Monday, February 12, 2007

A Weekend at a Monastery

This past weekend I spent time practicing silence and solitude. I spent most of my time in my cell (not jail), but was able to make it outside for a day. I thought I'd take you through a virtual tour of my weekend. Fasten your seatbelts!

The front of Assumption Abbey. It's a monastery for Trappist monks.

This was my room/cell. I intentionally did not bring my iPod so that I could eliminate distractions. I'm told that monastics say that silence/solitude is like a mirror for your soul. Having spent 37 hours without talking/interacting, I agree with their analogy. Without distractions we are forced to face ourselves.

Bro. Francis spent some time with us before and after our stint of silence/solitude. He gave us a brief history of practicing silence and solitude as well as some tips. He's a brilliant guy with the kind of spiritual depth I can only hope to develop.

Even though it was freezing, one day it was sunny enough for me and my long-johns to make a trek through the woods. They have this path that goes through the stations of the cross--a Catholic tradition that the movie The Passion of the Christ is based upon. The point of the stations is a tactile way for believers to reflect on the sufferings and death of Jesus. I'll walk you through it with me.

1. Jesus being condemned to death.

2. Jesus receives the cross.

3. The first of three falls.

4. Jesus meets his mother. I found this to be one of the most powerful scenes in The Passion.

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. (I will refrain from making any jokes about the unfortunate absence of the "L")

6. Veronica wipes Jesus' face with her veil.

7. The second fall.

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

9. The third fall.

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.

11. The crucifixion of Jesus--being nailed to the cross.

12. Jesus dies on the cross.

13. Jesus' body removed from the cross (Pieta). Like Michaelangelo's famous sculpture.

14. Jesus laid in a tomb.
After the stations ended, I followed the path for about another 45 minutes. I stopped and turned around when I thought about facing mountain lions miles away from anyone who could hear me. (Not that I would have screamed during my vow of silence. :) )

If I were a fox, I'd live in that hole. But I'm not, so I don't. On the other hand, if I were fox-y, I'd live pretty much where I live now...which confims my attractiveness.

Streams + Silence/Solitude = Absolute Serenity.

Most of the ice was gone, but it still existed in some shaded areas.

I was wearing a hood.

The random ice made the experience a bit surreal...almost magical. If I were to invent a word on the spot, I would have to say "Narniaish".

I found the existence of ice in shady areas as a fitting metaphor for our spiritual lives. Inevitably, light melts the frozen parts of our souls. This weekend truly taught me how to stop hurrying and make space for God's light to shine into every corner of my heart and mind.

Where we had services...6 services a day that is.
3:30 am-- Vigils
6:30 am-- Lauds
9:00 am-- Mass
11:45 am-- Sexts
5:30 pm-- Vespers
7:30 pm-- Compline

This is where we ate. All the silence business was not too hard except when we ate. It makes things a bit awkward when you can hear everyone chewing their food.

Well, there's my exprience this weekend. Hope you enjoyed it and perhaps you may feel a bit inspired to slow down, take a break, speak less, or simply take a walk in the woods. Believe me, God's voice gets much clearer when we turn down the volume of our lives.

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