Monday, September 18, 2006

Friday At The Monastery

Friday Morning

I am finally settled in my room. The drive to the monastery was mostly roadwork and deep fog. The fog always reminds me of the 14th century spiritual treatise entitled The Cloud of Unknowing. Both the fog and the roadwork are excellent metaphors of what our life journey often feels like. It is easy to feel like life is always under construction or that we are driving through a fog with minimal visibility. Along the way to the monastery I met my friend, Fr. Dennis, for breakfast. Afterwards we went to a small enchanting coffee shop. As always we had some engaging conversation about the spiritual life. Dennis is like an older brother to me and I always enjoy being with him. Since I am the oldest sibling in my family, and never had an older brother, it is great to have such a relationship.

Most of my adult life I have suffered from intestinal issues and my gut is in an uproar at this time. I am not sure why but I hope I don’t have to spend the entire weekend dealing with it!

It is good to be here in the silence. Of course, even the monastery isn’t perfectly silent. Outside my window, along the entrance way to the church, a monk is enthusiastically trimming bushes with an electric hedge trimmer.

Friday Night

Once again I am alone in my room. It has been a busy afternoon. Lunch was followed by a short siesta. Back in June, while in Gatlinburg, I meant a lovely couple while sitting on a bench waiting for the rest of my family who were shopping. We have stayed in touch and this afternoon they were here and we spent some time together. Unfortunately, it was short as I had a meeting with some of the monks and other lay persons. I will probably see them again when I go back to Gatlinburg.

The meeting I attended is related to the group of people I am with this weekend. Even affairs of the Spirit must be managed when lots of people get involved. Our group is at a stage where we can no longer fully wing it. I am part of the original group of six that started the group. After nearly 20 years of involvement I am slowly backing out of leadership roles and responsibility so new voices can be heard and new hands guide the tiller.

Outside my window the night is black as coal. The sounds of the night creatures are a symphony to my ears. I am tired but feeling very peaceful. Before coming to my room I prayed the evening prayer called Compline with the monks and received the nightly blessing with holy water. It is a daily ritual in the monastery for all the monks and guests to be blessed by the Abbot. Afterwards I sit in silence with my group for about 30 minutes.

At home I would be turning on the television at this hour. Here it is bedtime. My alarm is set for 3:00 AM. I will join the monks and others for Vigils. It is often a sleepy affair, even for the monks. The best part for me is stopping in the dining room afterwards for some coffee and toast. Then I will take a second cup of coffee outdoors where I will sit in the pre-dawn darkness. The singing of the creatures in the fields and woods will caress me in their song. It is difficult to describe in words the beauty of such moments. They are the stuff of contemplation.

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