Tuesday Lent II; com. the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste: Missa “Tibi dixit cor meum”
There was no collecta on this day, perhaps because the Station of the Basilica of St. Balbina stood alone, far away on the Aventine, there being no other church in its vicinity from which the stational procession could set out.
The foundress of the titulus Balbince- dedicated at first to the divine Redeemer, before it took the name of the martyr Balbina, who was buried in the cemetery of Proetextatus – was perhaps the matron Balbina, after whom a portion of the Catacomb of St. Calixtus was called.
The Mass recalls our needs and places them before God. In the final Benediction of the people, we pray that the divine mercy may favourably accept our supplications, and heal the diseases of our souls, so that having obtained the forgiveness of our sins, we may truly rejoice in the blessing of God.
Scroll to the end for the Saints
INTROIT Psalm 122:2
My heart hath said to Thee, I have sought Thy face; Thy face, O Lord, will I seek: turn not away Thy face from me. (Ps. 26: 1) The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? 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 My heart hath said to Thee…
Of Thy kindness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to perfect the support of Thy holy observance in us, that what we know by Thy authority should be done, may be fulfilled by Thy operation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.
Commemoratio Ss. Quadraginta Martyrum
Grant, we beseech You, almighty God, that we who know how courageously Your holy Martyrs have confessed the faith, may experience their goodness as they intercede for us with You.
for the Intercession of the Saints
Defend us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all dangers of mind and body; that through the intercession of the blessed and glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God, together with blessed Joseph, Thy blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and blessed N. (Here mention the titular saint of the church), and all the saints, mercifully grant us safety and peace; that all adversities and errors being overcome, Thy Church may serve Thee in security and freedom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
EPISTLE 3 Kings 17: 8-16
[The lesson tells of Elias’ going to a heathen woman, a poor widow of Sarepta, to ask for nourishment, when a drought had fallen; an impenitent Israel. The widow took two pieces of wood and prepared a hearth cake for the prophet; and one for herself. Her charity and her compassion were rewarded, for never after did she want for bread. Whereas the Israelites suffered from the scarcity. The Gentiles as a reward for their faith and fidelity, receive daily the Eucharistic Bread, which applies to them the merits gained for them by our Redeemer on the Cross.]
Lesson from the Book of Kings. In those days the word of the Lord came to Elias the Thesbite, saying, Arise and go to Sarephta of the Sidonians, and dwell there; for I have commanded a widow-woman there to feed thee. He arose, and went to Sarephta: and when he was come to the gate of the city, he saw the widow-woman gathering sticks, and he called her, and said to her, Give me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And when she was going to fetch it, he called after her, saying, Bring me also, I beseech thee, a morsel of bread in thy hand; and she answered, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have no bread, but only a handful of meal in a pot, and a little oil in a cruse; behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it, for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elias said to her, Fear not, but go and do as thou hast said; but first make for me of the same meal a little hearthcake, and bring it to me; and after make for thyself and thy son. For thus saith the Lord the God of Israel, The pot of meal shall not waste, nor the cruse of oil be diminished, until the day wherein the Lord will give rain upon the face of the earth. She went, and did according to the word of Elias; and he ate, and she, and her house; and from that day the pot of meal wasted not, and the cruse of oil was not diminished, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke in the hand of Elias.
GRADUAL Psalm 54: 23, 17-19
Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. V. When I cried to the Lord, He heard my voice from them that draw near to me.
GOSPEL Matthew 23: 1-12
[Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ declares that the Jews who taught the law of Moses, did not observe it. The Kingdom of God is open to the heathen, who by baptism become disciples of Christ and accomplish His works.]
At that time, Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses, All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do ye not: for they say and do not. For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them. And all their works they do for to be seen of men; for they make their phylacteries broad, and enlarge their fringes; and they love the first places at feasts, and the first chairs in the synagogues and salutations in the marketplace, and to be called by men Rabbi. But be not you called Rabbi; for one is your master, and all you are brethren; and call none your father upon earth, for one is your Father, Who is in Heaven; neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, Christ. He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
OFFERTORY Psalm 50:3
Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy: O Lord, blot out my iniquity.
