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Catholic Teacher blog: Time to linger

Brendan Nicholls  |  30 November 2018

Catholic advent wreathWith the arrival of Advent it is timely to consider the coming of the Messiah.

Life is framed by waiting. We spend much of our life in expectation of what might come next. At the College we excitedly awaiting the end of the academic year and holidays. When we focus intently on what is to come we can fail to fully experience what is present and real.

REMEMBER TO BE PRESENT

As we move through Advent we experience increasing tension in our days as we consider all that ‘has to be done’ before Christmas. Each task we complete offers a sense of relief. This approach is cathartic in some respects but also leads to a pattern of busyness. Interestingly, this attitude can conversely create an illusion of not being able to complete tasks. Tasks can seem to become an ongoing series of challenges that have no end. Either way we focus on the goal and not the present.

As we look ahead to Advent we contemplate the words of the prophet Isaiah:Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). The birth of Jesus is the sign we await each year. During Advent we prepare for the birth of our Immanuel. We ready ourselves to experience the coming of Jesus. The challenge is to not let the present slip by. Waiting often causes us to fail to notice what is truly real; the ‘now’.

FAITHFUL RESPONSE

Advent begins with the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) which is the first action in fulfilling Isiah’s prophecy. The Gospel tells of how the angel Gabrielle was sent to reveal to Mary God’s plan. Her faithful response brings about her pregnancy. Pregnancy for all women is marked by excitement of what is to come and fear of what may go wrong. For nine months Mary waited for the safe arrival of Jesus. Her pregnancy was miraculous, and the safe birth Divinely assured. But I wonder how she waited for the coming of her child.

I wonder how she viewed the experiences of the pregnancy and the last-minute travel to Bethlehem. Did she endure by focusing on the promised outcome or did she focus on each moment as they came? When I contemplate Mary during her pregnancy I like to think that she possessed great wisdom and patience, and that she enjoyed each moment.

LESSONS FROM MARY'S ATTITUDE

What we can read about this time tells us that she was patient and faithful. She allowed God to work through and with her to create a child. We can learn a lot about how we can truly enjoy the coming Season by considering Mary’s response to the pregnancy. When we enter into a single month of waiting we often focus on Christmas Day and tick off all the tasks and events that lead up to that day. When Mary entered into nine months of waiting she seems to have had a more holistic approach to both the goal and the present moment.

Advent is about so much more than Christmas Day and the birth of Jesus. Advent is about experiencing the joy of waiting. Each year we wait again for the coming of Jesus and much of the joy is found in the anticipation.

CULTIVATE PATIENCE

Waiting of course is difficult. Patience is not a skill our society seeks to develop in its members. Patience is often only referred to when we need to be polite. Patience is not a virtue associated with success. Successful people are people of action. Patience requires one to hold back and experience what is present. Patience in-fact is the perfect philosophical experience of what is post-modern. Patience requires one to live in the ‘now’.

Advent can inspire us to enter into this interesting viewpoint. We can become more whole by entering into the moment as we joyfully await what is to come. Such a challenging task requires some preparation. We need to contemplate what we might do and how we might achieve this approach.

St Ignatius would suggest that the best way to achieve patience and develop a habit of waiting joyfully would be to linger in the present. Soak up everything the present moment offers. Notice the beauty in the simple aspects. Everything is beautiful and able to offer an experience of God. By lingering in the present moment we are better able to perceive what is; rather a that what was or might be.

BEAUTY IS ALL AROUND

Beauty is not extraordinary or exceptional in itself. Beauty is all around us in every way. Often, however, we are so caught up in the future or the past that we miss the beauty of every moment. When we wait patiently and linger in the present we see with clarity the extravagant abundance of beauty around us.

As the academic year draws to a conclusion and Advent begins, pause for a moment and consider how you might best approach the coming joyous season. What are you waiting for and how best might you enter into and draw profit from the experience of waiting? How will you ‘wait’ over the next weeks? What do you hope to gain from the season of Advent? Can lingering in the present offer you the gift of Christmas Day right now? In being attentive to the ‘now’ how might beauty be revealed in new and extraordinary ways?

I wish you well as you contemplate these thoughts and the joyful waiting found in the end of the school year and the season of Advent.

 

 

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