Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation
On a hill overlooking the Fraser Valley in Mission, British Columbia is a remarkable center of life, prayer, work, hope, and peace known as Westminster Abbey. Considered to be Mission's most famous landmark, with its striking bell tower and austere yet modern church, this renowned Benedictine monastery attracts thousands of visitors annually. Why do so many people make the journey up the hill in such great numbers? What are they seeking? Whom are they seeking?
Monasticism, though still a curiosity, is more and more an attractive curiosity. Monasticism sinks its roots into the real world of God by seeking an ever-deeper union with God in prayer. This vocation is a ministry of prayer by which a community makes itself available to God as a channel of grace for Christ's saving mission in this world.
An abbot in Great Britain tells a story that is quite revealing about contemporary monasticism. He was walking on the grounds of Ampleforth Abbey in England when a group of tourists approached him and asked if this was really an Abbey. He said, "Yes, it is." "Well," they asked, "where are the ruins?"
The Benedictine monks who form the local community at Westminster Abbey are hardly custodians of ruins. They have established a dynamic, self-sufficient pastoral lifestyle that includes the abbey grounds, a farm, a seminary and high school campus. They are Benedictines to the core!
The monastery’s basic orientation is very similar to that of the early Christian communities. It’s a life centered around the teaching of the apostles, the breaking of bread, fellowship, and liturgical prayer. Benedictines have a special devotion to the liturgy which is the centre of their daily life. Besides the liturgy, there is the personal love they have for Jesus and for His Word.
Salt + Light Television was granted a rare privilege to go behind the scenes of Westminster Abbey during Holy Week. The graciousness and hospitality of the Benedictines of Westminster enabled Producer Matthew Harrison, Director of Photography, George Hosek, Editor Marc Boudignon, and David Leross, an alumnus of the Abbey’s Seminary of Christ the King, to bring you this powerful and moving experience of the holiest week of the Christian year, as it is prepared and celebrated by a group of monks who specialize in beautiful liturgy and Gospel living in “This Side of Eden.”
We journey with them through Holy Week in the footsteps of the Lord. From the triumphant entrance into the Holy City of Jerusalem, we walk into the Westminster Abbey Church singing Hosanna, as we put on the lenses of Christ and journey with him on the royal road of the cross.
We celebrate the moving liturgy of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, remembering the Passover with the Jewish people, receiving from St. Paul that which was handed on to him, namely the Eucharistic banquet. We look at Jesus square in the face as he kneels before us to wash feet in a sign of humble service.
On Good Friday, the Cross is held high in the midst of the Abbey Church and before the world. We gaze upon this instrument of death and destruction, and in some strange and mysterious way, find strength and hope in our own struggles. It is a day of sorrow and a day of glory as we mourn the death of our dearest member.
On Holy Saturday night, during the “mother of all liturgies” we welcome the light of Christ and listen to the ancient stories of our salvation that culminate in the story of an empty tomb and a resplendent Church, filled with the presence of the Risen One.
What better place to experience these moments than in the heart of a Benedictine abbey in Canada, that thrives and specializes in liturgy and life!
What seems to many people to be the most frightening aspect of monastic life is really what is most like our own life: the fact that we live our entire lives in the same place with the same people doing the same things. The difference and importance of the monastic life is that the regular life lived by the monks is their joy, their freedom and their sanctification. And the regular life they live is accessible to every Christian.
While highlighting the powerful images that accompany the Easter Triduum, “This Side of Eden” draws viewers into the daily lives of the Benedictine monks of Westminster and explores the central role that liturgy has in their lives. In this moving, insider look at their monastic life, we discover once again that the monastery, the Abbey, like the Church, exists not for itself but for the world. And we learn through this story that the monk and the Christian have to be themselves before they can be of service to the world.
Welcome to “This Side of Eden”, a true feast for the senses and a rich celebration of the Catholic Christian faith... on Canada’s west coast. It will be the highlight of your Lenten, Holy Week and Easter journey this year!