Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Beside Still Waters

This week marks the seventh anniversary of beginning this weekly blog!

 “Be unconstructively in the presence of the sacred.”

Try this on for Lent, the forty day period leading to Holy Week, which begins today, Ash Wednesday:

“Be unconstructively in the presence of the sacred.”

How long has it been since you allowed your Good Shepherd to give you rest in green pastures beside still waters, restoring your soul? The “still waters” of the 23rd Psalm are waters gentle enough to drink from to safely quench our thirst; the Hebrew means “waters of rest.”

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust.

Nothing compares to a contemplative retreat in a monastic setting, surrounded by fellow pilgrims and an authentic monastic community. Trying to capture that ethos once more, I read again the reflections I wrote after a men’s contemplative retreat at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, and a Hildegard of Bingen retreat at Sacred Heart Monastery, also in Cullman.

The respective experiences elevated not only my spirit but my prose, and I’m certain this post will pale in comparison—both to the experience and to the poetry required to capture the rhythms of words, songs, and silence of a monastic community.

O Lord, open thou my lips.
And my mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Especially welcomed to join the sisters in the chancel area of the church at Sacred Heart, and given their gentle guidance in saying the offices that punctuate their day, helped us taste the pleasure and the power of reciting psalms and prayers together. We thus stepped carefully into a stream of a centuries-old tradition.

As I wrote in one of my papers, the contemplative retreat unveiled again for me how the multitude feeds the boy with the modest lunch, the reverse of the boy whose peasant’s lunch fed the multitude through the blessing of Jesus. I felt surrounded and nourished by “so great a cloud of witnesses.”

When we are listening, God speaks to us in a myriad of ways, and God was echoing all over the place at both monasteries and their grounds. Silence, scripture, songs, lectio divina, the Daily Office, readings, prayers, homilies, teachings, and conversations offered me voices from the past (memories, tradition, spiritual guides) as well as from the present (fellow pilgrims, colleagues, fellowship). Even the silence was deafening. And outside, the sounds, smells, sights, breezes, warmth of day, coolness of evening of the natural setting completed the feel of God’s embrace.

The afternoon that began our 24 hours of silence midway through the contemplative retreat, I spent much longer in the sanctuary of the church than I imagined I would. I pleasured in the profound silence. I started constructing my final paper in my mind, but then reminded myself that this was not what the silence was for.

The silence was simply to be unconstructively in the presence of the sacred. To be “useless.” To welcome the “schola” (“free time”) of “scholar.”

That silence unveiled a second kind of silence for me, the need for Sabbath, a time of no work, no activity, no planning, only recreating, allowing myself to be re-created and refreshed and renewed, hopefully in God’s presence. Since that experience, I’ve given myself some slack in my ever-present need for accomplishment, turning off my laptop to avoid work and the internet from time to time, relaxing my workouts and runs, reading more for fun than I’ve done in the past.

Peace! Be still!
Be still and know that I am God.

Come, join us beside the still waters of the Sacred Heart Monastery April 30-May 4, 2018. I will be co-leading a contemplative retreat with Debra Weir, Beside Still Waters, to which you are welcome. For more information, click on the title or copy and paste into your browser:

For previous posts to read for Lent, click on or copy into your browser:  (Scroll down for multiple posts. At the end of the collection you will find a couple of posts included simply because they used the word "lent"!)

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Copyright © 2018 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  

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