ADVENT FOCUSES ON THREE COMINGS OF CHRIST
By BISHOP MICHAEL SIS
The English word “advent” comes from the Latin word “adveniens,” which refers to an arrival, entry, or coming. The one who is coming is Jesus Christ.
There are really three “comings” of Christ: in history, in mystery, and in majesty. These take place in the past, the present, and the future. The season of Advent focuses on all three of these comings.
The past event is the coming of Christ in history with Jesus’ birth more than 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. That is what we commemorate at Christmas. Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for that great feast day, preparing for that. The traditional Christian practice of an Advent wreath reminds us of the many generations of human beings who lived before the birth of Christ, awaiting the arrival of the Messiah.
The future event of the coming of Christ will be when he returns in majesty at the end of time, when he comes in glory to bring the Kingdom of God to its fulfillment. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24, Jesus says, “Stay awake, for you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”
In light of that future coming of Christ, the season of Advent reminds us to be alert and vigilant at all times. However, we don’t have to be among those who panic at the end time. If we’re living in a solid relationship with God, there will be no need to freak out, cower in fear, or run and scream.
St. Augustine says, “If we love our sins more than we love Christ, we will fear his coming. If we love Christ more than we love our sins, we will rejoice at his coming.”
The third coming of Christ is the present moment. He comes to us in mystery every day, in the sacraments of the Church, in the scriptures, and in our neighbor in need. He is present to us here and now, speaking to us, nourishing us, molding and shaping us, challenging us, and healing us.
The past coming of Christ and the future coming of Christ are like the two foundation pillars of a bridge. The bridge that stretches across those two foundation pillars is the present coming of Christ. Every day, we walk that bridge, seeking to act with justice and love in everything we do.
Advent is a time to watch attentively for Christ’s presence in the concrete experiences of everyday life, and to commit ourselves to do everything we can to help our world to respond more faithfully to his saving presence.
Bishop Michael Sis is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo