Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Third Week after Epiphany. 25th January.
Conversion of St. Paul. Fragments from "The Liturgical Year, vol3, Christmas Book 2, by Dom Prosper Gueranger OSB, Jubilee Edition, 2002

...Oh! the power of our dear Jesus! How wonderful! how irresistible! He wishes that the first worshippers at His Crib should be humble Shepherds- and he invites them by his Angels, whose sweet hymn is enough to lead these simple-hearted men to the Stable, where, in swaddling-clothes, he lies who is the hope of Israel. He would have the Gentiles Princes, the Magi, do him homage - and bids a star to arise in the heavens, whose mysterious apparition, joined to the interior speaking of the Holy Ghost, induces these men of desire to come from the far East, and lay at the feet of an humble Babe their riches and their hearts. When the time is come for forming the Apostolic College, he approaches the banks of the sea of Tiberias, and with this single word: Follow me, he draws after him such as he wishes to have as his Disciples. In the midst of all the humiliations of his Passion, he has but look at the unfaithful Peter, and Peter is a penitent. Today, it is from heaven that he evinces his power: all the mysteries of our redemption have been accomplished, and he wishes to show mankind that he is the sole author and master of the Apostolate, and that his alliance with the Gentiles is now perfect: he speaks; the sound of his reproach bursts like thunder over the head of the Pharisee, who is bent on annihilating the Church; he takes this heart of the Jew, and, by his grace, turns it into the heart of the Apostle, the Vessel of the election, the Paul who is afterwards to say of himself: I live, not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. II 20).
The commemoration of this event was to be a Feast in the Church, and it had a right to be kept as near as might be to the one which celebrates the martydrom of St. Stephen, for Paul is the Protomartyr's convert. The anniversary of his martydrom would, of course, have to be solemnized at the summer solstice; where, then, place the feast of his Conversion if not near Christmas, and thus our own Apostle would be at Jesus' Crib, and Stephen's side? Moreover, the Magi, could claim him, as being the conqueror of that Gentile world of which they were the first-fruits. And lastly, it was necessary, in order to give the court of our Infant-King its full beauty, that the two Princes of the Church - the Apostle of the Jews, and the Apostle of the Gentiles - should stand close to the mystic Crib; Peter with his Keys, and Paul with his Sword. Bethlehem thus becomes the perfect figure of the Church, and the riches of this season of the Cycle are abundant beyond measure. Let us borrow from the ancient Liturgies a suitable expression of our admiration of our Apostle's Conversion. The following Sequence, which belongs to the tenth century, is found in the old Missals of the Churches of Germany. It is full of mysterious allusions, which bear a certain grandeur of thoughts.

The Lord said: I will turn him from Basan (the land of bareness); I will turn him into the deep sea (of my faith)
What he said he did, when he prostrated Saul, and raised him up Paul.
By his Incarnate Word, by whom also he made the world.
It was whilst opposing this Word, that the Jew heard the voice: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
I am Christ: it is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
The earth was moved at the presence of the Lord; it trembled and then was at rest.
Paul, when he knew the Lord Jesus, believed, and ceased to persecute Christians.
He became, O God, the tongue of thy faithful ones; leaving thine enemies, he returned to thee.
For it is Paul who, by the mouth of the priests throughout the world, proclaims the commandments,
Teaching that the Crucified is no other than God, the Christ,
Who reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost; and Paul is his witness.
By the light of his teaching the priests meditate on the law and the Gospel; and by these, as with two mill-stones, have pounded.
And prepared every spiritual medicine, whereby the wounded are healed, and the hungry are fed.
O Jesus! hear his prayers for us sinners; turn to us; give us life;
Who didst turn Paul into a true convert, for the sake of all who are to return to thee,
and didst make him the vessel of election.
When he preached God to men, the sea beheld and fled, the Jordan was turned back,
Because the multitude of the nations, returning from the depths of sin, to the confusion of Og the King of Basan,
Now adore but thee, O Christ! their creator, whom they believe to have come in the flesh to redeem them. Amen