Today, I decided to take a trip to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, since it was only 18 miles from the ranch. I believed it would be a short road trip.
When I looked the directions up on Google Maps, I was a bit confused. Google Maps indicated the monestary was only 18 miles away but would take 55 minutes to get there. That seemed odd, but when I turned off Highway 84 onto Forest Road 151, I discovered why the trip was going to take so long.
Forest Road 151 is a one-lane, mostly dirt and gravel road. It was 13 miles from the highway to the monastery. The speed limit was 15 mph, and I was only able to go over that speed a few times. There were twists and turns, inclines and declines. The journey was slow going.
I spent over 45 minutes traveling on that 13-mile road. As I drove, I noticed mile markers. After driving for a while, I saw mile marker 5. I wasn’t even halfway there! “I’ve only traveled 5 miles on this road?” I thought to myself, “Seems like 20 minutes.” Actually, I had been on the road for about 20 minutes, and I had quite a bit further to go.
To say the monastery was remote would be an understatement. It was nestled between multiple mountains with only one 13-mile mostly gravel and dirt, twisty, turning road going to it. I learned from one of the monks that the monastery was built in 1964. He had been there for 40 years. I asked him if he stayed because he didn’t want to make the trip back.
We chatted about what it was like being so far away from…everything. He mentioned that he had a dentist appointment the next day and needed some new shoes, so he was going to have to make a 45 minute trip to Highway 84 and then another 55 minutes into the closest town. I’m so used to having almost everything at my fingertips. If I need something, I can hop in the car, and in less than 30 minutes, I can have the item.
I spent time in their chapel, quieting myself and gazing out the windows at the beautiful landscape. It’s good to slow down, to sit, to soak in God’s presence. Being so remote lends itself to a slower pace. Although I hate to admit it, I was not slowing down within. I’m not sure why, but I found myself restless as I sat there. So, I walked over to the wall and took a picture of the crucifix they had. As I found my way back, someone else came in to spend time in prayer.
Along with the church, they had a pathway for Stations of the Cross. At each stop, there was a cross and scripture (in Latin).
I only saw about five of the forty or so monks which live in that community. A lot of the area was marked private and I’m assuming most of the monks where in those areas. The monks’ days consist of prayer and work. They work for part of the day, and then they pray throughout the day. Along with work and prayer, they take time for recreation and rest. Their community believes in balance. When it is time to stop working, they stop. If they aren’t finished with their work, the work will be there the next day. When it is time to pray, they pray. They follow the Daily Office, which consists of daily times of prayer.
On their website, they remind those coming to the monastery seeking God to “Always remember, ‘to seek God means that one has already been found by God.‘” I believe that’s the case whether you are visiting the monastery or not. If you are reading this, you have already been found by God. May you continue finding the one who has already found you.