Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. iii.

For behold the sovereign the Lord of hosts shall take away from Jerusalem and from Juda the valiant and the strong, the whole strength of bread, and the whole strength of water; the strong man, and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the cunning man, and the ancient, the captain over fifty, and the honorable in countenance, and the counsellor, and the architect, and the skillful in eloquent speech. And I will give children to be their princes; and the effeminate shall rule over them. For Jerusalem is ruined, and Juda is fallen, because their tongue and their devices are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his majesty. The show of their countenance hath answered them, and they have proclaimed abroad their sin as Sodom, and they have not hid it. Woe to their souls, for evils are rendered to them! Say to the just man that it is well, for he shall eat the fruit of his doings. Woe to the wicked unto evil! for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

 

Jerusalem is tending to her destruction; therefore she is losing all power, and, with the rest, the power of understanding. She no longer knows whither she is going, and she sees not the abyss into which she is plunging.  Such are all those men, who never give a thought to the coming of the sovereign Judge; they are men of whom Moses said in his canticle: ‘They are a nation without counsel and without wisdom. O that they would be wise and would understand, and would provide for their last end!’ The Son of God comes now in the swaddling-clothes of a weak Babe, in the humility of a servant, and, to speak with the prophets, as the dew which falls softly drop by drop; but it will not always be so. This earth also, which now is the scene of our sins and our hardheartedness, will perish before the face of the angry Judge; and if we have made it the one object of our love, to what shall we then cling?  ‘A sudden death which has happened in your presence,’ says St. John Chrysostom, or an earthquake, or the bare threat of some dire calamity, terrifies and prostrates you: what then shall it be when the whole earth shall sink beneath your feet; when you shall see all nature in disorder; when you shall hear the sound of the last trumpet; when the sovereign Master of the universe shall appear before you in the fulness of His majesty? Perchance you have seen criminals dragged to punishment: did they not seem to die twenty times before they reached the place of execution, and before the executioner could lay his hands on them, fear had crushed out life?’ Oh! the terror of that last day! How is it that men can expose themselves to such misery, when, to avoid it, they have but to open their hearts to Him, who is now coming to them in gentlest love, asking them to give Him a place in their souls, and promising to shelter them from the wrath to come, if they will but receive Him! O Jesus, who can withstand Thy anger at the last day? Now Thou art our Brother, our Friend, a little Child who is to be born for us: we will therefore make covenant with Thee; so that, loving Thee in now in Thy first coming, we may not fear Thee in the second. When Thou comest in that second one, bid Thy angels approach us, and say to us those thrilling words: ‘It is well!’

Hymn of Advent

From the Roman Breviary, the Office of Matins

O sovereign Word, begotten of the bosom of the eternal Father, yet born in the fleeting course of time, thou bringest succour to the world.

Enlighten now our hearts, and inflame them with thy love, that, being detached from earthly things, they may be filled with the joys of heaven.

That when from his tribunal the Judge shall condemn the wicked to the flames, and lovingly call the good to the heaven they have won,

We may not be hurled into the dark pool of fire, but, admitted to the vision of God, may enjoy the bliss of heaven.

To the Father, and to the Son, and to thee, O Holy Ghost, may there ever be, as there ever hath been, glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer from the Mozarabic Missal

In the Mass of the fourth Sunday of Advent

It is meet an djust, and available to us in all things, that we always should extol, by all possible praises, thy us clemency, O almighty Father, who who didst create us in holiness and nobleness, and, when the fraud of the old serpent  had seduced us, didst in pure mercy deliver us from death. Thou didst foretell, in past ages, that the Son, whom thou wast to send in the flesh for us, would come on this earth and would be born of a s Virgin, and by thy holy prophets didst foretell the advent of his birth; and this to the end that he who had been promised, having been long expected, might give great joy to the world when he should come in the fulness of time. Wherefore we pray and beseech thee, that thou, who didst not suffer thy creature to perish, because thou art truly compassionate and merciful, but didst restore what was lost by the humble coming of thy Son, wouldst now so protect, so keep, so heal, so defend, so free, what thou hast found and repaired and restored, that in that dread coming, whereby thy Son shall come a second time to judge those by whom and for whom he himself was judged, he may so find the creatures that he has redeemed, that he may eternally possess those whom he purchased with the price of his Blood.

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger O.S.B.

 

Come, let us adore Our Lord and King, who is about to come to us!

From the Prophet Isaias.
Ch. ii.

The word that Isaias the son of Amos saw concerning Juda and Jerusalem. And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills: and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go, and say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob : and he will teach us his ways: and we will walk in his paths, for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

 

How the Church loves to hear and say these grand words of the prophet: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord! She repeats them in the Lauds of every feria in Advent; and her children bless the Lord, who, that we might have no difficulty in finding Him, has made Himself like to a high mountain; high, indeed, yet can we all ascend it. It is true that, at first, this mountain is, as we learn from another prophet, a small stone which is scarcely perceptible, and this to show the humility of the Messias at His birth ; but it soon becomes great, and all people see it, and are invited to dwell on its fertile slopes, yea, to go up to its very summit, bright with the rays of the Sun of justice. It is thus, O Jesus, that Thou callest us all, and that Thou approachest towards all, and the greatness and sublimity of Thy mysteries are put within the reach of our littleness. We desire to join, without delay, that happy multitude of people which is journeying on towards Thee ; we are already with them; we are resolved to fix our tent under Thy shadow, 0 Mountain ever blessed ! There shelter us, and let us be out of reach of the noise of the world beneath us. Suffer us to go so far up, that we may lose all sight of that same world’s vanities. May we never forget those paths which lead even to the blissful summit, where the mountain, the figure, disappears, and the soul finds herself face to face with Him, whose vision eternally keeps the angels in rapture, and whose delight is to be with the children of men! (Prov. 8:31.)

Hymn for the Time of Advent

Composed in the ninth century, and taken from the hymnarium of B. Joseph-Maria Tommasi

May the sun, and stars, and land, and sea, sound forth the coming of the most high God: may the rich and poor unite their songs of praise to the Son of the supreme Creator !
He is the Savior promised to our fathers; the glorious offspring of a Virgin: the Son of the mighty God born of him before the morning star. He is the King of glory, and is coming to rule as God over kings, trample our wicked enemy beneath his feet, and heal this sick world of ours.
Let the angels rejoice and let all nations exult; he that is high is coming in lowliness to save what had been lost.
A God-Man is born, and the holy Trinity reigns; the Son co-eternal with the Father, our Lord, descends upon our earth.
Let the prophets cry out, and prophesy: Emmanuel is nigh unto us. Let the tongues of the dumb speak, and ye, poor lame ones, run to meet him.
Let the lamb and the wild beast feed with each other: let the ox and the ass know him that lies in the manger.
The royal glittering standard ushers in our divine Chief: ye kings prepare your gifts for the noble and royal Babe.
O the blessed message sent to the Virgin Mary ! By believing she conceives; she is a Mother, and a Virgin knowing not man.
All ye nations and islands applaud this grand triumph. Run swiftly as the stag, lo ! the Redeemer is coming.
Let the eyes of the blind, who have been sitting in darkness, now learn to throw off the murky night, and open to the true light.
Let Galilee, and Greece, and Persia, and India, receive the faith: a God deigns to become man, and remains the Word with the Father.
Praise, honor, power, glory, be to God the Father, and to the Son, together with the Holy Ghost, for eternal ages.
Amen.

