Come Sit With Me

Second Retreat Weekend

Mariandale Contemplative Formation

 Each weekend we have a theme or two. This weekend was "The Bench." We were all to imagine a bench in our lives. A place to sit and contemplate; a place to look deeply at the real.  You can sit on the bench and watch the sunrise or sunset, you can look at the wonders of nature, you can watch and love your fellows made in God's image, you can read a book, meditate, and/or pray.
The reason it's a bench and not a chair is you need space to invite others to join you. The contemplative life does not have to be a lonely one, you need a bench to share God's gifts with others. To just spend a little time together with someone you love. I've included a photo of my favorite Mariandale bench. I'd love to share it with you sometime.

This weekend was a couple of weeks ago, and the fall colors added to the joy of the experience. We have plenty of things to learn about, but we also have plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of where we are, and since it's usually done in silence, there's little to distract you from the simple act of watching and contemplating. The material we discuss is sometimes loaded with details that can be overwhelming, but you have the time to absorb and digest what you've been given. This is an experience that fills me with bliss.

I always pick particular socks for the weekend. This time, people obviously noticed. One of the facilitators gave my ankle a light kick when she saw my Jesus Socks. Another brought them up at our dinner Saturday when we were allowed to talk. Positive feedback from all.

We continue to discuss various techniques, such as Lectio (and Visio) Divina. Lectio is done by reading a passage of scripture and listening for the impact, asking what it means, asking what God is saying to me, praying for God's guidance on how to respond, and then committing to a personal response. Visio, which I've never heard of before, is a similar practice, but using a painting instead of or along with the scripture. We had a lengthy discussion about the story of Mary's encounter with Elizabeth when they are pregnant with Jesus and John the Baptist. I've enclosed the painting we used. There was much talk about how Mary and Elizabeth's embrace was strictly feminine, yet I think I could see the Prodigal Son and his father in a similar posture.

I know being contemplative is not for everyone, although I find myself sharing with anyone who will listen. I'm thankful the program allows me to meet and get to know twenty-four other people who are as inspired by it as I am. Contemplation is frequently depicted as a solitary state, and there was a time when desert monks went off into the wilderness to be alone with God, but two of the greatest mystics, Brother Lawrence and Thomas Merton kept up long and loving correspondences with others. Thomas Merton traveled the world to share God's message.

I read a book by a Quaker many years ago who loved meditation because you could do it with anyone, no matter what their faith, because it was a silent sharing of worship, each with their own thoughts/prayers. I think the shared silence and meditations among the group is similar. Janet, one the facilitators emphasized early on that we are each on our own journey, together yet still separate. Friendships may result, but that is not the object of the program.

I am not doing this just to have a closer personal relationship with God. I am doing this to be a better person, to be closer to others. I want to love in a more selfless way and to understand to what work God has called me to. We are called to love God and to love others as ourselves. Jesus said if we do that, we have met our obligation to God. Her love for us is so great, and She wants us to love her back.

Due to renovations to the living quarters at Mariandale, our next retreat weekend won't be until April. It is a challenge to maintain my practices for the next five months, but I will be checking in with my Spiritual Director Jeanine and meeting with my small group for a couple of hours monthly. I pray that will be enough to keep me growing. I'll let you know.


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