Continuing my personal exploration of monasticism ……
My first Holy Week and Easter without any churches to look after! What should I do? I decided to journey through the 8 days from Palm Sunday to Easter Day with prayerful activities and reflection. I kept a personal journal to record my thoughts and feelings – and they will stay private! I also weighed up what the experience was telling me about the monastic vocation.
This was the inspiration for my week-long observance. Anyone who has visited Spain, especially southern Spain, knows about the processions and celebrations of Holy Week.
My visit to Malaga a couple of years ago introduced me to the high emotions of Holy Week as the days go by until the quieter observance and respect of Holy (Good) Friday and the Great Silence of Holy Saturday. I was captivated by it all. I experienced the desire to live the week in my own way back home.
Holy Week – Open House style
My usual rhythm of prayer, including lunchtime and teatime prayer (people are welcome to join me), was supplemented by evening reflections, conversations about the meaning of the Week, washing one another’s feet (as Jesus did with his friends), and a Passover-style meal in remembrance of Jesus’s Last Supper.
For Holy (Good) Friday I joined with my pioneer colleague and people gathered at the local food bank for a lament about the things that are wrong in society and the wider world. Words representing these wrongs were nailed to a cross. Open House was privileged to look after the cross for a little while and to hold in prayer those who suffer at the hands of others. Holy Saturday was spent in continued prayer and reflection and ended with a service of light to greet the dawning of light amid the darkness.
I don’t do early morning! But I was awake just after 6am on Easter Sunday so said my morning prayers in the early light. After a happy day with family I rounded off the week with an evening reflection and a dedication to love, life and hope through the bread and wine of Communion.
So what more have I discovered about the monastic vocation?
The importance of showing up…… One important role of the monastic life is to follow the daily rhythm of life (with prayer as a central focus) and the seasonal pattern of the church year. I do this whether anyone else joins me or not. Obviously the format of what I do varies according to whether I have any companions at events, but I continue with the experiences even when I am on my own. I guess it is the representative nature of the monastic vocation – to support the Church as a whole by maintaining the constant pattern of prayer and reflection and to help keep the faith story alive.
Once more I have reflected on the issue of status – see my previous blog – and the very human desire to be relevant, useful, and to have significance. Yet monastic living goes on in unremarkable ways – often unnoticed and even undervalued.
And again the importance of ‘being’ in a world where people have become consumers (“I shop / buy stuff….therefore I am”) and are intended to become producers or active agents too (“I make / do stuff ….therefore I am”). Perhaps the monastic vocation is primarily to ‘be’ and to affirm other people in their prime identity of ‘being’ (“You are …… and you are loved”).
A basic monastic desire is to know yourself truly and deeply. It is via this journey of self-knowledge within the love of God that I might discover wisdom and experience to share with others. But I can never forget that I am just a very ordinary human being, as flawed as anyone else, and daring to believe that I may be as gifted as anyone else too.
Greetings to you for this continued Easter Season (another month to go yet!)