SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Semi-Double / Green
Missa “Miserére mihi”
Commentary taken from
The Liturgical Year by Ven. Dom Guéranger
The resuscitation of the son of the widow of Nairn, on which our thoughts were fixed last Sunday, has reanimated the confidence of our beloved Mother the Church; her prayer goes up all the more earnestly to her Spouse, who leaves her on earth, for a time, that she may grow dearer to him, by sufferings and tears. Let us, of course, enter into these her sentiments, which guided her in the choice of today’s Introit.
Miserére mihi, Dómine, quóniam ad te clamávi tota die: quia tu, Dómine, suávis ac mitis es, et copiósus in misericórdia ómnibus invocántibus te. Ps.85: 1 Inclina, Dómine, auram tuam mihi, et exaudi me: quoniam inops, et pauper sum ego. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
INTROIT – Psalm 85: 3, 5
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I have cried to Thee all the day; for Thou, O Lord, art sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon Thee. Ps. 85: 1 Bow down Thine ear to me, O Lord, and hear me for I am needy and poor. 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.
Have mercy on me…
Such is our inability in the work of salvation, that, unless grace prevent, that is, anticipate, us, we cannot have so much as the thought of doing what is holy; and again, unless it follow up the inspirations it has given us, and lead them to a happy termination, we shall never be able to pass, from the simple thought, to the act of any virtue whatsoever. If, on the other hand, we be faithful to grace, our life will be one uninterrupted tissue of good works. Let us, in our Collect, ask, both for ourselves, and for all our neighbours, the persevering continuity of this most precious aid.
May Thy grace, we beseech Thee, O Lord, ever go before us and follow us: and make us continually to be intent upon good works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. Amen.
EPISTLE: Ephesians 3:13-21
Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians.
Brethren, I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which are your glory. For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened by His Spirit with which might unto the inward man, That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts: that being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and the length, and height, and depth. To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us: to Him be glory in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, unto all generations, world without end. Amen.
My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to my King. The enthusiasm of the royal psalmist, when singing the glorious nuptial song, has taken possession of our apostle’s whole soul, and inspires him with this marvellous Epistle, which seems to put into music, into a song of love, the sublime teachings of all his other letters. “When he wrote this to his Ephesians, he was Nero’s prisoner; but it shows that the word of God is anything but hampered by the chains that make an apostle a captive.
Although the Epistle to the Ephesians is far from being the longest of his Letters, yet it is from it that the Church borrows most, during these Sundays after Pentecost; and we may argue from such choice, that it gives, more than any other of St. Paul’s Epistles, that leading subject, upon which the Church is particularly anxious to direct her children’s thoughts, during this season of the Liturgical Year. Let us, therefore, thoroughly master the mystery of the Gospel, by hearkening to the herald who received it, as his special mission, to make known to the Gentiles the treasure that had been hidden from eternity in God. It is as Ambassador that he comes to us; and the chains which bind him, far from weakening the authority of his message, are but the glorious badges which accredit him with the disciples of the Christ, who died on Calvary.
For, God alone, as he tells us in the music we have just heard, can strengthen in us the inward man enough to make us understand, as the saints do, the ” dimensions,” (breadth, length, height, and depth,) of the great mystery of Christ dwelling in man, and dwelling in him for the purpose of filling him with the plenitude of God. Therefore is it, that falling on his knees before Him from whom flows every perfect gift, and who has begotten us in the truth by His love, our apostle, asks God to open, by faith and charity, the eyes of our heart, that so, we may be able to understand the splendid riches of the inheritance He reserves to His children, and the exceeding greatness of the divine power used in our favour, even in this life.
But, if holiness is requisite in order to obtain the full development of the divine life spoken of by the Apostle, let us also take notice, how the desire and the prayer of St. Paul are for all men; and how, therefore, no one is excluded from that divine vocation. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom observes, the Christians, to whom he sends his Epistle, are people living in the world, married, having children and servants, for he gives them rules of conduct with regard to each point. The saints of Ephesus, as of all other places, are no others than the faithful of Christ Jesus, that is to say, they are those who faithfully follow the divine precepts, in the condition of life proper to each. Now, it depends on us to follow God’s grace; nothing else but our own resistance prevents the Holy Ghost from making saints of us. Those sublime heights, to which the progressive movement of the sacred liturgy has, since Pentecost, been leading the Church, are open to all of us. If the new order of ideas introduced by this movement strike us, at times, as being beyond our practical attainment, the probable reason of such cowardice is—and a short examination of conscience will bear witness against us—that we have neglected, ever since Advent and Christmas, to proﬁt, as we should have done, of the teachings and graces of every kind, which were given us as means for advancing in light and in Christian virtue. The Church, at the commencement of the cycle, offered her aid to every one of us, and that aid she adapted to each one’s capabilities; but she could never remain stationary, because some of us were too lazy to move onwards; she could never consent, out of a regard for our leggings and sluggishness, to neglect leading men of good will to that divine union, which they were told ‘crowns both the year of the Church, and the faithful soul that has spent the year under the Church’s guidance.’ But on no account must we lose courage. The cycle of the liturgy runs its full course in the heavens of the Church each year. It will soon be starting afresh, again adapting the power of its graces to each one’s necessities and weaknesses. If, with that new year of grace, we learn a lesson from our past deﬁciencies; if we do not content ourselves with a mere theoretical admiration of the exquisite poetry, and loveliness, and charms of its opening seasons; if we seriously set ourselves to grow with the growth of that light which is no other than Christ Himself, —if, that is, we proﬁt of the graces of progress which that light will again infuse into our souls—then the work of our sanctiﬁcation, having been this time prepared, has a cheering and ‘a new chance of receiving that completeness, which had been retarded by the weakness of human nature.’
Even now, though our dispositions may not be all they should be, yet the Holy Ghost, that Spirit of loving mercy who reigns over this portion of the cycle, will not refuse the humble prayer we make to Him, and will supply, at least in some measure, our sad shortcomings. Great, after all, has been our gain in this, that the eye of our faith has had new supernatural horizons opened out to it, and that it has reached those peaceful regions which the dull vision of the animal man fails to discover. It is there that divine Wisdom reveals to the perfect that great secret of love, which is not known by the wise and the princes of this world— secret which the eye had not before seen, nor the ear heard, nor the heart even suspected as possible. From this time forward, we shall better understand the divine realities, which ﬁll up the life of the servants of God; they will seem to us, as they truly are, a thousand times preferable, both in importance and in greatness, to those vain frivolities and occupations, in the midst of which is spent the existence of so-called practical men. Let us take delight in thinking upon that divine choice, which, before time was, selected us for the fullness of all spiritual benedictions, of which the temporal blessings of the people of old were but a shadow. The world was not as yet existing, and already God saw us in His Word; to each one among us, He assigned the place he was to hold in the body of His Christ; already, His fatherly eye beheld us clad with that grace which made Him well pleased with the Man-God; and He predestinated us, as being members of this His beloved Son, to sit with Him, on His right hand, in the highest heavens.
Oh! how immense are our obligations to the eternal Father, whose good pleasure has decreed to grant such wondrous gifts to our earth! His will is His counsel, it is the one rule of all His acts; and His will is all love. It is from the voluntary and culpable death of sin that He calls us to that life which is His own life. It is from the deep disgrace of every vice that, after having cleansed us in the Blood of His Son, He has exalted us to a glory, which is the astonishment of the angels, and makes them tremble with adoring admiration. Let us then be holy for the sake of giving praise to the glory of such grace. Christ, in His Divinity, is the substantial brightness and eternal glory of His Father; if He has taken to Himself a Body, if He has made Himself our Head, it was for no other purpose than that He might sing the heavenly canticle in a new way. Not satisﬁed with presenting in His sacred Humanity, a sight most pleasing to His Father—that is, the sight of the created reflex of divine, and therefore inﬁnite, perfections—He wished, moreover, that the whole of creation should give back to the adorable Trinity an echo of the divine harmonies. It is on this account that He, in His own Flesh, broke down the old enmities existing between Gentile and Jew; and then, bringing together these that were once enemies, He made of them all one spirit and one body, so that their countless human voices might, through Him, blend in unison of love with the angelic choirs, and thus, standing around God’s throne, might attune the one universal song of their praise to that of the inﬁnite Word Himself. Thus shall we become for ever to God, like this divine Word, the praise of His glory, as the apostle thrice loves to express himself in the beginning of this his Epistle to the Ephesians. Thus, too, is to be wrought that mystery which, from all eternity, was the object of God’s eternal designs: the mystery, that is, of divine union, realized by our Lord Jesus uniting, in His own Person, in inﬁnite love, both earth and heaven.
The Church, which is showing herself in the midst of the Gentiles, bears on herself the mark of her divine Architect; God shows Himself, in her, in all majesty; and, by her, the kings of the earth are made to fear Him.
GRADUAL: Psalm 101: 16, 17
The gentiles shall fear Thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory. For the Lord hath built up Sion, and He shall be seen in His majesty.
ALLELUIA: Psalm 97: 1
Alleluia, alleluia. Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle, because the Lord hath done wonderful things. Alleluia.
GOSPEL: Luke 14: 1-11
At that time, when Jesus went into the house of one of the chiefs of the Pharisees on the Sabbath day to eat bread, they watched Him. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy: and Jesus answering, spoke to the lawyers and the Pharisees, saying: “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” But they held their peace: but He taking him, healed him, and sent him away. And answering them, He said: “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him out on the sabbath day?” And they could not answer Him these things. And He spoke a parable also to them that were invited, marking how they chose the first seats at the table, saying to them: “When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place, lest perhaps one more honorable than thou be invited by him and he that invited thee and him, come and say to thee: Give this man place: and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place: that when he who invited thee cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at table with thee: because everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled and he that humbled himself shall be exalted.”
Holy Church here tells us, and in a most unmistakable way, what has been her chief aim for her children ever since the feast of Pentecost. The wedding spoken of in today’s Gospel is that of heaven, of which there is a prelude given here below, by the union effected in the sacred banquet of holy Communion. The divine invitation is made to all; and the invitation is not like that which is given on occasion of earthly weddings, to which the bridegroom and bride invite their friends and relatives as simple witnesses to the union contracted between two individuals. In the Gospel wedding, Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church is the bride. These nuptials are ours, inasmuch as we are members of the Church; and the banquet-hall, in this case, is something far superior to that of a commonplace marriage.
But, that this union be as fruitful as it ought to be, the soul, in the sanctuary of her own conscience, must bring with her a ﬁdelity which is to be an enduring one, and a love which is to be active, even when the feast of the sacred mysteries is past. Divine union, when it is genuine, masters one’s entire being. It ﬁxes one in the untiring contemplation of the beloved Object, in the earnest attention to His interests, in the continual aspiration of the heart towards Him, even when He seems to have absented Himself from the soul. The bride of the divine nuptials should be no less intent on her God, than those of earth are on their earthly spouse. It is on this condition alone, that the Christian soul can be said to have entered on the unitive life, or can yield its precious fruits.
But, for the attainment of all this—that is, that our Lord Jesus Christ may have that full control over the soul and its powers which makes her to be truly His, and subjects her to Him as the bride to her Spouse—it is necessary that all alien competition be entirely and deﬁnitively put aside. Now, there is one sad fact, which everyone knows: the divinely noble Son of the eternal Father, the Incarnate Word whose beauty enraptures the heavenly citizens, the immortal King, whose exploits and power and riches are beyond all that the children of men can imagine —has rivals, human rivals, who pretend to have stronger claims than He to creatures whom He has redeemed from slavery, and invited to share with Him the honours of His throne. Even in the case of those whom His loving mercy succeeds in winning over wholly to Himself, is He not frequently kept waiting, for perhaps years, before they can make up their minds to be wise enough to take Him? During that long period of unworthy wavering, He loses not His patience, He does not turn elsewhere as He might in all justice do, but He keeps on asking them to be wholly His, mercifully waiting for some secret touch of one of His graces, joined with the unwearied labour of the Holy Ghost, to get the better of all this inconceivable resistance.
Let us not be surprised at the Church’s bringing the whole inﬂuence of her liturgy to bear on the winning of souls to Christ; for every such conquest she makes for Him is a fresh and closer bond of union between herself and her Lord. This explains how, on some of these previous Sundays, she has given us such admirable instructions regarding the efforts of the triple concupiscence. Earthly pleasures, pride, and covetousness, are really the treacherous advisers, who excite within us, against God’s claims, those impertinent rivals of whom we were just now speaking. Having now reached the sixteenth week of this season of the reign of the Holy Ghost, and taking it for granted that her sons and daughters are in right good earnest about their Christian perfection, the Church hopes that they have fairly unmasked the enemy. Today, therefore, hoping that her teaching will not fail to impress us, and that we shall no longer put off our most loving Jesus, she proposes to us, in the allegory of our Gospel, the great mystery of love of which He Himself has said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is likened to a King, who made a marriage for His Son.’
But, after all, her anxiety as mother and bride never allows her to make quite sure of even her best and dearest children, so long as they are in this world. In order to keep them on their guard against -falling into sin, she bids them listen to St. Ambrose, whom she has selected as her homilist for this Sunday. He addresses himself to the Christian who has become a veteran in the spiritual combat, and tells him that concupiscence has snares without end, even for him! Alas! he may trip, any day; he has gone far, perhaps very far, on the road to the kingdom of God, but, even so, he may go wrong, and be for ever shut out from the marriage feast, together with heretics, pagans, and Jews. Let him be on the watch, then, or he may become tainted with those sins, from which, hitherto, thanks to God’s grace, he has kept clear. Let him take heed, or he may become like the man mentioned in today’s Gospel, who had the dropsy; and dropsy, says our saintly preacher of Milan, is a morbid exuberance of humours, which stupefy the soul, and induce a total extinction of spiritual ardour. And yet, even if he were to have such a fall as that, let him not forget that the heavenly physician is ever ready to cure him. The saint, in this short homily, condenses the whole of St. Luke’s fourteenth chapter, of which we have been reading but a portion; and he shows, a little farther on, that attachment to the goods of this life is opposed to the ardour which should carry us on the wings of the spirit, towards the heaven where lives and reigns our loved One.’
But, above all, it is to the constant attitude and exercise of humility that he must especially direct his attention who would secure a prominent place in the divine feast of the nuptials. All saints are ambitious for future glory of this best kind; but they are well aware that, in order to win it, they must go low down, during the present life, into their own nothingness; the higher in the world to come, the lower in this. Until the great day dawn, when each one is to receive according to his works, we shall lose nothing by putting ourselves, mean while, below everybody. The position reserved for us in the kingdom of heaven depends not, in the least, either upon our own thoughts about ourselves, or upon the judgment passed on us by other people; it depends solely on the will of God, who exalteth the humble, and bringeth down the mighty from their seat. Let us hearken to Ecclesiasticus. ‘The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things, and thou shalt ﬁnd grace before God; for great is the power of God alone, and He is honoured by the humble. ‘Were it only, then, from a motive of self-interest, let us follow the advice of the Gospel, and, in all things, claim, as our own, the last place. Humility is not sterling, and cannot please God, unless, to the lowly estimation we have of ourselves, we join an esteem for others, preventing everyone with honour, gladly yielding to all in matters which do not affect our conscience; and all this, from a deep-rooted conviction of our own misery and worthlessness in the sight of Him who searches the reins and heart. The surest test of our humility before God, is that practical charity for our neighbour, which, in the several circumstances of everyday life, induces us, and without affectation, to give him the precedence over ourselves.
On the contrary, one of the most unequivocal proofs of the falseness of certain so-called spiritual ways, into which the enemy sometimes leads in cautious souls, is the lurking contempt wherewith he inspires them for one or more of their acquaintance; it is dormant, perhaps, habitually, but when occasion offers —and it frequently offers—they allow it to inﬂuence their thoughts, and words, and actions. To a greater or less extent, and, it may be, with more or less unconsciousness, self-esteem is the basis of the structure of their virtues; but, as for the illuminations, and mystical sweetnesses, which these people sometimes tell their intimate friends they enjoy, they may be quite sure that such favours do not come to them from the holy Spirit. When the substantial light of the Sun of justice shall appear in the valley of the judgment, all counterfeits of this kind will be made evident, and they that trusted to them, and spent their lives inpetting such phantoms, will ﬁnd them all vanishing in smoke. Having then to take a much lower place than the one they dreamt of, they may reckon it a solace, that some place is still given them at the divine banquet. They will have to thank God that their chastisement goes no farther than the shame of seeing those very people passing high up in honour above them, for whom, during life, they had such utter contempt.
The greater the conquests made by the Church, the greater are the efforts of hell to destroy the souls of her dear children. This fearful danger calls for her fervent prayers; and our Offertory-anthem is one of these.
OFFERTORY: Psalm 39. 14,15
Look down, O Lord, to help me; let them be confounded and ashamed that seek after my soul to take it away; look down, O Lord, to help me.
The Secret reminds us, how the Sacriﬁce, at which we are present, and which is to be consummated, in a few moments, by the words of Consecration, is the most direct and efﬁcacious of all the immediate preparations that we can make for the Communion of the Body and Blood, which that Sacriﬁce produces on the altar.
Cleanse us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the virtue of the present Sacrifice, and, in Thy mercy, provide that we may be worthy to be partakers therein. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God.
PREFACE of the Most Holy Trinity
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, ever-lasting God: Who, together with Thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, are one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance. For what we believe by Thy revelation of Thy glory, the same do we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or separation. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored. Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out with one voice saying:
SANCTUS, SANCTUS, SANCTUS…
COMMUNION: Psalm 70: 16-18
O Lord, I will be mindful of Thy justice alone: Thou hast taught me, O God, from my youth, and unto old age and gray hairs. O God, forsake me not.
In the Postcommunion, let us pray, with the Church, that we may be renewed by the purity, which these heavenly mysteries bring to us, who are well prepared for the gift: the effect of such a gift tells upon our bodies, both in this and in the next life.
In Thy goodness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, purify and renew our minds by these heavenly Sacraments: that by means of them, we may also receive help for our bodies, both now and in time to come. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God.