Thought for the Day – 14 September – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
My Life is Christ
“Through the work of the Incarnation and Redemption, Jesus assumed, not only a human body and soul so that He might be loved more and so, that He might redeem us but, He also assumed a mystical body, which is composed of all men in the state of grace. The mystical body is the Church, of which Christ is the head. We should all desire to be members of this mystical body. To do so, we must live the life of Christ, which is His grace. If we are separated from the life of Christ, we are nolonger Christians. We are merely dead and rotten limbs, to use the metaphor of the vine tree and the branches. “I am the vine,” says Jesus, “you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him,” He continues, “he bears much fruit. If anyone does not abide in me,” He adds, “he shall be cast outside, as the branch and wither and they shall gather them up and cast them into fire and they shall burn” (Cf Jn 15:4-5).
“For the branch,” says St Augustine, “there can be no half-measures. Either it remains united with the vine, or it is thrown into the fire.” The same holds true for each one of us. We must choose, either close union with Jesus, or separation and spiritual death. We must decide between a life of fervour in Christ, or a life of tepidity and sin.”
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Mark 4:9
REFLECTION – “Truly it is “a trustworthy word and deserving of every welcome” (1 Tm 1:15), Your almighty Word, Lord, which in such deep silence made its way down from the Father’s royal throne (Wis 18:14f.) into the mangers of animals and meanwhile, speaks to us better by it’s silence. “Let him who has ears to hear, hear” what this loving and mysterious silence of the eternal Word speaks to us… For what recommends the discipline of silence with such weight and such authority, what checks the evil of restless tongues and the storms of words, as the Word of God, silent in the midst of men. “There is no word on my tongue” (Ps 139:4), the almighty Word seems to confess while he is subject to His mother. What madness then will prompt us to say: “With our tongues we can do great things, our lips are good friends to us, we own no master” (Ps 11:5). If I were allowed, I would gladly be dumb and be brought low and be silent even from good things, that I might be able, the more attentively and diligently to apply my ear to the secret utterances and sacred meaning of this divine silence, learning in silence in the school of the Word, if only for as long as the Word Himself was silent under the instruction of His mother … “The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn 1:14). With complete devotion, then, let us think of Christ in the swaddling clothes with which His mother wrapped Him, so that with eternal happiness we may see the glory and beauty with which His Father has clothed Him.” – Blessed Guerric of Igny (c.1080-1157) Cistercian Abbot – 5th sermon for Christmas
PRAYER – Lord God, in Your wisdom You created us, by Your providence You rule us, You have planted us, penetrate our inmost being with Your holy Light, so that our way of life may always be one of faithful service to You. May we never hesitate to run to Your all-forgiving arms of mercy, when we allow the rocks and thorns of this life to prevent our growth and our steps as we return home to You. May the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, all the angels and saints, be unfailing assistance to us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
“The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast in that day.” … Mark 2:20
REFLECTION – “The bridegroom is with them Beneath the apple tree, (cf Ct 8:5) there I took you for My own, there I offered you My hand, and restored you, where your mother was corrupted In this high state of spiritual marriage the Bridegroom reveals His wonderful secrets to the soul, as to His faithful consort, with remarkable ease and frequency, for true and perfect love knows not how to keep anything hidden from the beloved. He mainly communicates to her sweet mysteries of His Incarnation and the ways of the redemption of humankind, one of the loftiest of His works and thus more delightful to the soul. Even though He communicates many other mysteries to her, the Bridegroom in the … mentions only the Incarnation as the most important. … The Bridegroom explains to the soul … His admirable plan in redeeming and espousing her to Himself through the very means by which human nature was corrupted and ruined, telling her, that as human nature was ruined through Adam and corrupted by means of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Paradise, so on the tree of the Cross, it was redeemed and restored when He gave it there, through His passion and death, the hand of His favour and mercy and broke down the barriers between God and humans that were built up through original sin. Thus He says: “Beneath the apple tree,” that is: beneath the favour of the tree of the Cross where the Son of God redeemed human nature and consequently espoused it to Himself and then, espoused each soul, by giving it through the Cross grace and pledges for this espousal.” – St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Carmelite, Doctor of the Church – The Spiritual Canticle B, Stanza 23, 1-3
PRAYER – Almighty God, ruler and creator of all things in heaven and on earth, listen favourably to the prayer of Your people. Through Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us His life to lead us to You and made us His own body in His Church, grant us the grace of always listening for His word and following His deeds in all that we are and all that we do. May we too follow His teachings in our Holy Mother Church, for she is His and we are hers. May the prayers of our Mater Ecclesiae, the Blessed Virgin, intercede for us. Through Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
Quote/s of the Day – 12 January – The Memorial of St Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167) “St Bernard of the North”
“We should consider how much good our Lord did us, by His first coming and how much more He will do for us, by His second. This thought will help us, to have a great love for that first coming of His and a great longing for His return.”
