Watch, Hope and Wait
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning”.
by Helen Hull Hitchcock
Advent. The four weeks of preparation for Christmas often seem to rush past so fast we cannot keep up with everything we need to do. In some ways Advent reminds me a bit of the last weeks of pregnancy there’s the joyful expectation of the birth of a child we’ve carried close to our heart for its entire life while also being nearly overwhelmed by all the preparation that needs to be done before the blessed event, along with the daunting realization that every moment of the months ahead will be “spoken for” by the infant we are about to greet. So much to do and so little time! We wait, and we work, and we watch in joy and in hope and a bit of anxiety not knowing the day nor the hour when the longed-for child will arrive. Will we be ready? Will all be well? We hope so.
During Pope Benedict’s recent trip to Africa, he addressed the leaders of Benin. In his November 19 address at the presidential palace of Cotonou, the Holy Father commented precisely on the hope of Christians:
According to Sacred Scripture, three symbols describe the hope of Christians: the helmet, because it protects us from discouragement (cf. I Th 5:8), the anchor, sure and solid, which ties us to God (cf. Heb 6:19), and the lamp which permits us to await the dawn of a new day (cf. Lk 12:35-36).
“To be afraid, to doubt and to fear, to live in the present without God, or to have nothing to hope for, these are all attitudes which are foreign to the Christian faith and, I am convinced, to all other forms of belief in God”, Pope Benedict said, quoting a homily of Saint John Chrysostom. “Faith lives in the present, but it awaits future goods”. He continued,
God is in our present, but He is also in the future, a place of hope. The expansion of our hearts is not only hope in God but also an opening to and care for physical and temporal realities in order to glorify God.
To expand our hearts to open our hearts in order to care for others and to glorify God for this we pray and prepare and hope. This Advent we have been given a unique opportunity to glorify God: the new translation of the Missal we will now be using. Even when we understand that the “new” words we speak at Mass are not new at all in fact, they are accurate translations of the Latin prayers of the Church, many of which have been prayed for more than a thousand years this is not always easy for Catholics who have the “old” words firmly implanted in our memories. We’ve been on “auto-pilot” for a long time. Changing our habits is never easy, even when we understand the reason for it. But this momentous occasion will, at the very least, capture our attention. It will make us watchful and this is a very good thing. We will pay close attention to the words we are praying. We will listen anew to the prayers the priest proclaims. Our experience of the “new” words at Mass can be, for each of us, a genuine source of interior renewal of our faith the expansion of our hearts.
We who have been given the precious gift of faith in Jesus Christ have the duty which is also a privilege to bring this gift to others. Even when the challenges to the Christian faith in our world today seem insurmountable, our obligation is not diminished. In fact, it is even greater. Our steadfast faith and even our willingness to suffer in order to bring His light and love and liberating truth to the people of this world in which we now live is, quite simply, required. We must watch for opportunities to do this. We must be vigilant and willing laborers: in our families, our workplaces, or wherever we are needed.
Pray, work, wait, watch, hope. And open the doors to Christ.
We will be reminded of this during the coming year, as the Church throughout the world embarks together on a “Year of Faith” next October. Pope Benedict announced this in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (Door of Faith), included in this issue.
“Advent is the propitious time to awaken in our hearts the expectation of He ‘who is and who was and who is to come’”, Pope Benedict said in his Angelus message on December 2, 2007:
The Son of God has already come to Bethlehem about 20 centuries ago, He comes in each moment in the soul and in the community disposed to receive Him, He will come again at the end of time “to judge the living and the dead”.
The believer is therefore always vigilant, inspired by the intimate hope of encountering the Lord, as the Psalm says: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning”.
May the joy and hope of our celebration of the coming into the world of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the expectation of His coming again in glory, give to all of His people the inspiration, insight, courage and strength to bring His life-giving light into our darkened world.
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