Blessed Solemnity of All Saints.
I get ridiculously excited by feast days, and All Saints, folllowed tomorrow by All Souls, are to my mind kind of a pre-entrance into the Advent season. Plus the first of the month I get to turn all three of my calendars (Gustave Baumann (an annual treasured gift from my friend Ellen in Maine) , Cavallini Herbarium and a Rigel Stuhmiller desk calendar) to a new leaf, which is also always exciting. As is the fact that one more time–though I’ve done so every month for almost 50 years, this inevitably strikes me as a miracle–I’d been able to pay my rent.
My circadian rhythm still hasn’t reset from my trip back East (from which I returned almost a month ago), so I woke this morning at 4:30 PST and prepared to participate in the livestream 8:30 EST Mass from Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island, during which Brother Benedict Maria, from from Port Blair, Andaman Islands, India, took his final vows.
Abbot Matthew Stark (a holy man with a sense of humor, and a friend) had sent me a little printed invitation a couple of weeks ago and I’d been looking forward to the occasion ever since.
First I lit my candle and incense and said Morning Prayer whilst inwardly reflecting on how weak, alone, and frightened I feel lately.
Today’s Gospel, fittingly, is the Sermon on the Mount. And in his homily, the priest included this:
“A Desert Father was once asked: What do monks do all day?
The monk answered: We fall down and we get up. We fall and we get up”…
The monks at Portsmouth Abbey are Benedictines, and the ceremony was very moving. After answering some preliminary questions, Brother Benedict Maria Benedict prostrated himself, the monks covered him with a gold and purple cloth, he was prayed over, including the Litany of the Saints, and when he arose after this symbolic death, he’d been born anew as a member, till death, of the Abbey and the community of his fellow monks.
Each of whom approached, one by one, to embrace and welcome him. The church appeared to be packed (the camera only showed the altar area and choir stalls) as the Communion line went on for a long time. The students from the Abbey Schoool attended as well, so that made it extra nice.
Livestream Mass is of course a far, far cry from the real thing but I nonetheless felt deeply connected and was glad to have participated as I could. Everyone was going off for a breakfast and reception and for a second I pictured myself a happy member of this warm crowd, standing around with a honey bun and a cup of coffee chatting. But the Mass was ended. We’d received our instruction: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
Then the screen went dark.