Credit: Robert A. Jonas at www.emptybell.com.
It has been said, by the Desert Fathers and Mothers and other Christian mystics, that silence is the dwelling place of God. Silence is also at the heart of authentic listening and speech. In silence, we are listening inwardly for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this deep listening is called “Practicing the Presence.”
Come join me on Holy Saturday, March 25, for a silent retreat in the Atrium of St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church from 9:30 am to Noon. In this retreat we will have two meditation periods, each followed by a period of sharing poems, spiritual passages, and personal writings or stories of the spiritual journey. In sitting with others in silence, reading and trading stories, one of the most important dimensions is the felt sense of simply being together. In this dimension, less is more. Without saying a word, simply “being with” can be relaxing, blessed and fruitful. Taken together, the silence, readings and story-telling are the basic ingredients of practicing the presence.
Throughout the retreat we will maintain a felt-sense of silence, even in the midst of listening to readings and stories. Conversation and cross-talk are kept to a minimum. If things move too fast, depth is lost. It is important to maintain a space of silence between readers and speakers, so that one can listen to “what is,” or, rather, to what God or your soul might be asking you to hear, in the stillness of the shared, felt-presence. This is holy speech; it comes from a deep place and creates something new as it is spoken. From the readings and the stories, if we are quiet and listen, new spaces and new possibilities can open up in the hearts of both the speakers and the listeners.
So, I hope you will join me in this adventure. If, like most of us, you are uncomfortable sitting in silence in a group, I can say, “Don’t worry.” I believe you will find early on that the atmosphere becomes light, energizing and relaxing. I look forward to sharing this experience with you.
Credit: Robert A. Jonas at www.emptybell.com.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the essay below, Canterbury's Deacon Pat+ tells the story of her first Sunday at St. Martins. Our next opportunity to worship and serve breakfast at St. Martin's in EASTER SUNDAY! Please contact Eileen, or sign up in the entryway of the church if you'd like to help!
by Deacon Patricia Masterman
As I traveled to St. Martin’s one beautiful sunny morning in January, I felt a bit anxious since it was my first visit there. The chant, “Arise, shine, for the light has come, and the Glory of the Lord dwells within you” kept playing over and over again in my mind. I had never been in an environment filled with the homeless and I had no idea what to expect.
Fortunately, Amy Malick had accompanied me earlier in the week so that I had a ‘feel’ for the place. As I walked into the room designated for the worship service on Sunday mornings every chair was filled! Starting the service with ‘Arise, shine, for the light has come, and the Glory of the Lord dwells within you’, my anxiety quickly dissipated.
Encouraging everyone to join in the singing, I could feel a change taking place within the room – sensing everyone was engaged! Using the scripture from Corinthians, we talked about what it meant to be a community in Christ. One woman standing in the back said community is ‘helping each other’. I believed this was something everyone in the room knew about. And WE were a community of believers sharing this time together.
During Communion one of the women helped serve the grape juice, while another young woman named Martha sang with heartfelt passion, The Via Delorosa. The words of the song brought back so many memories of my own journey with Christ; especially the line ‘and he chose to walk that road out of his love for you and me, down the Via Delorosa on the way to Calvary’. Fighting back tears, I felt deep compassion for my brothers and sisters in this place who came together as a community to share the Body and Blood of our Lord.
When the service was concluded, we took Communion into the dining area and fed so many therewith hope and joy that the Body and Blood of Christ brings into a broken world.
As I was leaving, a Native American man took my hand and asked if he could pray for me. I couldn’t hear his words as he spoke quietly with tears flowing down his cheeks. He held my hand tightly to his heart as he prayed and didn’t want to let me go. And when I asked if I could pray for him – he answered with a definitive ‘No’. He wouldn’t tell me his name. But when I close my eyes in prayer, I can still see his face, knowing in my heart how much God loves him.
Once outside I distributed Communion to several others and was asked to pray for a woman named Rain. She shared her story between sobs and I held her as we prayed together.
I must add, the team from Canterbury who prepared and served the breakfast is to be applauded! You are such a blessing to those who are broken in this world, as you continue this beautiful ministry year after year!
I encourage each of you reading this, to volunteer to help with the serving, or just go and visit with those from all walks of life – African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and a sprinkling of white folks. It will change your life and your understanding of people living on the edge day after day.
Be the hands of Christ in the world and your heart will sing! “Arise, shine, for the light has come; and the Glory of the Lord will dwell within you.”