Care of the sick and the reception of guests are about the only reasons we don’t head to chapel at the sound of bells, so it was a strange sensation last evening to be standing outside as the final Vespers bell called the community to our evening prayer. Guests were expected though, and it was my charge to greet them, so I planned to pray Vespers at my desk in the Retreat Center office.
As the evening air absorbed the last reverberation of bells, I paused outside the office. Quiet chant began to flow from the open chapel windows and I suddenly realized I didn’t have sit at my desk for Vespers. I pulled a sidewalk chair within a viewing angle of the retreat entrance and grabbed my prayer book. With the retreat center to my right and the chapel to my left, I prayed the Psalms of Friday Vespers surrounded by climbing vines, a delicate breeze, slanting sunlight, and quiet lines of chant that streamed from the chapel windows.
Our chapel is arranged in traditional monastic fashion with the choir divided into two facing sides. We informally refer to the two as ‘St. Scholastica side’ and ‘St. Benedict side’ based on the statues that anchor the apse. Last night, with the breeze dancing and the Psalms of Vespers flowing, I sat on the ‘sidewalk side,’ yet united as one in prayer with the community in the chapel above me.
Yes, a guest did arrive as I prayed. I put my book aside to greet her, and together we carried her bags down the long sloping sidewalk that led to her room. I walked back up the hilld through the breeze, the sunlight, the fading colors of fall, striding along the tree-shaded walk, ever alert to the presence of God in the beauty of the late afternoon, in the voices of my Sisters, and in the presence of our arriving guests. And that, too, is prayer.
All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ…
Rule of St. Benedict 53:1
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