Christmas 2007

Walking With a Joyful Spirit

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the dark of the early morning, a Roman Catholic nun in a brown tunic and black veil stepped from her cabin and walked to a nearby bell tower.

She rang two bells, calling her sisters to Christmas Eve prayer. Across the complex, other nuns emerged from their hermitages in the woods and gathered in a small chapel. From there, the 10 women embarked on a procession along pathways lit by the full moon, singing as they walked:

Sisters, Arise! Away with your sadness,

With love your hearts adorn;

All the Earth is full of gladness

Slumber not this happy morn.

The celebration of Christmas at Charles County's historic Carmelite monastery early yesterday began in cloistered quiet, behind a tall plank fence off a back road, two miles from Crain Highway and the glitz and malls and madness of the outside world.

It was marked with boughs of evergreen and holly cut from the woods, and arranged in the prayer corners of the sisters' wooden dwellings. It was celebrated with the song of women who have given their lives to prayer and seclusion. And it was observed with a reverence for the central theme of Christianity: that with the birth of Jesus, God became man.

It's "astonishing," one said. Why would God do that?

As the Washington region awoke yesterday to a final day of shopping, travel and preparation, the Carmelites rose before dawn to bring to a close the season of Advent, ending the period of joyful longing, as they put it.

Heaven's treasure let us crave, they sang as they walked through their 65-acre compound.

Him for whom our souls are yearning

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company