Advent, a nearly four-week season of watchful preparation this liturgical year, began this past Sunday. Without fail, every Advent I think back to one particular reflection I heard more than a dozen years ago. The homilist focused on the word “come,” as it applies to Advent.
That word-focus, in itself, was not surprising or unusual, since among the etymological explanations, the one that rings truest to me, having survived three years of Latin, is this one. The English word Advent comes (no pun intended) from the Latin prefix “ad” (toward) and the Latin verb “venire” (to go or to come), meaning “to go toward” or “to come.”
What was unusual, at least for me, was that the homilist acknowledged and explored the threefold-paradoxical meaning of the word “come” as it applies to the Church’s Liturgical season of Advent.
Come. During Advent, we prepare for Christ’s birth, for His first coming. We sing and pray “Come, Emmanuel.” For as many years are we are alive on December 25th when the Church celebrates His Birth, He comes to us as a newborn Babe in Bethlehem.
Come. Historically, Christ has already come into the world, and because of that coming, He is constantly available to come into our lives in Word and Sacrament. He stands at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to invite Him, and so in response to His knocking, we offer and request, “Please, Lord, come in.”
This continual present opportunity to experience Christ’s coming into our lives is poignantly depicted in paintings showing the door with no outside knob, the door that can be opened only from the inside. Here is one of those images: Christ knocking at the door via Wikimedia/Sul Art
Come. Lastly, during Advent, as we prepare for Christ’s first coming into this world at Christmas, the Church reminds us that this world is passing away, and that Christ is coming back at a future time, heralding the end of this world and the beginning of a new, fully redeemed world. In that respect, we pray “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus,” looking ahead to “then” when He comes again for us–both at the end of the world, and at the end of our lives.
At all three “comings,” the one in the past that we relive in the present, the present coming anew each moment of each day, as well as the one that we anticipate in the future, we are called to prepare for Him. That is what the liturgical season of Advent is all about: to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3) Who is already come, Who is always coming to and for us, and Who is coming again.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve done the homilist justice in my rendition of his explication of Advent as a season of paradoxical comings in three simultaneous, overlapping time periods. We prepare for the birth that has already happened, for a coming that is always new in our lives, and for a coming again that is a second historical coming in the future that draws nearer, and may, in fact, be present.
When I learned about a “reverso poem” last week thanks to Donna Smith’s Poetry Friday offering, I thought that “finally” I might have a format for giving voice to the Advent “coming” paradox.
While I don’t know if I’ve succeeded with either the poetic format or the theological content, here for your consideration is my first reverso poem.
As the homilist admitted, three complementary, but discrete comings are hard to wrap one’s head around. I hope my poetic attempt hasn’t made it harder….
If you have just under two minutes to spare, you might enjoy this contemporary theatrical interpretation of the Advent preparation theme via this YouTube video: Godspell Revival- Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
Happy preparation and many blessings for whatever holy days you will be celebrating in the coming days of December.