“Ye faint-hearted, take courage and fear not. Behold, our God will come and save us.”
– (Communion verse, 3rd Sunday of Advent)
Dear Friends of Carmel,
In the masterpiece of the Divine Liturgy of Holy Church, we hear much about the end of time in these final weeks of the liturgical year. The theme that dominates the Last Sunday after Pentecost and the First Sunday of Advent is the end of time and the Final Judgement. This theme is the link that draws together the end of this year of grace and the beginning of the next, setting us once again on the path that will make present Christ in all of the mysteries of His Redemption. Let us strive more fervently each year to live them more deeply, more completely than in years past.
The Gospel readings for both the last and the first Sunday of each liturgical year narrate Our Lord’s own description of the appalling tribulations of those last days. His words serve as both warning and consolation. The warning is to be attentive and to remember that judgement will come for all of us; and the consolation is that our Judge is full of mercy, bestowing salvation for the repentant. “Understand the time, for now is the hour for us to rise from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe. The night is far advanced, the day is at hand (Romans 13:11-12).”
During this month of November, we are praying for the Holy Souls who have preceded us in death. How can we help but meditate, at least a little, on our own death? By doing so, we fittingly stir up a holy fear of that “day of wrath” that we all must face for our own sins and imperfections.
The Church fixes our spiritual gaze upon the scene of universal destruction, while at the same time she sheds upon it the soft glow of the new eternal dawn. The world is falling into ruin: where then shall we live? Who among us believes in the world that is to come? Who understands that a seed of immortality lies hidden in all earthly dissolution? … The Church, thus humbly submitting herself to divine Judgment, is at the same time transfigured in the glory of the Last Day already shining through the veil of mystery. Standing on the threshold of a new Year of Salvation, she sees it rather as a type and assurance of her aeon-life, which with Christ’s final coming, is to be made visible to all. Thus, End and Beginning unite and become a Portal through which all who hold fast in faith to Christ may reach “the world to come”.
– E. Loehr, O.S. B,. The Year of Our Lord
Thus, with the inauguration of Advent, the season of hope, we visit this scene of destruction once again as a consoling truth. For in the face of so much desolation, misfortune, and sin, we were promised a Redeemer. That blessed Redeemer has come – and will come again, to complete His work: “But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand (Lk.21:28).”
“He said therefore to the crowds that went out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! who has shown you how to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits befitting repentance … For even now the axe is laid at the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, that is not bringing forth fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3)
The purpose of the season of Advent is to shake us from our apathy and to stir up in our souls once again the desire for Christ. Desire precedes love; desire is the essence of love. So Holy Mother Church places upon our lips and in our hearts over the Advent weeks the longing prayers of the Prophets of the Old Testament, adding to it her own fervent prayers and supplications, awakening in our souls a painful yearning for the Redeemer. Does not all of this sound like what the Holy Souls are doing “in spades” as they wait for their deliverance? Let us share in their great yearning and prepare our hearts for the great coming and the great end, which is Christ.
In this our modern day, we need not look far to witness and to feel that suffering which calls out for Redemption, and to make these words and prophecies our own in a very real way. In the world at large, which is increasingly ever at war with its God, in the turmoil in the Church, and in our own individual lives, where we battle the crosses and trials that wear us down – in all of it, we behold our frailty and need. In all of it, we look forward with hope to the promised salvation. How important and helpful it is to realize the power of the Holy Liturgy! It truly unites both past and future into our present moment in time. It brings these words of the prophet to life and reality. And if we are attentive and if we are prayerful, these prophecies become channels of grace to bring the mysteries of the Coming of Christ to our souls.
Ah! Sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil race, corrupt children! … They have forsaken the Lord, spurned the Holy One of Israel, apostatized! Your country is a waste, your cities burnt with fire; your land before your eyes strangers devour…Come now, let us set things aright, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet they may become white as snow (Isaias, 1).
The earth mourns and fades, the world languishes and fades. The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants, who have transgressed laws, violated statues, broken the ancient convenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants are sinners…(Isaias, 24)
He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth (Isaias, 25).
“Stir up Your power, Lord, and come. Protect us, and we shall be rescued from the perils to which our sins are exposing us.” (Collect, Second Sunday of Advent).
“Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isaias 7:14, Epistle of Ember Wednesday in Advent)
“There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out his root…He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears: but He shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth…and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.” (Isaias 11, Epistle of Ember Friday in Advent)
“O Root of Jesse, You stand for an ensign of mankind; before you kings shall keep silence, and to You all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.” (Vespers Antiphon, December 20th).
Know of our prayers for all of you for a fruitful Advent!
