The Way to Holy Cross Leaves are changing as I take Route Seven off the Dulles Greenway. Hills consider their rise into mountains while cows in the valley rest by the shaded streams. Cars slowly lessen along the pike, and I decrease my persistent lean on the accelerator. Nearing the abbey, roads like Retreat Lane and Good Samaritan Vale saunter into view without asking for notice. After a long bridge over the smooth-faced Shenandoah River, I turn off the highway, roll my window down. The road is dirt now. The river glints at my side between the trees. Leaves of red maple, elm, and oak petal my windshield. The sign marked Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey is easy to pass, but I manage to catch it out of the corner of my eye and bear right onto the gravel road of Cool Spring Lane, where ripened wheat is waiting for harvest. Silence deepens in the shadows of afternoon fields. Beyond the expanse of planted acres, the Blue Ridge ascends its way into the orange of Indian Summer. Bells toll for midday prayer. Softly, I shut the engine off. Walking up to the sanctuary, the sky unfolds like a vast blue possibility. Monks are gathering in without haste or worry. I dip in the holy water, take my place, incline my head. The brothers chant, “God, come to my assistance,” and I reply, “Lord, make haste to help me.”
Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from The Northern Virginia Review for his story, “The Care of Roses.” He received a Pushcart nomination from Prairie Schooner for his poetry and was anthologized in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. His chapbook, Port of Leaving, is currently available through Finishing Line Press. Other work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Sow’s Ear, New Verse News, and Delmarva.