(From the First Sunday of Advent to December 24)
During this season the Greek Church commemorates Our Lord's ancestors, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. On the Fourth Sunday she honours all the patriarchs of the Old Testament from Adam to St. Joseph, snd the prophets of whom St.Matthew speaks in his genealogy of our Lord. The Latin Church, without honouring them in any special form of devotion, nevertheless speaks to us of them in the Office when quoting the promises made to them concerning the Messias.
In this way, the Church makes pass before our eyes the magnificent procession which all down the ages goes before Jesus Christ. There we see Jacob, Judah, Moses, David, Micheas, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Daniel, Joel, Zacharias, Habacuc, Osea, Aggeus, Malachias, and above all Isaias, St John the Baptist (')j St Joseph, and the glorious Virgin Mary who sums up in herself all Messianic hopes, seeing that their fulfilment hung on her Fiat. " Be it done unto me according to Thy Word." All these holy souls yearned for the Redeemer, and in their fervent longing they besought him to hasten the day when He would come.
As we follow the Masses and Office of Advent, we are impressed by these urgent and pressing appeals to the Messias. " Come, Lord, nor tarry longer." (*) The Lord is nigh, come, let us adore Him." Come, Lord, and save us." " The King who is to come; O come let us adore Him." " Show forth Thy power, O Lord, and come " (') " O Wisdom, come and teach us the way of Prudence. " (*) " O God, guide of the House of Israel, come, stretch forth Thy hand and redeem us. " (B) " O Root of Jesse; come to deliver us and tarry not." " O key of David and sceptre of the house of Israel, come and release the captive plunged in darkness and the shadow of death. " (®) " Morning Star; brightness of Eternal Light, come and enlighten those who are plunged in darkness and the shadow of death. " (7) O King and Desire of nations, come and save man whom Thou hast made from the slime of the earth. " (•) " O Emmanuel (God with us), Our King and Our Lawgiver, O Lord, Our God. " (•)
The longed for Messias is the Son of God Himself, the Great Royal Deliverer who is to conquer Satan and reign over His people for ever, whom all nations shall serve. The very reason why we should utter our ts Come ", crying to Our Lord, " O, Thou corner stone, uniting in Thyself the two peoples, come, " is that the divine mercy extends, not only to Israel, but to all the Gentiles as well.
" And when He comes we shall all be guided together by this Divine Shepherd." "He shall feed his flock," says Isaias, "...He shall gather together the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up in his bosom." He, even our Lord God.
This coming of Christ which the Prophets foretold and to which God's people looked forward is twofold in character j it is, at the same time the coming of mercy in which the Divine Redeemer appeared on earth in the lowly state of His human life, and the coming to Judgment when He will appear full of glory and majesty at the end of the world as Judge and
1. With whom three out of the four Advent Gospels are concerned.
% Gradual for the Fourth Sunday.
S. Collect for the Fourth Sunday.
6=9. These are from the Greater Antiphons.
supreme rewarder of men. The seers of the Old Testament did not distinguish between these two comings, therefore the Liturgy at Advent which repeats their words to us speaks in turn of one and the other. Our Lord Himself, in the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent passes without any transition from His first to his Second Coming and, in his homily on the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, St. Gregory explains that St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Redeemer, is in spirit and power Elias, the forerunner of the Judge.
These two comings, moreover, have the same end in view, since if the Son of God has descended to our level in becoming man (the First Coming), it is in order to enable us to ascend to His Father (Collect for Palm Sunday) by bringing us into His heavenly kingdom (the Second Coming). And the sentence which will be passed by the Son of Man, to whom will be committed all judgment, when He comes a second time into the world will depend upon the welcome which awaited Him when He came the first. This Child," said Simeon, " is set for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted." (*) The Father and the Holy Ghost will bear testimony to Christ that He is the Son of God and our Lord Himself will prove it by His words and miracles. And men will have to make their own, this threefold testimony of God in Three Persons, and will thus themselves decide their future fate. " Blessed," said the Master, " is he that shall not be scandalised in Me." (*) And " He who believeth in the Christ shall not be confounded." (8) On the other hand, woe to him who " falls upon " this " stone of Salvation," for it will break him. ** For he that shall be ashamed of Me and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty and that of His Father and the holy angels." (4) " And when the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit. upon the seat of His majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before Him : and He shall separate them one from another as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats : and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left. Then shall the King say to them that shall be on His right hand : Come ye blessed of my Father, possess you the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world... Then He shall say to them also that shall be on His left hand: Depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. "(6)
The effect of the Divine Judgment is, therefore, that a permanent separation will be made by Almighty God between the good and the wicked. " Judge me, O God," says the psalmist, " and distinguish my cause against an ungodly nation : O deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man." (•) All who shall have denied Christ upon earth He will banish from His Presence, cutting them off for ever and ever from those faithful to Him, while He will gather His true disciples around Him, to make of them God's eternal children. All who have followed Him by their faith and love He will lead into His Father's kingdom, where, intimately united to the Son of God made Man, they will be for all eternity what St. Paul calls " Christ and His Mystical Body " and St. Augustine the whole Christ."
It is upon this ground that our Lord will vindicate His judicial sentence which will separate the wicked from the good, saying " as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you dit it to me, and as long as you did it not to one of these my least brethren neither did you do it to me." It is then, entirely on the acceptance of the " mystery of Christ," as the Apostle calls it, that is, of the mystery of the Incarnation with all its consequences (the acceptance of our Lord in His coming in humility and the acceptance of the Church which will partake of the humiliations of her Divine Spouse) that the final judgment will depend. Having thus spoken of the coming of the Child Jesus at Christmas, the Church speaks of the welcome which awaited Him at the hands of the humble Jewish
1. Gospel for the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas.
2. Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent.
3. I St. Peter n, 6.
4. St. Luke ix, 26.
6. St. Matthew xxv, 31.
6. Ps. xia said at Mass at the foot of the altar.
Shepherds as well as from the Magi; the first-fruits of the heathen nations which were to enter the Church through their faith in Christ while the proud Jews were to be rejected. " The Gentile world was to be gathered together,"remarks St. Gregory, " while the Jewish nation was about to be dispersed because of its unfaithfulness." During the time after Epiphany, the Gopels will insist on the same id as. "I have not found so great faith in Israel," we shall find our Lord saying to the heathen centurion. " And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into the exterior darkness." 0) Again, " Suffer both to grow until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers,e Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn '." (*)
In all the Epistles during this season we shall find St. Paul insisting on this same great precept of charity towards our neighbour. " But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection : and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body; and be ye thankful... All whatsoever you do in word or in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. (8)
From all this we see the great function of Advent. It is the season which prepares us to receive our Lord with the necessary dispositions, in His first coming of which the Christmas celebrations are the Church's official anniversary. At the same time it helps to fit us to be among the number of the " blessed of my Father " when our Redeemer shall come for the second time.
During this season the Church's Liturgy will bring before us the two comings, so that we may look forward with the same confidence to the coming of the Babe of the manger, who is going to be born more and more within us by the graces of Christmas and also to the coming of our sovereign Judge, who will bring us into His kingdom and separate us from evildoers, putting a great chasm between them and us. (4)
At this time then, let us not concern ourselves only with the coming of the Messias in mercy, in the opposite spirit to the Jews who would recognise none but His coming in glory. Let us give the liturgical formulas of the season all their fulness of meaning, that we may not lessen their power, and with the Church say, " Veni D6mine, Come, Lord, Saviour and Judge. Free me from my sins here below and one day bring me to Thy heaven above. Adv6niat regnum tuum. With the patriarchs and prophets, I put all my trust, O Lord, in Thee. Per adv6ntum tuum, libera nos, D6mine."
Helpful indeed is the liturgy of the season, since it prepares us to celebrate the First Coming of our Lord in its relation to the Second Coming, that profiting by His graces as Redeemer, we need not fear His punishments as Judge. " Grant," prays the Church, " that we, who now joyfully receive Thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may also, without fear, behold Him coming as our Judge." (5)
Advent helps us to see our Lord as the centre of the whole history of the world. It began with Adam as he looked forward to our Lord's coming in mercy, it will conclude with the fulfilment of His coming in glory. Throughout the liturgy every Christian has a part to play in this Divine plan. For if our Lord came to earth in answer to the prayer of the just men of the Old Dispensation, it is in response to the petition which rises I pom generation to generation, from souls made faithful by His grace, that fie comes to them ever more and more fully at each Christmas feast, and finally, it is in reply to the appeal of the last Christians at the end of the world, that for their deliverance, He will hasten His coming. " For the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened," says our Lord. Prayer plays 100 essential a part in the existing plan of Providence not to have a share In the twofold coming of the great Redeemer : Veni D6mine, noli tard6re,
1. Gospel for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.
2. Gospel for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
8. Epistle for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
4. St. Luke xvi, 26.
0. Collect lor the Vigil of the Nativity of our Lord.
Just as in His eternity Almighty God has heard all these petitions in som« sense at the same time, we may say that the Church in her liturgy love to suppress the notion of time and space and in that way makes all genr rations contemporary with each other.
So it is that our yearnings after Christ are expressed in exactly the sam-way as those of the Patriarchs and Prophets, since the Breviary and the Missal put into our mouths the same words uttered by them of old, ami all down the ages there goes up to God one only cry of faith, hope and love. Let us share the enthusiastic desires and the fervent supplicationr of an Isaias, a St. John the Baptist, and of our Blessed Lady herself, thrc< figures who perfectly embody the spirit of the Advent season. Witli sincerity, love, dare we say with impatience, let us lift our hearts to oui Lord in His twofold coming : " Come, let us adore the King, who cometh."