A Quiet Atmosphere

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, January 26, 2020

By: Eleanor Wellford, Priest Associate

Have you ever been on a retreat? My guess is that the answer is “Yes” and maybe more than once. So, here’s another question: Have you ever been on a… hold on…wait for it…SILENT retreat? The idea of that strikes terror into the hearts of some people (probably extroverts) and joy into the hearts of others (probably introverts). I fall into the latter category of people – those who are introverts and find joy in silent retreats.

I have recently returned from one. There is an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Society of St. John the Evangelist, or SSJE for short. The brothers who live at the monastery follow a Rule of Life which includes prayer and service, and which expresses a common commitment to faithful discipleship. One of their ministries is hospitality, which means they open their monastery to guests who are seeking a quiet atmosphere for prayer, reflection and retreat in the setting of a monastic community.

Guests are invited to join in the rhythm of monastic prayer in the chapel and in the refectory for simple, yet delicious meals – probably something I look forward to the most. Actually, maybe not. Maybe it’s the smell of the chapel with its incensed-soaked wood or the way the brothers break into harmony when singing or chanting. Maybe it’s the taste of the communion bread or the bells signaling that a service is about to begin. And then there’s the view of the Charles River from my room where I can watch the dedicated practice of crew teams from the surrounding Ivy League schools.

I cherish this time of rest and refreshment and am amazed at how quickly the time flies when I am there. Perhaps the hardest part of a silent retreat is re entry which first hits me when I arrive at Logan Airport. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the benefits of the retreat to dissipate. I’m hoping that some of the times of reflection and worship will, like the incense absorbed by my clothes, linger for longer.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence…” Psalm 62:1