Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent

[Station at the Twelve Apostles]

Whereas the Church during the whole year offers her prayers to God the Father in union with Jesus Christ, during Advent she addresses herself directly to the Word, and not to the Word Incarnate, as is shown by today’s Collect. Only on the Second Sunday does she entreat God the Father to prepare our hearts for the coming of His Son; but she asks this of God without laying stress on the mediation of Christ. The Liturgy reminds us, indeed, during these four weeks of the time during which the world was without Jesus. This Mediator we now await, and since we can go to God only through Him, we implore Him to hasten His coming (in the Collect), and in the Alleluia we plead “Come, 0 Lord, and tarry not.”

The Gradual reminds us that “The Lord is nigh,” and it is Mary who is about to give Him to us. The Offertory and the Communion are consecrated to His praises. In the Offertory especially, we find the Ave Maria, in which the Church in a single salutation combines the words of the Angel and those of St. Elizabeth, which were given us in the Gospels of the preceding Wednesday and Friday.

As Dom Prosper Guéranger has it, then,

[T]he Church makes a last effort to stir up the devotion of her children. She leads them to the desert; she shows them John the Baptist, upon whose mission she instructed them on the third Sunday. The voice of the austere Precursor resounds through the wilderness, and penetrates even into the cities. It preaches penance, and the obligation men are under of preparing, by self purification, for the Coming of Christ. Let us retire from the world during these next few days; or if that may not be by reason of our external duties, let us retire into the quiet of our own hearts and confess our iniquities, as did those true Israelites who came, full of compunction and of faith in the Messias, to the Baptist, there to make perfect their preparation for worthily receiving the Redeemer, on the day of his appearing to the world.

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