Saturday, June 14, 2008

Notes on the Artists Retreat

The Epiphany Sacred Arts Guild ( had their annual artists retreat at Christ the King Abbey in Mission today. I was in attendance. Our retreat Master was Fr. Lawrence Donnelly, of St. Jude's Parish in Vancouver. There were three conferences divided throughout the day, beginning with Lauds (Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary). There was Low Mass (Tridentine) after the first conference, then lunch, group-rosary, which turned into individually-said-rosary-while-strolling-outside-on-the-magnificent-grounds due to the sunshine, then the second conference, followed by private reflection (also outside), then the third conference, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, after which I had to leave, and so missed Benediction and Vespers. And before I left, Father Abbott also came to the room where we had the conferences and capped it off with some awesome and deep reflections, as he does iconography and other art - with what imaginable time may be left to the Abbott of a big Benedictine Monastery/Seminary

Some notes on the second conference (I won't bore you with the full day's notes):

Lectio Divina is, if I remember Father correctly, a form of very simple prayer that was used of old monastically, but then became disused until being taken up with interest by laity. It is a "four step" way, or four vital modes, the first three, ceasing in the fourth; the fourth being contemplation; resting in God; simply being; delighting in His word and presence.

Please note, the Bible quotations after each of the four headings are there simply to introduce the person to some of the feeling and basis of Lectio Divina. Meaning, when the first step talks about reading scripture, it is not referring to the quotation, but some scripture passage of your own choosing.

The first is: Lectio - Reading/Listening:
"11 God said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"" (1 Kings 19:11-13 NRSV)

You take scripture and are to choose words or phrases that strike you - or that God chooses for you, which may be the same thing. You are not choosing randomly, but you are reading until a word or phrase calls your attention. You are reading and listening to the still small voice of God in silence, which will tell you, or let you know, or grab your attention with, some phrase or word. There must therefore be silence. Exterior silence, yes; interior silence, even more important. You are not speed-reading. You are reading attentively, gently, listening for the phrase that God has for you this day: the passage you may be reading. You must not set a goal as to how much you are going to read. You must be physically quiet and restful, you must be physically prepared. Remind yourself that you are in God's presence. So, read slowly while listening for that word or phrase that calls your attention.

When you find that word or phrase - stop. Do not continue to read further. Stop. You are now on the second step: Meditatio - Meditation:
"18…all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:18-19 NRSV)

This phrase or word you have stopped at: memorize it. Repeat it, again and again. Allow this phrase to mingle with your thoughts, worries, memories etc. As the plough cuts into the earth and turns up the earth so that the earth underneath is exposed to the light, so it should be. Or as the soil absorbs the rain. Let it get mixed up with all your thoughts, desires and memories. Delight in this word.

Oratio - Prayer:
"1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, 2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday." (Psalms 37:1-6 NRSV)

This third step is your responding to God after the meditation. You are entering into loving dialogue; giving of self to God. We allow ourselves to be healed by God as we enter into dialogue. The phrase or word of your meditation is God's word for you at this moment: so enter into dialogue with God, offering to God what you have gained from your meditation, no matter how small. Offer God this transformation. Consecrate yourself to God.

Contemplatio - Contemplation:
"Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (Psalms 37:4 AV)

"Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him… (Psalms 37:7 AV)

"…the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!" (Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV)

Now rest in God. You are simply being in the presence of God. Delight in the presence of the Lord. Wait patiently for Him. You're the temple of the Holy Spirit; let all the worldly stuff be silent. Do not "reactivate" the three steps from before once at this stage: you are resting in God's embrace. Like two lovers in each others company. Like two lovers simply looking into each others eyes. Delight in knowing that God is with you in word and in silence.

The Divine Lectio is great because we know there is the presence of God (in a certain form) in scripture, so you have a "leg-up" already. You want the Divine Lectio to permeate your entire day. Be sure to not be "goal-oriented".

In case you wish to know what phrase I stopped at, using the Lauds booklet outside during private reflection, it was this (the words in bold): "Know that the Lord He is God: He made us, and not we ourselves"

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