Benedictine Spirituality Cross Divine Office Holy Saturday Holy Week Lectio Divina Monastic Life Prayer Rule of St Benedict Scripture Uncategorized

Kindness and Emptiness

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There is always an element of relief in arriving at Holy Saturday, if only because we’ve moved through the high drama of Good Friday to a quieter, more reflective space. People often talk of Holy Saturday as a “tomb day”, a time to sit with the emptiness that follows death, to allow the events of Good Friday to sink in. I recognise the yearning for that and its wisdom yet, it’s not an experience I recognise from monastic life.

In practice for many of us Holy Saturday is very much a hybrid day, we are aware of its emptiness, the mourning and the uncertainty. We also have to acknowledge that the Easter vigil is fast approaching and that Easter liturgies and treats do not plan themselves. So it is also a day of preparation and anticipation that can be very busy.

As we move through this hybrid day I’m reflecting on these words from the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah from this morning’s Office of Readings:

“The favours of the Lord are not all past, nor his kindnesses exhausted; every morning they are renewed: great is his faithfulness. My portion is with the Lord says my soul, and so I will hope in him.”

Even in the midst of his lamentation Jeremiah is able to acknowledge the kindness and faithfulness of God, and to put his hope in that. His words speak to me of the hybrid reality of the day. It seems to me that Holy Saturday calls us to imitate God’s kindness to others as we get on with the many preparations for Easter, and to ourselves as we seek small moments of quiet during the day.

As we celebrate Holy Saturday where are you aware of the Lord renewing your capacity for kindness?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Gospel Holy Saturday Holy Week Lectio Divina Monastic Life Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

Grief and hope…

A Holy Saturday reel based on the Byzantine liturgy. I love that it’s full of hope and allows space for grieving…

Where do you need to find space for grieving and hoping this Holy Saturday?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Good Friday Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Scripture Triduum Uncategorized

Good Friday, day of second chances

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This week I’ve been listening to Amy Jill Levine’s courses on Holy Week and the Good Friday. One of the things she highlighted is how often Jesus offered people a second chance, Zacchaeus, all those tax collectors and sinners, the woman taken in adultery come to mind and there are many more.

It has an added significance as we revisit the passion, and see the second chance offered to those who denied and betrayed him, to those who sat on the side lines or runaway, or who only found the courage to come to him under the cover of darkness.

As we come to Good Friday, facing the stark reality of the Cross, it can feel like the time for second chances has run out. As we commemorate the crucified Christ it can seem as though we have reached the end of the story, and that our hopes are ending in death, disgrace, betrayal and failure. On Good Friday we begin Lauds by singing these verses from the Byzantine liturgy:

“Life-giving Lord, it is right to sing your praise, for your hands were stretched out on the Cross, and so you destroyed the power of death.”

We start Good Friday by acknowledging Christ as our “Life-giving Lord”, a powerful reminder that the Cross is not the end of the story, but a gateway to new life. The Cross is an essential part of our faith, we need to face it, acknowledging the suffering and death it represents. And, we need to accept the second chance it offers us with it’s promise of new life.

What second chance is Christ offering you this Good Friday?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Scripture Uncategorized

Challenged , yet loved.

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Whenever tragedy strikes our instinct is to look for reasons why this has happened. While this might be a necessary process for us it can sometimes be less than helpful. I’m struck by how often it can lead us to be judgemental and blaming of others. We see something of this in today’s gospel as we are brought face-to-face with Judas, the disciple who who betrayed Jesus, handing him over for thirty pieces of silver.

Judas is often portrayed as a scapegoat, everything that subsequently happens is blamed on his betrayal. Yet, if we read the Gospels carefully we see that Judas is part of a bigger picture. Jesus makes that clear as he says:

“The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the Scriptures say he will…”

In “Entering the Passion, a beginner’s guide to Holy Week.” Amy-Jill Levine suggests that we read the passion narratives with compassion. While we can do that with Peter, and the other disciples, it seems much harder to apply to Judas. Judas presents us with a challenge. He compels us us reflect on whether we’ve ever compelled others to act in a particular way to meet our own needs.

He challenges us to ask ourselves, where we have let others down or felt unworthy and unresponsive to the redemptive love God offers us. The passion narratives show us both the best and the worst that we are capable of. Today’s gospel requires that we acknowledge the worst we can be, and then turn back to the God who is waiting to heal and redeem us.

Where are you being challenged to open yourself to the redemptive love of God today?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Prayer Rule of St Benedict Scripture Uncategorized

Into the Father’s hands.

“The Son of man alone yet trusting goes.
His life into his Father’s hands commends.”

One of the things that holds the themes of Holy Week together for me is our Lauds hymn. Each day it its own verse that reflects a particular aspect of the Salvation narrative that we’re celebrating through this great and challenging week.

These are combined with a refrain that’s repeated each day, linking the themes and drawing them together across the days.

Today’s theme is trust. Alone, betrayed and deserted by those who love him Jesus hands himself over to the Father in complete trust. In stressful times I tend towards micromanagement, wanting to control and fix everything myself. So I find Jesus’ capacity to abandon himself completely to God’s will breath taking and challenging. It reminds me that I am also called to surrender and to put myself and my concerns into God’s hands rather than trying to fix everything myself.

