Dear Associates and Friends,
A BLESSED & HAPPY EASTER SEASON!
This Lent and Easter season turns out to be special this year for the whole Church and world. The Coronavirus gives us all a more full share in the shadow side of the Paschal Mystery with a deeper sense of our need for a Redeemer and Savior, we can also come into a greater share in the glory side of Our Lord’s Paschal Mystery.
Fr. John Vianney and Sister Ana had come to the United States earlier this year. When the epidemic became wide-spread , they could not fly back to Vietnam, so they are spending the duration here—a very old monk and his care giver. At least they share in the Mass and Liturgy, which many of the faithful are deprived of now.
So far we are in good health. Our fruit cake bakery continues operating as food manufacturing—but with the safety practices observed. Our two lay workers live close-by out in the country, so they come to work as usual.
We had to cancel retreat reservations for a few months. The guest house is closed. Jill, our weekday guest master, has been furloughed with severance/support pay.
Fr. Paul, our Senior Family Brother, had to stay at his hermitage by Pomme-de-Terre Lake and miss our Holy Week Liturgies for the first time in thirty-plus years, but he celebrated all the Holy Week ceremonies with full solemnity.
Deacons David Belken and Allen Kirchner of our diocese were able to make their retreat (before priestly ordination) just before Missouri’s lockdown. There still is the challenge for Bishop Rice to work out the arrangements for their ordination.
Michael Hogue our baker gave Br. Gabriel four white pigeons, along with a small pigeon coop. Br. Gabriel tried different locations to protect the birds from our cat. Fr. Thaddeus has completed a new pigeon apartment-house for them. Br. Ambrose is welding a high sturdy platform for the new pigeon house.
Fr. Thaddeus has also been at work cutting logs into boards with a new ingeniously designed saw mill. It has a horizontal band-saw, which rides on parallel rails down the length of the log. It can be adjusted to cut whatever thickness is needed.
Br. Gabriel has turned the earth in his garden and begun the new season’s vegetable crop. He has also planted tulips again in our enclosed courtyard, now that his rabbits are no longer there to feast on them. The roses are very sturdy—the last flowers to bloom in the cold and the first to put out new growth in the spring.
Jackie Cornelius, our security guard for a decade or so at the low-water bridge, suffered a final heart attack in his trailer home beside the creek. Seven years ago a serious heart attack damaged his health but he continued to patrol our land and to keep good conditions for the swimmers and picnickers at the bridge. Jackie also monitored those hunting deer or turkey in our woods. He delighted in giving free hot dogs to kids on weekends at the creek’s bridge. He had made all the preparations needed to provide for his death and burial, so his family was comforted in their sorrow.
Dale Tacheny, our former Fr. Emmanuel, also completed his course, following a stroke at home in Oklahoma City. He was an early member of Assumption Abbey, where he made final vows and was ordained a priest. After some years of good service, Dale found that he was not able to continue as a monk. He married and raised a family, yet asked if he could be buried with his brother monks. His extended family gathered here for the celebration of his grace of a happy death and burial in our cemetery.
The Gift of God
Holy Mother Church this year is experiencing and celebrating Easter in a way different than usual. No gathering of the people, no choir leading the congregation in vigorous joyful hymns. No receiving the newly baptized and the catechumens into full membership. The faithful deprived from receiving their Eucharistic Lord in Holy Communion.
Instead, separated families or individuals are watching their priest or bishop offer Holy Mass transmitted by means of the internet and television, and are making a Spiritual Holy Communion.
This year’s different atmosphere triggered by the Coronavirus epidemic brings us back closer to the original atmosphere among Christ’s disciples on that first Easter Sunday.
There was a sense of fear following the crucifixion. They kept apart in seclusion. They had lost the close presence of their Lord Jesus. They wondered what the future held.
Yet this was the third day—the Day of Christ’ Resurrection victory. But the Good Shepherd had to deal gradually and gently with His scattered flock, who were suffering shock and a sense of guilt from the betrayal and abandonment during the Lord Jesus’ passion and death.
The Risen Lord first came to the faithful women, who had followed at a distance as He carried His cross to Calvary, and had come closer to Him hanging on the cross. Mary Magdalene was weeping outside the empty tomb. Christ calls her by name. His dead Body has not been stolen from the tomb, but He has risen as He said. Now he sends her with this good news to the other disciples.
They can’t believe Mary Magdalene, but Peter and John run to the tomb. The Beloved Disciple sees the empty burial cloths and he begins to believe. Peter goes away wondering, burdened with such a sense of regret and guilt from his denials of Christ.
The dark cloud is beginning to have some rays of light. Two discouraged disciples are walking back home to Emmaus that afternoon. A fellow pilgrim comes alongside. He asks them, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things to enter into His glory?” They recognized their Good Shepherd in the breaking of the bread.
That evening the eleven are together behind doors closed for fear of the Jews. The Lord Jesus comes to them, greets them with His peace, and shows them His hands and feet. They wonder if they are seeing a ghost. Christ eats a little fish to convince them that He is truly risen from the dead.
Usually after a great victory in battle the Commander leads his followers in a parade. We can understand why the Risen Christ used a very different approach with His disciples that first Easter Sunday. However, our Risen Lord does follow a victorious leader’s practice of giving gifts won from the battle.
His first gift to us is the Holy Eucharist—the breaking of the bread of His Body and Blood of the new and eternal covenant. Next is His gift of the Indwelling Holy Spirit. He breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit …whose sins you shall forgive, are forgiven them.” His third gift is a share in His redeeming saving mission to the whole human family. He says, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you.” Christ gave a fourth gift from His cross on Calvary declaring, “Behold your Mother.”
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. So here we are, celebrating Easter in much the same atmosphere as the Apostles and first disciples did. They still shared in the shadow side of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, but the glory side of His Paschal Mystery assured them of final victory in the ongoing battle between good and evil.
In this world-wide struggle against the spread, and for the end, of the Coronavirus, we as members of Christ’s Body on earth are armed with His gift of the Holy Eucharist (sacramental or spiritually), the gift of His Indwelling Holy Spirit, and a share in His ongoing mission of redemption and salvation for the whole human family. We trust in Jesus Christ as King of Mercy, and in the prayers of Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the
In our Risen Lord,
Your Ava Monks