The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The season is marked by expectation, anticipation and preparation. It seems that as the world becomes supposedly less complicated through technological advances, we still find ourselves waiting. Waiting for that package to arrive that we ordered, waiting in line at the various government agencies, waiting for that great job to come along or waiting for that elusive perfect relationship. It never ends. The bottom line is that even in our fast-paced world, with postmodern conveniences, we are all waiting for something. However, as strange as it sounds, during the Advent season, we discover a purpose to our waiting.

I recall as a seminarian in Barbados one year during Advent, the priest to whom I was assigned invited the congregation to write down on a slip of paper a word that named something that is keeping us from getting closer to God. He suggested it might be a fear, a resentment, or an attitude that shuts us off from the love God so wants to give. We were to fold the paper over a few times, grasp it tightly in one hand, and make a fist around it while he began to preach on the Scripture readings.

After a minute, my hand began to ache. At two minutes, my hand grew numb. At three minutes, the hand started shaking. He told us to open our hands. It was hard to do that. After grasping the piece of paper so tightly, my hand had stiffened and seemed to have a mind of its own. I really do not remember what else he said that day, but I have never forgotten that lesson. Hold on to a resentment, fear, or bad attitude long enough and you will become paralyzed. As we begin Advent, we start with the realization that we need to let go of any and all spiritual impediments we are holding onto. Advent is a time of receiving. It is hard to receive if your hands are clasped shut. Remember Advent begins a new liturgical year. It represents new beginnings.

As we wait in long lines this Advent season, or as we wait for anything really, I think it is important that we remember the waiting of those expecting the Messiah, and always wait with patience, humility, and expectant hope in a state of prayer. I know it is difficult, but especially during Advent, waiting prayerfully and patiently, in the manner of our Lord and his blessed Mother, is not only a good spiritual discipline, but could also lower our risk of holiday-induced blood pressure. It seems like we are all waiting for something, so why not use these experiences to enhance our Advent disciplines by prayerfully waiting, joining our prayers with all the saints?

Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes