15 December 2012

'What then shall we do?' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C

Misa de Gallo (pre-dawn Mass) Saturday, 17 December 2011, Church of the Holy Cross, Gango, Ozamiz City, Philippines, hours after tropical storm Washi/Sendong had hit the area. (Photo courtesy of Janet Paredes De Lara).

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 3:10-18 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

And the multitudes asked John, "What then shall we do?"  And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages." As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people. 

The complete text of Gaudete, including the refrain:

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary — rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God has become man,
To the wonderment of Nature,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.
The various groups who approached St John the Baptist in today's gospel asked him, What then shall we do? He gave them practical answers in the context of their lives. To tax collectors: Collect no more than is appointed you. His answers to them, to soldiers and to people in general apply today as much as they did in his day.

The people at Mass in Holy Cross parish in the photo were answering John's first piece of advice: He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise. They were bringing up their offerings to be shared later with those in need. Everybody at the Mass was suffering from the floods that had come during the night. They probably weren't yet aware of the many who had died in Iligan City and in Cagayan de Oro City, not all that far away, where some of them probably had relatives and friends.

But they believed in their hearts what the Entrance Antiphon for 17 December, based on Isaiah 49:13,  says:
Læténtur cæli et exsúltet terra, 
quia  Dóminus  noster  véniet, 
et páuperum suórum miserébitur.  
Rejoice, O heavens, and exult, O earth, 
for our Lord will come to show mercy to his poor.

The Entrance Antiphon for the Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent has a similar message. It is taken straight from the Second Reading for Year C, Philippians 4:4-5: 

Gaudéte in Dómino semper: íterum dico, gaudéte.  
Dóminus enim prope est.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. 
Indeed, the Lord is near. 

The first word of the Entrance Antiphon, Gaudete, gives its nickname to the Third Sunday of Advent, 'Gaudete Sunday'.

The monks of St Benedict's Monastery in São Paulo (Brazil) the expanded Introit or Entrance Antiphon as sung in the Mass in the Extraordinary Form:

Gaudéte in Dómino semper:íterum díco, gaudéte:
modéstia véstra
nóta sit ómnibus homínibus:
Dóminus prope est.
Nihil sollíciti sítis:
sed in ómni oratióne
petitiónes véstrae
innotéscant apud Déum. 

Benedixísti, Dómine,
térram túam:
avertísti captivitátem Jácob. 

V.Glória Pátri.


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice
Let your forbearance be known to all men. 
The Lord is at hand
Do not be anxious over anything; 
but in all manner or prayer, 
let your requests be made known unto God.

Lord, you have blessed your land; 

you have put an end to Jacob's captivity. 

V. Glory be to the Father

Here in the Philippines this Sunday coincides with the beginning of the Misas de Gallo, the novena of pre-dawn Masses that run to Christmas Eve. The Spanish term could be translated as 'Masses at Cockcrow'. They are also known as Aguinaldo Masses, 'aguinaldo' being a Sp;anish word for 'gift'. The gift in question is the precious gift of faith. In Tagalog the Masses are called Simbang Gabi or 'Night Masses'. The Ordo for the Philippines reminds us that these Masses in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are to be celebrated on the nine days before Christmas for the perseverance of the nation in faith. White vestments are worn and the Gloria is sung. The readings are those of the day but the weekday Masses have their own special prayers.

The mediaeval hymn Gaudete [first video]is a Christmas carol rather than an Advent hymn but it fits in with this Sunday's celebration and with the mood of the Misas de Gallo. In Advent while we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus we also prepare for his coming into our daily lives and for his coming at the end of time, a reality that each of us will anticipate at the moment of death.

Peter of Blois (c.1135 - c.1211) writes about these three comings:

How blessed are those who can confidently say: My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready! Having gathered the fruit of grace from the Lord’s first coming, they will reap a harvest of salvation and glory from the second; for the first opens up the way for the second, and the second prepares us for the third. Lowly and unspectacular in his first coming, secret and gentle in his second, Christ will come openly the third time, and his final coming will fill the world with dread. He came to us at his first coming in order to come into us at the second, and he comes into us at his second coming in order not to have to come against us at the third. At his first coming he showed mercy, in the second he brings grace, at the third he will give glory, for Scripture says: The Lord will confer grace and glory.

At this final coming the Lord will reward his saints for their labours, as he himself promises: I am coming soon, bringing my recompense according to what each person has done. Oh that it may be in accordance with his great mercy that he treats us then, and not as our evil deeds deserve! Though we do indeed expect Christ Jesus to come to us as our judge, we know that he has com to us already and we have accepted him as our Saviour.
Though the overwhelming theme of the Mass today is 'Rejoice' there is a 'sting in the tail'. St John the Baptist says of the coming Messiah, His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. The words of Peter of Blois have a similar message that emphasises God's loving mercy, as do the words of John, while acknowledging that we can reject it: At his first coming he showed mercy, in the second he brings grace . . . Oh that it may be in accordance with his great mercy that he treats us then, and not as our evil deeds deserve!

It is possible for an individual to reject God's love, to reject the joy he offers us.

Massimo Stanzione, c.1634 (Web Gallery of Art)


O God, who see how your people 
faithfully await the feast of the Lord's Nativity, 
enable us, we pray, 
to attain the joys of so great a salvation 
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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