”Gaudete!” (Rejoice!) is the nickname for this Third Sunday of Advent. I hope you will see lovely rose vestments in your churches. They remind us that our penitential preparation will soon be completed, so as to make our Christmas even brighter.
Let’s look at the Collect for the Mass in the Roman Church’s traditional, Extraordinary Form: “Aurem tuam, quaesumus, Domine, precibus nostris accommoda: et mentis nostrae tenebras, gratia tuae visitationis illustra.”
The mickle Lewis and Short Dictionary says accommodo means “to fit or adapt one thing to another, to lay, put, or hang on”. In classical Latin it is found, as in today’s prayer, with “ears”. Think of Mark Antony crying out in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (III, ii), “lend me your ears”. Mens is “the conscience” as well as “a plan, purpose, design, intention”. Mens points to our heart, mind and soul.
Literal rendering: “Lend your ear to our prayers, we beseech you, O Lord, and by the grace of your visitation, illuminate the shadows of our mind.”
Speaking of shadows of our mens, heart, mind and soul, note in the prayer the contrast of illumination and darkness. Christ, the light to our darkness, moral and intellectual, is coming. With grace He adapts, accommodates, our minds and hearts to receive – in this moment of Mass, by hearing (aurem) – what is necessary for salvation. He adapts to us, in His incarnation. He adapts us to Him by His grace.
When someone or something important is coming, we get ourselves ready. The Latin visitatio (“visit”), and adventus (“coming”) are technical terms for the arrival of a great official, such as a king, who searches out the truth about the condition of his subjects and holdings. In the Church today, a visitation is an investigation, also into the shadows of an institution. A visitatio can be an occasion of joy, if we are well illuminated. The adventus might be a moment of dread, if our shadows are full.
The adventus or visitatio Domini brings consequences. In English we say that dire things are “visited upon” recreants. We might say these days to certain prelates what God says in Jeremiah 23:2: “You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold I will visit upon you for the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.”
The Lord comes by the straight path. He will straighten it if you haven’t. Go to Confession.