Second Sunday in Advent.
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.
Second Sunday in Advent.
The Gospel according to St. Matthew, xi. 2-10.
“Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples he said to Him: Art Thou He that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see ? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold, they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? a prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send My angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.”
Summary of the Meditation.
We have seen this morning what is the first preparation for Christmas, which consists in purifying the soul in order to render it meet for the reception of the Incarnate Word. We will meditate to-morrow on how, after having purified it, we must ornament and embellish it; and we shall see that this ornament is composed: 1st, of holy affections towards the mystery of the Incarnation; 2nd, of the acts of the Christian life, specially appropriate to the holy season of Advent. We will then make the resolution: 1st, to maintain ourselves in the habitual state of recollection which facilitates pious affections towards God; 2nd, to practise the acts of virtue with which the spirit of God will inspire us. Our spiritual nosegay shall be to-day what it was yesterday, the words of Isaias: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (xl. 3).
Meditation for the Morning.
Let us offer our homage to the Word Incarnate in the womb of Mary; let us adore Him as the Desired of the nations; let us admire Him as the Supreme Lord whom love has abased to a kind of annihilation (Philipp. ii. 7); let us thank Him for having become incarnate in order to save us; and, by way of supplement to our powerlessness to thank Him as He merits to be thanked, let us offer Him the homage of Mary, of the holy angels, and of all the saints in heaven and on earth.
Holy Affections towards the Mystery of the Incarnation.
Holy affections are the aliment and the life of piety. They are the incense cast upon the fire; they maintain and increase the flame. They are the manna of the desert; they adapt themselves to all tastes, that is to say, to all the needs of the soul. They are as the savor of all the mysteries; they represent the essence and the grace of them, and they make them flow, as it were, spontaneously into the soul which reflects. How, for example, can we contemplate the Word Incarnate in the womb of Mary without speaking of it to the Three Divine Persons, and giving vent to our admiration and praise for the share which each one of them has taken in so great a mystery? How can we help saying to the Father: “O holy Father, how I congratulate Thee on this first Christian temple, which Thou didst form for Thyself in the womb of Mary, and where Thou didst receive the first adoration worthy of Thee; how I thank Thee for having given us Thine only Son and for having immolated the Innocent in order to save guilty men.” How can we help saying to the Word Incarnate: “O eternal Son of God, with what delight I contemplate Thee in this living tabernacle where Thou dost come to receive our homage; on this throne where it pleases Thee to be adored and blessed; on this bed of justice where Thou lovest to pardon; on this bed of repose where Thou willest to be congratulated; in this paradise upon earth where Thou willest to be loved. Ah, in presence of this sanctuary of love, I cannot speak to Thee but of love! I give myself to Thee forever. I deliver up to Thee all that I am, that Thou mayest do in me all that pleases Thee. I call down on myself Thy spirit to direct me, Thy heart to warm me, Thy holy life to be my life. I love Thee, but make me love Thee ever more and more; more love still, O Lord, and always still more love! for I owe Thee everything; without Thee I was lost, with Thee I shall be saved, if I will.” And how can we help saying to the Holy Spirit: “O Divine Spirit, who didst form this so pure a body, who didst unite to it a soul so beautiful, and didst unite the one with the other in unity of person; to Thee be glory, praise, and love for this mystery, which is Thy work.” How, lastly, can we help saying to Mary: “O Mother of God, how great thou art, how admirably in thee are concentrated all the splendors of the saints, all the perfections of the angels; thou dost participate in all the holiness of thy Son; He lives in thee and thou in Him. I admire in thee His humility, His gentleness, His goodness, His patience, His obedience, His continual prayer. Thou dost nothing except in Jesus and by Jesus. O my Mother, how happy it makes me to contemplate thy holiness, to praise it, to bless it.” It is by means of these affections and others like to them that the soul prepares itself worthily for the great feast of Christmas.
Acts of the Christian Life Suitable to the holy Season of Advent.
In order to bring our life into harmony with so holy a season, we ought to apply ourselves to rendering all our actions perfect, to be more reserved in our words, more attentive in our prayers, and above all to the performance of the acts of virtue pointed out by the Prophet Isaias as means for preparing the way of the Lord, who is about to come. “Make straight His paths” (Is. xl. 3), he says, that is to say, draw near to God in perfect integrity of heart, aspiring after nothing else but to please God alone. ”Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Is. xl. 4), that is to say, practise humility, simplicity, moderation; “and the crooked shall become straight”, (Ibid.), that is to say, quit the ways of the world, which are nothing but duplicity and falsehood, in order to follow only the ways of God, which are ways of truth and justice; and the rough ways made plain (Ibid.), that is to say, correct the asperities of your character, the roughness of your manners, in order to be gentle and kind to all (Tit. iii. 2). Uprightness and sincerity, gentleness and sweetness, such are the virtues by which we ought to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, if we wish that He should come into our hearts. This preparation will cause us great combats and sacrifices; but it will lead us to heaven; for Jesus walks before us, and He, the first, has done far more than He asks of us. The road is difficult only to the cowardice which shrinks from it; it is sweet to those who walk resolutely in it. The joy of a good conscience prevents our feeling any difficulty. Let us believe the saints who made experience of it.
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.
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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