Saturday, June 21, 2014

Of quiet solitude

Many are celebrating the summer solstice today. For some it is the beginning of the end of summer. The longest day of the year anticipates the shortening of days over the next few weeks. We must now fill the rest of summer with all we had planned at its beginning. For us at the seminary that began May 10. Three weeks of a considerably lessened schedule gave way to a week of my own private retreat. Some appointments were filled and changes began at the seminary for the coming year. Our executive secretary of eight years moves on this week. Our rector is finally taking an extended vacation. Cosmetic changes to the grounds have begun and continue.

The week of retreat with the monks at Gethsemani renewed years in college when Thomas Merton sat somewhere in the choir stalls and a very strict silence was observed. There have been many physical changes to that monastery but most noticeable to me was the loss of the gatehouse (it has probably been 25 years or so since I've been there) and the tree-lined lane that I imagined Merton approaching as he entered about 1941.

Where I am today directing five individuals in an eight-day retreat is also experiencing change. The house will close in September for many months of much needed maintenance. What will be here on the Atlantic coast a year from now? It has been a pleasant surprise to meet with five individuals whose faith and prayer lives are such that what they seek is greater solitude and an ever deepening relationship with the Lord. These are experienced pray-ers and they do not require basic training in finding God. They just recognize that the world in which they are surrounded militates against their establishing a deeper relationship with Christ.

The ordinariness of daily life is a blessing. Spectacles can be appreciated when they come. But the simple movement of the earth revolving around the sun, the hands of a clock revolving around a circle, the sameness of every day - all these have their own specialness. Today is - and it's a good one.