Friday, March 18, 2011

The Last Seven Seconds

I've heard of a certain kind of Buddhist retreat that lasts seven years, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes, and seven seconds. They say that all the benefit of it is realized in those last seven seconds. I'm experiencing a similar thing today as my time at Holy Cross comes to an end. Just this morning I woke up for Mattins feeling refreshed and alive to the possibilities of the last few minutes. The Office was lovely, and afterwards a spent some minutes watching the sunrise over the Hudson River from the Lesser Cloister.

The "Lesser Cloister" is a brick colonnade connecting the main guesthouse with the monastery church. It is open on the river side and forms one side of a three-walled courtyard with a big old oak tree in the middle. This Oak tree is one of the symbols of the Order of the Holy Cross--by the way, a stylized version of the Holy Cross oak appears as the cross in the stole of my green set of vestments.

Watching the river and listening to the birds, I thought about this retreat time. I slept more than I expected. When Brother Andrew saw me at lunch on Thursday he exclaimed, "Where the hell have you been?" "I asked my body what it wanted out of this retreat and it said, 'sleep.'" "Good for you!" he said.

Normally I get a great deal out of attending the Daily Office and Eucharists, but this time my body needed something else for a time. I've gotten so much rest that my cold has almost completely disappeared. This minor cold has been with me for weeks and weeks, and is no doubt a somatic manifestation of my spiritual exhaustion. So now that I am rested my body is settling into the rhythms of this place--on the last day!

This place is so powerful. If you are willing to consent, and perhaps even if you are not, it will change you. Simply watch the River for a few minutes and you will feel your soul swell. A marble slab over the door to the guesthouse reads, "Crux est Mundi Medicina." It means, "The Cross is the medicine for the world." It is true in many ways.

Hard not to fantasize about living here. Indeed, I have lived here for extended periods a couple of times. They call such people "Residents." There are two houses on the property that have been used for folks. There is also a little suite of rooms in the basement that would work for a small family. I've lived the life of a Resident and known the other Residents who have come and gone well enough to have a pretty realistic sense of what the life style entails. One of the Residents, Tony, used to talk about the "Gate Keepers" who live at the boundary between the monastery and the world. Life always thrives at the boundaries.

I think Henry would love it here. I can imagine him walking around and pulling open every drawer and cabinet to see what it contains. I think we would like the woods and the shale beach. But I think what I want him to experience most is the simple quiet of this place. It's a quiet that goes beyond mere silence or absence of noise--a quiet that goes deep to your heart.


Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

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