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Voices Online Edition
Volume XVII, No. 4
Dominican Monastery of St. Jude
A Christmas Prayer
be the hour and the moment when the Son of God was born of the
most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen"
Season | Advent
The Liturgical seasons set a pattern of recurring themes in the monastic life. The season of Advent is always a favorite. We enter the choir for the first Evening Prayer of Advent with Volume I of the Liturgy of the Hours in hand. The Divine Office begins and the chantress intones the hymn, "Conditor Alme Siderum" -- "Creator of the Stars of Night". Then she intones the Antiphon, "Annuntiate", "Proclaim the good news among the nations: Our God will come to save us". The Lord's special coming as our Savior is paramount. We are reminded to cleanse our hearts, and to banish evil from our sight. A new cycle of the Church year has begun, and we try to enter into it with renewed devotion, to spend our cloistered lives so as to be "soul and yeast" of those who preach the good news, praying that this year, more hearts will be ready and willing to respond to Christ and His message.
In contrast to the glittery pre-Christmas mood of the outside world, the Monastic Choir itself is stark. There are no flowers and no organ to lend its melody. The Advent wreath with its somber purple and rose candles stands as a reminder that this is a season of penance, but one that is joyous and filled with expectation. We recall again that God has so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.
The season of Advent seldom garners as much attention as the season of Lent. However, the Liturgical cycle calls us to think of the longing of Israel for a Redeemer across the span of four hundred years of their history. In the Monastery that desire is expressed in many customs. On November 16th, forty days until Christmas, we begin singing the Ave Maria after Mass. This haunting melody recalls the yearning of the Chosen people. By retaining the awareness that they must turn to God for deliverance, they were able to renew their hope.
On the feast of St. Andrew, a petition simply known as A Christmas Prayer is recited each time we enter the Choir. The words of the prayer are "Blessed be the hour and the moment when the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen"
Before the First Sunday of Advent we go to out to the fields to gather straw and to the attic to fetch the manger. Both are placed in the Choir so that as the Sisters prepare for the Birth of Our Lord by extra acts of love, sacrifice and self-denial, they may place straw in the Crib. Thus we hope to offer the Divine Infant a soft bed in the manger, but most of all in our hearts. Families with small children find this practice useful to help the little ones prepare for the Birthday of the Divine Child.
An old holy card shows the angels sweeping the stable at Bethlehem where the Holy Family will soon arrive. During the weeks of Advent, the halls and rooms of the Monastery are swept, mopped and polished with vigor so that even in this mundane way we are reminded to "make straight the way of the Lord". While we observe the time of Advent with fasting, we cook and bake so that the poor may have some cheer at Christmas.
As we come closer to Christmas, the mood of anticipation heightens. The Christmas Novena starts on December 16. We implore the Divine Child to come down in the words drawn from Scripture and tradition. The prayers are poetic, quaint, urgent, passionate and unspeakably dear.
"Adorable Jesus, who willed to come forth from the bosom of the Father, to become Man like unto ourselves, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, taking upon Thyself all our miseries, permit us to adore Thee as our God and our Judge. We implore the assistance of Thy great mercy and beseech Thee to come take birth in our hearts". The prayers go on to hail the Adorable Infant, the Celestial Dew, O Infant Majesty, O Divine Word. What may we do to thank Thee for all Thy benefits? You ask but for our hearts. We consecrate them to Thee but with confusion, seeing them so full of miseries. Purify them, we beseech Thee and render them worthy to serve Thee at Thy cradle when Thou comest forth from the chaste womb of Thy most Holy Mother. This is the most ardent of our desires.
COME, LORD JESUS !
The Dominican Monastery of St. Jude was founded in 1944 as the first interracial contemplative community in the United States. Since its foundation, the Dominican Nuns have dedicated their lives to offering an interracial witness to the people of the South and they constantly present the needs of the world and the Church to Our Lord who is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel. In the Dominican Tradition, the nuns have a special devotion to Our Lady and her rosary and they pray the full Divine Office in English and Latin. While English is the language of the house, the nuns invite women of all races and nationalities to join them in their ministry of penance, prayer and reparation.
The nuns regularly host a "Dominican Contemplative Experience" for women considering a vocation to the contemplative life. The weekend will include prayer with the nuns, conferences of contemplative and Dominican life, time for adoration, recreation, and private meetings with the sister. The weekend is free. For more information contact Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, OP via e-mail or you can write the nuns at
Monastery of St. Jude
P.O. Box 170, County Rd. 20, East
Marbury, AL 36051
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