In This Edition :
- Advent, Purgatory, Fatima
- Advent Wreath, Our Lady of Guadalupe Badge
- Community News
Dear Friends of Carmel,
This time of year always finds the world in a flurry of activity and excitement. All too often, November finds many of us racing into the celebratory mood of Christmas, without a thought of Advent, that preparatory season of light penance and prayer. But our ancestors in the Faith, not influenced by the pressures of a secular society, happily embraced the prayerfulness of quieter days and were more sensitive to nature’s messages at the close of summer and autumn, and the appearance of death all around in plant life going into the sleep of dormancy. All around us are the symbols of the brevity of life, but also the invigoration of future life. The paradoxes of Christian life! During Advent, let us not neglect to carve into each day’s hours at least some time for silent “connection” with the God Who loves us – so He may instruct and guide us – and reveal to us the wonders of His love and providence!
We wish to share with you the following meditative instruction of Father Delp, which we hope will make this ancient Liturgical season even more relevant to our present day. Father wrote these words to his friends and flock from a prison cell in WWII Germany, where he was interred for speaking out against the errors of Communism. It is not difficult for us to read these words as personal to us, in a time which also contains so much suffering, turmoil and uncertainty for the future. We all know that in our days there is outright persecution for those promoting Christian values or trying to live Christian lives. Let us not forget the Christians around the world who are making the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, as did this priest, in defense of the Faith. Father was using the frequent prayer/verse from the Advent Liturgy, “O Lord, stir up Your power… Stir up our hearts!”
“Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself. The prerequisite for a fulfilled Advent is a renunciation of the arrogant gestures and tempting dreams with which, and in which man is always deceiving himself. Thus he compels reality to use violence to bring him around, violence and much distress and suffering…Perhaps what we modern people need most is to be genuinely shaken, so that where life is grounded, we would feel its stability; and where life is unstable and uncertain, immoral and unprincipled, we would know that, also, and endure it.
Perhaps that is the ultimate answer to the question of why God has sent us into this time, why He permits this whirlwind to go over the earth, and why He holds us in such a state of chaos and in hopelessness and in darkness – and why there is no end in sight. It is because we have stood here on the earth with a totally false and inauthentic sense of security…That is the first Advent message: before the end, the world will be set quaking. And only where man does not cling inwardly to false security will his eyes be capable of seeing the Ultimate….Where life rebels before your very eyes, you must set it right. These days, life lacks people who can come through the final shakings – as well as through these present shakings – with the knowledge and the consciousness: those who are watching for the Lord will not be affected, in the external sense, even if they are hunted off the face of the earth……
More, and on a deeper level than before, we really know this time that all of life is Advent.”
“All of life is Advent” – yes, all of life is a preparation, and only a preparation, for the life that comes. How often we lose sight of this most important fact as we go about our day to day activities. All through November we have been reminded of the reality of death as we pray for our Faithful departed; let us not forget to prepare for our own deaths as well during this season of Advent. On Christmas we will welcome Our Lord to earth, and we will commemorate and re-live the day the earth saw His face for the first time, an anticipation of the day which on which we hope to see the Savior in the face for the first time. Remember – “All of life is Advent.
Please note that we now are making Volume I of the Liturgical Year available (Advent) and hope to continue to offer the volumes separately, making the scholarly work of the joyful and wise Abbot Gueranger more affordable for all. Nothing matches his chapters on “The Mystery of Advent” and “The History of Advent” – as well as all the Sunday liturgies and Saints of December.
In those moments that you carve into your day for prayer, include the charitable remembrance of “our brethren who have passed out of this life.” Of Heaven, Holy Scripture says, “There shall not enter into it anything defiled…” (Apoc. 21:27)
Not only Catholics love this particular doctrine of our Faith, but also many non-Catholics, who find themselves attracted to the justice and “fairness” of Purgatory and praying for the dead. Yes, one person we know, before she became a Catholic, had often reflected that so very many of the people she knew were good, but not so good all the time. And when relatives died, she thought to herself, “I want this person to be in heaven, but somehow it seems he’s not quite ready for that and doesn’t quite deserve it yet, but COULD, if only…” Then she found the answer to this problem when she learned of Purgatory. We still recall her saying, with a gesture resembling the weighing of scales, “It’s so fair.”
