Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Mystery of Advent

The mystery of the coming of Jesus or Advent is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the same Son of God that is coming; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways. 'In the first coming', says St Bernard, 'He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, he comes in spirit and in power; in the third, he comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third." (Fifth sermon for Advent).  
Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon of Advent, gives the following explanation of this threefold visit of Our Lord: "There are three comings of Our Lord; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third in the judgment. The first was at midnight, according to these words of the Gospel: At midnight there was a cry made, Lo the Bridegroom cometh! But the first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come to us and will take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but whence He cometh, or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure than the hour of death...So the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, he renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with justice. Int His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends" 

The holy Church, therefore, during Advent, awaits in tears and with ardour the arrival of her Jesus in His first coming....The Church aspires also for the second coming, the consequences of the first, which consists, as we have just seen, in the visit of the Bridegroom to the bride. This coming takes place, each year, at the feast of Christmas, when the new birth of the Son of God delivers the faithful from the yoke of bondage, under which the enemy would oppress them (Collect for Christmas Day). The Church, therefore, during Advent, prays that she may be visited by Him who is her head and her Spouse; visited in her hierarchy, visited on her members, of whom some are living, and some are dead, but may come to life again; visited, lastly, in those who are not in communion with her, and even in the very infidels, that so they may be converted to the true light, which shines even for them...The expressions of the liturgy which the Church makes use of to ask for this loving and invisible coming, are those which she employs when begging for the coming of Jesus in the flesh; for the two visits are for the same object. In vain would the Son of God have come, nineteen hundreds years ago, to visit and save mankind, unless He come again for each one of us and at very moment of our lives, bringing to us and cherishing within us that supernatural life, of which He and his holy Spirit are the sole principle. 
But this annual visit of the Spouse does not content the Church; she aspires after a third coming, which will complete all things by opening the gates of eternity. She has caught up the last words of her Spouse, "Surely I am coming quickly"(Collect for Christmas Day); and she cries out to Him, "Ah! Lord Jesus! come!" (Apoc 22:20). She is impatient to be loosed from her present temporal state; she longs for the number of the elect to be filled up, and to see appear, in the clouds of heaven, the sign of her Deliverer and her Spouse "The nuptials of the Lamb are come, and His wife hath prepared herself." (Apoc 19:7).
(After the chapter 'The Mystery of Advent' from 'The Liturgical year', by Dom Prosper Gueranger.)

The mystery of Our Lord's three comings in the words of His Saints for our pious reflection:

The Nativity of Our Lord
"O Little Jesus, my only treasure, I abandon myself to every one of your adorable whims. I seek no other joy that that of making you smile. Grant me the graces and the virtues of your holy Childhood so that, on the day of my birth into Heaven, you may recognise me as your little spouse" (St Therese)

"O Lord, you have created for me the skies scattered with the stars, for me the earth, the mountains, the streams, and all the beautiful things on earth. Still, this did not satisfy you, to show me close up that you loved me tenderly, you came down from the purest delights of Heaven to this tarnished and tear-ridden world." (St Maximilian Kolbe)

"The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater; you have made their joy increase. For there is a Child born for us, a Son given to us, and dominion is laid on His shoulders; and this is the name they give Him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah)

To all who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of Him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man, but of God Himself. The Word was made flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that is His as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth." (St John)

Awaiting Our Lord's coming
"Jesus said, 'When the Son of Man comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels, he will take His seat on the throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before Him and He will be assembled before Him and He will separate men from one another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats, the sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left. The the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you whom your Father has blessed, take for your heritage the Kingdom prepared for you. For I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcome me, naked and you clothed me, visited me when I was sick or in prison....For as long as you did this to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 28: 1-46)

"It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen His majesty for ourselves. he was honoured and glorified by God the Father when He said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; He enjoys my favour...You should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the day of God to come. We are waiting for what He has promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home' (2Peter 1:16-18, 3:12-14)

"The Kingdom of God is within you,' says the Lord. Turn with all your heart to the Lord and forsake this wretched world and your soul will find rest. Learn to despise outward things and give yourself to things inward and you will see the Kingdom of God come to you. Give Christ free entrance into your heart and keep out everything, which impedes His coming." (Thomas a Kempis)

"This is a sacred season, the time of the Lord's favour, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation for which the patriarchs and prophets prayed and longed for with all their hearts. We must celebrate it fittingly, giving praise and thanks to the eternal Father for the mercy He shows in this mystery of the coming of His only begotten Son."
"The Church uses the rites of this season, its hymns, songs, and utterances of the Holy Spirit to show us that our hearts should be as prepared now for the Coming of Christ Our Lord as if He were still to come into this world." (St Charles Borromeo)

"Pray that the best portion of your life may not be overshadowed by idle fears. We have only life's brief moments to spend for the glory of God, and well does Satan know it. That is why he employs every ruse to make us consume them in useless labour.'

"My God, far from becoming sad at the sight of my miseries, I come to you with confidence, recalling that 'those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do.' Tomorrow, with the help of your grace, I will begin a new life in which moment will be an act of love and renunciation." (St Therese)

Joyfully awaiting the Saviour

"Listen now House of David; are you not satisfied with trying the patience of my God too? The Lord Himself therefore will give you a sign. it is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel" (Is 7:13-14)

"Send dew from above you heavens and let the skies pour down upon us the rain we long for, Him the Just One: may He, the Saviour, spring from the closed womb of the earth...The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see the salvation of our God" (Is 45:8)

"A Shoot springs from the tree of Jesse, a Scion (of David's royal House) thrusts from his roots; on Him the Spirit of the Lord rests...He does not judge by appearances...but judges the wretched with integrity, and with His equity gives a verdict fro the poor of the Land....The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them...The infant plays over the cobra's hole; into the viper's lair the young child put his hand. They do no harm on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters swell the sea" (Is 11:1-16)

...more to follow...