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.