Spring break is a good time for doing all sorts of things: cleaning up, writing articles, having a vacation. For many it is also just work as usual.  But being called to mourning is an existential task. No religion can do it for us. It cannot be mere theater that we watch.  But religion can help us to be reminded and can provide for us an occasion. There is no resurrection, no new beginning without the deep mourning of the old, without letting go what we loved so dearly, without mourning our losses. 

Work is sanctified in the light of Christmas, and is judged to be of worth, on a shockingly different scale than how economists value it. The work that we often value least, service work, women’s work, is valuable because it is done for others. If we see our work this way, we can bring Christmas into our lives all year.

It is an historical accident of sorts that in the very season when we remember the birth of the holy one among us, we also celebrate the birth of the new year. On this day of new beginning, then, we will investigate another monastic room as we have done before: this time, the Novitiate, the process by which a person becomes a monastic.

Today, at the day of the turn of the year, when the old is not yet gone and the new is not yet visible, we approach another important night marking the middle of the 12 Days of Christmas. Just as the holy night reminds us of the sacred moment, when light breaks into the dark, the turn of the year invites us into another in-between space of waiting and new beginnings.

For one quarter of the day, every Benedictine is supposed to do reading from the monastery library. But here is the crucial insight. The point is not to have the reader go through the book. It is instead for the book to go through the reader. How different would we read the Christmas story, if we do not just go through the story but let the story go through us?

These 12 Days of Christmas we are walking through the rooms of a monastery to help us explore and deepen the rooms of our heart. On the first day we walked together through the gate, the entrance to the monastic space, which can be interpreted also as the walk inside ourselves. From there on the second day we invited you into the monastic cell, which also stands for the chamber of our heart. Yesterday we pondered the monastic church as a sacred place of shared spirituality we try to create in our own lives. Today we arrive at another central place of the monastery, just behind the chapel: the kitchen!

It’s seems an open secret that being alone is an important art, but that most of us find it difficult to do. In fact, being alone can be dangerous: One can fall into loneliness and despair. But solitude is different from loneliness, it neither means nor endorses leaving people behind, but calls us to retreat into the presence of the moment in which we are alone with God.

In this time of expectant waiting, whether your heart is burdened or joyful or some of both, we hope that  Christmas soon will find you where you are.    

Advent is a pregnant time, a time of expectant waiting.  This Advent has been transformed for us because we are indeed…

Spring break is a good time for doing all sorts of things: cleaning up, writing articles, having a vacation. For many it is also just work as usual.  But being called to mourning is an existential task. No religion can do it for us. It cannot be mere theater that we watch.  But religion can help us to be reminded and can provide for us an occasion. There is no resurrection, no new beginning without the deep mourning of the old, without letting go what we loved so dearly, without mourning our losses.