Every year, I reflect on my Advent failures. Lately, I’ve even gotten so that I am thinking about failing before I even begin.
While I’m sure there’s a bit of memento mori in all of this, I’m not sure it’s the right approach.
It started off well and good: I was reflecting and trying to improve. And then it went sideways, and I almost started to plan to fail. (Exhibit A: I didn’t even try to get my Advent wreath out in time for the first Sunday of Advent.)
As I was sitting in Mass, wrangling a wiggly four-year-old and trying to keep him from talking (too much) to the (very amused) couple behind us, I heard Father say something remarkable.
“Advent is about waiting.”
He continued, in the parts I heard, to expound on how much we all hate to wait. We don’t do it well, and our prayers reflect it. We demand answers right now, or at least in five minutes. Waiting is something for other people; we’d like our latte with extra froth and that’s plenty of time to get the nod from God.
Waiting sucks, not to put too fine a point on it. And, when I stop to think about a certain devout someone in my life telling me about praying for patience, what I’m really hearing is a plea to get better at waiting.
Maybe that’s what patience is to us, in our modern zip-zap-zing culture, where you need only to say the name of your in-house digital assistant, followed by the question you didn’t know the answer to five seconds previously. (Exhibit B: Will you remember the answer to whatever you last asked Alexa/Google/Siri? Does whatever you just asked even matter? (Yes, it will rain in two hours, you should wear a jacket, and the score to the game from last night was 56-27.))
Consider the Virgin Mary in a title henceforth unconsidered: Queen of Waiting.
The Rosary is full of Mary’s waiting. Let’s look at the Joyful Mysteries, in honor of Advent:
- The Annunciation: Mary waits to hear what Gabriel has to say, and then she says Yes.
- The Visitation: Mary waits to tell anyone about her pregnancy, because she’s going to wait with Elizabeth until John is born.
- The Nativity: Mary waits nine months for the birth of the Messiah, which comes after she’s waited on the back of a donkey to find a place to stay, which turns out to be a barn.
- The Presentation: Mary waits to hear a prophecy about her Son and herself and then waits to see how exactly it will be fulfilled.
- Finding Jesus in the Temple: Mary waits three days without her Son, who’s “lost” (but not).
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