Happy New Year!
Updated: Dec 5, 2019
In churches like mine, we mark liturgical seasons in the calendar year. The new year begins with the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is four Sundays and roughly as many weeks preceding December 25 (the first, partridge-in-a-pear-tree day of the 12 day Christmas season). The word advent comes from the Latin, adventus, which means arrival. Something -- someone -- is coming, and during Advent, we wait.
1. Merry Christmas!
There are actually three arrivals that Christians wait for in Advent. The first adventus is the one that happened 2,000 years ago, when a baby was born in a Bethlehem stable. While it may seem odd to anticipate something that already happened, this is the arrival that we all, secular and Christian alike, celebrate more or less together. For some, Christmas has become a season of rest and gift-giving and colored lights. To Christians, it is meant to be the festival of welcome as God appears in history as an ordinary/not-so-ordinary man. In time, the birth of Jesus happened in the past. In eternity, it is ever-present.
The second adventus we're waiting for is the apokalypsis. To continue our review of church jargon from dead languages, apokalypsis is an ancient Greek term that means a revealing or disclosure. The Biblical sense of apocalypse is that, at the end of history, everything that is will be revealed. Whatever remains hidden to us will be made evident. Christians understand this to mean that Jesus Christ will arrive, not in as a baby this time, but as the risen-from-the-dead, seated-at-the-right-hand-of-God-in-glory, King of creation. Anyone who didn't know this about him will see for themselves that this is who he is and always has been. It makes more sense that we're waiting for this, because it hasn't happened yet in time. We're expecting it in the future.
3. Christus advenit
Perhaps you've surmised that if the other two arrivals refer to the past and the future, this third must have to do with the present. If so, you're right. This third adventus is the one that can happen right now, in our hearts, in our lives. This is the hidden coming of Christ -- not the babe seen by shepherds and kings. Not the King of Glory revealed to all humankind. This adventus is a secret one. Christ as our own hidden treasure.
Your final non-English word for today is this one: Maranatha! (It always seems to come equipped with its own exclamation mark.) Maranatha (!) means, "Come, Lord!" It is a prayer, a plea, a declaration of faith and hope that what has been promised is being fulfilled. It was fulfilled. It will be fulfilled. It is being fulfilled.
Catholic Lectionary Readings for the First Sunday in Advent, Cycle A