The Three Advents

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The word advent means “arrival” or “coming.” Not just the coming as in the birth of the Savior, but also that the season of Advent prepares the faithful for the Second Coming of Christ, as we reflect upon and prepare to celebrate the mystery of the first coming of Christ. Yet, these two advents, or “comings”, of our Savior are not the only two advents.

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Consider also the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who upon reflecting on that passage from John, says:

“We have come to know a threefold coming of the Lord. The third coming takes place between the other two [adventus medius]… his first coming was in the flesh and in weakness, this intermediary coming is in the spirit and in power, the last coming will be in glory and majesty” (In Adventu Domini).

Pope Benedict XVI, upon contemplating these words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in light of Scripture and Tradition, states, “The ‘middle coming’ takes place in a great variety of ways. The Lord comes through his word; he comes in the sacraments, especially in the most Holy Eucharist; he comes into my life through words or events” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, 291). Pope Benedict goes on to point out how Christ comes to us afresh through the lives of the saints, who have “opened up new ways for the Lord to enter into the confused history of their century as it was pulling away from him. His mystery, his figure enters anew – and most importantly, his power to transform men’s lives and to refashion history becomes present in a new way” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, 292).

The third advent, which is in between the first and Second Coming of Christ, is where we find ourselves in this age of the Church. How is Christ coming to you today? Are you prepared to welcome him?

At every Mass, Jesus especially “comes again” to us in the Holy Eucharist, as Pope Benedict taught. In our partaking of Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist, time seems to collapse as both the first coming and final coming of Christ are brought together in this middle coming.

In Christ’s first coming, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread”, and is lying in a manger, which was a feeding trough. Already, he is showing us that he is the “true bread from heaven” (John 6:33) who will give us his flesh as food and his blood as drink so that we might have eternal life (cf. John 6:51-58).

This Eucharistic feast not only pulls the past into the present, but also pushes the present into the future. As we behold the Lamb of God in the Holy Eucharist, we already participate in “the marriage supper of the Lamb;” (Rev. 19:9) that Supper which we will definitely enjoy one day as we no longer will see God through “a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).

May we encounter Christ today. May we prepare ourselves to encounter Jesus in the most Holy Eucharist. And may these encounters with Christ cause joy to erupt in our hearts as we enter into the humility of the Incarnation and look forward to the glorious Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!

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