• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

An Advent Candle – the First Sunday of Advent

Advent wreath 2014 - 1 candle lit

Advent is a time of waiting, and of preparation. Of contemplation—of what is past, and what is to come. During Advent, we make wreaths, made of leaves or evergreens, with four candles, and we light one candle for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. May your candle burn quiet in the dark, and may you be at peace.

[From OUTLANDER, Chapter 38, “The Abbey”.]

The monastery was quiet, in the way that all large institutions grow quiet at night; the rapid pulse of the day’s activities has dropped, but the heartbeat goes on, slower, softer, but unending. There is always someone awake, moving quietly through the halls, keeping watch, keeping things alive. And now it was my turn to join the watch.

The chapel was dark except for the burning of the red sanctuary lamp and a few of the clear white votive candles, flames rising straight in still air before the shadowed shrines of saints.

I followed Anselm down the short center aisle, genuflecting in his wake. The slight figure of Brother Bartolome knelt toward the front, head bowed. He didn’t turn at the faint noise of our entrance, but stayed motionless, bent in adoration.

The Sacrament itself was almost obscured by the magnificence of its container. The huge monstrance, a sunburst of gold more than a foot across, sat serenely on the altar. Guarding the humble bit of bread at its center.

Feeling somewhat awkward, I took the seat Anselm indicated, near the front of the chapel. The seats, ornately carved with angels, flowers, and demons, folded up against the wooden panels of the backing to allow easy passage in and out. I heard the faint creak of a lowered seat behind me, as Anselm found his place.

“But what shall I do?” I had asked him, voice lowered in respect of night and silence as we had approached the chapel.

“Nothing, _ma chère_,” he had replied, simply. “Only be.”

So I sat, listening to my own breathing, and the tiny sounds of a silent place; the inaudible things normally hidden in other sounds. The settling of stone, the creak of wood. The hissing of the tiny, unquenchable flames. A faint skitter of some small creature, wandered from its place into the home of majesty.

It was a peaceful place, I would grant Anselm that. In spite of my own fatigue and my worry over Jamie, I gradually felt myself relaxing, the tightness of my mind gently unwinding, like the relaxation of a clock spring. Strangely, I didn’t feel at all sleepy, despite the lateness of the hour and the strains of the last few days and weeks.

After all, I thought, what were days and weeks in the presence of eternity? And that’s what this was, to Anselm and Bartolome, to Ambrose, to all the monks, up to and including the formidable Abbot Alexander.

It was in a way a comforting idea; if there was all the time in the world, then the happenings of a given moment became less important. I could see, perhaps, how one could draw back a little, seek some respite in the contemplation of an endless Being, whatever one conceived its nature to be.

The red of the sanctuary lamp burned steadily, reflected in the smooth gold. The flames of the white candles before the statues of St. Giles and the Blessed Mother flickered and jumped occasionally, as the burning wicks yielded an occasional imperfection, a momentary sputter of wax or moisture. But the red lamp burned serene, with no unseemly waver to betray its light.

And if there was eternity, or even the idea of it, then perhaps Anselm was right; all things were possible. And all love? I wondered. I had loved Frank; I still did. And I loved Jamie, more than my own life. But bound in the limits of time and flesh, I could not keep them both. Beyond, perhaps? Was there a place where time no longer existed, or where it stopped? Anselm thought so. A place where all things were possible. And none were necessary.

And was there love there? Beyond the limits of flesh and time, was all love possible? Was it necessary?

The voice of my thoughts seemed to be Uncle Lamb’s. My family, and all I knew of love as a child. A man who had never spoken love to me, who had never needed to, for I knew he loved me, as surely as I knew I lived. For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.

Time passed without my awareness of it, and I was startled by the sudden appearance of Anselm before me, coming through the small door near the altar. Surely he had been sitting behind me? I glanced behind, to see one of the young monks whose name I didn’t know genuflecting near the rear entrance. Anselm bowed low before the altar, then motioned to me with a nod toward the door.

“You left,” I said, once outside the chapel. “But I thought you weren’t supposed to leave the, er, the Sacrament, alone?”

He smiled tranquilly. “I didn’t _ma chère¬_. You were there.”

I repressed the urge to argue that I didn’t count. After all, I supposed, there was no such thing as a Qualified Official Adorer. You only had to be human, and I imagined I was still that, though I barely felt it at times.

Jamie’s candle still burned as I passed his door, and I caught the rustle of turning pages. I would have stopped, but Anselm, went on, to leave me at the door of my own chamber. I paused there to bid him good night, and to thank for taking me to the chapel.

“It was…restful,” I said, struggling to find the right word.

He nodded, watching me. “Oui, madame. It is.” As I turned to go, he said, “I told you that the Blessed Sacrament was not alone, for you were there. But what of you _ma chère_? Were you alone?”

I stopped, and looked at him for a moment before answering.

“No,” I said. “I wasn’t.”

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47 Responses »

  1. Witam Diana. Chcialabym sie dowiedzieć,kiedy ukaze sie w Polsce 8 część Outlander ‘Napisane krwią wlasnego serca” przetłumaczona na j.polski?Kiedy również w naszym kraju będziemy mogli oglądać nakrcony już serial na naszej kablówce? Serdecznie pozdrawiam.

    • I just reread books 3 & 4 and remembered why I fell in love with your books. I’m a lover of history and historical fiction. I like the Starz series but the richness of your characters cannot be captured. Books 5 Fiery Cross is just as great. I am not one to write but had to tell you how much I love your books. I saw you at the Paleo festival in LA and video from Comic Con. Nice job. Can’t wait for book 9. Thank you for the excerpts as you left us all hanging at end of MOBY.

      Oh book 4 reminds me how mich I love John Grey. I’ll have to reread those too.

      Thank you again for sharing your talent and incredible imagination with us.

      With warm

  2. Thanks for sharing the meaning of Advent. It’s not easy to keep Advent in the busy-ness of today’s world, but I try. I love the tradition of the Advent wreath, and we will be lighting our first candle today, too, at church and at home. Wishing you the blessing of a peaceful Advent, Diana.

  3. Lovely! This warms my heart every time I read it. Thank you!

  4. I never knew what Advent was until I was an adult. The denomination a grew up in didn’t celebrate the Holy days on the calendar, save for Christmas and Easter, of course. Since it’s not engrained in my head, I forget that I’d like to honor the Advent season until after the first Sunday has passed. And I’ve done it again. Maybe next Sunday, I’ll get the children to go outside and pick some cedar and holly, make a wreath, and combine the first and second Sundays. With the many lows we have had this year, I think they will appreciate learning to anticipate the coming of love and grace–moreso than the material things that the world wants us to believe we need more than anything else.

  5. I read a great line today that went like this…

    “if your tired of Christmas by Dec 25th, you haven’t done Advent correctly”

    Thanks for reminding us to spend quiet time, whether it be in prayer, contemplation, or just with yourself, knowing yourself.

  6. Starting with the first Sunday in Advent we can track the coming holiday by the additions each week in our Parish, I try to reflect this by each week by adding m.ore decorations, each week a few more cookies made and stored, each week more preperations for our traditional Slovak Christmas Eve dinner (which I think I am one of the few who still try to keep alive). When our children were young and now the grandkids we anticipate with an Advent calendar, and Christmas stories and books each night ( How the Disasours celebrate Christmas is the favorite now). When the 25th gets here it is a happier and fullfilling celebration because of the preparition and of course that is what the Advent season to Catholics is, a preparition for Christs Birth.

  7. This is a favorite excerpt for me. I am not Catholic, but I find the traditions and sacraments beautiful, particularly the Perpetual Adoration. How wonderful to simply “be” for an hour, in stillness and reverence.

    You know, I’ve never observed Advent before but I think I’d like to change that.

  8. Love this excerpt. Such a beautiful moment in the Outlander series. I find the quiet moments some of the best, and wonderfully appropriate to the season.

