Monday, November 25, 2013

Waiting...

It's that time of year again, when the yelling starts about the war on Christmas and some of us whisper about the meaning of Advent.

First, there is no war on Christmas. I already did a post on that, but until the police tell me I can't put up a Christmas tree in my home or celebrate the Christ's Mass in the wee hours of the morning of December 25th, be quiet. Yell about people being hungry. Then help feed them.

Secondly, it's Advent (or will be soon). That time when the days are short and darkness creeps in our bones with the coldness of winter. In the ancient world, when winters were brutal and electricity didn't exist, keeping Advent wasn't as much of a choice as it was just what people did. You gathered with your family around the fire and waited until spring. You probably planned, but seriously, with little light and no Netflix on demand, you mostly waited for warmer weather and longer days.

Not that our ancestors waited in stasis. They didn't. They told stories, they sang, they lit candles, they had rituals and prayers and feasts to celebrate the coming of the sun with the solstice. They, with their own liturgy, honored the time of waiting.

In our let's-go-let's-go-let's-go world, we don't huddle around the fire and wait anymore. We keep doing. We don't let winter's darkness coax us into her resting, her waiting. The Church tries. We remind people of the beauty and value of waiting and watching.  Hard as it is to imagine, a season focused on waiting and watching isn't that popular with the secular world.

We clergy talk about Advent and the holiness of waiting. Holy, yes; fun, no. Waiting is annoying. Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, then tell me how much you like waiting. But…waiting is necessary. It's a vital part of this human experience.  We are quite an impatient species, and yet, we must wait. We must develop and sit quietly and wait. We grow and develop over time, and we must wait while we do so. When we are wounded, either in heart or body, we must wait as we heal. Wait and rest. When we are experiencing a change and shift in our soul, which we all do in our lives, we will gestate and wait until God and our wiser soul-self deems it time for the change to be born.

So waiting, while not fun, is a deeply valuable spiritual discipline.

This Advent, be conscious of waiting. Name those things in your life that are developing, that are gestating in the love of God. Honor the frustration and necessity of waiting. And, even if in glimpses, like a surprisingly warm day in winter, know the value of what will become.

During times in my life when I am painfully aware of the holy waiting, I have found comfort and validation in these words by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In our waiting, may we trust the slow, holy work of God.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-that is to say, grace-
and circumstances
-acting on your own good will-
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser. Amen.


2 comments:

  1. When put like this, it makes the waiting almost bearable... Thank you...

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