“Keep the joy of loving God in your heart
and share this joy with all you meet,
Especially your family. God bless you.”[
St. Teresa of Calcutta
This week Franciscan Media posted my recipe for “Rose Sunday Chocolate Pound Cake” to promote my new book
Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I wanted to offer a fuller explanation about Rose Sunday Tea for you here.
Saint Teresa often spoke of a kind of spiritual poverty in the West that was in some ways worse than what she found in the streets of Calcutta. This poverty is expressed not always in squalor and hunger, but in isolation and neglect, in fear and loneliness, in superficial relationships and broken families. That brokenness is experienced in a profound way at Christmastime. And so, at this time of year those who feel the pain of loneliness and loss are in special need of our kindness.
Are you looking for a simple way to reach out to your neighbors, acquaintances, and friends – perhaps especially those you’ve lost touch with during the rest of the year? Opening your home on Rose Sunday for just a few hours in the afternoon can be a lovely way to reconnect and to break away from the frenetic pace of the Christmas season.
The tradition can be as homespun or elaborate as you care to make it. Below you will find a few recipes that you can try, or bring out your tried-and-true favorites. If you’re not a baker, just break out your favorite tea pot and provide a selection of cookies or scones from your local bakery . . . or invite guests to bring some of their own baking for a kind of “cookie exchange.” The point isn’t to add one more high-stress activity to the last few days before Christmas, but to take a breather and enjoy the simple joy of the day.
Before guests arrive, cover your table with a pink or burgundy table covering or runner, and decorate with an Advent wreath and your favorite tea things. Depending on the number of people you invite, you may wish to set up a serving area with disposable plates and utensils. If possible, try to have one cup and saucer for each guest. (No need to match!) Provide a selection of teas as well as sugar, sweetener, lemon, honey, and milk or cream.
As guests arrive, make introductions (consider using name tags if needed) and invite your guests to pour themselves their first cup of tea, and to make themselves at home. You might choose to have carols playing quietly in the background, dim the lights a bit, or light a fire in the fireplace – anything to help you and your guests relax. If you choose to invite girls and teens, consider setting up a separate area where they can visit as well.
If your guests don’t already know each other well, you might try a simple icebreaker, such as a jar of candy canes with slips of paper attached that instruct them to draw a candy cane and give the candy to someone in the room who …
- Knows at least three verses of Silent Night.
- Can recite all twelve gifts from the Twelve Days of Christmas.
- Has seen It’s a Wonderful Life this year.
- Can make a gingerbread house from scratch.
- Can name all eight of Santa’s reindeer.
- Has made a snow fort.
- Plans to see their whole family for Christmas this year.
- Likes fruit cake.
- Once received a pet (or pet rock) as a Christmas gift.
- Can knit a Christmas stocking.
Prayers around the Advent Wreath
When you are ready to serve refreshments, it’s time to light the Advent wreath! Have everyone gather around, and invite four guests each to read one of the four prayers as they light the candle. After each candle is lit, the guests sing a stanza of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:
Light the first purple candle and say: “O God, whose word makes all things holy, pour out your blessing upon us. Prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.”
Light the second purple candle and say: “Lord, stir our hearts to receive your Son, that through his coming we may be made worthy to serve you with pure and undivided hearts.”
Light the pink (rose) candle and say: “Holy Spirit, pour into our hearts the light of gladness and thanksgiving, of peace and compassion. Make us aware of the needs of others.”
Light the fourth candle and say: “O God, our help in ages past, our hope in years to come. O come and stay with us at last, and make our hearts your home.”
Host may offer the closing prayer: “O Blessed Mother, who rushed to the side of her cousin Elizabeth the moment she heard the good news, watch over us your daughters as we share our Advent joy. Help us to bring Jesus to others, and to see Jesus in others, everywhere we go.”
As a parting favor, print small cards for your guests with this prayer by John Cardinal Newman, which Mother Teresa and her Sisters prayed each day before they began their work:
Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us, and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but Jesus. Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from you, none of it will be ours: it will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching, not by words but by our example; by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
You can also order copies of Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, which contains this prayer as well. God bless you!