Seasonal Customs, Part III

Dear one and all,

If you will bear with us just a little longer, we will be finished posting Christmas pictures for almost another year! Although we're becoming habitually behind in blog posts, we think these few straggling-behind-treasures are worth sharing even now. God bless you!

Proclamation of the Martyrology

Christmas Eve is full of activity in a Carmelite monastery.  From the earliest part of the day we begin celebrating what is about to happen--the Incarnation!--by solemnly chanting the ancient Martyrology/The Nativity of the Lord during Lauds. This is the formal proclamation of the birth of Jesus Christ. A sister chants the complete text with two sisters bearing candles on either side of her, while all the sisters stand and prostrate at the appropriate times in the reading.

Midnight Procession

Oh, joy! What joy fills the walls of Carmel as the Infant God-Jesus is carried through every corridor and community room, giving His blessing everywhere and His approval of all the decorations put up in His honor! 

We rise from our evening nap at 10:30 p.m. to prepare for the Christ Child and our prioress to come to our cell door. As they do, the sister is on her knees to kiss the Babe and take her place in the the procession, all the while Christmas music can be heard in the background.

As we make our way in and out of the doors we see for the first time all the decorations. Christmas lights are finally aglow! You can hear sighs and ah's in admiration of the sisters' creativity (each one is assigned a part of the monastery to decorate).

Finally, we make our way to the outside chapel, a special treat to sneak out of the cloister while no one has yet arrived for mass! The music continues in solemn adoration to worship a newborn King, and the sisters watch as the prioress places Jesus in the manger at the altar. We take several long minutes to silently adore in awe and great love, our Jesus in the manger, along with all the other figures and glorious beauty of poinsettias and soft Christmas lights.

Then we gather in the nuns' choir for Matins, or Office of Readings. By the time we are finished there is just enough time to get to the Mass choir to begin the Carols before Midnight Mass.

Some sisters say this is their favorite part of Christmas in Carmel. Thank you, Lord for the gifts you give us!

(The first two images we shared above are from previous years, because we did not take a picture during the Martyrology this year. Below are also some photos of past years.)

Comments 2

  1. J. M. + J. T.

    Oh my!! It seems every time I learn something new about Carmel, I can’t help falling in love with it more and more. How beautiful!!! Thank you so very much!

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