Hoping in Loving Trust

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Both were righteous in the sight of God. They walked blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, for Elizabeth was barren and both had grown elderly.
Luke 1: 6-7

In today’s gospel from Luke, we hear described the fulfillment of intense and painful longing in a very personal way. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, both of whom are “righteous in the sight of God” are old and childless. For members of a culture in which the bearing of children is one’s contribution to the future, to be childless could lead to hopelessness.

Yet, Elizabeth and Zechariah live in hope and trust, without having a specific object for their hope. They live out their day to day lives in fidelity and worship thereby continuing to hope, not for any specific object but rather only in the Lord. In East Coker the poet T.S. Eliot writes: “I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing . . . .” Transcendent hope is not hope for a specific object or outcome. It is rather hope in a person; it is an act of loving trust that if we continue to live out our call and commitment in good will that God’s loving plan will be fulfilled.

When we celebrate Advent, in its historical significance, we know the outcome. We know, at least as Christian believers, that the promise is fulfilled in Jesus. But when we realize that we are always living Advent in our lives, then we recognize our identification with Elizabeth and Zechariah. Quite often we are waiting and hoping without any idea of what we are waiting and hoping for. Despite a cultural bias that would suggest that we, through our own capacities, can make of our life whatever we want, our experience is quite otherwise. Most of the time the best we can do is to do our duty to God and each other in the moment and then trust that somehow God’s love and mercy are to be trusted. We hope to know the arrival of salvation, even when we have no idea what that salvation will look like.

The Incarnation

Now that the time had come
when it would be good
to ransom the bride
serving under the hard yoke
of that law
which Moses had given her,
the Father, with tender love,
spoke in this way:
“Now you see, Son, that your bride
was made in your image,
and so far as she is like you
she will suit you well;
yet she is different, in her flesh,
which your simple being does not have.
In perfect love this law holds:
that the lover become
like the one he loves;
for the greater their likeness
the greater their delight.
Surely your bride’s delight
would greatly increase
were she to see you like her,
in her own flesh.”
“My will is yours,”
the Son replied,
“and my glory is
that your will be mine.
This is fitting, Father,
what you, the Most High, say;
for in this way
your goodness will be more evident,
your great power will be seen
and your justice and wisdom.
I will go and tell the world,
spreading your word
of your beauty and sweetness
and of your sovereignty.
I will go seek my bride
and take upon myself
her weariness and labors
in which she suffers so;
and that she may have life,
I will die for her,
and lifting her out of that deep,
I will restore her to you.”

St. John of the Cross

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