The Journey to Resurrection
(Lent, Holy Week and Easter in a Monastery) Day 5 Back to the Center
“The adventure of the Spirit, is then to come back to the center.” Meister Eckhart
Part of the reason of coming such a long distance to spend Passiontide, Holy Week and Easter is to return to my “Center”. It is here at St. Ottilien that many pieces of my life and vocation come together to form a Spiritual Unity and Centeredness. Here are both my spiritual and my cultural roots. I grew up as a child amongst German Benedictine Monks in Strasburg North Dakota where my grandparents lived their entire lives. I grew up in the heartland of the country where wheat fields and sunflower crops are a regular sighting. St Ottilien even if many miles away from my childhood memories, always evokes these emotions of belonging and pertaining to. These are found in food, prayer, language, and even the german kitch of the laced curtains and the uncomfortable furniture in the sitting room. Some things never change!
We all need these “thin places” where we find our center of gravity. Going “back to the center”, is a reminder of our closeness to God. Eckhart says we must seek “unity within duality”. Much of our existence is scattered these days. The politically charged environment where we live, the quick pace of our lives, the over dependance on technology and social media. We are constantly being pulled in many directions. We are literally “off center.”
It is only when we return to those familiar places in our lives that we can begin to find again our center of gravity. Our return to creation, our return to our cultural roots, our return to safe and warm places where we feel again comfort, belonging, and acceptance. I can almost count the number of simple gestures of welcome I get daily at the monastery. Usually without a word, only a smile or a kind gesture from one of the Monks that says, “welcome, glad you are here, share our space, for a bit.” No more and no less.
I strongly am seeking unity in my life right now amidst the duality of change and adaptation to life’s circumstances. Its a gentle, not a forced process. It is like a magnet that pulls together many of the opposing forces in my-life. I first had to slow down to give my self a chance to catch up with my life. Then I had to get away where many of the daily distractions no matter how good they might be, no longer have such a strong hold over me. Then there is the hot coffee, the stinky cheese, the dark beer, the homemade bread, the fresh picked vegetables, the home made sausage and cold cuts. Even the familiar foods, flavors, and smells, slowly bring me back to my center. Here I am, here I belong.
I know that many of these feelings of connectedness will fade away once I return home to my “real life” in Mexico City. Yet even at home there is a small daily dose of what I experience here 100 percent, Daily I pray on line with this community when I am in Mexico, the Monastic Office. The fridge always has a small stock of german beer to enjoy with the evening meal. The Center is everywhere not just when I go away. The Center is always with me when I am able to invite it back in to my existence. Each of us has to find that Center within us and know how to return to it when we feel at a distance or that it is fading away.
Finding that Center sometimes requires making choices in one direction or another. We can never have everything, and sometimes having just what we need is more important than the illusion of having more than we need,
There is much that just hangs around in the periphery that can be easily discarded and set aside.
We must, as Andre Gozier osb, writes in his reflection on Meister Eckhart, “then dig deeply, in order to reach the Supreme’s place within us. The place where God dwells, in order to dwell in God’s place. That presupposes an evangelization of all the structures of our being: sensations, will, imagination, intellect… What it takes then is a return to the place of our origins, a voyage towards the place of unity, so that we are in dispersion, but such is the true history of our kind”
PIC The Cloister Church of St Ottilien home to the Missionary Benedictines in Bavaria