Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] The Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost (Gueranger)
Posted on 10/13/2018 9:07:18 PM PDT by CMRosary
THE REMAINING SUNDAYS are the last of the Church’s cycle; but their proximity with its final termination varies each Year, according as Easter was early or late. This their movable character does away with anything like harmony between the composition of their Masses and the Lessons of the Night Office, all of which, dating from August, have been appointed and fixed for each subsequent week. This we have already explained to our Readers. Still, the instruction, which the Faithful ought to derive from the sacred Liturgy, would be incomplete, and the spirit of the Church, during these last weeks of her Year, would not be sufficiently understood by her children, unless they were to remember that the two months of October and November are filled, the first, with readings from the book of the Machabees, whose example inspirits us for the final combats—and the second, with lessons from the Prophets, proclaiming to us the judgments of God.
MASS.—Durandus, Bishop of Mende, in his Rational, tells us that this, and the following Sundays till Advent, bear closely on the Gospel of the Marriage Feast, of which they are really but a further development. “Whereas,” says he, speaking of this twenty-first Sunday, “this Marriage has no more powerful opponent than the envy of Satan—the Church speaks to us today on our combat with him, and on the armor wherewith we must be clad, in order to go through this terrible battle, as we shall see by the Epistle. And because sackcloth and ashes are the instruments of penance, therefore does the Church borrow, for the Introit, the words of Mardochai, who prayed for God’s mercy in sackcloth and ashes.”
These reflections of Durandus are quite true; but if the thought of her having soon to be united with her divine Spouse is uppermost in the Church’s mind, yet it is by forgetting her own happiness, and turning all her thoughts to mankind, whose salvation has been entrusted to her care by her Lord, that she will best prove herself to be truly his Bride, during the miseries of those last days. As we have already said, the near approach of the general judgment and the terrible state of the world during the period immediately preceding that final consummation of time is the very soul of the Liturgy during these last Sundays of the Church’s Year. As regards the present Sunday, the portion of the Mass which used formerly to attract the attention of our catholic forefathers was the Offertory, taken from the book of Job, with its telling exclamations, and its emphatic repetitions. We may in all truth say that this Offertory contains the ruling idea, which runs through this twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost.
Reduced like Job on the dung-hill to the extremity of wretchedness, the world has nothing to trust to but to God’s mercy. The holy men who are still living in it, imitating in the name of all mankind the sentiment of the just man of Idumea, honor God by a patience and resignation, which do but add power and intensity to their supplications. They begin by making their own the sublime prayer made, by Mardochai, for his people, who were doomed to extermination. The world is condemned to a similar ruin.
The Church shows us very clearly, in the Collect, that although she is quite ready to go through the roughest times, yet she prefers peace; because that furnishes her with undisturbed freedom for paying to her God the united homage of religion and good works. The closing petition made by Mardochai, in the prayer, whose commencement forms our Introit, was that God would bestow on his people the liberty necessary for that occupation on which the world’s well-being ever depends—we mean, the occupation of giving praise to God. These were Mardochai’s grand words: May we live, and praise thy name, O Lord! and shut not thou the mouths of them that sing to thee!
The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
The early beginnings of man’s union with his God are, generally speaking, deliciously calm. Divine Wisdom, once he has led his chosen creature, by hard laborious work, to the purification of his mind and senses allows him (when the sacred alliance is duly concluded) to rest on his sacred breast, and thoroughly attaches the devoted one to Himself, by delights which are an ante-dated heaven, making the soul despise every earthly pleasure. It seems as though the welcome law of Deuteronomy were always in force, namely, that no battle and no anxiety must ever break in upon the first season of the glorious Union. But this exemption from the general taxation is never of long duration; for combat is the normal state of every man here below.
The Most High is pleased as seeing a battle well fought by his christian soldiers. There is no name so frequently applied to Him by the Prophets as that of the God of Hosts. His divine Son, who is the Spouse, shows himself here, on this earth of ours, as the Lord who is mighty in battle. In the mysterious nuptial Canticle of the forty-fourth Psalm, he lets us see him as Most Powerful Prince, girding on his grand Sword, and making his way, with his sharp arrows, through the very heart and very thick of his enemies, in order to reach, in fair valiance and beautiful victory the Bride he has chosen as his own. She too, just like him—she, the Bride, whose beauty he has vouchsafed to love, and wills her to share in all his own glories—yes, she too advances towards him, in the glittering armor of a warrior, surrounded by choirs singing the magnificent exploits of the Spouse, and she herself terrible as an army set in array. The armor of the brave is on her arms and breast; her noble bearing reminds one of the tower of David with its thousand bucklers.
