Simone Weil, a Jewish writer, wrote: “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Many know well that we are living in the heart of an Empire. For the biblical Christian this is exile. As the psalmist writes: “My soul is waiting for the Lord.” And we are waiting in exile. Are we waiting in hope?
As I wait for the feast of Christmas celebrated with family and friends, I am drawn to friends in the former East Germany. For years they waited in the underground. Because they could wait in hope, that which was below ground became a ground swell that brought down the Berlin Wall 15 years ago. The untold story within became a public rallying call without that defeated the story of empire.
Waiting, as we see in the people on the first pages of the Gospel, is waiting with a sense of promise. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Anna and Simeon have received a promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that is starting to grow. We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun in us. Waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.
Waiting is active. Those waiting know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing. Active waiting means to be fully present to the moment. Biblical waiting is not wishing but hoping. Our biblical friends in the Christmas scene were not filled with wishes, they were filled with hope. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us far beyond our imagination, fantasy or prediction – my Christmas “wish” for you.
Paul E. Hansen