And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey,

a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,

and learn to be at home.


—Wendell BerryImage

Days 3-4-5

The Trappists of Gethsemani are in choir seven (7) times a day.
Retreatants – there were about 30 of us this week – just join in, mumbling, as the monks chant.

All these decades later, Thomas Merton’s description in Seven Storey Mountain
still resonates:
“I was amazed at the way these monks who were evidently just plain…Americans from the factories and colleges and farms and high-schools of the various states, were nevertheless absorbed and transformed in the liturgy. The thing that was most impressive was their absolute simplicity. They were concerned with one thing only: doing the things they had to do, singing what they had to sing, bowing and kneeling and so on when it was prescribed, and doing it as well as they could, without fuss or flourish or display.”

Speaking Thomas Merton, once I found the right cemetery, this was my third try, his grave was hard to miss:

Summing IT UP:
I’m going to revert to Merton again, partly because the experience of this week is so fresh, but mainly because he does it a bit (!) better than I ever could.
After his first visit to Gethsemani, he wrote:
“The logic of the Cistercian life is, then, the complete opposite to the logic of the world, in which men put themselves forward, so that the most excellent is the one who stands out, the one who is eminent above the rest, who attracts attention….the monk in hiding himself from the world becomes not less himself, not less of a person, but more of a person, more truly and perfectly himself: for his personality and individuality are perfected in their true order, the spiritual, interior order.”
Back in New York after that visit to Gethsemani, Merton was struck by the busy-ness of a place he thought he knew :
“And how strange it was to see people walking around as if they had something important to do, running after busses, reading the newspapers, lighting cigarettes…”