By Charles Johnston:
Advent, the English translation of the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”, is often thought of as the time leading up to the birth of Christ. While this is right, it is only half right.
The season of advent is a time to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of the Messiah, and we wait in spirit with the people of Israel as they waited for hundreds of years for their Messiah, but we also prepare and wait for the return of that same Messiah. We say it every Sunday when we recite the creed, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead…”, but how many times in the day do we really stop to think about it?
This is what advent is all about, preparation and readiness, both for the first and second comings.
It seems backwards, but the first two weeks of advent focus on the second coming of Christ, while the third and fourth week focus on His first coming.
Advent used to be more of a penitential season, similar to the season of lent, some eastern churches still call advent “little lent.” It has lost much of its penitential nature since Vatican II, although it was only penitential through popular piety and never officially a time of penance, but we can still take the time to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Savior.
We wait in joyful anticipation, much like Israel waited all those years for the Messiah, we now join them in waiting.
The Second Coming of Christ
As I said before, the first two weeks of advent focus on the second coming of Christ. In my opinion, the reason this is the focus first is because it has real eternal implications for us, when Christ returns it is to judge the nations. As the catechism says in paragraph 682:
CCC 682 When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.
Preparing ourselves for the first coming of Christ at Christmas is more of a memorial, and a symbolic waiting, but waiting for the second coming is real and imminent.
CCC 673: Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.
So how do we properly prepare ourselves for Christ’s return? By picking up our cross daily and following Him.
And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
The catechism expands on this passage from Luke in paragraph 1435
CCC 1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.
Practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, make it your point do at least one each day. These works of mercy don’t earn you salvation, but they shape you more to the will of God and make your heart more like His.
We must be repentant, and seek God while we can. We must repent and cooperate with God’s grace in our lives, and not just during advent, but let this season be a reminder for the imminent return of our Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus.