The Heavenly Physician

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I cannot resist offering a little commentary on the Collect of the day, one of Advent's most beautiful prayers:

Omnipotens Deus,
qui nos praecipis iter Christo Domino praeparare,
concede propitius,
ut nullis infirmitatibus fatigemur,
qui caelestis medici consolantem praesentiam sustinemus.

Almighty God,
Who commandest us to prepare the way for Christ the Lord,
mercifully grant that we may not grow weary in our infirmities
whilst we wait for the consoling presence of the heavenly Physician.

Prepare the Way for Christ the Lord

The prayer is articulated around the text of Isaiah that we heard yesterday in the First Reading: "In the desert, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God" (Is 40:3). The author of the Collect retained only the spiritual imperative of the biblical text: prepare the way for Christ the Lord. This is the message of John the Forerunner, the prophet sent "before the Lord to prepare his ways" (Lk 1:76).

The Joy of Spiritual Desire

Advent is about waiting, but in this waiting there is nothing passive, nothing of the quietism that would have one sit inert, like a lump without passion, energy, or desire. Advent has been called the Lent of Winter, and with good reason. The very qualities that characterize the Lent of Spring, should characterize Advent. Does not Saint Benedict say that "a monk's life ought at all times to bear a Lenten character" (RB 49:1)? What is the essence of this Lenten character? Saint Benedict, after inviting us to a spontaneous generosity in prayer, in self-denial, and in silence, sums it all up by saying, "and so with the joy of spiritual desire, look forward to holy Pascha" (RB 49:7). The "joy of spiritual desire" is the key to "preparing the way of the Lord" (Is 40:3).

Beset With Infirmities

The second part of today's Collect is another example of the realism and confidence found everywhere in the Roman liturgy: "mercifully grant that we may not grow weary in our infirmities whilst we wait for the consoling presence of the heavenly Physician." The prayer does not deny that we are beset with infirmities. It makes us admit our weakness. It does not minimize the temptation we all have to weariness, to the classic monastic complaint of accedia: a loss of energy, a kind of "throwing in the towel," a giving in to the dullness and inertia of routine.

Come, and I Will Refresh You

We are waiting for the "consoling presence of the heavenly Physician." Christ, the Physician of our souls and bodies is sent to minister to us in our infirmity. This is the thrilling message of the First Reading: "It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not. Youths shall faint, and labour, and young men shall fall by infirmity. But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Is 40:29-31). We are waiting for the consoling presence of Him who says, "Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (Mt 11:28).

The Remedy for Every Infirmity

The "heavenly Physician" of the Collect waits for us in the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of our healing, the remedy for every infirmity. Approach the altar then -- both for Holy Communion and for adoration -- with Saint Benedict's, "joy of spiritual desire" (RB 49:7). The heavenly Physician "stands at the door and knocks" (Rev 3:20). Open to him.

2 Comments

Father Mark,

Thank you for your beautiful commentary.

Indeed our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist is the fountain of our health and our strength.

Glory and Praise to Him for ever !

Dear Father Mark,

Your blog is incredibly inspiring and beautiful.

Thank you very much. How glad I am that I stumbled into this space. I am a Protestant on my way to cross the Tiber and will now visit here often.

God bless you!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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