It is Thanksgiving morning.  I’m alone in a huge, yet simple church at the Abbey of Gethsemani Monastery near Bardstown, Kentucky. The forty or so Trappist monks who live here have just concluded “Terce” —– the 7:30 am chanting of the Psalms. They chant the Psalms, pray and sing hymns seven times a day beginning with “Vigils” at 3:15 am. I’ve been coming here since I was eighteen; it is my favorite place on earth. I realize that to spend four days in silence without communication with the outside world probably would not turn many people’s cranks.  But for me there is nothing like it for connecting with God. Initially, on my first visit with my senior class in 1964, I thought that the Trappist rule of silence was way over the line. As I rethought that sentiment I realized that the unequaled awareness of God’s closeness that I experience here is in direct proportion to the contemplative atmosphere of the monastery.

Of course I know that God is no more here than He is when I’m in Nashville going about my routine business. Omnipresence is one of God’s attributes. So why does He seem so close, vivid and personal here? In a word it is “focus”. It is easy to focus on God when your mind is not juggling a zillion other bits of data from the outside world. I expect that may be why Jesus told his disciples to pray in their rooms with the doors closed instead of on the street corners.

One final thought; as I was contemplating the mystery all of this, I began to theorize that perhaps I had finally achieved perfection in the midst of my brief stay here. I mean I pretty much went through the list; there was no gossip, no jealousy, no anger, no bitterness, no resentment, no lust, no pride, no retaliation, no lying, no manipulation, no selfishness, etc. Then the strangest thing happened!  Right in the midst of thinking about how good I was, out of the blue, I recalled the person I had seen at breakfast and on whom I had immediately passed judgment based solely on appearance.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you untied a balloon and it kind of fluttered and flew and deflated and fell limp on the floor?  I stand amazed at the discoveries I’ve made about myself in this place down through the years.

Something to Think About

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply