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Rhythm Wisdom – by Kevin Driedger

Posted by on Apr 11, 2019 in News | 1 comment

Rhythm Wisdom – by Kevin Driedger

And again, the grass turns green. And again, the daffodils bloom. And again, the seeds are sown. And again, the sun rises.And again, the sun sets.And again, the darkness comes. And again, we gather for prayer.And again, we gather to eat.And again, we enter solitude. And again, we hear a whisper from God.And again, we taste God’s love made edible.And again, we see the beauty of God. Life at the Hermitage, as all life everywhere, is filled with rhythms: from the quickened rhythms of the heartbeats of each beloved guest to the long, slow, cosmic rhythms of expansion and contraction. A key part of the work of the Hermitage, both for staff and for guests, is to recognize these rhythms, feel them, learn from them, and enter into them. These rhythms have much to teach us. The wisdom literature of the Hebrew scripture extols the importance of being attentive to these rhythms and to recognize the wisdom of God held within. Some rhythms are simple steady beats that are easily recognized, while others are vastly more complex and may take many generations to understand. These wisdom texts were central in shaping early monastic life and play a central role in the Rule of St. Benedict which guides many monastic communities even today. These traditions established ways of living for people, whether in community or in solitude, that are filled with rhythms of prayer and work, the rhythms of the church year, and the rhythms of life. Let us all be attentive to those rhythms that shape and nurture our lives. Rhythms of work, of play, of retreat, of breath, and of prayer. There is wisdom in these rhythms, if we just open ourselves to hear God...

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Freeing Hospitality – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Freeing Hospitality – by Naomi Wenger

Freeing Hospitality – by Naomi Wenger

“ For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6 In the letter to the Galatians, Paul chastises the church for so easily falling away from the teaching they received that, in Christ, all have been made free of keeping the Jewish religious law. For, the Galatian gentiles have apparently embraced the practice of circumcision to prove that they “belong” to this new Jewish sect (that has not yet been named “Christianity”). Circumcision was the sign of inclusion for law-abiding Jews. Paul is eager to point out that there is a new way of living that does not require adherence to the law nor any external sign of inclusion. He calls it living “in the Spirit.” He criticizes the Galatians for starting with the Spirit (of Christ) and ending with the (Jewish) law, a backward movement. He reminds them that what “counts is faith working through love.” Neither faith nor love is concretely measurable. This leaves all judgment in God’s hands and frees followers of Christ to be open-hearted and open-handed toward all people, no matter their ethnic origin, their religious practice, or their gender. In Christ, he says, all are free. Keeping Jewish law, particularly the religious practice of circumcision, is no longer much of an issue for Christians in the West. What issue or issues divide us? How would we write this admonition today so it would be an equivalent warning to us to avoid the same kind of misplaced energy the Galatians were giving to “keeping the law?”  Each one of us will probably have to examine our consciences to find the “law” we are “keeping” that creates for us a container of inclusion or a wall of exclusion. For it is this sin, of excluding (or preferentially including) another on the basis of some “law,” that is at the heart of the message to the Galatians. This issue also resonates with our current experience in North America. There are folks excluded because of their immigrant status, gender, relative power status, socio-economic state, religion, and even their “fit” into what is expected as “normal.” Of course, we all want others to be “like us” because that is more immediately comfortable than the stew of differences we find in this heavily populated globe where we rub shoulders with the “other” more than we might like. But, is it possible that we exclude the very folks we should be welcoming because they don’t live life as we do? What if they practice a different religion? Does that make them excludable? As I read the Bible, I see that the better practice is to welcome and include rather than to exclude. Jesus admonishes in the gospels not to fear what others can do to us (Matthew 10:26-33 and Luke 12:2-7). But we are to major in “love for others” (John 15:9-17).  We are more likely to be guilty of pushing someone out of God’s welcome than we would be “tainted” by their presence or practice when we welcome them in love. In another place, Jesus teaches,“Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). When fear runs amok among us, we shout down demons and decry other practices as antithetical to our faith. But it really has nothing to do with faith. Faith is not visible nor measurable; it is not what we do, but how we are. Rather, as faith is worked out in loving others, it is recognized as fruitful. We can be haters, fearing others’ practices, or we can be lovers, welcoming...

