Sunday, June 24, 2018

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Green
Semidouble

This Sunday, which, with the Greeks, is called the fifth of Saint Matthew, was known by the Latins as the Sunday of the Fishing; such was its name up to the time when the Church had transferred to the previous Sunday the Gospel which suggested that title. The week which it commences is, in some ancient lectionaries, called the first after the Feast of the Apostles or of St. Peter; in others, it is the second or third after the same feast; these, and other similar varieties of names, which it is no rare thing to find in the liturgical books of the Middle Ages, originated in Easters being kept sooner or later in the years when those books were written.

The Church began last night the reading of the second book of Kings; it opens with the description of Saul’s sad end and David’s accession to the throne of Israel. The exaltation of Jesse’s son is the climax to the prophetic life of the ancient people. In David, God had found his faithful servant, and he resolved to exhibit him to the world as the most perfect figure of the future Messiah. A solemn promise of Jehovah assured the new monarch as to the future of his race; his throne was to be everlasting, for, at some future day, it was to be the throne of Him who should be called the Son of the Most High, though, at the same time, he was to be the Son of David.

But, while the tribe of Juda was hailing in Hebron the King elected by the Lord, there were dark clouds on the horizon. In her Vespers of yesterday, the Church sang, as one of her finest Antiphons, the funeral ode which inspiration dictated to David, when he saw the regal crown that had been picked up from the dust and gore of the battlefield, whereon had fallen the princes of Israel: Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew nor rain come upon you, for there was cast away the shield of the valiant, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil! How are the valiant fallen in battle! Jonathan slain on the high places! Saul and Jonathan exceeding lovely and comely in their life; even in death they were not divided.

The proximity of the great solemnity of the Apostles, June the 29th, to the Saturday when this Antiphon is sung, has suggested to the Church to apply its last words to Saints Peter and Paul, during the octave of their Feast: “Glorious Princes of the earth! as they loved each other in their life, so even in their death they were not divided!” Like the Hebrew people at this period of their history, our Christian armies have often had to hail their kings, almost in the same breath that said the requiem over their predecessors.

Mass.—As on last Sunday, so again today, the Church seems to unite together the readings of the previous night and the solemn entrance of the Sacrifice. The Introit for this fifth Sunday, is taken from Psalm the 26th, which was composed by David on occasion of his coronation in Hebron. It expresses the humble confidence of him who has nothing here below to trust in; and yet he has the Lord, as his light and salvation. In the events just referred to, nothing less than a blind faith in God’s promises could have kept up the courage of the young shepherd of Bethlehem, and nothing less could have inspired the people who had made him their king. But we must see beyond this; we must understand that the kingship of Jesse’s son and his descendents, in the ancient Jerusalem, represents, for our Mother the Church, a grander royalty, and a more lasting dynasty,—the kingship of Christ and the dynasty of the Sovereign Pontiffs.

Introit

Exaudi, Domine, vocem meam qua clamavi ad te: adjutor meus esto, ne derelinquas me, neque despicias me, Deus salutaris meus.

Hear, O Lord, my voice, with which I have cried to thee: be thou my helper: forsake me not: do not thou despise me, O God, my Savior!

Ps. Dominus illuminatio mea, et salus mea; quem timebo?

Ps. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

℣. Gloria Patri. Exaudi.

Glory, &c. Hear.

The blessings promised to David as a recompense for his combats, were but a poor figure of those which await, in heaven, the vanquishers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. They are to be king for ever; on their thrones, they are to enjoy the fullness of those inebriating and heavenly delights, some drops of which are permitted by the divine Spouse to be tasted, here below, by souls that are faithful to him. Let us, therefore, love him who thus recompenses our love; and since, of ourselves, we can do nothing, let us, through the Spouse, ask the giver of every best gift, to bestow on us the perfection of divine charity.

Collect

Deus, qui diligentibus te bona invisibilia præparasti: infunde cordibus nostris tui amoris affectum; ut te in omnibus, et super omnia diligentes, promissiones tuas, quæ omne desiderium superant, consequamur. Per Dominum.

O God, who hast prepared invisible good things for them that love thee: pour forth into our hearts an affectionate love for thee: that, loving thee, in all things, and above all things, we may come to the enjoyment of thy promises, which surpass all that we could desire. Through, &c.

The other collects, as given above, in the Mass of the fourth Sunday.

Epistle
Lectio Epistolæ beati Petri Apostoli. Lesson of the Epistle of St. Peter the Apostle.
I Cap. iii. I Ch. iii.

