Images of the Resurrection

Easter Sunday 2017

resurrectionv2

Cavern of darkness, enlightened by the unfolding of resurrected Light

Risen Christ, bring light to our darkened world within and without.

 

Rolling stone, freed by the force of new life

Prince of Peace let us be moved to free our hearts, sore from the violence of our world.

 

Winding cloth, cherishing the bruised and broken body unto awakening

Advocate, teach us to softly tend the imperfections that rest upon and within us.

 

Garden of beauty, traversed by the wounded feet of the Risen Lord

Dayspring, amaze and delight us as we journey through this earth-time of Alleluia.

 

Angel of the Resurrection, spreading a buoyant message for seekers

Messenger of the Covenant, direct our minds and spirits as we seek you in one another and in your Word.

 

Mary, with soothing chrism for the broken body of your Love

Healer of our every ill, astonish us with the comforting, quieting balm of compassion and care.

 

Peter and John, sprinting to validate your hope in the promise made

Promise of the Eternal, let us daily run on the way of salvation to the pledge of eternal life

 

Astonished guards, running to scrutinize the impossible evidence of new life

True Light, astound us again and again to explore, to probe the mystery of new life

bourgeoning within us

 

Disciples, plodding from Jerusalem toward Emmaus

Bread of Life, bring us the faith to identify the Risen Christ in Word and Wheat and Community gathered.

 

Apostles huddled in the Upper Room, gathered to offer one another solace and compassion for the dashed hope in this interval between death and life

Sun of Righteousness, let us sing “All shall be well as bright morning comes at last.”

 

FOR YOUR PONDERING:

What images of the Resurrection story resonate for you?

How do you connect the wealth of the Resurrection with your living and being?

How do you sing the Alleluia song to others?

 

Patricia Anne Driscoll, OSB, St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA

The Great Silence

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil April  15,2017

Scripture Readings:  Psalm 62: 6-9; Romans 8: 18-21; Mathew 28: 1-10


Holy Saturday has been called the quietest day of the Church Year. What is good about Good Friday? What is Holy about Holy Saturday? So many paradoxes. The cross is empty. Joseph’s empty tomb is now full of Jesus. The echo of Jesus’ last words “It is finished!” echoes in the great silence.  His followers huddle in numb silence with empty hearts and a cry within-“We had hoped.”  Holy Saturday-in between time, tomb  time.

Holy Saturday-Jesus tour of hell the creed says, “He was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell and on the third day He arose again.”

But, it is not yet the third day. In the heavy silence, Mary Magdalen is in the wings, clutching her precious spices, waiting for the Sabbath to end so she can go and anoint the body of Jesus. How was she going to remove the heavy stone? Love-filled grief doesn’t stop to think. What is there to do in/with Holy Saturday? In between time.  How are we to be in this great emptiness? We could go to the Easter flowerless church and get the Easter dinner blessed. We could clean the house in preparation for the Easter feast. We could put flowers at a loved one’s stone in the cemetery. But, then again there would be death, the grave, a stone to confront.

In between times, the great silence is hard to live. Poetess, Emily Dickinson writes profoundly of how little there is to do when a loved one dies in her poem, The last night that she lived. ” We placed the hair/and drew the head erect/and then an awful leisure was/our faith to regulate.”

Holy Saturday on its quiet way to Easter Vigil is an invitation to enter a silence those who grieve know so well. For some it is the dark silence of an extended illness, for some the stone-cold silence of a broken relationship, for all of us the violence and suffering all over the world, and the hollow echo of political promises, natural disasters abound­ the rumble of an earthquake, then silence, the tornado roar then the awful silence.

We must give ample time to experience our own Holy Saturdays. The day Jesus lay in the tomb need not lead to despair but to love, the love that propelled Mary Magdalen to eagerly await the dawn. To pass too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday deprives us of the deep meaning of Jesus passion and death. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness.”

