Vigils: This morning I got up at 2:42 AM to get ready for vigils. I tried to get to bed early (8 PM) and though I tossed and turned for a while I finally dozed off. When my alarm went off I dragged myself out of bed, showered, dressed, and left my hermitage for church. The moon was full and bright, shining through the moss laden oaks, casting shadows on the moist grass. The walk both helped me to wake up and calmed me. I took a sip of coffee at the refectory and headed to the church.
As I took my seat, Psalm 134 was open before me:
The service began as usually with the bells, standing to face the altar, the "knock", and then bowing to praise the Trinity. The psalm was read and a hymn sung and then we sat. To my surprise the lights were lowered to darkness so all that was seen was the lectern illuminated by six candles. A brother approached the lectern and read a portion of the scriptures and a stanza from Psalm 107. After the stanza we stood to pray and say our "amen". The simplicity and the beauty were stunning – I was so glad I had awakened early and I chided myself for my sloth – depriving myself of this experience all week! Next time!
This rhythm was repeated – scripture, psalm, prayer – until the psalm was completed. A reading from the Rule of Saint Benedict was also given.
Haste has no place here. The readings are given slowly, without theatrics, lest one be distracted to the reader rather than the readings. Brothers took turns reading, waiting for the previous reader to be seated. The silence and slowness affords the opportunity to pray and reflect rather than rushing off to the next item on the agenda.
The "Work of God" (Opus Dei) is not to be done in an "efficient" way. Lots of time is "wasted" because there is no wasted time in spiritual formation. Like the temple rituals of the Old Covenant, the rhythm shapes both those who are serving and the whole community.
We have missed something here. We are slaves to the contemporary, the bandwagon, the dancing bear show of the neo-postmodern church. We are the hollow men, men without chests. I can easily see how one would would join this band of merry men – that is how strong I feel. I have really loved this place. I miss it already and am jealous for the next opportunity. I do need to bring it with me. This is the life we were meant to lead. The rhythm of the day is like the rhythm of the waves and tides of the ocean, powerful, calming, relentless. One has to give oneself to the waves, not fighting against them, but becoming part of the ebb and flow.
Jesus with drew to lonely places – but then walked back into the work of ministry. I've got to make that walk back now. It is a good and right walk.