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Advent: A longing and yearning for the Lord

The following story appeared in the December 3 Idaho Catholic Register.

By Jay Wonacott

Marriage for Life

Advent is here, calling each of us to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus at Christmas through His three advents or “comings.”

Sam Guzman at the Catholic Ex-change online writes: “The great doctor of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux outlined a total of three Ad-vents 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).”

I would like to compare these three advents to the three divisions of time according to theologian Romano Guardini.

Guardini notes that there are three divisions of the Christian doctrine concerning existence in time. They are called archelogy (the beginning), eschatology (the ending), and kariology (the present). In his book, The Last Things, Guardini writes: “It is by time that life is made actual. In this conditioning by time, three divisions appear not only clearly, but decisively: the beginning, the end, and the present moment. The beginning and end mark the limits of existence as a whole. In the moment, existence gathers itself, approaches living man, gives itself into his hands, and from his free decision receives its permanent meaning.”

Jesus first comes in the flesh. The central mystery that we contemplate during Advent is the coming of Jesus into the world at Christmas. This first coming of Christ into the world is known as the Incarnation. God takes on flesh and dwells among us (Gospel of John). In becoming the God-man, Jesus participates in our humanity for the sake of us being able to participate in His divine life. During the praying of the Creed at each Mass, we pause for a brief moment and should make a profound bow from the waist at the point where we recite “by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man” in recognition of the reality of the Incarnation of God.

Jesus will come again as judge of each soul in the future. The Advent liturgical readings also meditate on the coming of Jesus as Judge of the world. This ‘second coming’ of Jesus is made possible by His first coming as a help-less child. He will come back as the King of the Universe, not in poverty, but this time as the Creed says, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.”

Jesus is coming now into our hearts. The third coming holds these two others in tension and informs how the third coming is lived out in the here and now of each of our hearts. The third coming of Christ into our hearts is what makes Christmas so special be-cause it is the experience in the present moment, the now, of time. It is in this coming that we get to choose Jesus.

I would like to illustrate the three comings with a practical ex-ample from my life regarding the love of dear friends. Recently, we were reunited with long-time friends whom we had not seen for several years. It was an extraordinary couple of days where we were able to get away with them to the mountains for our own private married couples’ retreat.

Like preparing for Christ-mas, we prepared for their arrival with us “in the flesh.” The anticipation and excitement of their coming was palpable. During our time with them we shared meals, prayed together, laughed, watched a movie, played card games and shared deep spiritual in-sights with one another. After a couple of wonderful days, our friends boarded an airplane and returned home. We share the hope that we will see each other “in the flesh” again in the future. We look forward to a future “second coming” with them.

In this time in-between these two “comings,” we examine what is in our hearts while we are apart. My wife shared with me a small yet powerful example of this in a text from our friends. One of them wrote, “We were just sharing pictures of our trip with family at our Thanksgiving gathering, and I had a pang in my heart missing our dear friends.” We responded with a similar sentiment and shared the pangs of our hearts for missing them.

We must experience the pangs of the heart as part of the deepest meaning of the Advent mystery. The song “O Come, O Come Immanuel” exclaims the sentiment of the heart. A longing and yearning for the Lord should be evident in hearts. Jesus each year is born-again into the world at Christmas, and those who contemplate His second coming, either in their own deaths or at the end of the world, should con-template the kind of the pangs we are feeling, or not feeling, in our hearts.

When friends, loved ones or Jesus live in our hearts, the natural reaction of that love and affection is the experience of a sincere heart pang! This deep longing of experiencing our Lord in the joy of His birth and the awesome wonder of His second coming, should right now create deep and sharp pangs of love and longing for Jesus. The end of the book of Revelation enjoins the Lord Jesus to come again. Advent is a time for experiencing heart pangs for our Lord Jesus with great anticipation and hope!

To read more about the second coming and last things this Advent, I recommend two books – The Last Things: Death, Purification, Resurrection, Judgment, and Eternity by Romano Guardini (Cluny Media, reprinted 2019) and one of St. Therese of Lisieux’s favorite, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Father Charles Arminjon originally published in 1881 (Sophia, reprinted 2008).

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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