WDTPRS 2nd Sunday of Advent: “we escape neither the Enemy lion nor the glorious Lion of Judah”

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Our Collect (once called the “Opening Prayer”) for the 2nd Sunday of Advent was not in the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum but it was in the so-called Rotulus (“scroll”) of Ravenna, dated perhaps as early as the 5th century.

Omnipotens et misericors Deus,
in tui occursum Filii festinantes
nulla opera terreni actus impediant,
sed sapientiae caelestis eruditio
nos faciat eius esse consortes
.

Impedio (built from the word pes, pedis, “foot”), at the core of this prayer, is “to snare or tangle the feet”.   A consors is someone with (con-) whom you share your lot (sors).   The phrase “faciat eius esse consortes” recalls both the Collect for Christmas Day and the priest’s preparation of the chalice during the offertory.  Deus, “God”, is declined irregularly. In solemn discourse the nominative is used as the vocative form (e.g. cf. Livy 1, 24, 7).  Sapientia (“wisdom”) and eruditio (“learning”) are packed, technical terms from ancient rhetoric and philosophy.

BRUTAL LITERAL RENDERING:
Almighty and merciful God,
let no works of worldly impulse impede
those hurrying to the meeting of Your Son,
but rather let the learning of heavenly wisdom
make us to be His co-heirs.

OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
God of power and mercy,
open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us
from receiving Christ with joy,
so that we may share his wisdom
and become one with him
when he comes in glory,…

NEW CORRECTED ICEL (2011):
Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.

Last week in our Collect we rushed to meet the Coming Lord while striving for our reward through works made meritorious by Him alone.  During Advent, as the Baptist warns us, we are to make ready the path for the coming of the Lord.  This week we are still rushing but perhaps we are wiser after the first rush of excitement.

This week we are wary of obstacles which could impede us, snare our feet.  These impediments are merely worldly ways and works, not meritorious for salvation since they are not performed in Christ.  Worldly ways entangles us.  St. Paul contrasts the wisdom of this world with the Wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor 1:20;  3:19; 2 Cor 3:19).  In Romans 12:2 Paul admonishes, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  This is not just a Pauline concept.  Compare today’s Collect with 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge (cognitio: cf. eruditio) of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature (efficiamini divinae consortes).”

St. Augustine of Hippo (d 430) dismantled Donatist arguments that all clerics ordained by a sinful bishop would automatically be stained by the same guilt. He used imagery reminiscent of today’s prayer: “The mire (lutum) their feet are stuck in is so thick and dense that, trying in vain to tear themselves out of it, they get their hands and head stuck in it too, and lingering in that muck they get more tightly enveloped” (c. Don. 25).  The Donatist argument was based on worldly, not heavenly, wisdom.  Sticky lutum is a metaphor for a worldly, sinful life. Augustine contrasts being lutum with being children of God. “Noli esse lutum …Don’t be muck, but become (efficere) a child of God through His mercy!” (diu. qu. 68.3).

If we neglect God, we weak sinners can eventually convince ourselves of anything: down becomes up, back becomes front, black is white, wrong is right, and muddy is clean.  We excuse away our sins.  Once self-justification becomes a habit, it is a vice in more than one sense of that word.  Our consciences may occasionally struggle against the vice of self-deception, but the proverbial “Struggle” supplies permission: “I really ‘struggled’ with this, … before I did it.”

If we go off the true path into the sticky mire of error, we escape neither the Enemy lion seeking whom he might devour (1 Peter 5:8), nor the glorious Lion of Judah who will open the seals and read the Book of Life (Rev 5:5).

During Advent, let us make straight Christ’s path and watch our step.  Nevertheless, no matter how sticky may be the mess we have gotten ourselves into, Christ’s loving mercy washes its stain away in a good, complete confession before Christmas.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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6 Responses to WDTPRS 2nd Sunday of Advent: “we escape neither the Enemy lion nor the glorious Lion of Judah”

  1. q7swallows says:

    You had me at “We escape neither the Enemy lion nor the glorious Lion of Judah”!

    Brilliant, thought-provoking word picture!

  2. Legisperitus says:

    Yes, how often do we bother to speak about “struggling” when we have decided to do the right thing? It’s completely backwards, as if struggling against our conscience were more admirable than struggling against temptation.

    Or perhaps it’s that focusing on the struggle itself distracts attention from the fact that we lost the struggle?

  3. liberameDomine says:

    Fr. Z should narrate movies. The voice has such gravitas.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Father, you might like my new poem, which I wrote before reading your excellent work here.

    Akedah Two
    Posted by Supertradmum
    Akedah Two

    The binding of the favored, the promised,
    did not happen once on now what we call,
    the Temple Mount.

    There, on that day, in the white heat. a lesser
    being stopped the hand of the father, and
    then pointed to the ram.

    Repeated, at the edge of a river, in the reeds,
    another binding permanently mangled the
    sciatic nerve, never now

    To be eaten, sacred, set aside because of the
    Hand of God. This binding ended in a
    blessing, demanded

    Given out of mercy and justice, to prove to
    the chosen one that, yes, he was chosen,
    and to limp until he died.

    So the binding continued, year after year,
    the hesed tying unruly men to God, who
    wrestled with them

    Willingly, over and over. So, too, do
    I wrestle, in pain, with the same nerve
    reminding me of

    The ancestor at the river’s edge, daring to
    demand of God Himself the covenant.
    I ask myself,

    Why do some have to strive, to enter into
    the combat, to feel the Hand of the Angel
    pierce the nerve?

    Why do some walk crooked, with a stick
    prodding the sand and ruefully recognizing
    weakness, faults, sins?

    Jacob’s akedah marks Abraham’s binding,
    as I am bound by God in this ageless game
    of blessing or curse.

    Obeying out of trial, knowing the answer lies
    in the Holy Book, for if thou hast been strong
    against God,

    How much more shalt thou prevail against men?
    I have wrestled and lost, wrestled and won,
    wrestled without

    Results. Akedát Yitz?ák, but who is testing
    Who? Do I test God, as He tests me by
    wrestling in darkness?

    Jacob demanded justice, as he tested the
    Angel, God Himself, but not without
    Adam’s mark.

    So, today, I limp away, leaving the cool
    reeds at Jaboc’s ford, moving away into
    the sunrise, beyond

    Phanuel, where God was met, face to face
    and Jacob survived to tell the tale
    as we are impelled

    To do, and move on into the sunrise
    of a new day.

  5. Long-Skirts says:

    THE
    ADVENT
    MULE

    Purple, purple,
    Purple, pink,
    In evergreen
    The candles sink.

    Candle’s age?
    One thousand yeared,
    With four four-thousand
    ‘Fore He appeared.

    Each Sunday four
    In front of Yule
    When she arrived
    Upon a mule.

    A revolution
    Round the stall,
    Till suddenly
    On knees were all!

    Like priest incensing
    Hallowed altar
    To bear her Son
    All kneel, none falter.

    Firm, determined,
    Burdened-beast
    With veins of gold,
    Great stubborn priest!

  6. jameeka says:

    Fr Z: I really appreciate you also making this auditory– figured out that to download it to iPhone under podcazt ( because is does not automatically feed) I download it on safari with your plug-in. It just sinks in better when I read it, but then also listen to it too while driving. Gets it into the ear, as you would say.