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Ps. Exsultatejustiin Do- Ps. Rejoice in the Lord, O
mino; rectos decet collau- ye just; praise becometh the
datio. i?. Gloria Patri. upright. Glory, dec.
Gaudeamus. Let us, dec.
In the Collect, the holy Church emphasises the merit of the glorious Martyr, by saying, that it was for the very Spouse of the Son of God that he shed his blood. After this, she expresses the special confidence she has in his intercession.
Deus, pro cujus Ecclesia, gloriosus Pontifex Thomas gladiis impiorum occubuit; praesta quaesumus: ut omnes, qui ejus implorant auxilium, petitionis suae salutarem consequantur tum. Per Dominum.
O God, in defence of whose Church the glorious Pontiff Thomas fell by the swords of wicked men: grant, we beseech thee, that all who implore his assistance, may find comfort in the grant of their petition. Through, &c.
If the Commemorations of the four Octaves are to be made, they will be found in the Mass of Holy Innocents, page 314.
Lectio Epistolm beati Pauli
Fratres: Omnis pontifex ex hominibus assumptus, pro hominibus constituitur in iis, quae sunt ad Deum, ut offerat dona et sacrificia pro peccatis: qui condolere possit iis, qui ignorant et errant: quoniam et ipse circumdatus est infirmitate: et propterea debet, queinadmodum pro populo, ita etiani
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.
Brethren: Every HighPriest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things, that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: because he himself, also, is compassed with infirmity: and therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, et pro semetipso offerre pro
to offer for sins. Neither doth peccatis. Nec quisquam su
any man take the honour to mat sibi honorem, sed qui
himself, but he that is called vocatur a Deo, tamquam
by God, as Aaron was. So, Aaron. Sic et Christus non
also, Christ did not glorify semetipsum clarificavit ut
himself that he might be made Pontifex fieret: sed qui lo
a High-Priest: but he that catus est ad eum: Films
said to him: Thou art my meus es tu, ego hodie genui
Son, this day have I begotten te. Quemadmodum et in
thee. As he saith, also, in alio loco dicit : Tu es Sacer
another place: Thou art a dos in aeternum, secundum
Priest for ever, according to ordinem Melchisedech. the order of Melchisedech.
When we meet, in the Annals of the Church, with the names of those great Bishops, who have been the glory of the Christian Pontificate, we are at once sure, that these men, the true images of the great High-Priest Jesus our Lord, did not intrude themselves, uncalled, into the dread honours of the Sanctuary. The history of their Lives shows us, that they were called by God himself, as Aaron was: and when we come to examine, how it was that they were so great—we soon find, that the source of their greatness was their humility, that led them to refuse the honourable burden, which others would put upon them. God assisted them in the day of trouble and trial, because their exaltation to the episcopacy had been his own work.
Thus was it with St. Thomas, who sat on his episcopal throne of Canterbury, the dignified and courageous Primate. He began by declining the high honour that was offered him. He boldly tells the King, (as St. Gregory the Seventh, before ascending the Papal Throne, told the Emperor who fain would see him Pope,) that, if forced to accept the proffered dignity, he is determined to oppose abuses. He thought by this to frighten men from putting him into the honours and responsibilities of the Pastoral charge, and hoped that they would no longer wish him to be a Bishop, when they suspected that he would be a true one:—but, the decree of God had gone forth, and Thomas, called by God, was obliged to bow down his head, and receive the holy anointing. And what a Bishop he, that begins by humility, and the determination to sacrifice his very life in the discharge of his duty! He is worthy to follow, and that to Calvary, the God-Man, who, being called, by his Father, to Priesthood and to Sacrifice, enters this world, saying: Behold! I come to do thy will, O God!1
The Gradual, in its first Versicle, applies to St. Thomas, the encomium given by the Sacred Scripture to Abraham. These words, which speak the praises of one, who surpassed all others in merit, are singularly applicable to our illustrious Martyr, whose glory exceeds that of most other holy Bishops, whose memory is celebrated by the Church.
The Alleluia-Verse repeats the words of our Saviour, in which he declares himself to be the Good Shepherd. Why does the Church use them on this Feast? She would, thereby, tell us, that St. Thomas was a faithful representation of Him, whom St. Peter calls the Prince of Pastors.2
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.
Ch . X.
At that time: Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep; and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd: and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them, also, I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.
In illo tempore : Dixit Jesus Pharisaeis: Ego sum Pastor bonus. Bonus pastor animam suam dat pro ovibus suis. Mercenarius autem, et qui non est pastor, cujus non sunt oves propriae, videt lupum venientem, et dimittit oves, et fugit; et lupus rapit, et dispergit oves: mercenarius autem fugit, quia mercenarius est, et non pertinet ad eum de ovibus. Ego sum Pastor bonus: et cognosco oves meas, et cognoscunt me meae. Sicut novit me Pater, et ego agnosco Patrem: et animam meam pono pro ovibus meis. Et alias oves habeo, quae non sunt ex hoe ovili: et illas oportet me adducere, et vocem meam audient, et fiet unum ovile et unus Pastor.
All the strength of the Pontiffs and Pastors of the Church consists in their imitation of Jesus. It is not enough, that they have in them the character of his Priesthood; they must, also, be ready, like Him, to lay down their lives for their sheep. The Shepherd who thinks more of his own life than of the salvation of his flock, is a hireling—he is not a shepherd: he loves himself, and not his sheep. His flock has a claim upon his shedding his blood for them; and if he will not, he is no longer an image of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. See how calmly St. Thomas lays down his life! He bows down his head to receive the blows of his executioners, as though he were simply acquitting himself of a duty, or paying a debt. After the example of Jesus, he gives his blood for the deliverance of his people; and no sooner has the sword done its work, than the Church, over which God had placed him, is set free: his blood has brought peace.1 He withstood the wolf, that threatened destruction to his flock; he vanquished him; the wolf himself was turned into a lamb, for the king visited the Tomb of his victim, and sought, in prostrate supplication, the Martyr's blessing.
Thomas knew his sheep, that is, he loved them; it was a happiness to him, therefore, to die for them. He was made Pastor, on the condition that he would die for them ; just as our Emmanuel was made High-Priest in order that he might offer Sacrifice, in which, too, he was both Priest and Victim. Jesus' sheep know their divine Shepherd—they know that he came in order to save them; therefore is it, that his Birth at Bethlehem is so dear to them. The Shepherd of Canterbury, too, is also known by his sheep; and, therefore, the Feast of his triumphant martyrdom is very dear to them, not only in the century when it happened, but even now, and so will it ever be, even to the end of time. In return for this love and devotion, paid him by the Church on earth, Thomas blesses her from heaven. We cannot doubt it—the wonderful return to the ancient Faith, which we are now witnessing in our dear England, is due, in no little measure, to the powerful intercession of St. Thomas of Canterbury; and this intercession is the return, made by our glorious Martyr, for that fervent and filial devotion, which is shown him, and which the faithful will ever show to him who was so heroically, what only the true Church can produce—a true Pastor.
1 Col. i. 20.