Thus was the earth in desolation when the Messias came to deliver and save it. So diminished, so decayed, were truths among the children of men, that the human race was bordering on its ruin. The knowledge of the true God was becoming rarer as the world grew older; idolatry had made everything in creation an object of its adulterous worship; the practical result of a religion which was but gross materialism, was frightful immorality; man was for ever at war with man; and the only safeguards of what social order still existed in the world, were the execrable laws of slavery and extermination. Among the countless inhabitants of the globe, a mere handful could be found who were seeking God! they were as rare as the olives that remain on the tree after a careful plucking, or as grape-bunches after the vintage is ended. Of this happy few were, among the Jewish people, those true Israelites whom our Saviour chose for His disciples; and, among the Gentiles, the Magi that came from the east, asking for the new-born King; and later on, Cornelius the centurion, whom the angel of the Lord directed to St. Peter. But with what faith and joy did they acknowledge the incarnate God! and what their hymns of glad gratitude, when they found that they had been privileged, above others, to see with their own eyes the promised Saviour!
Now, all this will again happen when the time draws near of the second coming of the Messias. The earth will once more be filled with desolation, and mankind will be again a slave of its self-degradation. The ways of men will again grow corrupt; and, this time, the malice of their evil will be the greater, because they will have received Him who is the Light of the world, the Word of life. A profound sadness will sit heavy on all nations, and every effort for their well-being will seem paralyzed; they, and the earth they live on, will be conscious of decrepitude; and yet it will never once strike them that the world is drawing to an end. There will be great scandals; there shall fall stars from heaven, that is, many of those who had been masters in Israel shall apostatize, and their light shall be changed into darkness. There shall be days of temptation, and faith shall grow slack: so that when the Son of Man shall appear, faith shall scarce be found on the earth.
Let it not be, O Lord, that we live to see those days of temptation; or, if it be Thy will that they overtake us, make our hearts firm in their allegiance to Thy holy Church, which will be the only beacon left to Thy faithful children in that fierce storm. Grant, O Lord, that we may be of the number of those chosen olives, of those elect bunches of grapes, wherewith Thou wilt complete the rich harvest which Thou wilt garner for ever into Thy house. Preserve intact within us the deposit of faith which Thou hast entrusted to us; let our eye be fixed on that Orient of which the Church speaks to us, and where Thou art suddenly to appear in Thy majesty.
When that day of Thine comes, and we behold Thy triumph, we will shout our glad delight, and then, like eagles which cluster round the body, we shall be taken up to meet Thee in the air, as Thy apostle speaks, and thus shall we for ever be with Thee. Then we shall hear the praises and glory of the Just One, from the ends of this earth, which it is Thy good will to preserve until the decrees of Thy mercy and justice shall have been fully executed. O Jesus! we are the work of Thy hands; save us, and be merciful to us on that great day.
-- from The Liturgical Year, entry for the Second Friday of Advent, by Dom Prosper Gueranger (emphasis added)