“Let us then learn from the Cross of Jesus our proper way of living. Should I say ‘living’ or, instead, ‘dying’? Rather, both living and dying. Dying to the world, living for God. Dying to vices and living by the virtues. Dying to the flesh but living in the spirit. Thus in the Cross of Christ, there is death and in the Cross of Christ, there is life. The death of death is there and the life of life. The death of sins is there and the life of the virtues. The death of the flesh is there and the life of the spirit. … It was fitting, that we, who had fallen because of a tree, might rise up because of a tree.”
“Faith is not even a virtue, unless it is expressed by love, nor is hope, unless it loves, what it hopes for.”
“When insults have no effect on us, when persecutions and penalties, have no terror for us, when prosperity or adversity, has no influence on us, when friend and foe, are viewed in the same light… do we not come close, to sharing, the serenity of God?”
“If I see him [my neighbour] in distress, whether it be on account of the austerity of the food. or because of work or the vigils – if, I say, I see that he is tormented in body and tempted in spirit, if I see him in such affliction, and…do not on occasion accommodate myself to the infirmities of the weak I am not running in the fragrance of Christ’s ointments but with the harshness of the pharisees.”
St Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167) “St Bernard of the North”
One Minute Reflection – 7 January – The Second Day within the Octave of Epiphany, Readings: 1 John 3:22 – 4:6, Psalms 2:7-8, 10-12, Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25 and the Memorial of St Raymond of Peñafort (1175-1275) “Father of Canon Law”
“ …the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and for those, who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.”…Matthew 4:16
REFLECTION – “All these things we know to have taken place ever since the three wise men, aroused in their far-off land, were led by a star to recognise and worship the King of heaven and earth. The responsiveness of that star exhorts us to imitate it’s obedience and, as much as we can, to make ourselves servants of that grace which invites us all to Christ. For, whoever lives religiously and chastely in the Church and “sets his mind on the things which are above, not on the things that are upon the earth” (Col 3:2) resembles that heavenly light in a certain sense. So long as he maintains in himself the brightness of a holy life, he points out to many, like a star, the way that leads to God. All having this concern, dearly-beloved… you will shine in the Kingdom like children of light.”… St Pope Leo the Great (400-461) Father & Doctor of the Church
PRAYER – Lord, may the radiance of Your glory, light up our hearts and bring us through the shadows of this world, until we reach our homeland of everlasting light. Grant we pray, that by the intercession of St Raymond of Peñafort , our way may be smoothed and our troubles eased. We ask this through Jesus, our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
Quote/s of the Day – 2 January – Christmas Weekday and The Memorial of St Basil the Great (329-379) and St Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390)
“… In the conceitedness of our souls, without taking the least trouble to obey the Lord’s commandments, we think ourselves worthy to receive the same reward as those who have resisted sin to the death!”
“A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost, he who sows courtesy, reaps friendship and he who plants kindness, gathers love.”
“There is still time for endurance, time for patience, time for healing, time for change. Have you slipped? Rise up! Have you sinned? Cease! Do not stand among sinners but leap aside!”
“O sinner, be not discouraged but have recourse to Mary in all you necessities. Call her to your assistance, for such is the divine Will that she should help in every kind of necessity.”
St Basil the Great (329-379) Father and Doctor of the Church
“Grace is given, not to those who speak [their faith] but to those, who live their faith.”
“Remember God more often than you breathe!”
“Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. He assumed the worse, that He might give us the better; He became poor, that we through His poverty, might be rich.”
St Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390) Father and Doctor of the Church
Thought for the Day – 1 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Mary, Mother of God
“The near-infinite greatness of Mary, flows from the fact, that she is the Mother of God. The Eternal Word of the Father, consubstantial with Him in nature and equal to Him in majesty, willed to become man in order to set us free from the slavery of sin and to regain Heaven for us. He became man in the chaste womb of the Virgin Mary. He took a human body and soul and was born of her, as the God-Man. For this reason, there is attributed to His Divine Person, the title of Son of Mary and to Mary, the title of Mother of God.
There is a relationship between Mary and each of the three Divine Persons, for she is the daughter of God the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit by whose power the Word became incarnate in her and the mother of the Word made Man. She is, moreover, in the words of Dante, the “termine fisso di eterno consiglio” (Paradiso 33:1-3). In other words, she is the centre of the eternal plan which God established for the redemption of the human race. It was God’s eternal design to reunite creation to the Uncreated, by means of Mary. She became the mother of the Eternal Word, in whom the divine and human natures were indissolubly united. He redeemed us by His infinite merits but, in this work of redemption, He employed the co-operation of His holy Mother. All the graces, privileges and virtues of Mary, flow from this great mystery of her divine Motherhood. As befitted the future Mother of God, she was conceived free from the stain of original sin and full of grace. Her mortal life was a continuous ascent towards the highest peak of sanctity. When she died, she was assumed body and soul into Heaven, where she was crowned in glory, as Queen of Angels and Queen of Saints. When we consider the sublime nobility of Our Lady, we should be moved to love and venerate her. This love and veneration does not subtract in the slightest from God’s glory, because, she is the Mother of God. In fact, it is a great advantage to us, to imitate her and to call on her to intercede for us.”
