To visit a monastery is to be included in the life and rhythm of that community. Days follow schedules with times for contemplation and meditation, study and work, and shared meals and prayerful worship. There is a way of being in community that is called the “Rule.” All agree to be given to it as it brings orientation and focus on God and being in service of God and the community in all things. There is a balanced rhythm to life where faithful and mindful living is more the norm than a life experience where one might be led to say, “My life has gotten away from me” as an expression of feeling out of control and chasing rather than leading their life. It is common that monastic communities gather seven times for corporate prayer, beginning well before sunrise and concluding mid-evening. Between these gatherings are times for individual contemplation and meditation, for meals and rest, and for study and work. All, including whatever job one is given, is intentionally offered with devotion to God.
It is a common misconception that monastic communities live into themselves. They do not. While they are set apart, they are given to being in service to God and the world. How they live this out varies. One such service is when monasteries allow visitors for retreat or simply sharing their communal life. Where visitors are welcomed, there isn’t fanfare or adaptation for them. Often a room, a schedule, maybe a job, and a rhythm of prayer and devotion as continues as the tradition has had it for centuries. Joining in is the only option. Communal prayer and worship, silence, study, work, and meals, then do it again.
It is easy while visiting such a place and community to be met with the challenge of letting go of busyness, life agenda items, false notions of self and the internal arguments that support them, and to permit these sometimes troubling challenges to be met with the promise of being blessed as the rhythm of devotion draws in. Gradually, a move to a more “natural” self occurs as stress falls off and peace is revealed amidst expanding experiences of mindfulness, clarity and self-control, as well as awareness of connection to Holy Giver of these gifts. A simple walk from one place to another becomes a peaceful walk, greeting others along the way while mindful of the gift of gravity and life and the movement and pressing of a foot from heel to toe as another stride prevents falling and propels forward. The songs of birds seem to increase in volume, blooming flowers encourage gratitude, and the movement of clouds remind of the ever-changing nature of life.
These places and communities are special. That said, one of the most glaring realizations experienced in such visits may be the call us to see that it is not the place. Our intentional devotion, individual and collective, our spiritual disciplines with routine, our willingness to experience and even be different as we are drawn into Scripture and Holy reading, into prayer and worship, into being intentionally in service to God in and through our vocations and work, and by stubbornly allowing balance in our lives where silence and rest and wonder and mindfulness are given priority and place.
This brings us to the Lenten season here at All Pilgrims. From Ash Wednesday, February 10 to the doorstep of Easter, which is March 27, Lent is season of journeying on the Way with Jesus in his life and ministry to the cross and the doorstep of the resurrection.
At AP, we will enjoy a Season of Deepening Spirituality with Monastic Practices. There are connecting points for practicing the rhythm of a monastic life, adapted to our own context, with offerings to connect for Centering Prayer, Silent Group Meditation, Sacred Reading and Study, Holy Work, and befriending Ancient Spiritual Guides. For the season of Lent, you are invited to a deepening, rich faith experience. God’s Spirit, faithful community, and personal devotion open us to new life in the very place we find ourselves. Please review the schedule and offering below.
A Season of Deepening Spirituality with Monastic Practices
- Centering Prayer and Meditation. Sunday in the Colonial Room, 10:05am to 10:20am
- Chanting Psalms, 10:25-10:35
- Elements for prayer and reflection
- Sacred Reading as Encounter: A group covenant to read same Scripture on your own.
(Contact the Church Office for connection to the facilitator for materials)
- Sacred Study – A meditative process of viewing documentaries for spiritual growth.
Movies include –
- “Into the Great Silence.” An artistic viewing of the life of Carthusian Monks’ monastic life in France.
- Biographical work about Julian of Norwich (14th)
These artistic, inspiring viewing will be 30 minutes, or less, followed by reflective conversation as we explore deepening our practices of faith.
- Ancient Spiritual Guide – Select one of six soul friends. Each is displayed on a card with a brief
biography and mention of faith characteristics. With our guides, we are invited by their example as they mentor us to practice our faith as a lifestyle. Francis and Claire of Assisi (12th c), Julian of Norwich (14th c), and Thomas Merton (20th c) are a few soul friends from which we choose our spiritual guides for this season of Lent. Cards available upon entry to worship.
- Holy Work – Discovering and practicing spiritual devotion in the work and vocations of our lives.