A MONASTIC CHRISTMAS AT DOWNSIDE
06 Jan 2020
People often ask how Benedictine monks spend Christmas! At Downside Abbey, as in most monasteries, we tend to visit our families and friends before or after Christmas, and we stay in the monastery for the feast itself. It tends to be a busy time, since we have quite a number of important services within the space of about 24 hours, but it is one of the highlights of the Church’s year.
There are vestments to prepare, the crib to assemble, music practices, service sheets to write etc. so that the different Masses and Offices can be accessible for all those who come. Our Christmas Masses were much enriched again by the choir at Midnight Mass, organised by Rachel Carter, and by Matt Walters, who played the organ on Christmas morning. An unexpected liturgical highlight, however, was the Feast of the Holy Family (Sunday after Christmas), when 2 superb organists came, with Nigel Kerry to accompany the monastic chant, and Daniel Justin to accompany the congregation, who rose to the occasion and sung the Missa de Angelis well.
We also celebrate like other people outside the monastery as well, however! We decorate the Monks’ Refectory and Calefactory (common room), have a traditional Christmas dinner (turkey etc) and we relax together. Most families have their main Christmas meal at lunch time, but we have ours on Christmas evening. This means that the monks working on parishes away from the monastery (e.g. East Anglia) can come back after their morning Masses, and we have had Second Vespers of Christmas, so that we can sit back and relax. To read more about our parishes click here
Over the course of the Christmas holiday, we have a later start in the morning for a few days, and for the Christmas period we often go to visit friends in the area or go out together for the day. This time is an important one when the members of the monastic community can relax together without having to rush around so much with different jobs to be done. A feature of this year’s Christmas was the discovery of a box set of the first two series of Downton Abbey, which most of the Community had not seen. A number of the monks have been watching this, and we are now looking out for a copy of the other series!
This year, for the first time, we decided to try to cater for ourselves a little more, and so Dom Christopher (an excellent cook!) offered to cook supper for a few days after Christmas. Given that our kitchen facilities are quite limited (in terms of the available pots and pans, oven etc), this was not always an easy task, but he produced excellent meals for us.
As a Community, we would like sincerely to thank everyone who sent us Christmas cards and gifts, whether to individual monks or to the Community as a whole. We are very grateful for your support and kindness. Please continue to support us in 2020, and remember to follow us on our social media, the links are all at the bottom of the page.