Sunday, December 30, 2007

What about Matins lessons and the Little Hours?

Summorum Pontificum cura – the third word is the key to the intent of Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio, since the phrase is then complete: "The care of the Supreme Pontiffs [for the sacred liturgy]" – has of course allowed (Art. 9, § 3) that all the clergy may use the 1962 Breviary when fulfilling their mandate of praying the Hours of the Divine Office.

(I assume that if the clergy may use it, certainly a mere layman may; it would be perverse to think otherwise.)

Certain questions arise.

Fairly obviously, Matins is the equivalent of the modern Office of Readings.  Now, apparently the clergy under Bishop Rifan in Campos still use (at least the readings from) the pre-1962 Breviary, the main difference being that Pope John XXIII's revision cut down the readings at Matins from nine on all feasts to only three, except for the most important days, and amazingly enough cut out most of the Sunday lessons from the Fathers (thus prioritizing action over contemplation, since the clergy are always busiest on Sunday; a cynic might suggest transferring Sunday's Office to Monday, when most observe their peculiar day of rest...) – this abbreviation is well-critiqued elsewhere.  

As mentioned in comments at WDTPRS, presumably this action of the Campos clerics fulfils their obligation, since the greater (all nine readings) includes the lesser (the three remaining after the 1962 abbreviation).  But a clarification on this point is needed.

Lauds, Vespers, Compline: old rite or new rite, they're basically the same, just reordered and chopped about (the post-Conciliar edition famously having less psalms per Hour).  But what of the Little Hours?  Prime has no post-Conciliar equivalent, and of Terce, Sext, and None, tho'all three are still prayable using the options in the new books, only one need be said, hence its name of the Middle Hour (singular).  Now, here is the question: One can fulfil one's obligation by praying either Office, and so one can mix-and-match (especially if one prays part of the Office with others, who may use the modern version, while one uses the older in private for the rest of the Office): but how to count the Little Hours?  

It would seem, bizarrely enough, that one bound to the Office should either say: Prime, Terce, Sext, and None (1962); or, just one Hour, the Middle Hour (1971).  To say only Prime, or Terce, or Sext, or None, or even two or three out of the four, instead of the Middle Hour, would not suffice!  Yet, having said Middle Hour, there would be no need to say any of Prime, Terce, Sext, or None!  This seems to reverse the principle of the greater including the lesser.

The reason behind this is simple.  In either Office, the basic principle is to pray the Psalter over a determinate period of time, disregarding interruptions due to feasts having proper Psalms.  In the case of the modern Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalter (omitting about 5% as occasioning psychological difficulties in vernacular recitation – cf. GILH, n. 131) is spread over four weeks, whereas (in line with the counsel of St Benedict and the Fathers) the Roman Breviary spreads the Psalter over one week only.  Hence, to fit in all the Psalms, the Breviary must needs have allotted psalms for each of Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, whereas in the Divine Office only one set of psalms is provided for the Middle Hour (those desirous of saying three Hours have to use various of the Gradual Psalms repeatedly, and these are already used at other Hours). 

I will be interested to see how this issue is interpreted.

Personally, as a layman I recite the Office out of devotion, realizing that by doing so I am truly taking part in a noble liturgical act, the worship of Christ and His Church, and knowing that liturgical prayer is of its nature higher than non-liturgical, tho' of course many charwomen at their beads please God much more highly than my sinful self distractedly racing through Sext on Sunday.  

I used the modern Divine Office for over twelve years, and have just recently switched to the 1962 Breviary; and in both cases I have said the Office complete, not omitting any Hours, but in the case of the modern Office only saying one Middle Hour for the most part (tho' one Lent at least I did say all three of modern Terce, Sext and None, thus becoming very familiar with the Gradual Psalms!).  My motive for this is simple: to pray the Office is fundamentally about praising God in His own words, the Psalms (all else is ancillary, tho' very important and holy), and to run through the whole Psalter is the aim; to omit any Hours is to fail in this.  So when using the old Breviary, I have said every one of the Little Hours.  

It would seem to me wrong to derogate from the discipline and arrangement of the old Breviary to allow the clergy to say only one of the Little Hours from it in fulfilment of their duty; Pope St Pius X intended the cursus to run through all the psalms in the course of each week, and only by saying all the Little Hours can this be achieved; if they esteem it so little, let them pray the "Little Office of Vatican II" as a friend unkindly names the modern Divine Office (which I continue to praise highly, it seems the best of the modern liturgical books), abbreviated precisely for their benefit.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Murder in the Cathedral

A pity that today is no longer St Thomas à Becket's feast; I suppose the late pre-Conciliar liturgical reformers felt it intruded into the Christmas Octave in a way that the first-millennium, immemorially celebrated feasts of St Stephen, St John, and the Holy Innocents didn't.

In any case, after making my humble confession this morning, I was delighted to read the start of the Epistle to the Romans (1:1-19, at the end of Matins; vide infra), and after some more psalms and such the collect of the Octave, followed soon by the collect of the Saint, while saying Lauds, since both proved so apposite:

Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet; quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.  Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

(Grant, we beseech, almighty God, that the new birth of Thy Onlybegotten in the flesh may deliver us, whom the old bondage doth hold under the yoke of sin.  Thro' Christ our Lord.  R/.  Amen.)

As Ven. Jean-Jacques Olier used to say forcefully, "We must slay the old man" – thus terrifying the gardener, who was listening at the chapter-room window while weeding!  Only Christ, by His Nativity coming to us in the flesh, can so apply the merits of His passion to us via the physical instrumentality of His Humanity so we can be delivered from the age-old slavery to sin, Satan, death and hell.  We pray that His will may be done in us, that our earth become His heaven.

Deus, pro cujus Ecclesiæ gloriosus Pontifex Thomas gladiis impiorum occubuit: præsta, quæsumus; ut omnes, qui ejus implorant auxilium, petitionis suæ salutaris consequantur effectum.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

(O God, for Whose Church the glorious Pontiff Thomas was slain by the swords of the ungodly: grant, we beseech Thee, that all, who implore his aid, may obtain the saving effect of their petition.  Through Christ our Lord.  R/.  Amen.)

I pictured to myself all England, if not all Christendom, in past ages making their way to the glorious shrine of the blessed martyr at Canterbury, as Chaucer has immortalized it, there to pray for relief from all their troubles, confident in receiving ready aid – and we too can turn to the holy martyr in like confidence, as a very friend of God, elect and precious; and then I recalled how wicked Henry VIII despoiled the shrine and burnt the sacred relics within.  How the children of the world hate the children of the Kingdom...

In charity we pray that Henry will not burn world without end, tho' it seems likely that that tyrant, so given to lust, schism, heresy and murder, may well, alas, have remained resistant to grace until the last.  Mors peccatorum pessima.  A warning to the would-be penitent not to return to his old path like a dog to its vomit!

To return to Romans 1:1-19... I was struck, first, by the wonderful dense description the Apostle gives of the Son of God: "made of the seed of David according to the flesh... predestinated to be the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification... Jesus Christ our Lord"; second, by the realization that, given how greatly St Paul must have prayed "for all the churches" while on earth, how much greater it must be in heaven, where he lives and reigns as a saint amongst saints; third, that the Good News of Jesus Christ "is the power of God unto salvation unto every believer" – and why? – because God's wrath has been revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, not in blazing anger, not in eternal condemnation, but in a Babe born for us, a Son given for us: Who hath taken our sin upon Himself, thus appeasing Divine justice and fulfilling Divine love – the two are one – as the spotless Lamb, Who taketh away the sins of the world (cf. Dix, Power of God; wherein he takes these verses as the start for his meditations on the Seven Last Words).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Extracts concerning the Holy Innocents

That pious Anglican layman, Robert Nelson, writing in 1703, thus discoursed upon the Holy Innocents (Nelson's Festivals and Fasts, 1841 ed., 87ff) catechetically, solving with the wisdom of those well read in the Fathers (for example, St John Chrysostom, in his 9th homily on st Matthew's Gospel) and positive doctors what many find hard to understand regarding the cruel sufferings endured by the infants slain for Christ:

