Published January 18, 2007
In some ways, Christmas seems long ago.
Some Yule things linger, though.
During the Christmas season we decorated our refectory windows with the Christmas cards that come in to us from places near and far. They looked quite beautiful, strung along the stained glass windows. The light of day shone through the glass and enhanced the cards with a lovely soft light. It was a gallery of blessings wished and good tidings sent.
At any given time of the day a monk or two or three could be seen making their way along the cards, reading them and smiling. Many of the cards had notes and photographs. We felt a warm connection with a lot of people.
It is said that letter writing has come upon hard times. I suppose there are many reasons for that. Many of us lead busy lives. There is also the ease of a telephone call or an e-mail. More and more people are sending text messages via cell phones. It seems that we communicate more, but there is little to hang in our windows—in and out of season.
There is an evanescence to media messages. They come and go so fast, and because of that speed, little if any thought goes into the composition of modern-day communications.
I confess that I did not send out cards this year. I normally enjoy doing so but even here, October through Christmas was a busy time. I had to set aside the writing of my cards. Maybe I will get an earlier start on them next time around.
I kept the ones that came in and am taking my time responding to those who wrote them. My writing will all be out of season, but I think that is O.K.
I think of the cards that adorned our refectory windows. They are gone now—I do not know if we keep them or discard them. But the wishes are yet there, as are the blessings. Those tidings are never out of season—indeed, they make something good and warm of every season, for I believe that the wishes come true and the blessings arrive. They come to be in ordinary time and in ordinary ways—long after the paper on which they were written is taken down from the sunlit windows of a December afternoon.
I like to think that there are wishes coming true, and blessings arriving, all over the world today. We live from them, and it is a beautiful thing to send them to those we love at Christmas, be they near or far.
Our windows are unadorned now, save for the light that shines through them. It is a rainy day today—but something about the windows in our refectory refracts light beautifully, no matter what the weather.
I was writing a letter a little while ago to a friend in New Jersey who did not hear from me at Christmas. I have more cards to go, too. I will respond as best I can, and take to heart as I do so the memory of the cards in our refectory.
A light shone through every word that was written on those cards. We were able to read them because of it.
A light shines through every day, in and out of season. It is the Light we celebrated a few weeks ago, and it is the Light that shines this day, bringing with it blessings and the ability we “are” to be of good will to each other—to love each other, to be of light to each other, rain or shine.
The cards are gone, but we are here. In this ordinary time and on this ordinary day, may we better learn to be a living card, a living blessing to each other. After all, that is what we wished for not very long ago.
Life is all about knowing the beauty of Christmas as it lives when the cards are gone and there is yet a wondrous light shining through our windows.
Father James Stephen Behrens, OCSO, is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. He is the author of “Grace Is Everywhere: Reflections of an Aspiring Monk,” which is available at the monastery Web store at www.trappist.net.