Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thor’s Day: The monks’ bell

A prose poem

By Bob Boldt

At the first ringing of the bell, a dozen pair of feet stir and seek the cold monastic floor. Pious eyes blink away the sand of dreams and awaken as tired muscles address the lifting and donning of coarse cloth cowls. The windows of the cells alight as candles press against the morning night.

At the second ringing of the bell, each solitary monk stands before his door awaiting the blessing of the Abbot, who silently gestures Christ’s cross in the air above each celibate, shaven head. Brother Andronicous violates the silence with a muffled sniffle as he wipes his runny nose.

At the third ringing of the bell, the Abbot retraces his steps down the hall, leading the band out into the chill, fall night. Moist eyelashes brace against an early frost. A startled owl, his eyes twin lighthouses reflecting the torchlight, hoots his prayer to mouse and monk. Brother Andronicous stifles a cough with a homespun sleeve. Like a slow stream, the twelve file into the chapel. Noses embrace the reality of frankincense as they gently drop compliant knees against the cold chapel’s stone floor.

At the forth ringing of the bell, the solitary work of each humble heart begins. Cracked lips part as voices incarnate the air with the familiar notes of Matins Lauds, the psalm of praise. Never an artist since Blake or Rembrandt has seen the rough candlelight capture the beauty of such dutiful humanity: their red fleshy cheeks, the obedient hands in prayer, the souls dampened like a gentle fire deep within. Brother Andronicous sneezes and parts with a tear of regret for the frail body’s irreverence.

At the fifth ringing of the bell, the sun, in due obedience, reaches his rays into the corner of the stable and even the crack in the altar door where the host sleeps. Tired knees, paralyzed with this morning’s devotions, resurrect the body and reluctantly assume the rough penance of gravity. The blessed morning’s work done, they file out of the chapel and into the dining hall. Brother Andronicous’s cold has been cured by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. He tells no one of the miracle.

Copyright © 2015 by Bob Boldt

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