Can you believe it? Christmas is this week. For most of us, it has come much too quickly. We feel caught off guard and unprepared. We are in panic mode, striving to finish up last minute preparations for family dinners and parties.
Yet, during this season, Holy Mother Church asks us for a different kind of preparedness, a preparedness that does not involve shopping or wrapping gifts—She calls us to a preparedness of heart. Clear away the sin and attachments that crowd out Christ, she challenges us, and make room in your heart for the infant Christ.
While Advent is primarily a time to prepare for the remembrance of Jesus’ birth, it is also a time to look forward to the other appearances of Christ. The great doctor of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux outlined a total of three Advents of Christ for the Christian: His coming in the flesh (past), his coming in our hearts (present), and his coming to judge the world (future). While I don’t presume to improve upon the Mellifluous Doctor, I would like to add one more to that list: The coming of Christ at our death.
As we prepare for Christmas, I thought it appropriate to reflect on these four advents briefly.
The Coming in the Flesh
The Incarnation is the miracle of miracles. There is no more stunning, earth shattering fact than this. The Almighty, the Omnipotent One, the Ancient of Days who gives all things life descends into the form of a tiny, helpless, and very dependent infant.
In the Extraordinary form, whenever the Incarnation is mentioned, whether in the Creed or the Gospel, the priest and the entire congregation drop to their knees in awe-struck adoration, like the shepherds and wise men did so long ago. This coming of Christ is the source of our hope.