When asked to tell the names of the Saints who were foremost in defending the dogma of the Incarnation, we think at once of the intrepid Eusebius of Vercelli, as one of the glorious number. The Catholic faith, which was so violently attacked, in the 4thh century by the Arian heresy, was maintained at that time by the labours and zeal of four Sovereign Pontiffs: Sylvester, who confirmed the decrees of the Council of Nicaea; Julius, the supporter of St. Athanasius; Liberius, whose faith failed not, and who, when restored to his liberty, confounded the Arians; and, lastly, Damasus, who destroyed the last hopes of the heretics. One of these four Pontiffs appears on our Advent Calendar, Damasus, whose feast we kept but few days since. The four Popes have for their fellow-combatants, in this battle for the Divinity of the Incarnate Word, four great Bishops, of whom it may be said, that the defence of the dogma of the Consubstantiality of the Son of God was what they lived for, and that to say anathema to them was to say anathema to Christ himself; all four most powerful in word and work, lights of the Churches of the world, objects of the people's love, and the dauntless witnesses of Jesus. The first and greatest of the four is the Bishop of the second See of Christendom, St. Athanasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria; the second is St. Ambrose of Milan, whose feast we kept on the seventh of this month; the third is the glory of Gaul, St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers; the fourth is the ornament of Italy, St.Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli, whom we have to honour today. Hilary will come to us during Christmastide, and will stand at the Crib of the Word, whose Divinity he so bravely confesses; Athanasius will meet us at Easter, and help us to celebrate, in the triumphant Resurrection, Him whom he proclaimed as God in those dark times, when human wisdom hoped to destroy, by fifty years of peace, that Church which had survived the storm of three centuries of persecution. St. Eusebius' place is Advent and divine Providence has thus chosen him as one of the patrons of the faithful during this mystic season; his powerful prayers will help us to come devoutly to Bethlehem, and see in the Child, that is lying there, the eternal Word of God. So great were the sufferings which St. Eusebius had to undergo for the Divinity of Jesus, that the Church awards him the honours of Martyr, although he did not actually shed his blood. Let us now listen to the admirable account which the Church gives us of his life.
[A reminder that I copy the lessons at Matins from Divinum Officium, where they exist, rather than fussing with the text in the pdf of Dom Prosper's text; I've left the responsoria from that source-- they are not included in l'Année liturgique.]
Lectio 4Eusebius, natióne Sardus, Romanæ urbis lector, post Vercellénsis epíscopus, ad hanc regéndam ecclésiam mérito est créditus divino eléctus judício: nam quem numquam ante constitúti electóres cognoverant, posthábitis civibus, simul ut vidérunt, et probavérunt; tantumque intérfuit, ut probarétur, quantum ut viderétur. Primus in Occidéntis partibus in eadem ecclésia eosdem monachos instituit esse quos clericos, ut esset in ipsis viris et contemptus rerum, et accurátio levitárum. Ariánis impietátibus ea tempestáte per Occidéntem longe lateque traductis, advérsus eas viríliter sic dimicávit, ut ejus invicta fides Libérium summum Pontificem ad vitæ solatium erigeret. Quare hic sciens in ipso fervére Spíritum Dei, cum ei significasset ut penes imperatórem una cum suis legátis patrocinium fidei susciperet, mox cum illis profectus est ad Constántium; apud quem enixius agens, quidquid legatióne petebátur, obtinuit, ut episcopórum nempe cœtus celebrarétur.
R. Honéstum fecit illum Dóminus, et custodívit eum ab inimícis, et a seductóribus tutávit illum:* Et dedit illi claritátem ætérnam.V. Descendítque cum illo in fóveam, et in vínculis non derelíquit eum.R. Et dedit illi claritátem ætérnam.
