A READING FROM A SERMON BY PETER OF BLOIS
Our task in this world, according to Saint Paul, is to live sober, upright, and godly lives as we look forward to the coming of our blessed hope, the appearing in glory of almighty God.
The Lord’s coming is threefold. He came the first time in the flesh, the second time he comes to the individual soul, a third coming will be at the Last Judgment. The first took place at midnight, the second occurs in the early morning, the third will be at noon. With reference to the first we have the infallible words of the Gospel: A cry went up at midnight, ‘the Bridegroom is coming!’ From this I note that the first coming was at midnight, the time when, in deep silence, night was pursuing its course. Jew and Greek alike walked in darkness. Then came the bridegroom. A cry went up, shattering the silence of the night. He who lights up the things that are hidden in the dark had come to dispel the night and create the day. The prophets foresaw that the almighty Word was resolved to descend from his royal throne. Realizing that Christ was to come, they broke that profound silence by bursting into shouts of joy. Individually and in chorus the prophets raised their voices, and what a cry that was!
Our experience of the Lord’s second coming depends on whether we live in such a way as to make him willing to come to us. If we love him we need have no fear; he will surely come and make his home with us. However, there is always an element of uncertainty about this coming, whereas of the third coming there is no doubt whatever. The only thing we do not know is when it will be. There is nothing more certain than that we shall die, yet the hour of our death is unknown to us. Our only security in this life comes from knowing that we are never safe. We vacillate between health and sickness, good fortune and adversity. One minute we are alive, the next we are not. Death spares neither age nor sex.
How blessed is he who can confidently say: My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready! Having gathered the fruit of grace from the Lord’s first coming, they will reap a harvest of salvation and glory from the second; for the first opens up the way for the second, and the second prepares us for the third. Lowly and unspectacular in his first coming, secret and gentle in his second, Christ will come openly the third time, and his final coming will fill the world with dread. He came to us at his first coming in order to come into us at the second, and he comes into us at his second coming in order not to have to come against us at the third. At his first coming he showed mercy, in the second he brings grace, at the third he will give glory, for Scripture says: The Lord will confer grace and glory.
Peter of Blois, Sermo 3 de adventu Domini (PL 207, 569-572), from Word in Season 1