Looking up “haste” on thesarus.com , (“extreme speed, hurry”) I noticed an almost perfectly divided list of 43 synonyms that have nearly as many negative connotations as positive. I was thinking about “haste” as I reflected on this upcoming gospel reading for the fourth Sunday in Advent, and I have to ask myself the question, what am I hastening toward this Christmas?
The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Luke 1:39-45
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah…”
At our recent Candlelight event, Fr Peter reminded us that another way of living Advent means serving God and His Kingdom by serving others around us as well. He emphasized that when it was revealed to Mary that her cousin was pregnant, she made haste to obey God and go to Elizabeth. Perhaps the villagers and elders thought, here is a very young woman, traveling a long distance to help an elderly pregnant woman whose husband mysteriously went mute after spending way too long in the sanctuary where he was just supposed to be lighting incense! Sounds questionable and dangerous, never mind unbeknownst to them this young lady was newly pregnant herself! Some may have described her actions using some of the negative synonyms for haste: reckless, impetuous, foolhardy, careless. But Mary is the model of humility and obedience, trusting and “pondering these things in her heart”, letting God be God and content to serve as a simple hand-maiden of the Lord.
Haste Verses Bustle
Bustle, Dash, Rush: These are some of the other synonyms for haste. Words that fa-la-la-la us along all over the place as we panic through Christmas preparations with distracted anxiety. You often hear these words in the songs of the season and they paint a picture of “fun diversion” in the holiday spirit. There is nothing wrong with dashing through the snow, but could we pull the reigns toward someone who is alone or sick and cheer them up? “As the shoppers rush home with their treasures…” could a treasure be a donation for our church or the local homeless shelter instead of another ugly Christmas sweater gag gift? To bustle is to be “busily astir”. What are we busily stirring? Family drama or awe and wonder at the nativity? If we want to stir some cookie dough, maybe we could set aside a few of those cookies for a lonely neighbor or friend whose loved one passed away this past year? (See pic of our “Caring Cookies” apostolate.) I am working on being mindful that all of these wonderful traditions we have during the “holidays” (derived from literally Holy Days) are fruits from the Christmas tree of Christ-centered reverence of ages old.
Hurry, my friends; let us make haste to contemplate the disposition of our hearts for Christ. Don’t bustle. Don’t rush or be astir in lesser things. There is a drowsiness this time of year that camouflages itself as chaotic philanthropy, which is bent and misshapen. It is distraction that anesthetizes us into thinking we are busy with many good things, but in reality are taking away our attention from doing the best thing; sitting in silence with God, praising and thanking Him for His goodness.
How I will act: Time in prayer with gospel first each day, and then I will work on the many preparations that still await me for the day we celebrate Emmanuel (God with us).
How I will pray: A daily prayer to sanctify my activities so that everything I do may bring God’s glory to the world; as Thérèse of Lisieux and St Teresa of Calcutta remind us, even the smallest things done with great love build the kingdom of God.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
Prayer To Sanctify Work
Lord, you have called everyone to cooperate, by means of daily work, in your prodigious plan of creation. Enable us to pursue our activities with a Christian spirit, and perform them with perfection and out of love for you, so that through them we will grow in holiness: glorifying you, collaborating with your work in the world and serving our brothers and sisters. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
“The saints, too, had wandering minds. The saints, too, had constantly to recall their constantly wandering mind-child home. They became saints because they continued to go after the little wanderer, like the Good Shepherd.”
Luke 10:38-42 (NABRE) The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Further reading “Screwtape on Pleasures and Distractions“