shall be converted. Then will the sepulcher of the Son of Jesse be at the height of its glory, and soon will this Son of Jesse Himself appear. Our bodies will then be on the eve of the general resurrection; and thus the final result of the Pasch will be simultaneous with the last and greatest glory of the holy sepulcher. As we rise from our graves, we shall fix our eyes upon our Jesus’ tomb, and love it as the origin and source of the immortality we shall then have. Until the time of our death comes, when our bodies must be laid in the temporary prison of the grave, let us love the sepulcher of our dear Savior; let us be zealous for its honor; and, imitating our forefathers in that earnest faith which made them its defenders and soldiers, let us get well into us that portion of the Easter spirit, which consists in understanding and loving the glories of Jesus’ sepulcher.
The name given in the liturgy to this day is Saturday in albis, or, more correctly, in albis deponendis; because it was today that the neophytes were to lay aside the white robes they had been wearing the whole Octave. This Octave had indeed begun earlier for them than for the rest of the faithful, inasmuch as it was on the night of Holy Saturday that they were regenerated, and vested with these white garments, the emblem of the purity of their souls. It was, therefore, on the evening of the following Saturday, and after the Office of Vespers, that they put off their baptismal robes, as we will describe farther on.
In Rome, the Station is in the Lateran basilica, the mother and mistress of all churches. It is close to the baptistery of Constantine, where, eight days back, the neophytes received the grace of regeneration. The basilica, wherein they are now assembled, is that from which they set out, during the still and dark night, to the font of salvation, led on by the mysterious light of the Paschal Torch. It was to this same church that they returned after their Baptism, clad in their white robes, and assisted, for the first time, at the entire celebration of the Christian Sacrifice, and received the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. No other place could have been more appropriate for the Station of this day, whereon they were to return to the ordinary duties of life. Holy Church sees assembled around her these her new-born children. It is the last time that she will see them in their white garments, and she looks at them with all the affection of a joyful mother. They are most dear to her, as the fruit of heaven’s own giving; and during the week she has frequently given expression to her maternal pride, in canticles such as she alone can sing.
Sometimes she thought how they had feasted at the divine Banquet, and how they were strengthened and beautified by the Flesh of Him who is all wisdom and sweetness; and she sang these words:
|℟. De ore prudentis procedit mel, alleluia; dulcedo mellis est sub lingua ejus, alleluia; ○ Favus distillans labia ejus, alleluia.||℟. From the mouth of the wise cometh honey, alleluia; the sweetness of honey is under his tongue; ○ his lips are as a dropping honeycomb, alleluia.|
|℣. Sapientia requiescit in corde ejus, et prudentia in sermone oris illius. ○ Favus distillans labia ejus, alleluia.||℣. Wisdom resteth in his heart, and prudence is in the word of his mouth, ○ His lips are as a dropping honeycomb, alleluia.|
Sometimes she was elated with joy, as she saw transformed into innocent lambs those who, heretofore, had led worldly lives; they had now begun a new life, and with all the innocence of little children; to describe them, she sings this pastoral strain:
|℟. Isti sunt agni novelli qui annuntiaverunt Alleluia: modo venerunt ad fontes; ○ Repleti sunt claritate. Alleluia, alleluia.||℟. These are the new lambs, and they have announced to us the Alleluia: they have come but now to the fount; ○ They are filled with light. Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. In conspectu Agni amicti sunt stolis albis, et palmæ in manibus eorum. ○ Repleti sunt claritate. Alleluia, alleluia.||℣. They are standing in the sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. ○ They are filled with light. Alleluia, alleluia.|
Again, at other times, she looked with holy pride on the splendid virtues which Baptism had infused into their souls, and on the spotless purity which made them beam with light; she thus enthusiastically speaks of their beauty:
|℟. Candidi facti sunt Nazaræi ejus, alleluia; splendorem Deo dederunt, alleluia; ○ Et sicut lac coagulati sunt. Alleluia, alleluia.||℟. His Nazarites were white, alleluia; they gave bright glory to God, alleluia; ○ And they were pure as milk. Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Candidiores nive, nitidiores lacte, rubicundiores ebore antiquo sapphiro pulchriores. ○ Et sicut lac coagulati sunt. Alleluia, alleluia.||℣. They were whiter than snow, purer than milk, more ruddy than the old ivory, fairer than the sapphire. ○ And they were pure as milk. Alleluia, alleluia.|
These three Responsories are taken from the Offices of the holy Church during Paschal Time.
