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The Official Prayer of the Church

 

Next to the Holy Mass, the Divine Office (or Breviary) is the most important prayer offered to God.  It is offered by the Church and in the name of the Church, conferring multifold graces and blessings on those who recite it worthily, attentively and devoutly.  Normally the domain of priests and religious, the Church has continued to recommend her official prayer to the faithful.  However, until now, the complexity of the rubrics and a lack of suitable translations has deterred many.

 

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Link to the Office for the Feast of St. Pius X, our secondary patron.  You can browse through the various Hours of the Office and get a feel for what to expect.

 

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  Septuagesima

February 1, 2015

Why Stand Ye Idle?

Today, we start upon the long and arduous road that leads to Calvary. The Christmas season is now over, and we turn our attention from the beginning of Our Lord’s life to its end. Although there is no mention of it in today’s Mass, the Breviary readings at Matins this week give us the story of exactly where this journey to Calvary begins. That road began of course with the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. That original sin, which we all inherit, and which alone is enough to banish us forever into the outer darkness.

But the love of God for the children he created has provided us with a way out of that otherwise inevitable doom. During the Christmas season which has just ended, we learned how a Virgin conceived and brought forth a Child, how unto us was born a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. A Redeemer who would somehow re-open those gates of heaven which Adam and Eve had caused to be slammed shut. A Redeemer who would pay the price of the almost infinite number of sins that have been committed since the world began. The shedding of whose Precious Blood alone could balance out the infinite sacrilege of having offended an infinite God. Only one who was himself infinite in his divine nature could possibly pay that infinite price, and today we begin our steady march towards that redemption, towards that spilling of our Saviour’s Blood on the hill of Calvary.

And so our vestments change from the green of hope to the violet of penitence and sorrow. There is no Te Deum at Matins, there is no Gloria at the Mass, and a solemn Tract is now read after the Gradual. We will spend the next two and a half weeks preparing ourselves for Lent, making ourselves ready, to share, with Our Lord, a tiny part of that immense suffering he undertook on our behalf, with our meager little penances of Lent. This pre-Lenten period is one where we should reflect on the sin of Adam and Eve, the sins of man which caused God to send the Great Flood and wipe out all of mankind save the chosen few whom Noah took with him on his Ark, and the covenant which God made with man, that he would send a Messiah to visit and redeem his people.

And just as those chosen few who were allowed on to Noah’s Ark were saved, so too, those who have been called to the life of grace in the true faith, may also be saved from eternal damnation. All of you here in this church today have been called. You have all been baptized into the true Catholic Faith, you have the opportunity to confess your sins, to receive Holy Communion. You are called, yes. However, many are called, but few are chosen. You are redeemed, yes, but are you saved? The Protestants love to ask that question: “Are you saved?” Because they fail to recognize the difference between being saved and being redeemed. We are all redeemed, it is true. But we are most decidedly NOT all saved. Only those who freely choose to cooperate with God’s holy will and obey his commandments, loving God and their neighbor, will end up being saved. Only those who die in the state of grace will be saved. We are all called to that end. How many of us here today will make it? How many of us will be saved?

Today’s Gospel is all about being called. The householder needs labourers to work in his vineyard, and so he goes out early in the morning and calls men to work. Later he wants more, and goes out again at the third hour of the day, then again at the sixth and the ninth hours of the day, finally at the eleventh hour, each time calling men to work in his vineyard. Who is this householder, and what is he doing here? Our Lord is telling us a parable here, a story to make us realize a great truth. The householder represents God who calls us all to work in God’s vineyard, to labour all our life long. He calls us many times, but do we listen? Do we present ourselves to God that he may choose us? Or are we perhaps like those who stand idly in the marketplace until the eleventh hour, when the householder finally calls them in exasperation: “Why stand ye here all the day idle?”

Unfortunately, this reproach may be addressed to many people. To those for example who have never given a single thought to what God wants of them in this life. What a pity it is that these people who were created by God for the single purpose of knowing, loving, and serving him, have never spared a thought as to how to do this. The reproach may be addressed also to those who, although they know God a little, also love him “a little” (in other words, not enough). And then it may be a reproach to those who know and love him, but serve him only slothfully, half-heartedly. Or to those who allow themselves to be distracted by the pleasures and the sorrows of this life, forgetting the one thing that is truly necessary. “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” We need to ask ourselves if we fit into any of these categories. Chances are that we do, and this pre-Lenten period is given to us to contemplate these our failings, and most importantly to resolve what we are going to do about them.

God has called us ALL to work. None may be idle, in whatever position they may be. He has called us many times during our life. We don’t know how long our life may be. Perhaps God has already called us at our “eleventh hour”…

 But be certain of this. He HAS called us already. Does anyone dare say like the men in the parable: “No man hath hired us.”? These are the idle men. These are the ones that are called but are not chosen.

Believe me, our enemies are not so idle as we. Since the very creation of man, the devil has been hard at work throughout history, at every hour of the day and night, making a workshop out of every idle mind. And we need to fight back. To fight the good fight. And as St. Paul says in the Epistle today, we must fight “not as one that beateth the air”, but so as to win the prize. We are in a race with the devil, and only one is going to win. It’s not an easy race. Evil, we must always remember, acts under the guise of good. The Devil, the Father of Lies, is clever enough to know that he must always mix in something true, something beautiful, something pleasant, so that we can be drawn in, attracted by the good so that we will swallow the evil. So that we can swallow up the lies that fester amidst the truth, like the cockle amidst the wheat in last Sunday’s Gospel. So that we can consent to the sin that lies, oh so enticingly, in the pleasures the devil projects in our minds. Not an easy race. But St. Paul gives us the clue how we may win this race: He tells us it is by bringing our bodies into subjection. In other words, we need to control our desires by having full knowledge of what we are doing and what will happen to us if we consent to those desires. By putting our intellect in control of our will. Practically speaking, by the little penances we do we learn to subject our bodies in this manner. We practice subduing our appetites. Vices and virtues are habitual acts. By practicing good habits, we will replace the vices of sloth, and lust, and gluttony, and so on with the virtues of fortitude, chastity and temperance.

This pre-Lenten period of Septuagesimatide is given to us for the purpose of contemplating these matters. On preparing our souls for the penitential season of Lent, for the great Fast. This is our call today from the householder, God himself. He is calling us to stop being so idle in our spiritual life, and get ourselves out into the vineyard of our souls, and get some work done! Today is our wake-up call to get moving! No more playing the victim, feeling sorry for ourselves, no more lying around idle, complaining about the state of the world, the state of the church, the state of whatever. It’s time to focus utterly on the state of grace, and whether our own soul is in the state of grace, and how our own soul may abide in that state of grace. And then we need to see if we can help God to bring that state of grace to our poor neighbours who are still standing idle. I don’t care how late in the day it is, how late in your own life it may be, how late in world history we may find ourselves. It is never too late. Spend the next couple of weeks wisely, make some resolutions on what you will give up for Lent, what extra acts of virtue and kindness you will perform each day, what additional time you can allocate to prayer and good works. Think in terms of penance. What can I do to bring my body into subjection? And then ask for the assistance of Our Lady, Help of Christians, ask for an increase in virtue, especially those of fortitude and temperance. So that by Ash Wednesday you are ready to enter into the great battle for your soul, and you may race with the devil, and you may win the prize.

 Sermons from the Chaplain