United to her divine Lord, warriors the most valiant stand about her; they merit that privilege by their well-proved sword and their skill in war; each one of them has his sword quite ready, because of the night surprises, which the enemy may use against this most dear Church. For until the dawn of the eternal day, when the shadows of this present life are put to flight by the light of the Lamb, who will then have vanquished all his enemies—yes, until that day, power is in the hands of the rulers of the world of this darkness, says St. Paul, in today’s Epistle; and it is against them that we must take to ourselves the armor of God, which he there describes; we must wear it all, if we would be able to resist, in the evil day.
The evil days, spoken of by the Apostle last Sunday, are frequent in the life of every individual, as likewise in the world’s history. But for every man, and for the world at large, there is one evil day, evil beyond all the others: it is the last day, the day of judgment, the day of exceeding bitterness, as the Church calls it, on account of the woe and misery which are to fill it. We talk of so many years as passing away, and of centuries succeeding each other; but all these are neither more nor less than preparations hurrying on the world to the Last Day. Happy they who, on that Day, shall fight the good fight, and win victory! or who, as our Apostle expresses it, shall stand, while all around them is ruin, yea, stand, in all things, perfect! They shall not be hurt by the second death; wreathed with the crown of justice, they shall reign with God, on his throne, together with his Son.
The war is an easy one, when we have this Man-God for our Leader. All he asks of us is what the Apostle thus words: Be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power! It is leaning on her Beloved that the beautiful Church is to go up from the desert; and thus supported, she is actually to be flowing with delights, even in those most sad days. The faithful soul is out of herself with love when she remembers that the armor she wears is the armor of God, that is, the very armor of her Spouse. It is quite thrilling to hear the Prophets describing this Jesus, this Leader, of ours, accoutred for battle, and with all the pieces we too are to wear: he girds himself with the girdle of faith; then he puts the helmet of salvation on his beautiful head; then, the breast-plate of justice; then, the shield of invincible equity; and finally, a magnificently tempered sword, the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. We should almost think we were here having a list of our own arms; well, yes, but they are his, first; and the Gospel shows him to us as entering, Himself, on the great battle, that he might show us how to use these same divine arms, which he puts upon each of us, if we will be be his soldiers.
This armor consists of many parts, because of its varied uses and effects; and yet, whether offensive or defensive, all of them have one common name—and that name—is Faith. Our Epistle makes us say so. And our Jesus, our Leader, taught it us, when to the triple temptation brought against him by the devil on the mount of Quarantana, he made answer to each temptation by a text from the sacred Scriptures. The victory which overcometh the world is our Faith, says St. John. When St. Paul, at the close of his career, reviews the combats he had fought through life, he sums up all in his telling word: I have kept the faith. The life of Paul, in that, should be life of every Christian, for he says to us: Fight the good fight of faith! It is Faith which, in spite of those fearful odds enumerated in today’s Epistle as being against us—it is Faith that ensures the victory to men of good will. If in the warfare we must go through we were to reckon the chances of our enemies by their overwhelming forces and advantages, it is quite certain that we should have little hope of winning the day; for it is not with men like ourselves, it is not, as the Apostle puts it, with flesh and blood, that we have to wrestle, but with enemies we can never grapple with, who are in the high places of the air around us and are, therefore, invisible, and most skilled and powerful and wonderfully up in all the sad secrets of our poor fallen nature, and turning the whole weight of their advantages to trick man and ruin him, out of hatred for God. These wicked spirits were originally created, that, in the purity of their unmixed spiritual nature, they should be a reflex of the divine splendor of their Maker; and now, having rebelled by pride, they exhibit that execrable prodigy of angelic intelligences spending all their powers in doing evil to man, and in hating truth.