Mass.—The Introit is composed of words from the 104th Psalm, wherein Israel gives praise to the Lord, for that He brought His people out of their exile. By this people, we must understand our neophytes, who were exiled from heaven because of original sin and of those they themselves had committed: Baptism has restored them to all the rights they had forfeited, for it has made them members of the Church.
|Eduxit Dominus populum suum in exsultatione, alleluia: et electos suos in lætitia. Alleluia, alleluia.||The Lord hath led forth his people in gladness, alleluia: and his chosen ones in joy. Alleluia, alleluia.|
|Ps. Confitemini Domino, et invocate Nomen ejus: annuntiate inter gentes opera ejus. ℣. Gloria Patri. Eduxit.||Ps. Praise the Lord, and call upon his name: publish his works among the Gentiles. ℣. Glory, &c. The Lord, &c.|
Paschal week is about to close; the Church, therefore, now asks our Lord to grant to us, her children, that the joy we have experienced during this happy Octave may lead us to the still greater joy of the eternal Pasch.
|Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut qui festa paschalia venerando egimus, per hæc contingere ad gaudia æterna mereamur. Per Dominum.||Grand, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who with reverence have celebrated this Paschal solemnity, may happily arrive at everlasting joys. Through, &c.|
To this is added one of the Collect given in Wednesday’s Mass.
|Lectio Epistolæ beati Petri Apostoli.||Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Peter the Apostle.|
|I Cap. II.||I Ch. II.|
|Deponentes igitur omnem malitiam, et omnem dolum, et simulationes, et invidias, et omnes detractiones, sicut modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite: ut in eo crescatis in salutem: si tamen gustastis quoniam dulcis est Dominus. Ad quem accedentes lapidem vivum, ab hominibus quidem reprobatum, a Deo autem electum, et honorificatum: et ipsi tamquam lapides vivi superædificamini, domus spiritualis, sacerdotium sanctum, offerre spirituales hostias, acceptabiles Deo per Jesum Christum. Propter quod continet Scriptura: Ecce pono in Sion lapidem summum angularem, electum, pretiosum: et qui crediderit in eum, non confundetur. Vobis igitur honor credentibus: non credentibus autem lapis, quem reprobaverunt ædificantes: hic factus est in caput anguli, et lapis offensionis, et petra scandali, his qui offendunt verbo, nec credunt in quo et positi sunt. Vos autem genus electum, regale sacerdotium, gens sancta, populus acquisitionis: ut virtutes annuntietis ejus qui de tenebris vos vocavit in admirabile lumen suum. Qui aliquando non populus, nunc autem populus Dei: qui non consecuti misericordiam, nunc autem misericordiam consecuti.||Wherefore laying away all malice, and all guile, and dissimulations, and envies, and all detractions, As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet. Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honourable by God: Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is said in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. And he that shall believe in him, shall not be confounded. To you therefore that believe, he is honour: but to them that believe not, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner: And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe, whereunto also they are set. But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Who in time past were not a people: but are now the people of God. Who had not obtained mercy; but now have obtained mercy.|
The neophytes could not have received any more appropriate instruction than this, which the Prince of the Apostles addresses to us all. St. Peter wrote this first Epistle to the newly baptized of those days. He affectionately calls them new-born babes. He urges them to that virtue which so becomes the age of infancy—the virtue of simplicity. He tells them that the doctrine they have been taught will be to them a milk, which will feed and strengthen them. He invites them to taste how sweet is the Lord they have now vowed to serve.
After this, he speaks of one of the leading characteristics of Christ, namely, His being the foundation and corner Stone of God’s house. It is upon Him that must rest the faithful, who are the living stones of the spiritual edifice. He alone can give them solidity; and hence, when about to return to His Father, He chose and established upon earth another rock—a rock that should be ever visible, united with and based upon His own divine self, and partaking of His solidity. The Apostle’s humility forbids this developing the whole truth as related in the Gospel, which tells us of his glorious prerogative; but if we remember the words spoken by our Lord to St. Peter, we understand the whole doctrine implied in our Epistle.
