Station at the Church of the Twelve Apostles
Like the whole liturgy of this season, the purpose of the Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is to prepare us for the twofold coming of Christ: His coming in mercy at Christmas; and in justice at the end of the world. Allusion is made to the first in the Introit, Gospel, Offertory and Communion, and to the second in the Epistle; while the Collect, Gradual and Alleluia can be applied to either of the two.
In this mass we meet once again with the three great figures that are before the mind of the Church throughout Advent, Isaias, St. John the Baptist, and our Lady. The prophet Isaias foretells of St. John the Baptist that he will be "A voice of one crying in the wilderness : Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths ... and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." And "the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the Baptism of penance for the remission of sins " (Gospel). "John," St. Gregory explains, "told those who hurried in crowds to be baptised: "Ye brood of vipers, who hath told you to flee from the wrath to come?" Now the wrath to come is the final chastisement, which the sinner will not be able to escape unless he have recourse now to the lamentations of penance. The friend of the Bridegroom warns us to bring forth not fruits merely of penance but worthy fruits. These words are a call to each man's conscience, bidding him lay up by means of penance a treasure of good works,the greater in proportions to the ravage of sin which caused it" (3rd Noct.). And St. Leo says, "God Himself teaches us by the prophet Isaias: I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, and I will turn the darkness before them into light and I will not forsake them."
The Apostle St. John makes clear to us, the way in which this mystery is fulfilled, when he says, " And we know that the Son of God is come. And He hath given us understanding that we may know the true God and may be in His true Son " (2nd Noct.). The liturgy continues : Because of the great love that God has manifested towards us He has sent on earth His only begotten Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. Also in the Communion sentence the Church recalls to us the prophecy of Isaias : " Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son : and His name shall be called Emmanuel." And again, in the Offertory, she combines in a single salutation the words addressed to our Lady by the archangel and by St. Elizabeth. St. Gregory writes : " Gabriel, whose name means Strength of God, is sent to Mary, since he comes to announce the Messias whose will it is, to appear in humiliation and abasement, in order to subdue all the powers of the air. It was fitting that He should be heralded by Gabriel the c strength of God '; He, who was to come as the Lord of Might, the All-powerful and Unconquerable in battle, to crush the powers of the air in universal defeat" (Sermon 35).
In the Collect, just as we are reminded of the display of our Lord's "great might" which will take place at the time of His second coming, when as supreme Judge, He will come in the splendour of His divine Majesty to render to each according to His works, so we find an allusion to this same great power manifested in His first coming. It was as one clothed in His weak and mortal human nature that our Lord put the Devil to flight.
As we think of our Lord as nigh at hand in one or other of His " comings", let us say, with the Church, "Come, Lord Jesus, and tarry not."
Rorate coeli desuper, et nubes pluant Justum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem. * Coeli enarrant gloriam Dei: et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum.Drop down Dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour. * The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the works of His hands.
(Isaias 45:8 and Psalm 18:2 from the Introit of Mass)
Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni, et magna nobis virtute succurre: ut per auxilium gratiae tuae quod nostra peccata praepediunt, indulgentia tuae propitiationis acceleret.
Stir up Thy power and come, we pray Thee, O Lord, and with great might succour us; that our deliverance, which our sins impede, may be hastened by the help of Thy grace and the forgiveness of Thy mercy.(Collect)
Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.
Brethren, let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man's day : but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything: yet am I not hereby justified, but He that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come; who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts : and then shall every man have praise from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:1-5)
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high priests Annas and Caiphas, the word of the Lord came to John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins: as it was written in the book of the words of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight his paths: every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
(St Luke 3:1-6)
Antiphons from Vespers
1. Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is near: behold He shall come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.
2. Behold the Desired of all nations shall come: and the house of the Lord shall be filled with glory, alleluia.
3. The crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain: come, O Lord, and tarry not, alleluia.
4. The Lord shall come, go forth to meet Him, saying: Great is His sovereignty, and of His kingdom there shall be no end : God the mighty, the Lord, the Prince of peace, alleluia, alleluia.
5. Thine Almighty Word, O Lord, shall come forth from Thy royal throne, alleluia.