Tag Archives: Roman Martyrology

Blessing of Basil on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

I am giving emphasis these days on knowing what we believe as Catholics by looking at the liturgical sources. We first go to the sacred Liturgy to study and pray the prayers prayed by the priest for Mass, Lauds, Vespers, or those smaller rites such as the Blessing of Basil that you would find on today’s feast of the Holy Cross, also called the Roodmas. Ours is a richly endowed sacramental faith.

“The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which, the day after the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection raised over the tomb of Christ, is exalted and honored, in the manner of a memorial of His paschal victory and the sign which is to appear in the sky, already announcing in advance His second coming” (from the Roman Martyrology).

basil3.jpg
The Blessing of Basil

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

Let us pray.

Almighty and merciful God, deign, we beseech You, to bless + Your creature, this aromatic basil leaf. Even as it delights our senses, may it recall for us the triumph of Christ, our Crucified King and the power of His Precious Blood to purify and preserve us from evil so that, planted beneath His Cross, we may flourish to Your glory and spread abroad the fragrance of His sacrifice. Who is Lord forever and ever.

R. Amen.

The bouquets of basil leaf are sprinkled with Holy Water.

Some account for the connection between the herb basil and the Cross as follows:

The herb, basil has long been associated with today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The word “basil” is related to basileios, from the Greek word for king.

According to the liturgical legend, the Empress Saint Helena found the location of the True Cross by digging for it under a colony of basil. Basil plants were reputed to have sprung up at the foot of the Cross where fell the Precious Blood of Christ and the tears of the Mother of Sorrows.

A sprig of basil was said to have been found growing from the wood of the True Cross. On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross it is customary in the East to rest the Holy Cross on a bed of basil before presenting it to the veneration of the faithful.

Also, from the practice in some areas of strewing branches of basil before church communion rails, it came to be known as Holy Communion Plant. The blessed basil leaf can be arranged in a bouquet at the foot of the crucifix; the dried leaves can also be used by the faithful as a sacramental.

St Amos

14 Bible Historiale, The Call of Amos Artwork: Amos as shepherd Artist: UNKNOWN; Illustrator of Petrus Comestor’s ‘Bible Historiale’, France, 1372 Date: 1372 Technique: Miniature Location: Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, The Hague Notes: From Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historiale” (manuscript “Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23”). According to Museum Meermanno’s database, the picture depicts Joel. We do not know about Joel’s earlier profession, and it seems more probable that the picture depicts Amos. Subject: The Call of Amos Hosts: Museum Meermanno and Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague: Interactive Presentation of Handwritings [IMAGE]

The Novus Ordo Liturgy does not liturgically commemorate OT prophets but the older form of the Mass does, as well as the Byzantine Liturgy. The Roman Martyrology lists Amos as the first saint of the list for March 31: “At Thecua, in Palestine, the holy prophet Amos, whom the priest Amasias frequently scourged, and whose temples Ozias, that priest’s son, pierced with an iron spike. Being carried half dead to his native place, he expired there and was buried with his forefathers” (Roman Martyrology).

As you know, the Book of Amos is one of the twelve minor prophets. The name Amos means “Burden” in Hebrew. Amos’ biography says that he lived in the 700s B.C. during the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel, that he was a contemporary of the holy prophet Jonah, and he exercised his prophetic ministry prior to God’s call of Isaiah.

The prophetic book reveals that Amos was a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees. The Holy Prophet Amos calls for the restoration of Israel under the Messianic Dynasty of King David rejecting Israel’s grievous immorality and the warning of God’s wrath.

St Amos, pray for us as we make our way through Lent shedding sin and asking for God’s grace.

St Abraham

sacrifice-of-abrahamIn the Roman Martyrology today, is the feast day of St. Abraham, patriarch and father of all believers, who is celebrated by all three of the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). “The LORD took Abram outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars–if you are able to count them!’ Then he said to him, ‘So will your descendants be.’” (Genesis 15:5)

As you know, the Roman Martyrology is the official list of saints recognized by the Catholic Church. Several times on this blog I have drawn our attention to various OT prophets that we commemorate as saints and now Abraham brings us closer to the reality that the Church transcends time as well walks on earth.

The Orthodox Church commemorates Father Abraham on August 21 with Isaac, and Jacob. With the help of the Orthodox we can appreciate the place of Abraham in our theology from a hymn sung on the second Sunday preceding Christmas, the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers:

Come feast-lovers, let us extol with hymns the assembly of the forefathers – Adam the first father, Enoch, Noah, and Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and those after the Law – Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Samuel; and with them Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve Prophets, with Elijah and Elisha, and all the rest.

The author at St Sypridon Church’s web writes this that I believe is helpful for Catholics, too:

“The Church’s high esteem for the Old Testament saints is also seen in her custom of depicting the forefathers and prophets around the base of the interior central dome of a church. And by remembering these saints in her liturgical calendar, the Orthodox Church demonstrates her understanding that the Body of Christ transcends limitations of time and space. This awareness is clearly expressed at every Divine Liturgy: “And again we offer unto You this reasonable service for all those who in faith have gone before us to their rest: patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.”

Saint Sylvester

St SylvesterOn this final day of the civil year Mother Church honors the memory of Pope Saint Sylvester, who guided the Church with his teaching and life during the persecutions of Diocletian, and during the period of Arianism and the Council of Nicæa. That his feast day is so close to Christmas ought to indicate to us that he had concern for the Christology of Catholic belief and life.

Pope Sylvester’s pontifical ministry saw the construction of great churches in Rome by Constantine, namely the basilica and baptistery of the Lateran near the former imperial Lateran palace where the pope lived (he now resides at the Vatican), the basilica of the Sessorian palace (the Basilica of Santa Croce where the relics of the holy passion are located), the first Church of St. Peter on Vatican Hill, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs.

More to the point for this blog, and the desire to live in a theology of communion, the sainted Pope contributed to the development of the sacred Liturgy of the Roman Church and drew together the first martyrology of Roman martyrs. Moreover, Sylvester established of the Roman school of chant and music.

Pope Saint Sylvester is buried at the Church connected with the Catacomb of Priscilla.

Feast of the Dispersion of the Apostles

On any number of occasions I’ve spoken about the various local commemorations of saints; not all liturgical calendars are the same due to the presence of locally venerated saints and blesseds. Saint Kateri Tekawitha is not on the liturgical calendar of Hong Kong, for example. A friend of mine brought to my attention an unusual feast, that of the Dispersion of the Apostles. It’s an Irish feast with no analogue in the USA. This is a clear example of the richness of local church. Moreover, one can say that the Catholic Church is not monolithic or hegemonic. Here’s the note of my friend:

Jesus-ApostlesOn July 15, Canon O’Hanlon notes the recording, in the Martyrology of Aengus, of The Feast of the Dispersion of the Apostles. This feast marks the dispersal of the Holy Apostles to their various missionary destinations, but in some of the copies of Saint Aengus’s calendar, a list of not only the biblical Twelve Apostles is appended, but also a list of the ‘Twelve Apostles of Ireland’. This was a name given to a group of early saints, students of Saint Finnian of Clonard, who themselves dispersed to various parts of Ireland to evangelise this country, some of them are also credited with founding missions outside of Ireland. In the account below I have transferred the actual quotations from the Martyrology out of the footnotes and into the main body of Canon O’Hanlon’s text. I have also added some notes on the identities of the Irish Twelve:

Festival of the Twelve Apostles

In the ancient Irish Church, on the 15th day of July, was celebrated the Festival of the Twelve Apostles, as we read in the “Feilire” of St. Aengus. In the “Leabhar Breac” copy is the following Irish rann, translated into English, by Whitley Stokes, LL.D.

“The twelve Apostles who excel every number, before a countless host Jesus distributed them among Adam’s seed.”

There is an Irish stanza annexed, in which those Twelve Apostles are severally named. Thus translated into English.

“Simon, Matthaeus and Matthew, Bartholomew, Thomas, Thaddaeus, Peter, Andrew, Philip, Paul, John and the two Jameses.”

And succeeding it, there is another, enumerating the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. This is headed “XII. Apostoli Hiberniae,” and then follow these lines, thus translated into English:

“The Twelve Apostles of Ireland”:

“Two Finnens, two chaste Colombs, Ciaran, Caindech, fair Comgall, Two Brenainns, Ruadan with splendour, Nindid, Mobii, son of Natfraech.”

This ancient Festival, styled the Separation of the Apostles of Christ for their Missions in various parts of the old world, has been often alluded to by the early Greek and Latin Fathers. The Bollandists, who place it at the 15th of July, have a learned disquisition on its origin and history, to which the reader is referred.

Notes on the Twelve Apostles of Ireland:

Two Finnens – the two great Saint Finnians – Finnian of Clonard, ‘tutor of the saints of Ireland’ and Finnian of Moville.

Two Chaste Colombs – Saint Columba of Iona and Saint Columba of Terryglass.

Ciaran – Some lists include two Ciarans, both Saint Ciaran the Elder (of Saighir) and Ciaran the Younger (of Clonmacnoise).

Caindech – Saint Canice or Kenneth of Kilkenny.

Fair Comgall – Saint Comgall of Bangor.

Two Brenainns – Saints Brendan the Elder (of Birr) and Brendan the Younger (the Navigator) of Clonfert.

Ruadan with splendour – Saint Ruadhan of Lorrha.

Nindid – Saint Ninnidh of Inismacsaint.

Mobii – Saint Mobhí of Glasnevin.

Son of Natfraech – Molaise of Devenish

Finally, it may be noted that the list of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland is preserved in various manuscripts which do not always tally. Some of the saints, not present on this list, can include Saints Senan and Sinell.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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