Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday

It’s quiet here. The monastic community has been in silence since Thursday evening. It feels right. Today, there will be tasks to do in preparation for the Vigil tonight. A few whispers here and there mean that we’re moving into liturgical “high gear.” Still I long to stay in this silent place of wonder and mystery.

Holy Saturday has always seemed a liminal place. Unlike Holy Thursday and Good Friday, it does not contain a unique liturgy. We gather for Morning Prayer, Midday and Evening Prayer near an empty tabernacle and contemplate Christ’s abiding presence even in absence. We are now without the Bridegroom. It is a good day, Abbot Patrick Regan, OSB, teaches, to fast. And yet, our Saturday experience differs dramatically from the first Holy Saturday. We wait for the Light that will shine in the darkness. We know that Easter fire will be kindled with care and the exsultet will be proclaimed by our finest voice. We know the rock will be rolled away.

I’ve come to love Holy Saturday. It seems to hallow all those moments in life when we are in between – after something precious has died but before new life can be perceived or articulated. Dan Schutte’s song, “Holy Darkness,” describes this particular moment brilliantly.

Holy darkness, blessed night,
Heaven’s answer hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
We embrace your holy night.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Thursday: "We Come To Your Feast"

I went to Our Lady of the Magnificat School in Kinnelon, NJ (class of ’78). I was old for my class because my birthday is in November and you had to be six by September. So, I was seven in the spring of 1971 – a happy first-grader in plaid polyester. One of my most vivid memories of that year, was a particular class when “Father” came to teach us about the Mass. Although we wouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion until 2nd Grade, Sister Patrick Elizabeth wanted us to see the Mass up-close and personal in our very own classroom! I was so excited… Normally, Mass was up on a stage in the auditorium – miles away from little eyes and ears. This was like having tickets on the 50 yard line at the Superbowl!

Fr. Hoffman arrived in his black suit carrying his dress (vestments, I later learned) and a mysterious briefcase. After he told us the names of all the pieces of clothing he was putting on, he opened the case. Inside, there were candles, white linens and the most beautiful cup I’d ever seen. As Father set the table, I knew that what was happening on Sister’s desk was the most wonderful dinner party ever – because he said JESUS was coming!

I never want to forget that day or lose the wonder that little girl felt around that table. Tonight, we set a banquet table for the Lord’s Supper with our finest linen and new beeswax candles. Everything has been lovingly polished and vacuumed, arranged and prepared for this special meal. The schola has practiced and the ministers are prepared. All we have to do now is show up – really be present to the Mystery before us in bread and wine, to embrace the humble service of basin and pitcher. All we have to do is allow ourselves to be changed and graced in this moment. May we each see this table as if for the first time and wonder at the GOD who longs to nourish, satisfy and serve – the GOD who chooses each of us as table companions, who invites all to a dinner party in His honor.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We are different...

This is the back of my head. A strange photo to post, I agree, but the back of my head fits nicely in my thought for the day. I left for Rome shorn in my normal fashion. And, due to the radical state of the dollar abroad, I didn’t want to spend a single euro on a haircut in Italy. Everything was so expensive. The thought of the bottom line after a shampoo and cut made me tremble. So, I just let it grow. Some sisters were cutting each other’s hair in desperation. Somehow, I managed to get over that hump – the moment when I look in the mirror and say, “It’s got to go!” Somehow, as the weeks went on, I started to get used to me this way. Once, out of the corner of my eye as I glanced in the bathroom mirror, I even saw my mother. Now, I never think I look like her. I am, happily, a knock-off of my father. But catching my own reflection, and seeing her there, was positively stunning. My mother would love it this way. I had short hair most of my life. Every now and then, as I got older, she’d persuade me to let it grow. I haven’t had this much hair on my head since high school – c. 1982. Who knows how long it will last. I’ll probably miss the simplicity and order of a very short cut. But for now, it feels OK to be different – to look in the mirror and see a different “Sister Vicki.”

What does any of this have to do with monastic life or the sacred days of Holy Week? We are poised at the gateway of the Triduum – the three days which are one great liturgy celebrating the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. The rites and rubrics of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday and the Paschal Vigil are the same. The symbols, rituals and liturgical colors never vary. Yet, every time we begin this great celebration, we are different.

Certainly, the length of my hair is insignificant. But the events of this past year – births, deaths, joys and sorrows – all accompany me into these sacred days. Our task, I think, is to bring it all with us mindful that GOD already knows our paschal stories. Then, simple bread and wine will become the One we call the Christ. Then, cool water and thirsty towels will remind us that we, like Him, are servants. Then, all the loss and grief in our lives can be sanctified at the foot of His cross. If we can bring all that we are and all that we’ve experienced into the Triduum, then surely, as the new fire gives light to the Paschal candle, the Light who is Christ, will shine in our hearts.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blog and jog...

I have a simple plan for this morning. First, write a little about the graces of this past weekend and then head outside for a little cardio-vascular workout. It’s been nearly 10 weeks since I exercised. I got so sick in Rome that it was the last thing on my agenda. Learning to sleep well and swallow without pain, were the priorities early on. Then, just as good health was in sight a lovely little stomach virus (or food poisoning) took hold. I feel good know… I am two weeks home and sleeping well in my own bed(s). I’ve lost some weight since January (not on purpose), but I feel healthy again. It’s time to move…to feel my heart pound a little bit…to breathe deeply and climb some hills. It’s time to survey the plantation and see what has changed in two months time and greet the daffodils, crocus and songbirds. I am looking forward to the silence, solitude and sweat!

But first, I have to share a little bit about our vocation retreat weekend. We were blessed with six guests – six women of faith searching for God’s will in their lives. Our extended community has been praying for vocations and our Oblates have made it a priority in their prayers as well. It would seem God is answering...and blessing us. The two women participating in our “Live-In” program and Postulant Karen joined our guests for the weekend. Their presence was a blessing for the Vocation TEAM and for our new friends who were anxious to hear about life “on the inside.”

We contemplated the great love of God expressed in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ with a focus on the monastic life as an immersion in the Paschal Mystery. Sounds deep and heavy, but it was really a joyful exploration of the grace that enables each of us to “take up our cross” and follow. As we enter this Holy Week, these women will remain on my mind and in my heart. I will ask God to bless and guide each one and to help them find their true monastic home. I ask you all to join me in praying for vocations…to our monastic community, to ordained ministry and lay ecclesial ministry in our Church.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki