Stairs to the dormitory
Leading directly from the spaces for worship and prayer, stillness and solitude are the stairs to the space for rest and rejuvenation. This staircase would have been used for the monks to ‘hurry in a dignified way’ to engage in ‘the work of God’, and no doubt hurry back to a warm(ish) bed!
In the creation stories of the Bible, God is portrayed as working creatively to bring about life in all its glory. It was good, very good. (Genesis, Chapters 1&2). Significantly, the writer describes each day as beginning at the evening – ‘there was evening and there was morning – the first day.’ (Genesis 1; 5) The implication is that rest comes before work in God’s ordering of life. We, on the other hand, tend to collapse into bed at the end of the day in order to recover from our work. Would we look at our lives differently if we began to think of working from rest rather than resting from work? Would rest take on a fresh significance if we learned to value it as the God given opportunity to be fully prepared and alert for the gift of the new day ahead?
Again, there is something here about priorities. I know that getting the right amount of sleep makes a massive difference to they way I am – my effectiveness, my mood, my capacity to enjoy the things I do and love the people I’m with. How often do you, like me, suffer from ‘sunset fatigue’ – being totally useless in the evening because you’ve given everything in the day? NB Rick Warren’s proverb: “Those who burn the candle at both ends are not as bright as they think they are!”
Taking steps to honour God’s ordering of creation leads to the rest we are made to work from.
- Praise God for the night and its purpose in God’s plans.
The following prayer from Philip Newell may be one you can use:
Glory be to you, O God of the night
for the whiteness of the moon
and the infinite stretches of dark space.
Let me be learning to love the night
as I know and love the day.
Let me be learning to trust its darkness
and to seek its subtle blessings.
Let me be learning the night’s way of seeing
that in all things I may trace the mystery
of your presence.
- Set your alarm clock to go off when you have decided to go to bed, and obey it as rigidly as you would in the morning!
- Learn this prayer from the night office of Compline and repeat it on your pillow until you drop off.
Guide us while waking, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.