Grave

FOR YOUR PONDERING

  • Name your empty
  • Spend time in silence before an empty cross at church or in your
  • Name the place where you desire to be at peace with emptiness, waiting, not knowing
  • Who can you reach out to today with a card, phone call, visit who is experiencing an empty

Dorothy Harnish, OblSB, Emmanuel Monastery, Lutherville, MD

Photo: Karen Amelia Brown

 

 

 

My Destiny!

Good Friday

“Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the church:  fasting,  prayer and almsgiving.  At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season, we are, invited to hear and ponder more deeply.”   (Pope Francis, Origins, p. 578)

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The word of God we find in the Bible teaches us the destiny God has for each of us.  The pathway we are to follow is one of love, trust and obedience.  God in his love for us, gave his son as a sacrifice for our sins. Through the obedience of Jesus, who knew no sins, we obtained salvation and cleansing of our sins. The life of Jesus, lived in total obedience to his Father, in love and trust, is the life we are to follow. Jesus willingly faced his destiny when he rode into Jerusalem and met death on the Cross.  This was no easy death: it was painfully cruel and crushingly humiliating to the son of God; but it was the death God chose for his son as he offered him up in love for us, as the sacrifice for our sins. The route we are to follow is the one Jesus took, along the Salvation Highway, which was paved with the stones of God’s commandments and sealed with God’s love leading to eternal life, for our destiny is everlasting life with God.

The cross and the crucifixion are crucial to the center of the Christian life.  Does this sound like too many “c” in one sentence?  The word crucial comes from the Latin for “cross”; every thing we believe follows our faith and growth in Jesus.  The many acts of his love and his commitment to the obedience of his loving Father, even to death on the cross, show us our path to follow.  This path leads us to eternal life with Jesus, his Father and the love of the Holy Spirit which binds us all together.

No greater love for humankind could be found than the pure love of God when he offered salvation to all who believed in the love of Jesus as he obeyed God, showing his love and trust of the Father, by walking toward his death, carrying the cross of our sins, knowing that the cross was not the end but the door of love through which he would pass into the loving hands of his Father.  For Jesus says in Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Familiar last words of our day, at bedtime, may be:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,hands

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

A new line to this prayer I would like to add:

For into your hands I now commend my spirit.

Amen.

Connie Ruth Lupton, OSB, St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Thursday

HOLY THURSDAY AT OUR MONASTERIES

What follows are reflections from Emmanuel Monastery (Lutherville), St. Gertrude Monastery (Ridgely), and St. Benedict Monastery (Bristow) on ways in which this day is celebrated. What is most notable is the focus on “humble service” amidst all the rich  symbolism of this feast.

Readings:  Exodus 12: 1-8,11-14; 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-15

Emmanuel MonasteryGeneral foot washing

WHEN YOU DO THESE THINGS, REMEMBER ME!

Holy Thursday is a day filled with symbols central to the Triduum and central to our Christian faith.  In the Passover ritual that we recall in the first reading, the children ask “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  It is different because we REMEMBER many things: Jesus’ last meal with his friends before he died; the sharing of bread and wine that gave birth to our Eucharist; betrayal and rejection by friends; words of encouragement, hope and grief, prayer-filled agony in the garden; arrest and condemnation.

Yet what is most touching and telling is where we find Jesus this night: kneeling at our feet!  In one of the simplest and most intimate of gestures, Jesus kneels before us and washes our feet.  The re-enactment of this gesture at our Liturgy this night is one of the most profound rituals of the Church year. It is a gesture that is foreign to our culture today, while still being one of the most tender, loving and humbling experiences.  In the scriptures it is a gesture followed by words equal to its intimacy: “As God loves me, so do I love you.”  “I call you friends.” “Love one another as I love you.” “When you do these things, remember me.”

At Emmanuel Monastery there are two stations set up for the washing of the feet as the Gospel is read and enacted.  The Prioress takes the role of Jesus and washes the feet of her sisters in community. Participants are invited to come to this station or the other, which is open, providing the opportunity for friends, families, spouses to come forward together and wash each other’s’ feet.  Remembering Jesus, we kneel at one another’s feet tonight, as we sing:

I your Lord and Master, now become your servantLutherville foot washing

I who made the moon and stars will kneel to wash your feet.

This is my commandment: to love as I have loved you.

Kneel to wash each other’s feet as I have done for you.  (Dan Schutte)

 

 

Kathy McNany, OSB, Emmanuel Monastery, Lutherville, MD


St Gertrude Monastery, Ridgely

Ridgely foot washingHoly Thursday is a day of memorable institutions.  This is the day when we come to know the power of friendship, the pain of betrayal and the giving of one’s life for the salvation of humankind. On this night, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” as He changed wine into His blood and the bread into His flesh, and so we also commemorate this action.

We begin the day with a special Morning Praise and keep a respectful silence throughout the daylight hours.  In the late afternoon, we gather to share a simple supper and sit in a seating arrangement similar to the many replicas of the Last Supper.  As a sign of their humility and respect for all, the Prioress and her council serve us our meal.

At the end of our meal, we process to our chapel and enter into the revered time and space of the Paschal Mystery.  We begin with the Blessing of the Holy Oils.  The Holy Chrism represents the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Oil of the Sick, the compassion of Christ and the Oil of the Catechumens, the saving waters of Baptism.

After the Liturgy of the Word, we conduct the ritual of the washing of the feet.  This ritual is performed by the Prioress and her Sub-Prioress.  It is a humbling experience for them as well as for those of us who have our feet cleansed.  It takes one out of one’s comfort zone.  I am sure Jesus was taken out of His comfort zone on that Holy Thursday because He knew what was to come. Such was the humility shown by God to save us, to feed us, to wash our feet (a dirty job by no means) and to die for us.  There is indeed no greater love.

After the ritual of the foot washing, we continue with the Eucharistic prayer, Communion, and then we process with the Blessed Sacrament to our side chapel of repose.  The Sisters then spend some quality time in prayer, in gratitude and in adoration.  Their quiet departure concludes our Holy Thursday celebration and readies us for the holy days to come and the awesome glory of the celebration of the day of Resurrection.

Marlies Tomczyk, OSB, St. Gertrude Monastery, Ridgely, MD


St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA

Bristow (2)One of the clearest enactments of Jesus’ words happens during Eucharist on Holy Thursday at the Washing of Feet. To ensure the orderly progression as well as the fullness of the number 12, the hospitality director distributes twelve numbered index cards before Mass and invites some worshippers   to come forward for foot-washing at the appropriate time.

Immediately after the Gospel, three sisters leave the chapel to bring in a large ceramic washbowl, a pitcher of warm water and a basket of rolled towels, and place them near the four chairs reserved for those having their feet washed: sisters, lay women, men and children.  Meanwhile, ushers place two chairs opposite for Sister Cecilia, the prioress, and Father Raymond, the presider, who will do the washing and drying of feet.  Before being seated, Father Raymond removes his chasuble.

As the twelve move to and from the places reserved, the congregation sings an appropriate hymn, e.g. “As I Have Done for You”. Upon completion of the washing of feet, the servers remove the towels, basin and pitcher; ushers replace the two chairs; the prioress returns to her place; the presider replaces his chasuble and continues with the Eucharistic Prayers.

Andrea Verchuck, OSB, Bristow, VA


For Reflection:

  • Remember where we find Jesus today….kneeling before us! Spend some time reflecting on the wonder of that act.  Do an act of humble service for someone today.
  • Participate in the washing of the feet if the opportunity is available to you.
  • For you, what do the words of Jesus mean: “to love one another as I love you?”

Simon of Cyrene

Palm Sunday 2017

In today’s Gospel of Matthew we hear of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Passover and the details of the Passion. Buried in this lengthy reading we come across a single verse mentioning Simon of Cyrene.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.  Matt 27:32

Jesus and Simon of Cyrene

Simon physically picked up Jesus’ cross and walked behind him to the Crucifixion.  Did he react at this unexpected turn of events with surprise, annoyance, reluctance or maybe even embarrassment?  The same emotions I might have when called into service that I would really like to avoid.  Did he accept what he had to do with sympathy for the other? Or with resentment, anger or bitterness?  How was his life changed afterward?  This bystander who became a servant to Christ during His Passion has been my focus this Lenten Season.

