Easter Joy - The Lord Has Risen Today!
Celebrating Holy Week and Resurrection in Schoenstatt
(mkf) "The Lord has risen today - this isn't just a saying. The day in Schoenstatt brought me so close to Jesus. He is risen in my life." Like this young visitor, hundreds of people in Schoenstatt experienced Easter joy celebrating Holy Week and the Lord's resurrection.
Perfect spring weather - sunshine, blue sky, an abundance of flowers - underlined the meaning of Easter: The earth is born to life again with Jesus' death and resurrection, his glorious victory over sin and darkness - and so is mankind born to life again, so is each person.
"We love to come here," shared a woman from Vallendar on Holy Thursday. Together with her husband, she sat on a bench by House Marienland. "It is so good to just sit here in the sun and look at the Adoration Church." Her husband, 86, nods. "As long as I can still drive my car, we'll come here whenever the sun shines. This is like praying." His wife: "The sun is different here, believe me."
Hundreds of Schoenstatt visitors joined the liturgy of Holy Thursday at 5:00pm in the Adoration Church. Many of them were participating in an Open Easter Retreat held in House Marienland. Schoenstatt members and friends from Paraguay, Argentina, Mexico, USA, England, and several other countries came to spend some time in Schoenstatt around Easter. A young woman from Argentina who studies in Grenoble, France, used the Easter break to come to Schoenstatt for Holy Week. "I came by myself, and I simply enjoy being here," she shared.
Couples from various areas of Germany joined a Marriage Preparation Seminar in House Marienau, members of the Schoenstatt Girls' Youth had a silent retreat in House Sonnenau, 10 Schoenstatt families joined an Easter retreat in the House of the Families, members of the Men's Youth had a silent retreat in the House of the Schoenstatt Adoration Fathers on Mount Sion, parish family groups from Mainz, Rhens, Spay, and Brey were in the Youth Center, Marienberg, for a shared Easter experience, and several young women spent time with the Schoenstatt Adoration Sisters, participating in their prayer services.
Deeper Relationship with Jesus
"Now I know what I missed prior to the time I came to Schoenstatt," said a woman from Gevelsberg, who had joined the liturgy of Good Friday with her younger sister. Before, both had spent some time praying in the Original Shrine. "It's this certain Schoenstatt factor - that Mary is mentioned in the sermon, as the one who was close to Jesus as he suffered and died.
These hours were like a renewal of my Covenant of Love. I was so strongly reminded of the 'Unity Cross,' of Mary by the cross of Jesus." - "I felt so close to Jesus during the liturgy," added her sister. "I feel I would like to deepen my relationship with Jesus, who died for me. I
Love Mary so much - could it be that she wants to lead me closer to her Son in Schoenstatt?" The experience in Schoenstatt encouraged her to invite a friend who had not been to church in years to join her for the Easter Vigil in a nearby Schoenstatt Center.
"Our faith is 'earthed' in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and it is through Mary that this is made possible. Here, heaven touches earth," said Reverend John Bebee, a retired Methodist minister, from Rustington, England, author of: "The Place of Mary in Christian Life." Together with his wife, Janice, he came to Schoenstatt for Holy Week and Easter. They have been visiting Schoenstatt since 1980 and brought a number of Methodists to this place. "We found our spiritual home in Schoenstatt long ago; a home created by Mary. She is not the end result; rather, she is the means by which we can enter into a deeper and more complete relationship with God, the Holy Trinity. Whether Schoenstatt would have the appeal it has without Mary, I doubt very much. It is an example of what can happen when she is seen in her proper role as the Mother who draws her children to her Son Jesus."
Schoenstatt, adds Janice, "is not only for Catholics. It is a shrine without walls - for all God's children."—"You can start where you want; it does not have to be Mary, or the shrine. Some of our friends preferred Father Kentenich, or Sr. Emilie, as their starting point."
Sr. Emilie as a happy person, radiating redemption - this was the Schoenstatt Girls' focus on Saturday. In the morning, they visited the small room by the house chapel in House Sonneck, where Sr. Emilie had lived for some years. In the afternoon, they went to Metternich to learn more about her, "to look into her radiant eyes" that mirrored her joy - despite her sickness and suffering.
Easter Joy Shared
Easter Vigil on Mount Schoenstatt started at 8:30pm with the Easter fire being lit outside. The couples attending a Marriage Preparation Seminar and the young women from the Sonnenau joined the celebration along with many visitors, Schoenstatt members, and friends. The priests, mass servers, and all the faithful who were outside by the Easter fire processed into the dark church with the Easter candle, sharing its light with all those in the church.
It was a special moment when the couples brought their wedding candles for offertory. Each couple had decorated a candle with symbols of their relationship and future marriage. One couple carried bread and wine. Young women from the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic brought baskets with eggs and cake.
After the joyful "Regina Coeli" was sung, all went out to exchange Easter greetings. The 13 young women on retreat went to the shrine on Mount Schoenstatt to continue with a covenant celebration - it lasted until midnight. For the young women, this "covenant hour" completed the Easter Vigil. "It was such a joy to sing our covenant songs!"
Only a few hours later, another Easter fire was lit on Mount Sion, where the members of the Men's Youth had their own Easter Vigil at daybreak.
Along with the beautiful spring scenery and sunny weather in Schoenstatt, the Easter candles and flowers in the Adoration Church, Schoenstatt shrines and house chapels made a joyful impression. Many people went to the Original Shrine - English, Spanish, German, Portuguese Easter greetings were overheard outside.
Three "Sisters of the Holy Spirit" - from Germany, India, and Tanzania - visited the Father Kentenich House. One of them had gotten to know Schoenstatt during her studies and wanted to share her experiences with her co-sisters. Families from the US Military in Germany shared their Schoenstatt joy with a couple from the USA who decided to make a trip to Schoenstatt on Easter to find out why their friends were so excited!
"Whenever friends from Mexico are visiting with me, I bring them to Schoenstatt," said a Mexican woman living in Mönchengladbach, Germany, who came on Easter with friends from Monterrey, Mexico. They bought pictures, medals, and candles to take home, and visited the Original Shrine and Founder Chapel. - "My daughter is studying in France. We enjoy being here. We did not know that Schoenstatt is on the Internet. We'll check the sites each day now to find out what is going on here!"
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken/WI, USA