This week in Madonna House began with a splash. Last Sunday we celebrated our monthly Byzantine Rite Liturgy, observing the feast of the Theophany in place of the Western Rite Baptism of the Lord.
It is the same mystery being commemorated in both feasts—Christ plunging into the waters of the world to claim them for himself and bless them, identifying himself with us in our lowly human state and in that the Trinity being revealed in the voice of the Father and the descent of the Dove.
The Byzantine Liturgy is very beautiful on this feast, which ranks in their tradition among the principal feasts of the year. After the Divine Liturgy itself there is a special blessing of water with a beautiful long prayer that involves a cross being plunged into the water three times, and the celebrant blowing on the waters in the form of a cross, evoking the moment of creation.
Then this specially blessed water is sprinkled on the congregation and on the four walls of the church, symbolizing the entire universe being blessed. After this, we process together to the Madawaska River where a crucifix is thrown into the waters, symbolically blessing all the waters of the earth. This too is a common tradition in the Christian East.
It was a bit of a challenge this year, since last weekend we had the traditional ‘January thaw’ – lots of rain and above freezing weather, all of which made it very slippery and slushy underfoot. But no injuries.
After all of that we enjoyed our usual Sunday, and then happily entered Ordinary Time the next day. The great seasons of the year are wonderful and beautiful and joyful here… and we are all quite happy, thank you very much, to get back to more plain living afterwards.
Our unstable climate seems to have finally decided that it is, in fact, winter, and so after the weekend rain it went back down to normal seasonal temps and a nice blanket of snow falling. The men have been able, then, to finally get in operation the outdoor skating rink off of the tea dock. Hockey games and the like are the recreation activity of choice for our young guests and younger staff.
The guest numbers went up for a little while over Christmas… and then they went right back down. We are a quiet little house right now. If any young adults find themselves at a bit of a loose end this winter, why not come to Madonna House and have a spiritual adventure? We have room!
This time of year the work really is pretty much keeping the place maintained and going. There is always snow to shovel, wood sheds to fill, meals to cook, laundry to do. One job that is a hidden part of our winter is processing the wool from our sheep. Every day a few of the women are down there, cleaning, ‘picking’, carding, all to prepare the fleeces to either be sold to local crafts people or for our own people to then dye and spin it for sale or to make our own handicrafts, themselves sold. It is all about the missions, of course, as the proceeds from everything we sell go to the poor through the work of our shops.
Well, really we are in such a quiet and ordinary time of year that I hardly know what else to say. One of our priests accompanied by an MH lay man are giving a retreat to thirty-plus men this weekend, something we have been doing yearly for quite a few years now. On a personal note, I have a few such things coming up in the next weeks, so my life has suddenly become all about that—preparing talks and such things.
But really, this time between the end of Christmas and the beginning of Lent is one of the most quiet and ‘normal’ times of year for us (so much so that it is quite unusually normal, if that makes any sense). In the midst of it all, do know that we are offering all our work and prayer for the glory of God and for the needs of our troubled world at this time. God bless you all!