(first published December 1, 2013)
by Dr. David Pence
In this initial season of the liturgical year we prepare for 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 mirrors our souls. But His 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 issue in the saving ark, that holy shell of eternal life. He establishes his holy priesthood – which will man the ark and lead the hunt to separate the Evil One from the communion of the living and cast him into hell. He 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. This union is offered to mankind through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This present-day coming is fully experienced only in the sacramental life of the Church. It is so much more than personal friendship. Entering the state of grace during particular sacramental events secures us to an ark of angels and saints amidst the floodwaters about us. The intensity of this Eucharistic incorporation has always made Catholics seem less emotionally demonstrative about our day-to-day personal relationship with Christ. He comes in mystery.
He has established His Kingdom on earth and is reorganizing all social relations around the Church, 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. Our mission is to be sure the Devil takes as few of our people as possible. Humanity is “our people,” and every nation is meant to be baptized. He 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.