Wednesday, September 14, 2016

COMPLINE EXPLAINED





V. May Jesus Christ thy Son, reconciled by they prayers, O Lady, convert our hearts.
R. And turn away His anger from us.
V. O Lady, make speed to befriend me.
R. From the hands of the enemy mightily defend me.

Glory be, etc.
                          

               Hail, Mother most pure!
               Hail, Virgin renown'd!

We cannot do better than quote Cardinal Newman:

'What is the highest, rarest, the choicest prerogative of Mary? It is that she was without sin. When a woman in the crowd cried out to our Lord, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee," He answered: "More blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." Those words are fulfilled in Mary. She was filled with grace in order to be the Mother of God. But it was a higher gift than her maternity to be thus sanctified and thus pure. Our Lord would not have become her son unless He had at first sanctified her; but still, the greater blessedness was to have that perfect sanctification. This then, is why she is Virgo Prædicanda; she is deserving to be preached abroad because she never committed any sin, even the least; because sin had no part in her; because, through the fulness of God's grace, she never thought a thought, or spoke a word, or did an action, which was displeasing, which was not most pleasing, to Almighty God.' (Meditations and Devotions―The Month of May, p. 9.) 

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Hail, Queen with the stars
                            As a diadem crowed!

       Again we are taken back to the Apocalypse, c. xii, where we read of the great sign in heaven―the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars (see p. 42). The 'woman' here spoken of by St. John is first of all the Bride of Christ, the Church; but also in a special manner the greatest and most glorious member of the Church, namely, She who gave birth to the Man-Child, of whom St. John speaks in the same chapter.

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Above all the Angels
                                 In glory untold,
                                 Standing next to the King
                                 In a vesture of gold!

       When Peter drew his sword and struck off Malchus' ear, our Lord, bidding him sheath the sword, remarked: 'Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and He shall give even now more than twelve legions of angels?' (Matt. xxvi, 53). Christ is the King of all the angels, and His blessed Mother is raised above them all in virtue of her Divine Maternity.
       The Messianic Psalm xliv speaks of Christ the King, and in the tenth verse there is reference to the Queen: 'The Queen standeth at Thy right hand in gold of Ophir.' As in Apoc. xii, the Spouse of the King is both the Church, the Bride of Christ, and Mary from whom, through Christ, was born the mystical Body of Christ, His Church.

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O Mother of Mercy!
                                 O Star of the wave!
                                 O Hope of the guilty!
                                 O Light of the grave!

       Let Cardinal Newman again explain: 'Truly thou art a star, O Mary. Our Lord indeed Himself, Jesus Christ, He is the truest and the chiefest Star, the bright and morning Star, as St. John calls Him. . . . But if the wise and learned and they who teach men in justice shall shine as stars for ever and ever; if the angels of the Churches are called stars in the Hand of Christ; if He honored the Apostles even in the days of their flesh by a title, calling them the lights of the world; if even those angels who fell from heaven are called by the beloved disciple stars; if lastly all the saints in bliss are called stars, in that they are like stars differing from stars in glory; therefore most assuredly, without any derogation from the honour of our Lord, is Mary His mother called the Star of the Sea, and the more so because even on her head she wears a crown of twelve stars. Jesus is the Light of the world, illuminating every man that cometh into it, opening our eyes with the gift of faith, making souls luminous by His Almighty grace; and Mary is the star, shining with the light of Jesus . . . the star of the heavens, which it is good to look upon, the star of the sea, which is welcome to the tempest-tossed, at whose smile the evil spirit flies, the passions are hushed, and peace is poured upon the soul' (Meditations and Devotions―The Month of May, p. 87).

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Through thee may we come
                           To the haven of rest;
                           And see heaven's King
                           In the courts of the blest! Amen.

       As Christ the King came to us through Her, so shall we go to our eternal rest in heaven through Her.

       V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
       R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.

