The 1962MR for the 1st Sunday of Advent stressed the Second Coming, and therefore attentive penance. Yet in the Postcommunion last week, the priest brought us back to preparation also for the approaching feast of the Nativity: “May we receive, O Lord, Thy mercy in the midst of Thy Temple, that we may prepare with due honor for the approaching feast of our redemption.”
The 2nd Sunday of Advent harks to the City of David: Jerusalem. This is not just the physical place we might visit, where the historical events we commemorate took place. Jerusalem is also the symbol of the Church on earth. It is also the heavenly kingdom for which we are preparing.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, the Lord responds to the question of the Baptist: “Are you he who is to come?” Jesus replies, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk…”.
Christ is describing not only what is physically happening in His presence, but also the spiritual coming of the Kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem we desire is not just the place or Holy Church, or the Kingdom of heaven. It is also the state of our own soul. Listen to today’s
Excita, Domine, corda nostra
ad praeparandas Unigeniti tui vias;
ut, per eius adventum,
purificatis tibi mentibus servire mereamur.
This ancient prayer was in the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries. In the Ordinary Form it is the Collect for Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent.
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973 – not making this up…):
give us the joy of your love
to prepare the way for Christ our Lord.
Help us to serve you and one another.
with minds made pure.
They obviously didn’t want to split an infinitive, but would “we may be found to serve you worthily with minds made pure” have been better?
Remember, Father! If you don’t like the new translation, just use Latin.
Our Lewis & Short Dictionary, from which we are not to be parted, informs us that excito, is in the first place “to call out or forth, to wake or rouse up”. It is also, “to raise up, comfort; to awaken, enliven”. Praeparo, “to make ready beforehand”, is compound of prae and paro “to make ready”. At the end of the Gospel, Jesus speaks of John with the words of Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare (praeparabit) the way before thee”.
Rouse up our hearts, O Lord,
to make ready the paths for Your Only-Begotten,
so that through His Coming
we may be worthy to serve You with minds made pure.
In the Collect last week, we ask God to rouse up His might (Excita … potentiam tuam). Today we ask him to rouse up our hearts; to comfort yes, but mainly to enliven and arouse.
Last week in the Lesson we were told by Paul that it was time to awaken from sleep (cf. Rom 13). This week we ask the Father to makes our hearts worthy paths (viae) for the feet of Our Lord by rousing, and comforting them.
Our hearts, our interior life (mens) must reflect His beauty.
In the Gradual the Church sings: “Out of Sion the loveliness of his beauty: God shall come manifestly.”
This “manifest” Coming is not only at the end of the world, in glory and might, as we hear Jesus describe on the 1st Sunday of Advent: it is also in the life of grace, which is manifest in our words and deeds.
I hear this all come together in the prayer lay people cannot hear, the
Placare, Domine, quaesumus,
humilitatis nostrae precibus et hostiis,
et, ubi nulla suppetunt suffragia meritorum
tuae nobis indulgentiae succurre praesidiis.
Succurro is “to be useful for, good against”, but it has the root verb curro, “to run”, which is why it has an element of haste. However, in it I hear ringing also the Coming of the Lord on the paths we have prepared ahead of time.
Be Thou appeased, O Lord, we beseech Thee,
by the prayers of our humility and by our sacrificial offerings,
and, where no favorable points of merits suffice for us,
succor us by the helps of Thy indulgence.
Can we hear the voice of John the Baptist? We must decrease so that God can increase, and increase us by coming to us.
Our Advent preparation, our diminishing, aims both at the Kingdom of God coming to us, and our coming to the Kingdom. The greatest realization of and anticipation of the Coming of the Lord we can have here on earth is when the Real Presence, present and yet truly still to come, finds the paths of our hearts prepared for Holy Communion.
Repleti cibo spiritualis alimoniae,
supplices te, Domine, deprecamur:
ut, huius participatione mysterii,
doceas nos terrena despicere,
et amare caelestia.
This was adapted from a prayer in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary. In turn it was adapted for the Post Communion in the Novus Ordo. Despicio is “to look down upon; despise; to look away, not to regard.”
Having been filled, with the food of spiritual nourishment,
we suppliants beg you, O Lord,
that, by participation in this sacramental mystery,
you may teach us to disregard earthly things,
and to love heavenly things.
I am guessing nearly all your hand missals say “despise earthly things” or the like.
Given the exhortations by Paul in the Lesson, could we choose “look away from, disregard earthly things”?
Paul urges the flock to be patient with each other and to be unified in giving glory to God. None of that can take place unless we look away from earthly faults. The good things God created are not despicable. They become so when their allure makes us close or defile the paths of the Lord’s coming. We must disregard them when they become stumbling blocks. Paradox: in our material life we stumble when we disregard stumbling blocks, while in the spiritual life we stumble by lending them undue attention.
Since the Lord comes to us also in the person of our neighbor, let not their faults and worldly attachments be either tricky allurements or reasons to treat them without charity.
In the Coming of the Lord, all shall be made straight and smooth. We must see our neighbor also, in anticipation, in the way our Lord has destined them to be.