Meditations - The fourth Sunday of Advent: Proximate Preparation for Christmas
Now, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip, his brother, tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high-priests Annas and Caiphas: the word of the Lord was made known unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, as it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaiah, the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
The Gospel according to St Luke, iii:1–6.
Summary of the Morrow’s Meditation
In order to conform ourselves to the Gospel of the day, which cries out to us to prepare the way of the Lord, who is about to be born in our hearts, we will meditate tomorrow: first, on the obligation of preparing ourselves in a more special manner for the feast of Christmas; second, on the manner of making this special preparation. We will then make the resolution: first, to spend the days which separate us from Christmas in a more perfect state of recollection and with a more sustained attention to the better performance of our ordinary actions; second, heartily to make to God all the sacrifices with which His grace may inspire us, and to express frequent desires, by means of ejaculatory prayers, for the life of Our Lord within us. Our spiritual nosegay shall be the words of the Gospel: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths” (luk iii:4).
Meditation for the Morning
Let us adore the Incarnate Word in the womb of Mary sighing for the moment of His appearance upon earth in order to save it (Nicene Creed). Let us admire this great mystery of love and of goodness, which appeared so evidently in the flesh with which a God clothed Himself in order to expiate our sins; a mystery which the Holy Spirit attested by so many miracles; a mystery which had the angels for witnesses, which has been preached to the nations, believed in in the world, raised to heaven in glory (1ti iii:16). Is it not very just and right to prepare ourselves in a very special manner to celebrate such a mystery when its great solemnity is at hand?
The Obligation we are under to Prepare Ourselves in a more Special Manner for the Feast of Christmas.
In like manner as God, in times past, deputed the angels to announce to the shepherds the birth of the Saviour, He has deputed the Church from the beginning of Advent to say to us, “Prepare your selves to receive the Lord, who is about to come” (Invit. Adv.). Today the Church renews her entreaties. “We are drawing near to the solemn moment,” she exclaims to us; “prepare yourselves still more perfectly” (Ibid.). How, in fact, shall we worthily honour the Infant Jesus, if we do not become more recollected in proportion as the feast approaches? Our senses perceive in the crib nothing but littleness and poverty, they see nothing there to touch or cause emotion. It is necessary for that to have an entirely fresh provision, if I may so express it, of faith and love which will teach us to discover in this little Child the Eternal Son of God engendered before the aurora in the splendours of the saints; He who is seated at the right hand of the Father, He whom the angels adore, whom the prophets call Emmanuel, God with us, whom the apostles call the Word by whom all things have been made, He who bears all by the virtue of His Word, and who is the splendour of glory. The Infant Jesus, who comes to be born for us, has a great desire to be born in us, but He will only do it in proportion to the measure of our preparation during these blessed days. To hearts well prepared He will give abundantly of the peace promised to men of good will: peace with God, peace with our neighbour, peace with ourselves and our consciences; He will give a spirit of humility and meekness, of poverty and simplicity, of obedience and abandonment to the guidance of God: precious graces suitable to the mystery of Christmas; but to hearts that are ill prepared He will close His heart and His hand. Let us fear this misfortune.
The Manner of Preparing Ourselves for the Feast of Christmas.
There are three means of doing so: recollection, holiness of life, the frequent use of ejaculatory prayers. First Recollection nothing removes God from a heart so much as dissipation, which causes the soul to occupy itself wholly with outward things, absorbs it in a world of thoughts and idle imaginations, and thereby troubles and agitates it (3ki xix:11). In proportion to the approach of the great day, we must therefore more carefully keep our heart from all which may dissipate it; we must think oftener of the mystery of Christmas, of the love of God in the crib, of the pious sentiments and resolutions which we ought to offer Him in return for His love and His goodness. Second with recollection we must unite holiness of life. We must, during the whole of these days, watch more carefully over ourselves, that we may avoid all sin, consecrate all our actions to the love of the Child Jesus, and with this object in view perform them as perfectly as possible; we must offer to Him everyday some sacrifice for example, the sacrifice of a desire, of an impulse, of a repugnance, of an expression of self-love or of bad temper, and make of all these sacrifices a nosegay of myrrh, as it were, to offer to the Infant Jesus; above all, we must pray the Holy Spirit Himself to form in us the tender and fervent spirit of piety which Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the magi, brought to the crib, and which so many holy souls bring there at the present day. Third the practice of ejaculatory prayers, that is to say, of the holy desires which bring the Saviour-God into the soul, will complete our preparation. The Church furnishes us with the touching expression of them in the sighs which she borrows from the patriarchs and prophets: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, front above, and let the clouds rain the just” (isa xlv:8). “Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and wouldst come down” (isa lxiv:1). “I beseech thee, Lord, send whom Thou wilt” (exo iv:13). “Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy and grant us Thy salvation” (psa lxxxiv:8). “Show forth Thy wonderful mercies, Thou who saves them that trust in Thee” (psa xvi:7). The beautiful antiphons of the great O’s of Advent will furnish us with still further similar sighs. Let us often repeat them, and let us add to them the sigh of St John in his Revelations: “Come, Lord Jesus” (rev xxii:20). Are we firmly resolved to prepare ourselves for the approaching feast, by the three means on which we have been meditating?
Resolutions and spiritual nosegay as above.