Message from John Michael Talbot for Holy Week / Easter 2005:
"...WE START WITH a Seder Supper that moves into the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday night. We then spend an hour of silence in a recreated Garden of Gethsemane before the Blessed Sacrament. There we also hear four gospel segments of the passage about His agony in the Garden and arrest; read every quarter hour to keep us focused on the beginning of His ordeal and eventual death. Afterwards we remove the Blessed Sacrament and the monastic chapel is stripped of all holy images and sacred art to give us a feeling of the emptiness his bodily absence must have been like for the apostles.
"Good Friday is a day of almost total silence and emptiness. We have a reading of the Passion and simple Communion Service in the mid afternoon, followed by a most moving Stations of the Cross. At three o'clock in the afternoon, a lone single toll of the monastery bell signals the time of the Lord's death, and we all pause for a few moments of silence. It is now most solemn in a monastery usually filled with joy and praise of God. After this is total silence. There has been a death in the family."
"FRIDAY NIGHT and Holy Saturday are completely silent and still except for the most basic chores that must be done. We all sink deeper and deeper into the Passion during these most prayerful hours.
"However, late Saturday things begin to change in readiness for the Easter Vigil. Dogwoods and Red Buds are carefully cut and collected, and there is a stirring of activity in the chapel. The mood is changing from grief and stillness to anticipation and the stirrings of getting the chapel and common center ready. Then it happens.
"With darkness we begin our Easter Vigil with the lighting of the New Fire, and the lighting of the Paschal Candle from which all our individual candles are ignited. We enter the chapel, now decorated to the hilt with flowers everywhere amidst the usual sacred images and icons, with the chanting of "Light of Christ," and the response of "Thanks be to God." The singing of the Exultet ushers in a service filled with joyous song, many scripture readings recalling the entire journey of salvation, and the eventual reception of Jesus, truly present to us in the Eucharist. We all retire for the evening filled with joy and praise of God. "Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!"
"The next day we celebrate a joyous Easter feast with friends and neighbors of the monastery. It is the social 'icing on the cake' for this whole liturgical journey, and leaves us strengthened and ready for the more ordinary spiritual and relational dying and rising of Jesus Christ in normal daily life."