No, that’s not how the song went….It was “Monday,Monday” wasn’t it? Be careful, dating ourselves here!
Today is a glorious Sunday on the East Coast after a spell of rainy days. Is this a busy day for you? Maybe it includes going to Church. We hope. Then to the garden center. Maybe other things. If you are lucky you might get a chance to work in your garden. Maybe. While we are not the sort who forbid any “work” or “entertainment” on this day, yet it is in our world generally lost as a day of REST. At least here at the Priory we don’t run errands and we try to have a change of pace. Try.
George Herbert has a beautiful poem called SUNDAY which begins:
“O day most calm, most bright, / The fruit of this, the next world’s bud, / th’endoresment of supreme delight, / Writ by a friend, and with his blood; / The couch of time; care’s balm and bay: / The week were dark, but for thy light: / Thy torch doth show the way.”
This is from another age, for sure. Yet the soul of the human creature needs such a day – according to the ancient Hebrew law – the need is one day a week! We need to think about this for the sake of mental and spiritual health.
“The Sundays of man’s life, / Threaded together on time’s string, / Make bracelets to adorn the wife / Of the eternal glorious King. ….This day my Savior rose, And did enclose this light for his…..Christ hath took in this piece of ground, And made a garden there….”
Of the Tomb and the Resurrection we read: “There was a garden in that place……” So, do gardening if you can, – and remember our Lord and that garden!
I just had a thought……Love is the universal solvent. Well, no, science says that water is the universal solvent….
Love however is somewhat like water. It wants to “get there” no matter what it has to go through. Divine Love will pass through stone – of tombs or hearts. It will do a lot of damage on the way, if necessary, just like water driven by gravity. Divine love is not in any hurry. Water was in no hurry to create the Grand Canyon.
Nothing stops water. Men can be ingenious in trying to control or contain water. Where I grew up there are more than a thousand miles of dykes – which don’t always hold back the water. Divine Love cannot be controlled. Many waters cannot quench the Love our Lord has for each of us. Nor can death.
And a quote from Benedict XVI – Joseph Ratzinger – when he ponders that the world ….”is not the meaningless plaything of voracious death. It provides a place for exiled love, because through the mortal wounds of Jesus Christ, God has entered this world.”
Egret at sunset by Mark Hollis
Our Easter season is more than half past but it is still the season of that somewhat strange word “alleluia” in the liturgy – both of the Mass and the Divine Office. It is almost certainly a word that has it origins in the middle eastern roots of Christianity – one which is still used in its oldest form anywhere native women of that area raise a joyful “shout.” Given what all is going on in that part of the world, one supposes than the “lu, lu, lu” in not heard often. Sad to say.
Why do we sing this word? Once again, sharing from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
“Singing indicates that the person is passing beyond the boundaries of the merely rational and falling into a kind of ecstasy; the merely rational he can express in ordinary language (that is why overly rational people are seldom tempted to sing). ….Now singing finds its climactic form in the Alleluia, the song in which the very essence of all song achieves its purest embodiment….In fact we are dealing here with something that cannot be translated. The joy that requires no words because it transcends all words. In this it resembles certain kinds of exultation and jubilation that are to be found among all peoples …. What does it mean to sing with “jubilation”? It means: to be unable to express in words, or to verbalize, the song that sings to you in your heart. … A jubilus is a shout that shows the heart is trying to express what it cannot possibly say. And to whom is such a jubilus more fittingly directed than to him who is himself ineffable? …The Alleluia is like a first revelation of what can and shall someday take place in us: our entire being shall turn into a single immense joy.”
Easter Sunday has come and gone. But the Easter season is just getting underway. What does any of this mean in our lives today? Probably the biggest problem the Christian religion has ever faced was and is that empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, he was brutally executed and dead. So that should have been that.
Christians profess that Jesus Christ is not to be found in a cemetery because He rose from the dead. We say that. However a “Jesus” on the loose is a real problem, so religion has somehow to nail Him down again……Explain things….Get everything defined and put it in a catechism book – understand it. Jesus and his times can be explored and placed in history. We can relax.
When Mary Magdalene dashed into a room full of men, she said the most astounding thing anyone ever said about someone who has died – HE LIVES! People who bust into the wake saying things like that are nuts. Those first disciples had to deal with the most profoundly upsetting reality the world has ever known – a dead friend who comes through the locked door and asks “What’s for supper?”
We could be accused of sometimes trying – for about 2,000 years – to get that door locked again. I don’t know about you, but a Jesus Christ, Son of God Almighty on the loose is enough to give me pause. My life can’t be the same. It’s big. No one can understand it. Let us not look for the LIVING among the dead! HE LIVES. ALLELUIA! This is the Day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Holy Saturday, our Lord’s day of rest, is one of our busiest days as we prepare for the Easter Vigil. Everyone has something to do whether in the sacristy, kitchen, chapel, or elsewhere. Everyone is thinking about the Vigil and hoping it will be dark enough for the blessing of the fire and of the Easter candle, which proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and has come forth from the tomb. We look forward to hearing the singing of the Exultet, the triumphant hymn of the Redemption glorifying the Lord’s Resurrection and to hearing the reading of the selected Prophecies. The blessing of the baptismal water leads to the renewal of our baptismal vows and our priest takes a special delight ensuing each and everyone present is “sprinkled”. Of course there is more, but it all culminates with the celebration of Mass. After greeting guests, new work begins as we clear the sanctuary, cleanse the vessels, lay out vestments for the Easter Sunday Mass, and arrange flowers into little groups of “gardens”, all the while partaking of Easter chocolates! The Lord is Risen, Alleluia!
O truly solemn day of God,
Resplendent with the light of grace!
The day on which the Savior’s Blood
Was shed to save our sinful race!
This is nothing joyful about this day. Jesus suffers a horrific death. The scourging alone was intentionally brutal to hasten the death of one nailed to a cross. The liturgy is stark, lessons remind us of dejection, the altar is naked, the tabernacle empty as if God has gone out of His Holy Place leaving it forsaken. The vestments are black. On approaching the altar the priest prostrates himself, a supreme act of adoration. The late Dom Otto Haering, O.S.B. asks a poignant question, “When could a Christian, as he lies in the dust in profoundest self-abasement, have greater reason to adore the Savior than on this day?”
There is so much that can be said of this day of mourning. From the lessons taken from the history of the Jewish people to the Passion narrative of St. John to the veneration of the Holy Cross, yet underlying all of this sorrow is the coming joy of Easter. Dom Otto says it well, “In the evening of this day there appears, as it were, the bright star of quiet and joyous confidence and peace with God in the sacrificial death of the Redeemer.” Amen and Amen
On Maundy Thursday, while the office of the day is concerned with the suffering and agony of Jesus upon the Mount of Olives, the Mass focuses on the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. Thus there is a mingling of both joy and sorrow on this solemn day. The joy is expressed in the vesting of the altar in white, with the altar crucifix covered with a white veil and with white vestments. There are vases of flowers where just a day before there had been nothing ornamental at all. During Mass the Gloria is sung to the ringing of our 500 pound bell. It is a remembrance of our Lord’s love for us which prompted Him to give Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
But it is also a sorrowful day because after the Gloria is sung and the bell has stopped ringing and the organ falls silent, all will remain mute until the Gloria of the Vigil of Easter. Here we remember the betrayal of Jesus by one of His own, Judas. After Mass the consecrated Host is carried in solemn procession to Lady Chapel which is appropriately adorned with flowers and candles. The Watch begins.
A petition we prayed today during our intercessions for Mass is one we could pray every day: “For all of us who share this Eucharist, remembering most vividly that hour when Jesus showed us the very depths of His love, may we express our gratitude to Him by being faithful in all that He asks of us.” (Intercessions For Mass by Mary Grace Melcher, OCD)