THE CONVERSION OF ST PAUL
Dom Guéranger – The Liturgical Year
We have already seen how the Gentiles, in the person of the Three Magi, offered their mystic gifts to the Divine Child of Bethlehem, and received from him in return the precious gifts of faith, hope and charity. The harvest is ripe; it is time for the reaper to come. But who is to be God’s laborer? The Apostles of Christ are still living under the very shadow of Mount Sion. All of them have received the mission to preach the gospel of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world; but not one among them has as yet received the special character of Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter, who had received the Apostleship of Circumcision, is sent specially, as was Christ himself, to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. And yet, as he is the Head and the Foundation, it belongs to him to open the door of Faith to the Gentiles; which he solemnly does by conferring Baptism on Cornelius, the Roman Centurion. But the Church is to have one more Apostle, an Apostle for the Gentiles; and he is to be the fruit of the martyrdom and prayer of St Stephen. Saul, a citizen of Tarsus, has not seen Christ in the flesh, and yet Christ alone can make an Apostle. It is then from heaven, where he reigns impassible and glorified, that Jesus will call Saul to be his disciple, just as, during the period of his active life, he called the fishermen of Genesareth to follow him and hearken to his teachings. The Son of God will raise Saul up to the third heaven, and there will reveal to him all his mysteries: and when Saul, having come down again to this earth, shall have seen Peter, and compared his Gospel with that recognized by Peter, he can say, in all truth, that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus, and that he has done nothing less than like great Apostles. It is on this glorious day of the Conversion of Saul, who is soon to change his name into Paul, that this great work is commenced. It is on this day that there is heard the Almighty voice which breaketh the cedars of Libanus, and can make a persecuting Jew become first a Christian and then an Apostle.
This admirable transformation had been prophesied by Jacob, when upon his deathbed he unfolded to each of his sons the future of the tribe of which he was to be the father. Juda was to have the precedence of honor; from his royal race was to be born the Redeemer, the Expected of nations. Benjamin’s turn came; his glory is not to be compared with that of his brother Juda, and yet it was to be very great-for from his tribe is to be born Paul, the Apostle of the Gentile nations. These are the words of the dying Prophet: Benjamin, a ravenous wolf, in the morning shall eat the prey, and in the evening shall divide the spoil. Who, says an ancient writer, is he that in the morning of impetuous youth goes like a wolf in pursuit of the sheep of Christ, breathing threatenings and slaughter against them? Is it not Saul on the road to Damascus, the bearer and doer of the high-priest’s orders, and stained with the blood of Stephen, whom he has stoned by the hands of all those over whose garments he kept watch? And he who in the evening, not only does not despoil, but with a charitable and peaceful hand breaks to the hungry the bread of life-is it not Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the Apostle of Christ, burning with zeal for his brethren, making himself all to all, and wishing even to be an anathema for their sakes? Oh! the power of our dear Jesus! How wonderful how irresistible! He wishes that the first worshipers at his Crib should be humble Shepherds-and he invites them by his Angels, whose sweet hymn was enough to lead these simple-hearted men to the Stable, where, in swaddling-clothes, he lies who is the hope of Israel. He would have the Gentile Princes, the Magi, do him homage-and bids a star to arise in the heavens, whose mysterious apparition, joined to the interior speaking of the Holy Ghost, induces these men of desire to come from the far East, and lay at the feet of an humble Babe their riches and their hearts. When the time is come for forming the Apostolic College, he approaches the banks of the sea of Tiberias, and with this single word: Follow me, he draws after him such as he wishes to have as his Disciples. In the midst of all the humiliations of his Passion, he has but to look-at the unfaithful Peter, and Peter is a penitent. Today, it is from heaven that he evinces his power: all the mysteries of our redemption have been accomplished, and he wishes to show mankind that he is the sole author and master of the Apostolate, and that his alliance with the Gentiles is now perfect: he speaks; the sound of his reproach bursts like thunder over the head of this hot Pharisee, who is bent on annihilating the Church; he takes this heart of the Jew, and, by his grace, turns it into the heart of the Apostle, the Vessel of election, the Paul who is afterwards to say of himself: I live, not I, but Christ liveth in me. The commemoration of this great event was to be a Feast in the Church, and it had a right to be kept as near as might be to the one which celebrates the martyrdom of St Stephen, for Paul is the Protomartyr’s convert.
