Thursday, April 29, 2010

Easter in New Norcia

My first Easter in New Norcia: after two years of long-weekend visits and the odd mid-week stretch, I count as a ‘regular’ to some. Compared to the old timers, who reminisce about the days before there was anything so feminine as bedspreads in the Guesthouse, let alone air-conditioning, I am still new. It takes a last-minute cancellation and a blessed email from Bernadette for me to score a bed.

The celebrations of the Triduum are, I admit, hard work at times. Glorious, but occasionally difficult - especially when encouraged to take that extra step and go to just one more. I protest a little: “It just seems like overkill…” internally reflecting on a 4am rise, a large and social Easter breakfast, and the appeal of my bed. A small shrug: “Well, since we’re here...” carpe diem, indeed, and on Easter Sunday, Day of days, how can I argue with that? I go, and am rewarded, not only with the Sacrament, the Eucharist, mightiest of victories disguised in such small, earthly things, but also with the small, earthly reward of organ, cello and trumpet, lifting my soul. The choirs of the early morning, celestial in the darkness, then, later, these rich sounds bravely accompanied by a lone cantor, filling the church along with the sunlight.

I appreciate Gabrielle’s genius in co-ordinating this motley, enormously talented (myself excepted!) lot. I head off on Saturday morning to practice my small job, going only on an email a few days earlier: “come around 8:40am, in the church.” Unsure, I wander in to find that I have entered at the precise time, the rehearsal (as everything else) timed beautifully. I practice my small part in a minute or two, receive encouragement and a little teasing from Gabrielle and the Abbot, and wander off, my practice done by 8.50am.

It was an extremely well-rounded long weekend. A dash from work, racing along winding roads in the dark to make the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, peace descending as I step into the Guesthouse carpark, receive my brochures, kneel in the church. The solemnity of Good Friday tempered with the hope ever-present in the psalms, calmly chanted with what sounds an enormous number of the faithful. So many who know when is their side’s turn (who know that there are sides), when to bow, when to stand and to sit and when to wait, silently, for the quiet knock against the wood. I feel at home immediately: some familiar faces, no names coming to my recalcitrant brain, but a solidarity in this knowledge, and in this sacrifice of the long weekend.

Only it turns out not to be a sacrifice. Prayer, and beautiful music, and red wine with friends, debates about the faith, the Latin Mass, coffee, catechesis, feminism and the Church, art, ecumenism, discussions of skateboarding monks, New Norcia hot cross buns on Good Friday; (surely this is not fasting??), the odd moment of missing those who are gone, either ahead of us or merely far away from us; sunny mornings in the courtyard, white tower of the Oratory softened against the blue sky by the trees; serious books, frivolous books, good coffee made again and again by different people, all these things shared, discussed, analysed – especially coffee! Football, even, and a movie (which I did not quite make, thanks to the red wine), and art, and somehow time for a nap, or two…

All of this, founded on the fruit of regular, prayerful and stable lives together: behold, how pleasant and how good it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity!