Here at the monastery it has been an unusual week! On Palm Sunday as we were ending the somber liturgy of Palm Sunday we received a phone call that our dear Sr. Mary Peter was preparing for the eternal joy of meeting her Risen Lord!
Throughout the day carloads of Sisters drove to St. Catherine's Infirmary at the Dominican Sisters in Caldwell, NJ to be with Sister on her final journey and accompany her by our prayers. Fr. Gregory anointed Sister and gave her the Apostolic Pardon. We prayed numerous rosaries, Divine Mercy chaplets, the Litany of the Saints, sang the Salve and O Lumen and the Media Vita throughout the day. Sr. Mary Peter went home peacefully in the late afternoon and there was much joy in our hearts that HER joy would now be complete!
Meanwhile, the Fox news segment on our monastery and Seignadou Soaps was sending hits to our website to record highs! Nearly 40, 000 in one day! The orders were coming in so fast and by the end of the day we had more orders to fill than during our month long Christmas rush!
The soap sisters took it in stride worked out a game plan thanks to Sr. Mary Veronica's ability to analyze data and plan accordingly! Meanwhile, we were planning Sr. Mary Peter's funeral to be held on Wednesday. We suspect that she would have seen the humor in it all. We tried to work in a way that would not distract us from the MORE important work of praying for our beloved sister and preparing for the great liturgy of the Triduum. Thanks to everyone's hard work (and the angels!) we were about as caught up as we could be by the end of Wednesday allowing us to give our full attention to liturgy.
This was our first Triduum and Easter with Fr. Gregory and it was beautiful in every way! Although a monastic triduum is much different than a parish liturgy it has a beauty all it's own that requires one to go deeper interiorly. The Liturgy IS the full time "work" of these days and year after year the beauty of the of the Altar of Repose one leaves during the night of Holy Thursday to become the starkness of the stripped sanctuary and choir never ceases to catch you off guard! We chant totally a Capella, singing antiphons and responsories that are sung only on these days.
Good Friday afternoon finds us all sort of "lost" the monastic schedule reflecting the feeling of loss and dismay after the service of the Sacred Passion and the Adoration of the Cross. There is plenty of time but no work. There is plenty of time but no Vespers. There is plenty of time but a silence and emptiness for we are lost without Christ. Sisters spend the afternoon in mediation, staying in the dark and empty choir or outside. When night comes the chapel and choir are pitch dark, feeling hollow and empty.
The liturgy of Holy Saturday for Matins and Lauds is powerful in expectation! The texts are rich and thankfully we don't have to exhaust their richness in one year! As the sun rises and morning comes our hearts begin to leave off some of the heaviness of the day before.
As we go about preparing for the Easter Vigil the joy increases! It is amazing how it takes ALL of us an ENTIRE DAY to prepare! Sacristans and their helpers are constantly on the go! There are lilies everywhere! Meanwhile the sisters helping in the kitchen are preparing for the Guadeamus celebration for after the Vigil and decorating eggs for breakfast. No one stops a minute except for when the clapper sounds for Office. We grab our cappas and enter the still empty choir slowly showing signs of the promised glory of the Risen One. The liturgy is a stark contrast to what is going on all over the house: everything is sung simply and soberly. And then we are out and moving lilies and setting up fresh candles and linens and the best vestments and vessels. And a little while later, back again in choir.
The Vigil was beautiful! The high winds gave a challenge to our pyrotechnition, Sr. Mary Magdalene. The light of Christ was a flame blowin' in the wind so Fr. Gregory said, "Let's wait until we get inside!" Once we were at our places in choir Fr. Gregory sang the incredibly powerful Exsultet to Dominican Chant. All I can say is that you have to hear it to understand! The Roman Chant pales in comparison. When you hear this chant you KNOW it's old, very old! (No, you won't find this version online!)
This year we ponder in a new way the Gospel story of Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene, telling us "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." St. Mary Magdalene is for this reason the patroness of the Order of Preachers because she is the apostle to the Apostles, the FIRST to proclaim the Good News! During this year which the Order has dedicated to "Dominican women and the new Evangelization" we look carefully at Mary to see how we, too, the silent preacheresses can best proclaim to our brothers what it means to be "sons and daughters of the Resurrection". Paradoxically, it is not by words but by THE WORD; it is by silence, by adoring God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we have ears to hear!