Christmastide: January 2009 Archives

Numquam sine aqua Christus

| | Comments (0)


El Greco's painting of the Baptism of the Lord has, at least to my eyes, a Chagall-like quality. Whereas one would expect a predominance of blues and greens, suggestive of water and vegetation, El Greco uses a palette in various tones of gold, yellow, and brown. Is it dawn or is it dusk? Is it the beginning of the new dispensation, or the end of the old?

Saint John the Baptist seems to be gazing into the heavens. He sees the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending. The light from the Holy Spirit seems to be falling directly into the shell he is using to pour the water of baptism over Jesus' head. Instead of dipping the shell into the river, El Greco shows the Baptist lifting up the shell to receive in its hollow, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Anointing from above.

The Invitatory

This morning's Office of Vigils began with a glorious Invitatory Antiphon in the soaring seventh mode. The summit of the melody stretches with a glorious quilisma over the word, Pater. The presence of the Father is all-pervasive in today's Office.

Christum, Filium dilectum, in quo Pater sibi complacuit,
venite, adoremus.

Christ, the beloved Son, in whom the Father takes delight,
come, let us adore.

The Great Responsory

The First Nocturn's responsory after the First Lesson is grandiose. It is the same Great Responsory in the third mode given for First Vespers in the Antiphonale Monasticum (p. 112) to open the celebration of the whole feast:

Hodie in Jordane baptizato Domino,
aperti sunt caeli
et sicut columba super eum Spiritus mansit,
et vox Patris intonuit:
* Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi complacui.
V. Caeli aperti sunt super eum,
et vox Patris audita est.
* Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi complacui.

Today, the Lord is baptized in the Jordan,
the heavens are opened,
the Spirit, in the form of a dove, rests upon Him,
and the Father's voice resounds:
* This is my beloved Son, in whom my love delights.
V. The heavens opened above Him, and the Father's voice was heard:
* This is my beloved Son, in whom my love delights.


The repetition of the response, "This is my beloved Son, in whom my love delights," makes the whole piece a contemplation of the Trinity. One "hears" the love of the Father for the Son in every note of the melismas that adorn the key words: Hic, dilectus, and complacui.

The Mystery of Water

The Reading of the Second Nocturn was taken from Tertullian's Treatise on Baptism. The fourth lesson is a lyrical tribute to the role of water in the whole economy of salvation. It evokes certain liturgical texts, notably the solemn blessing of water in the night of Pascha. Here is my translation:

What favour water has with God and with His Christ!
Thus is the meaning of baptism confirmed.
Numquam sine aqua Christus!
Never does Christ appear without water!

Christ Himself is immersed in water.
Invited to the wedding feast, it is water that inaugurates the first-fruits of His power.

When He preaches, it is to invite the thirsty to His everlasting water.
When He teaches of sacrificial love (agapé), He recognizes the cup of water offered to one's neighbor as a work of love.

He rests beside a well of water.
He walks upon the waters, freely crossing over its waves.
He serves His disciples with water, by washing their feet.

These signs of baptism extend even to His Passion.
When He is condemned to the death of the cross, water appears:
it is for the hands of Pilate.
When He is pierced by the soldier's lance, water gushes from His side.

All that has gone before

| | Comments (3)


A wise and dear friend wrote me from her cloister for the feast of the Epiphany. By God's providence, our lives, with their changes and chances, have been intertwined for over twelve years. Reflecting on the mystery of my call to Tulsa, she says:

Do you you know the poem The Wise by Brother Antoninus, O.P.? It is a favorite of mine and I thought of you as I read it today. All that has gone before in your life was not so much a search, but a preparation. What you have been called to fits perfectly.

I thank my friend for her message. Here is the poem:

The Wise

Miles across the turbulent kingdoms

They came for it, but that was nothing,

That was the least. Drunk with vision,

Rain stringing in the ragged beards,

When a beast lamed, they caught up another

And goaded west.

For the time was on them.

Once, as it may, in the life of a man,

Once, as it was, in the life of mankind,

All is corrected. And their years of pursuit,

Raw-eyed reading the wrong texts,

Charting the doubtful calculations,

Those nights knotted with thought,

When dawn held off, and the rooster

Rattled the leaves with his blind assertion---

All that, they regarded, under the Sign,

No longer as search but as preparation.

For when the mark was made, they saw it.

Nor stopped to reckon the fallible years,

But rejoiced and followed,

And are called "wise", who learned that Truth,

When sought and at last seen,

Is never found. It is given.

And they brought their camels

Breakneck into that village,

And flung themselves down in the dung and dirt of that place,

And kissed that ground, and the tears

Ran on their faces, where the rain had.

Adoration of the Name of Jesus, ROELAS, Juan de las 1604-05.jpg

The Feast That Came Back

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, established by Pope Innocent XIII in 1721, disappeared (along with a lot of other things) from the Roman Missal of 1970, and was happily restored to the third typical edition of the Roman Missal by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II in 2002.

Ant. ad introitum (Ph 2,10-11)

In nómine Iesu omne genu flectátur, caeléstium, terréstrium et infernórum; et omnis língua confiteátur quia Dóminus Iesus Christus in glória est Dei Patris.


Deus, qui salútem humáni géneris in Verbi tui incarnatióne fundásti, da pópulis tuis misericórdiam quam depóscunt, ut sciant omnes non esse, quam Unigéniti tui, nomen áliud invócandum. Qui tecum.

Super oblata

Largitátis tuae múnera deferéntes, quaesumus, Dómine, ut sicut Christo usque ad mortem obodiénti salutíferum nomen dedísti, ita nobis eius virtúte muníri concéde. Per Christum.

Ant. ad communionem (Ps 8,2)

Dómine, Dóminus noster, quam admirábile est nomen tuum in univérsa terra!

Post communionem

Hóstia sumpta, Dómine, quam Christi nomen honorántes tuae obtúlimus maiestáti, grátiam tuam, quaesumus, nobis infúndat ubérrime, ut et nostra in caelis esse scripta nómina gaudeámus. Per Christum.

Here are the Propers of the Mass for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, for study purposes only, of course.

Entrance Antiphon

At the Name of Jesus every knee should bend
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth
and every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ
is in the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).

The Introit calls upon the whole universe to reverence and glorify the adorable name of Jesus -- "in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" (Ph 2:10). At Mass and in the Divine Office, we reverence the Name of Jesus with a bow of the head. Not only does the outward gesture express what is inside; it also structures and shapes what is inside in a way consonant with the faith of the Church.


O God, who in the incarnation of your Word
established the salvation of the human race,
give to your peoples the mercy they earnestly implore,
that all of them may know the Name of your only-begotten Son,
and call upon no other.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

In the Collect we confess that the salvation of all nations is in Jesus Christ and no other. We beseech the Father to give to all peoples the knowledge of the Holy Name of Jesus, so that everyone on earth may call upon that saving Name.

General Intercessions

That, from the rising of the sun to its setting,
the Church may proclaim the Most Holy Name of Jesus
with reverence and awe,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. Christ, Graciously hear us.

That Christians working in the service of states and nations
may honour the Holy Name of Jesus
and, in the grace of that Name, seek peace and justice for the world
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. Christ, Graciously hear us.

That, following the teaching of Saint Bernard,
those tossed on the seas of doubt may find security
in the Name of Jesus;
the discouraged, new hope;
and the sick, a powerful remedy for soul and body,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. Christ, Graciously hear us.

That we who reverence the Name of Jesus
may offer fitting reparation
for the blasphemies committed against that Most Holy Name
and, in the communion of the whole Church,
confess that there is no other Name under heaven
whereby we are saved,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. Christ, Graciously hear us.

