In the liturgy they are prayed as the Gospel Antiphon at Mass and the Magnificat Antiphon during Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. Try praying or chanting them yourself during these next days until Christmas Eve. I guarantee they will touch your heart!
The Church encourages us today to Rejoice! This third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, calls us to pause in the middle of Advent and stir up our hearts to be expectant for the coming of the Lord.
It is not always easy to rejoice - in the midst of our life's challenges. But as Christians we are a people of holy joy; through the grace of our Baptism we should be filled with joy.
Father Robert Barron has a wonderful reflection and homily on this truth in his daily Advent Reflections. He can speak about it better than I can. And if you have not signed up for his daily reflections delivered by e-mail, I encourage you to do. You can do so on this link: http://adventreflections.com/advent-day-15-a-new-beginning/
Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say it, rejoice! May these remaining days of Advent be filled with new and life-changing graces for you. "Come, Lord Jesus."
Last evening our local parish which serves the nearby university had an Advent Penance Service. Many parishioners and students took the opportunity to go to Confession and many of the students returned to their pews with joyful smiles on their faces. How wonderful!
That's how it should be with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Encountering Jesus in Confession should be a time of spiritual refreshment and peace. Many parishes are having Advent Penances Services now. If you haven't had your own encounter with the Lord through this grace-filled Sacrament hopefully you can find your way to your parish. If all goes well I guarantee you will come home with a smile on your face and joy in your heart.
Zenit, the on-line news agency covering events of the Church in Rome, offered the following gift of prayer to its readers today to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother. (See (Zenit.org)
Zenit writes: “There is a Marian prayer that is recited daily by millions of people entitled the Memorare (which means "remembrance") the text of which is believed to have been written by the Cistercian monk, Bernard of Clairvaux. The Catholic Church grants a partial indulgence for those who devoutly recite the memorare. It is said that in order to receive a grace, the prayer should be recited at least nine times consecutively.”
The following is the prayer:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession
was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;
to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
This is a wonderful prayer for the Advent Season. Our Sisters pray it daily at the end of our Evening Prayer. It was one of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s favorites.
Reports and statistics tell us that across our country hundreds and hundreds of men, women and children are coming into the Catholic Church. There are many reasons why they come but they are especially drawn to the Eucharist, to the Truth that God is really with us in His Eucharistic Presence. Sadly there are few young men and women responding to the Lord’s call to the priesthood and religious life so as a result there are never enough ministers to care for these new converts. Because of the lack of priests and sisters, parishes are closing or are being merged, schools are closing, and the priests who are serving are stretched very thin. I thought of all this as I meditated on the Gospel for today from Matthew 35, 10:1:
“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Perhaps during this Advent season our special prayer could be to the Father asking him to touch the hearts of young men and women to follow God’s call. God is calling but the noise of our culture prevents our young people from hearing God’s voice. Here is a Prayer for Vocations:
“O God, Father of all Mercies, Provider of a bountiful Harvest, send Your Graces upon those you have called to gather the fruits of your labor; preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you. Open the hearts of your children that they may discern Your Holy Will; inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ. Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life guided by Your Divine Word and Truth. Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
St. Augustine prayed to the Lord: “Our hearts are restless unless they rest in Thee.”
I would suggest that many of us have restless hearts, hearts that struggle from time to time with confusion, with fear and anxiety. Well, if that is so then we need a Savior. And what better time than now, during this grace-filled season of Advent, to recognize that need and to reach out to God and beg him to come and set us free.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel” are the words in that favorite Advent hymn that express our deep longing for the Lord. Perhaps during these beginning days of the season, we can sing or hum that hymn many times during the day, letting it be a prayer that rises up to God from our heart.
O Come, O Come Emmanel and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel. To thee shall come Emmanuel!
When I was growing up, like any youngster today, I was eager for Christmas to arrive. When it did it was exciting and lots of fun. But the next day the bottom seemed to fall out. What a letdown! Christmas was all over and the day seemed so sad. But then I grew up and I discovered Advent. And as a Religious Sister I learned a whole new way of preparing for Christmas.
The Church knows how to prepare and how to celebrate. She gives us this wonderful liturgical season of about four weeks in order to get our hearts ready for a new coming of Jesus on Christmas Day. The daily prayers at Mass which express the longing in our hearts for a deeper relationship with Jesus, the Advent hymns which enable us to give voice to our desire for the peace that only He can give – are built into this beautiful season. In our community the outward signs of our preparation are the lighting of the Advent candles, the chanting of the Divine Office each day. On December 17 we begin to pray the O Antiphons and light the window candles, one by one as they lead up to December 24. On Christmas Eve we light our Christmas tree and then we celebrate until the feast of the Baptism of Jesus in January. There is no sadness in our convent the day after Christmas! Our time of feasting has then begun!
May you too have a wonderful Advent Season. Don’t let it slip by!