       The words are based on the Canticle of Canticles i, 2: 'Thy name is as oil poured out: therefore young maidens have loved thee.' Preaching on this text St. Bernard, whose sermon is read in the Divine Office recited by priests on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, remarks that oil is used for lighting, for nourishing and for healing. Then he applies this to the Holy Name of Jesus. 'When it is preached it gives light, when it is meditated it gives nourishment, when it is invoked it softens and heals. Let us examine each point. Whence in all the world comes the light of faith so greatly and so soon as by the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Is it not by the light of this Name that God calls us to His wonderful light, whereby illuminated, and seeing the light by this light, as Paul says so well: "You were once darkness, but now light in the Lord"? Then the Apostle was commanded to carry this Name before kings and the Gentiles and the children of Israel. And he carried the Name as a light, illuminating the land, and crying everywhere: "The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day." And he showed to all the lamp on the lamp-stand, by preaching in every place, Jesus and Him crucified. How this light shone and held the eyes of all the beheld it, is shown by the fact that when it came forth like lightning from the mouth of Peter the soles and feet of a lame man were healed, and many who were spiritually blind were enlightened. Did he not spread abroad fire when he said: "In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth arise and walk?"
       'Not only is the Name of Jesus light; it is also nourishment. Are you not comforted every time you remember it? What can equal it in giving strength to the mind that meditates on It? What like It can repair the senses of those that us It, strengthen their virtues, stir up good and honest manners, foster chaste affections? Dry is all spiritual food on to which this oil is not poured out: tasteless is it if it is not seasoned with this salt. If you write, I am not pleased unless I read the Name, Jesus. Your disputations and conferences will not please me unless the Name of Jesus is heard in them. "Jesus" is honey on the lips, music in the ear, joy in the heart.
       'It is also medicine. Is anyone sad among you? Let "Jesus" come into his heart and then spring to his tongue. And lo, at the rising light of the Name, every cloud will scatter and the clear sky will return. Is there any one who has fallen into crime, even to the extent of running into the trap of death in a state of despair? If he invokes the Name of Life, will he not immediately breathe life again?'
       All of this is said of the holy Name of Jesus. In an inferior measure it may be applied to the name of Mary the Mother of Jesus.

       V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
       R. And let my cry come unto thee. 
           Glory be, etc.

The Commendation.

               These praises and prayers
               We lay at thy feet,
               O Virgin of virgins!
               O Mary most sweet!
               Be thou our true guide
               Through this pilgrimage here;
               And stand by our side
               When death draweth near. Amen.

       Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
       R. Thanks be to God.

       With this Deo Gratias the Office really ends. In the official form, however, published in 1876, the following prayers are appended to be said ad libitum, that is, if one likes to add them. 

               Thou art all fair, O Mary:
               And the original stain was never in thee.
               Thou art the glory of Jerusalem:
               Thou art the joy of Israel:
               Thou art the honor of our people.
               O Mary, O Mary,
               Virgin most prudent,
               Mother most clement,
               Pray for us,
               Intercede for us,
               To Jesus Christ our Lord. 

       Antiphon. Thy Conception, O Virgin Mother of God, heralded joy to the whole world; for from thee came Christ, our God; who doing away with the curse brought us blessing, and putting death to confusion gave us the gift of everlasting life. Amen.

       Or, instead of the above, may be said:

       Antiphon. This is the rod, wherein was neither the knot of original sin, nor the bark of actual sin.

V. In thy conception, O Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father, whose Son thou didst bear.

Let Us Pray.

       O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of a Virgin didst make ready a meet dwelling for Thy Son, we beseech Thee that Thou, who, foreseeing the death of that same Son of Thine, didst keep her free from all stain, mayest suffer us also, with clean hearts, through her pleading, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord.
       R. Amen.

       Note on the Divine Name Yahwè. 

       The ordinary Hebrew word for God is 'Elohim. But when Moses asked by what name God should be known to the children of Israel, God replied: 'I AM WHO AM. Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS hath sent me to you' (Exod. iii, 14). By this name God taught that He was the Eternal One, He who is without beginning and without end. The Jews formed it of four consonants, YHWH, the fourth being in all probability a silent letter; and as in their early Bibles they did not us vowels, the pronunciation of the Name is lost. For when they introduced vowels into the text they refrained from putting the proper vowels to YHWH because they did not want the Sacred Name ever to be pronounced by the lips. Instead they put the vowels of a different word altogether, meaning Lord. From these vowels and the consonants YHWH (Y being equivalent to J, and W to V) was formed the word Jehovah, unknown until comparatively modern times. That this title is incorrect is evident from the fact that its consonants and its vowels belong to two different words altogether. What then was the original pronunciation? We can be certain that the first consonant was YAH, since this shortened name is frequently found in the Old Testament. Not so clear is the second syllable. Theodoret (c. A.D. 458) tells us that the Samaritans pronounced the Name Yabe (be for the letter waw, which to-day is usually transcribed w), from which we can conclude that Yahwè was the original Name.  


VESPERS EXPLAINED




               Hail, Dial of Achaz!
               On thee the true Sun
               Told backward the course
               Which from old he had run!

This verse is based on what we read in 4 Kings xx and in Isaias xxxviii. King Ezechias was in danger of death by sickness, and God sent the prophet Isaias to bid him prepare for death. Then Ezechias prayed with weeping unto God. His prayer was heard; and Isaias was instructed to return and tell the King that God would give him fifteen more years of life. As a sign that the prophet was speaking the truth a miracle was worked, to wit, the shadow on the sun-dial of Achaz was put back ten degrees. In the Vesper Hymn our Lady is likened to Achaz's sun-dial, because Christ, the Sun of Justice, appeared through her. But He appeared, not as the Brightness of Eternal Light, but in all the debasement of human nature. In that sense He lowered Himself, as the sun's light on the dial went backward. This is further brought out in the next verse of the hymn:

And that man might be rais'd,
                         Submitting to shame,
                         A little more low
                         Than the angels became!

       The first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews sets out how Christ is superior to the angels inasmuch as He is the very Son of God. In the second chapter is quoted the passage from Psalm viii to prove how all things are subject to Him:
       We translate this psalm:

       What is man that thou shouldest be mindful of him?
       And the son of man that thou shouldst visit him?
       Thou dost make him a little less than the angels;
       With glory and honor thou dost crown him.
       Thou givest him dominion over the works of thy hands:
       All things thou hast put under his feet.

       Then the Epistle goes on to say how Jesus is made a little lower than the angels, namely, by suffering death. 'But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that, through the grace of God He might taste death for all. . . For nowhere doth He take hold of the angels: but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold.' Then the inspired author telling how our Lord, little less than the angels and submitting to the shame of being man suffered even death, goes on to say how we were raised by Him: 'Wherefore, it behoved Him in all things to be like unto His brethren, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest before God, that he might be a propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that wherein He Himself hath suffered and been tempted, He is able to succour them also that are tempted.'
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Thou, wrapt in the blaze
                              Of His infinite light,
                              Dost shine as the morn
                              On the confines of night.

       St. Paul, in his First Epistle to Timothy (vi, 15-16) speaks of God as 'the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone hath immortality, dwelling in light inaccessible' (W.V.). So Christ as God is a 'blaze of infinite light' coming into this dark world. And Mary reflects this divine splendour as the early morn gets its light from the rising sun.
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As the moon on the lost
                              Through obscurity dawns;
                              The serpent's Destroyer;
                              A lily 'mid thorns!

       The moon gets its light from the sun. Mary reflects the light of the Sun of Justice, and by that gentle light leads souls through the obscurity of this life to the Beatific Vision of God. 
       We have already spoken of her as the enemy of the Serpent (None Explained). The last line is taken from the Canticle of Canticles ii, 2, which the Church interprets as the love song between Christ and His Spouse, the Church; and then applies it to Mary, most beloved of Christ and the most perfect member of the Church. The lines in the Canticle read:

I am the flower of the field
                            And the lily of the valleys.
                            As the lily among thorns,
                            So is my love among the daughters.

       V. I made an unfailing light to arise in heaven:
       R. And as a mist I overspread the whole earth.

       These words are taken from Ecclesiasticus xiv, 6, where the subject is the praise of Wisdom (see Prime Explained). The unfailing light that Mary made appear from heaven is her Divine Son. And as the mist brings the gentle rain upon the earth, so did she bring, through her Son, grace abundant to mankind.

       V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
       R. And let my cry come unto thee. 

―Again, the authentic text tells us to add the Prayer: 'Holy Mary, Queen of heaven,' etc.

       
               

NONE EXPLAINED




V. O Lady, make speed to befriend me.
R. From the hands of the enemy, mightily defend me.
     Glory be, etc.
               
               Hail, City of Refuge!

       In the Book of Numbers (xxxv, 9-11) we are told how God instructed Moses to appoint certain cities which should be for the refuge of fugitives who have unwillingly shed blood. Mary is more than this. She is even a refuge of sinners, provided that they seek repentance. This comes from her appointment as Mother to all those who (like St. John at the foot of the Cross) really love her Son.

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Hail, David's high Tower!
                             With battlements crown'd
                             And girded with power!

