Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


Long before my journeys to monasteries for retreats began, I was already familiar with the term Vespers, or Evening Prayer. Perhaps it is my Scottish heritage and old stories from the “motherland.” In any event, it is the single monastic Daily Office (service) that I knew.

At Gethsemani, Vespers is held at 5:30pm just before dinner. I usually try to arrive a bit early as the sharper angled and weaker light rays of that time of day usually create interesting effects on the stained glass windows and in the Abbey itself.


These effects often create a sense of peace that helps slow the heart at the end of a work day. It is easier to take on a prayerful or contemplative mood to match the softer lighting. The opening words of each service seem particularly meaningful:

“O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.”

At the end of the Vespers service, the retreatants slowly leave the Abbey by a side door that leads to the Retreat Center. After making several twists and turns in staircases and hallways, we all end up in a line ready to serve ourselves  dinner from the hot (well, maybe lukewarm) trays of food in the kitchen serving area.

We take our selections on our trays to the dining area where most folks sit alone at individual tables. Since silence reigns during mealtime, there is not much sense in finding a pal to eat with. (Although, I think that with the exception of 1 meal, A, D and I took every meal at the same table. Occasionally our desperation caused us to resort to scribbling notes to one another on D’s ever present pad of paper. Personally, I enjoyed playing a game of charades myself in trying to get A and D to figure out what I was trying to say.)

The 6:00pm dinner is a bit lighter in fare that the midday meal. Keep in mind, that the final service of the day, Compline, is just a short hour and a half away and it is after that service that The Great Silence (bedtime) begins.

After finishing dinner and piling up our dirty plates, there is usually just about an hour before Compline. It is a perfect time for a short walk around the oval driveway in front of the Abbey. We were also fortunate in that each night, the weather was usually just perfect for that stroll where we often took the time to catch up with one another about our experiences of the day.

( to be continued...)

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