3:00am. 2:00am Central Time. The brothers get up at 3:00am because that is their job. It is their job to pray for the world while everyone else is sleeping. It is their job to join with Christ in keeping watch over the world. But all I could think of was getting back into my warm bed for another few hours.
After 3:20am Vigils the brothers engage in 30 minutes of contemplative prayer on their own, followed by a time of Lectio Divina. By that time breakfast is available, so some of them eat and bathe prior to Lauds at 6:30am. Lauds, not Vigils, is the first prayer of the morning. Vigils is the nighttime prayer. Lauds welcomes the day.
As much as my soul was willing to stay up for meditation and Lectio Divina, I just wanted to go back to bed. And so I did, setting my alarm for 6:15 so I could throw my clothes back on and go to Lauds. Then breakfast. More peanut butter, toast, and marmalade. No cheese this time, but there were hard-boiled eggs. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Following breakfast we celebrated Eucharist. I was expecting the Liturgy to be more like the United Methodist liturgy than it was. I followed along fairly well, except for the responses in Latin. When that was over we celebrated Terce, and then joined Fr. Guerric in the library for a video by Fr. Martin Laird on contemplative practice.
The Cistercians are a contemplative order, which means that their primary focus is on the inward life. Fr. Guerric hoped that our time at the abbey would help us to pay better attention to our own interior lives, and that we could spend much of our time in quiet contemplation. It sounded so much easier than it was. After the video Fr. Guerric took us to the chapel to begin our first “sit.” I made it through the first half of the twenty minute sit before I caught myself falling asleep. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone back to bed after Vigils. The catnaps only made me more tired.
The walking meditation was a welcome break, but once again I fell asleep during our second twenty-minute sit.
After a break, our next activity was noon prayer (Sext), followed by lunch. The Cistercians tend to be vegetarian, so we had curried vegetables, some steamed mixed vegetables, salad, and fruit. During the noon meal one of the brothers reads aloud from a book. We assumed that the book would be something overtly religious in nature, but after a few minutes someone in our group realized that they were reading from The Boys in the Boat. It was a pleasant experience to be read to--to sit back and drink a cup of coffee and just be present.
Our afternoon consisted of two more one-hour sits and (for me) many more naps. By the time supper rolled around I was just about numb. But I made it through Vespers and Compline before finally collapsing into bed at 8:00pm.