Its only in this last week before Christmas that we begin to hear about the Christmas story itself. For the past weeks we have been preparing ourselves to greet the Lord, when he comes. Now we prepare to remember how he first came, by listening to the prophecies of his coming, and by hearing of the events before his birth. We meet the woman, Mary, who herself had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. She has received the angels greeting, and his strange news, and has accepted her role in Gods plan. Now she hurries to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who herself bears John the Baptist in her womb. John, just as we heard last week, alerts us to the presence of the Lord, as he leaps for joy in his mothers womb. His joy is that God has kept his promise, and is with his people.
O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the gentiles/nations and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
During Advent, the Voice of the Word, the greatest man born of woman, St. John the Baptist calls for us to prepare the way for the Lord who is coming. The Lord is coming by the straight path, whether we have straightened it or not.
The Baptist’s message has it its core his own mission statement: He must increase, I must decrease.
In life we experience many different forms of “straightening” and “decreasing”.
Chief among them is rejection, with the pain that comes with it.
The King who is coming sacramentally and liturgically at Bethlehem teaches us how to empty ourselves and how to endure the emptying which comes from the vicissitudes of our fallen state, our face to face and heart to heart meetings with cruelty, malice and indifference.
From Fr Zuhldorf
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
We are all desperately in need of a Saviour, a Redeemer who is capable of ransoming from the darkness of our sins and from the blinding and numbing wound of ignorance from which we all suffer. In their terrible Fall, our First Parents inflicted grave wounds in the souls of every person who would live after them, except of course – by an act of singular grace – the Mother of God. Our wills are damaged. Our intellect is clouded. In Christ we have the Truth, the sure foundation of what is lasting. All else, apart from Him fails and fades into dark obscurity. He brings clarity and light back to our souls when we are baptized or when we return to Him through the sacrament of penance.
At Holy Mass we face “East”, at least symbolically, so that we can greet the Coming of the Saviour, both in the consecration of the bread and wine and in the expectation of the glorious return of the King of Glory. We turn to the rising sun who is Justice Itself, whose light will lay bare the truth of our every word, thought and deed in the Final Day. (Ed. Fr Alex)
This is the Solstice day, for the Northern Hemisphere the day which provides us with the least daylight of the year. From this point onward in the globe’s majestic arc about the sun, we of the north, benefit from increasing warmth and illumination. It is as if God in His Wisdom, provided within the framework of the cosmos object lessons by which we might come to grasp something of His good plan for our salvation.
Let us turn to the LIGHT, repent our evil ways and habits, and grasp onto Christ in His Holy Church,
From a reflection by Fr Zuhldorf
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come, to deliver us, and tarry not.
What urgency there is this antiphon. Something that lies below the earth (a root) stands high unto the heavens like a banner! Vexilia Regis Prodeunt we sing in Lent... what is a little root during Advent becomes by Lent the Tree of our salvation. Isaiah 11:10 gives us imagery for our reflection today. The great prophet of Advent tells us that the kingdom of David would be destroyed, but not entirely destroyed. A root would remain. Jesse is David's father. David is Jesse's root. David leads to Christ. After the destruction there remains a root. No matter what the exigencies of life present to us or how turbulent the vicissitudes of the passing world may be, when we cling to the root we are sure to be victorious in the end.
From a reflection by Fr Zuhldorf
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento..
O Lord and Ruler the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.
"Adonai" is "LORD." It was the Hebrew word that the Jews used when they found the four-lettered word for God's name which they held to be too sacred to pronounce aloud. Christ is Lord of Creation. We sang this yesterday in the antiphon "O Sapientia". Christ is also Lord of the Covenant with the People He chose. The Lord made covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses. He guided them and all the People. He gave them Law. He protected and feed them. The Lord delivered them from bondage to Pharaoh and unending slavery. He went before them with arm outstretched.
