Saturday, November 29, 2008
It's coming. Soon and very soon, it will be here.
In the parish church, gone are the flowers. The altar vested in violet. The organ will play only to support singing, so gone are the peaceful preludes before mass, and the joyous voluntaries after it.
It is the beginning of the church year. Time throughout the year ends at none today.
Here I am, ribbons in hand resetting my breviary as countless other are doing, will do, and have done before me. The green ribbon gives way to violet, and the church's song is no longer Mane Nobiscum, as much as it is Veni, Domine, et nolite tardare. Soon , we will give up our Te Deum to sing Conditor alme siderum.
So as it is, advent is'nt a celebration. It is an observation of four weeks of penitential ferias. We all know that it is penitential, the smallest child knows, because mother church gives up her gloria, she dons her violet of penance. Yet, she still rejoices. It is not a sorrowful period, but as the priest says in the prayer Libera nos at holy mass; Expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi. We await the blessed hope, the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is joy mixed with penitence, hope mixed with fear. For it is not his first coming alone that we prepare to celebrate, but his second coming.
For the ferias after the feast of Christ the king, the church gives us a hymn to sing which we usually only use in the Office of the Dead. Dies Irae. We know, or should be familiar with the text. While we should be joyful in awaiting his coming, a certain holy fear is not wrong. Truly, it will be a Day of wrath, a day of mourning. We will see fulfilled the prophets warning, heaven and earth in ashes burning. Christ will sit on is throne of judgment, every hidden deed to be arraigned, and noting unavenged remains. We may not like to think on it, but the trumpet shall sound, as St.Paul says, it rings through all earth's sepulchers , the dead shall be raised (incorruptible), and we shall be before his throne to give answer to our judge. Some call such mediation morbid, or say it is wrong to think of our judgment and salvation, or the state of our own souls.
I say, better to sing Lacrimosa Dies illa than to hear the sad sentence "Depart from me ye cursed....", because of a life lived without virtue.
So, tomorrow the missals are marked at their beginnings, and we hear the famous introit Ad te levavi.. ( well, maybe not me.)
So that's what I've been thinking about as I sit here, ribbons in hand, marking my breviary for a new liturgical year.
"Annunciate populis et dicite: Ecce Deus salvator noster veniet."
- 1st antiphon, vespers of the first Sunday of Advent.