My Time in Gethsemani
In the fall I went to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Gethsemani is a working monastery but has a hotel style section to allow people to come and spend time in silence and solitude. I went and spent four days to commune with God. Here are some of my reflections:
Silence and solitude is a lot like fasting. Initially it is great, then you only concentrate on the fact that you are in silence, finally you find a peace, comfort, and enjoyment in the silence.
At times the silence is deafening, in that you become alone with your thoughts and they are many. You discover what consumes your mind. I was surprised at that three sinful things continued to surface for four days. I knew I struggled with these but not to the degree that I do. Silence brings your sins to light.
When you create space, silence, and solitude you have so much time to talk to God and to read his words. I would talk to God for hours and let him speak to me as well. I spent my time reading the Psalms allowing God to teach me how to talk to him and how he understands my needs and desires.
The monks at Gethsemani pray seven times a day. You would think why would I go and hear them chant their prayers (the Psalms). When you spend 4 days in solitude the only time you are around people in at prayer time and meals (which are spent in silence). But I still longed for these times because it was a time of community. I can’t explain it but I felt connected to the others in the room even though we never talked. I would get up at 3am and 5 am to share these times with others. By the way the chanting was beautiful and I wish I could get it on tape.
I had a chance to talk to one of the monks about mass. He told me that he would arrive an hour early to spend time in the presence of the bread because it was the body of our Lord and he wanted to simply rest in his presence. That moved me and made me think about preparing myself for worship and spending time with my Lord.
The last thing is that old buildings have that smell that is like an old leather book. It is holy and divine in and of itself. I miss the smell of Gethsemani.
If you get a chance I encourage you to go to Gethsemani and spend some time there. Book early. They have 300 acres to allow you time, space, and solitude. They provide you three meals a day that are great. The cost is whatever you want to donate.