Graciously work Thy sanctification in us, O Lord, by these mysteries, both to purge us of earthly wickedness and to bring us to heavenly gifts. 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.
Second Secret Commemoratio Ss. Quadraginta Martyrum
Look with favor, O Lord, upon the prayers and offerings of Your faithful, that they may be pleasing to You for the feast of Your Saints and may bring us the help of Your mercy.
to implore the Intercession of the Saints
Graciously hear us, O God our Savior, and by the virtue of this sacrament protect us from all enemies of soul and body, bestowing on us both grace in this life and glory hereafter. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
PREFACE of Lent
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: Who by this bodily fast, dost curb our vices, dost lift up our minds and bestow on us strength and rewards; 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 these we entreat Thee that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted while we say with lowly praise:
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
COMMUNION Psalm 8:2
I will relate all Thy wonders: I will be glad and rejoice in Thee: I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou Most High.
That we, O Lord, may be made worthy of Thy sacred gifts, make us, we beseech Thee, ever to obey Thy commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
Commemoratio Ss. Quadraginta Martyrum
Be appeased by the prayers of Your Saints, O Lord, and grant, we beseech You, that the rites we perform in this life may avail for our eternal salvation.
to implore the Intercession of the Saints
May the oblation of this divine sacrament cleanse and defend us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and, through the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, Thy blessed apostles Peter and Paul, blessed N. (here mention the titular saint of the church), and all the saints, purify us from all our sins and deliver us from all adversity.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
PRAYER OVER THE PEOPLE
Let us pray. Bow down your heads before God.
Mercifully heed our humble prayers, O Lord, and heal the weakness of our souls, that having obtained forgiveness, we may ever rejoice in Your blessing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste
In the time of Constantine the Great, the city of Sebaste was witness of a magnificent spectacle of Christian heroism, in the forty soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the Faith of Christ. Licinius, to whom Constantine had entrusted the government of a portion of the empire, was at first very friendly to the Christians, but afterwards played the part of a cruel tyrant towards them. He issued an edict to all the prefects to force the Christians to adore the pagan gods, and, in case of their refusal, to condemn them to death. Agricola, Governor of Armenia, published the imperial mandate and summoned the Christians before, him. The first to answer this summons were forty brave soldiers of the garrison of Sebaste. They openly proclaimed themselves followers of Christ and ready to suffer tortures, and even death, rather than deny their faith. Lysias, their general, endeavored by praising their former bravery, by promising them imperial favors and rewards, and finally by threatening them with an ignominious death, to turn them from their holy purpose of remaining disciples of the Crucified. The Christian heroes, however, fearlessly declared, that in a case where the honor of the King of kings and their own eternal welfare were at stake, they disregarded promises and threats, and scorned the favor or displeasure of the Emperor.
The Governor, provoked to anger, ordered the holy confessors to be bound with chains and cast into dungeons. He called them again and again before his tribunal, but, finding them always firm in their faith, inflicted cruel tortures on them and sent them back, to prison. During their confinement, they exhorted each other to perseverance with these words: “We have borne so many hardships, so often exposed our lives in the service of an earthly sovereign, and in defence of our country: shall we do less for the King of Heaven and in behalf of our own souls?” In this manner they encouraged each other, and begged of the Lord that He would strengthen them in their impending martyrdom. They employed a portion of their time in singing the Divine praises. Our Saviour did not fail to assist and console His servants. In a vision, He addressed them in these terms: “The beginning is good, but he only who perseveres to the end will be saved.” Shortly after this, sentence was pronounced on the forty martyrs, and immediately carried out.
They were first struck on the mouth with stones, and at nightfall conducted, in the middle of winter, to a frozen lake. They were condemned to sit there, naked, until death should put an end to their sufferings. There was also a hot bath in readiness, at a neighboring house, for those who should chance to go over to the service of the idols.
