Epiphany and the Melting Pot Dinner
By now in the world, Christmas is a distant memory. But in the monastery, we are still celebrating in full swing. Where Christmas tends to be big and flashy, with lots of greetings and gifts between our community and our family, friends, and benefactors, Epiphany is a big feast for us as a community and it is marked in a special way by our novitiate sisters.
When a young woman enters the monastery, she primarily lives and works in the novitiate wing of the monastery under the guidance and instruction of the novice mistress. It is a beautiful and grace-filled time, almost akin to “monastic childhood”. And when she leaves the novitiate and integrates into the professed community, the doors of the novitiate are then closed to her. Literally. As a professed sister, if she needs something or someone in the novitiate, she must ring a bell outside the novitiate workroom and wait for someone to answer.
But on Epiphany, the novitiate community hosts the professed community for a feast! The novitiate common room is decorated and set for dining and the novitiate sisters spend the day cooking and preparing. Actually, the preparing starts the day before or even earlier! And depending on the sisters, you never quite know what you’ll get. With our novitiate community, we often joke with delight that novitiate-prepared meals are “East Meets West.” This Epiphany was no exception – the table was set with spring rolls and peanut sauce, Calabrese-style “no meat” balls with zesty marinara, deep fried Brussel sprouts with honey-sriracha sauce, a snowman pumpkin pie, æbleskiver (a Danish sweet), xôi vị (Vietnamese sweet rice desert), Vietnamese snowballs, and more!
In the course of dinner, our three wise “men” visited the festivities with little gifts for each of the sisters, some handmade by the sisters and others donated by a sister’s family and held just for this occasion. Music, games and fun conversations over a Christmas picture slide show rounded out a beautiful evening, which was all too short. But when the bell rang, we were ready to close the day singing praises to God in Compline.