Advent Reflection: The Virtue of Slowing Down
Theologian Doris Donnelly calls Advent “the most difficult season.” She writes, “For all the high drama that surrounds Advent, the truth is we have a hard time getting involved in its mysteries.” She suggest two reasons for this. First, society jumps the gun on Christmas. Retailers start even before Halloween to bombard us with Christmas ads. It’s hard to celebrate Advent with strains of “Rudolph” and “Frosty” running through our heads. Second, Advent is all about waiting, and waiting is a counter-cultural experience. Many of us don’t like waiting for anything—whether it’s for a piece of toast to pop up or a traffic light to turn green.
Several years ago I picked up the book In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore. It gave me a greater appreciation of the value of slowness in everyday life. I now believe that intentional slowing down can even be a virtue. And it’s also a very appropriate practice for Advent the season of waiting: Mary and Joseph waiting for the birth of Jesus, the world waiting for the birth of our Savior, all of is waiting for the coming of the fulness of the Kingdom of God.
First, a clarification. There is nothing wrong with speed per se. If speed is appropriate for a particular activity, that’s fine. For example, if someone needs our immediate help, we’ll rush to get to them. If we’re in pain, we want speedy relief. But sometimes our love for speed goes too far, becoming (in Honore’s words) “an addiction, a kind of idolatry.” One tragic consequence of living a life of constant hurry is that it makes us live superficially. When we are always rushing about, we can easily fail to make real connections with the world and with one another. Says Honore, “All things that bind us together and make life worth living—community, family, friendship—thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time.” When we slow down, we are making time for people and things that deserve our time and attention.
So here are some ways we might want to practice the virtue of slowing down this Advent:
+ Be mindful of the pace with which you do things—all things. Are you always in a hurry?
+ Try eating more slowly. Savor instead of gobble.
+ Try doing one thing at a time—instead of three or ten! (When was the word multitasking invented? You don’t have to look it up because I already did. The word multitasking first appeared in a 1965 IBM report talking about the capabilities of the latest computer! Fascinating! At times we probably have to multitask, but I’m suggesting we don’t make multitasking a goal in life.)
+ Pay attention to the individuals you meet regularly: your spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers. Look at them as if you are meeting them for the first time. Name one thing you appreciate about each one.
+ Slow down enough to notice nature… the color of the sky, the feel of the sun and/or wind on your face, the trees that share your world, the wildlife that you come across—dogs, cats, deer, birds, and even bugs.
+ Notice “strangers” you meet today—store clerks, the person who changes your oil, the letter carrier, the receptionist. After you leave their presence, can you remember what they looked like, what they were wearing, how they spoke? How did you speak to them—kindly or curtly?
+ Make time to really listen to the people you interact with today. Show by your facial expression you care.
+How fast do you drive?
+How fast are your reading this reflection? (To be honest, the very fact that you are reading my blog is a sign that you have made time in your busy day to try to nourish your spiritual life!)
+ Take a few minutes to speak with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or a deceased loved one as you go about your day. Your prayer can be short and sweet like: “Thanks, God, for that beautiful tree… I’m worried about ___. But I trust in you… I need you, Holy Spirit… Jesus, I love you… Mom and Dad, thanks for giving me my love of nature… Honey, I really miss you.”
Let us pray:
Come, Lord Jesus! Come and slow me down. You made time to notice lilies bobbing, birds soaring, bread rising. You made time to dine with acquaintances, stroll along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, hike up into the mountains to pray. You made time to play with children, listen to peoples’ stories, share their joys and sorrows. This Advent give me the grace to slow down for people and for all things that are worthy of my time, attention, and love. I ask for this grace through Mary, the Pondering Disciple, your mother and mine. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Amen.
Is the practice of slowing down something you really need to do this Advent, or is it already a virtue you practice regularly?
What helps you to slow down and pay more attention to the people and things in your daily life?
On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being not hard at all and 10 being very hard), how hard is it for you to wait?
Has the natural aging process affected your pace of living? If so, in what way?
PS: Just a reminder: I’m on retreat December 4-11 in Florida. I will be praying for all of you in a special way during this time. I ask for your prayers too. Thank you!
For our video today, I chose the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” This version by Enya is in English and Latin. I found it particularly moving. It helped slow me down…
I invite you to submit a comment to this reflection below. Even a word or two might be helpful for others. Thank you!
This is a new email, and I’m not getting the blog, so please add me back onto your list.
I love your blog every week, and the son today is magnificent!
Happy Advent and God Bless you, Sr.Melanie!
The idea of “slowing down” was the theme of our homily yesterday at the beginning of Advent, so as a newly retired person, I receive the message again with gratitude. If we can gently remove the “rough patches” in our way like distractions and numbing technology, we may learn to “notice” how goodness and love are within and right in front of us.
Thank you and blessings on your Advent waiting on retreat.
Thank you, Sister Melannie.
I have a new appreciation of the many gifts of nature that just show up each day and season and only connected with the beauty and messages that come through nature when slowing down and walks became integral parts of COVIDtime life.
Thanks for the slowing down reminder and new appreciation for enforced slowing down.
Blessings on your retreat days. May they pass slowly….
I seem to constantly think about slowing down. I want to and I don’t want to. That “don’t want to”always takes precedence. I want very much to treasure this sharing. With this encouragement, God’s help and my acceptance of grace, I will look at myself again as we celebrate God among us.
Sr Melanie thank you I can feel myself slowing down…. I will try to replay this video everyday..it is beautiful. I will also be sharing it with others.
Praying that this retreat weekend is as enriching for you as I’m sure it will be for those attending.
I SO struggle with slowing down and it’s true–I DO sometimes feel I am living my life “superficially.” As I sometimes say, I know a little about a lot of things but don’t often go into depth. I pray to be able to slow down and be more present in all things. Thank you for the beautiful prayer!
Yes we all need to slow down and remember the reason for the season! Thank you Sister. Blessings at your retreat.
Aging has definitely slowed my pace because my body cannot move as fast as it used to. Covid restrictions have slowed me down as well. I enjoyed the time alone most of the time and have no desire to go back to the hurried pace I had before. Both of these help me to be more reflective, to pay attention to nature, people, and my many blessings. Loved the Enya song. Thanks, Mel. Always a pleasure to read your blog.
Beautiful music selection and message of slowing down and really paying attention to loved ones and our surroundings. Gaude, the perfect reaction!
I’ll be bookmarking this reflection to go back to in Advent. Trying to be in the moment & notice things & people instead of thinking of what I will do next. Also, the waiting theme resonates because my niece is expecting a child within the next week. Praying for good health & smooth delivery as we wait
some days I find myself holding my breath! This is a great reminder to slow down. thanks Sister
Thank you for this timely reminder. I am always multitasking. Slowing down is exactly what I must do. I will work on it this Advent.
Praying for you and the other retreatants during your retreat time.
Enya’s song was wonderful. Will play it often. Thanks for your blog.
Good evening, Sr. Melannie…
Good evening, all…
Today’s blog is so well-timed and beautifully written! First off, you read the best books! Second, a way I’ve tried to slow down: My ride to school in the morning takes between 35 and 45 minutes, and during that drive I used to listen to sports radio (especially after a home team victory!). But after awhile I started to notice the hosts were all yelling at each other, talking over each other, and just being a din of nonsense.
So I quit listening.
I now travel to school in delicious silence. When I come to a red light, I take my hands off the wheel and breathe the Jesus prayer — slowly. I Notice what’s around me. I think of my upcoming classes. I watch for beauty. I try — not always successfully — to be alert to the needs of other drivers. I pray.
Thank you, Sr. Melannie!
Happy Advent, everyone!
Thanks for your beautiful thoughts John.
