The Grace of the Holy Spirit Knoweth No Slow Working.

[Selections from Matins.

Ember Friday of Advent.*

Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• Isaiah 11: 1-5.
• Psalm 84: 8, 2.
• Luke 1: 37-47.

"O ROOT OF JESSE, You stand for an ensign of mankind; before You kings shall keep silence, and to You all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay."

10:37 AM 12/19/2014 —

Lesson i
A Homily of Saint Ambrose, Bishop.
Book II on Luke, ch. I.

When any one asketh another for credence, he is bound to give some reasonable ground. And so the Angel, when he announced to Mary the counsel of God, gave, as a proof, the conception of Elizabeth, then aged and barren, that Mary might perceive, by this example, that with God nothing is impossible. When the holy Virgin had heard it, she arose and went to visit her cousin. She did not go to see if what she had heard was true, because she did not believe God, or because she knew not who the messenger had been, or yet because she doubted the fact adduced in proof. She went joyfully as one who hath received a mercy in answer to his vow goeth to pay the same. She went with devotion, as a godly person goeth to execute a religious duty. She went into the hill country in joyful haste. And is it not something that she went up into the hills? God was already in her womb, and her feeling bore her continually upward. The grace of the Holy Spirit knoweth no slow working.

Lesson ii

     Godly women will learn from the example of the Mother of God to take a tender care of their kinswomen who are with child. In pursuance of this charity, Mary, who had hitherto remained alone at home, was not deterred by her maidenly shyness from entering on a public journey; she faced for this end the hardships of mountain travelling; and encountered with a sense of duty the weary length of the way. The Virgin left her home, and went into the hill country with haste, unmindful of the trouble, and remembering only the office to which her cousinly love prompted her, in spite of the delicacy of her sex. Maidens will learn from her not to idle about from house to house, to loiter in the streets, nor to take part in conversations in public. Mary, as she was hasteful to pass through the public roads, so was she slow again to enter on them she abode with her cousin about three months.

Lesson iii

     As the modesty of Mary is a pattern for the imitation of all maidens, so also is her humility. She went to see Elizabeth, like one cousin going to visit another, and as the younger to the elder. Not only did she first go, but she first saluted Elizabeth. Now, the purer a virgin is, the humbler ought she to be. She will know how to submit herself to her elders. She that professeth chastity ought to be a very mistress of humility. Lowly-mindedness is at once the very ground in which devotion groweth, and the first and principal rule of its teaching. In this act of the Virgin, then, we see the greater going to visit and to succour the lesser: Mary to Elizabeth, Christ to John.

* In the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, at the beginning of the four seasons of the liturgical year, the fast days known as "Ember Days" thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and implore further graces for the new season; and, their importance in the Church was formerly very great. They are fixed on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of specific weeks in their respective seasons: after the First Sunday of Lent for Spring, after Whitsunday for Summer, after the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14th) for Autumn, and after the Third Sunday of Advent for Winter. At one time, the Ember Days were obligatory days of fasting; this requirement was dropped in the Missal of St. John XXIII in 1962, but violet vestments are sill worn on Ember Days even when they occur outside the seasons of Advent and Lent.
     The significance of the Ember Days as days of voluntary fasting is multiple: not only are they intended to consecrate to God both the liturgical seasons and the various seasons in nature, they also serve as a penitential preparation for those preparing to be ordained. Ordinations in the extraordinary form generally take place on the Ember Days, and the Faithful are encouraged to pray on these days for good Priests.
     On Ember Wednesday of Advent, the mystery of the Annunciation is commemorated by many churches. The Mass is sung early in the morning, and may be called the "Golden Mass," the "Rorate Mass" or the "Messiah Mass": in many missals, the first words of this Mass are printed in gold; the first words of the Introit for this Mass are Roráte Cćli; and, the Church, like our Lady, expresses in this Mass her longing for the arrival of the Messiah.
     On Ember Friday of Advent, the focus is the Visitation; and, on Ember Saturday of Advent, John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God."