Today, we Benedictine women are celebrating the feast of Saint Scholastica as a Solemnity. It began last night with first Vespers and will continue through this evenings night prayer. The readings, Psalms, and even the antiphons offer a rich blend for reflection during and after our celebrations for the Solemnity.
My favorite of the antiphons and readings overlap each other. Our Sr. Jane wrote a simple, yet beautiful tone to "Love is a fire, no waters avail to quench, no floods to drown it; those who love will give up all that they have in the world, and think nothing of their loss" (Song of Songs 8:7). Even as I record the words here, I can hear my sisters chanting this tone in our Chapel; voices blending as they float up to the peak of our Gothic ceiling. The full reading that matches this antiphon reflects Scholastica's love and devotion.
"Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away. Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked." Song of Songs 8: 6-7
However, I am not at home in our lofty Chapel; I am teaching a batch of boys in the crypt below the monks' chapel. The Junior and Freshmen boys joined me in praying on this feast. I shared about the importance of the Liturgy of the Hours =Divine Office in our lives as Benedictine women and men, and then we prayed the festive Lauds from my community. The boys did well...it was odd to hear their booming tenors and basses proclaim the Psalms I have grown so accustomed to hearing in sopranos and altos. A few looked through the 5 page prayer and ask, "So which of these are we saying?" They seemed a bit shocked and concerned that we would be praying ALL 3 Psalms, 2 Readings, Intentions, an Our Father, and an Extra Canticle! Once we started the choir style praying, they mellowed out and seemed to settle into the calm of the prayer.
The Juniors & Freshmen did enjoy the DOVE chocolate in the shape of a HEART a bit more than the prayer. As they ate their treat, I told them the story of Scholastic and Benedict and her great love for God, her brother, and their Rule of life. My hope is that the DOVE will remind them of her symbol and how she ascended into heaven, and the HEART will remind them of her great love which permeates the only story we have of her. A couple of my guys made good use of their candy wrappers...little origami cranes to set on our prayer table for the day.
Ah well, I will be happy to return home to our apartment Convent and share some prayer with Sr. Marietta. A late supper and some time with community will be a great way to end this festival day.
Blessings to you on this festive day!
P.S. The Scholastica statue stands in the courtyard of Monte Cassino, the location of Benedict's final Monastery, at the base of the steps that begin a long ascent to the Basilica. Her weathered hand seems to be extending a blessing, while holding to tight to the Rule with the other. Her dove perches atop the Rule. She was worn, but beautiful on that sunny day on the mountain side.