Thoughts from - and happenings in - a Monastery  

This is entirely factual. Anyone who has stayed in a Monstery or Convent will appreciate how one's senses are heightened and how the most trivial of things sometimes take on a far greater significance.

1. The Window Pane

There it was, right in front of me; the frosted window, made up of individual square frosted panels. From a cursory glance there appeared to be absolutely nothing remarkable about it but suddenly I realised there was!

One of the small, square panels was different from the rest; it was still frosted but through this particular one something was faintly discernable beyond. I could see greenery and, as I continued to look through it, I began to make out other colours amongst this greenery.

The message seemed clear - God (in this case, in the form of his creation) was there all the time, obscured by the frosted panes except for that one. Yes, God was still obscured but not totally; He was far from clear but He certainly was noticeable.

How easy it is to look through the wrong pane; not even to search for one which reveals a tantalising glimpse of something behind it.

Equally, how glorious it is find that glimpse; to be aware of creation beyond and the prospect of colours, light, shade.

Thank you, God, for speaking to me through such an everyday, seemingly unimportant occurrence and for reaffirming your presence and the fact that there is a path to you to be found, with the promise of one day seeing you clearly, unobscured.

2. The Pattern

As the sun shone through the window during the Eucharist, it formed a bright pattern on the floor right in front of the altar. It seemed as if God's very presence was there.

However, a cloud must then have passed in front of the sun, because before my eyes the pattern faded and disappeared. After a few seconds, I could tell the brightness coming back as the cloud moved away: the image returned, as bright as before.

Of course, the sun was there all the time but the image it produced had dimmed and vanished. I saw God in this: His constancy remains, although we might not always see it. 

The way in which God manifests Himself may become obscured and our ability to see and discern God become dimmed or absent totally. Yet God is still there; unceasing, unchanging.

When He seems to vanish like this, our faith should - and must - see us through whilst being comforted at the thought that He still remains and we will see Him again.

3. The Brightness

On one particular morning I spent a few minutes with my eyes shut, face to the sun, feeling its brightness and warmth come down upon me. 

That same evening I knelt in prayer on a prayer stool in front of the figure of Jesus on the cross up on the wall. Towards the conclusion of my prayers I lifted my head, still with my eyes shut, up to where the figure on the cross was and, incredibly, I felt light and warmth pouring down on me like the sensation in the sun that morning, only even more so.

I was so amazed at this; it took me totally by surprise and I remember thinking "Is this really happening?".

Yes, I had just had my head bowed, in my hands; yes I was in a lighted room, although I was facing one side of a corner, not directly to the electric light on the ceiling. Nevertheless, I had experienced something shining down on me in streams of warmth and light. Incredible!

In the morning, I checked the room and realised there was another light right above the cross where I had knelt. What a disappointment! This clearly had been a lesson in not seeing into things that are not there; to beware of a tired or over-fertile imagination; to be on guard against false witness. All these things are sound.

However, on examining the room further I discovered that the light above the cross was switched on and off by a separate cord-pull, which I had never touched! On originally entering the prayer room I had just flicked the light switch which had brought on the light in the diagonally opposite corner. The light above the cross had never been on after all!

What I had experienced, then, was not an illusion but was true!

4. The Candle

As I sat for the Midday Eucharist I looked at one of the two candles burning by the altar. The flame was short and fairly steady.

Then I caught sight of the shadow of this burning candle as a strong light from the side shone on it, casting its shadow on the side of the altar.

To my surprise, the shadow showed not a short flame but a long plume of flame, or heated air, or smoke emanating from the candle. This was no illusion: there, caught by the bright light, was the very essence of heat and light plainly visible yet, looking directly at the candle again, nothing of this enhanced, hidden nature was to be seen; no smoke, no heat, no disturbance or warming of the air - just the small, steady flame.

Surely this was a sign from God that His presence might be invisible but, seen in the correct light, might be all too clearly manifest.

Unseen God, help me to capture those situations where you can be revealed; help me shine the light to illuminate and make manifest your presence.

5. The Shaft of Light

In the night, a light shining through a vertical crack where the door did not quite abut left a broad shaft on the ceiling and wall. In the glare of daylight, that shaft was no longer visible.

Is this like God; a bright light on the other side of a door, visibly only when we look for Him?

Are we dazzled by the glare of daylight drowning out God trying to break through? Are we looking out of the windows rather than towards the door, in the direction of God? Is the draw of what is outside diverting our attention, our aspirations?

Perhaps we need to redirect our gaze, our thoughts; to turn away from the pull of the attractive bright lights; to find that shaft of God in the darkness and to follow it to - and through - the door.

Richard Farquharson, Maulden, Bedfordshire February 2018