THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD
The Feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas; but it appears on the Calendar of the Church with its own special character. Its very name, which signifies Manifestation, implies that it celebrates the apparition of God to his creatures.
For several centuries, the Nativity of our Lord was kept on this day; and when, in the year 376, the decree of the Holy See obliged all Churches to keep the Nativity on the 25th December, as Rome did – the Sixth of January was not robbed of all its ancient glory. It was still to be called the Epiphany, and the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ was also commemorated on this same Feast, which Tradition had marked as the day on which that Baptism took place.
The Greek Church gives this Feast the venerable and mysterious name of Theophania, which is of such frequent recurrence in the early Fathers, as signifying a divine Apparition. We find this name applied to this Feast by Eusebius, St. Gregory Nazianzum, and St. Isidore of Pelusium. In the liturgical books of the Melchite Church the Feast goes under no other name.
The Orientals call this solemnity also the holy on account of its being the day on which Baptism was administered, (for, as we have just mentioned, our Lord was baptised on this same day.) Baptism is called by the holy Fathers Illumination, and they who received it Illuminated.
Lastly, this Feast is called, in many countries, King’s Feast: it is, of course, an allusion to the Magi, whose journey to Bethlehem is so continually mentioned in to-day’s Office.
The Epiphany shares with the Feasts of Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, the honour of being called, in the Canon of the Mass, a Day most holy. It is also one of the cardinal Feasts, that is, one of those on which the arrangement of the Christian Year is based; for, as we have Sundays after Easter, and Sundays after Pentecost, so also we count six Sundays after the Epiphany.
The Epiphany is indeed great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for, as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light. It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus. At Christmas, it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognise THE WORD MADE FLESH; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear him.
The mystery of the Epiphany brings upon us three magnificent rays of the Sun of Justice, our Saviour. In the calendar of pagan Rome, this sixth day of January was devoted to the celebration of the triple triumph of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire: but when Jesus, our Prince of peace, whose empire knows no limits, had secured victory to his Church by the blood of the Martyrs – then did this his Church decree, that a triple triumph of the Immortal King should be substituted, in the Christian Calendar, for those other three triumphs which had been won by the adopted son of Caesar.
The Sixth of January, therefore, restored the celebration of our Lord’s Birth to the Twenty-Fifth of December; but, in return, there were united in the one same Epiphany, three manifestations of Jesus’ Glory: the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the Divine King; the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of this same Jesus, when he changed the water into wine at the marriage-feast of Cana.
But, did these three Mysteries really take place on this day? Is the Sixth of January the real anniversary of these great events? As the chief object of this work is to assist the devotion of the Faithful, we purposely avoid everything which would savour of critical discussion; and with regard to the present question, we think it enough to state, that Baronius, Suarez, Theophilus Raynaldus, Honorius De Sancta-Maria, Cardinal Gotti, Sandini, Benedict 14th, and an almost endless list of other writers, assert that the Adoration of the Magi happened on this very day. That the Baptism of our Lord, also, happened on the sixth of January, is admitted by the severest historical critics, even by Tillemont himself; and has been denied by only two or three. The precise day of the miracle at the marriage-feast of Cana is far from being as certain as the other two mysteries, though it is impossible to prove that the sixth of January was not the day. For us the children of the Church, it is sufficient that our Holy Mother has assigned the commemoration of these three manifestations for this Feast; we need nothing more to make us rejoice in the triple triumph of the Son of Mary.
If we now come to consider these three mysteries of our Feast separately, we shall find, that the Church of Rome, in her Office and Mass of to-day, is more intent on the Adoration of the Magi than on the Other two. The two great Doctors of the Apostolic See, St. Leo and St. Gregory, in their Homilies for this Feast, take it as the almost exclusive object of their preaching; though, together with St: Augustine, St. Paulinus of Nola, St. Maximus of Turin, St. Peter Chrysologus, St. Hillary of Arles, and St. Isidore of Seville, they acknowledge the three mysteries of to-day’s Solemnity. That the mystery of the Vocation of the Gentiles should be made thus prominent by the Church of Rome, is not to be wondered at; for, by that heavenly vocation which, in the three Magi, called all nations to the admirable light of Faith, Rome, which till then had been the head of the Gentile world, was made the head of the Christian Church and of the whole human race.
The Greek Church makes no special mention, in her Office of to-day, of the Adoration of the Magi, for she unites it with the mystery of our Saviour’s Birth in her celebration of Christmas Day. The Baptism of Christ absorbs all her thoughts and praises on the solemnity of the Epiphany.
In the Latin Church, this second mystery of our Feast is celebrated, unitedly with the other two, on the sixth of January, and mention is made of it several times in the Office. But, as the coming of the Magi to the crib of our new-born King absorbs the attention of Christian Rome on this day, the mystery of the sanctification of the waters was to be commemorated on a day apart. The day chosen by the Western Church for paying special honour to the Baptism of our Saviour is the Octave of the Epiphany.
The third mystery of the Epiphany being also somewhat kept in the shade by the prominence given to the first, (though allusion is several times made to it in the Office of the Feast,) a special day has been appointed for its due celebration; and that day is the second Sunday after the Epiphany.
Several Churches have appended to the Mystery of changing the water into wine that of the multiplication of the loaves, which certainly bears some analogy with it, and was a manifestation of our Saviour’s divine power. But, whilst tolerating the custom in the Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites, the Roman Church has never adopted it, in order not to interfere with the sacredness of the triple triumph of our Lord, which the sixth of January was intended to commemorate; as also, because St. John tells us, in his Gospel, that the miracle of the multiplication of the Loaves happened when the Feast of the Pasch was at hand [St. John, vi. 4], to which, therefore, could not have any connection with the season of the year when the Epiphany is kept.
