Thursday, 20 December 2012

Advent: the Os of Advent...are followed by CHRISTMAS DAY

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: vei, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra.
O Dayspring! Brightness of eternal Light and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

~~~~~ " ~~~~~

This is the 5th of the 7 great "O" Antiphons of Advent that are sung at Vespers up until Christmas Eve.

These are beautiful prayers that tell of the coming of our God in the flesh using the words of the Old Testament that predict the coming of the Messias.

There are 7 of them. 7 is a sacred number - 7 days of the week, 7 Sacraments, 7 deadly sins and contrary virtues, 7 ages of man, 7 ranks of Holy Orders (Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon, Acolyte, Lector, Exorcist and Porter), 7 ranks of the Christian nobility, 7 diurnal hours of the Divine Office (Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline - Matins being the Night Office) and so on. 7 is the Biblical number of perfection whereas 6 is the number of sin.

The 7 "O" Antiphons are a most wonderful and ancient way to usher the Christian people into the Holy Presence that comes to us in the depth of the night on Christmas Eve as a tiny babe.

Who but God could think of such a marvellous way to come down from on high to visit His people.

Anton Raphael Mengs. The Adoration of the Shepherds.

NOLITE timere: quinta enim die veniet ad vos Dominus noster!
FEAR not: on the fifth day our Lord shall come to you!
[Antiphon of 21 December, 5 days before Christmas]

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to all readers

 O most Holy Night, all the earth being at peace...

Sebastiano Conca. Adoration of the Shepherds. 1720.

O Adonai,
et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Prince and Commander of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
[Great O Antiphon for 18 December, sung before the Magnificat at Vespers]

Non auferetur sceptrum de Iuda, et dux de femore eius, donec veniat qui mittendus est: et ipse erit expectatio gentium

The royal sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruling prince from his loins, until He come that is to be sent, and He shall be the expectation of the nations.
[Genesis 49:10, sung at Vespers of the Advent Office]

"And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the Inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the Angel said to them 'Fear not; for behold I bring you tidings of great joy that shall be to all people. For this day is born to you a Saviour who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger'. And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.' "
[Luke 2:4-14]
[The Gospel of the Nativity of Our Lord, the first Mass of Christmas at midnight]

The Eighth Day before the Calends of January, being


In the 5199th year of the creation of the world, from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;

the 2957th year after the flood;
the 2015th year from the birth of Abraham;
the 1510th year from Moses, and the giving forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the 1032nd year from the anointing of King David;
in the 65th week according to the prophesy of Daniel;
in the 194th Olympiad;
the 752nd year from the foundation of the City of Rome;
the 42nd year of the rule of Octavian Augustus,

all the earth being at peace,


the eternal God,
and Son of the eternal Father,
desirous to sanctify the world by His most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
nine months after His conception
was born in Bethlehem of Judaea,


[Sung at Prime on Christmas Day from the Roman Martyrology]


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Advent: "Drop down dew, ye heavens from above...let the clouds rain down the Just One!"

Rorate Caeli...

Drop down, dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the earth rain down the Just One! 

Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a saviour!

 Fra' Angelico. The Annunciation. 1450.

The season of Advent is the season before the coming to fruition of the promise of the Archangel Gabriel to our Lady on Lady Day, the Feast of the Annuncation, 25 March, when God our Father gave to us His only Son in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, coming to man as any other man, through the pregnancy of a mother, born from the flesh of the Virgin Mary, truly her Son and thus, as He was later to describe himself:

Ο Υιός του Ανθρώπου - the Son of Man 

Thus did God raise to the highest dignity the supreme calling of Motherhood whereby a woman, saying yes to her husband, to Life, and to God, brings forth humanity in the shape of a tiny child. For God Himself chose to come to us in this way: the great God of Earth and Heaven chose to come to us as a tiny, defenceless child.

This is the way of God: he stoops to conquer; he obeys to command, he becomes frail to demonstrate eternal strength.

~~ " ~~

Rorate caeli desuper et nubes pluant iustum. Aperiatur terra et germinet Salvatorem.

Drop down the dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Saviour.
Isaias 45:8

This versicle appears throughout the Offices for Advent and is yet another example of how much more Scriptural the old Roman rite of the Catholic Church is compared with the new rite of Paul VI in which, sadly, it is almost never sung.

Most modern Catholics do not even know that this most beautiful Advent antiphon even exists. The full hymn is sung thus:  

Rorate caeli desuper et nubes pluant iustum.

Ne irascaris Domine, ne ultra memineris iniquitatis: ecce civitas Sancti facta est deserta, Sion deserta facta est: Ierusalem desolata est: domus sanctificationis tuac et gloriae tuae, ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri.

Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.

Peccavimus, et facti sumus tamquam immundus nos, et cecidimus quasi folium universi; et iniquitates nostrae quasi ventus abstulerunt nos: abscondisti faciem tuam a nobis, et allisisti nos in manu iniquitatis nostrae.

Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.

Vide, Domini, afflictionem populi tui, et mitte quem missurus es, emitte Agnum dominatorem terrae, de Petra deserti montem filiae Sion: ut auferat ipse iugum captivatis nostrae.

Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.

Consolamini, consolamini, popule meus: cito veniet salus tua:. quare moerore consumeris, quia innovavit te dolor? Salvabo te, noli timere: ego enim sum Dominus Deus, tuus, Sanctus Israel, Redemptor tuus.

Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.

Listen to these Spanish monks of Santo Domingo de Silos singing the Rorate in the monastic church of their conventual home, calling upon God to forgive their sins as they await with joy, once again, the great Feast of the Birth of our Most Holy Saviour:


Drop down the dew, ye heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One!

Be not angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity : behold the city of Thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert. Jerusalem is desolate, the house of Thy holiness and of Thy glory, where our fathers praised Thee.

Drop down the dew, ye heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One!
We have sinned, and we are become as one unclean, and we have all fallen as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away; Thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Drop down the dew, ye heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One!
See, O Lord, the affliction of Thy people, and send Him whom Thou hast promised to send. Send forth the Lamb, the Ruler of the earth, from the rock of the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion, that He Himself may take off the yoke of our captivity.

Drop down the dew, ye heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One!
Be comforted, be comforted, my people; thy salvation shall speedily come. Why wilt thou waste away in sadness? Why hath sorrow seized thee? I will save thee; fear not: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Drop down the dew, ye heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One!

With this extraordinarily beautiful hymn the prayer of the Church during Advent is lifted up to the heavens in song.

Henry Tanner. The Annunciation. 1898

Saturday, 8 December 2012

"Qué soï era inmaculado councepcioũ..." - The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On the great Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary we remember the words first said to St Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes only 4 years after the decree Ineffabilis Deus, infallibly promulgating the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, was issued by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

Our Lady spoke to St Bernadette in her own Occitan patois, the language of the Languedoc region of Southern France. This was what surprised the Parish Priest - none of the ordinary Occitan-speaking people of that part of France had heard or used this glorious title because, in an unbelieving and scoffing age, this and other great titles of the Blessed Virgin had fallen into disuse.

It is a simple historical fact that the original Protestant Reformers accepted almost every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith.

Many modern Protestants object to devotion to the Virgin Mary, or at least, to such devotion as is shown in such feasts as that of the Immaculate Conception. They often seem unable to understand it.

The founders of the Protestant movement believed in the special position of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For example, Martin Luther defended the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, now seen by most to be a specifically Roman Catholic doctrine, until his death. Like St Augustine, he believed that Mary's maternity of Christ necessarily implied her perpetual virginity and conception without Original Sin.

"But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..."1

Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, both in clerical dress.
The founders of the Protestant Reformation all believed in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

John Calvin always referred to the Blessed Virgin Mary as La Sainte Vierge, the “Holy Virgin”.

He wrote of her:

“Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.”2

“Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.”3

Even Ulrich Zwingli, had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God.”4

"I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the Gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.”5

Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”6

“Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin.”7

“It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother.”8

“The more the honour and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honour given to Mary should grow.”9

The Protestant Reformers did not reject most of the other Marian dogmas which were then taught by the Roman Catholic Church. The simple reason for this is that they could not avoid the fact that the honour and reverence due to the Blessed Virgin is plainly evident, to any objective eye, from Scripture.

Pelikan, J (ed), The Works of Martin Luther, Concordia: St. Louis, volume 4, 694.
2 Calvin, J, Opera, Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Volume 45, 35.
3 Leeming, Bernard, “Protestants and Our Lady”, Marian Library Studies, January 1967, p.9.
4 Zwingli, U, In Evangelii Lucae, Opera Completa, Zurich, 1828-42, Volume 6, I, 639.
5 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volum 1, 424.
6 Stakemeier, E, in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Balic, K (ed), Rome, 1962, p.456.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.

Gaude Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, to thou only has it been given to destroy all heresies in the whole world

[From The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary]