During Advent the Church celebrates Jesus’ first, second and third coming into the world.
The word “Advent” stems from the Latin word adventus, which literally means “coming” or “arrival.” Primarily this refers to the first coming of Jesus on Christmas day.
However, the season of Advent is also focused on two other “comings” of Jesus.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a beautiful summary of these three comings of Christ that is featured in the Church’s Office of Readings during Advent.
We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold…The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty.
To simplify St. Bernard’s summary even further, it can be explained as follows:
- First Coming – Birth at Bethlehem.
- Second Coming – Spiritual coming to each believer.
- Third Coming – Jesus coming again at the end of the world.
St. Bernard continues with his explanation of these three comings, focusing on their connection.
This middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last. At the first, Christ was our redemption; at the last, he will become manifest as our life; but in this middle way he is our rest and our consolation.
If you think that I am inventing what I am saying about the middle coming, listen to the Lord himself: If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and the Father will love him, and we shall come to him.
This “middle” coming is Jesus’ arrival into our own lives. The Church often explains this to be through the sacraments, in particular through Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
It not a “physical” coming, but a spiritual one, where Christ comes to dwell within our souls.
Each Advent we are challenged to prepare for all three comings of Christ, celebrating his birth, while also preparing our heart to receive him now and at the end of time.