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O might I touch Thy sacred feet,
Nay, raise thy thoughts to joys more meet,
The promises are fully wrought
Sent to Apostles, by thee taught
Hymns from the Parisian Breviary, p. 222.
S. Anne, Mother of the Blessed Virgin
THE sacred history is silent regarding the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know only that they were of the tribe of Judah, and that her father was descended from the royal line of David. Yet there has been a tradition in the Church from very early times that their names were Joachim and Anne. The name of S. Joachim may be traced to the fourth century. S. Jerom and S. Augustin mention it as received by a part of the Church in their day. The name of S. Anne cannot be found quite so early. The emperor Justinian I. built a church at Constantinople in her honour in 550, and translated her remains into it. Both saints were commemorated there on the 9th of September, the morrow of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin; and their death was celebrated on the 25th of July.
They were not heard of in the Western Church till the end of the eighth century, and they were not
generally honoured even in the age of S. Bernard. The name of S. Joachim is found, probably for the first time, in a martyrology dated 1491, on the 9th of September. Some of the relics of S. Anne were sent to Chartres in 1200, by Louis, Count of Blois.
The history of Joachim and S. Anne must ever remain unknown to us, as no record of it is preserved during the first ages, and the later accounts are entirely fabulous. But as we honour them, not so much for their own sakes, as because they were the parents of the Mother of God, we do not ask for any further information regarding them. And even if their very names were imaginary, we might still commemorate their persons with true devotion. But it seems an unreasonable suspicion of the early Church to doubt that it had the best authority for enrolling these names in the catalogue of saints. None can doubt the existence of the persons, unless the Blessed Virgin herself is a Catholic fiction.
We may not venture without reverence to withdraw the veil, even in thought, which conceals the early life of the blessed Mary. It is a theme which has inspired the great Catholic painters with the loveliest conceptions. Behold the mother tending the gentle child, in whose infant countenance humility is so mysteriously blended with thought deeper than a child's. As yet the scenes of the Annunciation, and the Nativity, and all that followed, lie deeply hidden in futurity. God is training His chosen to fulfil her part. How high and solemn, and how encompassed with suffering! Earthly language fails to express the thoughts which even our cold hearts conceive, much less can it give utterance to the
love and admiration which the sight might worthily inspire. But such poor tribute as we can offer will not be rejected, if it be no more than an humble confession that the best is infinitely unworthy.
S. Anne is generally represented with a book, to signify that she had the care of teaching pious lessons to her blessed child.
Ave Maria! Blessed Maid!
Who can express the love
That nurtured thee so pure and sweet,
Making thy heart a shelter meet
For Jesus' holy Dove!
Christian Year, p. 317.
THE name of this holyday is a corruption of Loafmass, a Feast of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the corn, which was annually observed in England in the beginning of August. Bread made of the new wheat was offered at the mass of this day, and was solemnly blessed; and hence, in many parts of England, tenants were bound to bring in wheat of that year to their lords, on or before the 1st of August. The day was kept with great festivity.
Some antiquarians derive the name of Lammas from Lambmass; because it was a condition on which the lands of the cathedral church of York were let, that the tenants should offer a lamb yearly at the mass of this day. But this seems to have been only a local custom.
The blessing of new fruits was performed annually in the Eastern and Western Churches on the 1st, and sometimes on the 6th of August. It is mentioned on the latter day in the Sacramentary of S. Gregory. The benediction took place in the canon of the Mass,
after the words largitor admitte, in the prayer Nobis quoque peccatoribus. "At this time," says Bona, "if there were any new fruits, or any other things for man's use, to be blessed, they were formally to be laid on the altar, and here blessed by the priest; and the blessing being ended with the accustomed clause, Per Christum Dominum nostrum, they added the prayer following, Per Quem hæc omnia, "Through Whom Thou, O Lord, dost ever create, sanctify, vivify, bless, and bestow on us all these good things. Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is to Thee, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory." Hæc omnia, as Dacherius remarks in the preface to the fourth volume of the Spicilegium, does not refer to the oblations alone, but to the things which have been blessed, which were made by God, and which we beseech Him by His benediction to sanctify to our use.
"This was the piety of our ancestors, that all sacred and ecclesiastical functions, administrations of sacraments, and benedictions, were always performed during the solemnity of the Mass. For of all things the Eucharist is the perfection and consummation, from which they receive their energy and sanctity. Whether a treaty was to be ratified, or a truce to be concluded, whether an oblation was to be made to God, or heretics were to be excommunicated, or the birthdays of the saints or other festivals were to be proclaimed, or fasts and litanies; or penitents were to be reconciled; or hands to be laid on the initiated; whether bishops were to be consecrated, or