First Sunday of Advent – A

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For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.”

OPENING PRAYER

First Sunday of Advent Prayer

Roman Breviary 1632 – Vespers

Creator of the stars of night,

Thy people’s everlasting light,

Jesus Redeemer, save us all

And hear Thy servants when they call.

 

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse,

Should doom to death a universe,

Hast found the medicine full of grace

To save and heal a ruined race.

 

Thou camest, the Bridegroom of the Bride,

As drew the world to evening tide,

Proceeding from a Virgin shrine

The spotless Victim all divine

 

At Whose dread Name majestic now

All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;

All things celestial Thee shall own

And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

 

O Thou Whose coming is with dread

To judge and doom the quick and dead,

Preserve us, while we dwell below

From every insult of the foe.

 

To God the Father, God the Son,

And God the Spirit, Three in One,

Praise, honor, might and glory be,

From age to age eternally.

Amen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc2vV-v802s

COLLECT

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.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

READING I

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Is 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,

saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come,

the mountain of the LORD’s house

shall be established as the highest mountain

and raised above the hills.

All nations shall stream toward it;

many peoples shall come and say:

Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may instruct us in his ways,

and we may walk in his paths.”

For from Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and impose terms on many peoples.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks;

one nation shall not raise the sword against another,

nor shall they train for war again.

O house of Jacob, come,

let us walk in the light of the Lord!

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

CCC 762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.4 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.5 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”6

CCC 2317 Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war:

Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”7

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.

2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.

3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.

4 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5-6.

5 Cf. Ex 19:5-6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4.

6 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2-4; Jer 2; 31:31-34; Isa 55:3.

7 GS 78 # 6; cf. Isa 2:4.

APPLICATION

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, is the ecclesiastical New Year’s day. The Church begins her annual liturgical cycle of feasts, with a period of four weeks’ preparation for Christmas–the great feast of Christ’s coming on earth. The readings selected for today, and the following three Sundays, are chosen to help us prepare for this, the greatest event that ever happened on our planet.

The Son of God took our human nature and “dwelt among us” for a while on earth, in order to bring us to heaven, where we shall dwell forever with the Blessed Trinity.

The whole of the Old Testament–the story of God’s dealings with the Chosen People–describes God’s long preparation for this, almost incredible, act of divine love and mercy, the Incarnation. God sent his Son in our lowly human nature, in order to raise us, mere creatures, to the dignity of adopted sons of God, brothers of Christ, and thus, heirs of the eternal life with him in heaven.

Today’s lesson from Isaiah contains one of the encouraging speeches which God’s great prophet addressed to his fellow-Jews, to help them persevere in their faith in God. Days of distress and tribulation lay ahead. Jerusalem, their beloved and holy city, the site of the temple where the true God manifested his power and his mercy among them, was to be razed one day to the ground, because of their sins. But when the great day came and God fulfilled his promises to them, Jerusalem would once more be the glory and the pride, not only of the Jews, but of all nations.

The “Word of the Lord,” the true Son of Man made flesh, would rebuild their temple, not with stones and mortar, but with living, human beings who would form his Church: the members of his mystical body on earth. His message, and his means of salvation for man, would go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

This prophecy of Isaiah, spoken 700 years before the coming of Christ, has been fulfilled. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” And we today, thousands of miles from Jerusalem, and two thousand years after his coming among us, are preparing ourselves for the annual commemoration of that greatest event of history.

To do so, let the basic meaning and messages of the Incarnation, which Christmas commemorates, sink deeply into our minds: we were not created by God in order to live fifty, seventy, or even a hundred years in this world, we were created to be citizens of heaven for all eternity. This is God’s plan for us, and to bring it about, he chose that his divine Son should share in our humanity, so that we could share forever in his divinity.

What words of ours could express our gratitude for this stupendous act of God’s love? What sacrifices could we offer–even that of life itself–which could make us worthy of this divine generosity? But Christ has acted on our behalf, he has graciously shared his merits with us, and his merits were infinite because he was true God as well as true man.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

I rejoiced because they said to me,

We will go up to the house of the LORD.”

And now we have set foot

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Jerusalem, built as a city

with compact unity.

To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD.

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

According to the decree for Israel,

to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

In it are set up judgment seats,

seats for the house of David.

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

May those who love you prosper!

May peace be within your walls,

prosperity in your buildings.

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Because of my brothers and friends

I will say, “Peace be within you!”

Because of the house of the LORD, our God,

I will pray for your good.

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

 

READING II

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Rom 13:11-14

Brothers and sisters:

You know the time;

it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.

For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;

the night is advanced, the day is at hand.

Let us then throw off the works of darkness

and put on the armor of light;

let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,

not in orgies and drunkenness,

not in promiscuity and lust,

not in rivalry and jealousy.

APPLICATION

These words of St. Paul to the Roman Christians of the year 58 A.D., are words that each one of us should apply to himself today. Advent begins today. We must prepare ourselves to celebrate worthily the commemoration of the greatest act of love and condescension which the God of infinite love deigned to do for us creatures. He sent his divine Son to become man, to become one of us, so that we could become his adopted sons, sharers in his divine life. This is what our annual feast of Christmas commemorates.

The fact that we are in existence, that we are alive here on earth, is a free gift of God to us. We had no hand, act or part in it. Life of itself is a wonderful gift, a gift we share with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. But we humans are far superior to these other creatures of God, because we have the extra gift of intelligence and free will. And because of these gifts, we have ambitions and desires which other creatures have not got. We have in our make-up a spiritual element which raises us above mere matter and makes us want to continue to live.

