During the Advent Season and now the Christmas Season at the Divine Office for Morning Prayers, we at Mount Michael are enjoying reflections by Msgr. John J. McIlhon. His Advent series is entitled: GOD IS WITH US and his Christmas and Epiphany series is entitled: O MARVELOUS EXCHANGE.
I must say that, personally, I really enjoy what McIlhon has to say. For me he hits the nail squarely on the head.
For example, yesterday was the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. The title of McIlhon's reflection for this day is: The Christmas That Isn't What Christmas Was.
Below is a paragraph in the middle of the reflection.
"In her Christmas liturgy, the Church begs us not to lose sight of Christmas' roots in the soil of Christ's paschal mystery. Stephen's martyrdom invites us to peer into the very depths of the love that pierces this world's boundaries.Stephen was a witness of the love that Christ personified by his birth, death and resurrection. Because of love, he emptied himself of God's heavenly companionship so that he might be born into companionship with our humanity (see Phil 2: 6-7) After thirty-three years of earthly existence, Jesus died on the cross so that his resurreciton from the dead might be the witness of God's indescribable love ready to be born in humankind."
As I was sitting in chapel hearing this reading and thinking about the martyrdom of Stephen just upon the glorious and jubilant celebration of the birth of Jesus, I connected with the environment that Br. Jerome creates in our chapel and also with all the many deaths that Mount Michael has experienced this past year, especially recently. Funerals as recent as Monday of this week-- Abbot Raphael's sister and Br. Jerome's mother.
The photo above says it all -- Christmas decorations reaching towards the cross. It is how it is and despite what we might want to feel or think, the cross is also part of Christmas.
Below are some more photos of the environment in our chapel for this Christmas Season.