The Apostle is silent about his own dignity as the rock, on which Jesus has built His Church; but observe the glorious titles he gives to us, who have been made members of that Church by Baptism. You are, says he, a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people! Oh, yes! what a difference there is between one that is baptized and one that is not! Heaven is opened to the one, and shut against the other; the one is a slave of the devil, and the other is a king in Christ Jesus, the eternal King, whose brother he has now become; the one cut off from God, the other offering Him a sacrifice of infinite worth by the hands of the great High Priest, Jesus. And all these gifts have been bestowed upon us by a purely gratuitous mercy; we had done nothing to merit them. Let us, then, offer to the Father who has thus adopted us, our humble acts of thanksgiving; let us go back, in thought, and renew the promises which were made in our name, as the essential condition of our being admitted to all these graces.
From this day forward, the Church ceases to use, during Paschal Time, the Responsory called the Gradual. She substitutes, in its stead, two versicles, with the Alleluia repeated four times: the formula is less solemn, but more joyous. During the first six days of the Octave, which bear an analogy with the six days of creation, she would maintain the customary majestic gravity of her chants; now that she has reached the day whereon the Creator rested after His work was finished, she gives free scope to the holy joy, wherewith she is filled.
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Hæc dies, quam fecit Dominus: exsultemus et lætemur in ea.||℣. This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad, and rejoice therein.|
|℣. Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate Nomen Domini.||℣. Praise the Lord, ye his servants; praise the Name of the Lord.|
The Sequence, Victimæ Paschali, is from Easter Sunday.
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.|
|Cap. XX.||Ch. XX.|
|In illo tempore: Una sabbati Maria Magdalene venit mane, cum adhuc tenebræ essent, ad monumentum: et vidit lapidem sublatum a monumento. Cucurrit ergo, et venit ad Simonem Petrum, et ad alium discipulum, quem amabat Jesus, et dicit illis: Tulerunt Dominum de monumento, et nescimus ubi posuerunt eum. Exiit ergo Petrus, et ille alius discipulus, et venerunt ad monumentum. Currebant autem duo simul, et ille alius discipulus præcucurrit citius Petro, et venit primus ad monumentum. Et cum se inclinasset, vidit posita linteamina: non tamen introivit. Venit ergo Simon Petrus sequens eum, et introivit in monumentum, et vidit linteamina posita, et sudarium, quod fuerat super caput ejus, non cum linteaminibus positum, sed separatim involutum in unum locum. Tunc ergo introivit et ille discipulus qui venerat primus ad monumentum: et vidit, et credidit: nondum enim sciebant Scripturam, quia oportebat eum a mortuis resurgere.||At that time: The first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went out, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre. And they both ran together, and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And when he stooped down, he saw the linen cloths lying; but yet he went not in. Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen cloths lying, And the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place. Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre: and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.|
This incident, which happened on the morning of our Lord’s Resurrection, has been reserved by the Church for today’s liturgy, because it again brings St. Peter before our notice. This is the last day on which the neophytes assist at the holy Sacrifice in their white garments; after this, there will be nothing to distinguish them, exteriorly, from the rest of the faithful. It is important, therefore, to give them a clear idea of the foundation of the Church—a foundation, without which the Church could not exist, and upon which they must rest, if they would persevere in the faith wherein they have been baptized. They cannot obtain salvation unless they keep their faith inviolate. Now they alone have this firm and pure faith, who are docile to the teachings of Peter, and recognize him as the rock on which our Lord has built His Church. In the episode related in our Gospel, we are taught by an Apostle what respect and deference are due to him, whom Christ appointed to feed both lambs and sheep, that is, the whole flock. Peter and John run together to the sepulcher; John, the younger of the two, arrives there before Peter; he looks in, but does not enter. What means this humble reserve of the disciple who was so specially beloved of Jesus? for whom does he wait? He waits for him whom the Master has placed over all, and who is to act as their Head. Peter, at length, comes to the sepulcher; he goes in; he examines the holy place; and then John also enters. It is John himself who writes this, and gives us the admirable instruction embodied in what he relates. Yes, it is for Peter to lead the way, and judge, and decide as master; it is the Christian’s duty to follow him, to listen to his teachings, to honor and obey him. How can we have any difficulty in doing this, when we see an Apostle behaving thus to Peter, and this, too, at a time when Peter had received the promise only of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which were not really given to him until some days after?
