FROM THE END TO ITS BEGINNING
Until 17th December, Advent is focused on the end of time and the return of Christ in glory to judge the living and the dead. Then, suddenly, the Liturgy shifts the camera back to the beginning of the end: to the first coming of Christ in humility to save the living and the dead. The sudden juxtaposition of the two scenes, the Parousia (the second coming) and the Annunciation (the first coming) almost shocks us. What has the splendour and majesty of the former got to do with the imperceptible ordinariness of the latter? Why does the Church pull the rug from under our feet and frustrate the climax of the final end by facing us, yet again, with the beginning?
Well, you will surely remember the phrase, “in our end is our beginning” and “in our beginning is our end.” When Christ comes in glory openly and finally to make human beings divine in the resurrection of the flesh of the just it is only because he first came hiddenly to make himself, a divine Being, human in his descent into the flesh. The power and glory he showed at his hidden incarnation is in some ways even more splendid than the power and glory he will show openly at the end of time. God’s humility is his glory. Its manifestation in majesty and light merely reflects outwardly the innermost glory of his humility. The Annunciation in this sense is utterly astonishing, to both man and angel, because it is the means by which the glory and splendour of God most reveal themselves. The Parousia blossoms forth from the Annunciation, reveals its meaning and consummates it.
The Liturgy therefore invites each one of us to contemplate that our stance towards the Second Coming is rooted in our stance towards the First Coming. But we must be careful. It is so easy to get stuck at Christmas, to suffer a kind of “arrested development” in our faith in Christ. The First Coming incorporates not only the Annunciation and the Nativity, as well as the other “joyful mysteries” of the Rosary. It also incorporates the mysteries of light, the sorrowful mysteries and the glorious ones. Not only. We can actually say that the First Coming is still underway, is still working itself out. How? Through the Sacraments, the Church’s Worship and pastoral mission, through the lives of the saints and of all who seek to live the commandment of love of God and of neighbour. Christ’s Second Coming is but the fulfilment of the ongoing First Coming.
And so the sudden shift from the Parousia to the Annunciation, invites us to begin again, to renew and deepen our immersion in the whole life of Christ. Only in the light of the whole can we truly celebrate each mystery properly. Each end is a beginning.