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"mouth of the Infants and the Sucklings thou hast "perfected praise.1 The praise the Angels give thee, "is: Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on "earth to men of good will .J it is a magnificent "praise, but I make bold to say, that it is not perfect, till He cometh who will say: 'Suffer Little "' Children to come unto me, for of such is the "' kingdom of heaven ;3 and in the mystery of my "' mercy, there shall be peace to men that cannot "' even use their will.'" (Sermon for the Feast of "' the Holy Innocents.)
Yes, God did for these Innocents, who were immolated on his Son's account, what he is doing every moment now by the sacrament of regeneration, in the case of children, who die before coming to the use of reason. We, who have been baptised by water, should be all the more ready to honour these Little Ones, who were baptised in their own blood, and thereby associated to all the mysteries of the Divine Infancy. We ought, together with the Church, to congratulate them, for that a glorious and premature death secured them their innocence. They have lived upon our earth, and yet it defiled them not! Truly, these tender Lambs deserve to be for ever with the Lamb of God! May this same earth of ours, grown old in wickedness, draw down the divine mercy on itself, by the love and honour it gives, each year, to these sweet Children of Bethlehem, who, like the Dove of Noah's Ark, could not find whereon to rest their feet.
In the midst of the joy, which, at this holy time, fills both heaven and earth, the Holy Church of Rome forgets not the lamentations of the Mothers, who beheld their Children cruelly butchered by Herod's soldiers. She hears the wailing of Rachel, and condoles with her; and, unless it be a Sunday, she sus
1 Ps. viii. 3. 'St. Luke, ii. 14. 3 St. Matth. xix. 14.
pends on this Feast some of the manifestations of the joy, which inundates her soul during the Octave of her Jesus' Birth. The Red Vestments of a Martyr's Day would be too expressive of that stream of infant blood which forbids the Mothers to be comforted, and joyous White would ill suit their poignant grief; she, therefore, vests in Purple, the symbol of mournfulness.1 The Gloria in excelsis, the Hymn she loves so passionately during these days, when Angels come down from heaven to sing it—even that must be hushed to-day: and, in the Holy Sacrifice, she sings no Alleluia. In this, as in everything she does, the Church acts with an exquisite delicacy of feeling. Her Liturgy is a school of refined christian considerateness.
This expression of sympathy gives to-day's Office a pathetic sadness, which, however, in no ways interferes with the joy, which the Church feels in celebrating the Feast of the Holy Innocents. She keeps it with an Octave, as she does the two preceding Feasts of St. Stephen and St. John. She sanctions the practice, observed in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, of allowing young boys to share in the duties of the Choir, and blend their innocent chanting with that of the Ministers of God. She grants them several privileges, and takes pleasure in seeing the delight wherewith these children perform the several functions entrusted to them. This joy, this simplicity, this innocence, all add a charm to the divine Service; and through these youthful Choristers, the Church pays honour to the Infant Jesus, and to the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem.
In Rome, the Station for the Feast of St. Stephen is in the Church dedicated to the holy Protomartyr, on Monte Celio; that for St. John is in the Basilica of St. Mary Major; to-day, the Station is made at St.
1 Unless it be a Sunday; in which case, the colour used is Red.
Paul's beyond the Walls, which possesses several of the bodies of the Holy Innocents. In the 16th century, Pope Xystus the Fifth caused a portion of these Relics to be translated to St. Mary Major's, and put near the holy Relic of our Lord's Crib.
In the Introit, the Church proclaims the wisdom of God in disconcerting the impious plans of Herod, and turning the murder of the Innocents into his own glory, by raising them to the dignity of Martyrs of Christ, whose praises they gratefully sing for ever.
Ex ore infantium, Deus, Out of the mouth of inet lactentium perfecisti lau- fants and sucklings, thou hast dem propter inimicos tuos. perfected praise, O God, to
confound thine enemies.
Ps. Domine, Dominus Ps. O Lord, our Lord, how noster, quam admirabile est admirable is thy name in the Nomen tuum in universa whole earth. y. Glory, &c. terra! ft. Gloria Patri. Out of. Ex ore.
