(If this Sunday fall on December 24, it is omitted, and in its place is said the Office of Christmas Eve, which is given in the proper of the saints, December 24.)
We have now entered into the week which immediately precedes the birth of the Messias. That long-desired coming might be even to-morrow; and at furthest, that is, when Advent is as long as it can be, the beautiful feast is only seven days from us. So that the Church now counts the hours; she watches day and night, and since December 17 her Offices have assumed an unusual solemnity. At Lauds, she varies the antiphons each day; and at Vespers, in order to express the impatience of her desires for her Jesus, she makes use of the most vehement exclamations to the Messias, in which she each day gives Him a magnificent title, borrowed from the language of the prophets.
To-day,* she makes a last effort to stir up the devotion of her children. She leads them to the desert; she shows them John the Baptist, upon whose mission she instructed them on the third Sunday. The voice of the austere Precursor resounds through the wilderness, and penetrates even into the cities. It preaches penance, and the obligation men are under of preparing by self-purification for the coming of Christ. Let us retire from the world during these next few days; or if that may not be by reason of our external duties, let us retire into the quiet of our own hearts and confess our iniquities, as did those true Israelites, who came, full of compunction and of faith in the Messias, to the Baptist, there to make perfect their preparation for worthily receiving the Redeemer on the day of His appearing to the world.[* The fourth Sunday of Advent is called Rorate, from the Introit; but more frequently, Canite tuba, which are the first words of the first responsory at Matins, and of the first antiphon of Lauds and Vespers.]
See, then, with what redoubled earnestness the Church, before opening the book of her great Prophet, repeats her invitatory:
|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. xxxv.||Ch. xxxv.|
|Lætabitur deserta et invia, et exsultabit solitudo, et florebit quasi lilium. Germinans germinabit, et exsultabit lætabunda et laudans: gloria Libani data est ei, decor Carmeli et Saron; ipsi videbunt gloriam Domini, et decorem Dei nostri. Confortate manus dissolutas, et genua debilia roborate. Dicite pusillanimis: Confortamini, et nolite timere: ecce Deus vester ultionem adducet retributionis; Deus ipse veniet, et salvabit vos. Tunc aperientur oculi cæcorum, et aures surdorum patebunt; tunc saliet sicut cervus claudus, et aperta erit lingua mutorum: quia scissæ sunt in deserto aquae, et torrentes in solitudine; et quæ erat arida, erit in stagnum, et sitiens in fontes aquarum. In cubilibus, in quibus prius dracones habitabant, orietur viror calami et junci. Et erit ibi semita et via, et via sancta vocabitur: non transibit per eam pollutus, et hæc erit vobis directa via, ita ut stulti non errent per eam. Non erit ibi leo, et mala bestia non ascendet per eam, nec invenietur ibi; et ambulabunt qui liberati fuerint. Et redempti a Domino convertentur, et venient in Sion cum laude, et lætitia sempiterna super caput eorum: gaudium et lætitiam obtinebunt, et fugiet dolor et gemitus.||The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel, and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God. Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees. Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not: behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense: God himself will come and will save you. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free: for waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness. And that which was dry land, shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. In the dens where dragons dwell before, shall rise up the verdure of the reed and the bulrush. And a path and a way shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it, and this shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor shall any mischievous beast go up by it, nor be found there: but they shall walk there that shall be delivered. And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.|
Oh, the joy of Thy coming, dear Jesus! how great it must needs be, when the prophecy says it shall be like an everlasting crown upon our heads. And could it be otherwise? The very desert is to flourish as a lily, and living waters are to gush forth out of the parched land, because their God is coming. Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, and which the Samaritan woman, the type of us sinners, asked of Thee with such earnest entreaty. This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst, and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples. Thou, O Jesus, art our way, our path, to God; and Thou art Thyself God; Thou art, therefore, both our way and the term to which our way leads us. We had lost our way; we had gone astray as lost sheep: how great Thy love to come thus in search of us! To teach us the way to heaven, Thou hast deigned to come down from heaven, and then tread with us the road which leads to it. No! there shall he no more weak hands, nor feeble knees, nor faint hearts; for we know that it is in love that Thou art coming to us. There is but one thing which makes us sad: our preparation is not complete. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind! We desire to obey the voice of Thy Precursor, and make plain those rugged paths, which would prevent Thy coming into our hearts, O divine Infant! Give us to be baptized in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptizing us in the Holy Ghost and love.
