Book 1, Advent
Dom Guéranger OSB
First Translation: 1867
THE Office of this Sunday is filled, from beginning to end, with the sentiments of hope and joy, with which the soul should be animated at the glad tidings of the speedy coming of Him Who is her Saviour and Spouse. The interior coming, that which is effected in the soul, is the almost exclusive object of the Church’s prayers for this day: let us therefore open our hearts, let us prepare our lamps, and await in gladness that cry, which will be heard in the midnight: ‘Glory be to God! Peace unto men!’
The Roman Church makes the Station today in the basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem. It was in this venerable church that Constantine deposited a large piece of the true Cross, together with the title which was fastened to it by Pilate’s order, and which proclaimed the kingly character of the Saviour of the world. These precious relics are still kept there; and, thus enriched with such a treasure, the basilica of Holy-Cross-in-Jerusalem is looked upon, in the Roman liturgy, as Jerusalem itself, as is evident from the allusions made in the several Masses of the Stations held in that basilica. In the language of the sacred Scriptures and of the Church, Jerusalem is the image of the faithful soul; and the Office and Mass of this Sunday have been drawn up on this idea, as the one of the day. We regret not to be able here to develop the sublime beauty of this figure; and must proceed at once to the passage, which the Church has selected from the prophet Isaias. There she tells her children how well founded are her hopes in the merciful and peaceful reign of the Messias. But first let us adore this Divine Messias:
Come, let us adore the King, our Lord, Who is to come.
From the Prophet Isaias. (Ch. xi.)
And there shall come forth a branch out of the rod of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge and of godliness: and h He shall be filled with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears: but He shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.
And He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of His loin, and faith the girdle of His reins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them. The calf and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall rest together: and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp: and the weaned child shall thrust his hand into the den of the basilisk. They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all My holy mountain: for the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the covering waters of the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of people, Him the Gentiles shall beseech, and His sepulchre shall be glorious.
How much is contained in these magnificent words of the prophet! The branch; the flower that is to come from it; the Spirit which rests on this flower; the seven gifts of this Spirit; peace and confidence established on the earth; and, throughout the world, one brotherhood in the kingdom of the Messias! St. Jerome, whose words are read by the Church in the lessons of the second nocturne of this Sunday, says that the branch which calleth forth from the root of Jesse, is the blessed Virgin Mary, who had contact with no shrub or plant; and that the flower is the Lord Jesus, Who says in the Canticle of canticles: ‘I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valley.’ In every age of the Christian Church, this wonderful branch and its Divine flower have been objects of enthusiastic veneration. In the middle ages the tree of Jesse, with its prophetic branches, was carved on the cathedral porches, was painted on the windows, was embroidered on the hangings of the sanctuary, and the melodious voice of the priests sang its praises in the beautiful responsory composed by Fulbert of Chartres, and put to music by the devout king Robert.
R. The root of Jesse gave out a branch, and the branch a flower; and on the flower resteth the holy Spirit.
V. The Virgin Mother of God is the branch, her Son the flower. And on the flower resteth the Holy Spirit.
The devout St. Bernard, commenting upon this responsory in his second Advent homily, says: ‘The Virgin’s Son is the flower, a flower white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands; a flower on Whom the Angels love to look; a flower whose fragrance restores the dead; a flower, as Himself assures us, of the field, not of a garden: for the flowers of the field bloom without man’s care, no man has sown their seed, no man has cultivated them. Just so the Virgin’s womb, a meadow verdant in an endless spring, has brought forth a flower, Whose beauty will never droop, Whose freshness will never fade. O Virgin, branch sublime, to what a height art thou grown! Even up to Him that sitteth on the throne, even to the Lord of majesty. It was sure to be so, for thou castest deep down the roots of humility. O plant of Heaven indeed! precious above all, holier than all. O tree of life indeed! alone worthy to bear the fruit of salvation.’
And of the holy Spirit and His gifts, what shall we say? They rest and are poured out on the Messias only to the end that they may flow from Him upon us ; He needs them not; but we alone need wisdom and understanding, counsel and fortitude, knowledge and godliness, and fear of the Lord. Let us ask with instance for this Divine Spirit, by Whose operation Jesus was conceived and born in Mary’s womb, and let us beg of Him to form Jesus within our hearts. But let us not forget to rejoice at those other glorious things which are told us by the prophet, of the happiness, and peace, and delights, which are to be on the holy mountain. The world has been looking so many ages for peace; it is now coming. Sin had caused enmity and division everywhere; grace will bring unity. A little Child will be the pledge of an alliance between all nations. The prophets have foretold it . . . a new race is being sent down to earth from high Heaven. The flock shall no more fear the fierce lions. The serpent shall be no more: the treacherous plant, which yielded poison, shall grow no more.
Come then, O Messias, and restore to the world its primitive peace; but remember, we beseech Thee, that it is in the heart of man that harmony has been broken more than elsewhere in Thy creation: cure this heart, enter into possession of this Jerusalem, which Thou lovest, though so unworthy: she has been too long captive in Babylon; lead her out of this strange land. Build up her temple again, and make the glory of this second temple to be greater than that of the first, by having Thee to dwell in it, not in figure, but in the reality of Thy adorable Person. The Angel said to Mary: ‘The Lord God shall give unto thy Son the throne of David His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.’ What can we do, O Jesus, but say with Thy beloved disciple, at the close of his prophecy: ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ . . .
Thou art He that was to come, O Jesus! We look for no other. We were blind, Thou hast enlightened us; we were lame, Thou hast made us walk; the leprosy of sin disfigured us, Thou hast cleansed us; we were deaf to Thy words, Thou hast given us hearing; we were dead in sin, Thou hast given us life again; we were poor and had none to care for us, Thou hast come to us with every aid and consolation. These have been, and will again be, the blessings of Thy visit to our souls, O Jesus! A visit, silent but wonderful in its work; which flesh and blood cannot understand, but which faithful hearts feel is granted them. Come, my Saviour, come to me, Thy condescension, and familiarity with such poverty as mine, shall not scandalize me; Thy workings in the souls of men are proof enough that Thou art God. He alone, that created souls, can heal them.