Your Carmelite Sisters
P.S. And Happy Feast of All Saints of Carmel
We have been perfecting our relic badges over the past few years, using new, high quality images. This year it was time for the Christmas badges to get “upgraded”. Whether it is just a higher quality image, as in the case of our blue and white Holy Infant badge, or an entirely different, closer-up picture as is the case with our green Nativity badge, we hope that you will be pleased and find the improvements devotional. We also added a relic badge specifically for the Infant of Prague, which is a Carmelite devotion with a history that we have spoken about in past newsletters. The original statue had a turbulent history through war and multiple upheavals in society, but the Carmelite community who has possession of it has always been blessed. Even in the most dire of circumstances, they have remained safe and in peace because of their care of this statue. Did not the Holy Infant Jesus say to them, as He does to all of us, “The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”
Do not forget your Advent candles! There is still time to get them blessed before Advent! We have spoken at length in past newsletters about the beautiful family custom of the Advent wreath and its symbolism. Advent candles were actually the first candles that our young artisan wanted to make for our website. She spent two years perfecting her own more elegant rose and purple colors, which have quickly become favorites for many of you over the past few years.
The young lady who makes the 100% beeswax candles is always happy to work with us for new candle design ideas and scents. This year we decided to create some Christmas scented candles, which turned into quite a project! Every Sister, coming from different backgrounds and with different Christmas memories, had a different idea of what scent would capture Christmas! We tried different combinations and finally have a few that we all enjoy, so we hope that you will too. The green candle is scented like a Christmas tree, that smell of fresh pine that is so often absent from Christmas celebrations with the invention of artificial Christmas trees, and a red “Christmas spice” candle.
Last year, we introduced this wonderful, “old” book to you – and what a response we had! Many of you didn’t receive your books until just after Christmas. But it was in time to enjoy the learning the liturgical traditions, family customs and Christmas legends from over the world and over the centuries. The chapter on beloved hymns and carols is especially fascinating. We just love this book – and all of Father Weiser’s enjoyable, but devotional, books. Here is a portion of what he says about Saint Nicholas, who was transformed into the modern day Santa Claus. Even many of the now-seemingly purely secular Christmas customs have their roots in a rich Catholic tradition!
“In many parts of Europe children still believe St. Nicholas appears to them on the eve of his Feast (December sixth) laden with gifts. His role is that of a heavenly messenger, coming at the beginning of Advent, and admonishing little children to prepare their hearts for properly welcoming the Christ Child at Christmas. He is usually impersonated by a man wearing a long white beard, dressed in the vestments of a bishop, with miter and crozier, a friendly and saintly figure, who comes down from heaven once a year to visit the children, whose patron saint he is. He examines them, questioning them on their catechism and hearing their prayers. After entreating them to be good boys and girls and to get ready for a devout and holy Christmas, he distributes candy and fruit and departs with a loving farewell, leaving the little ones filled with holy awe and joy.”
The past few years we have taken joy in designing and producing a few Christmas ornaments. We decided to keep up the tradition this year! Having featured Our Holy Mother St. Teresa and St. Therese, we decided it was time to honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel herself. We chose a porcelain ornament with a raised floral border, and we quote the first verse of the Carmelite hymn, Flos Carmeli, on the reverse of the ornament.
“Flower of Carmel, fruitful vine, blossom-laden: spendour of heaven, child-bearing, yet maiden; none equals thee.”
Somehow this year we couldn’t stop at one ornament. We came across a new type of acrylic ornament that has the look and catches light like glass, but is sturdy and unbreakable. We experimented with several designs, Our Lady Star of the Sea, St. Therese with the Holy Family, the Nativity, and the Holy Infant – and we liked all of them. So the “Carmelite Collection” of ornaments has expanded considerably this year!
The new vintage medals we added to our site last month have become favorites among our customers. Understandably! These medals have such beautiful devotional detail. We also added two vintage ornaments from the same “Made in the USA” company. These also are replicas of antiques cast from solid bronze, and make a wonderful addition to any Christmas tree – and also a lovely gift!
Again, last year, when we presented new Christmas recordings to you, the response was overwhelming (as well as the Gregorian Chant). In some cases, we could not restock in time. But this year, we hope to have enough for all. A few more new CDs convey the joyous season – the exuberant joy of Christmas. But as is the case with most good choral Christmas music, the element of reverent wonder pervades many of the carols and the singing.
And last but not least….the new “build a custom rosary” feature has finally launched! We still have work to do, adding back in more of the crucifix and center options and updating pictures, but it is up and running once again. We hope that you will find it easier to use!
We now include brass as an option, so you can build your own brass rosaries rather than just ordering pre-designed ones. We have also built in a coupon system for sterling and gold filled rosaries to give a discount on the parts. We hope the other changes will speak for themselves.