Q.  For what reason may we suppose that God permitted the destruction of so many children in Bethlehem?

A.  It doth not become us to nicely to inquire into the proceedings of Infinite Wisdom, all whose actions are governed by the highest reason; but, among several thoughts that offer themselves, we may consider whether the infidelity of the Bethlehemites, after such sufficient means afforded for their conviction, might not draw upon them so severe a punishment.  They not only gave no reception to the Virgin Mary, big with child, and of the house of David; but they neither owned nor worshipped our Saviour at his birth.  The message of the shepherds and their great joy, the arrival of the wise men from the East, and their offerings, had no effectual influence upon them.  And it is not unusual with God to visit the sins of the fathers upon their children; especially since the children were made instruments of God's glory, and not only delivered from the miseries of life and the corruption of their ancestors, but were crowned with the reward of martyrdom.

Q.  What may we learn from the observation of this festival?

A.  That religion is but too often used as an instrument to serve ambitions and worldly designs; which should make good men cautious how they combine with men of that temper in the measures they take to promote it.  That afflictions are not always arguments of guilt, since innocent children were made a sacrifice to the ambition of a cruel tyrant.  That they are sometimes tokens of God's favour, and that many a man has owed his happiness to his sufferings.  That we ought to be ready to part with what is so dear to us, as our own children, whenever they may become instruments of God's glory.  That we ought not to fear the cruelty nor policy of the greatest tyrant, who can never hurt us without God's permission.  That what oppressions soever innocence meets with from the hands of wicked men, is for the good of those that suffer it.  That the conduct of those parents, who neglect the education and instruction of their children in Christian and virtuous principles, exceeds the cruelty of Herod; he only deprived them of life, but such expose them to eternal death.  That to be true disciples of Christ, we must become as little children in the frame and temper of our minds, without which we cannot 'enter into the kingdom of heaven.' [Matt. xviii. 3.] 

Nelson goes on later to quote his version of the BCP collect, itself derived from and expanding on the Catholic, Latin oration, and I give the latter two here (such a pity that Cranmer, tho' a gifted translator, was an arch-heretic):

O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Deus, cujus hodierna die præconium Innocentes Martyres non loquendo, sed moriendo confessi sunt: omnia in nobis vitiorum mala mortifica; ut fidem tuam, quam lingua nostra loquitur, etiam moribus vita fateatur.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

And to turn to a more modern, yet more than equally traditional author (himself having made the final leap from C. of E. to R. C., unlike Nelson despite his good Catholic wife), John Saward, in his book Redeemer in the Womb, writes as follows (p. 141), quoting from Caryll Houselander's The Passion of the Infant Christ, when treating of that appalling modern twist to the Massacre of the Innocents, unimaginable to Nelson:

[In] the anti-child mind of the modern world [,] Herod is still at his bloody work.

'Herod ordered the children to be killed because he was afraid that any one of them might be Christ.  Any child might be Christ!  The fear of Herod is the fear of every tyrant, the hope of every Christian, and the most significant fact in the modern world.  Any child might be Christ; yes, and Herod in his attempt to destroy that one Child, to eradicate the threat of the Infant from his nation, baptized a host of children in their own blood and made a legion of little "Christs", who should come unseen with heavenly weapons, flocking to the tattered and blood-soaked standard of innocence through all the ages of mankind.'

In the four decades since Caryll's death, Herod's fear has taken possession of whole cultures.  In the 1960s and 70s a new massacre of the innocents was decreed, not this time by a Palestinian  potentate, but by the parliaments of a hundred 'civilized' lands.  Unborn children have been slaughtered in their millions, their torn bodies incinerated or thrown out with the garbage.  Their placentas are used to make face cream for the rich.

Caryll Houselander understood well why the child is hated by Satan and his earthly hirelings.  'Any child might be Christ!'  In becoming a child, God the Son united himself to every child.  Every little one of the human family is a reminder of the Infant God, of the divine humility the demons so despise.  Every child preaches the Gospel just by being what he is.  He embodies the simplicity needed for entry into Heaven (cf. Mt 18:3).  He calls his parents out of self-absorption into self-giving.  (That is one of the reasons husband and wife cannot be fully open to each other in sexual love if they are not open to life.)

Truly today we "out-Herod Herod", considering the vast multitudes "untimely ripp'd"; and unlike the Nazis, we do not bother to hide our extermination camps, but have them right in our towns and cities.

Proclamation Day

Adelaide: the city of churches, a beaut spot, and one friends of mine hail from.  Well, to salute them and their compatriots, I recall that today is Proclamation Day – on the 28th of December 1836, Governor Hindmarsh at the Old Gum Tree, Glenelg (see image above), read the proclamation of the British Province of South Australia.  It was to be a model colony, for free settlers only, unlike the other Australian colonies...  

Some think they can distinguish a South Australian accent, but in reality all there is to it is a small collection of local words and a minute difference in pronouncing one vowel before "l".  To a non-Australian, the difference would be negligible.  South Australia was meant to be different, too, in that it was to have been a home away from Home for Dissenters, even above Anglicans; but happily the Irish and other Roman Catholics found their way in anyway.

If England had come back to the Faith, say, if Philip and Mary had had a child, or if the Armada had succeeded, then the patron saints of South Australia would have been the Holy Innocents, and Childermas accounted there, not a day of bad, but of good omen.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


The Holy Innocents bore witness to Christ, not by speaking, but by dying: and so they won the martyrs' crown.

In the Divine Office for their feast (a fine composition), and in a part of it online, an apposite extract is given from St Quodvultdeus, Archbishop of Carthage and Metropolitan of Africa, confessor of the Faith under the Arian Visigoths.

The Coventry Carol, with its haunting tune, and sad words, to me sums up the horror of this commemoration – the soldiers hunting out the children, bashing them against walls, slaying them with swords, the unchilded mothers screaming...

From among many versions of the Carol seen sung on YouTube:

In sympathy with the sadness of this feast, until the last pre-Conciliar reforms, the Te Deum at Matins and Gloria in excelsis at Mass were not sung on Childermas day except it fall on Sunday; and, except on Sunday, not red, but purple was worn.

As often, the Dominican Breviary puts us in touch with medieval tradition, and provides not only proper antiphons, but also proper psalms for Matins of the Holy Innocents, the antiphons drawing on and interpreting those psalms in light of the feast:

Aña i.  Novit Dominus vias Innocentium, qui non steterunt in viis peccatorum.  (Cf. Ps 1:6a, 1b; & Ps 1)

Aña ij.  Rex terræ infremuit adversus Christum: quia rex in Sion constitutus super innocentium millia regnat.  (Cf. Ps 2:1a, 2ac, 6ab; & Ps 2)

Aña iij.  Deus, judex justus, judica nos secundum innocentiam nostram.  (Cf. Ps 7:12a, 9bc; & Ps 7)

Aña iv.  Ex ore infantium, Deus, et lactentium laude perfecta, destruis inimicum.  (Cf. Ps 8:3; & Ps 8)

Aña v.  Judicabit Dominus pupillum, et viduam: et pluet super peccatores laqueos ignis.  (Cf. Ps 10:7; & Ps 10)

Aña vj.  Mortis usuras rex impius exegit super innocentes: sed illi requiescunt in monte sancto Dei; malignus ad nihilum est deductus.  (Cf. Ps 14:1b, 4a, 5ab; & Ps 14)

Aña vij.  Quis ascendit, aut quis stabit in loco sancto Dei?  Innocens manibus, et mundo corde.  (Cf. Ps 23:3-4a; & Ps 23)

Aña viij.  Innocentes adhæserunt mihi, quorum pedes avulsi sunt a laqueo mortis.  (Cf. Ps 24:21a, 15b; & Ps 24)

Aña ix.  Filio regis datum est judicium: ut salvet innocentes filios pauperem: et humiliabit Herodem calumniatorem.  (Cf. Ps 71:2b, 4bc; & Ps 71)

The last antiphon is instructive: Christ the newborn King, about Whose everlasting Reign the Royal Psalmist sings, is He to Whom judgement is given (by the Father); He shall save the innocent sons of the poor; and He shall humble Herod the proud.

The Beloved Disciple St John, Apostle and Evangelist

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.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the Feast of Stephen

I feel better after second breakfast!  Getting up early to serve Mass at Carmel was good tho' I hadn't had much sleep; Mass is always a blessing, especially with the fine sermon I heard and the way Fr says Mass with solemnity; and having said Matins, Lauds and Prime I've broken the back of today's Office; so having come back from church I had a snack.

I took the name of St Stephen the Protomartyr at my confirmation, and am glad to keep his feast.  The sermon in his honour by St Fulgentius of Ruspe (another favourite saint) is excellent, and extracts appear in both the traditional Breviary and the modern Office; I read it over again at (first) breakfast, early in the morning before leaving for Mass.  

The Church in her liturgies loves to praise and meditate on St Stephen; his twin collects (one for today, one for his former Octave Day, on the 2nd of January) are profitable:

Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus: ut discamus et inimicos diligere; quia ejus natalicia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum.  R/.  Amen.

(Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to imitate what we worship: that we may learn to love even our enemies: for we celebrate his [heavenly] birthday, who thought to pray even for his persecutors to Our Lord Jesus CHrist Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end.  R/.  Amen.)

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui primitias Martyrum in beati Levitæ Stephani sanguine dedicasti: tribue, quæsumus; ut pro nobis intercessor exsistat, qui pro suis etiam persecutoribus exoravit Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum.  R/.  Amen.

(Almighty everlasting God, Who hast consecrated the firstfruits of Thy Martyrs in the blood of blessed Stephen the Deacon; grant, we beseech Thee, that he may pray for us, even as he also prayed for his persecutors, to our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end.  R/.  Amen.)

Also, there is a excellent medieval sequence in his honour by Adam of St Victor, turned into a hymn (which omits all the last part, marked * below) much later:

Heri mundus exsultavit 
et exsultans celebravit 
Christi natalitia;
heri chorus angelorum 
prosecutus est cælorum 
regem cum lætitia.

Protomartyr et levita, 
clarus fide, clarus vita, 
clarus et miraculis, 
sub hac luce triumphavit 
et triumphans insultavit 
Stephanus incredulis.  

Fremunt ergo tamquam feræ, 
quia victi defecere, 
lucis adversarii; 
falsos testes statuunt 
et linguas exacuunt 
viperarum filii.  

Agonista, nulli cede, 
certa certus de mercede, 
persevera, Stephane!  
insta falsis testibus, 
confuta sermonibus 
synagogam Satanæ!  

Testis tuus est in cælis, 
testis verax et fidelis, 
testis innocentiæ; 
nomen habes coronati, 
te tormenta decet pati 
pro corona gloriæ.  

Pro corona non marcenti 
perfer brevis vim tormenti, 
te manet victoria; 
tibi fiet mors natalis, 
tibi pœna terminalis 
dat vitæ primordia.  

Plenus Sancto Spiritu 
penetrat intuitu 
Stephanus cælestia; 
videns Dei gloriam 
crescit ad victoriam, 
suspirat ad præmia.  

En, a dextris Dei stantem 
Jesum, pro te dimicantem, 
Stephane, considera; 
tibi cælos reserari, 
tibi Christum revelari, 
clama voce libera.  

Se commendat Salvatori, 
pro quo dulce ducit mori 
sub ipsis lapidibus, 
Saulus servat omnium 
vestes lapidantium 
lapidans in omnibus.  

Ne peccatum statuatur, 
his, a quibus lapidatur, 
genu ponit et precatur 
condolens insaniæ; 
in Christo sic obdormivit, 
qui Christo sic obœdivit 
et cum Christo semper vivit, 
martyrum primitiæ.  

* Quod sex suscitaverit 
mortuos in Africa, 
Augustinus asserit, 
fama refert publica.

Hujus Dei gratia
revelato corpore
mundo datur pluvia 
siccitatis tempore.  

Solo fugat hic odore 
morbos et dæmonia, 
laude dignus et honore 
jugique memoria.  

Martyr, cujus est jucundum 
nomen in Ecclesia, 
languescentem fove mundum 
cælesti fragrantia.

(* The last part of the Sequence refers to the miracles worked by his relics in North Africa as St Augustine reports them, and to the finding of his body near Jerusalem in 415; the feast of their finding was formerly kept on the 3rd of August.)

In the Mozarabic Rite his Mass has as first reading the account of Naboth's vineyard, and how that just and innocent man was stoned (III Kings xxi, 1-29).  

The Dominican Breviary had fine special antiphons (interpreting their respective psalms in the light of his history) for his Matins, and for the Magnificat at 1st and 2nd Vespers, which I append, together with the 9th responsory, not in the Roman books:

In primis Vesperis ad Mem.  
Aña.  Tu principium tenes in choro Martyrum, similis Angelo, qui pro te lapidantibus Deum deprecatus es: beate Stephane, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum.

Ad Matutinum.
Aña j.  Beatus Stephanus jugi legis Dei meditatione roboratus, tanquam lignum fructiferum secus salutarium aquarum plantatum decursus, fructum martyrii in tempore suo dedit primus.  (Cf. Ps 1:1a, 2b, 3)

Aña ij.  Constitutus a Deo prædicator præceptorum ejus, in timore sancto illi servire studuit: officioque fideliter peracto, in montem sanctum ejus ascendere dignus fuit.  (Cf. Ps 2:6, 11)

Aña iij.  In tribulatione lapidum se prementium positus, millia populi se circumdantis non timuit: quia susceptorem suum Jesum, ut eum salvum faceret, exurgere in cœlo vidit.  (Cf. Ps 3:6)

Aña iv.  Lumine vultus tui, Domine, insignitus Protomartyr Stephanus sacrificium justitiæ seipsum tibi sacrificavit ideoque in lætitia cordis in pace obdormiens requiescit.  (Cf. Ps 4:7a, 6a, 7b, 9)

Aña v.  Benedictionis tuæ, Domine, munere justificatus et scuto tuæ protectionis in passione munitus nominis sui coronam Stephanus a te percipere meruit.  (Cf. Ps 5:14, 15)

Aña vj.  O quam admirabile est nomen tuum, Domine Deus noster, pro quo beatus Stephanus passus gloria et honore a te est coronatus et super cœlos dono tuæ magnificentiæ exaltatus.  (Cf. Ps 8:1, 2, 6)

Aña vij.  In Domino Deo suo confisus fortis athleta Stephanus lapidum fortiter sustinuit utus et idcirco ad montem virtutum transmigravit victoriosus.  (Cf. Ps 10:1)

Aña viij.  Sine macula beatus Stephanus ingressus est, Domine, in tabernaculum tuum et quia operatus est justitiam requiescit in monte sancto tuo.  (Cf. Ps 14:1, 2)

Aña ix.  Domine, virtus et lætitia rectorum, quoniam prævenisti dilectum tibi Stephanum dono gratuite benedictionis te primum secutus est morte gloriose passionis unde cum corona martyrum dedisti ei vitam in sæculum sæculi.  (Cf. Ps 20:1a, 3, 4, 6)

R/. ix.  Sancte Dei pretiose Protomartyr Stephane, qui virtute charitatis circumfultus undique, Dominum pro inimico exorasti populo: * Funde preces  Pro devoto tibi nunc collegio.  V/.  Ut tuo propitiatus interventu, Dominus nos purgatos a peccatis jungat cœli civibus. * Funde preces.  Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. Pro devoto tibi nunc collegio.

In secundis Vesperis.
Magn. Aña.  O quam gloriosus est beatus Stephanus Martyr, et Levita, qui ante Apostolos regna cœlestia possidere meruit et ad Patris dexteram Filium videre!

Once upon a time, St Stephen's day was kept as the feast of deacons.  I extend a special feastday greeting and congratulations to one of the world's newest deacons, a friend of mine, Rev. Mannes Tellis, O.P., just ordained on the 22nd of December.

St Stephen's day was also kept as the feast of All Martyrs.  Likewise, St John the Evangelist's day – tomorrow – was regarded in medieval days as the feast of priests.  

Nowadays, many keep Childermas (the feast of the Holy Innocents, two days hence) as a day to commemorate victims of abortion.  While I do not think they can properly be regarded as martyrs, it is certainly right to pray and work for an end to this wicked crime (demographic suicide, in the decadent, corrupted West), while always recalling, as Paul VI predicted, that the introduction of unnatural birth prevention, far from curtailing such horrors, has lead to a great increase in women being forced into abortion, by irresponsible and callous men, and that such women deserve prayers and support much more than condemnation – for too often they themselves most loathe themselves for what they were forced into, and suffer terribly.