Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter with the Carmelites.

Today I celebrated Jesus' Resurrection with morning Mass at the Carmel of the Infant Jesus a few blocks from the Santa Clara campus. Members of the Nobili Hall community offer Mass at the Carmel on most weekdays and Sundays, including this one. This morning I tagged along with the presider du jour, Father Dennis Smolarski, who I mention here by name because he gave an outstanding homily on the necessary link between the sorrow of Good Friday and the joy of Easter morning both on the liturgical calendar and in each of our lives. I was also impressed by the beauty of the Carmelites' chapel, reputedly judged by the relevant authorities to be "the finest example of Spanish Renaissance architecture in the New World" (in the words of a historical marker at the convent). There seem to be about fifteen nuns, of whom I met two - a fairly old one and a very young one (in her twenties, I'd estimate), both of whom were friendly and welcoming. Dennis and I were far from the only externs at the liturgy, which attracted a crowd of over a hundred (daily Mass, I'm told, gets a good number as well). My good experience of Mass at the Carmel led me to return later in the day for vespers (also open to the public), which left something to be desired. As one might expect for a group of cloistered nuns, visitors attending the vespers service do not sit in choir but watch the proceedings through a grate - a grate that in this case was also obscured by somewhat foggy glass. This setup lent an appealing air of mystery to the vespers service, but unfortunately the acoustics were such that the nuns could only be heard obscurely as well. This isn't to say that I wouldn't go back, but the experience was quite a bit different from visits I've made to Benedictine and Trappist monasteries where one can not only watch and listen to the monks chant the Office but sometimes sit with and share prayer books with them as well. That said, I'm happy to have done my bit to help continue a tradition of spiritual collaboration between Jesuits and Discalced Carmelites that goes back to the days of Teresa of Avila. AMDG.


At July 10, 2005 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that you had such a poor experience of the Office at this Carmel. I heard Vespers sung at the Carmel of Avila, founded by St. Teresa, and it was a beautiful experience


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