(LifeSiteNews) — The station, at Rome, is in the church of Saint Chrysogonus, one of the most celebrated martyrs of the Church of Rome. His name is inserted in the Canon of the Mass.
Sanctify, O Lord, we beseech thee, our fasts, and mercifully grant us the pardon of all our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lesson from Jonas the Prophet 3:1-10
In those days: The word of the Lord came to Jonas the second time, saying: Arise and go to Nineveh, the great city: and preach in it the preaching that I bid thee. And Jonas arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a great city of three days’ journey. And Jonas began to enter into the city one day’s journey: and he cried and said: Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed. And the men of Nineveh believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least. And the word came to the king of Nineveh: and he rose up out of his throne, and cast away his robe from him, and was clothed with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published in Nineveh, from the mouth of the king and of his princes, saying: Let neither men nor beasts, oxen nor sheep, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water. And let men and bests be covered with sackcloth, and cry to the Lord with all their strength, and let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the iniquity that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and forgive: and will turn away from his fierce anger, and we shall not perish? And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and the Lord our God had mercy on 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 Nineveh and its inhabitants shall be destroyed. How came it that this threat was not carried into effect? What was it that caused Nineveh 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.
This passage from the Prophet Jonas is also intended for the catechumens, whose baptism is so close at hand. It teaches them to have confidence in this merciful God of the Christians, whose threats are so terrible, but who, notwithstanding, turns from His threats to forgive the repentant sinner. These catechumens, who had hitherto lived in the Nineveh of paganism, were here taught that God, even before sending His Son into the world, invited all men to become His people.
Seeing the immense obstacles their gentile ancestors had to surmount in order to receive and persevere in the grace offered them, they would bless God their Savior for having, by His Incarnation, His Sacrifice, His Sacraments, and His Church, facilitated salvation for us who live under the New Testament. True, He was the source of salvation to all preceding generations: but with what incomparable richness is He the source of ours?
The public penitents, too, had their instructions in this Epistle. What an encouragement for them to hope for pardon! God had shown mercy to Nineveh, sinful as it was, and sentenced to destruction: He would, therefore, accept their repentance and penance, He would stay His justice, and show them mercy and pardon.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John 7:32-39
At that time: The Rulers and Pharisees sent ministers to apprehend Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me. You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come. The Jews, therefore, said among themselves: Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What is this saying that he hath said: You shall seek me, and shall not find me,; and where I am, you cannot come? And on the last and great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as the Scripture saith, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him.
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. (2 Maccabees 9:13)
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, while the Church was casting her roots in the world, the Jews, who had crucified the Just One, were seeking 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.
But, what consoling thoughts are suggested by the concluding words of our Gospel! Faithful souls, and you that have repented! listen to what your Jesus says, for it is to you that He speaks: “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.”
Remember the prayer of the Samaritan woman: “Give me, Lord, to drink of this water!” This water is divine grace: come and drink your fill at the fountains of your Savior, as the Prophet Isaias bids you. (Isaiah 12:3) This water gives purity to the soul that is defiled, strength to them that are weak, and love to them that have no fervor. Nay, our Savior assures us, that he who believes in Him shall himself become as a fountain of living water, for the Holy Ghost will come upon him, and this soul shall pour out upon others of the fullness that she herself has received.
With what joy must not the catechumen have listened to these words, which promised him that his thirst should soon be quenched at the holy font! Jesus has made Himself everything to the world He has come to save: Light to guide us, Bread to nourish us, a Vine to gladden our hearts with its fruit, and lastly, a Fountain of Living Water to quench our thirst.
Bow down your heads to God.
Grant, Lord, we beseech thee, to thy people, health both of body and mind, that being constant in the practice of good works, they may always be safe under thy protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This being the day on which the Church offers to our meditations the history of the Prophet Jonas preaching to Nineveh, 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 brutalizing 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 thunderbolts that shake the vault of heaven.
Yet does he grant them time for penitence, wherein to tame and break the wickedness of their lust and wonted follies. Mercy, that waits for prayer, holds back the blow of anger; a brief delay puts oft 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 sepulcher 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 Nineveh he turns 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 somber 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 f asters 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 but humbly pray ; and when they weep, she makes herself their friend.
Let us close the day with these stanzas in honor of the Holy Cross. We have taken them from the Triodion of the Greek Church.
(Feria VI. mediæ Septimanæ.)
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 Savior, 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 Savior, into the haven of thy Passion.
Moses on the mount was a figure of thee, O holy Cross, (when he prayed with his outstretched 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.
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.