In the monastery, fasting begins in September, gets a little more rigorous in Lent, and makes one final intensification in Holy Week. That means we can take comfort with all the more joy in the Octave of Easter which ended Sunday and the 40 days of Paschaltide which now take full shape. I have delayed in writing to all of you, knowing that we can still celebrate this time for weeks to come. This was our first Holy Week in the new chapel and so we prayed with much gratitude for all those who have helped us to build it.
At the end of the office, the final candle is not extinguished but carried to a dark area of the monastery, symbolizing Christ’s decent into the place of Hell. In this moment of total darkness, the monks bang loudly on their choir benches with fists evoking the utter terror and joy that must have occurred at the Harrowing of Hell when Christ brought from that place the blessed souls no longer destined to the eternal suffering and damnation. The light of Christ returns to remind us of His presence and His call for us to choose between light and darkness.
Many families were present for these beautiful Holy Week mysteries, reminding the monks that we need to live our vocation with ever more seriousness and vigor. Our own monastic vocations are a fruit of their faithfulness to the permanence of matrimony. If young men today do not have the experience of stable family life, notwithstanding the sufferings involved in it, they will rarely succeed in becoming monks. The Mother of Christ was able to experience the solitude of the Cross, and through the cross, the hope of the resurrection, giving us the pattern to follow.
Spring is coming in Norcia. The monks are planting in the garden. As we see new life return to this beautiful Umbrian hillside, we pray that Christ’s death and resurrection will bring hope to you and your home and that we may have the courage to imitate Him through death and resurrection. We pray in a special way for all those pastors of souls who strive in ways big and small to vanquish the darkness of confusion and bring the light of faith to the world.
Prior Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.