Easter Cake in Benedictines’ Family from Vilnius

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

Certainly each of us was invited somewhere more than once: to visit family, friends, and acquaintances. And each of us has different experience in that sphere. So very often hosts welcomed us at the threshold with joy and smiles on their faces.

Everything looked like it was to be great. However, after several minutes of staying together we could easily feel that the atmosphere went colder, that a heavy mood was present around, the conversation did not want to go on smoothly, although the hosts were very kind. Well-trained for every occasion smiles and courtesies finally were becoming unbearable and we wanted to leave the house as early as possible.

We made an appointment for the visit at the Gulbių 4 street in Vilnius, where the Family of Benedictines lives, earlier. The house was unknown to us; the Family is a non-traditional one, because it is quite isolated from the world.  This “difference” was making us a bit stressed. How to behave to avoid a faux pas? Everybody knows what journalists can do (even if it is not motivated by their bad will.)

We ring the door. Mother Ksienia s. Imelda opens the door for us, with a radiant, honest smile on her face. “Come in, my dears, we are waiting for you. It is a pleasure to have you in our plain house.” So we made ourselves comfortable at once, because we felt that it was not because of kindness or necessity that they were waiting for us with their hearts open.

Their convent was established by Saint Benedict in Italy and in the year 2000 it had its 1500th anniversary of creation. The sisters have been present in Vilnius since 1622. What is their Rule? What is their basic task? The Rule is quite strict, since it is a contemplative convent and its basic tasks are the contemplative prayer, adoring the Blessed Sacrament and everyday work.

–We wake up as early as at 4:30 AM, and we begin praying at five to six. We pray for everyone, for the clergy and the laic. We include in our prayer all continents and all professions: doctors, teachers, scientists, the homeless, alcoholics and the worst sinners – says s. Imelda when she shows us her chapel.

Many people, even believers, do not pay much attention to praying, saying that many times they were honestly asking God for something and they did not receive it. But they forget one thing: God gives only the things that are most needed and only He knows what these are. A small child also very often asks his or her mother, honestly and with tears in his or her eyes, for matches or a sharp knife, but a good mother will never give these to her child. And here, as the Church teaches, we should remember that we are small children for God as well and we do not understand what is best for us.

A few days ago I accidentally found a little picture, which showed Jesus Christ standing in front of a door that had no knob. He was knocking at the door. Why there was no knob? Maybe to make it impossible for unwanted people to come in? Probably yes. But Christ could enter in without knocking. Yes. But he showed that he never does anything by force and He always gives us free choice. He also wanted to confirm, by His own example, the words that He has pronounced some time: “Ask, and it will be given to you; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

Unfortunately, it is not always so with people, but it is so with God. He always opens His “doors”, He always gives His Grace. But the sisters (and there are four, currently) live by knocking and praying all the time. They see other people very rarely, they do not even visit their families too often because, since from the moment of making a vow they have had a new family.

A lot of praying, contemplating, many mortifications. And are there results, visible effects?

–Of course. We are very happy to see that now, before the Easter, there are enormous queues to confessionals, retreat prepared by young people, pilgrimages of the youth organised in summers etc. And for many young and older people it is the first step, a step which is very brave from the point of view of a human, to, despite not so praiseworthy life led until now, believe in the Mercy of God and to open their “door” for Him. – say the sisters.

Where do they work, how do they earn for living? In fact they do not work anywhere, but they have a lot to do at home: baking communion wafer and Sacramental Bread, doing laundry, repairing things and taking care of the linen used in the church and the clothes. Sometimes people come to the sisters, asking for a prayer in a matter that is very important for them or they simply bring some food. The sisters live modestly, but they do not complain, and as they say, thanks to the God’s care and people’s goodness they never lack food.

And Sister Celestine is the mistress of the kitchen. She is the mistress for the fact that she often can make something cool from whatever she has at hand.

–I usually cook meals from what I have in the kitchen, and the sisters are not demanding. Especially during the Lent we refuse to give ourselves many small pleasures. – adds sister Celestine.

