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The First Sunday in Advent

First Advent home

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

Source: Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549 Prayer Book. Based on Romans 13:8-12 and Mathew 21:1-13 which are appointed for this Sunday [Barbee and Zahl]

Zachariah ix.1, Romans xiii. 8   &  St. Matthew xxi. 1
Psalms viii, l | xcvi, xcvii

Admonition and Exhortation for Communion
ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her

Homily of Augustine on the Gospel

This week we will look at the Gospel appointed for the first week in the season of Advent, specifically Matthew 21: 1&2.  I've taken an extract from Augustine's homily on Matthew for examination which is at the link.  Augustine observed differences in the Gospel accounts of the evangelists, and in the various translations generally.  There were probably those who pointed to these differences and asserted they proved the unreliability of the Gospel accounts because of differences. Augustine also touches on a defense of the Septuagint, which was an issue between Jerome and him, but identifies the main thing.
Moreover, it is manifest that the translation which bears the name of the Septuagint differs in some particulars from the text which is found in the Hebrew by those who know that tongue, and by the several scholars who have given us renderings of the same Hebrew books. And if an explanation is asked for this discrepancy, or for the circumstance that the weighty authority of the Septuagint translation diverges in many passages from the rendering of the truth which is discovered in the Hebrew codices, I am of  opinion that no more probable account of the matter will  suggest itself, than the supposition that  the Seventy
composed their version under the influence of the very Spirit by whose inspiration the things which they were engaged in translating had been originally spoken. This is an idea which receives confirmation also from the marvellous  consent which is asserted to have characterized them. Consequently, when these translators, while not departing from the real mind of God from which these sayings proceeded, and to the expression of which the words ought to be subservient, gave a different form to some matters in their reproduction of the text, they had no intention of exemplifying anything else than the very thing which  we now admiringly contemplate in that kind of harmonious diversity which marks the four evangelists, and in the light of which it is made clear that there is no failure from strict truth, although one historian may give an account of some  theme in a manner different indeed from another, and yet not so different as to involve an actual departure from the sense intended by the person with whom he is bound to be in concord and agreement. To understand this is of advantage to character, with a view at once to guard against what is false, and to pronounce correctly upon it; and it is of no less consequence to faith itself, in the way of precluding the
supposition that, as it were with consecrated sounds, truth has a kind of defence provided for it which might imply God's handing over to us not only the thing itself, but likewise the very words which are required for its enunciation; whereas the fact rather is, that the theme itself which is to be expressed is so decidedly deemed of superior importance to the words in which it has to be expressed, that we would be under no obligation to ask about them at all, if it were possible for us to know the truth without the terms, as God knows it, and as His angels also know it in Him.

What a wonderful summation. The Theme, and not the specific wording, is key to our faith.  There are so many instances when people will take words out of context, or apply them in ways that were never intended to support their theology, or attempt to challenge the Christian's faith because of seeming inconsistencies in Scripture, but the Berean will consider the flow of Scripture. I recently completed the Biblical Theology course from Covenant Seminary, which emphasized three major biblical themes: Kingdom, Covenant, and Mediator. These three themes are addressed in this passage today... the coming of the Christ as Savior and Mediator as prophesied in throughout the Old Covenant, to establish his Kingdom and a new Covenant with his sheep, those who know his voice and who follow him; those "called out ones" (eccelsia)  given to him by the Father. Jesus explained this in John 10. He also explained that he had the power to lay down his life for his sheep, that no one could take it, or his elect, from him. It was in this act and this association with the old Covenant prophesy of the Messiah King riding in on the colt of an ass that Jesus "threw down the gantlet", so to speak, and made his entry into Jerusalem. He knew precisely the effect and the consequences. This was intolerable to the powers: priests, Pharisees, and Sadducee's and scribes and Roman officials who had built their kingdom on the obedience to man-made rules. They hated our Lord for this affront, and the people rejoiced in the hope of the Covenant.  No less is this the situation today. There are those in clerical costume and office who would deny the Kingship and sovereignty of Jesus, deny that he is the only salvation for all men, and refuse to acknowledge any covenant. Why? because they claim to have a new knowledge and a new leading by the spirit. They twist the words of Scripture to support their perverted gospel and purposes and lead the blind into their folly. They torment the body of Christ on earth by persecutions. Let those who are truly called-out hear the voice of the Lord, and know the truth of the prophesies fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled. Let them flee the lies of the apostate, and cling to the hope promised in the Covenant and echoed by all the church fathers. 

Last week, on the Sunday before Advent, I included the words of the Gloria in Excelsis. For many of you it will be the last time you sing it until Christmas. This week, I offer another equally ancient hymn often used at Advent, and which is part of the Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy of St. James in the 4th century. It is one which centurions of old sang in the knowledge that they were living in the Kingdom on earth, the Church Militant, and would experience that Kingdom more fully in the consummation of this new age. I invite you to ponder these words this Advent season, and the challenge that they lay before us: Our full homage to demand

Σιγησάτο παρα σὰρξ βροτεία

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

[Cyberhymnal Translated by Gerard Moultrie, 1864]

Come Lord Jesus


Released by Primus Pilus
Legio Christi-Ecclesia Militans
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 14:19]


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