Musings from the Monastery + 2018 (Part II)
May 30, 2018
By the Rev. Jonathan Linman
Assistant to the Bishop for Faith and Leadership Formation
In the final instructions in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle writes, “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thess. 5:17). While it is true that the Holy Spirit is already at prayer in us with “sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26), the monastic routine seeks to make this ceaseless prayer more of a reality that we are aware of in our daily lives. Prayer in the monastery is communal, in the several prayer offices and daily Eucharist, and before meals. Prayer is private, occurring in one’s own room. Prayer happens indoors in the chapel, and outdoors amidst God’s good creation. The whole day, from beginning to end – and even overnight in the wakeful night watches – is seasoned with prayer of one type or another.
Praying for You
One of the most important ministries of a monastery is intercessory prayer. The public expression of such prayer finds its focus during the daily celebration of the Eucharist, during which the prayers of intercession go on for a long time, with names being named, and specific circumstances being lifted up. Intercessory prayer also continues privately throughout the day.
So it is that I have been praying for you each and every day. You, by name, as pastors, our various deacons, and other leaders of our Synod. You, our conferences and the congregations and ministry settings located therein. You, the committees and ministries of our synod, and other specialized ministries and initiatives.
As I remember you in my daily intercessions, I am thankfully aware of the many gifted leaders with whom our Synod is blessed. I am prayerfully aware of the many important, creative, and vital ministries and missionary initiatives you undertake, efforts that seek peace, reconciliation, and the full inclusion of all of God’s children in our life together.
I am also aware of the burdens you carry. Over the course of the almost ten years that I’ve been on the Bishop’s staff, so many of you have told me your stories, stories of opportunity and joy to be sure, but also many stories of anguish. Know that your challenging circumstances have been weighing heavily on my heart during these days as I offer petitions to God for you, even as I thank God for you and your ministries.
Praying for the World
Prayer happens in the monastery church, but also in the chapel of the great outdoors. I love to sit outside early in the morning and at dusk, as well as other times of day. It’s pretty quiet up here in the grassy and wooded acres alongside the Hudson River – quiet at least by Manhattan standards. But it’s by no means silent.
Most noticeable are the birds, chatting, chirping, and singing busily, especially early in the morning. It’s soothing to listen to the birds. But I am also aware that much of their chatter is about conflict – competition for food, for territory, for sex toward propagation of the species. Even in the comparative quiet, the world of nature is not an easy place, which the busy noisiness of the birds reveals. This awareness leads me to pray for God’s good creation, especially during these days when so much of the natural world is increasingly stressed by climate change.
Such prayerful thought leads me also to notice and reflect on the other sounds that I hear in the comparative quiet – namely, the auditory evidence of the burning of fossil fuels in the various loud or quiet sounds of internal combustion engines. The Hudson River has always been and certainly still is a major transportation corridor, and such thoroughfares are noisy places. Geese flying north at this season use the river to guide their way, honking loudly as they go. Then there are the boats of all kinds, shapes and sizes on the river – barges, ships, motor boats, jet skis – making their noises.
And the Amtrak trains that follow the Hudson’s path, the roar of locomotive engines echoing in the river valley. And likewise the freight trains I hear in the distance, that eventually also wind along the river. And the noise of planes and helicopters that follow the course of the Hudson. And the distant background noise of cars and trucks on Highway 9W that parallels the river. And don’t forget the lawn mowers and leaf blowers! It may be subtle in the background, or it may involve major interruptions of the stillness, but the sounds of internal combustion engines of one sort or another are basically a constant. Which leads me to pray again for our busy, striving, anxious world that is burning up carbon-based fuels at a fevered pitch and pace, a burning that is overheating the whole planet. God help us – that’s my prayer for our world.
As I write this reflection piece, my time at Holy Cross Monastery is drawing to a close. I look forward to soon traveling to our Lutheran Monastery in Michigan, St. Augustine’s House. Yes, there is a Lutheran monastery! But the real test of this whole experience will be how I manage to integrate important features of monastic spirituality into my life and ministry in our Synod. The proof will be in the pudding. Or “you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16a) So it is that I continue to invite your prayer for me, even as I continue to pray for you!