Pastor's Corner: Christmas Preparations

December 11, 2016
Source: District of the USA
A medieval manuscript showing pages of the Divine Office in Advent

The Church is preparing us through her rich liturgy for the ever-advancing feast of Christmas and the Birth of our Redeemer.

As we advance in our spiritual pilgrimage to Bethlehem to be the witnesses of the miraculous birth of the Christ Child, the liturgy becomes more explicit and rich in signs of admiration and petition.

The Advent season contains the leitmotiv of the dew, always a sign of life in a desert country like Israel: “Drop down dew, O heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the just one. Let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.” The mystic and enigmatic touch of this double verse adds force to the prayer. We are begging God to work a miracle and give us the Savior fallen mankind has waited so long for.

The ancient vesperal hymn of Advent, Creator Almae Siderum, tells us of the gigantic struggle between the forces of light and darkness, with the Mother of God as the channel of salvation: 

Bright Builder of the heavenly poles.
Eternal light of faithful souls,
Jesus, Redeemer of mankind,
Our humble prayers vouchsafe to mind:

Who, lest the fraud of hell’s black king,
Should all men to destruction bring,
Didst, by an act of generous love,
The fainting world’s physician prove.

Thou, that thou mightst our ransom pay,
And wash the stains of sin away,
Didst from a Virgin’s womb proceed,
And on the Cross a Victim bleed."

Another significant addition to the last days of Advent is the “O Antiphons.” From December 17 to 23, the antiphons to Magnificat carry various divine titles for the Child to be born: O Wisdom, O Adonai [Hebrew for Lord], O root of Jesse, O key of David, O Orient, O King, O Emmanuel.  In their Latin original, we have the following words: Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, Emmanuel.

An interesting feature of these titles is that if we invert the initial letters we get “Ero cras—I shall be here tomorrow!” which indeed is the case as the seven antiphons are completed on December 23, about 24 hours away from Midnight Mass. It is as if the Church is getting anxious to finally see the Invisible God become visible to human eyes.

Such should be our eagerness as we redouble our steps towards the holy Manger at Bethlehem, filled with awe and wonder