St Philip Neri, my chosen patron, was a Christian possessed of a holy sense of humour, and loved to hear the tales retold of a Florentine forerunner of himself, the good and mirthful priest Arlotto, who had had inscribed on his tomb the words "Priest Arlotto had this tomb made for himself, and for all those who might wish to enter it." O sanctorum communio!
Worldly persons of prestige, noble descent and power used often to have family crypts built, wherein their progeny might be buried for generations to come, separate from the common graves of the masses. The Soporific Fathers instead instituted an unworldly Order, wherein their spiritual children might safely rest in peace.
Not for nothing is the Order of Sleepers – I mean the Dormitionists – known as the Ordo Tranquillitatis. (Many of those holy Canons, when eventually they learnt of man's first steps upon the Moon, were glad to hear of Armstrong's landing in the Sea of Tranquillity, and evinced a desire to found a house there, or at least a lunar hermitage for greater remove from worldly affairs. It may be remarked en passant that Riccioli, the Jesuit astronomer largely responsible for naming the features of the lunar near side, evidently had in mind the Order of the Dormition – to which his uncle had repaired – when he named the adjoining Mare Tranquillitatis and Mare Serenitatis, their offshoots Lacus Somniorum and Palus Somni, and the crater Endymion.) Mindful of the adage that "all change is pernicious", and of Fr Faber's like remark that "all change is for the worse, even change for the better", they strive to be as stable, unchanging and quiet as the grave. Is not God Himself perfect, changeless, absolute Rest?
It is most pleasing to find Christians possessed of such peace of conscience that they sleep the sleep of the just; how different their state from the Catholic churches in so many Western lands that drowse in an uneasy state of inanition and neglect! It must be remembered to make the appropriate scholastic distinction here: Dormitionists are in a state of acquiring rest just like the wise virgins whom the Lord commended for sleeping in due preparedness for the Bridegroom, whereas those churches best resembling the parable's foolish virgins, unprepared, unequipped, soon to be found wanting, are in a state of acquired rest – just as religious in general (say, Carthusians for instance) are in a state of acquiring perfection by dint of their efforts to follow the evangelical counsels, while bishops (such as that Morris, late of Toowoomba) are in a state of acquired perfection by reason of their ordination, whether or not they deserve or deserved it. It is hardly necessary to point the moral further.
For this reason, the Dormitionist Order does not take donations from that well-known charity, Aid to the Church Asleep (itself operating under various names) – which vainly serves to prop up waning parishes, religious orders and dioceses across the First World.
(Any donations ought be forwarded, either to yours truly, dear reader, or direct to the local Dorter or Dormitory of the Order. The lay brothers employed upon such external dealings are poor insomniacs taken under the mantle of Our Lady, men who seek refuge from their trials with these soporific Canons, that their holy example and restful existence might lull these restless ones to their desired repose, and in the meantime the twenty-four hour service perforce provided by such lay brothers permits the Canons themselves to be absolved of all worldly duties, the better to sleep and rest. Just as illiterate brothers used to serve the learnèd fathers in other Orders such as the Dominican, so it is highly appropriate that insomniacs toil for somniacs.)
No, the Canons Regular of Our Lady's Dormition rather say, in words from the Canticle of Canticles, singing of the love of Christ and Mary, "Our bed is flourishing" (i, 15); and with holy Job, while still in this vale of tears they can at least cling to their pillow and declare, "My bed shall comfort me" (vii, 13). For as Isaias, the Fifth Evangelist, did declare of the just man, "Let him rest in his bed" (lvii, 2).
The entrance to the tomb of Lazarus at Bethany.
What has all this to do with St Lazarus? Evidently much. For, did not Lazarus, whose name means "God hath helped", with God's help repose four days in the grave? This deathly sleep was declared a blessed thing by Our Lord, and indeed, advantageous to His disciples: for Christ only waked him again that in Lazarus, His friend, He might (on the eve of His Passion) make manifest a plain sign of His own forthcoming Resurrection.
