Advent is a time for new beginnings. It is the start of the Church’s liturgical year, and this Advent also marks the implementation of a new English translation of the Roman Missal throughout the world. Exactly 38 years ago, the first-ever edition of the Roman Missal, entirely in English, rolled off the printing presses and on to the altars of the English-speaking Catholic world. Its advent signalled the resolution of almost 10 years of flux, during which the liturgy of the Mass had made a transition from a Latin text established by the universal practice of centuries to vernacular translations of a newly assembled missal prepared by scholars following the Second Vatican Council.
The missal contains a wealth of liturgical treasures with many orations dating from the first millennium, together with prayers of more recent composition. The texts of the Advent season are particularly rich and are predominantly taken from ancient sources. A striking theme which emerges in the first days of Advent sets the tone for the whole season. It is the notion that we are hastening to meet Christ. The liturgy makes frequent reference to the three comings of Christ: first, in time, in the Incarnation which we recall during the Advent/Christmas cycle; secondly, at his Second Coming and for each person at the moment of their death; and thirdly, for us all continually by his grace.