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Posts Tagged ‘Patience’

AdventCandlesI want to remind people that we are technically not in the Christmas season just yet, in spite of what retailers and radio stations would have us believe.  Don’t get me wrong — I love this time of year, and rejoice with any Christmas-lover that it is time to sing “Fa-la-la-la-la” again.  But, technicality of technicalities, it is in fact Advent.

Is Advent counter-cultural?  Yes, but for reasons that have nothing to do with religion.  Advent is a season of waiting, a season of expectation.  We commemorate the expectation of the birth of Christ, and we anticipate His Second Coming at the end of time.

But it doesn’t matter all that much what we are waiting for, because any emphasis on waiting itself implicitly flies in the face of our instant-gratification, “now-now-now” society.

Imagine a world in which everything we want is immediate, though.  This would mean no more surprises, no more joy of anticipation, no more sense of adventure, no more wonder…

Needless to say, I don’t mind being a “sign of contradiction” here…though, of course, I’m not sure how well I succeed in it.  I am as prone to impatience as anyone else.   Nevertheless, as a Catholic, I am very grateful for this special annual opportunity to observe the expectation of the one thing most worth waiting for.

That said, I thought it might help to enhance our appreciation of Advent — or, if you do not observe Advent yourself, to better understand what it means to those who do — by offering a short outline of the ways in which we hold that God prepared a waiting world for the coming of Christ throughout the millennia.  I’ll list just two of them here, and we’ll pick up with #3 tomorrow or Wednesday.  Bear with me — you may find that you didn’t expect all of the preparatory milestones I list.

1. Creation

CreationYes, the creation of the universe is itself the first step.  All things were created through and for Christ, the Eternal Word.  Everything that happened before the first human beings appeared — from the Big Bang through the dinosaurs, ice age, etc. — was a preparation for humankind, for the world was made for man; man, in turn, was made for God.

2. God’s Solicitude About Man

 

Adam_&_Eve_02God makes human beings in His own image and establishes them as the monarchs and priests of His creation.  Our first parents disobey God and go astray…but God does not abandon them.

There are two things of note in the Biblical account of the Fall.  First, God clothes Adam and Eve with animal skins (tradition sees in this the first animal sacrifice, as an animal obviously had to be killed in order for the skins to be obtained).  Mankind’s survival throughout the ages owes itself to the mercy and providence of God, which I think is aptly expressed in this primordial gesture.

Secondly, we have the proto-evangelion, the first promise of redemption:

[Addressing the serpent] I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.

Genesis 3:15

Here we have the prophecy of a mother giving birth to a son who will save the human race, defeating the serpent (“He will strike at your head…”), though it will cost him something to do so (“…while you strike at his heel”).  This promise lies near the root of humankind’s deepest (if forgotten) memory.

And I think that’s a good place to stop for now.

Images from Wikipedia

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The PenitentI started this post yesterday, but didn’t manage to finish it — though it would have been more apropos if I had, since Friday is a day of penance for Catholics and other Christians.  Nevertheless, every day is a good day to ask: “Is penance still relevant?”

All right — we need to first establish what penance is not.  Forget about familiar images of shirtless monks flagellating themselves with heavy whips until they are nearly half-dead and bathed in blood (there is a practice of mortification involving a rope, but it is much milder than that).  We Catholics do not hate our bodies, and I cannot emphasize that strongly enough.

Apart from religious reasons, I would argue that penance (prudently undertaken, of course) has tremendous benefits for the human person in general, and for today’s society in particular.

First, it encourages patience.  Without a doubt, we live in an instant gratification society.  We want what we want when we want it.

NYC_subway_riders_with_their_newspapersWe often complain (rightly) that our society is too busy, and that the professional world moves too fast and demands too much of our time and energy.  But what we tend to forget is the reason for this.  Our jobs and culture allow us so little leisure precisely because we are an immediate-satisfaction society.  Satisfaction of this desire demands that our industries, businesses, and other providers be constantly at the grindstone.

A spirit of penance encourages us to delay satisfaction and gratification, to say “no” to ourselves in the moment so as to build discipline and pave the way for greater, deeper rewards.  If 25 people in our society embraced a spirit of penance, imagine what effect that might have on our “go-go,” “get-get” culture.

The second benefit penance has for our society is related to this point.  Like I said, we modern Westerners have the tendency to move way too fast.  When we fast, when we deny ourselves certain legitimate pleasures for a time, or when we impose rigorous disciplines on ourselves, we then give ourselves occasion to grow in gratitude.  We come to realize that all good things are gifts from God, on Whom we depend for our every need.  This realization helps us to slow down and appreciate even the little things in life that we take for granted.

I could go on longer, but enough said for now.  Hopefully, this illustrates how even those aspects of traditional Christian teaching that are counter-intuitive are, in the last analysis, life-giving, and meant only for the good of humankind.

Images from Wikipedia

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NativityAnother great article from Catholic Lane.  Not sure who’s going to read this on Christmas Eve…but hey, no harm no foul.

Here’s the link, if you want to read it — it’s short and, in this blogger’s humble opinion, well worth your time:

“Long Lines and Other Christmas Hardships: Gifts from Above?”

Image from Wikipedia

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