Advent is Christian daily life
Fr Piotr Kot
In ancient Christian Latin, first of all in 'Vulgate' (the Latin translation of the Bible) the word 'adventus' is a classic term to describe Christ's coming - both in flesh (the Incarnation) and his second coming at the end of times. The process of crystallisation of the preparation before Christmas began in the 5th century and the 7th century sources called the time 'ante natale Domini' (before the birth of the Lord) or 'adventus Domini' (the coming of the Lord). Advent is a special time to develop mature Christian faith. It is worth noticing that the period begins the liturgical year, the heart of which is the celebrations of Christ's Passover, the central event being the Resurrection. However, without a good inner experience of Advent and Christmas the message of the most essential mysteries of salvation can be covered and unrecognised. Why?
Did Christians invent Advent?
Advent has its roots in the history of salvation, which began with the fall of the first parents and the announcement of the Redemption (the so-called Proto-gospel, cf. Genesis 3:15) and will be completed by universal resurrection. It was the Jews that experienced the first advent when they waited for the promised Messiah. That's why, the Advent guides are the Prophet Isaiah and St John the Baptist.
Isaiah was born in Jerusalem about 770 BC. His life fell on turbulent years of the Assyrian threat that the chosen nation had to face. In the background of the lost wars and many exiles Isaiah was to arouse hope. He foretold the coming of 'the Lord's day', which was to be the time of judgement of the pagan nations. The coming of 'the Lord's day' was connected with the coming of Emmanuel who was to ensure peace, liberty and happiness to the chosen nation, 'the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel' (7:14).
God's clocks measure time as he likes
Almost eight centuries had passed before the Word, which the Prophet proclaimed, was fulfilled. Many things had happened over that span of time. The chosen nation had its ups and downs. They repeatedly tried to identify the promised Emmanuel with the rulers who could ensure considerable welfare for several years. But God showed more and more clearly that he did not care for the earthy happiness of his people. 'The Lord's day' was to be the day of ultimate victory over death and the time of people's restoring friendship with their Creator. 'A man of suffering', like the Passover lamb, 'gives his life as an offering for sin' (Is 53) and would complete the work. The fact of his erasing of the consequences of Adam's and Eve's sin would restore the paradise people lost.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
We, people of the 21st century, who have heard the Good News since our childhood, answer the question who Jesus was: He was the Son of God, the Messiah. However, the Jews, who listened to the story of Jesus' birth in a shepherd's grotto, had great problems recognising Emmanuel, who had been foretold for ages, in that 'ordinary' child. Therefore, towards the end of the Old Testament advent God sent John the Baptist, the last prophet of the Old Covenant, to prepare mankind for that unique visit of God - Man in the world, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29).
Why is Advent so important?
The Jews as a nation experienced their advent in a wrong way. Although they knew the Old Testament prophesies, saw the miracles Jesus of Nazareth did and heard his teaching they did not believe that the Child, born in Bethlehem, was the Messiah and Emmanuel. Without this faith man closes himself to receive the fruit of the Cross and the Resurrection, which means the gift of salvation that will be completed by the resurrection of the bodies at the second coming of Christ.
'We proclaim the coming of Christ, not only his first coming but also the second one, which is much more wonderful than the first', wrote St Cyril of Jerusalem in the 4th century. 'The first coming announced suffering, the second will bring a royal diadem of God' rules'. Let us try to experience this year's Advent, leaving behind mawkish decorations and market promotions. Let us try to reflect on the most essential message of these days so that we can look at the crib of Bethlehem and see the Son of God who was born in flesh and justified us through his Death and Resurrection. May the message of hope that appeared on the night of the Lord's Birth make us vigilantly and joyfully wait for his second coming when 'the world in its present form is passing away' (1 Corinthians 7:31) and there will be 'a new heaven and a new earth' (cf. Revelation 21:1).
'Marana tha' - 'Our Lord, come!'