It is a standing lesson to Christian souls that the amount and endurance of their work depends far more upon the character which they have previously formed than on the years of labour that they put into life. Patiently, quietly should a man fashion and temper that sole real tool with which all that he does is finally achieved. The only thing or person on which he can always depend is himself; on himself then, above all, must he concentrate. The preacher, the organiser, the administrator, is such in virtue of his own soul; because he has learnt to control himself, he can hope to control others; because he can set in order the household of his heart, he may dream of arranging in due and precise relation the affairs and the work of others; only if he has found the way to God can he dare venture to lead others in the same pathway since only he knows whither it leads. Only a man who has built carefully his character may hope one day to build the world “nearer to the heart’s desire.”-Bede Jarrett, O.P., Life of St. Dominic
We are constantly being formed. The hidden years of our life are just as important as the public ones, although it certainly doesn’t feel that way. The waiting takes on a desperate tone. That same question I mentioned before–when will my life begin?–is a false one. Without the patient and quiet (I love that Jarrett uses these two simple, perfect words) years of work, we will not be ready for the big events when they arrive. Especially in this liturgical season we think about preparedness. “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now,” says Paul in his letter to the Romans, but the time of waiting precedes a time of “the redemption of our bodies” (8:22-23). If we prepare our hearts for God, if we prepare a place for Him to be born within us, we are preparing for all else that life throws at us. We need neither to live in dread nor tap our feet impatiently. Every moment we are given is for preparation, is for self-immolation and Christ-growing-greater.
Veni, Domine Jesu! Rule over our hearts, silence our fears, and lead us, trembling and balking, to the manger, to the place where we find you, where you sweetly wait.