Sabbatical Thoughts from Holy Cross Monastery – June 19, 2016
These first few weeks have been about letting things go and allowing a change of pace to evolve. My vacation time was wonderful, but full of celebrations, excitement, hospitality, organization, travel schedules, packing, unpacking and repacking, moving out of accommodation, moving Jess back into home etc., etc.
Coming here to Holy Cross provides a different canvas. First, for me it is a “home” place. I have been coming here for almost twenty years, and been an Associate here (which means I pledge and have a Rule of Life approved by the monastery) for about fifteen. I know the rhythms, the creaks, the smells and they are comfortingly familiar. The Amtrak train hoots on its way up to Canada, and that holds a special memory for me as my mother, sister and the two grandchildren, once took an amazing train trip to Niagara Falls on that very train. My family loved it and I can still remember pointing out Holy Cross Monastery on the other bank of the Hudson.
It always amazes me how time changes here. I have no choice but to believe that time is elastic and bends. The first few hours pass so very slowly, but then the deep silence of the place, and the languid waters of the river Hudson, moves me into a different plane, where the hours are counted not in minutes, but in the Office bells. The Deep Silence is punctuated by services that are held throughout the day. Beginning with Matins at 7am (the birds on my windowsill have naturally woken me with their clamoring dawn chorus at about 5:30am as the sun rose) which is the Morning Prayer of the offices. At 9am we have a very simple Eucharist, followed at noon by Diurnum, or noonday prayer. At 5pm we sing Vespers (Evening Prayer) and at 8:10pm is Compline. There is no preaching, but the services follow the daily office lectionary. The services are sung, and there is wonderful chanting by the monks of the psalms. In the deep silence of a retreat, the only words uttered are those of prayer and worship. You can get a feel for all this on www.missionstclare.com, or install the Mission St Clare app on your smartphone. Of course, you can also use the Book of Common Prayer. All the offices are there – beginning on page 75 (for Rite 2), and the scripture lessons are listed on page 934ff – we are in Year 2. I have to confess that I like the online versions best. If you want Celtic versions, then sign up for the Northumbria Community Daily Offices www.northumbriacommunity.org.
I invite you to join me in the spiritual practices of saying the daily offices at some point while I am on Sabbatical. This is your opportunity to go deeper too. If they are on your smartphone, you can listen to them on the train on your way to work, or at the beach. Alternatively, borrow a prayer book for the summer, and bring it back in the fall. They really do reframe the day and provide a different lens through which to live and move and have our being, and I wish you the joy of knowing God in a deeper more regular rhythm.+