Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend At Gethsemani...Slowing Down

Yesterday I returned from three days at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Although a large part of my time was spent in meetings related to a lay association at the Abbey, I still managed to have some quality personal time in the silence and solitude of my room and in the quietness of the Abbey church. Although I did not have a lot of time for writing I did manage a few notes that I will now begin to share for those who may enjoy such reflections.

Friday...late night.

I am at the Abbey of Gethsemani. It is late night here. In the world it is about 9:20 PM. The night is quiet and dark outside my window except for the distant sounds of singing insects.

My eagerness to get out of the city and to be at the monastery was not completely practical. I arrived here at 8:30 AM after taking my wife to work, fighting the morning commute, and stopping for breakfast at a fast food restaurant. The retreat house rooms are not available to new arrivals until 11:30 AM. I wandered around for several hours in the interim. Whenever I arrive at the monastery, whether it be for a day or an extended stay, I begin with restlessness. It takes a while for my inner time clock to go into the slow mode. A retreat for me must begin with an application of my inner brake.

After I finally got in my room I spent some time in prayer and meditation. I started by using the Thomas Merton book entitled "A Book of Hours". It is based on the Liturgy of the Hours but uses only Merton's thoughts, prayers, and poetry. The prayers for today hit me like a ton of bricks. In part, the prayers for daytime had the following words, "Why should I cherish in my heart a hope that devours me...the hope for perfect happiness in this life...when such hope, doomed to frustration, is nothing but despair. My hope is in what the eye has not seen. Therefore, let me not trust in visible rewards. My hope is in what the heart cannot feel. Therefore let me not trust in the feelings of my heart. My hope is in what the hand has not touched. Do not let me trust in what I can grasp between my fingers".

It is now late and I am very tired. I am off to bed if there is any hope of joining the monks at 3:15 AM for their night "Vigils".

"In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is".
-Thomas Merton
from New Seeds of Contemplation

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