(LifeSiteNews) — The station is in the church of Saint Clement, pope and martyr. In this, more than in any other church of the city of Rome, there has been preserved the ancient arrangement of the early Christian basilicas.
Under its altar there reposes the body of its holy patron, together with the relics of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and of the consul St. Flavius Clemens.
Grant, we beseech, thee, Almighty God, that thy people who mortify themselves by abstinence from meat, may likewise fast from sin, and follow righteousness. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Lesson from the Prophet Daniel 9:15-19
In those days: Daniel prayed to the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, who hast brought forth thy people out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and hast made thee a name as at this day; we have sinned, we have committed iniquity, O Lord, against all thy justice. Let thy wrath and thy indignation be turned away, I beseech thee, from thy city Jerusalem, and from thy holy mountain. For, by reason of our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are a reproach to all that are round about us. Now, therefore, our God, hear the supplication of thy servant, and his prayers: and show thy face upon thy sanctuary which is desolate, for thy own sake. Incline, O my God, thy ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and see our desolation, and the city upon which thy name is called; for it is not for our justifications that we present our prayers before thy face, but for the multitude of thy tender mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, be appeased; hearken, and do; delay not for thy own sake, O my God; because thy name is invocated upon thy city, and upon thy people, Lord our God.
Such was the prayer and lamentation of Daniel, during the captivity in Babylon. His prayer was heard; and after seventy years’ exile, the Jews returned to their country, rebuilt the temple, and were once more received by the Lord as his chosen people. But what are the Israelites now? What has been their history for the last nineteen hundred years?
If we apply to them the words of Daniel’s lamentation, they but faintly represent the sad reality of their present long chastisement. God’s anger lies heavily on Jerusalem; the very ruins of the temple have perished; the children of Israel are dispersed over the whole earth, a reproach to all nations. A curse hangs over this people; like Cain, it is a wanderer and fugitive; and God watches over it, that it become not extinct.
The rationalist is at a loss how to explain this problem; whereas the Christian sees in it the punishment of the greatest of crimes. But what is the explanation of this phenomenon? “The light shone in darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it!” (John 1:5) If the darkness had received the Light, it would not be darkness now; but it was not so; Israel, therefore, deserved to be abandoned.
Several of its children did, indeed, acknowledge the Messias, and they became children of the Light; nay, it was through them that the Light was made known to the whole world. When will the rest of Israel open its eyes? When will this people address to God the prayer of Daniel? They have it; they frequently read it; and yet it finds no response in their proud hearts.
Let us, the Gentiles, pray for the Jews – the younger for the older. Every year there are some who are converted, and seek admission into the new Israel of the Church of Christ. Right welcome are they! May God, in his mercy, add to their number; that thus, all men may adore the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, together with Jesus Christ, his Son, whom he sent into this world.
Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to John 8:21-29
At that time: Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews: I go, and you shall seek me, and you shall die in your sin. Whither I go, you cannot come. The Jews, therefore, said: Will he kill himself, because he said: ‘Whither I go, you cannot come?’ And he said to them: You are from beneath, and I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore, I say to you, that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin. They said therefore to him: Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, who also speak unto you. Many things I have to speak, and to judge of you. But he that sent me is true; and the things I have heard of him, the same I speak in the world. Now they understood not that he called God his Father. Jesus therefore said to them: When you shall have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father hath taught me, these things I speak: and he that sent me is with me, and he hath not left me alone: for I do always the things that please him.
“I go”: could Jesus say anything more awful? He is come to save this people; he has given them every possible proof of his love. A few days ago, we heard him saying to the Canaanite woman that he was sent not but for the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. Alas! these lost sheep disown their Shepherd.
He tells the Jews that he is soon going to leave them, and that they will not be able to follow him; but it makes no impression on them. His works testify that he is from above; they, the Jews, are of this world, and they can think of no other.
The Messias they hope for is to be one of great earthly power; he is to be a great conqueror. In vain, then, does Jesus go about doing good; (Acts 10:38) in vain is nature obedient to his commands; in vain do his wisdom and teaching exceed all that mankind has ever heard – Israel is deaf and blind.
The fiercest passions are raging in his heart; nor will he rest, till the synagogue shall have imbrued its hands in the blood of Jesus. But then, the measure of iniquity will be filled up, and God’s anger will burst upon Israel in one of the most terrible chastisements that the world has ever witnessed.
It makes one tremble to read the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, and the massacre of that people that had clamored for the death of Jesus. Our Lord assures us that nothing more terrible had ever been from the beginning of the world, or ever would be. (Matthew 24:21)
God is patient; he waits a long time: but when his anger bursts upon a guilty people like the Jews, the chastisement is without mercy, and one that serves as an example to future generations. O sinners! you who, so far, have turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of the Church, and have refused to be converted to the Lord your God – tremble at these words of Jesus: “I go.”
If this Lent is to be spent like so many others, and leave you in your present state – are you not afraid of that terrible threat: You shall die in your sin? By remaining in your sins, you number yourselves with those who cried out against Jesus: Crucify him, Crucify him!
Oh! if he chastised a whole people – a people that he had loaded with favors, and protected and saved innumerable times – think you, he will spare you? He must triumph; if it is not by mercy, it will be by justice.
Bow down your heads to God.
Hear our prayers and entreaties, O Almighty God; and grant that those, to whom thou givest hopes of thy mercy, may experience the effects of thy usual clemency. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We will begin today the beautiful Hymn of Prudentius on fasting. Its extreme length obliges us to divide it into fragments. We reserve the stanzas which refer to the fast of Ninive for Monday in Passion Week. Formerly, several churches of the Roman rite introduced this hymn into the Divine Office, but they only made a selection from it; whereas the Mozarabic Breviary gives the whole hymn from beginning to end.
O Jesus of Nazareth! O Light of Bethlehem! O Word of the Father! born to us from a Virgin’s womb! be thou with us in our chaste abstinence. Do thou, our King, look with a propitious eye upon our feast, whereon we offer thee the tribute of our fast.
Truly, nothing can be more holy than this Fast, which purifies the inmost recesses of man’s heart. By it is tamed the unruly carnal appetite; that thus the ardent soul may not be choked by the filthy surfeiting of a pampered body.
By Fasting are subdued luxury and vile gluttony. The drowsiness that comes of wine and sleep; lust with its defilements; the impudence of buffoonery; yea, all the pests that come from our sluggish flesh, are hereby disciplined into restraint.
For, if thou freely indulgest in meat and drink, and bridlest not thine appetite by Fasting, it needs must be, that the noble fire of the spirit, smothered by the frequent indulgence of the body, should grow dull, and the soul, like the drowsy flesh it inhabits, fall into heavy sleep.
Therefore, let us bridle our bodily desires, and follow the clear interior light of prudence. Thus the soul, having her sight made keener, and herself set free from the bondage of easy living, will pray to the Creator with the stronger hope.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Guéranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.