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Friday, November 4, 2016

The Day’s First Sounds

One of the things I most like about being in a monastery setting is the fact that it becomes so much easier to be devotionally involved.  I did not grow up knowing anything about monasteries or monks.  I suppose the best that could be said is that I had an ignorant, stereotyped view of what a monk would be.

Probably high on that stereotyped view would be a man (or woman) who did not have much else going for himself (herself) in the world, so opted out.  It does not get any worse because I was so ignorant I could not formulate any more opinion.  Basically, I was just dismissive.  For sure, monks and monasticism were dismissed as having anything to do with me and essentially irrelevant.

But how things change with a little openness, education, and common sense!  Not only do I see the point of monasticism now, but I also have an appreciation of how relevant it is to my own life.  Common sense now tells me that so many of us “normal” people out here in real life are squandering our lives on useless things---and doing it with little relevance to anything. 

Just as I used to laugh at monks and their monastic life, now I think they may have the last laugh!  What I do know is occasionally I like to hang out with them.  And routinely I try to live a little more “monastically.”  Essentially, this means for me trying to follow the daily lectionary.  All that means is that I try to follow the daily readings that guide the monk through his (her) day.

And I know all too well that on my own I do not do nearly as well.  Getting up in the morning and being thankful for a new day sounds pretty simple…and it is if you do it!  And on my own it is so easy to forget...to grab coffee and read the sports page instead of the morning prayers and readings.  But in this case, intending to do it and failing is better than not intending it at all.  So I intend it; and some mornings I actually pull it off.  So began my morning…not as early as it would have if I had been at a monastery. 

There the Morning Office, as it is called, would have had the monks singing this hymn:
     Our tongues’ first sound doth thee proclaim.
     Our minds to thee first kindle flame:
     Ensuing thence, O Holy One,
     Be all our acts in thee begun.
Since I was by myself, I simply read these words.  They would have been more meaningful with a group of monastics and if I had actually sung them.  Nevertheless, I could meditate on them.

The first line affirms that my mouth’s initial sound was a sound of praise of the Holy One.  That is such a different thought than the request for “a coffee and paper,” as my normal first uttered sound.  And secondly, our minds come alive with first thoughts of the Divine One.  All this early morning spirituality is to one end.

That single end of our devotions is that all our daily acts will be done in the spirit of the Spirit.  If I can put it in my own words, those early devotional intentions are an attempt to align my own will with the Divine Will.  But why would I bother to do this?  Or even want to do it?

The answer is quite simple.  I want my life to be guided by love and driven by justice.  I want to act compassionately and be a bringer of peace.  And on my own, I don’t do a very good job.  Often there is a disconnect between what I say I want and what I actually do.  I desire to be connected to the Spirit.

That way I have a chance.  And that’s why I need to pay attention to the day’s first sounds.

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