The time of the Advent or coming of our Lord into this world is hallowed in Holy Church the time of four weeks, in betokening of four divers comings. The first was when he came and appeared in human nature and flesh. The second is in the heart and conscience. The third is at death. The fourth is at the Last Judgment. The last week may unnethe be accomplished: for the glory of the saints which shall be given at the last coming shall never end nor finish. And to this signifiance the first response of the first week of Advent hath four verses to reckon. Gloria patri et filio, for one, to the report of the four weeks, and how it be that there be four comings of our Lord, yet the Church maketh mention in especial but of twain, that is to wit, of that he came in human nature to the world, and of that he cometh to the Judgment and Doom, as it appeareth in the office of the Church of this time. And therefore the fastings that be in this time, be of gladness and of joy in one part, and that other part is in bitterness of heart. Because of the coming of our Lord in our nature human, they be of joy and gladness. And because of the coming at the Day of Judgment, they be of bitterness and heaviness.
As touching the coming of our Lord in our bodily flesh, we may consider three things of this coming, that is to wit, the opportunity, the necessity and the utility. The opportunity of coming is taken by the reason of the man that first was vanquished in the law of nature of the default of the knowledge of God, by which he fell into evil errors, and therefore he was constrained to cry to God: Illumina oculos meos, that is to say, Lord, give light to mine eyes. After, came the law of God, which hath given commandment in which he hath been overcome of impuissance, as first he hath cried: There is none that fulfilleth but that commandeth. For there he is only taught, but not delivered from sin, ne holpen by grace, and therefore he was constrained to cry: There lacketh none to command, but there is none that accomplished the commandment. Then came the Son of God in time when man was vanquished of ignorance and impuissance. To that if he had so come tofore, peradventure man might say that by his own merits he might have been saved, and thus he had not been bound to yield thanks to God. The second thing that is shown us of this coming is the necessity by reason of the time, of which the apostle Paul speaketh, ad Galatas the fourth chapter: At ubi venit plenitudo temporis, when the plentitude or full time of the grace of God was ordained, then he sent his Son that was God and Son of the virgin and wife which was made subject to the law. To that, that they be subject to the law he bought them again, and were received sons of God by grace of adoption. Now saith S. Austin that many demand why he came not rather. He answered that it was because that the plentitude of time was not come, which should come by him, that all things were ordained and made, and after when this plentitude of time came, he came that of time past hath delivered us, to that we shall bedelivered of time, we shall come to him whereas no time passeth, but is perpetuity. The third thing that is showed to us of this coming is the utility and profit that cometh for the cause of the hurt and sickness general. For sith the malady was general, the medicine must be general, whereof saith S. Austin that: Then came the great medicine, when the great malady was through all the world. Whereof the holy Church remembereth in the seven anthems that be sung before the nativity of our Lord, where the malady is showed in divers manners, and for each demandeth remedy of his malady of prisoner out of the prison that sitteth in darkness and shadow of death. For they that have been long in prison and dark places may not see clearly, but have their eyes dim. Therefore, after we be delivered from prison, it behoveth that our eyes be made clear and our sight illumined for to see whither we should go, and therefore we cry in the fifth anthem: O Oriens splendor lucis eterne, veni et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis, O Orient that art the resplendour of the eternal light, come and illumine them that sit in darkness and shadow of death, and if we were taught, lighted, unbound, and bought, what should it avail to us but if we should be saved? And, therefore, we require to be saved, and therefore we say in the two last anthems, the sixth and the seventh; when we cry: O Rex gentium, veni et salva hominem quem de limo formasti, O thou King of peoples come and save the man that thou hast formed of the slime of the earth; and in the seventh: O Emmanuel rex et legifer noster veni ad saluandum nos, domine deus noster, O Emmanuel that art our King, and bearer of our law, our Lord, our God, come and save us. The profit of his coming is assigned of many saints in many manners, for Luke saith in the fourth chapter that our Lord was sent and came to us for seven profits, where he saith: The Spirit of our Lord is on me, which he rehearseth by order; he was sent for the comfort of the poor, to heal them that were sick in sin, to deliver them that were in prison, to teach them that were uncunning. To forgive sins, to buy again all mankind. And for to give reward to them that deserve it. And S. Austin putteth here three profits of his coming and saith: In this wretched world what aboundeth but to be born to labour and to die. These be the merchandise of our region, and to these merchandises the noble merchant Jesus descended. And because all merchants give and take, they give that they have and take that they have not; Jesu Christ in this merchandise gave and took, he took that which in this world aboundeth, that is to wit, to be born to labour and to die, he gave again to us to be born spiritually, to rise and reign perdurably. And he himself came to us to take villanies and to give to us honour, to suffer death and to give us life, to take poverty and to give us glory. S. Gregory putteth four causes of the profit of his coming: Studebant omnes superbi de eadem stirpe progeniti, prospera vitæ præsentis appetere, adversa devitare, opprobria fugere, gloriam sequi: They of the world, in their pride descended of the same lineage, studied to desire the prosperity of this present life, to eschew the adversities, to flee the reproofs and shames and to ensue the glory of the world. And our Lord came incarnate among them, asking and seeking the adversities, despiting the prosperities, embracing villanies, fleeing all vain glory. And he himself which descended from glory, came, and he being come, taught new things, and in showing marvels suffered many evils. S. Bernard putteth other causes, and saith that, we travail in this world for three manner of maladies or sickness, for we be lightly deceived, feeble to do well, and frail to resist against evil. If we entend to do well we fail, it we do pain to resist the evil, we be surmounted and overcome; and for this the coming of Jesu Christ was to us necessary. To that he inhabiteth in us, by faith he illumineth our eyes of the heart, and in abiding with us he helpeth us in our malady, and in being with us he defendeth our frailty against our enemies.
Of the second coming which shall be at the last Judgment two things be to be seen, that is to wit, that which cometh before the Judgment, and that which shall be at the Judgment. As for the first, three things shall be tofore the Judgment. First, the terrible confusion of signs and tokens. Secondly, the malice and deceit of Antichrist, and the third, of vehement and marvellous operation of the fire. As touching the signs, S. Luke saith in the twenty-fifth chapter: Erunt signa in sole, luna et stellis, etc. There shall be great signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars, and in the earth oppression of people anguishous for the confusion of the sound of the sea and of the waves. The three first signs be determined in the Book of the Apocalypse in the sixth chapter. Sol factus est niger tanquam saccus cilicinus: et luna facta est sicut sanguis, et stellæ ceciderunt super terram. Then shall be the time that the sun shall be black as a sack, gross and rude, and the moon shall be as blood, and the stars shall fall on the earth. The sun is said dark, forasmuch as he is deprived of his light, as though he wept for the dying of men. For S. Austin saith that, the vengeance of God shall be so cruel at the day of doom, that the sun shall not dare behold it. Or as for to speak of the proper signification spiritually to be understood, is that, the Son of Justice, Jesu Christ, shall be then so dark that no man shall dare know him. The heaven is here taken for the air, and the star judge in great fear. The sixth sign, the edifices and buildings shall fall down: and in this sixth day thunders and tempests full of fire shall grow in the west, where the sun goeth down against the firmament, in running to the east. The seventh sign, the stones shall smite and hurtle together and shall cleave in four parts, and each part shall smite other, ne none. The eighth sign shall be the moving and general trembling of the earth, which shall be so. The ninth sign, all the earth shall be even and plain, and all the mountains and valleys shall be brought into powder and be all like. The tenth day, the men shall issue out of the caves and shall go by the ways and fields as men aliened and out of their wit, and shall not con speak one to another. The eleventh day the bones of dead men shall issue out of their burials and places and shall hold them upon their sepulchres, and from the sun rising unto it go down, the sepulchres shall be open, to the end that the dead bodies may all issue. The twelfth sign all the stars shall fall from the heaven and shall spread out rays of fire, and then great quantity shall grow. In this twelfth day it is said that all the beasts shall come to the field howling, and shall not eat ne drink. The thirteenth sign, all living shall die, to the end that they should arise with the dead bodies. The fourteenth day the heaven and the earth shall burn. The fifteenth day shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and all things and all dead men shall arise.
The second thing that shall be afore judgment, shall be the folly and malice of Antichrist; he shall pain him to deceive all men by four manners. The first manner shall be by suasion and false exposition of Scripture. Forasmuch as he may, he shall give them to understand Christ, and he shall destroy the law of Jesu Christ, and shall ordain his law in alleging David the Prophet that saith: Constitue domine legislatorem super eos. Thus shall he say, that it was said for him as he that was ordained of God for to set law upon his place, after this that is said in the scripture of Daniel, Daniel xi.: Dabunt abominationem et desolationem templi, etc. Antichrist and his complices shall give abomination and desolation to the temple of God in this time, as saith the gloss: Antichrist shall be in the temple of God, as God, for that he shall destroy the law of God. The second manner shall be by marvellous operation of miracles, whereof saith the apostle S. Paul in his second Epistle ad Thessalonicenses in the second chapter, where he saith: Cujus adventus erit secundum operationem Sathanae in omnibus verbis et prodigiis mendacibus. Of Antichrist it is said that, the coming shall be after the operation of Satan in all his signs, in all his marvels, and false Iying deeds, whereof S. John maketh mention in the Apocalypse, the thirteenth chapter: Fecit signa ut etiam ignem facerit de celo in terram descendere. Antichrist shall make such signs, that is to say, he shall make such tokens that he shall make the fire descend from heaven. The gloss saith that, like as the Holy Ghost descended in likeness of fire, in likewise shall Antichrist give the evil spirit in likeness of fire. The third manner that he shall do for to deceive, shall be in giving of gifts, of which is written in the book of Daniel the Prophet in his eleventh chapter: Dabit eis potestatem in multis et terram divides gratuito: Antichrist shall give puissance to his servants in many things, and shall depart the earth to them after his will. The gloss saith that, Antichrist shall give many gifts to them that he shall deceive. And to his disciples he shall divide the earth, and them that and make them thereby to obey him. The fourth manner for to deceive them shall be by torments that he shall give to them, whereof Daniel saith in his eighth chapter: Supra quod credi potest universe vastabit; no man shall believe how he shall destroy and torment them that will not believe in him, for to draw them to him by force. And S. Gregory saith of him: Robustos quippe interficiet, et cetera; he shall slay the great and strong men; when he may not win nor overcome them by heart ne will, he shall overcome them by torment. The third thing that shall go before the judgment shall be the right vehement fire, the which shall go tofore the face of the judge. And God shall send this fire for four causes. First for the renewing of the world, for he shall purge and renew the elements. And, like to the form of the deluge it shall be forty cubits higher than all the mountains, like as it is written in the history scholastic; for the works of the people may mount so high. Secondly for the purgation of the people; for then that fire shall be instead of the fire of purgatory to them that then shall be on live. Thirdly for to give more greater torment to them that be damned. Fourthly for to give more clearness and light unto the saints. For after the saying of S. Basil: Our Lord God when shall make the purgation of the w[?] others should see them. And it ought not to be believed that within that little valley all might be enclosed, after that which S. Jerome saith, but many shall be there, and the others there about. Nevertheless, in a little space of land may be men without number by divine puissance and ordinance, and, if it be of necessity, the chosen people shall be in the air for the agility and lightness of their bodies, and also in soul. And then the judge shall dispute and reprove the wicked men of the works of mercy which he ordained to us. And they shall not mow reply, but shall then weep upon themselves and upon their deeds; like as S. John Chrysostom saith upon the gospel of S. Matthew, in saying that, the Jews shall weep their life when they shall see their judge and him that giveth life to all men, whom they esteemed and trowed a dead man, and shall blame themselves for his body hurt and wounded by them. And they may not deny their cruelty but shall weep in great distress. The paynims, which by the vain disputations of the philosophers were deceived and supposed it to have been folly to worship God crucified. The Christian men, sinners, shall weep that have more loved the world than God. The heretics shall weep because they holden false opinions against the Faith of Jesu Christ whom then they shall see the sovereign judge, whom the Jews crucified. And so shall all the lineages of the world weep, for they shall have no force ne power ne strength against him, nor they may not flee before his face, nor they shall have no time of space to do penance for their sins nor to make satisfaction of the great anguish that they shall have of all things: there shall nothing abide to them but weeping. The second thing that shall follow at the judgment is the difference of the orders. For thus, as S. Gregory saith: at the day of judgment shall be four things, two on the party reproved, and two on the party chosen. The first shall be damned and perished, to whom he shall say, Esurivi et non dedistis mihi manducare; I had hunger and ye have given to me no meat. The other shall not be judged and perish, of whom it is written, Qui non credit jam judicatus est; he that believeth not is now judged. For they shall not perceive the words of the judge, which would not keep the words of God. The other of the party of the good shall be judged and shall reign, as they to whom shall be said: I have had hunger and ye have given me meat. The other shall not be judged and yet shall reign. That is to wit, the perfect men that shall judge others; not that they shall give the sentence of the judgment; for the sovereign judge shall only give the sentence, but they be said judges, because they be present approving the judgment. And this assistance shall be first to the honour of saints. For it shall be great honour to them to have their seats and sit with the judge, like as Jesu Christ promised to them, that they should be sitting upon twelve seats judging the twelve lineages of Israel. Secondly, to the confirmation of the sentence; for they shall approve the sentence given of the judge, as do the assistants in judgment which approve the sentence of the judge that is good and just. And with their hands they set-to their names in witness; like as David saith: Ut faciant in eis judicium conscriptum, etc. To the end that they make upon the damned, judgment written with the judge. Thirdly, that shall be to condemnation of the evil people whom they shall condemn by the works of their good life.
The third thing that followeth the Judgment, that shall be the signs and tokens of the passion of Jesu Christ. That is to wit, the cross, the nails and the wounds. The which signs shall be first for to shew his glorious victory. And by that they shall appear in the excellence of his glory, whereof saith S. John Chrysostom that, the cross and the wounds shall be more shining than any rays of the sun; now then, saith he, consider ye what the virtue is of the cross The sun then shall be dark and the moon shall give no light, hereby then may ye understand how much the cross is more shining than the moon and more clear than the sun. Secondly, for to shew his mercy, by which he shall save the good. Thirdly, for to shew his justice, how justly he hath damned them that be evil, because they have despised so noble price as his blood, and set not thereby. And therefore as saith S. John Chrysostom: he shall say to them hard words by manner of reproof: For your sake I made myself a man, f what good then we should have done. And he shall say to the judge: Right true judge deme and judge this sinner to be mine for his trespass, which would be shine by grace. He is thine by nature, he is mine by his misery, he is thine by the passion, he is mine by monition. To thee he hath been inobedient, to me he hath been obedient. He hath received of thee the vesture of immortality; of me he hath taken this penible coat with which he is clad. He hath left thy vesture and is come to mine. Right just deemer, judge him to be mine for to be damned with me. to God, but from God may no man appeal, for he hath none above him. Secondly, for the crime. For all trespass and sins shall be there openly showed, whereof saith S. Jerome that: In this day all our deeds shall be showed, like as they were written in a table and noted. Thirdly, for the thing which may not suffer dilation. For all things that shall be done at the judgment shall be done in the twinkling of an eye. Then let us pray that we may in this holy time so receive him, that at the day of judgment we may be received into his everlasting bliss. Amen.