The boundless desire for the coming of Christ which is a feature of the whole of Advent, is expressed in the Liturgy with an impatience which grows greater, the closer we come to Christmas and, so to speak, to the world’s end. “The Lord comes from far” (1st vespers, 1st Sunday.) “The Lord will come” (Introit, 2nd Sunday.) “The Lord is nigh” (Introit, 3rd Sunday.) This gradation will be emphasised throughout the whole season, ever more and more. Thus on December 17th begin the Greater Antiphons which, from their initial letters, are called the O Antiphons, and which form an impassioned appreal to the Messias whose prerogatives and glorious titles they make known to us. Dom Gueranger affirms that those antiphons contain the “whole marrow” of the Advent liturgy. On account of their number Honorius of Autun connects them with the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost with which our Lord was filled.
December 17th O Antiphon:
O Wisdom, who camest out of 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. – Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 5; Wisdom viii. I.
Saturday after the Third Sunday of Advent.—The Decree of Cæsar Augustus.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Saturday after the Third Sunday of Advent.—The Decree of Cæsar Augustus.
(Read Luke ii, 1-5.)
CONSIDER FIRSTLY that from all eternity the Divine Father had decreed not only the time of the birth of Christ, but also the place, the manner, and all the circumstances of it, which had also been foretold by the prophets. Consequently it came to pass that at a given time, Cæsar Augustus in his pride and avarice issued an edict that the whole empire should be enrolled, and that a tax should be paid by each one, and all this in order to bring about that the Word Incarnate should be born not at Nazareth, but in a cave that served as a shelter for beasts of burden.
APPLICATION. And to you how often does that which is a most wise design of God seem to be merely the work of your fellow-beings? And consequently you are disquieted and disturbed, you revolt against trial that thereby you are put to. Happy indeed would you be, did you but know how to recognise the loving dispositions of God Who for your good sometimes makes use of the evil designs of others.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS. Let me know that this is Thy hand; and Thou, O Lord, hast done it. (Ps. cviii, 27.)
CONSIDER SECONDLY that the Blessed Virgin bowed her head in submission to the decree. She did not excuse herself from obedience by reason of her weakness, nor from paying the tribute because of her poverty. She recognised in the unjust decree of Augustus the most perfect will of God, conformably to that of the Apostle: Be obedient to them that are your lords according to the flesh with fear and trembling in the simplicity of your heart, as to Christ, not serving to the eye, as it were pleasing men, but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart. (Eph. vi, 5, 6.)
APPLICATION. You, who have so often bound yourself to obey those whom God has placed over you as superiors, in order to interpret for you the Divine Will, are you prompt in carrying out whatever is commanded you, even though it be difficult and unpleasant to you? Or do you not rather draw back and excuse yourself and show your repugnance? Oh how ashamed ought you not to feel of yourself, when you reflect upon the obedience of the Mother of God to this edict of Cæsar!
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS. Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God. (Ps. cxliii, 10.)
CONSIDER THIRDLY that the Blessed Virgin together with St. Joseph undertook this long and painful journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in winter time, and with all the inconveniences of extreme poverty. Small account however did she make of these discomforts because she recognised therein that they were obeying the will of heaven, and because she carried her Divine Son with her in order that He might be born in a stable, according to the dispositions of Divine Providence.
APPLICATION. If you will but stay in the company of Jesus and by your love bear Him in your heart, every affliction will seem to you light in the hope of one day rejoicing in His presence.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS. Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever. (Ps. lxxii, 26.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
Of a pure Mind and simple Intention.
III. When a man begins to grow lukewarm he is afraid of a little labour and willingly takes external comfort.
But when he begins perfectly to overcome himself, and to walk manfully in the way of God, then he makes less account of those things which before he considered burthensome to him.——Thomas à Kempis—Imitation of Christ Bk II, Ch IV, pt. III.
Virtues to practice: Conformity to the will of God, divine love.
Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come!
Hymn from the Office of Lauds for Advent
The solemn voice of the Precursor is heard, explaining the obscurity of the ancient figures; let our slumbers cease; Jesus is rising on our horizon.
Let the sluggish soul now rise, and stay no more upon this earth; a new star is shining, which will take all sin away.
Lo! the Lamb is sent to forgive us freely our debt; let us unite in tears and prayers, that we may obtain pardon.
That when He comes the second time, filling the world with fear, He may not have to punish us for our sins, but may protect us in mercy.
Power, honour, praise, and glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers from the Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Advent
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to Thy law, and strict obedience to Thy commands; that by the help of Thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
V. O Lord God of hosts, come and deliver us.
R. Show Thy face, and we shall be saved.
V. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
R. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from Thee.
V. The Lord shall rise upon thee, O Jerusalem!
R. And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
Bend Thine ear, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to our prayers, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation; who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
Novena for Advent
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! To hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
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