John the Baptist, placed on the confines of the two Testaments, closes the prophetic age, the reign of Hope, and opens the era of Faith which possesses the long expected God, though as yet without beholding him in his Divinity. Thus even before the Octave is ended, wherein we pay our homage to the son of Zachary, the apostolic confession comes grafting itself on the testimony rendered by the Precursor to the Word, the Light. Tomorrow all heaven will re-echo with the solemn protestation first heard at Cesarea Philippi: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God; and Simon Bar-Jona, because of this oracle uttered by him, will be the chosen Rock supporting the divine structure, the Church. Tomorrow he will die, sealing this glorious declaration with his very blood; but he will yet live on, in the person of each Roman Pontiff, that he may thus guard this precious testimony of his in all its integrity, even unto the day when faith will give place to the Eternal Vision. Coupled with Peter in his labors, the “Doctor of the Gentiles” shares his triumph this day; and Rome, more indebted to these her two Princes than to all her stout warriors of old, who laid the world prostrate at her feet, beholds their double victory fix forever upon her noble brow the diadem of spiritual royalty.
Let us then recollect ourselves, preparing our hearts in union with holy Church, by faithfully observing the prescribed fast of this Vigil. When the obligation of thus keeping up certain days of preparation previous to the festivals is strictly maintained by a people, it is a sign that faith is still living amongst them; it proves that they understand the greatness of that which the holy Liturgy proposes to their homage. Christians of the West, we who make the glory of Saints Peter and Paul our boast, let us remember the Lent in honor of the Apostles begun by Greek Schismatics on the very morrow of the close of the Paschal Solemnities, and which is continued today among the most ardent faithful. The contrast between them and ourselves will be of a nature to stir up our fervor, and to control those tendencies wherein softness and ingratitude hold too large a share. If concessions have been made so that this Vigil is no longer uniformly observed, let those who still retain it see therein a double motive to hold fast to their precious tradition, so fully in accordance with the Church’s wishes and her own historic practice. Let us make up by fervor, thanksgiving, and love, for what in modern observance lacks in severity, of that still maintained by the few.
The recital of the following beautiful formulæ will help to inspire us with the spirit of the feast. The first is taken from the Gothic-Gallic Missal: it is the Benediction which, according to the ancient rite used in France, was given to the people before the Communion, on the feast of the Apostles. The prayers which next follow, are from the Leonian Sacramentary.
|Deus, qui membris Ecclesiæ, velut gemellum lumen quo caveantur tenebræ, fecisti Petri lacrymas, Pauli litteras, coruscare.||O God, who to keep the members of thy Church from darkness, hast made to shine forth, like twin fountains of light, the tears of Peter and the writings of Paul,—|
|℟. Amen.||℟. Amen.|
|Hanc plebem placitus inspice: qui cœlos facis aperire Petro in clave, Paulo in dogmate.||In thy clemency, look upon thy people, O Thou who givest the heavens to be opened, by Peter with the key, and by Paul with the sword,—|
|℟. Amen.||℟. Amen.|
|Ut præviantibus ducibus, illicgrex possit accedere, quo pervenerunt pariter tam ille Pastor suspendio, quam iste Doctor per gladium in congresso. Per Dominum nostrum.||So that the Leaders going first, thither may the flock at length come, whither have already arrived by one same step, both the Pastor by the gibbet, and the Teacher by the sword. Through our Lord, &c.|
|Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui ineffabili sacramento jus Apostolici Principatus in Romani nominis acre posuisti, unde se evangelica veritas per tota mundi regna diffunderet: præsta, ut quod in orbem terrarum eorum prædicatione manavit, christianæ devotionis sequatur universitas.||O Almighty and Eternal God, why by an ineffable mystery, hath fixed the right of the Apostolic Princedom on the proud summit of the name of Rome, whence Evangelic Truth may diffuse itself through all the earth: grant that what by their preaching, hath percolated through the whole world, all may follow with Christian devotedness.|
|Præsta quæsumus Ecclesiæ tuæ, Domine, de tantis digne gaudere Principibus, et illam sequi pia devotione doctrinam, qua delectos tibi greges sacris mysteriis imbuerunt. Per Dominum.||Grant to thy Church, we beseech thee, O Lord, both worthily to rejoice at having such great Princes, and to follow with loving devotion that teaching of theirs, whereby thy cherished flocks have been initiated into the sacred Mysteries. Through our Lord, &c.|