Saturday, April 09, 2011

Of Gods and Men

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.


  1. Thank you for the strength to come home and write about it immediately.

    You are an amazing woman.

  2. How wonderful to read this piece from someone who understood and participates in what she saw and heard.

    I read a (positive) review on an evangelical site in which the reviewer referred to the appropriateness of the psalms the monks chose to the circumstances of each prayer time.

    "Chose?" I wondered. "Well, who knows, maybe they did?"

    But you confirm here the appropriateness of whatever comes 'round to the circumstances at hand.

  3. Sometimes I really feel like I live in a bubble, but hey, you can't know about everything that is happening in the world. Will look into this. Thanks.

  4. Beautiful description of your personal reaction to this wonderful film.
    I just got my copy from Amazon and I watched the first 20 minutes or so but I was not in the right place of mind for it, so I stopped it and want to watch it again when I have settled my mind. That may seem a strange thing to say but the pace at the beginning is so very slow and gentle and that alone is a precious message from the film - how we need to slow down ! I do agree so much with what you say about reverence too- I could see that so clearly even in the part I watched at the beginning.
    Blessings ( and many thanks for your good wishes re the blogging conference - much appreciated. I just booked the flight and accommodation today - got a loan from my wonderful priest !!