       David the king built a high tower for defense against foes. In the Canticle of Canticles (iv, 4) the beautiful neck of the beloved is likened to this tower of David. Christ was the Son of David, and His Mother has defended Him from the attacks of Nestorians, Eutychians, Protestants and Rationalists. We cannot do better than quote Cardinal Newman's words: 'She is called the Tower of David because she had so signally fulfilled the office of defending her Divine Son from the assaults of His foes. It is customary with those who are not Catholics to fancy that the honours we pay to her interfere with the supreme worship which we pay to Him; that in Catholic teaching she eclipses Him. But this is the very reverse of the truth.
     'For if Mary's glory is so very great, how cannot His be greater still who is the Lord and God of Mary? He is infinitely above His Mother; and all that grace which filled her is but the overflowings and superfluities of His incomprehensible Sanctity. And history teaches us the same lesson. Look at the Protestant countries which threw off all devotion to her three centuries ago, under the notion that to put her from their thoughts would be exalting the praises of her Son. Has that consequence really followed from their profane conduct towards her? Just the reverse―the countries, Germany, Switzerland, England, which so acted, have in great measure ceased to worship Him, and have given up their belief in His Divinity; while the Catholic Church, wherever she is to be found, adores Christ as true God and true Man, as firmly as ever she did; and strange indeed would it be, if it ever happened otherwise. Thus Mary is the "Tower of David" (Meditations and Devotions―The Month of May, p. 68). Hardly necessary is it to add that the beloved Cardnal's words have still greater force to-day.
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Fill'd at thy Conception
                               With love and with light,
                               The dragon by thee
                               Was shorn of his might.

       This stanza is based on Genesis iii, 14-15 and Apocalypse xii.  In the former passage it was revealed to our first parents that a woman would come, between whom and the Devil there would be undying enmity, and by whom, through being the mother of the Seed, Satan's power would be crushed underfoot. It is indeed remarkable that the very first line of the Messianic prophecies should immediately refer to the Woman. This is in the first book of the Bible. In the last book we have a reference to this same prophecy when we are told (Apoc. xii) of the Dragon lying in wait for the Woman 'clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars' who was with Child. The Great Dragon that was cast out is no other than 'that old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world.' Small wonder that, when shorn of his might, he 'was very angry against the woman, and went to make war against the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.' And as Satan is enraged especially against the Children of Mary, these good souls must not expect to escape scot-free from divers temptations.

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O Woman most valiant!

       This line may be taken with the next and thereby refer to Judith. But better is it to refer alone to the Valiant Woman who is so beautifully described in the poem which we read in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs. This poem is an acrostic, that is, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. The reason of this is probably that Jewish women might easily learn it by heart, for it gives the qualities that go to make a perfect wife. The Church reads it as the lesson for the Mass of a holy woman neither viegin nor martyr; and we may here translate it from the Hebrew text with a few footnotes:

       Who shall find a valiant woman? - 1
       Her price is far indeed above that of corals.
       The heart of her husband trusteth in her,
       And he shall have no need of spoils. - 2
       She rendereth him good and not evil
       All the days of her life.
       She seeketh wool and flax,
       And worketh at the business of her hands. - 3
       She is like the merchant-ships;
       She bringeth her bread from afar - 4
       She riseth also while it is yet night,
       And giveth food to her household - 5
       And portions to her maids.
       She considereth a field, and buyeth it;
       With the fruit of her hand she planteth a vineyard.
       She girdeth her loins with strength,
       And maketh strong her arms.
       She tasteth that her traffic is good;
       Her lamp is not put out at night. - 6
       She puts her hands to the distaff - 7
       And her fingers take hold of the spindle.
       She openeth her hand to the needy, - 8
       And extendeth her hand to the poor.
       She is not afraid of the snow as far as her household is concerned,
       For all her household is doubly-clothed. - 9
       She maketh for herself coloured bed-spreads:
       Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
       Her husband is a notable figure in the gates - 10
       When he sitteth among the senators of the land.
       She maketh linen garments and selleth them; - 11
       And delivereth girdles to the Canaanite (merchants).
       Strength and beauty are her clothing;
       And she laugheth at the future. - 12
       She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
       And the law of kindness is on her tongue. - 13
       She keepeth watch on the ways of her household
       And eateth not the bread of idleness.
       Her children rise up and call her blessed;
       Her husband (also), and he praiseth her (saying):
       Many daughters have done valiantly,
       But thou hast surpassed them all.
       Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: - 14
       The woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. - 15
       Give her of the fruit of her hands;
       And let her works praise her in the gates.

1. By 'valiant woman' is meant a woman of virtuous energy.
2. No need for her husband to go in search of booty or plunder; for the good wife has everything he wants at home.
3. She performs her manual duties with delight.
4. As merchant-ships go far across the waters to get the best goods the world can give, so she goes out to procure the best food obtainable.
5. Before dawn she is up and getting food ready for the household. There may be a figure of an animal seeking food by night, for the Hebrew word for 'food' is usually 'prey.'
6. She has the satisfaction of seeing profit from her labors. The second line may not so much mean that she works on through the night as that she can afford to keep a lamp burning all night.
7. distaff. Another rendering is 'mending' or 'darning.' 
8. Lit. she spreadeth out her palm.
9. Here we leave the Hebrew (scarlet) for the better reading of the Vulgate (also Septuagint) doubly-clothed.
10. the gates―where the administration of the city is conducted.
11. linen garments: the sadin was a rectangular linen garment.
12. Lit. at the next day. Her prudence and foresight have provided for later life.
13. No uncharitable remarks fall from this good woman's tongue.
14. Favour here means mere graceful appearance.
15. that feareth the Lord is the Old Testament expression for 'religious.' 

       While thinking of our Lady at Bethlehem, at Cana of Galilee, at the foot of the Cross and as the Queen of Heaven, we must not forget that she was also the most perfect mother and wife at home at Nazareth; and as such she is the patron, example and model of every married woman. How could she be otherwise when God Himself chose her to manage the house at Nazareth where He was to reside for thirty years? All the fine qualities that are enumerated in the Poem of the Valiant Woman are applicable to her, except those of course, which by reason of poverty she was unable to exercise. She had no 'maids,' nor money so spend on buying fields and costly materials. Nor was St. Joseph a civic dignitary. But how 'his heart must have trusted in her, as she rendered him good, and not evil all the days of his life!' How he must have praised her and realized that his wife, blessed among women, surpassed all wives that the world should see! She must have been ever busy (her visit to St. Elizabeth is an indication), providing food and good clothing for Jesus and Joseph. And how could she ever forget the poor and needy. (Cana of Galilee shows her thoughtfulness for those in need). Her words were always words of wisdom; and her tongue knew no uncharitable talk. She had one Child. He certainly called her 'blessed,' and all her Catholic children through all generations have called her the same. They have realized that no one was 'religious' like her; and giving her the honour due to her they have unceasingly praised her in every public place.

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O Judith thrice blest!

       A valiant woman indeed was Judith! After the death of her husband she lived somewhat like an enclosed nun. For 'she made herself a private chamber in the upper part of her house, in which she abode shut up with her maids.' She also wore a haircloth and fasted on most days of the year. She was very beautiful, and was greatly renowned as a woman that 'feared the Lord,' that is, was religious. At that time the city of Bethulia was being besieged by Holofernes, a general of the Assyrian king Nabuchodonosor. The Israelites began to despair, and decided that if God did not come to their aid within five days they would surrender the city to the enemy. When Judith heard this she sent for the ancients of the city and upbraided them for 'tempting God.' 'You have set a time for the mercy of the Lord; and you have appointed Him a day, according to your pleasure!' She counseled penance and the begging of God's forgiveness, tears, and a humble spirit. Ozias and the ancients listened to her and asked her prayers: 'for thou art a holy woman, and one fearing God.' She told them that she would go out by the city gate with her maid that night, but requested that they should not enquire into her design, but only pray to God for her.
       The beautiful prayer that Judith said in her oratory before she set out is given in the ninth chapter of the book that bears her name. After her prayer she took off her haircloth and her widow's garments, washed her body, anointed herself with the best perfumes, plaited her hair, put on her head a magnificent turban, clothed herself with attractive dresses, put on sandals (which showed that she was not a slave, but a lady of dignity), then bracelets, necklaces, ear-rings and finger-rings. We have thus a complete picture of a Hebrew lady in her best attire! But we are told that 'all this dressing-up did not proceed from sensuality, but from virtue.' 'And therefore the Lord increased her beauty, so that she appeared to all men's eyes incomparably lovely' (x, 4). Her maid was given to carry a bottle of wine, a vessel of oil, corn, figs, bread and cheese. When she passed out of the gate Ozias and the ancients were in admiration of her exceeding beauty; but they asked her no questions. Saying prayers all the way she came at daybreak to the place where the Assyrian sentries were on guard. They challenged her: 'Who goes there?' to which she replied that she was a deserter from the Hebrews and wished to give prince Holofernes information that would enable him to overcome the Hebrews without the loss of a single man. She was brought to Holoferness and her beauty at once captivated him and his officers. Seeing him seated under a canopy woven of purple and gold, with emeralds and precious stones, she looked into his face, then prostrated herself to the ground. By command of their master Holofernes' servants lifted her up.
       It is not the place here to enquire how far Judith's words and conduct are reprehensible from the point of view of truth. Stratagem, camouflage and even words that deceive are, perhaps, more easily admitted in time of war. St. Thomas Aquias the great theologian remarks: 'Some persons are commended in Sacred Scripture not because they were perfect in virtue, but because of their brave character, that is to say because in them was apparent praiseworthy affection that led them to do extraordinary deeds. In this way Judith is praised; not because she lied to Holofernes, but because of her affection for the safety of her people, whereby she exposed herself to dangers. But it may be said that her words were truthful in a mystical sense' (II-IIae, cx, 3).
       After her fine speech before Holofernes, Judith is given a tent of her own, she is allowed to eat her own food, and permission is granted for her to go out at night to pray. On the fourth day Holofernes gave a great supper and invited Judith, hoping that she would consent to live with him. At the end of the supper Holofernes was completely drunk. He was put to bed and fell fast asleep. Judith was left alone with him, and she stood before the bed praying with tears. She begged God to give her strength for what she proposed to do. Then taking Holofernes' sword that was suspended at the bed's head, she caught him by the hair and with two blows of the sword severed his head from his body. She wrapped it in part of the bed curtain, and going out gave it to her maid who was on watch outside the door. The maid put it in her wallet (bag), and in virtue of the permission to go out at night, both were able to pass the guards and reach Bethulia. Crowds ran to meet her as she entered the city; the place was illuminated, and from a high place Judith told the people how God had killed their enemy by her hand. When she had finished speaking 'all adored the Lord, and said to her: The Lord hath blessed thee by His power, because by thee He hath brought our enemies to naught. And Ozias, the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth.' Then Achior (an Ammonite general who had told Holofernes that he might not conquer the Hebrews and in punishment had been bound hand and foot to a tree near Bethulia, so that captured by the Hebrews he might die with them when Holofernes had gained the victory of which he was so confident) came up, and seeing the head of Holofernes swooned away at the sight. But after he had recovered his spirits, he fell down at the feet of Judith, and reverencing her, said: 'Blessed art thou by thy God in every tabernacle of Jacob; for in every nation which shall hear thy name, the God of Israel shall be magnified on occasion of thee.' We need not follow the tale in the discovery of the beheaded Holofernes and in the defeat of the Assyrians, nor recite the Canticle of Judith. This can be read in chapters xiv, xv and xvi of the sacred book. We notice, however, that when the victory was complete the high priest Joachim came from Jerusalem to Bethulia with all his ancients to see Judith. 'And when she was come out to him, they all blessed her with one voice, saying: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people. For thou hast done manfully, and thy heart hath been strengthened, because thou hast loved chastity, and after thy husband hast not known any other. Therefore also the hand of the Lord hath strengthened thee, and therefore thou shalt be blessed for ever. And all the people said Amen, Amen.'
       We have given the story of Judith at length because she was indeed a type of our Blessed Lady, and the Church uses many words of this book to extol the glories of Mary. But Judith was but a shadow in comparison with Mary. Judith's chief action was the beheading of Israel's enemy. Mary, however, crushed under foot the Enemy of the whole human race. Judith owed her valour to prayer and chastity. Mary, who pondered over in heart all that concerned the Christ Child was a woman of deeper prayer; and whereas Judith 'knew no man' after the death of her husband, Mary had taken a vow 'not to know man' even in her married life with Joseph. Judith is 'thrice blest,' yea more than thrice, as the passages we have italicized above show. The people said to her: 'The Lord hath blessed thee by His power, because by thee He hath brought our enemies to nought'; but all the people of the Catholic world say these words in honour of Mary who brings to nought diabolical foes. Ozias praised Judith: 'Blessed art thou above all women upon earth'; but the angel Gabriel and Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Ghost, gave greater honour to Mary when they said of her, 'Blessed art thou among women', meaning of all time and of every place. Achior said to Judith: 'Blessed art thou . . . in every tabernacle of Jacob; for in every nation which shall hear thy name, the God of Israel shall be magnified on occasion of thee.' But God Himself magnified His humble servant Mary, and every generation shall call her Blessed. Therefore all the priests of the Church repeat of Mary what Joachim said of Judith: 'Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people; thou shalt be blessed for ever.' And all Catholic people answer: Amen, Amen.

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As David was nursed
In fair Abisag's breast.

       The third Book of Kings opens with the words:
       Now king David was old, and advanced in years, . . . His servants therefore said to him: Let us seek for our lord the king a young virgin, and let her stand before the king, and cherish him. . . . So they sought a beautiful young woman in all the coasts of Israel: and they found Abisag a Sunamitess, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was exceeding beautiful.

       David was the ancestor of Christ. Mary and her Divine Child, 'the Son of David,' were descended from him. Abisag, therefore, who ministered to David and nursed him, is a type of Her who was to nurse the Holy Chid. We are also told that Abisag kept her virginity, thereby she faintly foreshadowed the Blessed Virgin. Her beauty also foretold the resplendent beauty of soul that was to distinguish the handmaid of the Son of David.
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As the Saviour of Egypt,
                             Upon Rachel's knee;
                             So the world's great Redeemer
                             Was cherish'd by thee.

       The savior of Egypt was Joseph whom Rachel bore to Jacob. It is unnecessary to give the details of his life for these are well known. We may recall that he was a type of our Lord in many ways. He was hated by his brethren and handed over by them to strangers, just as Christ was hated by the Jews (His brethren according to the flesh) and handed over to the gentile, Pontius Pilate. Joseph was sold for money; Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Joseph came to rule over the gentiles of Egypt and he saved both them and his own brethren at the time of the famine. Mary's Son saved the world by His sufferings.
   
       V. Thou art all fair, my beloved.
       R. And the original stain was never in thee.

       This is an adaptation of verse 7 of the fourth chapter of the Canticle of Canticles:

Thou art all fair, O my love;
                            And there is not a spot in thee.

       V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
       R. And let my cry come unto thee.

―Again, the authentic text tells us to add the Prayer: 'Holy Mary, Queen of heaven,' etc.



Monday, September 12, 2016

SEXT EXPLAINED




V. O Lady, make speed to befriend me.
R. From the hands of the enemy, mightily defend me.
     Glory be, etc.

                              Hymn.
               
               Hail, virginal Mother!
               Hail, purity's cell!
               Fair shrine where the Trinity
               Loveth to dwell!

If our Lord can say of any devout Christian: 'If any one love Me, he will keep My word. And My Father will love him: and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him' (John xiv, 23) how much more does He say this of His virginal Mother who 'kept all these words in her heart' (Luke ii, 51), and upon whom, in a most special manner, the Holy Ghost came and the power of the Most High overshadowed while the Son of God became incarnate within her (Luke i, 35)?

               Hail, Garden of pleasure,
               Celestial Balm!
               Cedar of Chastity!
               Martyrdom's Palm!

       In the Garden of Pleasure, that is, in Eden, there was no original sin until the unhappy fall of our first parents.  Mary is the second Eve. But whereas the first Eve became maculate (stained) by sin, Mary, from the first instant of her conception, was immaculate and no stain of sin ever defiled the delightful garden of her soul.
       Balm is a medicine applied to relieve violent pain and to heal. So the prophet Jeremias cries out:

               Is there no balm in Galaad?
               Or is there no physician there?
               Why then is not the wound of the daughter of my people closed? (viii, 22).

Again:
               Go up into Galaad and take balm,
               O virgin daughter of Egypt.
               In vain dost thou multiply medicines:
               There shall be no cure for thee (xlvi, II).

Again:
               Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed:
               Howl for her! take balm for her pain,
               If so she may be healed (li, 8).

But Mary is balm from Heaven: for she healed the worst pain of all―the pain of sin. The first Eve brought pain and sorrow; the second Eve brought forth the saviour and Redeemer of the world.

       Cedar of Chastity. Often in the Bible we read of the mighty cedars of Lebanon. Even to-day they grow there. Firmly rooted, tall, majestic, they are the symbol of stateliness and power. Says the Psalmist:

       The just shall flourish like the palm tree:
       He shall grow up like the cedar of Lebanon (xci, 13).

And so mighty are they that they are called 'the cedars of God' (lxxix, ii).
       And the Spouse in the Canticle, describing her Beloved, says:

               His legs as pillars of marble,
               That are set upon bases of gold.
               His form as of Lebanon,
               Excellent as the cedars (v, 15).

       'High up in mountain snows, over six thousand feet above the sea, grow the last cedars of Lebanon. There are about four hundred veterans, some of them eighty feet in height and of enormous girth. Their ancestors provided the timber for Solomon's Temple and their majesty suggested many a splendid metaphor to the writers of the Old Testament, for the cedar was the king of trees.' (H. V. Morton: In the Steps of the Master, p. 256.)
       So firm and strong was the beautiful chastity of the Mother of Christ, that full fitting it is that we take this symbol of holy Writ and speak of her as Cedar of Chastity.

       Martyrdom's Palm. The palm is the token of triumph and victory. The people of our Lord's day had no flags like ours to wave, so they waved palm branches when He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also St. John, in his Apocalypse, sees those who have triumphed over death and won Heaven, 'clothed in white robes and palms in their hands' (Apoc. vii, 9). Mary is the Queen of Martyrs; hence those who enter Heaven by the glorious way of martyrdom have a special claim on her Queenship, won as a palm in token of their magnificent triumph.

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                                 Thou land set apart
                                 From uses profane!
                                 And free from the curse
                                 Which in Adam began!

