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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventus: First and Second

(Photo by Joel Bez)
In Western Christianity, the Advent season derives its name from the Latin word “Adventus” (meaning “Coming”). 

There are many who associate Advent with the Nativity of Jesus, and they await this Coming with hope and joy.  As did the ancient Hebrews, they envision this Coming as liberation from oppression and relief from suffering.  Perhaps this might ultimately be the case, but a period of judgment might first occur.

Some say that anything worth waiting for is also worth working for.  Even if grace can never be earned, it can certainly be acknowledged through righteous efforts.  That is why an equally strong tradition of Advent penance has existed for centuries, especially within Eastern Christianity.  As Dennis Bratcher points out, “there is the problem of longing for vindication from an evil world when we are contributors to that evil.”  Eastern Christians therefore emphasize fasting and mourning within their Season of Advent rituals, somewhat reminiscent of Lenten observances.

The Greek word “Parousia” (to which the Latin word “Adventus” is strongly tied) often refers specifically to the Second Coming of Christ.   Bratcher cites the prophet Amos, as well as the Bridegroom parable, in order to convey the dual nature of the Second Coming.  Amos warns that the “Day of the Lord” will also be a “day of darkness” - and many bridesmaids within Jesus’ famous parable are caught unprepared (with dire results) when their Bridegroom finally arrives.

Go ahead, then… Eagerly anticipate the Nativity with all the fervor that a human heart can muster.  At the same time, remember that birth and death are inextricably bound together within this earthly realm.  When the Groom knocks again, will the brides be better prepared?

Advent is the season for contemplating such ultimate questions.


Copyright November 27, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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