The ancient Collect for Advent is an exiting prayer to reflect upon. It stirs us up to prayer, not – as is usual – to God the Father, but directly to the Son whose appearance we are expecting. we ask our Lord Jesus Christ to stir up His might (or power) to come into action. The action we ask of Him is to save us from our sins by His deliverance. The collect makes clear that at the beginning, even at the very beginning, we are under threat of sin and its strength cannot be overcome but by Jesus’ deliverance – the Cross. It is therefore a wonderful coincidence (as if such a thing exists) that the Feast of St. Andrew falls in Advent.
R. When holy Andrew saw the cross, he lifted up his voice and said: O cross right wonderful! O cross long desired! O cross which shineth throughout the whole world! * Bid welcome to a disciple of Christ, that as by thee in death he redeemed me, so by thee he may take me unto himself once and for all.
V. O gracious cross, made so fair and good by the sweet body of my Lord. Bid welcome to a disciple of Christ, that as by thee in death he redeemed me, so by thee he may take me unto himself once and for all. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Bid welcome to a disciple of Christ, that as by thee in death he redeemed me, so by thee he may take me unto himself once and for all.”
~ THE ANGLICAN BREVIARY response ix for the Feast of St. Andrew
St. Andrew is genuinely excited to be martyred for Jesus Christ. He is even more stirred up about the instrument of his death being a cross! Not only does he not fear death, he has unshakeable faith that the cross will not be his undoing but rather that this cross will be the instrument of his unification with Jesus Christ (and therefore it is “wonderful,” “fair,” and “good”). This is the might and power of Jesus Christ that He was born to destroy death by death that we all should live in Him. This is the deliverance by means of which we re to be saved. As was sung in the Sequence for the 1st Sunday in Advent “Thou didst save by might prevailing (from the Sarum Missal).”
The Gospel read at Mass today (Matt 21.1.) is an answer to the excita of the Collect. We have asked the Lord to “stir up and come” and he does. Riding on an ass into Jerusalem as the people shout out in praises “Hosanna!” The Lord has indeed come and will also show His mighty salvation in due course. The coming of the Lord is a big deal. The God so great that the universe cannot contain Him has chosen to be born and to live as a tiny human being to be one with the humanity He created and to save it.
With the Introit of the Mass of Advent 1 we can pray:
Unto thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul: my God, I have put my trust in thee!
Fr. Gregory Wassen