Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter sonnet

Amoretti LXVIII: Most Glorious Lord of Life

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow'd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash'd from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

You may find the original version with old spelling here:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"He comes to harrow Hell"

Holy Saturday - Harrowing Hell - a medieval depiction

Through the Gate

Begin the song exactly where you are
For where you are contains where you have been
And holds the vision of your final sphere

And do not fear the memory of sin;
There is a light that heals, and, where it falls,
Transfigures and redeems the darkest stain

Into translucent colour. Loose the veils
And draw the curtains back, unbar the doors,
Of that dread threshold where your spirit fails,

The hopeless gate that holds in all the  fears
That haunt your shadowed city, fling it wide
And open to the light that finds and fares

Through the dark pathways  where you run and  hide,
through all the alleys of your riddled heart,
As pierced and open as His wounded side.

Open the map to Him and make a start,
And down the dizzy spirals, through the dark
His light will go before you, let Him chart

And name and heal. Expose the hidden ache
To him, the stinging fires and smoke that blind
Your judgement, carry you away, the mirk

And muted gloom in which you cannot find
The love that you once thought worth dying for.
Call Him to all you cannot call to mind

He comes to harrow Hell and now to your
Well guarded fortress let His love descend.
The icy ego at your frozen core

Can hear His call at last. Will you respond?
-- Malcolm Guite

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday & service schedule for Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter

Well, I've missed the boat on letting you all know about the Maundy Thursday services, but at least I can post the others.  Here is what we just did:

Maundy Thursday Liturgy

April 17th @ 5:00pm
Maundy Thursday celebrates the gift of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, and the self-giving love of Christ in the washing of the feet.

getting set up for the service
going over the service beforehand
We are grateful to Carl Daw for preaching a fine sermon. Here he is during the preparations before the Eucharist.

Tonight is the night to reflect on Jesus' words during that last meal together: Serve each other - do as I have done to you. Love one another as I have loved you.  The opening rite of the Maundy Thursday service says it best.

This is the day
Christ the Lamb of God
gave himself into the hands of those who would slay him.

This is the day
Christ gathered with his disciples in the upper room.

This is the day
Christ took a towel and washed the disciples' feet,
giving us an example that we should do to others as he has done to us.

This is the day
that Christ our God gave us this holy feast,
that we who eat the bread
and drink the cup
may here proclaim his holy sacrifice
and be partakers of his resurrection,
and at the last day may reign with him in heaven.

Good Friday Liturgy
April 18th @ 3:00pm
AS we recall the saving death of Jesus, we pray for the church and the world, and Holy Communion is received from the Sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday.

Holy Saturday Liturgy
April 19th @ 12 noon
At this simple liturgy, it is as though the church has died and now waits silently to be resurrected out of the baptismal font at the Great Vigil of Easter.

Great Vigil of Easter
April 20th @ 4:00 am
The Paschal Candle is lit, the history of God's people is recounted through readings and psalms, and finally the first Alleluia of Easter is chanted.

Great Paschal Vespers
May 4th @ 4:00 pm
Great Paschal Vespers is an ancient evening service of processions prayers, chants, and humans offering praise to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

getting ready for the Triduum

It's Holy Week. Here at the convent we've held our last Lenten book discussion, and our Triduum preparations are in full swing. Penny, our golden retriever, has been overseeing the making of the bulletins (Photo credit: Sr. Kristina Frances, who has also assisted Penny in the making of the aforementioned bulletins).

Much consultation has been happening around the procedure for Maundy Thursday foot-washing in the chapel here, so different from our chapel in Boston. I'm celebrating, but have been thoroughly out of touch with all that; however, I finally finished my Easter sermon (OK, the rough draft for the Easter sermon), so I'm ready to hop in tomorrow.

Holy Week guests have begun arriving. Grocery shopping for the next few days as well as for Easter dinner. Sacristy preparations. Flowers bought and stashed somewhere out of sight; I saw a picture of them on Twitter, so I know they're around here somewhere!

Penny, of course, supervises us closely. She's just banged on my door to be let in to do just that.

We go into silence tonight until Easter morning other than for absolute essentials.  A 98-year-old sister has just spent her birthday and is about to spend the Triduum and part of Eastertide in rehab for a broken arm; no fun at all. I'll be breaking silence to take her communion tomorrow. How can you not have communion on Maundy Thursday? I was glad to be asked to do it.

Much scurrying, but it's a peaceful sort of scurry, if such a thing is possible.  Walking with Jesus and the disciples through the events of Holy Week is powerful; it certainly puts the rest of the busyness in context. And threaded through the sorrow of the Passion is that thread of joy, an infallible sign of the presence of God.

Even doing dishes can be different in that light. As, truly, it should be every day; but this is a good way to live more into that.

