Christ Coming Future, Present, and Past: The Season of Advent
The Season of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. This year the First Sunday of Advent is on December 3, 2017. The word Advent comes from the Latin “ad-venire” or “to come.” The name is very important because the Advent season is devoted to our belief in Christ’s coming future, present, and past.
The Church explains that:
“Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas
when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that
remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming
at the end of time.”
[General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 39].
This two-fold character of Advent directs the scriptural readings we will hear proclaimed on the Sundays of Advent. As this new liturgical season begins, the gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of Mark.
The purpose of the advent season is not just about preparing for Christmas. It is a poignant reminder that Advent is also about preparing for the Second Coming that still awaits us. This profound belief is often overshadowed by the business of our consumer culture. How can our thoughts be directed towards the Second Coming when our daily lives are consumed with shopping, work, and decorating for Christmas?
Nevertheless, the gospel readings for the First and Second Sunday of Advent caution us to be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ. The liturgy for the First Sunday of Advent warns us to keep our eyes open towards the future because we do not know when the Lord is coming. The gospel is filled with words such as “Be watchful! Be Alert!” Mark cautions us not to be found sleeping when the Lord comes. In the gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent John the Baptist is sent to prepare people for the “coming” of Christ. John’s message calls us to restore our relationship with God: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
The Third Sunday of Advent celebrates Christ’s coming in the present. John the Baptist is present again but this time proclaiming that Jesus Christ is already in their midst but they do not recognize him. The gospel reminds us that during this time of frantic activity we cannot lose sight of Christ. Where is he? The gospel from last Sunday tells us. We can find him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned. In the midst of buying for family and friends we are called to keep in mind those who are less fortunate.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent commemorates Christ’s coming in the past. For this reason we hear proclaimed from the Gospel of Luke Gabriel’s announcement to Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
Advent is about our call to conversion. Meister Eckhart said: “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? … What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.”