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Christe Supreme Dominator Alme

For the Eve of the Exaltation of the Cross
12th Century German Hymn (translation by Alan McDougall)

CHRIST in the highest, holy Lord of all things,
Conqueror and Sovereign, worshipful Redeemer,
Hear us in mercy, whom with price most wondrous
Thou hast redeemed.

Praise and thanksgiving jubilant and meetest
Offer we praying, sweetest King and kindest,
Whom by the pouring of thy blood thou savedst
On Rood victorious.

Once of old time the ancient foe had lured us
Unto his prison by a tree’s temptation,
But through the holy wood of Christ he waileth
Bound through the ages.

Now doth the serpent mourn his fangs, no longer
Able to harm, his poison reft for ever,
Now doth he weep, hell harrowed, and his people
Called to the heavens.

So through the cross, O Crucified, most precious,
So through the price unpriced of thy fair lifeblood,
Deign in thy mercy now to save thy servants
From death eternal.

Glory to God who reigneth in the highest,
Praise to the Son who reigns with him for ever,
Laud to the Holy Spirit coeternal,
Equal in Godhead.

How Christ is a Bundle of Myrrh

A sermon for Holy Cross Day by John Mason Neale.

“A bundle of Myrrh is my Well-Beloved unto me: He shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.”—Cant. I. 13.

This Song of Solomon is now, perhaps, less read than any other book of the Bible. And yet the day has been when holy men have written more about it, have thought more deeply upon it, have learnt more from it, than from any other part of the Old Testament. The reason is, that, unless we have deep love to our Lord, unless we can feel something of that which He has done for us, and of that which we owe Him, this Book is foolishness to us. It needs the especial assistance of the Holy Ghost to enable us to read it as it ought to be read. The verse you have heard is that which every Christian soul ought to be able to say to Christ. He is the Well-Beloved. And why it is that He is here called a Bundle of Myrrh it will be well for us to consider at this time, when we are called upon more especially to remember what He did and what He suffered for our sakes. For I am reminded to speak to you of His Cross by the very name of the day—Holy Cross Day—which is kept in memory of the recovery of the wood of the Cross from heathens that, six hundred years after our Lord’s Death, had carried it away.

Now Myrrh is chiefly remarkable for two things: its exceeding bitterness, and its power of healing wounds. By the Bundle, we are to understand all the different works of love which our Lord undertook for us, which cost Him so much—there is the bitterness; which wrought out our salvation—there is the healing. His weariness in His journeys. His labours in teaching, His watchfulness in praying, His temptations in fasting, His tears over sinners, His being plotted against by His enemies; the spitting, the buffeting, the scourging, the mockings and revilings, which He endured for our sakes. All these things are, as it were, a Bundle of Myrrh; each brought to Him so much bitterness, each brings to us so much strength and healing. But more than all the rest put together, is the exceeding bitterness of His Passion, which, in itself, combines all things necessary to salvation. Therefore S. Paul might well say, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” How should he wish to know more, when this is all knowledge in itself?

For Christ not only left us an example in what He did, but also in what He suffered. All that He had taught by word, He fulfilled in His most holy Passion in deed. See therefore what the only-begotten Son of God did, that He might gain many other sons to the Father, that He might gain many brethren to Himself. He came down from His kingdom, even heaven, alone; but He would not return thither alone. He redeemed us, Who was Himself sold; He exalted us, Who was Himself despised; He gave us blessings, Who was Himself loaded with curses; He bestowed on us life, Who was Himself condemned to death. And, being in the form of God, He took upon Him the form of a servant, that lie might redeem His servants; and being Himself the Tree of Life, He hung on the Tree of Death, namely, the Cross. And this is what we are called at this time to remember. “We all” says S. Paul, “behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord.” What? and is this His glory? Is it His glory to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? To be reviled upon the Cross? To be forsaken by God the Father? To be mocked by them that pass by? To have no sorrow like His sorrow, no shame like His shame? Yes; this is the example that He set us. Therefore when we eat, every morsel which we put into our mouths should remind us of that morsel which He gave to Judas in the same night wherein lie was betrayed; when we drink, we should call to mind the vinegar and the gall which was given to Him in His thirst; when we lie down, we should remember the last hard bed on which He lay down, the cold and bare, and painful plank of the Cross; when we lay our head on the pillow, we should remember what sort of a pillow it was which He had for His most Sacred Head,—a crown of great sharp thorns; when we are quietly and easily-falling off to sleep, we should desire to call to mind that it was amidst revilings and mockiugs, in shame and agony, that He sank to His last sleep in the Cross; when He said, “Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit;” and again when He said, “It is finished.”

And what that It was,—“It is finished?”—who shall venture to tell or to think?

And what do we owe Him for all this bundle of myrrh? for all this, blessing upon blessing, that He has wrought for us? We owe Him much because He created us. But how much more because He redeemed us! The creation cost Him only a word. “He spake the word, and they were made: He commanded, and they were created.” The redemption cost Him thirty-three years and more of labour and misery, and then death, even the death of the Cross. When He created us, He gave us ourselves, that is, our soul and body. When He redeemed us, He gave us Himself, that is, all His sufferings, all His merits, all His victories. We owe all that we can do for Him, because we are His by creation. But what then do we owe Him, because we are His by redemption? As a good man said of old,

For every drop of crimson dye
Thus shed to mate me lire,—
Oil wherefore, wherefore have not I
A thousand souls to give ?

But He only asks that we give Him our love. Is that much? Is it possible—so we should have said, did we not by bitter experience know better—that we should not give it Him? Is it possible that, when we see His Cross, no longer the sign of disgrace and death, but of victory over the devil,—and the Crown of Thorns, which manifests Him the King of kings and Lord of lords,—and the Nails, dropping with His Blood,—is it possible that we should not give Him our whole hearts, our full love? You know best, each of you, whether you do or not.

All this shows how true is that saying of David, “The Loud careth for me.” The Father, that He might redeem us His servants, spared not His own Son; the Son, of His own free will, became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross: the Holy Ghost maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

And now let us count up this Bundle of Myrrh, and see what it is, and what it does for us. Our Lord gave us His Flesh to be our food, His Blood to be our drink, His “Wounds to be our protection, His Cross to be our shield, His Bloody Sweat to be our medicine, His Nails to uphold us, His Crown of Thorns to ornament us, the water of His Side to cleanse us in Baptism. There­fore, the more dreadful His Passion appears, if we look at it with earthly eyes, the more sweet and precious we find it to be, when He gives us grace to see it as it is. The way in which Christ suffered shows that, if it had been necessary, or if it had been possible, He would have suffered ten thousand times as much.

There was an old belief that, if a murderer were brought into the presence of the dead body of him whom he had murdered, the wounds would begin to bleed afresh. We are Christ’s murderers, because it was for our sins that He died; and if we look at Him with the eye of Faith, we shall behold His Blood still flowing forth for our guilt, as freshly as on that day when He went up on Mount Calvary. He is as ready to cleanse us now as then. He ever liveth to make intercession for us, because His Wounds are ever open to plead for us. On this therefore we are now called to fix our eyes. “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the Right Hand of the Throne of God.” And this is what David means, when he says, “Turn again then unto thy rest, O my soul.” This is our true repose. We have all rest in Him Who had all labour; we have all peace in Him “Who had all woe; we have all glory in Him Who had all shame.

To Him, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Nativity of the BVM

Hymn

(From the Old Cistercian Breviary – Translation by Michael Oakley, OSB)

O MYSTERY of Holy Church!
To Christ we sing our hymn of praise,
The Word, the Father’s only Son,
Of woman born in earthly days.

ALONE among all women born
God saw thee fit to bear His Son,
Worthy to carry in thy womb
The Lord of all, the Holy One.

COME forth, sweet daughter of thy race,
O little branch, thy beauty show;
A noble blossom shalt thou bear,
Christ, God above and man below.

LO, as the years of time go by,
We keep the day that marks thy birth,
When, sprung from an illustrious stem,
Thou first didst shine upon the earth.

EARTHBOUND, but now and thanks to thee
Freemen of heaven too, we’re brought
Into a noble peace with God
By means out-reaching human thought.

O LORD, to Thee be glory given,
Whom once the Virgin Mother bore;
To Father with the Holy Ghost
Be glory now and evermore. Amen.

The Lord’s Coming To His Temple

A sermon for the Nativity of Our Lady by John Mason Neale

 “The Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple.”—Malachi III.1.

There is no festival of S. Mary which has not also to do with our Lord. How should it be otherwise? She who was so closely and so wonderfully connected with Him as Man, so that He was bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, she cannot be divided in our thoughts from Him now. He is still Man, as truly as He ever was; He still has the flesh which He took of her; the same in which He suffered, the same in which He died, the same in which He rose again from the dead.

This text has, then, to do both with our Lord and with His Blessed Mother; and we may also apply it to ourselves, and say that it has to do with us.

“The Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple.” First of all, this prophecy was fulfilled when the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth with the most wonderful message that was ever heard on earth. “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His Name Jesus.’ The womb of S. Mary was the temple into which our Lord at that moment entered. There it was that He, Who was the Desire of all nations,—He, Who even then might have said, “The earth is weak, and all the inhabiters thereof: I bear up the pillars of it,”— He, Whom the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain,—there He lay hid for all those long months until the fulness of the time came, and God was born into the world. David, in the Psalms, represents our Lord as anxious to find out this temple for Himself: “I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, neither shall the temples of my head take any rest: until I find out a place for a temple of the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” This place, this habitation, He did find out, when the Holy Ghost came upon S. Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Word of the Fa­ther took flesh in her womb.

“The Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” And this promise was fulfilled the second time when our Lord was presented in the temple, at the Purification of His Blessed Mother,—in memory of which we keep Candlemas-day. It was His temple, though the Jews little knew it: He, then an infant six weeks old, was the one true Priest, though the High Priest little thought it; He was Lord of the countless armies of angels, and of all the tribes of men, though He had so few that were truly waiting for Him. “The Lord, Whom ye seek.” How many were those that sought Him then? If I count rightly, four only. See if I am wrong. S. Luke tells us that Anna the prophetess “coming in that instant gave thanks likewise to the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” All, then, that looked for redemption in Jerusalem were at that mo­ment in the temple—there were none others besides; and for all that appears, there were only S. Anna herself, S. Mary, and S. Joseph, and Simeon. Four cour­tiers to wait on such a King!

“The Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” This Scripture is fulfilled before us every day; for every day the Holy Ghost comes down into His temples, the bodies of those who are baptized: He comes suddenly, He comes without preparation,—a few words, a little water,—and His temple is consecrated to Him for ever. As S. Paid tells us, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” and again, “Know ye not, that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

But those temples must, little by little, day by day, fall to pieces and perish. “This earthly house of our tabernacle must be dissolved,” says S. Paul. And when it shall have been,—when earth shall have returned to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,—then also this text shall be fulfilled; “The Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” He shall come to it, to raise it up again from the earth, and—if it has been His true temple—to make it His glorious dwelling for ever. And this shall be suddenly, too, as S. Paul also tells us: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

That will be the last time that our Lord will come to His temple; for afterwards he shall abide in it for ever. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of that Holy City, New Jerusalem, which S. John saw, and which we also some day hope to see: according to that saying, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out.”

Now, what we are to notice in all these comings of our Lord to His temple, is their suddenness. “The Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” In one moment He was conceived in the womb of S. Mary; in one moment He turns the heart of an infant, from being the abode and the den of Satan into His own holy temple; in one moment He will raise up these bodies of ours, turning them from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to incorruptible. God does not stand in need of time to do His wonderful works. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

But we may take this verse in yet one more sense. “The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple,” when He comes to each of you at death. Long or short as your last illness may be, still the Lord’s coming will be sudden. There is one point, one moment of time, at which you will leave the world and go to Him. Then all our happiness depends on whether the first part of the verse be true: “the Lord, Whom ye seek.” If so. all is well. Then His Coming, though it must be dreadful, will also he glorious then we may make answer with S. John, “He Which testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen: even so come, Lord Jesus.”

But suppose the Lord, “Whom ye do not seek, should suddenly come to His temple?….

And now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

Assumption BVMA Sermon of St. Laurence of Brindisi
In honour of Our Lady

Mary is the light of the world, the cause of all consolation and joy, as Queen Esther was to the Jews, who saw her as a new light rising in gladness and triumphant glory. It gave the keenest delight to the Jews to have beside so great a king, so powerful a ruler, a queen like Esther: for she was Jewish by birth, she risked her own life to save her people, and there was nothing she could not obtain from that very powerful prince, who loved her beyond measure for her extraordinary charm and almost divine beauty.  Continue Reading »

BVMA Sermon by S. Bernard for the
Octave Day of the Assumption

Whom but Mary did Solomon search after, when he said: ‘ Who can find a Woman of might? Of a truth, the wise man knew the weakness of womankind, the frailness of their bodies, the inconstancy of their minds. Yet, because he had read, and because it seemed fitting, that he, who had overcome through the woman, by the woman should himself be overcome, he burst out into exceeding wonder, and exclaimed: ‘Who can find a Woman of Might?’  Continue Reading »

Assumption BVMA Sermon of St. Bonaventure
in honour of Our Lady

We see from our reading that in scriptural times three things in women were regarded by men as blessings: that beautiful thing physical integrity, the gift of faithfulness, and courage. The Virgin Mary, we find, was three times declared blessed—by the archangel Gabriel, by St. Elizabeth and by holy Simeon—because she possessed these three qualities to an eminent degree. There was reason and order in that. It was fitting that an angel should remark on the boon of her virginity; the pregnant Elizabeth was the right sort of person to praise her fruitfulness; Simeon, an upright man, could appreciate the brave and manly element in her conduct. Continue Reading »

Assumption BVMA sermon of S. Bernard for the
Assumption of Our Lady

To-day, the Virgin Mother mounted up glorious into the Heavens, and, doubtless, abundantly increased the joy of the citizens on high. For this is she, the voice of whose salutation makes even them to leap for joy, who still are enclosed within their mother’s womb. But, if the heart of a little one not yet born was melted at the sound of Mary’s voice, what, think ye, must have been the exulting joy of the inhabitants of Heaven, when it was their reward both to hear her voice, and to see her face, and to enjoy her blessed presence.  Continue Reading »

The Virgin MaryFrom a sermon of S. Ambrose for the Saturday of Our Lady

Let, then, the life of Mary be as it were virginity itself, set forth in a likeness, from which, as from a mirror, the appearance of chastity and the form of virtue is reflected. From this you may take your pattern of life, showing as an example the clear rules of virtue: what you have to correct, to effect, to hold fast.  Continue Reading »