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Commentary on the Proper Prayers of Advent from the Roman Missal

 
Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.

First Sunday of Advent
Second Sunday of Advent
Third Sunday of Advent
Fourth Sunday of Advent


First Sunday of Advent

Collect

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Commentary

  • The increasing activity of the faithful comes to the fore in this translation, revealing the richness of the Latin prayer that dates to seventh-century Rome and Gaul.
  • The prayer begins with the gift of almighty God, but the way in which God gives is part of the gift. The Almighty elicits our cooperation in our own transformation.
  • At the beginning of the prayer we are described as Gods faithful. We affirm that we are praying.
  • Then the prayer offers a poetic reflection on our Christian lives. Our journey through life is described as running forth to meet Christ.
  • Along the way we accomplish righteous deeds by the grace of God. Even as we are on the way to this encounter, Christ is coming to meet us.Not only does this prayer describe our lifelong journey, but it also describes our journey this Sunday to come to the church building where Christ encounters us in his body the living Church, in the word proclaimed, in the ministers, and especially in the communion we share.
  • We are gathered at Christs right hand every time we journey to this encounter with Christ who comes to us not only in the liturgy but also in the least of our brothers and sisters. Our humble service of others in their need provides the righteous needs that accompany us to his coming. Then we process again, bringing our financial offerings so that with these the Church might continue its good works in society.
  • The Almighty elicits our cooperation in our own transformation so that by the gift of God we are deemed worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom. The Almighty elicits our cooperation in our own transformation so that by the gift of God we are deemed worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.

Prayer over the Offerings

Accept, we pray, O Lord, these offerings we make,
gathered from among your gifts to us,
and may what you grant us to celebrate devoutly here below,
gain for us the prize of eternal redemption.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

  • Life with the Lord involves an ongoing, reciprocal exchange of gifts. This exchange occurs on two levels in this prayer, on the level of things given and of persons giving themselves.
    This prayer appears only once in the history of the liturgy, in a sixth century compilation of individual mass booklets developed in Rome, until the prayer was discovered and included in the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal.
  • When the gifts of bread and wine and financial contributions are brought forward, the bread and wine are prepared and placed on the altar and this prayer is said over them.
  • The initial divine gift begins the exchange. The Lord gives life to all things and with human cultivation brings forth the grain and the grape from the earth. By the work of human labor we produce from the fruit of the earth the bread and wine offered at mass as well as food offered to the hungry in their need. The financial contributions offered may also be seen as human collaboration with the divine gifts, whether natural or human resources.
  • From these gifts that the Lord has given bounteously to us, we offer a portion in thanksgiving to share in communion and to share with our neighbor in their need. We ask the Lord to accept these gifts.
  • The second level of exchange occurs in this prayer when the Lord grants us to celebrate the liturgy devoutly and, by implication, to live life from the liturgy we celebrate. Our collaboration with God by responding to the divine gift is what gains for us eternal redemption. Rather than a simple reward given after death, eternal redemption in this prayer characterizes our way of living from the Eucharist we are given to celebrate.

Prayer after Communion

May these mysteries, O Lord,
in which we have participated,
profit us, we pray,
for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

  • The prayer after communion looks back to offer a reflection on the communion we have just shared, and it looks forward to tell us how to conduct our daily lives in light of the Eucharist we have just celebrated.
  • This prayer was newly composed for the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal and is based on two sixth-century Roman prayers that were subsequently lost to the liturgical tradition.
  • This prayer turns to the language of commercial exchange to indicate that in commerce with our Lord we derive the profit. Simple participation in the mysteries, however, does not bring about automatic profit. Participation needs personal reflection, which, accompanied with the ongoing gift of our Lord, is profitable to us.
  • As we prepare to return to our daily lives, our journey is described as a walk among passing things. Even passing things, however, are useful for divine instruction by which we learn to distinguish between the passing things and what endures. Once we have learned to distinguish between them, we learn to love the things of heaven and to hold fast to what endures.
  • The prayer does not say that we reject passing things nor does it describe things of this world in a negative light. Rather, the Eucharistic bread and wine we share, these are the enduring things of heaven, the body and blood of Christ. By sharing our daily bread in communion we learn as a community to value, hold fast and even to love the enduring things of heaven.
  • The communion we share informs our daily conduct as we learn to value even passing things as bearers of the enduring things of heaven.

Second Sunday of Advent

Collect

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.

Commentary

  • In the Gospel this Sunday John the Baptist tells us to prepare the way of the Lord. He is talking not about the babe in the manger but about the adult Christ soon to begin his public ministry. This prayer presents our response to Christs call to join his company.
  • The prayer first appears in the seventh-century Roman parish tradition and in seven subsequent manuscripts before it is lost to the liturgical tradition, until reclaimed for the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal.
  • As we gather together to meet Christ in the assembly, in the word, in the ministers and in the Eucharist our efforts simply to arrive at church with the proper disposition provide the context for this prayer about hastening to meet Christ. We gather from every walk of life and these 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.
  • We learn heavenly wisdom in the liturgy of the word when we hear the voice of Christ, the Wisdom of God. This heavenly wisdom, in turn, helps us to conduct our earthly undertakings in a way that does not hinder our single-minded pursuit of Christ and his company.
  • We gain admittance to Christs company when we are baptized as Christians, and time and time again when we join with the baptized in the liturgical celebration where we form the body of Christ, the Church in action. We gain admittance to his company when we share in communion. We gain admittance to Christs company when we welcome him who comes to us in our neighbor in their need, which is the only criterion given in the Gospel for the final judgment and admittance to the company of saints. 

Prayer over the Offerings

Be pleased, O Lord, with our humble prayers and offerings,
and since we have no merits to plead our cause,
come, we pray, to our rescue
with the protection of your mercy.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

  • The technical language used in this prayer suggests that we stand before the magistrate in need of someone to plead our cause. The merits of our case alone are inadequate to our situation.
  • The prayer appears in both the Roman Papal and parish traditions of the seventh century, but only the parish version has the words of your mercy, which have been preserved in the current prayer.
  • While we offer prayers and offerings however inadequate and ask that the Lord be pleased with these. Our prayers and offerings, however, cannot be used to manipulate God into acting on our behalf, nor are they intended to do so.
  • Rather, we stand defenseless and plead that the Lord come to rescue us not out of obligation but because of the abundance of divine mercy. While other prayers over the gifts indicate an ongoing and reciprocal exchange of gifts between God and humanity, this prayer emphasizes the utter gratuity of the divine gift.
  • This prayer is offered right before the Eucharistic Prayer begins, and so anticipates the coming of the Lord in the Eucharist who gives his body as our daily bread and his blood as our protection. This bodily self-gift in the form of food and drink that we share rescues us. In anticipation of this utter generosity of the divine gift we offer what we have, prayers of thanksgiving with simple offerings of bread and wine and our ministry of service to our neighbor in their need.
  • From this experience we learn that each of us is called to give of ourselves often in relationships that are not mutual and to give not because others have earned what we are capable of giving but because we have learned the ways of abundant mercy. 

Prayer after Communion

Replenished by the food of spiritual nourishment,
we humbly beseech you, O Lord,
that, through our partaking in this mystery,
you may teach us to judge wisely the things of earth
and hold firm to the things of heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

  • We ask that the communion we have just shared teach us how to conduct ourselves in daily life.
  • The early Roman parish tradition assigned this prayer to the first of six Sundays of Advent, but by the time it was included in the seventh-century Papal sacramentary, Advent in Rome had been shortened to four Sundays.
  • The prayer begins by reflecting on the communion we have just shared. It is called both food and spiritual nourishment. To partake of the Eucharistic food and drink is to partake in the mystery of Christs body and blood, and we do so as a community, itself the body of Christ, the Church.
  • As we prepare to return to our daily lives, we pray that partaking in this mystery will instruct us in our daily conduct. The Eucharist teaches us that food, as a product of human labor, is intended to be shared, and that this eucharistic food is at one and the same time the gift of the divine self.
  • We learn to value the personal investment inherent in bread and wine and all products of human labor. We learn that offering these simple gifts to God is an expression of offering ourselves to God in response to the personal self-gift of God to us. Thus we partake in this mystery by sharing in this exchange of personal self-gift that is conducted in a community of shared goods.
  • The things of heaven include this partaking of communion essential to the Triune Unity of God. We partake of communion in the Church through our vocation, the specific way in which we give ourselves to God and neighbor.
  • Partaking in this exchange teaches us to perceive and judge wisely the genuine gift of ones self out of communion with others.