A reflection from Henri Nouwen helps me every Advent:
Active waiting “is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for.” Right! Jesus is already here but do I recognize him in everyone around me? I need him to come more strongly! If I slow down, I just might SEE him in others, especially those who think differently than I do. COME, LORD JESUS!
Yes, Happy Advent, everyone!
Thanks, Sr. Melannie!
Lovely thought-provoking essay and the version of O’ Come Emmanuel is awesome! Thank you and God bless you!
I’ll try not to wait impatiently, like one entitled to prompt service. Humbly, I wait with hope that prophesies to all creation will be fulfilled with divine justice and unimaginable peace.
Melannie, your message today was just what I needed. I need to slow down now because I haven’t had a week to just take time for me. I am planning to go to a retreat center here in Kansas and spend a month to have a 7 day retreat, enjoying time to read, watch the birds and look at the winter photos of life at this time. I started this week and I have let the sisters know that I am not playing a hymn for start evening prayer. In January I will be gone so they will have to do evening prayer with no music in the evening unless one of the other sisters can lead a song “a capella”. Your slowing down message was just one more person reminding that I need some time away. What a gift you are to me, and I will be praying for you as you make your retreat. Peace, Celeste
Thank you, Melannie, for this capsule on Slowing Down.
It is particularly meaningful for me, inviting me to a fresh start in
discerning the value of waiting.
I was at a Buddhist site yesterday, and all I wanted to do was get off after clicking
a few pictures.
Today, after reading your reflection, I sit to ponder yesterday’s experience at that site.
A new beginning, I hope, for all of us your readers, Melannie, this Advent.
The best for your coming retreat! I begin mine today!
We pray for all of us!
I love especially the reminder to look more closely to the people we see each day and appreciate at least one thing about them. And also the reminder to look at “strangers” we don’t see as often and do the same.
Thanks for another good “thinker”. (the hall misses you😂)
I look forward to Advent and purposely slow down and wait patiently for the coming of the Lord! Thank you for the beautiful song. I will be praying for you during your retreat.
Good morning one and all,
There is so much going on in our world to give us anxiety and perhaps even feel hopeless at times.
Slowing down to look at, listen to, laugh with those who are part of our every day, helps keep us living in the present, the only time that is promised to us. Being mesmerized by the falling snow or the birds flying back and forth from a tree to a bird feeder or children laughing and shouting as they roll around in the snow is so refreshing, calming and real…..such a good antidote for that angst or hopelessness.
The song by Enya is so beautiful and almost haunting sounding to me that I am not only going to share it, but listen to it when I am feeling caught up in unnecessary anxiety….letting it wash over me and heal the fear.
Thank you so much for your seeds, S. Melannie…..may you all have a fruitful retreat.
Amazing! You must have been tuned into my thoughts, hopes and prayers for this Advent.
Thank you, beautiful reflection, I must slow down. The song by Enya is beautiful it will certainly help me slow down. Prayers for you as you go to on retreat. Blessings
On Target !!!
Thank you so much for today’s blog and especially for the song by Enya who is one of my favorite recording artists. My husband just installed it on YouTube for us to repeatedly enjoy. It is a reflection in itself.
As a mother of eight, I was always multitasking and rarely had the ability to slow down. It became a habit that was difficult to break. As I am aging (I will be be 82 on the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe.) slowing down has become a necessity. I still have a tendency to eat to fast and to make daily lists of things I need to accomplish. I am definitely getting better at it though and really beginning to appreciate my new pace of life.
My husband and I both enjoy nature and find it easy to sit on the back porch and gaze at the sky, the trees, the butterflies, the squirrels who taunt me by sitting on the fence eating my flowers and tormenting our two little dogs, and the birds at the feeder. We are finding time to read to each other and to just appreciate each day.
Thank you so much for your weekly blogs. We are praying that you have a blessed retreat week. Happy Advent! We actually have four whole weeks this year!
Thank you! Beautiful song of Our Lord!