Taken from The New Roman Missal by Fr Lasance (1945)
APRIL 25-ST. MARK
The Greater Litanies
Collecta at the Title of Lucina.
Station at St. Peter
The Litanies and the Mass of Rogation for this day are of ancient origin, except the Introit, which in early days was replaced by the Litany in processions. The feast of St. Mark Is of much later origin.
The pagan festival, Robigalia, occurred on April 25th; young people used to go across the Milvian bridge to sacrifice to Robigus who preserved grain from blight. The Christian procession formed at St. Lawrence in Lucina and went by the Flaminian Way over the same bridge, where the sign In hoc singo vinces appeared to Constantine. Then going along the Tiber, passing in back of Castel Sant Angelo entered St. Peter’s. The people were thus taught that it was not the favor of the heathen god, but a devout life, humble prayer, and the intercession of the saints, especially that of St. Peter, the Pastor ovium, which would disarm the justice of God offended by our sins. This rite is called the Greater Litanies, because it was of a much more solemn nature than the ordinary stational litanies.
The procession is a’ survival of classical tradition incorporated into religious customs; the Church preferred to give a spiritual significance to observances implanted in the hearts of the people, rather than suppress them partially.
The Litany still preserves the very ancient type of prayer which ended the night vigil and served as a transition between the vigil Office and the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. The oldest part of the Litany is that which begins with the words “Through the mystery of thy holy incarnation” which belongs to primitive Christianity.
The whole Mass shows us how highly we should value prayer. Even in the middle of the night, and even to the extent of seeming -importunate, our prayers should rise to God, because our miseries and our weaknesses are so numerous, and because God has decreed that His grace shall be granted to us only on the wings of prayer.
St. Mark, who was by birth a Jew, was converted to the Faith by St. Peter, whom he afterward accompanied to Rome, as secretary or interpreter. St. Peter sent him to Alexandria in Egypt, and he was first bishop of that city. He governed his See for about twenty years and in the end was martyred, A.D. 70, by the heathen. His symbol is a lion, for his Gospel begins with the mission of John the Baptist in the desert and the voice of the lion resounds in desert places.
MONDAY AFTER THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Station at St. Mary Major.
In Rome, the Litanies on St. Mark’s day had a festal character. The triduum of penitential litanies before the feast of the Ascension was first instituted at Vienne by St. Mamertus about the year 470, and was accompanied by fasting ant abstention from servile work. When Rome adopted this custom the fast was abolished, and the three days’ prayer retained. The procession and Mass followed the same order as on April 25.
TUESDAY AFTER THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Station at St. John Lateran.
This station is a proof of the late introduction of the Rogations into the Roman Liturgy. The Lateran Basilica is no longer called the Basilica of the Savior, but of St. John the Baptist, to whom is thus given the place immediately after the Blessed Virgin and before the Apostle Peter. St. John the Baptist is the type of that penitence which disposes us to ask for and to obtain grace. The procession and Mass followed the same order as on April 25.
WEDNESDAY BEFORE THE ASCENSION
Station at St. Peter.
This station at the Vatican Basilica on the last day of the Rogations was instituted out of veneration for the tomb of the Apostle, and in order to assimilate as far as possible the lesser litanies to the greater ones of April 25 which ended at the Basilica of St. Peter. The Litany of the Saints is a jewel of ancient prayer; in its present form it dates from the Tenth Century. The names of the saints are the glory of the Church; the thought of them fills us with hope. The. procession and Mass followed the same order as an April 25.