  9. As beautiful and moving now as it was when I first read it.

  10. What a beautiful passage; I was unaware of the time setting of this passage. Advent is a wonderful way to keep the busyness of the Christmas shopping from eating away the peace and waiting. Christmas is more than one Day, December 25, the Christmas season goes until at least January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany!

    The retailers and others have it all wrong — Christmas is here the day of Christmas Eve, and continues into January!!

  11. Diane-I only found out about your books when the TV show came out. Historical fiction WITH time travel and an EPIC love story with a character that is a cross between Braveheart and Patriot…what is not to love?! I’ve been keeping hubbie up with the highlights. He isn’t reading them but even though he would not admit it he likes to get the updates. I started the books after the season paused and just finished book eight. I work full time and have kids, so clearly something had to give…now I have to catch back up on chores and sleep. So happy to have found your books…I’ll keep spreading the word to my friends and family.

  12. I was so moved by this section of your book, I had a little cry after it.

  13. Oh yes I agree with the Ladies above my post. It is as lovely as the first time I read it.
    Diana Gabaldon is an excellent writer. So thought provoking.
    Love the books and will read them again, or maybe this time the audiobooks.

    • Susie you must listen the the book. Its absolutely captivating how Davina Porter creates and captivates the listener in her ability to change her voices. Very talented. Even if you travel thirty minutes to work each day you simply cannot wait to get into the car.

  14. met you at Elora highland Games years ago. A pleasure and you signed my book
    .Merry Chrismas

  15. I’ve just discovered your books this mid-summer & I’ve re-read them all 3 times, so far
    You’ve always stated you are all your characters & truly get that.

    On some interviews, the faces of those interviewers & fans that get that answer from you are such a wonder to observe.

    You can guess I’m back to the first book with:

    “The truth is that nothing moved, nothing changed, nothing whatever appeared to ‘happen’ & yet I experienced a feeling of elemental terror so great that I lost all sense of who, or what, or where I was.
    I was in the heart of chaos, & no power of mind or body was of use against it.”

    Lines such as these are what make me re-read the books over & over.
    & discover more lines to “highlight” & bookmark as I go through your work all over again.
    The joy of reading your books is one of the gifts I treasure this year 2014.

    Thank you.

  16. When I first read Outlander all those years ago, I was fairly young and I guess I didn’t take in the full impact of this part in Chapter 38.

    Many years later, on the day my mother died, I remember in the early morning hours before she passed I walked alone into the small chapel within the hospital. I had no specific purpose to pray or to ask for more time for her. I was just there for some solace and peace, perhaps guided to this small space somehow. I was alone in that tiny space with my hands folded in my lap when I quietly heard my heart break. I didn’t say a word and I didn’t pray.

    I returned to my mother’s room and I was there for the remainder of the day to hold her hand as she quietly left. When she took her last breath, I let go of the one I was holding and I knew immediately that she was on a tremendous new journey. I somehow found peace in letting her go.

    So in re-reading these books again recently, I came across this chapter once again. Now, much older & wiser, I now know that I was not really alone on the day my heart broke…..and neither was my mother.

    Thank you for your wonderful descriptions and shared feelings. :-)

  17. Dear Diana,

    In my last response I called you Dana. Sorry about that. I’ve devoured all 8 books in 3 months and convinced myself that was how your name was spelled. I also did not realize that MOBY was Written in my Own Heart’s Blood, the book I finished on Friday.

    Thank you for your wonderful and thoughtful recent posts. I love rereading some of my favorite scenes. And, thank you for the wonderful series. My husband and I watched every episode and loved it. Your choices for the lead characters were perfect. I can’t wait for the second half in April.


  18. The great anticipation has come to the end.
    Christmas has arrived!
    Joyous and peaceful Christmas for you, Diana and your loved ones!!

  19. There is a wonderful story of a man who visits the Blessed Sacrament each day and spends many long hours in front of the Monstrance. When asked what is he telling Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, he replies, “Nothing, we simply gaze at each other.”

  20. Happy new year!


  1. This is the latest blog of one of my favourite authors: Diana Gabaldon | William Clifford

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