Longing for Advent

It seems like every year Christmas is arriving earlier and earlier, and I don’t mean December 25th. Christmas is beginning to arrive in stores in October! It is not uncommon anymore for the Christmas aisle to be put up at the same time as the Halloween aisle our extern sisters tell us.

We’ve always lamented the lack of Christmas music during the actual Christmas season and its prevalence during Advent. Any sister having to go out to the doctor’s any time after Thanksgiving knew she’d be bombarded with Christmas…but now even the Christmas music has begun before Advent, before December, before Thanksgiving!

For some people, this is a wonderful thing. It is extending ‘the season’, the ‘Christmas spirit.’ For others it is an annoyance. For those who will be missing loved ones it may be a sad reminder. But why is it happening? What is causing us to start Christmas earlier and earlier in the year?

The world is longing for Advent.

The change from the long days of summer to the short days of autumn and winter can be difficult. The year feels like it is slowly dying, slipping away. This can remind us of our own mortality, whether we are still in the spring or summer of our life or whether we have entered our autumnal years. These thoughts can be difficult, and it can be so easy to try to avoid them by getting lost in the busyness and ‘warm feelings’ of the Christmas season. But God didn’t arbitrarily create nature’s rhythms and He didn’t place the great feasts of the Church willy-nilly on the calendar.* Nature is God’s first Bible, it is His first revelation to us. The shortening of the days, the dying back of the garden, the gathering chill in the air, it all speaks to us of our own mortality and the effects of original sin. But just as in nature spring follows winter, we also will rise and what once seemed dead will be given new life.

It is no coincidence that Christmas is celebrated at the darkest time of the year. The winter solstice occurs about December 22; the longest night of the year. Christmas, on December 25th, is at a time when the darkness seems to have overshadowed the light, all around us lies dead. But Christ is born and Light enters into the world and into us.  

Christmas is a time of great joy, a time when we can feel all is right with the world. So it makes sense that when faced with the bleakness of fall, the shortening of the days and the chilling of the weather, and the reminder of our own mortality that it all conveys, we can want to begin Christmas as soon as we can. But when we do this we are robbing ourselves of a crucial piece of the puzzle: Advent.

Advent is the 4-week season immediately preceding Christmas that the Church gives us to prepare. There’s no preparing ‘in the world.’ You jump from Halloween or Thanksgiving (or, it seems now, from summer) directly into Christmas. Without Advent Christmas loses its full meaning. Those signs you'll start to see in yards "Keep Christ in Christmas" might remind you that Christ was born on Christmas, but Advent reminds you why He was born. How much do you desire a sip of water after you've had a whole gallon? Not much. How much do you desire a sip of water after a day in the hot desert without any? A lot! That's Advent. 

Advent reminds us why Christ was born in Bethlehem. It reminds us the state we were in before that miracle happened, and what would have become of us if God hadn't done the unthinkable and become man. We were dead, spiritually dead. We were at our darkest hour, the light was all gone. The distance between us and God was insurmountable. How could we ever bridge the chasm that separated us? But we were not without hope. Through the Prophets God told of a child who would be born... 

This Advent, don't rush into Christmas. Let the longing for the coming of the promised One grow in you. 

*(If you live in the Southern Hemisphere the experience will be different, but Christian writers have written on the connection of the Southern Hemisphere’s weather pattern with its feasts as well.)

Dominican Nuns and Advent Candles Featured on the 700Club

Last month a film crew from The 700 Club spent the day filming Sr. Maria Johanna making Advent Candles and interviewing Sr. Mary Catharine our novice mistress who also runs the soap and candle departments and teaches the sisters in the novitiate how to make soap and candles! Sr. Maria Johanna is now our expert taper maker!

Our Advent candles are so popular that we can't keep up with the demand and we are sold out for the season! We are looking into some ways we can increase production that is compatible with our contemplative, monastic life!

Getting close!

Just what is "getting close"? Our community's 60th anniversary of Solemn Profession? The entrance of a new postulant? Sr. Danielle's Clothing Day? ....well, yes! But that's not what this blog post is about. 

We're getting close to having a working furnace! 

If you remember, we were told back in mid-October that our furnace was broken beyond repair. We had turned on the furnace, which had just passed inspection perfectly, and steam quickly began to fill the basement. It was discovered that the furnace had cracked and that crack was irreparable.  We did not particularly relish the thought of a New Jersey winter without heat, and thankfully neither did the generous benefactors who quickly donated the necessary funds to replace the 40 year old furnace and 80 year old condenser pipes. The furnace company came out right away to start disassembling the broken furnace so they could replace it with a new one. It was slow work as the pieces were very heavy! They had to erect a small crane type of instrument to help them get the pieces from ground level down into the 'pit' where the furnace and boiler reside.

But don't worry, we haven't frozen while waiting for the new furnace! Some wonderful friends donated space heaters or the funds for space heaters which have helped in places, and if you've been to Mass lately you may have noticed we've been wearing our long black wool cappas for extra warmth. 

 Today the new furnace is in and starting to be hooked up to all the appropriate pipes. We're getting close!

Thank you to everyone who has helped make sure we'll stay warm this winter!