We propose to treat of the three mysteries, united in this great Solemnity, in the following order. To-day, we will unite with the Church in honouring all three; during the Octave, we will contemplate the Mystery of the Magi coming to Bethlehem; we will celebrate the Baptism of our Saviour on the Octave Day; and we will venerate the Mystery of the Marriage of Cana on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, which is the day appropriately chosen by the Church for the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Let us, then, open our hearts to the Joy of this grand Day; and on this Feast of the Theophany, of the Holy Lights, of the Three Kings, let us look with love at the dazzling beauty of our Divine Sun, who, as the Psalmist expresses it [Ps. xviii. 6], runs his course as a Giant, and pours out upon us floods of a welcome and yet most vivid light. The Shepherds, who were called by the Angels to be the first worshippers, have been joined by the Prince of Martyrs, the Beloved Disciple, the dear troop of Innocents, our glorious Thomas of Canterbury, and Sylvester the Patriarch of Peace; and now, to-day, these Saints open their ranks to let the Kings of the East come to the Babe in his crib, bearing with them the prayers and adorations of the whole human race. The humble Stable is too little for such a gathering as this, and Bethlehem seems to be worth all the world besides. Mary, the Throne of the divine Wisdom, welcomes all the members of this court with her gracious smile of Mother and Queen; she offers her Son to man, for his adoration, and to God, that he may be well pleased. God manifests himself to men, because he is great: but he manifests himself by Mary, because he is full of mercy.
The great Day, which now brings us to the crib of our Prince of Peace, has been marked by two great events of the first ages of the Church. It was on the sixth of January, in the year 361, and Julian, (who, in heart, was already an apostate,) happened to be at Vienne in Gaul. He was soon to ascend the imperial throne, which would be left vacant by the death of Constantius, and he felt the need he had of the support of that Christian Church, in which it is said he had received the order of Lector, and which, nevertheless, he was preparing to attack with all the cunning and cruelty of a tiger. Like Herod, he, too, would fain go, on this Feast of the Epiphany, and adore the new-born King. The panegyrist Ammianus Marcellinus tells us, that this crowned Philosopher, who had been seen, just before, coming out of the pagan temple, where he had been consulting the soothsayers, made his way through the porticoes of the Church, and, standing in the midst of the faithful people, offered to the God of the Christians his sacrilegious homage.
Eleven years later, in the year 372, another Emperor found his way into the Church, on the same Feast of the Epiphany. It was Valens; a Christian, like Julian, by baptism; but a persecutor, in the name of Arianism, of that same Church which Julian persecuted in the name of his vain philosophy and still vainer gods. As Julian felt himself necessitated by motives of worldly policy to bow down, on this day, before the divinity of the Galilean; so, on this same day, the holy courage of a saintly Bishop made Valens prostrate himself at the feet of Jesus the King of kings.
Saint Basil had just then had his famous interview with the Prefect Modestus, in which his episcopal intrepidity had defeated all the might of earthly power. Valens had come to Caesarea, and, with his soul defiled with the Arian heresy, he entered the Basilica, when the Bishop was celebrating, with his people, the glorious Theophany. Let us listen to St. Gregory Nazianzum, thus describing the scene with his usual eloquence. “The Emperor entered the Church. The chanting of the psalms echoed through the holy place like the rumbling of thunder. The people, like a waving sea, filled the house of God. Such was the order and pomp in and about the sanctuary, that it looked more like heaven than earth. Basil himself stood erect before the people, as the Scripture describes Samuel – his body, and eyes, and soul, motionless as though nothing strange had taken place, and, if I may say so, his whole being was fastened to his God and the holy Altar. The sacred ministers, who surrounded the Pontiff, were in deep recollectedness and reverence. The Emperor heard and saw all this. He had never before witnessed a spectacle so imposing. He was overpowered. His head grew dizzy, and darkness veiled his eyes.”
Jesus, the King of ages, the Son of God and the Son of Mary had conquered. Valens was disarmed; his resolution of using violence against the holy bishop was gone; and if heresy kept him from at once adoring the Word consubstantial to the Father, he, at least, united his exterior worship with that which Basil’s flock was paying to the Incarnate God. When the Offertory came, he advanced towards the Sanctuary, and presented his gifts to Christ in the person of his holy priest. The fear lest Basil might refuse to accept them took such possession of the Emperor, that had not the sacred ministers supported him, he would have fallen at the foot of the Altar.
Thus has the Kingship of our new-born Saviour been acknowledged by the great ones of this world. The Royal Psalmist had sung this prophecy – the Kings of the earth shall see him, and his enemies shall lick the ground under his feet [Ps. lxxi. 9, 11].
The race of Emperors like Julian and Valens was to be followed by Monarchs, who would bend their knee before this Babe of Bethlehem, and offer him the homage of orthodox faith and devoted hearts. Theodosius, Charlemagne, our own Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor, Stephen of Hungary, the Emperor Henry 2nd, Ferdinand of Castile, Louis 9th of France, are examples of Kings who had a special devotion to the Feast of the Epiphany. Their ambition was to go, in company with the Magi, to the feet of the Divine Infant, and offer him their gifts. At the English Court, the custom is still retained, and the reigning Sovereign offers an ingot of Gold as a tribute of homage to Jesus the King of kings: the ingot is afterwards redeemed by a certain sum of money.
But this custom of imitating the Three Kings in their mystic gifts was not confined to Courts. In the Middle-Ages, the Faithful used to present, on the Epiphany, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to be blessed by the Priest. These tokens of their devotedness to Jesus were kept as pledges of God’s blessing upon their houses and families. The practice is still observed in some parts of Germany: and the prayer for the Blessing was in the Roman Ritual, until Pope Paul 5th suppressed it, together with several others, as being seldom required by the Faithful.
There was another custom, which originated in the Ages of Faith, and which is still observed in many countries. In honour of the Three Kings, who came from the East to adore the Babe of Bethlehem, each family chose one of its members to be King. The choice was thus made. The family kept a feast, which was an allusion to the third of the Epiphany-Mysteries – the Feast of Cana in Galilee – a Cake was served up, and he who took the piece which had a certain secret mark, was proclaimed the King of the day. Two portions of the cake were reserved for the poor, in whom honour was thus paid to the Infant Jesus and his Blessed Mother; for, on this Day of the triumph of Him, who, though King, was humble and poor, it was fitting that the poor should have a share in the general joy. The happiness of home was here, as in so many other instances, blended with the sacredness of Religion. This custom of King’s Feast brought relations and friends together, and encouraged feelings of kindness and charity. Human weakness would sometimes, perhaps, show itself during these hours of holiday-making; but the idea and sentiment and spirit of the whole feast was profoundly Catholic, and that was sufficient guarantee to innocence.
King’s Feast is still a Christmas joy in thousands of families; and happy those where it is kept in the Christian spirit which first originated it! For the last three hundred years, a puritanical zeal has decried these simple customs, wherein the seriousness of religion and the home enjoyments of certain Festivals were blended together. The traditions of Christian family rejoicings have been blamed under pretexts of abuse; as though a recreation, in which religion had no share and no influence, were less open to intemperance and sin. Others have pretended, (though with little or no foundation,) that the Twelfth Cake and the custom of choosing a King, are mere imitations of the ancient pagan Saturnalia. Granting this to be correct, (which it is not,) we would answer, that many of the old pagan customs have undergone a Christian transformation, and no one thinks of refusing to accept them thus purified. All this mistaken zeal has produced the sad effect of divorcing the Church from family life and customs, of excluding every religious manifestation from our traditions, and of bringing about what is so pompously called, (though the word is expressive enough,) the secularisation of society.
But let us return to the triumph of our sweet Saviour and King. His magnificence is manifested to us so brightly on this Feast! Our mother, the Church, is going to initiate us into the mysteries we are to celebrate. Let us imitate the faith and obedience of the Magi: let us adore, with the holy Baptist, the divine Lamb, over whom the heavens open: let us take our place at the mystic feast of Cana, where our dear King is present, thrice manifested, thrice glorified. In the last two mysteries, let us not lose sight of the Babe of Bethlehem; and in the Babe of Bethlehem let us cease not to recognise the Great God, (in whom the Father was well-pleased,) and the supreme Ruler and Creator of all things.
The Church begins the Solemnity of the Epiphany by singing First Vespers.
FIRST VESPERS OF THE EPIPHANY
|1. ANT. Ante luciferum genitus et ante saecula, Dominus Salvator noster hodie mundo apparuit.||1. ANT. The Lord our Saviour, begotten before the day-star and all ages, appeared to the world on this day.|
Psalm: Dixit Dominus.
|2. ANT. Venit lumen tuum, Jerusalem, et gloria Domini super te orta est; et ambulabunt Gentes in lumine tuo, Alleluia.||2. ANT. Thy light is come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee and the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, Alleluia.|
Psalm: Confitebor tibi.
|3. ANT. Apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt Magi Domino aurum, thus, et myrrham. Alleluia.||3. ANT. Opening their treasures, the Magi offered to the Lord gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Alleluia.|
Psalm: Beatus vir.
|4. ANT. Maria et flumina, benedicite Domino: hymnum dicite, fontes, Domino. Alleluia.||4. ANT. Ye seas, and rivers, bless the Lord: ye fountains, sing a hymn to the Lord. Alleluia.|
Psalm: Laudate pueri.
|5. ANT. Stella ista sicut flamma coruscat, et Regem regum Deum demonstrat: Magi eam viderunt, et magno Regi munera obtulerunt.||5. ANT. This star shineth as a flame, and pointeth out God, the King of kings: the Magi saw it, and offered gifts to the great King.|
|Laudate Dominum omnes gentes: * laudate eum omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: * et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
|O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
For his mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.
The holy Church – after having thus celebrated the power given to the Divine Babe over kings, whom he shall break, in the day of his wrath; his covenant with the Gentiles, whom he will give as an inheritance to his Church; the light that is risen up in darkness; his Name blessed from the rising to the setting of the sun; and after having, on this the day of the Vocation of the Gentiles, invited all nations, and all people, to praise the eternal mercy and truth of God;- addresses herself to Jerusalem, the figure of the Church, and conjures her, by the Prophet Isaias, to take advantage of the LIGHT, which has this day risen upon the whole human race.
|Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem, quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est.||Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.|
Then follows the hymn. It is the beautiful one composed by Sedulius, of which we sang the opening stanzas in the Lands of Christmas Day. In the verses selected for the present Feast, the Chinch celebrates the three Epiphanies: Bethlehem, tin Jordan, and Cana, each, in its turn, manifested the Glory of Jesus, our great King.
|Crudelis Herodes, Deum
Regem venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat coelestia.Ibant Magi, quam viderant
Stellam sequentes praeviam;
Lumen requirunt lumine;
Deum fatentur munere.Lavacra puri gurgitis
Coelestis Agnus attigit:
Peccata quae non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.Novum genus potentiae:
Aquae rubescunt hydriae,
Vinumque jussa fundere,
Mutavit unda originem.Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Quia te revelas Gentibus,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.
|Cruel tyrant Herod! why tremblest thou at the coming of the King our God? He that gives men a heavenly kingdom, takes not from kings their earthly ones.On went the Magi, following the Star that went before them, and which they had seen in the East. They seek by this light Him that is the Light, and, by their gifts, acknowledge him to be God.
The heavenly Lamb touched the pure stream, wherein he deigned to be baptised: it is we whom he hereby washes from our sins, for he could have none to be cleansed.
At Cana, he showed a new sort of power: the water in the vases at the feast turns red; and, when ordered to be poured out, lo! it had changed its nature, and was wine.Glory be to thee, O Jesus, that manifestest thyself to the
Gentiles: and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love, for everlasting ages. Amen.
|V. Reges Tharsis, et insulae munera offerent.
R. Reges Arabum, et Saba dona adducent.
|V. The kings of Tharsis, and the islands, shall offer presents.
R. The kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.
In the Monastic Rite it is as follows:-
R. breve. Omnes de Saba venient: * Alleluia, alleluia. Omnes. V. Aurum et thus deferentes, * Alleluia. Gloria Patri. Omnes.
Hostis Herodes impie,
Christum venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat coelestia. Ibant Magi quam viderant,
Stellam sequentes praeviam;
Lumen requirunt lumine,
Deum fatentur munere. Lavacra puri gurgitis
Coelestis Agnus attigit:
Peccata quae non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit. Novum genus potentiae:
Aquae rubescunt hydriae,
Vinumque jussa fundere,
Mutavit unda originem. Gloria tibi Domine,
Qui apparuisti hodie,
Cum Patre, et Sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT.
|Magi videntes stellam, dixerunt ad invicem: Hoc signum magni Regis est: eamus et inquiramus eum, et offeramus ei munera aurum, thus et myrrham. Alleluia.||The Magi, seeing the Star, said to each other: This is the sign of the great King: let us go and seek him, and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Alleluia.|
The Canticle Magnificat.
|Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus, stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuae celsitudinis perducamur. Per eumdem.||O God, who by the direction of a star didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles; mercifully grant, that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, &c.|
The Church has thus opened her chants in honour of the divine Theophany. To-morrow, the offering of the great Sacrifice will unite us all in the prayers we present to our King and Saviour. Let us finish this day in recollection and joy.
The Matins for the Epiphany are exceedingly rich and magnificent; but, as the Faithful do not assist at them, we will not give them. At Milan, they are sung during the Night, like the Christmas Matins, and are also composed of three Nocturns – contrary to the custom of the Ambrosian Liturgy, which has only one Nocturn at Matins. The people assist at them, and, altogether, these holy Vigils are kept up with almost as much devotion as those of Christmas Night.
JANUARY THE SIXTH
The day of the Magi, the day of the Baptism, the day of the Marriage Feast, has come: our divine Sun of Justice reflects upon the world these three bright rays of his glory. Material darkness is less than it was; Night is losing her power; Light is progressing day by day. Our sweet Infant Jesus, who is still lying in his humble crib, is each day gaining strength. Mary showed him to the shepherds, and now she is going to present him to the Magi. The gifts we intend to offer him should be prepared; let us, like the three Wise Men, follow the star, and go to Bethlehem, the House of the Bread of Life.
At Rome, the Station is at St. Peter’s on the Vatican, near the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, to whom, in Christ, all nations have been given as an inheritance.
The Church proclaims, in the opening chant of the Mass, the arrival of the great King, for whom the whole earth was in expectation, and at whose Birth the Magi are come to Jerusalem, there to consult the prophecies.
|Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus: et regnum in manu ejus, et potestas et imperium.
Ps. Deus, judicium tuum Regi da: et justitiam tuam Filio Regis. Gloria Patri.
|Behold the Lord the Ruler is come: and dominion, and power, and empire, are in his hand.
Ps. Give to the King thy judgment, O God, and to the King’s Son thy justice. Glory. Behold.
After the Angelic Hymn, Gloria in excelsis, the holy Church, all in gladness at the bright Star which leads the Gentiles to the crib of the Divine King, prays, in the Collect, that she may be permitted to see that living Light, for which faith prepares us, and which will enlighten us for all eternity.
|Deus, qui hodierna die unigenitum tuum Gentibus, stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuam celsitudinis perducamur. Per eumdem.||O God, who by the direction of a star, didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant, that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, etc.|
|Lectio Isaiae Prophetae.Cap. LX.
Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est. Quia ecce tenebrae operient terram, et caligo populos; super te autem orietur Dominus, et gloria ejus in te videbitur. Et ambulabunt Gentes in lumine tuo, et Reges in splendore ortus tui. Leva in circuitu oculos tuos, et vide: omnes isti congregati sunt, venerunt tibi: filii de longe venient, et filiae tuae de latere surgent. Tunc videbis et afflues, et mirabitur et dilatabitur cor tuum, quando conversa fuerit ad te multitudo maris, fortitudo Gentium venerit tibi. Inundatio camelorum operiet te, dromedarii Madian et Epha: omnes de Saba venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes.
|Lesson from the Prophet Isaias.Ch. LX.
Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and Kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy Sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder, and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.
Oh! the greatness of this glorious Day, on which begins the movement of all nations towards the Church, the true Jerusalem! Oh! the mercy of our heavenly Father, who has been mindful of all these people, that were buried in the shades of death and sin! Behold! the glory of the Lord has risen upon the Holy City; and Kings set out to find and see the Light. Jerusalem is not large enough to hold all this sea of nations; another city must be founded, and towards her shall be turned the countless Gentiles of Madian and Epha. Thou, O Rome! art this Holy City, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged. Heretofore, thy victories have won thee slaves; but, from this day forward, thou shalt draw within thy walls countless Children. Lift up thine eyes, and see – all these, that is, the whole human race, give themselves to thee as thy sons and daughters; they come to receive from thee a new birth. Open wide thine arms, and embrace them that come from North and South, bringing gold and frankincense to Him, who is thy King and ours.
|Omnes de Saba, venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes.
V. Surge et illuminare, Jerusalem, quia gloria Domini super te orta est.Alleluia, alleluia.
V. Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente: et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum. Alleluia.
|All shall come from Saba, bringing gold and frankincense, and publishing the praises of the Lord.
V. Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.Alleluia, alleluia.
V. We saw his star in the east, and are come, with our offerings, to adore the Lord. Alleluia.
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum. Cap. II.
Cam natus esset Jesus in Bethlehem Juda, in diebus Herodis regis, ecce Magi ab Oriente venerunt Jerosolymam, dicentes: Ubi est qui natus est Rex Judaeorum? vidimus enim stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus adorare eum. Audiens autem Herodes rex, turbatus est, et omnis Jerosolyma cum eo. Et congregans, omnes principes sacerdotum, et scribas populi, sciscitabatur ab eis ubi Christus nasceretur. At illi dixerunt ei: In Bethlehem Judae: sic enim scriptum est per Prophetam: Et tu, Bethlehem, terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus Juda: ex te enim exiet dux qui regat populum meum Israel. Tunc Herodes, clam vocatis Magis, diligenter didicit ab eis tempus stellae, quae apparuit eis: et mittens illos in Bethlehem, dixit: Ite, et interrogate diligenter de puero et, cum inveneritis, renuntiate mihi, ut et ego veniens adorem eum. Qui, cum audissent regem, abierunt. Et ecce stella, quam viderant in Oriente, antecedebat eos, usque dum veniens staret supra ubi erat puer. Videntes autem stellam, gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde. Et intrantes do mum, invenerunt puerum cum Maria matre ejus, (here, all kneel,) et procidentes adoraverunt eum. Et, apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt ei munera; aurum, thus et myrrham. Et responso accepto in somnis ne redirent ad Herodem, per aliam viam reversi sunt in regionem suam.
|Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.Ch. II.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold there came wise men from the East, to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And Herod, hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests, and the scribes of the people, he enquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda: for it is written by the Prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod privately calling the Wise Men, learned diligently of them the time of the star, which appeared to them: and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go, and diligently enquire after the Child: and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him. Who, having heard the king, went their way. And behold the star, which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, his Mother, (here, all kneel,) and falling down, they adored him. And, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep, that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their own country.
The Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentile-world, have been admitted into the court of the great King whom they have been seeking, and we have followed them. The Child has smiled upon us, as he did upon them. All the fatigues of the long journey – which man must take to reach his God – all are over and forgotten; our Emmanuel is with us, and we are with him. Bethlehem has received us, and we will not leave her again – for, in Bethlehem, we have the Child, and Mary his Mother. Where else could we find riches like these that Bethlehem gives us? Oh! let us beseech this incomparable Mother to give us this Child of hers, (for he is our light, and our love, and our Bread of life,) now that we are about to approach the Altar, led by the Star of our faith. Let us, at once, open our treasures; let us prepare our gold, our frankincense, and our myrrh, for the sweet Babe, our King. He will be pleased with our gifts, and we know he never suffers himself to be outdone in generosity. When we have to return to our duties, we will, like the Magi, leave our hearts with our Jesus; and it shall be by another way, by a new manner of life, that we will finish our sojourn in this country of our exile, looking forward to that happy day, when life and light eternal will come and absorb into themselves the shadows of vanity and time, which now hang over us.
In Cathedral and other principal Churches, after the Gospel has been sung, the approaching Feast of Easter Sunday is solemnly announced to the people. This custom, which dates from the earliest ages of the Church, shows both the mysterious connection which unites the great Solemnities of the year one with another, and the importance the Faithful ought to attach to the celebration of that which is the greatest of all, and the centre of all Religion. After having honoured the King of the universe on the Epiphany, we shall have to celebrate him, on the day which is now announced to us, as the conjuror of death. The following is the formula used for this Solemn announcement.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF EASTER
|Noveritis, fratres charissimi, quod annuente Dei misericordia, sicut de Nativitate Domini nostri Jesu Christi gavisi sumus, ita et de Resurrectione ejusdem Salvatoris nostri gaudium vobis annuntiamus. Die … erit Dominica in Septuagesima … Dies cinerum, et initium jejunii sacratissimae Quadragesimae … Sanctum Pascha Domini nostri Jesu Christi cum gaudio celebrabimus. Dominica Secunda post Pascha, Dioecesana Synodus habebitur … erit Ascensio Domini nostri Jesu Christi … Festum Pentecostes … Festum sacratissimi Corporis Christi … Dominica prima Adventus Domini nostri Jesu Chnisti, cui est honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum. Amen.||Know, dearly beloved Brethren, that by the mercy of God as we have been rejoicing in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also do we announce unto you the joy of the Resurrection, of the same our Saviour. Septuagesima Sunday will be on the … day of … Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the fast of most holy Lent will be on the … of … On the … of … we shall celebrate with joy the holy Pasch of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Diocesan Synod will be held on the second Sunday after Easter. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ will be on the … of … The Feast of Pentecost on the … of … The Feast of Corpus Christi on the … of … On the … of … will occur the first Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom are honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.|
During the Offertory, the holy Church, whilst presenting the Bread and Wine to God, makes use of the words of the Psalmist, who prophesies that the Kings of Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba, together with the kings and people of the whole earth, would come to the new-born Saviour and offer him their gifts.
|Reges Tharsis et insulae munera offerent: Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent: et adorabunt eum omnes Reges terrae; omnes gentes servient illi.||The Kings of Tharsis, and the islands, shall offer presents: the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: and all the Kings of the earth shall adore him; all nations shall serve him.|
|Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, dona propitius intuere, quibus non jam aurum, thus et myrrha profertur: sed quod eisdem muneribus declaratur, immolatur et sumitur, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster. Qui tecum.||Mercifully look down, O Lord, we beseech thee, on the offerings of thy Church, among which gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are no longer offered: but what is signified by these offerings, is sacrificed, and received – Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Who liveth, &c.|
There is a proper Preface for the Feast and Octave of the Epiphany. It celebrates the Divine and immortal Light that appeared through the veil of our human nature, under which the Word, out of love for us, concealed his glory.
|Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus: quia cum Unigenitus tuus in substantia nostrae immortalitatis apparuit, nova nos immortalitatis suae luce reparavit. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia coelestis exercitus, hymnum gloriae tuae canimus sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.||It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God; because when thine Only Begotten Son appeared in the substance of our mortal flesh, he repaired us by the new light of his immortality. And therefore, with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing a hymn to thy glory, saying unceasingly: Holy, Holy, Holy.|
During the Communion, the holy Church, now united to Him who is her King and Spouse, sings the praises of that Star, which was the messenger of this Jesus; she is full of joy that she followed its light, for it has brought her to her God.
|Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente: et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.||We have seen his star in the East: and are come with offerings to adore the Lord.|
Such graces as these that you have received require from you a corresponding fidelity; the Church asks it for you in her Postcommunion; she begs of God to give you that spiritual understanding and purity, which these ineffable mysteries call for.
|Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut quae solemni celebramus officio, purificatae mentis intelligentia consequamur. Per Dominum.||Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that our minds may be so purified, as to understand what we celebrate on
this great solemnity. Through, etc.
SECOND VESPERS OF THE EPIPHANY
The Second Vespers of our great Feast are almost exactly the same as the First. The same Antiphons tell us of the Theophany, the divine Apparition, here below, of that eternal Word, begotten before the day-star, and come down to us to be our Saviour; of the glory of the Lord that has risen upon Jerusalem, and of the Gentiles walking in the light he gives them; of the Magi opening their treasures, and laying their mystic gifts at the feet of the Child our King; of the seas, and rivers, and fountains, that are sanctified by the baptism of the God-Man; and lastly, of the wonderful brightness of the Star, which points out the King of kings.
But the fifth Psalm is changed. Instead of the Psalm, which yesterday invited all nations to praise the Lord, the Church sings the 113th, In exitu Israel, wherein the Royal Prophet, after having commemorated the deliverance of Israel, denounces the idols of the Gentiles as the works of the hands of men; all are to fall at the approach of Jesus. The adoption granted to Jacob is now extended to all nations. God will bless, not only the house of Israel, and the house of Aaron, but all that fear the Lord, no matter of what race or nation they may be.
The Antiphons and Psalms are, therefore, as in First Vespers, excepting the fifth Psalm, which is In exitu Israel.
The Capitulum is, also as in First Vespers.
The Hymn Crudelis Herodes, after the Capitulum. After the Hymn, the following versicle:
|V. Reges Tharsis et insulae muera offerent.
R. Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent.
|V. The Kings of Tharsis, and the islands, shall offer presents.
R. The Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifs.
In the Antiphon of our Lady’s Canticle, the Church once more commemorates the triple mystery of to-day’s solemnity.