Collect at the General Intercessions

O God, who in the holy Name of Jesus
have given us a light in every darkness,
food for every hunger,
and medicine for every affliction;
mercifully grant that we may find
no Name more agreeable in the singing,
more welcome in the hearing,
and more comforting in thought
than the Name of your only-begotten Son
Jesus Christ who is Lord forever and ever.

A tender and burning love for the Name of Jesus found expression in the lyrical preaching of the twelfth century Cistercian Fathers. In the medieval Cistercian pharmacy of souls, the Holy Name of Jesus was the miracle medicine: the antidote for coldness of heart, bitterness, sadness, fear, lust, greed, vengeance, and every manner of spiritual ill.

Offertory Antiphon

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify Your Name forever;
for You, O Lord, are sweet and mild:
and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon You, alleluia (Ps 85:12, 5).

Prayer Over the Oblations

As we set forth, O Lord, the gifts received from your bounty,
we pray that as you bestowed on Christ obedient unto death
the Name that brings salvation,
you would also, in the power of that Name, keep us safe.
Through Christ our Lord.

The Prayer Over the Oblations calls the Name of Jesus, "the Name that brings salvation." The Name of Jesus brings healing, wholeness, health, peace and well-being. The Ambrosian Missal offers a magnificent Preface of the Holy Name.


(Ambrosian Missal, Votive Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus)

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always, here and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You sent your only-begotten Son to us,
bearing the wondrous Name that tells of salvation,
so that he might set us free
from the tyranny of our ancient foe,
and by consecrating us as your adoptive sons,
might call us to share the everlasting glory of your kingdom.

This is the Name of our thanksgiving;
before this Name all knees must bend;
this is the Name we invoke
as a refuge amid the perils of this life
and at the hour of death as our comfort and hope.

We join with all creation to praise his Name
as with the choirs of heaven
we sing the ageless hymn of your glory:

Communion Antiphon

O Lord, our Lord,
how wonderful is your Name
through all the earth (Ps 8:2).

The Communion Antiphon echoes the Invitatory that opened Vigils. During Holy Communion the Church would have us sing: "O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your Name through all the earth (Ps 8:2). To begin the daily round of praise, we sang: "The most admirable Name of Jesus, which is above every name: O come, let us adore."


All the nations You have made shall come and adore before You, O Lord,
and they shall glorify Your Name:
for You are great, and do wonderful things:
You alone are God, alleluia (Ps 85: 9-10).


Having received the sacrificial gifts, O Lord,
which we offered to your majesty
in honor of the the Name of Christ,
we pray you to pour forth your grace more lavishly upon us
that we may rejoice in having our names written in heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

The Postcommunion draws upon to Luke 10:20: "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven." We cherish the Holy Name of Jesus during this life because we know that Jesus, the Divine Friend, our Perfect and Faithful Friend, cherishes our names, and calls each of us by name. When Saint Teresa of Avila in prayer said to Our Lord, "I am Teresa of Jesus," He answered saying, "And I am Jesus of Teresa." Today's feast is, above all, an invitation and an opportunity to enter more deeply into the friendship of Jesus. He would have us call Him by His Name. Nothing so establishes intimacy between the soul and Jesus Christ as the ceaseless repetition of His adorable Name. Enter into the grace of today's feast. Imitate the saints. Let the Name of Jesus be your warmth, your sweetness, and your song.

And in the mouth a honey zest

| | Comments (0)


Of all the English translations of Jesu, Dulcis Memoria that I have read and prayed, the one done by Gerard Manley Hopkins remains my favourite.

Jesu, Dulcis Memoria

Jesus to cast one thought upon
Makes gladness after He is gone,
But more than honey and honeycomb
Is to come near and take Him home.

No music so can touch the ear,
No news is heard of such sweet cheer,
Thought half so dear there is not one
As Jesus God the Father's Son.

Jesu, their hope who go astray,
So kind to those who ask the way,
So good to those who look for Thee,
To those who find what must Thou be?

To speak of that no tongue will do
Nor letters suit to spell it true:
But they can guess who have tasted of
What Jesus is and what is love.