Our Morning Offering – 1 January – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord
HailO Mary, Mother of God By St Cyril of Alexander (376-444) Doctor of the Incarnation Known as ‘The Pillar of Faith”
Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Virgin and Mother! Morning Star, perfect vessel. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Holy Temple in which god Himself was conceived. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Chaste and pure dove. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Who enclosed the One who cannot be encompassed in your sacred womb. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, From you flowed the true light, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Through you the Conqueror and triumphant Vanquisher of hell came to us. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Through you, the glory of the Resurrection blossoms. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, You have saved every faithful Christian. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen
Christ has been born for us, come, let us adore Him.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
REFLECTION – “God, who gave being to all that is, at the same time united all things together in His providence.
Being master, He became a servant (cf, Phil 2:6-7) and so revealed to the world, the depth of His providence.
God the Word, in becoming incarnate while remaining unchanged, was united through His flesh with the whole of creation.
There is a new wonder in heaven and on earth – God is on earth and man is in heaven.
He united men and angels, so as to bestow deification on all creation.
The knowledge of the holy and co-essential Trinity is the sanctification and deification of men and angels. …
When, in His compassion for man, the Word became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), He changed, neither what He was, nor what He became.” – Thalassios the Syrian (5th Century) Priest, Hermit and Abbot in Syria – Centuries on Love I
PRAYER – All-powerful, ever-living God, we thank You for the human birth of Your Son, which is the source and perfection of our Christian life and worship. Number us among His people, for the salvation of all mankind is found in Him, for the Word became flesh who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever, amen.
Thalassius of Syria undertook the call of God to life as a hermit in the fifth century. Thalassius is recorded to have entered into solitude at a young age near a village named Targala in Byzantine Syria. He is said to have dwelt there, living the ascetic life with no shelter for nearly forty years. Thalassius’ was a soul filled with humbleness, simplicity and a gentle nature. God manifested in him, the gifts of powerful intercession and healing for which he gained considerable renown. In time, many came to join Thalassius in the eremitic life and he welcomed them as he would welcome Christ, building them cells with his own hands. BlessedThalassius, Hermit of Syria is said to have died peacefully.
Our Morning Offering – 31 December – The Seventh Day of the Octave of Christmas
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with Thee; Blessed art thou among women, And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners, Now and at the hour of our death. Amen V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. R. Be it done unto me according to thy word. Hail Mary, etc. V. And the Word was made Flesh. R. And dwelt among us. Hail Mary, etc. V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. LET US PRAY Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen
The Angelus (/ˈændʒələs/; Latin for “angel”) is a Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation. As with many Catholic prayers, the name Angelus is derived from its incipit—the first few words of the text: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (“The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”). The devotion is practised by reciting as versicle and response three Biblical verses narrating the mystery, alternating with the prayer “Hail Mary.” The Angelus exemplifies a species of prayers called the “prayer of the devotee.”
The devotion is traditionally recited three times daily: 06:00, 12:00 and 18:00. The Angelus is usually accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell, which is a call to prayer and to spread goodwill to everyone. The angel referred to in the prayer is Gabriel, a messenger of God who revealed to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive a child to be born, the Son of God (Luke 1:26–38) so honouring the Incarnation of the Saviour, Redeemer – our Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
The words of the prayer are arranged above for leader and community but, of course, most of us pray the prayer alone 3 times each day, for we are always united with each other in faith.
Quote/s of the Day – 30 December – The Sixth Day in the Christmas Octave
“Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun.
In the Father He remains, From His mother He goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth, He was born under heaven.
Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless.
Filling the world, He lies in a manger.
Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God and small in the form of a servant.”
St Augustine (354-430) Father and Doctor of Grace
“He has come down to earth to take you to heaven, He became mortal that you might become God and put on your original beauty.”
St Romanos Melodios (c 490-c 556) Monk, Composer of Hymns, Poet
“Has anybody the right to criticise us even if we seem to be beside ourselves with joy to-day over the Birthday of our King?”
St Peter Canisius (1521-1397) Doctor of the Church
“I feel as though I am with Mary and Joseph beside the Crib. It is good to be there. Outside are the cold and the snow, images of the world but in the little cave, lit by the light of Jesus, it is sweet and warm and light.”