Third Sunday of Advent

Collect

O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord's Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation,
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Commentary

  • In this prayer our attention shifts toward the coming feast of the Lord's Birth or Nativity.
  • The prayer is drawn from a fifth- to sixth-century scroll, originally from Ravenna, that contains forty prayers. Over a dozen of its prayers were included in the Advent  Christmas cycle of the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal and thereafter.
  • In this prayer we are aware that God is looking at us, as we look forward to the approaching feast of the Lords Nativity. So this prayer gives us the opportunity to consider how the members of the Sunday assembly look forward to Christmas.
  • This prayer is offered by the whole Church, which includes children, adolescents, adults and seniors. Yet, both the prayer and the feast of the Lord's Nativity have different meaning for a person over the course of ones lifetime.
  • Children may be introduced to this mystery by celebrating the birthday of Jesus. This prayer does not focus on the historical birth of Christ, but on its meaning for us today, much as a child's birthday celebrates the life of the child with us.
  • As we mature in life we may begin to discover new subtleties in this prayer. As adolescents begin to appreciate the ways in which we are saved, they come to name and to celebrate the joys of our salvation in Christ.
  • Adults, through their commitments to others and professional contribution to society may come to share in many ways in the generativity of this feast and may learn from the humility of the Savior.
  • Seniors may reflect upon the many Christmas feasts they have celebrated to realize that they have indeed attained the joys of their salvation. They may become aware that all is gift and as of yet incomplete.

Prayer over the Offerings

May the sacrifice of our worship, Lord, we pray,
be offered to you unceasingly,
to complete what was begun in sacred mystery
and powerfully accomplish for us your saving work.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

Our sacrifice of worship brings to completion the divine plan of salvation in Christ and accomplishes God's saving work in us.

Originally assigned to a Mass for the September fast in a sixth-century Roman collection of Mass booklets, by the seventh century it was transferred to the Advent season for use in the Roman parish tradition.

The phrase sacrifice of our worship evokes the evening offering of incense and prayer recorded in Psalm 141:2: Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice (New American Bible). Using incense during the preparation of the gifts reinforces this image of offering a sacrifice of praise.

The phrase also evokes a familiar line from Eucharistic Prayer III, which is drawn from the word of the Lord recorded in the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 1:11: "For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering" (New American Bible).

The letter to the Hebrews, 13:15, mentions the sacrifice of praise: "Through him (then) let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name." This prayer does just that when it gives the divine name, Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also describes the Eucharist as a "'sacrifice of praise', spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice" (n.1330).

When we offer a sacrifice of worship the Lord works in us and accomplishes in us our salvation thereby completing in us the sacred mystery. We offer our sacrifice of worship unceasingly, that is, during the liturgy and in daily life.

Prayer after Communion

We implore your mercy, Lord,
that this divine sustenance may cleanse us of our faults
and prepare us for the coming feasts.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

This prayer suggests how the whole liturgy helps us to prepare to celebrate the coming feasts.

In seventh-century Roman parish practice, this prayer, which then included a reference to fasting, was assigned to Tuesday of the second week of Lent, but the Roman papal practice of the same time assigned this prayer, without the reference to fasting, to its current place on the third Sunday of Advent.

The divine sustenance refers most immediately to the Communion we share in the body and blood of Christ. We share one loaf and one cup and are made into one Body in Christ. This sustenance, then, is also our communion with one another in the Church.

The Prayer After Communion, however, not only concludes the Communion rite, but it also concludes the whole liturgy. In this light, the divine sustenance also refers to the Word of God proclaimed in the scriptures and followed by personal reflection in silence and a common reflection in the homily. The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and accomplishes its task. We prepare for the coming feasts by gathering as the Body of Christ, by reflecting on the word of God proclaimed in the liturgy, and especially by the Communion we share.

This divine sustenance  the body and blood of Christ, our communion as Church, reflecting on the word of God proclaimed  these all cleanse us of our faults. We prepare for the coming feasts by being cleansed of our faults and by making amends for our faults. Many parishes provide the opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance in preparation for Christmas.


Fourth Sunday of Advent

Collect

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Commentary

  • Many will be familiar with this prayer from the Angelus, which commemorates the incarnation of Christ.
  • The prayer comes from the seventh century Papal practice at Rome where it was assigned to March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel appeared unto Mary when she conceived Christ, for the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal the prayer was transferred to the last Sunday before the birth of our Lord.
  • The Angel announcing the birth of Christ refers not only to the Angel that appeared to Mary in the Annunciation but also to the Angels that appeared to the shepherds who came to do homage to the new-born babe.
  • The prayer does not refer explicitly to the death of Christ, but rather subtly refers to Christs Passion and Cross. As disciples of Christ, our way of life is often described as taking up our cross. The prayer also subtly refers to our future glory, already revealed in our history when Christ appeared in glory to the disciples. The Christian way of life, then, is characterized by carrying our cross and already sharing in the glory of the resurrection.
  • This prayer preserves an early insight that the whole mystery of Christ from his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection and his continuing presence in his body the Church is one integral mystery. The specific moments of this mystery in salvation history are mapped out over the course of the church year, but this prayer reminds us that every Sunday, every liturgy celebrates the whole mystery and our share in it.

Prayer over the Offerings

May the Holy Spirit, O Lord,
sanctify these gifts laid upon your altar,
just as he filled with his power the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Through Christ our Lord.

Commentary

  • In the opening prayer the Angel made known the Incarnation, which was accomplished in the sanctifying power of the Spirit according to this prayer. The incarnation and the consecration of the bread and wine are connected in this prayer by the working of the Spirit.
  • The Roman Sacramentaries representing both the Papal and parish practices of the city were widely diffused North of the Alps where the two traditions and local practices were conflated in numerous ways. From that creativity this prayer first appears in Francia during the eighth century and eventually became part of the Roman tradition.
  • At St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, over the altar there stands a monumental baldachin, a canopy supported by four corkscrew columns of Bronze by Bernini. On the underside of the canopy directly over the place on the altar where the gifts of bread and wine are placed is an image of the Holy Spirit. The entire baldachin is, indeed, an architectural expression of the role of the Spirit in the transforming the gifts of bread and wine laid upon the altar. Many older churches have such an expression of the Holy Spirit above the gifts.
  • We prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with this reference to the incarnation, that is to the Annunciation of the Angel to the Virgin Mary when she conceived our Savior. The Spirit active in the mystery of the incarnation is also active now in the transformation of the bread and wine. In many churches as we approach the altar to receive communion, we come to stand under a dome with the image of the Spirit at its peak. So too the Spirit sanctifies the assembly engaged in the liturgy and brings unity to the Church.

Prayer after Communion

Having received this pledge of eternal redemption,
we pray, almighty God,
that, as the feast day of our salvation draws ever nearer,
so we may press forward all the more eagerly
to the worthy celebration of the mystery of your Son's Nativity.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Commentary

  • Having already received the pledge of eternity, we pray to celebrate worthily the beginning of that pledge in the nativity of Christ.
  • Newly composed for the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal, the first part of the prayer comes from the mass booklet for the feast of St. Lawrence that was included in a sixth century compilation of Roman mass booklets. The second half was adapted from a prayer assigned to Friday of the third week of Lent in seventh-century Papal practice.
  • This prayer reflects on the rite of communion it concludes and uses the language of commerce to speak about the Eucharist as a pledge or a down payment or a guarantee of eternal redemption.
  • This prayer also looks forward to the coming week in which we celebrate the Nativity of Christ. We prepare to celebrate Christmas by preparing presents, meeting social commitments, decorating the home and preparing the festive meal. This prayer suggests that we consider our preparations in light of the mystery we are preparing to celebrate. The Nativity is also called the feast day of our salvation. The prayer challenges us to discern how our many commitments arise from this mystery of our salvation and to judge wisely the many ways of preparing for the feast according to their worthiness to the mystery we celebrate.
  • As we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ, so we have already received the foretaste of the wedding feast of the lamb, the heavenly banquet. While the Church year maps the life of Christ over the course of a cosmic year, each liturgy celebrates the whole mystery of our salvation in Christ. So too the Christmas holiday gives opportunity to celebrate this mystery of God's love among us not only on Christmas day but also at every meal and on every day.


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