In the Collect, the Church prays that her children may confess, by their works, their faith in Christ. The Holy Innocents give their testimony—the only one in their power—of suffering for their divine Master: but the Christian, who has attained the use of reason, has more to do than suffer for his faith—he must confess it before Persecutors and Tyrants, when they bid him deny it, and also before that more permanent tribunal of the world and his own passions. No man has received the glorious character of a Christian, on the condition that he should never own himself one.
O God, whose praise the Deus, cujus hodierna die Holy Martyrs, the Innocents, praeconium Innocentes Marpublished this day, not by tyres non loquendo, sed mospeaking, but by dying; mor- riendo confessi sunt: omnia tify in us all our vicious in- in nobis vitiorum mala morclinations : that we may show tifica, ut fidem tuam, quam forth, in our actions, thy faith, lingua nostra loquitur, etiwhich we profess with our am moribus vita fateatur. lips. Through, &c. Per Dominum.
Commemoration of Christmas Day.
Grant, we beseech thee, O _ Concede, quaesumus, om
Almighty God, that we who nipotens Deus; ut nos Uni
groan under the old captivity geniti tui nova per carnem
of sin, may be freed therefrom Nativitas liberet, quos sub
by the new Birth of thine peccati jugo vetusta servi
Only Begotten Son. tus tenet.
Commemoration of St. Stephen.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech Da nobis, quaesumus, Do
thee, that we may imitate him, mine, imitari quod colimus;
whose memory we celebrate, ut discamus et inimicos dili
so as to learn to love even our gere; quia ejus natalitia ce
enemies : because we now so- lebramus, qui novit etiam
lemnise his martyrdom, who pro persecutoribus exorare
knew how to pray, even for Dominum nostrum Jesum
his persecutors, to our Lord Christum Filium tuum. Jesus Christ, thy Son.
Commemoration of St. John.
Mercifully, O Lord, en- Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, lighten thy Church: that benignus illustra: ut beati being taught by blessed John, Joannis, Apostoli tui et thine Apostle and Evangelist, Evangelistae, illuminata docshe may come to thy eternal trinis; ad dona perveniat rewards. Through, &c. sempiterna. Per Dominum.
Lesson from the book of the Lectio libri Apocalypsis
Apocalypse of Saint John beati Joannis Apostoli. the Apostle.
Ch. XIV. Cap . XIV.
In those days : I beheld the In diebus illus: Vidi supra
Lamb standing on mount Sion, montem Sion Agnum stantem, et cum eo centum quadraginta quatuor millia, habentea nomen ejus, et nomen Patris ejus scriptum in frontibus suis. Et audivi vocem de coelo, tamquam vocem aquarum multarum, et tamquam vocem tonitrui magni; et vocem quam audivi, sicut citharaedorum citharizantium in citharis suis. Et cantabant quasi canticum novum ante sedem, et ante quatuor animalia et seniores; et nemo poterat dicere canticum, nisi ilia centum quadraginta quatuor millia, qui empti sunt de terra. Hi sunt qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati: virgines enim sunt. Hi sequuntur Agnum quocumque ierit. Hi empti sunt ex hominibus, primitiae Deo et Agno, et in ore eorum non est inventum mendacium: sine macula enim sunt ante thronum Dei.
and with him a hundred fortyfour thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder; and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping on their harps. And they sung as it were a new canticle, before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the ancients; and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand, who were purchased from the earth. These are they, who are not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouths there was found no lie: for they are without spot, before the throne of God.
The Church shows us, by her choice of this mysterious passage of the Apocalypse, how great a value she sets on Innocence, and what our own esteem of it ought to be. The Holy Innocents follow the Lamb, because they are pure. Personal merits on earth they could not have; but they went rapidly through this world, and its defilements never reached them. Their Purity was not tried, as was St. John's; but, it is beautified by the blood they shed for the Divine Lamb, and He is pleased with it, and makes them his companions. Let the Christian, therefore, be ambitious for this Innocence, which is thus singularly honoured. If he have preserved it, let him keep and guard it as his most precious treasure; if he have lost