Reflection on the Liturgy of the Day – from L’Année Liturgique, by Dom Prosper Guéranger
The Lord is already near: come, let us adore Him.
Here we are in the week immediately preceding the birth of the Messiah: in seven days at the latest, He will come; and depending on the length of Advent, which varies each year, it may be that the long-awaited coming will take place in six days, in three days, even tomorrow. The Church counts the hours of waiting; she watches day and night, and her prayers have taken on an unusual solemnity. Every day she varies the antiphons; she expresses with tenderness and majesty her desires as Bride with burning exclamations to the Messiah, in which she gives Him each day a magnificent title borrowed from the language of the prophets.
Today, she wants to strike the last blow to deeply move her children. She takes them into solitude; she shows them John the Baptist, of whose mission she has already entertained them on the third Sunday. The voice of this austere forerunner shakes the desert and is heard even in the cities. It preaches penance, the need to purify oneself while waiting for the One who is about to appear. Let us withdraw to the sidelines during these days; or if we cannot do so because of our outside occupations, let us withdraw into the secrecy of our hearts and confess our iniquity, like those true Israelites who came, full of compunction and faith in the Messiah, to complete, at the feet of John the Baptist, the work of their preparation to receive Him with dignity, when He was about to appear.
Now, here is the Holy Church telling us with ever greater solemnity:
The Lord is already near: come, let us adore Him.
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour. Psalm. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declares the works of His hands. Glory be to the Father…
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…
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, Ch. IV.
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. 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 anything: yet I am not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time till the Lord come: who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart: and then shall every man have praise from God.
Reflexion on the Epistle
In this epistle, the Church reminds the people of the dignity of the Christian priesthood and, at the same time, reminds the sacred ministers of their obligation to be faithful in the office imposed on them. Moreover, it is not for the sheep to judge the shepherd: all, priests and people alike, must live in expectation of the day of the Savior’s coming, that last coming whose terror will be as great as the meekness of the first, and of the second for which we are preparing our souls. After these stern words have resounded in the congregation, the Holy Church resumes the course of her hopes, and again celebrates the coming arrival of the Bridegroom.
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. Come, O Lord, and delay not: release Thy people Israel from their sins. Alleluia.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to saint Luke, Chap. III.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod 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 came to 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 words 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.
Reflexion on the Gospel
O 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, who is 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 be 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 baptised in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptising us in the Holy Ghost and love.
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 Hhee, O incomparable Mother! but the happy hour is rapidly advancing, when He will also be with us; for His name is Emmanuel.