The Abbott of the Benedictine Community in Norcia in Italy was once asked whether the wonderful chanting that they pray every day would in any way be different if it was sung by professional musicians. He replied that it probably would because the community where St Benedict founded his Order happen to believe in what they are singing. In a similar vein they have a particular way of reading the Bible that is not particular to Benedictines.
It is referred to as lectio divina or ‘reading in a godly kind of way’. It’s a lifelong learning of how to read prayerfully. This is an active and not a passive exercise because you have to think about what you are reading and also listen to what the words are actually saying. David Foster, also a Benedictine describes it as a sort of “two way conversation…to give God time and space in our minds…the Scriptures inspire in us faith and hope and love.”
In Holy Week, we repeat the narrative that leads up to Easter Day. To get to Easter Day we have to go first by way of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We follow Him in his farewell discourses to his disciples as he tried to prepare them for what he knew was inevitable. On Maundy Thursday we gather in Church and Holy Communion is celebrated, remembering the Last Supper when He broke bread and shared the Cup with his closest followers. The Altar is then stripped, the Sanctuary Lamp extinguished for the only time in the year and by candlelight and sacred music at The Watch we recount the events of Gethsemane, His betrayed and the denial by St Peter. On Good Friday the Church will be empty and silent, save for the sonorous notes of the Church Organ inviting us to reflect upon the events of the Via Dolorosa, the shame, the anguish, the bitterness and the final Seven Words as Jesus was crucified.
Why do we do this? Because we hope to deepen our relationship with God and understand more fully His love for us and what our response to that love should be. How do we do this? By having faith; believing in what we are reading and singing and in what we are partaking. In Holy Week we hear, we receive, we pray and we wonder at the amazing love of God in the man of Nazareth.