Sunday, December 10th, 2023

To Begin Again

Excerpts from an Advent Homily

Near the end of St Luke’s Gospel, our Lord counsels the following: 

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you like a trap.1

Here, of course, Our Lord is speaking about His return at the end of time. As we hear during the Roman requiem Mass—

          Dies iræ, dies illa, 
          Solvet sæclum in favilla, 
          Teste David cum Sibylla! 

          On that day of wrath, 
          the age shall come apart in ashes,
          as Both David and The Sibyll testify. 

That strikes one of the notes of the holy season we have just entered.

But I would suggest another reason for vigilance: the liturgical reason. When I am occasionally asked to explain my devotion to the traditional Mass, the first reason that comes to mind is the liturgical year itself. But it requires a certain spiritual vigilance and care in order for that to make much sense.

Abbot Guéranger says it best:

If, every year, the Church renews her youth as that of the eagle, she does so because, by means of the cycle of the liturgy, she is visited by her divine Spouse, who supplies all her wants. . . . The year thus planned for us by the Church herself produces a drama, the sublimest that has ever been offered to the admiration of man.2

So today we should renew our liturgical vigilance. May our rhythm of life never be so complicated and burdened with worldly things that we forget the liturgical year. We can pray simply by thumbing through our missals and by pondering what we find there; it is not difficult. Our sacred year requires no special effort from us in order to be what it is: it is already there, waiting for our engagement. And it gives us Christ’s Heart.

A divine face came among us nineteen hundred years ago; its anniversary is kept in the liturgy, and its impression is thus reiterated every year in the minds of the faithful, with a freshness, as though God were then doing for the first time what He did so many ages past. Human ingenuity could never have devised a system of such power as this.3

None of us know how many Advents we have left; we don’t know how many more cycles of the liturgical year we will make. Such cycles are more important to us than the revolutions of the sun and planets. The sacred repetition of the liturgical year is the Catholic’s heartbeat and breath. And as we think about that day of wrath—either Christ’s coming at the end of the age or when we leave this life—we will be prepared by the liturgical year.

  1. Luke 21, 34 ff. ↩︎
  2. Quoted in Daily Roman Missal, (London: Baronius Press, 2020) pp 870-871. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎

Homilies & Sermons