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Advent Reflection

By Sister Joan Mahoney, CND

Advent: a Time to Wait

For those of us who know the story of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, the founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame, consider all the waiting that was part of her life, trying to form a community of secular sisters, first in Troyes then in Montreal, deciding she was called to go to Montreal to be the first teacher and when she arrived, there were no children of school age and the list goes on. No wonder, she looked to Mary of Nazareth as a woman who also found God’s will in going on the journeys of life, waiting for the meaning of her life to unfold. The season of Advent invites us to learn how to wait, to slow down in order to experience what is truly important, what are God’s designs for us.

Personally, I am not good at waiting. Even if I look patient on the outside; on the inside I am rushing to the next thing. I often am right on time or a little bit late. God forbid I would be early! Perhaps this Advent I can learn to wait…a little! I am offering some reflections on Advent waiting. See if they touch something in you!

From Readings of the First Sunday of Advent

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made…”

Jeremiah 33:14

“Your ways O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.”

Psalm 25: 4

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength…”

Luke 21: 36


Caryll Houselander, Reed of God (Reflections on Mary)

I am your reed, sweet shepherd, glad to be.
Now, if you will, breathe out your joy in me
And make bright song.
Or fill me with the soft moan of your love
When your delight has failed to call or move
The flock from wrong.

Make children’s songs. Or any songs to fill
Your reed with breath of life; but at your will
Lay down the flute,
And take repose, while music infinite
Is silence in your heart; and laid on it
Your reed is mute.


ADVENT: a Time to Learn How to Wait

Ron Rolheiser

Carlo Carretto, the renowned spiritual writer, spent many years living alone as a hermit in the Sahara desert. He wrote a number of books from that place of solitude, including one entitled, Letters from the Desert. In that book, he has a message for those of us who live busy lives in the world. “What is God trying to say to us in our busy lives?” He suggests this: “Be patient! Learn to wait—for each other, for love, for happiness, for God!” Learn to wait! That’s not something we do easily and many of our problems flow from that. We often don’t wait properly for things.

Annie Dillard shares this story about proper waiting: She had been watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon and was fascinated by the process until she grew impatient with how long it was taking and, to speed things up, took a candle and heated the cocoon, albeit very gently. The experiment worked, but it was a mistake in the long run. The butterfly emerged more quickly; however, because adding heat violated something within the natural process, the butterfly was born with wings too weak to fly. Haste and prematurity had stunted and deformed a natural process. Some things can’t be rushed.

Dillard understood immediately what had gone wrong. Impatience had triggered an irreverence that had interfered with and damaged the natural order of things. In essence, the Christmas gift had been opened too early; a process that needed an allotted period of time had been short-circuited. There hadn’t been enough advent.

Those of us who are immigrants endure great periods of waiting: waiting in line to secure documents, waiting on hold to speak with lawyers or social workers, waiting for an interpreter to explain a child’s report card or a water bill. Some immigrants wait to hear if they will receive legal residency or deferred action and be allowed to stay in the only home they have ever known; others suffer behind bars, waiting for the day that they will be deported.

Suggestions for Reflection

  • How can I wait like a reed so that God’s breath flows through me?
  • Is God trying to say to me in my busy life “Be patient! Learn to wait”?
  • When is my impatience a form of irreverence?
  • How can I be in solidarity this Advent with those forced to wait, the immigrant, the refugee…?