Wednesday, December 28, 2011

St. John, Community Customs, and Wine!


Tuesday night, our Vespers (and Lauds too) celebrated St. John the Evangelist and Apostle. It is the custom of our Monastic Community to begin the supper with a special blessing of wine in the refectory! According to tradition, St. John survived drinking a cup of poisoned why because he had blessed it first. In some European cultures, the Feast of St. John is a day to make peace with enemies over a glass of wine.

The monastery celebrated the Feast of St. John with a blessing of our gifts of Christmas wine: boxes of white zinfandel next to bottles of Merlot and even a stray bottle or two of Mogen David. The blessing began with a call and response, a reading from the first letter of John, and then the prioress sprinkled all the wine and sisters with holy water. Finally, the Prioress completed the blessing with a prayer that closed with a toast!

The meal was our simple Tuesday fare, but with a glass or two of wine, we all lingered at our tables. The refectory was filled with stories, chatting, and laughter...the sound of sisters catching up as family. As one of the sisters who works away from the monastery, these long meals are a gift to hear about all the stories from home and each sister has so many tales to tell!

(The Blessing Prayer)
Almighty and ever-living God,
You loved us so much,
that in the fullness of time
You sent Your eternal Word, born of Mary
to make His dwelling among us.
We ask You to bless this wine
which You have given us to cheer our hearts.
As we share this fruit of the vine,
empower us to become Your children.
Make us one in love
that we may share in fullness the life of Your Son,
Your Word made flesh,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendor of eternal light,
God for ever and ever.
(The Toast)
"Taste and see that the Lord is good! Amen"

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Blessed and Merry Christmas


I pray that we are all celebrating a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

I haven't much to share; it is just wonderful to be home at the monastery for this Christmas season. Our schedule? Well, we relax a bit to celebrate this ongoing feast; Lauds isn't until 8:30 with Mass following at 9:00. Then off to morning work and charges for those sisters who live full time here at the monastery (or their volunteers) but we can also use it as free time for visiting or some games (dominoes, cards, etc.). Today, I worked a bit on curriculum planning for next semester. After lunch and noon praise, it is the mirror of our morning time. However, I do plan to take advantage of our unusual 50 degree weather and go for a walk without needing a jacket! Finally, we gather for Vespers and supper followed by recreation.

Exciting? Nope. Fulfilling? Yup. Nothing is better than just living this daily horarium with my sisters. It's in the little moments and quiet times like these that the familial bond is strengthened. Now, I'd love to stay, but it's time to grab a quick cup of coffee and find my walking partner for a stroll and chat along our Sorrowful Way and grottoes.

Blessings on all your Christmas celebrations!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Psalm 84


I've finally made it home to the monastery for 10 days time to celebrate Christmas with my sisters. Tonight, we chanted the O Antiphon to the "King". I had not forgotten how much I missed this simple ritual; we reverently recite this at our convent apartment, but I had forgotten how much I loved to chant it. So as we sang our ancient praise to the King of Kings, I was reminded of a Psalm that was not sung tonight.

Psalm 84 ~ "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, God of Hosts! My heart longs and yearns for the courts of the Lord...for a day within Your courts, O Lord, is better than a thousand spent elsewhere."

It is so good to be home with my sisters.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gaudete! How did we get here?

Gaudete! Rejoice!

Wait a minute! How did we already get to the week of gaudete and rose candle colored candles! Advent is one of the most beautiful times of the liturgical year for scripture reflection, music, and the monastic heart of my Benedictine community. We are encouraged to take time to reflect deeply on Isaiah's promises of the coming messiah. Our chant reflects the anticipation that fills this Church season. Advent is beautiful in its simplicity and can deepen each sister's call to come sit at the feet of the Lord.

Unless your a teaching sister! My favorite season of the Church year falls on the busiest time of a high school teacher's semester! I do try to keep up on grading, lessons, and contacts...but this time of year it all my best intentions seem to fly out the inbox! There are piles of freshmen and sophomore homework to grade; I finally got the semester review pages written for each of the classes, but the finals aren't written yet; I've contacted a few parents (they have been getting notes, but one last warning or blessing can't hurt) and checked in with the principal; and in 11 minutes I can assure you there will be a knock at my door and a young man on the other side who is very surprised at the grade he earned isn't the one he imagined.

Don't get me wrong. I love teaching. I love working with teenagers and learning from them and occasionally laughing with them. But there are days that I wish I was a bit more organized and wouldn't feel so rushed at one of the most reflective times of the Church year. I do take a bit of extra time these days. My favorite 'breather' is my shift in noon praise...I pray it quietly by myself in the Reservation Chapel here at the Abbey Church, but during Advent I decided to chant it using some of my favorite tones from home. It makes me slow down in prayer and reminds me of the monastery and all the sisters at home (miss you!). The blessing of my current teaching ministry is our two week Christmas break! I will be home before The Eve and able to be at home in the Monastery all throughout the main celebrations of the Christmas Season! It will be wonderful to delve into our deep quiet those last few days before Christmas.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Morning of Advent Prayer


The prayer schedule since I entered the monastery has changed very little. Oh sure, a fifteen minute difference here or there, but when we're talking around dawn, noonish, and around sunset what's a few minutes here or there. Currently, the set times for the Liturgy of the Hours at the monastery are 6:30AM, 12:45PM, and 5:15PM. Here at the convent apartment we try to follow a similar schedule.

But we also live the quiet moments of prayer
that present themselves in opportunities throughout the day! This morning I awoke to the first snow falling in our fine city. So I settled in with a mug of steaming coffee, a warm cinnaminny breakfast treat (made by Sister) and some time with God. This unhurried Saturday morning is a wonderful time of reflection. Usually, I have places to go after our scheduled prayer or I'm coming in from somewhere else before prayer...this morning, I'm just watching the snowfall and pondering all the good God has done in my life.

A pretty good way to pray in Advent.