The words of the Offertory are taken from the 117th Psalm, which is, by excellence, the Psalm of the Resurrection. They hail the divine Conqueror, who rises like a bright star and gladdens us with His benediction.
|Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini: benediximus vobis de domo Domini: Deus Dominus et illuxit nobis. Alleluia, alleluia.||Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord: the Lord is God, and he hath shone upon us. Alleluia, alleluia.|
In the Secret, the Church teaches usu that the mysteries we celebrate during the year exercise a lasting influence upon us. Each Feast, as it comes round to us, brings with it fresh life and joy; and it is by its annual celebration, that the Church applies to her children the graces which each mystery brought with it at the actual time of its accomplishment.
|Concede, quæsumus Domine, semper nos per hæc mysteria Paschalia gratulari; ut continua nostræ reparationis operatio, perpetuæ nobis fiat causa lætitiæ. Per Dominum.||Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that we may always gratefully solemnize the Paschal mysteries, and that the continual celebration of the sacrament of our redemption may be to us a subject of perpetual joy. Through, &c.|
To this is added one of the Secrets given in Wednesday’s Mass.
Our neophytes are to lay aside, today, their white robes; but there is a garment which they are never to put away; it is Christ Himself, who became united with them by Baptism, as the Apostle of the Gentiles here reminds them:
|Omnes qui in Christo baptizati estis, Christum induistis, alleluia.||All you that have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ, alleluia.|
The Church returns once more, in her Postcommunion, to the subject of faith. Without faith there is no Christianity: now it is the Eucharist which has the power of fostering it in the soul, for the Eucharist is the mystery of faith.
|Redemptionis nostræ munere vegetati, quæsumus Domine: ut hoc perpetuæ salutis auxilio fides semper vera proficiat. Per Dominum.||Being strengthened, O Lord, by the sacrament of our redemption, grant that through this help to eternal salvation, a true faith may always be increased in us. Through, &c.|
To this is added one of the Postcommunions given in Wednesday’s Mass.
The Taking Off of the White Garments
The Vespers, on each of the days of this week, were celebrated in the manner described on the Sunday. There was a numerous attendance, each day, in the basilica; and the faithful thus testified their affectionate interest in the white-robed neophytes who visited, during the Vespers of each day, the sacred font where they had been born to the new life of grace. This afternoon, the concourse of people is greater than on the preceding days, for an interesting ceremony is to take place. The neophytes are about to lay aside the outward symbol of innocence, which they have been wearing; but they are also to give a solemn promise to maintain the inward purity of soul. By this public ceremony the Church restores the newly baptized to the duties of their ordinary station of life: they must now return to the world, and comport themselves as Christians—disciples of Christ—for such they are.
The visit to the baptistery has been made, and the Office of Vespers has terminated with the Station before the crucifix of the chancel: the neophytes are then led to a room adjoining the cathedral, in which is prepared a large vessel of water. The bishop goes to his throne. Seeing the newly baptized standing around him, he addresses them in a discourse wherein he expresses the joy he feels, as pastor, at the increase wherewith it has pleased God to bless his much-loved flock. He congratulates them upon the grace they have received; and then, alluding to the main object of their coming together this afternoon—that is the laying aside of the white garments they received after Baptism—he warns them, with paternal affection, to keep a guard over themselves, and see that they never sully the purity of soul, of which their robes have been but an emblem.
These were lent to the neophytes by the Church, as we said on Holy Saturday; they come now to restore them. The water in which the garments are to be washed is blessed by the pontiff. As soon as he has finished the address, to which we have just been alluding, he says a prayer, wherein he speaks of the power, given to this element, of cleansing the stains of the soul herself. Then turning to the neophytes, he recites the 116th Psalm in thanksgiving; to which he adds this beautiful prayer:
Visit, O Lord, thy people with thy salvation! Behold it now illumined with the Paschal joy! But do thou vouchsafe to preserve in our neophytes what thou thyself hast wrought in them unto salvation. Grant, that while laying aside these white robes, the change may be but exterior; that the spotless purity of Christ, which the eye cannot see, may ever be in their souls, so that they may never lose it; and that thy grace may assist them to gain, by good works, that immortal life, whereunto the Paschal mystery obliges us to aspire.
