Monday, December 25, 2006



There are many places in the world with many Christmas traditions. To some it is Christmas movies, Christmas Trees, and houses lighted with bright Christmas lights. To others it means families gathered around a dinner table, celebrating Christmas together. Still others remember Christmas morning as a child, knee deep in wrapping paper, and playing with new toys. Whether or not we are still with the families that we shared these things with, we still remember them - I know I do. Such are the words in a song, “I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.” It may be that the members of those families have gone their separate ways, or gone home to heaven. It may be that a person is far away from home during family holidays. I have experienced bittersweet holidays being thousands of miles away from any family, overseas in the military. Like many, I still think of Christmas in terms of family traditions, but Christmas has come to mean so much more to me.

I did not grow up with a spiritual sense of Christmas. Certainly, I heard the story of the Nativity. Until I was an adult I never had any deep spiritual connection with Christmas. It is one thing to understand something with your mind, it is a far cry different to hold it in your heart.

Now there is something very, very special about Christmas for me. Something that happens every year. That special something special is Midnight Mass. Each Christmas Eve the local Carmelite Convent has midnight mass. The sisters there are cloistered. I have never met any of them, and only seen them from the other side of the grill that divides their half of the chapel from the public half. Still, it is a very deeply moving moment for me, each year.

Music moves the spirit and soothes the soul.

At the midnight mass each Christmas, the sisters in the convent sing. What beautiful voices they have. It is as if, for a brief moment, the firmament opens up and Heaven and Earth are connected. I go early, at least an hour, so I can sit in the peace of the chapel and listen to the sisters sing. As I close my eyes and pray, with the Carmelite sisters singing in the background, it is very much like being swept away body and soul to Carmel Lisieux - back to France in 1895, seen below.

When Therese reached the point in her life where God was nearly ready to call her home to heaven, she was visited by her sister Pauline one evening. Pauline told Therese that she should get some rest. Therese told her that she was too busy praying. When Pauline asked her sister what she said to Jesus, Therese replied simply “Nothing, I just love Him.”

At Medjugorgie Mother Mary talks about coming to Jesus in silence. The most efficacious prayer can be simple silence. And so I come to God in the silence of the Chapel. The sisters sing in the background and it is as if I am there in Lisieux, at Midnight Mass, with some very special sisters, Therese among them.

It is moments in my life - moments like these - that have lead me to understand some very special words spoken by Therese. Those words are these:

“Life is a moment between two eternities.”

God bless you all.
Sister Julie

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