‘The God who is, who was and is to come’: this prayer that we chant at every office encompasses what Advent is about. We know God is with us right now; the God who was: we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus in history; and as well the God who is coming again into our hearts and in our midst. This is the amazing gift of the Incarnation: we celebrate this gift that happened over 2000 years ago and we celebrate its on-going revelation…Christ will be born again in and through each of our lives, all human lives, a gift which brings such expectation and wonder into this liturgical season.
Advent, which means ‘coming’, is about waiting…none of us likes to wait…What if we were to take inside our hearts the word ‘wait’, taking this word as a poetic metaphor, one pregnant with ‘hope’? ‘The Lord will come’ we chant ‘and will not delay’…still we have to wait….we have to wait for the grace…We are exhorted by Guerric of Igny who tells us to ‘use’ this waiting in a way that helps us prepare for God’s new gesture of love. He writes: “So, if you are wise, give an eye to yourself and see how you are using this delay” (Liturgical Sermons, Book 1, p.3). And how are we to use this ‘waiting’? I think one of the things that ‘waiting’ does, if we are using it in the manner that Guerric is calling us to, is that gradually we let go of our control…it helps us surrender, to go deeper into the place of the heart where God is coming…where God is to be born.
During this waiting, we slowly begin to realize interiorly that Advent is about God’s time…kairos…not our schedules, our agendas, or our need for ‘instant gratification’. We are waiting for what our hearts and souls long for…for what we need so badly right now…all of us…we are waiting for God’s birth in our human, fully human lives. We need this birth for life, for meaning, for helping us to become more Christ-like. And further, our world needs this birth, this hope for peace, for reconciliation, for mercy and justice to embrace in the midst of war and hate wherever it exists.
With the psalmist we pray: ‘Already my being is with you’. This knowing gives us hope; it gives hope to our waiting. Our ‘waiting’ does not feel useless nor without purpose. It is teaching us to be more dependent on God not on our egos, which are always ready to take control and set up their demands and their wants. We are waiting on God to act…to act in and through our lives right now. Guerric in his first Sermon for Advent says ‘we can wait more trustfully if our conscience is at rest’ (p.1). What puts our ‘conscience’ at rest? Guerric says if we have offered everything to God. In other words we offer all of our lives at the service and will of God. In the words of the psalmist: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust that God will act” (Psalm 37: 5). And again: “Be still before the Lord; wait for God” (Psalm 37: 7). It seems to me that such waiting prepares the stable of the heart; our egos recede as we truly wait for God’s Advent, for surely it will come…for us and our world.
Kathleen Norris asks us to ponder do we have enough humility and faith to wait upon God to act. She writes: “This Advent we might consider Catherine of Siena’s admonition that our impatience is ‘the marrow of pride,’ and reject our culture’s demand for instant gratification. We might take time to marvel at God’s remarkable patience with us, and with all of humanity. God created each one of us to harbor an inviolate place within, a quiet, virgin space where only God may enter. Advent is a time to revisit and renew that sacred place to make it more receptive to God’s coming” (Give Us This Day, December, 2013, p.6). It is our patient waiting, encompassed by God’s promise, which truly prepares our souls for God’s new Advent.