BY LANTERN LIGHT
READ: Proverbs 20:27
“The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord – searching the deepest self.” – Proverbs 20:27
With our lanterns in hand, Brother Damian and I went down into the cellar of Greyfriars’ Abbey, the oldest part of the Abbey, the cellar having originally served as the first site back in 1888. Here twelve monks worshiped, ate and slept, day after day for a number of years while the rest of the Abbey was slowly built. Above this cellar now stands the chapel. And this damp and dark place that once was the center of life has become but the resting place of things broken and of things no longer needed. As our battery powered Coleman lanterns illumined this dusty cavern, I imagined myself being a monk of long ago, exploring an ancient place by lantern light. Old trunks and boxes, some empty, some filled with the forgotten stuff that life tends to leave in its wake. Broken chairs, stacks of warped lumber, rusty shovels, hammers, and nails, cobwebs aplenty, all covered with the dusty, dust of time. You see, Brother Damian and I were on a mission – to finally clean out the clutter from this place deep within our world.
The writer of Proverbs teaches that “the human spirit is the lamp of the Lord – searching the deepest self.” Among Benedictine Christians we call this process of searching the deepest self with the Light of God as the work of Holy Introspection. Oh, I suppose this contemplative practice of Holy iItrospection might be likened to modern-day in-depth psychotherapy, but it is much more than that … for Holy Introspection is a sacred pilgrimage made with the Lord at your side, an inward exploration through those inner rooms of our souls. It is a searching, an exploration that is made possible with the honest yet merciful Light of God. In Holy Introspection, one does not make the journey alone, we make it with the Lord by our side. And, in a bit of irony, when we make that inward journey with God, we in turn will often come upon the Lord already reside in some of those hidden and forgotten places, artifacts of faith that somehow became lost to us.
Contemplative writers has often used the image of the rooms within the interior castle. Our contemplative journey has often been described as a pilgrimage through both the soul of God and our own, with the Lord being our guide. Room by room, we take the time to look about in those forgotten places – forgotten places that we often say are not there, but honestly we sense are still there, somewhere As we explore with that Lantern of Divine Light, we sometimes come upon regrets, we sometimes come upon childhood fears, bitter memories stored away in dusty trunks, unrealized dreams rolled up in mothballs, haunting apprehensions that still creak and groan, unfinished work abandoned too soon, old scripts written upon our lives from playwrights of our past, tapes of hurtful conversations still waiting to be played once more, all over again. Most of what we find in those cellars and attics within in our souls we thought were no more. Yet we find they are still with us – taking up space and making it empty, slowly spreading the mildew through the ghostly thoughts within us. If we explored these inner rooms by ourselves, they would surely frighten us … so we leave them there behind half-locked doors … almost gone, … but not really gone. But when we explore with them the Lord, that Holy Light helps us to finally get around to cleaning up those inner places, sweeping them clean and filling them with fresh possibilities. Somehow we are always braver when we are not alone; somehow we always are braver when we have with us Someone “bigger” than ourselves.
Here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, we believe in the practice of journal-ing. The Benedictine way has always found benefit in drawing forth the thoughts from within and them translating them into words on paper. Sometimes the journal pages we write, we keep in cherished bindings, to leave to those follow us lingering traces of our souls. Yet, at other times, the journal pages we write, we burn up – quite literally – to become smoke rising into the mercy of God and ashes returning to the dust of matters best left behind. We believe that in Holy Introspection, we discover that which ought to be resurrected into new expressions of life and we also discover that which we ought to cast away, to be returned to the dust of the trail behind us. So each day we journal … and we journal … and we journal … day after day, every mile of our spiritual journey … writing of what we come upon in our explorations of our souls and our exploration of the soul of God.
And I add this note about the keeping our journals, we always place at the beginning of each entry we write, the date and hour. … Why do we do this? Because we as Christian disciples in the Benedictine spirit believe that we are always beginning again, always moving forward with each new day and with each new moment, never dwelling in the past, but learning from it, forever journeying on, journeying on into Forever.
So, my Loved Ones, know thyself … but know thyself in the Light of God.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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