Saturday, December 12, 2009


Those who wait for the Lord...
The first reading at mass for Wednesday of the second week of Advent included this sentence:
“but those who wait for the Lord
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:31) .

The first line is translated in the New American Bible as “but those who HOPE in the Lord…” instead of “wait for the Lord.” At first I was okay with this discrepancy because I know that in French and Spanish the same verbs are used for both “wait” and “hope” (espérer, esperar). It makes for a nice Advent reflection: to wait is to hope; this is the season when we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior.”

But then I decided to check another source, the Greek translation of the OT used by the earliest Christians, known as the Septuagint. I found something interesting when I looked up our sentence from Isaiah: the Greek word translated as “wait for” is hupomeno, which means first of all “to remain, to stay behind.” (It's based on the word meno, to abide, remain). In the NT the word is used figuratively as “to persevere, endure, suffer patiently, bear trials.” So what does this have to do with “waiting for the Lord?”

I had to search in a special lexicon to find where hupomeno is used to mean “to wait for someone.” It’s used this way only in non-biblical literature of the time, never in the New Testament. But the translators of the Septuagint used it to translate the Hebrew of Is. 40:31, “those who wait for the Lord.”


So what? Well, there is, then, a connection between “enduring, suffering patiently” and “waiting for the Lord.” I suppose that the idea is that if you continue to wait for the Lord that means you are holding fast and not giving up.

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary makes this observation about the verse in question (Is. 40:31): “The prophet provides an excellent OT description of faith. Waiting upon God intensifies a sense of helplessness and an appreciation of God’s redeeming power.” Lately I’ve been experiencing an intensified “sense of helplessness,” in the face of physical pain. So for me this advent has been both a season of “waiting for God” and of “holding fast, suffering patiently” with my back.

But here’s some news: I think that the latest injections may actually be having some effect. The pain radiating down into my left leg is gone, and the back pain has been slightly reduced for the most part to a level that is officially rated as “tolerable.” By Christmas Day I may not be able to “mount up with wings like an eagle” or even “run and not be weary.” But I’d gladly settle for being able to “walk and not faint.”

Meanwhile as we enter the second half of Advent I’ll continue to work at both senses of hupomeno – to wait for the Lord and suffer patiently.


Do you see a connection in your own life between “persevering, enduring, suffering patiently, bearing trials” and “waiting for the Lord?”

Do you think that the translators of the NAB are stretching things when they translate the sentence “Those who wait for the Lord?” as “Those who hope in the Lord?” Do they both mean the same thing for you?



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. There have been times I've waited and lost hope in the process. Waiting doesn't mean the same thing to me as hoping.