Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Color Purple

      No, not the movie or the book. While gazing at Sr. Emmanuel’s Lenten banner in chapel, I was struck by its purpleness. Knowing that purple is a color both of royalty and of penitence, I wondered if there was a connection. It is not immediately obvious. 
      Ancient royal purple was produced by the dye made from the gland of a tiny sea snail, the murex (See cloth at left.). Beginning in about 1500 BC, the citizens of Tyre and Sidon developed the dye through a long, difficult and expensive process requiring thousands of snails. Because of the expense, the use of Tyrian or imperial purple was restricted to kings, nobles, priests and magistrates. The color was rich, bright and colorfast, varying in hues from crimson to violet. 
     Cardinals in the Catholic church wore purple until 1464, when Pope Paul II changed the color to crimson, as Tyrian purple was no longer available. Bishops wore purple, but not of the imperial hue. In time a broader spectrum of colors became available. The Council of Trent in the 16th century standardized liturgical colors, assigning purple to Advent and Lent. 
     Liturgical clothing expresses the church’s life in Christ. White serves as symbol of the resurrected Christ. Red, of Christ’s love, the blood of the martyrs, and the fire of the Spirit. The darker, more somber color of purple connotes the church’s share in the kingship of Christ realized through Christ’s suffering and death. Our use of purple, then, is a sign both of penitence in these seasons of preparation, and of expectation of the coming of Christ, when all colors will be united into the white of resurrected glory.

Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be merciful O Lord, for we have sinned.

     This psalm antiphon (in the title above) for Ash Wednesday Mass says so much to me as the psalmist speaks so well to God on my behalf.
     My relationship with God has grown over the years and yet the posture of asking for mercy is most basic for me and I pour all of my trust in God’s loving providence for me in this petition. I have sinned. I take responsibility for failing to respond appropriately and adequately to God’s love, and instead so often chose my own desire for prestige, power, possessions (cf Jesus’ temptations). And taking this responsibility implies the willingness to make needed changes with God’s help.
     Can I chalk it up to maturity that I do not need to think of myself as perfect, that I no longer need others to think I am perfect? Perhaps it’s the natural maturity of aging. But probably even spiritual growth just takes time. At any rate, it’s easier for me now than it was when I was younger, to admit my faults and failings to myself, to God and to others.
     Another dimension of Lenten practice is that we participate in this penitential season together – “we have sinned”. There is something strengthening, even comforting about the mutual support and mutual desire for healing among others who are “in the same boat”. (Read here: “The Bark of Peter”.)
     As I continue my Lenten prayer, Be merciful O Lord, for we have sinned, I will keep you in mind.

        Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Look forward to Easter with joy and spiritual longing"

            There is a country song entitled, “Live Like You Were Dying.” On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the Church presents us with a similar invitation, “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” These words of the Church are stark and they, like the song, remind us that we are going to die. When Tim McGraw, the author of the song, discovered that he was going to die he went skydiving and Rocky Mountain climbing. He also loved deeper, spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness he’d been denying. During Lent the Church’s invitation also calls for such a renewal of one’s life. 
            Regarding the renewal of my life, the odds are against my going sky diving but I will read, again, what St. Benedict writes in chapter 49 of the Holy Rule on the observance of Lent. “The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. Benedict encourages us to “add to the usual manner of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food and drink so that each of us will have something above the prescribed measure to offer to God with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” I have several practical ideas of how to wash away some of the negligences of my manner of living the monastic life and I will resolve to do them this Lent. As for adding to the usual measure of my service I will be on the lookout for circumstances that will call me to do just that. 
            In the past I have not looked forward to Lent as I do to Advent. But in the process of this writing, through a chat with a friend and the words of a country song, I have come to another resolution, again from the Rule of St. Benedict. I will offer my Lenten resolutions to God “…with the joy of the Holy Spirit” and I will “…look forward to Holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.” In Lent, as in Advent, the accent is on joy and longing. I resolve to keep that in mind. Sister Justina Franxman, OSB

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February Musings

     Outside my second floor window, a pervasive grayness chills the landscape with its bone-bare trees and swirling snow.  It evokes an unsolicited, fleeting feeling like that of being in Narnia, where it was “always winter, but never Christmas”.  Out of nowhere comes a phrase from the baccalaureate speaker at my college graduation many years ago: “You are the children of winter.”
      That is all I remember of the speech.  Most likely, the speaker encouraged us to meet the challenges that lay ahead and reminded us that it would not be an easy future that awaited us.  Wise decisions, hope, and trust in God would help us make a difference. 
      Now, the necessity of hope and informed action is more crucial than ever as the volume and speed of human and environmental crises mount.  While the advances of technology, medicine, psychology and science grow, so do drug problems, weapons of destruction, slavery and domination.  And the curse and saving grace is that we are all in this together. 
      As the Spirit hovers over the land and waters, seeking those who will listen and hear....  let us pray and carry one another. 
       During these random musings, a beautifully bright, small and fragile redbird has alighted on the top limb of a tree on the hillside.  It flits here and there, with its mate nearby.  I am reluctant to leave.  How can it stand the cold?   Thank you, God, for this little gift.  I need it today. 
                        Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB