Saturday, 8 December 2012



Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.

This neat little prayer is found among the prayers for Advent in the Gelasian sacramentary and seven other manuscripts. It is not in the 1570 Missal. The word-order has been radically changed by the 1970 revisors, but with little effect on the sense.

Today's Gospel, in all three Lectionary cycles, contains the command of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord and to make his paths straight. Perhaps that is why this prayer, which concerns the removal of obstacles that hinder our meeting with Christ, was chosen by the 1970 revisers for this day.

‘set out in haste’ repeats the idea of Advent as a time of hurry, which we found already in the Collect for the First Sunday. Like so many Roman prayers, this one rests on a binary contrast, in this case between earth and heaven.  The same contrast underlies today’s Prayer after Communion. Other prayers, particularly in Advent, are motivated by the contrast between present and future.

The Prayer over the Offerings and the Prayer after Communion for today are used frequently during Advent, and have already occurred.