One Minute Reflection – 30 December – The Sixth Day in the Christmas Octave, Readings: 1 John 2:12-17, Psalm 96:7-10, Luke 2:36-40
“She spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” … Luke 2:38
REFLECTION – “O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign to the peoples” (Is 11: 10), “how many kings and prophets wanted to see you and did not” (Lk 10:24)? Simeon is the happiest of them all because by God’s mercy he was still bearing fruit in old age. For he rejoiced to think that he would see the sign so long desired. He saw it and was glad (Lk 8:56). When he had received the kiss of peace, he departed in peace but first, he proclaimed aloud that Jesus was born, a sign that would be rejected (Lk 2:25-34). And so it was. The sign of peace arose and was rejected, by those who hate peace (Ps 119:7). For what is peace to men of goodwill (Lk 2:14) is a stone to make men stumble, a rock for the wicked to fall over (l Pt 2:8). “Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt 2:3). He came to His own and His own did not receive Him (Jn 1:11). Happy those shepherds keeping watch at night who were found worthy to be shown the sign of this vision! (Lk 23:8)
For even at that time He was hiding Himself from the wise and prudent and revealing Himself to the simple (Mt 11:25; Lk 10:21). … The angel said to the shepherds, “This is a sign for you” (Lk 2: 12), you who are humble, you who are obedient, you who are not haughty (Rom 12: 16), you who are keeping vigil and meditating on God’s law day and night (Ps 1:2). “This is a sign for you,” he said. What is this sign? The sign the angels promised, the sign the people asked for, the sign the prophets foretold, the Lord Jesus has now made and He shows it to you. …
This is your sign. What is it a sign of? Indulgence, grace, peace, “the peace which will have no end” (Is 9:7). It is this sign: “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2: 12). But this baby is God Himself, reconciling the world to Himself in Him (2 Cor 5: 19). … He is the Kiss of God, the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1Tm 2:5), who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end.” … St Bernard (1091-1153) Doctor of the Church
PRAYER – Almighty God and Father, the human birth of Your Only-begotten Son, was the beginning of new life. May He set us free from the tyranny of sin. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord with the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 28 December – The Feast of the Holy Innocents – The Fourth Day of the Christmas Octave.
O Dearest Infant By St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) Most Zealous Doctor
O dearest Infant, tell me what You came on earth to do. Tell me whom You are seeking. Ah, yes, I now understand… You have come to die for me, a lost sheep, in order that I may no more hide from You but love You. O Jesus, my treasure, my life, my love, my all, if I do not love You, then whom shall I love? Where can I ﬁnd a mother or father, a friend, or a spouse more loving than You? And who has ever loved me more than You have? I am sorry that I have lived so many years in this world and yet still love You so little, even having offended You and sometimes forgotten You. Amen
Quote/s of the Day – 25 December – The Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ and remembering Blessed Jacopone da Todi OFM (1230-1306)
“Blessed is the Child, Who gladdened Bethlehem today. Blessed is the Babe, Who today renewed the youth of humankind. Blessed is the Fruit, Who bowed Himself down to our hunger. Blessed is the gracious One, Who suddenly enriched our poverty and supplied our need. Blessed is He, Whose tender mercy Led Him to heal our infirmities. Blessed is He, Whom freedom crucified because He permitted it. Blessed is He, Whom also the wood bore because He gave it leave. Blessed is He, Whom the grave bound, when He set limits to Himself. Blessed is He, Whose free choice brough Him to the womb and to birth. Blessed is He, Who sealed our soul and adorned and betrothed her to Himself. Blessed is the beautiful One, Who remade us in His image. Blessed is He, Who made our flesh a tabernacle for His hiddenness. Blessed is He, Who with our tongue spoke out His secrets. Blessed is the Word of the most high, Who became flesh today for us. Amen”
St Ephrem (306-373) Father & Doctor of the Church
“He was created of a mother, whom He created. He was carried by hands, that He formed. He cried in the manger, in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without Whom, all human eloquence is mute.”
St Augustine (354-430) Father & Doctor of Grace
“Christ is the Morning Star, Who, when the night of this world is past, gives to His saints, the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day.”
St Bede the Venerable (673-735) Father & Doctor of the Church
“He came from His royal throne, the stern Conqueror of error and the gentle Apostle of love.”
William of Saint Thierry (c 1075-1148)
“Let all your desires then be, directed toward Him, the Infinite One, the Giver of all Good.”
Bl Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306)
A Child My Choice By St Robert Southwell (1561-1595) Martyr
Let folly praise that fancy loves, I praise and love that Child Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand no deed defiled.
I praise Him most, I love Him best, all praise and love is His; While Him I love, in Him I live, and cannot live amiss.
Love’s sweetest mark, laud’s highest theme, man’s most desired light, To love Him life, to leave Him death, to live in Him delight.
He mine by gift, I His by debt, thus each to other due; First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true.
Though young, yet wise; though small, yet strong; though man, yet God He is: As wise, He knows; as strong, He can; as God, He loves to bless.
His knowledge rules, His strength defends, His love doth cherish all; His birth our joy, His life our light, His death our end of thrall.
Alas! He weeps, He sighs, He pants, yet do His angels sing; Out of His tears, His sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring.
Almighty Babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly, Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die!
Christ has been born for us, come, let us adore Him!
