Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again

Father John A. Kiley

When the Roman rite first transitioned from Latin into English, the most popular acclamation proclaiming the profound mystery of faith that had just occurred at the consecration was certainly “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” The easily remembered proclamation remained in use for fifty years. However, much to the chagrin of the American bishops, Vatican authorities in 2005 found the acclamation to be too impersonal.  The succinct phrases contained no explicit reference about the laity who were making the declaration. The three acclamations in current use all mention exactly who is voicing the testimonial: “We proclaim…When we eat…Save us…” So “Christ has died, etc.” went the way of “My Lord and My God,” the once so popular acclamation voiced at the elevation of the Sacred Species in the old rite.

 Although liturgically incorrect as a communal affirmation of the paschal mystery, the triple phrases are a quite handy affirmation of the threefold comings of Christ into human affairs often recalled by preachers during the Advent season. Christ’s arrival into earthly history is recalled by a mournful remembrance of the Savior’s tragic end: Christ has died. Christ’s continued arrival into the personal life of every believer through his perennial gift of grace is powerfully evoked by the happy reference to his resurrection: Christ is risen. Christ’s final arrival into the saga of mankind’s long history will be his return in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead: Christ will come again.

  “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” These phrases might be a bit impersonal for a restored liturgy emphasizing lay participation. Yet this terse outline of salvation history may serve as a handy prayer guide for the Advent season as believers prayerfully ponder how the death of the Christ as savior, the resurrection of Christ as sanctifier and the return of Christ as judge daily affect their Christian life.

Christ has died. Indeed Christ died at the very hands of the people he came to save. His heartrending death should be a daily reminder that the evil of sin can permeate the lives of believers and non-believers alike. Especially those who have had the advantage of a Catholic education, the benefits of the Catholic sacraments, and the guidance of the institutional Church should experience a profound conviction for having so often betrayed the Redeemer who gave his life for their restoration to grace. Pondering the tragic death of Christ during Advent reminds believers that sin is real, that sin is offensive to God, and that sin was repaired only by the dreadful death of Christ.

 Christ is risen. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday is both proof and promise that sin can be atoned, forgiven and reversed by acceptance of Christ as one’s personal Lord by embracing the life of the Church that continues the work of Christ’s resurrection through the ages.  In this Sunday’s reading from Corinthians, St. Paul writes powerfully of the continued action by the risen Christ on the life of his Church: “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ will come again. The death of Christ is handily recalled through the omnipresent crucifixes, the pierced Sacred Hearts, and the wounded hands of Christ that Christian art offers daily to the faithful. The resurrection of Christ is announced as well through the living Church that continues the Gospel message, celebrates the sacraments and extends salvation around the world. But the final return of Christ has become a mere reference in the Creed recited Sundays at Mass. “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Occasionally small groups of eager believers, heeding St. Mark’s warning in this Sunday’s Gospel: “Watch,” will remove themselves to a hilltop to await the imminent return of Christ to this planet. But Judgment Day rarely enters the prayer life and the ponderings of the average believer. The end will indeed take most believers by surprise.

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again: A fine triple examination of conscience for the Advent season!