Long,long ago, when I was looking around at various Orders trying to decide whether I was going to be a monk or not, the Superior of one of the communities that I visited said: "In monasteries there are two kinds of days, Sundays and not-Sundays".
So, is this Sunday? Well, it must be because we had a cooked breakfast and a high mass with sermon. That's what makes it Sunday. Isn't it? But what was that we had on Friday? And yesterday didn't feel at all like Saturday. It's very confusing to the body. It is every year. And of course we'll do it again towards the end of the week, with New Years Day coming. That won't be Sunday, either.
Still, however the days have been arranged, we've had quite a celebration. It began with our Service of Lessons and Carols last Sunday, sung by Kairos, the acapella choir who are are artists in residence at Holy Cross. This has become one of the artistic events of this part of the Hudson Valley and there were somewhere around 200 people in our Church and that doesn't count those who had to be turned away. You understand that our Church usually seats 35 - or 40 if we squeeze. The Service was magnificent - just plain magnificent! People were so happy.
Then on Thursday we decorated: a huge tree in the Pilgrim Hall, which is the social center of our Guesthouse, and a smaller one in the Monastery Common Room, and everything looks beautiful. The Midnight Mass was also very grand. In recent years the Lessons and Carols Service has taken the place of Christmas Mass as the event that everyone comes to, so the crowd, while quite good, was not such a strain on our facilities, and that was nice.
We had a reception after each of these events. So many people come whom we don't know very well. They come from all over this part of the Hudson Valley and we have such a different relationship with them than we do with the guests in our Guesthouse. These are people who often come only when there are big musical events, or who drop in to light a candle or to come to the Bookstore, or who sit on the lawn and enjoy a moment of quiet by the river, or who come on Christmas Eve. And so we feel that we need to incorporate these folks into the life of this place and every once in a while we invite them to socialize with us. Since we remodeled the Pilgrim Hall, it makes a wonderful place to have a reception, and it can be set up and taken down in very short order. Because of the size of the crowd for Lessons and Carols we could only manage cookies and cider, but we're talking about Edward's spiced cider and Lori's cookies, so people felt quite well provided for. (Edward is our magnificent Chef and Lori is the Guesthouse Administrator, and also a professional pastry chef). After Midnight Mass, Edward provided something more elaborate, with meats and cheeses and eggnog and more cider - quite grand.
It is really wonderful to be able to talk with people who may not see us often, but for whom this place is part of their lives, and who feel a tie to us that is important to them. People who stay in the Guesthouse often have a chance to talk with us, to confide in us, and to become close to us, especially if they come here often. But there are many people who live much closer to us, and for whom Holy Cross is important, but with whom we don't spend a lot of time. The receptions are for those people, so that we can welcome them and enfold them in the prayer and hospitality that make the life of this place. These are special and important times, and we work hard to make them special.
And now we go onward until New Year's Day. We don't close on Monday this week. We're open straight through until the end of the year - and that's going to make it even more difficult to tell what day it is. After today it will be fairly quiet with only a dozen to twenty guests for several days, which will be nice both for us and for the guests who are here, and then there will be a New Year's Retreat that will have a sizable group in attendance. Then the Guesthouse will close for a couple of weeks, as we usually do in early January.
I still don't know what day it is. Tomorrow I'll try to take a long walk in the hills and see if I can't convince my body that it's Monday, since that's my usual Monday recreation. But maybe that won't work at all, and that's ok. Knowing how to deal with the unexpected and with surprises is part of the spiritual journey. God is always surprising us with something, big or small. We have to be ready to see it. We get to practice every year at this time.