Silverstream Priory, County Meath: December 2012 Archives

Thank You to Friends Unknown

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But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. (Matthew 6:3-4)

We have received several unsigned greetings for Christmas, some of them containing an offering for the monastery. We are very grateful to these unknown friends. He who sees in secret knows who they are; we pray Him to reward their kindness to us.

Christmas at Silverstream Priory

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Here is the crèche at Silverstream Priory: beneath the figures of the Holy Family there is a beautiful, soft carpet of Irish moss. The crèche is in the great hall of the main house.

A Monastic Christmas

Friends, relatives, and visitors to the monastery have been asking, "How do you spend Christmas?" and "What did you do for Christmas?" For the men newly-come to monastic life, Christmas can be a difficult time. Even adult men miss their families at Christmas. For a veteran monk like myself, long accustomed to being far from my beloved family at ChrIstmas, the experience is not the same; in spite of the distance that separates us, I feel very close to them and, standing at the altar to offer the Holy Sacrifice, time and distance are mysteriously swallowed up in the divine here and now.

The monastic celebration of Christmas is primarily liturgical. We planned on having First Vespers of Christmas early on Christmas Eve, at 3:00 p.m., in fact. By the time the last visitor had left The Gatehouse, and all was in readiness, it was closer to 3:30 p.m.. In a nascent monastery one mustn't expect things to happen right on time. Announced times are necessarily approximate times, and must have a healthy ability to adapt with good grace to things unexpected and unforeseen.

First Vespers

Following the First Vespers of the Nativity of the Lord (after a day of fasting) we had our first Christmas meal in front of the blazing fire in the great hall. Friends of the monastery delivered this delicious meal -- their gift to us -- shortly before Vespers. We are not using the refectory at the moment; it is difficult to heat. The great hall with its welcoming hearth tends to become the focus of much of what we do together. After our meal, we chanted Compline, and then repaired to our cells for a few hours rest before Matins.

Matins

At 10:45 p.m., we were back in our choir stalls, ready to begin the Night Office of Matins, also called Vigils or Nocturns. Matins opens with a splendid Invitatory Antiphon: Christ is born for us. O come, let us adore! The Invitatory Antiphon is musically embroidered in and around the verses of Psalm 94. A chain of antiphons, psalms, blessings, lessons, and responsories follow, lasting well over one hour. The high point of Matins is the chanting of the Gospel of Our Lord's Genealogy, preceded by the Te Deum Laudamus, and followed by the Te Decet Laus, both ancient hymns of praise.

The First Mass of Christmas: at Midnight

Matins leads directly into Holy Mass, the first Mass of the Nativity of the Lord, called In nocte, that is, in the night. The Introit of the Mass (Dominus dixit ad me) sets the tone; it is contained and contemplative. It is the voice of the Only-Begotten Son telling us what the Father says to Him from all eternity: "Thou art my Son; today, have I begotten Thee" (Psalm 2:7).

The Second Mass of Christmas: at Dawn

We took a little refreshment after Holy Mass -- by this time it was 2:30 in the morning -- and again repaired to our cells for a few hours rest before rising again for the Second Mass of Christmas, the so-called Dawn Mass (Lux fulgebit), at 8:00 a.m. The Hours of Lauds and Prime followed the Second Mass of Christmas, prolonging it in a lavish outpouring of praise and jubilation.

The Third Mass of Christmas: in the Day

At 11:00 a.m. we were in choir again for Tierce, and then had the Third Mass of Christmas (Puer natus est) with the chanting of the sublime Prologue of Saint John. According to an ancient monastic tradition, there is no homily at the Mass of Christmas Day. The Prologue of Saint John -- the mystery of the Word out of silence -- calls for what the Venerable John Paul II described as an "adoring silence." Before the glory of the Word, all other words fall silent. In the presence of the Word, human discourse stammers and fails. Silence alone is worthy of the mystery.

Dinner

After Holy Mass we began preparations for our Christmas dinner, grateful to Divine Providence and to the friends and benefactors who supplied us with everything necessary, and then some. After dinner, a good Christmas day nap was in order, having been awake most of the night before.

Evening of the First Day

None, adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Vespers, and Compline brought our Christmas Day to a peaceful close. And thus ended the First Day of Christmas at Silverstream Priory in County Meath.

The Gatehouse is Open!

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Open for Business

After months of work, The Gatehouse, our monastery's bookshop is open for business! The environment is warm and inviting. We kept the original stone walls -- after sandblasting away old layers of paint, repairing, and sealing -- and added handcrafted wood shelves and furnishings. People who have already visited The Gatehouse are calling it the best Catholic bookshop in Ireland. We also have hand-carved statues of Jesus, King of Love, imported from Germany; handmade rosary beads from France; lovely icons, and much more. The Gatehouse is open from after Holy Mass in the morning (Holy Mass is at 10:00 and generally lasts one hour) until fifteen minutes before Vespers, that is 17:45.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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