Jesu, a springing well Thou art,
Daylight to head and treat to heart,
And matched with Thee there' nothing glad
That men have wished for or have had.

Wish us Good Morning when we wake
And light us, Lord, with Thy day-break.
Beat from our brains the thicky night
And fill the world up with delight.

Who taste of Thee will hunger more,
Who drink be thirsty as before:
Wat else to ask they never know
But Jesus' self they love Him so.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
And a sweet singing in the ear
And in the mouth a honey zest
And drinks of heaven in the breast.

Thou art the hope, Jesu, my sweet,
The soul has in its sighing-fit;
The loving tears on Thee are spent,
The inner cry for Thee is meant.

Be our delight, O Jesu, now
As by and by our prize art Thou,
And grant our glorying may be
World without end alone in Thee.

Dulcis Iesu Memoria

| | Comments (0)


In the Liturgy

For the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, I invite the readers of Vultus Christi to join me in meditating the Iubilus Rithmicus de Amore Iesu, better known as the hymn, Dulcis Iesu Memoria. The Church sings portions of the hymn on January 3rd, feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, but also at Lauds on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, at Vigils (or Office of Readings) on the solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, and at Lauds on August 6th, feast of the Transfiguration.


For years this beautiful poem on the mystical love of Jesus was attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvux (1091-1153). The earliest manuscripts of the text are, however, of English origin and date from the 12th or early 13th century: one is a Missal from Lesnes Abbey near Greenwich, written between 1178 and 1220, the other is a book of Laudes in the Bodleian Library.

Increasingly, specialists are advancing the hypothesis that author of Iesu, Dulcis Memoria may have been none other than Saint Aelred, Cistercian Abbot of Rievaulx, even if the Benedictine scholar Dom André Wilmart, while sympathetic to an Aelredian authorship, stopped short of positively ascribing the text to him. There is, however, general agreement that the author of the Iubilus was an English Cistercian monk of the 12th century.

The hymn was, somewhat arbitrarily, divided into three sections for liturgical use in the Office of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. The translation here is by Father Edward Caswall.


At Vespers

Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest!

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than tby blest name,
O Saviour of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah this
Nor tongue nor pen can show:
THe love of Jesus, what it is,
None but his lovers know.

Et balsamo suavior

| | Comments (0)


Still using Father Caswall's translation, I am giving only a selection of the twenty-four verses that make up this section of the hymn. Father Caswall renders the text with a certain liberty; it is not a literal translation. He does capture, nonetheless, something of the delicacy and sweetness of the Latin.

At Lauds

O Jesu, thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy name is music to the heart,
Enchanting it with love.

For thee I yearn, for thee I sigh;
When wilt thou come to me,
And make me glad eternally
With the blest sight of thee?

O Jesu, love unchangeble,
For whom my soul doth pine!
O fruit of life celestial!
O sweetness all divine!

Iesu, Rex Admirabilis

| | Comments (0)

holyfam Francesco da Mura.jpg

I was fifteen or sixteen years old when, thanks to a fervent Trappist laybrother at Saint Joseph's Abbey, I discovered a lovely English translation of Dulcis Iesu Memoria in a small black-covered volume called The Cistercian Day Hours. The laybrother in question encouraged me to pray the hymns of The Cistercian Day Hours as he did, savouring them and learning them by heart. I no longer have a copy of The Cistercian Days Hours at hand, and suspect that it is long out of print.

The second section of the Iubilus Rithmicus de Amore Iesu was assigned to Matins. The translation here is Father Caswall's.

At Matins

O Jesu, King most wonderful!
Thou conqueror renowned!
Thou sweetness most ineffable!
In whom all joys are found!

Stay with us, Lord, and with thy light
Illume the soul's abyss;
Scatter the darkness of ournight,
And fill the world with bliss!

Jesu, thy mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousandfold
Whatever we can say.

