These days of mid-December have always felt a little awkward to me.
On the one hand, we still are still draped in the shawl of Advent, with the color of violet filling the chapel and the O Antiphons filling our O-shaped mouths with the sound of longing.
On the other hand, we are busy decorating trees, arranging crib sets, draping garland along the Ottilia Hall banister, wrapping gifts and hanging wreaths. We’ve had our Employee Christmas Party and received seasonal visitors. We are writing cards and receiving cards. Except for the chapel, the whole monastery is looking a whole lot like Christmas. (And even the chapel is full of Christmas strains as the schola rehearses for the upcoming season.)
This year, I’ve participated a little less than usual in Christmas preparations around the monastery. Yet I’ve paid close attention as others have gone about their tasks – first one tree, then another, then the garland, then one crib set, and then another, and then another, and then another tree…and on and on.
As I’ve watched, I’ve begun to feel less and less awkward, experiencing the preparations this year as a kind of litany…first one thing, then another, and another, then another…all variations on a theme…all punctuated, like a litany, with a cry: “O come, O come, Emmanuel”…like a litany that says first in one way and then another that we long, and that we believe. We long for the Lord, and we believe the Lord is nigh.
I also see it – indeed I feel it – as a litany of footsteps, the footsteps of a donkey on a darkened road under a shawl of violet sky…the footsteps of a tired husband and fatigued wife walking on the words of an angel…a litany of footsteps that says, against all odds, I believe.
And so now I don’t feel awkward at all. The violet vestments in chapel somehow seem all of a piece with the shimmering lights on the trees and the garland that drapes the staircase. The lights, the garland, the trees, the cards are like the lines of a litany that says, I long, and I believe.
Come, Lord Jesus.