So much has happened in the past couple of weeks in MH that I couldn't cover it all yesterday. Mamie Legris' death and burial merited a post all to itself. But meanwhile there was Holy Week, Easter, and a whole host of related seasonal events.
On the work front, the farm is dominated by the bleatings and cavortings of baby lambs, the cutest little creatures God ever made. We are having an unusually good year with the lambs, with many triplets and even one set of quadruplets being born and enjoying a high survival rate. This is a reflection on the care and skill of our farmers who truly pour their lives into the work of feeding this family.
Speaking of pouring, the maple syrup season is underway, albeit slowly and hesitantly. It has been unseasonably cold so far, and the warm days needed for sap flow have for the most part failed to materialize. So we'll see - the likely thing is that it will be a short season as temperatures are going to sharply increase over the next week, which will make the trees bud out, at which point the sap no longer produces a palatable syrup.
The gardens are moving forward, however, with greenhouse lettuce being planted along with other greenhouse plants. The winter bush work of harvesting trees for firewood and lumber is over--now comes the long work of moving, splitting, stacking, filling wood sheds, and so forth that takes up a lot of our men's time.
But all of that is mere backdrop to the real 'work' of these days which was the celebration of the holiest season of the year. Adding to the usual beauty of the Triduum this year was our having a catechumen among our guests, a young woman who was baptized and confirmed at our Easter Vigil. Her journey into faith, combined with Mamie Legris' journey into eternity, made our Easter here almost too rich to bear.
Those familiar with our MH customs know what we do here. On Holy Thursday we arrange our dining room tables into a 'banquet hall' format, with table cloths and festive centers, for the 'Supper of the Lamb'. This is not a seder meal, but does draw on elements of that Jewish ritual. At the beginning of the meal a whole roast lamb, mounted on a cross-shaped frame, is solemnly processed through the dining room to the strains of Psalm 136. There are readings and prayers, highlighting the theme of Christ the Lamb who was slain for us. Then we feast, richly and beautifully, on lamb, bread, wine--a deeply symbolic and most joyous agape meal. At the conclusion we read a long excerpt from the farewell discourse of Christ in John's Gospel. And of course we celebrate the evening liturgy that is familiar to every Catholic, complete with foot washing and solemn Eucharistic procession.
Good Friday we breakfast on hot cross buns, symbolic of the sweetness of the Lord's cross, and sup on a fast meal of plain boiled potatoes. We refrain from ringing bells (a loud 'clacker' is used in their place), lighting candles, and so forth. In addition to the 3:00 service of the Lord' Passion we celebrate the Byzantine service of the Burial of Christ, in which the lamentation over Christ's death repeatedly is broken by joy in his impending resurrection, and in which the epitaphion, or burial shroud, is carried in solemn procession through the chapel. At the end of this service all present go 'into the tomb' with Christ to await the resurrection, processing under the shroud and blowing out their lit tapers, as they are now with and in Christ and do not need their light any longer.
Holy Saturday is a day of furious activity in preparation for the feast (actually all the days are that, as the preparations for these meals and liturgies and the decorating of the house are monumental tasks). At Lauds we sing a beautiful Byzantine hymn - 'The Lord awoke, as one asleep, and arose, saving us,' that has such beauty and power in it that some of us consider it a high point of the liturgical year.
But of course the real high point is the Vigil itself. We seem to have opted in MH to do all seven Old Testament readings (as the priest celebrating the Vigil said in explanation, "What else do we have to do?"). The liturgy of baptism and confirmation was stunningly beautiful in its essential simplicity. I am the spiritual director of the woman who was baptized, so had the immense privilege of administering those sacraments to her - a moment of awe and sacred delight, about which I can say very little, really.
After the Vigil, we celebrated with a festive late night supper. Our Russian Easter foods of paska and koolitch (a sweet cheese confection and a special Easter bread) were consumed in large quantities (note my use of the passive voice in this sentence!). And so it went - a joyous happy celebration of Christ's victory and gift of new life.
The normal Easter days off were shifted on account of Mamie's funeral, and are occurring today and tomorrow. And... that's the news for now from here! I am travelling today and tomorrow to the great Canadian prairies, as I mentioned yesterday, but do plan to keep blogging as much as possible (it is a busy week coming up, mind you, so I make no promises). And to all of you a happy Easter Octave and a blessed season of light and mercy.