How Advent Helps the Christian to Hurry Up and Wait

By: Nick Jones, Rhode Island University

What does it mean to hurry up and wait? According to Dictionary.com, “Hurry up and wait humorously describes a situation where you are rushing to get somewhere on time, only to have to wait around once you get there.” This a situation common in nearly everyone’s human experience. It is not hard for one to remember a situation wherein he wanted something good to come to pass, spent much time preparing for it, and then had to wait a long while for it to happen. Perhaps he got tired of waiting, only to miss out on the experience once he stopped waiting. This can be extremely frustrating, as it can lead to impatience, or maybe even despair. Properly understood, however, an attitude of hurry up and wait can promote a very healthy spiritual life. It will also lead to a flourishing of the virtue of hope, defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia as “a movement of the appetite towards a future good, which though hard to attain is possible of attainment” and as “…a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity [or Heaven] as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.” While Christians are always called to Hope on account of Baptism, through an intentional living out of the season of Advent they are assisted in this endeavor and are spurred to hurry up and wait for three future goods at all times.

Before discussing the three goods, it is useful to define Advent. This is the first season of the liturgical year marked by a sobriety in worship and by a heightened sense of penance. Reckoned backwards from Christmas day, it encompasses the four preceding Sundays and all the weekdays following them. It is a period of preparation for the joys of Christmas and for the reality of the eventual return of Christ at the end of time. The readings of the Masses and Offices of the season are taken in large part from Old Testament messianic prophecies and from the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, while liturgical prayers draw upon these readings’ themes.  

The first good for which Advent spurs the Christian to hurry up and wait is that of Christmas. Christ’s first coming had been eagerly awaited by His people for millennia. Though few of His people accepted Him, those who did had their hope utterly fulfilled. While the Jews of old were uncertain as to the time of the Messiah’s coming, the Christian is certain of it. This good is the one for which it is easiest to hurry up and wait, because it has already occurred. How does the Christian hurry up and wait for Christmas? He first recognizes the value of waiting for a good thing. He also sees the need to prepare himself for the reception of so great a good. He prays for an increase in patience. These practices manifest themselves in a myriad of ways. Waiting for the good of Christmas enables the Christian to more fully engross himself in the symbolism of the season; he too yearns for a long-awaited savior, just as he hears in the readings at Mass. A desire to be prepared for so great a feast compels him to confess his sins. He hurries each day to renew these practices so that he might be ready to joyfully celebrate the birth of the Savior.  

The second good for which Advent spurs the Christian to hurry up and wait is that of the Parousia. This refers to the second coming of Christ in glory at the end of time when He will judge the living and the dead. Liturgically, Advent calls upon the past Nativity of Christ as a reason to hope in His return. The Christian finds his inspiration for hoping in this return in his certain faith in Nativity (cf. Preface II of Advent). If God did not let His people down in the past, neither will He do it in the future. It is in this expectation of the Parousia that the Christian’s discipline of Advent extends to the rest of the year. He knows when Christmas will occur and so he can plan to save some preparation until the last moment. Quite the opposite, however, he knows not when the Lord shall return (cf. Matthew 25:13). Thus, his plan must be one of constant vigilance. The Christian begins each liturgical year with the sobering reminder that the same Christ who once entered the world in a humble stable will someday return in terrifying glory. Thus, he resolves to live in light of this reality. He is steadfast in his faith. He devoutly assists at Holy Mass. He mournfully confesses his sins, for fear that he may be cut off from God when He comes. Adopting a sense of urgency, hurrying up and waiting for the Parousia, he grows in holiness, and his relationship with God flourishes. Thus, he comes to understand the expectation of the Parousia as a true good, as something to help keep him honest. At the same time, the Christian can be tempted to fall into an attitude of indifference in this area. He may think, “Christ has been gone for nearly 2000 years, He won’t return in my lifetime.” This spiritual sloth is remedied by a recognition of the third good.

No one can escape the reality of death. Each man will at some point come before the Almighty to render an account of his life, whereupon he either will be admitted into Heaven (with the possibility of Purgatory beforehand) or condemned to Hell. This Particular Judgement is the third good for which Advent spurs the Christian to hurry up and wait. Perhaps the Christian will not be alive on Earth when Christ returns. Perhaps his own Particular Judgement will be separate from the General Judgment of the Parousia. Whatever the case, there still comes a time in his life where he must own up to all his misdeeds. Thus, the reality of death is understood as a good because the Christian who lives a good life ought to have a reasonable hope in dying a good death. While not explicitly a part of Advent’s focus, the hope of a fulfilled death necessarily flows from the other two goods. The Christian hurries up and waits for a fulfilled death by living out his faith with great vigor. He recognizes that each day could be his last and thus desires to always possess God’s sanctifying grace within his soul. Confident in God’s mercy yet never presumptuous, the Christian looks forward to finally being able to see his Savior and partaking of a full measure of the redemption won by Him.  

By embracing an attitude of hurry up and wait, the Christian understands more fully the virtue of hope. Advent, placed providentially at the start of each liturgical year, encourages the Christian to hurry up and wait for three goods. He hurries up and waits for Christmas and learns to forgo certain pleasures until their due time. He hurries up and waits for the Parousia and learns to be always prepared for Christ’s return. He hurries up and waits for his own death and Particular Judgement and thus hopes for a perfect end and union with God.

Edited By: Ariel Hobbs

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