Advent in Sharp Focus

Editorial on Pope Benedict's message for the season.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Advent message this year affirmed that the liturgical season celebrates "the first and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The first is the Incarnation itself; the second is the glorious return at the end of time."

We have not been told the length of time that separates these two "culminating moments." It is enough to know, the Holy Father says, that both truths "touch us deeply, because, by his death and resurrection, Jesus has already accomplished that transformation of humanity and of the cosmos that is the final goal of creation."

What matters, adds the Pope, is that each of us believes and acts in ways that fully anticipate the final coming we have been promised.

Advent, then, offers a powerful reminder that the "coming of Christ is continuous; the world must be infused by his presence.

"This permanent coming of the Lord in the proclamation of the Gospel requires our continual collaboration; and the Church, which is like the Betrothed, the promised Bride of the crucified and risen Lamb of God (Revelation 21:9), in communion with her Lord, collaborates in this coming of the Lord, in which his glorious return is already begun."

Thus, the Holy Father calls on his flock to be a palpable sign of God’s love in an "indifferent" world. And he cautions us to remain alert — advice that seems especially worthy during an Advent season when encroaching deadlines, holiday distractions and political static threaten our firmest intentions to be "vigilant at all times and pray."