I'm just back from a few days at the Benedictine Monastery of Mount Saviour in Elmira, New York. There are ten hardy monks there, on their feet and hanging on, who still keep the traditional seven times chapel-gathering for prayer, starting at 4:45 in the morning.
The monastery is indeed at the top of the mount. The road heading in is a steep enough climb to require a stop or two to catch your breath. And right at the top, just before the monastic buildings come into view, there is this marvelous tree, now bright orange with yellow-leaved wild grape vines underneath.
"Stop and consider the wondrous works of God," we read in Job 37:14. God's imagination: trees that change color, to delight us!
And in the monastery there are other wondrous things to observe and consider:
The tables in the refectory (dining room) are U shaped with the prior (head-monk) sitting at the center so to lead the blessings. But splaying out to his left and right are the guests. The monks sit further away along the U, only after the guests are seated and served. Even at Mass, the guests receive Holy Communion first; the monks follow. There are some good Gospel verses about living this way of others first.
And while there is no vow of silence, the monks speak really only about necessities. The guests find it very hard to carry this over to the guest house where there is usually too much talking. The witness of quiet monks is important, maybe especially these days, bombarded as we are with advertising and constant talk shows and "Breaking News."
Wouldn't it be something if the Christians were identified more by our quiet interiority than by our outward shows. That we were the ones who didn't get into all the stupid talk. Father John says: "Where there are many words, sin cannot be avoided."
We might find a bronzy-orange, flame-tree today somewhere, or imagine stopping along the monastery road shown here, and in silence, just consider.