On This Last Day of Christmas...
my good God gave to me...
Let's see... what has God given me as I pause on this last day of the 2007 Christmas season?
Looking back over the time of Advent and Christmas, I am thankful for the many gifts God has given me during this sacred time.
On the first Sunday of Advent, I had the privilege of participating in the liturgy by raising the Advent wreath. It's a very effective introduction to Advent but takes a bit of extra muscle even with the help of the rope and pulleys.
My Advent began with the annual Christmas Concert of the Daughters of Saint Paul . As has been my tradition since the Sisters began their Christmas Concert ministry tour three years ago, I catch their annual performance at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Princeton, NJ. Due to my schedule that day, I made it in time for intermission and had the good grace to be able to say "hi" and chat for a few minutes with my friend, Sister Anne Joan . Here's a picture from the day:
The following weekend was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the titular feast of my community, the Sisters of Christian Charity , whose complete title is Sisters of Christian Charity, Daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Actually in one of the South American provinces the Sisters are known as "Las Inmaculadas" (Sisters of the Immaculate) whereas here in the US they are known as "Sisters of Christian Charity" or "SCCs."
The third weekend a group of Sisters and lay associates whose small groups meet at the Motherhouse embarked on the annual Christmas trip to Holy Family Convent in Danville, PA. That is our home for retired Sisters, sisters in assisted living, and sisters in need of nursing care. There is also a group of Sisters who are assigned there to minister to the Sisters and administer the convent home. This is always a special trip and the time there is never enough. It is a grace to know these Sisters and to witness them still, after 60, 70, 80 years of religious life still living their consecrated life with enthusiasm and dedication. Our visit this year was particularly grace-filled as were among the last to be able to spend time with S. F. who was in the process of "closing her eyes to this life and opening her eyes to God." I had the blessing of being able to spend time in prayer and thanksgiving at her bedside and give thanks for her life among us. She was a phenomenal teacher and valuable community member. She was small in stature but big in the impression she made upon you. Even as she prepare to meet her Spouse, she still had her characteristic smile for all who entered her room to say "farewell for now." Sister F. died two days later peacefully and quietly. Now she is enjoying an eternal Christmas celebration with God.
The remaining days of Advent provided an opportunity to purchase a wreath as well as to ensure that a young family enjoyed fresh evergreens for their Christmas celebration. With the arrival of Christmas, I was glad to join in the singing of favorite carols and enjoying my parish Church so beautifully and tastefully decorated to mark the feast of the Incarnation.
On the feast of the Holy Family, our parish had a special blessing for families and recognizing that we are all part of a family and all form the family of God all present were asked to stand for the blessing. We also prayed a special prayer of blessing for the Sister who is part of our pastoral team who will be enjoying a one month renewal program (sabbatical) in California. It's a well-deserved opportunity for her, but we are certainly already missing her.
New Year's Day brought the start of the new year and an opportunity to reflect on the significance of new beginnings with a deeper appreciation for the new starts that are provided to us by God each and every day.
The Feast of the Epiphany included a procession of stars leading to the manger so that all our hearts might re-focus on the Baby King whose birth we continue to celebrate.
Finally today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and bring this Christmas season to a close. This afternoon we had a gathering of Sisters and Associates for reflection and small group sharing on Pope Benedict's "God Is Love." Following that, I had the opportunity to make a holy hour of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving before the Blessed Sacrament and pray Vespers with the Motherhouse community. After a light supper, I made my way home and as I drove (listening to the latest Christmas CD by the Daughters of Saint Pauline reflected gratefully on the blessings of this sacred season.
In reality Christmas won't be the same as it was before my father's unexpected death (in mid-December) nine years ago, but I am thankful that drawing on and celebrating the faith he imparted to us that I am able to experience Christmas and the gift of Emmanuel.
I hope that your holyday season has been blessed and grace-filled wherever you find yourself in life.