(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:
|Prope est jam Dominus; venite, adoremus.||The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.|
De Isaia Propheta.
From the Prophet Isaias.
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.
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 coeli desuper, et
nubes pluant Justum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.
Ps. Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei: et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum. V. Gloria Patri. Rorate.
| Drop down Dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be
bud forth a Saviour.
Ps. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the works of his hands. V. 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, 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.||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 God, world without end.|
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 Epistolae Beati Pauli
Apostoli ad Corinthios.
Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.
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 Saviour’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 hope and her entreaties for the speedy coming of her Spouse.
Prope est Dominus omnibus invocantibus eum, omnibus qui invocant eum in veritate.
V. Laudem Domini loquetur os meum: et benedicat omnis caro nomen sanctum ejus.
V. Veni, Domine, et noli tardare: relaxa facinora plebi tuae Israel. Alleluia.
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him: to all that call upon him in truth.
V. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name.
V. 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 Luke.
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 women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.|
|Sacrificiis praesentibus, quaesumus, Domine, placatus intende: ut et devotioni nostrae 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 has 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 vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.||Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son: and his name shall be called Emmanuel.|
|Sumptis muneribus, quaesumus, Domine: ut cum frequentatione mysterii crescat nostrae 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,
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