Mass.—The Prophet has made us thirst for that clear cool fountain, which he tells us is to spring up on the coming of the Messias; let us ask, together with the Church, for the Dew which will give new life to our hearts, and for the Rain which will make them fruitful.
|Rorate cœli desuper, et nubes pluant Justum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.||Drop down Dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.|
|Ps.Cœli enarrant gloriam Dei: et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum. ℣. Gloria Patri. Cœli.||Ps. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the works of his hands. ℣. Glory, &c. Drop down, &c.|
In the Collect, the Church implores God to hasten the time of his coming to her assistance; she fears lest her sins might keep her Spouse from visiting her; she therefore prays that this obstacle may be removed by his mercy.
|Excita, quæsumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni, et magna nobis virtute succurre: ut per auxilium gratiæ tuæ, quod nostra peccata præpediunt, indulgentia tuæ propitiantionis acceleret. Qui vivis.||Exert, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power and come, and succor us by thy great might: that by the assistance of thy grace, thy indulgent mercy may hasten what is delayed by our sins. Who livest, &c.|
The other Collects, of the Blessed Virgin, against the Persecutors of the Church, and for the Pope, are given in the Mass of the first Sunday of Advent.
|Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.||Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle, to the Corinthians.|
|Cap. iv.||Ch. iv.|
|Fratres, sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi, et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei. Hic jam quæritur inter dispensatores ut fidelis quis inveniatur. Mihi autem pro minimo est ut a vobis judicer, aut ab humano die: sed neque meipsum judico. Nihil enim mihi conscius sum, sed non in hoc justificatus sum: qui autem judicat me, Dominus est. Itaque nolite ante tempus judicare, quoadusque veniat Dominus: qui et illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum, et manifestabit consilia cordium: et tunc laus erit unicuique a Deo.||Brethren, let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’ s day; but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time; until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise from God.|
The Church here reminds the people of the dignity of the Christian Priesthood. The occasion is an appropriate one, as the Ordinations were held yesterday. She also brings before her sacred Ministers the obligation they have contracted of being faithful to the duties imposed upon them. But let not the flock judge their Pastor; since all, both priest and people, are living in expectation of the day of our Savior’s coming; not only of that second one, for which we are now preparing, but also of that last Coming which will be as terrible as the other two are dear to the hearts of men. After having spoken these words of stern admonition, the Church resumes the expressions of her hopes and her entreaties for the speedy coming of her Spouse.
|Prope est Dominus omnibus invocantibus eum, omnibus qui invocant eum in veritate. ℣. Laudem Domini loquetur os meum: et benedicat omnis caro nomen sanctum ejus.||The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him; to all that call upon him in truth. ℣. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy Name.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Veni, Domine, et noli tardare: relaxa facinora plebi tuæ Israël. Alleluia.||℣. Come, O Lord, and delay not: release thy people Israel from their sins. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.|
|Cap. iii.||Ch. iii.|
|Anno autem quintodecimo imperii Tiberii Cæsaris, procurante Pontio Pilato Judæam, tetrarcha autem Galiææ Herode, Philippo autem fratre ejus tetrarcha Iturææ, et Trachonitidis regionis, et Lysania Abilinae tetrarcha, sub principibus sacerdotum Anna et Caipha: factum est verbum Domini super Joannem, Zachariae filium, in deserto. Et venit in omnem regionem Jordanis, prædicans baptismum pœnitentiae in remissionem peccatorum, sicut scriptum est in libro sermonum Isaiæ prophetæ: Vox clamantis in deserto: Parate viam Domini; rectas facite semitas ejus: omnis vallis implebitur, et omnis mons, et collis humiliabitur: et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: et videbit omnis caro salutare Dei.||Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea, and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina; Under the high priests Annas and Caiphas; the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins; As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight; and the rough ways plain; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.|
Thou art nigh, O Lord, for the inheritance of Thy people has raised into the hands of the Gentiles, and the land which Thou didst promise to Abraham is now but a province of that vast empire, to which Thine own is to succeed. The oracles of the prophets are being rapidly fulfilled, each in its turn; the prediction of Jacob himself has been accomplished: the sceptre is taken from Juda. Everything is ready for Thy coming, O Jesus! Thus it is that Thou renewest the face of the earth; deign also, I beseech Thee, to renew my heart, and give me courage during these last few hours of my preparation for receiving Thee. I feel the need I have of withdrawing into solitude, of receiving the baptism of penance, of making straight all my ways: O divine Saviour, let all this be done in me, that so my joy may be full on the day of Thy coming.
