Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
The second lesson in today’s Office of Readings helps us to see that, as a liturgical season, Advent is too short. For most of us, it takes more than four weeks to plumb the depths of the mysteries the season places before us—the mystery of Christ’s first coming in the flesh, the mystery of Christ’s coming sacramentally in the Church, and the mystery of Christ’s final coming in glory. Christ past, present, and future—yesterday, today, and forever. In four weeks.
Today’s reading from St. Gregory Nazianzen focuses on the first mystery only, the Incarnation. This alone is worth four weeks of study and prayer, if not longer. And thanks to God’s providence, we do have longer. We have a lifetime, and eternity beyond. But we begin to grasp the mystery now, in Advent.
From St. Gregory’s 45th Oration:
The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like. He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; his coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor. He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.
He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.
Around the Catholic blogosphere, writers are posting clips and commentary of their favorite Advent hymns. For a sampling, check out the posts at Dominican History, First Things, and The New Liturgical Movement.
I agree with Nathaniel at First Things that “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending” is one of the Church’s Advent greats. On his post he includes an organ rendition of the tune. Click below for the tune and hymn performed by the Wells Cathedral Choir. Click here for the text.
Another one of my favorites not getting much attention out there is “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” Click below for a recording by the Robert Shaw Chorale and Orchestra.
The final two pieces I’m posting are traditional Dominican chants recorded by the friars of the French Province. The first is the “Veni redemptor gentium” (“Come, Redeemer of the Nations”). Click here for the original Latin text and an English translation. The second is the familiar “Conditor alme siderum” (“Creator of the Stars of Night”). For the Latin and English, click here.
May these beautiful hymns and chants deepen your Advent prayer.
And don’t forget about our two Advent musical programs coming up this Sunday afternoon and next.