The Office of this Sunday is filled, from beginning to end, with the sentiments of hope and joy, with which the soul should be animated at the glad tidings of the speedy coming of Him who is her Savior and Spouse. The interior coming, that which is effected in the soul, is the almost exclusive object of the Church’s prayers for this day: let us therefore open our hearts, let us prepare our lamps, and wait in gladness that cry which will be heard in the midnight: Glory be to God! Peace unto men!
The Roman Church makes the Station today in the Basilica of Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem. It was in this venerable church that Constantine deposited a large piece of the True Cross, together with the Title which was fastened to it by Pilate’s order, and which proclaimed the Kingly character of the Savior of the world. These precious relics are still kept there; and, thus enriched with such a treasure, the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem is looked upon, in the Roman Liturgy, as Jerusalem itself, as is evident from the allusions made in the several Masses of the Stations held in that Basilica. In the language of the sacred Scriptures and of the Church, Jerusalem is the image of the faithful soul; and the Office and Mass of this Sunday have been drawn up on this idea, as the one of the day. We regret not to be able here to develop the sublime beauty of this figure; and must proceed at once to the passage which the Church has selected from the Prophet Isaias. There she tells her children how well-founded are her hopes in the merciful and peaceful reign of the Messias. But first let us adore this divine Messias:
|Regem venturum Dominum, venite, adoremus.||Come, let us adore the King, our Lord, who is to come.|
|De Isaia Propheta.||From the Prophet Isaias.|
|Cap. xi.||Ch. xi.|
|Et egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice ejus ascendet. Et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini: spiritus sapientiae et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, spiritus scientiæ et pietatis; et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini. Non secundum visionem oculorum judicabit, neque secundum auditum aurium arguet; sed judicabit in justitia pauperes, et arguet in æquitate pro mansuetis terræ; et percutiet terram virga oris sui, et spiritu labiorum suorum interficiet impium. Et erit justitia cingulum lumborum ejus, et fides cinctorium renum ejus. Habitabit lupus cum agno, et pardus cum hædo accubabit; vitulus, et leo, et ovis, simul morabuntur, et puer parvulus minabit eos. Vitulus et ursus pascentur, simul requiescent catuli eorum; et leo quasi bos comedet paleas. Et delectabitur infans ab ubere super foramine aspidis; et in caverna reguli qui ablactatus fuerit manum suam mittet. Non nocebunt, et non occident in universo monte sancto meo, quia repleta est terra scientia Domini, sicut aquæ maris operientes. In die illa radix Jesse, qui stat in signum populorum, ipsum gentes deprecabuntur, et erit sepulchrum ejus gloriosum.||And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: land he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb: and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them. The calf and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall rest together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp: and the weaned child shall thrust his hand into the den of the basilisk. They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all my holy mountain, for the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the covering waters of the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.|
How much is contained in these magnificent words of the Prophet! The Branch; the Flower that is to come from it; the Spirit which rests on this flower; the seven Gifts of this Spirit; peace and confidence established on the earth; and, throughout the world, one brotherhood in the kingdom of the Messias! St. Jerome, whose words are read by the Church in the lessons of the Second Nocturn of this Sunday, says:”That the Branch which cometh forth from the root of Jesse, is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who had contact with no shrub or plant; and that the Flower is the Lord Jesus, who says in the Canticle of Canticles: I am the Flower of the field, and the Lily of the valley.” In every age of the Christian Church, this wonderful Branch and its divine Flower have been objects of enthusiastic veneration. In the Middle Ages, the Tree of Jesse, with its prophetic branches, was carved on the cathedral porches, was painted on the windows, was embroidered on the hangings of the sanctuary, and the melodious voice of the priests sang its praises in the beautiful Responsory composed by Fulbert of Chartres, and put to music by the devout King Robert.
|℟. Stirps Jesse virgam produxit, virgaque florem; * et super hunc florem requiescit Spiritus almus.||℟. The root of Jesse gave out a Branch, and the Branch a Flower; * and on the Flower resteth the Holy Spirit.|
|℣. Virgo Dei Genitrix virga est, flos filius ejus. * Et super hunc florem requiescit Spiritus almus.||℣. The Virgin Mother of God is the Branch, her Son the flower. * And on the flower resteth the holy Spirit.|
The devout St. Bernard, commenting upon this responsory in his second Advent homily, says: “The Virgin’s Son is the flower, a flower white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands; a flower on whom the angels love to look; a flower whose fragrance restores the dead; a flower, as himself assures us, of the field, not of a garden: for the flowers of the field bloom without man’s care, no man has sown their seed, no man has cultivated them. Just so the Virgin’s womb, a meadow verdant in an endless spring, has brought forth a flower, whose beauty will never droop, whose freshness will never fade. O Virgin, branch sublime, to what a height art thou grown! Even up to Him that sitteth on the throne, even to the Lord of majesty. It was sure to be so, for thou castest deep down the roots of humility. O plant of heaven indeed! precious above all, holier than all. O tree of life indeed! alone worthy to bear the fruit of salvation.”
And of the holy Spirit and His gifts, what shall we say? They rest and are poured out on the Messias only to the end that they may flow from Him upon us. He needs them not; but we alone need wisdom and understanding, counsel and fortitude, knowledge and godliness, and fear of the Lord. Let us ask with instance for this divine Spirit, by whose operation Jesus was conceived and born in Mary’s womb, and let us beg of him to form Jesus within our hearts. But let us not forget to rejoice ad those other glorious things which are told us by the prophet of the happiness, and peace, and delights, which are to be on the holy mountain. The world has been looking so many ages for peace; it is now coming. Sin had caused enmity and division everywhere; grace will bring unity. A little Child will be the pledge of an alliance between all nations. The prophets have foretold it, the sibyl has announced it, and in Rome itself, buried as it is in paganism, the prince of Latin poets has sung the celebrated poem, which, after all, is but the voice of the old tradition: “The last age foretold by the Cumean Sibyl, is at hand; a new race is being sent down to earth from high heaven. The flock shall no more fear the fierce lions. The serpent shall be no more; the treacherous plant, which yielded poison, shall grow no more.”
Come, then, O Messias, and restore to the world its primitive peace; but remember, we beseech Thee, that it is in the heart of man that harmony has been broken more than elsewhere in Thy creation: cure this heart, enter into possession of this Jerusalem, which Thou lovest, though so unworthy: she has been too long captive in Babylon; lead her out of this strange land. Build up her temple again, and make the glory of this second temple to be greater than that of the first, by having Thee to dwell in it, not in figure, but in the reality of Thy adorable Person. The angel said to Mary: “The Lord God shall give unto thy Son the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” What can we do, O Jesus, but say with Thy beloved disciple, at the close of his prophecy: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Mass.— The holy sacrifice commences with a song of triumph, addressed to Jerusalem. This song expresses the joy which will fill the heart of man, when he shall hear the voice of his God. It extols the goodness of that divine Shepherd who looks on each of our souls as a sheep most dear to him, so dear, indeed, that he will feed it with his own flesh.
|Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suæ in lætitia cordis vestri.||People of Sion, behold the Lord will come to save the Gentiles: and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard to the joy of your hearts.|
|Ps. Qui regis Israel intende: qui deducis velut ovem, Joseph. ℣. Gloria Patri.||Ps. Give ear, O thou that rulest Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. ℣. Glory be to the Father.|
In the Collect, the priest lays stress on the great preparation we must make for the coming of our Savior; we must have purity of heart.
|Excita, Domine, corda nostra ad præparandas Ungeniti tui vias: ut per ejus adventum, purificatis tibi mentibus servire mereamur. Qui tecum.||Stir up, O Lord, our hearts to prepare the ways of thy only-begotten Son: that by his coming we may be enabled to serve thee with pure minds. Who liveth, &c.|
The other Collects of the blessed Virgin, against the persecutors of the Church, and for the Pope, are the same as on the first Sunday in Advent.
|Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Romanos.||Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle, to the Romans.|
|Cap. xv.||Ch. xv.|
|Fratres, quæcumque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam scripta sunt: ut per patientiam, et consolationem Scripturarum, spem habeamus. Deus autem patientiæ et solatii det vobis idipsum sapere in alterutrum secundum Jesum Christum: ut unanimes, uno ore honorificetis Deum et patrem Domini nostri Jesu Christi. Propter quod suscipite invicem, sicut et Christus suscepit vos in honorem Dei. Dico enim Christum Jesum ministrum fuisse circumcisionis propter veritatem Dei, ad confirmandas promissiones patrum: gentes autem super misericordia honorare Deum, sicut scriptum est: Propterea confitebor tibi in gentibus, Domine, et nomini tuo cantabo. Et iterum dicit: Lætamini gentes cum plebe ejus. Et iterum: Laudate omnes gentes Dominum: et magnificate eum omnes populi. Et rursus Isaias ait: Erit radix Jesse, et qui exsurget regere gentes, in eum gentes sperabunt. Deus autem spei repleat vos omni gaudio, et pace in credendo: ut abundetis in spe, et virtute Spiritus Sancti.||Brethren: what things soever were written, were written for our learning: that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ: That with one mind, and with one mouth, you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God. For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him, all ye people. And again Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse; and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.|
Here, Christians, is your instruction; be patient, be firm in hope, and you shall delight in the God of peace who is coming to you. But take heed, you must have cordial charity one for the other; it is the mark of the children of God. The prophet tells us that the Messias will make even wolf and lamb dwell together; and now we have the Apostle showing us how this same Christ brings Jews and Gentiles into the one same family. Glory to this sovereign King, the powerful offspring of the root of Jesse, who now bids us hope in him! Listen to the Church, she again tells us that he is about to show himself in Jerusalem.
|Ex Sion species decoris ejus; Deus manifeste veniet.||He shall come in his comeliness and beauty from Sion: God will come visibly.|
|℣. Congregate illi sanctos ejus, qui ordinaverunt testamentum ejus super sacrificia.||℣. Gather to him his saints, who have set his covenant by sacrifice.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Alleluia.||℣. I rejoiced at what was told me: we are to go up to the house of the Lord. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.|
|In illo tempore: cum audisset Joannes in vinculis opera Christi, mittens duos de discipulis suis, ait illi: Tu es, qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? Et respondens Jesus ait illis: Euntes renuntiate Joanni quæ audistis, et vidistis. Cæci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur, surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur: et beatus est, qui non fuerit scandalizatus in me. Illis autem abeuntibus, coepit Jesus dicere ad turbas de Joanne: Quid existis in desertum videre? arundinem vento agitatem? Sed quid existis videre? hominem mollibus vestitum? Ecce qui mollibus vestiuntur, in domibus regum sunt. Sed quid existis videre? prophetam? Etiam dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam. Hic est enim de quo scriptum est: Ecce ego mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui præparabit viam tuam ante te.||At that time: 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.|
Thou art He that was to come, O Jesus! We look for no other. We were blind, thou hast enlightened us; we were lame, thou hast made us walk; the leprosy of sin disfigured us, thou hast cleansed us; we were deaf to thy words, thou hast given us hearing; we were dead in sin, thou hast given us life again; we were poor and had none to care for us, thou hast come to us with every aid and consolation. These have been, and will again be, the blessings of thy visit to our souls, O Jesus!—a visit, silent but wonderful in its work; which flesh and blood cannot understand, but which faithful hearts feel is granted them. Come, my Savior, come to me! thy condescension, and familiarity with such poverty as mine, shall not scandalize me; thy workings in the souls of men are proof enough that thou art God. He alone, that created souls, can heal them.
After the Symbol of Faith has been chanted, when you see the Priest is about to make the offering of the Bread and Wine, unite with the Church in asking to be filled with life by the divine Guest, who is so soon to be with her.
|Deus, tu convertens vivificabis nos, et plebs tua lætabitur in te: ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam, et salutare tuum da nobis.||Thou wilt turn, O God, to us, and bring us to life, and thy people shall rejoice in thee: show us, O Lord, thy mercy, and grant us thy salvation.|
|Placare, quæsumus, Domine, humilitati nostræ precibus et hostiis: et ubi nulla suppetunt suffragia meritorum, tuis nobis succurre præsidiis. Per Dominum.||Be appeased, O Lord, we beseech thee, by our humble prayers and sacrifices: and although we allege no desert on our part, grant us thy protection. Through, &c.|
The other Secrets as on the first Sunday.
During the Communion, the voice of the Church is again heard, proclaiming the happiness which is to be granted to Jerusalem. Her God is coming to her, and he wishes to make her his Spouse. Let her prepare herself for this divine Visit, and detach herself from everything which is not God, her God who is her Spouse.
In the following Prayer, the Church explains in what consists that high standing to which she has just invited Jerusalem: love of the things of heaven whence comes her Savior, and contempt of earthly things which, when loved, separate man from God.
|Jerusalem, surge, et sta in excelso: et vide jucunditatem, quæ veniet tibi a Deo tuo.||Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high; and behold the joy that will come to thee from thy God.|
|Repleti cibo spiritualis alimoniæ, supplices te, Domine, deprecamur, ut hujus participatione mysterii, doceas nos terrena despicere, et amare cœlestia. Per Dominum.||Being filled, O Lord, with this spiritual food, we humbly beseech thee to teach us, by partaking of this mystery, to despise earthly things, and to love such as are heavenly. Through, &c.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)