WASHINGTON – While some were frantically running through the malls to prepare for Christmas, a group of Dominicans prepared for the season with candles, hymns, moments of silence and reflection.
For the third consecutive year, the Dominican brothers in the Washington area have organized what they call Advent Stations, a night of liturgical music, Scripture readings and preaching, in a softly lighted St. Dominic Church near some of the most notable buildings in the nation’s capital.
The stillness and quiet the evening provides helps people in a frantic world reflect and prepare to meet Christ, said Dominican Friar Edmund McCullough, who coordinated the event. About 200 attended the December 17 event, which keeps growing thanks to news about it on social media, said McCullough.
Although Stations of the Cross are associated with Lent, the event attracts people who like traditional music and a sense of transcendence, he said. Candles are abundant and few lights are turned on during the event.
“It has a contemplative element,” McCullough told Catholic News Service. “People like the other-worldly feel to it.”
As the subway train occasionally hummed in the background, friars took turns preaching at seven Stations of the Cross, followed by a few minutes of meditation and then a Christmas song.
In a time when the pre-Christmas season makes a lot of material demands on people, they still seek the divine in their lives, said McCullough.
“People want to be alone with God,” he said. “Silence and music helps.”
But he realizes that many find it difficult to make time to reflect, especially as Christmas nears.
“It’s hard to turn down the noise,” McCullough said.
On December 18, Pope Francis urged people to “find time to stop” from busy moments at this time of year and reflect on the Holy Family.
“Let us try to enter into the real Christmas — that of Jesus, who drew near to us, God with us, near us — in order to receive the grace of this holiday, which is a grace of closeness, love, humility and tenderness,” he said during the Angelus.
By having the Stations of the Cross at Advent, the Dominican friars hope to provide a place and time where that can happen, where those rushing from the stream of constant movement, shopping and rushing just before the holidays can find respite and in that respite find God.
“This is a space where God is being worshipped,” said McCullough. “And it’s a chance to prepare for Christmas and the coming of Christ in a more real way than what’s offered at the mall.”