The Lord is at hand: come, let us adore him.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: Violet.
rex et légifer noster,
exspectátio géntium et salvátor eárum:
veni ad salvándum nos,
Dómine Deus noster.
“O Immanuel, you are our king and our judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour. O come and save us, Lord our God.”
One by one the symbols and prefigurations have passed before our eyes and each one has been set in its context, given its true meaning as a sign pointing to what is about to happen at the invisible turning-point of the history of the world. But the time for signs has passed. The title “Emmanuel” says “God-With-Us”, simply, straightforwardly, literally. We say openly what we want. “Come and save us!” That is all.
“The maiden is with child,” says Isaiah, “and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.”
Looking back on the O Antiphons, from the last to the first, they will acquire a familiar ring to speakers of English. We sing them, in that reverse order, in the hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel”.
In Latin, the more cryptically minded can take the first letter of each of the titles given to Jesus, again from last to first, to get E R O C R A S. That is, ero cras, “I will be tomorrow”. It is possible to believe that this is a coincidence or even that there is something undignified about playing with letters in the face of God. On the other hand, in the Eastern Church, acrostics are used as a vital part of the liturgy: they are characteristic in particular of the form of hymn called a kontakion. Perhaps this civilised habit rubbed off, many centuries ago, on the muddy, half-barbarian West. In any case, even the Jews did it: there are several psalms which are a sequence of meditations strung together in alphabetical order. If the earth and stars, the sun and moon, are singing the praises of the Lord, there is surely nothing wrong in making the letters of the alphabet do the same.
We have come to the end of the sequence of seven ancient antiphons. It may seem as if the countdown has ended early. After all, tomorrow is only the 24th. But this is a reminder that on truly important days we are still Jews, and the day starts at nightfall of the evening before. The 24th of December has no Vespers. The Vespers of that evening are the First Vespers of Christmas. And in many Christian countries children will be sitting staring out of the window waiting for the first star to appear so that the celebrations can begin.
|In other years: St John of Kęty (1390 - 1473)|
He was born in Kęty in the diocese of Kraków in 1390. He became a priest and for many years taught at the University of Kraków; later he became parish priest of Olkusz. He taught and researched in both physics and theology and excelled in holiness and in charity towards his neighbour, in which he was an example to his colleagues and pupils. He died in 1473. See the articles in the Catholic Encyclopaedia
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: Saint Hippolytus ( - 235)|
Hippolytus was a priest and a learned man, the most important writer of the Church at Rome in the early third century. He strongly attacked the popes of the time, and was set up as a rival Pope to St Callistus. Some time later, in Maximin’s persecution, he was sent to labour in the quarries of Sardinia. There he met the then Pope, Pontian, and was reconciled with him. (Pontian was made Pope in 231, and was sent to the quarries in 235, where he resigned the papacy and died; Hippolytus must have died at about the same time).
Pontian’s successor, Fabian, had both bodies brought back to Rome for burial, and Pontian and Hippolytus were already being venerated by the Roman Church by the start of the fourth century. Hippolytus was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era. Unfortunately most of his works have been lost or are known only through scattered fragments, while much has survived only in old translations into Oriental and Slavonic languages, tangled up with the writings of other authors. The fact that Hippolytus wrote in Greek means that later, when that language was no longer understood in Rome, the Romans lost interest in his writings, while in the East they were read long after, and made the author famous.
The “Discourse on the Theophany” [or Epiphany] was probably wrongly attributed to Hippolytus, which makes it hard to get a sense of him as a preacher; but it is of a similar period and outlook.
|Liturgical colour: violet|
Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’. Liturgically, it is the colour of Advent and Lent, the seasons of penance and preparation.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Romans 13:13-14 ©|
Let us live decently as people do in the daytime: no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 ©|
May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.
|Afternoon reading (None)||(2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) ©|
God will very rightly reward you, who are suffering now, with the same peace as he will give us, when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven with the angels of his power, when he comes to be glorified among his saints and seen in his glory by all who believe in him.