26 February 2024

Tuesday, Second Week of Lent

From Dom Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year

The Station is in the Church of St. Balbina, This holy virgin of Rome was the daughter of the tribune Quirinus, and suffered martyrdom during the pontificate of Alexander I, in the second century. She consecrated her virginity to God, and led a life rich in good works.


Grant us, Lord, we beseech thee, thy assistance, whereby we may go through the observance of this holy fast, that what we have undertaken by thy appointment, we may accomplish by thy grace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lesson from the Book of 3 Kings (1 Kings), 17:8-16.

In those days: The word of the Lord came to Elias the Thesbite, saying: Arise, and go to Sarephta, a city 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 gather two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, and 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 hearth cake, 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.

The instruction of the Catechumens is continued by means of the Gospel facts, which are each day brought before them; and the Church read to them the prophecies from the Old Testament, which are to be fulfilled by the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles. Elias, who is our faithful companion during Lent, is represented to us today as foreshadowing, in his own conduct, the treatment which God is one day to show towards his ungrateful people. A three years’ drought had been sent upon the kingdom of Israel; but the people continued obstinate in their sins. Elias goes in search of someone that will provide him with food. It is a great privilege to entertain the Prophet; for God is with him. Then whither will he go? Is it to any family in the kingdom of Israel? Or will he pass into the land of Juda? He neglects them both, and directs his steps towards the land of the Gentiles. He enters the country of Sidon; and coming to the gates of a city called Sarephta, he sees a poor widow; it is to her that he transfers the blessing which Israel had rejected. Our Lord himself has taken notice of this event in the Prophet’s life, which portrays, in such strong colors, the justice of God towards the Jews, and his mercy towards us Gentiles: In truth I say to you, there were many widows in the days of Elias in Israel: and to none of them was he sent, but to Sarephta of Sidon, to a widow woman. (Luke 4:25-26)

So, then, this poor woman is a figure of the Gentiles, who were called to the faith. Let us study the circumstances of this prophetic event. The woman is a widow; she has no one to defend or protect her: she represents the Gentiles, who were abandoned by all, and had no one that could save them from the enemy of mankind. All the mother and her child had to live upon was a handful of meal and a little oil: it is an image of the frightful dearth of truth, in which the pagans were living at the time that the Gospel was preached to them. Notwithstanding her extreme poverty, the widow of Sarephta receives the Prophet with kindness and confidence; she believes what he tells her, and she and her child are saved: it was thus that the Gentiles welcomed the Apostles, when these shook the dust from their feet, and left the faithless Jerusalem. But what mean the two pieces of wood, which the widow holds in her hands? St. Augustine, St. Cesarius of Arles, and St. Isidore of Seville (who, after all, are but repeating what was the tradition of the early Church) tell us that this wood is a figure of the Cross. With this wood, the widow bakes the bread that is to support her: it is from the Cross that the Gentiles receive life by Jesus, who is the Living Bread. While Israel dies of famine and drought, the Gentile Church feeds abundantly on the heavenly Wheat, and on the Oil, which is the symbol of strength and charity. Glory then be to Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light of faith! (1 Peter 2:9) But let us tremble at witnessing the evils which the abuse of grace has brought upon a whole people. If God’s justice has not spared a whole nation, but cast it off, will he spare me or you if we dare to resist his call?


Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew 23:1-12

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 these works they do 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 market-place, 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.

The doctors of the law were sitting on the Chair of Moses; therefore, Jesus bids the people abide by their teachings. But this Chair—which, in spite of the unworthiness of them that sit on it, is the Chair of truth—is not to remain long in Israel. Caiphas, because he is a High Priest for the year, will prophesy; but his crimes have rendered him unworthy of his office; and the Chair on which he sits is to be taken away and set in the midst of the Gentiles. Jerusalem, which is preparing to deny her Savior, is to be deprived of her honors; and Rome, the very center of the Pagan world, is to possess within her walls that Chair which was the glory of Jerusalem, and from which were proclaimed the prophecies so visibly fulfilled in Jesus. Henceforth, this Chair is never to be moved, though all the fury of the gates of hell will seek to prevail against it; it is to be the unfailing source, at which all nations are to receive the teaching of revealed truths. The torch of faith has been removed from Israel, but it has not been extinguished. Let us live in its light, and merit by our humility that its rays ever shine upon us.

What was it that caused Israel’s loss? His pride. The favors he had received from God excited him to self-complacency; he scorned to recognize anyone for the Messias who was not great in this world’s glory; he was indignant at hearing Jesus say that the Gentiles were to participate of the grace of redemption; he sought to imbrue his hands in the blood of the God-Man, and this because he reproached him for the hardness of his heart. These proud Jews, even when they saw that the day of God’s judgment was close upon them, kept up their stubborn haughtiness. They despised the rest of the world as unclean and sinners. The son of God became the Son of Man. He is our Master, and yet he ministered to us, as though he were our Servant. Does not this show us how precious a virtue is Humility? If our fellow creatures call us Master or Father, let us not forget that no one is Master or Father but by God’s appointment. No one deserves to be called Master but he by whose lips Jesus gives us the lessons of divine wisdom; he alone is truly a Father, who acknowledges that his paternal authority comes from God alone; for as the Apostle says: I bow my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named(Ephesians 3:14-15)

Bow down your heads to God.

Be appeased, Lord, by our prayers, and heal the infirmities of our souls: that our sins being forgiven, we may ever rejoice in thy blessings. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us continue the Hymn we began yesterday; our readers will remember it is by Prudentius, the Prince of Christian Poets.


It was by the observance of a forty-days’ fast, that Elias, the venerable Priest, the guest of the desert, received his great glory. We read that he fled far from the noisy world, and the wickedness of cities, and lived in the happy innocence of silent deserts.

But soon was he carried to heaven in a chariot drawn by swift fiery steeds; for so long is he remained nigh this wretched world, it might breathe something of the contagion of its vices upon the prophet, though his life was one of retirement, and his spirit had long been fortified by holy fasts.

Moses, the faithful interpreter of the dread Throne, was not permitted to see the King of the seventimes holy heaven, until the sun had’ forty times passed over his head and witnessed him abstaining from every food.

Prayer and weeping, — these were his only nourishment. He spent the night in weeping, and lay prostrate on the ground, which was bedewed with his tears; till at length; aroused by the voice of God, he directed his steps towards the fire, on which no man could fix his gaze.

John, too, was fervent in the practice of Fasting. He was the Precursor of the Son of God, who was to make the crooked ways straight, and the rough ways plain, and was to teach men the right path wherein to walk.

The Baptist, as a herald that was preparing the way of the Lord who was soon to come, exacted this of men; that every mountain and hill should be made low, and that all should be in the right path, when Truth should come down upon the earth.

His birth was not like that of other children. Elizabeth, old as she was, was made to bear this child within her hitherto barren womb. She fed him, too, at her own breast. Before his birth, he announced to his Mother the presence of the Virgin that as full of God.

He retired into the vast wilderness, clad in the rough ad bristly skins of wild beasts, and in camels’ hair; for he trembled lest he might become defiled and contaminated by the wickedness of them that dwelt in cities.

There did he lead a life of fasting. This man of rigid penance neither eat nor drank till the evening was far spent; and then, a few locusts and a little wild honey were the only refreshment he took.

He was the first to teach the new salvation, and the first to invite men to receive it. In the sacred stream, he washed away the stains of the old errors; but after he had administered to men this outward Baptism, the heavenly Spirit worked within their souls.

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