Jesus’ coming in Advent is not only his coming as an infant in Bethlehem, nor only his coming as our judge at the end of time. It is also his coming to the depths of death and judgment: his presence in hell which grants it its truest, realest existence while at the same time undoing its sting with infinite mercy. Jesus’ presence in hell is the paradoxical symbol of justice that promises us the fullness of mercy and the fullness of judgment of God.
But what if heaven is not primarily a place of peace, but instead a community, created by communal participation in the divine life? Such a conception of heaven allows us to begin to imagine it as a place of communal accountability — a place where all can be welcome only because all are responsible to one another: a place of justice.
Judgment is not a topic the church often wants to contemplate, but it is not one we can avoid. How can we understand the dialectic of God’s judgment and mercy at the final coming of Christ so that divine judgment — and not just the hope of avoiding it — is for us something to be desired, not just feared?
No one has ever died as completely as Jesus.
The liturgy is a ritual enactment of the Last Day, a corporate enactment of our collective hope. But it also mirrors the beginning of days.