I got home last night after spending three days at a Trappist monastery. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life.
I was going to write a long journal entry about it, copying excerpts from my hand-written journal, the one I keep only when I am at the monastery. Instead, I will write this "off the cuff", telling you not about the minutae of the weekend (which I know is probably boring as watching grass grow for most of you), but about how this weekend affected me.
As I prepared to compose this, I realized that there is no way I could put into words what borders on a transcendent experience. I mean that in the sense that it was an occurrence surpassing that which I had ever known, one beyond my ability to express.
To call it an epiphany is not quite right. I don't think I've ever had one of those yet (although there have been some times in the past two years that I've had my eyes opened, sometimes painfully, to the reality of my surroundings), but I hope and pray that I do someday. Yet to describe it as a religious awakening tends to cheapen it. This was not just some weekend God-warrior retreat.
This was a total immersion in the agony and death of Jesus Christ, the deep mournful cry of the world during his time in the tomb, and the throwing open of the heavenly treasury of grace when He rose again, triumphant over sin and death.
I have felt this only once before in my life, and by no coincidence at all, it was also during Easter. It was two years ago, on the night I was received into the fullness of the Catholic Church, the night I first received the blessed Holy Eucharist.
I know there's a lot of non-Catholics who read this, so it's rather difficult for me to describe that ineffable experience when you receive the Body and Blood of Christ. In these mundane symbols, all of the love, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and spiritual nourishment of which one could ever conceive are given to you, and the true power and grace of God are made manifest.
Now imagine a life spent praising the one who is the source of this, the source of all things. These men have willingly given their entire being to serve Him. I was privy to only small taste of that during the past three days, but it was a taste that satisfied the deep and gnawing hunger in my heart. The cancer of the spirit that had been eating away at my self-worth, my sanity, and my very soul has been forced into remission.
I use that word deliberately. There are many meanings to that word, and each one is uniquely appropriate:
the act of remitting, the relinquishment of a payment, obligation, etc.
I suppose I did remit payment of a sort. When one has taken so much from so many for so long, eventually he has to settle accounts. I think this weekend was a substantial down payment, but the debt has still not been erased, and won't be until I draw my last breath.
pardon; forgiveness, as of sins or offenses.
Oh, it was certainly that. While I did not to to confession while I was there (I went on Holy Thursday, and by the grace of God, had kept from mortal sin), there is an incredible impact when you are reminded, in no uncertain terms, that all of the transgressions you have ever committed, and ever will commit, were anticipated, and that the God who gave us free will to turn our back on him also is there with outstretched arms to welcome us back to Him when we are ready to turn to him in contrition.
abatement or diminution, as of diligence, labor, intensity, etc.
Every once in a while, we all need to be reminded that we work too hard, take life too seriously, and are too earnest. We can't see the forest for the trees. I've been so focused on getting from one point in my life to another that I've been slamming my head into a brick wall. This weekend, God came beside me, laid a gentle hand on my shoulder, and told me, "Stop. Rest. Let me open the way for you." He made me lie down (or in this case, sit down) in green pastures, let me beside still waters, and where I was pounding against the unbreakable barrier, He opened a doorway and led me through.
a temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease, a period during which such a decrease or subsidence occurs.
This is probably the truest sense of the word for me. The toxicity which has been poisoning me has been treated, but is by no means eradicated. I still have a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of emotional and mental problems that I need to deal with. Some of you know a few, but nobody knows them all, perhaps not even me. One weekend, no matter how blessed, is not a panacea. What this was, however, was a continuation of a course of treatment. Through prayer, attentiveness to God's message for me, and obedience to His will, the spiritual rot within me will shrink, to be replaced by love for God, for others, and for myself. I have to keep at it, though. If I start to backslide, if I fail to grasp the seriousness of my actions, if I seek to put the blame for my sins on something or someone else, if I begin to view my sinful nature as just an inevitability and resign myself to it, then whatever good works have been started this weekend will be for naught.
Man, for someone who said I couldn't put this weekend into words, I sure wrote a ton.
To make a long story longer, this was exactly what I needed, exactly when and where I needed it.
Call it my guardian angel, divine providence, or just part of God's plan, but things are starting to fall into place. The puzzle isn't complete yet, and I don't know what the final picture is going to be (God hid the box), but I'm ready to continue working at it.