December 10, 2008

A Convent Advent

As soon as the turkey is put in its tupperware containers on Thanksgiving Day, the world goes right into “Christmas mode.” Many families (including my own) put up the Christmas tree and make plans for the shopping spree directly after the feast.

The wisdom of the Church gives us this holy season of advent to patiently and quietly prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. It is a chance for us to slow down and calm ourselves interiorly so that our exterior will radiate with expectancy and not with Christmas lights and shiny new things.

During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, the atmosphere of the convent is one of anticipation, hopefulness, conversion, and renewal. In order to better prepare our hearts for these holy seasons, we discuss beforehand as a community how we can physically, mentally, and spiritually take advantage of this time of grace. On Sundays of Advent and Lent, we keep silence until noon- this is to foster a prayerful spirit as we draw closer to Christ’s birth. We also try to cultivate silence in our everyday surroundings by more fervently keeping our Rule within enclosure and during the times asked of us in our Constitutions. The night before Advent begins, we each draw a Sisters’ name to remember in prayer and random acts of kindness- also known as “Advent Angel.” The tradition of Advent Angels continually draws us back to the real meaning of Advent and Christmas- a giving and receiving spirit in reflection of the Trinity who is a constant giving and receiving in love.

In the convent, we also have a bit of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I admit, even before the turkey is on the table we have our Provincialate Christmas tree up and blinking- to welcome home our sisters who go to school. Slowly our hallways and lobbies are transformed into Christmas wonderlands. Our novitiate holds the annual Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) with German food, music, and gifts to purchase with prayers. Throughout Advent, our choir sings at our many hospital Christmas parties and a few of our sisters perform a candledance. Closer to the end of Advent, we do Christmas Caroling around both of our hospitals in Alton with the traditional Christmas Angels (young daughters of a few of our hospital employees) who pass out Christmas cards to all of our patients. Advent also wouldn’t be the same without the numerous school Christmas programs- the Mary who forgets her lines, the three-year-olds singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” with as much gusto as they can manage (forget the verses, just sing the refrain over and over and over again), and the Sisters who sit down with a sigh and a smile of gratitude after it is all over.

Happy Advent!
- by Sr. M. Clementia, FSGM


Anonymous said...

Sounds awesome! My grandparents wanted something different, so they put their tree in the kitchen!

Marilena said...

i'm still not in Christmas mode yet. not by a long shot.
i'm patiently waiting for Jesus. i'll probably do my shopping well after the 15th:) i like to enjoy Advent:)