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Advent: A permanent liturgical season

English Spanish Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ Profile

Although the liturgical season of Advent began on November 29th and ends on the morning of December 24th, its spirit overflows the four official weeks.

The season derives its name from the verb "to come" or "arrive" in reference to Jesus Christ. Another verb, "expect," also belongs to this "strong" season of year.

The first reference to the future savior appears near the beginning of the Bible. The verse is known as Protoevangelium: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15).

The arrival of the Messiah is so important, that the entire Old Testament reads like a prophecy of who was to come. The biblical books are like an arrow pointing towards the expected Messiah. The most precise predictions come from the three major messianic prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

At the arrival of "the fullness of time," an expression pleasant to Paul, the object and subject of the biblical promises is born in Bethlehem of Judea as Jesus, Emmanuel, "God with us." This arrival is celebrated every December 25th. Advent prepares us for that first coming of Christ.

The last week of Advent, which goes from December 17th to the 24th, serves as immediate and intense preparation for Christmas. A liturgist has called it "Winter Holy Week." Preface II of Advent sums up very well the feelings of Christians during that Fourth Week: "It is by his gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity, so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.”

But Advent not only looks towards the first coming of the Son of God into our world through the incarnation and birth. We also look forward to his future coming, an event impossible to date called "Parousia," that is, the glorious coming of Christ at the end of time.

The liturgical texts of the first two weeks of Advent are much more concerned with the triumphant and final coming. The Preface I of the Mass until December 16th says, “… when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope.” We said that the first biblical book, Genesis, begins by announcing the first coming of the Savior. The last book, Revelation, ends yearning for his second coming: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20)

But besides the historical coming that already happened 21 centuries ago and the coming at the end of history, the Spanish Missal brings a third preface that mentions a daily coming of Jesus: "He now comes to meet us in every man and in every event."

This should not surprise us because when Jesus speaks of the final judgment, he says that he approached us in the neighbors in need of help: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt. 25:35-36).

If Christ comes to us in others and in the events of life, it means that the spirituality of Advent, the waiting for his visit, extends to every day of the year.

It is up to Jesus' disciples to discern his presence in the neighbor and in events, both pleasant and sad. The important thing is not to let him pass by.

The triple coming of Christ – the historical, the eschatological (final) and the daily or intermediate – leads us to conclude that the Lord is the only person to whom the three tenses of the verb "to come" can be applied. He is the one who came, the one who comes, and the one who will come. The Letter to the Hebrews refers to Jesus Christ as "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (13:8).

Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
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