Advent: Preparing a Crib in the Heart

” This morning as I dressed, a practice from my childhood days flashed into my mind. I think it was Sister Emily who started us on in the fourth grade. We were to prepare a place for Jesus in our hearts. So many masses made a gold bedstead; so many communions a fluffy down mattress. Other practices produced sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. The central thing – and I forget what it did, was to pray four thousand times – one for each year Adam’s son had waited, the prayer: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, come and take birth in my heart.’ Thus, Advent became for us a time of constant prayer.”

M. Basil Pennington, OCSO, in “Jubilee, A Monk’s Journal

This Advent, will you have time to prepare a crib for the child Jesus ? Or, will you, like the people during Jesus’s time, have no place in the inn within your heart?

The Monk Within

“Monks reach for the heights. They also seek their apartness in other ways.

“There is something of the monk in each one of us. Not to be neglected in this apartness is that precious cell in the heart. There is deep within us a place apart. Perhaps if we begin to explore it we will discover we have made it into a bit of a storeroom. Perhaps it is even so crammed with junk we can hardly get in or close the door. Saint Benedict in his Rule reminds monks: “The oratory should be what it is called—a place of prayer. Let nothing else be done or kept there.”

“But one does not have to go to the heights or the depths to find a place apart. Anyone who has penetrated an inner-city Carmel with its high walls, its grilles, and its curtains, knows how much even in the midst of a teeming city a monastic community can set itself apart and create a climate of apartness.

“We may have to do some housecleaning. But we do have this place within where we can at any moment retire, close the door (as our Lord said), and enjoy for that moment a place apart. Get to know that inner cell. You will come to love it, and it will come to be a true friend. When you are harassed or weary you will begin to experience it reaching out to you, beckoning: Come apart and rest awhile. In its deep, cool darkness, sometimes illumined by a light not of our making, a moment can be a refreshing step into eternity, a coming home to the solitude of God.

” There are many “places apart” for each one of us: those we create, those we find, those created for us. Each is a gift and has its gifts for us. Seek and you shall find. Taste and see!”

M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.

Pennington M. Basil. A Place Apart: Monastic Prayer and Practice for Everyone . Liguori Publications.

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