After this, aided by their sponsors—the men by their godfathers, the women by their godmothers—the neophytes take off their white garments, which are then consigned to those whose duty it is to wash and keep them. The sponsors having assisted their spiritual children to put on their ordinary dress, lead them to the pontiff, who distributes to each an image of the divine Lamb, stamped on wax: it is the Paschal symbol.
A last vestige of this interesting ceremony is the distribution of the Agnus Dei. This distribution is made by the Pope, on this day, in Rome, the first and every seventh year of his pontificate. We have already described the rite observed in their blessing, and we then drew the attention of our readers to the allusion to the ancient form of Baptism by immersion. The Agnus Dei are blessed on the Wednesday of Easter Week: on the following Saturday, there is what is called Papal Chapel in the palace. After High Mass, the Agnus Dei are brought before the Pontiff, who is seated on a throne. The prelate who presents them sings the following words, which are taken from one of the beautiful Responsories given above: “Holy Father! These are the new lambs, and they have announced to us the Alleluia: they have come but now to the fount: they are filled with light.” The Pope answers: Deo gratias! They who are happy enough to witness this function are forcibly reminded of the ancient ceremony we have been describing, and in which the newly baptized were led before the bishop, as the innocent lambs whom he so gladly welcomed. The Pope then distributes the Agnus Dei to the Cardinals, Prelates, and others presented by the master of ceremonies: and thus is concluded this function, which is interesting not only because of its signification, but also because of the sacred object wherewith it consoles us.
We cannot conclude this last day of our neophytes’ Octave without saying a few words upon the Annotine Pasch. It was the anniversary day of the previous Easter Sunday, and was looked upon as the special feast of those who were a year old in the grace of their Baptism. The Mass was solemnly celebrated for them. The remembrance of the happy day when they were made children of God was thus brought before them; and, of course, their families kept the glorious anniversary as a glad holiday. If it came during Lent, the Annotine was not kept, or it was deferred till Easter Monday. It would seem that, in some places, in order to avoid these continual changes, the anniversary of Baptism was regularly fixed for this the Saturday of Easter week. When the custom of administering Baptism at Easter fell into disuse, the Annotine Pasch also ceased to be observed: however, we find traces of it as late as the 13th century. The custom of looking on the anniversary of our Baptism as a feast day is one of those which may be called Christian instincts. The pagans made much of the day which had given them temporal birth; surely, we ought to show quite as much respect to the anniversary of our Baptism, when we were born to the supernatural life. St. Louis used to sign himself Louis of Poissy, because it was in that little church of Poissy that he had received Baptism. Let us learn from this holy king to love the day and the place of our Baptism, that is, of our being made children of God and of His Church.
We have been considering, during the preceding days of this week, the divine work of the creation. We began with the Sunday, whereon light was called forth from nothingness; and in this we recognized a type of the mystery of the Resurrection; for our Jesus, the uncreated Light, was to rise from His grave on that same day of the week. This is Saturday, the seventh day, the day whereon the Lord rested, after the creation. But it is also the day whereon this same Lord rested in His glorious sepulcher. Let us, then, honor this second mystery, which, even more than the first, reveals to us the love of the Son of God for man. Let us give Him our Saturday’s homage by addressing Him in these words of the Mozarabic breviary.
