By the tender mercies of our God, the rising Sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Sacred art radiates God’s glory high above the altar in the sanctuary at Monastery of the Holy Spirit.
The glass artwork, a twenty-foot round window facing East, was designed with Lauds in mind. Mary, with open arms, offers the most radical form of hospitality any human has ever given, welcoming the Son of God into her mortal flesh. Within her womb the Christ Child offers the same open armed radiant blessing to the world. Above them both hovers the dove of the Holy Spirit and the hand of God. During Lauds, the morning service of the monastic day, God’s glory fills the sanctuary with radiance streaming through Mary and her Holy Child.

According to The Rule of St. Benedict, the morning service at dawn, also known as Lauds, begins with the blessing from Psalm 67, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” I have often traveled the freeways, highways and country roads on my way to this abbey, in need of such a blessing. Weary of people, thread-bare of spirit, cynical and nearing burn-out, I’ve discovered God’s gift of spiritual renewal, simply by turning off the country road and heading down the mile long cloister drive lined with Magnolias.

Take the left fork at the end of the drive to arrive at the Abbey Guesthouse if you’re planning to stay overnight. If you’re just coming for Lauds, take the right fork which leads to the Porter’s lodge and the entrance to the Sanctuary. Step into the predawn Sanctuary and spend some time slowing down and gathering your soul together after that long drive. As Lauds begins, let the Psalms wash over your soul as the rising sunlight washes over your face, radiating through the colored glass artwork of Mary and Child. Joy comes in the morning!

After Lauds, stroll out to the gift shop to leisurely browse through an excellent collection of contemplative books. Monks support themselves like everyone else. A monk once told me that monasteries employ monks in a 24-hour workweek. This monastery included cottage industries of gift shop, bread baking, book-binding, stained-glass shop, farming and a Bonsai garden nursery.

I am often in need of the restoring help of monastic silence and solitude. That mile long row of Magnolias offered me this grace every retreat I’ve taken to Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. Though I could still hear the cars buzzing by along the country road, the noise seemed far off, like it belonged in another world. The fragrance of Magnolia blossoms in springtime, just after the dawning of the new day offered my weary soul heaven’s benediction.