With churches closed ‘Lockdown’ provides us with an opportunity to explore new spiritual resources. Church services online are a resource for some, but apart from that we’re on our own, left to our own devices. Some may choose to do nothing, others reach out for a pre-packaged pattern from the internet. My instinct is that we already possess the God-given resources we need and that deepening our trust in them is an excellent place to start.
I’ve personally learnt to relish the chance to trust a rhythm that comes naturally from within rather than one imposed from outside. Mostly its not a matter of learning new tricks, but rather of recognising the value of things that I already do, and nourishing and deepening them.
Questions in a time of crisis
The current Lockdown presents everybody with a massive change of life style, the like of which most of us have never experienced before. Some of us are facing death, our own or that of others, more sharply than before. Some of us are having our working lives turned upside down. Some of us are finding ourselves living solitary lives. For most people this is a time of challenge and change. Inevitably it prods us into asking questions like: ‘What’s important to me in life? ‘What makes life worth living? How do I want to live my life?’ In order to stimulate your thinking on these questions I share with you two pieces of wisdom from my collection, that prod and challenge me.
In these times I have been painting in my studio images inspired by the lighthouses of Cornwall. Each painting also reflects something of my prayers and my faith – encountering the dynamic presence of God in the world around us.
I have several on the go, but thought I’d share here the first one I have completed. Here it is on my easel – to give a sense of the scale. It’s 40 x 54 inches.
If the women and men of prayer across all the world faiths experience the same Ultimate Reality when they pray, then they all encounter what Christians call God. When a mixed group of Christians, for whom working together would seem like a miracle, instead share their experience of God they find themselves deeply united. How do I reflect on these truths?
In 2001 I wrote a Report for The Spiritual Counsel Trust on the state of spiritual direction in the UK. I wrote that. “In the course of my work, I listen to many people and try to help them discern the promptings of the Spirit of the risen Lord in their lives. Each person’s story is different, and yet I find that some themes occur frequently. When I talk with others engaged in this ministry I find that they are hearing the same themes. It seems to me to be incumbent upon me to say “I feel that the Spirit is saying these things to the churches and perhaps to society: spiritual direction leads into prophecy.” All of the themes I named then remain current. They were:
Last summer my friend Paul told me about The Snowmass Agreement, which I hadn’t heard of. I checked it out on-line and found that this is what it is:
“In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic—to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called “a big experiment.”
There ain’t no good thing ever diesTom Waits: Take It With Me
I’m gonna take it with me when I go
I have often talked about ‘repetition’, as Ignatius of Loyola calls it, in these writings, e.g. “Where to start?“, “The Kingdom of Heaven“, and “Repetition“. He invites us to revisit significant moments, “noting and dwelling upon the points where I have felt greater consolation or desolation or greater spiritual relish.”  When we do this, we become infused with the graces and insights given to us. This changes us. This is conversion, incrementally, daily.
Christ is risen.
This is my third offering of recorded prayer. It is a version from the post, “The only 3 prayers you need,” in which I suggested that presence, gratitude, and kindness comprise the three important prayers.
This morning, during my time of prayer, I was listening to my friend Paul reading chapters 18 and 19 of John’s Gospel. Listening to the story being read is a different experience from reading it, and thoughts occurred to me that were new to me. I heard that after Jesus’ death Joseph of Arimathea and a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for permission to remove Jesus’ body and was obviously given permission to do so, for he with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had visited Jesus by night earlier in John’s story, took Jesus’ body and laid it in a new tomb at considerable cost and no doubt some risk to themselves.
Last week’s morning guided prayer attracted about 30 people. I am going to continue to lead 30 minutes of guided prayer every Wednesday morning while we are in coronavirus lockdown. You can find details of this and other opportunities for prayer here: https://mailchi.mp/7865c2b9704a/prayer-in-a-time-of-plague-4863233.
With my prayers,