From the Early Church Fathers, on Advent

    Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church at Ephesus in Asia… predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God.” Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians 1, A.D. 110

    Christians are they who, above every people of the earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit.” —Aristides, Apology 16, A.D. 140

    For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.—St. Irenaeus, Against All Heresies 1:10:1, A.D. 189

    He was made both Son of God in the spirit and Son of man in the flesh, that is, both God and man.” —Lactantius, Divine Institutes 4:13:5, A.D. 307

Advent is Here

    In the year 110 A.D., and in the year 140 A.D., and in the year 189 A.D., and in the year 307 A.D., Christians wrote of the coming of Christ into the world as if it were the most important thing, the most true news, the most relevant fact, in their lives.

    We today, after nearly 2,000 years, are the heirs of these early Christians.

    What they handed down, decade after decade, century after century, we have received.

    And we hand down what we have received to those who will come after us.

    Our role is to be one link in an unbroken chain.

    That is our task.

    We receive from the past, and hand it on to the future.

    What is the essence of what has been handed down?

    It is that our lives are always oriented toward an arrival, an Advent.

    All time, in this sense, is a state of expectation, a waiting for an epiphany, for the appearance, the presence, of a Person.

    We do not await an idea, a theory, a principle.

    We await an encounter which will fulfill the longing of our souls.

    An encounter for which we were made.

    We await a Person, a being capable of being in relationship with each one of us, a being whose essence, whose nature, is holiness.

    Others may speculate about the relationship of this Person to matter, and to energy, and to time, and to space.

    For us it is sufficient to say, along with Ignatius of Antioch, that we live as Ignatius lived, in an Advent time, a time of expectation, a time of waiting, this time, believing that we are “predestined from eternity for a glory that is lasting and unchanging, united and chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God.”

    A blessed Advent to all.


    Note: Tomorrow is in the United States a special day that has come to be known as “Giving Tuesday,” a day to offer support for initiatives and projects people feel worthy of support.

    We would like readers to consider supporting these Letters, the magazine Inside the Vatican, several future writing projects, and our “Urbi et Orbi Foundation” which seeks to build bridges of friendship between Catholic and Orthodox Christians in view of overcoming the divisions which sprang up a millennium ago. Thank you for your support. —RM

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