Catholic Prayer: Third Sunday of Advent: Devotions and Meditations
This Sunday introduces us into the second half of the season of Advent, and at the opening of Matins our anxiety and joy are given impetus: "The Lord is already near. Come, let us adore Him!" (Invitatory) The entire week is one of the richest of the entire year of grace, for during this week fall the magnificent Ember Days and the beginning of the "O antiphons."
All of us are children this Sunday, for we are unable to restrain our impatience at the coming of the Saviour. Our joy urges us to celebrate in the great basilica of St. Peter, so that all mankind may share it with us. The penitential violet of Advent is changed to rose, and at the Gospel even the Precursor announces to the city that "He is in our midst." Christ the Lord is even today present through grace, as He will be with us forever in glory.
In our explanation of the Second Sunday in Advent we spoke of the meaning of Jerusalem; today we speak of the "preparation of the ways." Last Sunday the city was alerted to make itself ready for the arrival of the King of Peace; today His scout and messenger arrives to announce that He is almost there. (The Life of Christ by Ricciotti, and one by Willam contain splendid background material, based upon reality useful for this Sunday.) The children should be led in spirit into the far-off Orient, where there are deep blue skies and starry nights, and where caravans from distant lands enter the oasis across the deserts and wildernesses. Whenever a great potentate is to visit one of the cities, there is great preparation, and the city is decorated and embellished. Rare foods and spices are brought in: all reflects the perfume of the Oriental night. The people of the East, moreover, go even further in their preparations. A long, straight, triumphal road is constructed in order that the caravan of the potentate may arrive in splendor for the very first view of the great city. The preparation of this road requires the efforts and gifts of the entire city. It must be straight and wide, the valleys must be filled in, and the mountains and hills leveled off. Spiritually this means that our love must turn directly to God and we must not be distressed by the temptations of creation — pleasure, riches or power. The valleys are our sins of omission, our shirking of homework, our catechism, the duties in our state in life. The hills and mountains are the sins of commission, our actually doing wrong by swearing, disobedience, fighting and gossip. The messenger, St. John the Baptist, comes as a herald of the King, in order that we may hasten to finish our immediate preparations for the great reception in the city.
On the Saturday evening before this Sunday, or at the Sunday dinner, we gather together with the family to light the third candle on the Advent wreath. The brighter the lighting becomes, the more impatient we become for the arrival of the Redeemer. The most appropriate prayer for the evening is psalm 81, for at the Sunday Mass it constitutes the dominant chant sung at the Introit, the Offertory and the Communion. This psalm of redemption should become an old friend during Advent, for on the First Sunday in Advent we heard it at the Alleluia and at the Communion. On the Second Sunday we heard it again at the Offertory, and we shall hear it once again during the night of Christmas:
Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy, and grant us Thy salvation.... Mercy and faithfulness shall unite; justice and peace shall embrace. Faithfulness shall sprout from the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. The Lord will also give prosperity, and our land shall yield its produce. Justice shall go before Him, and salvation in His footsteps.Prayer Source: True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1955
— Frey translation