Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace. - Antiphon for the Nunc Dimittis
I saw the film Of Gods and Men tonight. It left me almost speechless in its simplicity, beauty and difficulty.
I wrote about the Trappist monks of Tibhirine two years ago in a column for the Standard & Times. I'd learned of them through a poem written by Marilyn Nelson, The Contemplative Life, which quotes the letter left by the prior of the monastery, Christian de Cherge, OCSO. The last lines have stuck with me:
And you too, my last minute friend, who will not know what you are doing, Yes, for you too I say this THANK YOU AND THIS “A-DIEU”-—to commend you to this God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy “good thieves” in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both. . . AMEN!
I've been pondering divisiveness lately, the intercession that appears at Morning Prayer on occasion: Forgive us for failing to Christ in the poor, the distressed and the troublesome, and for our failure to reverence your Son in these persons.
It's a strong statement, it's not about seeing Christ, or serving Christ, but to reverence Him. As you might in the Eucharist. I'm trying to keep my mind on this statement as I read comments and blog posts. Can I reverence those I find most difficult, most troublesome? Not tolerate, not dismiss, reverence. And I'm fascinated that the Office assumes this is where we all run aground!
The movie: is extraordinary (as any number of other people have said). But what moved me particularly were the scenes of the monks praying the Office. Just eight monks, facing each other in a small chapel, looking not so different from the community I pray with each morning (the Augustinians wear different habits). There was same antiphon I say each night, the Salve Regina that I pray (in Latin), the psalms. I realized at one point that the Office was telling me the time and the day of the week (Psalm 143, Tuesday, Night Prayer); something perhaps no one else in the theater was seeing. It somehow made it far more potent an experience. That and the realization that as this was happening, I was pregnant with Chris, praying that same Office balancing my breviary on my burgeoning belly, with the whole Church — including those men. In some way through this common prayer, I was present to those monks, a part of what happened there. United, not divided.