Veni, veni Emmanuel! Captivum salve Israel. So began our supper last night, as the 'youngest child' of the family, a 19-year-old guest, lit the first candle of the Advent wreath which had just been blessed by Fr. David Linder, and the strains of that ancient hymn were again sung. O Come, O Come, Emmanuael, and ransom captive Israel. Advent is upon us once more, and with Advent a whole host of customs and observances.
We light the wreath at the beginning of supper each night, the first week the lighting being done by the youngest child, the second week by the 'oldest child' (the oldest member of the community), the third week by the mother of the family (the director of women), the fourth week by the father (the director of men). We sing the Veni, veni each evening, interspersed with some truly beautiful verses taken from a wide range of Scriptures. I have never been able to find out where or when or who put all those Scriptures together (we seem to have been doing this since the year one), but they make the lighting of the wreath a very rich thing, a whole catechesis of prophecy.
With Advent comes the season of intense preparations for Christmas. The kitchen is a whirlwind of special cooking projects along with their usual work of providing us ungrateful wretches with three meals a day. They made tortieres yesterday, the special French Canadian meat pies that are part of my own childhood Christmas memories.
It's not just the kitchen crew, though. The cry has gone out for all hands on deck to make cookies, cookies, and more cookies. These will be our desserts for the whole Christmas season, and so pretty much every evening any number of people crowd into the kitchen and start rolling out the dough. It's a bit like Santa's workshop, except all food related--a bunch of happy little elves working away to make Christmas happen. My personal contribution is to make the butter tarts (for my non-Canadian readers... well, you just don't know what you're missing, sorry!). Due to some strange genetic anomaly I have the ability to make perfect pie dough that never fails. My mother taught me how when I was a wee lad, and I've never looked back. So... tarts it is - hundreds of them!
We don't decorate, though, until right before Christmas. We do believe in keeping Advent, and not actually celebrating Christmas until the actual day. So the wreath is it, decoration-wise, until just a few days before December 25. But the handicraft department that oversees the decorating (again, it's an all hands on deck affair) is already quite busy getting everything ready for that.
In non-Christmas news, our directors-general are away right now visiting our house in Vancouver. This is part of the job of the directors general, to regularly go to each of the mission houses of MH. We expect Susanne and Mark back shortly, while Fr. David May is nipping up to Whitehorse Yukon to do a retreat and visit our MH priest up there who has been serving as the diocesan administrator the last while (although we got the happy news of a new bishop for that diocese this week, alleluia!).
I myself am on a sort of a mission trail, although it's all so very local I can't get too worked up about it. I gave a talk at the parish right in Combermere for the upcoming Year of Mercy, drawing on my book Going Home. Yesterday evening I began a parish mission in the nearby (well, near-ish) parishes of Maynooth, Whitney, and Madawaska. This will involve giving the same three-night mission twice, so six full evenings of mission preaching. Blogging may or may not happen, according to how the week unfolds and my wifi capability.
The house in which I live, Regina Pacis, continues to be renovated, and our days are filled with construction noises and dust and general mayhem and disruption... all in service of taking needed care of this rather old and somewhat decrepit (well, a little) building. And ordinary life continues through the place--the men are hard at work in the bush cutting down trees and choppin' them up for firewood, the 'normal' work of cooking, cleaning, maintenance, laundry, so on, so forth... all goes on day in and day out here. It's not glamorous, too much, but we do believe it is an offering for the world acceptable to the Lord, so that's OK.
Know that we are holding all of you and our whole troubled world in our prayers these days, and especially crying out to the Lord Jesus, with the whole Church, Come, O Come, and save us who are in so need of it!