The chairs are empty now, silent and still in the early-morning glow of daybreak. Soon, day two of our annual summer community meetings will commence.
Our meeting room is filled with ordinary objects, the kinds of things one finds in a conference space these days, and in days gone by – an LCD projector, a chalk board, paper and pencil, laser pointer, and microphone – an easy and comfortable blend of the old and new, mirroring the easy and comfortable mix of generations in our monastic household. At each Sister’s place is her own particular stack of notes and references, and maybe a coffee or soda cup.
It seems, for all appearances, like an ordinary sort of meeting space. But looking around the room, I know there is nothing ordinary about it. We are practical people, gathered to talk about practical things, but for a purpose that transcends practicality. We are meeting to plan our small part of building the Kingdom of God, helping to prepare the way of the Lord.
Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, he sent some of his disciples ahead to make preparation for the Passover. They were engaged in practical tasks – securing a room, readying places at a table, purchasing food for a special meal, arranging utensils and serving dishes, preparing candles to charge the dim light of evening, preparing the liturgical texts for the readings of that special night. But their purpose transcended practicality. They were preparing the way of the Lord.
Ever since the preparations in that upper room, Christians have gathered to prepare the way of the Lord. They have met in rooms small and large, in hiding or in grand arenas, in twos and threes or in thousands. They’ve used parchment and stylus, paper and pencil, LCD and laser.
This morning, we will soon gather for breakfast, and then move to the chapel to pray Lauds. Then we’ll settle into our chairs, wrap our hands around coffee cups or soda glasses, fire up the LCD, click on the microphone, and roll the chalk board into place. We’ll spend the day talking about goals, budgets, ministry roles, etc. But for all the talk about practical matters, our real purpose will be resonating plainly on the surface, like the vibration of a drum that sends sound cascading through time and space. It is the same purpose as that of the disciples of old, and of Christians through the centuries who have met to order their lives to the mission Christ. We meet to prepare and order our lives to the following of Jesus in faith, keeping lit the Light of Christ, the candle that charges the darkness of the world.
[Jesus] said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him ‘The teacher says, ‘My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.’” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. Mt. 26: 18-19