Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Our celebrant this morning gave us a mini-sermon that struck home...

"Today is a time to reflect, he said, "on the blessings of this past year, but also on the challenges we have survived and endured." It's a good way to put it... describing a year that for so many has been fraught with illness, loss, unwanted change and heavy burdens. War continues to erupt in all the usual places, the economy is still tanked, and even with a hopeful inauguration ahead in January, there's a lot of hard work and sacrifice before us to turn any of it around.

In my own little corner of the globe we've had our share of trauma, and our extended families continue to need prayers for health issues, job security and a little extra courage to face the challenges of 2009.

Our celebrant on Christmas Eve elaborated on the angel's message to "fear not..." because, as he said, "fear gets us nowhere." So true. So on this New Year's Eve, the message is similar: Fear Not. Look at all we have survived, all we have endured. Look at all the blessings we have received in the wake of all the change. 

It's all a piece. And we are all in it together.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

stood up

When I was in college, occasionally instructors were late for class, and students were required to wait a certain length of time for them to show up, depending upon their status. If he (or she) were a professor, it was ten minutes. If a doctor, then twenty.

We waited fifteen this morning for our celebrant, who never did arrive. My guess is he forgot... there's a lot of that going around, especially here at our convent. But on Sunday, and on this, the first Sunday after Christmas, it was a bigger deal than usual. Our sister in charge of music had to forego all of the Christmas hymns she had planned, as we scrambled to make do with a modified "deacon's" mass. However, a couple of us had specifically requested a certain hymn, so after communion we all opened our books to 112... In the Bleak Midwinter... that haunting poem by Christina Rossetti. 

At breakfast I was saying that there are actually two versions, although only one appears in the hymnbook. Except I couldn't get the tune we'd just been singing out of my head. So I searched on YouTube. Most everyone sings the Hymnbook version, but I found a couple of the other one I remembered. Here you go...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

In about an hour our "Midnight Mass" will begin at 8:00 PM. It is a concession for the elders who can no longer stay up til the wee hours and still function the next day. Neither can I, actually, and I am grateful for this relaxed schedule (well, okay, not exactly relaxed) but much less pressure than in Christmases past. Soon the celebrant will bless the creche and lay the baby in the manger. Here's what our baby looks like...

Blessings to you all

Sunday, December 21, 2008


We're decorating early (for nuns) this year. Used to be Christmas Eve Day was the day for decorating the world.

But here today, we set up the creche in the morning, attached the wreaths to the cross and the front door and we'll start trimming the tree in another half an hour. All that to say that the last-minute flurry of things to be done will be a little less complicated for those of us actually doing the doing. Wahoo! 

"K.I.S.S... or Keep It Simple, Sister" is our motto this year. We'll see how that goes. Over the years traditions develop in any family or community, and somewhere along the way those little extra touches that one person added one year become cemented in the communal memory and then that extra little something becomes a MUST DO.

Not this year. The creche and the tree are the priorities for decorating. Cookies for the Wassail Party on Christmas Eve are already in the works,  we'll have a big dinner on Christmas Day, and that will be it. 

Meanwhile, there are groceries to buy, laundry to be folded, and menus to be planned. Life is good.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14th

It's Advent III already. (The one with the pink candle)
How did the time fly by so fast?

It's creativity week starting today. (relaxed schedule, large blocks of time... 
time for cartoonz and art)

I'm the birthday girl today.
(Chinese take-out for supper... and wine!)

I think today must be a good day to be alive...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

cosmic laws

Some of the ironies of life on this planet are a joy to analyze but a pain to live through. They are what I call the ironic cosmic laws.

I was talking with someone earlier today and said, "There seems to be some law about taking time off... you have to work twice as hard both before you leave and after you come back to pay for it." That was always true (for me) in the corporate world, but it never seemed to be that way for my various bosses. They would schedule their vacations/out-of-town trips always when we were at our busiest, and I would work twice as many hours to make up for them being away.

Yet the law that says making up for lost time takes longer than if you'd been working steadily... what should that be called? It ought to have a name... like the law of thermodynamics or gravity or the Doppler effect... the law of inverse time-warp-expansion... something. Whatever we call it, it seems to be true. I took a week of retreat time last week and ended up working longer hours before and after, which leads to the next cosmic law of crash and burn.

I would not describe my retreat time at Holy Cross as a "mountain-top" experience. I've had very few of those in my life, and I definitely remember them. But the time there was certainly special, sacred, and obviously exactly what I needed. You'd think I'd come home rested and relaxed and blissed out to the extent that nothing much would bother me. WRONG.

