Friday, March 27, 2009


I'm here at the Monastery, but can't sleep yet. Perhaps that "Rockstar Energy Drink" I had around supper time has something to do with this insomnia? We arrived around 9:30pm, which is around 11pm monastery time. In other words, most people are in bed or at least headed that way. The place was quiet. We took our bags to our room and then I did what I always do when I come for retreat here, I visit the chapel and pay my respects to the Founder. His tomb is behind the altar in the crypt chapel. Saying prayers by the flickering light of the vigil candle always seems like a perfect way to begin a retreat.

What I notice most strongly this time are the smells. It smells like Holy Cross. Every part of it. As soon as I stepped out of the car I could smell the earthy, almost yeasty river. In the chapel it was incense. Near the pantry: coffee. In the library: books. Each of those scents familiar from other places, and yet here they have distinct notes that mark them as belonging to this place alone. I guess what I'm saying is that this place smells like home to me. Or one of my homes, at least. Certainly my spiritual home.

This time around the monks put us in a room that was my office the last time I did an extended stay. In fact, the ethernet wire I'm using was the one I ran back then, some 4 or 5 years ago--wow, has it been so long? When I say "extended" I mean weeks or months rather than days. Hard to get so much time in a block now, married and a pastor as I am. It's in the basement, nice and dark with thick, quiet walls.

Sleeping in the basement of a building so substantial as this is no small thing. Henry Vaughn designed this place--the first new monastic building since the English Reformation. Solid as the convictions of those that built it.

On my mind this evening--the feeling in my gut that this time is precious. Precious for how it can change me. Already I can feel the pavlovian-like reflexes toward holiness kicking in. Already I've prayed, kneeling with arms outstretched in front of the chapel high altar, for openness. Amazingly I got my answer right away: "of course!"

You have to be careful about what you pray for around here. The results can be terrifying in their sweep. I suspect the reason for this is partly situational--prayer is answered here because it can be answered. It's the nature of the place that people are more receptive but also that they have the supports in place to deal with massive upheavals. I've known many guests who have gone through massive internal changes while here. I often thought that those changes had been the works for a long time, but here the person finally had permission to change.

I'm very excited about being here. I can't wait for Mattins (Morning Prayer). Such a relief to be here...


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