After Terce already, a beautiful morning...

But there are white translucent clouds in the east and north, which may or may not indicate something, I don't know what. This is, generally speaking, what happens here-- the mornings are suspiciously cloudy only to give way to afternoons, or late afternoons, of cheerful sunlight. It is Tuesday in Passion Week, of course; the Mass is Exspecta Dominum (Introibo) and will be streamed from Saint-Eugene at the usual hour; so far as I can tell (am preparing to listen to the Benedictine nuns at Jouques) the Pauline Rite utilises this Mass without alteration. I had thought that this is Mass from Saint-Eugène last year on this date in the liturgical calendar, based on what I could tell from the small YouTube previews that show up in Blogger: seeing what I see now I doubt.


The Ordines Romani observe that no station was held on this day, which rule occurring in Passion week, with its venerable usages, may be a survival of the very ancient regulation prohibiting the procession and the stational Mass on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the year, except on the feasts of the martyrs. The origin of the titulus Cyriaci goes back to the beginning of the 4th century, but its founder should in all probability be distinguished from the other Cyriacus, the martyr who was buried in the Via Ostiensis, and who, by reason of his bearing the same name, eventually became the patron saint of the Basilica of Cyriacus on the Quirinal. The church was successively restored under Adrian I, Leo III and Gregory IV. Bruno, also, the celebrated founder of the Carthusians, sanctified this spot by his presence and gathered together here a band of his monks, whose successors continued to inhabit the monastery almost down to our time [first Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and then later Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri; 1870 marked the end]. The venerable church, being now dilapidated, was replaced by a new and splendid one dedicated to our Lady, Queen of Angels, which the genius of Michelangelo constructed within the ancient halls of the Baths of Diocletian, whilst today’s station was transferred to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Via Lata. St Cyriacus must long have been venerated at this latter church, near which a celebrated convent of nuns existed from the ninth century, for it would appear that the head of the famous martyr was brought here in the later Middle Ages from the cemetery on the Via Ostiensis. 

The Introit comes from Psalm 26: 'Expect the Lord, and do manfully: let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord'. Not all our days are alike, but God attains his sublime ends by co-ordinating the most various and untoward circumstances; in nothing does his divine Providence shine forth more magnificently than in this-- that he makes events which seem to be most contrary serve to the accomplishment of his own designs. 'There is a time to build', says the Holy Ghost in the Book of Qoheleth-- i.e., Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher-- 'and a time to destroy; a time of love and a time of hatred; a time to weep and a time to laugh'.  'All things have their season', and in life’s dark days we must be steadfast and ever trust in the Lord, who, in the words of the prophet, brings us to the very gates of hell and then draws us back to safety. 

In the Collect we pray that God will accept our fasts, so that through their efficacy we may obtain such an abundance of grace that the final aeterna remedia may be assured to us after the sorrows of our earthly pilgrimage. We should note the order followed in the prayer. In the first place comes the expiation, for qui non placet, non placat, and God may refuse special graces to him who has still a heavy debt to pay to divine justice. When satisfaction has been made, and the friendship of the soul with God fully re-established, we can then confidently ask of him those particular favours which friendship alone can embolden us to ask, for they are vouchsafed to friends alone: Et adjicias quod oratio non praesumit. As, however, every grace which we receive here is but the prelude to the final grace, that of eternal glory in heaven, we must pray without ceasing that the favours granted to us on earth may be crowned by that which is their proper end and fruition-- viz., the beatific vision in paradise. 

The story of Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 14,27-42) was widely known in the early days of Christianity, for it is reproduced in many of the catacombs, a very fine example of the first half of the 2nd century being in that of Priscilla, in the so-called Cappella Greca. This lesson may have been chosen because, according to the legend, St Cyriacus, like Daniel, first exercised his apostolate at the Persian court, that of King Sapor. Later on he was condemned to death for the faith by the Emperor Diocletian, whom a painter of the 4th century likened to Nabuchodonosor in the crypt of the martyr Crescentius in the cemetery of Priscilla. Daniel among the lions is a figure of the early Church persecuted to death by the whole world, and against whom even the law was commissioned to carry out this cruel sentence: Non licet esse vos. But, like Daniel, the Church raised her hands and her heart in supplication to God, and God did not abandon those who trusted in him. We must follow the example of Daniel and go down fearlessly into the lions’ den, whenever it may please God to try us, and there await with confidence the hour of our deliverance. Sorrows and troubles do not harm the soul, so long as we do not allow them to disquiet us. 

The Graduals at Mass all refer henceforth to the divine Victim who appeals to his heavenly Father against the judgement of his impious persecutors who have condemned him to death, imploring him that he would give back to him his life on Easter morn. Today’s Gradual is derived from Psalm 42. The light and truth which are invoked by the Psalmist refer to the mission of the Paraclete, which, according to the words of the Gospel, is especially that of convincing the world of unrighteousness and malice. The Paraclete indeed came, and by pouring forth his gifts upon the disciples of the Crucified, whilst abandoning the obstinate Jews to their blindness, clearly proved the divine origin of the mission of our Lord. 

