Why it is good to “hangout” with monks.

I’m guessing most of you have not taken the time to “hangout” with monks. Last week, I had the privilege of staying two nights at Mount Saviour Monastery near Elmira, New York with a group of nine other people. They genuinely welcomed all of us.

As it says on their website:

The Monastery of Mount Saviour is a community of monks striving to live a simple, genuine and full monastic life according to the Scriptures and the Rule of St. Benedict.

This includes practicing the seven Daily Offices. These are times of prayer and worship each day:

  1. 4:45 am

  2. 7:00 am

  3. 9:00 am

  4. 12:00

  5. 3:00 pm

  6. 6:30 pm

  7. 8:15 pm

These times of prayer last from ten minutes to around 40 minutes. There are small adjustments for special days in the church calendar, but yes, they practice these everyday. Here is an opening hymn for one of their times of prayer.

Your first thought is likely what my first thought was. How do they ever get anything done?

I struggled with this at first. It seemed so “ineffective” or even a “waste.” And yet, I continued to wrestle with my feelings. What I began to see was a rhythm of daily life that speaks to the rhythm of all of our lives.

This rhythm brings alive the tension of whose life is it. Is it my life to do whatever I want? Or, have I truly given my life over to following Jesus? Am I willing to go wherever He calls me to go? Am I willing to give whatever He calls me to give?

They are reminded throughout each day that it is not their life. When they find themselves focused on something that they may want to do or finish and the bell rings, they know to stop. They stop, and they go to prayer. They are reminded who truly is the Lord of their life.

They are reminded daily of what we read in scriptures. Our lives are “like a puff of air.” They live out daily the words found in Ecclesiastes 1:

3 What do people gain from all the hard workthat they work so hard at under the sun?4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,but the earth remains as it always has.5 The sun rises, the sun sets;it returns panting to the place where it dawns.

They are blessed for they have been able to pull off their veils and see their life as not their own. I, we, keep telling ourselves we are in control of our lives. It is my life. I can do what I want. Can you? Do you?

What I was reminded of is that we all have a rhythm to our living. We all have outside forces that play roles within our life and choices. Get your kids over to that practice. Make sure you get to work on time. You have to get that project done. Now it is time to eat.

What guides your rhythm of living? Who or what is in charge of your life?

My time “hanging out” with the monks reminded me that my life truly is not my life. I am part of something “bigger” whether I acknowledge this or not. This is one reason I love our focus on Connecting People to Christ’s Love here at Barnitz and Mt. Zion. It is not the same as the seven Daily Offices. However, it does bring us into a rhythm of living that is bigger than ourselves.

I confess. I truly struggled during a number of those prayer times. I did not have the patience to sit through them all, but I did. Funny thing was that when I came home, I found myself being drawn back to the experience. I found myself missing the people, missing the peace, missing the focus, missing the rhythm.

And to answer the question you have been asking yourself. Yes, you too can visit them if you would like. Check out their visitation information here.

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

(All scripture cited above from Common English Bible Copyright © 2011)

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