Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mepkin Abbey: Day 4 - Thursday

Lauds: This morning I arose and made the 5 minute walk to Lauds. I lingered too long and had to scurry in at the bells. I took my place and settled into the comforting liturgy. St. Romuald was honored today – I'll have to read more about him. I was impressed by the neatness and orderliness of the space - each book and notebook in its place. I am challenged to better order my space at home, especially in my office. Now, if the monks' rooms are similarly in order I will really be impressed!

Lectio Divina: After breakfast I finished reading Revelation and then read 1 John. After my conversations with the Gnostics I thought that would be good. It was.

I am now sitting in a "bird blind" overlooking a large meadow/field. I walked through a wooded forest on a dirt road to get there. It was quite serene and lovely until a wasp/hornet/fly (?) began dive bombing my head. He must have liked by hair gel or thought all the grey was some flower in bloom. I tried brushing him off but he was relentless. I began walking faster to discourage his pursuit, but he somehow marshaled a group of his comrades and soon 4-5 of them began swarming around my head. I picked up a branch and started swatting at them, but they just buzzed more vigorously. I began to run, swatting them away – to no avail! I was in a full run as I cleared the forest and ran into the field, arms and branch frantically waving above my head. I must have been quite a sight! Still the onslaught persisted. I then remembered the sweatshirt in my backpack and dug it out. Covering my head, instantly they were gone! Mental note for the walk home.

I turned back, climbed into the blind and began to pray. It took me a while to clear my thoughts and I realized that you can't go away to escape problems and anxieties. Like the flies, they will find you!

A wasp has been investigating me for a while now. Very unnerving! I try to sit still while he hovers inches away. He lights behind me and whenever I move he takes up his vigil again. He is not a threat (I hope!), but a constant distraction behind me. Even when I can't see him, the high pitched buzzing reveals his glare. Finally he flies away, called to another investigation. Again I remember that anxieties will find you! Must deal with them a different way.

A cool breeze restores the peace. A large "bug", who closely resembles a leaf, ambles by. I think of how good our creator God the Father is, how intricate his creation. Will he not and has he not made provision for me?

I think the blind is facing the wrong direction. I can hear a lot of chirping in the woods behind me, but little in the field before me. Maybe this is a butterfly blind, or a dragonfly blind. Or maybe a wasp blind.

On Order: The monks' "order" could be called a regimen because it is like an army – ordered, ranked, tasked to do the work of God. Each day reveille is called and taps are blown. All for the warfare of grace, the battle of love, the struggle of prayer. I see that in the scriptures – the urgency, the call to arms, the life and death struggle, the band of brothers, each watching to others' back. There is vigilance to vigils. But there is also lauds, vespers, and compline. A time for war and a time for peace.

None: Lunch today was a barley/pea/squash "mush", golden corn, salad (the tomatoes here are delicious!), and a fig. We ate in silence, again, while a brother read to us. It's kind of cool – a midday moment to reset, reflect, and remember.

After lunch comes "none" – a brief time of prayer at the tables standing. We follow a liturgy pamphlet which "Patty" (more about her later) passed out. Jerry and Derrick decline to participate (as usual) and headed for the doom but a sudden rainstorm kept them in. Rather than participate, they just stood at the door, facing outside, waiting for the rain to stop. I thought it rather rude – it was as if they couldn't get out fast enough. Little wonder. I prayed the power of Christ would invade the room.

After we cleaned things up, I had a fascinating conversation with Patty. We had coffee while we waited for the rain to clear. Patty is a 56 year old cancer survivor – a classic "steel magnolia" with a sweet smile and southern drawl. She helps with the gardens and various tasks around the abbey. I can tell there is a lot of love and mutual respect between her and the brothers. She seems to be a kind of a sister and mom to the monks – like a frat mom. Or as she calls it: Snow White and the 29 dwarves!

Brother "Serenity" stepped in and remarked about Jerry and Derrick's behavior. As leader for the "none" service, he found it unnerving to see them not participating but just staring out the door "watching the damn rain"! Seems like monks are not averse to colorful language! The son of an Alabama Southern Baptist preacher (whose eyes lit up when I mentioned "sword drills") – this boy is a long way from home. I'd like to hear more of his story some day. I asked him what his family thought about him. His dad is okay with him being a monk, but his mom is the high strung one who consoles herself that at least he has a relationship with Jesus.

Brother "Serenity" took that name because that is what he wants to become. He, as Patty tells me, is far from serene yet. He is obviously very intelligent with a lot of respect for Eastern thought. He speaks well of Buddhist monks and said if he ever got cancer he would "go east" – Western medicine has a military approach to disease – bombard it! He seems knowledgeable about the politics of Tibet, the Dali Lama, et al. He seems to be looking for inner peace.

Brother "V" stepped in and had an enigmatic request of Patty. Brother V is tall and bearded - a bit of a hick, but warm hearted and gregarious. He asked Patty to keep an eye out for the nephew of one of the monks, who was between jobs. The nephew had arrived as a guest at the abbey to work as craftsman and also to "find his way". He was "On retreat and in retreat" as Brother V put it. Brother V thought that Patty could give him some guidance. We'll see.

It seems like a lot of strays find their way to Mepkin. I haven't met a Roman Catholic retreatant yet! I wonder what kind of stray I am.


Debbie Santora said...

It feels peaceful just reading about your experiences there. And I have to admit, it was pretty funny imagining you running from those bees! I miss you, but I know this is good for you. God bless you!

tom said...

Thanks Debbie! And thanks for your prayers!