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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Malachi 3, 1-4.23-24

'Look, I shall send my messenger to clear a way before me. And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple; yes, the angel of the covenant, for whom you long, is on his way, says Yahweh Sabaoth.

Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire, like fullers' alkali.

He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they can make the offering to Yahweh with uprightness.

The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be acceptable to Yahweh as in former days, as in the years of old.

'Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of Yahweh comes.

He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruction.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Here on the threshold of Christmas, the liturgy has us listen to these words from the prophet Malachi. Malachi lived during the rebuilding of the second temple, in the second half of the 5th century B.C. The fact that the temple was being rebuilt did not keep the people from living a religiously decadent life, and the priests themselves who served at the temple had yielded to corruption. In short, there was a sharp contrast between the exterior restoration of the temple and the widespread corruption of the people. A small remnant wondered what had become of God's justice. And so the prophet announces that God will send another prophet to prepare for God's own coming. That day, when the Lord himself comes, will be a “great and dreadful day” (4:5). In fact, he will purify the temple and its priests and pronounce his judgment on the wicked. The prophet who precedes the Lord's coming is identified with Elijah, a belief that would persist through the centuries and is still present in Jesus' time. It is striking that Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, introduces the first prophet of the New Testament, John the Baptist, who was called to prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah. The evangelist John reports these words of the Baptist: “‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said” (Jn 1:23). Scripture insists on the need for a prophet who prepares us to encounter the Messiah. We can say that we all need the words of a prophet to open our hearts to welcome the Lord. Faith is not the result of personal effort, nor is it the fruit our ascetic abilities. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that faith comes from something outside of us, which we can accept at the moment it is freely given to us. Paul writes: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). On the eve of Christmas this prophetic word urges us not to close in on ourselves, but to widen our hearts, freeing them from every hindrance of selfishness to make room for the Lord who is coming.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord