Advent is a time of waiting. As Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully wrote in his meditations on Advent, “man is one who waits.”
We wait for our studies to be completed, for a new job, for financial success, to be healthy. We wait for better times.
And singles wait to find their soul mate.
But waiting can become an intolerable burden, the pope tells us. And this is when we begin to lose hope; we begin to doubt whether we actually dare expect to find what we are looking for, what we are longing for.
The key to waiting with hope, is to imbue the time of waiting with true meaning.
To realize that every moment is meaningful, even though it doesn’t yet contain what we dare hope for. Still, the moment is filled with the presence of Jesus, the hidden Jesus.
Just as Jesus was hidden in Mary’s womb for nine months, just as he is hidden in the Eucharist, he is also hidden in our waiting-time. It’s up to us to meditate on his hidden presence and to find the hidden joy.
Take a lesson from little children, their eager eyes lighting up at the sight of Christmas lights, their hearts filled with the anticipation of Christmas morning. This anticipation is itself a joy.
People of different temperaments struggle with different aspects of waiting. Cholerics can be very impatient; they rush to accomplish something, to complete the task, achieve the goal. Cholerics need to learn to how to dwell quietly in the moment. If you are a choleric, make sure you spend some time each day in prayerful reflection and perhaps make a weekly holy hour. Learn to savor the present moment.
Melancholics struggle to find joy in the present moment; their temptation is to think “Poor me!” or “Am I the only one without a boyfriend?” or “I will never find the love of my life!” If you are melancholic, don’t let the spiral of negativity get a toe-hold in your thoughts. You need healthy social interaction: go to all the Christmas parties you are invited to, visit the elderly in the nursing home, help out at the food pantry, engage yourself in your community, serve the less fortunate. You need to get outside yourself, in service to others. This will bring you joy in the present moment. Serving others will be the antidote to your temptation to quiet desolation.
If you are a sanguine, your temptation is to throw yourself into the whirlwind of pre-Christmas shopping, parties and activities. We are a go-go-go culture and we need to learn to wait, as Father Robert Barron wisely points out. He suggests praying the Rosary to slow us down and to keep a list of people for whom we need to pray in our car, so the next times we are stuck in traffic we can pray the Rosary for their intentions. Our frenetic activity serves only to alienate us from both God and ourselves. Sanguines are naturally drawn to social events and activities, yet they need to spend time in prayer, cultivating their most important relationship with Christ.
I recently got a Facebook message from a phlegmatic man who asked whether he would ever achieve his dreams, since he felt he was always being overlooked and passed over by others who are more dynamic, more aggressive. Abraham must have felt discouraged, too. God promised that he would become the father of nations, yet he and his wife are growing older and older, and it’s looking less and less likely. If you are phlegmatic, fight against the temptation to settle for less than your heart desires. Motivate yourself by frequent reception of the sacraments, challenge yourself by setting new goals—whether spiritual, physical, or social. Don’t give up! And, as Pope Francis reminds us, we must go outside our comfort zone!
Whatever your temperament, Advent is a time to to “pause in silence to understand a presence.” It’s a time for enlarging our hearts, growing closer to Jesus who loves us, and for serving those in our communities who are much less fortunate than we are. And this will be the true source of our joy.