Thursday, December 22, 2011

Decorating Day

Yesterday in Bethlehem Monastery was D-Day—Decorating Day. And now the monastic halls are literally decked with wild holly from our woods along with evergreen boughs and sprigs surrounding candles waiting to be lit. Our cribs are empty, awaiting the coming of the Christ Child who will fill not only them but our yearning hearts with His longed for presence. Yesterday was also the winter solstice: the shortest day and longest night of the year. Even the day was dark for it was cloudy and raining. But today begins the gradual increasing of the light that will soon bring us the new growth of leaf and flower. The Church gives us the Christmas Season, just at this transitional time of the year to impress upon us the absolute dreariness of our natural human condition without God. But our hope lies in the joyful realization that the Son of God has come into the very depths of our self-made darkness to bring us His healing light. Our Matins Advent hymn expresses the mystery well: “Already now your crib is bright and night, in wonder breathes new light, which darkness cannot dim or break as lasting light is wed to faith.”

I will not be posting during the coming Christmas Season, so I will take this opportunity to wish everyone a most blessed Christmas celebration of the Incarnation of the Lord. And may He grant one and all a joyful New Year, rich in grace and peace.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A New Novice

4th Sunday of Advent
In today’ Gospel, we hear the familiar story of the Annuntiation. Mary hears the summons of the angel Gabriel to become the mother of the Son of God and she whole-heartedly responds with her unconditional “fiat”: Let it be done to me according to your word. We cannot help think of our new little novice who last Monday entered more deeply into her own “fiat” to the Lord.
Yes, we have a new novice! After Holy Mass in the monastic Chapter Room, a place for solemn gatherings of the Sisters, Postulant Kimberly became Sister Marie ElĂ­se of Jesus Crucified. This particular ceremony was historic in our community for it was the first to happen in our recently built monastery and the first to be performed by our new Abbess, Mother Mary Therese. Since I am novice mistress, I also had the privilege of assisting in the transformation. The day before the great event, I could be found in the Chapter Room diligently practicing my part as mistress of ceremonies beside my little table on which were laid the garments, and other needed items, all laid out in order like a surgeon’s instruments.
Prominently displayed on the table were a pair of shiny scissors for the cutting of hair, for we treasure the ancient custom of the “tonsure”, the cutting of a woman’s crowning glory to signify her consecration to God. Women are poetic by nature. Our clothes and our adornments not only cover and beautify us, but they also symbolize who we are. And so by the cutting away of the hair, that lovely product of our body, we signify the holocaust of our very selves: the joys of marriage to an earthly husband, the fulfillment of physical motherhood, even our very identity. But we are not left stripped of all these good things. We receive the enfolding veil of divine love and a new identity as bride of Christ, spiritual mother of countless souls, sister to the whole world. Like Mary, we are blessed among women, for we are favored by the Lord.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday

Gaudete Sunday Year B
Isa 61,10
Blessed Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday to one and all! We are rejoicing with extra joy this year as we anticipate the clothing ceremony of our Postulant Kimberly who will be transformed into a Poor Clare novice tomorrow, the beautiful feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was wonderful to hear in our first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah of the Church’s joy in being “clothed in the robe of salvation and wrapped in a mantle of justice”. We also listened to these words at the liturgy of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, where they were attributed to Our Lady. Mary was prepared for her unique mission in salvation history by being “pre-redeemed”, sinless from the first moment of her conception. Sin is what limits love, for it is directly opposed to all love. But Mary, being without the least stain of sin, was able to receive the fullness of God incarnated in her own body and to respond to Him with the complete fullness of love. We, on the other hand, daily experience our inability to love as we would. For us who were not immaculately conceived, the only way we can become able to give ourselves fully to the love of God is by way of repentance. When a young woman takes on our Holy Habit, it signifies that she is “putting on Christ”, taking up her Cross and following in His footsteps in a life of joyful penance. Yes, joyful penance! We deny ourselves, not out of hatred for our selves, but so that we can give our entire selves in love to the Divine Bridegroom who beckons us. Sin and selfishness are in the way of our union with Him, so they must go. It is that devastatingly simple.
Along with her new habit our new novice will also receive a new name. We believe that God reveals this new name to Mother Abbess who does not divulge this divine secret until the very end of the ceremony of investiture. Be sure that we will let you know by what name Kimberly will henceforth be called. Share the joyful suspense with us!

Monday, December 5, 2011

2nd Sunday of Advent

2nd Sunday of Advent Year B
Entrance Chant “Populus Sion”
“People of Sion, behold the Lord will come to save the nations: and the Lord will make the glory of His voice heard in the joy of your heart”.
I wish you could hear this beautiful Gregorian Chant melody which perfectly expresses the words of the sacred text. You would see in your mind’s eye a herald climbing to the top of a high mountain and calling out to a people who are discouraged, depressed and anxious: BEHOLD! The Lord will come…But then there is a surprising twist: The Lord will also make the glory of His voice heard. How does one hear glory? I can only speak for myself, but I usually think of seeing glory rather than hearing it. What does glory sound like? Mystical writers tell us that we have spiritual senses but they work much more fluidly than our physical ones. So here we must simply “go with the flow”. Yes, we will hear the glory of God’s voice. Where? In the joy of our hearts! Especially we will hear it when there seems to be no reason for joy in our lives, when all is dark and dreary, like a cold December day after the bright colors of autumn have long faded but no snow yet whitens the muddy earth. On a day like that, all of a sudden there is a spark of joy, a trill of laughter that wells up from the depths of the heart. We know it does not come from ourselves. It is the voice of God assuring us that all will be well. He loves us, knows our pain and our trouble and is already working it for our good. As we walk through this valley of tears, let us raise our heads to see and to hear the herald of glad tidings who calls out: Behold the Lord will come to save us!