Wednesday, December 3, 2008


One of the prayers written for the Book of Common Prayer (i.e. not translated from the old Missal) is the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent. It is one of the most memorable of Thomas Cranmer's works, and sums up exactly what we ought to be praying at this time of the year:

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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A number of times I have been in Rome on a Sunday and have managed to get into St Peter's Square for the Angelus Address the Pope gives to the crowd from his window. Of course, this was during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul the Great. A real evangelist, his utterances were anointed by the Holy Spirit. He was also a great "worker of the crowd", and would departed from his notes in order to chat spontaneously to sections of the crowd in their various languages. He would use his gift of humour to drive home his message. At peak times of the year it could be quite difficult to squeeze into the Square.

Many observers expected the more reserved and "bookish" Benedict XVI to have difficulty "charming the crowds", as they would put it. However, it has been remarked that even BIGGER crowds than in the time John Paul II are gathering for these precious moments at mid-day on Sundays! There is a difference, however. In the days of JPII there was something of a carnival atmosphere. I'm told that these days, even though the crowds keep growing, you can hear a pin drop as Pope Benedict teaches the people. (Of course, that is not to say that one style is better than another . . . it is just to appreciate that the Holy Spirit gives a variety of gifts to his people for the enrichment of the Church and the world.)

Anyway, the Vatican web site has just posted an English translation of Benedict XVI's Angelus Address from last Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent. It is SO good that I want to share it with you:

History of humanity defined in three pivotal moments

God breaks the boundaries of time

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This season invites us to reflect on the dimension of time, which always exerts great fascination over us.

However, after the example of what Jesus loved to do, I wish to start with a very concrete observation: we all say that we do not have enough time, because the pace of daily life has become frenetic for everyone.

In this regard too, the Church has "good news" to bring: God gives us his time. We always have little time; especially for the Lord, we do not know how or, sometimes, we do not want to find it. Well, God has time for us!

This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with ever new amazement. Yes, God gives us his time, because he entered history with his Word and his works of salvation to open it to eternity, to make it become a covenantal history.

In this prospective, already in itself time is a fundamental sign of God's love: a gift that man, as with everything else, is able to make the most of or, on the contrary, to waste; to take in its significance or to neglect with obtuse superficiality.

Then there are the three great "points" in time, which delineate the history of salvation: at the beginning, Creation; the Incarnation-Redemption at the centre and at the end the "parousia", the final coming that also includes the Last Judgment. However, these three moments should not be viewed merely in chronological succession.

In fact, Creation is at the origin of all things but it also continues and is actuated through the whole span of cosmic becoming, until the end of time. So too, although the Incarnation-Redemption occurred at a specific moment in history the period of Jesus' journey on earth it nevertheless extends its radius of action to all the preceding time and all that is to come. And in their turn, the final coming and the Last Judgment, which were decisively anticipated precisely in the Cross of Christ, exercise their influence on the conduct of the people of every age.

The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God in its two moments: it first invites us to reawaken our expectation of Christ's glorious return, then, as Christmas approaches, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation.

Yet the Lord comes into our lives continually. How timely then, is Jesus' call, which on this First Sunday is powerfully proposed to us: "Watch!" (Mark 13: 33, 35, 37). It is addressed to the disciples but also to everyone, because each one, at a time known to God alone, will be called to account for his life.

This involves a proper detachment from earthly goods, sincere repentance for one's errors, active charity to one's neighbour and above all a humble and confident entrustment to the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father.

The icon of Advent is the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Let us invoke her so that she may help us also to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes.


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