Illumination and Healing
On this Sunday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Third Sunday after Pentecost, the liturgy is of an extraordinary beauty, beginning with Matins. The lessons at the Second Nocturn were taken from Saint Gregory the Great’s exposition of the Books of Kings:
This custom of anointing kings hath always been preserved in God’s Holy Church. And even as this ceremony resembleth a sacrament, so is that prince best anointed, whose heart is inwardly anointed with God’s grace. Let us consider first the properties of oil. Oil is distinguished above other fluids, in that it is inflammable, and that it is medicinal. Its healing property maketh it a type of mercy, even as it is written of the Lord — “Thy mercies are over all Thy works.” And in that it feedeth the lamp, it showeth forth the gracious power of Gospel preaching, whereby the minds of Christ’s faithful people are enlightened.
In Their Dryness of Heart They Rebuked the Very Fountain of Mercy
In the homily read before the Holy Gospel at Matins, Saint Gregory the Great speaks of those whose exaltation cometh of a false righteousness:
They look down upon their neighbour, but are softened by no mercy towards his misery, and are all the more sinful, because they perceive not that they themselves are sinners. Of such were those Pharisees who judged the Lord because He received sinners, and in the dryness of their own heart, rebuked the very Fountain of Mercy.
Sick of So Desperate a Sickness
It sometimes happens that those who look down upon others in their weakness, are themselves so desperately sick with pride, that they are unaware of their own spiritual sickness. Saint Gregory says:
They were sick of so desperate a sickness that they knew not themselves to be sick; but that they might know that they were so, the Heavenly Physician applied to them His tender ointments, and, by means of a gracious parable, lanced the boil of their pride of heart.
In the light of this, I would make an appeal for charity, meekness, and mercy in our Catholic blogosphere. One should never post an entry that has not been seasoned with the oil of mercy.
Today’s Collect is a masterpiece. I wonder how the new English translation of the Roman Missal will render it. The Marquess of Bute translates it thus:
O God, the Protector of them that trust in Thee,
without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
increase and multiply upon us Thy mercy;
that, Thou being our Ruler and Guide,
we may so pass through things temporal
that we finally lose not the things eternal.
The image of mercy being increased and multiplied upon us can be related to Samuel’s anointing of Saul in the lessons at Matins, the oil being a figure or type of mercy.
Finally, at Lauds, we had a glorious antiphon in the Third Mode — I wish that I could sing it for all my readers to hear — relating the parable of the man who goes in search of his one lost sheep.
What man of you, having a hundred sheep,
if he loses one of them,
doth not leave the ninety-and-nine in the wilderness
and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? Alleluia.