Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

(Missale Romanum 1970)

For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider one of the weekday Collects for Advent in the 1970 edition of the Missale Romanum. Below is the official ICEL translation of the Collect for Monday of the First Week of Advent in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God, as we await the advent of Christ Your Son, so that, when He comes and knocks, He may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in His praise. Who lives and reigns, etc. Amen."

Our Collect under consideration today is an example of a wonderful new liturgical text redolent of Advent themes in Scripture. The first Gospel that comes to mind is the parable of the returning bridegroom and the servants in Lk. 12:35-40: "Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.....You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (RSV) We can link this parable (and the Collect) to that of the wise and foolish virgins in Mt. 25:1-13, wherein vigilance is commended in view of Christ's final Advent.

Our Collect also evokes Jesus' words to the Church of Laodicea in Rev. 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me" (RSV). Our Lord's "knocking at the door of our heart," to quote a friend of mine, is central to the Advent season. Jesus seeks to dine with us in the Eucharist and the life of grace (the moral life), but we must cleanse our hearts to receive Him worthily, just as we clean our homes before accepting dinner guests.  

In view of this, the hoped-for outcome clause of the Collect is so appropriate: "so that, when He comes and knocks, He may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in His praise." Jesus is surely coming, but the issue is whether or not we will be prepared. The Collect suggests that the privileged way to keep alert for Jesus' coming and knocking is watchful prayer and exultant praise. These two things exemplify the simultaneously sober and joyful character of Advent. In light of the two parables mentioned above, we may say that watchful prayer speaks to the penitential character of Advent, and the need to scrutinize our conscience and purge it of sin through prayer and God's grace. Exultant praise speaks to the joyful character of Advent, since we eagerly anticipate Christ's two comings: at Bethlehem and as the awesome Judge.

When my wife and I were recently in London touring St. Paul's Cathedral, our docent showed us a world-famous painting in a side chapel by Holman Hunt of Christ knocking at the door, entitled "The Light of the World," inspired by Rev. 3:20. The docent tried to explain the significance of the painting (and the Bible verse, which she kind of butchered) in a very benign, typically liberal Church of England way (i.e., I perceived her to be implying that Jesus' message is for everyone, because it consists of a lowest-common-denominator set of values we can all agree on). Ironically, what I recall her actually saying, something to the effect of "what Christ offers is for everyone," is exactly what we believe as Catholic Christians: Christ and his Church are the indispensable means of salvation for all! Jesus knocks on the door of every human heart, eliciting its conversion! May Advent afford us a renewed opportunity to conversion. Let us welcome Our Lord more fully into our hearts, and continue praying for all who don't know Him, that they, too, may hear Him knocking and open the door of their lives to Him.  

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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