|Christe Dei filius, nostrarum requies animarum, qui otium Sabbati requiescens in tumulo complevisti: ut in quo olim requieveras ab omni opere faciendo, in eo etiam requiesceres in sepulchro, hunc nobis veraciter sanctificans diem, cujus vesperum in prima nobis Sabbati, quæ et octava dies est, lucescit: ut, qui dixeras de tenebris lumen splendescere, manifeste a mortuis resurgens appareres in carne; dirige cursum vitæ nostræ in viam sanctificationis omnimodæ, qualiter ita in his septem diebus, quibus mundus iste peragitur, et in quibus quotidie nobis Agnus occiditur, et Pascha quotidie celebratur, salubriori vitæ curriculo conversemur: ut absque fermento malitiæ verum Pascha mereamur quotidie celebrare: et ita ab omnibus operibus nostris in hoc die sanctificatione tibi placita quiescamus, ut octavi illius æterni diei resurrectionis gloria consolemur.||O Christ, the Son of God, thou rest of our souls, who didst observe the repose of the Sabbath by resting in the tomb, that thou, who on this day, didst heretofore rest from all the work of thy creation, mightest also, on the same, rest in the sepulcher; hereby truly keeping holy that day, whose evening is the beginning of our first day of the Sabbath, which is likewise the eighth day; that thou, who commandedst light to shine forth out of darkness, mightest, by thy Resurrection, appear in the flesh: so direct the course of our lives in the path of all holiness, that in these seven days of the world’s duration, on each of which the Lamb is slain and the Pasch is celebrated for us, we may live in such wise as to secure our salvation, and may daily be found worthy to celebrate the true Pasch, pure from the leaven of malice: that thus, by a holiness pleasing to thee, we may so rest, on this day, from all our works, that we may deserve to receive the glory of the Resurrection, on the eighth, that is, the eternal day.|
The Greek Church shall provide us, today, with a hymn in honor of the Resurrection. We take the following stanzas from its liturgy for Easter Sunday.
|In Dominica Resurrectionis|
|In imam terram descendisti, ac æternas contrivisti, Christe, seras, quæ in compedibus vinctos captivabant; et triduanus, sicut e cete Jonas, ex sepulchro ortus es.||Thou didst descend, O Christ, into the bowels of the earth, and break the eternal bolts which held thy holy ones captives; and, on the third day, like Jonas, thou didst rise from the tomb.|
|Sigilla intacta servans, e sepulchro erectus es, Christe, qui in partu tuo non læseras claves virginis; et Paradisi portas nobis aperuisti.||Thou, O Jesus, didst leave unbroken the seal when rising from the tomb, as thou didst leave Mary’s virginity perfect when born of her. Thou openest to us the gates of heaven.|
|Salvator meus, viventem et non immolatam hostiam, quatenus Deus es, teipsum Patri sponte libera obtulisti; exsurgensque e sepulchro una suscitasti universum Adam.||My Savior! thou freely offeredst thyself to the Father a living host, for, as God, thou couldst not be slain; and, by thy rising from the tomb, thou didst raise up all the children of Adam.|
|In sepulchrum quidem descendisti, immortalis; inferni vero confregisti virtutem: et tanquam victor surrexisti, Christe Deus; mulieribus aromatoferis dixisti: Salvete, Apostolisque tuis pacem dedisti, qui lapsis præbes resurrectionem.||Thou didst truly descend into the tomb, O immortal God! But thou didst break the power of hell, and rise as a Conqueror. Thou saidst to the women, that brought their perfumes: Hail! Thou gavest peace to thine Apostles, O thou that givest resurrection to the fallen!|
|Mortis concelebramus interitum, inferni eversionem, alterius vitæ, et quidem æternæ, primitias; et saltantes in hymnis cantamus auctorem, unicum a Patribus celebratum Deum, et supergloriosum.||We celebrate the destruction of death, the overthrow of hell, the first-fruits of a new and eternal life. With joy, we sing hymns to the Creator, the one only God of our Fathers, the infinitely glorious One.|
|Vere sacra et plane festiva est, ipsa salutaris nox et splendescens, diei rutilantis ac resurrectionis prænuntia, in qua lux æterna ex sepulchro corporaliter cunctis illuxit.||O truly sacred and festive, saving and bright night, the harbinger of the sunny day of the Resurrection, whereon the Light eternal rose from the tomb, and shed his beams upon all men.|
|Venite, ut novo genimini vitis, divinæ lætitiæ communicemus, die resurrectionis regnique Christi præclara, laudantes eum in hymnis tanquam Deum in sæcula.||Come, let us participate in the new fruit of the Vine, and in the divine joy, for it is the glorious day of Christ’s Resurrection and kingdom. Let us praise him, in our hymns, as the God who liveth for ever.|
|Leva in circuitu oculos tuos, Sion, et vide; ecce enim splendore divino radiantes sicut lampades, venerunt tibi filii ab occidente, et ab aquilone, a mare meridiano et ab oriente; in te benedicunt Christum in sæcula.||O Sion! lift up thine eyes round about, and see; for children, shining as lights with the brightness of God upon them, have come to thee from the west and north, from the south sea, and the east. In thee, they give praise to Christ for ever.|
|O divina! O amica! O dulcissima vox tua! etenim non fallaciter promisisti Christe, te futurum esse nobiscum usque ad consummationem sæculi: quam spei anchoram fideles nos servantes lætamur.||O divine! O welcome! O thy most sweet word, O Jesus! Thou hast promised, and the promise cannot fail, that thou wilt abide with us even to the end of the world: it is the anchor of hope to us thy faithful servants, and makes us glad.|
|O Pascha magnum et sanctissimum, Christe! O Sapientia, et Verbum, Deique virtus! Da ut juxta exemplar formati, tecum simus participes in die nunquam decedente regni tui.||O Jesus! our great and most holy Pasch! O Wisdom, Word, and Power of God! grant that we may live according to the model thou hast given us, and enjoy with thee the never-ending day of thy kingdom.|
In the Proper Offices of the Order of Holy Sepulcher, there is given the following beautiful hymn, which we offer to our readers as being most appropriate to the day.
