01 December 2012

The Advent Fast

begins this evening (at least for those of us following the Western calendar). Like Lent, Advent invites us to repentance. The collect for this Sunday reminds us precisely why we need Advent: "rescue us from the threatening peril of our sins and save us by Your mighty deliverance."

Truth is, we don't think our sins ARE threatening. Advent comes along each year to remind us how damaging, yes, how damning, they truly are, and hence how damaged and damnable we ourselves are.

John the Baptist soon captivates our attention, with his universal call:

But here comes the fiery angel of St. John [Revelation 10], the true preacher of repentance. With one bolt of lightning, he hurls together both ‹those selling and those buying works›. He says: “Repent!” [Matthew 3:2]. [31] Now one group imagines, “Why, we have repented!” The other says, “We need no repentance.” [32] John says, “Repent, both of you. You false penitents and false saints, both of you need the forgiveness of sins. Neither of you know what sin really is. Much less your duty to repent of it and shun it. For no one of you is good. You are full of unbelief, stupidity, and ignorance of God and God’s will. But He is present here, of whose ‘fullness we have all received, grace upon grace’ [John 1:16]. Without Him, no one can be righteous before God. Therefore, if you want to repent, repent rightly. Your works of penance will accomplish nothing. As for you hypocrites, |who do not need repentance, you serpents’ brood, who has assured you that you will escape the wrath to come and other judgments?” [Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7]. [33] In the same way Paul also preaches, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–12). [34] And God now “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). “All people,” He says. No one is an exception who is a human being.  McCain, Paul Timothy (2009-06-01). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Second Edition (Pocket Edition) (Kindle Locations 5868-5872). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition. 

As we enter into the season of the fast, we face the added challenge that the world around us is in full tilt celebration of that buying frenzy it calls "Christmas" - rather designed to distract us from the fact that we're dying and helpless to do squat about it. Into that darkness, let the light be kindled: the light that is Christ, our Lord, who comes to us in His Word and in His Eucharist to renew within us the gift bestowed in Baptism. The gift of His life to be our life, His peace to be our peace, His joy to be our joy.

In the days ahead, find time for the extra services at Church; observe the fast (see here); renew your commitment to read the daily readings (Treasury is always a big help); gather the family to sing hymns of the season—the Advent hymns are among the most beautiful in the Hymnbook; begin or renew the practice of reading Scripture and singing together at your table as you light the candles of the Advent wreath; make time to do some diligent soul searching in light of the Holy Ten Commandments and then go to confession and hear that joyous absolution ring in your ears; remember the poor and the suffering not only in your prayers with a special gift during these days (here's a couple good places:  LCMS World Relief or the Augustana Ministerium in their support for Pastor Dan Chambers and others in need); go to the holy altar as the poor, miserable sinner you are and allow the Coming One to come to you even now in His body and blood and bring you more forgiveness than you've got sin, more life than you've got death.

In all these ways, the Church prepares you for the greatest Gift of all that is celebrated at the Nativity and in its 12 day feast, when our Lord came among us to rescue us from the threatening peril of our sins and to save us by His mighty deliverance. Maranatha!


Unknown said...

Just curious--do any Lutheran churches observe the penitential omissions from the Divine Liturgy, such as the omission of the Gloria in Excelsis and all Alleluias as well as the replacement of the graduals with the tracts?

William Weedon said...

It's common for the Gloria in Excelsis to be omitted in Advent and in Lent. The Alleluia is only omitted in Lent. Where the graduals (as opposed to the Psalm) are still in use, yes, they are replaced by the tract. The Church where I previously served regularly followed that order.

William Weedon said...

P.S. Graduals replaced by Tract only from Septuagesima forward. Not during Advent, of course.

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure that in the Western Rite, the graduals are replaced by tracts even in the Advent fast, unless this is a distinctive Lutheran tradition. I'll check my liber usualis.--Chris

William Weedon said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure that is NOT the case.

Unknown said...

Well, Fr. Weedon, I will actually admit that I was mistaken. I checked the liber usualis and there are no tracts for the advent season, but the graduals are retained. A rare lapse on my part.--Chris