Like a country song...
I just returned from a week in Santa Fe, NM, where I attended the Glen Workshop. It's an artists conf. put on by Image magazine - big faith and arts shindig at St. John's College. I submitted a fiction piece and had it workshopped by other fiction writers and our teacher for the week, a fiction writing prof from LSU. They liked my work and my prof said it read like a country song. Dang.
Thursday afternoon, I headed out to Christ in the Desert monastery to tour the place and hopefully, to sit with the monks in one of their services. My compadre, Rich, had been there for a week not long ago, so he was the perfect tour guide. We arrived a little early and so we had time to enter the chapel before service time. The crucifix (shown above) was on the stark wall and I spent a good deal of time reflecting on it. The monks came in a little later (Sext) and each bowed before the cross and took their seats. Some did so very respectfully, while others seemed annoyed to have to stop what they were doing to "come to church." I liked that. If they'd all come in there with angelic smiles on their faces and took their sweet monkish time bowing before the Lord, I would have felt less than, like these were otherworldly creatures, they in their monk's habits and I in my cowboy boots. But no, they are men, as I am; men full of charity and humility and impatience and greed and lust, as I am. We stopped in the middle of that day and focused on this man of sorrows and what he means to our lives, whether in the desert or in the suburbs. We paused and cried out to him for strength and courage in the face of noontide demons. We took a few moments from the normal rhythm of work and fiction writing and aligned ourselves with saints all over the world and even over time (I believe) and added our voices to the chorus of others saying the psalms of King David.
A young nervous moving monk rose and rapidly rang the bell, ending the service. He seemed particularly eager to get back to whatever or wherever. At first, I thought he might have been in his cell, translating scripture, pouring over Romans or something, but then I thought, maybe he had to pee. Maybe he sat through Sext, focusing on the Lord and saying the prayers, but beneath those routine movements lay his real prayer: "God of heaven and earth, the earth is full of your glory and my bladder is full as well. Forgive me for I am about to be on ringing that bell like ducks on a junebug. But Lord, I gotta go." I liked that thought. It kinda sounded like a country song.