Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Into Great Silence

With the middle school chorus' rendition of the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann ringing in my ears, I got in the car last night to drive up to the former Jesuit novitiate north of Reading. It was so dark when I arrived that I nearly missed the gates. I wound down the long drive to find the parking lot brimming with cars, a sure sign that a retreat is in full swing. I offered up a quick prayer that this group had a better grasp on the concept of silence than those in the house on my last visit, grabbed my bag and headed up the walk to the cloisters. I heaved a sigh of relief - great (as in really terrific or profound, take your pick) silence reigned within.

I can see from the bulletin board that the retreat is in its sixth full day. The stillness is tangible, and I slip into it, drafting on everyone else's work of the week. I'm seriously undeserving of this - having not worked a full day, but getting a full day's wages nonetheless. Thankfully no one is comparing graces.

I've been here twelve hours, spoken to no one, soaking in the grace, slowly stilling body and soul. What a change from last time. No ringing phones tearing at the quiet, no lawnmowers savaging the lawn and the peace, no cell phone conversations crawling in through the windows, not even an organ ripples through the stillness.

At dawn, I stole into the kitchens for a cup of tea, and took it and my breviary out into the east cloister garden. At the moment I can't bear the thought of going to lunch -- even the dishes clattering seems too much. Time to dig into my stash of fruit and cheese...

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