“And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
REFLECTION – “His glory no-one could see unless he was healed by the lowliness of His flesh. Why could we not see? Concentrate, my beloved people and see what I am saying. Dust, so to speak, had forcibly entered humanity’s eye; earth had entered it, had injured the eye and it could not see the light. That injured eye is anointed; it was injured by earth and earth is put there that it may be healed. For all salves and medicines are nothing but [compounds] of the earth. You have been blinded by dust, you are healed by dust; thus the flesh has blinded you, flesh heals you. For the soul had become carnal by assenting to carnal passions; from that the eye of the heart had been blinded. “The Word was made flesh.” That physician made a salve for you. And because He came in such a way that by His flesh He might extinguish the faults of the flesh and by His death He might kill death, it was, therefore, effected in you that, because “the Word was made flesh,” you could say, “And we saw his glory.” – St Augustine (354-430) Great Western Father & Doctor of Grace –Tractates on the Gospel of John, 2
PRAYER – Almighty God, Your incarnate Word fills us with the new light He brought to men. Let the light of faith in our hearts, shine through all that we do and say. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
The Word was God in the beginning and before all time, today, He is born to us, the Saviour of the world.
Quote/s of the Day – 24 December – The Nativity of the Lord, Mass at Midnight
… Let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world but in a fashion above the world; not as our own but as belonging to Him who is ours, or rather as our Master’s; not as of weakness but as of healing; not as of creation but of re-creation.”
St Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390) Archbishop of Constantinople Father and Doctor of the Church
“Jesus Christ, the God-Man, was born in a manger and is spiritually reborn on the altar. He suffered on Calvary and continues to offer Himself on the altar. In His earthly life, He spread His teaching and worked miracles among the crowds. In the Eucharist, He spans the centuries and communicates Himself to all.”
St John Chrysostom (347-407) Father & Doctor of the Church
“… For God it was too small a thing that His Son should show us the way, He made of Him the Way (cf Jn 14:6), the Way by which you would go under His direction, the Way you would follow…”
“Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again, for your sake, God became man.”
St Augustine 354-430) Great Latin Father and Doctor of the Church
Our Morning Offering – 24 December – Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord/Mass at Midnight
What Child is This?
What child is this, who, laid to rest On Mary’s lap, is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant king to own Him, The King of kings, salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him. Raise, raise the song on high, The Virgin sings her lullaby: Joy, joy, for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!
By William C Dix (1837-1898) English Hymnist and is sung to the tune of Greensleeves.
24 December – Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord/Mass at Midnight In many Western Christian traditions Midnight Mass is the first liturgy of Christmastide that is celebrated on the night of Christmas Eve, traditionally beginning at midnight when Christmas Eve gives way to Christmas Day. This popular Christmas custom is a jubilant celebration of the Mass in honour of the Nativity of Jesus, even many of those Christian denominations that do not regularly employ the word “Mass” uniquely use the term “Midnight Mass” for their Christmas Eve liturgy.
Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary on these words and explained in his Summa Theologiae, “And from this the Mass derives its name … the deacon on festival days ‘dismisses’ the people at the end of the Mass, by saying: ‘Ite, missa est,’ that is, the victim [Jesus] has been sent to God through the angel, so that it may be accepted by God.”
All the Holy Ancestors of Christ – A commemoration of all the holy ancestors of Jesus Christ.
The New Testament has preserved two different genealogies of Our Lord, in Matthew 1; and Luke 3.
Saint Matthew’s list is divided artificially into three equal parts of 14 names each, with several intentional omissions: from Abraham the father of the chosen people to David the king, to whose family the promise was made (2 Kings 7); David and the royal line after him to the Babylonian captivity; the descendants of the royal line from the captivity to Joseph, the legal father of Our Lord.
Saint Luke proceeds in reverse order; he starts from Joseph and goes, beyond Abraham, back to Adam the father of the human race, in accord with the character of his Gospel; and he merely enumerates the names without grouping them according to a thesis or point, as is the case in Saint Matthew.
Few names are common to both lists: viz., those between Abraham and David, then Salathiel and Zorobabel after the captivity, and Joseph the foster-father of Christ; the others are absent from Matthew’s list, or the persons are different. To account for these differences several explanations have been advanced, but no decisive evidence is extant. Not a few authors hold that Saint Luke gives Mary’s genealogy; but this view is more generally considered improbable, so that both lists are taken as giving Joseph’s ancestry. Only it must be supposed that at several points, instead of the actual descent, the one or the other of the lists gives the legal relationship based on adoption in some manner. Our Lord was considered to belong to the family of David; this seems to be taken for granted in the New Testament, where we find no difficulty raised against Him on the ground of His descent. The genealogies show His relationship to the royal family of Juda through Joseph, as it was only through the father, legal or natural, that the rights could be transmitted, and Joseph was the legal father of Jesus. To trace Our Lord’s ancestry through His mother would not have served the purpose of the Evangelists.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
Blessed Mercedarian Sisters – (6 beati): Six cloistered Mercedarian nuns at the convent of Vera Cruz in Berriz, Spain. Noted for their devotion to the rules of the Order and for their deep prayer lives. • Blessed Anna Maria Prieto • Blessed Anna de Arrano • Blessed Orsola de Larisgoizia • Blessed Maguna Mary • Blessed Margaret • Blessed Mary of the Assumption Sarria
Martyred Maidens of Antioch – (40 saints): A group of forty virgins martyred in the persecutions of Decius. None of their names have come down to us. They were martyred in 250 in Antioch, Syria.
