Sunday, November 29, 2015

It was the week before Holy Man, and all through the monastery…

Novice Sister Veronica sews curtains for Holy Man

So, who or what is “Holy Man”?  Yes, “Holy Man” is both a who and a what.  When a Poor Clare speaks of “Holy Man”, she is referring to the person and/or the feast day of St. Nicholas, the holy giver of gifts to all good children.  At Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville, St. Nicholas usually arrives on his donkey (not a sleigh pulled by reindeer, mind you) on his liturgical feast, December 6th, but since this year his day falls on Sunday, he is scheduled to come one day earlier.
We have all written our letters to Holy Man, each of us asking for three gifts for ourselves, making suggestions as to what he could give to our Sisters and offering to help out as needed. These letters were then reviewed by the chief “Holy Man helpers”, otherwise known as Mother Abbess and Mother Vicaress, who organized and arranged for other “helpers” to make all reasonable requests, plus various surprises, into real time realities.
And so, “It was the week before Holy Man, and all through the monastery Sisters are working on their Holy Man projects:  curtains for the library, new tunics and veils for Sisters, books bound, benches varnished, cleaning supplies purchased, to name just a few.
At the beginning of the Advent season, when we prepare to celebrate the greatest gift of God to us, the Incarnation of His Beloved Son, we ourselves exercise our creative abilities to give of ourselves to one another.  Blessed Season of Grace to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ the King

The Gospel for today’s feast of Christ the King presents a sharp contrast with the apocalyptic visions of the first two readings at Holy Mass.  We see Jesus, not crowned with glory and honor, but in His humiliation, standing meekly bound before a seemingly all-powerful Pontius Pilate.  Scornfully, the Procurator asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Later the Roman soldiers will make their own comment on this dialogue by beating a painful coronet of thorns into the Savior’s head.

Every Christian who swears allegiance to Christ the King must also agree to follow Him along the royal way of the Cross, bearing his own burden for the sake of the Kingdom.  Poor Clares express this Baptismal commitment most poignantly on the day of their Solemn Profession of Vows when they are espoused forever to the Son of God made Man.  During the ceremony, a crown of thorns is presented to the young nun and placed upon her head while this prayer is said:  “Receive this crown which your Spouse, the Son of God, offers you.  May you deserve to be made a partaker of his Passion on earth and of his glory in heaven.

The new bride of Christ wears her crown of thorns for the three days of celebration that mark her transition into the fullness of Poor Clare life.  Afterwards, she hangs her bridal crown on the wall of her monastic cell as an everlasting remembrance and I reminder of whom she is called to be:  the spouse of a crucified and risen Lord.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November Remembering

November is the time for remembering our loved ones who have gone before us.  The very dying of nature in the autumn season echoes our sentiments. Sister Mary Agnes, one of our poets, wrote this poem many years ago at the sudden passing of her brother Ted:

God Chose November

For your sunset,

            At evening
When the monastery grounds, golden,
Russet with their catch of falling leaves,
Match the splendor of the thinning trees,
How not remember you whose autumn came—
By human reckoning—hard on,
Too soon on bloom of boyhood dreams?

In a rose bed before this crucifix
Stretched against new autumn glory
I ponder the Divine Artist:
            Love, forgiveness, abandon—
All captured in the Crucified,
And find not the reason, but worth
            Of all human pain.

Your signature,
A two-edged blade of grief and gladness,
Cuts across the page of memory:

            Your loving brother in Christ,

Now more truly one with you in the Lord,
I send His tender benediction Northward
            To your Adirondack grave,
Trusting His mercy will break brittle ground,
Draw back curtains of death,
            Lead you upstage to brilliance
Of eternal light,
To the drama of everlasting life.

Tomorrow, Ted,
            Sunrise will fill these trees
            Spill radiance on the fallen leaves.