For Christian churches using the Gregorian calendar to calculate their feast days, this past Sunday was Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of what is called Passion Week or, in popular parlance, Holy Week. Centered upon commemorating a culminating series of events in the life of Christ, this entire week leads up to the "feast of feasts" known as Easter Sunday or the Great and Holy Pascha, wherein the death and life-giving Resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated. At this moment in the liturgical season, we are entering an extraordinary time that draws our awareness into the mystery of a life that is stronger than death, and so much bigger than ourselves.
If, as Dante once wrote, love moves the sun and other stars, then it surely has been moving them in an enchanting way, recently. This past Sunday also happened to be, for those of us residing in lands throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the day in which the celestial phenomenon of the Vernal Equinox occurred. You may recall that equinoxes are annual events, taking place in March and also in September, when the Sun's centre crosses Earth's equator in such a way that the hours of daylight and night are roughly of equal length. Moreover, for many people, the Vernal Equinox symbolically inaugurates the beginning of springtime, the much anticipated season of nature in which the death-like dormancy of winter gives way to new life.
Lately, I've been thinking of how I am but one little human being on planet Earth, immersed in the margins of these cosmic death-and-life rhythms, as I begin working our cultivated lands around the monastery, doing what I can to assist our fruit trees in their growth and preparing the soil for the seed that will be sown later this spring. I've already pruned the deadwood and water sprouts of the mature pear trees. And, later this week, I hope to remove the mounds of decaying maple and alder leaves that are currently blanketing the garden beds, and begin lightly turning-up the soil to mix in the ash we've been collecting from our fireplace and wood stoves all winter long. As every relatively proficient farmer or gardener knows, pruning encourages new and vigorous growth while amending the soil with organic materials such as wood ash, animal bones, manure, or composted food scraps, helps bring about nourishing and fertile soil conditions in which plants thrive.
In carrying out these and other horticultural tasks in the days ahead, I know I shall be happily steeped and stained in humus throughout this Holy Week, and beyond. What is so joy-inducing about dirt, you ask? I am in such bliss because it is precisely here and, in fact, everywhere, that you and I can enter more consciously, more intentionally, more deeply, into loving communion with all of life. This is but one immensely profound facet of the meaning, and vast reality, of the Resurrection. As the noted French theologian Olivier Clément beautifully elucidates: "Christ's Resurrection is not merely an increased assurance that our souls are immortal. Its purpose is to rekindle life and love throughout the entire earth: every living being and every object, every moment, every person, everything, in fact, from a blade of grass to the galaxies of outer space."
-- Sister Elizabeth Marie