Monastery News

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January 3rd: Second Sunday of Christmas

An Old Testament passage that was a favorite of our monastery’s founder, Father Aelred Wall (1917 – 1984), was this one, from the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon:
“For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was half spent, your all-powerful word leaped down from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of a land that was doomed” (Book of Wisdom, chapter 18, verses 14 and 15).
Though written three or four centuries before the birth of Christ, the divinely inspired Bible text encapsulates so well the coming of God’s Word, Jesus Christ, into time and space, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethehem.
It is no surprise that Father Aelred used the verse from the Book of Wisdom for one or more of his Christmas cards in his years here as Prior (1964 – 1973).
The sky above our canyon continues to proclaim the glory of God, as we prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Epiphany, when wise men from the east recognized the King of Glory.
Blessed continuation of the annual Christmas Season. Be assured of the prayers of the monks of Christ in the Desert.

January 2nd: Taxi Driver Matty

“She ain’t heavy, she’s my sister.”

Our barnyard managerie, composed of sixteen sheep, one donkey and fifty hens, gets along very well. Even the three cats on the sidelines are part of the mix and don’t threaten the chickens at all. And certainly not the donkey!

The sheep are under the watchful care of Matty the donkey 24/7 and they all get along swimmingly.

To break life’s monotony, Matty occasionally gives one or more of the hens a lift here and there in Abbotsfield.

The Peaceable Kingdom lives again.

With prayers and greetings as a new year of interacting gets under way. Blessed New Year 2021.

January 1st: Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

On the Octave (Eighth) Day of Christmas, we commemorate in a special way the the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Throughout the ages Christians have depicted our Lady in various and sundry sacred images, which include paintings on panels, frescoes and murals on walls, as well as free-standing statutes of marble, wood and stone. These are some of the many mediums employed to portray the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The icon on this page was written by one of our monks during lessons conducted by Abbot Damian Higgins of Holy Transfiguration Byzantine Catholic Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, earlier this year.

We are happy with the progess made by our two monks who studied iconography, the art of writing icons, under Abbot Damian. Our brothers have set up their studio here at Christ in the Desert and continue writing icons.

A Blessed and Happy 2021 to all who read this

December 31st: The Seventh Day of Christmas

The last day of the calendar year is also the Seventh Day of Christmas. On the Eighth Day of Christmas, January 1st, we celebrate the beginning of a new civil year.

The Church asks us on January 1st to focus on the remembrance of Mary the Mother of Jesus, declared at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 as the “Theotokos,” literally, “she who gave birth to the One who is God.” Often the term “Theotokos” is translated into English as, “Mother of God.”

Mary’s example of profound humility and acceptance of God’s will in her life, as well as her intercession in Heaven for God’s people on earth, are an important part of Catholic doctrine, tradition and piety.

The prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary are an encouragement in these troubled times, because we never journey alone, but always in the presence of the Holy Trinity and all the saints and angels of God.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

December 30th: The Sixth Day of Christmas

We awoke on December 29th to a fresh blanket of snow. In the desert Southwest moisture in either form, as rain or snow, is always welcome. Winter snow and occasional rain are of course good for the earth and a deterant to dreaded forest fires in the spring, summer and fall.

Sometimes friends or family ask us if are “stranded” at the monastery when we have snow, since the dirt and gravel road leading to the monastery (Forest Service Road 151) is 13 miles long.

Generally we have no trouble traversing the road, being careful not to go too fast, in order to avoid slipping. Four-wheel drive also helps. The road not usually icey, but simply covered with snow, which is not necessarily slippery.

In these times of not verturing out except for necessary medical appointments or grocery shopping, we can mostly enjoy the snow from the relative comfort of “home sweet home,” our monastery.

December 29th: Renewal of Vows

On Holy Family Sunday, December 27th, two of our young monks renewed their simple vows for one year, in the presence of Abbot Christian and the monastic community.
Brother Pio was born Malawi and is in charge of our cars, keeping them in working order. He is also a regular assistant cook and regularly chants the first or second reading at the Conventual Mass on Sundays. Brother has a special devotion to his heavenly patron, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, and reads everything he can by or about Saint Pio.
Brother Savio was born in Vietnam. One of his uncles is a diocesan priest of our Archdiocese. It was his uncle who first suggested that his nephew try monastic life with us. Brother Savio regularly works on maintenance projects, including assisting with the expansion of Our Lady of Bethlehem barn, used for storing hay.
Please keep both these monks in your prayers.

December 28th: Magi Prepare

A trek to Bethlehem would have taken the wise men from the east some days of travel. Maybe they traveled by camel, or could they have made the journey by horseback? Here we like to think it was by horseback and can imagine the necessary preparation.

Precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were going to be offered to one who was a king, a deity and who would die.

As we continue the Christmas journey from the crib and ultimately to the cross, may the good zeal of the magi from the east, in pursuit of the Christ Child, to adore the new-born King, inspire us as well.

December 27: Christmas Greetings

Our celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ carries on in prayerful rejoicing. We carry out the daily round of chanting of the Divine Office, in praise of our Creator and for the needs and intentions of all of our families, friends, benefactors and oblates.

For many people, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the past at this time of year, the present holy days can be very painful. We pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world, that God’s healing touch be upon them.

