It was a delight to read Matins, Lauds and Prime this morning - beginning the day properly. And after work and a coffee, the Little Hours, once around the Gorge (about 50 minutes) and Vespers. Compline awaits my retiring to-night...
Why the obsession? Because I seriously do believe one should live the liturgy of the Church. The Office (new and old) has been the nourishment of my prayer life (apart from Holy Mass of course) for 15 years or more, since my early university days, and I hope it may be for many others a joy and a link to the truths of our Holy Faith, to the worship of Almighty God, to the cult of his saints, to the piety of our forefathers and to the Holy Scriptures, particularly the Psalms.
To-day we feast SS Soter and Caius, two early Martyr Popes. Amusingly, the Breviary (following, I guess, the Liber Pontificalis) credits the former (who reigned c.166-c.174) with forbidding sacred virgins from touching the sacred vessels, and likewise prohibited them from exercising the office of thurifer! A bloody good idea, and one that should be vigorously reënforced...
St Caius (r. 283-296) was a Dalmatian, of noble parents related to the family of the wicked Diocletian - that arch-enemy of Christ, whose name appears on every page of the Martyrology, yet was no martyr but their ravening persecutor and very dupe of Satan, whom he followed down to hell. By the infamous cruelty of his distant relative Pope Caius too was crowned with martyrdom, along with his brother Gabinus - and both were buried in the same catacomb as St Soter, in the cemetery of Callixtus.
Celebrating the feast of martyrs during Paschaltide is a happy joy: the Martyrs stand in close company with the Lamb once slain Who lives now for ever and ever, and Alleluias of triumph resound as the Church lauds their sharing in the Easter Victory of her Divine Spouse. The sacred Liturgy takes up a text even from the apocryphal Fourth Book of Esdras (ii, 35) to sing their blessedness, echoing in a different key both the traditional prayer for the dead and the texts of the Requiem Mass:
V. Lux perpétua lucébit Sanctis tuis, Dómine, allelúja.
R. Et ætérnitas témporum, allelúja.(V. Light perpetual shall shine upon thy Saints, O Lord, alleluia.
(R. And an ageless eternity, alleluia.)
[Cf. Parati estote ad praemia regni, quia lux perpetua lucebit vobis per aeternitatem temporis. (IV Esdras ii, 35)]
May SS Soter and Caius pray with us and for us, that our part, too, may be among the saints in light.