How, then, are we—who, by our very nature, are darkness and misery—to wrestle with these spiritual principalities and powers, who devote all their wisdom and rage to produce darkness, so as to turn the whole earth into a world of darkness? “By our becoming Light,” answers St. John Chrysostom. The light, it is true, is not to shine upon us in its own direct brightness until the great day of the revelation of the sons of God; but meanwhile, we have a divine subsidy which supplements sight; that subsidy is—the Revealed Word. Baptism did not open our eyes so as to see God, but it opened our ears so as to give us to hear him, when he speaks to us; now he speaks to us by the Scriptures and by his Church; and our Faith gives us, regarding Truth thus Revealed, a certainty as great as though we saw it with the eyes of either body or soul or both. By this child-like docility, the just man walks on in peace, with the simplicity of the Gospel within him. Better than breast-plate or helmet, the shield of faith protects us, and from every sort of injury; it blunts the fiery darts of the world, it repels the fury of our own passions, it makes us far-seeing enough to escape the most artful snares of the most wicked ones. Is not the word of God good for every emergency? and we may have it as often and as much as we please. Satan has a horror of the Christian who, though he may be weak in other respects, is strong in this divine word. He has a greater fear of that man than he has of all your schools of philosophy and all its professors; he has got accustomed to the torture of such a man’s crushing him beneath his feet and with a rapidity which is akin to what our Lord tells us he himself witnessed: I saw Satan, like lightning, falling from heaven: it was on the great battle day when he was hurled from paradise by that one word michael—exquisite word, which was given to the triumphant Archangel to be his everlasting noble name! and he himself, by that word of God, and by that victory for God, was made our model and our defender. We have already explained to our readers why it is that these closing weeks of the Church’s Year are so full of the grand Archangel St. Michael.
In the Gradual and its Versicle, the Church tells her Lord how he has ever been the refuge of his people: his goodness, like his power, were before all ages, because he is God from all eternity. May he, therefore, now protect his faithful servants who, reduced to a scanty number, as Israel was of old, are preparing the last exodus of the Church, which is leaving this world turned infidel, and is hastening to the true land of promise.
“O thou just Judge of vengeance (on man), grant us the gift of forgiveness, before the Day of reckoning cometh!” Such is the petition that comes from the heart of holy Mother Church as she thinks on what may have befallen those countless children of hers, who have been victims of death during this as every other year; it is, moreover, the supplication that should be made by every living soul, after hearing the Gospel just read to us. The Sequence, Dies iræ, from which these words are taken, is not only a sublime prayer for the Dead; it is, likewise, and especially at this close of the Ecclesiastical Year, an appropriate expression for all of us who are still living. Our thoughts and our expectations are naturally turned towards our own deaths. We almost seem forgotten and overlooked in this evening of the world’s existence, but it not so, for we know from sacred Scripture that we shall join those who have already slept the last sleep, and shall be taken, together with them, to meet our divine Judge.
Let us hearken to some more of our Mother’s words, in that same magnificent Sequence; this is their meaning: “How great will be our fear when the Judge is about to come and rigorously examine all our works!—The trumpet’s wondrous sound will pierce the graves of every land and summon us all before the throne!”—Death will stand amazed, and nature too, when the “creature shall rise again, to go and answer Him that is to judge!—The written Book shall be brought forth, wherein all is contained for which the world is to be tried. —So when the Judge shall sit on his throne, every hidden secret shall be revealed, nothing shall remain unpunished!—What shall I, poor wretch, then say? Who ask to be my patron, when the just man himself shall scarce be safe?—O King of dreaded majesty! who savest gratuitously them that are, save me, O fount of love!—Do thou remember, loving Jesu! that I was cause of thy life on earth! Lose me not, on that Day!”
Undoubtedly, such a prayer as this has every best chance of being graciously heard, addressed as it is to Him, who has nothing so much at heart as our salvation, and who, for procuring it, gave himself up to fatigue and suffering and death on the Cross: but we should be inexcusable, and deserve condemnation twice over, we we to neglect to profit of the advice he himself gives us, whereby to avert from us the perils of “that day of tears, when guilty man shall rise from the dust and go to be judged!” Let us, then, meditate on the parable of our Gospel, whose sole object is to teach us a sure way of settling, at once, our accounts with the divine King.
