Advent Through the Centuries – the third century

Every day during advent (December 1 to December 24) I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 200-300. Tomorrow will be 300-400, and so on. Some days will be more closely related to advent than others, depending on the availability of texts.

Tuesday, December 3
The third century of the Church

Scripture:
Mark 13:33-37

Watch out! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return—whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn—or else he might find you asleep when he returns suddenly. What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay alert!”

Reading: 
Origen, Homily on Luke. Full text not online – expanded text here.

Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out.

If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to say: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Jesus my Lord has come, then. He has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, making in you an even unimpeded road, a road that is absolutely clear, so that God the Father may walk in you and Christ the Lord make his dwelling in you and say: My Father and I will come and make our home in them.

One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions, dating to the 3rd century.

Prayer:
Attributed to Cyprian of Carthage, c.200-258

Most gracious Father, bless with Thy special care all penitentiaries and homes of refuge. Look with pity upon those who are housed there. Guide and protect those who have returned to the world. Grant all of them true contrition for past sins, and strengthen them in their good resolutions. Lead them along from grace to grace so that by the help of the Holy Ghost they may persevere in the ways of obedience and humility, and in the struggle against evil thoughts and desires. Grant the Holy Spirit to those engaged in teaching and training them, that they might have a right judgment with respect to those entrusted to them. May they labor for love of Thee with deep humility and singleness of purpose, purity of heart and life, and true zeal for Thy glory and the salvation of souls. Give them faith and love to sustain them in disappointment, love and patience toward those under them, and in Thine own good time crown their work with an eternal recompense. This we ask in the name of Thine only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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