Once again, Holy Mother Church starts a new Liturgical Year through the Season of Advent. This new beginning has always been one of expectation, prayer, and penance. I intend to reproduce here the introduction to the Season of Advent found in The Roman Missal which encapsulates the whole beauty of this season.
The Liturgical texts used during the four weeks of the season of Advent remind the faithful of the “Absence of Christ.” The Collects of Advent do not end with, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” as during the rest of the year. In a spirit of penance and prayer we await the Mediator, the God-Man, preparing for His coming in the flesh, and also for His second coming as our Judge. The Masses for Advent strike a note of preparation and repentance mingled with joy and hope; hence, although the penitential purple is worn and the Gloria is omitted, the joyous Alleluia is retained. The readings from the Old Testament contained in the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion of the Masses taken mostly from the prophecies of Isaias and from the Psalms, give eloquent expression to the longing of all nations for a Redeemer.
We are impressed by repeated and urgent appeals to the Messias: “Come, delay no longer.” The Lessons from St. Paul urges us to dispose ourselves fittingly for His coming. The Gospels describe the terrors of the Last Judgment, the Second Coming, and tell of the Preaching of St. John the Baptist “to prepare the way of the Lord.”
In Advent, the Greek Church celebrates particularly the ancestors of Our Lord – all the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament, but especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Latin Church also mentions them often in this period. In the Breviary, many texts are taken from Isaias (Introit of the second Sunday, Communion of the third Sunday).
The idea of Advent is “Prepare you for the coming of Christ.” Therefore the very appeals of the Patriarchs and Prophets are put in our mouths in Advent. Prepare for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, who comes to prepare for His Second Coming as Judge.
When the oracles of the Prophets were fulfilled and the Jews awaited the Messias, John the Baptist left the desert and came to the vicinity of the Jordan, bringing a baptism of penance to prepare souls for the coming of Christ. The world took him to be the Messias, but he replied with the words of Isaias: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
The Incarnation is the central doctrine of Christianity; “The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God assumed our flesh, body and soul in order to redeem us. The obligations imposed on humans by God’s condescension are staggering. The elevation and healing of human nature are also implied. St. Athanasius tells us, “That which was made of earth can now pass through the gates of heaven.”
Let me end this letter with St. Bonaventure: “If you could see the sweet embrace of the Virgin and the woman who had been sterile and hear the greeting in which the tiny servant recognized his Lord, the herald his Judge, and the voice his Word, then I am sure you would sing in sweet tones with the Blessed Virgin that sacred hymn: My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my Spirit hath rejoice in God my Saviour…”
Laudetur Jesus Christus!
TLM Society of San Francisco