Lectio 5Colléctum est Mediolani anno sequénti concílium, ad quod a Constantio invitátum Eusebium concupitúmque, ac vocátum a Liberii legatis, tantum abest, ut malignántium synagóga Arianórum contra sanctum Athanasium furéntium in suas partes adduceret, ut potius diserte statim ipse declarans, e præséntibus quosdam sibi compertos hæretica labe pollutos, Nicænam immo fidem proposúerit iis subscribéndam, ántequam cetera tractaréntur. Quod Ariánis acerbe irátis negántibus, nedum in Athanasium recusávit ipse subscribere, quin sancti Dionysii Mártyris, qui decéptus ab ipsis subscripserat, captivatam simplicitátem ingeniosíssime liberávit. Quam ob rem illi gráviter indignántes, post multas illatas injurias, exsílio illum mulctarunt: sed sanctus vir, excusso púlvere, nec cæsaris minas veritus, nec enses obstrictos, exsílium véluti sui ministerii offícium accépit; missusque Scythópolim, famem, sitim, verbera, divérsaque supplícia perpéssus, pro fide strenue vitam contempsit, mortem non metuit, corpus carnificibus trádidit.
R. Desidérium ánimæ ejus tribuísti ei Dómine,* Et voluntáte labiórum ejus non fraudásti eum.V. Quóniam prævenísti eum in benedictiónibus dulcédinis: posuísti in cápite ejus corónam de lápide pretióso.R. Et voluntáte labiórum ejus non fraudásti eum.
Lectio 6Quanta in eum tunc Arianórum crudelitas fúerit ac effrons inverecúndia, ostendunt graves litteræ plenæ róboris, pietátis ac religiónis, quas e Scythópoli scripsit ad Vercellensem clerum et pópulum, aliosque finítimos; e quibus étiam est explorátum, ipsórum nec minis, inhumanáque sævítia pótuisse umquam eum deterreri, nec serpentina blanda subtilitate ad eórum societátem perduci. Hinc in Cappadociam, postremoque ad superiores Ægypti Thebáidas pro constántia sua deportatus, exsilii rigores tulit ad mortem usque Constantii: post quam ad gregem suum reverti permissus, non prius redire vóluit, quam reparandis fidei jacturis ad Alexandrinam synodum sese conferret, postque médici præstántis instar, péragrans Oriéntis provincias, in fide infirmos ad integram valetúdinem restitúeret, eos instítuens in Ecclésiæ doctrina. Inde salubritate pari digresso in Illyricum, tandemque in Italiam delato, ad ejus réditum lúgubres vestes Italia mutávit: ubi postquam Psalmórum ómnium expurgatos a se commentarios Orígenis édidit, Eusebiíque Cæsareénsis, quos verterat de Græco in Latinum; demum tot egregie factis illustris ad immarcescíbilem glóriæ corónam tantis ærumnis proméritam, sub Valentiniáno et Valénte Vercellis migrávit.
R. Stola jucunditátis índuit eum Dóminus:* Et corónam pulchritúdinis pósuit super caput ejus.V. Cibávit illum Dóminus pane vitæ et intelléctus: et aqua sapiéntiæ salutáris potávit illum.R. Et corónam pulchritúdinis pósuit super caput ejus.V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.R. Et corónam pulchritúdinis pósuit super caput ejus.
Valiant Soldier of Jesus, Eusebius, Martyr and Pontiff, how much labour and suffering thou didst undergo for the Messias. And yet, they seemed to thee to be little in comparison with what is due to this eternal Word of the Father, who, out of his pure love, has made himself the Servant of his own creatures, by becoming Man for them in the mystery of the Incarnation. We owe the same debt of gratitude to this divine Saviour. He is born in stable for our sakes, as he was for thine; pray, therefore, for us that we may be ever faithful to him both in war and peace and that we may resist our temptations and evil inclinations with that same firmness, wherewith we would confess his name before tyrants and persecutors. Obtain for the Bishops of our holy Mother the Church, such vigilance, that no false doctrines may surprise them, and such courage that no persecution may make them yield. May they be faithful imitators of the divine Pastor, who gives his life for his sheep and may they ever feed the flock, intrusted to them, in the unity and charity of Jesus Christ.