       In the Book of Numbers (xxxv) we read how Moses set apart a certain district which was to be reserved for the Levites. So was the Blessed Virgin set apart from the other women when our great Hight Priest, the Word made Flesh, dwelt in her most pure womb.
       After the miserable Fall of Adam and Eve God cursed the land that they were to till (Gen. iii, 17). Mary is likened to the land before this curse fell upon it, for by her Immaculate Conception she was free from the curse which in Adam began.

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Thou City of God!

       In three of the hymns of the Psalter we read of the City of God (Ps. xlv, 5, 6):

       There is a river whose streams gladden God's city: 
       The Most High doth sanctify his tabernacle.
       God is in her midst; she shall not be shaken:
       God shall help her at the approach of dawn.

These lines refer to Messianic blessings (see my Commentary). No human tabernacle was so sanctified as was Mary, full of grace. The power of the Most High overshadowed her: God took up His abode within her: she was bidden by the angel 'Fear not, Mary'; for God helped her marvelously at the approach of the Dawn, that is at the coming of the Messiah. 

       Again, Psalm xlvii:
       Great is Yahwè, and exceedingly to be praised,
       In the City of our God, in his holy mount.
       A beautiful height is Mount Sion; the joy of all the earth!
       The northern slopes! The City of a great King!

               .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

       As we have heard, so we have seen
       In the City of Yahwè of hosts, in the City of our God:
       God will establish it for ever!

       And Ps. lxxxvi:

       His foundations are on holy mountains.
       Yahwè loveth the gates of Sion
       More than all the tabernacles of Jacob.
       Glorious things are said of thee, O City of God!

       'The true mother of the children of God on earth is "the holy city, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Apoc. xxi, 2), that is, "the Jerusalem that is above, the mother of us all" (Gal. iv, 26), and "the bride of Christ" (John iii, 29; Ephes, v)―in other words, the Church of Christ. All nations belong to her, because she is Catholic. She alone, in contrast with Protestant and Eastern sects, has fostered "large-hearted universalism" and set her face against the preposterous idea of "national churches" ' (Com. on Psalms ii, 104). But the Mother of the Church is Mary; for the Church is the extension of Christ; and as she was the Mother of His physical body so she is the Mother of His mystical body. For this reason Psalm lxxxvi is appointed to be read in the Divine Office on Feasts of our Lady. She is the beautiful height of the New Testament; she is (or should be) the joy of all the earth, for all generations are to all her blessed. She is beloved by God above all the daughters of Jacob; and indeed, 'glorious things are said of her' in whose womb the Word made Flesh first dwelt among us as in a city of delight, the city of God.

Thou Gate of the East

       The Prophet Ezechiel had a vision of the Cherubim over the East Gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of God was over them. Later the prophet was taken by the Spirit to the East Gate 'which looketh towards the rising of the sun' (Ezec. x, 19; xi, i). Mary, as we know, is the Queen of the Angels; and we can well imagine her enthroned in Heaven with the Cherubim doing homage to her. But the East Gate admits the rays of the rising sun. And in the beautiful Benedictus which the father of John the Baptist sang at the birth of his son, our Lord is called the 'Daybreak' (or 'Daylight') coming from on high to shine upon them that sit in darkness. But our Lord came into the world through Mary. She is then fittingly called the Gate of the East through which the Daybreak first appeared on earth.

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                                  In thee is all grace,
                                  O Joy of the blest!

       We know that our Lady was full of grace, for we are told so by one who could not be mistaken. The Angel Gabriel saluted her: 'Hail, full of grace.' Thereby she is also the joy of both angels and men. It is well for the child of Mary to remember also that although so holy Mary was never a kill-joy. She who hurried off at once to help her cousin Elizabeth, with a spirit rejoicing in God her Saviour, she who was distressed because there was not enough wine to satisfy the guests at the marriage feast at Cana, was evidently one who sought every occasion to make other people happy. Everybody wants happiness, and a child of Mary should make it one of the greatest objects in her life to make as many people as possible happy. 

       V. As the lily among the thorns,
       R. So is my beloved among the daughters of Adam.

        Our blessed Lord loved the wild lilies of the field; and He told us that not even King Solomon with all his fine robes was so beautifully arrayed as one of these lilies. Mary, the most beautiful and blessed maiden that ever lived is, by her lily-white purity, so exalted above all other maidens that they are like thorns in comparison with her.

       V. O Lady, recommend my prayer.
       R. And let my cry come unto thee.

―Again, the authentic text tells us to add the Prayer: 'Holy Mary, Queen of heaven,' etc.