Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Third Sunday of Advent: Missale Romanum 1962

For our weekly meditation of the Collects of the Roman Missals, we turn today to the Collect for today’s Mass of the Third Sunday in Advent in the MR’62. The following is the translation of this Collect in the Angelus Press edition of the Roman Catholic Daily 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.”

Today’s Collect invites us to consider more deeply how Christ’s Nativity saves us. In order to get to that point, however, we must first identify that from which Christ saves us.

The second petition of this Collect asks God to “enlighten the darkness of our minds.” Remember that the Collects always assume that those praying are baptized (the sacramental seal or character of Baptism is ordered to divine worship). Therefore, this darkness cannot refer to Original Sin, or the lack of faith that precedes baptismal regeneration. It refers, rather, to the way in which the baptized are struggling to refute the error of the devil in temptation, and to repel his attacks against faith.

At the root of every sin is an error of some kind prompted by the devil. We see this in the Garden of Eden, when the devil questions God’s words and twists Adam and Eve’s understanding thereof: "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" (Cf. Gen. 3:1ff., RSV). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its coverage of the First Commandment, likewise identifies error as the root of every sin:

2087: “Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals His love to us. St. Paul speaks of the ‘obedience of faith’ as our first obligation. He shows that ‘ignorance of God’ is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in Him and to bear witness to Him.

2088: “The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.

In other words, the “darkness of our minds,” is our ongoing struggle against the error of the devil: distorted notions about our good and loving God and who we are in relation to Him, and of the other revealed truths of our Catholic faith.

The hope our Collect proposes is “the grace of [Christ’s] visitation.” This refers both to the Nativity, as well as to the personal presence of Christ in the soul through sacramental grace. The two are closely related. In regard to the former, the grace of Christ’s visitation is precisely the mystery of the Incarnation.

Christ is a divine Person with a full human nature (He is not a human person). Only a divine Person can save the human race from sin, and Christ does so by assuming (taking upon Himself) a perfect human nature, so as to transform and redeem fallen human nature. The forgiveness and grace that Christ offers from His Cross and Resurrection now make it possible for man not to be a slave to sin or the error that undergirds sin (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1741-2). Christ’s Nativity is the manifestation of this truth of the Incarnation: a divine Person has come in the flesh to save us! We can enter more deeply into this truth every Christmas, because we rely continually upon this divine Savior to save us from error and sin.

And this is itself the second way of interpreting the phrase “the grace of Thy visitation.” Our increased participation in Christ’s divine life in our souls does, in fact, save us. The more we grow in our understanding of our Catholic faith, the more we will know Christ Himself, and be conformed to His image. In this way, we can say that Christ is “born” in our souls each Christmas. Consequently, we can have confidence in the divine truth that forcefully asserts itself against the blasphemous errors underlying sin (cf. Bl. Columba Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, pp. 10-13).  

(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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