Notes from Manresa, prt. 8

10:07 pm.  My experience in the chapel tonight was quite different.  I was in my room thinking of going to bed around 8 pm, then I felt myself compelled to return to the chapel for more prayer.  I have read that at some point a transition takes place from “I should pray” to “I must pray” – I think in the Manning book.  Not sure what happens when I get home, but here at the retreat house, this has certainly happened.

This was after spending 40 minutes reading through the underlined portions of my gospel of John, and reflecting on the notes scribbled there.  And so I went back to the chapel.  But upon entering, I was gripped by something.  Not physically, but emotionally.  I stood there, silent, in the back.  My heart rate quickened, and I dropped to my knees in the aisle.  It’s not that I could not stand, only that I knew I needed to kneel.  There, on my knees, I did not pray.  I did not say anything but I clearly remember wondering why it was so different this time.  I had actually felt compelled to return to this place.  Now I was there, just kneeling, waiting until I knew it was okay to stand again.  It was just a few minutes.  Then I stood and walked slowly, almost cautiously, to my customary seat at the front.  Then I sat, feeling slightly nervous and overwhelmed.  This was not fear, but it was certainly not the warm fuzziness I had experienced nearly every other time I had entered the chapel.  I still do not fully understand it, except to suggest that perhaps it was the first time I had shown up there fully expecting God to show up as well.  In my prayer, earlier that day, I had asked to see God.  What struck me then was that it took me 12 years to move toward contemplation because I was not ready for it.  What evils might I commit if I were allowed to actually see God?

What strikes me now is that I clearly saw something in that chapel, and that is why I dropped to my knees.  I do not know what I saw, and I did not see it with physical eyes.  Of course even on a spiritual retreat such as this, there’s nothing wrong with being open to the possibility that I ate something bad the night before, or that I had somehow psyched myself out.  (Although it wasn’t a terrifying experience – just unsettling).

So after I got up and went to my seat I prayed.  Then meditated.  I again bowed at the front as I left, but whatever I had sensed at the beginning was now gone.  Again, I was never afraid, but something was clearly different and I had known that my rightful place was on my knees.  Perhaps this was a reminder from God.  “All this Abba-Daddy-Love stuff is well and good, but remember who you’re dealing with.”  I remembered.

It is now 10:25.  On my last night here I have learned how to actually have a full day.  And what a full day it was.