Let us consider how our Blessed Lady, having returned to Nazareth, is overwhelmed with joy to feel living within her Him, who gives being to every created thing, and whom she loves with all the intensity of the Mother of God. Joseph, the faithful guardian of her virginity, tenderly loves this his Spouse, and blesses God for having intrusted such treasure to his keeping. The Angels crowd round this favoured house wherein dwell their sovereign Lord, and she whom he has chosen to be his Mother. Never was there happiness like that which fills this little dwelling; and yet, God has decreed to visit it with heavy trial, in order that he may give an occasion to Mary to exercise heroic patience, and to Joseph an occasion of meriting by his exquisite prudence. Let us listen to the meditation of St. Bonaventure, in which he thus ponders the Gospel narrative.
But while our Lady and Joseph her Spouse were thus dwelling together, the Infant Jesus grew within his Mother's womb. Then Joseph perceiving that Mary was with Child, he was above all measure grieved. Here give, pray thee, all thine attention, for thou hast many fair things to learn. If thou wouldst know wherefore it was that our Lord wished that his Mother should have a husband, whereas he always wished that she should be a Virgin, answer thee that he so wished on three accounts: firstly, that she might not be disgraced when it was seen that she was Mother; secondly, that she might have Joseph's aid and company; and thirdly, that the birth of the Son of God might be concealed from the devil.
Now, Joseph did look many times on Mary, and grief and trouble of heart fell upon him, and his displeasure was seen in his face, and he turned his eyes away from her as one that was guilty of that which he perforce suspected. See how God permits his servants to be afflicted and sorely tried, that they may so receive their crown. Now, Joseph was minded to put her away privately. In very truth may it be said of this holy man, that his praise is in the Gospel, for the Gospel says of him that he was a just man, that is, man of great virtue. For albeit they say, that no shame, nor suffering, nor insult can befall a man so grievous as that of his wife's unfaithfulness yet did Joseph restrain himself withal, and would not accuse Mary, but bore this great injury patiently. He sought not how to avenge himself, but, overcome with pity, and wishing to forgive, he was minded to put her away privately. But herein also had our Lady her share of tribulation, for she took notice of Joseph's trouble, and it sorely grieved her. Yet did she humbly hold her peace, and hide the gift of God. Better did it seem unto her that evil should be thought of her, than that she should reveal the divine Mystery, and say aught of herself which would come nigh to boasting. Therefore did she beseech our Lord that himself would right this matter, and make pass this grief from Joseph and herself. Here thou mayest learn what great tribulation and anxiety was theirs. But God came unto their assistance.
He therefore sent his Angel, who spake unto Joseph in his sleep, and told him that his Spouse had conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that he was to abide with her in all surety and joy. Whereupon, the tribulation ceased, and they were both exceedingly comforted. So likewise would it befall us if we would suffer patiently, for after a storm God brings calm. Neither oughtest thou to doubt this, for God suffereth not his servants to be afflicted save for their good.
After this, Joseph requested our Lady to narrate unto him what had happened and she faithfully narrated all unto him. Whereupon Joseph remains with his Blessed Spouse, and lives with her in all contentment, and loves her above what words can say, and diligently provides her whatsoever she needed. So also our Lady continues to remain confidently with Joseph, and they live right joyfully in their poverty."
A prayer for the time of Advent, being the capitula of Wednesday in the 1st Week in the Mozarabic breviary.
Deus, cui omnis terra praeconans jubilat laudem cujus gloriam canora Psalmi conclamant voce cujusque terribilem in tuis operibus fatentur virtutem notum facito Salutare tuum in conspectu omnium nostrum. Revela justitiam tuam, qua possimus te nostrum agnoscere creatorem et esto memor misericordiae tuae, qua nostrorum criminum mereamur invenire remissionem ut videntes Salutare tuum, jubilemus tibi hymnum, cantemus in exsultatione Psalmum, et perfrui mereamur tuae beatitudinis praemio. Amen.