Monday, April 12, 2010

Holy Week 2010

To share with you a glimpse into our experience of Holy Week at the monastery we put together this brief video. It includes a slideshow of photos from the Palm Sunday weekend young adult retreat and other photos throughout Holy Week, a piece of the video from our commissioning on Holy Monday by Bishop John, recordings of us and the women visiting for the week singing the Bridegroom Troparion and the Hymn of Light from Bridegroom Matins, and a couple of songs from the latest album "Alive Again" by Catholic musician Matt Maher (a monastery favorite!). We hope you enjoy it!

On Holy Saturday afternoon we attended Vespers with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma. We were thrilled to hear a beautiful homily from Bishop John about the Resurrection as the wedding feast for the marriage of Christ the Bridegroom and His Church. Bishop John also mentioned the creation of our monastery and its dedication to this spousal relationship. We would like to share with you the text of his homily:

Pascha … a wedding feast

We have just heard three stories about God freeing his people. He freed the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt. He freed the three young men from the fiery furnace. He freed the whole world from the bondage of sin and death by raising His Son from dead.

The first two seem to be rewards for faithfulness. The last is in anticipation of faithfulness. After he frees us, he calls us to be faithful. This last action is rather difficult to understand. One image that seems to help is that of the wedding of two parties in love with each other. The wedding is certainly not a reward but a pledge.

Monday of this last week, we were blessed with the creation in principle of a new monastery in the Eparchy of Parma. Christ the Bridegroom Monastery is dedicated to God’s love for his people and the relationship that ensues.

In the book of Revelations, we read: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.” (Rv 19:7)

Christ the Bridegroom! What a beautiful way to understand the saving action of Jesus Christ!

The Resurrection is the forming of a relationship of give and take. It is an intimate relationship of true love. As Father Stephen reminded us last evening, the passion, crucifixion, and burial are truly our assurance of “no greater love has anyone than to give one’s life for the other.”

A recent Eucharistic Congress in Washington, D.C., called the paschal mystery a "Sacrifice of Enduring Love." Cardinal Justin Rigali stated in a homily: "The wedding feast has begun, and we, the church, his bride, … are here to acknowledge the power of his blood and to proclaim the spousal covenant in which this blood has forever linked us to himself" (Sept 11, 2009).

This spousal relationship, like all human marriages, develops from a desire to get to know the other person, through the wedding to the fullness of intimacy. The holy passion of Christ served to establish our relationship. The Day of Resurrection celebrates our wedding. The descent of the Holy Spirit takes us through the full intimacy of marriage. This is indeed "the wedding day of the Lamb." The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is the bridegroom and we, the church, his bride.

“The wedding feast has begun” but it is not over. Each time we gather for the Holy Eucharist we unite ourselves to the Lamb. Those who participated in the “Heaven on Earth” seminar last Saturday know that the bread of the Divine Liturgy that, together with the wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, (that bread) is called the Lamb. The Lamb that Father Richard reminded us on Holy Thursday is broken but not divided – food that unites through its sacrifice. It is the Lamb which becomes our Holy Communion with God.

Because we, the church, are wedded to Christ the Bridegroom, we are invited to share in the radiant glory of the resurrection. The Bridegroom calls us so lovingly and so tenderly as we hear in the Old Testament book of Song of Songs: "Come, my beloved, my beautiful one."

“The wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.” Even if we haven’t taken full advantage of the 40-day preparation period, even if we haven’t started, let’s start now to "make ourselves ready." All God asks is what he offers us – a mutual "sacrifice of enduring love." As we accept this spousal relationship, we will be ever the bolder to proclaim: Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Beginning Continues

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Pasch so delightful, Pasch of the Lord is the Pasch--most honored Pasch now dawned on us. It is the Pasch! Therefore, let us joyfully embrace one another. O Passover, save us from sorrow; for today Christ has shown forth from the tomb as from a bridal chamber and filled the women with joy by saying: "Announce the good news to My Apostles." (From the Paschal Hymns)

We pray that you and your families enjoyed a beautiful Pascha and will continue to rest in the light and joy of the Resurrection! The past few weeks have been very busy for us, but we immersed ourselves in the spirit of Holy Week and the Resurrection as best we could, with the grace of God! During Palm Sunday weekend we hosted a young adult retreat, and during Holy Week several women discerning monastic life joined us for discussion, prayer and to experience our life. We will post pictures soon from these experiences.

Holy Saturday fell this year on April 3, the first anniversary of the day we moved into the monastery! We are so grateful to God for all the blessings (and the challenges!) of this past year, and we look forward to continued growth.

Also, on Monday of Holy Week, Bishop John visited to celebrate Bridegroom Matins and officially commission us to begin this monastery and become part of the Eparchy of Parma! It was especially significant because Bridegroom Matins was the first service we celebrated in our chapel one year ago. The text of this commissioning is below. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to move forward in the development of our monastery.

Bishop: Blessed is our God, now and ever and forever.

Response: Amen.

Bishop: In 2008 I issued a call for the establishment of monasteries to complete the ecclesial activity of the Eparchy of Parma. I identified this property, a gift from Sisters Flora and Adalberta, Sisters of Mariapoch, to be a monastery of nuns. For over a year you have resided here, living a modified monastic life and, with the help of many others, improving the property. From your experience, combined with the shared experience of other monasteries of women, you have formulated a draft typicon to govern the life of nuns in a monastery to be established here at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in the future. You have expressed a desire to continue this endeavor to its canonical establishment and your full membership. And so I give approval of these first steps to the establishment of the Monastery of Christ the Bridegroom and I ask you

Bishop: Are you aware of the expectations presented in the typicon, that was given initial approval, and are you willing to try to live according to it?

Celeste, Julie: I am.

Bishop: Are you willing to represent the monastery appropriately as you continue formation into the monastic way?

Celeste, Julie: I am.

Bishop: Are you willing to welcome others into the community?

Celeste, Julie: I am.

Bishop: Do you acknowledge that your involvement in this monastery is one of formation and discernment and that, until formal formation begins, you do not have canonical standing as a monastic?

Celeste, Julie: I do.

Bishop: Are you willing to grow in the spiritual life toward a possible full entry into the monastic way?

Celeste, Julie: I am with the help of God.

Bishop: I, as Bishop of Parma, assure you that the eparchy will provide you every support at our disposal. To lay the foundation upon which the monastery will be built, I grant you the following permissions. I give you permission to maintain a private chapel, with the privilege that Divine Liturgy served here will satisfy one’s obligation for Sunday and holy days of obligation. I give you permission to use some of the monastic symbols: you will preface your baptismal name with the title “Sister” and you will wear a common garb whenever representing the monastery.
Although not graced with vows, your living the life of the evangelical virtues will identify you with the monastery and the monastery will be identified as an appropriate means of grace. Because the monastery has no canonical status, all real property and its contents, unless specifically identified, remain the property of the eparchy. By following the typicon you will live a chaste life. To be able to maintain obedience to this way of life, we must identify one person to serve as guardian of the common life, a role satisfied in a monastery by the hegumena or abbess. To that end, are you, Sister Celeste, willing to serve in this role until such time that the monastery will be established and a hegumena identified?

Sister Celeste: I am.

Bishop: May God be blessed by this endeavor and may He bless the monastery with properly motivated nuns and may he bless each of us with proper discernment.

Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.

Response: Lord, have mercy.

Bishop: Almighty God, creator and fashioner of all, who made Heaven with understanding, and founded the earth on its firmness: Look down on your servants Sister Celeste and Sister Julie, who, together with myself and many others, desire, in the might of Your strength, to raise up a monastery. Establish it on a firm rock, and, according to Your Divine Voice in the Gospel, found it so that neither wind nor water, nor anything whatsoever may be able to harm it. Be well-pleased to bring it to completion and bring those who desire to be members thereof to live lives worthy of Christ the Bridegroom, and to be delivered from the snare of the adversary.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.

Response: Amen.

Bishop: This property, as it is, and as it may become, is blessed with the sprinkling of this Holy Water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Response: Amen.