24th/25th December 2017
The monks of Mepkin Abbey celebrated a beautiful and prayerful Christmas. On the Wednesday before Christmas, a Reconciliation Vespers was led by Abbot Stan. He quoted Pope Francis in his homily and also in the Examination of Conscience. (You can read Abbot Stan’s homily of Reconciliation Vespers here.) It was a beautiful way to conclude advent and look forward to the coming of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, vespers were observed in the afternoon, and the evening brought the celebration of the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. The monks were joined by a good number of retreatants, visitors, and neighbors. The liturgy was unique in that there were six readings using the format of “The Promise” and “The Fulfillment.” Two voices proclaimed each of the readings, and they were interspersed with beautiful hymns such as, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, O Poverty, Once in Royal David’s City, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, and Unto us a Child is Born. After the sixth reading, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo was sung joyfully by all present. In his homily, Abbot Stan shared three themes, Glory to God, On Earth, Peace to People of Good Will, and Darkness and Light. (You can read the full homily here.)
At the end of the liturgy, the abbot expressed particular thanks to Mary Kathleen Ruddy for the music, Father Guerric and his helpers for the decoration of the church and monastery, and to Brother Paul for his work as MC and in the sacristy. After Mass, the monastic community and guests gathered in the monks’ refectory for refreshments provided by Father Joe.
It was a late night for the monks, but they did not have to be up until 7 am Christmas Day for the Dawn Mass. This was celebrated by Father Columba, and in his homily, he quoted a passage from Archbishop Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador who on December 25, 1978, said the following,
“Along with you, my dear brothers and sisters, I too need to receive the good tidings tonight. As shepherd I must announce it, but as shepherd I must also be one of those shepherds of Bethlehem and receive from the angels the news that stirs our hearts. Let us receive it, you and I, with the same simplicity and humility as those shepherds did. The more simple and humble, the more poor and detached from ourselves, the more full of troubles and problems we are, the more bewildering life’s ways, the more we must look up to the skies and hear the great news: ‘A saviour is born to you.’ And let us hear in chorus to that great news, sung throughout the universe, ‘Glory to God in the heavens, and on earth peace to those whom God loves.’” (Luke 2:11, 14)
Lauds was followed by breakfast; midday prayer was celebrated at noon. A delicious meal was served in the monks’ refectory. Once again, all who were present gathered in the church at 4:30 for vespers, followed by a light supper. At 6:30 pm, the Christmas Day Mass was celebrated by Father Guerric. In his homily, he spoke about the stillness that comes on Christmas Day after all the activity in the buildup of Christmas and Christmas Eve. (You can read the homily here.)
One novel feature of Christmas at Mepkin this year was a gathering of the monks and monastic guests on the evening of December 23. The abbot invited all present to share a memory of Christmas past, be it in the monastery, at home, or in childhood. A beautiful time of sharing followed, which helped to make this Christmas even more special. Christmas 2017 was a time of great blessing and joy for the monastic community of Mepkin and their guests.