The Early Morning Hours and Silence
I remember from the years I lived in Panama, from 1958-1967, how much I loved to go to bed early, very early. If it was raining, even if it was only 8 PM I would go to my room and just lie there listening to the rain, the wind, and the swaying of the sawgrass. Panama was a good place to do that if your house was ‘sort-of’ in the jungle.
Even in the Navy, if I was not out and about, I would go to bed earlier than most of my comrades. So I have always thought of myself as a morning person.
In the Monastery, I find that going to bed early is still good, a must actually, since we do get up very early for the ‘Office of Vigils’. Yet even now, I still get up earlier, about two hours before the bell rings. It seems the perfect time for me for reading and prayer. So am I a morning, or night a person? I guess both.
Sometimes when I am walking over through our cloister-garden to get some coffee before my morning meditation, I will stop and just listen. At that time of the morning, there is pretty much no traffic out on Hwy 212. Then there are mornings when there are no insects chirping, or frogs singing (if you can call it that), or even wind. The silence is about as absolute as it can get. I find it amazing, that deep silence, which (I believe) can only be heard in the early morning hours. Birds and insects chirping and frogs singing (kind of) do not break the silence for me. But when there is nothing, it is really beautiful.
I enjoy coffee, black. Yet, lately, when I get up I am finding that I am putting in one sugar, and some creamer, have no idea why. Perhaps it is because I can drink a large cup of coffee quicker if I do that, or that the sugar and creamer give me some energy for my meditation.
In our large refectory (dinner area), at the furthest end, we have a large Cross hanging over the abbot's place. It is the Cross we use on Good Friday. I sometimes will walk down to it, the refectory dark except for the light that is over the cross. I will stand there and sip my coffee and pray I guess, looking up at our Savior who gave his life for me, for all in the world. I believe it, and on some level understand it, but it is still a mystery how it all works. Yet a mystery is not something we do not understand, it is just that getting to the bottom of it cannot happen, nor should it. It is an eternal journey.
The Church is very large, and there is usually one or two monks there before me. We are spread out so we do not interfere with each other’s prayer. The whole church is made to be focused on the Blessed Sacrament, where the Eucharist is kept. As I get older prayer before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus is becoming ever more important. I am thankful for this grace. For life does not get any easier as we age.
Old Age brings to light our inner world in ways that are not flattering. So a deep faith in God’s love as manifested in the Eucharist keeps me on the path. After all of these years, it is still two steps forward, three steps back. I have learned to seek, to continue my journey, in spite of my falling seven times a day, as the Psalm says, even more than that on some days. For if I am a just man, it is tenuous.
To have a deep loving trust in the Infinite, revealed in Christ Jesus brings along with it healing in ways that I cannot express, or even really understand. I do know that prayer, the reality of it can only be experienced in the doing, not in the discussions over it, or the many books written on prayer, but in simply doing/praying. Which can be difficult much of the time. God does not pamper us, but the Holy Spirit will use the Word like a sword that cuts through all of our illusions, and false impression of ourselves. Humility allows us to accept our being tested by the Lord.
Prayer allows me, through grace, to be one with all of my brothers and sister throughout the world. Especially those in my ‘tribe’. Those I know and love, and yes, those I struggle to love. All the friends of the Monastery, many of whom I do not know, yet feel a real connection. Those who ask us to pray for them, those who struggle the same way I do. So yes I have a big tribe, we are journeying together. Many pray for me, I pray for the many, the call of each Christian. And for monks, I believe, our central mission/calling in the Body-of-Christ.
Getting older is hard, but thankful for it, for it is simply part of the journey. Billions have made it before me, and perhaps billions more will do so after I am gone. I am learning patience, forced to I guess. Also the ability to accept that pain, both inner, and on the physical level, is something not to fear, for again, it is part of the journey.
To have a deep loving trust in the Infinite, revealed in Christ Jesus brings along with it healing in ways that I cannot express, or even really understand. I do know that prayer, the reality of it, can only be experienced in the doing, not in the discussions over it, or the many books written on prayer, but in simply doing. Which can be difficult much of the time. God does not pamper us, but the Holy Spirit will use the Word like a sword that cuts through all of our illusions, and false impression of ourselves. Humility allows us to accept our being tested by the Lord.
Open your heart, do not fear, but trust, yes, choose to trust, no matter what. In that prayer blossoms even in times of drought, inner suffering, and yes in the face of death as well.—Br.MD
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