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT
|ANT. Tribus miraculis ornatum diem sanctum colimus: hodie stella Magos duxit ad praesepium: hodie vinum ex aqua factum est ad nuptias: hodie in Jordane a Joanne Christus baptizari voluit, ut salvaret nos. Alleluia.||ANT. We celebrate a festival adorned by three miracles: this day, a star led the Magi to the manger; this day, water was changed into wine at the marriage-feast; this day, Christ vouchsafed to be baptised by John in the Jordan, for our salvation. Alleluia.|
Deus, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Gentibus stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuae celsitudinis perducamur. Per eumdem.
|LET US PRAY.
O God, who by the direction of a star, didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant, that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty. Through the same, &c.
On each day during the Octave of this great Feast, We intend giving portions front the ancient Liturgies, which were used by the several Churches in honour either of the triple mystery of the Epiphany, or of the coming of the Wise Men to Bethlehem, or of the Baptism of Christ. Some of these pieces were upon the Birth of the Infant God, or upon the Maternity of the Holy Virgin.
We commence our selection for to-day by the Hymn composed by St. Ambrose; it is used by the Church of Milan.
Micantium astrorum globos,
Pax, vita, lumen, veritas,
Jesu, fave precantibus.Seu mystico baptismate,
Fluenta Jordanis retro
Conversa quondam tertio,
Praesentem sacraris diem.Seu stella partum Virginis
Coelo micans signaveris,
Et hac adoratum die
Praesepe Magos duxeris.Vel hydriis plenis aqua
Vini saporem infuderis:
Hausit minister conscius
Quod ipse non impleverat.Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui apparuisti hodie,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.
|Most High God! thou that enkindlest the fires of the shining stars! O Jesus! thou that art peace, and life, and light, and truth, hear and grant our prayers.
This present day has been made holy by thy mystic Baptism, whereby thou didst sanctify those waters of the Jordan, which, of old, were thrice turned back.
It is holy by the Star shining in the heavens, whereby thou didst announce thy Virginal Mother’s delivery, and didst, on the same day, lead the Magi to adore thee in thy Crib.
It is holy, too, by thy changing the water of the pitchers into wine; which the steward of the feast, knowing that he had not so filled them, drew forth for the guests.Glory be to thee, O Lord Jesus! that didst appear on this Day! and to the Father and to the Holy Ghost, for everlasting ages.
The following Preface is from the Sacramentary of St. Gelasius.
|Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, te laudare mirabilem Dominum in omnibus operibus tuis, quibus regni tui mysteria revelasti. Hancque enim festivitatem index puerperae virginalis stella praecessit, quae natum in terra coeli Dominum Magis stupentibus nuntiaret, ut manifestandus mundo Deus, et coelesti denunciaretur indicio, et temporaliter procreatus, signorum temporalium ministerio panderetur.||It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we give thee praise, O Lord, for that thou art wonderful in all thy works, whereby thou hast revealed the mysteries of thy Kingdom. Thus it was that a Star, the messenger of the Virginal Delivery, was the forerunner of this Feast; a Star, which proclaimed to the wondering Magi, that the Lord of heaven was born on the earth: that thus, the God who was to be manifested unto the world, might both be made known by a heavenly indication, and He that was to be born in time be revealed by the ministry of those signs which serve to mark time.|
The Sequence-book of the Monastery of St. Gall contains the one we now give: it was composed in the ninth century by the celebrated Notker.
|Festa Christi omnis christianitas celebret.Quae miris sunt modis ornata, cunctisque veneranda populis.
Per omnitenentis adventum, atque vocationem Gentium.
Ut natus est Christus, est stella Magis visa lucida.
At illi non cassam putantes tanti signi gloriam,
Secum munera deferunt, parvulo offerunt, ut Regi coeli quem sidus praedicat.
Atque aureo tumidi principis lectulo transito, Christi praesepe quaeritant.
Hinc ira saevi Herodis fervida invidi recens rectori genito.
Bethlehem parvulos praecipit ense crudeli perdere.
O Christe! quantum Patri exercitum, juvenis doctus ad bella maxima, populis praedicans colliges, sugens cum tantum miseris.
Anno hominis tricesimo, subtus famuli se inclyti inclinaverat magnus Deus, consecrans nobis baptisma, in absolutionem criminum.
Ecce Spiritus in specie ipsum alitis innocuae, uncturus sanctis prae omnibus, visitat, semper ipsius contentus mansione pectoris.
Patris etiam insonuit vox pia, veteris oblita sermonis: poenitet me fecisse hominem.
Vere Filius es tu meus, mihimet placitus, in quo sum placatus: hodie, Fili mi, genui te.Huic omnes ausculate populi praeceptori. Amen.
|Let the whole of Christendom celebrate the feasts of Christ.They are adorned in a wonderful way, and are venerated by all nations.
They commemorate the coming of Him that is Lord of all things, and the vocation of the Gentiles.
When Christ was born, a bright star was seen by the Magi.
Whereupon, they, knowing that the splendour of such a sign could not be unmeaning,
Take with them gifts, and offer them to the Little Child, as the King foretold by the star of heaven.
Passing by the golden couch of a haughty prince, they set out in search of the Crib of Christ.
At this, the cruel Herod boils with anger; he is jealous of the new-born King.
He commands the male children of Bethlehem to be cruelly put to death by the sword.
O Jesus! what an army wilt thou not levy for thy Father, when in the fulness of thine age thou shalt carry on the supreme battle, preaching thy doctrines to mankind? – for even now that thou art a weak Babe thou sendest such a host.
Having reached his thirtieth year, this great God bowed himself down beneath the hand of his glorious servant; thus consecrating Baptism for us, unto the remission of our sins.
Lo! the Spirit visits him in the form of the innocent dove: he is about to anoint him above all the Saints, and will abide with everlasting love in the dwelling of that Breast.
The loving voice of the Father is also heard; and those ancient words: it repents me that I made man, are now forgotten.
“Thou art,” he says, “my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased. This day, my Son! have I begotten thee.”“All ye people, hear this your Teacher.” Amen.
The Menaea of the Greek Church give us the following fine stanzas in the Hymn for the Nativity of our Lord.
