Advent Devotionals - December 15th

Offertory
“O Lord, thou art become gracious unto thy land; though hast turned away the captivity of Jacob: thou hast forgiven the offence of thy people.”
 
This offertory is such a beautiful and hope filled declaration by the faithful during the celebration at the Mass. It is a joint, joyful expression said or sung by the congregation and the celebrant and is to be a heartfelt “expression of our gratitude to God for the blessings that He has given us to return a portion of them back to Him” in acknowledgement that He and He alone is the font of all blessings and sustaining grace. The source of this offertory is taken from the rather short psalm, Psalm 85. At first glance this particular psalm is divided into three parts. The first part, verses 1-3, declare what God has done. The second part, verses 4-7, appear to not only petition God for His salvation but also question if He will relent in His righteous anger and revive His people that they may rejoice in Him once again. The final part, verses 8-13, appear to detail gloriously what God’s forgiveness and favor will look like upon the land and its people.

This offertory also appears to be divided into three parts as is Psalm 85. However, each part speaks to what God has already, graciously done, all past tense. First, “thou art become gracious unto thy land”. Once again, the land, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 31:20) is no longer cursed and draught stricken but rather willingly gives forth from its strength. The land belongs to its Creator to bestow upon whom He will. The People identified with the land and without the land, there was no life. Second, “thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob”. This speaks to the collective identity of the people commonly called, Jacob or Israel, when they were in captivity, historically to Egypt and Babylon and yet, spiritually captive to sin, particularly idolatry. God has once again visited His people and set them free. Third, “thou hast forgiven the offence of thy people”. Yes, though God has visited His people in His righteous anger for their continuous sin and let fall upon them His wrath and indignation, yet He did not disown them and blot them out from the face of the earth. God Almighty, restrained himself that there would be a remnant that He could show His mercy and loving kindness to once again.

The offertory is to be an explicit acknowledgement that He blesses and sustains His creation and in gratitude we return a portion to Him for His good purposes. At the first Advent God sent the ultimate blessing not only to His people but to the entire world. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (gracious restraint), and more, so much more, all wrapped in human flesh of his mother, Mary. Our offertory demands that we return, offer up, a generous portion, of all that the Lord God has so graciously, so unbegrudgingly, bestowed upon us, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”.
 
Deacon John

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