Advent – The Mysterious Threefold Coming of the Lord

Advent is not just about the upcoming coming of the Lord. It is about “the comings” of Lord. St. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of “threefold coming of the Lord.”

It is my understanding, though it be through a glass darkly, that each of these comings carries with it an aspect or dimension of the fullness of the “new heaven and a new earth” spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” (Is. 65.17)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, … the first things have passed away… And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21.1, 4, 5

But what does that mean?! St. Paul speaks of it as a “mystery” that, at one and the same time must be spoken of and yet cannot be expressed (1 Co. 15.51-55). It is necessary to use language (words and images and actions) that point – that are iconographic.

It is also, it seems to me, important to point out that this is, astonishingly enough, nothing more than what the universe in its entirety and in its particularity, supposed to do normally.

This turns all our definitions of normal upside down. What is normal, when it appears and is experienced, is spoken of by us as “out of the ordinary” or “miraculous.” But, it is the other way around.

A good example of this upside down way of misunderstanding and understanding is the season of Advent’s message of the “threefold coming of the Lord.” The “in breaking” or manifestation of the “new heaven and new earth” was, is, and will be occurring. (See, words fall short…) This draws us away from thinking, speaking, and acting as if the new heaven and the new earth spoken of in Scripture is “out there somewhere” or completely “yet to be.” If we relegate the fullness of the coming of the Lord totally to the future, the past, or even the present, we will miss the coming of the Lord. (Yikes. That shorts out all my circuits, inside and outside, physical and spiritual…)

We live in a world that views and responds to truth all wrong (at least most of it). What is more, we are still, internally, using upside down ways of viewing and responding to reality. So, we are being invited to live “in but not of” the world. So, it is going to always be expected (yearned for) by us but astonishing (surprising) when it actually occurs and when we realize it has already occurred but we did not have eyes to see it.

William Law speaks of the new heaven and the new earth as being kind of inbreathed with love. Each and every aspect of the spiritual and material are expressions, according to their kind, as manifestations of the love of God – of God Himself.

Nothing wills or works with God but the spirit of love, because nothing else works in God himself. The almighty brought forth all nature for this end only, that boundless love might have its infinity of height and depth to dwell and work in, and all the striving and working properties of nature are only to give essence and substance, life and strength, to the invisible hidden spirit of love, that it may come forth into outward activity and manifest its blessed powers, that creatures born in the strength, and out of the powers of nature, might communicate the spirit of love and goodness, give and receive mutual delight and joy to and from one another.

All below this state of love is a fall from the one life of God, and the only life in which the God of love can dwell. Partiality, self, mine, thine, etc., are tempers that can only belong to creatures that have lost the power, presence, and spirit of the universal Good. They can have no place in heaven, nor can be anywhere, but because heaven is lost. Think not, therefore, that the spirit of pure, universal love which is the one purity and perfection of heaven and all heavenly natures has been or can be carried too high or its absolute necessity too much asserted. For it admits of no degrees of higher or lower, and is not in being till it is absolutely pure and unmixed, no more than a line can be straight till it is absolutely free from all crookedness.

All the design of Christian redemption is to remove everything that is unheavenly, gross, dark, wrathful, and disordered from every part of this fallen world. And when you see earth and stones, storms and tempests, and every kind of evil, misery, and wickedness, you see that which Christ came into the world to remove, and not only to give a new birth to fallen man, but so to deliver all outward nature from its present vanity and evil and set it again in its first heavenly state. Now if you ask how came all things into this evil and vanity, it is because they have lost the blessed spirit of love which alone makes the happiness and perfection of every power of nature. (The Spirit of Love: Part 1, by William Law)


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