We are all of us, in fact, that negligent servant, that insolvent debtor, whose master might, in all justice, sell him, with all he has, and hand him over to the torturers. The debt contracted with God, by the sins we have committed, is of that nature as to deserve endless tortures; it supposes an eternal hell, in which the guilty one will ever be paying, without ever cancelling his debt. Infinite praise, then, and thanks to the divine Creditor who, being moved to pity by the entreaties of the unhappy man, who asks for time and he will pay all—yes, this good God grants him far beyond what he prays for—he, there and then, forgives him the debt. He puts but this condition on the pardon, as is evident from the sequel—he insists, and most justly, that he should go and do, in like manner, towards his fellow-servans, who may perhaps owe something to him. After being so generously forgiven by his Lord and King, after having his infinite debt so gratuitously cancelled, how can he possibly turn a deaf ear to the very same prayer which won pardon for himself, now that a fellow-servant makes it to him? is it to be believed that he will refuse all pity towards one whose only offense is that he asks him for time, and he will pay all?
“It is quite true,” says St. Augustine, “that every man has his fellow-man a debtor—for who is the man, that he has had no one to offend him? but at the same time, who is the man that is not debtor to God, for all of us have sinned? Man, therefore, is both debtor to God, and creditor to his fellow-man. It is for this reason that God has laid down this rule for thy conduct—that thou must treat thy debtor as He treats his … We pray every day; every day, we send up the same petition to the divine throne; every day, we prostrate ourseles before God and say to him: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive them that are debtors to us. Of what debts speakest thou? Is it, of all thy debts? or of one or two only? Thou wilt say: Of all. Do thou, therefore, forgive thy debtor, for it is the rule laid upon thee, it is the condition accepted by thee.”
“It is a greater thing,” says St. John Chrysostom, “to forgive our neighbor the trespasses he has committed against us, than to condone him a sum of money; for by forgiving him his sins, we imitate God.” And after all, what is the injury committed by one man against another man, if compared with the offense committed by man against God? Alas! we have all got the habit of that second; even the just man knows its misery seven times over and, as the text probably means, seven times a day; so that it comes ruffling our whole day long. Let this, at least, be our parallel habit—that we contract a facility in being merciful towards our fellow-men, since we, every night, have the assurance given us, that we shall be pardoned all our miseries, on the condition of our owning them. It is an excellent practice not to go to bed without putting ourselves in the dispositions of a little child, who can rest his head on God’s bosom, and there fall asleep; but if we thus feel it a happy necessity to find in the heart of our heavenly Father forgetfulness of our day’s faults, yea, more an infinitely tender love for us his poor tottering children—how can we, at that very time, dare to be storing up in our minds old grudges and scores against our neighbors, our brethren, who are also his children? Even supposing that we had been treated by them with outrageous injustice or insult, could these their faults bear any comparison with our offenses against that good God whose born enemies we were, and whom we have caused to be put to an ignominious death? Whatsoever may be the circumstances attending the unkindness shown us, we may and should invariably practice the rule given us by the Apostle: Be ye kind one to another! merciful! forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you, in Christ! Be ye imitators of God, as most dear children! What! thou callest God thy Father, and dost thou remember an injury that has been done thee? “That,” says St. John Chrysostom, “is not the way a son of God acts in! The work of a son of God is this—to pardon one’s enemies, to pray for them that crucify him, to shed his blood for them that hate him. Would you know the conduct of one who is worthy to be a son of God? he takes his enemies, and his ingrates, and his robbers, and his insulters, and his traitors, and makes them his brethren and sharers of all his wealth!”
We here give, in its entirety, the celebrated Offertory of Job, with its Verses. The observations we made at the beginning of Mass will enable us to enter into the spirit of this liturgical piece. As Amalarius says, the Anthem, which has been retained, gives us the words of the historian, who simply relates the facts, one after the other, without any remarks; but in the Verses, we have Job himself speaking, his body all humbled, and his soul full of sorrow: the repetition of the same words, their interruptions, their refrain, their broken phrases, vividly represent his panting for breath, and intense suffering.
The salvation of the world, and that of each individual man, is virtually, ever in the august Sacrifice, whose power restores man, by appeasing God. With a confidence that fails not, let us use it as the most efficacious recourse that can be made to the divine mercy.
The other Secrets, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
An unflagging hope ever accompanies the admirable patience of holy Church. Persecutions, be they ever so fierce or long, never interrupt her prayer; for as the Communion expresses it, she keeps in her heart a faithful recollection of the word of salvation that was given her by God.
Now that we have been nourished by the food of immortality, let us live on it with all evidence of a soul that is made pure.
The other Postcommunions, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
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