Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
THE COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL: DECEMBER 17th, 2017 A.D. - GAUDETE SUNDAY
For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for Gaudete Sunday (MR '62). Below is the translation of this Collect from the Angelus Press edition of the Daily Roman Missal:
"Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds: Who livest and reignest, etc. Amen."
The authors of the Old Testament, although deeply conscious that God is invisible, nevertheless repeatedly anthropomorphized Him. Today's Collect reflects that kind of language when it implores God to "incline [His] ear to our petitions." Divine nature, strictly speaking, does not have ears.
As we pray this Collect, however, it is thrilling to consider that this kind of language is no longer mere metaphor striving to describe divine condescension. In fact, the Son of God takes on flesh, and therefore has human ears with which He heard the cries and tears of men, and continues to do so as High Priest in the heavenly liturgy.
In today's Collect, we beseech our incarnate High Priest that He would "enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of [His] visitation." This line reflects the Benedictus, Zechariah's Canticle in Luke 1:68-79, which is recited or sung every morning in the Divine Office. Consider the first and final lines of this Canticle in vv. 68, 77-79: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.....to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (RSV, emphasis mine)
According to Zechariah, the coming of Christ brings light to those in darkness (cf. Is. 9:2). What does this image, so often mentioned and sung about during the Christmas cycle, really mean?
One of the effects of Original Sin is the darkening of our intellect, and so, we often fall into sin through the darkness of erroneous moral reasoning in addition to disordered desires (cf. Rom. 1:21-25; 1 Pet. 1:14; Eph. 2:3; Jam. 1:14-15; Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 405, 407, 1707). Thus, we are asking Christ that, by His becoming man, He may illumine our minds with the truth of His Gospel (cf. 2 Tim. 1:10; Catechism no. 2037).
By his perfect life, the Incarnate Son of God shows us what it means to be truly human (cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes no. 22; Catechism nos. 359, 459). Not only this, but by becoming man, He enables us to be "partakers of the divine nature," giving us the grace to become more and more like Him (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4; Catechism no. 460). The light of Christ's "visitation" (i.e., his Incarnation) is the splendor of His Sacred Humanity and its implications for us as His disciples. St. John treats this subject in exactly the same way in his Gospel and First Epistle. The most direct instance is Jesus' own words: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (cf. Jn. 8:12, RSV).
The liturgy proposes this truth to us in several places in the Christmas cycle, so do look out for it in the days and weeks ahead (or even just leaf through your Missal). Quite fittingly, Pope St. Leo the Great expounds upon this truth in a Christmas homily, an excerpt of which is found in Catechism no. 1691:
"Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God." (Emphasis mine)(David Allen)
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.