Holy Advent Longing
Holy Advent: Longing for the Feast of Christmas 2008!
Heartfelt greetings from St. Joseph’s Monastery to each one of you as we prepare for this most joyous and special feast. May He be born anew in our hearts, in our nation and world.
The fervor of our love for God depends on us keeping the lamps of our hearts burning brightly. Therefore in the monastery we have tried to keep an extra prayerful spirit during Advent. Perhaps you too have tried to implement this in your own busy lives. If not, it's not too late to do so! I pray you will find a little extra time to be in our Lord's presence receiving his love and loving him in return.
Advent in a monastery is very special time. The Advent Liturgy is so rich, full of readings anticipating the coming of Christ. This Advent spirit is maintained throughout our monastery. There is a special silence and attitude of expectancy that one can feel in the air as Christmas draws near. In our refectory we light many candles for our evening collation (a light supper)...helping us to keep in mind that Christ, our True Light will soon arrive!
According to monastic custom we wait until the week before Christmas before putting up our decorations. This job is usually delegated to the novitiate (yes, Sharon and Shannon have done a tasteful and beautiful job decorating this year!) It takes a special gift of organization to be able to wait as long as possible before putting up the decorations but not waiting too long so that it does not become stressful! Once I was in the front entrance hanging garlands when the UPS man came to the door. He said to me, "Its a little late isn't it?" I could hardly believe it - it was only December 21 or 22 - not even Christmas yet! ;) And I did tell him just this; He must have thought us nuns were really loony!
Decorations are not merely beautiful ways of celebrating this season. There is a much more profound meaning to them. They give witness that by the Incarnation of the Son of God, all of ordinary human life has been changed! The simplest things---corridors, windows, lamps, tables, etc. have been "touched by grace" and can speak to us of God’s presence and love. Decorations also are like lighted lamps of love and longing all over the monastery. Thus, as decorations go up, our monastery is lit up with celebrating the love of Christ our Bridegroom. It is very exciting!
A young woman wrote recently asking how we spend our Christmas. Well, we are currently making a novena which will end on December 23rd. December 24th is a work morning but we have a festive meal at noon, since it is still Advent we continue to abstain from meat, have a collation (small meal) in the evening and no snacking between meals. In the afternoon we turn on the Christmas lights and play Christmas music for the first time. We open some presents in the afternoon of Christmas. These would be gifts either given by family and friends of the Community or that our Mother Superior (St. Nicholas!) has bought for the community. These would include items such as notebooks and pens or a DVD with a wholesome theme.
While the Sisters are doing supper dishes "St. Nick" and her helper visit each Sisters cell and leave some presents there. These might include a book, art supplies or a prayer candle, etc. We again gather together for a bit of recreation and then have Night Prayer. We then retire for a couple hours. Our Christmas Carols will begin at 11:30 and we are all excited to hear the pieces our postulants have been practicing for months, then the awesome majesty of Christmas midnight Mass at midnight! We are also blessed to have the Christmas day Mass at 10 a.m. Of course, on Christmas day the fasting is over and the feasting begins - in more ways than one!
Now I don't want to share all our Christmas secrets for I want those of you who are discerning Passionist life to come visit and find out for yourself what Christmas is like in a monastery!
To all of you our dearest family and friends... Have a very Merry Christmas!