Monday, May 18, 2009

Silence Is Spoken Here

Last night turned cold but I slept well. When my alarm went off at 3:00 AM I was tempted to stay in my warm bed. Grace prevailed, however, and I rose to join the monks for Vigils. Sunday Vigils are long. It would have been easy to drift off to sleep but I stayed awake. At times, though, I did succumb to weariness and I sat down. Many of the monks are now elderly so even they sit down occasionally during their prayers. For the most part we were on the schedule.

After Vigils I went to the dark and quiet dining room for my first cup of coffee and some toasted whole wheat bread with honey and peanut butter. The bread at the monastery is made by the monks and is simply delicious. Like other similar moments in previous visits my simple bread and coffee seemed like a great feast as I sat in the darkness with my silent thoughts and God's embrace. For a moment I thought about my experiences of doing the same thing in France a few years ago. I attended Vigils in a cold, drafty, and unheated oratory in Clairvaux. Afterwards our local hosts served us french bread and coffee in front of a blazing fire. It is amazing to me how such simple experiences can seem so delightful.

Now I once again sit in my solitude with more coffee to warm me from the chill of the night air. Yes, I could close my bedroom window but then I could not hear the sounds of the still dark night. These predawn hours are my favorite time of day when I am at the monastery. Admittedly if I was at home I would still be in my dreams. However, even in my current state of wakefullness, it seems like a dream.

The silence of this hour is not only soothing, it is healing. At various places around the monastery are small signs that say "Silence is spoken here". More than anything else, it is the silence that people remember most when they visit here.

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