It is for this reason that the Dormitionist Canons (and their slumbering sisters the Dormitionistine Canonesses) do hold St Lazarus in high regard as secondary co-patron of their Order; and in the proper Mass for his feast, on the 17th of December, they commemorate more his peaceful sleep in the tomb than the miracle of his awakening thereform, which the universal Church in any case recalls during Lent.
How greatly the Dormitionists desire to die with him, to sleep with him (though separately), to have full fellowship in his peculiar saintly grace! With St Thomas again and again they cry one to another, as seraphic religious should, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (St John xi, 16). "With Lazarus, who once was poor, may we have eternal rest."
To further detail this, I will now quote in extenso the Mass of St Lazarus from the 1785 Missale Ordinis Dormitionis B. M. V., first providing a provisional English translation I have prepared, then the actual Latin text as transcribed from the Proper of Saints therein:
ON THE FEAST OF ST LAZARUS
OFFICE (i.e. INTROIT)
John 11:14b, 15b, 11b, 12b, 16b, 17
Lazarus is dead: but let us go to him. Lazarus our friend sleepeth. Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Ps. Jesus therefore came, and found that Lazarus had been four days already in the grave.
O God, the resurrection and the life, Who didst raise blessed Lazarus from the tomb after four days: lift us out of the grave of sins, that we may deserve to attain the fellowship of the elect. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R/. Amen.
Lesson from the book of Wisdom.
Ecclesiasticus 38:16-24; 22:11
My son, shed tears over the dead, and begin to lament as if thou hadst suffered some great harm, and according to judgment cover his body, and neglect not his burial. And for fear of being ill spoken of weep bitterly for a day, and then comfort thyself in thy sadness. And make mourning for him according to his merit for a day, or two, for fear of detraction. For of sadness cometh death, and it overwhelmeth the strength, and the sorrow of the heart boweth down the neck. In withdrawing aside sorrow remaineth: and the substance of the poor is according to his heart. Give not up thy heart to sadness, but drive it from thee: and remember the latter end. Forget it not: for there is no returning, and thou shalt do him no good, and shalt hurt thyself. Remember my judgment: for also shall be so: yesterday for me, and today for thee. When the dead is at rest, let his remembrance rest, and comfort him in the departing of his spirit.
Weep but a little for the dead, for he is at rest.
John 11:11b, 12b
Lazarus our friend sleepeth.
V/. Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
Alleluia, alleluia. V/. Let us also go, that we may die with him. Alleluia.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to John.
At that time:
Now there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha her sister. (And Mary was she that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair: whose brother Lazarus was sick.) His sisters therefore sent to him, saying: Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he still remained in the same place two days. Then after that, he said to his disciples: Let us go into Judea again. The disciples say to him: Rabbi, the Jews but now sought to stone thee: and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered: Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: but if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him. These things he said; and after that he said to them: Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. His disciples therefore said: Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. But Jesus spoke of his death; and they thought that he spoke of the repose of sleep. Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly: Lazarus is dead. And I am glad, for your sakes, that I was not there, that you may believe: but let us go to him. Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Psalm 87:5b-6a; John 11:39b
I am become as a man without help, free among the dead, like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres.
V/. Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days. * Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres.
Receive, we beseech, O Lord, the host, which we offer unto thee in honour of blessed Lazarus, and grant that, by it, in the future we may obtain everlasting rest. Through…
Lazarus was one of them that were at table with Jesus.
We beseech thy clemency, almighty God, that by the virtue of this sacrament thou mayest deign to confirm we thy servants in thy grace: that with Lazarus (who once was poor) we may have eternal rest. Through…
IN FESTO S. LAZARI
Jo. 11:14b, 15b, 11b, 12b, 16b, 17
Lazarus mortuus eſt: ſed eamus ad eum. Lazarus amicus noſter dormit: Domine, ſi dormit, ſalvus erit. Eamus et nos, ut moriamur cum eo.
Ps. Venit itaque Jesus: et invenit eum quatuor dies jam in monumento habentem.
Deus, reſurrectio et vita, qui beatum Lazarum quatriduanum a monumento ſuſcitaſti: erige nos de tumulo peccatorum, ut mereamur adipiſci conſortia electorum. Qui vivis…
Lectio libri Sapientiæ.
Ecclus 38, 16-24 & 22, 11
Fili, in mortuum produc lacrimas, et quaſi dira paſſus incipe plorare: et ſecundum judicium contege corpus illius, et non deſpicias ſepulturam illius. Propter delaturam autem amare fer luctum illius uno die, et conſolare propter triſtitiam: et fac luctum ſecundum meritum ejus uno die, vel duobus, propter detractionem: a triſtitia enim feſtinat mors, et cooperit virtutem, et triſtitia cordis flectit cervicem. In abductione permanet triſtitia, et ſubſtantia inopis ſecundum cor ejus. Ne dederis in triſtitia cor tuum, ſed repelle eam a te, et memento noviſſimorum. Noli obliviſci, neque enim eſt converſio: et huic nihil proderis, et teipſum peſſimabis. Memor eſto judicii mei : ſic enim erit et tuum: mihi heri, et tibi hodie. In requie mortui requieſcere fac memoriam ejus, et conſolare illum in exitu ſpiritus ſui.
Modicum plora ſuper mortuum, quoniam requievit.
Jo. 11, 11b & 12b
Lazarus amicus noſter dormit.
V/. Domine, ſi dormit, ſalvus erit.
Jo. 11, 16b
Alleluja, alleluja. V/. Eamus et nos, ut moriamur cum eo. Alleluja.
Sequentia ſancti Evangelii ſecundum Joannem.
Jo. 11, 1-16
In illo tempore:
Erat autem quidam languens Lazarus a Bethania, de caſtello Mariæ et Marthæ ſororis ejus. (Maria autem erat quæ unxit Dominum unguento, et exterſit pedes ejus capillis ſuis: cujus frater Lazarus infirmabatur.) Miſerunt ergo ſorores ejus ad eum dicentes: Domine, ecce quem amas infirmatur. Audiens autem Jeſus dixit eis: Infirmitas hæc non eſt ad mortem, ſed pro gloria Dei, ut glorificetur Filius Dei per eam. Diligebat autem Jeſus Martham, et ſororem ejus Mariam, et Lazarum. Ut ergo audivit quia infirmabatur, tunc quidem manſit in eodem loco duobus diebus; deinde poſt hæc dixit diſcipulis ſuis: Eamus in Judæam iterum. Dicunt ei diſcipuli: Rabbi, nunc quærebant te Judæi lapidare, et iterum vadis illuc? Reſpondit Jeſus: Nonne duodecim ſunt horæ diei? Si quis ambulaverit in die, non offendit, quia lucem hujus mundi videt: ſi autem ambulaverit in nocte, offendit, quia lux non eſt in eo. Hæc ait, et poſt hæc dixit eis: Lazarus amicus noſter dormit: ſed vado ut a ſomno excitem eum. Dixerunt ergo diſcipuli ejus: Domine, ſi dormit, ſalvus erit. Dixerat autem Jeſus de morte ejus: illi autem putaverunt quia de dormitione ſomni diceret. Tunc ergo Jesus dixit eis manifeſte: Lazarus mortuus eſt: et gaudeo propter vos, ut credatis, quoniam non eram ibi, ſed eamus ad eum. Dixit ergo Thomas, qui dicitur Didymus, ad condiſcipulos: Eamus et nos, ut moriamur cum eo.
Ps. 87, 5b-6a; Jo. 11:39b
Factus ſum ſicut homo ſine adjutorio, inter mortuos liber: ſicut vulnerati dormientes in ſepulchris.
V/. Domine, jam fœtet, quatriduanus eſt enim. * Sicut vulnerati dormientes in ſepulchris.
Suſcipe, quæſumus, Domine, hostiam, quam tibi offerimus in honorem beati Lazari, et concede: ut, per eam, in futura requiem conſequamur æternam. Per.
Jo. 12, 2b
Lazarus unus erat ex diſcumbentibus cum Jeſu.
Quæſumus clementiam tuam, omnipotens Deus, ut per hujus virtutem ſacramenti nos famulos tuos gratia tua confirmare digneris: ut cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeamus requiem. Per…
It will be evident how apt a Mass formulary this is for the Order.