Blogging the Monastic Triduum ~ Good Friday (A Time to Reconcile)
Mid-morning we have what we call our Reconciliation Chapter (basically, for the monastic community only). Unlike the official sacrament of Reconciliation, this is not a time where we go confess our sins to the priest. Rather, it's a time of prayer (what a surprise, no?) which includes an examination of conscience using excerpts from the 1983 document of the US Catholic Bishops entitled "The Challenge of Peace" and some questions for our own reflection on how we have contributed to disunity within the community through either what we have done or what we have failed to do. Our prioress also gave a wonderful reflection on the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, though it is often difficult and may take a long time to achieve. One of her most striking points for me (and this is my recollection of it, not a direct quote) was in looking at Jesus' words from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Perhaps Jesus at that point, beaten and bloodied, could not quite bring himself to forgive them. But he knew they needed his forgiveness and that he needed to grant it, so he asked God to do it for him. Perhaps that's what we might need to do at times. After the prayer and reflection, we then share a sign of peace with each other, asking forgiveness for any hurts we may have caused for that sister over the past year.
At 3:00 in the afternoon we gather once more for liturgy, this time to celebrate the Lord's Passion. As a continuation of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the service does not have an opening rite. The readings today include the Suffering Servant from Isaiah and the Passion according to Saint John; today, the Passion is sung by various members of the monastic community, which presents it in a whole new way to the listening ear. There is a period of quiet reflection, and then we have a formally structured set of ten extended petitions with a prayer for each of the following intentions: For the Church ... For the Pope ... For the clergy and laity of the Church ... For those preparing for baptism ... For the unity of Christians ... For the Jewish people ... For those who do not believe in Christ ... For those who do not believe in God ... For all in public office ... For those in special need ... (although I really like the fact that here we combine other Christians, Jewish people, non-Christians, and those who don't believe in God into one non-exclusionary petition and prayer). After these intercessions, we have the Veneration of the Cross, where we focus in a special way on the manner in which Jesus gave himself up to death. We then have a simple communion service, using the consecrated hosts from Holy Thursday. (While I love the guys who come over to say Mass for us, there is something to be said for having our own sister, one whom we have chosen to lead us as a monastic community, as the leader of this liturgical celebration.) After this, we depart in silence.
The rest of the day is spent in personal quiet and reflection (or walks and enjoying of outdoorsedness). We come together once more for the evening meal, but in terms of liturgical celebrations, nothing else goes on. Just a time to consider the darkness of this time of the cross.