15 December, 2020

Archbishop Polding's Advent Pastoral Letter 1856

The Holy Season of Advent, which commences this day, has been instituted to dispose the faithful to celebrate with proper sentiments the feast of Christmas.   Sorrow for sin : atonement for it by prayer and penitential exercises, in union with all our dear Saviour suffered for our sins; meditation on the Incarnation of the Son of God; [these] are specially recommended and enjoined by the Church, as suitable for this holy time.   It is therefore a Lent, mitigated in form, and shortened in its duration, during which, gratitude for the first coming of Jesus in the flesh, a great desire of His coming and taking possession of your hearts; a preparation for His third coming in great power and majesty to judge the world; these dispositions ought to influence us to amendment and holiness of life.

First, never let us forget the deplorable state from which the Blessed Son of God, by becoming man, has delivered us.  He has opened for us the kingdom of Heaven; He has obtained for us and granted us the means of rising out of the abyss of sin; He has redeemed us from a most cruel bondage.  He is our Saviour.   O, can we reflect on all that He has done and suffered for us, unmoved by feelings of profound gratitude?  Whilst yet in His Mother’s sacred womb let us unite ourselves with her in adoring, in thanking Him with all the affection of a devout and grateful heart.  And for this purpose, let us be assiduous and exact in reciting three times a day the Angelus, a short an excellent exercise of piety, instituted to keep before the mind of the faithful the remembrance of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

A second disposition for this holy time, is to have a great desire for Jesus Christ to be in possession of our souls.  This is the case when his grace is our spiritual life, and his spirit is the animating principle of our conduct. “If anyone love me” He says “the Father will love him, and we will come to him and abide with him.”  Entertain, therefore, a strong desire to be thus united and made one with your Saviour; and as it is impossible for an affection for sin and the love for Jesus Christ to exist in the same soul, hate and detest sin as the greatest of all evils and use the means appointed to be delivered from it.  Prepare to make a good Confession.  Invite your Saviour to come to you in Holy Communion …. Desire with a strong desire to eat the Pasch with your Saviour.  He is our wisdom.  He is our light.  He is our life.  Come then sweet Jesus, delay not! sin in our hearts shall be destroyed, and thou alone shall reign therein.

A third disposition proceeding from the consideration of the third coming of Jesus Christ in judgement, is to have a deep regret for our sins, and in earnest desire to do penance for them.  To inspire us with this disposition the Church brings before our minds on the first Sunday of Advent, the description of that judgement.  For the same reason she, on other Sundays of Advent, addresses to her children the admonitions John the Baptist gave the Jews: “Do penance” said he “the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The axe is already at the root of the tree - every tree which brings forth not good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire. Prepare you the way of the Lord, make straight his path, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  Moved by these admonitions, the faithful from the earliest times, consecrated the four weeks preceding Christmas to fasting and to prayer.

Excerpts from Bishop John Bede Polding's Pastoral Letter published 30th November 1856 as contained in the anthology The Eye of Faith.


The Eye of Faith was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

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