(first published December 1, 2013; edited 2017)
by Dr. David Pence
The Church year begins today as we enter into the Advent season to prepare for the Coming of Christ in History, in Mystery, and in Majesty.
First we recall the long period of history before He came to Mary at the Annunciation and was born in Bethlehem the first Christmas night. We reflect on the setting aside of Israel and the setting aside of Mary – the perfect temple who is a template for our souls. But the significance of Christ's entrance into history cannot be confined to the short time humans have been on earth. His coming is the cosmic culmination of matter itself. The Incarnation of Christ is the epicenter of natural history, in that physical matter now has a new interpersonal center of gravity in Christ and His Queen Mother. The great mass of the physical universe dissipates into space while the tiny earth is set aside for life. The garden is set aside for man, the Israelites for Mary, and Mary for Christ. His life and death will form the center of human history as he makes holy the forms of interpersonal communion that will be the foundation stones of a Living Temple. He establishes his holy priesthood. His sacred brethren will man the Ark of the Church and lead the hunt to separate the Evil One from the communion of the living. Christ has come in history.
The separative and unification acts which characterized His coming in history are continued in the liturgy. The Holy Spirit draws mankind into the Trinity by incorporation in the Body of the Son. The Apostolic Church fishes for men dispersed at sea and reconstitutes mankind through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This present-day coming of Jesus is fully experienced only in the sacramental life of the Church. His Real Presence is still with us here on earth. We are not just with Him but becoming Him through the Eucharist. Being in the state of grace secures us to an ark of angels and saints amidst the floodwaters about us. The unspeakable intensity of this Eucharistic incorporation has always made Catholics less likely to discuss our day-to-day "personal relationship with Christ". Theosis or becoming a member of the Mystical Body of Christ through sanctifying grace seem better ways to express this sacramental reality. Christ comes today in mystery.
Christ has established His Kingdom on earth and is reorganizing all social relations around the Eucharistic priesthood, the sacrament of marriage, and the covenants of the nations. He is moving history to its culmination when He will return amidst his angels and the Church to fully restore His kingship by uniting the submitting nations and dispersing the Evil One from the earth. We are not waiting for our individual souls to go to heaven. We are working to draw humanity into the Body of Christ. That is truly the Opus Dei which Christians share. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conspire to make humanity fit to be the Body of our returning Head. This is the one true world wide conspiracy. We have put on the Heart of Christ and are building the Kingdom on earth to be consummated in the fitting time of the Lord. Our mission is to be sure at that time of the final separation and expulsion, the Devil gets as few of our people as possible. Christ is coming in majesty.
So let us begin our Advent – the little Lent in which we set aside some part of ourselves to better attend these three comings.