Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Climbing to Mount Easter

     As Lent begins each year, our monastery librarian displays a table of choices for our Lenten reading—a menu to suit everyone’s taste. Many are short reflections on the day’s liturgical readings; others  are more topical This year by some special inspiration I selected The Ascent of the Mountain of God: Daily Reflections for the Journey of Lent, a 1994 publication by Edward M. Hays. This choice enabled me, too old for a physical climb, to follow in an imaginative and reflective way the rugged terrain from base camp to Mt. Diablo, up and down various biblical and mythical mountains until the summit of Mt. Easter was reached.
     Hays sees Lent as a pilgrimage to a mystic holy mountain—Mount Easter. The directions for the scaling or descending of each terrain flowed from the daily Lenten readings. To me these explanations were challenging, informative, surprising, new and often—to me—difficult and amazing. A short ending reflection summarized and directed my thoughts for the day. One familiar with mountain climbing would appreciate better than I the vocabulary used. I just tried to follow instructions—to make a list of two or three allies which would assist me in the climb. My Lenten practices would be my allies.
     Symbols were frequently used—the color blue warded off evil; holy water to be kept near, a staff close by helped progress and kept off animals. The compass, the Cross of Christ, was necessary to set direction in fog and rain. Many anecdotes, surprising story endings, examples, truths that I had never heard before illustrated the day’s readings. Each selection gave a practical suggestion for application in today’s world.
     As one would expect, the climb to Mt. Easter became much more difficult as the Lenten season progressed. Some of the ideas, suggestions, practices I would never have thought of. Some were not for me but gave me deeper appreciation of ideas prevalent in today’s world, of human problems and how others look at them.
     During this Easter season as I look back to my mountain adventure, I appreciate those 47 days of reflection. Christ spent 40 days of preparation in the desert; my Lent climb included a few days in base camp and Sunday reflection. The Triduum days were hard labor as we neared Mt. Easter from Mt. Calvary but I persevered somewhat and somehow. Perhaps, if God wishes, I may try that mountain climb again next year.

     Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Challenges and Grace of the Easter Season

Easter has been my favorite holiday since I was a child. Initially Easter was about the pretty dresses and Easter baskets. As I moved through high school and into adulthood it is not only Easter that I loved, but the whole journey of Holy Week. My emotions run the gamut including awe, sadness, anger, emptiness, excitement, gratitude and joy. In the days of Holy Week the paschal mystery unfolds in the washing of feet, the Passion, veneration of the cross, the stories we hear at the vigil of God’s continued love and patience with us throughout history, the people received into the Church and the Alleluias of Easter.   

As the paschal mystery unfolded these past few days I find myself challenged to respond with love, obedience and humility as Christ did. I am challenged to respond with faith, strength and hope.We are a people who live the paschal mystery.We experience both the agony of the cross and the joy of Easter.  Maybe this year more than most, I am aware of how closely agony and joy live with one another and in these holy days I have found solace and hope.I am grateful for both the challenge and the solace of these past few days.
     I pray that we each may be open to the graces and challenges of this Easter season. 
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Triduum and the Exsultet

      Over and over and over we read through scripture the exhortation for us to "Sing to the Lord" or to tell God: "I will sing of your salvation."  The very common word Alleluia, which means "Praise God" is a frequent expression of the same thing. 
     Why so much emphasis on praising God? I think the feast we are about to celebrate, Easter, is the answer to this. After all, St. Paul says, in writing to the Romans: God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; how can he fail to lavish every other gift upon us?(8:32) What an amazing statement! 
     To celebrate God's infinite generosity and boundless love takes all of the Church's creativity, energy, and reverence. Over the centuries she has produced the 3-day event we call the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter with its Sat. night vigil). This is the pinnacle of the Church's liturgical year.  With music, reading and prayer, she walks us through the story of how often God has reached out to humanity again and again, finally with the ultimate gift of Jesus the Son.              
     From the beginning, humans have used music and poetry to elevate praise to a higher level of solemnity and beauty. We can see how the Church has done this in celebrating our salvation during the Triduum. The jewel in this liturgical crown of the arts is given to us on Holy Saturday in the Exsultet.  Again and again the poetry of this ancient song tries to express our awe of what God has done and continues to do for us through Jesus Christ.  Here are a few of my favorite passages :

            … to ransom a slave, you gave away your Son!
            … O happy fault that earned so great … a Redeemer!
            … Jesus Christ…for our sake paid Adam's debt…and wiped clean… our ancient sinfulness
            … O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth…

     The entire Exsultet is a triumphal song of the Church as it praises God for the amazing gift of salvation. For anyone who would like to deepen his/her insight into the significance of the Easter mystery, the text of this musical prayer could be a rich place to continue the journey most of us began with our baptism. 

      May the prayers, ritual, music and poetry of the Triduum and the 50 days of Easter (The Easter season ends only with Pentecost on June 8) bring deeper faith and understanding of what God has done. May all the alleluias of this season and beyond bring realization of how God continues to give us love and forgiveness daily, and every time they are sung, may they lift our spirit in gratitude and awe.
     Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Watch With Me

     Each year the Lenten journey prepares us for what lay ahead for Jesus and for us through our association with him. Following the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread Jesus went to Gethsemane.  With his close disciples “he went deeper into the garden where he began to feel sorrow and distress.” He said to them “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” Jesus’ chosen ones couldn’t do it.
     On the surface, keeping watch like listening doesn’t seem difficult but events that call for it makes a difference. What makes any of us believe we can do it? Standing vigil, keeping company, and watching while a loved one suffers agony can feel unbearable. There are many situations in life in which despite all efforts to alleviate suffering, it persists. These are the times when falling asleep or running away becomes a temptation.  It is the out-pouring of Jesus’ redemptive grace that allows us to stand by/sit with the other during difficult times.
     As we move deeper into the Triduum may we accept the invitation, as the faithful women did, to watch with Jesus as we participate in the Paschal Mystery.
     Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Litany of Gratitude

     At the closing of our Election for Prioress Process, we the Benedictines of St. Walburg Monastery are filled with gratitude for all God’s gifts to us this past weekend.
     Let us pray together this Litany of thanksgiving:

For the talents and skills of all those with whom we live and work, we thank you, God.

For the zeal and good example of our sisters who were called on to consider entering into the nomination process, and generously shared of themselves, we thank you, God.

For Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup, as she continues her call to unite us in Christ for another four years as Prioress, we thank you, God.

For Sr. Susan Quaintance and Sr. Glenna Smith, who assisted us in the election process, as they return to their communities in peace, we thank you, God.

For all who served us these days; the Infirmary  and Kitchen staffs, Oblates at the phone, and especially Sr. Christa and the election committee, we thank you, God.

For each other as we entered into this process with trust in God to bring it to a good conclusion, filled with hope for the future, we thank you, God.

For the faithfulness of all those who kept us in prayer during this time, and for whom we pray, we thank you, God.

For all the departed sister and oblates of our community alive in God’s Glory, we thank you, God.   Amen!
      Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB