Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Between Dinner Bells

Again the bell rings, reminding the monastic family that it's time to move from one activity to another.  In this case, it is time to eat.

As we mentioned earlier, the midday meal is normally the main one in a monastery.  The nuns or monks file silently into the Refectory and take their places. Again they will hear spiritual reading as they dine, for time is never wasted here. 

Today's refectory reading will be a selection from a book we mentioned in our last post.  Being today's reader, I sit in a chair in front of everyone else (I'll have my food later), announce the reading material, and begin....

Today I'm reading a few scattered excerpts from the introduction to the book Praying Scripture for a Change, an Introduction to Lectio Divina, by Tim Gray.

The book begins with a quote:  "'Well, let's now at any rate come clean.  Prayer is irksome.  An excuse to omit is never unwelcome.  When it is over, this casts a feeling of relief and holiday over the rest of the day.  We are reluctant to begin.  We are delighted to finish.  While we are at prayer, but not while we are reading a novel or solving a crossword puzzle, any trifle is enough to distract us.  And we know we are not alone in this....'"  (C.S. Lewis). 

"We are not alone in finding prayer difficult.... The necessity of prayer is seared into the Christian conscience, and yet many of us live our lives short on prayer.... We hear stories of saints who seemed to talk with God as easily as placing a direct call, and we erroneously imagine that prayer was effortless for them, marked always with joy, consolation, voices and visions.  Against this backdrop we grow discouraged.... If you have trouble praying, then welcome to the human race.  The fact is, we don't know HOW to pray.  Everybody, including the saints, begins life not knowing how to pray.... Our first parents enjoyed unbroken communion with God (shown in the book of Genesis by the image of God 'walking in the garden' with Adam and Eve, speaking with them freely and they with Him).  With original sin, however, everything changed.  The imagery of Genesis is vivid and profound.  God doesn't hide from us; in fact, He comes looking for us.  But we hide from God (see Genesis 3:8), our sin and shame opening a gulf between God and man and shattering the communion of 'the beginning....'  Bridging the chasm between Creator and creature is no simple matter.... as we shall see, in the person of Jesus, God not only calls us but brings us into friendship with Him and teaches us how to pray... Indeed, the crucial thing for us to understand is that God is eager to teach us how to pray.  So eager, in fact, that His Spirit is already at work in us creating the 'divine discontent' we so often feel about our prayer lives.  God does not judge our attempts at prayer anymore than a natural father would chide an infant taking his first steps.  Rather, He cheers us on, motivates us to try again.... The reason anyone anywhere at any time has ever been moved to pray is because God, by His Spirit, was drawing them toward Him... God doesn't just teach us how to pray; His Spirit empowers us to pray.... We must always keep in mind that prayer is God's invitation to enter into an intimate relationship of love and life with Him.  If we forget this is what is happening when we pray, we start treating prayer as simply an obligation...  God desires a personal relationship with us through our Lord Jesus, who has paid with His blood to open the door for us to enter into that relationship.... the God who has put into your heart the desire to know Him ultimately will fulfill....." (1)

Suddenly, the bell rings.  
No matter where I am in whatever book has been chosen, I stop reading.  The bell has rung.  No matter how abrupt the change may seem, the time for dinner reading is concluded. 

The voice of God now calls us on.

To continue our next monastic day, click this line

(1)  Tim Gray, Praying Scripture for a Change, an Introduction to Lectio Divina, Ascension Press, 2009, pp. 1-9.  See a review of this book by clicking on this line.

Click here to come visit our Parlor.