Welcoming the Guest

Although we still cannot have guests and visitors in our monastic home, it doesn’t mean I am not trying to practice hospitality these days—it just looks a little different right now.

There was one day last week—the weather followed this predictable, yet peculiar pattern. For about thirty minutes or an hour, the sun would shine brilliantly in the sky. Then, almost instantly, the gray cloud cover moved in and snow began blowing through the air. Then, again, the bright yellow sun. And again, the snow. And again and again. The entire day. I had seen the sun and clouds play before, but never so seemingly aggressively and remarkably consistently.

Predictable, yet peculiar.

As we read 2015 papal encyclical, Laudato Si, for an initial monastic formation course, I shouldn’t be surprised to find myself feeling a similar pattern these days. We are a part of nature, after all, even when we forget that very basic truth. What happens to our earth happens to us.

The smallest things are providing me great joy and light, but then I quickly sink back into the discomfort and gloom of these quarantined days. Just like that day last week, a movement between darkness and light. Spotting two herons and a few friends on Friday made all the difference in the world. Saturday’s sunshine did the same for me. But, yesterday’s dreariness echoed my mood…at least until I made a lemon meringue pie at night and was lifted back up a bit.

When people ask me how I am doing, I usually respond, “It depends on the moment.” Because it really shifts that quickly for me right now. I know it is a natural experience, those ebbs and flows of our emotional life, but the movement seems so fast sometimes that it startles me when all of a sudden a sense of lethargy comes, or in the opposite way, I spontaneously want to just get up and run.

I don’t know what exactly to do with it other than try to breathe peacefully with the movements inside me and say to them, “Hello, and enter.” Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, reminds me to welcome it all. As we end National Poetry Month, I’ll include it here.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Let us practice hospitality, however the opportunity appears.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

lemon meringue and the beginnings of a camp fire