Newsletter Christmas 2003
We have found that the best way to begin a newsletter is to pretend that we are writing to a close friend. However, in this case, we need not pretend, for you, indeed, will always be our close friends. (It also helps to light a little blue candle and ask for a bit of inspiration.)
This is the time of the year when we rummage through our shoe box of odd-sized papers in search of the most significant trivia we might share with you, in hopes that such lofty information will brighten your day. We are grateful to Fr. Edward Hays for telling us how fitting it is to have the feast of St. Nicholas come at the beginning of Advent, as well as at the beginning of the shopping season. Fr. Hays claims that Nicholas is the patron saint of busy shoppers. He quotes St. Nick as saying, “Keep it simple. Simple enough to fit into a shoe or stocking.” This means that we can always tuck a note in a stocking, saying that we plan to do something really nice for a special person. Stockings are great at accommodating such notes and rather like them, especially around Christmas. Before leaving this topic, we need to tell you that, when St. Nick went to have his eyes checked, the doctor did detect a slight twinkle.
With a bit of that twinkle, we continue on. In September, the monarch butterflies again visited our monastery on their way to Mexico, and covered a tree or two with their beauty. There are some among us who are fond of tracing the root meaning of words, and sometimes wish they had taken a course or two in etymology. So, each year, when these butterflies surprise us, we eruditely have a discussion about the fact that originally these beautiful lacy-winged creatures were known as “flutter byes.' (Source, unknown.)
Speaking of visitations, Venus, our Christmas “star,” is again shining over our monastery, and is there to greet us each evening. Even when it is cloudy, we know it is there. Of course, we pray that it is also shining over your own home and heart. On one of the slips of paper gleaned from our friendly shoe box, we read that Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise. Stuck to the note about Venus, was a slip of paper saying that a “jiffy” is indeed a unit of time and constitutes ( 1/100 th) of a second. One Sister asked, “Is this really true?” Another quickly responded, “It has to be. It came from email!” At any rate, we hope you have many joyful “jiffies” this Christmas, and may they all be rotating just the right way.
For us, December not only brings Christmas, but other feasts as well, such as St. John of the Cross. We always religiously serve asparagus on that day seeing how legend has it that St. John was quite fond of it. Ah, yes, there are many ways of keeping the quaint customs of Carmel alive. We doubt, though, if this serious, but gentle, saint knew anything about hollandaise sauce.
On a more serious note, we want to mention that in October, we had our usual silent community retreat. During this time, we try to keep business down to a minimum. When workmen hear that we are “on retreat,” they sometimes ask, “What's that?” We haven't quite figured out a quick and satisfying answer. When they find out that the retreat lasts eight days, sheer incomprehensibility overtakes them. Dear Friends, during those eight days, you were with us.
At the end of October, our generous and faithful friends, from St. Ann's parish, helped us trim back our trees and bushes. (In Iowa, everything keeps growing like Yahweh's love.) Needless to say, we are very grateful, and we pray that these good people will be richly blessed for their kindness to us. Now, we can see for miles around. Truly, looking out over the wide and quiet fields to the north, does something for the human spirit. We wish you were here to share it.
In mid-December , we will again be walking in procession each evening through the halls of the monastery, singing all the way and bearing lighted candles. Know that all your intentions will be with us. During these days, what we wish for most is that Christmas will come to the whole world in a way we could never have imagined. Christmas also brings with it the fulfillment of a promise. Dear Friends, may whatever you long for come to be. We pray for you every day.
Your Carmelites – Eldridge, Iowa
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Awaken, O Child, of Everywhere.
Make us beautiful within !
Truly, all places with Light
and Love in them are Bethlehem !
Jessica Powers, adapted