C. Russell Elliott
In quiet meditation the sounds of silence have their own
way of pounding upon my consciousness and demanding
attention. A glance, a thought, a memory, it makes its loud
presence known, and I find myself waiting, waiting, to know
what may follow.
Waiting is a peculiarly human thing to do. Animals seem
to do a lot of waiting, lying or crouching in seeming
relaxation, but their attention is fixed on the present.
Animals live fundamentally in the present, while humans
enjoy past, present and future. My waiting is a power
reservoir for shaping and controlling my future, what is
about to be, for me.
I wait in anticipation, in expectation, until the phone rings
or the doorbell sounds, then my hope may be fulfilled. I
wait in anxiety until the doctor’s report arrives, until my job
application is answered, trying to prepare for good or bad
news. At my current age, recently celebrating my 100th
birthday, I wait in prayerful patience to hear the owl call my
name, wanting to be prepared, wanting to be like the elderly
Pope John XXIII who remarked, “My bags are packed, I am
ready to go”, my one regret always being the things still
unstarted, or unfinished.
Both nature and human nature seem to possess an inner
rhythm of working and waiting, starting and stopping,
speeding and stillness. Each year has its winter, each week
its Sabbath, each day its night. Trees bloom and shed
foliage to wait for Spring. A seed waits in dark soil until the
sun draws it up out of the soil. Every human needs to wait
full nine months before separating from mother to fend for
I wait, I undergo darkness, and cold and anxiety, and my
waiting may be long or short, fruitful or unfruitful, good or
bad, all outside the limiting bounds of space and time. Only
then may I begin to appreciate, only then may I begin to
understand, God Himself, and His enduring way with me.
During his Bar Mitzvah temple-visit, Jesus waited behind
because of total absorption in what was happening,
forgetting family and home because of his heavenly Father’s
business. On many occasions, He waited instead of saying
an angry word or doing a hurting act. He waited in silence,
He waited in sorrow, He waited in pain. Who is not moved
to probe the mind and heart of Jesus as He waited for
Lazarus to die, for Peter to deny Him, for Judas to betray
Him? Only God Himself knows fully the saving power of
waiting in love.
In the long erratic story of humankind it is God’s constant
unwavering waiting that makes salvation possible – and it is
humanity’s determined refusal to understand His waiting
that continues to delay our salvation to this very day. In
Eden all was well until Adam-humanity began to misuse
what was theirs to use, then they began to hide from God,
under the illusion that God would not know. Logically God
should then have ended humanity, but He is merciful and
He began to wait for humanity to return to righteousness or
goodness. Earth is no longer heaven, humanity is no longer
righteous, its habitat is a dark and menacing thorns-andthistles
wilderness, and Cain cries that his punishment is
more than he can bear, though it is of his own making.
Righteousness or goodness is the normal way of life for
And God still waits, in eternal patience. Age upon age,
place after place, individual after individual, God tried
reaching out hopefully, each one eventually losing the way.
Moses and Israel may have been the most promising, but
finally God regretfully had to admit that they too ‘should
not enter into my rest’. Jesus, using a parable to speak about
Himself said ‘I will send my son, they will respect him’. His
story unfolds in Christianity’s worldwide and still erratic
path, a story of God still waiting.
Late on a weekday’s afternoon, I entered the prayer-gem
St. John’s to ponder my way. The sun through the west
window sent a colour-ray almost to the altar, the throne of
God’s Presence, the mercy seat where He waits among us. I
raise my eyes to the invisible door that opens into heaven to
join the hosts inside, while my lips soundlessly shape the
opening words of the Fourth Gospel. It is the Christmas
Gospel. The words are a painting, a portrait, of the timeless
uncreated Creator of all, the Word who is with God, Who is
God, He is Light in whom is no darkness, the Light who is
the life of all; God is Love in whom there is no darkness of
sin. Gloria in excelsis Deo, this God is made flesh and dwells
among us and we behold His glory.
Biblical scholars and other theologians have probed the
glory of Jesus as ‘God made manifest’; yet, a parable of His
own telling may do it best of all. I wonder if S. Luke himself
realized how profound, how profoundly simple, it seems
when he was writing the parable of the Prodigal Son.
I myself am the prodigal son, with good childhood
teaching, maturing with self-confidence that I can handle
liquor, drugs, casual sex, and money. But I lack knowledge
of a world bent upon sucking me dry like an Egyptian
plague, then discarded. I hit the bottom – until I
remember who I really am. In the meantime my Father
waits at home, in anxious prayer, without panic or searching,
waiting, waiting, until I remember. He cannot help to save
me until I remember that I need saving. When I turn
homewards, He rushes to meet and greet me, with rejoicing.
God waits. He knows how to wait. Eventually He will
win, He always wins. Some day He will be All-in-All again
– and I will be home, where I belong.
God waits – to win.
Someday I will rise and return to my Father’s home, as a