Watching and Waiting — Advent in Carmel


Advent in Carmel

To experience Advent in Carmel is to enter into a rarified atmosphere that is filled to the brim with Carmel’s living legacy of Advent customs and observances. My first Advent in Carmel remains fresh in my memory today, still as vibrant and alive as when it happened. I feel at a loss, however, to write about it. What words can do justice to a wordless experience?

Well, the most I can do is try my best. So here it is.

To begin with, I’d like to describe what Advent in Carmel is not. It is not playing Christmas music or standing in a long line on Black Friday for the best deals. It is definitely not maxing out a credit card for the many Christmas gifts to be bought and wrapped. It is not listening to commercials assuring us that we really do need whatever each subsequent commercial is offering. It is not a plethora of Christmas parties or expected social evenings with friends. I suppose it suffices to say that Advent in Carmel is not of this world.

Advent is the period time of time right before Christmas—four weeks of waiting in expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Being of Irish descent, I would like to borrow a word from the Gaelic which means “soft” or “gentle.” This word would describe Advent as a soft time of a gently subdued ambiance filled with the expectant desires as each person waits personally and all of us wait together for the coming of the Messiah. It is as if we sit by the window and pull back the curtain just enough to peek out in the sure knowledge that Christ will be walking toward us soon.

This is a good image of Advent in Carmel. To sit quietly at the window, to pull back the curtain and to begin and continue a four week wait right there—close to the window, waiting for Christ. Advent in Carmel is Christo-centric, which means that it is centered in Christ. We listen once again to the ancient prophecies foretelling His coming. As we chant the Divine Office morning, early evening, and at night, we hear the ancient psalms prepare us anew for the Christmas mystery.

Each year, we go deeper into the Mystery.

If you would speak with our sisters personally, you would find out that for many of us, Advent is our favorite time of the entire year

As winter begins to settle on the horizon and inch its way closer to sunny California, Carmelites settle into a meditative frame of mind. We read the prophets, listen to spiritual CDs of the season, and contemplate the sacred mysteries. Because we almost never watch television, we breathe the fresh air of freedom from commercialism. It is so very invigorating. We exhilarate in a new freedom, where life itself moves at a slower pace and the life itself is conducive to going deeper into the Mystery.

We look forward to learning both the ancient chants and the best of our contemporary music. And our hearts are stirred once again as we sing of His coming. Marana tha! When I first entered, it was very different for me to quiet down—both interiorly and exteriorly. This becomes second-nature to someone who has been in the convent for a period of time. And there is something about the silent watching that matures us spiritually. It effects a new depth to our relationship with God and with others.

Waiting and watching.

These words describe Advent in Carmel.

Waiting and watching.

As Advent then draws to a close, we re-enact the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in the beautiful custom of Las Posadas. For many of us this is the pinnacle of the season.

But that’s another story for a later time.

By Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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