Once again Advent is here. A time which can be a time of reflection and preparation, but is often just a hectic time in readiness for Christmas Day. I, like many of you, are relishing the opportunity to reunite with family and friends. Times of fellowship, love and renewal with others all beckon. As the weather cools in New England, the fires are lit and our hearts are warming. It is a time of great anticipation.
The early Christians viewed Advent as a time of readiness for the second coming of Christ. It might be hard for us to comprehend now, but the Church only added Christmas to the liturgical calendar in the fourth century. For these Christians Advent meant being ready for Christ’s second coming, which they all believed was just around the corner.
So, our Christmas celebration, as practiced for the last 1,700 years was not on the mind of the early Christians. They were more concerned about spiritual preparation, being ready to meet Christ. This is evident in the Gospel and other readings during Advent. Something worth noticing.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux has a great sermon which brings us right up to date on how we should be thinking of Christ at this time. This sermon is called the Three Comings of Christ. Three Comings? I thought there were only two. Here are his words:
“We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.”
What a wonderous image and gift. Of course, God is here and now. In the Holy Spirit, in the Eucharist, in our daily lives, in nature, in all we have. He, unlike Elvis, never “left the building”. He stayed, within us … amongst us … in our very beings.
Let us turn inwards at this time, so that the love of Christ can refill our souls with grace, and then others will see it spilling out in the acts, words and love which is Christ within us.
A blessed Advent to all.
THE SECRET ROOM
Moving slowly, with eyes gently closed,
The door is closed once more,
This time bolted, to avoid distractions,
And traffic noise from the outside street.
Now seated, the emptiness seems to engulf me,
As a divine darkness descends like a cloak,
Sealing me off,
So I may concentrate on nothing.
Except the breath of life and its source.