Where are you called to surrender your life over to God this Holy Week?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lent Scripture Uncategorized

A Costly Freedom

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Each day in Holy Week the gospel seems to get darker, as the tension increases. In today’s gospel, part of his account of the Last Supper, John tells us that even Jesus is “troubled in spirit”.

It shows us a very human side of Jesus, anxious and troubled, knowing that he is about to be betrayed by those he trusts and loves. We can all identify with that experience. Yet, as we glimpse Jesus’ very human suffering we recognise his divinity in his clear sense of being at one with the Father as he goes on to say:

“Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified.”

Knowing what is to come and seeing the fear, suspicion and mistrust growing among the disciples, it’s hard for us to see how God could be glorified in this. It doesn’t speak of anything we’d recognise as glory in human terms, if anything it presents an image of the opposite.

The passage reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, and that Jesus, completely attuned to God’s way, will always turn human values and expectations upside down. Although he speaks openly of betrayal and denial to Judas and Peter he neither blames nor criticises them.

He leaves them an open door both to making mistakes and to being forgiven. In doing so he offers them a valuable and costly freedom. I wonder how different our relationships and interactions would be if we were able to offer each other that freedom.

Where is Christ offering you a costly freedom this Holy Week?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Monastic Life Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

New Hope

New Hope

“There Love cries out despairing at his end
New hope to us, the loveless to extend.”

One of the things that holds the themes of Holy Week together for me is our Lauds hymn. Each day it its own verse that reflects a particular aspect of the Salvation narrative that we’re celebrating through this great and challenging week.

These are combined with a refrain that’s repeated each day, linking the themes and drawing them together across the days.

Today’s theme is new hope. Holy Week can feel so full of fear, despair and betrayal that it can be hard to keep sight of hope. Even as Jesus cries out in despair from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, his love reaches across the despair with a new hope.

Where is Christ’s love calling out to you today?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Scripture Uncategorized

The anointing at Bethany

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Even as the disciples gather in the safety of Martha’s home in Bethany there is a growing sense of tension. Jesus has told his disciples several times that this journey would lead him to Jerusalem and death. They struggled to believe him and now they watch the danger become a reality that touches all of their lives.

Today’s gospel is one of those moments of love that bring light into the stark darkness of Holy week. It’s not without cost. It’s risky for Mary to offer this act of consolation, and it’s risky for Jesus to accept it. Both of them become more vulnerable as a result of this physical, sensual action, and it is especially hard to be vulnerable in times of threat:

“Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus…the house was full of the scent of the ointment.”

Her action is interpreted in various ways. She is criticised by Judas, with an apparent concern for the pure, and praised by Jesus because she seems to understand his mission.

Mary offers no explanation. She may simply have sought to relieve the suffering of a friend. Or she may have had the insight to realise that Jesus was heading towards death, and was anointing him for that. Her action does nothing to remove the danger and tension they are living with but it offers a moment of respite in its midst. Mary’s action reminds that love, kindness and compassion are also part of the reality even in the darkest times.

Where are you being called to offer or accept love and consolation this Holy Week?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Holy Week Lent Palm Sunday Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

Palm Sunday, challenges and hopes.

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Palm Sunday starts out full of promise and hope as Jesus entered Jerusalem acclaimed the longed for Messiah:

“Hail, Son of David, our king and Redeemer of the world! The prophets foretold that you would come and save us.”

This promise seems a stark contrast to the passion gospel. It shows us human nature at its best and its worst. It’s full of failure and courage, despair and hope. In tense and uncertain times Jesus’ actions threaten a precarious status quo. That is always a dangerous thing to do, as the danger becomes more apparent and more threatening his disciples respond differently.

Judas tries to control the situation and force a response. Peter over promises, assuring Jesus he will never leave him, and then denies him. The other disciples numb themselves with sleep or run away when the danger becomes too much. Even Jesus, having deliberately chosen this path, has his moment of uncertainty as he prays:

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.”

It’s tempting for us to assume that we would never behave in such ways. We would be the disciple who would stay loyally by Jesus’ side throughout the passion. This most challenging gospel calls us to greater honesty than that. It demands that we read it without judgement, and with compassion and honesty.

If it is to be transformative for us we have to be honest about our own failures, the times when we turn away or choose distraction over engagement, or when we give in to despair because hope seems impossible. Then, with those first flawed, brave disciples, we can call to Christ to “come and save us”.

As we begin our Holy Week where do you need to be aware of the Christ to comes to save you?

Cross Holy Saturday Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Triduum Uncategorized

Waiting in hope

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All through the Triduum I’ve been struck by how relevant the ancient wisdom of our faith is to the times we are living in. Today was no exception to that and so I’m reflecting on some words that struck me from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

“Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoners Adam and Eve from their pain, he who is God, and Adam’s son.”

They describe the ancient tradition, the harrowing of Hell, when the newly risen Christ descend to hell to free those held by death, starting with the first humans Adam and Eve. Today the reading speaks to me of the darkness of our suffering world that seems overshadowed by death wherever we look. In those circumstances it can be very tempting to sink into an abyss of hopelessness and despair, but that’s not what the stillness and emptiness of Holy Saturday is about.

The sermon reminds me that Holy Saturday is a time of waiting in hope. The risen Christ, who sought out Adam and Eve to wake n them to new life and light will also seek us out. However dark our lives, the risen Christ will find us and awaken us with his offer of a new life and light.

As we wait through the emptiness of Holy Saturday in these challenging times where do you hear the voice of Christ calling you to awaken to new life?