O, God, who by a voice from heaven didst strike with terror thine Apostle Paul when raging against the holiness of the Christian religion and on this the day of his Vocation didst change him both in his heart and his name: so that the Church having once dreaded him as her persecutor, now rejoices in having him as her Teacher in the commandments of God: whom thou didst strike with exterior blindness, that thou mightest give him interior sight: to whom moreover, when the darkness of his cruelty was removed, thou didst give the knowledge of thy divine law whereby he might call the Gentiles: and didst thrice deliver him from shipwreck, which he suffered for the Faith, saving this thy devoted servant from the waves of the sea: grant also to us. We beseech thee, who are solemnizing both his conversion and his faith, that after the blindness of our sins, we may be permitted to see thee in heaven, who didst enlighten Paul here on earth.
MONDAY OF SEPTUAGESIMA WEEK
THE CONVERSION OF ST PAUL
Greater-double/ White vestments
Missa ‘Scio cui credidi’
INTROIT – II Timothy 1: 12; Ps. 138: 1, 2
Scio cui credidi et certus sum, quia potens est depositum meum servare in illum diem, justus judex. Ps. Domine, probasti me, et cognovisti me: tu cognovisti sessionem meam, et resurrectionem meam. Gloria Patri.
I know whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him, against that day; being a just Judge. Ps. Lord, Thou hast proved me and known me: Thou hast known my sitting down, and my rising up. Glory be to the Father.
O God, who hast taught the whole world by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle: grant, we beseech Thee, that we who this day celebrate his conversion, may, through his example, draw nearer unto Thee. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of St. Peter
O God, who by delivering to Thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, didst confer upon him the pontifical power of binding and of loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be delivered from the bonds of our sins: Who livest and reignest.
EPISTLE – Acts 9: 1-22
In those days: Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? Who said: Who art Thou, Lord? And He said: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus. And he was there three days, without sight, and he did neither eat nor drink. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision: Ananias. And he said: Behold I am here, Lord. And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the street that is called Straight, and seek in the house of Judas, one named Saul of Tarsus. For behold he prayeth. (And he saw a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hands upon him, that he might receive his sight.) But Ananias answered: Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that invoke thy name. And the Lord said to him: Go thy way; for this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house. And laying his hands upon him, he said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, He that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest; that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and rising up, he was baptized. And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. And he was with the disciples that were at Damascus, for some days. And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. And all that heard him, were astonished, and said: Is not this he who persecuted in Jerusalem those that called upon this Name: and came hither for that intent, that he might carry them bound to the chief priests? But Saul increased much more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus, affirming that this is the Christ.
GRADUAL – Galatians 2: 8, 9
He who wrought Peter to the apostleship, wrought in me also among the Gentiles, and they knew the grace of God which was given to me. The grace of God in me hath not been made void; but His grace always remaineth in me.
Thou art a vessel of election, holy Paul the Apostle: thou art indeed worthy to be glorified. The preacher of truth, and doctrine of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Through thee all the Gentiles have known the grace of God. Intercede for us to God, who chose thee.
GOSPEL – Matthew 19: 27-29
At that time, Peter said to Jesus: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have? And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My Name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 138: 17
Thy friends, O God, are exceedingly honourable; their power is become very great.
Sanctify, O Lord, by the prayers of Thine Apostle Paul, the gifts of Thy people: that, the things which, as of Thine ordaining are already pleasing unto Thee, may be made the more pleasing by his interceding patronage. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of St. Peter
May the prayer of the blessed Apostle Peter, we beseech Thee, O Lord, commend unto Thee the petitions and offerings of Thy Church: that, what we celebrate in his honour, may avail for our forgiveness. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF THE APOSTLES
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, to entreat Thee humbly, O Lord, that Thou wouldst not desert Thy flock, O everlasting Shepherd; but through Thy blessed Apostles, wouldst keep it under Thy constant protection; that it may be governed by those same rulers, whom as vicars of Thy work, Thou didst set over it to be its pastors. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION – Matthew 13: 28, 29
Amen I say to you, that you who have left all things, and followed Me, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall possess life everlasting.
Who are sanctified by this saving Mystery, beseech Thee, O Lord: that he under whose patronage Thou dost vouchsafe to place us, may not fail to pray for us. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of St. Peter
May the gift which we have offered, fill us with joy, O Lord: that as we proclaim Thee wonderful in Thine Apostle Peter, so we may through him receive the grace of Thy forgiveness. Through our Lord.