The Journey to Resurrection Day 1
(Lent, Holy Week and Easter in a Monastery)
What happens in a Monastic setting that is so special?
Monastic spaces, no matter where they find themselves are a break from the hectic and busy way of life of the modern planet dweller. Here time does not stop, but does slow down. Time is measured not by keeping busy, but by keeping a daily rhythm that allows for going deeper into oneself and a confrontation hopefully in a gentle manner with our own existence. Like the lulling sound of a mantel clock in a living room, the day in a monastery is divided and separated by regular times of communal prayer (at least 5 to 7), some kind of work or labor, meals usually in silence, and time for spiritual reading (Lectio Divino) followed by time for rest and sleep. It is precisely the clock that keeps this rhythm alive by the ongoing ringing of the bells in the monastic bell tower keeping the entire community in sinkt with its ebb and flow of time. Not unlike the flowing waves of the sea which lulls one into an eternal rhythm. So is the daily schedule and movement within every monastic community.
This special rhythm is far from oppressive or obliging. It is in many ways freeing. No need for cellular phones. No need for google calendars. No agenda. No unnecessary phone calls or text messages. Room for silence, room for Solitude. Space to hear the chirping of a bird or to observe the busy activity of a local squirrel. Or even to feel the cool breeze of a passing wind or the silent peace of a star lit night.
The seasons are felt as are the passing hours of daylight. The sun rises and sets in keen observation of its place in the sky. Nature is real and one feels the humility of being part of that unbroken creation since the first day and night appeared upon the planet earth.
This is not Utopia, but life as it was lived by most of our ancestors, at least from our grandparents and beyond, and no longer lived today by most people in this world.
It is the life intended for all creatures great and small. A life of dependance, of humility, of co-creation, and co-existence, of peace and of space for silence. It is a life that seeks harmony, unity, and contemplation not divisiveness, individuality, and noise from within and without. There are no political platforms, no rhetoric, no fox news, no violent images.
It is a life available to all of us if we choose to live so, in harmony with each other and with all of creation.
At the heart of any Monastic Community from a Christian tradition is the recitation or the singing of the Psalms of David. These ancient songs and prayers of praise, lament, petition, thanksgiving, heartfelt angst and doubt, hope and despair, are filled with the range of all human emotion. These psalms or songs are usually sung and or recited at morning, midday and evening. They follow the daily movement of the Sun and the Moon. They are cosmic prayers that many time seem to be portals that lead to eternity and changelessness. They are the voice of the Universe and all humanity on earth.
What makes the Monastery so special? Its ordinariness. Ordinariness that comes from Order, that creates stillness and rhythm out of chaos and frenzy.
It is this Ordinary life that I return to this week. The smell of cow manure. The cock crowing as it awakens the rest of the chicken roost early morning. The spring time of planting and budding fruit trees. The breeze flowing through the Bavarian forest. The sound of gravel crunching under my shoes as I walk between the monastery and the closest small town with rosary in hand. The view of the many local shrines of roof toped crucifixes many times adorned with fresh picked flowers or fading candle votive light.
Yes Ordinary is what one longs for in the extraordinary pace of modern living.
Pic Young Novices at St Ottilien