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

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

Excita, Dómine, corda nostra ad præparándas Unigéniti tui vias: ut, per eius advéntum, purificátis tibi méntibus servíre mereámur.

Here is my translation:

Bestir, O Lord, our hearts to prepare the paths of Thine Only-Begotten: that, our minds being purified through His advent, we may merit to render Thee service.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the ways of thine Only-begotten Son, that by His coming our minds being purified, we may the more worthily give up ourselves to thy service:

Advent is a very “exciting” time. I say this because several of the collects of this season (from Sundays and Ember days) begin with the word excita, meaning — in the imperative mood (the command form, but as a petition or request put to God) — stir up, bestir, excite, or arouse. We asked God last week to stir up His might. This week, we are asking Him to stir up “our hearts.”

All of this “excitement” points to Advent being a time of preparation, a fact made abundantly clear by today’s collect. It fits in well with the Gospel, wherein Jesus speaks of Saint John the Baptist as that “more than a prophet” of whom Malachias wrote, “Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.”

Saint John, the ascetic prophet of priestly lineage, the ringing and stinging voice in the wilderness, prepared the way of Our Lord by preaching penance and conversion — the turning away from our sins with genuine contrition and turning towards God to serve Him with pure minds. The Baptist proved his worth to prepare Our Lord’s coming by dying a martyr for His divine Cousin — by literally decreasing so that Jesus Christ might increase in men’s minds.

May our minds be ready to receive the Christmas grace by a good preparation during this holy season of Advent.