1st Sunday of Advent 2012 Cycle C
The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise that I made to the House of Israel and Judah [Jer 33:14]
For twenty centuries, the Church has been awaiting the second coming of Christ, praying Maran tha, ACome, Lord Jesus.@ It does not suggest that the Mother Church could ever actually be separated from her bridegroom, nor does this cry suggest that Christ has not been truly present to the Church all these ages, at least mystically, but also even physically in the Eucharist, present and acting in her and through her all these centuries. For The Church’s very life and activity is made possible by His presence and activity within her, in the sacraments, in her teaching, indeed in all her works of sanctification.
So what the Church actually is praying for constantly in this little prayer, ACome, Lord Jesus@, during this season of Advent, is not that Christ should come to her or into her, to be present to her as she makes her pilgrimage through this world to Heaven. No, when the Church cries Marana tha, Come Lord Jesus, she is praying that He should come into the world in a new and definitive way, in a very visible and concrete way that will require no faith on our part or anyone=s part to experience his presence and which will bring his mission to its final fulfillment.
Last Sunday we honored Christ as our King, indeed, as the King of the whole universe, the whole of creation. What we pray for always, and especially in Advent Season, is that he should come into His creation now in his full humanity, as King and Judge in glory, to claim his Bride and to fully establish his reign over creation and His Kingdom, which already exists but not yet so as to be recognized and submitted to by all mankind. This second and final coming will being human history to its fulfillment, will separate definitively, forever, the good and the evil in creation. This will be accomplished by his final judgment of mankind, and by his irresistible decree based upon that judgment: “depart from me”, “come to me”.
Advent, then, is a holy liturgical season that embraces all of human history, looking backward to mankind=s general longing for a redeemer, the promise of whom was made already in the Garden of Paradise to the progenitors of mankind, and later directly and specifically to the chosen people of Israel, but it was a promise that also encompassed all mankind. Advent then recalls the long period of history in which mankind, and then Israel by privilege, was waiting for God=s help. This waiting, then, goes back to the very beginning, when man sinned and lost paradise, but also when the human race was given hope that it might one day recover what was lost. More specifically Advent recalls the 2000 years that Israel was waiting for the fulfillment of the direct promise made to Abraham, that in his offspring all nations would be blessed.
However, it is also true that at the same time this holy season directs our attention to the initial fulfillment of that promise in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and thus turns our attention to the great celebration that will take place four weeks from now. Then we Christians will solemnly celebrate that first coming of Christ into our fallen world, Christ the Redeemer, our God made man, so that man might be liberated from sin and death, and, by God=s grace become once again a true child of God, that is, as man now made God, like our first parents.
But this holy season also directs our attention to look forward beyond Christmas day and beyond the ages to follow to the very end of time, when Christ will once again come, but this time not in the weakness of a child who would one day die to pay for our salvation, but this time to come into our world in all the glory that is His as the Redeemer of mankind and the Son of God, the King and Lord of all creation.
So what do we look forward to in both sense of that phrase, to look forward to in time, and to look forward to as hopeful longing? We Christians look forward in both sense to the final victory of Christ over all evil in creation, the final establishment of His Kingdom when every tear will be wiped away, when all evil will be banished from the earth, when creation itself will be transformed by the power of God into a new and more wonderful reality which will be suited to be the dwelling place of God=s children, who will themselves finally be restored to the likeness of the Son in soul and body, sharing the glory of God forever.
In his first coming Christ certainly accomplished His work of salvation in principle, that is, He has Himself, in His own humanity, triumphed absolutely over all evils that afflict mankind. He is now risen, glorified and established in power at the Right hand of the Father. All this is true and a source of joy for believers. But His victory is certainly not complete yet in us, and not even in those who have gone before us into His heavenly kingdom. We’re all too well aware how incomplete his victory is in us, for we still must ask forgiveness daily for our sins, for the evil we still do, and since we are still subject to suffering and death, the evil done to us. How can we fail to look forward (long for) that glorious day of his second coming when at last the petition we make in the Lord=s Prayer, will be finally fulfilled: deliver us from evil, the evil we do, the evil we suffer?
But we look forward to more than just our delivery from all evil. We, the Church on earth, and even the Church in Heaven and in Purgatory, look forward to the beatitude of God to be experienced in the body as well as in the soul. Thus, even the souls in heaven, who even now experience the beatitude of God in themselves, in their souls, but not yet in their bodies, can join the Church on earth in this prayer, Marana tha, for they, and we, will then be beatified in the flesh when all are raised from the dead, and begin to know God=s heavenly joy even in the flesh.
What will it be like, then, in that eternal day, not simply to be free from all suffering forever, in soul and body, but to actually experience the unending ecstasy of God=s beatitude in the flesh as well as in the soul? If we find the temporary and passing pleasures of this life so enticing, that we are tempted to make pleasure seeking the goal of our life in this world, what will it be like when the infinitely greater ecstasy of God=s life will be the permanent state of our humanity, of our body and soul, both glorified in Christ? And this ecstasy will no longer be something we desire, or long for, or pursue, but will simply be the permanent state of our being, no ups and downs, no fluctuations, no possibility of greater or less, just the way we are, forever, in God.
This is what the Church longs for at all times, and prays publicly for, but especially and most fittingly during this Season of Advent. It is a prayer, a cry from the heart of humanity, that Christ=s redemption should be brought to completion in us, and in all whose names are written in the Book of Life. Marana tha, Come Lord Jesus, come and make us, at last, like unto you. Come soon and by your Spirit renew the whole of your creation. Amen,.