Saturday, April 19, 2014

"He comes to harrow Hell"

Holy Saturday - Harrowing Hell - a medieval depiction

Through the Gate

Begin the song exactly where you are
For where you are contains where you have been
And holds the vision of your final sphere

And do not fear the memory of sin;
There is a light that heals, and, where it falls,
Transfigures and redeems the darkest stain

Into translucent colour. Loose the veils
And draw the curtains back, unbar the doors,
Of that dread threshold where your spirit fails,

The hopeless gate that holds in all the  fears
That haunt your shadowed city, fling it wide
And open to the light that finds and fares

Through the dark pathways  where you run and  hide,
through all the alleys of your riddled heart,
As pierced and open as His wounded side.

Open the map to Him and make a start,
And down the dizzy spirals, through the dark
His light will go before you, let Him chart

And name and heal. Expose the hidden ache
To him, the stinging fires and smoke that blind
Your judgement, carry you away, the mirk

And muted gloom in which you cannot find
The love that you once thought worth dying for.
Call Him to all you cannot call to mind

He comes to harrow Hell and now to your
Well guarded fortress let His love descend.
The icy ego at your frozen core

Can hear His call at last. Will you respond?
-- Malcolm Guite

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday & service schedule for Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter

Well, I've missed the boat on letting you all know about the Maundy Thursday services, but at least I can post the others.  Here is what we just did:

Maundy Thursday Liturgy

April 17th @ 5:00pm
Maundy Thursday celebrates the gift of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, and the self-giving love of Christ in the washing of the feet.

getting set up for the service
going over the service beforehand
We are grateful to Carl Daw for preaching a fine sermon. Here he is during the preparations before the Eucharist.

Tonight is the night to reflect on Jesus' words during that last meal together: Serve each other - do as I have done to you. Love one another as I have loved you.  The opening rite of the Maundy Thursday service says it best.

This is the day
Christ the Lamb of God
gave himself into the hands of those who would slay him.

This is the day
Christ gathered with his disciples in the upper room.

This is the day
Christ took a towel and washed the disciples' feet,
giving us an example that we should do to others as he has done to us.

This is the day
that Christ our God gave us this holy feast,
that we who eat the bread
and drink the cup
may here proclaim his holy sacrifice
and be partakers of his resurrection,
and at the last day may reign with him in heaven.

Good Friday Liturgy
April 18th @ 3:00pm
AS we recall the saving death of Jesus, we pray for the church and the world, and Holy Communion is received from the Sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday.

Holy Saturday Liturgy
April 19th @ 12 noon
At this simple liturgy, it is as though the church has died and now waits silently to be resurrected out of the baptismal font at the Great Vigil of Easter.

Great Vigil of Easter
April 20th @ 4:00 am
The Paschal Candle is lit, the history of God's people is recounted through readings and psalms, and finally the first Alleluia of Easter is chanted.

Great Paschal Vespers
May 4th @ 4:00 pm
Great Paschal Vespers is an ancient evening service of processions prayers, chants, and humans offering praise to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

getting ready for the Triduum

It's Holy Week. Here at the convent we've held our last Lenten book discussion, and our Triduum preparations are in full swing. Penny, our golden retriever, has been overseeing the making of the bulletins (Photo credit: Sr. Kristina Frances, who has also assisted Penny in the making of the aforementioned bulletins).

Much consultation has been happening around the procedure for Maundy Thursday foot-washing in the chapel here, so different from our chapel in Boston. I'm celebrating, but have been thoroughly out of touch with all that; however, I finally finished my Easter sermon (OK, the rough draft for the Easter sermon), so I'm ready to hop in tomorrow.

Holy Week guests have begun arriving. Grocery shopping for the next few days as well as for Easter dinner. Sacristy preparations. Flowers bought and stashed somewhere out of sight; I saw a picture of them on Twitter, so I know they're around here somewhere!

Penny, of course, supervises us closely. She's just banged on my door to be let in to do just that.

We go into silence tonight until Easter morning other than for absolute essentials.  A 98-year-old sister has just spent her birthday and is about to spend the Triduum and part of Eastertide in rehab for a broken arm; no fun at all. I'll be breaking silence to take her communion tomorrow. How can you not have communion on Maundy Thursday? I was glad to be asked to do it.

