First Lesson: Amos 4:4 – End
Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:
And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God.
And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name.
Canticle: Magnificat. St. Luke 1:46-55
Antiphon: So the last shall be first.
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.
Antiphon: So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few are chosen.
Second Lesson: Galatians 3:1 – 9
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
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 a Letter to St Eustochium by St Jerome
Concerning virgins, says the Apostle, I have no commandment of the Lord. And why? Because he too was a virgin – not by compulsion but of his own free will. Nor should we pay any attention to those who pretend that Paul had a wife. When he discusses continence and recommends perpetual chastity, he says: For I wish that all were as I myself am; and later: But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them to remain single as I do. And in another passage: Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a sister as a wife just like the rest of the Apostles? Why, therefore, does he not have a commandment of the Lord concerning virginity? Because that which is not taken by force but is voluntary has more value. Because if virginity had been commanded, marriage would seem to have been forbidden. And it would have been very hard to impose what is against nature and to require of mankind the life of angels, and in a certain manner to condemn the plan of creation.
Under the Old Law there was a different conception of happiness. Blessed is he who has seed in Sion and a family in Jerusalem, and cursed is the barren who did not bear children. And: Your children shall be like olive plants, around your table. But now the saying is: Do not think that you are a dry tree; you have an eternal place for sons and daughters in the heavens. Now the poor are blessed, and Lazarus is preferred to the rich in his purple. Now he that is weak is the stronger. The world used to be empty and – to say nothing of those who were types – the only blessing was that of children. But as the crop gradually increased, a reaper was sent in. Elijah was a virgin, Elisha was a virgin, many sons of the Prophets were virgins. To Jeremiah it is said: You shall not take a wife. Having been sanctified in the womb, he was for bidden to take a wife as the time of the captivity drew near.
The Apostle says the same thing in other words: I think, therefore, that this is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a person to remain as he is. What necessity is this that takes away the joys of marriage? It is the shortening of the time: It remains that they also who have wives be as if they had none. Nebuchadnezzar is near: The lion is come up out of his den. What end is to be served by my marrying a wife who will become the slave of a most haughty King? Or children, of whom the Prophet says, bewailing them: The tongue of the sucking child has stuck to the roof of his mouth for thirst; the little ones have asked for bread, and there was none to break it unto them. So then, as we have said, this virtue of continence used to be found solely in men, and Eve continuously bore children in sorrow. But after a virgin conceived in the womb and bore for us a Son upon whose shoulders is the government, God the mighty, the Father of the world to come, the curse has been abrogated. Death came through Eve, life through Mary. And therefore a richer gift of virginity has flowed upon women, because it began with a woman. Immediately after the Son of God set foot on earth, he established a new house hold for himself, so that he who was adored by angels in heaven might have angels also on earth.
St Jerome, Letter 22, 20.2-21.7; ACW 33 (1963) tr. Mierow & Lawler.
And the Apostles Creed and the rest of the office.
O LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.