Martyrology - 4th December
On the morrow we keep the feast of the holy Confessor Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna, (in the year 450,) of whom mention is made upon the 2nd day of this present month of December.
At Nicomedia, in the persecution under the Emperor Maximin, the holy Virgin and martyr Barbara. After a cruel and wasting imprisonment she endured burning with torches, the cutting off of her breasts, and other torments, and finished her testimony by the sword, (in the year 235.) At Constantinople, (in the year 780,) the holy martyr Theophanes and his Companions. In Pontus, (about the year 330,) the blessed Confessor Meletius, Bishop (of Sebastopol.) He was a man of extraordinary learning, but this gift was outshone in him by the mightiness of his soul and the straightforwardness of his life. At Bologna, holy Felix, Bishop (of that see,) who had erstwhile been a Deacon of the church of Milan under holy Ambrose. In England, holy Osmund, Bishop, (in the year 1078, of Salisbury,) whose feast we keep upon the 17th day of July, which is the day of the translation of his sacred body. (He was Count of Seez in Normandy, and, following William the Conqueror, was made Count of Dorset and Lord High Chancellor of England. He died in 1099, and was canonised by Pope Calixtus III, in the year 1458.) At Cologne, (in the year 1075,) holy Annon, Bishop (of that see.) In Mesopotamia, (about the year 449,) holy Maruthas, Bishop of Tagrit, who raised up again the churches of God in Persia which had been cast down in the persecution under King Isdegerd he was famous for many miracles, and achieved honour even among his enemies. (Several of his works are extant. Tagrit is now Miafarakin.) At Parma, (in the year 1133,) holy Bernard, Cardinal-bishop of that city, of the Congregation of the Order of St Benedict, called that of Vallombrosa.
V. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
R. Thanks be to God.
Meditations - The Second Sunday of Advent: Second Preparation for Christmas
Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples he said to Him: Art Thou He that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold, they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? a prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send My angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
The Gospel according to St Matthew, xi:2–10.
Summary of the Morrow’s Meditation
We have seen this morning what is the first preparation for Christmas, which consists in purifying the soul in order to render it meet for the reception of the Incarnate Word. We will meditate tomorrow on how, after having purified it, we must ornament and embellish it; and we shall see that this ornament is composed: first, of holy affections towards the mystery of the Incarnation; second, of the acts of the Christian life, specially appropriate to the holy season of Advent. We will then make the resolution: first, to maintain ourselves in the ha- bitual state of recollection which facilitates pious affections towards God; second, to practise the acts of virtue with which the spirit of God will inspire us. Our spiritual nosegay shall be today what it was yesterday, the words of Isaiah: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (xl:3).
Meditation for the Morning
Let us offer our homage to the Word Incarnate in the womb of Mary; let us adore Him as the Desired of the nations; let us admire Him as the Supreme Lord whom love has abased to a kind of annihilation (php ii:7); let us thank Him for having become incarnate in order to save us; and, by way of supplement to our powerlessness to thank Him as He merits to be thanked, let us offer Him the homage of Mary, of the holy angels, and of all the saints in heaven and on earth.
Holy Affections towards the Mystery of the Incarnation.
Holy affections are the aliment and the life of piety. They are the incense cast upon the fire; they maintain and increase the flame. They are the manna of the desert; they adapt themselves to all tastes, that is to say, to all the needs of the soul. They are as the savour of all the mysteries: they represent the essence and the grace of them, and they make them flow, as it were, spontaneously into the soul which reflects. How, for example, can we contemplate the Word Incarnate in the womb of Mary without speaking of it to the Three Divine Persons, and giving vent to our admiration and praise for the share which each one of them has taken in so great a mystery? How can we help saying to the Father: “O holy Father, how I congrat- ulate Thee on this first Christian temple, which Thou didst form for Thyself in the womb of Mary, and where Thou didst receive the first adoration worthy of Thee; how I thank Thee for having given us Thine only Son and for having immolated the Innocent in order to save guilty men”. How can we help saying to the Word Incarnate: “O eternal Son of God, with what delight I contemplate Thee in this living tabernacle where Thou dost come to receive our homage; on this throne where it pleases Thee to be adored and blessed; on this bed of justice where Thou lovest to pardon; on this bed of repose where Thou willest to be congratulated; in this paradise upon earth where Thou willest to be loved. Ah, in presence of this sanctuary of love, I cannot speak to Thee but of love! I give myself to Thee forever. I deliver up to Thee all that I am, that Thou mayest do in me all that pleases Thee. I call down on myself Thy spirit to direct me, Thy heart to warm me, Thy holy life to be my life. I love Thee, but make me love Thee ever more and more; more love still, O Lord, and always still more love! for I owe Thee everything; without Thee I was lost, with Thee I shall be saved, if I will”. And how can we help saying to the Holy Spirit: “O Divine Spirit, who didst form this so pure a body, who didst unite to it a soul so beautiful, and didst unite the one with the other in unity of person; to Thee be glory, praise, and love for this mystery, which is Thy work”. How, lastly, can we help saying to Mary: “O Mother of God, how great thou art, how admirably in thee are concentrated all the splendours of the saints, all the perfections of the angels; thou dost participate in all the holiness of thy Son; He lives in thee and thou in Him. I admire in thee His humility, His gentleness, His goodness, His patience, His obedience, His continual prayer. Thou dost nothing except in Jesus and by Jesus. O my Mother, how happy it makes me to contemplate thy holiness, to praise it, to bless it”. It is by means of these affections and others like to them that the soul prepares itself worthily for the great feast of Christmas.
Acts of the Christian Life Suitable to the holy Season of Advent.
In order to bring our life into harmony with so holy a season, we ought to apply ourselves to rendering all our actions perfect, to be more reserved in our words, more attentive in our prayers, and above all to the performance of the acts of virtue pointed out by the Prophet Isaiah as means for preparing the way of the Lord, who is about to come. “Make straight His paths” (isa xl:3), he says, that is to say, draw near to God in perfect integrity of heart, aspiring after nothing else but to please God alone. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (isa xl:4), that is to say, practise humility, simplicity, moderation; “and the crooked shall become straight” (Ibid.), that is to say, quit the Ways of the world, which are nothing but duplicity and falsehood, in order to follow only the ways of God, which are ways of truth and justice; and the rough ways made plain (Ibid.), that is to say, correct the asperities of your character, the roughness of your manners, in order to be gentle and kind to all (tit iii:2). Uprightness and sincerity, gentleness and sweetness, such are the virtues by which we ought to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, if we wish that He should come into our hearts. This preparation will cause us great combats and sacrifices; but it will lead us to heaven; for Jesus walks before us, and He, the first, has done far more than He asks of us. The road is difficult only to the cowardice which shrinks from it; it is sweet to those who walk resolutely in it. The joy of a good conscience prevents our feeling any difficulty. Let us believe the saints who made experience of it.
Resolutions and spiritual nosegay as above.