As the sisters wake the morning of Christmas Eve, there’s a charge in the air. It’s been a whirlwind week with preparations, and there’s one final push ahead. Silently, the sisters make their way to the chapel throughout the wee hours of the morning before Office, relishing a time of silence with God.
The morning is spent in prayer, study and quiet tasks. Then, after Mass, the last attack begins. Most of the decorations in the public chapel and nuns’ choir have been held until now. Garland goes up.
Poinsettias donated by a benefactor are placed. Oh so many candles are prepared! Linens, vestments, incense…so many details…
In the meantime, the sisters continue to spend holy hours with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, for our life of prayer is our real work, and all the other activities are to flow from and back into our prayer.
The afternoon brings time for the finishing touches, the chantresses and organists steal one last rehearsal of the liturgical music, then the sisters shift gears. At a certain point in the day, each sister steps back from her tasks and lets go. She has done all she can do to prepare for Christmas. Time to prepare herself for the coming of Jesus.
The vigil begins with the praying of the vigil Office. The readings are intoned. An excited hush fills the chapel as people slip in and take a seat. And then, the peals of the bell! The Mass of Christmas Night is to begin! And it is announced that the long-awaited Messiah has been born! The joy is palpable!
…and overflows through the night and next day. After a beautiful Mass, celebrated by Fr. Augustine Hilander, O.P., the community comes together for Christmas “breakfast” – sweet breads, cookies, and quiche prepared by the sisters. Finally, the sisters file off to bed for a couple hours sleep before Mass of Christmas Day, celebrated by Fr. Nathan Castle, O.P. and our now-retired former chaplain, Fr. Eugene Sousa, O.P., followed by a leisurely and celebratory day, including a delicious Christmas dinner and light supper, opening of gifts, and time for quiet rest and prayerful reflection.
Yet, while most of the Western world will be packing away Christmas in the next week, we have only begun to celebrate! With immense gratitude to our Infant King and Savior, we remember each of you in our prayers who, by your prayers and generous support, bless and help make our contemplative life possible.