The Gospel is the continuation of St John’s narrative, and tells us (7,1-13) how our Lord went up to the feast of Tabernacles in the month of Tishri. To the invitation of his kinsfolk, Jesus replied that he would not go up to the festival, meaning that he did not wish to join the noisy caravan which was then proceeding to Jerusalem, making merry. He therefore did not take any part in the feast, having, as he said, no wish to do so; but he went up secretly to the holy City after the festival had begun, in order that he might teach the people who usually assembled in great numbers on this occasion. The fact that our Lord habitually attended all the great ceremonies of the Law should be a lesson to us to cultivate a lively spirit of devotion to the liturgy of the Church, by being present at its functions, especially on feast days, thus helping by our numbers to increase the splendour of the worship which the Church pays to the honour and glory of God. The desolation of the sanctuary abandoned and neglected by the people, who in so many lands no longer flock to the services of the true religion, is one of the grave disasters which Jeremias deplores in his Lamentations when he says: Viae Sion lugent eo quod non sit qui venial ad solemnitatem

In the Offertory, taken from Psalm 9, is expressed the steadfast confidence of Jesus, even in that fateful hour in which the justice of his Father abandons him to the hatred of his foes. 'Let all those trust in thee who know thy name, O Lord', he says, 'for thy name expresses ineffable love. Thou dost not forsake them that seek thee, or rather, thou dost not forsake any man, for even when the sinner flies from thee, thou dost follow after him to bring him back to repentance. How then canst thou fail those who seek thee?' The divine Victim knows that he will rise again in glory, and in the midst of his Passion, he already sings the paschal hymn: 'Sing ye to the Lord who dwelleth in Sion: for he hath not forgotten the cry of the poor'. Christ himself is here meant, of whom St Paul writes: Propter nos egenus factus est cum esset dives, ut nos illius inopia divites essemus; whilst the cry spoken of by the Psalmist is our Saviour’s last word on the cross: Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me'. 

In the Secret we ask that the victim which we are about to offer to God may obtain for us such temporal consolations as are necessary for our existence; yet not in superfluity, lest they should stifle within us the desire for heavenly blessing's. Thus does the Church, the prudent director of the spiritual life, discern the necessities both of the body and of the soul. We should bear in mind the twofold nature of man and avoid excess on either side, says the Wise Man: Divitias et paupertatem ne dederis mihi, sed tantum victui meo tribue necessaria... and for this reason, that poverty when it becomes grinding tempts man to blasphemy and despair, whilst an abundance of the good things of this life easily inclines the heart to forgetfulness of God. 

In the Communion (Psalm 24,22) we hear again the voice of Christ, who, bowed under the weight of our sins and the rage of his enemies, earnestly prays to his Father that he would deliver him from the power of death. He prays thus rather for us than for himself, who, being the very fount of life, could not remain bound for long by the chains of death, whereas we have absolute need of the resurrection of Christ, as being the beginning and visible proof of the resurrection of the whole human race. In the Post-Communion we beseech God that our frequency in drawing near to the holy Table may be for us both a token and a pledge of our approaching each day nearer to the celestial altar and the eternal prize. The Church militant is to some extent a symbol and prophetic type of that which will one day be accomplished in the heavenly Church, especially after the whole expiatory work of Jesus Christ has been fulfilled on the day of his final parousia. If external good works and the position held in the household of the faith are accompanied by a spirit of faith and fervent charity, the place of each one in the glory of heaven and his eternal reward will be certainly proportionate to the amount of grace which has enriched his soul on earth. In the Oratio super oblata, we ask God, the author of all merit, the first cause of the movements of our free will, to support by his grace the weakness and inconstancy of this same will, so that our example may help to increase not only the numbers, but also the merits of those who believe. It would truly be vain for the Church to attain a great exterior development if the sanctity of her followers did not increase in like manner, for God does not consider quantum, sed ex quanto. The Church makes use of the Psalter during these last days of Lent, in order to reveal to us the innermost thoughts of the Redeemer, as the hour of his Passion draws near. The Psalms form indeed the chief of all books of prayer. The holy Gospels relate the life of Jesus in all its details and expound his teaching, but the Psalms of David show us the mind of our Saviour, and make known to us his preferences, his feelings, his struggles and his anxieties, and tell us of the accents of deep love in which he prayed to his heavenly Father. Throughout his life, Jesus addressed him in the words of the Psalter, and on the cross, during his last agony, the 21st Psalm was on his lips. We might almost liken the Psalter to a sacerdotal book of prayers which the eternal Pontiff recited whilst offering up to his Father the sacrifice of his own life. For these reasons the ascetics of old studied the Book of Psalms assiduously, and recited it in its entirety every day. Even in our own times the Coptic and Abyssinian chiefs not only in their houses, but on journeys and during their halts in the desert, never let this book out of their sight-- a tradition which they share with the Jews, who also for many centuries had no other prayer-book but that containing the songs of David. The private piety of present-day Catholics would gain much, if, letting themselves be influenced by the example of our common Mother, the Church, who appoints for her ministers the weekly recital of the Psalter, they too would make more use of this prayer-book, which was inspired by the Holy Ghost and adopted for our example by our Saviour Jesus Christ himself.

Post Vesperas. Have only now stumbled over Franz Liszt's Vexilla regis prodeunt. In these days of YouTube, Vimeo et cetera a recording isn't rare. Whether they are any of them exceptionally well performed, I don't know; I'm listening to Alfred Brendel on Spotify.

It is also the feast of Saint Fingar (5th century), of Saint Rebecca (20th century), and of the Blessed Peter (17th century).

V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.