A long, sloping hallway that we call “the passageway” is probably the most ordinary, nondescript, purely functional place in our monastery. A series of potted plants, flooding sunlight, and a few statues brighten the path, but they can’t completely disguise the concrete block walls, square panes, and the painted concrete floor that wraps around the back of the chapel to connect Annunciata Hall with the monastic dining room. It’s one of the plainest, yet also one of the most heavily used areas of the monastery.
Last night, after completing supper dishes with Sr. Lynn Marie, I walked through the passageway, mindlessly reviewing events of the day and in general being somewhat lost in thought. I passed an open windowpane through which the scent of gardenia floated like a sudden gift of spices from the east. The sweet, honeyed aroma awakened me more effectively than any alarm clock, and I suddenly remembered the presence of God. Within the span of a breath, I moved from mindless thought to silent prayer as I made the final turn and began climbing the steps toward my room.
Occasionally, a sign will be posted within the monastery with a preface of “N.B.” Many of you know this to be an abbreviation for the Latin Nota Bene, which means “note well.” It calls us to pay close attention to an announcement of particular importance. Last evening in the passageway, the scent of gardenia was like a fragrant N.B., calling me to note well the presence of God and the beauty of God’s creation within the most ordinary of activities and places.
Postscript: As I typed this I realized how appropriate it is that a statue of the Blessed Mother graces the turn of the passageway, blessing this ordinary, everyday space and our many passages through it. She is one who truly ‘noted well’ the announcement of the angel Gabriel. Sr. Therese took this photo a year or two ago. She called it “a moment of grace in the monastery passageway.” A Nota Bene moment, for certain.