St. Athanasius, Bishop, Confessor, and
Doctor of the Church
The Liturgical Year – Dom Guéranger
The Court of our divine King, during this grandest of Seasons, is brilliant beyond measure: and, to-day, it is gladdened by the arrival of one of the most glorious champions that ever fought for his holy cause. Among the guardians of the Word of Truth, confided by Jesus to the earth, — is there one more faithful than Athanasius? Does not his very name remind us of dauntless courage in the defense of the sacred deposit, of heroic firmness and patience in suffering, of learning, of talent, of eloquence, — in a word, of everything that goes to form a Saint, a Bishop, and a Doctor of the Church? Athanasius lived for the Son of God; the cause of the Son of God was that of Athanasius: he who blessed Athanasius, blessed the eternal Word; and he insulted the eternal Word, who insulted Athanasius. Never did our holy Faith go through a greater ordeal, than in the sad times immediately following the peace of the Church, when the Bark of Peter had to pass through the most furious storm that hell has, so far, let loose against her. Satan had vainly sought to drown the Christian race in a sea of blood; the sword of persecution had grown blunt in the hands of Diocletian and Galerius; and the Cross appeared in the heavens, proclaiming the triumph of Christianity. Scarcely had the Church become aware of her victory, when she felt herself shaken to her very foundation. Hell sent upon the earth a heresy which threatened to blight the fruit of three hundred years of Martyrdom. Arius began his impious doctrine, — that he, who had hitherto been adored as the Son of God, was only a creature, though the most perfect of all creatures. Immense was the number, even of the clergy, that fell into this new error; the Emperors became its abettors; and had not God himself interposed, men would soon have set up the cry throughout the world, that the only result of the victory gained by the Christian Religion, was to change the object of idolatry, and put a new idol, called Jesus, in place of the old ones. But He who had promised, that the gates of hell should never prevail against his Church, faithfully fulfilled his promise. The primitive faith triumphed; the Council of Nicaea proclaimed the Son to be consubstantial to the Father; but the Church stood in need of a man in whom the cause of the Consubstantial Word should be, so to speak, incarnated, — a man, with learning enough to foil the artifices of heresy, and with courage enough to bear every persecution without flinching. This man was Athanasius: and every one that adores and loves the Son of God, should love and honor Athanasius. Five times banished from his See of Alexandria by the Arians, who even sought to put him to death, he fled for protection to the West, which justly appreciated the glorious Confessor of Jesus’ Divinity. In return for the hospitality accorded him by Rome, Athanasius gave her of his treasures. Being the admirer and friend of the great St. Antony, he was a fervent admirer of the Monastic Life, which, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, had flourished so wonderfully in the deserts of his vast Patriarchate. He brought the precious seed to Rome, and the first Monks seen there were the ones introduced by Athanasius. The heavenly plant became naturalized in its new soil; and though its growth was slow at first, it afterwards produced fruit more abundantly than it had ever done in the East. Athanasius, who has written so admirably upon that fundamental dogma of our Faith, — the Divinity of Christ, — has also left us most eloquent treatises on the mystery of the Pasch: they are to be found in the Festal Letters, which he addressed, each year, to the Churches of his Patriarchate of Alexandria. The collection of these Letters, which were once thought to have been irretrievably lost, was found, a few years back, in the Monastery of St. Mary of Scete, in Egypt. The first, for the year 329, begins with these words, which beautifully express the sentiments we should feel at the approach of Easter: Come, my beloved Brethren, celebrate the Feast; the season of the year invites you to do so. The Sun of Justice, by pouring out his divine rays upon you, tells you that the time of the Solemnity is come. At such tidings, let us keep a glad feast; let not the joy slip from us, with the fleeting days, without our “having tasted of its sweetness.”