All of our crosses are different, Simon’s, yours and mine but the reactions are often the same.  The cross was unexpected for Simon and is often unexpected for us.

In Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests, Benedict tells us “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ…”

Benedict knew that all guests have needs and often arrive at the most inconvenient time, as do our crosses and the crosses of others.

Benedict’s words and the actions of Simon of Cyrene continue to show us that in carrying our own crosses and at times the crosses of others, we show the world yet again there is another way.

Is there a cross in my life or of another that I am trying to avoid?

Does my behavior in carrying my cross bring me and others closer to Christ?

Zimmermann Hl Saturday

 

Rita Zimmermann, OblSB, St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA

 

References

Homiletic and Review, April 13, 2014: Simon of Cyrene by Richard J. Grebenc

Scripture: NABRE

Artwork:  Sieger Köder & Katherin Burleson

The Raising of Lazarus Calls Faith Forth

Fifth Sunday of Lent 2017

John 11: 1-45

009-jesus-lazarus

Having grown up in a family of actors, I recognize the power of a dramatic scene when I see it. For me, few scenes in the New Testament exhibit this amount of dramatic tension: a group of characters with deep emotional connections, contradictory motivations, and potential conflict as does John’s account of the raising of Lazarus. And the stakes could not be higher – the finality of death and the prospect of eternal life! We see and hear the questions of Martha, Mary, the disciples and the Jewish community surrounding the sisters, and are left wondering with them about the unfolding of Jesus’ reactions and behavior. With what character(s) in the story do you identify?

The first element of dramatic tension: Jesus’ obvious love for the family ─ Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. Mary who had recently caused a stir by anointing Jesus in front of the Pharisees. The sisters send word to him:  “Master the one you love is ill.” The bond could not be clearer. Yet when Jesus heard the news, “He remained for two days in the place where he was.”  As readers we see Jesus’ clarity on the eventual outcome. But as his followers or the family, how would we have judged this behavior? Then, when Jesus announces, “Let us go back to Judea.” we see his disciples’ fear and confusion: What? Those Jews were just trying to stone you and you want to go back there?”  We’re told how close Bethany is to Jerusalem, and through the lens of history can understand the disciples’ fear and the risk to Jesus.

At the center of this drama ─ two women of great faith. Martha’s two affirmations: “Jesus if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” When Jesus assures her Lazarus will rise, she goes even further: “I know that he will rise, on the resurrection on the last day.”  Then comes Mary’s echo of Martha’s certainty: “Jesus if you had been here…”  But this time not asserted privately, or merely with his disciples, but in front of the entire Jewish community that had followed her out to meet Jesus. Their incredulous reactions may be closer to our own, had we been among them: Wait a minute!  Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have DONE SOMETHING so that this man would not have died? What’s going on here?

Entering into the emotions of all the players in this scene, especially the sisters, I find myself wondering: will I ─ do I ─ muster such faith, such certainty, and confidence in Jesus’ teachings when confronted with death all around me? Like many of us of a certain age, I seem to be tangling with death a lot these days: the death of a parent, the loss, or long battles with critical illness, of mentors, colleagues, and friends. Wading into the messy unfolding of anguish, amazing courage, and piercing grief, faith is tested. In reading today’s gospel several women of faith in my own life come to mind: my godmother Teresa, (an Oblate of the Ridgely community) Sr. Esther Bataille, OSB, both of whom have died, and Rosalie an increasingly frail friend and parish elder whom I recently visited. I witnessed their ability (in two cases almost literally) to “see into the next room” with a certainty, peace, and even joy that I can only hope to be capable of myself.

Jesus’ calm command: “Take away the stone,” must have elicited all kinds of emotion in the crowd, most vividly voiced by Martha:  “Lord, by now there will be a stench!”  Who were the brave followers that overcame their fears and misgivings to step forward and follow Jesus’ orders?  Would we have been among them?  I hear echoes of the women on Easter morning asking each other “Who will roll away the stone?” We know the ending, the dramatic affirmation of Jesus’ power and Martha and Mary’s faith. Still, what are the stones of doubt or fear that prevent us from confidently embracing Jesus’ promises, from accepting the depth of his love for each of us?  And who are the Marthas and Marys in our lives whose witness of faith will lead us to Easter and the Resurrection?

