Friday, October 27, 2023

The Vigil of Ss Simon and Jude

In the Roman Rite, the term “vigilia – vigil” traditionally means a penitential day of preparation for a major feast. The Mass of a Saint’s vigil is celebrated after None, as are the Masses of the ferias of Lent or the Ember Days, and in violet vestments; however, the deacon and subdeacon do not wear folded chasubles, as they do in Lent, but the dalmatic and tunicle. The Mass has neither the Gloria nor the Creed, the Alleluja is simply omitted before the Gospel, not replaced with a Tract, and Benedicamus Domino is said at the end in place of Ite, missa est.
Folio 116v of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 AD, with the Mass of the vigil of Ss Simon and Jude, and the beginning of the Mass of their feast. (Bibliothèque National de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)
The joint celebration of the Apostles Simon and Jude in a single feast originated as a proper custom of the Roman Rite, which was then copied by both the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites. (In the Byzantine Rite, St Simon’s feast is kept on May 10th, and St Jude’s on June 19th.) As with the feast of Ss Philip and James, this custom seems to have arisen from the presence of their relics in a Roman church; they have been venerated in St Peter’s Basilica since the 7th or 8th century. Neither the vigil nor the feast appears in the very oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite such as the Old Gelasian Sacramentary and the Wurzburg lectionary, ca. 750 AD. However, both are found only about 30 years later in the Gellone Sacramentary, and their place in the liturgy is certainly well established by the mid-9th century.

In the common Mass for the vigil of an Apostle, all of the proper texts except for the Gospel refer to a single person, as for example the Epistle, which begins with the words “The blessing of the Lord is upon the head of the just man.” The vigil of Ss Simon and Jude therefore has a different Mass, the texts of which all refer to more than one person, in keeping with their joint celebration. The three orations of the Mass in the Missal of St Pius V are the same as those found in the Gellone Sacramentary, and originated with this vigil, but the Gregorian propers and Scriptural readings are all also used in other Masses.
The altar of the left transept of St Peter's Basilica, in which are kept the relics of Ss Simon and Jude; the altar itself is now also dedicated to St Joseph.
The Introit, Gradual and Communion all take their text from Psalm 78, which the Church Fathers often associated with those who, like the Apostles, had given their lives for the Faith. An anonymous “Exposition of the Psalms” previously attributed to St Jerome says e.g., in regard to the words which begin the Introit, “Why should I not understand this to be simply said about the martyrs who were shut up in prisons? … And I say that God does truly hear the voice of those prisoners.” (PL 26, 1289B)
“Intret in conspectu tuo, Dómine, gémitus compeditórum: redde vicínis nostris séptuplum in sinu eórum: víndica sánguinem Sanctórum tuórum, qui effúsus est. Ps. 78 Deus, venérunt gentes in hereditátem tuam: polluérunt templum sanctum tuum: posuérunt Jerúsalem in pomórum custodiam. Gloria Patri. Intret. – Let the sighing of the prisoners come in before Thee, O Lord; render to our neighbors sevenfold in their bosom: repay our neighbors sevenfold into their bosoms; revenge the blood of thy servants, which hath been shed. Ps. 78 O God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance, they have defiled thy holy temple: they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit. Glory be… Let the sighing…”
Likewise, in his Exposition of the Psalms, St Augustine says of the psalm verse, “I believe the words ‘as a place to keep fruit’ should be understood to mean the laying-to-waste caused by the devastation of persecution: … And certainly, when the Church seemed to be laid waste because the heathen were persecuting it, the spirits of the martyrs passed to the heavenly banquet, as if they were many of the sweetest fruits from the Lord’s garden.” (Enarratio in Ps. 78)
This choice may also reflect a long-standing hagiographical confusion, by which the Apostle Simon was thought to be the same person as a kinsman of the Lord named Symeon, who became bishop of Jerusalem after the death of St James the Less, and was martyred at the age of 120 in the reign of the Emperor Trajan.
St Simon the Apostle; statue by Francesco Moratti, 1704-9, in the Lateran Basilica. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
The Epistle is taken from the fourth chapter of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (verses 9-14), in which he describes the duties of an Apostle. “We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” A commentary on the Epistles of St Paul which was traditionally (but incorrectly) attributed to St Ambrose says about this, “the Apostles became a spectacle, because they were publically mocked, and set to the injury and the death which they suffered. By ‘the world’, he means both angels and men, because there are also evil angels, … (and) the injuries done to the Apostles delighted them.” (PL 17 205A)
This reading first appeared in the Roman Rite in the mid-8th century on the feast of two martyrs named Abdon and Sennen, Persians who were killed at Rome in the 3rd century; they are still commemorated in the Extraordinary Form on July 30th. Their bodies were left to lie “before the image of the sun god,” a colossal statue of the Emperor Nero which stood next to the Colosseum, one of the places where gladiatorial “spectacles” were held and Christians were martyred. It makes for an interesting coincidence, but no more than that, that their native land, Persia, is traditionally said to be the place where St Jude died for the faith.
The Gospel, John 15, 1-7, is one of two traditionally read on the feasts of Martyrs in Eastertide, the other being verses 5-11 of the same chapter. This is the only place where this passage is read outside that season, but the reason for doing so is not readily discernible. The concluding words “you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” may seem to reflect the devotion to St Jude as the patron of lost causes, but this devotion is extremely recent, no earlier than the 19th century, and its origin obscure.
The Offertory is taken from an Old Latin version of Psalm 149, and includes a small variant from the Vulgate version of St Jerome. “Exsultabunt sancti in gloria; lætabuntur in cubilibus suis. Exaltationes Dei in faucibus (“gutture” in the Vulgate) eorum. – The Saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their resting places. The high praises of God shall be in their mouth.”
The first part of this is frequently said in the Office of Several Martyrs, and was chosen in reference to the fact that the original focus of devotion to the Saints was always at the place of their burial. This same chant is sung on the feasts of Ss Processus and Martinian, whose relics are also kept at St Peter’s; in the modern basilica, they are in the main altar of the right transept, directly opposite that of Ss Simon and Jude in the left transept. It is also sung on the octave day of Ss Peter and Paul, and on the feast of the Holy Maccabees, whose relics are in another church dedicated to St Peter, the basilica which houses his chains.
Like most Masses in the ancient sacramentaries, this vigil originally had its own proper preface, which refers to the ancient character of such days as preparation for a major feast.
VD: Quia tu es mirabilis in omnibus sanctis tuis, quos et nominis tui confessione praeclaros, et suscepta pro te fecisti passione gloriosos. Unde, sicut illi ieiunando orandoque certaverunt, ut hanc possent obtinere victoriam, ita nos potius quae exercuere sectantes, convenientius eorum natalicia celebremus. Per Christum. – Truly it is worthy … because Thou are wondrous in all Thy Saints, whom Thou has made honorable by the confession of Thy name, and glorious by the passion which they accepted for Thee. Wherefore, just as they strove by fasting and praying, that they might be able to obtain this victory, so may we also, by follow their practices, more fittingly celebrate their birth into heaven.

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