During almost every year of his banishment, Athanasius continued to address a Paschal Letter to his people. The one in which he announces the Easter of 338, and which he wrote at Treves, begins thus: Though separated from you, my Brethren, I cannot break through the custom which I have always observed, and which I received from the tradition of the Fathers. I will not be silent; I will not omit announcing to you the time of the holy annual Feast, and the day on which you must keep the Solemnity. I am, as you have doubtless been told, a prey to many tribulations; I am weighed down by heavy trials; I am watched by the enemies of truth, who scrutinize everything I write, in order to rake up accusations against me and, thereby, add to my sufferings; yet notwithstanding, I feel that the Lord strengthens and consoles me in my afflictions. Therefore do I venture to address to you the annual celebration; and from the midst of my troubles, and despite the snares that beset me, I send you, from the further- most part of the earth, the tidings of the Pasch, which is our salvation. Commending my fate into God’s hands, I will celebrate this Feast with you; distance of place separates us, but I am not absent from you. The Lord who gives us these Feasts, who is himself our Feast, who bestows upon us the gift of his Spirit, — he unites us spiritually to one another, by the bond of concord and peace. How grand is this Pasch, celebrated by Athanasius an exile on the Rhine, in union with his people who keep their Easter on the banks of the Nile! It shows us the power of the Liturgy, to unite men together, and make them, at one and the same time, and despite the distance of countries, enjoy the same holy emotions, and feel the same aspirations to virtue. Greeks or Barbarians, we have all the same mother- country, — the Church; but what, after Faith, unites us all into one family, is the Church’s Liturgy. Now there is nothing, in the whole Liturgy, so expressive of unity, as the celebration of Easter. The unhappy Churches of Russia and the East, by keeping Easter on a different day from that on which it is celebrated by the rest of the Christian World, show that they are not a portion of the One Fold of which our Risen Jesus is the One Shepherd.
It seems strange that there should be anything like mourning during Paschal Time: and yet these three days are days of penance. A moment’s reflection, however, will show us that the institution of the Rogation Days is a most appropriate one. True, our Saviour told us, before his Passion, that the children of the Bridegroom should not fast whilst the Bride groom is with them: but is not sadness in keeping with these the last hours of Jesus’ presence on earth? Were not his Mother and Disciples oppressed with grief at the thought of their having so soon to lose Him, whose company had been to them a foretaste of heaven.
Let us see how the Liturgical Year came to have inserted in its Calendar these three days, during which Holy Church, though radiant with the joy of Easter, seems to go back to her Lenten observances. The Holy Ghost, who guides her in all things, willed that this completion of her Paschal Liturgy should owe its origin to a devotion peculiar to one of the most illustrious and venerable Churches of southern Gaul: it was the Church of Vienne.
The second half of the 5th century had but just commenced, when the country round Vienne, which had been recently conquered by the Burgundians, was visited with calamities of every kind. The people were struck with fear at these indications of God’s anger. St. Mamertus, who, at the time, was Bishop of Vienne, prescribed three days’ public expiation, during which the Faithful were to devote themselves to penance, and walk in procession chanting appropriate Psalms. The three days preceding the Ascension were the ones chosen. Unknown to himself, the holy Bishop was thus instituting a practice, which was afterwards to form part of the Liturgy of the universal Church.
The Churches of Gaul, as might naturally be expected, were the first to adopt the devotion. St. Aleimus Avitus, who was one of the earliest successors of St. Mamertus in the See of Vienne, informs us that the custom of keeping the Rogation Days was, at that time, firmly established in his Diocese. St. Caesarius of Arles, who lived in the early part of the 6th century, speaks of their being observed in countries afar off; by which he meant, at the very least, to designate all that portion of Gaul which was under the Visigoths. That the whole of Gaul soon adopted the custom, is evident from the Canons drawn up at the first Council of Orleans, held in 511, and which represented all the Provinces that were in allegiance to Clovis. The regulations, made by the Council regarding the Rogations, give us a great idea of the importance attached to their observance. Not only abstinence from flesh-meat, but even fasting, is made of obligation. Masters are also required to dispense their servants from work, in order that they may assist at the long functions which fill up almost the whole of these three days.3 In 567, the Council of Tours, likewise, imposed the precept of fasting during the Rogation Days; and as to the obligation of resting from servile work, we find it recognized in the Capitularia of Charlemagne and Charles the Bald.
The main part of the Rogation rite originally consisted, (at least in Gaul,) in singing canticles of supplication whilst passing from place to place, — and hence the word Procession. We learn from St. Caesarius of Arles, that each day’s Procession lasted six hours; and that when the Clergy became tired, the women took up the chanting. The Faithful of those days had not made the discovery, which was reserved for modern times, that one requisite for religious Processions is that they be as short as possible.
The Procession for the Rogation Days was preceded by the Faithful receiving the Ashes upon their heads, as now at the beginning of Lent; they were then sprinkled with Holy Water, and the Procession began. It was made up of the Clergy and people of several of the smaller parishes, who were headed by the Cross of the principal Church, which conducted the whole ceremony. All walked bare-foot, singing the Litany, Psalms and Antiphons. They entered the Churches that lay on their route, and sang an Antiphon or Responsory appropriate to each.
Such was the original ceremony of the Rogation Days, and it was thus observed for a very long period. The Monk of St. Gall’s, who has left us so many interesting details regarding the life of Champagne, tells us that this holy Emperor used to join the Processions of these three Days, and walk bare footed from his palace to the Stational Church. We find St. Elizabeth of Hungary, in the 14th century, setting the like example: during the Rogation Days, she used to mingle with the poorest women of the place, and walked bare-footed, wearing a dress of coarse stuff. St. Charles Borromeo, who restored in his Diocese of Milan so many ancient practices of piety, was sure not to be indifferent about the Rogation Days. He spared neither word nor example to reanimate this salutary devotion among his people. He ordered fasting to be observed during these three Days; he fasted himself on bread and water. The Procession, in which all the Clergy of the City were obliged to join, and which began after the sprinkling of Ashes, started from the Cathedral at an early hour in the morning, and was not over till three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Thirteen Churches were visited on the Monday; nine, on the Tuesday; and eleven, on the Wednesday. The saintly Archbishop celebrated Mass and preached in one of these Churches. If we compare the indifference shown by the Catholics of the present age, for the Rogation Days, with the devotion wherewith our ancestors kept them, we cannot but acknowledge that there is a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the importance attached to these Processions by the Church, we cannot help wondering how it is that there are so few among the Faithful who assist at them. Our surprise increases when we find persons preferring their own private devotions to these public Prayers of the Church, which to say nothing of the result of good example, merit far greater graces than any exercises of our own fancying.
The whole Western Church soon adopted the Rogation Days. They were introduced into England at an early period; so, likewise, into Spain, and Germany. Rome herself sanctioned them by her own observing them; this she did in the 8th century, during the Pontificate of St. Leo the Third. She gave them the name of the Lesser Litanies, in contradistinction to the Procession of the 25th of April, which she calls the Greater Litanies. With regard to the Fast which the Churches of Gaul observed during the Rogation Days, Rome did not adopt that part of the institution. Fasting seemed to her to throw a gloom over the joyous forty days, which our Risen Jesus grants to his Disciples; she therefore enjoined only abstinence from flesh-meat during the Rogation Days. The Church of Milan, which, as we have just seen, so strictly observes the Rogations, keeps them on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, that is to say, after the forty days devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection.
If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation Days, we must consider them as Rome does, — that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our Paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the Procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, but that the time for his departure is approaching. By prescribing Abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much she will feel the loss of her Spouse, who is so soon to be taken from her.
In England, as in many other countries, abstinence is no longer of obligation for the Rogation Days. This should be an additional motive to induce the Faithful to assist at the Processions and Litanies, and, by their fervently uniting in the prayers of the Church, to make some compensation for the abolition of the law of Abstinence. We need so much penance, and we take so little! If we are truly in earnest, we shall be most fervent in doing the little that is left us to do.
The object of the Rogation Days is to appease the anger of God, and avert the chastisements which the sins of the world so justly deserve; moreover, to draw down the divine blessing on the fruits of the earth. The Litany of the Saints is sung during the Procession, which is followed by a special Mass said in the Stational Church, or, if there be no Station appointed, in the Church whence the Procession first started. The Litany of the Saints is one of the most efficacious of prayers. The Church makes use of it on all solemn occasions, as a means for rendering God propitious through the intercession of the whole court of heaven. They who are prevented from assisting at the Procession, should recite the Litany in union with holy Church: they will thus share in the graces attached to the Rogation Days; they will be joining in the supplications now being made throughout the entire world; they will be proving themselves to be Catholics.
The Litany of the Saints is one of the most efficacious of prayers. The Church makes use of it on all solemn occasions, as a means for rendering God propitious through the intercession of the whole court of heaven. They who are prevented from assisting at the Procession, should recite the Litany in union with holy Church: they will thus share in the graces attached to the Rogation Days; they will be joining in the supplications now being made throughout the entire world; they will be proving themselves to be Catholics. We give the Mass of the Rogations, which is the same for all three days. It speaks to us, throughout, of the power and necessity of prayer. The Church uses the Lenten color, to express the expiatory character of the function she is celebrating: but she is evidently full of confidence; she trusts to the love of her Risen Jesus, and that gives her hope of her prayers being granted. For the convenience of the Faithful we also insert the Litany.
The Minor Litanies
Litany of the Saints
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, pray for us.
St. Michael, pray for us.
All holy Angels and Archangels, pray for us.
All holy orders of blessed spirits, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
All holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us.
St. Peter, pray for us.
St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Andrew, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. John, pray for us.
St. Thomas, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. Philip, pray for us.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
St. Matthew, pray for us.
St. Simon, pray for us.
St. Thaddeus, pray for us.
St. Matthias, pray for us.
St. Barnabas, pray for us.
St. Luke, pray for us.
St. Mark, pray for us.
All holy Apostles and Evangelists, pray for us.
All holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for us.
All Holy Innocents, pray for us.
St. Stephen, pray for us.
St. Lawrence, pray for us.
St. Vincent, pray for us.
St. Fabian and Sebastian, pray for us.
St. John and Paul, pray for us.
St. Cosmas and Damian, pray for us.
St.Gervase and Protase, pray for us.
All holy Martyrs, pray for us.
St. Sylvester, pray for us.
St. Gregory, pray for us.
St. Ambrose, pray for us.
St. Augustine, pray for us.
St. Jerome, pray for us.
St. Martin, pray for us.
St. Nicholas, pray for us.
All holy Bishops and Confessors, pray for us.
All holy Doctors, pray for us.
St. Anthony, pray for us.
St. Benedict, pray for us.
St. Bernard, pray for us.
St. Dominic, pray for us.
St. Francis, pray for us.
All holy Priests and Levites, pray for us.
All holy Monks and Hermits, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us.
St. Agatha, pray for us.
St. Lucy, pray for us.
St. Agnes, pray for us.
St. Cecilia, pray for us.
St. Catherine, pray for us.
St. Anastasia, pray for us.
All holy Virgins and Widows, pray for us.
All holy Saints of God, intercede for us.
Be merciful, Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, Hear us, O Lord.
From all evil, Spare us, O Lord.
From all sin, Spare us, O Lord.
From thy anger, Spare us, O Lord
From a sudden and unprovided death, Spare us, O Lord.
From the snares of the devil, Spare us, O Lord.
From anger, and hatred, and every evil will, Spare us, O Lord.
From the spirit of fornication, Spare us, O Lord.
From lightning and storms, Spare us, O Lord.
From the scourge of earthquake, Spare us, O Lord.
From plague, famine, and war, Spare us, O Lord.
From everlasting death, Spare us, O Lord.
Through the mystery of thy holy Incarnation, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Coming, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Birth, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Baptism and holy Fasting, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Cross and Passion, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Death and Burial, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy holy Resurrection, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy admirable Ascension, Spare us, O Lord.
Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, Spare us, O Lord.
In the day of Judgment, Spare us, O Lord.
We sinners, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst spare us, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst pardon us, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly bring us to true penance, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly govern and preserve thy holy Church, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly preserve in holy religion the Pope and all clerics in holy orders, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly humble the enemies of holy Church, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly give peace and true concord to Christian kings and princes, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly grant peace and unity to the whole Christian world, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst restore to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from the truth and lead all infidels to the light of the Gospel, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly confirm and preserve us in thy holy service, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly lift up our minds to heavenly desires, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly give eternal blessings to all our benefactors, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relations, and benefactors from eternal damnation, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly give and preserve the fruits of the earth, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst be so kind as to answer our prayers Son of God, We beg of thee, hear us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us,
Christ, graciously hear us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.Lord, have mercy on us.
O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul:
Let them be turned backward, and blush for shame that desire evils to me: Let them be presently turned away blushing for shame that say to me: Tis well, tis well.
Let all that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee; and let such as love thy salvation say always: The Lord be magnified.
But I am needy and poor; O God, help me. Thou art my helper and my deliverer: O Lord, make no delay.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Feast of St. Athanasius
Bishop, Confessor and Doctor
Double – White vestments
Missa ‘In medio ecclesiae’
Rogation Days – Minor Litanies
INTROITUS – Ecclesiasticus 15: 5
In medio ecclesiæ aperuit os ejus: et implevit eum Dominus Spiritu sapientiæ, et intellectus: stolam gloriæ induit eum. Ps. 91: 2 Bonum est confiteri Domino: et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. Gloria Patri.
In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: He clothed him with a robe of glory. Ps. It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High. Glory be to the Father.
Graciously hear our Prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord, which we bring before Thee on the solemnity of blessed Athanasius, Thy confessor and pontiff, and, by the merits and intercession of him who had the grace to serve Thee worthily, absolve us of all our sins. Through our Lord.
Commemoration for Rogation Monday
Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that we, who in our affliction put our trust in Thy mercy, may ever be defended by Thy protection against all adversity. Through our Lord.
Lesson from St. Paul to the Corinthians
II Corinthians – 4: 5-14
Brethren, We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord; and ourselves your servants through Jesus. For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us. In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute; we suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not; always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake; that the life also of Jesus, may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, as it is written, I believed, for which cause I have spoken, we also believe, for which cause we speak also: knowing that He who raised up Jesus will raise up us also with Jesus, and place us with you.
PASCHAL ALLELUIA – Psalm 109: 4
Alleluia, alleluia. Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech. Alleluia.
ALLELUIA – James 1: 12
Alleluia. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life. Alleluia.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew
Matthew – 10: 23-28
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: When they shall persecute you in this city, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities of Israel till the Son of man come. The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the good man of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? Therefore fear them not; for nothing is covered that shall not be revealed; nor hid that shall not be known. That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light; and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops. And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that can destroy both soul and body into hell.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 88: 24, 22
I have found David my servant: with my holy oil I have anointed him; for my arm shall help him, and my hand shall strengthen him, alleluia.
May the annual solemnity of Saint Athanasius, Thy confessor, commend us to Thy loving kindness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that, by this office of pious atonement, a blessed reward may follow him, and he may obtain for us the gifts of Thy grace. Through our Lord.
Commemoration for Rogation Monday
May these oblations, O Lord, we beseech Thee, loosen the bonds of our wickedness, and obtain for us the gifts of Thy mercy. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF EASTER
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
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 10: 27
That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light, saith the Lord; and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops, alleluia.
O God, the rewarder of faithful souls grant that, by the prayers of blessed Athanasius, Thy confessor and bishop, whose august festival we celebrate, we may obtain pardon. Through our Lord.
Commemoration for Rogation Monday
Favourably receive our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee: may we in our distress be consoled by Thy gifts and grow in love accordingly. Through our Lord.