The Three Advents
Fr. James Conner, OCSO (continued from last week)
Paul reminds us: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Just as Jesus Christ was conscious that he received all from the Father, so the heart of his disciple must be conformed to the humiliation of his heart. That is why he told us: “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). Because of our fallen state, because of our sinfulness, the heart is deeply ambivalent. The heart is the place where we are brought face to face with the power of evil and sin within us. Yet the heart is also the place where we encounter God. It is the locus of divine indwelling, as Paul says: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). The heart is both the center of the human person and the point of meeting between the human and God. It is both the place of self-knowledge, where we see ourselves as we truly are, and the place of self-transcendence, where we understand our nature as a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is here that the mystery of Advent is realized. It is here that life and prayer become one. And it is here that we discover our profound oneness with all the rest of creation.
Bernard sums up the three Advents by noting that in the first Advent, Christ “was seen on earth and lived among human beings,” who either accepted or rejected him. But in the third Advent “all flesh will see the salvation of our God [Isaiah 40:5].” We live in a moment between those two Advents that is an opportunity to welcome Christ, the Word of God. Bernard explains, The intermediate coming is a kind of path by which we travel from the first to the final. In the first Christ was our redemption. In the final he shall appear as our life. In this one…he is our rest and consolation. …Anyone who loves me will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him [John 14:23].… Where then are [God’s words] to be kept? Doubtless, in the heart…. Is it enough to keep them in the memory alone? The Apostle will tell anyone who keeps them in this way that knowledge puffs up [1 Corinthians 8:1]. Then, too, forgetfulness easily wipes out memory. “In this way, keep God’s Word,” Bernard of Clairvaux counsels. “Let it enter into the bowels of your soul. Let it pass into your feelings and into your routines.” In this way, keep God’s Word: Blessed are those who [hear the word of God] and keep it [Luke 11:28].
(To be continued)