Advent: The Coming of Christ

"The Conversion of Mary Magdalene" by Paolo Veronese, circa 1548. (Wikimedia Commons)

The final words of the Bible are, “I am coming soon. Amen… Come, Lord Jesus.” So, the theme is hope for Christ’s definitive coming.

There was a similar expectation expressed in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms under the theme of seeking God’s Face. Typical is Psalm 27:8, 9: “Thou hast said, ‘Seek ye my face’; my heart says to thee, thy face, Lord, do I seek; hide not your face from me.” Psalm 11:7 promises that “… the righteous shall behold his face.” His face assures security as Psalm 80:19 states, “Restore us, O God, let thy face shine that we may be saved.” Psalm 24:6 continues, “Such is the generation that seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” The blessing of the high priest Aaron in Numbers 6:22 includes, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you.”

Whereas the pagans gave faces to their gods, the Hebrews were forbidden to do so. Yet they were inspired to seek his face. That is because they would be given the true face of God in Jesus Christ, as explained by Paul in Colossians 1:15, “He (Christ) is the image (icon) of the invisible God.” Since Jesus is the long expected Messiah, being with him brought the disciples into the presence of the face of God.

Adam and Eve enjoyed seeing the face of God prior to their fall from grace. Then they hid from his face and lost that blessing. But a promise of restoration was given them in Genesis 3:15 and that would include the sight of his face once again. That will be accomplished through the ministry of Christ.

It is interesting that Andrew told his brother Peter that, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41) The occasion was St. John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and proclaiming, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” After which Andrew, with a companion, followed Jesus. Jesus turned around and asked them what they wanted. Andrew replied, “Where do you live?” Jesus said to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:39) Actually, the destination he was to bring them to was to the Father in heaven which is Jesus’ true eternal abode. In other words, the journey he would bring them on would be the Gospel. It would be a journey of faith.

And, that Gospel passage says that this took place at 4:00 in the afternoon. That is the cool of the evening, the same time Adam and Eve conversed with God. Through these descriptive words we are told that mankind would now be able to associate with God once again. The promised restoration was now beginning with Jesus Christ.

It must have been a very enlightening conversation that evening because they deduced from it that Jesus is the one that the Scriptures had been talking about – the Messiah. Their hearts must have burned just as the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on Resurrection Day. They did not realize that they were seeing the Face of God Incarnate in Jesus Christ. Eventually, Jesus would call Andrew, Peter, and the other Apostles to bring disciples on this journey of faith (cf. Matthew 4:18).

In Mark 4:26, Jesus taught that faith develops in three stages like a seed: first the stalk, then the head and finally the full kernel. So, since this faith is based on a relationship with him, our faith will go through the three stages of relationships that leads to perfect faith. Acquaintances communicate occasionally, friends communicate frequently, and those that communicate constantly have a certain intimacy. Marriage is meant to have perfect intimacy. That is why the Church is compared to a Spouse. St. Paul, in Ephesians 5:25-27, states that Christ purified the Church – to make her perfect in faith and love.

A biblical example of that would be Mary Magdalene, who is considered to be the second most important woman in the gospel. She experienced those three stages of relationship with Christ. It seems that she became acquainted with Jesus when he freed her from the seven evil spirits that were plaguing her (cf. Luke: 8:2). That initial love must have grown, her heart enlarged (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:13), as her spiritual hunger was being fed by his ministry, which she followed with his disciples (cf. Luke 8:2). Her love would have been perfected by her witnessing his innocent sacrificial death by crucifixion (John 19:25). The eyes of her heart must have been fixed on Jesus who initiates and perfects our faith (cf. Hebrews 12:2).

That would explain the intensity of her desire to embrace Jesus when seeing his face on the morning of his Resurrection (John 20:17). By his response he indicates that this would be accomplished in heaven when he has ascended to the Father, alluding to the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb of God. This bride would be ready (cf. Revelations 19:7)

At the end of his earthly life, when he ascended into heaven, angels declared that he would return the same way after the world has been evangelized.

So the Church is eagerly awaiting the return of her Spouse to bring her, “holy and immaculate” (Ephesians 5:27), into that eternal joyful love. Just as he came in fulfillment of a promise to redeem and restore mankind, so he will keep his promise for his final coming, especially for those who sought his holy face.

This should make us inquire whether we are the generation that seeks the face of God by a journey of faith in Jesus Christ. Isn’t Christ calling us like Andrew to bring others on this same journey with us? Are we growing in faith like Mary Magdalene who reached a perfect relationship with Christ? Will we be prepared for the day of his Coming?

All this is expressed well in the Advent Blessing of the Catholic Church: “May the almighty and merciful God, by whose grace you have placed your faith in the First Coming of his Only Begotten Son and yearn for his Coming again, sanctify you by the radiance of Christ’s Advent and enrich you with his blessings. Amen.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelations 22:17)

By Father Stanley Smolenski, spma, director of the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Joyful Hope—Our Lady of South Carolina, 330 East Main St., Kingstree S.C.