The Practice of Anticipation


We are now in the season of Advent. Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Many liturgical churches celebrate Advent as a re-enactment and celebration of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. As people who live on this side of the Cross, we also look forward to Christ’s Second Coming (Advent).

However, Advent also represents the “comings” of Christ into our lives in this “in-between” time of His physical arrivals. He brings His spiritual presence to our lives in prayer, worship, and life. As Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17, “I pray that … Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” we can experience the presence of Jesus in the here and now.

But as with any “coming,” there is a “waiting.” Advent teaches us to wait. The Jews had to wait 400 years from Malachi’s last word to the coming of the Word. During Advent we wait four weeks before Christ’s Mass comes. And in the sanctuary of our soul, we also have to wait for Christ to come and make His presence known.

As I’ve learned over the years, the Lord does not have to come to me on my beck and call. After all, He is the Lord and He makes His presence known only when He chooses. Although I am cognizant that Christ is always with me in a theological sense, my awareness of His close presence is more infrequent. Often, I have to wait; and it’s usually because my soul needs time to ready itself for His arrival.

However, the waiting for Christ is not like waiting for a fickle person. No, Christ always comes. It’s never a matter of “if,” but “when.” There is never any anxiety; only anticipation. And that’s what Advent teaches: as we wait for Christ, we wait in anticipation; with a sense of expectancy.

I have found this mindset helpful in practicing Silent/Contemplative prayer. Rather than trying to “ramp up” or fabricate the presence of Jesus (through words, emotions or thoughts), I simply wait for Jesus to “show up.” Sometimes He shows up in powerful, tangible ways; other times, I don’t sense anything on a conscious level. But later on (sometimes, much later) I see that He was there – kind of like the footprints in the sand or, better, fingerprints on my soul.

This practice of waiting with anticipation prepares me to “notice” more when Christ reveals Himself to me in ordinary life: like this morning when my grandson said, “Goodbye, Grandpa!” as I dropped him off at school. For some reason, I felt the kiss of God in that. Or when I notice a peculiar peace when I am working. Or when I feel a burden to pray for someone.

Practicing anticipation. Advent teaching us the deeper sense of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

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