Tag Archives: Advent

First Sunday of Advent

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx writes,

“Advent calls to mind the two comings of our Lord: the first coming of the ‘fairest of the sons of men’ and ‘the desire of all nations’, so long awaited and so fervently prayed for by all when the Son of God graciously revealed to the world his visible presence in the flesh, that is, when he came into the world to save sinners; the other that second coming to which we look forward no less than did the people of old. While we await his return our hope is sure and firm, yet we also frequently remind ourselves of the day when he who first came to us concealed in our flesh will come again revealed in the glory which belongs to him as Lord…How beautifully then at this season the Church provides that we should recite the words and recall the longing of those who lived before our Lord’s first advent!”

First Sunday of Advent 2014

The meaning of Advent has to reorient our perspective, our longing,our hope in the Messiah. We come to this point in the liturgical year, the first day in fact, of the new year, hoping for renewal and the reverberation of the heart meeting Christ. St. Augustine offers us a way of understanding the place of the Messiah in our life.

“The first coming of Christ the Lord, God’s son and our God,was in obscurity. The second will be in sight of the whole world. When he came in obscurity, no one recognized him but his own servants. When he comes openly, he will be known by both the good and the bad. When he came in obscurity, it was to be judged. When he comes openly, it will be to judge. He was silent at his trial, as the prophet foretold…Silent when accused, he will not be silent as judge. Even now he does not keep silent, if there is anyone to listen. But it says he will not keep silent then, because his voice will be acknowledged even by those who despise it.” (Sermons 18.1-2)

O Emmanuel

O EMMANUEL [God with us], our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of nations and their Savior: COME,and save us, O Lord our God!

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

In the previous six antiphons, our cry was directed to the Messiah as He manifested Himself to the Chosen People, to the Gentiles, and in nature; now He is addressed in person and asked to remain with us as Emmanuel. Reading this final antiphon gives the feeling that a climax has indeed come. The very term Emmanuel [God with us] reveals the kindly, human heart of Jesus–He wants to be one of us, a Child of Man, with all our human weaknesses and suffering; He wants to experience how hard it is to be human. He wants to remain with us to the end of time; He wants to dwell within us, to make us sharers of His nature.

Besides the main title, the Savior is invoked by four other names.

(1) King and Lawgiver are common enough, and the combination is found in Isaiah 32:22: “The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver; the Lord is our King. He will save us.” This is a joyous expression of faith and confidence. Christ functions in all these roles for our benefit. Whatever a lawgiver like Moses, a judge like Samuel, a king like David, accomplished for the good and glory of their people, that and far more the expected Savior will accomplish for us.

(2) The Messiah is next hailed as the expectation of the Gentiles and their Savior. Remember Jacob’s dying words: “The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He comes that is to be sent. He is the expectation of all the nations.” (Genesis 49:10)

The antiphon petitions: COME AND SAVE US! King, let me be Your vassal; Lawgiver, let me be Your servant; Expected Savior, let my longings be fulfilled in You. Our song closes with the words, “O Lord our God!” It is a phrase summarizing all the names and titles used in the O-Antiphons. May our hearts be always so disposed as to use the invocations sincerely and confidently.

Shortness of days give testimony to someone Greater

Eternal LightThe solemn feast of the Son coheres with with the shortness of the cosmic days. Just yesterday we observed the first day of the winter solstice and also the Advent Ember Day. You might say that heaven and earth, the immaterial and material coalesce to point to something richer than any human thought can conceive.

The saints have something to say to us as a locus theologicus: concrete experience of the Incarnate Son of God leads to new ways of conceiving human existence. The saint bears witness to his or her Creator, the Savior of the world and therefore holds up for us a new and deeper way to understand the Divine Mystery.

One only has to meditate on the O Antiphons sung at the time of the Magnificat at Vespers to have a sense of divine action in history. But let’s return to a saint who makes a good connection with what you see out your window and what is placed in the heart, that is, who is given to us by the Almighty.

Saint Maximus of Turin: “Even if I were to keep silence, my friends, the season would warn us that the birthday of Christ our Lord is at hand. The year is coming to an end and forestalls the subject of my sermon. The depressing shortness of the days itself testifies to the imminence of some event which will bring about the betterment of a world urgently longing for a brighter sun to dispel its darkness. In spite of fearing that its course may be terminated within a few brief hours, the world still shows signs of hope that its yearly cycle will once more be renewed. And if creation feels this hope, it persuades us also to hope that Christ will come like a new sunrise to shed light on the darkness of our sins, and that the Sun of Justice, in the vigor of his new birth, will dispel the long night of guilt from our hearts. Rather than allow the course of our life to come to an end with such appalling brevity, we are confident that he will extend it by his powerful grace.”

O King of the Nations

O KING OF THE NATIONS and the Desired of all, You are the cornerstone binding the two [i.e., Jew and Gentile] into one: COME, and save poor man, whom You fashioned out of clay.

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Previous antiphons in this series stemmed from a Jewish background. The Messiah would be the fulfillment of Israel’s expectations, and Christians are the “wild vine” grafted onto the original vine of the Chosen People. In several of the antiphons, there are allusions to the conversion of the Gentiles, but this sixth antiphon is the first to address the Savior as “King of the nations and the Desired of ALL.” The reference to the “cornerstone” is to Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I will lay a stone as the foundation of Zion, a tested stone, a cornerstone, precious and firmly set; if one believes, he will not be shaken.” On occasion, Christ called Himself the cornerstone (c.f. Matthew 21:42), indicating that He is the foundation, the spiritual support of the Church.

In our antiphon, however, the clause that follows indicates a function in reference to the Gentiles: the Messiah will be a cornerstone uniting both Jew and Gentile. This thought is from Ephesians 2:14, where Christ is called the peace-maker between Jew and Gentile, breaking down the wall of enmity between them.

The petition calls for the salvation of all humanity, which has its creation from the clay of the earth as a common bond. The antiphon should call all of us to work for the spread of the Gospel to all who have not yet heard it.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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