IN NATALI DOMINI
|Gloria in excelsis Deo, in Bethlehem audio ab Angelus; in terra pacem fieri hominibus bonei voluntatis. Nunc Virgo coelis amplior; exortum est enim lumen sedentibus in tenebris, et exaltavit humiles ac angelice canentes Gloria in excelsis Deo.Laetare, Israel : laudem dicite omnes qui diligitis Sion. Solutum est vinculum damnationis Adam; Paradisus apertus est nobis; serpens debilitatus est: quam enim deceperat principio, nunc contemplatur Creatoris Matrem effectam. O abyssus divitiarum et sapientiae et scientiae Dei! Quae mortem in omnem carnem introduxerat peccati opus, salutis principium facta est per Deiparam. Parvulus enim ex ea nascitur, omniperfectus Deus, et per partum Virginitati apponit sigillum, peccatorum catenas fasciis resolvens, et propria infantia, Evae moeste parturientis doloribus medelam afferens. Choreas ducat nunc omnis creatura et exsultet: ad revocandam enim eam advenit Christus, et ad salvandas animas nostras.
Nativitas tua, Deus noster, lumen gnoseos attulit mundo: in ipsa enim qui adorabant sidera, a sidere discunt adorare te Solem Justitiae, et cognoscere Orientem ex alto: Domine, gloria tibi.
Eden in Bethlehem apertum est: venite, videamus, thesaurum absconditum inveniemus; venite, teneamus in antro quae sunt in Paradiso. Hic apparuit radix non irrigata, germinans veniam; hic invenitur puteus infossus e cujus aqua olim David bibere desideravit; hic Virgo parvulum enixa, sitim Davidis et Adami ocius sedavit: ideoque magis festinemus ad locum ubi natus est parvulus novus ante saecula Deus.Gaudete justi; coeli jubilate, exaultate montes: Christus natus est; Virgo sedet, Cherubim imitata, portans in sinu suo Deum Verbum carofactum: pastores natum glorificant: Magi Domino dona offerunt: Angeli hymnificantes clamant: Incomprehensibilis Domine, gloria tibi.
|I hear the Angels singing at Bethlehem Gloria in excelsis Deo! I hear them tell us, that there is peace on earth, to men of good will. Oh! see that Virgin, she is lovelier than the heavens:- for, from her has risen a Light to them that sat in darkness, exalting humble hearts that sing, as did the Angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo!Rejoice, O Israel! Sing forth praise, all ye that love Sion! The chain of Adam’s condemnation is broken; Paradise is opened to us; the Serpent is weakened, for woman, whom he had deceived in the beginning, is now before his gaze – the Mother of the Creator. Oh! the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! She that had brought death, – the work of sin – into all flesh, is now, through the Mother of God, made the source of salvation. For of Her is born a Little Child, who is the all-perfect God, and who, by his Birth, did but consecrate the Virginity of his Mother; by his swathing-bands, he loosened the chains of sin; and by his own Infancy, he comforted the pangs of child-birth to sorrowing Eve. Let every creature now keep choir and be glad, for Christ is come that he may reclaim mankind, and save our souls.
Thy Nativity, O Lord our God! brought to the world the light of knowledge; for, by it, they that had adored the stars, were taught, by a Star, to adore thee, the Sun of Justice, and acknowledge thee as the Orient from on high. Glory be to thee, O Lord!
Eden has been opened in Bethlehem! Come, let us go and see; we shall find the hidden Treasure. Come, let us go and possess in the Cave the things that are in Paradise. Here it is that there has appeared the unwatered Root, that has budded forth our pardon. Here is the well not dug by human hand, at whose water David heretofore desired to drink. Here a Virgin has brought forth a Child, by whom she quickly slakes the thirst of Adam and David. Therefore, let us go with quicker haste to the place where is born the new Babe, who is God before all ages.Rejoice, ye just; be glad, ye heavens; exult, ye mountains! Christ is born. The Virgin, cherub-like, sits bearing on her lap God, the Word made Flesh. The Shepherds are giving glory to the Babe. The Magi are offering gifts to the Lord. The Angels are singing this hymn: O Incomprehensible God! glory be to thee.
Let us recite the following Prose, composed by the pious Monk Herman Contract: it will assist us to honour the ever Blessed Mother of our Jesus
|Ave, praeclara maris stella, in lucem gentium, Maria, divinitus orta.Euge, Dei porta, quae non aperta; veritatis lumen, ipsum Solem justitiae, indutum carne, ducis in orbem.
Virgo decus mundi, regina coeli, praeelecta ut sol, pulchra lunaris ut fulgor: agnosce omnes te diligentes.
Te plena fide, virgam almae stirpis Jesse nascituram priores desideraverant Patres et Prophetae.
Te lignum vitae, Sancto rorante Pneumate parituram divini floris amygdalum, signavit Gabriel.
Tu Agnum, Regem terrae dominatorem, Moabitici de petra deserti ad montem filiae Sion traduxisti.
Tuque furentem Leviathan, serpentem tortuosum et vectem collidens, damnoso crimine mundum exemisti.
Hinc gentium nos reliquiae, tuae sub cultu memoriae, mirum in modum quem es enixa Agnum regnantem coelo aeternaliter, revocamus ad aram, mactandum mysterialiter.
Hinc manna verum Israelitis veris, veri Abrahae filiis admirantibus, quondam Moysi quod Typus figurabat, jam nunc abducto velo datur perspici. Ora Virgo, nos illo pane coeli dignos effici.
Fac fontem dulcem, quem in deserto petra praemonstravit, degustare cum sincera fide, renesque constringi lotos in mari, anguem aeneum in cruce speculari.
Fac igni sancto Patrisque verbo, quod, rubus ut flammam, tu portasti, Virgo mater facta, pecuali distinctos pede, mundos labiis cordeque propinquare.
Audi nos: nam te Filius nihil negans honorat.
Salva nos, Jesu, pro quibus Virgo mater te orat.
Da fontem boni visere, da purae mentis oculos in te defigere.
Quo haustu sapientiae saporem vitae valeat mens intelligere.Christianismi fidem operibus redimire, beatoque fine ex hujus incolatu, saeculi auctor, ad te transire.
|Hail, Mary! beautiful Star of the Sea! that hast risen, by God’s mercy, to give light to all nations.Welcome! O Gate open to none but God! Thou bringest into the world the Light of truth, the very Sun of Justice, clad in human flesh.
O Virgin! thou beauty of the world, Queen of heaven, brilliant as the Sun, lovely as the moon’s brightness! think on all us who love thee.
The ancient Fathers and Prophets, full of faith, longed for thee to be born, the Rod of the fair root of Jesse.
