The other morning as I was rushing to get my breakfast, I spilled the whole bowl of Cheerios onto the kitchen floor. Luckily I hadn’t poured the milk in yet. As I was cleaning up the mess, I had a little talk with myself. “Why in the world are you rushing, Melannie?” “Me? Rushing?” “Yes, you! Rushing!” I said. The truth was I hadn’t even realized I was rushing until the bowl flipped out of my hands.
That’s when I decided what one of my Advent practices would be this year: I am going to slow down. I am going to eat more slowly… walk more slowly… talk more slowly… grocery shop more slowly… write more slowly… drive more slowly… and pray more slowly. Every time I catch myself rushing (whether exteriorly or interiorly), I am going to take a deep breath and intentionally slow down. And every time I do this, I am going to recall what we’re really celebrating during Advent: the slow and beautiful coming of the Son of God into our world, into our time, and into our lives.
The author Carl Honore has written a wonderful book called In Praise of Slowness.” In it he refers to himself as a “recovering speedaholic.” He tells us why slowing down is so vital for our lives. He writes, “Inevitably, a life of hurry can become superficial. When we rush, we skim the surface, and fail to make real connections with the world or other people.” He concludes, “All the things that bind us together and make life worth living—community, family, friendship—thrive on one thing we never have enough of: time.”
I believe that rushing can also be a form of violence toward other people who have to dodge out of our way as we charge down the sidewalk or hallway or as we madly shove our grocery cart up and down the aisles in the store. Such rushing is a form of violence to others for another reason: By rushing around, we don’t even notice the other people in our lives. They might as well be lamp posts or mannequins. But rushing can also be a form of violence to ourselves. It can be a sign that we are trying to do too many things in a day. It can indicate that the demands others are placing on us—or the demands we are placing on ourselves—are just too high or even cruel.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk Pope Francis referred to in his recent address to the U.S. Congress, saw a link between overwork (which often causes rushing) and violence. He said the “frenzy” of modern life “destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” Merton wrote those words in the 1960’s. I wonder what he would say about our frenzied and frazzled contemporary times!
Advent, for some people, is the most beautiful season in the liturgical year. But theologian Doris Donnelly also calls it “the most difficult season.” Advent is difficult, she says, because it has to compete with a world already immersed in the din of Christmas ads, Christmas decorations, and Christmas songs. The secular world doesn’t celebrate Advent. Secondly, Advent is difficult because it gently urges us to quiet and expectant waiting—and silent waiting is countercultural.
I have always found the readings for Advent to be exceptionally rich, poetic, peaceful, strong, and full of hope. But I realize I must slow down and really ponder them, allowing their wisdom to seep slowly into my mind, heart, and soul. I must allow them to draw me gently toward ever greater loving.
Traditionally Advent is the time we keep company with Mary. Jesus’ coming into our world 2,000 years ago was dependent on Mary’s YES. But Donnelly reminds us, “Christ being born again this Christmas is no longer dependent on Mary. It is dependent on me.”
St. Mary Church here in Chardon has a lovely statue of the pregnant Mary. I will close this reflection with a photo of that statue and with a prayer/poem which was written (I believe) by one of our parishioners:
You have been called by God above to show the world unconditional love.
You have been blessed and are the chosen one.
Mother of God, in your womb you carry His son.
Your hands held out for all to see the most precious gift that will ever be.
Hail Mary, you are the Queen of the most grace-filled miracle ever seen.
God has entrusted you above the rest. We are forever grateful for your yes.
Please bless all those who honor you. Guide and protect us in all that we do. Amen.
The song today is the traditional Advent song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. This 12th Century Latin hymn is song here in English by a traditional choir:
What does Advent mean to you?
How are you celebrating the season of Advent this year?
Does anything in this reflection touch you today?
PS: I’m giving an Advent morning retreat on Saturday, December 5 in Cincinnati for the Associates (and others friends) of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. The retreat is entitled “Unwrapping the Gifts of Advent: Peace, Courage, Playfulness, and Hope.” I ask for your prayers for this event. Thank you!