Hilarion (291–371) was an anchorite who spent most of his life in the desert according to the example of Anthony the Great. The life of Hilarion was written by Jerome in 390 at Bethlehem. Its object was to further the ascetic life to which he was devoted. It contains, amidst much that is legendary, some statements which attach it to genuine history, and is in any case a record of the state of the human mind in the 4th century.
Hilarion was born in Thabatha, south of Gaza in Syria Palaestina of pagan parents. He successfully studied rhetoric with a Grammarian in Alexandria. It seems that he was converted to Christianity in Alexandria. After that, he shunned the pleasures of his day—theatre, circus and arena—and spent his time attending church. According to St. Jerome, he was a thin and delicate youth of fragile health.
After hearing of Saint Anthony, whose name (according to St. Jerome), “was in the mouth of all the races of Egypt” Hilarion, at the age of fifteen, went to live with him in the desert for two months. As Anthony’s hermitage was busy with visitors seeking cures for diseases or demonic affliction, Hilarion returned home along with some monks. At Thabatha, his parents having died in the meantime, he gave his inheritance to his brothers and the poor and left for the wilderness.
Hilarion went to the area southwest of Majoma, the port of Gaza, that was limited by the sea at one side and marshland on the other. Because the district was notorious for brigandage, and his relatives and friends warned him of the danger he was incurring, it was his practice never to abide long in the same place. With him he took only a shirt of coarse linen, a cloak of skins given to him by St. Anthony, and a coarse blanket. He led a nomadic life, and he fasted rigorously, not partaking of his frugal meal until after sunset. He supported himself by weaving baskets.
Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair. Beset by carnal thoughts, he fasted even more. He was “so wasted that his bones scarcely held together” (Jerome): According to St.Jerome: So many were his temptations and so various the snares of demons night and day, that if I wished to relate them, a volume would not suffice. How often when he lay down did naked women appear to him, how often sumptuous feasts when he was hungry! (Jerome, Life of St Hilarion, 7)
He finally built a hut of reeds and sedges at the site of modern-day Deir al-Balah in which he lived for four years. Afterwards, he constructed a tiny low-ceilinged cell, “a tomb rather than a house”, where he slept on a bed of rushes, and recited the Bible or sang hymns. He never washed his clothes, changed them only when they fell apart and shaved his hair only once a year. He was once visited by robbers, but they left him alone when they learned that he did not fear death (and had nothing worth stealing, anyway).
Saint Jerome describes his diet as a half a pint of lentils moistened with cold water, and after three years he switched to dry bread with salt and water. Eventually, perceiving his sight to grow dim and his body to be subject to an itching with an unnatural roughness, he added a little oil to this diet.
After he had lived in the wilderness for 22 years, he became quite famous in Syria Palaestina. Visitors started to come, begging for his help. The parade of petitioners and would-be disciples drove Hilarion to retire to more remote locations. But they followed him everywhere. First he visited Anthony’s retreat in Egypt. Then he withdrew to Sicily, later to Dalmatia, and finally to Cyprus. He died there in 371.
Saint Ursula was born in Great Britain of Christian parents; her father, Maurus, was king of Cornubia in Scotland. Ursula was sought in marriage by a young pagan prince, but had already vowed her life and her heart to Jesus Christ.
In the year 383 she was boarded onto a boat with a large number of young girls and Christian women whom a Roman conqueror wished to give as wives to his soldiers, after having endowed them with rich terrains. But during the crossing of the Channel a storm arose, and the ships, instead of reaching western Gaul, were driven towards the mouth of the Rhine. The Huns who at that time were ravaging Europe saw the ships, and were making ready to pillage them and inflict on these virgins and women a dishonor more dreaded by them than death. Commanded by Ursula, they resisted heroically and so well that suddenly the sentiments of the barbarians changed. They took up their arms to be rid of this peaceful army. Soon the victims fell under the blows of the executioners, and their souls winged their way to heaven.
The prince of the Huns, struck by Ursula’s beauty, spared her at first; he tried to console her for the death of her companions and promised to marry her. When she did not assent he shot her with an arrow, and this consecrated virgin fell with the others. She was considered the leader of the eleven thousand brought by the Romans from Great Britain. Many churches have relics of this army of martyrs, but no region is more richly endowed than that of Cologne, since it is to that city that the Christians of the region devotedly carried the mortal remains of the martyrs.
In the seventh century a magnificent church rose over their tomb, whose walls itself served as reliquaries. This holy cemetery has been rendered illustrious by many miracles. Pilgrims and especially young girls have come from all over Europe, to beg protection for their virginity from Saint Ursula and her companions. The very arrow which pierced Saint Ursula is still conserved there. A religious, who had great devotion to these martyrs, had fallen dangerously ill; a virgin appeared to him and said: I am one of the virgins whom you honor. To reward you for the eleven thousand Our Father’s you recited to honor us, you will have our assistance at the hour of death. And soon the glorious troop came to escort his soul. Saint Ursula is the patron of young teachers, and many congregations of nuns, dedicated to education, bear her name.
INTROIT Ecclesiasticus 45: 30
The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment: the law of his God is in his heart.. (Ps. 36: 30-31) Be not emulous of evildoers: nor envy them that work iniquity. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat The mouth of the just…
O God, Who gladden us with the annual feast of blessed N. , Your Confessor, mercifully grant that, while honoring the anniversary of his death, we may also imitate his deeds.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For St. Ursula and Companions, Virgins and Martyrs
May blessed N., Virgin and Martyr, who was ever pleasing to You by the merit of her chastity and by her trust in Your power, implore for us Your forgiveness, we beseech You, O Lord. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Ecclesiasticus 31: 8-11
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. Beloved of God and men, whose memory is in benediction. He made him like the saints in glory, and magnified him in the fear of his enemies, and with his words he made prodigies to cease. He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments in the sight of his people, and showed him His glory. He sanctified him in his faith and meekness, and chose him out of all flesh. For He heard him and his voice, and brought him into a cloud. And He gave him commandments before His face, and a law of life and instruction.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 61: 13,14
Lord, Thou has prevented him with blessings of sweetness; Thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones. V. He asked life of Thee, and Thou hast given him length of days for ever and ever. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Psalm 91: 13 ) The just shall florish like the palmtree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Lebanon. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Luke 12: 35-40
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: “Let your loins be girt and lamps burning in your hands, and you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord when he shall return from the wedding: that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: Amen I say to you that he will gird himself and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But this know ye, that if the householder did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Be you then also ready, for at what hour you think not the Son of man will come.”
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 20: 3-4
Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, O Lord, and hast not withholden from him the willof his lips: Thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones.
We offer You sacrifices of praise, O Lord, in memory of Your Saints; trusting that by them we may be delivered from both present and future evils. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For St. Ursula and Companions, Virgins and Martyrs
Graciously accept the sacrificial gifts offered You, O Lord, through the merits of blessed N., Your Virgin and Martyr, and grant they may prove an unfailing aid for us. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Luke 12: 42
The faithful and wise servant whom his Lord setteth over his family: to give them their measure of wheat in due season.
Refreshed with heavenly food and drink, we humbly pray You, our God, that we also may be helped by his prayers in memory of whom we have partaken. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For St. Ursula and Companions, Virgins and Martyrs
We who have been refreshed by the richness of Your divine sacrament beseech You, O Lord our God, that through the intercession of blessed N., Your Virgin and Martyr, we may forevermore abide in its participation. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.