My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him. ~Psalm 62:1
Halfway up a hillside across several fields from the monastic buildings, the brothers of Gethsemane have placed life-sized bronze statues of the sleeping disciples, Peter, James and John. Continue up to the top of the forested hill and you’ll find the praying Jesus in agony. The monks call that hillside “The garden of Gethsemane”. Something in the quality of that statue of Jesus in prayer awoke my prayer life unlike any sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject of prayer. While we lie asleep, having given in to the various temptations, mostly ineffective in our spiritual life with God, Jesus continues to pray for us. Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.[i] This singular activity is what lies at the heart of the spiritual life, including a monk’s vocational calling.
High above the entrance into the retreat house at Gethsemane Abbey, carved in granite, you find the words in capital letters, GOD ALONE. These words are drawn from Psalm 62:1 which reads, My soul finds rest in God alone. This spiritual reminder has traveled with me long after my departure from my various retreat weekends at Gethsemane.
After one of my visits to Gethsemane Abbey, I stopped through Bardstown, to fill up with gas before heading home. After a week of silence and solitude in such a place as Gethsemane Abbey, I was slapped in the face with the crass, hurried pace of civilization. Words seemed cheap, advertisements banal, and people bored or misdirected.
Strange though. After time in the cloister, I found my spirit full of compassion towards people. Spiritual journeys are to be shared. People are genuinely hungry for spiritual food and drink, including pastors.
What Gethsemane has to offer at the end of their mile long driveway most people yearn for but seldom seek, ask or find. Benedict had a clear vision of hospitality, carried out to this day in every Benedictine monastery: All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’.[ii] This same Christ works the night shift, staying awake through the watches of the night to pray for our souls to find rest in God alone while we sleep.