As we draw closer to the celebration of Christmas we come closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus some 2000 years ago. However the entrance antiphon for this Sunday’s Mass has the Church sing as though that birth has never happened.
It has of course otherwise we would not be at Mass. But the antiphon does not name the one awaited as, simply, Jesus, but as Saviour. There is a strong sense running through all prayers and readings this Sunday of the continued need for Jesus as Saviour – to bring us to the glory of the Resurrection (Collect); to gather Israel and the nations into one (Micah); to help and protect us (Psalm); for our being made holy (Hebrews, even by the once and for all saving sacrifice of Jesus body); for our continuing to prepare for worthy celebration (Prayer after Communion).
Jesus came to us, and he continues to come to us. As we hear the Gospel of this Sunday we find ourselves in the situation of Elizabeth. And surely a question for us is have we allowed John the Baptist to recognise the Lord in our world and respond worthily and appropriately. We do not carry him in our womb as did Elizabeth, but his words have been directed to us most directly over previous Sundays.
So how do we welcome him? And how – like Mary – do we carry him to the world?
The Prayer over the Offerings rather provocatively considers the sanctification of the gifts on the altar as the Spirit’s filling with his power the womb of the Blessed Virgin. How might we imitate Mary going forward? Allowing the gift to flourish in us and bear fruit for others?
The readings and prayers for the 4th Sunday of Advent can be downloaded below.
The Introduction to the Lectionary (in yellow box below) provides a useful guide to the readings of Advent.
93. Each gospel reading has a distinctive theme: the Lord’s coming at the end of time (First Sunday of Advent), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sunday), and the events that prepared immediately for the Lord’s birth (Fourth Sunday).
The Old Testament readings are prophecies about the Messiah and the Messianic age, especially from the Isaiah.
The readings from an apostle serve as exhortations and as proclamations, in keeping with the different themes of Advent.
94. There are two series of readings: one to be used from the beginning of Advent until 16 December; the other from 17 to 24 December.
In the first part of Advent there are readings from Isaiah, distributed in accord with the sequence of the book itself and including salient texts that are also read on the Sundays. For the choice of the weekday gospel the first reading has been taken into consideration.
On Thursday of the second week the readings from the gospel concerning John the Baptist begin. The first reading is either a continuation of Isaiah or a text chosen in view of the Gospel.
In the last week before Christmas the events that immediately prepared for the Lord’s birth are presented from Matthew (chapter 1) and Luke (chapter 1). The texts in the first reading, chosen in view of the Gospel reading, are from different Old Testament books and include important Messianic prophecies.
A more general guide to the season of Advent can be found at http://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Calendar/Seasons/Advent.pdf
Text: (c) 2021, Allen Morris.
Image: (c) 2018, Allen Morris. The Visitation, Bordeaux – Musée d’Aquitaine.