an Advent book club: week 3 {waiting}

“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
(James 5:7-8)

Everyday Sacraments - rhythmsThis week we’re reading in Everyday Sacrament:

  • “A Strong Hand on the Shoulder” (psst: if you haven’t yet gotten your copy of the book, you can read this chapter here)
  • “Chrysalis in the Communion Line”
  • “The Gift of the Pilgrimage”

. . .

Waiting. Already/not yet lies at the heart of Advent.

We know (or we think we know) what we are anticipating, Whom is to come. And yet we must fill the in-between with living, as time holds at arm’s length what we cannot yet grasp.

For years I’ve kept these words of Caryll Houselander on my desk in winter. She’s one of my unofficial patron saints – an everyday mystic, a woman who saw with clear eyes. Her words on waiting are rich and fertile, so I’ll leave them here for your own fallow time.

“The law of growth is rest. We must be content in winter to wait patiently through the long bleak season in which we experience nothing whatever of the sweetness or realization of the Divine Presence, believing the truth, that these seasons which seem to be the most empty are the most pregnant with life. It is in them that the Christ-life is growing in us, laying hold of our soil with strong roots that thrust deeper and deeper, drawing down the blessed rain of mercy and the sun of Eternal Love through our darkness and heaviness and hardness, to irrigate and warm those roots.

The soil must not be disturbed. Above all we must not disturb it ourselves by our own egoism. We must not turn it over and dig it up by anxieties and scruples. We must not shift it by fretting for a sense of personal perfection: to feel sinless that we may feel free from the pain of guilt and anxiety; to feel pure for the sake of vanity; to be reassured of the hidden presence of Christ in us by experiencing sensible consolation.

The seed must rest in the earth. We must allow the Christ-life to grow in us in rest. Our whole being must fold upon Christ’s rest in us, as the earth folds upon the seed.”

– The Passion of the Infant Christ

. . .

Let’s chat over wine or chocolate – like any good book club!

  • What is easy for you to wait for in Advent? What is hard to wait for?

I’m finding it easy to wait for Christmas this year, to rest in the not-yet-ness of Advent as an invitation to quiet, calm, and peace. Not rushing around in my usual flurry of Christmas chores (because let’s be honest, that’s what they feel like) has turned this season inside out. I’m finding it easy to wait for what comes next, because I’m not fixated on the falsehood that my doing makes it come.

I’m finding it hard to wait for change in a world that is full of suffering and feels hell-bent on its own destruction. The work for justice must always go on, but I find the long waiting to be discouraging and tempting me to despair.

  • How can you forgive your own imperfections in the middle of an imperfect Advent?

This year I have learned my own strength and my own weakness. That I am in charge of little, save my emotional response to what happens (and even that takes tremendous energy and work).

In living within this season – which is imperfect by nature, being our human response to divine love – and in looking ahead to the turning of a new year for which I wait with longing, I am learning to forgive myself over and over: for the aggravating annoyances and deeper flaws that are simply me. I can change, but I cannot control.

This week’s chapters in Everyday Sacrament reminded me of my gradual becoming, my slow transformation, my need for help, and my dependence on forgiveness. All good lessons in waiting and growth.

How about you? Leave your thoughts on waiting in the comments below.

. . .

If you want to read more about waiting

2 thoughts on “an Advent book club: week 3 {waiting}

  1. I confess, this isn’t an Advent of waiting for me, it’s more of an Advent of returning. Last Advent I was only just emerging from the post-newborn haze so the usual traditions of the season didn’t really sink in. The Advent before that was one of mystery; I was newly pregnant and given more to thoughts of wonder and amazement at the Incarnation. I guess I am waiting, and anticipating, and preparing, but to return to this state of expectation is like putting on my winter boots for the first time in November; it feels strange for a moment before it feels familiar. It reminds me of advice from my spiritual director in grad school about Lent- “Some years Lent is for tilling the soil of your heart, some years it is for planting new seeds, and some years it is for harvesting the fruits of past hardship.”

    1. Oh, that is wise and rich advice, Amy. Some Advents are like each of these, too. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

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