We have a right to a sacrosanct place set aside for encountering God … Jesus teaches that we must ensure that the temple is always conducive to prayer – silent, reverent, empty of all other kinds of pursuits. We need this place – perhaps much more than we realise. And Jesus defends this need. He is IN this place. This is the place where Jesus can be found.
Sister Johanna Caton OSB: Hanging on. See this morning’s posting.
Thank you Sister Johanna for a second taste of your wisdom today; and thank you to Harbledown church for this visual reminder that this is the place where Jesus can be found. Not the only place, of course.
Another quiet morning at L’Arche’s garden, beside the River Stour. Thanks o corona virus, I was alone, working outside at the table, when Robin flew down beside me, hoping that a worm or insect might appear as I emptied plants out of small pots to put them in bigger ones. He found something and flew down to share it with another robin: his wife, his hen, who made a soft call in her throat.
Back home, where this picture was taken, the robins were hunting in pairs too. They cannot abide sharing territory with any other robin, except their mate; we saw battles over the Glebe bird table a couple of yearsago.
In the morning, before the rush of visitors, Saint Anselm’s chapel can be quiet; a desert place. Your eyes can turn to the window with its perennial question, ‘CUR DEUS HOMO’? Or, ‘why did God become man?’ Or you can turn towards the light cast by the window on the opposite wall. Pray with or without words.
It sounded like something Bottom would say in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: ‘Listen’, said our daughter, ‘and you’ll hear the daffodils open’. Was she going virally stir-crazy? No, we listened, and we heard a pop as one of these daffodils burst the brown sheaf of the bud as the petals expanded. Another Laudato Si moment!
I was reminded of sitting in the sunshine, waiting for a tube train at the then beautifully tended Boston Manor tube station, well above ground at this point, and hearing, in the quieter moments between Trident jets descending to Heathrow, the sound of broom pods clicking open in the sunshine. I must have been on my way to see her future mother on a Friday evening after work.
Fr James Kurzynski of the Vatican Observatory Website recently wrote about his coming sabbatical retreat. Follow the link to read his reflections before he proceeds to the desert of Arizona. Here is part of his article.
I felt a deep peace about what I would call “detachment Wednesdays.” Wednesday will be a day of silence, encouraging us to not speak verbally, unplug from anything that could distract us, and take a day of restful prayer.
Two weeks age, I gave a presentation about my sabbatical to St. Olaf’s youth in our Faith Formation Program. When I got to the part of explaining Wednesday Unplugged, I told them, “Don’t bother trying to get a hold of me on Wednesday, but do know each one of you will be prayed for that day as I prayerfully take St. Olaf Parish with me into the desert.”
Wednesdays and Fridays are traditionally the more concentrated days of the week in Lent; ‘Spy Wednesday’ in Holy Week seen as the day when Judas went to betray his Lord; Good Friday when Jesus, his Lord and Ours, died for all our sin. All our sin, as the Sculptor of Strasbourg Cathedral makes clear.
We cannot all dedicate our Wednesdays to restful prayer, any more than Fr James can do during most of his working life, but let us try to find a desert moment to be restful and open to prayer, even if it’s sitting on the bus home, or a quiet cup of tea before going to get the children from school.
I am writing this post in July, not a Lenten month at all. People in England are looking forward to the summer holidays, to relaxation rather than to rigorous fasting and spiritual exercise. But there is also a market – I use the word deliberately – for spiritual activities. Here are a few random web ads for yoga experiences; we could look at other sorts of spiritual experience, but yoga seems popular among those who can afford it.
What about a yoga immersion course – is the hint of baptismal initiation deliberate, I wonder?
Or a restful and rejuvenating yoga retreat, with mindfulness vegetarian food? The Cistercians are vegetarian and eat in silence, but is it the food or the shared nature of meal that contributes to ‘mindfulness’?
What about a Japanese yoga retreat mixing body-transforming jivamukti yoga with hikes through forests peppered with ancient temples. Could you not get the transformed body from the gym and hikes through the local countryside?
What are the purchasers of the top 30 yoga retreats going into the luxury desert to seek? Classical yoga and ‘divine’ spa treatments? Notice the Christian religious language that creeps into these ads, even the ‘transformed body’ has resonances, especially at the time you are reading, the season of preparation for Easter, when life is changed, not taken away.
Our desert this Lent makes no claim to be luxurious, nor will a few minutes of reading with us transform your earthly bodies, but we do hope the Spirit is leading us into the desert where we can receive a renewal of our baptism, the original and best divine spa treatment. And as for mindfulness food: must I spell it out?
Here is a hymn by Lucien Deiss that draws on 2Timothy2 and other texts: Keep in mind.
Like Edward Thomas, Mary Webb was touched by the Great War, even at a distance of hundreds of miles across the sea. She knew well that the flashes at the front were not soft lightnings with less stir than a gnat makes, but despite the scarlet wars taking the young men away, she draws our attention to quiet and calm. Our world is small and oftentimes too loud; too lit up by what we might call light noise. But in November, given clear skies, we may see the moon and stars before bedtime!
The moon, beyond her violet bars, From towering heights of thunder-cloud, Sheds calm upon our scarlet wars, To soothe a world so small, so loud. And little clouds like feathered spray, Like rounded waves on summer seas, Or frosted panes on a winter day, Float in the dark blue silences. Within their foam, transparent, white, Like flashing fish the stars go by Without a sound across the night. In quietude and secrecy The white, soft lightnings feel their way To the boundless dark and back again, With less stir than a gnat makes In its little joy, its little pain.
Published out of numerical sequence to appear at Remembrance tide.
I was surprised to be welcomed at the North Door into the Crypt at Canterbury Cathedral and to have a leaflet thrust into my hand. I barely glanced at it – ‘a place to reflect’ sums up Agnellus’ Mirror’s feelings about this ancient part of the Cathedral – and put it safely in my bag. Reflection is our business in the Mirror, so I promised myself to read it later.
As always, the silence of the Crypt needed to be filtered out of the background noises. Hear each one, Will, then set it aside. Bangings, sawing noises, crane engines and hydraulic lifts: the army of masons, paviours and other tradesmen were about their work, as they always are. Have I ever seen the building without scaffolding somewhere?
Young voices behind me, coming from the nave. School children? Do they whoop and yell? I remembered that at least two little Turnstone chicks, when babes in arms, discovered the acoustics of the nave, and allowed their happy screams to roll around the space, but they were a choir leader’s nightmare. Worth a smile and a prayer for all the younger Turnstones. At least I’d put aside the whoopers, and found silence, undisturbed by comings and goings around me.
When I got up to climb the stairs to the nave, a solid oak door barred the way. I heard an amplified voice speaking, and remembered seeing a young man in academic dress in the street: I realised it must have been a degree ceremony occupying the nave. Whoops and yells are fair enough under the circumstances.
Let’s pray that the graduands enjoyed their day, and always have room in their lives for reflection and silence.
Oh, the leaflet: it is an excellent guide to the crypt. I learnt that there is a Baptismal Font down there in the Holy Innocents’ Chapel which is encouraging: the main font in the Nave has the Royal Coat of Arms over it, which has always seemed inappropriate to me.