Sunday 7 November 2021

Waiting in Joy - John Scally - An Advent Journey

Waiting in Joy: 
An Advent Journey
John Scally
ISBN 9781788120098
eISBN 9781788122351
eISBN 9781788122344

This is the tenth book published by Messenger Publications that I have read in as the last few months. The first I read was, Saint Ignatius of Loyola: A Convert's Story by Patrick Corkery SJ, and this was one I picked up after working through a few of them. It was one of two on Advent, the other was a great disappointment, Alert, Aware, Attentive - Advent Reflections by John Cullen, but this one I loved. I read this book before advent, so I could review it. I know I will use it this year during advent, and likely again in years to come. 

The description of this booklet is:

“Advent is often the poor relation compared to Christmas. Yet to prepare properly for Christmas we need to journey through Advent in an uplifting way. This unique collection of original reflections, prayers and scripture quotations will help you to do just that. 

It is designed so that you can celebrate the birth of the Lord having the love of Jesus surround you; the light of Jesus lead you; the peace of Jesus fill you; the power of  Jesus aid you; the joy of Jesus thrill you; the presence of Jesus dwell within you. This book will resonate with anyone who is seeking to integrate their daily life, their aspirations and their needs, with an intimate relationship with God in this special season. 

John Scally, theologian, writer and broadcaster, aims to approach the familiar in a new way and he uses a variety of styles in his reflections. This book also contains a treasure trove of ideas for teachers and preachers to mark Advent.”
This volume was published in 2018. But it could be used most any Advent. The book contains a brief introduction and then 4 weeks’ worth of meditations or reflections. Some of them were deeply moving. And many were insightful. Each of the days follows the same format:

Biblical Verse

Several of the prayers I found particularly moving and Copied them to my journal to pray regularly. Two of the prayers that I found most moving were:

“Lord, may we learn to make time for prayer and to discover just how close you are to us. Lord help us to listen. Lord, in our preparation for Christmas remind us about what is really important. Lord help us to listen. Lord, may our love be sincere and not just for those who love us. Lord help us to listen.”


“This Advent may we find God the Father. This Advent may we find God the Son. This Advent may we find God the Spirit. May our love shine in every house. May our love shine for those with no house. May our love shine around every table. May our love bring everybody to the table.”

A sample reflection from week three is:


‘And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked
with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely,
from now on all generations will call me blessed; for
the Mighty One has done great things for me, and
holy is his name. His mercy is for those who revere
him from generation to generation. He has shown
strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in
the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the
powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the
rich away empty.’ (Lk 1:46–53)

Reflection: Star of the Sea

Traditionally in Ireland we welcomed the fine weather by joining the rush to erect a May altar in honour of Our Lady. Flowers were piled into jam jars for decorations. The most colourful ceremony of all was the procession from the chapel down to the village. It seemed to be an injunction for the sacred to leave the church and make its home in the ordinary. Every house along the way was decorated with flowers. From an early age we were given a great devotion for the Virgin Mary, Intercessor, Mother of Mercy, Star of the Sea. To call upon the father for daily bread and praise the kingdom, the power and the glory was inspiring and comforting but we felt a warm glow within us when we spoke phrases like ‘fruit of thy womb.’

Mary was an integral part of the fabric of Irish life, even Irish history. One story I learned as a boy was about the Virgin Mary walking by a house in the West of Ireland on a stormy night during the Great Famine. She and the child Jesus had no coat to protect them from the elements. As they passed the house, the woman of the house called them inside and gave Mary a bowl of nettle soup, and an old sack to give extra cover to the child. Mary’s final blessing was that the family line would always remain intact. They were one of the few families who survived the Great Hunger. A sign that God’s favour rested on them was that their rooster did not crow ‘cockadoodledoo’ but rather cried out: ‘the Virgin’s Son is risen’.

Advent is a good time for remembering how much we can learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus. We can learn from her words like those in her prayer, the Magnificat. These are words of joy and praise from a girl who, on the face of it, did not have much to be joyful about. However, she was willing to believe that God was working in and through her to bring about remarkable change in the world. She also believed that God wanted to do the same in us. So later when her child had grown up she spoke to us and said, ‘Do whatever he tells you’. In the story of Christmas she is presented as not saying too much but as simply ‘pondering these things in her heart’. We can learn from her attitude to her life and what was going on in it. She knew the value of reflecting and would continue to do this even to the end when she stood by her son’s cross.

Lord, in the person of Mary you teach how
us to be open to your Holy Spirit.
Lord may we be willing to learn.
Lord, in the person of Mary you teach us
how to place our trust in you.
Lord may we be willing to learn.
Lord, in the person of Mary you teach
us how to give thanks.
Lord may we be willing to learn.
Lord, in the person of Mary you teach us how
to be faithful to your son
Lord may we be willing to learn.”

Some of the other passages I highlighted my first time through were:

“This book is written for those who are more concerned with the Christmas Presence than those who simply want to get loads of Christmas presents.”

“Using pieces from the Scriptures, thoughtful and interesting reflections and seasonal prayers the aim of this book is to promote self-questioning, to challenge and integrate faith and life in the modern world, while mindful of the richness of the Christian tradition and the basic yearnings of our hearts as we prepare to welcome the greatest news of all.”

“Rahner summed up Christmas evocatively as, ‘a time when grace is the air’. He saw Advent as a journey into grace – a time for us to slow down and reflect and let the presence of a loving God seep through our lives.”

“The liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent. This day represents a new beginning in the Christian pil-grimage. The birth of Jesus offered a new beginning to the world, a new way of life. In this special season let us take up Jesus’ invitation to make a new beginning.”

“Memory is central to all our lives. Advent challenges us to remember who we really are as Christians. Who are you?”

“I need to take the time to remember every Advent a wonderful message – God has transformed our brokenness by taking it on and waits for us to grow ever more into the image and likeness of the divine.”

“It is a time of waiting. It is a time of waiting for God. It is a time of waiting for perfect love. It is a time of waiting to become our true selves. It is a time to remember that everything that is worthwhile is worth waiting for.”

“Christianity is not about occasional gestures of charity but about going the extra mile, about making choices which involve inconvenience, discomfort and pain. The force of love, of unexpected and invigorating vitality is what animates Christians. Only true love carries memorial weight, regenerates moments of tenderness, of unions of spirit.”

“Advent is a time of challenge. It compels us to think anew about what it is that really matters and equally what does not matter. Each of us have many voices racing around in our heads. The challenge of Advent is to remember that we only see with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“The Christian is first and foremost a person of prayer. Without prayer, the Christian life easily descends to a mere busy life in which a person’s need for respect or affection dominates actions and being busy becomes a badge of honour – an end in itself. It is not necessarily true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. As many a ruined romance has demonstrated absence may cause the heart to wander. The parallel for prayer life does not need to be laboured.”

“A key part of Advent is to become ever more attentive to the presence of Jesus in bruised, battered or broken people.”

“Advent is the season of the needy. Poverty has not been created by God. We are the ones who have created poverty. Before God, we are all poor.”

“We should serve those in need this Advent like they were Jesus. God can work through nothings, small things like us. He uses us to do his work. Over this Advent God, the suffering Jesus, will present himself to us in many, many forms. In our rush to prepare for Christmas we may miss him. How ironic would that be?”

And finally:

“Advent is a time for asking ourselves a very fundamental question: what is the meaning of God’s presence in my life? At the Annunciation, God asked Mary the question: ‘Will you bring Christ into the world?’ Mary’s answer was yes. Gently Christ entered the world, entered our lives. Like us she asked, ‘what is the meaning of God’s presence in my life?’ Today we are faced with the question as Mary: ‘Will you bring Christ into the world’?”

This book is a wonderful volume and I do highly recommend it. Advent begins just a few weeks after I finished it the first time and I am already itching to get back into it. I hope those quotes and sample reflection inspire you to pick this up and give it a try! It is an excellent book for the advent season, and great resource from Messenger Publications.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For all review of Messenger Publications books and booklets click here

For reviews of other books about Advent click here

Books by John Scally:
A Brave New World?
A Just Society? Ethics and Values in Contemporary Ireland
An Easter People: Essays in Honour of Sr Stanislaus Kennedy
As I Have Loved You: A Conversation with Mother Teresa
Beautiful Thoughts for Beautiful Minds
Ethics in Crisis?
I Believe
Inspiration for All Seasons: Celtic Wisdom for Today
Marion: A Modern-Day Miracle
Mother Teresa on Advent and Christmas
Mother Teresa: The Irish Connection
The Christmas Presence
To Speed on Angels' Wings: The Story of the Sisters of St John of God
Whose Death is It Anyway? Euthanasia & the Right to Die

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