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Holding On, Letting Go – by June Mears Driedger

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Holding On, Letting Go – by June Mears Driedger

Holding On, Letting Go – by June Mears Driedger

The Hermitage Lent retreat theme was “Holding On, Letting Go” which invites us to ask: “What am I holding on to? What do I need to let go?”  As I mulled over these questions, I unconsciously switched the questions to, “What I do I need to let go of in order to hold on to God?” I turned to the Psalms to explore my switched question as they remind me of the Israelite story of holding on and letting go and returning to God’s trustworthiness when they—and me—hold on to God. Lent 1: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 This is a wisdom psalm addressed to the one who enters the sanctuary—the place of refuge and shelter.  The psalmist uses many images to highlight that God’s protection from harm and danger is reliable and truthful, including the word “shadow” (v. 1) to suggest an image of God protecting its young.  However, vss. 14-16 reminds me that God’s protection does not mean I am promised complete immunity from danger or evil or even tragedy. Instead, I am promised God’s presence when I am in the midst of trouble as God promises to not abandon me and I will survive.  By vs. 15, I am encouraged to call to God in times of trouble for calling upon God is to let release my stubborn self-reliance and admit that I need God’s protection as I hold on to God’s comforting presence through challenging times. Lent 2: Psalm 27 This is a psalm of trust in the first six verses which turns into a prayer for help against false accusation in vss. 7-14. In the first 6 verses, the psalmist confesses who God is—”my light, my salvation, my stronghold.” In the following verses the psalmist admits he is a man under duress who pleads with God to be his light and salvation. The verses 7-13 become prayers for delivery from distress and oppression because someone has brought false charges against the psalmist. Nevertheless, the psalmist proclaims his confidence that God will ultimately deliver the psalmist from the false accusations. The psalmist releases his need to justify himself to his slanderers and holds instead onto God as his deliverer. Lent 3:  Psalm 63:1-8 The psalmist expresses my deepest longings for God’s presence in my life and my desire to hold on to God in vss. 1-2: “…my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you … I behold your power and glory.” The entire passage is a moving description of holding on to God. The psalmist describes how to hold on to God and the result of my clinging to God.  While the NRSV begins verse 8 “My soul clings to you …” the King James Version reads, “Following hard after God,” which is a beautiful expression of holding onto God. Lent 4: Psalm 32 A celebration of forgiveness is described by the psalmist: “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” vs. 1. This is a psalm of joy but with a little confession and exhortation for the listeners. In vss. 3-5, the psalmist confesses how he held tightly onto sine and fear until he acknowledged the sin to God. In vss. 6-7, the psalmist exhorts others to pray to God when they too are in distress. It is as if the psalmist tells the listeners to let go of their distress over their sins and hold on to God’s forgiveness. He continues his instruction in vss. 8-9, pointing toward wisdom as God’s desire for his life and all of our lives. By the end of the psalm, he proclaims that the forgiven, trusting soul finds only...

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Listening for God – by Kevin Driedger

Posted by on Mar 15, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Listening for God – by Kevin Driedger

Listening for God – by Kevin Driedger

Lately, when June and I arrive at the Hermitage each morning as we walk from our car to the chapel we often find ourselves stopping along the way. We stop, and we listen. The chorus of morning sounds: of bird calls and critter noises is growing in variety and volume as the days grow warmer. We love to take a moment to bathe in these beautiful sounds before heading inside for prayer. Once inside, as we sit quietly, beginning morning prayer the leader rings the singing bowl to begin the service. The prayer leader then ends the great silence of the night and utters the first words spoken each morning “Oh God, come to my assistance.” We continue the service with words spoken, sung, and chanted. In most services, after the reading of the gospel, we sit in silence with the instructions to “Listen for God’s word to us today.” Listening is one of the most important activities at the Hermitage. The deep silence that characterizes the Hermitage is there to help us all be attentive and listen. We listen for God’s voice which can come in a myriad of ways, but we don’t notice it, if we don’t listen for it. We may hear God in the call of the crow. We may hear God in the words spoken affirming us as the bearer of God’s infinite life. We may hear God in the affirmations and questions of our spiritual director. We may hear God in the stirrings of our hearts, or the aching of our souls. We may hear God as we deeply engage with a scripture text and hear Jesus ask us “What do you need from me?” The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the word “Listen” and the admonition to “incline the ear of your heart” to the teacher. Inclining the ear of one’s heart to God is the first, and final task for the person on retreat, as it is for everyone else. (It is one of my favorite quirks of the English language that Silent and Listen are anagrams – the same letters...

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How ARE You? Centering Prayer and Contemplative Practice – by Naomi Wenger

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in News | Comments Off on How ARE You? Centering Prayer and Contemplative Practice – by Naomi Wenger

How ARE You? Centering Prayer and Contemplative Practice – by Naomi Wenger

“How areyou?” That simple question can open us deeply to the ground of our being. For the question is driven by the innocent verb “to be,”which isthe ground of existence. It is also the most we can know of God — God’s essence. God IS. All of our other descriptions of God are just that, labels that help to identify God in one way or another. In Moses’ initial encounter with God in the bush that was burning but not consumed, God self-identifies with this notion. God identifies as “I Am.” God is Being.  When we pray, we usually think of addressing God in some fashion and approaching one of the aspects of God that we can understand: God the peace-giver, God the provider, God the powerful one, God the fixer of all things awry, God creator, God redeemer, God the comforter. Yet, none of these roles is in itself the essence of God. So another way to pray is to come to God as Being and simply present our own being to be aware with/of that One Being. We call this kind of prayer Contemplative Prayer. It is prayer as alignment rather than answers, of agreement not argument, of yieldedness instead of resistance or insistence.  While there is a place for the conversant kind of prayer where we plead for special mercy from God, there is also a deep need for the kind of prayer where we are not in control but rather we practice giving ourselves over to God—not for a particular result like spiritual growth, but simply to practice giving ourselves over to God. The wonderful thing about this kind of prayer is that it always results in spiritual growth and the awareness of God’s constant Presence throughout our days. One of the methods of contemplative prayer that has been used through the centuries comes from TheCloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th century English treatise on contemplation. In the 20th century, William Menninger, Basil Pennington, and Thomas Keating co-labored on interpreting this work for non-Middle-English speakers and called the method Centering Prayer. The Cloudhas now been translated into contemporary languages. Commentaries on both the book and the method of Centering Prayer have been written and are readily available. Centering Prayer is easy to learn and effective for aligning our will with God’s will. It is not a set of rules to follow but a way of releasing what is not ours to hold and holding onto God instead. George MacDonald, in the the novel David Elginbrodhas that eponymous character say, “The kingdom of heaven is not come, when God’s will is our law: it is come when God’s will is our will. While God’s will is our law, we are but a kind of noble slave; when his will is our will, we are free children. Nothing in nature is free enough to be a symbol for the state of those who act immediately from the essence of their hidden life, and the recognition of God’s will as that essence.” Acting immediately from the essence of a life hidden in God is both the goal and result of the practice of Centering Prayer.  I encourage you to read The Cloud of Unknowing ora book on Centering Prayer and give it a try. Brief information on the method is available on the Contemplative Outreach website. We also practice Centering Prayer together at The Hermitage each Saturday morning. You are welcome to join us. Naomi  Wenger, March...

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Being Still – by David Wenger

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Being Still – by David Wenger

Being Still – by David Wenger

Years ago I went on a personal retreat with the intention of simply being still. My days and weeks had been full of being on the move from the moment I got up in the morning until I laid down at night. I longed for time to sit and do nothing. I decided to use Thoreau cabin for my stillness retreat as it’s the smallest of the three hermit cabins at The Hermitage; there’s not much room to move around in there. I figured it would help with my resolve to be still.  I went out the back door on my way to Thoreau and saw the trash bins that had been left there by my son. It was our weekly routine; I took the trash bins out to the roadside on the morning of trash collection day and in the afternoon when my son got off the school bus he carried the bins to the back of the house. From there I would carry them to The Hermitage on my next trip down the lane.   Within only a few steps of embarking upon my stillness retreat I picked up both trash bins to carry down the lane and place behind St. Joseph’s Barn. Seconds later I heard my son, who was watching as I left for my retreat, chiding me from the back door, “Dad, you’re not supposed to find anything to do.” I chuckled and went on my way, a trash bin in each hand.   When I got to Thoreau, I realized that I forgot a pen. I had planned to journal about all the profound things I would discover on my stillness retreat. Certainly there will be a pen in the cabin I thought. I searched but found none. I decided to walk back to St. Joseph’s Barn to get a pen; it wasn’t too far and I needed a pen to do the reflective writing I wanted to do with all the time before me. My writing might even be worthy of publishing in the Hermitage newsletter I thought. Then I heard my son’s admonition in my mind, “You’re not supposed to find anything to do.” OK. This time I will listen. I settled into the small cabin, no pen for writing, nothing to do but be still.  At times I felt restless and considered walking about, just to look at things. I wondered if the path to St. Gregory’s Abbey was cleared and which of the Hermitage trails needed attention. I thought about walking the labyrinth at GilChrist. But with each thought I heard my son calling after me, “You’re not supposed to find anything to do.” And so I sat in the sun, I watched a turkey pass by, I heard the squirrels scampering in the woods and deer snorting as they discovered my presence. I laid on my back and looked up at the sky, the trees were blowing in the wind. I slept often. I was still. In recounting my retreat to a friend he told me about his own stillness retreat. He said, “By doing nothing, I get things done. To go forward, I must be very...

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