“A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, ‘Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.’” – The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, by Sister Benedicta Ward (pg. 48)
Before one of our two new postulants became a postulant and moved into the formation area of our monastic cloister, she asked me what her room would look like, how big it was, and could I take a picture of it for her? I smiled at her curiosity, because I remember my own when I was getting ready to become a postulant. Would there be enough shelf space to hold my books? Would I have a window, and what would the view be?
I reflected on these things early one morning during prayer. Sunlight silently streamed through the large window of my room, chasing the shadows away in the far corners. A sense of quiet came over me, and I became aware of God’s presence. If “home is where the heart is,” then I was at home – not just in my room, but in the heart of God. In monastic spirituality one’s room is called a “cell.” In her book Tools Matter, Sister Mary Margaret Funk describes the monk’s cell as “the cloud in which God speaks, the fiery kiln in which precious vessels are made, the workshop where the lost likeness of the creator is reformed in my soul, the altar receiving the gifts of fasting and contemplation.” I seek God in my cell, pray over scripture using lectio divina in my cell, and rest in my cell. As I do these things, the walls of my cell become “the sole witness of divine love flaming in the heart.” Kind of gives “cleaning your room” a deeper sense of importance and urgency, doesn’t it?