Christmas in a Benedictine Monastery

getting-ready-for-xmas-smm1

By Sister Mary Core, OSB

First published several years ago, this story tells why we wait so long to decorate for Christmas … and what we do once it arrives!

Seventeen poinsettias, 7 trees, 6 candles and a nativity scene – minus Baby Jesus – have been carted into the chapel.

After the final Sunday of Advent (and weeks after many other folks!), the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery are decorating for Christmas.

Why so late? We want to keep Advent … Advent.

Advent is a time of preparation to receive our Lord 3 ways: in history, in the future, and in our own hearts every day.

And Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus’ arrival … on Christmas day.

So, although our trees are up and our nativity in place, the lights will stay dark and the manger empty till the Christmas Vigil.

Christmas Vigil

Advent ends at the Christmas Vigil, which we will celebrate beginning at 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve. Here’s how:Best-Crib-for-fb

We will gather in the Welcome Area outside the chapel, and process in to music carrying our small candles (vigil lights).

We will stop in the rear of the chapel, face the crib and offer the Light Proclamation: “Light and peace in Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

Next, we will incense the crib and light the crib candles.

We offer prayers, songs, psalms and listen to Sister Sandra’s reflection. We sing Christmas carols. (This is not a Mass.)

We pause as the Infant is placed between Mary and Joseph. This year, Sister Rose Joseph Kennebeck, OSB will lay the Baby in the manger. (This over-100-year-old Infant is made of wax. He was brought from Europe by our foundress and 1st prioress, Mother Ottilia.)

The Christmas tree lights start to shine. The Christmas season has begun!

Now, we sing Silent Night, and bless and sprinkle the crib with holy water.

We end with a joyful “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and gather in the community room to a lighted tree, treats and an evening of joy together.

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