Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion underfoot; they have changed my delightful portion into a desolate wilderness. They have laid it waste (12.10-11)
The Gospel for the Vigil of Christmas gives us the key to the true meaning of Advent and Christmas:
Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1.20-22)
The key can in fact be reduced to one word: Jesus - because this means saviour or redeemer. Names imposed by Heaven always have deep meaning, and express the special mission or vocation of the person to whom given. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, or “father of a multitude”, because he was called to be “the (spiritual) father of all who believe”. (Cf Rom. 4.11-13) Simon’s name was changed to Peter, because he was chosen to be the visible head and cornerstone of the visible Church.
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1Tim. 1.15)
This is our Lord’s mission and vocation, the reason He was sent into the world by His Father. If we, the sinners, ask His pardon, and welcome Him now as our Saviour, we shall not have to fear Him when He comes to be our Judge. (Cf. Collect, Vigil of Christmas.)
Nothing about the modern world is more deadly than its pretense to be free from sin – free, not because redeemed and sanctified by grace, but because it rejects God’s revelation and the very notion of sin, original or actual. This is a gross lie and blasphemy, and makes God a liar.
In the lessons of the unmutilated Breviary, all during Advent, God speaks to us through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah. Never were some of these lessons more appropriate than in the 1970’s:
Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, and they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be smitten, that you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds… (Is. 1.2-6)
So reads the Breviary on the First Sunday of Advent. The following day, God promises most generous pardon if we repent, but awful chastisement if we don’t:
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the lord has spoken. (Is. 1.16-20)
Then, in words, applicable to the Conciliar Church today, he continues:
How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. (1.21-23)
The Church is the City of God of the New Covenant. Her princes are the bishops. To identify the “thieves” and “murderers”, may we not today understand the “experts” – experts in Scripture, liturgy, canon law; the modern scribes and Pharisees who disfigure the Face of Christ in the liturgy, and scourge His Mystical Body, the Church, by mutilating its structure, and debasing its teaching, contrary to God’s will. These men are murderers, because they are helping to put to death millions of souls that should be living members of the Mystical Body, souls that have been abandoned to these wolves by bishops whose duty it was to feed them with sound doctrine and unquestionably valid sacraments, and to defend them from all harm. Diocese after diocese, though having a nominal head, is left virtually widowed, while the “husband”, the bishop, lives in spiritual adultery with heretics and schismatics. (In patristic thought a bishop, after the image of Christ, is a mystical bridegroom, and the diocese is his “wife” or spouse, for whom he is called upon to lay down his life, even as Jesus laid down His life for the universal Church.
The man who says that he has no sin says, in effect, that he has no need of a redeemer; no need of the Church, or of sacraments that cleanse from sin and sanctify the soul. This man is a liar:
The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1Jno.1.7-10)
He who says he knows Him but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God is truly perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. (1Jno.2.4-6)
If we have offended God, says St. Augustine, it is to God that we must fly and in Him take refuge, remembering the parable of the prodigal son. (Cf. 102.13-14)
As the father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Ps. 102.13-14)
In the Litany of the Holy Name we invoke “Jesus, our refuge”. “I have not come to call the just, but sinners”, says Our Lord. (Mt. 9.13) “Come to me, all you who labor (in affliction) and are burdened (with sin), and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls”. (Mt, 11.25-29) “This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Is.66.2)
If we do not welcome Jesus now as our Redeemer, we shall have to fear Him when He comes to be our Judge. That is why the Second Coming is also a prominent theme in the Advent Liturgy.
In the work of our redemption, it pleased God to associate with Himself the Virgin Mary, His Mother, whom He preserved free from every stain of sin, original or actual. As co-redemptrix and “Mother of all the living”, she personifies the mercy and sweetness of God, and is in a special way our God-given refuge. So in her Litany we invoke her under such titles as Morning Star, who guides us to safe harbor; Health of the Sick, who brings the healing remedies of grace to our ailing souls; Refuge of Sinners, who covers us as it were with her mantle; Consoler of the Afflicted, Help of Christians.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have not been conceived without sin; pray for us who have recourse to thee.