Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Advent 2: Jesus and Coffee

View from St. John's Abbey Guesthouse dining room near dawn
It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m sitting at the gate in Minneapolis. My flight doesn’t board for another 2 hours.  The smell of coffee brewing fills the air. There is a long line for at each of three coffee stands, and Midwest accents twanging brightly all around me.  The terminal is bright and bouncing (all that caffeine, I think).  Such a contrast to solemn vespers at the abbey last night, where light pooled around the altar, barely keeping the darkness at bay.  Quiet, even with a hundred voices chanting.  The scent of incense still clings to my sweater. Still.

I woke as if the bells were still ringing the hours.  12:11; 1:11; 2:11.  The rumbles of the snoring monk in the room next to mine reminded me of walking down the first floor hallway at Eastern Point at 3 in the morning, hearing the snores of sleepers, imagining the blankets rising and falling like in a cartoon.  The walls in the abbey guesthouse are not thin, so it took me a while to figure out what I was hearing when it began.

At 2:45 am I grabbed my bags and headed upstairs to drop off my key, stop in the church for a brief visit at the tabernacle and then be in front of the abbey church at 3:00 am as directed to catch my shuttle to Minneapolis.  Little did I know that Jesus would be dressed in blue sweats having coffee and reading the paper in the dining room.  “You can’t sleep either?” he inquires.  I’m packed lightly, but still, I’ve got a bag slung over my shoulder, and am dressed for a Minnesota night.  He offered me coffee, too, and I think might have been inclined to chat, but I had that shuttle to catch. No time now to stop in the church, I left the keys and dashed up to the bell tower to find the shuttle just pulling in.

While we waited at St. Cloud for another passenger, I checked my mail, to find a string of emails from my sister, chronicling a night which included 2 ER trips for my dad, one by ambulance after he collapsed getting ice cream, a transfer to the bigger hospital 40 miles away and over the pass, emergency surgery and much worry.  (As I write this, he’s recovering well…and my poor sleepless sister is utter toast.)  I kept my sister virtual company by text message — glad at that moment to have had to get up at this crazy hour.

And when I pulled my sweater off tonight, I can still smell the incense of last night's solemn vespers.

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