In today’s Office of Readings, St. Anselm laments and cries out, “Lord, how long will it be? How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you turn your face away from us? When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes and show us your face? When will you give yourself back to us?”
These are the cries of a heart that knows what it is like to long for God and to desire the consolation of His presence. I think we can all identify with these cries at least to some degree. Contrary to what we might think, to experience this in any measure is a gift from God. In fact, the Catechism says that, “The desire for God is written in the human heart” (CCC, 27). In other words, to be human is to desire God and long for His presence.
We are so accustomed to seeking the immediate satisfaction of our desires and the fulfillment of our longings that we do not know the gift of spiritual struggle as we wait upon the Lord. In other words, we see our desires and longings as something to be overcome or eclipsed altogether while God sees them as a way of drawing us little by little into a deeper relationship of trust and surrender.
In the reading for Evening Prayer, St. Peter reminds us that “In the Lord’s eyes, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as a day. The Lord does not delay in keeping his promise… Rather, he shows you generous patience, since he wants none to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9). We see here that God’s patience is ordered toward our repentance and deeper conversion so that we may be saved.
So even as we cry out to God, expressing the deepest longings and desires of our hearts, we can trust that the Lord will not delay in keeping His promises. But if it seems that He has delayed, let us take courage knowing that He has given us this time to draw closer to Him. We need not ignore the suffering we sometimes experience due to desires that have been left unsatisfied. But even these can become a prayer, which in turn fosters greater intimacy with the God for whom we wait. This is what Advent is all about.