This Sunday begins a whole new liturgical year for the Church, which starts with the season of Advent. The word “Advent” means “coming.” The world at large will be concentrating on the first coming of Jesus, when he was born into the world 2000 years ago, and using it as an excuse to have a party. Perhaps there will be some of them who will be aware of the religious significance of the season and will turn up for mass at Christmas. But in fact there are other “comings ” of Jesus, and in this Advent season, the Church wants us to be aware of them. The New Testament, besides highlighting the birth of Jesus as his first coming, also talks about another coming of Jesus, at the end of time, when he will come to bring the world as we know it to an end and bring in the kingdom of God in its fullness. But between these two poles of meaning are other comings, which we need to be aware of.
Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out in his book Jesus of Nazareth: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection that the idea of multiple comings of Christ can be traced back in the history of the Church to the teachings of St Cyril of Jerusalem in the 4th century A.D. who mentions two Advents of Christ. This concept was further developed by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 11th century, who mentions a third coming between the more commonly acknowledged First and Second Comings. Citing St John’s Gospel, Berrnard wrote: “Jesus answered him, “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).” This intermediate coming – or middle coming – is Christ’s continual coming in his Church.
Pope Benedict further fleshes out this concept by listing seven different “comings ” of Jesus:
1. Christ comes in the flesh – the Incarnation
2. Christ comes in the sacraments – especially in the Eucharist
3. Christ comes in the Word- Holy Scripture read in community
4. Christ comes in his Spirit – all throughout salvation history
5. Christ comes in holy people – the saints of salvation history
6. Christ comes in judgement – the various events of history
7. Christ comes in glory – the glory of the Second Advent at the end of time.
This Advent, let us not, as believers, follow the lead of the world and merely concentrate on celebrating the Christmas event. Let us also be on the look out for all the other ways in which Jesus wants to come into our lives.
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus !!