31 Dec December 2022 Digest
Merry Christmas! We’ve been enjoying our celebrations here at Mucknell; the week after Christmas is kept as community ‘holiday’, giving us chance for an extra lie in, opportunity to see family and friends, and time for various community activities. These vary from year to year. This week we’ve had a quiz, prepared and adminstered by Br. Philip. The quiz was preceeded by a high stakes round of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” as both teams were arguing over Abbot Thomas. There was wisdom in the dispute, as the team that won was indeed the one with Abbot Thomas on!
Before all of this, though, came Advent, It can be quite jarring to go out to the shops during these weeks, as much of the rest of the world is firmly in Christmas mode. Many people have a great love of the music that goes along with Advent, particularly the “Great O” antiphons, used at Vespers in the week leading up to Christmas. Each one is a title of Christ, drawn from the Bible. In English they are: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Morning Star, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel. As we move through them, there is a real sense of anticipation building towards the 1st Vespers of Christmas, on Christmas Eve, when we welcome the infant Jesus. Our worship at this time is always greatly enhanced by the care taken with decorations in the Oratory, and coming in to see it lit by candlelight is magical and beautiful. The crib scene was created this year by Leah and Lindsay, our Alongsiders.
We’ve also enjoyed some lovely festive food – here you can see the table set for Boxing Day (no one thought to get a picture on Christmas Day, but it was pretty much the same), as well as Sr. Alison’s delicious Christmas cake:
We’ve welcomed a steady stream of visitors and retreat guests during December, and it has been great to both see familiar faces and get to know new people. One such was Br. Emmanuel, from the Congrégation des Compagnons de Saint Benoît in Cameroon, who is spending some time in the UK visiting different communities. It was interesting to find out about the Religious Life in such a different and challenging context; these conversations kept both myself and Br. Michaël busy interpreting, as Br. Emmanuel and his community are primarily French speaking. We managed to get a photo with some of the Community before Br. Emmanuel left us for a week with the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield.
Book(s) of the Year
As many will know, we take most of our meals in silence, with someone reading to us. The books we read at meals encompass a wide range of non-fiction. We keep a record of what we read at meals, and so with the end of the year approaching, I asked the community to pick their favourites from the 14 books we have read this year. Each person could choose upto 5 books, and once all the votes were in, there were 5 clear favourites. In no particular order, they are:
The choices highlight the variety of our reading well. The two books that have a focus on Eastern Orthodoxy – Why Angels Fall, and This Holy Man – have been of particular interest in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in that they offer real insight into a very different way of thinking both about the past and therefore the present. Luigi Gioia’s St. Benedict’s Wisdom (also published as The Wisdom of St. Benedict) offered a profound examination of the wisdom of the Rule of Benedict, giving both us in the monastery and also the wider church much to reflect on. Michelle Obama’s Becoming was fascinating both for learning more about the former First Lady in her own right and also for an inside glimpse into White House and broader political life. Each of these books in their own way gave insight into a certain way of encountering the world and living in it, which perhaps accounts for their popularity.
As we have been enjoying our Christmas celebrations, we continue to hold in our prayers all those for whom this season is difficult, for any reason: grief, illness, struggles to afford all that is needed. We continue to pray too for all those living in war zones or under oppressive regimes, In looking to the New Year too, we pray for peace, for justice, for joy, and for the sure and certain knowledge of God’s presence with us.