Everything bothers me. Well most everything. I am irritable, easily annoyed and can't seem to find me feet now that I'm home. A week of silence with no major responsibilities has spoiled me... ruined me for a life of loving service. On top of that, the sisters who covered my back while I was away are tired. They want to slack a bit, get some relief. And I'm in no condition to jump in with a smile on my face or a song in my heart. What's that law called? It's not really crash and burn. Crash and burn is when you work so hard so long that you just wear out... emotionally and physically and spiritually. I've been in retreat for a week. Why should I feel like I'm in some post-traumatic-stress depressed state? But I do. Definitely.

Not much incentive for my sisters to send me off again any time soon...

Monday, December 08, 2008

How do you measure a year?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear...
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure... measure a year?

Happy Anniversary to Me :)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

closet hermit?

For all the words that can be used to describe a retreat, for me (this time) the word has been seclusion. The desire, the palpable need for isolation has been creeping up on me slowly, probably without my even noticing... until this week... when my time could take almost any form I wished, (except talking of course) I found I had no wish to walk outdoors, to explore nature or even the bookshelves. I had no desire to eat my meals with other people, even when they were in silence. I ate alone and quickly, and came back each time with relief and gratitude to the two rooms and a bath which had graciously been provided for me to use.

Solitude in such a deep form is not necessarily available in community. We do things together... eat, pray, work, recreate. There is plenty of time alone, but it is broken up every day by times of togetherness. This is what I have not had this week: togetherness. Even in chapel there is an empty seat between me and the brothers. I am cut off, an observer. It should not have been a surprise that this would be exactly what I needed, but I wasn't prepared for how strongly I would guard and protect it for myself. At home I am much more available if someone needs me for something. Here I was a specter in the halls.

Tomorrow it ends. I'm not at all sure how that will be. Guess I'll find out tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

fuzz around the edges

I'm always surprised when familiar things in unfamiliar places have more impact. Something about the slight jolt of not knowing exactly what will happen next keeps me a little more alert, a little more open to the present moment. After all that's where we supposedly meet God.

The story goes that God's name is "I Am." Not I was or I will be... So, we cannot meet in the past nor in the future. Only in the present moment. At times I think I have remembered God in the past... if time was linear before my birth. And I have had lucid dreams of seeing God in a time that is part of my linear future, but those probably don't count. 

The special impact has affected me in chapel here at Holy Cross. Of course I am familiar with the Eucharist and the Divine Office, with the flow of how they go—but all monastic orders take the skeletons of these and flesh them out as they see fit. The chanting is different, the pauses and times of silence vary, standing and sitting are not the same. And I am up in the choir with the monks, not exactly anonymous. I am probably a little more than alert.

Alert in chapel, yes, but the rest of my day has fuzz around the edges. I am blurred by the wealth of so much time with no special obligations. I am knitting a scarf, reading two books, playing with art on my laptop. I dress in habit for Morning Prayer, Eucharist and Evening Prayer, but the rest of the day I am in sweat pants and my snuggly bedroom slippers. I feel rested and energized, but not ready to get any shows on the road. Nope, this is just fine the way it is. Here's something I was working on today... it's called hands to receive and bless.

Monday, December 01, 2008

long retreat

[ri-treet]   noun or verb
evacuation, flight, withdrawal—an asylum, (as for the insane...) a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation... or
to withdraw, retire, or draw back, esp. for shelter or seclusion.

All of those definitions apply. It's been a long and arduous year. Not a bad year, by any means, but definitely busy. I'm ready for this.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine was rededicated yesterday and most of us attended. The place with packed with clergy, religious, visiting dignitaries. Even our two elders were there, which required the aide, Access-A-Ride, walker and cane, as well as someone to keep an eye out for mishaps and misplaced belongings. 

We have had strong connections with the Cathedral from the very beginning of our order, even though it is not necessarily our parish church. The celebration was long and lovely, but attending the service meant I was very delayed in my departure to Holy Cross.

By subway, train and taxi... I finally arrived last night after dark, in the pouring rain. Talk about shelter. I was greeted with hugs and offers of food and a small glass of the last of their Thanksgiving wine... (they know the way to a girl's heart.)

I settled in to what seems like a palatial suite... a bedroom, bath and sitting room combined. There is a desk, wireless access, and a bookcase with some interesting titles, a little door out to a garden. I may just fast all week and never leave my suite. (Right.)

I slept late this morning and only woke up when I realized I was having anxiety dreams... dreaming about talking when I should have been silent, shopping when I should have been praying. The brain is a whacky instrument. My retreat plans are flexible but shopping at Woodbury Common never entered my mind. Yet in my dream, there I was, trying on some haute couture jacket that looked ridiculous on me. 

I have not mentioned Advent, although I've been looking forward to that as much as I have this retreat. This year one of my images can be seen on Episcopal Cafe's website for the week of Advent I. Take a peek.