I have been thinking about monks/nuns/sisters (Religious) and how they spend their Christmases. I have no first-hand knowledge. My imagination tells me that if I wanted to enjoy a historic Christmas, I should visit a monastery during Christmas time.
I searched some of the blogs by Religious that are linked on the right sidebar of this blog. I searched for blogs that gave a glimpse of what happens in the life of a Religious during Advent/Christmas time that may be different from other times of the year. I found four such blogs, two by monks, one by a novice sister, and one by a nun.
In summary, their Christmases seem exactly like the Christmases many Christians talk about: relevant, noncommercial, focused on Christ and his coming — who could have guessed?
The monastic life is an ancient form of Christian living that withstood countless barbarian invasions in centuries past. Monasteries helped rebuild Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Today monasteries quietly offer a much different form of Christmas than is popular in today’s commercial culture.
The Pope said, above all else monasteries are places of spiritual power — and with good reason. If you want to see the spiritual power that can withstand the dark ages, attend a Christmas-Eve Midnight Mass at a monastery. Thank them for tending the flame.
Here is an excerpt from a blog by a monk at Subiaco Abbey in the state of Arkansas, USA:
During Advent “music is markedly both more somber and melodious than during other periods. In contrast to the jubilation of Easter or the penitence of Lent, the music of Advent inspires a feeling of being called to meditate on the Miracle of Christ’s birth.”
Here is an excerpt from a 2007 blog by a monk at Conception Abbey in the state of Missouri, USA:
“Yesterday we had first vespers of Christmas at 4:45 PM. Then at 6:00 PM we had our Christmas dinner, a banquet. At 7:45 PM we had Vigils and then at midnight we had Mass. I myself did not attend the midnight Mass here as I went to Clyde Monastery and had Mass for the Benedictine Sisters at 9:00 PM. That is when they have their Christmas Mass. When I got back it was about 11:00 PM so I went to bed. This morning we had Lauds at 9:00 AM and then most of the monks went to the infirmary as the monks who live there opened their gifts. At 11:00 AM we had a second Christmas Mass. This afternoon at 5:00 PM we have vespers and then at 7:00 PM Compline or night prayer.”
Here is an excerpt from a 2007 blog of a novice sister at Colwich Abbey in England:
“On Christmas day we came to breakfast and found a large scented candle at each of our places - a gift from a friend of the community, Chris - and a bag of goodies given by our Oblate Edna and friend Audrey. We have lit the candles at our evening meal each day and the bags which were full of individually wrapped things such as gardening gloves, hand cream and socks gave us lots of enjoyment. Later in the day we came together for festive recreation with tea, cakes and crackers.”
Here is an excerpt from a blog of a cloistered Passionist Nun in the state of Kentucky, USA:
“Happy Advent to all of you! Advent is always an adventure for our new members who are used to Christmas decorations going up shortly after Thanksgiving Day (or even before!). Here in the monastery we are grateful that we are protected from the immense commercialism of this time of the year. Instead, we try to spend more time in prayer and Scripture reading, thinking of our Lady and how she prepared for the Light of the World about to be born.
“Currently, they are joyfully anticipating Christmas Eve Midnight Mass where they will help to welcome the Divine Infant by offering him their musical talent through their arrangements of organ and violin. If you live nearby [Passionist Nuns, 8564 Crisp Road, Whitesville, KY 42378] we invite you to join us on that Holy Night as we worship and give thanks to the Eternal Father for the gift of Christ his Son. The Carols begin at 11:30 p.m.”