This fall, coworkers Greg Armstrong, Cortez Mitchell and Amy Alstad, and many volunteers have been clearing the underbrush from several areas on the property. They have opened up the space under a couple of stands of trees on the west side of Lost Lake. Another clearing was opened up along the gravel road to the hermitage. Most of the underbrush in the meadow of young oaks opposite the apple orchard on the hill was mown early this fall. Many volunteers worked for several months to clear out the non-native trees and brush from the kettle on the northeast side of the oak woods.
When I come upon these open spaces as I walk the grounds, if I am paying attention, something opens up in me as well. The open space invites me to slow down and be attentive. I breathe more deeply and relax. I see the surrounding trees in a new way. The open space invites me to explore what is there. When I enter the clearing, it also invites me to explore what is in my inner space.
Open, simple, uncluttered space is an essential element of the monastic environment at Holy Wisdom Monastery. You have likely experienced its effect on you either consciously or unconsciously when you come into the monastery building. The openness of the Assembly room and the gathering space invites us beyond ourselves to connect with ourselves, with God and others. The simplicity, the silence, the uncluttered space provides room to breathe, to come home to ourselves, to see and receive others, to reflect on whatever wants our attention within us. The open space surrounding the table in the middle of the Assembly room invites us to notice and receive the presence of the transcendent among us. The silence following the reading of Scripture during the liturgy functions the same way. In music, likewise, the rests are as important to observe as are the notes.
This Advent, noticing the space around us and creating space within us can help us to notice the presence of the Holy around and within us. My walks have slowed down over the years. This helps me notice what is around me. I’ve taken up a mindfulness practice. It is gradually helping me to pause and open up space within me to notice – even if the only thing I notice is how unmindful I am.
Mary must have created sufficient space within her to receive God’s message so fully that God’s own life came alive in her. May we also increase the space within us to receive the Word of life more fully into our lives this Advent and Christmas season.