They will see the Son of Man coming (Lk 21:27)
One of the advent hymns that I like most is:
We long to see thee so!
To see Thee newly-born.
We long for Christmas morn.
The sands of time run slow.
I like this hymn because it arouses in me the nostalgia for homecoming, or actually going back home. As a young boy studying in boarding school this song reminded me of the joyful time of going back home for Christmas. I remember how the sands of time ran so slow, especially just before Christmas. In the past years, especially as a priest being busy during Christmas, and as I unwrap the celebration of Christmas of its nostalgic feelings I have also begun to appreciate its spiritual depth. I am not in anyway playing down the importance of the sentimental aspects of Christmas – they are necessary for our human-social-familial life. In fact, we have a reason to celebrate because of the very spiritual depth of Christmas. For at Christmas we celebrate the “Coming of Jesus”.
Right from the 4th Century Christians have had this special time of preparation towards Christmas, and they called it, adventus. In Latin, it simply means, ‘coming’. Like the season of Lent (before Easter) traditionally this season also was observed as a time of fasting and prayer (before Christmas). That is why, much like the season of Lent, you can see the priest wearing violet during liturgical celebrations, and in some part of the world even weddings are not officiated in church during this season.
Even as we begin the material preparations for the social celebration of Christmas, the liturgical celebrations of the coming weeks invite us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. We hear this statement in the Gospel of today: “They will see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk 21:27). We know that the expression, ‘son of man’ refers to Jesus Christ. But what does coming of Christ Jesus mean?
Three-fold Coming of Christ
I think, the coming of Christ can be understood in three ways – so to say, with three tense markers: in the past tense, in the present tense and in the future – Jesus came; Jesus comes; and Christ will come.
The 1st coming of Jesus is plain enough. It refers to the historical coming of the 2nd Person of the Trinity, 2000 years ago, as the Jesus of Nazareth. We call this, the mystery of incarnation. The 2nd coming of Christ is something that we hopefully await. There will be the future coming of Christ in glory at the end of times. This is more difficult to understand. But it is one of the core beliefs of Christianity. It is strongly alluded to in the New Testament. The prayers in the Eucharistic celebration constantly remind us of both these comings. In the Creed that we will profess after this homily we will assert once again our faith in these two comings of Christ.
But there is the 3rd of coming of Jesus. The coming of Jesus is not just a dead past in memory, nor is it a mere imagination of the future. But by the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord, the coming of Jesus continues to be enacted even today. Jesus comes in our midst as the Word is proclaimed, and as the Sacraments are celebrated. While this coming is visible in all the sacraments of the church, it is even more powerfully tangible in the Eucharist. This threefold coming of Christ is brought out very meaningfully in one of the sets of the penitential invocations – that we use during ‘Kyrie Eleison’ or ‘Lord have mercy’:
Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of God’s Kingdom.
You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness.
You will come in glory with salvation for your people.
The Three-fold meaning of Christmas
The solemnity of Christmas that we now look forward to is a feast that commemorates all the three comings of Christ.
For sure, it recalls the historical birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Though the exact date of the birth of Jesus is not known, this feast was adopted by the early Christians from the Roman feast of the Sun god, to celebrate the birth of the Light of the World. The readings of the liturgy of the Christmas eve will remind us of this: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined” (Is 9:2). In the first reading of today, the first coming of Jesus is foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. He builds certain expectation among the people about the coming of the messiah who will be the son of David: “Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall fulfil the promise of happiness I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jer 33:14).
We should also remember that the run-up to Christmas offers us yet another opportunity to reflect about the 2nd coming of Christ. Earlier I said that the word ‘advent’ in English comes from the Latin, ‘adventus’ which means, ‘coming’. Now the Greek word for ‘adventus’ is ‘Parousia’. And parousia is often used to refer to the 2nd coming of Christ. The gospel text of today once again reminds us of the parousia: “And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk 21:28). The 2nd reading of today from the letter of St Paul to Thessalonians tells us how we must prepare ourselves for the second coming of Jesus, just by being open to the Grace of God. It says, “And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1The 3:13). When the 1st letter to the Thessalonians was being written (around 50 AD), most of the apostles were still alive, and the Christians believed that Christ would come again in their own life time. Therefore, this letter has a strong sense of the immediacy of parousia – the 2nd coming of Christ. However, I think, the 1st letter to the Thessalonians should not be read without reference to the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians. The latter letter becomes more realistic about the 2nd coming of Christ, and invites us to “go on quietly working and earning the food that [we] eat”… and never become tired of doing what is right (2The 3:12), and that Christ will come in his own time. As for coming he will surely come (2The 2:1-8).
As we hopefully wait for his second coming we are supported by the Word of God and the Sacraments. Yes, Jesus comes. Now. This, we can call the third coming of Jesus. Tangible. Real. Experiential. Jesus comes in the Word and Sacrament to strengthen us in holiness, as we wait for the parousia (1The 3:13). And to me, this is the most important aspect to celebrate. During Christmas, and even today. May this season of Advent offer us yet another opportunity to appreciate the Jesus who comes. Let us take the time to contemplate on this. Let us prepare ourselves – even through the sacrament of reconciliation – to recognize Jesus who comes.
A new year in the Church has arrived. This liturgical year, Luke is the dominant gospel for this year.
The striking fact of today gospel: we start with the end of time, instead of the readings leading to the birth of Jesus. Advent is not only the coming of Jesus at Christmas, it is also a season the church reminds of the second coming of Jesus.
To recall to us that Jesus does not only come at his birth, but also at the end of time. In the preface we read (advent); For he assumed at the first coming of human flesh… so that when he comes again in majesty and glory we will inherit the great promise.
We are called to have this commitment to Jesus (Major theme in the gospel of Luke). Luke 21, speaks of destruction of Jerusalem. He uses the tragedy of Jerusalem to point to another end of time.
Luke focuses on the whole earth. All human beings will faint with terror. There will be an end to all creation and human. At this time Jesus will come to judge; in power and glory. However, Luke does not tell us when it will happen. However the readings suggest to us what to do.
When it begins to take place:
- Stand erect, not bent down and caste down
- Hold your heads on high
- It is not a time for terror
- Because our liberation is at hand.
But there will be a long period, to watch and wait
Besides Practical instruction;
- Watch yourself
- Or your heart will be harden
- Do not be caught up in realities and sins that take us away
- As the day will come like a trap and sudden
- All that we are called to do is to live in a good way.
This judgment will come to all nations
Pray at all times, for the strength to survive all that is going to take place. Pray with great hope so as to hold our ground for the Son of Man.
A Spiritual Christmas Crib
The following directions show you how to build a spiritual crib in your heart for Christ. Use it to put Christ into your Christmas in a real, living way.
Start on December 1. Read the thought indicated about Christ’s first crib.
Practice it during the day.
Do this daily during December and make your heart a worthy crib for Christ on Christmas Day.
DEC. 1 – THE STABLE
Frequently during the day offer your heart to the little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home.
–Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and pure.
DEC. 2 – THE ROOF
See that the roof of the stable is in good condition, so that the Infant Jesus is protected from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully avoiding every uncharitable remark.
–Jesus, teach me to love my neighbor as myself.
DEC. 3 – CREVICES
Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the stable, so that the wind and cold may not enter there. Guard your senses against temptations. Guard especially your ears against sinful conversations.
–Jesus, help me to keep temptations out of my heart.
DEC. 4 – COBWEBS
Clean the cobwebs from your spiritual crib. Diligently remove from your heart every inordinate desire of being praised. Renew this intention at least three times today.
–My Jesus, I want to please You in all I do today.
DEC. 5 – FENCE
Build a fence about the crib of your heart by keeping a strict watch over your eyes, especially at prayer.
–Sweet Jesus, I long to see You.
DEC. 6 – MANGER
Fix the best and warmest corner of your heart for the manger of Jesus. You will do so by abstaining from what you like most in the line of comfort and amusement.
–Dear Mother Mary, use these sacrifices to prepare my heart for Jesus in Holy Communion.
DEC. 7 – HAY
Supply the manger of your heart with hay, by overcoming all feelings of pride, anger or envy.
–Jesus, teach me to know and correct my greatest sins.
DEC. 8 – SOFT STRAW
Also provide your manger with soft straw by performing little acts of mortification; for instance, bear the cold without complaints; or sit and stand erect.
–Dear Jesus, Who suffered so much for me, let me suffer for love of You.
DEC. 9 – SWADDLING CLOTHES
Prepare these for the Divine Infant by folding your hands when you pray, and praying slowly and thoughtfully.
–Jesus, help me love you more and more.
DEC. 10 – BLANKETS
Provide the manger of your crib with soft warm blankets. Avoid harsh and angry words; be kind and gentle to all.
–Jesus, help me to be meek and humble like You.
DEC. 11 – FUEL
Bring fuel to the crib of Jesus. Give up your own will; obey your superiors cheerfully and promptly.
–Jesus, help me do Your will in all things.
DEC. 12 – WATER
Bring fresh, clean water to the crib. Avoid every untruthful word and every deceitful act.
–Dearest Mary, obtain for me true contrition for my sins.
DEC. 13 – PROVISIONS
Bring a supply of food to the crib. Deprive yourself of some food at mealtime or candy as a treat.
–Jesus, be my strength and nourishment.
DEC. 14 – LIGHT
See that the crib has sufficient light. Be neat and orderly about your person; keep everything in its place in your room.
–Jesus, be the life and light of my soul.
DEC. 15 – FIRE
Take care to have the crib of your heart warmed by a cozy fire. Be grateful to God for the love He has shown us in becoming man; behave with grateful respect towards your parents and relatives.
–Jesus, how can I return Your love; how can I show my gratitude to You?
DEC. 16 – THE OX
Lead the ox to the crib. Obey cheerfully without making excuses and without asking “why.”
–I will obey for love of You, Jesus.
DEC. 17 – THE DONKEY
Bring the donkey to the crib. Offer to the Divine Infant your bodily strength; use it in the service of others.
–Jesus, accept my service of love; I offer it for those who do not love You.
DEC. 18 – GIFTS
Gather some presents for the Divine Infant and His Blessed Mother. Give alms for the poor and say an extra decade of the rosary.
–Come, Jesus, to accept my gifts and to take possession of my heart.
DEC. 19 – LAMBS
Strive to bring some little lambs, meek and patient. Do not murmur or complain.
–Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
DEC. 20 – SHEPHERDS
Invite the shepherds to pay homage to our newborn King. Imitate their watchfulness; stress in your speech and thoughts the idea that Christmas is important because Jesus will be born again in you.
–Jesus, teach me to love You above all things.
DEC. 21 – THE KEY
Provide the stable with a key to keep out thieves. Exclude from your heart every sinful thought, every rash judgment.
– Dear Jesus, close my heart to all that hurts You.
DEC. 22 – ANGELS
Invite the angels to adore God with you. Cheerfully obey the inspirations of your guardian angel and of your conscience.
–Holy Guardian Angel, never let me forget that you are with me always.
DEC. 23 – ST. JOSEPH
Accompany Saint Joseph from door to door. Learn from him silently and patiently to bear refusals and disappointments. Open wide your heart and beg him to enter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
–Saint Joseph, help me to prepare for a worthy Christmas Communion.
DEC. 24 – THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Go meet your Blessed Mother. Lead her to the manger of your heart and beg her to lay the Divine Infant in it. Shorten your chats and telephone conversations and spend more time today thinking of Jesus and Mary and Joseph.
–Come, dear Jesus, Come; my heart belongs to You.
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.