Reflections from the Abbey Guesthouse

This morning I woke up on a semi-hard mattress in a dark room. I peer out the window. I faintly see the outline of the trees along the lake, but otherwise darkness blankets the snow-covered landscape. I put on my clothes as my friend and roommate Peter freshens up in the bathroom. When we were both ready we headed downstairs to the lobby of the Abbey Guesthouse to join the other six men from our church that are at St. John's with us for our men's retreat. We head over to the abbey for morning prayers at 7am.

We had arrived yesterday on Friday afternoon. It was my second visit to be a monastic community. My first had been last fall to St. Benedict's for a day of retreat and renewal. There we joined the sisters for their mid-day prayer. Here we join the brothers--last night at 5pm and at 7pm. In a few minutes we will join them again for mid-day prayers.

I enjoy these moments. I wish that, like the monks, I was able to take a break from work during the day when the bells ring and pause with community to pray and read the Psalms.

I enjoy the back and forth reading and chanting of the psalms. First their side, then our side, then back to the other side.

One thing you learn when praying with a monastic community is that you don't rush it. At first I cringe a little as they pause at the end of each line of the Psalm, not reading it as a complete sentence when that is the case between lines. I awkwardly wait until I know it is time for our choir to say the line. I fear speaking before the group. So I pause and listen.

After a while this becomes second nature, and I appreciate the time to sit and soak in the words--not rushing through them for the sake of getting the reading done, but to savor them.

I ruminate on how the monks bow before the crucifix as the enter and leave, as they say the Gloria and at other parts during the service. Some may do it out of ritual, but I notice the way most do it with meaning. They acknowledge Christ as the Lord and Master of their lives. They come before Him as His servant.

Here the youthful novitiates and the older, wisened brethern sit together. There is honor and respect, but there is also fellowship.

And when the bells ring, the work stops. The work is important, but it is not the full meaning of the day. The prayers are important, but they are not the full meaning of the day. The times of study are important but they are not the full meaning of the day. It is all of it together: work, prayer, study, community, individual, neighbor and Christ.

And so, as I hear the ringing of the large bells outside the abbey, I know it is time for me to pause and get ready to go pray and say the Psalms.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Thanks, Dave, for a much-needed reminder of the necessity of pausing.