The Monk of Heisterbach

Heisterbach, Siebengebirge, the gate into the woods
Heisterbach, the gate into the woods

Let us first look with the monk of Heisterbach into the Bible, New Testament, 2nd epistle of Peter. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

Heisterbach Abbey is in a beautiful valley below the Petersberg. In those days, the monks spent their days praying and working. One of them often wondered about these Bible words, without understanding their full meaning.

One day, as he walked up and down in the monastery’s garden, deeply in though, he heard a bird’s singing, a bird whose voice he had never heard before. Amazed he followed the bird, through the gateway into the forests, and as the bird continued singing, he went deeper and deeper into the woods. Finally, his legs could not carry him anymore, he sat down on a tree and fell asleep.

When he woke up, he hurried back to the monastery, and by the evening he arrived there. He quickly went inside to join the evening prayers … and froze in amazement. None of the monks was familiar to him. He asked them to take him to their abbot, and he told him his name, the date of his entry into the monastery and the name of the abbot in that year. The abbot and the monks fell silent.

Finally, the abbot told him that this day was now 300 years ago. One of the monks added that he had read in old documents about a monk who once had gone into the woods and had not come back.

Now the monk of Heisterbach understood “to the Lord a thousand years are like one day”. He smiled a peaceful smile, sank down and closed his eyes forever.

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