Walking in Expectation (Reflection on the Collect of the 2nd Sunday of Advent)

In our commercial culture the time before Christmas is celebrated as if it were already Christmas Day, and/or is seen merely as shopping season in preparation for the exchange of presents on Christmas. In the midst of this cultural attitude towards this season of preparation, it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing Advent as merely a warning track which tells us to get ready for presents, family, and good food. The Collect of the Second Sunday prays that these other things may never hinder us from hastening to meet Our Lord by preparing ourselves for his coming.

Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Like the previous week’s collect, the focus is less upon the upcoming feast of the Nativity and more concerned with the Parousia. As we continue our time of preparation we are reminded that “earthly undertakings” can often cause us to lose sight of true meaning of our lives. Our lives must be directed towards seeking the beatific vision, and when we allow other things to block our sight of this goal, we lose the reference by which we give meaning to our existence. It is important to note that our, “earthly undertakings are not cast in a negative light except in their ability to hinder us for our single-minded pursuit of Christ and his company.”[1]  The prayer then does not imply that the Church sees these earthly undertakings as evil in themselves but rather that they can become so if we allow them to blind us to our true vocation.

Commenting on the culture of our time Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “Advent is a time when we can say that a kindness that is otherwise almost entirely forgotten is mobilized; namely the willingness to think of others and to give them a token of kindness.”[2] This last vestigial kindness is a sign pointing towards the reality that Advent is meant to be a time in which we are moved from out lethargy, awakened, and quickened to live with renewed vigor for the Lord’s return. We must be willing “to shake off the dream that causes us to bypass our true vocation and our best possibilities.”[3] This is the grace for which we are praying: to never allow our other desires to assume prominence over our desire to be with Christ.  Thus we pray also for heavenly wisdom which judges not as man does, but as God does. Through it we are strengthened to order our desires for good things so that all of them aide us in the one preeminent and essential desire for Christ. With our eyes are opened by this wisdom, we will even be able to give up joyfully good things for the sake of pursuing better things.  Such a renunciation is essential for us if we want to be prepared to meet the Lord when He comes. We must be ready with our lamps and oil when the bridegroom comes and it is through renunciation of some other things that we are free enough from the busyness of the world to be prepared daily for Christ’s coming.

In the midst of our busyness do we take time to reflect upon the last things, and to recognize that the King of Kings, the Babe of Bethlehem, will come again in glory and majesty “to judge the living and the dead?” Do we allow this knowledge to affect how we live our lives each day? What is holds us back from giving all? These are the questions that we must ask ourselves as we pray this Collect.

[1]  “Commentary on the Proper Prayers of Advent from the Roman Missal,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Website. accessed December 1, 2015, http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/advent/commentary-on-advent-proper-prayers.cfm.

[2]  Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek that which is Above: Meditations through the Year (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 16.

[3]  Ibid., 18

The mission of St. Mary Catholic Church is for all to KNOW, LOVE AND SERVE our Lord Jesus Christ; provide for the Catholic Educational needs of our children and adults, and proclaim the Good News of His Saving Grace to all we encounter.

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