The second in a series of Advent reflections.
By Deacon Nate Harburg
Special to The Catholic Weekly
Did you know that Advent is a time of preparation for three different comings of Christ? In this past weekend’s homily, the priest mentioned Jesus’ first coming, his final coming and his coming at Mass in Word and Sacrament.
I Googled “the three comings of Christ” and discovered a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux entitled just that! In this sermon he speaks of “middle” comings of Christ that happen throughout our lives. The more that we experience these middle comings, the better prepared we’ll be to celebrate Jesus’ first coming on Dec. 25 and to welcome His final coming. For each one of us, this final coming will be either death or the Second Coming!
Speaking of the comings of Christ, the Catechism says that the Church, “by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming” (CCC #524). Do we have this “ardent desire?”
St. Bernard, explaining the three comings, says, “The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. … The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved.” To show scriptural support, St. Bernard quotes Jesus, who says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him” (John 14:23). St. Bernard uses a great analogy to further explain the third coming, saying, “Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, He will appear as our life; in this middle coming, He is our rest and consolation.” Is this third coming, Christ’s middle comings, our current road?
We should resolve to experience more of these middle comings of Christ. Just as we make resolutions for Lent, we should do so for Advent. Ask the Lord about what to do and then tell a friend about it for accountability. We could beef up our daily diet of Scripture! St. Bernard calls the Word of God “bread,” exhorting us to “Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.” We could visit Jesus more often in the “disguises” that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta mentions, the “distressing disguise” of the poor and the humble disguise of the Eucharistic Bread. Visiting Jesus in the tabernacle an extra time each week, e.g. on the way back from work, is a fantastic way to allow Christ to come to us. Jesus gives me supernatural peace each time I do this! The absolute best way to allow Christ to come to us is the Mass, wherein Jesus comes to us personally in Holy Communion. Consider an extra daily Mass each week!
If we strive to experience Jesus in these middle comings, then, to use the words of St. Cyprian, “when the day of our own summons comes, without hesitation but with gladness we may come to the Lord at His call.”
Lord Jesus, give me an ardent desire for your coming. Help me to find concrete ways to experience your “middle” comings this Advent. After that, please help me to resolve to make use of these ways, so that I might fall more deeply in love with you, Amen.
Nate Harburg is a seminarian for the Diocese of Saginaw. He presently is serving St. Michael Parish in Maple Grove (New Lothrop).