Charissimi, omnes unanimes, compatientes fraternitatis amatores, misericordes, modesti, humiles: non reddentes malum pro malo, nec maledictum pro maledicto, sed e contrario benedicentes: quia in hoc vocati estis, ut benedictionem hæreditate possideatis. Qui enim vult vitam diligere, et dies videre bonos, coerceat linguam suam a malo, et labia ejus ne loquantur dolum. Declinet a malo, et faciat bonum: inquirat pacem, et sequatur eam: quia oculi Domini super justos, et aures ejus in preces eorum: vultus autem Domini super facientes mala. Et quis est qui vobis noceat, si boni æmulatores fueritis? Sed et si quid patimini propter justitiam, beati. Timorem autem eorum ne timueritis, et non conturbemini. Dominum autem Christum sanctificate in cordibus vestris.

Dearly Beloved: Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble: Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it: Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil things. And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also you suffer any thing for justice’ sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled. But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts.

The Gospel of Sunday last showed us the Apostles hard at work drawing from the waters the living stones wherewith Jesus is to build his Church. Today, it is the head, the one who presides over the mysterious fishing, it is Simon the Son of John, who, in our Epistle, addresses himself to those various elements which are to make up the holy city; they are sacred materials all brought together from the deep abyss, that, henceforward, they may glitter as so many bright pearls, with the marvelous light of the Lord Jesus upon them. The Son of God came down from heaven for no other purpose than to found on earth, a glorious city, in which God himself might delight to dwell; he came, that he might build for his Father a temple of matchless beauty, where praise and love, ceaselessly sounding from the very stones which form its walls, might worthily proclaim that it possessed the sanctuary of the great Sacrifice. He himself made himself to be the Foundation of the thrice holy structure, wherein was to burn the eternal holocaust. He communicated this character of Foundation of the new temple to Simon his Vicar; and by giving him the name of Peter or Rock, on which he built his Church, he as good as told all future generations, what was the one aim of all his divine labors,—to build, that is, here on earth, a Temple worthy of his eternal Father. Let us, with respectful gratitude, receive from this Vicar of the Man-God the practical lessons which are involved in this master-truth. And, as we are just now in the period of the Year when the Calendar brings the Prince of the Apostles into such welcome prominence, let us be led by the Church nearer and nearer to this Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

Union of true charity, concord and peace, which must, at every cost, be kept up as the condition for their being happy both now and forever,—such is the substance of the instructions addressed by Simon, now Peter, to those other chosen stones, which rest upon him, and constitute that august Temple to be presented by the Son of Man to the glory of the Most High. Do not the solidity and duration of even earth’s palaces depend on the degree of union between the materials used in their structure? Again,—it is union which gives strength and beauty to all the parts of this immense universe; let there be a cessation in that mutual attraction which combines them together in one harmonious whole,—let there be a suspension of that cohesion which holds their atoms together,—and we shall have but an agglomeration of a vile impalpable something scarcely worth the name of dust. The Creator hath made peace in his high places; so that he asks: Who can make the harmony of heaven to sleep? And yet, as the earth, in its present condition, is to have an end, so, too, the heavens are to pass away as some worn-out garment. What, then, will be the cause of the stability,—what the cement which is to hold together,—the House prepared for God to dwell in, which, when all else has crumbled into change, is to be ever the same? And that dwelling is the Church; the dwelling of the adorable Trinity, up to whose throne there is to be ascending, for all eternity, the fragrance which exhales from her Jesus, her Spouse.

Here again, it is the Holy Spirit who must explain to us the mystery of this union, which makes up the holy city, and whose duration is to last as long as eternity itself. The charity which is poured forth into our hearts the moment of our Baptism, is an emanation of the very love that reigns in the bosom of the blessed Trinity; for the workings of the Holy Spirit in the Saints have this for their aim,—to make them enter into a participation in the divine energies. Having become the life of the regenerate soul, the divine Fire penetrates her whole being with God, and communicates, to her created and finite love, the direction and the power of the Flame that is ever-lasting and divine. So that, henceforward, the Christian must love as God loves; his charity is then only what it should be, when it takes in everything that God loves. Now, such is the ineffable friendship established, by the supernatural order, between God and his intellectual creatures, that he vouchsafes to love them with the love wherewith he loves himself; and, therefore, our charity should include and embrace, not only God himself, but, moreover, all those beings whom he has called to share, if they will, in his own infinite happiness. They will give us to understand the grandeur and incomparable power of the union, in which the Holy Ghost has established the Church. We are not surprised that its bonds should be stronger than death, and its cohesion be proof against all the power of Hell; for the cement, which joins the living stones of its walls together, partakes of the strength of God himself, and imitates the stability of his eternal love. The Church is truly that Tower which was built on the waters, which was shown to Hermas; it was formed of brightly polished stones, so closely joined one to the other, that the eye could not perceive the joints.

But let us also understand the importance and the necessity of mutual union for all Christians: there must be, among them, that love of the brotherhood, which is so frequently, and so strongly, recommended by the Apostles, the co-operators of the spirit in the building up of the Church. The keeping aloof from schism and heresy, of whose terrible consequences we were told in last Sunday’s Gospel;—the repression of hatred and jealousy,—no, these are not enough for the making us become useful members of the Church of Christ: we must, moreover, have a charity which is effective, and devoted, and persevering, and brings all souls and hearts into true union and harmony; a charity, which, to be worthy of the name, must be warm-hearted and generous, for it must make us see God in our fellow men, and that will bring us to look upon their happiness or misfortunes as though they were our own. We must have none of that phlegmatic egotism which finds satisfaction in never putting itself out of the way for any body; hateful as such a temperament is, it is far from being a rare one; it holds this peculiar view about charity,—that the best way of observing it, is to have a complete indifference for those who live with us! With souls of this stamp, it is evident they are not bedded in the divine cement: you could never get them to be part of the holy structure: the heavenly Builder is compelled to reject them as unfit, or leave them to die, around the walls, a heap of unemployed material, which refused all adaptation, and all being shaped, to the general plan. Still, if the building get finished before they have made up their minds not to be rubbish, woe to them! When it is too late, they will open their eyes, and understand that Charity is one; so that, he does not love God, who does not love his neighbor, and he who does not love, abideth in death. Let us, therefore, as St. John counsels us, measure the perfection of our love for God by the love we have for our neighbors: then only, shall we have God abiding within us; then only, shall we be enabled to enjoy the unspeakable mysteries of divine union with Him, who only unites himself with his elect, in order to make both them and himself one glorious temple to the glory of his Father.

The Gradual, recurring to the ideas which inspired the Introit, implored the divine protection in favor of the people, who have the Lord’s Anointed as their King. The Alleluia-Versicle proclaims his victories, and the salvation which he brought to this our earth.

Gradual

Protector noster aspice, Deus: et respice super servos tuos.

Look down, O God, our protector; and look down upon thy servants.

℣. Domine Deus virtutum, exaudi preces servorum tuorum.

℣. O Lord God of hosts, graciously hear the prayers of thy servants.

Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Domine, in virtute tua lætabitur rex: et super salutare tuum exsultabit vehementer. Alleluia.

℣. O Lord, in thy might shall the king rejoice: and, in thy salvation, shall he exult exceedingly. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Cap.V. Ch. V.

In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus discipulis suis: Nisi abundaverit justitia vestra plus quam scribarum, et pharisæorum, non intrabitis in regnum caelorum. Audistis quia dictum est antiquis: Non occides: qui autem occiderit, reus erit judicio. Ego autem dico vobis: quia omnis qui irascitur fratri suo, reus erit judicio. Qui autem dixerit fratri suo, raca: reus erit concilio. Qui autem dixerit, fatue: reus erit gehennæ ignis. Si ergo offers munus tuum ad altare, et ibi recordatus fueris quia frater tuus habet aliquid adversum te: relinque ibi munus tuum ante altare, et vade prius reconciliari fratri tuo: et tunc veniens offeres munus tuum.

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.

The last days of the ancient Jerusalem are fast drawing to their close. In less than a month, the frightful ruin of the City, that knew not the time of her Lord’s visitation, will have been witnessed by us. It is on the ninth Sunday after Pentecost, during these months of July and August when the armies of Vespasian beheld the destruction of Jerusalem, that the sacred Liturgy commemorates the fulfillment of our Redeemer’s prophecies. During the years which intervened, the ancient Temple is still there, with its inner doors closed against all Gentiles. It gives out, that, as of old, so now, it holds the Divinity beneath the veils of the old Testament, screening off, even from the children of Israel, its impenetrable Holy of Holies. And yet, the five weeks we have had since Pentecost, have shown us how gloriously the Church has been begun on mount Sion. There, fronting the Temple of the restricted and imperfect covenant of Sinaï, the Holy Spirit has founded the Church, making her the place where all the nations of earth are to meet in gladness; she is the city of the great King, where all men shall henceforth live in the Knowledge of God; and, from the very first moment of her existence, she has been showing herself to us as the abode where Eternal Wisdom has made it his delight to dwell; she has proved herself to be the true Holy of Holies, wherein God and we are to be brought into union.

The law of fear and bondage is, therefore, forever abrogated by the law of love. A lingering remnant of regard for the once approved institution, which was the depositary of divine revelations, permits the first generation of Jewish converts to observe, if it so pleases them, the practices of their forefathers; but the permission is to cease with the Temple, whose approaching destruction is to bury the Synagogue forever. And even now, before that period of destruction, the prescriptions of the Mosaic law are insufficient to justify the sons of Jacob before God. The ritual ordinances, whose aim was the keeping up the expectation of the future Sacrifice by a ceremonial code of figurative representations,—have become useless, now that the mysteries they foreshadowed have been accomplished. The very commandments of the Decalogue,—those necessary commandments, which belong to all times and can never undergo change, because they pertain to the essence of the ties existing between creatures and their Creator,—yes, even those holy commandments have acquired such additional splendor from the teachings of Jesus, the Sun of all justice, that man’s conscience now finds in them an almost immeasurable increase of moral responsibility and loveliness.

Independently of the positive precept concerning the fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge,” man had received from God, whilst yet in Eden, the knowledge of those eternal laws—they were written in the life there bestowed upon him. From that moment forward, he would have to cease being a man before he could entirely divest himself, or lose, that infused knowledge; for it had been given to him as part of his being, as the natural law of his practical judgments, and was thus, to a certain extent, identified with his reason. But man’s Reason having, by the Fall, become greatly obscured, his soul had no longer the full and clear notion, it previously had, of the moral obligations resulting from his own nature as man. His Will, too, was a sufferer by the same Fall,—it got depraved; it used the original weakness of Reason as an excuse for its own malice; and that malice did but make thicker the darkness which covered its own excesses. Voluntary or heedless victims of error, the Gentiles were seen adapting their conduct to false maxims, which were, at times, so contrary to the first principles of morality, that we who have enjoyed the blessings of faith can scarcely believe that men could ever be so wicked as history tells us they were. Even the descendents of the Patriarchs, through singularly preserved through the benediction given by God to their fathers, were far from being as free as we should have expected them to be from the general corruption. When Moses, sent as he was by God, formed them into a nation, whose constitution was fidelity to that written law which was to restore the law of nature,—several points had to be left unmentioned, which, according to our Lord’s expression, the hardness of Jewish hearts would never have taken in. After Moses’ death, self-constituted teachers and peculiar sects rose up in the nation, and, by dint of absurd traditions and false interpretations, corrupted the spirit, yes, at times the very letter, of the law of Sinaï.

The Jews looked upon the Law of God as the Magna Charta of their nation; as such, it was put under the protection of the civil power; various tribunals with more or less of executive authority according to the importance of the cases that had respectively to be brought before them,—were to pass sentence on the infractions committed, or the crimes perpetrated, against it. But,—with the single exception of the sacred tribunal established under the law of grace, wherein God himself acts and speaks in the person of the Priest,—every judgment passed by men, be their authority ever so imposing, can only deal with exterior facts: so that Moses, in the legislative code he had drawn up, assigned no penalty for interior sins. These, however grievous they may be, are essentially beyond both the appreciation and cognizance of society and the human powers which govern it. Even now under the New Law, the Church does not inflict her censures on interior faults, unless they be made manifest by some not which comes under the senses; just as Moses had done, who, whilst acknowledging the culpability of criminal thoughts or desires, yet left to God’s judgment what He alone can know.

But while nowadays, there is not a Christian child who does not know that a wicked thought or desire is unlawful,—it was not so with the mass of the Hebrew people. The Prophets were ever striving to get this privileged but grovelling race to raise their thoughts above this present life; and even supposing that much to be gained, there still remained the narrow-minded Jewish notion, that beyond the divinely inspired principles of its political constitution, and the outward form of its legislation, there was nothing worthy of their attention; they would have scouted the idea that there was a spiritual reality, of far greater and deeper importance, underlying the external code. We see all this strongly marked by what took place shortly after the return from captivity; the last prophets had disappeared, and free scope was given to doctrinal systems which fostered short-sighted theories. The Jewish casuists were not slow in drawing up their famous formula, that all moral goodness was guaranteed to him that had received circumcision! St. Paul, later on, told them how such a principle was a stumbling-block to the Gentiles, leading them to blaspheme the name of God. According to the moral theology of these Hebrew doctors, conscience meant only what the tribunal of public justice issued as its decisions: the obligations of the interior tribunal of a man’s conscience were to be restricted to the rules followed by the assize-courts. The result of such teaching soon showed itself: the only thing people need care for was what was seen by men; if the fault were not one that human eyes could judge of, you were not to trouble about it. The Gospel is filled with the woes uttered by our Lord against these blind guides, who taught the souls they professed to direct, how best to smother law and justice and love under the outward cover of the letter. This Jesus of ours never loses an opportunity of denouncing, and castigating, and holding up to execration, those hypocrites of Scribes and Pharisees, who took such pains to be ever cleaning the outside of the dish, but, within, were full of impurity, and murder, and rapine.

The divine Word who had come down from heaven to sanctify men in truth (that is, to sanctify them in himself), had to make this his first care,—to restore what time had tarnished, to restore all the original brightness to the changeless principles of justice and right, which rest in Him as in their center. No sooner had he called disciples around him, and chosen twelve out of their number as Apostles, than he began, with all possible solemnity, his divine work of moral restoration. The passage from the Sermon on the Mount, which the Church has selected for the Gospel of this fifth Sunday, follows immediately after his declaring, that he had come, not to find fault with, or destroy the Law, but to restore it to its true meaning, of which the Scribes had deprived it; yea, he had come that he might give it all the fullness, which the very co-temporaries of Moses were too hard to take in. One should read the whole chapter of St. Matthew from which our Gospel is taken; the explanations we have been giving will make it easily understood.

In the few lines put before us today by the Church, our Lord tells us not to make human tribunals the standard of the justice needed for our entering into the kingdom of heaven. The Jewish law brought a man who was guilty of murder before the criminal court of judgment; and He, the Master and author of the Law, declares to us, that anger, which is the first step leading to murder, even though it lurk in the deepest recesses of the conscience, may bring death to the soul; and thus really incur, in the spiritual order, the capital punishment which human tribunals reserve to actual murder. If, without going so far as to strike the offender, our anger should vent itself in insulting language, such as worthless wretch (which, in Syriac, is Raca), the sin becomes so serious, that, weighed in the balance of its real guilt as known by God, it would be a case, not of the ordinary criminal jurisdiction, but of the highest council of the nation. If the angry man pass from insulting to injurious language, there is no human tribunal which, be it as severe as it can be in its verdict, can give us an idea of the enormity of the sin committed. But the authority of the sovereign Judge is not, like that of a human magistrate, confined within certain limits; when fraternal charity is outraged, there is an avenger who will demand justice beyond the grave. Such is the importance of holy charity, which God demands should unite all men together! And so directly opposed to God’s design is the sin, which, in whatever degree, endangers or troubles the union of the living stones of the temple, which has to be built up in concord and love here below, to the glory of the undivided and tranquil Trinity!

The longer it lives, the better does the chosen people appreciate and understand its happiness in having chosen real and solid goods for its inheritance. With its royal model, David, it sings, in the Offertory the heavenly favors, and the uninterrupted presence of the God who has vouchsafed to make himself its support.

Offertory

Benedicam Dominum qui tribuit mihi intellectum: providebam Deum in conspectu meo semper: quoniam a dextris est mihi, ne commovear.

I will bless the Lord, who hath given me understanding: I set God always in my sight: for he is at my right hand, that I be not moved.

In the Secret, let us beseech God graciously to receive the offering of our hearts, as he used to receive the offerings made to him by the people of old. But if we would have this prayer of ours to be heard, we must remember the command given to us at the close of today’s Gospel:—God will not accept the hearts of those who are not, at least as far as lies in their power, in peace with all men.

Secret

Propitiare, Domine, supplicationibus nostris: et has oblationes famulorum famularumque tuarum benignus assume, ut, quod singuli obtulerunt ad honorem nominis tui, cunctis proficiat ad salutem. Per Dominum.

Be appeased, O Lord, by our humble prayers: and mercifully receive these offerings of thy servants: that what each hath offered to the honor of thy name, may avail to the salvation of all. Through, &c.

The other Secrets as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

The consoling presence of God, gratefully acknowledged in the Offertory Anthem, was not the furthest condescension which God could bestow on his faithful ones. Won over by his infinite love in the ineffable union of the sacred Mysteries, his people desire nothing, and ask for nothing, but that they may be permitted to fix their eternal abode in the house of the Lord.

Communion

Unam petii a Domino, hanc requiram: ut inhabitem in domo Domini omnibus diebus vit&aleig; meæ.

One thing I have asked of the Lord; this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life.

The effects of the sacred Mysteries are manifold: they cleanse the deepest recesses of our soul, and protect us externally, by enabling us to shun the snares laid for us along the path of life.

Postcommunion

Quos cœlesti, Domine, dono satiasti, præsta quæsumus: ut a nostris mundemur occultis, et ab hostium liberemur insidiis. Per Dominum.

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we whom thou hast fed with this heavenly gift, may be cleansed from our hidden sins, and delivered from the snares of our enemies. Through, &c.

The other Postcommunions as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

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