A READING FROM A SERMON BY ST BERNARD
We must now give some thought to the timing of our Saviour’s visitation, for, as I am sure you know, it was not at the beginning of time nor at some intermediate epoch that he came to us, but at the end of the ages. This was no mere whim of his, but a wise disposition of providence that determined to wait until the sons of Adam were experiencing their greatest need before he brought them help, since he well knew how prone men were to ingratitude. Evening was already drawing on and the day was almost over; the sun of justice had begun to sink beneath the horizon and now shed very little of its light and warmth upon the earth, for the light of the knowledge of God had become feeble, and with the increase of sin charity had grown cold. No longer were angels seen or prophetic voices heard; it seemed as if the stiff-necked obduracy of the human race had driven both angels and prophets to despair of intervening further in its affairs. But it was at this point that the Son of God announced: See, I am coming! Well-timed indeed was the entrance of eternity upon the earthly scene, when temporal prosperity was at its zenith. To give but one illustration, peace itself at that period was so universal that it was possible for the decree of a single man to impose a general census upon the whole world.
You already know who it is that comes, where he comes from and to whom, together with the why, the wherefore, and the when. The one thing still to learn is the road by which he comes, and this we must diligently search out so that we can run to meet him and give him a fitting welcome. However, just as he once came on earth in the flesh to accomplish our salvation, so he comes daily in the spirit to save each individual soul; the difference is that his first coming was visible to the eye, whereas the second is unseen. As Scripture says: Christ the Lord is the breath of life to us, and the hidden nature of this spiritual coming is shown in the continuation of the same text: Under his shadow we shall live among the nations. For this reason, even if you are too sick to go very far to meet the Lord, it is appropriate for you to respond to the great physician’s visit by making an effort at least to raise your head and lift yourself up a little to greet him on his arrival. The road pointed out to you is not a long one; you do not have to cross the seas or pierce the clouds or climb mountains to meet your God. Enter into your own soul and you will find him, for his word is near you; it is on your lips and in your heart. Go down deep into your heart until you are stirred to compunction; make your confession, and so at least turn your back on a conscience so defiled as to be unworthy of entertaining the author of purity.
These are the thoughts I put before you in respect to the coming of our Lord to each individual soul and the enlightenment his powerful presence brings us.
St Bernard, Sermo I in adventu Domini, 9-10; Opera omnia, 4  167-169, from WS 1