Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The World Is My Cloister

St. Bernard Abbey Church
Cullman, Alabama

The world is my cloister.

Yours too.

It’s a too obvious pun, but often the art of writing for the spirit is stating the obvious. “The world is my oyster” is an idiom or metaphor for personal success. “The world is my cloister” is an invitation to experience the world and success in a different way.

And, given that beings like ourselves are multiple light years away, if at all, earth is our own little cloister in the known universe.

That’s what came to me Monday morning, the day I write this. Before I continued my re-reading of The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris (which clearly gave me the idea), I sat on our front porch for some time sipping my coffee, listening and observing.

The street is quieter now that we are sheltering in place because of COVID-19. Fewer of us going to work and no children being driven or biking or walking to school means diminished traffic. The only people I see are walking their dogs or walking and running themselves. Most of the sounds I hear are squirrels chasing one another in the trees and birds chirping or bickering.

An almost invisible flash of light overhead sends a slow and lengthy rumbling of thunder through the clouds above. A light, almost imperceptible rain begins to fall, and in places where the moisture silently gathers until released—leaves, roofs, gutters—I can better hear the periodic splatter of its deliverance to concrete, asphalt, or puddle.

These gentle sounds are occasionally and briefly overrun—nearby or from afar—by the roaring and screeching and banging of the city’s metal dragons devouring our rubbish and our recyclables—Monday is trash day in our neighborhood, after all.

I revisit a very pleasant dream I had Sunday morning as I awoke. I was home with my biological family in our tract house in the L.A. suburbs, enjoying a happy visit. We were all about to leave to go other places and were explaining to one another what we had planned. I felt a hand on the top of my head, gentle but firm, as if in blessing. I didn’t know if it was Mom’s or Dad’s or, wishful thinking—could it be God’s? I fully woke up, still feeling this hand pressed on my head and thought I’d find my hand there or Wade’s, but lo, there was no hand. I told Wade about it on our morning walk.

Now, on Monday, a familiar neighbor walks by with his big friendly dogs, and I pick up an umbrella to walk toward him while keeping our respectful six feet of social distance. We speak of our shared experience of Ormewood Church on Zoom yesterday, a digital app that allowed our spiritual community’s first meeting since the governor of Georgia banned gatherings to constrain spread of the virus.

I had been surprised that so many—35 family units—signed on for the service, with liturgists, singers, and pastor leading us remotely.  Wade and I had kept our setting on “gallery” so we could see the families attending in their varied home environments.

I confessed to the neighbor that, because we didn’t focus exclusively on our pastor during Jenelle’s sermon, I untypically did not follow the sermon so well—my fault, not hers—as I enjoyed the distractions of kids climbing on parents or fiddling with the devices or sticking faces or fingers in their camera's eye.

What our neighbor took away from the experience, he said, was that “this is community” –that so many went to the trouble to log in and participate, including our usual small group time in which we were asked, “What has been your ‘darkest valley’ this week and what has been your ‘grassy meadow’?” Our text for the service and the sermon was Psalm 23.

I was especially in awe that Zoom could scramble us into small groups after the sermon where we could see one another on our screens and offer our answers to one another by unmuting our speakers.

We are blessed by these new cathedrals. And we are blessed when we see and hear, taste and sense our neighbors and neighborhoods as cloisters of the Spirit, of the holy, of the whole people of God. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord our whole lives long.”

Related post: A Healing Touch

I was invited to be among the contributors to Ashes to Rainbows: A Queer Lenten Devotional that includes meditations for Ash Wednesday, the Sundays of Lent, and the days of Holy Week. Go to:

You may support this blog by clicking here. Please scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2020 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted and encouraged for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 

1 comment:

  1. I was somewhat reticent in reading your blog this morning. But I was joyfully surprised by the end. I love how you brought everything together as if seeing all of these tendrils as elements of your zoom service. As always, thank you!