Gabriel spoke of thee as the Tree of Life, that, by the dew of the Holy Spirit, shouldst bring forth the divine flowering Almond Tree.
‘Twas thou didst lead the Lamb, the King that rules the earth, from the rock of the desert of Moab to the mount of the daughter of Sion.
‘Twas thou didst free the world of its destroying sin, by crushing the angry Leviathan, the crooked and bar Serpent.We, therefore, the remnants of the nations, in honour of thy dear memory, call down upon our altar, there to be
mystically immolated, the Lamb that reigns eternally in heaven, whom thou didst so wonderfully bring forth.
The veil is now drawn aside, and we, the true Israelites, the children of the true Abraham, are permitted to fix our astonished eyes on the true Manna, of which that of Moses was the figure and type. Pray for us, O Virgin, that we may be made worthy of that Bread of heaven.
Pray for us, that, with sincere faith, we may taste of that sweet fountain, which was prefigured by the rock in the desert; and that, having our loins girt, we may safely cross the sea, and be permitted to look upon the brazen serpent on the Cross.
Having our sandals off our feet, and our lips and hearts made pure, pray for us, that we may come nigh to that holy flame, the Word of the Father, which thou, O Virgin Mother, didst carry within thee, as the Bush did the fire.
Hear us, O Mary! for thy Son honours thee by granting thee all thy prayers.
And thou, O Jesus! save us, for whom thy Virgin Mother prays.
Grant us to see the source of every good! Grant us to fix on thee the eyes of our purified souls.
May our souls drink in the water of wisdom, and feed with understanding on the sweet food of Life.Do thou, Creator of the world! give us grace to adorn
our Christian faith with works, and, by a happy death, to pass from this life’s exile to thee. Amen.
We also, O Jesus! come to adore thee on this glorious Epiphany, which brings all nations to thy feet. We walk in the footsteps of the Magi; for we, too have seen the Star, and we are come to thee. Glory be to thee, dear King! to thee who didst say in the Canticle of David thine ancestor: “I am appointed King over Sion, the holy mountain, that I “may preach the commandment of the Lord. The Lord hath said to me, that he will give me the Gentiles for mine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for my possession. Now, therefore, O ye kings, understand: receive instruction, ye that judge the earth.” [Ps. ii. 6,8,10].
Thou wilt say, O Emmanuel! with thine own lips: All power is given to me in heaven and on earth [St. Matth, xxviii. 18], and a few years after, the whole earth will have received thy law. Even now Jerusalem is troubled; Herod is trembling on his throne; but the day is at hand when the heralds of thy coming will go through out the whole world, proclaiming that He, who was the Desired of nations [Agg. ii. 8], is come. The word that is to subject the earth to thee, will go forth [Ps. xviii. 5], and, like an immense fire, will stretch to the uttermost parts of the universe. In vain will the strong ones of this world attempt to arrest its course. An Emperor will propose to the Senate, as the only means of staying the progress of thy conquests, that thy Name be solemnly enrolled in the list of those gods, whom thou comest to destroy. Other Emperors will endeavour to abolish thy kingdom by the slaughter of thy soldiers But, all these efforts are vain. The day will come, when the Cross, the sign of thy power, will adorn the imperial banner; the Emperors will lay their crown at thy feet: and proud Rome will cease to be the Capital of the empire of this world’s strength and power, in order that she may become, for ever, the centre of thy peaceful and universal kingdom.
We already see the dawn of that glorious day. Thy conquests, O King of ages! begin with thine Epiphany. Thou callest, from the extreme parts of the unbelieving East, the first-fruits of that Gentile-world, which hitherto had not been thy people, and which is now to form thine inheritance. Henceforth, there is to be no distinction of Jew and Greek, of Barbarian and Scythian [Coloss. iii. 11]. Thou hast loved Man above Angel, for thou hast redeemed the one, whilst thou hast left the other in his fall. If thy predilection, for a long period of ages, was for the race of Abraham, henceforth thy preference is to be given to the Gentiles. Israel was but a single people; we are numerous as the sands of the sea, and the stars of the firmament [Gen. xxii. 17]. Israel was under the law of fear; thou hast reserved the law of love for us.
From this day of thy Manifestation, O divine King! begins thy separation from the Synagogue, which refuses thy love; and on this same Day, thou takest, in the person of the Magi, the Gentiles as thy Spouse. Thy union with her will soon be proclaimed from the Cross, when, turning thy face from the ungrateful Jerusalem, thou wilt stretch forth thy hands towards the nations of the Gentiles. O ineffable joy of thy Birth! but O still better joy of thine Epiphany, wherein we, the once disinherited, are permitted to approach to thee, offer thee our gifts, and see thee graciously accept them, O merciful Emmanuel!
Thanks be to thee, O Infant God, for that unspeakable gift [II. Cor. ix. 15] of Faith, which, as thy Apostle teaches us, hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into thy kingdom, making us parkers of the lot of the Saints in Light [Coloss. i. 12,13] Give us grace to grow in the knowledge of this thy Gift, and to understand the importance of this great Day, whereon thou makest alliance with the whole human race, which thou wouldst afterwards make thy Bride by espousing her. Oh! the Mystery of this Marriage Feast, dear Jesus! “A Marriage,” says one of thy Vicars on earth [Innocent the Third], “that was promised to the Patriarch Abraham, confirmed by oath to King David, accomplished in Mary when she became Mother, and consummated, confirmed, and declared, on this day; consummated in the adoration of the Magi, confirmed in the Baptism in the Jordan, and declared in the miracle of the water changed into wine.” On this Marriage-Feast,- where the Church, thy Spouse, already receives queenly honours – we will sing to thee, O Jesus! with all the fervour of our hearts, these words of to-day’s Office, which sweetly blend the Three Mysteries into one – that of thy Alliance with us.
ANTIPHON OF LAUDS.
|ANT. Hodie coelesti Sponso juncta est Ecclesia, quoniam in Jordane lavit Christus ejus crimina: currunt cum muneribus Magi ad regales nuptias, et ex aqua facto vino laetantur conviviae. Alleluia.||ANT. This day, is the Church united to the heavenly Spouse, for Christ, in the Jordan, washes away her sins: the Magi run to the royal Nuptials with their gifts: and the guests of the Feast are gladdened by the water changed
into wine. Alleluia.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)