About the Last Sunday of the Church’s Year

In the older, traditional calendar there is no special liturgy for this Sunday.   This is a poignant way to point toward the seamless cycle of the Church’s representation of the mysteries of salvation.  In the newer calendar we are focused also on the end times in the Feast of Christ the king.

We simultaneously long for the Second Coming of the Lord – that is what Advent is about, by the way, the Second Coming in glory and judgment – and we dread it.  Early Christians prayed with longing “Come! Lord, Come!”  In later centuries the sense of longing was replaced with sober realization of what we will endure on the day of His Coming.

Both of these attitudes can help us in our own day to be concerned with joyful sobriety, sober joy, about the meeting we will have with the Lord when He comes.  Do not forget that the last day of your life is going to be an anticipation of the Second Coming.   As Augustine wrote: Qualis in die isto quisque moritur, talis in die illo iudicabitur (ep. 199.2).

In death your life will be laid bare.  In the Second Coming itself, the Lord will lay bare all things.   That which we have endured in life with patient perseverance and sometime suffering shall be given explanations.

St. Augustine explained that the Lord’s judgments are obscure to us now, but later they will be made clear.  Justice in this life is imperfect.  In the life to come it will be perfected.

All that which He has permitted to happen now, will be given reasons and explanations and we will finally see the perfect justice even behind what now is hidden and challenging.

The Church’s year presents us anew with the unchanging mysteries of our salvation.  But year year we are a little different and closer to the moment when the Lord’s hidden justice and judgments will be revealed.   Do not be content to leave yourself straying on your life’s path toward your judgment with the knowledge of your saving Faith as it was when you were fresh from catechism as a child.  Some people do.  Do not leave yourself cold on the this path without the warming effect of works of mercy.

Live in sober joy, or joyful sobriety about the state of your soul even as you follow your mapway toward the Coming Lord through our Holy Church’s mysterious years of waiting.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. joanofarcfan says:

    Thank you, Father Z.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    I think this Sunday’s EF Gospel reading is one of the more memorable and powerful ones of the year:

    When you shall see the abomination of desolation . . . . . For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even to the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. . . . . . And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened . . . . . and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven . . . . . and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty . . . . ” (Matthew 24: 15-25)

    I understand that this striking passage on the second coming and last judgment does not appear anywhere in the OF lectionary. This is hardly the only example of a seminal scriptural passage in the EF readings that is never heard at OF Sunday Mass. Even as one often hears mention of the richer scriptural content of the OF lectionary.

  3. Fr. Basil says:

    \\In the older, traditional calendar there is no special liturgy for this Sunday. \\

    I suppose it depends upon how much “older, traditional” you get.

    The sequence Dies irae was originally written not for Requiems (whence it was transferred), but for the Sunday before Advent–summing up this prsent age and the Parousia.

  4. ikseret says:

    As an American, it is very fitting to have the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday of October – which falls just before our election. Notably it is also “Reformation” Sunday.
    I can understand the rationale of the Novus Ordo schema of the last Sunday signifying the second coming while Advent recalls preparation for the incarnation, except that we lose the future focus of Advent and tomorrow we are back in ordinary time. The feast should perhaps be the feast of Christ the Just Judge, using violet, and be followed by days using violet vestments. It would be like a mini-“septuagesima” season before Advent.

  5. albinus1 says:

    In the older, traditional calendar there is no special liturgy for this Sunday.

    Of course there is: the Mass for the 24th and Last Sunday after Pentecost. Unless I’ve been missing something in about 15 years of going to the traditional Mass, in the traditional calendar the same liturgy is always celebrated on the Sunday preceding the First Sunday of Advent, regardless of how many Sundays after Pentecost there are that particular year. Granted, it doesn’t look special, because it isn’t marked as a special feast with its own special name and white vestments, as in Novus Order calendar. But it does have its own special liturgy — with, as Henry Edwards remarks above, a very striking Gospel reading.

  6. Pingback: Thinking about not thinking about the Pope, the press and condoms | Fr. Z's Blog – What Does The Prayer Really Say?

  7. Dr. Eric says:

    Ikseret, are you looking for a longer Advent like the Ambrosian Rite and Byzantine Rite have? (I am aware that there are many different Churches that use the Byzantine Rite like the UGCC, the Ruthenians, the Melkites, et. Al.)

  8. The old Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The Gospel has been for many centuries in East and West the privilege of the deacon.”

    In the article on deacons, it quotes St. Isidore of Seville in the seventh century, in his epistle to Leudefredus: “To the deacons it belongs… to declaim [proedicare] the Gospel and Epistle,
    for as the charge is given to lectors to declaim the Old Testament, so it is given to deacons to declaim the New. “

  9. JMody says:

    Fr. Z puts it as:
    In the newer calendar we are focused also on the end times in the Feast of Christ the king.

    My question was always — wasn’t the Feast of Christ the King supposed to inspire us to work towards bringing the Kingdom to the Earth, by advancing the “Social Reign of Christ the King”? And doesn’t the eschatological ‘flavor’ of it today — as even you hint at in this line, Father — seem to change it to more of a reflective time and less of a call to action than Bl. Pius XI envisioned when he instituted the feast/solemnity? Why is that, and is that a good thing, or am I just a Masons-in-the-wire paranoiac?

    And on a slightly different note, here’s another applicable quote you won’t hear at OF Mass Apoc/Rev 19:11-18 at drbo.org:

    [11] And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and with justice doth he judge and fight.
    [12] And his eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many diadems, and he had a name written, which no man knoweth but himself.
    [13] And he was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, THE WORD OF GOD.
    [14] And the armies that are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
    [15] And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp two edged sword; that with it he may strike the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.
    [16] And he hath on his garment, and on his thigh written: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
    [17] And I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that did fly through the midst of heaven: Come, gather yourselves together to the great supper of God:
    [18] That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of tribunes, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all freemen and bondmen, and of little and of great.

    Doesn’t quite match with the “Touchdown Jesus” approach to the Second Coming. I wonder which one I should believe …

  10. Delacroix says:

    November 21st was actually a Feast Day: The Presentation of Our Lady at the Temple. It celebrates the fact that the parents of Our Lady brought her to the Temple at the age of three and handed her over to live there for a long period as a virgin consecrated to the Temple, contemplating God exclusively. The Temple was the only place in the Old Testament where sacrifices were offered to God. It represented, therefore, the only true religion.
    When she was received at the Temple, Our Lady entered the service of God. That is, a soul incomparably holy entered the service of God. At that moment, notwithstanding the decadence of the nation of Israel, and even though the Temple had been transformed into a den of Pharisees, the Temple was filled with an incomparable light that was the sanctity of Our Lady.

    It was in the Temple atmosphere that, without knowing it, she began to prepare herself to be the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was there that she increased her love of God until she formed the ardent desire for the imminent coming of the Messiah. It was there that she asked God the honor to be the servant of His Mother. She did not know that she was the one chosen by God. This is so true that she wondered about the meaning of the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel when he greeted her to ask her permission for the Incarnation.

  11. ASD says:

    :re seamless cycle:

    I notice that Collect for both Last Sunday after Pentecost and First Sunday of Advent begin with Excita:

    First Sunday of Advent: Excita potentiam tuam: Stir up Thy power
    Last Sunday after Pentecost: Excita tuorum fidelium voluntates: Stir up wills of Thy faithful

    Work-in-progress here.

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