Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ember Wednesday in Advent (Feria Quarta Quatuor Temporum Adventus)

Today is Ember Wednesday in Advent in the usus antiquor. While I only have a very brief few moments, there are some interesting aspects to today's Mass which are certainly worth briefly highlighting.

Evidently, one of the most well known aspects of this Mass is surely its introit: "Rorate coeli, desuper, et nubes pluant justum, aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem..." Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just: let the earth open and bud forth a Saviour...

In addition, however, there are some other aspects to today's Mass which are worth taking note of. The first is that it includes kneeling after the Kyrie when the priest says, "Flectamus genua"; it also includes three readings: two lessons from the Book of Prophet Isaiah and, of course, the gospel. The first lesson is from Isaiah 2:2-5 and the second is from Isaiah 7:10-15.

Let us read what Blessed Cardinal Schuster had to say about today's Mass in his work, The Sacramentary, which also gives some historical insight into some of these variations:


The Introit is from Isaias xiv, 8, in which the meek and peaceful character of this first coming of the Word of God upon earth is wonderfully expressed in two brilliant figures of speech -- namely, the heavens distilling refreshing dew upon Gedeon's fleece, and the earth producing the little flower of the fields upon the mystic stem of Jesse...

Originally, on the days of the stational processions, when the great Litany was sung on the way, the Introit was omitted, and the Pope, on reaching the church, recited the Collect after the last Kyrie. The deacon first invited the faithful to prostrate themselves so that they might pray for awhile in secret -- Flectamus genua; then after a few moments spent in prayer, he gave the signal to get up again, and the Pontiff summed up the petitions of the assembly in a brief formula -- collecta -- and presented them to God...

The Mass for today still keeps the rite of the threefold scriptural lesson which in early times usually preceded the Offertory; the first lesson was as a rule from the Old Testament, the second from the New Testament, and the third from the Gospel.

As mentioned yesterday, until the mid-1960's, today was traditionally a day of fasting and at least partial abstinence. While no longer obligatory, do consider making that choice, adopting this practice for yourself today, Friday and Saturday.