Liturgical Texts: December 2006 Archives



This is John
who reclined on the breast of the Lord at supper:
Blessed the Apostle unto whom were made known
the secret things of heaven;
to the ends of the earth he has spread the words of life.


O God who,
through the blessed apostle John,
unlocked for us the hidden secrets of your Word,
grant, we beseech you,
that we may grasp with fuller understanding
what he so wondrously proclaimed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

Drink to the Love of Saint John!

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On the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, at the end of the principal Mass, that is, after the last Gospel, the priest, retaining all his vestments except the maniple, in the following manner blesses wine brought by the people in memory and in honor of Saint John, who drank poison without harm:

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who has made heaven and earth.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Let us pray.

Be so kind as to bless and consecrate with Your right hand, Lord, this cup of wine, and every drink. Grant that by the merits of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, all who believe in You and drink of this cup may be blessed and protected. Blessed John drank poison from the cup, and was in no way harmed. So, too, may all who this day drink from this cup in honor of blessed John, by his merits, be freed from every sickness by poisoning and from any harms whatever. And, when they have offered themselves in both soul and body, may they be freed, too, from every fault, through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

Bless, Lord, this beverage which You have made. May it be a healthful refreshment to all who drink of it. And grant by the invocation of Your holy name that whoever tastes of it may, by Your generosity receive health of both soul and body, through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen

And may the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, descend upon this wine which He has made, and upon every drink, and remain always.
R. Amen.

And it is sprinkled with Holy Water. If this blessing is given outside of Mass, the priest performs it in the manner described above, but with surplice and stole.



Drop down dew, you heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down the Just One:
let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour (Is 45:8).


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.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who with Thee lives and reigns
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

23 December, O EMMANUEL

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Murillo's painting of the Infant Christ distributing bread to pilgrims is an invitation to consider the mystery of the Eucharist, God–With–Us, the Child of Bethlehem, the House of Bread. An Angel assists the Infant Christ. Behind Him (not visible in this detail) is His Mother, her body forming a kind of Eucharistic throne, a variation on the Sedes Sapientiae motif. Perhaps the sequence of the Mass of Corpus Christi provided a subtext for this painting:

Ecce, panis Angelorum,
Factus cibus viatorum:
Vere panis filiorum.

Behold, the Bread of Angels sent
For pilgrims in their banishment,
The Bread for God's true children meant.

O Emmanuel (Is 7:14; 8:8),
our King and Lawgiver (Is 33:22),
the expectation of the nations and their Saviour (Gen 49:10):
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The Last of the O Antiphons

On December 23rd we come today to the last of the Great O Antiphons. We are accustomed to seven, but, in other times and places, and even now, there are nine or even as many as twelve.

O Virgo Virginum

O Virgo Virginum, the last of the Great O Antiphons in the old English liturgy of Sarum , occurs on December 23rd. Its structure is quite different from all the other Great O Antiphons. The first part is a question addressed to the Virgin Mary; in the second part she replies with another question, and then, gives her answer.

“O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
That which ye behold is a divine mystery.”

It is touching that the Anglican Church, despite all the vicissitudes of her history, remains attached to this lovely Great O addressed to Our Lady.


O Emmanuel

In today’s Roman liturgy the O Antiphon is, like the six that preceded it, addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ. It seems to me that, with each succeeding day, the O of our invocation, and the Veni of our supplication has grown more confident, more intense and, in a sense, more urgent.

Afraid Never Again

Mother Marie des Douleurs, writing in 1964, offers us a somewhat anguished meditation on today’s Great O. It appears to come out of an experience of weakness, fear, and uncertainty. Some would dismiss it as deeply pessimistic and too gloomy for Advent. I sense something else in it: the prayer of woman wrestling with her inner demons, as we all do, and confident nonetheless in the mystery of God-with-us. This is what she wrote:

17 December, Third Sunday of Advent

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer let your petitions be made known to God (Phil 4:4-6).


O God, who hast set Thine eyes upon Thy people
as they await in faith the festival of the birth of the Lord;
grant, we beseech Thee,
that we may arrive at the joys of so great a salvation
to celebrate them with solemn worship
and an ever lively gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.


"And Elijah the prophet stood up, as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch" (Sir 48:1). The prophet Elijah figures prominently in today's Mass, making me think of all my dear Carmelite friends — you know who you are.

Las Posadas, the Christmas Novena to the Infant Christ, a devotion that Carmelites cherish, begins today, not only in Carmel, but also among Mexican Catholics everywhere. Humble contemplation of the Infant Christ is the best remedy against sins of arrogance, self–sufficiency, and intellectual pride.


Come, Lord, you who are enthroned upon the cherubim,
show us your face
and we shall be saved (Ps 79:4, 2).


Almighty God,
let the splendour of your glory, we beseech you,
rise like the dayspring in our hearts
to dispel every darkness of the night;
that the advent of your only-begotten Son,
may reveal us to be children of the light.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.


A leitmotif of today's Mass is the advent of the Bridegroom Christ. The Collect alludes to Matthew 25:1–13, the parable of the bridegroom coming at midnight. The Gospel presents both John the Baptist, the "friend of the Bridegroom" and Christ, the Bridegroom Himself (cf. Jn 3:29). Both meet with resistance and rejection. In the end, Wisdom will be justified by her children, the saints of every age. Albrecht Dürer's drawing of Christ at the age of twelve (1506) suggests the mystery of the Divine Wisdom come in the flesh.


Behold, the Lord will come, descending with splendour,
to visit his people in peace
and establish over them life everlasting.


Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God
that your people may await
the advent of your only-begotten Son
with the utmost vigilance,
so that, as he himself, the Author of our salvation taught us,
keeping watch, we may go forth to meet him
with our lamps burning.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

12 December, Our Lady of Guadalupe

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In this 17th century Mexican painting, the Virgin of Guadalupe intercedes for the soul depicted under the form of little child. Saved by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and helped by her guardian angel, the soul escapes the clutches of Satan, and flies directly to the wound in the side of Jesus. There she is embraced by Jesus who detaches one arm from the cross to draw her to Himself. To Satan's rage, the soul is purified in the Blood and Water that flow from the Heart of the Crucified.

Entrance Antiphon

A great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars (Rev 12:1).


God of power and mercy,
who blessed the Americas at Tepeyac
with the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe;
grant, we beseech you, through her intercession,
that we may accept one another in Christ
and through the outpouring of your justice into our hearts ,
come to rejoice in the gift of your peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.


The Communion Antiphon of today's Mass merits close attention. The text is borrowed from the Divine Office where it serves as the Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers of the Second Sunday of Advent. Today we repeat it as, one by one, we approach the Holy Mysteries. Addressing herself to Christ in His Eucharistic advent, we sing, "Come, O Lord, and visit us with peace, that we may joy before you in tranquility of heart." Veni, Domine, visitare nos in pace, ut laetemur coram te corde perfecto.

The Latin text speaks of "a perfect heart," meaning a heart made whole. Christ, by the forgiveness of sins, restores wholeness and tranquility to the broken and troubled heart. By His word of forgiveness, He restores the heart's capacity for joy in His presence. "Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Lk 5:21).


Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it to the ends of the earth;
Behold our Saviour comes,
and will not delay (cf. Jer31:10; Is 35:4).


May our prayer of petition rise before you, O Lord,
so that, when we celebrate
the great mystery of the Incarnation of your Only-Begotten Son,
the service of our worship may be spotless and pure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.


Station at the Roman Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Today's stational church is the home of my own monastic community, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Santa Croce is Jerusalem–in–Rome: the image of the ancient Jerusalem that is the Mother Church; of the Catholic Church that is the Jerusalem open to all peoples; of the interior Jerusalem of the soul; and of the heavenly Jerusalem, the object of all our longings.

People of Sion, behold the Lord shall come for the saving of the nations; and the Lord shall make heard the glory of His voice in the joy of your heart (Is 30: 19, 30). V. O shepherd of Israel, hear us; You Who lead Joseph like a flock (Ps 79:2).


Almighty and merciful God,
let no works of worldly impulse
impede those who are hastening to meet Your Son,
but rather, may the teachings of heavenly wisdom
make us the companions of Him Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.



