The holy impatience of waiting for a baby
A Reflection for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
You can find today’s readings here.
“At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Lk 1:44)
This past weekend, for Catholic Women Preach, I offered a reflection on the fears Mary must have been facing throughout her pregnancy, especially while Joseph was considering divorcing her. Speaking from my own experience, as I’m currently in my ninth month of pregnancy, I reflected on how Mary’s fears, like so many new parents’, were material and physical, whereas the things that could offer her reassurance—the angel’s rejoinder to “Be not afraid” and the promise that her child would be the Emmanuel, “God with us”—were intangible. It is difficult, as I now know all too well, to soothe anxiety about tangible, material realities with the intangible promise of profound love.
With these fears in mind, one can imagine the joy and relief Mary felt when Joseph decided to take her into his home rather than divorcing her, leaving her alone to raise her child. It is that joy and relief that bursts out of today’s readings: Mary hurries out to the countryside to visit her cousin Elizabeth and share her good news, and Elizabeth responds with her own great joy, sharing that she is pregnant, too, after wanting a child for so long.
Joy and hope get at two important parts of Mary and Elizabeth’s experience of waiting for their sons to be born, but there’s another thing at play here that is equally important and sacred: Call it yearning, longing, even impatience.
Every Sunday when we pray the Lord’s Prayer at Mass, we hear the priest say that we “wait in joyful hope” for Jesus’ second coming. Joy and hope get at two important parts of Mary and Elizabeth’s experience of waiting for their sons to be born, but there’s another thing at play here that is equally important and sacred: Call it yearning, longing, even impatience. It’s the relentless desire a parent feels as the due date draws near and the kicking grows stronger, that feeling of “I know you’re in there, but hurry up and come out so I can meet you!” It’s a love and a longing that is expressed beautifully in today’s first reading from the Song of Songs: “Let me see you, let me hear your voice / For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
Mary and Elizabeth are filled with that feeling in this moment, especially as Mary’s material anxieties have (albeit briefly) been put aside and as the two women’s joy combines, as friends’ enthusiasm often does, into something greater than its parts.
In these last days of Advent, we are invited into that joyful hope, that holy impatience, for the coming of Christmas.
Get to know Colleen Dulle, associate editor and host of “Inside the Vatican”
Favorite Advent or Christmas themed art?
Just one line from “O Holy Night” takes the cake: “He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
Favorite Christmas tradition?
It’s tough to choose! This year, since I can’t travel to see family, I’m especially missing spending time with them.
Which project are you most proud to have worked on this year at America?
Way back in January, the “Inside the Vatican” team produced this deep dive episode on Rutilio Grande, the Salvadoran Jesuit whose killing sparked Archbishop Oscar Romero to become much more outspoken about social justice. The most moving part, for me, was hearing from one of Fr. Grande’s parishioners, a campesino who still lives in the Salvadoran mountains, about the day Fr. Grande was killed, and what it meant to him to see his former pastor beatified.
Favorite Christmas recipe?
It’s a secret family recipe for my great grandma’s Polish cookies—I’m not telling you! 🤫