Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Christmas 2014 Monastic Joyous Chapter

Joyous Chapter 2014
In monastic tradition, meetings of the community are called “chapters”. Last night, we held our joyous chapter – a tradition at Christmas. As part of the joyous chapter, we listen to the martyrology, the Christmas Gospel, and a homily from one of the sisters. Below is this year’s reflection.
You’ve likely heard it said that our life here on earth is an Advent. We wait in hopeful anticipation for the day when we will be free from our earthly life and, by His grace, see Him face to face in heaven. We groan with the rest of the world for our final redemption. We join the prayer of Israel, repeated throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the Psalms we pray seven times a day in the office, “How long, O Lord, must we wait?”

Yet life is also the Nativity. Each day is that day that happened 2,000 years ago when, in a dirty, smelly stable, a poor peasant woman gave birth to a small, helpless baby boy who was also God. Nine months before, an angel had appeared to this young woman and told her she was to be mother to the long-awaited Messiah. Her response was one of simple humility – let it be done to me as you have said. I am the handmaid of the Lord. She traveled to be with her cousin Elizabeth during her final months of pregnancy with John the Baptist. Imagine the joy those two women must have shared! Then, she returned home to prepare for her own baby.

Only she wouldn’t deliver her baby boy in the comfort of her home with her family and friends. An order comes down from the emperor himself and she must leave behind her preparations and travel with Joseph to Bethlehem. It pretty safe to say, that journey would not have been of her choosing. It was long and arduous, difficult, uncomfortable and likely at many times painful. And at the end of the road, when one most wants to rest in comfort, there was no room for them. Anywhere. Except in a house for animals. And it is in that setting, she goes into labor and gives birth to Jesus, having nowhere else to lay him, except in a manger. But imagine! The look of joyful bliss on Mary and Joseph’s faces as they stare into the face of God made man!

In the dark silence of the night, our Savior was born. And who does His heavenly Father find to hear the news? The king Herod? The local, respectable townspeople? No. God sends his angels to a field on the outskirts of town, to proclaim the good news to unrespectable people, people on the fringes of society and considered so unclean, they would not be allowed in the temple, he proclaimed the birth of His Son on earth to shepherds. They are living among their sheep and keeping watch through the night. The first words out of the angel’s mouth are do not be afraid – these are the first words spoken to Zechariah at the announcement of the coming of his son John the Baptist, the first words spoken to Mary at the annunciation, the first words spoken to Joseph in his dream when the angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife. In fact, these words – Do not be afraid – are spoken to us in the Scriptures 365 times. For fear often comes upon us when God is moving, when he asks us, challenges us, to think and move outside our small boxes we’ve constructed. When he commissions us to follow Him with abandon into surprising and often unexpected times and places.

We live now, this day, this moment, the coming of Jesus. How often we are frustrated and complain when things outside of our control are imposed upon us! Perhaps it is the habits or practices of another that annoy us. Perhaps it is some point of the rule or a task we’ve been given that chafes. Something inside makes us want to put our foot down and assert ourselves. Yet, perhaps God is trying to move us to where He needs us to be. To polish our rough spots. To give us more of Him by coaxing us to share more generously with others.

How often we fall into the lot of the “respectable” people in town, not making room for the Holy Family, and especially Jesus, because we do not want to be put out or serve someone we think is poorer than ourselves. We think to ourselves, I have enough worries and troubles and responsibilities of my own. Yet, in reality, we are all shepherds, whether we want to admit it or not. We’ve all fallen short. And if we want to receive the healing graces from the Divine Physician, if we want to see the glory of God, we must practice humility, being honest about who we really are, that is, how He sees us, and set ourselves out to take the long watches of the night, looking for His coming.

And who are we really? How does God see us? We are the Beloved. Have we sinned, yes. But we are also redeemed. We are loved, madly, deeply loved. So much so, that He gives Himself in the sacraments. He comes to us and dwells in us, making us into His living tabernacles. He offers Himself on the altar as the bread of angels in the Holy Eucharist. How much he desires to be united with us in love!

We are called to follow in Mary’s footsteps, who was both virgin and mother. As consecrated women, and in the Dominican Order, we too share in her virginity and, in a spiritual way, her motherhood. We are called to nurture life – through our obedience of embracing a humble and poor life of worship, prayer and penance, we become strong channels of His grace, overflowing to course through the mouths, hands and feet of our brothers and sisters who carry the Gospel to others. We receive Our Lord in the sacraments and He comes to make His dwelling in us. He asks us to yield to Him, allow ourselves to be healed and transformed, to be made pure and holy, and to be life-bearers to the world as we witness to His glory. Our arms lifted in prayer become strong and sheltering, comforting those who need rest and healing, just as our Blessed Mother comforted her Son. Our fiat, our yes to God, and every yes of obedience we say throughout our day, becomes our battle cry as we stand in the gap and intercede for poor sinners, that God would be glorified and the enemy would be deprived of souls as spoils of war.

In the quiet of a stable, heaven meets earth and a light grows, chasing away the darkness. May we welcome Jesus into the stable, the house, the gardens of our hearts. May we look into his adorable face with love and see him look back at us with greater love. May we allow Him to transform us by his sanctifying grace as we remember to be mindful of his presence in us. And may this house be a radiant beacon of faith, hope, love and peace for our brothers and sisters in our Holy Father Dominic, a place of consolation and healing for weary souls, and a bright light that chases away the darkness until our Lord and Savior comes in His glory and majesty. Amen.

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