Advent Thoughts

This advent season I have been re-reading the book The Winter Pascha by Rev. Fr. Thomas Hopko. A great little devotional reading book for this time of year. I usually read this book each Advent and follow up with this book on Great Lent in the Spring. It is amazing how many new things you can learn even reading the same books over and over. Here is something that I came upon today in my reading and I thought I would post it here.

Christians live between the two comings of Christ. They remember His first coming to be sacrificed. They anticipate His second coming to reign. This is vividly portrayed in traditional Orthodox church buildings where the “royal gates” of the icon screen in front of the altar table are flanked by the icons of the Theotokos and Child on the one side, and the Lord Jesus in glory on the other. To the uninitiated it may seem as though these are simply pictures of Mary and Jesus put on the same level. This is not so. The icons which frame the Orthodox altar are images of the two comings of Christ. Mary is not alone in her icon; she is holding the Christ Child, who is not shown as a baby, but as the Son of God incarnate “in the form of a slave… in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). This is the icon of Christ’s first coming. And the icon on the right of the doors is not a picture of Jesus as He was on the earth. It is His image in glory as King and Lord, the icon of His second coming.
The two comings of Christ are held together in Christian thought, action, and prayer at all times. They cannot be separated. When they are, it is the end of Christian faith, life and worship. The first coming without the second is a meaningless tragedy. The second coming without the first is an absurd impossibility. Jesus us born to bring God’s kingdom. He dies to prove His kingship. He rises to establish His reign. He comes again in glory to share it with his people. In the kingdom of God there are no subjects. All rule with the risen Messiah. He came, and is coming, for this purpose alone.
(The Winter Pascha, Thomas Hopko, pp. 92-93)


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