On my visit to the abbey today, I arrived early to spend some time in the church before 8:00 pm compline (the last divine office of the day).
The monks begin entering the church about 7:30 pm. The monks come in at different times and through any one of several doors into the church. Although even the young monks have done many complines, the monks are not rushed as they walk in — they are not distracted. The monks have already set their time to an ancient liturgical clock. They are like walking prayers before the community begins praying together.
The monks coming into the church are a proper example of John Cassian’s comment, “we need to prepare ourselves before the time for prayer to be as we would wish to be found when we pray, since the mind is shaped in its petitions by its previous state.”1
1. "Saint John Cassian on Prayer," translated by A.M. Casiday, page 12.
The picture above is of the new interior remodeling of the church without the large lift scaffold that blocked my getting a full picture before.
On Sundays and other special days the monks walk into the church in two columns, but on days like tonight, the monks walk in on their own. They are dressed all in black in floor-length cloaks. They have hoods, but do not pull them over their heads until the end of compline when they all put on their hoods at the same time — they enter the great silence until morning laudes at 7:00 am.
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