New Advent Prefaces

New Advent Prefaces

Before looking at the Prefaces for Advent in their revised form, it is worth taking a moment to consider what part the Preface plays in the liturgy. Rather than being something preliminary, as in the preface of a book, the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer refers to a public announcement or proclamation.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explains that, in the Preface, “The priest, in the name of the entire holy people, glorifies God the Father and gives thanks for the whole work of salvation or for some special aspect of it that corresponds to the day, festivity, or season”(78).

The two Prefaces provided for Advent are now entitled “The two comings of Christ” and “The twofold expectation of Christ”. The first is used from the First Sunday of Advent to 16th December. Its title and content clearly reflect the fact that the Church's prayer in Advent focuses on both Christ’s coming in the flesh at his birth in Bethlehem and on his coming again at the end of time. The revised wording is:

For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.
And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory
as without end we acclaim:

It is interesting to compare this with the version in use for the last 40 years:
When he humbled himself to come among us as a man,
he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago
and opened for us the way to salvation.
Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours
when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.
And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:

The new text is much longer and more complex. What had been expressed in two sentences in the core stanza now follows the Latin format of one sentence with numerous subordinate clauses. It will be a challenge for people hearing it, at least for the first few times, to comprehend the meaning of “assume” in this context and to untangle the core message from the jumble of secondary phrases and clauses.

We are familiar with Angels and Archangels. The terms “Thrones”, “Dominions”, and “all the hosts and Powers of heaven” refer to God’s sovereignty over all creation. Reference to the angels and heavenly powers reminds us that at every liturgy we worship together with the whole of creation in the company of the communion of saints.

Elizabeth Harrington