The cow in the field does not know that it is certain to die, and it does not care, but man knows and has a natural abhorrence of death. Should I, with all the gifts the Creator has given me, and all the reasonable ambitions and desires which these gifts arouse in me, end like the cow in the field: a mere handful of clay, finished with life forever?

Christmas gives an emphatic No to that frightening thought. The infinitely merciful and loving God planned from all eternity for man, the recipient of these superior gifts, a share in his own eternal life, once his short sojourn on this earth was over. The Incarnation–his divine Son sharing in our human nature–was the mysterious, but loving way God ordained to bring this about. Because of this decree of God, our true and unending life begins after our earthly death.

But we must do our part to earn this divine gift. All men are destined by God for eternal life, but to attain it each man must follow the path laid down by God. St. Paul tells us today some of the things we must avoid, and some of the things we must do, if we want to reach the eternal happiness planned for us. “We must,” he says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He made himself our brother, we must live as true brothers of his.

Advent is a glorious opportunity for each one of us to look into his own life and see if he is living as a true brother of Christ, as a true Christian. Few of us can honestly claim that we are doing this, but there is none among us who cannot improve and do better.

Think this morning, and think during the week, of all God has done, and is still doing, in order to give you an eternal life of happiness. Think also, that you could be unfortunate enough to lose this eternal happiness, if you were so foolish as to choose the “works of darkness” instead of the “armor of light,” which Christ has offered to you.

GOSPEL

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Mt 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples:

As it was in the days of Noah,

so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

In those days before the flood,

they were eating and drinking,

marrying and giving in marriage,

up to the day that Noah entered the ark.

They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.

So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.

Two men will be out in the field;

one will be taken, and one will be left.

Two women will be grinding at the mill;

one will be taken, and one will be left.

Therefore, stay awake!

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

Be sure of this: if the master of the house

had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,

he would have stayed awake

and not let his house be broken into.

So too, you also must be prepared,

for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112716.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,1 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”2. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.3

1 Cf. Rev 22:20.

2 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.

3 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.

APPLICATION

During this holy season of Advent we are all being called on and exhorted by the Church to prepare ourselves to commemorate worthily the first coming of Christ as our Brother and Savior. If we do that each year; if we let the full meaning of this great festival of Christmas enter into our innermost being, welcoming the Son of God in the form of the Babe of Bethlehem with a clean, sincere and grateful heart, then each year of our lives will be sanctified and a big step will be taken towards our eternal goal. Christmas each year should be a mile-stone on the road to heaven for every true Christian. It is a festival which vividly recalls to our minds the length our heavenly Father has gone to in order to make us adopted sons and sharers in his everlasting happiness.

If God cares so much for our true welfare–and the Incarnation surely proves that he does–we should surely have enough interest in our own future to cooperate with him in this affair of our eternal salvation.

In today’s gospel lesson it is Christ himself who is asking each one of us to live our lives so that no matter when we are called to judgment we shall not be found wanting. This does not mean that we must always be praying. Nor does it mean that we must take no interest in the affairs of this life. Of the two men working in the field and of the two women grinding corn, one of each was found unworthy, not because of the work he or she was doing, but because that work had for them wrongly excluded God and his purpose in life. The two found worthy had room for God and their own eternal welfare in their hearts–their work was part of their loyal service to God and was a means towards their salvation.

In this town (or city) of ours all adults are occupied one way or another with earthly affairs and necessarily so. But while these earthly affairs may, and do alas, become cruel task-masters for some and tie down their whole attention to the things of this earth, for others, thank God, their daily tasks are stepping stones to heaven. The day of reckoning will come, suddenly like a thief in the night for the former, and for the others it will not be a thief breaking in but the Master knocking at their door to take them to himself.

Christmas comes but once a year but its meaning, its lesson, must remain in our hearts and minds all the year round. God wants us in heaven forever. He sent his Son on earth to bring us there. Aided by God’s grace we resolve today so to live our lives that when death claims us we shall meet Christ, not as a condemning judge, but as a loving brother.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Advent” is a Latin word that can be translated as “presence” or “coming.” In the ancient world, it was a technical term, denoting the arrival of a person in office such as a king or an emperor. It could also indicate the coming of the deity, in which case the god’s advent was his emerging from concealment and making his presence known in power or else having it solemnly celebrated in an act of worship. Christians took over this word in order to express their particular relationship with Jesus Christ. For them, he was and is the king who has entered this wretched province, the earth, and enables it to celebrate his visit. What Christians mean in general by this word “Advent,” then, is: God is there. He has not withdrawn from the world. He has not left us alone. Even though we cannot see him or touch him as we can the things that surround us, he is still there and, what is more, he comes to us in many different ways. We have mentioned the world “visit” in this context. This word can be used in its happy, original, and almost literal sense of “going to see” a person, persons, or a place. It is, however, also used in the less pleasant sense of afflicting or punishing, when it is associated with such concepts as trouble, famine, plague, or illness. This word should therefore enable us to see that something of beauty of Advent can be found in difficulty. Illness and suffering can therefore, like a great joy, also be a personal Advent – a visit by God who wants to enter my life and turn toward me.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Advent Prayer

Father, all powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When he humbled himself to come among us, he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago and opened for us the way to salvation.

Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ will come again in his glory.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Hosanna in the highest.

Amen.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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