by Fr. Francis Martin
There are different kinds of waiting. Let’s name two of them: “full waiting” and “empty waiting.” An example of empty waiting can be found when someone is alone in a bar at three o’clock in the afternoon. There is hardly anyone there, the person sits at a table alone nursing his drink and “waits.” He is waiting for someone or even something. He is “empty” as he sits there but has no idea what might come along and fill the void. In fact, though he is aware of the void he cannot name what could fill it. Whoever or whatever it is, the one waiting is only vaguely aware of an absence. On the other hand, there is another person in the bar this afternoon. He is waiting expectantly for someone, his friend. His waiting, though aware of absence, still has the characteristic of being full. The difference between his waiting and that of the first person is that this second person can name the object of his expectation. His waiting is for a reality, a person, still absent but somehow already known. He knows that his expectation is for the presence of someone whom he is sure will soon be there. He is awaiting a real presence, a coming, an advent, and for this reason even the waiting is not empty. Perhaps to anticipate this arrival, this advent, he lets himself recall other meetings and the presence of his friend: thus, even his waiting has a promise of joy.
Those who enter into the Church’s preparation for the new presence, the advent of the Word incarnate, come to experience what the saints of the Church live through during Advent. Perhaps, if we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives, if we anticipate the Lord’s arrival, his Advent, we will be prepared for him all the way through this season which takes its name from his Arrival or Advent. Living this season earnestly will join us to many people who, though they may be in a time of “empty” waiting, will meet the Lord who fills our void with a meaning and discover this Christmas. Then, we may be able to give to those close to us a share in this grace of Christmas: a joy in the presence of the Lord who is born in the hearts of the faithful during this precious time. Thus, we can sing with deep understanding: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”