Easter in the Monastery


Easter is the principal feast of the liturgical year. It follows the sacred triduum that celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, and the retelling of the passion, death and burial of Jesus. In all these celebrations we follow the Roman Rite with solemnity and care. In a way we celebrate Easter much like the rest of the Church. However we drop all recreation from Thursday noon on and maintain a strict silence in the house.

One slight variation at St. Meinrad is that we split up the Holy Saturday readings, doing the first ones in the evening after the lighting of the new fire and the Exultet. That time, throughout the night, is filled with the measured reading of the 150 psalms of the Psalter. A number of monks and seminarians spend this time in recollection and prayer without benefit of rest. Participating is voluntary but there is never a lack of volunteers.

In the morning liturgy just after the Gospel, a lamb is carried in a basket to be blessed. While the symbolism is rich, the reality provides a moment of comic relief from the intense celebrations. In former years a young lamb was acquired some months ahead of time and was put in the care of one of the Brothers. After the blessing, the lamb was taken and prepared for Sunday dinner. (In those days the Holy Saturday rite was celebrated Saturday morning.) In these days, a local farmer loans us a young lamb for the occasion. Junior monks are responsible for seeing that the lamb is sufficiently secured by wires in a wicker basket so that it cannot get loose. The lambs are more or less noisy as they are carried in. If one is too mute, Fr. Abbot may encourage it to speak as he bless it. Some lambs baa all the in and out to the delight of children and adults alike.

Culpa is a private monastic observance at Saint Meinrad. It is private in so far as it is not open to the public, but it is public in that the monks individually and publicly accuse themselves of faults and ask pardon of God and the community. There is a very special culpa on Good Friday.

Also on Good Friday after celebration of the Lordís Passion and Death, a special painting by Fr. Donald is brought out to enhance our devotion. It shows Jesus laid out in white garments on a bier. Mary is so centered in the picture that one might call it a pieta. We have been doing that for some years now. The community looks forward to its reappearance each Good Friday.

I can no longer negotiate the hill to the cemetery so I no longer do this, but for years I walked to the cemetery, after the Easter morning liturgy, in a kind of private devotion to our deceased confreres who have been most affected by the resurrection of Jesus. The rest of the day provides us time to rest and to savor the mystery of our redemption that we have celebrated with such solemnity.

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