BEFORE Vatican II, whenever a bishop administered the sacrament of Holy Orders, the ritual began with a roll call. Those who had completed their seminary training were summoned to the altar by name. And as each candidate was called, his response in Latin was “adsum” which is understood as, “I am present” or “I am here.”
In fact, this Latin exclamation is a combination of two words: “ad” which is a preposition meaning “in” something or “toward” something, and “sum” the first-person singular of the verb “to be” which is “I am.”
Today, this same roll call occurs before the conferral of ordination. And the candidate's response is “present.” But as the Latin root suggests, this answer indicates much more than physical reality. His “present” affirmation contains the idea of, “Count me 'in' because I have decided to move 'toward' God's service within the apostolic tradition of the Church.”
Holy Orders aside, all Catholics answer this roll call every day. We say “adsum” when we prefer good to evil. We say “adsum” when we obey the Commandments instead of sinning. We say “adsum” when we align our lives in harmony with God's Will and move toward union with heavenly virtues instead of following our own wishes or pursuing the lures and enticements of secular vices.
When we hear the word “December,” the 25th day may automatically come to mind. Most adults enjoy Christmas and children can't wait for that date to arrive. However, the majority of the month is comprised of the Advent season; getting ready for Christ's second coming and recalling His first coming in Bethlehem. Like the Virgin Mary, we look forward to God's dwelling with us, but this blessed event requires preparation.
Mary's advent took nine months and began when she uttered the word “fiat” which meant “let it be done to me according to God's bidding.” She could just as easily have said, “adsum,” and meant “Count me in because I have decided to move toward God's Will instead of following my own desires.”
How are we using the early days of December to prepare a path for Jesus to enter our hearts? Are we saying a daily “adsum” and meaning we're in sync with our calling to be Catholic by moving toward a closer union with God?
For Holy Homework:
Let's create a homemade ornament! Even an index card with a paperclip for a hook can suffice. As we write the word “adsum” on this note and hang it on our tree, let's say aloud the sentiment that this word implies: “I'm in the true Christmas spirit today and I'm moving my life toward God's Will for the future.”
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