Waiting and arrivals

“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”
Simone Weil

boucicaut-meister
(Illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, the Annunciation 1410)

We have entered a new season within our faith…
Those seasonal cycles of the Church.
For we have now entered the season of waiting…
Otherwise known as Advent.
Taken from the Greek word, parousia, meaning arrival.

As in we are waiting for an arrival.

Yet do we not seem to spend our lives waiting?

Waiting on things to take place, to happen, to hurry up, to change, to come or to go….

However Father Henri Nouwen, in his essay Waiting For God, reminds us that
“for many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.
And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something.”

So waiting seems to be something we are relegated to suffer.

But Father Nouwen continues…
“Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state
determined by events totally out of our hands.”

“But there is none this passivity in scripture.
Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.”

“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction
that somethings happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waitng person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and to live the situation
out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and
therefore want to go elsewhere.

“Waiting, then is not passive.”

“To wait open-endedly is an enormous attitude toward life.”

So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that
God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.
The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment,
trusting that new things will happen to us,
new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.

“That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

And so we begin to wait…
actively and radically waiting….

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8

(Father Henri Nouwen’s words taken from Watch for the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
/ Plough Publishing House

Hope found in a love that does not seek control

“He is lifted up as a passive victim, so the cross is a sign of desolation.
And he is lifted up in glory, so the cross becomes at the same time a sing of hope.
Suddenly we realize that the glory of God, the divinity of God,
bursts through in Jesus’ passion precisely when he is most victimized.”

Father Henri Nouwen
From Action to Passion
Bread and Wine
Reading for Lent and Easter

RSCN2935
(the blackberries are blooming / Julie Cook / 2016)

Father Henri Nouwen recounts in his reflection From Action to Passion the story of a dear friend who was dying from cancer. This friend, who was in his early 50’s, had been very active his entire life. As an adult he had worked tirelessly as a social activist.
Always doing, always giving…

This once active, constantly moving, individual was now finding himself lost in his illness and the maddening and ever growing frustration of his inability to go, to do, and now simply even to move.
His body weak and ravaged by disease, he was now on the receiving end of constant care by nurses and doctors. He was beginning the downward decent into that dark place of despair…
not knowing how to cope as he was now on the receiving end of life verses the active giving and doing end.

The thought dawned on Fr Nouwen that there were many more like his friend who were suddenly finding themselves at the same crossroads of life…being faced with that haunting question…
“how can I still do?”
Be it illness, accident or age at some point or another we all will be faced with the same challenging question…

Father Nouwen realized that his friend, as well as others, had come to see their self worth based solely in their ability to “do”.
And if they were no longer able to do, then what good were they…

Father Nouwen found his answer, the answer not only for his friend but for all of us, playing out during the final days of Jesus’ life on earth.
It was found in the dark of night, found in the garden of Gethsemane, on the fateful night in which Jesus was handed over to the authorities and arrested on grounds of treason.

It is noted that in the Greek translation of the Bible that Jesus was “handed over.”
Other translations offer the word betrayed…but it is within the phrase “handed over: that we find our answer to our question…

Father Nouwen notes that Jesus’ life can be divided into two very distinct parts and or actions.
The first part of his life and ministry was one of doing..preaching, teaching, traveling, healing..
The second half, and maybe even the most important,
was when he become the recipient or the one who was now “being done to”—
He was now on the receiving end verses the doing end.

His passion in turn became a type of waiting.
Waiting for things to be done to Him…
Waiting for questioning,
Waiting for a trial
Waiting to be flogged
Waiting to be sentenced
Waiting to be executed
Waiting to die
Waiting to rise…
All done with quiet determination, patience and a willingness to wait rather than control the situation.
Whereas Jesus could have easily orchestrated things in His favor, He willingly submitted to “being handed over” and to what all that would entail, even unto death…

So now we all come to see that our life’s vocation(s) can become one of receiving and waiting verses giving and doing.
Yet at the same time we know that there is a very real and difficult relinquishing of this control.
And it is in the ultimate giving of Jesus that we see our own example of action within the waiting and the receiving…

These are hard words to hear for those of us who are active, have found our worth in doing, giving, offering, speaking, teaching, helping…
“How on earth,” we hear ourselves lamenting, “can I be of service, viable, helpful, productive, beneficial, worthy… if I am to become passive, a recipient, a receiver…?”

Yet the answer is found and must be claimed in the Passion of Christ.

To be handed over, willingly…
to relinquish,
to let go,
to let God…

“Into your hands…”
“It is finished…”

We see that it has been a Love freely given…
It is a passionate Love steeped in selflessness
It is a Love that receives as much as it gives
It is a Love that gives of itself rather than seeks control
and it is a patient Love content on waiting

“So together we began to see that in the midst of our suffering and passion,
in the midst of our waiting, we can already experience the resurrection…”

Fr Henri Nouwen