An Advent Chapter Talk

He comes in splendor, the King who is our peace; the whole world longs to seem him. My dear Sisters,

Just a few minutes ago we used the 4th volume of our breviaries for the last time. We have closed our books and here and there about the monastery are little stacks of breviaries as Sisters transfer ribbons, holy cards and all the various cards for the Office from one breviary to another before Vespers tonight.

This little ritual happens four times each year but as we know this one is different. It is not just changing from one breviary to another but the closing of the door of one liturgical year to open the door of a new one. It is for us who live and breathe a liturgical life—a life of worship and adoration—our “new year” and with this new year comes all the hope and longing for the future.

The door we open or rather the door that the Church opens for us is that of expectation, of longing, of desire. How do we go through this door? Do we go through it like the prudent virgins with our lamps trimmed and full of oil? (An image we all have a better understanding of because of our recent experiences with power outages!) Or do we go through this door careless of the passing of time, and like the servants of the Gospel heedless of the Master’s return?

This beautiful season of Advent that is the Church’s gift to us is a moment when we allow our Beloved to make a home in our souls so that we can know our true Desire which sometimes can be hidden among the clutter of little desires that pass or that are shams for the real one because fear keeps us from opening our hearts.

I think it is fitting that these past weeks we’ve been doing a grand clean-out of the little nooks and crannies of the monastery. We’ve all been amazed at how much useless (or useful for someone else; not for us) stuff we accumulated here and there. It’s been in some ways cathartic and in other ways the letting go of the past to look toward the future.  It’s been a little Advent for us.

So, now some shelves and closets are noticeably bare. What does that evoke in us? We know that for some sisters the site of a clean and tidy and nearly empty room brings a sense of calm and delight while others see it as a yet a new storage area!

It’s a good analogy of our monastic lives. When we came to the monastery we divested ourselves of all that was unnecessary and superfluous, knowing that we needed to travel light for the journey into the heart of God. To live this life in its fullness demands that we keep the “One thing necessary” always before our eyes, to let God carve out a deeper space in us so that he can fill it with Himself. Advent is that time when we make room for God, when through our fasting and abstinence especially, we allow our desire for Him to smash down the mountains and hills of our pride and let the good earth of humility fill in the potholes of our sloth!

At First Vespers of Christmas we will sing, “He comes in splendor, the King who is our peace; the whole world longs to seem him.” As we travel along the road to Bethlehem with our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph during the following four weeks may we be Christ’s peace to each other and may we never stop singing, “Come Lord, and do not delay. We long to see you face to face.”

-Sr. Mary Catharine of Jesus, OP