Electronic Prayer Book

Part Heaven Asunder

 

“O that You would but part heaven asunder, and come down!” (Isaias 64: 1)

 
Advent means The Coming of the Lord.
 

The coming of the Messiah, our Saviour, was foretold by the prophets, announced by St. John the Baptist, desired with love and longing by the Virgin Mary.

Advent means the coming of God, the King of eternity, King of the world, King of the poor.

Advent means the coming of God who wants to unite us with himself by making himself a child of our human race.

Advent means the progressive coming of God, who in the course of history transforms, “divinises”, the world and brings mankind into the divine kingdom.

 
The Dawn of Hope
 

Isaiah is the great prophet of Advent. In the eighth century before the coming of Christ he foretold that a Child would be born from a virgin; this Child would bring together into Jerusalem the people who were enslaved in the pagan country of Babylon. For us, Jerusalem means Heaven. For we are the people in exile, enslaved by sin. He who comes to save us will bear the titles “God, Almighty, Prince of peace”.

St. John the Baptist shows Him to us. The bridegroom is at hand, and so “the bridegroom’s friend rejoices”. And the Church continues the preaching of John the Baptist, Christ’s herald. She invites us to prepare for him, to be sorry for our sins, to go out to meet the bridegroom who is coming to seek us because he loves us.

And finally, the Virgin Mary, inspires hope in us. Her loving influence pervades the whole season of Advent. Blessed is she who believed God’s word! In her faith she has accepted the Lord; she becomes the Mother of her and our Saviour.

 
It is a King who comes.
 

Christ is coming. “Let the lintels of your doors be hoisted higher; the old time doorways, bid them be enlarged: for the King of glory will enter there”. It is the arrival (“advent”) of the Lord who has complete power over us; He is coming to gather into his kingdom of justice and of peace all who received Him. And the angel tells Mary that the kingdom of her Son shall never have an end. In the beginning it will be only a humble kingdom: but it will become triumphant and universal on that day when, at the end of time, Christ comes for the second time.

Very soon the circle of worshippers grows. At first there were devout Jews, but then came the wise men from the Gentiles. For it is the universal kingdom foretold by Isaiah that Jesus comes to found: “Claimed my house shall be for a house of prayer, by all the nations”. We are all invited to unite ourselves under one law of love which overlaps all frontiers, for God comes to save all nations. His kingdom is founded especially for the poor and for the righteous of heart.

 
It is a Bridegroom who comes.
 

The King of peace does not come like one who crushes his enemies. The “jealous God” of the Old Testament was a God who loved his people. And so it is like a bridegroom that he comes to the human race. The feast for which we are preparing attains its full meaning only at the Epiphany, when the Church sings of her royal nuptials with God. But during Advent we see John the Baptist purifying the people before Christ comes, giving the “ritual bath” such as was customary for brides. For just as a king confers his name and his dignity on the bride of his choice, so also the Word will confer on the human race both His name and His glory. The loss brought upon us by “original sin”* will be made good; we shall be once again of God’s family.

* [Genesis 3]

 
The Word was made Flesh.
 

To convince our hearts that He does truly love us, God is going to make Himself our brother. Later on He will love to call Himself the Son of Man. The shepherds find a little child lying on straw near his mother: “Emmanuel” — “God with us” — in order that we may forever be with God. It was on account of this stupendous happening that the angels filled the night of Christmas with their songs and their light.

 
Waiting for the Second Coming
 

Jesus – Anointed Messiah, was promised to us as our light; for only He can bring us certainty — the certainty of being saved. He comes and He transforms, “divinises”, the world. This is what makes sense of history. Christ is with us, and the night through which we are travelling towards our death will conclude with a dawn ushering us into eternity.

It was Mary who first had intimate knowledge of this Light of Bethlehem; but the Light reaches an ever-lasting circle of adorers. The Light renews itself from year to year. As each generation succeeds the one before, Christ keeps on coming to men by means of the liturgical mysteries#, by His doctrine, and by His life-giving sacraments. He wants to take possession of all mankind.

But the light will not attain its full brilliance till Christ, in the splendour of his might, comes again on the Last Day to gather all believers around him. That will be His final coming — the event for which we must make our hearts ready during the whole of our personal lives and the whole of mankind’s history.

“See, the Lord is coming, and all His saints with Him. That day will see the dawning of a great light. Halleluia!”

 
Special Customs
 

Advent is a time intended to prepare us for meeting Christ. Even though it gives us joy to know that He is coming, we have not yet the full joy of possession. That is why the liturgy of Advent displays a certain austerity. This is reinforced by the preaching of John the Baptist and other prophets who call us to repent and do penance…

For the liturgy of the season the vestments are purple and the organ is not played; no flowers are to be put on the altar. The song of the angels, the “Gloria in Excelsis”*, is not said or sung during Advent; it is excluded so that it may be all the more joyous when restored at Christmas.

# The celebration of the events of the life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord in our formal worship.

* This is the ancient jubilant canticle which occurs early in the Liturgy of the Word — the first part of the Eucharist, except during certain seasons eg. Advent and Lent.

 

Adapted from “The Layman’s Missal” (1962)