Come, Lord, You who are enthroned upon the cherubim,
show us Your face and we shall be saved (Ps 79:4, 2).


O God, Who, for the liberation of the human race
from its ancient sinfulness,
sent Your Only–Begotten Son into this world,
grant to those who wait for Him with all their hearts
the grace of Your lovingkindness from above,
that they may at length attain the prize of true freedom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.


This seventeenth century Spanish painting is remarkable in that it depicts Saint Joachim and Saint Anne together with the Immaculate Conception, their daughter full of grace. It is likely that this painting was made for a Carthusian monastery. It is now in the National Gallery of Scotland.


I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
and my soul shall be joyful in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation,
and with the robe of justice he has covered me,
as a bride adorned with her jewels (Is 61:10).


O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin
prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son
and, foreseeing his death on the Cross,
preserved her from all stain;
grant that we too, by her intercession,
may come into your presence with pure hearts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Come, Bridegroom Christ

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This hymn belongs at the Hour of Sext during Advent. The text, though inspired by something written by a friend many years ago, is my own. The image is a detail from a fresco in the choir of the monastery of Santa Maria di Monteluce in Perugia; it depicts Christ and Mary, that is, Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church.

Come, Bridegroom Christ, outdazzle day:
Come, clear our clouded sight to see
Your living Word in every seed,
In labour’s fruit, eternity.

Come, nurture what your hand has made;
Come, bring to birth what you have sown:
In each day’s labour, Christ, be seen,
Seed, Blossom, Fruit, of all we own.

Come, now descend from mountain heights,
Come, leaping, seeking, calling still.
Your birth to heaven wedded earth;
Let heaven’s praise the earth now fill.

Come, Bridegroom Christ, the Father’s joy,
Come, mark your own with Kiss of Fire.
Your bride still dark, yet lovely, waits;
Unshadowed shines her one desire. Amen.

Vox Clara Ecce Intonat

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Here is my rendering of the Advent hymn for Lauds. Like the Vespers hymn below, it may be sung to the corresponding tune in the Liber Hymnarius. I would be happy to know if any Vultus Christi readers decide to sing these texts.

In desert wastes, the Baptist’s voice
Like thunder pealing from the sky,
Denounces sin, announces Fire,
Unmasking darkness where it lies.

Now let the fearful soul arise,
Lest poisoned by the viper’s sting,
The hour of grace should pass her by:
The advent of the Lamb, the King.

Into death’s cold and shadowed vale
Descends the Lamb from heaven’s height.
And those who wait in silent hope
Are stirred from slumber at the sight.

When in the sky his Cross appears,
The triumph of the Lamb will shine.
And all who wait in joyful hope
Will rise to greet the glorious sign.

To God the Father, ceaseless praise
And to the Lamb who shares his throne,
And to the Spirit in the Church,
the Bride whom Christ yet calls his own. Amen.

Conditor Alme Siderum

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This is my translation of Conditor Alme Siderum. When Advent rolls round and I sing this hymn, I see in my mind's eye Van Gogh's Starry Night. In the little church with the tall steeple at the bottom of the painting there must be a lingering scent of incense. Advent Vespers will have been sung. The Creator of the Starry Night is glorified.

O Light unconquered, Source of Light,
Whose radiance kindles stars and sun,
Shine tenderly on us this night;
Creation groans until you come.

Immense your grief to see our plight:
When sin had shrouded all, you came.
True Dayspring bursting death’s dark bands,
Emmanuel, your saving name!

Night weighed upon a weary world
When silently you pitched your tent,
Enclosed within the Virgin’s womb
True man, true God from heaven sent.

So to the darkened world in need,
Eternal Word, you came as man.
You came as Bridegroom, swift and strong,
To claim the prize the course you ran.

Until your glory fills the skies,
Until the stars in welcome sing,
Until you judge both small and great,
From sin, protect us, Sovereign King.

To God the Father, God the Son,
To God the Spirit ever be
Glad songs of praise throughout the night
While faith adores the mystery. Amen.

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.

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