I visited the Benedictine monastery Sant Benet de Montserrat in Spain around four years ago, and wrote some poems, which I have just dug out…
I remember feeling the presence of God very, very strongly in the church. After one service, a nun, who was about eighty, said she had seen a golden light around me, and it had happened again.
That, I thought, dear readers, was more proof that God is real. Just as I had subjectively felt with an inexplicable certainty God’s presence, a very old Spanish nun, who was totally unknown to me, saw a golden light encircle me, and she kept insisting on it much to the surprise of everyone else.
All of a sudden, I understood the gold used in Orthodox icons for halos and the background. It is not that a particular figure radiates golden light from the inside out. It is God who radiates golden light towards us. It is not that we earn His presence. God gives a token of his presence to us as a gift to encourage us, inspire us, remind us. It is that He pours His infinite spirit into our consciousness.
Pictures of the monastery in the mountains…
A step axed into a rock,
fractured under feet…
The track behind
Sant Benet de Montserrat
has seen so many walkers,
it is tired
of carrying them
upwards to an awakening,
to an ascent, to new places,
with new views, new spaces.
And then there are the mists,
which veil the mountains of Montserrat,
they are an illusion.
But by degrees the mists recede
to reveal the mountains’ dominance
above the details of the landscape,
cluttered, hectic, far below.
Still, it is a long way to climb,
between the zigzag of bushes,
smelling of lavender,
to reach renewal
at the top.
The track rises by degrees,
twists and turns,
an erratic bridge,
past cypress, pine trees,
the way in yellow detail,
but play no part
in any trek.
Carried up by the wind instead,
they make an effortless ascent
and leave the walker labouring on,
stopping to enjoy for only a moment or two
midway between the earth and sky.
When the load carried
from the world below becomes too great to bear,
they can stop and listen to the air,
which whispers of a presence very near
beyond the blue shadows
I had no one to talk to.
No one to tell of my adventures,
my triumphs, trials and my defeats.
No one to talk to
God and the mountains of Montserrat.
Below me, the world slept
cities, countries, continents slept,
overcome by forgetfulness,
oblivious to good and evil,
I had no one to talk to
Except God and the mountains of Montserrat…
They answered me.
They told me their wonderful story,
a story I won’t forget.
When words died,
the butterflies spoke.
When speech failed,
the mountain’s echo broke,
The terrible silence like a grave…