When I think of the concept of longing and then mixed it in with the experience of grief, I always get the feeling, or perhaps the picture, of a deep, dark and cold ocean, a place of feeling alone and isolated…. for what was once a bright inner relationship with another, is now empty and only a void remains. Add to that the feeling that others don’t understand what is being gone through; or perhaps being incapable in showing respect and understanding in how uniquely we each deal with loss, can also add weight to ones suffering. No, grief even if supported by the love of friends and family, can at times only diminish ones inner pain temporality, for it can surface at the most unexpected times with the full force of losses realization.

Advent is meant to be a time of quiet waiting and reflection. It is also a time when we are asked to allow our longings, which can be deep and hungry, to surface. What is it that we long for? When alone what is it we pray for, our perhaps feel deeply about? When do we truly find rest? Most likely we find rest, true repose, with those we love…. wherein words or actions are not always necessary. The restless heart can only rest in love, all other diversions, being what they are, can only give some small relief from that inner longing (which is deep and abiding) for love and communion.

When grieving, we long for the return of what was lost. We look back instead of forward. That is what mourning is all about… the remembering of a smile, or phrase, or action, that the loved one did while still in our presence, now raised to the level of something almost transcendent. Such moments wound as well as heal and also point to the great truth about humans. This truth is that we are called to union, to love and it is in this image that will not let us rest on our journey through life, until we find what we are made for.

Advent tells us something of God’s longing and love for us. For he emptied himself taking the form of a slave…..we love and long for it because in Advent we are asked to participate in God’s longing and it is in our waiting, praying and pondering that we do this.

The crib, the birth, the life, the loving of others, the healings, and then his death… The tomb, cold and dark is like that Inner Ocean of sorrow and desire that we can seem at times to drown in. Yet in the end, it was not the cold and darkness that won out, though it certainly seemed to be that, at least for a time. No in the end, it was love, infinite love shown forth victorious.

So for a time, when grieving, we as well set at the cold dark tomb, waiting for the day of reunion; a path not always easy to tread. Christ, the helpless infant becoming the one who overcomes suffering and death. For us, yes each one of us. For those we still have with us and for those who have passed on. In spite of the feelings of isolation and even at times despair, advent points to the reality that things are not always what they seem. Perhaps it is faith that allows us to see deeper, or more broadly, or higher; a choice that must be made over and over again. Faith is not a road for the weak and faint hearted, nor is it for those who are self assured and totally confident. No, it is for those who understand that there are times when understanding the power of un-knowing can lead to a deeper insight into what our pilgrimages is all about. We can’t seem to get away from needing paradox in our seeking deeper understanding of life and it mysteries when dealing with the inner path that we are all on, like it or not.

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.