In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the “abomination of desolation… standing in the holy place.” Those who read and understand know that this very thing has manifested itself in this period of apostasy which gives us an indication of the very times we are living in, knowing that all these things must come to pass including false prophets and false Christs and many deceivers that would deceive even the elect, which they have. But we have our Lord’s words that He will gather up the just and He will return and that, though “Heaven and earth shall pass away, My words shall not pass away.”
The Liturgical cycle ends with this last week of the ecclesiastical year, and with it the history of the world which it has recalled to our minds throughout its course from Advent to this Last Sunday after Pentecost.
For this reason, the breviary lessons for today are taken from the prophet Micheas, a contemporary of Osee and Isaias, together with St. Basil’s commentary in which he treats of the last Judgment, while at Mass the Gospel deals with the coming of the divine Judge. “For behold,” says Micheas, “the Lord will come forth out of His place; and the mountains shall be melted under Him: and the valleys shall be cleft as wax before the fire and as water that run down a steep place. For the wickedness of Jacob is all this and for the sins of the house of Israel” (Fifth Sunday in November, first nocturn). From these threats the prophet turns to promises of salvation. “I will assemble and gather together all of thee, O Jacob: I will bring together the remnant of Israel. I will put them together as a flock in the field.”
The Assyrians have destroyed Samaria, and the Chaldeans have laid waste Jerusalem; but all this desolation will be repaired by the Messias, when He comes. And Micheas goes on to foretell that Christ will be born at Bethlehem, and that His Kingdom, that of the heavenly Jerusalem, will have no end. The prophets Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias and Malachias, whose books are read in the divine office in the course of this same week, add their testimony to that of Micheas. In our Lord’s first words in today’s Gospel he quotes Daniel’s prophecy of the total and final ruin of the Temple at Jerusalem and of the Jewish nation at the hands of the Roman army, this “abomination of desolation” being the punishment incurred by the people of Israel for having crowned their long career of infidelity by the rejection of Christ.
As a matter of fact this prediction was fulfilled some years after our Lord’s death, amidst such circumstances of distress, that if it had lasted long, not a single Jew would have escaped alive. It was God’s will, however, that the siege of Jerusalem should be shortened for the sake of those who were converted as a result of so severe a lesson. It will be the same at the end of the world of which the destruction of this city is a type. For “then”, at our Lord’s coming, there will be tribulation of a still more agonizing kind.
Many imposters, among them Antichrist, will work wonders by Satan’s power, or order to be taken for Christ Himself, and then another type of “abomination of desolation” will reign in the Temple, identified by St. Jerome with “the man of sin, who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the Temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.” He will come through the instrumentality of the devil, to destroy, and drive into banishment from God those whom he shall have gathered to his standard” (Third nocturn)
“But in this case also,” St. Jerome continues: “God will shorten those days; lest even the elect, if that were possible, be deceived” (Ibid.). For the rest, our Lord warns us to make no mistake as to the coming of the Son of Man in glory, without limitation of space or time and with the rapidity of lightning, in contrast to His first coming, veiled in sacred mystery and in one little corner of the world.
Then all the elect will go to meet Him as eagles flock to their prey. His coming will be heralded by all kinds of catastrophes on earth and in the sky while all the tribes of the earth shall mourn; “and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty” (Gospel).
“When”, says St. Basil, “the inclination to sin comes upon you, I wish you would think of this dread and awful tribunal of Christ, where He will sit and judge on His throne on high. There every creature will appear, and stand trembling in His presence, and there shall we be led, one by one, to give an account of the actions of our life. And immediately afterwards those who in life have wrought much evil will be surrounded by fearful and hideous angels, who will throw them headlong into a bottomless pit where in impenetrable darkness burns a fire which gives no light; where worms whose bite is intolerable anguish, ceaselessly gnaw the flesh; and where, sharpest of all punishments, shame and confusion reign without end. Fear these things and pierced by this dread, use it as a bridle to help your soul from being drawn away by concupiscence into sin” (Third nocturn).
Further, in the Epistle, the Church exhorts us, in the apostle’s words to “walk worthy of God” and to be fruitful in every good work”, so that strengthened with all might according to the power of His Glory “we may endure all things in patience and joy”, giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, both now in spirit and at the last day both in body and soul through the redeeming blood of “the Son of His love”.
