May you have a most Holy and Blessed Advent.
Advent (adventus) is translated as “coming” or “arrival,” but Adventus was also the formal occasion of the Roman Emperor’s triumphant entry into a city, particularly after a military victory. It was a big deal—on the scale of a Presidential Inauguration and military parade all wrapped into one. It was a show of power and an opportunity for the people to see their ruler.
In Virgil’s Aeneid, an epic poem about the founding of Rome written just 20 years before Christ’s birth (and during the reign of Caesar Augustus), one of the characters ‘prophesies’ the birth of Caesar as an adventum (arrival) of the offspring of a god that is felt throughout the entire world. This is partly propaganda, but it was also a reflection of the high regard in which Caesar was held by the people of Rome, and by Virgil himself. Virgil is rather cleverly playing with words to suggest that Caesar’s very birth is an Adventus—the arrival of the King.
This religious language to praise the emperor, naming him a savior, is not unique to Virgil. Roughly 10 years before Christ’s birth, the Roman legions brought back from Egypt an obelisk still in Rome today. The inscription carved on its base reads:
“Imperator Caesar, the son of a god, Augustus, Chief High Priest… having subjected Egypt to the power of the people of Rome, he gave this gift to the sun.”
Caesar is named a divine being, the chief high priest – the intercessor between the gods and men. And so we see that even before Christ’s birth, the hearts of the Roman people yearned to worship a King who is Chief High Priest and intercessor between the gods and men.
In the Gospel of Luke, Luke co-opts the well-known mythos of Adventus, telling the Greco-Roman world of the true King and Son of God, the story of the Christ child, whose Adventus is accompanied not by soldiers, but by a multitude of the heavenly hosts, and whose coming is Good News to all people! How fitting, then, that the very name of the Advent season today represents not just the idea of “coming,” but the arrival of our Savior, Christ the King, our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)!
It’s easy for a school to fill the December weeks with hustle and bustle and tests and exams and stress. At The Academy, we hold dear the liturgies that shape our affections and guide our thoughts, and so we set aside time to celebrate the Adventus of our King through the Christmas Feast! For an hour or so in the final week of 1st semester, we celebrate this Good News with traditional Madrigal Dinners, complete with good food, players upon the stage, toasts, and hearty singing! We live out together a celebratory feast, our joyful response to the beauty of the incarnation.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14