Monday, September 18, 2006

Saturday Morning In The Middle Of The Night

I woke up at 2:00 AM wondering if I had overslept. Only in a monastery would you have this kind of thought! Looking at my clock I realized that I had another hour of sleep. At 3:00 AM I got out of bed, got dressed, and headed for the church. It was a quiet and subdued experience. I sat in the back of the balcony and the prayers of the monks rose up to fill the church and surround me with peace. This is a special time for those on retreat as people in the world are not usually up at this hour.

Afterwards I went to the dining room for some coffee and toast. When I finished my toast, I took my coffee outdoors. Once again the surrounding countryside was shrouded in fog. You could still see the stars in the sky along with the crescent moon. Soon after I settled into my chair, I heard some terrible screeching and screaming like I have never heard before. Some poor animal was being killed by a predator. Later I heard there were roaming packs of coyotes in the area. Sitting alone in the darkness I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable so I headed indoors.

Now I sit here in my silent and solitary room. A cool breeze comes in my window. These pre-dawn hours have got to be the most peaceful time of the day, except for those poor animals that become breakfast for other animals. The law of the jungle aside, I wish I had the discipline and lifestyle to be able to get up this early everyday.

In the monastic tradition is a practice called Lectio Divina. Loosely translated, this means “Sacred Reading”. As a general rule, this involves the prayerful reading from scripture of a phrase or even just a word. Traditionally, this type of prayer would be done at this time of day and would provide the food for the monk’s private prayer and meditation. When I opened up my Bible, I came to the story of the Transfiguration. Two phrases caught my attention. The first was “It is good for us to be here”! and the second was “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him”. Both seemed very appropriate for this time of retreat. It is good to be here and it is a time for listening.

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