On the Third Day of Christmas


People often ask what Christmas is like in the monastery and are sometimes disappointed to learn that it is much like any other day, only with even more liturgy, and it lasts longer: twelve days rather than the one or two allowed in the secular calendar. It is a feast, but like all monastic feasts, eating and drinking are secondary to the liturgy.* It is also a time when many people turn to us for prayer or help, and our email prayerline and our telephone are kept busy with requests of various kinds. Despite that, I would still say that the most distinctive feature of the monastic Christmas is its silence. It is a silence that I think St John the Evangelist, whose feast we keep today, would have understood and shared. Before the Word of God we are all rendered dumb. But our dumbness is not the muteness of one who is embarrassed or ashamed. It is the quietness of wondering love and adoration; and even in a monastery, we have to work hard at focusing mind and heart so that no exterior noise or activity can disturb our inner stillness.

If your Christmas has, until now, been filled with activity and noise, try to find a moment or two today when you can simply lap up the love of God and know, as if for the first time, that he is your Saviour and Redeemer. Happy feast!

*BBC Radio 4’s Christmas Eve edition of ‘Woman’s Hour’ included a feature on our kitchen and monastic attitudes to food and drink:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03m79cl (starts about 11.48 in).


7 thoughts on “On the Third Day of Christmas”

  1. Contrary to general opinion, I am grateful to spend Christmas alone. I enjoy time for silence, prayer and reflection without the pressure to do what is expected at this time of year. Yesterday I spoke to nobody and this wasn’t a tragedy. It was welcome. I had the joy of being with my parish community for Mass on Christmas morning, followed by a visit to my 99 year old friend with Holy Communion and after that the peace of solitude.

  2. Maria, I completely agree with you. I was greeted with incredulity when I mentioned that I was alone Christmas night as my husband worked. In fact, I had invitations from well-meaning acquaintances, which I politely declined.

    God Bless!

  3. Great post and photo. Thanks for the link to the BBC story on your kitchen and approaches to food, fasting and celebrations. Really interesting.

    Enjoy the Christmas season and all best wishes for a very happy and healthy New Year!

  4. I listened to the tale of the monastery kitchen and I hope you enjoyed your white rolls/bread on Christmas Day.

    Our house just now is constantly busy with children and grandchildren and birthday celebrations today,

    Tomorrow harmony and peace will reign again my soul when I can keep silence before The Lord.

    Thinking and praying for you at each hour I pray

  5. One of the best of HM The Queen’s Xmas speeches dealt with quiet reflection and prayer. HM is a great example to all of tireless work, sense of duty and love of Christ. She could well have been a Prioress!

  6. Wasn’t planned, but after saying the Morning Office by myself there followed a wonderful 3/4 hour of silent joy in prayer to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in Mother Mary’s company – and St Monica, too. Such adoration – I longed above all to go to Mass, but that wasn’t possible then. The day since has been full (in a good way) with ‘activity and noise’, but that sacred hour at the start hallowed everything else

  7. Thank you for the link as I’d missed the live programme and it was good to hear your voice Sr Catherine. Took me back to memories of the delicious soup and bread you gave us for lunch on CWL quiet days.

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