Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Day Has Come

You Are Not Alone

Time has come for me to be "on the ramp", the ramp to surgery. Friends say I will soon be the bionic woman; this week going for a third replacement joint. No, I am not collecting them on purpose. Wish I could pass this one up. I would do so with the snap of my fingers if it was in my power. However, osteoarthritis gives me no choice. So a hip replacement it will be on the 20th.

The blog has been quiet because the last two weeks have been filled with the usual pre-surgical stuff. But I have been thinking of all those warnings about possible infection, blood clots - the dire stuff they want you to know and sign off on. It is sobering. And when all is said and done it is you going down the hall alone on a gurney with a nurse or an anesthesiologist you just met and having no choice but to trust them with your life.

But the truth is I will not be alone.

In these two weeks following the great Feast of Easter we have heard the dramatic accounts of repeated appearances of Jesus to his disciples and apostles: to Mary of Magdela in the garden, to puzzled followers trodding the road to Emmaus, to the apostles in the upper rooom and to his friends, those tired fisherman hauling empty nets to shore in the wee hours of the morning. I have been struck by the human intimacy contained in each account. Jesus calls Mary by her very name in the beauty of a garden. He reveals himself in storytelling and in the act of sharing bread with new friends in a crowded inn. The risen Lord has sympathy for Thomas' 'show me' attitude and invites him to literally enter into the wounds still visible in his resurrected glory. And in those wee morning hours he directs tired fisherman to just the right spot for lowering their nets for a huge catch and greets them with warm breakfast on the beach. These are not whispers in the wind or burning bushes or hard to grasp dream images. Jesus is present. He is physical - talking, eating, allowing himself to be touched, pronouncing the name of his dear friend. And how often he says, "Do not be afraid." In this time of ours there is much of which we can say we are afraid: the economy, the wars, black clouds of volcanic ash over Europe, disease, joblessness, the welfare and fate of our children and grandchildren, the inevitability of aging. But Jesus comes, is beside us and bids us not to be afraid. "I am with you until the end of time." So I will think of Jesus beside me, with me, giving me the courage necessary. And I will ask him to have a hot meal ready for me when I wake.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Spiritual Art of Writing Icons

Icon Retreat/Workshop
Offered at Mt. Alvernia Retreat Center
July 25-31, 2010

Three years ago I participated in the annual Icon Retreat/Workshop offered at Mt. Alvernia in Wappinger Falls, NY. It was an unforgetable experience; both spiritually and creatively enriching. The icon above was written by Sandra Hofstead, teacher of the art of icon writing and spiritual leader of this retreat/workshop. I will have the great blessing of writing another icon at the workshop this July.  The process of creating an icon is described as "writing" because icons are set expostions of Christian theology and dogma. They teach in an even more masterful way what stained glass windows taught to the illiterate masses in an earlier time.
When I have shared my workshop icon of the Holy Face (above right) with friends or displayed it here in the monastery, many have expressed their desire for such and experience. So I am passing along this information to those who may consider this experience a blessing too. Mt. Alvernia Retreat Center is now accepting registration. Their telephone number is 845-297-5706, Ext. 12.

This is a photo of the community in the Redemptoristine Monastery in Dublin, Ireland. Icon writing workshops are given regularly in their retreat house. The sisters have, one by one, been participating in those workshops and becoming more and more proficient in the work for paryfully writing icons.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"Stay with us, Lord!"

The Emmaus Experience

Today's Gospel   is such a wonderful evocative story of dismay and grief transformed. It invites us to enter in; to take up the part of one of the characters; to share the experience of being taught by and recognizing the risen Lord. "And they knew him the breaking of the bread."

The disciples' request, "Stay with us, Lord!" is our request. We want to prolong the joy of Easter. We need God's presence in troubled times. Five years ago, close to the end of his life, Pope John Paul II expressed these very feelings in his Easter message to the world. May it become your prayer.


Easter Sunday, 27 March 2005

1. Mane nobiscum, Domine!
Stay with us, Lord! (cf. Lk 24:29)
With these words, the disciples on the road to Emmaus
invited the mysterious Wayfarer
to stay with them, as the sun was setting
on that first day of the week
when the incredible had occurred.
According to his promise, Christ had risen;
but they did not yet know this.
Nevertheless, the words spoken by the Wayfarer along the road
made their hearts burn within them.
So they said to him: "Stay with us".
Seated around the supper table,
they recognized him in the "breaking of bread"
- and suddenly he vanished.
There remained in front of them the broken bread,
There echoed in their hearts the gentle sound of his words.

2. Dear brothers and sisters,
the Word and the Bread of the Eucharist,
the mystery and the gift of Easter,
remain down the centuries as a constant memorial
of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ!
On this Easter Day,
together with all Christians throughout the world,
we too repeat those words:
Jesus, crucified and risen, stay with us!
Stay with us, faithful friend and sure support
for humanity on its journey through history!
Living Word of the Father,
give hope and trust to all who are searching
for the true meaning of their lives.
Bread of eternal life, nourish those who hunger
for truth, freedom, justice and peace.

