MONDAY IN PASSION WEEK
Station at Saint Chrysogonus
The Liturgical Year
Ven. Abbot Dom Guéranger
INTROIT Psalm 55: 2, 3
Miserere mihi, Dómine, quóniam conculcávit me homo: tota die bellans tribulávit me. Ps 55:3. Conculcavérunt me inimíci mei tota die: quóniam multi bellántes advérsum me.
Have pity on me, O Lord, for men trample upon me; all the day they press their attack against me. Ps. My adversaries trample upon me all the day; yes, many fight against me.
O Lord, we beseech You, make holy our fasting, and graciously lavish upon us forgiveness for all our sins. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – Jonas 3: 1-10
In those days, the word of the Lord came to Jona a second time: Set out for the great city of Ninive, and announce to it the message that I will tell you. So Jona made ready and went to Ninive, according to the Lord’s bidding. Now Ninive was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jona began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, Forty days more and Ninive shall be destroyed, when the people of Ninive believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the King of Ninive, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Ninive, by decree of the king and his nobles: Neither man nor beast neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold His blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish. And God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way; and the Lord, our God, had mercy upon His people.
The Church’s intention in this day’s lesson, is to encourage us to earnestness and perseverance in our penance. Here we have an idolatrous city, a haughty and debauched capital, whose crimes have merited the anger of heaven. God threatens it with his vengeance: yet forty days, and Ninive and its inhabitants shall he destroyed. How came it, that the threat was not carried into effect? What was it that caused Ninive to be spared? Its people returned to the God they had left; they sued for mercy; they humbled themselves, and fasted; and the Church concludes the Prophet’s account by these touching words of her own: “And the Lord our God had mercy on his people.” They were Gentiles, but they became his people, because they did penance at the preaching of the Prophet. God had made a covenant with one only nation, —the Jews; but he rejected not the Gentiles, as often as they renounced their false Gods, confessed his holy name, and desired to serve him. We are here taught the efficacy of corporal mortification; when united with spiritual penance, that is, with the repentance of the heart, it has power to appease God’s anger. How highly, then, should we not prize the holy exercises of penance put upon us by the Church, during this holy Season! Let us also learn to dread that false spirituality, which tells us that exterior mortification is of little value: such doctrine is the result of rationalism and cowardice.
GRADUAL – Psalm 53: 4, 3
O God, hear my prayer; hearken to the words of my mouth. V. O God, by Your Name save me, and by your might deliver me.
TRACT – Psalm 102: 10; 78: 8, 9
O Lord, deal with us not according to our sins, nor requite us according to our crimes. V. Ps. O Lord, remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may Your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low. [Here kneel.] V. Help us, O God, our Saviour, because of the glory of Your Name, O Lord; deliver us and pardon our sins for Your Name’s sake.
GOSPEL – John 7: 32-39
At that time, the rulers and Pharisees sent attendants to seize Jesus. Jesus then said, Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go to Him Who sent Me. You will seek Me and will not find Me; and where I am you cannot come. The Jews therefore said among themselves, Where is He going that we shall not find Him? Will He go to those dispersed among the Gentiles , and teach the Gentiles? What is this statement that He has made, ‘You will seek Me and will not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’? Now on the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘From within him there shall flow rivers of living waters.’ He said this, however, of the Spirit Whom they who believed in Him were to receive.
The enemies of Jesus sought to stone him to death, as we were told in yesterday’s Gospel; today they are bent on making him a prisoner, and send soldiers to seize him. This time, Jesus does not hide himself; but how awful are the words he speaks: I go to Him that sent me: you shall seek me, and shall not find me! The sinner, then, who has long abused the grace of God, may have his ingratitude and contempt punished in this just, but terrific way, —that he shall not be able to find the Jesus he has despised: he shall seek, and shall not find. Antiochus, when humbled under the hand of God, prayed, yet obtained not mercy. After the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, whilst the Church was casting her roots in the world, the Jews, who had crucified the Just One were seeking the Messias in each of the many impostors, who were then rising up in Judea, and fomenting rebellions, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Surrounded on all sides by the Roman legions, with their temple and palaces a prey to flames, they sent up their cries to heaven, and besought the God of their fathers to send, as he had promised, the Deliverer! It never occurred to them, that this Deliverer had shown himself to their fathers, to many even of themselves; that they had put him to death, and that the Apostles had already carried his name to the ends of the earth. They went on looking for him, even to the very day when the deicide city fell, burying beneath its ruins them that the sword had spared. Had they been asked, what it was they were awaiting, they would have replied, that they were expecting their Messias! He had come, and gone. You shall seek me, and shall not find me! Let them, too, think of these terrible words of Jesus, who intend to neglect the graces offered them during this Easter. Let us pray, let us make intercession for them, lest they fall into that awful threat, of a repentance that seeks mercy when it is too late to find aught save an inexorable Justice.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 6: 5
Return, O Lord, save my life; rescue me because of Your kindness.
Grant us, O Lord our God, that this saving sacrifice may cleanse us of our sins and gain us the favour of Your majesty. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF THE HOLY CROSS
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. Who didst set the salvation of mankind upon the tree of the Cross, so that whence came death, thence also life might rise again, and that he who overcame by the tree might also be overcome on the tree: through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, the dominions worship it, and the powers stand in awe. The heavens and the heavenly hosts, and the blessed seraphim join together in celebrating their joy. With these we pray Thee join our voices also, while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION – Psalm 23: 10
The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
May the sacrament of salvation which we have received, we beseech You, O Lord, cleanse and restore us. Through our Lord.
PRAYER OVER THE PEOPLE
Bow down your heads to God.
O Lord, we beseech You, grant unto Your people health of soul and body, that, by persevering in good works, we may be always worthy of Your powerful protection. Through our Lord.
This being the day on which the Church offers to our meditations the history of the Prophet Jonas preaching to Ninive, we subjoin a new fragment from the Hymn of Prudentius on Fasting. It is the passage where he relates the life of this Prophet, and the repentance of the wicked City.
I fain would now, in holy Fasting’s praise, tell, from the book of truth, how God our Father, with his wonted love, repressed the fire and thunder of his wrath, and spared the city doomed to be destroyed.
In ancient days, a city flourished, whose mighty power drove her into haughtiness extreme. Criminal indulgence and lewd corruption had destroyed the morals of her people, so brutalising them, that they left the worship of the God of heaven.
At length, the tired patience of God’s long-suffering gave way to justice, which moves his hand to prepare his arrowed lightnings, and storm-voiced clouds, and jarring whirlwinds, and thunder bolts that shake the vault of heaven.
Yet does he grant them time for penitence, wherein to tame and break the wicked ness of their lust and wonted follies. Mercy, that waits for prayer, holds back the blow of anger; a brief delay puts off the day of doom.
The meek Avenger sends a herald of the coming woe: it is Jonas the Prophet. But he, well knowing that the threatening Judge is prone to save, rather than to strike and punish, stealthily to Tharsis flees.
A noble vessel was prepared for sail, whereon he takes his place. The anchor weighed, the vessel puts from shore. She ploughs the deep, when, lo! a storm. Endangered thus, the crew would know the cause, and casting lots, it falls upon the fugitive, the Prophet.
Of all, the only one in fault is he. His guilt is clear, the lot has told the tale. Headlong is he cast, and buried in the deep; and as he falls, a whale’s huge jaw receives the Prophet, burying him alive in the sepulchre of his capacious womb.
There, for three nights, does Jonas lie unhurt; which passed, the sick monster heaves him from his womb, just where the murmuring billows break upon the shore, and whiten the salty rocks with foam. The Prophet comes forth, — wondering, but safe.
Compelled, to Ninive he tarns his hurried steps. He chides, he censures, he charges her with all her shameless crimes, saying: The anger of the great Avenger shall fall upon you, and speedily your City shall be made a prey to fire. Believe the prophecy I speak.
Then to the summit of a lofty hill he goes, from whence to see the thickened clouds of smoke rising from the ruined heap, and gaze upon the pile of unpitied dead. Suddenly there grows upon the spot an ivy-tree, whose knotted branches yield a shaded cover.
But scarce had the mournful City felt the wound of her coming grief, than deathly fear possesses her. Her people and her senate, her young and old, youths pale with panic, and women wailing loud, scamper in groups along the spacious walls.
It is decreed, — the anger of Christ shall by fasting be appeased. Henceforth, they spurn to eat. Matrons doff their trinkets, and vest in dingy garbs, and, for their wreaths of pearls and silks, sprinkle ashes on their hair.
Patricians put on robes of sombre hue; the people, weeping, take hair-shirts for their dress; disheveled maidens clad in skins of beasts, and hide their faces in veils of black. Children, too, make the dust of earth their bed.
The king himself from his shoulders tears the Cossian purple robe, and for the diadem that decks his brow with emeralds and gems, strews grim ashes on his head.
None think of drink or meat. Among the youths, not one would touch the food prepared. Nay, babes are kept from their mothers’ breasts, and in their cradles, wet with tears, these little fasters lie.
The herdsman, too, pens up his flock with care, lest, left to roam, the dewy grass or rippling fount should tempt them to transgress the universal fast; but now, pent up, their moans rebellow through their prison-cave.
Thus is God appeased, his anger brief restrained, and threatened evil yields to proffered love: for mercy leans to pardon men their sins, if they ut humbly pray; and when they weep, she makes herself their friend.
Let us close the day with these stanzas in honour of the holy Cross. We have taken them from the Triodion of the Greek Church.
(Feria VI. mediae Septimanae)
Purified by our fast, let us, to the praise and glory of the Omnipotent God, venerate that most holy Cross, whereon Christ, with his arms stretched forth, overcame the power of our enemy.
The saving Cross, that sanctifies us, is now exposed before our eyes. Let us draw nigh, having purified our body and our soul.
Cleanse me, O merciful Saviour, by the fire of thy commandments, and grant that I may contemplate thy saving Passion, and lovingly adore it, having the Cross for my protection and defense.
Having our hearts purified by the waters of our fast, let us, with faith, embrace the wood of the Cross, on which Christ was crucified, and gave us the water of immortality. Having thy Cross as our sail, we have already winged our way half through the saving voyage of our fast. Lead us by the same, O Jesus our Saviour, into the haven of thy Passion.
Moses on the mount was a figure of thee, O holy Cross, (when he prayed with his out stretched arms,) unto the destruction of the Amalekites. Grant that we, who sign thee on ourselves, and lovingly gaze on and venerate thee, may, by thy power, put our spiritual enemies to flight.