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Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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Readings for Holy Week

Posted: 04/19/11 10:34 AM ET

Monday: Holy Week is the church's great celebration of life in all its dimensions: communion with others in the Spirit, the call to suffer if necessary for the sake of the gospel, the sometimes loneliness of total commitment and the glory of living in the Christ, whatever the cost. It is a week to recall your own cost of living the Christian life and drawing strength for the journey from the One who has lived it before us and now fills us with His own eternal life.

Tuesday: The starkness of the community chapel -- the large wooden cross, the vacancy of the planters, the loss of colors, the sense of barrenness that the loss of the familiar brings--are simply external reminders of the internal emptiness that develops when we barter the real richness of life for the trinkets of living.

Wednesday: During Holy Week, the community will say Tenebrae, the two days of prayer that revolve around the lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet. For the Jews, the lamentations are five poems that mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C. For the Christian, the lamentations refer to the destruction of Christ. The important thing about the lamentations is that though they face squarely the problems of the present, they are alive with hope in the future. We all have lamentations in life, sorrow for things we've lost or the discovery of the emptiness of all life's seductions. The important thing now is to fill ourselves with hope.

Holy Thursday: Today we get the sign in the breaking of the bread that the spirit of Christ is with us always if we live in human community and are dedicated to the teachings of Christ. To celebrate the eucharistic life, the community will serve a special meal to the poor today. Then, the sisters will come together with friends and family tonight to celebrate in a special way what it really means in life to share bread with one another, to serve one another, to wash one another's feet, to be full of the spirit of Christ always, everywhere.

Good Friday: Today the community conducts a public praying of the Stations of the Cross for peace. We walk seven miles in silence, starting at St. Peter's Cathedral, the public symbol of the Church that teaches us to lay down our lives for the other. We will mark as stations places like the Federal Building, a symbol of the militarism of the country; the soup kitchen, a symbol of those made poor by the militarism of the country; a topless show bar, a symbol of the violence against women that machoism and militarism glorify. In all these places, life is empty of God's glory and Christ is crucified still.

Holy Saturday: Tonight at the Easter Vigil the community will light the Easter fire. We will be filled up finally with the story of salvation and the glory of what it means to have our once empty selves filled with all the goodness, all the purpose, all the vision, all the glory of life. We will know again that being monastic in mind, being single-minded about life, being given to one thing and one thing only -- the glory of God -- has all been worth it.

Easter Sunday: The Navajos wrote, "We felt like talking to the ground, we loved it so." Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "The earth laughs in flowers." Benedict of Nursia wrote, "Say alleluia always, no matter the time of day, no matter the season of life." The use of the Alleluia dates back to the earliest of liturgical formularies, both Jewish and Christian, as an endless chant of joy. In the Christian community it was an expression of praise and a foretaste of eternal gladness. "We are an Easter people," Augustine wrote, "and Alleluia is our cry." The monastic knows the truth of Easter. Life is all filled up. We don't need anything else now. And nothing else will suffice.

From 'A Monastery Almanac' by Joan Chittister