There are always certain works that must be completed on December 23rd. Most importantly, this is the day that we take down the Advent liturgical colors and symbols and decorate the Bishop Marty Chapel (known as the Upper Chapel in-house) for the Christmas season!
All the purple banners hanging from the pillars of the Chapel are replaced with gold and white. This can be a delicate operation considering the sister wielding the staff used to wiggle the pole and its banner stands on a pew looking straight up into our high Gothic ceiling while trying to balance the banner pole on the staff and not drop it onto the sister below...who is waiting to catch the pole just in case. The purple brocade curtain behind the high altar is drawn back and the white is revealed to celebrate the feast.
There is a whole crew of sisters and our Chaplin the monk assigned to tree assembly as well. Four to six trees between 7 and 9 feet tall are arranged on either side of the high altar. The evergreen stands out beautifully against the sandstone walls and gilded carvings in the altar. However, those trees need to be assembled first...and this has proven a challenge. The tree I tackled with sister grade school teacher and the Chaplin monk was all contained in one box (luckily). We fluffed our 9 and 1/2 foot giant into beauty, branch by branch. Some of our fellow tree workers were not so lucky. One tree assembled well, but its stand left it kitty-wampus and needing the support of a wall. Another tree began with a sturdy base, but the sisters soon realized that their tree in a box was really two or three different trees--a hybrid! It took some time, but the final four trees in the Upper Chapel are beautiful and tomorrow they will be framed with brilliant red and white poinsettias before afternoon prayer. Sister liturgist floated between groups to help with trees and locating needed supplies and step stools. Her work continued after we left as she arranged white Christmas candles set off with gold material where the Advent wreath once stood.
The final group of sisters set up the Creche in our gathering space outside the Upper Chapel. This year's Creche is a wood carved setting with beautiful, yet muted colors and form. As it goes with artists' eyes, it took a few turns of rearranging and standing back to observe the affect before all the sisters were in agreement over the final design. Evergreens with white lights frame the back and sides of the Creche and a bench is set nearby for those who wish to sit and pray with the Christ child. It is lovely; a wonderful pray to reflect on the wonder of this celebration of our faith. And you will have to wait until tomorrow to see it too...