Prayer from the Gallican Missal

O God, whose nature and property is goodness, and with whom there is no change, be propitious to our prayers, and show to thy Church that mercy of thine which we confess; show to thy people the wonderful mystery of thy only-begotten Son; that thus, what thou hast promised by the Gospel of thy Word, may be fulfilled by all nations coming to the faith, and the testimony of truth may be verified by the completion of adoption. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. I

Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, learn to do well; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

 

The Savior, who is so soon to be with us and to save us, warns us not only to prepare ourselves to appear before Him, but also to purify our souls. “For it is most just,” says St. Bernard, “that the soul, which was the first to fall, should be the first to rise. Let us therefore defer caring for the body, until the day when Jesus Christ will come and reform it by the Resurrection; for, in the first coming, the Precursor says to us: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.’ Observe, he says not the maladies of the body, nor the miseries of the flesh; he says sins, which are the malady of the soul, and the corruption of the spirit. Take heed, then, thou my body, and wait for thy turn and time* Thou canst hinder the salvation of the soul, and thine own safety is not within thy reach. Let the soul labour for herself, and strive thou too to help her, for if thou sharest in her sufferings thou wilt share in her glory. Retard her perfection, and thou re-tardest thine own. Thou wilt not be regenerated until God sees His own image restored in the soul.” (Sixth Sermon of Advent)

Let us, then, purify our souls. Let us do the works of the spirit, not the deeds of the flesh. Our Savior’s promise is most clear; He will turn the deep dye of our iniquities into the purest whiteness. He asks but one thing of us : that we sin no more. He says to us :  “Cease to do perversely, and then come and accuse Me”, come and complain against Me, if I do not cleanse you. O Jesus ! we will not defer a single day of this holy season ; we accept, from this moment, the conditions Thou offerest us. We sincerely desire to make our peace with Thee; to bring the flesh into subjection to our spirit, to make good all the injustice we have committed against our neighbor, and to hush, by the sighs of our heart-felt compunction, that voice of our sins which has so long cried to Thee for vengeance.

 

Prose for the Time of Advent

Composed in the eleventh century, and taken from the ancient Roman-French missals

Thou our eternal salvation, the never-failing light of the world.
Light everlasting and our true redemption.
Moved with compassion to see the human race perish by its idolatry offered to its very tempter.
Thou didst descend to these depths of our misery, yet not leaving thine own high throne above.
Then, by thy own gratuitous love, assuming our human nature,
Thou didst save all on earth that was lost.
Giving joy to this world.
Come, O Christ, purify our souls and bodies.
And make them thy own pure abode.
Justify us by thy first coming.
And in thy second, deliver us;
That so, when thou judgest all things, on the day of the great light,
We may be adorned with a spotless robe, and may follow thy footsteps wheresoever they are seen. Amen.

Prayer from the Ambrosian Breviary

O almighty God! grant, we beseech thee, unto all this thy family, the desire of meeting, by good works, thy Son, Christ our Lord, who is coming to us; that being placed on his right hand, we may deserve the possession of the heavenly kingdom. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen

First Sunday of Advent

Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.

“This Sunday, the first of the ecclesiastical year, is called, in the chronicles and charts of the middle ages, Ad te levavi Sunday, from the first words of the Introit; or, Aspiciens a longe, from the first words of one of the responsories of Matins.

The Station * is at St. Mary Major’s. It is under the auspices of Mary – in the splendid basilica which possesses the crib of Bethlehem, and is therefore called, in ancient documents, St. Mary’s ad Praesepe – that the Roman Church recommences, each year, the sacred cycle. It would have been impossible to select a place more suitable than this for saluting the approach of the divine birth, which is to gladden heaven and earth, and manifest the sublime portent of a Virgin Mother. Let us go in spirit to this august temple, and unite in the prayers which are there being offered up: they are the very ones we also use, and which we will now explain.

[* The Stations marked in the Roman missal for certain days in the year, were formerly processions, in which the whole clergy and people went to some given church, and there celebrated the Office and Mass. This usage, which dates from the earliest period of the Roman Church, and of which St. Gregory the Great was but the restorer, still exists, at least in a measure; for the Stations are still observed, though with less solemnity and concourse of people, on all the days specified in the missal.]

