What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

Excita, quǽsumus, Dómine, poténtiam tuam, et veni: et magna nobis virtúte succúrre; ut per auxílium grátiæ tuæ, quod nostra peccáta præpédiunt, indulgéntiæ tuæ propitiatiónis accéleret.

Here is my translation:

Stir up Thy power we ask Thee, O Lord, and come: and help us with Thy great power; that by the help of Thy grace, that which our sins hinder, the pardon of Thy mercy may hasten.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

Put forth Your power, O Lord, we beseech You, and delay not: and with Your great might come to our aid, so that what is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Your merciful goodness.

What is it that our sins “hinder” (the word præpédire means, etymologically, to fetter or to shackle)? Well, a lot: the growth of the life of grace in us and the concomitant advance we ought to have in the virtues. Ultimately, our sins hinder our salvation to which the aforementioned is a prelude. This is precisely what the long-awaited Savior is coming to save us from: our sins and the damnation they deserve. So, we appeal to His pardon (or “indulgence”) and His mercy (or “propitiation”).

This cri de cœur is Advent reaching its anticipatory fever pitch, begging the Savior to come and save us. It stands as a lovely complement to today’s Epistle (1 Cor. 4:1-5), which is an historical holdover from yesterday’s Ember-Saturday ordinations. It is so often via the mediation of His ministerial priests (those “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” the Apostle speaks of) that we receive the pardon and mercy of Christ the High Priest.

Today’s oration also dovetails admirably with this Sunday’s Gospel pericope (Luke 3:1-6), which has Saint John the Forerunner preaching to us a preparatory penance: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight; and the rough ways plain.”

Due to recent tragic events in the life of the Mystical Body on earth, today is a time of angst and worry for many. Let us be confident that what our sins hinder — and here I speak generally of the triumph of the Catholic cause — will be hastened by the help of God’s grace! After all, it is He, not the enemies of tradition in the Church, who has “great power.”

It is amid such trials that our true Christian mettle is proved. So, let us pray, and let us endure in grace and virtue! We win in the endif we remain faithful to the Catholic cause. Then, in the further words of today’s Gospel, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”