Martyrs of Tripoli – (6 saints): A group of Christians martyred together, date unknown. The only details that have surived are six of the names – Drusus, Lucian, Metrobius, Paul, Theotimus and Zenobius. They were martyred in Tripoli, Libya.
“In adoring our Saviour’s birth, it is our origin that we celebrate. Christ’s temporal generation is the source of the Christian people, the birth of His Mystical Body. All of us encounter in this Mystery, a new birth in Christ.”
St Pope Leo the Great (400-461) Father & Doctor of the Church
“If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road pregnant with the Holy, and say, “I need shelter for the night. Please take me into your heart, my time is so close. ”
Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime intimacy, the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever, as she grasps your hand for help; for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yet there, under the dome of your being, does creation come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim – the sacred womb of your soul, as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is His beloved servant never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street pregnant with Light and sing…”
St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Mystical Doctor of the Church
“No-one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need, even of God- for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that Someone. That Someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.”
Thought for the Day – 22 December – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
The Humility of Mary
“The profound humility of Mary was commensurate with her high dignity. As Dante put it, she was the humblest and noblest of creatures. “Umile ed altra piu che creatura” (Paradiso 33:2) None of the saints was humbler than Mary, just as none of them was greater. It was an Archangel who came down from Heaven and bowed before her as he praised her in the highest terms as “full of grace” and announced the unique dignity she was to receive as Mother of God. She bowed her head in turn and declared herself to be the handmaid of the Lord, ready to do His will in all things. Then she went to visit and congratulate her cousin, Elizabeth, because she had heard from the Angel that she was to be the mother of the Precursor. When she arrived at the house, she was greeted by Elizabeth with the words: “How have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Far from being flattered, however, Mary attributed all her glory to God and replied with the Magnificat, a hymn of praise and gratitude in God’s honour. It was the same when Jesus was born in the manger at Bethlehem. There was a sudden brightness in the sky and the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men of goodwill.” But even though she held the Lord of Heaven and earth, in her arms, the Blessed Virgin asked for nothing for herself. Her only desire was to do the will of God. The love of Jesus was enough for her. She did not seek her own glory but the glory of God. Likewise, on the weary journey into Egypt, she was content because, she was with Jesus and in the obscure life of Nazareth, she desired no other treasure but Her divine Son. During His public life, she followed Him in silence. Once only she spoke in a submissive tone, in order to ask a favour for others but not for herself. It was at the wedding celebrations in Cana, when she asked for the first miracle, in such a way, that it was not even apparent that it was she who had wrung the favour from the filial heart of Jesus. It was always like that, up to the time of Calvary and the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost. She remained humbly in the background all the time. Now, after her departure from this earth, her humility has been gloriously crowned in the dogma of the Assumption and in her Coronation as Queen of Angels and of Saints.”
O KING OF ALL NATIONS and keystone of the Church come and save man, whom You formed from the dust!
“…For he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.” … Luke 1:49
REFLECTION – “Then Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour … He has helped Israel his child (Lk 1:54 Gk), remembering his mercy and the covenant he made with Abraham and his descendants forever.” Do you observe how the Virgin surpasses the perfection of the patriarch and seals the covenant God made with Abraham when He said to him: “This is to be the covenant between me and you”? (Gn 17:11) … It is the song of this prophecy that the holy Mother of God addressed to God when she said: “My soul magnifies the Lord …, for He who is Mighty has magnified me; holy is His name. In making me the mother of God He preserves my virginity. The full number of every generation is summed up within my womb, that they may be made holy in it. For He has blessed all ages, men and woman, young people, children, the old” (…)
“He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly” (…) The lowly, the gentile peoples hungry for righteousness (Mt 5:6), have been exalted. By making known their lowliness and hunger for God and by begging for God’s word, just as the Canaanite woman asked for crumbs (Mt 15:27), they have been satisfied with the riches concealed within the divine mysteries. For Jesus Christ our God, son of the Virgin, has handed out to the gentiles the whole inheritance of divine favours. He has raised up Israel his child: not just any Israel but His child, on whose exalted birth He bestows honour. This is why the Mother of God calls this people her child and her heir. God, who found this people worn out by the letter, wearied by the Law, calls it to His grace. By giving this name to Israel He raises him up, “remembering his mercy, as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.” These few words sum up the whole mystery of our salvation. Wanting to save humankind and seal the covenant established with our fathers, Jesus Christ then “inclined the heavens and came down” (Ps 18:10). Thus He manifested Himself to us, putting Himself within our reach so that we might see Him, touch Him and hear Him speak.” – A 4th century homily (Incorrectly attributed to Gregory of Neocaesarea, called “Thaumaturgos”, no. 2)
Prayer – The Magnificat The Canticle of Mary Luke 1:46-55
My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour He looks on His servant in her lowliness Henceforth, all ages will call me blessed: The Almighty works marvels for me, holy is His Name! His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear Him. He puts forth His arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted. He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly. He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty. He protects Israel, His servant, remembering His mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever. Amen
Advent Reflection – 21 December – O Oriens/O Radiant Dawn – Weekdays of Advent, Readings: Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah 3:14-18, Psalms 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21, Luke 1:39-45
The Lord is at hand, come let us adore Him.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit … “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” – Luke 1:41,44
