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Newsletter - Christmas, Vol. 21, No. 2

By Hermit Sister Mary Beverly

The baby in a manger. The quintessence of Christmas. In this tender, appealing scene of God Incarnate, there is another profound truth, which is not immediately obvious.


We say in English “MAIN-jer.” In French, it is pronounced “mawn-JAY.” “Manger,” in French, means “to eat.” Even in English, the words crib and manger refer to a feeding trough for animals. So what is placed in a manger is meant to be eaten!


We know this is the name of the city where Jesus Christ was born. In Hebrew, the word means “House of Bread.” Who is the child born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger for a crib?

When God the Father, from all eternity, planned the human birth of his Divine Word, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, he seems to have couched the whole event in a language which would be understood in the light of what Jesus, as an adult, would later say: “My flesh is real food and my blood real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” (cf. Jn. 6)

Pope John Paul II has declared this year, Oct. 2004 to Oct. 2005, as the Year of the Eucharist. The Holy Father writes that “When we meet [Jesus] fully, we will pass from the light of the Word to the light streaming from the ‘Bread of life,’ the supreme fulfillment of his promise to ‘be with us always, to the end of the age’.” (cf. Mt. 28:20) The Eucharist is the term the Church uses which refers to the earliest belief about “the breaking of the bread.” “[This reality] has always been at the center of the Church’s life. Through it, Christ makes present within time the mystery of his death and resurrection. In it, he is received in person as the ‘living bread come down from heaven’ (Jn. 6:51), and with him, we receive the pledge of eternal life and a foretaste of the eternal banquet of the heavenly Jerusalem.”

This year will be celebrated with three international events: the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico Oct. 10-17, 2004; the Assembly of Bishops of the world held at the Vatican from Oct. 2-29, 2005 and World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany Aug. 16-21, 2005. However, at the personal level, the Holy Father asks simply that each one of us live this mystery on a more deeply spiritual level, not so much that we do something extraordinary but that we emphasize the Eucharistic dimension which is part of the whole Christian life. The Pope trusts that we will accept his initiative “with enthusiasm and fervent love.”

Here is an excerpt from the Holy Father’s letter, “Stay with Us Lord” which is a direct appeal to each part of the Christian people:

“ Dear priests, who repeat the words of consecration each day, and are witnesses and heralds of the great miracle of love which takes place at your hands: be challenged by the grace of this special year; celebrate Holy Mass each day with the same joy and fervor with which you celebrated your first Mass, and willingly spend time in prayer before the tabernacle...

“ In particular, I appeal to you, the priests of the future. During your time in the seminary make every effort to experience the beauty not only of taking part daily in Holy Mass, but also of spending a certain amount of time in dialogue with the Eucharistic Lord.

Consecrated men and women, called by that very consecration to more prolonged contemplation: never forget that Jesus in the tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can fill your hearts with the experience of his friendship, which alone gives meaning and fulfillment to your lives.

“ May all of you, the Christian faithful, rediscover the gift of the Eucharist as light and strength for your daily lives in the world, in the exercise of your respective professions amid so many different situations. Rediscover this above all in order to experience fully the beauty of the mission of the family.

“ I have great expectations of you, young people, as I look forward to our meeting at the next World Youth Day in Cologne. The theme of our meeting -- We have come to worship him -- suggests how you can best experience this Eucharistic year. Bring to your encounter with Jesus, hidden in the Eucharist, all the enthusiasm of your age, all your hopes, all your desire to love.”

So this Christmas when we gaze upon the baby resting on the hay in a manger, let us remember in faith that this is God made Man, the Word made Flesh. Let us re-read John 6 and really meditate on Jesus, the Bread of Life. From the crib to the cross, Jesus gives evidence of being “the living bread from heaven,” a mystery beyond words. Yet in any language, Jesus speaks the language of the heart, of supreme and enduring L-O-V-E.

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace:
Reflections on a Marymount Hermitage Sabbatical
By Sister Mary Ellen Hanson
Sister of St. Mary of Oregon

At the age of 70, happily I was granted a sabbatical by my Oregon religious community for five months in southwest Idaho. Arrangements proceeded smoothly and hospitality fulfills that Benedictine charism professed by the small “laura” whose presence has extended beyond the past 20 years on this rural mesa.

Solitude is afforded by my hermitage aptly named St. Francis. It is enhanced by the general expanse of the over-all site. I choose to share in the communal morning and evening prayer, daily Mass or Communion Service, a weekly recreation, music preparation for Christmas, Marymount library. A telephone in St. Francis Hermitage affords the assurance of meeting emergency needs. Occasional e-mail service is utilized at the Council town library seven miles north. A mini washer and dryer serve to keep things neat and tidy. Yes, a small radio helps to anticipate weather changes and update this fall’s national issues. Some active work assistance to the community provides for a balance in daily living. I have not yet chopped wood!

It was a bit of a surprise to note the several comings and goings of retreatants these few months. We all blended into the daily life of prayer. The enhanced prayer community is a source of strengthening for me. Appetites seemed to be well taken care of as the hermitages are well stocked with staples. Or perhaps it’s because each retreatant was a good cook. Who knows? Being a good cook is not a requirement for solitude. However, a little creativity helps.

The starkness of late summer and fall, insects and all but with the bonus of ripe chokecherries, and now the snowy signs of approaching winter in a very rural setting strike a familiar note. The tone nudges memories 60 years ago in eastern Montana of a small Indian reservation village life and resonates in Kathleen Norris’ book, DAKOTA. The goodness, neighborliness and struggles of Idahoans here in the local area is a signature item during this experience of solitude. One does not live without relationships of one kind or another. Everything is most personable.

One joy I gratefully discovered is being the recipient of many intercessory prayer requests from family and friends. This form of prayer on behalf of the needs of the Church and of the world is a work of the Hermit Sisters of Mary who have provided for my sabbatical site. Prayer requests arrive through web site, e-mail, phone messages, and visits. Along with intercessory prayer, for me the “paying attention” prayer melds into each 24 hours with the facilitation of solitude. My heart responds, “Thank you, Lord, for the Silence and Solitude which at this time in my life speaks of You.” Gratefully, the necessary health is a gift by the Giver of All Gifts during this Sabbatical of Solitude.

Sister Mary Ellen Hanson, SSMO, is pictured here with Sisters Rebecca Mary and Beverly.

It has been a joy for us to have Sister Mary Ellen with us on Sabbatical these past few months. We have been friends since our days together in the novitiate at St. Mary of the Valley in Beaverton, Oregon.

We three Sisters send loving and prayer-filled Christmas greetings to our family, friends, and benefactors.

Let us remember each other in prayer throughout this New Year 2005, the Year of the Eucharist. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

MARYMOUNT HERMITAGE NEWSLETTER is published by Marymount Hermitage, Inc., a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation in the State of Idaho. The Hermit Sisters of Mary are a canonically approved Catholic community of women hermits following the Rule of St. Benedict.The newsletter is normally published three times a year and is free. The newsletter is sent to our relatives, friends and benefactors so that we might share the spirituality and material progress of Marymount Hermitage. Please pray that we may be faithful to our way of life in prayer and penance, solitude and silence. Any donations to Marymount Hermitage are sincerely appreciated and are tax-deductible.

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