And so, another Advent season has come to an end. As I write this, I Vespers of the Nativity of Our Lord have already been said, beginning the liturgical festivities of Christmastide.
Advent this year was marked by sense of eagerness, of expectancy, of urgency. It seemed as though Advent this year was a seamless continuation of the end of the liturgical year. For the first time, I was able to pray most of the Hours of the Office throughout the 4 weeks of Advent. I believe it was this assiduousness in praying the Office that impressed me with the sense of apocalyptic (in the biblical sense) urgency.
All the propers for the season speak of the coming of Christ, of the promise of the redemption of Israel.
Taking a sample from the antiphons:
“Behold, the great Prophet shall come; and He shall renew Jerusalem, alleluia.”
“The Lord will come and not delay. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will manifest Himself to all nations, alleluia.”
“Rejoice, Jerusalem, with great joy, for thy Saviour will come to thee, alleluia.”
“Behold, our Lord shall come with power, to enlighten the eyes of His servants, alleluia.”
“Let us live justly and piously, looking for the blessed hope and the coming of the Lord.”
“Fear not, Sion, behold, thy God cometh, alleluia.”
“Behold, the King shall come, and He shall take away the yoke of our captivity.”
“Turn again, O Lord, at the last, and delay not to come unto Thy servants.”
“Be prepared to meet Thy God, O Israel, for He cometh.”
“Awake, awake, arise, Jerusalem; loose the chains from off thy neck, O captive daughter of Sion.”
The O Antiphons, addressing Our Lord by Old Testament titles, voice the prophets’ and the patriarchs’ deep desire for the coming of the Messiah with their continual entreaty – “come”.
The Excita collects, which begin, not with the usual address, but with an audacious demand that the Lord arise and come, further inculcate the sense of urgency.
Finally, the hymns of Lauds and Vespers speak to us of the Second Coming:
Secundo ut cum fulserit
mundumque horror cinxerit,
non pro reatu puniat,
sed nos pius tunc protegat.
So that at the Second Coming when He will shine and dread will gird the world,
He will punish us not for sin,
but, merciful, will then protect us.
-4th stanza, Vox clara ecce
Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.
In faith we beg You, O Holy One,
You the Judge of the world about to come,
guard us in this era
from the weapon of the treacherous enemy.
-5th stanza, Conditor alme siderium
Praying more of the Office, and more continuously, has made me realize that just going to Sunday Mass is not enough to impress the “spirit of the season” upon one’s soul; that, if a wider picture is wanted, if one desires to live it more intensely, then one has to pray with the Church, to give primacy to Her words, to Her feelings. She is, after all, our Mother. It is she who educates us in the faith, that mediates the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to pray through her. Loving the Liturgy, praying with the Church, one inevitably finds that, with time, one comes back to it time and again to express one’s own prayer.
During these four weeks we read the chapter on Advent in Bl. Columba Marmion’s Christ in His Mysteries. There was a particular passage which lept out at me when reading it:
And nevertheless the Holy Spirit, who directs the Church and is first author of our sanctification, wills that the Church each year dedicate a period of four weeks to a remembrance of the amazing length of the divine preparations, and to put it all to work in order to redispose our souls to have the inner dispositions in which the faithful Jews lived when awaiting the coming of the Messiah.
[…] God wishes us to find in these preparations a confirmation of our faith.
For some time now the renewal of the baptismal vows during the Paschal Vigil has been a pet peeve of mine, as it seems to me to interrupt the natural flow of the liturgy. The aforementioned description of Adventide by Bl. Marmion seems to imply, rather, that it is during this season that we “renew” our baptismal vows; that, as long as we live the season properly, as long as we do as the Church instructs us to, then those vows are renewed implicitly by our actions – we are living “liturgically”, and thus there is no need for an explicit renewal. This is just my take on the matter, so I could be wrong and am open to correction.
This year we began what we hope will become a family Advent tradition. As of December 18th, the first day on which the O Antiphons are sung with the Magnificat at Vespers, the whole family gathered before the nativity scene to sing Veni veni Emmanuel by candlelight. We were, in a sense, the virgins with lamps awaiting the Bridegroom, anxiously awaiting for Him to come.