THIS Sunday, the first of the ecclesiastical year, is called, in the chronicles and charts of the middle ages, Ad te levavi Sunday, from the first words of the Introit; or, Aspiciens a longe, from the first words of one of the responsories of Matins.
The Station  is at St. Mary Major's. It is under the auspices of Mary-----in the splendid basilica which possesses the crib of Bethlehem, and is therefore called, in ancient documents, St. Mary's ad Præsepe----- that the Roman Church recommences, each year, the sacred cycle. It would have been impossible to select a place more suitable than this for saluting the approach of the Divine birth, which is to gladden h Heaven and earth, and manifest the sublime portent of a Virgin Mother. Let us go in spirit to this august temple, and unite in the prayers which are there being offered up: they are the very ones we also use, and which we will now explain.
In the night Office, the Church commences the reading of the Book of Isaias, who, of all the Prophets, has the most distinctly and explicitly foretold the Messias; and she continues this same Book until Christmas day inclusively. Let us strive to enter into the teaching of the holy prophet, and let the eye of our faith affectionately recognize the promised Saviour in the descriptions, sometimes consoling and sometimes terrifying, under which Isaias depicts Him.
The first words of the Church, in the still midnight, are these: Regem venturum Dominum, venite, adoremus. Come, let us adore the King our Lord, Who is to come.
This first duty of adoration complied with let us listen to the oracle of the prophet Isaias, delivered to us by the holy Church:
Thus it is, O Jesus, that Thou comest unto darkness, and darkness does not comprehend Thee. We beseech Thee, let our darkness comprehend the light, and desire it. The day will come when Thou wilt disperse the spiritual and voluntary darkness of men by the awful light of Thy justice. Thy glory, O sovereign Judge, will be magnificent on that day, and we love to think upon Thy having it: but during these days of our life on earth, deliver us from Thy wrath. We are one great wound from the sole of the foot unto the top of the head; Thou knowest not where to strike: be, then, a Saviour, O Jesus, in this coming, for which we are now preparing. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad: come, and raise up this head which shame and vile passions bow down to the earth. Come, and comfort this heart oppressed with sin and fear. We confess it, our wounds are deep and sore; come, Thou good Samaritan, pour in Thy soothing oil and heal them.
The whole world is in expectation of its Redeemer; come, dear Jesus, show Thyself to it by granting it salvation. The Church, Thy bride, is now commencing another year, and her first word is to Thee, a word which she speaks in the anxious solicitude of a mother for the safety of her children; she cries out to Thee, saying: 'Come!' No, we will go no farther in our journey through the desert of this life without Thee, O Jesus! Time is passing quickly away from us.; our day is perhaps far spent, and the shades of our life's night are fast coming on; arise, O Divine Sun of justice. Come! guide our steps and save us from eternal death.
While the priest is approaching the altar, there to offer up the holy sacrifice, the Church opens her chants by this beautiful one, which so well expresses her confidence as the beloved bride of Jesus. Let us repeat it together with her, and let the heart be in harmony with our voice, for the Saviour comes to each of us in proportion to the earnestness of our longing for Him.
To Thee have I lifted up
my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust, let me not be ashamed:
let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be
Repeat: To Thee . . .
After the Kyrie eleison, the priest embodies in the following prayers, called on that account the Collects, all the desires and petitions of the Church for this first Sunday:
Exert, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
Thy power and come; that by Thy protection we may be freed from the
dangers of our sins, and be saved by Thy mercy; Who livest and reignest
It is right that we should also beg,
during this holy season, the all-powerful mediation of her who, at
was the sole depository of the great secret which was to give life to
world. Let us then say
IN HONOUR OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
O God, Who wast pleased that Thy Word, when the Angel delivered his message, should take flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary; give ear to our humble petitions, and grant that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her prayers.
Mercifully hear, we beseech Thee, O
Lord, the prayers of the Church: that, all oppositions and errors
FOR THE POPE
O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in Thy mercy, on Thy servant N., whom Thou hast appointed Pastor over Thy Church; and grant, we beseech Thee, that both by word and example, he may edify all those that are under his charge; and with the flock entrusted to him, arrive at length at eternal happiness. Through our Lord Jesus Who livest and reignest God, world without end. R. Amen.
Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Ch. xiii.
None of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded,
Thou art to come, then, O Jesus, in all the terror of the last judgment, and when men least expect Thee. In a few days Thou art coming to us to clothe our misery with the garment of Thy mercy; a garment of glory and immortality to us; but Thou art to come again on a future day, and in such dread majesty that men will wither away with fear. O my Saviour! condemn me not on that day of the world's destruction. Visit me now in Thy love and mercy; I am resolved to prepare my soul. I desire that Thou shouldst come and be born within me, so that when the convulsions of nature warn me of Thy coming to judge me, I may lilt up my head, as Thou biddest Thy faithful disciples do, who, when the rest of men shall tremble at the thunder of Thy judgment, will have confidence in Thee, because they have Thee in their hearts.
During the offering of the bread and wine, the Church with her look steadfastly fixed on Him Who is to come, keeps to her sweet canticle:
To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed; neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded.
Grant, O Lord, that these sacred mysteries may cleanse us by their powerful virtue, and bring us with greater purity to Him, Who was the author and institutor of them. Through our Lord Jesus Who livest and reignest God, world without end. R. Amen.
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Strengthen, we beseech Thee, O Lord, in our souls the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess Him that was conceived of a Virgin, to be true God and true man, may, by the power of His saving Resurrection, deserve to come to eternal joys.
AGAINST THE PERSECUTORS OF THE CHURCH
Protect us, O Lord, while we assist at Thy
sacred mysteries: that being employed in acts of religion, we may serve
Thee both in body and
FOR THE POPE
Be appeased, O Lord, with the offering we have made: and cease not to protect Thy servant N., whom Thou hast been pleased to appoint Pastor over Thy Church. Through our Lord Jesus Who livest and reignest God, world without end. R. Amen.
After the Communion of the priest and people, the choir sings these beautiful words of David in praise of the sweetness of the Divine Fruit, Whom our earth is going to bring forth, and Who has just given Himself, by anticipation, to His faithful servants. This earth, which is ours, and which, as the prophet Isaias says, opens and buds forth the Saviour, is the blessed Virgin Mary made fruitful by the dew of Heaven.
The Lord will give His goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit.
May we receive, O Lord, Thy mercy in the midst of Thy temple: that with due honour we may prepare for the approaching solemnity of our reparation. Through our Lord Jesus Who livest and reignest God, world without end. R. Amen.
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may, by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
AGAINST THE PERSECUTORS OF THE CHURCH
We beseech Thee, O Lord our God, not to leave exposed to the dangers of human life those whom Thou hast permitted to partake of the Divine mysteries.
FOR THE POPE
May the participation of this Divine Sacrament
protect us, we beseech Thee, O Lord; and always procure safety and
to Thy servant N., whom Thou hast appointed Pastor over Thy Church,
with the flock committed to his charge. Through our Lord Jesus
livest and reignest God, world without end. R. Amen.
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