Monday, December 19, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Waiting is an art

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a well-known and greatly loved Christian pastor, seminary teacher, and theologian who was imprisoned and eventually executed by the Nazis for his resistance to Hitler. Bonhoeffer was the author of the widely read classics: "The Cost of Discipleship", "Life Together, " and "Letters and Papers from Prison."

The following is from a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer, from prison on December 13, 1943. It is in God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas‬, published last year. It was translated by O.C. Dean, and edited by Jana Riess. Go HERE for more details or to purchase the book.

Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.

Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendour of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them . . .

For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, giving, and becoming.

Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is your only token of our love this Christmas-tide. We shall both experience a few dark hours - why should we disguise that from each other? We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the question of why, over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand . . . And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from Cod. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succour in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.


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