Appointments with the Eternal Present

Geese in Formaion, photo by Sr. Catherine Grace

Geese in Formation, photo by Sr. Catherine Grace

Very near to the house, migrating white throated sparrows toss dry leaves and sing their hyper-clear two-pitched song.  Restless geese disturb the calm of sky.  Pale leaves, almost weightless, reveal the shape of air currents circling quickly, swirling slowly, rising, dropping.  I love the sweet scent of leaf decay as my shoes scriff through the path to the convent.

I love my thrillingly dull life.  The threat of a freeze driving us into Sweet William’s Field to harvest peppers provided the biggest drama this week.  Intoning groans punctuated by “tsk tsks” for belated maturing after a cool wet summer, we salvaged what we could and hung some plants upside down in the greenhouse hoping against hope for some post harvest ripening.  I brought the geraniums onto the porch at St. Cuthberts, and brought two pots into St. Aidan’s to bloom in the kitchen window over the winter.  That was the extent of excitement this weekend. 

Brush of Autumn Color in Fog, photo by Sr. Catherine Grace

Brush of Autumn Color in Fog, photo by Sr. Catherine Grace

I love when nothing happens but the routine of monastic Offices and Eucharist, meals and chores, work and rest.  Most of my life I’ve lived with family members or served in work places full of drama – the stirring up of usually non-issues for the sake of emotional color, often involving secrecy (because if you simply said aloud calmly what the problem was, it could be solved then and there.)  And although I’ve met monastics who tended toward drama and intrigue, the conventual life works best without flailing and histrionics.

What a luxury it is to live with people who value a life of prayer!  Yesterday we talked about the “rich young ruler” who came to Jesus, asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus looked at him and loved him.  “Go and sell what you have, give the money to the poor, and then, come and follow me,” said Jesus.  And the young man went away sorrowful and grieving because he had many possessions.  A sister observed, “We’re called to live in absolute detachment in order to live in absolute connection.”  Another sister said that we need face that eternal present moment between past and future “with a spirit of generosity.”   The women Bill and I live with show up every day for the insight that’s offered continually by the life they’ve fashioned.

This morning I read from the section of Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook in which she says, “If Romeo and Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet – one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere- there would have been no romance, no passion … “.  She goes on to say what every teacher of writing says.  You have to show up to your appointments to write.  “It comes before everything, even technique.”
Bill on the path to St. Aidan's, photo by Sr. Catherine Grace

Bill on the path to St. Aidan's, photo by Sr. Catherine Grace

The monastic life is a life of appointments: meditation, Lauds, Eucharist, work, Noon prayers, dinner, rest, work, Vespers, meditation, Compline.  Day after day.  Bells calling you to gather and again to focus, calling you from one task to the ongoing and never ceasing appointment with the Divine.  Calling you from worrying about the past or future into generously giving yourself to the eternal present.

Mary Oliver is writing about poetry, but she could just as well be writing about prayer. “If it is all poetry, and not just one’s own accomplishment, that carries one from this green and mortal world – that lifts the latch and gives a glimpse into a greater paradise – then perhaps one has the sensibility: a gratitude apart from authorship, a fervor and desire beyond the margins of the self.”

I love this dull life, fecund with inner excitement, exploration, revelation, fascination, surprise, and showing up punctually to face the Eternal Now.

One Response to “Appointments with the Eternal Present”

  1. MikeF Says:

    Glorious post! I just love this glimpse of your “thrillingly dull life”! Yes – what truth there is in those three words! Thank you…

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