The Introit (Isaiah 45:8; Psalm 18:2) Rorate, caeli, desuper … Drop down dew, O heavens, from above. Let the clouds rain down justice. Let the earth open and bud forth the Saviour. (Ps.) The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declares the work of His hands. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Drop down dew … Amen.
The Collect Stir up, O Lord, we beseech You, your power and come, and with great might succour us: that the indulgence of your mercy may speedily grant the good which our sins impede; who lives and reigns forever …
The Epistle (1 Corinthians 4:1-5) Brethren, Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by any human court: but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justiﬁed : but he that judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come; who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise from God.
The Gradual (Psalm 144:18, 21) The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all ﬂesh bless his holy name.
Alleluia Alleluia, alleluia, come, O Lord, and do not delay: forgive the sins of thy people Israel. Alleluia.
The Gospel (Luke 3:1-6) In the ﬁfteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high-priests Annas and Caiphas: the word of the Lord came to John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaias the Prophet: “A voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be ﬁlled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain: and all ﬂesh shall see the salvation of God’.”
Offertory Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. How shall this be done in me, because I know not man? The Spirit of the Lord shall come upon you, and the power of the most High shall overshadow you. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born out of you shall be called the Son of God.
The Secret Look down favourably upon these sacriﬁces, O Lord, we beseech: that they may conduce to our devotion and our salvation. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ …
Communion Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son : and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
Post-Communion Having received your gifts, we beseech You, O Lord, the more frequently we partake in the sacred rites, the greater may be their salutary effect. Through our Lord …
Cleanse, Heal, and Strengthen the Heart
In this Season of Advent, we are preparing for the great feast of the Nativity, which we celebrate on Christmas Day. However, we are also preparing for the rest of our lives, and so it is wise to take this Season as a new beginning. It is also a time when the good feelings of the Season help us to come to a more intense prayer life. Whose heart does not feel lifted when we contemplate the Christ Child in his crib, with the animals in the manger?
When we pray, we want to pray with and through the voice of conscience, which is the voice of God inside each one of us. Christian prayer is the forging of a bridge to God: he can always come to us, and He is always calling us. But we are deaf, and so we need to work at the connection. In the same way, Christian love is a relationship in God, where we sacrifice ourselves so that the love of God can come through us. As we are, our love is very weak, but the love of God is eternal and powerful. One thing in us which stops the love of God coming through, prevents us hearing the voice of conscience within us, and keeps our hearts from lifting their prayer to God is our attachment to our own personal criticisms.
We have a habit and an attachment to criticism, and with that criticism there comes a tendency to negative emotion. It is okay to disagree, to say that someone did X., for example, and X. was wrong. That is quite possible. Sometimes people say “it’s all good,” but that is demonstrably untrue. There is such a thing as evil, and sometimes people do things which are bad, wicked or evil. So it is necessary to be able to assess what we see, and say whether it is good, bad or indifferent. But when I speak about the habit of criticism, leading to negative emotion, I am speaking about a different process. Often when we utter a criticism, or even just think it to ourselves, something starts up in us full of negative emotion: “I have told them a thousand times, they always do it.” There is a picture of myself there as long-suffering and being the one who knows it, and compares myself to those idiots.
Criticism can be just as dangerous when it is not extreme, but there are signs that I have gone too far. For example, if I write someone off as always wrong. And, more deeply, it is not following the Lord’s commandment to treat another as I would want to be treated. A Christian would put himself in the other person’s shoes: what did they know, what was their perspective, what were they aiming at, how would they see me?
People rarely try to do something good: they aim at the good, but the good as they understand it. We all do this. You know that you yourself generally try to do what is good, and then it is easy to see that other people are the same. Then I start to understand people the way that angels see them. The angels see us as all children of God, and they want us to do the best we can and become the best we can. The grace of god is there for everyone, he makes the sun shine for everyone, good and bad alike.
Where there is criticism there is dirt: wash it away, go to confession. Then, having cleaned it, start to learn charity and to put myself in the other person’s shoes. This is a stage of healing; and then comes the stage of becoming strong. Think of these three stages: cleansing, healing, and strengthening. Let us make them part of our Advent preparation, and our ow whole life.