Monday, April 21, 2008

DAY HOUR AT PRINCE OF PEACE ABBEY

Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific, Prince of Peace Abbey offered me a quiet afternoon reprieve from people, church-politics and busyness. I had spent the previous day in Long Beach, at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.. I’ve never enjoyed church politics or ecclesiastical business. After observing the machinery of the Presbyterian Church for a day, I was looking for a quiet place to reflect and pray. Prince of Peace Abbey welcomed me into God’s cloister peace, a place to read, pray and renew my spirit.

A neighbor to Camp Pendleton Marine Base, the Prince of Peace Abbey stands as a counter-culture witness to our national war machine. The driveway meanders up “S” curves, past acres of wrecked cars. The sounds of cars being crushed at the junkyard below can be heard from the ridge top where I walked and prayed through the fourteen “Stations of the Cross”, a meditation on the crucifixion of Christ. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.[i]

Benedict thought it wise for monks to meditate upon death. Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.[ii] This kind of spiritual insight just doesn’t go over real well on Wall Street or Santa Monica Boulevard. The twin worlds of business and leisure groan with the pressure to produce something bigger, better, more exciting. Monks have taught me to learn how to die from those who are living life to the fullest in the face of death.

During the midday prayer service known as Day Hour, I marveled at the sunlight beaming through a vast stained glass mosaic window of depicting the glory of Creation. Far out on the horizon, we also could see the glimmering blue of the Pacific Ocean.

After prayer, the Abbot took me on a tour of Prince of Peace Abbey, including some quiet time for meditation in the tropical cloister flower garden. In typical Benedictine fashion, we then gathered as family in the monastic dining room to enjoy lunch together, eaten in silence as body and soul gathered together to once again find the gift of shalom, that spiritual restoration and well being which is our heart’s true gift from the Prince of peace.

[i] Isaiah 53:5.

[ii] Timothy Fry, O.S.B., Editor, RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1982), Chapter 4, 28.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Hello David,

Thank you for your timely words on peace and its availability, if I take the time! I heard an interesting interview a few weeks ago on the same idea of finding true happiness. A man had traveled all over the world, trying to find the "happiest place on earth". It wasn't Disneyland! He found it in a barren village, on a remote island, with very few symbols of what our culture says promotes happiness. An elderly villager was questioned about the joy that permeated daily life there. He answered, "Well, we think about death every day so we move through each day with joy. Embrace your end and your days will be sweeter." His words have been ringing in my mind since then so I was delighted to find Benedict also reminding us to hold that same thought. There is more alike than different when all the trappings are pulled away.

Continued blessings on you and Thomas for providing lovely reminders of the God's creative beauty and of his loving words and guidance for us.

Anne