During the Offertory, the Church salutes the ever glorious Virgin, in whose chaste womb is still concealed the Saviour of the world. Give us, O Mary, this God, who fills thee with Himself and His grace. The Lord is with thee, O incomparable Mother! but the happy hour is rapidly advancing when He will also be with us; for His name is Emmanuel.
|Ave, Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.||Hail, Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.|
|Sacrificiis præsentibus, quæsumus, Domine, placatus intende: ut et devotioni nostræ proficiant, et saluti. Per Dominum.||Hear us, O Lord, we beseech thee, and being appeased by these offerings, grant they may increase our devotion, and advance our salvation. Through, &c.|
The other Secrets as on the first Sunday.
During the Communion, the Church, now filled with the God who hast just come into her, borrows the words of Isaias, wherewith to celebrate the praise of the Virgin Mother. The same words apply also to the Church herself, since that same God, who made Mary his Tabernacle, has this instant visited her.
|Ecce Virgo concipiet, et pariet filium: et vocatibur nomen ejus Emmanuel.||Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son: and his name shall be called Emmanuel.|
|Sumptis muneribus, quæsumus, Domine: ut cum frequentatione mysterii crescat nostræ salutis effectus. Per Dominum.||Having received what has been offered to thee, O Lord, grant, we beseech thee, that the more frequently we partake of these sacred mysteries, the more our devotion may increase. Through, &c.|
The other Postcommunions as on the first Sunday.
(If this Sunday be Christmas Eve, the following antiphons are not sung, as the Vespers are of Christmas, which are given in the next volume.)
|1. ANT. Canite tuba in Sion, quia prope est dies Domini: ecce veniet ad salvandum nos, alleluia, alleluia.|
2. ANT. Ecce veniet desideratus cunctis Gentibus: et replebitur gloria domus Domini, alleluia.
3. ANT. Erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: veni, Domine, et noli tardare, alleluia.
4. ANT. Dominus veniet, occurrite illi, dicentes: Magnum principium, et regni ejus non erit finis; Deus, Fortis, Dominator, Princeps pacis, alleluia, alleluia.
5. ANT. Omnipotens sermo tuus, Domine, a regalibus sedibus veniet, alleluia.
|1. ANT. Sound the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: Behold he will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.|
2. ANT. Lo! the Desired of all nations will come: and the house of the Lord shall be filled with glory, alleluia.
3. ANT. The crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough smooth: come, O Lord, and delay not, alleluia.
4. ANT. The Lord will come, go, meet him and say: Great is his empire, and his reign shall have no end; he is God, the Mighty, the Ruler, and Prince of peace, alleluia, alleluia.
5. ANT. Thy almighty word, O Lord, shall come from thy royal throne, alleluia.
|Fratres, sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi, et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei. Hic jam quaeritur inter dispensatores ut fidelis quis inveniatur.||Brethren, let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God; here now it is required amongst the dispensers, that a man be found faithful.|
The hymn Creator alme siderum, the verse Rorate and the canticle Magnificat, are given above.
The Great Antiphon which is marked for the day of December on which this Sunday falls, is sung at the Magnificat. The Great Antiphons are given in the proper of the saints.
Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni, et magna nobis virtute succurre: ut per auxilium gratiae tuae quod nostra peccata praepediunt, indulgentia tuae propitiationis acceleret Qui vivis et regnas.
|LET US PRAY|
Exert, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power and come, and succour us by thy great might: that by the assistance of thy grace, thy indulgent mercy may hasten what is delayed by our sins; who livest and reignest, &c
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)