Many years ago my spiritual director introduced me to Friar Lawrence of the Resurrection, a lay Carmelite brother in Paris who worked in the kitchen of the priory and repaired the sandals of the other friars. His wisdom was compiled in a book entitled The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule for a Holy Life. It captures Br. Lawrence’s spirituality of making the love of God the end of all of our actions.
Lawrence teaches us that one of the attribute of love is to examine who and what we wait for. And Advent is a season of waiting.
If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that patience is not one of my greatest virtues. Maybe you, like me, don’t ordinarily like standing in line at the bank, or at the grocery store. Perhaps you, like me, do not have a very developed capacity to accept delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset.
But there are some circumstances in which my impatience with waiting abates. I don’t mind waiting for people I love to get ready to go out, or waiting for people who have difficulty with their memories to find the right word, or when waiting in my ministry to the incarcerated to be let in through any number of secure doors by correctional officers.
What changes my attitude toward waiting is what transforms all of us: love. Love of the significant other, compassion for the ill, mercy for the captive, all rooted in the recognition that the heart’s capacity to love resides in God.
Advent is the season for us to wait in joyful anticipation for the coming of God’s love Incarnate. This anticipation of Christ’s birth gives meaning to our waiting. It shapes how we wait and gives definition to our lives. We hear in Advent that our salvation is closer now than when we first believed, and we know the truth of this because at some level, all the time we have lovingly waited has taught us the meaning of salvation.
Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, says this about Advent: “Advent is about learning to wait. It is about not having to know exactly what is coming tomorrow, only that whatever it is, some hard, some uplifting, is sign of the work of God alive in us. We are becoming as we go. We learn in Advent to stay in the present, knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life.”
In Sr. Joan’s words, we hear echoes of Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection, and catch glimpses of how our waiting helps us stay present to the awareness of God in our lives. We recognize that love transforms how we understand our waiting as a passage to the fullness of life.
In Advent, we can see that our waiting is a sign of love. We can ask for the grace to stay awake for the signs of the Kingdom in our midst as we look for the Incarnate Christ to come again. Advent can be a season for us to embrace waiting as a time of preparation to practice God’s invitation in Isaiah to walk in the light, to turn our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks.
Be assured of my prayers for all of you this Advent Season and Christmastide.
The Most Reverend George Lucey, FCM
St. Francis of Assisi ANCC (Glen Ridge, NJ)