Of course what our world is suffering now because of the coronavirus and its mutations is unprecedented. May the arrival of vaccines do much good in preventing the spread of the disease.

Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.

December 26th: Christ is Born for Us!

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ in born in Bethlehem!”

December 23rd: Winter Sunsets

Winter has officially begun and we are enjoying spectacular sunsets.

The O Antiphon at Vespers for December 22nd (see explantion of O Antiphons for December 20th entry on this page) proclaims:

“O King of all nations and keystone of the Church; come and save those whom you formed from the dust!”

The Antiphon is a fervent prayer that God stoop down to lift us up to life in the Blessed Trinity. God has done that and we recount it in a particular way at the end of the Advent season and the Christmas season that begins at the end of this week.

December 22nd: Brother Leander’s Milestone

Our senior monk, Brother Leander Hogg, turned 94 on December 20th. Ad multos annos!

Brother Leander faithfully lives our life day in and day out and attends without fail the Divine Office and Conventual Mass.

He works also in the formation of new Brothers, teaches classes in Monastic History and Spirituality, and is cheerful and positive element in our midst. Would that we all might be at age 94!

Happy Birthday, Brother Leander, and many happy returns of the day!

December 21st: Moving Closer to Completion

Our Lady of Bethlehem monastery barn is moving closer to completion. Brother-carpenters are braving the cold, albeit sunny, weather, to complete the project by Christmas.

December 20th: The “O Antiphons” of Vespers

We have now entered into the final days of Advent and sing the “O Aniphons” at Vespers each evening, from December 17th until December 23rd.

These biblically-inspired Antiphons are texts chanted at Vespers just before the Magnificat, the Gospel Canticle of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), and are prayers which proclaim some of the various names that God has been know by throughout the ages:

Wisdom, Adonai, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Orient from on High, King of Nations, Emmanuel.

Each “name” of God is preceded by the exclamation: “O,” hence their all being called the “O Antiphons.”

The popular Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is an adaptation of the O Antiphons, using an ancient Gregorian chant melody.

December 19th: Winter Care

Our flock of sheep and donkey are faring well, despite the winter weather. The thick woolen fleece of the sheep and Matty the guard donkey’s winter coat prove to be the perfect foil for the inclement weather.

The sheep and donkey share a spacious protective shelter, which we call “Good Shepherd Inn,” but they seem to use it only at night and not during the day. They are very “outdoors” creatures, even our six-weeks old lamb, named Wisdom.

December 18th: Monks’ Work Meeting

Each morning at 8:30 we monks gather in our Chapter Room for any announcements by the Abbot or individual monks, then going over the day’s work assignments and finally reading out the names of the deceased members of our Subiaco Cassinese Congregation who died that day.
After that we also pray for all our deceased relatives, benefactors, friends and oblates.

The morning gathering concludes with the singing of Psalm 129, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,” traditionally a prayer for the Faithful Departed.. The psalm is often called the “De Profundis,” the Latin words for “out of the depths.”

After the work meeting we go to church to pray the Office of Terce, then on to our work assignments.

December 17th: Lunch Break

Brother Martin de Porres is the faithful director of our 50-strong flock of Bantam and standard-size hens. The birds know Brother Martin and follow him faithfully wherever he goes in Abbotsfield, the chickens’ stomping ground during the day.
At sunset, the hens all scurry to their heated coop, for a well deserved rest after roaming and running all day, and even producing a dozen or more eggs.
Saint Brigid of Kildare, patroness of chickens, pray for our flock and for us.

December 16th: Winter Gathering

“All wild beasts and tame, O bless the Lord,” the Prophet Daniel prayed.

Our Brother Dominic, donkey Matty and doggie Gnuf Gnuf gather at the wild bird feeder, primarily to refill it. During their visit no birds were to be seen. Matty even helped herself to a portion of the bird feed, until she was lead away.

December 15th: Mid-December

December and January are normally the coldest months in the Chama canyon. This year is no exception, with temperatures dropping down to the teens at night and by midday reaching only the low 40s. We carry on nonetheless.

At this time of year we are experiencing lovely sunrises and sunsets, a certain sign that the Lord is Maker of heaven and earth, and provides for our needs of body and soul.

Blessed continuation of the Advent season. Peaceful preparation for Christmas, just ten days from now.

Our community continues to be covid-free, for which we are very grateful.

All our friends and family remain in our daily prayers. Please keep us in yours. Thank you.

December 14th: Light-bearing Christ

An Advent hymn-text from Stanbrook Abbey, England, complements an icon of Christ in our cloister corridor:
Light-bearing Christ come down to us,
and light in darkness sow;
come down and save our fallen world
whose sinful ways you know.
Prepare us for your light and truth,
who watch and wait for you;
restore our once lost dignity;
come down and make us new.
Almighty Father, speak the word
your children long to hear,
and with your Spirit dwell with us:
Lord God of love, draw near.
copyright 1974, 1999

December 13th: Back on Track

As advertised and promised, after a hiatus of a few weeks, our fifty hens are providing us with delicious eggs once again. Mostly brown, with off-white now and then, the eggs have bright yellow yokes and reflect free range hens on their best behavior.
If we had guests, we’d gladly share the harvest. We look forward to that day.
In the meantime, our greetings and continued prayers.
Blessed continuation of Advent.

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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