In this Edition:
- Advent and the Angelus
- Website News – Gift Suggestions
- Community News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
“Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come to save us!” This urgent plea, taken from Psalm 79, is the constant prayer of this season of Advent and its liturgy. And the plea refers not only to the renewal of the coming of Christ Our Lord at His Nativity, but also that of His second and final coming at the end of time. The Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent (St. Luke 21:25-33) is part of what Our Lord tells of the events that will signal the end of the world. St. Gregory (6th century) comments on this passage, saying “Our Lord and Redeemer, desiring to find us prepared, warns us of the evils that are to accompany the end of the world, so that He may keep us from the love of it.” He goes on to describe how in his own time the signs were evident of nation rising against nation and distress upon the earth, such as earthquakes, pestilences and famine. This 6th century pope’s remarks read like news reports in the 21st century! But he encourages the Christians, who have by their adherence to Christ cast off love of this world and worldly riches and pleasures. To these Our Savior spoke the comforting words: “When these things come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” St. Gregory ends his moving sermon with wise counsels on how to prepare for the coming of the Great Day of the Lord: “Reflect with all your mind upon this day, my dearest Brethren. Remedy what is now defective in your present life. Amend your ways. Conquer evil temptations by standing firm against them. Repent with tears of the sins you have committed. For the more you make ready against the severity of His justice by serving Him in love and fear, the more serenely shall you behold the Coming of that Eternal Judge.”
These counsels serve as answer to the question, “What is a good way to spend Advent?” And since it is meant to be a time of prayerful preparation for Christmas, we can also recommend a daily prayer devotion that will really mean something and bring the soul close to the mystery of Christmas. There is a very old custom—around 700 years old—of praying the Angelus three times each day: morning, noon and night. The Angelus (Latin for “angel”) is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation. The name Angelus is derived from the opening words: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (“… the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary …”) and is practiced by reciting as verse and response three Biblical verses describing the mystery; alternating with the Hail Mary (the angel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary). What better way to meditate on the coming of the Redeemer than this prayer, recalling the words of Holy Scripture and crying out for the assistance of the Virgin Mary, the one person who knew and understood best of all His presence in this world? A good Wikipedia article, which takes quite a bit from the Catholic Encyclopedia, provides more details about the history of this beautiful prayer.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. R. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. R. Be it done to me according to Thy word.
V. And the Word was made flesh. R. And dwelt among us.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Although in our days, the ringing of the Angelus bell throughout each day is not as common as in past ages, we have this noble call to prayer here at our monastery. But once so familiar was this prayer in everyday life for centuries, that even non-Catholics were moved when they would hear, three times during the day, the Angelus bell ringing from Catholic churches and monasteries, calling souls to grateful remembrance of their salvation. The American Romantic author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe, penned this little poem, one that stands out as exceptional and full of light among all the other works of this man. He called it “Hymn”:
At morn, at noon, at twilight dim,
Maria, thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe, in good and ill,
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;
Now, when the storms of fate o’ercast
Darkly my present and my past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine
Work continues towards our new web site, but more slowly now, during the busy seasons of Advent and Christmas—more prayer, more rosary orders! But we are grateful for your interest and prayers for this important project at Carmel!
Since we are often asked this time of year for gift suggestions, we offer the following, as always, beginning with books! Of course, you should look over the Advent and Christmas books, which include good gifts for children. An outstanding, readable A Life of Our Lord for Children will give a memorable introduction to the Gospel. A new book on our site is the tiny treasure, Favorite Prayers to Our Lady. The new Holy Family Christmas jigsaw puzzle makes a perfect family pastime around the Christmas tree! Our Nativity crib scene relic badge, as well as the artistically detailed sterling silver devotional plaques and rosary boxes make unique gifts. Christmas cards with enclosed prayer cards are a simple way to send greetings at this holy time. Of course, most people come to us for our handmade rosaries, including cord rosaries; but our other prayer chaplets are also a favorite gift for so many occasions. The selection is abundant and growing: on our future new web site, we hope to expand this selection, for there are so many beautiful chaplet prayers that deserve honor and use—and that are a fine way of simple prayer and meditation on the mysteries and treasures of our holy Faith. We might particularly mention the Holy Infant Chaplet and the Immaculate Conception Chaplet. Lastly, to send thanks for Christmas gifts received, we offer some special Christmas thank you cards at the bottom of our Christmas cards page.
Not many events have happened since our last letter in October, but a few special ones. Our youngest novice, after a 10-day retreat in preparation, professed her First Vows on November 9th. The First Profession Day is always a quiet, close-family day, unlike the public ceremonies that accompany Investiture and Final Profession. But Sister, along with all of the rest of us, had to resume our duties in earnest. This time of year, so many things are both finished and begun… The gardens need to be “put to bed”, canning of fruits and vegetables completed and stored, leaves and needles to be raked, new habits to be hemmed. But as Advent begins, we take up new sewing projects, and of course, Christmas baking and making! One full day was spent on the brittles and toffees last week, while the weather was clear. Over the years, we’ve discovered that cloudy, humid days are not conducive to candy-making! We are also doing some “weatherizing” of the monastery building for winter, and with the able assistance of a good friend who is very handy in all sorts of ways, taking care of little repair projects that have waited too long.
For the rest, we plunge into the beautiful, prophecy-filled liturgical life of prayer that Advent brings. Further verses of Psalm 79 are frequently before our eyes and upon our lips as we pray the Divine Office. We recognize the words to be the cry of all mankind: “Come to deliver us, O Lord of hosts! If Your Face shine upon us, we shall be saved…” O Come, O Emmanuel!
Our prayers for God’s blessing and protection to be with you all!
Your Carmelite Sisters