New Preface II of Advent

New Preface II of Advent

The second Preface for Advent, entitled “The twofold expectation of Christ”, is said in Masses of Advent from 17 December to 24 December. The version in the 1975 Missal is as follows:
His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets.
The virgin mother bore him in her womb
with love beyond all telling.
John the Baptist was his herald
and made him known when at last he came.
In his love Christ has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate his birth,
so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

The revised translation of the Latin original that we will soon hear for the first time is:
For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him,
the Virgin Mother longed for him
with love beyond all telling,
John the Baptist sang of his coming
and proclaimed his presence when he came.

It is by his gift that already we rejoice
at the mystery of his Nativity,
so that he may find us watchful in prayer
and exultant in his praise.

As with the new Preface I of Advent, the tone is more formal and the language of a higher level. What had been broken up into four sentences for aural comprehensibility is now two long sentences. Perhaps liturgical language should not be interpreted too literally, but the depiction of John the Baptist as someone who ‘sang of Christ’s coming’ does not seem to convey fully his role as Christ’s ‘herald’.

But the Advent text that is most puzzling is the new Solemn Blessing:

May the almighty and merciful God,
by whose grace you have placed your faith
in the First Coming of his Only Begotten Son
and yearn for his coming again,
sanctify you by the radiance of Christ’s Advent
and enrich you with his blessing.

As you run the race of this present life,
may he make you firm in faith,
joyful in hope and active in charity.

So that, rejoicing now with devotion
at the Redeemer’s coming in the flesh,
you may be endowed with the rich reward of eternal life
when he comes again in majesty.

What a contrast to the concise, precise 1975 blessing! Will anyone be able to make head or tail of what is being prayed for in the first stanza? But at least the first two invocations follow the “May God …” or “May you …” pattern of a blessing. The third does not and is in fact a subordinate clause belonging to the second invocation. Removing the ‘so that’ and reversing the ‘you may’ would fix it. With so many last-minute changes made to the version approved by the bishops in 2008, one wonders how this glaring anomaly was not rectified.


Elizabeth Harrington