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)
Holy Week is now upon us and as we set our faces toward Jerusalem we invite you to travel with us, either in person or in spirit.
5:00 pm Mass, stripping and washing of the altar
followed by the Watch in Lady Chapel
From 8:30 pm to 9:00 pm the Watch will be for Community only
9:00 am Terce
10:00 am Stations of the Cross
12 noon Angelus, Sext, Beginning of the 3 Hours
1:30 pm Good Friday Liturgy
8:00 pm The Great Vigil of Easter
8:00 am Mass
On Palm Sunday, our Community has a custom. The custom is rather weather dependent and so we watch the forecast hoping it will not rain. Why? Because in the afternoon, we walk with our palms down to our burial ground where we place palms in the sign of the cross on every grave. We listen to stories about the Sisters most of us never knew; stories gleaned from our archives. Mother Virginia will tell us about Sister Emma and other Sisters who are only names to some of us. And then there are those Sisters who have gone ahead in recent years about whom we can all share remembrances. We conclude our visit by gathering at the foot of the Cross where we sing the beautiful hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” We offer a prayer and then in hushed voices we walk back home.
Due to the condition of our burial ground path, thanks to the recent rain, we were unable to keep our custom this year, but our hearts were still filled with love and gratitude for our Sisters who have gone before us.
Sometimes we think we have things figured out. So did the ancient religious leaders in Jerusalem. Jesus could not be the messiah. He did not come from Bethlehem but from Galilee of the gentiles. Everyone knows his relatives – and no one knows who his REAL father was….Therefore he might well be the fruit of fornication….All in all, he is from the wrong side of the tracts – and has not even had a seminary education. Yes, it is an easy case. Sort of…..Except that they had it wrong because they did not want to have it be any other way than their script.
When spring comes or comes close, I clean out the little ornamental pond. The ice had all melted so the other day I poked around and took a look at the pond. Ugh. A dead frog floating. I got out the net. It can fertilize an azalea…. Then I saw another….then another….All told, 5 frogs – dead – stashed under the azalea bush. Icky. But they had a bad idea. They were lulled into thinking that December – being so mild – would never turn into January. They made a bad choice. But they were, after all, only frogs.
We have little excuse. It is easy to get lulled into the bad idea that God doesn’t care what we do or think. Wrong. Even if it breaks His Heart, He cares…..Cares enough to lay down His Life for us and pour out His Blood. In another week we on this Hilltop will celebrate a solemn season of Divine Love. Hope you can too, wherever you are.
Rood Screen in Chapel
“It is precisely the existence of sin that modern man is unable to take seriously.” Pope Benedict XVI
Seriously. Think about it. As a nun, do I commit serious sins? Really! And you, maybe a practicing Catholic who goes to Mass at least on Sundays – you probably have never committed a crime. Seriously. In the Gospel we read how Jesus forgave people their sins and they get up and walk, or see again, or get total healing. That was then, wasn’t it. “Most people do not explicitly deny the existence of God, but they do not believe that he is of any importance in the realm of human life.” Seriously. That is a chilling thought.
So – Jesus did not really need to talk so much about forgiveness and get himself mocked and spit upon. Much less get himself killed and shed his blood for “us sinners.” Seriously?
No. That is a lie. As the wise Benedict XVI points out, only the truth can set us free and the truth is that there is guilt and we ourselves are guilty. Sin exists and we do know that. If we’ve never done anything – or thought anything – perfectly bad, we have at least broken the first commandment. You know, the one about loving God with all your heart, soul, strength…. Nuns get caught up in trivial attitudes and can make all sorts of petty little idols and get so busy that the time spent in prayer seems a waste. Making this blog entry is really important….God can wait. Seriously? You decide.
[Quotes from “Seeking God’s Face” by Joseph Ratzinger. Quoted without permission. I’ll go to confession!]