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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Holy Saturday Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Liturgy Scripture Triduum Uncategorized

Grief and hope

A Holy Saturday reel from the archives 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?

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Kindness in empty times.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Some thoughts from the archives on Holy Saturday…

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?

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

The light of love.

As we begin the Triduum here’s a post from the archives for Maundy Thursday

All week we’ve watched tension, uncertainty and fear growing around Jesus and his disciples with the Gospels getting increasingly dark as we’ve journeyed through Holy Week. I often think of the gospel for this evenings mass of the Last Supper as a bright spot in the midst of that darkness.

As he gathers with his disciples to celebrate the Passover Jesus is fully aware that his hour has come. He knows that he is about to be betrayed and that he will soon be facing a brutal and humiliating death. In the midst of that darkness he chooses to wash the feet of his disciples in saying to them:

“If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

Jesus’s action takes us back to Mary anointing his feet and we can almost smell the scent permeating the air again. Both gestures treat the bodies of others with respect, honour and compassion. Later we will watch with horror. Later we will watch with horror as Jesus’ body is battered and tortured.

It doesn’t take away the darkness of fear, the or the suffering he is about to undergo, it won’t take away the brutality of crucifixion. It does show us that love cannot be overcome or destroyed whatever we face. It challenges us to discover ways that we can bring the light of that love into the dark spaces of our world today.

Where are you being called to carry the light of Christ love to those around you today?

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

Into the Father’s hands.

Some thoughts on Holy Week from the archives.

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.

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


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 to God this Holy Week?

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

New Hope

Some thoughts from the archives on the new hope of Holy Week:

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.

The second theme of I find it helpful to reflect on is new hope:

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



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?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Gospel Holy Week Lent Liturgy Scripture Uncategorized

The Tree of Life.

Some thoughts for Holy Week from the archives…

“And stretching out his arms on Calvary,
Draw all the ages to him on the Tree.”


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 the tree of life. It links the tree of life in the garden of Eden with the cross. It reminds me that death and life are linked, that by drawing us to himself on the cross Jesus draws us into the light of new life.

Where do you feel Christ drawing you to himself this Holy Week?

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

A loving challenge

Photo by sergey mikheev on Unsplash

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?

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A costly freedom

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A post from the archives for Tuesday in Holy Week.

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?

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The scent of love

Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay

Today’s gospel, the anointing at Bethany is a powerful story of hope in desperate times. It’s one of the Gospels that touches me most deeply. Every year I moved by its passion, its radical yet simple act of love, and its kindness. In fear and uncertainty, the disciples gather at Martha’s house which offers them an oasis of hospitality and safety in the increasingly dangerous times.

In such circumstances it is easy to understand Judas’ distrust and questioning. In times of great danger questions and doubts that we thought we’d put to rest often resurface. It’s easy to imagine that Judas was not the only disciple facing such doubts.

In the midst of the tension Mary’s action provides a fresh focus. She doesn’t deny or banish the fear or the danger, instead her action points out that those are not the whole story:

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

Jesus tells his disciples that she has anointed him for his burial, acknowledging that he is facing death, and preparing his disciples for that. As the scent of her ointment fills the house her simple action is a sign that love is stronger even than death. As she anoints Jesus she reminds us that our Holy Week journey ultimately leads us through death to the new life of resurrection.

As we move through Holy Week where are you aware of the strength of love sustaining you?

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Welcoming the uncontainable God.

After I wrote my post for Palm Sunday I went to the Vigil and heard again the beautiful second reading from St Andrew of Crete. It’s too good not to share again. Here’s a reflection on the reading from our archives.

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Every year at on the Eve of Palm Sunday we listen to a beautiful reading from the writings of St Andrew of Crete. It sums up Palm Sunday for me, opening the way to Holy Week and setting the tone for it. I return again and again to these words:

“Let us imitate those who have gone out to meet him, not scattering olive branches or garments or palms in his path, but spreading ourselves before him as best we can, with humility of soul and upright purpose. So may we welcome the Word as he comes, so may God, who cannot be contained within any bounds, be contained within us.”

We are living in uncertain and challenging times. In the midst of much hardship we’re discovering much about the God cannot be contained and about the myriad of ways that God can transform our lives. We’ve also learned much about the boundaries and limitations we are tempted to try to erect around God.

We’re moving into Holy Week aware of the sufferings and uncertainties in our fragile and broken lives and world, knowing that it’s beyond our power to fix it. With all that in our hearts we can move into Holy Week aware of our need for the transforming presence of “God who cannot be contained within any bounds” nurturing us in the depths of our hearts.

As we move into Holy Week where are you discovering the God “who cannot be contained within any bounds”?