Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ has risen as He promised, Alleluia!

At Easter Morning Prayer we always begin with the song "Light Breaks Forth."  It is one of my favorites.  The words are by Sr. Dolores Dufner, OSB (St. Benedict's in St. Joseph, MN) and the music is by our Sr. Mary Sue Freiberger.  It is absolutely beautiful.

"Brightness of beauty, gleaming of glory.  Morning Star, rise in our hearts! 
Lamp ever burning sun never setting, Star of the Universe shine!

Light breaks forth, empty the tomb.  Jesus Christ with us living, giving.  
Rise we from slumber to Easter splendor, Daystar dawning."

Each time we sing it, I feel such gratitude for the gift of salvation.  Our God lives!

Chapel Podium
Last night the chapel was full with our sisters and many guests as we celebrated the Vigil.  Even though there had been the forecast of rain, we were able to all be outside for the lighting of the Easter fire.  The procession into church and the singing of the Exultet is always glorious!  God has gifted us with wonderful musicians with beautiful voices.  As we sang together, I could certainly understand why St. Augustine said that "those who sing, pray twice."  It is such a gift to be in community worshiping our God together.  St. Benedict called us to live a life of deep prayer living each day reflecting on the Paschal Mystery.  As we gathered for the Vigil, we celebrated the depth of this reality.   After the Vigil, we always invite all of our guests to stay for breakfast (sweet breads and easter eggs).  It is always to continue the celebration together.

Our Lady of Grace Easter Garden
Today we had lots of guests for our Easter Sunday Mass and Easter meal.  It is always fun to see family and friends and to invite them to share a meal with us.  Most of all, it is a gift to know that we all seek God together.   As we celebrated Christ's resurrection, joy and hope resonated around the monastery.  What a gift it is that we have a God who loves us so much!  My hope is that we will spend our lives sharing that love with everyone we meet.  I hope that everyone who comes to Our Lady of Grace Monastery will  know the joy, hope and peace of Christ.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Entering into the silence of the Triduum

The Triduum begins with the Holy Thursday Mass and ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.  I love this time in the monastery as we enter into silence together and we reflect on the Paschal Mystery together. 

On Holy Thursday evening we begin with a community meal served by our Prioress and Sub-Prioress.  It is a leisurely meal where we can savor the food and one another's company.  After the meal and the dishes are done, we move upstairs to prepare for the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  This is one of my favorite liturgies of the year.  I love the footwashing where we are reminded to bend to wash others' feet just as Christ did.  The Mass ends with the procession of the Eucharist to the Blessed Sacrament chapel.  This begins the silence in the monastery that will continue until the Holy Saturday Vigil.  

The silence in the monastery gives us the opportunity to ponder, reflect on Christ's life, death and resurrection and our desire to die and rise with Christ.  We have silence at meals with table reading that helps us to continue reflecting on the power of this holy time. 

Of course there is lots to be done during this time - chapel needs to be decorated, the Easter meal prepared - so there is activity in the monastery.  The gift is that we try to do it all in a spirit of silence that lends to a deepening of our inner life.  

Know that as we enter more deeply into the Triduum, we  hold you in the heart of our prayer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This week we have the powerful Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.   This Gospel is laden with different images and themes.  We have Martha’s powerful profession of faith, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”   The image of Jesus weeping that shows us Jesus’ great love and deep humanity.  We have Lazarus in a tomb for four days and Jesus telling him, “Lazarus, come out!”  And, of course, we have Lazarus walking out of the tomb still all bound up, and Jesus telling those around him to take the burial cloths off Lazarus.  Too many to reflect on so let’s stay with Lazarus.

            Can you imagine being in a tomb for four days?  Can you imagine the stench that Martha spoke of when Jesus said to take the stone away?  Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Lazarus to rise and walk out of that tomb alive but still bound up?  And then imagine for a moment what it felt like for Lazarus to have those around him help to unbind him?  Initially, it might be easy for us to say no I can’t imagine any of that.  But, I think if we reflect on our lives more deeply, we could easily imagine it.

            How many tombs have each of us inhabited in our lives?  It might be the tomb of low self-esteem that keeps you from truly being who God calls you to be and so you find yourself trying to be like others instead of yourself.  It could be the tomb of being disconnected from another and using all your energy to avoid this person so that you don’t have to talk or heal the relationship.  Maybe you’re caught in the tomb of murmuring and find yourself grumbling to others in community. The tomb of unworthiness can be another we find ourselves in.  When we live in this tomb, we can find ourselves comparing ourselves to others and always coming up short or putting them down to feel better about ourselves.  Of course, when we live in these tombs for too long there is a horrible stench that pervades us and all of those around us.  This odor is not the beautiful odor of good zeal that Benedict talks about but bad zeal that does not lead us to God or others.
            Yes, we all inhabit tombs in our lives.  Maybe we inhabit them for a day, a week, a month, or a lifetime.  Maybe we inhabit more than one tomb at a time.  But Jesus tells us that we do not have to live in these tombs.  Yes, Jesus tells us that we will rise on the last day but we are also called to rise each day, in the here and now, to new life.  It is not an easy thing to do because even though our tombs aren’t fun, they are familiar.  And, yet, Jesus calls each of us to come out.  When we have the courage to walk out of these tombs, we will need a new courage.  We will need the courage to allow others to help unbind us from the burial cloths that have held us captive.  We will also need to look around community for others who are trying to rise from their tombs and we will need to go and help unbind them as well.

            We all have a tomb that we live in, at least one. Which tomb is the tomb that is hurting you the most?  (give a moment for them to think)  Do you have the courage to stand up and walk out of it?  As we journey closer to Easter, let us each stand up and rise from a tomb that we have inhabited so that we might more joyfully greet the risen Christ on Easter morn.