WORD MADE FLESH

Second Sunday in Advent – December 4,2011
Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11 | Psalm 85 | 2 Peter 3.8-14 | Mark 1.1-8

Ralph Himsl

November 28, 2011

Some traditions assign particular, how shall I say – virtues to each Sunday in Advent: hope, peace, joy, love for each of the first to the fourth respectively.

Memory tells me that we mark the Third Sunday of Advent as Gaudete Sunday, quite in line with the tradition. As Catholics, we have a leaning toward historical roots that prefer Latin for an idea when we wish to assign it a special elegance. So we refer to the Third Sunday of Advent as Gaudete Sunday, always with the explanation, "Gaudete means rejoice".

I don't object to that practice at all, but Vatican II has affected my practice and understanding of the faith to such an extent that I often find our use of Latin bordering on the quaint.

With a little time, for example, we might learn serenity in saying "Joyful Sunday - the Third Sunday of Advent."

But today we have the Second Sunday of Advent, which according to the tradition noted earlier, we would mark as Peace Sunday. I don't recall ever having heard a reference to the Second Sunday of Advent as Peace Sunday.

But I fault my own lack of attention in this respect since I may not have attended closely enough. If so, such a failing may make the argument for identifying this Sunday with its Latin form – perhaps Pax Sunday?

He will gather the lamb in his arms and carry them in his bossom. - Isaiah 40.11

'He will gather the lamb in his arms and carry them in his bossom.'

Isaiah 40.11

Today's readings make the peace point. The opening words of the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah proclaim it. Our Sunday Missal has it this way, "Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God" – a beautiful message from the highest source.

The translation used by George Frederick Handel in his masterwork The Messiah says, "Comfort ye! Comfort ye my people, saith your God." Despite its phrasing from the English of another day, the memory of the sung passage fills my mind. It crowds out other interpretations however fine.

CHOICE OF TENORS

Readers who might wish to form their own impressions of this passage from Isaiah, and have minimal computer skills as have I, can "Google it." Enter Google world at the "search bar" with "Comfort Ye My People" and find performances by a list of great tenors, among whom the late Jerry Hadley with conductor Christopher Hogwood, Jon Vickers, Taiki Shima and Juan Diego Flores.

Although I enjoyed the merit in each of them, that of Jerry Hadley has a plus for the purpose of today: from time to time the presentation shows the orchestra where we see the theme of this Second Sunday of Advent, the very comfort of the words, the languid motions of the strings, the composed faces of the musicians and the grace of the conductor bespeak peace.

Such a beautiful passage, this First Reading's description of the flowering of peace and joy at the coming of the Lord! I like the idea of having a specific virtue for each Sunday in Advent, and we can treasure their divine mingling across the entire season, Sundays and the days in between.

(Ralph Himsl: luimeme@telusplanet.net)