At the end of many retreats I have been on, I have been asked to distill the time into a short reflection. Sometimes this is called “graces” or “contemplation time.” At one camp I attended, which is beautifully situated on a mountain in Eastern Kentucky, we were asked, “What will you take with you off the mountain?” This is partly a physical description, but it is also an allusion to the Transfiguration of Jesus, where he and a few disciples are brought face to face with God and themselves, and are forever changed. That is what has happened at the Monastery this year. I have been brought face to face with God and have been changed.
So, what will I take with me off of this mountain? It may actually be impossible to relate what will be taken with me. I know that I have been transformed. From a new appreciation of the Gospel of John, to a deepened prayer life, to the creativity the Brothers fostered and encouraged in me, I know that I am changed. But how? The Psalmist says that “the human heart is a mystery,” and I would add that the changes to the human heart are even more mysterious.
Then, perhaps the “how” is not so important, and the “why” is truly what I’m after.
Why have I been transformed? Because I was loved. From the first hour I arrived, I was loved fearlessly and courageously. The Brothers, the staff, the congregation, all of them took a leap of faith and loved me and all my fellow interns, wall to wall, foibles and all. On good days and bad, in the midst of conflict and tranquility, there was never a lack of love and encouragement. It was in this love that grace was found. It was in this never-failing environment of love that I climbed up to the mountain top. And it was with these Brothers and this assembly, that I came to experience the ever-flowing waterfall of God’s Grace. There, I saw a vision of a world transfigured into the City of Light. And in that, I was changed. How was I changed? In truth, those changes will only be revealed in God’s time. All I can do is walk down the mountain and take the transformation with me.
And so, like Peter, James and John, and Jesus too, I come back to the question, “What will I take with me off the mountain?” “Faith, Hope and Love – and the greatest of these is Love.” Fearless, graceful, fiery love. As it is written in the Song of Solomon, I will take “a love as strong as death.” And I will let the rest come in God’s good time.