Monday, January 07, 2008

Epiphany At The Monastery

I did not sleep well on Saturday night. When I was finally in the zone and enjoying some REM sleep, the alarm clock went off. It was just after 6:00 AM and I wasn't too thrilled. Wearily I got out of the bed. Yesterday was Epiphany Sunday and I have been going to a yearly gathering of friends and monks at the monastery for many years. There have been times in the past where winter weather has prevented me from making the trip. Yesterday, however, we had unseasonably warm weather. The temperature was in the mid 60's. The sun didn't shine but who cared, it is January! The drive down was as pleasant as always in the solitary and early morning darkness. As I exited the interstate it began to get light and I could see the silhouettes of the surrounding hills and bare trees. I quietly sipped my coffee as I anticipated meeting my friend, Father Dennis, for breakfast. We always have the best time together as we laugh and talk. Our conversations can go from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again many times over within a single meal. When I finally got to the monastery and walked into the church I had another experience of the sublime. The abbey church is very large and has wonderful acoustics for music. The church was filled with the quiet sounds of Br Luke playing the pipe organ accompanied by a single cello player. The combined sound was wrapped in the sweet aroma of incense as it wafted through the nave of the church. I sat quietly and took it all in.

After mass, my friends and I gathered across the highway in what is called the family guesthouse for a pot luck lunch. This is a place where the families of the monks stay whenever they visit. We had an abundance of delightful dishes and our plates were filled with a wide variety of food. After we ate, and much to my delight, the man who had earlier played the cello in the abbey church, gave us an impromptu concert. The gentleman was named Carlos and he originally hails from Mexico. He retired from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra last year. He played selections from Bach, Beethoven, and Vivaldi to name a few, while also educating us on the history of the selections he played. In addition to being a wonderful musician, he was a great storyteller. I sat a mere three feet in front of him and I was entranced watching his fingers and the delicate maneuverings of his hand and he gently ran the bow across the strings. He put me in a trance as I listened and the dreariness of the afternoon was filled with light. Music is truly transcendent. Most months when I go to the monastery, my friends and I talk about the spiritual life. Listening to Carlos play his cello, I felt like we were listening to the spiritual life. We finished off the afternoon with some poetry by my friend, Brother Paul. He is an accomplished poet and recently did a reading in Louisville at a club called the Jazz Factory. Some of his poetry, with jazz accompaniment, will soon be out on CD. All in all it was a wonderful day and I drove home in high spirits. It was worth getting out of bed so early on a Sunday morning.

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