During Holy Week 2014, the Brothers offered a daily “Holy Week School of Prayer”: short videos offering suggestions on how to pray and experience that day’s liturgy. Click on the links below to view each day’s video.
Carry “By loving us first, God makes it possible for us to love others, and Jesus asks only that we share that love. But in so doing he tells us that we must take up our cross and follow him. Our hands must reach out, pick up the rough wood, and carry it – for ourselves and for others.”
– Br. Robert L’Esperance
On Tuesday in Holy Week at the Monastery, we celebrate the Eucharist in the evening. This evening gathering around the Lord’s Table invites us to join the disciples at the Upper Room, sharing a meal with the Lord.
We reflect together on the words of used at the presentation of the Bread and Cup here at the Monastery, which derive from St. Augustine’s Sermon 57, On the Holy Eucharist: Behold what you are. May we become what we receive.
These words point to one of the deep truths of Christian faith: Through our participation in the sacraments (particularly baptism and Eucharist), we are transformed into the Body of Christ, given for the world.
How is God transforming you into Christ’s Body and giving you to the world?
“Our memory fails us if we think of Jesus’ resurrection only in terms of “then” and not also in terms of “now.” We are not reenacting Jesus’ resurrection; we are reappropriating Jesus’ resurrection power.” – Br. Curtis Almquist
The Great Vigil of Easter is the most solemn and ancient liturgy of the entire year. It is the culmination of Lent and Holy Week, and the Triduum.
Ring the bells! Worshippers at the Great Vigil of Easter ring handbells as we sing God’s Paschal Lamb at the beginning of the first Eucharist of Easter and during the singing of Jesus Christ is Risen Today. The tradition of silencing church bells on Maundy Thursday and ringing them again on Easter Day likely reflects an even more ancient custom of keeping silence before a spring equinox or a winter solstice, then celebrating it with a joyous celebration of light and sound announcing that the darkness has fled and that new life is coming back into the world. We know that this is true on Easter Day.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
“Will we escape suffering in this world? No. Can we bring this suffering to God? Absolutely. And the God who loves us more than we can ever love ourselves, will take and use this suffering for our greater good, and use it to bless us and the world. “Do not be afraid,” God says to us. “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
– Br. David Vryhof
Holy Saturday is a day of waiting, anticipation, and preparation for Easter. We know that Jesus is in the Tomb.
An ancient homily for Holy Saturday, which you can listen to below, meditates on the mystery of this day: “Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.”
You might pray today with stillness, silence.
What parts of you are dying? What parts of you are waiting for new life?
Consider what in your life is giving you life right now – and give thanks. Consider what is draining or destroying life in you right now. As we await the glory of Easter, ponder what God’s invitation to ‘new life’ might look like in your present circumstances.
“Sometime this week, someone will need you to lay down your life for them, and you will need another to lay down their life for you; when that happens you will be in the presence of love. You will be in the presence of God.”
– Br. James Koester
Good Friday marks the second day of the Triduum (from the Latin for ‘three days’), the day on which we commemorate the Lord’s crucifixion and death.
The worship offered at the Monastery is in fact a continuation of the liturgy begun last night and it will not ‘end’ until the Great Vigil of Easter. The vesture of the sacred ministers is deep red, accented with black, recalling the solemnity and sobriety of the day, and the Gospel according to John is chanted to an ancient tone, which you can hear below.
The liturgy crests as a cross is carried in and venerated by the gathered congregation. All depart in silence to the awkward waiting of Holy Saturday and the restrained anticipation of the Great Vigil of Easter.
How will you stand beside Jesus in his hour of greatest need?
“Life out of Death” – Br. Curtis Almquist
We are not spared the experience of the cross, we are shared the experience. And the only way to survive the many deaths of this life is to surrender to Christ, taking him at his word: that life comes out of death.
“Love Upon a Cross” – Br. David Vryhof
We have been captured by this love, smitten and overwhelmed by this love, changed and transformed by this love. And how could it not be?
“Life By His Death” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Our greatest hope in Jesus is that however dark the day, even as dark as Good Friday, we can look in confidence and trust to the cross. “For he hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.”
“God’s generosity is boundless and, in turn, prompts in us a generosity that is boundless as well. This is a generosity that does not count the cost. This is the generosity that anoints the feet of Jesus. How different it is to the gift that serves to our own advantage. And be assured, we can and will know God’s generosity if we give ourselves to others without expectations or requirements.”
– Br. Eldridge Pendleton
Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the holiest three days in an already holy week. The liturgy commemorates the humility of the Lord in his willingness to do the most lowly of tasks.
The word maundy is an English corruption of the Latin mandatum, from the ‘new commandment’ that Jesus gives his disciples after washing their feet, an event we reenact and remember in the liturgy. At the conclusion of our Eucharist, we are invited, as were the first disciples, to watch and pray with the Lord on the night before his crucifixion and death. We keep watch through the night, here at the moment of Jesus’ greatest need. On Maundy Thursday, as you are fed by God’s body and blood, pray for your deepest need. As your feet are washed, ask God to bring healing to what is broken in you.
“God chooses to love us precisely when we are least deserving of it, when we are least lovable. When we come dragging home in our lowest, most unattractive, most undeserving state, God runs to meet us. This is the beauty of the gospel – that God loves us, without the least regard to what we deserve. We are forgiven.”
– Br. David Vryhof
On Wednesday, the Brothers pray the ancient monastic office of Tenebrae, a service that derives from the monastic services of matins and lauds. The liturgy uses darkness and the gradual extinguishing of candles, until only a single candle remains, a symbol of our Lord. The service provides an opportunity for sustained reflection on the Lord’s suffering and death.
This liturgy, parts of which you can listen to below, is a choral offering, with chanted psalms and canticles set to plainsong and chanted lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremiah (in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet). As you listen, you might light a candle, allowing its light to inspire your meditation.
In what ways has Jesus’ coming penetrated the darkness of your own life? In what ways are you blind, or unable to see?
“In the Shadows” – Br. Luke Ditewig
Jesus was troubled, sad, and afraid – as we all are. This night invites us to linger in the darkness with him.
“Live As Though Death Does Not Matter” – Br. Robert L’Esperance
An invitation to see Jesus’ death on the cross not as sacrifice, but as the ultimate teaching of Jesus’ core message: we do not have to live our lives as death’s victims.
“And It Was Night” – Br. James Koester We only know the relief of dawn when the terrors of the night have kept us awake, so spend some time today in the darkness.
“Who is your enemy? Who is difficult for you? Try praying for them. Go to God on their behalf remembering them as fellow humans, as people. Pray as a child of God for these other children of God. Trust the teacher and practice praying, for through this we learn to love everyone.”
– Br. Luke Ditewig
Monday in Holy Week offer a pause, a chance to recollect from the drama of yesterday before plunging into the sacred events to come.
What are the lessons Holy Week has to offer you this year?
Since Holy Scripture is the living word of God, as we encounter again the events of the final week of Jesus’ life, look for those passages, those haunting details of the story that seem to rise up from the page to snare your attention, things you had not noticed before. Ponder what special meaning these passages might hold for you this year? Why is God bringing them to your attention at this time? What might God be saying to you? Take time to meditate on these questions. Be especially alert to listen because God will be speaking to us through the liturgies, through scripture, homilies and also in other unexpected ways this week.
Praying Your Way Through Holy Week: A Meditation – Br. Eldridge Pendleton
God who loves us so much and continually delights in our creation, is continually offering us grace in the form of answered prayers, healing, reconciliation, hope and deeper faith, and in the Paschal mystery has given us the means to triumph over death. Two practices to deepen your awareness of this love during Holy Week.
Enter “During this week, as we gather for worship, as we fast, as we pray and meditate on the life-giving events of these last days of our Lord’s life, we try to enter imaginatively into the story of Christ’s passion, to feel the weight of the cross, to understand a little of the immensity of God’s sacrifice for us, and the immensity of God’s love for us.”
– Br. Geoffrey Tristram
On Palm Sunday, we begin the journey to Calvary that we will live out across the next week. We are invited to join the crowd in shouting “Hosanna” and “Crucify.” And we are invited to accompany our Lord in the dramatic events of his final days.
The psalmist says that “weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning!” (Ps. 30:5) And there is no more joyous morning for Christian people than this morning, the morning of Resurrection!
Through Lent and Holy Week, we have symbolically passed through a “night of weeping” in which we followed Jesus on the Way of suffering and death so that we might share with him the joy that comes on this morning! We are disciples of this Way that he both lived and taught – the way of dying and rising. We have identified ourselves with him, and with this Way – and we have found it to be the Way that leads to Life! Continue reading →
Today is the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead. Alleluia!
It was still very early in the morning, Luke tells us, with just the first streaks of dawn, when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women, came to the tomb in order to carry out the last offices of love for their beloved Jesus, and to embalm his body with their spices.
But, to their amazement, when they got to the tomb, they found that the stone had been rolled away. They looked inside and the body was gone. Continue reading →