As soon as the Christian soldiers reached the lake, they took off their clothes and went out on the ice. Here they continued their praises of God, earnestly asking for the Divine assistance. “We are forty going on the ice,” said they, “grant, O merciful Lord, that forty also may be crowned, and that none lose his crown. It is a favored number, which Thou hast ennobled by Thy holy fast. Elias sought and found God by a fast of forty, days.” Near the martyrs were stationed the guards to watch that no one should escape. Some hours had already passed; the heroes still persevered in glorifying God by their chants, and continued to offer supplications to the throne of the Most High: the guards, however, had fallen asleep: the prison-keeper alone was watching. He suddenly beheld the martyrs environed by a shining light, and angels descending from heaven with magnificent crowns in their hands, which they placed on the heads of the soldiers. He remarked, however, that only thirty-nine were crowned. He said to himself: “There are forty Christians on the lake; where is the crown of the other one?” The mystery was soon solved. One of the number, unable to endure the cold any longer, had crawled to the bath, and by this act, denied his faith. But God did not suffer this inconstancy to go unpunished, for the wretch died soon after entering the bath, losing his life and precipitating himself into the flames of hell; thus, by seeking to escape short sufferings, he also forfeited the heavenly reward due to perseverance. The thirty-nine were much grieved at this desertion, but they were gladdened by seeing the prison-keeper himself filling up their number again. For, reflecting on what he had just witnessed, he concluded that the faith of the Christians must be the only true one. Awaking the guards, he related to them his vision, and cried out, in a loud voice: “I also am a Christian, and will live and die with the Christians.” He stripped off his garments, and, joining the martyrs on the, lake, begged them to petition the Lord to bestow a similar crown on him. Their prayer was heard, for an angel I came down from heaven with the crown.
At the break of day, everything that had occurred in the! night was reported to the Governor. He immediately ordered the forty martyrs to be drawn out of the lake, their limbs to be broken with clubs, and the bodies to be thrown into the fire. The icy water had deprived all of life, with the exception of one, who, being younger, was possessed of greater power of endurance. The name of this one was Melitho. His mother, seeing him still alive, said to him: “Persevere only a little longer, my child; Jesus is standing at the gate of heaven, hastening to your assistance.” In the mean while, the bodies of the other confessors had been thrown into a cart and were carried to the burning pile. The mother, perceiving that her son was left behind, in the hope of bringing him over to the worship of the idols, took him on her shoulders, in order to place him on the cart or on the pile. Whilst carrying him, she encouraged and exhorted him to persevere by considerations on the shortness of life and the eternity of the reward. The courageous youth, whilst listening to the words of his mother, gave up the ghost. The pious mother, however, completed her task, and laid the corpse with those of the other martyrs, that he might be united, even in death, with his companions. St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and many other holy fathers, delivered sermons, full of instruction and unction, on these holy martyrs.
Before coming to the usual considerations, I will present to the reader the thoughts which arose in my mind at the reading of these incidents. These martyrs were all soldiers, and we find frequent mention, in the Calendar of Saints, of holy martyrs who followed the profession of arms. They underwent the most cruel tortures for the sake of Christ. But for such deeds of heroism, great virtue was necessary. Hence the folly of those who say that a soldier cannot live piously and save his soul. Thousands of martyrs were soldiers, and numberless holy confessors, had formerly been warriors. This is an undeniable proof, that it is not impossible to lead a Christian life in camp and obtain salvation. Thus, St. John the Baptist did not advise the soldiers, who asked him ” What was necessary for salvation?” to forsake the army, but insisted on this, that they be satisfied with their pay, treat no one ill, calumniate no one, etc., as it is written in St. Luke. A soldier, solicitous about his salvation, must apply himself to the faithful observance of the Commandments of God and the Church, avoid sins, especially those common in the army–for example, blasphemy, cursing, excess in drinking and gaming, robbing and cheating, and, above all, the abominable vice of impurity–of which not only the deeds but also the words and thoughts are to be shunned. He must likewise be on his guard against idleness and wicked companions, and entice no one to sin. He should be zealous for good works, devoutly say his night prayers early in the evening, frequent the Sacraments, be eager to hear the Word of God, obey his officers, and faithfully serve the master to whom he has sworn fidelity. Moreover, he should patiently bear the many and great hardships attached to his condition, out of love for God, offering them up in a spirit of penance for past offences. A soldier has often a more severe life than a Priest, even in the most austere religious order. He can gain exceeding great merit, if he makes use of the opportunities. Every Christian soldier, by observing these lessons, will be sanctified, and his salvation will be assured.
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