Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Three Comings of Christ

The Three Comings of Christ

We often speak of three “Comings of Christ” into this world: His coming in history; His coming in mystery; and His coming in majesty.  This holy season of Advent is about all three.

Most obviously it is about Christ’s coming in history.  This refers to the historical fact that 2,000 years ago a Baby was born in Bethlehem, and that Baby was God.  (Actually, His coming really occurred nine months earlier at the Annunciation.)  During this season it is good to meditate on the fact that the world had been waiting for many thousands of years, since the fall of Adam and Eve, for the promised Redeemer.  During this three-to-four weeks of Advent, it is important to reflect on the importance of that event.

God became Man.  Why?  There are many reasons, but primarily, to die.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “Every man in history, save one, was born to live.  One was born to die.”  Jesus Christ, the God-Man, was born so that He could die for the sake of our salvation, and build an eternal covenant, opening the gates of Heaven for all eternity to all who would choose to enter.

He became so weak that He depended on His own creatures even to eat.  He was vulnerable to their wrath and scorn.  And He was first made known to all but a few on that first blessed Christmas.

It is no coincidence that the readings for the first week of Advent focus on the end of the world.  Advent should also remind us of Christ’s Second Coming, His coming in majesty.  Christ will come again.  We know that.  And when He does, it will not be hidden, as a vulnerable infant in a stable in some no-name town.  He will come riding the clouds with His angels, to separate the sheep from the goats (Mt. 25: 31-46).  John the Baptist hints at this in the Gospel for the second week of Advent.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord, we should also reflect on His Second Coming.  We should be getting ready.  That is one key to the Christian life to begin with – always being ready for Christ.  It should come as no surprise that while the world considers Advent the shopping season, the Church considers it a penitential season.

Finally, this Advent should lead us to deeper contemplation of Christ’s coming in mystery, specifically in the Eucharist.  Jesus told His Apostles, “I will be with you always, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28:20).  This promise has been most beautifully kept in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has been with us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in every age, from the time of the Apostles to the present day, and He will continue to be, until the end of time.

I’d like to share a meditation I had recently.  This is no supernatural vision, simply a meditation.  I was praying the third Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Nativity, and in my imagination I approached the manger.  Mary was sitting there holding the Infant Jesus, and she handed Him to me.  I stood caressing the tender, precious, fragile God of the universe for a few moments and reached out to hand Him back to Our Lady.  She kept still, however, and said, “Take Him with you.”  At that the Infant transfigured into the Eucharist and took rest, shining brightly in my heart.

It was a very profitable meditation and reminded me that the wonder we have over the Baby in the manger should be present at every Eucharist.  He has come to stay.  Eucharistic Adoration would be a very appropriate preparation for Christmas this Advent.

So as we plunge ahead with our shopping, cooking and decorating this season, let us not forget what it is truly about.  And may we help others to remember as well.