Two weeks into this winter hermit adventure, and I’ve already pretty much lost track of what day of the week this is, so at the moment I’m even more clueless than usual about when Ash Wednesday will arrive. Is it next week or the one following? All I know is that at some point in the foreseeable future it will be arriving and the liturgical mood of the church will shift accordingly. Those changes are pretty much irrelevant out here in hermit land. Through seasons of rejoicing and seasons of fasting I still chop wood and lug water (today, with the temperatures well below 0 on either fahrenheit or celsius scale, it’s more like lug wood and chop water.)
But oh, what a stark beauty she is today, with winds whistling down from the northwest, turning the bay a deep winter blue-green topped with seasmoke—and the snow diamonds sparkling everywhere from last night’s dusting! I’d happily sign up for several more lifetimes of this.
But I know that whenever it may be, Lent is just around the corner, and with that temporal reality in mind I’d like to call your attention to a couple of resources floating around out there for your Lenten study and perhaps Holy Week contemplative celebration.
My Contemplative Liturgies for Holy Week booklet is available for cheap ($15, I believe) from the Episcopal Housel of Prayer in Collegeville, Minnesota. These liturgies were created expressly for our pilot Holy Week silent immersion retreat at the House of Prayer two years ago, and they follow the contemplative format we’ve been fine-tuning around and about the Wisdom School network, designed to rely heavily on repetitive (i.e., easily memorizable) contemplative chants and lots of silence so that only the worship leaders need a book before them. They are intended to fill out the complement of Holy Week services, creating a liturgy of absolution and ablution for Tuesday night and an anointing ceremony for Wednesday evening, prominently featuring Mary Magdalene and the Song of Songs. The intention is to make available simple contemplative liturgy that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the deepening contemplative stillness and that also underscores the experience of the Paschal Mystery as a sacramental pathway of Conscious Love.
“Place me as a seal upon your heart, for love is as strong as death,” proclaims the Song of Songs, and that is our understanding of the Mystery of the Passions set forth in these simple liturgies. You’ll find them appropriate for a Lenten study group, or even for contemplative re-enactment. A real plus is that the music is included as well. At last you’ll see the “score” for some of the well-known Wisdom “top forty” (such as “Slowly Blooms the Rose Within” and “All Shall Be Well”) and a few lovely newcomers as well.
Incidentally, as of this writing (whatever day this may be!), there are still a few places available for our 2012 Holy Week silent retreat at the House of Prayer, and I’d love to welcome a few old and new friends from this Contemplative Society blogspot.
The other resource to call to you attention—much more discreetly hidden amongst the maze of downloadable e-files on the Church Publishing website (that’s the Episcopal Church in the USA). The website is www.churchpublishing.org; you can use the search field to enter “Bourgeault” and navigate your way to something called “A Solemn Liturgy of the Passion for Good Friday with a Biblical Passion Libretto.” (It’s also retrievable under the simpler title ST. HELENA LITURGY GOOD FRIDAY; in either case the ISBN number is 978-0-89869-561-8.) There you’ll find the libretto that I originally put together in 2003 for newly commissioned oratorio The Passion by Aspen composer Ray Vincent Adams. Sister Cintra Pemberton of the Order of St. Helena has taken this text and re-orchestrated it as a simple congregational liturgy suitable for performance on Good Friday en lieu of the stormy and polarized passion texts so often read on this solemn day. I think it’s around $25 for a downloadable file; again, I’d encourage you to look it up either for study in your contemplative group or Wisdom circle, or with an eye toward actual liturgical enactment on Good Friday. The text is culled from all four gospels, though it leans most heavily on the so-called Farewell Discourses in the Gospel of John. And its theme is once again, the Holy Week Mystery understood as a Sacrament of Conscious Love.
By the time Holy Week rolls around, my winter solitude will have long since ended, and I’ll be mostly back in the saddle with the usual round of retreats, Wisdom Schools, and this next year a lot of lectures). I will probably will be up to speed again on what day it is. It’s comforting to imagine myself transitioning between these two worlds through the beautiful gate of our upcoming Holy Week retreat. I can already see myself tucked in at the House of Prayer, living the Holy Week passage through its deeply contemplative interiority.
For today, it’s lug wood and chop water, and as I shut down the computer (my 20 minutes of daily air time are now over) and pull on my boots, my heart extends in gratitude and love to you all. This is, indeed, holy time…though not quite like any of the usual definitions of holiness. One poem I’ve always loved (Nancy Devine, “Do What You’re Doing”) puts it this way:
There’s nowhere else to be
when you no longer desire
to be where you’re not
So you must be free
when you no longer desire
that sounds like
a Puritanical freedom
Oh no—no, no, no—
I don’t mean
don’t do what you want to do
I mean do what you want to do so well
that you don’t want
to do whatever you’re not doing.
Something like that. All blessings to you!