Amid all the tribulation at the end of the world and of the last Judgment and in the agony of our own death, our souls will cry from the depth to our Lord that we “may receive more abundant helps from His mercy” (Collect). And God, who has told us through His servant Jeremias, that He thinks thoughts of peace and not of affliction (Introit) and who has promised to hear the prayer of faith (Communion) will hear us by delivering us from earthly desires (Secret) by “turning away our captivity” (Introit), and by opening to us that eternal heaven where the glorious consummation of Christ’s triumph will be reached.
Wholly victorious over His enemies, who will rise from the dead to receive their punishment, and undoubted king of all the elect, who have believed in His coming and will rise to eternal glory of both body and soul, Christ will restore to His Father that kingdom which He has conquered at the cost of His Own blood, as an act of perfect homage from Head and members alike. This will be the true pasch, the full passing into the real land of promise, and the taking eternal possession by Christ and His people of the heavenly Jerusalem where, in the temple not made with hands, God reigns as acknowledged sovereign “in whom we will glory all the day; and in whose name we will give praise forever” (Gradual).
And through our High Priest Jesus, we shall render eternal homage to the most blessed Trinity, saying: “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.”
INTROIT Jeremias 29: 11, 12,14
The Lord saith: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction: you shall call upon Me, and I shall hear you and I will bring back your captivity from all places. (Ps. 84: 2) Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land: Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. v. Glory be to the Father…
O Lord, we beseech You, arouse the wills of Your faithful people that, by a more earnest search for the fruit of Your divine work, they may receive more abundantly of the healing effects of Your goodness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen.
Collect for the Intercession of the Saints
Let us pray. Defend us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all dangers of mind and body: and through the intercession of the blessed and glorious Mary, ever Virgin, mother of God, of St Joseph, of Thy holy apostles, Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in Thy loving-kindness grant us safety and peace; that, all adversities and errors being overcome, Thy Church may serve Thee in security and freedom.
Collect for God’s Holy Church
Let us pray. Graciously hear, O Lord, the prayers of Thy Church that, having overcome all adversity and every error, she may serve Thee in security and freedom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
EPISTLE Colossians 1:9-14
Brethren: We have been praying for you unceasingly, asking that you may be filled with knowledge of God’s will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. May you walk worthily of God and please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May you be completely strengthened through His glorious power unto perfect patience and long-suffering; joyfully rendering thanks to God the Father, Who has made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have our redemption, through His Blood, the remission of our sins.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 132: 1-26
Behold! how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! V. It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Ps. 113: 11) Let them that fear the Lord, hope in Him He is their helper and their protector. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 24:15-35
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: When you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place – let him who reads understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor will be. And unless those days had been shortened, no living creature would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the desert,’ do not go forth; ‘Behold, He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will all tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty. And He will send forth His angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Now from the fig tree learn this parable. When its branch is now tender, and the leaves break forth, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door. Amen I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things have been accomplished. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Ps. 129: 1, 2
From the depths I have cried out to Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer: From the depths I have cried out to Thee, O Lord.
Be merciful, O Lord, to our humble requests and accept the offerings and prayers of Your people: turn the hearts of all of us to You, that, freed from earthly cravings, we may pass over to heavenly yearnings. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
Secret for the Intercession of the Saints
Graciously hear us, O God our Saviour, and, by virtue of this Sacrament, defend us from all enemies of soul and body, bestowing upon us Thy grace here and Thy glory hereafter.
Secret for God’s Holy Church
Protect us, O Lord, who assist at Thy mysteries, that, cleaving to things divine, we may serve Thee both in body and in mind. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. 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 Mark 11: 24
Amen, I say to you, whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive and it shall be done to you.
Grant us, we beseech You, O Lord, that all the evil in our hearts may be cured by the healing power of the sacrament we have received. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
Postcommunion for the Intercession of the Saints
Let us pray. May the gift of this Divine Sacrament which we have offered, cleanse and defend us, we beseech Thee, O Lord; and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God, of St. Joseph, of Thy holy apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, free us from all iniquity and deliver us from all adversity.
Postcommunion for God’s Holy Church
Let us pray. O Lord our God, we pray Thee that Thou suffer not to succumb to human hazards those whom Thou hast been pleased to make sharers of divine mysteries. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever.