This is the first day of the ecclesiastical year; on it the Church begins to contemplate the coming of Our Saviour, and, with the prophets, to long for Him ; she exhorts the faithful to true penance for their sins, which oppose Christ s entrance into their hearts; she sings, therefore, at the Introit of the Mass, in the words of the psalmist : “To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul.”
Raise up Thy power, O Lord, we pray Thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins, and to be saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest, etc. Amen.
EPISTLE. Rom. Xiii. 11-14.
Brethren : Knowing the season, that it is now the hour for
us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when
we believed. The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let
us therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor
of light. Let us walk honestly as in the day : not in rioting and
drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention
and envy ; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is understood here by sleep ?
Sin, in which man, as if sunk in a torpor, no longer sees the light of the Gospel, no longer hears the warning of his conscience, neglects the means of salvation, and lives without care, until he awakes, alas ! too late, as from a dream.
What is understood by night and day ?
By night is to be understood ignorance, infidelity, and sin. The day represents faith, grace, and reconciliation with God.
What are the works of darkness ?
All sin, especially that which is unknown to men, but seen and known by God, of Whose grace it deprives us.
What is the armor of light ?
It consists in faith, hope, charity, and good works, the spiritual arms with which we have to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.
What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ ?
It means that Christians should think, speak, and act like Jesus, adorning themselves by the imitation of Him as with precious garments.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who became man for us, grant that we
may in all things comply with the admonitions of this epistle ;
that we may arise from the slumber of our sins, and walk in the
light of grace by the diligent performance of good works, and
adorn our souls by putting on Thee, through the imitation of
GOSPEL. Luke xxi. 25-33.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: There shall be
signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the
earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roar
ing of the sea and of the waves : men withering away for fear,
and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world, for
the powers of heaven shall be moved ; and then they shall see
the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty.
But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up
your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And He spoke
to them a similitude : See the fig-tree, and all the trees ; when
they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh.
So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know
that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen I say to you, this
generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven
and earth shall pass away : but My words shall not pass away.
Why does the Church cause this Gospel concerning the Last Judgment to be read to-day?
To prepare our hearts by penance for the coming of Jesus as our judge.
What signs shall precede the Last Judgment?
The sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give light, the stars shall fall from heaven ; the heavens themselves shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with heat, and the earth with all that is in it shall be burned up. At the command of God the world shall be shaken to its centre ; fearful tempests shall arise ; the sea and wave? shall roar, and wild struggle and destruction take the place of quiet and order. Men shall wither away with fear, not knowing whither to fly. Then shall appear the holy cross, the sign of the Son of man a terror to sinners who have hated it, a consolation to- those who have loved it.
How will the Last Judgment begin?
At the command of God the angels, with the sound of the trumpet, shall summon all men to judgment (i. These, iv. 15).
The bodies and souls of the dead shall be again united, and the wicked shall be separated from the righteous, the just on the right, the wicked on the left (St. Matt. xxv. 33). The angels and the devils will be present, and Christ Himself will appear in a bright cloud with such power and majesty that the wicked, for fear, will not be able to look at Him, but will say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us” (St. Luke xxiii. 30).
Why will God hold a general and public judgment?
1. That all may know how just He has been in the particular
judgment of each one.
2. That justice may at last be rendered to the afflicted and
persecuted, while the wicked who have oppressed the poor, the
widow, the orphan, the religious, and yet have often passed for
upright and devout persons, may be known in their real characters
and be forever disgraced.
3. That Jesus Christ may complete His redemption, and openly
triumph over His enemies, who shall see the glory of the Crucified,
and tremble at His power.
How will the Last Judgment proceed?
The books will be opened, and from them all men will be judged ; all their good and bad thoughts, words, and deeds, even the most secret, known only to God, will be revealed before the whole world, and according to their works men will be rewarded or be damned forever. The wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting (St. Matt. Xxv. 46).
The Church, during the season of Advent, reminds thee, O Christian, of the coming of Christ to judgment, that thou mayest with the more zeal apply thyself to profit by His first coming ; for they only will be justified and glorified who have acknowledged and received Him as their Redeemer. Examine thyself, therefore, to-day, and during this week, whether thou hast believed in Him, loved Him, admitted Him into thy heart, and kept His holy commands. Begin at once penance and good works, that thou mayest with confidence await the judgment-day of the Lord.
Thou art just, O Lord! and just is Thy judgment. Oh, penetrate my soul with holy fear, that I may be kept from evil deeds, and incited to good works. Would that I could say, with St. Jerome, “Whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, it is as if I heard the awful summons of the trumpet, 'Ye dead, arise, and come to judgment !' ”
– Goffine's Devout Instructions