2009 Belongs to Our Lady

| | Comments (4)

Murillo, S Ildefonso Vergine.jpg

For over thirty years now, my dear old friend Father Jacob, O.P. and I have renewed our consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God annually on January 1st. Experience has taught me the wisdom of entrusting the new year to Our Blessed Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces. Readers of Vultus Christi may want to join me in asking the Mother of God again today to open her hands over the entire year.

I offer today my translation of the sublime prayer of Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo (+667). This prayer, taken from his treatise De virginitate perpetua Sanctae Mariae, is one of the earliest expressions of total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In it, heralding an expression that Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort will make famous, the Bishop of Toledo declares himself the slave of Mary, Handmaid of the Lord. He also emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit with theological keenness and tender piety.

To illustrate the prayer, I chose Murillo's painting of the Virgin Mother bestowing on Saint Ildephonsus a splendid (blue and gold!) chasuble woven in heaven, to reward him for having written so beautifully in defense of her perpetual virginity.

Prayer of Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo, Bishop

The Abundance of the Sweetness of Thy Son

I come to thee, only Virgin Mother of God,
and fall prostrate before thee,
who alone didst cooperate in the Incarnation of God.
I humble myself before thee,
who alone wert found to be the Mother of my Lord.
I pray thee, who alone wert found to be the handmaid of thy Son:
obtain that my sins be wiped away;
command that I be cleansed of the wickedness of my deeds,
and, that I may love the glory of thy virtue,
reveal to me the abundance of the sweetness of thy Son.

Murillo, S Ildefonso Vergine, casula.jpg

Thou Art His Co-Worker in My Redemption

Bestow upon me the gift of proclaiming the true faith of thy Son,
and of defending it.
Grant that I may cleave to God and to thee,
that I may serve thy Son and thee,
that I may be His bondsman and thine;
His, because He is my Creator,
and thine, because thou art the Mother of my Creator;
His, because He is Lord of the angelic powers,
and thine, because thou art the handmaid of the Lord of All;
His, because He is God,
and thine because thou art the Mother of God;
His, because He is my Redeemer,
and thine because thou art His co-worker in my redemption.

The Body by Which He Healed My Wounds

That which He wrought for my redemption,
verily He formed in thine own person.
That He might be my Redeemer,
He became thy Son.
That He might be the price of my ransom,
He became incarnate of thy flesh.
The Body by which He healed my wounds,
He took from thee so that He, in it, might be wounded.
The mortal Body by which He took away my death,
He took from thy mortality.
The Body by which He brought my sins to nought,
He received sinless from thee.
This nature of mine that ahead of time, in Himself,
He placed above the angels in the glory of His Father's right hand,
He assumed -- humbling Himself -- out of thine own true body.

I Am Thy Slave

Therefore, I am thy slave,
because Thy Son is my Master.
Therefore thou art my Lady,
because thou art the handmaid of my Lord.
Therefore I am the slave of the handmaid of my Lord,
because thou, my Lady, didst become the Mother of my Lord.
Therefore I have become thy slave,
because thou didst become the Mother of my Maker.

By the Holy Spirit

I pray thee, I pray thee, holy Virgin,
may I, by the Spirit through Whom thou didst give birth to Jesus,
have Jesus and hold Him.
By that Spirit through Whom
thou didst conceive this same Jesus in thy flesh,
may my soul receive Jesus.

Let the Spirit gift me with the knowledge of Jesus,
this Spirit by Whom it was given Thee to bear Jesus and to give Him birth.
Let the Spirit in Whom thou didst declare thyself the handmaid of the Lord,
choosing that it should be done unto thee according to the Angel's word,
grant me to proclaim the heights of Jesus with lowliness.

To Love Jesus and to Fear Him

In the Spirit thou didst adore Jesus as thy Lord
and gaze upon Him as thy Son;
in that same Spirit may I love Him.
And may I fear this same Jesus,
with that reverence by which He, truly being God,
became subject to His parents.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory