(LifeSiteNews) — The station is in the church of Saint Susanna, virgin and martyr of Rome. The reason of this church having been chosen is, that, today, there is read the history of the chaste Susanna, the daughter of Helcias.
Grant, we beseech thee, O mighty God, that they who mortify themselves by abstinence from food, may, by observing thy holy law, also fast from all sin. Through Christ air Lord. Amen.
Lesson from the Prophet Daniel 13:1-62
In those days: There was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim; and he took a wife whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Helcias, a very beautiful woman, and one that feared God. For her parents being just, had instructed their daughter according to the Law of Moses. Now Joakim was very rich, and had an orchard near his house; and the Jews resorted to him, because he was the most honorable of them all. And there were two of the ancients of the people appointed judges that year, of whom the Lord said: Iniquity came out from Babylon from the ancient judges, that seemed to govern the people. These men frequented the house of Joakim, and all that had any matters of judgment came to them. And when the people departed away at noon, Susanna went in, and walked in her husband’s orchard. And the old men saw her going in every day, and walking; and they were inflamed with lust towards her; and they perverted their own mind, and turned away their eyes, that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments. And it fell out, as they watched a fit day, she went in on a time, as yesterday and the day before, with two maids only, and was desirous to wash herself in the orchard for it was hot weather. And there was nobody there but the two old men, that had hid themselves and were considering her. So she said to the maids: Bring me oil and washing balls, and shut the doors of the orchard, that I may wash me. And they did as she bade them; and they shut the doors of the orchard, and went out by a back door to fetch what she had commanded them, and they knew not that the elders were hid within. Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders arose, and ran to her, and said: Behold the doors of the orchard are shut, and nobody seeth us, and we are in love with thee; wherefore consent to us, and lie with us. But if thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee, and therefore thou didst send away thy maids from thee. Susanna sighed, and said: I am straitened on every side; for if I do this thing, it is death to me, and if I do it not, I shall not escape your hands. But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord. With that Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the elders also cried against her; and one of them ran to the door of the orchard, and opened it. So when the servants of the house heard the cry in the orchard, they rushed in by the back door, to see what was the matter. But after the old men had spoken, the servants were greatly ashamed, for never had there been any such word said of Susanna. And on the next day, when the people were come to Joakim her husband, the two elders also came, full of their wicked device against Susanna, to put her to death. And they said before the people: Send to Susanna, daughter of Helcias, the wife of Joakim. And they presently sent; and she came with her parents, and children, and all her kindred. Therefore her friends and all her acquaintance wept. But the two elders, rising up in the midst of the people, laid their hands upon her head. And she weeping looked up to heaven, for her heart had confidence in the Lord. And the elders said: As we walked in the orchard alone, this woman came in with two maids, and shut the doors of the orchard, and sent away the maids from her. Then a young man that was there hid, came to her, and lay with her. But we that were in the corner of the orchard, seeing this wickedness, ran up to them, and we saw them lie together. And as for him we could not take him, because he was stronger than we, and opening the doors he leaped out; but having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us. Of this thing we are witnesses. The multitude believed them, as being the elders and judges of the people, and they condemned her to death. Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said: O eternal God, who knowest hidden things, who knowest all things before they come to pass, thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me; and behold I must die, whereas I have done none of these things, which these men have maliciously forged against me. And the Lord heard her voice. And when she was led to be put to death, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young boy, whose name was Daniel; and he cried out with a loud voice: I am clear form the blood of this woman. Then all the people turning towards him, said: What meaneth this word that thou hast spoken? But he standing in the midst of them, said: Are ye so foolish, ye children of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth, ye have condemned a daughter of Israel? Return to judgment, for they have borne false witness against her. So all the people turned again in haste. And Daniel said to the people: Separate these two far from one another, and I will examine them. So when they were put asunder one from the other, he called one of them and said to him: O thou that art grown old in evil days, now are thy sins come out which thou hast committed before, in judging unjust judgments, oppressing the innocent, and letting the guilty go free, whereas the Lord saith: The innocent and the just thou shalt not kill. Now then, if thou sawest her, tell me under what tree thou sawest them conversing together. He said: Under a mastick tree. And Daniel said: Well hast thou lied against thy own head; for behold the Angel of God, having received the sentence of him, shall cut thee in two. And having put him aside, he commanded that the other should come, and he said to him: O thou seed of Canaan, and not of Juda, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thy heart; thus did you do as the daughters of Israel, and they for fear conversed with you; but a daughter of Juda would not abide your wickedness. Now, therefore, tell me under what tree didst thou take them conversing together? And he answered: Under a holm tree. And Daniel said to him: Well hast thou also lied against thy own head; for the Angel of the Lord waiteth with a sword to cut thee in two, and to destroy thee. With that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and they blessed God, who saveth them that trust in him. And they rose up against the two elders (for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth), and they did to them as they had maliciously dealt against their neighbor, and they put them to death, and innocent blood was saved in that day.
Yesterday, we shared in the joy felt by our catechumens, as they listened to the Church describing that limpid and life-giving fountain, which flows from the Savior; in these waters they were soon to receive a new life. Today, the instruction is for the penitents, whose reconciliation is drawing near.
But how can they hope for pardon, who have sullied the white robe of their baptism, and trampled on the precious Blood that redeemed them? And yet, they are really to be pardoned and saved. If you would understand the mystery, read and meditate upon the Sacred Scriptures; for there you will learn that there is a salvation which comes from justice, and a salvation that proceeds from mercy. Today we have an example of both.
Susanna, who is unjustly accused of adultery, receives from God the recompense of her virtue; He avenges and saves her: another woman, who is really guilty of the crime, is saved from death by Jesus Christ Himself. Let the just, therefore, confidently and humbly await the reward they have merited; but let sinners also hope in the mercy of the Redeemer, who is come for them rather than for the just.
Thus does the holy Church encourage her penitents, and call them to conversion, by showing them the riches of the Heart of Jesus, and the mercies of the New Covenant, which this same Savior has signed by His Blood.
In this history of Susanna, the early Christians saw a figure of the Church, which in their time was solicited by the pagans to evil, but remained faithful to her Divine Spouse, even though death was the punishment of her resistance. A holy Martyr of the third century, St. Hippolytus mentions this interpretation. (In Danielem)
The carvings on the ancient Christian tombs, and the frescoes of the Roman catacombs, represent this history of Susanna’s fidelity to God’s law, in spite of the death that threatened her, as a type of the martyrs’ preferring death to apostasy; for apostasy, in the language of the Sacred Scriptures, is called adultery, which the soul is guilty of by denying her God, to whom she espoused herself when she received baptism.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John 8:1-11
At that time: Jesus went to Mount Olivet. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them. And the Scribes and Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery, and they set her in the midst, and said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. Now, Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one: but what sayest thou? And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. But they hearing this went out one by one, beginning at the eldest; and Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.
This is the Salvation that proceeds from mercy. The woman is guilty: the law condemns her to be put to death; her accusers are justified in insisting on her being punished – and yet she shall not die. Jesus saves her; and all He asks of her is that she sin no more.
What must have been her gratitude! How must she not have desired to obey, henceforward, that God who would not condemn her, and to whom she owed her life! Let us enter into like dispositions towards our Redeemer, for we too are sinners.
Is it not He that has stayed the arm of Divine Justice when it was raised to strike us? Has He not turned the blow upon Himself? Our salvation, then, has been one of mercy; let us imitate the penitents of the primitive Church, and during these remaining days of Lent, consolidate the foundations of the new life we have begun.
The answer made by Jesus to the Pharisees, who accused this woman, deserves our respectful attention. It not only shows his compassion for the humble sinner, who stood trembling before Him; it contains a practical instruction for us: “He that is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.”
During these days of conversion and repentance, let us recall to mind the detractions we have been guilty of against our neighbor. Alas! these sins of the tongue are looked upon as mere trifles; we forget them almost as soon as we commit them; nay, so deeply rooted in us is the habit of finding fault with everyone that we scarcely know ourselves to be detractors.
If this saying of our Redeemer had made the impression it ought to have done upon us; if we had thought of our own numberless defects and sins – how could we have dared to criticize our neighbor, publish his faults, and pass judgment upon his very thoughts and intentions? Jesus knew what sort of life these man had led, who accuse the woman; He knows what ours has been! Woe to us if, henceforth, we are not indulgent with others!
And lastly, let us consider the malice of Jesus’ enemies; what they said, they said, tempting him, that they might accuse him. If He pronounce in the woman’s favor, they will accuse Him of despising the Law of Moses, which condemns her to be stoned: if He answer in conformity with the law, they will hold him up to the people as a man without mercy or compassion.
Jesus, by His divine prudence, eludes their stratagem; but we can foresee what He will have to suffer at their hands when, having put Himself in their power, that they may do with Him what they please, He will make no other answer to their calumnies and insults than the silence and patience of an innocent victim condemned to death.
Bow down your heads to God.
Stretch forth, O Lord, over thy people, the right hand of thy heavenly aid, that they may seek thee with their whole heart, and mercifully obtain what they ask for as the ought. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us offer to Mary, as we are accustomed to do on the last day of each week, some special expression of our love. Let us say, in her honor, the following Sequence, which is taken from the ancient Roman-French Missals.
Let this be our joyous praise of Mary, true and fervent love.
Let the cry of our heart, as it sings in the Mother’s honor, be presented to her Son is a tribute of love.
Hail thou that broughtest Salvation to men! O Virgin, and Queen of Virgins! to thee, after God, are due praise and honor.
Thou art the fair Rose and Lily, whose fragrance drew he Son of God to assume our human nature.
Hail overflowing fount of Mercy! Hail true balm of the wounded heart!
Thou art the ministress of pardon, the flame richly fed with grace, the Queen of matchless glory.
Hail spotless Mirror of purity, that givest beauty to the holy Church of God!
Where thou art, there can be no sadness, for thou art the spring-time of joy; thou art the bond of peace and concord.
O happy Mother! use a Mother’s right; and bid thy Son, our Redeemer, forgive us our sins.
These are the gifts we ask of thee: firmness of faith, works available to salvation, and in the evening of life, a happy death. Amen.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.