It’s 4:30 a.m.
I was up in time to get to Matins at 4:00 a.m. and will go to Lauds at 6:00 a.m. In between I find myself reflecting on what it’s like to be in residence with a monastic community (on retreat) at a time when there happens to be no other visitors. I’ve come especially for the feasts of All Saints’ and the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (All Souls). But that’s not the only thing on the minds of the monks.
I typically go on retreat around this time of year, but this year, following my mother’s death, I wanted to be sure to be present for these two feast days. At the Eucharist in a few hours we will remember my mother in the prayers (I’m writing this on Wednesday, the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed—but I’m going to have to leave the monastery to post this, as there is no internet or cell phone access here).
Being present with the monks for All Saints’ Day yesterday was a special experience. Because they were following a “holiday” schedule (All Saints’ is one of the seven principal feasts of the church) there was conversation at lunch and dinner (normally one is read to—“lectio”—and/or there is silence, at meals). Being the only visitor, and a priest, I was invited to sit with the monks. They had lots to talk about, but the conversation often came back to the election. In between there was talk of places they had visited, books they had read and a monk’s former life as a symphony bassoonist. But like moths drawn to one of the flames of the candles in the chapel we couldn’t seem to avoid the topic of the election—and what I (and they) thought about whatever the day’s latest developments with it might be.
I concluded that they who are so removed from the world will be just as happy to have this election over with as you and I. They whose life it is to pray for the world and all its inhabitants seemed pretty clear, too, about for whom they were voting, and described in vivid detail the ritual of their descent on the local (and very rural) polling place. The picture of it seemed rather other-worldly, but I know that they, even though they mostly live apart from the world, will continue to pray for us all, however the election goes. I find a sense of comfort in this.
In the meantime, since my life is more active than contemplative, I will return to the world I know, nourished by thoughtful silences, prayers and a glimpse of the peace that passes understanding.