Monday, December 1, 2014

Traditional readings for 1st Sunday of Advent

What goes unsaid eventually goes unthought, which is why I appreciate the prayers of the old Mass so much. Yesterday's Collect:
Stir up thy power, we beseech thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by thy protection, and to be saved by thy deliverance: who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Compare that with the Novus Ordo Collect for yesterday:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom. 
This pattern holds throughout the year: the old Mass frequently beseeches God to deliver us from our sins and always has our judgment in mind. The Novus Ordo seldom mentions such things. The first traditional reading comes from St. Paul's letter to the Romans:
Brethren, knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Advent emphasizes the two senses in which we await the coming of Christ: in the weeks before his Nativity, and the end times before his Second Coming. It's not as severe as Lent, but Advent is traditionally a penitential season where we are expected to increase our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Every day of Advent brings us closer to the coming of Christ in both senses of the term. Paul urges us to give up the works of darkness because even if the Second Coming isn't happening any time soon, our personal judgment at the moment of our death can come when we least expect it.

The traditional Gospel reading comes from St. Luke:
At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves;
Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh;
So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The Catholic religion is by nature something of a reactionary enterprise. Doctrine develops, sure, but the New Testament is rife with warnings to Christians to pass on the faith exactly as they received it. Jesus says that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words never will. Paul urges us not to believe any new doctrine even if it ostensibly comes from an angel. The first coming of Christ was in the humblest of circumstances: a stable or a cave. There will be no mistaking his second coming. And that's why Holy Mother Church traditionally urges us to greater works of prayer and penance during this season. At least she used to anyway.

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