Much scurrying, but it's a peaceful sort of scurry, if such a thing is possible.  Walking with Jesus and the disciples through the events of Holy Week is powerful; it certainly puts the rest of the busyness in context. And threaded through the sorrow of the Passion is that thread of joy, an infallible sign of the presence of God.

Even doing dishes can be different in that light. As, truly, it should be every day; but this is a good way to live more into that.

Through all this, of course, is prayer. Scripture. The Daily Office, our regular round of worship services each day. All nourished by the extra silence. Such a gift to us to have this in what can be a crazy-making week for clergy, church musicians, and others deeply involved in the church.  Those of you who are running without stopping this week, I'll be putting in some extra prayer for you, I hope. Thank you for all you do.

And of course, thanks be to God.

Blessings, all, during these most holy days.

the moods of April

This is no way to wake up.
It's April, after all.
April, I said.
Mid-April, even.

It's Spring.

Even in Massachusetts, the world is beginning to wake up.

Did I mention it's April?

Fortunately, April has many moods.

This afternoon, she had cheered up.

It's Holy Week, so perhaps it should snow. But on Sunday morning, when I go across to the chapel dark and early for our 4AM Easter Vigil, I want to smell spring in the air.  New life. What could be more appropriate?

Monday, April 14, 2014

lunchtime for a fox

I don't imagine these photos will be making it onto any greeting cards we might make in the future, but they're still pretty amazing.  I was just sitting at the picnic table brainstorming and taking notes for my Easter sermon when the movement caught my eye.

fox with squirrel appearing from our neighbors' yard

Grabbed my camera (without which I go nowhere these days) and tried (otherwise) to be very still. I've been wanting a photo since I saw two beautiful babies out in the snow in January.  Sadly, I pointed my camera at them, clicked, and saw "out of battery" on the screen. Aaaargh! Hadn't seen one again till last week, though other sisters had.

trotting across the yard towards the picnic table where I was working

Well, this one saw me, but all it did was pick up the pace so as to pass by me more quickly.

'Scuse me, just passing through...

Your first reaction might be, "Oh, poor squirrel," but even foxes have to eat.

Can't stop to talk - on my way to lunch.

I'm wondering if he or she was taking it back to the kits. They must be old enough to hunt, but maybe not old enough to be successful. Maybe Mama is sharing with them.  Or not.

Bye now... 

She just kept going across the yard in front of the retreat house, cut down by the water in front of a neighbor's house, and disappeared, leaving me there, still open-mouthed.  Amazing. What a gift to see one right there, so close.  I'd love to see it again and get a few more photos.  Minus squirrel.  Or even without my camera, just to have a moment of contemplation of such beauty.

I hope our retreatants will be able to share some of this beauty this week.  Holy Week has its own beauty, with or without wildlife, but I find that this kind of wonder opens one up even further to the Holy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


This afternoon, Sr. Brigid and I were down at St. Marina's Guest House getting a couple of rooms ready for Holy Week overnight guests.  While we were working in one of the first floor bedrooms, I happened to glance outside the window.  What is that?! I peered outside through the slats of the blinds. Sure enough, right outside the window on the grass by the porch was a hawk, just sitting there as calmly as can be.  The house is on a hill, so I assume he or she was looking for an afternoon snack.  I excused myself and made a dash for the kitchen, where I'd left the camera I'd brought just in case.  As I've learned, you just never know who's going to show up outside. (Planning soon to post more photos from this past week if possible.)

So here he or she is.

Of course, I was trying to maneuver the camera so as to take pictures through the Venetian blinds without alerting him/her to my presence, which was probably pretty comical.

I'm guessing it's either a female or, more likely, a juvenile.  We have bird books upstairs, and I took a glance through, but I sure can't tell one from the other; more research will have to wait for Easter Week.  Unless one of you knows?

The take-off was swift - a flurry of wings and that was it.

Life is full of glimpses of beauty.  I hope to learn more and more to keep my eyes open.

So grateful.