Dedication of the Monastic Church of Tautra Mariakloster May 12, 2007
The procession to the new church; Prioress Rosemary receiving the key to the church; Governor Inger Lise Gjørv, H.M. Queen Sonja, Police Chief Trond Prytz and Frosta Mayor Lars Myraune witness the church doors thrown open; Trondheim bishop Georg Müller and concelebrants at the beginning of Mass; placing the relics in the reliquary in the front of the altar; pouring chrism on the altar; incensing the altar; Srs GilKrist and Lisbeth wiping off the excess oil; Sr Ina lighting one of the 12 candles which mark where the church wall has been anointed. The big day dawned with perfect spring weather. We had been preparing for weeks: meetings with the governor as representative for the Queen, the mayor, the police and security forces, workers to set up a video transmission and refreshment tent in front of the monastery, not to mention planning the ceremony and getting booklets printed, and sending out 170 invitations to the buffet lunch after the liturgy. The new monastery was full of visiting nuns: Abbesses Nettie and Gail and Srs Columba and Kathleen from Mississippi Abbey, Mother Agnes of Wrentham, Sr Ina of Meymac, Sr Paul-Marie of Soleilmont, Oslo Dominicans Anne-Lise, Maria Thomas, Anne Bente and Else Marie, Larvik Poor Clare Sr Elaine, and our wonderful helpers Catherine Hess and Sr Bertha from the U.S.; and our guesthouses were full with visiting monks: our Father Immediate Dom Kevin and Dom Colmcille of Roscrea, Dom Olivier and Frs Joel and Jean-Claude of Cîteaux, Bishop John Gran, Dom Augustine of Mellifont and Dom Joseph of Mariawald. The overflow at Klostergården included key people from the capital campaign: Al and Suzie McDonald, BJ and Sheila Weber, and Arny and Martha Langbo. H.M. Queen Sonja arrived at about 11:30, was given flowers by Frosta schoolchildren and welcomed by the 7 of us who live here permanently. At 12:00 sharp, she joined the crowd of invited guests which had gathered at our old belltower. The ceremony for the dedication of a church calls for a procession to the new church, which is to be locked. When our bishop Georg Müller arrived, he greeted the assembly and began the procession to the monastic church of Tautra Mariakloster. We sang Psalm 121: "With songs of rejoicing, we go up to the house of the Lord." In front of the church doors, the procession stopped, and our project leader Atle Romstad delivered the church key to the bishop. He in turn gave the key to Mother Rosemary, who thanked the crowd for all the help in "making the impossible, possible," and she threw open the doors.
As we processed in, we sang "Lift high your heads, ancient doors, for the king of glory comes!" which Ulf Schancke had composed for the occasion. Bishop Müller then blessed water and used it to sprinkle the congregation, the walls of the church and the altar as a sign of cleansing. Sr Hanne-Maria read the first reading from Nehemia, which is required whenever a church is dedicated. The priest Ezra proclaims the law of the Lord, and declares this day holy for the joy of the Lord is the people’s strength. Srs Sheryl, GilKrist and Hanne-Maria then sang the response: "Lord, your words are spirit and life." Mother Nettie read the second reading, which we had chosen from 1 Corinthians. "You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple." The Alleluia verse confirmed, "I have chosen and consecrated this house so my name will dwell there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be turned toward it." Fr Anthony proclaimed the gospel, John 4:19-24, from Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman: "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." Bishop Müller’s homily reminded us what a great day of rejoicing this was, consecrating the altar and monastic church of Tautra Mariakloster, establishing definitively this monastery 800 years after the first one was established on the same island. "The architecture draws our gaze upwards and lifts our mind. Through the glass roof we sense heaven. We could lose ourselves in a daydream, and lose contact with our reality here on earth. Then it is good to have furnishings that keep us well-grounded. The altar is a massive (4 ½ ton) block of larvikite which gives witness to the dawn of the earth and God’s creative power. It gives the impression of strength and lasting forever. The altar’s weight keeps the church and our thoughts in contact with the ground under our feet. The altar is faith’s anchor on the earth. It is not moved around according to the needs of the day. The altar has a wound, a hole into which we will place relics of martyrs and other saints who are part of the church’s foundation in every age. The church is named Our Lady of the Safe Island (Sancta Maria de tuta insula). The name is illuminating when one considers that the Trondheim fjord is often dangerous for ships. But we also understand it as a safe place for those who seek God in the midst of all the ups and downs of life. May this monastery be for us and for coming generations, a place which gives witness to the fidelity and love of God for us. May Our Lady hold her protecting hand over this place, this community and
over all who seek refuge here on their earthly pilgrimage toward the heavenly homeland." After the Litany of the Saints, the bishop placed relics of Maria Goretti, Eugenio Bossilkov, Teresa of the Child Jesus, Benedict, Rafael Arnáiz de Barón and Maria Gabriella Sagghedu in the reliquary. Knut Wold, who sculpted our altar, sealed the reliquary, and the bishop then prayed the Prayer of Dedication. "Lord, send your Spirit from heaven to make this Church an ever-holy place, and this altar a ready table for the sacrifice of Christ. Here may the waters of baptism overwhelm the shame of sin; here may your people die to sin and live again through grace as your children. Here may your children, gathered around your altar, celebrate the memorial of the Paschal Lamb, and be fed at the table of Christ’s Word and Christ’s Body. Here may prayer, the Church’s banquet, resound through heaven and earth as a plea for the world’s salvation. Here may the poor find justice, the victims of oppression, true freedom. From here may the whole world clothed in the dignity of the children of God, enter with gladness your city of peace. Amen." Then the bishop poured chrism in the middle of the altar and on each of its four corners, and anointed the entire table, while we sang an antiphon written by Sr Hanne-Maria: "Happy are those who dwell in your house, they will always praise you." Dom Olivier, Dom Kevin and Dom Augustine anointed the walls at 12 spots where the 12 apostles’ crosses will hang, designating this as a consecrated church. Next, incense was placed in five burners on the altar, the bishop incensed the altar, and Sr Anne Elizabeth incensed the congregation and the church walls. Srs Lisbeth and GilKrist toweled off the excess oil; they wanted to do this because they clean up the oil spills in the soap department, and connecting this action with the consecration of the altar will sacralize it forever! Then Mothers Rosemary and Gail covered the altar with three linen altar cloths and it was prepared as for a banquet with candles and flowers. The festive illumination took place: Sr Ina and Fr Joel lit the 12 candles which hung under the 12 apostles’ crosses, and all the candles and lamps in the church were lit as a sign of rejoicing. The 12 candles will be relit every year on the anniversary of the dedication of our church. At communion, we were moved to see so many of our Lutheran friends, including Nidaros bishop Finn Wagle, come forward to receive a blessing, while we all long for the day when all Christians can share in the same Eucharist. The Mass ended with the singing of the Te Deum, and Richard Proulx’s arrangement of the William Boyce Alleluia Canon, with Ulf Schancke on the organ, Sr Kathleen O’Neill on the violin, and Sr Hanne-Maria Berentzen on the recorder. H.M. Queen Sonja went to the tent in front of the monastery to meet the local people, while we moved chairs from the church to the tables set up in the scriptorium and cloister for the buffet lunch.
At 3:00 sharp, Her Majesty entered our refectory, we sang our usual table grace in Norwegian, and our catering friend Mona’s famous seafood soup was served. The rest of the menu included smoked salmon with basil potatoes, herb-marinated salmon, egg halves with shrimp, lamb with red onion chutney, glazed ham with broccoli, liver paté with bacon and mushrooms, chicken with asparagus, leeks and curry, and ostrich with oven baked vegetables. It was certainly a meal fit for the queen! After the luncheon, Her Majesty granted us a private audience in our chapter room, and then we gave her a tour of the rest of the monastery, which naturally included a gift of the most recently developed products in our soap department. As Her Majesty was leaving, the mayor of Frosta presented her with a watercolour entitled "Safe Island" by Ande Lau Chen (Sr Sheryl’s mother) as a memento of her visit. May 12 was a perfect day. Here was reflected the mystery of the Church. "The Church is fruitful, made holy by the blood of Christ: a bride made radiant with his glory, a virgin splendid in the wholeness of her faith, a mother blessed through the power of the Spirit. The Church is holy, your chosen vineyard: its branches envelop the world, its tendrils, carried on the tree of the cross, reach up to the kingdom of heaven. The Church is favored, the dwelling place of God on earth: a temple built of living stones, founded on the apostles with Jesus Christ its cornerstone. The Church is exalted, a city set on a mountain: a beacon to the whole world, bright with the glory of the Lamb, and echoing the prayers of her saints." (From the Prayer of Dedication) We are so grateful to all of you who have made this day possible. We hope that our life of praise will be worthy of your confidence, that the many graces poured out on this special island will indeed radiate out to the whole world and embrace everyone in our prayer.
Much love from your sisters on Tautra