O Lord Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
The collect of the Third Sunday of Advent introduces a fresh insight for our journey toward the dual coming of Christ, in his incarnation and at the end of time. Having pleaded for the grace to prepare ourselves for his advent on the first Sunday, two means are presented to achieve this end in subsequent weeks. In one of the collects for the Second Sunday of Advent, the scriptures are held up before us. In today’s prayer the Church intercedes for her ministers and stewards of the sacred mysteries: those consecrated for service at the altar, and entrusted with the noble task of handing on the priceless gift of the truth of the holy gospel.
Word and Sacrament are essential to this work, intimately one in the life and mission of the Church. At Advent’s end we behold the Word incarnate; he who in the truest sense has become the flesh we receive in that pre-eminent Sacrament, the Most Holy Eucharist.
Saint John the Baptist, the messenger sent to prepare the world for the first coming, is further presented as the model for those who prepare us for the second: those charged with the solemn service of Christ’s faithful people, who seek to convert the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. They, like him, are to be heralds of the gospel, “pioneers of the Second Advent, clearing the way, and preparing the minds of the people for the Lord’s appearing in glorious majesty.” They are to embody that true evangelical spirit, that by their words and deeds—indeed, by their whole life—they may themselves become “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord” (Is. 40: 3; Jn 1: 23).
Of course, praying that these servants might be effective in their ministry, making us into an acceptable people for the Lord, demands that we are ourselves ready to receive the message of conversion which they preach. Our hearts must be docile to the will of the Lord; truly ready to be turned to the wisdom of the just, and away from the disobedience which, after all, is the cause of our downfall. As we pray for them, then, we pray also for ourselves, for the whole Church, and for the world, that when he comes in glory, to judge both the quick and the dead, Christ may find our hearts and souls ready and waiting, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.
This post is part of a series on the Collects of Divine Worship, which may be viewed by clicking this link.
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