Since December 25th falls on Sunday this year, Advent is as long as it can be. We take advantage of that extra week to present some reflections on the Mass entrance antiphons for the four Sundays of Advent.
First Sunday of Advent
The season begins with the Ad te levavi , the first verses of Psalms 25: “ To you I have lifted up my soul; My God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame, nor let my enemies rejoice over me; let all those who trust in you not be confounded. O Lord, show me your ways, lead me in your paths.”
This antiphon sends us on our Advent journey very realistically. Enemies, shame, and confusion are real, but our Lord does not leave us without his help and guidance. There is also a movement from and individual point of view to invoking God’s help for all who trust in him. The watchwords are trust and way.
Second Sunday of Advent
The prophet of the season, Isaiah, now makes his appearance in the Sunday antiphons, in a free combination of verses 19 and 30 from his chapter 30. “People of Zion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.”
Although the prophetic voice addresses the people of Zion, it announces universal salvation, carrying on the communal theme of the first week. Just what is “the glory of his voice”? How can it be made audible in the joy of our hearts? Will it perhaps be made more audible, the more joyful our hearts become? Perhaps resting in deep joy at God’s coming can help more people to hear the Lord’s voice and its glory.
Third Sunday of Advent
This is Gaudete Sunday, taking its name from the opening words of the entrance antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all people; the Lord is near. Be worried over nothing, but let your prayers and petitions be known before God.”
These beautiful words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians exhort us to trust in God’s nearness. If God is close by, there is no reason to worry, so rejoice! As in our antiphon for the Second Sunday, perhaps the more wholeheartedly we rejoice, the more clearly God’s voice will be heard, and his nearness recognized by others.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
This Sunday’s antiphon has also made its opening words famous: Rorate caeli: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down justice; let the earth be opened, and let the salvation spring up.”
Another way of translating this thought from Isaiah 45:8 is to personify the objects of the verbs. Thus we ask the clouds to rain down the Just One, that the earth may bring forth the Savior. In either case, the vivid agricultural imagery invites us to meditate on the collaboration of heaven and earth, for our spiritual well-being as well as for our physical survival. God’s grace invigorates our souls just as the rain brings growth to the arid soil. We continue to trust that God will supply grace, and we pray that we may be open and “porous” enough to receive it, that we may help salvation to germinate throughout the world.