3. Stay with us, Living Word of the Father,
and teach us words and deeds of peace:
peace for our world consecrated by your blood
and drenched in the blood of so many innocent victims:
peace for the countries of the Middle East and Africa,
where so much blood continues to be shed;
peace for all of humanity,
still threatened by fratricidal wars.
Stay with us, Bread of eternal life,
broken and distributed to those at table:
give also to us the strength to show generous solidarity
towards the multitudes who are even today
suffering and dying from poverty and hunger,
decimated by fatal epidemics
or devastated by immense natural disasters.
By the power of your Resurrection,
may they too become sharers in new life.

4. We, the men and women of the third millennium,
we too need you, Risen Lord!
Stay with us now, and until the end of time.
Grant that the material progress of peoples
may never obscure the spiritual values
which are the soul of their civilization.
Sustain us, we pray, on our journey.
In you do we believe, in you do we hope,
for you alone have the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).

Mane nobiscum, Domine! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Mary Magdalen, Apostle to the Apostles

Mary Magdalen and the other Mary
came to see the Lord's tomb, alleluia.
Antiphon1, Vespers, Easter

Jesus said, "Do not be afraid.
Go and tell my brothers to set out for Galilee;
there they will see me", alleluia.
Antiophon 3, Vespers, Easter

Mary Magdalen is my favorite among those who gathered around Jesus. I entered contemplative life on July 22nd, her feast day. This is the name of my baptismal godmother. And in one of our foundresses mystical colloquies with Jesus he said, "You shall perform the office of Magdalen in holy contemplation." Therefore when I professed first vows I took the religious name Hildegard Magdalen of the Resurrection.

It just tickles me that her name appears over and over again in the Offices of the Easter Octave and in the Gospels of the week. Scholars conclude that she was very important within the earliest Christian community and was held in great esteem. Jesus himself commissioned her to "go and tell my brothers.....” Thus she may be called apostle to the apostles.

Mary of Magdala supported him in his preaching. She was present in his agony. She was there at his entombment. She courageously led a group of women to the tomb to lovingly anoint his body. Jesus called her by name in the garden. He commissioned her to perform a precious task. She is a woman to be considered and emulated.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Days of Solemn Recreation

Our Redeemer
 has risen from the tomb;
let us sing a hymn of praise
to the Lord our God,  alleluia.

Antiphon 2, Morning Prayer, Easter

Liturgically speaking, Easter Week is one long series of Easter Sundays, one right after another. This is the octave of Easter, eight days of profound rejoicing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Mass is the same and includes the Gloria which is not usual for weekdays. The Liturgy of the Hours is the same each day with only minor changes in the Gospel canticle antiphons. In accord with this effort to underscore the meaning of Easter for eight days, we are singing the major offices of Morning and Evening Prayer each day. I love this week of singing and wish that I could communitcate to you the loveliness of the melodies with which we sing the great Easter antiphons. Wish my technological capacities would catch up a bit faster. Maybe one day they will.

It is also monastic custom to have days of "solemn recreation." That phrase may seem an oxymoron. How can one be solemn and recreate at the same time. The meaning of "solemn" here is "deep". We are to fully recreate, fully rejoice is the great gift that has been given us. In the case of Easter, two days of solemn recreation follow the feast. 

Here in the Husdon River Valley all is bursting into bloom as if perfectly timed to emphasize our new life in Christ Jesus. This certainly adds to our abiltiy to profoundly rejoice in the Lord; to thoroughly enjoy a day of solemn recreation.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Lord is Truly Risen, Alleluia

The spendor of Christ
risen from the dead
has shone on his people
redeemed by his blood,

Antiphon 1, Morning Prayer of Easter, Liturgy of the Hours

How beautiful is this feast! Last night at the Easter Vigil Mass we  again were blessed by the new fire and and the baptismal water. May that fire of faith remain in our hearts and the cleansing water of baptism continually wash us, making our rough ways smooth. May we truly be the Easter People we are called to be!

The post below links to a brief slide show of photos representing the Easter Vigil experience here at our monastery. We were blessed with the presence of many friends, Marist Brothers, and four Redemptorist priests.

While the theme of this day is one of great rejoicing in the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death, I was reminded this morning that the victory of Christ was a process, the process we call the Paschal Mystery. That process is all of his life. It ended at the moment we call Resurrection. However, that glorious moment was preceeded by the ignominy of his trial, crucifixion and suffering death. I was reminded of this by reading the Good Friday Homily given by Brother Andrew Colqhoun of Holy Cross Monastery in nearby West Park. We have a long-standing friendship with this Anglican community. Brother Andrew's brief but deeply insightful homily reminds that it is the suffering servant Christ we are called to emulate. In our humanity we resist the call. But the dual mysteries of the Incarnation and the Resurrection will provide both power and will to follow the call. Today we rejoice along with Mary Magdalen, to find ourselves in the garden of delight, knowing that the Lord is truly risen. Alleluia!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Easter Vigil Mass 2010

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Holy Saturday

For our sake Christ was obedient,
accepting even death, death on a cross.
Therefore God raised him on high
and gave him the name above all other names.
Responsory Antiphon, Morning Prayer, Holy Saturday

"The Disposition " or the Florence Pieta
Michelangelo Buonarroti

This uncompleted piece by the master sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti would seem to be a crude effort on the part of a man most well-known for the Pieta viewed by millions every year in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. That awe-inspiring depiction of Mary holding the death body of her son was a bravura perfomance by the youthful energetic Michelangelo. This much later work was intended for his own tomb. After seven years of work, finding a flaw in the marble, the scuptor smashed it into pieces. The remains were rescued by another sculptor, reassembled and the figure of Mary Magdalen on the left was completed. However, like Michelangelo's other uncompleted sculpture, this one has a mysteriously haunting and moving quality. The looming figure of Nicodemus is said to be a self-portrait of the artist. Nicodemus, the one who came to see Jesus only under the cover of darkness, had the courage to go to Pilate and ask for the body of the crucified criminal. Here is a brave figure, protector for Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalen. Yet, the tortured sadness in his face seems tinged with regret. Is it a regret similar to that of St. Augustine, "Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient and ever new." 

Michelangelo Buornarroti spent the last years of his life working on two Pieta sculptures. One was intended for his own tomb. He used his face as the model for the dominant figure in one of these pieces. That figure was of a man who slowly and maybe too late fully realized who Jesus truly was. We may conclude that this event of the Passion of Jesus haunted Michelangelo in its poignancy and may have touched some of his own feeling of regret at the end of his earthly life. As you gaze upon this image, which character draws you? Is it the lifeless Jesus or his grieving mother? Is it the bereft Magdalen, present to Jesus even in his crucifixion and death? Or is it Nicodemus, once fearful and later brave, who agonizes in regretful grief?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

Christ was obedient,
obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.

Responsory, Morning Prayer, Good Friday

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Scenes from Holy Thursday Liturgy

Holy Thursday

The Monastic Triduum

Many, especially those discerning a religious vocation, read this blog to gain an insight into the nature of contemplative monastic religious life and, more particularly, into the way Redemptoristines live it. Today I would like to offer a snapshot of our monastic way during the Holy Week Triduum.

At the close of Compline (Night Prayer) on Tuesday evening, we entered into our Holy Week Retreat. This means that the atmosphere in the monastery is very quiet. What we describe as a 'recollected' way of doing things is the norm. There is no unnecessary conversation. There is no conversation at any meals. The atmosphere of recollection, both exterior and interior, allows for a greater availability to God's grace. We work only minimally at our regularly assigned tasks so that we have more time for prayer and meditation on the nature of these holy days.

But, as in any Christian institution or home at this time of the liturgical year, this is a very busy place. In one way or another, each of us is engaged in preparing for the liturgies, rituals, and celebratory meals of these days. Ritual objects are being cleaned and assembled (bowl and pitcher for foot washing plus necessary towels, decorated altar of reposition, crosses for veneration, incensor, books, special altar cloths and vestments, more chairs for guests in chapel, special prepared printed booklets for liturgies, etc., etc.). Everyone has assignments for particular functions at liturgy and has to prepare to fulfill them. Menus have been prepared, food bought, lists posted, and volunteers signed up for cooking. Tables are arranged, set and decorated. And then there is the music: hymns, tones, solos, preludes, etc. And, in the meantime, all the normal daily tasks of the house have to be carried out along with the daily horarium of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Under the expert guidance of our sub-prioress who plans, makes lists, and asks for volunteers, and with the experience of years in the life, we can all go about our business in these days in a most recollected way. This is the 'business' of our life in the Church and in the world. Prayer is the center of our life, the apostolic work in which we engage daily, both corporately and individually. Therefore, to do all of this is our JOY. As contemplative nuns, we have been called to be especially united to Jesus Christ. Therefore we fullly engage in walking with him through these dramatic last days, the culmination of the Paschal Mystery of his life, death and resurrection. In additon, in the long tradition of monastic hospitality, we prepare to welcome others to walk through these days with Jesus by participation in our liturgies. This too is our joy.

This evening we willl have a very celebratory Passover-type of meal - lamb, Jewish Passover foods, matzo and all. Then we will move silently into final preparations for the Mass of the Lord's Last Supper. At the end of Mass we will process with the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose. There will be candles, flowers, and the lasting smell of incense. Our door will be open until midnight for anyone who wishes to spend time with us in adoration.