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First Monday of Advent - Getting our house in order

Monday, November 30, 2015

One of the gifts of the 2010 Revised Translation of the Missal was that it made many of the scriptural references and quotations in the Mass much clearer. In the Gospel for the First Monday of Advent, we have one of the best examples of this: we cannot now fail to see the parallel between the centurion’s words to Jesus and those we say after the priest invites us to Communion: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof . . . just give the word and my servant will cured / but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

These words help us to focus before Communion: reflecting on our unworthiness should only serve to increase our gratitude that the Lord nonetheless reaches out to us, calls us to Him. Nowhere, to my mind, are the feelings we may experience at this moment more beautifully expressed than by Francois Mauriac in his exquisite book Holy Thursday:

This explains the mysterious mingling of conflicting feelings in the man who is about to receive Holy Communion: fear and confidence, open-heartedness and remorse, shame and love.  The small Host which the sinner approaches throws an impartial and terrible light on irretrievable deeds: on that which he has done, on that which he should not have refrained from doing.  No man knows himself if he has not looked at his soul in the light of the Host lifted above the ciborium.  In that moment, the Church, sublimely inspired, puts on the lips of the priest and the faithful the words of the Centurion: "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed" — a prayer that has been answered since the first day when Christ heard it in Capernaum.

At Advent we can be prompted by this beautiful verse to reflect on our lives more broadly, not just in that intense moment before Communion. Advent is a reminder that our whole lives should be in communion with Christ, not just a disposition during Mass.

As we heard in the homily at our conventual Mass last night, Advent is a time ‘to get real’. What are the obstacles that I put between me and Christ? How am I am going to clear them away? What do I have to do to get my house in order to prepare for Christ’s visit?

I know that my mother never cleans more feverishly than when she is expecting guests – well, we know that Christ is coming, we do not know when, so we need to be in a state of perpetual readiness for his second coming, seeking to cleanse our souls. Advent is a good time to remember to get out the dusters, which in my case, can often remain in storage for all too long.

Toby Lees O.P.

Br Toby Lees O.P. Fr Toby Lees is assistant priest at Our Lady of the Rosary and St Dominic's, London.  |  toby.lees@english.op.org


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