In our monastery’s large refectory, at the furthest end, a large cross hangs over the abbot’s place. It is the cross we use on Good Friday. I sometimes will walk down to it, the refectory dark except for the light that is over the cross. I will stand there and sip my coffee and pray, I guess, looking up at our Savior who gave his life for me, for all in the world. I believe it, and on some level understand it, but it is still a mystery how it all works.
A mystery is not something we do not understand. It is something that we can’t get to the bottom of it, nor should we. It is an eternal journey.
Old age brings to light our inner world in ways that are not flattering. After all these years, I still move two steps forward, three steps back. A deep faith in God’s love as manifested in the Eucharist keeps me on the path.
The church is very large, and there is usually one or two monks there before me. We are spread out so we do not interfere with each other’s prayer. The whole church is made to be focused on the Blessed Sacrament. As I get older prayer before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus is becoming ever more important. I am thankful for this grace.
For life does not get any easier as we age.
Old age brings to light our inner world in ways that are not flattering. So a deep faith in God’s love as manifested in the Eucharist keeps me on the path. After all these years, I still move two steps forward, three steps back. I have learned to seek, to continue my journey, in spite of my falling seven times a day, as the Psalm says, and even more than that on some days. For if I am a just man, it is tenuous.
Getting older is hard, but I am thankful for it, for it is a necessary part of the journey. Billions have made it before me, and perhaps billions more will do so after I am gone. I am learning patience — forced to, I guess. Also the ability to accept that pain, both inner pain and physical pain, is something not to fear, for again, it is part of the journey.
Getting older is hard, but I am thankful for it, for it is a necessary part of the journey. I am learning to accept that pain, both inner pain and physical pain, is something not to fear, for again, it is part of the journey.
A deep loving trust in the Infinite revealed in Christ Jesus brings healing in ways I cannot express, or even really understand. Praying can be difficult much of the time.I do know that prayer, the reality of it, can only be experienced in the doing, not in the discussions over it, or the many books written on prayer, but in simply doing, in praying. Which can be difficult much of the time.
God does not pamper us, but the Holy Spirit will use the Word like a sword that cuts through all of our illusions, and all our false impression of ourselves. Humility allows us to accept our being tested by the Lord.
Open your heart, do not fear, but trust, yes, choose to trust, no matter what. Prayer blossoms even in times of drought, inner suffering, in growing older, and yes, in the face of death as well.
Brother Mark Dohle, now seventy-one, has been a monk of the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, since 1971. He runs the monastery’s retreat house. You can find more of his reflections on death at Hour of Our Death.
The photo of the monastery’s church is taken by Steven Karg and used under a Creative Commons license.