Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent: the waiting is the hardest part

A few days ago it was my mother's birthday and my sister and I were talking about her, about how it seemed like we were always anxiously awaiting her. When we were small she used to leave us places alone and go off for long periods of time. My sister said, "Remember how we watched for every car, hoping the next one would be hers, how we worried she wasn't coming back?" I was reminded of that when I saw this photo today that expressed Advent waiting (h/t Bilgrimage).

I don't think I've ever understood Advent - everyone seems to revel in the waiting. Maybe it's the difference between waiting for someone you believe might never come, and anticipating someone you know is coming? Or maybe I still don't understand. I'm listening to an audio Advent retreat by Larry Gillick SJ - hope it will help me figure it out. The retreat starts out with a prayer and a poem by David Whyte ...

- David Whyte

if you move carefully
through the forest
like the ones
in the old stories
who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,
you come
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.
requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,
that can make
or unmake
a life,
that have patiently
waited for you,
questions that have no right
to go away.


Blogger Dina said...

Yeah, it is unfortunate how our childhood experience can ruin the traditional religious imagery later in life. For me, for example, "Father" just doesn't work.

I guess Advent is part of the drama of the Church. I never even knew about Advent or Advent calendars until I lived in the Arkansas Bible Belt 1996-2002.

It was best "explained" to me, though, at the monastery in Switzerland. Our valley was shrouded in cold dark fog for months. But as Advent progressed, our volunteer coordinator Sister would encourage us daily by saying, "The light [Light?] is coming!"

11:57 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Dina,

For me too about fathers and God the Father - I didn't know my father. So true about our images of God and the baggage we sometimes have to work through.

A monastery in Switzerland ... sounds so interesting :)

12:26 AM  
Blogger Dina said...

I wish everyone in the world would do a volunteer stint at that contemplative monastery. The world would become a better place.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Dina said...

This is where I had a few of the best years of my life:

11:29 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for the link. The grounds look beautiful there. I especially liked that one structure with the different colored lights inside. There is something very attractive about living as part of a community. What was daily life as a volunteer like there?

I've never been to a monastery. My RCIA class spent a weekend at Vina but I didn't end up going along.

The closest I've come was three weeks at a zendo in Hawaii. We worked in the daytime helping build a new zendo and doing chores, meditated a lot the rest of the time, but they weren't cloistered - we went out to a movie, restaurants, etc.

Is a kibbutz kind of like a monastery?

1:13 AM  
Blogger Dina said...

Your last question threw me!
Give me some time to think about all these questions.

12:28 AM  

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