BY JOEL HODGE
While Advent is a time of hopeful expectation and waiting, it is also a time of adoration.
We adore the Lord in His coming. “O come all ye, faithful ... O come let us adore him”. Our joyful hope results in awe-filled and wondrous adoration.
The Lord’s coming is more than a distant thought, cold justice, or worse, a wrath-filled violence. It is the answer to our deepest longings: it is really meeting the Lord face-to-face as we come into the joy of the closest intimacy with him. It is more than we could have ever hoped or expected: justice and faithfulness shall meet, as the Psalmist says - in the intimacy of a personal love that is God’s own life.
As the theologian James Alison remarks, sometimes we think of the Second Coming of the Lord as different from the first in the sense that the first time around God was love and care, and the second time around God will be wrath and power.
Yet, the Second Coming will be the definitive triumph of God’s love that is God’s real power and life; a triumph that began on the Cross.
As we adore the Lord on the Cross, we will adore Him in his glorious coming: as humble and faithful love bringing all to right and fulfilment. God’s power consists in His love and it is this life of love that will somehow overcome all evil and injustice in a way consistent with the Cross and Resurrection - as evil transformed into good through the freedom of conversion.
The Lord’s Coming will enlighten the confusion of our lives to show their real meaning in the midst of an often meaningless and brutal world. In other words, the Lord ensures there is justice, meaning and fulfilment in our lives; and that they all will come together in His love, and in our faithfulness (or not) to it: in giving what is our due (justice), making sense of our lives (meaning) and providing for our deepest yearnings and needs (fulfilment); all in the context of the freedom, reason and desire that have characterised the fundamental basis of our lives.
God does not impose Himself on us, but will show us the true meaning of our lives in the radical freedom, reason and love we have been given.
It is a sobering and exciting future that guarantees the coherency and consistency of our lives in the present because the One who holds all things in being has confirmed to us that our lives can be fulfilled and do have meaning.
This fulfilment, justice and meaning has been shown to us in Christ. As Matthew 25 relates, the judgement and revelation of the meaning of our lives is fundamentally characterised by relationship: by loving relationship with Christ in the least and most vulnerable in which we give of ourselves (as the Trinitarian Persons share their lives by complete self-giving with and for the Other).
In the Old Testament, we hear of how seeing the Lord face-to-face is deadly for those not ready. In Christ’s Incarnation celebrated at Christmas, we are being made ready to see God in all His humble glory.
This humbleness is exemplified in that most important sacrament: the Eucharist. Just as He did in becoming human, God’s humbleness in the Eucharist is to come to us as the smallest thing and offer himself to us. In fact, God comes in a most unobtrusive way that does not offend our freedom by imposing Himself on us.
God comes in the way that is true to Him: as the small and meek offering love and life to us in relationship with Him on the most intimate level. In the Eucharist, we meet God not just on the surface of flesh but in the depths of His substance – a substance that goes right into us as we receive it, both spiritually and materially – by opening ourselves in silence, adoration and communion (with God and each other).
God wants to be with us on the deepest level of our being that is beyond mere flesh or even words, but to be part of us in love. The saints and contemplatives know the depth of God’s love that moves “with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26); that relates to us in deep ways where we can move beyond the surface of pride, envy and dissension to know His gentle presence leading us in peace and freedom for our good.
Just like the Coming of Christ at Christmas and at the end of time, we can only adore this humble love and receive it in the Eucharist with such thanksgiving and awe-inspired wonder and trembling with the hopeful certainty that God will and is make us worthy of His life.
At Christmas, we are celebrating that just as God transubstantiates the Eucharistic species, God is transubstantiating us and all creation into His very life. God does this by sharing our life and going right to its depths – in evil, despair and alienation – to transubstantiate it into love.
Joel Hodge is a lecturer in theology at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.
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