Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL -
ST. JOHN BEFORE THE LATIN GATE
Missale Romanum 1962 (MR '62)
For this week’s column on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider a very old feast day which, although it was removed from the sanctoral cycle in the MR’62, nevertheless remains a viable optional feast for parishes like ours who follow the usus antiquior. The feast is entitled “St. John before the Latin Gate,” and it commemorates the attempted martyrdom of St. John in the city of Rome. To this day, a stational Church exists in Rome from which commemorates this event at its location.
In the readings of the Divine Office for this feast day, St. Jerome testifies to this event, referring to its earlier attestation in the writings of the North African priest Tertullian. According to these two patristic witnesses, St. John was apprehended and cast into a boiling vat of oil, but came out completely unhurt. Consequently, the emperor Domitian sent him into exile on the Greek island of Patmos where he died naturally in his old age.
The following is my own translation of the Collect for this feast: “O God, who see that our evils trouble us on all sides: grant, we beseech You, that the glorious intercession of Blessed John, Your Apostle and Evangelist may protect us. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”
To develop the virtue of humility is to come to know ourselves more accurately as we stand before the all-seeing eyes of our good God. In the clear light of truth, humility helps us to know ever more acutely our human poverty and sin, as well as the infinitely greater depths of Christ’s love for us, and the power of his grace working in us for salvation. Prayers such as this one above accurately reflect this perspective of the baptized in their lived experience of the Christian life.
We know, at times, that it is extremely difficult to bear our cross, and we feel beset on all sides by our evils - that is, by our own sins, our deficiencies in virtue, as well as the temptation and oppression of the devil. In such moments, we are reminded that we rely at all times upon Christ and the intercession of his saints.
Truth to tell, the constant presence of the Communion of Saints is both indispensable and integral in sustaining our Christian life, since the saints participate in Christ’s mediation before the Father, as we see in the Book of Revelation. This reality is reflected in the Third Eucharistic Prayer of the MR’70: “and with all the Saints, on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.” Christ and his Bride the Church are never separated.
Within this communion, some saints stand out more than others because of their excelling degree of glory, that is, their excelling degree of union with Christ and their merits. Likewise, among the saints, the Church considers those closest to Jesus in His earthly life to be closest to Him in heaven, as well. This is exactly why we commend ourselves in particular to Our Lady and St. Joseph.
One such saint is St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, “the one Jesus loved,” as he refers to himself in his Gospel. In leaning upon him, then, we enjoy greater proximity to Jesus, because St. John himself leaned upon the breast of Jesus (cf. Jn. 13:23). The protection afforded us by St. John’s “glorious intercession,” therefore, is not to be taken lightly. Among the saints, his advocacy is indeed powerful. Let us commend ourselves to St. John for the grace of perseverance in our witness to Christ, as well as the grace of persevering prayer.(David Allen)
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.