Today is the feast of the beloved disciple, St John, Apostle and Evangelist. As I heard at Mass at Carmel in the homily today, St John reminds us in his Gospel that the Christ-Child brings us the same gifts at every Christmas: grace and truth (cf. S. John i, 14).
I thoroughly recommend, if it is not said at the Mass one attends (i.e., Traditional Roman – or Armenian Rite!), and even if it is, that the glorious prologue of St John's Gospel, the "Last [but really the first] Gospel", In principio erat Verbum (S. John i, 1-14) be read and prayed very often. St Augustine records a man who desired it be written up in every church in letters of gold; I agree. If the New Testament be 'greater' than the Old, and the Gospels 'greater' than the Acts, Epistles and Apocalypse, and the Johannine 'greater' than the Synoptics, then it is the first chapter of St John, and within it these glorious words, that is 'greatest' of all. And genuflect at those sacred words, proclaiming the greatest event in all history: Et Verbum caro factum est.
The traditional collect for today is as follows; I pair it with the collect for his former feast on the 6th of May, St John-before-the-Latin-Gate, commemorating his miraculous deliverance from being thrown in a vat of boiling oil:
Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra: ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistæ illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiternis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R/. Amen.(Lord, in Thy goodness shine upon Thy Church: that enlightened by the doctrines of blessed John, Thine Apostle and Evangelist, she may attain unto everlasting gifts. Thro' Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.)Deus, qui conspicis quia nos undique mala nostra perturbant: præsta, quæsumus; ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistæ intercessio gloriosa nos protegat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R/. Amen.(O God, Who seest that on every side we are afflicted by our evils: deny us not, we entreat Thee, the safeguard of the glorious intercession of blessed John Thine Apostle and Evangelist. Thro' Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.)
Tho' the Roman Breviary does not have proper Matins antiphons for this feast, the Dominican does, and I append them:
Aña j. Joannes Apostolus, et Evangelista, virgo est electus a Domino, atque inter cæteros magis dilectus.Aña ij. Supra pectus Domini Jesu recumbens, Evangelii fluenta de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris fonte potavit.Aña iij. Quasi unus de Paradisi fluminibus Evangelista Joannes, verbi Dei gratiam in toto terrarum orbe diffudit.
(These antiphons of the First Nocturn describe St John, the Beloved Disciple, reclining on Our Our Lord's breast, and drawing from His Sacred Heart the secret inspiration for the Fourth Gospel.)
Aña iv. In ferventis olei dolium missus Joannes Apostolus, divina se protegente gratia, illæsus exivit.Aña v. Propter insuperabilem evangelizandi constantiam exilio relegatus, divinæ visionis, et allocutionis meruit crebra consolatione revelari.Aña vj. Occurrit beato Joanni, ab exilio revertenti, omnis populus virorum, ac mulierum, clamantium et dicentium: Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini.
(These antiphons of the Second Nocturn – probably drawing on apocryphal sources – describe how the attempt to boil the Apostle in oil was foiled, how he was exiled to Patmos, there received the vision of the Apocalypse, and upon returning to his see of Ephesus was feted by all.)
Aña vij. Apparuit charo suo Joanni Dominus Jesus Christus cum discipulis suis, et ait illi: Veni, dilecte mi, ad me, quia tempus est, ut epuleris in convivio meo cum fratribus tuis.Aña viij. Expandens manus suas ad Deum, dixit: Invitatus ad convivium tuum venio, gratias agens, quia me dignatus es, Domine Jesu Christe, ad tuas epulas invitare: sciens, quia ex toto corde meo desiderabam te.Aña ix. Domine, suscipe me, ut cum fratribus meis sim, cum quibus veniens invitasti me: aperi mihi januam vitæ, et perduc me ad convivium epularum tuarum: tu enim es Christus filius Dei vivi, qui præcepto Patris mundum salvasti: tibi gratias referimus per infinita sæculorum sæcula.
(These antiphons of the Third Nocturn – again, seemingly from some apocryphal source – tell of how Our Lord appeared to St John, calling him home to heaven, and how the aged Evangelist cried out with joy and gratitude that He Who had loved and chosen him from childhood years now at last drew him for ever to Himself.)