It was time for Vespers, so I turned down the volume on the Retreat Center cell phone and headed upstairs to chapel, holding the phone in my hand. By the time I set the phone down in my choir stall the formerly-blank screen was somehow displaying the weather in London.
The weather in London? Somehow, a few random brushes of my hand against the screen as I walked brought the London weather report, with a grey sheen of fog, straight to my choir stall. I didn’t even try to stifle a smile over the strange life of cell phones – unruly children who go where you do not bid. But then I realized that the foggy weather report in London was actually a perfect entry into prayer.
When we gather for liturgical prayer, we bring the world with us. In chanting the Psalms – those ancient words which express the human cry to God in all its intensity and purity – we articulate words and worlds that are beyond us. We pray with and for victims of violence, those who suffer hunger, those who are experiencing loss, those who are filled with gratitude, those who lament, those who rejoice, those who mourn…. It’s as if they are in the chapel with us, so close are their concerns to our hearts.
We typically think of Benedictine hospitality in terms of welcoming those who come here to the monastery, or those with whom we interact in ministry. But I think there is also a kind of hospitality in prayer in which one’s heart expands to encompass the concerns of people and peoples you don’t even know in places you’ve never heard of.
Although this may be the sunny south, the fogs of London are truly not far away. And so, in our liturgical prayer, we welcome the world into our midst, letting the concerns of our brothers and sisters fill our hearts, and letting their cries to God be on our lips.