Kathleen O’Toole, OblSB, Emmanuel Monastery, Lutherville, MD

Image from Read and Grow picture Bible created by American illustrator Jim Pagett

Reading Psalm 23 – Pondering Obedience

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2017

sheep

The Psalm Response for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is the beloved 23rd Psalm.  If you can recite anything from the Bible by heart, I would imagine it would be this Psalm.  It is the subject of myriad paintings and songs, it is nearly mandatory at every funeral, we’ve heard it all our lives.  The image of abiding in the tender loving care of the Father comforts and uplifts us, thus the universal popularity of this text.

For Lent, though, could we refocus our attention on the Psalm, rereading it with new eyes?  If the Lord is our shepherd, let us meditate on our role as sheep.  Sheep are not considered, by reputation, to be the brightest animals in the barn.  (Recall the movie “Babe”.)  Sheep follow the herd, for good or ill, and are loathe to be alone.  They are not independent thinkers, they don’t have good judgement.  Sheep need their shepherd to take them where they need to go and make the decisions for them.

Do we need the Lord as that kind of shepherd for us?  Of course, we do, for even though we prefer to guide our own destinies the Father can do that infinitely better than we could ever hope to do.  We love to think we are in control, deciding everything, and that we know best; but the Psalm suggests we might be clueless sheep who’d better follow the person with the staff and the border collie.  He will lead us to the good pastures, the correct path, the living waters, and the delightful banquet.  Left to our own judgement, we might end up following some dopey sheep who is running away from a particularly frightening blown leaf – and find ourselves lost among the wolves.

We Benedictines are blessed with another earthly shepherd who bravely takes up the shepherd’s staff for us here on earth, our prioress.  RB 2 calls the prioress a shepherd who may have to deal with a “restless, unruly flock” and “disobedient sheep”.  RB 27 reminds the prioress not to “lose any of the sheep entrusted to her” but to “imitate the loving example of the Good Shepherd”.  Our monastic shepherd who will guide her sisters and oblates toward the path to God has taken on quite a responsibility.  We are put in her care, we can thankfully abandon ourselves to her guiding hand.

So, there is it:  we trust the Lord, we trust our prioress, and we’re good to go!  It couldn’t be easier – it couldn’t be more difficult.  Our wills are like iron, even when we know we should subordinate them to wiser shepherds.  We can exhaust ourselves trying to maintain control and anticipate every contingency instead of trusting the shepherd.

As an oblate, the monastery environment gives us a chance to unclench, let down our guard, and sink into a different world of obedience.  The example of the sisters who always defer to the prioress and one another seems foreign to us, and we oblates struggle to comply but when in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in the monastery, do as the monastics.  It’s a different focus and way of thinking, not what I want but what the prioress and her representatives judge best.  In a way, it’s completely freeing as we don’t have to decide or worry, the decisions have already been made.  We trust the prioress and so can be free to concentrate on doing our own parts.   I am not free just because nothing can be my “fault” if it should go wrong, but because God is steering the ship through the prioress at the helm, so how can we go astray?

When a sister makes a request of an Oblate, we practice our obedience by agreeing unlike in the outside world where we stop to consider the options and consequences.  We are relieved of the burden of constant decision-making.  It gives us a glimpse of the freedom of being a sheep who follows without thinking; when, for example, you’re asked to write a reflection for Lent, you simply do it to the best of your ability.

This Lenten Psalm offers us the opportunity to practice obedience to our monastery and to our Father, to embrace the role of the sheep.  Perhaps all Lenten practices don’t have to necessarily hurt.  Maybe letting go of the reins as we journey towards Easter might allow us relax and enjoy the ride.

Debby Fancher, OblSB, St. Benedict Monastery, Bristow, VA