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.