Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
THE COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - Advent IV: Sunday, December 18, 2016
For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the principal Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (MR 1970), which is also the Collect prayed at the end of the Angelus devotion. Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):
"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. Amen."
Broken down into its five-part structure, the Collect looks like this:
1. O Lord (address),
2. Who sent Gabriel to announce your Son's Incarnation [Note: The Collect implies God's action even as it uses the passive voice: "the Incarnation...was made known by the message of an Angel." God sent the Angel Gabriel, according to St. Luke 1:27.]
3. Pour forth your grace into our hearts, we beseech you (central petition),
4a. We, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel (motive for the petition),
4b. That we may be brought by Jesus' Passion and Cross to share in the glory of his Resurrection (hoped-for outcome),
5. Who lives and reigns, etc. (concluding doxological formula)
Before forming a syllogism, we do well to hear from St. Thomas Aquinas on the Annunciation. In Article 1 of Question 30 of the tertia pars of the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas argues, "It was reasonable that it should be announced to the Blessed Virgin that she was to conceive Christ...that she should be informed in mind concerning Him, before conceiving Him in the flesh." Going on further, St. Thomas quotes St. Augustine, who says of this matter, "Her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh." (ST III, q. 30, a. 1). In other words, Our Lady conceived Jesus in her mind and heart before she conceived him in her womb.
One may argue that Mary's conception of Jesus in this first manner is similar to the infusion of grace mentioned in the Collect's central petition: "pour forth your grace into our hearts." The Collect also appears to link the faithful to Mary in regard to the Angel's message in the motive for the petition: "we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel." Thus, we may even say that the announcement of Gabriel is itself an infusion of grace which we pray for and receive anew every Christmastide (and March 25th, and any time we pray the Angelus!). This announcement prompts the faithful to journey with Mary from the moment of the Incarnation, through the Passion, and towards the glory of the Resurrection and the Beatific Vision. Thus, when re-formed into a syllogism, the Collect looks like this:
A) If God, who poured forth into Mary's mind and heart an infusion of grace, also gives us an infusion of his grace through the same message (which we joyously celebrate each Advent and Christmastide),
B) And if we, like Mary, fully accept and enter into the plan of salvation in God's Incarnate Son,
C) Then the Incarnate Christ will lead us to the resurrected life of heaven by a share in the saving merits of His Passion and Cross.
This Collect is fittingly placed in Advent for it summarizes the whole sweep of the liturgical year, which initiates us into the mysteries of Christ's life, Death, and Resurrection (cf. CCC no. 1194). By embracing the message of God-with-us, we will be on the right road for experiencing the totality of the plan of salvation as it unfolds during this new liturgical year.
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.