Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christ is Born for Us, Come Let Us Adore Him

When the sun rises in the morning sky,
you will see the King of kings
coming forth from the Father
like a radiant bridegroom
from the bridal chamber.

Antiphon for the Magnificat of Evening Prayer I
Solemnity of Christmas

Brother Max Schmalzl, CSsR

At this late hour sisters are still awake in our monastery. They are tidying up after serving Christmas treats to guests who attended Christmas Eve Mass. We are always happy to share our liturgies with friends and neighbors. And this is such a special time for all of us.

What is Christmas like in a monastery of contemplative nuns? There has been great preparation for the feast in our offices of the Liturgy of the Hours. Attention given to the great "O Antiphons" of the last days of Advent is a sign of that focus.  This evening the solemnity of Christmas began with Vespers, Evening Prayer I of Christmas. The  antiphons, psalms and canticle were were intoned; antiphons echoing the flavor of the greats "Os".

He comes in splendor, the King who is our peace;
the whole world longs to see him.

He sends forth his word to the earth,
and his command spreads swiftly through the land.

The eternal Word, born of the Father before time began,
today emptied himself for our sake and became man.

At the end of the office, singing "What Child is This?", we processed to the creche so lovingly and beautifully prepared by our Sr. Maria Linda. There we paid homage to the newborn King and greeted each other with a holy kiss of Christmas peace. Following supper, last minute preparations were made for the Mass of Midnight scheduled like the Pope's Mass in Rome at a time easier for frazzled humans to bear. Our Liturgy began with the Office of Readings - psalms and two readings, one from Isaiah the Prophet and the other a sermon by Pope Leo the Great. This was immediately followed by the Proclamation of Jesus' Birth to which we responded by singing the Gloria accompanied by the joyous ringing of bells. In his homily, Fr. Thomas Deely, CSsR invited us to silently call to mind those we know who remain in darkness unlike the people spoken of in the first reading of the Mass who came to see a great light - the light of the Messiah. He also reminded us that this event, the birth of Jesus, is just the beginning of the complete round of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. It is a cylce that continues in our time and in our own lives but never in isolation for we have the companion ship of Emmanuel, God-with-Us, whose taking on of human nature, whose Incarnation, we celebrated today.

Tomorrow we will begin our day with Morning Prayer. The first antiphon sung is a question.

Tell us, shepherds, what have you seen?
Who has appeared on earth?
We have seen a newborn infant and a choir of angels
praising the Lord, alleluia.

We are so fortunate to have our Redemptorists close by to celebrate the Eucharist with us. At 11am we will have the Mass of Christmas Day. A festive dinner will follow with the company of three Redemptorist priests. And, just as it is in many homes on this day, the long after dinner clean up will be followed by relaxation; maybe the treat of a holiday movie our some TV special. The older sisters here are fond of reminding us that such a feast is a "solemn day of recreation" which means it is a day on which recreating is taken seriously. There will be carol singing after super in our community room.

Our day has been total gift - a monastery Christmas. May your day be gift too. And may every blessing of the feast - every blessing of the knowledge of our God-with-Us, our Emmanuel, be with you and those you love. Join us in praying for our needy world, for the poor and most abandoned, for the cause of peace and justice everywhere.

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