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“Reduce Yourself to Waiting” this December during Advent

Director’s Reflection

Dear Companions on the Journey,

Well, it is that time of year that the Church calls “Advent.” Drawn from the Latin word for “coming, arrival,”  Advent is marked by the four Sundays before Christmas. During this season, we prepare for His coming; each Sunday reflects themes of “waiting,” “preparing,” and “being on the watch.”

I was recently very touched by a Boston Globe columnist who wrote of her slow recovery from a most unlikely concussion.  Falling off a hammock in mid-summer, she thought that she was fine…until the symptoms, later diagnosed as a concussion, piled on and brought her work and her home life to a standstill.  She closed her books, she refrained from writing because it demanded too much focus, and she turned off the many screens in her life: her television, smartphone, computer, and tablets.  Her fingers were idle from the usual typing and tapping.  She was “reduced to waiting,” completely overtaken by how much patience her condition sucked out of her. What did she do with this new vast blank space in her life? She found herself focusing more intentionally on talking with her ten-year-old son and attending to the facial expressions of her spouse.

Similarly, Ernest Hemingway, injured in World War I while working as an ambulance driver, found that recovering from doctors’ pulling 237 pieces of shrapnel from his body required six months in a hospital ward.  As one person told the story, Hemingway “became fascinated by how differently [other patients in the hospital ward] waited through the seemingly endless days of recovery.  Some distracted themselves with small entertainments, others cried out in lament, and still others pondered the depths of their lives.”  Reflecting later on this experience, Hemingway concluded that “the waiting does not break us; it reveals us.”

Our Church, our Christian community, beckons us to “reduce ourselves to waiting” this December during Advent.  Only you can creatively carve out “waiting times” in your super busy life.  But imagine it:  set the alarm clock ten minutes earlier for four weeks for ten minutes of waiting; ride the T one way each day with your device turned off and your book closed; sit gazing out the window with a cup of tea in your hand, in wonder at creation (or the proximity of your neighbor’s apartment).

Whatever, we will notice Christ’s arrival (advent) in our life at Christmas or tomorrow morning only when our eyes are wide with waiting and expectation.  Intentional waiting requires some discipline, but Hemingway was right: our waiting will not break us, it will reveal something to us.

What do you think?
And let us pray for/with one another.
The Paulist Center