Sr Julie CHN sends this lovely entry on life at her convent in Derby at Christmas and Epiphanytide
Right until the end of Advent, the Convent is able to remain very low-key in terms of practical preparations for Christmas – only a bare minimum is done in advance. And so when Christmas Eve dawned, after the Eucharist, breakfast and Mattins, the Convent became a hive of activity. Boxes of tree decorations, nativity figures and buckets of flowers emerged from their hiding places, for sisters with artistic flair, or those who are safe climbing up steps, to bring about the transformation of the convent and chapel ready to celebrate the Saviour’s birth. Others cleaned, supplemented the kitchen team, polished the silver, practiced the festive music etc.
Christmas Eve is the only night in the year that Compline is not said at the Convent, and Sisters have time to reflect whilst waiting for the summons of the bell to Midnight Mass. At the end, the icon of the Annunciation, painted by one of our Solitary Sisters and the focus at the altar throughout Advent, is opened up and a stunning triptych in glorious red and gold is revealed to depict the events of the Christmas Story.
Christmas Dinner, the full works with wine or fruit juice, sees us welcome the Guests staying at the Cottage and one or two others who would, otherwise, be on their own. We were also joined by a group of Chinese students, unable to return home between terms, who were determined fully to throw themselves into the experience of new foods, customs and people with different life stories and lit up the Convent with their gift of lively enthusiasm.
The octave of Christmas is kept with all its special feast days until, on 1st January, we celebrate the Naming of Jesus. Being the Community of the Holy Name, this is one of our major celebrations, and the liturgy and festive food reflect this. Those who live in the streets around the Convent receive an invitation to have coffee round a log fire with the Sisters in the morning, and those who wish can stay for the Festive Sung Eucharist.
As we continued to wait for the arrival of the wise men, our minds turned this year to the vote to take place to decide which Sister would be our next Provincial Superior, our next centre of unity. The Chapter Meeting took place on 5th January and we are pleased to announce that Sr. Pauline Margaret has taken on the responsibility.
Then, on the evening of Epiphany, the Community began its four day retreat – time for silence, stillness, prayer, reading and re-creation. Sr. Pauline will return to the Peterborough House, where she has been working, to pack up and say her goodbyes. Her Installation will take place on 23rd January, and we would welcome your prayers for us all, but especially for Pauline, as we seek God’s will for us in the future.
I have, myself, felt very supported by your love and prayers, as I make slow progress with the M.E. Please by assured of the prayers of CHN and myself as we all step with our Lord into all the challenges and opportunities this new year will bring.