Wednesday, August 6

Feast of the Transfiguration

The Dark Church, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
Well, our  feasting began last night at Vespers. Beautiful antiphons, tones for the Psalms and the readings are always some of my favourites anyway, so that's not really fair. Well, the whole Feast is basically my favorite, too. And basically all the antiphons are from Scripture as well.

Christ Jesus, the brightness of the Father and the express image of his being, who upholds all things by the word of his power, while at the same time purging away our sins, deigned on this day to show himself in glory upon a high mountain. (Antiphon on the Magnificat)

I love this hymn we sang, the first stanza of which is in the photo above:

Caelestis formam gloriae
O wondrous type! O vision fair

of glory that the Church may share,

which Christ upon the mountain shows,

where brighter than the sun he glows!

With Moses and Elijah nigh

Th' incarnate Lord holds converse high;

And from the cloud, the Holy One

Bears witness to the only Son.

With shining face and bright array,

Christ deigns to manifest today

what glory shall be theirs above

who joy in God with perfect love.

And faithful hearts are raised on high

by this great vision's mystery;

for which in joyful strains we raise

the voice of prayer, the hymns of praise.

O Father, with the eternal Son,

and Holy Spirit, ever One,

vouchsafe to bring us by thy grace

to see thy glory face to face.

Our homilist made mention of Hiroshima also occurring on this day, which seems such a horrendous thing to me that it would happen simultaneously with this Feast. I pray that God would forgive us, things known and unknown, that disfigure His glory in any of His creatures, whom with one degree to another, He is changing into His likeness. Forgive us, Father; we don't know what we do. Enfold your kingdom of peace and beauty on the earth.

Collect for the Day
O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 5

Another Prayer, Another Rule(er?)

St. Scholastica Chapel

     A Typical Day in the Life
           Matins - 6:30am
           Mass (Holy Eucharist Rite II) - right after Matins
Silent Breakfast
Silent Meditation/Prayer/Study
            Terce - 9:30am
Working usually
             Sext - Noon
Silent Lunch (which they call "dinner" - no end of confusion for me)
Tea Time - 3:30pm
              Vespers - 5:30pm
Silent Dinner (which they call "supper" - which is a word that makes me think of my friend M.J. and his dog, Jasmine (may she rest in peace), who wouldn't eat until he said, "Eat your supper.")
                Compline - 7:30pm

Post-Compline to Terce, we observe silence for meditation and prayer, or study, and all of our meals are silent (also for prayer or something - this has probably been the biggest adjustment for me and I was not aware of it when I first arrived! I did not however do anything embarrassing in my ignorance so no good stories there-sorry!) Amendment to this is that on Sundays, we get to have non-silent Dinner! Woot. And let me tell you, they love the silence, but they also love the talking. Love. So, we had a fun dinner on Sunday, even busted out the potato chips and carbonated water with Pomegranate!

I have learned that these are more "guidelines" than hard and fast "code," as it were. Especially should a guest need something, as per the Rule of St. Benedict, they speak as oft as needed. And many times a Sister or two will need to do work between Breakfast and Terce and must speak to other people or animals. One of the more humorous parts of this to me is that in fact, many of the Sisters are near deaf and so if something is communicated, it is actually at a much louder volume than the average "inside voice" which sounds positively like yelling when interrupting periods of observed silence. It's great, it really gives the whole thing character and I'm pretty sure God finds it endearing and funny, too.
All the silence and prayer is ruthlessly monotonous! I mean that in the best way possible, but it seems to me the most apt description of it and not unlike what many of the nuns here have said about the life. Sister Mary Elizabeth told me about a Junior who ended up leaving before her profession because she just could not handle the ordinary, in a sense. Each day was more or less the same level of intensity, the work demanding the same amount of rigor and so very little heights or high seasons of productivity on which so many of us Americans thrive, seek and consider successful. 

Even the prayers are said with the same ruthless monotony (think ENTS!). However, look out for the lectionary readings and the changing Psalms, and often the BVM antiphon and the occasional Common of Holy Men or Women-things can get a little exciting. And of course, I actually do mean that because I think ruthless monotony is pretty adventuresome actually.

What I have found is that unless the balance of the Benedictine tri-focus of study, prayer and work remains in symbiotic balance, the life is simply monotony- in the acedic (yeah, I just made it into an adjective) sort of pointless sense- or ruthless, in the legalistic, workaholic sense, you know, like with the Trinity, if we over or under emphasize, He becomes different from who He is. Like I said before, this is just sort of the built-in stability of the Monastic Life, not that there isn't temptation to overdo one or the other but I suppose that is why they ruthlessly pray "save us from the time of trial/lead us not into temptation" 6 times a day, eh? Or at least in part.