The whole Holy Week was special for the sisters for many reasons: they were almost silent (that must have been so difficult!), they were eating plainer food and praying more. They were praying especially for the retired pope, for pope Francis, for those, who confess and those who listen to confessions.

And how the Easter itself looked like?

–There will be nothing beyond modesty and restraint. We will have eggs painted with ordinary paint, there will be sausage, ham, salads and a few other things – says Sister Imelda.

She left the best thing for the end. It is the Benedictine Layer Cake. The recipe for it was created 1500 years ago and in all those years it has been present on the tables of all Benedictines. Sister Celestine is the mistress of baking this cake and this year it also was her duty to prepare it.

And although our journalistic curiosity was great, we did not dare to ask about the recipe for such a “pearl of cuisines”. But the Sister had different intentions and a different plan. She gave us a ready recipe, which she had prepared earlier. She handed it to us with the intention that as many people as possible should use it not only during Easter, but also at the time of every greater occasion. The recipe surprised us and I think that it will also surprise the Readers.

BENEDICTINE LAYER CAKE

Bake the cake as you like it. It can be sponge cake, a napoleon cake, shortcrust pastry, French pastry and so on. The most important things are these, which you add to the cake, the so-called spices, so let’s focus on them:

Take a spoon of prayer – do not spare it, it has to be big enough to add the smell of the Miraculous Spirit to the whole day. Add a decent handful of patience and mix with grinded mass of goodness – there can never be too much of that. For taste, add the salt of wisdom, kept in the vessel of prudence. Vanilla of good humour, orange zest of the kind smile – they improve the taste. You will also need raisins of controlled movements and peace, but avoid, at any price, bitter almonds – stress.

This mixture of spices should be sprinkled with a nice dose of your own love, powdered in the mortar of humbleness. Mix the cake well with a hand of responsibility, roll out the conscience, keeping yourself away from laziness and egoism, add jam of good deeds and put into the oven of ardent love of God and fellow beings. The cake is great – it has good taste and it strengthens your spirit. It has a long tradition – it has been over 1500 years. I advise you to try it. Enjoy!

Nothing more, nothing less, I think. The best cooks in the world also claim that every dish will turn out well if you prepare it with love.

But one more moral, which is important for us, comes from this recipe. Probably, the layer cake, although it is so beautiful, is not the major hero here. In this “recipe” there is a great love for everything you do, great love for God and fellow beings. In this moment I will allow myself to risk saying that in this modest recipe there is our whole examination of conscience, which includes valuable clues on how to be a good Christian, how to introduce the Beatitudes into our life to achieve the eternal life.

I think that the Sisters gave us a tough nut to crack and we would like to thank them for it. And we will see how we succeed in doing this. Undoubtedly, it is worth trying to fulfil such a task, even when the first cake will turn out slack-baked.

Once, in a conversation with my friend, I said that I had to do a lot of things in the kitchen before a holiday and I was tired. How great it would be to be able to say some magic words and have it all done. My friend embarrassed me enormously then, by saying that she would never want it because for her all the preparations have their special charm and they are an introduction to holidays. I understood that she was right, since everything we do, we should do with love.

And for the end let’s add that although the Sisters live in isolation, they are not unaware of the most important events and they know well what “Kurier” writes (we have heard a lot of nice words about the newspaper because they have been subscribing to it for years) and this is why Sister Imelda has prepared special wishes for the team of “Kurier” and its readers, which she sang with the words of a hymn as the Easter morning prayer:

“Let the Resurrection of the Son of God

Be the hope for all the people,

Since the Kingdom of grace has come,

In which the Saviour gives us happiness”.

The Lord has done it this very day, let us rejoice today and be glad. Halleluiah!

We would also like to thank God and the Sisters for so much warm coming from their hearts, for their good humours, for joy and for short but how meaningful retreat for us and (I hope) for our Readers. Thank you for being there. God bless you!

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2013/03/29/tort-wielkanocny-w-wilenskiej-rodzinie-benedyktynek/

Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu. 

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