Monday, June 23, 2008

Mepkin Abbey: Day 2 - Tuesday

Lauds: My alarm went off at 4:15 this morning. I wanted to make the morning "lauds" service at 5:30 AM. As quietly as I could, so I wouldn't wake my housemates, I took a shower, dressed, and made the walk to the church down the gravel roads that connect the monastery sites. The brothers were taking their places in the church for morning prayers and the bells sounded the beginning of worship. I sat in the back to observe (having been totally lost last night) – perhaps I will join in later. I sat and listened as the psalms & liturgy were chanted accompanied by a brother on classical guitar. I enjoyed the early morning sleepy tranquility of listening and praying.

After the service I walked to the Refectory (dining room) for hot coffee (yes!), eggs (protein!), cereal and toast. I read Malachi during "lectio divina" (a time for personal reading and meditation)and thought about the return of my savior: "So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who eagerly waiting for him" Heb 9:28

Eucharist: The service of Eucharist was very beautiful. I left Lectio Divina at 7:30 for the chapel. The Abbot, dressed in purple robes and stole, is a gentle man (who looks like Steve Brown!). The service began and again I sat in back to observe. The homily was an exhortation from Matthew's gospel to remember that the Lord causes the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous – so we should be comforted even in our failures that the Lord is merciful to all. "A forgiving spirit is essential to dying well" - I do want to die well, and live well. I may begin sharing in the services today. The community surrounded the large stone table for communion as the Abbot led. 5 or 6 other monks with purple stoles assisted him. We passed the peace and the community processed for communion, some by intinction and some by taking the cup. It was beautiful to observe.

Ordering the day in such a strict way would seem to be binding, yet there is a rhythm and simplicity to it that feels liberating, though I might feel differently this afternoon when I have a headache and I am tired! I'll do some reading this morning until "dinner" at Noon.

I checked out the gift shop this morning after some reading and contemplation in the garden area. The gift shop is a way for the monastery to be self-supporting. The monastery sells eggs and chicken compost (a "must get" for my neighbors!). They also carry various nic-nacs, pottery, mugs, soaps, candles, jewelry, and a small but nice assortment of books. I looked for gifts to bring home and got a couple of ideas.

Sext: I sat with the brothers for Sext (the sixth hour service) and still had a hard time finding my way through the liturgy and so felt awkward. I'd like to be able to immerse myself into the flow of the service so it wouldn't feel so foreign. I think I will try it again tonight. At least when you sit with the brothers, everything is laid out on an angled "desk" in front of you. Having the psalms opened before you is very helpful. The psalter they use is written in a beautiful calligraphy. Just following along is a spiritual experience. I do wish I had my lectionary with me. I also need to find a copy of "Liturgy for Dummies"!

Dinner was served in silence cafeteria style. I had a broccoli/cauliflower/cheese dish, delicious green beans with pecans and spices, stuffed red peppers, salad and cantaloupe. Did I mention that the monks follow a vegetarian diet? As the guests sat in the guest refectory adjacent to the brother's refectory, a brother read from the lives of the saints and from a book about aid workers in Afghanistan after 9/11. Promptly at 12:30 a brother rang a bell and that was it!

I would like to talk with one of the monks about prayer and personal spirituality. I don't see a place for extemporaneous prayer or "wrestling" in prayer as Paul mentions. I'd like to get into their heads and hearts and see what is there. Perhaps the opportunity will present itself.

Supper: 5:00 PM – Trappists are not a chatty bunch, even when the daily 12 hours of silence are over. I did have a conversation with a "newbie" (an "Apostolate") named Leo. Leo is from Greenville – Catholic family – Philippino Mom. I asked him how he had come to Mepkin. After three months he really liked his experience. We had an interesting conversation. I wish it could have been longer.

My conversation with a couple my fellow retreatants, "Jerry" and "Derrick", was even more "interesting". After some brief banter, Jerry described himself as a "Gnostic Catholic". Inquiring further I discovered that he is really into the paranormal and had co-authored a book with Daryl on "twin souls merging" or something like that. I was a bit freaked out as he explained about a lady who was inhabited by the spirit of George Reeves (TV's "Superman"). I tried to share as much of my story (and Christ's!) as I could. We got into all kinds of stuff like visiting psychics and helping aids sufferers to die. Then when we were looking at the Church, Derrick tells me that he and Jerry are "same sex life partners". Okay!

I spent vespers and compline trying to sort that out! I realized that I need to keep things simple – preach Christ and him crucified. Jesus and the cross.

"Lord Jesus, let me see the power of the cross and work! Exalt yourself, O Lord!"

No comments: