Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Monastery: Day One
Day one at the monastery.
The semantron sounds at 2:00 am: make the bed, wash (cold water), coffee or tea and low mumbling (not grumbling) between the brothers: "Good morning. Did you sleep well?" Gentle hug.
3:00 am, Jesus prayer in the cells. This was one of the toughest parts of the monastery cycle for me to get used to. It took me several years of regular visits to make it through the whole hour actually praying somewhat. I say somewhat because I have experienced nothing like what I read about nor what I hear slip occasionally from the brothers' mouths--they generally do not talk about their prayer life. I imagine it is like the love life of a healthy husband and wife. Some secrets are too precious to be shared.
This morning prayer time went pretty well. I could not get my parishioners out of my mind. I would see one and feel their concerns and ask Jesus for mercy: "They need a miracle. Nothing less." I would feel a little peace (or relief) and then say a few more Jesus prayers before someone else came to my mind. I asked Father Abbot later about this and he said that it is as it should be. As a pastor, I carry my parishioners in my heart, so who else should I encounter when I begin to enter my heart?
4:00 am, matins begins. Two kathismata (10% of the Psalter). My stomach is beginning to bother me. The tea I had earlier is not agreeing with me. With each metania, the tea seems to be revisiting me. At the end of the kathisma, I slip out and go back to my cell above the chapel. I listen to matins. As I slip in and out of sleep, I feel like I am with the brothers chanting. The vibration of their voices radiate through me and I seem to vibrate with them. In my drowsy state, I am sure there is a spiritual principle at work, but I don't know what it is. I can't think. I can only feel my body vibrating with their voices as though I were chanting with them--and I am, or am I? Oh we are at the Theotokos, The Mother of the Light already. Matins seems to be moving quickly: "More honorable than the Cherubim..."
7:00 am and I get up felling much better, but I drink only water for the morning just in case. One father is off to give the Holy Mysteries to a sick elderly woman. The work day begins. I chat a while with Father Abbot and another guest. Then the guest and Father go to Father's cell for serious talk--maybe confession. That's where I will have my confession.
9:00 am, I am helping with the candles. I drill holes in 2" votive candles and insert wicks. I am conversing with a brother about helpful words we have received. He tells me about a time long ago when he spoke to a wise nun asking what he should do with his life. She told him that the most important thing is to be yourself--even if yourself is nothing important or seems to be nothing important, no big deal. Still, just be yourself and give. Give to others. Then in my crude logic I said, "Yes, even a pile of manure has something to give for it can fertilize the lettuce." The brother smiled.
It seems to me that no matter how insignificant one is or imagines oneself to be, one can always give. There are always menial tasks to be done. In fact, it is exactly the menial tasks that no one wants to do. Maybe it is because I think I am too important.
Maybe if I were not afraid of accept myself as myself, then I would stop trying to be something I'm not--something important. After all, someone has to fertilize the lettuces. It's good to be small in the Body of Christ. It is good just to do what needs to be done--and be at peace.