US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A reflection for Advent: On waiting

Waiting seems at odds with progress, and we seldom ask whether it might have a purpose in and of itself.

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Our perception of time is subject to technological revision, and increased speed has generally translated into subtle diminishment of our capacity to appreciate our immediate surroundings. In his 1849 essay, “The English Mail Coach,” Thomas DeQuincey noted that while the new, high-speed coaches of his day offered much faster travel than had been thought possible a few years before, they also distanced passengers from the countryside. The simple pleasures available to the stroller or wanderer on horseback—the scent of wild roses, a glimpse of a fox with her kits, an exchange of greetings with other travelers or laborers resting from their labors in a field of sweet smelling, newly-mown hay—had been traded for increased efficiency . . . .

Waiting seems at odds with progress, and we seldom ask whether it might have a purpose in and of itself. Etymology helps us here, for when we look up the word wait we are instructed to see vigor. Waiting, then, is not passive but a vigilant and watchful activity designed to keep us aware of what is really going on. Isaiah evokes this radical waiting as a source of vitality: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, /they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). Such waiting is meant to engender a lively hope rooted in the physical as well as the psyche. It is in an action “hop” contained within the word. To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better. If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there—no matter how hopeless your situation may appear.

Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life (Riverhead Books)

Reflection questions:

1. Are there any areas of your life that could benefit from slowing down?

2. How is God at work during our periods of waiting?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016