November 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – We are about to enter once more into the sacred season of Advent. In a way, we could think of this entire season as an extended Annunciation: the Lord sends the angel Gabriel into our midst through the liturgy, promising the Word made flesh—who indeed already dwells among us in the holy banquet. We anticipate the mystery of the revelation of the Son of God at Christmas, when we are rapt into the love of things unseen by the humble glory and glorious humility that meets our gaze in Nazareth. Every day of the Church’s liturgical year is a remembrance of what has already come to be, an anticipation of what is yet to come, and a participation in the reality that surrounds us and penetrates us even now.
There are many good things we can do during Advent: pray the daily Rosary, or, if one is already doing that, perhaps praying a scriptural Rosary; read a good book of meditations; pray some part of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours; spend fifteen minutes or a half-hour in meditation on Scripture first thing in the morning, before the day gets going and one loses the quiet calm.
We have an obligation before God, and a profound interior need, to pray every day. Our life will wither up and dry out over time if we do not have recourse to prayer every day. But no prayer surpasses the supreme prayer of Christ and His Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If it is available nearby, and if it is celebrated reverently, nothing could be a better devotion for us during Advent and a better preparation for Christmas than assisting daily at it. For “the Holy Spirit has made the liturgy the center of his working in men’s souls,” as the great Dom Prosper Guéranger once said. The same Holy Spirit who descended upon the Virgin Mary to implant in her womb the Word of God; the same Holy Spirit who hovered over Christ at His baptism in the Jordan; the same Holy Spirit who swept into the upper room on Pentecost and sent the Church forth to all places in all times—this Holy Spirit is active at the heart of the Holy Sacrifice as nowhere else on earth, and we are given the opportunity to (in the words of St. Ephrem the Syrian) “eat Spirit and fire.”
Holy Mass is where we encounter and consume the very mysteries in which we believe. St. Athanasius said, in the most perfect “Christmas sentiment” ever uttered: “God became man so that man might become God.” If we want God to become our own and ourselves to become His own, then we must let God enter in the way He has chosen: under the form of bread, as our life-giving food. Bethlehem, after all, means “house of bread.” He came to be our bread, but, as St. Augustine tells us, our eating works exactly the opposite to how it works with every other food: when we take ordinary food, we transform it into ourselves, because we are more powerful than it; but when we receive divine food, Christ, who is really present and more powerful than we are, transforms us into Him, when He finds no obstacle to this conversion.
Hear what St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, had to say:
All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison, for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.
As we read in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, the liturgy is the “source and summit” of our Christian life. It is the source of strength, wisdom, light, and help, both in this life and for the life to come, for which we need to be preparing throughout our lives, as the Church reminds us in Advent by turning our minds also to Christ’s Second Coming, which is “rehearsed,” one might say, at the moment of each individual’s death, when Christ comes for you and for me, to our glory or to our shame.
“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary: and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.” In the Mass of Catechumens (or the Liturgy of the Word), the Lord declares His word unto us; in the Mass of the Faithful (or the Liturgy of the Eucharist), we receive the Word made flesh, conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Mass is our perpetual Annunciation, our lifelong Advent. The liturgical season that Holy Mother Church calls Advent is therefore singularly well-suited to daily Mass. May your Advent be spiritually fruitful and, in this way, make a hidden but real contribution to the purifying and sanctifying of the Church on earth, for which we all long.
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