REFLECTION – “When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary he gave her a sign to win her trust. He told her of the motherhood of an old and barren woman to show that God is able to do all that he wills. When she hears this Mary sets out for the hill country. She does not disbelieve God’s word; she feels no uncertainty over the message or doubt about the sign. She goes eager in purpose, dutiful in conscience, hastening for joy. Filled with God, where would she hasten but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, labourious efforts. Quickly, too, the blessings of her coming and the Lord’s presence are made clear – as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the child leapt in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Mary’s voice but John is the first to be aware of grace. She hears with the ears of the body but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery. She is aware of Mary’s presence but he is aware of the Lord’s – a woman aware of a woman’s presence, the forerunner aware of the pledge of our salvation. The women speak of the grace they have received while the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons. The child leaps in the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for you and the spirit of Mary rejoices in her turn. When John leaps for joy, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit but we know, that though Mary’s spirit rejoices, she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Her Son, who is beyond our understanding, is active in His mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Lord. Elizabeth says – Blessed are you because you have believed. You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges His works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh but, we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Saviour. In another place we read – Magnify the Lord with me. The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.” – St Ambrose (340-397) Bishop, Father and Great Latin Doctor – An excerpt from A Commentary on Luke, Book 2
PRAYER – O Radiant Dawn, Splendour of Eternal Light, Sun of Justice! Come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Quote/s of the Day – 20 December – The Fourth Sunday of Advent – O Clavis David/O Key of David – Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12, 14, 16, Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38
“[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course, which was taken by disobedience in the beginning, through the agency of the serpent, might be also, the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the Angel Gabriel announced to her, the glad tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason, the Holy One being born of her, is the Son of God. And she replied ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’ [Luke 1:38]”
St Justin Martyr (c 100- c 165) Apologist, Theologian, Philosopher, Father of the Church and Martyr
“The angel greeted Mary with a new address, which I could not find anywhere else in Scripture. I ought to explain this expression briefly. The angel says, “Hail, full of grace.” … I do not remember having read these words elsewhere in Scripture. An expression of this kind, “Hail, full of grace,” is not addressed to a male. This greeting was reserved for Mary alone.”
Origen (c 185-253) Priest, Theologian, Father
“The whole universe was created by God and God was born of Mary. God created all things and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things, gave Himself form through Mary and thus, He made His own creation. He who could create all things from nothing, would not remake His ruined creation without Mary. God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father, by whom all things were given life and Mary the mother, through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made and Mary gave birth to Him as the Saviour of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed. Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted, that all nature should owe, as much to you as to Himself.”
St Anselm (1033-1109) Magnificent Doctor Marian Doctor
“Mary is the great mould of God … He who is cast in this divine mould is soon formed and moulded in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in him. With little effort and in a short time, he will become divine, since he is cast in the same mould which formed a God.”
Advent Reflection – 20 December – The Fourth Sunday of Advent, Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12, 14, 16, Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38
The Lord is at hand, come let us adore Him.
O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no-one shuts, who shuts and no-one opens. Come and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end.” – Luke 1:32-33
REFLECTION – “The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David and the virgin’s name was Mary.” What is said of the house of David applies not only to Joseph but also to Mary. It was a precept of the law that each man should marry a wife from his own tribe and kindred. Saint Paul also bears testimony to this when he writes to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my Gospel” (2 Tm 2:8) …
“He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” The angel refers to the kingdom of the Israelite nation as the throne of David because, in his time, by the Lord’s command and assistance, David governed it with a spirit of faithful service … As David had once ruled the people with temporal authority, so Christ would now lead them to the eternal kingdom by His spiritual grace …
“He will reign over the house of Jacob forever..” The house of Jacob here refers to the universal Church which, through its faith in and witness to Christ, shares the heritage of the patriarchs. This may apply either to those who are physical descendants of the patriarchal families, or to those who come from gentile nations and are reborn in Christ by the waters of baptism. In this house Christ shall reign forever and “of his kingdom there will be no end.” During this present life, Christ rules in the Church. By faith and love He dwells in the hearts of His elect and guides them by His unceasing care toward their heavenly reward. In the life to come, when their period of exile on earth is ended, He will exercise His Kingship, by leading the faithful to their heavenly country. There, forever inspired by the vision of His presence, their one delight will be, to praise and glorify Him.” – St Bede the Venerable (673-735) Priest and Monk, Father and Doctor of the Church – Homilies for Advent, no 3
PRAYER – Lord, at the angel’s message, Mary, the immaculate Virgin became the temple of God and was filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, when she received Your divine Word. Grant that, after her example, we may humbly and steadfastly follow Your will. Through Christ the Incarnate Word, our Lord and Saviour, with the Holy Spirit, one God for all ages, amen.
O ROOT OF JESSE, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication, come, to deliver us and tarry not.
