As the year draws to a close, we reflect fondly on some of the particular joys of the last couple of months.
This November, the Abbey was thrilled and honored to welcome renowned organist Paul Jacobs, who performed a stirring recital on our new gallery organ.
The organ itself, a Schoenstein & Co, op. 183, is built in the French symphonic style. Inspired by the instruments of the great 19th century organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, this magnificent instrument has 31 voices and 34 ranks of pipes. The sound of the organ is powerful, rich, and sweet all at once--an angelic compliment to the sacred majesty of our abbey church.
Mr. Jacobs is a true artist and master of his craft, and his renditions of works by Franck, Mozart, Messiaen, Bach, and Liszt (a real "greatest hits" of organ compositions) showcased the beauty of the new organ and helped all in attendance into deep and simple contemplation of the sublime.
On December 12, the abbey honored Our Lady of Guadalupe with a full-day celebration. This new but very popular tradition is fast becoming one of the most joyful occasion of the year.
The day began at 5:00 AM with mañanitas -- popular songs to greet Our Lady at the dawn of her feast day. Morning prayer followed, and throughout the day pilgrims from all around visited our Chapel to Our Lady of Guadalupe to lay flowers by her altar and pray for her intercession.
In the evening, the Church filled for evening prayer. Then: a joyful procession around the abbey grounds, with music and prayer. The procession ended with a true fiesta, with traditional music, folk dances, plenty of delicious Mexican food, and benediction with a relic from the tilma.
On December 17, the abbey hosted Lessons and Carols. The evening was beautiful as it was spiritually edifying--in no small part because of the hard work of the abbey schola, which led all in attendance in traditional hymns.
The tradition of the Lessons and Carols service has its origins in late nineteenth century Anglicanism. The first formal service was conducted on Christmas Eve at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall, England in 1880. According to one source, the Anglican bishop of Truro, Edward White Benson, created the service “as a response to discourage a different festive spirit found in the local Cornish pubs.” Bishop Benson later went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his son, Robert Hugh Benson, became a renowned Catholic author and priest.
Although it had its origins in Protestantism, Lessons and Carols is a custom which has also been adapted by many Catholic churches, especially as a way to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. The lessons (or readings) and the carols provide us with a kind of communal lectio divina – a time to pray, sing, and ponder over the sacred texts in common, a time to contemplate the great mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation and joyfully to anticipate his second coming.
As we approach the birth of Our Savior -- the greatest gift of all -- we reflect on the countless blessings that God has bestowed on our community. True joy demands to be shared: we invite you to stop by the abbey for Mass, for Vespers, and for any of our upcoming retreats and experience the joy that is abbey life!