Thursday, January 15, 2009

Other Spaces

Other Spaces at Christ of the Desert

Visitors to Christ of the Desert Monastery are invited to a place of immense quiet and spiritual formation. Its buildings are constructed of adobe covered straw bales with both their interior and exterior spaces filled with silence. You will not hear a radio, television, or any electronic noise while visiting. There are places and times for talking, enough that a person physically experiences the silence, but does not feel alienated from sound. Meals are taken in silence, but the space is filled with the voice of the reader or of music (not Chant). The guest houses are simple accommodations with little more than a bed, desk, chair, and closet; bathrooms are shared and accessed outside one’s room.

A gathering space outside the Refectory fills with monks and visitors after mass, as coffee and cookies provide a natural extension of hospitality and a chance to visit. One wall is filled with a vibrant painting of the face of Christ, it’s reds and burnished gold filling the space. Nearby are offices—the guestmaster, accountant, and more—and the large gift shop. The gift shop is filled with high quality books, music, and gift items of a religious nature; soft music and the smell of polished wood fill the air. One can visit freely here during its hours of operation; it’s a nice chance to converse with one or two of the resident monks.

Behind the closed doors are those spaces private to the monks. The kitchen and laundry rooms are large, well-appointed, and a reminder that this is a great big family with a lot of guests. A library, study tables, gathering room (a conference room without a table), recreation room, and cloistered cells provide the private space of daily life. They work in other buildings making sandals and ale, which are sold to support their community.

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