No matter how you look at it, this is weird: Sitting, standing, bowing, and singing with two old men you don’t really know in a room on a mostly deserted hilltop. That was my Tuesday night.
The local Benedictine monastery has three resident monks, none of them young. This week, one of them is out of town, and on Tuesday, I was the only lay person at Vespers, the evening service in Catholic liturgy. So there we were, two monks and I, chanting the same psalms Benedictines have chanted for around 1,500 years and looking out through the chapel’s glass doors on a stunning vista of emptiness.
At multiple times during the service I thought, what are we doing here? What can we possibly hope to accomplish, two old men in robes and one middle-aged woman self-consciously trying to hit the right notes? We couldn’t be smaller and more inconsequential, and this thing we are doing is illogical.
I imagine many a parent spending hours on a carrot costume for the school vegetable play has wondered much the same thing, as perhaps has a teacher carefully marking every paper when only a few students will thoroughly read her comments. This is labor all out of proportion to any possible result. The purely rational mind finds these actions incomprehensible.
And perhaps that is the point. I absolutely cannot say why I was at Vespers, and that is why I will go again next week. Though a parent could list off the wonderful qualities of his child, that list wouldn’t account for the parent’s love. Maybe something at the heart of the inexplicable is calling to us. Maybe, if we listen, it will say what we are most longing to hear.