“And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak, until the day that these things take place because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” – Luke 1:20
REFLECTION – “You will be speechless… until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words.” Voice and word are not the same thing where we are concerned, since a voice can be heard without it conveying any meaning, without words and the word can likewise be communicated to our minds without a voice, as in the wandering of our thoughts. In the same way, since the Saviour is Word…, John differs from Him in being voice, by comparison with Christ, who is Word. This is what John himself answered to those who asked him who he was: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths’” (Lk 3:4; Jn 1:23). Perhaps this is the reason – because he doubted the birth of the voice that would reveal the Word of God – why Zachariah lost his voice but recovered it again, when that voice was born, who is the Word’s forerunner (Lk 1:64). Since, for the mind to be able to grasp the word intended by the voice, we must hear the voice. It is also why, according to the time of his birth, John is slightly older than Christ – for we perceive the voice before the word. Thus John points to Christ since it is with the voice that the Word is made known. Likewise, Christ was baptised by John, who admitted his need of being baptised by Him (Mt 3:14)… In brief, when John pointed to Christ it was as a man pointing to God, the incorporeal Saviour, as a voice pointing to the Word…”… Origen (c 185-253) Priest, Theologian, Father
PRAYER – Deepen our faith Lord, as we celebrate the great mystery of the Incarnation, by which You revealed to the world the splendour of Your glory, through the most pure Virgin Mary when she gave birth to Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever, amen.
Thought for the Day – 18 December – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Preparation for the Nativity
“The Birth of Our Lord is the most wonderful and most moving mystery of divine omnipotence and goodness. At first thought, the idea of the infinite God becoming man, would seem impossible. Between God and man, there is a vast abyss. Why should God have bridged this gap and assumed our poor mortal nature, becoming like us in everything but sin, while still remaining God? It is a hard question for the human mind to answer. There is only one reply, however. The immensity of God’s power and justice is equalled, by the immensity of His love. It was simply because God loved us infinitely that He took pity on us, lost as we were in sin. He assumed a human body and became man and, He suffered and died for us, so that we might love and obey Him more easily and follow in the way of goodness.
To our poor intellects, God seems not only immense and infinite but also, very remote. For this reason, God determined to come closer to us, so that He became as one of us. He was a tiny infant, crying in a manger; then, He was a lovable young boy Who spoke words of eternal wisdom among the doctors in the Temple; then, He was a prophet Who traversed the countryside of Palestine, teaching and working miracles; finally, He died a martyr’s death on the Cross in the cause of truth and goodness. Reflecting on this mystery of infinite love, let us adore and love Him.”
Our Morning Offering – 18 December and also the Feast of Our Lady of Expectation
O Virgo Virginum
O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? That which ye behold, is a divine mystery.
Maiden yet a Mother By Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Tr Msgr Ronald A Knox (1888-1957)
Maiden yet a mother, daughter of thy Son, high beyond all other, lowlier is none; thou the consummation planned by God’s decree, when our lost creation nobler rose in thee!
Thus His place prepared, he who all things made ‘mid his creatures tarried, in thy bosom laid; there His love He nourished, warmth that gave increase to the root whence flourished our eternal peace.
Nor alone thou hearest When thy name we hail; Often thou art nearest When our voices fail; Mirrored in thy fashion All creation’s gird, Mercy, might compassion Grace thy womanhood.
Lady, let our vision Striving heavenward, fail, Still let thy petition With thy Son prevail, Unto whom all merit, prayer and majesty, With the Holy Spirit And the Father be.
Most authors agree that there were seven original ‘O Antiphons’ and that they are a very ancient expression of Christian Prayer. While their author is unknown, they are cited in at least two works as early as the eighth century. Both Cynewulf, an Anglo-Saxon author and Amalarius, a liturgist and the Archbishop of Trier (died 850), who was a student of the teacher St Alcuin, cite the existence of the ‘O Antiphons’ as early as the seventh/eighth century.
The ‘O Antiphons’ get their name from the fact that they all begin with the interjection ‘O’: O Sapientia (Wisdom); O Adonai (Lord); O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse); O Clavis David (Key of David); O Oriens (Dawn of the East); O Rex Gentium (King of Gentiles); O Emmanuel.
While the original ‘O Antiphons’ numbered seven, over time a number of others were added to the liturgy of particular regions and sometimes for particular religious feast days which fell during Advent, or even in the liturgy of some medieval religious orders. Some medieval religious churches had as many as twelve O Antiphons which were sung in the Advent Liturgy leading up to Christmas Eve.
Among these, there was an important Marian ‘O Antiphon’ which appears in both the Gallican (France) and Sarum (England) liturgies. Although it is difficult to establish just when this antiphon was first introduced, it was certainly known in the Middle Ages.
This Marian Antiphon is still used today in the liturgy of the Norbertine Order. While the Latin Liturgy begins the O Antiphons on 17 December with ‘O Sapientia,’ and ends on 23 December with ‘O Emmanuel,’ the Liturgy of the Norbertine Order begins their O Antiphons on 16 December with ‘O Sapientia,’ and ends on 23 December with the beautiful Marian Antiphon ‘O Virgo Virginum.’