Dear Friends in Christ:
Today we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent. As we do annually, we place our attention during the first three weeks of Advent (Latin – adventus – coming) on the coming of our Lord Jesus in glory at the end of time. This we refer to as the Second Coming of Christ. In the New Testament the word used to describe the Second Coming is Parousia (Greek – arrival). In the ancient world when an official (king, emperor, ruler or general) would visit a locale, heralds were dispatched ahead of time to announce the “good news” (Greek – euangelion – gospel) of the future visit, the coming, to the inhabitants. Preparations were made and celebrations planned. A program of urban renewal was undertaken. Streets were repaired, old buildings spruced up, eyesores razed, new civic buildings built, monuments were even erected to commemorate the occasion. There was much work to be done. People got jobs and money in their pockets. When the day of the official’s visit finally arrived after a long period of preparation, a festive celebration was held. When the visit was over and the official went on his way back to his palace or to another locale, the inhabitants were left with a new city and a better life. A parousia was a big deal!
It is not until the last week of Advent that we shift our attention liturgically to recall the first coming of the Lord in His Incarnation and Nativity. In particular, it is in the last seven days before Christmas, beginning on December 17, that we have a major shift in the readings and prayers of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. These seven days before Christmas are rich in symbolism and imagery. Each of these days is a traditional day for the “O Antiphons”. Most of us today are familiar with these ancient antiphons which are titles of the promised Messiah from the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
The seven titles in the “O Antiphons” are: O Emmanuel (O God with us), O Rex Gentium (O King of Nations), O Oriens (O Rising Sun/Dayspring), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Adonai (O Lord), O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The first letters of each of these messianic titles, prayed/sung from December 17 -24, spell out ERO CRAS; in Latin meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come!” We can see how the “liturgy is life”. For the first three weeks of Advent our focus is on the long-term horizon. Finally, as we approach the last week, we are able to gaze upon the past and the future. We celebrate in joy the first coming of Jesus by his becoming flesh and by his birth, and we look forward to his return to us in his Second Coming at the end of time.
The children of Abraham waited for two thousand years for the coming of the messiah, a thousand years after King David. They waited and they waited for the long promised messiah (the anointed one, the Christ). Like the chosen people of the Old Covenant, we, the people of the “New and Eternal Covenant” (Jer 31.31), also wait. We have seen the Lord and experienced His living presence and we now wait until “He Comes Again” in glory. During this two thousand and twentieth year of the Lord (2020 A.D.) our waiting and our patience have been tried and tested. We have endured shut downs, social distancing, ZOOM meetings, face coverings, testing lines, and more. We await a vaccine and we await the end of the pandemic. And we wait. Each of us longs for the day of a return to normal. And we wait.
This Advent Season can be the best Advent of our lives in so far as we will have a new and better appreciation of waiting and longing. The question is what are we really waiting and longing for? The chosen people were promised a Messiah by God, yet when Jesus came he was ignored and rejected even by those who believed in Him. When the “Light of the World” entered the world, people preferred darkness. What is it that we really want? Will we recognize it when we see it? Will we appreciate it and embrace it? What is the normal that we long for? Is it just a return to how things used to be?
This Advent Season can be the best Advent of our lives, if we let it. It will certainly be different. We just have to decide what it is that we are truly waiting for? What are our hearts longing for?
Come O Jesus, O long awaited Savior, come! Fill our lives with your love! Maranatha!