“We should both love and fear purgatory. Purgatory deserves to be feared. It is, in all truth, the workshop of infinite justice. Divine severity and rigor are exercised there with an intensity that, to us on earth, is unknown… On the other hand, purgatory is the masterpiece of the heart of God, the most marvelous artifice of His love, so much so that we could not know whether the consolations enjoyed there are not more abundant than the sufferings… These souls are happy and unhappy at the same time. The greatest anguish the soul can feel is indissolubly united to the most authentic and exhilarating joys imaginable, excepting those of Heaven… Oh, do not accuse the Lord of cruelty toward these souls, whom He will one day immerse in the ocean of His radiance… Rather, wonder how love and justice are united by a mutual disposition in this great work of amendment and purification… Let their cries, so tender and heart-rending, reach and penetrate our hearts – and inspire us to remember and pray for the hastening of their deliverance and blissful homecoming!”
Our Lady’s visit to earth at Fatima was in the center of our October and June newsletters – and the interested, enthusiastic response from readers has been abundant, we are pleased to tell you! In our last letter, we introduced you to a wonderful out of print book from the Cross and Crown Series of Spirituality, published in the 1950s and 60s and edited by the renowned Dominican Fathers Callahan and Aumann. To close this centenary year, we recommend another of these valuable books in The Mystery of Mary. The book offers an excellent presentation of Marian doctrine – emphasizing her motherhood of us all in Christ, her Son. For those who do not really understand the Church’s pre-eminent regard for the Blessed Mother, as well as for those devoted to her, this book gives light and instruction. You will appreciate for your Advent reading (as well as for all the liturgical seasons) the chapters in the section on what the author calls “the Earthly Phases” of the mystery of Mary. We share this one beautiful excerpt:
“The following are some of the characteristics of the Mother of Jesus, as revealed to us by the Gospels. She possessed a remarkably precocious and keen intelligence, a meditative and serious mind always directed toward God, an exact and fervent memory, consummate wisdom and prudence. She was very much aware of everything around her and yet astonishingly discreet and capable of silence. These are indeed the marks of a soul of great faith, who sees only with the eyes of faith and lives only by the light of faith. Mary was transparent to all light that came to her from above. That is why God could reveal anything He pleased to this true Israelite, this daughter of believers and the Mother of so many more. He was sure of being listened to, sure of being understood. Our Lord and God had found someone among us to whom He could entrust the secret of the King.”
-Fr. R. Bernard
The Mystery of Mary
We could not meet the demand for the first Cross and Crown Series book we presented in our last letter. Remember, these books are out of print and for the most part, rare. We hope to locate more of In Him is Life in the future, but for now, this book is no longer available. The response has encouraged us to find more of these superb books to make available to you. We have found some republished in paperback, and when appropriate, we’ll offer these. About 30 titles were published, and some truly are gone. But the search is on, so occasionally visit our site to peruse these valuable books, which have their own section now on our website.
The Advent Wreath for centuries has been a family tradition as a means of preparing for the celebration of the coming of Christ.
Though originally the Advent Wreath was hung from the church or home ceiling on ribbons, custom of more recent years permits its use on the dinner table, where the family meets each day.
The symbolism of the Advent Wreath is as follows: the round shape of the metal ring represents eternity; the evergreens are the symbol of life immortal; and lights of the candles lit each week of Advent represent the Light of World that is the Incarnate Son of God coming into the darkness of this world. Three purple candles indicate the penitential nature of the holy Advent Season, and the one rose colored candle represents the Third Sunday of Advent’s “mitigated penance” and joyful anticipation mid-season. The total of four candles represent the roughly 4000 years that passed between Adam and the arrival of the new Adam, that is Christ.
head of the family blesses the wreath on the Saturday evening before
the First Sunday of Advent. On Sunday, the youngest child lights a
purple candle and the special prayers are said. The candle is allowed
to burn at the evening meals throughout each week. Another purple
candle is lighted on the Sunday of the second week of Advent by the
oldest child, with the prayers. The rose candle is lit by the mother on
the Third Sunday. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the last purple
candle is lighted by the father. Thus during the fourth week of Advent,
all candles will be burning. Many different prayers and customs are
used for blessing and lighting the wreath, but one of the more common is
to use the collects from the Mass of each Sunday.
The wreath can also be used on Christmas Day and days following as the center piece with four white or four red candles for the festive meal.
Advent Calendars are not nearly as ancient or symbolic as Advent Wreaths, but are another way to mark the days before Christmas, especially for children. Even some of our “oldsters” among the Sisters (60s-70s) remember the custom, either in the classroom or at home, of having an Advent calendar to keep remembrance of the season’s days. Unhappily, we’ve seen Advent calendars featuring modern movie characters or Santa’s reindeer featured, rather losing sight of what Advent is meant to be. But religious Advent calendars can still be found, and we have added many different styles to our website over the years.
December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and we wanted to take this opportunity to feature our second new relic badge in this year of special tribute to our Blessed Mother’s nearness and protection. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beloved and famous one, especially in North America. In 1910 Pope Saint Pius X declared the Virgin of Guadalupe the “Patroness of Latin America,” and in 1935, Pius XI extended her patronage to the Philippines. In 1945, Pope Pius XII called the Virgin of Guadalupe the “Queen of Mexico” and “Empress of the Americas,” and in the following year he referred to her as the “Patroness of the Americas.”
She is Patroness for a very good reason! After years of laboring in Mexico with only few converts among the local people, the missionaries turned to Our Lady for help. The answer from Heaven was this apparition, which took place during the days just after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 9-12. At the time, very few of the Europeans realized the full extent and meaning of all the imagery and symbols in this famous picture, but the native Aztecs understood it very well, and 8 million of them were converted just by looking upon it.
So much more could be said about the tilma itself, which, not unlike the Holy Shroud of Turin, has baffled scientists for centuries. Its miraculous preservation, the absence of any dye or paint creating the image, and the extraordinary eyes, have been the subject of scientific study, with wondrous discoveries. Those eyes, having been examined by numerous ophthalmologists, are noted to reflect light and images just like living eyes, mirroring the images of the individuals who first gazed upon the tilma when it was revealed by the humble and amazed Juan Diego.
Part of the extraordinary story of the apparitions themselves, are on our website. We also recommend the book, Woman Clothed With the Sun. For the telling of the charming and marvelous story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this book is our very favorite. Our Lady stands in front of the sun and over the moon, showing herself greater than these “gods,” and yet has her head bowed in p rayer, acknowledging someone greater than herself. She is surrounded by mist and clouds, which point to a Divine origin and mission; but she is unmasked, which indicates she is human. Her bluish green mantle denotes royalty. Her hair is loose, which signifies virginity, and yet the black sash around her waist denotes that she is with child. Over her womb is the quincunx flower, the Aztec symbol of divinity of transcendence. The stars of her mantle are arranged to mirror the constellations that were in the sky at the time, but not as they would have been viewed on earth. It is as if the viewer were the sun, or the center of the flower over Our Lady’s womb. The pictorial message was very clear to these people who often used pictographic symbols – the true God, Lord of the universe, was in the woman’s womb.
Here in Colorado, winds blow in, out and through the seasons, but especially in autumn and spring. And with all the tall ponderosa pines around the Monastery grounds, those winds blow heaps of pine needles to the ground at both seasons. In Fall, add to those the leaves from our aspens, maples, ash and other trees, and we have quite a pretty, little mess on our hands! Time to pull out the rakes and get busy. Of course, as usual, puppies hamper progress, so after they get their fun running from Sister to Sister, rake to rake, pile to pile, we coax them indoors to get the work done.
As another tribute to Our Lady of Fatima, we have had a new shrine built, moving her image closer to the Monastery building and surrounded by trees to make a more secluded cove for prayer. Along with the shrine, we’ve planted a few more blue spruce and Austrian and bristlecone pine trees to provide better enclosure from the nearby growing housing development. We have just a bit more garden work to do to wrap up things for winter. The mostly mild November days will soon come to an end, and winter will come in earnest.
We continue to work on our sewing and embroidery, of course. We are actually in the middle of our biggest project yet. But we can’t tell you more about it yet. Sometime in the spring, all will be finished. Meanwhile, we face hurdles, figure the best way to handle them, then leap one hurdle only to approach others along the way. Creativity, ingenuity, and just plain perseverance are getting us through! But of course, prayer above all. Our two favorite invocations are, “Our Lady, Queen of sew-ers,” and “Our Lady, Queen of embroiderers!
The aromas of Christmas bakery are more frequently filling the house these days. Our Kitchen Sister insisted on getting us started on our Christmas gifts a few weeks earlier this year, in hopes that we’ll have everything made in good time for the delivery day to our good friends in the city who are of such help to our Community. Health professionals, shoppers, handymen, and helpers to Carmel in so many ways – how better to thank them than with the fruit of our creative labors in the kitchen? Of course, our grateful prayers accompany them throughout the year, but the bakery is a small token of our appreciation. Besides, the Sisters enjoy this one time to make old and new favorites to share with these good friends.
We close with our prayers for a Blessed and peaceful Advent season. Let us strive to make all of life – all of our daily life – an Advent for Our Lord’s moment-to moment coming to our souls by His grace!
Your Carmelite Sisters
P.S. And we also wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for.
HELP US CONTINUE OUR LIFE OF PRAYER AND SACRIFICE