Sunday, December 6, 2009

Qui venturus es in mundum - Miserere nobis

R/. br. Christe, Fili Dei vivi, * Miserere nobis.
R/. Christe, Fili Dei vivi, miserere nobis.
V/. Q u i v e n t u r u s e s i n m u n d u m . * Miserere nobis.
V/. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
R/. Christe, Fili Dei vivi, miserere nobis.

It struck me forcibly to-day again, as yester-day (an illumination of my dark intellect from above, if you will, by some kind angel, even, ultimately, an altogether Higher Person, thanks be), that the signification of the Advent version of the Brief Responsory at Prime is not as it first appears, and is actually a very sobering plea.

It ought be known, first, that the responsorium breve after the little chapter at Prime, Christe, Fili Dei vivi ("Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us"), like its brother at Compline, is the same year-round - but for the fact, unlike Compline's In manus tuas Domine, that its versicle changes to match seasons and great feasts. For most of the year, the versicle is Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris ("Who sittest at the right of the Father"); but now, it being Advent, the season of keeping vigil for the coming Lord, it has changed to Qui venturus es in mundum ("Who art about to come into the world").

It is easy to interpret this in a safe, happy, schmaltzy, lazy way, as referring to the coming of the Christ-Child at Christmas: how sweet, to think of "the little Boy Jesus, asleep on the hay"...

But He has already been born for us, once for all, long ago, just as He has already died for us, once for all.

No, the versicle does not call for us to relive the expectation of the Messiah as the patriarchs and prophets experienced it (though to imitate them in this is well and good) - no, it rather addresses Christ not as Baby but as Judge, the Judge Who soon will come "to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire".

Well we may cry, Who art soon to come into the world - Have mercy on us!

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