|Dic sepulchri gloriosi,|
Læta mens, miracula;
Quo velut matris pudicæ
Christus alvo prodiit:
Ut prophetarum fideles
|Be glad, my soul, and sing the wonders of the glorious sepulcher, whence came thy Christ, as, heretofore, from the womb of his Virgin Mother. Thus was it foretold by the truthful prophets.|
|In novo conceptus alvo|
Gloriosus hoc et illa,
Vir, puerque prodiit.
|He was conceived in the pure womb of a Virgin-Mother; so too, he was buried in a tomb, wherein no other man had been placed; from both he comes the glorious Jesus, as Infant first, and then as Man.|
|Hæc parit corpus caducum,|
Omnium spe serius;
Æviternum reddit illus,
Omnium spe citius;
Illa pannis involutum,
Linteis hoc conditum.
|The Mother, after long ages of hope, brings him forth created in mortal flesh; the tomb, though none had hoped it, restores him clad in immortality: Mary wrapped him in swathing-bands; the sepulcher held him in the winding-sheet.|
|Ex sinu matris futuram|
Ad salutem nascitur;
At salute jam parata,
Rupis alvus reddidit;
Ad crucem parens produxit,
At silex ad gloriam.
|He is born, for the world’s salvation, from the womb of his Mother; he rises from the tomb, after our salvation has been wrought: the Mother nursed him for the cross; the tomb, for glory.|
|Ergo te, cœlestis Agni|
Aula ter felix, adorent
Terra, pontus, æthera;
Nec sepulchrum quis vocarit,
Vita de quo nascitur.
|O thrice holy sanctuary! beautified with the Blood of the Lamb of God! let earth, and sea, and heaven, venerate thee. How strange to call that a sepulcher, whence life was born!|
|Goria et honor Deo|
Una Patri, Filioque,
Cui laus est, et potestas
Per immensa sæcula. Amen.
|Glory and honor be, for ever, to the most high God! To the Father, Son, and Holy Paraclete, one praise and power, for everlasting ages. Amen.|
And lastly, let us turn to the blessed Mother, for this is her day. Let us congratulate her upon the Resurrection of her divine Son, in the words of this devout sequence, taken from the ancient missals of the churches of Germany.
|Resurgenti tuo nato,|
Mater, plaude, qui prostrato
Regnat mortis principe;
Tuum virgo pone luctum,
Jesum ventris tui fructum
|Give praise, O Mother, to thy risen Jesus, who reigns triumphant over the prince of death. Cease thy mourning: for Jesus, the Fruit of thy womb, is restored to life, and visits thee.|
|Morte prolis cruciata,|
Corde dure sauciata
Jam de resurrectionis
|His death was thy cross; his Passion, the sword that cruelly pierced thy Heart: but now, sing a hymn of joy, and be glad, because of his Resurrection.|
|Crucifixum, qui surrexit|
De sepulchro teque vexit
Sua in palatia,
Nobis placa, supplicamus
A peccatis ut surgamus
Ad æterna gaudia. Amen.
|He was crucified; but now he is risen from the tomb, and has taken thee to his heavenly court: pray to him for us, we beseech thee, that we may rise from our sins to everlasting joy. Amen.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)