Monday, August 21, 2006

Holy Cross Abbey-Part 3

As I mentioned earlier, there is a certian rhythm of living at the monastery. It is initially a strange rhythm. Mealtime is one of those things that is a part of that rhythm. Breakfast is help yourself. Dinner (lunch) is promptly at noon. It is also the main meal of the day where a meat dish is served. Supper (dinner) is at 6:25 PM and is lighter than dinner but still very good!

All meals are spent in silence. At dinner and supper Brother Steve's (the guest-house keeper) gravelly voice reads Henri Nouwen to us. The clanking of forks, spoons and knives on the plate seems somehow amplified by the silence. (We decided that the plates are somehow louder than regular plates.) Because the silence saves us from the burden of small-talk, one is left to concentrate on Brother Steve's words and/or the taste of the food. The food always somehow seems more pure there; maybe it's the silence, maybe it's the food, maybe I typically eat really bad food...

Holy Cross Abbey-Part 2

Prayer times -
The monks at the abbey gather together for prayer several times a day: 3:30am, 7:30am, 12noon, 2:00pm, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm. Guests are invited to attend all the services except the noon service. Mass (the eucharist) is celebrated at 7:30am, however it is not offered to those who are not catholic.

This past week we made it a habit to attend all the prayer times after noon. The chapel where we gather for the prayer times is a room right out of the 60's or 70's. Its difficult to describe…its kind of dark, with paneling, and (in my humble opinion) a cheesy statue of Mary and Jesus. Despite its retro feel (of course, I guess retro to monk would be something out of the 12th century) a peace does exist in that place.

One of the monks rings a bell in the bell-tower which is the call to prayer. One enters in silence and sits in the pews. Once prayer time is ready to start, then a monk begins chanting the liturgy. The other monks respond at the right place. For an observer, its kind of cool, yet very different from our protestant extremely participatory worship services. At times I would try to concentrate on the words being chanted (from the Psalms I think;) other times, I was daydreaming.

By the end of the week, I felt completely in the rhythm, even if I didn’t completely focus during the worship services. This may sound contradictory, but there seemed to be a freedom to ordering one’s life around the prayer times. I was a free agent, I didn’t have to go to the prayer times but in choosing to order the time at the monastery around the prayer seemed to be good. I guess its good theology, in Genesis, we see God as one who creates order out of chaos. For me, Holy Cross Abbey was a place to go where I could experience God in the order of the monastic life, leaving behind the everyday chaos that comes with life.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Holy Cross Abbey-Part 1

Arrriving at the monastery for the first time can be rather intimidating. However, arriving for the second time almost had a feel of coming home (plus it was a treat to get to see friends we hadn't seen in awhile!) Guests who come to the abbey for a retreat stay in the guest house, which is separate from the actual monastery where the monks live and work. Each person on retreat is given their own room with a private bath, a desk, reading chair, closet and bed. The facilities are really nice. The guest house has a dining area and kitchen where all meals are prepared (by someone else – woohoo!) and eaten. The abbey and guest house sit on a beautiful farm which is leased to local farmers to tend. The monks got out of the farming business a while ago. They now spend their "free"-time making...I kid you not...fruitcake. Go figure!

Monk for a week...update

I have been threatening to write a post about the monastery for a week now. Well get ready, here it comes! I am going to break this up into several smaller posts over the next couple of days. But the short of it is this: Last week my wife, a good friend, his girlfriend, and I met up at Holy Cross Abbey. It was a wonderful time.

The rhythm of life is very different than I am used to, which is a most beautiful and challenging thing. But the focus on community, spiritual reflection, and personal discernment were really great! So please stay tuned for more...

I should be in bed...

...but I find myself with an alarming lack of self-discipline this evening. Friday's are my day off, so its kind of a treat to stay up late. (At least that's what I tell myself!) Mostly I am spedning way too much time on the computer searching the apple website searching for cool programs like this one. Yes, it would seem I have way too much time on my hands. Tomorrow I hope to spend some time writing about the monastery and other reflections over a cup of coffee at Freestate Coffee, my new favorite coffee shop. Until tomorrow, cheers!

Monday, August 14, 2006

blogging from my dashboard...

Some good friends were in town this weekend and we stayed up late Friday playing on the computer. I found this little widget to go on my dashboard and thought I'd try it out. It makes posting a little easier although the functionality is limited.

So. I am doing this as a test run. I have several posts coming up including thoughts from the monastery. I hope those will be coming in the next few days!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Don't judge a book by its title?

Okay I need to do one last post. Late last week I finished Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. Very interesting read. There is a sermon in their somewhere. Also, I am still reading about the Orthodox church as well as spiritual disciplines. But I was in a bookstore today and I picked up Brian McLaren's new work. I haven't started it yet, but the title makes me a little uncomfortable - The Secret Message of Jesus. I am trying to reserve judgment until I have read it. The reason the title makes me uncomfortable is becuase it sounds a little gnostic - that there is some secret "Jesus knowledge"; if we just could possess it then we could have enlightenment. It seems that Scripture is pretty clear (particularly the gospel of John) that God isn't trying to keep us in the dark or hide from us, except for those few who have the secret decoder ring. So I hope that my assumptions about the message of the book are wrong. Once I have read the book, I will put in my two cents. Okay, now I've gotta pack before I leave to spend some quality time with the monks. No more posts until Friday! Peace.

Monk for a week...

This week, I am going with some friends to Holy Cross Abbey. We will spend some time in silence, worship, and fellowship. I am really looking forward to this time. I am hoping to get some headway made on planning worship for the fall! While I will have my computer with me, I won't have access to the internet - so I won't post anything this week. Have a great week. I'll write when I return from the 12th century.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I survived VBS...

Shew! We had Vacation Bible School this week (VBS). I realized that my superpower is not working with children. Although by the last day, I was doing ok. The women at church who planned VBS and all the volunteers did a great job. I think the kids had a great time. I know I did, however everyday I came home in need of a nap! I have a new respect for teachers, parents, and anyone else who works with children - that definitely requires having some superpowers!