Should the church look like this quote?
Today I would like to imagine being alone or with a group of people who, alone or together, are in a quiet place with no background music, just simply sitting in silence for twenty minutes. They do not speak or pray aloud; there are no books or Ipads in their hands. They are not reading or writing. They are not busy with anything. They are there to allow God to fill their consciousness and give them peace. They do not pray with their lips but with their silent hearts and with their very being. This is a simple description of Centering Prayer.
Centering Prayer was first practiced by the ancient monastics of the desert, but it can still serve us today. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to listen for a word from God for twenty minutes? I would venture to say, that for most of us, twenty minutes of silence is an eternity. For me it has been a wonderful discovery of a peace that I never thought existed- a peace and tranquility that can only come from God. When I am silent and totally centered on hearing from God it seems as though I can feel the stress of life flowing out of me like a river emptying into an ocean. Perhaps it is one of the best spiritual practices that I have ever been challenged to master.
As twenty first century Christians, we often feel that God is best found in activity and motion, but it is time that we took a better look at the practices that built the church in its formative years. These practices sustained people who lived with harsh conditions and great persecution, a type of life that is unimaginable to us. These godly men and women found it necessary to commune with God in an intense way. For them, it was just God and God alone that guided and protected all.
Much of what I read and see tells me that Christianity as we know it is dying a fairly quick death. Perhaps the answer to the salvation of the faith is not found in mega churches or new ways of worship but in the rediscovering of the foundational tools of the movement. Centering prayer is one of those foundational practices that could change your life as it has changed mine.
This post is different than my usual stuff, but I thought even monastic types need a brake now and then.
- Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.
- Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.
- It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
- The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.
- When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.
- People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.
- Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.
- Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn’t belong..
- If the church wants a better preacher, it only needs to pray for the one it has.
- God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. So why should you?
- Some minds are like concrete thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
- Peace starts with a smile.
- I don’t know why some people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?
- A lot of church members who are singing ‘Standing on the Promises’ are just sitting on the premises.
- We were called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
- Be ye fishers of men.. You catch them – He’ll clean them.
Copied from Morning Story–Original authors unknown
A brother went to find Abba Serapion. According to his custom, the old man invited him to say a prayer. But the other, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic habit, did not obey. Next Abba Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but using the same words again, the visitor prevented him. Then Abba Serapion made him eat and he began to eat with him. Then he admonished him saying, ‘My son, if you want to make progress stay in your cell and pay attention to yourself and your manual work; going out is not so profitable for you as remaining at home.’ When he heard these words the visitor was offended and his expressions changed so much that the old man could not but notice it. So he said to him, ‘Up to now you have called yourself a sinner and accused yourself of being unworthy to live, but when I admonished you lovingly, you were extremely put out. If you want to be humble, learn to bear generously what others unfairly inflict upon you and do not harbor empty words in your heart.’ Hearing this, the brother asked the old man’s forgiveness and went away greatly edified.
——Abba Serapion of the Desert
The greatest measure of true humility is how we react to honest and loving criticism. None of us truly wants to be criticized. The wise Abba was giving the brother some very simple advice about work and prayer and the necessity of stability of life. This advice, lovingly given, was very disturbing to the brother. His reaction, as strong as it was, is not the main lesson of the saying. Serapion is telling us that in order to live of life of humility and service we must learn to bare undeserved criticism. For it is in the manner in which we handle the harshness of our enemy that our true Christian fiber is displayed. We live in a time that people seem to have nothing better to do than to find fault with everyone. Today’s culture demands destruction of all those who disagree or threaten our position. The advice of the Abba is to listen to the criticism of the loving people that our Lord has sent our way, and in that, we find the strength to face the unfairness that the world will bring to our lives.
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various worldly pleasures, often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Many religious traditions (Buddhism, the Christian Desert Fathers) include practices that involve restraint with respect to actions of body, speech, and mind. The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions lived extremely austere lifestyles, refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. They practiced asceticism not as a rejection of the enjoyment of life, or because the practices themselves are virtuous, but as an aid in the pursuit of physical and spiritual health.
From these ascetics much of our prayer and contemplative practices were given to us. In these day of stress and multiple pressure of life we can learn much from them. One of these ascetics was medieval mystic Ignatius of Loyola. Today I present a very simple practice known as the Daily Examen. The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. Here’s how it works.
At the close of each day find a quiet place, and perform these tasks.
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
I believe that these simple steps can change your perception of God and yourself.
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
——Rule of St. Benedict
Perhaps it is not too popular these days to speak of our Christian journey as a battle complete with weapons, however, we are called to be witnesses to our faith in the Christ. In his Rule, Benedict gives us guidance and advice that facilitates our journey. Remember, the primary purpose of the Rule was to adjust to living in community. Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge in Christianity today is inner conflict. For that reason, I would suggest that Benedict’s words are very timely.
Today’s advice is to set aside your will, and pride I might add, to do battle under the Christ. For under Him we find peace, strength, harmony and the partnership we need to live our days in this world – to live them as not a mere existence of futility, but with a sense of vitality and vigor that pleases God and man. For us to surrender to the Messiah and let him guide us gives us a fuller and more satisfying life.
If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.
——John of the Cross
John of the cross is the medieval mystic who gave us “Dark Night of the Soul.” In his work he challenges us to the work of being a Christian, and the strength that comes for the journey. He tells us that the strength comes from complete union with God. This union has a price, and it is separation from the world. In that dark night of separation John finds the peace of God.
- The Dark Night of the Soul (stuartmccormack.wordpress.com)
Well, talk about a rock and a hard place. I can't be a Christian, but I can't be an atheist, either.
There's no escaping Christianity in our culture, no matter how secular you believe you are, because most of our secular ideals are not necessarily against Christianity -- they're just bastardized Christianity. I see this even in scientism and pluralism: the former is an outgrowth of the faith's emphasis on a Creator and an intelligible, ordered creation; the latter comes from Jesus' message of radical love, even of our enemies and those we would rather not associate with.
The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the following statement: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Though Benedict wrote his rule for monks, it can easily be applied to all Christians. Today’s society cries out for a rule, a guide, or just something to help us cobble together some meaning and order in our lives. In the day of New Monasticism, perhaps it is a good time to look at the basic structure of “old monasticism.”
Benedict gives us two very key concepts in his opening statement, the concepts of listening and listening with the ear of your heart. The first is listening – listening in such a way that we truly hear. Our buzz phrase is multi-tasking. In this multi-society, the very idea of giving anything your undivided attention seems to be outlandish. Benedict, on the other hand, calls on the monks to listen to the instructions. Not only to listen, but to do so with all that we possess.
The type of listening that would serve the monks, and the ordinary Christian as well, is one that seeks the words of a master. Our real challenge is to let go of our egos and seek the master. We can very easily call Jesus our master, but we need a companion or a guide to help us to better understand our Lord. Throughout history men and women have gathered together in churches and other places dedicated to understanding our creator. In these places people have argued, disputed, and parted company to find meaning and truth. Benedict challenges us to listen, and with listening, God will speak.
We hear God with the ear of the heart. Over the years we have heard all sorts of things, some enlightening, others ridiculous, and all claiming to be the message of God. The ear of the heart is the listening given to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised not to leave His disciples orphaned, but to send an advocate to be with them. That advocate is the Spirit of God that lives within us. By attuning our ear to the Spirit we can listen and hear His instructions. At church, at work, at home, listen with the ear of your heart and God will pour out His blessings to you and fill your life with praise.
In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and savior. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Amen
- The Showings: Lady Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416 (efvarges.wordpress.com)