Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Waiting patiently

It is well known that modernity does not delight in waiting. We are often told that my generation is the generation of instant gratification and in many ways, I am a child of my age. With the advent of the internet and e-mail, SMS and IM, communication is almost instantaneous. promises goods on delivery within 24 hours and food is popped into a microwave and ready in minutes. We no longer wait because often the need does not arise. Our society aims to provide everything quickly, if not immediately.

Strangely, we have become like children, who want things now! I am reminded of a song which was annoyingly popular a few years ago. The chorus was something like: "I want --- and I want it now!". Isn't that a common refrain for parents with young children?

I can see myself in that position too. I am reasonably patient but I don't like waiting either. I am simply not accustomed to it. And yet, God has been teaching me to wait. I am not the best of students, but I think I am learning. Being in the Philippines was a good place to learn this too because I was surrounded by good people of humility and patience. They waited graciously because they were accustomed to it.

And there is a profound wisdom in this. Waiting is after all, a very real part of life and how we do it can determine the kind of people we are. Some people wait with increasing rage or irritation. I'm sure we've all seen this when a train or bus is delayed. Others seem to have a serenity, like those who pray in church, waiting for Mass to begin. Which one of these attitudes do we carry into our waiting?

But waiting for a definite event to start is often easier than waiting indefinitely. Sitting in a theatre, expecting the show to begin at 5pm is much easier than sitting in a bus-stop and not knowing when the bus will arrive at all. In the former case, we are in 'control' of the situation. Our expectation has a definite end-time. In the latter case, we are at the mercy of another, we are not in 'control' and we wait in endless anticipation, hope and expectation.

This can be wearing, this constant state of anticipation unless we channel that energy more constructively. The Scriptures are full of this type of waiting and it is from them that I hope to draw strength. The People of Israel waited millenia for a Saviour and even now the People of God, his Church awaits the return of Christ in glory. All too often, we Christians forget that we too are in a constant state of expectation. Advent is not just four weeks in the year, it is everyday!

A reflection by Hans Urs von Balthasar on James 5:7-10, taken from 'Light of the Word' is most appropriate and worth praying with at this moment. I would like to share it with you:

"James realizes that Christian patience is no leisurely waiting, realizes that it requires 'strengthened hearts' - not through discipline for discipline's sake but because 'the coming of the Lord is at hand'. This is a patience that does not hurry anything, does not artificially accelerate things, but rather, in faith, faces up to everything that God has decreed (cf Is 28:16)... Wisely James refers impatient Christians who could not wait for the Lord's coming back to the prophets and their steady patience. One could just as properly point to Mary's patience as she awaited the Advent. A pregnant woman can and ought not hasten anything. The Church too is pregnant, but she does not know when she will give birth." (p18)

And how should one wait? The words from the capitulum at Vespers yesterday, which gave me so much hope and peace then, seems to point the way:

"Wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you." (1 Peter 5:5b-7).

It occurs to me that the key attributes to a fruitful waiting is humility, self-giving, trust in God. This is the kind of patient waiting I have espied in the poor who await the dawn of justice, who hope for peace and pray for liberation. It is good practice for the Christian life, so as I wait once more in this time, let's learn from Mary's example and together, wait patiently for "the appointed day", whenever that may be!

The photo above is from Sto Domingo church in Quezon City, depicting the Annunciation.


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