June 22-23, 2015
Expectation is a central feature of human existence, one that is especially lifted up and placed in the context of Christian discipleship in the liturgical season of Advent. What role does expectation play in the life worth living? How do we attend rightly to our own expectations throughout the course of our lives, and how ought we comport ourselves with regard to others’ expectations of us?
Advent cultivates in us the spirit of Messianic expectation that attended Jesus’s first coming as a fragile child born at Bethlehem, and through this, invigorates also our expectation for his second coming, this time with “power and great glory” (Mt 24:30). This is a future we await, a future that has been characterized by Jürgen Moltmann (who joined us for this consultation) under the rubric, indeed, of adventus as distinct from futurum: our future is the future of Christ; it is him that we expect. But what is it that we expect as we expect him?
When a child is conceived and we await his or her coming, we expect something both for the child and from the child. In many ways, all our expectations—our fears as well as our hopes—zero in on a life coming into the world. All human beings who come into the world enter into a field of expectations, some of those expectations being tacit and others articulated. They gradually take them up, reshaping them as well as being shaped by them; and they project themselves even onto a life that has already run its course as hope for certain kind of legacy.
Of what import to the good life, then, is the Christic expectation Advent constellates and cultivates? Or, of what effect are the expectations others have for us and into whose field we enter from the very moment of our births—those hopes and fears which, in Jesus’s own case, constituted all that Mary treasured up and pondered in her heart (Lk 2:19)? What form of expectation is proper to the good life—not just what ought we expect if we are committed to the good life, but how ought we go about expecting what we expect? Our summer 2015 consultation pursued these questions, among others, as we explored the anthropological significance of expectation, with particular attention to its place in a flourishing life: the life that’s lived well, that goes well, and is marked by joy.