Shalom! We have spent over a month now settling in to life at Emmaus and integrating ourselves into the rich community life here. The Community of the Beatitudes has been here in the Holy Land since 1975, but here at Emmaus since 1993. (For information on the history of Emmaus, click here.) Currently the house at Emmaus has five sisters, two priests, and one brother, as well as a few lay and associate members. They come from France, Russia, Estonia, Vietnam, Ivory Coast, Italy, and Germany. The Community seeks to facilitate an intercultural exchange in each of their houses--including the one here in the Holy Land--reminding us that the call to holiness is universal, and helping us to love better through encountering people from different cultural backgrounds.
Community members are united in a common prayer life, spirituality, Catholic identity, and language--in this case French! It's been an adjustment for the American pilgrims learning to pray and communicate with some members in French, but we are so thankful for this opportunity to grow, for the patience the members have shown us, and for Marie's help in bridging this linguistic gap.
One tradition in the Community of the Beatitudes is All Saints’ Day. Though the Community doesn’t usually celebrate Halloween, they allowed us to bring some of our favorite American customs into the celebration. We dressed up as some of our favorite saints for All Hallows’ Eve, and carved an image of Our Lady into a pumpkin. The real celebration, though, began in the chapel that day. Community members arrange pictures and candles in the chapel in honor of saints who are important to the Community. During the special prayer offices on All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day, they light the candles around the saints and throughout the chapel. Our prayer takes on a unique spirit of hope, as we long for the light of the saints to penetrate our hearts and draw us ever nearer to the love of Christ. On All Saints’ Day, the dining room is decorated in a similar way to the chapel; we surround our statue of the Virgin Mary with images of our favorite saints, recognizing her as queen of the saints in Heaven. Through our decorations and prayers, the day takes on a certain depth as we long to be united with the saints in Heaven, praising the Lord for all eternity. This longing for the Kingdom is central to the Community of the Beatitudes’ spirituality and charism, and we were so blessed to experience this longing alongside them during this joyous feast.