Friday, November 18, 2016

Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Greater Double

quod duce te mundus surrexit in astra triumphans, hanc Constantinus victor tibi condidit aulam. Because the world under thy conduct has risen triumphant to the very heavens, Constantine the conqueror has built this temple in thy honor. This inscription stood in letters of gold over the triumphal arch in the ancient Vatican Basilica. Never did the Roman genius frame a more magnificent utterance in so few words; never did the greatness of Simon Bar-Jona appear to such advantage on the seven hills. In 1506 the great arch that had looked down upon twelve centuries of prostrate pilgrims, fell from old age, and the beautiful inscription perished. But Michael Angelo’s lofty dome points out to the city and the world the spot where sleeps the Galilæan fisherman, the successor of the Cæsars, the Vicar of Christ, the ruler of the destinies of Rome.

The second glory of the eternal City is the tomb of St. Paul on the Ostian Way. Unlike that of St. Peter, which lies deep down in the Vatican crypt, this tomb is raised to the level of the floor by massive masonry, on which rests the great sarcophagus. This circumstance was ascertained in 1841, when the papal altar was reconstructed. It was evidently to obviate the consequences of inundations from the Tiber that the sarcophagus had thus been raised above the place where Lucina had first laid it. The pilgrim certainly finds nothing to blame in this arrangement when, on looking through the small opening in the center of the altar, his respectful glance falls upon the marble of the tomb, and he reads these imposing words traced in large characters of Constantine’s period: Paulo Apostolo et Martyri. To Paul Apostle and Martyr.

Thus Christian Rome is protected on the North and South by these two citadels. Let us enter into the sentiments of our fathers, when they said of this privileged city: “Peter the door-keeper, sets his holy dwelling at the entrance: who can deny that this city is like heaven? At the other extremity, Paul from his temple guards the walls; Rome lies between the two: here then God dwelleth.”

The present feast therefore deserves to be more than a local solemnity; its extension to the universal Church is a subject for the world’s gratitude. Thanks to this feast, we can all make together in spirit today the pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum, which our ancestors performed with such fatigue and danger, yet never thought they purchased too dearly its holy joys and blessings. “Heavenly mountains, glittering heights of the new Sion! There are the gates of our true country, the two lights of the immense soul. There Paul’s voice is heard like thunder; there Peter withholds or hurls the bolt. The former opens the hearts of men, the latter opens heaven. Peter is the foundation-stone, Paul the architect of the temple where stands the altar by which God is propitiated. Both together form a single fountain, which pours out its healing and refreshing waters.”

In the following Lessons the Roman Church gives us her traditions concerning the two basilicas whose dedication feast we are celebrating.

Ex locis sacris quæ olim apud Christianos venerationem habuerunt, illa celeberrima et frequentissima fuerunt, in quibus condita sanctorum corpora, vel aliquod Martyrum vestigium aut monumentum esset. In quorum numero sanctorum locorum, in primis semper fuit insignis ea Vaticani pars, quam sancti Petri Confessionem appellabant. Nam eo Christiani ex omnibus orbis terræ partibus, tamquam ad fidei petram et Ecclesiæ fundamentum convenientes, locum Principis Apostolorum sepulchro consecratum, summa religione ac pietate venerabantur.

Among the holy places venerated of old by the Christians, those were the most honored and most frequented in which the bodies of the Saints were preserved, or some relic or memorial of the Martyrs. Chief among these holy places has ever been that part of the Vatican hill which was called the Confession of St. Peter. Christians from all parts of the world flocked thither, as to the rock of the faith and the foundation of the Church, and honored with the greatest reverence and piety the spot hallowed by the sepulcher of the prince of the Apostles.

Illuc Constantinus Magnus imperator octavo die post susceptum baptismum venit, depositoque diademate, et humi jacens, vim lacrimarum profudit: mox sumpto ligone ac bidente, terram eruit: indeque duodecim terræ cophinis, honoris causa duodecim Apostolorum, ablatis, ac loco basilicæ Principis Apostolorum designato, ecclesiam ædificavit. Quam sanctus Silvester Papa decimo quarto calendas decembris, eo modo quo Lateranensem ecclesiam quinto idus novembris consecraverat, dedicavit: et in ea altare lapideum chrismate delibutum erexit; atque ex eo tempore sancivit, ne deinceps altaria nisi ex lapide fierent. Idem beatus Silvester basilicam sancti Pauli Apostoli in via Ostiensi ab eodem Constantino imperatore magnificentissime ædificatam dedicavit. Quas basilicas idem imperator multis prædiis attributis locupletavit, ac muneribus amplissimis exornavit.

