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!

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