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Daniel in the Lions' Den – Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1615Wikimedia Commons

(LifeSiteNews) — The station, in Rome, was formerly the church of the martyr Saint Cyriacus, and as such it is still given in the Roman Missal; but this holy sanctuary having been destroyed, and the relics of the holy deacon translated to the Church of Saint Mary in Via lata, it is here that the station is now held.


May our fast, O Lord, we beseech thee, be acceptable to thee, and, having purified us from sin, make us worthy of thy grace, and procure us everlasting remedies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lesson from Daniel the Prophet 14:28-42:

In those days: The people of Babylon gathered together against the king and said to him: Deliver up to us Daniel, who hath destroyed Bel, and killed the Dragon, otherwise we will destroy thee and thy house. And the king saw that they pressed upon him violently; and being constrained by necessity, he delivered Daniel to them. And they cast him into the den of lions, and he was there six days. And in the den there were seven lions, and they have given to them two carcasses every day, and two sheep: but then they were not given unto them, to the intent that they might devour Daniel. Now there was in Judea a prophet called Habakkuk, and he had boiled pottage, and had broken bread in a bowl; and was going into the field to carry it to the reapers. And the Angels of the Lord said to Habakkuk: Carry the dinner which thou hast, into Babylon, to Daniel, who is in the lion’s den. And Habakkuk said: Lord, I never saw Babylon, nor do I know the den. And the Angel of the Lord took him by the top of his head, and carried him by the hair of his head, and set him in Babylon, over the den, in the force of his spirit. And Habakkuk cried, saying, O Daniel, thou servant of God, take the dinner that God hath sent thee. And Daniel said: Thou hast remembered me, O God, and thou hast not forsaken them that love thee. And Daniel arose and ate. And the Angel of the Lord presently set Habakkuk again in his own place. And upon the seventh day the king came to bewail Daniel: and he came to the den, and looked in, and behold Daniel was sitting in the midst of the lions. And the king cried out with a loud voice, saying: Great art thou, O Lord, the God of Daniel. And he drew him out of the lion’s den. But those that had been the cause of his destruction, he cast into the den, and they were devoured in a moment before him. Then the king said: Let all the inhabitants of the whole earth fear the God of Daniel; for he is the Savior, working signs and wonders in the earth; who hath delivered Daniel out of the lion’s den.

This Lesson was intended, in an especial manner, as an instruction to the catechumens. They were preparing to enroll themselves as Christians; it was, therefore, necessary that they should have examples put before them, which they might study and imitate.

Daniel, cast into the lion’s den for having despised and destroyed the idol Bel, was the type of a martyr. This prophet had confessed the true God in Babylon; he had put to death a dragon, to which the people, after Bel had been destroyed, had given their idolatrous worship: nothing less than Daniel’s death could appease their indignation.

The holy man, full of confidence in God, allowed himself to be thrown into the lion’s den, thus setting an example of courageous faith to the future Christians: they would imitate him, and, for three centuries, would nobly shed their blood for the establishment of the Church of Christ. In the Roman catacombs, we continually meet with the representation of Daniel surrounded by lions, and many of these paintings date from the ages of persecution. Thus, the eye of the catechumens could see what their ear heard – both told them to be ready for trial and sacrifice.

It is true, the history of Daniel showed them the power of God interfering and delivering him from death; but they were fully aware that in order to merit a like deliverance, they would have to show a like constancy, and be ready to suffer death rather than deny their faith. From time to time, a Christian was led to the amphitheater, and the wild beasts would fawn at his feet; but such miracles only put off the martyr’s sacrifice, and perhaps won others to the faith.

It was the prophet’s courage, and not his victory over the lions, that the Church proposed to her catechumens. The great thing for them to bear in mind was this maxim of our Lord: “Fear not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body into hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

We are the descendants of these early Christians; but our faith has not cost us what it cost them. And yet we have a tyrant to try even ours: we have to confess our faith, not indeed before proconsuls or emperors, but before the world. Let the example of the brave martyrs send us forth from our Lent with a courageous determination to withstand this tyrant, with his maxims, his pomps, and his works.

There has been a truce between him and us, during these days of retirement and penance; but the battle will soon be renewed, and then we must stand the brunt, and show that we are Christians.


Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John 7:1-13:

At that time: Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of Tabernacles was at hand. And his brethren said to him: Depart from hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see thy works which thou dost. For there is no man that doth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly; if thou do these things, manifest thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said to them: My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth: because I give testimony of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go you up to this festival day, but I go not up to this festival day; because my time is not accomplished. When he had said these things, he himself staid in Galilee. But after his brethren were gone up, then he also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. The Jews therefore sought him on the festival day, and said: Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the multitude concerning him. For some said: He is a good man. And others said: No, but he seduceth the people. Yet no man spoke openly of him, for fear of the Jews.

The facts here related refer to an earlier part of our Lord’s life; but the Church proposes them to our consideration today, on account of their connection with those given us in the Gospels read to us during the last few days. We learn from these words of St. John, that the Jews were plotting the death of Jesus, not only when this the last Pasch for the synagogue was approaching, but even so far back as the Feast of Tabernacles, which was kept in September.

The Son of God was reduced to the necessity of going from place to place as it were in secret: if He would go to Jerusalem, He must take precautions! Let us adore these humiliations of the Man-God, who has deigned to sanctify every position of life, even that of the just man persecuted and obliged to hide himself from his enemies.

It would have been an easy matter for Him to confound His adversaries by working miracles, such as those which Herod’s curiosity sought for; He could have compelled them to treat Him with the reverence that was due to Him. But this is not God’s way; He does not force man to duty; He acts, and then leaves man to recognize his Creator’s claims.

In order to do this, man must be attentive and humble, he must impose silence on his passions. The divine light shows itself to the soul that thus comports herself first, she sees the actions, the works, of God; then, she believes, and wishes to believe; her happiness, as well as her merit, lies in faith, and faith will be recompensed in eternity with light, with the vision.

Flesh and blood cannot understand this; they love show and noise. The Son of God, having come down upon this earth, could not subject Himself to such an abasement as that of making a parade of His infinite power before men. He had to work miracles, in order to give a guarantee of His mission; but, as Man, everything He did was not to be a miracle. By far the longest period of His life was devoted to the humble duties of a creature; had it not been so, how should we have learned from Him what we so much needed to know?

His brethren (the Jews gave the name of brothers to all who were collaterally related) wished Jesus to make a display of His miraculous power, for some of the glory would have accrued to them. This their ambition caused our Lord to address them in these strong words, upon which we should meditate during this holy season, for, later on, we shall stand in need of the teaching: “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth.”

Let us, therefore, for the time to come, not please the world; its friendship would separate us from Jesus Christ.

Bow down your heads to God.

Grant us, O Lord, we beseech thee, perseverance in thy service; that in our days, thy faithful may increase both in number and goodness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The following devout Hymn, taken from the ancient Roman-French Missals, may serve us as an expression of the sentiments we entertain towards our loving Redeemer.


O Jesus! thou King and Creator of all, Redeemer, too, of believers, be appeased by the prayers and praise of thy humble suppliants.

‘Twas thy loving grace that, by the dear wounds of the Cross, broke so powerfully the fetters forged by our first Parents.

Thou, that art the Creator of the stars, didst deign to assume a body of flesh, and endure the most humiliating sufferings.

Thy hands were tied, that thou mightest loosen sinners, accomplices of a world condemned: thou didst suffer shame, so to cleanse away the manifold sins of the world.

Thou, our Redeemer, art fastened to the Cross, but thou movest the whole earth: thou breathest forth thy mighty Spirit, and the world is buried in darkness.

But soon we see thee shining triumphantly on the high throne of thy Father’s glory: do thou, O best of Kings, defend us by the protection of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us pay our homage to the Holy Cross, in these words of the Greek liturgy.

(Feria IV. mediæ Septimanæ)

Thou, O Lord God, the Creator of all things, wast lifted up on the Cross, in the middle of the earth; thou didst draw up to thyself that human nature, which had fallen by the most mocked persuasion of the enemy. Wherefore we pay thee our loyal homage, for thy Passion has strengthened us.

The light of fasting has purified our senses; may we be most brightly enlightened by the spiritual rays of thy Cross. On this day it is exposed to our view; grant, that we may devoutly kiss it, and venerate it in our hymns and hearts.

Let us adore the place where stood his feet, that is, the holy Cross, and beseech him to firmly fix the feet of our soul on the rock of his divine commandments, and, by his holy grace, guide her steps into the way of peace.

Loudly sing your hymns, O all ye ends of the earth, when ye behold men venerating that wood, whereon Christ was fastened, and whereby Satan received his wound.

The life-giving Cross is this day exposed: let us, then, with joy and fear, venerate the Cross of our Lord, that we may receive the Holy Ghost.

O life-giving Cross, my tongue and heart tremble with fear, as I draw nigh to touch thee, for I see the divine Blood of my Lord poured forth upon thee.

Strengthen, O Lord, thy Church, which thou didst purchase to thyself by the power of thy Cross; for by the Cross thou didst triumph over the enemy and enlighten the whole world.

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.