In the night Office, the Church commences the reading of the Book of Isaias, who, of all the Prophets, has the most distinctly and explicitly foretold the Messias; and she continues this same Book until Christmas day inclusively. Let us strive to enter into the teaching of the holy prophet, and let the eye of our faith affectionately recognize the promised Saviour in the descriptions, sometimes consoling and sometimes terrifying, under which Isaias depicts Him.

The first words of the Church, in the still midnight, are these:

Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come.

 

This first duty of adoration complied with, let us listen to the oracle of the prophet Isaias, delivered to us by the holy Church.

Beginning of the Book of the Prophet Isaias.

“The vision of Isaias, the son of Amos, which ho saw concerning Juda and Jerusalem, in the days of Ozias, Joathan, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda. Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have brought up children, and exalted them: but they have despised me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood. Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children. They have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. For what shall I strike you any more, you that increase transgression? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein; wounds, and bruises, and swelling sores; they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil.”

 

These words of the holy prophet, or rather of God who speaks to us by the prophet, should make a deep impression on the children of the Church, at this opening of the holy period of Advent. Who could hear without trembling this voice of our Lord, who is despised and unknown even at the very time when He is coming to visit His people? Lest men should be terrified at the splendour of His majesty, He divested Himself of it; and far from acknowledging the divine power of Him who thus humbled Himself out of love to them, these men have refused even to know Him; and the crib where He lay after His birth, had, at first, but two dumb animals to honour or notice it. Do you feel, Christians, how just are the complaints which your God here makes? And how your indifference for all His love is an insult? He calls heaven and earth to witness; He utters anathema against the sinful nation, His ungrateful children. Let us honestly confess that we, too, have not known the value of our Jesus’ visit to us, and that we have but too faithfully imitated the obduracy of the Jews, who heeded not the bright light when it burst upon their darkness. In vain did the angels sing on that December night; in vain did shepherds receive and welcome the invitation to adore the Babe and know Him; in vain did the Magi come from the east, asking where they were to find the crib of the King that was born. At this last example, the city of Jerusalem was somewhat moved; but the astonishment was only for a moment, and the old indifference soon stifled the good tidings.

Thus it is, O Jesus, that Thou comest unto darkness, and darkness does not comprehend Thee. We beseech Thee, let our darkness comprehend the light, and desire it. The day will come when Thou wilt disperse the spiritual and voluntary darkness of men by the awful light of Thy justice. Thy glory, O sovereign Judge, will be magnificent on that day, and we love to think upon Thy having it: but during these days of our life on earth, deliver us from Thy wrath. We are one great wound from the sole of the foot unto the top of the head; Thou knowest not where to strike: be, then, a Saviour, O Jesus, in this coming, for which we are now preparing. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad: come, and raise up this head which shame and vile passions bow down to the earth. Come, and comfort this heart oppressed with sin and fear. We confess it, our wounds are deep and sore; come, thou good Samaritan, pour in Thy soothing oil and heal them.

The whole world is in expectation of its Redeemer; come, dear Jesus, show Thyself to it by granting it salvation. The Church, Thy bride, is now commencing another year, and her first word is to Thee, a word which she speaks in the anxious solicitude of a mother for the safety of her children; she cries out to Thee, saying: ‘Come!’ No, we will go no farther in our journey through the desert of this life without Thee, O Jesus! Time is passing quickly away from us; our day is perhaps far spent, and the shades of our life’s night are fast coming on; arise, O divine Sun of justice. Come! guide our steps and save us from eternal death.

 

Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans.

Ch. xiii.
“Brethren, know that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

The Saviour, then, who is coming to us is the clothing which we are to put on over our spiritual nakedness. Here let us admire the goodness of our God, who, remembering that man hid himself after his sin, because he was naked, vouchsafes Himself to become man’s clothing, and to cover with the robe of His Divinity the misery of human nature. Let us, therefore, be on the watch for the day and the hour when He will come to us, and take precautions against the drowsiness which comes of custom and self-indulgence. The light will soon appear; may its first rays be witness of our innocence, or at least of our repentance. If our Saviour is coming to put over our sins a covering which is to hide them for ever, the least that we, on our part, can do, is to retain no further affection for those sins, else it will be said of us that we refused our salvation. The last words of this Epistle are those which caught the eye of St. Augustine, when, after a long resistance to the grace which pressed him to give himself to God, he resolved to obey the voice which said to him: ‘Tolle lege; take and read.’ They decided his conversion; he immediately resolved to abandon the worldly life he had hitherto led, and to put on Christ Jesus. Let us begin this very day, and imitate this saint.

 

Sequel of the holy  Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. xxi.
“At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea, and of the waves; men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world: for the powers of the heavens shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them a similitude: See the fig-tree and all the trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away.”

Thou art to come, then, O Jesus, in all the terror of the last judgement, and when men least expect Thee. In a few days Thou art coming to us to clothe our misery with the garment of Thy mercy; a garment of glory and immortality to us; but Thou art to come again on a future day, and in such dread majesty that men will wither away with fear. O my Saviour! condemn me not on that day of the world’s destruction. Visit me now in Thy love and mercy; I am resolved to prepare my soul. I desire that Thou shouldst come and be born within me, so that when the convulsions of nature warn me of Thy coming to judge me, I may lift up my head, as Thou biddest Thy faithful disciples do, who, when the rest of men shall tremble at the thunder of Thy judgement, will have confidence in Thee, because they have Thee in their hearts.

 

Preparing for Christmas

The Advent Season

The Church year begins as the worldly year ends. The Church waits in silent expectation for the great feast of Christmas while the world goes about its preparation by feverish activity and an ever increasing “busy-ness”. The Church encourages her children to acts of mortification so that they may have a  better prayer life, while the world pushes for more “Christmas spirit” through more and more bodily pleasures through eating, drink, music and any other means.

As in all things, the Church is “not of this world”. Though many things of a spiritual nature find an echo in nature – since God has designed both – the fallen nature of man is diametrically opposed to the spiritual. Is it any surprise that the Church’s preparation for Christmas should be quite contrary to that of the world?

Though the Church does not decree a 40 day fast as She does for Lent, still She wishes us to enter deeply into a spirit of prayer and self-denial. While we may not have the benefit of being in a monastery or religious house like so many saints in the past, we can certainly make some changes to our daily routine to accommodate this spirit. One such means is daily spiritual reading.

Spiritual Reading

Spiritual reading should be done every day, not just during Advent and Lent. It is almost impossible in our day to make any spiritual progress, or to do what is necessary to  preserve sanctifying grace  in our soul without the aid of spiritual reading. Our minds need to be filled with good thoughts, spiritual lessons, high standards, moral guidance – truth. We get only the opposite from the world around us.

“When we pray, we speak to God; when we read, God speaks to us.” Who could be so arrogant as to believe that there is no need for guidance from God, His Church and the Saints? Who could be so proud as to consider himself able to withstand the spiritual and moral assault that surrounds us without having recourse to instruction? It would be easier to be dropped in the middle of a great dessert with no food, water or directions than to be in this world and guided only by our own thoughts and inclinations.

Let it be a resolution of this new Church year to put greater emphasis on spiritual reading. Such a resolution will be greatly blessed by God if we keep to it.

For the season  of Advent, I will be putting up excerpts from the excellent work, The Liturgical Year, by Dom Gueranger. These readings will contain the epistle and gospel for each mass for the Advent season with a brief commentary by Dom Gueranger. This series of books has greatly helped me in the past to enter more and more into the spirit of the Church and to understand a great deal about her history and tradition and I highly encourage them.

Remember how the conversion of the great St. Augustine came about through a brief reading of Sacred Scripture, and  consider how much good would have been left undone if he had resisted the inspiration to take up that book and read.

What great good is being left undone by my own neglect of spiritual reading?