Through all this, of course, is prayer. Scripture. The Daily Office, our regular round of worship services each day. All nourished by the extra silence. Such a gift to us to have this in what can be a crazy-making week for clergy, church musicians, and others deeply involved in the church.  Those of you who are running without stopping this week, I'll be putting in some extra prayer for you, I hope. Thank you for all you do.

And of course, thanks be to God.

Blessings, all, during these most holy days.

the moods of April

This is no way to wake up.
It's April, after all.
April, I said.
Mid-April, even.

It's Spring.

Even in Massachusetts, the world is beginning to wake up.

Did I mention it's April?

Fortunately, April has many moods.

This afternoon, she had cheered up.

It's Holy Week, so perhaps it should snow. But on Sunday morning, when I go across to the chapel dark and early for our 4AM Easter Vigil, I want to smell spring in the air.  New life. What could be more appropriate?

Monday, April 14, 2014

lunchtime for a fox

I don't imagine these photos will be making it onto any greeting cards we might make in the future, but they're still pretty amazing.  I was just sitting at the picnic table brainstorming and taking notes for my Easter sermon when the movement caught my eye.

fox with squirrel appearing from our neighbors' yard

Grabbed my camera (without which I go nowhere these days) and tried (otherwise) to be very still. I've been wanting a photo since I saw two beautiful babies out in the snow in January.  Sadly, I pointed my camera at them, clicked, and saw "out of battery" on the screen. Aaaargh! Hadn't seen one again till last week, though other sisters had.

trotting across the yard towards the picnic table where I was working

Well, this one saw me, but all it did was pick up the pace so as to pass by me more quickly.

'Scuse me, just passing through...

Your first reaction might be, "Oh, poor squirrel," but even foxes have to eat.

Can't stop to talk - on my way to lunch.

I'm wondering if he or she was taking it back to the kits. They must be old enough to hunt, but maybe not old enough to be successful. Maybe Mama is sharing with them.  Or not.

Bye now... 

She just kept going across the yard in front of the retreat house, cut down by the water in front of a neighbor's house, and disappeared, leaving me there, still open-mouthed.  Amazing. What a gift to see one right there, so close.  I'd love to see it again and get a few more photos.  Minus squirrel.  Or even without my camera, just to have a moment of contemplation of such beauty.

I hope our retreatants will be able to share some of this beauty this week.  Holy Week has its own beauty, with or without wildlife, but I find that this kind of wonder opens one up even further to the Holy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


This afternoon, Sr. Brigid and I were down at St. Marina's Guest House getting a couple of rooms ready for Holy Week overnight guests.  While we were working in one of the first floor bedrooms, I happened to glance outside the window.  What is that?! I peered outside through the slats of the blinds. Sure enough, right outside the window on the grass by the porch was a hawk, just sitting there as calmly as can be.  The house is on a hill, so I assume he or she was looking for an afternoon snack.  I excused myself and made a dash for the kitchen, where I'd left the camera I'd brought just in case.  As I've learned, you just never know who's going to show up outside. (Planning soon to post more photos from this past week if possible.)

So here he or she is.

Of course, I was trying to maneuver the camera so as to take pictures through the Venetian blinds without alerting him/her to my presence, which was probably pretty comical.

I'm guessing it's either a female or, more likely, a juvenile.  We have bird books upstairs, and I took a glance through, but I sure can't tell one from the other; more research will have to wait for Easter Week.  Unless one of you knows?

The take-off was swift - a flurry of wings and that was it.

Life is full of glimpses of beauty.  I hope to learn more and more to keep my eyes open.

So grateful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on judging others

"When we judge other people we confront them in a spirit of detachment, observing and reflecting as it were from the outside. But love has neither time nor opportunity for this. If we love, we can never observe the other person with detachment, for he is always and at every moment a living claim to our love and service...

Judgement is the forbidden objectivization of the other person which destroys single-minded love. I am not forbidden to have my own thoughts about the other person, to realize his shortcomings, but only to the extent that it offers to me an occasion for forgiveness and unconditional love, as Jesus proves to me. If I withhold my judgement I am not indulging in tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner and confirm the other person in his bad ways. Neither I am right nor the other person, but God is always right and shall proclaim both his grace and his judgement.

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. But in the love of Christ we know all about every conceivable sin and guilt; for we know how Jesus suffered, and how all men have been forgiven at the foot of the cross. Christian love sees the fellow-man under the cross and therefore sees with clarity. If when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil, we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. But if we are on the lookout for evil in others, our real motive is obviously to justify ourselves, for we are seeking to escape punishment for our own sins by passing judgement on others, and are assuming by implication that the Word of God applies to ourselves in one way, and to others in another. All this is highly dangerous and misleading. We are trying to claim for ourselves a special privilege which we deny to others. But Christ's disciples have no rights of their own or standards of right and wrong which they could enforce with other people; they have received nothing but Christ's fellowship. Therefore the disciple is not to sit in judgement over his fellow-man because he would wrongly usurp the jurisdiction."

From Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. pp. 184, 185

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yom Hashoah/ Holocaust Remembrance Service

I just got a notice from the Duxbury Interfaith Council ( about an upcoming service.  I really hope I can go to this.  I remember reading so many children's and young adult books about the Holocaust and wondering how it could have happened.  While I think I understand a little more now, it still surprises me each time I read about the genocides and attempted genocides that continue to happen around the world.  When will we learn? Why do we hate? Is it all about power?  In any case, the power of evil is still alive and well, and ignoring it just gives it more space to work. I know that death is NEVER the end of the story; how tragic and evil that the very passion, death, and resurrection that shows us this, that gives us hope, was used and no doubt is still used as an excuse for death-dealing and hate. We all need to make ourselves actively available to work for life and peace among all God's people, all God's creation.  Remembering and standing with those who have suffered is a first step.

Irene Levin Berman, author of "We Are Going to Pick Potatoes," will share her experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust.


Congregation Shirat Hayam will sponsor its annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service, Yom Hashoah, on April 28, 7 PM.  The service will be held at the Congregation, 185 Plain St. in Marshfield (The Sanctuary Church). 

Irene Levin Berman will make actual testimony to the atrocities of the Holocaust. She was born and raised in Norway.  As a young child in 1942 she escaped to Sweden, a neutral country in World War II to avoid annihilation.  Nazi Germany had invaded Norway and the deportation of two thousand Norwegian Jews had begun.  Seven members of her father’s immediate family were among the 771 victims who were unable to escape and were murdered in Auschwitz.

In 2005 Irene was forced to begin to examine the label of being a Holocaust survivor.  Her strong dual identity as a Norwegian and a Jew led her to explore previously unopened doors in her mind.  Her book “We Are Going to Pick Potatoes": Norway And The Holocaust, The Untold Story is not a narrative of the Holocaust alone, but the remembrances of growing up Jewish in Norway during and after World War II.  Irene is living testimony to the atrocities.

Congregation Shirat Hayam invites all members of the community including youth groups and religious school classes to attend the educational experience.  To arrange for large groups or more information please call 781-582-2700

Congregation Shirat Hayam, Marshfield MA

If you would like to know more about this congregation, you may visit their website:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

strange things growing in trees

This looks like something straight from Dr. Seuss, especially in the trees that have a lot of them.

This is from a different tree, but might be the same thing. Certainly must be related, in any case - equally Seuss-like.

Here are three more things in the category of "strange things attached to trees."  The middle one I thought might be some sort of strange nest. For that matter, the first one is rather round... I suppose it could be, too, though I've never seen one that color. I saw a number of things looking like the last one. 

Anyone have any ideas? I have bird books to consult to identify the punk ducks I also saw on the walk (another blog post?), but strangely enough, we have no Peterson's Guide to Odd Things in Trees.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lent Madness in full swing

Fr. Tim made NPR! Score one for him. Oh wait, he's not on the list for this year's brackets.


Have a look-see or a listen:

There are others interviewed, of course, including members of a parish where each saint is represented by someone in the congregation.  Most unusually, my favorite line in the interview is NOT from Fr. Tim.

"I'm Catherine of Siena," says 12-year-old Maddie Reifsteck. "She's like some sort of nun or something that gets the job done, apparently."

Naturally, I am all for "some sort of nun or something that gets the job done, apparently."  Maybe I'll even be one of them someday.  Although that depends on the job. 

the brackets so far...

From the follow-up Lent Madness blog post:

Whoever wins this year's bracket, Lent Madness 2014 will go down as a devotion that shows no partiality when it comes to media coverage. What other Lenten devotion can claim it was covered by both FOX News and NPR? Talk about Red State/Blue State ecumenism!
To listen to the story, click here.
Thanks to all of you who continue to embrace this madness in the spirit in which we intend -- as a devotion to help introduce or re-introduce some pretty amazing folks who have served Jesus in their own way and in their own day. Sure, we have some fun along the way and, of course, Lent Madness isn't for everyone (certainly not the humorless). But, as Scott likes to say, "If you don't like it, go start your own online Lenten devotion."
You will certainly want to take a look for yourself.  And vote, of course!  Surely your spiritual director/pastor/mother/golden retriever/local nun will be duly impressed with your participation.

One caveat to my enthusiasm: I must object to the outcome of March 13th: Harriet Beecher Stowe (51%) defeated James Holly (49%)  Mgr Holly, the first bishop of the Episcopal Church of Haiti, was clearly the best choice.  See this earlier fan post, which proves my point. Sniff.

Bishop James Theodore Holly,  1900

Finally, as we enter into another exciting and occasionally heart-wrenching day of voting, remember that what we say about confessing our sins to a priest in the Episcopal Church also applies to engaging in Lent Madness: “All may, none must, some should.”

So come cheer on your own favorite saints. You wouldn't want yours to suffer the same fate.  It's not over till it's over!