First Lesson: Wisdom 6:1 – 11
Hear therefore, O ye kings, and understand; learn, ye that be judges of the ends of the earth.
Give ear, ye that rule the people, and glory in the multitude of nations.
For power is given you of the Lord, and sovereignty from the Highest, who shall try your works, and search out your counsels.
Because, being ministers of his kingdom, ye have not judged aright, nor kept the law, nor walked after the counsel of God;
Horribly and speedily shall he come upon you: for a sharp judgment shall be to them that be in high places.
For mercy will soon pardon the meanest: but mighty men shall be mightily tormented.
For he which is Lord over all shall fear no man’s person, neither shall he stand in awe of any man’s greatness: for he hath made the small and great, and careth for all alike.
But a sore trial shall come upon the mighty.
Unto you therefore, O kings, do I speak, that ye may learn wisdom, and not fall away.
For they that keep holiness holily shall be judged holy: and they that have learned such things shall find what to answer.
Wherefore set your affection upon my words; desire them, and ye shall be instructed.
Canticle: Magnificat. St. Luke 1:46-55
My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek;.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Second Lesson: II Thessalonians 1:1 – End
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Canticle: Nunc dimittis. St. Luke 2:29-32
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
A reading from the Homilies on Ezekiel by Pope St Gregory the Great
The pursuit of the contemplative life is something for which a great and sustained effort on the part of the powers of the soul is required, an effort to rise from earthly to heavenly things, an effort to keep one’s attention fixed on spiritual things, an effort to pass beyond and above the sphere of things visible to the eyes of flesh, an effort finally to hem oneself in, so to speak, in order to gain access to spaces that are broad and open.
There are times indeed when one succeeds, overcoming the opposing obscurity of one’s blindness and catching at least a glimpse, be it ever so fleeting and superficial, of boundless light. But the experience is momentary only, so that all too quickly the soul must again return to itself. From that light which is ap proached with bated breath, it must now, sighing and mournful, go back once more to the obscurity of its blindness.
We have a beautiful illustration of all this in the sacred history of the Scriptures where the story is told of Jacob’s encounter with the angel, while on his return journey to the home of his parents. On the way he met an angel with whom he engaged in a great struggle and, like anyone involved in such a contest, Jacob found his opponent, now stronger, now weaker than himself.
Let us understand the angel of this story as representing the Lord, and Jacob who contended with the angel as representing the soul of the perfect individual who in contemplation has come face to face with God. This soul, as it exerts every effort to behold God as he is in himself, is like one engaged with another in a contest of strength. At one moment it prevails so to speak, as it gains access to that boundless light and briefly experiences in mind and heart the sweet savour of the divine presence. The next moment, however, it succumbs, overcome and drained of its strength by the very sweetness of the taste it has experienced. The angel, therefore, is, as it were, overcome when in the innermost recesses of the intellect the divine presence is directly experienced and seen.
Here, however, it is to be noted that the angel, when he could not prevail over Jacob, touched the sciatic muscle of Jacob’s hip, so that it forthwith withered and shrank. From that time on Jacob became lame in one leg and walked with a limp. Thus also does the all-powerful God cause all carnal affections to dry up and wither away in us, once we have come to experience in our mind and hear the knowledge of him as he is in himself.
Previously we walked about on two feet, as it were, when we thought, so it seemed, that we could seek after God while remain ing at the same time attached to the world. But having once come to the knowledge and experience of the sweetness of God, only one of these two feet retains its life and vigour, the other becoming lame and useless. For it necessarily follows that the stronger we grow in our love for God alone, the weaker becomes our love for the world.
St Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez., 1.12 (PL 76:955); Word in Season VII.
And the Apostles Creed and the rest of the office.
O GOD, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.