This was all a pre-figuring of the great work of redemptions that Christ would work on the Cross. He redeemed us His People from Satan and the eternal damnation of hell. He once appeared clothed in the burning bush that was not consumed by fire. He is about to appear again clothed in flesh in our liturgical celebration of Christmas. He will appear again one day in the future to judge the living and the dead. Each day He appears to us in the person of our neighbour.
What amazing contrasts we find in our Lord! He came in thunder and lightening to give the Law on Mt. Sinai. He comes now in swaddling clothes. He will come again in glory. He comes humbly in the appearance of Bread and Wine.
He still goes before us with outstretched arm and our foes are put to flight at the sight of His banner.
From a reflection by Fr Zuhldorf
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.
On December 17th we enter into that final stretch of our Advent preparation. In the Church's solemn prayer of the hours, at Vespers, the great "O Antiphons" are sung. Today we have the first.
Each of the "O Antiphons" carries Old Testament biblical figures. At the same time each one carries an element of the New Covent. These two characteristics are juxtaposed and a third dimension emerges which serves as a point of meditation when considering the Incarnate Word, the Son of God made flesh.
In today's "O Antiphon" - "O Sapientia" - we are drawn into the Old Testament's wisdom literature. Wisdom is a divine attribute. The divine Wisdom is personified. Wisdom is the beloved daughter who was before Creation, Wisdom is the breath of God's power, Wisdom is the shining of God's (transforming) glory. (See Sirach 24:3 and Wisdom 8:1.)
Wisdom is also something which we deeply desire. It is also a human attribute, not just a divine attribute, though authentic human wisdom is never separated from a relationship with God. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as we learn from the psalms as well as the school of personal hard-knocks. From this convergence of awesome respect for God with the experience of learning through life's mysterious calendar, we understand (if we are wise) that wisdom is more than mere knowledge. It is something more than love. It is something more than just a special astuteness regarding how to get along in life. Rooted as it is in fear of the Lord, true human wisdom is both love and that knowledge of God that seeks to understand, the knowledge that is completed by faith.
"Prudence" comes from the Latin "to see/look ahead". It is one of the four "cardinal" virtues, one which other virtues depend. Prudence is a habit of the intellect that allows us to see in any circumstance what is virtuous and what is not. Prudence helps us to seek what is virtuous and avoid what is not. Prudence perfects the intellect (rather than the will) in practical decisions. It determines which course of action must be taken. It indicates what the golden mean is hic et nunc...here and now. This mean is at the core of every virtue. Without the virtue of prudence courage becomes foolhardiness... rushing in to the wrong danger in the wrong way at the wrong time. Without the governing of prudence mercy devolves into slackness and enervated weakness, spinelessness.
Today in the opening "O Antiphon" we sing to Emmanuel who is coming. We plead with Him, for He orders all things "sweetly and strongly." He teaches us how to avoid things that harm us, both in material concerns and in our pursuit of the happiness of heaven. He teaches us true prudence.
Take stock: is there something going on in my life that needs to be examined in prudence? Am I doing something which is going to be an obstacle to the happiness of heaven? Christ is coming, both at Christmas as the infant King and the end of the world as the Judge and King of fearful majesty. This is a cause to rejoice. But it is also cause to prepare prudently and well the way of the Lord and make straight His paths before He comes, as we heard about on "Gaudete" ("Rejoice!) Sunday of Advent.
From a reflection by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday Rejoice Sunday. This comes from the readings we hear today, and it underlines an important point. In the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist telling different groups what to do - they must repent, and change their lives. We might think of this as a rather joyless thing - something which is hard and unrewarding. The message of this Sunday is that repentance and changing our lives to welcome Jesus is something richly joyful. When we are planning to welcome anyone we love to our homes, we set about cleaning and preparing for their visit with enthusiasm - nothing is too much trouble for someone we care for greatly. Even scrubbing the bath or polishing the furniture can be a happy and joyful thing! The message of this Sunday is that preparing to welcome the Lord - even though it may involve hard work - is something utterly joyful, be cause of our love for Him, and His love for us.
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