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Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

These were my first greeters to the monastery this weekend.

These were my first greeters to the monastery this weekend.

This evening a whole gaggle of Canadian geese were crossing the last 200 yards of narrow road leading to the monastery retreat house.

As usual I’d been in a hurry and was running late to catch dinner and a room key…

The geese stopped me.

Like mini orange flippers shuffling off to the local pool for a late afternoon dip, their feet didn’t pick up the pace when my monstrous grey animal made of rubber and steel interrupted their peaceful stroll. If anything, the feet slowed, then halted, all of those velvety black heads turning in almost perfectly choreographed unison, some a full 180 degrees, to get a good long stare at the interloper. It was a momentary showdown, they waiting for some perplexing secret code or recognizable honk by which to let me pass.

And as I gently moved my foot from the brake to the accelerator, hesitantly pressing ever so slightly, the vision of goose road kill – no doubt a first in the history of the monastery – flashed morbidly before my eyes like another display of Nature’s cruelty narrated by David Attenborough. The tires. The alien screech. The awful aftermath. What would the gentle monk in charge of the retreat house say when I explained the fresh goose carcass in the middle of his extended driveway?

The geese were ever so slowly dispersing, but not fast enough to spare me the next fateful, pregnant moment: it was the sound of my own breath, the exhalation of surrender, the grace of letting go. My mostly blind, frenzied rush through the motions of life had received a “cease and desist” order from those oblivious geese. And for a moment I had seen and heard.

After dinner I walked down to the water, which is where I always end up when I’m here. A gentle breeze was rustling the green underbrush along the little path to the lake, sending whole thickets of leaves into a rippling cascade of vibrations. Like an invisible harpsichord player with countless fingers strumming out some faint, husky, low-rushing melody … that was the wind this evening.

The Spirit, Jesus said, is like the wind. Can there be any better metaphor?

This evening no fiery tongues of fire fell on my head. But the sight and sound of those leafy keys trilling like a harp, dancing to some mysterious, haunted melody, were enough to remind me the Spirit was here. So were the geese that told me to rest without saying a word. Why, I wonder, must we ask for greater signs and wonders?

 

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