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Archive for December 31st, 2012

Christmas eve Mass 088

Enough Already!

One Christmas ditty you’ll likely not hear from a children’s choir is “Santa Baby, hurry down the chimney tonight.” Perhaps that’s because those innocent voices can’t muster the sultry quality that makes the lyrics come alive. Perhaps it’s because the tune’s gift list doesn’t really match the aspirations of most children. There are no pleas for dolls or toy trucks or computer games, because adult needs are far more practical. In an era of downsizing, the song gets back to the basics, like clothing and transportation. So this year Santa can skip the board games and the heavy books, and just concentrate on fine motorcars and all-natural furs (organic, of course.) This year we’ll make do with these, and Santa can forget the rest.

Christmas eve Mass 039I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t get everything they wanted this Christmas, but like everyone else I did my part to bolster the economy. Of course I didn’t get a fur coat or a limo, but I did get a cell-phone charger for my car, and a great cd of Christmas chant. I also got two books and four boxes of ink cartridges for my pen. The latter was a special treat, since I am one of those fossils who still likes to write with a traditional pen.

Buying things counts a lot for the economy, but it’s at the table where consumers show their stuff. While no one in the monastery kept an official tally, I’m sure that I more than held my own. I certainly ate a respectable amount of chocolate; and I managed to stay in the game in the dessert department. But in cookies I was a real stand-out. And now it’s time to go to the next level for consumers and invest in one of a bewildering array of diet plans.

I’m sure others did their part for the economy too, with equally grim determination. And that brings me to my only complaint about this Christmas. After all the work we did to buy stuff we may or may not have needed, it turns out that it was not enough. In the post-Christmas analysis, the data indicate that we did not buy enough, despite our best efforts. It turns out that retailers were disappointed with our performance. Same-store sales were not up as much as merchants had hoped, and now there will be heck to pay. And I’m sure you are as crest-fallen as I to realize that we let the retailers down. Our idea of “enough” was not enough for them.

Abbot John, preaching at Christmas

Abbot John, preaching at Christmas

As we begin the new year it’s not such a bad idea to take a quick inventory of our lives. Did we accomplish anything of value during the past year? What became our real priorities — the things we actually did, rather than the things we intended to do? What do we have to show for the 365 days that God gave us?

Perhaps one useful guage to determine success in 2012 is the simple word “enough.” What did we get enough of, and where did we fall short of enough? Did we get enough stuff, or did we actually get way too much? Did we eat and drink enough? Did we watch enough television? Did we play enough video games? Did we go to the office enough on weekends?

Then there’s the list of things we seldom get enough of. Did we spend enough time with friends and family? Did we devote enough time to worthwile projects? Did we do enough to help those around us who are in need? Did we do enough to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation?

Since we usually mark the end of the year with revelry, I don’t really want to shackle us with pangs of guilt. Still, the passing of a year is a not so subtle reminder of our mortality, as well as of our fallibility. Was this a year to be proud of? Or was it a year for which I have little to show? And what about next year at this time? Will I be feeling the same regret or delight with the way I used the days that God gave me?

Christmas eve Mass 034One of the cautions that Saint Benedict issues to his monks is to keep death daily before their eyes. He certainly does not intend that we wallow in depression, because he’s more content to remind us that no one has an endless supply of days. Death is a gift that comes to us all, and Benedict urges us to make wise use of every minute that we have between now and the hour of our death. Given that, would we want to live those days in a numb escapism, or would we want to live them with intensity? Benedict would likely be the first to encourage us to get a life if we don’t yet have one already. Life is too short to waste it on junk.

There’s a certain irony about Santa Baby coming down the chimney. We want him to hurry up so that we will have enough, or more than enough. Meanwhile, we sit passively, waiting for him to come and fulfill our dreams. The sad thing is that each year Santa brings us exactly what we ask for, but not nearly enough of what we really need.

As for 2013, the good news is that we won’t have to listen to “Santa Baby” for at least the next 300 days. I also hope that I’ll be better prepared for Santa next year. With luck, I’ll already have enough stuff, and with some hard work I won’t have to ask him this time next year to bring me a life. I figure I’ve got the next 365 days to go out and get one myself.

Chanting the Gospel: Fr. Edward, assisted by Br. Lucian

Chanting the Gospel: Fr. Edward, assisted by Br. Lucian

Various Notes

+Recently Father Edward Vebelun returned to the Abbey after several years spent at our priory in Fujimi, Japan. Once back, he’s wasted little in sitting still. At the vigil Mass for Christmas Father Edward chanted the Gospel, and on Christmas Day he assisted in two parishes near the Abbey.

+On December 26th I mourned the sudden passing of a dear friend. Lynn was beloved by her family and friends, as well as by me and one of my confreres. We were privileged to know her for several years, and our world is poorer for her absence. But happy memories of her will win out in time.

+On December 30th I attended a service of Lessons and Carols at Saint Dunstan’s Church in Saint Louis Park, MN. I went as the guest of two good friends, who are members of the parish. I was also pleasantly surprised by their very accomplished organist — an alumnus of Saint John’s who is also an oblate of the Abbey.

Christmas eve Mass 071+During the Christmas holidays I had the opportunity to see Les Miserables. I found it to be wonderfully entertaining and deeply moving — a sentiment shared by most of us in the theatre that afternoon. Virtually the entire audience applauded spontaneously at the end, which should be enough of a recommendation for others to see it.

+The Saint John’s Bible

For the past sixteen years I have been involved with the Saint John’s Bible. Donald Jackson completed the text a year and a half ago, and since then we’ve been able to enjoy the great panorama of pages from this magnificent work. I thought you might appreciate the turning of the pages, as a wonderful Christmas meditation.

I wish you a very happy and holy Christmas season!

Eric Hollas, OSB

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