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Invisible Advent

English Spanish Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ Profile

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb 13,8)

The Christian world has been living the liturgical season known as Advent since last Sunday, Nov. 27.

The word Advent has its origin in the Latin verb "advenire", meaning arrival or coming.

Naturally, the person who is "coming" is Jesus Christ, and this liturgical season serves as preparation for his arrival, that is, Christmas, and for the rest of the ecclesial year.

Advent can be called the "invisible season" because it has no commercial value. Not a single store in our cities displays that word. Once Thanksgiving is over, advertising jumps to promoting Christmas sales. Unfortunately, the word "Christmas" is avoided and replaced by "holidays." This change ignores that "Jesus is the reason of the season," as they say. This also does not help Advent’s popularity: the fact that it is a penitential season characterized by the color violet or purple, the same color as Lent, although with a different penitential nuance.

Advent consists of four weeks, and it previews the coming of Jesus from different angles.

The most remote announcement of Advent is known as the protoevangelium, or first gospel. Since "gospel" means good news, the first good news is found in the Book of Genesis, which announces the one who would triumph over the evil one (symbolized by the serpent): "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)

Although the entire Old Testament of the Bible can be considered as messages of preparation for the coming of Christ, there are books that are more explicitly messianic, and these are the prophetic books. The most messianic of the prophets was Isaiah. That is why the Lectionary for the Masses of Advent has so many passages taken from Isaiah. This author describes Jesus, the future Messiah, with such lucidity that his has been called the "fifth gospel." The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel are not far behind as messianic prophets.

Well, the one who was to come arrived on a day celebrated on Dec. 25; the texts for the Fourth and Last week of Advent are very pre-Christmas. Protagonists close to the coming of Jesus appear, such as the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Baptist with his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah.

But Advent also looks forward to a final coming known as the parousia, or second coming or glorious return. The first weeks of Advent abound in that eschatological or final coming.

In addition to these two comings, there is an intermediate coming of Christ, a present coming. He comes continually to his own, and not only in his word and sacraments. The Third Preface of Advent that appears in the Missal of Spain reads, Él viene ahora a nuestro encuentro en cada hombre y en cada acontecimiento (He comes now to meet us in every person and in every event). He visits us especially in vulnerable people such as children, the poor and the sick. We must not let him pass us by.

From what has been said, it may be concluded that Jesus Christ is the only historical figure to whom the three grammatical tenses of past, present and future can be applied. He is the one who came, is coming and will come.

This blog was first published as a column in the December 2022 edition of La Voz Católica.

Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
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