For a while now I haven’t written here. I was in a bit of a crisis of faith, as I led into on my last post (see the post about the dry bones).
A Couple weeks back, Niki and I attended St Louis Family Church. I’ve always liked Pastor Jeff. You know who pastor Jeff is if you live in St Louis. He has a brief commercial on channel 2 in the morning, that usually contains this or something similar “Hey, Good News.. Jesus Loves you”. The message he preached on was nice that day, Mark 11:22-24, in short, about faith moving mountains.
The rest of the visit was for lack of a better description, mainstream American Protestant flavored worship. By Mainstream, the overwhelming presence of Mega Church, Mega Band, mega everything. This works for some people. It certainly opens a welcoming door, and starts a conversation that otherwise might not be had.
But I walked away a little empty. Through all the excitement.. through all energy.. I couldn’t find my own connection , though I will not deny, that the Spirit, visited this assembly. Just call it a feeling (and no.. I wasn’t just excited.. I have felt the same thing at High Church Ordinations). But I was still left feeling unfulfilled, as if I hadn’t done my part
Couple weeks went by, and I decided I wanted to visit Vespers at St Louis Abbey. I haven’t attended any portion of the office (let alone tried to pray it at home), in quite some time. But I knew I needed it – You see… there is a sublimity to a monastery, no matter how ornate, or the opposite end, how simple it is. Something about the day, being structured, and the rhythm of that, is very intoxicating to me. I’ve always thrived on structure, and purpose. I don’t know if its my Catholic School Upbringing, or maybe my career choice , but I feel lost without it.
I had asked Niki if she could go with me. She’s always struggled with the Catholic church, at a local level (and lets not forget to mention, some of the Church’s shortcomings of the past 10 years… ) – I wanted her to see another side to the Church. The Side that tamed Europe. The Side that gave us universities, hospitals, and the great cathedrals of the world often. The Monastic expression of Christianity, helped build and mold Western society for over a millenia. I wanted her to know what style and form of worship nourished my own soul (despite my own preference for when I serve for worship to be more lively) – that for me only exists in contemplative settings.
I think a lot.. My mind is constantly racing. At any given time I might have 4 or 5 things at a time I am working out or struggling with. When I am there at Worship, for me.. the last thing I need is more noise. Its different when I am functioning in the capacity of music ministry. I get my role at that point. Its to help lift up others. Contemporary works for a lot of other people, and in the capacity of me serving, its fulfilling, in that I can see the effectiveness. However again, I function on a personal level VERY differently. Sure I talk a lot… I make jokes.. but that’s all a shield.
As it just so happened to turn out, she had to work late that day. I ended up going to the Vespers by myself – At this point..She had wanted to go but couldn’t because of her Job. I’m rather convinced this was done on purpose by Him. Funny how he works.
I pull up, as I park, the bells go off – Bells are important in communities. They are more than just “Oh.. a Church bell.. isn’t that nifty”.. They Signify a signalling to do something (and most importantly, they also are a sacramental that wards off oppression). When those bells chime for the 8 Liturgical Hours of the day, a Monk will stop what they are doing, and go to the chapel and pray – Most always, the psalms – This was part of St Benedict’s rule of life. It was fitting, that in my quest to silence the noise of the world, a Bell would beckon me into the silence of the Monastery Church.
Inside.. I was enveloped. The simplicity of the Plain chant. The intimate comfort of the words of the psalms.. which are still as relevant today as they were in David’s time. I felt a weight immediately lift off my shoulders, and I sat under the shadow of my God.. which I honestly haven’t done in a very long time. It’s Fitting that at the end, the Magnificat is proclaimed, for my spirit Does rejoice in God my Savior. For me.. I needed to be removed from everything else, so I could appreciate that.
I am glad the day worked out like it did – I wish I could have shared this with Niki, but at the same time.. I wasnt realizing that I needed to focus on my own spirit that day. God knew better. God made the day work out exactly like it needed to. I am hoping to go back this week, and maybe she can experience it for herself.