Sunday, August 31, 2008

Open to the Spirit

Since 1098, the Cistercian order of monks have existed alone for God and welcomed travelers from all over. This is one visitor's experience in first person.

I hadn't been to the monastery that lays on the outskirts of Conyers, Georgia in over 20 years. I remember very little of that experience except for the hauntingly solemn masses and the quiet talks I had with aged monks in the recesses of the abbey.

I was reminded on this trip of how vocal I had been on many occasions regarding the Catholic hierarchy - a sort of opponent of the ways and means of the Catholic church. I don't fault the monks or even the parishioners; I fault the church itself for its baseless attempts at controlling Christianity which cannot be found in Scripture. Nonetheless, I was excited about one of several trips I would be making to this monastery: to get centered.

I slowly drove into the entrance on Georgia highway 212 and eased up to the guest accommodations to eventually start unloading my car. I made my way to the clerk who quickly confirmed my reservation for staying and gave me a key.

After taking a very slow elevator to the third floor, I get to my room and settle in.
I thought about the ways I have sinned all these years and have asked for forgiveness; the things I had done wrong and have repented for those acts. I was truly in God's house. I could feel a difference in myself - safe, loved and open. I was in fear and awe. I sat on the bed and cried but not for sadness. It was different. It was release.

When I was in church one Sunday at my neighborhood church, I remember the same feelings on the Sunday after Epiphany - the week that followed Christ's baptism and God's announcement that it is in His Son that He is well pleased. For the first time in my life, I knowingly came face to face with the Holy Spirit. That Sunday I was just as overwhelmed with released - the tears didn't seem to stop then, and they were surely not stopping here. I was open to the Spirit and ready for however He might move on me.

I decided to go for a walk after my tearful release of the things of this world. It was hot, muggy and the sun was out. If I had been on a cycling event, I don't think there would have been enough water to quench my thirst - four bottles of liquid on a bike never seems to be enough for me. I always encounter many things in my day that makes me smile. Two of them are children and animals. Kids like me and they gravitate toward me and I love kids. Animals are no different. As soon as I exited the guest cottage, I came across a curious lizard. I looked at him, he looked at me and graciously posed for several pictures before almost winking, then heading back to the bushes....

I headed down to the lake, which was full of ducks. I sat and watched them for a while, perspiration pouring off me, but I didn't notice. It was quiet on the lake, except for the sounds of occasional quacking and ruffling of duck feathers...

A 180 degree picture of my lake view

I can't say my times during the summer at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit and the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit were life changing. That's sounds so melodramatic, but the experience did center me again and that was what I was counting on. I wasn't lost and had totally become some roaming stranger in the wilderness. Instead, I needed answers and if nothing else, assurance via the closeness I can only get from Him. I always seek to know Him and His will for me. I can only do this by withdrawing from the daily grind and have some time to be quiet, listen, be still. I was able to experience spiritual joy while at the monastery and still kindle the fires from those days.

I am always in God's house no matter where I am, as I carry that feeling where ever I go. But the monastery and abbey weren't ordinary houses of God. They were on holy ground!

Some Christians talk about light as a metaphor for holiness, and darkness as a metaphor for evil. In other words, a Christian is to run to the light and avoid the dark. The Bible actually describes light and darkness this way.

"God is light; there is no darkness in Him at all.
If we say that we are in union with Him while we are
living in darkness, we are lying because we are not living the truth.
But if we live our lives in the light as He is in the light,
we are in union with one another, and the blood of Jesus,
His Son, purifies us from all sin."

Jesus said,

"I, the light, have come into the world, so that whoever believes in me need not stay in the dark anymore."

But, as we all know from Creation, God did not bring light into the world until He created the universe. Until it came time for God to relate to humankind, and to fulfill His will through the human race, the universe was formless, void...and dark. Even before light was created, God was in His own light. I spent many a day while at the monastery reading in the light and pausing and reflecting in the night. Many days in the summer were spent reflecting on the lake: of His love, His mercy, grace and peace. The heat made no difference and I was unscathed from the sun. I feel more whole and centered from these trips.

Father, I willingly meet You in the shade today.


to be continued....

1 comment:

leener said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing. I feel very moved by your experience almost as if I had been there myself. Thank you for sharing this.