A Time to Wait

An Advent reflection

On a hectic December morning several years ago, as I was getting ready to go to work, into our bedroom marched my then two-and- half-year-old son Brian, clad in nothing but a diaper, and holding a bottle of milk like a royal scepter. He looked at me, and in a triumphant voice proclaimed: "Jesus is coming!!!" But before I could congratulate myself for our having done such a fine job in Advent catechesis, he immediately followed that proclamation with a second: "Go! Go! Power Rangers!!" And with this solemn invocation of the superheroes of the day, he did an about-face and marched back into the living room.

There is a way in which this brief encounter sums up the challenge of the Advent season: the confrontation between our faith and a culture often tone deaf to the values of Advent. One fundamental aspect of this confrontation (and it need not always be a confrontation) between faith and contemporary culture is the impact of modern technology on our experience of time.

The clock may be the most important machine of modern technology. Until the late thirteenth century, most clocks were either sundials or water clocks, both of which kept time by careful alignment with the rhythms of the natural world. With the advent of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth century, and its mass production in the nineteenth century, time became separated from natural rhythms, both internal (heartbeat, breathing, hunger...

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About the Author

Richard R. Gaillardetz is the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College. His books include: Keys to the Council:  Unlocking the Teaching of Vatican II (co-authored with Catherine Clifford, Liturgical Press, 2012), When the Magisterium Intervenes (editor, Liturgical Press, 2012), Ecclesiology for a Global Church:  A People Called and Sent (Orbis, 2008) and The Church in the Making (Paulist, 2006).