Hither on the octave day of his baptism, came the emperor Constantine the Great; and taking off his diadem, he prostrated on the ground with many tears. Then taking a hoe and mattock he broke up the earth, of which twelve basketfuls were taken away in honor of the twelve Apostles; and on the site thus marked out, he built the basilica of the Prince of the Apostles. Pope St. Sylvester dedicated it on the fourteenth of the Calens of December, just as he had consecrated the Lateran church on the fifth of the Ides of November. He erected in it a stone altar which he anointed with chrism, and decreed that thenceforward all altars should be made of stone. The same blessed Sylvester dedicated the basilica of St. Paul the Apostle on the Ostian Way, also magnificently built by the emperor Constantine, who enriched both basilicas with many estates and rich gifts and ornaments.

Pooro Vaticanem basilicam vetustate jampridem collabentem, ac propterea multorum Pontificum pietate latius ac magnificentius a fundamentis erectam, Urbanus Octavus had eadem recorrente die anni millesimi sexcentesimi vigesimi sexti, solemni ritu consecravit. Basilicam vero Ostiensem, quum dira incendii vis, anno millesimo octingentesimo vigesimo tertio penitus consumpsisset, indefessa quatuor Pontificum cura splendidius quam antes erectam, et ab interitu veluti vincidatam, Pius Nonus auspicatissimam nactus occasionem qua dogma de Immaculata beatæ Mariæ Virginis Conceptione nuper ab ipso proclamatum, ingentem cardinalium et episcoporum numerum ex dissitis etiam catholici orbis regionibus Romam attraxerat, die decima decembris anni millesimi octingentesimi quinquagesimi quarti, tanta circumdatus purpuratorum patrum et antistitum corona solemniter dedicavit, ejusque celebritatis memoriam hac die recolendam decrevit.

The Vatican basilica, however, began to decay through age; and was rebuilt from its foundations on a more extensive and magnificent scale, through the piety of several Pontiffs. It was solemnly dedicated by Urban VIII on this day in the year 1626. In the year 1823 the Ostian basilica was burnt to the ground; but the ruins were repaired and it was rebuilt more splendidly than before, through the unwearied exertions of four Popes. Pius IX, seizing the auspicious occasion, when his Definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the blessed Virgin Mary had drawn an immense number of Cardinals and Bishops even from distant parts of the Catholic world to Rome, solemnly dedicated this basilica on the tenth of December 1854, assisted and surrounded by this noble gathering of prelates; and he decreed that the anniversary commemoration should be celebrated on this day.

In honor of the holy Apostles we gladly borrow from the libraries of our Anglican brethren the following Sequence, sung four centuries ago by the venerable church of York.


In sollemni memoria
Apostolorum principis,
Piæ laudis harmonia
Lætis resonet canticis.

On this solemn commemoration of the Prince of the Apostles, let the harmony of our loving praise resound in joyous canticles.

Veneremur simul pari
Dignum laude venerari
Apostolum gentium;
Ut quos amor vita junxit,
Nec mors ipsa post disjunxit
Jungat et præconium.

With him let us also honor the Apostle of the Gentiles, worthy of equal praise; that those whom love united in life, and death itself did not sever, may together receive our homage.

Horum laus est quod destructa
Romanæ potentiæ idolatria,
Jam fundata et firmata
Ibidem orbem gubernat Ecclesia.

Their praise consists in this, that the idolatry of the Roman empire has been destroyed; and in that same Rome the Church has been founded and built up, and rules the world.

Fide Petri fundamentum
Pauli tenet firmamentum
Dogmate Ecclesia;
Clavis huic potentiæ,
Illi cessit scientiæ
Juncta ad officia.

The Church is founded on Peter’s faith, and strengthened by Paul’s teaching; one holds the key of authority, the other that of knowledge, both for the same work.

Petro namque sub pastore
Gratulatur et rectore
Inter fluctus sæculi;
Pauli viget ex doctrina,
Vitæ sumpta medicina
Grex fidelis populi.

With Peter for their shepherd and guide, the faithful people rejoice amid the billows of this world; while they grow strong and receive life-giving medicine from Paul’s doctrine.

Iste verbo instruit,
Ille cœlum aperit
Verbo vitæ credulis,
Et quod unus prædicat
Alter verum comprobat
Crebris hoc miraculis.

Paul instructs them by his word, Peter opens heaven to believers in the word of life, and what the one preaches the other proves by many miracles.

Hic Judæos, ille gentes
Viam vitæ nescientes
Ad salutem convocat;
Ambo præsunt convocatis,
Ambo certant desolatis,
Hostic ne prevaleat.

One calls the Jews to salvation, the other the Gentiles ignorant of the way of life; together they direct the called, together they strive lest the enemy should prevail against them.

Contra summæ potentiæ
Consurgunt imperium,
Unus crucis, alter ensis
Perpessus supplicium.

They stand against the highest power of the empire, and incure the penalty, one of the cross, the other of the sword.

Sicque una urbe mortem
Una die passi, sortem
Ad justorum transmeant;
Qui malorum nos exsortes
Sua prece et consortes
Beatorum faciant. Amen.

Thus they suffer death in the same city, on the same day, and together pass to the reward of the just; by their prayer may they deliver us from all evil, and make us companions of the blessed. Amen.

Today let us call to mind and complete the instructions we received on the general feast of the Dedication of churches; and let us conclude with the following Sequence, worthy of the pen of Adam of St. Victor, to whom it was long attributed. It sets forth in all the figures once so well known, the great mystery of Christ’s union with the human race, which is expressed in the consecration of Christian temples.


Quam dilecta tabernacula
Domini virtutum et atria!

How lovely are the tabernacles and courts of the Lord of hosts!

Quam electi
Tuta ædificia,
Quæ non movent
Imo fovent
Ventus, flumen, pluvia!

So firmly is the temple built by the incomparable architect, that wind and flood and rain instead of shaking strengthen it.

Quam decora fundamenta
Per concinna sacramenta
Umbræ præcurrentia!
Latus Adæ dormientis
Evam fundit, in manentis
Copulæ primordia.

Beauteous are its foundations, aptly prefigured by the mysteries of the time of shadows! While Adam sleeps eve comes forth from his side, the first type of an eternal union.

Arca ligno fabricata
Noe servat, gubernata
Mundi per diluvium.
Prole sera tandem fœta
Anus Sara ridet læta,
Nostrum lactans gaudium.

The ark, built of wood, preserves Noe, safely sailing through the deluge that destroys the world. Sara, advanced in years, laughs joyously to see herself a mother suckling the child whose name signifies our joy.

Servus bibit qui legatur
Et camelus adaquatur
Ex Rebeccæ hydria.
Hæc inaures et armillas
Aptat sibi, ut per illas
Virgo fiat congrun.

The servant sent as ambassador drinks from Rebecca’s pitcher, and she waters his camels; then she adorns herself with ear-rings and bracelets, that she may appear as beseems a virgin.

Synagoga supplantatur
A Jacob, dum devagatur
nimis freta litteræ.
Liam lippam latent multa:
Quibus Rachel videns fulta,
Pari nubit fœdere.

The synagogue, wandering away and trusting too much to the letter, is suplanted by Jacob. Many things lie hid from blear-eyed Lia, which are a strength to Rachel the clear-sighted, and give her equal rights.

In bivio tegens nuda,
Geminos parit ex Juda
Thamar diu vidua.
Hic Moyses a puella
Dum se lavat, in fiscella
Reperitur scirpea.

Thamar, long a widow, veils herself on the highway, and gives twin sons to Juda. Moses, in a wicker basket, is found by the maiden as she is bathing.

Hic mas agnus immolatur
Quo Israel satiatur,
Tinctus ejus sanguine;
Hic transitur rubens unda,
Ægyptios sub profunda
Obruens voragine.

The male lamb being immolated, the Israelites are fed therewith, and are marked with its blood. They cross the Red Sea, whose rushing waves engulf the Egyptians.

Hic est urna manna plena,
Hic mandata legis dena,
Sed in arca fœderis.
Hic sunt ædis ornamenta,
Hic Aaron indumenta
Quæ præcedit poderis.

Here is the urn full of manna; here in the Ark of the Covenant are the ten commandments of the Law. Here are the ornaments of the temple; here the garments of Aaron, and first of them all the Pontiff’s ephod.

Hic Urias viduatur,
Bethsabee sublimatur,
Sedis consors regiæ.
Hæc regi varietate
Vestis astat deauratæ,
Sicut regum filiæ.

Bethsabee, widow of Urias, is raised as bride even to share the royal throne, and stands before the king in robes of gold and all variety, een as the daughters of princes.

Huc venit Austri regina,
Salomonis quam divina
Condit sapientia,
Hæc est nigra sed formosa,
Myrrhæ et thuris fumosa,
Virga pigmentaria.

Hither comes the queen of the South, whom Solomon instructs with his divine wisdom; though black, she is beautiful, breathing the fragrance of myrrh and incense and every perfume.

Hæc futura
Nobis dies gratiæ;
Jam in lecto
Cum dilecto
Et psallamus:
Adsunt enim nuptiæ.

These future things foreshadowed thus in figures, the day of grace has revealed to us; let us rest in peace with the Beloved and sing to him, for it is the Nuptial-day.

Quarum tonat initium
In tubis epulantium
Et finis per psalterium.

The feast was opened by the clang of trumpets, and closes with the psaltery.

Sponsum millena millia
Una canunt melodia,
Sine fine dicentia: Alleluia! Amen.

Millions of voices hail the Spouse with one same melody, repeating without end: Alleluia! Amen.


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