Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyril on the Twofold Coming of Christ

A little something from Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386) for Advent:

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.

In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.

We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.

His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.

The prophet Malachi speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.

Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.

-- Catechetical Lecture XV


Robert F said...

You know of course that to many secularists (and that includes a good many people who say that they believe in God, and in Christ) this kind of talk about the Second Coming of Christ as Pantocrator is something they consider totally kooky. It doesn't fit with the gentle, mild Jesus they have imagined by never actually reading the New Testament, or by only reading carefully edited extracts. I don't say this just to be critical, because I admit that this Jesus, who will not stay in a spiritual box but insists on being Lord of body and spirit, the physical and the heavenly, makes me uncomfortable, too, even though I see no other hope for any of us than the hope we may have in him. Maranatha!

Loukas said...

I think it is important in this context to look at what Jesus says about kingship and whether we are actually not attributing to him the very things he criticized in our notion of it, like in this passage:
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." (Luke 22, 25-26)
Also, I have a problem with the following fragment of Cyrill's text:
"The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent."
I do, because it is hard for me to believe that the Christ of Parusia will forget the plea he uttered when he was dying: "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing". I think we sometimes use the idea of "the triumphant Christ" as an excuse to substitute his subversive teachings on authority and rule with our own, earthly, vision of it (which we later use to legitimize various political and social hierarchies and systems - Christ Pantocrator was perhaps the most popular image in the Byzantine Empire, and all the subsequent ones...).

Loukas said...

When I read the text again, I noticed that even though the way the author put his thoughts may be slightly confusing at times, what he seems to be saying is both profound and bold. It might be even suggesting apocatastasis, because of three points of key importance: first, it is claimed that we all will be in his Kingdom (perhaps a reference to "God will be all in all"); second, the judgment is actually described as showing the sinners the nature of their sin and confronting them with the radically righteous attitude of Christ and not as a manifestation of God's anger; third, the purpose of the judgment is to "refine and cleanse" and thus "make the world new". This is certainly worth contemplating!

Matt Gunter said...

Robert and Loukas,

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your willingness to engage here.

I agree with Robert that the promise of God's judgment should give us pause. But, I also agree with Loukas that while God's love might not always be nice it is always kind. Jesus meek and mild, might be a caricature. But, that Jesus prayed for his Father to forgive his executioners is a source of no little comfort to me, knowing as I do that my fingerprints are, in one way or another, on the hammer and nail.

I've tried to address this more in a more recent post.

Thanks again for reading and responding.